Ja Morant and Gordon Hayward are back, Danilo Gallinari and Kawhi Leonard were out and Nemanja Bjelica shocked the Rockets with a 3-pointer at the buzzer as the Kings stole an unlikely win in Houston.
Clippers 110, Pacers 99 – Kawhi Leonard took another night off but Paul George went out and got it done against his former team. Leonard has already missed seven games this season and the Clippers still have seven sets of back-to-backs left on their schedule. The next is Friday/Saturday and then again on Dec. 21/22, so owners can expect Leonard to miss at least two of those games. George blocked out the boos in Indy and torched the Pacers for 36 points, a season-high seven triples and a full stat line, while Moe Harkless had eight points, a season-high 14 rebounds and a block. Harkless was a smart DFS call if you made it, given that Leonard and JaMychal Green (tailbone) were out, and Patrick Patterson was returning from back spasms. Ivica Zubac, Patrick Beverley and Montrezl Harrell all played well in this one but only Harrell is consistently reliable.
Domantas Sabonis looked good for the Pacers with 18 points and a career-high 22 rebounds and T.J. Warren, Malcolm Brogdon and Jeremy Lamb all had reasonable stat lines, but Myles Turner was a disaster again. Turner hit 2-of-9 shots for five points, five rebounds, three assists, a block and a 3-pointer and has now scored 5, 7 & 4 points in each of his last three games. He’s scored in single digits eight times this season, which is basically unacceptable from the big man. Yes, I think he’ll get it turned around. No, I’m not totally panicking on him. But it is extremely annoying, and I do have concerns that he may never be any better than he has been up to this point in his career. This is still the ultimate buy-low opportunity on Turner, assuming he can right the ship. Doug McDermott got hot off the bench for 17 points, six boards and five triples, and he’s quietly scored in double figures in four straight games, hitting 12 3-pointers in them. He won’t help you anywhere else, but if you need threes from a guy who can score, McDermott is feeling it right now.
Celtics 110, Cavaliers 88 – All five Celtics starters, Jayson Tatum, Daniel Theis, Gordon Hayward, Kemba Walker and Jaylen Brown, scored in double figures and Tatum double-doubled in the easy win. As you probably know by now, Hayward made his return to action after missing 13 games with a broken hand and played well, finishing with 14 points, five rebounds, four assists and a steal on 7-of-10 shooting. The Celtics bench was invisible with Enes Kanter leading the way with seven points. Theis had 10 points, one rebound, two assists, three blocks and two 3-pointers for one of his better games in recent memory. He’s been blocking some shots, but doesn’t score, rebound or hit 3-pointers consistently enough to be owned in most leagues. But he’s worth keeping an eye on in case last night’s line was a sign he’s ready to heat up.
Tristan Thompson had a 17 & 11 double-double and Jordan Clarkson scored 19 off the bench with three 3-pointers, and that’s where the good news stops for the Cavs. Kevin Love, whose name is going to be in every trade rumor you hear over the next two months, hit 3-of-12 shots and 1-of-7 3-pointers for seven points and 10 rebounds, Cedi Osman hit 1-of-5 shots for four points, Collin Sexton hit just 4-of-14 shots for eight points and Darius Garland hit 4-of-11 shots for nine points. Osman was hot a week ago but has now hit 2-of-7 shots and scored a total of six points over his last two games. I’m hopeful he gets hot again soon. Larry Nance Jr. also disappointed off the bench in 20 minutes, hitting 1-of-3 shots and a 3-pointer for six points and seven rebounds. After a solid November Nance has had a disastrous December, averaging just 5.0 points and 6.0 rebounds in four games, hitting just 7-of-24 shots. I’ve got Nance in a deep league and am going to stick with him for now, but I’m not a huge fan of anything going on in Cleveland. The Celtics won the first quarter 29-18 and never looked back and Cleveland is now 5-18 on the season.
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Raptors 93, Bulls 92 – The Raptors held on for the one-point win when Zach LaVine missed a runner at the end of the game. Pascal Siakam led the way with 22 points and a full stat line while OG Anunoby, Kyle Lowry and Norman Powell all scored in double figures with fun stat lines. Powell is starting for Fred VanVleet (knee contusion) but FVV is simply day-to-day with the injury. Marc Gasol bounced back with nine points, nine rebounds, five assists, two steals, four blocks and a 3-pointer after failing to score in his last game. If he was dropped in your league, he’ll probably be a hot pickup after this one, but his scoring has been way down this season. Anunoby had two steals and two blocks and appears to be heating up again, and Serge Ibaka double-doubled off the bench.
LaVine scored 20 points for the Bulls but they all came in the first half, while Lauri Markkanen, Wendell Carter Jr. and Tomas Satoransky all scored in double figures. Kris Dunn started at point guard but played just 15 minutes, hitting 1-of-8 shots, while backup Coby White missed all seven of his shots in 30 minutes. Daniel Gafford (7-of-9, 14 points) and Denzell Valentine (13 points) got hot off the bench for a Bulls team that is now 8-17. Markkanen had 13 points, eight boards and two 3-pointers and might finally be getting ready to turn it around, but the only Bulls you can trust right now are LaVine and WCJ. No one appears to be happy with coach Jim Boylen and attendance is dropping in Chicago, so it would appear that something’s going to have to give with Boylen at some point in the near future.
Kings 119, Rockets 118 – My man, Nemanja Bjelica, kept it going and hit the game-winning 3-pointer to stun the Rockets and finished with 17 points, five rebounds, four assists, three steals and three 3-pointers after scoring 30 points in his previous game. The Kings play four times this week and this might be the last hurrah for Bjelica with Marvin Bagley due back from his thumb injury soon. Richaun Holmes stayed hot with 16 points, eight boards, four steals and two blocks, Harrison Barnes scored 19 and filled the stat sheet, and Buddy Hield hit six 3-pointers on his way to 26 points and a solid line. Cory Joseph bounced back with 14 points, three boards, six assists, two steals, a block and three 3-pointers so congratulations are in order if he was in your lineup after three points and one assist on Sunday. The points and 3-pointers were both season highs for CoJo.
P.J. Tucker had 10 points and a career-high 19 rebounds with two 3-pointers, Danuel House had 11 points and three 3-pointers, Clint Capela double-doubled and Ben McLemore kept it going with 12 points and four 3-pointers but hit just 4-of-13 shots. Tucker, House and BMac are all borderline owns and are all intriguing with three more games this week. Russell Westbrook led the way with 34 points on 13-of-17 shooting for one of his best games of the year and James Harden had 27 points and 10 assists in the loss. Gary Clark came off the bench for 11 points and three 3-pointers, and I somehow started him in my 30-team league. House had a +/- of -19 tonight and his stat line was pretty empty, but my guess is he’ll bounce back in the next one. Austin Rivers sat this one out with an illness.
Bucks 110, Magic 101 – Giannis Antetokounmpo stayed strong with a 32-15-8-1-1-2 line and hit 6-of-12 free throws, as usual, and Khris Middleton chipped in with 20 points, nine boards, four assists and four 3-pointers. Brook Lopez, Eric Bledsoe and Wesley Matthews all struggled with their shots in this one while Ersan Ilyasova, George Hill and Donte DiVincenzo all scored in double figures off the bench. Giannis, Middleton, Lopez and Bledsoe are the only Bucks you want to own right now, for the most part.
Evan Fournier hit four 3-pointers and scored 26 for the Magic and Terrence Ross had 23 and four triples off the bench. Khem Birch and Mo Bamba were both disappointing in the middle for the Magic, Markelle Fultz was solid with a 13-5-9-1 line, and Aaron Gordon and Jonathan Isaac combined to hit just 8-of-25 shots in the loss. However, Gordon had 13 rebounds, a steal, a block and a 3-pointer, and Isaac had nine boards, two assists and five blocks, allowing both players to salvage nice value despite their poor shooting. We still don’t have a timetable for the return of Nikola Vucevic from his ankle injury, but he’s making progress.
Pistons 105, Pelicans 103 – Derrick Rose came off the bench for 21 points (17 in the fourth quarter), seven assists and a buzzer-beater for the win and Langston Galloway scored 16 with four 3-pointers off the bench. Any time bench players are leading the way it’s generally bad news for the starters and that was the case in this one. Blake Griffin was 1-of-9 for five points, Andre Drummond had 13 points, 10 rebounds and no blocks, Tony Snell scored six points, Luke Kennard scored 14 and Bruce Brown had eight points and seven assists. Rose looks healthy and is feeling it right now, scoring in double figures in seven straight games and is averaging more than 7.0 assists over his last five. However, he’s also still said to be recovering from the hamstring injury that cost him five games last month, so hopefully he can stay healthy. Look for Griffin and Drummond to bounce back in the next one for the 10-14 Pistons.
The Pelicans are awful and now sit at 6-18 on the season. Brandon Ingram kept it going with 31 points, six boards and four 3-pointers and Jrue Holiday added 20 points, six rebounds, five assists and two steals in the loss. Kenrich Williams replaced Lonzo Ball in the starting five but hit 1-of-6 shots for two points and eight rebounds. Williams should bounce back, but he’s cooled off after a hot start to the season. J.J. Redick hit just 1-of-10 shots for three points, and starter Jahlil Okafor had nine points, six rebounds and a block. Jaxson Hayes had 13 points, four rebounds, two steals and a block in 21 minutes off the bench and I think it’s time to move on him, as the Pelicans are going to give up and play the kids at some point. Ball had six points, seven rebounds and four assists in 30 minutes off the bench. Josh Hart played 30 minutes and hit 5-of-14 shots for 12 points, six rebounds, five assists and two 3-pointers and is probably worth adding if he was dropped in your league. Derrick Favors is back with the team after missing seven games after the death of his mother but didn’t play.
Thunder 104, Jazz 90 – Danilo Gallinari sat out with a sprained ankle and is day-to-day. Steven Adams is back and double-doubled for the third time in five December games with 11 points, 13 rebounds and four blocks, Shai Gilgeous-Alexander scored 20 with two 3-pointers and two steals, and Chris Paul had 16 points and seven dimes in the win. Dennis Schroder led the way off the bench with 27 points and three 3-pointers and those are the only Thunder players you need to worry about in fantasy right now.
Mike Conley missed his third straight game with a hamstring injury, so Joe Ingles started again and had nine points, four rebounds, eight assists, three steals and three 3-pointers. I like him a lot more when A. he’s starting, and B. when Conley’s out. Rudy Gobert had 19 points, 17 rebounds and zero blocks on 9-of-10 shooting and Donovan Mitchell scored 26 points on 10-of-25 shooting and hit just 1-of-8 3-pointers. He also didn’t have a steal or a block for the third straight game, which is frustrating.
Suns 125, Timberwolves 109 – The Suns got 26 points, seven assists and three 3-pointers from Devin Booker, Kelly Oubre Jr. had 24 and two 3-pointers, and Dario Saric came through with 20 points, nine boards, a steal and two 3-pointers on 7-of-11 shooting in the win. Ricky Rubio also kept it going with 16 points, 14 assists and two 3-pointers against his former team. Frank Kaminsky was in foul trouble and had six points in 10 minutes, which was unfortunate. Aron Baynes finally returned from his calf injury and had 12 points, four boards, a block and two 3-pointers in just 15 minutes after missing nine of his last 10 games. Deandre Ayton is due back in a week, which will hurt Baynes if you’ve been waiting for him.
Karl-Anthony Towns went off again with 33 points, 15 boards, two blocks and two 3-pointers on 12-of-18 shooting, Andrew Wiggins had 23 points, four boards, four assists, two blocks and a 3-pointer and Jeff Teague came off the bench for 16 points and four assists. Starter Robert Covington cooled off on 1-of-5 shooting and four points, Josh Okogie scored eight and Jarrett Culver had six points and six rebounds in just 15 minutes. The Wolves are a disaster defensively, giving up a ton of points every night, and have lost five straight games, so you can bet they’ll be trying to find a way to implement a better defensive game plan going forward. Unfortunately, KAT and Wiggins are the only truly reliable Wolves in fantasy right now, but RoCo and Teague are worth holding.
Grizzlies 110, Warriors 102 – Ja Morant was back after missing nine days with a back issue and hit 8-of-14 shots, three 3-pointers and 7-of-8 free throws for 26 points and seven assists. If you rolled the dice on him this week, so far, so good. Hopefully he’ll be back out there again on Wednesday. Jaren Jackson Jr. had 16 points, a steal, three blocks and two 3-pointers, Jonas Valanciunas double-doubled with a couple 3-pointers and Dillon Brooks came through with 17 points, two steals and three 3-pointers in another start. Jae Crowder played 30 minutes and had nine rebounds and two steals but hit just 1-of-6 shots for two points. He’ll bounce back on Wednesday. Grayson Allen scored 15 points in just 12 minutes but left with a sprained ankle and didn’t return. JJJ, JV and Morant are must-own players and Brooks and Crowder are generally worth using in four-game weeks. I’m not messing with any other Grizzlies for now, including Brandon Clarke, who’s out with an oblique injury.
Draymond Green had 16 points, three rebounds, five assists, a steal, three blocks and a 3-pointer in 33 minutes. Maybe he’s ready to start playing? Either way, this is probably your sell-high notice and if I own Green, I’m still trying to move him for anything I can get. D’Angelo Russell had 18 points, seven assists and four 3-pointers, but hit just 6-of-22 shots, while Willie Cauley-Stein came through with 17 points, eight boards, two assists, a steal and two blocks on 6-of-9 shooting. Eric Paschall (2-of-10 shooting) and Glenn Robinson (2-of-7) were both duds in this one but Alec Burks hit two 3-pointers and 8-of-8 free throws for 18 points, seven rebounds, six assists and three steals for a great line. The Warriors are in a four-game week so Green, Russell, Paschall, Robinson, Cauley-Stein and Burks are all worth using right now, as Paschall and Robinson should bounce back. Just beware that the Warriors play two games next week and then have a ton of three-game weeks the rest of the way. After this week they have a total of four four-game weeks remaining.