With eight games on the NBA’s Saturday slate, we have plenty to discuss. The Cavs sat their stars and Russell Westbrook just missed a triple-double, while Westbrook’s main competition for the MVP award, James Harden, got his trip-dub and then some…
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Thunder 110, Kings 94:
Russell Westbrook failed to record a triple-double for the first time in a week, but came darn close, finishing with 28 points, eight rebounds, 10 assists, four steals, seven turnovers and four 3-pointers. It’s amazing that those points, rebound and assist totals are actually below his season averages. Westbrook remains stuck at 34 triple-doubles on the season. He will need to tally eight more over OKC's final 13 games to break the great Oscar Robertson's single-season record. He also needs to average only 7.3 boards and 8.2 dimes in those last 13 contests to average one for the season. One other interesting Russ-related stat via the Elias Sports Bureau: With nine field goals on Saturday, Westbrook raised his total of field goals for the season to 700. Westbrook also has accumulated 725 rebounds and 714 assists, and has become the first NBA player to reach 700 field goals, 700 rebounds and 700 assists in a single season since Wilt Chamberlain did it with the 76ers in 1967-68… Steven Adams had another strong game on Saturday. He tallied 16 points, 13 rebounds, three assists, two steals and one block. He has now scored in double-figures in five straight games and is averaging 11.8 points (on 67.6 percent shooting), 7.8 boards, 1.2 assists and 1.6 steals over those five contests… While not contributing across the board like Adams, Enes Kanter has scored in double-digits in 11 straight games. Kanter finished with 14 points, four rebounds and one block in just 18 minutes on Saturday… The surprise of the night for OKC was Doug McDermott, who came out of nowhere to pour in 21 points (on 8-of-9 shooting) with five rebounds, and four 3-pointers in 21 minutes. It’s the first time he’s scored more than 11 points this month, so we’ll chalk this one up as a fluke and feel comfortable leaving McBuckets on the wire.
Skal Labissiere was celebrating his 21st birthday and coming off a monster 32-point effort, but his night got off to a very slow start, as he picked up three fouls in his first five minutes on the floor. Skal was able to salvage his night by tallying 13 points, four rebounds and one assist in 18 minutes. The upside remains high with this youngster, so be patient… Saturday seemed to be an ideal situation for Buddy Hield to have a breakout game. The former Sooner star was back in Oklahoma in the midst of March Madness, and the Kings were without Tyreke Evans (ankle), Arron Afflalo (personal) and Ben McLemore (personal). However, Hield was unproductive (11 points, one rebound, one assist) in 32 quiet minutes… Willie Cauley-Stein came back down to earth in this one, as the Thunder focused on keeping him out of the paint. WCS scored four points with three rebounds, two assists and two steals in 26 minutes. He came in averaging 16.3 points, 9.0 rebounds and 1.3 steals in 36.8 minutes over his last four contests, so Cauley-Stein certainly still deserves a roster spot in most leagues… Georgios Papagiannis was the best player on the floor for Sacramento on Saturday. He posted career-highs by scoring 14 points and grabbing 11 rebounds in 22 minutes. Papa Doc is not yet logging enough minutes consistently to be added in standard leagues, but he’s definitely worth keeping an eye on.
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Blazers 113, Hawks 97:
The Blazers have now won seven of nine and pulled within two games of Denver for the Western Conference's final playoff spot. Damian Lillard led the charge on Saturday. He scored 27 points and added five rebounds, five assists, two steals and three 3-pointers. He’s been lighting it up of late. Over Portland’s last five games, he is averaging 32.8 points, 4.2 rebounds, 4.0 assists and 3.6 triples, while shooting 50 percent from the floor and 43.9 percent from distance… Nurk Alert! Jusuf Nurkic stuffed the stat sheet on Saturday, scoring 12 points with nine rebounds, six assists, five blocks and two steals in 32 minutes. It was the third time this season Nurk has dished out at least six dimes and blocked at least five shots in the same game. Draymond Green is the only other player in the NBA with three such games this season… C.J. McCollum was his usual stellar self on Saturday, totaling 22 points, six rebounds, five assists, two blocks, one steal and no turnovers… Noah Vonleh (10 points, 11 rebounds) posted his first career double-double… Evan Turner returned to the Portland lineup after missing 14 games with a broken right hand. He had two points and eight rebounds in 18 minutes, playing with a protective pad covering part of his right hand. Turner should be left on the waiver wire in standard leagues, as it will be tough for him to contribute consistently.
The Hawks were without their All-Star forward Paul Millsap on Saturday night. Millsap experienced tightness in his left knee and was unable to suit up. The severity of the injury is unknown at this point. Atlanta’s next game is Monday vs. Charlotte, so we should have an update by the end of the weekend. Ersan Ilyasova started in place of Millsap and had a solid game, scoring 23 points to go along with four rebounds, two steals and four 3-pointers in 27 minutes. Ilyasova will draw another start on Monday if Millsap is unable to play… Dwight Howard posted a double-double (14 points, 10 rebounds) and also chipped in three assists, one block and a season-high five steals… Dennis Schroder was off all night, missing 12 of the 14 field goals he attempted. He finished with eight points, three rebounds, seven assists and four steals… Tim Hardaway Jr. cracked the 20-point plateau once again on Saturday, scoring 22 points with two rebounds, two assists and two 3-pointers. Hardaway has been steadily improving all season and is currently enjoying his best month as a pro. Over Atlanta’s last nine games, THJ is averaging 20.0 points, 3.2 rebounds, 2.8 assists and 2.6 treys, while shooting 50.8 percent from the floor and 42.6 percent from downtown. He’s been one of 2016-17's more surprisingly effective midseason pickups.
Hornets 98, Wizards 93:
The Hornets kept their evaporating playoffs hopes alive with a much-needed victory over the Wiz. Still, Charlotte is four games back of the Heat for the eighth spot in the East with 13 games remaining. Cody Zeller was the Hornets high-scorer in this one. He tallied 19 points (on 8-of-10 shooting) and chipped in five rebounds, four steals and two blocks in 33 minutes… Kemba Walker scored 16 points with two rebounds, six assists and four 3-pointers, but was just 5-of-18 from the floor… Nic Batum had eight points, 10 rebounds, five assists and three turnovers in 27 minutes in his return to the starting lineup after missing the last two games with a migraine… Marvin Williams (16 points, eight rebounds, three assists, two steals and two 3-pointers) posted another solid stat line… Frank Kaminsky scored 14 points with four rebounds, two assists, one block and two 3-pointers in 30 minutes.
It appeared the Wiz might be able to make a run at the top seed in the East, but Washington has now lost three of their last four. John Wall led the Wiz in points (19) and assists (8) but continued to struggle with his shot. Wall was just 5-of-16 on Saturday and has shot below 38 percent from the floor in three of his last four contests… Bradley Beal had 18 points but didn’t add much else… Markieff Morris missed his second straight game because of an illness. However, he did travel with the team, and it seems likely he will be able to suit up on Monday vs. Boston. Jason Smith started in place of Morris but wasn’t able to replicate his 17-point effort from Friday. Smith scored eight points with four rebounds, two assists, three blocks and one 3-pointer on Saturday… Marcin Gortat pulled down a game-high 16 boards but scored just six points. Gortat’s numbers have been trending in the wrong direction since the All-Star break, which has coincided with an increase in playing time for Ian Mahinmi. Over Washington’s last ten games, Gortat is averaging just 7.6 points on 44.3 percent shooting in only 25.7 minutes.
Clippers 108, Cavs 78:
With the Cavs resting their Big Three (LeBron James, Kyrie Irving and Kevin Love), this game had the feel of a NCAA #1 vs. #16 seed. The Clippers took advantage by stepping on the throat of Cleveland’s JV team early and not letting up until the final buzzer. Blake Griffin, fresh off resting on Thursday, was the only L.A. starter to play more than 27 minutes and finished with a game-high 23 points to go along with eight rebounds and four assists… DeAndre Jordan also rested on Thursday and packed 13 points and 17 rebounds into just 27 minutes on Saturday… Fortunately, the Clippers didn't need him because Chris Paul laid an egg in this one. He missed all eight shots he attempted from the floor, including all five from 3-point territory. He finished with five points, seven assists, four rebounds and three turnovers. It’s just the fourth time in his storied career that CP3 attempted at least eight field goals without converting a single one.
For the second week in a row, the NBA’s nationally televised “Game of the Week” was ruined and rendered essentially unwatchable due to star players sitting out to rest. Also, the Cavs didn’t make the announcement until after 7:00 pm, which burned those of us with one of those three in our DFS lineups. Playing without their top guns, the Cavs had no chance in this one. Their 78 points was a season low. Cleveland did have seven players score in double-figures, but no one scored more than 12 points. Richard Jefferson (12 points, six rebounds, one assist) was the team’s leading scorer, so that tells you all you need to know about the Cavs fantasy production on Saturday evening… Deron Williams started in place of Kyrie but tallied just 11 points, five assists and three rebounds in 26 minutes… Channing Frye started in place of Love and scored 10 points with four rebounds, one assist and two triples in 28 minutes… The Cavs play the back end of a back-to-back on Sunday, and we should see the trio of LeBron, Irving and Love back in the lineup for that matchup vs. the Lakers.
Bulls 95, Jazz 86:
With Dwyane Wade (elbow) out for the season, Jimmy Butler is going to have to carry the Bulls if they have any hopes of qualifying for the postseason. Butler did just that on Saturday, scoring a game-high 23 points and dishing out a game-high seven dimes. Jimmy B also chipped in three steals, two blocks and two boards for good measure… Nikola Mirotic was inserted into the starting lineup on Saturday after three good games in a row. So, what happens just when we feel it’s safe to trust good ol’ Nikola? Yup, he drops a dud on us. Mirotic scored just five points with four rebounds and one 3-pointer in 17 minutes… Bobby Portis was the player bumped to the bench to make room for Mirotic. Portis had struggled mightily coming into this contest, having scored a total of 16 points combined in the Bulls previous three games. So, of course, Portis explodes for a career-high 22 points off the bench. He added five rebounds and one 3-pointer in 31 minutes. Both Mirotic and Portis will continue to eat into each other’s minutes and production, as coach Fred Hoiberg plays the hot hand… Denzel Valentine posted his first career double-double (11 points and a career-high 10 rebounds) and also hit three 3-pointers in the fourth quarter…. Rajon Rondo had been playing well but finished with just five points, four assists and two rebounds in this one. Michael Carter-Williams (nine points, two rebounds, four assists, and three blocks in 27 minutes) ended up taking most of Rondo’s playing time on Saturday. Also, coach Hoiberg said that Cameron Payne (sore right foot) would hopefully rejoin the team on Monday. The point guard picture in the Windy City is a muddled mess.
Rudy Gobert did all he could to keep Utah close on Saturday. He scored 13 points, grabbed 13 boards and swatted five shots. Gobert has posted double-doubles in six of his last seven games and is averaging 15.7 points (on 70.8 percent shooting), 14.3 rebounds and 2.6 blocks over that seven-game stretch… George Hill scored 18 points with seven rebounds, four assists, one steal, one block and two 3-pointers… Gordon Hayward has hit a bit of cold patch. He made just 5 of the 16 shots he attempted and was held to 14 points on Saturday, adding six rebounds, two assists, four steals and three 3-pointers. Hayward has scored 14 or fewer points in three of Utah’s last five games and is averaging 17.6 points over those five games… Rodney Hood (knee) missed his second straight game. Joe Ingles started in place of Hood again and scored 10 points with three rebounds, five assists, one steal and one 3-pointer in 35 minutes.
Grizzlies 104, Spurs 96:
Mike Conley remains red hot. He registered 19 points, seven rebounds, six assists, two steals and three triples on Saturday. Over Memphis’ last 11 games dating back to just after the All-Star break, Conley is averaging 23.8 points, 6.7 assists, 3.9 rebounds, 2.6 treys and 1.7 steals. The Grizz caught plenty of flak for re-signing him to that massive contract this past summer, but Conley has delivered the goods and played like an elite point guard all season… Zach Randolph scored 17 points with seven rebounds… Marc Gasol, playing against his brother Pau at times, contributed his usual well-rounded line. Gasol finished with 16 points, five rebounds and a game-high seven assists.
Kawhi Leonard didn’t quite live up the lofty expectations he carries into every game. He finished with a solid, if unspectacular, line of 22 points (on 6-of-15 shooting), seven boards and three assists… LaMarcus Aldridge looked good in his second game back since being cleared to return after the heart scare. He had 21 points, nine boards and four assists in 34 minutes… Tony Parker (back) returned to the lineup after missing each of the Spurs previous four games but looked rusty. He scored four points on 2-of-8 shooting with two rebounds and two assists in 25 minutes. Patty Mills was bumped back to the bench as a result of Parker’s presence and scored six points with two rebounds, two assists and two triples in 22 minutes. Dejounte Murray (groin) did not play but seems to be inching closer to a return as well…. Jonathon Simmons had 14 points and three assists in 18 minutes off the San Antonio bench.
Rockets 109, Nuggets 105:
Where do we even begin with James Harden? He’s been absolutely incredible this season. He tallied 40 points, 10 rebounds, 10 assists, two steals, eight turnovers and three 3-pointers on Saturday. This was just one night after he poured in 41 points, grabbed 14 rebounds and dished out 11 dimes on Friday. He is the first player in NBA history to record 40-point triple-doubles in back-to-back games. Consider this: Michael Jordan had a grand total of three 40-point triple-doubles in his entire career (1,072 games). LeBron James also has three over the 1,049 contests he has played in. James Harden had two such games this weekend alone! It’s also the seventh 40-point trip-dub for Harden this season, another NBA record. Oh, and he's also recorded a triple-double in four straight games. Per Basketball Reference, he joins Russell Westbrook, MJ, and Magic Johnson as just the third player with a trip-dub streak lasting four or more games since 1983… Clint Capela (16 points and eight boards) and Nene (14 points and seven boards) played 24 minutes apiece on Saturday… Trevor Ariza (two points, nine rebounds, one assist) was disappointingly quiet… Ryan Anderson finished with 10 points, four rebounds and one 3-pointer in 27 minutes. There are likely more attractive, well-rounded options on your waiver wire than Anderson.
The Nuggets were without Danilo Gallinari (knee) and Wilson Chandler (groin) and Darrell Arthur (knees), so coach Mike Malone went with a short rotation on Saturday. Remarkably, seven of the eight Nuggets that played scored in double figures, and the only one who did not was Mason Plumlee, who finished with nine points, nine rebounds, three assists, three blocks and two steals… Unfortunately, Nikola Jokic (16 points, five boards and four assists) got in some early foul trouble and had a disappointing night, but Denver did receive some surprisingly impressive production from some unexpected sources. Jameer Nelson tallied 15 points, 11 assists, seven rebounds and two 3-pointers in 39 minutes… Juancho Hernangomez stated at small forward and scored 15 points with five rebounds, one steal and three 3-pointers in 28 minutes… Gary Harris’ line (17 points, six rebounds, two assists, two steals in 39 minutes) is even more impressive when you consider that he spent the majority of the evening trying to slow down the unstoppable James Harden… After a 35-point gem on Thursday, Will Barton was just 2-of-13 from the floor for 10 points on Saturday.
Warriors 117, Bucks 92:
After losing three straight regular-season games for the first time in forever, the Warriors have now won three in a row, with each of the last two victories by 25-plus points. Stephen Curry has been startlingly inefficient for the better part of a month, but was on target on Saturday. He was 9-of-13 from the field, including 6-of-8 from downtown, for his 28 points. He also added four rebounds, four assists, a steal and a block… Draymond Green scored eight points with eight rebounds, 10 assists and one steal… Klay Thompson pumped in 21 points and three triples but contributed little else… Andre Iguodala had another solid, all-around performance, finishing with 15 points, four rebounds, four assists, one steal, two blocks and one 3-pointer in 30 minutes.
Giannis Antetokounmpo had one of his more underwhelming lines of the season on Saturday, totaling just nine points, three rebounds, three assists, three blocks and two steals in 31 minutes. Fortunately, Giannis won’t have to deal Draymond Green and the stifling Warriors defense again anytime soon. The Bucks play four games next week, so the Greek Freak will be ready to make it up to his fantasy owners… Malcolm Brogdon was Milwaukee’s leading scorer, tallying 18 points with four rebounds, three assists and two 3-pointers in a team-high 41 minutes. On a related note, Matthew Dellavedova scored five points with three assists in 26 minutes. Brogdon is clearly the point guard to own in Milwaukee… Greg Monroe had 12 points and seven boards in 17 minutes off the Bucks bench… Khris Middleton had 11 points, two rebounds, five assists and two 3-pointers in 29 minutes.