Sunday, January 23 2022

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Another NBA Wednesday is in the books and as always, there was no shortage of action and storylines from the evening slate of games. Wednesday was also a busy day for news as we saw a pair of bigs in Lauri Markkanen and Jakob Poeltl land in the NBA’s health and safety protocols, we found out that Daryl Morey approached Ben Simmons about a return to game action, but Simmons again stated that he is not ready to play and that he will continue to seek professional help, and we also got a little update on the Celtics’ locker room disaster, but we will get more into that later on.

There were a ton of games on Wednesday evening, so let’s dive right into them. Here are the 10 things that stood out the most to me last night.

The Celtics won, but things are still a mess in Boston

The Celtics defeated the Magic 92-79 on Wednesday night, in the first game since Marcus Smart made headlines for calling out the Celtics’ two star wings, Jayson Tatum and Jaylen Brown, essentially stating that the two are ball hogs and that they don’t trust their teammates. Boston led by as much as 23 on Wednesday night and eventually pulled away after a back-and-forth first half that saw them enter the break trailing by two.

Now Boston did have 24 assists, on their 33 made field goals, but only six of those 24 assists came from Brown and Tatum, with Al Horford accounting for a team-high seven assists to go along with his 12 points, 12 rebounds, 3 blocks, and one steal. Horford has been on an absolute tear ever since he has gotten back on the court and has put up first-round caliber numbers in the games that he has played.

The real storyline here is that Adrian Wojnarowski stated that the Celtics held a players-only meeting in Orlando that Wojnarowski called “emotional” he also stated that he doesn’t know if much was accomplished from the meeting and seeing that Tatum and Brown did not seem to be overly-emphasizing their facilitation, it seems like Smart’s cry might have fallen on deaf ears. If things don’t improve, some pieces could be on the move in Boston, unless they are fine with another underperforming season.

Georges Niang taking full advantage of Tobias Harris‘ absence.

Tobias Harris last played on October 30th against Atlanta where he scored 22 points on 9-of-13 shooting (2-of-5 3-pointers) with 11 rebounds and four assists as the Sixers beat the Hawks 122-94. He then tested positive for Covid-19 and was placed on the league’s health and safety protocols. In the two games since, Philadelphia has beaten Portland 113-103 and then Chicago 103-98 on Wednesday night. In those games, Georges Niang has averaged 19.5 points on 46.4% shooting from the floor (41.2% from three) with 4.0 rebounds, 3.0 assists, 3.5 triples, 0.5 steals, and 0.5 blocks per game.

We all know the drama that has ensued in Philadelphia, but through eight games, they sit a half-game back of the Heat for first place in the Eastern Conference at 6-2. Regular starters Joel Embiid, Danny Green, and Tobias Harris have all been out of the lineup at one point or another, and nobody knows if or when Ben Simmons will be back, but Niang has proved to be one of the most important pickups of the offseason, as he has given Philly a boost off their bench when they have needed it most. Because his long-term prospects don’t look too promising, he isn’t a guy worth rostering at the moment, but if Philly continues to have guys in-and-out of the lineup, that could change in the future.

OG Anunoby continues to ascend towards stardom

Anunoby has flown rather under the radar despite having scored in double figures in every game this season. Entering Wednesday, Anunoby was averaging 20.3 points per game on 40.4% shooting from the floor and 35.3% from three, with 5.6 rebounds, 2.8 assists, and 1.6 steals per game. On Wednesday, Anunoby scored 21 points on 9-of-20 shooting (3-of-5 3-pointers) and added five rebounds, one assist, one block, and three steals in 40 minutes as the Raptors beat the Wizards 109-100.

Though Fred VanVleet led all scorers with 33 points on 13-of-22 shooting, it was Anunoby who seemed to always make the biggest shots at the moments where it looked like the Wizards were getting ready to turn the corner. Pascal Siakam has been out after having shoulder surgery to repair a torn labrum, but he is expected to return in about two weeks according to his agent. Even when Siakam returns though, Anunoby should still be able to put up numbers given the fact that he is a better creator for himself off the bounce than Siakam is, and the Raptors will need his shooting and playmaking ability. Toronto was a team expected to be in the lottery again this season, but they are beginning to look like a team with some postseason potential once they get everyone healthy.

De’Andre Hunter has a huge shooting night in Wednesday’s loss to Brooklyn

De’Andre Hunter played just 23 games last season due to a knee injury, and he had yet to really hit his stride since returning to the court this season, but that all changed on Wednesday night against Brooklyn. Hunter was unconscious shooting the basketball as he shot 10-of-11 from the floor (6-of-6 from three) on his way to a season-high, 26 points to lead the Hawks in scoring. The Hawks would lose the game 117-108, but Hunter’s huge night is surely a decent consolation prize given all that he has gone through over the past year.

Last season, the Hawks were without Hunter and Cam Reddish for the majority of the regular season, and both are now back in the fold and have excelled early on in the season to add some depth to an Atlanta team that was already one of the deepest in the NBA. From a fantasy standpoint, this could make it hard for certain guys to get in a rhythm and find their way into consistent production, i.e., your Bogdan Bogdanovic’s, but it will give Atlanta even more weapons as they try to make a second consecutive deep playoff run this season.

Jarrett Allen and Dylan Windler come up big as Cavs’ frontcourt gets thinner

The Cavaliers lost Kevin Love to the NBA’s health and safety protocols on Monday and woke up Wednesday morning to the news that Lauri Markkanen would also have to enter the league’s health and safety protocols due to a positive Covid-19 test. That means that the Cavaliers would have an extra 50 minutes to hand out in the frontcourt, and they would have to make up for nearly 23 points and 13 rebounds that they would be without given Love and Markkanen’s absence. Enter Jarrett Allen, and Dylan Windler.

Allen had one of those monster nights that have begun to be more and more frequent these days as he tallied 24 points on 9-of-15 shooting with 17 rebounds, four assists, one steal, and one block. Windler, though his stat line wasn’t as eye-popping, was equally as impressive given the timeliness of the shots that he hit and the fact that he had played very sparingly this season entering Wednesday’s contest. The former Belmont Bruin came off the bench and scored 13 points on 4-of-5 shooting with three triples, three assists, one rebound, and one steal as the Cavs were able to steal one over the Blazers 107-104 on Wednesday.

Love and Markkanen will need to either quarantine for 10 days, or return two consecutive negative PCR tests within 24 hours before they can return to play. This means the two will miss at least the next two games, and Markkanen will likely miss at least the next three before he can return, so for this brief absence, the Cavaliers will need big contributions from some guys that they aren’t accustomed to getting production from consistently.

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RJ Barrett Continues hot streak in Knicks loss

The Knicks fell to the Pacers 111-98 on Wednesday night, dropping their second straight game to fall to 5-3 on the season. RJ Barrett was about the only bright spot for the Knicks as he continued his hot shooting of late on his way to 23 points on 8-of-20 shooting from the floor and 2-of-6 shooting from three. He also added five rebounds, with three assists, and two turnovers, but no blocks or steals.

Over the last four games, Barrett is averaging 26.3 points per game on 56.1% shooting from the floor (56.0% from three) with 3.5 made triples per game, 5.5 rebounds, and 2.5 assists. The defensive stats have not been there, which, for a player who claims he wants to be an all-defensive caliber player, is disappointing, but we aren’t used to this type of efficiency and scoring from Barrett, so you have to take the good with the bad in this case. If he can continue to be efficient, and knock down the three-ball with some consistency, it will help his long-term fantasy value.

Jalen Brunson puts up a season-high in Mavericks win

Jalen Brunson scored a season-high 31 points on 9-of-17 shooting (1-of-4 3-pointers) and grabbed 10 rebounds, dished out three assists, and snatched two steals as the Mavericks outlasted the Spurs 109-108 on Wednesday night. This performance came on the heels of a back-to-back where, on Tuesday night, Brunson tallied 25 points on 10-of-13 shooting (2-of-2 3-pointers) with seven rebounds and three assists in a 125-110 loss to Miami. In both of these games, Dallas was without their star big man Kristaps Porzingis, who has remained out with lower back soreness.

In the offseason, much was said about Luka Doncic needing a true second fiddle, alluding to the fact that the marriage between him and Porzingis was not one that was going to bring Dallas to the promise land. The Mavericks signed Tim Hardaway Jr. to a four-year deal with $72 million dollars this offseason, in hopes that he could provide some relief in the scoring department, but entering Wednesday, through seven games, he was averaging just 13.9 points on 39.5% shooting from the floor and 36.8% shooting from three.

Now I know Brunson has been a bit inconsistent this season, but after Wednesday’s performance, he spoke about the confidence that his teammates have in him, and how it has allowed him to be so aggressive. He looks like a good fit next to Luka, and if he continues to play with confidence, he could be in the midst of a breakout season in Dallas.

Paul George finally got some help on offense in a win over the Timberwolves

PG13 has been on an absolute tear this season, and now after seven games, he leads the NBA in scoring at 28.9 points per game. Unfortunately for him though, his teammates have been abysmal, as the Clippers have failed to cross the 100-point plateau in four of their seven games this season, as the Clippers currently sit at 3-4, despite winning their last two.

On Wednesday, George went for 32 on 11-of-18 shooting (4-of-8 3-pointers) with eight assists, six rebounds, one steal, and one block as the Clippers beat the Timberwolves 126-115. The Clippers had four others in double-figures, led by Reggie Jackson, who scored a season-high 29 points on 11-of-18 shooting (7-of-9 3-pointers) with eight assists, five rebounds, and one steal. Nicolas Batum scored 20 points on 7-of-10 shooting (6-of-8 3-pointers) with five rebounds, one assist, one steal, and one block, and Terance Mann put up 17 points on 6-of-7 shooting (3-of-3 3-pointers) with three assists, two rebounds, and one block. The three combined for 66 points while making 16-of-20 triples on the evening. That is the type of production that the Clippers are going to need from their supporting cast if they are going to have any shot at making the postseason this year. Unfortunately for fantasy managers, it would be cruel of me to tell you that this type of accuracy and volume, especially from distance, is something that is likely to continue, because it likely is not, so don’t get too excited just yet.

Will Barton nets season-high 26 in loss to Grizzlies

Will Barton has been the Nuggets second best player behind reigning MVP Nikola Jokic this season. He currently is second on the team in scoring at 15.3 points per game and assists at 4.1 per game. In Jamal Murray’s absence, when many people thought Michael Porter Jr. would step into that second fiddle role behind Jokic, it has been Barton who has emerged as that guy early on. On Wednesday, Barton put together his best performance of the season pouring in 26 points on 11-of-21 shooting (4-of-9 3-pointers) and adding seven dimes, three rebounds, two steals, and one block with just two turnovers in 40 minutes. The Nuggets lost to the Grizzlies 108-106, dropping them to 4-4 on the season, while Memphis moved to 5-3.

Barton has always been a confident player, with a knack for scoring, but he is on pace to have the best season of his career passing the ball as well. This has been a much-needed boost in the playmaking department with Murray’s absence. Barton should be starting in any format, and he will be a guy that will continue to put up numbers as long as Murray is out, but even when he returns, because of his confidence, he should still find his way into the box score

Jordan Poole goes bananas in win over Charlotte

The battle for the NBA’s most improved player looks like it could be a two-man race this season, and ironically not only were both of them competing against each other Wednesday night, they both put up huge numbers doing so. Jordan Poole played one of the best games of his career as he scored 31 points on 11-of-21 shooting and knocked down seven triples, which was a career-high, tallied four steals, which was also a career-high, and added three rebounds, one assist, and one turnover. His counterpart Miles Bridges continued on the absolute tear that he has been on this season, and poured in 32 points on 12-of-22 shooting (5-of-9 3-pointers) and grabbed nine rebounds while tallying two rebounds, two assists, and two steals, but his Hornets lost 114-92 to Poole’s Warriors.

Gordon Hayward also had himself a night for Charlotte as he scored 23 points on 8-of-15 shooting (2-of-3 3-pointers) and grabbed 11 rebounds with two assists, and one steal in 37 minutes. Hayward is a fine player when he is healthy, the problem is that he finds himself on the injury report more often than not. Up to this point though, his health has not been an issue, and Hayward managers are hoping that it stays this way.

Source: Yahoo Sports

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