• The NBA is in the home stretch with each team looking at 20 or fewer games left in the season. As the standings begin to solidify we’ll likely see some teams start to consider shutting down their stars which always hurts. Even a team like the Raptors, who are a solid five games ahead of the third seed Pacers, could look to rest their primary players in key games. On the flip side, it’s likely that teams in the midst of the playoff hunt that will continue to lean heavily on their stars, so a guy like James Harden is likely to see more playing time and usage moving forward.

    Blazers burn down the Hive

    The Blazers might be a team that’s been overlooked as we look at the true challengers to the Warriors (I don’t believe that the Warriors are vulnerable if healthy; they should win hands down). With new additions Rodney Hood and Enes Kanter in the rotation, the Blazers have their best 10-man rotation that they’ve had since the early 2000s with four players (minus Evan Turner) coming off the bench who’re capable of going off for 15 points on any given night. On Sunday in the 118-108 win over the Hornets, it was Hood’s turn as he scored a season-high 27 points with two steals, three triples and two assists. Jusuf Nurkic double-doubled with 26 points, 15 boards, six assists, two steals and a block. He’s a big body that’s causing a lot of mismatches for the Blazers. Damian Lillard dropped 23 with four triples while C.J. McCollum had a rare off night with 2-of-13 shooting to finish with six points, two triples, a block and six assists.

    Hornets starters miss the mark

    Charlotte was led on Sunday by Jeremy Lamb who scored a team-high 23 points with four triples and five boards. This would have been fine if the starters came to play, but for whatever reason, the entire starting lineup, save Miles Bridges, shot 40 percent or worse in the game. Kemba Walker scored 18 points with 12 assists but shot under 24 percent from the field. Frank Kaminsky woke up tonight with 18 points off the bench, but he’s been forgotten for the most part this season. Bridges, who was mentioned earlier scored 10 points on 4-of-7 shooting with five boards and two triples.

    Houston – We have liftoff

    The Rockets have complained about their inability to stay healthy all season, but now they’re in a position to play their top-8 players while establishing a solid rotation. On Sunday they visited Boston and emerged victorious 115-104 led by the shooting from James Harden and Eric Gordon. Gordon tied his career-high with eight triples en route to 32 points, and a steal while Harden scored 42 with six triples, two steal, a block and four assists. Chris Paul dropped a double-double with 15 and 12 assists while adding three steals and three triples.

    Boston – We have a problem

    The Celtics were booed by the home crowd in the second quarter on Sunday, particularly after Marcus Morris airballed a triple while the Celtics were 1-of-13 from deep. Moments like this can catalyze a team or they can continue to rip them apart. Kyrie Irving was solid with 24 points, three triples, nine boards and six dimes. Marcus Smart scored 13 with three triples and six assists while Al Horford added 19 and six boards but no defensive stats. Jaylen Brown had 15 with six boards while Jayson Tatum was the only other player in double-digits with 12 points, five boards, a steal and a triple.

    Hawks serve Chicago a deep-dish loss at home

    The Hawks emerged victorious on Sunday 123-118 in Chicago despite losing their starting guard, Trae Young to an ejection after only 18 minutes logged. Young was productive, scoring 18 points with five assists, two boards and three triples in the short night. He was ejected for posturing towards Kris Dunn after hitting a deep triple. This should be a case where the league apologizes to the fans and rescinds a technical foul (players pay fines based on techs). In Young’s stead, Alex Len took on the role of three-point shooter, hitting five triples while scored 28 points with nine boards, two blocks and two assists. Dewayne Dedmon double-doubled with 13 and 12 while Kevin Huerter scored a dozen with two triples and two steals. Half-Man-Half-Amazing “Vince Carter” only logged 12 minutes with three points after playing 45 minutes on Friday in the triple overtime game between the two squads.

    Are you Dunn yet?

    Kris Dunn has been in a massive slump. Heading into today’s matchup he was outside of the top-130 over the last month while sitting right outside the top-80 in 8-cat leagues. Hopefully, the spat that he got into with Trae Young helps act as a spark for the rest of his season. On Sunday he delivered his best performance since February 6th, scoring 14 points on two triples with six assists, four boards and two steals on 6-of-12 shooting. Dunn’s job is to distribute the rock, pick up defensive stats, while hitting his open shots. Robin Lopez continued his run of solid play with 16 points, six boards, four assists and a block. Lauri Markkanen did his job with 19 points, nine boards and three triples while only hitting 29 percent of his shots from the field.

    The Landry Shamet has sailed

    Landry Shamet is a rookie but he’s making a name for himself as one of the most prolific three-point shooters in the league. On Sunday, he helped bust the game wide open with 21 points on seven triples, with three boards in 26 minutes. The result was a 128-107 win over the Knicks in L.A. Shai Gilgeous-Alexander also got in the act with 15 points, four assists three boards, a steal and two triples. Danilo Gallinari logged 23 minutes, delivering a solid 20 points, seven boards, four assists and three triples. The bench was big as always with Lou Williams and Montrezl Harrell both scoring 18 while JaMychal Green added 16.

    Put your hands up! It’s a blockery!

    Mitchell Robinson recently said that he had the goal of averaging five or six blocks per game over the remainder of the season, the number doesn’t really matter and he’s bananas for even suggesting it. On Sunday he delivered four swats with 16 points and 13 boards. He’s off by a bit but he has the talent to lead the league in swats and as long as he keeps his head on straight, he might be in the running to do so next season. Noah Vonleh emerged from the shed to double-double with 17 points, 12 boards, a triple and a block. Emmanuel Mudiay, Allonzo Trier and Damyean Dotson all scored in the teens as the Knicks focus on developing their youngsters down the stretch.

    Cavalier about nothing

    On Sunday we saw the Cavs play the nemesis, a team that has no outside shot at the postseason, they handed the Magic a loss, despite the Magic beating Toronto and the Warriors since the All-Star break. The final score was 107-93 and the Cavs did it by sharing the ball, no Cav scored more than Jordan Clarkson who had 18 points with three triples. Kevin Love continued his march back to getting into game-shape with 16 points and 14 boards and three triples. Cedi Osman is making an improvement in consistently delivering with Love back, he’s a top-45 contributor since the All-Star break, scoring 14 points with three steals and two triples on Sunday.

    Three Games out, Wizards continue to grind

    The Wizard’s season was considered over after the All-Star break but they didn’t get the memo, winning 135-121 over the Wolves on Sunday. Washington’s roster is unique in that it is filled with players who have a lot to prove, despite where in the standings the Wizards sit. Jabari Parker, an outcast from his hometown, scored 22 points with a full box score while fellow ex-Bull Bobby Portis delivered a 26-point, 12-board double-double. Not to be forgotten, Cavs/Rockets-outcast Sam Dekker scored 11 points with a steal and a triple. Most importantly the most talented player on the roster, Bradley Beal, continued to deliver with 22 points, eight assists, seven boards, two triples, three steals and a block. Beal will continue to try to convince the Wizard’s brain trust to build around him while shipping John Wall out of the Capital.

    Wolves begin to starve at the height of winter

    The Wolves are now far enough out of the playoffs that it’s time for the team to start looking at next season and developing their young guys. This means that Jeff Teague (10 points, eight assists), Taj Gibson (14 points, 10 boards), and Derrick Rose (18 points) could see reduced roles down the stretch. Karl-Anthony Towns should continue to feast as usual and on Sunday he filled up with 28 points, 10 boards, seven assists, two triples, a steal and a block. Let’s hope for Tyus Jones (four points) and Dario Saric (13 points, five boards) to continue to get consistent playing time down the stretch, both guys could be stepping into bigger roles next season with the Wolves.

    Sharp-shooting Luke and revenge-minded Casey

    Luke Kennard has had a rough second season in the league, slipping completely out of the rotation at times. On Sunday he experienced a high, helping his team with 19 points, five triples, five assists and two boards off the bench in the 112-107 win over the Raptors. Andre Drummond dealt with foul trouble but still delivered in 28 minutes with 15 points, 17 boards and two steals. Reggie Jackson did his job late to secure the win with some big buckets, culminating in 19 points, three triples, four assists and a steal. Blake Griffin did his job leading the Pistons in scoring with 27 points, seven boards and two triples, most importantly he got his coach a win against the franchise that fired him after his Coach of The Year campaign.

    No Kawhi, don’t know why…

    The Raptors were without Kawhi Leonard on Sunday, despite it not being a back-to-back situation. The rest was likely prescribed due to the Raptors playing three times in a five-day span. Either way, they’re eyeing the playoffs and have little incentive to play their starters down the stretch as they seem to be lodged in the two seed in the East. For now, they’re working on integrating Marc Gasol, who drew the start on Sunday. Gasol finished the game with 13 points, eight boards, two blocks, a triple, a steal and five assists, while Serge Ibaka continued to fall off with five points and 11 boards. Kyle Lowry did his part against his former coach with 35 points, six triples, seven boards and five assists. Pascal Siakam is the least likely starter to get rested down the stretch, he dropped 21 with nine boards and five assists.

    Just like the good ‘ol days

    The Thunder got a much-needed win with Paul George out on Sunday 99-95 against the Grizzlies. Dennis Schroder moved into the starting lineup and delivered a double-double with 17 points, 12 boards, six assists, two steals, a block and a triple. Schroder was closer to a triple-double than Russell Westbrook who scored 22 with six boards, five assists, four triples, three steals and a block. Steven Adams struggled from the line, only hitting 1-of-6 freebies but he still did his job by snagging 22 boards with 13 points to boot. Jerami Grant delivered 13 points, seven boards, five assists (one off his career-high) and a block while Abdel Nader led the bench with 15 points. Nader has no value as this game was an outlier with George out.

    The curious case of Avery Bradley

    Avery Bradley failed to score 20 or more points this season as a Clipper and he looked like a shell of himself. In his nine games as a Grizzly, he’s already had three games with 20-plus, including a 33-point bomb in his second game in Memphis. On Sunday against the Thunder Bradley was at it again with 27 points, seven assists, five boards, two steals and two triples. Mike Conley got the night off so Delon Wright drew the start, finishing with 17 points, eight boards, six assists, two steals, a block and a triple. Jonas Valanciunas double-doubled with 16 points, 13 boards and three blocks. He’s been a top-50 value over the last month and has a chance to set himself up for a huge season next year. His primary constraint has been his playing time and it looks like Memphis is willing to fix that problem. There’s something off with Justin Holiday, I had to move on from him in multiple leagues this week and won’t be looking back despite my affinity for “three and D” players.

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