• The top tier of the Eastern Conference continued to consolidate on Thursday night as the Sixers, Nets and Bucks all racked up wins

    The Sixers remain on top of the East following their 111-97 blowout win over the Kristaps Porzingis-less Mavs. Life after 50 has been rough on Joel Embiid, who only hit 5-of-20 shots tonight and hasn’t shot over 30 percent from the field in any game since his career-high explosion on February 19th. Despite the inefficiency, he still hung 13 points on the Mavs in the second quarter, which blew the game wide open. The Sixers had control from then on, with Luka Doncic only scoring eight second-half points to cap off a disappointing loss.

    The Nets have now bitten off a league-best eight-game winning streak after unraveling the Magic 129-92. Seven of those wins came without Kevin Durant (hamstring), as Kyrie Irving and James Harden have settled into a comfortable co-stardom. But, tonight’s near 40-point victory was powered just as much by Brooklyn’s stars as their role players. Landry Shamet scored 19 points on 5-of-9 shooting from three while grabbing nine rebounds, Bruce Brown started for Durant once again and grabbed two steals while knocking down 66.7 percent of his shots on the way to 14 points and Nic Claxton, in his second game back after missing the Nets’ first 32 games this season, flexed his potential with 10 points, four steals and two blocks. On the receiving end of this beat down, Nikola Vucevic once again mounted a valiant, yet fruitless, defense with 28 points and 12 rebounds.

    The Bucks didn’t have such an easy time in their 129-125 victory tonight, as the Pelicans pushed them to their limit. Zion Williamson dropped 34 points, eight rebounds and six assists while Lonzo Ball kept up his superb 3-point shooting by nailing 6-of-10 from deep on his way to 20 points. Their efforts went to waste though, as Giannis Antetokounmpo iced the game with a dunk and a free throw while double-doubling with 38 points and 10 rebounds. All-Star snub Khris Middleton was excellent as well and scored an efficient 31 points, with seven rebounds and six assists. But, Donte DiVincenzo stole the show with a career-outing, racking up 24 points (9-of-16 shooting), four triples, seven rebounds, nine assists, two steals and one block. If DiVincenzo hadn’t played one of the best games of his life, the Bucks would’ve been dismantled by a Pelicans team that nearly matched them blow for blow.

    Add(s) of the Night

    Bruce Brown, SG, Brooklyn Nets Advanced Ownership: 12%

    This comes with the caveat that Brown’s value is entirely derived from Kevin Durant’s absence and, per Steve Nash, he’s expected to return before the All-Star break. But, over the past two weeks, Brown has been a top-100 player while averaging 12.6 points on 60.0 percent shooting, 4.4 rebounds, 1.9 assists and 1.7 steals per game. Those numbers are inflated by his 29-point outburst against the Kings this past Tuesday, but even discounting that game, he’s been producing well and has great value as a steals streamer. While Durant remains out, Brown is a solid 12-team option.

    Drop Zone

    Will Barton, SG/SF, Denver Nuggets Advanced Ownership: 59%

    Barton played 22 minutes tonight and put up a measly two points, four rebounds, one assist and one steal. Over the past week, he’s ranked outside the top-200 in both 8- and 9-cat leagues, despite the fact that Gary Harris (left adductor) and Paul Millsap (left knee) have both been sidelined during that time. There’s nothing about his current production that justifies such a high roster percentage.

    Injury List

    Tobias Harris (right knee contusion) suffered the injury in the first half of tonight’s win over the Mavs and didn’t return. There are no immediate adds if he misses time, though Matisse Thybulle may see a slight boost.

    Malik Beasley is facing a 12-game suspension due to his offseason legal issues. A suite of players stand to benefit from his absence, among them Jarrett Culver, Josh Okogie, Jordan McLaughlin and Jaylen Nowell. We’ll get our first look at the Beasley-less rotation on Saturday when the Wolves play the Wizards.

    Bam Adebayo (left knee tendinosis) and Tyler Herro (right hip) have both been tagged questionable for the Heat’s matchup with the Jazz on Friday.

    Kristaps Porzingis (back stiffness) sat out tonight and Boban Marjanovic was a spot start as a result, posting seven points and 12 rebounds in 16 minutes of action.

    Al Horford (rest) will sit out on Friday against the Hawks. As always, Isaiah Roby is a high-upside streamer with Horford on the sidelines.

    Dennis Schröder (health and safety protocols) is probable for the Lakers’ matchup with the Blazers on Friday. He’s missed the last four games as he works through the protocols. LeBron James (left ankle sprain) is also probable, as usual.

    Jrue Holiday (health and safety protocols) has yet to be cleared for a return and remained out tonight.

    Saddiq Bey (left ankle sprain) is questionable for Friday’s bout with the Kings.

    Devonte’ Graham (left knee discomfort) has been ruled out for Friday’s game against the Warriors, while Cody Zeller (left hip contusion) is questionable.

    Elfrid Payton (sore right hamstring) missed the Knicks’ 140-121 rout of the Kings tonight. Derrick Rose started in his place and scored 18 points on 7-of-11 shooting while adding three rebounds, six assists and two threes.

    Dillon Brooks (right thigh soreness) returned from a three-game absence tonight and slotted back into the starting lineup against the Clippers.

    Davis Bertans (right knee soreness) missed the Wizards’ 112-110 win over the Nuggets tonight.

    Cam Reddish (sore right ankle) has been ruled questionable for Friday. He has missed the Hawks’ last two games due to the injury.

    Seth Curry (left ankle soreness) was active tonight after missing Tuesday’s win over the Raptors and played well, going 3-of-3 from deep on his way to 15 points while adding three steals and a block.

    Hamidou Diallo (right groin soreness) will miss the Thunder’s next two games at a minimum. In the four games prior to his injury, he was seeing 24.3 minutes off the bench. That playing time needs to go somewhere and it could elevate players on the fringes of the rotation like Kenrich Williams or Justin Jackson.

    Melt Down

    With the return of Dillon Brooks tonight, the Grizzlies are nearly back to full strength for the first time in weeks. As a result, De’Anthony Melton played just three minutes in the team’s 122-94 blowout win over the Clippers. Melton has enticed fantasy managers for years with a combination of solid guard play and defensive production, but he’s never been able to find his way into a large, consistent role. And now that the Grizzlies’ guard rotation is fully staffed, he’s been pushed to the fringes once again. He still remains rostered in 15 percent of competitive leagues, but it seems like the dream is dead until the next time injuries strike Memphis.

    The only solace to be had here is that few of Melton’s fellow guards fared well in tonight’s full rotation. Tyus Jones exploded for 20 points on 9-of-11 shooting in 14 minutes and his stellar play in the second quarter kicked off the run that turned the game into a decisive victory. But, he’s obviously nowhere near this good on a regular night and shouldn’t be added to any rosters off this performance. Grayson Allen and Desmond Bane, two players who earned their way onto 12-team rosters while the Grizzlies were hurt, were both unremarkable tonight. Neither appears likely to remain standard-league relevant going forward. Justise Winslow had nine points and six rebounds in 21 minutes and it appears that the team wants him to be a significant part of their rotation, but he’s just too flawed as a player to recommend outside deeper leagues.

    The only player of this bunch who we should be considering in standard leagues is Dillon Brooks. For the season, he’s been a top-125/170 player (8/9-cat) but was playing much better before his injury and sits inside the top-100/130 (8/9-cat) over the last two weeks with per-game averages of 17.6 points on 45.2 percent shooting, 2.0 threes, 1.8 rebounds, 1.4 assists, 1.4 steals and 0.2 blocks. As long as you can stomach some empty scoring nights, Brooks is worth adding/holding onto in case he’s able to sustain his recent run of solid play.




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