• Thursday’s card included four games for us to dive into and without further ado, let’s get into it!

    The night started out with the new-look Rockets matched up against a depleted Blazers squad and the Rockets came out on top with a three-point victory. It was our first look at this new Rockets squad with all of their players healthy and we saw Jae’Sean Tate stick in the starting lineup, which bodes well for his deep league viability for the foreseeable future even though he had a mediocre line with just two points, three rebounds, one assist and one steal. Victor Oladipo was the player of the game as he rattled off 25 points, seven rebounds, five assists and a steal and block respectively with zero turnovers. Christian Wood returned from his ankle injury and returned lines that have become expected of him with 22 points and 12 rebounds with a steal and block. However, those who were on DeMarcus Cousins watch must feel disappointed to see the big man log 11 minutes off the bench. It’s going to be difficult to keep him rostered with this kind of opportunity. John Wall was inefficient shooting just 6-of-16 from the field but he still finished with 20-5-6.

    On the other side of the ball, Damian Lillard did all he could do to keep the game close but the Rockets did all they could to allow someone else to beat them, which Anfernee Simons wasn’t able to do with a last second heave to potentially send the game into overtime. Lillard finished the night with 30 points, four rebounds and nine assists while Gary Trent Jr. and Simons shot 7-of-13 and 4-of-9 from distance respectively. Those seven three pointers tied Trent’s previous career-mark for triples made in a game. The only other players who could find their rhythm on offense were Enes Kanter and Derrick Jones Jr. Kanter did what he has become known for: rebound and score near the bucket. He finished the game with 13 points, 13 boards, two assists and three combined defensive stats while Airplane Mode chipped in with three blocks and one steal to go with 11 points and seven rebounds. Overall, Houston was able to force someone else to beat them and they succeeded in their plan, pulling out a narrow victory and the Rockets have now won four in a row.

    The next game on the docket featured a Lakers squad without Anthony Davis and they definitely missed their All-Star as they ended up picking up a L against one of the worst teams in the league in the Pistons. LeBron James did what he could with 22 points, seven rebounds and 10 assists in a team-high 36 minutes. LeBron is defying logic with what he has been able to do in his 18th season at 36 years of age. Kyle Kuzma benefited from a fantasy perspective with Davis out as he poured in 22 points himself to go with 10 rebounds. However, he seems to be allergic to defensive stats as well as assists as he didn’t accumulate a single stat across all three categories. Montrezl Harrell and Talen Horton-Tucker had mediocre games off the bench and it was nice to see Harrell bounce back after going scoreless in their last one, although you’d like to see more from him.

    On the other side, Wayne Ellington stayed hot as he continues to hit the 3-ball at an unbelievable clip over the last seven contests. After the 6-of-9 shooting from distance on Thursday, Ellington has now drilled 37 triples over his last seven games, good for 5.3 per game. It’s an unsustainable mark but Ellington is proving to be one of the better 3-point specialists in the league. Jerami Grant was unusually quiet with just 14 points, six assists and three rebounds but Blake Griffin came through with his second highest scoring performance of the season as he finished with 23 points on 8-of-16 shooting to go with six assists and three boards. Mason Plumlee must have enjoyed not being matched up with Davis as he logged an efficient double-double with 17 and 10 and he was a perfect 3-of-3 from the charity stripe. The Pistons have been able to stay competitive for most of their games this season and are looking to get out of the cellar in the East. Thursday was a great start as they took down the defending Champs.

    In our third game of the night, the Heat were up big early on the Clippers but couldn’t sustain it throughout the game as they ended up losing by a four-point margin. Miami has been without several key players and Thursday was no different with no Jimmy Butler, Goran Dragić, Avery Bradley and Andre Iguodala. This meant that Bam Adebayo had to be something special but he wasn’t able to ever get his offense going, ending the night with 16 points (6-of-16 FG) but he did contribute elsewhere with 13 rebounds and seven assists. Kendrick Nunn and Tyler Herro were also inefficient, shooting a combined 13-for-33 from the field for 10 and 19 points respectively. This marked Herro’s first game back from neck spasms and he was able to chip in elsewhere on the stat sheet with 10 rebounds, five assists and a steal. Nunn, on the other hand, didn’t do much else to float his fantasy line. It was Miami’s peripheral pieces that may have had the best lines as Gabe Vincent came off the bench for 18 points, four rebounds, four assists and two steals while Precious Achiuwa continues to show why he was taken in the first round with a perfect 4-of-4 from the field for 10 points and five boards. Miami’s been on a big slump without so many key players as they dropped their fifth straight on Thursday.

    The Clippers got off to a slow start as they continue to be without Kawhi Leonard, Paul George and Patrick Beverley but the team was able to piece together enough for a victory as they clawed their way out from a 14-point deficit after the first quarter. Reggie Jackson continues to be the best fill-in from a fantasy perspective as he finished with 16-8-6 on an inefficient 6-of-15 from the field. Luke Kennard was unable to capitalize on the increased usage for the second game in a row, posting just nine points on 4-of-10 from the field and just 1-of-6 from distance. Serge Ibaka double-doubled with 10 points and 13 rebounds to go with three assists, one steal and a block while Nicolas Batum continued his newfound standard league viability with 18 points on six triples paired with six rebounds, two assists and two steals. It was impressive to see the Clippers get the victory without having three starters, even though it was against a hobbled Heat team.

    The finale of the night was the worst game of the evening from a competitive standpoint as the Warriors just couldn’t find their footing on either side of the floor on the second night of a back-to-back. Steph Curry did his thing, finishing with 27 points, four rebounds and four assists on 10-of-20 shooting while Andrew Wiggins chipped in with 16 points and five rebounds. However, the rest of the roster shot a dismal 22-for-68 from the field (32.4%) and that includes Eric Paschall’s 6-for-10 off the bench. Hopefully for Warriors fans out there, this can be chalked up to a schedule loss as they had to travel to Phoenix on the second leg of their back-to-back.

    While the Warriors put up a dismal effort, Suns fans were ecstatic to see their squad dominate even though they were without Devin Booker. Their starters combined for 74 points on 26-of-48 shooting so it’s safe to say that the Warriors defense was lacking. Ayton provided his typical double-double, Mikal Bridges produced that 3-and-D line that has elevated him into the top-40 this season, Chris Paul continued to orchestrate and Jae Crowder continues to deliver when given the starting nod. The biggest story of the night came off the bench with Frank Kaminsky nearly earning himself his first NBA triple-double as he finished with 12 points, 13 rebounds and eight assists. It doesn’t take a rocket scientist to come to the conclusion that the Warriors didn’t bring it on the defensive end, and they were steamrolled as a result.

    Add(s) of the Night

    Tonight we’ll be highlighting Wayne Ellington, who should have gotten people’s attention already with his red-hot shooting. However, he doesn’t get the love he deserves because he’s not even close to being a household name. Ellington is currently returning over five triples per game over his last seven games (not such a small sample size). He absolutely belongs on standard league rosters and if he’s still available in your league, you should definitely not let time waste!

    Drop Zone

    As a Warriors fan, it pains me to say that Draymond Green is in the drop zone. He’s just not doing enough in the peripheral categories to make up for his dreadful offensive output from a scoring perspective. He’s currently outside the top-200 and unless he gets back to his shooting form from 2014-15, it seems like Dray is on the outside looking in. It’s a bit strange because he matters so much from a reality perspective for the team due to the chemistry he’s developed with Curry as well as his defensive grit (which wasn’t there tonight), but Green has not been viable in fantasy and there is no reason to believe that this will change moving forward.

    Injury Report

    Christian Wood (ankle) returned from a three-game absence and didn’t miss a beat.

    Derrick Jones Jr. (quad) and Rodney Hood (quad) played despite their respective injuries and while Jones had a good performance, the injury may be one of the reasons why Hood has disappointed over the last few contests. Robert Covington (concussion) continues to work his way back while the Blazers continue to play without Jusuf Nurkić (wrist) and CJ McCollum (foot) for the foreseeable future. Zach Collins (ankle) also remains sidelined with no timetable for a return.

    Kawhi Leonard and Paul George sat out for health and safety reasons while Patrick Beverley sat out with a sore right knee.

    It might actually be easier to talk about who did play as the Heat continue to be without many key players and they were without seven players on Thursday including Jimmy Butler (health and safety), Goran Dragić (groin), Avery Bradley (knee), Moe Harkless (thigh), Andre Iguodala (neck) and Meyers Leonard (shoulder).

    Rookie Killian Hayes continues to be sidelined with a strained right hip.

    LeBron continues to play through his ankle issue but Anthony Davis had the night off as he nursed a bruised quad.

    Devin Booker (hamstring) continues to be sidelined without a clear timetable for a return so he could miss more contests down the road. Cameron Payne (foot) sat this one out while Dario Šarić continues to miss time due to the league’s health and safety protocols.

    Look Ahead

    The Wizards will be getting back three players from the league’s health and safety protocols on Friday so that bodes well for their ability to actually win some contests down the road and it’ll probably end the whacky lines we see out of Washington. The Hawks may be without Cam Reddish (quad) again on Friday as he is currently listed as questionable. Will Taurean Prince continue to enjoy his new home in Cleveland with standard league relevant lines? Larry Nance’s status could have an impact on it as he is currently questionable with a sprained right wrist. Lonzo Ball is questionable after suffering an ankle sprain in his last contest so will we get our first look at Nickeil Alexander-Walker in the starting group on Friday? OG Anunoby is questionable for Friday’s contest and his status will likely determine whether or not Norman Powell continues to stick with the starting unit. The undermanned Clippers will look to win back to back games and will likely have to do it without their three starters once again. Is D’Angelo Russell set to miss his fourth straight game with a bruised quad? Will Joel Embiid (back), who is currently questionable, sit out after having a hard fall during the team’s victory over the Lakers on Wednesday? Derrick White owners should rejoice after hearing that he’s set to make his return on Saturday. We’ll get the answer to all these questions and more on a sweet 8-game slate.

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