• Tuesday night treated us to a five-game slate which had four games ending within single digits and the lone blowout being the Jazz-Nets game. This was a bit surprising as the Nets were without Kevin Durant which meant the Jazz should have taken care of business against a short-handed team. We’ve seen teams come into games unfocused because of injury news before and last night it happened again as the Jazz came into Brooklyn flat footed while Kyrie Irving torched them in the first quarter for 18 points to let them know that they’d have to earn their win. The Nets would win 130-96 as their 35-14 first quarter lead just kept expanding. Caris LeVert was the second leading scorer with 24 points off the bench, but it’s still too difficult to fall in love with him from a fantasy perspective with a healthy Kevin Durant. The real story here is Jarrett Allen starting, playing 32 minutes and notching an insane line of 19 points, 18 rebounds, one assist, three steals and two blocks. DeAndre Jordan played nine minutes off the bench and this is how things should go the rest of the way. I’ve written about this in the Weekly Report as well, Jarrett Allen is just better than DeAndre Jordan. There’s no reason he shouldn’t be playing close to 30 minutes a night with Jordan being his primary backup. The quicker Coach Nash gets this settled, the scarier the Nets will look. On the Jazz side of things, there’s not much to say besides Donovan Mitchell being the only one who showed up along with Rudy Gobert’s mediocre double-double. There will be better days ahead.

    Although Kyrie Irving treated us to a special night, it was Nikola Jokic who had the line of the night. He led the Nuggets to a 123-116 win over the Wolves with 35 points, 15 rebounds, six assists, three steals, a block and a 3-pointer. He’s the No. 2 ranked player in 9-cat leagues on the entire season and he’s been absolutely dominant since the start of the year. If you’ve been around Hoop Ball for a while you know that we love the Joker and we’re also used to waiting a few weeks before he gets up to speed to reach his potential. Usually he’ll come into the season a bit out of shape and it’ll take him a few weeks to get his feet under him again, but he always does. This year it looks like the short offseason and his conditioning before the bubble have factored into him being an absolute force from the start. Will Barton stepped up with 20 points and seven boards in the absence of Michael Porter Jr. (contact tracing) but he struggled with consistent production when the Nuggets had everyone healthy. He’s worth hanging onto for now. Jamal Murray scored 13 points with three dimes, but there’s no reason to worry as he’ll get his time to shine soon enough. The Wolves got a huge lift from Juancho Hernangomez with 25 points, eight boards, two dimes, two steals, a block and five 3-pointers. Obviously this is an outlier, but we’ve seen Hernangomez put up huge numbers for prolonged stretches when given the opportunity. The issue here is Karl-Anthony Towns is nursing a wrist injury and should come back soon enough. For now, he’s a short-term play. The Wolves have a ton of guards in Malik Beasley, Anthony Edwards and DeAngelo Russell and the most trustworthy one is obviously Russell. Second place goes to Malik Beasley and Anthony Edwards is dead last as he’s still a rookie guard who is trying to figure it out. He has a natural scoring feel, but it’s always hard for rookie guards to be efficient and Edwards doesn’t do enough outside of scoring to make him worth the hold unless you’re in a dynasty league.

    The Spurs got LaMarcus Aldridge back, but it was Patty Mills coming off the bench with 27 points and eight triples that led the way, along with Dejounte Murray’s 21-5-5 line with two steals and treys. Murray is in full swing right now and Derrick White re-fractured his toe which is terrible news for owners and it’s almost impossible to hold onto him in non-IR leagues. Keldon Johnson has been blasting expectations away and continued to do so even with a quiet scoring night, dropping nine points, but also grabbing 11 boards with four dimes and a block with a 3-pointer. He’s a must-own everywhere. Paul George sat this game out with a sore right ankle and Kawhi Leonard (30 points, three boards, 10 dimes, two steals, a block and a triple) might sit out Wednesday’s game for rest on a back-to-back set. Patrick Beverley (20-8-8, two blocks, six triples) and Lou Williams (15 points, two boards, two dimes, one steal and two treys) both stepped up in the absence, but neither are really viable options.

    It’s Otto Porter (19 points, 13 boards, one assist and four treys) time in Chicago. He and Coby White (21-10-5-1-1, two triples) led the Bulls to a 3-point win over the Blazers, with White sealing the deal towards the end of the game by nailing a pair of free throws. Wendell Carter Jr. (13 points, three rebounds, five assists, a steal and a block) and Zach LaVine (18 points, four boards, nine dimes, two blocks and three triples) had decent nights as well and Patrick Williams (14 points, three boards, one assist and two triples) is still trying to figure it out, but he’s starting and getting consistent minutes which helps. Lord Covington (14 points, six boards, one assist, one steal, one block and four triples) finally had a decent outing, but the Blazers aren’t using him as a free safety on defense like the Rockets did so the defensive numbers won’t be as eye-popping as last season. Damian Lillard (24 points, five rebounds, nine dimes and three triples) and C.J. McCollum (26 points, five rebounds, four assists, three steals and six 3-pointers) have both played well all season, with McCollum really turning things up. On the year, McCollum is the No. 6 player in 9-cat leagues with averages of 27.7 points, 4.9 3s, 4.1 boards, 5.4 assists, 1.9 steals and 0.3 blocks on .458 shooting from the floor. The points, treys and steals would all be a career-high for him and there’s almost no shot that he finished the year as a top-10 fantasy player, but the increased efficiency from deep paired with the extra defensive numbers are definitely something that can stick. This means that he has a strong chance of finishing in the top-30 in value, rather than the top-60 where he’s been the past three seasons. Oh and don’t be a fool, Jusuf Nurkic (12 points, 11 boards, six dimes and a block) is struggling with his shot and trying to get back into a rhythm, but he’ll be just fine. Go ahead and grab him from scared owners for pennies on the dollar. You’ll thank me later.

    The reigning champs are the easiest and most boring fantasy team to read. It’s the Anthony Davis and LeBron James show, with Dennis Schroder getting in the mix and doing more whenever either of the stars sit. James is on the backend of his career and is dealing with playing the most minutes in the playoffs coupled with a short offseason so expect load management sometime in the near future. For the Grizzlies, they’re going to have Tyus Jones run point until Ja Morant heals from his ankle sprain and it’s going to be rough, but they have enough support to keep things close. Jonas Valanciunas will be a stud no matter the situation here, while Brandon Clarke (12 points, three rebounds, one assist, one 3-pointer, three steals and a block) is still getting it done on defense which means he’s a standard league guy, but his 3-point shot looks horrendous now. I don’t know who or why they decided to change his jumper, but Clarke now has a hitch in his shot and is shooting 3-14 from deep on the season, good for .214 efficiency. Last season as a whole he shot 23-64 from deep, which was a .359 mark. He wasn’t a sniper, but he was good enough to keep defenses honest and his main strengths were his defense and finishing ability around the rim. Everyone involved in the process of him re-doing his shot needs to be fined and/or fired.

    Injury Report:

    Reggie Bullock (sore left knee) is questionable to face the Jazz on Wednesday.

    The Cavs announced this morning that Darius Garland (right shoulder sprain) had an MRI on Tuesday to confirm the injury and he could miss up to one more week.

    Alec Burks (sprained left ankle) underwent further testing for his sprained left ankle and will be in a walking boot and re-evaluated in 7-10 days.

    After undergoing an MRI, Michael Carter-Williams has been diagnosed with a mild bone bruise and a sprained ligament in his left foot and will miss Wednesday’s game.

    Shams Charania of The Athletic is reporting that rookie guard Killian Hayes has been diagnosed with a labral tear in his hip.

    Jalen Smith (left ankle sprain) has been listed as questionable for Wednesday’s game vs. the Raptors.

    Pat Connaughton (left groin strain) has been listed as doubtful ahead of the Bucks’ game vs. the Pistons on Wednesday.

    Tyrese Haliburton (bruised left wrist) has been upgraded to questionable ahead of Wednesday’s game against the Bulls.

    Jalen Lecque has suffered a Grade 2 left ankle sprain and is out indefinitely.

    The Lakers are hoping that Alex Caruso (health and safety protocols) can play on Thursday.

    Rajon Rondo (right knee rehab) will miss at least the next three games.

    Dante Exum (right calf strain) will miss 1-2 months, per Shams Charania.

    Evan Fournier (back spasms) is questionable for Wednesday’s game with the Cavs.

    James Ennis (right hamstring/calf strain) has been taken off the injury report ahead of Wednesday’s game against the Cavs.

    Bogdan Bogdanovic (right ankle stiffness) is probable to play on Wednesday.

    Isaac Okoro (left foot sprain) is no longer on the injury report and should be available for Wednesday.

    Josh Jackson (right ankle sprain) is questionable to play on Wednesday.

    Sindarius Thornwell (health and safety protocols) will not play on Wednesday while Wenyen Gabriel (quad tendinosis) has been removed from the injury report.

    Mike Scott (left knee contusion) will not play on Wednesday.

    Aleksej Pokusevski (concussion) will not play on Wednesday.

    Mason Jones (right ankle sprain) has been ruled out once again and will not play on Wednesday.

    Jalen Lecque (left ankle sprain) is questionable to play on Wednesday.

    Moe Harkless (left forearm contusion) is questionable for Wednesday’s game.

    Juwan Morgan (health and safety) is unavailable for Wednesday’s game with the Nets.

    Jeff Teague (left ankle sprain) is questionable for Wednesday’s game against the Heat.

    Abdel Nader (concussion) is set to make his Phoenix Suns debut on Wednesday.

    Nerlens Noel (sprained left ankle) is questionable for Wednesday’s game.

    The Knicks have listed Kevin Knox (sore left knee), Dennis Smith Jr. (left quad contusion) and Omari Spellman (right knee soreness) as probable for Wednesday’s game.

    Frank Ntilikina (right knee sprain) will not play on Wednesday.

    Marcus Smart (right thumb sprain) is questionable for Wednesday’s game against the Heat.

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