Bojan Bogdanovic torches the Nuggets

Friday’s 10-game slate was headlined by the Lakers’ trip north to take on Portland, with the winner grabbing the head-to-head tiebreaker and a leg up in the race to avoid the play-in tournament in the West. But the star of the night was a Jazz forward who has recently answered the call while the team is down both of its starting guards.

Friday’s Scores
76ers 109, Pelicans 107
Bulls 121, Celtics 99
Hornets 112, Magic 112
Heat 121, Timberwolves 112
Bucks 141, Rockets 133
Mavericks 110, Cavaliers 90
Jazz 127, Nuggets 120
Suns 128, Knicks 105
Trail Blazers 106, Lakers 101
Spurs 113, Kings 104

1. Keep this stretch in mind if the Jazz play deep into the playoffs

Utah has been without its starting backcourt for quite some time now, with Mike Conley (right hamstring) missing his sixth straight game and Donovan Mitchell (right ankle) his 11th. Understandably the Jazz have prioritized getting healthy for the playoffs over going all-out for the top seed in the West; if they get it, fine. If not, that’s also fine, so long as they’re at full strength. Mitchell will miss at least one more week. The absences of Conley and Mitchell has resulted in Bojan Bogdanovic having more on his plate offensively, and he has responded positively. Friday’s win over the Nuggets was his best, as Bogdanovic scored a career-high 48 points to go along with eight rebounds, two assists, two steals and eight 3-pointers.

Bogdanovic has scored 22 points or more in seven of his last eight, including three games with at least 30. While he has been a fantasy disappointment for the season as a whole, Bogdanovic ranks well within the top-50 over the last two weeks. If he can build upon this recent run once Conley and Mitchell return, they can play deep into the playoffs. Jordan Clarkson (21/5/8/2 with six 3-pointers) shot 6-of-12 from the field, missing all six of his 2-point attempts. After shooting 12-of-16 from the field in Wednesday’s win over the Jazz, Clarkson was once again inefficient with his shot. But I’m not too worried about this, under the assumption that the Jazz will get Conley and Mitchell back at some point. Having those two on the court will mean a little less attention from opposing defenses. That should result in better scoring opportunities for Clarkson.

2. Davis looks better, but Kuzma has a brutal night

Given what was on the line, Friday’s game between the Lakers and Trail Blazers was the most important matchup on the slate. The winner would hold the head-to-head tiebreaker, and move that much closer to avoiding the play-in round. Portland won, but there were some encouraging signs from Anthony Davis one night after leaving a game due to back spasms. Shooting 12-of-23 from the field and 10-of-15 from the foul line, Davis tallied 36 points, 12 rebounds, five assists, one blocked shot and two 3-pointers in 39 minutes. While this may lead some to question the severity of the back spasms that took him out of Thursday’s loss to the Clippers, the fact of the matter is that Friday’s game was of greater importance with regard to the Lakers’ playoff seeding.

The issue for the reigning champions was that, outside of Alex Caruso (18/6/2 with two 3-pointers) and Kentavious Caldwell-Pope (17/4/5/0/1 with one 3-pointer), they didn’t get much in the way of production from anyone else. Kyle Kuzma (4/5/1) laid an egg, shooting 2-of-11 from the field with the second make coming in the final seconds. And he has been wildly inconsistent recently, alternating poor, single-digit scoring efforts with 20-point games. Based upon that trend, maybe we should expect a big night from him when the Lakers host the Suns on Sunday. And the center position didn’t offer much in the way of production, either, as Andre Drummond (4/9/2) fouled out in 22 minutes. Marc Gasol (6/4/1/2/1 with two 3-pointers) posted a low-level line in his 23 minutes, and Montrezl Harrell was a DNP-CD. Is the return of LeBron James enough to right the ship? That’s the big question, with the four-time champion expected to return sometime next week.

3. Zion Williamson, Brandon Ingram and Steven Adams all sidelined

New Orleans was down three starters in Philadelphia, and nearly found a way to leave with the win. Williamson, who’s dealing with a broken finger on his shooting hand, and Ingram (sprained left ankle) have both been ruled out indefinitely, and while the Pelicans still have an outside shot at getting into the play-in rounds, don’t bet on either returning quickly. James Johnson (10/4/1/0/2) and Naji Marshall (4/5/5/1/1) filled the resulting voids in the starting lineup, and both are worth picking up if your league is still in competition.

Eric Bledsoe (18/5/4/2 with one 3-pointer) and Lonzo Ball (18/7/3/2 with four 3-pointers) logged 40 and 34 minutes, respectively, but I have a hard time believing that those workloads will be the norm for much longer. As a result Kira Lewis Jr., who tallied 13 points, four rebounds, four assists, two steals and one 3-pointer, should see more playing time than he did Friday night (21 minutes).

Adams has been nagged by the toe injury for a few games now, and his absence has freed up minutes for Willy Hernangomez and Jaxson Hayes. Both posted solid lines Friday in their respective 24 minutes, with Hernangomez finishing with 11/9/5/2 and Hayes 19/8/3/1/3. They’re rostered in seven and four percent of Yahoo leagues, respectively, so they’re definitely available to be picked up. Hayes can give a little more as a shot-blocker, but Hernangomez hasn’t been a fantasy liability recently, either.

4. LaVine looks better in second game back as Bulls roll

After missing 11 games due to health and safety protocols, Zach LaVine made his return to the Bulls lineup Thursday night. He looked a bit gassed in the win over the Hornets, and it remained to be seen just how well he would play in the second game of a back-to-back. Well, he looked a bit fresher in Friday’s win over the Celtics, finishing with 25 points, five rebounds tow assists, two steals and three 3-pointers in 33 minutes. The good news for LaVine and the Bulls is that they don’t have another back-to-back until May 15-16 against the Nets and Bucks. The bad news: Chicago’s schedule doesn’t do the Bulls any favors when it comes to making a late run at a play-in round spot.

Chicago will play Brooklyn twice and Milwaukee once in its last five games, with Detroit and Toronto being the other two opponents. Trailing Washington by three games and Indiana by 3.5, Chicago is going to need a lot of help while also winning out. Coby White (25/7/5/1/1 with seven 3-pointers) is averaging 3.4 3-pointers per game over the last two weeks, and the improvement made there is one reason why he’s threatened top-100 value during this stretch. Nikola Vucevic (18/14/10/2/1 with two 3-pointers) posted his second triple-double of the season.

5. Evan Fournier continues to make strides following return

Boston was without Jaylen Brown and Robert Williams Friday, and it didn’t help that Jayson Tatum (9/6/3/2) shot 3-of-15 from the field and one of his worst games of the season. The good news for the Celtics: Kemba Walker (33/4/3/1/1 with six 3-pointers) established a new season-high point total, and the aforementioned Fournier once again looked good. In 36 minutes he shot 7-of-11 from the field, scoring 17 points with six rebounds, three assists, one steal, one block and three 3-pointers.

Rostered in 61% of Yahoo leagues as some hopped off the bandwagon in the aftermath of his struggles post-COVID, Fournier has been a top-100 player over the last two weeks. If, for some reason, your league will remain active next week, he’s worth picking up. The Celtics will play four games next week, with back-to-backs on Tuesday/Wednesday (Miami, at Cleveland) and Saturday/Sunday (at Minnesota, at New York).

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6. Butler, Herro excel as Heat beat Timberwolves

Jimmy Butler and Tyler Herro were both back in the Heat rotation Friday, with the latter returning after a six-game absence due to a sore right foot. Butler played 36 minutes, posting a line of 25 points, eight rebounds, six assists and five steals, shooting 7-of-15 from the field and 11-of-14 from the foul line. As for Herro, in 29 minutes he shot 10-of-13 from the field and finished with 27 points, three rebounds, four assists and six 3-pointers. The Heat don’t have a back-to-back until their final two games of the regular season, so that bodes well for those who have Herro rostered.

However, Duncan Robinson’s playing time takes a hit here. After playing 38 minutes in Tuesday’s loss to Dallas, his minutes were more than halved (6/2/3 with two 3-pointers in 18 minutes) Friday. That’s not good, given the fact that he’s essentially a specialist (points/3-pointers).

On the Minnesota side of this game, Anthony Edwards is rolling right now. He played 41 minutes Friday, finishing with 25 points, six rebounds, three assists and two 3-pointers, shooting 10-of-19 from the field and 3-of-3 from the foul line. While the 3-point shooting (2-of-9) and the turnover count (five) weren’t great, the rookie was once again very difficult to keep from getting to his spots inside of the arc. Edwards has scored 25 or more in four straight games, his longest such streak of the season, shooting 50% or better from the field in each. His Yahoo ADP in 9-cat was 115; no way is he still available at that point in next season’s drafts.

7. Doncic makes history as Mavs roll past Cavs

Luka Doncic remains one technical foul away from an automatic one-game suspension, which is great news for the Mavericks and fantasy managers who have him rostered. In Friday’s win over the Cavaliers he put up 24 points, eight rebounds, one assist, one block and one 3-pointer, in the process becoming the fourth-youngest player to reach 5,000 career points. The only three to have hit that career milestone quicker: LeBron, Kevin Durant and Carmelo Anthony. That isn’t bad company to keep. Dallas remains without Kristaps Porzingis (right knee) and Maxi Kleber (right Achilles), and they may be without the latter for at least one more game. Kleber is considered to be doubtful for Sunday’s rematch in Cleveland, while Porzingis is questionable.

Willie Cauley-Stein (3/6/1/2/2 in 23 minutes) provided some solid defensive production in his third consecutive start, and he has blocked two shots in back-to-back games for the first time this season. Unfortunately the defensive stats haven’t been there on a consistent basis, which limits how reliable of a fantasy option he can be. Cauley-Stein is rostered in just 3% of Yahoo leagues. If you’re playing next week, feel free to consider rolling the dice if Porzingis and Kleber remain sidelined, but there isn’t much value to be had.

8. Ayton dominant as Suns pull away from Knicks

New York was down two rotation guards Friday, as Alec Burks (left knee) and Immanuel Quickley (left ankle) were held out. That meant a promotion for Frank Ntilikina, who played 15 minutes and accounted for one assist while missing both of his field goal attempts. His Yahoo rostered percentage (0%) should remain right where it is. Derrick Rose (17/4/6 with one 3-pointer in 29 minutes) did much of the heavy lifting for the Knicks off the bench, and he once again outperformed starter Elfrid Payton (5/2/3 in 18 minutes). Tom Thibodeau isn’t going to change the lineup, and that actually makes sense when taking into the consideration New York’s lack of consistent bench scorers outside of Rose and Burks. On most nights, they can afford to carry Payton with the starters due to the presence of Julius Randle (24/11/4 with one 3-pointer) and RJ Barrett (23/8/3 with five 3-pointers).

But they were unable to get away with this in Phoenix, due in part to the play of Deandre Ayton. He made the most of his 29 minutes, tallying 26 points, 15 rebounds, one assist, one steal and one blocked shot. This was Ayton’s first double-double with at least 25 points scored since April 15 vs. Sacramento, and over the last month he has been a top-25 player in 9-cat. Jae Crowder returned to action after an eight-game absence due to a sprained right ankle, and all he did was knock down six 3-pointers in 23 minutes off the bench. Torrey Craig (7/6/2/1 with one 3-pointer) remained with the starters, playing 29 minutes, but it wouldn’t come as a surprise if the Suns flipped those two Sunday when they visit the Lakers.

9. Shorthanded Rockets worth tracking this next week

Houston’s injury report was into double figures ahead of Friday’s loss to the Bucks, and only eight players were available. The eighth man was Khyri Thomas, who was thrust into the rotation only hours after his signing became official. In 23 minutes off the bench he shot 6-of-7 from the field, scoring 16 points with three rebounds, one assist, three steals, one block and two 3-pointers. Not a bad night for him, but if you’re looking for someone on this roster who can put up some numbers, KJ Martin (26/7/7 with six 3-pointers) and Armoni Brooks (19/3/6/3/1 with five 3-pointers) would be better choices. Martin’s rostered in 29% of Yahoo leagues, while Brooks is way down at 3%.

Honestly, any Rockets player who’s healthy enough to check into the game is worth considering given how depleted that roster is. Kelly Olynyk (23/12/7/2/1 with one 3-pointer) put up another gaudy stat line, and he has likely enhanced his value come free agency this summer. As for fantasy he’s rostered in 79% of Yahoo leagues, so Olynyk shouldn’t be available in more competitive setups.

10. Walker replaces Vassell in Spurs’ starting five

San Antonio made a change to its starting lineup for Friday’s win over the Kings, with Lonnie Walker (16/1/2/1) replacing Devin Vassell (5/2/0/2 with one 3-pointer). Walker missed all five of his 3-point attempts, but he was able to make Sacramento pay off the dribble. Even as a reserve his fantasy value was higher than that of Vassell, and Walker’s play contributed to the Spurs taking a big step towards locking down a play-in tournament spot. DeMar DeRozan (25/6/3/1/1) and Dejounte Murray (22/5/7/1) both surpassed the 20-point mark, but the latter also committed six turnovers. Not great for those who have Murray rostered in 9-cat formats.

Kings reserve Terence Davis has hit double figures in four of his last five games. He put up 24 points Friday, while also tallying three rebounds, one assist, three steals and four 3-pointers, in 33 minutes. Unfortunately Davis may not have as much time to build on this performance, as De’Aaron Fox (health and safety protocols) could be cleared to play as soon as Sunday against Oklahoma City. The absence of Tyrese Haliburton (left knee) should mean that Davis remains in the rotation, but it could be difficult for him to get 30 minutes per night. Delon Wright (17/7/9/1 with one 3-pointer) and Buddy Hield (17/5/6/2 with five 3-pointers) both played 39 minutes Friday night.

11. Hornets’ Biyombo steps up with double-double

Terry Rozier (28/5/6 with three 3-pointers), LaMelo Ball (27/6/6/2) and P.J. Washington (23/9/2/1/1 with four 3-pointers) did most of the heavy lifting for Charlotte in their win over Orlando, but the performance of Bismack Biyombo should not be overlooked. He played 32 minutes, recording a line of 11 points, 11 rebounds, one assist, one steal and two blocked shots. The double-double is Biyombo’s third of the season, and first since April 13, and the 32 minutes are the most that he’s played in a game since January 16 vs. Toronto (34).

Even with it being reported a short time back that the Hornets wanted to use Washington more at the center position, Biyombo has managed to remain in the rotation. The absence of Miles Bridges (health and safety protocols) has helped, as this makes Washington a player of even greater importance (than he already is) at the power forward position. What will be interesting to watch this offseason is what Charlotte does to improve at center, as there is a clear need to improve the options there. But kudos to Biyombo for his good night.

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