It was a long day at the office today, so I’m sittin’ down to write this piece past 11 p.m. EST. I apologize in advance if I doze off mid-sentence… nah, who the hell am I kidding? NBA basketball gets me jacked up any day and hour of the week! The show must go on, and I’m starting with my first sensational showstopper of the evening…
A Brown bear meets a Pelican in the wild…
Something tells me the Pelican won’t fare well in that scenario, right? Well, that was the case Wednesday night when the Celtics’ Scottie Pippen, “Robin” or what have you – Jaylen Brown – torched the young Pelicans to the tune of 41 points and 12 rebounds in 34 minutes of action. Brown led Boston to a convincing 125-114 victory over New Orleans and he wasn’t alone – top dog, Batman Jayson Tatum bullied his way to 31 points and 10 rebounds of his own.
The Pelicans are a youthful, exciting team on the rise, but their collective team defense still leaves a lot to be desired. Brown and Tatum got to their spots on the floor, and they did more than enough to earn the victory despite an electric performance from veteran guard CJ McCollum (38 points, four rebounds and four assists for New Orleans). In terms of fantasy outlook, it’s always interesting to look and see who that third man will be for Boston – this time it was sixth man Malcolm Brogdon, who gritted and gutted his way to 20 points, four rebounds, four assists and two steals off the pine. Marcus Smart was sidelined with a knee injury, so that has to be taken into account when analyzing Brogdon’s stat line in relativity.
Good thing the Timberwolves got Rudy Gobert, right?
As the NBA gets smaller, leaner, shorter and faster, the Minnesota Timberwolves thought it would be a good idea to mortgage some of their future to create a David Robinson/Tim Duncan situation in 2023. Did it make any sense at the time? No. Is it making even less sense now? Yes.
With Cade Cunningham, Isaiah Stewart, Marvin Bagley and Jalen Duren out of the lineup Wednesday night – four of their top eight players – the lowly Detroit Pistons demolished the “defensive-minded” Wolves by the embarrassing score of 135-118. Saddiq Bey – who seems to have reenergized his career after that dramatic buzzer beater against the Lakers – led the way for Detroit with 31 points and six rebounds. Three of the Pistons’ other four starters – Bojan Bogdanovic (27, six and four), Jaden Ivey (18, eight and four) and Killian Hayes (18, nine and three) were strong, while enigmatic Hamidou Diallo (18 and five) led the way for Detroit’s depleted bench mob.
The Pistons went out of their way to trade for Diallo a couple seasons ago, so I’ve always felt they should give him more of an extended look. I’ve never been much of a Kevin Knox guy (nine minutes, five points, meh) and young Isaiah Livers seems to come with a low ceiling (three points in 18 minutes), so now’s the time to open up Diallo’s playing time. Alec Burks is a good, solid veteran in this league, but at the same time tanking Detroit doesn’t really need to play him too much. They’ll have no trouble finding a suitor for him prior to the trade deadline, regardless. So yeah, keep an eye on Diallo in deep leagues right now.
“Ja Rules” – Morant puts that washed-up rapper to shame
If I’m reading this correctly, some nice Grizzlies’ fans got their memorabilia jacked on Tuesday night. Wednesday came around and well, it’s Ja Morant to the rescue once again! In addition to being one of the most explosive and exciting players to enter the league in recent years, Morant also appears to be one of the nicest and most generous. He continues to give back to the Grind City fans with signed sneakers, jerseys, grizzly bears and more. This kid really does do it all.
On the court, well, come on – you can’t put the young, inexperienced San Antonio Spurs’ D in front of him and expect to get positive defensive results. Jakob Poeltl – one of the Spurs’ few solid veterans right now – got got on Wednesday night. It wasn’t pretty. I mean seriously, watch what Ja does to him right here. Is that even real?
I had a multi-hour discussion with a bunch of friends just the other night – could the players from Michael Jordan’s era thrive in today’s wide-open NBA? Back and forth we went – guys like Jordan, Pippen, young Shaq, Clyde Drexler and Reggie Miller would excel – but I ended up coming to the conclusion that about two-thirds of that league wouldn’t be able to play now. Think how many big, slow rumblers were out there – Bill Wennington, Luc Longley, Will Purdue, Greg Ostertag, Greg Foster and Antoine Carr on the Bulls and Jazz alone! – who simply wouldn’t be able to keep up with today’s feverish pace on the court. I bring this up because tonight’s Morant dunk is out-of-this-world outrageous. He’s crossing over into his gather and leaping instantaneously before he even finishes his dribble move. What he does there shouldn’t even be physically possible and like, could you imagine Chris Dudley, Sam Perkins and Olden Polynice trying to deal with this kid?
Anyway, I digress. More mayhem from Ja Morant on the stat sheet: 38 points, five rebounds and four assists in a 135-129 win over the Spurs. Things are settling in, in terms of stat distribution here: Morant’s been the top dog as expected, with Jaren Jackson (21 and 12) and Desmond Bane (18, six and three) operating as Memphis’ No. 2 and 3 men, respectively. Beyond that, this team is so deep that it becomes anybody’s guess. On Wednesday, Tyus Jones (16 points in just 17 minutes) and Steven Adams (11 points and eighteen rebounds) were next in line. Memphis’ offense was getting whatever it wanted against San Antonio, regardless.
Three strong performances around the league
Zach LaVine: This electric young athlete has been on fire of late, and things were no different Wednesday night when poof! He made the Wizards’ defense disappear on his way to 38 points, five rebounds and two steals. The funny thing was – that defense magically reappeared when anybody else on the Bulls had the ball. The Wizards squeaked out a tight 100-97 victory, while nobody else on the Bulls produced more than 15 points (Nikola Vucevic) on the night.
Jrue Holiday: Giannis has been in a bizarre shooting slump of late, but his right-hand man said don’t worry about it on his way to 27 points, five assists, four rebounds and two steals against the conference-rival Atlanta Hawks. ATL had some good stretches early, but the strong-and-steady Bucks outwilled them in the end by the score of 114-105.
Jalen Brunson: You still wanna make fun of this kid, Stephen A. Smith? Get outta here with your nonsense, man. Brunson continues to be one of the absolute best players in the NBA; this time he thrived to the tune of 34 points, four assists and three rebounds in a hard-fought 119-113 win over the young-and-hungry Indiana Pacers.
All right, you think maybe I should get some sleep now? Either way, I’ll see ya right back here next week.
John Frascella is a published sports author who has been covering the NBA for 19 years. Follow him on Twitter @LegendSports7 for all things fantasy basketball, football and baseball.