The Indiana Pacers defeated the Portland Trail Blazers 129-98. In a rarity for this version of the Pacers, they were the more veteran team. Oshae Brissett spearheaded the Pacers’ attack, as he tallied 24 points (8-10 FG, 2-3 3PT), nine rebounds, one assist, and one steal. His day also included a highlight reveal reverse dunk in transition which came off a behind-the-back pass from Lance Stephenson. Have I mentioned that the Pacers are fun now!? Justin Anderson added 18 points, six rebounds, four assists, and one steal. Jalen Smith notched 17 points, five rebounds, and one block in just 17 minutes of play. I’m not sure if Smith will ever become the player the Suns hoped they were getting when he was drafted with the 10th pick in 2020, but he has at least grown into an intriguing prospect. He was 2-of-3 from behind the arc and also whipped out a Dirk-esque step-back off the dribble in the midrange. Terry Taylor (17) and Duane Washington Jr. (13) both had solid games as well. The Pacers led wire to wire and the lack of competitiveness of the game is reflected in the lower minute totals for Tyrese Haliburton and Buddy Hield. Haliburton finished the game with 10 points, four rebounds, and seven assists. Hield tallied nine points, three rebounds, two assists, and two steals. Finally, Lance Stephenson scored just two points, but grabbed six rebounds, dished out 11 assists, and swiped three steals.

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The Nets defeated their in-state rival Knicks 110-107, behind a statement performance from Kevin Durant, who finished the game with 53 points (19-37 FG, 4-13 3PT), six rebounds, nine assists, and two steals. The 53 points were a season-high and just a point shy of his career-high. Andre Drummond added 18 points, 10 rebounds, and one block on a perfect eight for eight from the field. Bruce Brown, whose value and strong play has grown consistent of late, finished the game with 15 points (7-14 FG, 0-1 3PT), seven rebounds, five assists, and two steals. Nic Claxton contributed off the bench, compiling 10 points, five rebounds, one assist, two steals, and one block. Seth Curry was a late scratch due to an ankle injury. The Nets have now won three in a row after losing four in a row.  During this winning streak, Durant has reminded everyone in the league and everyone watching at home just how dominant he can be. The spiciest and most hilarious result of a late-season Nets winning streak would be a 76ers vs. Nets first-round matchup—one can only hope!

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One team in this matchup projects to be a difficult and gritty playoff opponent and a sneaky conference finals contender; the other team in this matchup is the Brooklyn Nets. The Boston Celtics defeated the Brooklyn Nets 126-120, behind a historic 54-point performance from Jayson Tatum. It was Tatum’s fourth 5o-point game, tying him with Larry Bird for the most 50-point games in Celtics history. Tatum finished the night with 54 points (16-30 FG, 8-15 3PT), five rebounds, three assists, and it was his hockey assist that led to a dagger Jaylen Brown three to stamp out all hope for the Nets. Jaylen Brown added 21 points, four rebounds, five assists, and three steals. Marcus Smart finished the game with 14 points, three rebounds, nine assists, and one steal. Al Horford finished the game with 13 points, seven rebounds, four assists, one steal, and one block. Robert Williams III tallied 10 points, eight rebounds, two assists, two steals, and five blocks.

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Welcome to your midweek guidance for Week 18!  The goal of this post is to identify widely-available players who can help you win your head-to-head matchup.  Though we’ve only witnessed one night of regular season games since my last post, there’s a lot of player news to digest.  On the good news front, the return of Shai Gilgeous-Alexander appears imminent, so we can put those shutdown rumors to bed.  Malcolm Brogdon is probable for today, which caps the value of Chris Duarte after a run of games in which he clocked 35+ minutes.  Kevin Durant and Ben Simmons are reportedly nearing their respective returns to the court, but there’s no target game set for either player as of this writing.

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After months of traversing the seas and facing the wrath of Poseiden, we have finally made it to the new world. It is a beautiful place and I hope to bring you back here with me when all is safe. The trees. The flowers. The fertile plains bordering the myriad of streams. It is so plush here. We did encounter the natives and, while they speak a strange dialect, we were able to bond over the wacky tabacky. Till next time.

Love,

Son

P.S. – I miss you.

I’ve always had an issue with the postscript. Why is it even a thing? If it was so important, put what was in the P.S. into the body of the message. Hmmm, well back in the day, they didn’t have White Out or Microsoft Word. Fine, I get it in that context. But now we do! Let’s be better humans and eradicate things that are unnecessary. Who’s with me? Do you know what P. S. I’m aiiiiiiiiiiiiiiiiiiiiiiiiiiiiiiiiiiiiiiiight with? Pascal Siakam. 

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Now, this is what I’m talking about! Last Friday we were stuck with a handful of games that were blowout games that were done by the end of the first half. Completely uninteresting and lacking any kind of competitive spirit. This week we’ve got a few career-high performances, two overtime games, and a big-time walk-off buzzer-beater. This is what games under the Friday night lights should look like. Especially when nearly every team is still legitimately in the hunt for either a Top-8 seed in the playoff or for a shot in the Play-In tournament to make the postseason. With such a great night full of great performances, you know we have to highlight the players who shined the brightest. So, with that being said, here are some of the top performers who came up big last night. Let’s get right into it!

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It’s been just over a week since a friend of mine pointed me toward the Kevin Durant/Michael Rapaport beef that had bubbled up on social media. At the time, I somewhat gleefully read through their back and forth until I felt my emotions start to turn. KD, from all the stories I’ve heard and books that I’ve read, does not strike me as a happy man. The texts he sent to Rapaport support this. Then I saw the follow-up video that Rapaport put out that provide additional context for his spicy IG chat with Durant and I felt even worse. KD might be unhappy, but Rapaport strikes me as something far more distasteful than the aloof ennui of the unfathomably talented. After eating my fill of online garbage, I sent the following text to my buddy:

I wish I could get that time back. 

I can’t, obviously. None of us can. But what we can do is make up for the time lost, and Durant did just that in his return to NBA action on Wednesday night. All told, the Nets played 23 games since KD was last in uniform, but you wouldn’t have known that by watching him.

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Nikola Tesla was of Serbian descent and is considered one of the most influential people of all time. He invented the Tesla coil, the magnifying transmitter, Tesla turbine engine, shadowgraph, radio, neon lamp, Niagra Falls transformer house, the induction motor, radio-controlled boat, but his crowning achievement was inventing alternating current, which allowed electricity to be sent over long distances more efficiently. Ranker.com has him at the top among famous people named Nikola. That’s fair, but Nikola Pekovic is number two? Granted, there is no number but the logical assumption would be that the next Nikola listed would be the number two Nikola, right? What about Nikola Jokic? Scrolls down. Nope. Scrolls down more. Where he at? Keeps scrolling, Nopenopenopenope. Finally CTRL-F. Big. Fat. Zero. Man, F#@! Ranker.com. As for Tesla, he’s dope and even has an awesome car named after him but when’s the last time he did this?

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There will come a day when the aliens present themselves, big bad ships with weapons and all. I’ve watched Mars Attacks! so I know how it all goes down. Their technology will be more advanced so it will be futile to fight them on the battlefield. Our pew pew weapons would be no match against the photon weapons they would likely possess. How about we pit Ken Jennings against their best for a game of Jeopardy? Uh, they travelled through space and time, so no thanks. Our only hope is to have them agree to one five-on-five game of basketball. I’m sure they didn’t pack sneakers and shorts. Any advantage we can get. Now, who would represent Earth? This debate has been going on for a while but the only logical course of action would be to breed Embiid now so that we have a team at the ready when the day comes. Why Embiid? Because he can literally do it all on the court. Look what he did to the Heat last night in a 137-134 victory in overtime.

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Should I just call it the ‘Rona Roundup? Sheesh. Like half of my fantasy rosters and half of my beloved Celtics can’t hoop at present because of this scourge. My ability to marginally function during all this madness right now largely depends on access to NBA hoops and steak. You mess with that? I get cranky and mouthy. Even though some players are ineligible right now who would otherwise be available in normal times, I’m focusing on the positive: Most players are active.

And I can say negatives things about them to soothe myself.

So you know what? I’mma try something new this week with my round-up: Two players from each team, one of whom did the Best Work, and one who is the Biggest Jerk and probably killed your fantasy team (as long as they played).

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Time to give you a peek into the mind of Son. Many, many years ago, I used to puff the weed, eat the shrooms, and smoke way too many cigs. When in this state of mind, I’d often contemplate the concept of fate and free will, and try to break it down. If I walked down the street and placed my right foot here, then left there, was that preordained, or was I in complete control? If I was meant to be with a woman, would said woman knock on my door if I never left? After way too many times contemplating this, I realized that if you want something in life, you have to go out and get it. With that said, sometimes when you’re out roaming the earth, the universe comes and slaps you in the face. Every night, when I write the recap, I search for who is worthy to be the lede. Last night, there was no searching as it was apparent that I Otto make Porter the lede.

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The NBA season may only be 72 games this season, but it’s still going to be a long and grueling slugfest regardless. The players we consider locks for value now will be the drops of tomorrow, and the undrafted players will suddenly become league-winners overnight.

But how does that happen?

Injuries are an unfortunate part of the game. Lineup shifts are a real thing too as people slide into and out of minutes. A lot of that is hard to predict but likely trade candidates, on the other hand, are less difficult to forecast.

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