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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We’ve yet to see this Indiana Pacers team live up to its potential. With cornerstone pieces such as Victor Oladipo, Domantas Sabonis, Myles Turner, and a nice cast of veterans to round out the team, this is a team that’s engineered to compete. But after getting swept for the third time in four years, this time in the first round of the playoffs, the Pacers saw fit to fire head coach Nate McMillan. Former Toronto Raptors assistant coach Nate Bjorkrgren has been hired as McMillan’s replacement as the Pacers look to straighten things out.

Being that the Pacers don’t have a first-round draft pick and Justin Holiday was the only significant player to hit free agency, it looks like barring potential trade talk (of which there has been plenty), the Pacers are going to run it back. It’d be a shame if the Oladipo-led Pacers didn’t get another year to sort things out. Things started out so promising in 2016, with the team pushing LeBron James and the Cleveland Cavaliers to seven games. The Cavs would go on to get swept by the Warriors but let’s be honest, nobody was beating the Warriors that year.

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Coaches often become the scapegoat in situations where a team is underperforming, both realistically and sometimes in their owner’s eyes. A quick fix is to fire the coach and patience is often in short supply in situations like these. NBA fans are used to that, but Kenny Atkinson’s firing from the Nets is one of the most undeserving one of recent memory. His Nets are almost surely making the playoffs, either from the 7th or the 8th position, he coached the full season without Kevin Durant and most of it without Kyrie Irving. Last year he made the playoffs with the highest paid players on the team being Allen Crabbe, DeMarre Carroll, and Jared Dudley. Let that sink in for a moment….

He seems like an obvious hire for the Knicks, to be honest, or even for the underwhelming Bulls. Hopefully, he gets his chance soon as he seems very deserving. Maybe the pressure from Rodions Kurucs to get him fired was too much for the owners to overcome…

On the fantasy front, I have to admit last week was not a great week in terms of my suggestions. Royce O’Neal and De’Andre Hunter were mediocre, while Jae Crowder pulled a Houdini and disappeared from the rotation and the scoreboard in his last three games. Even Cody Zeller, who I suggested as a “Sell” candidate got his minutes back and unsurprisingly proceeded to have a team-low -16 in last night’s double overtime loss in Atlanta.

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Entering the season, Jrue Holiday was being drafted as a top 12 player for fantasy. And for good reason, as he finished as the 22nd and 21st player on a per-game basis the past two years. Anthony Davis was gone, so the expectation was that he was going to be the alpha, with the young kids following his lead. That is not how things worked out to begin the season, though. Jrue looked like he was on a Holiday, while Brandon Ingram took the league by storm. Then Zion Williamson returned from injury and the hype was all on him. Now, Lonzo has been Ball-ing with his new shot, which looks excellent by the way, and Jrue became the forgotten man. We are silly humans because Jrue never went anywhere. Last night, Jrue reminded us that he can still barbecue the opposition. Beep. Boop. Bop. You know what always cooks the competition? The Stocktonator.

PTS REB AST STL BLK TOV 3PT FG FT
37 9 8 1 1 1 3/8 13/20 8/9

Aaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaalmost messed around, which would have been the fifth time in his career. Over the past 21 games, Jrue has been a top 25 player. Over the past four games, he’s been top 15. He’s been lurking in the bushes, sniping off Charlie without anyone noticing. But I see you, Jrue! The usage rate isn’t crazy like most stars, as it’s in the 22% range, but he’s playing a ton of minutes for a team that plays at a fast offensive pace, and contributes across-the-board production. The only bugaboo to his game is the 70% free throw shooting.

Here’s what else I saw yesterday:

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