There were quite a few players who exploded for big performances on Friday, but Obi Toppin deserves the fantasy star of the night award the most, for a career-high 35 points on 6-9 three-point shooting. Toppin has scored 19 or more in his last four games starting and looks like he is getting more comfortable in the NBA with every minute he plays. This stretch of starts was a possible look into the future if Julius Randle is traded or if Toppin manages to get more minutes next to Randle next year. Obi will remain as an interesting stash in dynasty leagues with an undetermined role moving into next year. Immanuel Quickley ended the night with 23 points, 10 assists, and six rebounds as he saw more minutes than usual with RJ Barrett leaving the game with a knee injury. Quickley continues to show upside in all facets of the game and is leaving the Knicks with a difficult decision on what to do at the point guard position next year. His role has a lot to do with what the Knicks do in the offseason.

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Change. Is good, although it takes time for it to manifest. There are trials and tribulations. There are new things to learn and old things to forget. There will be haters. There will always be haters. But change is vital to reach one’s potential. A caterpiller walks and eats before wrapping itself in a cocoon, then morphs into a butterfly and eventually flies into the sky. Pascal Siakam entered the league in 2016 and embarked upon the journey that all rookies undertake. He flashed his two-way potential early on and continued to climb the ladder. In 2019, after Kawhi Leonard left, he was thrust into a more prominent role and became an All-Star. While the numbers were there, there was some hesitancy. Fred VanVleet put it best: “I think what happened was Kyle [Lowry] was such an immovable object, such a force of who he was in his status as a Hall of Famer, it was like a little tit-for-tat there, even if it was subconscioius….It’s not something where’ I don’t like this guy’ or ‘I’m not passing to him’, it’s a little nuance that you would never understand unless you played at the highest level.” Lowry was traded before the beginning of the 2021-22 season and things became more clear and comfortable for Siakam. He missed the first 10 games of the season but it’s been alllll good this season and last night was the culmination of the season.

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LaVine led the team with 25 points as the Chicago Bulls outlasted the Cleveland Cavaliers, 98-94. DeMar DeRozan returned to the lineup after missing the last game with a groin injury and added 20 points but the key to this game for the Bulls was defense. Chicago held the Cavs to only 35 points in the first half and stifled their try at a fourth quarter comeback. With this win, the Bulls got their first road victory since March 9th as they maintain control of the 5th seed in the East.

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Can LeBron be corny at times? Yup. Does LeBron flop sometimes? Premier League players break down his tape. Is LeBron entering the final stages of his hooping career? Father Time is undefeated. That said, is LeBron one of the greatest players of all time? He almost won a chip with Eric F’ing Snow at point guard. He’s Magic Johnson in Karl Malone’s body with Zion Williamson hops, before Zion morphed into the long lost Klump. He’s won the chips, received all the accolades and awards, and is still doing this at age 37….

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My man had 41 in the first half en route to a career-best 60. Kyrie is a wizard with the rock and when he gets going it’s hard to take your eyes off him. The extra rest he’s enjoyed this season practically jumps off the screen (not that he or Brooklyn necessarily needed it to get by a pretty bad and pretty checked-out Magic team), especially here in the doldrums of the season.  He’s a first-round talent when he’s out there, but of course we know that he’s not always out there.

This begs the question: Wouldn’t you rather only have 50 games played by the best players in the world who aren’t visibly fatigued instead of the 82-game marathon that routinely eats some of its young by the time the season’s over? I may not agree with everything Kyrie says or does, but the point he’s making by showcasing the value of fresh legs could be a silver lining if the league ever moves away from an oversaturated product and finally pares back their slaughterhouse of a season. Irving looks unbelievable out there. Imagine if everyone was this fresh.

Here’s what else I saw on a quiet Tuesday night in the NBA…

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There was no doubt in this Friday’s fantasy star of the night as LeBron James scored 50 points in a must-win game as the Lakers try their best to stay afloat in this season. James has been a top-five category player this year and will look to continue his hot streak to close out the fantasy season. Malik Monk added 21 points on 5-7 three-point shooting while battling early foul trouble last night. Monk will continue to operate as the second scoring option until Anthony Davis returns from injury. 

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For the first two seasons of Morant’s career, he finished as the 133rd and 201st player on a per-game basis for fantasy. The athleticism shined early and his ability to score was evident. He could board and dish out dimes with the best of them but, but, but….Did I stuffer mother f-er? The defensive stats weren’t bountiful, the tres didn’t rain down from the heavens, and the free-throw shooting was meh at 75-ish percent. At only 22 years old, I thought there would be improvement in Year Three but, as Caine from Menace II Society said, “I never thought he’d come back like this.” I’m such a stupid, stupid man as he would fall, then fall, then fall some more in drafts, but I’d pass, even though dimes are a precious resource and he was going to improve. Well, he’s not only improved, he’s broken out! And last night was just another leg on the victory tour.

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Jayson Tatum and Jaylen Brown led the charge as the Boston Celtics got the win over the Detroit Pistons, 113-104. Fitting that it came over Detroit considering Boston has won 11 of their last 12 games with that lone loss coming against the Pistons. Brown led the team with 27 points while Tatum added 26 points and 11 rebounds. Sneaky performance from the bench as well as Grant Williams and Payton Pritchard each played 26 minutes and combined for 32 points. Boston looks to continue their winning ways as they head to Indiana to take on Tyrese Haliburton and the Pacers tonight.

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Hey now, you’re an All-Star! Yes, I’m talking to you. It’s time to pat yourself on the back for a successful DFS season so far. If you were a losing player and now break even, if you were a break even player and are now profiting, if you just absorbed the strategies we’ve talked about and feel like you’ve learned something regardless of your current bankroll, you are succeeding. Yes, it’s nice to win every night but in this game the odds are against us. I trust you have been able to use these strategies to improve your process this season. Tonight is the last slate before All-Star weekend so let’s go into the break with some extra cash in our pockets.

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Late February, everyone’s favorite little month, often feels like a desperate time in the NBA. The Trade Deadline, with all its promise, hope, and frequent disappointments, has come and gone, and with no cavalry coming to save you, you’re forced to come to grips with reality. Most of the time that reality isn’t pretty. Looking around the league, it seems like everyone is exhausted in ways that have become obvious. The NBA season is a long one, and the All-Star break is closer to the three-quarter pole than the halfway point, so if you haven’t figured out how to win by now, it’s getting awfully late to get it solved. Some teams have already begun to slowly pack it in and wind things down. “Better luck next year,” isn’t being said yet, but the phrase looms in the back of mouths in Indiana, Washington, and Texas. Outside, at least where I live, it’s gray, brown, and soggy, and it can be hard to remember that life and color exist in a universe that looks exactly the same way that a 19-40 season feels. It’s grim. Cold. Still. The NBA landscape can be equally sparse — I’m looking at you, Philadelphia, and your 40-point home loss — so when you see something beautiful and vibrant, you’ve got to celebrate it. So, with apologies to Giannis Antetokounmpo and his 50-point night (my god, he’s good), I’m renting out this Tuesday lede to Trae Young, who was a vibrant, flamboyant shot in the arm at home against a thoroughly game Cleveland group.

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Simons dropped 30 points and eight rebounds to help the Portland Trail Blazers erase a 23-point third quarter deficit to take down the New York Knicks, 112-103. Newly acquired Josh Hart had a strong Portland debut as he added 23 points while shooting 63% from the field. Jusuf Nurkic also had a monster night on the boards as he finished with 12 points and 20 rebounds. This win gave the Blazers their second straight win after starting February 0-4.

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