The Hornets were buzzing to have LaMelo back and that showed on the court with their victory over a Detroit Pistons team that is already officially out of playoff contention and without their best player in Jerami Grant. 

Frank Jackson surprisingly led the way for the Pistons off the bench with 25 points, seven rebounds, and three assists while he shot. 42.1% from the field and hit six triples. Rookie Killian Hayes played nearly 32 minutes as he continues to progress back from that hip injury and to prove to the many doubters that he is not a bust. You cannot call someone a bust when he has barely played. Last night he put up 10 points, six rebounds, and six assists as well as two steals. “Beef Stew” Isaiah Stewart had an underwhelming game with only nine points and two rebounds while playing the bulk of the minutes in the stead of Mason Plumlee who was held out for rest purposes. 

For the Hornets, LaMelo Ball was up to his usual shenanigans, as he returned to action and made Hornets announcer Eric Collins lose his cool and go bananas in his booth. His full-court passes were in full effect as shown through his eight total assists that went along with seven rebounds and 11 points. Malik Monk also returned to action and scored 11 points, stole the ball once, and grabbed two boards in 22 minutes of action. Meanwhile, LaMelo’s best bud on the team was flying even higher than usual to throw down his passes. Miles Bridges scored 27 points and grabbed seven rebounds. Miles has really come into his own this season and one upside of Hayward’s unfortunate injury is that now Miles has an even bigger opportunity to do so. We cannot forget about Scary Terry Rozier, who scored a game-high 29 points, grabbed seven rebounds, and dished out four assists. An excellent season as well for Rozier. These Hornets are fighting and LaMelo’s return may now be that extra punch they need to stay in a play-in spot. 

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Yet another set of lopsided Friday night matchups as teams look to assert their dominance heading into the playoffs. With ten or so games left before the Play-In tournament, the landscape of the NBA is set where every team qualifies as one of the following: A set playoff team jockeying for position, a Play-In team holding on for dear life, or a team playing spoiler. No matter where your favorite team sits in the standings, each game matters down this final homestretch of the regular season. This Friday night we got blowouts, a historic comeback, and the return of LeBron James! The final two-three weeks of the NBA regular have more at stake than ever before as teams all look to close the season on some kind of positive note. With that being said, let’s take a look at all of the Primetime Players from Friday night’s slate of games in the race to the 2021 Playoffs!

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The ridiculous and predictably bad “condensed” NBA schedule has finally reared its ugly head. The injuries are rolling in faster than me when they say there’s free cake in the break room, and fantasy teams everywhere are hurting. Hopefully you have multiple IL spots. I have two in the league I run usually, but we upped it to three midseason.

If your commissioner didn’t have such foresight, RIP. But there’s good news: You don’t have to hurt anymore.

When players go out, that means other players step up to fill the void. So who should we be grabbing for the week? Who is going to win us our fantasy playoff matches?

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As the season trudges on with 15-20 games left in the regular season, the most exciting thing about the NBA season is the constant jockeying for position in the NBA Playoffs. The teams in the Top-6 are fighting to keep themselves out of the Play-In tournament. The teams sitting between 7th and 11th are battling it out for a chance to earn a playoff spot through the Play-In tournament. So last night, we got a very silent but deadly lineup of games as we only had seven games on the docket but they all had playoff implications of some sort. Some teams were looking to keep their season alive. Others were looking to keep themselves atop their respective conferences. Playoff-caliber basketball is slowly kicking up as teams make a late-season push and things are getting really interesting as we inch closer to the homestretch.

With that being said, here are our Primetime Performers from last night’s slate of games under the pressure of the Friday Night Lights.

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An extremely encouraging pattern is beginning to emerge with my every-other-week recapping of the Wednesday night games: Happy returns that are highlighted in the lede. You see, it was my distinct pleasure to highlight KAT’s return from his early season wrist + Covid absence, and I was the one who placed Kevin Durant in this place of prominence when he came back from the extended hammy vacation. Now, I’m due up for the recap on the night Jaren Jackson Jr. returned and you know damn well that I’m going to make him the lede. Welcome back, Jar—

Ah. Actually not. Sorry JJJ, I’m breaking up the welcome party and going with the 40 piece instead. We’ll see you later in the recap, because this lede (and maybe all of the Western world) belongs to…

Julius Randle

PTS REB AST STL BLK 3PM FG FT TO
40 11 6 1 0 6 11/21 12/13 4

This is second time in the last week that Julius has gone 40+/10+/6+ with 6 made threes. Wut. That’s just unspeakable heat from New York’s Caesar, who led the Knicks to an OT win against the Hawks last night. Woe to those of you having wrestle this monster in head-to-head playoffs. It might be better just to simply bend the knee when Randle is going like this.

Here’s what else stood out on another busy Wednesday in the Association…

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The Lakers held down the fort against a very depleted Utah Jazz team that was without Donovan Mitchell and Rudy Gobert to name a few. 

The Jazz needed contributions from their role players and bench mob and some did step up. Jordan Clarkson, Sixth Man of The Year candidate, scored 27 points off the back of five triples while also getting five rebounds, dishing out four dimes, and stealing the ball once. Joe Ingles had an impressive outing with a double-double of 20 points and 14 assists while also getting three steals. Ersan Ilyasova took advantage of all the minutes tonight and scored 20 points with six threes while also hauling in five boards and stealing the ball an impressive four times. 

The Lakers had three players score 25 or more points. Andre Drummond flirted with a double-double of 27/8 while also stealing the ball twice and getting three dimes. Dennis Schroder had an excellent game scoring 27 points, handing out eight assists, and grabbing six rebounds, while Kentavious Caldwell-Pope scored 25 on 44.4% efficiency and also had five rebounds and two steals. 

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This was the Gary Trent Jr. game! He willed the Raptors to a much-needed victory over the Cavs in Cleveland. Of course, we have to start off with Trent Jr. Last night, the man shot 17-19 (89.5%!) from the field and did not miss a single two-pointer on his way to 44 points! He also grabbed seven boards while dishing out four assists. Rookie Malachi Flynn also had a very good game scoring 20 points, handing out 11 assists, and stealing the ball twice. Chris Boucher had another excellent defensive night swatting four shots while getting one steal with his teammate OG Anunoby scored 15 points with five rebounds and three assists. 

On the other side, the Cavs got 29 points from Collin Sexton, who shot 50% from the field and also handed out five dimes. Kevin Love put another 20 minutes of action under his belt scoring 18 points, grabbing in three boards, and stealing the ball once. Before exiting the game due to injury, Darius Garland put up 19 points and had eight dimes on 41.2% shooting from the field.

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Dallas rolled up without Kristaps Porzingis to face the Bradley Beal-less Wizards, and won on the second night of their back-to-back. 

Luka Doncic, for the Mavs, came close to a triple-double with 26 points, eight rebounds, and six assists. He also had one steal to go along with that and shot 50% from the field. Overall, it was a very balanced scoring effort from the Mavs who had six players (including Doncic) in double figures. Jalen Brunson had another solid game with 19 points, three assists, and two steals. 

On the other side of the court, Russell Westbrook was five assists short of a triple-double (26 points, 14 rebounds), while backup point guard, Raul Neto, also had an impressive game in which he scored 16 points, grabbed four rebounds, and dished out two assists. Robin Lopez also reached double figures with 18 points, while also having four rebounds, a block, and a steal. 

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Down goes Horford. We all lamented at the recent news of Al Horford getting shut down for the rest of the season, but it came as no surprise to some who have been playing fantasy basketball for going on two decades. The Oklahoma City Thunder have zero incentive to attempt to win basketball games as they try to squeeze the most value of their million draft picks.

The reality of this season is that COVID-19 continues to screw everything up. The second half of the season for every single NBA team this season is BRUTAL, with things like three games in four nights, and multiple back-to-backs. We are about to see a bunch of people sit out games they may have otherwise played.

In that same vein, we will likely see more shutdowns this season than ever before, as teams decide that playing for that playoff play-in isn’t as important as developing pieces for the future. We saw it with Al Horford, and we will see it again with other players.

But who will they be? Here is my best speculation:

*PLEASE NOTE: RECORDS AND STATS TAKEN BEFORE THE GAMES ON 3/28*

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