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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That song always gets me amped for some reason. I went to school out in New York and lived/worked out there for many years, so I used to hear that song all the time. Didn’t matter what borough I’d walk through. There would always be a Puerto Rican blasting that while cruising in his ride. Ok, maybe not in Manhattan but everywhere else! As that song brought back nostalgic vibes, so did the return of one Victor Oladipo. Oladipo Ho! Oladipo Ho! Oladipo Ho! He last played in April of 2021 and finally made his season debut on Monday.

PTS REB AST STL BLK TOV 3PT FG FT
11 1 4 0 0 1 2/3 4/7 1/2

Only played 15 minutes as that was the cap mentioned before the game. He wasn’t as explosive as before, but the shot looked smooth, he was navigating pick and roll action, and he was able to get by defenders and finish at the rim. Back in 2017, he finished as the 11th overall player on a per-game basis! He averaged 34 minutes, 23.1 points, 2.1 tres, 5.2 boards, 4.3 dimes, 2.4 steals, and 0.8 blocks while shooting 47% from the field and 79% from the line. Dayam! He’s obviously not going to replicate that this season but he could eventually play around 20 minutes and be a contributor. Man, this Heat team could be scary. I actually put them at #1 in a power rankings I did a few weeks ago. The team is already top 10 in both offensive and defensive efficiency. If Oladipo can get healthy and be a significant contributor, the Heat get that much scarier because he’s another plus defender who can get his own shot on the offensive end.

Here’s what else I saw last night:

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The Suns capped off a wild game with Cam Johnson hitting a buzzer-beater three-pointer to finish off a career night. Johnson comes in as the fantasy star of the night after scoring 38 points on 9-12 three-point shooting. Cam Payne provided the game-winning assist and was a major catalyst for the offense all night. Payne finished with 17 points and a career-high 16 assists. He should continue to play a large playmaking role with Chris Paul out and he will dominate the ball until Devin Booker returns from the league’s health and safety protocols.

It was another brutal loss for the New York Knicks behind a third-quarter ejection by Julius Randle. Before the ejection, Randle was having a stellar game, scoring 25 points in 28 minutes. Randle’s ejection was followed by a Sun’s run that led to a 34-21 fourth quarter. The tough loss cannot overshadow one of the better games of Mitchell Robinson’s career as he finished with 17 points, 15 rebounds, four steals, and three blocks, dominating DeAndre Ayton on both sides of the ball.

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Why isn’t Montrezl Harrell starting for the Hornets? Just because he won 6th Man of the Year doesn’t mean he’s permanently a sixth man. Especially when you play Mason Plumlee over him. In every single game, Harrell has outplayed Plumlee, so why is he still starting? Only other thing to comment on is Isaiah Thomas receiving another 10 day contract, putting up 10 points, five rebounds, and three assists. We’ll see how he fits, and if his contract is guaranteed for the rest of the year, but personally I doubt it. As for the Cavaliers, Daruis Garland was the only one to show up offensively, putting up 33 points on 60% shooting.

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I’m no doctor (sorry mom!), but in my professional opinion (in which my profession is nothing besides maybe making a lot of parentheses), I believe (and feel!) that whatever injury Harden was coming back from, well, it seems to have miraculously solved itself and this is the most 100% I’ve seen James Harden in a long time, not counting the strip clubs, of course. And that’s not to act glib, anyone can smirk injury statuses, it’s pretty much tradition in all sports leagues in this day and age. But I guess it’s always nice to see the confirmation right before your eyes, so without incredulously referring to Harden’s previous injury, I think after last night’s performance scoring 29 points, grabbing 10 boards and providing an easy breezy smorgasbord (totally a phrase) of 16 assists, I think we can say that whatever ailed him does no longer. Probably his previous injury was playing with Kyrie Irving…
Here’s what else I saw during yesterday’s “truncated” basketball schedule:

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The trade winds are blowing! After some smaller pieces were moved over the last few days, Tuesday brought about the most significant player shuffling to date ahead of Thursday’s Trade Deadline. Indiana sent All-Star Domantas Sabonis and friends to Sacramento for a package headlined by Buddy Hield and second-year stud Tyrese Haliburton. As someone who has dipped their toes into Kings fandom, it’s hard not to feel like the Kings are screwing things up all over again. Haliburton is arguably the best draft decision the Kings have made since taking DeMarcus Cousins at pick five in the 2010 draft, and his high basketball IQ, passing prowess, and ability to sit down and defend sure seem to be things that would be valued in Sac, especially considering the defensively leaky and largely clueless roster the Kings have assembled. In shipping out Hield and Hali, the Kings have kinda nuked their three-point shooting and Sabonis’ presence largely neutralizes the value of Richaun Holmes, a player they just handed a four-year deal. But hey, with Sabonis at least there’s an All-Star on the roster now (De’Aaron Fox grimaces at this). Longtime Blazer CJ McCollum was also given his walking papers on Tuesday. He’s headed down New Orleans way to play for the Ples, who might have something cooking now, even without Zion.

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The Denver Nuggets defeated the Brooklyn Nets 124-104, behind a well-balanced scoring attack and more Nikola Jokic brilliance. Seven Nuggets’ players scored in double figures, led by the Joker, who finished the game with 27 points, 12 rebounds, 10 assists, two steals, and one block. It was Jokic’s 14th triple-double of the season and the 71st of his career. Will Barton added 21 points, six rebounds, four assists, and one block. Aaron Gordon tallied 17 points, nine rebounds, seven assists, and one steal. Monte Morris chipped in with 12 points, five rebounds, and eight assists and Jeff Green finished the game with 12 points, five rebounds, one assist, and one steal. Bryn Forbes (11) and Zeke Nnaji (10) also scored in double figures. Forbes (25), Nnaji (20), Bones Hyland (17), and DeMarcus Cousins (16) played the most minutes off the bench.

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Milwaukee’s Big Three showed up to play last night: Giannis Antetokounmpo, Khris Middleton, and Bobby Portis. What? Portis has been an amazing role player and crucial to the Bucks this season. He put up 22 points and grabbed seven rebounds in last night’s loss to the Cavaliers. Who would have thought that this match would determine the 3rd seed in the East for the time being? Who expected the Cavaliers at all this season? A deep team highlighted by Darius Garland’s breakout, Kevin Love’s positive influence off the bench and an early season trade for Rajon Rondo. Speaking of which, man that trade looks like highway robbery, as he’s playing like everyone thought he would in Atlanta last season. 

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The Miami Heat took home the nervy, 113-107 victory, but the Lakers nearly caught them slipping. In a game the Heat led almost the entire way and by as many as 26 points, the Lakers put together a fierce fourth quarter and nearly stole the victory. For three quarters, however, the Heat played the basketball version of “the beautiful game.” Offensive production was spread across the lineup and they were flowing into good looks. Jimmy Butler led the charge in Kyle Lowry’s absence (personal reasons) and he finished the game with a triple-double: 20 points, 10 rebounds, 12 assists, two steals, and one block. Butler’s 10th triple-double moved him into the first place on the Heat’s all-time list, surpassing LeBron James. Duncan Robinson was hot early and even scored some important points in the fourth quarter; he finished the game with 25 points, five rebounds, three assists, and two steals. Bam Adebayo had a decent, but uneven game. He was stifled a fair amount by LeBron’s defense, as he was LeBron’s primary cover when the Lakers went small. Adebayo finished the game with 14 points, eight rebounds, five assists, one steal, and one block. Gabe Vincent filled in admirably, once again, for Lowry and finished the game with 11 points, one rebound, six assists, and two steals. Caleb Martin also notched eleven points and further cemented his “best two-way player in the league status”—a dubious honor, he’d no doubt like to be rid of as soon as possible.

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A late Happy New Year to everyone taking the time to read this article. Welcome to 2022 NBA basketball where 10-day contracts bear 30-point performances, the league is finally getting healthy and every armchair general manager swears that every team should just blow it up. The more things change the more they stay the same eh? Well with 11 games and 22 teams playing last night let’s get right into it. 

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Welcome to your midweek guidance for Week Ten!  If you’ve paid attention to my posts over the past two weeks, you know that many of my streaming suggestions were unceremoniously detonated by COVID protocols.  In fact, my measure of success for this post is no longer recommending players who will help you in your category matchups.  I now consider it a win if the post is simply published more than two hours before the newest inductees into COVID protocols are announced.  Let me preface the following by giving the standard disclaimer: I am not a doctor or scientist.  I’m just a knuckle-dragging fantasy basketball blogger trying to make sense of the world around me.  That being said, am I the only one that finds this current direction of travel unsustainable for the NBA and other pro leagues?

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I’ve called players like Royce O’Neal and Marcus Smart some of the league’s best defenders, but one player may have them all beat. This monster has on a nightly basis shut down some of the league’s best offensive weapons. His name is COVID-19, and over 25% of the league has been stripped by him at some point this season. So as we watch the league’s backup squads and aging vets inflate their stats, let’s dissect who is actually worth picking up.

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