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 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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I used to love watching Animal Planet. That is, when they actually used to show freaking wild animals in their natural habitat. Now it’s a bunch of BS shows that IDGAF about. Anyways, watching a cackle of hyenas or a pride of lions working together to take down prey was always an exhilarating watch. That’s usually because the prey was a big, burly beast who could F shit up. It would take hours and a coordinated precision to take it down. Sometimes they trudged home empty-handed, but every once in a while, they would overcome and feast. Last night, a pack of Pacers Voltron’d up and took down the hurly-burly Grizzly for a 132-125 victory. Domantas Sabonis produced 18 points, 15 rebounds, nine assists, and one steal. Malcolm Brogdon contributed 29 points, nine rebounds, 11 assists, and one steal. Caris LeVert went for 34 points, five rebounds, three assists, one steal, and three blocks. It took 48 minutes, but the Pacers finally defeated the Grizzlies, 132-125 as Jonas Valanciunas was a freaking beast, going for 34 points, 22 rebounds, two assists, and two blocks. He shot 16-for-25 from the field.

Here’s what else I saw last night:

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The fantasy hoops world is one of diversity, danger, and drip. Some parts of the world are in constant drought with bricks raining down from the heavens. In others, there are only waterfalls that splash to the rhythm of a metronome. Tucked on the highest peak in the most remote part of the world lies a pantheon of extraordinary magnitude: The Nikola Pantheon. Nikola Jokic has been sitting on its iron throne for much of the season, as he has been the numero uno player in fantasy hoops. Nikola Vucevic has been valiantly trying to unseat Jokic. While he’s been a tier below Jokic for much of the season, there have been moments when the guardians of the Nikola Pantheon have discussed making it a timeshare. Last night, Vucevic went for 32 points, 17 boards, five dimes, and one block while shooting 14-for-29 from the field and 4-of-7 from downtown. Jokic went for 27 points, eight boards, 11 dimes, one steal, and one block in only 27 minutes. What a Jokic! Vucevic is the number 11 player for fantasy and has been narrowing the gap somewhat, but the divide is still a massive one. The iron throne on the Nikola Pantheon is no joke as it will be inhabited by Jokic for the foreseeable future.

Here’s what else I saw last night:

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The NBA Trade Deadline is officially in the books and we all know what that means. New faces in new places. Teams are tanking. Contenders are making their final push for the playoffs. And most of all, the lights get brighter as every game means more than the last.

But no matter what time it is in the NBA season, we all know that nothing shines brighter than the Friday Night Lights! So, to kick off Post-Trade Deadline weekend in the NBA, here are some of the top performers from Friday night’s great slate of games.

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How about some love for the underdog?

These daily recaps, especially on nights with a lot of games, often demand focusing on one of two players per team that had good nights. Most of the time we’re looking at star players doing what they do. It’s tough for a role player to get a write-up, and it’s even tougher for those end of the bench guys to get any ink.

With that in mind, I’d like to introduce you to…

Alize Johnson

PTS REB AST STL BLK 3PM FG FT TO
23 15 3 2 0 0 11/15 1/1 1

Johnson signed a 10-day contract with Brooklyn on Sunday and had himself a debut on Wednesday night in Salt Lake City. A G-League monster who averaged 16 points and 13 boards in this season’s bubble, Johnson stepped up for a Nets squad that was without Durant, Irving, and Harden while playing the second night of a back-to-back against the best team in the West. If you watched the highlights, you noticed that this game was O-V-E-R pretty much from the jump. Johnson was doing major mop up work and will be facing an uphill battle for PT going forward. He’s not an add by any stretch, but I’ve got no problem highlighting him to celebrate his big night. Raise a glass to my man. He earned it.

Here’s what else caught my eye on a busy night of basketball…

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The scorching hot Atlanta Hawks extended their winning streak to eight in Los Angeles against the defending champs. MVP candidate LeBron James did go down with an ankle injury in the second half and did not return.

John Collins had the standout performance for the Hawks, racking up an impressive 16 rebounds with 27 points on 11-15 shooting. Trae Young contributed with a double-double of 14 points and 11 assists but was 0-7 from beyond the arc. Clint Capela continued his excellent season hauling in 16 rebounds, blocking one shot, and scoring eight points. The Italian Rooster, Danilo Gallinari, also continued his good run of form with 18 points and four rebounds as well as three assists and two steals. 

For the Lakers, before getting unfortunately injured after his ankle got caught between the court and Solomon Hill, LeBron scored 10 points and dished out four dimes in only 10 minutes of play. Dennis Schroder picked up the slack with 16 points, seven rebounds, and four assists while Kyle Kuzma hauled in five boards, stole the ball once and had eight points. But the stat line of the night came from Montrezl Harrell who scored 23 points, grabbed 11 rebounds and had one block as well. 

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The Knicks, after getting walloped by the Bucks, took care of business against a Thunder team without their star in Shai Gilgeous-Alexander and one of their key young guys in Darius Bazley. 

Julius Randle posted a triple-double after a lackluster return to action against Milwaukee the other night. He scored 26, assisted 12 times, and grabbed 12 boards on top of two steals. RJ Barrett also continued his excellent form with a nice 32 piece and stealing the ball three times. Immanuel Quickley also had an eye-catching game since he racked up 33 minutes of playing time with Derrick Rose and Elfrid Payton not being available for this game. IQ scored 21 points on the back of three triples. 

The Thunder had a balanced scoring effort since they had eight players hit double digits in points. The young Frenchman Theo Maledon scored ten, had two triples, and dished out three assists. Fan-favorite, Lu Dort, scored 14 and grabbed six rebounds with five assists and Al Horford contributed with 16 points and five boards. A new hopeful in the world of fantasy who seems primed to come into a bigger role now in the second half of the season after the dust from the trade deadline settles is Aleksej Pokusevski who scored a measly four points but grabbed seven rebounds with two assists. I think we can expect much better from Poku moving forward. 

The Knicks pick up a much-needed win here ahead of a brutal second half scheduling-wise while the Thunder continue their development in a season where they have exceeded all expectations.

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Flashback, if you will, to about three weeks ago — it was colder, snowier, and darker then, I’m sure you remember it — when I reached out to Son with an idea.

Mr. Hooper: I’ve got three words for you, Son: the 2020-2021 Razzball Writers Fantasy Basketball All-Star Team. We’ve got some sharp players in this corner of the Razzverse. Why don’t we poll the writers and have them submit ballots? We can tally the votes, form our own super team, and then present our readers with a fantasy basketball All-Star team from each conference. It will be great!

Son: That’s a lot more than three words, Hoop, but as long as you do the polling and tabulating and writing, I won’t stop you.

How do you not love a guy like that? Such inspiring stuff. Flashforward past doing some research and a half dozen emails about Google Forms and then a few more about Google Sheets, and poof! We’ve got a couple of All-Star teams for you to enjoy/critique/grouse about.

Before we do the big reveal, a few notes about what exactly we’ve done here. The task was to fill out a 12-man ballot for each conference that has: 3 Guards, 3 Forwards, 2 Centers, and 4 Flex positions. It’s also important to keep in mind that we were using 9-category scoring (points, boards, dimes, steals, swats, turnovers, three-pointers made, field goal percentage, and free throw percentage) when punching our ballots. Because it was a collaborative effort to construct each team, I also enlisted my fellow writers to share their thoughts about their favorite All-Stars.

Observant readers will notice that we ended up with more than 12 Eastern Conference All-Stars. It turns out the Leastern Conference is actually pretty stacked (check out Keith’s piece exploring the why) and when it came to the final two flex spots we found ourselves with a five-way tie. Because this is a for-fun exercise and I didn’t have the foresight to create a tie-breaker, we decided to expand the bench and bring all our favorites on board (plus we needed to find a way to get Julius Randle onto this team so Vas could cook.) In this case, asterisks are not scarlet letters for PED users, but signifiers that the player listed was part of that five-way deadlock.

Without further ado, Razzball readers, here are your Eastern Conference Fantasy All-Stars!

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