We are finally here! The waning days of the 2021 NBA regular season where the Playoff picture is rounding out into its final form and teams preparing for their Road to the NBA Finals.

Yesterday marked the regular season’s last slate of regular-season games under the Friday Night Lights and boy did it go off in a bang. Unsung casts of characters. Triple-doubles and career-highs. And most importantly, we had a few playoff position clinches as well.

But enough talking, let’s get into these games as we highlight the last set of Friday Night primetime performers of the 2021 regular season!

Please, blog, may I have some more?

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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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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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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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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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.

Please, blog, may I have some more?

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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Rundown of tonight’s dynamic slate of 10 Games with five Triple-Doubles on this Hump Day.

RAPTORS -VS- (W) PISTONS
Fred Van Vleet: Blessings to my dude for battling Covid-19 this month and making a full recovery.
First game back and understandably rusty.  The three steals and the 7-of-8 from the charity make it much more palatable.  Yum.  
FVV is actually 3rd on the planet in steals rate at 1.7 SPG.

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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.

Please, blog, may I have some more?