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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One team in this matchup projects to be a difficult and gritty playoff opponent and a sneaky conference finals contender; the other team in this matchup is the Brooklyn Nets. The Boston Celtics defeated the Brooklyn Nets 126-120, behind a historic 54-point performance from Jayson Tatum. It was Tatum’s fourth 5o-point game, tying him with Larry Bird for the most 50-point games in Celtics history. Tatum finished the night with 54 points (16-30 FG, 8-15 3PT), five rebounds, three assists, and it was his hockey assist that led to a dagger Jaylen Brown three to stamp out all hope for the Nets. Jaylen Brown added 21 points, four rebounds, five assists, and three steals. Marcus Smart finished the game with 14 points, three rebounds, nine assists, and one steal. Al Horford finished the game with 13 points, seven rebounds, four assists, one steal, and one block. Robert Williams III tallied 10 points, eight rebounds, two assists, two steals, and five blocks.

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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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Variety, they say, is the spice of life. So while there were monster games on Tuesday night from all the usual suspects — Joker, Joel, LeBron, Harden, Anthony Edwards, the Boston Boys — I’m bowing out on trying to split those hairs and passing on the opportunity to bestow the lede player honor on one of these repeat customers. Instead, we’ll spice things up by going off the beaten path and checking in on a number one pick who feels like he’s flying a bit under the radar.

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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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The Brooklyn Nets took home the 121-119 victory in this Sunday matinee against the rebuilding, but still pesky San Antonio Spurs. In classic 2021-22 Nets fashion, they gave up a 14-point lead and allowed the Spurs to tie the game late in the fourth quarter and push the game into overtime, where Nets’ rookie Cam Thomas stole the show. Both teams struggled to score in the waning minutes of regulation and overtime, most notably Kevin Durant. As a result, when Durant was doubled on the Nets’ final possession at the elbow, with about six seconds left in the game, he rose up and fired a pass to Cam Thomas sliding up from the corner. Thomas pump-faked, took two hard dribbles and rose up for a one-legged runner fading to his left at the free-throw line. Nothing but net. Thomas’ made floater in overtime turned out to be the game-winner as Lonnie Walker was blocked on the Spurs ensuing inbound play. Even if he hadn’t been blocked, however, the shot wouldn’t have counted. Walker released the shot after the buzzer, as the Spurs had just one-point-four seconds to shoot. The narrow escape victory snapped a five-game losing streak for the Nets.

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Last night at Madison Square Garden, Steph Curry — the greatest shooter ever, a player who irrevocably changed basketball simply by playing it in the way that best suits him and his unfathomable gifts — did a little legacy cementing. In front of previous record holders Ray Allen and Reggie Miller, his family and teammates, a packed house, God, and basketball fans the world over, Curry moved into first place in all-time three-pointers made.

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The Milwaukee Bucks defeated the New York Knicks 112-97 in the matinee matchup yesterday. The Bucks are now back to their winning ways, having beaten the Rockets in their previous game after losing their first game with Jrue Holiday, Giannis Antetokounmpo, and Khris Middleton in the lineup against an undermanned Miami Heat team on Wednesday. The sweet machine of destruction that is the Milwaukee Bucks appears to have returned. Seven players scored in double figures for the Bucks, led by Khris Middleton, who finished the game with 24 points (8-17 FG, 4-11 3PT), eight rebounds, four assists, and two steals. Giannis Antetokounmpo tallied 20 points (7-16 FG, 0-2 3PT), 10 rebounds, 11 assists, one steal, and one block. Bobby Portis chipped in 19 points (7-14 FG, 3-7 3PT), 10 rebounds, and three steals. Jrue Holiday added 13 points (6-11 FG, 1-2 3PT), four rebounds, five assists, and one steal. Grayson Allen, Pat Connaughton, and Rodney Hood rounded out the double-digit scorers’ list.

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In a rematch from only two days ago, the Pelicans were able to get revenge behind the fantasy star of the night, Brandon Ingram, who hasn’t been as good as last year since his injury but showed up last night with a near triple-double. Ingram finished with 24 points, 12 assists, and eight assists. This was easily Ingram’s best game of the year, and he will look to keep the streak going. While Jonas Valanciunas continues to start at center, his foul troubles recently have opened up more minutes for Willy Hernangomez, who has been stellar off the bench. Hernangomez finished with 12 points and 14 rebounds and should continue to be a solid streamer even with a great center in front of him. 

With Kristaps Prozingis out of the lineup, the Mavericks struggled offensively. Luka Doncic led the way, as he usually does, with 21 points, 10 rebounds, and seven assists. He remains one of the top category players with unlimited upside on a night-to-night basis. Maxi Kleber had 13 points and nine assists while filling in for Porzingis, but his production is too sporadic to justify rostering him.

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Welcome to your midweek guidance for Week Seven!  The goal of this post is to help you identify players on the waiver wire who can help you win your weekly matchup.  Keeping up with the consolidated injury report is no small task these days.  The past 10 days were not kind to the league’s stars, with several going out for extended absences.  If you’re in the unfortunate position of holding a top-tier player who’s dealing with injury or sickness, it’s time to figure out who will benefit from their time off.  There is no shortage of talent to mine from the hardest-hit teams like Houston, Denver, and Portland.

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Finally, some Tuesday night sparkle! As long as the game with oblong pigskin is being played, Tuesday nights are one of the few days on the calendar that belong solely to the NBA. Unfortunately for those of us who do our recapping of these showcase nights, the product has been a bit underwhelming to start the season. Things started picking up with last week’s Lakers/Knicks matchup, but we jumped several levels last night with an extremely competitive Battle for New York and then a clash of Western Conference contenders as the Suns played host to the Warriors.

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