Hello once again, Razzballers. Not sure why I’m saying hi like it’s a surprise you’re here, but we’ll just go along with it and I’ll act disappointed you didn’t bring nachos. Nachos, man, will no one think of me? As the arrival of the newest NBA season comes closer (nearer?), it’s that time again to go over the specific teams and do our yearly ritual to pontificate, debate, and articulate what we see before us. Don’t ask me why it sounds like some slogan from the corporate zeitgeist where synergistic methods on trending markets do something or whatever. I just wanted nachos. For my first preview, we’ll be tackling the Los Angeles Clippers, a franchise that has really made me question why I follow sports at all, and then I remembered I know this pain. I was born in it, molded by it. As a Padres fan, it’s always nice to see darkness, my old friend. Exiting stage left from last year’s playoffs (or right, I don’t think it matters which direction) once again in the Conference Finals was both expected and surprising. There were many caveats as to why it happened yet again, but there were also a lot of great developments that could help the Clippers in their goal to finally reach the NBA Finals. So let’s see how the Clippers are shaping up and the fantasy implications henceforth. Medieval vernacular, why not?

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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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During draft season, I joked with the other Razz writers that, according to my extremely unscientific research, 100% of LA guys were in on LaMelo Ball. The echo chamber and hype bubble were too well-constructed for this not to be the case (also I didn’t really do much research and threw out evidence that didn’t support my theory. I’m Mister Hooper, not Doctor.) LaVar’s greatest creation was not the trio of ballers he sired (or those ugly shoes), but the machine he constructed to discuss them ad infinitum. Put off the Ball family brashness, I was lukewarm on LaMelo when drafting and missed out on an extremely fun and productive rookie year. The hype will be hot again next season, I assume, especially if the Hornets show some fight against one of the beasts of the East, so I’ll probably miss him next year too. But perhaps there’s a backdoor to one of these Balls. While little bro is taking up all the shine, Lonzo Ball has taken another step forward, especially as a shot maker. The vision and passing has always been legit (even my hater-ass was quick to concede that after watching him at Summer League) but the stroke has been sanded down and his 3-point percentage now creeps towards 40%. Still shy of 24-years-old, he’s putting it together.

Last night, playing in the aptly named Ball Arena in Denver, Lonzo consistently got where he wanted to go on the floor and then dimed up his teammates once he cracked the Denver defense open. The highlight package below isn’t spectacular, but if you want to watch a dude move to the exact spots  where he’s most dangerous, then I have the clip for you.

Lonzo Ball

PTS REB AST STL BLK 3PM FG FT TO
16 12 12 4 2 4 6/14 0/0 4

It was another busy Wednesday in professional hoops. Here’s what else stood out:

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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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I used to walk 500 Myles for Turner but he’s hurt and I’m a fantasy slut. Plus, I walked way more than 500 Myles. Go check the receipts. I was walking before people were talking. Anyways, the new campaign is to walk 500 Miles for Bridges. Remember back in the day when they’d have those heart challenges at school and you’d have to ask for donations for a walk? It’s similar except we are not asking for money. We are demanding respect for Miles Bridges. Last night was just the latest example of his dominance this season.

PTS REB AST STL BLK TOV 3PT FG FT
15 14 3 1 1 4 3/9 6/16 0/2

In 38 minutes. Bridges has started the last nine games and been a top 35 player. He’s averaged 38 minutes, 21 points, 3.3 tres, 7.5 boards, 2.4 dimes, 0.9 steals, and 0.9 blocks while shooting 54% from the field and 77% from the line. The usage rate has been 21. That number was at 16 for most of the season. He’s benefited from injuries but the genie is out of the bag now. There’s no stuffing it back in. If it happens, then we walking, and walking, and walking until it’s water under the Bridges.

Here’s what else I saw last night:

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Being in the zone is one of the greatest feelings in the world. Everything you chuck up has an increased probability of going in for some reason. Is it just perception? No, because the numbers bear it out. Is it some feeling or boost you get from confidence? Are the muscles and synapses firing faster and more efficiently to allow for greater accuracy? Are the stars aligned? Is the code in the matrix error-free? Whatever the case may be, it is amazing and I want it all the time. Unfortunately, that isn’t possible, and even if it was, then the script would flip because then the zone would be about missing a shot because we would be so accustomed to making everything. Ah, the conundrums of living. Last night, Landry Shamet was on one.

PTS REB AST STL BLK TOV 3PT FG FT
30 2 3 0 0 1 7/12 10/15 3/4

The 30 points were a career-high. Over the last four games, he’s played 38, 21, 36, and 26 minutes, scoring 30, 20, 17, and 19 points respectively. The usage rate has been 22, 33, 19, and 20. That’s been good for top 70 value. Now, the 76ers are dealing with injuries so he will turn back into a pumpkin but enjoy this heater while it lasts.

Here’s what else I saw yesterday:

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This is probably one of the toughest parts of the season for NBA players, coaches, and fans alike. Teams are jockeying for playoff position as the postseason gets closer by the day. Players across the league are missing games due to injury or being sat for tanking purposes.

This weekend we are missing a lot of fire power as Donovan Mitchell went down with injury yesterday, Jamal Murray is out for the rest of the season, and a handful of teams are sitting their top guys to conserve their health heading into the postseason/offseason.

So, on this week’s edition of the NBA Friday Night Recap, there are going to be a handful of games you may have never heard or never expected to have such a great performance. With this all-in mind, let’s get right into it and take a look at some of Friday’s top performers under the bright lights!

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Vince Carter is one of my all-time favorite players, mainly because of his ability to execute dunks that look nearly impossible, even for NBA standards. Just ask Frederic Weis.

Good lord…One of, if not, the greatest dunker in NBA history and I have to admit I miss this kind of energy dunk in today’s NBA. That was until Miles Bridges did this to poor Clint Capela.

Mind you Capela is a strong rim protector, which makes the dunk that much more impressive. One of those plays that make you grimace just by watching it. Loved it. Also, note the reactions of the other players on the court in both videos.

Regarding last week’s suggestions, Malachi Flynn was the most successful one as he continues to take advantage of his opportunity with great performances and was a top 90 player last week. Bobby Portis was ok, while Deni Avdija fizzled with only nine minutes in his last game and can be safely dropped again. Both the “Sell” candidates Derrick Rose and DeAndre Jordan did nothing to improve my view on them so they will remain as such.

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LeBron. Le Cordon Bleu. Le Diplomate. Le Creuset. Le Meruice. Le Meridien. Le PS5. Le Los Angeles Lakers. Le just means The but that doesn’t diminish its greatness. It’s the first one written, first one seen, first one spoken, and introduces all things, big or small. With that said, only a select few are blessed with the Le. In France, not so much but in the good ole’ US of A, it’s akin to finding Coke in a glass bottle. LeVert, as in Caris LeVert has been great and looks to have finally found his footing in Indiana. Two games ago, he went for 34 points, two tres, five boards, three dimes, one steal, and three blocks. For an encore, he went bonkers again….

PTS REB AST STL BLK TOV 3PT FG FT
26 6 6 2 3 2 1/8 7/18 11/13

….in 36 minutes. The usage rate was a whopping 29. Over the last four games, LeVert has been a top 15 player. Houston sure could use a player of his caliber.

Here’s what else I saw last night:

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