There were quite a few players who exploded for big performances on Friday, but Obi Toppin deserves the fantasy star of the night award the most, for a career-high 35 points on 6-9 three-point shooting. Toppin has scored 19 or more in his last four games starting and looks like he is getting more comfortable in the NBA with every minute he plays. This stretch of starts was a possible look into the future if Julius Randle is traded or if Toppin manages to get more minutes next to Randle next year. Obi will remain as an interesting stash in dynasty leagues with an undetermined role moving into next year. Immanuel Quickley ended the night with 23 points, 10 assists, and six rebounds as he saw more minutes than usual with RJ Barrett leaving the game with a knee injury. Quickley continues to show upside in all facets of the game and is leaving the Knicks with a difficult decision on what to do at the point guard position next year. His role has a lot to do with what the Knicks do in the offseason.

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The Charlotte Hornets defeated the Brooklyn Nets 119-110 to remain ahead of the Nets in the Eastern Conference standings. The two teams have identical 39-36 records, but with this win, the Hornets move to 2-1 against the Nets and secure the tiebreaker. Led by LaMelo Ball’s hot shooting, the Hornets spoiled Kyrie Irving’s home debut. Ball finished the game with 33 points (10-21 FG, 7-12 3PT), seven rebounds, nine assists, and three steals. Miles Bridges added 24 points (9-24 FG, 3-6 3PT), eight rebounds, two assists, and one steal. P.J. Washington tallied 18 points (8-12 FG, 2-3 3PT), 11 rebounds, and five assists. Terry Rozier notched 14 points (5-12 FG, 2-5 3PT), seven rebounds, four assists, and one steal. If the Hornets are making their threes they can be tough to beat and that was the case in this game. They shot 42% from the field as a team, but they shot 53% from three (17-32). As things currently stand, the Hornets would match up against the Cleveland Cavaliers in the play-in tournament, rather than the Nets. That’s unfortunate for us, the fans, as the pace of play and lack of defense on both sides would make a Nets vs. Hornets matchup must-see TV. Then again, there likely won’t be much defense in a Nets vs. Hawks series either.

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Trae Young is the clear choice for Friday’s fantasy star of the night after scoring 33 points and dishing out 15 assists in a 121-110 win over the Warriors. Young had one of his best games of the season at the perfect time for fantasy managers. He should continue to carry the Hawks offensively as they push for the best possible seed in the play-in tournament. Danilo Gallinari added 25 points before exiting with an elbow injury in the fourth quarter. It did not appear to be too serious but the Hawks would be very thin if he were to miss any time. 

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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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In the battle for the 9th seed out west, LaMelo Ball rose to the occasion while Ice Trae went Ice Cold from three. Despite his 15 assists, Trae Young finished with only nine points as he shot 3-of-12 from the field and 0-for-6 from downtown. Danilo Gallinari was averaging 14 points, five rebounds and four assists over the last week. However, he suffered an injury last night and would recommend dropping him for Onyeka Okongwu, who has averaged similar numbers and, with more opportunities, should score more.

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There was no doubt in this Friday’s fantasy star of the night as LeBron James scored 50 points in a must-win game as the Lakers try their best to stay afloat in this season. James has been a top-five category player this year and will look to continue his hot streak to close out the fantasy season. Malik Monk added 21 points on 5-7 three-point shooting while battling early foul trouble last night. Monk will continue to operate as the second scoring option until Anthony Davis returns from injury. 

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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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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 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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The fantasy star of the night rarely comes from a losing team, but RJ Barrett fully deserves it. After missing the last four games before the All-Star Break with an ankle injury, Barrett returned on Friday night to provide the best game of his career. He finished with 46 points and nine rebounds on 6-11 three-point shooting. He has been on a tear over his last 20 games and appears to be taking a leap forward as a player. He has been a huge disappointment for category players this year because of his shooting numbers and consistency but will look to finish strong in the remaining weeks of the fantasy season. Julius Randle added 11 points, eight rebounds, and eight assists in the loss. He struggled shooting the ball but was still a focal point of the offense. He should see a large facilitating role with Kemba Walker out of the rotation and with Derrick Rose set to have a cleanup surgery on his previously injured right ankle. 

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So we’ve arrived at the final nightly recap before the All-Star break. A time when team rosters are locked in, new trade pieces are already paying dividends, and teams generally know what they are. So let’s look at the 22 teams that played last night and evaluate where there at, where they could improve, and who stood out from a fantasy perspective. 

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