If your league has been around a while, you have likely started the fantasy playoffs already. If not, you’re likely starting them very soon. There’s always a shift that happens after the all-star break as teams decide they need a drastic shift or they choose to tank.

As a result, players often slip into fantasy relevance that were once forgotten, or borderline, plays. All rankings in this article were taken from Basketball Monster and are the 9-category player rankings for the last two weeks of the season in PER GAME value, not total value.

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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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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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Hey everybody, it’s me Keith! Sorry, I’ve been watching a lot of Blue’s Clues and every episode starts like that… Anyways, let’s get down to business.

It’s officially NBA silly season with the trade deadline already in distant memory, and plenty of teams are not super interested in winning basketball games right now. If a team can finish 10th and get into the play-in, they may be more interested in resting their guys and getting a better draft pick.

So which teams are doing that? And, more importantly, which players benefit the most from this shift?

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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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Fox has been on an absolute tear. In the last month, he’s shot 50.2% from the field and 80.2% from the line while averaging 28.3/3.5/6.1 and almost 2 steals per game. I still think the percentages are bound to fall, but this hot stretch might take Fox straight through the season, prompting many to take him too early in drafts next year. Be careful is all I’m saying, but enjoy the production for now.

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This season has been filled with great storylines, interesting teams and has been one of the most parody-filled NBA regular seasons in recent memory.

If the season ended today the Charlotte Hornets, Atlanta Hawks, New York Knicks, and Phoenix Suns would all be in the playoffs. The race for league MVP goes about 15 players deep, ranging from guys like James Harden to Nikola Jokic to Damian Lillard and a bunch more. The competition across the league is truly at an all-time high.

But still, in the mix of all this excitement and parody in the NBA, there are still a handful of top-level talents that are not receiving their just due. Guys that have been balling out for a majority of the season or have come on strong as of late who are not getting the kind of recognition they deserve.

So, for this week’s Hoopers of the Week, we are going to show some of those guys some much-needed and well-earned respect. These guys are Russell Westbrook in the Eastern Conference and Devin Booker in the Western Conference. Let’s get into it!

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Dallas rolled up without Kristaps Porzingis to face the Bradley Beal-less Wizards, and won on the second night of their back-to-back. 

Luka Doncic, for the Mavs, came close to a triple-double with 26 points, eight rebounds, and six assists. He also had one steal to go along with that and shot 50% from the field. Overall, it was a very balanced scoring effort from the Mavs who had six players (including Doncic) in double figures. Jalen Brunson had another solid game with 19 points, three assists, and two steals. 

On the other side of the court, Russell Westbrook was five assists short of a triple-double (26 points, 14 rebounds), while backup point guard, Raul Neto, also had an impressive game in which he scored 16 points, grabbed four rebounds, and dished out two assists. Robin Lopez also reached double figures with 18 points, while also having four rebounds, a block, and a steal. 

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The Washington Wizards picked up a much-needed win here against a lesser Detroit side who saw Jerami Grant go to the locker room early thanks to an injury. 

For the Pistons, Isaiah Stewart flirted with a double-double as he scored 11 points and grabbed eight rebounds with a block and a steal on 55.6% efficiency. Wayne Ellington also scored 15 points on the back of five triples while Mason Plumlee had an 11/81/1 game. 

Russell Westbrook put up another triple-double, 19/19/10 while Bradley Beal scored 17 and dished out six assists in a limited 29 minutes. Deni Avdija got the start scoring five points, grabbing five rebounds, and stealing the ball twice. Rui Hachimura scored 14 points and grabbed six rebounds while being 54.5% from the field to contribute to this win. 

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In high school, I went out with a girl who was two years younger than me. Things were amazing but then I got accepted to a school on the opposite coast. There was sadness at the inevitable end of the relationship but we made the most of it for those six months. We spent as much time together as we could and tried to cherish every moment. As the summer came to an end and it was almost time to go, the crescendo of emotion and activity was heightened, until the last hurrah knocked on the door and said it’s time. Jusuf Nurkic is close to returning back to action for the Trail Blazers. Enes Kanter knows his time is almost near. As I did with my high school sweetheart, so did Kanter do last night:

PTS REB AST STL BLK TOV 3PT FG FT
19 19 6 0 1 0 0 6/8 7/8

In 40 minutes of action. Sooooo close to his eighth 20/20 game of his career and second this season. He grabbed 10 offensive boards, the fourth time in his career he’s accomplished the feat. On the season, Kanter is a top 75 player. As a starter, he’s averaged 29.7 minutes per game. In 12 games off the bench, he’s at 18.7 minutes. When Nurkic returns to action, it may take some time for him to get ramped up, but once that happens, Kanter will be playing sub-20 minutes again.

Here’s what else I saw last night:

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