I mean, seriously… what else can possibly be written or said about “The Joker” Nikola Jokic at this point? Michael Jordan will always be my favorite athlete of all time, but did he even have consistent statistical dominance of this nature? At the end of February, Jokic became just the sixth player in NBA history to crack 100 career triple-doubles – and the kid is still only 28 years old! Since then, it’s been more of the same: Jam-packed box scores crammed with eye-popping Jokic statistics. And that continued on Wednesday night at the Washington Wizards.
As for the “Heat” wave, well, Miami is finally making its run in the Eastern Conference. The veterans are buckling down, and Erik Spoelstra’s boys picked up a key victory over the conference-rival Knicks on Wednesday. Let’s dive in head first and take a closer look at all this drama from a fantasy basketball perspective.
Capitol Hill is a “Mile High”
As the wheels continued to fall off the Wizards’ season Wednesday night, Nikola Jokic kept rollin’ in the opposite direction to the tune of 31 points, 12 rebounds, seven assists and three steals in a convincing 118-104 win for Denver. His absolutely insane efficiency continued, as he shot 12-of-16 from the field and 5-of-5 at the charity stripe. This guy fills up the box score and basically doesn’t miss in the process.
Elsewhere, it was the status quo production for the Nuggets: Michael Porter Jr. (21 points), Jamal Murray (17), Bruce Brown (14) and Aaron Gordon (12) were the main contributors beyond Jokic’s dominance. Fantasy basketball is pretty obvious in Denver – if you look at last night’s box score you’ll get a decent sense of their normal distribution.
The Good Old Days – Patrick Ewing vs. Alonzo Mourning? Nahhhh
Back in the day, the Heat-Knicks rivalry was out of control. It really wasn’t basketball back in those days – it was football. P.J. Brown had a fistfight with Charlie Ward, Charles Oakley and Anthony Mason were always sending bodies flying and Alonzo Mourning was stirring up some bad feelings in the middle of the paint.
Nowadays? Well, the game is a lot softer. The Knicks and Heat don’t seem to hate each other nearly as much as they used to; nonetheless, they treated us to a solid basketball game on Wednesday night. Passionate team leader Jimmy Butler was the key player for Miami, on his way to 35 points, nine assists, four rebounds and four steals in a monster all-around performance. As things get tighter in the Eastern Conference – and the Heat have to play with more urgency at this point in the season – expect more of the same from “Jimmy Buckets” who seemingly always rises to the occasion when his teammates need it the most.
The next two in the pecking order – Tyler Herro and Bam Adebayo – had good-enough games, but the fantasy highlight was Gabe Vincent, who shot 8-of-12 from the floor on his way to 19 clean points. I point to Vincent here because you have to remember that veteran leader Kyle Lowry (14 points, four rebounds and three assists) has been benched for him. And I’ll be honest with ya – I like the move from Spoelstra and Pat Riley. The Heat were stagnant for a significant portion of this season, and Vincent brings the youth and athleticism that have been fading away from Lowry.
Ja Morant is Back? Who Cares – This is JJJ’s Team Now
Ja Morant‘s much-anticipated return happened Wednesday night, but his uber-talented teammate Jaren Jackson Jr. stole the show from the get-go. “JJJ” – who in my opinion is arguably one of the top 10 all-around basketball players on the planet – ate the young Houston Rockets for breakfast, lunch and dinner. JJJ popped off for 37 points, 10 rebounds and two blocks on 14-of-20 shooting on the way to a hard-fought 130-125 win for his Memphis Grizzlies. JJJ can simply do it all out there, and the Rockets – as has often been the case this season – had no answers on the defensive end of the floor.
As for Morant? Well, he came off the bench. Head coach Taylor Jenkins laid down the law, and Morant watched Tyus Jones start and compile 14 points, seven assists, three threes and three rebounds. Luckily for Morant, he was pretty sharp right off the pine. Morant basically looked himself en route to 17 points, five assists, four rebounds and two steals in just 23 minutes of on-court action. We know this starting lineup will change for the real playoffs – but what about the small window remaining in our fantasy playoffs? Don’t expect a soft road back for Morant, especially with this particular coaching staff.
Strong Performances Around the League
Kristaps Porzingis: Despite the Wizards’ loss to the Nuggets, “KP” was very efficient, shooting 11-of-17 from the floor for 25 points in just 22 minutes. Talk about a per-minute beast!
Stephen Curry: Had a nice double-double – 20 points and 13 assists on 50% shooting – in a dramatic 127-125 victory over the conference-rival Dallas Mavericks, who also needed the game badly.
Andrew Nembhard: The rising rookie exploded for 25 points and 10 assists in a tight 118-114 win over the reeling Toronto Raptors.
De’Anthony Melton: No James Harden last night – who cares? Melton picked up the slack with no problem on his way to 25 points, four rebounds, four assists, four threes and three steals. He’s consistently one of the best fill-in players in the NBA. A tremendous offseason pickup by Philly.
Giannis Antetokounmpo: 31 points and 14 rebounds in 23 minutes against the entirely overmatched San Antonio Spurs. The Bucks went on to win by the embarrassing score of 130-94. Wait… Giannis did THAT in only 23 minutes on the floor? He truly is a Freak.
I’ll see ya right back here next week!
John Frascella is a published sports author who has been covering the NBA for 19 years. Follow him on Twitter @LegendSports7 for all things fantasy basketball, football and baseball.