The Toronto Raptors and Detroit Pistons played a great game with a fantastic finish on Wednesday night, leading to some terrific fantasy performances. On the surface, that might not have been expected, since the Raptors play good defense and the Pistons aren't exactly known for being a juggernaut offense. However, once the game got going, it seemed that the Pistons were really embracing their "backs against the wall" status as the No. 9 seed in an Eastern Conference where only eight teams make the playoffs.
The Pistons have struggled of late, and are starting to lose touch with the rest of the pack, so even though they were facing the hottest team in the conference, they came to play. The game was a back-and-forth affair down the stretch, as DeMar DeRozan was pretty much unstoppable for the Raptors. He was matched shot-for-shot by Blake Griffin -- on offense, at least. On defense? Well, let's just say that Griffin's "get out of the way" move didn't exactly cover him in glory:
ICYMI: DeMar DeRozan had one of the best dunks of the year. pic.twitter.com/aRKmGZazW8
- SportsCenter (@SportsCenter) March 8, 2018
Griffin did make up for it with the game-tying hoop at the other end. But what followed was a strange exchange where neither team could inbound the ball. With 0.9 seconds left and out of timeouts, Toronto threw a long pass that went out of bounds with 0.3 seconds left. The Pistons then tried an alley-oop from half court which sailed out of bounds without being touched. The Raptors then did the same thing, in the other direction. Finally, the Pistons just tossed in a vanilla pass and missed a shot from half court, and the game limped to overtime.
The Raptors pulled out the win in the extra session in a game chock full of interesting fantasy lines:
Demar DeRozan: 42 points (16-28 FG, 8-8 FT), 6 assists, 4 rebounds, 2 3-pointers, 1 TO
Blake Griffin: 31 points (12-21 FG, 4-8 FT), 4 assists, 3 rebounds, 3 3-pointers, 2 steals, 1 block, 3 TO
Kyle Lowry: 15 points (4-8 FG, 4-5 FT), 15 assists, 4 steals, 3 3-pointers, 1 TO
Andre Drummond: 10 points (5-14 FG), 21 rebounds, 2 assists, 2 blocks, 3 TO
Jonas Valanciunas: 14 points (6-13 FG, 1-1 FT), 11 rebounds, 3 assists, 3 blocks, 2 steals, 1 3-pointer, 1 TO
Reggie Bullock: 21 points (7-13 FG, 4-4 FT), 4 assists, 3 rebounds, 3 3-pointers, 1 TO (87.1 percent availability)
Norman Powell: 17 points (7-12 FG), 4 rebounds, 3 3-pointers, 1 block (99.3 percent availability)
Ish Smith: 14 points (6-10 FG), 7 assists, 2 3-pointers, 1 rebound, 3 TO (77.2 percent availability)
James Ennis III: 14 points (4-6 FG, 6-6 FT), 5 rebounds, 4 assists, 1 block, 1 TO (99.4 percent availability)
George Hill, Cleveland Cavaliers: 7 points (3-6 FG), 5 assists, 1 3-pointer, 1 rebound, 1 block
Wilson Chandler, Denver Nuggets: 3 points (1-8 FG, 1-2 FT), 7 rebounds, 3 assists, 2 steals, 1 TO
James played another excellent game to keep his Cavaliers moving in the right direction. To whit:
LeBron didn't miss in the final 2 minutes. ��
4/4 FG and 9 pts ⤵️ pic.twitter.com/chr33MTcLs
- ESPN (@espn) March 8, 2018
After the game, it was interesting to see the new guys on the team paying homage to the greatness of their new teammate. Jordan Clarkson weighed in with this:
- Jordan Clarkson (@JordanClarksons) March 8, 2018
Rodney Hood chimed in with a similar sentiment:
- Rodney Hood (@rodneyhood) March 8, 2018
The Utah Jazz seem to be coming together at just the right time, finding a strong balance of offense and defense. Rudy Gobert is back as the centerpiece of the team on both sides of the ball. On Wednesday, he led the way with 23 points (10-14 FG, 3-4 FT), 14 rebounds, 1 block and 1 steal. Donovan Mitchell and Ricky Rubio are leading the offense from the perimeter, with Mitchell scoring 20 points (6-15 FG, 4-5 FT) with 6 assists, 4 3-pointers, 3 rebounds, 1 steal and 6 TO, while Rubio turned in 18 points (8-18 FG, 1-2 FT), 7 assists, 6 rebounds, 3 steals, 1 3-pointer, 1 FT and 2 TO. Newcomer Jae Crowder (82.1 percent availability) scored in double-digits for the ninth time in his 10 games with the Jazz, notching 16 points (7-13 FG), 4 rebounds, 2 assists and 2 3-pointers in 28 minutes off the bench.
The Memphis Grizzlies are completely beset by injuries that have derailed their season. In fantasy though, the injuries have made stars out of Dillon Brooks (95.8 percent availability) and Ben McLemore (96.6 percent availability). On Wednesday night, Brooks turned in 29 points (10-18 FG, 4-4 FT) with 5 3-pointers, 2 steals, 2 assists and 1 rebound, while McLemore scored 17 points (5-11 FG, 4-5 FT) with 7 rebounds, 3 3-pointers, 3 steals, 2 assists and 6 TO.
The NBA came down a bit on the Chicago Bulls for sitting their veteran players, and last night it appeared that the Bulls "compromised" by starting Justin Holiday, though Robin Lopez was still nowhere to be found. Holiday still only played 17 minutes, but it was enough to keep Denzel Valentine and David Nwaba from producing as they had been. The starting unit was very productive on Wednesday, though, pummeling the injury-weakened Grizzlies with all five starters scoring between 14 and 22 points and providing solid production across the board.
Jokic finally came out of his four-game slump on Wednesday, putting a monster number on the board against the Cavaliers. Paul Millsap's return had seemingly slowed him, but on Wednesday it was Chandler and Will Barton who struggled. Jamal Murray had to leave the game after taking a knee to the head midway through the fourth quarter and was unable to return. There is no official word yet on the severity of the injury, so consider him questionable for Friday's game against the Lakers until more information comes out. If he has to miss any time, it could allow Barton to work his way back into the starting unit.
Injuries of note
Anthony Davis of the Pelicans sprained his left ankle during the third quarter of Wednesday night's game and had to leave the action. He got hurt by coming down on Kosta Koufos' foot, and was unable to play through it. Davis has an MRI scheduled for Thursday that should help clear up whether or not he will be available to return for Friday's game.
Sacramento's De'Aaron Fox left Wednesday's game in the first quarter with back stiffness. Frank Mason III (99.4 percent availability) took over for Fox and turned in 16 points (5-10 FG, 5-6 FT), 6 assists, 1 3-pointer, 1 rebound, 1 steal and 1 block in 29 minutes of action. Fox should be considered questionable moving forward until more information is released.
Evan Fournier sprained his left knee after colliding with Kentavious Caldwell-Pope in the third quarter of Wednesday night's game. He should be considered questionable to play in Orlando's upcoming game against the Kings, but look for updates on his status before the game.
Analytics advantage for Thursday
Two of the worst defenses in the NBA, according to team defensive rating (DRTG), are playing on Thursday. It's the Phoenix Suns (113.1 points allowed/100 possessions, 30th in the NBA) and the Minnesota Timberwolves (111.0 points allowed/100 possessions, 26th in the NBA). In both cases, the opposition should be very motivated to play, as the Oklahoma City Thunder need to win to move up in the incredibly tight Western Conference playoffs race and the Boston Celtics need to win to try to keep pace with the scorching-hot Raptors. Both of these games, therefore, appear to be games where big numbers could be put on the board.
Top players to watch tonight
Karl-Anthony Towns was averaging 30.0 points, 17.0 rebounds, 3.0 assists, 2.5 blocks and 2.0 steals in the two games leading into last Friday, but was then ejected with two technical fouls early in the contest. The Timberwolves haven't played in almost a week and have slid in the playoffs race, so expect Towns to explode if he can against a good Celtics defense that can be bit weak in the interior.
Kyrie Irving sat out on Monday and word was that he could miss several games, but now it's starting to sound as though he'll be ready to play on Thursday. If so, how effective will he be?