Kawhi Leonard and Paul George played their first game together as teammates Wednesday as the Clippers beat the Celtics in overtime. The Clippers outscored Boston by 11 points in 27 minutes with both players on the floor.
Leonard produced just 17 points on 20 shots, his second-lowest scoring tally of the season, yet in a contest that featured both superstar wings, it was Lou Williams and Patrick Beverley who stole the show; Williams scored a team-high 27 points off bench, his 191st career game with at least 20 off the bench, passing Jamal Crawford for the most such games since starters were first designated on box scores in 1970-71.
Beverley scored 12 of his 14 points in the fourth quarter and overtime, tied for his second-most such points in his career. At 6-foot-1, Beverley also became the shortest player since blocks became official (1973-74) with at least 15 rebounds and multiple blocks in a game, per Elias.
It's unclear if this surge in production for Beverley is trend or outlier, but it helps his case as a defensive specialist that he's averaged four stocks (steals plus blocks) during the past week to go with this surge in rebounding. You can find Beverley in free agency in more than 85% of ESPN leagues as of Thursday morning.
Doncic finished with 35 points, 10 rebounds and 11 assists in 25 minutes and 30 seconds of action Wednesday against the Warriors, the fewest minutes played in a 30-point triple-double in NBA history. He had 22 points, five rebounds and five assists in the first quarter, outscoring the Warriors in all three categories. Per the Elias Sports Bureau, Doncic became just the second player in the last 20 seasons -- and first since Allen Iverson in Feb. 2003 against the Bulls -- to outscore, outrebound and out-assist an opposing team in a quarter. Doncic has seven triple-doubles in just 14 games this season. The only player in NBA history with more over their team's first 14 games is Oscar Robertson (11 in 1961-62).
The Warriors essentially rested a healthy Draymond Green for the contest and thus endured a 48-point loss to Dallas, marking the second-worst defeat in NBA history by a team that made NBA Finals the previous season and the franchise's worst loss since March of 1972, which seems like a long time ago. This is just further evidence that the Warriors, once perennial owners of the top defensive rating each season, are now the best matchup to target in all of fantasy hoops.
The 76ers' Ben Simmons made the first regular-season 3-pointer of his career with a smooth shot from the corner in the first quarter of last night's win over the Knicks. I'd be surprised if Simmons makes more than a dozen 3-pointers this season, but it's certainly an interesting development for a dynamic player still in search of shooting prowess.
Brooklyn's Allen is quietly thriving for the Nets lately and last night scored the second-most points of his career while grabbing the second-most rebounds as well. The emergent big man has produced a double-double in three of the past four appearances while making an absurd 73.5% of his shots from the floor. Allen is rostered in just 75% of ESPN leagues as of Thursday morning.
The Rockets' superstar backcourt gets much of the attention, but center Clint Capela is on an historic rebounding bender worthy of more acclaim; with 21 pulls last night in a loss to Denver, Capela now five consecutive games with 20 rebounds, tying Elvin Hayes in 1970 for the longest such streak in Rockets history, per Elias.
With another big line last night, Giannis Antetokounmpo became the fifth player since the ABA-NBA merger (1976-77) to record 10 straight games in a single season with at least 25 points and 10 rebounds. Shaquille O'Neal has the longest streak with 12 straight games during the 2000-01 season. Teammate Brook Lopez delivered four stocks and made two 3-pointers while remaining dramatically undervalued by managers in ESPN leagues.
Miami's Duncan Robinson has been a revelation for the Heat thus far, as the former Michigan sharpshooter produced a career-high 29 points in a win over the Cavs on Wednesday evening. The career outing included nine made 3-pointers, tied for third-most in game in Heat history. Robinson in rostered in fewer than one percent of ESPN leagues. Teammate Tyler Herro tallied 22 points off the bench for Miami, becoming the fourth rookie for the Heat to have multiple games with at least 20 point off the bench over the past 20 seasons.
Shaquille Harrison enjoyed a breakout performance for the Bulls on Wednesday in a starting role in place of the ailing Otto Porter Jr., who has missed the past six games with a foot injury. Harrison tallied a double-double with 15 points and 11 rebounds to go with five dimes and four stocks. If Porter and Chandler Hutchinson continue to miss time, Harrison could make for a strong interim addition.
Injuries of note
Orlando's Nikola Vucevic suffered an ankle injury in a loss to the Raptors. X-Rays on Vucevic's ankle came back negative, but further testing will offer a definitive timeline for the injury. The All-Star big was seen with a walking boot after the loss, suggesting he could miss some time. Teammate Aaron Gordon also suffered an ankle injury that reports suggest isn't as serious as Vucevic's, but we'll want to wait for official word from the Magic.
Analytics advantage for Thursday
During tonight's limited two-game slate, we'll want to identify any widely available players worthy of streaming. With Baynes absent from the floor in Phoenix, stretch-five Frank Kaminsky should start and see plenty of opportunities to score from deep against a generous Pelicans defense that rates 26th in defensive efficiency, a measure of points allowed per 100 possessions.
We can also look to stack (select multiple players from the rotation) from these rosters in DFS in this contest in Phoenix, given New Orleans is fourth in pace with 105.2 possessions per 48 minutes and the Suns rate ninth with a pace of 103.9. With Rubio out, Devin Booker becomes a key building block of such stacking strategies.
Top players to watch tonight
Floor spacing was decidedly weak in Anthony's debut sans Lillard, while he had to a lot of isolation creation to get his shot off. With Lillard's massive shooting gravity on the floor, tonight can offer a clearer appraisal of Anthony's stock as a catch-and-shoot specialist with the Blazers.