Kyrie Irving Surprisingly Set To Return Sunday

Saturday’s seven-game slate provided plenty of highlights, including a career-high 41 points from Jayson Tatum, a Greek Freak Special from Giannis, Lonzo Ball nearly triple-doubling, and the Lakers supporting cast stepping up with both LeBron and AD sidelined. 

After recapping the important storylines from Saturday, we’ll wrap up the Dose by taking a look at the players facing injury issues for Sunday’s games, which is highlighted by the expected return of Brooklyn PG Kyrie Irving.

Saturday’s Standouts:
A trio of Rockets posted prodigious numbers in Houston’s blowout victory over the Wolves on Saturday. James Harden racked up 32 points (8-of-17 FGs, 10-of-13 FTs), 12 rebounds, eight assists, two steals, and 11 turnovers and six 3-pointers in only 28 minutes. He also became the just 45th (and the youngest) player in NBA history to score at least 20,000 points in a career. Not to be outdone, Russell Westbrook tallied 30 points (10-of-23 FGs, 9-of-10 FTs), six rebounds, 10 assists, two steals and one three-pointer. While The Beard and Brodie notching monster fantasy lines is to be expected, the third Houston standout was certainly a surprise. 

Isaiah Hartenstein, making just his second career start with Clint Capela (right heel contusion) scratched, scored 17 points (8-of-9 FGs), grabbed 15 rebounds, blocked five shots, and tacked on one assist and two steals in 27 minutes on Saturday. The blocks and steals were career-highs for Hartenstein. He’s obviously a terrific plug-and-play whenever Capela is out of action, but Hartenstein will likely carve out consistent minutes going forward even when Houston is at full strength if he continues to play this well..

Jayson Tatum exploded for a career-high 41 points (on 16-of-22 shooting) in Saturday’s demolition of the Pelicans, adding six rebounds, four assists, three steals and a career-high six 3-pointers. He needed just 30 minutes to do all that damage. Tatum would have had a chance at a 50-burger if the contest was more competitive. It was JT’s fifth career game with at least 30 points, but the first time he’s cracked the 40-point barrier. Tatum been remarkably consistent all season and has now reached double figures in 28 consecutive games. Enes Kanter was a bully in down low for Boston, finishing with a season-high 22 points (10-of-13 FGs, 2-of-2 FTs), a season-high 19 rebounds, and one assist in 23 minutes. 

Lonzo Ball stayed hot Saturday night, nearly recording a triple-double by tallying 10 points, 13 boards and nine assists, with one block and one 3-pointer in 33 minutes. Ball has been stuffing the stat sheet all month long, averaging 18.7 points, 7.1 rebounds, 8.1 dimes, 1.1 steals and 3.1 triples over the Pels last seven contests. 

With LeBron James (illness) and Anthony Davis (gluteal contusion) sidelined Saturday, LA needed their supporting cast to step up, and that’s just what happened in the Lakers surprising shellacking of OKC. Rajon Rondo started and racked up 21 points (10-of-22 FGs), 12 rebounds, eight assists, one steal and one three-pointer in 33 minutes. However, he did suffer a strained ring finger on his right hand and is considered questionable for Monday’s game vs. the Cavs. Kyle Kuzma, in his third start of the season, provided plenty of efficient offense, shooting 15-of-24 from the field en route to a season-high 36 points and four triples with seven rebounds. Dwight Howard registered 12 points (4-of-8 FGs, 4-of-4 FTs), 14 rebounds, three assists and two blocked shots in 26 minutes off the bench. 

Giannis Antetokounmpo looked every bit like the league’s MVP in Saturday victory over Portland, scoring 32 points, ripping down 17 rebounds, dishing out six assists and knocking down two 3-pointers in 29 minutes in a victory over the Blazers. Incredibly, it was Giannis’ fifth game with at least 30 points, 15 boards and five dimes this season. To put that in context, no other player in the league has more than one 30/15/5 game. In addition, Antetokounmpo has now made hit multiple triples in the same games 18 times this season, after totaling only 13 such games all of last season.

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On the Radar:
The Bulls got a much-needed victory on Saturday vs. an undermanned Pistons squad. It snapped a six-game losing skid for Chicago. Zach LaVine led the way, tallying 25 points, four rebounds, six assists, one steal, two blocked shots and one three-pointer in 35 minutes. Unfortunately, LaVine was just 8-of-21 from the floor and 1-of-9 from downtown. Lauri Markkanen had 14/7/2 and two 3-pointers in 28 minutes. Daniel Gafford drew another start in place of Wendell Carter Jr. (ankle) and tallied 14 points (7-of-9 FGs), seven rebounds, two assists, one steal and one blocked shot in 23 minutes. Luke Kornet also saw an uptick in playing time with WCJ out, logging 25 minutes and finishing with 15 points (6-of-13 FGs) with six rebounds, one assist, two steals, two blocks and three 3-pointers.

Andre Drummond was ejected from Saturday’s game vs. the Bulls in the third quarter after earning his second technical when he plunked Daniel Gafford in the head with the ball. That allowed Christian Wood to step in, and Wood racked up 17 points (8-of-12 FGs), 14 rebounds, three assists, one steal and three blocked shots in 26 minutes. Derrick Rose scored a team-high 20 points (7-of-11 FGs, 4-of-4 FTs) with two rebounds, seven assists and two 3-pointers in 29 minutes. It was Rose’s fifth straight game with 20+ points, his longest streak since 2012. Markieff Morris (left foot sprain) made his first appearance since Dec. 26th and finished with three points, three rebounds and one steal in 14 minutes. 

Jarrett Culver played well again on Saturday, finishing with 15 points, eight rebounds, five assists and three 3-pointers in 33 minutes. It was his seventh straight game in double-figures, and he has at least five boards in six of those seven contests as well. Josh Okogie scored 16 points (5-of-11 FGs, 4-of-5 FTs) and added five rebounds, five assists, four steals, one blocked shot and two 3-pointers in 30 minutes. 

Danilo Gallinari accumulated 24 points (8-of-17 FGs, 4-of-4 FTs), two rebounds, three assists and four 3-pointers in 32 minutes in OKC’s disappointing loss to the Lakers. Shai Gilgeous-Alexander matched Gallo’s 24 points and grabbed eight rebounds. SGA was 8-of-17 from the field and 7-of-7 from the stripe. Steven Adams had 12/8/1 with two steals and one blocked shot in 29 minutes. Chris Paul finished with 16/5/8. 

Luka Doncic‘s shooting struggles continued on Saturday night, as he converted just four of his 15 FG attempts. However, he did knock down 10 of his 12 freebies and finished with 19 points, eight boards and a game-high 12 dimes. Doncic, who shot above 48% over Dallas’ first 25 games this season, is now shooting below 44% over his last ten appearances. Dwight Powell scored 19 points (8-of-11 FGs, 3-of-6 FTs) and grabbed a season-high 12 rebounds in 35 minutes. Maxi Kleber started and chipped in 10 points, eight boards, three blocks and three 3-pointers in 31 minutes. Tim Hardaway Jr. had 12 points and a season-high nine rebounds. 

Tobias Harris scored a game-high 20 points on Saturday but needed 22 shots to get there (9-of-22 FGs). He added ten rebounds, one assist and two 3-pointers in 34 minutes. Ben Simmons had 11 points, five boards, 11 assists and four steals, but was held scoreless in the second half. Al Horford had 16/6/5 with two steals and three treys.

Fresh off a career-high 35 points, Tristan Thompson was back at it Saturday, compiling 18 points (on 7-of-11 shooting and 4-of-5 FTs), 13 boards and two dimes. Kevin Love recorded a solid double-double of his own with 19 points and 15 rebounds in 37 minutes in the Cavs surprising victory over Denver. Cedi Osman joined the dub-dub party as well with 11 points (4-of-8 FGs), 12 rebounds, four assists and two 3-pointers in 35 minutes. Darius Garland logged 38 minutes and scored 18 points to go along with a career-high-tying eight assists. Collin Sexton had 25 points (9-of-18 FGs, 4-of-5 FTs) with four treys. 

Nikola Jokic rang up 19/12/5 with two triples, but only attempted 12 shots. The Nuggets are a better team when The Joker is more aggressive (and his fantasy GM’s prefer that as well). Jamal Murray scored 24 points with five rebounds, three assists, three steals and two 3-pointers in 35 minutes, but was just 10-of-22 from the field. Will Barton (personal) returned from a one-game absence with 18 points on 7-of-18 shooting, nine rebounds, three assists, one steal, two blocks and one 3-pointer in 38 minutes. Michael Porter Jr. logged only three minutes. Feel free to send MPJ back to the waiver wire in standard re-draft leagues, as his playing time is simply not consistent enough to rely on.

Khris Middleton needed only 28 minutes and 17 FG attempts to score 30 points on Saturday. He was 11-of-17 from the field and 4-of-4 from the foul line and added four rebounds, two assists and four 3-pointers. Eric Bledsoe had 29 points, four rebounds, three assists, two blocks and three 3-pointers in 27 minutes. Brook Lopez had a dud (two points, nine boards, zero treys and zero blocks). 

Damian Lillard scored a team-high 26 points (10-of-20 FGs, 3-of-3 FTs) for Portland, to go along with three rebounds, five assists and three 3-pointers in 35 minutes. C.J. McCollum had 20 points, three rebounds, five assists and three 3-pointers, but was 7-of-19 from the field. Carmelo Anthony doubled-doubled with 19 points (7-of-17 FGs, 2-of-2 FTs) and 11 rebounds with three 3-pointers in 33 minutes.

Injury Tracker:
LeBron James (illness) did not play Saturday in OKC. LeBron has been battling a cold all week, and he tallied 35 points, 16 rebounds, and seven assists while logging 32 minutes Friday night in the Lakers victory over Dallas. Thus, although disappointing, it wasn’t surprising that the King got a night off on the backend of a back-to-back. The Lakers’ next game is Monday vs. the Cavs in LA, so here’s hoping LeBron is good to go for that one.

Anthony Davis (gluteus maximus contusion) also sat out Saturday night. Davis bruised his tailbone in a scary fall on Tuesday. Fortunately, an MRI performed on his lower back revealed nothing more than a bruise. However, AD was still «very sore» on Thursday and has now missed two straight contests.

Danny Green (sore right hip) was unable to play on Saturday as well. As noted above, Saturday was the second night of a back-to-back for LA (Green logged 22 minutes on Friday), so this may be just a night off for the veteran. Kentavious Caldwell-Pope started in place of Green and scored 11 points (4-of-6 FGs) with three rebounds, one assist and two 3-pointer in 28 minutes Saturday vs. the Thunder.

Derrick Favors (right hamstring strain) and Kenrich Williams (right lower back soreness) both sat out Saturday vs. Boston. Favors was unable to finish Friday’s victory over the Knicks due to his hamstring tightening up, so it was expected that he would be sidelined on Saturday. Coach Alvin Gentry said Favors «will be evaluated every day going forward and the team will move on from there.» According to Pels reporter Andrew Lopez, it «sounds like a day-to-day injury for now and not a long term issue.» Jaxson Hayes started on Saturday and scored a career-high 20 points (9-of-13 FGs, 2-of-5 FTs) with two rebounds, one assist and two blocks in 26 minutes. Hayes will be a hot commodity if Favors misses time. 

Hassan Whiteside (illness) did not suit up Saturday against the Bucks. He played through the illness on Thursday, but couldn’t Saturday night. The Blazers next game is Monday at home vs. the Hornets. Anthony Tolliver started in Whiteside’s place and tallied 11 rebounds and seven points in 28 minutes.

Clint Capela (heel) did not play on Saturday against the Wolves. Coach Mike D’Antoni hinted that Capela’s heel was bothering him earlier this week. The Rockets don’t play again until Tuesday, so hopefully, CC will be ready to return after a couple of days off. As noted above, Isaiah Hartenstein would be a must-start if Capela were to miss another contest. 

Karl-Anthony Towns (knee, illness) missed yet another game on Saturday. Coach Ryan Saunders explained that Towns was ill this weekend, in addition to his knee causing pain. Gorgui Dieng will continue to rack up starts and stats until KAT returns. 

Jrue Holiday (left elbow triceps strain) and J.J. Redick (hamstring) both sat out of Saturday’s game against the Celtics. This is the fourth straight game on the shelf for Holiday. Redick looked fine on Friday, scoring 12 points in 23 minutes in a victory over the Knicks. Saturday’s contest is the second night of a back-to-back, so the Pels may simply be giving their veteran SG a night off. E’Twaun Moore started for the Pels on Saturday and finished with 10/4/3 in 28 minutes.  

Kristaps Porzingis (sore right knee) did not play Saturday, but coach Rick Carlisle’s stated it was possible that he could return during the team’s upcoming road trip. «It’s day-to-day. He’s continued to make improvements,» said Carlisle. The Mavs play at Golden State on Tuesday and at Sacramento on Wednesday.

P.J. Tucker (right shoulder stinger) logged just two minutes in the first quarter of Saturday night’s victory over the Wolves before exiting. Tucker ran into a Gorgui Dieng screen and immediately grabbed his shoulder area. He was ruled out a short time later. However, Tucker «seems to be OK» and could be available for Tuesday’s game vs. the Grizzlies, per coach Mike D’Antoni.

Injury Notes for Sunday’s Games:
In what qualified as the most surprising and welcomed news of the day, we learned that Kyrie Irving (shoulder) is expected to play Sunday against the Hawks. ESPN’s Adrian Wojnarowski first reported that Kyrie was set to suit for the first time since Nov. 14, and then the Nets officially listed him as probable. It’s an incredible turnaround for a player that many pundits thought might miss the remainder of 2019-20 season just last week. Kyrie will undoubtedly be on a minutes limit early on, and likely for the foreseeable future, but this is a player with top-20 overall upside. Remember, prior to the injury issue, Irving averaged 28.5 points, 7.2 assists, 5.4 boards and 2.8 triples in 33.8 minutes over his first 11 games as a Net. Spencer Dinwiddie‘s fantasy value takes a hit with Irving back in the mix. 

Garrett Temple (knee) and Wilson Chandler (left hamstring tightness) are both questionable for Sunday against the Hawks. Rodions Kurucs started in place of Temple on Friday and poured in a season-high 19 points. He’d be in line for another start on Sunday if Temple is ruled out.

Julius Randle (personal) is probable for Sunday’s game vs. the Heat. Randle has missed each of the Knicks’ previous two contests reportedly due to a death in the family but is expected to return to the team this weekend and suit up Sunday afternoon. Bobby Portis, who has started each of New York’s past two games, will get bumped back to the bench. Reggie Bullock (contused left thigh), Frank Ntilikina (sore groin) and Robinson (sprained left great toe) are also probable. 

Marcus Morris (sore neck) and Dennis Smith Jr. (strained left oblique) are questionable for Sunday. Morris has missed three straight games since tweaking his neck while pouring in a career-high 38 points last Sunday in LA. Reggie Bullock has started each of the Knicks past three contests in place of Morris. The Knicks downplayed the severity of DSJ’s oblique injury early on, but he has missed each of the Knicks’ last eight games and we haven’t heard of him even being cleared to practice as of yet. Leave him on the waiver wire.

Bradley Beal (sore lower right leg) and Thomas Bryant (right foot) are listed as questionable and will be game-time decisions for Sunday’s matchup with the Jazz. Beal has missed each of the Wizards’ previous five contests due to the leg injury, yet was able to get in a full practice with the team on Saturday. Jordan McRae and Troy Brown Jr. have posted phenomenal numbers in Beal’s absence but will see their roles reduced once the All-Star SG is activated. Bryant, who has been sidelined since December 1st, was also able to practice fully yesterday. If Bryant suits up Sunday, Ian Mahinmi will get bumped back to the bench, and Anzejs Pasecniks will see his minutes reduced as well.

Pascal Siakam (groin) and Marc Gasol (left hamstring) are both questionable for Sunday’s matchup vs. San Antonio. However, it is important to note that coach Nick Nurse said on Friday that Gasol and Siakam returning Sunday is «probably a bit too ambitious» but that they «should be back soon after.» Norman Powell (shoulder) will play Sunday vs. the Spurs but coach Nurse said he’s unsure if Powell will start or not. 

Trae Young (left hamstring pain) is listed as questionable for Sunday’s game against the Nets. This was a bummer, as Young was not initially listed on the injury report Atlanta released earlier in the day. Getting added to the report late is typically not a good sign, but let’s hope it’s just a minor issue and Young is fine for Sunday’s showdown with Kyrie and the Nets. 

De’Andre Hunter (right foot pain) is also questionable for Sunday against the Nets. Hunter looked fine on Friday, logging over 30 minutes and putting up 13 points. However, he appears to have dinged his foot in the process. Alex Len (knee) is probable for Sunday. Bruno Fernando (personal) won’t play. 

D’Angelo Russell (right shoulder contusion) is listed as probable for Sunday’s game vs. the Grizzlies. This was expected after multiple outlets reported on Friday that Russell would return to action on Sunday. As a result, the Warriors sent Ky Bowman down to the G-League and Bowman won’t be available on Sunday. Kevon Looney (left abdominal soreness) has also been ruled out. 

JaMychal Green (right knee contusion) is listed as questionable for Sunday’s game vs. the Nuggets. J-Mike was on track to see some additional playing time with Paul George (hamstring) sidelined, but now it looks like Moe Harkless and Patrick Patterson will earn extra burn.