The Wizards' Bradley Beal dropped 26 points on the 76ers during a key home victory in an outing that saw three players for Washington score at least 25 points. Joining Beal in this club was rising rookie Rui Hachimura, who delivered 27 points and now has scored at least 20 points in two of his past three games.
The final member of this scoring triumvirate was sharpshooting sixth man Davis Bertans, who poured in 25 points and was the highlight of yesterday's "analytics advantage," thanks to entering Wednesday leading the NBA in makes and points per game on catch-and-shoot 3-pointers. On Thursday, Bertans set a new career scoring perch, thanks to a career-best seven 3-pointers. The Latvian Laser has now scored at least 20 points in a career-high three straight games.
In his bid to become a colossal Kyle Korver or a jumbo JJ Redick, it's worth noting Bertans is currently accomplishing something neither of these legendary catch-and-shoot weapons can claim: The Wizards' stretch-forward is making 45.3% of his 8.1 3-point attempts per game this season, a brilliant feat of volume and efficiency from beyond matched in NBA history by only Stephen Curry's magical 2015-16 MVP campaign.
Both Hachimura and Bertans can be found for the price of a few clicks in the majority of ESPN leagues as of Friday morning.
Dario Saric, Phoenix Suns: 9 points (4-9 FG), 3 rebounds, 1 assist, 1 TO
Russell Westbrook continued an odd run at inefficient history in producing 19 points on 27 shots in another triple-double during a win over the Raptors last night. The performance means Westbrook is just the third player in the shot clock era to attempt at least 25 shots in back-to-back games without scoring 20 points in either, joining Woody Sauldsberry in 1960 and Clyde Lovellette in 1954.
A much more efficient outing from Houston's emergent wing Ben McLemore helped fuel the Rockets' victory; he produced 28 points on a career-high eight 3-pointers. As I've discussed in this space before, Houston's tandem of superstar creators in Westbrook and James Harden creates a nearly endless series of wide-open, high-value catch-and-shoot looks for the likes of Danuel House Jr., PJ Tucker and McLemore.
Phoenix's Booker notched his 11th career 40-point game and his second of the season, as only Amar'e Stoudemire has more 40-point games in Suns history (15). The Suns' Cameron Johnson matched his career-high with 18 points. The rookie out of UNC has averaged 28 MPG and 15 PPG during the past two games, thanks to lofting seven 3PG during this sample.
The Pelicans have now lost seven straight games and allowed 121.3 PPG during this swoon, making New Orleans one of the better matchups for fantasy purposes.
On Wednesday, in a win over the reeling Knicks, the Nuggets delivered their largest road win since Feb. 27, 2008 at the SuperSonics. The team sank 21 3-pointers, third most in franchise history, while a season-high eight players scored in double figures. I'm guessing now is the time to get your buy-low bids for Nikola Jokic, who scored just six points on seven shots and is now down to 14.9 PPG after posting 20.1 PPG last season. Even as we sit at the quarter mark of the campaign, the sample remains too small to panic about Jokic's dip in scoring and assist output, as a few hot weeks from the field could suddenly restore his production.
Injuries of note
The Kings' Cory Joseph and Bogdan Bogdanovic are both considered questionable against the Spurs. If Joseph can't go, Yogi Ferrell becomes an awesome streaming option in redraft and an ideal punt play in daily competition. Marvin Bagley III is trending towards a return but is listed as doubtful for tonight.
Analytics advantage for Friday
The Bucks have been rolling as of late, winning 13 straight games. That is tied for their fourth-longest win streak in franchise history and the longest since 1973. Since the win streak began on November 10, the Bucks have led the NBA in defensive efficiency and net efficiency and ranked second in offensive efficiency, behind only Luka Doncic and the Mavericks.
Giannis Antetokounmpo, who somewhat scarily turns just 25 today, has led the way during the win streak. Per the Elias Sports Bureau, he is the third player in NBA history to average 30 points and 10 rebounds over a 13-game span in which his team won every game (single season only). Antetokounmpo joins Shaquille O'Neal in 1999-00 and Kareem Abdul-Jabbar in 1970-71, who secured MVP honors in those seasons.
Will the streak continue for the Greek Freak and the Bucks? It will be a challenge, as Giannis faces off against Kawhi Leonard, who famously stopped Antetokounmpo in the Eastern Conference Finals last season. Per Second Spectrum, Giannis shot just 33% when Kawhi was the closest defender in the Conference Finals -- while against all other defenders, he shot 47%.
Top players to watch tonight
Melo and LeBron.
Two globally recognized basketball brands meeting at decidedly different parts of their careers; Anthony is working towards a positive conclusion to the twilight of his storied career.
James, meanwhile, is sustaining this never-ending prime that has him angling to join Westbrook as the only player in his 10th season or later to average at least 25 PPG and 10 APG for an entire season. James would also become the only player 30 or older to accomplish this prolific blend of production.
Watching these longtime friends, Banana Boat brothers, and competitors meet at least one more time on a big stage is truly a treat for NBA fans.