The Portland Trail Blazers entered Tuesday night's game as the hottest team in the NBA, having not lost in 37 days. They were hosting the game and were well-rested, having had Monday off after an easy win over the LA Clippers on Sunday. They also featured scorching-hot Damian Lillard who was named NBA Player of the Week on March 12. They even had a chip on their shoulder, because Lillard didn't like the way that their Tuesday opponents had handled the end of their previous game against each other.
None of that mattered.
James Harden and the Houston Rockets stepped into the Moda Center and ended the Trail Blazers win streak at 13 games. Harden's stat line was sick, as he scored 42 points (13-25 FG, 11-15 FT) with 7 assists, 6 rebounds, 5 3-pointers and 4 TO. That shouldn't have been all that surprising, though, based on his track record:
James Harden has seven 40-point games against the Trail Blazers in the past five seasons, the most by any player against a single opponent in that span. pic.twitter.com/7R1SNTn6bi
- ESPN Stats & Info (@ESPNStatsInfo) March 21, 2018
As usual, Chris Paul was Harden's wingman, and he added 22 points (6-16 FG, 5-6 FT) with 8 rebounds, 6 assists and 5 3-pointers to outplay Lillard, who scored 20 points (5-17 FG, 10-10 FT) with 6 assists, 4 rebounds and 1 steal. Lillard failed to make a single 3-pointer on seven attempts.
Jusuf Nurkic led the way for the Trail Blazers, scoring 21 points (9-10 FG, 3-6 FT) with 11 rebounds, 4 blocks, 3 assists and 2 steals, while taking Clint Capela out of the game. CJ McCollum, on the other hand, was off his game -- perhaps from having to deal with Harden.
The best streamable performance of the game came from Al-Farouq Aminu (77.9 percent available), who dropped 22 points (7-11 FG, 2-3 FT) with 8 rebounds, 6 3-pointers, 4 assists, 1 steal and 1 block on the night. All of this was somewhat predictable, as this was a battle of two playoff-motivated Western powers. As such, a high score (226 total points scored) was to be expected. For his part, Aminu has been listed in this space often of late as an under-rostered producer on a competitive team.
Clint Capela, Houston Rockets: 5 points (2-3 FG, 1-3 FT), 6 rebounds, 1 assist, 1 block, 1 TO
CJ McCollum, Portland Trail Blazers: 8 points (4-15 FG), 3 assists, 2 rebounds
Jayson Tatum got off to a strong start to his rookie season, but hit a bit of a wall once the calendar flipped. Prior to this week, he had only two 20-plus point scoring efforts since Christmas. However, the increased opportunity with all of the injuries on the Boston Celtics seems to have helped him break through the rookie wall. On Tuesday, he produced 23 points (8-12 FG, 4-4 FT), 11 rebounds, 4 assists, 3 3-pointers, 1 steal, 1 block and 1 TO for his second straight 23-point effort and his first double-double since mid-December.
For the second night in a row, the NBA served us up a certified legend going heads up against an up-and-coming mega star. In this case, the legend was Dirk Nowitzki and the mega star was his younger doppleganger, Anthony Davis. As you'd expect, Davis won the battle and his team won the game, but Nowitzki (44.1 percent available) still had a strong game himself with 19 points (7-13 FG, 1-2 FT), 3 rebounds, 4 3-pointers and 2 assists.
Schroder entered Tuesday night's games having not scored 20-plus points since the first two games of the month, averaging 15.8 points (39.2 FG%, 78.9 FT%), 6.4 assists, 2.0 rebounds and 3.2 TO during his previous five games. Meanwhile, the Utah Jazz were playing, by far, the best defense in the NBA for the past month, and entered last night having allowed the second-fewest PG fantasy points during the previous five games. The Jazz are in the playoff hunt, while the Hawks are not. Every indication suggested that Schroder and the Hawks should be in for a bad night. They were not. Schroder scored a career-high and led the lottery-bound Hawks over the Jazz. Sometimes the indicators are simply overruled by a hot player.
Reggie Jackson (69.8 percent available) returned from his almost three month absence on Tuesday night, scoring seven points for the Pistons in 15 minutes. He did come back as the starter, and presumably will be on a minutes restriction as he builds up over the rest of the season. This does end Ish Smith's run as any type of fantasy-viable player.
Injuries of note
DeMar DeRozan didn't play on Tuesday due to a left thigh contusion. The Toronto Raptors didn't get much from either of their starting wings, as OG Anunoby and Malcolm Miller combined for no points and no assists. Kyle Lowry picked up the scoring slack a bit with 25 points, 8 assists, 5 rebounds and 7 3-pointers, but the team's overall balance was still enough for them to beat the Orlando Magic by eight points.
Jrue Holiday sat out Tuesday's game for New Orleans with an illness, and is questionable for Wednesday as well. In his absence on Tuesday, Rajon Rondo stepped up in a major way with 19 points, 14 assists, 9 rebounds, 3 steals and 1 3-pointer. If Holiday sits again on Wednesday, Rondo could make for an underpriced potential home-run threat in DFS games.
Analytics advantage for Wednesday
The Chicago Bulls have been weak against opposing centers all season. They have allowed the second-most overall C fantasy points in the NBA and the most to the position during the last 10 games. On Wednesday, they face Nikola Jokic and the Denver Nuggets, in a game that the Nuggets have to win in order to try to get back into the playoff picture out West. However, Jokic is unique for a center, in that when he plays well, his team produces a lot of numbers as well. This is in large part due to Jokic's passing skills, as he has averaged 7.7 assists during his last 24 games. If this game isn't a blowout, it looms as a potentially strong one for Jokic and his teammates.
Top player to watch tonight
Giannis Antetokounmpo will try to lead the Milwaukee Bucks past the Clippers on Wednesday in a game that both teams need. Antetokounmpo has stepped up his pace this week, averaging 36.0 points, 11.0 rebounds, 6.3 assists, 2.7 steals, 1.0 3-pointers and 0.7 blocks, with three straight double-doubles in his last three games.