Seven players scored at least 35 points on Wednesday night, tying the NBA record for a single day of scoring. We go back to that infamous night in January of 2007 when Earl Boykins dropped 36 points on the Kings to find the only other slate in league history with as many 35-point scorers as last night.
While several superstars joined this scoring-fest, including LeBron James, Paul George and Stephen Curry, performances discussed in greater detail below, the key fantasy takeaway was interestingly found in Atlanta, where a lesser-known name shined statistically, meriting more attention from managers in the games ahead.
Kent Bazemore might be most famous for cashing in on the game show that was free agency in the summer of 2016, because he's not so popular as a fantasy option these days -- rostered in just 5.7 percent of ESPN leagues. Last night, Bazemore dropped 22 points, thanks to an uptick in minutes, and delivered his fifth-highest game score of the season in the process. While his minutes have fluctuated of late, his usage hasn't wavered much, with Bazemore taking at least 10 shots in five of the past six games, averaging a whopping three combined steals and blocks to go with respectable 3-point and passing production.
Bazemore isn't going to win you your league, but he is the type of player worthy of streaming for a few weeks while Taurean Prince recovers from an ankle injury expected to sideline him for at least three weeks. Prince is found just behind Kyrie Irving and just ahead of Kyle Lowry in 3-point attempts with a healthy 6.5 shots from beyond per game. This suggests Bazemore should be tasked with more shooting volume and simply more minutes in the weeks ahead. Atlanta, after all, leads the NBA in pace (possessions per 48 minutes) by a wide margin and claim the fourth-highest 3-point frequency, with 39.6 percent of all shots coming from behind the arc.
Like in fantasy baseball, we can create some valuable utility results via a blend of savvy streaming options in hoops. Bazemore won't be valuable the entire season for you, but I'd guess these next few weeks will see him enjoy an uptick in usage and production worthy of our attention.
With an eye on meaningful fantasy performances and relevant statistical trends, let's delve into the night that was in the NBA.
Stephen Curry, Golden State Warriors: 42 points (11-20 FG), 9 rebounds, 7 assists, 2 TO
Paul George, Oklahoma City Thunder: 47 points (15-27 FG), 15 rebounds, 4 assists, 2 TO
LeBron James, Los Angeles Lakers: 42 points (15-24 FG), 5 rebounds, 6 assists, 2 TO
Russell Westbrook, Oklahoma City Thunder: 21 points (9-23 FG), 15 rebounds, 17 assists, 2 TO
The Thunder are enjoying a four-game win streak and are 16-3 since an 0-4 start, establishing the best record in the NBA over that span. George produced the first game of the season with at least 45 points and 15 rebounds. It's just the third performance in NBA history with 47 points, 15 boards, and 6 3-pointers, joining James Harden and Towns in this unique club. George scored 25 in the 4th quarter -- tied for most in a quarter in NBA this season (Kevin Durant) and tied for the franchise record for any quarter and most since Bob Rule on Nov. 15, 1969. The Thunder trailed by 20 points in the final quarter, making this the second-largest comeback effort during the past 10 seasons.
Westbrook notched his fifth career game with at least 15 points, 15 rebounds and 15 assists. No other active player has more than one such showing. Westbrook earned his 108th career triple-double, passing Jason Kidd for third most in NBA history. The game marked the second time in NBA history that one teammate had 40 points and another had a 15-15-15 game; Wilt Chamberlain had 50 points and Guy Rodgers had 23 points, 20 rebounds, 17 assists for the San Francisco Warriors in 1962, per Elias.
James produced his third 40-point game of the season with the Lakers after having four all last season. James scored 20 points in the fourth quarter, his most in a quarter this season, and became just the fourth player ever to record multiple 40-point games against a Gregg Popovich coached team, joining Kobe Bryant, Allen Iverson and Amar'e Stoudemire. Josh Hart started the second half for the Lakers last night with Brandon Ingram leaving the game with an ankle injury. Hart will become a nice source of shooting and defensive production if Ingram misses time.
The Spurs' Rudy Gay scored a season-high 31 points in the loss to the Lakers, his first 30-point game since November 1, 2016. This is likely an outlier performance, but Gay could merit some attention in deeper formats with Pau Gasol sidelined.
Of the notable defensive forces around the league, we should consider Memphis among the best. The Grizzlies stalled the Clippers to just 86 points last night and their lowest shooting percentage (33.8 percent) since October of last season. It marked Memphis' 10th game allowing 100 points or fewer this season, tied with Denver for the most such outings. It isn't just defense proving effective for the Grizzlies, as Mike Conley has scored at least 20 points in five straight games now, his longest such stretch since March of 2017. This is emboldening, given last season was lost to injury. Marc Gasol, however, scored just four points in the win, but it was just an off night from the field for the skilled big. For the Clippers, rookie Shai Gilgeous-Alexander produced four combined blocks and steals and continues to be a very productive defensive player.
Julius Randle tallied 27 points and 18 rebounds in a win over the Mavericks, marking his second game with 25-15 this season -- he had one in his career entering this season. Anthony Davis, meanwhile, produced 27 points, 9 assists and 5 blocks, his fifth game this season with at least five blocks, most in the NBA.
The Orlando Magic made 20 3-pointers last night, second-most in a game in franchise history. Terrence Ross hit a game-tying 3-pointer with seven seconds remaining against the Nuggets, his second game-tying or go-ahead 3-pointer in the final 10 seconds of regulation this season. Ross has been prolific as a shooter for several weeks now and remains widely available in fantasy leagues.
Kawhi Leonard produced his third 30-point game in his past four games, after having four 30-point games in his previous 16 games. Jimmy Butler countered with a season-high 38 points, but Joel Embiid and Ben Simmons combined for 18 points on 9-of-23 shooting. The Raptors have now won 13 straight home games against the 76ers.
Stephen Curry is averaging 33 PPG in three games since returning from injury (29.5 PPG in 12 games before injury). Curry interestingly scored his most points ever against the Cavaliers in his career, regular or postseason, in his 36th career game against Cleveland. Kevin Durant is now averaging 34.2 PPG, 8.8 RPG, 6.5 APG over his past 10 games. These two are quite good.
Giannis Antetokounmpo now has 104 dunks this season after netting five on Wednesday. He's the fastest player to 100 dunks in a season over the past 20 years, per ESPN Stats & Info. He also is good.
Injuries of note
The Lakers' Ingram left last night's win over the Spurs with an ankle injury, while word from the beat suggests this could sideline him for a few games.
CJ McCollum is questionable for tonight's tilt with the Suns due to an ankle injury.
Analytics advantage for Thursday
Reading coverage from the beat, it's possible McCollum misses this game. Portland sits as 14-point favorites even with his dubious status in place. Damian Lillard has seen his usage rate spike a whopping 17 percent with McCollum off the court this season, resulting in a sizable uptick in fantasy points per minute under such conditions. On a small three-game slate notably light on superstars, paying up for Lillard as the chalk play in DFS remains sensible, especially if his star backcourt peer sits this one out.
Top players to watch tonight
The game of the night is undoubtedly the Houston Rockets visiting Salt Lake City to face the Utah Jazz. New York and Boston meet tonight with the Celtics poised as 13-point favorites, signaling this is the lone expectedly competitive contest, with the Jazz favored by just two points at home.
Like with Lillard, it's worth paying up for the bearded one, James Harden, in DFS. Utah's defensive reputation isn't playing out on the court as expected this season, as they sit at 12th in the league in defensive rating (107.5 points allowed per 100 possessions). More relevantly, the Jazz have allowed 61.7 fantasy points per game to point guards on DraftKings' scoring model this season, third most in the league and evidence Harden's ceiling is quite high in this matchup. Shares of Chris Paul are also advisable for those seeking to be a bit more contrarian.
As long as we are hoarding usage rates, Donovan Mitchell could also be in a good spot, given Houston's defensive struggles; the Rockets have ceded 56.5 fantasy points per game to point guards, a middle-of-the-pack allowance rate.