Pau Gasol hitting glass hard
Much to my surprise, Pau Gasol was the best player on the floor in the Lakers' one-point win over the Celtics on Thursday night, and it all came down to rebounding. Gasol finished with 25 points, 14 rebounds (to go along with Andrew Bynum's 17 boards), three assists and two blocks, one of which turned away what looked like an easy Ray Allen tip-in to win the game.
Gasol, as we're all aware, has struggled a bit this season and just got snubbed for the All-Star team while his little brother, Marc, made the squad. Despite being a first-round pick in many fantasy drafts, he entered Thursday night outside the top 20 on the Player Rater.
Lately, however, he's showing signs of turning it around, and Thursday night was a big part of that. In his past five games, he's averaging 17.6 points and 13.4 rebounds. Those rebounds are important, not only because they were a huge part of why the Lakers were able to beat the Celtics but also because they're a sign that Gasol is playing with greater effort and focus. If you were thinking about trading Gasol for a lesser player, Thursday night's big win is a big reason why you probably shouldn't.
• Elsewhere on the Lakers, Kobe Bryant had his best shooting night in his past five games, but that's not necessarily a good thing. He was 11-for-24, bringing him to 39.1 percent shooting during that five-game stretch. Normally, I wouldn't be worried about this, but there's a possibility that Mike Brown is allowing Bryant to wear himself out. Kobe played all 82 games last season, but he also played just 33.9 minutes per game -- his fewest since his second season in the league. This season, he's second in the league in minutes at 38.5 per game. That's a ton of minutes, and given the fact that he's also posting his highest usage rate since 2005-06, that's cause for concern. There's a reason his average draft position dropped to 14.3 this season in ESPN.com fantasy leagues, and it won't be a surprise if he falls out of the top 10 on the Player Rater in the coming weeks.
• Ekpe Udoh doesn't do a whole lot besides block shots for the Warriors, but he's really good at blocking shots. In his past five games, he's averaging 2.8 blocks in just 21.6 minutes per game. Those 2.8 blocks are enough that if you're desperate in that category, Udoh is probably worth adding even if he keeps scoring just 4.2 points on 36 percent shooting, as he has in those past five games.
• Everyone on the Rockets bench had a great game in their win against the Suns, but the guy I'm most intrigued by for fantasy purposes is Goran Dragic. With Kyle Lowry averaging just 30.2 minutes per game in his past five, Dragic has averaged 21.4 minutes off the bench and is putting up 9.2 points, 4.0 assists and 1.6 steals while shooting 47.4 percent from the floor, and he had his second double-double of the season with 11 points and 11 assists against the Suns. There aren't a ton of places to find extra assists on the waiver wire, so you might want to give Dragic a look.
• Serge Ibaka had his second 10-block game in February against the Kings, but the Thunder lost anyway. Still, it's encouraging to see Ibaka playing well, as he's been a disappointment so far in fantasy this season. His points and rebounds seem to be slowly increasing, and if you own him in your league, your best bet is to hold onto him and hope he keeps getting better.
• Jeff Teague has been struggling lately for the Hawks, and he's dealing with a sore right wrist, so if you have other options, you might want to use them when he goes up against the Magic on Friday night. In really deep leagues, you might look at Kirk Hinrich, who had 17 points and four assists backing up Teague on Wednesday night against the Pacers.
• With Richard Hamilton doubtful for the Bulls against the Bobcats, it should be a good night to play Kyle Korver, who is averaging 12.6 points, 2.4 3s and 53.7 percent shooting in his past five games.
• Kyrie Irving may miss the Cavs' matchup with the Bucks, but Ramon Sessions had a great night with 24 points and 13 assists against the Clippers on Wednesday night. He should be a good bet on Friday night as well.