Al Jefferson has big night with heavy heart

March, 13, 2012

Neither the box score nor your eyes deceive you: Al Jefferson really did swish the first 3-pointer of his NBA career.

It was a special game for Jefferson, but the triple had nothing to do with it. Jefferson's 82-year-old maternal grandmother, Gladys Jefferson, died unexpectedly on Sunday evening. While the Utah Jazz were prepared for Jefferson to sit out Monday, he instead delivered a 33-point, 12-rebound performance, and capped the 105-90 victory over the Detroit Pistons with a 3 at the final buzzer. Gladys Jefferson's funeral is Friday, and the player is expected to miss Utah's games on Saturday against the Golden State Warriors and Sunday against the Los Angeles Lakers.

Prior to Monday, Jefferson had been 0-for-23 from downtown in his seven-plus NBA seasons. Incidentally, he almost had some company in the unexpected trey department: Marcin Gortat was a toe on the line away from his first career 3-pointer in the closing seconds of the Phoenix Suns' loss to the Minnesota Timberwolves.

Looking Back

Deron Williams (calf) and Luol Deng (wrist) sat out on Monday, and Corey Maggette played only 10 minutes before leaving with back spasms. Williams and Deng both missed a second straight game, and Deng owners in particular should be concerned about an extended layoff. Deng is trying to play with a torn ligament in his left wrist. The injury will require surgery, but of course Deng and the Chicago Bulls are trying to squeeze in an NBA championship before that eventuality.

• In good injury news, Tony Parker (31 points, seven assists) and Joakim Noah (12 points, 10 rebounds, three blocks) each excelled after a one-game absence. Parker had been out with a quad strain, while Noah missed a game due to illness.

Rodney Stuckey (29 points, seven assists) is quietly putting together a tremendous second half. Really, Stuckey has played well for a few weeks, but in seven games since the All-Star break he's averaging 22.9 points and 4.6 assists while shooting 51.9 percent. Even if it is a small sample size, Stuckey's recent hot shooting is astounding, considering he's only 42.5 percent from the field for his career.

• Fantasy owners shouldn't sweat Ersan Ilyasova's off night (four points in just 24 minutes) against the New Jersey Nets. Apparently he was exhausted after playing 44 minutes against the Toronto Raptors on Sunday. Ilyasova had just been named Eastern Conference player of the week after averaging 25.0 points, 10.6 rebounds and 63.8 percent shooting during the four-game stretch from March 5-11.

Looking Ahead

• With Kyle Lowry (illness) expected to miss at least two weeks, Goran Dragic is a must-add. Dragic is averaging 21.5 points, 8.0 assists and 4.0 3s in two starts for Lowry, though the Houston Rockets draw the Western Conference-leading Oklahoma City Thunder on Tuesday. Dragic's availability in leagues is down to about 35 percent.

• If you missed out on Dragic, Jerryd Bayless is another point guard fill-in. Jose Calderon (ankle) is expected to miss a second straight game on Tuesday, and could remain sidelined for a few more days. Bayless had 16 points and six assists against the Bucks on Sunday, and he has a good matchup against the Cleveland Cavaliers on Tuesday. Only the Nets and Sacramento Kings yield more assists per game than the Cavs.

Danilo Gallinari should be in line for more minutes, but it may be awhile before fantasy owners see the real Gallo. He has acknowledged that he's not 100 percent after missing a month with an ankle problem. Not that fantasy owners needed that confirmation: Gallinari is just 5-of-25 from the field in the three games since his return. He'll try to bust out against an Atlanta Hawks team that allows the sixth-fewest 3-pointers.

Jason Richardson (ankle) said he plans to play against the Miami Heat, but Orlando Magic coach Stan Van Gundy seems less certain of J-Rich's availability. Consider Richardson questionable for Tuesday.

Stephen Curry (ankle) is day-to-day, but considering he's played more than 16 minutes in just one of his past nine games, fantasy owners should prepare themselves for further disappointment. The Golden State Warriors visit the Kings.



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