LeBron James torches Orlando Magic
LeBron James didn't seem to enjoy that Dwight Howard chose to mockingly emulate his chalk routine and the "team photo opp" bit he used to do in Cleveland before Thursday night's Heat-Magic matchup. He responded by scoring 51 points on 17-for-25 from the field and 14-for-17 from the line, with 11 rebounds, eight assists, three 3-pointers, a steal and a block in leading the Heat to a 104-100 win over the Magic. The win marked the most points scored in an NBA game this season. LeBron has slowly crept up to fourth on the Player Rater, and even though his statistics have dipped a bit since his transition to the Heat, he's still the third player I'd take overall if I were to draft a team for the rest of the season, behind Kevin Durant and Chris Paul. The rest of the Heat failed to provide much of a spark, though. Chris Bosh played 38 minutes, scoring just 13 points on 3-for-12 shooting with six rebounds, four assists and no blocks, and Dwyane Wade had 14 points on 5-for-12 shooting and went 4-for-8 from the stripe. Wade suffered a back contusion that caused him to temporarily leave the game, but he returned for the fourth quarter, and Bosh is still finding his game after missing four contests with a sprained ankle. I wouldn't worry about Wade, although Bosh has struggled in his past two games. In the same way that it took him awhile to find his rhythm and niche with the team to start the season, Bosh might need a few more games to get back in the groove.
On the Orlando side of the ball, Ryan Anderson started in place of the injured Brandon Bass but had a disappointing effort with just nine points and six rebounds, with three 3s and no blocks in 17 minutes. The 3s are nice, although Anderson's game seems better suited for coming off the bench as instant offense and energy. His stats agree: In five starts this season he's averaging 6.4 points and 1.4 3s, and in 27 games off the bench he's averaging 11.5 points and 2.2 3s. He's still worth owning and starting in every format after an insane January in which he averaged 14.8 points, 6.5 rebounds, 3.0 3s and 0.9 blocks, but the switch to the starting lineup shouldn't have much of an positive impact on his value. Bass is likely out until after the All-Star break, and coach Stan Van Gundy has said he's going to tweak his lineup on a nightly basis, based on matchups. Monitor the playing-time distribution, as Earl Clark and Quentin Richardson should see more PT. Mike Miller played 20 minutes and had 11 rebounds and a 3, and he's starting to be on the fringe of having some fantasy value, after averaging 27.8 minutes per game in his past five contests. He has three double-digit rebounding efforts in that span, averaging 9.2 rebounds and 1.0 3s but just 6.6 points per game. He still has the potential to put up big numbers if things are clicking, and his consistent floor time recently is a good start. Don't rush to add him now, but keep an eye on how he plays because he could have a solid end to the season once he fully gets his legs under him and his role on the team is more clearly defined. Brandon Jennings reclaimed his starting spot after coming off the bench in his first three games back from a foot injury, but he scored just two points with six assists and a steal in 20 minutes. His playing time was capped at 24 minutes, and he's clearly still rounding back into shape, so it'll likely be a few more games before he's consistently contributing. This makes him a nice buy-low candidate because it shouldn't be long before he's regularly hovering around his averages of 16.7 points, 5.3 assists, 1.8 3s and 1.1 steals per game. Luc Richard Mbah a Moute had one of the most unexpected dominant efforts of the season Thursday, scoring 15 points with 19 boards, 5 assists and 2 steals. That marks his season high in rebounds, points and assists, and even though he's averaging 40.5 minutes per game in the past two contests I wouldn't jump to add him based on one good game because he doesn't offer enough statistically on a consistent basis to warrant a roster spot.
Jordan Farmar is still day-to-day, and his absence has been helpful to Devin Harris' value, as he's averaging 37.0 minutes and 13.7 assists per game in his past three contests. If Farmar is still sidelined with a lower back strain, look for Harris' recent success to continue. Deron Williams' status for Friday night's game against the Nuggets is uncertain, although it appears as if his stint on the sidelines is nearing an end and that his wrist injury isn't serious. He'll be a game-time decision, and as the No. 7 player on the Player Rater, you'll want to be sure to get him in your lineup if it looks like he's going to play, even if he might be a little hampered.
Josh Whitling is a fantasy basketball analyst for ESPN.com.