Serge Ibaka finishing with a flourish
Luck. You can't win too many things without it. Anyone who plays fantasy sports or poker knows that from experience. Sometimes luck can be cruel, though. For instance, I played Texas hold 'em with some friends last night and had cards so red-hot, my 4-year-old could have played them to victory. Full houses beating nut flushes, three pair on multiple occasions and quads twice. If only I'd had these hands in the World Series of Poker, with big stakes on the line instead of just a friendly game.
Things can be just as cruel in fantasy, like when all I needed was two blocks out of Serge Ibaka, Russell Westbrook and John Wall in the final minutes of Sunday's games for me to earn a spot in the finals of an experts league. Ibaka got me one, but that left me in a 4-4 tie and I missed the finals on a tie-breaker. To rub salt in my wound, Ibaka had one more block Tuesday than he did on Sunday.
You can chalk hot cards or an extra block up to luck. What isn't luck is Ibaka's excellent play since the All-Star break. During that 19-game stretch, Ibaka has averaged 10.7 points, 9.6 rebounds, 3.0 blocks and shot 52 percent from the field. In 15 games this month, he's bumped his scoring up to 11.7 points and blocks up to 3.5 per game. Not coincidentally, the boost in production kicked in after Jeff Green was traded for Kendrick Perkins and Ibaka joined the starting lineup as a power forward. If this lineup stays the same next season, Ibaka should be able to average a double-double with big block totals. Unless Lady Luck says otherwise.
• Stephen Curry had a big line last night, reminiscent of his top-end performance late last season. He played 48 minutes in an overtime loss to the Oklahoma City Thunder and finished with 35 points (13-23 FG), 5 3s, 6 boards, 5 dimes and 2 steals, though he had 6 turnovers. Those turnovers (3.4 per game since the All-Star break) and some decent play from Acie Law has allowed coach Keith Smart to limit Curry's production the past couple of weeks.
However, it appears that Law won't be playing again this season due to wrist surgery, which means that Smart will have one less guard to lean on when he doesn't like Curry's wide-open playing style. Not coincidentally, Curry's two best games the past two weeks occurred while Law was sitting out the past three contests. Overall this season, the 14.7 shots Curry's averaged this month are the most since November (16.6), and he's averaging a season-best 2.6 3s per game in March. Let's hope Smart has no choice but to continue turning Curry loose during the final weeks of the season.
• Tyreke Evans said he wanted to play 25-27 minutes Tuesday and, in fact, he played 26 minutes. What he didn't mention beforehand was that he'd nearly pull off a triple-double in his first fantasy-relevant game since returning from his ailing foot on Friday. Evans finished the night with 11 points (4-9 FG, 3-3 FT), 8 assists, 10 rebounds and 1 steal. Barring some sort of setback, Evans is aiming to start Friday and play 30-35 minutes. While Evans, Marcus Thornton and Beno Udrih may limit each other's overall production in the backcourt, all three should be worth using down the stretch.
• Why did the Miami Heat bring Mike Bibby into the fold? Because they needed 3-point shooting and Bibby's shot 38.1 percent from beyond the arc during his decade-long career. Last night, the Heat lost to LeBron James' old Cleveland Cavaliers squad, 102-90, but they got what they wanted out of Bibby. All seven of the field goals he hit Tuesday were 3-pointers, and he finished with 23 points and two steals. Bibby won't give you much more than 3-point production, but if you're in a tight race in 3s, he's as likely as anyone in the Association to have a few more big games like this in the final weeks of the campaign.
• Kevin Love practiced Tuesday and is expected to return to action tonight, so get him back into your lineups and hope he can hold up for the final eight games of his second season. You could feel more confident about that happening if he was just battling through the pain of an injury like tendinitis, but a strained groin can be fickle; all it takes is one wrong move and his season will be over. All you can do is hope for the best. Love's return should knock Anthony Randolph off his perch as a reliable fantasy option.
• Joe Johnson missed Sunday's game after injuring his right thumb during Saturday's contest. Just like Love, though, Johnson took part in practice yesterday and is slated to be on the hardwood tonight. The injury doesn't appear to be serious, but he was already having trouble producing decent fantasy numbers with ten healthy digits. Hopefully, the game off will help him find his shot.
Tom Carpenter is a fantasy basketball analyst for ESPN.com.