They say good things come in threes. The NBA seems to agree. Not only is 3-point volume once again at an all-time high, but we also find events like Saturday's triple-overtime thriller in the nation's capital embodying the power of three.
A surprisingly wild showdown between the Phoenix Suns and Washington Wizards had it all: revenge narratives, superstar performances, eight 20-point scorers, 295 total points (the most in a game since April 2008), numerous tense moments, and one of the rarest shooting performances you'll ever witness.
In the Wizards' win over the Suns, Washington's Thomas Bryant made all 14 of his field goal attempts, hit all three of his shots from the stripe and also grabbed 13 rebounds. Bryant became only the fifth player to shoot 14-of-14 or better from the floor in an NBA game and the first since Gary Payton in 1995. This was clearly an outlier performance for Bryant, as he scored only 11 points on six shots in Indianapolis the next night, but it is evidence of a growing role for the young big man, whose team is thin in the frontcourt.
Also in Saturday's game, Bradley Beal became the second player in Wizards history with a 40-point triple-double, joining Chris Webber in this club. Newly acquired Trevor Ariza played 54 minutes. He has been an invaluable source of steals and 3-point volume since joining the Wizards. As noted in my fantasy free agency piece this week, Ariza is available at the cost of a roster spot in more than 90 percent of ESPN leagues and is likely to provide helpful 3-and-D production the rest of the way.
For Phoenix, Devin Booker poured in 33 points and a career-high 14 dimes, while Kelly Oubre Jr. basked in the villain role in his former arena. I remain unconvinced Oubre's statistical stock will change much with Phoenix. I do think any forward or center facing the Wizards might deserve a bump in rebounding projections, as Deandre Ayton tallied 17 boards on Saturday, followed by Myles Turner pulling down a career-high 17 rebounds on Sunday night against Washington. The Wizards are last in the league by a wide margin in rebounding percentage this season, a note that might prove helpful when seeking out streaming options or daily fantasy differentiation.
With an eye on meaningful fantasy performances and relevant statistical trends, let's delve into the weekend that was in the NBA.
Saturday and Sunday recap
Devin Booker, Phoenix Suns: 33 points (12-28 FG), 4 rebounds, 14 assists, 4 TO
Thomas Bryant, Washington Wizards: 31 points (14-14 FG), 13 rebounds, 2 assists, 1 TO
Bradley Beal, Washington Wizards: 40 points (17-33 FG), 11 rebounds, 15 assists, 8 TO
Myles Turner, Indiana Pacers: 18 points (8-17 FG), 17 rebounds, 2 assists, 2 blocks, 2 TO
Bradley Beal, Washington Wizards: 7 points (2-11 FG), 4 rebounds, 5 assists
John Wall, Washington Wizards: 7 points (1-7 FG), 5 rebounds, 5 assists, 7 TO
T.J. Warren, Phoenix Suns: 4 points (2-11 FG), 4 rebounds, 3 assists, 1 TO
My holiday gift to my fellow fantasy basketball nerds is a reminder to go get Jaren Jackson Jr. on your fantasy roster(s). The young man out of Michigan State has been quietly brilliant as a statistical force while also providing very real value as a defender and complementary scorer for Memphis. On Sunday, Jackson produced 27 points in a win over the Lakers, the most points against Los Angeles by a rookie this season. Jackson Jr. is rated 47th overall on the Player Rater already, which speaks to his atypical ability to drive value in blocks, steals and efficient scoring.
Lauri Markkanen tallied a game-high 31 points in downing the Cavs on Sunday, giving him back-to-back 30-point games for the second time in his career. With Zach LaVine sidelined with an ankle injury, Markkanen is poised to excel on offense in the weeks ahead. If Chicago is busy in the buyout and trade markets, the young stretch big could see even greater usage down the stretch.
Emmanuel Mudiay is still shining for the Knicks as an offensive engine, typified by his 32 points on 20 shots on Friday night. At some point, we'll need to dismiss his negative reputation and embrace this new scoring role. That point might be right now.
Bucking the premise of the intro, good things didn't follow all the 3-pointers the LA Clippers made on Sunday night against the Warriors. The Clips made 78 percent (18-of-23) of their shots from beyond the arc, the best percentage on at least 20 shots in league history. But Curry pulled off a game-winning layup with 0.5 seconds left, marking his eighth career go-ahead FG in the final five seconds and his first such clutch shot this season. It also marked his fifth career 40-point game versus the Clippers, his most versus any opponent.
Miami's Tyler Johnson tallied a season-high 25 points, including 20 in the third quarter, on Sunday. With Goran Dragic out for multiple months, Johnson should receive plenty of shots, minutes and touches as a combo guard for the Heat.
Injuries of note
Boston's Al Horford made his way back to the floor on Sunday for 19 minutes in the Celtics' win over the Hornets after missing the previous seven games with a knee injury. The team could ease him into a full workload.
Analytics advantage for Tuesday
With a rich five-game slate rife with superstar-driven rosters, Christmas Day offers an awesome blend of narratives and statistical feats to consider.
LeBron James takes on the Warriors for the fourth straight year on Christmas Day, with Golden State holding a 2-1 advantage. That matchup will feature two of the top six all-time scorers on Christmas (James and Kevin Durant). Stars like Giannis Antetokounmpo and Damian Lillard will look to join Wilt Chamberlain and Tracy McGrady as the only players with a 40-point game in their Christmas debut.
Six players have recorded a triple-double on Christmas: Draymond Green (2017), Russell Westbrook (2013), James (2010), Billy Cunningham (1970), John Havlicek (1967) and Oscar Robertson (four times in the 1960s). Could Ben Simmons and James Harden join James and Westbrook in this historic group on Tuesday?
Top players to watch
Two of the top six scorers on Christmas will play one another this season. James has 321 career points on Christmas, third most in NBA history, while Durant has 249 career points, which ranks sixth. James will play his 13th game on Christmas Day, which will tie him for the second most in NBA history with Earl Monroe, Shaquille O'Neal, Dolph Schayes and Dwyane Wade. Kobe Bryant is the career leader with 16 Christmas Day appearances.
Durant was the last player to score 40 points or more on Christmas, back in 2010. Only three players in NBA history have recorded multiple 40-point games on Christmas: McGrady (three), Chamberlain (two) and Jerry West (two). Curry is averaging 11.8 points per game and shooting 29 percent from the floor and 19 percent from 3 on Christmas. All three averages are his worst marks on any calendar day on which he's played at least four times. I'm going to take the over on 11.8 for Curry on Tuesday.