It took only 58 minutes of play and 301 points to declare a victor in Thursday night's rollicking double-overtime epic between the Spurs and Thunder. In arguably the best game of the season thus far, San Antonio and Oklahoma City combined to score the second-most points over the past 20 seasons (the "seven seconds or less" Suns combined with the New Jersey Nets for 318 points in 2006).
LaMarcus Aldridge, in his 912th regular season game, produced a career-high 56 points. Aldridge's 56 points are the most by any player without attempting a 3-pointer since Shaquille O'Neal scored 61 on his 28th birthday on March 6, 2000. LMA is the 11th player in the 3-point era to produce at least 55 points without a 3-pointer, a feat Michael Jordan somehow accomplished five times.
It wasn't just Aldridge propelling the fantasy fun, of course, as Oklahoma City's Russell Westbrook finished with 24 points, 24 assists and 13 rebounds -- the first such stat line in NBA history. Westbrook's 24 assists are a career-high and tied for the most in a triple-double game in NBA history. Westbrook recorded his second career game with 20 points, 20 assists and 10 rebounds, the third player with multiple such games in NBA history. Magic Johnson and Oscar Robertson had three each, per Elias.
The milestones from this game are nearly innumerous; the Spurs' 154 points are their most in a game under Gregg Popovich and their most since 1990. The Thunder's 147 points are the most by any team in a loss since 2008. The Spurs shot 84.2 percent (16-19) from beyond the arc, the best percentage in NBA history (minimum 15 3-point FGA). They made their first 14 3s to start the game, the most by any team to begin a game over the past 20 seasons. Popovich won his 1,222nd career game, breaking a tie with Jerry Sloan for third on the all-time coaching wins list.
Aldridge and Westbrook will rightfully dominate the headlines from this historic showdown, but fantasy managers will want to look deeper into the game to find which widely available players significantly contributed. I've endorsed Derrick White in digital ink throughout the past two weeks, and yet he's still a free agent in more than 90 percent of ESPN leagues as of Friday morning. White tallied a career-high 23 points to go with 13 combined assists and rebounds in 48 minutes of exposure on Thursday. Popovich's trust in and empowerment of White only seems to be growing.
On Oklahoma City's side, Jerami Grant also notched a career-best 25 points while unsurprisingly registering three blocks and 12 rebounds. This versatile defender can capably guard from shooting guards to centers and provides an atypically strong block rate (1.3 per game) for a wing-eligible fantasy asset. These two teams play again, this time in Oklahoma, on Saturday night.
With an eye on meaningful fantasy performances and relevant statistical trends, let's delve into the night that was in the NBA.
LaMarcus Aldridge, San Antonio Spurs: 56 points (20-33 FG, 16-16 FT), 9 rebounds, 4 assists, 4 blocks, 5 TO
Russell Westbrook, Oklahoma City Thunder: 24 points (11-22), 13 rebounds, 24 assists, 2 steals, 3 TO
Luke Kennard, Detroit Pistons: 5 points (1-8 FG), 1 rebound, 2 assists, 1 TO
The Kings earned their 21st win of the season in drubbing a depleted Detroit team that sat Blake Griffin on the second leg of a back-to-back (appears like normal rest and nothing of worry). The Kings won their 21st game last season on March 9. Willie Cauley-Stein produced 14 points and 14 rebounds, already securing his 16th double-double of the season, four more than any other season in his career. Harry Giles enjoyed a strong game with 14 points and five combined blocks and steals off the bench for the Kings, but he's more of a dynasty or keeper stash. Either way, the future is bright in Sacramento.
The Heat made a season-high 18 3-pointers in soundly beating Boston and have now won their past three games against the Celtics after losing the previous eight in the series. The point guard experiment with Justise Winslow as the team's lead distributor continues to pay off, as the Duke product produced a career-high 11 dimes and neared a triple-double as the team's top creator. It was also nice to see Bam Adebayo tally a full line that included seven rebounds, five assists and four combined blocks and steals. I'd rush to add Winslow in all leagues, but continue to view Adebayo mostly as a strong streaming option (especially if Hassan Whiteside sits).
The Nuggets improved to 28-12 with a win over the Clippers on Thursday, matching their best 40-game start in franchise history (28-12 in 1976-77). The Nuggets netted their fifth 20-point win of the season, matching their total from last season. Jokic earned his fifth triple-double of the season and 21st of his career, tied for fourth-most in the league since his rookie season in 2015-16. For some actionable free agent news, scoop up Will Barton in any leagues he's been dropped due to injury, as his imminent return should afford him a nice workload once he's back to full capacity. It was nice to see Jamal Murray step up with 23 points on Thursday after averaging 13 PPG in his previous three games. This absurd outlet pass from Jokic to Murray from last night embodies just how much fun Denver is having on the floor this season.
Injuries of note
It appeared Oklahoma City's Steven Adams suffered a serious ankle injury that sent him back to the locker room for some time during last night's game, but he gutted it out and returned to play a pivotal role in the final quarter and both overtime sessions. It does make some sense to track any updates for Adams, especially with the rematch with the Spurs looming on Saturday.
Larry Nance Jr. will miss two to four weeks with an MCL injury to his right knee, per ESPN's Adrian Wojnarowski. Tristan Thompson is a strong rebounding option going forward, while stashing Kevin Love, even in shallower formats, could make sense at this point.
Analytics advantage for Friday
One of the NBA's best clutch performers will be in action when the Pacers visit the Knicks on Friday at 7:30 ET on ESPN. The Knicks, meanwhile, are 10-31 at the halfway point of the season, their second-worst 41-game start in franchise history.
Victor Oladipo has played his best basketball late in games this season; he's scored 76 points in 50 clutch-time minutes while shooting 63 percent from the field and 60 percent from 3-point range. He has the best field goal percentage among the 62 players who have attempted at least 20 clutch-time field goals. Loading up on shares of Oladipo could prove rewarding in DFS play against a soft New York backcourt. I'm also intrigued by the vale Domantas Sabonis presents against a porous Knicks frontcourt. The son of Arvydas continues to make big improvements in his third NBA season; he's shooting 62.1 percent from the field, fifth-best in the NBA among qualifying players.
The Knicks have a 12.2 percent chance to land the No. 1 overall pick in the 2019 NBA Draft, per ESPN's Basketball Power Index, the fifth-best odds of any team. New York has a 35.9 percent chance of picking in the top three and a 58.1 percent chance of selecting in the top five. An infusion of talent next summer would prove helpful for hopeful Knicks fans, while fantasy managers might want to take notice of two post-hype sleepers worth streaming tonight in Emmanuel Mudiay and Noah Vonleh.
Top players to watch tonight
James is expected to miss his ninth-straight game when the Lakers visit the Jazz on Friday in another game being broadcast on ESPN -- which would be the most consecutive games he's missed due to injury in his 16-year NBA career. Los Angeles lost five of its first six games without James in the lineup but has won two straight since.
Kyle Kuzma poured in a career-high 41 points in the Lakers 113-100 win over the Pistons on Wednesday. All 41 of his points came in the first three quarters (he did not play in the final frame), becoming just the fifth player to score 40 points in the first three quarters of a game this season. Kuzma is averaging a team-leading 22.2 points during LeBron's absence (having missed two of these eight games). Kuzma could shine in Salt Lake, thanks to increased usage and unfettered freedom to shoot (as evidenced by 24 shots in 29 minutes on Wednesday).
On Utah's side, a surging Donovan Mitchell has scored at least 25 points in three straight games, tied for the longest streak of his young career. Mitchell already has five 30-point games this season, two shy of matching his total from all last season. Mitchell had 33 points and seven assists in Wednesday's win over the Magic, and on Friday against the Lakers, he'll be seeking to record back-to-back 30-point games for the first time in his career.