He's back!

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There were eight games on Saturday as the Wolves shocked the Sixers in Joel Embiid’s return, the Hawks lost a couple guys to injury as their seven-game winning streak was stopped by the Knicks, and LaMelo Ball messed around and got a triple-double.

Timberwolves 121, Sixers 120 2OT – D’Angelo Russell scored a season-high 35 points and had a game-saving steal at the end of the second overtime to ruin Joel Embiid’s return to action on Saturday. Russell also hit a huge 3-pointer late and had four rebounds, eight assists, two steals, two blocks and six triples on 13-of-25 shooting in what was easily his best game of the season (and in recent memory). The Wolves have somehow won five of their last six games and got 25 points, 10 boards, a block and three 3-pointers from Karl-Anthony Towns, Anthony Edwards added a 19-6-7-3-1 line on 8-of-21 shooting, Jarred Vanderbilt had five points, 14 rebounds, a steal and a block (pick him up) and Naz Reid had 13 points, five boards and a block off the bench.

Embiid was dominant in his return from a nine-game absence with 42 points, 14 rebounds, a steal, two blocks and two 3-pointers on 12-of-23 shooting. He must have had a rough bout with COVID, saying "I really thought I wasn't going to make it. It was that bad. So, I'm just thankful to be sitting here. I'm just glad I got over it." Tobias Harris returned from his hip injury and looked good with 17 points, nine boards, four assists and two steals, Tyrese Maxey added 15 points, four rebounds, nine assists, a block and a 3-pointer, and Seth Curry had 14 points and three triples in the loss

Knicks 99, Hawks 90 – The Knicks were without Kemba Walker (rest) and Derrick Rose (ankle) so Alec Burks made his first start of the season and racked up a season-high 23 points with seven boards, four 3-pointers, three dimes and two steals. Immanuel Quickley came through with nine points, three boards, seven assists and a 3-pointer off the bench, but hit just 4-of-12 shots in 31 minutes. Evan Fournier is breaking out of his slump and had 20 points and four triples, RJ Barrett added 15 points and seven boards, and Obi Toppin scored 13 points in 16 minutes. Mitchell Robinson had two points, 11 boards and a block and Julius Randle struggled to 3-of-14 shooting for eight points, 11 boards and four assists in the win.

The Hawks had their seven-game winning streak stopped and lost Bogdan Bogdanovic and Cam Reddish to injuries. Bogi hurt his right foot/ankle and had to be helped off the court while Cam left after aggravating his wrist injury. If they’re going to miss time both Danilo Gallinari and Kevin Huerter, among others, should get a bump. Trae Young’s 33-4-7 line with five 3-pointers was wasted in the loss and Clint Capela went nuts with 16 points, a season-high 21 rebounds, a steal and three blocks on the night. John Collins was the only other Hawk to hit double digits with 12 points, nine boards, a steal and three blocks. Huerter struggled, hitting just 4-of-13 shots and missed all six of his triples for eight points in 38 minutes, while Gallinari hit just 2-of-11 shots off the bench.

Suns 113, Nets 107Devin Booker kept it going with 30 points and four 3-pointers, Chris Paul had a 22-8-5 line and Mikal Bridges, Deandre Ayton and JaVale McGee (10 & 10 double-double) all scored in double figures in the win. Bridges also had a career-high seven steals on the night. The Suns are 17-3 and 9-1 on the road and have somehow won 16 straight games. They’re one win away from tying the franchise record of 17 straight but will have to beat the Warriors at home on Tuesday to do it.

For the Nets, DeAndre’ Bembry started for the fourth straight game and hit 9-of-11 shots for a season-high 18 points, nine rebounds and two steals, and should continue to flourish with Joe Harris banged up. Kevin Durant led the way with a season-high 39 points, nine rebounds, seven assists, four steals, a block and four 3-pointers, and James Harden triple-doubled with a 12-13-14-1-2 line but hit just 4-of-15 shots and missed all six of his 3-pointers. LaMarcus Aldridge added 18 points and six boards in the loss and Patty Mills hit three 3-pointers for nine points in a start. Bruce Brown returned from his hamstring injury but played just five minutes, which also helped Bembry.

Cavaliers 105, Magic 92Darius Garland led the way with a season-high 26 points and 11 assists, Lauri Markkanen had 20 points, five boards and four 3-pointers, and Jarrett Allen added 19 points, 11 boards and hit 8-of-9 shots in the win. Evan Mobley nearly double-doubled with 13 points, nine boards, four blocks and two 3-pointers in his return from an elbow injury as the Cavs improved to 10-10 on the season after snapping a five-game losing streak. Ricky Rubio hit just 1-of-6 shots but still had five points, four rebounds, eight assists, a steal and a 3-pointer in the win. In case you missed it, Collin Sexton is out for the season after having surgery on Nov. 17.

All five Magic starters scored in double figures and were led by Wendell Carter Jr.’s 19 points, 11 boards and two steals. Franz Wagner, Robin Lopez, Gary Harris and Jalen Suggs all scored between 10 & 13 points, while Mo Bamba (back) and Cole Anthony (ankle) were out for the Magic. RJ Hampton was disappointing yet again with seven points, four rebounds and three assists, and you have to think Anthony, who’s missed five straight games, is getting close to returning. Terrence Ross played 11 minutes before leaving with a back injury.

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Heat 107, Bulls 104 – The Heat were led by Gabe Vincent’s 20 points, five assists, a steal and four 3-pointers off the bench in 31 minutes, while Kyle Lowry came on in the second half for 19 points, five rebounds, six assists, two steals and three 3-pointers in the win. Vincent scored 16 of his 20 in the fourth quarter. Jimmy Butler had an 18-4-5 line with five steals on 6-of-15 shooting, Duncan Robinson had 16 points and four 3-pointers, and Bam Adebayo was quiet with nine points, seven boards, six dimes and a steal in 33 minutes. Max Strus got loose for 13 points, a 3-pointer and two steals on a night when Tyler Herro was a late scratch with an illness, which also helped Vincent get loose for his best game of the season.

DeMar DeRozan hit 11-of-19 shots for 28 points, seven rebounds and a block and missed all four of his 3-pointers in the loss, while Alex Caruso scored a season-high 22 points with three triples, six assists and a steal off the bench. If Caruso’s still available in your league, pick him up, although beware that the Bulls only play three games in each of the next four weeks. Lonzo Ball had an 11-11-6 line with a steal and three 3-pointers, Zach LaVine was quiet with 16 points and four 3-pointers, and Nikola Vucevic had seven points, 13 rebounds, two steals and two blocks on 3-of-9 shooting.

Rockets 146, Hornets 143 – The Rockets got their third win of the season over the streaking Hornets, who ran into a wall on Saturday. Christian Wood led the way with 33 points, 16 rebounds, three assists, two blocks and two 3-pointers, and Kevin Porter Jr. had his best game of the season with 23 points, eight rebounds, 12 assists, a steal, three 3-pointers and four turnovers on 7-of-16 shooting. Porter might be available in your league after struggling with his shooting and turnovers all season, but might be able to get it going after this big line. Eric Gordon came through with 22 points, seven dimes and four triples, Garrison Matthews added 20 points and five 3-pointers, and Armoni Brooks hit five 3-pointers for 15 points off the bench. Alperen Sengun played just 12 minutes and the fact that the Rockets are refusing to give him 30 minutes a night is a travesty. Jae’Sean Tate hit 6-of-9 shots and a couple 3-pointers for 16 points, five assists and a steal in a start and the win.

The Hornets got a 19-11-13 triple-double from LaMelo Ball but the Hornets could never get control of this game. Terry Rozier kept it going with 31 points, six triples and a fun stat line, Miles Bridges had 22 points, five boards and two triples, Gordon Hayward scored 21, and P.J. Washington added 13 points, five boards, six assists, two steals, two blocks and three 3-pointers in his best line of the year. Kelly Oubre hit 8-of-19 shots and two 3-pointers off the bench for 23 points, three steals and two blocks, and it’s still a bit mind boggling that the Hornets lost this game. Mason Plumlee was out with again with his calf injury, clearing the way for PJW to go nuts.

Wizards 120, Mavericks 114Spencer Dinwiddie was out to manage his surgically-repaired knee but the Wizards got 26 points, five boards, seven assists, two steals and a 3-pointer from Bradley Beal, who hit 10-of-14 shots in the win. Kyle Kuzma came through with 22 points, nine boards, four assists, a steal and three 3-pointers, Daniel Gafford had a 14 & 10 double-double with two blocks, Kentavious Caldwell-Pope added 16 points, six boards, a steal and a block without a 3-pointer, Raul Neto had 13 points, five boards, six dimes and two 3-pointers, and Montrezl Harrell was quiet with 11 points and two rebounds off the bench. Aaron Holiday started for Dinwiddie but had just seven points and three assists in 20 minutes. Dinwiddie should be back for the next one.

Luka Doncic hit 13-of-25 shots, three 3-pointers and 4-of-7 free throws for 33 points, four boards, 10 assists and four turnovers, but that was the only good news for the Mavs. Trey Burke had 14 points and two 3-pointers off the bench, Kristaps Porzingis hit just 4-of-12 shots for 13 points, seven boards, three steals and a block, and Maxi Kleber had a season-high 13 points, six boards and a 3-pointer off the bench. Tim Hardaway Jr. hit just 4-of-12 shots and two 3-pointers for 10 points, but also had a season-high three steals in the loss. Luka looks kind of banged up to me and I just hope he keeps playing through his nagging leg injuries.

Jazz 127, Pelicans 105Donovan Mitchell led the Jazz with 21 points, seven rebounds, seven assists, two steals, a block and three 3-pointers on 9-of-17 shooting, Mike Conley and Jordan Clarkson (four 3-pointers each) scored 20 points, and Joe Ingles started and scored 15 points, his second-highest scoring night of the year. Royce O’Neale was out with a sprained ankle, accounting for the Jingles start. Rudy Gobert was quiet with six points, eight boards, a steal and two blocks in 27 minutes of the blowout, while Bojan Bogdanovic added 11 points. Rudy Gay had another good game with 13 points, seven rebounds, five assists, a steal and four 3-pointers, but I still can’t pull the trigger on picking him up.

The Pelicans, who are 5-17, were led in scoring by Jaxson Hayes off the bench with 15 points, four rebounds and three 3-pointers in just eight minutes. What? Jonas Valanciunas had 12 points, 12 rebounds and a block, Brandon Ingram had 11 points on 4-of-14 shooting, and Naji Marshall, Willy Hernangomez and Nickeil Alexander-Walker (2-of-12 shooting) all scored 10 off the bench. This team was a fantasy dumpster fire last night the news that we may see Zion Williamson at some point in the near future is the only thing they’ve got going right now. Josh Hart started and played 24 minutes but scored just six points. The Pelicans had somehow won their previous two games before this disaster happened on Saturday. They missed their first 20 3-pointers of the game before NAW hit one in the third quarter. Yikes.

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