Batum explodes, Aldridge injured
The Portland Trail Blazers had been struggling before Tuesday's tilt with the Washington Wizards, losing three of their previous four games and four of their previous six. So head coach Nate McMillan finally switched up his starting lineup to try to spark his team. McMillan decided to keep Raymond Felton at the point and Jamal Crawford on the bench, but he moved Nicolas Batum into the starting 2-guard spot and Wesley Matthews to the pine. Unfortunately for McMillan, nothing went right for his team -- they lost at home to the hapless Wiz and lost LaMarcus Aldridge to a sprained left ankle less than two minutes into the game.
Fortunately, there was some good news for fantasy owners, at least those who don't own Aldridge, who already has been ruled out for Wednesday's battle with the Golden State Warriors. Batum flourished with the extra minutes (42), knocking down half of his 24 shots to match the season-high 33 points he scored off the bench Feb. 4. After Aldridge went down, Gerald Wallace slid into the power forward spot, Batum to small forward and Matthews got a full 36 minutes at shooting guard.
Look for this same lineup Wednesday when the Blazers play the Warriors. With Aldridge out, we should see a boost in production from Wallace and Marcus Camby (who played through his own ankle injury Tuesday), while Matthews should maintain his value as a starter. Assuming Batum sticks in the starting lineup in place of Matthews once Aldridge returns, he should be primed for big numbers and should be snagged off all waiver wires immediately.
• Obligatory Jeremy Lin note: For all of the spelunkers out there who were hanging out in a cave last night and didn't hear, Lin took the Toronto Raptors down with a 3-pointer with 0.5 seconds left on the clock. He was 9-of-20 from the field, 7-of-11 from the stripe and finished with 27 points, 11 dimes, a steal and a triple. It's probably not time yet to complain about the eight turnovers last night or the 6.0 turnovers he's averaging as a starter, so just enjoy the ride if you have him on your roster.
• Gordon Hayward was picking up steam heading into this week, scoring in double figures eight times in nine games and topping out with 23 points Sunday. Unfortunately, he hit just 3 of 6 shots Monday to finish with eight points and last night, he posted a bagel: 0-for-6 from the field for no points. He has some solid upside in deep leagues, so don't give up on him yet, but he hasn't been attempting enough 3s to make a big fantasy splash.
• Mario Chalmers aggravated his injured left hand during Tuesday's game and played just 17 minutes. It's not clear whether he'll be able to play Friday against the Cleveland Cavaliers. With Chalmers out, rookie Norris Cole stepped up and scored 20 points with three dimes in 30 minutes of play. Cole could have some value if Chalmers ends up sitting for a stretch to rest his hand.
• The trouble with having two good point guards is that neither gets to max out his stats. Case in point: the Toronto Raptors' Jose Calderon and Jerryd Bayless. While Bayless has been out most of the past four games with a sore left ankle, Calderon has averaged 11 assists. He piled up 25 points and nine dimes last night against the New York Knicks. Presumably, that level of production will come back to earth once Bayless is back in the mix, which could be as soon as Wednesday night against the San Antonio Spurs.
• Kevin Martin has been battling a sore back and head coach Kevin McHale's bizarre distribution of minutes lately. Before racking up 28 points Sunday, he totaled 16 points in his previous four games. Last night it went back to ugly, as McHale limited Martin to 18 minutes, during which he missed all three of his shots and failed to score a point. Hopefully, he'll be able to shake off his sore back and coach and earn some minutes and shots against the Oklahoma City Thunder tonight.
• Danny Granger was forced out of Tuesday's game after spraining his left ankle late in the first quarter. There's a chance he'll be able to suit up tonight against the Cleveland Cavaliers, but the Pacers are preparing as if he will miss the game. Dahntay Jones will start if Granger is unable to go.
• Phoenix Suns head coach Alvin Gentry gave Steve Nash and Grant Hill the night off Tuesday, because it was the second game of a back-to-back-to-back set. Both should be back in action tonight versus the Atlanta Hawks.