PG – Russell Westbrook, Oklahoma City vs Los Angeles Clippers
Westbrook is coming off his third straight triple-double and 100th of his career, and he reached that milestone in impressive fashion Tuesday night at Atlanta with 32 points, 12 rebounds and 12 assists. Since missing two games with a sprained ankle, Westbrook has averaged 24.3 points, 10.8 rebounds and 9.7 assists in his last 13 games while posting six triple-doubles and five double-doubles.
One of his 21 triple-doubles on the season came in the most recent matchup against the Clippers, a 127-117 road win January 4 in which Westbrook totaled 29 points, 12 rebounds and 11 assists. He has averaged 25.7 points, 10.3 assists and 8.6 rebounds in his last nine games versus Los Angeles, posting three triple-doubles in that span.
Also consider: Ben Simmons, Philadelphia 76ers vs Brooklyn Nets
Simmons has posted triple-doubles in back-to-back contests and now stands second for triple-doubles in a rookie season with eight, moving ahead of Magic Johnson. Simmons, who has recorded five or more assists in 26 straight games, has been tidy in his last six games, averaging 12.0 points, 10.7 assists and 8.3 rebounds. The rookie has 35 points and 13 assists in two games versus Brooklyn and has committed just two turnovers in nearly 67 minutes in those contests.
SG - Lou Williams, Los Angeles Clippers @ Oklahoma City
Clippers shooting guard Lou Williams has averaged 30.7 points and 5.7 assists in his last three games versus Oklahoma City, impressive numbers by any standard, but more so coming off the bench. Williams has scored nearly a point in a minute in these games and also had a double-double in the most recent meeting with ten assists to go with 26 points.
Williams was held to 14 points at Houston on Thursday night, but on the last six occasions in the game after he has been held below 20 points, he has averaged 26.0 points, 6.7 assists and 2.8 steals while shooting 40.9 percent from 3-point range.
Also consider: DeMar DeRozan, Toronto Raptors vs Dallas Mavericks
DeRozan has averaged 22.1 points and 4.9 assists during Toronto's ten-game winning streak, shooting 47.5 percent in those games. He also has a point to prove in this contest after the Mavericks held him to three-of-16 shooting and eight points in the first meeting between the teams, a 98-93 win for Dallas on December 19 that stands as the last loss for the Raptors to a sub-.500 team.
Even including a game at home against the Mavericks in which he took a goose egg, DeRozan has averaged 23.3 points in his last four games at the Air Canada Centre against them. Take away the eight misses in the game in the 2014/15 season, DeRozan shot 59.3 percent (35 for 59) in the other three games.
C - Nikola Vucevic, Orlando Magic vs Boston Celtics
There are three viable options at center: Vucevic, Jonas Valanciunas and Joel Embiid. With the Magic again expected to be without Evan Fournier and Aaron Gordon while both Valanciunas and Embiid are playing on back-to-back nights, Vucevic gets a slight edge here playing against a Celtics team missing at least two, and potentially three, starters.
Vucevic has averaged 17.8 points and 9.5 rebounds in his last eight games, which are not significantly different from his season marks of 17.3 and 9.1, respectively, but what makes him stand out among the three are the 4.0 assists per game in that span. He narrowly missed a triple-double against Milwaukee with 27 points, nine rebounds and nine assists and had five double-doubles in the other seven games in that stretch.
Also consider: Jonas Valanciunas, Toronto Raptors vs Dallas Mavericks
Valanciunas has averaged 17.1 points and 11.6 rebounds while posting five double-doubles in his last seven games, which are significant improvements on his season totals of 12.4 points and 8.6 rebounds per game. He also will be a matchup problem for the Mavericks, who are starting undersized forward Dorian Finney-Smith at center next to Dirk Nowitzki.
Valanciunas had a double-double in the first meeting with 17 points and 11 rebounds, and he should wind up with his fifth in ten lifetime matchups with the Mavericks by game's end.
SF - Paul George, Oklahoma City @ Los Angeles Clippers
With Golden State Warriors superstar Kevin Durant questionable with sore ribs, coupled with Stephen Curry and Klay Thompson already sidelined, it makes little sense to risk playing him here against a Sacramento team playing out the string.
That leaves Tobias Harris of the Los Angeles Clippers and his counterpart George as the top two options at small forward. Harris is enjoying his best stretch of the season, averaging 22.7 points, 7.1 rebounds and 3.0 assists in his last seven games while shooting 41.7 percent from beyond the arc.
George has averaged 19.1 points, 6.4 rebounds and 4.3 assists in his last nine games but is shooting only 40.4 percent in that span. So why George? Because he has lit up the Clippers in the two meetings this season, totaling 73 points, 15 rebounds and ten assists. George has made nine of 15 3-pointers and shot 65.8 percent in those victories.
And his dominance of the Clippers extends back to his days with the Pacers as he has averaged 28.6 points, 7.2 rebounds and 4.9 assists in his last nine matchups with them while shooting 49.3 percent from beyond the arc and 51.8 percent overall.
Also consider: Tobias Harris, Los Angeles Clippers vs Oklahoma City
Harris has not exactly been a slouch against the Thunder, against whom he is playing for the first time since joining the Clippers. He averaged 19.6 points and 5.9 rebounds in his last eight games against them while playing for Detroit.
PF - Julius Randle, Los Angeles Lakers vs Miami Heat
Randle continued his impressive run with his third straight double-double in Wednesday night's loss to Golden State with 22 points and ten rebounds. More impressive is that he has shot 50 percent or better in his last 16 games, averaging 21.3 points and 9.2 rebounds in that span while connecting on 61.4 percent of his shots.
He had 25 points and six rebounds in the first meeting with Miami on March 1, and Heat center Hassan Whiteside played the first half in that game. He has been ruled out for this contest, which means Randle can bully both Kelly Olynyk and Justise Winslow in the paint for a full 48 minutes.
Also consider: Dario Saric, Philadelphia 76ers vs Brooklyn Nets
Sixers power forward Dario Saric continues to be a viable player at the four because he knocks down 3-pointers. Saric connected on four of eight from beyond the arc in Philadelphia's win over New York on Thursday night, and he's 20 of 37 (54.1 percent) from long range in the last six games while averaging 20.2 points and 7.0 rebounds.
Saric, who is shooting 59.7 percent overall in the last six games, also had 18 points and six rebounds while going two of four from 3-point range in Saturday's win over Brooklyn. He has averaged 14.7 points and 5.8 rebounds in six games against the Nets, connecting on ten of 27 from beyond the arc.
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