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RotoBaller NBA Recap: Marcus Smart's Flagrant Foul On Joel Embiid Propels 76ers


Welcome to the RotoBaller NBA Recap. In this feature, we highlight three fantasy basketball takeaways from last night's slate of NBA games. Wednesday's action saw a lot of great action and some important playoff results as well as a few surprises. 10 of the 18 teams that were in action last night are currently in the playoffs with only five of the teams earning wins. To be fair, three of the matchups pitted playoff bound teams against each other.

Perhaps the most important of those three contests saw the Philadelphia 76ers earn a come-from-behind  118-115 victory over the Boston Celtics thanks in large to an inane ejection by the C's Marcus Smart. Boston controlled most of the first half and was up 69-58 less than a minute into the third quarter when Smart took exception to Joel Embiid sticking out his elbow as Smart ran past the 7-footer on defense. With Embiid's back turned, Smart gave Embiid a two-handed shove that sent him sprawling toward the sideline. Both players were restrained, and no punches were thrown. Embiid was hit with a technical foul while Smart was issued a flagrant 2 and ejected.

Embiid promptly scored eight straight points to bring the 76ers to within 70-66. The 25-year-old finished with 37 points and 22 rebounds (six offensive rebounds) with 19 points and 12 boards (five offensive) coming in the second half. Then with the Sixers up 116-113 with 30 ticks on the clock, Embiid came up with a key block on Kyrie Irving's floater and seconds later grabbed a rebound off a Marcus Morris miss. Jimmy Butler, who poured in 15 of his 22 points in the last stanza, sealed the 76ers first victory of the season over the Celtics by knocking down an 18-footer from the right corner. The victory gives Philadelphia a four-game over Boston for the third spot in the Eastern Conference. Meanwhile, the loss by Boston dropped the Celtics one-game behind fourth-place Indiana.

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Collin Sexton tops 20-point for seventh straight game

Remember the sluggish start that the rookie point guard got off to? Neither does he. The 20-year-old has been fabulous since the beginning of February, scoring in double-figures in 19 of 20 games.

Sexton scored 25 points on 10-for-18 shooting from the floor and 4-for-7 from beyond the arc to lift the Cavaliers past the Bucks 107-102. It was his seventh straight game of pouring in at least 23 points, marking the first time that a first-year player has done so since 1998. He added three rebounds and two assists along with four turnovers.

Milwaukee got off to a fast start, but Cleveland was in control most of the game. The Bucks, who trailed by 11 points at halftime, knotted the game at 81 on a Tony Snell three-pointer with 6.4 seconds left in the three quarter. However, Sexton along with Jordan Clarkson and Ante Zizic combined to score 22 of the Cavs’ 26 fourth-quarter points. Sexton, who had eight points in the quarter, scored consecutive buckets -- a three-pointer and a layup -- to put the Cavs up 105-100 late in the contest.

The former University of Alabama star is averaging 22.7 points while shooting 51.9 percent from the field in March. He has produced 20.7 points along with 2.9 assists, 2.4 rebounds and 2.6 triples in 14 games  since the All-star break.

Sexton is definitely in the conversation to garner first-team All-Rookie honors. He has become a must-start in all fantasy formats.

 

Jonas Valanciunas sinks the Rockets with a free throw in overtime

The 7-footer is playing some of the best basketball of his career. Valanciunas pumped in a career-high 33 points including the game-winning free throw with 0.1 seconds left in overtime to give the Grizzlies a 126-125 victory over the Rockets. The seventh-year center was fouled by the Rockets' Clint Capela after bringing in his ninth offensive rebound of the game following P.J. Tucker's block of Mike Conley's attempt of a floater.

Valanciunas was 10 of 19 from the field and 13 of 17 from the free throw line. He also totaled 15 rebounds, giving him six double-doubles in 13 games with the Grizzlies. The 2011 first round draft pick has scored in double-figures in 12 of those games as well. Valanciunas is entrenched as the Grizz's starting center as he is averaging 19.1 points, 8.5 rebounds (2.2 offensive) and 1.2 blocks while shooting 57.6 percent from the floor overall since being traded by the Raptors.

Like Sexton, Valanciunas is a must-start in all-fantasy formats.

 

Pascal Siakam is the Most Improved Player in the Association?

Siakam continued his upward trend last night, which looks like it may lead to him to becoming the NBA’s Most Improved Player. The 6-foot-9 power forward scored 33 points, grabbed 13 rebounds and dished out six assists in the Raptors’ 122-114 overtime victory over the Thunder. It was his 16th double-double of the campaign and the 26th straight contest that he has scored in double figures. Siakam was an efficient 14-for-21 from the field as well as 4-for-4 from the charity stripe.

While the 6-foot-9 power forward’s rebounding numbers have fluctuated recently, Siakam’s passing efficiency  has remained steady with him doling out at least three assists in each of his last 10 games. Last night’s game against the Thunder marked just the second time in the past  eight games that the New Mexico product has turned the ball over two or more times.

Siakam has produced 18.8 points, 6.8 rebounds and 4.2 assists while shooting 52.2 percent from the field in 14 games since the All-star break.

As a result of the Raptors win the Bucks loss, Toronto moves to within two games of Milwaukee for the top spot in the Eastern Conference.