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I’ll get the worst out of the way first, as it was announced that Portland Trail Blazers guard CJ McCollum has a pneumothorax (basically a collapsed right lung) and will be further evaluated before a prognosis is determined. He suffered the injury in Saturday’s game against the Celtics and sat out Monday night because of it, and I truly hope he’s alright. We’ll all keep him in our thoughts and hope it’s nothing serious. From a fantasy hoops standpoint, Anfernee Simons has to be rostered (and should’ve been before this news anyway), while Dennis Smith Jr. should also be on a team for now as he’s played rather well in his two starts so far.
Nets 102, Mavs 99
The Brooklyn Nets overcame a 17-point deficit against the Dallas Mavericks on Monday evening and came out on top in a tight three-point win to improve to 17-7 and remain the first seed in the Eastern Conference. Their first lead didn’t even come until a pair of James Harden free throws halfway through the fourth, and after two missed free throws by Nic Claxton, the Mavs had multiple chances to tie it up with a triple but to no avail. Harden was just a single rebound shy of a triple-double (which would have been his fifth of the season) and finished the game with 23 points (7-of-13 FGs, 6-of-7 FTs), nine rebounds, 12 assists, one block, three 3-pointers and five turnovers in 42 minutes, and the turnover count is what it is at this point as the five he had on Monday are just above his 4.8 average. Even though the turnovers aren’t great and the offense comes and goes, he’s still a first-rounder in standard fantasy leagues because of the way he contributes everywhere all the time, but it’s nice that he has some room for improvement. Kevin Durant started a bit slow but finished the win with 24 points on 10-of-24 shooting, adding seven rebounds, three assists, one steal, one block and a triple in his 41 minutes, and he’s the leading scorer in the league and has an early shot for his fifth scoring title, which is pretty insane. More often than not, the other Nets tend to take a backseat to these two, but there were some decent performances such as LaMarcus Aldridge’s 15 points with five rebounds, Nic Claxton’s nine boards in 21 minutes off the bench and James Johnson’s quiet but effective 12/4/4/1/1 line with two treys in 25 minutes. Johnson has the best fantasy skill set of the three and he’s always on the verge of being worth deploying but not usually quite there, but he’s in the rotation and will continuously be worth monitoring. Aldridge has been better than expected and should be on someone’s roster in basically all leagues and Claxton just isn’t reliable enough to be trusted even though he has the upside. Patty Mills is getting the minutes (30+ in 10 of his last 11) but he’s so streaky without doing much else besides scoring and hitting triples, so it’s hard to gauge when to utilize him.
Luka Doncic returned from an ankle issue and had 18 points in the first half alone but cooled down significantly in the second, not even hitting his first field goal of the second half until a little more than halfway through the fourth quarter. He finished with 28 points (9-of-21 FGs, 7-of-8 FTs) with six rebounds, nine assists, three 3-pointers and one turnover in 37 minutes. He didn’t have any defensive stats but he isn’t known for them anyway, but maybe the best parts about this line are the low turnover count and being able to hit his free throws, both things that have weighed down his value significantly and have him as just a fifth-rounder. He’s still a ton of fun and that’s never been a debate, but fun is not a 10th category and his top-5 ADP would only be justified if it was. Kristaps Porzingis returned after missing two games with a left knee contusion and wasn’t hitting his shots either, going just 6-of-17 for a 17-point, 12-rebound double-double with five assists, one steal, one block, one triple and two turnovers in 31 minutes, and he’s been one of the biggest steals so far with first-round value on a per-game basis, so if he can continue suiting up, he’ll remain a steal and on a handful of winning fantasy teams when all is said and done. Dorian Finney-Smith was handed the tall task of guarding Kevin Durant for the majority of this game (which worked at first but never actually does) and also had a nice offensive showing with 15 points, six rebounds, two dimes, three steals and four 3-pointers, Dwight Powell had 10 points with six rebounds and that’s it (but a perfect 3-of-3 shooting and 4-of-4 mark from the line) and Reggie Bullock continued to be awful with six points and two boards on 3-of-10 shooting. Bullock is starting and is a great defender but is not a fantasy guy, I don’t want much to do with Powell unless KP sits (and even then I’m not that confident) and DFS is returning 10th-round value on the season because of the defensive stats and triples and is the only guy with any season-long attractiveness of these three. Tim Hardaway Jr. and Jalen Brunson combined for 21 points off the bench but didn’t do much else besides a steal from THJ, who missed all seven of his triples and isn’t even worth your time when he’s cold, but it’s hard to know when that’ll be the case.
Knicks 121, Spurs 109
The amount of people in the streets of New York that were probably seen shouting “Bing Bong!” after their team came out on top is probably outrageous, but they deserve it after dropping three straight before this win. RJ Barrett gets a ton of credit for the win as he went off for 32 points (11-of-20 FGs), five rebounds, two assists, two steals and a career-high seven 3-pointers (on just eight attempts). Barrett has been dealing with a stomach bug for a couple weeks now which could explain his struggles lately, but he looked awesome in this one and maybe he’ll build on it assuming the bug is behind him. He scored 19 in the first half alone and he hasn’t scored that many in an entire game since November 5, so Barrett’s managers really needed to see this, but it won’t become a trend for a guy who’s not even ranked in standard-league conversation at the moment, but he’s admittedly difficult to get rid of. The Knicks didn’t need Julius Randle to do the heavy lifting on offense this time around, as he had just 15 points on 5-of-12 shooting with seven rebounds, eight assists, three treys and even a steal and a block in 35 minutes, and any defensive stats from Randle should just be a bit of a bonus when he obtains them as opposed to a regular expectation. Next up was Alec Burks with a 18/4/5 line (go get him if you’re in one of the 29% of Yahoo! leagues he’s unexplainably available in), Immanuel Quickley had 16 points with six boards and a pair of threes in 26 minutes off the pine and Mitchell Robinson went off for a 11/14/0/2/3 line in just 22 reserve minutes. Nerlens Noel (two points, eight boards, three assists, one steal, one block, 26 minutes) started over Mitch Rob but was far outplayed, so don’t be discouraged by Robinson’s bench role by any means as he’s the better guy to have, and these two got all 48 center minutes for the Knicks in the win. Derrick Rose had 12 points in his usual reserve role and is a surprising standard-league guy in nearly 24 minutes per game, and Evan Fournier is just not good right now and I have no issue ditching him altogether.
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Another man down for San Antonio, as Keldon Johnson landed on teammate Drew Eubanks’ foot near the end of the first half and was in some pain, and while he was out there to start the third quarter, he quickly exited the game and was ruled out for the remainder. The good news is that the X-rays came back negative, but an MRI is in his future, so we’ll see how that turns out. Devin Vassell is still dealing with a quad issue so they’re a bit short on the wing right now, and it’s been Bryn Forbes (12 points on Tuesday after 15 on Monday) rather than Lonnie Walker (three points) more often than not who’s been contributing. Dejounte Murray posted a 15/7/7 line with a steal and two triples in his 35 minutes of the loss, which is pretty subpar for him, so feel free to ship him away to another team (I’m kidding, don’t – he’s amazing and I’ve been gushing about him since the preseason and it’s been crystal clear as to why). Derrick White wasn’t great in the first half of this back-to-back set on Monday night but turned it around as he often does with a 26/6/7 line with three makes from downtown, and if you ignore Monday night’s game, he’s played very well in five straight and isn’t a guy you’ll be able to buy-low on anymore, so well done if you were patient with the Spurs’ second best player. Unfortunately, Jakob Poeltl met up with his enemy the free throw line for the first time in three games and of course went 1-of-3, and if the volume ever gets higher he could really hurt you but it could be worse. Poeltl was otherwise great with a 13/8/5 line with three swats and no turnovers in 30 minutes and is another guy that’s exceeding expectations, and Doug McDermott (14 points, three triples) is starting and is worth a look at this moment because the Spurs are the only team that plays a whopping five games this week (they’ve played two already in two days, so three more are coming their way).
Lakers 117, Celtics 102
The Lakers came atop one of the biggest rivalries in all sports, and while it’s lost some magic given how special it was for so many years, it’s still a matchup to look forward to. LeBron James scored 16 of his 30 points in the first quarter alone, also capping off his evening with four boards, five assists, two 3-pointers and three turnovers in 36 minutes, and he’s now had at least 30 points in four of his last five games to rid of any worries that his abdomen is still bothering him. Bron also hit 13 of his 19 shots and both of his free throws, and I’m not sure which was more impressive, but the only way his night could’ve improved is if he got a defensive stat or two. Anthony Davis received some criticism from Charles Barkley before the game on Tuesday, with Chuck saying of AD “You’re 27 years old. You’re supposed to be in your prime. You’re supposed to be one of the five best players in the world, up there with Giannis, Kevin Durant and those guys. You ain’t holding up your end of the bargain.” While it was a little harsh, it is Chuck after all, but he has some points. Davis is shooting 52.3% on the year which is fine, but his outside shooting has been horrendous as he sits at an abysmal 18.8% from three, but his fantasy managers don’t mind as long as he’s efficient all in all. He could probably be a little more aggressive on most nights, as he was offensively quiet for his standards with 17 points on 7-of-13 shooting with a full stat line of 16 rebounds, three assists, two steals, two blocks and three turnovers in 35 minutes. Russell Westbrook bricked three 3-pointers in the first quarter but made his fourth and only one, but he ended the night shooting it well with a 9-of-16 mark for 24 points, three boards, 11 dimes, one steal and four turnovers in 36 minutes, and don’t look now but Brodie has actually hit 53.2% (42-of-79) of his shots over his last five games with three of them being Laker wins, and maybe he’s finally finding his footing after all. Talen Horton-Tucker is still very confusing but was nice with a 12/6/4/2/1 line, but hit just 5-of-14 shots and missed all five of his triples, so it wasn’t all great, with his three turnovers not being ideal either. I can’t really read him, and he had just 10 total points in his two games before this, but it was encouraging to see this line with LeBron active but I’m not cutting anyone of value to pick him back up. Carmelo Anthony had just nine points on 4-of-11 shooting and has cooled down considerably after a torrid start to the season, and if you dealt him when he was red hot, well done. Malik Monk had 10 points and a windmill dunk off the bench in 20 minutes, but no one else is worth your time in season-long settings.
Jaylen Brown’s hamstring injury won’t seem to go away, and he was really missed on Tuesday night. Jayson Tatum outscored everyone else on the entire roster in the first 3.5 minutes of Tuesday’s game, where he scored 14 points with four threes, finalizing his night with a game-high 34 points (13-of-22 shooting) with eight rebounds, three assists, one steal, one block, five 3-pointers and five turnovers in 34 minutes. He had very minimal help tonight but reached the 30-point mark for the third straight game, but it doesn’t mean much if he’s not getting steady contributions from his teammates. This box score was pretty ugly otherwise, with Robert Williams next up in scoring with a 13/4/1/1/1 line and a couple monster dunks, and Dennis Schroder right behind him with 10 points and five dimes but with eight of his points coming from the line (just 1-of-6 from the field). Time Lord has been quiet overall after missing three games each with an illness and knee issue in mid-late November, so I like the idea of floating around some offers for him, and this was Schroder’s worst game in quite some time and is still a semi-boring hold. Al Horford scored seven points with eight boards and two steals in a start, Josh Richardson scored 11 in 16 minutes and Marcus Smart posted a 6/4/6 line with three steals on 2-of-7 shooting, and that’s about as low as I’ll go for this particular box score.
13 games on Wednesday
The only teams who will not participate in Wednesday’s 13-game night are the Hawks, Lakers, Suns and Spurs, so everyone else (pending any injuries) will be fair game in what could be an opportunity for some Hail Mary parlays if you’re feeling brave enough. Set those lineups, win some cash, and best of luck.