NBA Playoffs 2017

Second Round Preview

Round number 2 is already under way, so lets get to it (Play now).

 Washington Wizards (49-33) vs. Boston Celtics (53-29) 

Season matchups (2-2 Tie)

The backcourt in this semifinal takes center stage in perhaps the most interesting of the four second round series in these NBA playoffs. Talk about this year’s Boston squad begins with Isaiah Thomas, who punches far above his weight class and has been stellar all season long. That will present a big challenge for the Wizards, who have a pretty similar makeup thanks to their All-Star backcourt. John Wall rightfully gets all of the headlines in D.C. but don’t discount the x-factor his wingman Bradley Beal plays each game in terms of scoring and defending. While both the Wizards and the Celtics had a few early stumbles initially in the playoffs, they quickly righted the ship to close out tough first round opponents and move forward to this one.

It seems highly unlikely that either Wall or Thomas wind up with this year’s MVP but they’ve had the kind of seasons where their candidacy should rightfully be taken quite seriously. Now we get to see the pair face off in what should be a meeting of two of the best backcourts in the league. If you’re looking for scoring in bunches, big-time transition three-pointers and some underrated play down in the paint, this is certainly the series for you.

 Houston Rockets (55-27) vs. San Antonio Spurs (61-21) 

Season matchups (3-1 SAS)

The consensus seems to be that the MVP race in the NBA came down to Oklahoma City Thunder point guard Russell Westbrook and Houston Rockets point guard James Harden, but San Antonio Spurs forward Kawhi Leonard might be the best player in the Western Conference playoffs. Leonard averaged 31.2 points on 54.8 percent shooting, six rebounds and two steals in the six-game win over the Memphis Grizzlies in the first round and consistently attacked the basket, leading to a 59-of-61 effort from the free-throw line.

Harden’s Rockets ousted Westbrook’s Thunder in the first round, but it’ll get more challenging now against Greg Popovich’s squad and system. But there’s no doubt about it that MVP favorite Harden is the focal point for the Rockets to win against the Spurs. He averaged 33.2 points, seven assists and 6.4 rebounds in the five-game, first-round win over the Thunder but went 13-of-41 from the floor over the final two contests while dealing with an ankle injury.

 Toronto Raptors (51-31) vs. Cleveland Cavaliers (51-31) 

Season matchups (3-1 CLE)

The Toronto Raptors took the Cleveland Cavaliers to the sixth game of the Eastern Conference finals last spring and get another crack at the defending champs one round earlier this spring. The second-seeded Cavaliers breezed to a four-game sweep of the Indiana Pacers in the first round while the third-seeded Raptors needed six to turn away the Milwaukee Bucks. The Raptors developed a stronger defensive identity with the acquisitions of P.J. Tucker and Serge Ibaka during the regular season and limited the Bucks to an average of 86 points while winning the final three games of the first-round series. The Cavaliers are not as strong on the defensive end and became the first team since the 1995 Houston Rockets to sweep a first-round series while allowing their opponent to score 100 or more points in each game.

 Utah Jazz (51-31) vs. Golden State Warriors (67-15) 

Season matchups (2-1 GSW)

The Warriors swept Portland 4-0 and have been waiting since Wednesday to find out their next opponent. They now have their answer in the Utah Jazz. Throughout the season, the play of the Jazz has been one of the welcome developments in the Western Conference, which has been dominated by the Warriors and Spurs as of late but have seen the door squeak open a tad thanks to a host of intriguing contenders. While Utah has been labeled a dark horse by some this postseason, a series win over the Clippers in which it overcame a number of issues has proven that this young team is firmly in the mix to make some noise in the second round.

Unfortunately the Jazz draw Golden State, who has been dealing with its own issues left and right but remain the best team in basketball by a good margin. Health has kept the Warriors from being the juggernaut everybody expected when the team was first being assembled, but make no mistake, they’re the prohibitive favorite in this series and this postseason for a reason. While many want to concentrate on the high-flying ways of their MVPs or the deadly shooting from the outside, this is a complete team that competes on both ends of the court to turn the occasional close game into a blowout.

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NBA Rundown

Wednesday Fantasy Basketball Previews

The NBA rundown examines Wednesday Fantasy Basketball matchups (Enter contest) to get you ready for your cash drafts.

Pacers vs Magic

The Indiana Pacers ripped off three wins in four days to close out last week and are starting to show improvement on the defensive end. They are aiming for a fourth straight victory.

Timberwolves vs Cavaliers

The Cleveland Cavaliers just finished off LeBron James’ first losing month since 2006 with a 7-8 January and are searching for answers after dropping a 104-97 decision at the Dallas Mavericks on Monday.

Raptors vs Celtics

The teams enter February separated by a half-game in the East and within shouting distance of first-place Cleveland, but they aren’t necessarily trending in the same direction. The Celtics have the chance to achieve their first five-game winning streak of the season.

Knicks vs Nets

The New York Knicks hope to have star forward Kristaps Porzingis back in the lineup. Porzingis (illness) was a late scratch prior to Tuesday’s 117-101 loss at Washington, joining guard Derrick Rose (ankle) among the sidelined New York starters.

Hawks vs Heat

The Atlanta Hawks caught a break in the schedule with a much-needed two days off after batting to a 142-139 victory over the New York Knicks in four overtimes on Sunday. The Miami Heat are the hottest team in the Eastern Conference having won their last eight games.

Pelicans vs Pistons

The Detroit Pistons are struggling to put together a 48-minute effort at both ends of the court. They have dropped three games in a row, including a 113-109 setback at Boston on Monday in which they allowed Isaiah Thomas to score 24 points in the fourth quarter.

76ers vs Mavericks

It no longer matters if star rookie Joel Embiid is in the lineup, the Philadelphia 76ers believe they can win no matter who is on the court. Embiid is dealing with a left knee contusion and is not expected to join the 76ers on their two-game road trip this week, which begins against the Dallas Mavericks.

Grizzlies vs Nuggets

Mike Conley is fresh off the highest-scoring game of his career and the point guard looks to post another stellar outing. He poured in a career-best 38 points as Memphis improved to 2-1 on its six-game road trip with a 115-96 rout of the Phoenix Suns on Monday.

Bucks vs Jazz

The Milwaukee Bucks and Utah Jazz will both be trying to emerge out of their respective slumps when they meet in Salt Lake City. The Jazz followed up a six-game winning streak with losses in three of the last four games, including a 102-95 setback against Memphis on Saturday in the team’s sixth game in nine days.

Clippers vs Suns

The Carmelo Anthony trade rumors keep lurking around the Los Angeles Clippers and their recent swoon isn’t going to do anything to halt the speculation. The Clippers dropped four of their last five games. The latest loss was an embarrassing 144-98 beat down at the hands of the Golden State Warriors.

Bulls vs Thunder

The Chicago Bulls have experienced plenty of tension over the past few weeks and now will spend tons of time with one another on the road. All-Star Jimmy Butler and veteran Dwyane Wade scorched their teammates after one poor effort last week, only to have Rajon Rondo chastise the duo for a lack of leadership in an Instagram post.

Hornets vs Warriors

The Golden State Warriors hope to see All-Star point guard Stephen Curry back on the court versus the Charlotte Hornets. Curry is recovering from a bout with the stomach flu that caused him to miss Sunday’s game against Portland and he is listed as questionable to play against the Hornets.

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NBA Daily Rundown

Thursday Fantasy Basketball Games

FanPicks.com has your NBA daily rundown to get you ready for live fantasy basketball contests.

Mavericks vs Thunder

Russell Westbrook’s career triple-double count is now higher than the legendary Larry Bird. He recorded his 60th triple-double in Wednesday’s 114-105 victory over New Orleans to break a tie with Bird and move into fifth place on the all-time list.  Dallas is enjoying its best stretch of the season as it downed the New York Knicks 103-95 on Wednesday for its fifth win in seven games. Power forward Dirk Nowitzki scored 19 points on 8-of-12 shooting in the victory but will be rested and won’t make the trip to Oklahoma City.

Pacers vs Timberwolves

Karl-Anthony Towns had his chance to carry the young Minnesota Timberwolves, and Andrew Wiggins is stepping up to join him. Towns and Wiggins will try to lead the Timberwolves to a season-high fourth straight win and seventh in the last nine games against the slumping Indiana Pacers. Indiana won seven of eight to climb to three games over .500 before dropping back to even with losses in the last three contests.

Suns vs Nuggets

Nikola Jokic’s sudden rise is helping the Denver Nuggets in the win column and redefining the expectations for the team, which finds itself in the No. 8 spot in the Western Conference. Jokic will try to guide the Nuggets to a sixth win in the last eight games versus the Phoenix Suns.  The Suns will attack Jokic with defensive anchor Tyson Chandler, who outplayed Minnesota Timberwolves stud Karl-Anthony Towns on Tuesday only to watch his team fall 112-111 on Andrew Wiggins’ last-second jumper. Chandler scored 22 points on 9-of-9 shooting and hauled in 17 rebounds in the loss. It’s the eighth time in his last nine games that he grabbed at least 15 boards.

Lakers vs Jazz

The Utah Jazz played four games in five nights and dropped the last two, including dragging through a 103-93 road loss to the Denver Nuggets on Tuesday. They are looking to finish off a four-game season sweep of the Lakers for the first time after winning the first three meetings this season by an average of five points. Los Angeles has dropped seven of its last eight games after suffering a 105-98 loss to the Portland Trail Blazers on Wednesday.

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NBA Rundown

Friday Night Fantasy NBA Preview

FanPicks.com has all of Friday’s basketball matchup ready for live Fantasy NBA contests.

Trail Blazers vs 76ers

The Philadelphia 76ers are surging up the standings and continue to redefine the organization’s expectations for this season and the near future. The 76ers will try to match their longest winning streak of the season at three in a row and pick up their eighth victory in 10 games against the struggling Portland Trail Blazers.

Raptors vs Hornets

The Toronto Raptors scored at least 114 points in six consecutive games before running into the upstart Philadelphia 76ers on Wednesday and failing to reach 90. The Raptors will try to find their offensive spark and earn a fifth win in six games in Charlotte.

Bucks vs Magic

The Orlando Magic did not fare well on their just-completed six-game road trip, going 1-5 while allowing an average of 113.7 points, and hope a return home can swing the momentum. The Bucks dropped three straight to fall below .500.

Kings vs Grizzlies

The Sacramento Kings are scuffling after a 1-6 homestand and the finale was the worst of the bunch as the team blew a 22-point lead and lost small forward Rudy Gay for the rest of the season. Gay tore his left Achilles’ tendon on a drive toward the basket during Wednesday’s 106-100 loss to the Indiana Pacers.

Nets vs Pelicans

The New Orleans Pelicans’ current six-game homestand is about to get much more difficult. The Pelicans hope to breeze past the Brooklyn Nets before the degree of difficulty increases dramatically.

Warriors vs Rockets

The Golden State Warriors had no trouble turning away a pair of playoff contenders in their last two games and are winners of five straight after sweeping a four-game homestand. The Warriors will try to keep that momentum going and avenge one of their few losses when they open a road-heavy portion of the schedule with a visit to the Houston Rockets.

Bulls vs Hawks

The Atlanta Hawks have experienced a lot of recent success against the visiting Chicago Bulls and look to post their sixth consecutive win in the series. The Hawks have been a hot squad but were derailed badly on Wednesday, when they suffered a 118-95 road loss against the Detroit Pistons.

Jazz vs Mavericks

The Utah Jazz are playing solid basketball as they shoot for their fifth consecutive victory versus the Dallas Mavericks. Utah is averaging 107.5 points during its winning streak, which began with an impressive triumph over Cleveland and includes a 33-point thrashing of Detroit.

Pacers vs Lakers

The Indiana Pacers are playing their best basketball of the season. They’ve recovered from a 22-point first-half deficit to record a 106-100 victory over the Sacramento Kings on Wednesday in the opener of a three-game road trip.The Lakers are sliding in the wrong direction with five consecutive losses.

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NBA DFS Basketball Rundown

Hornets vs 76ers

The Philadelphia 76ers passed their win total from last season when they came from behind in the fourth quarter to down the New York Knicks on Wednesday to clinch their 11th victory, and they are ready to take bigger steps forward. The 76ers will try to earn their first three-game winning streak of the season when they host the Charlotte Hornets for the first NBA DFS basketball matchup of the day.

Nets vs Raptors

DeMar DeRozan is on a roll and looks to score at least 36 points for the fourth consecutive game when the Toronto Raptors host the Brooklyn Nets. DeRozan poured in a season-best 41 points in Tuesday’s victory over Boston and is averaging 37.7 and nine rebounds over his last three contests.

Heat vs Bucks

Two teams trending in opposite directions will square off when the Miami Heat visit the Milwaukee Bucks. Only the Brooklyn Nets are keeping the Heat off the bottom of the Eastern Conference standings while an exciting young Bucks team is pushing for a top-eight spot in the conference and is coming off an impressive win.

Grizzlies vs Rockets

Only fatigue seems to slow James Harden and the Houston Rockets, who had a nine-game winning streak come to an end on the second night of a back-to-back at Minnesota on Wednesday. The Rockets will get a day off to get their legs back under them before returning home to host the Memphis Grizzlies.

Thunder vs Timberwolves

Russell Westbrook gets tired of discussing triple-doubles but there is no mistaking that the feat typically is a prime factor in an Oklahoma City victory. Westbrook takes aim at his 19th triple-double of the season and the Thunder’s fourth straight victory when they visit the Minnesota Timberwolves.

Celtics vs Hawks

The hot-and-cold Atlanta Hawks are soaring yet again, bringing a seven-game winning streak into their home contest against the Boston Celtics. A 117-97 victory Tuesday at Brooklyn surpassed an earlier six-game win streak for longest of the season for a Hawks team that is 12-6 since a seven-game slide.

Magic vs Trail Blazers

Large improvements on the defensive end are getting the Portland Trail Blazers headed back in the right direction, and a big win on Wednesday could be a stepping stone going forward. The Trail Blazers will try to keep up the intensity on the defensive end and earn a third straight win when they host the Orlando Magic.

Cavaliers vs Kings

Speculation is heating up that the Sacramento Kings and star center DeMarcus Cousins are close to agreement on a mammoth contract extension through the 2022-23 season. But the more immediate business for Sacramento is notching a breakthrough victory when the powerful Cleveland Cavaliers invade town.

Pistons vs Jazz

The Utah Jazz are fresh off a mammoth victory that signals their rising status in the Western Conference and look to follow up the win when they host the Detroit Pistons. Utah outplayed and outworked the defending champion Cleveland Cavaliers while recording a 100-92 victory Tuesday and can move to a season-best nine games over .500 with a win over Detroit.

Time for you to make your daily pick at FanPicks.com

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Chicago Bulls vs Utah Jazz

The 113-88 win over the Portland Trail Blazers marked a third straight win for Chicago and is a strong way to kick off a six-game road trip. The Bulls will work to keep that offense humming when they face one of the best defensive teams in the league at the Utah Jazz on Thursday (Enter Contest). The teams split two meetings last season, with each team winning on its own home court.

Defense was Chicago’s biggest issue during a stretch of four losses in five games to open November, but the Bulls held their last three opponents under 100 points and limited the Trail Blazers to 35.8 percent from the floor (and 9-of-34 from 3-point range) on Tuesday. Chicago outrebounded Portland 67-49 and scored 52 points in the paint as all five starters scored in double figures. It will be more difficult to control the glass against the Jazz, who have Derrick Favors and Rudy Gobert up front with Trey Lyles coming off the bench. Favors and Gobert are both trying to bounce back from sub-par efforts after combining for 12 points, seven rebounds and one block in a 102-96 loss to the Memphis Grizzlies on Monday.

ABOUT THE BULLS (7-4)

Chicago brought in Dwyane Wade and Rajon Rondo in the offseason, and the veteran presence is bringing a new level out of swingman Jimmy Butler. The 27-year-old scored 20 or more points in each of the last two games and led the way with 27 points, 12 rebounds and five assists on Tuesday. Rondo sat out Tuesday after suffering an ankle injury in Monday’s practice and is day-to-day.

ABOUT THE JAZZ (7-5)

Favors left Monday’s game in the fourth quarter with left knee soreness and did not return, and Gobert watched most of the fourth quarter from the bench as well. Favors will continue to be monitored carefully due to the recurring pain in his knee but the team is not yet planning to sit him for an extended period. Guards Rodney Hood (illness) and George Hill (thumb) sat out Monday and are both day-to-day.

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