Pictured: Klay Thompson and Chris Paul
Source: Getty Images North America

NBA EZ Pick Preview 03/13/19

Take a look at the matchups set for this Wednesday’s EZ Pick.

To play this game at FanPicks…click here

Stephen Curry vs Russell Westbrook

Stephen Curry hit just 6-of-20 shots and 4-of-15 3-pointers for 18 points, seven rebounds, eight assists, three steals and a block in 35 minutes of Sunday’s ugly 115-111 home loss to the Suns. Curry, Kevin Durant (who left with an ankle injury) and Klay Thompson combined to hit just 9-of-34 shots from downtown, and the Warriors were just 10-of-43 from 3-point land as a team. They’ve lost six of their last 10 games, and a home loss to the Suns is not what the doctor ordered. GSW has a big game on Wednesday at Houston, and it will be interesting to see how they fare in that one. Regardless of their recent struggles, the Warriors are still the No. 1 seed in the West, holding a 1.5 game lead over the Nuggets.

Russell Westbrook produced 23 points (9-19 FG, 2-4 3Pt, 3-6 FT), 11 rebounds, eight assists, one steal, and one block in 37 minutes during Monday’s 98-89 win over the Jazz.

Bradley Beal vs Devin Booker

Bradley Beal nearly triple-doubled in a 121-115 win over the Kings on Monday, scoring 27 points with nine rebounds and nine assists. He also recorded four steals with three triples, hitting 9-of-20 from the field and 6-of-8 from the line. It’s a fantastic start to the week from Beal and his fantasy owners will continue to benefit from one of the best remaining schedules in the NBA — the Wizards play three more times this week and follow that up with two straight weeks of four games each. He’ll be locked in as a top-10 fantasy asset as long as his team is in striking distance of the No. 8 seed.

Devin Booker hit 13-of-23 shots, two 3-pointers and 9-of-9 free throws on his way to 37 points, eight rebounds, 11 assists and two steals in 41 minutes of Sunday’s 115-111 win over the Warriors in Oracle Arena. Booker was awesome and took over the game in the fourth quarter, helping the Suns snap an 18-game, five-year losing streak against the Warriors. The Suns have won five of their last seven games, and have now beaten both the Bucks and the Warriors in the past week. And despite all of that goodness, the Suns are still just 16-52 on the season, trailing only the Knicks for the league’s worst record.

Andre Drummond vs Nikola Vucevic

Andre Drummond reached the 20-rebound mark for the 15th time this season Monday, as he accounted for 20 rebounds, 13 points (5-of-14 FGs, 3-of-4 FTs), three assists and one steal. Drummond could have put up an even higher rebound total if the outcome were in doubt, as he and the rest of the Pistons starters sat for much of the fourth quarter in the 103-75 loss to the Nets. The seventh-year center has grabbed 20 or more boards in two of his last three games, and over the last five he’s averaging 19.0 points, 18.2 rebounds, 2.0 assists, 1.4 steals and 1.0 blocks per game while shooting 57.1% from the field, 33.3% from three and 64.7% from the foul line.

Nikola Vucevic led the Magic with 26 points and 10 rebounds on Sunday against the Grizzlies. The Magic have outscored opponents by 2.9 points per 100 possessions with Nikola Vucevic on the floor this season. When Vucevic is on the bench, Orlando gets outscored by 5.9 points per 100 possessions.

Rudy Gobert vs Clint Capela

Rudy Gobert amassed 15 points (5-8 FG, 5-7 FT), 12 rebounds, four blocks, one assist, and one steal in 35 minutes during Monday’s 98-89 loss to the Thunder.

Clint Capela scored 19 points (8-12 FG, 3-3 FT) while adding 15 rebounds and two assists in 31 minutes during Monday’s 118-106 win over the Hornets.

Donovan Mitchell vs D’Angelo Russell

Donovan Mitchell hit 8-of-22 shots and 6-of-8 free throws in Monday’s 98-89 loss to the Thunder. This was a monster line from Mitchell, as he racked up five assists, four rebounds, five steals, one block and three triples in 37 minutes. Mitchell has put his slow start to the season well behind him and looks like the player who helped knock out this OKC team from the playoffs last season. He’s averaging just under 30 points per game for the past month and is peaking for the fantasy playoffs.

D’Angelo Russell played 24 minutes Monday vs. the Pistons, finishing with 11 points (5-of-13 FGs), seven assists, three rebounds, two steals, one blocked shot and one three-pointer. Russell did not have his best night scoring-wise, but he did tally seven assists and help lead the Nets to a 28-point win over the Pistons in Brooklyn. The fourth-year point guard is shooting just 39.0% from the field, 30.6% from three and 46.2% from the foul line over his last five games, which is a bit of an issue for those who have him on their rosters. However, given how well the All-Star guard has played throughout the entire season it’s fair to assume that this slump will come to an end soon enough. And even with the shooting issues Russell has been a top-100 player over the last month.

DeMarcus Cousins vs Hassan Whiteside

DeMarcus Cousins tallied 13 points (5-11 FG, 0-3 3Pt, 3-3 FT), five rebounds, two assists and two blocks across 28 minutes in the Warriors’ 115-111 loss to the Suns on Sunday.

Hassan Whiteside is averaging 12.8 points and 12.1 rebounds for the Heat.

Chris Paul vs Klay Thompson

Chris Paul scored 10 points (3-8 3Pt, 2-4 3Pt, 2-2 FT) while adding 10 rebounds, four assists and a block in 29 minutes during Monday’s 118-106 win over the Hornets.

Klay Thompson hit 10-of-22 shots and 4-of-15 3-pointers for 28 points, five rebounds, five assists, three steals and a block in 36 minutes of Sunday’s 115-111 loss to the Suns at Oracle Arena. Thompson had a great night everywhere but from beyond the arc, and the Warriors’ poor 3-point shooting as a team is a big reason they lost this game. The loss snapped an 18-game, five-year winning streak over the Suns, and the Warriors will look to rebound on Wednesday with a big game at Houston.

Josh Richardson vs Spencer Dinwiddie

Josh Richardson couldn’t get anything going during Sunday’s blowout loss to the Raptors, finishing with just eight points, two rebounds, three assists, one steal and one turnover over 26 minutes. Richardson (right hamstring soreness) will play Wednesday against the Pistons. He has been expected to play since earlier this afternoon. This isn’t a back-to-back set and it’s one of the biggest games left on the schedule, so expect J-Rich to get close to a full workload, especially getting the green light before warmups are over. Get him in your lineups.

Spencer Dinwiddie shot 5-of-11 from the field and 7-of-7 from the foul line in Monday’s win over the Pistons, scoring 19 points with two rebounds, two assists and two 3-pointers. Dinwiddie was one of seven Nets to score in double figures in Brooklyn’s 28-point win, and he’s scored 15 points or more in five of the six games he’s played in since returning from a thumb injury. During this stretch, the backup guard is averaging 18.4 points, 5.0 assists and 2.6 rebounds per game with shooting splits of 45.6/33.3/72.4.

Goran Dragic vs Evan Fournier

Goran Dragic scored 11 points on 4-of-8 shooting (2-of-4 from the line) Sunday, to go with one 3-pointer, four rebounds, three assists and two turnovers in 21 minutes off the bench.

Evan Fournier was ejected early on Sunday, scoring zero points in 14 minutes with 0-of-4 shooting, three rebounds, one assist and one steal. Wes Iwundu took over for Fournier after his ejection, with Terrence Ross (28 minutes) also chipping in to balance the load. Fournier came in averaging 3.0 triples in March, with enough steals and points to justify playing him in most fantasy formats. This was a brutal outcome but the good typically outweighs the bad, giving him mild appeal as a source of scoring, threes, assists and FT%.

Trevor Ariza vs Justin Holiday

Trevor Ariza totaled 11 points (5-14 FG, 1-7 3Pt), 10 rebounds and three assists across 37 minutes in the Wizards’ win over the Kings on Monday.

The Grizzlies have one of the best matchups of the day vs. the Atlanta Hawks, which makes Justin Holiday an interesting target.

Posted in NBA, Top Fantasy Picks

Pictured: Giannis Antetokounmpo and Anthony Davis
Source: Getty Images North America

NBA EZ Pick Preview 03/12/19

Take a look at the matchups set for this Tuesday’s EZ Pick.

To play this game at FanPicks…click here

Giannis Antetokounmpo vs Anthony Davis

Giannis Antetokounmpo racked up 27 points, 13 rebounds, six assists, one block and one 3-pointer in a 121-114 road loss at San Antonio on Sunday. The Spurs game-planned for the MVP front runner and did a good job containing him tonight. “When he gets downhill we have to try to keep him out of the paint,” Spurs center Jakob Poeltl said before the game. “That’s how they really get going, by getting into the paint and kicking out to their three-point shooters. Yeah, It’s going to have to be a team effort on Giannis for sure.” He still racked up a terrific fantasy line, even if his team didn’t get the victory, and continues to hover around top-five value in almost any format.

Anthony Davis (back) returned to action on Sunday, finishing with 15 points, eight rebounds, four assists, one steal, four blocks and three 3s in 21 minutes. AD continues to be a beast even when only on the court for 20-ish minutes, and the Hawks obviously offered a very friendly matchup on Sunday. The four blocks were the most he’s had in a game since early January. Davis has averaged 15.8 points, 8.0 rebounds, 1.8 steals, 3.0 blocks and 1.3 triples in his four games so far this month.

Karl-Anthony Towns vs Nikola Jokic

Karl-Anthony Towns (knee) has been upgraded to probable for Tuesday’s game against the Nuggets. Coach Ryan Saunders said that KAT would be a game-time call, but Towns himself said he’ll be good to go for tonight’s game, so we should get official word on his status in a few hours. Assuming he plays, that would likely shift Taj Gibson back to the second unit, and he could be extremely busy with Derrick Rose (elbow), Andrew Wiggins (quad) and Jeff Teague (foot) all questionable.

Nikola Jokic made just 5-of-10 from the field for 16 points during a 122-105 loss to the Warriors on Friday, adding six rebounds, four assists, four steals, one block and one 3-pointer in 29 minutes. The Warriors continue to really limit Denver when Jokic is on the floor with Jokic’s -29 in this loss. In the previous two, he only had a -22.3 net rating, so that could be something to watch in a playoff matchup. It’ll be a while until we see that and Jokic has been an absolute star in fantasy. He has one more week of a subpar schedule, then Jokic’s 4-4-4 after that could help lead to fantasy titles.

Damian Lillard vs Ben Simmons

Point guard Damian Lillard has been on fire against the Clippers with an average of 31.3 points in three contests versus Los Angeles this season. Lillard scored 18 points against the Suns two nights after exploding for a season-best 51 points during a 129-121 overtime loss against the Oklahoma City Thunder. The 50-point effort was the fifth of Lillard’s career. Lillard (12,540 career points) needs 23 points to pass LaMarcus Aldridge as the second-leading scorer in franchise history. Hall of Famer Clyde Drexler (18,040) is Portland’s all-time leader.

Ben Simmons tallied 15 points (6-10 FG, 3-5 FT), four rebounds, six assists and a steal over 35 minutes Sunday against the Pacers.

Jrue Holiday vs DeMar DeRozan

Guard Jrue Holiday (abdominal strain) is sidelined and will miss Tuesday matchup against the Bucks.

DeMar DeRozan produced 28 points (10-20 FG, 0-1 3Pt, 8-9 FT), six assists, four rebounds, two steals, and one block in 36 minutes during Sunday’s 121-114 victory over Milwaukee.

Luka Doncic vs Kevin Love

Luka Doncic (left knee strain) is questionable for Tuesday vs. the Spurs and was spotted getting treatment to the side of Dallas’ practice. In case you missed it, Doncic said he felt a “pop” during Sunday’s game but it sounds like he escaped with a minor injury. The Mavericks have plenty of incentive to be cautious, so they won’t throw him out there if he’s not at or close to 100 percent.

Kevin Love (rest) will not suit up for Tuesday’s game against the 76ers. It’s the second night of a back-to-back, so Love will get his standard rest day. Larry Nance (ribs) is questionable, so we could see a lot of Ante Zizic and Marquese Chriss tonight, with Zizic offering a bit more upside.

Tobias Harris vs Lauri Markkanen 

Tobias Harris racked up 16 points (7-16 FG, 2-5 3Pt), eight rebounds, four assists, a steal and a block in 35 minutes Sunday against the Pacers.

Lauri Markkanen knocked down three 3-pointers en route to 17 points on Sunday, shooting 6-of-13 from the field to go with six rebounds, two assists, one block and one steal in 26 minutes against the Pistons. Markkanen hasn’t been shooting the ball all that well of late, sitting at just 37% over his last five games. The Bulls losing big against Detroit really limited his ability to have a bigger game, but he still produced a nice line. After producing top-30 fantasy value for much of the last few months, Markkanen has fallen out of the top-100 over the past week of play. Even with these recent struggles, he’s still a must-start player down the stretch.

Tim Hardaway Jr vs CJ McCollum

Tim Hardaway Jr. would see a big boost in value if Doncic is ultimately ruled out. He’s seen a usage bump of +6.4% with Doncic off the court since joining the team on Feb. 6.

C.J. McCollum made 11-of-14 from the field for 26 points during a blowout 127-120 win over the Suns on Saturday, adding three rebounds, four assists, one block, one steal and four 3-pointers in 30 minutes. It was 24-23 at the end of the first, but the Blazers just poured it on with 42 points in the second quarter and 36 in the third. McCollum has caught fire with four 25-plus scoring games over his last five, averaging 23.8 points, 3.2 boards, 3.4 dimes, 0.8 blocks, 0.6 steals and 3.8 treys. He is getting hot at the right time and it looks like he’ll play in 80-plus games for the fourth straight season.

Otto Porter Jr vs Khris Middleton

Otto Porter made 6-of-12 shots (2-of-2 FTs) for 17 points on Sunday against Detroit, adding six rebounds, one assist, one block and three 3-pointers in 26 minutes. Porter was limited to fewer than 30 minutes of action for the first time in four games, in large part because the Bulls got blown out. His move to Chicago has seen him return to the fantasy relevance owners had gotten used to over the past few seasons. Porter has been in the top-10 in nine-category leagues across the last two weeks and is a must-start option when healthy.

Khris Middleton has averaged 6.7 rebounds and added 19 points per game over the last 10 games for Milwaukee.

Jamal Murray vs Eric Bledsoe

Jamal Murray has averaged 16.4 points and 3.4 rebounds while shooting 40.2 percent over the last 10 games for Denver.

Eric Bledsoe had 21 points on Sunday against the San Antonio Spurs.

CJ McCollum vs Lou Williams

The Trail Blazers, who just split a two-game homestand, are beginning a three-game road trip that includes visits to the New Orleans Pelicans and San Antonio Spurs. “It would have been nice to get a little more time at home, but that’s life,” shooting guard CJ McCollum told reporters after practice Monday. “You got to be ready to get back on the road, win a lot of games on the road against tough teams, teams that need every game. We’ve got to make sure we’re ready to play.” McCollum scored 26 points on 11-of-14 shooting Saturday in Portland’s 127-120 victory over the Phoenix Suns. It marked his third straight game with 25 or more points. McCollum is averaging 22.7 points and 6.3 rebounds in three games against the Clippers this season.

Lou Williams put forth one of his best efforts of the season Monday, as he scored 34 points (14-of-21 FGs, 4-of-4 FTs) with five rebounds, five assists and two 3-pointers in 23 minutes. Williams moved past Dell Curry into the top spot on the NBA’s all-time bench points list, as he has 11,148 points to Curry’s 11,147. And Lou Will sat for a significant portion of the fourth quarter, as the Clippers led the Celtics by a comfortable margin. Williams is one reason why the Clippers have won five straight, as he’s averaging 26.0 points, 5.0 assists and 4.0 rebounds per game during the streak. Over the last two weeks he’s been ranked just outside of the top-100 in nine-category leagues, but over the last week Williams is ranked fourth. It’s fair to say that he’s got it rolling right now.

Posted in NBA, Top Fantasy Picks

Pictured Kemba Walker and Kyrie Irving
Source: Getty Images North America

NBA EZ Pick Preview 03/11/19

Take a look at the matchups set for this Monday’s EZ Pick.

To play this game at FanPicks…click here

James Harden vs Russell Westbrook

James Harden (right wrist) got into foul trouble on Sunday, finishing with 20 points on 7-of-25 shooting, five rebounds, four assists, three 3-pointers and one block in 34 minutes. Harden had an X-ray after Friday’s game but the results were negative, and it doesn’t sound as though he needed an MRI. His wrist was wrapped tonight and when asked what else he could do to protect it, he said, “Just try to not fall on it … Keep icing it, keep getting treatment on it. But when you keep falling on it, it keeps aggravating it and it keeps getting worse.” He draws a ton of contact and gets to the line more often than any player in the league, of course, so owners can only hope he manages to avoid any spills.

Russell Westbrook picked up his 15th technical foul of the season in Friday’s 118-110 loss to the Clippers. This means that Westbrook is one tech away from an automatic one-game suspension. If fantasy owners want to plan ahead that means there’s a good chance Westy only suits up for three games in OKC’s upcoming 4-game week unless he manages to keep his cool. As for his stat line, it was just another day in the office with 32 points, eight rebounds, seven assists, one block and two triples before he fouled out in 32 minutes.

Kawhi Leonard vs Blake Griffin

Kawhi Leonard will return on Monday vs. the Cavaliers after yet another rest day. Coach Nick Nurse said on Sunday that Kawhi will continue to rest sporadically and that they have a plan laid out. “I think there’s a few games yet that he’ll probably stay out,” Nurse said. Kawhi has sat out of five of Toronto’s last 13 games, so this will be annoying for his fantasy owners in head-to-head formats. Norman Powell, Patrick McCaw, OG Anunoby and Jeremy Lin all lose streaming appeal with Leonard playing vs. the Cavs.

Blake Griffin dominated the Bulls during a 131-108 win on Sunday, making 10-of-14 from the field for 28 points with six rebounds, five assists, one steal, one turnover and three 3-pointers in just 27 minutes. He had a wrap on his calf in this game, but clearly it didn’t affect his play in this easy win. Griffin had been cold coming into the weekend, but two games against the Bulls has him going again with this and a 27-point Friday. His calf issue could be something to watch with a road back-to-back set in Brooklyn on Monday, and Griffin did get a game off for rest back in January — it was planned well in advance, according to coach Dwane Casey. All that said, the Pistons are in the thick of the playoff race, so that should help keep Griffin out there.

Kemba Walker vs Kyrie Irving

Kemba Walker made 11-of-22 from the field for 25 points during a 131-114 loss to the Bucks on Saturday, adding three rebounds, four assists, one block and three 3-pointers in 31 minutes. He was in another mini-slump coming into this one, making just 16-of-57 (28.0%) over his previous three games. Walker continues to run into this dips in efficiency, and it’s made it even worse because of his career-high 30.2 usage rate. He has a very high nightly upside, but all his missed shots has pulled him down for nine-cat value this season.

Kyrie Irving (left thigh contusion) returned to action on Saturday against the Lakers, scoring 30 points (12-of-18 FGs, 1-of-1 FTs) with seven rebounds, five assists, two blocks, two steals and five 3-pointers in 35 minutes. Irving missed the team’s last game on Wednesday, but looked no worse for wear in his return in Los Angeles. He took a shot to the jaw on a drive by his former teammate LeBron James, but continued to play and didn’t looked dazed at all. Irving’s been a top-8 player over the last week and looks primed for a big close to the season as the Celtics fight for playoff positioning.

Rudy Gobert vs Clint Capela

Rudy Gobert struggled vs. the Grizzlies on Friday with nine points, seven rebounds, one assist, one steal and five blocks in 33 minutes. Jonas Valanciunas dominated the interior with 27 points, and Gobert’s struggles at the line continued — he was 3-of-7 for the night which brings him down to 41.7% over his last five games. Maybe it’s just fatigue, but this couldn’t have happened at a worse time for fantasy owners in head-to-head playoffs. The rest of his game has been awesome though as Gobert ranks 11th for the past month if you ignore/punt free throws.

Clint Capela could see reduced playing time with Kenneth Faried (adductor) returning vs. the Hornets on Monday. Clint Capela will still be healthy and starting. 

Donovan Mitchell vs D’Angelo Russell

Donovan Mitchell started at point guard and went off for 38 points in a 114-104 loss to Memphis on Friday, hitting 12-of-24 shots and 9-of-12 free throws. He added five 3-pointers, five dimes, four assists, one block and three turnovers in 39 minutes. This was his fourth game with at least 30 points over his last eight, so Mitchell is heating up just in time for the fantasy playoffs. For those of you punting turnovers, Mitchell has been a top-35 asset in 8-category leagues for the past two weeks and the Jazz have two straight weeks of four games on deck.

D’Angelo Russell totaled 18 points (6-23 FG, 3-12 3Pt, 3-5 FT), six assists, three rebounds and a steal across 21 minutes in the Nets’ win over the Hawks on Saturday. Russell had a solid final stat line in Saturday’s win, though his shooting was poor, draining just over a quarter of his shots. Russell should continue to operate as the team’s leader in points (20.5) and assists (6.8) per game over the last few weeks of the regular season.

Chris Paul vs Kyle Lowry

Chris Paul had nine points, nine assists, three rebounds, two steals, two blocks and two 3-pointers on Sunday, shooting 2-of-11 from the field in 33 minutes. Rockets coach Mike D’Antoni said CP3 will play in the second half of this back-to-back on Monday. “[Paul] wants to [play] and the medical staff thinks he can,” D’Antoni said. “We’ll watch his minutes or try to.” It’s a busy stretch for Houston, but they’ve won eight straight games and will try to keep that momentum going while limiting CP to around 30-32 minutes per game — he went slightly over tonight, but not enough to threaten his status for Monday’s game vs. Charlotte.

Kyle Lowry flirted with a triple-double during Sunday’s easy win over the Heat, tallying 24 points, 10 assists, seven boards, six 3-pointers and six turnovers in 35 minutes. Lowry’s usage rate has been at 16.2 this season when he shares the floor with Kawhi Leonard, but with Leonard taking a rest day on Sunday, Lowry saw his usage spike to 25.9 and his 24 points accounted for a team-high. Unfortunately, the Raptors are scheduled for a matchup against the 16-50 Cavs on Monday, and after seeing a relatively heavy workload, there’s a decent chance Lowry will be hit with a rest day on Monday.

De’Aaron Fox vs Buddy Hield

De’Aaron Fox put on a matinee show at Madison Square Garden during a 102-94 win on Saturday, making 11-of-17 from the field for 30 points with five rebounds, eight assists, one steal and two 3-pointers in 37 minutes. Besides Fox, the Kings came out flat with the rest of the team starting 0-of-11 while Fox started 3-of-4. He had been in a small slump coming into this game with each of his previous four games having a usage rate below his season average (23.6), and this was his first efficient scoring game since Feb. 10 against the Suns (60-plus TS%). Fox’s minutes are back on the rise again with 34.4 over his last five, and the Kings still have several games to go as they make their playoff push. They’ll be leaning heavily on Fox to help overcome their current 3.5-game deficit from the eighth-seeded Spurs, so expect a strong finish from the second-year guard.

Buddy Hield made 7-of-22 from the field for 19 points with four rebounds, two assists, one block and four 3-pointers in 36 minutes against the Knicks on Saturday. He struggled early with five missed shots in the first nine minutes, but he had an uncharacteristic tip slam to get him going. Hield is getting his shots basically every night with a 25-plus usage rate in seven games, and his playing time continues to rise with 37.2 minutes per game over his last five outings. He has cooled off from his tremendous start, but Hield is still an absolute stud in fantasy going forward.

Steven Adams vs Serge Ibaka

Steven Adams fouled out vs. the Clippers on Friday, finishing with six points, 10 rebounds and three assists in 32 minutes. His value has stalled for the past month, as he entered tonight’s game with 12th-round value in standard leagues over that span with 11.5 points, 9.3 rebounds, 1.1 assists, 1.8 steals and 1.2 blocks. The biggest issue is that he was hitting 39% on 3.4 free throw attempts per game, and his scoring is down by a few points as well. Other than that it’s been business as usual for Adams and he remains a must-start player for OKC’s upcoming 4-game week.

Serge Ibaka sent away another three shots during Sunday’s win over the Heat, on his way to 10 points, eight rebounds and one assist across 22 minutes. Ibaka got off to a hot start in this one, only missing once through the first half of action, but he wasn’t as aggressive through the second half of action and took an early seat on the bench during the fourth quarter with the game being a blowout. The timeshare between Marc Gasol and Ibaka hasn’t been great, but Ibaka has been in a nice groove as of late, racking up a total of 13 swats over his past three games.

Pascal Siakam vs Jayson Tatum

Pascal Siakam went 8-of-12 from the field and 3-of-5 from the stripe on his way to 20 points during Sunday’s 125-104 win in Miami. Siakam added one 3-pointer, five rebounds, five assists, one steal, one block and one turnover in his 29 minutes of floor time, and he played some phenomenal defense against Kelly Olynyk, holding him to just one point without a single make from the field. D’Angelo Russell has been campaigning for the Most Improved Player Award this season, but Siakam, who averaged just 7.3 points per game last year, has a much stronger case for the award.

Jayson Tatum (right shoulder soreness) will not play on Monday vs. the Clippers. Tatum told the training staff about the injury on Sunday and he’s been sore since the game vs. the Warriors, but coach Brad Stevens said he’s day-to-day. With Tatum out, Gordon Hayward should see an uptick in usage, while guys like Jaylen Brown and Marcus Morris become viable streaming options on a six-game slate. Tatum’s next chance to play will be on Thursday vs. the Kings.

Jeremy Lamb vs Spencer Dinwiddie

Jeremy Lamb (sore left hamstring) is listed as probable for Monday’s game against the Rockets. Lamb was listed as probable heading into Saturday’s game and suited up without issue.

Spencer Dinwiddie played 30 minutes off the bench against the Hawks on Saturday, scoring 23 points with six rebounds, seven assists, one block and four 3-pointers. While it’ll be tough for Dinwiddie to win Sixth Man of the Year over Lou Williams, he set a new single-season franchise record for most points off the bench in a season, surpassing Armen Gilliam in 1994. It took him a few games to get going after a thumb injury, but he’s heating up in a hurry with this game and a 28-point Wednesday. With four games in the upcoming week, Spence should be in all standard-league lineups.

Posted in NBA, Top Fantasy Picks

Pictured: Ben Simmons
Source: Getty Images North America

NBA FanLotto Preview 03/08/19

Check out the groupings for this Friday’s Fantasy Lotto contest. See who’s been on fire lately with their average fantasy score from the past 3 games.

To play this game at FanPicks…click here

Group 1

Paul George – 30.5pts

Kawhi Leonard – 29.67pts

Anthony Davis – 27.17pts

Kevin Durant – 25.67pts

Blake Griffin – 24.5pts

Group 2

Nikola Jokic – 34.3pts

Nikola Vucevic – 33.83pts

Andre Drummond – 32.5pts

Julius Randle – 32.5pts

Rudy Gobert – 28.17pts

Group 3

Ben Simmons – 39pts

Bradley Beal – 37.5pts

Kemba Walker – 26pts

Jimmy Butler – 22.67

Jrue Holiday – (Out Indefinitely)

Group 4

Donovan Mitchell – 30.17pts

Klay Thompson – 26.67pts (Probable to play on Friday)

Mike Conley – 24.83pts

Chris Paul – 24.17pts

Zach LaVine – 23.67pts

Group 5

Kyle Lowry – 29.33pts

Jamal Murray – 25pts

Josh Richardson – 20.5pts

Lou Williams – 20.33pts

Jeremy Lamb – 18pts

Group 6

Hassan Whiteside – 27.5pts

DeMarcus Cousins – 25.33pts

Jonas Valenciunas – 24.17pts

Marc Gasol – 20pts

Clint Capela – 19.67pts

Group 7

Otto Porter Jr – 27.17pts

Danilo Gallinari – 24.67pts

Aaron Gordon – 24.5pts

Pascal Siakam – 24.33pts

Montrezl Harrell – 22pts

Group 8

Dennis Schroder – 23.83pts

Dwyane Wade – 18.33pts

Jordan Clarkson – 16.5pts

Ricky Rubio – 16.33pts (Doubtful to play on Friday)

JJ Redick – 15.5pts

Group 10

Evan Fournier – 21.17pts

Will Barton – 20.5pts

Eric Gordon – 18.5pts

Reggie Jackson – 18pts

Elfrid Payton – 17.67pts

Group 9

Paul Millsap – 22.5pts

Jabari Parker – 22.33pts

Larry Nance Jr – 21.67pts

Justise Winslow – 21.17pts

Bobby Portis – 21pts

Posted in NBA, Top Fantasy Picks

Pictured: LeBron James & Anthony Davis
Source: Getty Images North America

NBA EZ Pick Preview 03/06/19

Take a look at the matchups set for this Wednesday’s EZ Pick.

To play this game at FanPicks…click here

Anthony Davis vs LeBron James

Star big man Anthony Davis (15 points in 22 minutes on Monday) is seeing diminished playing time. It all coincide since he demanded a trade. New Orleans has chosen not to play Davis in both games of back-to-back sets and has restricted him to about 20 minutes when he does play.

LeBron James said that despite the Lakers’ fading playoff chances, he does not plan to sit out any games. Following Monday’s bitterly disappointing loss to the Clippers, the Lakers are now 4.5 games out of the eighth seed. As a result, there has been some speculation that L.A. may choose to shut down King James in order to reduce the wear-and-tear on the 34-year old’s body. However, speaking with reporters after Monday’s game, LeBron refuted those rumors. “That would take a lot of convincing from Luke [Walton] on up,” said James. “Unless I’m hurt, I’m not sitting games.”

Joel Embiid vs Karl-Anthony Towns

All-Star center Joel Embiid is expected to miss his seventh straight game when the Philadelphia 76ers visit the Chicago Bulls on Wednesday. Embiid has been ailing with a sore left knee, and the 76ers are 4-2 in his absence.

Karl-Anthony Towns finished with 41 points and 14 rebounds on Tuesday as the Timberwolves pulled within 5 1/5 games of eighth-place San Antonio. Towns is averaging 36.4 points on 60.4 percent shooting and 16 rebounds in five games since returning from a layoff following a car accident.

Nikola Jokic vs Andre Drummond

Nikola Jokic scored 22 points (10-of-14 FGs) with ten rebounds, six assists, two 3-pointers and three turnovers in 39 minutes on Monday against the Spurs. The Joker’s value has been down a bit of late due to an increase in turnovers, but he’s still a top-10 player on the season.

Andre Drummond, has become a defensive force, leading the club in steals and blocks along with being the league’s most prolific rebounder. He has 1025 points, 102 blocks and 100 steals this season, giving him four seasons with 1000+ points, 100+ blocks and 100+ steals. Only two other active players have more than one, as Giannis Antetokounmpo and Anthony Davis have two each.

Bradley Beal vs Kemba Walker

Washington SG Bradley Beal is averaging 32.6 points on 53.2 percent shooting in five games since the All-Star break.

Hornets All-Star PG Kemba Walker handed out a season-high 12 assists on Sunday.

Kyrie Irving vs Jrue Holiday

Kyrie Irving has been the focal point of the Celtics’ dysfunction but had his attitude in check as he and his teammates dismantled the two-time defending champions. Irving hit 7-of-15 shots and two 3-pointers for 19 points, five rebounds, 11 assists and two steals in 30 minutes as the Celtics crushed the Warriors 128-95 in Oracle Arena on Tuesday night.

Jrue Holiday scored 30 points in Monday’s victory as he continue to lead the offense with All-Star Anthony Davis seeing less action on the court.

Ben Simmons vs DeMar DeRozan

Ben Simmons has stepped up his game in Embiid’s absence as well and was named Eastern Conference Player of the Week after averaging 16.7 points, 13.3 rebounds, eight assists, two steals and one blocks over three games last week. In his most recent game in Chicago on February 22, 2018, Simmons scored a career-high 32 points on 72.2-percent shooting (13-of-18). He has posted 32 career games with a field-goal percentage of 70.0 percent or higher, sixth most in the NBA since last season (min. 5 FGA).

Guard DeMar DeRozan and forward LaMarcus Aldridge combined for 46 points and 15 rebounds in the victory, hitting 20-of-36 shots from the field on Monday. DeRozan, the Spurs leading scorer at 21.5 points per game, finished 11-of-19 from the field Monday and in his past nine games is shooting 51.2 percent.

Devin Booker vs Jimmy Butler

Devin Booker ran the show for the Suns in Monday’s win over the Bucks, scoring 22 points (8-of-18 FGs, 4-of-4 FTs) with seven assists, five rebounds, one steal and two 3-pointers. Booker played well in both games against Milwaukee this season, as he accounted for 29 points, seven assists, four rebounds and three steals in Phoenix’s November 23 win in Milwaukee. The sharpshooting guard has improved his percentages over the last two games after going through a stretch of three straight in which he failed to make at least 40% of his shots. Booker’s shooting 44.4% from the field over the last two games.

Jimmy Butler played through his minor back problem again on Tuesday. and hit 5-of-10 shots for 14 points, two rebounds, four assists and three steals in 34 minutes of a 114-106 win over the Magic. This was a pretty disappointing stat line for Butler, who had back-to-back 20-point games coming in, along with a bunch of rebounds, assists, steals and blocks. He just wasn’t a huge factor on offense tonight, as the Sixers entire starting five scored in double figures, and Mike Scott also hit the mark off the bench. Butler will bounce back, not that he was bad tonight. He shot it well, but just wasn’t that involved on the offensive end.

LaMarcus Aldridge vs Rudy Gobert

LaMarcus Aldridge scored 22 points and had key block in the final seconds to help preserve the victory for the Spurs on Monday. 

Gobert scored 19 points and had 19 rebounds on Monday

Zach LaVine vs Donovan Mitchell

Zach LaVine scored 27 points against the Pacers on Tuesday and is averaging 29 over his last four games.

Shooting guard Donovan Mitchell was just 8-of-24 shooting with six turnovers on Monday. Mitchell scored 19 points and missed a late jumper that could have put the Jazz ahead as he failed to reach 20 points for just the second time in the past 25 contests.

John Collins vs Tobias Harris

The Hawks lost on Monday for the second time in three games without forward John Collins (flu-like symptoms). Collins, who traveled with the team to Miami, averages 19.5 points and 9.5 rebounds. He has been upgraded to probable for Wednesday’s game against the Spurs.

Philadelphia SF Tobias Harris scored 21 points Tuesday against Orlando for his seventh straight 20-point performance.

Posted in NBA, Top Fantasy Picks

Pictured: Russell Westbrook & James Harden
Source: Getty Images North America

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James Harden vs Russell Westbrook

All-Star guard James Harden is averaging 50 points over the past two contests and he has scored 40 or more points on 24 occasions after pouring in 42 during Sunday’s 115-104 road win over the Boston Celtics. “We’re finally healthy, so yeah. It feels good,” Harden told reporters of his club’s recent strong play. “We’re winning, guys know their roles, we’re executing defensively, we’re helping each other out, we’re talking. That’s all it’s about.” Harden made six 3-pointers against Boston to follow up a stellar performance in which he made eight 3-pointers while scoring 58 in a win over the Miami Heat on Thursday. He scored 35 points as the Rockets notched a 121-119 home victory over the Raptors on Jan. 25.

Point guard Russell Westbrook was just 7-of-20 shooting but scored 12 of his 22 points in the fourth quarter in the comeback win over the Grizzlies. Westbrook has been the Thunder player most affected by George’s absence, though. Before George’s injury, Westbrook was making strides from behind the 3-point line, shooting better than 48 percent from behind the arc over three games while making an average of more than six per game. But without George, Westbrook is shooting less than 23 percent from behind the 3-point line.

Kawhi Leonard vs Paul George

Raptors once again rested All-Star forward Kawhi Leonard on Sunday. Leonard made the decisive basket with three seconds left in Friday’s 119-117 home victory over the Portland Trail Blazers but the club held him out two days later, marking the 18th game he has missed this season. “They’re just doing the right precautions to make sure I’m healthy down the road,” Leonard told reporters. “I only played nine games last year so the boost is like 200 percent or something like that. It’s all about the body. I know what the bigger picture is.”

Oklahoma City has struggled without All-Star forward Paul George (shoulder) and whether or not he misses a fourth straight game will likely be determined on Tuesday. Oklahoma City failed to reach 100 points on Sunday for the first time since Jan. 6 as the offensive attack didn’t have its typical flow without George and his 28.6 points per game average. “With Paul out, certainly offensively, it’s been a challenge the last several games,” Thunder coach Billy Donovan said afterward. “I’ve been trying to find a way to keep helping our guys offensively in order to create an identity with him being out.”

Karl-Anthony Towns vs Nikola Vucevic

All-Star center Karl-Anthony Towns had 28 points in the loss to Washington after scoring over 30 in each of the previous three games.

Nikola Vucevic paced Orlando with 28 points, 13 rebounds and six assists while shooting 13 of 16 on Sunday against Cleveland.

Stephen Curry vs Damian Lillard

Two-time NBA MVP Stephen Curry battled foul trouble on Saturday and went 5-of-15 from 3-point range but hit big shots in the fourth quarter.

Damian Lillard went 9-of-20 from the field and 1-of-1 from the stripe on his way to 23 points over 36 minutes in an easy win over the Hornets on Sunday. Lillard added four triples, three boards, two assists, two steals and two turnovers while he was out there, but he took a bit of a backseat to the Jusuf Nurkic and Rodney Hood show, as he spent most of his energy locking up Kemba Walker on the defensive end of the floor. It was a solid outing, but we’d anticipate a more robust stat line on Tuesday in Memphis.

Kyrie Irving vs Jimmy Butler

The general feeling for most of the season has been that Boston’s parts aren’t connecting as a whole, with All-Star point guard Kyrie Irving receiving most of the blame. Irving and his teammates should have plenty of time together to get on the same page on the four-game road trip, which also stops in Sacramento and Los Angeles.

Jimmy Butler (lower back tightness) is not listed on the injury report ahead of Tuesday’s game vs. Orlando. Butler did not participate in practice Monday, but the fact that he isn’t listed on the injury report at this point is a positive sign. That being said, things could very well change between now and tipoff Tuesday night. T.J. McConnell and Jonathon Simmons are two players whose minutes would likely be impacted if Butler is unable to play. Butler scored 21 points in Saturday’s loss to the Warriors.

Draymond Green vs Tobias Harris

Draymond Green was exceptional in primetime against the 76ers on Saturday, scoring six points (2-of-4 FGs, 2-of-2 FTs) with nine rebounds, 10 assists, three steals and three turnovers in 35 minutes. Green got off to a slow start, but ended up being a big reason why the Warriors got back on track with a victory. He’s only scored in double figures once in his last five games, but he’s got two double-digit assist games in that same span. He might get some nights off as the season winds down, but he’ll still be a valuable asset in the fantasy playoffs.

76ers SF Tobias Harris scored 20 or more points in each of the last six games.

Zach Lavine vs Mike Conley

Guard Zach LaVine dipped from a career-high 47 points in 56 minutes on Friday to 12 points in 28 minutes on Sunday.

Standout point guard Mike Conley (general soreness) missed the Oklahoma City game on Sunday so Delon Wright was inserted into the starting lineup. Conley will be back in action on Tuesday vs. the Blazers.

Klay Thompson vs Chris Paul

Klay Thompson (knee) will not suit up for Tuesday’s game against the Celtics. This will be Thompson’s second straight game on the sidelines, and now he’ll have another two days to rest up for Friday’s game against the Nuggets. Damion Lee or Andre Iguodala will likely draw the start tonight, and there will be more minutes available for Alfonzo McKinnie, while Stephen Curry, Kevin Durant and DeMarcus Cousins will see an uptick in usage.

Chris Paul racked up 15 points, 12 assists, six rebounds, three steals, three 3-pointers and one block in Sunday’s 115-104 win vs. the Celtics. The Rockets improved to 12-0 when Paul gets double-digit assists this season — if you go back to last season, they’re now 27-1. James Harden is obviously the driving force for this team, but Paul’s importance was crystallized in the Western Conference Finals last season, when his hamstring injury derailed the Rockets. He’s surging with first-round value in the past month and shouldn’t be at risk of many (if any) DNPs due to the tight playoff race.

C.J. McCollum vs Kyle Lowry

Shooting guard CJ McCollum had just six points on 2-of-13 shooting against Charlotte on Sunday but exploded for 40 points – matching a season high – during a 92-83 loss to the Grizzlies on Dec. 12.

Point guard Kyle Lowry scored a season-best 35 points in Sunday’s setback against the Piston.

Otto Porter Jr vs Aaron Gordon

Bulls SF Otto Porter Jr. (rest) sat out Sunday and Chicago dropped to 0-2 with him out of the lineup. Porter is averaging 19.8 points and 5.9 rebounds in eight starts with Chicago. The Georgetown product is shooting 51.8 percent from the field and 52.2 percent from beyond the arc.

Aaron Gordon accounted for 15 points (7-of-16 FGs), eight rebounds, three assists, one blocked shot and one three-pointer in 41 minutes Sunday vs. Cleveland.

Posted in NBA, Top Fantasy Picks

Pictured: Giannis Antetokounmpo & Anthony Davis
Source: Getty Images North America

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Anthony Davis vs Giannis Antetokounmpo

All-Star Anthony Davis continued to ride out what’s left of his time with the team either on the bench or on a minute restriction. Davis sat out Saturday and New Orleans still managed to knock off the second-best team in the West with a 120-112 triumph at the Nuggets. Davis is expected back in the lineup on Monday and will be restricted to around 20 minutes.

Milwaukee went with size with its starting backcourt out and started four players – center Brook Lopez and forwards Giannis Antetokounmpo, Ersan Ilyasova and Nikola Mirotic – 6-10 or taller – against the Utah Jazz on Saturday. All-Star forward Giannis Antetokounmpo had a huge game by recording 43 points, 14 rebounds and eight assists.

Jrue Holiday vs Devin Booker

Point guard Jrue Holiday led the way with 29 points on Saturday as New Orleans came from 19 points down against the team with the best home record in the West. “It’s the same thing we do every time we’re down,” Holiday told reporters. “I think we lock in, especially here coming in the first couple of minutes, the first quarter is tough. You just kind of have to get your rhythm and from that point, I think our energy picked up. I think defensively, we executed well.” Holiday scored 20 or more points in four of the last five games and is averaging 21.1.

Phoenix guard Devin Booker told reporters. “A winnable game for us we felt we let go. Coming in today, getting a chance to refocus. Come in, high energy game. Come out and get the win.” Booker scored 20 or more points in each of the last five games. Phoenix earned a 116-114 victory at Milwaukee on Nov. 23 behind 29 points from Booker.

LaMarcus Aldridge vs Rudy Gobert

All-Star forward LaMarcus Aldridge continues to lead the way and scored 27 points on 10-of-18 shooting while adding 10 rebounds in Saturday’s triumph. Aldridge scored at least 24 points in each of the last three games.

Utah won the first meeting on October 27, beating New Orleans 132-111 to hand the Pelicans their first loss of the season. Rudy Gobert had 25 points and 14 rebounds.

Donovan Mitchell vs D’Angelo Russell

Donovan Mitchell scored a career-high 46 points Saturday against the Milwaukee Bucks.

The Nets will be hoping for some better performances by their starters. D’Angelo Russell was held to 10 points in Saturday’s loss against the Miami Heat.

Nikola Mirotic vs John Collins

Nikola Mirotic made 1-of-7 from the field for three points in a start against the Jazz on Saturday, adding six rebounds, one assist, one steal and one 3-pointer in 27 minutes.

Atlanta, playing without leading star power forward John Collins, still had enough to beat the host Chicago Bulls 123-118 on Sunday. Collins, who leads the Hawks in scoring (19.5) and rebounds (9.5), has an illness and is likely out for the Heat game, too. He did not travel to Chicago.

De’Aaron Fox vs Buddy Hield

De’Aaron Fox has 21 assists and two turnovers over his last two games.

Buddy Hield scored 23 points Friday but needed 19 shots to get there and is 23-of-64 from the floor during Sacramento’s 3 game losing streak.

Trae Young vs Lou Williams

Despite losing star rookie Trae Young to an ejection, Atlanta got past Chicago 123-118 on Sunday in a rematch of the teams’ quadruple-overtime affair two nights earlier. Young had just buried a long 3-pointer to push his total to 18 points early in the third quarter and taunted Bulls guard Kris Dunn, which led to the ejection, but his teammates more than picked up the slack.

Lou Williams went 4-of-14 from the field and 8-of-9 from the line on his way to 18 points in a 128-107 win over the Knicks on Sunday.

Danilo Gallinari vs Khris Middleton

Danilo Gallinari scored 20 points in Saturday’s win and he and Landry Shamet combined for 27 of the team’s 38 points in a dominant first quarter. “It’s tough to play defense against shooters and two or three at the same time is tough,” Gallinari told reporters.

Khris Middleton made 8-of-24 from the field for 29 points against the Jazz on Saturday, adding nine rebounds, six assists, one steal and four 3-pointers in 36 minutes.

Jamal Murray vs Eric Bledsoe

Jamal Murray scored with 20 points for the Nuggets on Saturday against the New Orleans Pelicans.

Milwaukee was missing its starting backcourt of Eric Bledsoe (back) and Malcolm Brogdon (plantar fasciitis) on Saturday. Bledsoe is still day-to-day and is out against Phoenix.

Josh Richardson vs Spencer Dinwiddie

Josh Richardson made 5-of-12 from the field for 12 points with five rebounds, seven assists and no 3-pointers in 35 minutes against the Nets on Saturday.

On Friday, Spencer Dinwiddie returned from missing 14 games with torn ligaments in his right thumb that required surgery and the Nets sustained a 123-112 home loss to Charlotte. A night later, the Nets turned in an uglier performance by shooting 35.2 percent in a 117-88 loss at Miami. 

Posted in NBA, Top Fantasy Picks

Pictured: Thaddeus Young
Source: Gregory Shamus / Getty Images North America

Preview: Pacers at Mavericks

The Indiana Pacers seek to post their ninth victory in the past 11 games when they visit the Dallas Mavericks on Wednesday. The Pacers endured a 113-109 road loss to the Detroit Pistons on Monday and look to bounce back against a Dallas team that has dropped five straight games.

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Indiana was on the uphill climb against Detroit after falling behind by 16 after one quarter and was unable to make up the difference. “We’ve been notorious for getting off to slow starts,” Pacers forward Thaddeus Young said after the loss. “We can’t come out like we’re warming up. We have to come out ready to jump on teams and be mentally prepared and physically prepared from the start.” Dallas rookie sensation Luka Doncic (ankle) returned from a two-game absence to produce 28 points, 10 rebounds and 10 assists in Monday’s 121-112 road loss to the Los Angeles Clippers. All four of Doncic’s triple-doubles have occurred in his past 12 games.

TV: 8:30 p.m. ET, FS Indiana, FS Southwest (Dallas)

ABOUT THE PACERS (40-21): Forward Domantas Sabonis scored 23 points against the Pistons – tying his second-highest output of the season – but departed late in the contest with a sprained ankle. Indiana coach Nate McMillan was unsure what Sabaonis’ status would be and his availability might not be determined until close to game time. Small forward Bojan Bogdanovic poured in 25 points against Detroit and topped 20 points in eight of the past 11 games and 22 times overall.

ABOUT THE MAVERICKS (26-34): Doncic’s latest stellar night came with a bad component as he committed a season-worst nine turnovers, marking the 12th time he has had five or more miscues in a game. “He thinks he can thread any needle and throw the ball through one guy’s nose and out his rear end,” Dallas coach Rick Carlisle said after the loss to the Clippers. “You just can’t do that in this league on a consistent basis.” Reserve forward Dwight Powell scored a career-best 24 points on 10-of-11 shooting and reached 20 points in two of the past three games.

BUZZER BEATERS

1. The Pacers won six of the past nine meetings, including a 111-99 home victory on Jan. 19.

2. Dallas SG Tim Hardaway Jr. scored 20 points against Los Angeles for this third 20-point effort in the past four games.

3. Indiana C Myles Turner (left hip) returned from a two-game absence against Detroit but had just seven points on 3-of-10 shooting in 30 minutes.

Posted in NBA, Top Fantasy Picks

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Preview: Celtics at Raptors

Two of the top Eastern Conference contenders square off for the fourth and final time in the regular season when the Toronto Raptors host the Boston Celtics on Tuesday. The Celtics won the two matchups in Boston while the Raptors also protected home court with a 113-101 win on Oct. 19.

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Toronto played without All-Star small forward Kawhi Leonard (rest) during Sunday’s 113-98 home loss to the Orlando Magic as its seven-game winning streak came to a halt. “Just never really got in a rhythm,” Raptors coach Nick Nurse told reporters. “They made some big shots every time we thought we were right where we needed to be.” Boston has dropped four of its last six games after being humbled 126-116 by the host Chicago Bulls on Saturday. “We just got outplayed in every which way,” Celtics coach Brad Stevens told reporters. “There are no two ways around it. You know, credit them obviously. Once they got rolling, there was no stopping them.”

TV: 8 p.m. ET, TNT, NBCS Boston, Sportsnet One (Toronto)

ABOUT THE CELTICS (37-23): Star point guard Kyrie Irving has been frustrated with his team’s play in recent weeks but was more measured after contributing 37 points and 10 assists in the setback against the Bulls. “It’s basketball, so we’ve got some figuring out to do,” Irving told reporters after the team’s second straight loss. “Go back, watch film. Obviously, some effort plays where we really could’ve covered for one another and just execution on both ends of the floor. Being able to give each other space, make basketball plays, read plays, just play the game at a high level. Obviously, these last two games, we haven’t done that at the level we’ve been capable of. We have to continue to do better.” Small forward Gordon Hayward scored just five points in 24 minutes against Chicago after missing one game with an ankle injury.

ABOUT THE RAPTORS (44-17): The startling loss to Orlando dropped Toronto to 13-4 when playing without Leonard and Nurse said that the game falling in between Friday’s emotional game with the San Antonio Spurs — Leonard’s former team — and the Celtics was why it was picked to rest him. The plan didn’t work with the Magic holding the Raptors to 15 first-quarter points and being the sharper team throughout the contest. Power forward Serge Ibaka scored 14 points off the bench to extend his career-long streak of consecutive games in double digits to 22.

BUZZER BEATERS

1. Irving is averaging 30.3 points against the Raptors this season, including a season-high 43 in a 123-116 overtime win on Nov. 16.

2. Boston reserve PG Terry Rozier is just 5-of-26 shooting over his past three games.

3. Toronto PG Kyle Lowry had 19 points and 10 assists against Orlando for his 16th double-double of the season.

Posted in NBA, Top Fantasy Picks

Pictured: Ben Simmons
Source: SL / Getty Images North America

Preview: 76ers at Pelicans

The Philadelphia 76ers are having a tough time with All-Star center Joel Embiid on the sidelines and will try to find a winning formula without him when they visit the New Orleans Pelicans on Monday. After struggling to get past Miami on Thursday at home while Embiid (knee) began what is expected to be at least a week-long absence, the Sixers were embarrassed 130-115 by Portland on Saturday.

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The Trail Blazers had a 61-42 advantage on the glass and scored the most points for a Philadelphia opponent in a regulation game this season. “We just didn’t rebound well enough against a team like this,” point guard Ben Simmons told reporters. “It’s a group effort rebounding. I think just all of us combined, I don’t think we did enough.” The Pelicans have a very different drama with their star big man, Anthony Davis, and they angered some fans by resting him Saturday at home against the Los Angeles Lakers. Jrue Holiday helped send the fans home happy by scoring 27 points in New Orleans’ 128-115 triumph.

TV: 8 p.m. ET, NBATV, NBCS Philadelphia, FS New Orleans

ABOUT THE 76ERS (38-22): Simmons scored 29 points and Tobias Harris added 20 in the loss to the Blazers as Philadelphia fell two games behind third-place Indiana in the Eastern Conference. “Clearly we miss Joel,” Harris told reporters. “There’s no getting around that. He’s a big piece to our team, but we don’t have him right now and we have to be able to get efforts from everybody else on the team.” Veteran guard JJ Redick has seen his scoring total fall in each of the last five games after a seven-point effort in the loss and he is 4-for-15 from beyond the arc since the All-Star break.

ABOUT THE PELICANS (27-34): Forward Cheick Diallo has taken advantage of some available minutes while the Davis drama plays out and notched his second straight double-double while making all eight of his shots against the Lakers. Julius Randle added 24 points, Ian Clark had 17 off the bench and Elfrid Payton finished with 14 and nine assists as New Orleans put forth a team effort without its All-Star. “I think you can take all the guys that were involved in the game in some stage,” coach Alvin Gentry told reporters. “They did something positive for us.”

BUZZER BEATERS

1. Holiday scored 30 points while Davis was limited to 12 in a one-point loss at Philadelphia earlier this season.

2. Diallo has 34 points and 28 rebounds in 45 minutes over his last two games.

3. Sixers PG T.J. McConnell has 23 assists and two turnovers over his last six games.

Posted in NBA, Top Fantasy Picks

Pictured: DeMar DeRozan (left) & Kyle Lowry (right)
Source: Ethan Miller / Getty Images North America

Preview: Spurs at Raptors

DeMar DeRozan will make his first trip back to where he started his career when the San Antonio Spurs visit the Toronto Raptors on Friday. DeRozan, who was sent to the Spurs in the blockbuster deal last summer that placed Kawhi Leonard and Danny Green in Toronto, is averaging 21.4 points while trying to pull San Antonio into the Western Conference playoffs.

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DeRozan was a four-time All-Star for the Raptors and holds the franchise records for games played (675), minutes (22,986) and points (13,296) and is expected to be greeted warmly by the Toronto crowd. “I think it’ll definitely be one for the ages,” DeRozan told TSN of his impending return. “It’s something where you think you’ve experienced everything, but that will be an interesting moment.” The Raptors have done just fine without DeRozan and sit in second place in the Eastern Conference coming out of the All-Star break and went into the break hot with wins in six straight. DeRozan’s Spurs are in a more precarious position and went into the break in seventh place in the West after dropping four of the first five on their eight-game Rodeo Road Trip.

TV: 7 p.m. ET, ESPN, TSN 1/3/4 (Toronto)

ABOUT THE SPURS (33-26): San Antonio struggled through the Western Conference portion of the trip prior to the break, falling at Sacramento, Golden State, Portland and Utah before recovering with a 108-107 victory at Memphis on Feb. 12. DeRozan, who missed out on the All-Star game in his first season with the Spurs, is averaging 23.5 points on the trip while All-Star forward LaMarcus Aldridge went into the break strong with three straight double-doubles. San Antonio finishes out the trip with a back-to-back at New York and Brooklyn on Sunday and Monday before playing eight of their next 10 at home.

ABOUT THE RAPTORS (43-16): Leonard did make the All-Star Game in his first season with Toronto and started for winning Team LeBron, scoring 19 points in as many minutes. The Raptors made a splash ahead of the deadline by bringing former All-Star center Marc Gasol over from the Grizzlies and are undefeated in three games with him in the lineup. Gasol, 34, is still ironing out his place in the rotation and came off the bench in each of his first three games, averaging 10 points in 20 minutes.

BUZZER BEATERS

1. Spurs PG Derrick White (plantar fasciitis) sat out the last five games but is expected to return Friday. 

2. Raptors SG Patrick McCaw (shoulder) sat out the final game prior to the break and is questionable.

3. San Antonio earned a 125-107 home win over Toronto on Jan. 3 behind 21 points, 14 rebounds and 11 assists from DeRozan.

Posted in NBA, Top Fantasy Picks

Pictured: Giannis Antetokounmpo
Source: SL / Getty Images North America

Preview: Celtics at Bucks

The Boston Celtics were the preseason favorites to win the Eastern Conference but are instead fighting for homecourt advantage while the Milwaukee Bucks run away with the top spot. The Bucks will try to assert their dominance over the rest of the top competitors in the East once again when they host the Celtics on Thursday.

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Milwaukee is 7-3 against the Toronto Raptors, Indiana Pacers, Philadelphia 76ers and Boston and breezed into the All-Star break with wins in 14 of the last 16 games behind All-Star captain Giannis Antetokounmpo. The “Greek Freak” scored 38 points on 17-of-23 shooting in a losing effort in Sunday’s All-Star Game but remains an MVP candidate and took the Bucks into the break by collecting 33 points, 19 rebounds and 11 assists in a 106-97 win at the Pacers. The Celtics were well-represented during the All-Star festivities as point guard Kyrie Irving contributed 13 points in 25 minutes to Team LeBron’s 178-164 win over Team Giannis and second-year forward Jayson Tatum starred in the Rising Stars game before winning the Skills Challenge. Boston won 12 of 15 going into the break and is opening a three-game trip at Milwaukee that will also send it through second-place Toronto.

TV: 8 p.m. ET, TNT

ABOUT THE CELTICS (37-21): Irving sat out the final two games before the All-Star break to rest a sore knee but worked hard to get back for the annual exhibition and get right for the stretch run. “I’m happy. My strength and conditioning coach, my own training staff that I hired myself, every single day has been communication, making sure I can play in the game,” Irving told reporters after the game. “We understand it’s an All-Star Game, but to go up and down before Thursday comes, I’d be a lot worse if that was my first time playing in basically two weeks. Five days in the NBA season is a lot of time. I’m not sure people realize that. Being away from the game, especially if you have to get off your feet. Getting up shots tonight, being around this camaraderie and competition, was good.” Irving, who can become a free agent after the season, is averaging 23.6 points and 6.9 assists.

ABOUT THE BUCKS (43-14): Milwaukee’s big splash at the trade deadline was bringing in power forward Nikola Mirotic in a deal from the New Orleans Pelicans. The 28-year-old, who is averaging 16.7 points and 8.3 rebounds while shooting 36.8 percent from beyond the arc, has been out with a calf injury since Jan. 23 but was on the verge of making his team debut before the break and could play Thursday. Mirotic joins a lineup headlined by Antetokounmpo and fellow All-Star Khris Middleton, who scored 20 points on 7-of-13 shooting in 22 minutes for Team Giannis on Sunday.

BUZZER BEATERS

1. Celtics PG Terry Rozier (illness) joined Irving on the bench before the break but is expected back Thursday.

2. Bucks C Brook Lopez is 4-of-24 from 3-point range in the last three games.

3. Antetokounmpo scored 30 points in the most recent meeting, a 120-107 Milwaukee win at Boston on Dec. 21.

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