Source: Getty Images North America

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: 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: Streeter Lecka / Getty Image Nortb America

Preview: Bucks at Raptors

The battle for first place in the Eastern Conference will go head-to-head when the Milwaukee Bucks visit the Toronto Raptors on Thursday. The Bucks go into the meeting with a half-game lead in the East and took two of the first three matchups against the Raptors, including a win at Toronto on Dec. 9.

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Milwaukee began its five-game road trip with a loss at Oklahoma City on Sunday but managed to maintain its record as the lone team in the league without back-to-back setbacks by knocking off the Detroit Pistons 115-105 on Tuesday. Superstar forward Giannis Antetokounmpo, who was named the Eastern Conference Player of the Week on Monday, flirted with a triple-double and finished with 21 points, 11 assists and eight rebounds in the victory. The Raptors avoided a third consecutive setback on Sunday and closed a three-game road trip by edging the Dallas Mavericks 123-120, and they get two at home before hitting the road again for three more. Toronto is enjoying a 10-game winning streak at home that began after that 104-99 setback against the Bucks on Dec. 9.

TV: 8 p.m. ET, TNT, TSN 1/4/5 (Toronto)

ABOUT THE BUCKS (35-13): Injuries are getting to Milwaukee’s backcourt, but seldom-used reserve Pat Connaughton is making the most of the opportunity and sprang for 16 points on 7-of-8 shooting in 22 minutes Tuesday after not getting off the bench in three of the previous four contests. “Unbelievable,” Bucks point guard Eric Bledsoe told reporters of Connaughton. “Pat’s been great all season when he does play. He always stays ready. He’s a veteran. He’s a professional, so he puts in the work. As I always say, just glad to see him come in and play well and we win.” Connaughton could be a key player again on Thursday with shooting guards Malcolm Brogdon (chest), Sterling Brown (wrist) and Donte DiVincenzo (heel) all day-to-day.

ABOUT THE RAPTORS (37-15): Toronto has its own superstar forward in Kawhi Leonard, who scored at least 20 points in each of the last 22 games. Leonard, who sat out four straight as part of an injury maintenance program, averaged 32.5 points in two games since his return and recorded a double-double with 33 points and 10 rebounds in Sunday’s triumph at Dallas. Center Serge Ibaka recorded a double-double in the win as well – his season-best fourth straight.

BUZZER BEATERS

1. Raptors PG Kyle Lowry is 7-of-23 from the floor over the last two games.

2. Bucks C Brook Lopez is averaging 3.4 blocks over the last five contests.

3. Antetokounmpo is averaging 31 points and 18.5 rebounds in two games against Toronto this season.

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Posted in NBA, Top Fantasy Picks

Pictured: Victor Oladipo
Source: Andy Lyons / Getty Image North America

Preview: Raptors at Pacers

The Indiana Pacers have just four losses in the last 35 days, but two of them came against the Toronto Raptors, their opponent Wednesday in Indianapolis. The Raptors secured a three-point win over the Pacers at home Dec. 19 and a 16-point victory in a rematch Jan. 6, but Indiana is 11-2 against all other teams in that span after a 120-95 triumph over Charlotte on Sunday.

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“We just tried to prepare ourselves defensively, making sure it was tougher for them than it was in the last game,” guard Victor Oladipo told reporters, referencing an earlier 26-point loss to the Hornets. “Collectively, we did awesome.” Oladipo scored a team-high 21 points in the win while handing out seven of the Pacers’ 34 assists, one shy of the team’s season high. Toronto finished a 3-0 homestand with a 120-105 win over Sacramento on Tuesday. Star swingman Kawhi Leonard (rest) missed his third game in a row for the Raptors and he is not expected back until Friday at Houston.

TV: 7 p.m. ET, TSN (Toronto), FS Indiana

ABOUT THE RAPTORS (36-13): Toronto is 11-2 without Leonard this season and it overcame his latest absence with a 16-for-40 showing from behind the arc, led by a 4-for-5 effort by CJ Miles, who is averaging 13.7 points in 16.7 minutes over his last three games. Kyle Lowry finished with 19 points and nine assists while Fred VanVleet matched him in the scoring column one game after shooting 1-for-8 from the floor as he manages the wear and tear of the long season. “At this point nobody’s 100 percent healthy,” VanVleet, who recently missed a game with a thigh issue, told reporters. “You’ve gotta be a professional, take care of your body, try to be the best version of yourself that day and go out there and lay it on the line. So, barring anything major, I’ll be out there scrapping and clawing and giving it what I’ve got.”

ABOUT THE PACERS (31-15): Darren Collison scored 19 points and handed out nine assists while Bojan Bogdanovic chipped in 16 points in Sunday’s victory as Indiana reached the 120-point mark for the fourth time in its last seven games. “Me, Bojan, Vic, we were all being aggressive on the pick-and-roll,” Collison told the media. “When all three of us are aggressive, it’s tough to beat us.” Bogdanovic is averaging 19.5 points on 51.6 percent shooting to go along with seven rebounds against the Raptors this season.

BUZZER BEATERS

1. Pacers SG Tyreke Evans is averaging 15.5 points in 18.7 minutes over his last six games.

2. The Raptors are 8-1 in the second game of back-to-backs.

3. Toronto has won five in a row against Indiana.

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Posted in NBA, Top Fantasy Picks

Photo: Kyrie Irving
Source: Adam Glanzman / Getty Image North America

Preview: Raptors at Celtics

The Boston Celtics were swept on a three-game road trip through Miami, Orlando and Brooklyn and return home with questions about the team’s consistency and cohesiveness. Ready to take advantage of the Celtics’ struggles are the Eastern Conference-leading Toronto Raptors, who visit Boston on Wednesday.

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Celtics star Kyrie Irving suggested after the loss to Orlando that perhaps the team was struggling under the weight of higher expectations and it looked like he was right for over three quarters on Monday until the team found a spark and turned a 27-point deficit into a 109-102 loss to the Nets. Boston will get a chance to figure things out at home with seven of the next eight games in its own arena, where they already own one win over Toronto this season. The Raptors, who dropped a 123-116 overtime decision at the Celtics on Nov. 16, brought their latest winning streak to five straight by outlasting the Washington Wizards 140-138 in double-overtime on Sunday. Star forward Kawhi Leonard collected 41 points and 11 rebounds in the victory and the team earned two full days of rest after asking each starter to log 41 minutes or more.

TV: 8 p.m. ET, ESPN, TSN (Toronto), NBCS Boston

ABOUT THE RAPTORS (33-12): Leonard was named the Eastern Conference’s Player of the Week on Monday after averaging 30.7 points and 8.7 rebounds in three wins, capped by Sunday’s star turn. “Kawhi really led us, took over the game,” point guard Kyle Lowry told reporters. “Some unbelievable rebounding, strongman stuff. He did some strongman stuff.” Lowry picked up his own double-double with 12 points and 11 assists against the Wizards but was 4-of-15 from the floor and is shooting 28.6 percent from 3-point range over the last four games.

ABOUT THE CELTICS (25-18): Irving sat out Monday to rest a sore quadriceps muscle but was in his teammates’ ears after the game, imploring them to find that gear they closed the game with and sustain it. “(If) we play (full) out the whole game we’ll be pretty tough to beat,” Boston forward Jayson Tatum told reporters of Irving’s message. “It’s tough being down 27 and trying to make a comeback in this league. Guys are just too good. It can happen, but it’s very rare. So, we’ve got to start out the gate like that and not dig a hole for ourselves.” Tatum finished with a team-high 34 points on 12-of-19 shooting while Jaylen Brown sprang for 22 points in the loss.

BUZZER BEATERS

1. Celtics G Marcus Smart (illness) sat out Monday and is day-to-day.

2. Toronto PG Fred VanVleet missed Sunday’s win with a thigh contusion and is questionable for Wednesday.

3. The home team took each of the last nine in the series.

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Posted in NBA, Top Fantasy Picks

Photo: Victor Oladipo
Source: Andy Lyons/Getty Image North America

Preview: Pacers at Raptors

The Indiana Pacers may have been caught looking too far ahead prior to Wednesday night’s visit to the Eastern Conference-leading Toronto Raptors. The Pacers had won seven in a row and led the struggling Cleveland Cavaliers by six points with roughly four minutes to play Tuesday at home before faltering down the stretch in a 92-91 loss.

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Victor Oladipo missed three straight free throws in the final minute – two of them with 9.5 seconds to go – as Indiana fell to 14-4 against the East. The Raptors have been atop the heap since the season began but they are just 3-5 after starting 20-4 after falling 95-86 at Denver on Sunday to finish a four-game road trip. “I mean, that’s why you got 82 games, a learning concept as you go on through the year,” star swingman Kawhi Leonard told reporters at Tuesday’s practice. “You’re building toward something at the end of the year.” Leonard shot 12-for-21 in the loss to the Nuggets while his teammates combined to shoot 34.3 percent.

TV: 7:30 p.m. ET, FS Indiana, TSN (Toronto)

ABOUT THE PACERS (20-11): Oladipo had been progressing well since returning from a knee injury that robbed him of 11 games, but the missed free throws were part of a rough showing against Cleveland. “I got to be better down the stretch, especially at the free-throw line,” Oladipo told reporters after scoring 12 points on 4-of-15 shooting and getting tossed to the ground ahead of Larry Nance Jr’s game-winning tip-in. Myles Turner chipped in 12 points and 10 rebounds for his fourth double-double this month.

ABOUT THE RAPTORS (23-9): Health has been an issue of late, as guards Kyle Lowry (thigh) and Fred VanVleet (back) and forward Pascal Siakam (back) all missed Sunday’s loss. Center Jonas Valanciunas was lost during the trip to a thumb injury that will keep him out for up to a month and forward Norman Powell (shoulder) has missed for over a month, although he may return Wednesday. Leonard averaged 28.5 points in the final two games of the trip after sitting out the first two due to a hip issue.

BUZZER BEATERS

1. The Raptors have lost four consecutive games with Leonard in the lineup.

2. Indiana has held eight straight opponents to 101 points or fewer.

3. Toronto has won nine meetings in a row at home.

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Posted in NBA, Top Fantasy Picks

Photo: Kawhi Leonard – Source: Getty Images North America

Preview: Raptors at Nuggets

The Toronto Raptors’ hopes of a perfect four-game road trip came to an end at Portland on Friday, but they could still head home with a winning record on the excursion. The Raptors will try to finish on a high note when they visit the Denver Nuggets on Sunday in a battle of conference leaders.

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Toronto, which sits atop the Eastern Conference and owns the best record in the NBA at 23-8, breezed by the Los Angeles Clippers and Golden State Warriors on the first two stops of the trip before falling at the Trail Blazers 128-122 on Friday. Star forward Kawhi Leonard, who sat out the first two games of the trip with a hip injury, returned to the lineup at Portland but All-Star point guard Kyle Lowry (thigh) missed the game and is day-to-day. The Nuggets are the improbable leaders of a tightly-packed Western Conference and are winners of five straight at home after knocking off Memphis and Oklahoma City to begin the current four-game stand. Denver is dealing with its own injury issues and was without two starters – power forward Paul Millsap (toe) and guard Gary Harris Jr. (hip) – in Friday’s 109-98 triumph over the Thunder.

TV: 8 p.m. ET, TSN2 (Toronto), Altitude (Denver)

ABOUT THE RAPTORS (23-8): Toronto already lost center Jonas Valanciunas for at least four weeks due to a thumb injury on the trip and watched power forward Pascal Siakam leave Friday’s contest with a sore back after coming down on his tailbone in a fall. Siakam, who is enjoying a breakout campaign while averaging a career-best 14.4 points, is questionable for Sunday along with Lowry. Fred VanVleet started at point guard in place of Lowry on Friday and scored 21 points on 7-of-11 shooting while handing out eight assists.

ABOUT THE NUGGETS (19-9): Denver heaps more responsibility on center Nikola Jokic when someone goes down and he continues to deliver. The 23-year-old came up an assist shy of a triple-double in his fourth consecutive double-double on Friday, collecting 24 points on 8-of-16 shooting, 15 rebounds and nine assists while adding three steals to a defensive effort that held Oklahoma City to 41.1 percent from the floor. Jokic got some help on the outside from small forward Torrey Craig, who scored a career-high 15 points on 6-of-7 shooting.

BUZZER BEATERS

1. Nuggets SG Nick Young made his team debut on Friday after being signed earlier in the week and scored six points in nine minutes off the bench.

2. Raptors SG Danny Green went 5-of-7 from 3-point range en route to a season-high 19 points on Friday.

3. Jokic collected 23 points, 15 assists and 11 rebounds in a 106-103 win at Toronto on Dec. 3.

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Posted in NBA, Top Fantasy Picks

Preview: Warriors at Raptors

The Toronto Raptors host the Golden State Warriors on Thursday in what could be an NBA Finals preview – if the teams are at full strength. The Warriors could get some of their major pieces back in the lineup on Thursday with Stephen Curry (groin) and Draymond Green (toe) both participating in practice.

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Green and Curry are both expected to return sometime during the team’s five-game road trip, and Curry has progressed to the point that he is participating in team scrimmages. “He’s just trying to get his rhythm and his conditioning down,” Golden State coach Steve Kerr told reporters of Curry, who is averaging 29.5 points while shooting 51.5 percent from the floor and 49.2 percent from beyond the arc. “He’s doing well.” The Raptors are looking like the best team in the NBA and extended the current winning streak to six straight by recovering from a 17-point deficit to earn a 122-114 win at Memphis on Tuesday. “We didn’t really bring our game with us, but we found it,” Toronto coach Nick Nurse told reporters.

TV: 8 p.m. ET, TNT, NBCS Bay Area (Golden State), TSN (Toronto)

ABOUT THE WARRIORS (15-7): Golden State is 5-5 in the 10 games that Curry has missed, though they managed to win the last three behind some strong performances from Kevin Durant. The former MVP collected 49 points, nine assists and six rebounds in a 116-110 win over Orlando on Monday that capped a four-game homestand. “Incredible,” Kerr told reporters of Durant’s performance. “The guy is just amazing. He’s so talented. I think the last few games he just kind of knew he had to put us on his shoulders because of the four-game losing streak, the struggles.”

ABOUT THE RAPTORS (18-4): Toronto leans on its depth and got 18 points on 6-of-6 shooting, including 3-of-3 from 3-point range, from reserve point guard Fred VanVleet in Tuesday’s triumph. “Obviously, we all know I haven’t been shooting the ball well, so to get back on track is always fun,” VanVleet, who scored in double figures in each of the last four games after reaching the mark three times in the first 10 games this month, told reporters. The Raptors are third in the NBA in scoring at an average of 117 points and shot 60.9 percent from the floor in Tuesday’s win.

BUZZER BEATERS

1. Warriors PG Quinn Cook is 5-of-21 from the floor over the last two games.

2. Raptors SF Kawhi Leonard posted his third straight double-double with 17 points and 10 rebounds on Tuesday.

3. Golden State took the last eight in the series, including four straight in Toronto.

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Posted in NBA, Top Fantasy Picks

Preview: Raptors at Grizzlies

Kawhi Leonard may not have been a leader for the San Antonio Spurs, but he is leading the Toronto Raptors to new heights. Leonard will try to guide the Raptors to a sixth consecutive victory and continue the best start in franchise history when they visit the Memphis Grizzlies on Tuesday.

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Leonard’s former coach, San Antonio’s Gregg Popovich, made news over the weekend by suggesting that while Leonard was a talented player, he wasn’t someone the team looked to for leadership. “I lead by example coming into practice every day,” Leonard responded to reporters after collecting 29 points and 10 rebounds in a 125-115 win over the Miami Heat on Sunday. “Just going hard and coming into these games mentally focused. You can’t see things once you’re playing on the floor. Guys ask me questions about their matchup or if I see something on the floor, I’m telling guys, ‘Go here, go there,’ just motivating people, do you know what I mean?” The Grizzlies don’t lack for veteran leadership with Mike Conley and Marc Gasol, but the two couldn’t quite pull the team to a win down the stretch on Sunday. “The combination of (Conley) and Marc (Gasol) together is a stress on defenses, there is no doubt about that,” Memphis coach J.B. Bickerstaff told reporters. “So, we depend on (Conley) down the stretch. We live and die with that.”

TV: 8 p.m. ET, Sportsnet One (Toronto), FS Southeast (Memphis)

ABOUT THE RAPTORS (17-4): Leonard is averaging 28 points and 10 rebounds in the last two games after sitting out to rest on the second night of a back-to-back Wednesday and is averaging 24.7 points and 8.5 boards in his first season with Toronto. Leonard is getting some help up front from power forward Pascal Siakam, who scored 21 points on 8-of-9 shooting on Sunday to go over 20 for the fifth time in the last 10 games. Siakam, who reached 20 points once in the first 11 contests, is shooting 63.1 percent from the floor while averaging 14.5 points and 6.7 rebounds.

ABOUT THE GRIZZLIES (12-7): Memphis dropped its last two games but continues to be impressed with the development of rookie power forward Jaren Jackson Jr., who scored 16 points on 6-of-6 shooting while knocking down a career-best four 3-pointers in Sunday’s 103-98 loss to the New York Knicks. Jackson, 19, is making his presence felt on the defensive end as well and matched a franchise rookie record with seven blocks on Sunday. “He was a monster on the defensive end,” Bickerstaff told reporters. “All the shots that he blocked, the shots that he changed, they switched out to him with a small on him and he kept the small in front of him and ended up blocking his shot – those are the things we need to be able to see.”

BUZZER BEATERS

1. The Grizzlies recorded a franchise-record 19 blocked shots on Sunday.

2. Raptors C Jonas Valanciunas recorded a double-double in two of the last three contests.

3. Toronto took both meetings last season and five of the last six in the series.

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Posted in NBA, Top Fantasy Picks

2018 NBA Playoffs

Second-round preview

With the second round under way, let’s dive in straight into the series on hand.

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Toronto Raptors vs Cleveland Cavaliers

The Cleveland Cavaliers have knocked the Toronto Raptors out of the playoffs the last two years but the Raptors are finally the favored team and hope to play like it when the teams begin their Eastern Conference semifinals matchup.

Enter the TOR/CLE contest

Boston Celtics vs Philadelphia 76ers

The Boston Celtics needed everything they had to survive a seven-game, first-round series with the Milwaukee Bucks. Their reward is an Eastern Conference semifinals matchup with one of the hottest teams in the league in the rested Philadelphia 76ers.

Enter the BOS/PHI contest

Houston Rockets vs Utah Jazz

The Jazz vs. Rockets series is a classic matchup. The league’s best offense vs. the league’s best defense.

Enter the HOU/UTA contest

Golden State Warriors vs New Orleans Pelicans

One team was supposed to be here all along. The other was two regular-season losses away from missing the playoffs and setting into motion a major overhaul that likely would have included firing its coach and front office, and possibly would have stretched into a trade involving one of the league’s best players. But the stunning sweep of Portland by the Pelicans earned them a spot in the conference semifinals for the first time in a decade. It surely saved the job of head coach Alvin Gentry, and likely the job of GM Dell Demps, too. That means teams anticipating a Pels fire sale can cross off Anthony Davis from their wish lists.

Enter the GSW/NOP contest

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Posted in NBA

Wizards at Raptors Preview

The Toronto Raptors won the first two games of their first-round, Eastern Conference series over the Washington Wizards but could not find a way to win on the road. The Raptors leaned into some bad habits in a Game 4 loss and will try to correct some mistakes when they host Game 5 on Wednesday.

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NBA IG Top 3 (Wizards vs Raptors / Pacers vs Cavs)

Toronto won a franchise-record 59 games during the regular season and earned the top seed in the East for the first time while playing a band of basketball that encouraged ball movement and 3-point shooting, but some of those traits were hard to find down the stretch in Game 4’s 106-98 setback. “At some point we’ve got to make sure we keep our composure and execute,” Raptors coach Dwane Casey told reporters. “We missed some shots we normally make. … We turned down some good looks I thought we’d normally step into.” The Wizards allowed an average of 122 points in the first two games of the series but cut that number down to 100.5 in the next two. “You have to have resolve to win in this league,” Washington coach Scott Brooks told reporters. “We’ve had some tough moments this year with (point guard) John (Wall) missing half the season, but we found it, and it put us in a position to make the playoffs through resolve. You win playoff games, and you win playoff series with having that. We have that, and we have to continue to have that because we have to win two more games, and one of them has to be on the road.”

TV: 7 p.m. ET, NBATV, NBCS Washington, TSN 1/4/5 (Toronto)

ABOUT THE WIZARDS: All-Star shooting guard Bradley Beal fouled out of Game 4 with just under five minutes left, but Wall took over down the stretch and finished with 27 points and 14 assists in the win. “Just go in attack mode,” Wall told reporters. “Even when Brad’s in the game, he’s telling me, ‘Be aggressive.’ At the same time, I’m trying to find him. I’m trying to keep him going and play my game. That gets my teammates involved and makes the job easier for those guys. They are knocking down shots and cutting for me, and I’m going to get my opportunities to score the ball.” Wall is averaging 26.3 points, 13 assists and three steals in the series.

ABOUT THE RAPTORS: DeMar DeRozan scored a game-high 35 points in Game 4 but was just 10-of-29 from the floor. “I took some shots that I wish I could have had back,” DeRozan told reporters. “But it’s just my mindset going out there and being aggressive, wanting to win, wanting to feel like I was doing whatever it took offensively to push us to a win. But with that came some bad shots that I will definitely understand next time.” DeRozan and Kyle Lowry (7-of-15) combined for more than half of Toronto’s shot attempts in the loss.

BUZZER BEATERS

1. Raptors PG Fred VanVleet (shoulder) was limited to a total of three minutes in the first four games but participated in practice on Tuesday.

2. Beal averaged 29.5 points in the two home games after averaging 14 at Toronto in the first two contests.

3. Washington PF Mike Scott scored four points on Sunday after averaging 15.3 points in the first three contests.

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Posted in NBA

2018 NBA Playoffs

First-round previews

If the playoffs are anything like the wild finish to the regular season, hold on. It took an overtime play-in win just to determine the Western Conference playoff teams, and little was settled outside of the top two seeds in the East heading into Wednesday’s season finale. But now that we have the sixteen teams, it’s on. The NBA’s second season officially begins on Saturday afternoon.

Toronto Raptors vs. Washington Wizards

The Raptors have all sorts of pressure on them this postseason, but they couldn’t have done much better than facing the fledgling Wizards at the start. Washington, which has lost 14 of its last 21 games, welcomed five-time All-Star John Wall back on March 31 after he missed more than two months with a knee injury. Still, Toronto — which was third in offensive rating and fifth in defensive rating this season — should be able to survive.

Enter the TOR/WAS Series Tournament

Boston Celtics vs. Milwaukee Bucks

Boston, which is without five-time All-Star Kyrie Irving for the playoffs and guard Marcus Smart until at least late April, has its hands full against these Bucks. Milwaukee’s 106-102 win over Boston on April 3 serves as the best evidence of how they match up at the moment. The Bucks’ Giannis Antetokounmpo will be looking to advance past the first round for the first time (he’s 0-for-2 thus far).

Philadelphia 76ers vs. Miami Heat

Philadelphia comes in as the league’s hottest team, having won 16 games in a row. Never mind that All-Star big man Joel Embiid went down with an orbital fracture in his left eye eight games into the stretch, the Sixers just kept rolling. When Embiid was asked if he might be able to play for Game 1, he told reporters it’s “unlikely but still a chance.”

Cleveland Cavaliers vs. Indiana Pacers

LeBron James is no stranger to memorable playoff matchups against the Pacers, but this is a different version of the familiar story. With coach Nate McMillan and All-Star guard Victor Oladipo leading the way, the Pacers were a wonderful surprise this season.

Enter the CLE/IND Series Tournament

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Houston Rockets vs. Minnesota Timberwolves

The Rockets dominated the season series against the Timberwolves, but only one of those games (a 126-108 win on Feb. 13) included Minnesota’s Jimmy Butler from beginning to end. The four-time All-Star tore his meniscus in their second matchup on Feb. 23, then missed the final two meetings before returning on Friday. The Rockets, meanwhile, lost key defender Luc Mbah a Moute to a dislocated shoulder on Tuesday, and he’s expected to miss the first round — if not longer.

Enter the HOU/MIN Series Tournament

Golden State Warriors vs. San Antonio Spurs

This is a rematch of last year’s Western Conference finals in name alone, as Golden State is without two-time MVP Stephen Curry this time around and the Spurs’ franchise centerpiece, Kawhi Leonard, remains out after playing just nine games this season. But if anyone is capable of creating a gameplan to upset the ailing defending champions, it’s San Antonio’s Gregg Popovich. His Spurs had the fourth-best defensive rating this season. The Warriors, meanwhile, have lost 10 of their last 17 games.

Enter the GSW/SAS Series Tournament

Portland Trail Blazers vs. New Orleans Pelicans

The Trail Blazers lost seven of their last 12 games, but the regular season finale win over Utah was enough to earn them the No. 3 seed. Portland, which had the league’s ninth-best defensive rating this season, will have all it can handle with the way Pelicans star Anthony Davis has been playing (a league-leading 30.2 points, 11.9 rebounds and 3.2 blocks per game since DeMarcus Cousins’ season-ending Achilles injury Jan. 26).

Oklahoma City Thunder vs. Utah Jazz

The Jazz boasted the NBA’s best defense for the final few months of the regular season, and now they’ll try to stop a star-studded Thunder squad that finished 10th in offensive rating. But the Jazz have to score too, and therein lies the most pressing question of their postseason: Can rookie guard Donovan Mitchell be the same star-caliber player on this stage? Utah certainly needs him to be.

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Posted in NBA

Top 20 Fantasy Picks NBA DFS

May 11th 2016

Two FanPicks NBA DFS games on tap for today. It all starts at 8pm ET in Toronto, as the Heat and the Raptors will face each other in game 5 to break the 2-2 tie. Three of the four games in this series were decided in overtime. Dwayne Wade has made a lot of enemies north-of-the-border. First, because of his practice routine during the “Oh Canada” national anthem interpretation in game 3, and his solid game throughout the series. Wade will have to contend with the crowd tonight with the contest shifting back to the Air Canada Center. At 10pm ET, the NBA will turn to the West with game 5 of the series between the Portland Trail Blazers and the Golden State Warriors. The Warriors could end it tonight at home, as they lead this series 3-1. Golden State’s point guard is fresh off a repeat NBA MVP win and an incredible 40 points performance in game 4. His value is off the roof, and there’s just no way we can expect otherwise from him.

Player Pos Team Opp Last Game FP Two Game FP Avg Four Game Fp Avg Ten Game FP Avg
Stephen Curry G GSW POR 45.5 27.3 33.1 34.6
Damian Lillard G POR GSW 42.5 39.7 36.3 29.5
Draymond Green F GSW POR 38 40.7 39.3 31.2
AlFarouq Aminu F POR GSW 30 25.3 21.4 21
Dwyane Wade G MIA TOR 28 28.7 26.3 26.3
Mason Plumlee C POR GSW 25.5 18.5 20.4 22.2
Bismack Biyombo C TOR MIA 25 11.3 9.9 12.1
Klay Thompson G GSW POR 25 26.3 29 25.7
Jonas Valanciunas C TOR MIA 24.5 30.3 27.2 25
CJ McCollum G POR GSW 24 23.3 21.2 21.3
Kyle Lowry G TOR MIA 24 25.2 22.6 22.2
Joe Johnson F MIA TOR 20 18.7 18.5 16.5
Goran Dragic G MIA TOR 19.5 17.2 21.3 19.3
Luol Deng F MIA TOR 18.5 14.8 16.7 20.1
Marreese Speights C GSW POR 14.5 6 5.8 9.8
Allen Crabbe G POR GSW 14.5 12 14.2 11.5
Andrew Bogut C GSW POR 14.5 13.7 15.6 13.7
DeMarre Carroll F TOR MIA 14 17.3 15.4 13.3
Maurice Harkless F POR GSW 14 11.2 12.4 14
Terrence Ross F TOR MIA 13.5 9.8 9.7 8.4

NBA DFS Notables

  • Warriors point guard Stephen Curry scored a NBA-record 17 points in overtime during game 4.
  • Raptors center Jonas Valenciunas will miss the rest of the playoffs due to an ankle injury.
  • Warriors power forward Draymond Green is the only player to have a triple-double in those playoffs. It happened during game 1 of the current series with Portland.
Posted in NBA