Besides the monster game between the Pacers and the Heat, teams toward the bottom of the playoff chase all gained ground on those ahead of them with the exception of the Hawks, who continue their descent toward a lottery pick. It might have been the first real taste of playoff basketball of the year, all while fantasy playoff matchups are at a fever pitch. We’re jumping right in and good luck to everybody for the rest of the week.
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The Nets just need to win a handful of games and they will likely hang onto the No. 5 seed, but last night’s overtime loss to the Bobcats kept them from detaching from the Wizards at No. 6 and the Bobcats at No. 7. As we discussed yesterday Al Jefferson was setup to roll and he did exactly that, and that contributed to big workloads for Andray Blatche (seven points, 2-of-7 FGs, seven boards, five assists, one steal, two blocks, 30 minutes) and Mirza Teletovic (22 points, 6-of-12 FGs, all threes, three rebounds, 28 minutes). Mason Plumlee logged his normal 21 minutes and was mediocre with four points, four boards and two blocks as the Nets threw bodies at Big Al, but the offense turned cold in overtime and they eventually fell short.
Blatche has been a mess and Teletovic has a history of one-game explosions. There’s nothing but a gambler’s add on the table for either guy with the hope there is some carryover the next time out. Deron Williams (illness) played and was electric with 29 points on 11-of-21 shooting, four rebounds, seven assists, one steal and five threes in 42 minutes, and Joe Johnson continued to be the Nets’ rock with 18 points, four threes, five boards and three assists in the loss. Until they get that aforementioned separation in the standings, look for them to work hard to avoid a potential fall to No. 7 and a matchup against the Pacers or Heat.
MOVIN ON UP
Al Jefferson is scorching hot right now and is being asked to put the Bobcats on his shoulders as they try to march out of the No. 7 slot. I’ve made mention of my concerns about how much weight he will have to carry and that didn’t play out in his shooting efficiency last night (15-of-27 FGs, 35 points, 15 boards), but 41 minutes is a lot of run and he didn’t have a single steal or block. He did well to only have one turnover, though, and that had been an issue with 2.7 per game over the last two weeks before last night.
I would actually love to see the Bobcats stay in the No. 7 seed for a presumptive matchup against the Heat, because Jefferson would absolutely terrorize them and I wouldn’t be surprised if LeBron actually stepped up defensively in a pinch. Josh McRoberts (12 points, six boards, four assists, one steal, dunk of the night candidate) would also be a handful, and Kemba Walker (20 points, 8-of-21 FGs, five boards, 12 assists, one steal) has enough juice to be an X-factor. I’m not saying that I like the Bobcats to advance, but they’re one of a handful of teams with big men that can exploit the Heat’s interior and that makes it a fun first-round matchup if it happens.
Gerald Henderson would also be a decent cover on Dwyane Wade, but before we go even further than we should have down that road he was very quiet last night against the Nets. He scored just seven points on 3-of-8 shooting with two rebounds, five assists, one block and one three. The peripheral numbers and high assist total hid the scoring line, but the real saving grace here is the upcoming four-game week. Hang onto him and you’ll probably get your money’s worth, but be ready to move along for the following three-gamer. Chris Douglas-Roberts got some extra run with Gary Neal out, scoring 16 points on 6-of-14 shooting with three treys, five boards and two assists in 27 minutes off the bench. Should playing time present itself, he has proven to be a capable low-end spot play.
BLEDSOE FROM THE ASHES
The Suns have now won five straight after last night's victory in Washington, which moved them into a tie with the Mavs for the No. 8 slot in the West. Goran Dragic (25 points, seven boards, six assists, one block, three treys) and Eric Bledsoe (23 points, three treys, six boards, seven assists, three steals, seven turnovers) continue to give powerhouse performances, while Gerald Green (18 points, three treys, four rebounds) continued along his new path as a mid-to-late round value. Markieff Morris was versatile but quiet with eight points, four rebounds, four assists, one steal and one block in 33 minutes off the bench, and Miles Plumlee all-but disappeared with four points and three boards in 18 minutes. The Plumdog doesn’t look like he’s going to get consistent, heavy run anytime soon.
Channing Frye put up another low-end line with 10 points, three boards, two threes and two steals in 24 minutes. It hasn’t been pretty but he’s still operating at a late-round value over the past two weeks and that’s a good place for expectations going forward. The Suns finish out the year with two three-game weeks and that’s going to make guys like Frye and P.J. Tucker (eight points, nine boards, two steals, two threes, 34 minutes) tough to start, so consider dropping them if you see a hot free agent.
THE BEAL DEAL
Bradley Beal has started to tumble down the unofficial Twitter rankings lately and it’s because his season hasn’t really ever taken hold. Injuries and shooting slumps have been the culprits and last night he got knocked from the game briefly due to a hip pointer, finishing with eight points, three rebounds, five assists and two steals in last night’s home loss to the Suns. He’ll be a must-start player next week with four games as long as he isn’t truly hurt, but owners looking two weeks down the road will want to be wary of the three-game slate.
John Wall scored 29 points with six assists, two steals, one block and two threes as his top 8-13 (8/9 cat) season has justified the high ADP. Trevor Ariza brushed off concerns about his Achilles’ and logged 40 minutes to finish with 14 points, eight rebounds, four assists, one steal and one three, Marcin Gortat went for 17 and five, and Drew Gooden slowed down to the tune of six points and seven boards in 18 minutes.
LOWRY LOGGING MINUTES
The Raptors turned around and went to Boston after losing on Tuesday in Cleveland, and pulled things together to leave with a win as they limp a little bit to the finish line. Kyle Lowry logged 34 minutes and scored 23 points with four threes, nine boards and four assists so he is obviously fine, but the Raps would love to preserve him for the playoffs at some point but that point is not right now. Tied with the Bulls for the No. 3 seed and 2.5 games ahead of No. 5 Brooklyn, if they experience separation in the standings they might give Lowry a night off but not until then.
Amir Johnson (10 points, seven rebounds, one three, zero steals and blocks) needs the rest as much as anybody but Patrick Patterson still hasn’t had a substantial update after being cleared for practice. I benched Johnson for Gorgui Dieng this week over fears that his production might slip as his body breaks down. Last night’s outcome might have been the first real indicator that it’s about to happen.
Terrence Ross hit five triples for 24 points on 9-of-16 shooting with four rebounds and a steal in 37 minutes. He’s still just a 3-point specialist with low-end value in 12-14 team leagues when you iron out the peaks and valleys. Jonas Valanciunas turned the switch on with 15 and 14 to go with three assists but he was shut out in the defensive stat categories. He has been up-and-down this past week but has top-100 value over the last two weeks with averages of 13.4 points, 8.9 boards and 56.1 percent shooting from the field and 87.0 percent from the line. Greivis Vasquez played through his ‘ankle’ injury and hit just 3-of-10 shots for seven points, two assists and a three, which had as much to do with Ross’ hot streak as anything else. He has been playing at a late-round level in a 20-25 minute per night role over the last two weeks.
The ‘pain in the neck’ joke is too easy after Jeff Green left last night’s loss late due to that same ailment, finishing with six points, two boards and a block in 20 minutes. If Green somehow misses time then Chris Johnson could be a sneaky deep-league pickup for 3-point shooting and a smattering of other stats. Johnson hit 5-of-8 shots (including one three) for 13 points, one steal and one block in 26 minutes off the bench, and has shown the ability to get hot from deep in prior stints this season.
Rajon Rondo played and scored nine points on 3-of-9 shooting (no threes) with four rebounds, 15 assists and two steals. It was announced that he would not play on Monday and that he would also be announcing in the booth for the first quarter of the home-and-home finale against the Bulls. That means he’s good to go for this Sunday in Chicago and owners can treat the next week as a 2-3 gamer instead of a four-banger. The Celtics have a back-to-back on Friday against the Sixers and Saturday against the Pistons, but have two days off after that and maybe he’ll throw caution to the win and play it out.
Avery Bradley has been rolling and scored 16 points on 6-of-15 shooting with two threes and three boards last night. The lack of peripheral stats make this line a push but he’s right where owners want him to be. Jared Sullinger was the big man of the day for Brad Stevens in a 26-point, eight-rebound night that included a career-high four threes, one steal and two blocks. I’ve given up trying to guess who is going to produce in the Boston frontcourt, but Sullinger vaults to the top of the list after a night like this. Kris Humphries had just four points, four boards and one block in 17 minutes, Kelly Olynyk made some mild noise with seven points, five boards, three steals and a three in 22 minutes, and Brandon Bass was invisible with four points and five boards in 26 minutes out of the starting PF slot.
WAIT FOR IT
The Cavs are making things interesting by refusing to go quietly into the night, and last night it was a last-second bucket out of Dion Waiters that stole a win in Detroit. Once again the team’s ball movement has been better without Kyrie Irving in the lineup, and in particular the play of Matthew Dellavedova has been the anti-Irving combination of passing and defense. Clearly Irving is an extremely talented player with a high ceiling, but he won’t be the first All Star whose sticky fingers and lack of defense have resulted in an addition by subtraction situation when they get hurt.
Waiters hit just 8-of-20 shots for 18 points, four rebounds, four assists and a block, and Jarrett Jack scored 17 points on 7-of-15 shooting with two threes, two rebounds and just one assist. Dellavedova went nuts for a career-high 21 points on 7-of-9 shooting with five threes, three boards, six assists and a steal over 36 minutes.
Mike Brown doesn’t even try to hide his man-crush on Delly and he actually hugged him during a timeout after forcing a five-second call last night. His fantasy value will be almost entirely dependent upon Irving’s status, and yesterday I guessed that the Cavs would need to win about five more games in a row for the Cavs to pull the trigger on a return. With the No. 8 Hawks dropping like rocks and Cleveland now 3.5 games back with nine to play, perhaps they only need to win a few more for Irving to be tapped. It’s all guesswork, but Delladova could easily stick around as a deep league asset in the Cavs’ upcoming pair of three game weeks.
Spencer Hawes continued to see limited minutes (24) while the Cavs go small, scoring four points with six rebounds, one steal and one block. He’s not killing owners with these numbers in the current four-game week, but if he can’t turn it around soon then folks will have a tough call to make given the schedule difficulties. Anderson Varejao has been getting injections in his back but has slowly come around, with last night’s 12 and 16 with one steal over 31 minutes putting him back on the standard league radar. There’s enough risk combined with the schedule issue to give owners pause, but he’s certainly worth a look if you need a big.
GIVE IT AWAY NOW
The Pistons have been giving up games like the one they gave away to the Cavs last night for a while now, but at least there were some positives in the box for fantasy owners. Brandon Jennings scored 17 points on 6-of-14 shooting with five threes, five boards, 13 assists and two steals, Josh Smith scored 24 points on 11-of-23 shooting with one three, eight boards, six assists and three blocks, and Greg Monroe went for 14 and eight with two steals and a block in the loss.
Smith hit just 1-of-3 freebies including an airball and entering the game shooting just 15 percent from the stripe over his last four he actually improved in the effort. The 64.4 percent career FT shooter has hit just 53.3 percent from the stripe this season and that’s a big reason he’s ranked way down in the top 60-90 despite not missing a single game this season.
Andre Drummond did not record a steal or block and had just six points and 11 rebounds in 26 minutes, so I’ll be watching to see if there is any injury-related reason for that. Kyle Singler has been a recommended play despite recent struggles and he got back on the right side of the ledger with 18 points on 7-of-11 shooting, four threes, three boards, two assists, one steal and one block over 30 minutes. Jonas Jerebko (four points, eight boards, 19 minutes) is still getting playing time but Singler has shown enough staying power to deserve the benefit of the doubt with two four-game weeks on the horizon.