Looking at the schedule beforehand, the National Basketball Association slate on Monday didn't look terribly exciting. Normally when the Golden State Warriors and San Antonio Spurs hook up, it's a showdown with a lot on the line. However, the Warriors were missing their two biggest components, and the Spurs are simply fighting for the opportunity to face the Dubs, or anyone, in the Western Conference playoffs. The night wasn't devoid of big fantasy performances, however, as LeBron James stepped up in his showdown with Giannis Antetokounmpo and the Bucks, and the Denver Nuggets and Miami Heat decided they needed extra time to decide a winner, delighting fantasy owners of players in that battle. Let's get started!
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Monday's Fantasy Five
LeBron James has been doing whatever is necessary to get the job done, whether his team is shorthanded, not jelling, full of new faces, etc. He hit 16-of-29 field-goal attempts, including 3-of-7 from behind the 3-point line, while posting 40 points, 12 rebounds, 10 assists, two steals and a blocked shot over 40 minutes to will his team to a 124-117 victory over the visiting Milwaukee Bucks. It was his 15th triple-double of the season, and the 71st of his career. He has rolled up 32.0 points, 12.2 rebounds, 9.2 assists, 1.8 steals, 1.8 blocked shots and 1.8 3-pointers per game over the past five outings. While Cavaliers fans might be glad to see Kevin Love (hand) back on the court to help out, LeBron's fantasy owners might see a slight downturn in production now that he doesn't have to carry the load entirely by himself.
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Joel Embiid was not flustered by the fact he was facing down veteran big Dwight Howard. In fact, he not only excelled, he dominated. The Process was good for 25 points on 10-of-17 shooting, while hitting 4-of-6 from behind the arc, and he snagged 19 rebounds with four blocked shots. The 3-point shooting was impressive considering he is a 31 percent shooting from the perimeter this season. He teamed with Ben Simmons, who had 11 points, 15 assists and 12 rebounds for the triple-double, his third in the past four games. It's like 76ers dynamic duo was No. 2 and No. 2A in tonight's Fantasy Five.
Not to be outdone by LeBron, Giannis Antetokounmpo showed well in his battle in Cleveland. While the Bucks came up short, it wasn't due to any shortcomings by the Greek Freak. He was good for 37 points on a very efficient 13-of-20 shooting, while adding 11 rebounds, five assists and a steal. Antetokounmpo also turned it over just two times. In four head-to-head battles with James and the Cavs, Antetokounmpo is averaging 34.5 points, 10.3 rebounds and 6.0 assists in four games this season. Unfortunately for the boys from Cream City, the Bucks have won just once in those four battles in this potential playoff matchup.
JaMychal Green isn't necessary known to the casual fantasy owner, and Memphis isn't exactly a hotbed of fantasy studs these days. But Green is getting a chance at a heavy workload and all the minutes he can deal with, and he has handled the situation with aplomb. He was good for 14 points on a very efficient 7-of-8 shooting, and he tied a career high with 16 rebounds in Monday's near-miss in Brooklyn. He is averaging a double-double in the month of March, going for 10.9 points and 10.6 rebounds across nine games. He has not only emerged as a useful fantasy option, he is now considered a must-start since he has logged 10 double-doubles across the past 15 outings.
The Warriors were missing two studs, Steph Curry (ankle) and Kevin Durant (ribs), but the Spurs had one of these stars doing big things. LaMarcus Aldridge has stepped up his game all season with Kawhi Leonard (quadriceps) missing in action. LMA was good for 33 points, 12 rebounds and two blocked shots in the showdown with the Dubs, and it wasn't just his offense that was impressive. He did a number on Draymond Green, as the Golden State forward went scoreless across 12 minutes, going 0-of-4 from the floor before leaving with a pelvic contusion. X-rays came back negative, but he wasn't doing that much before the injury. The team likely wanted to take it really easy with him since they are so shorthanded in the star department. Jordan Bell started the second half in his absence, and Kevon Looney picked up the pace with the added run. Bell did squadoosh in his 23 minutes, managing just one point on 0-of-3 shooting with four personal fouls, so it was Looney taking advantage. He hit 6-of-7 from the field, going for 12 points, eight rebounds and three steals with a blocked shot over 22 minutes. Looney is the player to target, especially for DFS purposes, if Green joins the walking wounded in Oaktown.
Fantasy Game of the Night
The Denver Nuggets and Miami Heat combined for 290 total points in a double-overtime battle in South Florida. Four starters for the Nuggets went for 22 or more points, including Nikola Jokic who was good for 34 points, 14 rebounds and three assists. He logged 48 minutes, hitting 12-of-21 from the floor, including 4-of-5 from behind the 3-point line. He was also a perfect 6-of-6 from the free-throw line, and the only thing fantasy owners can complain about would be a lack of blocked shots. Will Barton surprisingly came up with a pair of swats, and he added 22 points, four rebounds, four steals and three assists while playing 46 minutes. Jamal Murray chipped in with 23 points, and the Blue Arrow dropped in four 3-pointers while also adding six assists and five rebounds with no turnovers in his 43 minutes. Wilson Chandler rounded out the group with 26 points on a very effective 11-of-16 shooting night in his 47 minutes. Off the bench it was Devin Harris posting a baker's dozen in the points department, including a perfect 8-of-8 from the free-throw stripe.
For the Heat, it was veteran James Johnson leading the way with a surprising season-high 31 points, 11 rebounds, six assists, a steal and a blocked shot while dumping in four triples. He has really stepped up his game with 20.3 points, 9.3 rebounds, 6.0 assists, 2.0 steals and 1.0 blocked shots per game over the past three contests, but this was by far his biggest performance. Goran Dragic was good for 20 points on 6-of-15 shooting, and he added eight assists with four rebounds and a steal in his 42 minutes on the hardwood. Off the bench, Kelly Olynyk was outstanding, posting 30 points on a very effective 11-of-16 shooting, while adding 4-of-6 from behind the 3-point arc. He also added four assists, four blocked shots a steal. Wayne Ellington was also sharp, hitting six 3-pointers, winding up with 23 points, four rebounds and two assists while posting just one turnover in his 40 minutes of work.
Quick Hits: Antetokounmpo wasn't the only Milwaukee player doing big things. Khris Middleton hit 11-of-16 from the field while going for 30 points, five rebounds, two assists, two steals and a blocked shot. … Kevin Love was back almost a full week earlier than expected, and he was a sight for LeBron's sore eyes. Kevlar went for 18 points, seven rebounds, four assists and two blocked shots in his 25 minutes of work, and he is likely to continue logging more playing time down the stretch as he knocks off the rust and gets back into playing shape. … Kemba Walker picked up 24 points, eight rebounds, six assists, three steals and a blocked shot in a loss at Philly. … Jeremy Lamb stepped into the starting five with Nicolas Batum (Achilles') battling soreness, going for 14 points on 6-of-12 from the field while adding eight rebounds, three assists, a steal and a blocked shot. … Willy Hernangomez stepped up his game with Howard in foul trouble, posting 17 points on 6-of-11 shooting in 20 minutes. However, he remains useful only in the deepest of fantasy leagues as long as Howard is healthy. … Marco Belinelli stepped up with 21 points off the bench, hitting 8-of-14 from the field, including 5-of-9 from behind the arc. Despite the big performance, he isn't about to push aside JJ Redick anytime soon for a bigger role. … Julius Randle went for 21 points and nine rebounds, and it is getting to be what is expected from the former University of Kentucky standout. He has really taken a step from fantasy curiosity to fantasy regular this season. … Kyle Kuzma went for 27 points and eight rebounds in his 37 minutes, and he was a very efficient 10-of-18 from the field. The point total was his most since he dropped 28 on Boston back on Jan. 23. … Andre Drummond didn't do much in the scoring department, winding up with just four points, but he did his usual glass cleaning with 16 boards while adding three blocks. … Buddy Hield stepped into the starting lineup, and he was good for 20 points, six rebounds, four assists and two steals. The Kings continue to lean upon their younger players down the stretch, and Hield will get a long look in Sacto as the team evaluates him and other players with upside for the future.