• Thursday’s slate of games was the best we’ve had in quite some time, partly due to matchups and also due to the fact that every game was competitive. We got a look at potential playoff series between the Rockets and Clippers and maybe even a potential finals matchup between the Bucks and Lakers.

    The Bucks came out storming to a commanding lead early, but as always with this year’s Lakers, they came fighting back. LeBron James continues to show no signs of age this season (what a wonder a summer off can do for your body) and Anthony Davis is the perfect complementary piece alongside him. Although they made the game a close contest at the end, the Bucks overwhelmed them with their swarming defense and depth. Key issues for the Lakers all year have been their depth and playmaking outside of their two superstars. Yes, they’re still an elite team, but a game like tonight just exposed some key weaknesses that many Lakers fans have witnessed throughout the season. Oh and Giannis Antetokounmpo has made his claim for the crown.

    Following that contest, was a rollercoaster ride game in Los Angeles where the Rockets would take on Kawhi Leonard and Paul George. Clippers Rockets games have so many subplots because of all of the pieces intertwined and how the four superstars all have roots playing in LA. Patrick Beverley, Lou Williams and Montrezl Harrell were in the package for Chris Paul, who eventually became Russell Westbrook. James Harden and Kawhi Leonard love dueling against each other and have had plenty of epic battles throughout the years. Russell Westbrook and Patrick Beverley’s feud is well documented, Paul George being Russ’s old pal and Austin Rivers against his dad Doc Rivers. With all of this context, the game did not fail to disappoint as the Clippers choked out the Rockets to a 17-point lead in the first half. Harden looked absolutely figured out and frustrated as the Clippers sent double-teams late in the shot clock to fluster him. It worked. Then the second half arrived as Russell Westbrook decided to take matters into his own hands, propelling the Rockets with plays all over the court as the Rockets not only came back from 17 down, but led by 12 in the fourth. He drew a (poorly called) foul on Lou Williams which led to an ejection and proceeded to knock down his freebies (Russ can shoot free throws now). Paul George led the Clippers back as they took the lead back, but Harden closed out the game to cap off an exciting double header. We can expect Lou Williams to have trouble holding onto his strong value from earlier this year, while Danuel House is now trending up.

    Lines of the Night

    Giannis Antetokounmpo, PF, Milwaukee Bucks – 34 points, 11 rebounds, seven assists, one steal, one block and five 3-pointers 11-for-19 FG, 7-for-10 FT

    Antetokounmpo set a new career-high in triples and was taking what the defense gave him at times, but as he began to heat up, he just started launching heat checks. The league is absolutely shaking watching him drain those deep 3s, and he’s 21-for-46 (.475) from deep in December.

    Paul George, SF, Los Angeles Clippers – 34 points, nine rebounds, three assists, two steals, two blocks and six 3-pointers 12-for-23 FG 4-for-4 FT

    George has been on a roll since recovering from his shoulder surgery and it shows. He’s posting top-10 per-game value and the only thing holding him back from doing it consistently is his health.

    Russell Westbrook, PG, Houston Rockets – 40 points,10 rebounds, five assists, one steal and two 3-pointers 13-for-31 FG 12-for-13 FT

    The efficiency wasn’t there from the field, but the high volume free throws and efficiency at the line makes up for it. The Brodie found his free throw stroke.

    Add(s) of the Night

    Davis Bertans, SF, Wizards – 32 points, nine rebounds, one assist, one block and eight 3-pointers (11-of-18 FG, 2-for- 2FT, 8-for-12 3PT)

    This guy is nuts. He’s flinging around 3-pointers like he’s Stephen Curry. The Wizards are ALL about that action on offense and have no problem diverting half of their 3-point attempts to Bertans because he’s an absolute flamethrower from deep. On the year he’s hitting .452 of his long-balls and in the month of December he’s hitting 5.6 3s on 11.8 attempts a game which is just insane. He’ll cool off a bit of course, but the high amount of triples should still be enough to warrant standard-league value. Thomas Bryant is shelved a bit longer, but even at full strength, Bertans is one of the premier 3-point shooters in the league and in fantasy circles.

    P.J. Washingon, PF, Hornets – 15 points, four rebounds, three assists, one block and three 3-pointers (5-for-13 FG, 2-for-2 FT, 3-for-9 3PT)

    I’m giving you guys another free one since Bertans is owned in over 70% of Yahoo! leagues. Washington was red-hot to start the year and cooled off a bit, but he’s now providing stats elsewhere to help with those bad shooting nights. He’s getting better with each passing game and is one of the most complete rookies in this class, yes that means he’s a good defender, but he also knows how to score within the flow of the offense. I’ll rave more about Washington in the section below, but if you’re in the 45% of leagues that his him on the wire, go grab him.

    Drop Zone

    Tyler Herro, SG, Miami Heat – It’s time to let it go. The hype around him was higher than it should have been because of some preseason performances and he was reaching Kyle Kuzma levels of praise. The Heat scored 135 points in OT and Herro couldn’t etch out any value which is a major problem considering they were without Goran Dragic and Justise Winslow as well. Herro hasn’t provided top-150 value on a per-game basis in the last two months, last month, last two weeks or last week. On the year he’s on ranked No. 165 on a per-game basis. Don’t let the occasional big game fool you, he’s not worth holding onto in the long run. In the words of Elsa, let it go.

    Injuries

    The Toronto Raptors are dealing with a myriad of injuries to rotational players, Fred VanVleet is questionable with a bruised right knee, Norman Powell is out with a shoulder injury and Marc Gasol is set to miss multiple weeks with a left hamstring injury.

    Gordon Hayward is day-to-day with a sore left food and will most likely be a game-time decision.

    Coach Kerr stated that Kevon Looney was a DNP-CD due to lack of conditioning, but either way, he can’t be trusted in fantasy circles.

    Bad news for owners of Karl-Anthony Towns as he’s dealing with right knee tendinopathy and is looking at a multiple game absence.

    Christian Wood has already been ruled out of Friday’s game, but with Blake Griffin (doubtful with a sore left knee) dealing with his own knee injury, Wood is still likely to put up some solid value when he returns.

    Jeremy Lamb is a true game-time decision on Friday with a sore right groin.

    Julius Randle is expected to play on Friday with a sore left leg.

    Delon Wright is questionable for Friday with a finger sprain.

    Seth Curry has lower back tightness and is questionable for Friday.

    John Wall may return again this season, but the chance is still slim and outside of dynasty leagues, he can be ignored.

    Deandre Ayton will not play in Friday’s game with a right ankle sprain which is frustrating for owners, but still not a long-term injury.

    Devin Booker remains questionable again for Friday’s game against the Thunder with a bruised forearm.

    Cameron Johnson will also be questionable for Friday’s game with a hip injury and it’s a bit concerning knowing his medical history.

    Marcus Smart is already ruled out for Friday’s game with his eye infection and this injury has lingered on much longer than expected.

    Goran Dragic missed the last nine games with a groin strain and has been upgraded to questionable for Friday.

    Bogdan Bogdanovic is questionable for Friday with a right ankle sprain.

    Luke Kennard has bilateral knee soreness and is doubtful for Friday.

    Eric Paschall will most likely play in Friday’s game after recovering from a sore left hip.

    Trae Young had a bruised right calf, but is expected to play on Friday.

    Jonathan Isaac is not on the injury report and should be expected to play on Friday.

    Bledsoe-less Bucks 

    Giannis Antetokounmpo is the modern day Shaq. He’s dominating the paint and absolutely crushing it from an efficiency standpoint. He’s scoring 31.8 points per game on .565 shooting and that’s with 1.8 made 3s. The free throw shooting is a drain (.601 on 10.9 attempts) but he’s so good across the board that it’s actually okay. The Bucks look like the best team in the NBA right now and that’s because of the fact that Giannis will most likely win his second consecutive MVP. The team is built well around him, surrounding him with shooters and capable defenders. Now with a few games without Eric Bledsoe, we can easily assess how this team operates.

    Donte Divincenzo needs to be added across all leagues, as his playmaking ability and shooting from outside should have him slotted as a starter for the next two weeks. I like him more than George Hill because of his dime dishing, but Hill should also be owned in most leagues as well. He’s leading the league in 3-point accuracy (.506) and the Bucks absolutely love launching triples. Brook Lopez also shut the buy-low window shut tonight, but if owners are still panicky about low scoring numbers, please pounce as he should easily cruise to top-75 value with his peripheral stats.

    Also shoutout to Kevin Huerter, for already getting back into form tonight. He’s a guy like Donte Divincenzo in terms of fantasy as he provides a similar stat set. He’s a lot more important for the Hawks though, as they don’t have many consistent wing players on offense. Huerter is the most consistent guy on the team and when we look at assist numbers, four and up is a serviceable amount.

    All-Star Dinwiddie

    Spencer Dinwiddie had another massive game, scoring 41 points on 14-of-29 shooting with one rebound, five dimes and four triples. He’s been playing at an All-Star level and the Nets have actually looked strong with him at the helm, which is a surprising development considering how awful he was at the start of the season. He’s posting top-70 numbers on the season and it’s almost blasphemous to think that he’ll be relegated to the bench when Kyrie Irving returns. However, that will most likely be the case, but with a guy like Dinwiddie, if you own him, you just have to ride it out.

    Another interesting point guard battle going on is Dejounte Murray and Derrick White. Coach Pop refuses to play the two together and even though they both had great nights, they each logged less than 28 minutes. It’s bizarre to me that they can’t share the floor together, because they absolutely can, but as long as this see saw is in effect, it won’t teeter far enough one way to have the player as a must-own asset. There’s a perfect fantasy world where both exist, but we’re currently not living in it. The Spurs are bad this year and Coach Pop has made plenty of questionable decisions over the last few years which I would be happy to dive into it: Lletting Davis Bertans walk, aiming for Marcus Morris, not getting OG Anunoby or Pascal Siakam in the Kawhi Leonard trade, passing on Brandon Clarke and now refusing to play White and Murray together. If you want to discuss this further, I’m always up for a good talk on twitter @HB_Nate.

     

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