You have to admire the Rockets. They came out fast, then had a horrible second quarter and could easily have given up. Instead, they won the second half by 17 points behind the unlikely Big Three of Goran Dragic (21), Luis Scola (18) and Marcus Camby (12 PTS, 11 REB.) Chicago, which hadn’t lost two in a row all season, got 24 from Luol Deng and 16 from Carlos Boozer, but their guards were disappointing. Richard Hamilton played 20 minutes in his return, with nearly as many turnovers (5) as points (6) and can only improve if he stays healthy.
MIL @ WAS: This one was predictable, though I was expecting more from Drew Gooden (8 PTS) and less from Ekpe Udoh (15 PTS. 8 REB, 5 AST.) Shaun Livingston (10) replaced Beno Udrih (hand) as the backup PG and Ersan Ilyasova (16 PTS, 11 REB) had another solid game. The kiddie corps started again for the injury-riddled Wizards, with PF Jan Vesely scoring 14 and C Kevin Seraphin 15; both are good adds if you’re in the fantasy playoffs and need to stream free agents.
MEM @ OKC: I advised the Thunder not to take this game for granted, but unlike you, they weren’t reading yesterday’s Spin. Admittedly, I thought the upset was possible only if Mike Conley (ankle) played, but O.J. Mayo (22) and Tony Allen (15) did just fine without him. It was a tough shooting night for Russell Westbrook (5-16) and Kevin Durant (21 PTS) couldn’t pick up the slack.
LAC @ DAL: My hunch about Delonte West looked good when he was the surprise starter for Jason Kidd (groin) but Dallas was blown out on its home floor. Dirk Nowitzki had 19 points but the rest of the Mavericks were awful. For L.A., Randy Foye was on fire, nailing eight 3-pointers among his 28 points, and the other starters got some extra rest in the fourth quarter.
UTA @ POR: Devin Harris played only 13:32 before leaving with an ankle injury and Earl Watson missed all five of his shots. Your Jazz PG for the next little while might be Jamaal Tinsley. Paul Millsap (31 PTS, 11 REB) was terrific in this much-needed road win and Derrick Favors double-doubled (11 & 11) in 35 minutes off the bench, as starter C.J. Miles played just seven minutes. Wesley Matthews (33 PTS) was very sharp in defeat, but the Blazers were without Jamal Crawford (knee) and sixth man J.J. Hickson was quiet.
MIN @ SAC: After I cut him in a 12-team league because I didn’t think he’d play at all in this head-to-head playoff week, Nikola Pekovic managed 19 minutes off the bench on his ankle, which will need surgery for bone spurs. That was long enough to hit 7-8 shots for 17 points. Brad Miller started at C, scoring 11 PTS and handing out 6 AST in 22 minutes. Kevin Love had “only” 23 as the tired Timberwolves faded late. Luke Ridnour (ankle) may miss some time and J.J. Barea (thigh) is hoping to start on Wednesday. For Sacramento, five players hit double digits led by Tyreke Evans (24 PTS, 10 REB, 7 AST) but Marcus Thornton left early with a calf injury, so Terrence Williams (12 PTS, 12 REB) started at SG in the second half.
SAS @ CLE: One thing to remember about the Spurs is their age, with 16 games in the next 24 nights. Another factor is the randomness of games off for Tim Duncan, Tony Parker and Manu Ginobili, among others. Whoever plays, they should do well against Cleveland, as Kyrie Irving (shoulder) seems unlikely to play and the rest of the team has looked simply awful in a 7-game losing streak. Donald Sloan would be the PG and he’s of interest only in the deepest leagues.
NYK @ IND: These Knicks are not the same team that thumped the Pacers twice in 24 hours three weeks ago. Without Jeremy Lin and Amare Stoudemire, it will be up to Carmelo Anthony and Tyson Chandler to lead the way. The nominal PG is Baron Davis, still hobbled by a sore hamstring, so Iman Shumpert may do some ball-handling. Danny Granger has been playing much better lately and his whole team looked good in Houston the other night.
CHA @ TOR: Who cares? Fantasy owners, of course. Rookie Kemba Walker is (finally) taking over at PG for the struggling D.J. Augustin. Get Byron Mullens on your roster and into your lineup; he’s starting at PF the rest of the season and has C eligibility. Reggie Williams is also a starter, as Corey Maggette (Achilles) is out. For Toronto, which often plays up to (or down to) the level of opponent, this should be an easy win and Andrea Bargnani may have a big night.
ORL @ DET: Dwight Howard has a sore back and Ryan Anderson a sprained ankle. If neither can play, look for Jameer Nelson to take over and Glen Davis to have another strong game. It would also be good news for Greg Monroe, who is capable of dominating Big Baby. Brandon Knight will have to play well for the Pistons to win.
PHI @ MIA: Those impostors in Heat uniforms on Sunday in Boston might be replaced by angry superstars at home. LeBron James and Dwayne Wade have a lot of pride and it wouldn’t surprise me if either goes off for 30+ this evening. However, the Sixers are coming off a huge win over Atlanta, and Elton Brand has been playing great. Easily the best game of the night to watch.
GSW @ MEM: The middle of a back-to-back-to-back should be no problem for Memphis off their big win last night, as the Warriors have nothing to play for. David Lee is a must-start, and Nate Robinson might be getting healthy. Don’t hesitate to play your Grizzlies, just check for late updates on Conley.
PHO @ SAC: The Suns are desperate to get back in the playoffs, so the effort will be there. Shannon Brown looks like the starting SF while Grant Hill rehabs from knee surgery, and while Steve Nash isn’t scoring as much, he still hands out assists in bunches. I’d have every regular for both teams in my lineup — except for the injured Thornton — as the pace should be fast and defense an afterthought.
NJN @ LAL: The Lakers can afford to be careful with Andrew Bynum (ankle) but whether he plays or not will have an impact on Pau Gasol’s numbers, which should either be very good, or sensational. Ramon Sessions figures to have his hands full with Deron Williams but Johan Petro — the Nets’ starting C — is in for a long night. Gerald Wallace and/or Kris Humphries might be inspired enough to keep this one close.
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Out In DraftStreet
|Sure Things||Over $14,000|
|Hunches||$9,000 to $14,000|
I didn’t come close in my daily leagues last night, as I keyed on Dirk Nowitzki and used Luke Ridnour. You can’t win ‘em all; the thing is to be consistent, keep trying and wait for the basketball gods to smile on your picks.
Decided to try a 10-man weekly league for $5. Byron Mullens ($9,817) is a cheap C option who has just been handed a starting job; Andrea Bargnani ($11,739) seemed like a great value. Russell Westbrook ($17,826) and O.J. Mayo ($11,600) are my guards, with Ersan Ilyasova ($13,432) and Rudy Gay ($17,311) at forward. Had room to squeeze in Nicolas Batum ($10,901) and Shannon Brown ($7,367) as my Utility guys, while staying $7 under the cap.
There are infinite variations, of course. It’s guesswork based on knowledge. Wherever you begin , whoever you decide to build around, influences all your other choices. Had I gone with DeMarcus Cousins at C, either Westbrook or Gay would have to be replaced by a cheaper option. Anyway, we’re in second place so far and both my centers play tonight.
I’ve also joined my usual $2 Salary Cap league with a $600 Guaranteed Prize Pool and a $5 league with 220 teams and a GPP of $1,000 — $250 goes to the winner in that one.
The salaries for my “Sure Things” are fairly reasonable; LBJ costs as much as $24,000 when he’s on a roll. Among the “Bargains,” you can scratch Glen Davis if Dwight Howard plays; lineups can be changed right up until 7:00 EDT and late-breaking news can make or break your team.
If you haven’t checked out Draft Street yet, it’s free to join and there are free leagues where you can get started. See you there!