That was no playoff preview. Paul Pierce, expected to have a huge game as the de facto point guard, got the night off instead, as did Kevin Garnett. With Ray Allen and Rajon Rondo hurt, that was 80% of the Celtics’ familiar starting five on the sidelines. Red-hot Avery Bradley scored 28 to keep the makeshift lineup in the game, but the Hawks won, as Joe Johnson, who had been quiet for a while, exploded for 30 points.
MEM @ CHA: I guessed wrong. Thought it might be Kemba Walker with a big effort; his 11 PTS, 5 AST and 6 REB were marred by 7 TO and 10 missed shots. Instead it was Gerald Henderson, whose 32 points kept the woeful Bobcats in the game. Memphis did just enough to win; Mike Conley (20) was the lone productive starter and Zach Randolph (14) led the bench brigade.
NYK @ CLE: A lackluster performance by the Knicks, as Amare Stoudemire returned with 15 points in a surprising 27 minutes. Carmelo Anthony (12) and Tyson Chandler (4) were particularly quiet. For the victorious Cavaliers, Kyrie Irving scored 21 in less than 26 minutes — he deserves Rookie of the Year if only for making his teammates so much better — and Manny Harris (19 PTS, 12 REB) played his best game of the season.
GSW @ DAL: Dirk Nowitzki wasn’t really needed, settling for just 16 points, and the two “lesser lights” I tipped here yesterday did OK: Delonte West had 16, Brandan Wright 17 off the bench. For Golden State, Charles Jenkins had a double-double (10 PTS, 10 AST) and Jeremy Tyler (15 PTS, 8 REB, 3 STL, 2 BLK) played well again, while Klay Thompson’s 26 led all scorers.
LAL @ SAS: Kobe Bryant played almost 30 minutes in his return, scoring 18 points, but the Lakers were blown out in the second half. For once, the Spurs’ trio of veteran stars were the main men. Tim Duncan had 21 PTS, 8 REB, 3 AST, 3 STL and 2 BLK, Tony Parker went for 20 & 10 and Manu Ginobili added 20 PTS, 7 AST and 6 REB off the bench.
OKC @ SAC: No surprises here. Kevin Durant (29 PTS, 14 REB, 7 AST) had a big night, James Harden scored 20 off the bench and Serge Ibaka blocked another EIGHT shots. DeMarcus Cousins (18 PTS, 9 REB) led the Kings, who never seriously threatened.
Saturday Night Live
DEN @ PHO: The Nuggets would like to clinch a playoff spot but the Suns play great at home and are desperate not to lose. Start everybody on both teams and hope for overtime. In particular, Marcin Gortat matches up well against Denver and Jared Dudley has been on a bit of a scoring spree. Ty Lawson and Steve Nash figure to put on a show. Even the slumping Danilo Gallinari could break out.
PHI @ IND: Before I pick players — to start in traditional leagues, on DraftStreet or as possible free agents — I try to predict how each game might go. There’s a big risk tonight that the Pacers, who have locked up home-court advantage, will rest some regulars. George Hill, the lone must-start, has “officially” taken over from Darren Collison. The 76ers are in more of a must-win mode, trying to clinch a playoff spot. Give me Andre Iguodala, Jrue Holiday and the Philly bench.
WAS @ MIA: The “minor bumps and bruises” that have led to Chris Bosh missing two games are a mystery. One of these nights, LeBron James will sit and Bosh will double-double in a big way. It might not be tonight, but you can never be too sure at this time of year. The Wizards have been playing spoiler recently but not tonight; Miami’s D is stifling at home.
DAL @ CHI: Derrick Rose (foot) is out and C.J. Watson scored just two points in 20 minutes against Miami, so John Lucas may be the best Bulls PG again tonight. Fatigue could be an issue for Dallas. I’m not expecting a high score or any individual heroics in this one.
GSW @ HOU: The weary road Warriors are heading for a blowout loss tonight. Houston is rested, at home and their fading playoff hopes depend on a win tonight. Start Goran Dragic, Luis Scola, Courtney Lee and Chase Budinger with confidence. It’s always possible Marcus Camby will be rested, so check on his status. Patrick Patterson would go from a solid play to a strong one if Camby sits.
POR @ MEM: The Blazers have made some changes recently. You should already know J.J. Hickson has replaced the injured LaMarcus Aldridge, but rookie Nolan Smith is at PG in the absence of Raymond Felton, and Luke Babbitt started the second half for a very sore Nicolas Batum on Wednesday. It’s doubtful they can beat the Grizzlies no matter who plays.
NJN @ MIL: It’s been a bad week for Milwaukee to give up winning. They should take out their frustration on the Nets, who are starting Sundiata Gaines, not Deron Williams. Play all your Bucks in fantasy leagues, especially Brandon Jennings and Monta Ellis, but in real life, even a huge win will be too little, too late.
ORL @ UTA: It looks like the homestanding Jazz might make the playoffs. Al Jefferson was barely needed in their last easy win, but should dominate tonight. Gordon Hayward is on a roll and even the much-maligned Devin Harris had 27 points on Wednesday. The news that Dwight Howard is having back surgery not only affects the Magic and Team USA. His keeper value is down a tick; we don’t know where he’ll be playing, for which coach, or if he’ll be as durable in the future. Meanwhile, Glen Davis owners rejoice as he carries us to a strong finish, and Jameer Nelson is more prominent.
On Every DraftStreet
|Sure Things||Over $14,000|
|Hunches||$9,000 to $14,000|
The Sheridan Hoops Freeroll on Friday nights has been my nemesis. The closest I’ve finished in seven tries is 23rd and I was #213 last night of 460 entries. Congratulations to “tupark82” for winning the $125 first prize.
After playing in quite a few $2 and $5 leagues over the last couple of months, and winning my share, the competition there seems a lot easier than the Freeroll. Last night I won $55 for finishing fifth among 275 entries in the $5 GPP league, and $10 for tenth place in a $2 league.
There was a special $11 league, with a $500 prize pool. The kicker was, everyone would get an extra $5 cash, just for finishing ahead of Chris Sheridan. How could I resist?
Well, the boss beat me, by one lousy point. The easy winner was “thunderup,” who built around Kevin Durant and used Gerald Henderson. Sheridan came fifth and I was sixth. The $25 consolation prize is fine, but I really wanted that five bucks and those valuable bragging rights.
Just click here to get started on Draft Street. It’s always free to register and no deposit is required — you can play in leagues with no entry fees.