MEM @ UTA: There are nights when Zach Randolph is unstoppable. Ask the Jazz, who watched Z-Bo (25 PTS, 16 REB, 3 STL) put the Grizzlies on his broad shoulders to snap their three-game slide. It was a tale of two halves. After Al Jefferson (21 PTS, 8 REB) dominated the first 24 minutes, Randolph took over at both ends of the floor and led a 28-10 third quarter surge. Marc Gasol (16 PTS, 8 REB, 2 STL, 2 BLK) also finished strong and nobody else stepped up for Utah once Big Al was slowed down. Mike Conley (12 PTS, 8 AST) is looking for his shot — 11 FG attempts per game in December — but it isn’t falling (32.9%) so as a 44% career shooter, he’s due for some luck. Buy low.
December 16 Games
HOU @ TOR: It’s too bad this 1:00 matinee doesn’t count in Draft Street leagues, which close at 6:00 EST. Neither team is famous for defense, so be sure to start everyone you own in traditional leagues with daily changes. You don’t want James Harden and DeMar DeRozan to be trading buckets all day from your bench. Jose Calderon is a must-start as long as Kyle Lowry (triceps) is out. After an impressive 24-point, 12-rebound start at PF last Wednesday, Ed Davis cooled off on Friday (6 PTS, 8 REB in 23 minutes) but we still like him for the next month at least, while Andrea Bargnani (elbow) is out. For the Rockets, Patrick Patterson has a bone bruise in his foot and may miss some time, which makes Marcus Morris a decent streamer and gives Greg Smith an opportunity for extra minutes.
LAL @ PHI: The Sixers are no match without Jrue Holiday. Although Evan Turner is versatile enough to fill in at PG, neither Nick Young nor Dorell Wright can replace Turner at SF. Holiday (foot) is a game-time decision and even if he does start, might be less than 100%. It’s a homecoming for Philly’s own Kobe Bryant, who seems to score 30 every night. Dwight Howard is up against some combination of Kwame Brown, Lavoy Allen and Spencer Hawes; the big man should get 20 and 20 with little difficulty. It looks like Pau Gasol (knees) is still a few days away, and Antawn Jamison has been awful, so Devin Ebanks should get another start.
DEN @ SAC: This is another “play everyone” game as the Nuggets are aggressive and the Kings can’t stop anyone. DeMarcus Cousins has regressed in his third year. The physical tools are impressive, but the biggest tool is DMC himself — immature, inconsistent and apparently unwilling to take the necessary strides to be a star. That said, he’s capable of a huge night against Kosta Koufos and JaVale McGee if he’s in the mood. Tyreke Evans is the most reliable King; part of that is on Keith Smart, whose main skill last year (motivating Cousins) has deteriorated. The team needs a good psychologist, not a mediocre coach.
NOH @ POR: Head-to-head matchups may be decided in the nightcap, and even without Wesley Matthews (hip; game-time decision) the Blazers are the pick. If the Rookie of the Year award was presented today, Damian Lillard would win. Preseason favorite Anthony Davis has battled injuries and has been coming off the bench behind Ryan Anderson. The Hornets have lost six straight, and you wonder when Monty Williams will put his best five on the court together. They don’t have a true SF; Al-Farouq Aminu mans that position, not nearly well enough to start in the NBA. Give me Lillard, LaMarcus Aldridge and J.J. Hickson tonight; Nicolas Batum is playing hurt. New Orleans rookie Austin Rivers, coming off the best game of his pro career, may be worth a play in daily leagues.
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