Dirk Nowitzki Returns; Melo (33) Leads Knicks Comeback

It’s Christmas Eve, and while Santa makes his rounds, there’s no basketball tonight. Don’t bother to set daily lineups, but if you want to fully prepare for the next six days of fantasy hoops excitement, be sure to read the Weekly Fantasy Planner by Jeff Nichols. There’s a Week 9 schedule analysis (Nets & Clippers look good) plus some key games to focus on and recommendations for overrated players to sit or underrated ones to start.

December 23 Games

PHI @ BRK: Despite a terrific performance by Jrue Holiday (24 PTS, 9 AST, 6 REB) the Sixers lost a heartbreaker. Joe Johnson (22 PTS, 7 REB) led six Nets in double figures, Deron Williams (16 PTS, 5 AST, 6 REB) battled Holiday and surprise starting SF Keith Bogans added 13 points. Coach Avery Johnson shifted Gerald Wallace (14 PTS, 9 REB, 6 AST, 2 STL) to PF and Kris Humphries got the dreaded DNP-CD. Let’s call it Brooklyn’s new ‘small’ lineup for now, and see if Hump plays against bigger teams. Or just cut him if there’s a FA you like better.

MIN @ NYK: Without Kevin Love (eye) and with Andrei Kirilenko (4 PTS in 20 minutes) in foul trouble the whole game, Nikola Pekovic (21 PTS, 17 REB) was outstanding, but the Timberwolves couldn’t stop Carmelo Anthony. Melo scored 33 points — 19 in the decisive fourth quarter — and grabbed 7 boards to lead the Knicks to a come-from-behind victory. J.R. Smith (19 PTS, 7 AST, 5 REB, 3 STL) was terrific off the bench and Tyson Chandler (16 PTS, 9 REB, 3 STL) was strong in the middle. Minnesota went small, with Alexey Shved (18 PTS, 5 REB, 4 AST) at SF and J.J. Barea (12 PTS, 5 REB, 4 AST) starting at SG. Ricky Rubio (5 PTS, 5 TO in 17:36) is trying too hard, which makes the game seem too fast. Send his disappointed owner a buy-low offer.

UTA @ ORL: Forget what I said about the Jazz being exhausted and a poor road team. Even without Mo Williams (thumb) they played great. Jamaal Tinsley (11 PTS, 4 AST, 3 REB, 2 STL) filled in capably at PG, Paul Millsap (18 PTS, 7 REB) was inspired and Gordon Hayward added 17 off the bench. The Magic have settled on Gustavo Ayon (9 PTS, 12 REB) at PF while Glen Davis (shoulder) is sidelined. Jameer Nelson (14 PTS, 9 AST, 4 REB) and Nikola Vucevic (16 PTS, 16 REB) tried to spark a comeback, and Arron Afflalo scored a game-high 20, but they came up short.

DAL @ SAS: The good news is, Dirk Nowitzki (8 PTS, 6 REB) played his first 20 minutes of the season. The bad? Dallas lost by 38. Darren Collison (15 PTS) did not start at PG; he came off the bench behind Dominique Jones, who missed six of seven FG attempts. Tony Parker (18 PTS in 28 minutes) and Tim Duncan (15 PTS in 23 minutes) got plenty of rest in the blowout, and Kawhi Leonard (17 PTS, 4 REB, 5 STL) returned to the starting five. It looks like Gary Neal (3 PTS in 8:56) is the odd man out, as Danny Green — who I left on my bench in one league — shifted to SG and drained seven 3-pointers for a game-high 25 points in less than 23 minutes.

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