MIL @ TOR: Remember those hapless, hopeless 4-19 Raptors? They have now won 10 of 13 and will be pumped for this 1:00 matinee, as they are only 4.5 games behind Milwaukee for a playoff spot. It’s too easy to say addition by subtraction and blame all their early woes on Andrea Bargnani, but his elbow injury does coincide with the turnaround. So does a new focus on defense, and improved ball movement. This might not be a fantasy bonanza, but you can use the usual players on both teams.
MIN @ SAS: Nobody will have mercy on the Timberwolves, who are missing Kevin Love (hand), J.J. Barea (back) and coach Rick Adelman (personal.) Nikola Pekovic and Andrei Kirilenko have taken on more of the offensive load, but they no longer have the firepower to match the Spurs. Tony Parker should have another big night, and Tim Duncan gets to play against Dante Cunningham and Derrick Williams. This could be high-scoring, though Minnesota is unlikely to win.
IND @ BRK: They overcame the absence of their best player at home last night against a weak opponent, but the Pacers face a tougher task in Brooklyn. The Nets are also shorthanded, as Gerald Wallace (ribs) is out and Deron Williams (thigh) is questionable. Spot plays include MarShon Brooks (who stepped in nicely when Crash crashed) and D.J. Augustin, with C.J. Watson a possibility if D-Will can’t go.
GSW @ DEN: Whether it’s the altitude, the home crowd or pride, the Nuggets are 13-2 at home and just 2.5 games back of the Warriors in the West. It’s a big game for both teams, and Golden State plays well anywhere, so I won’t try to pick a winner. In addition to the usual fantasy studs, I like Kosta Koufos tonight, and owners in deep leagues should keep an eye on Wilson Chandler, who is expected to return from a sore hip after a 2-month absence. If finally healthy, he’ll soon get enough minutes to be a useful FA in many formats.
OKC @ POR: The focal point here will be Nicolas Batum attempting to contain Kevin Durant, at least to some degree. Both teams have excellent big men and exciting point guards. I’d like Wesley Matthews a bit more if Thabo Sefolosha wasn’t so good defensively. Just a hunch, but the Blazers’ bench is very thin, so Kevin Martin might be a difference-maker in what should be a very entertaining contest.
CLE @ LAL: This is a great chance for the Lakers to end a six-game slide. With Dwight Howard (shoulder) and Pau Gasol (concussion) doubtful and Jordan Hill (hip) out for the season, they have a whole new frontcourt. Rookie center Robert Sacre might fare better against fellow freshman Tyler Zeller, and Earl Clark will start at PF against Tristan Thompson, but Antawn Jamison has come back to life and might have extra inspiration against his previous team. It’s unlikely that Steve Nash can slow down Kyrie Irving, but the Cavs can’t handle Kobe Bryant, who is a decent bet to score 40.
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