B.Roy scores 13 in return; Curry starts for Spurs; Lillard holds own vs. Nash

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An NBA game in Fargo? You’re darn tootin’! The Timberwolves played like a home team, even in North Dakota. J.J. Barea started at PG; Luke Ridnour has been battling back spasms and of course, the return date of Ricky Rubio (knee) is indefinite. The Russian Connection of Andrei Kirilenko and rookie Alexey Shved contributed very little but the big news was Brandon Roy playing 23:40 and scoring 13 points in his first game in 18 months.

That wasn’t really the Pacers, not without 60% of the starting lineup. Danny Granger (knee) is taking it slow; George Hill and David West got the night off. Paul George (16) was the only Indiana player in double figures and the only takeaway is that Sam Young might carve out a rotation spot.

Other Wednesday Games

TOR @ DET: I’m confused. Last year, the Raptors played ferocious team defense and scoring was an afterthought. So far this year, they seem more wide open with the ball, but they gave up 37 first-quarter points last night. John Lucas (16 PTS, 5 AST) is turning heads, mostly because Kyle Lowry (thigh) is out for a while. Jonas Valanciunas made his NBA debut with 13 minutes of energetic play; he blocked a couple of shots but was not a factor otherwise.

Both of these teams might be better than many people expect. Detroit won in part because coach Lawrence Frank is rotating his players by night, instead of dividing minutes among 18 or 19 guys. Ten Pistons played 20 minutes or more; Greg Monroe (17 PTS, 10 REB) was the best and rookie Andre Drummond (12 PTS, 7 REB, 2 STL, 2 BLK) the most exciting. Not dressed, but expected to play the next exhibition while others sit, were Austin Daye, Jonny Flynn and three other rookies.

OKC @ HOU: A pair of rookies led the Rockets to an “upset” of an opponent making only a token effort. Terrence Jones had 20 points and Jeremy Lamb 12, as the Houston starters were on a short leash. Kevin Martin scored 11 in 9:23 and Omer Asik had 9 PTS, 7 REB, 2 AST and 1 BLK in less than 17 minutes. For the Thunder, Cole Aldrich (10 PTS, 11 REB, 3 BLK) made the most of a rare start as Serge Ibaka was rested and Kendrick Perkins (wrist) was out. Russell Westbrook (19) and Kevin Durant (13) played, but not at full intensity.

ATL @ SAS: No Tim Duncan, no Tony Parker, no Manu Ginobili. Shades of last season, when the aging Big Three were often rested on the same night. Eddy Curry started at C, Josh Powell backed him up and French rookie Nando De Colo (11 PTS, 9 AST, 2 STL) played 28 minutes off the bench. The Atlanta lineup was nearly as odd; Louis Williams started at PG, with Jeff Teague running the second unit. Josh Smith was limited to just 13:25 while Damion James (21:31) played the most of any Hawk. Rookies John Jenkins (9 PTS in 20:53) and Mike Scott (11 PTS in 13:30) got their NBA feet wet.

PHO @ SAC: Thomas Robinson should be moving up your draft lists. The fifth-overall pick from Kansas had a great camp and is now being talked about as a combo forward, not just a PF. He scored 12 points in 28:41 last night and will be more important to this team than Jason Thompson, sooner than I expected. James Johnson played less than 20 minutes off the bench but was +16, with a juicy per-minute stat line.

For the new-look Suns, Wesley Johnson scored 18 bench points despite shooting 2-9 from deep. Michael Beasley was the most impressive of the starters. Both are getting a chance after disappointing in Minnesota and may take advantage.

POR @ LAL: So far, so good for Damian Lillard. The only rookie PG to be handed the keys to a high-powered offense, he held his own vs. Steve Nash and his ratio of 7 AST to 2 TO is encouraging. It seems clear that rookie Meyers Leonard (10 PTS & 5 REB in 17:36) will be in the rotation; depth could be a problem if the Blazers encounter injuries. The Lakers are pulling the old rope-a-dope on the league. Kobe Bryant (strained shoulder) didn’t play, Dwight Howard is on a timetable to be ready for opening night and the other starters are taking it easy. Ignore ALL their preseason numbers, especially 0-2.

Thursday’s Games

MIA @ LAC: For both teams, this is a goodwill tour of China and a chance to bond as teammates. This morning’s game in Beijing and Sunday’s “rematch” in Shanghai will be more about entertainment than competition; LeBron James and Blake Griffin will take turns electrifying the crowd.

Not only is Dwyane Wade (knee) being handled carefully this month, Mario Chalmers (quad) isn’t 100% and there’s no motivation for the Heat to take these games seriously. Chris Paul (thumb) sat out the Clippers’ exhibition opener and is doubtful to play today. Eric Bledsoe will look good in his place, but don’t get too excited about him for the regular season.

NYY @ WAS: The last time Raymond Felton ran the Knicks, he averaged a career-high 17.1 PPG and 9 APG. That was before Carmelo Anthony arrived. After poor seasons in Denver and Portland, can Felton bounce back? Can Amar’e Stoudemire co-exist with Melo? Did his summer work with Hakeem Olajuwon pay off? These and more questions will be answered, though probably not tonight.

For the Wizards, Nene has an ongoing problem with plantar fasciitis in his left foot, which bumps Emeka Okafor and Kevin Seraphin up on draft lists. The PG situation is completely up for grabs while John Wall rehabs a broken leg; Jannero Pargo may emerge as the “winner” over A.J. Price and Shelvin Mack.

PHI @ ORL: The Sixers don’t have Andrew Bynum yet, and must replace Andre Iguodala. Most likely to embrace a larger role is Evan Turner, a SG-SF in many leagues who might add PG eligibility this year. The Magic are a mess, as our Jeff Nichols pointed out in his excellent preview of the Southeast Division. Gustavo Ayon impressed in his debut at C, Glen Davis is the likely PF and Al Harrington, when he gets healthy, will be the “stretch” big. Why they went after Nikola Vucevic in the Howard trade remains a mystery.

NOH @ CHA: The second half of a home-and-home is another chance for Anthony Davis to shine. The Unibrow didn’t get the memo about taking it easy in preseason; he poured in 22 points, adding 9 boards and a block, as the Hornets won by 15 on Tuesday. Austin Rivers was supposed to be a longer-term project, but the continued knee woes of Eric Gordon have opened the door for the rookie from Duke.

Charlotte is better than last year — being worse would be impossible — and their new star Michael Kidd-Gilchrist isn’t the only reason. I’ve been scrambling aboard the Byron Mullens bandwagon, as he has been shooting — and hitting — three-pointers, but he hyperextended his left knee late in that game and may not play this evening.

$1,000 Fantasy Hoops Contest

All month, we will be encouraging you to join the one-day fantasy tournament for Sheridan Hoops readers at our partner site FanDuel. There is a $2 entry fee, giving you a shot at 61 cash prizes totalling $1,000. First place wins $200, second $125, third $100 and so on. You win at least $4 (double your money) for finishing 61st or better among 555 teams. Pick nine players within a $60,000 salary cap and the team that compiles the most points — on October 31st only — wins.

The link above has more details, including including stat categories, how to play, and my team’s lineup. If you’re ready to compete in our event, this link takes you through the signup process to the entry page: Sheridan Hoops Opening Day $1,000 Fantasy Basketball Tournament.

Or, give FanDuel a test drive absolutely free; no credit card or deposit is required. They offer NFL leagues until the NBA begins, including some with no entry fee. Others cost from $1 to over $500 to join. Click their logo at the top of this page or in the sidebar to get started. Daily and weekly leagues are more fun, and more challenging, than you might expect.

We are here every morning by 9:00; the early Spin will be somewhat abbreviated on Thursdays and Saturdays to make way for our columnists. This afternoon, Bruce Wrigley takes his weekly look at the NBA and on Saturday, Jeff Nichols’ series on strategy continues. During the season, he’ll preview the upcoming fantasy week in that Saturday afternoon time slot.

Follow us on Twitter — @SheridanFantasy — all season.

Playoffs Day 8: Thunder sweep Mavericks; Clippers and Pacers win thrillers; Spurs beat Jazz

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Take out the brooms.

Who would have thought we’d be saying that about the reigning World Champions?

The Dallas Mavericks were swept by the Oklahoma City Thunder on Saturday night after only eight days of playoff basketball, becoming the first team to be eliminated in the 2011-2012 Playoffs.

As the TNT crew stated, they’re going fishing.

It marked only the second time the team was swept out of the playoffs. The first time was against the Portland Trail Blazers in 1990, in a best-of-5 format.

It was also the second straight season a defending champion got swept out of a series, with the Lakers suffering the same fate against Dallas last season in the semifinals.

Something was constantly amiss with these Mavericks this season.

It started with Dirk Nowitzki, who came into the season so exhausted from Eurobasket ’11 that he had to take four games off during the season just to get himself properly re-conditioned.

Failing to re-sign key pieces from last season such as Tyson Chandler – this season’s Defensive Player of the Year – and J.J. Barea also seemed to play a critical role in their demise.

For Mark Cuban, it was all about the possibilities of the upcoming offseason, where they will go hard after free agent Deron Williams.

In the meantime, the trade for Lamar Odom turned out to be utterly useless while Vince Carter continued his steady decline.

The team that shared the best road record of 28-13 with the Miami Heat last season could only muster a 13-20 record this season. In this series, ironically enough, they played the Thunder much tougher away from home than they did at the American Airlines Center.

Though the Mavs seemed to have control of the game going into the fourth quarter, James Harden struck and the team had no answer for the likely Sixth Man of the Year.

From Dwain Price of Star-Telegram: “With James Harden scoring 15 of his 29 points in the fourth quarter, the Thunder completed a four-game sweep of the Mavs by claiming a come-from-behind 103-97 victory before a crowd of 20,533. In kicking the final pieces of dirt on the Mavs, the Thunder made sure another organization besides the Mavs would be NBA champions this season. ”They’re a great young team, and the thing that impressed me the most about them is that they have a certain look in their eye right now,” coach Rick Carlisle said. “Not just that they belong, but that this could be their time.” After the way the Thunder rallied to win a game that was going the Mavs’ way, maybe it is Oklahoma City’s time. After all, the Mavs led 86-73 with 9:44 left following a 3-pointer by Jason Terry, and the arena noise was unbearable. With seemingly every member of the Mavs guarding him at one time or another, Harden kept attacking the basket until he scored 15 fourth-quarter points, one fewer than the entire Dallas team scored in the final period. ”He beat us on individual drives, he beat us on pick-and-rolls, he beat us on double teams,” Carlisle said. “He just got up a head of steam and he was just great.

The Thunder have grown quite a bit since last season, showing the resolve to finish off games instead of wilting down the stretch.

They will now have some time to rest and watch what happens in the series between the Lakers and the Nuggets. The winner of that series will meet Oklahoma City in the second round.

From Darnell Mayberry of The Oklahoman: “They knew it wouldn’t be easy. They knew the defending champs, with their backs against a historic wall, would deliver their best shot with the series on the line. But more than anything, Oklahoma City Thunder players knew they were good enough — good enough to finish the job of overthrowing the Dallas Mavericks in dominant fashion. When these two teams met in last year’s Western Conference Finals, it was the Thunder that wilted down the stretch, with OKC’s final two losses defined by blown leads late and an inability to close out games with any consistency. The Mavs pounced on those problems and marched to a 4-1 series victory before eventually earning a championship parade. This time, perhaps fittingly, Oklahoma City erased a 13-point deficit heading into the fourth quarter and outscored the Mavs 35-16 in the final period to move on to the semifinals for the second straight season.”

Moving onto a series that is becoming quite epic, the Clippers barely, just barely, edged out the Grizzlies 87-86 in an absolute nail-biting game.

All kinds of history is being made in this series by the Clippers, who are in the playoffs for the first time in six seasons.

After tying a playoff record by storming back from a 24-point deficit to win Game 1, they put themselves in the record books again in Game 3.

It was a dubious one this time, as the team missed 17 of 30 free throws. According to the Elias Sports Bureau, that’s good for the worst free throw percentage in a playoff game in NBA history with a minimum of 30 attempts.

“We missed 17 free throws?” Chris Paul said. “We did? It shows how much fight we have.”

It also shows just how bad they are at the line, and that will surely be a concern for the remainder of the playoffs as Blake Griffin’s ineptitude at the line won’t fix itself any time soon.

Still, you simply cannot count out a team led by Paul, who is proving to the world that he, indeed, may be the best point guard on the planet.

He finished with 24 points, 11 assists, four steals and converted seven-of-eight free throws while limiting Mike Conley to just eight points on 3-of-11 shooting, and took over the game in the biggest moments.

From Kevin Arnovitz of ESPN.com: “In a span of 40 seconds, Paul turned down an Evans pick to find daylight for a 16-footer on the right edge of the lane. On Memphis’ next possession, Paul — caught defending Marc Gasol in a mismatch — got his hands on the ball, resulting in a Grizzlies turnover. Then came the topper, the kind of play Clippers fans imagined when Paul and Griffin were paired at the outset of the season. Guarded by O.J. Mayo, Paul got a jump start and went left — not his preferred direction — squirted into the lane, then delivered an impossible bounce pass between Memphis’ pair of collapsing big men, Gasol and Zach Randolph. On the other side of that pass was Blake Griffin, who cut baseline from the left side…”Once I got into the lane, I saw him about to take off — I think he might’ve wanted the lob,” Paul said. “All I saw was the baseline. Once the ball gets into his hands that close to the rim, there’s not too much anyone can do about it.” Well behind the defense, Griffin flushed it home, giving the Clippers an 84-80 lead with 1:23 remaining in the game.”

Caron Butler, slated to miss 4-6 weeks after fracturing his hand in Game 2, somehow started the game, solidifying the nickname “tough juice” and inspiring his team, although he wasn’t the most effective.

From Arash Markazi of ESPN Los Angeles: “Although Butler started, he played only 22 minutes, posting four points, three rebounds, one steal and one block in an 87-86 Clippers Game 3 win. It was far from his most productive game of the season, but it was easily his most inspiring, which wasn’t lost on his teammates, who saw the pain Butler was going through in between plays and on the bench. ”He is crazy,” Chris Paul said. “He is crazy, seriously. I talked to him yesterday in practice; his hand was wrapped up with a little contraption and found out that he was going to play. The first thing I thought was, ‘What are you doing?’ Man, I commend him because it would have been easy for him to say, ‘I’m done, and I am going to take care of my hand and I will be ready for next year.’ … He didn’t play so many minutes tonight, but his energy and his toughness is something that motivated the rest of us. That is unreal to see the pain he is going out there playing through.”

The Clippers fans who are regularly deprived of any postseason action, received the ride of their lives in this one.

From Broderick Turner of Los Angeles Times: “A sea of red-clad Clippers fans watched their team play a home playoff game for the first time since 2006, and they were taken on a wild ride that was exhausting and exhilarating. They watched a Game 3 that seemed to be won by the Clippers, lost by them, then won again, and then came down to a last-second shot that had the entire Staples Center rocking Saturday afternoon. When the crazy ride had come to an end, when the Clippers had finished standing up to the physical Memphis Grizzlies, when they had finished being miserable at the free-throw line, and when they had finished riding the coattails of Chris Paul again, Los Angeles escaped with an 87-86 victory only after Rudy Gay missed a final shot attempt.”

The Grizzlies seemed down and out in the final moments of the game before Rudy Gay hit two consecutive 3-pointers in the final 23 seconds to bring his team within one point.

Eric Bledsoe was fouled, but missed both free throws, allowing Memphis a chance to win the game with one more basket.

Gay got the chance and rose up for a shot in the final seconds, but Randy Foye jumped at him, forcing him to double clutch his shot that ultimately rimmed out.

Though the Grizzlies won the rebounding battle 40-35, they again failed to contain Reggie Evans, who grabbed 11 rebounds in just 24 minutes of play, and generally failed to come up with the hustle plays that help win games.

From Nikki Boertman of The Commercial Appeal: “The Clippers’ 2-1 series lead is a credit to point guard Chris Paul’s prowess and another important development. Los Angeles is running up the score on the hustle board, especially when the games have hung in the balance. Just like in Game 1 when they blew a 27-point advantage, the flat-footed Griz failed to close out the Clippers, who certainly looked “All In” as their playoff slogan says. Small and scrappy are doing a number on big and brawny because the Clippers used offensive rebounds and clutch defensive plays to win their first home playoff game in six years. ”It’s not that they’re doing more of the little things. It’s that we’re not doing enough of the little things,” Griz coach Lionel Hollins said.”

Back in the Eastern Conference, the Indiana Pacers gave up a 19-point lead with eight minutes left to the Orlando Magic.

Jameer Nelson, who had 12 points, six rebounds and 11 assists, had a chance to win the game in regulation but shot a fade-away airball to send the game into overtime.

The game came down to the wire again in the extra period, but Big Baby could not deliver.

From Josh Robbins of Orlando Sentinel: “Glen Davis sat on the Orlando Magic bench after his potential game-tying shot careened off the side of the rim and the final buzzer sounded. He peered up at the Amway Center scoreboard and saw the final numbers. It stung. The Magic engineered a pulse-pounding comeback against the Indiana Pacers in Game 4, forcing overtime after they trailed 19 points with eight minutes to go. But after all that work, after they expended all that emotion, they suffered a crushing 101-99 loss. “The emotions now are devastation,” Magic guard J.J. Redick said. “It hurts to lose a game like that.” Orlando now trails the series three games to one. An Indiana victory Tuesday night in Game 5 in Indianapolis would end the Magic’s season and would send the Pacers to the playoffs’ second round for the first time since 2005.”

At least the Magic are not the first team out of the playoffs.

Although Indiana won the game to avoid a second late-game collapse of the series, their inability to hold a lead – especially against a weak Orlando lineup – should be a concern if they advance into the second round.

For now, they can enjoy a 3-1 lead and the great play of David West.

From Bob Kravitz of The Indianapolis Star: “This series is, for all intents and purposes, over. Tuesday night at Bankers Life Fieldhouse really should be a coronation, a happy formality. The Magic will play hard, as they’ve played most of this series, but they are overmatched at virtually every position. Give them credit for stealing Game 1 and making the Pacers sweat in Game 4, but this series is going to form. This is a recording: They can’t cover David West. And for the Pacers, who are running their offense through West at an ever-greater rate in recent weeks, everything flows from their free-agent acquisition. “Most of the season, we were running about 20 percent of our offense through him,” coach Frank Vogel said. “Now, it’s probably 40-50 percent.” Saturday afternoon, West finished with 26 points and 12 rebounds, and completely dominated the third quarter with 12 points and five rebounds.”

Winning their third consecutive postseason game – including 13 straight dating back to the regular season – were the San Antonio Spurs, who are making quick work of the Utah Jazz, though they made things a bit tougher in Game 3.

From Jeff McDonald of San Antonio Express-News: “After being blown out in the first two games of their Western Conference first round playoff series against the Spurs, the Utah Jazz vowed to give a more inspired performance in front of their home crowd in Game 3. And they delivered. The Spurs vowed to be ready for it. They delivered, too. Behind 27 points from Tony Parker and 17 from Tim Duncan, the Spurs took Utah’s best punch and survived, grinding out a 102-90 victory that shoved the eighth-seeded Jazz to the edge of elimination. “The good thing about it was, we didn’t get rattled,” said forward Stephen Jackson, who ended with 13 points off the bench… A third straight double-digit win in the series was also the hardest-earned for the top-seeded Spurs, who cruised to wins in Games 1 and 2 in San Antonio by an average of 23 points. The Spurs needed a 16-point fourth quarter explosion from Parker, who adjusted well after the Jazz’s moved the bigger Gordon Hayward to defend him, to beat back Utah’s last-gasp effort.

James Park is a regular contributor to Sheridanhoops.com. You can find him on twitter @nbatupark.

Fantasy Spin: Thursday April 26

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This is it! Most Roto leagues end tonight and many Head-to-Head playoff finals conclude, with a busy 13-game slate in the NBA and a lot of guesswork about lineups. I’ve already poured the Gatorade over my own head in one league, with an 8-1 lead, and am hoping for a final-night miracle in another. Best of luck with your teams.

Wednesday Recap

CHI @ IND: The Bulls used their playoff lineup, with a little less than playoff intensity. Joakim Noah (14 PTS, 14 REB) led the starting five but it was Kyle Korver, with 20 off the bench including 4-6 from deep, who made the difference. Indiana gave four starters limited court time and rested Danny Granger, so Lance Stephenson was their unlikely leading scorer with 22.

WAS @ CLE: John Wall had 21 points, 13 assists, 7 rebounds and 7 steals to lead the Wizards to their fifth straight win. Jan Vesely had 12 rebounds and could be a sleeper next season. Kyrie Irving started, but played less than ten minutes. The previously anonymous D.J. Kennedy led the Cavs with 12 points in 31 minutes off the bench.

CHA @ ORL: As expected, Ryan Anderson (24 PTS, 13 REB) was hard to stop. The Magic really needed J.J. Redick’s 31 points, especially after Glen Davis (2 PTS in 8:50) left with a sprained ankle. Returning from a four-game absence, D.J. Augustin led Charlotte with 23 points and 6 assists, but they lost a 22nd consecutive game and have a chance to make the wrong kind of history tonight.

PHI @ MIL: Even when you’re right, you can be wrong. I predicted Evan Turner (29 PTS, 13 REB, 6 AST, 2 BLK) would be the main man for Philly and “knew” Ekpe Udoh would play well. When he started and scored eight points in the first 7:35, my DraftStreet teams were looking good. When he sat out the second half with a sore knee, we began to fade off the leaderboard. Tobias Harris (15 PTS, 13 REB in his first career start) is a name to remember as a draft sleeper next year. The Bucks brought the teenager along slowly but he’s shown flashes of a fantasy-friendly game.

LAC @ NYK: Chris Paul sat with a mild groin strain, but it was Randy Foye stepping up with 28 points, when I thought Mo Williams (9) would benefit most. Blake Griffin continued his fine recent play, making 11 of 14 shots for 29 points while adding 10 rebounds, 6 assists and a couple of steals. The Knicks did just enough to win, with J.R. Smith (21 PTS, 5 AST, 2 REB, 4 STL) putting up the best numbers.

DEN @ OKC: Kevin Durant (32) and Russell Westbrook (30) played more than I thought they might, and Serge Ibaka (15 PTS, 5 REB, 4 BLK) also got 30 minutes, but Denver wanted this game more. Ty Lawson (25) led the way, Kenneth Faried chipped in 13 PTS and 10 REB and three bench players were in double figures as they moved up from eighth to seventh seed in the playoffs, with a chance at sixth this evening.

SAS @ PHO: As expected, Steve Nash made only a token appearance (8 PTS, 7 AST in 17 minutes) in his probable farewell to Phoenix. Shannon Brown (21) and Sebastian Telfair (20) kept the Suns close, but the depth of the Spurs prevailed. Anyone who guessed Patty Mills would score 27 points is better than me at this wacky time of year. Tiago Splitter added 26, in less than 20 minutes.

Finish Line

NJN @ TOR: The earliest of 13 games is also one of the least significant. DeMar DeRozan, ejected from his last start for throwing the ball away in frustration, will try to finish on a more positive note and James Johnson has been the best Toronto player recently. Sundiata Gaines, MarShon Brooks and former Raptor Kris Humphries are the best plays on the Nets.

DAL @ ATL: The Hawks can clinch home-court advantage in their first-round battle with Boston by winning at home tonight. Joe Johnson and Josh Smith might be rested in other circumstances, but I expect them to start, and Jeff Teague has been on a nice roll. The Mavericks can control whether they are the sixth or seventh seed in the West, but who knows if they care? I’m not expecting their veterans to play much, if at all.

ORL @ MEM: No Dwight Howard (back surgery) and no Big Baby (ankle) means big minutes for Daniel Orton tonight. Hedo Turkoglu (facial fracture) is healing faster than expected and is now day-to-day. This should be an easy win for Memphis, which can rest its key players as needed. Marreese Speights might get extra minutes and newest Grizzly Lester Hudson could surprise.

MIA @ WAS: It won’t even be an upset if the Heat start the same lineup that played in Boston. Without LeBron James, Dwyane Wade and Chris Bosh — who are expected to sit again tonight — they managed just 66 points and were led by Dexter Pittman. The Wizards are loving life and should have plenty of energy. Jordan Crawford (ankle) is out, so Cartier Martin will start at SG. We have been bullish on Kevin Seraphin since before he got the starting job; he’s averaged 15.5 PTS, 7.3 REB and 1.8 BLK in April.

POR @ UTA: Neither team cares. Portland is out of the playoffs and obligated to show up, Utah finally clinched a postseason spot and can afford to rest its best players. I’d guess that Derrick Favors has a big night, and will think about Alec Burks and/or Enes Kanter. For the Blazers, J.J. Hickson and Wesley Matthews are the best guys to use, and Nolan Smith may get another chance to start as Raymond Felton has no reason to play.

DEN @ MIN: The Nuggets will be scoreboard-watching; a win tonight makes them the sixth seed if Dallas loses to Atlanta. Denver would then play the Lakers instead of the Thunder in the first round. They will probably start their regulars against the depleted Timberwolves, then play just hard enough to win. J.J. Barea and Nikola Pekovic are the only Minnesota players I’m starting, but Martell Webster and Anthony Randolph played well on Sunday if you’re desperate.

NOH @ HOU: The disappointed Rockets will be watching the playoffs on TV and going through the motions tonight. It’s hard to recommend anyone, but with Chandler Parsons (shoulder) out, maybe Chase Budinger will step up. Marcus Camby (back) will also sit, giving Patrick Patterson more minutes. Eric Gordon will not play for New Orleans, so Marco Belinelli might finish strong.

PHI @ DET: The good news is, the Sixers made the playoffs. The bad? They will be opening in either Chicago or Miami. Last night they rested Elton Brand, Andre Iguodala and Thaddeus Young, so you might see another big effort from Jodie Meeks (27 PTS) and extra minutes for Lavoy Allen (12 REB). The Pistons would like to close with a home victory; Greg Monroe and Brandon Knight are the safest plays and maybe Tayshaun Prince will be inspired.

CLE @ CHI: The Bulls can wrap up home-court advantage with their 50th win, and the Cavs would rather be anywhere else. Once again, Chicago is more concerned about chemistry than rest. Injuries have prevented the starting five from playing much together, so they will be out there getting in sync for at least part of the game. If forced to play someone from Cleveland, I might pick Donald Sloan or Samardo Samuels.

MIL @ BOS: That sure was an ugly win for Boston on Tuesday and you can expect more of the same. Rajon Rondo and Kevin Garnett are likely to play limited minutes but there’s still no word on Ray Allen (ankle) which means Marquis Daniels and Sasha Pavlovic might contribute again. The Bucks are missing Monta Ellis (hand) and Ersan Ilyasova (knee) so you might want to get Larry Sanders (12 PTS & 5 BLK last night) into your lineup. Hey now!

NYK @ CHA: Isn’t this exciting? A poorly-run, poorly-coached team full of mediocre players has one more chance to avoid finishing with the worst W-L record in NBA history. At home, against an opponent with nothing to play for, Gerald Henderson is actually worth starting and others like Derrick Brown and Kemba Walker could produce. The Knicks let the starters play at MSG last night but I’m expecting Steve Novak and Landry Fields to be on the floor longer this evening.

LAL @ SAC: Matt Barnes (ankle) is out and the former Ron Artest suspended, so Devin Ebanks may start at SF and get big minutes for the Lakers. Jordan Hill (14 PTS, 15 REB, 3 BLK last Sunday) is another possibility and Steve Blake might be out there more than Ramon Sessions. There’s no incentive for L.A. to play its stars, unless Kobe Bryant cares about the scoring title. I’d focus on DeMarcus Cousins and Jason Thompson in the Kings’ home finale.

SAS @ GSW: San Antonio’s three veteran stars (and their coach) didn’t even make this trip, but they will be looking to finish on a 10-game winning streak as their reserves take on what’s left of the Warriors. I guessed wrong last night on Stephen Jackson and Danny Green; it’s impossible to predict who will take over on any given night. Charles Jenkins and Klay Thompson are the safest plays for Golden State; Jeremy Tyler is their best big man.

Follow @SheridanFantasy on Twitter for updates.

DraftStreet of Dreams

Sure Things Over $14,000
K. Humphries $15,542
D. Cousins $16,026
Jo. Smith $16,963
J. Wall $15,924
Bargains Under $9,000
L. Fields $8,792
M. Speights $8,062
L. Sanders $8,384
P. Patterson $7,600
Hunches $9,000 to $14,000
N. Pekovic $12,957
D. Favors $12,809
J. Barea $13,770
K. Seraphin $11,595

Another o-fer last night, down $21 with only $27 left from the Week 8 bankroll, which began at $100. I’m still in the black (barely) for this whole experiment.

Made the maximum three entries in tonight’s $2 Salary Cap league (275 teams, $500 guaranteed prize pool) but there was no $5 version today and I’m reluctant to join the $11 league, the way my picks have been performing.

This “silly season” where you have no idea who will play, or for how long, has been tough for me to handicap. I’ll save a few bucks for Saturday and Sunday, when there will be leagues based on playoff games that are (I hope) more predictable.

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.

News, Notes, and Rumors from around the NBA: April 24, 2012.

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NEWS

  • Rick Adelman says he did not have a problem with J.J. Barea’s comments that some Minnesota Timberwolves didn’t care enough after a recent loss.
  • Thunder sixth-man James Harden was only able to watch most of his team’s shoot-around this morning. He spent most of his time being evaluated by the Thunder medical staff following Sunday’s concussion suffered at the elbow of Metta World Peace.

NOTES

RUMORS

Fantasy Spin: Friday April 20

2 Comments

In a very intense game that featured trash-talking, scuffles, four technicals and an ejection, the Pacers won their seventh straight with George Hill (22 PTS, 8 AST, 5 REB) as the starting PG. Danny Granger led all scorers with 29, and David West (21 PTS, 14 REB, 7 AST) was excellent. The loss, Milwaukee’s third in a row, effectively ends their playoff bid. Brandon Jennings (27) and Mike Dunleavy (23) tried to spark a fourth-quarter comeback that fell short.

What Else Happened?

MIN @ DET: Yesterday I predicted that the T-Wolves would win their first April game in three years (after going 0-27) even telling you it would be J.J. Barea (13 PTS, 12 AST, 6 REB) and Nikola Pekovic (23 PTS, 9 REB) leading the way. It paid off for me on DraftStreet — details below — as the exhausted Pistons, playing their third game in three nights, were never in it. Tayshaun Prince, rested the previous night, had 18 points and most of Will Bynum’s 17 came in garbage time.

HOU @ NOH: A truly devastating loss for the Rockets, their sixth in a row, as they are now in tenth place. It went to overtime, as Goran Dragic (23 PTS, 8 AST, 5 REB) did all he could and Chase Budinger added 22 off the bench. Eric Gordon had 27 to lead the Hornets, with help from Carl Landry (20 PTS, 10 REB) when all they had to play for was pride.

CHI @ MIA: Another game where tempers flared, with two flagrant fouls and an ejection. Dwyane Wade returned with 18 PTS, 5 AST, 3 REB and 3 STL, plus an altercation with Richard Hamilton, who had a rough evening for the Bulls. When LeBron James (27 PTS, 11 REB, 6 AST) wiped out John Lucas on a screen, there was another melee. Miami is now just 1.5 games behind Chicago in the battle for first place in the East, but no matter who has home-court advantage, a possible conference final rematch would resume the animosity.

LAC @ PHO: The Suns had to win, and they did. Old man Steve Nash had just 13 points and 6 assists, but was clutch when it counted. There was more rough stuff in this game: Robin Lopez committed a flagrant foul on Blake Griffin (16 PTS, 11 REB) and was ejected. Marcin Gortat (14 & 14) and Jared Dudley (18) were strong for Phoenix; Chris Paul (19 PTS, 10 AST) led the Clippers, who had won their previous five.

Friday Night Lights

BOS @ ATL: It’s a light Friday schedule with only six games. Boston could win their division but still open the playoffs in Atlanta, so not only is this a first-round preview, home-court advantage is up for grabs. Ray Allen (ankle) remains out and Rajon Rondo (back) will not play, which means big minutes for Avery Bradley and a lot more assists for Paul Pierce, who dropped 14 dimes on Wednesday as the primary ballhandler. Kevin Garnett should be even more fired up than usual. Rested and at home, the Hawks know what’s at stake so Josh Smith might have a big night and Ivan Johnson figures to see big minutes.

MEM @ CHA: Nothing is at stake here. The Bobcats are a complete mess, possibly the worst team ever. They have lost 18 straight, and if they don’t win another game will finish with an even worse record than the 1972-73 Sixers, the standard for futility. Memphis is just trying to stay healthy, so I expect the bench players to get extra run and am leery of recommending anyone on either team. Maybe Zach Randolph, who is still trying to regain his best form before the playoffs, is worth a shot, or Kemba Walker, now the staring PG for Charlotte.

NYK @ CLE: The big news is the expected return of Amare Stoudemire, out 13 games with a bad back. In his absence, Carmelo Anthony has gone wild, averaging over 30 points per game in April. How they share the ball in the new system that revolves around Melo will be interesting. The Knicks may have Baron Davis back, but Iman Shumpert is their best guard for fantasy purposes. Kyrie Irving, a bit rusty in his Wednesday return from a shoulder injury, will try to keep his overmatched team in the game.

GSW @ DAL: Dirk Nowitzki has scored 75 points in his last two games, but similar heroics probably won’t be needed against a Warriors team beset by injuries and apathy. If Nate Robinson (hamstring) can’t play, Charles Jenkins will get big minutes at PG and Klay Thompson will put up plenty of shots. It could be a night where the Mavericks’ lesser lights, like Delonte West or Brandan Wright, step up to shine.

LAL @ SAS: Kobe Bryant says he’s good to go, so the Lakers will be back at full strength. San Antonio is holding a half-game lead for first place in the West, and while they may say they don’t care about home-court advantage, of course they do. Expect a terrific game, and we might even see Spurs like Tony Parker and Tim Duncan play a full complement of minutes for a change. Manu Ginobili is also well rested. The biggest change for L.A. with Kobe back may be fewer touches for Metta World Peace, who has done a very nice job lately, averaging over 15 points in his last eight games.

OKC @ SAC: This would be a mismatch even if the Thunder weren’t still playing to finish first in the West. James Harden, coming off a career-high 40, could end up playing extra minutes if Russell Westbrook and Kevin Durant pile up a big enough lead early. The Kings lost by 26 in Oklahoma last Friday and may be motivated to avenge that embarrassment. If DeMarcus Cousins plays better, they might at least make this one entertaining.

The Spin is here every day by 8:00 EDT except for Sunday, when we post by noon. Follow me on Twitter for updates.

DraftStreet Bridge Song

Sure Things Over $14,000
C. Anthony $19,660
K. Durant $19,994
D. Nowitzki $16,882
R. Westbrook $15,964
Bargains Under $9,000
A. Bradley $8,649
S. Novak $6,446
T. Thompson $8,889
C. Jenkins $8,145
Hunches $9,000 to $14,000
I. Shumpert $9,778
De. West $9,074
I. Johnson $11,423
J. Harden $12,508

There’s so-close-but-so-far-away, close-but-no-cigar, close-only-counts-in-horseshoes and other familiar loser refrains, but on DraftStreet, coming close pays off. My three teams in the 275-team $2 Salary Cap league on Thursday finished 24th, 17th and 9th, good for two consolation prizes and a $9 profit. In the $5 GPP league I play every day, all three of my teams finished in the money out of 165 entries. 14th place was worth $10, tenth place returned $15 and I won $40 for sixth.

Considering that my most expensive picks (Dwyane Wade and Roy Hibbert) were mildly disappointing, a $59 win for the night was terrific, and there will be no whining about what might have been. I did use George Hill, Nikola Pekovic and J.J. Barea in all my lineups — thanks, fellas.

We’re back at it tonight, ahead $20 for Week 7 and up $120 for this whole adventure. In addition to three teams each in the $2 and $5 GPP leagues, I’ve joined a special $11 league, limited to just 50 entries, with a $500 prize pool ranging from $25 for sixth up to $175 for finishing first. The kicker is, you get $5 cash just for finishing ahead of Chris Sheridan, so it’s almost like a $6 entry fee. Who wouldn’t want to get paid for beating the boss at fantasy basketball?

You’re one click away from getting started on Draft Street. It’s always free to join and even if you don’t want to risk 11 bucks in the “Beat Chris” pool, you can play in leagues with no entry fees, like the Sheridan Hoops Freeroll, with $350 in cash prizes. Note that the salaries in the Freeroll league may be slightly different from the chart. Good luck!