Celtics win, and are now up 2-1 in the series. Rajon Rondo was spectacular, posting a triple double, and I still believe they are an absolute lock to win the series. Not only that, but I also stand by the fact that they may very well be the only team in the East that can run with the Heat. I’m rooting for the Celtics in that regard, considering I simply do not want to see the Heat in the NBA Finals.
If there was one lesson Danny Granger learned earlier this season about saying something to fire up the other team (he did it after losing two straight games to the Knicks), it was this:
Yet, that’s exactly what Celtics point guard Rajon Rondo did in his recent interview after his one-game suspension.
“The end result is all that matters,” Rondo said. “If there had been a different result, it would have been very difficult. But since we won, it felt like we won the series already.”
That quote will certainly be shared in the Atlanta locker room tonight as the Hawks head into the TD Garden, though Josh Smith will likely understand his good friend’s nature.
The Hawks-Celtics meeting is just one of three playoff games slated for Friday, all on ESPN.
Atlanta (1-1) at Boston (1-1):
The Hawks look to steal that formula in Game 3, as they will be without Smith who suffered a strained knee tendon in the previous game.
Without Smith, someone else will have to step up as the starter.
Marvin Williams may fit the bill as their best current option to step in as the interim power forward.
From Michael Cunningham of the Atlanta Journal-Constitution: “Josh Smith says he’s a game-time decision tonight for Game 3. If Smith can’t go, which lineup should Larry Drew use in an attempt to somehow win without him? My (meaningless vote) is for sending out Marvin Williams alongside Jeff Teague, Kirk Hinrich, Joe Johnson and Jason Collins. (Ivan Johnson has done all that can be expected in this series but the second unit needs his zip, toughness, post defense and rebounding.) From a matchup perspective, I like this lineup because Marvin can defend Paul Pierce instead of Joe. This would theoretically allow Joe to play more overall minutes (more on that later) and have more energy left at the end because Brandon Bass is a much easier defensive assignment. Bass’ game generally is limited to making mid-range and long 2s . Joe would have to keep Bass off the boards but Bass is a fellow blah rebounder.”
Whoever plays, the Hawks will have to stay composed without succumbing to pressure against a veteran Celtics squad that seized critical moments.
More from Cunningham: “If the Hawks tire late in games, the Celtics seem to regenerate. Hawks coach Larry Drew told his players the Celtics “smell blood in the water” when they sense the Hawks becoming tentative. “We allowed the pressure to take us out of what we wanted to do,” Drew said. “You can’t allow that to happen, not in the playoffs. You’ve got to do things harder, do things with pace. We were too lethargic, too methodical.” The Celtics haven’t been much better than the Hawks on offense, but they’ve been stingier when it counts most. The Hawks scored 31 points in the first quarter of Game 1, but managed only 52 over the next three periods, including 21 in the final 16 minutes of the game. The Hawks scored 44 points before halftime in Game 2 before sputtering to 36 points in the second half, including 20 over the final 16 minutes.”
Zaza Pachulia suffered a bone chip in his left foot as well as a sprained left ankle and will likely remain out until at least Game 6.
Playing without a suspended Rajon Rondo in Game 2, Paul Pierce turned back the clock in the 87-80 victory and went into “The Truth” mode (or “Tim Tebow” mode), doing just about everything for the Celtics with 36 points, 14 rebounds and four assists in over 44 minutes of play to help his team overcome an 11-point deficit.
He won’t have to carry as big of a load in Game 3, with Rondo – unapologetic about his actions – due for a return.
From Steve Bulpett of Boston Herald: “It’s abundantly clear that punishment hasn’t mellowed Rajon Rondo. He was fighting for each inch of the interview when he made his first public comments following a one-game suspension for making contact with a referee last Sunday… Rondo was asked about the appreciation he showed to his teammates — he ran down the tunnel at Philips Arena and hugged Kevin Garnett — and whether he felt he let his teammates down by missing the game. “I didn’t feel like I needed to say thank you for getting this win,” Rondo replied. “We’re trying to get as many wins as possible. You know, they’ve won without me before, so it’s not the first game I’ve missed. I’ve missed (for) injuries and suspensions. It’s just a big win because this is the playoffs. You know, every win counts.” And about the letting them down thing? “No,” he told the TV reporter. “Do you feel like I let them down?”
Allen – after missing the two contests in Atlanta due to an ankle injury – is optimistic of his chance of playing, though Doc Rivers is still guarded.
From Rich Thompson of Boston Herald: “Allen has missed 11 straight games and 16 of the last 21 with bone spurs in his right ankle. Allen will have the spurs removed surgically in the offseason.“Injuries are tough and we all deal with them, but I like the way I feel right now,” said Allen choosing his words carefully. “I’m in a good place, so I’m optimistic. I deal with the days as they come. I am optimistic about playing and that is a great step forward.” Celtics coach Doc Rivers has game planned around Allen’s availability since the start of the series. After the injury forced him to sit and watch both games in Atlanta, Rivers’ degree of optimism was justifiably more guarded than Allen’s. “There’s nothing really new but he’s going to practice and that’s good,” said Rivers. “I think he has a better shot but we’ll find that out.”
If Allen can’t go, Mickael Pietrus will have to continue to play a key role.
Chicago (1-1) at Philadelphia (1-1):
Despite a notable effort from Joakim Noah, who had 21 points on 10-of-11 shooting, Chicago had no answers offensively as the rest of the starting lineup went cold, shooting just 15-of-43.
Defense was just as much of an issue as the Sixers outscored the Bulls 36-14 in the third quarter that decided the outcome of the game.
Chicago will use the same game plan as they have all season long. It will be a simple matter of execution.
From K.C. Johnson of Chicago Tribune: “”We’ve been through tougher things than this,” Luol Deng said following a 90-minute practice. “I know how everyone feels. We’ve got a lot of guys who are fighters. We’re going to fight our way out of this.”The blueprint to do this has been espoused by coach Tom Thibodeau all season: Defend. Rebound. Limit turnovers. Play inside-out offensively. Share the ball. Better transition defense and more scoring from starters would help as well. The 76ers scored 25 fast-break points off just eight Bulls turnovers in Game 2, which suggests poor shot selection and floor balance offensively.”(The 76ers) leak out,” Thibodeau said. “They’re small. They’re quick. When they have Thaddeus Young on the floor, it’s like having another small out there. You can’t have just one guy or two guys back. On the raise of the shot, you have to have the discipline to be back. Not on your way back, but be back.”
Richard Hamilton and Carlos Boozer will have to improve their overall play if they want to see more playing time.
From K.C. Johnson of Chicago Tribune: “Will Richard Hamilton play in the fourth quarter? Will Carlos Boozer score more? Will the Chicago Bulls respond to avoid losing two straight games for just the fourth time in 15 months?… With their best-of-seven series tied at 1-1, the Bulls sound confident they can return to the defensive and rebounding mindset that led them to a league-best, 50-16 regular-season mark. ”I think we’re great, honestly,” Carlos Boozer said. “We had a great practice yesterday. You don’t really get a loss out of your system until you win the next game. But we’re all highly motivated and that’s what we need to be.” Hamilton has yet to play in the fourth quarter of either game. On Thursday, coach Tom Thibodeau merely replied “just our rotation” when asked why Kyle Korver is closing games. On Friday, he expounded on the subject. ”Our whole team didn’t play well,” Thibodeau said. “So you have to say, ‘Ok, the third quarter we had a problem.’ You’re looking at everything. That doesn’t mean it will always be that way. But we didn’t play well so we started looking for different answers.”
Jrue Holiday scored 26 points on 11-of-15 shooting, Lou Williams had 20 points, and the new starting shooting guard Evan Turner added 19 points, seven rebounds and six assists.
They also held an unlikely rebounding edge of 38-32, something they must repeat in order to have continued success against the best rebounding team in the league.
From Bob Ford of The Philadelphia Inquirer: “During the regular season, the 76ers won only eight games in which they both outrebounded and made more free throws than the opposition. Those are the building blocks of professional basketball, but they are not what the Sixers do particularly well. At their best, the Sixers win the turnover battles, limit the opponent’s shooting percentage, and scoop up easy points with their fastbreak game. Being able to control the basket area – drawing contact to get free throws, and grabbing the contested rebounds – is what every coach would like his team to do. Doug Collins of the 76ers has a roster that isn’t made for that kind of basketball, and he has to find other ways to win almost all the time… When the series resumes in the Wells Fargo Center on Friday night, look for Chicago to reassert itself around the basket. It might not be pretty. In fact, it might be brutish. But that is what the Bulls will try to do.
Andre Iguodala has right Achilles tendinitis, but will play in Game 3.
Los Angeles Lakers (2-0) at Denver (0-2):
The game did become much closer in Game 2 when Denver erased a 19-point deficit before coming up just short 104-100.
High altitude figures to play a role in Game 3, where the Nuggets will look to push the pace once again.
From Mark Medina of Los Angeles Times: “Even with a 2-0 series lead, the Lakers shouldn’t suddenly think they’re invincible. The Nuggets chipped away at the Lakers’ 19-point lead in Game 2 because they pushed in the open floor and wound up with 30 fast-break points. They outhustled the Lakers in rebounding (52-48) and second-chance points (26-19). Playing in Denver could make it more difficult to overcome. Denver’s shooting percentage in regular-season home games (47.9%) and road games (47.3%) were similar, but that dynamic could change. Kobe Bryant joked he’ll smoke cigars to prepare for playing at high altitude, but the air could test the Lakers’ conditioning. Add in the home crowd, and there’s little margin for error in allowing the Nuggets to get in the open floor.”
Bryant has played like a monster so far, averaging 34.5 points and looking as spry as ever.
The shin injury that sidelined him for much of April may have been a blessing in disguise, providing rest for the star who seemed fatigued down the stretch of the regular season.
More from Medina: “However, that game against New Orleans provided Bryant with something that would get him rest. An injury. Although Bryant managed to play the next four games, the pain eventually became so much worse that the Lakers’ training staff forced him to miss seven games so that it would fully heal. The Lakers then secured the Western Conference’s No. 3 seeding in time to rest Bryant for the season finale last week against Sacramento. Since then, Bryant has helped lead the Lakers to a 2-0 first-round series lead over the Denver Nuggets by averaging 34.5 points a game on 49.1% shooting. Does this reflect Bryant feeling more energized and healthy? ”Absolutely,” he said. Bryant avoided explaining how.”
Andrew Bynum, who plans on growing an afro soon, has also been a force to be reckoned with in the series, following a triple-double in Game 1 with 27 points in Game 2.
Interestingly, he’s not content with how he played.
From Ben Bolch of Los Angeles Times: ”I left a lot on the court today,” Bynum said Tuesday after the Lakers’ 104-100 victory over the Denver Nuggets that gave them a 2-0 lead in their Western Conference first-round series that resumes with Game 3 on Friday at the Pepsi Center. “I worked way too hard before the game to let that happen. I could have had a perfect game.” Giving himself two thumbs down for missing a few shots seemed out of character for someone who had largely blown off more dire circumstances in previous months. Could his surprising self-assessment be a sign that the 7-footer is, well, growing up? ”To me, in order to take it to the next level, you have to be your toughest critic,” Lakers Coach Mike Brown said Thursday. “And if he’s doing that and he truly means it, which I think he does, then, yeah, it’s going to help him out. It’s going to help him become the superstar that he can be one day.”
A fast start in the first quarter could make the difference.
From Benjamin Hochman of The Denver Post: “You don’t win a game in the first quarter. But you can lose one. That’s one of the fears for the Nuggets heading into tonight’s Game 3 first round Western Conference playoff series. Denver trails the Lakers 2-0. The Lakers came out swinging in both first quarters. In Game 1, L.A. outscored Denver 27-14. In Game 2, the Lakers took a 32-25 lead after one period. Playing at home, the Nuggets hope to utilize the loud crowd and the altitude to an early advantage tonight. ”We all know the importance of the game, but you can’t go crazy,” Nuggets coach George Karl said today after Denver’s shootaround. “You got to be ready. You got to be the guy to create the fight, start the fight.
Ty Lawson, who had 25 points and seven assists, was much more assertive in Game 2 after scoring only seven points in Game 1.
The key to success at home may be the play of Danilo Gallinari, who struggled in the previous game.
More from Hochman: “In Game 2, Danilo Gallinari got to the paint but couldn’t get the shots to drop — and couldn’t get to the line. The result was a subpar shooting performance for Denver’s potent forward — 13 points on 5-for-18 shooting in the loss. He actually missed seven of his nine attempts from inside the paint and attempted only two foul shots, making both. Heading into Game 3 tonight, Gallinari said after Thursday’s practice: “You have to find the right balance and right emotions for you, so you don’t come out too emotional or too energized. We all need to find the right energy, and I know we’re going to find it tomorrow.” This balance will be important for Gallinari, who has struggled for much of the season against the Lakers. He did, however, have a pretty good Game 1, scoring 19 points on 7-for-14 shooting.
James Park is a regular contributor to Sheridanhoops.com. You can find him on twitter @nbatupark.
Tonight (and tomorrow) it’s the Sheridan Hoops Freeroll, with $250 cash in prizes, absolutely free to play. DraftStreet, which offered one-day NBA leagues all season, now extends them over two days, so tonight’s three games not only decide May 3-4 leagues, they kick off May 4-5 leagues like the Freeroll. There is a wider assortment of great players to choose from as a result. Scroll down for more info and my picks.
MIA @ NYK: That was ugly. LeBron James was in foul trouble and committed 8 turnovers, but his 32 points led the Heat to their third straight win. The Knicks shot 31.9% as a team; Carmelo Anthony (22) was 7-23 and J.R. Smith (12) went 5-18, while Steve Novak, starting with Amare Stoudemire out, went pointless in 22 minutes. Chris Bosh welcomed a baby boy, picked up lots of frequent-flier miles and almost double-doubled (9 PTS, 10 REB) in a memorable day.
OKC @ DAL: The longer this series lasts, the more the Thunder are dominating the Mavericks. They held Dirk Nowitzki to 17 points and Dallas shot just 34% on the night, showing no signs of life. In fact, Chris Sheridan has written an obituary for the Mavs and the Knicks, who aren’t officially dead — yet.
ATL @ BOS: The Hawks are in big trouble without Josh Smith (knee) who is doubtful tonight and possible on Sunday. Rajon Rondo is back from his one-game suspension, so Paul Pierce may not repeat his 36-point outburst. Kevin Garnett will be even harder to stop if J-Smoove can’t play. We expect Marvin Williams to start, but it’s a very tough assignment.
CHI @ PHI: The loss of Derrick Rose has turned this series around. Philly has already stolen home-court advantage, but it was the way Jrue Holiday and Evan Turner performed against C.J. Watson and Richard Hamilton that impressed. While John Lucas may get more time for the Bulls, he’ll need to play better D on Louis Williams tonight. Joakim Noah is the one Chicago starter with a mismatch to exploit. The best Sixers big man so far has been rookie Lavoy Allen.
LAL @ DEN: Kobe Bryant is on a mission, and Andrew Bynum is too much for any of the Denver bigs to handle. You can expect a huge effort from Ty Lawson and Kenneth Faried, but the Nuggets need Danilo Gallinari to do more if they want to avoid a sweep.
Over at Fantasy Postseason, my team is back up to fifth place among 12 teams in the Sheridan Fantasy league. We are only 14 points out of second, but “wowchy” owns KD and has opened up a 45-point advantage.
Follow @SheridanFantasy on Twitter.
DraftStreet of Dreams
|Sure Things||Over $14,000|
|Hunches||$9,000 to $14,000|
Week 9 of this diary began with a $100 bankroll, but I’m down $48 so far.
My May 2-3 teams finished out of the money. I had D-Wade and Melo in one lineup last night and was slightly disappointed by both. In the May 3-4 leagues, now half over, I’m still in contention, depending on how Bynum and Rondo play tonight.
Those of us in 2-day DraftStreet leagues today and tomorrow (including the Freeroll) have seven games to choose from, four on Saturday.
IND @ ORL: The Pacers can take a stranglehold. Roy Hibbert and Danny Granger led their game-three romp, and Glen Davis, the one Magic player who showed up on Wednesday, has a gimpy ankle. Big Baby will keep battling; he’s certainly enhanced his keeper value in the absence of Dwight Howard.
MEM @ LAC: The most entertaining series so far changes venues. Blake Griffin and Chris Paul will put up huge numbers, but the Clippers need someone else to score. Randy Foye can’t get untracked against the Memphis defense, and Nick Young is playing with a sore thumb, so maybe Mo Williams will be the guy.
OKC @ DAL: Last chance for the Mavs to avoid a sweep but it’s hard to see how. They simply can’t stop Kevin Durant or Russell Westbrook.
SAS @ UTA: The Spurs’ second win at home was so convincing, you half-expect Tim Duncan and Tony Parker to be given a night of rest. The Jazz will be in must-win mode and can only improve. It’s doubtful they are good enough, though Al Jefferson and Paul Millsap will be fired up.
The $100,000 salary cap must be divided among eight roster spots — 2 G, 2 F, 2 C and 2 U (any position) — but many players you might be used to as PF-C eligible are simply a forward. For once, there are enough centers to choose from: Bynum, both Gasols, Jefferson and Noah.
See you on Draft Street, where it’s always free to register. The Sheridan Hoops Freeroll, which closes at 7:30 this evening, has $250 in cash prizes — $90 to the winner — and costs nothing to join. Good luck!
Notice a trend in the first round of the playoffs?
Teams are missing and losing their star players.
It is somewhat of an issue in the Western Conference, where the Los Angeles Lakers will be without suspended forward Metta World Peace for another four games and the Los Angeles Clippers will be without injured forward Caron Butler until perhaps the NBA Finals – if they get that far.
Over in the East, there is a veritable All-Star team of sidelined players. Dwight Howard. Derrick Rose. Amar’e Stoudemire. Ray Allen. Josh Smith.
And that has cleared a very wide, smooth easy path for the Miami Heat to return to the league’s biggest stage.
In Tuesday’s column, colleague Chris Perkins suggested that anything less than a first-round sweep of the New York Knicks would be a huge disappointment. Allow us to take that a couple of steps further.
Given the injury issues the Heat’s current and potential opponents are facing, anything less than a return trip to the Finals would be an abject failure worthy of considering a breakup of the “Big Three” and a coaching change.
Other than a major injury of their own, they have no legitimate excuse not to get back.
With the possible exception of the Bulls and some biased wishful thinking by Celtics Nation, the Heat already had the upper hand on every East playoff team when the postseason began five days ago. What now can possibly stand in their way en route to redemption?
In their immediate path – and offering about as much resistance as a flashing yellow traffic light – are the Knicks, who weren’t exactly putting up much of a fight with Stoudemire in the lineup. (And, it should be noted, rookie guard Iman Shumpert, a solid defender who went down with a torn ACL.)
Stoudemire got just 16 shots in the two losses in Miami before his stunningly stupid decision to take out his frustrations on the glass case of a fire extinguisher. He cut his hand so badly that emergency personnel rushed to the locker room.
Stoudemire skipped college and went right to the NBA, so he probably wasn’t entirely clear on the instructions on the encasement. It says, “In case of emergency, break glass.” It does not say, “To create an emergency, break glass.”
The Knicks can give false hope to their fans by merely saying Stoudemire is out for Game 3 and doubtful for Game 4. If you have ever had a cut on your hand or finger that needed stitches – and Stoudemire’s injury required a trip to the Hospital for Special Surgery – you know that almost any amount of contact is painful and you should avoid using your hand at all costs.
That’s kind of hard when it comes to basketball. So Stoudemire is probably done for this series, which shouldn’t last more than two more games.
The Knicks already were force-feeding Carmelo Anthony, who is shooting just 36 percent and figures to be firing at will for the next two games. His obvious reluctance to pass marginalizes anything the Knicks could be getting from Tyson Chandler (11 total shots), Landry Fields (12) or Steve Novak (5).
Up next for Miami would be either Orlando or Indiana, both of whom have been underwhelming for very different reasons. The Magic’s problems are obvious; they are the postseason’s donut, trying to fill their huge hole in the middle created by Howard’s absence with undersized power forward Glen “Big Baby” Davis.
Davis deserves some props, posting 34 points, 23 rebounds and four blocks as Orlando somehow managed a split of the first two games in Indiana. But the Magic are averaging just 79.5 points and have been outrebounded by 6.5 per game, obvious signs of Howard’s absence.
The Pacers are one of the East’s few teams that does not have injury issues. But after a solid regular season, they have had extended stretches in each of their first two games where they seemed to be playing in the dark. And their only win over the Heat this season came during Miami’s late-season lapse in concentration, which the Heat appear to have put behind them.
It doesn’t matter which team survives that series, because neither has the weapons or the will to beat the Heat. In fact, right now it’s hard to imagine Orlando or Indiana even extending Miami to a long series of six or seven games.
So with minimal effort, Miami should be back in the conference finals, where the long-anticipated showdown with Chicago already has a serious buzzkill and may not happen at all.
We will be Christmas shopping the next time we see Rose in uniform. In hope of rallying the base, the Bulls had him make an on-court appearance before Game 2, hobbling out while wearing a full leg stabilizer to protect his torn ACL. He then retreated to the relative sanctity of a United Center luxury box, where he got a good look at how much his teammates figure to struggle without him.
After a 109-92 loss, Bulls coach Tom Thibodeau tried to downplay Rose’s absence by maintaining that his team’s bigger issues were on the defensive end. To be sure, Chicago’s transition defense was awful, and its halfcourt defense wasn’t much better as Philadelphia shot a flaming 59 percent. But that wasn’t the primary problem.
Rose’s absence on offense allowed the 76ers to minimize their double-teams. They chased shooters Rip Hamilton and Kyle Korver into the corners and around screens without worrying about leaving penetration lanes for Rose. They also were able to stay in front of C.J. Watson and John Lucas, turning them into ineffective jump-shooters who made poor decisions with the ball in halfcourt sets.
No one is sounding an immediate death knell for the Bulls, who went 18-9 without Rose this season. But they are no lock for the conference semifinals, either, and it sure looks like they are in for a long series with the Sixers rather than a short one.
Meanwhile, the Hawks-Celtics series is developing into a battle of attrition. It has all the excitement of a trip to the DMV, with the requisite long lulls of inactivity, a loud complaint falling on deaf ears and the general sense that you would rather be doing almost anything else.
The Celtics are averaging a spiffy 80.5 points while shooting under 41 percent. The Hawks are at 81.5 points and below 38 percent. Boston has received 20 points from its bench. Atlanta has scored 32 points total in a pair of fourth quarters at home.
In Tuesday’s Game 2 loss, the Hawks also lost Smith, who left with a sprained knee with 4:20 to go and allowed the Celtics to zero in on slumping Joe Johnson. Atlanta already is without centers Al Horford and Zaza Pachulia and cannot afford to lose Smith, their best two-way player.
The Celtics managed to survive the Game 2 absence of suspended point guard Rajon Rondo, who will be back for Game 3 after his one-game ban for bumping referee Marc Davis. But they are clearly struggling without Allen, missing their first 19 3-pointers of the series and shooting just 3-of-25 from the arc in the ATL.
Allen hasn’t played since April 10 due to swelling and bone spurs in his ankle that eventually will require surgery. We’re not a doctor and don’t even play one on TV, but we’re pretty sure a condition involving bone spurs doesn’t get appreciably better unless they are actually removed.
In last year’s conference semifinals, the Celtics were gasping for air trying to keep up with LeBron James and Dwyane Wade. This year, they will have to push their way through perhaps two series without the benefit of homecourt advantage to simply get another shot at the Heat. Even with the championship-caliber grit they have shown since the All-Star break, the tank is inching toward E for the C’s.
The path back to the Finals has been cleared for the Heat. All they have to do is stroll along it, making sure they don’t trip and get hurt.
Chris Bernucca is a regular contributor to SheridanHoops.com. His columns appear every Wednesday and Sunday. You can follow him on Twitter.
Real life got in the way for a couple of days, but the NBA playoffs are heating up. Even though your Roto league may be finished, fantasy basketball continues. I’ve been playing on DraftStreet for a couple of months now. (Click the link to join for free.) Their daily leagues during the season — now 2-day leagues during the playoffs — are a great challenge.
BOS @ ATL: Josh Smith left with a knee injury after scoring 16 points, with 12 boards, 5 assists and a pair of blocks. Without him, the Hawks couldn’t hold off a late Boston surge to even the series. Paul Pierce was superb — 36 PTS, 14 REB, 4 AST — and Kevin Garnett (15 PTS, 12 REB, 5 AST) played well. Rajon Rondo was suspended, and Ray Allen’s ankle must be pretty bad, as he missed another game. That gave Avery Bradley (14 PTS, 3 AST, 3 STL, 3 BLK) a chance to shine. Joe Johnson (22) and Jeff Teague (18) led Atlanta in defeat and their future looks bleak without Smoove.
PHI @ CHI: The absence of Derrick Rose has been felt already. Jrue Holiday had 26 PTS, 6 AST and 2 STL as the Sixers won impressively. C.J. Watson (12 PTS, 3 AST) and John Lucas (15 PTS, 4 AST) are now sharing PG duties for Chicago and they must play better; Philly backup guard Lou Williams had 20 points and 6 assists. Andre Iguodala is playing with a sore Achilles tendon. I’m downgrading him a tick for Friday and expecting Evan Turner (19 PTS, 7 REB, 6 AST) to perform well again.
DEN @ LAL: Once again, Andrew Bynum (27 PTS, 9 REB, 2 BLK) was too much for the Denver big men and Kobe Bryant poured in another 38 points as the Lakers took a 2-0 series lead. Ty Lawson (25 & 7) played better but the Nuggets aren’t good enough to win and are pretty good candidates to get swept.
UTA @ SAS: The Spurs should continue to roll behind Tony Parker and Tim Duncan. Al Jefferson and Paul Millsap are reliable, but unless Josh Howard and Devin Harris play a lot better, Utah will be down 2-0. Tiago Splitter (wrist) is doubtful, so Boris Diaw and DeJuan Blair might get extra run.
LAC @ MEM: That incredible Clippers comeback to win the opening game will have the Grizzlies fired up for revenge tonight. I like Mike Conley, Marc Gasol and Rudy Gay to be the most productive. For L.A., Caron Butler has a broken hand, so Nick Young, who scored a team-high 19 off the bench on Sunday, might be starting and is sure to get big minutes.
IND @ ORL: The Magic must be very pleased with a road split. Glen Davis has been great despite giving up a lot of height and reach to Roy Hibbert. The Pacers stepped it up to win game two with David West inspired. George Hill and Paul George decisively outplayed the Orlando backcourt on Monday, but Jameer Nelson and Jason Richardson will try to bounce back on their home court.
There’s another playoff fantasy format at Fantasy Postseason, where I’m now sixth of 12 in the Sheridan Fantasy league. I didn’t expect to lead all the way, having drafted role players on teams that figure to last a few rounds, like Kendrick Perkins and Stephen Jackson. By comparison, the team in first has Josh Smith, Dirk Nowitzki and Ryan Anderson, who might all be watching on TV soon. I’m hoping that slow and steady wins the race.
|Sure Things||Over $14,000|
|Hunches||$9,000 to $14,000|
Week 9 of my ongoing experiment began last night with a $6 investment from the $100 bankroll. My three teams in a 2-day GPP Salary Cap league are not among the leaders at the midway point, but I have some decent players like Tony Parker in tonight’s games to help catch up.
If you’re in a 2-day DraftStreet league today and tomorrow, there are only five games total to choose from, including two on Thursday.
MIA @ NYK: Amare Stoudemire is out after losing a fight with a fire extinguisher, and Iman Shumpert (knee) is done, so Carmelo Anthony will take over for the desperate Knicks. Miami is too strong; LeBron James and Dwyane Wade will put up big numbers.
OKC @ DAL: This could be the last stand for the defending champions. The Mavs lost two close games in Oklahoma, making Game 3 a must-win. They will go to Dirk Nowitzki early and often. For the Thunder, it was Serge Ibaka in the first game and Kendrick Perkins in the second supporting Russell Westbrook and Kevin Durant.
With a $100,000 salary cap for eight roster spots, the center position is key. You need two C and there’s a tough choice: pay big bucks for Al Jefferson or settle for two lesser talents. That position scarcity is why Ian Mahinmi is listed among the “Bargains” in today’s chart.
Click here to get started on Draft Street. It’s easy and free to register. If you don’t want to pay entry fees and win cash, they have free leagues for credits and prizes.