News and notes from Tuesday's seven-game slate.
• What happens when you take what is arguably the best three-point shooting unit (recent upgrades considered) and put them up against the league’s worst perimeter defense? Exactly what you think would happen – a fireworks show from Downtown Cleveland. The Cavaliers have gone on to set two franchise records in three-pointers allowed this season, this time giving up 19 at the hands of the Magic in Tuesday’s 15-point loss. To make matters worse, the Cavs haven’t scored over 100 points in regulation in 16 games, a drought spanning over a month. Their average scoring margin in those 16 games: -12.75 points. No additional quips needed; their play has done all the talking.
• The lone bright spot amidst this mess has been Anderson Varejao(notes), the only regular Cavs rotation player to shoot over 44 percent from the field during the past 15 games (54.4%). He did his part to keep his team in this one (at least early on), going for 14 points, nine rebounds, three blocks, and five steals. Though Byron Scott went a bit overboard with his comments that Andy is up there with the best centers in the league, I can certainly see where he’s coming from here. It’s not a monumental task to look like an All-Star when you’re playing alongside a largely mediocre supporting cast. After a rather pedestrian November where he hovered around the top-100, the Wild Thing has been a mini-revelation in the month of December, posting top-35 value over the past month and top-18 value over the past two weeks. The difference: rebounds, steals, and free-throw percentage.
• As touched on previously, the Magic had a field day from three-land in this one. Gilbert Arenas(notes) had a game-high 22 points (5-for-8 3PT, 11 assists, 5 turnovers, 6 rebounds, 3 steals), while Jason Richardson(notes) posted an efficient 20 points (8-for-13 FG, 4-of-6 3PT). I wouldn’t get too carried with any of these big lines given that the Cavs are the second-most fantasy-friendly defensive unit out there, but I’ll once again reiterate my stance that J-Rich will be just fine in Orlando. No, he won’t be throwing up 15+ shots a game and posting top-25 value like he did in Phoenix, but he’ll still prove to be plenty effective with ~12 attempts a game. Expect him to post averages similar to what he provided in ’09-’10, which would put him right around 45th in per-game value. Provided his average draft position (ADP) was 50.5, those who drafted him are still coming out ahead (albeit barely).
• The Celtics rallied behind an 8-0 run midway through the third quarter and an 11-0 run to start the fourth to pull off a 12-point win at Conseco Fieldhouse, their fourth straight win against the Pacers. Paul Pierce(notes) led the way with 21 points, seven assists, and five rebounds (8-for-14 FG, 3-of-3 3PT), while Marquis Daniels(notes) played big minutes (30) off the bench to score in double figures (12 points) for the first time in over two weeks. Rajon Rondo(notes) missed his fifth straight game, but is targeting Friday’s game against New Orleans for his return.
• Brandon Rush(notes) moved back into the starting lineup after a two-game stint on the bench, and responded by scoring a team-high 17 points to go along with seven rebounds. It was his first double-digit output in four games, a span that has seen him shoot just 10-of-28 (35.7%) from the field. Keep in mind that he was a career 42 percent shooter coming into the season, and it isn’t all that surprising that he hasn’t been able to maintain his torrid November pace that saw his shoot 47 percent from the field. We’re starting to see some regression to the mean. Danny Granger(notes) continues to struggle mightily from the field, scoring 15 points but having to take 21 shots to do so. He’s still managed to post rather decent value, coming at 24th for the season, but his field-goal percentage impact is the worst it’s ever been and large enough for head-to-head owners to consider punting the category all together.
• The Heat, who are dead last in field goals made at the rim and t-24th in field goals made within 10 feet, did something against the Knicks that they haven’t done consistently all season: score in the paint. They got most of their 56 points in the paint in transition and on fastbreaks, spurred by a sizable 50-32 rebounding margin. The Heat were one rebound away (Dwyane Wade(notes) had 9) from having four players in double-digit rebounds.
• Wade (40 points, 9 rebounds, 2 steals, 13-for-16 FT) outdueled Amar’e Stoudemire(notes) (30 points, 7 rebounds, 2 steals, 2 blocks, 10-of-12 FT) in this one, hitting the Knicks hard when it counted the most. Wade scored 15 points in the fourth quarter, while Stoudemire took just four shots to score four in the period. Chris Bosh(notes) double-doubled for the third straight game (18 points, 10 rebounds), while Zydrunas Ilgauskas(notes) was on fire early on (12 points and 9 rebounds in 9 minutes) but played just five minutes after the first quarter with the Knicks opting for smaller lineups.
• The Bulls leaned heavily on their trio of Derrick Rose(notes) (18 points, 12 assists, 6 rebounds, 3 treys), Luol Deng(notes) (24 points, 9-of-15 FG, 5-for-6 FT), and Carlos Boozer(notes) (24 points, 9 rebounds, 10-for-16 FG) to carry them to a comfortable 13-point win over a hapless Bucks squad that has lost five of its last seven games. Rose hit three of four of his three-point attempts, snapping a 0-for-11 drought from distance.
• No real notable lines to report on the Bucks’ end, as they shot 32 percent from the field and turned the ball over (13) more times than they assisted (11). John Salmons(notes) led the way with 18 points, but also shot the ball 17 times in the process. Brandon Jennings(notes) (foot) and Earl Boykins(notes) (suspension) were both missed in this one.
• Yes the Mavericks were without Dirk Nowitzki(notes), who remains day-to-day with a sprained right knee, but they really had no excuse to lose at home to the Raptors, who were also down Andrea Bargnani(notes), Jose Calderon(notes), and Sonny Weems(notes). Not to mention they lost Linas Kleiza(notes) (ejected) midway through the third and Jerryd Bayless(notes) (ankle) for stretches. The Mavericks looked extremely stagnant at times and turned the ball over way too much as they tried to force things on the offensive end. It didn’t help that their threes weren’t falling (5-of-22) or that Tyson Chandler(notes) had an off-game (3 points, 6 rebounds, 3 turnovers) either.
• Ed Davis(notes) was the best player on the floor on either side in this one, as he had what was easily his best game of the season (17 points, 12 rebounds, 3 blocks, 3 steals, 6-of-8 FG). Before you go running to the wire looking to scoop him up, keep in mind that he had it extremely easy with Brian Cardinal(notes) seeing extensive minutes at the 4. Shawn Marion(notes) was rather lethargic on the defensive end too and did a poor job sealing Davis on the glass. Keep Davis on your radar if you’re in a 16- or 20-teamer, but don’t expect this type of production to continue.
• The only three-peat they’re talking about now in Los Angeles is the string of double-digit losses (19 to Milwaukee, 16 to Miami, 15 to San Antonio) the Lakers have incurred over the past week. They’ve averaged just 80.3 points over that stretch on 40 percent shooting. In Tuesday’s loss, the Lakers shot just 28 percent in the second half and finished with more turnovers (16) than assists (15). Kobe Bryant(notes) took 27 shots to get to 21 points, while Pau Gasol(notes) managed to salvage a sub-par shooting performance (3-of-8 FG) by filling the stat sheet (9 points, 9 rebounds, 5 assists, 3 blocks).
• It was all San Antonio in this one, as the Spurs relied heavily on their supporting cast as Tim Duncan(notes) (2 points, 4 rebounds, 1-for-7 FG) and Manu Ginobili(notes) (9 points, 3-of-12 FG) struggled mightily from the field. George Hill(notes) put up the best line in this one (10 points, 9 assists, 4 blocks, 2 steals), while DeJuan Blair(notes) posted season-highs in both points (17) and rebounds (15). Blair gave the Spurs the spark they needed to push them over the top in the second half, scoring nine points and grabbing six rebounds in 10 minutes of action in the third quarter. Tony Parker(notes) scored a game-high 23 points, his second-straight 20-point performance.
• The Nuggets snapped a three-game skid to cruise to an 18-point win against the Blazers as all five of their starters scored in double figures. Chauncey Billups(notes) continued his stellar play with Carmelo Anthony(notes) (personal) sidelined, scoring 18 points and matching a season-high nine assists. Over the past four games Billups is averaging 23 points, 5.8 assists, and 2.3 treys. Denver also got solid performances out of Nene Hilario(notes) (17 points, 7 rebounds, 6-for-7 FG, 5-of-6 FT) and Arron Afflalo(notes) (15 points, 3 steals, 4-for-4 FT). Melo will miss Wednesday’s game at Minnesota, but will return to the team on Thursday and will be set to go for Saturday’s New Year’s Day tilt against Sacramento.
• In what was a largely forgettable showing for the Blazers that saw them turn the ball over 18 times (leading to 22 Nuggets points), LaMarcus Aldridge(notes) was an absolute gem, putting up what was easily the best line of the night – 18 points, 13 rebounds, three steals, and a career-high seven blocked shots on 9-for-17 shooting. He’s clearly become the focal point of the Blazers offense with Brandon Roy(notes) (knee) sidelined, and is posting the highest block percentage of his career since his rookie season. I wouldn’t say he’s made major improvements to his game (his shooting efficiency and rebound rate have remained nearly identical), but there’s no denying he’s making a major impact in the fantasy realm – top-20 value in the last month and third overall in the past two weeks.
Tuesday’s top performers (per-game value): LaMarcus Aldridge (+1.55), Gilbert Arenas & Dwyane Wade (+1.23), Anderson Varejao (+0.98), Ed Davis & Paul Pierce (+0.91)
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