Spurs at Nets
The Spurs entered Thursday's game with a skeleton crew thanks to a long and distinguished list of unavailable players: Tim Duncan (rest), Boris Diaw (food poisoning), Tony Parker (back spasms), Kawhi Leonard (hand), and Manu Ginobili (hamstring). That left an uncommonly small starting lineup of Cory Joseph, Nando De Colo, Marco Belinelli, Danny Green and Tiago Splitter. Every starter other than Splitter scored double-digit points, but ultimately the Spurs didn't have enough firepower to withstand the surging Nets, falling 89-103 in Brooklyn.
The Spurs were led by a pair of under-the-radar guards — Cory Joseph had 18 points, three assists and four steals, while Patty Mills added 16 points and two assists off the bench. Marco Belinelli was disappointing with just 12 points in 34 minutes and the only other fantasy-worthy line came from Danny Green, who predictably went off for 17 points, three 3s, eight rebounds, three assists, one steal and two blocks in the loss. I've received a ton of questions about Green in the past week, and my answer is typically 'Yes, he should be owned.' His subtle versatility was stifled earlier this season due to limited playing time, but his minutes have risen with Kawhi Leonard (hand) and Manu Ginobili (hamstring) sidelined, and both are out at least a few more weeks. In the past five games, to be exact, Green is averaging 10.6 points, 2.0 triples, 6.8 rebounds, 1.6 assists, 0.6 steals, 1.0 blocks and 1.6 turnovers in 30.0 minutes. He's shooting just 41.0 percent from the field during that stretch, but that's reasonable for a guy who takes almost two-thirds of his FG attempts from downtown. The numbers I just recited are good enough for fifth-round value in nine-cat leagues (sixth-round in eight-cat), so plan accordingly.
Tim Duncan's DNP-CD was inevitable after he logged 40 minutes in Wednesday's double-OT win in Washington, but he should be ready to play in Saturday's road game in Charlotte. Diaw and Parker are each questionable to return from their ailments, while Kawhi and Manu are out through the All-Star break. Anyone who owns Duncan and/or Parker should be especially conscious of the Spurs' remaining back-to-back sets — unfortunately there are six more on the schedule, falling on Feb. 18/19, March 11/12, March 21/22, March 28/29, April 2/3 and April 10/11.
Even if we throw out the games in February and April as falling before and after most fantasy playoff schedules, respectively, that still leaves owners with three potential DNPs at the most crucial time of the season. A single DNP during the March 28/29 set would limit guys like Duncan, Parker and Manu to just two games in Week 22. It's not grounds for a fire sale, but it's definitely something to be aware of if you're primary concern is maximizing value during fantasy playoffs.
Speaking of which, I've updated my ROS schedule grid to include only remaining games from Week 16 through Week 25. I'll continue to update it every Friday, eliminating the row for the week which is elapsing, so save this link. It includes rescheduled games for the Hawks vs. Pistons and Spurs vs. Wolves.
Meanwhile, the Nets took advantage of San Antonio's injury woes to notch another victory, making them 12-4 since the beginning of January. It was the Nets' first win vs. the Spurs since March 2010, when the franchise was still in New Jersey. They shot just 4-of-13 beyond the arc (30.8 percent) and as a team they attempted just 10 free throws, but the Spurs' lack of shot-blocking led to a parade of easy buckets inside -- fully 51 percent of Brooklyn's shots came within five feet of the hoop.
Paul Pierce is thriving as an undersized power forward in a league which no longer features many back-down stalwarts like David West, and he finished with an easy 12 points on 5-of-6 shooting, one 3-pointer, seven rebounds, two assists and one steal in just 23 minutes. Kevin Garnett had blocked at least one shot in six consecutive games until Thursday, when he finished with eight points, nine rebounds and nothing else in 18 minutes. He's been able to stay healthy due to a judicious limit on his playing time, as well as five precautionary DNPs, but he's been a season-long liability in 12-team leagues (albeit top-115 in the past two weeks, thanks to those blocks). Right on cue, it was reported that KG is likely to sit out Friday's game to get some precautionary rest.
What has been under-appreciated this season is the impact Shaun Livingston has had for the Nets. Despite a stated aversion to heavy playing time, he's stepped up while Deron Williams recovered from ankle injuries and is averaging 7.9 points on 46.2 percent shooting with 3.1 rebounds, 3.2 assists and an impressive 1.2 steals vs. just 1.3 turnovers per game. Those numbers place him in the top-12 for assist-to-turnover ratio among players who don't regularly start at PG. As a curious side note, Josh McRoberts' sterling 3.7 ratio ranks him fourth-best in the NBA and he's the only non-guard in the top-40 unless you count Andre Iguodala, who ranks 32nd.
Deron Williams scored 16 points on Thursday with one 3-pointer, four rebounds and eight assists in 30 minutes, but Livingston still managed his own eight points, five boards, four assists and four blocks. He's been a top-50 option in nine-cat leagues for the past month, despite scoring just 10.8 points and never making 3-pointers, so fantasy owners should continue deploying him until he slows down. As for D-Will, he returned to Thursday's game after briefly exiting with a right knee injury -- although there's no indication that he'll sit out Friday's game, owners should be on the lookout for updates.
Things didn't go as well for All-Star Joe Johnson, who made 4-of-10 field goals and didn't attempt a single free throw, finishing with eight points, two rebounds, one assist and two turnovers. Part of the problem was reserve swingman Alan Anderson catching fire in the second half, finishing with a team-high 22 points on 9-of-15 shooting, including a pair of 3-pointers. His 22 points matched his total from the past three games combined and he remains little more than a deep-league perimeter specialist.
The Nets rolled deep in this game. In addition to Anderson going off, Andrei Kirilenko returned from a calf injury with an impressive four-point, eight-rebound, six-assist performance in 26 minutes. Andray Blatche (hip) added 10 points on 5-of-12 FGs, six rebounds, four assists and three steals in a mere 19 minutes, as he continues to return late-round fantasy value in under 25 minutes per game. The Nets' depth and success with a small lineup seems to ensure that Blatche won't log 30+ minutes in the near future, but he doesn't belong on the waiver wire.
Bulls at Warriors
The Warriors were without David Lee (hip, shoulder) and Andrew Bogut (shoulder) on Thursday, but they overcame their injury woes and a lousy start to defeat the visiting Bulls 102-87. They were led as usual by Stephen Curry, who drained 13-of-19 FGs, including four 3-pointers, while handing out a game-high nine assists. Only Kevin Durant has provided more overall fantasy value in the past month than Curry, who in the past dozen games is averaging 29.0 points, 3.8 threes, 4.1 rebounds, 8.0 assists and 1.5 steals with stellar percentages. The Warriors gave him a four-year, $44 million extension just before the 2012-13 season, despite lingering concerns about his ankles, and Curry has quickly proven himself to be worth all of that and far more.
Klay Thompson has been going through a brutal stretch, shooting just 38.4 percent from the field in January, but he rallied on Thursday with 22 points on 8-of-16 shooting. Three of his makes came beyond the arc, and he added a rare blocked shot, so fantasy owners should be willing to overlook the fact that he only had one rebound and one assist in 40 minutes.
Another player with a caveat was Andre Iguodala, who had a versatile line with eight rebounds, six assists and two steals, yet scored just seven points on 3-of-10 shooting in 41 minutes. Iguodala is shooting 48.0 percent from the field, which is great by his standards, yet with just 7.3 shots per game that's resulted in 9.5 points per game, his lowest total since he was a rookie in 2004-05. The majority of his FG attempts (28.0 percent) have been above-the-break 3-pointers, which also happens to be the area on the court from which he's shooting the lowest percentage (33.3 percent). His once-common mid-range game has all but vanished and it's hard to anticipate a bounce-back offensively while Steph Curry is dominating the Warriors' offense (ninth in the NBA at 85.7 touches per game).
The Warriors frontcourt, minus D-Lee and Bogut, featured Draymond Green (nine points, seven rebounds, two blocks) and Jermaine O'Neal (four points, five boards, one steal, three blocks). They struggled to contain the Bulls' frontcourt but played hard enough that it wasn’t a decisive disadvantage, and overall there wasn't much to criticize. J.O. was especially encouraging, as he logged a season-high 26 minutes despite coming off an eight-week absence following wrist surgery. While owners in the deepest leagues may be intrigued by his rebounding and shot-blocking, he's belongs on most waiver wires with Bogut expected to return to action vs. the Suns on Saturday. David Lee is also day-to-day and his status for Saturday's game is less certain, so his owners will need to continually check RW's injury report for updates.
The nicest surprise for Golden State may have been the performance of their bench. Both Green and O'Neal were pressed into starting jobs, but the Warriors still got 11 points each from Harrison Barnes and Jordan Crawford, while Marreese Speights also held his ground in 12 minutes of action. When you're team ranks 29th in the NBA in bench scoring (23.1 points per game), anything helps.
Carlos Boozer was ruled out at the last second with a strained left calf for the Bulls, who fell below .500 with the loss (24-25) despite a nice game from fill-in PF Taj Gibson. Boozer aggravated an existing calf injury and it's unclear how long he'll be sidelined, but owners should prepare to be without him again on Sunday. In his absence, Gibson scored a team-high 26 points on 9-of-23 FGs and 8-of-8 FTs, while adding 13 rebounds, four assists, two steals and two blocks in the defeat. This was a somewhat fluky performance with Boozer out and the Warriors' frontcourt missing two starters, but Gibson's role is solid enough that he's worth owning in all 12-team leagues. He's also prone to huge games whenever Boozer is out of the lineup, so at the very least he's primed for another nice game on Sunday (assuming Boozer sits).
Joakim Noah also stepped up with a near triple-double, recording seven points, 10 rebounds, 11 assists and one block, but as a team Chicago shot just 32-of-77 from the field (41.6 percent). They also played poor perimeter defense and got a combined 18 points from their bench (led by D.J. Augustin with 10 points and one assist), which wasn't enough to steal a road win. It's worth noting that Augustin and Kirk Hinrich have essentially split PG minutes down the middle in the past two games. Hinrich scored 15 points with one assist and three steals in 25 minutes on Thursday but he was an uncharacteristic 7-of-11 from the field, and it'll be very hard to rely on either Bulls guard if Thibodeau continues to use them in a pure time-share at PG. I'm ready to cut Hinrich in all leagues but would hang onto Augustin a while longer, if possible, given his terrific play prior to this two-game slide.
Random News and Notes
Kevin Love (neck) is questionable to play the Pelicans on Friday. UPDATE: K-Love will play.
Nikola Pekovic (ankle) will NOT play on Friday.
Corey Brewer (personal) will play on Friday after missing one game following the birth of his child.
Lance Stephenson (back) will NOT play on Friday. George Hill, Paul George and Danny Granger should pick up most of the slack.
Derrick Favors (hip) practiced on Wednesday and Thursday, possibly clearing the way for a return vs. the Mavericks on Friday. He's a game-time decision. UPDATE: Favors will play, as will Jeremy Evans (tailbone).
Rajon Rondo (general soreness) and Avery Bradley (ankle) are both questionable for Friday's game, though neither ailment is considered serious. UPDATE: Both Bradley and Rondo will NOT play.
Tyreke Evans (ribs) is questionable for Friday's game vs. the Wolves.
Kyrie Irving (illness) will be a game-time decision vs. Washington on Friday. UPDATE: Kyrie will play.
The Lakers entire team should be considered questionable for Friday's game. I'm half-kidding. UPDATE: Jordan Farmar (legs) will NOT play, Steve Blake (thigh) is probable, and both Jordan Hill (neck) and Steve Nash will play.
J.J. Redick (hip, back) is "doubtful at best" to play Friday.
Derrick Williams (strained foot) is questionable for Friday's game. UPDATE: Williams will play, but both Marcus Thornton (hip) and Rudy Gay (illness) will NOT play.
Chris Paul (shoulder) is expected to return for Sunday’s game vs. the 76ers, and he will participate in the All-Star game.