It’s time for a break in the NBA. With zero games taking place on Christmas Eve (Tuesday), all we can do it look back at Monday’s 11 games, as well as forward to the five matches set up for Wednesday.
Christmas Day Matchups
If you’re not a fantasy fanatic, you can probably skip the first three games of the day. But if you’re a fantasy freak, and I know you are because you’re reading this column, you’ll be dialed in from noon to 2 a.m. to catch all the action. Here’s what to look for in each game.
. My initial lineup is: Beno Udrih, Aaron Brooks, Jodie Meeks, Nick Young, LeBron James, Kevin Durant, Andray Blatche, Tim Duncan and Andrew Bogut.
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Bulls @ Nets
Luol Deng (Achilles) missed practice on Monday, which leaves his status for tomorrow in doubt. If he’s out, look for Taj Gibson, Tony Snell and Mike Dunleavy to pick up the slack. Jimmy Butler (ankle) practiced on Monday and is hoping to play, which will also hinder the aforementioned trio. I’ve got him in my lineup. Kirk Hinrich could also return from a back injury, which would hurt the daily value of D.J. Augustin, but not kill it. If Deng is out, Gibson might be a decent play, but you can expect Carlos Boozer and Joakim Noah to play well for the Bulls, either way.
For the Nets, Deron Williams left Monday’s game with a sprained left ankle and didn’t return. His ankle has been a mess all year, and while the injury appeared to be behind him, it’s not. Bench him if you can, and look for Shaun Livingston to pick up the slack if he’s out on Christmas. Andray Blatche had just 11 points and seven boards on Monday, but remains a nearly must-start player with Brook Lopez out for the year. Paul Pierce cooled off in a big way (and ruined me in FanDuel) by getting ejected for clotheslining George Hill on Monday. He missed all seven of his shots and did nothing in his 15 minutes. He’ll bounce back on Christmas Day, assuming he’s not suspended. Andrei Kirilenko may play on Wednesday, but I’m not holding my breath. Mirza Teletovic, who I raved about on Twitter, played 30 minutes, but hit just 3-of-10 shots for eight points. Given the fact that he was No. 3 on the team in minutes, I’m not giving up on him just yet. Joe Johnson returned from a personal absence and had 17 points in 35 minutes.
Thunder @ Knicks
The Thunder’s usual suspects should be good to go, including Kevin Durant, Russell Westbrook and Serge Ibaka, while Reggie Jackson and Thabo Sefolosha should be decent plays in deep leagues.
For the Knicks, Carmelo Anthony (19 points) is now iffy for Christmas Day with a sprained left ankle, suffered on Monday night. If he’s out, look for Andrea Bargnani to have a nice line against the Thunder. Raymond Felton, who was already dealing with a hamstring injury, felt a “pop” in his groin on Monday, and I’m guessing he’s done for the week. If you somehow rolled with Beno Udrih this week, things are looking up. Udrih had 10 points and six assists on Monday. J.R. Smith went off for 18 points, 10 rebounds and three 3-pointers on Monday, and could be in line for three more nice lines this week.
Heat @ Lakers
Dwyane Wade sat out Monday’s game for rest, but my guess is he’ll suit up for Christmas Day against the lowly Lakers. But after that, a back-to-back on Friday and Saturday could cause him to miss another game and turn his four-game week into a two-gamer. LeBron James went off for 38 points and another full stat line on Monday, and should be good again against the Lakers. Chris Andersen had 12 points, nine boards and two blocks last night, but I don’t trust him enough to use him. Ray Allen played well (19 points, four 3-pointers) in the absence of Wade, but my guess is Wade is back on Wednesday, which means Allen should struggle in that one.
The Lakers got a team-high 19 points out of Nick Young, while Jodie Meeks scored 18 with two 3-pointers. Jordan Hill played just 14 minutes and didn’t do much, but I’m going to wait until the end of the week before tossing him to the curb in most cases. Xavier Henry hit just 3-of-12 shots and a wobbly 7-of-14 free throws for 13 points and six boards, but should bounce back tomorrow, while Pau Gasol cooled off after an illness with just 10 points and four rebounds. Every guy I mentioned here is worthy of a fantasy start on Christmas Day, while Chris Kaman had just one point in 13 minutes. Bah humbug.
Rockets @ Spurs
The Rockets got 29 points and 15 rebounds out of Dwight Howard, and while he didn’t block a shot, he stayed hot at the free throw line, hitting 9-of-13. Jeremy Lin returned with 20 points, two rebounds and two assists, and should be in starting lineups for his four remaining games this week. Aaron Brooks came off the bench, but hit four 3-pointers on his way to 18 points and five assists, and should continue to be relevant with Patrick Beverley out, not to mention James Harden. Francisco Garcia started for Harden, but hit just 1-of-6 shots (a 3-pointer) for three points and six rebounds. Omri Casspi came off the bench and scored just three points in 19 minutes. As long as Harden is out with his ankle injury, Garcia and Casspi are worth a look in this five-game week. Harden is officially questionable for Wednesday, and I really don’t have a sense of whether or not he’ll play in that one.
The Spurs got 26 points from Tony Parker and a double-double from Kawhi Leonard, but only Danny Green and Manu Ginobili managed to join them in double-digit scoring on Monday. Tim Duncan was 4-of-15 for nine points, 12 rebounds and four blocks, but is looking for another big night in a rematch against the Rockets on Christmas Day. Marco Belinelli cooled off with just four points on 2-of-7 shooting, missing all five of his attempts from downtown, despite starting over Danny Green. Green had 14 points and four 3-pointers last night, but I still don’t trust him, especially if he’s going to be coming off the bench going forward. And the same goes for Belinelli as long as his teammates are healthy.
Clippers @ Warriors
The Clippers should see solid production from Chris Paul, Blake Griffin, DeAndre Jordan and Jamal Crawford on Christmas Day, but all the rest of them are a crapshoot. Jared Dudley has been hit-or-miss, and might be worth a flier tomorrow.
The Warriors got 28 points and 10 rebounds out of David Lee, as he continues his double-double assault, while Stephen Curry was quiet with just 14 points on 5-of-14 shooting on Monday. Andrew Bogut was also quiet with four points, 11 rebounds and three blocks, but still looks like a solid four-game play if you started him this week.
Monday’s Game News
Brandon Knight went nuts again for the Bucks with 26 points, eight rebounds, 14 assists and two 3-pointers. If you started him this week, things are looking up. Khris Middleton played 41 minutes and had 19 points, six boards, three steals and three 3-pointers in the overtime loss to the Bobcats. If you started him, congratulations. And if he’s still available in your league, give him a look. Caron Butler hit just 3-of-11 shots for 11 points, while Giannis Antetokounmpo hit 4-of-8 shots and two 3-pointers for 12 points and six boards. John Henson played through a sore knee, and had 14 points, nine boards and six blocks off the bench.
Kemba Walker had 25 points, nine rebounds and 10 assists, just missing a triple-double. He’s been hit or miss all season, but when he’s on, he’s ON. Anthony Tolliver hit four 3-pointers for 12 points, three boards and a block, and there is hope that he can fill in at small forward until Michael Kidd-Gilchrist returns. Give him a look in deep leagues.
Paul Millsap had 25 points, 10 rebounds and a career-high seven 3-pointers before fouling out for the Hawks in a tough OT loss to the Heat on Monday. Wow. He’s had some bad games this season, but his 3-point shooting was unexpected and he’s been a very solid fantasy player all year. He’s now averaging more than one 3-pointer per game, which was completely unexpected.
Jameer Nelson just missed a triple-double with 17 points, eight rebounds, 10 assists and three 3-pointers. He’s exceeding expectations and is a value play in daily leagues, especially with Victor Oladipo coming off the bench. Oladipo played just 16 minutes Monday and didn’t do much of anything. I still don’t think you can cut him, so just put him on your bench until he gets it going again. Tobias Harris started again and had 14 points, seven rebounds and four assists on 4-of-13 shooting, but is finally starting to live up to the hype – sort of.
Lance Stephenson had a career-high 26 points to go along with seven rebounds, five dimes, two steals and four 3-pointers for the Pacers. He has three triple-doubles this season and I still can’t figure out why his owners want to cut or trade him. Danny who? Danny-Who was 0-for-7 in 15 minutes last night, and the Pacers have no intention of turning him loose and messing up their flow any time soon.
Brandan Wright played just 19 minutes and had six points and three rebounds for the Mavericks on Monday. He was playing well coming in and owners shouldn’t judge him on this game alone. He had to deal with Dwight Howard last night. Dirk Nowitzki had 31 points, six boards, a steal, two blocks and a 3-pointer, as his solid season rolls on.
Gordon Hayward just missed a triple-double with 16 points, 11 boards and nine assists for the Jazz. He also had four blocks and two 3-pointers, in one of his best games of the season. Richard Jefferson had 18 points and three 3-pointers, but figuring out what night he’s going to turn it on is next to impossible.
James Johnson blew up for nine points, five boards, two assists, a steal, four blocks and a 3-pointer in 33 minutes in Monday’s win over the Jazz. I highlighted him in Waiver Wired this week, but he should take a big hit once Tayshaun Prince is back from his knee injury. Zach Randolph just missed a triple-double with 22 points, 10 rebounds and seven assists, and is back to his old tricks. Mike Conley struggled on 2-of-11 shooting for six points and five assists, while Jerryd Bayless had 17 points and three assists off the bench. Conley will get it figured out soon.
Terrence Ross finally came through for the Raptors with 23 points and three 3-pointers on 10-of-16 shooting. He was struggling coming in, so we’ll need to see a few more solid games before getting too excited. And if you actually played him in any format against the Spurs last night, congratulations are in order.
Timofey Mozgov started for the Nuggets and had 14 points, 11 rebounds and two blocks in 32 minutes. He stepped up with Kenneth Faried out with an ankle injury, but all bets are off on Tinafey once Faried is healthy again.
Tyreke Evans blew up against his former team (Kings) with 25 points, six rebounds, 12 assists and three steals for the Pelicans. He was motivated against the Kings, but is playing well enough to be owned in all leagues. Eric Gordon suffered a right hip injury and didn’t return, although the Pelicans said he could have played if necessary. Keep running him out there unless we get bad news later this week.
Marcus Thornton had 19 points, five rebounds and two 3-pointers in 30 minutes for the Kings last night, and might finally be out of the doghouse. Add him if you need threes. Isaiah Thomas and DeMarcus Cousins were both solid for the Kings, as usual.
Suns center Miles Plumlee had a career-high 20 rebounds to go along with 17 points and two blocks in 31 minutes against the Lakers. I’m not sure if this line says more about the Lakers D than it does Plumlee, but it was nice to see him finally post a monster line after flirting with them all year. Gerald Green stayed hot with six 3-pointers and 22 points. He’s hit 16 3-pointers in his last three games and is getting enough run off the bench to be considered for a pick up again in all leagues. It’s nice to know he can be useful when both Goran Dragic and Eric Bledsoe are healthy. Marcus Morris had 19 points, four boards and five 3-pointers off the Suns bench, overriding Channing Frye (seven points), but isn’t reliable in fantasy just yet. Keep an eye on him and his twin brother, Markieff Morris, going forward.