Dose: Nash and Nowitzki

Aaron Bruski
Rotoworld
Steve Nash and Dirk Nowitzki rewrote the record books, LeBron got Plumleed, and Aaron Bruski has you covered for Big Wednesday. Dose is here!

Dose: Nash and Nowitzki

Steve Nash and Dirk Nowitzki rewrote the record books, LeBron got Plumleed, and Aaron Bruski has you covered for Big Wednesday. Dose is here!

Last night had an historic feel, as Steve Nash and Dirk Nowitzki fittingly hit massive milestones on the same night, Paul Pierce just missed 25,000 career points, and on a sad note The Ultimate Warrior passed just three days after getting inducted into the WWE Hall of Fame.  Whatever your thoughts are on pro wrestling, James Hellwing was an icon in the late 1980s and by the end of last night there was plenty of nostalgia in the air. 

If that wasn’t enough the night was chalk full of news, a bang-bang block of LeBron at the rim to decide a game, and plenty of big lines.  There will be 12 games tonight that will go a very long way toward deciding the leagues that are still going.  To be honest I haven’t done any research about how many injuries or shutdowns there have been this year compared to years’ past, but I can sense a groundswell forming against playoff leagues that wrap up in any of the last three weeks.  It’s just too long of a year to be decided on a roll of the dice during silly season.  

Unfortunately there is not a good answer for playoff formats that doesn’t include starting the playoffs right after the trade deadline, which is chopping off a significant part of the year and moving the deciding fantasy weeks into an awkward period when franchises stumble around after changing paths.  This, of course, presumes that the deadline ever becomes a thing again. 

I’m a Roto guy through and through and that's where owners can avoid all of this, but fantasy playoff leagues aren't going anywhere so maybe the industry can figure out better ways to end leagues early.  A random and fun idea could be to introduce a follow-up re-draft league for the final five weeks of the season -- like a playoff league but without the elimination aspect.  And if a second draft is too out there for your tastes, when might be the right time to start your playoffs?  Right after the All Star Game?  The Trade Deadline?  There is no perfect or elegant solution, but hearing from you guys that you lost because 'insert player here' is nursing a minor injury isn’t paying the bills, either. 

Speaking of paying the bills, let’s do this. 

For all of your NBA and fantasy news in real-time, you can click here to follow me on Twitter

ADDITION BY SUBTRACTION

It’s hard to get on a guy for his first night off all year, but Josh Smith’s late scratch due to patella soreness is an easy target on a number of levels after the Pistons snagged a win in Atlanta.  Rodney Stuckey joined the starting lineup and quickly put up 29 points on 8-of-17 shooting with four rebounds, four assists, one steal, one three, a whopping eight turnovers and an equally as big 12-of-14 mark from the line. 

The book on Stuckey is pretty simple – he’s a nightly risk that can start to fill it up when he holds the ball a lot.  It’s debatable if Brandon Jennings (seven points, 3-of-10 FGs, six assists) will play along or if Smith will remain out, but Stuckey is worth a look at a minimum with three more games this week and Will Bynum (foot) also on the injury report. 

If Smoove decides to play it safe with his knee, Andre Drummond (19 points, 17 boards, two steals, two blocks) and Greg Monroe (21 points, 13 boards, two steals) will continue to profile as early-round and late-mid round producers, respectively.  Kyle Singler got his four-game week off to a bad start, scoring just two points on 1-of-6 shooting with four rebounds and two steals in 34 minutes.  The playing time is there and teammate injuries aren't hurting matters, so consider giving the top 75-100 play (9/8 cat) over the last two weeks another shot. 

BACKING IN

The Hawks caught a nice break in the schedule with wins over Philly, Cleveland and Indy in the three of the four games prior to last night.  But they lost six in a row before that and last night they punted on a chance to slam the door on the Knicks for the last spot in the Eastern Conference Playoffs.  Outside of Paul Millsap (24 points, 12 rebounds, four assists, two steals, one block) and Jeff Teague (15 points, 5-of-9 FGs, nine assists), the team got a combined 6-of-26 shooting out of Kyle Korver and DeMarre Carroll and that was enough to sink them against a struggling Pistons team with nothing to play for. 

Korver and Carroll are fine bets to bounce back in the next one and have three more games this week, and that schedule advantage also gives extra consideration to Pero Antic (13 points, nine boards, two threes, one steal, one block) and Elton Brand (four points, seven rebounds, one steal, two blocks).

The Hawks are now 1.5 games ahead of the Knicks with five games to play, while the Cavs have a reverse magic number of one to be knocked out of contention, which includes any Hawks win or Cavs loss.  At this late juncture the Hawks might get some side-eye if they start sidelining guys after comments by Danny Ferry downplaying a playoff run, so I’d cautiously expect Atlanta to go all out until an eight-seed is crowned. 

MASONRY

The Nets swept the season-series against the Heat on a career sequence for Mason Plumlee, who rose for a big boy’s conversion in heavy traffic on one end and followed it up with a statement block at the rim on LeBron James in the game’s final seconds.  I guess I’m obligated to give my take that it wasn’t a foul, not in the spirit of the way games are (and should be) called at the end, nor in the letter of the law which clearly states that the hand is a part of the ball.  If you want to talk about contact during liftoff, there’s an argument to be made but I’ll refer you back to the bit about spirit.  Not only did Plumlee get the ball first and then the hand that was connected to it, but he also gave the Nets a solid confidence-booster heading into the playoffs. 

Shaun Livingston has been great over the last month or so, but has slipped over the past few games and last night he had just four points, two rebounds, one assist and three turnovers in 28 minutes.  I wouldn’t read too much into Marcus Thornton’s big night, as the two operate on different planes, but Livingston can’t be considered a must-start player right now.  He has three more games this week and two next week, so the schedule is right for he and his teammates, and owners will probably want to give him another chance to redeem himself in tonight’s game against the Magic.  The Nets are 2-3 games away from their neighbors in the playoff chase, so the right combination of wins or losses could spin them toward silly season with just five left to play, but for now they need to keep winning. 

As for Plumlee, he scored eight points with eight rebounds, one steal and three blocks in 30 minutes, and though I like his chances of contributing in the playoffs he’ll have a hard time holding 12-team value the rest of the way, especially once Andray Blatche (illness) and Kevin Garnett (rest) get back on the floor.  The schedule, however, does give him a boost in some formats – and he also profiles as a younger guy to take on minutes if the vets get any shot at rest. 

If you want to take a shot on Thornton he’s the type of guy that could get you the four triples he hit last night or play just 10 minutes.  Lil’ Buckets finished with 16 points, six boards, four steals and a block in his 28 minutes, and going on a tangent he’s the type of player a la Mike Miller that could come into a Finals game and hit five big ones in 10 minutes to tip a game. 

TWO BIG GAMES

For as terrible as Indy has been, it’s pretty amazing that the Heat haven’t been able to pull away and last night’s loss put them just one-half game ahead of the plummeting Pacers.  The Heat and Pacers square off on Friday and a Pacers win will clinch the tiebreaker, so needless to say it will be critical in the race for home court advantage.  So if I’m gambling on the DNP situations I’d guess the Heat would try to keep the pressure on Indy with a solid effort against the Grizzlies tonight, push hard in Friday’s tilt, and then take a look at the standings for the following games against Atlanta, Washington and Philly. 

Aside from the big rejection, LeBron James turned in 29 points on 9-of-16 shooting with 10 rebounds, six assists and two steals, Mario Chalmers was quiet with seven points, five boards, a three and a steal, and Chris Bosh scored 12 points with six boards and two blocks.  Dwyane Wade (hamstring) will sit as long as the team is at all concerned about his playoff status, and some light games against inferior competition seem like a logical time to get him back in the water rather than a bloodbath versus Memphis or Indy. 

SPIN THE WHEEL

This game had trap written all over it for the Spurs as they lost Tony Parker (back) for last night and at least the next game on Thursday.  Gorgui Dieng matched up decently against Tim Duncan (10 points, 4-of-11 FGs, six boards, four blocks), and Manu Ginobili left with a calf injury once the Wolves had all-but taken the game.  The Spurs are going to be in cruise control for the No. 1 seed with a magic number of two and four games to play, but it is worth noting that Gregg Popovich said that he would prefer and expects Parker to return before the playoffs start for rhythm purposes. 

Even with that little bit of information this is going to be a mess for owners and I wouldn’t begin to project absences and the like.  Patty Mills (eight points, 22 minutes) and Marco Belinelli (three points, 26 minutes) can fill it up when given big minutes, but as you can see by last night’s totals they are huge risks.  Boris Diaw went for 13 points, five boards, five assists and one three last night, and he’d round out a group of three randoms to look at as potential beneficiaries down the stretch.  Of course, Cory Joseph (13 points, two assists, three steals, 20 minutes) started and had the most value of the goon squad last night, so anything goes here. 

PRESSURE RELEASE

The Wolves have managed to play better without any playoff pressure and Ricky Rubio incidentally has been on a roll at the same time, improving his shooting percentage to 44 percent over the last month while returning top-25 value both in that month and on the year.  He hit a career-high 10 field goals last night and finished with 23 points, seven assists and one steal in the win, leaving owners to ponder what kind of ceiling he has in fantasy leagues if he could ever learn to shoot. 

All the while Minny has been hit hard by injuries, with Chase Budinger and Shabazz Muhammed looking done for the year, and Kevin Martin and Nikola Pekovic also heading that way. 

Kevin Love (back spasms) hit just 5-of-15 shots for 19 points, 12 rebounds, four assists, one block, two threes and a perfect seven freebies, and the only concern here is his talk about wearing down, the scope of which is beyond owners' control and impossible to predict.  Corey Brewer paid off owners that recognized the schedule play with 14 points, one three, three boards, two assists and four steals, and he’s positioned very well with the team banged up.  Robbie Hummel started and scored nine points with seven boards, one steal and a three, but it would take a similar looking injury report to add him as a desperate, deep league play. 

As for Gorgui Dieng, I was never in favor of dropping him so run and grab him if he’s available after his 12 points on 4-of-15 shooting, 15 boards and one block.  His floor will be late-round value and he has an outside shot at early round value if everything breaks his way.  J.J. Barea (seven points, four assists, five turnovers, 21 minutes) is an interesting desperation add for his proficient categories and the five games the Wolves have left.  If Pek stays out, Ronny Turiaf (10 points, nine boards, one block, 21 minutes) is also worth a look for his big man stats. 

I’LL TAKE CLASSIC CONTEMPORARY PARADOXES FOR $500, ALEX

Dirk Nowitzki, once known for his lack of killer instinct is now known for exactly that, and last night he passed Oscar Robertson for No. 10 on the NBA’s all-time scoring list.  It will go down as a classic contemporary Dirk line, as he hit 9-of-11 shots for 21 points, six rebounds, three assists and two threes, and the future Hall of Famer helped lead the No. 7 Mavs to a key win in the playoff chase.  Up two games on No. 9 Memphis and owning the tiebreaker Dallas is in a great position with just three games to play.    They can also take a tiebreaker over the No. 8 Suns, who are a game back, with a win on Saturday. 

Shawn Marion (10 points, six boards, one steal, one block, two threes) has been an under-the-radar top 100 play for the last two weeks, and though he had a sharp foot pain during the game he made it seem like a non-issue for the Mavs’ next game on Thursday.  Both he and Monta Ellis (back) will be good to go as the Mavs push forward for their playoff spot.  Samuel Dalembert (10 points, six boards, two blocks) keeps cranking.  With so little season left to go one has to think that Rick Carlisle might try to ride this multiple-week hot streak into the playoffs. 

JAZZY

The Jazz could get ugly as Gordon Hayward’s future is a bit fuzzy, Ty Corbin’s future is certainly in doubt, and the team doesn’t have much firepower since nobody has panned out quite like many, including Jazz management thought.  Derrick Favors (19 points, seven boards, one steal, 27 minutes) and Enes Kanter (15 points, 19 boards, two rare blocks, 28 minutes) still can’t play a ton of minutes together, and may never be able to, while Trey Burke (four points, 2-of-8 FGs, five assists) has been more liability than game-changer at the point. 

Kanter is worth riding the rest of the way with Marvin Williams (eight minutes) a tough bet for big minutes due to various injuries, no matter how badly Corbin wants and needs him in the lineup.  Richard Jefferson (15 points, two threes, 6-of-17 FGs) is a desperation option for 3-pointers in this shallow group. 

TAKE A BOW

The Thunder took care of business against a totally depleted Kings team last night, which would prove to be as good of a time as any for Kevin Durant (23 points, four rebounds, four assists, two threes) to snap his streak of 25-point scoring games.  Thabo Sefolosha (15 minutes, two points) returned to the starting lineup and Caron Butler took a lot of open threes, finishing with 23 points on 8-of-10 shooting, six triples, five boards and one steal in his 26 minutes.  Butler is worth a look after a six-game stretch of mid-round value including 3.0 triples per game. 

Reggie Jackson started and played 25 minutes on his way to 13 points, four rebounds, five assists, one steal and two threes before the starters gave way in the blowout.  Jackson figures to be the guy whose minutes take a hit when Sefolosha gets back up to speed, but he could easily avoid the landmines as Russell Westbrook (rest) and others are ahead of him in line for rest. 

MISSING: PIZZA GUY

The Kings are in full-on evaluation mode of Ray McCallum right now, perhaps because of necessity but also so they can figure out how much they’re willing to pay Isaiah Thomas.  Last night was a step backwards for McCallum, who couldn’t get anything going against Reggie Jackson, an oft-criticized defender by his local press this season.  Finishing with seven points on 3-of-14 shooting, two rebounds, five assists and two steals in a whopping 45 minutes, he took some of the shine off of his must-start status but he could easily back it up with a big one – even against a group of Portland, LAC, and Phoenix in the next 3-of-4 games all playing hard right now. 

As for Thomas, all I can tell you is that he’s definitely hurt.  He wants to play.  Mike Malone wants him to play, but none of them are going to push beyond what’s medically prudent to get him out there.  There’s definitely an air of silence around the situation and nobody reporting on the team is saying anything optimistic about a return.  That all points in the wrong direction for owners, and it is what it is – another reason to fix playoff formats. 

Travis Outlaw is a sneaky pickup right now and I think he has earned the right to shoot the ball a good amount for the rest of the year.  Aside from DeMarcus Cousins (24 points, 14 rebounds, two steals, two blocks), Rudy Gay (back), Thomas and to a way lesser degree McCallum, Outlaw is the only King to have anything resembling an offensive game.  Ben McLemore?  Nope.  Until he can finish, shoot and dribble a whole lot better he’s simply hammering his way into low-end stats as a full-time player.  He finished with 11 points on 3-of-9 shooting, eight rebounds and one three in 39 minutes, and is only worth a look if you’re desperate for threes. 

Outlaw has been firing away with reckless abandon and last night he dropped 24 points on 11-of-20 shooting with five rebounds, four assists and one three in 36 minutes.  He was certainly helped by the absence of Gay, but that could be an ongoing thing depending on how conservative the Kings want to be about his back and that’s before we even talk about a potential trip to be with his wife for the birth of his child.  Outlaw could easily end up being the Kings’ No. 2 scorer for the rest of the season, and should he take that mantle he would have a crack at late-round value with some upside.  The Kings also have three more games this week to sweeten the pot. 

HOT KNIFE THROUGH MARGARINE SPREAD

There’s not much to say about the Rockets last night except for that they took what the defense gave them against the Lakers – and that totaled up to 145 points.  The Lakers aren’t even faking like they’re playing defense these days, so take the Rockets’ box score with a grain of salt in the appropriate places.  James Harden scored 33 points on 10-of-15 shooting with 12 assists and a full line as he makes a late push to recover some of his ADP.  Right now he is the No. 6 and No. 9 fantasy play on the year (8/9 cat) and that’s a pretty big save compared to where he was all year. 

Terrence Jones suffered a minor calf strain late but postgame reports showed no concern over his status, and nobody was concerned about the way he played after 33 points on 13-of-18 shooting with seven rebounds, one steal, one block, one three and 6-of-8 makes from the line.  Barring a bad report on his calf strain, which was called a minor, keep him locked in.  Chandler Parsons added 19 points, eight assists and a full line, Jeremy Lin posted a versatile nine points, four rebounds, six assists, three steals, one block and one three, and Omer Asik went for 10 and 15 with a steal and two blocks. 

Donatas Motiejunas (13 points, 15 boards, one block, 24 minutes) and Isaiah Canaan (15 points, three treys, 27 minutes) even got in on the fun, but they can be disregarded given the garbage time element.  The Rockets have 2.5 games between themselves and their neighbors in the playoff seeding hunt with just five games to play, so look for them to be careful with their guys, though Dwight Howard owners can find some solace in a Jason Friedman report that suggested he could return tonight.  For both Howard and more importantly Patrick Beverley (knee), the Rockets will want to get as much rest as possible while keeping rust and rhythm from being a factor heading into the playoffs. 

NELLIE IS ROLLING OVER IN HIS HAMMOCK

The Lakers are a circus sideshow right now, and with last night’s 275-point total in their loss to the Rockets fantasy owners are on red-alert that any L.A. game could break the box score.  Mike D’Antoni is done coaching defense for this year and garbage-time is a pseudonym for tip-off.  Owners should be locked into Jodie Meeks (30 points, two threes, four rebounds, six assists, one steal), Nick Young (32 points, six threes, three assists, 23 minutes) and Jordan Farmar (15 points, two threes, five boards, eight assists, three steals, two blocks) anytime they’re in the lineup.  Young is bowling for dollars right now and fighting off concerns over his knee, and Farmar’s hammy could go pop at any time.  But as you can see, they are the center of the Lakers’ attack. 

Jordan Hill looks to be locked into a role, if we assume that Chris Kaman (calf) is done tap-dancing with D’Antoni for the year.  He scored 12 points with five rebounds, three assists, one steal and three blocks in 24 minutes, and operating as the team’s center he actually fits the run-and-gun style well, presuming his knee can hold up through the team’s next four games to finish the year.  Pau Gasol (vertigo) is unlikely to play again this year, though he is being evaluated daily, and barring a change in reporting owners can figure that five slot is up for grabs among Hill and Robert Sacre (six points, six boards, one block, 19 minutes). 

Wesley Johnson (11 points, three treys, four rebounds, five assists, one steal) is a solid play now that Kent Bazemore (foot) is done, and Ryan Kelly is a risky play but showed his upside last night with 18 points, 8-of-11 FTs, three rebounds, one steal and one block in 32 minutes.  Kendall Marshall won’t have to deal with Steve Nash for the rest of the year, but with Farmar around there’s no reason to take a leap of faith after his zero-point, four-assist outing in 19 minutes. 

THE PAINTER

Nash deserves bigger billing than the bottom of a tanking Lakers recap, but I’ll let the rest of the Internet handle the big, glowing profiles.  Mike D set the stage for Nash to pass Mark Jackson to become the third most proficient assist man in NBA history, and it could very well be the last game that we will see Nash play. 

His NCAA Tourney run with Santa Clara made his NBA future seem elementary to this young student of the game, but that was back when I was too inexperienced to realize what long odds he faced in the pros.  A short, wiry and defensively-deficient point guard, he had to rely on an arsenal of make-do moves and, of course, his deadly outside shot.  We can talk until we’re blue in the face about his MVP awards, which could have easily gone to Shaq or others. 

But it’s going to be a while until we see an underdog artist elevate himself to basketball master the way Nash did. 

BIG WEDNESDAY

PHI @ TOR:  The usual suspects are all good to go for the Sixers, though James Anderson and Tony Wroten have been MIA lately.  The Raptors hope to get Kyle Lowry (knee) and Amir Johnson (ankle) back tonight after they practiced yesterday, and since they’re locked in a tight and relatively important battle for seeding there is definitely motivation for both of them to get on the court.  Jonas Valanciunas will play despite the DUI on Wednesday and barring something extremely unlikely happening with his court date on April 22, he’s going to finish out the year and probably the playoffs.  Owners can fade both Greivis Vasquez and Terrence Ross with the way the injury situation looked after Tuesday night.


DET @ CLE: We’ll be tracking the Josh Smith (patella) situation and for Cleveland they’ll have the band all back together again following their presser to announce Kyrie Irving and Dion Waiters are indeed friends.  As mentioned, the Cavs need to win out and get a ton of help, but the interesting thing will be to see how everybody plays after becoming fodder for talk shows this past week. 


CHA @ WAS:  This game is intriguing in the sense that the loser could end up facing the Pacers from the No. 7 slot and that may actually be desirable these days (more on that in a few).  Josh McRoberts is expected to play after a sprained ankle knocked him out, and the Wizards may throw Nene into the fire against Al Jefferson, though it would come in very limited minutes off the bench.  The Wiz look poised to stick Nene in an upgraded Drew Gooden role, but once at full speed he’ll be needed to carry a heavy load for this team to make any noise in the playoffs.  For now, he’s a very risky fantasy start on a busy night. 


BKY @ ORL:  Andray Blatche was a somewhat popular play with four games this week but his sudden illness after many lineup deadlines was a buzz-kill.  We’ll be watching for updates on both he and KG in a winnable game that still has playoff implications.  So far it sounds like Nikola Vucevic (Achilles) will play.


BOS @ ATL:  Kris Humphries (knee) is out and Jared Sullinger (quad) is expected to play.  Especially if you are punting a category or two where Sully is deficient, he figures to be a safer play than normal.  Avery Bradley (Achilles) apparently looks good so more power to him as he struggles to finish the year healthy.  He is expected to play and would be a worthwhile start even on a busy night, though he won’t come without a spoonful of risk.  Downgrade Jerryd Bayless and if you’re desperate for a big give Kelly Olynyk a look.  Olynyk has been a borderline low-end play in 12-team leagues over the last two weeks.  Lou Williams did not play last night with a bad hammy and his status for tonight is unknown, and that’s not having much, if any impact on how owners play their Hawks tonight. 


CHI @ MIN: The Bulls will catch the depleted Wolves on the SEGABABA and they’ve got plenty of seeding to play for, so if you want to upgrade your Bulls plays by just a little bit it would make some sense.  Kevin Martin, Nikola Pekovic and Dante Cunningham will all be on our radar, with Martin and Pekovic contemplating shutdowns and Cunningham contemplating lockdowns. 


PHO @ NO:  The Suns will be out to punish the Pellies early as they’re up to their eyeballs in the playoff chase.  Anthony Davis (back) sounds like he’s in the running for a start but there’s no guarantee he stays in the game if Monty Williams doesn’t like what he’s seeing.  If he’s a go, I don’t see how you can keep him on your bench barring something obvious.  Eric Gordon is out for the year and red hot Anthony Morrow is the pickup, though he still carries some risk not knowing what Monty will do from night to night. 


MIA @ MEM:  Look for Udonis Haslem to return from his illness if I had to guess against the big frontline of the Grizz.  Memphis has its work cut out for them to make the playoffs so it will be interesting to see if they keep Tayshaun Prince (ankle) on the shelf or roll with James Johnson in a bigger role. 


HOU @ DEN:  The Rockets step into another great matchup and Aaron Brooks gets to go at his old team.  Look for Brooks to go big against Jeremy Lin and this could quickly turn into a sloppy affair, as the Rockets are coming off the SEGABABA and the Nuggets still don’t have the firepower to keep up. 


SAC @ POR:  We’ll be watching for updates on Isaiah Thomas and Rudy Gay, but in the meantime owners can get prepared for a potential blowout as the Kings travel for the SEGABABA and have no answer for LaMarcus Aldridge.  Nor will they have an answer for the rest of the lineup, and it will be up to DeMarcus Cousins to keep doing the freaky big man stuff that should have the rest of the league quaking in their boots. 


OKC @ LAC:  The Thunder got a reprieve with an easy win and short flight to Staples Center for tonight’s marquee matchup.  Russell Westbrook will go and Matt Barnes is questionable with an illness.  Jamal Crawford is extremely doubtful and that puts extra pressure on J.J. Redick to quickly assimilate into the rotation.  Kendrick Perkins is back on the floor and that’s almost a guarantee for a Blake Griffin episode. 

IND @ MIL:  Oh boy … my Pacers.  Former Pacers beat writer Mike Wells went for the jugular on Roy Hibbert deep in the bottom of his column on the implosion – which is the most puzzling question I’ve seen basketball minds struggle with in some time.  To that end, almost to a person – the answer has sounded like somebody giving directions that doesn’t really know the way to get there.  That’s because the situation really is perplexing. 

Wells asked if this was one of Hibbert’s annual mental or physical breakdowns, which haven’t been discussed since the days of Obie (Jim O’Brien).  Obie used to work Hibbert hard enough that it became a factor in his underconfident play.  When Frank Vogel took over, one of the notable improvements surrounded Hibbert and his newly encouraged play.  At the beginning of the Pacers' downturn Larry Bird said that he would like Vogel to be more firm with the team, and when you factor in recent speculation about Vogel not being one of Bird’s guys (Obie was) -- the puzzle starts to clear up. 

Right until it doesn't. 

Paul George has been a mess himself, and Lance Stephenson has been the target of Hibbert’s ire and also a guy that can take the flow out of the offense.  Stephenson can also be the only guy to get the offense going at times.  He puts the wild in wild card.  George Hill can’t (or won’t) get an edge on anybody these days, and Hibbert has been thoroughly outplayed by Ian Mahinmi lately.  Vogel looks like a mess in his pressers.   C.J. Watson (elbow, hamstring) could return tonight and his popularity probably couldn’t be higher as fans look for anything to change the equation of a terrible second unit being weighed down by a suddenly very slow Evan Turner. 

Whether it’s in-between the ears entirely, or some combination of fatigue, lack of confidence and a sudden decline in Hibbert’s physical abilities, the Pacers are in hot water.  I’ve never seen anything like it and it has included multiple, public spats that go into figurative circles.  Nothing gets fixed, and until recently, nothing gets decided.  Now Vogel is talking about benching/resting some of these guys, and I’ve been advocating anything that shakes things up, and now we just have to see where the pieces land.  The team once hailed for its chemistry is going to stick all of these unstable elements into the playoff pressure cooker and see if it explodes. 

It has taken a panic button to get to the point where all of the cards are (again) on the table.  I’m going to wait one more time and see if in Hibbert lies the key, with Wells’ observation being both the cause and solution to the Pacers’ lynchpin problem.  If the message has been sent and received, it’s possible they can still get it right.  If they get it right, they’re built to beat the Heat.  I don’t know if that even keeps me on the bandwagon, but the supposed matchup advantages that Indy has in that series are too hard to quit – so I’ll sit here for a little while longer rearranging chairs on the deck. 

The Bucks are injured enough to where most of their guys are at least worth a look.  Brandon Knight should be in most if not all lineups, and Ramon Sessions has been a fine start lately.  The big man duo of Jeff Adrien and Zaza Pachulia has been productive, and Khris Middleton is a decent risk-reward play as he tries to regress in the right direction shooting the ball.  John Henson broke out on Saturday with huge numbers and that alone makes him worth a look after a terrible second-half of his season. 

Good luck out there.

What to Read Next