The last Tuesday before the All-Star break featured five games spread all over the USA. From South Beach to NYC, Wisconsin to Texas, and finishing up in the Bay Area out west, we had a handful of contests that featured some big fantasy lines.

In lieu of a Thursday night double-header as a result of the abbreviated week, TNT snagged the two marquee games on Tuesday. First up was the Spurs and Heat featuring the Kawhi Leonard show. He served fantasy owners a generous helping of popcorn (23 points, nine boards, four dimes) with just the right amount of butter (three steals, a block, and a trey). Despite a few quiet games recently, you’re not moving Leonard for anyone outside the top-5.

Also jumping at 8pm were tilts between the Wizards and Knicks, and Celtics and Bucks. John Wall put on a show at the Garden, dropping 17 dimes to complement his team-high 28 points. He and backcourt mate, Bradley Beal combined for 54 points, five steals, eight triples, and only three turnovers. The Wizards needed every bit of it as they narrowly escaped New York with a three point win. Meanwhile, in Milwaukee, a wild and foul-filled last few seconds allowed the Bucks to steal one from the visiting Celts. Greg Monroe made his case for 6th Man of the Year as Jason Kidd decided it would be best for him to come off the bench on Tuesday. In 30 reserve minutes, Moose went off for 29/12/3/1/2. He was a team-best +11 and you have to wonder if him being so dominant as a reserve has Coach Kidd considering this as more than just a one game thing? So long as he’s getting the run, owners should continue to bank on the third round value he’s been returning on the season.

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ESPN picked a good one for their weekly Wednesday night NBA showcase. Stephen Curry vs. John Wall, two of the best point guards in the league. It was a very high scoring, up-tempo game, with the final score 134-121. And the stars did not disappoint.

Curry started out on fire, scoring 25 points in the first quarter and 36 in the first half. He cooled down a little bit, but still knocked down 11 of his 16 three point attempts, en route to 51 points, 7 rebounds, 2 assists, and 3 steals. Wow. Just like his Charlotte buddy Cam Newton, can they crown him MVP already?

John Wall was doing his best to cover Curry, but it’s a difficult job, even for a strong defender like Wall. Since he couldn’t stop him, Wall tried to match him offensively, finishing with 41 points, 10 assists, and 3 rebounds. He even knocked down all 3 of his three-point attempts, a facet of his game that is nowhere near the level of Curry. It was nice to watch two point guards with very different styles of game dominate the box score.

Oh, and lost in this point guard matchup was that Draymond Green got his league leading 10th triple-double with 12 points, 12 assists, and 10 rebounds. He even added 5 blocks as a point forward!

As a Wizards fan, I figured that the Warriors would win the game, but was happy to see the Wizards play the defending NBA champions close for stretches of the game. Now onto the other nightly notables:

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It’s the takeover, the break’s over. Apparently firing David Blatt may have been the right decision after all, inspiring the recent play of LeBron James and company.

With the Cavs winning their last five games, I have no reasonable doubt that the Big 3 will fail to continue this trend after the All-Star Break. Despite heavy minutes and an up-tempo pace, James has unfinished business on his quest to win his third ring, and this style of play is the blueprint from the successes of his Miami Heat teams.

Maybe this is all a convoluted way of saying the Ruler’s back, but King James and the Cavs look rejuvenated under new coach Tyronn Lue, attacking the opposing defense and getting to the foul line. Playing 43 minutes in an overtime contest, James finished with 24 points, 12 rebounds, 6 assists, 2 steals, and 1 block while shooting 9-22 from the field. Although shooting 4-8 from the foul line is more Drummond-like than MVP level, just remember everyone makes mistakes, everyone has those days.

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We’ve seen so many coaches jack it up before.  Year after year, coaches fail to play their best line-ups the most minutes due to “fit” or “rotations” or “Kevin Garnett decides what the Timberwolves do.”

But Frank Vogel is quickly becoming my favorite coach.  He kept the Pacers decent last year after a really disheartening second half and playoff exit in 13-14 plus losing Paul George, and last night he did the absolutely unthinkable – he played his best players as the starters.  ANTI-SKIIIIIILES!  Although Aaron Gordon is getting his run lately…  Let’s go ANTI-BICKERSTAFFFFFFF!

Getting his first start at PF (and first start ever!) after playing virtually all his rookie minutes at center, Myles Turner got the nod at the 4 next to Ian Mahinmi and went 20/6/1/0/1 on 9-17 shooting in 26 minutes.  And the twin towers rotation worked sooooo well, with the Pacers up virtually the whole game and running away with it late.  The Hawks reserves in the early 4th quarter made a nice run to take a 2-point lead with 6 minutes left 90-88, then Vogel went back to the same starting 5 and Indiana ended the game on a crazy hot 23-2 run.  What a unit!  Coach Butthole is like, “suck my unit!”  When I made my original crazy rank for Turner in the pre-season, my love was based around his fit for the run-and-gun offense, and the crazy part is we still haven’t seen the perimeter game yet.  He didn’t take any treys in this one, but there’s no reason to think this starting line-up doesn’t stick, which means more minutes for Turner and more opportunities on the perimeter.  Hopefully you added him when Mahinmi was out and didn’t let go, because, well, NEVER LET GO JACK!  I would totally have Myles take me in the steamy car in the cargo hold…  Here’s what else went down in fantasy hoops last night:

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In the same way Gregg Popovich, trolled the Warriors by resting Tim Duncan, it was only right for the basketball gods to get back at the national viewing public by showing the game on NBATV….

Seriously, was this some type of cruel joke??

To the decision-makers in charge of the NBA schedule, YOU’RE NOT FUNNY!

This matchup has been the highlight of the calendar year for many NBA fans, and it deserves to be broadcasted on a major network (mainly so I do not have to search for sketchy internet streams).

If that wasn’t bad enough, the game itself was far from competitive with the Spurs losing by 30 points.

Since all my hopes and dreams were crushed by this game, I think it’s best to just move on and look for other wrinkles of positivity in last night’s 9-game slate.

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I’m all for switching it up and trying something new to win. And while I think Hack-a-Shaq can work in the right situations, the Rockets took Hack-a-Whoever way too far. The Rockets fouled Andre Drummond repeatedly, giving him 36 free throws! At one point, K.J. McDaniels intentionally fouled Drummond 5 times in 9 seconds! (McDaniels finished the game with a very Jan Vesely-ish line of 1 minute, 5 fouls).

Drummond made only 13 of his 36 free throws, but it didn’t matter, as the Pistons still defeated the Rockets by 9. The 23 missed free throws was an NBA record for the most missed free throws in a game.

So you’re telling me the intentional fouling was effective in limiting the Pistons’ possessions, but somehow the Rockets still lost? How? The Rockets are definitely one of the biggest disappointments of the season and really need to turn it around if they’re going to make a splash in the playoffs.

While Drummond owners will be screwed in FT%, he still managed to post 17/11 with 1 steal and 1 block. Now onto the other highlights from Wednesday night’s games:

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In a season beginning with high hopes for Nerlens Noel, things have been a bit of a disappointment for the third-year player, surrounded by a dearth of playmaking and shooting while struggling to play alongside Jahil Okafor. Frankly, Noel’s season could only be made worse by injury, or the brash decision to shave off his iconic high-top fade (please, whatever you do, keep the hair.)

But for one night last night, coming off 3 single-digit scoring outings in his last 4 games, Noel looked like the best player on the 76ers once again, finishing with 18 points and 13 rebounds to accompany 1 assist, 2 steals, and 3 blocks.

Playing a season-high 47 minutes, Noel’s extended look can hopefully provide stability to an otherwise shaky season. His effectiveness and usage have both been limited, but performance like yesterday’s show his immense potential and ability to impact games.

While Philly’s long-term success depends on Noel’s continued development, our immediate fantasy success depends on his ability to turn yesterday’s flashes into consistent showings.

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…The Sixers don’t have a Clue, that’s for sure!

On a night of comebacks where we saw the Spurs come back from their largest deficit at home to beat the Cavs, we also saw the Bulls down more than 20 in the 2nd quarter and 16 at half come back and just obliterate the Sixers in the 2nd half and overtime by unleashing the Godzilla.

Jimmy Butler Godzilla

“God” the key word in that one! Jimmy Butler just went insane going 15-30 FG (2-4 3PTM 21-25 FT) for 53 Pts. “Ohhhhhh, look at me, I’m Slim, I get another point on the 30-pt Challenge Board! Do you get double if they score 60, because it was close!” And of course I poked the Slim, texting him earlier yesterday afternoon that Butler might not play, being listed as a game-time call due to a kankle. Yeahhhhh, so much for that. At least I won’t suffer this kind of loss again, as Butler made himself a top-10 scorer last night, upping it to 23.1 PPG. Butler still kept it multi-cat with 10 boards, 6 dimes and 3 steals to top if off. I haven’t been so turned on by a Butler since Michael Caine! He’s also continuing a trend that the second round wings are paying off – Buckets, Kawhi Leonard, Paul George, Draymond Green… It’s really making some nice parity among the game’s elites so there’s enough to not mind a later draft pick in 16-17, as you’ll be able to nab two solid players at the first turn. It’s going to make next year really interesting… Here’s what else went down last night in fantasy hoops action:

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As many of you already know (or as my avatar may suggest), I’m a Canadian so I don’t really have a dog in the 2016 United States Presidential fight. I do, however, live close to the border and have enjoyed traveling throughout the United States (including the entire northeast, Florida, California, Colorado, Hawaii and the U.S. Virgin Islands) with my wife over the better part of the last ten years. So I have a keen interest in American politics as it indirectly impacts “my world.”

That leads me to my admission – I watched President Barack Obama’s eighth and final State of the Union address last night (and the subsequent analysis & reaction) instead of basketball. There was basketball to be watched up here, I just chose not to. But it gave me some perspective – it reminded me that a common sense approach to the big picture issues is never as simple as it should be, and that holds true in the NBA as well. Examples from some of the 16 teams in action on Tuesday alone:

  • The Timberwolves have a wealth of young talent to cultivate and yet they start Kevin Garnett & Tayshaun Prince?
  • The Suns have a cancerous presence in their locker room (Markieff Morris) and they can’t decide what to do about it – they give him multiple healthy DNPs in a row, and then they unleash him for 27 minutes, taking opportunity from someone like Jon Leuer (17 minutes) who could actually be a part of their future plans.
  • The Celtics and Knicks – both of whom are in the Eastern Conference playoff hunt – continue to run heavier-than-necessary rotations rather than identifying the best court combinations and maximizing their efficiency and output.
  • The Rockets have an extremely fragile, high-salaried starting center (Dwight Howard) who is prone to usage-related injuries and they run him for 38 minutes when they have a number of other very capable young frontcourt players to ease the burden.
  • The Bulls appear to embrace their future for a moment by giving a solid rotation spot to Bobby Portis, only to yank it out from under him (he played 4 minutes on Tuesday) once they’re back to full health.
  • The Pelicans offer center Omer Asik a massive contract in the offseason and even when he’s playing well (13 rebounds, a steal and a block, team-high +7 net rating), and they’re absent their best frontcourt player, he can’t get minutes (18).

Essentially what I’m saying is that there are a lot of things we, as fantasy owners, think should happen by any measure of common sense, but just don’t because of a number of factors beyond our control. We can go data mining until the cows come home and have an open & shut case to make why Player X deserves more minutes/opportunity, but it doesn’t matter. We can only do so much. There will always be someone on the other side who impacts that situation and we just have to make the best of it. Thankfully, the NBA has a long season and, unlike football, one or two bad weeks won’t spell doom for your campaign. I love that we get 82 games to try and figure out what the heck is going on. We’ll never be right 100% of the time, no matter that the stats or common sense says we maybe could be, but it sure doesn’t stop us from trying…

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With the sporting world turning its attention to the College Football Championship game last night, professional basketball was put on the back burner with only 3 games played. As I flipped between athletic contests, I couldn’t help but notice the parallel between the historical consistency of the Alabama Crimson Tide and the San Antonio Spurs. While the Crimson Tide hold the distinction of being the best team in college football (and one of the most hated at the same time), the Spurs excellence does not always translate to the proper accolades (although I don’t think it’s possible to hate the Spurs). Despite this difference in perception, both teams are the models of achievement in the respective sports.

So on a night in which a new champion was crowned, it was San Antonio’s victory, its tenth game this by a margin greater than 25 points, that illustrated the disparity between the Spurs and the rest of the 28 non-Warrior teams in the NBA.

As the Spurs fight to catch up to Golden State for home court advantage in the Western Conference playoffs, LaMarcus Aldridge not only played against the lowly Brooklyn Nets, he dominated them. The power forward recorded 25 points, 11 rebounds, and 2 assists in 28 minutes of action, marking his 38th 20/10 game over the past 2 seasons.

Please, blog, may I have some more?