Razzball Nation, welcome to the fourth quarter of the NBA season. Most of you playing in points leagues are in your fantasy playoffs with hopes of being crowned champion in the next few weeks. For those of you in rotisserie formats, you are here until the bitter end, which will surely include some silly season heroics, and I will be with you for all of it.

Trade deadlines have come and gone for a vast majority of leagues, which left me contemplating how to pivot this post for the final stretch of the season. The answer is and always will be in finding value and making that value work best for you. That is why this week, I am looking at an entire team and leaving it up to you to roll the dice on a few options that may be readily available on your wire or perhaps sitting on your bench in deeper leagues waiting to be deployed.

Get your motor running…?

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The Nets defeated their in-state rival Knicks 110-107, behind a statement performance from Kevin Durant, who finished the game with 53 points (19-37 FG, 4-13 3PT), six rebounds, nine assists, and two steals. The 53 points were a season-high and just a point shy of his career-high. Andre Drummond added 18 points, 10 rebounds, and one block on a perfect eight for eight from the field. Bruce Brown, whose value and strong play has grown consistent of late, finished the game with 15 points (7-14 FG, 0-1 3PT), seven rebounds, five assists, and two steals. Nic Claxton contributed off the bench, compiling 10 points, five rebounds, one assist, two steals, and one block. Seth Curry was a late scratch due to an ankle injury. The Nets have now won three in a row after losing four in a row.  During this winning streak, Durant has reminded everyone in the league and everyone watching at home just how dominant he can be. The spiciest and most hilarious result of a late-season Nets winning streak would be a 76ers vs. Nets first-round matchup—one can only hope!

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The Denver Nuggets defeated the Brooklyn Nets 124-104, behind a well-balanced scoring attack and more Nikola Jokic brilliance. Seven Nuggets’ players scored in double figures, led by the Joker, who finished the game with 27 points, 12 rebounds, 10 assists, two steals, and one block. It was Jokic’s 14th triple-double of the season and the 71st of his career. Will Barton added 21 points, six rebounds, four assists, and one block. Aaron Gordon tallied 17 points, nine rebounds, seven assists, and one steal. Monte Morris chipped in with 12 points, five rebounds, and eight assists and Jeff Green finished the game with 12 points, five rebounds, one assist, and one steal. Bryn Forbes (11) and Zeke Nnaji (10) also scored in double figures. Forbes (25), Nnaji (20), Bones Hyland (17), and DeMarcus Cousins (16) played the most minutes off the bench.

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There are two obvious downsides to living in Milwaukee — winter (duh) and NBA League Pass blacking out the hometown team as they take up their championship defense. Considering the grinding nature of an 82-game regular season, it’s not the worst thing to have an excuse that allows you to check-out on February basketball, but it’s still nice to occasionally see the boys without using a VPN. Last night, the Bucks were fully visible the national stage against the Wizards and the game flow reads like regular season game where the better team wasn’t fully engaged all night.

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The Miami Heat took home the nervy, 113-107 victory, but the Lakers nearly caught them slipping. In a game the Heat led almost the entire way and by as many as 26 points, the Lakers put together a fierce fourth quarter and nearly stole the victory. For three quarters, however, the Heat played the basketball version of “the beautiful game.” Offensive production was spread across the lineup and they were flowing into good looks. Jimmy Butler led the charge in Kyle Lowry’s absence (personal reasons) and he finished the game with a triple-double: 20 points, 10 rebounds, 12 assists, two steals, and one block. Butler’s 10th triple-double moved him into the first place on the Heat’s all-time list, surpassing LeBron James. Duncan Robinson was hot early and even scored some important points in the fourth quarter; he finished the game with 25 points, five rebounds, three assists, and two steals. Bam Adebayo had a decent, but uneven game. He was stifled a fair amount by LeBron’s defense, as he was LeBron’s primary cover when the Lakers went small. Adebayo finished the game with 14 points, eight rebounds, five assists, one steal, and one block. Gabe Vincent filled in admirably, once again, for Lowry and finished the game with 11 points, one rebound, six assists, and two steals. Caleb Martin also notched eleven points and further cemented his “best two-way player in the league status”—a dubious honor, he’d no doubt like to be rid of as soon as possible.

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For about two and half quarters in last night’s TNT showcase of the Lakeshow in MSG, it looked like we were in store for yet another Tuesday night disappointment (seriously, how bad have these national games been lately?). No LeBron, an under-the-weather Anthony Davis, and some ghastly shooting from the rest of the roster (LA shot 37.4% as a team) allowed the Knicks to amass a huge lead in front of the home crowd. How ugly was it? The Lakers never led, only drew even twice, and the Garden was rocking and bing-bonging through for most of the evening. Despite the dire straights, this is a Laker group with championship aspirations, so they got off the mat and competed in the second half. Though it was in a losing effort, Russell Westbook tried his best to make a game of it.

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I am no Picasso or Rembrandt but nonetheless, allow me to paint a vivid picture the best I can.

Wet feet, inside of soaked socks, sliding around in drenched boots, walking uphill through mud that hits your knees. The clouds so low and dark, like overfilled water balloons.

This is my attempt at describing what the final stretch of the season begins to feel like. Unless you are sitting pretty with a sizeable lead in your league, you are likely counting down the days until the final buzzer of the season. Perhaps you are like me in a couple of leagues where a shot at first place is within reach and these last set of games could prove pivotal in your quest to the ship. Either way, I am here to offer you some last-minute advice that may provide the slight edge required at this stage of the season.

“ Not a lot baby girl just a lil’ bit, we can head to the crib in a lil’ bit, I can show you how I live in a lil’ bit”

I know 50 Cent was talking about a young woman he whispered sweet nothings to into her ear at the club one fine evening back in 2005. Over here though fam, we are talking about the lil’ bit you need to make your final push towards the finish line. The tree is not bountiful with ripe fruit I have to be honest with you.

Do you remember bars and clubs? Do you remember the end of the night and scoping out who still remained? Well, this is somewhat like that and if you remember those wild and crazy times where you could be inside of places with strangers sans mask then you also know that even what seemed the most decollate of nights, a beacon of light could present itself and guide you home.

This week we dissect the…

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An extremely encouraging pattern is beginning to emerge with my every-other-week recapping of the Wednesday night games: Happy returns that are highlighted in the lede. You see, it was my distinct pleasure to highlight KAT’s return from his early season wrist + Covid absence, and I was the one who placed Kevin Durant in this place of prominence when he came back from the extended hammy vacation. Now, I’m due up for the recap on the night Jaren Jackson Jr. returned and you know damn well that I’m going to make him the lede. Welcome back, Jar—

Ah. Actually not. Sorry JJJ, I’m breaking up the welcome party and going with the 40 piece instead. We’ll see you later in the recap, because this lede (and maybe all of the Western world) belongs to…

Julius Randle

40 11 6 1 0 6 11/21 12/13 4

This is second time in the last week that Julius has gone 40+/10+/6+ with 6 made threes. Wut. That’s just unspeakable heat from New York’s Caesar, who led the Knicks to an OT win against the Hawks last night. Woe to those of you having wrestle this monster in head-to-head playoffs. It might be better just to simply bend the knee when Randle is going like this.

Here’s what else stood out on another busy Wednesday in the Association…

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It’s about that time again, isn’t it? The trade deadline has come and gone, the sun is starting to peek out with some regularity, and teams who have had long, dark, unsuccessful winters are beginning to look ahead to a little summer vacay. Even with the expanded playoff format for this season, there are still a handful of teams that are done. We haven’t gotten to “Cancun on three” yet, but if you’re in Orlando or Oklahoma City you can start thinking about it. 

For this week’s Hangin’, I looked at a couple of these lost causes and the opportunities for fantasy help that exist there. It’s not an exhaustive list, but all of the teams featured are 12th or worse in their conference and have gestured toward giving up. But just because they’re done with the year does not mean that the year is done with them. Every game needs to have 240 minutes of statistics accounted for, and we’re in the interest of compiling numbers. 

This is a bigger one, so let’s get to it. 

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How about some love for the underdog?

These daily recaps, especially on nights with a lot of games, often demand focusing on one of two players per team that had good nights. Most of the time we’re looking at star players doing what they do. It’s tough for a role player to get a write-up, and it’s even tougher for those end of the bench guys to get any ink.

With that in mind, I’d like to introduce you to…

Alize Johnson

23 15 3 2 0 0 11/15 1/1 1

Johnson signed a 10-day contract with Brooklyn on Sunday and had himself a debut on Wednesday night in Salt Lake City. A G-League monster who averaged 16 points and 13 boards in this season’s bubble, Johnson stepped up for a Nets squad that was without Durant, Irving, and Harden while playing the second night of a back-to-back against the best team in the West. If you watched the highlights, you noticed that this game was O-V-E-R pretty much from the jump. Johnson was doing major mop up work and will be facing an uphill battle for PT going forward. He’s not an add by any stretch, but I’ve got no problem highlighting him to celebrate his big night. Raise a glass to my man. He earned it.

Here’s what else caught my eye on a busy night of basketball…

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This might be more of a somber lead for your fantasy liking, but someone has to speak truths. So here I am taking the responsibility upon myself to teach lessons to those who play in Head-to-Head leagues and find themselves wondering, why? Think about it. As the level of NBA entertainment rises, the fantasy-friendly confines begin to fall. Excitement levels reach all-time highs, along with your heart rate, when Karl-Anthony Towns only has 2 games this week. There are a few schools of thought for teams around the NBA. Either said team is so far ahead, they rest their starters, team is so far behind, they play their youngsters, or team is right in the middle and do things just right. We tried something new in my league this year. We started the playoffs at the end of February. Sounds crazy right? We tried to avoid the problem sweeping the fantasy NBA realm, and that is the art of navigating the sit. H2H, distant cousin of H2O, is so very common, but so very flawed, and you’ll find yourself dropping Taj Gibson because he doesn’t play for another 6 days. Maybe you drop Bobby Portis who’s hot as hell because you need more games that week than your opponent. Then your friends brother picks him up, and you just lost a friend. It’s a complete numbers game and one hell of a slippery slope. So, I’m not going to write a thesis on how to fix this. That’s for another time, but I will  hand you some hot pickups to help you get through the end of the year and weather the storm.

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Bow down when you come to AD’s town! (New Orleans) Anthony Davis went 1-45-17-2-5-5-2 on 17-of-34 shooting and 10-of-11 from the charity stripe. Hopefully, I didn’t scare anyone with my headline. I could see how ‘Brow Down’ could seem like he went down with an injury, but I was merely making a Westside Connection reference. The Pelicans beat the Heat in overtime so there were some big lines from this game. *Note to self: draft Pelicans players next year.  Mainly AD.  Most guys won’t put up this good of a line in a week… Ahh, time to shake off the post All-Star Game rust! There was a huge 11-game slate so if I don’t get to your favorite player I apologize. Here’s what else I saw in fantasy basketball this Friday:

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