The Orlando Magic beat the Dallas Mavericks 110-108 in a nailbiter in the sunshine state. The vaunted Mavericks defense posed only so much resistance as seven Magic players scored in double figures, led by Chuma Okeke off the bench. Okeke finished the game with 19 points, five rebounds, four assists, and three steals. Franz Wagner finished the game with 18 points, two rebounds, three assists, and one steal.  Cole Anthony tallied 16 points, four rebounds, and six assists. Wendell Carter Jr. notched a double-double with 14 points, 14 rebounds, one assist, and one steal. Moritz Wagner tallied 14 points, four rebounds, and two assists off the bench. The last time these two teams played Mo Wagner and Luka Doncic got into a bit of a curfuffle. Wagner has an earned reputation as an irritant and Luka did not forget their exchange. He spent much of the first half talking trash to Wagner, growing bolder and bolder every time a Mavericks player scored on the German. However, later in the game, the Magic seemed to make point of involving Luka in the action when the Mavericks were on defense. Wagner rolled to a number of dunks in pick and roll action with Luka guarding Wagner or in the vicinity as a help defender. With the victory, it was Wagner who got the last laugh, at least for now. Mo Bamba and Gary Harris each scored 10 points.

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The Pacers beat the Thunder in overtime on Friday night behind the fantasy star of the night, Domantas Sabonis, who was questionable to play coming into Friday but suited up against his former team to get revenge. He finished with 24 points, 18 rebounds, 10 assists, two steals, and two blocks. He found a way to get it done in almost every category. He is a top-30 player this year and should enjoy an increased role with Malcolm Brogdon and Myles Turner out for the foreseeable future. Justin Holiday added 22 points and five rebounds on 4-7 three-point shooting, but numbers like this are unable to be counted on in the long run. 

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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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The Brooklyn Nets took home the 121-119 victory in this Sunday matinee against the rebuilding, but still pesky San Antonio Spurs. In classic 2021-22 Nets fashion, they gave up a 14-point lead and allowed the Spurs to tie the game late in the fourth quarter and push the game into overtime, where Nets’ rookie Cam Thomas stole the show. Both teams struggled to score in the waning minutes of regulation and overtime, most notably Kevin Durant. As a result, when Durant was doubled on the Nets’ final possession at the elbow, with about six seconds left in the game, he rose up and fired a pass to Cam Thomas sliding up from the corner. Thomas pump-faked, took two hard dribbles and rose up for a one-legged runner fading to his left at the free-throw line. Nothing but net. Thomas’ made floater in overtime turned out to be the game-winner as Lonnie Walker was blocked on the Spurs ensuing inbound play. Even if he hadn’t been blocked, however, the shot wouldn’t have counted. Walker released the shot after the buzzer, as the Spurs had just one-point-four seconds to shoot. The narrow escape victory snapped a five-game losing streak for the Nets.

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The Toronto Raptors faced what was essentially a G-league team on Friday night and played down to their opponent for the first half. They turned it around in the second half with a comeback behind our fantasy star of the night, Fred VanVleet. He finished with 37 points, 10 rebounds, and 10 assists with four three-pointers. FVV has been excellent this year and is on fire of late. He ranks in the top-15 fantasy players and could make a push with his recent hot streak. 

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Welcome to your midweek guidance for Week 12! The goal of this post is to steer you towards quality streamers who can help you win your head-to-head matchups.  We’re nearly halfway through the season, and we’ve already seen more than 540 players cycle through the league thanks to COVID-19 protocols.  While this unprecedented situation is frustrating, it is providing opportunities to try out players who never would have sniffed 12-team league rosters otherwise.  Last week, we witnessed the resurrection of Gary Harris and some astonishingly good shooting performances from Coby White and Malik Monk.  Hopefully some of you were able to cash in on those recommendations.  This week, there’s a whole new set of COVID absences and injuries, so let’s get into the schedule and some player recommendations.

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A late Happy New Year to everyone taking the time to read this article. Welcome to 2022 NBA basketball where 10-day contracts bear 30-point performances, the league is finally getting healthy and every armchair general manager swears that every team should just blow it up. The more things change the more they stay the same eh? Well with 11 games and 22 teams playing last night let’s get right into it. 

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It is only fitting that we end 2021 with LeBron James as the fantasy star of the night. The ageless superstar scored 43 points while adding 14 rebounds, four assists, two steals, and two blocks en route a 139-106 win. He has been amazing over the past seven games but it has only translated to two wins during that stretch. James sits inside the top-three fantasy players this year and could pass Nikola Jokic for the top spot if he continues this high level of play. Russell Westbrook posted his fourth straight triple-double in the win, finishing with 15 points, 13 rebounds, and 12 assists. Although Russ has his ups and downs on the court, he remains an elite fantasy option with nightly triple-double upside. He has struggled with turnovers and poor shooting numbers this year which has resulted in poor category play. He sits just inside the top-100 and should not move much from this spot.

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Looking at the score I thought to myself oh, what a low scoring affair. Julius Randle probably scored around 20, maybe even under. I know he’s been struggling as of late. Is RJ Barrett playing tonight? If so, most likely a disappointing night. Let’s just open up the box score to check. Meanwhile Alec Burks just played the best game of the season, putting up 34 points on just 17 shots. As for the young stars of New York, 15 for RJ and five for Julius Randle. He only played 26 minutes but to only put up five points is unacceptable for a supposed star player. As for the Detroit Pistons, Saddiq Bey continues to prove why he deserves a spot on your, no doubt fluctuating roster. 

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And I’m not talking about Christmas.

Despite vaccination numbers north of 95%, a new variant of the Coronavirus has breached the walls of the NBA and is wreaking havoc on a league that is already being thinned out by non-virus injuries that stem from playing three seasons in two years. The sick are just getting sicker (Tuesday night’s Brooklyn/Washington matchup was postponed) and as a result, the NBA has thrown off some of their normal roster restrictions to ensure that teams can field full squads. Names that are normally reserved for the silly season of March and early April are now turning up before the unofficial start of the season on Christmas Day. Consider Marquese Chriss, one of the newest Dallas Mavericks, as an example. A lottery pick in 2016 who has never found his footing in the Association, Chriss was added as a reinforcement to the Mavs roster amid a Covid outbreak in Dallas. To his credit, Chriss looked springy, played well, and actually closed the game for Dallas against Minnesota before the ink dried on his contract. Chriss was joined out there by luminaries like Theo Pinson and Sterling Brown, and all across the league there were was a mix of old names and new showing up in NBA box scores. Guys like Wayne Seldon in New York and Tony Snell in Portland resurfaced after time spent in the NBA hinterland, while Marcus Garrett saw some burn in Miami, and Leandro Bolmaro and Nathan Knight popped up for the Timberwolves.

Amid these strange times in the NBA, it was good to see that Damian Lillard is still good for a bucket or two.

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The Portland Trail Blazers took down the Hornets at home behind the fantasy star of the night, Damian Lillard., who contributed 43 points, eight assists, and four rebounds. He looks fully healthy as he has recently returned from an abdominal issue that has bothered him since the Summer Olympics and maybe even before then. Even with his injury, Lillard has remained a top-40 player and should stay that way for the rest of the year. Ben Mclemore was the second-highest scorer with 28 points off the bench last night on 8-13 three-point shooting. He ended up with more minutes than Anfernee Simons because of his amazing play, but these minutes and points can not be relied on. 

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Last night at Madison Square Garden, Steph Curry — the greatest shooter ever, a player who irrevocably changed basketball simply by playing it in the way that best suits him and his unfathomable gifts — did a little legacy cementing. In front of previous record holders Ray Allen and Reggie Miller, his family and teammates, a packed house, God, and basketball fans the world over, Curry moved into first place in all-time three-pointers made.

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