The Indiana Pacers defeated the Portland Trail Blazers 129-98. In a rarity for this version of the Pacers, they were the more veteran team. Oshae Brissett spearheaded the Pacers’ attack, as he tallied 24 points (8-10 FG, 2-3 3PT), nine rebounds, one assist, and one steal. His day also included a highlight reveal reverse dunk in transition which came off a behind-the-back pass from Lance Stephenson. Have I mentioned that the Pacers are fun now!? Justin Anderson added 18 points, six rebounds, four assists, and one steal. Jalen Smith notched 17 points, five rebounds, and one block in just 17 minutes of play. I’m not sure if Smith will ever become the player the Suns hoped they were getting when he was drafted with the 10th pick in 2020, but he has at least grown into an intriguing prospect. He was 2-of-3 from behind the arc and also whipped out a Dirk-esque step-back off the dribble in the midrange. Terry Taylor (17) and Duane Washington Jr. (13) both had solid games as well. The Pacers led wire to wire and the lack of competitiveness of the game is reflected in the lower minute totals for Tyrese Haliburton and Buddy Hield. Haliburton finished the game with 10 points, four rebounds, and seven assists. Hield tallied nine points, three rebounds, two assists, and two steals. Finally, Lance Stephenson scored just two points, but grabbed six rebounds, dished out 11 assists, and swiped three steals.

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It was a true team effort for the Wiz, with four guys off the bench scoring in double figures. One of those four was Deni Avdija, who has really been playing well since the trade deadline. He finished up with 13 points, eight rebounds, a triple, two steals and a block. It was his fifth straight game scoring double-digit points. Over that stretch he’s been playing 30 minutes a night despite coming off the bench, with averages of 12.4 PPG, 7.4 RPG, 1.4 3PTM, 1.0 SPG, and 0.8 BPG. He should be entrenched in this role the rest of the season, meaning he’ll have plenty of opportunity to produce (17 percent rostered in Yahoo! leagues).

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The Boston Celtics defeated the Atlanta Hawks 105-95, behind Jayson Tatum’s strong performance and an explosive third quarter. With the win, the Celtics extend their winning streak to eight games. Tatum had 13 points going into halftime, but he was just 5 of 13 from the field and 1 of 6 from three. He, and the rest of the boys from Beantown, overcame a 10-point halftime deficit and soared past the Hawks with a 42-point third quarter. Tatum finished the game with 38 points (13-27 FG, 4-10 3PT), 10 rebounds, three assists, one steal, and two blocks. Jaylen Brown added 17 points, nine rebounds, and three assists. The recently acquired Derrick White tallied 14 points, four rebounds, five assists, two steals, and one block. Marcus Smart compiled 13 points, six rebounds, seven assists, and one steal. Robert Williams III also had a strong game, finishing the contest with 10 points, 14 rebounds, one assist, and two blocks. Al Horford was 2-2 from three and finished the game with eight points, six rebounds, and one block.

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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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Last night’s version of Dennis Schroder is exactly what the Celtics need to save their season. A legitimate third scoring option they can rely upon when Tatum and Jaylen are either being double teamed or are having a bad shooting night. Considering how the rest of this roster is built, defense isn’t a concern at all. As for if he’s worth picking up in fantasy, I would have to say a hesitant no. Plenty of other more consistent scoring options available league wide such as Kelly Oubre Jr. or Jalen Brunson.

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The Cleveland Cavaliers defeated the Indiana Pacers 108-104, behind strong performances from Evan Mobley, Kevin Love, and Jarrett Allen. After finding themselves down 84-73 in the third quarter, the Cavaliers went on a 17-0 run to take the lead and never gave it up. Mobley led the Cavaliers in scoring with 24 points (11-16 FG, 0-2 3PT) and added nine rebounds and four assists. Love tallied 20 points (6-13 FG, 3-6 3PT), eight rebounds, four assists, and one steal. Love has scored 20 points or more in five straight games. He’s played well with increased minutes as the Cavaliers have seen a number of players go down with injury or Covid absences. Allen notched 18 points (6-12 FG, 0-1 3PT), 11 rebounds, two assists, one steal, and three blocks. Lamar Steven added 15 points (6-13 FG, 0-4 3PT), three assists, two assists, and one steal. Lauri Markkanen finished the game with 12 points, six rebounds, two assists, and one block. Isaac Okoro played just 12 minutes and had to leave the game due to an elbow injury. He finished the game with 2 points, one rebound, one assist, one steal, and one block. He was one made three, one free-throw, one turnover, and one personal foul away from a really exciting stat line. The Cavaliers were without Darius Garland and Cedi Osman as both entered the league’s health and safety protocols) while Collin Sexton and Ricky Rubio are out due to season-ending knee injuries.

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The NBA claims that it consulted several medical experts when making this decision.  I imagine the finance department was also involved, especially after the spate of big name absences for Christmas Day’s marquee slate.  At any rate, I choose to believe that we’ve turned the corner and will start to see additional policy revisions in the near future.  In the meantime, this post will continue to provide you with the best possible intel on widely available players who can help you down the stretch of a head-to-head matchup.

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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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The Bucks snapped the Rockets’ seven-game win streak last night behind the fantasy star of the night, Giannis Antetekounmpo. The Greek Freak finished with 41 points, 17 rebounds, five assists, three steals, and two blocks. He stuffed the stat sheet on the way to a 123-114 win. Antetekounmpo is just inside the top-20 in category leagues, so owners will hope he can produce more stat lines like this one so he can justify his ADP. Khris Middleton and Bobby Portis each added 21 points and eight rebounds in last night’s win. Portis has been an excellent producer while starting for Brook Lopez who remains out with a back injury. Both Portis and Middleton have been top-60 players with Portis ranking in the top-50.

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After Jayson Tatum slammed home the first points of the game off a Laker turnover in last night’s renewal of acquaintances in the storied Lakers/Celtics rivalry, the possibility of a big night for number 0 cracked open ever so slightly. When he scored every one of Boston’s next 12 — including a banked tripled — and registered a swat and a steal by the end of the first quarter, a huge performance was all but locked in for the Celtic star. With a silky-smooth jumper and a 6’8″ frame, there wasn’t a whole lot that LA could do to put the shackles on the 23-year-old, three-level scorer.

In the past, Tatum has been chided for being a bit too Kobe-brained when it comes to shot selection — Stan Van Gundy bemoaned his year-over-year decrease in attempts at the rim on the broadcast — but it’s nights like these where you can get inside the young scorer’s head a little bit. If I can hit it from here, the thinking goes, how can it be a bad shot? Last night, while getting buckets from every corner of his idol’s backyard, Tatum was in full Mamba Mode.

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