The Charlotte Hornets defeated the Brooklyn Nets 119-110 to remain ahead of the Nets in the Eastern Conference standings. The two teams have identical 39-36 records, but with this win, the Hornets move to 2-1 against the Nets and secure the tiebreaker. Led by LaMelo Ball’s hot shooting, the Hornets spoiled Kyrie Irving’s home debut. Ball finished the game with 33 points (10-21 FG, 7-12 3PT), seven rebounds, nine assists, and three steals. Miles Bridges added 24 points (9-24 FG, 3-6 3PT), eight rebounds, two assists, and one steal. P.J. Washington tallied 18 points (8-12 FG, 2-3 3PT), 11 rebounds, and five assists. Terry Rozier notched 14 points (5-12 FG, 2-5 3PT), seven rebounds, four assists, and one steal. If the Hornets are making their threes they can be tough to beat and that was the case in this game. They shot 42% from the field as a team, but they shot 53% from three (17-32). As things currently stand, the Hornets would match up against the Cleveland Cavaliers in the play-in tournament, rather than the Nets. That’s unfortunate for us, the fans, as the pace of play and lack of defense on both sides would make a Nets vs. Hornets matchup must-see TV. Then again, there likely won’t be much defense in a Nets vs. Hawks series either.

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Changing the format slightly, as I will choose two players from each NBA game last night who are available on the waiver wire. I highly value minutes played and opportunities given when it comes to fantasy. Every single NBA player is elite at basketball and, given the right opportunity, every single player could produce fantasy goodies. There’s a reason every player made the league, so the more chances they’re given the more likely they can produce. So without further adieu, let’s get into the first match from last night.

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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 Utah Jazz defeated the Denver Nuggets 125-102, snapping a four-game losing streak. The Jazz were just 1-4 without Rudy Gobert in the lineup and Gobert and Donovan Mitchell seemed to trade subliminal jabs in press conferences and on social media. They appear to have righted the ship, for now. The Jazz are a bit of conundrum. They are an undeniably good team that has been labeled “a regular season team” for a few years, maybe even erroneously, except it didn’t matter because they did fall short of expectations in the playoffs. This year, there is once again general indifference towards the team outside of Utah and most interested parties are just wondering when Donovan Mitchell asks for a trade because he can’t get along with Gobert. The Jazz can’t get very far without Donovan Mitchell’s scoring, but they appear even more doom-struck without Gobert’s defense. What can be done? Would Jerami Grant help? Harrison Barnes? Whatever happens, I know fans outside of Utah will watch with crazy-eyed delight if the foundation once again crumbles beneath them in the playoffs.

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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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HE’S BACK!!! Or is he…?? After having essentially zero impact thus far (he hadn’t played 20 minutes in any game and only scored in double figures once), Chris Boucher broke out with 17 points on 7-of-12 shooting in 24 minutes. He tossed in a trey, steal, and pair of swats to boot. His lack of playing time has been extremely concerning to fantasy managers. Coach Nick Nurse has played his starters heavy minutes all season, leaving little room for fantasy viability off the bench. And this may just be a blip given the absences of both Pascal Siakam and Khem Birch. I still can’t trust him at this point, and I wouldn’t be one of the 55 percent of Yahoo! managers still holding him if there was anything interesting on the wire.

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Killian Hayes (11 percent owned in Yahoo!) has been a disappointment in his brief career, but there’s a chance he can help out your fantasy team. Ironically, the less he shoots the more value he provides because his field goal percentage is likely to remain low all season long. He can help in hard to get categories like assists and defensive stats though. Getting more minutes in his last two games has led to 3.5 dimes, 1.5 thefts, and 1.0 blocks per. He’s not worth a pickup yet, but don’t dismiss the thought.

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What are your Netflix recommendations like, dear Reader? According to Netflix’s almighty AI, I’m a 99% match for a good number of action films, (shocking I know). It appears that I’m an inveterate sucker for Hollywood’s IV drip of characteristic stylized violence, where everything and nothing is at stake all at once. The kind of morality plays where revenge and a particularly violent idea of justice come inseparably together. But I’m especially moved by a meta element in these stake-less physical dramas, something the algorithm isn’t picking up on, I hope. The more I can tell the minds behind the film want me to know, that they know, this is all dopamine mush in the mouth of a baby the more I’m pleased. I’m looking for a kind of philosophical match with the director. Something that says, “Yes, this is almost certainly a meaningless distraction on our collective journey to some hopefully plush after, but at least this haze of aesthetic violence offers some neon lights and choreographed blood splatter.” Which is a long-winded way of saying, as artists, writers, thinkers, maybe even as fantasy basketball players, we shouldn’t take ourselves too seriously.

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Down goes Horford. We all lamented at the recent news of Al Horford getting shut down for the rest of the season, but it came as no surprise to some who have been playing fantasy basketball for going on two decades. The Oklahoma City Thunder have zero incentive to attempt to win basketball games as they try to squeeze the most value of their million draft picks.

The reality of this season is that COVID-19 continues to screw everything up. The second half of the season for every single NBA team this season is BRUTAL, with things like three games in four nights, and multiple back-to-backs. We are about to see a bunch of people sit out games they may have otherwise played.

In that same vein, we will likely see more shutdowns this season than ever before, as teams decide that playing for that playoff play-in isn’t as important as developing pieces for the future. We saw it with Al Horford, and we will see it again with other players.

But who will they be? Here is my best speculation:

*PLEASE NOTE: RECORDS AND STATS TAKEN BEFORE THE GAMES ON 3/28*

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LeBron James took this potential championship preview seriously, playing 38 minutes and attempting 25 field goals. He was spectacular, posting a 34-6-8 line and connecting on six of his 10 treys. LeBron is hoisting more threes than he ever has in his career, and is flirting with career-best accuracy from deep as well. He’s shooting just a hair under 40 percent on 6.6 triple tries per game. His 2.6 3PTM adds another elite category to make up a little bit for his declining FG% (currently his lowest since 2007) and defensive stats.

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