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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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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Welcome back to Thursday Night DFS Dunks with me, Cousin Timmy.  I break down tonight’s NBA slate and give you my starting five for both FanDuel and Draftkings.  These will be my core plays (guys I’ll be playing in my lineups with my money) for hitting the cash line in 50/50s and double-up contests.  If you’re looking for GPP winning plays you’ll have to follow me on Twitter (@TimmySperos) and then we can talk. At the end of the article, I’ll have a pool of three to five players I like that you can use to fill-in the rest of your lineups. It’s important to have a process in DFS so let’s review the strategies you should be thinking about.

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Before the Bucks took on the Pistons in Detroit on Tuesday night, the matchup read a bit like one of those torturous “two trains are three hundred miles apart, traveling at two different speeds…” puzzles that I never learned how to solve in school. Yes, the Pistons are one of the worst teams in professional basketball, but they were catching an extremely shorthanded Milwaukee team in Motown, so it felt like there was a chance that they’d be able to steal one against the banged up Bucks. The reigning champs were without their starting center (Brook Lopez remained on the side lines with a bad back), starting point guard (Jrue Holiday was out with a turned ankle), starting wing (Khris Middleton tested positive for Covid and will be away from the team for a couple of weeks), and last year’s starting two-guard (Donte DiVincenzo’s rehab and recovery from ankle surgery continues), so there was a chance, after accounting for all these caveats, that the Little Engine That Could would turn into the Little Engine That Did, at least for the night.

Or not!

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The NBA is BACK, baby! There have already been some highs and some lows for each and every NBA team, but at the end of the day, we have fantasy leagues to win. That’s what really matters, isn’t it?

We are NOT including any results from Sunday’s games, just so I can get this out to you guys quickly. It’s also important to note the small sample size here, so this stuff can change wildly. However, I’ll try to break it down for you all with my best takes.

So let’s dig in and see who is turning out to be an early usage monster and what that could mean for your NBA fantasy team.

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The bloom has been coming off the Kristaps Porzingis rose in recent seasons. Thursday’s opener didn’t do anything to dissuade the critics, as the oft-maligned big man tallied just 11 points on 13 field goal attempts, with just five rebounds, zero assists, and four turnovers. A steal and two blocks kept it from being a completely lost night, but he didn’t exactly look like an integrated part of the offense, often forcing bad shots out of rhythm. Managers investing in the artist formerly known as The Unicorn are hoping it was just a case of the game getting out of hand early.

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Patrick James Riley is 76 years old and no less competitive than he was pacing the sidelines for the Lakers, Knicks, and Heat. He certainly wants to win another championship before he retires. Riley and Butler made sure the long-held expectation that Kyle Lowry would join the Miami Heat this offseason held firm. However, the Heat were forced to part ways with Precious Achiuwa and Goran Dragic—the apparently unpaid model for Big Face Coffee—in the sign-and-trade that brought Lowry to Biscayne Bay. The Heat are hoping Lowry’s three-point shooting, playmaking, and toughness imbue the team with new life and help them recapture some of the bubble magic that escaped them last season. Everything starts with their three stars— Butler, Lowry, and Bam Adebayo—and they need those players to remain healthy if they want to reach their full potential and secure a top-four seed in the Eastern Conference. The Heat will be leaning heavily on their player development this season. Players like Gabe Vincent, Max Strus, KZ Okpala, and Omer Yurtseven could be more central to the Heat’s success than anyone outside the organization ever expected.

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This is where the men get separated from the boys. True decisions have to be made. Do you draft for need or best player available? Do you take a shot at that rookie, even though historically, it hasn’t been a good bet? What about the good players who have fallen due to injury concerns? Decisions, decisions, decisions. Speaking of decisions, there have been around 10% of NBA players who are choosing not to get vaccinated. Kyrie Irving, Andrew Wiggins, and Jonathan Isaac are the most known out of the group. Irving and Wiggins are in danger of not being allowed to play in their home arenas due to protocols. So be wary of drafting these players.

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When we moved from California to Wisconsin last October, we knew it would be hard. Catching the tail end of fall was the final gasp of good air before the dual jaws of winter and the pandemic clamped down on us. From there, we just had to ride it out. Hiding indoors, online, and in the NBA calendar was all there was to do. As the days got darker — in every sense — we were subjected, over and over again, to the Milwaukee mantra: Summers make winters worth it. Having no experience to draw on, we had to take these hearty midwesterners at their word. 

They were right. 

Ice thawed and snow melted. Patches of terra firma sprouted and then turned green. The Bucks exercised Miami demons in Game 1 of the Playoffs and squeaked past the Nets by the margin of a single shoe size. The Hawks were feisty but underseasoned, and then there was the block and the steal and the alley-oop over Phoenix. “Bucks in six” was the song of the summer. Flowers for The Good Land. 

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