Same format as last week, with one readily available player per game and some additional insight into the game. I’d imagine that most fantasy leagues have either wrapped up or are in the finals, so take my picks this week as desperation moves. Not a single pick this week is meant for a dynasty league, as this week is all about making that final pickup to win this season. Let’s get right into it. 

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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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Welcome to your midweek guidance for Week 21!  The playoffs are in full swing across the fantasy hoops landscape, meaning it’s time to cut injured players who are acting as proverbial millstones around your team’s neck and go streaming!  This post will help you do just that, with recommendations for widely available players who can backfill those injured drops and contribute to your victory.  If you’re in the enviable position of having a fully-healthy team, two things: 1) I hate you 2) You can still benefit from these suggestions, because you should be using at least one roster spot to cycle through players and maximize your games played for the week.

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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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LeBron James put on a show with a season-high 56 points as the Los Angeles Lakers took down the Golden State Warriors, 124-116. James did so on impressive shooting splits and became only the fourth player at age 37+ to score 50+ points in a game. The only other players in this group are Jamal Crawford, Kobe Bryant, and Michael Jordan.

Alongside James, four other players scored in double-figures including Russell Westbrook, who finished with 20 points. Carmelo Anthony also had a strong performance off the bench with 14 points and eight rebounds in 24 minutes.

This win snapped a four-game losing streak, but they still are only 3-7 in their last ten games. At 27-35 they sit in ninth place in the West, but they are only half a game ahead of the Pelicans.

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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 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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Anfernee Simons scored 31 points along with a career-high 11 assists to help lead the Portland Trail Blazers to the 115-110 victory over the Washington Wizards.

This was also a big game for Jusuf Nurkic who chipped in 23 points and 14 rebounds while watching Simons score 26 of his 31 points in the first half. Solid night for the Trail Blazers’ wings as Nassir Little and Robert Covington combined for 33 points.

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For the first time this year, the fantasy star of the night comes from a losing team. It is well deserved as Dejounte Murray has gone from zero games with 30 or more points, to two of those games in just a week. Murray followed up his 32 point triple-double from Wednesday with a 30-point near triple-double on Friday. He finished with 30 points, 14 rebounds, and eight assists. Murray sits inside the top-20 players and has been on an absolute tear of late, but this upside may not last long as Derrick White is very close to returning from the league’s health and safety protocols. 

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I had the good fortune of playing on some pretty good basketball teams in my youth. Well, good fortune in the sense that I was on teams that won a bunch of games and had the best seat in the house at the end of the bench. The two high school classes ahead of mine were absolutely loaded, creating a bottleneck of talent and pushing varsity-caliber players down to a JV squad that churned through overmatched programs over and over again. Winning by 15+ and then getting an earful about how poorly we played the next day in practice was a pretty routine occurrence. I’m not sure we lost more than three games over the course of two years.

What Jonas Valanciunas did to the Wizards reminded of these glory days, as JV was absolutely dominant against a frontcourt that didn’t have anything resembling an answer for the Memphis big man. Jonas is a load in the paint, and if you don’t have a big body to throw at him, the results can be Just Vicious.

Jonas Valanciuias 

PTS REB AST STL BLK TO 3PM FG FT
29 20 3 0 4 2 0 12/21 5/7

JV feasted on Washington’s undersized group. Moritz Wagner could only hang for 21 minutes with him before collecting six fouls. Davis Bertans racked up five fouls in 20 minutes. Robin Lopez fared better than those other two, but Scott Brooks eventually had to turn to his fourth big, Alex Len, for a couple of minutes in search of relief from the abuse. This is the second time Valanciunas has posted a 20+  points and 20+ rebounds line this year. Skilled and huge, he abuses teams that don’t have an ogre of their own to throw at him. With only two games on the slate, there was nowhere to hide JV’s dominance.

Here’s what else I saw on slow Wednesday in the NBA:

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There are four types of fossil fuels currently in existence: petroleum, coal, natural gas, and orimulsion. They are all made from plants and animals that decompose. As of 2018, petroleum accounted for 34% of the world’s energy source, coal 27%, and natural gas 24%. What is orimulsion? Is it like Bitcoin and Top Shot? Nuclear energy was 4.4%, hydroelectric 6.8%, while solar, wind, geothermal, tidal, and wind combined for 4%. In the three years since those percentages were tabulated, the numbers have skewed more towards the non-fossil sources as the world has become more conscious about saving Mother Earth. Yipee! Halliburton, though, is one of the world’s largest oil field service companies and is the Dolph Lundgren to Mother Earth: If she dies, she dies. They make billions of dollars, keeping their shareholders happy but draw the ire of the children of Mother Earth. But, but, but…..a new energy source has been discovered in Sacramento and his name is Tyrese Haliburton. Is he a fossil fuel? Well, he does kill defenders and decomposes them into the stat sheet, so yes. But he is also a green source of energy because he delivers the goods so cleanly and efficiently. Win, win for everyone. 

PTS REB AST STL BLK TOV 3PT FG FT
23 5 9 3 1 1 4/9 9/20 1/2

In 40 minutes off the bench. Haliburton has only started two games this season yet is a top 40 player on the season. Over the last four games, he’s been a top 20 player averaging 34.2 minutes. 17.5 points, 2.8 tres, 3.5 boards, 6.5 dimes, two steals, and 0.8 blocks while shooting 48% from the field and 75% from the line. Dayam. Since 2000, only seven rookies have finished inside the top 40 at season’s end. Both LaMelo Ball and Tyrese Haliburton could accomplish the feat this year. 

Here’s what else I saw last night:

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