Trae Young is the clear choice for Friday’s fantasy star of the night after scoring 33 points and dishing out 15 assists in a 121-110 win over the Warriors. Young had one of his best games of the season at the perfect time for fantasy managers. He should continue to carry the Hawks offensively as they push for the best possible seed in the play-in tournament. Danilo Gallinari added 25 points before exiting with an elbow injury in the fourth quarter. It did not appear to be too serious but the Hawks would be very thin if he were to miss any time. 

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We’re back to our regularly scheduled Tuesday night programming after a bit of travel to sunnier climes, and I hope the time away has been as good for you as it was for me. In case you missed it, Son and I just did a pod yesterday that covered all things RazzJam. It was good fun and I think I might have said something useful? After faceplanting in my first attempt last year, this year’s campaign is going much, much better and I find myself in the hunt for a title as we come down the home stretch of the season. Son and I chopped up how such a dramatic turnaround came to be and maybe even figured out some viable strategy for next year. And speaking of Cam Payne…

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Late February, everyone’s favorite little month, often feels like a desperate time in the NBA. The Trade Deadline, with all its promise, hope, and frequent disappointments, has come and gone, and with no cavalry coming to save you, you’re forced to come to grips with reality. Most of the time that reality isn’t pretty. Looking around the league, it seems like everyone is exhausted in ways that have become obvious. The NBA season is a long one, and the All-Star break is closer to the three-quarter pole than the halfway point, so if you haven’t figured out how to win by now, it’s getting awfully late to get it solved. Some teams have already begun to slowly pack it in and wind things down. “Better luck next year,” isn’t being said yet, but the phrase looms in the back of mouths in Indiana, Washington, and Texas. Outside, at least where I live, it’s gray, brown, and soggy, and it can be hard to remember that life and color exist in a universe that looks exactly the same way that a 19-40 season feels. It’s grim. Cold. Still. The NBA landscape can be equally sparse — I’m looking at you, Philadelphia, and your 40-point home loss — so when you see something beautiful and vibrant, you’ve got to celebrate it. So, with apologies to Giannis Antetokounmpo and his 50-point night (my god, he’s good), I’m renting out this Tuesday lede to Trae Young, who was a vibrant, flamboyant shot in the arm at home against a thoroughly game Cleveland group.

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With the trade deadline approaching, many fantasy opportunities will arise from potential trades in the next days. The successful fantasy player does not rest during these days. The successful fantasy player does not have a social life, work, family, or personal time during these days. The successful fantasy owner refreshes Twitter for the latest updates and has three computers and two smartphones open to make the correct add simultaneously in all the leagues they are in. Sleep is for the weak, sleep is overrated.

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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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Despite the continuing drama in La La Land and the conversions it would bring writing about, I’m going to spend a bit of time on Devin Booker who dropped 48 points, six assists, five rebounds, and three steals in a win against the Spurs last night. Mmm, those sweet sweet unique hits from Phoenix… all 12 of them. I’m kidding, there’s actually a lot of people out there in the tri-state area, just too old to understand anything digital that’s not Facebook, so here we are. And even though Booker tried for 50 (was pulled with the Suns up by 10 and missing his last two shots), the stat line last night was downright dominant when you realize it may all be happening because he pointed at the Raptor. (Suns are 4-0 now since that incident by the way.) During the same span, Booker has been averaging 32.3 PPG and has carried the Suns a few times this past week all by himself, including last night’s win against the aforementioned Spurs. Best player in Arizona currently wearing #1? Don’t tell Razzball Football, but I think so…

Here’s what else I saw during last night’s games:

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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 Covid situation and more specifically the Omicron variant has forced most NBA teams to sign players on 10-day deals, in order to fulfil the minimum roster requirement and avoid postponement of games. Most of those players come from the G-League, some from European Championships but the one signing that caught my eye was the return of Joe Johnson to the Celtics at 40 years old. Exactly 20 years ago, the Celtics drafted Iso Joe with the 10th pick and that age gap is the largest one in NBA history. Of course, what would be more fitting than him making a basket in his return with his usual isolation play.

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Welcome to your midweek guidance for Week Nine!  Many of us are approaching the halfway mark of our seasons, with each matchup taking on increasing importance as we jockey for playoff positioning.  Meanwhile, cold and flu season is in full swing, with the added ingredient of COVID-19 sewing more chaos as teams scramble to field full rosters for game action.  Those of us with players on the Bulls, Pistons, and Raptors are already feeling the burn of game postponements this week.  Nonetheless, with every injury or health and safety setback, there are opportunities.  Look no further than the value that Cody Martin and Kelly Oubre Jr. returned while four of their teammates were out with COVID-19.

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The Los Angeles Lakers defeated the San Antonio Spurs 114-116 on Sunday night, making them 3-3 since LeBron James has been sidelined due to an abdominal injury. None of the victories have been particularly impressive, but they’re doing what they need to do—staying afloat until they get healthy. After a lackluster performance that led to a 24-point loss to the lowly Minnesota Timberwolves in their previous contest, Anthony Davis set the tone early for the purple and gold in this game. Davis had 19 points (8-10 FG) in the first quarter and finished the game with 32 points, 15 rebounds, six assists, two steals, and one block. It was the kind of dominating performance the Lakers will need in James’ absence as well as when he returns if the Lakers have any hope of achieving their championship goals. This game also saw Talen Horton-Tucker return from injury, pushing Kent Bazemore all the way out of the starting lineup and into a DNP (Coach’s Decision). Horton-Tucker had a solid game with 17 points, four rebounds, one assist, one steal, and one block. Carmelo Anthony continues to shoot the ball well at home and he received a surprise start in this game. He finished the contest with 15 points (5-7 FG, 2-3 3PT) and five rebounds. He’s still shooting a ridiculous 47.3% from three on the season and an even more ridiculous 56% from three at home. Finally, Russell Westbrook had a quiet, efficient night for the Lakers. I might contend that quiet and efficient should be the goal for most of Westbrook’s contest given his rocky start to the season, but that’s a conversation for another day. Westbrook finished the game with 14 points (5-11 FG, 3-5 3PT), 11 rebounds, seven assists, two steals, and seven turnovers.

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It’s easy to understand why, all those weeks ago, the good folks at TNT selected last night’s Bucks/Sixers game to be the NBA showcase game on a night with precious little professional basketball. They could bill it as the reigning champs versus the dramatic and talented challengers, right? Giannis and his gold medal running mates against The Process and Ben Simmons in a battle at the top of the Eastern Conference. The potential for an early-season statement was easy enough to see at the time, but then life happened.

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