Welcome to your midweek guidance for Week Five!  In this post, I identify widely-available players who can help you down the stretch of your head-to-head matchup.  A number of last week’s recommendations panned out, with no-brainers like Aleksej Pokusevski, Cam Payne, and Gabe Vincent stepping up to provide big production.  This week presents a totally different picture, with a slew of teams playing just two games for the week and one team playing five.  Plus, we have new injuries and illnesses to consider.

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The NBA on Friday Night rolled back the clock two nights too early (the end of daylight savings is Sunday 2 a.m.), harkening the days where big men ruled the professional basketball roost. There were myriad starting backcourts taking the night off with injuries and “injuries” (the league loves it when teams rest their stars on Friday night!), leading to a slew of point-forward play and 7-footers trying out for the 3-point contest.

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“A River Runs Through It” is a 1992 American drama film directed by Robert Redford and starring Craig Sheffer, Brad Pitt and Tom Skerritt that focuses on a coming of age story between two brothers; one studious, the other rebellious. “The West Runs Through It” is a 2022 National Basketball drama directed by Adam Silver and starring the Trail Blazers, Spurs and Jazz that focuses on a coming of age story between three teams who refuse the temptation of drafting Victor Wembanyama, rather focusing on reaching the playoffs. Just like we all expected… You have Damian Lillard and Anfernee Simons going a combined 60/9/13 on 21-33 shooting and 11-19 from beyond the arc in a blowout against the Nuggets, yet another Spurs win fueled by Devin Vassell’s 23/9/7 and of course the powerhouse Jazz team where you can’t tell the starters from their bench, netting their first loss may have slowed them down, but still, at 3-1, who else was I going to put here in the lede? The Lakers? (ROFL.)

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

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The Indiana Pacers enter the 2022-23 season as everyone’s favorite punching bag. The organization, in recent vintage, has been unwilling to execute an all-out tank like the 76ers in the Hinkie era or the current Sam Presti-led iteration of the Oklahoma City Thunder. This year is shaping up to be a notable exception to that history. The Pacers will begin the season without any reliable small forwards on the roster and a dearth of quality wing defenders. Buddy Hield will likely start at that spot in what will be a three-guard starting lineup of Tyrese Haliburton, Bennedict Mathurin, Buddy Hield, Jalen Smith, and Myles Turner. The chatter in league circles (as reported by just about every reputable NBA media member) is that Turner will be traded sooner rather than later. Of course, it should be noted, that we’ve heard that story before and, at least for now, Turner remains on the roster

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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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Many cat lovers don’t just have one cat. I don’t understand it but if it’s akin to the Lay’s commercials of “Betcha can’t eat just one!” then I get it. I’ve seen the shows with the lonely woman who dies and has dozens of cats feasting on her festering corpse. Yuck. Having so many cats would seem to be a big f’ing problem. First of all, the more cats, the more food that is needed. Cliques and territory. More cats would bring prison rules to the landscape. I’ve seen cats fight. They go so illmatic that Nas would be motivated to start sampling the fracas. Poo and pee. The literal shit would be everywhere because, unless you had a kitty litter for all, there’s no way cats would patiently wait in a line like at an NBA arena. If given enough time, I’m sure I could come up with many more reasons why having many cats would be an issue but I got things to do, people to see, and blurbs to write. Which brings me to Karl-Anthony Towns. The KAT of the NBA. Normally, I trash KAT a bit because KAT doesn’t seem to have that dog in him. I’ve always acknowledged KAT’s fantasy greatness though because KAT has few weaknesses and provides a solid base to build a team around. But the time with Jimmy Butler exposed some things about KAT that brought doubts to KAT’s ability to lead a team to the championship. Last night, all of that was shoved into the drawer for at least one night because we had not one KAT, not two KATs….We need some Dr. Seuss in the house because we had 60 KATs:

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One team in this matchup projects to be a difficult and gritty playoff opponent and a sneaky conference finals contender; the other team in this matchup is the Brooklyn Nets. The Boston Celtics defeated the Brooklyn Nets 126-120, behind a historic 54-point performance from Jayson Tatum. It was Tatum’s fourth 5o-point game, tying him with Larry Bird for the most 50-point games in Celtics history. Tatum finished the night with 54 points (16-30 FG, 8-15 3PT), five rebounds, three assists, and it was his hockey assist that led to a dagger Jaylen Brown three to stamp out all hope for the Nets. Jaylen Brown added 21 points, four rebounds, five assists, and three steals. Marcus Smart finished the game with 14 points, three rebounds, nine assists, and one steal. Al Horford finished the game with 13 points, seven rebounds, four assists, one steal, and one block. Robert Williams III tallied 10 points, eight rebounds, two assists, two steals, and five blocks.

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There are two obvious downsides to living in Milwaukee — winter (duh) and NBA League Pass blacking out the hometown team as they take up their championship defense. Considering the grinding nature of an 82-game regular season, it’s not the worst thing to have an excuse that allows you to check-out on February basketball, but it’s still nice to occasionally see the boys without using a VPN. Last night, the Bucks were fully visible the national stage against the Wizards and the game flow reads like regular season game where the better team wasn’t fully engaged all night.

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The Charlotte Hornets were on a three-game losing streak heading into this Sunday evening matchup with the Atlanta Hawks—a bad loss to the Rockets in overtime, a sluggish and overmatched defeat against the Bulls, and a buzzer-beating loss at the hands of Giannis Antetokounmpo and the Milwaukee Bucks. LaMelo had a standout game against the Bucks and before Giannis’ game-winning layup, he hit a beautiful leaning three over Pat Connaughton to tie the game. Sometime after their loss to the Bucks, LaMelo Ball, Terry Rozier, Jalen McDaniels, and Mason Plumlee were placed in the NBA’s health and safety protocols. At the time of that announcement, Ball was leading the Hornets in points, assists, steals, and rebounds per game. Heading into this contest, I was bummed to not get a chance to watch these two teams compete at something closer to full strength. But as is so often the case with the Hornets, they did the unexpected, beating the Hawks 130-127 with two of their best four players sidelined.

Don’t spit the bit was the directive from Eric Collins—after the Hornets coughed up leads against the Rockets and Bucks. Collins—the team’s television play-by-play announcer and rising star in the NBA universe—brought his full bag of phrases for this road game. It was almost like Collins was trying to will the undermanned Hornets to a victory by unloading his full clip of quips—and it worked! (Miles Bridges might have helped)

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