Five game slate on a rainy Tuesday evening.  Well, might not have been raining in your neck of the woods.  I hate ice storms more than I hate this year’s Bulls squad and watching LeBron James complain about every game mattering, the refs screwing us, and then resting the next game so he can break a scoring record later on TNT.

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With a 48-point performance, why can’t LeBron James share in the festivities with the great Martin Luther King? I mean, there’s actually some real answers here, like, you know, I don’t think MLK would let China get in the way of social equality. And if we’re still being serious, this performance came against the worst team in the league. But therein lies the LeRub, if you will… Monday’s performance is yet another reminder of how bad the Lakers as a whole actually are. Check this fun stat out; over the last 16 games, LeGreat has a +143. In the minutes he’s sat on the bench, the Lakers have accumulated a -106. Yikes. Granted, I get the feeling that Lakers’ ownership would rather miss the play-in than pay the repeaters taxes, but Pelinka and others need to get him some more help. A healthy AD isn’t enough. And as much fun as it is laying into the Lakers, it’d be true shame (even with the bubble Chip) to waste LeAgeless in his year 38 when he can still dominate. Here’s what else I saw during last night’s games…

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I guess when it comes down to it, I’m just a sucker for a comeback story. Call it homerism, or a Great Lakes bias, or Stockholm syndrome — it doesn’t much matter to me — because I am here for the redevelopment plans that are starting to come together in the Central division. The Bucks provided the blueprint: Invest heavily in your own (Giannis, Middleton) and then bring in outside help (hello, Jrue!) to get you over the top. After breaking through in a big way last year with their own in-house Big Two of Darius Garland and Evan Mobley, the Cleveland Cavaliers seized on New York’s hesitation and snatched an in-his-prime All-Star guard to help them get where they want to go. The cost of doing business was steep in both cases — the Cavs only have one future first-round pick from now until 2030 — but that’s what it takes to trade for a player as good as Donovan Mitchell. Spida arrives in Believeland carrying 25 points per game, and while there will be an adjustment period as the usage rates find their new levels, his presence makes it all the more challenging not to take Cleveland seriously in a fiercely competitive Eastern Conference. There’s still a hole on the wing and the depth is a bit shaky, but the youth of the core four puts the Cavs in a position of strength for years to come as they try to replicate the Milwaukee Miracle on the shores of Lake Erie.

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I’ll be honest, my original plan was to have this piece written and published at the end of last season, back when the failed chase for the top spot in the RazzJam was still fresh in my mind. But the NBA season is long and the Playoffs are so good, so when I fell just short of a championship, it seemed just fine to me to put this on the shelf for a bit. So, I sat on this with it being 95% completed and rested instead. Then Middleton went down and the Bucks got beat. The sun came out, the Celtics ran out of gas, and another Golden State summer onto my shores like a warm wave, even though I’ve traded in the Bay Area for Bay View. 

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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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Welcome to your midweek guidance for Week 13!  In this post, I will give you several streaming recommendations for players who can give you an edge in your head-to-head matchups.  We are at the halfway mark of the real NBA season, which means your fantasy hoops playoff races are starting to heat up.  Ideally, you’re way out in front and can stash players who will come off injury to help you in the playoffs.  The vast majority of us, however, are fighting for a bye week or playoff seed, and every player add will get us closer to or further away from that goal.

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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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The Cleveland Cavaliers defeated the Indiana Pacers 108-104, behind strong performances from Evan Mobley, Kevin Love, and Jarrett Allen. After finding themselves down 84-73 in the third quarter, the Cavaliers went on a 17-0 run to take the lead and never gave it up. Mobley led the Cavaliers in scoring with 24 points (11-16 FG, 0-2 3PT) and added nine rebounds and four assists. Love tallied 20 points (6-13 FG, 3-6 3PT), eight rebounds, four assists, and one steal. Love has scored 20 points or more in five straight games. He’s played well with increased minutes as the Cavaliers have seen a number of players go down with injury or Covid absences. Allen notched 18 points (6-12 FG, 0-1 3PT), 11 rebounds, two assists, one steal, and three blocks. Lamar Steven added 15 points (6-13 FG, 0-4 3PT), three assists, two assists, and one steal. Lauri Markkanen finished the game with 12 points, six rebounds, two assists, and one block. Isaac Okoro played just 12 minutes and had to leave the game due to an elbow injury. He finished the game with 2 points, one rebound, one assist, one steal, and one block. He was one made three, one free-throw, one turnover, and one personal foul away from a really exciting stat line. The Cavaliers were without Darius Garland and Cedi Osman as both entered the league’s health and safety protocols) while Collin Sexton and Ricky Rubio are out due to season-ending knee injuries.

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It is only fitting that we end 2021 with LeBron James as the fantasy star of the night. The ageless superstar scored 43 points while adding 14 rebounds, four assists, two steals, and two blocks en route a 139-106 win. He has been amazing over the past seven games but it has only translated to two wins during that stretch. James sits inside the top-three fantasy players this year and could pass Nikola Jokic for the top spot if he continues this high level of play. Russell Westbrook posted his fourth straight triple-double in the win, finishing with 15 points, 13 rebounds, and 12 assists. Although Russ has his ups and downs on the court, he remains an elite fantasy option with nightly triple-double upside. He has struggled with turnovers and poor shooting numbers this year which has resulted in poor category play. He sits just inside the top-100 and should not move much from this spot.

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The NBA claims that it consulted several medical experts when making this decision.  I imagine the finance department was also involved, especially after the spate of big name absences for Christmas Day’s marquee slate.  At any rate, I choose to believe that we’ve turned the corner and will start to see additional policy revisions in the near future.  In the meantime, this post will continue to provide you with the best possible intel on widely available players who can help you down the stretch of a head-to-head matchup.

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On Monday, Mr. and Mrs. Hooper packed up the car, coaxed our puppy Buckets into the backseat, and left the Mecca of American basketball (Milwaukee) in our rearview mirror to pay a post-holiday visit to Mama and Papa Hooper in Ohio. Though it runs counter to who I eventually ended up becoming, there actually isn’t any basketball in this particular household, so this Tuesday night recap is coming to you more or less blind. I’ve scoured Twitter and box scores as best I can, and we’re on track to be back home for next Tuesday’s action, but because I didn’t watch any hoops last night, I’m foregoing nominating a lede player here and just getting straight into it.

It was a busy night Tuesday night across the league. Here’s what jumped out to me here in the hinterlands of hoops…

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