We’ve already had two “will he be suspended?” moments (more on those later), which I think means that the playoffs have officially started. Some series are a little closer than others, but we’ve seen some great playoff basketball thus far and look to be in for a fun couple months. Saturday didn’t have any games that will be replayed as instant classics any time soon, but there’s plenty of relevant fantasy news to recap from the first day of our weekend matchups.
I normally like to switch things up and organize The Dose in ways other than looking at one game, but each playoff matchup is its own mini- series at this point and I feel like we wouldn’t be doing them justice by looking at them any other way. While there are a few big news items to look at for Sunday at the bottom of this article (no peeking!), let’s take a look at Saturday’s action and see if we can pick up some nuggets to help us moving forward.
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Clippers at Trail Blazers
In what was essentially a must-win game, the Blazers were able to control action the entire way and take down the Clippers in a 96-88 victory. Damian Lillard led the way for Portland on 10-of-20 shooting from the field for 32 points, five rebounds, two assists, and three treys. Mason Plumlee pitched in a big game on the boards with 21 rebounds to go with six points, nine assists, and one steal and should be on the DFS radar for Game 4 on Monday. Fresh off winning the Most Improved Player Award, C.J. McCollum pitched in 27 points witih five rebounds, two assists, one steal, one block, and two three-pointers. The Trail Blazers didn't get much production elsewhere and their fantasy options are mostly limited to Lillard, McCollum, and Plumlee as they attempt to even things up in Game 4.
The Clippers hung around on the road Saturday night, but were unable to break through and push the Blazers to the brink. While three-time Sixth Man Award winner scored 19 points off the bench, the Clippers were led by Chris Paul (26 points, three rebounds, nine assists, three steals, and two three-pointer) and DeAnde Jordan (11 points, 16 rebounds, one steal, and two blocks) and didn't have much fantasy production elsewhere. Blake Griffin's 34 minutes were his most since returning from his hand injury, but he still hasn't found his shot and only scored 12 points on 5-of-16 shooting with seven rebounds, four assists, and two steals. While Griffin should get better as the playoffs go, he's a risky DFS play at a higher price tag.
Thunder at Mavericks
The Thunder pushed the Mavericks to the brink with a 119-108 win on Saturday and will head back to Oklahoma City with a 3-1 series lead. While the Thunder could find themselves missing a superstar in Game 5, the Mavericks were unable to make it through Game 4 with their roster fully intact.
The biggest news of the game is Kevin Durant’s fourth-quarter ejection after a hard foul on Justin Anderson. While it’s this humble scribe’s unbiased opinion that Durant shouldn’t even come close to facing a suspension, stranger things have happened, so it wouldn’t be a complete shock to see him forced to sit on Monday. Going back to Game 4, Durant finished with 19 points, four rebounds, four assists, one steal, one block, and one three-pointer, while Russell Westbrook led the team with a monster line of 25 points, five rebounds, 15 assists, two steals, and three treys. Enes Kanter was a beast off the bench with 28 points and five rebounds, but he’s a little tough to chase considering he hit 12 of his 13 field goal attempts. The Thunder will have to wait and see what happens with any possible discipline for Durant, but Russell Westbrook would more or less become a must-play if Durant is suspended for some crazy reason.
David Lee (foot) and Justin Anderson (shoulder) both had to go through some sort of pre-game pain alleviation (a shot for Lee and medication for Anderson). And Deron Williams (sports hernia) and Salah Mejri (right hip) didn’t make it to the final whistle. The Mavericks are turning into a M.A.S.H unit and it finally seems to be catching up to them as they limp into Oklahoma City facing elimination. The Mavs are essentially a three-man show (and a strange one, at that) with Williams out and the solid production of Dirk Nowitzki (27 points, eight rebounds), Raymond Felton (19 points, 11 assists), and Wesley Matthews (19 points, three treys) still wasn’t enough to get them a win at home. Zaza Pachulia, J.J. Barea, David Lee, Devin Harris, and Justin Anderson all stand to see a minutes bump with Williams likely out for the series, with the Bizarro Big 3 of Dirk, Felton, and Matthews being the only truly usable DFS options.
Heat at Hornets
The Hornets guaranteed at least a Game 5 in their series by winning Game 3 by a score of 96-80. With Nicolas Batum likely out for the series with a left foot strain, the Hornets were able to get production from someone other than Kemba Walker, who struggled to 17 points on 4-of-19 shooting from the field. Frank Kaminsky saw his first postseason start on Saturday and responded with 15 points, six rebounds, one assist, one steal, and one block in 35 minutes. Frank the Tank should continue to see big minutes with Batum out and makes for a solid DFS play in Game 4 on Monday. Marvin Williams (12 points, 14 rebounds, one block, and two three-pointers) and Jeremy Lin (18 points, four rebounds, four assists, one steal, and two treys) both pitched in big efforts and will see increased usage for as long as Batum is out. Al Jefferson chipped in with 10 points, eight rebounds, two assists, one steal, and one block in just 21 minutes as a starter, but he’s a risky play going forward due to his limited minutes and usage.
I’m sure the Heat would gladly Eternal Sunshine of the Spotless Mind themselves of an ugly Game 3 after shooting just 34.2 percent from the field as a team. Dwayne Wade (17 points, seven rebounds) and Goran Dragic (11 points, seven rebounds, four assists) both struggled with their shot as they combined for 11-of-33 shooting (33%) from the field. Miami got big contributions from Luol Deng (a team-high 19 points, eight rebounds, two assists, and five three-pointers) and Hassan Whiteside (13 points, 18 rebounds, and four blocks), but didn’t really get much production elsewhere as they played with primarily a seven-man rotation.
Raptors at Pacers
The Pacers evened up the series with a 100-83 win and Raptors head coach Dwane Casey has some work to do on his rotations with Game 4 looming on Tuesday. While Paul George (19 points) didn’t have a huge game and Monta Ellis disappointed (seven points), the Pacers were able to get production elsewhere. Myles Turner replaced Lavoy Allen in the Pacers starting lineup to mixed results as he shot 2-of-13 from the field on his way to four points, but his presence did help open things up for Ian Mahinmi’s huge stat line of 22 points, 10 rebounds, five assists, two steals, and one block on 9-of-14 shooting. While Mahinmi will likely come back to Earth a bit in Game 4 and Turner should be able to rebound from his poor performance, Lavoy Allen is relatively unusable for DFS purposes after scoring zero points in three minutes off the bench. George Hill also came up big for the Pacers with 22 points, 4 rebounds, 3 assists, 3 steals, and two treys, but his numbers shouldn’t be chased too much as he shot a hard-to-duplicate 9-of-11 from the floor.
Kyle Lowry wasn’t able to carry the Raptors on Saturday with just 12 points on 4-of-12 shooting, and DeMar DeRozan continued his cold streak with 8 points, 6 rebounds, 4 assists, and one steal on 4-of-15 shooting. Lowry is bound to bounce back, but DeRozan should be avoided in DFS at this point as he’s now shooting 29.5 percent from the floor in the series. Jonas Valanciunas should return to form in Game 5 after a somewhat disappointing stat line of 16 points, six rebounds, and one block in 28 minutes. Dwane Casey will also likely be forced into making a change at his starting power forward spot after Luis Scola continued his uninspiring play (and is now averaging 2.0 points and 3.0 rebounds in the series. Norman Powell should theoretically be the biggest fantasy beneficiary if Casey makes a move, but Casey could just as likely frustrate fantasy owners by using more Cory Joseph or even Terrence Ross so this is a tough situation to spend DFS dollars on. Patrick Patterson and DeMarre Carroll should both see increased usage on Tuesday as well, with Carroll a candidate to start at the four.
Looking Ahead to Sunday
Steph Curry: Warriors fans can breathe a sigh of relief as Stephen Curry is now expected to play in Game 4. The Dubs should probably be up 3-0 in the series and can likely get by without Curry, so we could see him play limited minutes on Sunday (especially if Golden State can build a big lead early). Shaun Livingston will go back to being Curry’s backup and will lose quite a bit of fantasy value with Steph’s return.
Isaiah Thomas: the Celtics escaped a potential landmine as Isaiah Thomas avoided a suspension for Game 4 after greeting Dennis Schroder with a slap upside the head as the latter ran up court in Game 3. Thomas is coming off a huge 42-point effort after Celtics head coach Brad Stevens made a few tweaks in the way the C’s used the guard, but the Hawks will likely make adjustments to force Thomas to pass the ball more after racking up just one dime in Game 3. Chase his 42 points at your own risk.
Nick Raducanu has been a member of the Rotoworld hoops team since 2013 and you can find him on Twitter at @ProjectRoto.