First of all, congratulations to those of you who are still alive in your fantasy playoffs. Nothing is more stressful than managing a team down the stretch with so many injuries, maintenance days and rotation changes going on, but there’s also nothing more rewarding than winning your league whether it’s for money or just for bragging rights. There were five games on the schedule for Sunday and there is plenty to talk about including some hot pickups like Jusuf Nurkic and Willie Cauley-Stein, so let’s get right to the action. Follow me on Twitter by clicking here!
Clippers 105, Nuggets 90
The Clippers announced on Sunday that Blake Griffin’s four-game suspension has officially started, meaning he’s all set to return to the lineup on April 3 vs. the Wizards. Griffin looked “phenomenal” at practice on Saturday and needs to be picked up everywhere if your fantasy playoffs last until the end of the season. Chris Paul played through a tweaked knee and looked fine with 14 points and nine dimes, and he should be a top-5 option this week with four games on the schedule. DeAndre Jordan had one of his best games of the season with a double-double and six blocks, but his value will take a slight hit when Griffin returns on Sunday. J.J. Redick, Jamal Crawford and Jeff Green will also lose value, but Redick is the only must-own player out of that group. Wes Johnson had a nice outing with 13 points, three steals and three triples with a full line, but he was limited to minutes in the teens in his previous five games. No thanks. The Clippers do have one back-to-back set on Wednesday vs. Minnesota and Thursday vs. the Thunder, so it’s possible that they could rest a couple studs.
Kenneth Faried (back) was available once again, but he never left the bench. Coach Malone has said that the Nuggets will be cautious, so he’s going to be a risky player to use in weekly lineups even though they have four games this week. Darrell Arthur didn’t play well with six points on 2-of-13 shooting, but he did have 12 boards and he needs to be owned until Faried plays again. Nikola Jokic was quiet again in 21 minutes with five points, nine boards and a couple assists, but he has too much upside to give up on. Jusuf Nurkic has been taking a lot of his minutes and is one of the hottest pickups in fantasy right now, and he had another fantastic game with a career-high 19 points with seven boards, three assists and a block in 24 minutes. I’ve called Nurkic a high-upside stash for most of the season, but he’s a must-start player right now. I can’t imagine how good he would be right now if his knee wasn’t an issue this season. Gary Harris and Will Barton both played well and should be locked into lineups this week, while D.J. Augustin looks like a must-start player after finishing with 18 points, 10 assists, two steals and three treys. He’s not slowing down.
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Pacers 104, Rockets 101
Paul George led the Pacers with 25 points, 11 boards and four treys with a full line, and the fact that he played 38 minutes on the second night of a back-to-back set means that his leg contusion isn’t a concern. Myles Turner posted his second dud in a row with zero points in 19 minutes, but this is the same player who went off for 24 points, 16 boards and three blocks on Thursday. I’m not ready to drop him with four games on the schedule for the Pacers this week. Ian Mahinmi double-doubled and continues to be a nice low-end big, while George Hill had just three points with not much else. Hill should be much better vs. the reeling Bulls on Tuesday. Monta Ellis scored 23 points while C.J. Miles added 10 points off the bench.
James Harden played through an illness on his way to 34 points with eight dimes and eight boards, and the only bad news is that he plays just three times next week. In addition to Harden, the only other Rockets I would start this week are Dwight Howard and Trevor Ariza. Michael Beasley was quiet with nine points in 22 minutes, but he was coming off a 21-point game and is still worth a look if you’re targeting points. He’s also a lot better than Donatas Motiejunas who hasn’t done anything in the starting lineup. Patrick Beverley added six points and three assists and will be more of a 3-point specialist this week with a few assists and steals.
Kings 133, Mavericks 111
DeMarcus Cousins was awesome as usual with 20 points and 12 boards, but it sounds like the Kings will hold him out of Monday’s game vs. the Blazers. Cousins will need a couple of offseason procedures because he is dealing with tendinitis in both feet, and it’s also possible that he could be shut down soon since the Kings won’t make the postseason and he’s battled a lot of different injuries this season. His owners should be pretty concerned. Willie Cauley-Stein would benefit the most if Cousins misses time, and he had his second outstanding game in a row with 21 points and seven boards. Unfortunately, coach George Karl is still trying to save face and said that Cauley-Stein’s offense has been “blessed” by a lot of good plays by other people… Karl has completely lost the locker room and his refusal to give WCS credit is a joke. To be clear, the rookie still needs to be picked up everywhere because Karl will have no choice but to give him big minutes now.
Seth Curry started again and had 14 points, two treys and three assists, so he’s officially on the radar in deeper leagues. Just try to pretend that he’s not related to Stephen Curry to keep your expectations in check. Ben McLemore (finger) returned to action and had 14 points and two treys, but I’m not touching him in any league just yet. In addition to Rajon Rondo and Rudy Gay, Omri Casspi (10 points with full line) and Darren Collison (17 points, four assists) are both worth deploying this week with four games in Week 23.
Deron Williams (abdominal strain) sat this one out and will also miss Monday’s game vs. Denver, so J.J. Barea is worth picking up. He scored 14 points with three assists and could start even more games depending on the results of Williams’ MRI. Dirk Nowitzki scored 14 points in 27 minutes, but he should play in Monday’s must-win game vs. Denver because he sat out vs. the Warriors on Friday so that he could play both games of the back-to-back set. Wesley Matthews looks like the second best fantasy option in Dallas behind Dirk and played solid again, scoring 12 points with three assists and two triples. Salah Mejri was benched for two quick fouls and only played seven minutes on the night, so he’s a drop candidate after posting two awesome double-doubles earlier in the week. You can’t trust any centers in Dallas right now.
Warriors 117, 76ers 105
Klay Thompson scored 40 points for the second consecutive game, adding seven triples in 38 minutes. The Warriors are still on pace to beat the Bulls all-time record for most wins (72) in a season, so I have a feeling that they will go for it. The Warriors have four games on the schedule next week and coach Steve Kerr already said that he isn’t planning on resting any of his key players during their back-to-back set on Tuesday vs. the Wizards and Wednesday vs. the Jazz, so it’s safe to lock Thompson, Stephen Curry, Draymond Green and maybe Harrison Barnes into all lineups. Curry had 20 points with eight assists and a couple of treys, while Barnes added 10 points and a couple of boards. Andre Iguodala is still “a ways away” from a return according to Kerr, so hopefully Barnes will make some noise this week and make a case for a huge paycheck this summer.
Green triple-doubled with 13 points, 11 rebounds, 11 assists, three blocks, one steal and a couple of 3-pointers, and he’s a top-10 option this week since it sounds like he will play in all four games. Andrew Bogut played just 13 scoreless minutes because the 76ers played a ton of small ball, but he’s still a risky play this week because the Warriors may manage his minutes due to his recent toe injury. Marreese Speights played well with 17 points and seven boards, but he’s a hit-or-miss option every night.
Nerlens Noel (knee) missed his third straight game, but an MRI on Saturday night confirmed that he’s dealing with just a contusion. Still, the 76ers will be cautious moving forward. Jerami Grant was poised to have a big game, but he left after just three minutes with a strained quad/knee. The 76ers are running out of options in their frontcourt because Richaun Holmes (Achilles) is going to miss some time, so Robert Covington could see a lot of minutes at the four. He scored 16 points with 11 rebounds and four triples and looks like a must-start player even though Philly has just three games on the schedule this week. Carl Landry and Elton Brand will both have to step up if Noel and Grant miss more time, so let that sink in for a minute. Landry did have 22 points and eight boards, but I wouldn’t trust him. As for Brand, he has no business being in the NBA right now. Ish Smith looked great for the second straight game with 20 points on 9-of-14 shooting with 10 dimes, but don’t expect his hot shooting to continue. Hollis Thompson was coming in hot, but he looked awful with just four points in 32 minutes. He shouldn’t be in most lineups this week. Tanking is not fun to watch.
Wizards 101, Lakers 88
John Wall helped the Wizards snap a two-game losing streak with his ninth straight double-double, finishing with 22 points and 13 dimes. They’re still 2.5 games behind the Pistons for the eighth seed in the East, so Wall could post some monster numbers this week. Bradley Beal tweaked his ankle but was able to return after getting it taped up, but he had just four points in 29 minutes. He scored 26 points in his previous outing, so I’m still starting him in all leagues. Just check the injury report on Monday to be safe because his ankle could swell up on him. Marcin Gortat double-doubled with a couple of blocks and Otto Ported played well with 14 points, six boards and two triples, so they both belong in all lineups this week as well. Markieff Morris (calf) wasn’t able to play, but he should be considered day-to-day and is a borderline option in standard leagues for now.
Kobe Bryant only played 23 minutes in the loss, but the good news is that it means he will play vs. the Jazz on Monday. He finished with 17 points and three triples, but he’s tough to rely on in fantasy playoffs because he will kill your field goal percentage. Julius Randle scored 14 points with seven boards, shooting 7-of-11 from the field with a couple of steals, but he’s still not blocking shots consistently which makes him a low-end asset. Jordan Clarkson has been in a shooting slump since the All-Star break and had just two points in 30 minutes on Sunday, so he’s a shaky option this week with three games on the schedule. The biggest surprise of the night was that D’Angelo Russell played through an ankle sprain even though he was considered doubtful, finishing with 22 points, three steals and three treys. He looked fantastic, so I’d start him next week as the rookie should have a strong finish to the season.