Orlando Magic at New York Knicks
Team Totals: Magic 112, Knicks 104.5
Nikola Vucevic likes to go against smaller centers. When he dropped his last 30-point game, he said he wanted to get in the paint as much as he could against Serge Ibaka, normally a tougher matchup. If coach David Fizdale goes with 6’9” Noah Vonleh again, Vooch should be licking his chops. Plus, he might attack Mitchell Robinson to try to put him in foul trouble, so it should be a big spot for Vooch. He also has been outstanding this month with averages of 20.0 points, 12.6 boards, 4.2 dimes, 1.2 blocks, 1.0 steals and 1.0 treys.
Jonathan Isaac is back in New York for this one, and presumably his dad will be there (a cool story about it here). On Jan. 23 in Brooklyn, Isaac’s dad was in attendance and he went off for 16 points, four boards, two dimes, three blocks, one steal and four 3-pointers in 35 minutes. This was also when Isaac was ineffective, failing to make any treys in his previous three games while not clearing more than 10 points in his previous 11. This time in his previous 11, Isaac has been terrific with averages of 13.4 points, 6.7 boards, 1.2 steals, 2.2 blocks and 1.6 treys on a 46/33/89 shooting line. Isaac is probably going to have either Kevin Knox or Lance Thomas on him today, and Isaac did get to the line three times in 14 possessions against Knox in the last game.
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D.J. Augustin should also have a slightly longer leash today with Isaiah Briscoe (concussion) out. Briscoe was eating into DJA’s minutes heading into last weekend, but no Briscoe in the previous two has helped DJA get to 27 minutes in each of those. Augustin hasn’t gone up against Dennis Smith Jr. with both in the starting lineup yet, but DSJ has had some off defensive games against off-ball guards like DJA.
While Isaac has been hot in his last 11, Aaron Gordon has not. In those 11, Gordon averaged just 14.4 points, 5.6 boards, 4.5 dimes, 0.7 steals, 0.7 blocks and 1.3 treys on a 39/26/71 shooting line. He’s actually been strong at the rim in this span at 66.0% made with those shots accounting for 32.4% of his shot total, but the problem is he’s just 11-of-44 (25%) on his non-restricted twos. He’s been unassisted on just 37.5% of his makes over this span. Discouraging stats aside, Gordon did go off for 31 points in the last game against the Knicks, and his usage rate is slightly up in the last three.Terrence Ross has been productive in the last 11 games with 19.2 points per game in that span in 26.1 minutes. His minutes would be closer to 30 if not for so much garbage time recently, and coach Steve Clifford has been running tighter forward rotations. Evan Fournier has also been decent this month, averaging 16.7 points, 3.7 boards, 4.2 dimes, 0.8 steals and 2.1 treys. Fournier was fairly effective against Tim Hardaway Jr. in the previous matchups, so it could be tougher for him against Damyean Dotson. If you want to root for garbage time, Khem Birch and Jerian Grant could see some extra run in the fourth.
After getting benched in the fourth quarter on Friday, Dennis Smith Jr. said that he had a long meeting with David Fizdale on Saturday to discuss execution against the Spurs on Sunday, which led to DSJ going off with 19 points and 13 dimes in a win to snap an 18-game home losing streak. Fizdale has also challenged DSJ to get in better shape. “I felt like in the game [against the Timberwolves], he was making a lot of mistakes out of fatigue. So that was my big challenge to him,” Fizdale said. The coach also mentioned DSJ having 20 paint touches on Sunday and how that’s part of the plan. “I’ve had to really make sure we’re getting the proper spacing around him and trying to give him as much room as possible so he can operate and do what he does best,” Fizdale said. After the rough start in his first game in a Knicks uniform, DSJ averaged 17.1 points, 2.9 boards, 7.0 dimes, 1.9 steals and 1.0 treys over his last eight games. He also has a higher usage rate when he’s at home with better dime and board numbers. He should be busy today with minutes in the 30s.
Mitchell Robinson doesn’t want to do push-ups anymore, and coach David Fizdale has been punishing Mitch-Rob with push-ups for fouls. “I’m putting my hands up more, you know,” Robinson said. “Since me and coach got that thing going on where if I get in foul trouble, I got to do push ups -- I don’t really like doing push ups. So I try to stay out of foul trouble as much as I can.” In his last 13 games, Robinson has just 4.3 fouls per 36 minutes. Prior to this stretch, Robinson was at an absurd 7.0 fouls per 36 in his first 31 games of his career with 3.9 blocks per 36. Speaking of blocks, Robinson himself said he could see himself averaging “probably around six” blocks per game. Over that aforementioned 13-game span leading up to tonight, Mitch-Rob sits at 5.3 blocks per 36 minutes, adding 15.8 points, 12.7 boards and 1.3 steals. He also has 30 dunks over the last 13 games in limited minutes, including five on Sunday (three alley-oops, too). Considering Vooch’s aggressive nature against smaller fives, Fizdale should strongly consider testing his prized rookie big man today. If the fouls are down again, it could be a monster night.
Damyean Dotson has been terrific lately, including his 18-point first quarter on Friday for the most points scored by a Knick in a quarter this season. Dotson parlayed that with a season-high 27 points on Sunday in a win over San Antonio. He’s also played 35.5 minutes per game with a whopping 11.0 trey attempts per game over the last two en route for 23.5 points per game over those games. Dotson was also used in all seven of the most-used lineups over the last two games with minutes at both the two and the three. He could make it to a Benz out of that Dotson. Kevin Knox should also get heavy minutes again with 35.5 per game over the previous two with 18.5 points. Of course, he’s going to have to hit shots because he doesn’t add much on defense or rebounding most nights. Fizdale talked about playing Mudiay on the wing, but he played next to DSJ for just one minute combined over the last two games. John Jenkins has essentially been the backup to Dotson with just one minute next to him in the last two. It might be tough to rely on Vonleh for his lack of size, too.
Prediction: Magic 113, Knicks 109
Boston Celtics at Toronto Raptors
Team Totals: Celtics 110.3, Raptors 114.8
The Raptors have been a tough matchup for a lot of point guards, but not Kyrie Irving. He’s averaged 30.3 points, 3.7 boards, 11.7 dimes, 1.0 blocks, 1.3 steals and 2.3 treys on a tidy 66.4 TS% with a 29.3 usage rate in three games. The Raptors have put Danny Green on Kyrie more than anyone else, and Irving has taken advantage with 25 points on 58 possessions. Irving hasn’t fared well against Kyle Lowry with 11 points on 53 possessions, so it’ll be interesting to see if the Raps make that swap. His usage rate is up slightly lately and he has a higher usage rate on the road, so the Celtics will likely live and die by Kyrie after his 37-point, 10-dime Saturday.
The Celtics have played with full fire power in their three games against the Raptors with their full nine-man rotation playing in all three games. However, they are not going to have Aron Baynes today, which will put Daniel Theis in the backup five role for his first run against the Raptors this year. He likely won’t get many minutes with Al Horford playing 34.2 minutes per game against the Raps this year, averaging 16.3 points, 8.7 boards, 4.0 dimes, 1.7 blocks and 2.3 treys. Horford is also playing the best ball of the season and talked about it on Monday. "I feel as good as I’ve felt all year physically.” he said. Coach Brad Stevens also talked about how Horford is more of a focal point in how the offense flows with Horford and Kyrie. “We are running more high pick-and-roll. We are doing more things with the two-man game, especially with him and Kyrie,” Stevens said. “Kyrie gains a lot of attention off that, so Al’s going to get more attempts.” The coach also mentioned how Horford is healthy after the break. ““You can tell Al looks a lot better,” Stevens said of Horford. “He’s just played really well for the most part for the last two months. I think it’s all due to the fact that his knee is better.” Expect to see a lot of action from Al in this marquee matchup.
Jayson Tatum has also seen big minutes with 35.2 per game against the Raptors, averaging 17.7 points, 8.7 boards, 1.7 dimes, 1.0 steals, 1.0 blocks and 1.7 treys. While he’ll play a whole lot, his usage rate sits at just 16.1 in the two games since the break with the Celtics tweaking their offense a bit. Marcus Morris has been the best Boston defender on Kawhi Leonard so far this year, so he should be getting a little longer leash despite Gordon Hayward playing better lately. It may be tough to use him in DFS because he’s been quiet on offense lately, so his impact may be more about Hayward possibly losing minutes. Jaylen Brown, Terry Rozier and Marcus Smart all have not played great in their three games against the Raptors this season.
The Raptors should have Kawhi Leonard out there after a game off against the Magic on Sunday. Before that loss to the Magic, coach Nick Nurse had one of the strangest explanations for a DNP-REST in recent memory. "I think the intensity of the last [game], the intensity possibly of the next one [vs. Boston on Tuesday],” Nurse said. “And we just feel like we're in a really good place right now with him and we just want to make sure we stay there." Huh? Anyway, Kawhi likes to show off in his matchups with the Celtics with his 32.0 usage rate in the three previous games -- 37.6 in the previous home game (!). In those three, he averaged 31.7 points, 9.7 boards, 3.0 dimes, 2.7 steals and 1.3 treys in 38.3 minutes per game. Marcus Morris has been pretty solid on Kawhi with Leonard shooting just 35.0% against him over 59 possessions, but he’ll be super aggressive against him today (11 free throw makes in that time). One other mild negative for Kawhi today is he’s been subpar when he has at least three days off in a 10-game sample. Still, volume is king and he should get a ton of it today. Kawhi’s return would likely cut into the playing time of OG Anunoby, Jodie Meeks, Pat McCaw and Norman Powell.
The return of Kawhi would also be cutting into Kyle Lowry’s output. With Kawhi off the court per 36, Lowry has 7.4 more points, 1.3 more dimes and 2.0 more boards compared to when he’s on the court. Lowry has also been ineffective against Irving this year, scoring just nine points on 94 possessions this season. His minutes are back up again, but this isn’t a great spot. There has been some overlap with Jeremy Lin and Lowry with those two playing 25 minutes together over the last three. Although, they did play just seven minutes together in the only game with Lowry, Kawhi and Lin available, but Jodie Meeks did not play in that game either. Danny Green has also been hot lately with 3.2 treys per game over his last five, so he could be a DFS dart throw because he could be on Irving a whole lot.
We haven’t seen much of a Serge Ibaka and Marc Gasol frontcourt yet. That duo has played together for just five minutes total in the five games since Gasol was active. The Raptors haven’t been great with Gasol on the floor with a -3.2 net rating while Ibaka sits at +0.4 in the last five. Gasol made his first start as a Raptor on Sunday, but of course it was likely about the matchup (see above on Vooch’s paragraph). Ibaka is almost a lock to get a start against Al Horford, and Ibaka has played great against Al this season. He’s scored 16.7 points per game against Horford’s defense on 55 possessions per outing. Those points are the third most he’s scored against any player per game (Gortat, Nurkic).
Pascal Siakam has not been productive against the Celtics this year, averaging just 8.7 points, 6.0 boards, 4.3 dimes, 1.0 steals, 0.0 blocks and 0.0 treys. He has typically cleaned up when Kawhi is out, and per 36 with Kawhi he’s been at 17.3 points, 7.6 boards, 3.4 dimes, 1.1 steals and 0.8 blocks -- he’s at 20, nine and three without Kawhi per 36.
Prediction: Raptors 110, Celtics 107
Oklahoma City Thunder at Denver Nuggets
Team Totals: Thunder 116.8, Nuggets 120.3
This game as both of the highest team totals and the closest spread of the day, so it’s clearly an attractive game for DFS. Although, the previous two games led to some underwhelming totals with the Nuggets winning 109-98 on Dec. 14 and 105-98 on Nov. 24. The Thunder were fairly healthy in those two games with Terrance Ferguson missing one game being the top DNP factor.
The Nuggets put the clamps on Russell Westbrook with a horrendous 34.6 TS% on only a 25.5 usage rate over 37.9 minutes in those two OKC losses. Of course he averaged a triple-double in those with 14.5 points, 12.0 boards, 10.0 dimes, 2.5 steals, 4.0 turnovers and 1.0 treys on a 29/13/56 shooting line. Why so inefficient? That would be Torrey Craig, who held Westbrook to just 15 points on 102 possessions. Jamal Murray was also a strong defender with four points in 20 possessions, but it was all about Craig. It’ll be very interesting to see if coach Mike Malone starts Craig over Will Barton or Malik Beasley (more on that below). Bad matchup aside, Westbrook is back to being an absolute usage monster over his last five with a 35.7 usage rate with a favorable 58.0 TS% by his standards. He averaged 34.0 points, 13.0 boards, 9.0 dimes, 6.6 turnovers (!), 1.4 steals, 1.4 blocks and 3.4 treys. He is cleaning up in the paint with 37 makes from there in his last five compared to just seven mid-range makes. It’s a classic bad matchup vs. hot streak situation here. Although, there is the Brodie vs. Rocky narrative, so he might get a block.
So you’d think high-usage Brodie would hurt Paul George, right? Nope. In those five, PG-13 averaged 35.8 points, 10.4 boards, 6.2 dimes, 1.0 steals and 4.8 treys with a 28.6 usage rate and a 61.5 TS%. Like Westbrook, PG has smashed in the paint with 30 makes in those five. Unlike Westbrook, PG was effective against the Nuggets with 28.0 points, 8.0 boards, 2.5 dimes, 1.5 steals, 1.5 blocks and 3.0 treys. Although, it is a different matchup for him because Juancho Hernangomez guarded him 96 times in those two games. He should have no problem putting up big numbers if it’s Will Barton, Gary Harris or Malik Beasley on him.
One Thunder player who thrived in this matchup was Steven Adams, averaging 19.0 points, 14.0 boards, 1.0 dimes, 1.0 blocks and 1.0 steals in 37.2 minutes per game. Adams did play just 28 minutes on Saturday, but keep in mind he played 47 minutes on Friday in the double-OT thriller vs. Utah. Expect a lot of Funaki and not too much Nerlens Noel. Markieff Morris getting in the mix now could make it tougher to lean on Jerami Grant. Morris played 20 minutes in the last game and is likely on track for a similar workload, which could keep Grant under 30 minutes. Terrance Ferguson’s low-usage, high-minute run has been tough to count on in fantasy and he’s made it even harder to use Dennis Schroder.
Steven Adams is a tough matchup for a lot of centers and overall Nikola Jokic hasn’t been very efficient against Adams this year. Per 36 in a 57-minute sample this season, Jokic made just 37.5% from the field with 6.3 turnovers, 21.4 points, 12.0 boards, 8.8 dimes, 1.9 steals, 0.6 blocks and 1.3 treys. Jokic has been relentless against Adams with a 33.6 usage rate this season, but it was at just 21.8 last year. Jokic hasn’t been too hot over his last eight either, averaging 20.6 points, 12.8 boards, 7.5 dimes, 1.5 steals, 0.3 blocks, 0.8 treys and 4.4 turnovers (48.1 fantasy points). He hasn’t usually got his normal Pepsi Center bump lately, but of course he’s been considerably better when he’s at home on the year. He’s matchup-proof and he could definitely go off, but this isn’t a prime Jokic spot.
Perhaps the best Nugget against the Thunder this season has been Jamal Murray, who averaged a team-high 20.5 points with 8.5 boards, 4.5 dimes, 4.0 turnovers and 1.0 treys. Its' also worth noting that getting to that point total with only one trey per game is eye-catching. When garbage time isn’t a factor, Murray’s minutes haven’t altered too much this month even with Monte Morris playing great and Isaiah Thomas in the mix. He’s kind of cold lately, but it could be a strong spot for the Blue Arrow.
Paul Millsap is on one of his hottest three-game runs of the year, averaging 21.0 points, 14.0 boards, 2.0 dimes, 2.7 steals, 1.3 blocks and 1.3 treys (51.8 fantasy points). He had a bad game against the Thunder in his lone outing with 8.0 points, 6.0 boards, 3.0 dimes and 1.0 blocks in 28.4 minutes per game. However, he torched OKC last year with 26.5 points per game in two games, so he could have a chance to keep it rolling today.
Besides those three, it can get a bit dicey because of the Torrey Craig factor. According to beat writer Harrison Wind this morning, Wind “got the impression” that the Nuggets are going to start Murray, Malik Beasley, Will Barton, Millsap and Jokic with Craig getting “lots of minutes” off the bench. With Gary Harris also possibly seeing more run, coach Mike Malone could really be mixing it up with all of his wings, so DFS cash players may want to steer clear. Plus, Isaiah Thomas has played 47 of his 53 minutes next to Monte Morris, so that’s another wing situation that is thrown into this mess.
Prediction: Nuggets 115, Thunder 114