The NBA Game Breakdown takes an in-depth look at all of the games on the schedule each day in terms of expected pace of play, Vegas lines, and defense vs. position match ups.

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Cavaliers vs. Hornets

Game Analysis

In order to properly break this game down you need a PhD in medicine or a really good twitter account that follows all the beat writers. Lebron is likely out for the next two weeks. Big Al is out for a couple as well. No Varejao for Cleveland and no Lance Stephenson for Charlotte. Shawn Marion and Kevin Love are both listed as questionable. Love had his back start acting up on Wednesday and Marion did something to his foot or his ankle.  Both teams are basically down to their PGs who they both need to do a ton of the scoring with the other stars banged up or out for a bit. Both teams have struggled to score lately without all the pieces, and both have also struggled on the defensive end. Charlotte has lost four in a row by an average score of 102-85. An 8 point loss a few days back has been as close as they have gotten to a win in over a week. Cleveland is on a 3 game skid averaging 87 points and giving up about 102 as well, so this is not going to be a pretty game. As of mid morning, Vegas still had no spread and no total on this one because of all the uncertainty. At a minimum I think you have to like the PG’s here and than you can sift through who chews up the open minutes for some value plays as well.

Line: Cavs -2, O/U 194.5

Players to Watch

  • Kyrie Irving, PG, Cavs ($9300)
  • Tristan Thompson, PF, Cavs ($6100)
  • Kemba Walker, PG, Hornets ($9600)
  • Gerald Henderson, SG, Hornets ($4600)

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Nets @ Magic

Game Analysis

The Nets are hitting their stride recently winning 5 of 6 and playing to the over in 4 of those games. They have really picked up the scoring as they hit triple digits in all of those games except the one against a tough defensive Chicago Bulls team who they managed to beat anyway. The Magic have been very up and down on the other side recently. Scoring 102 in back to victories against the Hornets and Heat which were sandwiched between 3 other performances where they failed to crack 90 points. They have won 3 of 5 and played under in 3 of the last 5 as well. Which Magic team do we see today is the question? The Nets tend to get a lot of production from the PG and C spots with guys like Jack and Deron Williams at PG and Lopez and Plumlee at C. This is bad for the Magic who struggle to defend both positions. I can see why the Nets are favored based on DvP and recent results and I would have to agree with that. I think the spread should be a little higher, but I would also tend to agree the total stays under 200. On a large slate evening like this one I think there are better spots for fantasy goodness.

Line: Nets -1.5, O/U 194.5

Players to Watch

* Victor Oladipo, SG, Magic ($5600)
* Nikola Vucevic, C, Magic ($8600)

* Joe Johnson, SG, Nets ($6700)

* Mirza Teletovich, PF, Nets ($4500)

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Pistons @ Knicks

Game Analysis

This is two teams going in opposite directions at the moment. Pistons are finally healthy and the return of Jodie Meeks has added a scoring dimension to them they had not had recently. They currently have a 4 game win streak that matches the number of wins they had in the first 33 games. Since releasing Josh Smith, they have seen better ball movement and contributions from the entire roster top to bottom. The Knicks on the other hand are in the midst of their second 10 game skid of the season. They did get back JR and Bargagni, but Melo is out now with a banged up knee and is questionable again tonight. Throw in injuries to Shump, Amare, and Dalembert and you could have four rotation guys who routinely saw 20-35 minutes a night be out. Add in Tim Hardaway Jr. being questionable with a concussion and there’s a lot of uncertainty. That is bad news for a team that was winning only about 20% of their games even with those guys in. I personally think this spread is a little too low even if Melo does play. I also question how they get to almost 200 points tonight unless the Pistons score 110. Either way I think the bump goes to Detroit here and the value on the Knicks depends on who is playing. Melo is not usable to me at this point, and if he is in then most of the other Knicks are out of play because Melo just dominates the ball too much. Check the late reports and see who is playing. Some value may present itself for NY depending on how things shake out.

Line: Pistons -2.5, O/U 198

Players to Watch

* Cole Aldrich, C, Knicks ($5300)
* Pablo Prigioni, PG, Knicks ($3700)

* Andre Drummond, C, Pistons ($9900)

* Jodie Meeks, SG, Pistons ($4900)

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Mavericks @ Celtics

Game Analysis

The Rajon Rondo revenge game is finally here and I have a feeling he will be motivated. I think he never really hit it off with Coach Stevens and despite his good play in Boston and the success he did have, I tend to think he will try to stick it to his old coach tonight. A motivated Rondo can fill up a stat sheet like few others. Dallas can score, we all know that. They have triple digits in 8 of their last 10 and the other two games were 98 and 99 points respectively. The Celtics like to give up points as they have allowed over 100 in 4 of the last five, a trend that is not new to them this season. What is new is that they are scoring less points despite giving up about the same. They did manage 106 and 107, in a win over Sacramento on NYE and a loss to the Nets a few days earlier. They averaged only 93 points in the other three games in their last five. It seems they are either hot or cold. The Mavericks have been known to allow a few points to teams so I can see this being like a 114 to 104 kind of game. The Mavericks had a few minor injuries last week to everyone from Monta, to Dirk, to Tyson Chandler and even SF Chandler Parsons has spent extensive time on the bench in street clothes so far. It looks like everyone is healthy and ready to go tonight for them and the Celtics are still struggling to figure out their PG spot sans Rondo (SMART is not the answer at PG). I think this could be an easy Mavs victory but agree we should see a ton of points. Definitely need to make sure you have some exposure to this game as I can’t see a reason to fade a 214.5 O/U with two fast paced teams involved.

Line: Mavericks -6, O/U 214.5

Players to Watch

* Jared Sullinger, PF, Celtics ($6400)
* Evan Turner, SF, Celtics ($5300)

* Rajon Rondo, PG, Mavs ($7900)

* Tyson Chandler, C, Mavs ($7000)

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Rockets @ Pelicans

Game Analysis

It is maddening to watch the Pelicans play. You have one of the top 5 weapons in the NBA in Anthony Davis and it almost feels like they are actively freezing him out of the offense. One game he goes for 50 DK points and the next he gets 12 shots? I do not get it. The inconsistency of getting him the ball is leading to very sporadic play from New Orleans. It’s no wonder they are 5-5 in their last 10. The Rockets are actually playing even worse at the moment. 3 wins in their last 7 has them under .500 over that recent stretch which is a very rare place we see for them. I guess working in the new pieces (Smith, Brewer) has not gone as well as they had hoped. New Orleans is tougher at home and you have to be aware of the DK points bump Brow gets playing there, so this could stay close and produce some nice stat lines. A higher O/U with a good chance of staying close means added run for all the stars and a good shot for them to make value. I think this game is a usable one for fantasy purposes.

Line: Rockets -1.5, O/U 202.5

Players to Watch

* Anthony Davis, PF, Pelicans ($11600)
* Tyreke Evans, SG, Pelicans ($7800)

* James Harden, SG, Rockets ($11700)

* Dwight Howard, C, Rockets ($9000)

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Wizards @ Thunder

Game Analysis

This is a game I am really looking forward to watching. A healthy Thunder squad against a very stingy defensive Wizards team. both are playing well and this should be a great back and forth match up. Westy and Wall are two of the best with the ball in their hands and I expect them both to be pushing it up the floor today. We should see a barrage of transition jumpers as the drive and kick features prominently today with these two teams. If you took a wait and see approach to KD’s return then you probably had trouble cashing the other night as he went off for over 70 DK points. Keep in mind that Westy had 20 already before being ejected near the end of the first half, so it will be tough for KD to replicate his success from the other night to the same extent when he shares the load with Russel a little more evenly today. I actually think that both on the floor at the same time is a knock to both of them. Until the prices come down a bit I think it’s going to be tough picking which of the two has the bigger game as it makes no sense to me to roster both and hope both make value at the same time. As for the Wizards, I think Wall should have some room to operate against what is usually less than stellar on the ball defense from Westbrook. Especially if Brad Beal and Nene Hilario are not able to play. Both sat yesterday with injuries they aggravated in the lat game and are currently questionable for tonight. If they are out then I think Wall gets the big usage bump and their replacements from earlier in the season when they were injured become decent value options (Humphries for Nene, Butler/Temple for Beal).

Line: Thunder -7.5, O/U 204.5

Players to Watch

* Russel Westbrook, PG, Thunder ($11500)
* Kevin Durant, SF, Thunder ($11100)

* John Wall, PG, Wizards ($10400)

* Kris Humphries, PF, Wizards ($4100)

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Pacers @ Bucks

Game Analysis

The Pacers have won four of their last 6 and are back to playing the stingy defense they have been known for in the past. The Bucks continue to play pretty well and are also limiting opponents offensive outputs as evidenced by the 5 unders in their last 6 games. I think this will be a lower scoring defensive battle that should remain close throughout. There’s some very interesting value plays in this one as no one in this game is really too pricey to use. Injuries to Ersan and Larry Sanders guarantees some minutes for Zaza who is still cheap. The Pacers have a lot of healthy perimeter bodies, but some of them are very well priced and playing big minutes, like a CJ Miles. If you can guess the right guys to play from the plethora of options they have you could get a high score at a low cost and ownership rate. I would not go too heavy in a probable low scoring game on a large slate like today’s, but there are a few value picks that could be included from this one.

Line: Bucks -1.5, O/U 195

Players to Watch

* CJ Miles, SF, Pacers ($5300)
* David West, PF, Pacers ($6500)

* Brandon Knight, PG, Bucks ($7600)

* Zaza Pachulia, C, Bucks ($4100)

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76ers @ Phoenix

Game Analysis

I hate doing write ups on the 76ers games, but I would be remiss not to point out what I see. PG’s and starters play less minutes on average against Philly than any other team in the league. They produce fine on a per minute basis, but if you only get 25-30 instead of the usual 30-35 minutes then it is very tough to reach value. I know predicting blowouts is tough to do, but not when you are talking Philly games. Many believe 15 points or more is considered an easy victory which should allow a coach to rest starters and that has happened 6 of the last 10 games Philly has played. Philly has reached triple digits only once in the last 10 games and if you back that game of 115 out then they averaged 85 points a game over the other 9. Despite the hot pace the Suns play at and the amount of points they let up I still do not see the 76ers cracking 100. I could see them outproducing that 85 point average though so I guess you can tick up all the 76ers slightly. I’m hesitant to recommend too many Suns players as I think the starters get a little bit of rest here and may have trouble reaching value in less minutes. The Suns are expected to score about 110 again here tonight and that is right around their average so you should have a few usable guys in the mid tier price range. I can see a few guys here being good picks tonight, but do not go overboard in what could be a laugher. Try to stick with guys who get minutes no matter the way the game plays out.

Line: Suns -13.5, O/U 209.5

Players to Watch

* Gerald Green, SG, Suns ($4400)
* PJ Tucker, SF, Suns ($4700)

* Robert Covington, PF, 76ers ($5700)

* Henry Simms, C, 76ers ($4700)

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Hawks @ Jazz

Game Analysis

Atlanta has won 8 of their last 10 and Utah is getting hot winning 5 of their last 7 as well. Both teams have been playing at a slower pace as Utah has been under in 5 straight and Atlanta in 3 of the last 5. I could see this game being a little slower and a tad to the defensive side which I think ticks down all the players on both teams a tad. It should be a nice match up of two of the hottest teams in the league and in Utah I think it remains close. The starters should see a full allotment of minutes, but I’m not loving this game on a large slate night for a ton of great fantasy scores. I think you can look at a few guys here, but I will be fading this game for the most part.

Line: Hawks -4.5, O/U 195

Players to Watch

* Gordon Haywayd, SF, Jazz ($7900)
* Trey Burke, PG, Jazz ($5600)

* Kyle Korver, SG, Hawks ($5400)

* Pero Antic, C, Hawks ($3600) <—– If Horford out again

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Raptors @ Warriors

Game Analysis

If you are like me and love watching great PG play then make sure you get your popcorn ready for this one. Steph and Kyle are two of the games best young stars at the position and I am really looking forward to watching those two go at it. Both teams have been playing at a break neck pace and this game could be a huge total when it is all said and done. Golden State has been slightly better defensively and are at home so I think Vegas nailed this line today. The high total and probable hot pace makes this a game full of potential fantasy goodness. I do want to point out that Toronto is very good at defending SG position, so it may not be an easy match up for Klay. Both teams are also better than league average at defending PGs, but both of these guys are above average, but just keep in mind the main stars got some tough DvP match ups. The one solid match up that stands out to me is for Draymond Green and he could produce a monster stat line today, especially if he adds some points to his usually stellar across the board numbers.

Line: Warriors -4.5, O/U 215.5

Players to Watch

* Draymond Green, SF, Warriors ($7800)
* Mo Speights, PF, Warriors ($5200)

* Kyle Lowry, PG, Raptors ($10700)

* Terrence Ross, SF, Raptors ($4600)

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Grizzlies @ Lakers

Game Analysis

The Lakers play at a high pace and have a bad DEF (Defensive Efficiency) rating, while the Grizz are one of the best in the DEF department and play much slower. If anything I would argue that ticks down the Lakers a tad and gives a small boost to the Grizzlies. Lakers struggle to guard the PG spot so Conley should continue his hot play. The Grizz will again need him to with Z Bo likely still out and Gasol coming down with the Flu. It looks likely that Gasol will play, but if you get late word that he is still not recovered than Conley becomes an elite play vs. LA. It could happen too as he missed practice with his illness and is listed as a true GTD for tonight. As for LA, they have been very up and down. The only real injury concern is Ed Davis who broke his nose last game. If he is out then Boozer is an elite play with added minutes. If everyone is in, they have shared the wealth a lot more recently, so I would be hesitant to use them too heavy against a solid defensive team. As a side note I think this is a nice spot for Tayshaun Prince. The Lakers play Kobe and Wes Johnson a lot togethter and Courtney Lee would be a tough match up on Wes. Tony Allen and Kobe usually battle, so the way to match up for Memphis is to go with Allen at the 2 and Tayshaun at the 3 to guard Wes. Tayshaun is not an elite player, but at his price he can and has gone 6-7 times value and should do so again with the extra few minutes he gets today. He really only needs 22 DK points to be a good value added play at a normally tough SF position to fill.

Line: Grizz -5, O/U 203.5

Players to Watch

* Mike Conley, PG, Grizzlies ($8400)
* Tayshaun Prince, SF, Grizzlies ($3300)

* Ronnie Price, PG, Lakers ($4000)

* Kobe Bryant, SG, Lakers ($9300)