Check out a quick breakdown of every game on Thursday’s NBA slate. We’ll take a look at the Vegas lines and totals, recent trends, and a few players you can be targeting for tonight’s action.
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Oklahoma City Thunder @ Miami Heat
Line: OKC -2
The Heat are, statistically, the third best team in the NBA at defending point guards. But you know what’s funny? The idea that the Heat are somehow a bad matchup for Westbrook and not the other way around. Westbrook demonstrated a few days ago that he actually is capable of having an off-night, but that doesn’t mean you should expect another one anytime soon. He did follow it up with 34-11-7 with two steals against Atlanta.
But the Thunder aren’t favored by much here, and if the Heat win, it’s not going to be in a shootout. They will impact the Thunder productivity by limiting possessions and opportunities, grinding the game down, and getting their own offense from their big men. A key matchup in this one will feature Bosh, the Heat’s clear go-to scorer, vs. Ibaka. The winner of that matchup will go a long way towards determining the outcome of this game.
- Russell Westbrook ($10,400)
- Kevin Durant ($10,100)
- Hassan Whiteside ($7,800)
- Chris Bosh ($7,400)
Denver Nuggets @ Toronto Raptors
Line: Toronto -10.5
For someone who hasn’t been paying much attention to the NBA this season, it might be surprising to see that the Raptors are favored by this much over Denver. But the Nuggets right now have a pretty bleak roster, seemingly constructed as a team to outscore people, except without any scorers.
Toronto is coming off a 10 point win over Atlanta last night that pushed their record to 12-7, led by 31 from Kyle Lowry. They have plenty of potential contributors on any given night, but this is another game that sets up for the PG to take over. He hasn’t been below 35 fantasy points since October, and has been over 45 in three of his last five.
- Kyle Lowry ($8,500)
- DeMar DeRozan ($7,100)
- Danilo Gallinari ($7,000)
- DeMarre Carroll ($5,900)
Orlando Magic @ Utah Jazz
Line: Utah -5
The Jazz and the Magic remind me of each other, actually. But just because a team is boring and doesn’t score much… Let’s put it this way: as long as the production is consolidated in a few players, there can still be plenty of fantasy value to be had.
The main story line right now for this one remains the recent injury to Gobert, who is now confirmed as being out indefinitely. This leaves a veritable hole in the middle for the Jazz, and their lack of a quality backup means that if they want to keep as much talent as possible on the court, they are going to be playing Favors at the 5, which changes everything about how they play. Best case scenario, it increases their pace and results in more opportunities for everyone. Let’s root for that.
- Derrick Favors ($7,200)
- Nikola Vucevic ($6,600)
- Elfrid Payton ($6,100)
- Alec Burks ($5,100)
San Antonio Spurs @ Memphis Grizzlies
Line: Spurs -1.5
The Spurs are the worst. They put up 95 points last night, and won by 25 over the Bucks, and they did it without anyone on their team having a stand-out fantasy game. I mean, 16-10 out of Duncan was really nice, but he was both their high scorer and their high rebounder. I mean, really? Yup, the Spurs are the best.
For the Grizzlies, Zach Randolph is in action after missing a couple of weeks, and he is averaging 29 minutes on the court and 27 fantasy points in his two games back, so it is safe to say he is fully recovered, for now at least. And that means the Grizzlies are back to looking like the same team they’ve been for what seems like forever now. They have the frontcourt to compete with with San Antonio, but that kind of game could turn plodding in a hurry, so proceed with caution.
- Marc Gasol ($7,300)
- Mike Conley ($6,700)
- Zach Randolph ($6,300)
- Tim Duncan ($5,900)
Boston Celtics @ Sacramento Kings
Line: Celtics -2
Vegas likes this game to score more points than any other tonight, and it is not even close. With the way these two teams push the ball up the floor and the defensive limitations they both have in places (i.e., the Celtics can’t defend big men and the Kings can’t defend anyone), virtually anyone who gets big minutes in this one is a viable option.
For the last two nights, Rondo’s minutes have been down, right around 30, but that seems like nothing more than trying to limit the crazy amount of run be had been getting, which is very likely a good thing for him long term. I am not sure about it being a good thing for you, short term, as a prospective fantasy owner. But it’s easy to imagine this one turning into a close, fast-paced affair, perfectly suited for what he can bring to the table, so maybe his minutes spike back up. That is the question you need to answer before starting him, because you know he’ll be motivated, so minutes will be the difference between 30-something point upside and 50-something.
As for the rest of the scoring from the Kings, this is a night where if I was building only one lineup, Cousins would probably be the centerpiece of it. The Celtics just don’t have anyone who matches up with him, and they can’t even limit his production with pace – how they usually manage dominant bigs – because he is the kind of athletic, lane-filling scorer who benefits from an up-tempo style.
- DeMarcus Cousins ($10,600)
- Rajon Rondo ($8,800)
- Isaiah Thomas ($7,500)
- Avery Bradley ($6,500)
Indiana Pacers @ Portland Trailblazers
Line: Pacers -2
The two players to recommend from Portland are pretty obvious, and unchanging from night to night. Lillard and McCollum each have the potential for big nights every night based on nothing but volume, but it is usually only one of them at a time – tonight, my guess would be McCollum, since George Hill is a much more solid defender than Monta Ellis. They get so much of their production from their backcourt, it would almost be foolish to play anyone else except as a potential value/matchup play to fill a roster spot cheaply. To me, though, this is not the kind of matchup you try to exploit with Ed Davis or Mason Plumlee.
For Indiana, Paul George has returned in such a big way – it’s one of my favorite stories of the season. With his ability to score fantasy points in lots of different ways, he has established a floor of something just north of 40 fantasy points a night, which makes him a cash game staple. He also has 60+ point upside, which makes him a consideration in every GPP where he’s an option – you’d be foolish to not even look his way. But tonight I would expect something closer to the bottom of that range, so for me, I would only be interested in him if I was trying to double my money, not if I were taking a shot at the big payday.
- Paul George ($10,000)
- Damian Lillard ($9,200)
- C.J. McCollum ($6,400)
- Jordan Hill ($4,800)