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Damian Lillard, POR (at HOU), PG ($7,900):
Defenses to Avoid
Dallas Mavericks at San Antonio Spurs: Efficiency wise, neither of these two teams has been any good defensively despite relatively low scores through the first four games. The Spurs are actually 12th in defensive efficiency (107.2 points allowed per 100 possessions per NBA.com) during the postseason, but have fared much better in wins (Dallas has averaged 87 points in the two losses; 111 points in the two wins). With a must-win game for the Spurs in San Antonio, the smart play is to bank on the Spurs defense. They've done an excellent job on Monta Ellis and Dirk Nowitzki so far, holding both players to below 40 percent shooting, and it just doesn't look like Dallas can go elsewhere for consistent scoring. Although this series still feels destined for seven, it appears the Spurs are starting to wear the Mavericks down.
Offenses to Use
Portland Trail Blazers at Houston Rockets: To be fair, both of these teams have smart fantasy plays just about everywhere. Just as expected, they have been playing at a high pace (only the Clippers-Warriors series has been faster) and have been scoring at will in arguably the most entertaining series. But they've been extremely efficient, too. They're No. 1 and 2 in efficiency and are breaking 100 easily even without the extra session (they've gone to OT in three of the four games). Considering it's been an extremely even series, I'd expect the Rockets to show up at home facing elimination. In any event, this looks ticketed for another high-scoring game, further indicated by Las Vegas, which has the over/under at 214.
Teams on a Back-to-Back Set
First game of a back-to-back: None
Second game of a back-to-back: None
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In truth, I'm not crazy about any of the point guards tonight, but Lillard looks like a fairly safe play. He's been hounded by Patrick Beverley
and because of it has taken fewer shots since Game 1. That's opened the door for more opportunites for Nicolas Batum
, while boosting Lillard's assist numbers. Elsewhere, Kyle Lowry
is banged up, Deron Williams
has looked exceptionally pedestrian, Tony Parker
's averaging just 15.5 points and 4.5 assists in the series and Monta Ellis
can't seem to find an open shooter. You might want to look for scoring from some of the reserves.
Other suggestions: Monta Ellis
, DAL (vs. SA) PG/SG ($7,300); Greivis Vasquez
, TOR (vs. BKN) PG/SG ($5,300).
James Harden, HOU (vs. POR) SG/SF ($9,800)
: It's a statement game for Harden, who has really struggled to find any rhythm through the first four games of the postseason. He did a little bit better of a job getting involved in other facets of the game in Portland and I suspect it will carry over to Houston for a win-or-go-home Game 5. He's averaging 27.5 points, 5.5 rebounds and 5.3 assists, but he's going to need to do more if the Rockets are going to stay alive. It should be a priority for Houston to get him going early, similar to what they've done with Dwight Howard
Other suggestions: Manu Ginobili
, SA (vs. DAL) SG/SF ($6200).
Nicolas Batum, POR (at HOU) SG/SF ($7,100)
: Batum might be the most cost-efficient player so far this postseason. Outside of a clunker in Game 2, he's been magnificent and has looked more than comfortable taking on a bigger role offensively the last two games. Certainly not known for his defense, Chandler Parsons
has struggled to keep up with Batum and there's not much reason for that to change in Game 5. He's also a consistent triple-double threat.
Other suggestions: Joe Johnson
, BKN (at TOR) SG/SF ($6,100)
LaMarcus Aldridge, POR (at HOU) PF/C ($10,000)
: At the end of the day, it's just pretty hard to leave this guy off your roster, regardless of the price tag. His worst game so far was 23-10-3-3 in Game 3, and outside of that he's been out of this world. Houston just doesn't have the athleticism to match up with him and it looks like they'll continue to go with either Terrence Jones
(too small) or Omer Asik
(too slow) in defending him. If any consolation, there are good options elsewhere at reasonable prices. This is probably the most stacked position Wednesday night (and admittedly on most nights).
Other suggestions: Tim Duncan
, SA (vs. DAL) PF/C ($7,700); Dirk Nowitzki
, DAL (at SA) PF/C ($7,700); Paul Pierce
, BKN (at TOR) SF/PF ($5,400)
Tiago Splitter, SA (vs. DAL) C ($5,400)
: Avoiding the dubious distinction of picking the top player at each position, Splitter is actually one of the few reasonable option at center besides Dwight Howard
. There are a few options to double up at power forward, but look at Splitter if you're looking to save cash up front. He's pulled down double-doubles in back-to-back games and is getting more minutes than during the regular season (although that was somewhat expected). The other pure centers (Jonas Valanciunas
, Robin Lopez
and Samuel Dalembert
) just don't have much upside).
Other suggestions: Dwight Howard
, HOU (vs. POR) PF/C ($9,800).
(suspension) is out for Game 5.
(ankle) has a Grade-1 sprain, but it's still unlikely he would sit out a pivotal Game 5.
(illness) did not practice, but all signs point to him playing through it again.
(groin) did not practice Tuesday.