This article is part of our Daily Games Cheat Sheet series.
Defenses to Avoid
Toronto Raptors vs. Milwaukee Bucks: This matchup looks to be disastrous for the Bucks offensively, who bring one of the worst offenses in the league up against a sharp Raptors defense. The Bucks are dead last in offensive rating, 29th in points per game at just 91.6 (a whopping 17.5 points worse than the best offense in the league), and are averaging just 84.8 points over their last five games. On the other side of the matchup, the Raptors are sixth in defensive rating, fourth in points allowed per game, and are giving up just 87.9 points per game over their last nine games. If these teams continue to play the way they have been lately, the Bucks will be lucky to score 85 points.
Offenses to Use
Denver Nuggets at Utah Jazz: On paper, this matchup appears very enticing for the Nuggets offensively. The Jazz own the worst defensive rating in the league and are 18th in points allowed per game. In addition to the Jazz being one of the lesser defensive teams in the league, the Nuggets have been on a hot streak lately. Not only have they won their last five games and clawed their way back to a +.500 record, but they've done so in amazing fashion. For the season, the Nuggets are ranked 11th in points per game, at 102.6 points, but they've been on fire lately and have an astounding 118.7 offensive rating and a ridiculous average of 119.6 points per game over their last five games. The Jazz appear to offer the Nuggets another night of high scoring, and until the Nuggets start to cool down, they are the hottest offensive team in the league.
Teams on a Back-to-Back Set
First night of a back-to-back: New York Knicks
Second night of a back-to-back: San Antonio Spurs
DAILY PLAYER RECOMMENDATIONS
Ty Lawson (at UTA): During Denver's offensive tear over the last five games, Lawson has averaged 17.8 points on 45.5 percent shooting along with 2.0 threes, 3.8 rebounds, 11.8 assists, and 1.6 steals. He's racked up at least 12 assists in four of his last five games. Lawson is averaging 36.2 minutes in those games and runs Denver's offense throughout his time on the court. His scoring hasn't jumped up from his season average at all over the last five games, but the team's offensive streak is showing in his improved percentages, particularly from behind the arc and with his teammates' hot shooting, which is providing him with the high assist numbers. As long as Denver's scoring streak continues, Lawson can be a pretty safe bet for 15+ points and 10+ assists along with good percentages and some steals as well.
James Harden (at BOS): Harden is back in full force on offense, averaging 32.6 points over his last five games, including three straight games of over 35 points. Not only is his scoring up but so are his percentages, rebounds, and steals. Harden is shooting over 50 percent from the field over this run, including 47.2 percent from three, and is making 3.4 threes per game. He's even getting to the free-throw line more than normal, averaging 11.2 free throws per game on 85.7 percent shooting. As long as Harden doesn't run into any health problems soon, he should be able to continue his scoring run at least against the Celtics Monday night.
Other options: Monta Ellis (vs. ORL), Randy Foye (at UTA), Giannis Antetokounmpo (at TOR), Iman Shumpert (vs. PHO), Gerald Green (at NYK), Victor Oladipo (at DAL) if Arron Afflalo and/or Jameer Nelson sit out
DeMar DeRozan (vs. MIL): DeRozan has been an impressive all-around player lately, averaging 23.8 points, 4.4 rebounds, 5.4 assists, 1.4 steals, 0.8 blocks, and just 1.2 turnovers to go with 44.3 percent shooting from the field over his last five games. He has also stepped up his focus to draw fouls and is averaging 9.2 free throws per game with a solid 84.8 percent rate. DeRozan still isn't shooting the ball well from deep, averaging just 0.4 threes per game on 20 percent shooting from behind the arc, but the rest of his numbers make up for that weakness. He has seen improvements in his scoring and assists, as well as an impressive lowering of his turnover rate. As long as you're not looking for threes, DeRozan is one of the top options for your small forward slot Monday night.
Tim Duncan (at NOLA): Duncan started the season off slow but began returning to form over his last four games, averaging 18.5 points, 12.3 rebounds, 3.5 assists, 2.3 blocks, and 55 percent shooting. He recorded three straight double-doubles before grabbing eight rebounds his last game and looks like he's finally getting into his groove as we near the midway point in the season. Duncan provides solid numbers across the board and continues to be a valuable fantasy option despite his age and his minutes being limited. Unless the Spurs' big men run into injuries, it's unlikely Duncan will play more than 30 minutes, but he's effective enough in those minutes to provide you with a near double double, along with some assists, blocks, and nice percentages.
Jared Sullinger (vs. HOU): Sullinger recently found his way into big minutes in Boston's lineup, with three starts in January and averaging 30 minutes in his last two games, after seeing a diminished role with the team for the three games before that. He finished with double-doubles in both of his last two games and shot well in both games too. His shooting has been shaky this season, with five games of shooting below 30 percent from the field since Christmas. However, Sullinger continues to show that he can rebound the ball well when given minutes. He doesn't get many blocks or steals, but he's hit two threes in both of his last two games, so that adds to his value. Sullinger is a bit unpredictable and is just as likely to give you a poor shooting night as he is a double-double with a couple threes, but until coach Brad Stevens reigns in Sullinger's minutes, he should continue to be a good source of rebounds and points.
Marc Gasol (knee) will go through a full practice Monday.
Danny Green (finger) will sit out Monday's game.
Ryan Anderson (back) still does not have a timetable for his return.
Rajon Rondo (knee) denied rumors of any specific targeted return date.
Jrue Holiday (leg) says it's still too early for a targeted return date.
Devin Harris (toe) hopes to return within two weeks.
Eric Bledsoe (knee) underwent surgery and may return for the second half of the season.
Zaza Pachulia (foot) is still in a walking boot.
Chandler Parsons (knee) worked out Sunday and is expected to play Monday.
Manu Ginobili (hamstring) traveled with the team and might suit up Monday.
Tyler Hansbrough (ankle) practiced Sunday and will be a game-time decision Monday.
Gordon Hayward (hip) stretched Sunday but didn't practice with the team on Sunday.
Shane Larkin (ankle) hopes to join the team against the Magic on Monday.
Darrell Arthur (groin) pulled his groin Saturday and did not return to the court.
Tyreke Evans (ankle) did not play Saturday.
Anthony Randolph (ankle) did not play Saturday.
Maurice Harkless (knee) started but only managed to play 17 minutes.
Jameer Nelson (finger) suffered a sprain during Saturday's game but X-rays came back negative.
Jimmy Butler (thigh) did not play Saturday.
Wilson Chandler (hip) did not play Saturday.
John Henson (knee) did not play Saturday.
Arron Afflalo (ankle) did not play Saturday.
Wayne Ellington (illness) did not play Saturday.
Shawn Marion (illness) did not play Saturday.
Tyson Chandler (illness) missed his third consecutive game Saturday.