The game of the night on Wednesday was an absolute classic, with LeBron James blocking a shot and hitting a jumper in the last few seconds of overtime to lead the Cleveland Cavaliers to a 140-138 victory over the Minnesota Timberwolves. With all of the buzz surrounding the Cavaliers these days due to their recent run of poor play and all of the rumors surrounding Thursday's potential trade deadline deals, this game was monstrous.
Perhaps I have a bit of a unique take here, but I believe this "instant classic" was somewhat predictable, and contains elements that, in the future, you should be looking for when searching for streaming and/or DFS options.
In the "Analytics advantage" section of yesterday's Daily Notes, I pointed out that you should have been targeting this game because of a relatively unique set of circumstances. Both teams ranked in the top five in the NBA in offensive efficiency -- Minnesota was third (113.5 points per 100 possessions) and Cleveland was fifth (111.1). Both teams were also ranked in the bottom six in the NBA in defensive efficiency. Minnesota was 25th (110.0 points allowed) and Cleveland was 29th (111.8).
While there's a lot of game-to-game variability in expected value, the recipe was absolutely in place for some great fantasy lines to be produced - and, indeed there were. Take a look:
LeBron James: 37 points (16-22 FG, 0-2 FT), 15 assists, 10 rebounds, 5 3-pointers, 1 steal, 1 block, 5 TO
Karl-Anthony Towns: 30 points (10-12 FG, 4-4 FT), 10 rebounds, 6 3-pointers, 2 blocks, 1 steal, 1 assist, 3 TO
Jimmy Butler: 35 points (14-21 FG, 3-3 FT), 6 assists, 5 rebounds, 4 3-pointers, 2 steals, 2 TO
JR Smith: 20 points (7-14 FG), 6 3-pointers, 3 rebounds, 1 assist, 0 TO
Jeff Teague: 14 points (6-12 FG), 15 assists, 3 rebounds, 2 3-pointers, 1 steal, 1 TO
Tristan Thompson: 17 points (7-9 FG, 3-5 FT), 5 rebounds, 2 assists, 1 block, 0 TO
Andrew Wiggins: 19 points (7-13 FG, 1-2 FT), 4 3-pointers, 2 rebounds, 1 assist, 2 TO
Kyle Korver: 14 points (5-7 FG), 4 3-pointers, 2 rebounds, 1 assist, 1 TO
Jamal Crawford: 16 points (7-13 FG), 2 3-pointers, 1 TO
Isaiah Thomas: 13 points (4-8 FG, 2-2 FT), 7 assists, 3 3-pointers, 3 rebounds, 3 TO
Of those 10 lines, four came from players available in more than 80 percent of leagues: Smith at 95 percent, Thompson at 83.8 percent, Korver at 94.3 percent and Crawford at 96 percent. Eight of the players -- everyone but Wiggins and Thomas -- outperformed their DFS expectations. This was a game that you wanted to be a big part of for fantasy purposes.
There are two other teams currently ranked in the top 10 in offensive rating and the bottom 10 in defensive rating: the New Orleans Pelicans (109.6 points scored, 110.0 points allowed) and the Denver Nuggets (110.3 points scored, 109.3 points allowed). Of course, teams may move on and off of this list but, moving forward, any game featuring two teams from this "club" should be circled on the calendar as a potential fantasy feast. Denver-Cleveland on March 3, anyone?
Donovan Mitchell, Utah Jazz: 9 points (4-12 FG), 3 rebounds, 1 3-pointer, 1 assist, 1 block, 3 TO
The game between the Pelicans and the Indiana Pacers was postponed due to a leaky roof. This was terrible for DFS purposes, as all players received zeros for the night -- and it's not much better in year-long leagues with weekly transactions. The game will be made up, but the date for when has not yet been released.
Drummond turned in another ridiculous stat line, as has been the norm for quite awhile, but he's been even better since the Blake Griffin trade. To whit:
Andre Drummond is real #FantasyBasketball winner of Blake Griffin trade. Since trade: 18 pts, 20 reb, 4 ast, 3 blk, 3 stl! Last 15 days #7 in @ESPNFantasy Player rater. He's as athletic as DeAndre but more skilled, does more next to Blake as predicted here https://t.co/ThicG5o6Xc
- Andre Snellings (@ProfessorDrz) February 8, 2018
- Rubio continues to play excellent ball to lead the Jazz, averaging 24.0 points, 8.6 assists, 5.0 rebounds, 2.0 3-pointers and 1.2 steals during his last five games -- all Jazz wins. Interestingly, Donovan Mitchell has struggled physically of late, missing one game due to illness and averaging only 5.5 points, 2.0 assists and 1.5 rebounds during the two games that he's been back. Will Rubio's renaissance continue once Mitchell gets back up to full speed again?
- Winslow got mentioned in the lowlights, in part, because it was too difficult to determine which of his three teammates should have been listed in the highlights. Josh Richardson popped for 30 points (11-20 FG, 1-1 FT), 7 3-pointers, 5 assists, 4 rebounds, 1 steal, 1 block and 1 TO. Goran Dragic was nearly as good, with 30 points (11-17 FG, 6-7 FT), 6 assists, 3 rebounds, 2 3-pointers, 1 steal and 1 TO. Also, Hassan Whiteside dominated the glass, grabbing 17 rebounds to go with 16 points (7-16 FG, 2-3 FT), 1 assist and 1 TO.
Injuries of note
Dejounte Murray sprained his ankle in the second quarter of Wednesday's blowout win over the Phoenix Suns, and didn't return. The severity of the injury is not yet known, but he should be considered questionable for Saturday's game against the Golden State Warriors.
Tyler Ulis started Wednesday night's game, but left after back spasms flared up in the second quarter. He, too, should be considered questionable moving forward until more information is released.
Analytics advantage for Thursday
The Atlanta Hawks have allowed their opponents to dish 25.6 assists per game (29th in the NBA), make 11.3 3-pointers per game (27th in NBA) and at a 27.6 3-Pt% (29th in NBA). They also allow 8.6 steals per game (27th in NBA). This, then, sets up as a day that their opponents, the Orlando Magic, should see strong numbers among their perimeter players. Elfrid Payton, Evan Fournier, Jonathon Simmons (73.8 percent availability) and Mario Hezonja (89.4 percent availability) could all be better options than usual on Thursday.
Top players to watch tonight
Paul George has been playing excellent basketball for quite some time now, averaging 28.9 points, 5.2 rebounds, 3.6 3-pointers, 2.7 assists and 2.3 steals while shooting 50.5 FG% and 84.4 FT% during his last 10 games. On Thursday, he returns home to face the Los Angeles Lakers, with running mate Russell Westbrook questionable due to a sprained ankle. George could need to step it up even further, if Westbrook is unable to play.
What will the Knicks look like on Thursday? Kristaps Porzingis is done for the year, Enes Kanter is out due to oral surgery on Wednesday, and Willy Hernangomez was traded to Charlotte. Tim Hardaway Jr. took a blow to his previously injured shin in his last game, but is expected to play on Thursday. He and Michael Beasley could both be in for big numbers, almost by default. Keep an eye on Kyle O'Quinn (92.7 percent availability) as well.