January 11, 2024, 4:08 pm
Boston Celtics @ Milwaukee Bucks
Game Time: 7:40 pm ET
BOS +2.5 (-110), MIL -2.5 (-110)
Game Total 244.5
The league’s foremost perimeter defender, Jrue Holiday, returns to Milwaukee — who sent him to the Blazers, who rerouted him to the Celtics this past offseason as part of the dramatic Damian Lillard trade — and is likely hoping to make Giannis Antetokounmpo and the Bucks regret having sent him away. He’s been somewhat disappointing as a fantasy asset this season, but that was sort of to be expected, given the fact that he has to share the rock with Tatum, Brown, Porzingis, and White, all of whom are clearly superior offensive options.
If we’re being real, the Bucks have low-key kind of sucked this season. It should be no surprise that Antetokounmpo has been dominating on both ends of the court. Replacing Holiday with Lillard has obviously boosted their offense, but is it worth the cost of sinking their defense, which has been their calling card during the Greek Freak Era? Malik Beasley is no better on D than Dame; Brook Lopez is still blocking plenty of shots, but he doesn’t look as elite as he’s been the past few years; Khris Middleton has been gradually improving, but he’s lost a step or two, for sure; and Jae Crowder has been out with a groin injury, but his reputation as a defender has always been a bit overstated, anyway. On top of all this, Adrian Griffin is often lost or overwhelmed and it doesn’t seem like his players trust him. None of this is even the worst thing that’s happened with the organization so far this season — a few days ago, the equipment manager caught some strays from the team leader after a tough loss; not cool, Giannis, not cool at all.
Stream of the Game
Neither of these teams is very deep, so there aren’t many good options. If Al Horford or Malik Beasley are on your wire, they should be the top priorities. If they’re not, you can go with one of the Celtics bench whites: Sam Hauser or Payton Pritchard can always sink a few threes for you.
Portland Trail Blazers @ Oklahoma City Thunder
Game Time: 5:10 pm ET
POR +12.5 (-110), OKC -12.5 (-110)
Game Total 236.5
Nobody will tell you that the Blazers are a good team. That said, they can be a fun team on any given night. Scoot Henderson has finally been settling in after a pretty brutal start to the season. Anfernee Simons has mostly been fantastic since recovering from the thumb injury he sustained during the first game of the season. Shaedon Sharpe has had plenty of electrifying moments. Jerami Grant looks like he’s back in Detroit, taking any shot he wants. DeAndre Ayton hasn’t played in a while, so nobody can complain about him and his lack of energy. It’ll likely be a while until they get their act together, but in the meantime, they can definitely be considered a decent League Pass watch.
Speaking of League Pass, their opponent tonight, the Oklahoma City Thunder, are my top pick in the League Pass standings. This team has it all: A top-five talent in Shai Gilgeous-Alexander, who is one of the most savviest and most mysterious players in the league; two amazing elite two-way players in Chet Holmgren and Jalen Williams, both of whom are still babies in NBA terms; one of the most erratic and frenetic players alive in Lu Dort; and let’s not forget THE SLOB WIZARD, Josh Giddey! Giddey has been rightly ridiculed for hanging out with teenage girls like Matthew McConaughey’s character in Dazed and Confused and he’s also been mentioned in some trade rumors, but his dazzling passes and improved shooting cannot be ignored. This team is going to be a force to be reckoned with for years to come; it’ll be very interesting to see if they do anything at the trade deadline, and if so, what that might be.
Stream of the Game
Have you heard of Duop Reath? If not, you’re missing out. He’s been showing a lot of promise with Ayton out and is definitely worth a look. Other guys worth considering include Cason Wallace and Isaiah Joe on the Thunder — both can give you some threes, and Wallace will likely give you at least one defensive stat, maybe more.
New York Knicks @ Dallas Mavericks
Game Time: 8:40 pm ET
NYK -4 (-112), DAL +4 (-108)
Game Total 234
The Knicks’ trade for OG Anunoby has had an extremely profound effect on them. They have been on fire with him in the starting lineup. He gives them the hustle, the moxie, the peskiness, and additional outside shooting that they (and most teams) need. Beyond that, Isaiah Hartenstein has been an absolute beast ever since taking over in the paint after Mitchell Robinson suffered a stress fracture in his left ankle. He’s rebounding like prime Dennis Rodman and seems to record at least five defensive stats every single game. Yesterday, I saw a list of the plus/minus leaders in the new year: Hartenstein, Anunoby, Jalen Brunson, Julius Randle, and Josh Hart were all in the top eight! Like I said, this team has been on fire!
Luka Doncic will be out tonight with a right ankle sprain. With Dante Exum also out, you can anticipate Jaden Hardy and Josh Green getting more run. More importantly, you can anticipate Kyrie Irving to have a pretty big game. Tim Hardaway Jr. will also likely fire away like Cam Thomas in a fugue state. This team can often understandably seem out of control, or just out of it, when Doncic misses time. For that reason, there’s a decent chance this one will become an early blowout.
Stream of the Game
On the Knicks’ side, you can try plus/minus legend, Josh Hart or Quentin Grimes, who has seen an uptick in playing time in order to fill the void left by RJ Barrett and Immanuel Quickley. On the Mavs’ side, the aforementioned Hardy or Green are both worth a look.
Phoenix Suns @ Los Angeles Lakers
Game Time: 10:10 pm ET
PHX -1 (-105), LAL +1 (-115)
Game Total 234
It’s the Battle of Disappointment at the Crypto.com Arena tonight! The Big Three of the desert have barely played together this season, and even when they have, they haven’t looked great. Until they start to click, this team will continue to be a bummer. The rest of the roster is barely playable, aside from Jusuf Nurkic, who is looking like the upgrade over Ayton they believed him to be.
The Lakers have looked like dog poo ever since they raised the IST banner in The Crypt, and that’s despite the fact that LeBron James and Anthony Davis have both played almost every game and have done so at an All-NBA level. Austin Reaves has also started rounding into form, increasingly looking more like the player he was towards the end of last season and into the FIBA World Cup. The rest of the team has looked rough. At this point, there is no reason not to play Christian Wood more to give them some of the offensive juice they are desperately lacking. Aside from that, there’s seemingly not much more they can do to improve internally. Are they willing to take a big swing before the trade deadline? Who would that be? Is it even worth it, considering how mid they’ve been and how the West is only getting better? LeBron doesn’t care about future assets and never has, but he’s also proven time and time again that LeGM typically leads to poor decision making.
Stream of the Game
Nobody, aside from maybe Christian Wood. These two teams are the epitome of “Stars and Scrubs.”