"Back in the day, when I was younger, hunger" -- Outkast, from "Elevators"
In the rest-of-season rankings I posted yesterday, I talked about how important "hunger" is when looking for players to perform at this time of year. Players on teams that are either already locked into either a top playoff seed or (at the other end of the spectrum) the lottery, tend to be more hit-or-miss at this time of the season. These guys don't necessarily have the need to post a big performance every time out. Players on teams that are still fighting for a postseason spot, though, are at it "tooth and nail" every game because they feel like they have to win all of them. They're hungry.
That philosophy played out in a big way on Tuesday night. All six of the players listed in the "highlights" section below play for teams that are actively fighting for playoff position. All six put up double-doubles -- with three of them producing triple-doubles -- indicating that they're doing more than just scoring points as they're "just trying to find that hookup" to carry their teams.
Some of them, like Ben Simmons or Anthony Davis, had to fight off a teammate's outstanding game in order to earn their spot. Like I said, these teams are hungry. So while Simmons might put up a triple-double, Joel Embiid is going to be right there with him with 29 points (11-22 FG, 7-8 FT), 12 rebounds, 4 assists and 3 blocks of his own. While Davis might be his usual monstrous self, Rajon Rondo is right there with him with 12 points, 17 assists, 5 rebounds and 5 steals. Not to be left out, Jrue Holiday is also in the kitchen, with 25 points, 9 assists, 6 rebounds and 3 3-pointers.
While the end of the regular season can produce volatile, high-variance fantasy results, there are still some trends that can help you make higher-probability moves. Identifying the hungry players that you can use to start, stream or (in DFS) build around is one of those things to monitor so that your fantasy basketball results will be satisfying.
Anthony Davis, New Orleans Pelicans: 31 points (13-26 FG, 5-6 FT), 14 rebounds, 5 blocks, 3 assists, 2 steals, 3 TO
Ben Simmons, Philadelphia 76ers: 10 points (4-10 FG, 2-2 FT), 13 rebounds, 10 assists, 2 TO
Bojan Bogdanovic, Indiana Pacers: 2 points (1-11 FG, 0-1 FT), 5 rebounds, 3 assists, 1 TO
Nemanja Bjelica (73.3 percent availability) posted a near triple-double to support Towns' big game on Tuesday. Bjelica scored 17 points (7-16 FG) with 8 rebounds, 7 assists, 3 3-pointers, 1 block, 1 steal and 3 TO in 39 minutes. He is averaging 15.4 points (50.9 FG%, 87.5 FT%), 8.6 rebounds, 2.8 assists, 2.4 3-pointers, 1.2 steals and 0.8 blocks during his last five games.
Markieff Morris (50.9 percent availability) and Tomas Satoransky (68.2 percent availability) led the way for the Washington Wizards on Tuesday. Morris scored 27 points (10-15 FG, 4-4 FT) with 4 rebounds, 3 3-pointers and 2 assists. Satoransky scored 15 points (4-7 FG, 6-6 FT) with 8 rebounds, 7 assists, 3 steals, 1 3-pointer and 1 TO.
Taurean Prince (67.4 percent availability) turned in his second straight big game with 25 points (9-20 FG, 4-4 FT), 8 rebounds, 3 assists, 3 3-pointers, 2 steals, 1 block and 2 TO. Prince has been up-and-down this season, but two consecutive huge games -- and three strong ones in his last five outings -- suggest that maybe he heard some of the rumblings about his future with the Atlanta Hawks. He may be auditioning for a bigger role next season.
LaMarcus Aldridge (knee) returned from his one-game absence with a bang, scoring 24 points (11-17 FG, 2-4 FT) with 7 rebounds, 2 assists and 1 TO in only 26 minutes of a blowout victory. In the continued absence of Kawhi Leonard, Aldridge continues to do his thing for the Spurs, when healthy.
D'Angelo Russell put on a noteworthy performance with 32 points (10-22 FG, 5-5 FT), 7 rebounds, 7 3-pointers, 2 blocks, 1 steal and 4 TO. His 32 points matched the combined efforts of all four other Nets starters in Tuesday's loss to the Toronto Raptors.
As I pointed out yesterday, the Dallas Mavericks are one of the best 3-point shooting teams in the league while the New York Knicks are one of the worst at defending the trey. As such, it was not surprising to see the Mavericks knock down 14 3-pointers at 40 percent from behind the line on their way to a win. Dallas was led by Harrison Barnes, who had only one basket from beyond the arc, but still produced 30 points (10-19 FG, 9-9 FT), 4 rebounds, 4 assists, 1 3-pointer and 2 TO overall.
Injuries of note
Golden State's Stephen Curry was confirmed to be out for at least four more games with his ankle injury. He'll be re-evaluated on March 20 to determine whether his absence will need to extend beyond that.
Paul George left Tuesday's game in the second half with a groin issue. He says that he will be ready to go for the Thunder's next game, but consider him questionable until more official word comes down.
Lauri Markkanen was a late scratch on Tuesday with back spasms. Interestingly, Noah Vonleh got the start so that Bobby Portis could continue to come off the bench. Perhaps the Chicago Bulls noticed that Portis' production dipped during his brief stint as a starter, and they now prefer to keep him in his bench role. Consider Markkanen to be day-to-day.
Cleveland's Larry Nance Jr. injured his hamstring and had to leave the game early in the third quarter on Tuesday. The injury isn't believed to be serious, but consider him questionable until more information is released.
Indiana's Domantas Sabonis injured his ankle in the third quarter of Tuesday's game when Joel Embiid fell on it. The injury is listed as a sprain, and Sabonis should be listed as questionable until more information is released.
Analytics advantage for Wednesday
The Los Angeles Lakers have won eight of their last 10 games, 12 of their last 17 and 16 of their last 23. They have scored 102-points in their last 22 straight contests, and 108-plus points in 13 straight games. On Wednesday, they face a hurting Golden State Warriors squad that is missing reigning NBA Defensive Player of the Year Draymond Green (in addition to Stephen Curry). The stage looks set for the Lakers to put up another big number on Wednesday.
Top players to watch tonight
Kevin Durant may well be out there by himself on Wednesday. Stephen Curry, Draymond Green and David West are all listed as 'out', while Klay Thompson, Andre Iguodala, Jordan Bell and Nick Young are each being listed as questionable. He's also facing a Lakers squad that is playing very well, which means that Durant will have to really perform to even give the Warriors a chance to win.
The Boston Celtics are also struggling with injury. Kyrie Irving, Marcus Smart and Jaylen Brown are all listed as out, while Al Horford is questionable with the illness that has sidelined him of late. This leaves Terry Rozier, Jayson Tatum and Marcus Morris as the most likely Celtics to produce on Wednesday against the Wizards.