Happy Labor Day, everyone! We’ve got a two-game NBA DFS slate on tap for the holiday, starting at 6:30 p.m. EST. The stakes are high in these matchups — as are the prize pools on DraftKings and FanDuel — so let’s dive right into it.
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You Only Get One Shot, Do Not Miss Your Chance to Blow
Zero-point-five seconds. That’s the difference between a 3-0 series lead for the Celtics with four chances to close it out and the tied-at-two dogfight they now find themselves in the middle of. But as Jeff Van Gundy says about six times per night when he’s broadcasting, “it’s a make-or-miss league,” and O.G. Anunoby did not miss.
Game 5 should be another thriller, albeit probably another low-scoring, brawler-type affair. All four games in this series have gone substantially under the total that hovers around the 212 range, as both teams are doing an excellent job of creating defensive havoc and forcing one another into uncomfortable half-court possessions. While that would typically be a negative from a NBA DFS perspective, the minutes are so outrageous for the starters that almost everyone is in play. Kyle Lowry, Fred VanVleet and Pascal Siakam all saw 44 minutes-plus for Toronto, while Jayson Tatum, Kemba Walker and Marcus Smart all eclipsed 40 in Boston’s losing effort.
Lowry is my favorite play on the Raptors’ side, but I would also expect his ownership to come in the highest of that grouping coming off back-to-back games of 54-plus DraftKings points. That is probably why I’ll take another spin on the Siakam Wheel of Misfortune; a ceiling game is bound to happen by sheer accident at some point. And don’t sleep on the aforementioned Anunoby. He wasn’t nearly as active in Game 4, but at $5,700 on DraftKings and $6,000 on FanDuel, I can still see some upside if he gets hot from 3 and continues to be active on the boards. As far as centers Marc Gasol and Serge Ibaka go, I am pretty sure anyone playing them today are paying the rake. It is hard to imagine either gets enough done in their equally divided minutes at the five to make their way into the optimal.
The Celtics side is where it’s really tough because I have no idea what I want to do yet. Tatum is Tatum; he can snap off a massive outing at any moment, but Siakam defense has been a problem as of late. I have an unhealthy Walker obsession, so I’ll certainly get some, but he’s been the least active of the Celtics’ main three in this series. Jaylen Brown went 4-for-18 from the field (2-for-11 from 3) in Game 4 but still garnered a 26.4% usage rate. He’s a solid play on FanDuel, but $7,500 on DraftKings is a tough pill to swallow. Marcus Smart is up to $6,500 on DraftKings and $5,700 on FanDuel, so any exposure I do get will probably be on the latter.
Looking back over this, what I’m really getting at is we know where all the production is coming from in this game, but that production comes at a price. I didn’t really talk about any non-starters since going to either bench on this slate feels way too cute. This is because we have some decent enough pieces of value in the nightcap matchup, and that’s before we know what will happen with the Nikola Jokic questionable injury tag, which could create the first true stars-and-scrubs slate in a while.
Game 2 of the Nuggets/Clippers series was unexpected to say the least. Coming off a dominating Game 1, the Clippers trailed throughout on Saturday and looked legitimately terrible from the jump, allowing 44 points in the first quarter. Kawhi Leonard, who’s been a playoff rock virtually his entire career, had his lowest scoring output (13) in his past 52 playoff appearances. And Jamal Murray and Jokic combined for an easy 53 points against a normally stout defensive unit.
That being said, Vegas doesn’t care. The line opened at Clippers -7 and was immediately bet up to -9, a nearly identical scenario to what happened for Game 1. That indicates how sharp money feels about the Nuggets’ prospects today. I have to think these are anticipatory bets revolving around the big news of the day: Jokic’s wrist injury.
Seriously though, when did that happen? Jokic looked incredible in his usual funky way, draining jumpers on his way to 26 and 18, finishing 10-for-17 from the field and 4-for-5 from 3. It goes without saying that his absence would be catastrophic for the Nuggets, but perhaps not so catastrophic for our lineups. Mason Plumlee, his direct backup at center, is a career fantasy point-per-minute guy who can do wacky things like he did in Game 1, playing only 14 garbage time minutes and posting 22.75 DraftKings points. He would be the lock of all locks if Jokic actually sits this one out.
The tough read would be who else to rely on from this Nuggets squad. Sure, Murray would see increased usage from the 26.5% rate he has through two games this series, but the Clippers defensive game plan would surely revolve around making his life miserable. Jerami Grant played 40 minutes in Game 2, shot the ball miserably from the field (1-for-9), and still proceeded to salvage a near 30-point fantasy performance. He already projects out well for me even with Jokic in, so maybe he’s the answer.
I suppose the tough read I was referring to is actually just one guy: Paul Millsap. Even in a blowout loss, the 35-year-old vet looked fantastic in Game 1. Mike Malone must have noticed too, as he immediately pumped up his minutes from 24 to 32 for Game 2. Irregardless of Jokic, I think Millsap is going to carry ownership in this spot, and I for one refuse to go there. I just don’t think Clippers defensive unit is going to let an old man get to them for a third consecutive game. He also doesn’t strike me as the highest of ceiling plays at this stage in his career, so I’m going to bank on/pray for regression and move on.
The Clippers have the usual suspects in order for this one. I talked a little about Leonard’s Game 2 struggles, but it’s not like I or anyone else cares. He’s Playoff Kawhi Leonard, and he’s going to bounce back today. Ivica Zubac continues to be revelatory in Orlando, and in a non-blowout situation you have to expect he’ll still have a firm hold on the center minutes over the struggling Montrezl Harrell. And Paul George should be able to snap off a ceiling game one of these days, so at a depressed price tag for what you’d expect for him, there is no wrong amount of him to have today.
Obviously, a lot of this slate revolves around Jokic being in or out, but we should have that news relatively early. Be sure to check in on his status after shootaround this morning, as it would be odd for a wrist injury to be a game-time decision. As it stands, Patrick Beverley and JaMychal Green are the only sub-$4,000 value I have any interest in at the moment. But if Jokic indeed can’t go tonight, lock-in Plumlee, surround him with studs and go fire up the grill.
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