Matchups for Tuesday, March 18
All times are expressed in Eastern Daylight Time.
Key: Opp. PPG = Points per game allowed to opponents. Opp. FGP = Field goal percentage allowed to opponents. RPG Diff. = The difference between team's rebounds per game and its opponents' rebounds per game.
Ray Allen, SG, Celtics (ankle)
Andrew Bogut, C, Bucks (thigh)
Udonis Haslem, PF, Heat (ankle)
Grant Hill, SF, Suns (wrist)
Yi Jianlian, SF/PF, Bucks (wrist)
Nenad Krstic, PF, Nets (illness)
Carl Landry, PF, Rockets (knee)
Shawn Marion, SF/PF, Heat (back)
Start 'em, sit 'em
The Nuggets are coming off a 168-point game, but the Pistons have held their opponents to an average of 82.3 points in their past three games. The Pistons are fourth in defensive efficiency this season; the Nuggets are 11th in offensive efficiency ... yet it seems a mismatch on paper nonetheless. Toss in the fact that the Pistons are at home and are the slowest-tempo team in the NBA (last in possessions per game), and the Nuggets -- who usually receive strong performances from players such as Carmelo Anthony and Allen Iverson, for example -- are likely to see their field-goal percentage suffer and turnovers increase. The Bucks are last in defensive efficiency, which boosts the value of Heat players, especially Ricky Davis, who is averaging more than 40 minutes per game this month and shooting better than 52 percent. He is a strong candidate to go off on Tuesday. Charlie Villanueva is averaging a cool 22.2 points since March 5, a span of six games, and with 9.3 rebounds to boot, Villanueva has been one of fantasy's hottest players. Shawn Marion is more likely to miss Tuesday's game than not, which dramatically weakens an already-poor Heat defense. The game between the Boston Celtics and Houston Rockets matches the two very best defensive teams against each other. The Celtics are first by a large margin in defensive efficiency, the only team to allow fewer than 100 points per 100 possessions. The Rockets (102.2), meanwhile, are ranked second, substantially ahead of the third-place Spurs (104.2). Don't expect a game between the two toughest defensive teams to be much of a fantasy boon, making all but the most obvious players a questionable play.
Jason Williams and Daequan Cook are seeing a lot of minutes for an injury-ravaged Heat team right now, and facing the worst defense in the league Tuesday should guarantee strong numbers. Cook is a three-point specialist, averaging two and a half bombs per game since becoming a starter four games ago. Before the Heat got blown out Sunday by the Mavericks, Williams had a nice three-game run, averaging 20 points, 5.3 assists, and 3.6 3s, and was showing a propensity to feast on the weaker teams in the league when given enough minutes. No Pau Gasol means the hard-nosed Ronny Turiaf should get around 30 minutes of time and, on a good day, provide a nice mix of points, rebounds, blocks and even the occasional assist. That makes Turiaf a passable option at center or utility. If Travis Outlaw is to make another push at getting sizable minutes, enough to make him a viable fantasy option again, the best chance will come Tuesday. Outlaw has shown signs of life in his past two games -- 27 minutes against the Kings, 17 points in 17 minutes versus the T-Wolves -- and is a good matchup against the Suns because he is athletic enough to run with them and can play power forward to combat a small lineup. The two teams played earlier in the month, and the Blazers' bigs got into foul trouble, which is another way Outlaw could earn playing time. He's Tuesday's high-risk, high-reward play.
Adam Madison is a fantasy basketball analyst for ESPN.com