Draymond Green felt the holiday spirit in an entertaining postgame presser after his Warriors secured their first winning streak on the NBA floor since last summer's Western Conference Finals in a sweep of the Trail Blazers. With nine points, 19 combined rebounds and assists and three combined steals and a block in the win over the Timberwolves -- sending Minnesota to its 11th straight loss -- Green produced a vintage do-everything performance.
The key statistical story from the inspired home victory stems from the continued ascent of Alec Burks, who played a team-high 34 minutes and produced 25 points and eight dimes in an ultimately efficient offensive outing (just 13 shots and one turnover).
Found at seventh among shooting guards on the Player Rater during the past 15 days -- a simple standard deviation model that celebrates statistical diversity and dominance -- Burks delivered four stocks (steals plus blocks) in Monday's win and is now slashing for 17.4 PPG, 4.9 RPG, 3.6 APG, 1.7 3PG and two stocks per game during his past 17 appearances. With an elite free throw rate and encouraging free throw frequency as the team's leading slasher, Burks has evolved into a key offensive initiator for a depleted Golden State roster in need of his scoring prowess.
Last-minute shopping can prove vexing in the real world, but it's quite easy in fantasy hoops -- just hover over the plus symbol next to Burks' name, which is the case in more than three-quarters of ESPN leagues as of Tuesday morning, and make some space on your roster(s) for the rising Warriors wing.
Thanks in part to Aldridge tallying his eighth career 40-point game and his fifth as a member of the Spurs (tying Tim Duncan for fifth most in team history), the Spurs delivered the second-most points in a regulation game under Gregg Popovich (scored 147 vs. Warriors on March 19, 2010) on Monday evening in a win over the Grizzlies.
Indiana's Aaron Holiday was brilliant last night in fueling an overtime victory over the Raptors on Monday with 19 points and 10 dimes in a starting role with Malcolm Brogdon sidelined with a hamstring ailment. Per ESPN Stats & Info, Jrue's baby bro was responsible for 21 of the Pacers' 27 points in clutch time. This isn't exactly a new development -- Holiday producing awesome lines whenever Brogdon misses time -- suggesting that Holiday is an ideal plug-and-play option whenever Brogdon is sidelined.
Washington's Troy Brown Jr. was comparably awesome for the Wizards in notching 26 points on just 15 shots off the pine in a win over the Knicks. Brown even flirted with a triple-double in the win and provided further evidence to stream whenever possible against this porous Knicks perimeter defense. The game also saw Gary Payton II deliver his second career double-double off the bench for Washington, but it appears Brown has the more intriguing fantasy potential of the two.
John Collins returned to action for the Hawks from a lengthy suspension and tallied 27 points and 10 boards to go with four stocks in an impressive outing. Rookie De'Andre Hunter was also impressive in pouring in 23 points in a team-high 39 minutes in the loss to the Cavs.
Jokic produced his sixth triple-double of the season, tying him with Houston's Russell Westbrook for third most in the league this season. It was Jamal Murray who provided the clutch touch in the final frame en route to a game-high 28 points, thanks to making his first career go-ahead field goal in the final five seconds of a game (he was 0-4 on such shots entering the game).
The continued absence of Mike Conley from Utah's rotation possibly motivated the team's acquisition of wing Jordan Clarkson in a deal that sent Dante Exum to Cleveland on Monday afternoon. It's also likely the team simply desired more scoring pop off the pine in targeting Clarkson, but the move doesn't shift fantasy stock for either player very much. Keeping with the Jazz, Joe Ingles tied a career-high with seven made 3-pointers in Miami last night and continues to shine in the starting lineup sans Conley.
In Motown last night, Simmons fittingly tied former Piston Grant Hill for the third-most triple-doubles in NBA history by a player in their first three seasons (trails only Magic Johnson & Oscar Robertson). Tobias Harris, formerly of the Pistons, produced a season-high 35 points in the victory over Detroit.
Injuries of note
The Raptors host the Celtics to open the Christmas schedule on Wednesday and will likely be without Marc Gasol, Norman Powell and leading scorer Pascal Siakam in the contest. Streaming shares of Chris Boucher could work against an undersized Boston frontcourt, while Serge Ibaka is also due to enjoy a sizable uptick in usage with his peers sidelined.
Analytics advantage for Christmas
With the NBA off for Christmas Eve, we look to a festive five-game holiday slate on Wednesday. A premier matchup is found in Philly between two top conference contenders as the Bucks visit the Sixers on Wednesday afternoon.
Per the analytical angle for this game, the Sixers have faced zone defense on a league-high 135 possessions. It's worked, as Philly is averaging only 0.93 points per possession against zone this season (for context, the Warriors rank last with 1.03 points per possession this season). Milwaukee has played zone on only six total defensive possessions this season but ranked sixth with 162 possessions of zone defense last season.
It will prove intriguing to see how the Sixers' cadre of big wings and frontcourt defenders handle reigning MVP and current favorite to repeat for the award, Giannis Antetokounmpo. Al Horford was famously brought in to help the team overcome Antetokounmpo's dominance, making Wednesday's matchup quite revealing.
Top players to watch on Wednesday
There are only so many single-name superstars in the NBA -- or even in sports in general. LeBron and Kawhi undoubtedly qualify.
While Paul George will spend plenty of possessions directly facing James, it's the matchup of arguably two of the best three players on the planet in James and Leonard that fuels intense attention on this riveting matchup of Los Angeles powers.