We have three Game 3's ready to roll for tonight’s DFS NBA slate. The NBA Playoffs took an interesting turn for the Milwaukee Bucks/Chicago Bulls series with Khris Middleton now being out. The same goes for the Phoenix Suns/New Orleans Pelicans series because of Devin Booker getting hurt. Both players are critical to their team’s offense and it’ll be up to both squads' depth to step it up offensively to defend their respective conference crowns.
Meanwhile, the Atlanta Hawks look to avoid going down zero games to three games against Miami in which NBA basketball history will then work against them because there hasn’t been a team that’s been able to win a seven-game series after being down three games to none. Here are tonight’s DFS NBA core plays.
Miami Heat @ Atlanta Hawks (MIA up 2-0)
While Miami is dealing with some of their depth being banged up, it hasn’t stopped them from securing two double-digit victories against Atlanta. The Hawks don’t have the size or strength to keep the Heat out of the post. Luckily for the Heat, Clint Capela out makes it easier for Bam Adebayo to handle himself on the court – as he’s not 100 percent himself. It’s very surprising seeing the Heat only favored by 1.5 points heading into this contest. Jimmy Butler is coming off of a 45-point outing and, while Trae Young shot a lot better in Game 2 than that horror shooting show he put on in Game 1, he's still only hit 20 percent of his three-pointers. If the Hawks are going to try to claw back into this series, they need to shoot better than 30 percent from downtown as a team.
- Clint Capela-OUT
- P.J. Tucker-Questionable
- Lou Williams-OUT
- Markieff Morris-Questionable
- Caleb Martin-Questionable
Jimmy Butler took 15 shots in the first game and then 25 in Game 2 as the Heat look to be in control of this series. It’s hard to go away from Butler, especially because Bam Adebayo is clearly limited due to health issues. The Heat need Butler’s aggressiveness in the lane to stick it to the vulnerable Hawks, who are powerless at stopping lane-slashers without Clint Capela. Butler has scored 66 total points in this series and he’s even contributed five steals total. He also pulled down about six boards for the season and even dished 5.4 dimes per contest. The Hawks ranked 19th in the league in guarding small forwards and, even if they try to put John Collins on Butler, he'll blow by him more often than not as he is much quicker on his feet than Collins. Even the over on Butler’s 24.5 points prop on DraftKings Sportsbook looks appetizing.
There are two issues with Trae Young. His poor shooting so far in this series isn't great, and Miami was the best defensive team at covering point guards throughout the regular season. The Heat clearly know how to keep Young from getting good looks. Young has been rebounding, but he’s only scored 33 points in two games. Young will have the eternal green light when it comes to shooting because if the Hawks are going to avoid going down three games to none, they will do it with Young shooting away and he should take 18-23 shots tonight.
One bright spot for Young from the DFS perspective is that he pulled down six rebounds in both games in this series. He’ll play a lot of minutes and with sportsbooks thinking this game will be close, there’s no reason to think Young won’t play 40 minutes. There are only so many options we can go with at point guard for DFS, but even with Young’s safe shot-floor, if there’s any team that can keep him from going off, it’s Miami and they’ve succeeded in that area so far. Not having Clint Capela has certainly impacted Young’s dimes.
When looking for a secondary Heat option to go with for DFS tonight, there isn’t much of a choice because multiple Heat players are questionable and Bam Adebayo hasn’t contributed much offensively. Duncan Robinson hit eight three-pointers and shot nine for 10 from the floor in the first game of the series, and then only played seven minutes last game. After struggling to hit shots in Game 1, Tyler Herro fought back last time out and scored 15 points while hitting over 45% of his field goals. Let’s not forget that Herro did produce five boards and four dimes per game during the regular season and he posted five and five in Game 1 – but then didn't do as well in Game 2.
When it comes to DFS options overall on the Heat, there truly isn’t much excitement beyond Jimmy Butler. At least we know that Herro will get the minutes and the shots – and we can’t say the same about the other Heat mid-court players besides Butler. He’s had multiple games in which he’s hit the 20-point mark in scoring against the Hawks this year.
We can’t hold John Collins’ first game of this series against him because it was his first time playing in nearly a month. It was very encouraging seeing Collins secure a double-double in 29 minutes in Game 2, though. He took 11 shots and there’s no reason why he shouldn’t take 10-15 shots again tonight. Clint Capela is still out and Collins is the Hawks' best bet when it comes to any kind of post presence. It’s good seeing him not hang on the arc and instead try to get inside.
The good news for Collins is that both Bam Adebayo and P.J. Tucker aren’t at full strength and he should be a step ahead of them from a speed standpoint. The Hawks should also run a lot of simple give-and-go’s between Collins and Trae Young because the more he attacks, the more contact Collins will draw. If he can get either Miami post player in foul trouble, it opens up a lot more options offensively for Atlanta. Collins blocked a shot per game this season and he's also swiped a ball in both contests in this series.
We have to ride the hot hand when it comes to the Hawks' wing scoring and Bogdan Bogdanovic will be the prioritized scorer. After a terrible shooting performance in Game 1, he hit 12-of-18 shots and scored 29 points in 28 minutes in the second contest. He also hit five three-pointers and even grabbed four boards. Every little bit helps when it comes to competing in DFS contests that feature small slates. Bogdanovic’s usage slightly improves with Clint Capela and Lou Williams out, but a lot of his production will come down to his shooting. Bogdanovic did steal 1.1 balls per contest for the season, but he hasn’t grabbed a steal yet in this series. We should see Bogdanovic take 15-18 shots again tonight.
Milwaukee Bucks @ Chicago Bulls (Series Tied 1-1)
The Bulls have been very competitive this series despite looking like they were in a downward spiral towards the end of the season. They tied up the series after DeMar DeRozan dropped 41 points on them and Nikola Vucevic contributed 24 points and 13 rebounds. Even Zach LaVine compiled 20 points while shooting over 50 percent from the floor. Milwaukee is still favored, but they will be without Khris Middleton for the rest of the series. Jrue Holiday and Brook Lopez will benefit by taking on more shots, but we should also see Pat Connaughton and Grayson Allen pick up a few more shots as well with one of them starting in place of Middleton. The Bucks escaped a second blow to their depth as Bobby Portis, who took a shot to the eye last game, doesn’t have an injury designation and he’s ready to play tonight. Portis had a double-double against the Bulls in Game 1.
With a usage rate of 35% with Middleton out of the picture, how do we not start Giannis Antetokounmpo in every lineup tonight? We have three games to deal with and the Bulls ranked 24th in the league at guarding power forwards – and this power forward is the best in the business. He’s grabbed 17 boards per game this series and scored no fewer than 27 points in either game. He’s blocked multiple shots in both contests and he grabbed 16 or more boards in two regular-season meetings with Chicago. Both DeMar DeRozan and Nikola Vucevic are lousy defenders and Antetokoumpo has been destroying them this series. With Middleton out now, Antetokounmpo will get even more plays drawn up for him and should help his assists stay up because if he gets the ball at the top of the key like Middleton frequently did, he’ll have more opportunity to hit the inside cutter.
Even though we’ve seen one awesome shooting game and one poor shooting game from DeMar DeRozan, the shots have been there for him as he’s taken 25 or more in both contests. The 41-point performance he just put on will be put to the test and when looking at the numbers the Bucks aren’t great at defending forwards and even with Antetokounmpo shadowing him for most of the game, DeRozan will use his strength to get inside, give himself second-chance scoring opportunities and draw contact. DeRozan shot nine free-throws last game and the Bulls will be counting on his slashing ability to get the Bucks out of rhythm on defense and he doesn’t produce many points from the arc. This wasn’t the first 40-point performance DeRozan had versus the Bucks this year. He scored 29 or more points against Milwaukee three times during the regular season.
Jrue Holiday’s usage bumps up 3.5 percent with Middleton out of the way and hopefully better shooting times are ahead for the Bucks' starting point guard and undisputed second scoring option. He’s hit under 38 percent of his shots in both games this series, but his rebounding and assist numbers to keep his appeal up, and being that he’ll get more time with the ball, we should see both his points and assists rise. Holiday should take 18-21 shots tonight. Playing time won’t be an issue for him as he should be looking at 40 minutes this evening and as long as he can keep his turnovers down, he should be able to give us at least a 5x return in DFS. We should see him score more than 15 points and with Middleton out, Holiday produces 1.19 fantasy points per minute.
What benefits Nikola Vucevic is that the Bucks will opt to prioritize Brook Lopez's offensive ability over Bobby Portis’ defense with Middleton out. Lopez should get the majority of minutes and Vucevic should once again have an easy time producing in this game. He’s posted double-doubles and scored 24 points in both games in this series. He’s grabbed swipes in both contests and he’s averaged a swat per game. We should also once again see Vucevic play 35-plus minutes tonight. Vucevic exceeded his 17.8 scoring average three times in the regular season against Milwaukee. It didn’t matter that Portis barely played in game two and couldn’t defend him because Vucevic had a better game statistically in game one. He’s pulled down 30 rebounds in this series and should be the prioritized center in DFS contests tonight.
We’ve seen Brook Lopez hit the 30-minute mark in both games this series and, with Khris Middleton’s strong shooting missing, Lopez will be relied on more to take shots. He shoots over 48 percent from the floor and nearly 36 percent from the arc this year. We should see Lopez take 15-18 shots tonight and a decent amount of three-pointers. He’s excellent at stretching the floor and bigger defenders who are often slower have a tough time keeping up with him as playing outside the paint is a lot more daunting for a slower big man and the Bulls were a bottom-nine team when it came to defending centers throughout the year. Lopez has blocked three shots against the Bulls as well this series and his scoring and blocks should make up for the rebounding he doesn’t provide.
Phoenix Suns @ New Orleans Pelicans (Series Tied 1-1)
Even before Devin Booker got hurt, the Pelicans were playing competitively in this series. The Suns jetted out to a quick lead in Game 1, leading by 19 at halftime, and New Orleans hung around in the second half until Chris Paul took over to seal the win. The Pelicans shot over 54% in Game 2, bettering the Suns' 50% shooting, and they capitalized on Devin Booker getting hurt by outscoring the defending Western Conference Champions 69-53 in the second half. With Booker out of action for what’s looking to be at least the remainder of this series, it will be up to Cameron Payne and Cameron Johnson to fill the void and help Chris Paul score the basketball. Payne’s usage rises nearly three percent with Booker off the floor. All of the Suns' wings should see a bump in shots as Booker took no fewer than 19 in nearly the last month.
Cameron Payne isn’t the only Suns guard to see a usage increase with Booker out. Chris Paul’s usage increases by over three percent, and without Booker, he produces 1.12 fantasy points per minute. He’s the solidified top scoring option for Phoenix, even though we will see more of Payne and Cameron Johnson, Paul could still see the overwhelming majority of the shots with the others being used as bailout options if he gets trapped in the paint and needs to kick the ball back out. Paul has posted two double-doubles in this series and has scored 57 total points. He took 16 shots in both games and that number should easily exceed 20 tonight. Paul posted double-doubles in both regular-season games he played against the Pelicans and he should play close to 40 minutes tonight. Paul grabbed about two steals per game during the season and he’s averaged two per game in this playoff series. When Paul is playing off the ball tonight, he should sneak in the paint and grab a few more rebounds.
CJ McCollum has been excellent this series, averaging 24 points and eight assists per contest. We should see him take 19-23 shots tonight and Booker being out leaves the Suns with a big decision to make. Mikal Bridges can only guard one player and, because of Brandon Ingram’s size and offensive ability, McCollum could be drawing a much easier matchup. Overall the Suns are one of the soundest defensive teams in the NBA, but with the playing time, likely downgrade in matchup defensively and the shot volume, we should be starting McCollum in our lineups across the board. He also swiped 1.1 balls per contest during the season and he’s blocked shots in both games in this series. He also shoots 39.1 percent from the arc and went 6-10 from beyond the arc in Game 2.
After seeing Jonas Valanciunas take 21 shots in Game 1, he followed it up by still scoring in double figures – but he only took nine field goals. He’s produced a double-double in both contests in this series and he’s grabbed a total of 38 rebounds against Deandre Ayton and the Suns' frontcourt. A lot of the defensive focus has been on trying to limit Brandon Ingram as much as possible and the Pelicans will need to dump it inside to Valanciunas more this game in order for them to keep the pace with the Suns offensively – even with Booker not in the lineup. Valanciunas has produced double-doubles in every single game he’s played against the Suns this season and we have no reason to believe that he won’t post another one tonight. We should expect Valanciunas to play 30 minutes in this game and the last time he didn’t grab double-digit rebounds when he played 30 minutes was back in early February.
On the other side of this matchup for the battle of the big men, Deandre Ayton hasn’t had as much success as Valanciunas in this series. He pulled down nine boards in both games and he’s hit double figures in scoring twice. He scored 21 points in Game 1 and took 15 shots. With Booker out, we should expect Ayton to be fed a bit more. A lot of the other Suns' options will be hanging around the arc and Ayton is their main lane-attacker. The Pelicans ranked in the bottom 10 in the league at defending centers during the regular season and Ayton is needed to make the Suns' offense more dynamic. He’ll continue to play mid-30s minutes and he produces 1.11 fantasy points per minute with Booker out of action.
Brandon Ingram has one of the toughest defenders in the league guarding him and despite that, he was one assist short of a triple-double last game. He scored 37 points in Game 2 while shooting over 61 percent from the floor. Ingram also ripped down 11 rebounds and has now stolen the ball in both games in this series. He didn’t have as good of a shooting night in the first game of the series but still took 17 shots before it was increased to 21 in the following game. Ingram has shot over 57 percent in three of his last four games and we should see him take 18-22 shots again while playing close to 40 minutes. He’ll spend a decent amount of time bringing up the ball as well and has dished 5.6 assists per outing.