Czar’s Season Update: Injury Report

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Gameday Dish: Miami Heat vs. Denver Nuggets

The Denver Nuggets have been playing with a lot hanging over their heads lately, namely Melo’s potential move via trade to one of the NY Metro area teams. Denver-born-and-bred, 14th-year vet PG Chauncey Billups is rumored to be getting shipped out as well in the Anthony deal against his wishes. And it remains to be seen whether former #1 overall pick Kenyon Martin, the team’s second highest paid player, will be able to contribute meaningfully night in and out with his problematic knees.

The Nuggets had a big win on Tuesday night over their Western Conference foe, the Phoenix Suns. Fourth-year off-guard Aaron Afflalo scored a career-high 31 points in the 34 point blowout at the Pepsi Center. The victory put an end to the Nuggets’ recent three-game losing streak. Over their last 12 contests, Denver is only playing .500 ball.

As for the other side of tonight’s matchup, the Miami Heat are coming off a 111-105 road loss to the Los Angeles
Clippers last night at Staples. This defeat at the hands of R.O.Y. frontrunner Blake Griffin and company ended Miami’s 13-game road winning streak as well as their 9-game win streak overall. Miami is now 18-3 when scoring more than 100 points in a game.

The Heat’s Big 3 may be temporarily downsized to a duo after LeBron James sprained his left ankle in the losing effort in LA. King James is listed as day-to-day and is questionable for tonight’s tip-off.

Coach George Karl and crew have had their struggles this first half of the 2011 season, but have defended their home court with ferocity, going 16-4 in the Mile High City (an exact 5,280 feet above sea level).

Carmelo Anthony has never lost to the Heat in Denver (6-0), and it’s been 9 years since any version of the Nuggets have allowed Miami to leave Colorado with a W. Denver is second in the NBA in scoring at 106.3 ppg, while Miami is only giving up an average of 92.7 ppg, good for third best in the league.

Will LeBron play tonight? Will this be one of Carmelo’s last games as a member of the Nuggets? Tune in to TNT at 10:30 PM ET to see the Heat make their only visit to the Rocky Mountain State.

Fratello’s Fantasy Pick: DeShawn Stevenson

10-year NBA vet DeShawn Stevenson found his rhythm last week and he be jammin! Stevenson (who ranks fourth in the league in 3-point FG percentage) hit three long balls in the first quarter of the Mavericks’ matchup against the Magic on Saturday night and finished with a season-high 24 points.

With Dirk Nowitzki missing his seventh consecutive game against Orlando due to a knee injury and Caron Butler sidelined for the remainder of the season, Stevenson has had to shoulder more responsibility in terms of minutes played and productivity.

In joining this Dallas group, Stevenson appears to have taken a more professional approach to the game. He’s focused on doing all the things necessary in order to help his team win, whether that be to defend and shut down his opponents or to sink a clutch 3-point shot. Stevenson has gained a reputation for being a hardnosed defender, and the Mavericks can use Stevenson’s veteran experience and toughness to help sustain them during this period of time when they are playing without Nowitzki and Butler.

DeShawn Stevenson should continue to start for the duration of the season. Over the last four games he has averaged 19 points, 3 rebounds and 2 assists, and he is available in 80% of fantasy leagues. The Mavericks will hit the road for three away games this week.

Czar’s Season Update: Winners and Losers

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Gameday Dish: Boston Celtics vs. Chicago Bulls

No Kevin Garnett. No Joakim Noah. No name calling. Just two of the Eastern Conference’s top teams, two of the NBA’s premier point guards, a healthy Carlos Boozer and a red hot rookie from Notre Dame. Boston’s 12th man Luke Harangody just came off the best game of his paid basketball career, finishing with a career high 17 points and 11 rebounds in Boston’s 122-102 win over Toronto last night.

Tonight at the United Center the Chicago Bulls will attempt to stop the Boston Celtics for the first time this season. The Celts have bested the boys in red and black twice already this 2010-11 campaign, both times in Beantown. In the Windy City, the Bulls are an impressive 15-3 and tough to beat, just like a local favorite – the Italian Beef sandwich.

However, the upstart Bulls are coming off two consecutive road losses to New Jersey and Philly. They haven’t dropped three straight yet this season, but are only 5-9 against teams above .500. And the C’s posses the NBA’s second best record, an impressive 21 games above the .500 mark. If Chicago hopes to do better than the end of season 41-41 records they’ve compiled the past two years, they’ll have to start taking down the elite teams now and then.

Coach Doc Rivers and the Green enter tonight’s contest on a four-game winning streak, continued last night at home with a blow out of the Toronto Raptors, 122-102.  In fact, other than the Bulls, the top six teams in the Eastern Conference are all on current win streaks of at least 3 games, with the Sunshine State cousins Miami and Orlando both riding 8 gamers.

So a Bulls’ victory tonight would help first-year head coach Tom Thibodeau’s guys keep pace in the suddenly take-no-prisoners East and give him his first W against the team he worked for as an associate head coach and defensive mastermind for the previous three seasons.

Boston leads the NBA in assists and points allowed, a potent, both-ends-of-the-floor combo.  However, Chicago will look to utilize their team rebounding powers (third in the NBA) against a Kendrick Perkins and KG-less Celtic (27th in rebounding) frontline. Boston Celtics @ Chicago Bulls will be televised on NBA TV at 8:00 PM ET.