Defense To Avoid
Cleveland Cavaliers, at Boston Celtics: There’s no clear-cut “avoid at all costs” defense on the two-game slate, but the Cavs could prove to the stingiest overall. They’ll come in well-rested against a Celtics team that’s endured two tough series to open the postseason, and they’re yielding a solid 104.9 points per game overall in the playoffs. While Boston will be playing on its home court, Cleveland notably held the Celtics to 91 points in the second and final regular-season game against them at TD Garden.
Offense To Use
Cleveland Cavaliers, at Boston Celtics: The Cavs are averaging 114.5 points in the playoffs (second only to Golden State) on 49.0 percent shooting and posted an average of 116.3 versus the Celtics in four regular-season meetings. They’ll check into Wednesday with 10 days of rest, and while that always carries a bit of a risk of sluggishness, it also tends to give the team the advantage of fresher legs as the contest unfolds. Conversely, Boston comes into the conference finals with plenty of will, but potentially fatigued after a seven-game war with the Wizards.
Stephen Curry, GS at SA ($9,100): Curry has scored 60.75 and 56.25 fantasy points in the first two games of the series, the latter coming in just 31 minutes Tuesday night. He’s sporting a 29.9 percent usage rate and averaging 1.45 DraftKings points per minute in the postseason overall, and with Game 3 expected to be much more competitive on San Antonio’s home court, he should see plenty of minutes with which to provide a strong return on what remains a reasonable price.
Kyrie Irving, CLE at BOS ($8,400): Irving is priced just a few hundred dollars below Curry but is still what I’d consider the best “mid-tier” value at guard. He averaged 25.5 points, 6.0 assists, 3.0 rebounds and 1.5 steals against the Celtics in four regular-season games and has a team-high 32.8 percent usage rate in the postseason. Irving has also already eclipsed 40 fantasy points on four occasions and over 50 once in the playoffs as well, and is averaging 1.16 DraftKings points per minute in the postseason
Manu Ginobili, SA vs. GS ($3,900): I believe Patty Mills ($5,500) will bounce back at home in a must-win Game 3 as well, but Ginobili checks in as a potentially explosive value play in the same scenario. He played only five minutes in Tuesday’s Game 2 blowout loss, but should certainly be back to his normal allotment of playing time at home. The veteran scored 30.75 fantasy points in the series-clinching win over the Rockets in the last round and also generated 25.25 fantasy points in Game 1 of the current series, flashing solid upside for his current price. His most prolific fantasy performances during this postseason have come at home, and given the gravity of Game 3, he’s an appealing value play at guard.
LeBron James, CLE at BOS ($12,000): Given the uncertain status of Kawhi Leonard ($9,400), James becomes the choice in the top tier at forward despite his elevated price. He averaged 29.3 points, 9.8 assists, 9.5 rebounds, 1.5 blocks and 1.0 steals across 39.8 minutes versus the Celtics in four regular-season meetings, and he’s sporting a 30.7 percent usage rate and averaging 1.31 DraftKings points per minute in the postseason. The Celtics were also vulnerable to small forwards throughout the season, especially in its latter stages, giving up the most fantasy points to the position (56.0) over the last 10 games of the campaign.
LaMarcus Aldridge, SA vs. GS ($7,600): The best-case scenario for Kawhi Leonard ($9,400) appears to be that he’ll be limited with his ankle injury, and he could well miss Game 3 altogether. Aldridge is a solid play either way, and he sports a 33.4 percent usage rate with Leonard off the floor this postseason. He wasn’t able to exploit his teammate’s absence fully in Game 2 since he only logged 27 minutes in the blowout loss, but his 48.0 fantasy points in Game 1 (which included the majority of the second half without Leonard) and his 53.0 fantasy points in Game 6 of the semifinals versus the Rockets are much better indicators of what he can do as the main scorer on the offense. Even if Leonard does play, Aldridge figures to see plenty of run in a pivotal Game 3.
Jonathon Simmons, SA vs. GS ($5,200): Speaking of Leonard’s potential absence or limitations, Simmons stands to potentially gain the most from either, as has already been proven on more than one occasion this postseason. The most recent example came in Tuesday’s Game 2, when he scored 30.75 fantasy points over just 26 minutes. Simmons also saw 31 minutes in Leonard’s stead back in Game 6 of the semifinals and parlayed them into 26.0 fantasy points, and eclipsed 20 fantasy points in two other games during that series as well with Leonard available. While his price has risen significantly since the beginning of the postseason, his 26.5 percent usage rate without Leonard on the floor during the playoffs gives him plenty of opportunity to provide a solid return.
Al Horford, BOS vs. CLE ($7,100): Horford has finally looked like the Celtics’ marquee offseason acquisition during the playoffs, averaging 16.1 points, 7.5 rebounds and 5.8 assists across 34.2 minutes in 13 games. He naturally projects to play a major role in the conference finals, and will face a Cavs team that closed out the regular season giving up 55.0 fantasy points per game to centers over the last five games, along with 20.4 points and 15.5 rebounds on the season.
Tristan Thompson, CLE at BOS ($5,100): Thompson is in a good position against the Celtics, a team he averaged 11.7 points, 12.0 rebounds, 1.3 assists and 1.0 blocks against in three games during the regular season. Boston was vulnerable to big men throughout the season and gave up the eighth-most fantasy points (48.8) to centers, while Thompson has eclipsed 20 fantasy points on five occasions and 30 fantasy points once in his last seven playoff games.
Kelly Olynyk, BOS vs. CLE ($4,200): Olynyk was the hero in Game 7 of the semifinals versus the Wizards, scoring 38.12 fantasy points on the strength of 71 percent shooting. That haul was easily a playoff high, but demonstrated the type of upside the big man boasts when he gets hot. He also shot 62.5 percent versus the Cavs over three regular-season games, and he’s averaging 1.01 DraftKings points per minute on a 20.7 percent usage rate this postseason.
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