Top DraftKings, FanDuel daily Fantasy basketball picks for Wednesday, Apr. 17 include Dejounte Murray

Three of the four teams in the East portion of the 2024 NBA Play-In Tournament were also in this position a year ago. Miami, Atlanta and Chicago were play-in participants in 2023, making the NBA Play-In Tournament 2024 the debut in this event for Philadelphia. With a playoff-like atmosphere, should NBA DFS lineups turn to stars like Joel Embiid and Tyrese Maxey as they take on Jimmy Butler, Bam Adebayo and Miami? That will be a popular NBA DFS strategy, but one should, perhaps, proceed with caution in regards to Embiid.

In his MVP season last year, Embiid averaged 33.1 points in the regular season but just 23.7 points in the postseason. Yes, he was banged up during the playoffs, but that’s also the same case this year. Bypassing Embiid for daily Fantasy basketball lineups would then open up lots of NBA DFS salary cap space to utilize on others, but who should those other players be? Before making your NBA DFS picks, be sure to check out the NBA DFS advice, player rankings, stacks, and top daily Fantasy basketball picks from SportsLine’s Mike McClure.

McClure is a DFS professional with more than $2 million in career winnings. He’s also a predictive data engineer at SportsLine who uses a powerful prediction model that simulates every minute of every game 10,000 times, taking factors like matchups, statistical trends and injuries into account.

This allows him to find the best NBA DFS values and create optimal lineups that he shares only over at SportsLine. They’re a must-see for any NBA DFS player.

On Tuesday, McClure highlighted Pelicans forward Zion Williamson as one of his top picks in his NBA DFS player pool on both sites. The result: Williamson had 40 points, 11 rebounds and five assists, returning 65.25 points on DraftKings and 63.7 points on FanDuel. Anybody who included him in their lineups was well on the way to a profitable day.

McClure has turned his attention to NBA action on Wednesday and locked in his top daily Fantasy basketball picks. You can only see them by heading to SportsLine.

Top NBA DFS picks for Wednesday, April 17
For Wednesday, one of McClure’s top NBA DFS picks is rostering Hawks PG/SG Dejounte Murray, who is listed at $8,800 on DraftKings and $8,200 on FanDuel. Murray is coming off a stellar season in which he averaged a career-high of 22.5 points to go along with 6.4 assists, 5.3 rebounds and 1.4 steals. He also logged 20 doubles — more than twice as many as the eight he had last year — as he took on more distributing responsibilities when Young was sidelined. With Young back, Murray can operate more as a scorer and he dropped 32 points in the final regular season game.

Murray has scored exactly 17 points in each of his last four games against the Bulls, but he’s also combined for at least 10 rebounds plus assists in each of those. Playing off-guard favors him in this matchup more so than running the point, considering Chicago struggles more versus two-guards. The Bulls are a top-four defense against opposing PGs in terms of Fantasy points allowed on both DraftKings and FanDuel, as opposed to being in the middle-of-the-pack against SGs. Thus, Murray is a better option than Young for tonight and is justified as the most expensive SG on both sites.

Another part of McClure’s optimal NBA DFS strategy includes rostering Heat PF Nikola Jovic ($4,400 on DraftKings and $4,100 on FanDuel). A 2022 first-round pick, Jovic finally established a consistent role with Miami over the last month of the regular season. Over his final 14 games, Jovic started in each one and averaged 11.1 points, 4.3 rebounds and 2.1 assists. He surpassed Kevin Love in the rotation, and the Serb produced 11 points with five rebounds in less than 20 minutes of action earlier this month versus Philadelphia.

Jovic shot 40% from beyond the arc this past season, ranking second on Miami, and that floor spacing will be needed with Embiid patrolling the paint. Philly just allowed PF Noah Clowney to score 16 points in its last game — which was the third-most of his career — and it gave up a 22-15-7 stat line to PF Paolo Banchero in its previous game. So, defending power forwards appears to be a weakness for the Sixers, and Jovic is the type of low-cost, high-reward option that could outproduce his NBA DFS price tags. See McClure’s other NBA DFS picks right here.

How to set your NBA DFS lineups for Wednesday, April 17
McClure is also targeting a player who could go off for massive numbers on Wednesday because of a dream matchup. This pick could be the difference between winning your tournaments and cash games or going home with nothing. You can only see who it is here.

2024 NBA Play-In Tournament picks, April 17 best bets by proven model

The Philadelphia 76ers have gotten hot at just the right moment as they take an eight-game winning streak into Wednesday’s Eastern Conference Play-In game against the Miami Heat. The 8-seed Heat (46-36), who have won two in a row, have won two of three postseason series against Philadelphia, including a 4-2 win over it in the 2022 East semifinals. The 7-seed 76ers (47-35), who finished third in the Atlantic Division, are 25-16 on their home court. The teams split four games during the regular season with both teams winning one home and one road game. Joel Embiid (knee) is listed as questionable, while Miami lists Terry Rozier (neck) as out.

The game from the Wells Fargo Center in Philadelphia will tip off at 7 p.m. ET. Philadelphia is averaging 114.6 points per game, 15th-best in the league, while Miami averages 110.1, 26th-best. The Sixers are 5.5-point favorites in the latest Heat vs. 76ers odds from SportsLine consensus, while the over/under for total points scored is 208. Before making any 76ers vs. Heat picks, you’ll want to see the NBA predictions and betting advice from the proven computer simulation model at SportsLine.

The SportsLine Projection Model simulates every NBA game 10,000 times and has returned well over $10,000 in profit for $100 players on its top-rated NBA picks over the past five-plus seasons. The model enters the 2024 NBA playoffs on a sizzling 88-58 roll on all top-rated NBA picks this season, returning more than $2,600. Anyone following it has seen huge returns.

Now, the model has set its sights on Sixers vs. Heat and just locked in its picks and NBA playoff predictions. You can head to SportsLine now to see the model’s picks. Here are several NBA odds and betting lines for Heat vs. Sixers:

Heat vs. 76ers spread: Philadelphia -5.5
Heat vs. 76ers over/under: 208 points
Heat vs. 76ers money line: Philadelphia -222, Miami +184
MIA: The Heat have hit the money line in 28 of their last 48 away games (+22.15 units)
PHI: The 76ers have hit the third-quarter game total under in 40 of their last 62 games (+17.15 units)
Heat vs. 76ers picks: See picks at SportsLine
Why the 76ers can cover
Miami seems to bring out the best in power forward Tobias Harris. In 32 career games against the Heat, Harris is averaging 17.7 points, 6.4 rebounds and two assists in 34 minutes. In his only action against Miami this season, he scored 27 points, grabbed seven rebounds and dished out six assists in a 119-113 loss on Dec. 25. For the year, Harris has played in 70 games, all starts, and is averaging 17.2 points, 6.5 rebounds and 3.1 assists in 33.8 minutes.

Shooting guard Kelly Oubre Jr. has also taken a liking to playing against the Heat. In four games against them this season, Oubre is averaging 18.5 points, 7.3 rebounds, two assists, 1.8 blocks and one steal. In a 98-91 win over Miami on March 18, Oubre registered a double-double with 22 points and 11 rebounds. In 68 games, including 52 starts, he is averaging 15.4 points, five rebounds, 1.5 assists and 1.1 steals in 30.2 minutes. See who to back at SportsLine.

Why the Heat can cover
Last year, Jimmy Butler came alive during the postseason. He is primed to do the same this time around as he finished tied with Tyler Herro as Miami’s top scorer during the regular season. In 60 games, all starts, Butler is averaging 20.8 points, 5.3 rebounds, five assists and 1.3 steals in 34 minutes. The small forward has reached double-figure scoring in each of the last nine games, including 27 in a 117-115 loss at Indiana on April 7. He scored 20 points and added five assists and four rebounds in a 109-105 loss to Philadelphia on April 4, the only time he faced them in 2023.

Herro has also been red hot of late, reaching double figures in all six games since returning from injury. He poured in 33 points, grabbed five rebounds and dished out four assists in a 117-111 double-overtime win at Atlanta on April 9. In two games against the 76ers this season, he is averaging 22.5 points, 6.5 rebounds and six assists in 38 minutes. For the year, he has started 40 of 42 games, averaging 20.8 points, 5.3 rebounds and 4.5 assists, and is connecting on 44.1% of his field goals, including 39.6% from 3-point range, and 85.6% at the foul line. See who to back at SportsLine.

How to make Heat vs. 76ers picks
SportsLine’s model is leaning Under on the point total, projecting the teams to combine for 207 points. The model also says one side of the spread hits well over 50% of the time. You can only get the model’s picks at SportsLine.

So who wins 76ers vs. Heat, and which side of the spread hits well over 50% of the time? Visit SportsLine now to see which side of the spread you need to jump on, all from the model that’s 88-58 on top-rated NBA picks this season, and find out.

Expect 76ers, Heat to light it up as Bulls will handle Hawks

Now that the 2024 NBA postseason has begun, the basketball betting market is hotter than ever. CBS Sports will be providing daily picks for the duration of the postseason. Sam Quinn will make at least one pick for every game between now and the NBA Finals. All game lines courtesy of SportsLine consensus unless otherwise specified.

Miami Heat at Philadelphia 76ers
Yes, you should be afraid of Jimmy Butler going “you chose Tobias Harris over me???” all over the 76ers again, but he really isn’t the most problematic matchup in this game. How does Miami plan to slow down Tyrese Maxey? The 76ers and Heat have played three teams since Valentine’s Day. Maxey scored 97 combined points in those matchups and was never held below 30. Philadelphia beat Miami on its home court less than two weeks ago, and before you start citing Miami’s postseason history, remember, the Heat lost their first play-in game to Atlanta last season before going on a Finals run. The 76ers are the better team, and they’ll prove it Wednesday. The Pick: 76ers -5

The 208-point total seems a tad low. Yes, the Heat had the NBA’s 21st-ranked offense this season, and yes, Terry Rozier will miss this game due to injury. Still, the favorable Maxey matchup should help the 76ers score plenty of points, and remember, even in a down period for offense and fouls, Joel Embiid has still managed to draw 49 free-throw attempts in the roughly 152 minutes he’s played since returning. That’s more or less in line with his season and career career averages. If Miami can’t stay in front of Maxey and Embiid is getting to the line, their best bet will be to lean into offense and try to win this game by outscoring Philadelphia. The Pick: Over 208

We’ve talked a lot about Philly’s favorable matchups here. How about Miami’s? Without De’Anthony Melton the 76ers don’t have an ideal solution to Tyler Herro, who will get extra shots with Rozier sidelined and Duncan Robinson nursing a back injury. Scoring has been an issue for Miami, and Butler will surely be the focus of Philly’s game plan, but that leaves room for a nice game out of Herro. The Pick: Herro Over 20.5 Points

Atlanta Hawks at Chicago Bulls
Atlanta was 14-14 without Trae Young this season… and 22-32 with him. Chicago is an especially pesky matchup for Atlanta because DeMar DeRozan and Coby White are both capable of hunting him in pick-and-roll, and on the other end of the floor, Alex Caruso is going to hound him all night. The healthy Hawks are here largely by default. Someone had to claim the No. 10 seed in the East, but the Dejounte Murray-centric version of the team that played largely acceptable defense and had a more diverse offense was undeniably the better version this season. Expect the Hawks to go out with a whimper as they head into an offseason filled with change. The Pick: Bulls -3

The Bulls played two play-in games last season. They averaged 208.5 points in total, which is a reflection of their style. The Bulls ranked 28th in pace this season, and while the Hawks ranked sixth, the postseason tends to favor teams that grind games to a halt. Chicago should be able to dictate pace in this matchup as it did in last year’s play-in games, and that means the final score should be relatively low. The Pick: Under 221.5

Young isn’t going to guard White or DeRozan. That means he’s almost certainly going to primarily match up against Caruso, a convenient assignment considering how often Caruso will be guarding him. Caruso has quietly made a career-high 40.8% of his 3-point attempts this season, averaging 1.9 made 3’s per game. Young is going to lose him on defense because, well, that’s what Young does, and Caruso made four 3’s on eight attempts in last year’s play-in loss to the Heat. He isn’t afraid to fire away. The Pick: Caruso Over 1.5 Made 3’s

Timberwolves surge to top spot, Knicks enter top 10 and Rockets’ road struggles continue

Did you ever think you’d be seeing win-or-go-home NBA games in the first week of December? Say what you will about the In-Season Tournament, but the intensity has certainly been there, and will only increase as we get closer to handing the NBA Cup to one lucky team.

That being said, we’re still here to think about the season as a whole, and the Minnesota Timberwolves were the most dominant team in the league this week, riding three straight wins to the No. 1 spot in the Power Rankings. They dethroned the Orlando Magic, who lost for the first time in nine games and fell to No. 4 — tough break. Another team on the rise is the New York Knicks, who also had an undefeated week to earn a spot in the top 10.

On the other side were the Houston Rockets, who remain winless on the road this season after three more losses this week. They plummeted all the way to No. 22, dropping 13 spots — but if trends continue, we’ll likely see them back near the top half once they get some home games under their belt. The biggest risers this week were the Chicago Bulls, pulling off two unlikely wins with their main scorers sidelined. They jumped 10 spots to No. 17, which tells you how bad things had gotten in recent weeks.

Happy December, and here are this week’s NBA Power Rankings.

Bucks vs. Knicks, Lakers vs. Suns could both see underdogs advance

Monday was the newbie portion of the In-Season Tournament quarterfinals. Tuesday is for the vets. The league’s two biggest markets (New York and Los Angeles) will be represented, and the four teams have three combined MVPs (LeBron James, Kevin Durant and Giannis Antetokounmpo) along with six other healthy former All-Stars (Anthony Davis, Devin Booker, Jalen Brunson, Julius Randle, Khris Middleton and Brook Lopez).

Should this change the way you bet? Only slightly. Remember that these are high-profile players and teams in games that should draw more action than typical regular-season contests. The public is going to back the famous people. Keep an eye on role player props and unders. In this space, though, we’re focusing on the spread, so here are our picks for Tuesday’s quarterfinal matchups.

New York Knicks at Milwaukee Bucks
The Bucks are a tricky matchup for the Knicks in that they can’t be bullied physically. New York relies on its No. 2-ranked offensive rebounding rate to generate extra possessions that keep its offense afloat. Giannis Antetokounmpo and Brook Lopez aren’t going to make that easy for them. Fortunately, the rest of the Bucks will make life easy on one Knick in particular.

Jalen Brunson scored 45 points the last time these two teams met. That’s an increasingly common phenomenon. Milwaukee has played 20 games and has allowed 12 different perimeter players to reach 30 points against them. They don’t have a single perimeter defender that can stay in front of Brunson. If Brunson was solely reliant on the rim for his points, this might be an easier matchup for the Bucks because of all that size inside. But Brunson can exploit Milwaukee’s drop-coverage with a slew of mid-range jumpers and pull-up 3’s that they simply have no counter for. Expect a big Brunson game that at least nets the Knicks a cover, if not an outright win. The Pick: Knicks +4.5

Phoenix Suns at Los Angeles Lakers
The Lakers have beaten the Suns twice… but they haven’t beaten Devin Booker yet this season. His presence makes this a completely different matchup. When the Suns have Booker and Kevin Durant on the floor at the same time, they’re scoring a staggering 128.3 points per 100 possessions this season, according to Cleaning the Glass.

The obvious counter here is that the Lakers are finally getting their wing defenders back. Jarred Vanderbilt made his season debut against the Rockets on Saturday. Cam Reddish recently returned as well, and Rui Hachimura expects to play on Tuesday as well. But Durant has scored 77 total points in two games against the Lakers this season. Those two are as close to defense-proof as stars get because so much of their shot diet consists of contested mid-range jumpers they can hit over anybody. They’re going to score points on Tuesday. The Lakers? They’re pretty hit or miss on offense, so lean Phoenix in this one. The Pick: Suns +1.5

2023 NBA In-Season Tournament picks, predictions by proven model

Eastern Conference powers meet with lofty stakes on Tuesday evening. The Milwaukee Bucks welcome the New York Knicks to Fiserv Forum for a quarterfinal matchup of the 2023 NBA In-Season Tournament. The winner will earn a trip to Las Vegas for the semifinal later this week. New York has won three straight games, improving to 12-7 overall and 6-4 on the road this season. Milwaukee is 14-6 overall, including a win over New York in early November, and is 9-1 at home.

For this game, SportsLine consensus lists the Bucks as 5-point favorites, and tip-off is scheduled for 7:30 p.m. ET. The total number of points Vegas thinks will be scored, or the over/under, is 228.5 in the latest Knicks vs. Bucks odds. Before making any Bucks vs. Knicks picks, you need to see the NBA predictions and betting advice from SportsLine’s advanced computer simulation model.

The SportsLine Projection Model simulates every NBA game 10,000 times and has returned well over $10,000 in profit for $100 players on its top-rated NBA picks over the past five-plus seasons. The model enters Week 7 of the 2023-24 NBA season on a sizzling 92-50 roll on all top-rated NBA picks dating back to last season, returning nearly $4,000. Anyone following it has seen huge returns.

Now, the model has set its sights on Knicks vs. Bucks and just locked in its picks and NBA predictions. You can head to SportsLine now to see the model’s picks. Now, here are several NBA odds and betting lines for Knicks vs. Bucks:

Knicks vs. Bucks spread: Bucks -5
Knicks vs. Bucks over/under: 228.5 points
Knicks vs. Bucks money line: Bucks -206, Knicks +170
NYK: The Knicks are 6-3-1 against the spread in the last 10 road games
MIL: The Bucks are 3-6-1 against the spread in the last 10 home games
Knicks vs. Bucks picks: See picks at SportsLine
Why the Knicks can cover
Julius Randle is red-hot for the Knicks as they arrive in Milwaukee. Randle is averaging 20.4 points, 10.2 rebounds, and 5.5 assists per game this season, and he has scored at least 20 points in 12 of the last 13 games. Randle is flanked by another highly productive offensive force in Jalen Brunson, and the Knicks have elite characteristics in key areas. The Knicks are in the top five of the NBA in offensive rebound rate (34.1%), second-chance points (16.3 per game), and turnovers (12.9 per game) this season, and New York is facing a Milwaukee defense that is in the bottom third of the league in overall defensive efficiency.

On the other end, New York is playing outstanding defense. The Knicks lead the NBA in defensive rebound rate (74.4%) and second-chance points allowed (11.3 per game), helping to push New York to a top-three overall mark in defensive efficiency. The Knicks hold opponents to only 1.09 points per possession, and New York is firmly in the top five of the NBA in assists allowed (24.5 per game), points allowed in the paint (44.0 per game), and free throw attempts allowed (18.8 per game). See which team to pick here.

Why the Bucks can cover
Milwaukee outpaces New York when it comes to offensive firepower. The Bucks have two players averaging more than 25 points per game, and rank in the top five of the NBA in offensive efficiency, scoring 118.0 points per 100 possessions. The Bucks are elite from a shooting efficiency standpoint, making 49.5% of field goal attempts, 58.5% of 2-point attempts, and 37.3% of 3-point attempts. Milwaukee is also creating more than 25 free throw attempts per game, and New York’s offense is vulnerable.

The Knicks are dead-last in the NBA in 2-point shooting this season, making only 49.2% of attempts inside the arc. New York is also in the bottom five in field goal percentage, free throw percentage, and assists per game, with the Bucks operating at a high level in preventing free throws on defense. Milwaukee also has the benefit of playing at Fiserv Forum, where the team is 9-1 this season, and former NBA MVP Giannis Antetokounmpo enters on a hot streak with 33.2 points per game on 64.7% shooting over his last 12 outings. See which team to pick here.

How to make Knicks vs. Bucks picks
SportsLine’s model is leaning Under on the point total, with only five players projected to score 13 points or more. The model also says one side of the spread hits in well over 50% of simulations. You can only see the model’s pick at SportsLine.

Top DraftKings, FanDuel daily Fantasy basketball picks for Tuesday, Dec. 5 include LeBron James

Four of the marquee NBA franchises at the moment will be featured in Tuesday’s pair of quarterfinal games for the 2023 NBA In-Season Tournament. The Milwaukee Bucks host the New York Knicks followed by the Los Angeles Lakers hosting the Phoenix Suns. The Lakers and Knicks are arguably the two most recognizable franchises in the league, while the Bucks and Suns are filled with some of the biggest stars in the sport like Giannis Antetokounmpo, Damian Lillard, Kevin Durant and Devin Booker, who are all part of the NBA DFS player pool.

However, star players will set your NBA DFS salary cap back quite a bit, so who are some values to target when making NBA DFS picks on sites like FanDuel and DraftKings? Knicks shooting guard/small forward Donte DiVincenzo made seven 3-pointers in scoring 21 points on Friday against the Raptors, and if he gets hot from the outside against his former team, DiVincenzo could be a valuable asset for NBA DFS lineups. Before making your NBA DFS picks, be sure to check out the NBA DFS advice, player rankings, stacks and top daily Fantasy basketball picks from SportsLine’s Mike McClure.

McClure is a DFS professional with more than $2 million in career winnings. He’s also a predictive data engineer at SportsLine who uses a powerful prediction model that simulates every minute of every game 10,000 times, taking factors like matchups, statistical trends and injuries into account.

This allows him to find the best NBA DFS values and create optimal lineups that he shares only over at SportsLine. They’re a must-see for any NBA DFS player.

On Monday, McClure highlighted Pelicans shooting guard/small forward Brandon Ingram as one of his top picks in his NBA DFS player pool on both sites. The result: Ingram had 30 points, eight rebounds and six assists, returning 51.5 points on DraftKings and 49.6 points on FanDuel. Anybody who included him in their lineups was well on the way to a profitable day.

McClure has turned his attention to NBA action on Tuesday and locked in his top daily Fantasy basketball picks. You can only see them by heading to SportsLine.

Top NBA DFS picks for Tuesday, December 5
For Tuesday, one of McClure’s top NBA DFS picks is Lakers forward LeBron James, who is listed at $9,600 on DraftKings and $9,900 on FanDuel. James is listed as questionable with a calf contusion, but he’s one of the most competitive players in the league with a close eye on legacy and NBA history. With this being the inaugural in-season tournament, it’s no surprise James has the Lakers playing with a different focus and intensity during these games. James wants to win and he could see a postseason-like increase in his minutes and usage on Tuesday, despite it being a regular-season game for the standings.

The Lakers defeated the Suns, 122-119, in their first meeting of the year, which also happened to be a part of the in-season tournament. James had 32 points, 11 rebounds and six assists over 36 minutes. James reached 30 points in two of four in-season tournament games and is averaging 24.4 points per game overall this season. The four-time NBA MVP averaged 24.5 points, 9.9 rebounds and 6.5 assists over 38.7 minutes in 16 playoff games last year, and McClure expects a similar boost in production from James on Tuesday.

Another part of McClure’s optimal NBA DFS strategy includes rostering Suns center Jusuf Nurkic ($6,900 on DraftKings and $7,600 on FanDuel). The 29-year-old scored 31 points against the Nuggets on Friday, followed by 14 points and nine rebounds against the Grizzlies on Saturday. The Suns will need to play Nurkic often with the Lakers’ size of Anthony Davis and options off the bench. Nurkic had 14 points, nine rebounds and seven assists against the Lakers in their first meeting.

Nurkic is averaging 10 rebounds over his last five games, and his size is vital for the Suns, who often play with smaller lineups. The Lakers are allowing the most offensive rebounds (8.2 per game) and the most second-chance points (16.8 per game) in the NBA this season, and Nurkic is a prime candidate to capitalize off those scoring opportunities following misses. See McClure’s other NBA DFS picks right here.

How to set your NBA DFS lineups for Tuesday, December 5
McClure is also targeting a player who could go off for massive numbers on Tuesday because of a dream matchup. This pick could be the difference between winning your tournaments and cash games or going home with nothing. You can only see who it is here.

Bucks’ dominant display against Knicks was the offense we were promised all along

MILWAUKEE — When the Milwaukee Bucks traded for Damian Lillard, the first thought was that they were going to be unstoppable on offense. That’s just what they were on Tuesday night, as they cruised past the New York Knicks for a 146-122 win in the quarterfinals of the NBA’s inaugural In-Season Tournament.

“I thought this was probably our best offensive game,” Lillard said. “What did we score? 146 or something like that? And we left a lot of points on the board too. We missed free throws, we missed some shots in the paint. This could have easily been a 165-point game.”

The Bucks shot 60.4% from the field and 60.5% from 3-point line en route to a season-high in points and made 3s. This was the first time they’ve shot at least 60% overall and from behind the arc in the same game since 1985, and they became the fourth team ever to make at least 23 3s while shooting 60% or better. All against a Knicks team that boasts a top-10 defense.

After shaking off an early scare with his ankle, Giannis Antetokounmpo acted as a battering ram to soften up the Knicks. He scored 10 of the Bucks’ first 12 points with a series of powerful drives and athletic finishes at the rim. That’s a grueling act to keep up all night long, but the two-time MVP doesn’t have to now that Lillard is around. In the second quarter, it was Lillard’s time to shine, and he poured in 14 points with a barrage of 3s.

Lillard and Antetokounmpo may not be running as many pick-and-rolls as everyone expected, but they’re starting to figure out a balance where they can each thrive without detracting from the other. The Bucks are 8-2 in their last 10 games, and during that stretch both are in the top-14 in the league in scoring, and combinging for 57.7 points and 14.9 assists per game. Antetokounmpo is shooting 63.9% from the field, while Lillard is at 47.7%, including 41.5% from downtown.

Monday night was no different, as Antetokounmpo went for 35 points, eight rebounds and 10 assists and Lillard added 28 points and seven assists.

“I really like how we’re starting to learn each other,” Lillard said. “There’s been some bumps in that process where we don’t play so great some nights, but we’re still able to win those games. Now it’s just starting to get a little more smooth. Knowing where we should be on the floor, knowing how to give each other outlets, knowing how to help each other be who we are. It’s not perfect, but I like that we’re showing improvement and it’s carrying over and you can see it on the floor.”

Even arguably the best 1-2 punch in the league needs help, though, and the Bucks’ supporting cast has been thriving. Six different players are scoring in double figures this season, which is tied for the third-most on one team in the league.

Against the Knicks, it was Malik Beasley’s turn to show out. The veteran shooting guard chipped in 18 points on 6-of-10 shooting from downtown, making this the fourth time he’s made at least six 3s in a game this season. Only Stephen Curry (seven) has done so more often.

With Antetokounmpo and Lillard demanding so much attention, Beasley feasted on open looks. None more dramatic than when all five Knicks were in the paint surrounding Antetokounmpo, and he found Beasley all by himself in the corner for an exclamation point 3.

“In training camp we kept smiling because it was so easy with our spacing,” Beasley said. “Your’re starting to see it now… I have the role where I gotta be the X-factor guy and knock down shots. Sometimes when Giannis and Dame have the ball so much, the attention’s all on them and there’s gonna be stints where three, four shots right away and I gotta knock ’em down. I’ve been doing a good job of that. Just gotta stay focused, I know my job is to defend and make shots.”

The Bucks’ defense is still a concern, but it might not matter with how easily they put points on the board.

After their destruction of the Knicks, they now rank third in the league in offensive rating at 119.2, second in true shooting at 61.4%, seventh in 3s per game at 14.5 and seventh in free throw rate at 0.282. If you’re less inclined toward advanced stats, they’ve put up at least 130 points seven times, which is second only to the Pacers.

And as they tell it, they’re just getting started.

“I definitely expected us to be great because of the kind of people we have on the team, not necessarily the talent,” Brook Lopez said. “Obviously the talent’s there, but the make-up of the guys is what’s gonna make it really succeed. As good as were tonight, I don’t think we’re close to what we’re gonna be at the end of the season.”

LeBron James joins Kobe Bryant, Magic Johnson in record books as Lakers advance to In-Season Tournament semis

LeBron James can’t go more than a week or two without making NBA history, and he made plenty of it in Tuesday’s 106-103 victory over the Phoenix Suns. The win itself was historically significant as it sent the Los Angeles Lakers to Las Vegas for the first ever In-Season Tournament semifinals. They will face the New Orleans Pelicans on Thursday, but his individual numbers to get there were the real story of the night.

In leading the Lakers to that win, James put up 31 points, 11 assists, eight rebounds and five steals. That stat line made history in several ways. Here is a brief sampling:

James is the first Laker to put up 20 points, 10 assists and five steals in a game since Kobe Bryant did so in 2004.
James is the first Laker to put up 30 points, 10 assists, five rebounds and five steals in a game since Magic Johnson did so in 1987.
James is now the oldest player in NBA history to record a 30-point, 10-assist, five-steal game, and the 17th-oldest player overall to record any sort of five-steal game.
James has been making and breaking records for over two decades now, but part of the fun of the In-Season Tournament is that it is so new that he has a chance to set initial records that other players will one day break. Through five games, he ranks ninth in the tournament in total points (131), fourth in assists (41), fifth in steals (nine) and 16th in rebounds (40). Should the Lakers advance to the championship game, it is conceivable that he could wind up leading or coming in close in several of those areas.

Whether he does or doesn’t, James just had one of the most memorable individual performance of the In-Season Tournament so far. When we look back on the tournament’s inception years from now, this will certainly be one of the games that gets remembered.

Refs stand by controversial LeBron James timeout call that helped Lakers reach In-Season Tournament semifinals

The Los Angeles Lakers are headed to Las Vegas for the In-Season Tournament semifinals after defeating the Phoenix Suns, 106-103, in Tuesday’s quarterfinal matchup, but the victory was not without controversy. Leading 105-103 with 11 seconds left, the Lakers needed only to inbound the ball, get fouled and make two free throws to effectively clinch the game. Yet when they attempted to do so, chaos ensued. Austin Reaves lost the ball and the Suns seemed to gain possession with a chance to tie or win the game. Fortunately for the Lakers, LeBron James had the foresight to call timeout to save possession.

Here’s the problem: Reaves didn’t seem to have possession of the ball when James called the timeout. Video seemingly shows that the ball was loose when James signaled for the timeout, meaning it should not have been granted and the Suns should have been able to gain possession on a live ball then and there.

After the game, pool reporter Jovan Buha of The Athletic asked crew chief Josh Tiven about the incident, and he stood by the call. “During live play the official felt that LA still had possession of the ball when LeBron James requested the timeout,” Tiven said. “Through postgame video review in slow motion replay, we did see that Austin Reaves had his left hand on the ball while it’s pinned against his left leg, which does constitute control.

Instead of Grayson Allen potentially tying the game on a quick layup, the Lakers were allowed the timeout and another chance to inbound the ball. After yet another timeout, Anthony Davis was fouled and made his first free throw. He missed the second, but Kevin Durant came up short on a game-tying 3-point attempt as the clock wound down. That sealed the Lakers’ victory, and it was a meaningful one at that.

The Lakers will now travel to Las Vegas for a matchup with the New Orleans Pelicans. If they win that game, then a championship game awaits them against either the Indiana Pacers or Milwaukee Bucks — and each player on the last team standing earns an additional $500,000. The Lakers have spoken quite a bit about wanting to win that prize, though the top award would’ve been especially meaningful to the Suns. They have nine players earning minimum salaries this season. Even the wealthier Suns were upset with the call. “We’re not asking for favoritism, just a fair chance,” Devin Booker said after the game. Booker also posted a screenshot that seemingly showed James calling for time without Reaves possessing the ball to his Instagram story after the game.

Instead of competing for the grand prize, the Suns will have to settle for a Friday date hosting the Sacramento Kings. It may only be a single loss in the standings, but given the attention on the league’s inaugural In-Season Tournament, the last thing anyone wants is a controversial ending to a knockout game.