Celtics stars have reason to finish strong
The Celtics barely pulled out an 85-82 win against the Timberwolves Sunday after losing their previous two contests, to bring their record to 8-6 in March. They did it without the services of Rajon Rondo, who aggravated a pinkie injury in Saturday's practice and is considered day-to-day, so Delonte West got the start at point guard. West had eight points, five assists and two steals in 31 minutes of play, and will surface as a nice short-term option if Rondo is sat down for a few games to ensure his finger is feeling better for the playoffs.
Overall, the Celtics' fantasy stars are playing about as well as their team's record this month: Ray Allen is averaging just 13.5 points per game on 41.3 percent shooting from the field in his past 10 contests; Kevin Garnett is at 13.2 points and 7.9 rebounds; and Paul Pierce is at 15.5 points, 0.9 3-pointers and 41.7 percent shooting in the same stretch. All those numbers are well below their season averages. Perhaps the team started focusing on the playoffs a bit too early, and they've shown signs of improvement the past couple games, which might have been spurred by coach Doc Rivers' open frustration and comments about their poor play to the media. I wouldn't expect the deflated stats to continue for the final games of the season, as they're locked into a tight race atop the Eastern Conference for playoff seeding. On Sunday, Pierce scored 23 points with 7 rebounds, 3 assists and 2 3s, and Garnett had 13 points, 13 rebounds and 5 assists. While they might not match their season averages in the final games of the season, I don't see the Celtics' top players slumping the way they have. Rondo should be back shortly, as Rivers said he would be in the lineup if it were the playoffs, and based upon the veteran moxie of this team I'd expect a strong finish for Boston's big four.
David West is out for the season with a torn ACL, which makes Carl Landry worth owning in pretty much every format. He's currently only owned in 52.4 percent of leagues, and if yours isn't one of them, rush to grab him as he'll see inflated stats starting at power forward now that West is gone. Manu Ginobili left the Spurs' contest Sunday with a quad contusion after scoring just two points in 19 minutes of play. Consider him day-to-day, but since the Spurs are famous for resting their stars for the stretch run, I wouldn't expect Manu to match his season averages from hereon out. Chase Budinger returned to the Rockets' lineup after missing a game with a sore ankle, and he dropped 16 points with four 3-pointers in 37 minutes. In 11 games this month, he's averaging 13.4 points, 1.5 3s per game and looks prepared to continue putting up those numbers for the rest of the season. Budinger is owned in just 13.9 percent of ESPN leagues, and is a nice source of points and 3s with low turnovers who's worth owning if that's what you're looking for. Samuel Dalembert continued his torrid stretch on Sunday, scoring 13 points with 19 boards, giving him averages of 15.0 points, 13.0 rebounds, 1.2 blocks and 1.0 steals per game in his past five contests. He's morphed into a legitimate No. 1 center for fantasy teams for the stretch run, so count yourself lucky if you grabbed him before he turned it up, and expect his recent success to continue, as he's been playing well for more than a month now. Sam Young left Sunday's game after just 12 minutes with a sprained ankle and did not return. His status is uncertain for the upcoming week, but Shane Battier took his spot and should be the primary beneficiary if Young misses time. Michael Beasley topped 20 points for the second consecutive game Sunday after failing to do so in the five previous contests. He had 28 points, 10 rebounds, 2 3s, 3 blocks and a steal in 46 minutes of play, and appears to be back at the level he was earlier in the season, scoring 20-plus on a nightly basis.
Monitor Rondo's status for Monday's contest against the Pacers, as West could be a viable spot-start if Rondo's set to miss any time. Jameer Nelson's status for Monday's game against the Knicks is uncertain after he left Friday's game with a knee injury. Gilbert Arenas should see a bump in statistics if Nelson misses time. George Hill is definitely worth a start if Ginobili misses Monday's game against the Blazers, so monitor his status, as he's considered day-to-day.
Josh Whitling is a fantasy basketball analyst for ESPN.com.