Brooklyn Nets vs. Orlando Magic
The Magic suffered a 96-108 loss to the Brooklyn Nets. Due to both teams locking up a spot in the playoffs, they only suited up nine players for Brooklyn and ten players for the Magic.
Lack of Intensity?
After a two-win start, the Magic have lost five games straight. In the first half, the Magic were held to a minimal 29.5% field goal percentage. The Magic were generally outperformed in most aspects on paper. They had a lower field goal percentage, assist numbers, and had a higher number of fouls. Coach Steve Clifford commented post-game that he was disappointed in the intensity levels of some of his players. He also mentioned that he has players that ‘have to get ready (for the playoffs) who didn’t do that…’ With a spot locked in the playoffs, players who want a playing team need to step up to gain playing time in essential scenarios.
The Magic have been limited with a lack of healthy starters. Aaron Gordon suffered a strained left hamstring, Evan Fournier is out with a non-COVID illness, and Terrence Ross has returned to the bubble after medical testing but still needs to quarantine.
The Magic will face off against the Pels on Thursday. This game does not hold any consequences, as both teams have their future locked up in the bubble.
The Nets continue to keep shocking everyone in the bubble and it is something that quite frankly I didn’t even think was going to happen. They keep fighting through games and have stayed in the 7 seed despite all the players that aren’t playing.
The Nets played with a limited roster in the game against the Magic after already locking up the 7 seed. They will be playing the Raptors in the playoffs and the way they are playing it looks like they could upset plenty of teams. Allen, Temple, LeVert, and Harris all rested in this one and the Nets still won another game in the bubble behind their deep team. All the rest that they team will have should lead to a great matchup in Toronto. They just need to keep moving the team forward and keep getting wins.
The Nets are now 5-2 in the bubble and that is straight up shocking. The way they came into the bubble, they were huge underdogs and after their first loss to Orlando, not many people expected much from them. After that they suddenly turned it up and started winning games. Big defensive and offensive performances from the bench led them to win after win. Now they are locked into the 7 seed and get to rest heading into the playoffs. This team must watch basketball in the playoffs.
The Nets play the Blazers next on Thursday night, but don’t expect much from them in this game because they will likely be resting.
Final Score: BKN 108 ORL 96
Houston Rockets vs. San Antonio Spurs
San Antonio Spurs
The Spurs had a dominant 123-105 win over the Houston Rockets. They are currently in a three-way tie for ninth place.
The Spurs had seven players that went double digits in scoring. Keldon Johnson and Demar DeRozan lead with 24 and 23 points, respectively. It was domination from the start. The Spurs outscored the rockets in every quarter except for the 4th. They lead in field goal percentage, three-point percentage, rebounds, and assists. Coach Pop sees the confidence that he saw in college now coming forth in the bubble. Pop further elaborated that Johnson is ‘just a winner.’
With a half, a game splitting the difference between the Spurs and three other teams, a play in will be necessary to decide who wins the final spot. If the Spurs do make it through, it will be their 23rd straight year in the playoffs. However, Coach Pop said that no matter the outcome, this restart is a win in his book. He is proud of his younger player’s development. He was a realist when he thought that playoff chances could be slim from the beginning of the season. Any playoff appearance is a win in this developmental year.
The Spurs will complete their seeding schedule Thursday against the Jazz.
The Houston Rockets have locked up a top five seed in the west, and sit quite comfortably in the fourth spot. Against a Spurs team that is playing every game like a playoff game, the Rockets rested James Harden and were expecting a win.
Took advantage of the takeaways
The Rockets might not have the height to compete with a team’s center on defense, but the Rockets use their quick hands to create turnovers. The Rockets forced 22 turnovers and converted 32 points off these turnovers. It is important for the Rockets to not only create turnovers, but also take advantage of these turnovers and score points. Every game in the bubble is a game without a center for the Rockets, and they need to keep capitalizing on their smaller players and ability to create turnovers. For the Rockets, they need to continue to practice playing against taller opponents and creating turnovers.
Horrible three point percentage
The Rockets are known for their three point shooting, and their game lives and dies by the three point shot. The Rockets shot 29% from three, and no one was hitting their stride. While this does happen to teams shooting huge amounts of threes, the Rockets need to be able to stay competitive even if their three ball isn’t hitting. This has been a problem for the Rockets in the past, and if Russell Westbrook can provide an alternative scoring option then the Rockets could have an answer to their problem.
The Rockets are set to play the Pacers, and they don’t seem to be making any big plays into their playoff seed should just be trying to keep their players healthy.
Final Score: SA 123 HOU 105
Phoenix Suns vs. Philadelphia 76ers
Phoenix is as hot as the Sun with a seven straight game win streak since the start of the bubble. They continue to improve their slim playoff chances and are now a half-game behind the 8th seeded Portland Trailblazers.
The Suns continue to dominate the restart by averaging over 120 points a game. They have had a huge bounce back from the regular season and are now the only undefeated team in the bubble. Once again, Devin Booker lead the team with 35 points, and four other players had double-digit points to assist in the big victory. The Suns as a team lead in all shooting categories except beyond the arc. They took fewer shots but made more baskets. Overall, they outperformed the 76ers to continue their rampage since the restart.
Due to the nature of the bubble with only a limited amount of media, staff, and players capacity, family members are not allowed to live in the bubble with players. These circumstances limit the interactions with loved ones to only voice and video calls. Players can be worn down and struggle without the love and support of their families. However, at the start of this game, each player had personalized introductions from family members to keep morale up for players.
On Thursday, the Suns will face off against another high powered Mavericks offense and look to keep their winning streak alive.
The Sixers are in contention to get the five seed in the East and avoid playing the Celtics in their first round matchup. They have plenty of opportunities to doso, but with Ben Simmons out while this team is able to even make a run.
We have seen it from many teams late in the final regular season games and Philly has now joined the list. A flurry of starters were out of the game against the Suns today due to soreness and mostly because they needed some rest. Why can’t they just say they needed some rest? Now I understand the NBA is tough and players need their time off, but the Sixers still have a lot to fight for and having players sit cause of soreness is a tough pill to swallow for all fans.
Burks led the team in scoring in the loss, putting up 23 points. He had a great night and was getting the ball to go in the Net over and over again. Burks got back to back buckets late in the game to reduce the Suns lead to 3 points. Although the Suns pulled away afterwards, it is good to see the Sixer have players stepping up. Burks ended up shooting just over 50% knocking down 9 shots out of his 17 attempts from the field. A good performance in the loss and hopefully something he can carry as a confidence booster.
The Sixers take on the Raptors on Wednesday at 5:30 and should have some more players in the lineup. The Raptors should have a few players resting and the Sixers could use a win for seeding.
Boston Celtics vs. Memphis Grizzlies
The Boston Celtics have had a couple of early losses in the bubbles, but have started a nice win streak. The Celtics are three games behind the Toronto Raptors, and are just looking to protect their spot from the Heat.
Another great game from Tatum
After a 5 point game to start out the NBA restart, Jayson Tatum has been heating up from his initial start and has gotten back to the Tatum that we know. Just like the Celtics, Tatum has started the NBA restart on a bad note but has started warming up as the season progressed. In his latest game, Tatum put up 29 points and led the Celtics to a win over the Grizzlies. He has been putting up numbers like this consistently, as the Celtics have been peeling off win after win. If Tatum can continue on his scoring tear, then the Celtics should be able to challenge the Bucks for a spot in the championship.
Controlling the Grizzlies shooting
Any team in this era of the NBA relies on shooting as a major factor in their offense. The Celtics were able to slow down the Grizzlies shooting with tight defense and tough shots. The Grizzlies were only able to shoot 24% from three, and 39% from the field. This indicates great defense from the Celtics, on a team that is very explosive such as the Grizzlies. All of these bubble games are practice for the Celtics in order to get themselves ready for the playoffs, and if they can translate this into the playoffs then teams will have a tough time stopping them.
The Celtics are playing the Washington Wizards in their next bubble game. The Wizards have been eliminated from a chance at the playoffs, and offer an easy win to a team like the Celtics.
The Grizzlies are failing to win games and need some in order to keep themselves in the playoffs. That is simply the bottom line for them and they take on the resting Bucks next.
Ja has been laser focused in this bubble and has carried his underdog mentality deep into the restart. In the game he played today he had 26 points and 13 points, he was amazing down the stretch. He also shot above 50% knocking down 7 of his13 shots from the field. Ja played a great game and he has been trying to get his team into the playoffs, but other players have to step up and they just aren’t. The Grizzlies need help in a big way in order to think about making the playoffs with one game to go.
For the four teams left in the hunt for the 8 and 9 seed in the Western Conference playoffs there are a bunch of scenarios. Memphis only has one win. Although that seems like a small task, it has been a problem all year long and looks to continue into their last game. They take on the Bucks who have already clinched the one seed in the East. Will the Bucks rest or not, for now it is not really known. What we do know is without a win the Bucks are in trouble because there are a lot of good teams right behind them that are ready for the playoffs.
The Grizz play the Bucks next and if they win they get into the play in game. The only question in this game is will the Bucks play all their guys.
Final Score: BOS 122 MEM 107
Portland Trail Blazers vs. Dallas Mavericks
The Mavs were really trying to grab the six seed, but those hopes were crushed by Damian Lillard and the Portland Trail Blazers. Damian Lillard tied his career high 61 points, and Dallas fell short. This was one of Dallas’ best games in the bubble, as there are some good takeaways from this loss.
Is the three ball back where it used to be?
After starting out 1-3, it seems like the Mavs have found that same consistency with the three ball. In the game against the Jazz, Dallas shot 50% from beyond the arc. Against the Blazers, it was about 46%. Kristaps Porzingis, Tim Hardaway, and Dorian Finney-Smith have all been productive from the three point line. As for Luka Doncic, he started off well, but then finished 2-8 going the distance. This shot has kept Dallas in a lot of close contests, but somehow, someway, they just can’t get a win. The problem tonight was letting Dame Lillard catch fire. If the Mavericks can finish out the season with four straight games with 40% or higher from beyond the arc, I think it is safe to say it is back where it used to be, and can be a big threat in the playoffs.
Great game from the Doncic-Porzingis duo.
When watching the game, there really isn’t anything more you can ask out of Luka Doncic and Kristaps Porzingis. These two were on the same page throughout the game, and made tough shots to keep their team in the game. Porzingis did foul out with a couple minutes left, but he was still very effective for the time being. He had a crazy 36 points, went 12-17 from the field, and made 7 three’s on 9 attempts. His three ball has improved a lot since the restart, and it has made him that much more dangerous. Doncic, on the other hand, was able to create some tough shots in the paint, and almost had another triple double. This duo will be lethal in the future, and upcoming teams will get a taste of them at their peak of the year.
The last game in the eight game restart for Dallas will be the red hot Suns. Phoenix is a perfect 7-0, and the Mavs will face them for the second time. The first time, Dallas blew a double digit lead in the second half. The key for this game will be to keep the perimeter offense going.
Portland Trail Blazers
The Portland Trail Blazers have been fighting for the 8th seed, and finally got the 8th seed with their victory over the Mavs.
Damian Lillard is too good
Damian Lillard has been scoring huge amounts of points consistently, as the Blazers push for a playoff spot. Against the Mavs, Lillard tied his season high with 61 points as he countered the scoring of both the Mavs top scorers, Porzingus and Doncic. This is great play from one of the best players in the NBA, and is exactly what the Blazers need from their leader. As the season winds down and the playoffs come into view, Lillard needs to continue his outstanding play if the Blazers want to defend their spot in the playoffs.
Had a great turnover ratio
The Blazers were not going to win this game,even if Dame dropped 61, if they did not play quality defense. The Mavs have a high tier offense and the Blazers needed to slow them down. The Blazers forced 17 turnovers from the Mavs in comparison to 8 turnovers that they committed. This is great defense from the Blazers, because they are keeping their turnover number low while forcing the Mavs into turnovers. This is the kind of defense the Blazers need if they want to compete for the eighth seed and compete in the playoffs.
The Blazers are playing the Nets next, and should be looking at an easy win to solidify their eight spot.
Final Score: POR 134 DAL 131
New Orleans Pelicans vs. Sacramento Kings
A disappointing bubble performance ended the Kings season before the playoffs started. As a team, they just weren’t clicking, and were very inconsistent. In their last game, they played the New Orleans Pelicans. Sacramento beat New Orleans the first time, and made sure to do it again.
Could this be Buddy Hield’s last game as a King?
After Buddy Hield got benched mid-season, there have been rumours that he is unhappy with the Kings organization, and that Sacramento may trade him. Hield is on a 4 year contract, worth $88 million. Some teams who may need him are the Orlando Magic, Philadelphia 76ers, or maybe even the Phoenix Suns. Hield averaged 19 points a game, on 39% shooting from beyond the arc. He can give a struggling offensive team a nice boost, and the Kings may be able to get a good role player, or picks for him. The reigning 3 point Champion got drafted by New Orleans, then Sacramento traded for him. This offseason, he may be off to his third team.
A disappointing end to the season.
Before the season suspension, the Kings had won 7 of their last 10 games. After the restart, they didn’t look the same. The offense was completely out of sync, and so was the defense. Down the stretch, they were unable to come up clutch. For example, in the game against the Mavericks, they had no response to Luka driving into the paint. It was just crazy to see how easily a comeback was formed. A long playoff drought could’ve been ended, but Sacramento showed that they weren’t the team deserving that last spot.
New Orleans Pelicans
The Pelicans have lost any chance of playing in the playoffs, and have no motivation for games such as this one.
Jahlil Okafor balled out
With no point in playing any of their next games, the Pelicans have allowed reserves the chance to play. Okafor took this chance, and led the team in scoring with 21 points. Okafor has been labeled a bust by many teams and fans, but if he wants to rewrite this narrative he should continue to take advantage of these chances. The Pelicans should hope that Okafor can continue to play like this for the remainder of the bubble, in order to salvage something from this season.
Pelicans continue to lose
The New Orleans Pelicans started the NBA restart with hopes of playing in the playoffs, and the easiest schedule of any team going into the bubble. Then the losing started, and the Pelicans started losing sight of the playoff spot that seemed so close. With a time limit on Zion Williamson, and horrible play from Lonzo Ball led to the demise of the Pelicans season. Even in a game where both teams had nothing to play for, the Pels were still not able to squeeze out a win.
The Pelicans are set to play the Orlando Magic, and continuing their current trend in the restart we can expect a loss from the Pels.
Final Score: SAC 112 NO 106
Milwaukee Bucks vs. Washington Wizards
The Milwaukee Bucks have locked up the 1st seed in the Eastern Conference, and are just trying to make sure that they keep their players healthy.
Brook Lopez was perfect from three
It is not often when you see a center go 100% from three, and they usually just take one or two threes. Brook Lopez hit 5 of 5 from three and led the team with 24 points. Teams usually leave centers open at the three, but Lopez has turned into a shooter at that range and can knock the three down consistently. This gives the Bucks so much spacing given the constant threat of having Lopez at the three.
Giannis Antetokounmpo should be making sure that he is in tip top shape for the playoffs. Keeping him healthy should be the number one thing that the Bucks should be worrying about. Against the Wizards, we saw some emotion from Giannis that turned into a headbutt on Mo Wagner. While that probably felt really good, he should be making sure that he is 100& when the playoffs come.
The Bucks are playing the Memphis Grizzlies in their next bubble game. While the Bucks have nothing to play for, the Grizzlies are playing for their spot in the playoffs and this could dictate the outcome of the game.
The Wizards had very slim chances at making a push for the playoffs, but they were able to work young players into the rotation during the Orlando restart. Next year, they will have both John Wall and Bradley Beal back
Rui Hachimura has made tremendous improvement.
The Wizards drafted Rui Hachimura with their first round pick this year. Hachimura made great improvement this year, and should be a nice go-to player in the future. He finished with 20 points against the Bucks. He is a very versatile player who can shoot from anywhere. If he can improve his long-range game, he will be able to be another option for Beal and Wall. A decent season for the Wizards, but the future is bright.
Ish Smith has provided great veteran support
While the most notable Washington Wizards players are their young frontcourt, they have had very great support from Ish Smith. Smith is a vetren option coming off the bench, and has been contributing to the Wizards so much. Against the Bucks, Smith put up 19 points and has been putting up double digits games throughout the bubble. While Smith’s production will be limited when Beal and Wall come back, Smith can still provide a spark off the bench.
The Wizards are set to play the Boston Celtics next up. The Celtics will be a playoff contending team, and should be able to take an easy win.
Final Score: MIL 126 WSH 113
Top Image: Bleacher Report