Orlando Magic vs Indiana Pacers
After starting off 2-0 in the bubble, the Orlando Magic went on to face their hardest opponent yet in their third game. This game featured a red hot T.J. Warren, along with Myles Turner and Malcolm Brogdon. Orlando needed this game to make a statement that they can beat big time teams. But, T.J. Warren had other plans.
The offense just didn’t hit the same.
In the first two games, the Magic averaged 130 points on offense. In their third game, they just couldn’t find an easy bucket, as the Pacers kept getting stopped and forcing them into bad shots. In the first quarter, Indiana made a 19-3 run, and Orlando would never catch up after that. Keep in mind, this game was their first without Jonathan Issac, so Steve Clifford was trying to find new rotations and lineups to replace him. Orlando had 17 turnovers in this matchup, and Indiana capitalized off of them. Even though the Magic most likely can’t get the six seed, it is important for them to give it their all against teams that they will face in the playoffs.
Orlando hasn’t proved that they can beat better teams yet.
Game 3 was a huge one for Orlando. It could’ve been a statement win against a top 5 team in the East, and it would’ve moved them up to 3-0. The 2 wins so far are to teams that are at the bottom 5 of the bubble. Yes, we saw some plus’ in those games, but they didn’t show us that the Magic are capable of doing something in the playoffs. A win against Indiana would prove to NBA fans that the Orlando Magic are a team that you should not be sleeping on.
Next up for the Magic is an even harder team. The defending champs. Orlando will likely be playing the Raptors with a seven seed, so this game will be one to pay close attention to. It’ll be hard containing Pascal Siakam when you don’t have one of your best defenders in Jonathan Issac. The key for this game is to keep a consistent pace on offense. Orlando did beat this team once in the playoffs last year, let’s see if they can pull off an upset again.
The Pacers are coming off of an 11 point win against the Washington Wizards, and faced off against the Orlando Magic. T.J. Warren has stayed hot for two games in a row, and continued his dominance yet again. Without Domantas Sabonis, it has been clear that Warren is the guy to step it up for the Pacers.
The quick start got Indiana the win.
To begin the game, the Pacers went on a hot run, quickly outscoring the Magic by 16. Indiana did a great job of keeping this lead throughout the game, with all cylinders clicking. The Pacers scored 43 points in the fourth quarter, and kept Orlando to just 23. After Orlando cut the lead down to 12, the Pacers gave the ball to T.J. Warren, and the problem was solved. One of the things that was very noticeable was that Indiana had great decision making. They made smart plays, and avoided useless turnovers that the Magic could turn into points. Early on, they took advantage of turnovers from Orlando, and turned them into quick points which helped them gain the big lead.
T.J. Warren cannot be stopped.
After the great performances throughout the first two games, many wondered if T.J. Warren can continue his dominance even more? Well, he answered that question once again. Warren posed as a threat in the paint, in the mid-range, and from the 3 point line. An all around great game for him. Warren shot 80% from beyond the arc, and went 13-17 from the field. He’s in a great rhythm, and cannot be stopped. T.J. is averaging almost 40 points per game in the bubble, and is giving his Pacers a huge boost, especially without All Star Domantas Sabonis.
Game 4 will feature two teams who are 3-0 in the bubble. Indiana will be going up against Devin Booker’s red hot Suns. Phoenix is coming off of a 2 point win against the Clippers, and Booker just continues to dominate, like Warren. The main key for Indiana is to limit the Suns bench. We all know that D-Book will have his way, so it’s important that the Pacers dominate when Phoenix’s bench is on the court.
Final Score: ORL 109, IND 120
Phoenix Suns vs Los Angeles Clippers
The Suns have shown a lot of promise so far in the bubble. In their second game, they capped off a comeback win against the Dallas Mavericks, and then went up against the L.A. Clippers. This game featured a lot of excitement, and an unexpected result.
Once Devin Booker got into a rhythm, there was no stopping him.
Throughout the entire game, Devin Booker was able to have his way against a tough Clippers defense. He got to the mid-range, showing great patience before taking a shot. Booker also showed extreme confidence from beyond the arc, going 6-9 from that range. He knocked down several pull up three’s, some from way out. Even though it will still be hard for Phoenix to grab that eight seed, this win was a very big one. They now improve to 3-0, and two of those wins are Western Conference playoff teams. Devin Booker has been one of the more underrated players, and he has shown great resilience in silencing the negative crowd.
DeAndre Ayton had another productive night.
The Booker-Ayton duo is showing a lot of hope in the bubble. Against the Clippers, the two combined for 54 points, and gave L.A. a problem. Ayton also had seven rebounds, and four assists. Consistent play like this can move Phoenix in the right direction, as they have a good mix between veterans and young players. Ayton made 9 field goals, on 18 attempts. He is slowly progressing, and his stats show it. Even if the Suns don’t make the playoffs this year, in the coming years they can turn into something special, especially when Ayton has productive nights on big teams like the Clippers.
Next up for Phoenix are the Indiana Pacers. The Pacers are also 3-0, coming off of a win against the Magic. T.J. Warren has been on fire lately, so the key for the Suns is to defend him well, and force him into bad shots, especially in the mid-range game.
Los Angeles Clippers
After getting their first win, the Clippers were looking at making it two straight, now going up against the Phoenix Suns. Kawhi Leonard and Paul George both had great games, but the Clippers fell short to a Devin Booker buzzer beater.
Ivica Zubac is a major contributor.
Ivica Zubac had a productive game against the Suns, putting up a double-double, and grabbing offensive boards left and right. The 7 footer has played a quiet, but big role in the Clippers’ success. Zubac dropped 18 points and 12 rebounds. If he was able to secure the last rebound of the game, the outcome may have been a little different.
Defense needs to get back to normal.
As a championship contending team, you always have something that you specialize in. That thing is defense, for the Clippers. During their time in the bubble, the defense just looks a little off than what they used to. For example, in transition, they kept letting Devin Booker knock down wide open threes. When Booker got hot, there was no solution to stopping him. DeAndre Ayton was able to create space and get easy buckets in the paint. Those little things need to be fixed come playoff time.
The Clippers will go on to face the Dallas Mavericks next. The Mavs are coming off of their first win against the Sacramento Kings. Luka Doncic dropped a triple double, and his creativity just keeps getting better. The key for the Clippers is to make sure Ivica Zubac locks down Kristaps Porzingis. Porzingis is going crazy from mid-range, so it’ll be important to give him a challenge.
Final Score: PHX 117, LAC 115
Dallas Mavericks vs Sacramento Kings
After a disappointing loss to the Phoenix Suns, the Dallas Mavericks desperately needed this win against the Sacramento Kings to avoid a 0-3 start. Luka Magic has been outstanding so far, and so has his sidekick Kristaps Porzingis.
Despite a struggle from beyond the arc, Luka Doncic can still be a major, major threat.
Luka Doncic has been known for having a killer step-back three. Throughout this entire season, the three ball just hasn’t been working out for him. Instead, he has been more effective when driving into the lane, and making a tough move on the defender. Against the Kings, that is exactly what he did. Doncic dropped 30 points, going 50% from the field on 24 attempts. He recorded his 16th triple double of the year, and had a 30-20-10 game. Yep, he grabbed 20 rebounds. Once his three ball gets improved, it will be yet another factor added to his arsenal, making him that much harder to guard.
As a team, Dallas is in a slump when it comes to three point shooting.
Game 3 was the second game where the Mavs shot below 20% from beyond the arc. Dallas can’t keep affording to be this inconsistent in this category, because it is their main way of generating offense. And for the Mavericks, good offense means a good game. In the first game against Houston, they showed no signs of slowing down. But ever since the Phoenix game, it has been downhill. This aspect of their game needs to be improved soon, or else the rest of the season will be a long road.
Well, the Mavs are about to face their toughest team yet in the bubble. The L.A. Clippers. The Clips are coming off of a 2 point loss to the Phoenix Suns, and their defense has been sub-par. The key for the Mavs is to get consistent with that three ball. They need to get to the Clippers defense fast, and make a statement early.
The Kings haven’t won a game in the bubble, and their third game was against the Dallas Mavs. Sacramento is yet to beat them this year, as Dallas took advantage of the Kings falling on defense. De’Aaron Fox had a great first half, but Sacramento fell short in OT.
Bogdan Bogdanovic just couldn’t buy a bucket.
After the Kings decided to bench Buddy Hield mid season, they replaced him with Bogdan Bogdanovic. Bogdanovic was flat out terrible against the Mavs. He made one field goal on 15 attempts, and finished with 3 points. If he was able to have a strong game, Sacramento may have had a better chance at winning. At one point, the Kings were up by ten, but Bogdan just couldn’t get a basket to extend that lead. If Sacramento wants to get a win against a playoff team, it’s going to take a good game from Bogdanovic.
When Luke Walton put Buddy Hield in, the Kings had more success.
Because Bogdan Bogdanovic was struggling in the field, Head Coach Luka Walton gave Buddy Hield some extra minutes. In game 3, Hield did not disappoint. Buddy Buckets dropped 21, made 5 threes, along with 4 rebounds and three assists. He made a couple of threes in overtime to bring the Kings back to a 2 possession game, but it wasn’t enough. Something Sacramento should consider is to start Buddy Hield again, and see how it goes.
The Kings will now try to get their first win against the New Orleans Pelicans. The key for this game is to have consistent shooting. If they can score points easily, they will give the Pels a harder challenge.
Final Score: DAL 114, SAC 110
Rockets vs Trail Blazers
The Houston Rockets are coming off a great game against the Bucks in which they were able to squeeze out the win, and prove that small ball is still effective. Against the Blazers, the small ball was again put to the test and did not come out with the same result as the Bucks game.
One of the biggest tactics that the Blazers used to stop the Rockets was to double team Harden, and use their center to protect the rim. This left Jeff Green, the Rockets five, with wide open shots in the corner. Green was 5 of 9 from three, and capitalized on the Blazers dedication to stopping Harden. Green had 22 points and was the Rockets second leading scoring, while keeping the game close with his three point range and inside game. While Jeff Green is not expected to be a major contributor to the team, it is great for Rockets coach Mike D’Antoni to know that he can count on the vet for quality minutes.
Inability to get rebounds
The Rockets play small ball, and one of the downsides of this style of play is losing out on rebounds. While the Rockets are not expected to do very well in the rebounding category, they need to be able to limit the amount of offensive rebounds that teams get. The Blazers were able to get 15 offensive rebounds, and these second chance points were a main reason for the Blazers win. If the Rockets can somehow limit the offensive rebounds that they give up, they will be very dangerous come playoff time.
The Rockets are going to be playing the L.A Lakers next. This is a huge game, and the Rockets need to stay competitive and show that their small ball can work.
Portland Trail Blazers
The Blazers are coming off a tough loss against the Celtics, and were looking for a bounce back game against a very talented Rockets team. The Blazer showed up, and played like a team that should be in the playoffs.
Carmelo Anthony’s clutch
After being cut by the OKC Thunder and Houston Rockets, Melo has found a home playing with the Trail Blazers. He has just switched to small forward when the NBA restarted, and has been coming up big in clutch time. Against the Rockets, Melo hit a huge three pointer with 50 seconds left to go. Carmelo pushed the Blazers lead up to five, and stopped any chance the Rockets had of making a comeback. For a team that already has a clutch performer in Damian Lillard, many would believe that Anthony would not be needed in clutch time. But, against the Rockets Lillard was already covered and needed to find the open man. Melo is the second scorer that can provide clutch shooting when the defense key is on Lillard, and forget about Melo.
Gary Trent Jr. is hot from three
Coming off the bench for Portland, Trent is a three point specialist that can light it up. Trent had 16 points against the Rockets, and was 4 of 9 from three. Trent has become someone that can hit the three, but also attack and draw fouls. Portland needs someone like this who they can pair with Lillard or McCollum when they are driving and need someone to kick it out to.
The Blazers are going to play the Denver Nuggets next in the bubble, and are going to have to be on their A game such as they were against Houston.
Final Score: HOU 102, POR 110
Nets vs Bucks
The Milwaukee Bucks have games in this bubble that carry no significance to their playoff seeding, and therefore matter little to the best team in the East. After playing their starters through the first half, the Bucks gave their starters a rest and played their second unit.
Giannis hit some threes
One of the few weaknesses of Giannis Antetokounmpo’s game is his ability to shoot threes. While Giannis has been improving this part of his game, it is still nowhere near the level the Bucks would like to see it at. In the game against the Nets, Giannis was 2 for 3 from the three point line while playing only 16 minutes. While this is a very minor amount of threes that Giannis is taking, the Bucks should still be encouraged by the fact that Giannis is taking threes and gaining confidence.
Brooklyn was able to score 73 points in the first half
In a first half in which the Bucks had the majority of their starters on the floor, the Nets were able to score 73 points in the first half. This is without starters Caris Levert and Jarret Allen, who usually carry the offense. This was due to the immense amount of threes that the Nets were taking and making. The Bucks could not stop the onslaught of threes, and when the Bucks did try and get aggressive the Nets started attacking the basket and getting easy shots. This is one of the major disadvantages of the Bucks defense that clogs the lane, and does not give up easy shots close to the lane. We saw this highlighted by the 21 threes made by the Nets and the Rockets, who both beat the Bucks in close games.
The Bucks are set to play the Miami Heat, in one day. The Bucks should view this game as a matchup that could appear in their path during the playoffs, and really study this game and how it goes.
Can the weakened Nets hold off the Magic and stay in the 7 seed in these seeding games?
The Net’s biggest helper in the win was moving the ball around. Every single player was involved in the Nets team and no one was playing selfish basketball. They won this game without Chris LeVert and Joe Harris who both did not play due to injuries. Timothe Luwawu-Cabarrot was the biggest helper for the Nets with 26 points in 31 minutes. Garrett Temple and Chris Chiozza were also two players that were clutch down the stretch for the Nets. Temple ended up with 19 and Chris with 10 both hit shots late in the game. If the Nets whole team can step up and come together like they did today, I have no problem saying this team can win a lot more games.
Jamal Crawford can be a problem
Crawford played only 6 minutes in this contest leaving the game with a hamstring injury that would soon turn out to be a strain. Although while he was on the court Jamal looked really good. He was moving down the court well and playing good ball on both sides. On the offensive sides, he found open players as he drove and even knocked down a contested three. In his short return, Jamal had 5 points and 3 assists and had a pretty big impact for the Nets. If we see a healthy Crawford again, watch out he has a lot of potential.
Final Score: BKN 119 MIL 116
The Nets play the Celtics tomorrow at 6 PM on national TV. Will the same Nets team come out to play or we will see something similar to when they played Orlando?
Final Score: BKN 119 MIL 116
Heat vs Celtics
The Boston Celtics got a very nice win against the Portland Trail Blazers, and are looking to carry that momentum into their game against the Heat. The Celtics will be trying to integrate Kemba Walker back into his starting role, while taking advantage of a Heat team that is without Jimmy Butler.
Couldn’t stop the Heat’s penetration
The Miami Heat created most of their offense from dribble penetration. This set up the easy inside looks or the wide open three pointers, which the Heat took full advantage of. With three point specialists such as Tyler Herro and Duncan Robinson opening up the floor, the Celtics couldn’t contain the Heat’s three point shooting while also protecting the paint. The Celtics played most of the game with undersized Daniel Thies at center, which created a mismatch on Bam Adebayo in favor of the Heat. This gave the Heat a significant threat down low that the Celtics always had to double, and this left the Heat’s shooters wide open. The red hot Heat were shooting all over the Celtics, and there was nothing they could do to stop them. While the Celtics were able to bring in Enes Kanter to flip the height advantage, a more agile Adebayo was able to maneuver around the less mobile Kanter. While most teams do not have a skilled center such as Adebayo, the Celtics should be prepared if they face the Heat in the playoffs.
Tatum and Brown had another great game
The two offensive centerpieces for the Celtics coming into the bubble was Jaylon Brown and Jayson Tatum. Against the Heat, Tatum was dominating his defenders with an array of one on one moves left his defender spinning. While Brown is not the iso specialist that Tatum is, he can still get to the basket with his speed and power. The Celtics are waiting for their third star, Kemba Walker, to recover from a minor injury and start playing like himself. The Celtics will be waiting for Walker’s return to form, and until that time Brown and Tatum will need to continue their great offensive play.
The Celtics are set to play an undermanned Nets team, that should be an easy win. The Celtics will be giving Kemba the chance to rest against an easier opponent, and if this rest gets Walker back to 100% then the Celtics will receive a huge offensive and defensive boost.
Can the Heat keep up with Boston long enough to take the 3 seed away from the Celtics?
Miami was without Jimmy Butler in this contest as Butler was out with a sore right ankle. The team had already lost to Boston twice in the regular season and wanted this game badly to avoid getting swept. It would also bring Miami closer to taking down Boston and grabbing the 3 seed. Duncan Robinson had 21 and Kelly Olynyk added 15. From the bench, Tyler Herro had 11 and Gorgan Dragic added 20 more. Bam Adebayo had 21 points and 12 rebounds stepping up in a big time without Jimmy Butler. It was a huge day for role players for the Heat and the starters as everyone picked it up without Butler and it paid off.
Miami has a few things going for them in the record category, starting off with Andre Iguodala who hit his 1000th 3 pointer of his career in this game. Another thing for Miami is Dragic who limped to the locker room late, but x-rays came back negative. Miami is 11-3 when Dragic scores 20 points or more. They are also 35-5 when having a lead heading into the fourth quarter. All things are looking good for the Heat and a healthy Dragic is big time.
The Heat play the Bucks on Thursday at 3 PM on TNT.
Final Score: MIA 112 BOS 106
Top Photo: abc30.com