San Antonio Spurs vs. Utah Jazz
San Antonio Spurs
After a couple of surprise victories, the Spurs are still in the talks for the eight seed. The Spurs took advantage of a shorthanded Jazz team, to take an easy victory.
Derrick White led the team
The San Antonio Spurs have given in to their trio of young guards, and have given them full freedom in the bubble. This has led to impressive performances from all three of their guards, which is a big reason for the Spurs continued fight for the playoffs. Against the Utah Jazz, it was Derrick White who led the team with 24 points and 6 rebounds. For the Spurs, this is another example of how talented their young guards are and that they should continue to develop these young guys.
Starting lineup was effective
The San Antonio Spurs offense was dangerous, and we saw a balanced starting lineup. All the Spurs starters scored in the double figures, and were the focus of the offense. Due to a lackluster performance from their bench, the Spurs relied on their starters to provide much of their offense.
The Spurs will be playing the New Orleans Pelicans, and this matchup will be a huge factor in which team is able to contend for the playoffs and who goes home.
In a game where the Jazz were without four of their five starters, they were still able to produce a close game.
Jordan Clarkson had a day
In a game in which no other Jazz player reached 15 points, Clarkson was able to drop 24 points. Coming off the bench as he usually does, Clarkson continues giving the Jazz offense a spark off the bench as well as a solid offensive performer. Clarkson is able to create his own shot, and in a game without their primary weapons, the Jazz were able to rely on Clarkson’s offensive game. Clarkson continues to give solid performances, and is a piece the Jazz need in their lineup.
The Utah Jazz rely on Rudy Gobert for most of their frontcourt action, but when he is not in the game the Jazz should have someone who is ready to play in the paint. The Jazz did not get a productive frontcourt with Gobert out, and their starting center, Ed Davis, had no points. This is concerning for the Jazz, because they will need someone to step in when Gobert is out.
The Jazz are going to be playing a top tier playoff contender in the Denver Nuggets. As a middle of the pack playoff team themselves, the Jazz need to play well against the Nuggets who they might see in the playoffs.
SAS 119 UTA 111
OKC Thunder vs. Memphis Grizzlies
Oklahoma City Thunder
After easily moving past the Lakers the Thunder are playing at a high level right now. A win could put them in a tie for the four seed in the Western conference.
OKC started the game red hot knocking down shots all over the court. Starting the game there were 7 for 13 in 3 pointers in the first quarter. This would lead to them taking a 12 point lead at the end of the first. For the rest of the game though they were 6 for 30 from beyond the arc and let Memphis right back in the game. Late efforts from Chris Paul and Danilo Gallinari cut the lead from 9 to 3 at the half. From there the Thunder still struggled to get going and Memphis had a comfortable lead for the rest of the game.
The biggest concern in this game for OKC wasn’t their shooting, but their defense. Chris Paul said “Our defense was just bad today,” after the game. Quite honestly the Thunder just looked burned out after a few solid wins and another tough team up. The effort on both sides wasn’t there and it was disappointing especially on the defensive side. Some rest before their next game will hopefully help with that. If that’s the formula we can see the dark horse Thunder team that we have been seeing.
Next OKC goes to take on the worst team in the bubble in the Washington Wizards. The biggest thing for OKC is if they can shoot well the whole game. They have no excuses against the Wizards.
The Grizz have yet to win a game and all of a sudden their lead on the 8 seed has disappeared. This was a must win to stay ahead and they got it.
After the injury to Jaren Jackson Jr. Memphis needed to fill the void that he left. They showed they are capable of doing just so in a huge win against OKC. Down 12 at the end of the third they bounced back in and controlled the game. Ja Morant and Jonas Valanciunas both had 19 in the in with Jonas adding in 11 rebounds. Dillon Brooks looks like he is back as well putting up 22 points on 10-18 shooting. The Grizz bench also stepped up by putting up 43 with 3 players in double digits.
Morant missed his daughter’s first birthday today and he told the media that he wasn’t happy about it at all. Although Ja looked like he was struggling at first he cleaned it up very well. He moved the ball cleanly and was finding teammates for open looks throughout the game. He ended with 9 assists on the night and added on 4 rebounds. His shooting wasn’t great but he made some buckets when needed going 5-12 from the fields. Ja played some good ball today and quite honestly could be the new standard with a more confident Grizzlies team.
The Grizzlies take on the Raptors on Sunday at 1 PM. The matchup in this one is Ja Morant vs Kyle Lowry, the winner will probably lead their team to the win.
Final Score: MEM 121 OKC 92
Sacramento Kings vs. Brooklyn Nets
The Nets looked like they were in big trouble coming into the bubble and getting smoked by the Magic. Since then they have cleaned their act and are looking like a solid team.
The biggest contributors in this one were the players who have played all year long. Caris LeVert and Jarett Allen were huge in the win with both having big nights. LeVert had 22 points in the win and Allen had 17 to go along with 11 rebounds and 8 assists. The big man was moving really well and always giving up shots to find the open look. It was key in the win and more team basketball from Jarett Allen will be instrumental in Nets wins. Joe Harris also played really well adding on 21 points being 5-7 from 3 point range.
The Nets bench has been the real story of the bubble consistently being a solid group of guys and just beating their opponent. Tyler Johnson and Chris Chiozza are two guys that for the past games have come up in a big way. Both of them are consistently taking good shots and keeping the Nets in control. That is something that is purely coaching, you can’t just do that. Props to head coach Jacque Vaughn for getting this team ready. Johnson had 14 and Chris had 14 as well; they also combined for 9 rebounds and 6 assists as well. The way they are playing the Nets may be able to surprise some teams especially down the stretch.
The Nets take on the Clippers next in a game that will be very tough for the Nets. I think they look to find their rotation in this game on Sunday night as they get ready for the playoffs.
After picking up their first win in the bubble, the Sacramento Kings were expected to make it two in a row against the Brooklyn Nets. Sacramento couldn’t keep up in the second quarter, and Brooklyn was able to keep control for the rest of the game.
Shooting Guards were the only ones who could get offense going.
The Kings were only able to put up 106 points in this game, compared to 140 points the game before. Shooting guards Bogdan Bogdanovic and Buddy Hield got the offense going, but the rest of the Kings just couldn’t follow. Bogdanovic finished with 27 points, and went 4-8 from the three point line. After a terrible game against the Mavs, he has bounced back since. Buddy Hield had 17 points, and although he went 3-10 from beyond the arc, he was able to score easily and give Sacramento life. Other than these two and De’Aaron Fox, no player scored more than 16 points. Alex Len was the 5th leading scorer, and he had just 6 points. If the Kings want to make a statement, they can’t keep being inconsistent on both ends of the floor.
When three ball isn’t working, offense is at a low point.
Throughout the bubble, most games for the Kings have been used relying on the three pointer. Against the Nets, Sacramento made just 12 three pointers on 40 attempts (30%). This limited them on offense, because they also struggled in the paint going against Jarrett Allen. De’Aaron Fox went 2-7 from beyond the arc, and couldn’t get his team going. Cory Joseph and Nemanja Bjelica didn’t make a three at all, and Bjelica finished with just 4 points. These kinds of stats show that without the three pointer working, this offense has trouble generating efficiently.
The Kings will go on to face the offensive-powered Houston Rockets next. Obviously, the key for this game is to have good perimeter defense. Sacramento is 1-1 against the Rockets this year, and they will look to win the season series next.
Final Score: BKN 119 SAC 106
Orlando Magic vs. Philadelphia 76ers
Without Ben Simmons can the rest of the team pick up the slack and lead Philly deep into the playoffs.
Everytime we watch a Sixers game all eyes are on the big man who has been having a great restart. Although he couldn’t get going early and was taking a lot of shots outside the paint. It was primarily confusing as Joel is pretty unstoppable inside the paint and gets easy points there. After the first half though, Embiid got together and attacked inside the paint where he is so good. He put up 16 in the second half and was just phenomenal. His performance is clearly going to dictate what kind of team the 76ers are going to be especially without Simmons.
The Sixers knew they needed some help without Ben Simmons and they got it in this one. Tobias Harris had 23 points and 15 boards. Al Horford had 21 points on 8-14 shooting. Alex Burks also played a great game coming off the beach and putting up 22 points. Great stuff from the team banding together and pulling a win away from the Magic. They will need to continue that in order to win and it looks like these guys can play like this often.
The Sixers take on the red hot Blazers on Sunday at 5:30. The biggest thing to watch is Joel Embiid and whether he can step up and play once again.
After losing by 10 to the Raptors, the Magic went on to face the Philadelphia 76ers. This game was close for a long time, but the 76ers were able to pull away during the fourth quarter. Nikola Vucevic had an efficient day, and so did James Ennis, who almost had a double double.
The defense had a good day.
The Magic did a great job of containing the 76ers offense. Philadelphia was able to get over 30 points in a quarter once, and other than that, Orlando played solid. They played great defense on Joel Embiid, and he didn’t make a single basket outside of the paint. Because of this, Orlando was able to collapse on him every time he wanted a layup, because his confidence was lost in his mid-range game. One thing that the Magic could’ve done better one was taking advantage of turnovers. The Magic scored just 9 points off of turnovers. Keeping these powerhouses under control is something that Orlando has done all year. The missing piece is the consistent offense.
Shooting from beyond the arc kept the Magic from securing the lead.
After Orlando gave up their lead in the 4th, they were forced to take three pointers in order to catch up. Players like Evan Fournier and D.J. Augustin were unable to make a three down the stretch. As a team, the Magic shot just 25% from beyond the arc, making 8 shots on 32 attempts. It seems as if Orlando needs an offensive weapon to take the next step. Buddy Hield could be a potential trade target for this team.
Orlando will go on to face the Boston Celtics next. They key for this game is to lockdown Jason Tatum. Tatum is the focal point of the Celtic offense, and making him feel uncomfortable early will have a big impact.
Final Score: PHI 108 ORL101
Washington Wizards vs. New Orleans Pelicans
The Washington Wizards are most likely not going to be in the playoffs, and will not have anything to play for. With meaningless games against talented opponents, the Wizards will hope that their young talent continues to grow.
Rui Hachimura had his best game
The Wizards first round pick, Rui Hachimura, has been growing and developing throughout the season. In the bubble we have seen flashes of a superstar, but have never really gotten a full game of Hachimura’s potential. We have seen someone who can lead fast breaks with his handling, but also attack the paint and play big. Against the Pels, Hachimura dropped 23 points while pulling in 6 rebounds. This is the highest points Rui has scored in the bubble, and if he can continue scoring in the twenties in the bubble then the NBA restart would be a success for Rui and the Wizards.
Thomas Bryant is playing like the Wizards next center
Thomas Bryant has been one of the only spots of hope on a depleted Wizards roster. He has been posting double digit scoring games in all the bubble games that he has played, and is looking very good. If Bryant continues his play in the bubble and next season, he could become Bradley Beal’s best friend as a pick and roll partner and force down low. With the production that is coming from Bryant in the bubble, it is safe to assume that he will be the Wizards center next year and hopefully for the future.
The Wizards are going to be playing the OKC Thunder in their next game in the bubble. OKC is fighting for every game as they fight for seeding in the West, while the Wizards are trying to develop young talent and are out of reach of the playoffs.
New Orleans Pelicans
With Zion Williamson taking a rest and the Pelicans facing a subpar opponent, this game was great to get the Pels back on track.
Jrue Holiday had a great game
Jrue Holiday has always been a solid performer for the New Orleans Pelicans, but has been overshadowed by Brandon Ingram and Zion. Against the Wizards and without Zion, Holiday was able to drop 28 points,team high, and add 6 assists. While Holiday has been scoring in double digits routinely in the bubble, against the Wizards Holiday took over the game instead of being a sidekick either Ingram’s or Williamson’s offense. This is great for coach Gentry to know that he has a vetern leader on his team that can lead the team and offensive attack.
Lonzo Ball is cold
While one of the Pelicans guards has been having a great NBA restart, the other one has been ice cold. Lonzo Ball has not hit over double digits scoring in the bubble, and has not been shooting great either. While Lonzo is known for his passing game and vision, it is still concerning that he only got one bucket against one of the worst defenses in the league. Even though Lonzo is a good defender and has great vision, the Pelicans need him to be more of a scoring threat in order to contend for the 8th seed.
The Pelicans are going to be playing the San Antonio Spurs team that is in a weird spot right now. For the Pelicans, they will need to continue winning if they want to have any chance at the 8th seed.
Final Score: NOP 118 WAS 107
Boston Celtics vs. Toronto Raptors
In the marquee matchup of the night, was a battle between the second and third seed’s in the East. Many people left by the end of the first half, as the Raptors could not keep up with the Celtics.
Great Team Game
Against the Raptors, no Celtics player had a huge game in terms of points. Their highest scorer was Jaylen Brown with 20 points. Even though none of their players had a huge game, the Celtics cruised to 122 points and held a 40 point lead at one point. This is due to the fact that the Celtics have multiple players that can score, and that if you focus too much on one player the others will beat you. One of the biggest stats that standouts is that the Celtics had 7 players in double digits, Hayward had 9 points, with four out of their five starters scoring in double digits. This reinforces the idea that the Celtics can beat you from multiple positions, no matter who on the floor.
The Boston Celtics were pulling away from the Raptors as the game began. The game was never close and the Raptors never got a lead on the Celtics. Boston was able to build a 40 point lead at one point, and never gave Toronto a shred of hope. One part of this was the Raptor’s 26% three point shooting, and their inability to get any offense going. While the Raptor’s offensive disappointment was partially Toronto’s fault, Boston held their own on defense and just kept scoring on offense. This matchup could be a prelude to what is to come in a second round matchup, and the Celtics will hope that they can replicate their performance into the playoffs.
The Boston Celtics are going to be playing the Orlando Magic next, and if they can carry their momentum from a win against Toronto then this should be an easy victory.
The Raptors are undefeated in the bubble and all of a sudden people are starting to notice them. While they can’t catch the Bucks they can continue to hold the two seed which would be huge for a playoff run.
The Raptors struggled early in the game and quickly fell behind. They missed 9 of their first ten shots and couldn’t get anything to go into the basket. The Celtics would take advantage and turn that into a 12-2 lead. The Raptors haven’t been down by more than 6 in any game in the bubble and they were already down to start the game. Shooting for the Raptors is going to have to get better early if they want to win.
Toronto missed a bunch of open looks throughout the entire game. They played really poorly and it shows on the stat line. Kyle Lowry had 11 points, Fred VanVleet had 13, and Siakam had 11. While those are double digit numbers those guys normally put up more and that was a poor performance from them. The whole was so bad that heading into the fourth Nick Nurse put in his subs to play some solid minutes. To make it worse for the Raptors Serge Ibaka went out of the game late in the fourth after getting hit in the face. Not a good showing from the Raptors at all.
The Raptors take on the Grizzlies next on Sunday at 1 PM. They are hoping for some sort of bounce back and hopefully some better play.
Final Score: BOS 122 TOR 100
Top Photo: Ashley Landis-Pool/Getty Images