L.A Clippers vs. Portland Trail Blazers
Portland Trail Blazers
Fighting for the eight seed in a tightly contested playoff race, the Blazers need to get every win they can. Facing off against one of the most talented in the NBA lead to a heartbreaker for a team that had every chance to win.
CJ McCollum stepped up
In a game where Damian Lillard and other key components of the Blazers offense were quiet, McCollum was able to lead the offensive attack with 29 points. With a flurry of three pointers, mid range jumpers, and attacks to the basket keep the defense off balance. McCollum was hitting 6 of 13 from three and compared to Lillard, 2 of 10, he had a good shooting night. In the bubble McCollum has shown up in multiple games in which Lillard was having an off night, and is still able to produce good numbers while working with a hot Lillard. Keeping the game close against a team that is super deep and has a star like Paul George, Kawhi was resting, is great for McCollum and the Blazers.
Nurkic was not dominating in the paint
One of the biggest parts of the Blazers turnaround has been the return of Jusuf Nurkic from injury. The seven foot center, is a huge part of the Blazers offensive attack, and the last line of defense of the Blazers defense. Against the Clippers and their young center Ivica Zubac, Nurkic was supposed to anchor the paint and shut down Zubac. Zubac was only able to score 9 points, but Nurkic didn’t fare much better with 10 points. Nurkic played 8 more minutes than Zubac and the Clippers did not have a backup center, so Nurkic had a great opportunity to take advantage of the smaller lineup just like he did against Houston. If Nurkic can get back on track, and take advantage of opportunities against smaller opponents, then the Blazers will continue to thrive in the bubble.
The Blazers are going to be playing the 76ers in their next game, and if they want to contend for the eight seed then they need to continue winning.
Los Angeles Clippers
After a nice win against the Dallas Mavs, the Clippers went on to face the Portland Trail Blazers. Role players were able to step up without Kawhi Leonard and Paul George in the final minutes, and L.A. secured the dub.
Landry Shamet played a quality game.
Landry Shamet is one of the more overlooked players on this Clippers roster. Shamet is a great three point shooter, and can be the next man up when the two stars are out. He scored 19 against the Blazers, and although he didn’t have his best game from beyond the arc, he still found a way to be a problem. He shot 50% from the field, and 3-8 from the three point line. Shamet also had 3 boards and assists. Going down the stretch, this game was very tightly contested. Having a guy like Landry Shamet will create an outlet when PG-13 and Kawhi Leonard are getting double-teamed.
Three ball gave the Clippers the win.
Without Kawhi Leonard, L.A. didn’t have a leader in the mid-range game. They looked to the three ball, and excelled at shooting it. They made 15 threes on 34 attempts (44.1%), and made a couple of clutch threes down the stretch. Jamychal Green, Patrick Paterson, and other role players found open shots, and were able to knock down the three. A lot of credit should be given to the way L.A. shot the three ball, and it would be great to have it next game as well.
The Clips will go on to face the seven seeds in the east. The Brooklyn Nets. The key in this game is to block the Nets from getting into the lane. Doing this will force the Nets to shoot threes, in which they aren’t the best in.
Final Score: LAC 122 POR 117
Utah Jazz vs. Denver Nuggets
After a rest game for the majority of the Jazz starters, we were expecting the best ball from both sides. In a close game both teams played clutch, but Utah just let the game slip away at the end.
Donovan Mitchell is clutch
In a close game that went into double overtime, the Jazz needed a clutch player. Their young star Donovan Mitchell stepped up and made multiple shots that extended the game. From fading three pointers to tough drives, Mitchell was doing everything in his power to push the Jazz. At 23 years old, Mitchell still has a lot of basketball ahead of him and the fact that he can do such amazing things at this age only points to his bright future. In this game, the Jazz and their star got tight overtime experiences that should help them prepare for the playoffs right around the corner.
Could not stop the Nuggets in the paint
The Denver Nuggets have one of the best centers in the league in Nikola Jokic, and a young power forward in Micheal Porter Jr. The Nuggets took advantage of both of these guys in the paint and scored 74 points in the paint. This is a huge disadvantage for the Jazz who only scored 34 points in the paint. While the Nuggets have a very talented frontcourt, you would expect for the Jazz to be able to defend or limit the damage with their reigning defensive player of the year Rudy Gobert. If the Jazz continue to beat in the paint then their playoffs will be over quick, and they need Gobert to start stepping up in the paint and shut down shots around the rim.
The Jazz are playing the Dallas Mavericks in their next game, and are trying to stop their two game losing streak. As the Jazz continue to fight for playoff spot, they need to take care of business day in and day out.
The Nuggets fell late to the Trail Blazers, and went on to play an absolute thriller against the Jazz. Denver couldn’t get going in the first half, but they flipped the switch after half. They also welcomed the return of Jamal Murray.
MPJ and Nikola Jokic had a great second half.
After a dismal first two quarters, Jokic and Porter Jr were able to get a rhythm, and gave Denver a solid chance at winning. The duo combined for 53 points, and yet only made 1 field goal total through the first two quarters. The Joker got started in the third by making two straight three balls, and MPJ would follow, except with the mid range. These two, along with Jamal Murray and Jerami Grant can become very lethal. This game should prove that no matter how far Denver is down, these young players can slowly creep back in.
Jamal Murray had a great first game back.
After not playing in a game since March 11th, Jamal Murray finally returned to action against Utah. Murray showed no signs of rust, and had a great game. He came in clutch for the Nuggets, as they attempted to come back from an 18 point deficit. He had a double double in his return, and dropped 23 points. Even though he shot just 25% from the three point line, he seemed more comfortable when driving into the line. Like the rest of his team, Murray was able to catch fire in the second half and lead his team to a comeback victory. For Denver, it is a relief to have Jamal Murray back, as he has shown how clutch he can be against playoff teams.
The Nuggets will now face the Los Angeles Lakers. The key for this game is to get a quick start early. This will ensure that they set the tone early.
Final Score: Den 134 UTA 132
L.A Lakers vs. Indiana Pacers
Los Angeles Lakers
The Lakers just didn’t look like themselves in back to back losses to the Rockets and Thunder. They have yet to figure out a rotation and that is concerning for the number one team in the West.
Lebron is finally back
A slow bubble start led to everyone wondering if Lebron was going to be able to be really ready to play in the bubble. A lot of people pointed to the four month break being the biggest problem for Lebron. Turns out he would be just fine having a great performance against the Pacers today. 31 points were impressive and he also took 24 shots and played plenty of minutes. That is plenty of stuff from Lebron and it showed that he will be ready when the time comes. A slow progression from Lebron could lead to a huge payout for the Lakers in the playoffs with the increased rest and help.
One of the biggest questions for Frank Vogel is what his rotation would look like. The Lakers keep mixing the rotation up and the closer we get to the playoffs they look less and less certain. Dion Waiters has been playing really well in the bubble and the Lakers have looked like a great team with him. Though he sat in favor of Quinn Cook yesterday. Cook also had a hot hand knocking down 5 3-pointers which won’t help when Rajon Rondo comes back. Dudley and Horton-Tucker have been in and out, and the whole thing is a big mess. Frank Voge better get his stuff together with only two games left till the playoffs.
The Lakers take on the Nuggets on Monday at 8 PM. Will Frank Vogel finally get his rotation normal or we will wait to see it until the playoffs.
The pacers came off of a grueling loss to the Suns, and played even better against the best in the West. T.J. Warren had another dominant game, along with Malcolm Brogdon and Victor Oladipo.
T.J. Warren did not care about who was guarding him.
People would say that Warren could only dominate against bad defenses, or that he can’t come up in big games. Well, he proved them wrong after dropping 39 on the L.A. Lakers. He dominated Anthony Davis on both sides of the floor, and just couldn’t be stopped. He went 15-22 from the field, and 5-8 from the three point line. Warren was able to work the mid-range better than ever, and just continues to do what he has done this whole time.
The starters got the job done.
In the surprise win, the Pacers didn’t need their bench. 3 of the starters scored over 20 points, and just couldn’t be stopped. They did what they were expected to, and more. Malcolm Brogdon missed just 5 shots on 13 attempts, and was the hidden force in this offense. The main part of success in today’s offense was the consistency. There were no shortages for the Pacers, and they maintained a steady pace against a tough team.
Indiana will face the Miami Heat next. This game will be very tightly contested, so the key to success here is to keep the offense going.
Final Score: IND 116 LAL 111
Phoenix Suns vs. Miami Heat
The Heat have battled through games without their star players Jimmy Butler out with a foot injury and now they lost Dragic. They are looking very beat up and need to get healthy before the playoffs.
Bam Adebayo is heating up
Bam has been very good in the bubble and he just hasn’t been able to be stopped. The ball is just being fed to him as he has been a huge force on the glass. In this game, with two starters out, Bam came to play again. He had 18 points, 7 rebounds, 9 assists, and 3 blocks in 30 minutes of play. He was great in this game coming off a bad night when the Heat took on the Bucks. Throughout the bubble he has just been solid and it comes at a great time with the Heat being able to rest Jimmy Butler throughout the entire restart. Butler will eventually be fully healthy and that will just add to the Heat making a big run.
Jae Crowder and Tyler Herro
Herro and Crowder have been solid role players all season long helping the Heat though wins. With two missing starters, they needed both of them to step up in a big way and they both did. Herro ended up with 25 points, 10 assists, and 8 rebounds, and was instrumental in making the game close. Jae Crowder had 17 points with 4 3-pointers and is shooting really well from beyond the arc. He is 17-29 in the five games he played in the bubble and looks like he should be able to continue the streak the ball keeps going his way. Both players started in the game and showed up giving the Heat some much needed depth.
Miami takes on the Pacers on Monday and everyone will be watching to see if one or both of Miami’s injured starters return from injury.
The Phoenix Suns are unbeaten in the bubble, and continue their tear against a Miami Heat team without Jimmy Butler. Consistently big games from Devin Booker and the continued support of a young team is propelling the Suns into the playoff conversation.
Another great game from Booker
Devin Booker has come up huge for the Phoenix Suns. Whether it is game winning shots or monster performances, the Suns rely on Booker for all those things and more. Against the Heat, Booker dropped 35 points and 6 assists, leading the Suns in scoring. Booker has become the offensive centerpiece for the Suns offense, and has been filling that role every single game. If Booker keeps playing at such a high level, the Suns should be able to keep up their unbeaten record and contend for a playoff spot.
Supporting cast helping out
While no one on the Suns matched Booker’s production, the supporting cast still provided support for Booker. Shooter Cam Johnson, 14 points, and Deandre Ayton, 18 points. Both of these starters provided spacing and second scorers when the defense keyed in on Booker. Coming off the bench the Suns also benefited from the 20 points and clutch buckets from Jevon Carter. If the Sun’s supporting cast can continue to take some of the attention off of Booker then they will continue to flourish.
The Phoenix Suns are going to be playing the OKC Thunder next. The Thunder is a real playoff contender, and will be a threat to breaking the Sun’s unbeaten record in the playoffs.
Final Score: PHX 119 MIA 112
Milwaukee Bucks vs. Dallas Mavericks
The Milwaukee Bucks have the number one seed in the East locked up, but the Bucks have not been super convincing in the bubble. After losing 2 out of 3 games before facing the Mavs, the Bucks looked like they needed a boost of confidence. In another close game, the Bucks faltered and the Mavs took home the win.
Brook Lopez was on fire
The Dallas Mavericks boast a very talented seven footer in Kristaps Porzingus, and this game looked to be a challenge for Brook Lopez. While Lopez was not able to control Porzingus on the offensive end, he made up for the difference offensively. Lopez had 34 points and tied with Giannis for the team high in points. Controlling the paint is important for Lopez, but he also needs to be able to shoot the three at a high rate. Against the Mavs, Lopez was 6 for 12 from three and hit the most threes on the team. This is a crazy stat considering the shooters that the Bucks have, and the fact that a center hit the most threes. The Bucks will need Lopez to continue his success inside the paint and behind the arc in order for the Bucks to be successful.
Horrible free throw night
The Milwaukee Bucks were shooting 68 percent from three while the Dallas Mavs were shooting at a 92 percent mark. The Bucks missed 11 free throws, and ultimately lost the game because of it. If the Bucks had been able to convert on a decent percentage of free throws, we still would have seen a close game but a close game that would have gone in the Bucks favor. As the playoffs come around the Bucks need to be sharp on all parts of their game, including at the free throw line. If they throw away shots in which a defender is not in their face but letting them shoot an open shot, they will have a hard time in the playoffs. This is a problem that the Bucks need to solve by playoff time, and if they can’t then they will be at a constant disadvantage.
The Bucks are playing the second seeded Raptors team next in the bubble. For both teams this will be a bounce back game, as well as a preview into a possible conference finals game.
After a bad loss to the Clippers, Dallas was looking to get their first statement win in the bubble against the Milwaukee Bucks. The Mavs had one of their best games this year, as every man stepped up. Luka Doncic had an incredible statline, and he was clutch.
This team can be clutch.
In the first couple of games, the Dallas Mavs had a lot of trouble in the clutch. In this game, they did a great job of making shots down the clutch. There was an incredible pass from Luka Doncic to Maxi Kleber, which sealed the deal. Dorian Finney-Smith dropped 27 points, and had a couple of threes in the fourth. Defense came up huge at the end as well.
Luka Doncic is ridiculous.
When you see the stats, you would think that this is no way possible. Doncic had a 36 point game, with 19 assists, and 14 rebounds. He shot 50% from the field, and 33% from beyond the arc. Doncic had no fear of shooting the ball today, but he also shared the ball to find open teammates. This man will be very exciting to see in the playoffs, and maybe could take this team farther than expected.
Dallas will next face the Utah Jazz, but without their two main players. The key for this game is to have role players find open looks.
Final Score: DAL 136 MIL 132
Top Photo: espn.com