Today’s matchups determine who participates in the Western Conference play-in game
Well, here we are. Almost every postseason series matchup has been set for the 2020 NBA playoffs. With just two days left of Bubble action, there is a huge race at the bottom of the Western Conference for the eighth seed in the playoffs. Four teams are currently in contention for that last playoff spot: the Suns, Spurs, Trail Blazers, and Grizzlies. All four teams play today, so we will have to cover all of those games.
The four games that affect the final playoff standings all take place back-to-back-to-back. At four, the Grizzlies hope to stay alive as they take on the Bucks. At the same time, the Suns will face off against the Mavericks. After that, the Spurs and Jazz go head-to-head on TNT. Lastly, the Trail Blazers look to hold on to the eighth seed with a game against the Nets. It’s going to be one hell of a busy day.
Memphis Grizzlies (-3.0) vs. Milwaukee Bucks (+3.0) at 4:00 PM EST
There are no guarantees in sports. They are completely random and out of our control. My good friend Nathan is a fan of the WWE, and a quote he once gave me has stuck with me for quite some time. He said, “if your favorite wrestler loses, then you can just blame the writers or Vince McMahon. But if your team loses in a sport like football or hockey, that just means God hates you.” Truer words have never been spoken. In the unforgiving world of professional sports, you cannot bet on anything. However, I would be willing to bet that the Grizzlies easily win this game today against the Bucks.
The Milwaukee Bucks have looked like one of the most overrated and unconcerned teams in the bubble. They won their first game against the Boston Celtics, but they have only managed to win two other matchups since then. This is a massive step back for a team that finished the regular season with the best record in the NBA. It is certainly possible that Milwaukee was unmotivated because they only needed a win or two to clinch the top spot in the Eastern Conference playoffs, but that is beside the point. If you are one of the best teams in the NBA, you go out and you give your best effort every night. You don’t allow the Nets to beat you or the Mavs to score 136 points on you. Teams that coast into the playoffs never make it to the Championship round. But that is what the Bucks have done, and they look completely unprepared for the beginning of the playoffs as a result.
The Grizzlies are easily going to win this game. Milwaukee has absolutely nothing to gain by giving a truly concerted effort to win the game. Meanwhile, the Grizzlies’ season is effectively ended with a loss today. Furthermore, Giannis will be out in this game after his head-butting incident against the Wizards two days ago. The Milwaukee Bucks without Giannis are about as good as the Brooklyn Nets without Durant (not good). The Grizzlies solidify a spot for themselves in the Western Conference playoff game on their way to a win.
Grizzlies 110 – Bucks 99
Phoenix Suns (-8.5) vs. Dallas Mavericks (+8.5) at 4:00 PM EST
I don’t want anything to get lost in translation here, so I am going to come out and say it. The Phoenix Suns are a garbage franchise. They are the New York Jets of the NBA, and I consider that an insult to the Jets. At least Gang Green has won a championship! In 52 seasons, the Suns have reached the NBA Finals once and have zero championships to show for 29 playoff appearances. The team has also gone through seven coaches since they last made the playoffs in 2009-2010. The only reason they are undefeated in the bubble is that they actually care enough to go full-speed every game. If the Suns made the playoffs or went up against an opponent that actually had something to play for, then they would get their doors blown off every single night. Phoenix is one of the worst-run franchises in American sports. I am actively rooting for them to go undefeated just so the Trail Blazers and Grizzlies can win their games and knock them out of the playoffs anyway. A team that was 26-39 does not deserve a spot in the postseason. They could win 15 consecutive games, you still wouldn’t be able to convince me that the Suns are a good team. I simply refer to my dear friend Greta Rogers for more on the Suns.
With that being said, I am still picking Phoenix to win this game. They may be a horrendous joke of a franchise with ownership that is worse than the New York Knicks or the Washington football team, but that doesn’t mean they aren’t playing decent basketball right now. As for the Mavericks, they have absolutely nothing to play for in today’s game. The Mavs will likely rest Kristaps Porzingis today so he is ready for the playoffs. Dallas will keep this game close because the Suns are terrible and still can’t defend anybody. However, Phoenix wins the game when all is said and done, but they don’t cover the spread.
Suns 122 – Mavericks 115
San Antonio Spurs (-8.0) vs. Utah Jazz (+8.0) at 6:30 PM EST
The San Antonio Spurs are the exact opposite of the Phoenix Suns in so many ways. They have had the same coach for nearly two decades. They are a respected franchise that has proven they can win championships time and time again, regardless of who is on the team. Hell, they even play in the same division and have made the playoffs every year for almost 20 years while the Suns have wallowed in pity at the bottom of the conference for the better part of five years. If the Phoenix Suns are the example of a bad organization, then the San Antonio Spurs are the antithesis of a good professional sports team.
The Spurs can still reach the play-in game, but they will need a few things to go their way. First and most importantly, they have to beat the Utah Jazz. This is not something I am too worried about. Pop is a Hall of Fame coach that will find a way to lead his guys to victory at the end of the day. The problem for the Spurs is that they will need outside help if they want a chance to participate in the play-in game. As long as the Spurs win and two of the three teams still in the running for the final playoff spot lose (Trail Blazers, Suns, or Grizzlies), then they will reach the postseason for a 23rd consecutive season.
The way this game is shaking out favors the Spurs. I am slightly concerned about the absence of LaMarcus Aldridge, but I have confidence in Gregg Popovich to coach his guys up without one of the team’s best players. Furthermore, it is looking like Mike Conley and Rudy Gobert are both a little banged up heading into this game. If Conley and Gobert are not fully effective, then I like the Spurs’ chances. I think they win without covering the eight-point spread.
Spurs 109 – Jazz 103
Portland Trail Blazers (-10.0) vs. Brooklyn Nets (+10.0) at 9:00 PM EST
The final and most important game of the day will be taking place between the Portland Trail Blazers and the unimpressive, bubble-version of the Brooklyn Nets. This game carries a lot of weight since a win for Portland would almost guarantee them the eighth seed in the Western Conference. I fully expect Dame and the Blazers to go out there and thrash the Nets.
You guys can rave about cute players like Devin Booker or TJ Warren, but the Bubble MVP is Damian Lillard. This dude is absolutely right. We need to start putting some respect on his name. I’ll start. *Clears throat* DAMIAN LILLARD IS THE BEST POINT GUARD IN THE NBA TODAY! The man single-handedly carries his team to the playoffs every year while sending other, lesser Western Conference opponents packing in the postseason. Just ask an Oklahoma City Thunder fan. This man is averaging 37 points per game in the bubble. And last time he played, he put up 61 points on a night where he shot the ball over 50% from the field. I believe that Damian Lillard is the most ruthless player in the NBA today. He is a guy that wants to step on your throat and make sure you know that he was the one who choked you out.
It should be worth noting that Damian Lillard scored 60 points in his only matchup against the Nets this season. Meanwhile, the Nets will be without the services of one of their best bubble players in Jamal Crawford. You would have to be an insane person if you think you are going to stand in the way of Damian Lillard’s playoff run. The Trail Blazers don’t win by ten, but they win the game, and that’s what really matters.
Trail Blazers 113 – Nets 108
Spurs take on the Rockets; Grizzlies look to stay alive against Celtics; Trail Blazers face the Mavericks
We have just four days left of Bubble basketball before the playoffs start, and things are heating up. In the West, there is a four-way race between the Spurs, Suns, Trail Blazers, and Grizzlies for the final spot in the conference. At this point, a play-in series is guaranteed in the West. Meanwhile, teams are still battling things out in the East to see where everybody ends up being seeded when the playoffs begin. Either way, things are getting crazy, and fans will be getting more meaningful basketball games because of it.
All four teams competing for the Western Conference’s eighth seed will be playing today. The Spurs will face off against the Rockets in a battle for the Lone Star state. Later on, the Grizzlies and Celtics will go head-to-head. Lastly, the Trail Blazers look to stay alive in the hunt for the playoffs with a game against the Mavericks tonight. This is going to be a great day of NBA action.
San Antonio Spurs (-2.5) vs. Houston Rockets (+2.5) at 2:00 PM EST
The motivated San Antonio Spurs will be taking on the Houston Rockets for the third and final time this season later today. The only way these teams will meet again is if they both end up qualifying for the playoffs. The Rockets look to have a comfortable position in the postseason, but the Spurs will have to work their tails off over the next few days to ensure they reach the playoffs.
Despite being 31-38, the Spurs only find themselves two games back from the Memphis Grizzlies. San Antonio has been one of the better teams in the NBA bubble. Since resuming play on July 31st, the Spurs have gone a respectable 4-2, with their only losses coming against the 76ers by two points and the Nuggets by six points. The Spurs have been able to answer the call every other time they have taken the court. This includes head-to-head victories over the Kings, Pelicans, Grizzlies, and Jazz. With a two-game win-streak headed into today, the Spurs have to make sure they play mistake-free basketball if they want to steal a win from the Rockets.
Unfortunately for Houston, the Rockets will be missing two of their best players today. The team announced that it expects Eric Gordon to be out again today after the guard suffered an ankle injury two weeks ago. This was seen as a big blow to the Rockets’ chances in the bubble, but the squad has been able to survive his absence, posting a 4-1 record since NBA action picked back up again. Houston’s bigger issue is that they will not have James Harden available to play today after the team announced on Monday that he would not play in this game. This is a huge blow for the Rockets, who desperately need Harden’s 34.3 points per game to stay competitive in the ruthless Western Conference. With Harden out, I have total confidence in the Spurs to get the job done today against the Rockets.
Everything in this game is pointing me towards the Spurs. San Antonio is desperate and must continue to wrack up wins if they want to make the postseason. Meanwhile, the Rockets already have a comfortable spot in the playoffs and will be without their best player later today. I am shocked that the Spurs are only getting 2.5 points in this one considering James Harden won’t play. San Antonio wins and has no problem covering the spread.
Spurs 111 – Rockets 100
Boston Celtics (-3.5) vs. Memphis Grizzlies (+3.5) at 5:00 PM EST
Our second exciting matchup of the day features one of the best teams in the East going up against the current eighth seed in the West. The Memphis Grizzlies come into this one needing a win as they look to stay afloat in a crowded Western Conference. Meanwhile, the Celtics are looking for their fourth-straight win in bubble play.
This may be the most important game of the NBA season so far. There are so many different things riding on this game. The Trail Blazers, Suns, and Spurs will all be watching this matchup in Celtics gear because all three teams need the Grizzlies to lose so they can continue to climb up the playoff rankings. As for the Grizzlies, they need a win to ensure they remain the eighth seed in the Western Conference playoff race for another day. All eyes will be on Celtics-Grizzlies when the game tips-off at 5:00 PM.
This is quite an unusual matchup. It isn’t often you see teams from different conferences play in such meaningful games outside the NBA finals. The Celtics were able to blow the doors off the Grizzlies in the only head-to-head matchup between these teams this season. Six Boston players put up double-digit scoring figures on their way to a 119-95 victory back in January. However, I think today’s game will be much closer because Memphis’ rookie sensation, Ja Morant, was held to just two points in that game. I don’t see that happening again today.
I am very tempted to take the Boston Celtics in this one. They have better coaching and a more complete roster top-to-bottom. My only concern is that the Grizzlies NEED this game if they want their postseason hopes to stay alive. Meanwhile, the Celtics have already clinched a playoff spot and are now looking to just improve their seeding. This game means very little to Boston and everything to Memphis. That is why I am picking Memphis to win a close game.
Grizzlies 106 – Celtics 102
Portland Trail Blazers (-4.5) vs. Dallas Mavericks (+4.5) at 6:30 PM EST
Our last meaningful basketball game of the day will be played at 6:30 PM between the Trail Blazers and the Mavericks. I don’t want to offend any fans of the Bucks, Kings, Wizards, or Pelicans, but Milwaukee has solidified its position as the top seed in the East while those other three teams have all been eliminated from playoff contention. As a result, we look to the Trail Blazers and Mavericks to provide us with the last bit of entertaining NBA action to close out the day.
Both squads come into this one with something to prove. On one hand, you have the Portland Trail Blazers. Here you have a team that came into the bubble with a 30-37 record. Since then, the Blazers have managed to go 4-2 in the bubble and now find themselves just a half-game back from the Grizzlies for the final spot in the Western Conference playoff race. On the other hand, you have the Dallas Mavericks. The Mavs are a team that is better than their record indicates. However, playing in a stacked Western Conference has given them a 43-30 record as well as control of the seventh seed in the West. A win for the Mavericks could certainly help their postseason push because the team is only one game back from the Jazz for the sixth seed in the conference. Both teams will have a lot to play for today when they take the court at 6:30.
These common Western Conference foes have already faced off three times this season. As things stand, the Mavericks currently lead the season series two games to one. The Trail Blazers were able to squeak past the Mavericks the first time they played for a 121-119 victory. However, the Mavericks would win the next two games against Portland, giving them a 2-1 series lead on the season. Now, when these teams play tonight, it will arguably be their most important matchup of the year as both squads look to solidify a spot for themselves in the 2020 NBA Playoffs.
I would be a fool to pick against Damian Lillard, who is a top ten (maybe top five) basketball player in the world right now. In Dame’s last five games, he has averaged 22.4 points per contest. This number shoots all the way up to 36.3 points per game in three matchups against the Mavericks. Dame clearly balls out when he faces Dallas, so I like Portland’s chances. Furthermore, ESPN lists Luka Doncic and Kritspas Porzingis as day-to-day with various minor injuries. If Luka is even slightly off, then I have no issue taking the Trail Blazers. I like Portland to win, but the Mavericks cover the 4.5 point spread.