NBA Playoff Preview For 8/31/2020

Milwaukee and Miami begin their playoff series; Rockets look to close out the Thunder

Milwaukee Bucks (-5.5) vs. Miami Heat (+5.5) Game One at 6:30 PM EST

The Heat and Bucks will meet for the first game of their Eastern Conference Semi-Final matchup. Despite losing the first game of their series against the Magic, the Bucks were able to put together a four-game win-streak to bounce Orlando out of the playoffs. Meanwhile, the Heat come into this series with a chip on their shoulder after sweeping the Indiana Pacers in four games. I think that this series will be one of the best of the 2020 playoffs.

These squads have faced off three times so far this season. Two of the matchups came before the NBA season was paused in mid-March. The Heat were able to sweep the regular-season series. Miami and Milwaukee did meet once more in the NBA Bubble. The Bucks wound up winning that game 130-116, clinching the top seed in the East. Now, these two franchises will meet in a best-of-seven series with a trip to the Eastern Conference Finals on the line.

The biggest storyline coming into this series is the head-to-head battles that will likely take place between Giannis Antetokounmpo and Jimmy Butler. It is worth noting that the Miami Heat were able to win the season series against the Bucks even though Jimmy Butler only played in one game against Milwaukee. In that game, which the Heat won 105-89, Giannis was held to just 13 points on a night where he shot 33% from the field. Also, the Greek Freak finished the game with a +/- of -16, which is unacceptable for a former MVP. On the other side, Jimmy Butler played one of his best games of the season when he faced off against Giannis on March 2nd. Butler finished with 18 points, seven assists, six rebounds, and a +/- of +14. You can guarantee that Jimmy Butler is going to make life difficult for Giannis.

When I look at this series, I like the Bucks to win, but I still believe Miami is going to push this to six or seven games. Jimmy Butler can contain Giannis, that fact has already been proven. Furthermore, I think Bam Adebayo will give the Bucks fits down-low. Plus, Goran Dragic has been excellent in the postseason, averaging 22.8 points, five assists, and four rebounds per game. I think Miami is going to come out with a head full of steam and get off to a hot start, especially because they are well-rested. They’ll ride that momentum to an eventual victory. I’m worried Milwaukee can get a little complacent at times. We saw that in the last series when they lost their opening game against the Magic. Like I said, I think the Bucks win the series, but I like the Heat to take game one.

Heat 113 – Bucks 108

Houston Rockets (-5.0) vs. Oklahoma City Thunder (+5.0) Game Six at 9:00 PM EST

The Oklahoma City Thunder have their backs up against the wall. After losing the first two games of the series, OKC literally stormed back (HA!) in games three and four to tie the series at two games apiece. The most recent matchup in this series was a blowout though. Houston beat down the Thunder 114-80 to take a 3-2 lead. Now, the Thunder are on the brink of elimination as they look to bounce back and push this series to seven games.

It should come as no surprise that James Harden has been incredible in the playoffs. In the Conference Quarterfinals, he has averaged 31.8 points, eight assists, and 6.6 rebounds per game against the Thunder. These numbers become even more impressive once you realize that Russell Westbrook has only played in one game so far this series. At this time, ESPN has listed Westbrook out for this game, so James Harden will have to put up at least 30 points if the Rockets hope to close out the Thunder.

Guard play has been the catalyst for OKC’s success in the playoffs this season. In fact, the trio of OKC Guards (Chris Paul, Dennis Schroder, and Shai Gilgeous-Alexander) currently rank first, second, and third on the team in points per game. With Russell Westbrook listed as out for Game Six, I think this three-headed monster will be too much for James harden to handle by himself. That’s why I am feeling confident in OKC today.

Furthermore, I don’t believe Chris Paul is going to let OKC get bounced out tonight. The 10-time NBA All-Star has a clear chip on his shoulder after being traded out of Houston to Oklahoma last year. With no Russell Westbrook on the floor to counter Chris Paul, I would not be surprised to see him go for 25+ points and 10+ assists in this game.

This is a classic NBA playoff story. A player gets traded away from one team and then takes his new team to the playoffs where they face off against his old team. Right now, Chris Paul is the main character of this story. I believe he will personally drag the Thunder to a game seven, even if he has to do it by himself. I would pick the Rockets if Westbrook plays, but with him being ruled out due to injury, I am picking the Thunder to win tonight and force a game seven.

Thunder 109 – Rockets 107

NBA Bubble Preview For 8/13/2020

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

NBA Bubble Preview For 8/11/2020

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.

Trail Blazers 121 – Mavericks 117

NBA Bubble Preview For 8/10/2020

West gets a play-in game; Some series set in the East

We finally have some clarity on how the NBA playoffs might look. Yesterday, the Portland Trail Blazers’ victory over the 76ers eliminated the Pelicans and the Kings from the 2020 playoffs, effectively ending their seasons. The Spurs, Suns, Trail Blazers, and Grizzlies will be the four teams competing for the final spot in the Western Conference playoffs. As a result, a play-in series is guaranteed to take place in the West. It has still not been determined which teams will participate in that game. Today’s matchups will go a long way in deciding who gets to battle for that eighth seed in the West.

Two key games are being played today that will directly impact the playoffs. The first matchup is between the Oklahoma City Thunder and the Phoenix Suns, who have not yet lost a game in the NBA bubble. After that, the Pacers and Heat will go head-to-head in a battle for the fourth spot in the East. These closely contested playoff races almost certainly make up for basketball’s near five-month absence.

Phoenix Suns (-5.0) vs. Oklahoma City Thunder (+5.0) at 2:30 PM EST

These squads are both making a mad dash towards the end of bubble play with near opposite goals in mind. The Suns are looking to take their five-game win streak into the play-in series so they can qualify for the Western Conference playoffs as the eighth seed. As for the Thunder, they are looking to snag another win as they hope to challenge the Houston Rockets for one of the top seeds in the West. Either way, both teams will be entering today’s game hungry.

The Phoenix Suns have been the most surprising team in the NBA Bubble. It is no secret that the Suns have been basement-dwellers for the better part of a decade. The franchise has been at or towards the bottom of the NBA standings basically every year since they last made the playoffs in 2010. Despite this newfound tradition of losing, the Suns have managed to make the most of their bubble invitation, winning five straight games to put them in the conversation as one of the final teams to potentially make the NBA playoffs. If they hope to keep their postseason alive, then they will have to likely win all of their remaining games while also getting help from some other teams. As weird as this is to say, I actually have confidence in the Suns to win their games. I just don’t know if they are going to be able to get the losses they need from the Grizzlies and the Trail Blazers. Still, crazier things have happened.

The Oklahoma City Thunder have been a middle-of-the-road team since entering the bubble. They’re not bad, but I am not going to say they are great either. They’re 3-2 record has featured impressive wins over the Lakers, Jazz, and Wizards. However, they have also suffered untimely losses to the Grizzlies and Nuggets. As a result, they find themselves just one game behind the Rockets for the fourth spot in the West. I find this to be an impressive accomplishment since the Thunder got rid of former MVP Russell Westbrook for an aging superstar in Chris Paul. Still, the Thunder are hungry and determined to go out and get the job done today as they look to overtake the Rockets. With Billy Donovan at the helm, the Thunder will be able to make this an interesting game.

Besides TJ Warren, Suns’ Guard Devin Booker has been the best player since play began in the NBA Bubble. In five starts, Booker has averaged 29.4 points, 6.4 assists, and 3.6 rebounds per game. I think the most impressive part about this run is that Booker has not been all that good from beyond the arc. This means that he has had to rely on efficient two-point field goals to get the job done. If Booker can find some rhythm from three-point land, then this team could be a lot of trouble for whoever they go up against in the coming days.

Meanwhile, the Oklahoma City Thunder are a little banged up, but that did not stop them from finding a win last time they played. Even though the Thunder were missing Steven Adams and Nerlens Noel, they still managed to top the Washington Wizards by a final score of 121-103. You have to give credit to OKC head coach Billy Donovan for the win. The Thunder were down two of their best big men, so they changed their approach and started shooting the ball from three. The team ended up going over 46% from beyond the arc on their way to 18 three-pointers in the game. Normally, I would have reservations about picking a team with injuries to key big men, but OKC’s excellent coaching makes it hard to go against them.

With all this in mind, I still have to pick the Phoenix Suns to win this game. I would be silly if I went against a team that has yet to lose since NBA action started back up. I am very impressed with the Oklahoma City Thunder. However, I think the Suns are on a mission to get to the playoffs and make themselves relevant again. I don’t know if they will get the outside losses they need to reach the postseason, but I am certain the Suns will be able to take care of business today on their way to a sixth straight victory. Thunder cover the spread, but the Suns still win

Suns 115 – Thunder 111

Miami Heat (-3.5) vs. Indiana Pacers (+3.5) at 8:00 PM EST

Our second game of the day features one of the most-highly anticipated head-to-head matchups of the NBA Bubble. The Miami Heat come into this game tied with the Indiana Pacers for the fourth spot in the Eastern Conference playoff race. The game will feature TJ Warren, the most exciting player in the NBA Bubble, taking on Jimmy Butler, the NBA’s most vicious trash talker. This showdown will surely be epic.

These teams have faced off twice so far this season. The Heat emerged victorious both times. The first game, Miami was able to edge out the Pacers by one point for a 113-112 win thanks to a go-ahead layup from Goran Dragic. The next time these teams played, the matchup was not as close, but the storylines coming out of the game were incredible. Jimmy Butler and TJ Warren exchanged words and elbows on the court as the Heat routed the Pacers 122-108. However, the jawing did not stop there. Butler used some harsh language to explain how he felt he was far better than TJ Warren after the game. Now, almost seven months later to the day, Butler will have a chance to back up his talk when he faces off against TJ Warren and the red-hot Pacers tonight.

“He’s soft… He’s not even in my f—ing league. Nowhere near me. If I was their coach, I would never put him on me. Ever again… He’s trash.”

Jimmy Butler On Indiana’s TJ Warren following a game in January

Jimmy Butler may have much more difficulty containing TJ Warren this time around. The 26-year-old Small Forward has been the best player in the NBA Bubble so far. The former first-round pick has averaged 34.8 points in five games in the Orlando Bubble. As a result, the Pacers have gone 4-1, which ties them with Toronto for the best record amongst Eastern Conference teams in the Bubble. Warren will have to have another 30+ point outing if the Pacers want to come out of this one on top.

The matchup between Jimmy Butler and TJ Warren will obviously be the most important matchup in the game. However, I believe the winner will be determined by role players because you can almost guarantee that both these stars will put up gaudy numbers today. Nobody has been able to stop either one of them yet, and I don’t see that changing tonight.

The numbers coming into this one slightly favor the Heat. Miami scores more points per game than Indiana while also average more assists and rebounds. However, the Pacers come into this one with a better overall shooting percentage and a better scoring defense. We have to go further down the lineup to determine who will end up winning this game.

I am favoring the Heat right now. Indiana has been able to survive without Domantas Sabonis because TJ Warren has been able to make up for that lack of scoring. However, Miami has one of the best big men in the NBA in Bam Adebayo, who has averaged a double-double in every game this season. I think this is going to be one of those games where Butler and Bam combine for somewhere between 50 and 60 points. I think the Heat just cover the 3.5 point spread on their way to yet another victory.

Heat 111 – Pacers 106

NBA Bubble Preview For 8/9/2020

Spurs and Pelicans battle it out; 76ers and Trail Blazers looking to build momentum

Yesterday was an incredibly interesting and dramatic day for NBA fans. It all started in the early afternoon when players for the Clippers started jawing back and forth with Portland’s Damian Lillard following 122-117 victory over the Trail Blazers. Things only continued to get stranger as the Pacers beat the Lakers, the Suns beat the Heat, and the Mavs beat the Bucks. The bubble is unpredictable and unforgiving. That is why a dumpster-fire franchise like the Phoenix Suns can be undefeated so far through five games. I’ve said it before, and I’ll say it again: the NBA bubble has been the most exciting form of sports entertainment I have seen in years.

As we look ahead to today, there aren’t that many marquee matchups on the schedule. I expect Rockets-Kings and Nets-Clippers to be blowouts, so I am not sure why they are showing those games in primetime. The two contests I am focused on today are Spurs vs. Pelicans and 76ers vs. Trail Blazers.

New Orleans Pelicans (-3.5) vs. San Antonio Spurs (+3.5) at 3:00 PM EST

While I love all the action going on in the bubble, I do have one stark criticism of the NBA at the moment. I believe the league wanted to get Zion Williamson into the playoffs, so they gave New Orleans a much easier bubble schedule than the Memphis Grizzlies.

https://twitter.com/TheNBAHustle/status/1291463387856027648

The Pelicans began their bubble stint with two games against teams with winning records. The Pels ended up losing both of those games. However, New Orleans’ schedule has them playing zero teams with a winning record from August 2nd all the way to their last possible game on August 13th. This is unacceptable and unfair, especially when you compare that schedule to Memphis’. The Grizzlies close out their schedule with FIVE STRAIGHT GAMES AGAINST TEAMS WITH WINNING RECORDS. That doesn’t seem very fair considering the Grizzlies were the higher-seeded team coming into the NBA bubble. Shouldn’t the team that had the better record have the easier schedule? The Grizzlies are getting screwed by the NBA because the league wants people to be able to see Zion Williamson in the playoffs. As a result, I am actively rooting against New Orleans to make it. The Grizzlies have been the better team all year, and they deserve to have as easy a schedule as New Orleans.

Either way, today’s matchup is not about the Pelicans and the Grizzlies. Today’s game is all about the Spurs and New Orleans. The Spurs have been able to take advantage of the weaker opponents on their schedule thus far. Their only losses have come against the Nuggets and the 76ers. Meanwhile, the Pelicans have not looked any better. In fact, they have a 2-3 record with losses coming against the Clippers, Jazz, and the unimpressive Sacramento Kings.

These teams have only faced off once this season. This is quite unusual considering these squads both play in the Southwest Division. But in a season that has been thrown through the wringer due to a global Pandemic, I guess a funky basketball schedule should be the least of our worries. Anyway, the San Antonio Spurs won the only game of the season against the Pelicans back in January. San Antonio was able to outlast the Pelicans 121-117 despite 22 points and 7 rebounds from Zion Williamson. Coaching played a huge role in that game, and I expect it to do the same later today. Pop will have his guys prepared for the mentally weak Pelicans.

If you couldn’t tell, I am rooting for the San Antonio Spurs. I know sportswriters are not supposed to have a bias, but the NBA should have put a little more thought into making the NBA bubble schedule equally fair for all participants. A team does not earn a free pass to the playoffs because they have a superstar. They have to earn it! Just ask LeBron James last year. The Grizzlies deserve an easier schedule for winning more games in the regular-season, not the Pelicans. The Spurs were able to put the clamps down on Zion the last time they played. I expect Gregg Popovich to have his guys ready to do the same thing again tonight. The Spurs will win this game outright.

Spurs 109 – Pelicans 105

Portland Trail Blazers (-3.5) vs. Philadelphia 76ers (+3.5) at 6:30 PM EST

Now, this is the real game of the day. Let’s not kid ourselves, a matchup between the Spurs and Pelicans will not be nearly as interesting as this game between the 76ers and Trail Blazers. On one side, you have a furious Damian Lillard who was embarrassed yesterday and is looking to take his frustrations out on some poor, unsuspecting team. On the other side, you have the Philadelphia 76ers who are desperately searching for a new identity without Ben Simmons in the lineup.

Yesterday may have been the worst day in the bubble for both squads. After missing two important free throws late in yesterday’s game, players on the Clippers began to openly mock Damian Lillard. In a post-game press conference, Dame decided to go after the Clippers. What resulted was a beautiful and ferocious war of words across multiple social media platforms. Damian Lillard is now furious after going through a public battle with a team that outplayed him. This will spell disaster for the 76ers because Lillard is going to go off today as he looks to redeem his good name as one of the most vicious and clutch players in basketball.

“Asking me about Patrick Beverley, who I sent him home before at the end of a game. Paul George is a guy sent home by me last year in the playoffs, so they know. The reason they reacting like that is because of what they expecting from me, which is a sign of respect, and it just shows what I have done at a high clip more times than not. I am not offended by it. If anything, it should just tell you how much it hurt them to go through what I put them through in those situations previously.”

Damian Lillard reacts to Patrick Beverley and Paul George’s insults

Meanwhile, reports indicate the Philadelphia 76ers learned that all-star Guard Ben Simmons is likely going to miss the remainder of the NBA season. According to ESPN’s sources, Simmons is expected to undergo arthroscopic surgery on his knee soon, effectively ending his 2019-2020 campaign. This is a nightmare scenario for the Sixers. The only other player more important than Ben Simmons to Philadelphia’s success is Joel Embiid. Thankfully, he is still going to be a part of the starting lineup. However, the loss of the team’s offensive leader and “point guard” will destroy the flow and rhythm that the 76ers have been establishing since play picked back up.

So what is Philadelphia’s plan to replace Ben Simmons? A guy that is third in points on the team, first in steals, second in rebounds, and first in assists. They plan to replace him with (checks notes) Shake Milton. Granted, Shake was able to hit a clutch shot earlier in the bubble. However, he will not be nearly as effective when Damian Lillard is focusing all his energy on him. The Trail Blazers are hungry and angry. The 76ers are a team that usually crumbles when Joel Embiid or Ben Simmons misses time with an injury. This is a no-brainer. The Trail Blazers are going to blow the doors off the 76ers today.

Trail Blazers 110 – 76ers 99

NBA Bubble Preview For 8/6/2020

Heat play the Bucks, Clippers take on Dallas, and Lakers face the Rockets

Things are getting weird in the NBA Bubble. The Phoenix Suns have managed to win every game they have played in Orlando since the restart. The Oklahoma City Thunder beat the Lakers by 29 points yesterday! And let’s not forget the Bucks losing to the G-league Nets. The chaos and uncertainty coming out of Orlando is intoxicating. Every game matters and nobody is quite sure who is going to win on a day-to-day basis. This may be the most interesting season in the history of the NBA.

As usual, six games are being played today starting at 1:30 PM and running all the way through 11 o’clock at night. All the matchups carry some weight and importance. However, I decided that we will try to focus on games that featured the NBA’s best and most interesting teams. That is why we will preview Heat-Bucks, Clippers-Mavericks, and briefly glance over Lakers-Rockets.

Milwaukee Bucks (-8.5) vs. Miami Heat (+8.5) at 4:00 PM EST

Is it safe to say that the bubble has not been kind to Milwaukee? The Milwaukee Bucks were the first team in the NBA to clinch a playoff berth this season. Also, they finished with the best regular-season record in the NBA. Yet, the Bucks cannot seem to get out of their own way as they have dropped their last two games to fall to 1-2 since NBA play restarted.

Milwaukee looked sharp in their first game back. The Bucks were able to top the Celtics 119-112 on July 31st. However, some would argue that referees handed the Bucks that victory by not calling late fouls on Giannis. Either way, Milwaukee barely got out of that game with the victory. Since then, things have only gotten worse for the Bucks. Following the win, Milwaukee lost to the Houston Rockets on Sunday by a score of 120-116. I am not a person that makes excuses for a team with high expectations, but I can forgive the Bucks for this loss. Houston is the second-highest scoring team in the NBA, and they are no stranger to meaningful basketball games. It’s acceptable to have a one-time loss to an out-of-conference opponent. However, I cannot justify Milwaukee’s loss to the Nets. Granted, Giannis only played in half the game, but when the Nets are missing at least five starters, I expect your team to beat them, especially when your squad averaged the most points per game in the NBA this season! In the end, the Nets won 119-116 for the largest upset victory in the NBA since the mid-90s. I have a feeling the Bucks are mad and feel embarrassed about that loss, so I could see them making a strong comeback tonight.

On the other side of the court, you have the Miami Heat, who are playing wonderfully. The Heat have played three teams so far and have a 2-1 record to show for it against three of the better-run franchises in the NBA. Their only loss in the bubble came against the defending NBA Champions by four points. Miami may be the hungrier team, but I think Milwaukee is going to come out with something to prove today after that embarrassment (and it was an embarrassment) against the Nets.

I am taking Milwaukee in this one, but 8.5 is a ridiculous spread. I am not sure if Vegas is very confident in the Bucks or not confident at all in the Heat. I’ll tell you this, I think both teams can make deep postseason runs. Unfortunately, Goran Dragic’s status for the game is up in the air. It will be huge if Dragic is unavailable because he is averaging 20 points, six rebounds, and five assists per game this season against the Bucks. If Dragic is unable to play or is even a little off, then I think this motivated Bucks team will be able to get the win. Milwaukee wins, but the Heat cover the point spread.

Bucks 120 – Heat 113

Los Angeles Clippers (-4.5) vs. Dallas Mavericks (+4.5) at 6:30 PM EST

Our second game of the day will be a matchup between one of the NBA’s preseason favorites and one of the league’s most exciting up-and-coming teams. The Los Angeles Clippers are looking to bounce back after a last-second loss to the Phoenix Suns. On the other side, the Dallas Mavericks are hoping to build momentum as they look for their first postseason birth since 2016.

The Milwaukee Bucks have arguably been the most disappointing team in the NBA bubble, but the Clippers are making a strong case as the second-most disappointing team in the bubble. Before the season began, the Clippers were given the best odds out of any team in the league to win the NBA championship at 7/2. The Clips have now fallen out of the top spot and have the third-highest odds out of any team in the bubble to win the NBA Championship. That’s not bad, but I think it is safe to say that the Clips have not yet been able to live up to all the expectations they had before the season began.

Simply put, the Clippers have not been impressive in the bubble. Their only win has come against a New Orleans Pelicans team that isn’t even one of the eight best teams in the Western Conference right now. Furthermore, they have lost close games to the Lakers and the Phoenix Suns (a team that hasn’t reached the playoffs since 2010). The Clippers are a very good team, but they have a lot left to prove in the Bubble, and I think they are now starting to realize that. I imagine their frustrations will be taken out on the Mavericks tonight.

Since the season began, the Dallas Mavericks have been considered “must-see-TV” because of their budding young star and play-style. The Mavs are the third-highest scoring team in the NBA. They also manage to shoot exceptionally well from beyond the arc. Furthermore, Luka Doncic has emerged as an NBA superstar, averaging 29 points, 9.5 rebounds, and 8.8 assists per game. A casual watcher of basketball would love getting a chance to see the Mavs play.

Unfortunately, Dallas is not a complete team. They have the offensive firepower to win games. However, the team has not been able to put the clamps down on anybody defensively towards the end of games. That’s why they have lost two matchups in overtime so far. They simply surrender too many points. I think Dallas’ defensive woes will be put on full display tonight when an angry (and dare I say, embarrassed) Kawhi Leonard takes the court looking to make up for the game-winning basket he allowed Devin Booker to make.

The Clippers are favored in this one, as they should be. Los Angeles is still one of the most talented teams in the NBA top to bottom. I think their defensive energies will be focused on making other players on Dallas not named Luka Doncic beat you. This game will be close, in typical Dallas fashion, but the Mavericks will end up losing the game, in typical Dallas fashion.

Clippers 119 – Maverics 115

Los Angeles Lakers (-1) vs Houston Rockets (+1) at 9:00 PM EST

I am going to try and keep this preview brief because you are probably sick of hearing me talk, or write, or whatever. The Los Angeles Lakers come into this game as just one-point favorites over the Houston Rockets. Both of these teams have looked great in the bubble. Houston has managed to pull off impressive wins over Dallas and Milwaukee. Meanwhile, the Lakers have already clinched the top seed in the Western Conference playoffs.

One of these teams has something to play tonight for while the other doesn’t. The Lakers are going to take their foot off the gas now that they have locked up the top seed in the West. You could see how lax their approach was yesterday after they lost to the Thunder by 29 points! LeBron was held to just 19 points on a night where LA shot the ball a little over 35% from the field.

Meanwhile, the Houston Rockets are still fighting and clawing their way into a position to steal the second seed from the Clippers. A victory tonight will go a long way in helping the Rockets’ playoff standings. Russell Westbrook is a little banged up, but I still expect Houston to come out in full force while the Lakers just coast by until the playoffs actually begin. The Rockets are going to rout the Lakers tonight. Get your popcorn ready because we are in for a clinic in how to score.

Rockets 131 – Lakers 100

NBA Bubble Preview For 8/4/2020

Celtics going up against the Heat; Rockets will take on the Trail Blazers

Yesterday was the first time since NBA action started back up again that I feel I nailed my picks. I was able to predict that the Toronto Raptors would beat the Miami Heat, and my pick of Lakers over the Jazz was also correct. I’m not here to brag though. I’m just saying that it had been a rough couple of days for my picks, so it’s nice to see that I actually got a few right. That’s all in the past now. I start a new day with a record of zero wins and zero losses as we look ahead to a pair of potential Conference Finals matchups.

As usual, we have six games on the NBA schedule today. We are going to focus our predictions on the two later games on TNT. The first matchup pits the Boston Celtics against the Miami Heat. After that, the Houston Rockets and Portland Trail Blazers go head-to-head as both teams look to climb up the Western Conference playoff standings.

Boston Celtics (-3.5) vs. Miami Heat (+3.5) at 6:30 PM EST

This may not be the sexiest game in the world because it is not littered with former MVPs or superstars like the later game, but I think this will be the best matchup in the NBA Bubble so far. The Miami Heat and Boston Celtics are two well-coached teams that are not afraid to go to their bench or role players to find scoring. I think the winning team will need a star player to score at least 30 points while other role players on the team put up double-digit scoring figures. A full-team effort will be needed from either side to win this game.

Boston and Miami currently have the same record since entering the NBA Bubble. Both teams are 1-1 since play restarted. Miami was able to beat up the Nuggets by 20 points for a 125-105 win in the team’s first bubble game. However, the Heat were edged out by four points yesterday against the Toronto Raptors to give them their first loss of the NBA restart. The Celtics’ experience in the bubble has been the complete opposite. The C’s lost their first game and ended up winning their second game. A victory for either team will go a long way in determining where these squads end up in the NBA playoff seeding.

The Celtics currently lead the season series against the Heat two games to none. The first victory came back in December when Boston played host to Miami. Statistically speaking, the first game between these two was incredibly balanced. The teams finished with near-identical three-point shooting percentages as well as field-goal percentages. However, the Heat turned the ball over eight more times than the Celtics, which allowed Boston to come away with the 112-93 victory. The second game between these two was much closer, but the result was still the same. The Celtics came out with the victory 109-101. Regardless, that goes out the window today as these teams face off for the first time in almost seven months.

The team that has gotten in Boston’s way the most is Boston. For example, the Celtics lost their game against the Bucks, but it easily could have been won. So why didn’t Boston beat Milwaukee? They missed every shot in the final 1:58 of the game. Furthermore, Boston went into halftime of their previous game up by 19 against the Trail Blazers. So the Celtics finished the game strong and snagged the blowout victory of Portland, right? Wrong. In fact, the Celtics allowed the Trail Blazers to come back into the game and take a four-point lead in the fourth quarter. Boston did end up eventually winning the game, but the victory should have come by way more than four points and should not have been as stressful as it was.

As for the Miami Heat, I think they are playing with house money. Over the last couple of years (since LeBron James left the Eastern Conference), there has been an expectation that the Boston Celtics would take the step forward and become the best team in the East. Instead, Boston was bounced out of the playoffs in the Conference finals in 2018 and the conference semifinals in 2019. Meanwhile, the Miami Heat have made the playoffs three times in the last six years and have continued to build and develop their roster with new, young talent. The unspoken pressure on the Celtics will be a little bit too much for them while the Heat will walk into this game relaxed and poised knowing they don’t have to prove themselves to anybody.

The numbers indicate that this will be an ugly, grind-it-out game. Both teams are respectable on offense, but defense is where they really shine. Celtics are third in scoring defense while the Heat are ranked 11th. With that in mind, I like the Heat to get the upset win. Miami is better at shooting the ball and is way better than Boston at passing the ball. That teamwork is going to play a huge role in the eventual win. I think the Heat have the guys to close out the Celtics down the line. I like Miami to win the game outright.

Heat 104 – Celtics 100

Houston Rockets (-4.0) vs. Portland Trail Blazers (+4.0) at 9:00 PM EST

Our last game of the day will be a star-studded matchup between Houston and Portland. The Trail Blazers are still looking to climb up the postseason rankings to solidify a spot for themselves in the playoffs. Meanwhile, the Rockets hope to improve their standing and compete for the number two spot in the West. This game will certainly be exciting and high-scoring.

The Houston Rockets have looked like the most impressive team in the NBA Bubble since the season restarted. In their first game, Houston scored 153 points on its way to a four-point overtime victory against the Dallas Mavericks. Houston looked even better in their next outing as they beat the Milwaukee Bucks 120-116. Those two victories, one against an up-and-coming team and another against the best team in the NBA, have been the most impressive in Orlando so far. A third-straight win could be a huge factor in determining if the Rockets will be able to leapfrog the Nuggets or Clippers for the number two spot in the West.

Unfortunately for the Portland Trail Blazers, they still appear to be on the outside looking in. With two matchups under their belt, Portland only has six games left to jump the Memphis Grizzlies for the final spot in the Western Conference playoffs. In a normal NBA season, fans would be up-in-arms complaining that the Trail Blazers would be a playoff team if they were in the Eastern Conference. However, with the ongoing COVID-19 pandemic still affecting people’s day-to-day lives, that conversation takes a backseat as teams duke it out for the eighth seed in the Eastern and Western Conferences.

I believe that this game will be one of the most interesting in the NBA Bubble. The complexion of these teams is very similar. Houston is led by a tandem of all-star guards while Portland is also led by a tandem of all-star guards. Both teams put up a lot of points, but they give up a lot of points as well. However, the reason the Rockets are a better offensive team is because they take more chances from beyond the arc than anybody in the NBA. In fact, the Rockets attempt 44.6 three-pointers per game, which is three more on average than the next closest team. They’re a below-average three-point shooting team, but they attempt so many threes that they eventually hit some of them. Houston is the definition of a high-volume scoring team. Sure they will have a lot of misses, but they will also have a lot of makes because they have the green light to pull up from anywhere on the court.

My heart says the Rockets will win, but my gut wants to pick Portland because they are the more desperate team at the moment. Houston is good, but I think they will struggle against Portland. The Trail Blazers have a ferocious rebounder in Hassan Whiteside. Also, Portland big-man Jusuf Nurkic is averaging 24 points per game in the bubble. Meanwhile, the Trail Blazers have two guards in McCollum and Lillard that can go shot for shot with James Harden and Russell Westbrook. I think Portland just barely edges out the Rockets thanks to a signature clutch moment from Damian Lillard.

Trail Blazers 121 – Rockets 119

NBA Bubble Preview For 8/3/2020

Heat and the Raptors set to clash Lakers and Jazz face off for the third time

The bubble has been absolutely excellent so far. With the scheduling and intensity behind every game, it feels like the NBA is in a perpetual state of March Madness. Every game counts and there always seems to be basketball on the television. The National Basketball Association is clearly the best run professional sports league in the United States.

There are six games on the NBA docket today. I will be covering just two of them. First, the Raptors and Heat go head-to-head in a game that will have major implications on playoff seeding in the East. Later on in the evening, the Lakers take on the Utah Jazz.

Toronto Raptors (-3.5) vs. Miami Heat (+3.5) at 1:30 PM EST

Our first game of the day features two of the most evenly matched teams in the Eastern Conference. On one side, you have the Toronto Raptors, who are looking for their second straight win in the bubble. Meanwhile, the Miami Heat are hoping to build on their first win against the Nuggets. This will surely be an excellent matchup.

These teams have several similarities, but that didn’t stop Miami from winning the first two games of the season series against Toronto. The Heat were able to beat the Raptors 121-110 in the first game they played against each other this season. The second time these teams faced off was a much more defensive battle. The Heat would limit the Raptors to just 76 points for an 84-76 victory. I expect tonight’s game to have a different outcome.

I think this is going to be one of those games where coaching plays a huge role in who comes out victorious. Erik Spoelstra has proven time and time again that he is an excellent leader. Spoelstra famously led Miami to back-to-back NBA Titles during the Heat’s big-three era with D-Wade, LeBron, and Chris Bosh. He has been able to have success beyond that four-year stretch too, leading the Heat to the playoffs in 2016, 2018, and this year. Erik Spoelstra has earned our respect as a head coach in the NBA.

With that being said, I still believe Nick Nurse is a better coach than Spoelstra. Toronto’s head coach was just recently named a Finalist for the Coach of the Year award, and he definitely seems deserving. Nurse was able to lead the Raptors to their first NBA Championship last season. Following that victory, the team’s best player decided to leave the franchise to go play basketball for the Clippers. So how did Nick Nurse respond? By leading Toronto to a 47-18 record, giving the Raptors a higher winning percentage than last year. Do you get what I am saying? Nick Nurse lost the team’s best player and led the Raptors to a better record this year than last year. I could heap praise on to Nick Nurse all day long. I think he has a slight advantage in the coaching department.

The numbers indicate that this will be a close game. The Heat average 112.3 points per game while the Raps average 112.9. Also, both these teams have tremendous defenses. Toronto is the best defensive team in the NBA while Miami is ranked 11th. The Raptors have an edge in rebounds per game, but the Heat come into this with an advantage in the assists category. These teams are so evenly matched that I think the deciding factor in this game will come down to a few key individuals.

The complexion of these teams is incredibly similar. Both franchises are coached by an excellent leader that knows how to win Championships. Furthermore, both teams are fueled by the production that comes from their three-headed monster. The Heat are led by Jimmy Butler, Bam Adebayo, and Kendrick Nunn. Meanwhile, the Raptors have been able to replicate their success from last year with Kyle Lowry, Pascal Siakam, and Fred VanVleet.

When all is said and done, I think the Raptors have a little more talent than the Heat, which will probably lead them to the win. I really like Butler and Adebayo, but my confidence in this team goes down tremendously once you get past those guys. On the other hand, the Raptors have proven that they can beat anybody in the league (regardless of talent) and look to have a hot hand right now. Miami covers the spread, but Toronto still wins.

Raptors 100 – Heat 97

Los Angeles Lakers (-6.5) vs. Utah Jazz (+6.5) at 9:00 PM EST

The other game of the day we will be previewing pits two of the top teams in the Western Conference against one another. However, both teams will be coming into tonight’s game motivated after suffering tough losses over the weekend. The Lakers were beaten by the Raptors 107-92 on Saturday. Meanwhile, the Thunder were able to beat the Jazz two days ago by a final score of 110-94. Thankfully, one of these teams will be able to break their skid with a victory tonight.

These teams are no strangers to one another. Prior to the NBA pause, these squads faced off twice in the 2019-20 season, and the Lakers managed to win both games. The first victory came back in October when LA beat Utah 95-86 thanks to 53 combined points from LeBron and Anthony Davis. The second time these teams faced off, the game was an even bigger blowout. LA ended up putting the hurt on Utah 121-96. The Lakers have had more talent than the Jazz all year long. This fact will be proven tonight when LA beats Utah for the third time this year.

The Utah Jazz are an enigma. As things stand right now, Utah is the fifth-seeded team in the Western Conference and has the ninth-best overall record in the NBA. However, Utah has had struggles against good teams in recent outings. The Jazz did beat the Pelicans, but that victory was sandwiched between two rough losses to two of the better teams in the NBA, the Raptors and Thunder. I worry the Jazz will not have enough gas in the tank ton upset the Lakers.

I think the Utah Jazz are a playoff-caliber team. I am not willing to say they are a Championship team though. Their star players don’t wow me in clutch moments, and the Jazz have not made deep postseason runs over the last couple of years. Utah will give the Lakers fits, but I still think LA comes out of this one victorious.

Both squads have been relying on defense to get the job done in the bubble. The Lakers and Jazz have limited opponents to about 100 points per game while also averaging around 100 points per game on offense. At the end of the day, I just trust the Lakers more to find the bottom of the basket when they shoot the ball. With a field goal percentage of 48.1%, the Lakers are the most accurate shooting team in the NBA. I also believe that LeBron, AD, and the rest of LA’s big men will be too much for Utah to handle. The Jazz cover the point spread, but the Lakers hold on for the eventual win.

Lakers 100 – Jazz 94

NBA Bubble Preview For 8/2/2020

Celtics look to bounce back against Portland; Bucks & Rockets face-off in a battle of the league’s best offenses

Okay, so let’s talk about it. I got every basketball pick wrong yesterday. I picked the Jazz, 76ers, and Lakers. Instead, the Raptors, Thunder, and Pacers all came out victorious following yesterday’s games. You can’t get every prediction right all the time, but that’s not going to stop me from previewing today’s games. However, I will post a link to a tweet I sent out highlighting just how bad my picks were yesterday.

https://twitter.com/mgideon9/status/1289668144785653761
You have to be able to laugh at yourself

Anyway, there are six games on the NBA schedule today. I have decided that I will be previewing just two of them. The first game up is a fascinating matchup between two uncommon foes as the Portland Trail Blazers get set to take on the Boston Celtics. Later on tonight, the Bucks will face the Rockets as both teams look for their second win of the NBA Restart. At the moment, I am like the Eastern Conference teams over the Western Conference teams in these matchups.

Boston Celtics (-4.5) vs. Portland Trail Blazers (+4.5) at 3:30 PM EST

Our first exciting game of the day pits the Trail Blazers against the Celtics. Boston is hoping to bounce back from the tough loss they suffered at the hands of the Milwaukee Bucks on Friday. Many Boston fans will tell you that they were robbed by the refs in the game, but a loss is still a loss. Meanwhile, the Portland Trail Blazers come into this game with a chip on their shoulder as they look to solidify a spot for themselves in the Western Conference playoffs.

These squads have been fairly evenly matched when facing off head-to-head in recent outings. The Celtics swept the two-game season series in 2018, but the Trail Blazers turned things around and won both games against Boston last year. Due to the NBA pause back in March, these teams have only played each other once this season. The Celtics were able to win the game 118-106 on the road, but I think the complexion of today’s matchup will be somewhat different because Damian Lillard did not play the first time these teams faced off.

Boston seems to have a better roster than Portland. Their overall records prove that fact. The Trail Blazers only managed to put up a 30-37 record before the season was paused. At the time of the NBA’s season suspension, Portland was the ninth-seeded team in the West. On the other hand, the Celtics entered the bubble as the third overall seed in the East with a 43-22 record. All that goes out the window though as these squads face off for the second time this year.

Portland comes into this one riding a strong win over the Memphis Grizzlies, who are also competing with the Trail Blazers and several other teams for one of the final spots in the Western Conference playoff race. It should come as no surprise that Damian Lillard and CJ McCollum exploded for 62 combined points in that game. However, the Trail Blazers were only able to beat the Grizzlies by five points in overtime. Portland allowed Jaren Jackson Jr to light them up for 33 points. This has me concerned about how the Trail Blazers’ defense will be able to contain a Celtics team that has a better and more explosive roster than the Grizzlies, especially in the frontcourt.

The Celtics and the Trail Blazers have similar offensive numbers. Portland puts up 114 points per game while Boston puts up 113. The Trail Blazers average almost 45.5 rebounds per game while the C’s average 46 boards per game. These teams even score at similar rates. Boston is 19th in Field Goal Percentage while Portland is 14th.

Defense is going to be the x-factor in this game. The numbers clearly favor Boston in that regard. The Celtics have the third-best scoring defense in the league. Meanwhile, the Portland Trail Blazers finished the regular season as the fifth-worst defensive scoring team in the league. Furthermore, the Celtics come into this one with the fourth-best shooting defense in the NBA and the third-best three-point defense in the league. As for Portland, they allowed opponents to make 37.6% of their three-pointers this season, which is the fourth-highest mark in the NBA. The Celtics’ defense will be able to close out the game when it counts as Boston covers the spread.

Celtics 108 – Trail Blazers 102

Milwaukee Bucks (-4.5) vs. Houston Rockets (+4.5) at 8:30 PM EST

The other matchup we are previewing today features a pair of teams that won their first games in the NBA Bubble. On Friday evening, the Milwaukee Bucks beat the Boston Celtics in a nail-biter 119-112. Later on, the Houston Rockets were able to edge out the Dallas Mavericks in Overtime for a 153-149 victory. I have a feeling that tonight’s game between these squads will be another high-scoring affair.

This will be the second game of the season between Milwaukee and Houston. The only other time these teams played was back in October when the Bucks traveled to Houston. Superstar guard Russell Westbrook made his debut in a Rockets uniform that night and was able to put up 24 points. However, James Harden was limited to less than 20 points while seven players on Milwaukee put up double-digit scoring figures. Despite trailing in the fourth quarter, Milwaukee would go on to win the game 117-111. I am expecting a similar result this evening.

The Rockets and the Bucks are currently the highest-scoring teams in the NBA. Both franchises are averaging 118.7 points per game, which has them tied as the top two scoring offenses in basketball. However, when you go down the stat sheet, you notice that there are many stark differences between these squads beyond how many points they are able to put up.

The Milwaukee Bucks are a better team statistically if you ask me, which you are because you’re reading this. The Bucks pretty much dominate every other meaningful statistical category beyond scoring offense. Milwaukee has a better scoring defense and a better shooting percentage from the field than Houston. Also, the Bucks average more assists and rebounds per game than Houston. The only category where the Rockets have a statistical advantage over Milwaukee is in steals per game. Beyond that, Milwaukee is much better than Houston.

Houston relies too much on high-volume scoring. Unlike their last game, I don’t think they will be able to put up 150+ points, especially not against the fourth-best defensive scoring team in the league. Furthermore, I think the Bucks will have an easier time limiting Houston’s role players as opposed to Boston’s role players. I do think that the Rockets will cover the 4.5 point spread, but I think the Bucks will be able to squeak out the close victory like they did against Boston the other day.

Bucks 121 – Rockets 117

NBA Bubble Preview For 8/1/2020

Jazz-Thunder, 76ers-Pacers, and Lakers-Raptors headline today’s matchups

Boy was last night exciting! Early on, you had reigning-MVP Giannis Antetokounmpo leading the Bucks against the Boston Celtics. With a little over two minutes left and the game tied, the Greek Freak was able to push the Bucks past the Celtics for a 119-112 win. The game was not without controversy though. Some fans felt that Giannis should have fouled out in the fourth quarter after executing a questionable “move” on Daniel Theiss. The foul went uncalled and in the end, Giannis and Khris Middleton were able to close out the game on a 12-5 run, giving Milwaukee the victory.

After the Bucks-Celtics game came one of the intense, high-scoring matchups of the season. In a battle for Texas, the Houston Rockets managed to outlast the Dallas Mavericks in overtime for a 153-149 victory. Luka Doncic and Kristaps Porzingis combined for 67 points last night. However, it was not enough to stop the Rockets’ offense. Houston’s all-star duo of Westbrook and James Harden outplayed Dallas’ big men, scoring 80 total points. Despite a spectacular effort from the Mavs, Houston just wanted the win a little bit more and came out with the victory.

With the first two days of the NBA Restart in the books, let’s look ahead at today’s schedule. There is an interesting story-line surrounding almost every game, but I am going to pick three specific contests to cover for today. The first game on my radar is the matchup between the Thunder and the Jazz. After that, the 76ers take on the Pacers. Finally, the Lakers will close out the evening with a game against the Raptors.

Oklahoma City Thunder (-2.0) vs. Utah Jazz (+2.0) at 3:30 PM EST

The first game we will be covering features two of the best teams in the Northwestern Division. The Jazz will play their second game in the NBA Bubble while this matchup will be the first official game for the Thunder since the season restarted. The Jazz are looking to snag their second win of the restart and remain undefeated, but it won’t be easy since they have to play an opponent that is familiar with them and their play style.

The season series is tied at one game apiece between these two teams. Utah and Oklahoma City first faced off all the way back in October. The Jazz were able to squeak past the Thunder for a 100-95 victory. The second game between these squads was not nearly as close. The Thunder were able to snag a victory 104-90. Today’s game will be the last matchup between these two teams this season unless they face off against each other in the first round of the playoffs.

I am a little more confident in the Jazz than I am in the Thunder. The main reason for my confidence is that the Jazz have already played and won a game in the bubble. Chris Paul is a great leader and will have his fellow OKC teammates focused on the game. However, I just like the way the Jazz were able to take care of business the other day. I don’t think OKC has a player nearly as explosive as Zion Williamson, so I am confident that the Jazz will be able to put the clamps on OKC’s offense. I like the Jazz to win and cover the spread.

Jazz 104 – Thunder 100

Philadelphia 76ers (-6.0) vs. Indiana Pacers (+6.0) at 7:00 PM EST

The next game we will be previewing is a matchup between two middle-of-the-road Eastern Conference teams. Both Philly and Indiana have identical 39-26 records. However, these teams seem to be trending in opposite directions right now.

The Indiana Pacers are one of the most injured and under-prepared teams invited to the bubble. The only team that has a worse roster right now in the bubble is Brooklyn. At the moment, the Pacers will be without Domantas Sabonis, who was second on the team in points per game during the regular season. Plus, it is expected that Indiana will not have the services of Malcolm Brogdon or Victor Oladipo in today’s game. Basically, the Indiana Pacers enter today’s game without their second, third, or fourth-leading scorer. I expect today’s game to get ugly in a hurry.

On the other side, it finally appears that the Philadelphia 76ers are fully healthy. ESPN is reporting that all-star Guard Ben Simmons has completely healed from a back injury that sidelined him earlier in the season. Furthermore, big man Joel Embiid seems to have finally recovered from a leg injury and is expected to play tonight. The 76ers look like a team that is ready to make a deep push in the postseason. They are healthy and playing great defense, which is an excellent formula to win a championship.

I think Philly is going to blow the doors off the Pacers in today’s game. In their scrimmages, the 76ers looked like they had the best defensive starting five in the NBA. If Simmons and Embiid can get their numbers while also making sure to get other players like Al Horford and Tobias Harris involved, then I am sure the 76ers will win this game by at least ten points. The 76ers are at full strength while the Pacers seemed to limp into the NBA Bubble. Philly wins the game and covers the spread.

76ers 111 – Pacers 100

Los Angeles Lakers (-2.5) vs. Toronto Raptors (+2.5) at 8:30 PM EST

Our last game of the day is probably our best. The Toronto Raptors, who finished the regular season as the second-best team in the East, will be taking on the Lakers, who are currently the top team in the West. This will be the second and final game of the season between LA and Toronto. After this game, the only way these teams will meet again this postseason would be if they faced off in the NBA Finals.

The Raptors were able to beat the Lakers in the lone head-to-head matchup between these two teams earlier this season. The game was tied 78-78 at the end of the third quarter. The Raptors would take a lead early in the fourth and never look back as they would go on to win the game 113-104. Toronto ended up outscoring the Lakers 35 to 26 in the fourth quarter.

Statistically speaking, these teams are very similar. LA averages over 114 points per game while the Raptors average over 113 points. Furthermore, both teams hold their opponents to less than 107 points per game. The Lakers and Raptors also put up near-identical team rebounding and team stealing numbers. It is hard to pick a winner based solely on stats, so I will have to go with my gut on this one.

I like the Lakers to win their second straight game of the restart. I really am impressed with the Raptors. Nick Nurse is a clear front-runner for coach of the year after leading Toronto to the second-best record in the Eastern Conference despite the departure of Kawhi Leonard last off-season. The Lakers have too much talent in their starting five for me to pick the Raptors. Anthony Davis and LeBron James are playing better basketball right now than Pascal Siakam and Serge Ibaka, so I think they will be able to control the tempo and momentum of the game. I think the Lakers have the defense to contain Toronto’s big men, which will give LA the eventual win. Lakers win the game and cover the spread.

Lakers 100 – Raptors 95

NBA Bubble Preview For 7/31/2020

Bucks-Celtics and Rockets-Mavs highlight the six NBA games scheduled for today

Basketball’s return was an unprecedented success. Yesterday, the NBA restart went off without a hitch. Both games came down to the wire. The Utah Jazz notched a win over the New Orleans Pelicans thanks to a pair of late free throws from Rudy Gobert. After that, LeBron James put the clamps on Kawhi and Paul George to give the Lakers a 103-101 victory over the Clippers.

With the first two games of the NBA restart in the books, it looks like the league is finally ready to unleash its full slate of games. There will be six NBA games played today in Orlando. Action starts at 2:30 PM EST, but the real excitement won’t begin until the evening. The Milwaukee Bucks will take on the Boston Celtics at 6:30 PM EST. After that, the Houston Rockets face off against the Dallas Mavericks at 9:00 PM EST. Those are the two best games of the day, so those are the ones that I will be previewing for today. Sorry NBA fans, you’ll have to go elsewhere if you want a preview of Nets vs. Magic or Suns vs. Wizards.

Milwaukee Bucks (-4.5) vs. Boston Celtics (+4.5) at 6:30 PM EST

After top teams in the Western Conference clashed last night, it only makes sense that some of the best teams in the East would go head-to-head today. When the season was paused back in March, the Bucks were the best team in the NBA with a 53-12 record. Meanwhile, the Celtics come into this matchup with a 43-21 record. Even though the Bucks’ regular-season record was significantly better than Boston’s, I still think this will be a close game.

Anybody that has watched the NBA over the last two years knows that Giannis Antetokounmpo has emerged as one of the best, if not the best, players in the league. The Greek Freak was named league MVP last season. However, he is having a better season statistically this year. The Greek Freak is averaging more points and rebounds per game in fewer minutes this year compared to last year. As a result, the Bucks currently stand alone with the best record in the NBA. Giannis has been excellent this season for the Bucks (and deserves to be named MVP), but Milwaukee has made it this far because they are playing well as a whole team.

Giannis is third in the NBA in points and rebounds per game this season, but the Greek Freak has had a lot of help from his teammates. Milwaukee enters the NBA restart with the number one scoring offense in the NBA, averaging 118.6 points per game. Furthermore, the defensive side of the ball has been getting the job done for the Bucks, who are currently fifth in the NBA in points allowed per game. Furthermore, Khris Middleton has continued to prove his worth, putting up over 21 points per game this season and earning a second straight invite to the NBA’s All-Star weekend. The Bucks have a terrific starting five, plus a great sixth man coming off the bench in George Hill. Milwaukee will go far in the playoffs this year, but they may not have the easiest time getting off to a hot start against a team that is loaded top to bottom like the Celtics.

The Boston Celtics seem like mirrored opposites of the Milwaukee Bucks. Milwaukee is led by an MVP candidate who makes every player around him better. Meanwhile, the Celtics have an arsenal of talented players that can take over a game. The C’s seem to have a different person leading the team every night because there is no shortage of scorers in Boston.

The top five players on the Celtics all average more than ten points per game. This is further exemplified by the fact that the top three scorers on the team all average over 20 points per game. Jayson Tatum, Jaylen Brown, and Kemba Walker make up the three-headed monster that leads the Celtics into Orlando. Furthermore, Tatum and Walker have already faced off against the Bucks and have proven they know how to score when going up against an elite team. Also, this game marks the first start Jaylen Brown will make against the Bucks this season, so I am confident he will be a difference-maker in tonight’s matchup.

I am leaning towards the Celtics right now. I love Giannis and think he will win MVP. However, the Celtics have a more complete roster top-to-bottom with more players that can score. Also, I think the Celtics will greatly benefit from having Jaylen Brown, Jayson Tatum, and Kemba Walker all playing on the court at the same time. With those three guys out there, as well as lock-down defenders like Marcus Smart, Daniel Theis, and Enes Kanter, I think it will be hard for everybody else on the Bucks (besides Giannis) to get the job done against their opponent and win their matchup. I like the Celtics to win this game outright.

Celtics 108 – Bucks 105

Dallas Mavericks (-1.5) vs. Houston Rockets (+1.5) at 9:00 PM EST

The second exciting game of the day will be a late-night matchup between two teams from the Lone Star state. The Houston Rockets are hoping that their small-ball approach to the game of basketball will bring the team its first championship since 1995. Meanwhile, the Mavs are hoping Luka Doncic and Kristaps Porzingis can help Dallas earn its first playoff-birth since 2016.

Even though this game is littered with stars and NBA greats, I believe that the most interesting player in this matchup is Luka Doncic. The 21-year-old Slovenian has taken one of the biggest leaps from rookie year to second-year I have ever seen. Luka averaged more points, assists, rebounds per game all while making his shots at a higher percentage than last year. I am never a person to say that things in the world of sports are a guarantee. However, I think Luka Doncic is a lock to win Most Improved Player in the League this season.

Kristaps Porzingis will also have to be a big factor in the Mavericks’ game plan if Dallas wants to make a deep playoff push. The Mavs have been blessed with two lanky, European big men that can score from anywhere on the court and get the ball to anybody. If Dallas wants to win, Luka and Kristaps will both have to score over 25 in this one and Porzingis will likely need to record a double-double.

On the other side of the ball, you have a team that is no stranger to the postseason and making deep playoff pushes. 2016 marked the last time the Houston Rockets did not win a playoff series. Offense has been the main reason why the Rockets have had so much success over the last few years. The Rockets have finished with the second-ranked scoring offense in the NBA three of the last four years.

The Rockets tandem of Westbrook and Harden is as good as any duo in the NBA. Harden is first on the team in scoring while Westbrook is second. Both players also lead the team in steals as well as assists. In fact, the Rockets are the only team this season that finished with two players ranked in the top ten in points per game. I am not worried about Westbrook and Harden getting the job done against the Mavs.

To be honest, there are only two factors that are making it hard for me to pick the Rockets with confidence. The first issue is that the Rockets do not have the services of Eric Gordon for about two weeks. Gordon will certainly be missed since he is third on the team in points per game. The other issue is that the Rockets play small ball, and that works to the Mavericks’ advantage. When your two best players are tall, lanky Europeans that can move the ball all over the court and shoot from three, then you should have little issue taking advantage of the small defenders on Houston’s side. I want to pick the Mavs, but I feel the Rockets are a little bit more used to the spotlight of the playoffs and big games. Houston will win this game outright.

Rockets 115 – Mavericks 114

NBA Bubble Preview For 7/29/2020

The race for the 2020 NBA Championship begins tomorrow in Orlando

We’re a long way from March 11th. I distinctly remember sitting in my apartment and getting the tweet sent to my phone that said the NBA season was being suspended. I was in disbelief. Sports seemed untouchable from the outside world. Unfortunately, I was wrong. It’s been about five months since the last meaningful NBA game was played. Tomorrow, it all goes out the window and the race to crown an NBA champion begins.

There are two games on the NBA schedule tomorrow. Both games will air on TNT. First, the New Orleans Pelicans will face off against the Utah Jazz. After that, the Lakers and Clippers will square off in a battle between the top teams in the Western Conference.

New Orleans Pelicans (-1.5) vs. Utah Jazz (+1.5) at 6:30 PM EST

Bubble play begins tomorrow when the Pelicans face off against the Jazz as 1.5 point favorites. Following the season’s suspension, the Utah Jazz were the fourth-place team in the Western Conference with a 41-23 record. On the other side, the Pelicans were an unimpressive 28-36. However, it should be known that Zion Williamson only played in 19 regular-season games this year before the season was suspended.

Zion will be a clear difference-maker in this game. In limited action, he averaged 23.6 points and 6.8 rebounds per contest. It should be noted that the former number one overall pick has never played in a regular-season game against the Jazz, so it’ll be interesting to see how the young man responds to Utah’s defensive prowess. I know Zion is going to get his numbers, but I don’t know if the rest of the Pelicans have it in them to beat the Jazz.

As things stand, the Jazz lead this series two games to one. The Jazz have usually been able to hold their own defensively in games this season, but when Utah has gone up against the Pelicans, the score has always been high. In three games, the Pelicans have averaged 128 points while the Jazz averaged 129.3 points per game. However, the total number of points scored in the series this season favors Utah just slightly 388 to 384.

I’m picking the Jazz in this one. The New Orleans Pelicans are obviously a sexy pick with Zion Williamson in the lineup. However, I am worried the young man may be a little rusty since he arrived at the bubble so late. Furthermore, I don’t know how well New Orleans will play since they’re not used to having Zion in the starting lineup. I like the Jazz to win outright because I just think they play better team ball.

Jazz 120 – Pelicans 116

Los Angeles Lakers (-4.5) vs. Los Angeles Clippers (+4.5) at 9:30 PM EST

Our second game of the NBA restart pits the Western Conference’s top two teams against each other. At 49-14, LeBron James and Anthony Davis are hoping to take the Lakers back to the promised land. Meanwhile, the second-seeded Clippers are hoping Kawhi Leonard and Paul George can bring the organization its first championship.

The Clippers currently lead the season series two games to one. The Lakers average 114.3 ppg while the Clippers put up 116.2 points per game. Furthermore, the average margin of victory in these games has been eight points. That doesn’t sound like a lot, but it is a pretty significant margin in the gambling world.

I really like the Bubble-based roster additions the Lakers have. Dion Waiters and JR Smith are two excellent players to have coming off the bench for your team. All you have to do is look at LA’s recent scrimmage against the Wizards. JR Smith finished with 20 points after going six for seven from beyond the arc. On top of that, Dion Waiters added 18 more points and six assists. They did all of this WITHOUT LEBRON JAMES OR ANTHONY DAVIS IN THE LINEUP! Both of those players can be incredibly effective for the purple and gold coming off the bench.

There seems to be a lot of uncertainty surrounding the Clippers’ opening night roster, which has me favoring the Lakers. It’s looking like the Clips will be without Montrezl Harrell on opening night. Furthermore, the status of Patrick Beverley and Lou Williams remains up in the air. Williams and Harrell were the third and fourth leading scorers on the team before the season was paused in March. Without those two in the lineup, I don’t see how the Clippers’ bench will be able to keep up with the Lakers. The Lakers will win this game outright and just barely cover the spread.

Lakers 124 – Clippers 119

Coronavirus Update For 7/21/2020

Here is the latest information we have to date regarding sports and COVID-19

NFL

League Offers Zero Preseason Games In Latest Proposal

It looks like the NFL will jump right into the Regular Season this year. The NFL Network’s Ian Rapoport is reporting that the NFL has sent a proposal to the players’ union that features zero preseason games in 2020. This news comes after Training Camps began this week.

The NFL preseason usually lasts four weeks and has every team participate in four games. The league originally proposed playing two preseason games, but the players pushed for zero games. The first game of the preseason, the NFL Hall of Fame Game, has already been canceled this year.

League Lays Out Protocols For COVID-19 Testing

The National Football League now has a plan in place to test for and contain the potential spread of COVID-19 this season. In a conference call yesterday, the NFL’s Chief Medical Officer said that the league will test all players every day for the first two weeks of Training Camps. Players will also need more than one negative test result to enter team facilities. The protocols were agreed upon by the NFL and the players’ union yesterday.

The protocols also state that after two weeks, the rate of positive tests will be examined. If this rate is below five percent, the league will move testing to every other day. Veterans are scheduled to report to Training Camps on July 28th.

NBA

League Reports Zero Positive COVID-19 Tests

It looks like the NBA has the Coronavirus Pandemic under control. Yesterday, the league officially announced that zero players out of 346 have tested positive for COVID-19 since July 13th. The league is saying that if a player does end up recording a positive test on the NBA campus in Orlando, then that individual will have to self-isolate until he has been cleared by league protocols.

NHL

Only Two Positive Coronavirus Tests Since Camp Opened

The NHL has some good news about their most recent round of COVID-19 testing. Yesterday, the National Hockey League announced that only two players have tested positive for the Coronavirus since camps opened on July 13th. The identities of the two players have not been revealed as per NHLPA policy.

In a statement, the league said that it completed the first five days of Phase Three testing from July 13th to July 17th. The statement also explained that 2,618 tests were administered to over 800 players, but only two players tested positive for the disease. At this time, both players are self-isolating. There is no clear timeline as to when the unnamed individuals will be able to return to practice.

MLB

Dr. Fauci To Throw Out First Pitch At Nationals’ Home Opener

The reigning World Series Champions will have a very special guest at their home opener. Yesterday, the Washington Nationals announced that Dr. Anthony Fauci will throw out the ceremonial first pitch at the team’s home opening game against the New York Yankees. The Nats and the Yankees are scheduled to face off Thursday night.

“Dr. Fauci has been a true champion for our country during the COVID-19 pandemic and throughout his distinguished career, so it is only fitting that we honor him as we kick off the 2020 season…”

Washington Nationals’ Statement on Dr. Anthony Fauci

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Coronavirus Update For 7/19/20

Here is the latest information we have to date regarding sports and COVID-19

MLB

Blue Jays Barred From Playing Games In Toronto

It appears that the Toronto Blue Jays will not be allowed to play home games in Canada this year. Yesterday, the Canadian government denied the Blue Jays’ request to play home baseball games at the Rogers Centre in Toronto this season. Immigration Minister Marco Mendicino later confirmed this information. The Canadian government doesn’t reportedly think it is safe for players to travel back and forth from the United States during the ongoing Coronavirus Pandemic.

The Blue Jays are currently considering a few different locations where they could play home games. One of the sites in the mix is the team’s training facility in Dunedin, Florida. The franchise is also thinking about utilizing Sahlen Field in Buffalo, New York which is home to Toronto’s triple-A affiliate baseball team. The Blue Jays are currently scheduled to begin their season on July 24th.

NBA

League Will Shorten Exhibition Games

The NBA announced it is tweaking the rules of the first exhibition games of the league restart to make them go by a little faster. For the initial matchups of the NBA restart, the league has decided to go with ten-minute quarters instead of the traditional 12-minute quarters. The NBA is hoping this will allow players to get ready to finish the season while also enabling them to conserve their energy for more important games that will come later.

ESPN is reporting that the clock change will only apply to the first exhibition game for every team. The second and third exhibition games at Disney will go back to the standard timing. Every team participating in the NBA restart is required to play in three exhibition games.

Race For NBA’s Individual Awards Is Already Over

On Friday, the NBA told teams that none of the seeding games will be taken into consideration when selecting this season’s individual award winners. The league also said that voting for honors like All-NBA, ROTY, etc. will be completed before the season restart on July 30th. This news means that the race for individual awards like MVP is now officially over. Giannis Antetokounmpo won the MVP award last season with the Milwaukee Bucks and is hoping to win it again this year.

NFL

Training Camps To Start As Scheduled

Despite spiking Coronavirus cases across the country, the NFL has decided to start preseason activities on time. Yesterday, all 32 NFL teams received an email from the league informing them that training camps will begin as scheduled. Rookies will report first, followed by QBs and injured players, and finally, veterans.

Rookies that play for the Kansas City Chiefs and the Houston Texans are the first players that will report to camp this year. They are all scheduled to show up at camp tomorrow. Meanwhile, the NFL said that all other teams are allowed to have rookies report to camp as early as Tuesday the 21st. NFL veterans are scheduled to report on July 28th.

NHL

Oilers’ Defenseman Feeling “Healthy” After Positive COVID-19 Test Results

On Friday, the Oilers’ Caleb Jones revealed that he had tested positive for COVID-19 and had to self-isolate for two weeks before joining the team at training camp. The defenseman reportedly tested positive for Coronavirus when he first showed up for training camp in Edmonton three weeks ago. He then had to quarantine for two weeks. Friday marked the first time Jones was able to participate in the team’s main practice.

“We’ll see if he takes part in [the] scrimmage tomorrow… I’m not sure he’s going to go that far yet, but it’s good to have him back. He had no symptoms, he tested positive without any symptoms at all, so he’s coming back feeling healthy and ready to go.”

Edmonton Oilers’ coach Dave Tippett on Jones’ return

Caleb Jones was drafted by the Edmonton Oilers in 2015. The 23-year-old defenseman played in 43 games for Edmonton this year. He finished the regular season with four goals and five assists for nine total points.

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Coronavirus Update For 7/14/20

Here is the latest information we have to date regarding sports and COVID-19

MLB

Officials Say fans Won’t Be Allowed At Phillies Games In 2020

Earlier today, city officials said that fans will not be allowed in the stands during home games for the Philadelphia Phillies in 2020. The officials also said that this decision applies to Philadelphia Eagles’ home games in 2020 as well. Philadelphia Health Commissioner Thomas Farley said he believes baseball and football can be played under the right circumstances, but he does not think it is a good idea to have fans in the stands for games.

“I do not think that they can have spectators at those games. There’s no way for them to be safe having a crowd there… I can’t say what the plans are for the league, but from a safety perspective, they can play games but not [have] crowds.”

Philadelphia Health Commissioner Thomas Farley

NFL

Sources Say Players’ Union Has New Set Of Requests For Return-To-Work Plan

As the NFL and the NFLPA continue to negotiate the terms of play this season, it seems that the players are looking for extra securities and financial support. According to sources, the NFLPA requested the following in their most recent proposal to the league:

  • Opt-out clause for at-risk players to receive salary if one decides not to play
  • Opt-out clause and benefits for players with at-risk families if they decide not to play
  • Opt-out clause for a player that leaves the teams after reporting
  • A $250K stipend guaranteed to all players if they show up to camp and everything is shut down due to COVID-19

NBA

Michael Beasley Reportedly Leaves Orlando Bubble

Sources are saying that new Brooklyn Nets Guard Michael Beasley left the NBA Bubble at Walt Disney World in Orlando, Florida. Sources told ESPN that Beasley recently tested positive for Coronavirus.

Beasley was signed by Brooklyn back on July 9th as a replacement player that would participate in the NBA Restart in Orlando. Sources are saying that it is unclear if the 31-year-old will eventually rejoin the team in the bubble.

NHL

Nine Pittsburgh Penguins Sidelined After Potential Virus Exposure

Yesterday, the Pittsburgh Penguins announced they were “voluntarily sidelining” nine players from their training camp roster after it was discovered the players may have been exposed to a person who tested positive for COVID-19. This news comes just one day after NHL Training Camps opened. The nine players will not be allowed to participate in team activities until they pass all NHL safety protocols.

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Russell Westbrook Tests Positive For Coronavirus

Rockets’ Guard announced positive test results before the team departed for Orlando

Before the season restart has even begun, one of the NBA’s best players has tested positive for COVID-19. Earlier today, former MVP Russell Westbrook announced he tested positive for Coronavirus. The positive test results came before the Rockets departed for the NBA season restart that is scheduled to take place later this month in Orlando, Florida.

Russell Westbrook addressed the test results on Twitter. He confirmed that he tested positive for COVID-19 and that he is now in quarantine. The nine-time NBA All-Star said he is feeling well despite the positive test results.

Westbrook now joins James Harden and Luc Mbah a Moute as the three players that did not travel with the Rockets when they left for Orlando. Yesterday, Rockets’ Head Coach Mike D’Antoni said that he hopes all three players will be able to arrive at the NBA’s bubble-atmosphere at Walt Disney World within the next three or four days.

Russell Westbrook is in his first season with the Houston Rockets after spending the first 11 seasons of his career with the Oklahoma City Thunder. Westbrook was averaging 27.5 points per game, 8 rebounds per game, and 7 assists per game before the 2019-20 NBA season was suspended.

Two More NBA Teams Shut Down Practice Facilities

Some members of the Kings and the Bucks have reportedly tested positive for COVID-19

Sources say the Milwaukee Bucks and the Sacramento Kings are the latest teams to shut down their practice facilities after the most recent round of COVID-19 testing. An official with the Bucks confirmed that the team shut down its practice facility yesterday.

At this time, it is unclear if the Milwaukee Bucks recorded more than one positive Coronavirus test. Regardless, Milwaukee announced that it does not plan on re-opening the team’s practice facilities before leaving for Florida. The Bucks are scheduled to fly to Orlando this Thursday.

Sources told ESPN’s The Undefeated one member of the Sacramento Kings’ traveling party also tested positive for COVID-19. Sources say Sacramento now also plans to keep its facilities closed for the remainder of the NBA resumption. The Kings are scheduled to depart for Orlando on Wednesday.

Several NBA teams have shut down their practice facilities due to positive COVID-19 test results. Six teams have officially ended workouts this past week. The other four teams that stopped workouts are the Nets, Nuggets, Heat, and Clippers.

Coronavirus Update For 7/5/20

Here is the latest information we have to date regarding sports and COVID-19

NHL

Members Of Blues’ Organization Reportedly Test Positive For COVID-19

According to multiple reports that came out Friday night, multiple members of the St. Louis Blues’ organization tested positive for COVID-19. The St. Louis Post-Dispatch says that no staff members or coaches are believed to have been infected with COVID-19 during the ongoing pandemic.

The Athletic is reporting that the team’s Phase Two workouts that were scheduled for Friday were canceled due to the positive Coronavirus test results. No further workouts are scheduled for this weekend. Current reports indicate that the team is expected to resume practice on Monday.

MLB

White Sox And Nationals Report Positive Coronavirus Test Results

Both the Washington Nationals and the Chicago White Sox announced two players on each team tested positive for COVID-19. Both teams made the announcements earlier today.

The Chicago White Sox did not identify the players who tested positive but did say they are both asymptomatic and in isolation. Meanwhile, Nats’ Manager Dave Martinez told the media that two players out of 60 tested positive for COVID-19. The four players will be allowed to return to baseball activities after recording two negative COVID-19 test results and passing other pre-established Coronavirus protocols.

NBA

League Releases Restart Scrimmage Schedule

Yesterday, the NBA released its scrimmage schedule ahead of the 2019-20 NBA season restart that will take place in Orlando. All 22 teams participating in the restart will play in three scrimmages before the season resumes on July 30th. The league is saying that the Television broadcast details will be released at a later time.

NFL

Sources: NFLPA Recommends Canceling All Preseason Games

According to ESPN’s sources, on Friday, the NFL Players’ Association Board of Representatives voted to recommend canceling all 2020 preseason games. Sources say that the decision was voted on unanimously.

Earlier this week, the NFL decided to shorten the 2020 preseason to two games from four. At this time, the league has not formally announced the decision to reduce the number of preseason games this year. ESPN says it is unclear if the NFL will consider the players’ union’s recommendation to cancel all preseason games.

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Coronavirus Update For 7/2/20

Here is the latest information we have to date regarding sports and COVID-19

NBA

Nine More Players Test Positive For COVID-19

Earlier today, the NBA revealed the results of the COVID-19 tests that were administered throughout the league from June 24th to the 29th. The NBA announced that the results showed nine more players tested positive for the Coronavirus. The league reports that 25 players have tested positive since testing began on June 23rd. The NBA also revealed that 10 team staffers out of 884 have tested positive for the illness to date.

NFL

No Agreement Yet On Length of Shortened Preseason

While the NFL is hoping to play at least two preseason games in 2020, there is no guarantee that it will be possible. According to the NFL Network, some members of the NFL Players’ Association are currently in favor of playing no preseason games this year. These reports come after sources said the NFL was planning on shortening the preseason to two games from four this year due to COVID-19 concerns.

The NFLPA must sign off on any decision the league makes, but they have not yet shown their approval of the plans to shorten the preseason to two games. A Board of Representatives call that will provide more information on the developments is scheduled to take place later today.

NHL

Toronto And Edmonton Expected To Be Named Hub Cities

Sportsnet says that Toronto and Edmonton are expected to be named the hub cities for the NHL season restart. The decision will be finalized once the players approve the league’s return-to-play plan, which is expected to happen later this week. Elliotte Friedman reported that teams will likely play in one of the two locations based upon conference alignment, so Eastern Conference teams will likely play in Toronto while Western Conference teams will be in Edmonton.

MLB

Teams Cannot Identify Players Who Test Positive For COVID-19

There will likely be players who test positive for COVID-19 this baseball season, but they will not have to reveal that information to the public unless they want to. According to the Health Insurance Portability and Accountability Act, “teams are not allowed to divulge the name of any player who tests positive.” The law goes on to state that only a player can reveal to the public that they tested positive for COVID-19. The MLBPA has not made a comment on the decision at this time.

Continue checking oddsusa.com for more updates on the Coronavirus Pandemic.

Coronavirus Update For 6/26/20

Here is the latest information we have to date regarding sports and COVID-19

NBA

16 Players Test Positive For COVID-19

The first series of Coronavirus tests have been conducted by the NBA, and the results are not great. The NBA and the Players’ Union announced that 16 players out of 302 total tested positive for COVID-19 on Tuesday. This means that 5.3% of the players in the NBA pool have tested positive for Coronavirus.

Under the NBA’s current safety guidelines, any player that tests positive for COVID-19 must remain in self-isolation until “he satisfies public health protocols.” A player may only end their period of self-isolation if given permission by a doctor or physician.

NHL

Vancouver No Longer Being Considered As Hub City for Restart

Yesterday, the Vancouver Canucks announced that their city will not serve as a 12-team “hub” when the NHL season restarts. This news comes despite there being speculation that Vancouver was a front-runner city to be named an NHL hub.

Canucks Sports and Entertainment COO Trent Carroll released a statement about the decision yesterday. He said, “although Vancouver won’t be a Hub City, we are still excited to see hockey start up again…”

NFL

Teams Told Training Camps Will Open As Scheduled

The NFL is still on track to start the 2020 regular season on time. Yesterday, the NFL advised teams that training camps across the league will still open on July 28th as planned. The league also said that certain selected players will be permitted to report to training camps even earlier than that.

The decision was announced during a virtual meeting amongst the owners yesterday. The Commissioner went on to say after the meeting that they not only plan to start on time, but they are planning to “get ready for games at our stadiums and to engage our fans both in stadiums and through our media partners.”

MLB

Giants To Display Fans’ Images In Stands

Yesterday, the San Francisco Giants announced a new program that will allow fans to send in images of themselves to be used on cardboard cutouts in the stands at games. The “Giants Fan Cutout Program” allows Giants’ fans to send in an image of themselves that will be placed on a cardboard cutout that will be in the stands during Giants’ home games throughout the 2020 season. The program will only be available to San Francisco Giants season ticket-holders

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Coronavirus Update For 6/17/20

Here is the latest information we have to date regarding sports and COVID-19

NBA

League Lays Out Specific Plans, Health Protocols For Season Restart

Yesterday, the NBA sent teams a 100-plus page document that outlined almost every detail of what life will be like for players and staff at the ESPN Wide World of Sports Complex at Walt Disney World in Orlando, Florida when the season restarts next month. The document explained social distancing guidelines as well as how the league plans to handle a player or staff member testing positive for COVID-19.

The document laid out a process for players or staff members to follow if they test positive for Coronavirus. First, they will be placed in “isolation housing” to avoid infecting others. The individual will then have to take another COVID-19 test as soon as possible in order to rule out the possibility of a false positive. A third Coronavirus test will be administered 24 hours after the first if the second test comes back negative. A person can only leave isolation once they record two negative Coronavirus test results in a 24 hour period.

MLB

Dr. Fauci Says MLB Season Shouldn’t Go Too Deep Into Fall

Yesterday, Dr. Anthony Fauci, the director of the National Institute of Allergy and Infectious Diseases, voiced his concerns about the potential 2020 MLB season. In an interview with the Los Angeles Times, the doctor said baseball would be better served being played during the summer and not extending too far into late Fall.

“If the question is time, I would try to keep it in the core summer months and end it not with the way we play the World Series, until the end of October when it’s cold, I would avoid that.”

Dr. Fauci explaining that the MLB Season should not end too late

When to end the potential season has been a big talking point between the MLB and the Players’ Union. Dr. Fauci said that if baseball is to be played, it should be done mostly during the summer. The MLB season remains in jeopardy as the Commissioner’s office is currently refusing to set a schedule for the season in response to the players’ union’s decision to end negotiations with the league.

NHL

Players Reportedly Won’t Have To Wear Face Shields When Play Resumes

It seems the NHL is confident in its plans to contain COVID-19 when the season picks back up. According to ESPN, the National Hockey League will not expect players to wear face shields during gameplay when the season starts up again. ESPN is saying that this does not necessarily mean players will not wear some type of face-covering during competition.

A person who spoke anonymously to the Associated Press said that emphasis has been placed on player testing and other safety precautions outside of the arena. ESPN is saying that daily testing of players means additional on-ice safety equipment is not expected to be required for practices or games.

NFL

Ohio Governor Says Hall OF Fame Game Likely Won’t Have Fans

The first game of the NFL preseason will likely not have fans. Yesterday, Ohio Governor Mike DeWine said that if the 2020 NFL Hall of Fame Game is played, it will likely be without fans in attendance. The game, which is scheduled for August 6th, will be a matchup between the Dallas Cowboys and the Pittsburgh Steelers.

“As much as I hate to say this, because we’ve all been looking forward to that and I know how much it means to the Canton area and the Stark County area and, really, across the country, it’s a great, great event that we’ve been looking forward to, [but] having a crowd that size is highly unlikely. Certainly, it could not occur today. It would be very dangerous to do it today.”

Mike DeWine explains that fans likely won’t attend the Hall of Fame Game in an interview with WKYC-TV

Tom Benson Hall of Fame Stadium reportedly has a capacity of 23,000. According to ProFootballTalk, July 1st appears to be the deadline for the final decision on whether or not the game will be played.

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Coronavirus Update For 6/14/20

Here is the latest information we have to date regarding sports and COVID-19

NBA

Players And Staff To Be Tested Every Other Day For Coronavirus In Orlando

The league sent out a memo to teams yesterday that outlined how Coronavirus testing will take place once the season starts back up again. The NBA said that the first Coronavirus tests for players and staff will happen on June 23rd and then take place every other day after that.

The memo said that all players and staff will be administered a COVID-19 test as well as a COVID-19 antibodies test. Each person on each team will then be tested every other day and two days directly before the team leaves to travel to Orlando. All clubs are scheduled to arrive in Florida between July 7th and July 9th.

NFL

League Commissioners Coming Together For ESPN Special Tomorrow

ESPN will be hosting a conversation tomorrow with a number of commissioners from some of the top professional sports leagues in America. Commissioners from the MLB, NBA, NFL, NHL, MLS, and WNBA will discuss the current state of sports and the concerns about Coronavirus Monday night on SportsCenter Special: The Return of Sports. The program will air from 9 PM to 11 PM EST.

MLB

Players’ Union Rejects Latest Proposal From Owners

There continues to be tension between Major League Baseball players and owners. Yesterday, the MLBPA asked the league to set a schedule for the 2020 season rather than counter the MLB’s latest collective bargaining agreement proposal. MLBPA executive director Tony Clark rejected the proposal and said, “further dialogue with the league would be futile. It’s time to get back to work. Tell us when and where.”

An agreement between the two sides in March allows the MLB to set a schedule for this season. ESPN is saying that the league could impose a schedule of around 50 games that would reportedly pay players their full prorated salary.

NHL

Arizona Coyotes Staff Member Tests Positive For COVID-19

Yesterday, the Arizona Coyotes were informed that a member of their staff had tested positive for COVID-19. The male staffer has said he feels no symptoms of the disease, but he is still self-isolating at home at this time. All other members of the Coyotes’ organization that are in phase two of the NHL’s return-to-play protocols have tested negative for COVID-19.

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Sources: NBA Targeting Earlier Restart Date

ESPN is reporting July 30th may be the new date for the NBA restart

We may be getting basketball even earlier than first anticipated. According to ESPN’s Adrian Wojnarowski, sources told him the NBA is now eyeing a July 30th restart in Orlando for the 2019-20 NBA season. The league initially announced a tentative plan for play to resume on July 31st.

These reports came out despite the fact that sources told ESPN a portion of NBA players currently feel hesitant about a season restart. According to ESPN, about 40 to 50 players took part in a conference call yesterday where they discussed their concerns about restarting the season in Orlando, Florida at this time. Even though a call was held, sources say that no formal petition saying players do not want to participate in the games has been filed by the NBAPA at this time.

The NBA’s Board of Governors approved a 22-team restart plan for the league back on June 4th. Under the current plan, 13 teams from the West and nine teams from the East will participate in the events scheduled to take place in Orlando. Each team will play in eight regular-season games to determine the final standings for the Playoffs.

Coronavirus Update For 6/8/20

Here is the latest information we have to date regarding sports and COVID-19

NBA

Sources: League Will Use Win Percentages To Determine Standings

According to sources, the NBA has decided that the standings for the league will be determined by winning percentage when play resumes next month. Sources also said that typical tie-breaking procedures will be used if necessary. These decisions are expected to play an important role in the final seeding of the Western Conference playoffs which has 13 teams competing for eight spots.

The league will be resuming the 2019-20 season next month in Orlando, Florida. 22 teams have been invited to the facilities to participate in eight regular-season games to determine who qualifies for the playoffs. Nine teams from the East and 13 teams from the West will be traveling to Orlando to participate in the events.

MLB

New Proposal From League Reportedly Features 76-Game Season

Sources are saying Major League Baseball has a new offer for a return-to-play plan. A source close to the negotiations told ESPN’s Karl Ravech the league made a proposal to the MLBPA earlier today for a new return-to-play plan. The proposal reportedly features a 76-game regular-season with players receiving 75% of their prorated salaries.

The plan also reportedly has a $200 million postseason pool for the players. Also, the proposal would have the MLB season end no later than October 31st. The playoff schedule, which would feature ten teams, has not yet been finalized.

NFL

Teams Receive Memo About Total Reopening Of Facilities

The league now has a plan in place for clubs to completely reopen team facilities. The NFL reportedly sent out a memo to all teams that states proper guidelines and protocols for the total reopening of training facilities.

The four-part memo breaks down the protocols players must follow to be allowed back into facilities. Some of the factors players must take into consideration include physical distancing, proper cleaning and hygiene, and even taking steps to educate yourself about the spread of COVID-19.

The NFL Network’s Tom Pelissero is reporting that no timetables have been set for when minicamps or training camps are expected to begin. However, Pelissero is reporting that the NFL and the NFLPA are discussing the possibility of certain players, like rookies or veterans on new teams, being allowed to return to facilities before June 26th.

NHL

League Transitioning To Next Phase Of Return-To-Play Plan

The National Hockey League continues to move closer to normalcy. The NHL announced that it is transitioning into phase two of its return-to-play plan. This means that teams will be allowed to reopen training facilities starting today if local regulations allow it.

During this next phase of the plan, NHL players and coaches will have much more freedom to work out and train. Players will be permitted to work out in small groups of no more than six. Players will also be required to wear face coverings at all times in the facility except when exercising or on the ice.

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Coronavirus Update For 6/4/20

Here is the latest information we have to date regarding sports and COVID-19

NBA

Sources: League Approves Plan To Restart Season In Orlando

Basketball is almost here! Earlier today, a source told ESPN that the league’s Board of Governors voted to approve the league’s 22-team format to restart the 2019-20 season. Sources say the plan was approved in a 29-1 vote.

Under the plan, 13 Western Conference teams and nine Eastern Conference teams will head to Orlando, Florida to resume and eventually finish the 2019-20 NBA season. Each team will play in eight regular-season games to determine playoff seeding. There will be a potential play-in tournament for the eighth seed in either conference if necessary.

NHL

Source: League And Players’ Union Agree On Playoff Format

Hockey is coming back! According to ESPN’s sources, the NHL and the NHLPA have agreed on a playoff proposal. The plan features a 24-team qualifying tournament comprised of best-of-five series. Sources say all four rounds of the playoffs will be a best-of-seven series.

According to ESPN, Deputy Commissioner Bill Daly said the league is on track to hold Training Camps starting in July. Determining health and safety protocols will be the next step in the league’s plan to return to play.

MLB

League Reportedly Rejects MLBPA’s 114-Game Proposal

It looks like we will have to continue waiting for the return of Professional Baseball. ESPN’s sources have confirmed that Major League Baseball rejected the MLBPA’s return-to-play proposal that included a 114-game schedule with no additional salary cuts. Sources are saying the league did not make a counterproposal to the players’ union.

Players presented their proposal to the league on Sunday in response to management’s plan of an 82-game season. Under the players’ plan, the regular season would run from June 30th to October 31st. At this time the league has said it has no interest in extending the season into November.

NFL

Coaches Allowed To Return To Facilities This Week

NFL coaching staff members will be allowed to return to team facilities starting this week. Commissioner Goodell sent out a memo to clubs that said coaches will be allowed to return to team facilities starting tomorrow. The league has said that players who are not being treated for injuries are still not allowed to work out at team facilities at this time.

The memo states that coaches may only return to club facilities if the team “received necessary permission from state and local governments to reopen its facility.” Clubs may also have up to 100 employees at the team facility if given permission by local authorities.

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Sources: NBA Will Approve Plan For 22-Team Restart

Each team will reportedly participate in eight regular-season games

It looks like we finally have a clear picture of who will be playing basketball once the NBA resumes play. Earlier today, sources told ESPN the NBA’s Board Of Governors plans on approving the league’s plan for a 22-team restart in Orlando, Florida. The decision is expected to be voted on during a conference call tomorrow. Sources say that each of the 22 teams will play in eight regular-season games to determine playoff seeding.

There will reportedly be six other teams joining the league’s 16 current playoff teams this year. ESPN’s sources say that the Washington Wizards will play in the Eastern Conference while the Pelicans, Trail Blazers, Suns, Kings, and Spurs will participate in the West.

According to ESPN, if the number nine seed is more than four games back from the eighth seed, then the eighth seed will make the playoffs. However, if the ninth seed is less than four games back, then a play-in tournament will be held.

The NBA’s Board of Governors will be voting on the restart proposal tomorrow. The board needs three-fourths approval from the league’s 30 teams for the plan to pass. The Board of Governor’s conference call is scheduled to take place tomorrow at 12:30 PM EST.

Sources: Date Proposed For Final Game Of NBA Season

Game Seven of the NBA Finals would reportedly take place on Oct. 12th if necessary

The picture of what the NBA restart might look like seems to be getting clearer. Earlier today, sources told ESPN that a timeline shared with teams for a potential season restart has marked down October 12th as the last possible day for an NBA Finals Game Seven. This timeline follows the proposed 22-team format that would have the league resume the season starting on July 31st.

According to ESPN’s sources, Commissioner Adam Silver is expected to have a proposal for the NBA’s Board of Governors to vote on when they speak on Thursday. Sources are also saying that if the proposed 22-team format is approved, then the league would hold the draft and free agency in that order in October following the conclusion of the NBA Finals.

The plan that seems to be gaining the most momentum for an NBA restart involves 22 teams. The top eight seeds from both the Eastern and Western Conferences will participate in regular-season games, play-in games, and playoff games. ESPN’s sources are reporting that “six more teams within six games of the eighth seed in each conference” will also participate in these match-ups as well.

Coronavirus Update For 6/1/20

Here is the latest information we have to date regarding sports and COVID-19

NBA

Sources: Board Of Governors Expected To Approve Commissioner’s Restart Plan

According to ESPN’s sources, the NBA’s Board of Governors is expected to approve Commissioner Adam Silver’s season restart plan this week. The Board of Governors will be voting on the plan this Thursday. The proposal needs three-fourths majority approval to be passed.

Under the plan, the NBA would bring 22 teams to Disney’s ESPN Wide World of Sports Complex in Orlando, Florida to play games during the summer. Sources are saying that this plan would likely include regular-season and play-in games to determine the finalized seeding for the playoffs in both the Eastern and Western conferences.

Sources say the NBA has not yet endorsed a restart plan. Sources are also saying that one plan, which included allowing all 30 teams to resume play, is no longer possible.

MLB

Sources: MLBPA Delivers Return-To-Play Counterproposal To League

According to ESPN, the Major League Baseball Players’ Association presented a return-to-play plan to the league on Sunday. Sources say the plan includes a 114-game season, deferred salaries in case the season is canceled, and an opt-out option for all players concerned about the Coronavirus Pandemic.

The proposal says that the 114-game season would run from June 30th to October 31st. However, Major League Baseball originally suggested the season only be 82-games long.

ESPN says the players’ association expects the league to reject this offer. However, the union is hopeful that this proposal will bridge the gap between these two sides and allow them to come to an agreement to return-to-play later this week.

NHL

League Expecting To Test Players Daily If Play Resumes

NHL Deputy Commissioner Bill Daly said that the league will test players for COVID-19 daily if play resumes. He said, “we will have a rigorous daily testing protocol where players are tested every evening and those results are obtained before they would leave their hotel rooms the next morning, so we’ll know if we have a positive test and whether the player has to self-quarantine himself as a result of that positive test… It’s expensive, but we think it’s really a foundational element of what we’re trying to accomplish.”

The league says that each Coronavirus test costs approximately $125. Commissioner Gary Bettman estimates that the league will need between 25,000 to 35,000 tests to get through the end of the Stanley Cup Playoffs. The Commissioner believes that testing will cost the league millions.

NFL

DeSean Jackson: Players Should Be Miked Up If There Are No Fans

Philadelphia Eagles’ Wide Receiver DeSean Jackson has admitted that it will be a “culture shock” if there are no fans in NFL stadiums this season. However, DJax has said that if that ends up being the case, players should be miked up for games so that fans can get a behind-the-scenes look at the NFL. Jackson appeared on teammate Lane Johnson’s podcast, Outside The Lane, where he explained how great of an opportunity it could be.

“I think they should [mike up players]. They should give fans the [insight] to see what really goes on between the white lines… It gets crazy, bro. I know in the trenches it gets crazy. And I know on the outside it gets crazy, too, the conversations we go back and forth on.”

DeSean Jackson on the Outside The Lane Podcast

The NFL is still preparing contingency plans for the 2020 season. Last week, Dolphins’ Owner Stephen Ross did say on CNBC, “we’re planning to have fans in the stadium.”

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Coronavirus Update For 5/28/20

Here is the latest information we have to date regarding sports and COVID-19

NFL

Commissioner Announces Next Plans For Starting Season On-Time

The NFL is giving players a bit more time to work from home. Earlier today, Commissioner Roger Goodell announced that the league’s virtual off-season workout program has been extended another two weeks. Another important detail that was included in the announcement was that coaches could return to team facilities as early as next week.

The announcement was made in a memo sent out by the Commissioner to all teams and club presidents. Players are still not allowed to return to team facilities at this time. The memo states that the NFLPA is developing protocols with the league to get players back into facilities “before the conclusion of the offseason program.”

MLB

Players’ Union Proposal Suggests More Games, Full Prorated Salaries

The MLB and the MLBPA are at each other’s throats right now as the two sides are working to come to an agreement that will allow baseball to be played this year. According to ESPN’s sources, the MLB Players’ Association will be countering the league’s initial return-to-play offer with an offer of their own that includes more than 100 games and full, prorated salaries for players. According to sources close to the talks, MLB players “essentially pledged to ignore the league’s proposal” when it was presented to them on Wednesday.

ESPN is reporting that the MLB’s original proposal called for a pay decrease on top of prorated player salaries. ESPN says that under the league’s proposal, a player like Mike Trout would be paid less than $6 million to play in 82 games this season. Trout’s base salary for the 2020 season was scheduled to be $36 million.

NHL

League Awards Regular-Season Trophies

Now that the NHL has ended the regular season, the league has decided to hand out the awards that are presented after each year. The Boston Bruins were awarded the President’s Cup Trophy for leading the league standings with 100 points on the season. The awards didn’t stop there for Boston though. Tuukka Rask and Jaroslav Halak were given the William H Jennings Trophy for allowing the fewest goals in the NHL this season. Leon Draisaitl won the Art Ross Trophy for the first time in his career after leading the NHL in points this season with 110 in 71 games. Lastly, there was a tie for the Maurice Richards Trophy this season, which is awarded to the league’s top goalscorer each year. Washingtonโ€™s Alex Ovechkin and Bostonโ€™s David Pastrnak both finished the regular season tied for first with 48 goals apiece.

NBA

2020 Basketball Hall Of Fame Enshrinement Delayed

Yesterday, Jerry Colangelo, the chairman of the board of governors for the Hall of Fame, told ESPN’s Jackie MacMullan that the enshrinement ceremony for the 2020 Hall of Fame class will be moved to the Spring of 2021. The 2020 Class includes Kobe Bryant, Tim Duncan, and Kevin Garnett.

The original dates of the enshrinement were supposed to be from August 28th through August 30th. The proposed alternate dates of October 10th-12th are “just not feasible” at this time, according to ESPN. Colangelo said that the Hall of Fame’s Board of Governors will meet June 10th to discuss dates for the Spring enshrinement ceremony.

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Coronavirus Update For 5/25/20

Here is the latest information we have to date regarding sports and COVID-19

NHL

League Ready For Next Step In Season Resumption

The NHL sent a memo out to teams over the weekend that said the league is ready to move to the next phase of its return-to-play plan. The memo that was circulated said teams can begin to prepare to move into phase two of the plan. This means players will soon be able to begin working out in small groups at team facilities.

The NHL has not selected an exact date for when it will begin its next phase. It is being reported that the league is eyeing early June for the start date of phase two. Phase one of the NHL’s plan, which involved self-isolation, began back on March 12th.

MLB

NY Governor Says Pro Teams Can Return To Facilities

Yesterday, New York Governor Andrew Cuomo said that teams in New York can return to their facilities for training. All training and activities for professional sports in New York state had been paused for the last two months.

The Governor had a news conference yesterday in which he welcomed the return of sports to NY. “Starting today, all the New York professional sports leagues will be able to begin training camps…” he said. The MLB, NHL, and NBA are all discussing resuming their seasons with their respective players’ unions.

NBA

Patrick Ewing Out Of Hospital After COVID-19 Diagnosis

Earlier today, former NBA star Patrick Ewing told ESPN’s Adrian Wojnarowski that he is recovering at home after being diagnosed with Coronavirus. On Friday, Ewing announced that he had tested positive for COVID-19 and was being treated at a Washington DC hospital.

Patrick Ewing Jr. has been giving updates on his father’s condition. Ewing Jr. confirmed over twitter that his father was out of the hospital and is “now home and getting better.”

NFL

Woods/Manning Beat Mickelson/Brady To Win “The Match”

Four of the most recognizable faces in the world of sports came together to raise money for charity. Yesterday, Tom Brady and Phil Mickelson teamed up to take on Peyton Manning and Tiger Woods in The Match: Champions for Charity at Medalist Golf Club. Despite the bad weather, these stars gave us quite a show.

There was playful banter and teasing between the participants. Even some of the most famous stars in the NFL tuned in to watch the match. In the end, Woods and Manning came out on top, but everybody left a winner that day. The exhibition match helped raise $20 million for Coronavirus Relief efforts.

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Coronavirus Update For 5/23/20

Here is the latest information we have to date regarding sports and COVID-19

NHL

Players’ Association Board Approves 24-Team Playoff Format

Yesterday, the executive board of the NHLPA elected to approve a 24-team playoff format, based on conference, for a potential restart of the 2019-20 season. The league is reportedly hoping that it can resume play this summer. The NHL paused the 2019-20 regular season back on March 12th.

Under the proposal, the top four seeds from both conferences will receive byes in the first round of the postseason. Also, the first round of the Stanley Cup Playoffs will feature eight different best-of-five play-in series. These series will take place between the teams ranked five through 12 in both the East and the West Conference Standings.

NBA

League Talking About Resuming Play At Disney’s ESPN Complex

Earlier today, a spokesperson for the NBA said the league is discussing resuming the 2019-20 season at Disney’s ESPN Wide World of Sports Complex. NBA Spokesperson Mike Bass said that play would take place at the complex located in Orlando, Florida, and start sometime in July.

Bass said, “the NBA, in conjunction with the National Basketball Players Association, is engaged in exploratory conversations with The Walt Disney Company about restarting the 2019-20 NBA season in late July at Disney’s ESPN Wide World of Sports Complex in Florida as a single site for an NBA campus for games, practices and housing.” He continued by explaining the league’s main concerns at this time. “Our priority continues to be the health and safety of all involved, and we are working with public health experts and government officials on a comprehensive set of guidelines to ensure that appropriate medical protocols and protections are in place.”

It is still unclear if the NBA will resume the 2019-20 regular season or jump right into the playoffs. ESPN says that the 220-acre complex should allow the league to restart play while also limiting outside exposure to the Coronavirus.

MLB

Players’ Union Asks For More Coronavirus Testing Than Proposed

On Thursday, the MLBPA gave management a response to a set of protocols that were proposed for the upcoming season regarding how the league will handle the ongoing Coronavirus Pandemic. The union addressed issues like player protection, access to doctors, protocols for testing, and several other factors that influence that start of the 2020 season.

The Players’ Association is mainly focused on the availability of COVID-19 tests. According to ESPN, “the union wants more frequent testing than management’s proposed ‘multiple times per week.'” The league is expected to make an economic proposal to the players’ association over the next few days.

NFL

Mahomes Speaks At Texas Tech’s Virtual Commencement

Super Bowl MVP Patrick Mahomes had the opportunity to speak at Texas Tech’s virtual commencement ceremony earlier today. His message to the graduates was simple, “go out and win your Super Bowl.”

Mahomes spoke to the 2020 Red Raiders’ graduating class for a little less than two minutes. One of the most important things he said was, “I know this isn’t the graduation ceremony that you and your families had envisioned, but that doesn’t change the outcome or all the hard work, long hours and sacrifices that you made to achieve this milestone… I know this is sure not how you imagined spending your last days as a student.” Texas Tech held its graduation ceremony virtually because of the Coronavirus Pandemic.

NCAA

All Athletes Can Resume On-Campus Activities Starting June

Yesterday, the NCAA D-I Council announced that athletes from all sports can resume voluntary, on-campus workouts beginning on June 1st. The announcement means that all athletes can continue individual workouts as long as they abide by state and local health protocols.

This decision is not that surprising. On Wednesday, the organization said that athletes participating in football, men’s basketball, and women’s basketball could resume voluntary workouts starting on June 1st.

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Coronavirus Update For 5/21/20

Here is the latest information we have to date regarding sports and COVID-19

NHL

League Eyeing 24-Team Playoff Format

Sources confirmed with ESPN that the NHL and the NHL Players’ Association are discussing a 24-team playoff format for the potential restart of the 2019-20 season. The proposed format, which was first reported by Sportsnet, would be broken up by conference.

Under the proposed playoff format, 12 teams from the Eastern Conference and the Western Conference would qualify for this year’s playoffs. The top four seeds in both conferences would receive first-round byes if the proposal were to be passed. The first round of the postseason will reportedly be a five-game play-in series between seeds five through 12. Sportsnet is reporting that discussions about the proposal could begin as early as today.

MLB

Players Hoping For More Freedoms Under New Health Proposal

ESPN is saying that some Major League Baseball players are hoping the league makes some adjustments to the recently-proposed new health protocols. The players are apparently most interested in reducing the frequency of player and staff tests in clubhouses.

St. Louis Cardinals’ Infielder Paul DeJong was able to explain what his concerns were. He said, “the daily testing, I’m a fan of, to quickly determine our status every day, but given that, I’d like to see the freedom operating in the clubhouse and on the field.”

DeJong went on to say that no pothole is big enough to derail the return of baseball. He said that he is more concerned about the financial issues that will arise moving forward. He ended things by saying, “There were a lot of rules and infrastructure to get in place and enforce. … We’ll find the right mix. We can pull this off.”

NBA

Timberwolves Announce Plan To Open Practice Facility

The Minnesota Timberwolves released a statement that they will be opening the team’s practice facility for workouts starting today. The announcement was made by Minnesota’s PR team yesterday. The practice facility at Mayo Clinic Square will be open to all voluntary player workouts.

The Timberwolves are following all new health guidelines passed down by the NBA, just like every other team that has opened their facilities since the season pause. About 15 NBA teams have re-opened their training facilities for workouts so far.

NFL

Teams Start Process Of Re-Opening Facilities

A number of NFL teams have begun to re-open facilities after they were given permission to start doing so by Commissioner Goodell starting on May 15th. Teams are only allowed to open facilities if they adhere to all state and local health protocols.

The NFL Network’s Tom Pelissero said that eight teams opened up facilities in some capacity coming into today. The Chiefs, Cowboys, Falcons, Steelers, Texans, Colts, and Cardinals all reportedly reopened some facilities on Tuesday. Pelissero said that the Cincinnati Bengals were the only team to open facilities yesterday. At this time, coaches are not allowed to return to facilities according to the new NFL rules.

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