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 8/3/2020

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 8/1/2020

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 7/29/2020

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