Gianni, another writer here at PeachBasket, and myself recently co-hosted a stream we call, Run it Back: NBA Week in Review. Yes, I realize that is a shameless self-promotion and I am OK with that. In our most recent stream he and I talked about the oddity of the Bubble. Specifically, I pointed to the Nets, then a 19 point underdog, beating the Milwaukee Bucks. We discussed of the NBA had become more like the NFL in that any given team could beat any other team at any time.
We both rejected that idea.
Gianni explained the Nets victory as an aberration. I couldn’t disagree. We later discussed the fact that the Phoenix Suns were the only undefeated team in the NBA bubble and chalked that up to Devon Booker’s rise to dominance. The Suns aren’t good all of a sudden because of some bubble magic, right?
After this weekend, I am beginning to question what I thought I knew.
On Saturday, the Clippers played the Portland TrailBlazers. The Blzers need every game of the eight scheduled before the playoffs in order to make the playoffs. Well, in fact, to make the play in games in order to get to the playoffs. Where the Blazers are a desperate squad, the Clippers are, well, relaxed. They are assured of the playoffs with only seeding being an open question. Even that isn’t too troublesome as their hold on the second seed is fairly secure.
So, to recap, Blazers (need every game, desperate team) versus Clippers (chill af team with no need to win and a focus on staying healthy)
Who would you pick? Before you answer let me add that the Clippers, working on that health thing I just mentioned, chose to not play Kawhi Leonard. Paul George, who had a very good game against the Blazers, didn’t play most of the final quarter. In fact, that final quarter Clippers lineup was a hodge-podge, a mish-mash, a cacophony of players from deep in the bench.
I’ll even make this easier for you, Dame Lillard will get two free throws to take the lead with mere seconds left.
No one in their right mind picks the Clippers given those facts, yet, the Clippers won. Rodney McGruder, who had averaged 10 mins per game and 3 points made the shot that won the game for the Clippers. Dame Lillard missed not one, but two free throw than a three-point shot that we all know he can make that cost the Blazers the victory.
On Sunday, the Clippers sat Paul George, but they were playing the Brooklyn Nets. The same Nets that signed Kevin Durant and Kyrie Irving. The Nets without Kevin Durant or Kyrie Irving. The sub .500 Nets. The Nets, a team with players most casual basketball fans would have a hard time naming. The poor, poor Brooklyn Nets had to face the dangerous Los Angeles Clippers who are favorites to win it all.
The bubble basketball gods give and the bubble basketball gods take away. On Saturday, the BBG’s gave the Clippers a victory in a game they tried to lose. On Sunday, they took a game from the Clippers they should have won.
Those Nets, with the appropriate amount of support from the BBG’s, shot almost 50% from deep making a staggering 20 shots out of 43 from long range. The Clippers came close for a bit to start the third, but it was all just a ploy as the Nets took control after that and cruised to the victory.
Bubble basketball has been fun to watch. The virtual fans are interesting, the piped in noise is growing on me and I love the fact that there are no fans, waitresses or cameramen in the way of the players. The bubble has worked and I am thrilled to give credit to the NBA, Players Association and everyone involved in making this happen. But, it’s time to acknowledge that the NBA bubble is kinda…weird.
The #1 seed Los Angeles Lakers look lost at times and are only 2-4 in the bubble. The Nets are playing great with no stars and are 4-2. Exhibit A however are the best bubble team in the history of bubble basketball, the unbeaten Phoenix Suns!
Case closed. The bubble basketball gods have spoken!