Good morning, folks. Wow, Saturday was busy. We have lots of things to discuss. Let’s talk NBA Bubble.
Booker leads Suns to 5-0 Bubble record despite Herro’s near triple-double
Saturday’s matchup between the Phoenix Suns and Miami Heat is the first game of the NBA’s restart that I was legitimately antsy for in the hours leading up to it; and it did not disappoint in the slightest. The Suns snuck out with an intensely battled 119-112 win over the Heat that came down to the wire.
Phoenix entered the game with a 4-0 record in the restart and the hottest team in Orlando, going up against a Heat squad that was without multiple key players, including Jimmy Butler, Goran Dragic, and Kendrick Nunn. With that in mind, Miami needed a guard to fill the ball-handling responsibilities left behind with those three sitting out. Head coach Erik Spoelstra turned to rookie Tyler Herro, who immediately went out to prove that he is anything but “just a shooter”. Herro popped off for 25 points while shooting 10-16 from the floor, but it was game-management that left me impressed. Sharing point guard duties with versatile big man Bam Adebayo, Herro dished out a career-high 10 assists to go along with eight rebounds, nearly dropping a triple-double in just the seventh start of his career and first in the Bubble. There was only one instance where Herro made a poor decision with a lazy pass, but other than that, he looked comfortable in his role bringing the ball up the floor.
Tyler Herro on working the pick-and-roll with Bam: "He’s an amazing threat inside…
He draws so much attention. That’s why you see the big disappear sometimes and I have a layup."
— Couper Moorhead (@CoupNBA) August 9, 2020
Working as the fulcrum for Herro’s offensive strengths, Adebayo did everything he could to keep Miami in the game. The former Wildcat posted 18 points, seven rebounds, nine assists, one steal, and three blocks while shooting 6-13 from the field in 30 minutes. What killed him–and his team–the most was his five turnovers. Well, that and Devin Booker.
Going up against his mini-me in Tyler Herro, Booker came out with several reasons to drop buckets on everyone’s head. Not only did he get into a personal back-and-forth with Herro during the third quarter, but Booker also made sure that his team earned the win. The red-shot shooting guard dominated the weak guard rotation for Miami, scoring a BBNBA-high 35 points on 15-26 shooting in addition to three rebounds and six assists with just one turnover. He even missed all seven of his 3-point attempts, but was so deadly attacking the rim from all angles that he was just as unstoppable without the outside threat. Phoenix is now the only undefeated team left in the Bubble.
”I think this bubble opportunity was big for us and we’re taking advantage of it,” Booker said following the win.
Even though the Suns are still facing an uphill battle to make the playoffs, I am in love with Booker’s fight. He’s heard the unwarranted criticism he’s taken over the last couple of seasons and is now unleashing that pent up rage on opponents who have been silly enough to overlook him and his team. Speaking of the playoffs, here’s how the bottom of the Western Conference standings looks as of Sunday morning.
If you ask for my non-professional opinion, the final playoff spot is going to come down to Memphis, Portland, San Antonio, and Phoenix. At the moment, the Grizzlies continue to slide in the standings with a 1-4 Bubble record while the Spurs and Suns have combined to post an 8-2 record. Even though Portland choked away Saturday’s game against the Los Angeles Clippers, they easily have the most talented roster of the six teams in the picture above. With Jaren Jackson Jr. out for the Grizz, they’re holding on the 8-seed by a thread. As for New Orleans and Sacramento, they might as well pack it up and head home. They’ve combined for a 3-7 record with no signs of consistency.
As your daily reminder, the ninth-place team needs to finish with four games of the eighth-place team (which is going to happen) in order to force a play-in round. Once the play-in round is official, the ninth-place team will need to win two consecutive games while the eighth-place team needs just one win to advance to the actual playoffs.
I am practically begging for a Suns-Blazers play-in round.
One game. Three stars. One school.
— Kentucky Basketball (@KentuckyMBB) August 9, 2020
Murray explodes in Bubble debut, taking down Jazz in double overtime
Jamal Murray finally made his Bubble debut on Saturday after missing the first four games for the Denver Nuggets with a sore hamstring. He ended up curating what was arguably the most exciting finish of an NBA game all season. The Kentucky point guard dropped 23 points, 12 rebounds, and eight assists on a 10-25 shooting clip with tired legs
Several clock malfunctions created what was one of the more unique–and strange–finishes I have ever witnessed. The Utah Jazz should have lost before either overtime, but found a way to keep themselves alive, mainly thanks to the heroics of Donovan Mitchell. In the end, it was Murray’s brilliance that boosted his squad to a 134-132 double-overtime victory. He was clearly gassed throughout the final stretch, gasping for large breaths of air and hardly standing up straight, but when his team needed him the most, he delivered.
Murray did it mostly with one-footed, fadeaway jump shots, too. He was only supposed to play 22 minutes to help ease back into game-shape but ended up playing 39.
”I was only supposed to play 22,” Murray said. ”It’s cool. I like challenges and it feels a lot better now that we got the win.”
In the final minutes of regulation and into the overtime periods, the Nuggets offense was all Murray and Nikola Jokic, operating through their signature pick-and-roll and dicing up the Utah defense. It was beautiful; I’ve missed Jamal Murray so much.
We have to mention Luka Doncic
I won’t spend too long talking about Dallas Mavericks superstar Luka Doncic, but I feel the need to address what he did to the reigning MVP and the Milwaukee Bucks on Saturday. The second-year offensive Gawd set the Bucks defense ablaze with 36 points, 14 rebounds, and a career-high 19 assists. More importantly, the Mavs secured the win in overtime, thanks to this between the legs pass from Doncic that resulted in me probably waking up my neighbors at 11:30 in the evening.
Luka Doncic on this between-the-legs dime in OT: "I don't know why I did it. I just did it. I saw it, I don't know. I didn't think about it before — right in the moment." https://t.co/JL5PzeiceS
— Tim MacMahon (@espn_macmahon) August 9, 2020
If you needed another reason to believe that Doncic is the future of the NBA, last night’s game was all you needed. But if you’d like me to take it a step further, I’ll point to his 34-point, 20-rebound, 12-assist outing he posted earlier this week. He is the next LeBron James or the next Giannis Antetokounmpo–without a hint of hyperbole–and you might as well hop on that trend before everyone else does.
On the opposite side of the bench, Eric Bledsoe played in just his third Bubble game for the Bucks, contributing 15 points, five rebounds, and four assists in 30 minutes.
Other notes from the Bubble
- The game-by-game protests from the players and coaches have not slowed down since the Bubble started. Before every game, both sides join together and kneel side by side during the national anthem as a sign of protest against the racial and social injustices ravaging the United States. Even though it’s not getting the same media attention, the protests are still ongoing and players continue to speak up, especially regarding the Breonna Taylor case. Pictured below is Utah Jazz forward Royce O’Neale.
- A pair of former ‘Cats, Anthony Davis and Bam Adebayo, have been nominated for individual NBA Awards. Davis is a finalist for Defensive Player of the Year while Adebayo is a finalist for Most Improved Player. Without getting your hopes up, I would anticipate Antetokounmpo wins DPOY while Brandon Ingram wins MIP, but both of the one-time ‘Cats have more than earned the right to be in the mix.
- Speaking of Davis, the big man had another off night for the Los Angeles Lakers, registering a mere eight points on 3-14 shooting in addition to his eight rebounds, four assists, two steals, and two blocks. The Lakers lost again, this time to the TJ Warren and the Indiana Pacers 111-106. L.A. has already clinched the top spot in the West, but are just 2-4 in the Bubble.
- Along with Jamal Murray, Michael Kidd-Gilchrist (DAL) and Wenyen Gabriel (POR) both made their Bubble debuts for their respective squads. MKG has been sitting due to conditioning concerns and appeared in just three minutes for the Dallas Mavericks, contributing two rebounds. As for Gabriel, he’s been stuck near the end of the bench but found 11 minutes in the Portland Trail Blazers 122-117 loss to the Los Angeles Clippers, adding four boards and one steal.
- ESPN’s Adrian Wojnarowski dropped some Woj Bombs on Saturday, outlining a few ideas regarding the 2021 season that the league has been contemplating. Some of the proposed ideas include regional bubble pods, pushing back the start date for next season, and a potential one-month break for the Olympics in July.
— Adrian Wojnarowski (@wojespn) August 9, 2020
|Devin Booker (PHX)||119-112 W @ MIA||35||15-26 (0-7)||3||6||1||0||1||-1||35|
|Tyler Herro (MIA)||112-119 L vs. PHX||25||10-16 (1-4)||8||10||0||0||2||+3||35|
|Jamal Murray (DEN)||134-132 (2OT) W vs. UTA||23||10-25 (2-8)||12||8||0||1||2||+7||39|
|Bam Adebayo (MIA)||112-119 L vs. PHX||18||6-13 (0-0)||7||9||1||3||5||+5||30|
|Eric Bledsoe (MIL)||132-136 (OT) L @ DAL||15||6-10 (0-3)||5||4||0||0||2||-13||30|
|Patrick Patterson (LAC)||122-117 W @ POR||8||3-3 (1-1)||2||2||0||0||0||+6||19|
|Anthony Davis (LAL)||111-116 L @ IND||8||3-14 (0-4)||8||4||2||2||4||-20||35|
|Wenyen Gabriel (POR)||117-122 L vs. LAC||0||0-0||4||0||1||0||0||+3||11|
|Michael Kidd-Gilchrist (DAL)||136-132 (OT) W vs. MIL||0||0-0||2||0||0||0||1||+4||3|
|Rajon Rondo (LAL)||111-116 L @ IND||DNP-Thumb||--||--||--||--||--||--||--||--|
TODAY IN THE BUBBLE
12:30: Wizards @ Thunder (Diallo, Gilgeous-Alexander, Noel)
2:00: Grizzlies @ Raptors
3:00 (ABC): Spurs (Johnson) @ Pelicans
5:00: Magic @ Celtics (Kanter)
6:30 (NBA TV): 76ers @ Trail Blazers (Gabriel)
8:00: Rockets @ Kings (Fox)
9:00 (NBA TV): Nets @ Clippers (Patterson)