Good morning, folks. Day two of the restart was more exciting than I think any of us were expecting. Let’s talk NBA Bubble.
Protests against racial injustice continue
Picking up where the teams that played on Thursday left off, all six games on Friday saw both sides kneeling before the national anthem as a sign of protest against the racial and social injustices that have been ravaging the United States. Donning “Black Lives Matter” t-shirts with arms locked and teams kneeling side-by-side, Friday was another example of the commitment these players and coaches have in their fight against the systemic issues facing this nation.
Portland, Memphis, referees and Trail Blazers’ GM Neil Olshey kneel in peaceful protest during national anthem. pic.twitter.com/ts1VL8NG2R
— Chris Haynes (@ChrisBHaynes) July 31, 2020
Bucks and Celtics players and coaches kneel during the national anthem. pic.twitter.com/5PqeSb7r65
— Malika Andrews (@malika_andrews) July 31, 2020
While a small handful of people decided against kneeling–notably San Antonio Spurs head coach Gregg Popovich and assistant Becky Hammon–they still stood strong with their players by wearing the same “Black Lives Matter” shirt across their chests, later echoing their support for BLM.
The only player who appears to be actively refusing to participate in the protests thus far is Orlando Magic forward Jonathan Isaac, who has elected to stand for the anthem, not wear the “Black Lives Matter” shirt, and did not choose to put a social message on the back of his jersey.
All three presented reasoning for their decisions and their peers, for the most part, have been in support of their choices.
”Everybody has to make a personal decision,” Popovich said after the Spurs played on Friday. ”The league’s been great about that. Everybody has the freedom to react any way they want. Whatever reasons I have, I reacted the way I wanted to.”
Fox’s career-high and Keldon Johnson’s improvement
I hope De’Aaron Fox has to play in an enclosed Bubble environment for the rest of his basketball career if it means he posts the kind of numbers he did on Friday. The Sacramento Kings point guard EXPLODED for a career-high 39 points, although in a 129-120 losing effort to Keldon Johnson and the San Antonio Spurs.
Fox shot 17-33 from the floor, driving the Kings offense all game despite coming off a sprained ankle that has only recently allowed him to step back on the court. He added three rebounds and six assists to his stat line, as well, and the Kings held a slight 65-64 lead at halftime before losing the lead late. Considering how close these two teams are in terms of the playoff standings, the importance of this game was apparent and both sides played as such. With the win, the Spurs were able to leapfrog the New Orleans Pelicans in the standings, moving them to 10th in the Western Conference and just a half-game back of the Portland Trail Blazers for the ninth-seed. As a reminder, if the ninth-place team finishes within four games of the eighth-seed, a play-in round is forced.
On the San Antonio bench, former Wildcat Keldon Johnson proved that he’s wasn’t just a preseason darling. He played 30 minutes for the Spurs–easily a career-high–while posting eight points, six rebounds, two assists, and one steal. Johnson drilled two triples, as well, but it was his defense that shined. Right now, he might be better on the defensive end than he is on offense. I was somewhat shocked to see him play so many minutes in the opening game, but he proved to everybody that he deserves to be on the floor. I hope it continues. Funny enough, this Bubble could be his coming-out party to the rest of the league.
— San Antonio Spurs (@spurs) August 1, 2020
Devin Booker and the Suns sneak by Washington
The Washington Wizards are missing its three best players down in Orlando and you don’t have to watch them for more than a couple of minutes to realize it. No John Wall, no Bradley Beal, and no Davis Bertans have the Wizards running with a collection of reserve players and former G Leaguers. As a result, Devin Booker and the Phoenix Suns took advantage.
Booker dropped 27 points, five rebounds, and four steals in the 125-112 win while hitting all nine of his free throw attempts, however, he shot just 8-21 from the floor and turned the ball over five times while playing mediocre (and that’s a generous way to put it) defense. Phoenix is in the toughest position among all 22 teams in Orlando. Even with the win over Washington, who has arguably the worst roster in the Bubble, the Suns are still 2.5 games behind the Blazers for the nine-seed. Booker and the Suns earned the win, but it’s still going to be a tough up-hill battle from here that only gets more competitive.
Other Bubble notes
Eric Bledsoe (MIL) and Michael Kidd-Gilchrist (DAL) were both held out of their respective games on Friday, with their head coaches citing conditioning and late arrivals to the Bubble as the reason for keeping them out. Bledsoe tested positive for COVID-19 a few weeks ago and has not yet gotten into game shape. As for MKG, there is no report that he tested positive for the virus, but his head coach also cited his late arrival to the Bubble as the reason for keeping him on the sidelines.
Boston Celtics backup center Enes Kanter appeared in just 11 minutes in a loss to the Milwaukee Bucks, contributing two points and three rebounds.
- WATCH: Mavericks lose late lead, fall to Rockets 153-149 in a high-scoring overtime affair
- Trail Blazers center Jusuf Nurkic says his grandmother is in a coma after contracting COVID-19, says to “wear a damn mask.”
|De'Aaron Fox (SAC)||120-129 L @ SAS||39||17-33 (1-7)||3||6||1||1||3||-12||37|
|Devin Booker (PHX)||125-112 W @ WAS||27||8-21 (2-7)||5||4||1||0||5||+24||35|
|Keldon Johnson (SAS)||129-120 W vs. SAC||8||3-7 (2-4)||6||2||1||0||0||+7||30|
|Enes Kanter (BOS)||112-119 L @ MIL||2||1-2 (0-0)||3||0||1||0||0||-2||11|
|Wenyen Gabriel (POR)||140-135 (OT) W vs. MEM||DNP-CD||--||--||--||--||--||--||--||--|
|Michael Kidd-Gilchrist (DAL)||149-153 (OT) L vs. HOU||DNP-Conditioning||--||--||--||--||--||--||--||--|
|Eric Bledsoe (MIL)||119-112 W vs. BOS||DNP-Conditioning||--||--||--||--||--||--||--||--|
TODAY IN THE NBA BUBBLE
1:00 (ESPN): Heat (Adebayo, Herro) @ Nuggets (Murray-questionable)
3:30 (ESPN): Jazz @ Thunder (Diallo, Gilgeous-Alexander, Noel)
6:00 (ESPN): Pelicans @ Clippers (Patterson)
7:00: 76ers @ Pacers
8:30 (ESPN): Lakers (Davis, Rondo-out) @ Raptors
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