Good afternoon, folks. All 15 former Cats in Orlando have kneeled for the national anthem in protest against racial and social injustices. Let’s talk NBA Bubble.
The Suns and Spurs are making some early noise
The consensus heading into the NBA’s restart appeared to be that the two teams most suited to challenge the Memphis Grizzlies for the final Western Conference playoff spot were the New Orleans Pelicans and Portland Trail Blazers. Now four days into the Bubble, that narrative is quietly shifting. The Phoenix Suns and San Antonio Spurs controlled the first weekend in Orlando, mucking up the standings in the process. To kick off today’s post, let’s start with the Suns and their young star, Devin Booker.
On Sunday against Luka Doncic and the Dallas Mavericks, a foul-troubled Booker dropped 30 points on 10-20 shooting (including a 9-10 mark from the free-throw line) to go along with three rebounds and four assists. Against the high-powered Dallas offense, the Suns managed to overcome a 15-point deficit to secure a 117-115 victory. Despite Booker fouling out with 1:26 left in the game–he had four fouls in the first-half alone–Dallas missed a couple of looks at the end of the game that would gave them the win. Even with 40 points from Doncic, the Mavericks fumbled another winnable game down the stretch, a reoccurring theme for the young roster.
The win for Phoenix pushes them to 2-0 in the Bubble and four games back of the Mmephis Grizzlies for the 8-seed. They still have plenty of ground to make up, however, as fellow Western Conference playoff hopefuls such as the San Antonio Spurs continue to climb the ranks.
The Spurs polished off the same Memphis Grizzlies team on Sunday night by a final score of 108-106, a massive win in terms of ensuring a play-in spot. The win moved San Antonio to the 9-seed slot and a half-game ahead of the Blazers, who fell to the Boston Celtics on Sunday. The Spurs have impressed in the first two games thus far, winning by committee rather than relying on their usual go-to scorer, LaMarcus Aldridge, who did not join the team due to an injury. One of the players on that committee is former Wildcat Keldon Johnson, who has been a pleasant–and necessary–surprise for the Spurs.
Against the Grizz, Johnson continued to do what he’s done the last couple of weeks in the Bubble: play hard, pick your moments on offense, and defend as if your life depends on it. On Sunday, he posted nine points, six rebounds, and one steal while shooting 4-6 from the floor and connecting on one of his two outside shots. The Spurs head coach, Gregg Popovich, recently compared him to a “Mustang” and when you watch him play it’s hard to argue against his desire to go all out on every possession.
Keep an eye on San Antonio as the Bubble continues. They might not have the star power of a Pelicans or Trail Blazers, but they have a Hall of Fame head coach and nine players who can all come in and make immediate contributions.
The Kings… not so much
As for the Sacramento Kings, they’d probably like to restart the restart. After falling to the Orlando Magic in embarrassing fashion by a final score of 132-116, the Kings are now 0-2 in Orlando and quickly losing traction in the playoff race. If they couldn’t seal a win after De’Aaron Fox posted a career-high 39 points in game one, a mere 13 points in the following outing surely isn’t going to get it done.
Fox’s 13 points against the Magic came on 5-10 shooting. He added two rebounds and three assists to his total, as well, but turned the ball over four times in the process. Sacramento fell into an early 7-0 hole and never recovered, trailing by 24 at halftime and more than 30 throughout portions of the third quarter.
Conditioning status of Eric Bledsoe and Michael Kidd-Gilchrist
Eric Bledsoe (MIL) and Michael Kidd-Gilchrist (DAL) have been notably absent from their respective team’s first two games, with their head coaches citing conditioning as the reason. Bledsoe and MKG both arrived late to the Bubble and Bledsoe recently overcame his battle with the coronavirus. The Bucks will surely need Bledsoe–a likely candidate to make an All-Defensive Team–once the playoffs begin and they’ll need him in basketball shape. Getting him back on the floor sooner rather than later is hopefully the goal.
Other news from the Bubble
- Boston Celtics backup center Enes Kanter went for 11 points and eight rebounds in 19 minutes against the Blazers.
- Jamal Murray’s hamstring continues to bother him and his status for the Denver Nuggets game on Monday is still up-in-the-air.
- Magic forward Jonathan Isaac tore his ACL after an awkward landing against the Kings on Sunday. It was just his second game back since he injured the same knee back on Jan. 1.
|Devin Booker (PHX)||117-115 W vs. DAL||30||10-20 (1-4)||3||4||1||0||3||-8||31|
|De'Aaron Fox (SAC)||116-132 L @ ORL||13||5-10 (0-1)||2||3||1||0||4||-23||25|
|Enes Kanter (BOS)||128-124 W vs. POR||11||4-7 (0-0)||8||2||0||1||1||+16||19|
|Keldon Johnson (SAS)||108-106 W @ MEM||9||4-6 (1-2)||6||0||1||0||1||-1||25|
|Wenyen Gabriel (POR)||124-128 L @ BOS||DNP-CD||--||--||--||--||--||--||--||--|
|Eric Bledsoe (MIL)||116-120 L @ HOU||DNP-Conditioning||--||--||--||--||--||--||--||--|
|Michael Kidd-Gilchrist (DAL)||115-117 L @ PHX||DNP-Conditioning||--||--||--||--||--||--||--||--|
TODAY IN THE NBA BUBBLE
1:30 (NBA TV): Raptors @ Heat (Adebayo, Herro)
4:00 (NBA TV): Nuggets (Murray-questionable) @ Thunder (Diallo, Gilgeous-Alexander, Noel)
4:00: Pacers @ Wizards
6:30 (ESPN): Grizzlies @ Pelicans
8:00: Spurs (Johnson) @ 76ers
8:00 (ESPN): Lakers (Davis, Rondo: out) @ Jazz