And that to say nothing of the level of play. After almost five months off, again, I thought the product would suffer. But this is not the case. Guys are playing out of their minds. Make shots. Play with energy and rhythm. These are still technically regular season games and yet they feel like every game really matters. And for the most part, they do. The seeds of the playoffs are still in the air. The matches are not yet determined. The race for the No.9 in the West, which will likely come with the right to play No.8 in a play-in series for last playoff spot, is going to be a photo finish.
Here’s a look at Orlando’s early winners and losers.
Los Angeles Lakers: Gagnant
Anthony Davis laid an egg in the Lakers’ loss to Toronto, but in their two wins against the Clippers and Jazz, he had 76 points. The Lakers nabbed the No.1 seed in the Western Conference and LeBron James isn’t even averaging 20 points in the bubble. Dion Waiters looks awesome. Kyle Kuzma plays excellent defense and shoots. Lots of reasons to be optimistic about purple and gold.
Portland Trail Blazers: Winner
The Blazers are 2-1 in the bubble and come off a huge win over Houston on Tuesday night. If the ranking matches were to be sent out now, Portland would have its playoff chance with a play-in streak against Memphis. They have three tough games against Denver, the Clippers and Philly, but they control their own destiny. That’s all they can ask for.
And they are in good health. Jusuf Nurkic and Zach Collins are back and are playing wonderfully, especially Nurkic. Carmelo Anthony was turned off by making gigantic shots in monster situations. And, of course, Damian Lillard and CJ McCollum cook people. It’s a dangerous team. Far too dangerous for the Lakers to feel entirely comfortable in a potential first-round series.
Phoenix Suns: Gagnant
When the action started in the bubble, the Suns were seen as a total non-factor in the playoff race. People wondered why they had even been invited. Now they’ve gone 3-0 to Orlando and are just three games away from No.8 Memphis. More importantly, they’re just one game behind No.9 Portland in the loss column. They would have liked Houston to beat Portland on Tuesday night, but not everything can turn out the way you want it to.
San Antonio and New Orleans are still ahead of the Suns, but that No.9 seed and the potential for a play-in streak for last playoff place is actually within reach. Where Phoenix started out is big, and the way they play obviously bodes well for next year and beyond.
And the Suns don’t beat in the air. After toppling the Wizards, they defeated the Mavericks and Clippers, the latter of which came on Tuesday thanks to a Kobe-like game winner from Devin Booker.
Booker has accumulated 27, 30 and 35 points in all three Phoenix bubble games.
Memphis Grizzlies: Perdant
The Grizzlies started 0-3 in the bubble and, even worse, they’ve now lost Jaren Jackson Jr. to a torn meniscus – just overwhelming news for an aspiring star and a franchise that must be as optimistic as it is. any other. young league team. The good news is that Memphis are still in possession of the No.8 seed, but their margin of error is almost zero if they are to enter the playoffs.
Toronto Raptors: Gagnant
Did anyone say the Raptors were dead when Kawhi Leonard left? I know I did. I’m stupid. Silly just about everyone. The Raptors entered the bubble with the league’s third-best record and went 2-0 to Orlando, dominating the Lakers before defeating the Heat.
There’s been a lot of talk about the Heat and the Celtics both wanting the No.3 seed because that would keep them on the other side of Milwaukee’s support, but when do we start talking about a possible second-place game? tour with the Raptors are equally intimidating?
Philadelphia 76ers: Perdant
The Sixers squeaked a win over San Antonio over a last-second 3-point Shake Milton on a somewhat broken game, but what about the Sixers needed a last-second 3-point Shake Milton to beat the Spurs? It’s not a blow to Spurs, but we continue to want to elevate the Sixers, based on talent, in the company of the real contenders, and they just don’t play at that level consistently.
Philly lost its bubble opening against the Pacers despite Joel Embiid accumulating 41 points and 21 boards. The Sixers were over-21 when he was on the field, but they were under-27 when he was away. Bringing in Al Horford was supposed to keep the Sixers afloat when Embiid goes to the bench, but the same old stories continue to play out with this team.
The most positive development for Philly in the bubble is that they are stuck in the No.6 seed, which would currently pit them against the Celtics in the first round. The Sixers are 3-1 against Boston this season. But when the best thing that happens to you in Orlando is you not improved your seed, you are a bubble loser.
TJ Warren: Winner
What the hell is going on with TJ Warren? Dude went for 53 points in the Indiana bubble opening against Philly, and he called with 34 against the Wizards and 32 against the Magic. The Pacers are 3-0 in the bubble, and Warren is on average… crunches the numbers… 39.6 points on 65% shooting, including 61% at 3 points.
Warren can really score. He’s averaging 19.5 points per game this season with 39% from 3-pointers, making him one of the real bargains in the league under $ 11 million this season. So it’s not like it came completely out of nowhere. Well, OK, yes. It’s out of this world.
Orlando Magic: perdant
They lost Jonathan Isaac to a torn ACL. Enough said. This is terrible news. The Magic are going into the playoffs and with Isaac I think they actually could have won a couple of games off Toronto. The Magic are 2-1 in the bubble, but losing Isaac is just a big blow to the gut. He could very well miss most, if not all, of next season as well. He was becoming one of the best defensive players in the league, which puts the brakes on everything.
Miami Heat: Gagnant
The Heat beat Boston on Tuesday, minus Jimmy Butler, and are now 1.5 games away from the Celtics for the No. 3 seed. No one wants to see Miami in the playoffs. Butler always avoids jump shots like it’s a crowd full of people without masks, but he does his thing to get to the free throw line, scoring at the edge and getting everyone involved. With Bam Adebayo potentially being the most important defender in the Eastern Conference, Miami continues to look like a legitimate sleeper to do real damage.
Houston Rockets: Winner
I know the Rockets lost to Portland on Tuesday, but they looked rightfully dangerous in Orlando. They beat the Mavericks and Bucks and James toughen up and Russell Westbrook looks perfectly paced. Harden had 49 points on 14 of 20 shots against the Mavs, and when he was doubled and trebled Westbrook used the open space to attack the rim. Dallas scored 149 points over Houston, but the defense has really settled in the last two games. Houston would face Utah in the first round if the playoffs started today, and they would certainly be favored in this game.
Utah Jazz: perdant
Utah are 1-2 in the bubble and struggle to create any kind of consistent attack without Bojan Bogdanovic, who is out for the season after undergoing wrist surgery. Donovan Mitchell is shooting less than 40 percent of the field in Orlando, and the Utah defense didn’t seem dominant enough to make up for their offensive limits with a single legitimate shot creator.
Luka Doncic: Winner
With 34 points, 20 rebounds and 12 assists, Doncic became the youngest player in NBA history, almost two years old, to post a 30-20-10 line. The Mavericks have gone 1-2 in the bubble, but Doncic continues to hope they can make a playoff shock. They’re pretty much locked in the No.7 seed, which will likely mean a first-round game with the Clippers or Nuggets. If it’s Denver, the Mavs will definitely feel like they can win this series.