Are you a Clippers fan who isn’t sure who to root for in the NBA’s August 2nd bubble games? You’re in the right place.
With each team playing just eight “seeding games” in Orlando before the playoffs begin, there’s limited time to both battle for playoff positioning as well as build momentum after a four-month layoff. That means that, while we obviously want the Clippers to be successful, nearly every game played in the NBA over the next two weeks is important to the playoff picture.
The bubble opened with a series of stellar games on Thursday and Friday, and while Saturday saw some more one-sided affairs, it’s clear that a lot of teams are already playing high-quality basketball. I’m looking forward to another full day of NBA games on Sunday.
The NBA’s August 2nd Bubble Games
All times pacific time.
Washington Wizards vs Brooklyn Nets, 11:00am, NBA League Pass
Rooting for: Washington Wizards
The Wizards, in 9th place, are a clean 6 games back from the Nets in 8th. That means they need to win this head-to-head game and make up another game elsewhere to force a rematch between these two clubs in the play-in tournament. If the Wizards finish more than 4 games behind Brooklyn, the Nets will not have to defend their 8th seed in a play-in.
Reader “G Rap Old School Like Your Dad” noted a couple of days ago that he preferred Brooklyn do well, potentially finishing ahead of the Orlando Magic for the 7th seed. This would leave the Magic in 8th, who would be a tougher first-round draw for the Milwaukee Bucks. But despite having more legitimate NBA talent on their roster, I don’t see Orlando actually challenging Milwaukee. At the same time, I never considered Brooklyn staying in front of Orlando realistic.
If the Nets win this game, the 8-9 race in the East will be all but over and we can shift our focus to G Rap’s line of thinking–but for now, I’m still pulling for a play-in in the East.
Portland Trail Blazers vs Boston Celtics, 12:30pm, ABC
Rooting for: Portland Trail Blazers
The Celtics will be favored here, but a Blazers upset would be doubly good: not only pushing Portland closer to securing a spot in the West play-in tournament, but also pushing Boston further back towards 4th-place Miami. Remember, Miami and Boston play head-to-head on Tuesday, and if Miami moves into 3rd then the Bucks could end up having to face the Celtics and Raptors back-to-back in order to make the Finals.
Something to watch for: Portland has rather shallow depth, and played just 8 men during their opener against Memphis. They played nearly the whole game with two bigs on the floor, and a suspect small forward rotation of Carmelo Anthony, Mario Hezonja, and Gary Trent Jr. The Celtics’ small lineups wing scorers–particularly Jayson Tatum–will pose an interesting stylistic challenge, and Portland’s ability to counter them will be telling.
San Antonio Spurs vs Memphis Grizzlies, 1pm, NBA League Pass
Rooting for: Memphis Grizzlies
I don’t want to say that this game isn’t important–it might be the most important of the NBA’s August 2nd bubble games. I just don’t really know who we want to win. I originally had Memphis, then switched to the Spurs, and finally came back to Memphis after writing this breakdown.
On the one hand, a Memphis loss brings them closer to Portland. It would be especially beneficial if the Blazers could move into 8th in advance of the play-in tournament, giving them a higher chance of earning the playoff spot.
But a Spurs win brings them right in stride with the Blazers, and if the Blazers also lose to Boston, the Spurs pull into 9th. I just don’t buy the Spurs giving the Lakers any sort of trouble, so keeping them out of the play-in spots would be advantageous.
That said, this game is ultimately close enough for me that I’m willing to say that while it will be impactful, it’s hard to know which result is preferable. Either of these teams could end up facing the Lakers, and while neither is an inspiring 8-seed, letting whoever gets hot in the bubble take a crack at the top team in the West isn’t the worst thing. So, we need more time before deciding who to throw our support behind.
Sacramento Kings vs Orlando Magic, 3:00pm, NBATV
Rooting for: Sacramento Kings
I don’t love the idea of the race for the West play-in getting even tighter with a Kings win, which could lead to a virtual three-way tie for 9th pending the outcomes of Portland and San Antonio’s games today.
But in the spirit of “the team most likely to challenge the Lakers is the team that gets hot in the bubble,” we might as well root for Sacramento to grow a bit and start playing some good basketball. Maybe they’ll surprise us. If they don’t, then they won’t end up in the play-in tournament anyway.
Plus, an Orlando loss keeps them in the conversation to potentially finish 8th, giving Milwaukee the marginally tougher first-round opponent as discussed above.
Check out our friends at The Kings Herald for their coverage of the game.
Milwaukee Bucks vs Houston Rockets, 5:30pm, ABC
Rooting for: Houston Rockets
Keeping Houston in the 4-5 first round match-up is probably the most important thing for the Clippers (outside of holding on to 2nd for themselves). Beyond that, it matters less which of Oklahoma City and Utah finish in 4th and 6th (with a growing chance that Denver could slide and Oklahoma City could move up to third).
But with the three teams virtually tied (Utah is just a half game ahead of the other two after OKC destroyed them on Saturday), we need Houston to keep pace and not slide into 6th. That will be tough against a stellar Milwaukee team.
Dallas Mavericks vs Phoenix Suns, 6:00pm, NBA League Pass
Rooting for: Phoenix Suns
The nightcap of the NBA’s August 2nd bubble games is perhaps the least significant. Dallas, 4 losses behind 6th place and 6 losses ahead of 8th, is virtually immobile in their 7th seed. Phoenix is a clear 13th in the West despite winning their opening bubble game, and would need more than they have in the tank to climb into the play-in tournament.
So, while I wouldn’t hate to see a team like Phoenix take some losses and drop out of contention to begin to clarify the playoff race, I’ll lean towards Dallas losses shaking their confidence and form heading into a first-round series against the Clippers. I won’t be rooting for Dallas unless there’s a clear advantage to the Clippers if they win (like if their August 10th game against Utah would clearly push Utah to 6th and Houston to 5th).
That’s it for the NBA’s August 2nd bubble games–let’s briefly see how Saturday went.
Miami Heat 125, Denver Nuggets 105
We were rooting for: Miami Heat
It was a day of blowouts for ESPN’s quadruple-header, and the Heat started it with an emphatic morning stomping of the shorthanded Nuggets. Denver won’t be this bad when they’re at full strength–but there’s a short timer to get things going in the bubble, and I’d believe it if you told me they were going to lose their first-round series.
The 3-seed seems within reach for teams like Houston and particularly Oklahoma City, who have a relatively light schedule. The Thunder and Nuggets play Monday in what could be a huge game.
Oklahoma City Thunder 110, Utah Jazz 94
We were rooting for: Utah Jazz
This was a resounding beatdown by the Thunder, and after originally wanting Utah to win to preserve the 4-5-6 order between Utah, Houston, and OKC, I left this game thinking that Utah is the team more likely to fall to 6th and keep the Rockets away from the Clippers’ side of the bracket. Now I’m wondering if OKC can rise to 3.
New Orleans Pelicans 103, LA Clippers 126
We were rooting for: the record-breakers
Of all of Saturday’s blowouts, the Clippers’ defeathering of the Pelicans was the most ruthless, with LA leading by as many as 42 before New Orleans cut into the lead in garbage time.
Check out Niels Pineda’s full recap of the game.
Philadelphia 76ers 121, Indiana Pacers 127
We were rooting for: Indiana Pacers
As I wrote yesterday, Philly is probably the preferable 5th seed because their talent gives them a higher ceiling to provide a challenge to the Milwaukee Bucks in the 2nd round.
But they have to actually be good enough at basketball to put that talent to use, and they clearly aren’t right now. After struggling all season, I don’t have a lot of faith in them to get there.
Shoutout to T.J. Warren, who the Pacers acquired from the Phoenix Suns for cash, for having 53 (fifty-three!) points in this one.
Los Angeles Lakers 92, Toronto Raptors 107
We were rooting for: Toronto Raptors
There’s no shame in losing to the Raptors, who are legitimately the second-best team in the East and a potential Finals opponent for the LA. But with both of these teams locked into their seeds, the only notable impact of a game like this is the Lakers potentially losing a bit of confidence.
Plus, we never want to root for the Lakers unless we absolutely have to.
Stay tuned in to 213Hoops every day of the NBA’s Orlando Bubble for a new Rooting Interests, letting you know who Clippers fans should root for in each of the day’s games.
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