Are you a Clippers fan who isn’t sure who to root for in the NBA’s August 5th 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, Clippers fans can’t just pay attention to LAC–nearly every game played in the NBA over this two-week span is important to the playoff picture.

The Clippers’ loss to the Phoenix Suns at the buzzer yesterday certainly put a damper on things, but there’s just too much good basketball and standings intrigue around the league to stay discouraged for long. Let’s dive in.

The NBA’s August 5th Bubble Games

All times Pacific Time.

Memphis Grizzlies vs Utah Jazz, 11:30am, NBA League Pass

Rooting for: Memphis Grizzlies

When two teams that you want to lose go up against each other, it can be a blessing and a curse. One is guaranteed to pick up that coveted loss, but the other is guaranteed to win.

We’ve been rooting against the Memphis Grizzlies (sorry, Grizz) because their fall from 8th place in the West opens up more possibilities for stronger teams, like Portland, to make their way into the play-in tournament. With the really unfortunate news that Jaren Jackson Jr. will miss the rest of the season with a knee injury, the Grizzlies’ fall now seems almost inevitable.

Utah, meanwhile, sits in 5th place in the West, just a half-game ahead of the Oklahoma City Thunder and a half-game behind the Houston Rockets. The Clippers want to make sure Houston stays in the 4-5 matchup–that means Denver winning to hold on to 3rd, and OKC and/or Utah losing to fall securely to 6th.

Because of Utah’s unlikeliness to be able to keep up with the surging Houston Rockets over the full bubble slate, it would be easy to pull for them here in order to help other teams get into the 8-seed battle. But ultimately, the stakes in the race for 8th are low for the Clippers–the Lakers are likely sweeping all of the contending teams. Avoiding Houston in the 2nd round is paramount, so we’ll keep our priorities in order.

Philadelphia 76ers vs Washington Wizards, 1:00pm, NBATV

Rooting for: Philadelphia 76ers

I’m going to reverse course a bit and root for the Sixers to win 5th place over the Indiana Pacers in the Eastern Conference. Philly is probably one of the least fun teams in the league, but a focused Sixers team has the talent and experience to give Milwaukee a tough series in the 2nd round, no matter how joyless they make basketball.

Fortunately, this is a freebie for the Sixers, as Washington is primed to go 0-8 in the bubble. Unfortunately, they’re the Sixers, so they might lose just for the hell of it.

Denver Nuggets vs San Antonio Spurs, 1:00pm, NBA League Pass

Rooting for: Denver Nuggets

With two teams involved in relevant Western Conference seeding races, this is likely the most important of the NBA’s August 5th bubble games for us to keep an eye on.

The Clippers want to be cautious of Denver, who is right on their heels in the 2-3 race in the West, but also need the Nuggets to keep winning and avoid being passed by the 4th-place Houston Rockets. If anything, Denver-LAC-Houston is a preferable 2-3-4 finish to LAC-Houston-Denver, as homecourt advantage in the second round is meaningless and the Clippers should be able to win their first-round series regardless of opponent.

Needing a Denver win is nice, because we’d also like to see a Spurs loss here. Despite looking sturdy in the bubble (2-1, with their loss to Philly on a game-winner in the closing seconds), I am not yet a believer in San Antonio, and they simply are providing competition for Portland and New Orleans, two teams that I rate more highly. Hell, maybe Devin Booker’s Suns belong in the conversation too (though they would need a miraculous run to reach the play-in tournament).

Oklahoma City Thunder vs Los Angeles Lakers, 3:30pm, ESPN

Rooting for: Los Angeles Lakers

This is a rough one for Clippers fans, who will struggle with wanting their most bitter rival to come away with a win over the unofficial second-favorite team of Clipper Nation: the OKC Thunder with Chris Paul, Shai Gilgeous-Alexander, and Danilo Gallinari.

But OKC’s shared duty with the Utah Jazz to be the backstop keeping Houston from falling to 6th is more important than our personal preferences, so I’d be happier to see a Lakers victory here.

But, as always, any Lakers loss helps the Clippers a bit, as we’d love to see them suffer a little losing streak and head into the playoffs with some worries about their weak guard rotation. I also feel like Houston will outpace OKC and Utah without needing much help. So, not the end of the world if OKC wins here.

Toronto Raptors vs Orlando Magic, 5:00pm, NBA League Pass

Rooting for: Toronto Raptors

I’m more and more feeling like Toronto and Milwaukee might be a tighter contest in the Eastern Conference Finals than we’ve admitted all year–and while that obviously means I have tremendous respect for the Raptors, I still would feel better about playing them than the Bucks (though the narrative power of Kawhi against the Raptors would be overwhelming).

So, in the most inconsequential match-up of the NBA’s August 5th bubble games, the Raptors will get to potentially set Orlando back in their tussle for 7/8 with Brooklyn, making it more likely that the Bucks face an actual NBA team in the first round… though after Brooklyn upset Milwaukee today, who knows what’s best.

Brooklyn Nets vs Boston Celtics, 6:00pm, ESPN

Rooting for: Brooklyn Nets

Can lightning strike twice? Brooklyn beat Milwaukee on Tuesday, though the Bucks treated it like a pre-season game, playing all 13 active players double-digit minutes, with Giannis Antetokounmpo playing just 16.

In order for Boston to be passed by Miami, they need to do 2 games worse than the Heat in the bubble. Thanks to Miami’s win over Boston yesterday, the Heat have made up one of those 2 games. Miami’s last 5 games: Milwaukee, Phoenix, Indiana, Oklahoma City, Indiana. Boston’s: Brooklyn, Toronto, Orlando, Memphis, Washington. That’s a pretty significant schedule advantage for the Celtics, so they’ll need to lose at least one game they have no business losing for this to get interesting.

In the race for 7th in the East, Brooklyn now has a half-game advantage over the Magic, with both teams having 5 games remaining. They’ll both be underdogs in their remaining contests, making their head-to-head match-up in game 7 crucial in that race.

Yesterday’s Games

Brooklyn Nets 119, Milwaukee Bucks 116

We were rooting for: Brooklyn Nets

As I mentioned above, this wasn’t really the upset one might believe based on the scoreline, and the Bucks treated it like a pre-season game and played second- and third-string player major minutes, using what is essentially a free game to get different players reps. Milwaukee is locked in to the 1-seed in the East and faces no consequences for any losses in seeding games.

But for the Nets, the 7/8 race against Orlando is a coin flip. I don’t really think this one matters–both teams will get swept by Milwaukee and Toronto regardless of who faces whom, but that doesn’t mean that Brooklyn can’t take some pride in their play and try to finish 7th instead of 8th.

Dallas Mavericks 114, Sacramento Kings 110 (OT)

We were rooting for: Sacramento Kings

Despite Sacramento’s repeated letdowns in the bubble, they still have an outside shot at life–with Memphis likely to slide in the standings and the Kings having two head-to-head games against New Orleans remaining, they’ll need to pass the Suns and either Portland or San Antonio to reach the play-in tournament. It helps that the Kings still have a game left against Brooklyn, plus a more difficult contest vs the Houston Rockets and a finale against the Los Angeles Lakers, who could rest players. The margin for error, though, is virtually nonexistent–if they even go 4-1 in these last 5 games, they need Memphis to go 0-8.

For Dallas, it’s a sign of relief to get a win at last in the bubble, and keeps an outside shot that the Mavs could climb in the standings: it’s possible if they go 4-1 in their last 5 games (Clippers, Bucks, Jazz, Blazers, and Suns) and Oklahoma City and/or Utah struggle, or even if Dallas goes 3-2 and either of those teams truly plummets.

Phoenix Suns 117, Los Angeles Clippers 115

We were rooting for: our team

I won’t talk about the game itself here, as I wrote the recap and you can read my thoughts there.

What I will say is that the Clippers are still in the driver’s seat for the 2nd seed, but not firmly in control–their 7th seeding game vs Denver could decide the race if LAC doesn’t get separation before then.

For Phoenix, the road to a play-in game doesn’t look very passable, but as long as they’re undefeated, I won’t count them out. They have a tough last 5 games with no head-to-head opportunities against their competitors (Indiana, Miami, OKC, Philly, Dallas), and can only really afford one loss before they start needing serious help from the teams ahead of them. At 7-1, they’d be ahead of Portland, New Orleans, and Sacramento if those teams go 4-4, and San Antonio if they go 5-3. But if Phoenix loses 2 games, or any of those teams–eyes on Portland–do better than 4-4, things get dicey.

Orlando Magic 109, Indiana Pacers 120

We were rooting for: Indiana Pacers

The Pacers are pulling away in the race for NBA bubble darlings; they’re now 3-0 while missing key players, and TJ Warren has, by my count, 118 points in those three games. I don’t know how much noise they’re capable of making in the playoffs, but the ride so far has been fun.

Orlando’s loss impacts the 7/8 race as discussed above.

Boston Celtics 106, Miami Heat 112

We were rooting for: Miami Heat

The race for 3rd between these two was discussed in-depth above, so I’ll just pause for a moment here to say that this was a phenomenal bubble game, and Miami winning this one without Jimmy Butler is impressive.

Houston Rockets 102, Portland Trail Blazers 110

We were rooting for: Portland Trail Blazers

Portland came through last night in a game that was really a joy to watch, and now are 2-1 in the bubble. If they finish 6-2, they’ll be in the play-in game, while 5-3 likely qualifies them and 4-4 leaves things up to fate. With games left against Denver, the Clippers, Philly, Dallas, and Brooklyn, a 5-3 finish seems attainable if they continue playing well.

Houston’s loss helps slow them down and keep Denver a little safe in 3rd. The Jazz and Thunder haven’t quite fallen enough to insulate Houston from a slide to 6th if they struggle, but I think Houston’s most likely landing spot is now 4th.

Stay tuned in to 213Hoops every day of the NBA’s Orlando Bubble for a new Rooting Interests.

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Lucas Hann

Lucas Hann

Lucas has covered the Clippers since 2011, and has been credentialed by the team since 2014. He co-founded 213Hoops with Robert Flom in January 2020.  He is a graduate of Saugus High School in Santa Clarita, CA and St. John's University in Queens, NY.  He earned his MA in Communication and Rhetorical Studies from Syracuse University.

13 Comments

  • Avatar osamu6238 says:

    is there a consensus on who the Clips want in the 1st and 2nd round?
    I agree, probably want to keep DEN in the 2/3 seed. If the Clips drop to 3, not a big deal in my mind, but if they do, that means they’re probably not looking all that sharp heading into the playoffs.
    I think I want to see HOU/OKC in the 4/5 seed.
    That would leave UTA/DAL in the 6/7 seeds. I’m probably fine with either. DAL is a little more scary given their historic offensive rating, but I do think the Clips have better defenders to neutralize Doncic than the Mitchell/Gobert combo.

    Definitely that 4-6 area is so close right now, but still a lot of games left. Probably going to come down to the last day of the season.

    • Avatar wwshep says:

      Dream playoff path IMHO would be Mavs in the 1st round and OKC in the 2nd round (if they got up to 3 seed). Those are the best matchups for us because they don’t have a dominant big. Jokic and Gobert are matchup problems for us, and Houston is just a little scary from the standpoint that if Harden goes nuclear and Wussell always plays with a chip on his shoulder against us so they are dangerous high variance team and would rather avoid them.

      • Lucas Hann Lucas Hann says:

        I just don’t see a path for Denver to fall to 4th with anyone other than Houston catching them.

        Maybe OKC finishes 6th behind Utah and then they could beat the Nuggets in the 3-6.

        • Avatar wwshep says:

          Good point. I could see OKC upsetting Denver in round 1, and I’d be so there for it!

          Would be sweet if Clips had to go through Mavs and OKC while the Lakers had to go through Portland and Houston. 1st seed would be the tougher bracket by far.

          • Lucas Hann Lucas Hann says:

            I would rather see Utah than OKC, they’re so weak without Bojan, but I don’t really see any way that Utah makes it out of the first round. They might even be weaker than Portland at this point.

          • Avatar osamu6238 says:

            I don’t know why, I’m afraid of OKC. Something like the best record in the west since November.

            Beat the Lakers today, and honestly, I think they’d give them a series.

  • Avatar ChrisD says:

    It feels like March Madness watching these games all day, biggest difference is i know the names of everyone playing. either way i’m loving it. sorry but i want the lakers to lose, it’s not important enough for us yet to want them to win imo.

  • Avatar wwshep says:

    Not sure about rooting for a Denver win here… Houston is only 1/2 game out of 6th place and if Denver wins we’re only 1/2 game out of 3rd place. A 1st round matchup with Houston is the nightmare scenario IMHO especially with Clippers still trying to get healthy and in synch. Would much rather play it safe and get more cushion for 2nd seed and focus on getting the easiest possible 1st round matchup to get tuned up and ready for the 2nd round even if it is Houston in the 2nd round, but would much rather face them in the 2nd round than the 1st. The more time the Clippers have to get healthy and gel before they face a really dangerous team the better. Dropping to 3rd seed is playing with fire.

    So I’m rooting hard for Denver to LOSE.

    • Lucas Hann Lucas Hann says:

      Utah is weak, Houston is strong. Utah will finish behind Houston. I’m trusting that LAC will take care of their own business and secure 2nd–and more worried that shorthanded Denver could be on their way to 3-5 or 4-4 and leave the door open for Houston at 3. I don’t think the Nuggets are a threat to go 6-2 and pass us.

      • Avatar wwshep says:

        Houston now back in the 6th seed, and Clips 1/2 game away from a 1st round matchup with the Rockets… Sigh. We better start taking care of business STAT.

        • Lucas Hann Lucas Hann says:

          Looking at the remaining schedules for each team, and considering their quality in their games so far, I feel like Houston is going to finish ahead of Utah. OKC/Houston at 4/5 is moreso the question.