Are you a Clippers fan who isn’t sure who to root for in the NBA’s August 8th 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 Memphis Grizzlies’ surprising win was the key headline in yesterday’s games, as they significantly boosted their odds of staying in the Western Conference play-in tournament and put a number of teams behind them on the brink of elimination. Saturday brings another full slate of games.

The NBA’s August 8th Bubble Games

All times Pacific Time.

LA Clippers vs Portland Trail Blazers, 10:00am, TNT

Rooting for: surprise! The LA Clippers!

Saturday’s morning game is the most controversial of the NBA’s August 8th bubble games, impacting both Western Conference races we’ve been tracking.

I’m going to write a bit here–the most I’ve written for any game in Rooting Interests–but it’s going to be focused on the seeding races. For an actual preview of the basketball game, check out 213Hoops’ game preview.

For the first time in these, there’s actually likely to be some debate about whether we want the Clippers to win (in fact, the debate already began in 213Hoops’ comments yesterday). The argument for the Blazers is that since Portland is likely the toughest 8-seed match-up for the Lakers, the Clippers could rest their starters and help Portland in the race for 8th.

I get it–I’ve been as much of a proponent of the Blazers as anyone. And I’m not opposed to strategically resting guys to help set up the 1-8 matchup we prefer. But I think 2 things are true: first, the Blazers are likely to end up in the 1-8 with or without this game (we’ll talk a lot about the race for 8th today), and second, setting up Lakers-Blazers in the first round is less important than setting up Lakers-Rockets in the second.

Losing to Portland to help set up that 1-8 series could put the Lakers-Rockets match-up at risk, as the Clippers could end up needing to beat Denver on August 12th, opening the door for Houston to move past the Nuggets into 3rd.

If the Clippers win their two games this weekend, against Portland Saturday morning and Brooklyn Sunday evening, they’ll be 4-2 in the bubble, putting them in a strong position to secure the 2nd seed. Even if they lose their 7th and 8th games (vs Denver and OKC), that would leave them with a .667 win percentage–a mark the Nuggets could only beat by winning out and going 6-2.

Denver plays two games between now and Wednesday’s LAC vs DEN game–today vs the Jazz, and Monday vs the Lakers. If the Clippers win both of their games this weekend and Denver loses at least one of their two games, the Clippers will have clinched the 2 seed. Then, they can rest players against Denver to help them lock up 3rd (while also not giving the Nuggets reps against LA’s starters).

If the Clippers and Nuggets both win both of their next 2 games, we’ll have to consider how Houston does in between now and then. If the Rockets lose a game (Sunday vs Sacramento, Tuesday vs San Antonio, and Wednesday afternoon vs Indiana before LAC-DEN tips off), then Denver will have clinched 2nd and LAC can beat them with no regrets. If all three teams win all their games between now and LAC-DEN, it might be a good idea to throw the game even if it puts the 2-seed in peril. The good news is that even if the Clippers lose their head-to-head to Denver and the Nuggets win out, LAC can clinch 2nd by winning their finale against OKC.

Since that was a lot, I made a spreadsheet of possible outcomes for the 7 games in question and what LAC should do in each scenario, with the following priority rankings:

  1. Do not risk falling to 4th
  2. Keep Houston 4th
  3. Finish ahead of Denver

So, in theory, I’d rather share the 2/3 with Houston than fall to 4th, but I’d rather finish 3rd to Denver’s 2nd than 2nd to Houston’s 3rd. Long story short, losing to Portland increases the odds that the Clippers will either a) need to beat Denver to clinch 2nd or b) need to throw to Denver to keep Houston 4th, but put 2nd in risk to do so.

Utah Jazz vs Denver Nuggets, 12:30pm, TNT

Rooting for: Denver Nuggets

Speak of the devil. This game doesn’t influence the play-in race, but ties Clippers-Blazers for the most important of the NBA’s August 8th bubble games. While Denver is on the Clippers’ heels and a Nuggets loss helps them get closer to clinching 2nd, remember that I’m prioritizing keeping Houston 4th over clinching 2nd. So, Denver maintaining their narrow lead over Houston is important here.

The bonus is that the Jazz, who haven’t looked particularly threatening in the bubble, get pushed closer to a 6th-place finish with this loss. That’s good news, since it gives the Clippers a fairly easy first-round series in the few scenarios where they have to jeopardize the 2-seed to keep Denver ahead of Houston.

Los Angeles Lakers vs Indiana Pacers, 3:00pm, TNT

Rooting for: Los Angeles Lakers

In terms of seeding races, it would help to see the Pacers lose here, as they’re currently tied for 5th/6th in the East with Philadelphia, and the Sixers likely pose a bigger challenge for Milwaukee in the 2nd round if they can make it to 5th. One perk of keeping this race close: Houston’s last 2 games are against the Pacers and Sixers. It would help keep the Rockets away from 3rd if those teams were trying to win.

To be honest though, watching the game I’m sure we’ll all be pulling for the underdog Pacers against the Clippers’ rivals. The bonus to a Pacers win would be that the Lakers’ bubble struggles would continue–I’m not taking it too seriously, since LAL has handily clinched the 1-seed, but they’d drop to 2-4 in Orlando.

Phoenix Suns vs Miami Heat, 4:30pm, NBA League Pass

Rooting for: Phoenix Suns

After Memphis’ surprise win against the Thunder yesterday, the margin for error for any non-Portland team to pass the Grizzlies became 0. The Suns, Pelicans, and Spurs would each need to be perfect–with Memphis losing out the rest of the way–to make a play for 9th. The Kings can no longer pass Memphis after their loss Friday.

Here’s what I’m rooting for in the play-in tournament: Portland in 8th vs either Memphis or Phoenix in 9th. Since the 8th-place team only needs to win once, on August 16th or 17th, while the 9th place team would need to win on the 16th and 17th, the Blazers finishing 8th and having an easy match-up would mean one fewer game before game 1 vs the Lakers.

If Portland has to play both games of the play-in tournament, then game 1 of the playoffs would be their 7th game in 10 nights. Giving them a break would be nice. My only exception to wanting the Blazers to face the Grizzlies, the easiest potential play-in opponent, would be the Suns–because if Phoenix can actually pull off an 8-0 bubble and then beat Portland twice, their unbelievable hot streak would make them the best opponent to face the Lakers.

On Miami’s side of things, this loss puts them a little closer to Indiana and Philly in a 4-5-6 cluster, but ultimately things will come down to their two remaining head-to-head games against the Pacers, so I’m not sweating this result for them.

Milwaukee Bucks vs Dallas Mavericks, 6:00pm, TNT

Rooting for: Milwaukee Bucks

After a high-impact morning, the nightcap is the least important of the NBA’s August 8th bubble games. Milwaukee has clinched 1st in the East, and Dallas has clinched 7th in the West–so the only thing that can happen here is the Clippers’ likely first-round opponents, already just 1-3 in the bubble, continue slumping a bit and have their confidence shaken.

Yesterday’s Games

Utah Jazz 111, San Antonio Spurs 119

We were rooting for: San Antonio Spurs

Oklahoma City Thunder 92, Memphis Grizzlies 121

We were rooting for: Memphis Grizzlies

I’m going to combine the breakdowns for these two games since they’re so closely related. The primary win here for the Clippers is that Utah and OKC both lost–now they both have one more loss than Houston, drastically reducing the chances of the Rockets sliding down to 6th. Slowly, Houston is getting boxed in to the 4-5, just as the Clippers want.

For the Spurs and Grizzlies, Memphis’ win reduced the margin for error to every non-Portland team pushing for the West play-in tournament to 0. That means it’s good for San Antonio that they won, as it keeps their play-in hopes alive.

If the Spurs win their last 3 games (NOP, HOU, UTA), they’ll finish 6-2, ahead of a 1-7 Memphis, any Portland record 5-3 or worse, and any Suns record 7-1 or worse. If they go 2-1, they cannot pass Memphis and their only hope is that the Blazers (currently 3-1) finish 4-4 or worse and the Suns (currently 4-0) finish 6-2 or worse. At 1-2, they aren’t mathematically eliminated, but would need Portland to lose out and Phoenix to lose 2 games.

Sacramento Kings 106, Brooklyn Nets 119

We were rooting for: Brooklyn Nets

The Nets’ win helps them stay in 7th in the East, leaving the stronger Orlando Magic in 8th to face the Milwaukee Bucks in the first round. It’s the preferable seeding outcome for LAC, but in the most marginal way.

The Kings’ loss leaves them unable to pass Memphis, meaning that their only path toward 9th place and the play-in is winning out and Portland losing out and New Orleans finishing 1-2 or worse in their last 3 and San Antonio finishing 1-2 or worse in their last 3 and Phoenix going 2-2 or worse in their last 4. At the end of the day, the fact that they won’t get that much help from the other teams doesn’t even matter–the Kings just lost to Brooklyn and are 1-4 in the bubble, they aren’t winning all of their last 3 games.

Orlando Magic 101, Philadelphia 76ers 108

We were rooting for: Philadelphia 76ers

We wanted Philly here to help them potentially climb into the 4-5 match-up (for the reasoning discussed above when we talked about Indiana), as well as keep Orlando in the 1-8 (for the reasoning discussed above when we talked about Brooklyn). It worked, but Philly didn’t make it easy.

Washington Wizards 107, New Orleans Pelicans 118

We were rooting for: Washington Wizards

The Pelicans are on the cusp of elimination, so a Wizards win would have helped push them out of the race and start clearing up the field for the desired Portland – Memphis/Phoenix play-in match-up.

New Orleans has a legitimate chance to make the play-in, as they’re now 2-3 and their last three games are against San Antonio, Sacramento, and Orlando. A 5-3 finish is certainly in play, and it would beat out a 1-7 Memphis record, any Portland record 4-4 or worse, and anything but 8-0 from the Suns. If 2 of those 3 conditions are met, they’d make the play-in.

Boston Celtics 122, Toronto Raptors 120

We were rooting for: Toronto Raptors

Toronto is essentially locked at 2nd in the East, and Boston 3rd, so this game didn’t mean much. There could only be movement if one of the teams loses out and the team behind them wins out (the Raptors have 4 games left and are 4 losses ahead of Boston, the Celtics have 3 games left and are 3 losses ahead of 4th-place Miami).

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

213Hoops is an independently owned and operated L.A. Clippers blog by Clippers fans, for Clippers fans. If you enjoy our content, please consider subscribing to our Patreon. Subscriptions start at $1 a month and support from readers like you goes a long way towards helping us keep 213Hoops sustainable, growing, and thriving.

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.

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