Are you a Clippers fan who isn’t sure who to root for in the NBA’s August 9th 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.

Saturday broke perfectly for the Clippers, with them winning and the Denver Nuggets beating the Utah Jazz. Now, the Clippers are well set up to secure all of their preferred outcomes this week. Let’s take a look at the desired outcomes for each of Sunday’s 7 games.

The NBA’s August 9th Bubble Games

All times Pacific Time.

Washington Wizards vs Oklahoma City Thunder, 9:30am, NBA League Pass

Rooting for: Washington Wizards

This one is a bit of a long shot, but if the already-eliminated Wizards can pull of a bit of early-morning weirdness against OKC, it would be pretty nice for the Clippers. Technically, the door is still open for the Houston Rockets to slide to 6th place, and losses from Utah and OKC help close that door.

Plus, if we could choose, we’d like for OKC to finish 6th and Utah 5th. I know folks are (rightfully) more scared of OKC than Utah, so let me explain my reasoning here. Between Denver, OKC, and Utah, the Clippers should be able to win their second-round series regardless of opponent. While I agree that the Utah Jazz without Bojan Bogdanovic are the weakest of the three, that actually likely means that if the Jazz finish 6th, the Clippers will never see them–they’ll lose to Denver in the 3-6.

So, I see the choice between Utah and OKC for 6th as being a choice between seeing Denver, likely well-rested after an easy first-round series against the Jazz, or either Denver or OKC, fatigued and beaten up from a brutal series against the other. Remember how the Lob City Clippers never won a first-round series in less than 7 games, and were always heading into the 2nd round on a rest and health disadvantage?

Giving Denver the tougher match-up in Oklahoma City increases the chances of the Clippers entering R2 with a rest and health advantage. Plus, giving Houston the Jazz in the first round could help the Rockets enter R2 against the Lakers without any rest and health disadvantage of their own (especially if the Blazers take a game or two from LAL).

Memphis Grizzlies vs Toronto Raptors, 11:00am, NBA League Pass

Rooting for: Toronto Raptors

Memphis’ first bubble win pushed every play-in contender except for Portland–New Orleans, San Antonio, Sacramento, and Phoenix–to the brink of elimination. The Kings lost on Friday, ending their hopes of passing the Grizzlies. The Suns, Pelicans, and Spurs are all still barely alive.

A Grizzlies win here would pretty much end any competition down the standings and make it a straight race between Portland and Memphis to determine who will be 8th and who will be 9th heading in to the play-in tournament. Remember, if 8th wins the first play-in game or lose and then win the second, they move on to the playoffs, while 9th needs to beat 8th two nights in a row to advance.

While it would be nice for Memphis to close the door on some of the lower teams, we’ll trust that those matters will take care of themselves eventually and root for a Grizzlies loss to help Portland finish 8th and not 9th. If the Blazers have to play both nights of the play-in tournament, then Game 1 vs the Lakers would be their 7th game in 10 nights. If Memphis finishes 1-7, the Blazers need to find 2 wins in their last 3 games (PHI/DAL/BKN) to finish 8th. If the Grizzlies win another game, Portland needs to be perfect. And if Memphis wins 2 or all 3 of their 3 remaining games (TOR/BOS/MIL), Portland cannot pass them.

San Antonio Spurs vs New Orleans Pelicans, 12:00pm, ABC

Rooting for: San Antonio Spurs

This is a huge match-up for these two, with the loser all but eliminated (either team can no longer pass Memphis with a loss, and move to relying on a bunch of Portland losses to steal 9th). We’re going for a Spurs win here, but it’s nothing personal: San Antonio (HOU/UTA) just has a tougher schedule the rest of the way than New Orleans (SAC/ORL). This is the easiest game left for the Spurs, and they’ll likely be eliminated later in the week anyway. If the Pelicans win here, in their toughest remaining game, they could actually close 3-0 and sneak into the play-in tournament.

There’s only two play-in pairings I care for: Portland against Memphis, giving the Blazers their easiest possible path to the playoffs, or Portland against Phoenix, giving the red-hot 8-0 Suns a chance to improve to 10-0 and prove they’re the strongest team to challenge the Lakers. I’m fine with either–but if it’s not gonna be Phoenix, I’d just as soon root for Portland to have an easier time so they can rest up for the Lakers.

Orlando Magic vs Boston Celtics, 2:00pm, NBA League Pass

Rooting for: Boston Celtics

The Celtics can’t really move in the standings at this point, but the Magic still can–and we’d rather they stay in 8th and at least make the Milwaukee Bucks sweep an NBA team with a real starting lineup and not the shell of the Brooklyn Nets, who currently sit in 7th.

Philadelphia 76ers vs Portland Trail Blazers, 3:30pm, NBATV

Rooting for: Portland Trail Blazers

We’ve been rooting for Philly lately, with hopes of them rising into 5th and challenging the Bucks in the second round. But with Ben Simmons needing a minor knee operation and TJ Warren’s Pacers continuing to surge, I’m ready to give up on the Sixers.

Especially when Portland is the team on the other bench. As discussed above, Portland needs to win at least 2 of their last 3 games if they want to enter the play-in tournament from the 8th spot. Getting the first one here would be nice.

Houston Rockets vs Sacramento Kings, 5:00pm, NBA League Pass

Rooting for: Sacramento Kings

I don’t have a lot of faith in the Kings to pull this off, but maybe relieved of the pressure of a playoff push they can start to have a little bit of fun on the basketball court. If that happens, and the Rockets overlook them and have an off shooting night, maybe there could be an upset.

It would certainly help the Clippers, as LAC beating Brooklyn Sunday, combined with Houston losing one of their 3 games on Sunday, Monday, and Wednesday, puts us awfully close to confirming LAC’s 2-seed while keeping Houston in the 4-5 match-up.

Brooklyn Nets vs LA Clippers, 6:00pm, NBATV

Rooting for: Rodney and the McShooters

This would be the Clippers’ 4th win in the bubble, and guarantee them a top-3 finish. Their magic # for clinching the 2 seed would be 1 LAC win or Denver Loss, spread across Denver’s match-up with the Lakers Monday, the LAC-DEN head-to-head Wednesday, the Clippers’ finale against Oklahoma City on Friday, and Denver’s finale against Toronto (also on Friday). I like those odds.

The protection from this win would allow the Clippers to throw Wednesday’s game against Denver if necessary to keep the Rockets in 4th (click the link for a google spreadsheet of different scenarios) and still control their own destiny: a win Friday against OKC guarantees them 2nd place regardless of how Denver finishes.

Yesterday’s Games

Los Angeles Clippers 122, Portland Trail Blazers 117

We were rooting for: LA Clippers

A lot of Clippers fans wanted the Clippers to lose this game to help Portland secure 8th place and a first-round match-up with the Lakers–and it seems like the Clippers were in agreement, as Kawhi Leonard was a late scratch and Doc Rivers benched his starters down the stretch of a tight game, closing with Terance Mann, Landry Shamet, Rodney McGruder, Patrick Patterson, and JaMychal Green.

It didn’t work, though, as the Clippers’ bench–helped by two late missed free throws by Damian Lillard–pulled ahead and ultimately won the game. Check out 213Hoops’ full game recap.

Frankly, I’m glad. Throwing the game against Portland would have been a mistake, both because the Blazers are likely to reach the 1-8 match-up without LAC’s help and because bigger priorities–like clinching 2nd and keeping Houston in 4th–could have been compromised by the loss. Remember that chart up there detailing when the Clippers should and shouldn’t throw Wednesday’s game against Denver to ensure that LAC-DEN-HOU finish 2-3-4? Without this win against Portland, the Clippers’ flexibility to manipulate those outcomes would be drastically reduced.

Utah Jazz 132, Denver Nuggets 134 (2OT)

We were rooting for: Denver Nuggets

This might have been the best game of the bubble, and fortunately it concluded in the way we were hoping: with the Nuggets getting a little further ahead of the Rockets to reduce Houston’s odds of climbing to 3rd, and the Jazz falling a little further behind the Rockets to reduce Houston’s odds of sliding to 6th.

Utah’s last 2 games are against Dallas and San Antonio. In order for them to pass Houston, the Jazz either need to finish 2-0 to the Rockets’ 1-3, or 1-1 to the Rockets’ 0-4. To pass Oklahoma City, they need to lose 2 fewer games than the Thunder (OKC has 4 left, WAS/PHX/MIA/LAC).

Los Angeles Lakers 111, Indiana Pacers 116

We were rooting for: Indiana Pacers

I don’t know what happened to TJ Warren during quarantine, but he’s a different player than he was before. Warren had another massive night, with 39 points on 15-22 shooting, including a dagger three to push the Pacers ahead by six with just under 10 seconds to play.

It’s unclear how much the Lakers’ struggles actually matter–they came into bubble play with the 1-seed guaranteed and have played a bunch of teams with much more urgency. But you can’t deny that they’re struggling, and that’s definitely better than if they were coasting at 6-0 and looking dominant.

Phoenix Suns 119, Miami Heat 112

We were rooting for: Phoenix Suns

The Suns stay perfect in the bubble, and in order to have any hopes of making the play-in tournament, they’ll need to stay perfect–winning their last 3 games against Oklahoma City, Philadelphia, and Dallas.

Even that might not be enough. Phoenix came into Orlando at such a disadvantage that they’ll also need for either Memphis to stay at 1-7 or Portland to lose again and finish 5-3 or worse. The Suns would be technically still alive at 7-1, but would be unable to pass Memphis and have to hope to finish 9th with help from Portland, San Antonio, and New Orleans.

Milwaukee Bucks 132, Dallas Mavericks 136

We were rooting for: Milwaukee Bucks

This game meant nothing in the standings for either team, but both stuck with their starters down the stretch. It served as a nice reminder that the Mavs can play a 120-point game with anyone if you don’t contain Luka. It was a signature win for the Mavs behind 36 points, 19 assists, and and 14 rebounds from Luka Doncic. This was the blueprint for Dallas to steal playoff games against an elite team like the Clippers–which could make it good study material for LAC heading in to the first round.

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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