This has been a weird year to say the least. It’s August and at this time I’d usually be gearing up for the MLB playoffs, but I can’t complain about having that and the NBA. Us sports fans are aloud to be a little spoiled after the 4-5 month drought we had when the most entertaining things on TV were Korean baseball and Corn Hole. Luckily the NBA is back and we are ready to head into the long awaited playoffs. This article I will preview every matchup as well as share my opinion on them and on the bubble in general. I may make rough predictions but I never like to make predictions. I like to discuss and then enjoy we’ll history is happening. If I predict, too often I find myself rooting for one team we’ll a basketball fan of a non playoff team like myself really just wants to see a great game. Also, with no fans this year and unfamiliar scenery, anything can happen. The Suns went 8-0.
Truthfully, only time will tell who is going to win and I like to enjoy it we’ll it’s happening.
I am absolutely loving the bubble so far. The players are pure entertainment. Seeing them interact around the campus and everything is extremely fun. Especially watching some of the guys post their vlogs on YouTube. I think it’s also been really cool to see players step up in bigger roles because of the absences of some players. TJ Warren and Gary Trent are just a few examples. Overall the NBA restart went better than almost everyone expected and I’m extremely excited for the playoffs.
Bucks vs Magic
Last year the Magic surprised us and took game 1 against the eventual champs Toronto Raptors. DJ Augustin hit the most cold blooded shot of his life. Guarding Giannis is a difficult enough task as it is. With Johnathan Issac recently tearing his ACL, the Magic will be missing their best defensive player and their best one on one matchup against Giannis on the defensive side of the ball. His frame is similar. He’s long lengthy and has a nose for the ball. I hope he gets well soon and comes back strong in the future. Even with John Issac healthy, the Magic are still severe underdogs to the team with the best record in the league, as well as the front runner to win MVP and maybe even DPOY too.
Miami Heat vs Indiana Pacers
Oh boy am I excited for this one. This series can end up being a long and gritty one. The beef between TJ Warren and Jimmy Butler is starting to heat up just in time. They have had multiple altercations on the court over this season and in the past. Now that TJ Warren is playing at an elite all star level, it’s going to be a lot of fun watching him go back and fourth with Jimmy Buckets. They still have plenty of other young guys like Bam Adebayo, Tyler Herro and Kendrick Nunn that are all going to have to step up. I’m interested to see how this young team plays in the playoffs together for the first time. With a good leader like Jimmy Butler, who is focused on one goal and that’s to win, I’d be satisfied with where the Heat are if I was a fan. They are set up perfectly to sign a big name pretty soon to fit in with the great core they already have. Don’t forget about playoff Iggy too, we all know he turns up. For the Pacers, Victor Oladipo has been working back from the injury he suffered last year and has showed glimpses of his all star self, but hasn’t quite bursted out of the bubble wrap yet (no pun intended). In the bubble when he has played hes looked alright just has not been very effiecent. Overall this is defientley going to be one of the best of the first round matchups I think with a lot of drama.
76ers vs Celtics
Unfortuantely for the 76ers thery will be missing their all star point guard/power forward Ben Simmon who suffered a season ending injury during his time in the bubble. This will be a major negative with him as the floor general on offense, and an elite defender on the other side of the ball. The Sixers are built for defense though with Josh Richardson, Matisse Thybulle, Al Horford and Joel Embid. When Simmons missed time most recently this last season, the team did not take a huge fall however. They were able to succeed still because the game opened up more for them with Simmons off the court. But besides shooting, hes a guy that does everything well and you definitely wish you could have him out there to guard 1-5 on a nightly basis like he does. Joel Embid needs to dominate because he is the mismatch against Danie Theis. The Celtics can make a big statement here if they “take care of business like they should.” The reason I say this is because they are the 3 seed and the Sixers are the 6. They are already the favorite in the series without Simmons out. If the Celtics take this in 6 or less games it could be a very good confidence booster for them because they are a team that can definitely make a run with the emerging star duo of Jayson Tatum and Jaylen Brown. The positionless lineup the Celtics run might be able to expose the absence of Ben Simmons. With the sixers missing a key defensive player, it may be harder to guard the more versital Celtics lineup.
Raptors vs Nets
Unfortunately, a common theme of the bubble, the Nets are not at full stentgh. But no team compares to them at all. Obviously they are missing KD which is a lot to begin with but we knew that and expected that coming in. Kyrie had season ending shoulder surgery and same with rookie Nicholas Claxton. Deandre Jordan, Michael Beasely and Taurean Prince all had Covid-19 before the restart and decided not to participate. Spencer Dinwidee and Wilson Chandler also decided not to play in the restart. Even Jamal Crawford who they signed as a roster filler in the bubble got hurt his first game back. This year ultimately is not the year for the Nets and hopefully next year they are healthy and can contend. The Raptors on the other hand are a team that nobody wants to face this year. They are coming in with a chip on their shoulder and a winning attitude. They act like they been there before, and are one of the most well coached teams in the league. In my opinion, without a doubt the coach of the year should be Nick Nurse and executive of the year should be Masai Uriji. The winning culture that them two have built there is the model all teams around the league should use. They might not be the most talented team, but their length and grit on defense gives them and edge that very few teams have. They had the number 2 defense in the league this year and it is all because of Nick Nurse’s unique way of getting the best out of all his players. He mixes in different traps in the halfcourt and backcourt and also will often switch to zone for a few possessions. They make professional NBA players look confused sometimes with their different defensives looks. All this mixed with their great depth is scary because many teams do not have that in the bubble.
Lakers vs Blazers
The Lakers have been atop the West all year and are ready to make a run. They are a top 5 offense and defense in the league. Oh and also they have these 2 guys on their team named Lebron James and Anthony Davis. These two have been the dynamic duo all year. Lebron led the league in assists for the first time and he is geared up for another deep playoff run. Anthony Davis has never been in a deep playoff run, but we know the type of player he is and the impact he adds on both sides of the court. For this Blazers team it will definitely be tough. Lillard has been going off in the bubble and I am interested to see what Frank Vogel plans to do to stop him from putting up 60. It was interesting to see to see multiple teams try and trap Lillard at the top of the key but that leaves a 3 on 2 for Nurkic who just needs to make the right play. However, the Lakers interior defense is their strong suit so this might be the best way of stopping him. They have so many shot blockers on their team backed up by the fact that they led the league in blocks this year. With AD at the 4 and whoever running the 5, especially with Lebron at point guard, their lineup will always be big. But the difference between this team and most is that they can also go small and play AD at the 5 and Lebron at the 4 which they haven’t showed much of this season because they do not have to. Watching the play in game, it was interesting to see Terry Stotts run a lineup with both Nurkic and Whiteside in it to combat the Lakers big lineup. I am very interested to see how these teams play against each other as they have very different play styles. If the Blazers want any chance, they need to step up their defense. This could also be one of the last times we see Melo and Bron on the court together dating nack to high school on this big of a stage so enjoy it.
Rockets vs Thunder
This is a matchup only the Thunder could have dreamed about since last offseason. When Russell Westbrook was traded, many thought the Thunder were done contending, but CP3 and my man Shai Gilgeous-Alexander thought otherwise. CP3 is one of the most underated players in the league and he may not put up the most mind blowing stats, but he contributes to winning basketball always. There is no question the Rockets have more talent. They have 2 former MVPs on their team and both of them will probably finish in the top 10 of voting this year as well. But for the Rockets it’s all about making timely shots. We all know James Harden and Russel Westbrook will get there numbers and put up stats. But they got to get hot right now and make timely shots if they want to make a deep playoff run. The Thunder having Roberson back from injury after over 2 years of not playing is huge. He was an elirte permiter defender and hopefully for the Thunder he can help guard James Harden. This series is really hard to predict and I am just going to enjoy every second of it.
Jazz vs Nuggets
The Nuggets have been great all year behind Jokic and company and they are looking to make a deep run finally this year. The Nuggets main focus should be their defense. The Jazz are a very good defensive team and also a good offense team. If they can slow down the Jazz just enough for their offense to prevail, that would be their best shot at the series. The chances of you winning a shootout against the Jazz are very low because of how good they are defensively. Led by 2x defensive player of the year Rudy Gobert and 1st time all-star for him and Donovan Mitchell, this team has a lot of talent and they would not be someone I would want to matchup against in the first round. They play gritty and are well coached. The Nuggets are also very well coached. Mike Malone is going to have to mix up his matchups and try to slow down the Jazz’s offense for the best shot to win the series. For the Jazz, their role players gotta step up like they have all year. Ingles and especially Mike Conley (congrats on the new born son I know you may miss the first 3-4 games) all need to come up in big moments. Jordan Clarkson is also a great spark plug off the bench for them. The Nuggets need their guys like Michael Porter Jr. and Bol Bol to really step up. This is going to be a good series and I am exited to see what happens.
Clippers vs Mavs
The Mavericks drew the worst draw here. After finishing the season with one of the best offenses in NBA history they get matched up against the juggernut of the Clippers. Luka had an unreal season, one of the best sophmore campaigns we have ever seen. Him and Kristaps as a future duo is going to be lethal. The Mavs have great role players as well like Maxi Kleber, Tim Hardaway Jr, and Seth Curry who are all great shooters for Luka to kick out to. It will not be easy for Luka in this series because he will probably be guarded by a surpluss of elite defenders that the Clippers have. For the Clippers, you just cannot lose focus. Yes they are the 7 seed but this is one of the more talented 7 seeds we have ever seen. Luka brings it every night. They will probably throw guys like Kawhi, Paul George and Pat Beverley on him to mix up the looks. I think this is going to be one of the more fun series to watch.
This NBA playoffs is the most unpredictable one yet and it is more competitive now than ever before.