In my best Jim Mora voice, “playoffs?” Yes, Jim, playoffs. After two weeks of the regular season, the playoffs are in full swing inside the NBA Bubble. To be quite honest, they’ve been better than advertised. The top seeds have struggled while the middle teams have dominated. That’s the bubble, for you.
Top Story: Offense, Offense, And More Offense
Is it cliche to say that offense wins games and defense wins championships? In the NBA Bubble, the offense flies while the defense dies. According to Cleaning the Glass, the 22 bubble teams averaged 113.17 points per 100 possessions, which is up almost two points since March. There are a lot of factors into why teams are scoring at will. Playing in a smaller gym with no fans makes it easier for guys to get their depth perception without distractions. Refs have also called more fouls early on with teams combining for nearly 11 more fouls per game.
On the flip side, teams that are defensive rebounding at a high rate while limiting points off turnovers and second-chance points are dominating their matchups. It’s not rocket science. Limit the other’s team opportunities to score and your team is set up to win. The Celtics, Rockets, and Raptors have surrendered the least points off of turnovers and the Heat, Raptors, and Celtics are given up the least second-chance points. All four teams lead their respective series two games to none. Moral of the story: play defense and rebound.
LA Thoughts: Dominate Or Forget How To Play
I’ll start with the Lakers. In Game 1, LeBron James went 23-17-16, which was 24th postseason triple-double and first 20-15-15 in NBA postseason history. Anthony Davis had 28 points and 11 rebounds but shot 8-24 from the field. However, the team shot an abysmal 5-32 from 3 and let Damian Lillard scored 34 points as the Blazers won 100-93. In Game 2, David dominated from start to finish with 32 and 11, LeBron went 10-7-6, and the team shot 36.8% from 3 in a 111-88 blowout victory. The Lakers will win the NBA title if they play as they did in Game 2. However, let’s see if the supporting cast shoots as well in Game 3 as they did in Game 2.
I’d be more worried about the other Los Angeles team right now. The Clippers could very well be down 0-2 in the series had Porzingis not been ejected in Game 1, which was the softest ejection in NBA history. Two main things stick out for the Clippers. The first being their inability to stop Luka Doncic, who is an absolute stud. The rest of the NBA should be terrified knowing that Luka, a 21-year-old, is imposing his will on the team many picked to win it all. The second thing we have to talk about is Playoff P, or Pandemic P. In Game 1, Paul George was Playoff P with 27 points on 10-22 shooting. In Game 2, Pandemic P scored 14 points on an abysmal 4-17 shooting. Stopping Doncic is priority number one, but George has to end the disappearing act every third or fourth game. He needs to bring it every night in order for the Clppers to advance.
“Don’t Forget About Us” Thought Of The Week: The Second Tier Is Coming
Going into the playoffs, the three favorites to win the title were the Lakers, Clippers, and Bucks. It’s fair to say that most brackets had either the Lakers vs. Bucks or Clippers vs. Bucks in the NBA Finals. As Lee Corso always says, “Not so fast my friend.” The second tier of contenders has dominated their matchups so far. As I type this sentence, the Raptors are about to take a 3-0 series lead against the Nets. The Celtics are imposing their will against the Sixers as Tatum looks like a future 1st Team All NBA player. The Heat may be the most balanced team in the East led by a guy who I would want leading my squad in the playoffs, Jimmy Butler. The Rockets, a team known for shooting 3s at an alarming rate, have brought it on the defensive end, stifling the Thunder’s offense in both games. All four teams are 2-0 and it would not surprise me if all four teams sweep their series’ opponents, if not win 4-1. Los Angeles and Milwaukee, watch your backs.
Week 3 MVP: The Rockets Supporting Cast
Who needs Russell Westbrook and James Harden when you have Jeff Green? I’m kidding, but the Rockets supporting cast is playing out of their mind right now. Without Westbrook, the players not named Harden have stepped up in ways I didn’t know were possible. Harden was great in Game 1 with 37 points but struggled for his standards in Game 2 with an atrocious 2-11 performance behind the arc. Late in the 3rd quarter of Game 2, a struggling Harden went to the bench, and early in the fourth quarter, the Rockets went down 80-77. Fast forward six minutes and the Rockets complete a 17-0 run with Harden on the bench for most of it. Green is flourishing with a two-game average of 18.5 points. Eric Gordon, Danuel House, and P.J. Tucker are all contributing, but it’s their defense that has stood out after two games, holding OKC to 103 ppg, which is 7 points below their season average.
Week 3 LVP: Oklahoma City Thunder
I thought the Thunder matched up well with Houston especially with Westbrook on the shelf. I was wrong. The Thunder were outplayed by the Rockets in Game 1, but they had the lead in the 4th quarter of Game 2 before the Rockets made a huge run. The young Thunder have gotten little support from their bench. The Thunder have been outscored by the Rockets bench, 74-47. The Thunder have the talent to make this a series, but if they let Jeff Green and the Rockets supporting cast do whatever they want on offense, it will be a sweep.
Storyline For Week 4: Second Round Preparation
By this time next week, most of the first round matchups will have concluded. Which teams will get a few extra days of rest and which teams will have to spend the extra energy to put a team away? Tune in next time for more action from the NBA Bubble! *television announcer voice*
What are your top storylines from Week 3 inside the NBA bubble? Leave your thoughts in the comments below or tweet us, @unafraidshow.