I sure do hope the bubble is sustainable. Selfishly I love having basketball back. All season I have been looking forward to these playoffs. With the Warrior dynasty at least on break and LeBron showing vulnerability the path to the championship was wide open and any number of teams could take it. As the season went on, I grew more and more excited to see a seemingly inevitable Western Conference Finals between the Lakers and the Clippers.
I love the story lines going into it. Kawhi trying to take the title of baddest man on the planet from Lebron. Paul George getting his first crack at LeBron since his Pacer days when they pushed the LeBron/DWade Heat in 2 consecutive Eastern Conference Finals. And Anthony Davis getting a chance for his first deep playoff run. He’s only played in 13 playoff games total and has never played in a series that has gone past 5 games. It’s like LeBron is the Kobe to AD’s Pau Gasol.
And nobody better ruin it! I’m fairly confident nobody will, but you never know. One matchup isn’t right or one guy catches fire and it’s all over. Let’s look at these contenders and see if any of them are a legit threat.
The Nuggets greatest strength is their depth. Any guy during any game could go off for 20+ points. Gary Harris, Will Barton, Paul Millsap, Michael Porter Jr. Are all threats. And if I’m not mistaken is Bol Bol going to be on the playoff roster? That could be interesting. Yet another threat for the Nuggets.
I really like Jamal Murray too. He stepped his game up in the playoffs last year and had some big moments. I would love to see Murray match up with Pat Bev. It would be a great test for him in mental toughness. I hope it happens.
But really it all comes down to Jokic. The Nuggets and Clippers will probably be on the same side of the bracket. Are the Clipper big men capable of slowing Jokic down? I don’t know too much about Ivaca Zubac’s game. I like the little I have seen. I at least know he’ll give it his all. And speaking of giving it your all, the Clippers other center Montrezl Harrell does just that. Would his quickness be an effective tool against Jokic or would his lack of size be too much to overcome?
I love you Joker, but you better not ruin this.
The Jazz need Rudy Gobert to dominate the paint. The Clippers are a top ten team in 3-point percentage, but the Lakers are only ranked 17th. If Gobert can take away the paint from the Lakers they’d have to rely on more outside shots. Is J.R. Smith the answer? Is Dion Waiters? Can Kuzma get back to shooting at least a semi reasonable percentage? If not, the Lakers could be in trouble.
If the Jazz still had Bojan Bogdanovic they’d be even more dangerous. As it is, they still have 3 well rounded offensive players. Mike Conley, Joe Ingles, and Donovan Mitchell can all shoot and make plays for others. Add scorer Jordan Clarkson off the bench and you have capable scorers everywhere.
Utah, you better not ruin this.
Of all of the possible upsets the Thunder seems like the least likely to happen. But they were never even supposed to be in this position so, who knows. One thing is for sure. Even if the Lakers or Clippers eliminate them, they will have had to work their asses off for it. If the Thunder’s 3 guards Chris Paul, Shai Gilgeous-Alexander, and Dennis Schroder can continue to play at a high level and keep the game close the Thunder have a shot. Paul has been especially sensational in crunch time.
They may not have much of a chance, but they’ve been proving doubters wrong all season. I won’t count them out until they are actually out.
Thunder, don't ruin this for me.
We all know the story with the Rockets. James Harden and Russell Westbrook will get theirs. The key is everyone else and 3-point shooting. The Rockets have plenty of it to go around. I’m sure they’ll get hot and steal at least one game. Can they steal an entire series? The Rockets are dangerous based purely on the chaos they create with their unusual playing style. How will the Lakers or Clippers adjust over a seven-game series?
Russell, you’re my favorite player, but please don’t ruin this. You can get your championship next year.
Regular Season Success
Head to Head the Lakers have a winning record versus each of the potential usurpers except the Houston Rockets. They are 1-1. However, the only time they played after the Rockets went super small ball was a Houston victory. Just something to think about.
As for the Clippers they seem to have more potentially dangerous opponents. For what it’s worth they haven’t really put their best potential lineups out very often this season. But, like the Lakers the Clippers have a .500 record versus the Rockets. But the only time they played after super small ball Rockets formed was a Clipper victory.
The Clippers are also .500 against the Denver Nuggets. But their biggest threat is the Utah Jazz. The Clips are just 1-2 versus them. Luckily for the Clippers the Jazz would have to fall behind the Thunder and Rockets to be on their side of the bracket. I don’t see that happening.
However it turns out it’s going to be fun. There are a lot of ifs that need to happen for the Western Conference Finals to not be Lakers/Clippers. And ifs usually don’t happen. So, here’s to basketball starting back up and the most unusual season any of us have ever seen.