Pre-restart training camp Mike D’Antoni eagerly awaited the Houston Rockets – a team remodeled mid-season with a drastic change of philosophy to the microball – never materialized. Due to late arrivals, including the team’s two superstars, as well as Austin Rivers’ departure and return, Rocket never had their full list available for practice on the Walt Disney World campus outside Orlando, Florida.
Hey, at least Houston was healthy, headed for his final scrimmage. Unfortunately, it didn’t last long, as Eric Gordon had to be helped out of the field after spraining his ankle in the first half of Tuesday, an injury that could have skewed the Rockets’ third scorer for the entire sowing schedule in eight games. .
“Everyone says two or three weeks,” said D’Antoni the next day. “Your ankle will tell you when it’s ready.”
The Dallas Mavericks are familiar with that feeling. Luka Doncic’s historically productive second year season was interrupted twice by sprains in his right ankle, which required several weeks of rest to fully recover. That was the silver lining of the suspension caused by the NBA pandemic for the Mavs.
Doncic, who had also nursed a sprained left thumb and sprained his right wrist before the break, arrived in Florida with good health and fresh legs. He has a bit more energy, like at the beginning of the season, when he looked like a legitimate MVP candidate (averaging 30.4 points, 9.9 rebounds and 9.3 assists in 24 games before his first sprain at the ankle).
A healthy Doncic, now surrounded by four 3-point shooters with Seth Curry consolidating his place in the initial lineup, makes Dallas a dangerous team. Especially if the Mavs manage to climb upwards from seed n. 7 of the Western Conference, which would probably mean avoiding a quarterfinal matchup with the Los Clippers.
One of the teams directly above Dallas in the rankings? The rockets.
This adds an extra twist to Interstate 45’s rival opener. As much as Rockets want to treat the seeding schedule as set-up time, slipping to seventh place could have serious consequences. – Tim MacMahon
Here are the latest news in the ranking, the games to watch on Friday and Saturday, as well as everything you need to know. Come back here for information and updates during the day.
PAST BUBBLE INTEL: July 30th
The last buzz
Jamal Crawford won’t debut today
After not playing all season, Jamal Crawford was signed by the Brooklyn Nets as a replacement player for seeding games. However, Crawford did not play in any of the three net scrimmages and was declared for conditioning purposes in the team’s injury report heading into Friday’s game against Orlando Magic. Crawford last played in the NBA on April 9, 2019 when he scored 51 points for the Phoenix Suns in a defeat against the Dallas Mavericks, a game better known as Dirk Nowitzki’s home final.
Jamal Crawford is not watchable beyond the 3-point line while in practice he torches teammate Rodions Kurucs of Nets.
The games not to be missed on Friday
Boston Celtics vs. Milwaukee Bucks | 18:30 ET on ESPN
The Bucks enter the 6.5 restart game on the Raptors for the first suit in the East, which means that Milwaukee doesn’t have much to play on. However, these next eight games will give Mike Budenholzer’s team a chance to warm up for the playoffs. It’s hard to remember now, but the Bucks have gone on hiatus in some sort of crisis after losing four out of five games to falling at a rate of 70 wins. But Giannis Antetokounmpo was beaten then. The reigning and probably repeated MVP is healthy and ready to go.
Jay Williams predicts that Jayson Tatum will take a big step forward after restarting, saying he will be one of the top 10 players at the end of the playoffs.
Houston Rockets vs. Dallas Mavericks 9:00 PM ET on ESPN
The experiment on the Rockets ball remains one of the most fascinating plots to watch in the bubble. Houston has only two players taller than 6 feet-8 on its list and those two – Tyson Chandler and Bruno Caboclo – have joined together to play only 31 games for the Rockets this season. Houston experienced a first success with its small lineup, but had lost four out of five before the season was suspended. Two of those losses came without Eric Gordon, who could lose the next two weeks after spraining his ankle in the Rockets’ last scrimmage.
Full scoreboard for July 31st
Friday’s non-ESPN games all have teams that play for their lives in the playoffs. Orlando Magic and Brooklyn Nets would be the last seeds in the East if the playoffs started today. The Washington Wizards are chasing them, but they have to force 1.5 games to force a play-in. The Phoenix Suns must invent 2.5 games in the West. Both the Sacramento Kings and the San Antonio Spurs are outside and watch each other on Friday. And the Portland Trail Blazers get the first crack at the current 8 seeds in the West, the Memphis Grizzlies.
7. Brooklyn nets | 30-34 (.469)
8. Orlando Magic | 30-35 (.462)
9. Washington Wizards | 24-40 (.375) | 5.5 GB
8. Memphis Grizzlies | 32-33 (0.492)
9. Portland Trail Blazer | 29-37 (0.439) | 3.5 GB
10. Sacramento Kings | 28-36 (0.438) | 3.5 GB
11. New Orleans Pelicans | 28-37 (0.431) | 4.0 GB
12. San Antonio Spurs | 27-36 (0.429) | 4GB
13. Phoenix Suns | 26-39 (0.4) | 6 GB
Full ranking | Playoff matches
The games not to be missed on Saturdays
Utah Jazz Vs. Oklahoma City Thunder | 3:30 pm ET on ESPN
The game that started, and really stopped, everything. After a four month delay, Thunder and Jazz finally play. When we stopped, this game was going to be used for the current 4 seed in the Western Conference. And it keeps those big implications given that both teams are firmly in the mix for the first four suits. It’s an important game – for many reasons.
New Orleans Pelicans vs. LA Clippers | 18:00 ET on ESPN
Both teams are 0-1 in the bubble and in both cases have lost tight and rolling games. The pelicans looked excellent, even with the slightest restriction from Zion Williamson – about three and a half quarters. The Clippers did the same thing, except that they couldn’t find enough offense along the way. Pelicans are more desperate than Clippers here to get their first win, because there aren’t many possibilities available.
Los Angeles Lakers vs. Toronto Raptors | 8:30 PM ET on ESPN
After beating the Clippers on the opening night, the Lakers get the defending champions in another high-level matchup. There is a lot of talk about how the already great Raptor chemistry only strengthened in the bubble, and while they are a threat from the Eastern Conference, they are still seen as a dark horse. There is an opportunity to make a strong statement here against the alleged title favorite.
Full scoreboard for August 1st
Analysis and information
The best and greatest moments of the exciting return of the NBA
From player protests to renewed rivalries, our NBA experts react to the first night of restart action.
What Jusuf Nurkic earned by losing a year due to injury
A horrible leg injury put the Trail Blazers center aside for 16 months, but says he believes time has made him a better player and person.
The NBA bubble is a great epidemiology experiment
We will see how technology, politics and human behavior affect an epidemic – and what we can do to stop it.