The halfway point of the NBA bubble’s seeding games has nearly been reached. The level of basketball is surprisingly great after the hiatus, and playoff seeding’s have already shifted a few times. Fans are in store for a historical postseason with some potentially exciting playoff match-ups.
Three Possible Exciting Playoff Match-Ups
Los Angeles Lakers versus Portland Trail Blazers
The Los Angeles Lakers have the first seed in the West clinched. Their play might see a drop-off in quality before the playoffs if they go the way of “load management,” but the league knows what they’re capable of.
On the other hand, the Portland Trail Blazers still have everything to play for. They currently sit at ninth, one game away from the Memphis Grizzlies. They are, however, in position for the eighth seed play-in. Memphis recently lost Jaren Jackson Jr. for the season, likely giving Portland the edge in a possible match-up.
The Lakers will be the favorite in any first-round scenario. Having LeBron James and Anthony Davis does that. They’ve been good, but not great, however, in the bubble thus far. They struggled against the Toronto Raptors‘ tough defense and were blown out by the Oklahoma City Thunder last night. Not to say they’re vulnerable, but the Lakers supporting cast needs to pick up some slack.
Portland represents one of the more exciting playoff match-ups because they’re finally at full health. Jusuf Nurkic and Zach Collins have provided a massive boost already in just four games. Having Damian Lillard always helps too. CJ McCollum, Carmelo Anthony, and Hassan Whiteside also make for a great supporting cast.
Lillard and James are two of the fiercest competitors in the game. Both are playing with plenty to prove this season, and this would be no walk in the park for the Lakers. Davis will have to show up too, especially with two solid defensive big men in Nurkic and Whiteside on the opposing side.
Los Angeles Clippers versus Dallas Mavericks
The Los Angeles Clippers were a popular preseason pick to win the championship. They added two of the league’s biggest superstars in Kawhi Leonard and Paul George to a roster that already made the playoffs. They’re also arguably the deepest team in the league, with options like Lou Williams and Montrezl Harrell coming off the bench.
With that being said, the Dallas Mavericks boast one of the most talented young duos in the league. Luka Doncic is only 21 and will likely receive MVP votes. Kristaps Porzingis is healthy again and has elevated his play in 2020. So far in the bubble, although being a small sample size, Doncic has averaged 34 points per game while Porzingis has averaged 30. Doncic has had some absolutely ridiculous stat lines too. He had 40 points and 11 assists versus the Phoenix Suns and 34 points, 20 rebounds, and 12 assists versus the Sacramento Kings.
The Clippers’ more experienced duo and balanced play make them the favorites in one of the more exciting playoff match-ups. Besides that, the Clippers have already given the Mavericks fits this season. Dallas, simply put, cannot compare in wing play to the Clippers. Dorian Finney-Smith is a very solid defender and will guard one of Leonard or George, but the one he doesn’t guard will instantly have a favorable match-up. The Mavericks also struggle in clutch moments, which is exactly where a player like Leonard thrives.
This series, regardless of the result, would feature one of the most experienced rosters in the league versus arguably the best up-and-coming roster. Due to that, the entertainment possibilities are endless.
Boston Celtics versus Philadelphia 76ers
The Boston Celtics have seen some struggles in the bubble so far, but not enough to justify panic. Kemba Walker has played limited minutes, and Jayson Tatum had an off night versus the Milwaukee Bucks, which certainly can happen to young stars. They’ve still had a great regular season and would’ve surely eclipsed 50+ wins with ease if it wasn’t for the hiatus.
The story is quite different for the Philadelphia 76ers. Their season isn’t quite the disaster that it may seem, however. They’re still making the playoffs with a winning record. They were expected to be legitimate contenders, though, with the investments that they made, which is why the season so far is disappointing. Al Horford, on a huge contract, went from a championship piece to a role player. Tobias Harris is solid but nowhere near worth north of 30 million dollars a year. Ben Simmons and Joel Embiid still haven’t meshed. It’s too late in the season to still try to figure out your team’s true identity.
Boston is in a good place. Walker fits this team so much better than Kyrie Irving did. Tatum became an All-Star, Jaylen Brown is a future All-Star, and Gordon Hayward picked up his play. Marcus Smart also remains an underrated player on both ends of the floor. The pieces are there for a title run.
Philadelphia is an interesting match-up for any team because the level of talent is there. Besides the aforementioned players, Josh Richardson, Shake Milton, and Matisse Thybulle are all talented as well. The 76ers need to figure out their rotations quickly, however, as players such as Raul Neto cannot be playing extended minutes for a team with championship aspirations.
There’s a ton of storylines to go along with this rivalry. Every game will feature heated intensity, so it’s definitely a match-up to look out for.