Updated: Aug 10, 2020
After months of eagerly waiting, fans were finally blessed with the first weekend of the NBA’s 22-team restart. Although the 8-game regular season is mainly predicated around the “race for 8th” between each respective conference, the first batch of games has given us a preview of which teams are serious contenders, which teams are slipping fast (cough cough Pelicans), and teams that may cause top-seeded teams some trouble in the postseason. Here's a quick recap from this past weekend in the long-awaited return of the NBA.
The Race For 8th
In the Western Conference, the Memphis Grizzlies are currently holding the 8th seed, but with back-to-back losses to begin the restart they’re losing distance between them and the rest of the pack. The San Antonio Spurs, on the other hand, shifted up to the 9th seed after starting the restart with two wins, one against the Sacramento Kings and the other against the Grizzlies. Now the Spurs are only two games behind the Grizz and are looking to keep things rolling. I can easily seem them falling into the playoff picture with hall of fame coach Gregg Popovich leading them. After two losses, the New Orleans Pelicans have fallen 3.5 games behind the Grizzlies and are tied with the Kings at the 11th spot. An exciting, fast-paced game versus the Grizzlies tonight at 6:30 is sure to shake up the Western Standings.
In the Eastern Conference, it’s not so much as to who will make it but how the seeding will pan out. Both the Orlando Magic & Brooklyn Nets are expected to make it in, but who would we rather see Giannis completely obliterate? Personally, I think the Magic could catch the Bucks off guard and sneak a game or two. This may be good for a team with championship aspirations that have struggled deep in the playoffs. However, I’d love to see Giannis slam dunk on the whole Brooklyn Nets team, and tell Kyrie and KD to get down to the bubble ASAP!
The Rockets🚀Are Serious
I’m not a fan of small ball. I’m not a fan of small ball. I’m not a fan of small ball. I’m not a fan of small ball. I’m not a fan of small ball.
That’s exactly what I keep telling myself too, but after watching them outplay the Bucks Sunday Night, it’s hard not to believe that this just might work. I mean honestly, Russ Westbrook grabs 8 rebounds by himself, and Harden can do the same on any given night. P.J. Tucker is a great defender and Robert Covington should have the vert to jump with some of the bigger centers. Hopefully, this formula carries them to the Western Conference Finals because it would be a joy to watch.
The Lakers Need Defensive Guards
The Los Angeles Lakers lost against the Toronto Raptors on Saturday night, cemented what fans have been saying since the restart: THE LAKERS NEED GUARDS! Due to the loss of Avery Bradley, the Lakers will definitely struggle to guard premier scorers on opposing teams, especially on the perimeter. The return of Rondo within the next few weeks will definitely help Lebron with the ball-handling responsibilities, but for now, Lakers fans are praying that Alex Caruso (a.k.a. The Bald Mamba) and Dion Waiters can hold it down in the playoffs. Kyle Lowry flamed both of them the other night, hitting 5 threes and racking up 33 points and 14 rebounds.
The Trailblazer’s Problems
One team that I would really love to see get the 8th seed is the Portland Trailblazers. They’re a stacked team that definitely deserves to be in the playoffs, but lack consistency. They have two of the top 10 guards in the league in Damian Lillard and C.J. McCollum, and two of the best big men in the league, in Hassan Whiteside and Jusuf Nurkic. They also have veteran superstar Carmelo Anthony, along with a squad of young athletic talent to help them off the bench. The big problem for the Trailblazers is their losing slump before the NBA restart that has them in a tough position for a loaded race for 8th in the Western Conference. Sitting at 10th and 2.5 games behind the Grizz, they'll have to fire on all cylinders to secure that 8th spot.
The Virtual Crowd
The virtual crowd’s thing is a bit controversial up until this point, but have filled in that blank background very nicely. Along with advertisements, the screens on the sides of the NBA courts also feature virtual fans that are picked by each team. This is the perfect duo along with NBA 2K's simulated crowd audio that has played in the arenas during each game. This hasn’t been bad to watch or a bad concept, but I think they’ll definitely need to turn up the volume for the playoffs and make things feel like the real thing. I saw a buzzer-beater shot the other day and the crowd was the same volume as it was the whole game. Kind of a downer, but I think the NBA will definitely tweak things as we get deeper into the season.