Seeding games in the NBA Bubble in Orlando have begun, and the first few games have come with quite a bit of surprises. Presumptive favorites have played poorly, while unlikely heroes have emerged. Here are some of the biggest surprises so far:
5. Melo Magic
The success of the Portland Trail Blazers is not something many are surprised by, but the emergence of Carmelo Anthony as a late game clutch performer is. Anthony has presented himself as a safety valve for the Blazers late in games, as evident by his game-clincher against the Houston Rockets. If he keeps this up, Portland will be a lock to steal the 8th playoff spot in the Western Conference.
4. Grizzlies Look Lost
One of the teams fighting for their playoff lives has been the Memphis Grizzlies. If their performances as of late are any indication of their playoff chances, then their hopes of a postseason birth are on life support. Ja Morant and company have sputtered out of the gate and put themselves in the crosshairs of those chasing them for the 8th playoff seed in the West. They need to pick it up sooner than late, or else their season could end prematurely.
3. Bucks Showing Weaknesses
The Milwaukee Bucks have only one victory in their first three games in the Bubble. For a team that is a presumptive favorite to win it all, things seem unstable. One could argue they are conserving their energy for more meaningful games, but it’s still not pleasant to lose to teams of lesser talent. The team has averaged 14 turnovers per game in their last two outings. Taking care of the ball is paramount if they hope to reach their goal of an NBA Championship.
2. Clippers Defense Showing Cracks
At the time of this writing, the Los Angeles Clippers are 1-2 in the Bubble. They have given up two gruesome last-second wins because of defensive ineptitude. If they are to be believed as a major threat to their in-town rivals in the Los Angeles Lakers, these type of lapses can not happen. Letting a noticeably-less talented team like the Suns shoot 53% from outside the arc is unacceptable.
1. The Lakers Are Wildly Inconsistent
The Los Angeles Lakers are somehow talented enough to take advantage of defensive teams such as the Clippers and Jazz, but have been embarrassed by the Thunder along the way. While the team isn’t playing for much at this time, the lack of effort during these games could come back to haunt them. This becomes especially true for their leader in LeBron James. He has been shooting erratically from the floor and needs to get back to form before the playoffs begin.