Gobert's redemption and LeBron's crunch time flex gets Bubble Basketball started
IT'S BASKETBALL, BABY!
The Golden State Warriors may be on vacation, but basketball is back! The NBA returned from their Covid-19 hiatus with some two fresh games from the Quarantine Bubble in Disney’s compound in Orlando, Florida.
Both games went down to the wire and although I was pretty creeped out by the Black Mirrorish panels of fans staring into the arena, it was fun to watch these pro hoopers get loose.
Jazz win 106-104 over Pelicans: RUDY! RUDY! RUDY!
There was a break of 140 days before the NBA restart and many people have used that time to pick up new hobbies and add new skills. I, for one, learned how to make an animated music video with a cartoon Draymond Green spitting hot fire.
Utah Jazz center Rudy Gobert appeared to have picked up a new skill of his own, scoring the first bucket of the NBA’s grand return with a brutishly clever dropstep through a foul by former teammate Derrick Favors.
Gobert took a lot of flak for being cavalier about Covid-19 concerns and eventually ended up being the first NBA player to test positive for the sickness. After the normally awkward Gobert opened up the game with this shockingly impressive post move, I wondered if this new move was actually the result of him being infected by the Venom symbiote instead of coronavirus.
He would clinch the victory by nailing two free throws in the final seconds, finishing with 14 points, 12 rebounds, and 3 blocks.
An interesting subplot was Pelicans wing Brandon Ingram getting hot in the first half and sending Twitter into his frenzy.
Ingram wouldn’t be able to sustain the hype and finished with 23 points as the Jazz stole the victory in the final seconds.
Lakers survive 103-101 vs Clippers: BRON WITH THE GAME WINNER!
This was a classic game of runs between the two betting favorites to win the title. The Lakers burst out to a 35-23 lead after one quarter, but the Clippers entered the fourth quarter with a 77-76 lead behind the spirited play of Kawhi Leonard. Leonard had 28 points on the night, with a nasty blowby on LeBron James for two of them.
The Lakers took a commanding 91-80 lead by nailing four straight three-pointers (this team can shoot the rock), but the Clippers roared back. Paul George scored 10 of his 30 points in the final frame, and tied the game at 101 with 28.7 seconds left with a big triple.
That set the stage for James to activate some clutch heroics to seal the game. First he tipped in his own miss for a game winner like a giant 8th grader playing with 5th graders.
Then he thwarted both Leonard and George on the final possession.
Great defense from the future Hall-of-Famer. Maybe hitting game winning daggers over James isn’t as easy as the Warriors made it look?
I had three big takeaways from this game.
Anthony Davis was killing the Clips with free throws. He scored 16 of his game high 34 points at the charity stripe, and kept drawing contact whenever the Lakers offense was stuck in the mud. Davis’ relentless pressure in the paint is going to come in handy during the postseason.
Outside of Leonard and George’s scoring the Clippers were hard-pressed for offense. They sorely missed the deadly pick-and-roll combo of their absent supersubs Lou Williams and Montrezl Harrell.
Kyle Kuzma and Dion Waiters were the best bench players from either team. Kuzma scored 16 points with 4 made three-pointers, and Waiters had 11 points of his own with a game-high +17 plus/minus. Without guards Rajon Rondo (thumb surgery) and Avery Bradley (opted out) the Lakers will rely on Kuzma and Waiters to fill in the gaps around their Big 2.
ok, I watched most of the game with the LA teams, and looked in a few times at the Jazz game. Definitely looking a little rough around the edges, and sort reinforced the notion that some of these teams are going to be at the mercy of hot/cold streaks. Just 8 games for each team before the final seeding is set.
Also, I miss the fans and the crowd noise, but those weird piped in heads are not doing it for me. Feels like a weird dystopian sci-fi (but like, not in the cool way).
Still, really really nice to have the NBA back!