Blazers, Nuggets try to stay hot in the bubble

Both teams are looking to go on a playoff run after early first round wins

written by: joseph cotton
Damian Lillard has been on fire for the Blazers in the NBA Bubble, and helped lead them to a Game one upset win over the heavily favored Los Angeles Lakers. Lillard averaged 37.5 points per game during the NBA restart.

The unprecedented NBA “bubble” is moving into its second phase as eight teams from each conference are preparing for the playoffs. 

While the top contenders are still the Clippers, Bucks and Lakers, several teams have made their case on why they shouldn’t be left out of the public imagination. 

Chief among these teams is the Denver Nuggets. In last year’s playoffs, the team had a solid run in the bracket that ended in a second round exit after a hard fought seven game series to the Portland Trailblazers. 

This year’s playoff picture is looking quite different from last years, however, with two breakout additions to the lineup: Bol Bol and Michael Porter Jr. The contribution from these two will make them a hard match up for the Utah Jazz in the first round as well as any team they meet after. I can see the Nuggets making a deep playoff run and making it to the finals, where anything can happen.   

   Bol Bol, the son of former NBA star Manute Bol, was drafted earlier this year but did not play due to a leg injury he sustained while playing college basketball at Oregon. He is a 7’2” center who has shown a knack for good positioning, rebounds, blocks,as well as looking for baskets in transition. Bol has also been scorching the net from behind the 3pt line while shooting at 44.4%. While Bol didn’t play in the Nuggets’ Game 1 overtime win, there’s a chance he could see some run down the stretch.

Michael Porter Jr. also had a string of breakout games after an admittedly bad opening performance in the bubble. Porter ended the bubble regular season with 26 points and 9 rebounds per game, all while shooting an efficient 58.7% from the court. Look for both of these young stars to contribute to at ends of the floor.

The Trail Blazers are also a must watch team for the 2020 playoffs. Despite barely holding onto the final 8th seed spot in the bracket, the Blazers have been on fire as of late due mostly to the insane contributions coming from Damian Lillard. He averaged 37.3 points per game with 9.6 assists, 49.7% from the field and 43.6% from three. 

The rest of the team has also been contributing  consistent play. CJ McCollum and Carmelo Anthony, both of whom the team acquired earlier this year, have proven themselves as reliable scorers who can make plays in clutch situations. Jusuf Nurkic has proven to be this team’s defensive back bone with great instincts and athleticism. 

All these factors make them a nightmare match for the number one seed Lakers. It’s a classic “David and Goliath” situation with the Lakers and LeBron James as the assumed kings of the league and the Trail Blazers and Damian Lillard as the red-hot underdogs. The Blazers took game one on Monday night, which makes this series even more fun to watch. 

Another matchup to keep an eye on is the Houston Rockets and the Oklahoma City Thunder. The Rockets traded Chris Paul and draft picks to the Thunder in return for Russell Westbrook. The matchup will have some intriguing storylines and passion as Chris Paul might have a bit of bad blood with his former team. Besides the drama, the match-up will pit the fairly boring style of play the Thunder has used this year and the modern, three-point heavy attack the Rockets favor.