LAKE BUENA VISTA, Fla. — And on Day 6 inside the NBA bubble, the league was flipped on its head.
A day that began with a seemingly predictable slate of games instead turned out to be full of surprises. The seeding races at the bottom of both conferences were shaken up as team’s fighting for a playoff spot toppled title contenders.
The already depleted Brooklyn Nets were down three additional starters — Joe Harris, Jarrett Allen and Caris LeVert all sat out to rest — when they kicked off a day of upsets with a win against the Eastern Conference-leading Milwaukee Bucks. The Bucks entered the game favored by 19 points, but the Nets had emerged with a 119-116 victory — the largest victory against the spread since 1993.
Next up were the Sacramento Kings and Dallas Mavericks, who had each dropped their first two games in the bubble. Dallas lost late leads against the Houston Rockets and Phoenix Suns, so it was only fitting that they came from behind to win, 114-110, in overtime.
“We played one of the worst games ever, and we won it,” Luka Doncic said.
It was the clash between the Phoenix Suns and LA Clippers, however, that featured the most dramatic ending. Phoenix has been one of the biggest surprises in the early days of the bubble, winning its first two games to move firmly into the race for a spot in the Western Conference play-in tournament.
That was supposed to change, though, when they faced the Clippers, the No. 2 team in the West and serious title contenders. Well, things didn’t quite work out that way.
Devin Booker’s game-winner — taken after spinning away from Kawhi Leonard and shooting over Paul George — moved the Suns to 3-0 inside the bubble and within a game of the Portland Trail Blazers and San Antonio Spurs, who are tied for No. 9 in the West.
Those two teams sit just two games behind the Memphis Grizzlies, who have had three heartbreaking losses thus far, none as painful as Tuesday’s news that Jaren Jackson Jr. will miss the rest of the season with a torn meniscus in his left knee.
Memphis’ hold on No. 8 in the West continues to slip, and their remaining schedule — Utah, Oklahoma City, Toronto, Boston and Milwaukee — does not bode well for the young team. The Portland Trail Blazers continued their impressive start inside the bubble with a win over the Houston Rockets to end the night, moving Portland into sole possession of the No. 9 seed — and only 1.5 games behind Memphis for No. 8.
It was just the latest twist in what was a truly wild sixth day of games inside the NBA bubble. — Tim Bontemps
Here’s the latest on the standings, the games to watch Tuesday and Wednesday, and everything you need to know. Check back for highlights and updates throughout the day.
Melo seals the win for the Blazers
The Blazers find a wide open Carmelo Anthony at the top of the key who knocks down a big-time 3-pointer to extend their lead to five in the final minute.
Carmelo Anthony posted 15 points and 11 rebounds in a 110-102 win over the Rockets to hold onto the West’s No. 9 seed. His biggest contribution of the night was a 3-pointer to put the Blazers ahead by 5 late in the fourth quarter against his former team.
Grizzlies lose Jaren Jackson Jr. for the season
The Memphis Grizzlies were dealt a significant blow to their playoff hopes Tuesday, when promising young forward Jaren Jackson Jr. was ruled out for the remainder of the season after suffering a meniscus tear in his left knee. The Grizzlies are currently 0-3 inside the NBA’s bubble at the Walt Disney World Resort.
The Grizzlies announced Tuesday that Jackson “experienced an unstable landing after making contact with an opposing player while contesting a shot” during Memphis’ loss Monday to the New Orleans Pelicans, with further evaluation revealing the meniscus tear.
The team said Jackson is expected to make a full recovery. — Bontemps
T.J. Warren continues streak of 30-point games
T.J. Warren finishes with 32 points, and his Pacers go on to dominate the Magic 120-109.
Walt Disney World Resort’s latest attraction, The T.J. Warren Experience, continues to roll inside the NBA bubble in Orlando.
It was the third consecutive strong performance from Warren, who opened bubble play with a 53-point effort on Aug. 1 against the Philadelphia 76ers. He followed that with 34 points against the Washington Wizards on Monday. It’s the first time in Warren’s career that he has had three consecutive games with at least 30 points.
Warren’s 119 points in three games ties him with Jermaine O’Neal for the most points in a three-game span in Pacers history.
“I’m just really in rhythm, really picking my spots, really just being efficient and just playing hard overall. … It’s an all-around team effort. I’m just doing my part and doing what I’m capable of doing,” Warren said.
Tuesday was Warren’s third game this season with 30 or more points while shooting at least 75% from the field. That’s the most such games in a season by a Pacers player since Hall of Famer Reggie Miller had three in 1994-95, according to ESPN Stats & Information.
Teammate T.J. McConnell said the team wants Warren to keep up whatever he’s doing to get going the way he is.
“I think we all just want to kind of follow him around for a day to see what he’s doing in the bubble because it’s been remarkable what he has been doing,” McConnell said. — Andrew Lopez
No Jimmy, no problem
Jimmy Butler was a late scratch from Tuesday’s game between the Celtics and Heat because of right ankle soreness, but Miami led wire-to-wire. The Heat combined for 15 3-pointers to beat the Celtics 112-106.
The Heat sink 15 3-pointers as they beat the Celtics for the first time this season.
Devin Booker’s buzzer-beater downs Clippers
Devin Booker lay flat on his back as teammates surrounded him following one of the biggest shots of his life.
With the game tied at 115, the Phoenix Suns’ star provided the NBA bubble with a buzzer-beater in what seemed like impossible fashion. He scored the game-winning shot over two of the league’s elite defenders in Kawhi Leonard and Paul George.
Booker’s shot stunned the LA Clippers 117-115 and continued the Suns’ unlikely 3-0 start in the bubble. The guard had 35 points, made six of nine 3-pointers and added eight assists.
Booker had the ball on the left wing and drove left to avoid a double-team up high from George and Ivica Zubac, who came over to show. Booker proceeded to run into the arms of Leonard just outside the paint.
Booker pump-faked Leonard into the air. He then pivoted away from the basket as George went to challenge him, barely getting off an 18-foot fadeaway over George’s outstretched hand.
“Devin Booker came out playing aggressive, great,” Leonard said. “… I mean, you pretty much [saw] the shot. He got to his spot, pivot, shot a fadeaway.”
Don’t look now, but the Suns are 29-39 and within three games of the No. 8 Memphis Grizzlies (32-36). They still have a long way to go, but the Suns want to continue to play spoiler.
“Coming into the bubble overall, we said we wanted to make some noise and be an under-the-radar team that comes to work hard and play hard,” Booker said.
“We didn’t have [seed No.] 8 on our mind, [and that] hasn’t been our target,” Booker said. “People can say [it’s a] nothing-to-lose mentality, but we don’t look at it like that. … We’re here to win.”
Booker has scored 27, 30 and 35 points in his team’s three consecutive wins over the Wizards, Mavericks and Clippers.
“I want a reputation in this league as being a winner,” Booker said, with “Be Legendary” scribbled on his shoe in honor of a message Kobe Bryant once signed for him on a pair of sneakers. “Through five years, I haven’t gotten to that part of my career yet. But I’m working extremely hard as I can.” — Ohm Youngmisuk
Deep pockets! @DevinBook
— Kyler Murray (@K1) August 4, 2020
WNBA players to wear T-shirts opposing Kelly Loeffler
WNBA players are wearing “Vote Warnock” T-shirts to games this week to support Rev. Raphael Warnock, who is challenging Atlanta Dream co-owner Kelly Loeffler (R-Ga.) for her Senate seat.
Last month, Loeffler wrote a letter to WNBA commissioner Cathy Engelbert objecting to the league’s promotion of Black Lives Matter — which is painted on the courts at the IMG Academy in Bradenton, Florida, where the league is holding its return — and advocating for teams to add American flags to jerseys. Full story
Luka Doncic posts historic stat line
Dallas Mavericks guard Luka Doncic finished with 34 points, 20 rebounds and 12 assists to help the Mavs hold off the Sacramento Kings in overtime Tuesday. Doncic, who has 11 30-point triple-doubles this season, became just the fourth player since the NBA-ABA merger in 1976-77 to post a 30-20-10 game, becoming the youngest in NBA history to do so.
Memo to fans: Stop promising to get tattoos
First there was the fan who said he’d get a face tattoo if Deandre Ayton made a 3-pointer in the bubble (he made two in the Suns’ first seeding game). Now we have the case of the fan who is on the hook for a Jarrett Allen back tattoo after the Nets pulled off the biggest upset since 1993.
— Jarrett Allen (@_bigjayy_) August 4, 2020
Amazingly, that isn’t the only Nets tattoo that is going to happen as a result of Tuesday’s win.
Uhh Ohhh https://t.co/NuRQPz93t1
— Chris Chiozza “FLASH” ⚡️ (@Chiozza11) August 4, 2020
Nets pull off historic upset
The Nets closed as 19-point underdogs and beat the Bucks 119-116.
It is the 3rd-largest upset in the NBA in the last 30 seasons. pic.twitter.com/jJTCJWWUxl
— ESPN Stats & Info (@ESPNStatsInfo) August 4, 2020
Giannis’ son steals the show
NBA players can’t have their families with them in the bubble until the second round of the playoffs, but that didn’t stop Giannis Antetokounmpo’s newborn son, Liam, from making an appearance on the video board as one of the Bucks’ virtual fans Tuesday.
During the second quarter, Giannis Antetokounmpo’s son, Liam, makes an appearance as one of the virtual fans to show support for his dad.
Giannis not happy with Hall after shove
Giannis Antetokounmpo is shoved by Donta Hall. Giannis tries to confront him about it, but the officials and other players quickly step in.
Of the six games Tuesday, five involved at least one team fighting for a playoff spot. The Nets overtook the Magic for the No. 7 seed after they beat the Bucks and the Magic fell to the Pacers.
The Blazers moved into the No. 9 seed after the Spurs’ loss to the Sixers on Monday, and beat the Rockets on Tuesday to maintain that spot. The Suns upset the Clippers behind a Devin Booker buzzer-beater and moved within a half-game of the No. 11 Pelicans.
7. Brooklyn Nets | 32-35 (.478) | —
8. Memphis Grizzlies | 32-36 (.471) | —
9. Portland Trail Blazers | 31-38 (.449) | 1.5 GB
10. San Antonio Spurs | 29-37 (.439) | 2.0 GB
11. New Orleans Pelicans | 29-38 (.433) | 2.5 GB
12. Phoenix Suns | 29-39 (.426) | 3.0 GB
13. Sacramento Kings | 28-39 (.418) | 3.5 GB
Wednesday’s must-see games
After losing their first three games inside the bubble, it’s suddenly desperation time for the Grizzlies. Ja Morant might not have liked the idea of a play-in tournament when it looked like Memphis would be the No. 8 seed, but it seems likely his tune will change if the Grizzlies fall to No. 9. — Bontemps
The Thunder appeared to be on their way to a second straight victory, only for them to collapse and lose to the Nuggets in overtime Monday. They’ll look to bounce back against the Lakers in what could be a Western Conference semifinals preview. — Bontemps
Brooklyn Nets vs. Boston Celtics | 9 p.m. ET
The Nets are going to sit Caris LeVert, Jarrett Allen and Joe Harris against Milwaukee on Tuesday, so they should likely play the second game of the back-to-back against the Celtics on Wednesday. Even with those players, though, Brooklyn is severely undermanned. Boston will also be playing the second game of a back-to-back, however, so it might also rest a few guys. — Bontemps
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Analysis and intel
Our NBA experts weigh in on the biggest trends after the first weekend of basketball.
The Raptors and Rockets both upset top teams, while the Spurs and Blazers fight for the No. 8 seed in the West.
Toronto remains horribly under the radar in this year’s title race. That needs to change.