Another six-game slate is underway in Orlando, where the Spurs have already sliced into the Grizzlies’ lead for 8th. Memphis is taking on Oklahoma City in what could already be a must-win game for a Grizzlies team that has yet to taste victory in the bubble. Later tonight, the Wizards’ season could come to an unofficial end, as they face elimination for the East’s playoff race against a Pelicans team that will be playing without Zion Williamson.
Here’s the latest on the standings, the games to watch Friday and Saturday, and everything you need to know. Check back for highlights and updates throughout the day.
PAST BUBBLE INTEL: July 30 | July 31 | Aug. 1 | Aug. 2 | Aug. 3 | Aug. 4 | Aug. 5 | Aug. 6
LeBron shares update on Lakers’ Madden tournament
The combination of LeBron James and Tom Brady seems formidable, but apparently it hasn’t been enough to overcome Quinn Cook and Kyler Murray. James shared an update on the Lakers’ in-bubble Madden tournament on his Instagram Stories page earlier today, and Cook remains undefeated playing as the Cardinals, with James close behind. Meanwhile rookie Talen Horton-Tucker remains winless playing as the Minnesota Vikings.
here are the standings for the lakers’ madden tournament – who’s winning it all? ? pic.twitter.com/DSlpYumckm
— NBA Bubble Life (@NBABubbleLife) August 7, 2020
Happy birthday, DeMar DeRozan
San Antonio Spurs guard DeMar DeRozan — who actually started at power forward Friday — celebrated his 31st birthday by scoring 13 points in a win over the Jazz. Though fans couldn’t be in the arena, they found a way to help him mark the occasion.
— San Antonio Spurs (@spurs) August 7, 2020
Zion (rest) out vs. Wizards
With the New Orleans Pelicans on the second day of a back-to-back, No. 1 overall pick Zion Williamson will sit out Friday night’s game against the Washington Wizards for rest purposes. Williamson has averaged 19.1 minutes per game in the Pelicans’ four seeding games, three of which have resulted in losses. The rookie is putting up 16.8 PPG on 58.3% shooting in that stretch.
Jordan Clarkson gets ridiculous layup to drop
The Utah Jazz were playing without four starters against the San Antonio Spurs, which resulted in plenty of shot opportunities for backup guard Jordan Clarkson, who scored 24 points in 24 minutes, including this must-see twisting layup.
Jordan Clarkson drives through three defenders and sinks an acrobatic layup while drawing a foul.
Memphis needs a win to stay ahead of the bubble teams
Ja Morant takes great pride in his supreme vision, often celebrating especially sweet assists by pretending to put on goggles, forming rings with his fingers and putting them over his eyes, a move mimicked by fans ecstatically surprised by the young, fun Memphis Grizzlies’ success this season.
But there’s one thing Morant doesn’t want to see right now: the Western Conference standings, specifically the section of the teams fighting for the West’s final playoff bid. He’s also tired of hearing about it, as the Grizzlies’ grip on the No. 8 spot has slipped significantly during the NBA’s restart.
The Walt Disney World Resort definitely hasn’t been the most magical place on earth for the Grizzlies to this point. They’ve lost their first four games — the first three to a few of the teams on their tail, the Portland Trail Blazers, San Antonio Spurs and New Orleans Pelicans — and have been depleted by injuries to small forward Justise Winslow (hip), point guard Tyus Jones (knee) and franchise cornerstone power forward Jaren Jackson Jr. (knee).
“Media’s going to [say], ‘Oh well, they had this lead. Now they have this lead. Somebody’s coming to take it,'” Morant said. “We can’t pay attention to that, because that will lead to us trying to put pressure on us, which we don’t have to. We’re learning from everything we’re going through right now. We still have four games to play, and we’re just going to attack those four games.”
Those four opponents: the Oklahoma City Thunder, Toronto Raptors, Boston Celtics and Milwaukee Bucks.
Suddenly, the biggest bubble question about the Grizzlies isn’t which team they might face in the play-in scenario that Morant described as unfair to ESPN’s Rachel Nichols. It’s whether the Grizzlies will be able to keep the advantage of being the eighth-place team — which needs to just get a split of two games to punch its playoff ticket — or participate at all.
Entering Friday, Memphis’ lead over Portland had shrunk to half a game.
But the big picture remains bright for the Grizzlies. After all, the big question entering the season in Memphis was whether a team in the early stages of a rebuild would be bad enough to keep the top-six-protected pick owed to the Boston Celtics.
Not that exceeding expectations eases the ache of the growing pains the Grizzlies have experienced during the season restart.
“All of us want to make it to somewhere we’ve never been,” Memphis shooting guard Dillon Brooks said. “That’s going to take a lot of heart, a lot of grit. We’ve got to grind it out, but like everyone says, it’s hard to make it to the playoffs. We’re seeing that now.” — Tim MacMahon
Friday’s must-see games
Oklahoma City Thunder vs. Memphis Grizzlies | 4 p.m. ET
Things are starting to get pretty must-win-ish for the Grizzlies. Not only are they at risk of flipping from eighth to ninth, thereby needing two wins in the play-in tourney rather than just one, but they might fall out of it altogether. The Blazers are just half a game back; the Suns and Spurs just two. And the Thunder aren’t exactly an ideal matchup with their size, length and depth. — Royce Young
Boston Celtics vs. Toronto Raptors | 9 p.m. ET
With these teams having a chance to match up in the second round of the playoffs, it will be interesting to see how both coaches approach it. The Raptors have been extremely impressive in the bubble, and the Celtics bounced back from a tough loss to Miami by dropping a cool 149 on the Nets. — Young
Big moves could be made in both conferences Friday.
In the East, the Brooklyn Nets, Orlando Magic and Washington Wizards are all in action. Wins by the Nets and Magic or just a Wizards loss will formally eliminate the need for an Eastern Conference play-in weekend.
In the West, all eyes are on the Grizzlies as they could be tied with Portland for the 8-seed. The Kings and Pelicans are also in action for the second day in a row, and the Spurs kept up in the matinee game.
7. Brooklyn Nets | 32-36 (.471) | —
8. Orlando Magic | 32-37 (.464) | —
9. Washington Wizards | 24-44 (.353) | 7.5 GB
8. Memphis Grizzlies | 32-37 (.464) | —
9. Portland Trail Blazers | 32-38 (.457) | 0.5 GB
10. San Antonio Spurs | 30-38 (.433) | 1.5 GB
11. Phoenix Suns | 30-39 (.435) | 2.0 GB
12. Sacramento Kings | 29-39 (.426) | 2.5 GB
13. New Orleans Pelicans | 29-39 (.426) | 2.5 GB
Saturday’s must-see games
LA Clippers vs. Portland Trail Blazers | 1 p.m. ET
After losing to the Phoenix Suns on Tuesday, the Clippers got back on track by beating the Dallas Mavericks — their likely quarterfinals opponent — on Thursday behind 29 points from Kawhi Leonard. Portland, meanwhile, will be looking to knock off yet another surefire playoff team in the West after beating the Houston Rockets on Tuesday and the Denver Nuggets on Thursday. The Trail Blazers continue their push for the eighth seed in the Western Conference.
Utah Jazz vs. Denver Nuggets | 3:30 p.m. ET
Denver will be hoping to get closer to full strength, as the Nuggets have played each of their first four games — which they split — with starters Jamal Murray, Gary Harris and Will Barton all sitting out because of injuries. Utah, on the other hand, will be playing the second half of a back-to-back after it opens Friday’s slate of games with a matchup against the San Antonio Spurs.
Analysis and intel
Michael Porter Jr. and eight more breakout NBA players in Orlando
Who are the emerging players in the NBA bubble? Our analysts pick out their favorites.
Ten things I like and don’t like, including the most exciting nerd thing in the NBA
This week’s spotlight lands on a very real surprise contender, two Suns doing things and the best socks in the bubble.
Picking the NBA all-bubble team: The five best stars so far
Kirk Goldsberry takes a look at the players who are thriving in an unprecedented environment.
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