The NBA restart in the Walt Disney World bubble has already resulted in some unexpected results. Among them are the Los Angeles Lakers and their surprising offensive shortcomings that have led to a 2-3 record in seeding games thus far.
Other teams have also begun the bubble experiment with mixed play. The Indiana Pacers and Toronto Raptors are playing well, with the latter chalking up a convincing 107-92 win over the Lakers last week.
But the New Orleans Pelicans and even the Milwaukee Bucks have struggled so far. Meanwhile, the Memphis Grizzlies are at risk of losing the eighth spot in the Western Conference they are clinging to after an 0-4 start to bubble play before notching a win.
How would the rapid nature of the NBA restart affect the title race in Orlando was one of the biggest mysteries revolving around the bubble experiment. And according to Marc Stein of the New York Times, a number of league insiders see the rejuvenated Portland Trail Blazers as a credible threat to the Lakers in the first round of the NBA Playoffs:
I spoke to representatives from two teams, from would-be sleepers in each conference, and received completely different forecasts about the impact of having just three weeks of full-speed practices before stuffing eight games into a 16-day window before the playoffs. One said that the compact comeback could be a true equalizer. Example: Some league insiders see Portland as a threat to upset the Lakers in a first-round series after welcoming back its previously ailing frontcourt pair of Jusuf Nurkic and Zach Collins.
The other executive, by contrast, described the eight seeding games all teams must play before the postseason as a lengthy runway that will afford the Lakers, the Bucks and the Clippers time to regain their March form.
The notion that Portland would topple L.A. in the playoffs is one that NBA analyst Charles Barkley has been touting as well.
Lakers head coach Frank Vogel expected his team’s defense to be ahead of offense in the early seeding games. Vogel has repeatedly said he believes the Lakers will regain the rhythm they had before the season was stopped in March as the bubble experiment continues.
LeBron focused on health, not playoff standings
LeBron James has not been too worried about the Lakers still finding their offensive flow in Orlando. But while the team is putting in an extra effort to make sure the improvements are in place before the playoffs start, the All-Star forward said health remains his priority.
“Health is wealth. That’s the No. 1 thing, and then chemistry comes with that on the floor,” James said. “Going into the postseason as healthy as we can be is what’s most important.
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