Interrupting the Grizzlies’ win over the Kings yesterday – the only game between Saturday and Tuesday featuring two Western Conference teams with winning records – Joey Crawford did his best to ensure everyone looks at him. It’s what he does.
LAKE BUENA VISTA, Fla. (AP) — The last time there was a slate of five or more NBA games on the same day, with every team scoring at least 110 points, was more than 32 years ago.
That is, until the opening of the league’s so-called bubble amid the coronavirus pandemic – where it already has happened twice.
Scoring numbers are soaring inside the NBA’s bubble, where the restarted season is happening at Walt Disney World. Entering Sunday’s games, 17 of the 22 teams inside the bubble were exceeding what had been their scoring averages before the season was suspended on March 11 because of COVID-19.
Games on average have seen nine points more than what had been the norm this season. The number of 3-pointers in each contest – which had been on a record clip when the season got suspended – is up as well. And Indiana’s T.J. Warren, not even a top-50 scorer when the pandemic hit, is leading the bubble in points per game so far, averaging 34.4 and nearly doubling what was his season average.
“T.J. Warren is on a different planet right now,” Pacers guard Victor Oladipo said.
He’s not alone. The bubble is working for just about everybody, or so it seems.
There was a six-game NBA schedule on Feb. 21, 1988, and all the teams playing that night scored at least 110 points. That hadn’t happened, on a day of five or more games, again in the NBA until July 31 – the second day of bubble games. It happened again Saturday.
Dallas coach Rick Carlisle says there might be multiple reasons why the numbers are up, but foremost on the list is that the NBA has created an environment where players are comfortable.
“We came from a situation at home where players could only do individual workouts, you know, with a coach with a mask on and rubber gloves,” Carlisle said. “When you walked in the practice facility, you had to clean your shoes. You had to fill out a form, you had to take your temperature, you had do a lot of things and that was before serial testing began. So a lot has gone into this.”
It’s paying off.
Maybe this should have been expected, even after teams went 4 1/2 months without playing a real game during the suspension. Hostile fans aren’t screaming at and distracting shooters in the bubble. Nobody is weary from a long flight the night before. And the conditions inside the three different game arenas at Disney – from the lighting to the temperature – are relatively close to identical.
“Obviously, even though we are playing on different courts, they all kind of feel like the same arena,” Milwaukee’s Brook Lopez said. “It’s not like we’re going from Milwaukee to Philly, Miami, back to Milwaukee or anything like that. It’s pretty consistent in that regard.”
Only five teams – New Orleans, Toronto, Washington, Oklahoma City and the Los Angeles Lakers – entered Sunday with a lower average in the bubble than they had before coming to Disney.
“It’s a very weird dynamic,” Lakers star LeBron James said. “I haven’t played in an empty gym in a very, very long time. It’s been a very long time since no one has been watching me play the game. I’m just trying to find that rhythm and lock in.”
Put simply, it is taking a ton of points to win. Entering the bubble, San Antonio had been 58-5 under coach Gregg Popovich when scoring 125 points or more; the Spurs are 0-2 at Disney when scoring that many. And entering Sunday, there had been 54 games completed in the bubble – with the winning team scoring at least 100 points in all 54 of them.
“I think shooting travels,” New Orleans’ J.J. Redick said. “If you can make shots, you can make shots. … I’ve shot in high school gyms. I’ve shot in civic centers. I’ve shot in arenas. I’ve shot in basements of Catholic administrative buildings. If you can make shots, you can make shots.”
Carlisle has another theory or explanation that can’t be argued: Wherever they are, bubble or no bubble, pandemic or no pandemic, NBA players in this era can score from practically anywhere.
“To me, it’s just the level of aggression of the players,” Carlisle said. “And the fact that, you know, the skill sets of NBA players are increasing exponentially by the month. I mean, it’s just getting harder and harder to guard these guys. There’s a high level of enthusiasm. The closeness of the games has been crazy to watch. It’s just been a very special time here – even though it’s been quite unusual.”
Paul Westphal, the Hall of Fame guard who played at the peak of his career with the Phoenix Suns (and earlier won a championship with the Boston Celtics) has been diagnosed with brain cancer.
Longtime sportswriter Mike Lupica made the announcement.
— Mike Lupica (@MikeLupica) August 9, 2020
Glioblastoma is a particularly aggressive and difficult form of cancer to treat.
Westphal was born and raised in the South Bay area of greater Los Angeles and went on to play his college ball at USC. He was the No. 10 pick of the Boston Celtics in the 1972 NBA Draft and went on to play three seasons with the Celtics, winning a title with them in 1974.
After that he went on to Phoenix, where he was an All-Star player and was named to the All-NBA team four times. Westphal also played for the Knicks and Sonics during his career. He was inducted into the Hall of Fame last September.
After playing he became a coach, spending at least part of seven seasons as the Suns head coach, plus he coached the Kings for three seasons.
One of the best-liked people in NBA circles, there are a lot of people in Westphal’s corner today and going forward.
“It’s great to see Book playing well and Phoenix playing well, but get my man out of Phoenix It’s not good for him, it’s not good for his career. Sorry Chuck, but they’ve gotta get Book out of Phoenix. I need my man to go somewhere that he can play great basketball all of the time and win, because he’s that kind of player.”
The second he said it, Ernie Johnson asked, “Are you tampering?” Green said, “maybe.”
The NBA said yes and has fined Green $50,000 for “violating the league’s anti-tampering rule.”
well this just happened pic.twitter.com/ZeVyNp8Blw
— Rob Perez (@WorldWideWob) August 7, 2020
In past years the NBA has mostly ignored player-to-player tampering, but after complaints from owners last season the league is cracking down on — at the very least — public tampering by players. Going on a popular national show to say Booker should leave Phoenix qualifies.
Just a reminder for fans of a team desperate for a star and suddenly looking at Phoenix, Booker has four years left (after this one) on his max contract extension. The Suns are building around him and Deandre Ayton — and right now it looks like it’s working (coach Monty Williams should get a lot of credit for that). The Suns aren’t looking to trade, Booker isn’t looking to leave (and has no leverage anyway), and the Suns seem to be building something real down in the Valley of the Sun.
The Bucks’ have one of the best defenses in NBA history, allowing 7.9 fewer points per 100 possessions than league average. The Mavericks have the highest offensive rating (116.5) in league history.
Something had to give.
And it was Luka Doncic – to teammate after teammate after teammate.
Doncic had 36 points, 19 assists and 14 rebounds in Dallas’ 136-132 overtime win over Milwaukee yesterday. He was in complete control as a scorer and passer, showing just how far he has come.
Doncic was just better.