When the 2019-20 NBA season tipped-off again in October, the consensus favorites to succeed in the Western Convention Finals have been the Los Angeles Clippers and the Los Angeles Lakers. Each groups had revamped their rosters a bit and added new star energy.
Because the season progressed, each groups have been seemingly dwelling as much as the preseason hype as the 2 greatest groups within the West. The Lakers sat firmly atop the convention within the No. 1 seed, whereas the Clippers, regardless of some inconsistency within the lineup, have been proper behind at No. 2.
When the NBA’s restart bubble acquired underway final month, nothing had modified when it comes to both of those two groups reaching the Finals.
However then, precise bubble gameplay began and issues began to look a little bit bit shaky.
To start with, it is a a lot completely different setting than gamers are used to. For starters, it’s an remoted bubble away from household and mates with minimal contact with the skin world. Secondly, the video games have rather more of an intimate really feel with no followers, no enviornment employees, solely who’s been deemed important personnel. It was at all times going to be an adjustment for gamers.
However sure groups have come into the bubble and have maintained robust consistency. The Clippers and Lakers have been something however constant. And for veteran-led groups with championship aspirations, that needs to be a minimum of mildly regarding.
Coincidently, their first recreation within the bubble was towards one another. It was one of many higher video games both groups have performed and it got here right down to the ultimate possessions, culminating in an eventual game-winner from LeBron James. The Clippers have been lacking a number of key gamers, however the recreation nonetheless appeared like a battle between two titans and a doable preview of issues to come back.
Issues veered south after that.
Earlier than the first-round playoff motion acquired underway, the Clippers had, for probably the most half, taken care of enterprise. They went 5-3 within the seeding video games and held off the Denver Nuggets for the No. 2 seed. However regardless of the wins, they appeared inconsistent and like a crew who hasn’t fairly had the chance to actually gel as a cohesive unit. With accidents hitting the crew all season, after which key gamers leaving the bubble, that was most likely to be anticipated. It’s just a bit bit late within the season now to fret about coming collectively.
Of their first-round playoff sequence towards the Dallas Mavericks, the Clippers now discover themselves tied 1-1. They haven’t in any respect appeared like a crew able to contend for a title. The Mavericks have been accountable for Sport 1 till Kristaps Porzingis acquired hit with a second technical foul for his function in an altercation and was ejected from the sport.
In Sport 2, the Clippers trailed however have been in putting distance within the second half. However the Mavericks used a late third-quarter run to grab management once more they usually by no means appeared again. After the sport, each Kawhi Leonard and Paul George spoke about enduring powerful losses within the playoffs as a method of having the ability to battle adversity and studying from them.
However make no mistake, the Mavericks now have a world of confidence and are led by a budding celebrity in Luka Doncic who shouldn’t be backing down in any respect in his playoff debut.
Within the Lakers’ scenario, they really appeared a lot worse within the seeding video games. They went 3-5 and have been a far cry from the crew that powered their means atop the West. They too are lacking key gamers, nevertheless. Avery Bradley determined to opt-out of the restart and Rajon Rondo has but to swimsuit up within the bubble resulting from harm.
They discovered themselves matched up towards the red-hot Portland Path Blazers within the first spherical and a scorching Damian Lillard who averaged proper round 50 factors a recreation in the course of the Blazers’ closing seeding video games. The Lakers had stretches in Sport 1 the place they resembled the crew from earlier within the season, however they couldn’t shut it out and the Blazers took a 1-0 sequence lead.
Portland additionally has a world of confidence now and it might be argued that the Blazers are a significantly better crew than their document signifies. This crew was within the convention finals a 12 months in the past and acquired hit with accidents this season. And what might be troubling for the Lakers is that the Blazers seemingly discovered a approach to negate their measurement benefit within the paint.
In any case, the 2 high groups within the West definitely have their palms full of their opening-round playoff sequence. Standard logic says the Lakers and Clippers each discover a approach to win and advance to the following spherical. Even in a season similar to this that’s something however regular, it’s very powerful to image them having first-round flameouts.
However what might be the ultimate takeaway for his or her opponents across the league is that neither of those groups is an unbeatable drive. And maybe Dallas and Portland are giving the remainder of the league the blueprint. One factor is for positive: If the Clippers and Lakers actually do need to win a championship this season, they should get it collectively, shortly.