Ricky's Suns, Lillard, Raptors: bubble winners and losers

The NBA begins the playoffs this Monday with the game between the Denver Nuggets and the Utah Jazz after the last eight regular season games.


The NBA playoffs begin this Monday at 7:30 p.m. Denver Nuggets and Utah Jazz open fire in very special final rounds, with no field advantage and no spectators in the bleachers of the health bubble at the Walt Disney complex in Orlando (Florida). But before the teams begin the fight for the ring, let's review the best and worst that this season reboot in the North American League has left us.Winners in the bubble Phoenix Suns

The Arizona franchise is the great winner of Orlando, despite being left out of the playoffs due to a failure of LeVert in the last moments of the Portland Trail Blazers-Brooklyn Nets, which would have put them in the play in and eliminated to the Oregon franchise. The Suns came to Florida with the worst record in the Western Conference and the second-lowest of the 22 teams assembled at Walt Disney. Nobody was betting on them. However, they played an outstanding role, with eight victories in eight matches. Full full and only undefeated in this course restart. And all this with the losses of Baynes and Oubre, and a rotation in which only one player was over 26: Ricky Rubio. The Spanish international, with his role and that of the team, silenced the criticism leveled against him for his decision to sign for Phoenix. Devin Booker showed his offensive potential and his stripes within the group and the NBA. The Suns have a great bright future with Monty Williams on the bench.

Toronto Raptors

The champion wants to reign again. Its not a made up sentence. Not an empty intention. It is a palpable battle cry after what was seen in the bubble. The Canadian franchise has only lost one of the eight games played, to the Boston Celtics, with very symbolic triumphs before the Los Angeles Lakers and the Milwaukee Bucks, the two great candidates in the West and the East, respectively, to win the championship. Their record in the last twelve games is 11-1. Not bad for losing Kawhi Leonard last summer. The Raptors are a near perfect machine, with an extensive rotation, young and ambitious players and a leader forged by the hands of Nick Nurse: Pascal Siakam. Kyle Lowry and Fred Van Vleet are a perfect tandem and when they are missing, the base version of Marc Gasol appears: in the two games they both missed, the pivot gave 13 assists in 26 minutes. One every 120 seconds. Almost nothing.

Portland Trail Blazers -

- The Oregon franchise has saved multiple match points during this season restart to qualify for the playoffs for the seventh year in a row, all with Terry Stotts at the helm, who only missed his debut in Portland. The Blazers won six of eight games this mini-regular season and beat the Memphis Grizzlies in the first play-in. Damian Lillard was the big culprit: the MVP of the bubble in Orlando averaged 37.6 points, 3.9 rebounds and 9.6 assists with 43.6% in triples. He had stellar performances against the Sixers (51 points), the Mavericks (61) and the Nets (42). He got help from CJ McCollum, revelation Gary Tren Jr., and Carmelo Anthony, who is more than recovered for NBA basketball.

Michael Porter Jr and TJ Warren

Out of nowhere, Porter and Warren appeared. Both players have excelled during this first phase played in Orlando. The versatile Denver Nuggets forward is playing his first season in the league after spending his rookie year injured. He left small flashes before the break, highly conditioned by the safety minutes that Malone imposed on him from the bench. However, in the bubble he has loosened the strap and Porter has disguised himself as an All Star: 22 points on average in seven games with a top 37 against the Oklahoma City Thunder. For his part, Warren has found a perfect competitive habitat in Indiana after spending five seasons in Phoenix without playing anything relevant. These will be the first playoffs of his career and he reaches them with an average of 31 points in six games, a maximum of 53 against the Sixers.

Losers in the Bubble San Antonio Spurs

It was inevitable that it would happen. The San Antonio Spurs will not make the playoffs after 22 straight appearances. It is just one short of the record in American sport. And all of them under the tutelage of Gregg Popovich, who was only absent in his first year with the Texans. The competitiveness of the organization within the Wild West is incredible. But the story had to end after several years fooling around with this possibility and without LaMarcus Aldridge in Orlando. It will be rare to see a final rounds without them. The end of an era

New Orleans Pelicans

The Louisiana team is hype. It is a very cool team, with very cool players like Brandon Ingram, Lonzo Ball and Zion Williamson, a number one in the draft who raises many doubts because of his physique. However, as cool as they are, the Pelicans have made a nil return to competition, with just two wins in eight games. They have shown to be still half done, without order or concert or game. Now, once again, he must rethink his future after firing Alvin Gentry from the bench.

Washington Wizards

The capital franchise arrived without three big names in Orlando. John Wall (white year for the Achilles tendon), Bradley Beal and Davis Bertans stayed at home and the Wizards were shipwrecked at Walt Disney: just one win and on the last day. The problem was not its elimination, but its null effort to avoid the supposedly inevitable. The play in seemed far away and they did nothing to remedy it. Not a flash. Only shadows.

Sacramento Kings

Three wins in eight games and goodbye to the season. The California franchise is one more season out of the playoffs and already has 14 years in a row. The negative record in the NBA is 15, held by the Los Angeles Clippers, who opened it in 1976 as Buffalo Braves, passed through San Diego and closed it in Los Angeles in 1991. The problem was not so much not qualifying, which it is, but the manifest inability to show itself as a stable and reliable team, to create a group and a culture with a certain scent of a winner. There is no consistency in decisions and the 'back to the beginning' is the most used motto. A message that is repeated this summer after the departure of the entire board of directors with Divac at the head.

Memphis Grizzlies

He's a half loser. The Tennessee franchise landed in Orlando with a comfortable enough income to defend its eighth place. His season, until the break, was remarkable. Eight games and six losses later they lost that advantage. Not even the play in against Portland saved them from being out of the playoffs for the third year in a row. Jaren Jackson Jr's injury didn't help a team that was already dragging Justise Winslow's. Casualties that excuse a group that has the great news of the explosion, continuous and without apparent limits, of Ja Morant. Light at the end of the tunnel.

Photos from as.com
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