WHO WILL RULE THE NBA BUBBLE?
Sorry Rookie of the Year Luka Doncic and reigning MVP Giannis Antetokounmpo. Your triple-double rush this season with the Dallas Mavericks and do-it-all game with the Milwaukee Bucks are not enough to convince Saipan basketball fans that your squad will take the championship in the NBA Bubble.
Not even Damian Lillard and the Portland Trail Blazers’ upset in yesterday’s first round playoff series opener against the Los Angeles Lakers could persuade the island’s NBA followers from reconsidering their obvious picks for the winner of the Larry O’Brien trophy—the team known for its purple and gold jersey.
“Lakers in 7 over the Clippers because LeBron is just a different animal in the playoffs plus with Anthony Davis (barring any injury) and great, experienced supporting cast,” said Charlie Rivera, who ironically is a supporter of the Lakers’ No. 1 rival, the Boston Celtics.
Despite choosing the Lakers, Rivera felt the Lakers road to the NBA Finals will be tough, especially in the first round.
“The Lakers should not take for granted the lethal combo of Lillard and [CJ] McCollum of Portland and with Melo [Carmelo Anthony] proving he can still play at a very high level and now knows how to play defense, these guys have a chance to upset the great Lakers,” Rivera said.
The Blazers did stun the highly favored Lakers, 100-93, in Game 1 of their best-of-seven first round series in the Western Conference.
Marianas High School coach and former CNMI National Team player Preston Basa also gave props to “Dame” and company, but will still put his money on the Lakers.
“I’m going to say Lakers and the Raptors (NBA Finals pairing). However, the Blazers are looking really good, but not enough to change my mind at this time,” Basa said.
Rollers Basketball Club founder and head coach Joe Diaz also thinks the Lakers will play the Toronto Raptors in this season’s finale.
“Lakers definitely have the edge, but it will be close. Still, I would still pick Toronto Raptors because they have a very good coach [Nick Nurse] and play like my team—the Golden State Warriors—which they defeated last season,” Diaz said.
If and when the Lakers eliminate the dangerous Blazers, they will play in the West semis the winner in the Houston Rockets-Oklahoma Thunder, while the other pairings in the group are Denver Nuggets against Utah Jazz and LA Clippers versus the Dallas Mavericks. Over on the east side, the Bucks are paired against the Orland Magic; Raptors opposite the Brooklyn Nets; Indiana Pacers versus the Miami Heat; and the Boston Celtics against the Philadelphia 76ers.
Rick Brien, a Lakers fan, believed it will be LA against LA in the West finals before his favorite team battles Antetokounmpo’s Bucks for all the marbles.
“The Lakers and Clippers are pretty equal in terms of offense, so defense will be the key. In the Eastern Conference, it will be Raptors and Bucks. If Toronto manages to contain Giannis, the Raptors will return to the finals,” Brien said.
“If it’s Lakers and Bucks in the finals, my team will have the big advantage in experience because the Bucks have a lot of young players and their inexperience showed when they lost last season to the Raptors,” he added.
The Bucks won the first two games in last year’s NBA Finals only to collapse, as the Raptors swept the next four to win the division and eventually the title after stunning the Warriors, 4-2.
It’s interesting to note that the Lakers missed last season’s playoffs, but that sorry performance was already a thing of the past, according to referee/masters player Sonny Ebuen.
“They now have Anthony Davis to work with LeBron. Both LA teams will play in the West finals and though Lakers will have a hard time against the Clippers, still they will win,” Ebuen said, who then chose Boston as the dark horse to challenge Bucks in the East finals.
“I would have picked the 76ers, but Ben Simmons got injured,” Ebuen said.
Rivera is also not giving up on his Celtics.
“Boston is my dark horse in the East, if Jason Tatum and Jaylen Brown continue doing great things in the bubble plus Kemba Walker and Gordon Hayward getting back to their All-Star form, the Celtics have a chance to make it to the East finals,” Rivera said.
Basketball game announcer Alvin Alvarez is going sentimental with his choice.
“Wouldn’t it be nice if the Lakers win this year’s championship in memory of Kobe?”