NBA campus intel: Clippers and Blazers trade shade, T.J. Warren lights up Lakers


3:40 PM ET

  • ESPN.com

Damian Lillard might be the only player in the NBA capable of getting the last laugh after bricking a pair of critical free throws in the final minute of a loss and getting mocked and ridiculed by the opposing team.

That’s because Lillard is the only active player with a pair of series-clinching buzzer-beaters, which set him up for the perfect clapback to the antics of Patrick Beverley and Paul George on the LA Clippers‘ bench after the Trail Blazers star’s uncharacteristic clutch failure.

As Lillard calmly reminded the world, the first time he ended a series with a walk-off shot was against Beverley’s Houston Rockets in 2014. The 37-footer Lillard swished in George’s grill to finish last season’s first-round series against the Oklahoma City Thunder – and essentially end an era for that franchise, as it turned out – is fresh enough that no reminder was really necessary.

Lillard’s cold-hearted wave at Russell Westbrook and the rest of the Thunder ranks as the most memorable celebration in recent NBA history. It’s obviously still on George’s mind, as he imitated the gesture as the Trail Blazers left the floor after their 122-117 loss Saturday afternoon.

“The reason they reacting like that is because of what they expecting from me, which is a sign of respect and it just shows what I have done at a high clip more times than not,” Lillard said after mentioning that he had “sent home” Beverley and George before. “I am not offended by it.

“If anything, it should just tell you how much it hurt them to go through what I put them through in those situations previously.”

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1:36

Damian Lillard contends that Patrick Beverley and Paul George trolling him after his misses is a sign of respect and points out he’s sent both home in the playoffs.

One reason Lillard had opportunities to drill buzzer-beating daggers was because the clock operator did his job.

That’s a mundane task easily taken for granted. However, it didn’t happen in the final seconds of the first overtime with the Denver Nuggets trailing the Utah Jazz by two points in the another Saturday afternoon game, adding drama to the Western Conference’s wild day in the Walt Disney World bubble.

Once the dust cleared, and the play was reviewed, it was ruled that Nikola Jokic‘s bucket would have went through the net with 0.3 seconds on the clock if it had actually been running as it should have been. There was another clock malfunction on the ensuing play – giving the Jazz a second chance to try to prevent the second OT in a game Utah eventually lost – adding a bit of embarrassment for the league office.

So maybe it’s a good thing that the basketball world’s focus had shifted back to Lillard vs. the chippy Clips again by that point.

As tends to happen with the best NBA beefs, it had spilled over to social media, starting with George’s comment on an Instagram post featuring Lillard’s postgame reaction.

The scene on Instagram 🍿 👀 pic.twitter.com/wk4JuD5af7

— SportsCenter (@SportsCenter) August 8, 2020

“And you getting sent home this year,” George said with a crying laughing emoji. He added “respect” with a fist emoji.

Once again, Lillard got the last word with his reply to George: “keep switching teams … running from the grind . You boys is chumps.”

The NBA is truly back, in all its glory. — Tim MacMahon

PAST BUBBLE INTEL: July 30 | July 31 | Aug. 1 | Aug. 2 | Aug. 3 | Aug. 4 | Aug. 5 | Aug. 6 | Aug. 7


Latest buzz

T.J. Warren refuses to chill

Indiana Pacers forward T.J. Warren has been the most prolific scorer in the bubble and he continued rolling on Saturday evening against the Los Angeles Lakers. Warren increased his bubble-leading scoring average to 34.8 after a 39-point effort against the No. 1 seed in the Western Conference.

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T.J. Warren continues to light up the bubble as he drops 39 points on LeBron James and the Lakers, including a clutch 3-pointer late in the fourth to ice the game.

Warren closed the show with seven straight points to put Indiana ahead for good, as the Pacers improved to 4-1 in the bubble and moved a half-game ahead of Philadelphia for the No. 5 seed in the East.

Nuggets outlast Jazz in double overtime

The wildest ride at Walt Disney World Saturday wasn’t Big Thunder Mountain Railroad, it was the Jazz-Nuggets game. Utah led by as many as 18 points, but Jamal Murray — making his bubble debut — helped erase that lead and give Denver a 6-point lead with 19.4 seconds left in regulation.

But things were far from over. Donovan Mitchell made two free throws to slice the deficit to four, then, after a Denver turnover, knocked down a 3-pointer to make it a one-point game. After Jerami Grant split a pair of free throws, Mitchell’s driving layup with 0.9 seconds left sent the game into overtime.

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Despite clutch shots from Donovan Mitchell, Jamal Murray and Nikola Jokic answer with clutch shots of their own as the Nuggets pull off the the 134-132 double-overtime victory.

Mitchell’s clutch shooting continued in overtime, where he made a go-ahead 3-pointer with 30.8 seconds left, then — after a pair of Nikola Jokic free throws — put Utah up 2 with 3.4 seconds left. But Jokic responded with a layup with 0.3 seconds to force a second overtime, though that wasn’t without controversy.

The drama continued in the second overtime, when Mitchell made a 3-pointer with 5.6 seconds left to cut Denver’s lead to 2. Murray was fouled and missed both free throws, but the Jazz were out of timeouts and Mitchell’s half-court heave fell short, allowing the Nuggets to escape with a two-point win.

Ben Simmons to undergo knee surgery

Philadelphia 76ers guard Ben Simmons will undergo surgery to remove a loose body in his left knee, sources tell ESPN’s Adrian Wojnarowski. While the 76ers haven’t ruled Simmons out for the season, sources say it would take a deep playoff run for him to return. For now, Philadelphia — currently tied with the Indiana Pacers for 5th in the East — will need to prepare for a postseason without Simmons.

Full story | What it means

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1:16

Paul Pierce reacts to Ben Simmons’ injury that forced him to leave the 76ers’ game vs. the Wizards and how this could affect Philadelphia’s playoff chances.

NBA names awards finalists

Reigning NBA Most Valuable Player Giannis Antetokounmpo, four-time winner LeBron James and 2018 MVP James Harden headline the list of finalists for the NBA’s six major individual awards, all of which were announced Saturday afternoon. Full story »

The three finalists for #KiaMVP@Giannis_An34, @JHarden13 and @KingJames! pic.twitter.com/ORuBapQO9n

— NBA (@NBA) August 8, 2020


Saturday’s games

Full scoreboard for Saturday


Play-in watch

The Eastern Conference playoff teams are set and there will be no East play-in game next weekend after the Washington Wizards were officially eliminated Friday.

In the Western Conference, only two games Saturday involve bubble teams. The Sacramento Kings avoided elimination when the Portland Trail Blazers lost to the LA Clippers. And the Phoenix Suns, the last team without a loss in Florida, will look to keep the positive vibes going against the Miami Heat.

Western Conference

8. Memphis Grizzlies | 33-37 (.471) | —

9. Portland Trail Blazers | 32-39 (.451) | 1.5 GB

10. San Antonio Spurs | 30-38 (.441) | 2.0 GB

11. New Orleans Pelicans | 30-39 (.435) | 2.5 GB

12.Phoenix Suns | 30-39 (.435) | 2.5 GB

13. Sacramento Kings | 29-40 (.420) | 3.5 GB

Full standings | Playoff matchups


Sunday’s must-see games

Memphis Grizzlies vs. Toronto Raptors | 2 p.m. ET

It was a first for both teams on Friday in the bubble — Memphis picked up its first win, while Toronto was dealt its first loss. The Grizzlies earned a much-needed victory over Oklahoma City to hold on to eighth place in the Western Conference playoff race. On the other hand, the Raptors dropped their first game to Boston in their largest loss of the season.

Because of the quirks with seeding-game scheduling and the end of the regular season, this is the only meeting between Memphis and Toronto this season. Both teams will be wearing their classic uniforms for this game: Toronto in its original dino jerseys and Memphis with its teal Vancouver jerseys. — Andrew Lopez

San Antonio Spurs vs. New Orleans Pelicans | 3 p.m. ET on ABC

These two teams have met only once this season: Zion Williamson‘s debut on Jan. 22. Despite Williamson’s 17-point outburst in a 3-minute, 8-second stretch in the fourth quarter, San Antonio held on for a 121-117 victory. Originally, the teams were set to play three times over the final 14 games, including the regular-season finale. Instead, this is their only matchup on the NBA campus.

San Antonio is making a push for a playoff spot, while the Pelicans are just happy to be in the race after dropping three of their first four games in Florida. Williamson, who did not play against the Wizards on Friday on the second night of a back-to-back set, is expected to be available against San Antonio.

Philadelphia 76ers vs. Portland Trail Blazers | 6:30 p.m. ET

Without guard Ben Simmons on Friday, Philadelphia seemingly sleepwalked through three quarters against Orlando before pulling away for a victory in the fourth quarter against a Magic squad that was missing Aaron Gordon (hamstring) and Jonathan Isaac (ACL). Philadelphia has been up and down in the bubble despite coming away with a 3-1 record — picking up a win over San Antonio despite a furious Spurs comeback, a single-digit win over Washington and then the victory over Orlando.

Meanwhile, the Trail Blazers are continuing their push to make the playoffs and turn up the pressure on the Grizzlies for the eighth seed. Portland will be playing the second game of a back-to-back. At the very least, Portland is putting itself in the right spot for the inevitable play-in tournament in the West.

Additional games

Full scoreboard for Sunday


Analysis and intel

New NBA playoff predictions: Who grabs the 8-seed to play the Lakers?

The Blazers’ surge has changed the West play-in race. Here are the latest projections.

Will Luka Doncic make magic in the NBA playoffs?

The NBA playoffs won’t be the first postseason of Doncic’s pro career. Does that mean he’ll be ready to roll?

Story first appeared on ESPN.com


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