Everything is different': NBA returns to play inside the bubble | KOMO

The 40 minute exhibition scrimmage matches are officially over and now the games count. After 141 days the NBA’s 2019-2020 regular season is officially back. For the remainder of regular season, games will be played all day, offering fans an intense slate of quality games to indulge in.

The 22 teams in the bubble have not slacked off during the hiatus and Thursday’s match-ups were phenomenal showcases.

The NBA’s Opening Night Spotlight

The debut game featured the Utah Jazz versus the New Orleans Pelicans. Utah was able to grind out a win with a 106-104 victory. Appropriately the Utah Jazz’s Rudy Gobert scored the first points of the restarted NBA season. “The Stifle Tower” finished with a 14 point 12 rebound double-double while also swatting away three shots. Rookie sensation Zion Williamson only played 15 minutes in the contest, finishing with 13 points.

With the Jazz versus Pelicans game serving as a hearty appetizer, all eyes were eager to enjoy the main course of the evening, a Los Angeles grudge match between the Lakers and the Clippers. The Lakers won in a back and forth duel behind Anthony Davis’ 34 point performance. Lebron James flirted with a Triple double as he poured in 16 points, 11 rebounds and 7 assists.

The New Look Defending Champions

The team as a whole arrived to “The Bubble” with the whole team looking leaner and more athletic. Defending their NBA championship has clearly stayed on the entire team’s mind over the 4 month hiatus. They came into the bubble looking to resume their winning ways. The biggest fault of the Raptors this season has been their injury list. It was extremely rare that the Raptors had a full roster available and they spent the hiatus rectifying the issue.

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The Bigs

Serge Ibaka shined during the exhibition matches. The Rockets small ball line-up had no answers for the big man. In 17 minutes Ibaka shot a staggering 80% (8 of 10) from the field en route to his 18 point performance. The trend continued against Portland as the big utilized his expanded range to punish the opposing centres, shooting 60% (3/5) from beyond the arc. Ibaka finished with 19 points in that match.

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Marc Gasol‘s bubble debut against was something to get excited about for Raptors fans. After a summer where he played a major role on two championship teams the Spanish centre spent missed 28 games of the pre-pandemic regular season riddled with injuries. During the 4 month hiatus Gasol dedicated himself to healing his hamstring and working on his overall fitness. In 10 minutes of play he added 3 points and 4 rebounds against Portland. Against the Phoenix Suns he was able to battle for 9 rebounds, put up 5 points and his defence was showcased with a steal and 2 blocks in 20 minutes.

The Bench Mob

The Raptors bench was ferocious as they averaged 46.3 points in the limited minutes of the scrimmage games. Norman Powell and OG Anunoby are a big part of the power of the bench mob. Having multiple starting calibre players off the bench allows the Raptors to be extremely malleable in both the offensive and defensive line-ups they utilize in every game. The younger bench pieces Terence Davis, Chris Boucher, and Matt Thomas add their own layers to the Raptors’ style of play. Toronto utilized 15 different starting line-ups throughout the season due to injuries. Those different line-ups have forced them to learn adapt to each match-up they have faced in unique and effective ways.

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The All-Stars

Kyle Lowry came into the bubble scrimmages looking leaner but his grit and grind hustle remained the same. Against Houston, Lowry set the tone for the Raptors as he relentlessly attacked the rim and took charges. He was a sniper from distance as he shot 53.9% (7/13) from beyond the arc in the three scrimmage matches, averaging 11.7 points over the three games. He also averaged 5 assists per contest.

Pascal Siakam utilized his well-rounded skill set as he continued to showcase his offensive evolution. The slashing forward shot 41% from beyond the arc, averaging 16 points during the shortened scrimmages. The Raptors see consistent success when Siakam is attacking the rim and when his threes are falling there are few teams that can stop him.

The Raptors are Ready

The consensus for the Raptors after the third scrimmage game was that they were eager for the regular season to resume. Every player has their eyes set on a deep playoff run. The champs look healthier and hungrier than ever, and are ready for a climactic end to the NBA’s weirdest season.

The Toronto Raptors first game is against the Los Angeles Lakers on Saturday August 1st at 8:3o PM/EST.

Basketball is back!