The most wonderful time of the basketball year returns this Monday (17th) with the NBA Playoffs. We provide a rundown of the state of play, schedule, players, and more…
When do the NBA Playoffs begin?
The NBA Playoffs will begin on August 17th after a series of regular season ‘seeding’ games, that began on July 30th, were completed to determine the NBA playoffs brackets for each conference. Monday (17th) provides a bumper four fixtures to kick off the NBA playoffs, with sixth seed Utah Jazz taking on the Denver Nuggets, the Brooklyn Nets play the Toronto Raptors, Philadelphia 76ers take to the court against the Boston Celtics, while Kawhi Leonard’s LA Clippers match up against the Dallas Mavericks.
How are games being scheduled for the NBA Playoffs?
The first round of the NBA playoffs will have just under two weeks to complete (30th August), pending on whether all ties go to seven games. There will be at least one fixture every day between the 17th-30th to keep the NBA faithful entertained all around the world. The conference semi finals will begin on August 31st and run through till September 13th, with the conference finals played between September 15th and 28th. The hotly anticipated NBA Finals begin on September 30th and could conclude as late as October 13th.
Are teams playing at their own arenas for the NBA Playoffs?
Unfortunately, not. The NBA’s solution to getting on with the season amidst the Coronavirus pandemic is a ‘bubble’ of three venues in the ESPN Wide World of Sports Complex in Orlando, Florida, with no fans allowed in. Players are contained and living in the ‘bubble’ for the season’s remainder to prevent an outbreak across the league. Fans will tune in to the action on TV or by streaming live online.
What time will tip off be for the first game in the NBA Playoffs?
Tip off times will vary from 6:30pm, 9:00pm, 11:30pm and 2:00am BST, with fixtures set to be held most days of the week. The first game of the NBA playoffs, between Utah Jazz and Denver Nuggets (17th August), tips off 6:30pm BST.
What is the state of play in the NBA?
The NBA returned on 30th July with a reduced number of teams and fixture schedule in wake of the Coronavirus pandemic. All matches since then have taken place in the ESPN Wide World of Sport Complex in Disneyland, Florida, and will continue to do so for the season’s remainder.
The pre-bubble standings in the league saw little to play for at the top end of each conference, with only a matter of a few wins needed for the likes of the Bucks and the Lakers to secure their respective seeds. Shocks in terms of final finishes in the league were few, with the injury-stricken Golden State Warriors missing out on the NBA playoffs for the first time in five years. The tail end of the seedings, particularly in the Western conference, is where most attention was drawn.
Six teams in the Western Conference were in contention for one of the last eight places, but it was the Memphis Grizzlies and the Portland Trail Blazers that had to battle for a ‘play-in’ for the eighth seed, with the Grizzlies finishing within four games of their nearest counterparts. Damian Lillard rightly stole media hype with his 154 point haul in the final three seeding games, but it was teammates Jusuf Nurkic, CJ McCollum and stalwart Carmelo Anthony. The former of the three posted a double double, including a 21 rebound game that aided the Blazers’ endeavour for the NBA playoffs.
Bubble MVP went to Lillard considering his awe-inspiring performances, but a close second came in the form of Devin Booker. The 23-year-old averaged 31 PPG with 50% field goal percentage and was solidity personified for the Phoenix Suns. Despite the unrivalled 8-0 run in Florida, the Suns could not make the NBA playoffs for the tenth consecutive year, after relying on the likes of Portland to lose.
Pundits have long foreseen the 2020 Championship as a three-way shootout between the LA franchises and the Giannis-led Milwaukee Bucks. Each champion could solidify an argument for the G.O.A.T., put one on the pedestal as the best to do it, and the other usher in a new era of NBA superstar.
What have been the big talking points in the NBA this season?
- Dynamic Duo: ‘It’s exciting to have such a beautiful young mind and beautiful player’ exclaimed LeBron James upon Anthony Davis Jr’s arrival from New Orleans at the season’s beginning. The strength of the pairing, both in differing stages of their careers, have formed the bedrock of many milestones so far this season for the Lakers, including their 17-2 start. Both will hope they can reach the ultimate peak with a Finals victory.
- Dynamic Duo 2.0: Another new arrival to the Staples Center came in the form of reigning champion Kawhi Leonard. Coach Doc Rivers has done well to get a roster of players, of which has only been fully fit 11 times, to second seed. Injuries, suspensions and the pandemic halted on-court squad chemistry, but Leonard and teammate Paul George have met up with the squad to bond and build chemistry ahead of their run in the NBA playoffs.
- Cream of the New Crop: Ja Morant is looking to take the Rookie of the Year crown after a scintillating first campaign for the Memphis Grizzlies. The point guard, who played the last stretch of the season with a broken thumb, notching 18 PPG in the said time period. His competitor for the title, Zion Williamson, too garnered plaudits but had season-stunting operation on the night before the first throw in of the season that prevented his true impact being realised over the course of the season. Luka Doncic is already thinking of throwing his name into the hat for potential future MVP candidates and has been the driving force to the Dallas Mavericks’ first postseason berth in four years.
- Small Ball: The bastions of the new evolution of basketball, known as ‘Small Ball’, comes in the form of the Houston Rockets. The key principle is of sacrificing height and power for speed and three point ability. The success of the philosophy has been none more so clear than in the recent Golden State Warriors dynasty, but with the ‘Splash’ brothers out for this season, James Harden, Russell Westbrook and co. have adopted the title, particularly in the bubble.
- We The North: The loss of Kawhi Leonard to the LA Clippers has not deterred the Raptors, who are shaping up to be the dark horses in the run-in to the championship. The Canadian outfit have been all about consistency this term, and the talent from last year’s success will look to make light work of the Brooklyn Nets, who are missing superstars Kyrie Irving and Kevin Durant.
- Kobe Bryant RIP: The game lost one of its brightest stars in January. Kobe Bryant and eight others perished in a helicopter accident, including his daughter Gianna. The LA derby game, originally scheduled for the day Bryant passed, was postponed and played five days later. Tributes in the form of 8 and 24 second violations, in remembrance of Bryant and his shirt numbers, were enacted all over the league.
- Black Lives Matter Movement: The tragic murder of George Floyd has stirred a yearning for social justice around the world, highlighting inequalities within society and need for change. The NBA and its players have used their platform to give the movement a voice, from player donations to personalised messages on the back of shirts.
Who are the top players in the NBA this season? Who is in the running for MVP?
- LeBron James, Los Angeles Lakers (MVP Candidate) – The four-time MVP is in the hunt for his fourth NBA Championship, with lieutenant Anthony Davis Jr. by his side in LA. Injury plagued his first season with the franchise, and with the help of the aforementioned Davis, LeBron is back to his best – with the veteran leading the league in assists for the first time in his career (10.2). LeBron’s Lakers are favourites to pick up the Larry O’Brien trophy.
- Giannis Antetokounmpo, Milwaukee Bucks (MVP Candidate) – Or the ‘Greek Freak’, as we know him across the league, is out to retain the best in show for the NBA after picking up the MVP gong last season. Playing in *technically* the best team in the league (The Bucks are 56-17), Antetokounmpo could join prestigious company by being only the third player ever to pick up both the MVP and Defensive Player of the Year awards in the same season. The Championship however eludes the forward, and whispers of a move away from the Midwestern franchise to taste silverware will intensify should the Bucks miss out this year.
- James Harden, Houston Rockets (MVP Candidate) – Harden has made the All Bubble First Team, and it’s not surprising given the output of the 30-year-old. An average of 34 points and an eye-watering 54% shooting from the field since the restart has caught the eye of many. ‘The Beard’ won the MVP award back in 2018, but a deep run into the NBA Playoffs will be made much more difficult with the absence of a partner in crime Russell Westbrook (thigh strain), who will sit out the first few games of the first round match up against their old side, the Oklahoma City Thunder.
- Kawhi Leonard, Los Angeles Clippers – Leonard arrived in LA this season after leading former side Toronto Raptors to their first ever Championship, his personal second. The two-way player has worked his magic again and guided the Clippers to the second seed in the Western Conference for the first time in their history. He has best displayed his versatility in the bubble with a career high 39 points against the Brooklyn Nets, along with four steals. Leonard and the Clippers will take on the Dallas Mavericks in the first round on Tuesday (18th).
- Damian Lillard, Portland Trail Blazers – Somewhat of a cult hero, the point guard has lead his Trail Blazers to the NBA playoffs via a play-in game against the Memphis Grizzlies. Lillard’s form since resumption in Orlando has been inspired with an average of 38 PPG, including a 61 point haul against the Dallas Mavericks in the penultimate seeding game. It’s no wonder Dame was unanimously voted Bubble MVP. However, the mighty LA Lakers await Lillard and co. in the first round.
Can I bet on NBA Playoffs with Mark Jarvis?
Yes, you can bet on the NBA Playoffs. At Mark Jarvis, we provide over 15 different NBA markets for NBA Playoffs. We also have our NBA Outright Winner market, in which the Milwaukee Bucks are currently the favourites at 5/2* ahead of the Lakers at 13/5* to go all the way.
* Odds as of time of writing (Sunday 16th August 2020) and subject to change
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