Eye on the 8: How Blazers, other playoff hopefuls look after scrimmages
The NBA resumption of the 2019-20 season officially tips off Thursday.
Now that the Trail Blazers and five other teams are looking to secure the final playoff spot out West, let’s take a quick look at how each team fared during their scrimmage games.
This series titled ‘Eye on the 8’ will be your one-stop-shop for everything surrounding the battle for the eighth and final playoff spot in the Western Conference as we take a look at the Trail Blazers road to the postseason as well as the other teams vying for a playoff berth.
Here are the highlights, lowlights, top quotes, and scrimmage records from the bottom half of the Western Conference teams in Orlando…
Portland Trail Blazers
Scrimmage Record: 0-3
Scrimmage #1 – IND 91, POR 88
Scrimmage #2 – TOR 110, POR 104
Scrimmage #3 – OKC 131, POR120
Highlights: The return of Jusuf Nurkic and Zach Collins. There was no need to shake off any rust, because these two looked ready to go.
Lowlights: Defending the perimeter, rebounding, and minor injuries.
Injury Notes: Nassir Little (concussion) missed the first two scrimmages, while Hassan Whiteside (Achilles strain) missed the first scrimmage and Damian Lillard (left foot inflammation) missed the final two.
Quotable: “Nurk’s gonna compete every night. Whiteside’s gonna compete every night and that’s what we love about both of them.” -- CJ McCollum after Portland’s second scrimmage
Scrimmage Record: 1-2
Scrimmage #1 – PHL 90, MEM 83
Scrimmage #2 – HOU 119, MEM 104
Scrimmage #3 – MEM 128, MIA 110
Highlights: Rookie of the Year favorite Ja Morant has continued to put on a show in Orlando. Morant closed out scrimmage play with a double-double. The 20-year-old PG finished with 22 points, 12 assists, three rebounds and one steal.
Injury Notes: PF Jontay Porter’s (knee) status is day-to-day. SF Justise Winslow will miss the remainder of the season due to a hip injury that he suffered in practice last week in Orlando.
Quotable: “We’re sorting through different combinations, but not trying to lose the lineups that were successful for us to this point. We’re going to have some really tough decisions to make, but that only means you have some great depth... We’re always prepared to have 17 guys ready to go at any given moment.” -- Grizzlies head coach Taylor Jenkins on his team's depth
New Orleans Pelicans
Scrimmage Record: 3-0
Scrimmage #1 – NO 99, BKN 68
Scrimmage #2 – NO 119, DEN 104
Scrimmage #3 – NO 124, MIL 103
Highlights: New Orleans got their superstar rookie back just in time. Zion Williamson, who left the NBA's restart campus in Orlando to tend to a family emergency, completed his quarantine from leaving the Bubble and participated in the Pelicans practice Tuesday night.
Orlando Bubble Notes: There’s so much riding on Zion’s return to play. However, with Brandon Ingram, Jrue Holiday and Lonzo Ball, there is plenty of potential for the young Pelicans to make the playoffs.
Injury Notes: Small forward Darius Miller (Achilles) will not play in the NBA restart.
Quotable: "Yeah. We’ve played enough in practice. We’re one of a handful of teams that have done a lot of five-on-five full-court, so I feel like we’ve gotten enough work in... We’ll be ready to go on Thursday.” -- JJ Redick
Scrimmage Record: 1-2
Scrimmage #1 – MIA 104, SAC 98
Scrimmage #2 – MIL 131, SAC 123
Scrimmage #3 – SAC 106, LAC 102
Highlights: With a thin frontline right now, Kent Bazemore and Nemanja Bjelica have been stepping up for the Kings. Harrison Barnes tested positive for COVID-19 in mid-July, but last week he was back on the court and trying to get back into the swing of things.
Lowlights: Kings point guard De’Aaron Fox rolled his left ankle in practice on July 15. But, not even two weeks later, Fox returned to action in limited minutes. The Kings will obviously need a healthy Fox to make any noise in Orlando. Turnovers have been a major problem for the Kings so far in Orlando.
Injury Notes: PF Marvin Bagley (foot sprain) is out for the remainder of the season. SF Harrison Barnes cleared COVID-19 protocol on July 24.
Scrimmage Record: 2-1
Scrimmage #1 – PHX 101, UTH 88
Scrimmage #2 – BOS 117, PHX 103
Scrimmage #3 – PHX 117, TOR 106
Highlights: Following up a near triple-double performance in Thursday's win, Devin Booker posted a near double-double Sunday.
Orlando Bubble Notes: Ricky Rubio arrived in Orlando on July 17 after testing positive for COVID-19 earlier in the month. He participated in his first practice last Tuesday. The Suns have struggled in the assists department as Rubio gets back to full game mode.
Injury Notes: PF Dario Saric (ankle) and C Aron Baynes (COVID-19) are day-to-day. SF Kelly Oubre (right knee) has yet to participate in any contact drills in practice.
Quotable: “The 3-point shot is something that everybody is talking about, but I think it really takes away from what he’s done defensively. I believe that DA has every tool to be a Defensive Player of the Year candidate.” -- Suns head coach Monty Williams on DeAndre Ayton’s performance in Orlando
San Antonio Spurs
Scrimmage Record: 1-2
Scrimmage #1 – MIL 113, SA 92
Scrimmage #2 – BKN 124, SA 119
Scrimmage #3 – SA 118, IND 111
Highlights: The Spurs have shared the ball well especially in their final scrimmage on Tuesday. San Antonio finished with 29 assists in Sunday’s win led by point guard Dejounte Murray, who had 12 points, eight rebounds, six assists and a steal.
Bubble Notes: The Spurs are going to rely heavily on their leading scorer DeMar DeRozan and young big man Jakob Poeltl with no LaMarcus Aldridge (shoulder) in Orlando.
Injury Notes: PF Trey Lyles (appendicitis) is also out for the season.
Quotable: ''It's important. It's one element of the big picture of the San Antonio Spurs organization... But, at the same time, you got to look at the big picture... in trying to bridge the gap between the success the Spurs have had and where that sees us in the future.'' -- Patty Mills on trying to extend the 22-year playoff streak
Teams traveled to Orlando from July 7-9 ahead of their training camps and scrimmage games.
Now it’s time for the season to resume with seeding games beginning July 30.
And don’t forget:
There will be play-in games if necessary on Aug. 15-16.
BUT -- if the team with the eighth-best combined winning percentage (regular season games and seeding games) in a conference is more than four games ahead of the team with the ninth-best combined winning percentage, then the team with the eighth-best combined winning percentage will earn the eighth and final playoff spot and no Play-In Game(s) would be needed.
The playoffs start Aug. 17.