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Tramel: Predictions for the NBA bubble, including the OKC Thunder

One hundred forty-one days have passed since the NBA’s last real game. That changes Thursday night, with a Jazz-Pelicans and Lakers-Clippers doubleheader on TNT.

Somehow, the NBA doesn’t seem quite as important as it did back in March, when Rudy Gobert’s positive test for COVID-19 stopped basketball, and maybe America, in its tracks. Maybe that will change with the return of play. Or maybe the NBA will serve as much-needed diversion in these troubled times.

The 88-game schedule in Orlando – 22 teams playing eight games each – will be basketball on the fast track. Think George Jetson on that runaway treadmill. Games every other day for most teams, with an occasional back-to-back. Games played in the mid-week afternoon. Three games on one court, in some instances.

I went through the schedule and guessed the winner of each of the 88 games. I took into account quality of teams, injuries, players who chose not to enter the bubble and motivation of teams. On the latter, teams like the Bucks and Lakers are virtually locked into the No. 1 seed of their respective conferences. Teams like the Wizards, Suns and Spurs have scant chance of qualifying for the playoffs. Teams like the Nets don’t seem interested in being there at all.

Here’s what I came up with in Orlando, in order of record:

Boston 7-1:

Milwaukee 6-2

Miami 6-2

LA Clippers 6-2

New Orleans 6-2

Philadelphia 6-2

Dallas 5-3

Denver 5-3

LA Lakers 5-3

Oklahoma City 5-3

Utah 5-3

Toronto 5-3

Houston 4-4

Indiana 4-4

Sacramento 4-4

Memphis 3-5

Orlando 2-6

Portland 2-6

Brooklyn 1-7

Phoenix 1-7

San Antonio 0-8

Washington 0-8

Under such a scenario, the NBA standings would look like this:

WESTERN CONFERENCE

1. LA Lakers 54-17

2. LA Clippers 50-22

3. Denver 48-25

4. Utah 46-26

5. OKC 45-27

6. Houston 44-28

7. Dallas 45-30

8. Memphis 35-38

9. New Orleans 34-38

10. Sacramento 32-40

11. Portland 31-43

12. San Antonio 27-44

13. Phoenix 27-46

EASTERN CONFERENCE

1. Milwaukee 59-14

2. Toronto 51-21

3. Boston 50-22

4. Miami 47-26

5. Philadelphia 45-28

6. Indiana 43-30

7. Orlando 32-41

8. Brooklyn 31-41

9. Washington 24-48

Such a finish would create only one play-in series – Grizzles vs. Pelicans in the West. If the ninth-place team is within 4-1/2 games of the eighth-place team, those teams meet in a best of two-series. The No. 8 team needs to win only once, the No. 9 team needs to win twice.

The first-round playoff matchups would be this:

WEST

Lakers-Grizzlies/Pelicans

Thunder-Jazz

Nuggets-Rockets

Clippers-Mavericks

EAST

Bucks-Nets

Heat-76ers

Celtics-Pacers

Raptors-Magic

When you start seeing playoff matchups and potential seedings, you get a little more juiced for the post-season. And it all starts Thursday night, after 141 dark days.

Related Photos
Oklahoma City's Dennis Schroder (17) goes past LA's Reggie Jackson (1) during an NBA basketball game between the Oklahoma City Thunder and the Los Angeles Clippers at Chesapeake Energy Arena in Oklahoma City, Tuesday, March 3, 2020. [Bryan Terry/The Oklahoman]

Oklahoma City's Dennis Schroder (17) goes past LA's Reggie Jackson (1) during an NBA basketball game between the Oklahoma City Thunder and the Los Angeles Clippers at Chesapeake Energy Arena in Oklahoma City, Tuesday, March 3, 2020. [Bryan Terry/The Oklahoman]

<figure><img src="//cdn2.newsok.biz/cache/r960-f1f5d22005713e46978eac4e3044bc0c.jpg" alt="Photo - Oklahoma City's Dennis Schroder (17) goes past LA's Reggie Jackson (1) during an NBA basketball game between the Oklahoma City Thunder and the Los Angeles Clippers at Chesapeake Energy Arena in Oklahoma City, Tuesday, March 3, 2020. [Bryan Terry/The Oklahoman]" title="Oklahoma City's Dennis Schroder (17) goes past LA's Reggie Jackson (1) during an NBA basketball game between the Oklahoma City Thunder and the Los Angeles Clippers at Chesapeake Energy Arena in Oklahoma City, Tuesday, March 3, 2020. [Bryan Terry/The Oklahoman]"><figcaption>Oklahoma City's Dennis Schroder (17) goes past LA's Reggie Jackson (1) during an NBA basketball game between the Oklahoma City Thunder and the Los Angeles Clippers at Chesapeake Energy Arena in Oklahoma City, Tuesday, March 3, 2020. [Bryan Terry/The Oklahoman]</figcaption></figure>
Berry Tramel

Berry Tramel, a lifelong Oklahoman, sports fan and newspaper reader, joined The Oklahoman in 1991 and has served as beat writer, assistant sports editor, sports editor and columnist. Tramel grew up reading four daily newspapers — The Oklahoman,... Read more ›

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