Day 3 of the NBA restart in Orlando is in the books, and neither No. 1 seed has been clinched. The Lakers had a chance to do so in the West with a win, but they lost the Raptors, which also kept the Bucks from clinching in the East. Toronto continues to look like a real threat to get back to the Finals when damn near everyone counted them out the second Kawhi Leonard left.
Here’s the full set of results from Saturday’s bubble action, followed by five main takeaways:
Raptors 107, Lakers 92 (box score)
LeBron, A.D. lay an egg
LeBron’s numbers vs. Toronto looked fine by the end: 20 points, 10 rebounds and five assists on 7-for-15 shooting. But he wasn’t on his game. Offensively, that makes two straight tough outings for James, who is now a combined 13-for-34 (38 percent) from the field in the bubble.
Davis, meanwhile, was a ghost on Saturday. After scoring 34 points in the Lakers’ bubble opener, he only took seven shots against Toronto, connecting on two of them. He wound up with 14 points because he went 9-for-9 from the free-throw line; in reality, the same thing saved him against the Clippers, when he went 16-for-17 from the line but only 8-for-19 from the field. In other words, the Lakers’ stars are struggling to make shots so far in Orlando.
No Embiid … big problem
The Sixers have a history of going in the tank when Joel Embiid is off the floor, and it happened again on Saturday in Philly’s loss to the Pacers. Embiid was an absolute monster, going for 41 points, 21 rebounds, four assists, three blocks and a steal, and the Sixers were plus-21 in his 34 minutes. Problem is, they were minus-27 in the 14 minutes he sat. And there you have your six-point defeat for Philly.
This was the logic behind (over)paying Al Horford $109 million over four years. He was supposed to be the guy who mitigated the Sixers’ struggles when Embiid was out. Horford was minus-26 on Saturday. For all the excitement about shifting Ben Simmons to power forward, he still occupies a lot of the same spots that he did as a point guard, he still can’t (won’t) shoot, and he still cramps Embiid’s already limited space on a Sixers team that can’t collectively spread the floor with shooters.
The idea was that Shake Milton, the new starting point guard, would bring more shooting and playmaking to that position. It’s only one game, but he put up a donut on Saturday. Zero points in 19 minutes.
The good news is the Sixers probably didn’t even want to win this game. By losing, they stay in the No. 6 seed, which right now would mean a first-round matchup with Boston, against which the Sixers are 3-1 this season. Had they won, they would’ve jumped to the five seed, which would currently pit them against Miami, against which they are 1-3 this season, while also putting them in line to face Milwaukee one round earlier should they get that far. It’ll be interesting how hard Philly tries to win games over the remainder of their seeding schedule.
Jimmy Butler loves the freebies
Butler has almost completely put the lid on his jumper this season, operating pretty exclusively in the short mid-range area, as an at-rim finisher and as a distributor (he’s averaging a career-high in assists). His 2.2 3-pointers attempted per game is his lowest mark since his second year in the league, and he’s only making 24 percent of those, which is a career low if you don’t count his rookie season when he only played eight minutes a game.
So how’s he still averaging over 20 points a game? He’s a one-man parade to the free throw line. Coming into Saturday, Butler was getting to the charity stripe a career-high 9.1 times per game. He got there 11 times in Miami’s win over Denver, making 10. Meanwhile, all six of his baskets were layups, and he didn’t attempt a single shot outside the paint.
Miami has a lot of shooters and Bam Adebayo is the hub at the top of the offense, so it sets up well for Butler to roam lower on the court. But you wonder if the Heat can expect to make a deep playoff run when their best player is having the worst, and most limited, shooting season of his career.
T.J. Warren hangs 53
If you were unaware, the Phoenix Suns traded T.J. Warren to the Pacers for cash considerations. Didn’t even get a player in return. The guy was averaging just under 19 points per game coming into Saturday when he proceeded to put 53 on the Sixers. Warren shot 20-for-29 from the field, including 9-for-12 from beyond the arc. Those are both career highs, but again, don’t get it confused that this was some kind of complete aberration: Warren has always been able to score. The Suns (shocker) botched that one.
Chris Paul the master
Paul was phenomenal for OKC on Saturday, as he’s been all season, finishing with 18 points, seven assists and seven rebounds on 7-of-11 shooting as the Thunder blasted the Jazz. Paul controlled tempo, set everyone around him up with great shots and got to his patented elbow jumper at will.
Paul has arguably been a top-five MVP candidate this season and should make an All-NBA team. It continues to be hilarious that people thought he was done when Houston traded him to OKC. He’s having a historic season in clutch situations, but that wasn’t necessary on Saturday as the game was never close in the second half.