By Leo Haggerty


The National Basketball Association’s “bubble” playoffs began this week with expectations for very little fireworks.  If the opening games of the redacted 2020 championship journey is any indication of what’s in store, the one thing we can count on is the unexpected.

Two examples of that are the first round upsets of the #1 seeds in both the East and the West.  The last team to get into the playoffs in both conferences certainly didn’t play like bottom-level clubs at all.

The #8-seed Orlando Magic beat the top-seeded Milwaukee Bucks 122-110.  Then, to top off the opening game upsets, the West #8-seed Portland Trail Blazers bested the #1-seed Los Angeles Lakers 100-93.

In the Magic victory, C Nicola Vucevic had a career playoff game.  #9 put up 35 points along with 14 rebounds plus four assists.  The seven-footer got plenty of help from his teammates as five other Magic played posted double-digit point efforts.

That offset a 31 point, 17 rebound, 7 assist effort by Milwaukee F Giannis Antetokounmpo.  “The Greek Freak” didn’t have as much help as only four other Bucks scaled the 10-point plateau.

The team statistics were pretty much equal except for one glaring exception and that was free throws.  Both teams made 18 foul shots but you had to look farther for the “hidden figures” of the contest.

Orlando was 18-of-19 from the charity stripe while Milwaukee was 18-of-28 from the line.  That’s 10 possible points that the Bucks didn’t put up on the scoreboard.

In the Western Conference, it was the Damian Lillard show.  The 6’2″ Blazers shooting guard dropped 34 on the Lakers with 18 of them of the 3-point variety.

For Los Angeles, LeBron James and Anthony Davis put up 51 of the Lakers points. The rest of the LA squad could only muster 42 markers.

Another game that where the winning team had a decided advantage. This one was in 3-point shooting.

Portland was a very respectable 13-of-34 from beyond the arch.  Los Angeles was a paltry 5-of-32 on three-pointers.

If you do the math, as I always encourage you to do, that adds up to 39 points for the Blazers and 15 for the Lakers.  That a +24 for Portland and that’s the difference in the contest.

Yes, I know, it’s only one game.  In fact, it may be the wake-up call that the Lakers and Bucks both needed.

Only way to find out is to tune in and watch.  Meet you at the TV.