The NBA players have decided to resume the playoffs in the bubble. Is now the right time to keep playing basketball or do you wish the rest of the season would have been canceled?
Brandon Ewing (@B_Skip1717): The players know what is best and I side on whatever decision they make. I think the Milwaukee Bucks made an incredible statement when they decided to boycott their playoff game yesterday, which was echoed throughout the world. The courage that goes into making that decision inspired so many other sports leagues to boycott their games as well. Not only did the NBA send a message yesterday, but they will continue to do so as long as they are in the bubble and beyond. I look forward to what the NBA and it’s players has in store for us next.
Gage Bridgford (@GbridgfordNFL): I don’t wish the rest of the season had been cancelled strictly from the standpoint that basketball and sports in general being back had finally given us some normalcy after the past 5 months. I think last night, showing that they don’t have to play if they don’t want to, showed the power they have. They shut the NBA down for an entire night, and they dominated the news cycle and put the ball in the owner’s court. It’s now on the owners to make the changes they have the power to make. If they don’t, I wouldn’t be surprised to see the season fully shut down.
Quenton Albertie (@qshironalbertie): Unless the players believe that cancelling the rest of the season will be a major catalyst for bringing about change to the civil unrest and lack of basic human decency we’ve been seeing extended towards African-Americans, then I don’t think they should cancel. Personally, I believe that the players made a tremendous statement on Wednesday and one that can’t be ignored. It’s quite powerful for not just influential public figures to take a stand but for those individuals to even consider ignoring a game they’ve loved their whole lives for the purpose of trying to create change.
When the Nuggets do take the court again, do you like their chances to push this series against Utah to a seventh game?
Ewing: I am confident in the Nuggets chances to push this series to seven games, but I was also fairly confident they would make it to the NBA finals. The Nuggets defense has been abysmal in the bubble, but it was really good in the second half of Game 5. If the Nuggets can keep up that defensive intensity, this series is going seven games. I am just not confident they are going to be able to do that, but I hope they prove me wrong.
Bridgford: I give them a chance if Gary Harris comes back at full strength. If they trot out the same rotation for Game 6, I just don’t have a ton of faith. It took a Herculean first quarter from Nikola Jokic to keep the game close in Game 5, and Jamal Murray went nuclear for the second straight game to stave off elimination. These guys are both showing serious star potential, but they need more help than they’re getting right now.
Albertie: I believe that the effort and defensive focus that they displayed in the second half of Game 5 is sustainable, even if Jamal Murray’s scintillating performances aren’t. Not only did Nuggets head coach Michael Malone make necessary adjustments to how they defend the pick-and-roll but he made rotation (and lineup) decisions that seem to have helped the team defensively. The potential return of Gary Harris will be a bonus.
How much of a different will Gary Harris make if he s able to return to the lineup in Game 6?
Ewing: The Gary Harris situation is an interesting one because on one hand he gives you a tremendous defender to put on Donovan Mitchell. On the other hand, it will be Harris’ first game in five months and I have no idea what that is going to look like. If Harris can give the Nuggets just 15-20 high-quality minutes, I think he could play a major role in deciding who wins this series.
Bridgford: I think the return of Harris would make a dramatic difference for this roster. He would give them their best shot at guarding Donovan Mitchell effectively. Even if he doesn’t bring anything to the offensive end, he would give them a player with the athleticism and defensive instincts to stay in front of him for 35-40 minutes a night.
Albertie: I believe that it’s important to remember that Harris has essentially went five and a half months without playing competitive basketball, so his conditioning could truly be a factor when determining how big of a role he’ll play. That said, I believe he should get the start and even if he has to play in short bursts to maximize his productivity, he’ll make a significant difference in how well they’re able to guard Donovan Mitchell.
Prediction for how the rest of the series shakes out?
Ewing: My initial prediction was Nuggets in 5, which almost turned into Utah in 5. The Nuggets showed me something in Game 5 though that makes you wonder just how far they can push this series. We have seen the Nuggets with their backs against the wall time a plenty and they have often thrived in those situations. What the hell, Nuggets in 7.
Bridgford: If Denver’s defense can play closer to how it did in Game 5 than in Games 1-4, they can win this series in seven. However, if Utah keeps getting all of these open looks, which they’re hitting, this series is over. I think Denver ultimately loses in seven. This Utah offense is just hot, and they’re getting career-shooting nights from everyone that gets on the floor. Maybe with health and another year of seasoning, Denver will be able to push through next year, but I’ve seen a lot of things to doubt this year.
Albertie: Before the series started, I had the Nuggets winning in seven games. Because of Denver having to when three straight games against a tough Utah team that’s watching Mitchell blossom into a superstar, my confidence in my prediction has admittedly taken a realistic hit. Nonetheless, I do think that the Nuggets have found a sustainable recipe for success and as everybody knows, anything can happen in a Game 7. As long as Denver wins Game 6, I’m pretty sure they can make it to the Western Conference semis.