The NBA bubble has seen Zag vs. Zag, Zag replacing Zag, Zags hurting and Zags thriving.
Brandon Clarke and Zach Collins went at it during a seeding game as both picked up technical fouls after scoring on the other. Their rematch in Saturday’s Western Conference play-in didn’t materialize as Collins left in the first quarter with an ankle injury.
Clarke, meanwhile, was wildly efficient – no surprise to Gonzaga faithful who witnessed his junior season – with 20 points on 8-of-11 shooting in less than 25 minutes. It wasn’t enough as Memphis lost to Portland, which moves on to face the Los Angeles Lakers in the playoffs.
Gonzaga’s seven-player contingent has had an interesting run in the NBA restart. Six of the seven joined former GU analytics coordinator Riccardo Fois, now in player development with the Phoenix Suns, for dinner one night in Orlando, Florida.
Johnathan Williams stepped in for Rui Hachimura (quad) to start Washington’s final game. Domantas Sabonis (plantar fasciitis) didn’t play in seeding games but reportedly has an outside chance to return for Indiana’s playoff series against Miami.
Here’s a recap of the Zags thus far in the bubble.
Hachimura’s up-and-down rookie season continued in the restart. He had three 20-point games and three single-digit games. He started with a bang – 21 points and eight rebounds in a loss to Phoenix – but his efficiency waned in his final six games, save for a 23-point effort against New Orleans.
Hachimura’s bubble stats (14.4 points, 6.6 rebounds, 40% shooting) were close to his season averages (13.6 points, 6.1 boards, 46.6%), but he had five games shooting below 37% from the floor. That was the result of opponents tailoring game plans, knowing the Japanese native was Washington’s primary offensive weapon without Bradley Beal and John Wall.
“They guarded me much more tightly, but I learned how to operate under those circumstances,” Hachimura said. “I feel like I learned a lot during these seeding games.
“When John and Brad return, it’s going to be a fun team. I don’t know how much I can contribute, but I want to spend the offseason getting better.”
Clarke fit in perfectly on a young Memphis squad with a bright future. He was dynamic at both ends of the floor and joins Hachimura in contention for an All-Rookie Team selection. Ja Morant, Clarke’s teammate, is favored to be the Rookie of the Year.
One of the knocks on the 6-foot-8 Clarke entering the draft was his shortish 6-8 wingspan. The bouncy rookie quickly put that concern to bed with high-flying dunks, uncanny floaters in the lane and an improved 3-point stroke. He might prove to be the steal of the draft after being taken 21st overall.
Clarke reached double digits in seven of nine restart games, including 21 and 20 in two games vs. Portland. He finished the season averaging 12.1 points and 5.9 rebounds in 22.4 minutes per game.
Clarke made 61.8% of his field-goal attempts – a record for rookies who averaged at least 10 points – and nearly 36% on 3-pointers. He hit 75.9% at the free-throw line and swatted 48 shots in 58 games.
The restart gave Collins a chance to return after he suffered a dislocated shoulder in the third game of the season. The 7-footer’s bubble stats weren’t huge, but he did a nice job rebounding and stretching the floor.
Collins started every bubble game. He had at least five boards in every game, and delivered 11 points and eight rebounds in a key win over Dallas on Tuesday.
The sample size was smaller in Collins’ third NBA season, but his numbers are trending in the right direction. He averaged 26.4 minutes, 7 points, 6.3 rebounds, 1.5 assists, 36.8% beyond the 3-point line and 75% on free throws – all career bests. His field-goal percentage (47.1) was just behind last year’s 47.3.
Miami forward Kelly Olynyk was on fire early in the bubble with four consecutive games in double figures. He opened with four 3-pointers and 20 points against Denver and followed it up with four more 3s and 17 points against Toronto. He had 15 points, eight assists and six rebounds against Boston in the third game.
Olynyk’s stats tailed off in the past four games, but he still averaged 8 points and 6.3 rebounds. The seventh-year pro produced solid numbers this season, despite averaging a career-low 19.4 minutes. He’s averaging 8.2 points, 4.6 rebounds and 1.7 assists. His 40.6% 3-point accuracy and 86% at the foul line are career highs.
Williams, who started the season in Israel, joined the injury-riddled Wizards on a two-way contract in December when Hachimura (groin) and several others were sidelined. Williams appeared in 15 games, including four of eight in the bubble.
Williams started the final game Thursday and finished with 16 rebounds and five points in 25 minutes as Washington beat Boston for its only bubble win.
Williams averaged 12 minutes, 3 points and 4.3 rebounds on the season. He played in 17 games with Washington’s G League team and averaged 12.4 points, 9.1 rebounds and hit 66.9% of his shots.
Utah guard Nigel Williams-Goss made the most of his first NBA playing time since Jan. 8. He connected on two 3-pointers and scored 10 points in 22 minutes Thursday in a victory over San Antonio as the Jazz rested guards Mike Conley and Emmanuel Mudiay.
Williams-Goss played 50 minutes in 10 regular-season appearances. He averaged 15.3 points, 5.5 assists and 3.9 rebounds for G League Salt Lake City.
No. 6 Utah opens the playoffs against No. 3 Denver.
Sabonis had been dealing with discomfort in his left foot and it flared up during 5-on-5 sessions shortly after arriving in Orlando, according to the Indianapolis Star.
The 6-11 forward earned his first All-Star game nod, averaging 18.5 points and 12.4 boards for the Pacers in his fourth NBA season.
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