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Sports Corner

By: Robert Bishop

Back again, and in a near worst-case scenario for the Philadelphia 76ers, All-Star Ben Simmons’s knee injury will require surgery. Barring a deep playoff run—something made much more difficult without Simmons—Philadelphia will be without the superstar’s services for the rest of this season. The long-term future is also a question mark as Philadelphia is likely looking at an early exit in the playoffs. The franchise could look to cut payroll before next season. In the short-term, however, the Simmons-less 76ers hope to avoid the No. 6 seed in the East, thus avoiding a first-round match-up against the Boston Celtics.

In arguably the best game of the NBA bubble to date, the Denver Nuggets outlasted the Utah Jazz in a two-overtime thriller. Denver was boosted by the return of point guard Jamal Murray, who had been sidelined with a hamstring injury. Murray scored 23 points, grabbed 12 rebounds, and handed out eight dimes while looking completely healthy across 39 minutes. With Murray back and Michael Porter Jr. emerging as an offensive force, Denver has a real chance at making waves in the playoffs. The Nuggets are a win away from locking up a top-three seed in the West.

T.J. Warren’s emergence as the MVP of the Orlando bubble continued on Saturday night as he led the Pacers to an upset win over the Los Angeles Lakers. Warren scored 39 points, and he has now scored at least 32 points in four of Indiana’s five games. Most encouraging about Warren’s development is that it has not come at the expense of Malcolm Brogdon and Victor Oladipo. With the 76ers dealing with the aforementioned injury to Ben Simmons and a potential injury to big man Joel Embiid, Indiana has a real chance at locking into the four or five seed in the Eastern Conference. This would set up a favorable match-up with the Heat and a potential trip the second round of the playoffs.

While Warren may be the MVP of the bubble, Luka Doncic may have posted the best individual performance of the NBA restart. Doncic led the Mavericks to an overtime win over the East-leading Milwaukee Bucks, notching his 17th triple-double of the season. Doncic scored 36 points, grabbed 14 boards, and handed out a whopping 19 dimes. Dallas’s season has been a massive success. Still, the Mavericks are likely headed toward a disappointing playoff showing with a match-up against the Clippers probably looming in the first-round.

Phoenix improved to 5-0 in the bubble with a win over the Heat. The Suns being included in the NBA bubble was initially met with skepticism, but Phoenix’s success justifies the team’s inclusion. The Suns remain behind the Blazers and Grizzlies in the race for the final playoff spot in the West. Still, Phoenix’s showing in Orlando—and Devin Booker’s evolution from elite scorer to game-changing superstar— are incredibly impressive. The Suns are positioned to be among the NBA’s most exciting teams to follow next season. Phoenix will look to continue its undefeated streak this afternoon against the playoff-bound Oklahoma City Thunder.

Damian Lillard put forth a herculean effort in the second game of a back-to-back on Sunday, erasing the memory of two costly missed free throws that cost his team a victory on Saturday night. Lillard scored 51 points on 28 shots, and there was no doubt he was playing angry following some back-and-forth on the sidelines and on social media with the Clippers on Saturday night. The Blazers moved one step closer to reaching the postseason and potentially giving the reeling Lakers an unexpected battle in the first round of the playoffs. The Blazers are a half-game behind the Grizzlies for the No. 8 seed with games against the Mavericks (Tuesday) and Nets (Thursday) remaining.