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NBA JAM Tournament: Heating up the Round 1 Matchups

The NBA Jam bracket is set. Our first round matchups are heating up. Who makes it through and who gets upset?

NBA: Toronto Raptors at Los Angeles Clippers Gary A. Vasquez-USA TODAY Sports

Now that we’ve laid the groundwork for our NBA JAM series with each team’s roster, let’s get to the tournament!

After Conor McCreery, Mitch Orsatti, and myself (somewhat) agreed on a ranking of all 30 teams, they were placed in a bracket. The top two overall seeds received first-round byes.

Before diving into the matchups, here are some ground rules to keep in mind:

  • We held true to NBA JAM’s game format with a full court (modified to accommodate a 2-on-2 environment) and 3-minute quarters
  • While the original Super Nintendo game did not allow subs during games, we are allowing teams the option of a substitution at half-time
  • Reminder that all players are presumed healthy. (Yes, even Boogie Cousins)

Feel free to let us know in the comments how you’d see these matchups playing out. To allow for easier finger-pointing, I’ve included our initials next to the respective game we each wrote about.

Enjoy the First Round and look out next week as we crown a champion!

Boom Shakalaka Region

(1) Warriors (Curry/Thompson/Green): First Round Bye

(16) Celtics (Tatum/Hayward/Walker) vs. (17) Mavericks (Doncic/Porzingis/Marjanovic)

I know that this is a fictional tournament with video game rules and physics that allow players to jump 30 feet in the air, but I just watched an 11 minute video of Jayson Tatum and Kemba Walker lead Team USA losing (badly) in a scrimmage to G Leaguers. Now I have to convince myself that they can thrive in a fictional world against Luka and KP? No, not happening. Dallas waltzes away with the victory as Tatum and Walker combine for 37 first half turnovers only to have Hayward sub in and get repeatedly yammed on by Porzingis. WINNER: MAVERICKS (MO)

(9) 76ers (Harris/Embiid/Richardson) vs. (24) Heat (Butler/Dragic/Adebayo)

This is a huge battle as Jimmy Butler aims to take the head off his old team. Philly goes with Tobias Harris and Joel Embiid, while the Heat choose Bam Adebayo over going small with Goran Dragic. Embiid starts off like a house on fire before Butler starts doubling on to him, forcing Harris to shoot. Like last year’s ECSF it doesn’t go well, leading to multiple transition opportunities. The Sixers swap in Josh Richardson to try to get some speed, and better D but then every Sixer fan’s nightmare happens — Embiid runs out of gas. Energizer bunny Adebayo starts grabbing loose rebounds, and slamming home put-backs, and the Sixers final possession is a comedy of errors that ends with Richardson and Embiid lying in a pile on top of each other after Jimmy Butler shoves them both to the ground approximately 20,000 times. WINNER: HEAT (CM)

(8) Nuggets (Jokic/Murray/Millsap) vs. (25) Pistons (Jackson/Griffin/Drummond)

In a surprising first half, Griffin dominates the game and single-handedly carries Detroit to a halftime lead. His ability to take Jokic off the dribble consistently opens up lanes for himself and Jackson. With his shot not falling in the first half, Murray catches fire in the third quarter to help Denver briefly take the lead. The short quarters and even shorter court length keeps Griffin fresh for an outstanding final quarter, capped off by the tournament’s first buzzer-beater. A shocking first round upset! WINNER: PISTONS (JR)

Razzle Dazzle Region

(4) Clippers (Leonard/George/Williams) vs. (29) Knicks (DSJ/Robinson/Knox)

L.A. takes advantage of the Knicks to load management it up as PG3 and Sweet Lou have their way with Mitchell Robinson and Dennis Smith Jr., while Kawhi sits on the sidelines munching a sackful of Trujillo’s Tacos. It’s not all bad for Knickerbocker supporters tho’ - when Mitch and DSD go on a mini 9-2 run to cut the lead to 26, Stephen A Smith goes on-air to loudly proclaim that New York is only “two pieces away from being two pieces away from a title.” WINNER: CLIPPERS (CM)

(13) Wolves (Wiggins/KAT/Covington) vs. (20) Magic (Gordon/Isaac/Ross)

The Wolves have the best player in this one in Karl-Anthony Towns, and the KAT is all that as he paces the Wolves to an early ten-point lead by showing off his entire arsenal — threes, dunks, blocks, coast to coast lay-ins. Unfortunately, Minnesota gets “Bad Wiggins” who ends up taking 22 shots in the second half to KAT’s 9, and only makes seven of them. That allows the under-appreciated Magic duo of Terrence Ross and Aaron Gordon to steadily chip away, and then take the lead when Ross goes on fire. With 4 seconds left and down by two, Wiggins goes ISO, bricks it, and Wolves twitter explodes wondering why Robert Covington didn’t get in the game. WINNER: MAGIC (CM)

(12) Wizards (Wall/Beal/Bryant) vs. (21) Hawks (Young/Huerter/Collins)

This one is close for awhile as Trae Young and John Collins work the two man game to perfection, and are able to control the paint against Bradley Beal and John Wall, but a controversial half-time change that subs in Thomas Bryant for Wall pays dividends as everyone eats in the Washington offense, Beal catches fire (multiple times), and Bryant finishes with 16 points, 10 rebounds and eight blocks — not bad for a half. WINNER: WIZARDS (CM)

(5) Rockets (Harden/Westbrook/Tucker) vs. (28) Cavaliers (Sexton/Love/Osman)

The Big Two are too much for the, quite frankly, over-matched Cavs as James Harden and Russ Westbook dominate the proceedings over Kevin Love and Collin Sexton. Although Love’s ability to control the boards creates a worry — even more so when in the second half the Rockets rest Westbrook to give P.J. Tucker some run, and Love eats him up too, sparking concerns that the controversial decision to leave Clint Capela off the team may come back to hurt Houston later. WINNER: ROCKETS (CM)

He’s On Fire Region

(2) Nets (Durant/Irving/Allen): First Round Bye

(15) Raptors (Lowry/Siakam/Ibaka) vs. (18) Thunder (Paul/Gallinari/Adams)

Siakam starts off like a bat out of hell, torching Gallinari every chance he gets. With Toronto entering halftime with a comfortable double-digit lead, Coach Billy Donovan swaps out Gallo for Adams. Nick Nurse figured that move was coming and surprisingly subs out the hot-handed Siakam for Ibaka. Lowry and Paul mirror each other’s pick-and-roll execution, timely downtown shooting, charges drawn, and complaints to refs. Both teams play the second half to a draw — the first half cushion providing the winning margin. WINNER: RAPTORS (JR)

(10) Blazers (Lillard/McCollum/Nurkic) vs. (23) Kings (Fox/Hield/Bagley)

Both teams start with all-guard lineups, leading to the highest scoring first round game with scores on almost every possession. Fox is able to get into the lane with ease and score at will. On the other end, it’s Dame Time all the time. Portland pulls through because Hield’s hot shooting cools off as the game winds down. WINNER: BLAZERS (JR)

(7) Jazz (Mitchell/Gobert/Conley) vs. (26) Spurs (DeRozan/Aldridge/Murray)

San Antonio may not be a sexy team, but in this format, against this team, DeRozan’s 1-on-1 game is a great recipe for an upset. DD cooks Mitchell throughout the first half, forcing a halftime substitution for Conley. The move pays off for Utah as Conley/Gobert pick-and-roll their way to bucket after bucket. Their defensive wizardry helps the Jazz pull off the comeback. WINNER: JAZZ (JR)

From Downtown Region

(3) Lakers (James/Davis/Cousins) vs. (30) Hornets (Rozier/MKG/Biyombo)

The caveat that everyone is healthy in this tournament is a nice reprieve from the sorrow filled tale of DeMarcus Cousins’ career. Being the healthy monster he is, he and AD combine to play the entirety of the game, giving LeBron a 1st week bye to charge the court, shoe-less, every time his own personal twin towers put Scary Terry on a poster. Lakers win real, real big and put the Hornets and their beautiful NBA JAM jerseys to rest. WINNER: LAKERS (MO)

(14) Pacers (Oladipo/Turner/Sabonis) vs. (19) Suns (Booker/Ayton/Oubre)

Phoenix vs. Indiana in the real regular season? BORRRRRRINGGGG. NBA JAM styles? It’s a bonafide classic. Dipo and Turner and Booker and Ayton are the starting lineups for this one and both guards come out red-hot, reigning threes from way downtown. The bigs, feeling mostly neutralized to this point ramp up their aggression and start to double when possible and this is where the tide swings. Turner, being the much better defender manages to alter and block enough of the Suns offense out and allows them to squeak out a narrow victory over the upstart Suns. WINNER: PACERS (MO)

(11) Pelicans (Williamson/Holiday/Ingram) vs. (22) Bulls (LaVine/Markkanen/Porter)

The crown used to belong to LeBron James, but Zion Williamson, without playing a single NBA game, has surpassed the second best player of all time as the prototypical NBA JAM player. Zion and his Pelicans are up against some pretty solid NBA JAM players in their own rights in LaVine and Lauri. Both of the Bulls starters begin the game in awe of Zion’s freakish ability - opening the door for a huge run. Zion’s magnificence pairs well with Jrue’s ability to lock down LaVine and the Pels jump out to a huge lead. Near the end of the 1st half, Zion is beginning to show signs of fatigue and head coach Alvin Gentry decides to sub-in Brandon “Kevin Durant Minus” (many minus) Ingram. The move pays dividends as the crafty, slinky scorer manages to ward off a Bulls run to secure the win. WINNER: PELICANS (MO)

(6) Bucks (Antetokounmpo/Middleton/Korver) vs. (27) Grizzlies (Morant/Jackson Jr./Valanciunas

As much as I want to convince myself that the scrappy, hard-nosed youngin’s on the Memphis Grizzlies can grizzle their way past the Bucks, I can’t quite get my head around stopping a guy who can take two steps from half-court and dunk the ball...IN REAL LIFE! So, as it goes, the Grizz manage to keep this one from being a laugher, but Giannis is just too long and too strong to get by. WINNER: BUCKS (MO)