We have seen a lot of surprises, revelations, and even unexpected outcomes on top of the expectations towards the end of 2019-2020 NBA season that was drastically adjusted (and delayed) to be narrowed further on what they called “bubble”. The ending of the NBA season was capped by the early favorite to win it all, the Los Angeles Lakers, but a lot of stories, observations, and even controversies have transpired first before the LA Lakers have won it all. Let’s find out further.
The “unusual” suspects (LA Lakers)
The Los Angeles Lakers have won it all to end up the champions of the 2019-2020 season. Lebron James became the Finals MVP, producing MVP numbers in 6 games of the Finals series which is very much worthy of a great performance thereby igniting further conversations and arguments on who’s really the G.O.A.T. in the game of basketball. He was ably backed-up by Anthony Davis, who made an arguable performance that is also worthy of a Finals MVP.
These two players have met expectations (and maybe exceeded), but a large part of their success is the key contributions from the other players who were regarded as role players in this LA team. Alex Caruso has been a revelation with a great over-all playoff performance despite being a first-timer in the playoffs. Kentavious Caldwell-Pope, despite struggling all throughout the playoffs delivered a great performance on game 4 of the Finals, which led them to a 3-1 lead against the Miami Heat. These two players have delivered great performances that helped the team but what is the most unexpected performance was from Rajon Rondo. While his play-making and basketball IQ is at tip-top shape in this playoffs, it is actually expected of him that is why he is called “Playoff Rondo”. But his 3-point shooting is something that wasn’t really expected of him as he really isn’t known to be one. In fact, he was always designed to be the designated player to be left open on the defensive rotation because he cannot shoot. But in this playoffs, he is averaging a whopping 40% all throughout! Compared to 28% to his career playoff percentage on previous seasons, this is really something notable and was a vital key to the Lakers’ success all throughout the playoffs. Will it be sustained moving forward? We don’t know yet, but one thing is for sure, it was a big contributor to the Lakers’ success this season.
The Bucks Stopped Here
The Milwaukee Bucks are one of the favorites to win it all, and actually they did not disappoint specifically during the regular season. The Bucks earned the best record of the season with 56-17 and earned the over-all home court advantage all throughout the playoffs. It even made Giannis Antetokounpo earn a DPOY and MVP award at the same time. However, it was a very different story during the playoffs. The first round was a breeze for them cruising into the Orlando Magic with a commanding sweep. But come the 2nd round, they face the determined Miami Heat and lost 4-1 to them in the series. The main reason? Giannis injured his ankle in Game 3 of their series against the Heat and they haven’t recovered on time and eventually lose unexpectedly.
The “Other LA team” again
With the surprising revamp in acquiring Kawhi Leonard and eventually Paul George earning them a highly touted trade transaction prior the start of the 2019-2020 season, the LA Clippers eventually became the fan favorites to win it all or at least emerge as the Western Conference representatives in the Finals. Regular season record showed their promise with them finishing 2nd in the west and throughout the first round in which they disposed the Mavs in 6 games. They faced the No. 3 seed Denver Nuggets in the 2nd round and actually cruised along to a 3-1 lead in the series mainly due to the re-emergence of Paul George’s play as he was significantly “absent” during the 1st round against the Mavs. But that’s all there is to it as the Nuggets successfully came back from a 1-3 deficit in the series and won against the Clippers in seven games.
Anchoring on Kawhi Leonard’s leadership of Toronto Raptors winning their first ever championship the season prior, the Clippers hoped he could do it again but they forgot that Kawhi was actually just a last piece of the puzzle with the Raptors already have quite a number of years jelling as a team to finally get over that playoff hump. The Clippers’ chemistry problems were really evident even during the first round against the Mavs, in which they barely surpassed if it weren’t for Kristaps Porzingis’ injury. But yes they also have their set of injuries, but still the glaring evidence is still the fact that they are a completely new team that were expected to succeed.
Cinderella Run of Miami Heat
For the Western Conference, the team who went all the way to the Finals is one of the teams expected to win, but for the Eastern Conference, it is a different story. The Miami Heat emerged victorious in the Eastern Conference and no one absolutely rooted for them. Mainly because other teams were chosen as fan favorites such as the Boston Celtics or Milwaukee Bucks did not live up to what is expected from them.
Led by Jimmy Butler, an All-Star who hasn’t previously reached the Finals in his entire career, delivered a one-up performance worthy of achieving a Finals stint. His humility of his performance was also very commendable as he kept on emphasizing the teamwork and trust on his teammates. Props to Coach Erik Spoelstra on making an up and coming All-Star in Bam Adebayo. Duncan Robinson and Tyler Herro’s performances were also a revelation during their playoff run. Their Finals chances were drastically affected when two of their key players, Bam Adebayo (out for three finals games) and Goran Dragic (out for five finals games) went down for serious injuries. If it weren’t for those unfortunate events, who knows what the series against the Lakers would look like.
Outrageous Performance of Denver Nuggets
Ending up as the No. 3 seed in the west at the end of the regular season, Denver is expected to surpass the 1st round or maybe even up to the 2nd round of the playoffs. But that almost didn’t happen because of the way their playoff series performances ended up. They faced the Utah Jazz in the first round and experienced 1-3 deficit and on the brink of the unexpected 1st round exit. But Jamal Murray wanted a different story and we actually enjoyed the Jamal Murray / Donovan Mitchell shootout that went on for three straight games. Jamal eventually won on the duel and moved on to the 2nd round.
After a grueling 7 games in the 2nd round, they were then faced with a grueling task against the LA clippers in the 2nd round. Very much like in the first round, they were then challenged to the brink facing 1-3 deficit into the series. And very much like the first round, Jamal Murray happened but Nikola Jokic joined the party. They forcibly showed Clippers’ weakness of lack of chemistry for three straight games on their way to win the series and successfully made a comeback from 1-3 deficit for the 2nd straight playoff series.
Though they eventually lost to the LA Lakers in the Western Conference Finals, their playoff performance is indeed a memorable one. This team shows promise and time will only tell if they really can win it all. But they at least have to avoid 1-3 deficits in the future though.
Non-Playoff Team NBA Bubble Notables
The last part of the regular season were played in the bubble in Florida in which teams looking to gain the last playoff spots of each conference battle it out interestingly. Here are some teams that played great performances inside the bubble.
The Spurs’ Rejuvenation
Going into the NBA bubble restart, the Spurs are about 7 games behind the 8-seed and has an unprecedented task to win enough games to at least qualify for a play-in to gain the Eighth seed into the playoffs. With their 22 playoff appearance streak on the line, they were faced with a more challenging task with LaMarcus Aldridge’s season-ending injury.
Their regular season performance were so inconsistent you can even say that they actually don’t have a shot on the playoffs for the season as they can’t even manage to make a decent win streak. However, their bubble performance showed otherwise. With the emergence of new players like Keldon Johnson, the Spurs ended up with a 5-3 record. A decent end for their season and showing promise of better days post “Big-Three”. Who knows, they could make a run for another playoff streak and earn another accolade as one of the successful teams in the next decades to come.
The Suns’ Devin Booker Show (NBA Bubble success, but not quite)
The Phoenix Suns were gunning for the 8th spot going into the bubble but was sitting at the second worst record of all the teams who have participated in the NBA bubble. Considering their previous games into the regular season, what they did was perfectly impressive as they actually did not lose on all the eight games they have played. The Suns played a superb teamwork Devin Booker led the way. Booker averaged 30.5 points per game and shot a whopping 50% FG percentage along with 6 3Pt FG made a game. Those stats were superb and actually have risen Devin Booker to be a bonafide franchise player the Suns wanted him to be, but an 8-0 perfect record wasn’t enough to earn them a playoff spot or even a play-in. Blame it on the set-up, but their record prior the bubble made them very dependent on the outcome or the performance of the other teams.
Nice Restart, But Will It Be The Same Outcome If It Weren’t For The Bubble?
We have seen a lot of unexpected things that have happened going into the conclusion of the 2019-2020 NBA season. The outcome of the playoffs was something that not all of us have expected. There are a lot of variables that may have contributed to the outcome – a playing court that has no fans would probably one of the most influencing factor as there is technically no home court advantage. It is something that probably Milwaukee Bucks have felt but on the positive side, it could have been an advantage for the LA Lakers or even the Miami Heat for that matter. Whatever it may be, we’re still very grateful the game we all love has come back and we all saw unforgettable playoff games that everyone will talk about for a long time!