Biggest Storylines From the NBA Bubble... So Far
The NBA playoffs have been amazing so far. Fans and experts will look back at most of these bubble-bound games and remember them fondly as some of the best playoff action in basketball history; of this, I have no doubt.
I’m wasting no time and jumping straight in, because if I don’t, someone might score 100 points - ands it honestly wouldn’t surprise me after the 2020 we've endured so far. Here are some of the biggest surprises and more positive storylines from the NBA Playoffs to date.
1. Miami proving all doubters wrong
I’ll put my hand up and say I didn’t believe in Miami as a genuine contender. I, like many, thought they matched up well against Milwaukee but assumed the Bucks would ultimately get over them through seven games. The Heat basically said "f*** you, I don't care what you think" to just about everyone and won the series in five.
Right now, it gives Miami a chance to win a title, which no one saw coming. For the future, it gives them even further legitimacy in free agency than they already had with Pat Riley and Erik Spoelstra leading the way. They have cap space and a bunch of role players on great contracts and are always hungry for success. Miami have nailed their rebuild so far.
2. Luka Doncic is legit
We already knew Doncic was a star, but his performance against the Clippers in the first round has taken him to a level where no one has ever been at his age. Playing against a team full of “dogs”, Doncic was the most alpha of them all, putting Dallas on his back and taking it right to the title-favourite Clippers.
Even with the extra attention from Marcus Morris Sr. (which we all know was dirty), the man put up 31 points, 9.8 rebounds and 8.7 assists on 50/36.4/65.5 shooting splits. Throw in a step-back, game-winning three AND a 20-point comeback for good measure, and we have ourselves a serious playoff performer for the next 15 or so years.
3. Boston and Toronto series
Toronto and Boston just played in the most back-and-forth, topsy-turvy, heavyweight title fight-type series I have ever seen. These two Eastern Conference elites were just throwing haymakers left and right. This series is, plain and simple, just good basketball (which bodes well for the league's future). It had blowouts, buzzer beaters, and two of the very best coaches in the league going at it - with some post-game fights just to top it all off with a rather chippy cherry.
I’ve never sat back in my chair, hands on head and said “holy sh**” as many times as I did during the fourth quarter and double-overtime of game six. Big shots were made by star players and both teams got a few huge defensive stops on the other end. An amazing series.
4. Donovan Mitchell and Jamal Murray coming out party
I have always been Jamal Murray’s biggest critic. I thought he was inconsistent and overpaid. He has served me a big old piece of humble pie in these playoffs. He's still had a couple of down games, as all players do, but on the whole Murray has jumped up a level in the stardom standings.
His battle with Donovan Mitchell in their first round match-up was historic. Before the series began, only two players had scored 50 or more points twice in a single playoff series: Michael Jordan and Allen Iverson. That number doubled after Murray and Mitchell both did it.
Both players are stuck on teams at the moment that aren’t quite there, but their personal trajectory is facing skyward, and there is no doubt they will drag their teams with them deep into the playoffs in the coming years.
5. Chris Paul winding back the clock
Although Oklahoma City couldn’t beat Houston in game seven of their first round match-up, the play from Chris Paul to get them to that position was awesome. From 2-0 down and seemingly out of the series to forcing a game seven and coming within a couple of plays of winning. Like the Boston-Toronto game six, I couldn’t hold back my tirade of “what the f*** is going on”-esque comments in the dying stages of that game seven.
It was fun to watch Paul get back to leading a team, and now, I look forward to another potential move to a legit contender. With that in mind, and the stench of desperation starting to drift in from Milwaukee, it's rather fun to imagine: would CP3 look good in green?
Stats courtesy of Basketball Reference.