The Biggest Surprises and Disappointments of the NBA Bubble

by Ashton Basak ’23

Source: DraftKings Nation

Published Oct. 13th, 2020

Sports, especially in times of trouble, have been sources of normalcy and a place to turn to escape reality. However, due to the Coronavirus pandemic that swept the nation in early March, the world has been without this distraction for months. It seemed that this would be the case for a while until the National Basketball Association announced in June that they would be continuing the regular season and playoffs starting at the end of July. The top nine teams from the Eastern Conference, along with the top eleven teams from the Western Conference, would travel down to the Disney Resorts in Orlando, where a “bubble”, primarily for the playoffs, would be created.

Led by Canadian star Jamal Murray and All-Star Nikola Jokic, the Denver Nuggets made an unexpected run in the playoffs. They became the first team in NBA history to ever come back from two 3-1 playoff deficits in the same season. They shocked the NBA world when they completed this monumental feat against the Utah Jazz in the first round and the Los Angeles Clippers in the second to advance to the Conference Finals.

On the other side of the coin, the Los Angeles Clippers were widely viewed as the largest disappointment of the Playoffs. The second-seed in the Western Conference advanced to the second round to play the underdog Nuggets. The Clippers, led by superstar Kawhi Leonard, who was fresh off of an NBA title with the Toronto Raptors, and Paul George, secured a three-to-one lead against the Nuggets in a best-of-seven series. However, the offensive strength of the Nuggets team overpowered the two superstars, especially in the last three games.

The Philadelphia 76ers also fell into the disappointing category. Even though they were missing one of their stars in point guard, Ben Simmons, the team still had All-Star big man Joel Embiid. Despite this, the team didn’t put up a fight in the first round against the Celtics and were ultimately sent home after a four-game sweep.

Despite miraculous, back-to-back comebacks, very few picked the 5-seed Miami Heat to make the Finals. Their team, consisting of budding stars, undrafted players, and second round picks, took the league by surprise after defeating the Indiana Pacers, Milwaukee Bucks, and Boston Celtics, all with relative ease. Led by stars Jimmy Butler and Bam Adebayo, the Miami Heat worked their way to the NBA Finals but ultimately fell in 6 games.

The Heat lost to the Los Angeles Lakers, who, with Lebron James and Anthony Davis, cruised by their competition in the playoffs to make it to the NBA Finals. LeBron James continued his dominant streak as a playoff performer at the age of 35, only aided by the addition of Davis, a superstar, in the offseason back in July of 2019. This dynamic duo was the reason they ended up beating the Heat in 4 games to 2. After averaging 29.8 points, 11.8 rebounds and 8.5 assists, LeBron James was unanimously voted the Finals MVP, making him the first player to receive the award on three different teams.

While next season’s start date is still up in the air, it is clear that the Lakers will be among the favorites for next season’s title, especially with the invaluable skill sets and leadership of 4-time champion LeBron James and dominant big-man Anthony Davis.

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