It is no secret that the year 2020 has already been a weird one. With Covid-19, there have been many losses across the country, and the world. One of those losses were our beloved sports. However, after a long time of waiting around and quarantining, we finally got our sports back! The NBA decided to create a “Bubble,” where 9 teams from the Eastern Conference, and 13 teams from the Western Conference would participate in eight play-in games to decide who would be what seed for the upcoming playoffs. Some performed great and earned a spot in the playoffs…while others not so much. With the bubble over, we have got everything covered for you so you can decide for yourself who is going to be the 2020 NBA champion.
The East was pretty well decided going into the Bubble. The Milwaukee Bucks sat atop of the conference with a 6.5 game lead over the number two seeded, and defending champions, Toronto Raptors. Despite an amazing Bubble for the Raptors, going 7-1 to the Bucks 3-5, they still finished 2.5 games back of the one seed. The Celtics finished with the three seed, going 5-3, the Indiana Pacers knocked off the Miami Heat on Friday to give them a 6-2 record, and swap spots in the seeding giving the Pacers the four seed, and the Heat, who went 3-5, received the five. The six was surprisingly taken by the Philadelphia 76ers, who were projected by many to be a top three seed at the beginning of the year. The Sixers broke even in the Bubble going 4-4, but a good performance by the Pacers knocked them down to the six seed. In the seven seed is the Brooklyn Nets who had a tough road to get there. They lost both stars in Kyrie Irving and Kevin Durant, and had to rely on other guys such as Caris Lavert to lead the pack. Who to be fair, has done a good job taking on such an important role on such short notice, leading the Nets to a 5-3 record in the Bubble. Finally, in the eight seed, we have the Orlando Magic, who finished the Bubble 3-5. The Washington Wizards were the ninth team to make it into the Bubble, however a 1-7 performance left them out of the playoffs. The East matchups look like this (highlighted in yellow are series to watch):
Milwaukee Bucks v. 8. Orlando Magic
Toronto Raptors vs. 7. Brooklyn Nets
Boston Celtics vs. 6. Philadelphia 76ers
There is so much history between these two teams, and they always seem to meet in the playoffs. Look for this one to come down to the wire, and be one of the better series of the first round.
Indiana Pacers vs. 5. Miami Heat
Even though Jimmy Butler said the rivalry between him and T.J. Warren is over, it will be in the back of our minds as fans of the game. Two very good teams, with a lot of history, and a lot of tension from earlier in the year.
The West however had a much more interesting end to their play-ins games. Unlike the East, the West had 13 teams for their bubble, and it was a dog fight for that eight seed between the bottom six teams, and it was a real joy to watch. The Los Angeles Lakers took the one seed with ease, even though they went 3-5 in the Bubble. The Lakers LA counterpart, the LA Clippers went into the Bubble back 5.5 games of first, and ended up finishing back. Nonetheless, the Clippers take the two seed going 5-3 during the Bubble. There was also a big cluster between the three seed, all the way down to the six seed, and it came down to the wire for who was going to be what seed. The Denver Nuggets took the three seed, and went 3-5 in the Bubble. It was thought that they would finish in the three spot, but a rocky performance in the Bubble nearly changed their playoff spot drastically. There was a three way tie for the four seed between the Houston Rockets, Oklahoma City Thunder, and the Utah Jazz. However, due to previous head-to-head matchups, the Rockets took the four after going .500 in the Bubble, 4-4, the Thunder took the five seed after going 3-5, and the Jazz took the six also going 3-5. The Thunder were not even projected to make the playoffs this year, given a .2% chance to make it, and now they are the five seed, taking on Russell Westbrook, and James Harden who both were in OKC at one time. The seven seed was pretty clear cut going into the Bubble, as the Dallas Mavericks took that spot with ease, and 3-5 in the Bubble. Now for the fun part, the final spot in the West, and a chance to maybe make a playoff run. An absolute war for the eight seed. The New Orleans Pelicans, led by young star Zion Williamson, had a tough task ahead of them, but dropping three of their first four Bubble games knocked them out of the playoffs. The San Antonio Spurs had a bumpy start to their Bubble, going 2-2 to start. They made one final push at the end of the Bubble, going 3-1 in their last four games, however it just wasn’t enough to make it, leaving the Spurs out of the playoffs for the first time in 22 years. The Sacramento Kings had the odds stacked against them to start, and they played poorly in the Bubble, with a 3-5 record, leaving them out of the playoffs. The Memphis Grizzlies held sole possession of the coveted eight seed going into the Bubble, but with five other teams on their backs, they were going to have to perform well to hold onto that spot. The Phoenix Suns, who were the only team to go undefeated in the Bubble, 8-0, led by an unbelievable run by Devin Booker. However, they went into the Bubble too far back, and even though they were the best performing Bubble team, they will not be playing playoff basketball. Which leaves us with two teams. The Memphis Grizzlies, and the Portland Trail Blazers, who went 6-2 in the Bubble, led by Bubble MVP Damian Lillard. This led to a tie, and ultimately a play-in game between the Blazers and the Grizzlies. The Grizzlies fought hard behind their rookie leader, Ja Morant, but Dame Dolla was just too much for them to handle, and Portland took the eighth and final seed in the West. The matchups look like this(highlighted in yellow are series to watch):
Los Angeles Lakers vs. 8. Portland Trail Blazers
LA Clippers vs. 7. Dallas Mavericks
Denver Nuggets vs. 6. Utah Jazz
Houston Rockets vs. 5. Oklahoma City Thunder
Literally every single series is set to be a good one. They are so evenly matched, and with Damian Lillard performing the way he is, don’t be surprised if the Blazers take a few games, or even win the series as an eight seed. Then you’ve got games like the Rockets and Thunder who have Westbrook against his former team in the playoffs, and the Jazz and Nuggets may be the best series in the whole entire first round. Two very good teams battling it out for a spot in the next round.
There were a lot of great performers in this bubble, and a lot of good teams that get to play more basketball in the playoffs. If I had to make a prediction for the Finals this year, I truly think that the LA Clippers will defeat the Milwaukee Bucks, probably in seven games. The Clippers have so much defense on their team that the Bucks are going to have to rely on more than Giannis Antetekumpo to score for them, and with a pretty solid Clippers offense, it’s hard to see how any team can beat them in a playoff series. The Clippers were my pick at the beginning of the year, and I’m going to stand on that prediction.
Let us know who you think will take the crown, and be the 2020 NBA champion. Tune into playoff basketball, because I know I sure will!