NBA Playoffs: The most surprising teams in the bubble

NBA Playoffs: The most surprising teams in the bubble

Preeth Somanchi, Contributing Writer

Although the 2019-2020 NBA season was cut short, play soon resumed in the bubble, where many exciting stories have emerged. Some of the league favorites have fallen apart, while many underdog teams have emerged as potential 2020 NBA restart champions. Here is a recap of the five most surprising teams in the 2020 NBA restart.

  1. Portland Trail Blazers (8th Seed)

With notable players C.J McCollum and Jusuf Nurkić sidelined due to injury during the regular season, superstar Damian Lillard was paired with Carmelo Anthony in hopes of carrying this injury-riddled team to the playoffs. When the season was unexpectedly halted, the Blazers were not seen as contenders for the eighth seed in the highly-stacked Western conference. 

When play resumed, Lillard quickly caught fire, leading the Blazers to win four out of their five seeding games. As these games went on, the Blazers continued their dominance and were noted by the league as contenders for the playoffs. Their final seeding game came on Aug. 13, and it was a must-win for the team. The game ended in a 134-133 win for the Blazers, and with this momentum, they cruised past the Grizzlies to secure a spot in the 2020 NBA playoffs. 

  1. Phoenix Suns (10th Seed)

Entering the 2019-2020 NBA season, the Phoenix Suns were coming off of a terrible season credited to poor coaching, draft picks, and off-court decisions. Fans and critics did not expect them to make it far after the regular season, but in the restart, everything changed.

Heading into the restart, the Suns were the worst team in the bubble, nine games behind the eighth seed. In a miraculous turn of events, Devin Booker and the Suns went undefeated, leading the Suns to within a game of the playoffs. Although the team did not make it far in the bubble, this team was a great example that perseverance leads to success.

  1. Toronto Raptors (2nd Seed)

Fresh off of an NBA title, the Raptors were riding high on their accomplishments. However, disappointment struck the hearts of Raptors fans after losing their franchise player, Kawhi Leonard, in free agency. Still, this group of players was expected to finish in the playoff race, as the team consisted of veterans who had all proved themselves in the past season.

The Raptors were optimistic, however, due to their newly emerging all-star duo in Fred Vanvleet and Pascal Siakam. Toronto finished the season as a second seed, proving that this team could contend without Leonard.

  1. Miami Heat (5th seed)

Heading into the 2019-2020 season, the Miami Heat boasted their new signings of All-Star Jimmy Butler and established veteran Andre Iguodala. Although many considered this a selfish move from Butler, thinking that the sole reason for this move was to be the lone star on his team, in retrospect, it paid off. The Heat experienced an average season and did not have many expectations to have a deep run in the playoffs.

In the first round, Miami faced the Indiana Pacers, and fans were excited to see T.J Warren battle Butler. Warren was quiet all series long, and the Heat took care of the Pacers in four games. The following round, the Heat saw themselves matched against the Milwaukee Bucks, who boasted the best record in the league and had MVP Giannis Antetokounmpo. In game one, the Heat shut down the MVP, causing problems for the Bucks offense all night. The Heat stunned the Bucks and took the series in 5 games, upsetting one of the favorites to win the 2020 NBA championship.

  1. Denver Nuggets (3rd seed)

During the 2018-2019 season, the Denver Nuggets were an up-and-coming young team with lots of potential. With no pressure, the Nuggets cruised to the third seed in the highly-stacked Western conference. 

The Nuggets faced the Utah Jazz in the first round, and for the most part, this was an evenly matched series. It had many down-to-the-wire games, but with a commanding 3-1 lead in the series for the Jazz, the Nuggets’ season was expected to come to an end. With their backs against the wall, Denver, led by Jamal Murray, who saw multiple 50 point games in the series, edged out the Jazz. In the next round, Denver was set to face the Los Angeles Clippers, who were considered by many as the favorites to come out of the West. After four games, the Nuggets found themselves in the same place they were during the previous series, down 1-3. Many fans and critics ruled them out due to the skill of the Clippers. Denver was simply outmatched by the depth the Clippers had. Led by the duo of European sharpshooter Nikola Jokic and Murray, the Nuggets were able to come back from two 20-point leads and ultimately snatch the game 7 victory. This capped off a historic series, ultimately robbing NBA fans of the battle for Los Angeles.