A recap on the NBA playoffs

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With about a quarter left of the NBA season, shocking news came out on March 11 when the Oklahoma City Thunder vs the Utah Jazz game was canceled due to Jazz player Rudy Gobert being tested positive for the coronavirus. The virus left the NBA and all other sports on hold for a long period of time, and left fans wondering if the NBA season would even be able to continue. With concerns of players and staff catching the virus, Commissioner Adam Silver announced on June 4th that the Board of Governors approved a format allowing 22 of the 30 teams to continue the regular season and playoffs at the Disney Campus near Orlando, Florida. 

 

Teams would arrive at the NBA bubble around July 7, where each team would play a total of 8 regular season games to determine the seeding matchups for the playoffs. Players once entering the bubble would first have to stay quarantined all by themselves for 48 hours before being granted to start practicing. Each player, coach and staff member must also take a Covid test every morning before doing any daily activities and would be penalized with another two days of quarantine if they did not follow the guidelines. 

 

Even if fans didn’t fill the seats as they normally would, the start of the playoffs offered a pleasant distraction from the anxiety-inducing pandemic. That being said, recent events suggest that the league and their stars are thinking about more than their performance on the court.

 

Following the killings of African Americans George Floyd, Ahmaud Arbery and Breonna Taylor, three additions to an already lengthy list of black victims of police brutality and hate crime, the NBA and its players’ union decided to allow players to display social messages on their jerseys rather than their last names.

 

According to The Washington Post, players were given a list of 29 messages to choose from, “including ‘Black Lives Matter’; ‘I Can’t Breathe’; ‘Justice’; ‘Peace’; ‘Equality’; ‘Say Her Name’; ‘Anti-Racist’; ‘Group Economics’ and ‘I Am a Man’ — the slogan famously used in the 1968 Memphis sanitation workers’ strike.” Similarly, the words “Black Lives Matter” now decorate the court itself in bold letters.

 

But after the police shooting of Jacob Blake in Kenosha, Wis.–which left Blake partially paralyzed–a few words on the back of a jersey wasn’t enough. 

 

On Aug. 26, the Milwaukee Bucks refused to take the court to play their game against the Orlando Magic. This simple action created an unprecedented ripple effect. The NBA cancelled the rest of the games scheduled for that Wednesday, and soon the WNBA, as well as Milwaukee’s Major League Baseball team, the Brewers, made similar decisions. 

 

Some sportscasters followed suit, including Kenny Smith, a panelist on “Inside the NBA.”  “As a black man, as a former player, I think it’s best for me to support the players and not be here tonight,” says Smith in this clip from that evening’s broadcast, before pulling off his mic and walking off the set. 

 

That night, the league held a meeting with several of its players, and for a while it seemed that resuming the playoffs was unlikely. It was important to the players that they give America nothing else to pay attention to besides the worsening racial injustice. As Bucks guard Sterling Brown said in a statement, “Despite the overwhelming plea for change, there has been no action, so our focus today cannot be on basketball.”

 

However, after three days of boycotting, the players agreed to continue the playoffs on the condition that the NBA use the stadiums as voting booths in this November’s presidential election. The playoffs resumed that Saturday, Aug. 29.

Western Conference Regular Season/Playoff Recap: Thirteen teams were invited to the NBA bubble from the western conference, and it came down to the last shot of the regular season to determine which teams would be moving on and which teams got sent home packing. Despite the Phoenix Suns going undefeated in the bubble with a record of 8-0, their surprise playoff run was cut short when Caris Levert failed to knock down a last second jump shot resulting in the Portland Trail Blazers securing the eighth seed by just half a game. The Blazers then knocked out the Memphis Grizzlies in the play in game by a score of 126-122, giving them a chance to upset the top seeded Lakers in the first round. 

 

Other teams who captured playoff sports were the 2) Los Angeles Clippers, 3) Denver Nuggets, 4) Houston Rockets, 5) Oklahoma City Thunder, 6) Utah Jazz, 7. Dallas Mavericks. 

 

1. Los Angeles Lakers vs 8. Portland Trail Blazers: Game one of the series started out as a statement game when point guard Damian Lillard dropped 34 points and led Portland to a game one victory 100-93. After that, it was all Los Angeles taking the next four games resulting in a 4-1 series win for the Lakers. 

2. Los Angeles Clippers vs 7. Dallas Mavericks: With the Clippers leading the series 2-1 and up by 21 points halfway through the 2nd quarter in game four of the series, second year player Luka Doncic dropped a playoff career high 43 points including his first buzzer beater resulting in a 135-133 win. But Doncic’s performances were just not enough for the Mavericks, resulting in the Clippers winning the series 6 games. 

3. Denver Nuggets vs 6.Utah Jazz: All hope for the Denver Nuggets looked lost after the Jazz edged out game four 129-127 to take a commanding 3-1 lead. The Nuggets then made a shocking comeback, winning the last games led by Jamal Murray, who scored 47 points in game five and 50 points in game six. 

4. Houston Rockets vs 5. Oklahoma City Thunder: A much anticipated matchup between James Harden’s Rockets and Chris Paul’s Thunder didn’t disappoint as the series went a full seven games. Despite James Harden only 4-15 from the field, the Rockets were able to survive and advance by a score of 104-102. 

by: Mason Collins, Jessi Rich

Image: Entertainment Tonight