NBA playoffs promise an exciting finish to an irregular yet bizarre regular season


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LAKE BUENA VISTA, FLORIDA – AUGUST 21: Paul George #13 of the LA Clippers looks to pass against Dorian Finney-Smith #10 of the Dallas Mavericks during the fourth quarter in Game Three of the Western Conference First Round during the 2020 NBA Playoffs at AdventHealth Arena at ESPN Wide World Of Sports Complex on August 21, 2020 in Lake Buena Vista, Florida. NOTE TO USER: User expressly acknowledges and agrees that, by downloading and or using this photograph, User is consenting to the terms and conditions of the Getty Images License Agreement. (Photo by Mike Ehrmann/Getty Images)

   The NBA has probably done the best out of any major sports league in handling the COVID-19 pandemic. With the addition of the bubble last July, Adam Silver introduced a safe environment for the league to continue play as well as protect the safety of their players. Over 250+ athletes came to Walt Disney World in efforts to chase a world championship. Zero players, coaches, or staff tested positive for the virus.

   With the eventual champion Los Angeles Lakers winning the championship, and LeBron James coming out with his fourth title and Finals MVP, the status of the start of the 2020-2021 campaign was in the air. Some argue that the season should begin around early 2021, giving the bubble teams time to re-energize and regroup for the next campaign, others arguing it should start as soon as November since eight other teams have not touched the court since mid-March. Eventually, a 72 game season and start date of December 22 was decided, giving the NBA the record of shortest offseason in major league sports history.

   With the virus still very prevalent in society, the NBA did a terrific job with staying on schedule, regardless of normal city to city travel. The regular season was filled with regular COVID testing, masks and the appropriate social distancing guidelines to, again, keep players as the number one priority. 

   The regular season was nothing short of spectacular. With Marquee stars such as Russell Westbrook, Kevin Durant, Kyrie Irving, and James Harden all taking on new teams, the league was in for something amazing. The Utah Jazz lead the powerhouse Western Conference with a record of 52-20, showing the defensive and athletic duo of Donovan Mitchell and Ruby Gobert can fight hand and hand with the best. The Philadelphia 76ers took control of the Eastern Conference with a record of 49-23, a much improved conference since the assemblement of the superteam Brooklyn Nets and much awaited success of the New York Knicks. 

   The unexpected headline of the season was the struggle of the defending champion Lakers. Injuries to both star players LeBron James and Anthony Davis derailed the Lakers’ path to a higher seed, ultimately finishing 7th after defeating two time MVP Steph Curry’s Warriors in the play-in game. Both stars are fully healthy and look to give a hard and gritty matchup to an inexperienced yet promising Phoenix Suns roster, making the playoffs for the first time since the 2009-2010 season. 

   Nikola Jokic and Joel Embiid stole the show in the MVP race. This marks the first time in a while that two big men were the frontrunners for the most coveted award in basketball. Jokic’s unreal playmaking ability for a center helped propel the Denver Nuggets to the third seed in the West. After coming back from a 3-1 deficit the previous season, they hope to build on their newfound success. Embiid, while struggling with injuries a good portion of the year, still managed to stay a front runner in the race, averaging an impressive 28.5 points per game, 10.6 rebounds per game, and 1.4 blocks per game. He and Ben Simmons look to battle and make a name for themselves in the playoff world. 

   After a completely unpredictable sequence of events, the league still figured out a way to put on a show and entertain the fans like only they can do. The 2021 NBA Playoffs will continue to build on an already stellar year and provide viewers with plenty of great basketball.