The Shift Into a Bubble is Transforming the NBA Playoffs

Amidst a worldwide pandemic, the National Basketball Association (NBA) has found a way to finish out the 2019-20 season by locking down the top NBA teams within a completely isolated bubble. On July 31, 2020, 22 NBA teams (13 from the Western Conference and 9 from the Eastern Conference) were sent into the isolation bubble located at Walt Disney World in Orlando, Florida. These 22 teams would be fighting for a spot in the playoffs as well as continuing their chase for the 2020 NBA championship title. Due to COVID-19, the bubble is completely separate from the outside world, and players and coaches who have contact with anyone else must go into a 14 day quarantine before reentering. This means that players and staff are unable to leave the bubble until they are completely eliminated from the playoffs. 

After the end of the initial seeding games for the playoffs, it quickly became clear that this was truly a whole new game. When the original season was paused abruptly due to a COVID-19 outbreak within the NBA on March 11, there only appeared to be around three or four realistic contenders for the championship. However, after the NBA bubble restart, it has truly become a toss up. Many speculated whether or not the bubble playoffs would match the difficulty of the normal playoffs we’ve seen throughout NBA history, but it seems as if the gap has allowed teams to settle into completely different levels than in the start of the season. 

When watching the current games, it has been interesting to observe the teams as they enter the uncharted pandemic playoffs. While some teams look as if they’ve been practicing and building chemistry throughout the whole break, many teams look rusty and out of shape. This has added back a certain feeling of uncertainty and intrigue to the league, which has been desperately missed in recent years. As of late, the NBA has been dominated by superteams and stacked rosters — mostly due to our beloved Golden State Warriors and their dynasty — which creates predictable outcomes and even boring and pointless games at times. With the fresh start, teams have been able to show a whole new side of themselves, which makes this year’s playoffs very exciting. 

The Portland Trail Blazers had been on a tear during the seeding games. Led by Oakland’s own Damian Lillard’s 30 point and 8 assist averages, the Blazers were able to push past a young and hungry Memphis in order to secure the eighth seed in the West. While Portland was able to steal game one of their series against the Lakers, they’re now down 4-1 in the series after suffering four sizable losses. Though it may be in our nature to root for our Bay Area native, it has become apparent that the Blazers are simply outgunned and unable to push past the Lakers’ tall and strong roster. 

While there are still favorites to take home the Larry O’Brien Championship Trophy this year, the final outcome remains very much up in the air. Every playoff game in the bubble has the same intensity and energy of a traditional playoff game, and upsets seem inevitable for this season’s playoff run.

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