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The Tufts Daily
Where you read it first | Saturday, April 20, 2024

In the Paint: Playoff winners and losers

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The Los Angeles Lakers walked away with the 2020 NBA championship, but let's take a look at the winners and losers of the NBA playoffs in the Bubble. 

 

Winners: 

Miami Heat

Even though the Miami Heat lost to the Los Angeles Lakers 4–2 in the NBA Finals, they're still walking away as winners and as the Eastern Conference finals champions. They came into the playoffs as the fifth seed in the East, with nobody considering them title contenders. Although they had a great season, there were doubts as to whether or not Jimmy Butler could carry a team into a deep playoff run. The Heat ended up dominating the Milwaukee Bucks, winning the series 4–1 without breaking much of a sweat and then going on to win over the Boston Celtics to come out of the East. Although they ultimately lost to the Lakers, the Heat far exceeded anyone's expectations and Jimmy Butler erased all doubts surrounding his leadership. There were nights when he went off, like his 40 points against the Bucks in the first game of the series, and nights he would only score 17 but still have a positive impact on the game. The rest of the team flourished under Butler, with Goran Dragic, Bam Adebayo, Tyler Herro, Duncan Robinson, Kendrick Nunn and Kelly Olynyk all shining on the court. 

Denver Nuggets 

The Denver Nuggets came in as the number three seed in the West with expectations to make a deep playoff run, but they made history by becoming thefirst team to ever come back from a 3–1 deficit twice. Nikola Jokicaveraged 24.4 points, 9.8 rebounds and 5.7 assists per game. His performance cemented him as the best big in the league today and the Joker's midrange game and passing ability showed his versatility. Jamal Murray also showed throughout the Bubble that he is elite at his position, dropping 50 points in two playoff games against the Utah Jazz. This NBA duo will be one to watch for a long time. 

Honorable mention: Phoenix Suns

Although the Suns didn't get a chance to play into the playoffs, they unexpectedly pulled off an 8–0 undefeated run in the NBA Bubble. Devin Booker showed that he is a clutch player, and others such as Jevon Carter and Dario Šarić had some stand-out performances as well. 

 

Losers: 

Milwaukee Bucks 

The Milwaukee Bucks finished first in the Eastern Conference with a 56–17 record in the 2020 NBA regular season. With Giannis Antetokounmpo winning both league MVP and Defensive Player of the Year, the Bucks were favorites to win the NBA championship with his leadership. Unfortunately, their playoff run was cut very short in just the second round, losing to the Miami Heat. Antetokounmpoaveraged 22.7 points, 13.3 rebounds and 7 assists per game in the first three games of the series against the Heat before hobbling off the court with an ankle injury in the second quarter and not returning for the fifth game. Those averages are also a bit misleading because Giannis' performance was rather inconsistent, and without much help on the court, they never really stood a chance against the Heat. It's time for the Bucks to fully confront this disappointment of a playoff run and make real changes. 

Los Angeles Clippers

The Los Angeles Clippers and Doc Rivers might possibly be the biggest losers of the playoffs, and there's not much to be said that hasn't been said already. The Clippers were supposed to have a deep bench, but they played arrogantly and sloppily, and blew a 3–1 lead for the third time in Doc Rivers' career. Kawhi Leonard wasn't the problem, but the rest of the bench was. Paul George could not produce on the court at all, not to mention Lou Williams, Pat Beverly, Reggie Jackson — the list goes on. The Clippers played like a bad team. 

Honorable mention: Philadelphia 76ers

This year marks yet another disappointing playoff run by the 76ers and it's clear that 'The Process” isn't working. With Doc Rivers as the new 76ers coach, there will be lots of aspects to revisit, most importantly the dynamic of theJoel Embiid-Ben Simmons duo.