The 2019-2020 NBA season will go down in the books—perhaps not for any players’ recognition, nor a specific teams’, but for that huge gap in between the regular season games and the playoffs. From one perspective, players were given the opportunity to rest, heal from injuries and perfect their game. On the other, it altered team dynamics and it cost many teams valuable time to develop their chemistry. Nonetheless, it was brought down to only four teams remaining: two underdogs, a newly refurbished team and a team hungry for the championship.
In the Western Conference, the Los Angeles Lakers and the Denver Nuggets faced off in a battle not many anticipated. From the start of the season, a battle of Los Angeles was projected to be the only way the Western Conference was going to end. But to my dismay, and many others, the Clippers bringing in two All-Stars couldn’t live up to their high expectations. To many Lakers fans, it might seem like good news that the Los Angeles Clippers were out of the picture. The Lakers contain two All-Stars powerhouses in Anthony Davis and Lebron James who have led their team to an 8-2 playoff record. To Nuggets fans, they’ve come out on top before in these playoffs, so it can happen again, right? Looking at the numbers, the Nuggets barely slipped into the conference finals acquiring a 4-3 record against the Utah Jazz for both the first round against the Pacers and the semifinals with the Clippers. But off paper, their team chemistry and strengths have time and time again come into play to win big games.
But the last week of September proved to be their last. The Nuggets gave it their all, specifically Jamal Murray and Nikola Jokic, the two players who’ve played the most minutes during this year’s playoffs and who have carried this team farther than anyone ever imagined. They simply couldn’t finish them off— ‘Playoff Lebron’ went off to acquire a triple double and seal his spot in the finals.
In the Eastern conference, the Boston Celtics and Miami Heat faced off in a gruesome battle. This year, the Celtics had a chance to redeem themselves and even make a name for themselves. Looking back, this franchise hasn’t won a championship since the Big Three in 2008 but they’ve appeared in the Eastern Conference Finals three times out of the last four years. This year, they have five players who are averaging double digit points in these playoffs, including All-Star Jayson Tatum. The Celtics have a well-rounded team that has achieved great things this season like securing a third seed and knocking out last year’s champions in the semifinals.
Unlike last year, the Celtics didn’t have to worry about the Milwaukee Bucks coming into the playoffs, but was it really the Bucks they needed to worry about? The Heat have been nothing but net ever since they entered the notorious “NBA Bubble.” Being the lowest seeded team in the final four, they have beaten their opponents by more than three games during the playoffs, including a huge upset against the number one seeded Bucks. This gave them an 8-1 playoff record, the best of all four teams. Being a relatively young team with little playoff experience, the Heat were not favored to be in this spot. But their aggressiveness and their chemistry have proven to be more than enough. They have at least four players who they’ve relied on to step up to the plate and secure them a win, a luxury not many teams have.
The Celtics seemed to be holding on by a thread as the Heat were up three games to one. Securing another win wasn’t easy for them and securing two proved to be unattainable. The Heat were able to shut down their hopes even with the Celtics having four players with more than twenty points each in previous games. That being said the Heat deserve to be where they’re at because of their hard work ethic and determination.
While the Nuggets couldn’t continue their fervor until a potential game seven against the dominant Lakers, the Heat continued blazing their trail and overpowered the Celtics in six games. Although both underdogs did not reach the finals, there is still hope for the Heat to finish what they started. This could in fact be the year of the underdogs.