By Ollie Nash
The top two seeds in the East are gone while the Clippers and Lakers live to fight another day in the West. Photo: ESPN
The 2019-20 NBA playoffs have been amazing. Fans and experts will look back at some of these games as the best playoff games in history, I have no doubt about that.
I’m wasting no time and jumping straight in, because if I don’t then someone might score 100 points, it honestly wouldn’t surprise me after 2020 so far. Here are the biggest surprises and positive storylines from the NBA Playoffs to date.
1. Miami proving all doubters wrong
I’ll put my hand up and say I didn’t believe in Miami as a genuine contender. I, like many, thought they matched up well against Milwaukee, but assumed the Bucks would ultimately get over them through seven games. The Heat basically said 'f*** you' to everyone and won the series in five.
For the now, it gives Miami a chance to win a title which no one saw coming. For the future, it gives them even further legitimacy in free agency than they already had, with Pat Riley and Erik Spoelstra leading the way. They have cap space and a bunch of role players on great contracts and they’re hungry for success. Miami have nailed their rebuild so far.
Jimmy Butler and the Miami Heat have exceeded all expectations in the bubble. Photo: USA Today
2. Luka Doncic is legit
We already knew Luka Doncic was a star, but his performance against the Clippers in the first round has taken him to a level that no one has gone to at his age before. Playing against a team full of “dogs”, Doncic was the biggest dog of them all, putting Dallas on his back and taking it to the Clips.
Even with the extra attention from Marcus Morris Sr. (which we all know was dirty), he put up 31 points, 9.8 rebounds and 8.7 assists on 50/36.4/65.5 shooting splits. Chuck in a step-back game-winning three and a 20-point comeback for good measure as well, and we have ourselves a serious playoff player for the next 15 or so years.
3. Boston and Toronto series
Toronto and Boston have played in the biggest heavyweight title fight type series I have almost ever seen. Just haymakers being thrown left and right. This series is plain and simply just good for basketball. Blowouts, buzzer beaters, two of the best coaches in the league going at it and some post-game fights just to top it all off.
I’ve never sat back in my chair, hands on head and said “holy sh**” as many times as I did during the last quarter and double-overtime of game six. Big shots being made by star players and huge defensive stops on the other end. Then to top it all off, game seven came down to the wire and the young Celtics got over the hump of the experienced, reigning champion Raptors. Amazing series.
Tension was high through a long seven game series between Toronto and Boston. Photo: AP/Mark J. Terrill
4. Donovan Mitchell and Jamal Murray coming out party
I have been Jamal Murray’s biggest critic. I thought he was inconsistent and overpaid. He has served me a big old piece of humble pie in these playoffs. He has still had a couple of down games, as all players do, but has jumped up a level in the stardom standings.
His battle with Donovan Mitchell in their first round match-up was historic. Before the series began only two players had scored 50 or more points twice in a single playoff series, Michael Jordan and Allen Iverson. That number doubled after Murray and Mitchell did it.
Both players are stuck on teams at the moment that aren’t quite there, but their personal trajectory is looking skyward, and no doubt they will drag their teams with them in the coming years.
5. Chris Paul winding back the clock
Although Oklahoma City couldn’t get past Houston in game seven of their first-round match-up, the play from Chris Paul to get them to that position was awesome. From 2-0 down and seemingly out of the series to forcing a game seven and coming within a couple of plays of winning. Like the Boston/Toronto game six, I couldn’t hold back my “what the f*** is going on” comment in the dying stages of that game seven.
It was fun to watch Paul get back to leading a team and now I look forward to another potential move to a legitimate contender. With that in mind, does Paul look good in green?
Cover Photo: Kevin C. Cox/Pool Photo via AP