Endless drama ensues in the NBA playoffs


Every facet of life has been affected by COVID-19, and the NBA has not been an exception. In March, as Rudy Gobert of the Utah Jazz was confirmed of the coronavirus, the NBA put the 2019-20 season on hiatus. The NBA finally resumed on June 4 at the NBA bubble in the Walt Disney World Orlando. Although the game dynamics have definitely changed, the entertainment has still been top notch, especially ever since the NBA playoffs began in October. Recently, Giannis Antetokounmpo of the Milwaukee Bucks controversially won both the KIA MVP and Defensive Player of the Year award, beating LeBron James of the Los Angeles Lakers. In addition, the Denver Nuggets overcame a 3-1 lead for the second time this postseason, defeating the heavily favored Los Angeles Clippers.

The regular season MVP race is always full of controversy, and it was not any different for the 2019-20 season. As the regular season came to a close, there were two clear frontrunners: Giannis Antetkounmpo and LeBron James. Antetokounmpo, the reigning KIA MVP, had another historic season. He averaged 29.5 points, 13.6 rebounds, and 5.6 assists per game, with a player efficiency rating (PER) of 31.9, the highest single season PER of all-time. Antetokounmpo was truly dominant in every way and led his Bucks to the best record in the NBA. On the other hand, James, in his 17th NBA season, completely transformed himself and played the point guard for the first time in his career. James excelled as the playmaker for the Lakers and averaged 25.3 points, 7.8 rebounds, and 10.2 assists per game, leading the league in assists. Looking purely at statistics, Antetokoumpo did post better numbers than James in multiple categories. However, basketball goes beyond simply statistics. In head-to-head matchups, James was dominant against Antetokounmpo and arguably showcased that he is still the best player in the league over Antetokounmpo. Unsurprisingly, as a result of how close the MVP race was, the announcement of Antetokounmpo’s victory on Sept. 18 sparked countless debates around the NBA circle. Social media also exploded with contrasting views on the MVP race, some arguing that Giannis deserved it while others not. James even expressed his frustration with the MVP voting results in a post-game interview, saying that he was very upset. Considering the importance of MVPs in the legacies of superstars and future Hall of Fame players like Antetokounmpo and James, the debates on whether Antetokounmpo deserved the award will likely persist for some time.

“Poor LeBron. Even though every year an argument is made that he is the most dominant player in the league, time-after-time someone else, such as Westbrook, Harden, or Antetokounmpo, accomplishes something sensational and wins the award,” said Tim Munro, varsity basketball coach. “Personally, though, I think it is difficult to argue against Antetokounmpo deserving the 2019-20 regular season MVP. Same would have gone for LeBron had he won it. Both simply put up extraordinary numbers and had a phenomenal season: the award truly could have gone either way..”

Another hot issue in the NBA has been the Denver Nuggets’s amazing playoff run. Going into the postseason, the Nuggets were the 4th seed in the West, and although they had gotten to the second round in 2019, they were not considered a championship-contending team. After overcoming a 3-1 deficit against the Utah Jazz and advancing to the second round of the playoffs, the Nuggets met the Clippers. From the onset of the 2019-20 season, many experts had picked the Clippers to win it all, and nearly all predicted a Los Angeles showdown between the Lakers and Clippers in the Conference Finals. Thus, when the Nuggets were down 3-1 once again against the championship contender Clippers, most fans thought that the Nuggets’s season would soon be over. However, the Nuggets did not back down, and the two superstars of the team, Jamal Murray and Nikola Jokic, rallied with historic performances to win two elimination games and force a Game 7. As the saying goes, anything can happen in Game 7. With Paul George and Kawhi Leonard, the two superstars of the Clippers, scoring 0 points in total in the 4th quarter of Game 7, the Nuggets defeated the Clippers and advanced to the Western Conference Finals. Although the Nuggets then lost to the Lakers in the Conference Finals, the Nuggets made history this postseason. They became the first team in NBA history to come back from two 3-1 deficits within one postseason. Of course, the Clippers’s dismal performance in Game 7 played a definite role in the Nuggets’s victory as Steph A. Smith, ESPN expert, even described George and Leonard’s outing as “one of the greatest choke jobs in NBA history.” However, the true heroes of the story were the Nuggets that had shown amazing grit and perseverance. 

“The Nuggets’s playoff run will forever appear in NBA folklore,” said Yoonseo Kim (10), JV basketball player. “Even while down 3-1 twice, the Nuggets did not lose hope and simply fought back. I was inspired and learned how far grit and toughness can take a team.”

Without the electric crowds and the bursting energy from the arena, the NBA postseason is simply not the same. However, the 2019-20 playoffs have not been any less entertaining than before. With still the last few games of the NBA Finals left, everyone should hold on to the edges of their seats because the NBA has shown that truly anything is possible.