NBA Playoffs Succeed in “Bubble” Environment

Amanda Lauschus
Sports Business Writer

Jimmy Butler and the Miami Heat upset the top-seeded Milwaukee Bucks, earning themselves a conference final berth (Photo Courtesy of ESPN)

The global pandemic has definitely put a damper on 2020, to say the least – from staying inside, distancing from family and friends, and especially – sports. After shutting down play completely in mid-March, the NBA made a comeback to finish their season strong, resuming play beginning at the end of July. Perhaps the last place we thought we would see the NBA continue the season would have been Walt Disney World Resort in Florida. But this is exactly where the league decided to play out the games while still remaining safe. While in this location, all the teams remained under a single isolated “bubble” – taking every precaution they possibly could to keep COVID out. No one was coming in or out of the site, and there was no shot that this league was allowing COVID to shut down this season for a second time.

As we enter this new week, we prepare ourselves for monumental games that will decide the opponents in the conference finals. A few teams have been interesting to watch out for to this point, such as the Toronto Raptors. For starters, the Raptors had been counted out of the running early on in the season after losing Kawhi Leonard in free agency, but then achieved the unexpected with a franchise record for winning percentage. The game Friday evening could have gone to anyone – with both teams showing a lot of power in the series so far. Game 7 of the semifinals between the Boston Celtics and the Raptors was a wild ride, with the Celtics beating the Raptors in a close game at the end, to make it to the conference final vs. the Miami Heat.

Danuel House of the Houston Rockets was sent home from the “bubble” site for violating the NBA’s COVID policies (Photo Courtesy of CBS Sports)

On the other side of the league, the race for a conference spot still is up for grabs. This weekend, the Lakers faced the Rockets in Game 5 in the fight to move on, with the Lakers having the upper hand with a 3-1 lead through the first four games. The MVP pairing from the Rockets, Russell Westbrook and James Harden, could face a tough elimination if they don’t find themselves getting past the Lakers. After upsetting the No. 1 seed Lakers in Game 1, the past few defeats have created a loss of confidence that the team must recover if they want to see a conference final this season. The Rockets will also be without forward Danuel House for the remainder of the season, who was sent home after violating COVID protocols set in place by the league. House allegedly had unapproved guests in his room, prompting an investigation after which he was sent home as punishment.

The LA Clippers also hope to reach the first conference finals in franchise history, even after losing to the Denver Nuggets on Friday 111-105. It remains to be seen if Paul George and Kawhi Leonard can pull through in Game 5 and send Denver home.

Overall, a lot is still up in the air for the NBA finals and which teams we will see face off against one another. One thing is for certain though – the bubble in Disney World used some “Disney magic” because they were able to get through the 2020 playoffs so far without any cases of COVID among the players. When it came to playing the game and staying safe, the NBA was not going to mess around and let the pandemic stand in their way of doing what they love to do – play basketball.


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