The performances that surprised us in the NBA bubble: Part II
Doncic, Lillard, Murray, and Mitchell gave the NBA a little bit of that Curry-esque wizardry we were missing.
This is the second part of LGW’s look back over the hungry hoopers who balled out in the NBA’s quarantine bubble but didn’t make the Finals. For Part I, click here. Today we take a look at four Western Conference guards who electrified the bubble despite their team’s eventual demise.
Some of you may know me as the guy NBC and Southwest Airlines sent to Dallas to bring “We Believe” energy to the depleted Warriors against the Mavericks. I don’t know if you recall the outcome of that game, but Doncic single-handedly destroying the Dubs in three quarters is forever burned into my memory. As my buddy and I sat stupefied watching the youngster cook our squad with fish grease, we knew that one day this Doncic kid was gonna take over the league.
But I certainly figured the 21-year old Slovenian would need more time before he terrified a contender in the postseason. WRONG! Doncic was the driving force for his shorthanded Mavs in an exhilarating six game series against the favored Los Angeles Clippers. Even though the Clippers prevailed 4-2, Doncic put fear in the hearts of a team that was allegedly chock full of elite perimeter defenders.
Not only did he battle through a bum ankle and the DISRESPECT FROM BENCH GOON MONTREZL HARRELL, but he did it all in style. In Game 4 he topped off a mesmerizing 43 point, 17 rebound, 13 assist performance with a Steph Curry-esque step-back three-point bomb.
Although the Clips walked away with the victory, Doncic certified himself as a true threat of the highest order.
Warriors fans already knew Dame Dolla was the real deal before the bubble #townbiz.
But the scoring fury he unleashed after he missed crucial free throws against the Clippers put the planet on notice. Check his game logs following that gaffe, keeping in mind that the Trail Blazers needed to win every remaining game to make the tournament.
WHAT. Those numbers were so berserk, people lost their minds and started saying he was a better shooter than Steph. Lillard’s run was ultimately crushed by the eventual champion Lakers, but not without a final jaw-dropping performance.
The Utah Jazz have been stuck grinding it out in the middle of the Western Conference pack for several years. Part of the reason has been a dearth of scoring (they haven’t had a player in the top-10 scoring leaders since KARL MALONE).
So when Mitchell kicked off an entertaining first round series against the Denver Nuggets with a 57-point outburst in Game 1, it sent shockwaves throughout the NBA.
Yet the Jazz lost that game, and ended up blowing a 3-1 lead to the Nuggets despite Mitchell’s flamethrowing.
Annnd they lost in large part because of the efforts of the final guard on the list.
WHEN DID THIS GUY BECOME TERRIFYING?
Murray helped lead his team back from an unprecedented two 3-1 deficits in the playoffs with a nasty repertoire of long-range bombing, crafty dribbling, and sneaky finishes.
Over the postseason Murray averaged 26.5 points and 6.6 assists on 50% shooting from the field (45% from downtown!). Check out this four game stretch against Utah in do-or-die territory:
In the next series against the favored Clippers, he uncorked a 40-point game in Game 7 to send L.A. home and get Doc Rivers fired.
Although the Nuggets were eventually dispatched in the Western Conference Finals by a superior Lakers squad, the 23-year old Murray proved that he’s ready for the big moments.
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