The tournament has been really exciting for fans since the restart.
The NBA playoffs are underway. A season that was suspended in limbo after the horrendous COVID-19 outbreak which saw several basketball players test positive, restarted last month in extremely safe conditions and now we are witnessing the most exciting stage of the competition.
22 teams entered the Orlando bubble, the brainchild of NBA commissioner Adam Silver. And now, after a gruelling two and a half weeks of seeding games and a thrilling play-in contest, 16 teams are taking part in the NBA Playoffs.
With NBA playoffs are underway, let’s take a look at the top 5 players who stood out in the seeding games in Orlando, courtesy of their otherworldly performances:
5. Nikola Jokic
Clutch. Nikola Jokic is a clutch. The only reason the Joker makes this list ahead of anyone else in the All-Bubble teams is his ability to influence the game when he is needed to step up the most. Lets recap to the two OT wins of the Nuggets, Utah Jazz and Thunder – both playoff contenders and Jokic outplayed them both.
A stellar Donovan Mitchell forced a second OT for Jazz only to fall to the Serb but Thunder faced the majority of the brunt. Of the 12 points scored by the Nuggets in the overtime period, 8 points were from the Joker. His ability to both knockdown shots when required and find the open man when he is doubled is extra-ordinary.
Michael Porter Jr. also deserves praise but Jokic has clearly stood out for the Nuggets in the bubble. Stats don’t speak much about his strength, but moments are what makes us see the potential in Jokic.
4. Luka Doncic
There were three unanimous selections to the All Bubble First Teams. Damian Lillard and Devin Booker were two of them. The third was the sophomore from Slovenia and last year’s rookie of the Year Luka Doncic. Dallas Mavericks’ offence is centred around Luka.
The phenomenon is averaging 30 points, 10.1 rebounds and an unselfish 9.7 assists in the bubble and is looking likely as an MVP calibre player. His 36-point performance against the Bucks, supplemented by 14 rebounds and 19 assists was one for the ages
3. T.J. Warren
Remember the name T.J. Warren. The former Phoenix Sun player has had a bubble to remember averaging 31 points and 6.3 rebounds on his way to becoming a household name.
With Sabonis out due to injury and Oladipo not completely back to his prime form, the Pacers required someone to step up during the seeding games. T. J. Warren took over that role in the first game itself with a 53 point explosion against Ben Simmons and the 76ers.
Despite a not so stellar outing against his former team, the Suns, he came roaring back against championship contenders Lakers with a 39 point effort. His performance earned him a deserved All Bubble First Team selection and he is looking to continue his hot streak against Heat in the playoffs.
2. Devin Booker
If there was anyone who gave doubts to people voting for Damian Lillard as the Most Valuable Player of the seeding games, it was Devin Booker. The 6’5” shooting guard from Kentucky was a force to reckon with, posting 30.5 points and 6.0 assists to go along with an 8-0 record.
His standout play was the game-winning buzzer-beater against the Los Angeles Clippers that left all basketball fans stunned. A first-time All-Star this year, Booker has given much optimism going to the next season even though they failed to qualify for the NBA playoffs this time around.
Alongside, a fast-improving Ayton and a talented balanced squad, Booker has the ability to make sure that Phoenix is a regular playoff entry in the coming seasons.
Also Read: Doncic breaks Michael Jordan’s record
1. Damian Lillard
Before the seeding games had come into fruition, Damian Lillard was clear on one thing that he wouldn’t go into bubble if he believed his team didn’t have a shot. All it required for him was a small silver lining. He took the NBA by storm as he led Portland Trail Blazers to the 8th seed in the playoffs.
They finished 8th in the west and beat the Grizzlies in the play-in tournament to confirm their date with LeBron James and the Lakers in the first round. Damian Lillard averaged 37.6 points and 9.6 assists for the Blazers including a stellar 61 point effort against the Mavericks to push the team from Portland over the hump.
He has been near unguardable during this stretch of the game, making shots from the logo at times. His performance will serve as a warning to the Lakers, who have been below par in the bubble. If Dame Time continues, an upset maybe on the cards.