Bubble Basketball

The Celtics’ ’19/’20 season in COVID


Joseph Danzig, Staff Writer

The 2020-2021 NBA season started on December 22. As many know, last season was not a normal NBA season due to the pandemic. A quick recap of last season would be a good way to get excited for this new season.

The 2019-2020 NBA season had to pause March 11 due to the coronavirus, and immediately the NBA and the NBPA (National Basketball Players Association) started meeting and thinking about how to safely get back to basketball. The two parties eventually came to an agreement to start a “bubble” in Orlando Florida at Disney World’s World of Sports. All players, coaches, staff and Disney staff would be tested daily and no one would be allowed in or out without strict rules.  Everyone who tested positive for the coronavirus would have to be quarantined for 14 days in their hotel room. 

The top 22 teams in the league were sent to the bubble with a chance to make the playoffs: nine teams from the Eastern Conference and 13 teams from the Western Conference. Each team played three exhibition games that didn’t count, and eight regular season games to determine who would make the playoffs. Then the 8th and 9th seed in each conference had a best-ou-of-3 play-in tournament to decide who would be the 8th seed in the playoffs. The Celtics went into the bubble with championship hopes. They were the third seed in the Eastern Conference and had one of the easiest bubble schedules. Kemba Walker’s knee injury had reportedly healed and the team was healthy and ready to go. The bubble season started in late July with exhibition games. The first regular season games of the bubble occurred on July 30 with two games, the Utah Jazz vs. the New Orleans Pelicans, and the LA Lakers vs. the LA Clippers. The Celtics first game was the following day with a match up against the Milwaukee Bucks. The Celtics lost a close one, 119-112. However, they went 5-3 overall to finish off the regular season.

 They finished 48-24 and captured the third seed in the eastern conference pitting them against the 6th seed Philadelphia 76’ers in the first round. The Celtics won the series in dominant fashion, slowing down Sixer Joel Embiid and sweeping the series in 4 games. However there was a drawback. Small forward Gordon sprained his ankle and would reportedly be out for 4-6 weeks. The injury moved shooting guard and 1st team all-defender Marcus Smart into the starting lineup. The next series was the Eastern Conference semifinals against the 2 seeded Raptors. After blowing out the Raptors in game one the Celtics won a close one 102-99 and took  a 2-0 series lead. The Celtics entered game 3 with a chance to create a 3-0 lead that no team has ever come back from. The Celtics were up by 2 with 0.5 seconds left and the Raptors were inbounding. Kyle Lowry chucked an overhead pass to a wide open OG Anunoby who caught it and immediately drained a 3 pointer. The Raptors won game 4 100-93 and just like that it was a series again. The Celtics went into game 5 with a must-win mentality. They manhandled the Raptors 111-89 and retook the series lead.

 “I was super excited. The Raptors were the reigning champs, I really thought they [The Celtics] were going to take it all the way“,  said longtime Celtics fan, Hannah Alegbeleye.

A fun fact is that 89% of the time NBA teams that are up 3-2 in a series win. Anyway, game 6 was a nailbiter, it went into double overtime but Kyle Lowry exploded for 33 points and hit several clutch shots to win and send the series to game 7. A interesting thing about that game was with the game tied and the clock winding down in regulation Kemba Walker drove to the basket and got fouled (Walker actually had a terrible game only scoring 5 points). However the refs did not make the call and the game went into overtime. It was do or die in game 7, the Celtics went in and played as a team and won the game 92-87, and the series 4-3.  

Next was the Eastern Conference Finals vs. the Miami Heat. The 5th seeded Heat had knocked off Giannis Antetokounmpo and the top seeded Bucks the previous round. Both teams thought they were going to the finals, but in the first 2 games the Celtics had 2 similarly disappointing losses. Both times the Celtics built up leads in the 3rd Quarter before having them slip away as they lost game one 117-114 in overtime and game two 106-101. The Celtics came back in game 3 as Gordon Hayward’s return helped them surge to a 117-106 victory. The Celtics lost game 4 though 112-109, as rookie Tyler Herros scored 37 points for the Heat. He was the difference maker and the Heat took a commanding 3-1 lead. Not to go down without a fight, the Celtics demolished the Heat in game 5, winning 108-121 and making the series interesting again. Unfortunately the Heat were not interested in comebacks and they easily won game 6 113-125 and sent the Celtics back to Boston to prepare for the season that has just begun.