The coronavirus pandemic has rocked the world and put a stop to sports as we know them, including the NBA.
The NBA was the first league to suspend play two weeks ago. It’s unclear when the league may return or what it will look like when it does. Will there be an official champion of the 2019-20 season?
We were robbed of what was sure to be an extremely compelling playoffs, but luckily we can still take a peek at the alternate timeline in which the games play on.
Using extremely advanced technology (a copy of NBA 2K20 and a Playstation 4) we were able to simulate the rest of the NBA season from where it left off two weeks ago.
For the purposes of this exercise, we chose to play as the New York Knicks to make sure we would not affect the playoffs at all.
The results may or may not surprise you. Let’s recap!
The end of the regular season
Mostly everything here held to form, but there were a few surprises. When we last left the NBA, the Mavericks were seventh in the West, the 76ers were sixth in the East and the Grizzlies held the West’s eighth seed.
The Mavs went on a late run led by Luka Doncic and vaulted up to No. 4 in the Western Conference standings, while Damian Lillard and the Trail Blazers took the eighth spot from the Grizzlies. The Sixers climbed up to third in the East.
Yeah, things got weird. Here are a few takeaways from a wild, fake 2020 NBA playoffs.
Luka goes off: The Mavericks swept the Nuggets in the first round, with Doncic averaging 34.2 points, 12.3 rebounds and 10.5 assists in his first ever playoff series. Doncic’s run ended in the second round against LeBron and the Lakers, but it was an incredible playoff debut for the Mavs’ young star.
Oh no, Milwaukee: Giannis and the Bucks easily got past the Magic in the first round, but the MVP was shockingly beaten in five games by the Boston Celtics in the second round. Somewhere, Pat Riley smiles and the Miami 2021 rumors begin.
Kawhi shuts down Harden: The Houston Rockets fell all the way to the No. 7 seed and into an unfavorable matchup with Kawhi Leoanrd and the Clippers in the first round. The Rockets and their extreme small-ball lineup flamed out in five games, with Harden averaging just 21.8 points. And so began an extremely uncertain offseason for coach Mike D’Antoni, GM Daryl Morey and even Harden.
Chris Paul’s revenge: Paul and the Thunder went from pleasant surprise in the regular season to buzzsaw in the playoffs. OKC took down Utah in a thrilling seven-game series to open the playoffs, with Paul going for 22 points in the deciding Game 7. Paul and the Thunder then shocked the Clippers in the second round, dispatching L.A. in five games. All of a sudden, the offseason trade that sent Paul George to the Clippers and Shai Gilgeous-Alexander plus a bunch of picks to the Thunder looks like one of the more one-sided deals of all time. The Thunder’s magical run ended in the Western Conference finals against the Lakers, but Paul added to his already complicated legacy.
Philly goes crazy: The 76ers were one of the most inconsistent and strangest teams in the regular season, but a late run vaulted them to the No. 3 seed. Joel Embiid and Ben Simmons were dominant in the first two rounds, sweeping Indiana and then Toronto, to get revenge for last year’s conference semis heartbreaker against the Raptors. Against all odds, Philly took down Boston in a grueling seven-game Eastern Conference finals to reach the NBA Finals. Ironically enough, the Sixers hit their stride after losing Al Horford for the playoffs because of knee tendinitis. Simmons still never shot a three.
The Finals: 76ers roll
It was a rematch of the 2001 NBA Finals between the 76ers and Lakers. Embiid averaged 28.5 points and 15.2 rebounds heading into the Finals, but would it be enough to stop Anthony Davis and LeBron?
It was. The Sixers took down the Lakers in six games with Embiid being named Finals MVP. LeBron’s return to the Finals after a one-year hiatus was a disaster reminiscent of his performance against Dallas in 2011. James averaged just 20 points in the Finals and had just 18 points off eight shots in the final game. The sports debate shows had content to last all summer.
And Simmons was an NBA champion without taking a three.
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