In honor of me turning 30, I’m compiling 30 different top-30 lists on a wide variety of topics ranging from trivial interests of mine to meaningful life moments. Read the introductory post for more background information on my 30 at 30 project. Reminder: there is no scientific rationale for these lists. They were composed by a panel of one—me.
30. Phoenix Suns go undefeated during the seeding games (yet still miss the playoffs)
Highlighted by Devin Booker’s buzzer beater against the Los Angeles Clippers, the Suns were one of the best stories of the NBA restart, rattling off an improbable eight straight wins in the Bubble. Unfortunately for Suns fans, their record was so bad entering the restart that the 8-0 mark was not enough to catapult them into the playoff picture.
29. Lakers beat Clippers in first game back
The opening night of the restart was highlighted by the Battle of L.A. in Orlando. The Clippers took two of the first three matchups between the two title contenders during the regular season, although the Lakers had won the most recent battle in March before the shutdown. In the Bubble matchup, the teams played with a playoff-like intensity. Paul George hit a 3 to tie the game at 101 in the final minute. But LeBron James put back his own miss with 12 seconds remaining for what would prove to be the game-winner in a 103-101 Lakers win that essentially clinched the Lakers’ path to the number one seed.
28. The first round duel between Jamal Murray and Donovan Mitchell
The Denver Nuggets came back from a 3-1 deficit to eliminate the Utah Jazz in the most entertaining first-round series in the Bubble. The main reason why it was the most entertaining series was the high-scoring duel between Murray and Mitchell. They set an NBA record for combined points between two opposing players in a playoff series (475 points), including four 50+ point games. Plus, Murray’s 360 layup to avoid Utah’s Rudy Gobert was on the shortlist of top highlights from the postseason.
27. The Clippers collapse
Experts and fans alike expected a Lakers-Clippers showdown in the Western Conference Finals. The Lakers and Clippers both jumped out to 3-1 series leads in their respective second-round matchups. The Lakers closed out the Rockets in Game 5. Meanwhile, the Clippers blew double-digit second-half leads in Games 5 and 6 against the Nuggets before falling short in Game 7, being outscored 50-33 in the second half of the series finale.
26. Bucks’ walkout leads to NBA boycott
In response to the shooting of Jacob Blake in Kenosha, Wisconsin, the Milwaukee Bucks’ players agreed to forfeit Game 5 of their first-round series against the Orlando Magic in protest. The Magic refused the forfeit, and the rest of the NBA teams followed suit in refusing to play basketball in a sign of solidarity. Basketball stopped again, and it seemed possible that the Bubble experiment would end without the NBA crowning a champion.
After some emotionally charged players’ meetings, the league and the players eventually came to an agreement to resume play. The players returned under the condition that the league would increase their focus on raising awareness to combat issues of social and racial injustice and allow more access to voting.
25. The Lakers’ bench
I will comment on specific players later in this post, but I did not want to overlook the crew at the end of the bench, guys who may not have played the most important role on the team but nonetheless contributed on or off the court, whether in games or practices, in some small way to the Lakers’ championship season. Congratulations to Kostas Antetokounmpo, Devontae Cacok, Quinn Cook, Jared Dudley, Talen Horton-Tucker, J.R. Smith, and Dion Waiters. Also, a special shout out to Avery Bradley, who sat out the Bubble for family reasons but was a key contributor to the Lakers’ regular-season success prior to the shutdown in March.