With offenses blowing up in bubble, defenses try to catch up
LAKE BUENA VISTA, Florida — The kids are having all kinds of fun at Walt Disney World.
Donovan Mitchell, just 23 years old, opened the NBA playoffs with 57 points, third-most in history.
Luka Doncic, only 21, scored 42, the best postseason debut the league had ever seen.
They did everything but win.
Numbers have been eye-popping all over the bubble, with individual players and sometimes entire teams pouring it on like never before. There’s no indication so far that’s going to change in the postseason.
“In some ways I don’t know if it’s more competitive, but it’s competitive out there,” said Clippers coach Doc Rivers, whose team withstood Doncic’s debut to beat Dallas in Game 1.
“I think because everyone in the bubble has confidence right now because they put the work in, so that’s what’s going to make it hard.”
The thought was always that defenses tightened up come playoff time, with the pace of the game slowing down and more adjustments being made as teams familiarize themselves with an opponent they could play seven times.
That hasn’t happened yet.
Denver overcame Mitchell’s performance by scoring 135 points to beat Utah by 10 in overtime. Toronto hung a franchise playoff-record 134 on Brooklyn in the only rout on Monday, behind a career playoff-best 30 points from Fred VanVleet.
In the other game, Jayson Tatum had career playoff highs of 32 points and 13 rebounds to get Boston past Philadelphia 109-101.
Rivers thinks players are sharper than they usually would be when the postseason arrives because of all the extra practice time they had, and it’s clear that it’s been paying off.
But he’s not expecting it to stay this way. The defenses will start catching up eventually, maybe even as soon as some of the Game 2s scheduled for Wednesday.
So don’t give up on the idea of defenses winning championships just yet.
“It’s not gone,” he said. “It’s just gone right now.”