Warriors

Why Splash Bros would have flourished playing in NBA bubble

Warriors

The NBA has seen some historic individual performances in the Orlando bubble playoffs so far, coming from the likes of Jamal Murray, Donovan Mitchell, Luka Doncic and other stars. 

After watching these players make electrifying plays and hit absurd shots, the thought had to have crossed many Warriors fans' minds: How well would Steph Curry and Klay Thompson have done in this environment?

Well, the statistics suggest they would have had a great chance at eclipsing their already historic career playoff shooting percentages.

Scoring and shooting efficiency are up across the board thus far. 

In the 2019 playoffs, the Warriors were the only team that shot better than 37 percent from the 3-point line. That number has jumped up to nine teams this postseason.

Last playoffs, three teams averaged more than 112 points per game; this year, there are seven.

It's unclear why shooting percentages are much improved in the bubble, but there are many theories that have merit.

On the surface level, it is entirely possible that defenses still are rusty after the long layoff while the season was suspended, or that players feel fresh and healthy after spending time rehabbing. 

It would be hard to deny, though, that the playing conditions are more conducive for shooting. Playing in front of a raucous crowd definitely increases the pressure and distractions in a game, and the bubble environment clearly has a different vibe without fans in the stands --especially since neither team has home-court advantage.

Sure, some players like Curry and Thompson are known to feed off the energy of the audience and play their best, but usually it has been said that team and individual defense react more favorably to the home crowd noise and enthusiasm, inspiring and motivating the team to give maximum effort to shut down its opponent.

 

The rigors of constant traveling also can cause fatigue in the playoffs, so removing that from the equation allows players to comfortably stay in their hotels -- which they've become accustomed to -- and simply walk to their facility for practice, or their arena for the game.

Depth perception is another major factor, as well. Normally, NBA games are played in arenas with cavernous backdrops behind the hoop, with thousands of fans packed in. The bubble, on the other hand, has the depth behind the backboard of a small gym or practice facility. Speak to any basketball player, and they would tell you that it always is easier to shoot at a hoop with superior depth perception. 

One could argue that all these changes could have an adverse effect on players, since they are taken away from their normal routine and playing environments. That's a fair assumption for some players, but after playing in Orlando for weeks, it's highly unlikely that they haven't adapted to the visual and physical space. 

It's not just Curry and Thompson that would flourish in the bubble. Imagine a healthy Kevin Durant, who is lethal from the midrange and has proven to be an assassin from deep in the postseason. Seeing the likes of Murray and Mitchell destroy opponents makes one wonder how dangerous Kyrie Irving would be. 

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What exactly the NBA will look like next season remains unclear, since there is still a chance that playing in bubbles without fans will be the safest route. The hope, obviously, is that next season will return to some normalcy. It will be interesting to see if percentages stay elevated when that eventually happens. 

In the meantime, however, enjoy watching fun, high-scoring and sharpshooting NBA basketball, and feel free to daydream about Steph and Klay lighting it up.