The Toronto Raptors going toe-to-toe with the Boston Celtics, Jamal Murray going head-to-head with arguably the best player in the league. Kelly Olynyk and the Heat are off to the conference finals and Bridget Carleton is helping one of the best teams in the WNBA chase a championship - and all this is happening after Labour Day? 2020 has been a year full of surprises and the NBA and WNBA have seen their fair share.
Let's take a look at what some of the Canadians have been doing in their respective bubbles.
The Raptors have been grabbing the headlines nationwide with their play but so have the Canadians in the NBA. According to Forbes, there was a 41.0 percent ratings increase from last year in first-round series that didn't include Toronto. Those who've tuned in haven't been disappointed by the likes of Jamal Murray, Shai Gilgeous-Alexander and Lugentz Dort.
Murray has exploded in the bubble, averaging 26.5 points, 6.5 assists while shooting 49.8 percent from the field and 47.7 percent from three. His dual with Utah's Donovan Mitchell in the first round will go down as one of the best one-on-one battles in playoff history. Murray's Nuggets prevailed after going down 3-1 in the series and it took a couple of 50-point outbursts from the Canadian to get the job done.
Murray and the Nuggets have it tough in the second round against an old pal of Canadians in Kawhi Leonard and the Los Angeles Clippers. Regardless of the outcome in these playoffs, Murray has hit another level and announced himself as one of the country's biggest stars.
Luguentz Dort came into the playoffs a relative unknown starting for Oklahoma City, and despite the Thunder's loss in Game 7 to the Houston Rockets, Dort's impact was felt throughout the country. Going into Game 7, Dort was shooting a dismal 30.9 percent from the field and 18.4 percent from 3-point range. At times it looked like the Rockets were triple-dog daring Dort to shoot, but in Game 7, that backfired.
Dort exploded with a career-high 30 points going 6-for-12 from downtown in the win-or-go-home classic.
While the offence in the deciding game was a pleasant surprise for Thunder fans, it was his defence that really stole the show in the playoffs. Dort was tasked with guarding former MVP James Harden - one of the best one-on-one players in NBA history. Dort held Harden to just 31.5 percent from the field and 26.3 percent from three in 156.4 partial possessions guarding him according to NBA Stats. That's not just good, that's elite-level defence. Dort's offence will come along, but his lockdown defence will continue to separate him from the rest of the pack.
Shai Gilgeous-Alexander saw his points, rebounds and assists averages all inrease in his second-ever playoff run. SGA will likely be a part of the future in OKC and how he develops will either speed up their potential rebuild or slow it down. A lot will be riding on the young man in season three at age 22, but Gilgeous-Alexander is cooler than the other side of the pillow and will take it all in stride.
Over in the wubble, Bridget Carleton has helped the Minnesota Lynx secure their tenth straight playoff berth. The Lynx have been without future Hall of Famer Sylvia Fowles in all but seven of their games this season, but Carleton has been a welcome addition to the rotation.
Carleton's 50.0 percent 3-point shooting and 108.0 offensive rating has helped the Lynx offence go from one of the worst to start the year to one of the best in the league. The competition will be tough in the postseason but the Lynx could be a sleeper pick to make a deep run in the W.
With Fowles out of the lineup, Kayla Alexander has gotten extended looks throughout the season. Her per-36 minute averages of 14.5 points and 6.2 rebounds while shooting 51.7 percent from the field show that she's still capable of impacting the game given an opportunity.
The increase in workload hasn't stopped Alexander from being an effective leader off the court. Her children's book The Magic of Basketball was recently featured by the Canadian Olympic team on international literacy day and she's been able to continue to be a voice in the fight for equality using her platform to spread love.
Canadian WNBA player @kjalexan40 spoke with @AntonyRobart about last week's sports boycott, reflecting on the movement and what the league hopes to achieve further with the discussion on anti-Black racism, and other issues. pic.twitter.com/N9DXKlUOIr- Global News Toronto (@globalnewsto) August 31, 2020
Alexander's fellow National Team frontcourt mate Natalie Achonwa won't be playing in the playoffs this year as her Indiana Fever failed to qualify. But that hasn't stopped her from making an impact off the court.
Achonwa was recently part of a Women's Leadership panel that discussed a myriad of topics including mental health.
Like Achonwa, Kia Nurse will also be sitting out the playoffs as her New York Liberty continue to rebuild. However, there is some positive news to come out of 2020 for Nurse as she went over the 1,000 point mark for her career in a game against the Fever.
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