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West Orange Times & Observer Wednesday, Aug. 26, 2020 2 months ago

COLUMN: NBA shines in Disney bubble

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Game-winners, 53-point scorers and video game-like stats has made for one of the most memorable NBA seasons in history.
by: Troy Herring Sports Editor

With his team down by a single point with 3.7 seconds left in overtime, Dallas Mavericks guard Luka Doncic did what Doncic does: He created something out of nothing.

With just a second to go, Doncic pulled up for a shot from downtown Winter Garden — technically it was 28 feet, but I digress. And after the horn sounded, it barreled its way through the net. Ball game — the Mavs beat the Los Angeles Clippers 135-133 in stunning fashion to tie up their first-round series of the Western Conference playoffs 2-2.

It’s being called the “shot heard ‘round the bubble,” but it’s echoed further than just the quarantine play of the NBA at the ESPN Wide World of Sports facility here in West Orange County. 

The internet exploded, with video of the shot being shared from here to China, while sports fans eagerly discussed it on social media. But the shot was more than a single moment: It captured everything the NBA playoffs have been. And all of that excitement? That’s all happening in our backyard.

When the NBA announced in June it would be holding its restart here in Orange County, there were a lot of questions about how exactly it would work. Those questions were answered swiftly.

Out of the gate, the eight games played by all 22 invited teams to determine seeding featured high scoring and ridiculous numbers put up by some unexpected players.

Through the seeding games, the leading scorer wasn’t LeBron James or James Harden — it was my guy, Indiana Pacers forward T.J. Warren. 

For those who don’t know, Warren — also known as Tony Buckets by the Wolfpack faithful such as myself — is a product of N.C. State, and his scoring alone has been ridiculous. In a game against the Philadelphia 76ers, Warren went off for a career-high 53 points before posting three 30-point games in five games.

The bubble has seen more dramatic shots than I can recall. 

The Doncic bucket was the latest, but it’s hard to forget Damian Lillard’s clutch three from 33 feet that caromed off the back of the rim and shot right up in the air before falling back through the net to help tie the game and eventually lead the Portland Trail Blazers to a critical 134-131 win over the Mavs. In that game, Lillard finished with 61 points. 

Then you have the off-the-court moments that make NBA all-stars feel like normal people — despite the fact they’re all generally large humans and make more money than most of us ever will in several lifetimes. 

The lakes around the Disney resorts have been stocked with fish, and if you’re perusing Twitter, there is a good chance you will see guys sitting by the water of an empty resort holding up largemouth bass. And when they are not fishing, there is a good chance they are out on one of the golf courses — which, the thought of a 6-foot-8 person playing golf alone is hilarious.

Bottom line: There is a reprieve from the world, and it’s being offered up by the NBA right down the road from where you sit. So turn on your TV, flip over to TNT or ESPN and enjoy yourself, even if it’s only for an hour or two.

Troy Herring is the sports editor at the West Orange Times and Windermere Observer. He is a graduate of the University of Mount Olive (BS '12) and the University of Alabama (MA '16)....

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