NBA champions the Toronto Raptors have flown out to Florida as they prepare for the 2019-20 season's planned restart.

The NBA is planning to resume the campaign at Walt Disney World Resort via a 22-team format in Orlando next month after the league was suspended in March due to the coronavirus pandemic.

Toronto travelled to Florida on Monday, with the Raptors to be based in Fort Myers until entering the NBA campus at Disney in early July for the remainder of the season.

"In keeping with NBA and team safety protocols, there will be no group workouts during this phase of return to play, and strict protocols have been designed to ensure this initial level of access will take place in a safe, controlled, and healthy way," the Raptors said in a statement.

Group workouts will only begin once teams have reported to the NBA campus at Walt Disney World Resort.

The Raptors (46-18) were second in the Eastern Conference prior the COVID-19 crisis, behind the NBA-leading Milwaukee Bucks (53-12).

A trip to Orlando, Florida is overwhelmingly a more popular travel destination than Milwaukee, Wisconsin for most American families.

NBA teams share that sentiment.

The NBA has approved its return-to-play plan, which will send 22 teams to the Walt Disney Resort near Orlando. All the games and practices will take place at the Disney complex after the NBA's Board of Governors approved proposals for a restart from the coronavirus-enforced break.

The teams invited to Florida are the 16 that held playoff spots when the season was halted on March 11, plus the six teams within six games of eighth place in both the Eastern and Western Conferences.

While having all the games at one location terminates travel and should cut down on some fatigue, it will provide a new challenge – likely playing games in empty gyms without the noise of the crowd.

A lack of crowd noise may be the biggest obstacle for the players, challenging their mettle. They will have to take part in crucial games and within these games, face critical possessions without getting any adrenaline rush from either the roar of the fans they would experience at their home arena or the chorus of boos from a hostile crowd when they are on the road.

For the teams, they are now pretty much all on equal footing. Those that had been dominating for the right to earn home-court advantage for the playoffs no longer have such an advantage.

When the season went on pause nearly three months ago, the Milwaukee Bucks owned the NBA's best record at 53-12. The Bucks are obviously an excellent team, boasting the league's highest-scoring offense behind reigning league MVP Giannis Antetokounmpo, but some of their success stems from their ability to easily dispatch of foes when they visited Milwaukee.

The Bucks have only lost two of their 30 games at Fiserv Forum since the calendar flipped to November. And both of those defeats came at the hands of West clubs – the Dallas Mavericks on December 16 and Denver Nuggets on January 31. They have gone 18-1 in Milwaukee against the East this season with the lone blemish coming in overtime to the Miami Heat in their home opener on October 26.

By continuing to defend home court against East teams, the Bucks appeared to have a relatively clear path to reach the NBA Finals, but now their opponents will no longer be making that dreaded trip to Milwaukee. 

Miami, meanwhile, is a hotter destination than Milwaukee – both literally and figuratively – and the Heat climbed to the top of the Southeast Division behind the strength of a 27-5 record in Miami – the third-best home record in the NBA.

The Heat, however, no longer will have the luxury of welcoming visitors to South Beach and its nightlife, instead playing the rest of their games in the more family-friendly environment provided by Mickey Mouse.

Only one team has compiled a better home record than the Bucks and Heat this season, and that has been perhaps one of the most perplexing teams of all time.

The Philadelphia 76ers have gone 29-2 at home, but if the playoffs started today they would not be hosting a first-round series. Thanks to an inability to win on the road where they have gone 10-24, the Sixers are in sixth place in the East. 

Philly has a .935 winning percentage at home and a .294 winning percentage on the road. That decrease of .641 in winning percentage from home to road is the largest difference since the NBA expanded to 14 teams in 1968-69. 

Seeing as there has been no rational explanation as to how a team can play so well at home and so poorly on the road, it is anyone's guess how the Sixers will fare in Orlando.

While teams will be missing out on having games at their own arenas and players will no longer have the creature comforts that come with home games, a handful of teams that are heading to Orlando had slightly better records on the road than at home before the season paused.

Playing these games on neutral courts, likely without fans, in Orlando does not exactly correlate to playing road games in intense visiting arenas in front of raucous playoff crowds, but the Dallas Mavericks (plus-.077 winning percentage from road to home games), Los Angeles Lakers (plus-.071), New Orleans Pelicans (plus-.063), Phoenix Suns (plus-.062) and Oklahoma City Thunder (plus-.039) all have higher winning percentages on the road than at home.

Of those five teams, only the Mavericks, Lakers and Thunder posted winning records both on the road and at home. 

When the season went on pause, the only teams with road winning percentages over .700 were perhaps the three favourites to win the title – the Lakers (.813 road winning percentage), the Bucks (.735) and defending champions the Toronto Raptors (.719). 

No big surprise, but the ability to win on the road and perform under pressure in adverse conditions bodes well for a team's championship aspirations. 

While these will not be road games, they will certainly be adverse conditions. Likely the most obscure these players have ever experienced.

Manchester United completed an unprecedented treble in Barcelona and NBA legend Vince Carter was also celebrating on this day 21 years ago.

Bayern Munich were on the brink of winning the Champions League at Camp Nou, but late goals from Teddy Sheringham and current United boss Ole Gunnar Solskjaer secured a dramatic 2-1 victory for Alex Ferguson's men.

May 26, 1999 is also a date for Carter to reflect on with great memories, as he was named NBA Rookie of the Year, while history was made by India batsmen Rahul Dravid and Sourav Ganguly on the same day.

A decade earlier Arsenal snatched the First Division title from Liverpool at Anfield with a last-gasp strike from Michael Thomas.

 

1989 - Thomas fires Gunners to title

It came down to the final match of the season to decide who would be crowned champions of England 31 years ago.

Liverpool had overtaken the wobbling Gunners to take a three-point lead, but a victory by a margin of two goals or more would be enough for George Graham's side to take the title.

Alan Smith put the London club in front seven minutes into the second half to get the nerves jangling even more on such a tense evening on Merseyside.

Arsenal looked to have fallen just short of winning the First Division for the first time in 18 years, but Thomas surged through from midfield to win it right at the end and Arsenal took the title on goals scored with a stunning 2-0 victory.

 

1999 - Solskjaer leaves Bayern crestfallen in Barcelona

Bayern appeared to have dashed United's hopes of becoming the first team to win the Champions League, Premier League and FA Cup in the same season.

Mario Basler's early strike put the Bavarian giants in front and that looked to be enough for Ottmar Hitzfeld's well-drilled side to lift the trophy at Camp Nou.

United had almost run out of ideas but with three minutes of added time shown on the fourth official's board, goalkeeper Peter Schmeichel came up for a corner that eventually resulted in Sheringham sweeping home following a scuffed shot from Ryan Giggs.

There was one final twist as Bayern were hit with the sucker punch, Sheringham nodding on another corner and Solskjaer prodding in from close range to spark wild celebrations.

 

1999 - Carter 'not surprised' by Rookie MVP gong

Carter was a revelation in his debut NBA season for the Toronto Raptors.

He averaged 18.3 points, 5.7 rebounds and 3.0 assists a game, subsequently securing 113 of the 118 first-placed votes to be named the best rookie in the league.

Carter said after learning he had landed the award: "I can't say I'm surprised. But I'm overjoyed."

The Raptors missed out on the playoffs, but Carter gave them plenty of grounds for optimism and he has gone on to become an eight-time NBA All-Star.

 

1999 - Ganguly and Dravid slay Sri Lanka

The Sri Lanka bowlers who faced India in a Cricket World Cup contest in Taunton must have had nightmares over this day in Taunton 21 years ago.

It was Dravid and Ganguly who might have given them sleepless nights as they piled on 318 for the second wicket - an ODI record at the time.

The magnificent partnership, now the third-highest for the second wicket in the 50-over format at international level, enabled India to post 373-6 and go on to win by 157 runs.

Ganguly made a sublime 183 off 158 balls and the classy Dravid 145 from 129 deliveries on a painful May day for Sri Lanka.

Toronto Raptors star Fred VanVleet is sceptical about the coronavirus-hit NBA season restarting amid the COVID-19 crisis.

The NBA has been suspended since March 11 due to the COVID-19 crisis, which has killed at least 184,200 people worldwide.

It remains to be seen when, and if, the 2019-20 season will resume as the United States struggles to contain the outbreak following more than 848,900 confirmed cases and over 47,600 deaths in the country.

The NBA, which is committed to completing the campaign, is reportedly exploring the possibility of holding the entire playoffs in one location – Las Vegas. There has been talk the league could head straight into the playoffs if the season resumes.

VanVleet, who won the championship with the Raptors last term, is braced for the season not resuming.

"I think everybody is just preparing for the worst-case scenario, the season being cancelled," VanVleet said during a conference call on Wednesday. "We have to do what we have to do to try to shoulder the hit as best we can for us as players and owners and the league, while also working to try to resume as best we can."

"I could play anywhere," VanVleet continued. "Do I want to play in front of no people? No, but does it really matter? At this point, I don't think anybody is going to have a quarrel with what happens, as long as people's health is first and foremost, which we know it probably won't be."

"If our league is going to be a leader in terms of public health and public safety and player safety, you've got to follow the guidelines of what the virus is speaking to you, so the odds are probably against us in terms of that," VanVleet added. "But money, right? So, I think they'll find a way somehow, some way and try to make it happen. I could definitely see it going either way. I wouldn't be surprised if we didn't come back and I wouldn't be surprised if we do come back."

VanVleet was set to become a free agent at the end of the season and the 26-year-old guard added: "I think the league and the union will try to do a good job to make sure that the free agents this summer get a fair shake and there's fair negotiating. Obviously, we'll probably all take a hit at some point, and hopefully the hit is just kind of minimised to this year.

"I think people's health and wellbeing, and frame of mind, is a lot more important than a couple of million here or there, because we're filthy rich compared to what we came from in the first place. So I don't think anybody's crying over it."

After a gruelling 82-game regular season, April is usually an exciting time for NBA players and fans.

This time of year is typically headlined by playoff basketball, but the coronavirus pandemic has brought the NBA and sport to a standstill globally.

The NBA has been suspended since March 11 – halting the regular season and putting the playoffs on ice amid COVID-19 as the high-flying Milwaukee Bucks and Los Angeles Lakers vie for supremacy.

 

As the NBA waits for the threat of COVID-19 to subside, and for normal life to return, the Stats Perform AI team have been crunching the numbers behind the scenes.

Having simulated the rest of the regular season to produce projected final standings, the goal was to see how the postseason would pan out too.

The Stats Perform model takes proprietary data and creates an offensive and defensive rating for each team.

Those ratings are paired with the team's opponent and adjusts it for each team's pace. In addition, the home team gets a slight boost for home-court advantage.

The model uses this information to calculate a projected score for both teams. The winners receive a victory in the race for the Larry O'Brien Trophy – this was done for every game in the playoffs. So, here are the results…

 

BUCKS, LAKERS CRUISE INTO SECOND ROUND

Like last season, the Bucks earned the best regular-season record heading into the postseason. Milwaukee swept the Detroit Pistons in the opening round of the Eastern Conference playoffs in 2019 and the Bucks match that feat this year, albeit against the Orlando Magic. After one-point wins in the first two games, Milwaukee cruise into the Conference semi-finals – winning 112-106 and 113-93.

Back in the playoffs for the first time since 2012-13, Western Conference pacesetters the Lakers blitz the Memphis Grizzlies 4-0 – highlighted by a 118-89 blowout in Game 2. The Los Angeles Clippers faded at the end of the regular season as they dropped down into the fourth seed, but the Lakers' neighbours prove too good for the Oklahoma City Thunder 4-2.

James Harden and Russell Westbrook had one foot in the second round but the Houston Rockets – who ended the regular season on a 15-3 run to claim the third seed – lose four straight games to the Utah Jazz in the west. Luka Doncic's Dallas Mavericks – back in the playoffs following a three-season absence – win three games in a row to take down the second-seeded Denver Nuggets 4-2.

For the second time in three years, the Philadelphia 76ers and Miami Heat meet in the east's first round and the latter prevail 4-2 as Jimmy Butler has the last laugh against his former team. The Boston Celtics also see off the Indiana Pacers by the same scoreline.

No Kawhi Leonard, no worries for defending champions the Toronto Raptors, who only drop one game in a comprehensive 4-1 victory over the Brooklyn Nets.

LEBRON MATCHES EARLIEST PLAYOFF EXIT

Hopes were high for LeBron James but the Lakers are upstaged by cross-town rivals the Clippers in six games. The Lakers level the series at 2-2 but the Clippers reel off back-to-back victories in a matchup where the margin does not drop below 10 points. It equals the earliest exit of James' playoff career, having reached the Finals in each of his past eight trips to the postseason.

Staying in the Western Conference and the Mavericks advance to the Conference Finals for the first time since 2011 – when they won the title – by rallying past the Utah Jazz. After dropping the first two games, Dallas win four on the bounce. The Mavericks' run, however, ends at the hands of the Clippers just shy of the NBA Finals, edged 4-3.

The Bucks fell short of a trip to the big dance last season, but Giannis Antetokounmpo and Milwaukee get the job done this time around by topping the Heat and Raptors in the east. A 130-96 Game 1 rout sets the tone for the Bucks, who beat Miami inside six games.

The Raptors are no match for the Bucks in the Eastern Conference Finals, losing 4-1. Toronto's exit snaps a streak of four straight seasons in which the defending champions returned to the Finals the following year. The last team to win the title and then not reach the showpiece series the following season were the San Antonio Spurs, who claimed the championship in 2014.

 

CLIPPERS MAKE HISTORY BUT FALL TO BUCKS

It is a landmark moment for the Clippers, who feature in the NBA Finals for the first time in their history. In the four major US sports – NBA, MLB, NFL and NHL – the Clippers are the oldest franchise that have never progressed to the championship round, having played their first NBA game in 1970.

However, the Bucks spoil the party as they end the longest title drought in the NBA courtesy of a 4-2 triumph on the biggest stage. The Golden State Warriors held the record for the longest gap between championships – 40 years – but Milwaukee reign supreme for the first time since 1971, ending their 49-year wait.

Milwaukee and Los Angeles split the opening two games before the Bucks win two on the bounce to eventually claim a second NBA crown. Milwaukee's success also continues a common theme in the league, with five of the past eight champions having boasted the best regular-season record and won the title in the same year.

Now is typically the time when the grind of the NBA's regular season is winding down and 16 teams start to gear up for the playoffs.

However, the coronavirus pandemic brought the league to a halt in March, delaying the best period of the campaign considerably.

With every team having at least 15 games left to play, the postseason picture is far from being completed.

The Los Angeles Lakers are the only team in the Western Conference to have secured their place in the playoffs, where the Milwaukee Bucks, Toronto Raptors and Boston Celtics are also guaranteed to feature due to their performances in the East.

With only the Golden State Warriors out of contention, 25 teams still have a mathematical chance of keeping their seasons alive.

 

As the NBA waits for the threat of COVID-19 to subside, and for normal life to return, the Stats Perform AI team have been crunching the numbers behind the scenes.

The goal was to simulate how the regular season would pan out if all outstanding games were played now, producing the final standings in both conferences.

The Stats Perform model takes proprietary data and creates an offensive and defensive rating for each team.

Those ratings are paired with the team's opponent and adjusts it for each team's pace. In addition, the home team gets a slight boost for home-field advantage.

The model uses this information to calculate a projected score for both teams. The victors get another win to their season total – this was done for every remaining game in the regular season. So, without further ado, let's find out the results...

 

NO BUCKING THE TREND

Unsurprisingly the Bucks hang on to the one seed in the Eastern Conference, with our model predicting they will go 13-4 in their remaining fixtures to finish with a 66-16 record.

Despite Milwaukee matching their best regular-season performance in history to book a first-round clash in the playoffs with the Orlando Magic, there was one hiccup for reigning MVP Giannis Antetokounmpo and his team-mates – a shock 111-110 loss at the Cleveland Cavaliers.

In the only change to the top eight from the current standings, the Philadelphia 76ers beat the Indiana Pacers to the five seed, meaning they draw the Miami Heat in the first round of the postseason for the second time in three years. The Pacers must take on the Celtics as a consequence.

The Brooklyn Nets (39-43) and Magic (38-44) advance despite having losing records – it is the first time since 1988 that more than one team under .500 made the playoffs. The Raptors await the Nets in the first round.

At the foot of the East is the Detroit Pistons, who closed out the season on a 4-12 run to finish with a 24-58 record.

In our simulation the Raptors claimed a 152-96 win over the Atlanta Hawks. Only 12 matches in NBA history have seen a bigger margin of victory.

CLIPPERS FADE, WARRIORS THE WORST

The Lakers hold off the competition to top the Western Conference and at 64-18 claim their best record since the Kobe Bryant era. Their reward is a first-round meeting with the Memphis Grizzlies.

For the Los Angeles Clippers it is a different story. They fall victim to strong finishes from the Denver Nuggets and Houston Rockets and slip to fourth, pitting Paul George - and Chris Paul - against his former team the Oklahoma City Thunder in round one.

The Nuggets take second and get the Dallas Mavericks in the playoffs after losing just one of their final 17 games, while the Rockets go 15-3 to get the three seed. Awaiting Mike D'Antoni's team in the postseason is the Utah Jazz, who slipped to sixth after going 8-10 down the stretch.

The Grizzlies ensure New Orleans Pelicans rookie Zion Williamson's first playoff appearance will have to wait until 2021 at the earliest, while the Portland Trail Blazers miss the postseason for the first time since 2013.

A 22-60 record means the Warriors finish the regular season with the worst record in the NBA.

 

GLIMMER OF HOPE FOR SUNS, WIZARDS

While the final standings were taken from the first simulation, the outcome of the regular season was simulated on 10,000 different occasions in order to generate the most accurate possible percentage chance of each team finishing in the playoffs.

The resulting data suggests the Grizzlies defied the odds by reaching the postseason, having only done so in 41.1 per cent of the simulations.

The Magic and Nets both had a success rate above 99 per cent, while the Washington Wizards (0.05 per cent) and the Phoenix Suns (0.04 per cent) are the biggest outsiders.

In addition to the Warriors, the model did not project the New York Knicks, Charlotte Hornets, Minnesota Timberwolves, Chicago Bulls, Hawks or Cavaliers making the postseason once.

A NEW DYNASTY?

The Stats Perform AI team also used the predicted final standings to simulate the 2020 NBA Draft Lottery to find out which team received the first overall pick.

There was finally some good news for Warriors fans, with Golden State drawn first.

With Stephen Curry back from injury and Klay Thompson set to return next season, the No.1 pick would put Steve Kerr's team in a good position to challenge in the playoffs again.

The Hawks jump up to third in our simulation, while the Bulls have to settle for the seventh pick for the fourth consecutive year.

After taking Williamson first overall in 2019, the Pelicans get the final lottery selection here.

Full lottery results:

1. Golden State Warriors
2. Cleveland Cavaliers
3. Atlanta Hawks
4. Detroit Pistons
5. Minnesota Timberwolves
6. New York Knicks
7. Chicago Bulls
8. Charlotte Hornets
9. Phoenix Suns
10. San Antonio Spurs
11. Sacramento Kings
12. Washington Wizards
13. Portland Trail Blazers
14. New Orleans Pelicans

Luckless Liverpool are in limbo as they bid to become champions of England for the first time in 30 years.

The Reds are 25 points clear at the top of the Premier League, needing only two more wins to clinch the title, yet the season has been suspended amid the coronavirus pandemic.

Jurgen Klopp's dominant side should have been sealing silverware on Saturday in their match against Crystal Palace but now instead must wait to see if the campaign can be completed at all.

Liverpool supporters might well feel they are cursed, and former goalkeeper Bruce Grobbelaar agreed last year as he splashed urine on the Anfield goalposts in an attempt to lift an apparent hex.

Such hoodoos are relatively commonplace in sport, though. We take a look at some notable examples.
 

LIVERPOOL (1990-present)

It seemed inconceivable when Liverpool won their 18th title in 1990 – an 11th in 18 seasons – that number 19 would not swiftly follow. But when Reds supporters mocked rivals Manchester United after their eighth success in 1993, with a banner that read, 'Come back when you've won 18', they were made to eat their words.

The Old Trafford club had 20 championships by the time manager Alex Ferguson departed, a 2009 United banner teasing: 'You told us to come back when we've won 18 – we are back'.

Indeed, Liverpool were runners-up to United in 2008-09, as Rafael Benitez infamously went public with criticism of Ferguson. Even when the Scot retired and United slumped in 2013-14, Liverpool collapsed on the home straight and were pipped by Manchester City, who denied them again last season.

This is surely now their year – as long as the campaign does indeed resume.

BOSTON RED SOX (1918-2004)

Liverpool might find some comfort in the knowledge their owner has experience in ending curses for sporting giants.

John W Henry took over the Boston Red Sox in 2002 with the aim of finally ending the Curse of the Bambino, which stemmed from the team's sale of star player Babe Ruth to rivals the New York Yankees some 83 years earlier.

Ruth had featured in three of Boston's five World Series triumphs and went on to win four more with the Yankees. Meanwhile, the Red Sox remarkably did not claim baseball's greatest prize again until 2004.

That miserable run was finally ended under Henry, though, after Boston had overturned a 3-0 deficit against the Yankees in the American League Championship Series.
 

ATLANTA, GEORGIA (1995-2018)

The city of Boston could at least be comforted by titles for the Patriots, the Celtics or the Bruins. Atlanta's distress crossed several sports in increasingly spectacular fashion.

The Atlanta Braves won the World Series just once in 1995 within a stretch that returned 15 straight division titles. Meanwhile, the Atlanta Falcons lost two Super Bowls, including a record-breaking collapse against Tom Brady's New England Patriots after leading 28-3. Even the University of Georgia ceded a big advantage to lose the College Football Playoff National Championship.

Atlanta United finally provided some respite with MLS Cup glory in 2018, and president Darren Eales told Stats Perform: "It was great to break the curse.

"It's been a long time since 1995 when the Braves won a championship. I'd heard so much in the week up to the game about Atlanta's curse in sport. I didn't get too excited until the referee blew his whistle."
 

DRAKE (2013-2019)

One of the more bizarre apparent curses of recent years related not to a team or a city but to a sole individual: Drake.

The Canadian rapper found an awful knack for backing athletes before big defeats. Serena Williams suffered a huge upset against Roberta Vinci at the US Open, where she had his support, while Anthony Joshua was pictured with Drake prior to his shock loss to Andy Ruiz Jr.

The Toronto Raptors fan came up with a solution for the 2019 NBA playoffs, however. Drake turned out in Philadelphia 76ers shorts as they dramatically lost to the Raptors, seemingly reversing the curse, before Toronto went on to beat the Golden State Warriors in the Finals.
 

BENFICA (1962-present)

Liverpool's is not the only ongoing 'curse' – and Benfica's is not set to end for another 42 years!

Head coach Bela Guttmann led the Portuguese giants to back-to-back European Cup successes in 1961 and 1962 but then left the club after reportedly asking for a pay rise. It is alleged he declared "not in a hundred years from now will Benfica ever be European champion".

So it has proven, as Benfica lost European Cup finals in 1963, 1965, 1968, 1988 and 1990 and then came up short in successive Europa League finals in 2013 and 2014.

Utah Jazz center Rudy Gobert was not happy to be ejected following an altercation with OG Anunoby during Monday's loss to the Toronto Raptors, declaring: "Next time I'll do justice myself".

The pair clashed during the closing stages of the game at the Vivint Smart Home Arena, initially coming together at halfway as the Raptors looked to break.

Gobert took exception to Anunoby's flailing arm towards him, leading to the duo shoving each other away close to Utah's basket with the ball on the opposite side of the court.

Both were ejected following a review of the incident, with the Raptors going on to triumph 101-92 on the road.

"He tried to elbow me in the face and the guy [referee] that’s getting paid to protect us, the players, didn't do his job," Gobert said after the game. 

"There was a little altercation and we both got ejected when I didn’t do anything back pretty much, which I don't understand. It doesn't make sense to me. 

"Next time I'll do justice myself so the official can eject me for a reason."

Toronto were without Marc Gasol and Fred VanVleet due to injuries, while Norman Powell left in the first quarter with an ankle problem.

However, Pascal Siakam and Serge Ibaka scored 27 points apiece to help the reigning NBA champions clinch a 46th win of the campaign.

Gobert, meanwhile, was limited to just six points and four rebounds through his 32 minutes on the court.

"We obviously knew the lobs and all those things that he gets, so we tried to take him out of that," Siakam said of the Raptors' efforts to restrict Gobert's impact on proceedings.

"Then it was about boxing him out. He's really a force down there and we did a pretty good job of that."

The Milwaukee Bucks were handed a surprise defeat in the NBA, while the Houston Rockets' losing streak continued on Sunday.

Without the injured Giannis Antetokounmpo, the Bucks suffered a 140-131 loss to the Phoenix Suns.

Khris Middleton poured in 39 points for Milwaukee, but Devin Booker and Ricky Rubio produced huge performances for Phoenix.

Booker went 13-of-17 from the field for 36 points, while Rubio had a triple-double of 25 points, 13 rebounds and 13 assists.

Houston fell to a fourth consecutive loss in a surprise 126-106 defeat at the hands of the Orlando Magic.

James Harden and Russell Westbrook combined for 47 points for the Rockets.

However, Nikola Vucevic (16 points and 16 rebounds) and Aaron Gordon (19 points and 10 rebounds) had double-doubles for Orlando.

 

LeBron, Davis lift Lakers as Drummond shines

LeBron James (28 points, nine assists and seven rebounds) and Anthony Davis (30 points) saw the Los Angeles Lakers beat the Clippers 112-103.

Andre Drummond's 28 points and 17 rebounds helped the Cleveland Cavaliers past the San Antonio Spurs 132-129 after overtime.

Chris Paul finished with 28 points in the Oklahoma City Thunder's 105-104 win over the Boston Celtics.

 

Horrible Hachimura

Rui Hachimura, the ninth pick in the 2019 NBA Draft, went 0-of-eight from the field in the Washington Wizards' loss to the Miami Heat.

 

Red-hot Robinson

Miami's Duncan Robinson hit at least seven three-pointers for the third straight game.

Sunday's results

Brooklyn Nets 110-107 Chicago Bulls
New Orleans Pelicans 120-107 Minnesota Timberwolves
Los Angeles Lakers 112-103 Los Angeles Clippers
Oklahoma City Thunder 105-104 Boston Celtics
Phoenix Suns 140-131 Milwaukee Bucks
Miami Heat 100-89 Washington Wizards
Indiana Pacers 112-109 Dallas Mavericks
Orlando Magic 126-106 Houston Rockets
Cleveland Cavaliers 132-129 San Antonio Spurs
New York Knicks 96-84 Detroit Pistons
Toronto Raptors 118-113 Sacramento Kings

 

Bucks at Nuggets

The Bucks (53-11) get a chance to bounce back against the Denver Nuggets (42-21) on Monday.

Stephen Curry's comeback on Thursday night was a welcome sight for LeBron James, who told the Golden State Warriors guard "the game missed you".

Curry had been out since October with a broken hand but he played 27 minutes against the Toronto Raptors at Chase Center, draining three three-pointers in a 23-point display.

The Warriors, whose season has been ruined by the injuries to Curry and Klay Thompson, lost 121-113 but head coach Steve Kerr said his team were "through the woods" now their two-time MVP was fit again.

Golden State's NBA-worst 14-49 record means they are not a factor in the Western Conference, with the Los Angeles Lakers leading the way ahead of the Los Angeles Clippers and the Denver Nuggets.

Yet Lakers star James was still pleased to see Curry back on the hardwood.

"Happy to see @StephenCurry30 back out there again!" James wrote on Twitter.

"Nothing like being in your sanctuary! The game missed you."

Stephen Curry's sparkling return to action has Golden State Warriors head coach Steve Kerr hoping his team's struggles are at an end.

Curry played his first game since October against the Toronto Raptors on Thursday, having been sidelined with a broken left hand.

In his absence, the Warriors have slumped to the league's worst record and are now 14-49 after the Raptors prevailed 121-113 at Chase Center.

However, Curry offered a dazzling reminder of his considerable qualities with 23 points, seven assists and six rebounds during 27 minutes on the court.

"To me, it feels like it's on again," Kerr, whose men will miss out on the playoffs for the first time since 2011-12, told reporters.

"We're now through the woods, as I said before the game. We can start looking ahead and using these games to prepare ourselves for trying to reach a higher level of play."

Kerr understandably decided to proceed cautiously with the amount of minutes granted to Curry but pledged to step up his star point guard's workload over the coming weeks.

"I thought he looked great, moved well," he said. "It was not the ideal set of circumstances for him - we were taking him in and out of the lineup to keep his minutes down and to keep his stints shorter. He's not used to that.

"But he obviously gave us a huge lift, and he changes the whole game when he's out there.

"Our fans could see it, they could feel it. We're a different team, obviously, when he's on the court.

"So, great to have him back, and it'll be fun the next week or so to continue to build up his minutes and get him back into the groove."

The Warriors' problems this season have extended far beyond being without Curry for an extended period, with Klay Thompson missing all of 2019-20 due to a torn anterior cruciate ligament.

Kerr currently has Draymond Green and Kevon Looney nursing respective knee and hip complaints.

Although an MRI scan on Green has come back clear, the Warriors coach conceded Looney's status is a cause of consternation.

"That's a concern and we'll have an update [on Friday]," he added. "He had some momentum and he was playing really well for us.

"So this is a bump in the road, hopefully, but we'll have an update when he has a chance to be evaluated by our doctors."

Stephen Curry said he was back in his "happy place" as he made up for lost time on his long-awaited Golden State Warriors return in a defeat to the Toronto Raptors on Thursday.

The two-time NBA MVP had been sidelined since suffering a broken left hand during a clash with the Phoenix Suns last October.

Curry scored 23 points in his first match for just over four months but was unable to prevent the Warriors from slumping to a 121-113 loss against the defending champions at Chase Center.

The superstar guard was just pleased to be back on court following such a lengthy absence in a season to forget for injury-hit Golden State.

Asked how he coped with being out for so long, Curry replied: "You kind of deal with the new reality as it comes.

"Coming into the season, obviously four games in I was excited about trying to help lead the team where we wanted to go, chase the playoffs and all that but it was taken away.

"You've got to be productive in all aspects while you are out, with the rehab and the opportunity to appreciate life outside of basketball as well. I'm happy to be back in my happy place, for sure, but a lot of good happened over these last four months."

Curry said he felt comfortable as he hit the ground running, having not known quite what to expect in his comeback.

"It felt great, it was a lot of energy, anticipation for tonight and just getting back out there on the floor and seeing what was going to happen." said the three-time NBA champion.

"It was kind of a cool moment, just the excitement and energy in the building and I didn't really know what to expect, how to handle the minute restriction and all that, I just tried to get my first shot and just get comfortable out there.

"But throughout the 27 minutes I felt good, so I'm excited to be back out there.

"We had some good moments, obviously Toronto is a championship team that has a lot of chemistry and they know how to win, so for us it was a good step in the right direction. Everybody just competing and we can build off of this."

Stephen Curry returned from injury in the Golden State Warriors' loss to the Toronto Raptors, while Kawhi Leonard again led the Los Angeles Clippers on Thursday.

Curry played his first game since October, returning from a hand injury in the Warriors' 121-113 loss to the Raptors.

The two-time NBA MVP finished with 23 points, seven rebounds and seven assists in 27 minutes.

But the Warriors were beaten again in a rematch of last year's NBA Finals, which were also won by the Raptors, as Normal Powell poured in 37 points and Toronto clinched a playoff spot.

Leonard's 25 points helped the Clippers extend their winning streak to six by beating the Houston Rockets 120-105.

The Rockets went seven-of-42 from three-point range, with James Harden (16 points) missing all eight of his attempts.

 

Jokic leads the way as Harris lifts 76ers

Nikola Jokic's 14 points, 11 rebounds and eight assists guided the Denver Nuggets past the Charlotte Hornets 114-112.

Tobias Harris contributed a double-double of 28 points and 14 rebounds in the Philadelphia 76ers' 125-108 win over the Sacramento Kings.

 

Rockets off target

Harden and Russell Westbrook (29 points and 15 rebounds) combined to go 15-of-44 from the field in Houston's loss.

 

Welcome back, Stephen

Curry hit an amazing long-range three during the second quarter against the Raptors.

Thursday's results

Denver Nuggets 114-112 Charlotte Hornets
Los Angeles Clippers 120-105 Houston Rockets
Philadelphia 76ers 125-108 Sacramento Kings
Toronto Raptors 121-113 Golden State Warriors

 

Bucks at Lakers

The Staples Center plays host to a blockbuster on Friday. The Los Angeles Lakers (47-13) and Milwaukee Bucks (53-9) have the best records in the NBA heading into the clash.

Golden State Warriors superstar Stephen Curry will make his long-awaited NBA return against defending champions the Toronto Raptors on Thursday.

Curry has been sidelined since October due to a broken hand, however, the two-time MVP was cleared to play on Wednesday.

The three-time NBA champion trained with the Santa Cruz Warriors – Golden State's G League affiliate – on Monday as he closed in on a comeback.

Warriors guard Curry is averaging 20.3 points, 6.5 rebounds and 5.0 rebounds per game this season.

The injury-ravaged Warriors have struggled in 2019-20 – their 14-48 win-loss record the worst in the Western Conference and NBA.

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