The Los Angeles Lakers clinched the Western Conference top seed as Anthony Davis erupted, while reigning NBA champions the Toronto Raptors extinguished the Miami Heat.

Davis led the way for the Western Conference-leading Lakers with 42 points and 12 rebounds in Orlando, Florida on Monday.

LeBron James added 22 points as the Lakers (51-15) – six games ahead of rivals the Los Angeles Clippers in the West – look forward to their first playoff appearance since 2013.

Donovan Mitchell top-scored for the Jazz (42-25) with 33 points at the Walt Disney World Resort.

As for the Raptors, they outlasted Eastern Conference rivals the Heat 107-103 thanks to Fred VanVleet.

VanVleet posted a career-high 36 points and made seven three-pointers for the Raptors, who have won back-to-back games since the league resumed behind closed doors following the coronavirus-enforced break.

The Raptors (48-18) are second in the East amid a six-game winning streak, while the Heat are fourth (42-25).

 

Red-hot Warren stars again, Jokic triple-double

After his career-high 53 points in his team's first game back, T.J. Warren put up 34 points and 11 rebounds as the Indiana Pacers defeated the Washington Wizards 111-100. Warren had 16 points in the third quarter to spark a 22-2 run. He was 14-for-26 from the field.

A Nikola Jokic triple-double (30 points, 12 rebounds and 10 assists) and Michael Porter Jr's double-double (37 points, 12 rebounds) fuelled the Denver Nuggets' 121-113 overtime victory against the Oklahoma City Thunder.

 

Pelicans struggle from the line

While the New Orleans Pelicans secured a much-needed 109-99 win against the Memphis Grizzlies, they made just 24-of-39 free throws. JJ Redick, a reliable free-throw shooter at 91 per cent, missed back-to-back attempts in the game.

Kendrick Nunn was 0-of-seven from the field and missed all five of his three-point attempts in the Heat's defeat. His two points came via a pair of free throws in 16 minutes of action.

 

Clutch Milton lifts 76ers

With the Philadelphia 76ers trailing 130-128, Shake Milton nailed a three-pointer 6.1 seconds from the end to help his team outlast the San Antonio Spurs 132-130.

Monday's results

Toronto Raptors 107-103 Miami Heat
Indiana Pacers 111-100 Washington Wizards
Philadelphia 76ers 132-130 San Antonio Spurs
Los Angeles Lakers 116-108 Utah Jazz
Denver Nuggets 121-113 Oklahoma City Thunder (OT)
New Orleans Pelicans 109-99 Memphis Grizzlies

 

Nets face Bucks

The NBA-leading Milwaukee Bucks (54-13) will look to bounce back from their loss to the Houston Rockets when they face the Brooklyn Nets (31-35) on Tuesday. Brooklyn occupy the eighth and final playoff spot in the Eastern Conference.

TJ Warren admitted he had "one of those special nights" as his career-best 53 points led the Indiana Pacers past the Philadelphia 76ers.

The 26-year-old, who had never previously scored more than 40 points in his six-year NBA career, had the hot hand in Orlando, pouring in nine three-pointers to tie a franchise record.

Only three other players had previously scored 50-plus points for the Pacers - Reggie Miller, Jermaine O'Neal and Billy Knight - as Warren made the most of an opportunity afforded to him by some Indiana injuries.

"I play a lot of basketball. When I'm at home with my friends, when I'm playing pickup games, anywhere," Warren said, in quotes reported by ESPN.

"I'm just born to be a hooper so just me coming out here, just playing the way I play and playing my game, being aggressive.

"It doesn't matter the environment, you've just got to come with it every game. Every game I feel anxious and nervous at the same time but it's full of excitement. Tonight was one of those special nights."

While Warren's performance may have raised eyebrows for many outside the Pacers organisation, his team-mates felt such a display was in keeping with the man they see in practice.

"TJ Warren [has] been scoring his whole life. Since his AAU days to NC State," Victor Oladipo added.

"He's been a scorer since as long as I've known him. I've known him for a long time.

"Getting to know him, playing here, he was born to get buckets so it's no surprise to any of us that he was able to do what he did.

"It's great to have him on our team. It was amazing to watch and we're all happy for him. That was incredible. Things like that don't happen often."

Defending NBA champions the Toronto Raptors were too good for the Los Angeles Lakers, winning 107-92 in Orlando on Saturday.

Kyle Lowry posted 33 points and 14 rebounds and team-mate OG Anunoby scored 23 points as the Raptors claimed their 11th consecutive victory over the Lakers.

The Raptors – second in the Eastern Conference behind the Milwaukee Bucks – have not lost to the Lakers since 2014-15.

LeBron James' double-double of 20 points and 10 rebounds was not enough for Western Conference leaders the Lakers, who are 1-1 since the restart at Walt Disney World Resort.

After scoring 34 points in the Lakers' return, Anthony Davis managed just 14 against the Raptors as the Los Angeles franchise remain one win away from clinching the top seed in the west.

TJ Warren, meanwhile, had a career-high 53 points as the Indiana Pacers resumed their season with a 127-121 win against Eastern Conference rivals the Philadelphia 76ers.

Warren was 20 of 29 from the field and nine of 12 from three-point range in his first game with at least 50 points.

The Pacers (40-26) and 76ers (39-27) had shared identical records prior to Saturday's encounter, but Indiana broke a tie to take control of the Eastern Conference's fifth seed.

 

George stars from beyond the arc

Paul George led the way as the Los Angeles Clippers outclassed the New Orleans Pelicans 126-103. George made eight of 11 three-pointers in a 28-point performance. The All-Star shot three straight from beyond the arc in the opening minutes to set the tone. The Clippers broke the franchise record by making 25 of 47 threes. Clippers head coach Doc Rivers also moved 11th on the NBA's career list for wins after celebrating his 939th victory.

Joel Embiid became the first 76ers player with multiple 40-plus point, 20-plus rebound-games since Charles Barkley. The All-Star finished with 41 points and 21 rebounds against the Pacers.

 

Mitchell struggles as Jazz lose

Donovan Mitchell (13 points) was just five for 15 in the Utah Jazz's 110-94 defeat at the hands of the Oklahoma City Thunder. The two teams were meant to meet on March 11 before Rudy Gobert tested positive for coronavirus prior to tip-off. The Jazz shot just 39 per cent from the field.

 

LeBron with the layup

While the Lakers lost, James still provided a number of highlights, including this run to the rim.

 

Saturday's results

Miami Heat 125-105 Denver Nuggets
Oklahoma City Thunder 110-94 Utah Jazz
Los Angeles Clippers 126-103 New Orleans Pelicans
Indiana Pacers 127-121 Philadelphia 76ers
Toronto Raptors 107-92 Los Angeles Lakers

 

Bucks at Rockets

Giannis Antetokounmpo and the Eastern Conference-leading Bucks (54-12) face the Houston Rockets (41-24) on Sunday. Both teams are coming off wins after the restart.

The NBA finally returns on Thursday and it's been a long-time coming.

Not since March 11 have players taken to the court and fans watched official games due to the coronavirus pandemic.

But, after months of waiting, the New Orleans Pelicans-Utah Jazz and Los Angeles Lakers-Los Angeles Clippers clashes will headline the 2019-20 season restart in Orlando, Florida.

Inside the Walt Disney World Resort bubble, 22 teams will resume their regular seasons before the playoffs.

The Milwaukee Bucks topped the NBA standings at the time of the postponement, while the Los Angeles Lakers were flying in the Western Conference.

Using STATS data, we look at the best-performing players prior to the hiatus as LeBron James eyes a fourth championship ring and Bucks star Giannis Antetokounmpo chases a maiden title.

 

Red-hot LeBron

After a tough first season in Los Angeles, James has returned to his brilliant best in 2019-20. Before the coronavirus-enforced break, the four-time MVP catapulted himself into the mix for a fifth Most Valuable Player honour by leading the Lakers – who have played 63 of their 82-game regular season – to a Western Conference-best 49-14 record.

As the 35-year-old superstar prepares to resume his bid for another NBA crown, James leads the league in assists per game with 10.6. If he maintains his pace, James would be the third-oldest player to lead the NBA in assists per game behind two-time MVP and Phoenix Suns great Steve Nash – who did so in both 2009-10 (age 35-36) and 2010-11 (age 36-37). The former Miami Heat and Cleveland Cavaliers forward has also been averaging 25.7 points and 7.9 rebounds per game this season.

James, whose maiden campaign at Staples Center was cut short by a Christmas Day injury almost two years ago, was playing some of his best basketball alongside All-Star recruit Anthony Davis before the March suspension. In five games that month, James averaged 30.0 points and 10.6 assists per game, while shooting 55.7 per cent from the field. It is the only time in the last 30 years that any NBA player has averaged 30.0-plus points and 10.0-plus assists on 55.0-plus per cent shooting in a calendar month (minimum five games played).

 

Giannis – The Greek Freak

The Eastern Conference-leading Bucks (53-12) are on track for their first NBA title since 1971 thanks to superstar MVP Antetokounmpo after Mike Budenholzer's side lost in the Conference Finals last season.

Antetokounmpo – expected to go close to winning back-to-back MVPs – has not taken a backward step since being crowned the league's best in 2018-19, averaging 29.6 points, 13.7 rebounds and 5.8 assists per game for the high-flying Bucks this season.

The only players to average 25/13/5 in a season are Elgin Baylor (1960-61), Wilt Chamberlain (1963-64 and 1965-66) and Kareem Abdul-Jabbar (1972-73 and 1975-76).

 

Harden firing Rockets

James Harden's standing among the greats is often debated but there is no doubting his quality and importance to the Houston Rockets.

Harden has established himself as a scoring machine in Houston since joining the Rockets from the Oklahoma City Thunder in 2012, especially from beyond the arc, and after averaging 36.1 points last season, the 2018 MVP is at it again.

In 2019-20, Harden – now partnered with fellow All-Star Russell Westbrook – is averaging 34.4 per game. The only players to average 34-plus points in back-to-back seasons are Wilt Chamberlain (six straight from 1959-60 to 1964-65), Baylor (three straight from 1960-61 to 1962-63) and Michael Jordan (1986-87 to 1987-88).

The Rockets – sixth in the west with a 40-24 record – are relying heavily on Harden to lead the two-time champions to their first NBA Finals appearance since 1995.

 

Dallas' dazzling Doncic

If you thought Dallas Mavericks star Luka Doncic was a one-season wonder, think again.

The reigning Rookie of the Year continues to take the NBA by storm, elevating the Mavericks (40-27) into a legitimate playoff threat after Dallas missed the postseason for a third consecutive year last term.

A first-time All-Star this season, Doncic is averaging 28.7 points, 9.3 rebounds and 8.7 assists per game for the much-improved Mavs in 2019-20.

The 21-year-old Slovenian sensation – who is forming a formidable combination with fellow international star Kristaps Porzingis – is looking to join Oscar Robertson (five times), Jordan (1988-89), Harden (2016-17) and Westbrook (2016-17) as the only players to average 28/8/8 in a season.

 

Williamson following in MJ's footsteps

When it comes to number one draft pick Zion Williamson, believe the hype.

The Pelicans rookie has not missed a beat since debuting in January, quickly making his presence known around the NBA competition.

Likened to James during his college days with Duke, Williamson has averaged 23.6 points per game in his first 19 games – the most by any player through 19 career games since Chicago Bulls and NBA legend Jordan (25.6).

Williamson has helped fill the void left by Davis in New Orleans and the Pelicans – 10th in the Western Conference with a 28-36 record – will be hoping the 20-year-old can lead the organisation to just their second playoff appearance in five seasons.

 

Keep an eye on Nets' LeVert

The Nets will be far from full strength in the NBA bubble. Superstars Kyrie Irving and Kevin Durant are both sidelined through injury, while DeAndre Jordan, Spencer Dinwiddie, Wilson Chandler and Taurean Prince have opted out.

Step up Caris LeVert.

LeVert has been much improved since re-joining the starting line-up with the playoff-chasing Nets. In his first 14 games off the bench, he was only averaging 11.1 points, 2.7 assists and 2.6 rebounds as Brooklyn went 5-9.

Since returning to the starting five, the 25-year-old is averaging 24.1 points, 5.3 assists and 4.8 rebounds through his last 16 games. More importantly, the Nets (30-34) boasted a 9-7 record to be seventh in a congested Eastern Conference.

Philadelphia 76ers head coach Brett Brown played down concerns after Joel Embiid sat out the team's scrimmage due to a calf problem.

Embiid missed Sunday's 102-97 loss to the Oklahoma City Thunder as the 76ers stepped up preparations for their NBA return against the Indiana Pacers in Orlando, Florida on August 1.

The three-time All-Star posted 10 points, six rebounds and an assist in just under 13 minutes of Friday's 90-83 victory over the Memphis Grizzlies at Walt Disney Resort.

But the 76ers opted not to take any risks after Embiid – whose fitness has often been questioned – began feeling calf tightness against the Grizzlies.

"Not really," Brown replied when asked if there is any frustration about Embiid missing game time with injury. "It's the second game.

"If this had happened three to four games into what we are calling the regular season, [yes]. There is always frustration, selfish frustration, and I know frustration, at times, for Joel. But initially, [we're] just trying to be smart with everything and move on."

"I believe we're just getting out in front of stuff, and being smart with it," Brown said.

Embiid was averaging 23.4 points, 11.8 rebounds and 3.1 assists per game prior to the coronavirus pandemic forcing the NBA to be suspended in March.

The 76ers (39-26) are sixth in the Eastern Conference, sharing the same record as the fifth-placed Pacers ahead of the league's resumption.

The NBA will restart via a 22-team format at Walt Disney Resort in Orlando, Florida.

Brett Brown said the Philadelphia 76ers have been preparing NBA All-Star center Joel Embiid for double-team defence in the playoffs as the team eye a deep postseason run.

The 76ers will renew their season and championship bid against Eastern Conference rivals the Indiana Pacers on August 1 following the coronavirus-enforced break, which suspended the NBA in March.

Philadelphia have failed to progress beyond the second round of the playoffs in back-to-back seasons – heartbreakingly eliminated by eventual champions the Toronto Raptors in Game 7 of the Eastern Conference semi-finals last year following Kawhi Leonard's stunning buzzer-beater.

The 76ers have struggled offensively in the postseason with all eyes on Embiid, but head coach Brown said the franchise have been working on the three-time All-Star's ability to deal with the extra attention.

"He's going to be double-teamed more than he isn't," Brown told reporters following Thursday's practice. "You can book it – he spins baseline, the whole gym is coming, I don't care who we are playing.

"What is happening [on his post-ups] in the playoffs, it's because they go at him more repetitively in a seven-game series. It's that heightened awareness for an NBA First Team All-Star.

"And, so I think this camp one of the things I have been doing is damn near every time he catches it, we're coming [with a double team] ... He's done a really good job passing out of it.

"So whether they come at him, whether he's going to be able to architect a quarterback mentality out of that post up or whether he's just going to play bully ball and go dunk and score, I think that we're moving toward the reads that are coming."

Embiid was averaging 23.4 points, 11.8 rebounds and 3.1 assists per game this season prior to the postponement.

The 76ers (39-26) are sixth in the Eastern Conference, sharing the same record as the fifth-placed Pacers ahead of the league's resumption.

The NBA will restart via a 22-team format at Walt Disney Resort in Orlando, Florida.

Brett Brown said the Philadelphia 76ers are "very fortunate" to have NBA All-Star Ben Simmons, who continues to impress his head coach.

Brown has repeatedly praised Simmons as the 76ers step up their preparations for the NBA's return following the coronavirus-enforced break.

Philadelphia will return to action against Eastern Conference rivals the Indiana Pacers on August 1 at the Disney World complex in Orlando, boosted by the comeback of Simmons following a back injury.

Simmons was averaging 16.7 points, 8.2 assists and 7.8 rebounds per game before the injury in February and 76ers coach Brown hailed the 24-year-old on his birthday.

"To be a two-time NBA All-Star to be discussed in a very serious way as a Defensive Player of the Year to certainly be on an All-League Defensive Team to being rewarded with a max contract to come in and play a point guard primary ball-handler position all along that path achieving some of those things that I just said and then be able to pivot out and play an interior position, the versatility that I just discussed and then be rewarded is off the charts unique," said Brown. "His better days are well and truly ahead of him.

"The foundation that he has already established at such an incredibly young age, I don't think gets the full praise that it should.

"I think that the Philadelphia 76ers are very fortunate to have him in our uniform for I'm sure a very long time.

"Just think about that age and when you start referencing some of the other great players in our league, just from a statistics or acknowledgment perspective if you start draping championships at what age did these other great players experience championship success, you're going to find there's a commonality of about 28-years old seems to be the honey spot. He just turned 24."

The 76ers are sixth in the Eastern Conference with a 39-26 record – identical to that of the Pacers – and adrift of the NBA-leading Milwaukee Bucks (53-12), defending champions the Toronto Raptors (46-18), Boston Celtics (43-12) and Miami Heat (41-24).

Philadelphia 76ers head coach Brett Brown is thrilled with Ben Simmons in the power forward position as the championship hopefuls look to change things up when the coronavirus-affected NBA season resumes.

The 2019-20 NBA campaign is set to restart via a 22-team format at the Disney World complex in Orlando, Florida on July 30 after the season was postponed due to COVID-19 in March.

Philadelphia will return to action against Eastern Conference rivals the Indiana Pacers on August 1, boosted by the comeback of All-Star Simmons.

Simmons – averaging 16.7 points, 8.2 assists and 7.8 rebounds per game this season – is back to full fitness after a back injury sidelined him in February, showcasing his ability at power forward, having played as a point guard.

"He's so dynamic," Philadelphia's Brown said on a conference call with reporters on Monday. "Let's just talk about running. There's nobody faster in the NBA. So to always have the ball and dribble it up against five guys ... to do that dilutes some of his potent weapons.

"So, watching him fly up the floor, watching him and Joel [Embiid] play off each other, has been a really good look. I think they've been fantastic together."

Brown, whose 76ers (39-26) are sixth in the Eastern Conference, added: "You take somebody and say, 'Here's the ball.' It's not like Ben came in and we had Chris Paul on the team or Damian Lillard on the team. We were young, and really not that good, so it was my decision, 'You take the ball. We're going to make you the point guard.' It's not like there was an established point guard that he had to bump out.

"[And] how has he responded to that? Like a star. Just a mature, 'Whatever it's going to take to get this team to be the best it can be with the pieces that we have that can be, I don't know, just designed into a smooth thing' ... that is one of the pieces he has to offer. He's been great accepting that, and really killing it in the environment that I just said."

With the 76ers trialling Simmons at power forward, it means Shake Milton is set to replace the Australian as point guard, leaving Al Horford on the bench following his struggles since arriving from the Boston Celtics.

Milton has averaged 9.5 points, 2.2 assists and 2.1 rebounds per game in 2019-20, while he scored a career-high 39 points against the Los Angeles Clippers prior to the coronavirus outbreak.

"He's been amazing," All-Star Joel Embiid said of Milton. "He's been the starting point guard, and I think he has a huge opportunity to help us accomplish what we believe we can.

"He's been doing an amazing job and he's running the team and we're going to need him to knock down shots, which he did, before the league got shut down. He was on a roll so we're going to need him to keep it going. But it's great."

Philadelphia 76ers star Joel Embiid said he can carry the championship hopefuls as the league prepares to return following the coronavirus-enforced break.

The 2019-20 NBA season is set to restart via a 22-team format at the Disney World complex in Orlando, Florida on July 30 after the campaign was halted due to COVID-19 in March.

All eyes will be on three-time All-Star center Embiid when the NBA returns following the coronavirus pandemic.

Philadelphia will recommence against Eastern Conference rivals the Indiana Pacers, who share identical 39-26 records to be fifth and sixth respectively, on August 1.

Embiid, who had been averaging 23.4 points, 11.8 rebounds and 3.1 assists per game this season, insisted the 76ers' offense should go through him.

"I know what I'm capable of, and I know what my team-mates think of me," Embiid said in a conference call with reporters on Tuesday.

"I know I'm capable of carrying the team, so it's all about me being assertive. If I feel like I'm not getting the ball, I just got to talk to them and do what I have to do.

"But at the end of the day, I should never be in a position to complain about getting the ball, just because of who I am.

"I believe I can carry the team, and I believe being able to do that, I just got to take matters into my own hands. And obviously, I need to be in positions where I feel comfortable, and I believe my team-mates are going to help."

The 76ers – 14 games behind the Eastern Conference and NBA-leading Milwaukee Bucks (53-12) – are also set to be boosted by the return of fellow All-Star Ben Simmons.

Simmons has been sidelined since February due to a back injury, while there continues to be doubts over whether the Australian and Embiid can coexist in Philadelphia due to their contrasting styles.

"We're going to need him," Embiid said. "It's a team game. I'm going to do my best to keep helping him and create some space for him, and we all got to do the same thing just to help each other.

"At the end of the day, it's all about winning a championship, and I feel like he has the right mindset, that's what he wants to do. I know one thing about him, he wants to win, and he's going to do what it takes to win. So whatever we're going to need him to do, that's what he has to do."

The NBA announced the schedule for scrimmage games to take place before the season restarts following the coronavirus-enforced break.

Basketball came to a halt in the United States and Canada due to the COVID-19 pandemic in March, but the 2019-20 NBA campaign is set to resume on July 30.

Orlando's Disney World complex will host 22 teams, with the Los Angeles Lakers headlining the league's comeback against rivals the Los Angeles Clippers on July 30 after the New Orleans Pelicans face the Utah Jazz on the same day.

Prior to the NBA returning, all 22 teams in Orlando will play three inter-squad scrimmages between July 22 and July 28.

Kawhi Leonard's Clippers will play the Orlando Magic on July 22, with the Washington Wizards-Denver Nuggets, Pelicans-Brooklyn Nets and Sacramento Kings-Miami Heat scrimmages also taking place that day.

The Milwaukee Bucks led the NBA with a 53-12 record prior to the coronavirus crisis, ahead of the Lakers (49-14), defending champions the Toronto Raptors (46-18) and Clippers.

 

Scrimmage schedule:

Wednesday, July 22

Orlando Magic v Los Angeles Clippers
Washington Wizards v Denver Nuggets
New Orleans Pelicans v Brooklyn Nets
Sacramento Kings v Miami Heat

Thursday, July 23

San Antonio Spurs v Milwaukee Bucks
Portland Trail Blazers v Indiana Pacers
Dallas Mavericks v Los Angeles Lakers
Phoenix Suns v Utah Jazz

Friday, July 24

Memphis Grizzlies v Philadelphia 76ers
Oklahoma City Thunder v Boston Celtics
Houston Rockets v Toronto Raptors

Saturday, July 25

Los Angeles Lakers v Orlando Magic
Milwaukee Bucks v Sacramento Kings
Miami Heat v Utah Jazz
Brooklyn Nets v San Antonio Spurs
Los Angeles Clippers v Washington Wizards
Denver Nuggets v New Orleans Pelicans

Sunday, July 26

Philadelphia 76ers v Oklahoma City Thunder
Phoenix Suns v Boston Celtics
Indiana Pacers v Dallas Mavericks
Portland Trail Blazers v Toronto Raptors
Houston Rockets v Memphis Grizzlies

Monday, July 27

Washington Wizards v Los Angeles Lakers
Sacramento Kings v Los Angeles Clippers
Utah Jazz v Brooklyn Nets
Orlando Magic v Denver Nuggets
New Orleans Pelicans v Milwaukee Bucks

Tuesdays, July 28 

Memphis Grizzlies v Miami Heat
Toronto Raptors v Phoenix Suns
San Antonio Spurs v Indiana Pacers
Oklahoma City Thunder v Portland Trail Blazers
Boston Celtics v Houston Rockets
Dallas Mavericks v Philadelphia 76ers

Philadelphia 76ers head coach Brett Brown said no one has worked harder than Joel Embiid as he hailed the All-Star ahead of the NBA's return.

The 2019-20 NBA season is set to restart via a 22-team format at the Disney World complex in Orlando, Florida on July 30 after the campaign was halted due to COVID-19 in March.

Embiid's fitness has always been a topic of discussion and all eyes will be on the three-time All-Star center when the NBA returns following the coronavirus pandemic.

Philadelphia will recommence against Eastern Conference rivals the Indiana Pacers, who share identical 39-26 records to be fifth and sixth respectively, on August 1.

And Brown had high praise for Embiid's training and conditioning midweek.

"Let's start with the respect and applause I give him for putting in time. There is nobody on our team that has put in more time than Joel Embiid," Brown told reporters on Wednesday.

"Forget what he has actually done in the gym for a minute, just go to the man hours and consecutive days and the amount of days he has put in over the past few months. I'm proud of him, I respect him. He needed to do it. We understand the impact he can have on our team."

Embiid had been averaging 23.4 points, 11.8 rebounds and 3.1 assists per game this season.

"We've got a three-week runway to deliver him to the regular season," Brown said. "I'm looking for Joel to come in in as good of shape as he's been in since I have coached him.

"I think the three weeks we have together is an inverted sort of luxury we haven't had. I'm excited for Jo to get back into this and show what he has been doing the last few months."

The 76ers – 14 games behind the Eastern Conference and NBA-leading Milwaukee Bucks (53-12) – are also set to be boosted by the return of fellow All-Star Ben Simmons.

Simmons has been sidelined since February due to a back injury, but Brown added: "He's good to go. He's put in a tremendous amount of work for me to be able to confidently say that.

"As you search for silver linings with this pandemic and the way things have shaped up, it would be hard-pressed for me to find something more obvious than this: It's enabled Ben to reclaim his health. He's good to go, and we look forward to watching him with what I'm told is effectively 100 per cent health."

Barcelona great Xavi bade farewell in style on this day five years ago as he claimed a fourth Champions League title.

Elsewhere on June 6, Brian Lara set the cricket record books alight in the midst of a phenomenal 1994 purple patch, while an icon of the tennis world has great memories of this day in 1999.

Here we look back on those and some other landmark sporting moments.

 

1994 - Lara racks up 501

West Indies batsman Lara apparently did not satisfy his unquenchable thirst for runs when scoring a Test record 375 against England in Antigua.

On English soil two months later, he scored 501 not out for Warwickshire against Durham, surpassing Hanif Mohammad's 499.

It could have been very different as Lara made an uncertain start – bowled off a no ball on 12 and then dropped by wicketkeeper Chris Scott.

The Durham gloveman's error proved unfathomably costly as Lara smashed 62 fours and 10 sixes to reach his still unsurpassed milestone from 427 deliveries. Starting with the 375, it was his seventh century in eight first-class innings.

 

1997 - Rose finally blooms

Considering his breakout performance as a teenager at the Open Championship came in 1998, Justin Rose had to bide his time when it came to waiting for first PGA Tour title.

However, he took the opportunity in style when his moment came at the 2010 Memorial Tournament.

Four strokes off the lead at the start of the final day, Rose shot an imperious 66 to finish on 18 under and win by three strokes from Rickie Fowler.

In 2013, the Englishman claimed his maiden major triumph at the U.S. Open.

 

1999 - Agassi completes career Grand Slam

Andre Agassi's designs on completing tennis' career Grand Slam appeared to be slipping through his fingers when he fell two sets behind to Ukraine's Andrei Medvedev in the final of the 1999 French Open.

But he stormed back to complete a 1-6 2-6 6-4 6-3 6-4 triumph, converting a fourth match point in the decider. It made Agassi the first man in 30 years to win all four grand slams.

"It's been a lot of years since I've had this opportunity and I never thought I would see this day," he said, having won Wimbledon in 1992, the 1994 US Open and the 1995 Australian Open.

That Roland Garros triumph sparked a late career surge from Agassi, who lost the Wimbledon final to Pete Sampras and won a second US Open later that year, preceding a trio of Australian crowns in 2000, 2001 and 2003.

 

2001 - Iverson steps over Lee

In 2001, Iverson produced one of the greatest moments in NBA Finals history.

With less than a minute of overtime remaining, Philadelphia 76ers star Iverson made a 16-foot jump shot that Tyronn Lue of the Los Angeles Lakers leant in to contest.

As the ball dropped through the hoop, Lue lost his footing and Iverson mockingly stepped over him in celebration – an iconic image that sits uneasily with its main protagonist.

“I don’t like it [people making fun of Lue] because I love him," Iverson told ESPN in 2016. "I don’t like people joking on him and all that, because that’s my man."

The Lakers collectively had the last laugh, storming back from their opening night reverse to take the series 4-1. Iverson top scored for the 76ers in each game and ended the Finals with 178 points – a record for a five-game series.

 

2015 - Barca complete 'MSN' treble

Luis Enrique's fabulous Barcelona side – inspired by the MSN forward line of Lionel Messi, Luis Suarez and Neymar – completed their 2014-15 treble with a 3-1 Champions League final win over Juventus in Berlin.

Ivan Rakitic gave the Catalan club an early lead but Alvaro Morata levelled for Juve 10 minutes after the interval.

Suarez restored the advantage midway through the second half before Neymar made sure of victory deep into stoppage time.

For Xavi, it amounted to the perfect farewell at his boyhood club, having also lifted the Champions League in 2006, 2009 and 2011.

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.

With 18 years having passed since Allen Iverson's famous "practice" rant, the former Philadelphia 76ers guard updated his comments to fit the modern day.

On May 7, 2002, Iverson, who was named NBA MVP in 2001 and would make 11 All-Star appearances in a Hall of Fame career, launched into a tirade when he was asked about skipping practice.

It remains one of the most iconic interactions between an NBA player and the media, and to mark the anniversary the former Sixers superstar recalled it with a slight tweak.

With the United States in the midst of combating the coronavirus pandemic, Iverson used it to attempt to remind his followers on Twitter of a key way they can help.

"We talkin about practicing social distancing!!!" he posted alongside a picture of him during his outburst.

For those unfamiliar with Iverson's initial comments, here they are:

"If a coach say I missed practice, and y'all hear it, then that's that. I might've missed one practice this year. But if somebody says, 'He doesn't come to practice' - it can be one practice, out of all the practices this year - that's enough. If I can't practice, I can't practice, man. If I'm hurt, I'm hurt. It ain't about that. It's not about that, at all.

"But it's easy to talk about, it's easy to sum it up when you just talk about practice. We sittin' in here, I'm supposed to be the franchise player, and we in here talkin' about practice. I mean listen, we talkin' about practice. Not a game, not a game, not a game. We talkin' about practice. Not a game, not the game that I go out there and die for, and play every game like it's my last. Not the game. We talkin' about practice, man. I mean how silly is that? We talkin' 'bout practice. I know I'm supposed to be there, I know I'm supposed to lead by example. I know that, and I'm not shovin' it aside, you know, like it don't mean anything. I know it's important, I do. I honestly do.

"But we talkin' about practice, man. What are we talkin' about? Practice? We talkin' about practice, man. We talk - we talkin' about practice. We talkin' about practice! We ain't talkin' about the game, we talkin' about practice, man. When you come into the arena, and you see me play, you see me play, don't you? You see me give everything I got, right? But we talkin' about practice right now. We talkin' about practice.

"Man look, I hear you, it's funny to me too. I mean, it's strange, it's strange to me too. But we talkin' about practice, man. We not even talkin' about the game, the actual game, when it matters. We talkin' about practice."

Philadelphia 76ers star Ben Simmons should be ready to play when the NBA season resumes.

Simmons missed eight games due to a nerve impingement in his lower back before the 2019-20 campaign was paused amid the coronavirus pandemic.

The point guard was at that time set to be re-evaluated in three weeks, putting his availability for a late-season playoff push into question.

Sixers general manager Elton Brand now believes he will be able to suit up. 

"I'm very optimistic he'll be able to play, if and when, we're given that green light to resume," Brand said on a conference call on Tuesday.

The NBA leader in steals with 115, Simmons has been allowed to rehab at the 76ers' practice facility and Brand has been encouraged by his progress.

The next step is for Simmons to move on to three-on-three and five-on-five work, but those scrimmages will not be permitted until social distancing restrictions are lifted. 

"I give Ben and our medical staff a ton of credit for their hard work throughout his recovery," Brand said.

"I give Ben so much credit for him working so hard throughout this unknown time. Fortunately, we've able to arrange for him to continue to get the treatment and rehab he needs during this hiatus. 

''When I FaceTime him during his workouts and his treatments and I see him, I'd be highly encouraged." 

A two-time All-Star, the 23-year-old Simmons was in the midst of another excellent season before being sidelined, averaging 16.7 points, 8.2 assists, 7.8 rebounds and 2.1 steals.

He has been instrumental to Philadelphia's success, as the 76ers are 33-21 when Simmons plays and 6-5 when he does not.

The Sixers were tied with the Indiana Pacers for fifth place in the Eastern Conference when the season was shut down, and Simmons' return would be key to a playoff run. 

''We've taken our time, we've been methodical and thoughtful about his recovery and rehab, just to make sure, because we weren't in a rush,'' Brand said.

''It's hard to speculate. He's been working hard and I know he'd be close or ready.'' 

Page 1 of 10
© 2020 SportsMaxTV All Rights Reserved.