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.

The Houston Rockets edged the Milwaukee Bucks in the NBA on Sunday, while the Boston Celtics also claimed a narrow win.

The Rockets rallied past the Bucks 120-116 on the back of a standout performance from Russell Westbrook at the Walt Disney World Resort.

Westbrook finished with 31 points, eight assists and six rebounds, while James Harden had 24 points.

Bucks star Giannis Antetokounmpo scored a game-high 36 points, to go with 18 rebounds and eight assists.

The Celtics claimed their first win since the restart by overcoming the Portland Trail Blazers 128-124.

Jayson Tatum bounced back to form, going 11-of-22- from the field for 34 points.

 

Mavs clinch playoff spot, Morant marvellous

After the Memphis Grizzlies' loss to the San Antonio Spurs, the Dallas Mavericks reached the playoffs for the first time since 2015-16.

They later fell to a 117-115 defeat to the Phoenix Suns despite 40 points, 11 assists and eight rebounds from star Luka Doncic.

Ja Morant had 25 points on 10-of-18 shooting, plus nine rebounds and nine assists, in the Grizzlies' 108-106 loss to the Spurs.

 

Johnson struggles

Tyler Johnson missed all seven of his field-goal attempts in the Brooklyn Nets' 118-110 win over the Washington Wizards

 

Markelle magic

Markelle Fultz hit a shot from three-quarter court in the Orlando Magic's win over the Sacramento Kings.

Sunday's results

Brooklyn Nets 118-110 Washington Wizards
Boston Celtics 128-124 Portland Trail Blazers
San Antonio Spurs 108-106 Memphis Grizzlies
Orlando Magic 132-116 Sacramento Kings
Houston Rockets 120-116 Milwaukee Bucks
Phoenix Suns 117-115 Dallas Mavericks

 

Raptors face Heat

Following a win over the Los Angeles Lakers, defending champions the Toronto Raptors (47-18) face another test when they take on Eastern Conference rivals the Miami Heat (42-24) on Monday.

Jonathan Isaac opted not to wear a 'Black Lives Matter' t-shirt or kneel for the anthem prior to the Orlando Magic's NBA game against the Brooklyn Nets, saying he did not think such acts were "the answer".

The 2019-20 NBA season resumed on Thursday in Florida and players have been wearing 'Black Lives Matter' t-shirts and taking a knee for the anthem to protest racial injustice and police brutality.

However, while the rest of his Magic team-mates knelt and wore those t-shirts prior to tip-off against the Nets on Friday, Isaac remained standing in his Orlando jersey.

"I believe that black lives matter," the forward told reporters after Orlando's 128-111 win.

"A lot went into my decision and part of it is my thought that kneeling while wearing a Black Lives Matter t-shirt don't go hand in hand with supporting black lives.

"And so I felt like, just me personally and what it is that I believe in, standing on a stance that I do believe that black lives matter, but I just felt like it was a decision that I had to make and I didn't feel like putting that shirt on went hand in hand with supporting black lives."

Isaac, who became an ordained minister in March, added: "I don't think that kneeling or putting on a t-shirt for me, personally, is the answer.

"I feel like for me black lives are supported through the gospel. All lives are supported through the gospel. That we all have things that we do wrong and sometimes it gets into a place of pointing fingers about which wrong is worse."

Later on Friday, San Antonio Spurs head coach Gregg Popovich and assistant Becky Hammon also stood for the anthem, though both were wearing the Black Lives Matter t-shirts.

Popovich has frequently spoken out about racial injustice in the past and Spurs star DeMar DeRozan urged others not to "vilify" those who did not kneel.

"Don't take away nothing from those guys," he said.

"You know Pop speaks out. When it comes to Becky, she's been [on the] front line, fighting for equality since I've been a fan of hers playing in the WNBA.

"So everybody has their own right of making a statement and you can't vilify nobody for not doing what the other group is doing. I'm all for it."

Asked why he had not knelt, Popovich replied: "I prefer to keep that to myself.

"Everybody has to make a personal decision. The league has been great about that. Everybody has the freedom to react any way that they want. For whatever reasons that I have, I reacted the way I wanted to."

Giannis Antetokounmpo starred in a win for the Milwaukee Bucks in the NBA on Friday, while the Houston Rockets edged the Dallas Mavericks.

Antetokounmpo's double-double of 36 points and 15 rebounds helped the Bucks past the Boston Celtics 119-112.

The reigning NBA MVP went 14-of-20 from the field in the Bucks' victory.

Marcus Smart scored 23 points off the bench for Boston, while Jaylen Brown contributed 22 points.

James Harden starred with 49 points in the Rockets' 153-149 overtime win against the Dallas Mavericks.

Kristaps Porzingis (39 points and 16 rebounds) led the Mavericks, but they fell short.

 

Fantastic Fournier, Portland trio shine

Evan Fournier went 10-of-15 for 24 points in the Orlando Magic's 128-118 win over the Brooklyn Nets.

The Portland Trail Blazers overcame the Memphis Grizzlies 140-135 after overtime thanks to CJ McCollum (33 points), Damian Lillard (29) and Carmelo Anthony (21).

 

Terrible Tatum

Jayson Tatum struggled badly in the Celtics' loss. The forward went two-of-18 from the field for just five points in 32 minutes.

 

Harden's hot start

Harden made a fast start with 23 points in the first quarter for the Rockets.

Friday's results

Orlando Magic 128-118 Brooklyn Nets
Portland Trail Blazers 140-135 Memphis Grizzlies
Phoenix Suns 125-112 Washington Wizards
Milwaukee Bucks 119-112 Boston Celtics
San Antonio Spurs 129-120 Sacramento Kings
Houston Rockets 153-149 Dallas Mavericks

 

Lakers face Raptors

In another battle between two championship contenders, the Los Angeles Lakers (50-14) face the Toronto Raptors (46-18) on Saturday.

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.

San Antonio Spurs guard Patty Mills announced on Wednesday he will donate all the money he earns during the NBA restart in Orlando to Black Lives Matter organisations.

Mills, who is from Australia, becomes the second NBA player in three days to announce he will be donating the remainder of his 2019-20 salary to social justice causes after the Los Angeles Lakers' Dwight Howard pledged approximately $700,000 to Breathe Again on Monday. 

"I'm proud to say I'm taking every cent earned from these eight games that we're playing, which for me will turn out to be $1,017,818.54, and donating that directly back to the Black Lives Matter Australia, Black Deaths in Custody and to a recent campaign that's called We Got You - dedicated to ending racism in sport in Australia," Mills said in a video posted by the Spurs.

"I'm playing in Orlando because I don't want to leave any money on the table that could be going directly to Black communities."

An 11-year veteran, Mills is averaging a career-best 11.7 points and is now the second-leading scorer on San Antonio's roster after LaMarcus Aldridge announced a month ago he will miss the rest of the season following right shoulder surgery. 

The Spurs had the Western Conference's 12th-best record at 27-36 when the season was halted in mid-March, good enough to be one of 22 teams invited to Orlando to finish the season. They have made the playoffs every year since the 1997-98 season, but sit four games back of the eighth-placed Memphis Grizzlies with eight games scheduled.

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

San Antonio Spurs star DeMar DeRozan expressed his displeasure with the rules the NBA has put in place for the resumption of the season following the coronavirus-enforced break.

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

The league included a 113-page health and safety handbook as part of its restart plan later this month in Orlando. It covers a wide array of topics such as social distancing outside of games and practices to prohibiting doubles in ping-pong (table tennis).

"The ping-pong this is ridiculous, to be honest," Spurs guard DeRozan said on Thursday. "Guys can't do this, but we can do this and battle over each other? That part just don't make no sense to me.

"I got through 10 lines of the handbook and just put it down because it became so frustrating and overwhelming at times, because you just never thought you'd be in a situation of something like this. So it's hard to process."

Another area of concern for DeRozan specifically is the mental well-being of the players.

DeRozan has been a vocal advocate for players' mental health and the isolated nature of the bubble could be a challenge for players from a mental standpoint.

"It's tough. You're taking guys that have been with their families every single day for the last few months and all of a sudden, separating everybody into this one confined space and taking away a lot of the joyful things we do outside of basketball that we won't be able to do," the four-time All-Star said. "It'll be something for every single player when it comes to mental health."

DeRozan is not the first player to voice his feelings over the NBA's restart plan.

Portland Trail Blazers guard Damian Lillard jokingly said on Wednesday that some players will break rules in the league's handbook, despite warnings or restrictions.

Washington Wizards guard Bradley Beal said during a videoconference call that living in the bubble will be challenging for players used to having few rules on the road.

San Antonio head to Orlando in 12th place in the Western Conference, four games behind the Memphis Grizzlies for the final playoff spot.

June 20 is a day LeBron James will remember fondly, World Cup finals were settled and arguably the most famous penalty technique was first introduced. 

James was once again the king of Miami after leading the Heat to NBA glory in a thrilling series against the San Antonio Spurs. 

New Zealand made history at the first Rugby World Cup, while this day also saw Australia completely dominant in cricket's showpiece event.

Look back at some fond moments from years gone by on this day. 


1976 - The Panenka is born as Czechoslovakia celebrate

Defending European champions and reigning World Cup holders West Germany were overwhelming favourites for the final of Euro 1976. 

While Jan Svehlik and Karol Dobias put Czechoslovakia into a two-goal lead after 25 minutes, Dieter Muller and Bernd Holzenbein both scored to force extra-time in a 2-2 draw. 

When the additional minutes could not split the teams, a penalty shoot-out was required. Uli Hoeness' miss presented Antonin Panenka with a golden opportunity to seal glory.

His long run-up and delicate chip deceived goalkeeper Sepp Maier, leading to the birth of the famous Panenka penalty and earning a 5-3 victory shoot-out victory.


1987 - New Zealand win first final 

A near 50,000-strong crowd roared New Zealand on to victory on home soil at Eden Park in the first ever Rugby World Cup final. 

The fearsome All Blacks were too good for Scotland and Wales in the previous knockout rounds, but France had stunned Australia to provide hope of an upset. 

Instead, it was one-way traffic. Michael Jones, captain David Kirk and John Kirwan scored tries in a convincing 29-9 win over Les Bleus.  

Surprisingly, New Zealand would not be crowned champions again until 2011. 


1999 – Australia Lord it over Pakistan

The 1999 Cricket World Cup final was about as one-sided as it gets as Australia thrashed Pakistan by eight wickets. 

An enigmatic Pakistan side were skittled for a meagre 132 in 39 overs after surprisingly opting to bat first at Lord's, leg-spinner Shane Warne returning figures of 4-33. 

Australia – led by Steve Waugh - rattled off the chase with a whopping 29.5 overs to spare, Adam Gilchrist celebrating a half-century in the process. 

It marked the first of three consecutive World Cup triumphs for the Australians, as they reigned again under the captaincy of Ricky Ponting in both 2003 and 2007. 


2013 – LeBron's Heat reign again after Spurs epic

For the second straight year, LeBron James was named NBA Finals MVP as the Miami Heat retained their title by defeating the Spurs. 

It was the third straight year a star-studded Heat roster including Dwyane Wade and Chris Bosh had made it through to the Finals. 

A see-saw series had seen the Spurs lead on three occasions but a dramatic 103-100 overtime win in Game 6, considered by many to be one of the great playoff contests in NBA history, set up a decider. 

James duly put up a game-high 37 points and provided 12 rebounds and four assists in a 95-88 triumph. 

The Spurs would gain revenge a year later, which proved to be James' last season in Miami as he returned to the Cleveland Cavaliers, the team who had drafted him first overall in 2003. 

Asafa Powell broke the 100 metres world record on this day 15 years ago, and the New York Rangers ended a 54-year NHL title drought in 1994.

No man has ever run faster than Usain Bolt over 100m, but Powell was Jamaica's sprint king in 2005.

The Rangers were celebrating at Madison Square Garden 26 years ago, while Canada's cricketers will not want to be reminded of this date in 1979.

We go back in time to look at some memorable sporting moments that have taken place on June 14.

 

1979 - Canada crumble at Old Trafford

A Cricket World Cup contest between England and Canada always looked like it was going to be a mismatch.

That was very much the case in Manchester, where the minnows were skittled out for only 45 - the lowest ODI score in history at the time.

Bob Willis (4-11) and Chris Old (4-8) wreaked havoc, Franklyn Dennis making almost half of Canada's runs before England took just 13.5 overs to seal an eight-wicket win.

 

1994 - Rangers rule in New York

The Rangers had not been crowned NHL champions since way back in 1940 and it looked like they may have blown their chance in the Stanley Cup Finals against the Vancouver Canucks.

Mike Keenan's side led the series 3-1 after losing the opening match, but the Canucks rallied to force a decider.

The tension was almost unbearable for Rangers fans, but Brian Leetch, Adam Graves and Mark Messier were on target to secure a 3-2 victory and spark a huge party.

There has been no NHL glory for the Rangers since that triumph.

2005 - Powell keeps true to his word in Athens

A 22-year-old Powell said he was ready to break Tim Montgomery's 100m world record in Athens.

His confidence was certainly not unfounded, as he set a new mark of 9.77 seconds at the Olympic Stadium.

"It shows no-one knows how fast a man can run." Powell said after making history. He went faster another three times after Justin Gatlin had gone quicker in 2005.

Bolt holds the current record of 9.58, set in Berlin 11 years ago.

 

2007 - Imperious Spurs sweep Cavs

The NBA Finals 13 years ago proved to be one-sided, with the San Antonio Spurs dominating the Cleveland Cavaliers.

In their 40th season as a franchise, the Spurs wrapped up a 4-0 series victory with an 83-82 win in Cleveland.

Manu Ginobili scored a game-high 27 points as LeBron James' 24-point haul was in vain, with Tony Parker named Finals MVP for Gregg Popovich's side.

The San Antonio Spurs announced on Monday that LaMarcus Aldridge will miss the rest of the 2019-20 season after undergoing right shoulder surgery.

Aldridge had missed six straight games with a sore shoulder from February 26 through to March 8 before returning to action on March 10. 

The seven-time NBA All-Star finished with 24 points and four blocked shots in 37 minutes in a win over the Dallas Mavericks in what would be San Antonio's final game before the season went on pause due to the coronavirus pandemic. 

"Disappointed I won't get to finish the season with my team-mates, but excited that I’ll be fully ready to go next season and beyond," the 34-year-old said in a message tweeted out by the Spurs.

The 2019-20 season marked Aldridge's 14th in the NBA; he ends it with averages of 18.9 points and 7.4 rebounds.

The Spurs had the Western Conference’s 12th-best record at 27-36 when the season was halted, good enough to garner an invite to the Walt Disney World Resort near Orlando, Florida as part of the 22-team field for the NBA’s restart plan.

San Antonio Spurs coach Gregg Popovich said he is "embarrassed as a white person" that George Floyd could die in police custody in such a "nonchalant…casual" manner. 

The Spurs, one of the last NBA teams to issue an official reaction to Floyd's death and ensuing protests against racial injustice, released a series of videos on Twitter, including one from Popovich. 

Floyd, an African American, died in police custody in Minneapolis on May 25 when an officer knelt on his neck for nearly nine minutes. 

"It has got to be us, in my opinion, that speak truth to power and that call it out no matter what the consequences," Popovich said. 

"We have to speak. We have to not let anything go."

While the series of videos is the first official response from the franchise, Popovich had previously provided scathing comments about Donald Trump to The Nation, calling the president "deranged" and "a destroyer".

 Popovich added in the video before an emotional pause. "I think I'm just embarrassed as a white person to know that that can happen – to actually watch a lynching."

The 24th-year coach concluded that white people need to do a better job, saying, "We have to do it because black people have been shouldering this burden for 400 years. 

"The only reason this nation has made the progress it has is because of the persistence, patience and effort of black people. 

"It's easy for people to let things go because it doesn't involve them. Our country is in trouble and the basic reason is race."

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.

San Antonio Spurs coach Gregg Popovich joined the chorus of prominent voices in sport to speak up after nationwide protests against police brutality and racial injustice erupted following the death of George Floyd.  

Popovich, in his 24th year coaching the Spurs, pointed to a lack of leadership as a reason for an apparent decline in race relations in the United States.

"The thing that strikes me is that we all see this police violence and racism and we've seen it all before but nothing changes," Popovich told The Nation.

"That's why these protests have been so explosive. But without leadership and an understanding of what the problem is, there will never be change.  

"And white Americans have avoided reckoning with this problem forever because it's been our privilege to be able to avoid it. That also has to change."

The five-time NBA champion coach, who has previously been critical of President Donald Trump, blasted the White House's response to the protests.  

"It's unbelievable. If Trump had a brain, even if it was 99 per cent cynical, he would come out and say something to unify people. But he doesn't care about bringing people together. Even now," Popovich said.

"That's how deranged he is. It's all about him. It's all about what benefits him personally. It's never about the greater good. And that's all he's ever been."

"It's so clear what needs to be done. We need a president to come out and say simply that 'Black Lives Matter.' Just say those three words. But he won't and he can't. He can’t because it's more important to him to mollify the small group of followers who validate his insanity. 

"He's not just divisive. He's a destroyer. To be in his presence makes you die. He will eat you alive for his own purposes. I'm appalled that we have a leader who can't say 'Black Lives Matter.' That's why he hides in the White House basement. He is a coward. He creates a situation and runs away like a grade-schooler."

Popovich also criticised Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell and called him "the person who really runs the country". 

While Popovich's disdain for the Trump administration has been well known, his statements to The Nation are his strongest to date.  

"It's more than just Trump. The system has to change," he said. "I'll do whatever I can do to help because that's what leaders do. But he can't do anything to put us on a positive path because he's not a leader."

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

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