TJ Warren overshadowed LeBron James' return as the Los Angeles Lakers slumped to a third successive NBA loss, while Luka Doncic dazzled on Saturday.

Back after a groin injury, Lakers star James had 31 points, eight rebounds and seven assists in 35 minutes but could not stop the Indiana Pacers and their thriving small forward from claiming a 116-111 victory.

Warren, a revelation since entering the NBA bubble, continued his incredible scoring run with 39 points on 15-of-22 shooting.

In the final minute, he hit a floater, a pull-up jumper and a clutch three-pointer over Anthony Davis to earn the Pacers a fourth win from five games at Walt Disney World Resort.

All-Star guard Doncic and reigning MVP Giannis Antetokounmpo did not disappoint in their duel, sharing 70 points between them as the Dallas Mavericks outlasted the Milwaukee Bucks 136-132 in overtime.

Doncic did the business for Dallas, delivering a decisive triple-double with 36 points, 19 assists and 14 rebounds.

 

Pain for Mitchell, better for Booker

Donovan Mitchell's nerveless 35-point performance was not enough to help the Utah Jazz avoid a 134-132 defeat to the Denver Nuggets in double overtime, a thrilling game that included 30 points and 11 rebounds from Nikola Jokic.

Devin Booker's 35 points proved more valuable for the Phoenix Suns, who beat the Miami Heat 119-112 to stay undefeated since the restart.

 

Lillard's let down

After trading taunts with the Los Angeles Clippers, Damian Lillard let his opponents have the last laugh when he wasted two clutch free throws and missed a three-point attempt late in the Portland Trail Blazers' 122-117 loss.

 

Doncic's delicious dime

The Mavericks' main man went between the legs for one of his 19 assists.

Saturday's results

Los Angeles Clippers 122-117 Portland Trail Blazers
Denver Nuggets 134-132 Utah Jazz (2OT)
Indiana Pacers 116-111 Los Angeles Lakers
Phoenix Suns 119-112 Miami Heat
Dallas Mavericks 136-132 Milwaukee Bucks (OT)

 

Trail Blazers face 76ers

Lillard and the Trail Blazers (32-39), ranked ninth in the Western Conference, know they cannot afford any errors when they face the Philadelphia 76ers (42-27) on Sunday.

The LeBron James-less Los Angeles Lakers fell to another NBA loss, while Giannis Antetokounmpo starred again on Thursday.

Without James (groin), the Lakers suffered a second straight loss, beaten by the Houston Rockets 113-97.

James Harden led the way for the Rockets with 39 points on 11-of-19 shooting, while the guard also had 12 assists and eight rebounds at the Walt Disney World Resort.

In James' absence, Anthony Davis had a double-double of 17 points and 12 rebounds for the Lakers.

Coming off back-to-back losses, the Milwaukee Bucks clinched the top seed in the Eastern Conference by beating the Miami Heat 130-116.

The Bucks recovered from a 23-point deficit to bounce back, with Antetokounmpo finishing with 33 points and 12 rebounds.

Khris Middleton also posted 33 points for Milwaukee.

Leonard, Lillard in form

Kawhi Leonard had 29 points as the Los Angeles Clippers eased past the Dallas Mavericks 126-111.

Damian Lillard hit 11 three-pointers in a 45-point haul to lead the Portland Trail Blazers to a 125-115 win over the Denver Nuggets.

A career-high 35 points from Bogdan Bogdanovic guided the Sacramento Kings to a 140-125 success against the New Orleans Pelicans.

 

Cook can't take chance

Quinn Cook was unable to make the most of his start for the Lakers. The guard went two-of-12 from the field for just six points in 29 minutes.

 

Amazing Lillard

Lillard went 11-of-18 from three-point range in an incredible performance.

Thursday's results

Sacramento Kings 140-125 New Orleans Pelicans
Milwaukee Bucks 130-116 Miami Heat
Phoenix Suns 114-99 Indiana Pacers
Los Angeles Clippers 126-111 Dallas Mavericks
Portland Trail Blazers 125-115 Denver Nuggets
Houston Rockets 113-97 Los Angeles Lakers

 

Celtics face Raptors

The Boston Celtics (45-23) and Toronto Raptors (49-18) go head-to-head in another blockbuster battle on Friday.

Los Angeles Lakers superstar LeBron James has been ruled out of Thursday's NBA showdown with the Houston Rockets.

The Western Conference-leading Lakers cited a sore right groin for James' absence against the Rockets at the Walt Disney World Resort in Orlando, Florida.

James – who endured a difficult first season in Los Angeles after suffering a groin injury on Christmas Day in 2018 – posted 19 points and 11 rebounds in the Lakers' 105-86 loss to the Oklahoma City Thunder on Wednesday.

The four-time NBA MVP and three-time champion is averaging 25.3 points, 10.3 assists and 8.0 rebounds per game this season.

James and the Lakers (51-16) have already clinched the top seed in the west as the Los Angeles franchise prepare for their first playoff appearance since 2013.

LeBron James says the basketball community "couldn't care less" if president Donald Trump refuses to watch the NBA because players take a knee during the national anthem.

Trump on Wednesday told Fox News he thinks it is "disgraceful" that players do not stand for the Star-Spangled Banner before matches.

Players have repeatedly stated they take a knee to protest against police brutality and social injustice and have no intention of causing insult to the flag, military or nation.

Yet Trump said: "I think it's disgraceful. We work with [the NBA]. We work very hard trying to get them open. I was pushing them to get open. And then I see everyone kneeling during the anthem. It's not acceptable to me.

"When I see them kneeling, I just turn off the game. I have no interest in the game. When I see people kneeling during the playing and disrespecting our flag and disrespecting our national anthem, what I do, personally, is turn off the game."

Trump also said he has done more for the black community than any other president, with the possible exception of Abraham Lincoln.

That comment brought a smile from James, who replied when asked about that particular statement: "Trying to make me laugh right now? I appreciate it."

Los Angeles Lakers star James said it will be no loss to the basketball world if Trump is not watching and hopes Americans do their talking in the November elections.

"I really don't think the basketball community are sad about losing his viewership," he added after the Lakers were beaten 105-86 by the Oklahoma City Thunder on Wednesday.

"That's all I really want to say because I already know where this could go and where it could lead to for me. I'm not going to get into it, but I think our game is in a beautiful position.

"We have fans all over the world and our fans not only love the way we play the game. We try to give it back to them with our commitment to the game, but also respect what else we bring to the game with knowledge of what's right and what's wrong.

"I hope everyone – no matter their race, colour, size – would see what leadership we have at the top of our country and understand that November is right around the corner and it's a big moment for us as Americans.

"We talk about 'we want better, we want change', and we will have an opportunity to do that.

"But the game will go on with his eyes on [or] without his eyes on it. I can speak for everyone who loves the game of basketball: we couldn't care less."

The Los Angeles Lakers were well beaten in the NBA on Wednesday, while Joel Embiid led the Philadelphia 76ers to a win.

With the top seed in the Western Conference secured, the Lakers went down to the Oklahoma City Thunder 105-86.

LeBron James (19 points) and Anthony Davis (nine) went a combined 10-of-30 from the field as the Lakers shot at just 35.2 per cent.

Chris Paul top-scored in the Thunder's victory with 21 points.

Embiid's double-double of 30 points and 11 rebounds saw the 76ers past the Washington Wizards 107-98.

Philadelphia suffered a setback during their win, with Ben Simmons hurting his knee in the third quarter.

 

Even Celtics shine as Gobert lifts Jazz

The Boston Celtics had seven players in double-digits for points in a 149-115 thrashing of the Brooklyn Nets. Jaylen Brown (21), Jayson Tatum (19), Gordon Hayward (18) and Robert Williams III (18) led the way.

Rudy Gobert had a double-double of 21 points and 16 rebounds in the Utah Jazz's 124-115 victory over the Memphis Grizzlies.

Fred VanVleet went eight-of-13 from the field for 21 points, to go with 10 assists, in the Toronto Raptors' 109-99 win against the Orlando Magic.

 

Davis struggles

Davis has been in good form for the Lakers, but the forward was three-of-11 from the field in their loss.

 

Diallo dunk

Hamidou Diallo delivered a huge dunk in the Thunder's win.

Wednesday's results

Utah Jazz 124-115 Memphis Grizzlies
Philadelphia 76ers 107-98 Washington Wizards
Denver Nuggets 132-126 San Antonio Spurs
Oklahoma City Thunder 105-86 Los Angeles Lakers
Toronto Raptors 109-99 Orlando Magic
Boston Celtics 149-115 Brooklyn Nets

 

Lakers face Rockets

The Lakers (51-16) will try to bounce back on Thursday in a blockbuster clash with the Houston Rockets (42-25).

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.

Anthony Davis said nailing down top spot in the Western Conference was "a small milestone" for the Los Angeles Lakers after his standout performance against the Utah Jazz.

The seven-time All-Star arrived from New Orleans last year with the motivation to drive the Lakers towards championship contention.

After six years of despair at missing out on the postseason, the Lakers are firing again, with Davis and LeBron James driving them forward.

Davis scored 42 points and had 12 rebounds in a 116-108 win over the Jazz at Walt Disney World Resort, making certain of the top seed in the West.

"It's an honour for the organisation," Davis said. "We haven't made the playoffs for a long time. It's a small milestone in what we're trying to accomplish. We have a long way to go, but we're definitely going to enjoy it.

"No-one knew before the game - players-wise we never talked about it, but to do something like [securing the top seed] has been a long time coming for the Laker Nation.

"We try to be the best version of the team we can be. It's a good feeling.

"Obviously we're not done. We've still got a long way to go, but it's a good accomplishment for our organisation."

The Lakers were last NBA champions in 2010, and their most recent playoff appearance resulted in a first-round sweep by the San Antonio Spurs in 2013.

A tepid showing against the Toronto Raptors in their previous outing last week, resulting in a 107-92 defeat, had the Lakers fired up for their latest game.

"I have to play better basketball than I did to help the team win," Davis said.

"Even though I was making the right plays, I still had to be aggressive.

"I didn't like the way I performed [against Toronto] and we didn't like the way we performed as a team.

“It was a collective effort to come out and be more aggressive, shoot the ball. We shot poor last game but wanted to come out and keep shooting, knowing we're going to find our rhythm.

"Everyone was more aggressive tonight, hence why we got the win. We played a lot better."

Sealing top spot with games to spare allows the Lakers to think about strategy for the playoffs, and could allow coach Frank Vogel to look at his options in the coming fixtures.

As Davis said: "We still want to go out and win every game but we want to sharpen our tools as well."

LeBron James lavished praised on the Toronto Raptors after the defending champions defeated his Los Angeles Lakers 107-92 on Saturday.

The Lakers, who are leading the way in the Western Conference, lost an 11th straight game in their rivalry with the Raptors as point guard Kyle Lowry scored 33 points and had a career-high 14 rebounds.

Toronto have not lost to the Lakers since November 2014 and, despite losing 2019 Finals MVP Kawhi Leonard to the Los Angeles Clippers after their historic 2018-19 campaign, the 47-18 Raptors produced a performance that suggested they will be a serious threat in the postseason once more.

"That's a great team - exceptionally well coached, [with] championship DNA, you can never take that away from a ball club," James told reporters.

"Even before that they've got playoff-tested guys. Guys who played not just here in the NBA in big games but FIBA games as well. Marc [Gasol] has been in big games throughout his whole life it seems like.

"They're just a great team. The media may not talk about them much or give them much credit because Kawhi has gone, but players in the league definitely know what type of team they are.

"They won a championship for a reason. It wasn't just solely because of Kawhi, and obviously you're seeing that.

"They've got the two-headed monster in Fred [VanVleet] and Kyle that set the tone and their wings are extremely good in Pascal [Siakam] and OG [Anunoby].

"They've got experience in the front court, at the center position in Marc and Serge [Ibaka] and then they've got a bunch of complementary guys. They've been the team that they've been all year."

The Lakers shot a season-low 35.4 per cent from the field and went 10-of-40 with their three-point attempts.

"I think for most of the game they double-teamed Anthony [Davis] and LeBron in the post and kind of left a lot of guys open to make some shots," said Lakers forward Kyle Kuzma.

"We just didn't hit shots tonight. We got what we wanted, great shots, open shots. It was tough for us to hit them."

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.

LeBron James hopes the return of the NBA can "spread a lot of love throughout the world" after he scored the winning basket in the Los Angeles Lakers' victory over the Los Angeles Clippers.

James followed up his own miss by being alert to grab the decisive points in a 103-101 win with 12.8 seconds to go when the season resumed in the Orlando bubble on Thursday.

Players took a knee wearing tops in support of the Black Lives Matters movement before the first NBA action since March got under way behind closed doors due to the coronavirus pandemic.

Four-time NBA MVP James says NBA stars can play a major part in raising spirits all over the world.

"The game of basketball has always been bigger than just a ball and a rim, 10 guys on a field and referees. It's an opportunity to use this platform to spread a lot of positivity, a lot of love throughout the world," James said in an on-court interview.

"We understand what's going on in society right now and we are using this NBA platform as players, as coaches, as organisations to continue to stand strong on that.

"This is a good start tonight, it's good to have the NBA back and I hope our fans are proud of us tonight."

James stressed the importance of the league and players continuing to take a stand against racial inequality.

"There has been progress, but in the past when we've seen progress, we've let our foot off the gas a little bit," he said.

"We can't do that, we want to continue to keep our foot on the gas, continue to push forward, continue to spread love throughout America.

"We are dealing with a lot of racism, a lot of social injustice, a lot of police brutality, not only in my neighbourhood, not only with black people, with people of colour and it's something that we want to continue to have people's ears open to.

"We have ears now, but we cannot stop putting our foot on the gas, as we've been doing for the last few months."

Anthony Davis is focused on helping the Los Angeles Lakers build rhythm after leading the way in a 103-101 victory over the Los Angeles Clippers.

Davis starred with 34 points as the Lakers edged their rivals on Thursday, the NBA season restarting in Florida amid the coronavirus pandemic.

While the Lakers (50-14) moved closer to clinching the number one seed in the Western Conference, Davis said the focus was on improvement.

"That four months off was definitely a tough one for us, we're just trying to get our chemistry and rhythm back, especially since a lot of guys didn't play in that preseason," he told Spectrum SportsNet.

"Especially me with the eye injury, just want to get a rhythm back with these guys.

"We're going to keep playing each game, we're not going to look forward to seeding or nothing like that, we just want to come out and keep playing."

No fans are allowed to attend games in the NBA bubble due to COVID-19, which suspended the regular season in March.

Davis noticed a slight difference, but was happy with the atmosphere.

"It's always a great battle with these two teams. It wasn't that bad," he said.

"When you're out there playing, you're locked into the game and don't hear anything else.

"It wasn't quite Staples [Center], especially the intros … but it wasn't bad.

"A lot of people had a lot of concerns just how it was going to be, but it turned out pretty well."

LeBron James scored the go-ahead basket as the Western Conference-leading Los Angeles Lakers returned to NBA action with a 103-101 victory against rivals the Los Angeles Clippers.

James' layup with 12.8 seconds remaining ensured the Lakers topped the Clippers to move a step closer to clinching the number one seed in the west in Orlando, Florida on Thursday.

The Lakers – led by Anthony Davis' 34 points and a 16-point, 11-rebound James double-double – are six-and-a-half games clear of the Clippers in the Western Conference.

Paul George top scored for the Clippers with 30 points, while Kawhi Leonard added 28 of his own.

The Lakers-Clippers showdown was the second game in a doubleheader as the NBA resumed with the Utah Jazz outlasting the New Orleans Pelicans at Walt Disney World Resort.

COVID-19 forced the 2019-20 season to be postponed in March, but the league restarted behind closed doors, with all four teams kneeling in unison during the United States national anthem.

Four-time MVP James and the Lakers dusted off some early rust to earn bragging rights against Leonard and the Clippers.

The Lakers raced out of the blocks to lead 35-23 at the end of the opening quarter, but the Clippers moved ahead by 11 points midway through the third period.

In the final quarter, George nailed a three-pointer with less than two minutes remaining to reduce the Lakers' lead to 99-98 before hitting another shot from beyond the arc to level the game at 101-apiece 29 seconds from the end.

Three-time champion James, however, came up big with the late layup and a strong defensive effort on George, who missed a buzzer-beating three.

Anthony Davis is confident he will be fit to play when the Los Angeles Lakers face the LA Clippers in their NBA restart opener in Orlando on Thursday.

Davis returned to practice on Wednesday having been sidelined due to a poke in the eye during the Lakers' scrimmage game against the Orlando Magic.

"The eye is getting better, way better than when I initially got this," Davis told reporters.

"I'm moving in the right direction. That's the plan, for me to play."

The seven-time All Star practiced in protective goggles but is hopeful he can resume competitive action without the eyewear.

"It was definitely different in practice," he said. "It felt different. I won't necessarily have to wear them tomorrow, it's just a precautionary thing.

"If I need them, they're there. I didn't want the first time of me wearing them to be in a game.

"I wanted to test them in practice. As practice went on, I got more and more used to them."

The setback of his improving eye injury aside, Davis feels refreshed as the Lakers prepare to restart their bid for championship glory.

"I think it was good for everybody," he said of the enforced, league-wide hiatus.

"I think guys did a good job of using that time wisely to take care of their bodies and making sure they came back ready."

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.

Los Angeles Lakers superstar LeBron James said he will not be turning off his phone during the NBA postseason amid the coronavirus pandemic.

James usually imposes a social-media blackout for the playoffs – the three-time champion staying away from Twitter and Instagram between April and June in his quest for NBA glory.

But the COVID-19 crisis has changed those plans, James determined to stay in contact with his family while he and the Lakers are based in the Orlando bubble for the league's restart.

The NBA has been postponed since March due to coronavirus, but the 2019-20 season will resume on Thursday, with the Lakers facing rivals the Los Angeles Clippers at Walt Disney Resort.

"It's definitely going to have a different mindset, different feel to it," James said on a video conference call on Tuesday.

"I won't be turning my phone off during this run. I can't afford to. I have to continue to check in with my family every single day."

James, who was averaging 25.7 points, 10.6 assists and 7.9 rebounds per game for the Western Conference-leading Lakers prior to the postponement, added: "Making sure everything is still going well, especially in the uncertainty of what 2020 has brought to all of us. So I can't afford to do that, just lose direct contact with everybody."

"The communication can always be consistent and the leadership can always be consistent, and that's one thing I've always had control over," the four-time MVP and 35-year-old continued.

"But you can't replicate actual presence when you're waking up and you're in the living room or you're in the kitchen, or you're outside playing with your kids or playing with your daughter, playing video games with your boys or working out with your boys. You can't replicate that. I'm not there.

"But [wife] Savannah is a beast at what she does: That's controlling the home and being that rock for our family. So I'm not worried about that. But you definitely, you have that miss factor when you miss your family, you miss your kids and things of that nature.

"But I thank Steve Jobs a lot and the team at Apple for having FaceTime, because that is a beautiful thing to have, especially during a time like this."

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