LeBron James and Anthony Davis were both named in the All-NBA First Team on Wednesday as the Los Angeles Lakers prepare to face the Denver Nuggets in the Western Conference Finals.

The All-NBA selections were announced as the playoffs hot up in Orlando, although the Lakers duo were the only remaining members of the First Team.

James and Davis were joined by James Harden, whose Houston Rockets they beat in the second round, along with reigning MVP Giannis Antetokounmpo and Luka Doncic.

MVP candidates James and Antetokounmpo were both unanimous votes.

The Los Angeles Clippers' Kawhi Leonard and playoff nemesis Nikola Jokic headlined the Second Team. Jokic led the Nuggets past the Clippers on Tuesday to complete another remarkable series fightback.

Damian Lillard was also included after carrying the Portland Trail Blazers into the postseason, alongside veteran Chris Paul, who impressed following his trade from the Rockets to the Oklahoma City Thunder.

Pascal Siakam - disappointing in the playoffs for defending champions the Toronto Raptors - made up the selection.

Meanwhile, in the Third Team, the Boston Celtics' Jayson Tatum and the Miami Heat's Jimmy Butler are both still alive as Eastern Conference Finals opponents.

Russell Westbrook, part of the Paul trade, got recognition, too, and was joined by Rudy Gobert and Ben Simmons, the latter ending the season injured.

Dallas Mavericks star Luka Doncic has been fined $15,000 for throwing the ball at the legs of a game official in Sunday's 111-97 defeat to the Los Angeles Clippers.

The reigning Rookie of the Year caught referee Bill Kennedy on the baseline immediately after being whistled for an offensive foul in the third quarter of Game 6.

The incident drew a technical foul and Doncic has now been hit with a financial punishment, as confirmed by NBA executive vice president of basketball operations Kiki VanDeWeghe on Wednesday.

The contest was a highly-charged affair and Doncic is not alone in being fined, with Clippers forward Marcus Morris ordered to pay $35,000 for "recklessly striking" the Slovenian.

Morris caught Doncic as he was driving to the basket in the first quarter, sending his opponent to the floor after catching him in the face.

The NBA has fined Morris more than the normal amount as he has already been disciplined on several prior occasions for physical altercations on the court.

The Clippers' 4-2 series victory over Dallas set up a Western Conference semi-final with the Denver Nuggets on Thursday at Disney World in Orlando, Florida.

Luka Doncic will take a leaf out of the books of Michael Jordan, Magic Johnson and Larry Bird and add a new crinkle to his game next season, according to Rick Carlisle.

The Dallas Mavericks' season came to an end on Sunday as the Los Angeles Clippers secured a 111-97 victory to win their first-round playoff series 4-2.

The fact they pushed one of the favourites to six games owed much to Doncic, who averaged 31 points, 9.8 rebounds and 8.7 assists during a stellar series at the end of his second year in the NBA.

"He's one of the toughest players that I've ever seen in this league, and that goes back 35 or 36 years," Mavericks coach Carlisle told reporters.

"He is a great young player that's getting better each year. He's Rookie of the Year last year, this year's up for Most Improved [Player]. I'd like to know if that's ever happened before.

"I expect that he'll come back next year even better with something new in his game. The same way that [Larry] Bird and Magic [Johnson] and [Michael] Jordan, all those great players did every summer. Now, it's going to be a fall whenever we reconvene as a league again.

"But he has an irrepressible enthusiasm for the game, for his team-mates and for winning.

"Today it was hard getting him out of the game. Second half we didn't do it until the very end.

"We're so fortunate to have him and now we've got to get our roster completely healthy and keep working to get the right players around him."

When that was put to Doncic, the Slovenian said he would spend the offseason trying to hone his shooting.

Doncic averaged 28.8 points in 2019-20 regular season – the sixth-best total in the league – up from 21.2 in his rookie season.

"There's a lot of things to improve on," he admitted.

"You cannot work just on one thing, you've got to work on everything. But I think I'll especially work on my shooting – that's my key."

Despite the disappointment of a first-round exit in the post-season, Doncic was pleased with how hard the Mavs pushed the Clippers.

"A great season," he added when asked to sum up the campaign. "I'm proud of our team, how we fight. I think we fight until the end.

"The Clippers have an amazing team. It was hard but I think we give everything. We played especially hard in the playoffs and I'm proud of our guys."

The Boston Celtics drew first blood against defending champions the Toronto Raptors in Game 1 of their Eastern Conference second-round series.

Boston were too strong for Toronto, winning 112-94 at Walt Disney World Resort in the NBA playoffs on Sunday.

Jayson Tatum and Marcus Smart posted 21 points apiece, while Kemba Walker put up 18 points and 10 rebounds for the Celtics, who swept the Philadelphia 76ers and never trailed against the Raptors.

On a tough day for the Raptors, Kyle Lowry led the team with 17 points in Orlando, Florida.

Game 2 between the Celtics and Raptors is on Tuesday.

Meanwhile, the Los Angeles Clippers booked their spot in the Western Conference semi-finals after accounting for the Dallas Mavericks 111-97.

Kawhi Leonard's 33 points, 14 rebounds, seven assists and five steals helped seal a 4-2 series victory for the Clippers.

Leonard became the first player in franchise history to have at least 30 points and five steals in a postseason game.

Luka Doncic's 38 points, nine rebounds and nine assists were not enough for the eliminated Mavericks.

The Clippers will face either the Denver Nuggets or Utah Jazz in the west.

 

Murray's half-century forces Game 7

Another big performance from Jamal Murray helped the Nuggets level their series with the Jazz at 3-3 after prevailing 119-107 in Game 6. Murray finished with 50 points to force a deciding showdown.

Per STATS, Murray is the second player in NBA history to have back-to-back 40-point games to force a Game 7 after being 3-1 down. The other was LeBron James in the 2016 Finals.

Jazz star Mitchell scored 44 points in the losing effort. Per STATS, it marked the fourth time this series Mitchell and Murray have posted 30-plus points in the same game. The only other pair of opposing players in NBA history to achieve the feat in the same series were James and Gilbert Arena in 2006.

 

Williams struggles

While the Clippers advanced, it was a tough outing for Lou Williams. He was just one of nine from the field and missed all four of his three-point efforts for five points.

Clippers team-mate Paul George also made just six of 19 from the field. The All-Star was two of seven from beyond the arc as he finished with 15 points in 40 minutes of action.

Dallas' Trey Burke struggled. In 35 minutes, Burke was two of 10 from the field and 0 of two for six points.

The Raptors were poor from three-point range. Toronto shot just 25 per cent on 10-for-40 shooting against Boston.

 

Williams windmill

After Smart's steal, Robert Williams III nailed this dunk for the Celtics.

 

Sunday's results

Boston Celtics 112-94 Toronto Raptors
Los Angeles Clippers 111-97 Dallas Mavericks
Denver Nuggets 119-107 Utah Jazz

 

Heat face Bucks

The Miami Heat and the top-seeded Milwaukee Bucks will open their Eastern Conference second-round series on Monday.

Luka Doncic produced a stunning moment of magic to help the Dallas Mavericks outlast the Los Angeles Clippers 135-133 in overtime in Game 4 of their Western Conference first-round series.

With the Mavericks trailing 133-132 and staring at a 3-1 deficit in the NBA playoffs, Doncic called game as the reigning Rookie of the Year nailed a buzzer-beating three in OT on Sunday.

A game-time decision due to a left ankle injury, Doncic put fitness issues aside to see the Mavericks dramatically level the series at 2-2 in Orlando, Florida.

Doncic became the youngest player in NBA playoffs history to post a 40-point triple-double as he finished with 43 points, 17 rebounds and 13 assists.

It was the 21-year-old's second successive triple-double ahead of Game 5 against the Clippers at Walt Disney World Resort.

Kawhi Leonard's 32 points were not enough for the Clippers, while Lou Williams led the team's scorers with 36.

Defending champions the Toronto Raptors flexed their muscles in a 150-122 victory over the Brooklyn Nets as they recorded a sweep in the Eastern Conference first round.

Toronto's bench contributed 100 points, the most in any game since official starters began being tracked in 1970-71 – Norman Powell (29) and Serge Ibaka (27) leading the way.

The Raptors will face the Boston Celtics in the second round after the latter swept the Philadelphia 76ers 4-0 via a 110-106 success.

 

Mitchell makes history

Donovan Mitchell became the first player in NBA history to have two games with 50-plus points and five-plus assists in a single postseason as the Utah Jazz trumped the Denver Nuggets 129-127. Mitchell scored 18 of his 51 points in the fourth quarter to help the Jazz take a 3-1 lead in the Western Conference matchup.

Nuggets star Jamal Murray also put up 50 points in the losing effort. Murray and Mitchell are the first pair of players to register 50-plus points each in a non-overtime game since Wilt Chamberlain (63) and Elgin Baylor (51) in 1962, per STATS.

It was a huge night for the Raptors. Not only did they become the first team in postseason history to score 500-plus points in a series sweep (505), Toronto also became the first playoff franchise to have 150-plus points to cap a series whitewash.

Kemba Walker's 32 points and a double-double of 28 points and 15 rebounds from Jayson Tatum fuelled the Boston Celtics. Joel Embiid was a shining light for the 76ers with 30 points and 10 rebounds.

 

Sixers' swift exit, George struggles

It was a day to forget for the 76ers. It marked the first sweep at the hands of the Celtics in 15 playoff series meetings. Philadelphia have also failed to progress beyond the second round in three consecutive seasons.

The Jazz won but Joe Ingles was scoreless. Usually a threat from beyond the arc, Ingles missed all three of his three-point attempts. The Australian was also 0 for four from the field in 35 minutes.

Paul George's struggles continued against the Mavericks. He was just three of 14 from the floor and one of seven from beyond the arc for nine points in 45 minutes.

 

Doncic's Euro step

The Slovenian star was at his brilliant best, including this move to the rim.

 

Sunday's results

Boston Celtics 110-106 Philadelphia 76ers
Dallas Mavericks 135-133 Los Angeles Clippers (OT)
Toronto Raptors 150-122 Brooklyn Nets
Utah Jazz 129-127 Denver Nuggets

 

Lakers face Trail Blazers

After his mammoth display in Game 3, LeBron James will look to help the Los Angeles Lakers take a 3-1 lead against the Portland Trail Blazers on Monday.

Luka Doncic revelled in "one of the best feelings" of his career after leading the Dallas Mavericks past the Los Angeles Clippers in Game 4 of the NBA playoffs.

Doncic hit a buzzer-beating three-pointer in overtime to see the Mavericks edge the Clippers 135-133 on Sunday, bringing the Western Conference first-round series level at 2-2.

After the incredible game-winner, the guard's team-mates ran towards him to celebrate.

Doncic, 21, said it was a special moment, the reigning Rookie of the Year telling reporters: "I was just trying to make it.

"I can't explain the emotions I had not only when the ball goes in, [but] when I see the whole team running towards me, that was something special, one of the best feelings I've ever had as a player and just something special.

"This team is something special."

Doncic was under an injury cloud after hurting his ankle during Game 3.

The Slovenian ended up posting a triple-double of 43 points, 17 rebounds and 13 assists despite not being at full fitness.

"The guys you don't hear about behind [the scenes] did an amazing job with me yesterday, we were working on it the whole day, they were helping me the whole time, whatever I needed," Doncic said.

"Obviously it wasn't 100 per cent but I think it was good."

Doncic became the first player with 43-plus points, 17-plus rebounds and 13-plus assists in a playoff game in NBA history, as per the Mavs.

The only player to manage those numbers in a regular-season game was Wilt Chamberlain in 1968.

Dallas Mavericks star Luka Doncic insisted his ankle injury was "not that bad" after a loss to the Los Angeles Clippers.

Doncic sprained his ankle in the third quarter of the 130-122 defeat in Game 3 of the Western Conference first-round series on Friday.

The guard briefly returned before being forced off, finishing with 13 points, 10 rebounds and 10 assists as the Mavs fell 2-1 behind in the series.

Doncic insisted the setback was not serious, but he will undergo an MRI on Saturday.

"I mean I saw the video. I don't know how it happened, but it's not that bad," he told a news conference.

"Honestly, I had luck it's my left ankle, it's not my right so, it's a little sprain.

"We'll know more tomorrow."

Doncic was unsure whether he would be available for the Mavericks in Game 4 on Sunday.

The Slovenian said he felt restricted after returning to the court.

"I just wanted to get in you know. I know we still had a chance to win, help my team-mates, but obviously I could run a little bit, but I couldn't push off my left leg," Doncic said.

"It was better to go out and let somebody play."

Doncic, 21, became the third-youngest player to record a triple-double in the playoffs, behind only Magic Johnson and LeBron James.

Luka Doncic feels pundits have to start taking the Dallas Mavericks seriously after they shocked the Los Angeles Clippers in Game 2 of their series in the NBA playoffs.

The Mavs triumphed 127-114 on Wednesday to level the first-round series at 1-1 against a team many oddsmakers have listed as favourites to become champions.

Doncic had 28 points, eight rebounds and seven assists but was restricted to only 28 minutes on court, spending much of the second half on the bench after getting into foul trouble.

The Slovenian previously recorded 42 points in the highest-scoring debut in postseason history as the Mavs narrowly lost in Game 1.

And he feels it is time his team, seventh seeds in the Western Conference, are considered to be a real danger to Kawhi Leonard, Paul George and the Clippers.

"They should be saying we got a chance in this first round," Doncic said when asked what high-profile NBA pundits would be making of their victory.

"A lot of people counted us out. I know a lot of people didn't count us in. But I know they should be saying we got a chance.

"The thing about us is we are going to give everything 100 per cent and leave our hearts on the court. That's the point for us.

"We've just got three [wins] left. I think we can fight with them. Any series we go in, we're going to believe we can win, for sure. If you don't believe it, you're not supposed to be here. You've got to believe it."

Doncic found watching from the sidelines as the game was on the line an initially difficult experience.

"I was frustrated for like 15 seconds, I was p****d. Then I was focused on supporting my team-mates," he said.

"They did a great, great job. Being on the bench, it's hard for me. I want to help my team, but we won the game. Maybe if I don't pick up that foul, we don't win the game.

"I just want to get out there and help my team. I did some unnecessary things I shouldn't do. But we got a win and that is all that matters. A lot of guys showed up and we played great defense."

Kristaps Porzingis added 23 points and Tim Hardaway Jr had 17, while there were key contributions from Trey Burke, Seth Curry and Boban Marjanovic, who all had double figures from the bench.

Game 3 at the Disney Bubble in Orlando takes place on Friday.

The Dallas Mavericks levelled their Western Conference first-round series after defeating the Los Angeles Clippers 127-114 in the NBA playoffs.

Luka Doncic starred as the Mavericks bounced back against Kawhi Leonard's Clippers in Game 2 at Walt Disney World Resort on Wednesday.

Doncic posted 28 points to go with eight rebounds and seven assists, while fellow star Kristaps Porzingis had 23 points in Orlando, Florida.

Leonard's game-high 35 points and 10 rebounds were not enough as Paul George (14 points and 10 rebounds) struggled shooting – the Clippers All-Star was just four of 17 from the field, and two of 10 from beyond the arc.

Game 3 between the Mavericks and Clippers is on Friday.

The Boston Celtics, meanwhile, took a commanding 2-0 lead in the Eastern Conference first-round matchup after beating the Philadelphia 76ers 128-101.

Jayson Tatum led the way again with a career playoff-high 33 points to fuel Boston against rivals Philadelphia in Game 2.

The 76ers stormed out of the blocks, taking a 14-point lead early in the first quarter before the Celtics overpowered their opponents – Kemba Walker adding 22 points to go with Jaylen Brown's 20.

Joel Embiid's 34 points and 10 rebounds were not enough for the 76ers, who are under pressure as they fight to avoid an early exit.

The Celtics and 76ers will meet again on Friday in Game 3.

 

Raptors roar as VanVleet stars

Fred VanVleet impressed again as defending champions the Toronto Raptors earned a 2-0 lead over the Brooklyn Nets with a 104-99 victory. VanVleet had a double-double of 24 points and 10 assists in the first-round Eastern Conference clash. Norman Powell scored 24 points off the bench, while Kyle Lowry posted 21 points and nine rebounds.

After a playoff-record 57 points in Game 1, Donovan Mitchell registered 30 points and the Utah Jazz topped the Denver Nuggets 124-105 to level the series. Mitchell was big in the third quarter, scoring 21 of his 30 points to take down the Nuggets. Jazz team-mate Jordan Clarkson finished with a career playoff-best 26 points.

Nikola Jokic's double-double of 28 points and 11 rebounds were not enough for the Nuggets, who also had 28 points from rookie Michael Porter Jr.

 

Horford's woes continue

Al Horford and his move to the 76es has not paid off, and the former Celtics star struggled again. Back on the bench, Horford scored just four points in 23 minutes, while collecting two rebounds.

The player who started in his place, Matisse Thybulle, managed only two points in 25 minutes of action. Alec Burks was one of eight from the field and missed both of his three-point attempts.

While the Raptors won, Marc Gasol was scoreless through 17 minutes of court time. He also had three turnovers.

 

Brown's 360!

Brown produced a highlight moment – this spin and slam against the 76ers.

 

Wednesday's results

Boston Celtics 128-101 Philadelphia 76ers
Utah Jazz 124-105 Denver Nuggets
Toronto Raptors 104-99 Brooklyn Nets
Dallas Mavericks 127-114 Los Angeles Clippers

 

Trail Blazers face Lakers

The Portland Trail Blazers can take a 2-0 lead in the Western Conference first-round matchup when they meet the Los Angeles Lakers on Thursday.

Los Angeles Clippers duo Kawhi Leonard and Paul George hailed the talents of Luka Doncic after downing his Dallas Mavericks side in Game One of Monday's round-one playoff contests.

Doncic made history by scoring 42 points, the most by a player making his playoff debut, but was unable to prevent his team falling to a 118-110 defeat at the NBA's 'bubble' in Orlando.

Leonard and George were influential for the second-seeded Clippers, the former recording a double-double of 29 points and 12 rebounds, while the latter chipped in with 27 points.

Both men were keen to stress the talents of their 21-year-old opponent after the game, though.

"I mean, he's great. You know what I mean? He's very poised," Leonard said. "He's very trusted on that team.

"He can get to his spots, find his team-mates, gets them easy baskets. He makes tough baskets well. He's a great player."

George added: "He's the future. We didn't come into this thinking we were going to stop Luka but what we did expect was to make it tough on him.

"That's the thing about this series. These games add up, and we're going to try to continue to wear him down as much as possible."

It was not an entirely perfect night for Doncic, though, who had 11 turnovers to his name – including five in the opening three minutes.

"Terrible," was Doncic's own assessment of his performance. "I had 11 turnovers. I've never had that much. I just want to win."

Doncic was influential in helping the Mavs claw back from an 18-2 deficit early doors and they led 71-66 with 9:10 left in the third quarter when a contentious decision turned the tide.

A foul was called on Doncic for palming the ball and was then grabbed by Marcus Morris in his haste to retrieve the ball.

Team-mate Kristaps Porzingis came rushing over and got into a shoving match with Morris, earning him a second technical foul of the game and leading to his ejection.

"KP had my back. He did it for me. He did it for his team-mate. He had my back," Doncic said.

"Not just me, but the whole team appreciates that. I don't think it was fair to take him out of the game, especially in the playoffs."

Porzingis, though, said he should have kept his emotions in check adding: "I saw him getting into Luka's face and I didn't like that. That's why I reacted.

"That's a smart, smart thing to do from their part. I've just got to be smarter and control my emotions, especially on the first one [technical foul]."

Elsewhere on Monday, Donovan Mitchell racked up 57 points as the Utah Jazz fell 135-125 in overtime to the Denver Nuggets.

That return marked a franchise record and was the third highest ever in a playoff game.

"The biggest thing was just to try to make the right plays," said Mitchell, who was 19 from 33 from the floor and 13 for 13 at the free-throw line.

However, Mitchell took responsibility for giving up an eight-second violation with a rare miscue.

With 1:54 left in the game and the Jazz up by four, Mitchell was unaware the shot clock had started at 22 seconds instead of the normal 24 because Rudy Gobert had blocked Nikola Jokic's shot out of bounds, which brought the play clock down.

Mitchell started walking the ball slowly up court and did not realise he had failed to pass midcourt in time, leading to him being pinged for the infringement.

"That's my fault as a leader and as a point guard at that time," Mitchell said. "That's terrible on my part.

"I kind of put that [on myself] there's really no one else to put it on. I was just taking my time walking it up, and I've got to be more aware.

"I think that was a crucial part of the game. At the end of the day, I'm not going to put it all on that one play, but that was a crucial part."

Defending champions the Toronto Raptors made a winning start in the NBA playoffs, while the Los Angeles Clippers topped the Dallas Mavericks.

Fred VanVleet posted a playoff career-high 30 points and 11 assists as the Raptors eased past the Brooklyn Nets 134-110 in game one of the first-round Eastern Conference matchup at Walt Disney World Resort on Monday.

VanVleet became the first Raptors player in franchise history to combine 30-plus points and 10-plus assists in a playoff game.

The Raptors star was also eight of 10 from three-point range as the second-seeded Raptors drew first blood against the Nets in Orlando, Florida, where Serge Ibaka contributed 22 points off the bench.

In the day's final game, Kawhi Leonard and Paul George starred in the Clippers' 118-110 victory over the Mavericks in the Western Conference.

Leonard's double-double of 29 points and 12 rebounds, and George's 27 points fuelled the second-seeded Clippers, who emerged triumphant in the first-round opener.

 

Doncic creates history, Mitchell scores 57

While the Mavericks lost, Luka Doncic made history. The reigning Rookie of the Year's 42 points are the most in an NBA playoffs debut in league history.

Donovan Mitchell put up huge numbers. He scored a franchise playoff-record 57 points on 19 of 33 shooting from the field but the Utah Jazz lost to the Denver Nuggets 135-125 in overtime. His scoring spree surpassed the Jazz mark of 50 set by Karl Malone in 2000. Denver's game-one success in the west was inspired by Jamal Murray, who posted 10 of his 36 points in OT. Nikola Jokic added 29 points and 10 rebounds.

Jayson Tatum had career playoff highs of 32 points and 13 rebounds as the Boston Celtics beat the Philadelphia 76ers 109-101 in game one of their first-round Eastern Conference series. Jaylen Brown put up 29 points, while the 76ers were led by Joel Embiid's 26 points and 16 rebounds.

 

Turnovers cripple 76ers

Philadelphia were made to pay for their turnovers. In total, the 76ers turned the ball over on 18 occasions as the Celtics capitalised by scoring 21 points. Embiid had five turnovers of his own.

Kristaps Porzingis only managed 14 points and six rebounds for the Mavericks. He was three of nine from the field, and one of four from beyond the arc.

 

Embiid with the slam!

The 76ers All-Star was hot, especially early, against rivals the Celtics.

 

Monday's results

Denver Nuggets 135-125 Utah Jazz (OT)
Toronto Raptors 134-110 Brooklyn Nets
Boston Celtics 109-101 Philadelphia 76ers
Los Angeles Clippers 118-110 Dallas Mavericks

 

Trail Blazers face Lakers

The in-form Portland Trail Blazers will open their Western Conference first-round series against the top-seeded Los Angeles Lakers on Tuesday. Damian Lillard's Portland secured their spot in the playoffs as the eighth seed courtesy of Saturday's play-in success against the Memphis Grizzlies. The Lakers – led by LeBron James – are making their first postseason appearance since 2013.

With the regular season over, it's time for business in the Orlando bubble.

The Portland Trail Blazers completed the NBA's playoff bracket with their play-in win against the Memphis Grizzlies on Saturday.

Now, Giannis Antetokounmpo's Milwaukee Bucks, the LeBron-James led Los Angeles Lakers and Kawhi Leonard's Los Angeles Clippers are among the teams vying for supremacy at Walt Disney World Resort.

With the postseason scheduled to start on Monday, we use STATS data to preview the first-round series.

Eastern Conference

Milwaukee Bucks (1) v Orlando Magic (8)

Eyeing their first NBA championship since 1971, the Bucks head into the opening-round series struggling for form.

The Bucks, who went 52-8 from their first 60 games, recorded a 4-9 win-loss ratio from their last 13 fixtures – becoming the first team in NBA history to have more losses in their final 13 regular-season games than they did in the entire season prior to that.

Inside the bubble but in familiar surroundings, the Magic have the chance to snap a playoff drought, despite the odds being stacked against them.

Not since 2010 have the Magic won a playoff series. Orlando swept the Charlotte Bobcats and Atlanta Hawks en route to the Conference finals, before losing to the Boston Celtics. The Magic have since suffered first-round exits at the hands of the Hawks (2011), Indiana Pacers (2012) and Toronto Raptors (2019).

Toronto Raptors (2) v Brooklyn Nets (7)

Defending champions the Raptors have form on their side in pursuit of back-to-back championships.

Toronto went 27-5 over their last 32 games, easily the best record in the NBA during that period – ahead of the Oklahoma City Thunder (21-10), Los Angeles Clippers (20-10), Bucks (20-11) and Celtics (21-13).

Nets star Spencer Dinwiddie has been one of the most clutch players this season, making an NBA-high seven go-ahead baskets in the final minute of the fourth quarter or overtime.

Dinwiddie's seven for 13 is better than the Denver Nuggets' Nikola Jokic (five), Utah Jazz star Donovan Mitchell and Jamal Murray of the Nuggets (both four).

Boston Celtics (3) v Philadelphia 76ers (6)

The Celtics renew hostilities with rivals the 76ers, having won the past four series between the two teams – Philadelphia have not claimed a series against Boston in the playoffs since 1982.

Philadelphia's hopes will rest on Joel Embiid in the absence of injured fellow All-Star Ben Simmons, who is the only player in NBA history to average 8.0-plus rebounds and 8.0-plus assists per game for his career.

The 76ers are 35-22 (.614 per cent) with Simmons in the team, while they are just 7-8 (.467 per cent) without the Australian star on the court. Philadelphia also allow more opposition points per game in his absence – 113.6 compared to 107.2.

Indiana Pacers (4) v Miami Heat (5)

All eyes will be on Indiana's T.J. Warren, who averaged 31.0 points per game with a .664 effective field-goal percentage this month following the restart.

Since 1985-86, the players with 30.0-plus points and a .650-plus effective field-goal percentage in a month (minimum five game played) are Charles Barkley (1990), Stephen Curry (2016, 2017, 2018 and 2019), Antetokounmpo (2017 and 2019) and Karl Anthony-Towns (2019).

With Heat pair Kendrick Nunn and Duncan Robinson, Miami are the first NBA team to have two undrafted players averaging 13.0-plus points per game in the same season – minimum 70 per cent of team games played – since the Philadelphia Warriors in 1956-57 (Joe Graboski and Neil Johnston).

 

Western Conference

Los Angeles Lakers (1) v Portland Trail Blazers (8)

Making their first postseason appearance since 2013, the Lakers – who have a 74.6 per cent chance of winning this series using Stats Perform's advanced simulation tool – are one of the favourites to go all the way thanks to James and Anthony Davis.

James and Davis have combined well in LA, where the former has supplied 184 assists for the All-Star recruit this season – the most to one player in 2019-20, ahead of Damian Lillard to Hassan Whiteside (132). Three-time champion and four-time MVP James is also the second-oldest player to average 10 assists or more in a season in NBA history, with Steve Nash averaging 10.0-plus assists in each of his final three campaigns.

This will be the second playoff meeting between James and Carmelo Anthony. James and the Heat eliminated Anthony and the New York Knicks in the first round in 2012. Both averaged 27.8 points in the series. James was the first overall pick in the 2003 NBA Draft, while Anthony was the third pick. Their matchups date back to high school, when LeBron was at St. Vincent St. Mary's and Carmelo at Oak Hill Academy.

Portland's go-to man Lillard leads the NBA in scoring inside the bubble at 37.6 per game, including the play-in clash. The Trail Blazers star is averaging 46.3 points in his past four games following a career-high 61 against the Dallas Mavericks earlier this month. He has contributed to Portland averaging a league-high 126.0 points per game at Walt Disney World Resort, while the Lakers have only managed 106.4 points per game – the second worst behind the Washington Wizards.

How about most points per game by team-mate duos? Lillard and CJ McCollum (52.2) are second to James Harden and Russell Westbrook (61.5) but ahead of third-placed James and Davis (51.4).

Los Angeles Clippers (2) v Dallas Mavericks (7)

Can Leonard claim consecutive NBA titles after leading the Raptors to their first champion last season? Well it all begins against the Mavericks.

Leonard – the 2019 Finals MVP – averaged a career-high 27.1 points per game this season, while he averaged 30.5 during last year's playoffs. The four-time All-Star has also averaged 31.0 points per game in three games against the Mavericks this term, with the Clippers sweeping the season series.

Led by Luka Doncic, the Mavericks boast the second-highest offensive rating ever – 113.7 – behind last year's Golden State Warriors (113.9). The Clippers have a 111.1 rating, tied with the Trail Blazers for second this season.

Doncic is averaging 30.0 points, 10.1 assists and 9.7 rebounds in the bubble. The reigning Rookie of the Year also has three triple-doubles, including a 20-rebound triple-double.

Denver Nuggets (3) v Utah Jazz (6)

A Jazz team boasting the likes of Joe Ingles and Mitchell are the best three-point shooting team at 38.0 per cent, though Utah went 2-5 in their last seven regular-season games – allowing 110-plus points per game.

Rudy Gobert is also one shy of 250 career double-doubles as the Jazz look to avenge their season sweep at the hands of the Nuggets, though each game was decided by six or fewer points.

The Nuggets made the Conference semi-finals last season, snapping a five-year playoff drought. Jovic will be key for Denver, having averaged 7.0 assists per game for a second successive season – the most by any center in the NBA.

Houston Rockets (4) v Oklahoma City Thunder (5)

It will be a reunion as Harden, Russell Westbrook and Chris Paul face their former teams.

The Rockets have advanced to at least the second round of the playoffs in three straight seasons and their hopes will depend on the team's starting five – their starters are averaging 89.1 points per game, the most in the league.

Former Thunder star Harden is also coming off his third consecutive season averaging 30 or more points per game (34.3 in 2019-20). He is the franchise's all-time leader in postseason assists (510) and second in points (2,061) behind Hakeem Olajuwon (3,727).

Westbrook, who arrived from the Thunder in a blockbuster trade at the start of the season, is second all-time for Oklahoma City in playoff points (2,489), behind Kevin Durant's 2,620, third in rebounds (686), first in assists (778) and first in steals (184).

The Thunder, boasting ex-Rockets guard Paul, have not progressed beyond the first round of the postseason since 2016 after blowing a 3-1 lead against the Warriors in the Conference Finals.

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.

James Harden scored 49 points in a 153-149 overtime victory over the Dallas Mavericks, but it was the Houston Rockets' defensive effort that the former MVP wanted to highlight. 

Another fine offensive night from Harden saw him move past Calvin Murphy to become the player with the second-most points in the franchise's history, behind only Hakeem Olajuwon. 

With Russell Westbrook adding 31 points, 11 rebounds and eight assists too, it was a fine outing for Houston's leading duo, though Harden was quick to defer praise to the collective performance at the other end of the court. 

"It's not even about the points," Harden told ESPN on court after the game. 

"Our effort was there continuously throughout the course of the night against one of the best offenses in this league.

"They were going to be tough from the beginning of the game and we had to stay with it, even when we were down by double digits. We kept fighting, especially on the defensive end and forced overtime. 

"We wanted to stay with it and give ourselves a chance at the end of the game. We did that. Our confidence defensively was building, especially in that fourth quarter. We kept pushing the tempo, kept fighting." 

Luka Doncic had a triple-double for the Mavs - his NBA-leading 15th of the season - but went just one-for-nine from three-point range, while Trey Burke added 31 points from the bench having drained eight of his 10 attempts from beyond the arc. 

"We are a young team. We have got a lot to learn," Doncic said.  

"We will get better, for sure. I know we are going to get together when it matters most, so I'm not worried about that."

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.

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