LeBron James immediately felt "good vibes" with Anthony Davis at the start of the season and the Los Angeles Lakers continue to reap the rewards.

After James endured a disappointing first year in LA and missed out on the 2018-19 playoffs, the Lakers agreed a blockbuster trade for New Orleans Pelicans superstar Davis.

They gave up Lonzo Ball, Brandon Ingram, Josh Hart and three first-round draft picks, but the Lakers have so far found good value in the deal.

Led by James and Davis, the team finished as the top seed in the West and have turned around their first-round playoff series against the Portland Trail Blazers to lead 2-1.

Speaking after the pair combined for 67 points, 23 rebounds and 16 assists in a Game 3 victory, James said: "We definitely work well together.

"There were all these questions going into the season about whether myself and AD can work well together - I think we've shown that over the course of this season. We just try to work off one another."

Four-time MVP James revealed their close relationship was forged immediately after the trade went through as Davis travelled to LA.

"You know I'm big in energy and people. You always hear this term like 'good vibes', but I truly can sense it," James said. "It was very organic.

"There was nothing pushed or rushed or whatever the case may be, we just let it happen, let the relationship happen organically - and it's just grown over the course of this whole year.

"We're two guys who know who we are. We know who we are as human beings. We're not trying to be nobody else but our own identity, our own selves.

"And when you know yourself and when you're confident in what you do - both on and off the floor - and you know what you represent, then there's no ego. There's no ego.

"We want both of us to succeed, both on and off the floor. We want our families to be happy. We want each other to try to be as happy as possible.

"There's no ego, so when you're able to figure that out in life - who you are and what you stand for - then nothing else matters."

Asked why the pair get on so well, Davis replied with a laugh: "I don't know. It's kind of like we have no choice, to be honest.

"We're two guys who just like to have fun. We like to work. We like to win. But off the court, we've just kind of clicked.

"We're just two guys who like to have fun, two guys who are big kids and play Xbox and have game nights back in LA. Stuff like that is kind of unique."

The New Orleans Pelicans have fired head coach Alvin Gentry after failing to make the NBA playoffs.

Gentry, who had been in charge since May 2015, guided the Pelicans to a 30-42 season in 2019-20, enough only for 13th place in the West.

New Orleans vice president of basketball operations David Griffin said on Saturday: "I'm grateful for and appreciative of Alvin's commitment to the organisation and, most importantly, the local community. The city of New Orleans is richer because of his presence here.

"These types of moves are often about fit and timing, and we believe now is the right time to make this change and bring in a new voice."

Owner Gayle Benson added: "Our intention moving forward is to find the right head coach that will guide this Pelicans team to compete for championships. That is what our fans deserve."

Big things were expected of the Pelicans this year after they landed the number one pick in the 2019 draft lottery and selected standout Duke star Zion Williamson.

Williamson tore his meniscus in preseason, however, and could not make his professional debut until January, by which point New Orleans were struggling to stay in the postseason picture.

Improved displays with the rookie in the team did enough to at least secure an invite to the Orlando 'bubble' amid the coronavirus pandemic, playing eight seeding games.

But Gentry's Pelicans finished last among those Western Conference teams to make the trip to Florida - despite a relatively kind schedule - with Williamson again struggling for fitness after leaving the 'bubble' ahead of the restart before returning.

It was a familiar disappointing theme for New Orleans, who only reached the playoffs in one of Gentry's five seasons at the helm.

Led by Anthony Davis, who made a blockbuster trade to the Los Angeles Lakers last year, the team lost in the conference semi-finals in 2017-18.

The Portland Trail Blazers dramatically set up a Western Conference play-in showdown against the Memphis Grizzlies as the red-hot Phoenix Suns missed out on the NBA playoffs.

Portland clinched the eighth seed in the west thanks to a nail-biting 134-133 win over the Brooklyn Nets in Orlando, Florida on Thursday.

The Suns improved to 8-0 at Walt Disney World Resort with a 128-102 victory against the Dallas Mavericks, and needed a Nets win to secure a play-in spot.

However, Damian Lillard's heroics of 42 points and 12 assists ensured the Trail Blazers clinched a play-in date against the Grizzlies – who trumped the Milwaukee Bucks 119-106 earlier in the day.

The Trail Blazers finished with a 35-39 record, ahead of the Grizzlies (34-39). Portland will only have to beat Memphis once in order to secure a playoff berth against the top-seeded Los Angeles Lakers, while the Grizzlies require two wins against the Trail Blazers.

Phoenix (34-39) are the first team in NBA history to end the regular season on an eight-plus game winning streak and still miss the playoffs. The last team to do that in any of the four major sports were NHL's the Philadelphia Flyers in 1992-93, per STATS.

 

LeBron ends regular season as assist king

The Lakers lost 136-122 to the Sacramento Kings but LeBron James was still crowned the assist king in 2019-20. James had 17 points in 15 minutes, all in the first half. The three-time NBA champion and four-time MVP ends the regular season averaging a league-best 10.2 assists per game, ahead of the Atlanta Hawks' Trae Young (9.3). The 35-year-old also reached double figures in points in his 995th consecutive game.

Lillard has 154 points across his past three games, the second most by any player in a three-game span this season – behind himself in January (158). Per STATS, the last player with 150-plus points in two separate three-game spans in a season was Wilt Chamberlain in 1964-65.

Devin Booker put up 27 points as the Suns stayed unbeaten since the NBA's restart following the coronavirus pandemic, but it was not enough.

Dillon Brooks' 31 points led the way for the Grizzlies, while he was aided by team-mates Jonas Valanciunas (26 points, 19 rebounds, 12 assists) and Ja Morant (12 points, 13 rebounds, 10 assists).

Jusuf Nurkic scored 22 points and 10 rebounds, while CJ McCollum had 25 points for the Trail Blazers. Caris LeVert finished with 37 points for the Nets.

 

Spurs' record-tying playoff streak over

The Spurs will not feature in the NBA playoffs for the first time in 23 years. San Antonio's absence from the postseason for the first time since 1996-97 was confirmed prior to their 118-112 loss to the Utah Jazz.

 

Dame from the arc

Lillard continues to prove his worth for the Blazers. Instrumental to Portland's play-in berth, Lillard highlighted his quality with a flurry of threes.

 

Thursday's results

Washington Wizards 96-90 Boston Celtics
Sacramento Kings 136-122 Los Angeles Lakers
Memphis Grizzlies 119-106 Milwaukee Bucks
Phoenix Suns 128-102 Dallas Mavericks
Utah Jazz 118-112 San Antonio Spurs
Portland Trail Blazers 134-133 Brooklyn Nets
Orlando Magic 133-127 New Orleans Pelicans

 

Regular season concludes

Friday will see teams play their final regular-season games before the playoffs start on August 17. The Denver Nuggets face the Toronto Raptors, the Miami Heat meet the Indiana Pacers, the Oklahoma City Thunder take on the Los Angeles Clippers and the Houston Rockets play the Philadelphia 76ers.

Damian Lillard produced an incredible performance to lift the Portland Trail Blazers, while Giannis Antetokounmpo was ejected in the NBA on Tuesday.

Lillard scored 61 points to guide the Trail Blazers past the Dallas Mavericks 134-131 and into eighth place in the Western Conference.

The guard was in stunning form, going nine-of-17 from three-point range at the Walt Disney World Resort.

Carmelo Anthony (26 points) provided some support for Lillard as Portland boosted their playoff chances.

Kristaps Porzingis scored 36 points for the Mavericks, while Luka Doncic had a double-double of 25 points and 10 assists.

Antetokounmpo was ejected in the second quarter of the Bucks' 126-113 win over the Washington Wizards.

The reigning NBA MVP head-butted Moritz Wagner, having scored 12 points and had nine rebounds in 10 minutes.

Brook Lopez finished with 24 points for the Bucks.

 

Booker leads in-form Suns, Tatum shines

Devin Booker had 35 points and nine rebounds as the Phoenix Suns beat the Philadelphia 76ers 130-117 for a seventh straight win.

Jayson Tatum helped the Boston Celtics past the Memphis Grizzlies 122-107 thanks to 29 points.

In the same game, Ja Morant had 26 points and 13 assists for the Grizzlies.

Harrison Barnes' 25 points and eight rebounds helped the Sacramento Kings edge the New Orleans Pelicans 112-106.

 

Awful Augustin

D.J. Augustin struggled from the field, going one-of-eight for just six points in the Orlando Magic's 108-96 loss to the Brooklyn Nets.

 

Amazing Lillard

Lillard had his third game this season with 60-plus points and five-plus assists and no player has had more than two such games in their career since the merger, according to STATS.

Tuesday's results

Brooklyn Nets 108-96 Orlando Magic
San Antonio Spurs 123-105 Houston Rockets
Phoenix Suns 130-117 Philadelphia 76ers
Boston Celtics 122-107 Memphis Grizzlies
Portland Trail Blazers 134-131 Dallas Mavericks
Sacramento Kings 112-106 New Orleans Pelicans
Milwaukee Bucks 126-113 Washington Wizards

 

Clippers face Nuggets

Coming off a loss to the Nets, the Los Angeles Clippers (47-23) take on the Denver Nuggets (46-25) on Wednesday.

The Brooklyn Nets upstaged the Los Angeles Clippers 129-120, despite Kawhi Leonard's big performance in the NBA on Sunday.

Leonard posted a game-high 39 points for the Clippers but it was not enough against the Nets in Orlando, Florida.

Caris LeVert put up 27 points and 13 assists as the Nets clinched the seventh seed in the Eastern Conference.

Joe Harris added 25 points of his own for the Nets at Walt Disney World Resort, where team-mate Jarrett Allen (16 points, 16 rebounds) finished with a double-double.

Damian Lillard, meanwhile, dropped 51 points to inspire the Portland Trail Blazers to a 124-121 win over the Philadelphia 76ers.

Lillard made 16 of 28 shots and 15 from 16 free throws to lift the Trail Blazers past the 76ers and within a half-game of the Memphis Grizzlies for eighth place in the Western Conference.

It was Lillard's fifth game of 50-plus points this season – tying Houston Rockets star James Harden – with all of those performances coming against teams that made the playoffs last year

Per STATS, the last player to have five 50-point games against postseason teams from the previous campaign was Michael Jordan (6) in 1986-87.

 

Career-high night for Rivers

Austin Rivers had a game to remember as the Rockets soared past the Sacramento Kings 129-112. The Rockets guard registered a career-high 41 points off the bench. Rivers is the first player in NBA history to score 40-plus points, make six or more three-pointers and shoot 70.0-plus per cent from the field off the bench in a game, per STATS. Harden contributed 32 points, eight rebounds and seven assists for the Rockets.

Gordon Hayward's 31-point display helped the Boston Celtics top the Orlando Magic 122-119 in overtime. Jayson Tatum scored 29, including the tying basket with 4.2 seconds remaining in regulation.

Defending champions the Toronto Raptors secured the Eastern Conference second seed and their fifth consecutive season with at least 50 wins after outlasting the Grizzlies. Pascal Siakam had 26 points.

The San Antonio Spurs and their hopes of becoming the first team in NBA history to reach the playoffs for 23 straight seasons remain alive after emerging 122-113 winners against the New Orleans Pelicans. San Antonio are 10th in the west, half a game adrift of Portland for the ninth spot, which would secure a play-in series.

 

Pelicans eliminated from postseason race, Wizards winless in bubble

Zion Williamson will have to wait another year for playoff basketball after the Pelicans lost to the Spurs. Despite 31 points and a season-high eight three-pointers from JJ Redick, the Pelicans – coupled with Portland's win – were eliminated from postseason contention.

The Washington Wizards' woes continued after falling to a 121-103 defeat against the Oklahoma City Thunder. Washington are the only winless team remaining in Orlando, having gone 0-6 since the restart.

 

Dame with the four-point play!

After struggling against the Clippers, Lillard came up big for the Trail Blazers in their meeting with the 76ers. A spectacular four-point play with less than three minutes remaining catapulted the Blazers into the lead.

Sunday's results

Houston Rockets 129-112 Sacramento Kings
Portland Trail Blazers 124-121 Philadelphia 76ers
Boston Celtics 122-119 Orlando Magic (OT)
San Antonio Spurs 122-113 New Orleans Pelicans
Toronto Raptors 108-99 Memphis Grizzlies
Oklahoma City Thunder 121-103 Washington Wizards
Brooklyn Nets 129-120 Los Angeles Clippers

 

Raptors face Bucks

It will be an epic encounter as the Eastern Conference's two best teams meet on Monday. Giannis Antetokounmpo and the top-ranked Milwaukee Bucks take on the in-form Raptors.

The Boston Celtics crushed the Toronto Raptors in the NBA on Friday, while the final two playoff spots in the Eastern Conference were secured.

The Celtics were too good for the Raptors 122-100 after another even team performance at the Walt Disney World Resort.

Jaylen Brown scored 20 points, with Boston seeing seven players in double-digits for points.

Jayson Tatum (18 points) and Kemba Walker (17) were among them as the Celtics improved to 46-23.

Toronto struggled in defeat, with Fred VanVleet going four-of-14 from the field for his 13 points.

The Brooklyn Nets and Orlando Magic clinched playoff spots in the Eastern Conference.

The Nets were too good for the Sacramento Kings 119-106, while Orlando lost to the Philadelphia 76ers, but secured their spot after the Washington Wizards' loss to the New Orleans Pelicans.

 

Harris, Embiid lift 76ers as Holiday shines

Tobias Harris (23 points and 15 rebounds) and Joel Embiid (23 points and 13 rebounds) saw the 76ers to their 108-101 win over Orlando.

Jrue Holiday went 11-of-16 from the field for 28 points in the Pelicans' 118-107 victory against the Wizards.

The San Antonio Spurs beat the Utah Jazz 119-111 thanks to 24 points from Derrick White.

 

Gilgeous-Alexander wayward

Shai Gilgeous-Alexander went three-of-13 from the field as the Oklahoma City Thunder were well beaten by the Memphis Grizzlies 121-92.

 

Brilliant Brown pass

Brown delivered a wonderful pass to Gordon Hayward in the Celtics' win.

Friday's results

San Antonio Spurs 119-111 Utah Jazz
Memphis Grizzlies 121-92 Oklahoma City Thunder
Brooklyn Nets 119-106 Sacramento Kings
Philadelphia 76ers 108-101 Orlando Magic
New Orleans Pelicans 118-107 Washington Wizards
Boston Celtics 122-100 Toronto Raptors

 

Lakers face Pacers

The Los Angeles Lakers (51-17) will be aiming to bounce back from back-to-back losses when they face the Indiana Pacers (42-27) on Saturday.

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.

Zion Williamson expressed his delight at being allowed to play during the decisive closing stages as the New Orleans Pelicans won their first game since the NBA season restarted.

The Pelicans had restricted the minutes for their star rookie in their first two games in Orlando, with Williamson on the bench as they fell to defeats to the Utah Jazz and the Los Angeles Clippers.

New Orleans had been following "medical advice" with the first overall pick in the 2019 NBA Draft after Williamson - whose debut season has been disrupted by injury - had to quarantine for four days right before the campaign resumed last week having left the Florida 'bubble' to attend to a family matter.

But Williamson was allowed to play a greater role in the Pelicans' crucial 109-99 victory over the Memphis Grizzlies on Monday as he scored 23 points in 25 minutes, outshining fellow rookie star Ja Morant, who managed only 11 points and eight assists in 39 minutes.

"I felt alive again," Williamson told ESPN on being on the court at the end.

"My competitive spirit was there, and I'm glad coach [Alvin Gentry] and the whole team trusted me to finish the game out."

He later added: "I ain't gonna lie to you, it's just different in a bad way when I'm on the bench in the fourth quarter, and there's nothing I can do to help my team win.

"So I said I felt alive. It was just great to be out there doing whatever I can to help my team win. And as for the energy part, me and my team-mates can just feed off each other."

Williamson tied his career-high with five assists, as well as contributing seven rebounds, while his 21 field-goal attempts were an indication of a more aggressive approach.

"It was a little bit of both from myself and the coaching staff," Williamson said of taking more shots.

"They were telling me to try to give the team a spark and that's what I was trying to do, give my team a spark, get them going."

New Orleans are 2.5 games back of the Grizzlies, who own the eighth and final playoff spot for the Western Conference.

New Orleans Pelicans sensation Zion Williamson said it is "very tough" to watch his team-mates lose with his minutes restricted.

The Pelicans have lost both of their games since the 2019-20 NBA season resumed on July 30 at Walt Disney World Resort, after the league was suspended in March due to the coronavirus pandemic.

New Orleans went down to the Utah Jazz on the opening night of the NBA's return before falling to the Los Angeles Clippers on Saturday, with Williamson on restricted minutes due to his interrupted preparation in the Orlando bubble.

Williamson, who made his long-awaited debut in January, had to leave the Walt Disney complex to attend to an "urgent family matter", which led to the number one pick spending four days in quarantine.

Having completed just 29 minutes of basketball through two games since the restart, Williamson told reporters on Sunday: "It's very tough, to be honest, because as soon as I start to break that sweat, I look over and that horn is for me and I have to come out the game.

"Also, when I do catch the flow of the game, like I said, that horn goes off and it's for me."

"It's still fun but I guess, like you said, it's not to that full extent as y'all are used to seeing," Williamson added. "I'm a competitor, I want to stay on the court.

"When I'm coming out of the game, my competitive side of me that I want to stay in. I guess that does affect the fun a little bit, but not too much."

Williamson only played 15 minutes and scored 13 points in the Pelicans' 106-104 defeat to the Jazz, while he featured for just 14 minutes as New Orleans were beaten 126-103 by the Clippers.

On the game against the Clippers, which saw the Pelicans trail by as many as 37 points heading into the final quarter, head coach Alvin Gentry explained his decision not to put Williamson back on the court.

"We definitely would have saw him in that situation," Gentry said when asked if Williamson was set to play the fourth quarter originally.

"Obviously in a 30-point game, I'm not going to stick him back in in those situations even though some people think it would give him an opportunity to be on the floor and play. I just didn't feel like that made sense in that situation."

"We talked to him about that," Gentry said. "You just have to be smart in those situations. Everyone wants to play and play right now. We try to spend time as coaches and medical people trying to let him understand that this is going to be for the best short-term and long-term really."

The Pelicans are 12th in the Western Conference with a 28-38 record, adrift of the eighth-placed Memphis Grizzlies (32-34) in the race for the playoffs.

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.

Alvin Gentry explained he was simply following medical advice when asked why Zion Williamson was not on the court during the closing stages of the New Orleans Pelicans' loss to the Utah Jazz.

The 2019-20 NBA season restarted on Thursday with a 22-team tournament in Orlando and the Pelicans' defeat left them 4.5 games back from the eighth seed – and the final playoff spot – in the Western Conference with seven to play.

They were leading by four points when Williamson exited midway through the fourth quarter and the rookie sensation – who scored 13 points in 15 minutes – did not return down the stretch.

Williamson, whose much-anticipated debut campaign in the NBA was delayed until January by a knee injury, had to leave the NBA's 'bubble' in Orlando to attend to an "urgent family matter", only returning last Friday, at which point he had to quarantine for four days.

"Of course, we wish we could've played him down the stretch, but we used the minutes that were given to us and that's the way it is," coach Gentry said, according to ESPN.

"We weren't going to stick him back out there. The medical people said we played them in the minutes that were allowed for us to play him, and just move on.

"I thought he looked good, I thought he had some good moments, and obviously we're a much better and different team when he's out on the floor.

"I was told the minutes that he could play, and that's what I did."

Williamson, who missed the first 43 games of the season following knee surgery, explained that it was a case of finding his rhythm again as he went 6-for-8 shooting.

The rookie said: "They weren't holding me back.

"Yeah, I did want to be out there, but we're just working my way back into my flow. That's all it is."

Rudy Gobert described it as "just a blessing" to have turned in a decisive display as the Utah Jazz beat the New Orleans Pelicans in the NBA's Thursday restart.

The Jazz won 106-104 at Walt Disney World Resort thanks largely to Gobert's 14 points and 12 rebounds against a Pelicans side for whom Zion Williamson could only manage 15 minutes.

The NBA season was postponed in March due to the coronavirus pandemic after Gobert had become the league's first player to return a confirmed positive test.

"I'm just grateful," Gobert, who sunk the first and last points of the match, told ESPN. "Just grateful to be able to do what I love to do. After everything that I've personally and everything the world is going through right now, to be able to keep inspiring millions of kids around the world and keep spreading positivity is just a blessing.

"And it's great to start with a win, of course."

Gobert had caused consternation by mocking the league's distancing protocols at media events by breathing on and touching podium microphones days before his positive test.

Donovan Mitchell, who also tested positive, did not speak with Gobert for a month after the shutdown, as he was angry with his team-mate's perceived carelessness around the locker room.

Perhaps fittingly, it was a Mitchell dribble that allowed Gobert to sink the decisive free throws with 6.9 seconds left.

"A lot of people probably won't be able to probably say the things they want to say to try to break our team apart," said Gobert. "Like I said, life works in mysterious ways."

Mitchell added: "That also kind of stops y'all from talking about it, to be honest with you.

"At the end, we're basketball players. We go out there and make the right play. He did a hell of a job. I try to find my way and find guys who get open. For me, at the end of the game, it's about making the right read. I've told y'all a thousand times I'm trying to be a better passer, better playmaker as a whole. To be able to do that in that situations just shows the steps I've made.

"It's just me trusting him and him trusting me. That's really what it is... He had the first two points, and for that [play] to end it, it should kind of seal everything as far as talking about all that extra stuff."

The Utah Jazz claimed a narrow 106-104 win over the New Orleans Pelicans as the NBA made its long-awaited return amid the coronavirus pandemic.

COVID-19 forced the 2019-20 season to be postponed in March, but the league resumed behind closed doors in Orlando, Florida on Thursday.

Donovan Mitchell (20 points) and Rudy Gobert (14 points, 12 rebounds) produced when it mattered most to lead the Jazz past the Pelicans at Walt Disney World Resort, where both teams kneeled in unison for the United States national anthem.

Zion Williamson (13 points) was declared fit to play for the playoff-chasing Pelicans, having been listed as questionable, though he only featured for 15 minutes.

The number one draft pick helped the Pelicans earn a half-time lead over the Jazz, who trailed by eight points heading into the final quarter.

However, the Jazz – fourth in the Western Conference – rallied on the back of an 11-1 run midway through to the fourth period to take the lead.

In a tense finish, Gobert – the first NBA player to contract coronavirus which ultimately led to the league's hiatus – made a pair of free throws to put the Jazz ahead for good.

Brandon Ingram (23 points) missed a late jumper as the Pelicans fell to 28-37 in the race for the postseason in the west.

New Orleans Pelicans sensation Zion Williamson has been named in the starting five for Thursday's NBA showdown against the Utah Jazz.

Williamson had been listed as "questionable" for the opening game of the NBA's restart in Orlando after the 2019-20 season was suspended in March due to the coronavirus pandemic.

The number one draft pick left the NBA bubble at Walt Disney World Resort in Florida to attend an "urgent family matter" before returning last Friday, while he also completed a four-day quarantine.

However, Williamson is in the Pelicans' starting five alongside Lonzo Ball, Jrue Holiday, Brandon Ingram and Derrick Favors.

Williamson has not missed a beat since debuting for the Pelicans in January, averaging 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 Michael Jordan (25.6).

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

New Orleans Pelicans sensation Zion Williamson is listed as "questionable" for the opening game of the NBA's restart in the Orlando bubble.

The Pelicans and Utah Jazz headline the league's return at Walt Disney World Resort on Thursday after the season was suspended in March due to the coronavirus pandemic, with the Los Angeles Lakers facing the Los Angeles Clippers later in the day.

However, the playoff-chasing Pelicans could be without star rookie Williamson – who left the NBA bubble in Florida to attend an "urgent family matter" before returning last Friday.

Williamson also completed a four-day quarantine, but Pelicans head coach Alvin Gentry is still unsure whether the 20-year-old will suit up to face the Jazz.

"Obviously as a coach you want him out there as much as you can possibly have him out there," Gentry said on Wednesday.

"We have guys that are better equipped to make those decisions than I am from a health standpoint and a minutes played standpoint. It'll be collectively something that's done by sitting down and talking about it and figuring it out if he does end up playing."

Number one draft pick Williamson has not missed a beat since debuting for the Pelicans in January, averaging 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 Michael Jordan (25.6).

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

"I think me and my team are gonna look at what's best for me, my future, and being safe," Williamson said. "If you know me, I wanna hoop. That's just how I am; I'm never gonna change. I'm gonna want to hoop, simple as that."

On his quarantine, Williamson added: "I was able to do some body workouts, just to keep my muscles going. While I was away, it's tough to do stuff. I was dealing with a family emergency, so it's God first and family. So basketball wasn't really there; I was dealing with something serious."

Page 1 of 10
© 2020 SportsMaxTV All Rights Reserved.