The Los Angeles Lakers advanced to their first NBA Finals in a decade after LeBron James' triple-double secured a series victory over the Denver Nuggets.

Not since winning their last championship in 2010 had storied franchise the Lakers reached the NBA showpiece.

But James helped end that drought as the top-seeded Lakers topped the Nuggets 117-107 on Saturday to seal a 4-1 series victory in the Western Conference finals.

James posted 38 points, 16 rebounds and 10 assists to lead the Lakers at Walt Disney World Resort in Orlando, Florida, where he will contest his 10th NBA Finals – the fourth player in history to do so.

It was James' 27th career playoff triple-double as the 35-year-old eyes a fourth championship ring, with the Miami Heat or Boston Celtics awaiting in the Finals.

All-Star team-mate Anthony Davis contributed 27 points for the Lakers, who will make their 32nd Finals appearance.

The third-seeded Nuggets became the first team in NBA history to overcome a 3-1 deficit to win a series twice in the same postseason en route to the Conference finals.

But they were unable to produce another comeback, despite 20 points apiece from Nikola Jokic and Jerami Grant.

Nuggets star Jamal Murray was limited to just 19 points as the Nuggets bowed out of the Orlando bubble.

 

Celtics face Heat

Can the Celtics level the series or will the Heat book their spot in the Finals? The two teams will meet in Game 6 of the Eastern Conference finals on Sunday, with the Heat leading 3-2.

The Los Angeles Lakers are on the cusp of the NBA Finals after holding off Jamal Murray and the Denver Nuggets 114-108 in Game 4 of the Western Conference finals.

LeBron James and fellow All-Star Anthony Davis led the top-seeded Lakers, who moved 3-1 ahead in the NBA playoffs at Walt Disney World Resort on Thursday.

James put up 26 points, nine rebounds and eight assists in a performance just shy of a triple-double, while Davis had a game-high 34 points.

There was a worrying moment in the fourth quarter when Davis rolled around in pain after landing on his ankle, but he continued.

Murray dazzled once again in Orlando, Florida, where the Nuggets star posted 32 points and eight rebounds – including a memorable Michael Jordan-esque drive to the basket.

But the Nuggets – who became the first team in NBA history to overcome a 3-1 deficit to win a series twice in the same postseason en route to the Conference finals – find themselves in a familiar position, down 3-1.

The Lakers' dominance off the boards proved decisive as the Nuggets failed to make a field goal during the last three minutes, 28 seconds – missing their final five attempts.

Now, the Lakers are one win away from their first trip to the NBA Finals since winning their last championship in 2010.

Lakers veteran Dwight Howard finished with 12 points and 11 rebounds, while Nuggets star Nikola Jokic was limited to just 16 points.

 

Heat face Celtics

The Miami Heat can book their spot in the NBA Finals with victory over the Boston Celtics in Game 5 of the Eastern Conference finals on Friday.

The Denver Nuggets outlasted an epic Los Angeles Lakers rally to claim Game 3 114-106 in the Western Conference finals.

After a heartbreaking buzzer-beating loss in Game 2, the Nuggets produced a trademark performance of resilience behind Jamal Murray and Nikola Jokic double-doubles to reduce the Lakers' series lead to 2-1 in the NBA playoffs.

The Nuggets looked on track to cruise to victory in the third showdown, having taken a 93-75 lead through three quarters at Walt Disney World Resort in Orlando, Florida.

But LeBron James – who tallied a triple-double – and the top-seeded Lakers reeled off a stunning 19-2 run and forced six successive turnovers to close within 101-98 with less than four minutes remaining on Tuesday.

Veteran guard Rajon Rondo was instrumental in the Lakers' fightback courtesy of three steals against the stuttering Nuggets.

But the Nuggets – who became the first team in NBA history to overcome a 3-1 deficit to win a series twice in the same postseason en route to the Conference finals – fended off the Lakers with a run of their own as Murray finished with 28 points, 12 assists and eight rebounds.

All-Star big man Jokic posted 22 points, 10 rebounds and five assists, and Jerami Grant had a playoff career-high 26 points to help the Nuggets avoid a 3-0 hole.

James led the Lakers with his 26th career triple-double, which included 30 points, 11 assists and 10 rebounds, while Anthony Davis – the last-gasp hero in Game 2 – had 27 points.

 

Celtics face Heat

The Boston Celtics will look to level their series against the Miami Heat when they two teams meet in Game 4 of the Eastern Conference finals on Wednesday.

Denver Nuggets coach Michael Malone and center Nikola Jokic took heart from Sunday's 105-103 buzzer-beating defeat to the Los Angeles Lakers, with the duo praising the team's spirit.

The Nuggets were heading into the final seconds of Game 2 of the Western Conference finals with a slender lead, but Anthony Davis showed his class with the decisive action.

The Lakers forward sunk a three-pointer on the buzzer to seal the win and open up a 2-0 series lead in Florida, Los Angeles having won handsomely 126-114 in Game 1.

Davis was able to make his game-winning shot due to a defensive mix-up in the Nuggets ranks that saw both Mason Plumlee and Jerami Grant guarding LeBron James when the former was initially on the game-winner.

Jokic put it down to poor communication, though there was a hint of rueful helplessness to his post-game comments as he suggested if Davis had not been decisive, James could have.

"[It was] either going to be him or LeBron [James to have the last shot], so we kind of knew it," Jokic said.

"It just happened, a little bit of miscommunication. I think I had a really good contest, to be honest. I think I was right there.

"As soon as he shot the ball, he shot it really well. Like, I kind of felt it going in. Great players make great shots."

But given his side were 70-54 down in the third quarter, Jokic – who had 30 points and nine assists – felt the Nuggets showed good spirit to get back into the contest.

"I mean, we are here [as] underdogs," he continued. "I mean, we need to fight. That's our only chance. They were up 15 or 16. I don't know how much they were up.

"We could just call it a game and quit. I think we just want to give the fight. Maybe it's going to be 30 points, but fight needs to be there, and effort."

Malone was similarly frustrated but seemed encouraged by the fact the top-seeded Lakers required a last-gasp attempt to take the win.

"Losing sucks, that's the bottom line, losing sucks," he admitted. 

"Some guys like to win, some guys hate to lose. I think we're a group of guys that hate to lose, whether it be by 20-something points in Game 1 or at the buzzer tonight, it counts as the same.

"The only thing you can talk about tonight is we were in the game. They had to rely on a great shot by a great player to beat us at the buzzer.

"But as long as we're putting ourselves in position to win games, that's all you can ask for. One thing I know about our group, even though we are disappointed, frustrated, angry, we'll use that motivation to come out and try to take Game 3."

Anthony Davis nailed a buzzer-beating three-pointer as the Los Angeles Lakers stunned the Denver Nuggets 105-103 in Game 2 of the Western Conference finals.

Trailing 103-102, Davis hit a last-gasp three to break Denver's hearts and give the Lakers a 2-0 lead in the best-of-seven NBA playoff series in Orlando, Florida on Sunday.

The third-seeded Nuggets, who became the first team in NBA history to overcome a 3-1 deficit to win a series twice in the same postseason en route to the Conference finals, were seconds away from levelling the matchup at Walt Disney World Resort.

Nuggets All-Star Nikola Jokic made a 10-foot shot with 20.8 seconds remaining as Denver moved ahead by a point against top seeds the Lakers.

Jamal Murray also produced some elite defending for the Nuggets, blocking Danny Green's jumper as the clock dropped to 2.2 seconds.

But with no timeouts and time expiring, Davis stepped up in a clutch moment, receiving an inbound pass from Rajon Rondo and putting the Lakers in control of their first Conference finals since going on to win their last championship in 2010.

Davis finished with 31 points and nine rebounds, while team-mate LeBron James posted 26 points and 11 rebounds.

Jokic had 30 points and nine assists and Murray put up 25 points for the shocked Nuggets, who had fought back from as many as 16 points down.

 

Lakers face Nuggets

The Lakers and Nuggets are back at it again in Game 3 on Tuesday.

The Los Angeles Lakers drew first blood against the Denver Nuggets in the Western Conference finals, winning 126-114 on Friday.

Led by double-doubles from Anthony Davis and LeBron James, the top-seeded Lakers claimed Game 1 of the NBA playoff series at Walt Disney World Resort in Orlando, Florida.

Davis posted 37 points and 10 rebounds in 33 minutes for the Lakers, while All-Star team-mate James had 15 points and 12 assists of his own.

The third-seeded Nuggets became the first team in NBA history to overcome a 3-1 deficit to win a series twice in the same postseason, having rallied past the Utah Jazz and Los Angeles Clippers.

And they made a promising start, outscoring the Lakers 38-36 in the opening period but that is as good as it got for Jamal Murray's Nuggets.

The Lakers – back in the Conference finals for the first time since going on to win their last championship in 2010 – outscored the Nuggets 67-41 in the next two periods to move clear and take control of the contest behind closed doors amid the coronavirus pandemic.

Murray and Nikola Jokic, integral to Denver's first trip to the Conference finals since losing to the Lakers in 2009, both scored 21 points apiece.

Game 2 between the Lakers and Nuggets is on Sunday.

 

Celtics face Heat

The Boston Celtics will look to dig themselves out of a 0-2 hole when they meet the red-hot Miami Heat in Game 3 of the Eastern Conference finals on Saturday.

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.

Jamal Murray demanded the likes of Shaquille O'Neal and Charles Barkley start giving the Denver Nuggets "some damn respect" after their Western Conference semi-final heroics.

The Nuggets dominated the Los Angeles Clippers 104-89 in Orlando on Tuesday to progress from an all-or-nothing Game 7, becoming the first team to recover from a 3-1 deficit twice in the same postseason.

Few tipped the third-seeded Nuggets to get past a Clippers team comprising the likes of Paul George and Kawhi Leonard, particularly when the team found themselves in such a precarious position.

"You got [Shaquille O'Neal], you got Charles [Barkley], I think Zach Lowe … Stephen A. [Smith], all y'all better start giving this team some damn respect," Murray said. 

"Because we put in the work. We shouldn't have been down 3-1, but to come back down 3-1 against the Clippers is a big achievement, so it's fun just to change that narrative."

Murray was influential for the Nuggets, putting up 40 points, and he feels the star-studded Clippers failed to cope with Denver's enthusiasm.

"We've got a lot of energy, and we brought it and they didn't match that," Murray said. 

"They've got who they got. They've got a talented squad. They've got Doc [Rivers], too. They've got assistant coaches who are about to be head coaches. 

"We know what they have, we just outworked them a little bit with our young legs."

Nikola Jokic had promised head coach Michael Malone one of two presents on his 49th birthday prior to the game: "I'm either going to get you home or get you to the Western Conference Finals." 

After it proved to be the latter, Jokic said the Nuggets are relishing proving the doubters wrong.

"Nobody wants us here. Nobody thinks we can do something. We proved ourselves and proved [to] everybody we can do something," he said.

"This is a really interesting team. We don't have many superstars."

Next up is a daunting task against an in-form Los Angeles Lakers side led by LeBron James, but Jokic said: "They gotta worry about us, too."

The Denver Nuggets made history by completing another stunning comeback as they reached the Western Conference finals after blitzing the Los Angeles Clippers in their NBA series decider.

Denver won Game 7 of the Western Conference semi-finals 104-89 on Tuesday to set up a blockbuster playoff showdown against top seeds the Los Angeles Lakers.

The Nuggets overpowered the shocked Clippers as they became the first team in NBA history to overcome a 3-1 deficit to win a series twice in the same postseason, having rallied past the Utah Jazz.

Trailing 56-54 at half-time, the Nuggets outscored Kawhi Leonard's Clippers 50-33 in the second half in Orlando, Florida, where Denver will contest their first Conference final since losing to the Lakers in 2008-09.

Meanwhile, the Miami Heat dramatically prevailed 117-114 after overtime against the Boston Celtics in the opening game of their Eastern Conference final.

Jimmy Butler's three-pointer put the Heat ahead with 12 seconds remaining and Heat team-mate Bam Adebayo made an incredible block on Jayson Tatum to deny the Celtics star a game-tying dunk at the death.

 

Jokic and Murray fuel Nuggets

Just like they did in the first round of the playoffs, Nikola Jokic and Jamal Murray led Denver's comeback. The duo completed the fightback against the Clippers, with Murray posting a game-high 40 points. Jokic became the first player in NBA playoff history to record a 20-plus rebound triple-double. Prior to Jokic, no player had put up a triple-double through three quarters of a Game 7 over the last 25 years. He finished with 16 points, 22 rebounds and 13 assists.

The Heat flexed their muscles with a team performance at Walt Disney World Resort. Starters Goran Dragic (29), Jae Crowder (22), Butler and Adebayo (18) all reached double-digit points. Tatum had 30 points and 14 rebounds but it was not enough for the Celtics, while Marcus Smart scored 26 of his own.

 

Clippers crumble

Poised to meet the Lakers in an all-Los Angeles Conference final, the Clippers capitulated against the Nuggets. Their woes were amplified on Tuesday. Two-time NBA champion Leonard was just six of 22 from the field for 14 points. He was only two of seven from three-point range. All-Star team-mate Paul George had 10 points on four-of-16 shooting from the field, while he made just two of his 11 attempts from beyond the arc. As a team, the Clippers were just 37.8 per cent from the field and 25.7 per cent from three-point territory.

 

Heat face Celtics

There will be no playoff action until the Heat and Celtics go head-to-head in Game 2 on Thursday.

The Denver Nuggets cannot rely solely on Nikola Jokic and Jamal Murray if they want to overcome the Los Angeles Clippers, says Michael Porter Jr.

Porter impressed for the Nuggets with 18 points in 23 minutes in Game 3 and looked set to build on that with 15 points on 5-of-6 shooting in the first half of Game 4 on Wednesday.

However, the rookie was unable to add to his tally and missed his only two shots after half-time as the Nuggets fell to a 96-85 defeat that left them 3-1 down in the Western Conference semi-final series.

Porter said his failure to score in the second half was down to a lack of touches and wants Denver to share the ball more in order to become less predictable.

"That is up to the play calling, the coaches and whose hands they want to put the ball in," Porter said of his involvement in the second half.

"We kept going to [Jokic] and [Murray] and they are two amazing players, you can never be mad at that, but I just think to beat them we need to get more players involved.

"We have to move the ball a little bit better. We can't be predictable against that team."

Asked if he felt confident voicing those concerns despite being in his first year in the NBA, he said: "I think if I am going to be out there on the floor playing a lot of minutes, I think I should voice that.

"I will probably talk to the coaches and tell them what I see being out there on the floor just letting them know, look, they know what we are doing.

"We have to swing the ball. We have a lot of players that can play basketball and score, so we have to get some more guys involved."

The Nuggets came back to progress from 3-1 down against the Utah Jazz in the first round and coach Michael Malone believes his team have plenty of fight left in them.

"The same message will be what it was against Utah," said Malone.

"It wasn't that we have to come back and win three games. It was, let's win Game 5. And then after that, let's win one at a time. Let's win 6 and then win 7.

"We have done it. It is a different opponent. Very talented, deep team, but I think we do have confidence in being a resilient group and being a team that when everyone else has written us off, we have found a way."

Denver coach Michael Malone defended Nikola Jokic on Tuesday after Clippers guard Patrick Beverley accused the Nuggets center of "flailing" to draw fouls after Los Angeles' 113-107 win in Game 3.

Jokic had 32 points, 12 rebounds and eight assists while going three-for-four from the foul line in the loss.

Asked what makes Jokic so difficult to guard, Beverley said: "He presents the same type of, I don't know, I wouldn't say problems, but he presents the same thing [Luka] Doncic presents, a lot of flailing. You know, puts a lot of pressure on the referee to make the right call."

"I don't really listen to Patrick Beverley a whole lot," Malone said. "If Kawhi Leonard was talking, maybe I might listen to him. Kawhi's a great player."

"All you got to do is look at the stat sheet. [Ivica] Zubac attempted more free throws than Nikola Jokic," Malone continued. "They shot 26 free throws, we shot 10. So I'm not really sure what game Patrick is talking about or looking at, but I really don't warrant and give too much attention to that."

Through the first three games of the series, Jokic has taken 10 free throws. Leonard, meanwhile, has attempted 17, while Clippers team-mate Paul George has 15.

Jamal Murray is convinced Nikola Jokic is headed for a Hall-of-Fame career after he inspired the Denver Nuggets past the Utah Jazz and into the Western Conference semi-finals.

The Nuggets ran out 80-78 winners in Tuesday's decisive Game 7 of the thrilling first-round series, overcoming a 3-1 deficit that had been inspired by Utah's Donovan Mitchell.

On a night where Murray struggled to hit the same heights he had reached in previous games in the series, Jokic put up 30 points and added 14 rebounds to help the third-seeded Nuggets book a semi-final against the Los Angeles Clippers.

"Dude's a joke," Murray said of Jokic. 

"He does everything. Post up, he shoots it, he passes, he pushes the pace, he's smart, and we definitely needed him today.

"He made clutch baskets and just kept us poised. Even when I didn't have it going or I missed some bunnies or we messed up on defense and they made their push, especially in the third quarter. 

"He was our leader for that second half and he did it all so, he's gonna be a Hall of Famer one day."

Jokic scored 17 of Denver's 30 second-half points, the highest percentage of a team's points scored in the second half of a Game 7 over the past 20 years, to receive praise from head coach Michael Malone.

"We are not in a Game 7 without Jamal, but quietly Nikola Jokic was having an outstanding series as well," Malone said. 

"And you knew that they would take away Jamal Murray, they tried to do different things tonight, that was their adjustment. 

"We were prepared for that. We knew they would try to get the ball out of his hands. That is when you need Nikola to step up."

Jokic himself was expecting a tense series, just maybe not the levels of excitement it provided.

"Before the series started I felt it was going to be an interesting series. But after 3-1 I didn't think it was going to be this interesting," Jokic said. 

"So I'm glad that we won the game and I'm glad that we won the series."

Mitchell's 33 three-pointers marked a record for a playoff series and he was proud of the way the team battled after trailing by 19 points in the first half.

"We fought hard and came back. I'd go to war with any one of these guys in the locker room, any one of these coaches," Mitchell, who was helped off the floor by Murray at the buzzer, said. 

"We could've easy chalked it up in the first half. We have grit and fight. That's all you can really ask for."

Mitchell added that the emotions following the defeat were nothing compared to what the families who have been affected by police brutality and racism are going through.

"I can only imagine. I wanted to say that. I wanted to get that out there," he said. 

"The way I'm feeling right now is nothing compared to that. I appreciate the NBA and everybody in this league for continuing to push that message. 

"It's not stopping. I just wanted to say that. Whether we won or lost, that was going to be the first thing said. I should've said it first."

Jamal Murray's incredible 50-42-50 playoff run brought lofty praise from Nuggets coach Mike Malone and team-mate Nikola Jokic after Denver forced a Game 7 against the Utah Jazz.

The Nuggets trailed 3-1 through four games, but Murray has caught fire again in the playoffs, having helped Denver take the Portland Trail Blazers to seven games in the second round last year.

Murray had 50 points in a losing effort in Game 4 against the Jazz, then inspired wins with returns of 42 and then, on Sunday, 50 points.

The 23-year-old averaged 18.5 points in the regular season and his sensational upturn in form has left coach Malone - formerly an assistant at the Cleveland Cavaliers and Golden State Warriors - struggling to make a fitting comparison.

"What Jamal's done the last three games is unbelievable," Malone said.

"I've been blessed to have been around some great players in this game - LeBron [James], CP [Chris Paul], Steph Curry, Klay Thompson - but I've never seen a guy go 50, 42 and 50, two of those games being elimination games.

"Talk about a young guy putting a team on his back... and that will to win, to do whatever is necessary to get the team to win, is tremendous."

Murray visibly grappled with his emotions in Denver's first game since the playoffs were paused after the Milwaukee Bucks went on strike following the shooting of Jacob Blake.

Blake was repeatedly shot in the back by police in the Bucks' home state of Wisconsin, prompting the latest demonstration against police brutality and racial inequality.

Murray wore shoes decorated with images of George Floyd and Breonna Taylor, and he struggled to find words for his on-court TNT interview.

Malone continued: "We haven't played since Tuesday, so to do it with everything that's taken place in the last three or four days, all the raw emotion, makes it that much more impressive.

"I'm running out of superlatives for Jamal Murray. I just want to say I'm proud of him. What he did tonight was amazing."

Jokic, who scored 22 points, was similarly impressed, adding of Murray: "He's really playing at a high level, a superstar level right now.

"We wish the God of basketball is going to give him a little bit more of that during our playoffs."

Murray himself recognises the need to perform on a more consistent basis, however.

"People want me to be consistent and, I'm not going to lie, it's not easy," he said. "That's why the greats are so good. They don't just do it one night, they do it every night."

Gregg Popovich likened Nikola Jokic to a "reincarnation of Larry Bird" after he played a huge part in the Denver Nuggets' 132-126 win over the San Antonio Spurs.

Michael Porter Jr became the first Nuggets rookie to score 30 points or more and at least 10 rebounds in back-to-back games as his side move to 45-23 on Wednesday, hot on the heels of the second-placed LA Clippers in the West.

Porter poured in 30 points and provided 15 assists, but it was the performance of giant center Jokic that stood out for Spurs coach Popovich.

The Serbian landed 25 points, laid on 11 assists and grabbed four rebounds – three on offensive glass – and Popovich drew comparisons with Boston Celtics legend Bird.

He said: "Porter is a fine young talent. And Jokic, he's like a reincarnation of Larry Bird. He does everything. He's amazing. They were great."

Popovich said there was little his younger Spurs players could have done to stop Jokic from being so influential.

He added: "They've never seen anything like that,.

"He's stepping out and making threes. He's rebounding the ball, there should be an NBA rule, you can't tap it to yourself. He's Moses Malone.

"He's down there and he jumps about a quarter of an inch, then he taps it two or three times and then he gets it and he lays it back in.

"It's not just luck. He does it all the time. He is great on the board, he's obviously maybe the best big man passer in the league. If not, then close to it. He's a pretty special player."

The Denver Nuggets expect to have All-Star center Nikola Jokic at their disposal for the NBA's restart, head coach Michael Malone said.

Jokic remains in his native Serbia having reportedly tested positive for coronavirus as the NBA plans to resume after the 2019-20 season was suspended in March due to the COVID-19 pandemic.

The league is set to return via a 22-team format at the Disney World complex in Orlando, Florida on July 30, with the New Orleans Pelicans, Utah Jazz, Los Angeles Lakers and Los Angeles Clippers in action on the first day back.

Denver are scheduled to resume their campaign against the Miami Heat in the Orlando bubble on August 1 and the Nuggets expect Jokic to return to the United States in time.

"Nikola feels great," Malone told reporters via a Zoom call on Wednesday. "We are working on getting him back here.

"Next Tuesday we depart for Orlando; the hope and expectation is that Nikola Jokic will be with us on that plane.

"From everything that I have heard and talked to him, he feels great, he feels fine and is excited to get back."

Prior to the coronavirus crisis, Jokic was averaging 20.2 points, 10.2 rebounds and 6.9 assists per game for the Nuggets.

The Nuggets were third in the Western Conference with a 43-22 record, behind leaders the Lakers (49-14) and the Clippers (44-20).

Denver, meanwhile, opted to close down their practice facility following COVID-19 cases.

"We have closed down the facility," Malone confirmed. "We felt it was the right thing to do. Today was supposed to be the first day of Phase 3 where all our players were required to be back in the gym and we are allowed to work with them albeit just 1-on-0.

"We have put the safety of our team ahead of this Phase 3. There is a chance we can open the gym up before we leave, depending upon results in the coming days. I am not going to get into who tested but we have had multiple people in our travel party test positive."

Amid the unprecedented situation, Malone feels this season's NBA championship will be the toughest ever contested.

"There has been this ongoing dialogue and conversation that whoever wins it this year, there will be an asterisk by their name and I don't buy that at all," Malone later added.

"If you are able to go into a bubble and be isolated from your friends and family, to have no home-court advantage, to have a league interruption of four months and you are able to spend 90 days and come out of there a champion, I think this will be the toughest championship ever won. There is no asterisk."

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