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.

Milwaukee Bucks star Giannis Antetokounmpo has been suspended for one game for headbutting the Washington Wizards' Moritz Wagner.

Antetokounmpo was ejected in the second quarter of the Bucks' 126-113 NBA win over the Wizards on Tuesday after headbutting Wagner.

The reigning MVP will miss the Bucks' last game before the playoffs – against the Memphis Grizzlies on Thursday – after being handed a one-game ban.

"Milwaukee Bucks forward Giannis Antetokounmpo has been suspended one game without pay for headbutting Washington Wizards center Moritz Wagner during a stoppage in play, it was announced today by Kiki VanDeWeghe, Executive Vice President, Basketball Operations," an NBA statement read.

The top seed in the Eastern Conference, the Bucks will face the Orlando Magic in the first round of the playoffs.

Antetokounmpo is averaging 29.5 points, 13.6 rebounds and 5.6 assists per game this season.

Giannis Antetokounmpo expressed his regret after being ejected for headbutting Mo Wagner but added he had "done a great job all year and in my career" to ignore "dirty plays".

The reigning NBA MVP left the Milwaukee Bucks' 126-113 win over the Washington Wizards in the second quarter following the incident with Wagner.

Antetokounmpo had 12 points and nine rebounds in just 10 minutes before his frustration boiled over.

The Greek was rueful afterwards, promised to learn from the clash and insisted there was no personal issue with Wagner, although he also took the opportunity to complain of the repeated rough treatment he feels he is dealt in the league.

"It's a terrible action," he told reporters. "If I could turn back time and go back to that play, I wouldn't do it. But at the end of the day, we're all human, we all make mistakes.

"I think I've done a great job all year and in my career, keeping my composure and focusing on the game. But like I say, we're all human, we all make mistakes.

"I'll learn from it, keeping playing good basketball and keep moving forward.

"I don't think I was frustrated with Wagner. I think it was just the whole build-up of dirty plays in my mind, guys tripping me, guys falling in front of my feet, holding me, hitting me.

"I have nothing against Wagner - it wasn't just him. Just in my mind, in all the games I've played, there's guys hitting me. I lost it for a second.

"Like I said, if I could go back, I'd change it so I could stay in the game. I've got to live with it. It's a bad mistake from me, I'll learn from it.

"I'm glad we were able to play good basketball, I'm happy we were having fun and were able to win the game. We've got to keep getting ready for the playoffs."

Suggesting such an episode had been coming for some time, Antetokounmpo said he would work to ensure there was no repeat.

"Usually I try to just stay focused, finish the game, don't do something stupid," he said.

"But there's always times when you're in the zone and you don't think. It might take a second or two, you don't think and you do something dumb.

"My whole career I've had great team-mates around me, great coaching staff, and I think I've done a great job being locked in, not feeling much from what the other team's game plan is, what they're trying to accomplish from hitting me.

"But, man, today was the day. Hopefully it's the last one. I know the hits are going to keep coming."

Asked what his team-mates had told him, Antetokounmpo said: "They told me to learn from it, that they need me on the floor, they need me out there playing good basketball.

"I've got to be a leader. I've got to learn from this. I'm happy now, but this could happen in the playoffs, it could happen in a big game.

"They're 100 per cent right. It's my fault, fellas. They're 100 per cent right. But they know me, they know I've done a great job keeping my composure.

"They said, 'okay, it's acceptable, it's human for Giannis to lose it for a second once'. But they told me I've got to learn from it, they're 100 per cent right, and hopefully it doesn't repeat itself in the future."

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

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

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

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

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

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

 

Even Celtics shine as Gobert lifts Jazz

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

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

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

 

Davis struggles

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

 

Diallo dunk

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

Wednesday's results

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

 

Lakers face Rockets

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

Brett Brown was unsure about the severity of Ben Simmons' knee injury in the Philadelphia 76ers' win over the Washington Wizards.

Simmons left Wednesday's 107-98 victory in the third quarter after hurting his knee.

The two-time All-Star had eight points, six rebounds and four assists before the injury.

Philadelphia head coach Brown was waiting to hear more about how serious Simmons' injury was.

"We don't know. I'm sure the club will make some announcement," he said.

"But as far as knowing more than that, I don't. Obviously I'm very curious."

The 76ers are sixth in the Eastern Conference with a 41-27 record.

The Los Angeles Lakers clinched the Western Conference top seed as Anthony Davis erupted, while reigning NBA champions the Toronto Raptors extinguished the Miami Heat.

Davis led the way for the Western Conference-leading Lakers with 42 points and 12 rebounds in Orlando, Florida on Monday.

LeBron James added 22 points as the Lakers (51-15) – six games ahead of rivals the Los Angeles Clippers in the West – look forward to their first playoff appearance since 2013.

Donovan Mitchell top-scored for the Jazz (42-25) with 33 points at the Walt Disney World Resort.

As for the Raptors, they outlasted Eastern Conference rivals the Heat 107-103 thanks to Fred VanVleet.

VanVleet posted a career-high 36 points and made seven three-pointers for the Raptors, who have won back-to-back games since the league resumed behind closed doors following the coronavirus-enforced break.

The Raptors (48-18) are second in the East amid a six-game winning streak, while the Heat are fourth (42-25).

 

Red-hot Warren stars again, Jokic triple-double

After his career-high 53 points in his team's first game back, T.J. Warren put up 34 points and 11 rebounds as the Indiana Pacers defeated the Washington Wizards 111-100. Warren had 16 points in the third quarter to spark a 22-2 run. He was 14-for-26 from the field.

A Nikola Jokic triple-double (30 points, 12 rebounds and 10 assists) and Michael Porter Jr's double-double (37 points, 12 rebounds) fuelled the Denver Nuggets' 121-113 overtime victory against the Oklahoma City Thunder.

 

Pelicans struggle from the line

While the New Orleans Pelicans secured a much-needed 109-99 win against the Memphis Grizzlies, they made just 24-of-39 free throws. JJ Redick, a reliable free-throw shooter at 91 per cent, missed back-to-back attempts in the game.

Kendrick Nunn was 0-of-seven from the field and missed all five of his three-point attempts in the Heat's defeat. His two points came via a pair of free throws in 16 minutes of action.

 

Clutch Milton lifts 76ers

With the Philadelphia 76ers trailing 130-128, Shake Milton nailed a three-pointer 6.1 seconds from the end to help his team outlast the San Antonio Spurs 132-130.

Monday's results

Toronto Raptors 107-103 Miami Heat
Indiana Pacers 111-100 Washington Wizards
Philadelphia 76ers 132-130 San Antonio Spurs
Los Angeles Lakers 116-108 Utah Jazz
Denver Nuggets 121-113 Oklahoma City Thunder (OT)
New Orleans Pelicans 109-99 Memphis Grizzlies

 

Nets face Bucks

The NBA-leading Milwaukee Bucks (54-13) will look to bounce back from their loss to the Houston Rockets when they face the Brooklyn Nets (31-35) on Tuesday. Brooklyn occupy the eighth and final playoff spot in the Eastern Conference.

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

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

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

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

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

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

 

Mavs clinch playoff spot, Morant marvellous

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

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

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

 

Johnson struggles

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

 

Markelle magic

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

Sunday's results

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

 

Raptors face Heat

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

 

Fantastic Fournier, Portland trio shine

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

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

 

Terrible Tatum

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

 

Harden's hot start

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

Friday's results

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

 

Lakers face Raptors

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

The NBA finally returns on Thursday and it's been a long-time coming.

Not since March 11 have players taken to the court and fans watched official games due to the coronavirus pandemic.

But, after months of waiting, the New Orleans Pelicans-Utah Jazz and Los Angeles Lakers-Los Angeles Clippers clashes will headline the 2019-20 season restart in Orlando, Florida.

Inside the Walt Disney World Resort bubble, 22 teams will resume their regular seasons before the playoffs.

The Milwaukee Bucks topped the NBA standings at the time of the postponement, while the Los Angeles Lakers were flying in the Western Conference.

Using STATS data, we look at the best-performing players prior to the hiatus as LeBron James eyes a fourth championship ring and Bucks star Giannis Antetokounmpo chases a maiden title.

 

Red-hot LeBron

After a tough first season in Los Angeles, James has returned to his brilliant best in 2019-20. Before the coronavirus-enforced break, the four-time MVP catapulted himself into the mix for a fifth Most Valuable Player honour by leading the Lakers – who have played 63 of their 82-game regular season – to a Western Conference-best 49-14 record.

As the 35-year-old superstar prepares to resume his bid for another NBA crown, James leads the league in assists per game with 10.6. If he maintains his pace, James would be the third-oldest player to lead the NBA in assists per game behind two-time MVP and Phoenix Suns great Steve Nash – who did so in both 2009-10 (age 35-36) and 2010-11 (age 36-37). The former Miami Heat and Cleveland Cavaliers forward has also been averaging 25.7 points and 7.9 rebounds per game this season.

James, whose maiden campaign at Staples Center was cut short by a Christmas Day injury almost two years ago, was playing some of his best basketball alongside All-Star recruit Anthony Davis before the March suspension. In five games that month, James averaged 30.0 points and 10.6 assists per game, while shooting 55.7 per cent from the field. It is the only time in the last 30 years that any NBA player has averaged 30.0-plus points and 10.0-plus assists on 55.0-plus per cent shooting in a calendar month (minimum five games played).

 

Giannis – The Greek Freak

The Eastern Conference-leading Bucks (53-12) are on track for their first NBA title since 1971 thanks to superstar MVP Antetokounmpo after Mike Budenholzer's side lost in the Conference Finals last season.

Antetokounmpo – expected to go close to winning back-to-back MVPs – has not taken a backward step since being crowned the league's best in 2018-19, averaging 29.6 points, 13.7 rebounds and 5.8 assists per game for the high-flying Bucks this season.

The only players to average 25/13/5 in a season are Elgin Baylor (1960-61), Wilt Chamberlain (1963-64 and 1965-66) and Kareem Abdul-Jabbar (1972-73 and 1975-76).

 

Harden firing Rockets

James Harden's standing among the greats is often debated but there is no doubting his quality and importance to the Houston Rockets.

Harden has established himself as a scoring machine in Houston since joining the Rockets from the Oklahoma City Thunder in 2012, especially from beyond the arc, and after averaging 36.1 points last season, the 2018 MVP is at it again.

In 2019-20, Harden – now partnered with fellow All-Star Russell Westbrook – is averaging 34.4 per game. The only players to average 34-plus points in back-to-back seasons are Wilt Chamberlain (six straight from 1959-60 to 1964-65), Baylor (three straight from 1960-61 to 1962-63) and Michael Jordan (1986-87 to 1987-88).

The Rockets – sixth in the west with a 40-24 record – are relying heavily on Harden to lead the two-time champions to their first NBA Finals appearance since 1995.

 

Dallas' dazzling Doncic

If you thought Dallas Mavericks star Luka Doncic was a one-season wonder, think again.

The reigning Rookie of the Year continues to take the NBA by storm, elevating the Mavericks (40-27) into a legitimate playoff threat after Dallas missed the postseason for a third consecutive year last term.

A first-time All-Star this season, Doncic is averaging 28.7 points, 9.3 rebounds and 8.7 assists per game for the much-improved Mavs in 2019-20.

The 21-year-old Slovenian sensation – who is forming a formidable combination with fellow international star Kristaps Porzingis – is looking to join Oscar Robertson (five times), Jordan (1988-89), Harden (2016-17) and Westbrook (2016-17) as the only players to average 28/8/8 in a season.

 

Williamson following in MJ's footsteps

When it comes to number one draft pick Zion Williamson, believe the hype.

The Pelicans rookie has not missed a beat since debuting in January, quickly making his presence known around the NBA competition.

Likened to James during his college days with Duke, Williamson has averaged 23.6 points per game in his first 19 games – the most by any player through 19 career games since Chicago Bulls and NBA legend Jordan (25.6).

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

 

Keep an eye on Nets' LeVert

The Nets will be far from full strength in the NBA bubble. Superstars Kyrie Irving and Kevin Durant are both sidelined through injury, while DeAndre Jordan, Spencer Dinwiddie, Wilson Chandler and Taurean Prince have opted out.

Step up Caris LeVert.

LeVert has been much improved since re-joining the starting line-up with the playoff-chasing Nets. In his first 14 games off the bench, he was only averaging 11.1 points, 2.7 assists and 2.6 rebounds as Brooklyn went 5-9.

Since returning to the starting five, the 25-year-old is averaging 24.1 points, 5.3 assists and 4.8 rebounds through his last 16 games. More importantly, the Nets (30-34) boasted a 9-7 record to be seventh in a congested Eastern Conference.

Giannis Antetokounmpo starred as the Milwaukee Bucks lost on Monday, while the Los Angeles Clippers also went down in a scrimmage game.

Antetokounmpo scored 30 points to go with eight rebounds in a 124-103 defeat to the New Orleans Pelicans.

JJ Redick led the Pelicans with 20 points in just over 15 minutes off the bench.

It was the Bucks' final scrimmage game before they restart their NBA season against the Boston Celtics on Friday.

Also playing their final scrimmage, the Clippers – also considered championship contenders – were edged 106-102 by the Sacramento Kings.

Paul George (19 points) was solid, while Kawhi Leonard went six-of-22 from the field for his 17 points.

Meanwhile, the Los Angeles Lakers posted a 123-116 victory over the Washington Wizards.

The Los Angeles Clippers overcame the Orlando Magic in a scrimmage game as the NBA resumed on Wednesday.

The Clippers, one of the contenders for the title when the season restarts, beat the Magic 99-90.

Ahead of the NBA season officially restarting in Florida later this month, teams are playing scrimmage games.

Lou Williams led the Clippers with 22 points off the bench, while Paul George finished with 18.

Aaron Gordon, who had 13 points for Orlando, said it was unusual playing behind closed doors.

"It was really quiet, so you've got to bring your own energy," Gordon said, via the NBA website.

"You can hear everything that's being said on the floor.”

The Denver Nuggets and Miami Heat beat the Washington Wizards and Sacramento Kings respectively.

The New Orleans Pelicans, meanwhile, thrashed the Brooklyn Nets 99-68.

Bradley Beal will not play for the Washington Wizards when the 2019-20 NBA season resumes in Florida because of a right rotator cuff injury. 

Beal had been bothered by the injured shoulder since mid-January but had not missed any games before the season was halted because of the coronavirus pandemic in March. 

Wizards general manager Tommy Sheppard, however, said the team is worried that the guard will not be able to get back to full speed coming out of the lengthy stoppage and could suffer further damage.

"Bradley did everything possible to be ready to play, but after closely monitoring his individual workouts we came to the conclusion that it was best for him to sit out the upcoming games in Orlando and avoid the risk of further injury," Sheppard said.

"Although he was able to play through the majority of the season with the injury, the layoff from March until now did not leave any of us feeling comfortable that he would have enough time to be ready to perform at the extremely high level we are all accustomed to seeing and agreed that not participating in the games in Orlando was the right decision."

Beal was flourishing on the court before the season went on pause, averaging 35.5 points in his final 23 games – including back-to-back 50-point performances late in February.

His average of a career-best 30.5 points per game on the season trailed only the Houston Rockets' James Harden's scoring average of 34.4. 

"This was a difficult decision and one that I did not take lightly as the leader of this team," Beal said.

"I wanted to help my team-mates compete for a playoff spot in Orlando, but also understand that this will be best for all of us in the long term. I appreciate the support of my team-mates, the fans and the entire organization and look forward to returning next season to continue the progress we have made."

The Wizards had the Eastern Conference’s ninth-best record at 24-40 at the time the season went on pause, but were five and a half games back of the eighth-place Orlando Magic with only eight games to catch them in the NBA's restart at ESPN's Wide World of Sports Complex outside of Orlando. 

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