We’re through the first weekend of seeding games inside the bubble campus in Orlando, Florida, and the NBA is well and truly back.
The weekend concluded with four down-to-the-wire finishes Sunday that saw some of the game’s biggest stars make huge plays in clutch situations. With six games Monday beginning in the early afternoon, fans can hopefully look forward to another day of NCAA tournament-like action from the pros.
In Monday’s first game, Toronto continued its strong play with a 107-103 victory against Miami. Fred VanVleet led the Raptors with a career-high 36 points, going 7-for-12 on 3-pointers and 13-for-13 from the foul line. T.J. Warren followed up his huge opener with 34 points for Indiana in a 111-100 win over Washington. That’s 87 points in two games
Denver rebounded from a lackluster performance in its restart opener against Miami with an impressive 121-113 overtime victory against Oklahoma City in a game that had Western Conference seeding implications. Michael Porter Jr. scored a career-high 37 points and also had 12 rebounds.
New Orleans won its first game of the restart with a 109-99 victory over struggling Memphis, which is now 0-3 since games resumed last week. Brandon Ingram scored 24 points, and Zion Williamson had 23.
San Antonio and Philadelphia tipped off at 8 p.m. ET. The Lakers and Jazz round out the slate with 9 p.m. ET start on ESPN.
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Playoff spots and seeding are on the line as the race starts to take shape for the final stretch. Stay on top of all the action with updates from throughout the day and the night from Jeff Zillgitt, Mark Medina — on the ground at Disney World — and the USA TODAY Sports NBA team, including analysis, news and highlights:
After a weekend of questions regarding his playing time, Zion Williamson was on the floor Monday night for the most significant minutes of the game. Williamson was part of the Pelicans’ closing lineup and helped New Orleans take down Memphis for its first win of the season restart.
Williamson played just 29 minutes combined in the Pelicans’ first two games in Orlando, a pair of losses that put their playoff hopes on the brink. The No. 1 pick played 25 minutes Monday night, including the final 4:29, and finished with 23 points, seven rebounds and five assists in a 109-99 win.
Brandon Ingram scored a game-high 24 points for the Pelicans, who moved within 2½ games of the Grizzlies for eighth place in the West. The Most Improved Player candidate score 10 points in the fourth quarter. Williamson also had 10 points in the fourth, including seven in the final four minutes as New Orleans put Memphis away.
“I felt alive. It was just great to be out there doing whatever I can to help my team win,” Williamson said.
Who had T.J. Warren as the breakout star of the bubble so far?
Two days after pouring in a career-high 53 points, Warren dropped another 34 to lead the Indiana Pacers past the Washington Wizards 111-100 on Monday. Indiana improved to 2-0 in the restart and pulled within one game of the Miami Heat for fourth place in the Eastern Conference.
Warren shot 14-of-26 from the field to carry the Pacers offense for the second consecutive game. Victor Oladipo sat out Monday to rest his surgically-repaired right knee, and Malcolm Brogdon returned to the Indiana lineup after missing Saturday’s game with a neck injury.
“I just took it upon myself to really lock in and really try to take it to another level,” Warren said. “The first two games have been going well, so we just want to keep up what we’re doing, keep playing hard and keep playing with high energy.”
Warren scored 16 points in the third quarter as the Pacers took control of the game. They extended a nine-point halftime lead to 22 and cruised in the fourth.
Acquired from the Phoenix Suns last offseason, Warren entered the restart averaging 18.7 points per game on 52.9% shooting. His increased scoring will continue to be key as Oladipo and Brogdon play their way back from injuries.
Thunder point guard Dennis Schroder has left the NBA bubble for the birth of his second child, coach Billy Donovan announced Monday before tip-off against the Nuggets. Schroder, in mid-July, said he planned to be with his wife, Ellen, when the time came.
“It happened this morning, so he’s with his family at this point in time,” Donovan said. “I’ll have a chance probably to talk to him and find out a little bit more, if it’s not later today or tomorrow. Right now, for at least this game, he’ll be out. We’ll probably be able to gather some more information once we get a chance to spend a little more time with him over the phone.”
Players can leave the NBA bubble for excused absences. Players who leave for excused absences must quarantine for four days upon returning to the Disney complex as long as they test negative for COVID-19 each day they were off campus, according to the NBA’s health and safety protocols.
“For me it’s tough,” Schroder said. “I love my teammates, I love basketball, but family comes first all the time.”
A leading Sixth Man of the Year candidate, Schroder is averaging 18.9 points per game off the Thunder bench and shooting a career-high 46.9% from the field.
— The Oklahoman
With the NBA testing more than 1,000 people daily, inconclusive COVID-19 tests are bound to happen. What happens when a player returns an inconclusive test?
The NBA has protocols for that scenario and updated them in a memo delivered to teams on Monday.
If a player tests clinically inconclusive, is asymptomatic and absent any clinical concerns, he will enter quarantine. The player will undergo a second test, and should the retest come back negative, the player will undergo one more test (FDA-approved rapid test) approximately eight hours before the player’s next game. If that test is negative, the player will be permitted to exit quarantine and participate in the next game.
If a player returns another inconclusive test or a positive test, he will be managed according to existing protocols for a positive test, according to the memo.
Take the case of Jimmy Butler.
On Sunday, Miami’s Jae Crowder intimated Butler was in quarantine, though the team had no official comment. But Butler played in Monday’s game against the Toronto Raptors, meaning Butler likely tested inconclusive, entered quarantine and returned two negative tests to be eligible to play.
Starting with Monday’s NBA games, all jerseys will include the players surname underneath the number in addition to any message he choose to have on the back of his jersey.
If a player decided on no message, only his last name will appear on the jersey.