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Fully healthy Clippers rout Nuggets 132-103

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LOS ANGELES — Doc Rivers has spent most of the regular season coming up with patchwork lineups and hoping for a healthy future for the Los Angeles Clippers. Although they’ve got an outstanding record, their roster had only been fully healthy for a half-dozen games.

That healthy future is finally here, and it looks beautiful. When the deep, talented Clippers were all together Friday night, even a fellow Western Conference power didn’t stand much of a chance.

Paul George hit six 3-pointers while scoring 24 points, Kawhi Leonard added 19 points and the Clippers routed Denver 132-103 for their third straight win.

Montrezl Harrell had 18 points and 10 rebounds while Lou Williams scored 17 points and hit five 3-pointers in a comprehensively dominant win for the Clippers, who never trailed. LA evened the teams’ season series while sending the Northwest Division-leading Nuggets to their worst loss of the season.

After four months of injury problems and a trade-deadline reshuffling, the Clippers’ roster was completely intact for only the seventh time all season. They’re unbeaten in those seven games, and the veteran coach had trouble thinking of any significant flaws in their performance in one of their biggest tests of the year.

“The one thing this team has not lacked is confidence,” Rivers said. “Even when we weren’t playing well. But it definitely helps to start doing it. Then everyone sees what you’re capable of, and it takes you to another level.”

In a meeting of two elite teams hoping to win their franchises’ first championship in this suddenly wide-open league, the Clippers pulled even with Denver in the conference standings at 40-19. Both teams trail only the Lakers (45-12) for the West’s best record.

But in one of its biggest regular-season games of the year, Los Angeles produced stellar defense and merciless offense. Nine Clippers scored at least seven points, and they hit 46.2% of their 3-point attempts (18 for 39).

“It’s a big win,” Williams said. “I think it was important for us to get that game. We’ve got a lot of challenges coming up, and it was important to start with this one.”

Nikola Jokic had 21 points and nine rebounds, and Jerami Grant added 20 points as the Nuggets took a loss that was even worse than their 26-point defeat at Houston on New Year’s Eve. Denver lost for only the fourth time in 12 games overall.

“Oh, it’s a long list,” Denver coach Michael Malone said when asked what disappointed him. “I would just say the overall fight, from beginning to end. I thought we were soft tonight, from beginning to end. We couldn’t run offense because they took us out of our stuff. They’re a good team, but I’m just very disappointed with our competitive spirit and our effort.”

The Nuggets beat the Clippers 114-104 in the teams’ first meeting of the season last month, but George missed it with his hamstring problem. With both teams at full strength for the rematch, the Clippers were too much offensively for Denver’s normally stingy defense.

Los Angeles pulled away steadily in the second half, eventually taking a 25-point lead on Williams’ fifth 3-pointer with 7:12 to play and pouring it on when reserves wrapped it up.

“We held each other accountable in the locker room, just saying we got punked,” Denver guard Monte Morris said. “If we want to take that next step, games like this, we’ve got to be ready to play. The coaches only can do so much. … Will (Barton) had a good speech for us for about five minutes. It was just about how teams think we’re soft, and think if they get into us, they can disorient anything we do. And they did that tonight.”

Although the Clippers roared out with a 37-point first quarter, the Nuggets briefly kept it close with help from Grant. The backup guard built on his career-high 29 points against Detroit on Tuesday with 14 in the first half at Staples Center.

More details leak on NBA return format in Orlando, here’s a timeline breakdown

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The NBA is back.

Or will be. Soonish. Thursday the NBA owners approved a restart plan featuring 22 teams, with training camps opening in late June and games starting July 31.

What exactly will all that look like? What are the timelines, and how many games a day? Here’s a breakdown of what we know, with the latest details on format, plus some of the things we don’t yet know.

• June 15: International players who returned home called back to team market

• June 21: All players report to their team markets for workouts.

• June 22: Coronavirus testing of players and staff starts. Once teams report to the Walt Disney World facility the league wants to have daily testing. What we don’t yet know is what form of the test the league will use. While many coronavirus tests are very accurate, some studies suggest a person has to have the disease for a few days before it shows up on a test, and there are false negatives. Which is why the league wants daily testing.

• June 30: Training camps begin at team practice facilities.

• July 7: Teams travel to Orlando, continue their team training camps at the ESPN Wide World of Sports complex there. The 22 teams invited are the Milwaukee Bucks, Toronto Raptors, Boston Celtics, Miami Heat, Indiana Pacers, Philadelphia 76ers, Brooklyn Nets, Orlando Magic and Washington Wizards from the Eastern Conference; and the Los Angeles Lakers, L.A. Clippers, Denver Nuggets, Utah Jazz, Oklahoma City Thunder, Houston Rockets, Dallas Mavericks, Memphis Grizzlies, Portland Trail Blazers, New Orleans Pelicans, Sacramento Kings, San Antonio Spurs and Phoenix Suns from the Western Conference. It’s the 16 teams in playoff position when play was suspended, plus the six teams within six games of the postseason.

We do not yet know many of the health and safety protocols players will go through both on arrival at the Walt Disney World resort and facilities, save for the fact the league is doing daily testing. We do know players can golf and eat at outdoor restaurants, so long as they follow social distancing guidelines.

• July 31: NBA “seeding games” begin (the league is not calling these regular-season games). Teams will play eight games stretched over 16 days, with 5-6 games a day (played in the style of Summer League, with games starting as early as noon and extending into the evening, alternating between courts). There will be a four-hour gap on each court between games to allow time for sanitization, and then full warmups by teams.

• After the regular season, if the ninth-seeded team is within four games of the eighth-seeded team, they will have a two-game play-in matchup for the final playoff spot. The nine seed has to beat the eight seed in both games to advance (the eight seed team just needs to win one of the two).

• A full, traditional NBA playoffs follows with seven-game series in each round. Games will be played every other day (no back-to-backs in the playoffs). This will not see the long breaks often associated with the first round of the NBA playoffs (and, obviously, no need for travel days).

• October 12: The latest date for the seventh game of the NBA Finals.

• October 15: The 2020 NBA Draft takes place.

• October 18: NBA free agency opens

• November 10: Training camps open.

• December 1: The 2020-21 NBA season tips off.

Those last four dates — everything in the offseason — could be pushed back, with the NBA possibly starting as late as Christmas. Players were reportedly caught off guard by the fast turnaround. The league and players still have a lot of financial negotiations to go through after the coronavirus fallout, and the start dates likely will be part of that.

There are still a lot of health and safety questions to be answered, but Adam Silver has the owners and players on board to try and make this work.

 

NBA G League cancels remainder of season

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The NBA G League shut down play in mid-March, at the same time the NBA did after the positive coronavirus test of Rudy Gobert. However, without a big television contract or much gate revenue, there wasn’t the motivation to restart the G League season, as the NBA is doing.

Thursday the G League made the expected official, canceling the remainder of its season. It will finish without crowning a champion.

“While canceling the remainder of our season weighs heavily on us, we recognize that it is the most appropriate action to take for our league,” G League President Shareef Abdur-Rahim said in a statement. “I extend my sincere gratitude to NBA G League players and coaches for giving their all to their teams and fans this season.  And to our fans, I thank you and look forward to resuming play for the 2020-21 season.”

The Wisconsin Herd (33-10) and Salt Lake City Stars (30-12) finished the season with the best records.

The G League did take care of its players, which was the right thing to do.

With the NBA starting next season in December, the G-League will follow that schedule, with games through the winter and spring. There is a real possibility of expanded NBA rosters next season due to coronavirus fears, which will impact G League rosters as well, but there are a lot of details still to be determined.

Goodbye NBA regular season, hello NBA ‘seeding games’

Bucks star Giannis Antetokounmpo
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The NBA regular season is over.

The league’s statement on its plan to resume the season made that abundantly clear.

The 22 continuing teams will play exhibitions, eight “seeding games” (not regular-season games) and maybe play-in games.

NBA release:

Each returning team would play eight seeding games, as selected from its remaining regular-season matchups.  At the conclusion of the seeding games, the seven teams in each conference with the best combined records across regular-season games and seeding games would qualify for the playoffs.

The 14 NBA Lottery teams would be the eight teams that do not participate in the restart and the six teams that participate in the restart but do not qualify for the playoffs.  These teams would be seeded in the lottery and assigned odds based on their records through games of March 11.  The 16 playoff teams would draft in inverse order of their combined records across regular-season games and seeding games.

Tim Reynolds of the Associated Press:

So, the lottery odds are set for the Warriors, Cavaliers, Timberwolves, Hawks, Pistons, Knicks, Bulls and Hornets. The Wizards can’t tank their way past Charlotte and Chicago.

That’s a good setup, which raises a question: Why doesn’t the NBA freeze records for the lottery with a month left in normal seasons? By not doing so, the league creates conditions for an annual tanking wasteland.

Calling these “seeding games” also positions the league to hold award voting soon. The NBA’s major awards – Most Valuable Player, Defensive Player of the Year, Rookie of the Year, Most Improved Player, Sixth Man of the Year, All-NBA, All-Defense, All-Rookie, Coach of the Year – are regular-season awards. If the regular season is over, those can be picked now. That could be a good way to fill time and attract attention before play resumes.

This is probably mostly semantics.* The term “seeding games” allows the NBA to differentiate these games for the lottery and awards.

*It could also allow the league to cancel more regular-season games and expand force majeure. But owners would still have to negotiate with players on how to pay them for these new “seeding games.” So, that’s probably a wash.

The term also makes enough sense. The 22 continuing teams are playing for seeding.

But what happens if two teams clinch certain seeds before their scheduled seeding game? Would that game still be played?

I’m confident the answer would be yes, even if “seeding game” would no longer be accurate.

“Tune-up games to generate more revenue” just isn’t as catchy.

Report: NBA sets dates for draft (Oct. 15), free agency (Oct. 18), next season (Dec. 1)

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NBA owners have decided to finish the season by holding games between July 31 and Oct. 12.

Now, the surrounding key NBA dates for training camps, free agency, NBA draft and the start of next season are filling in.

Shams Charania of The Athletic:

Adrian Wojnarowski of ESPN:

The NBA’s reported tentative plan to open next season on Christmas? It was apparently pretty tentative.

A Dec. 1 start to next season would mean an incredibly short break for teams that advance deep in the playoffs. But the NBA is already spending a lot of time not playing games and making money. There’s an urgency to getting revenue flowing.

There will also be a massive disparity in time off between the eight done teams and continuing teams for the key NBA Dates. Who knows how that will affect next season? This is an unprecedented situation.

Which is a good reminder: Coronavirus can disrupt the best-laid plans.