SportsPulse: Need a refresher on where we left off with the NBA before play was halted? Mackenzie Salmon hits the rewind button and gets us up to speed.
The first two days of the NBA’s restarted season tipped off Thursday and Friday, with two overtime thrillers highlighting the second night of action.
What did Day 3 have in store for NBA fans? There were five games on tap, and Miami defeated short-handed Denver 125-105 in the first game of the day. The Nuggets played without three starters and are in danger of losing control of third place in the Western Conference. The Oklahoma City Thunder took care of the Utah Jazz 110-94.
The Los Angeles Clippers made a franchise-record 25 3-pointers in their easy 126-103 victory against New Orleans.
Remember, playoff spots and seeding are on the line in the final stretch, no matter how much it feels like the beginning of a season.
Updates from throughout the day and the night from Jeff Zillgitt, Mark Medina — on the ground at Disney — and the USA TODAY Sports NBA team, including analysis, news and highlights:
EASTERN PREVIEW:Do the Celtics have the talent to beat the Bucks?
Saturday’s key performances
Toronto guard Kyle Lowry was the star against the Lakers. He had 33 points, 14 rebounds and six assists and showed why the Raptors remain a championship contender even without Kawhi Leonard.
Indiana’s T.J. Warren scored a career-high 53 points, the first 50-point game of the restart. He had 29 in the first half and helped negate Philadelphia center Joel Embiid’s 41-point, 21-rebound performance. If the Pacers can play like that, count them as another team that can outperform its seed.
Oklahoma City guard Chris Paul proved why he is still an All-NBA caliber point guard. He had 18 points, seven assists, seven rebounds and the Thunder outscored Utah by 27 points while he was on the court. He just dominated the game, and the Thunder are another team that could surprise teams in the playoffs.
Miami forwards Jimmy Butler and Bam Adebayo each scored 22 points with Adebayo adding nine rebounds and six assists and Butler contributing seven assists and three steals.
Paul George had 28 points and made 8-of-11 3-pointers for the Clippers, and teammate Leonard had 24 points, six rebounds and five assists. Leonard had 18 points in the first half, and George had 15 in the second half.
Sixers teammates exchange heated words
The Philadelphia 76ers are a trendy sleeper pick to make a deep playoff run, but their first game of the restart got off to a rocky start against the Indiana Pacers.
After the Sixers jumped out to a quick 14-7 lead, the Pacers responded with a 17-0 run to take control. Indiana led 35-29 at the end of the first quarter when tempers appeared to boil over a bit on the Sixers bench.
Joel Embiid and Shake Milton were seen exchanging some heated words during the timeout. Matisse Thybulle had to hold Milton back from engaging Embiid after some initial shouting.
The Pacers took a 61-55 lead into halftime, but the Sixers rallied to take a 10-point lead early in the fourth quarter. T.J. Warren then rallied Indiana down the stretch and finished with a career-high 53 points in the Pacers’ 127-121 victory.
Embiid finished with 41 points and 21 rebounds and downplayed the exchange with Milton after the game.
“It’s basketball,” Embiid said. “Everybody makes mistakes, it happens. We have to come in and get better. We discussed what’s going on and we move on and find a solution. It’s nothing.”
Embiid is key to the Sixers’ playoff hopes after he missed the final two scrimmages with a sore right calf for “precautionary” reasons. Indiana and Philadelphia entered the restart tied for fifth in the Eastern Conference, with the Pacers holding the head-to-head tiebreaker.
Thunder kneel despite Okla. lawmaker threat of tax penalties
In a statement Friday, Rep. Sean Roberts (R-Hominy) threatened to pull tax benefits for the Oklahoma City Thunder if players were to kneel during the national anthem before Saturday’s game.
The Thunder played their first game of the restarted season against the Utah Jazz in Lake Buena Vista, Florida. During the national anthem, every Thunder player, coach and staff member on the sideline kneeled.
In the statement, Roberts equated the Black Lives Matter movement to “Marxism” and said it tried to “destroy nuclear families.”
— Jeff Patterson, The Oklahoman
Oladipo will play in the bubble
Indiana Pacers guard Victor Oladipo didn’t want to risk re-injuring his ruptured quad tendon so he indicated earlier this summer he would not be part of the NBA’s restart.
However, after multiple practices and feeling more comfortable, Oladipo will play for the Pacers and play no more than 30 minutes against Philadelphia Saturday. As recently as Friday, he had not committed to playing. He finished with 15 points and seven rebounds in the Pacers’ victory against the Sixers.
Stand or kneel for anthem?
Miami’s Meyers Leonard, whose brother Bailey is a Marine and served at least two tours in Afghanistan, stood for the national anthem but wore a Black Lives Matter T-shirt.
“Some of the conversations I’ve had over the past three days, quite literally, have been the most difficult,” Leonard told The Associated Press. “I am with the Black Lives Matter movement, and I love and support the military and my brother and the people who have fought to defend our rights in this country.”
Heat coach Erik Spoelstra said the team understood and respected Leonard’s reasoning after having “a great team meeting about it where everybody expresses their support for him.”
“He has the backing of everybody in the locker room and everybody knows where his heart is. He’s fully behind this movement just like everybody else in our organization and the association,” Spoelstra said. “This is not a political discussion. This is not an either/or discussion. This is an ‘and’ discussion. This is about fighting for basic human rights and equality. I truly do feel it is an ‘and’ proposition. He wanted to peacefully protest and support this cause and honor the flag and how he respects that.”
Denver’s Michael Porter Jr., who praised Orlando forward Jonathan Isaac’s decision to stand and not wear a Black Lives Matter T-shirt on Friday, knelt and wore a Black Lives Matter shirt.
Not everyone is kneeling, including Spurs coach Gregg Popovich and Spurs assistant coach Becky Hammon.
NBA ensures Butler changes jersey
Miami All-Star Jimmy Butler wanted to leave the back of his jersey blank even though that wasn’t an approved option for players wishing to put a message on the back of their jerseys.
Butler tried to start Saturday’s game against Denver with no message or name listed on his jersey, but league officials made him change into a jersey that had his name on it.
I don’t know. I don’t care. I didn’t have a name on the back of the start. But I decided to change because my teammates probably need me tonight.
Butler wanted a blank jersey to be a representation that society gives him name value because of his ability on the basketball court but without the jersey he is a representation of every person who looks like him and until everyone has equal value, no one does.
“Displaying no name or message on the back of a player’s jersey was not an option among the social justice messages agreed upon by the Players Association and the NBA as modifications to the rules regarding uniforms,” an NBA spokesperson said in a statement. “Per league rules, the uniform may not be otherwise altered and anyone wearing an altered jersey will not be permitted to enter the game.”