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.
Denver and Oklahoma City followed at 4 p.m. ET on NBATV in a game that figures to have big seeding implications in the Western Conference.
Indiana and Washington also tipped off at 4 p.m. ET Memphis and New Orleans get underway at 6:30 p.m. ET on ESPN in a game the Pelicans need to win after dropping their first two of the restart. San Antonio and Philadelphia tip off at 8 p.m. ET. The Lakers and Jazz round out the slate at 9 p.m. ET 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:
Schroder leaves bubble for birth of child
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
What happens with an inconclusive COVID-19 test?
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.
Last names added to all jerseys
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.
Coaches honor Budenholzer, Vogel
Milwaukee’s Mike Budenholzer and Oklahoma City’s Billy Donovan were named NBA co-coaches of the year by their fellow coaches, the National Basketball Coaches Association announced Monday.
Budenholzer led the Bucks to a 53-12 record before COVID-19 suspended the season, and the Bucks were on pace to win 66, 67 games. They Bucks were seventh in offensive efficiency (112.2 points per 100 possessions), first in defensive efficiency (101.8 points allowed per 100 possessions) and led the league in net rating (plus-10.4).
While the Bucks were essentially the same in offensive efficiency last season, they improved their defensive efficiency by three points. It helps when you have Giannis Antetokounmpo on your side.
Donovan’s Thunder were 40-24 before the season was suspended – and he did it after losing Paul George to the Los Angeles Clippers and Russell Westbrook to the Houston Rockets in offseason trades. In what looked like a rebuilding year for the Thunder, Donovan ensured the Thunder remained a competitive playoff team.
Notable omission: Toronto’s Nick Nurse who did a fantastic job keeping the Raptors among the best team in the league, especially defensively after Kawhi Leonard left for the Clippers. Nurse is fantastic, and it will be interesting to see where he finishes in media voting.
ESPN reported Nurse finished one vote shy of a three-way tie for first place.
State of the playoff race
The Lakers can be the first big playoff piece to fall into place today. With a win, they will clinch the No. 1 seed in the West. Below them, the seeding race remains tight. Just 1½ games separate the third-place Nuggets and sixth-place Thunder.
The Spurs are quietly 2-0 in the restart and have moved into ninth, two games behind the Grizzlies. Memphis and New Orleans have both started off 0-2. The Pelicans are 3½ games behind the eighth-place Grizzlies, and a third straight loss could completely crush any playoff hopes.
Despite losing Sunday, Milwaukee is still in line for the top seed in the East. Miami is two games behind Boston for third, but the Heat are also trying to hold off Indiana and potentially Philadelphia. Only three games separate the Heat in fourth place and the Sixers in sixth.