NBA action rolled on Saturday with five games and several stars ready to take the court. The day started with the Miami Heat vs. Denver Nuggets and ended with the Toronto Raptors vs. the Los Angeles Lakers.
The first three contests finished in blowout fashion with 16-plus point win margins. The Indiana Pacers and Philadelphia 76ers battled in the night's penultimate contest, and the Raptors played well in their first official regular-season bubble game. Did the champions have enough to knock off the best team in the Western Conference?
New Orleans Pelicans general manager David Griffin told ESPN's Andrew Lopez that he didn't expect Zion Williamson to log "significant minutes" Saturday. How much did the No. 1 overall pick play?
Let's take a look at the top performers, best highlights and examine the playoff picture following Saturday's games.
August 1 Scores, Top Stats, Highlights
Heat 125, Nuggets 105
Bam Adebayo (MIA): 22 PTS, 9 REB, 6 AST
Jimmy Butler (MIA): 22 PTS, 4 REB, 7 AST, 3 STL
Kelly Olynyk (MIA): 20 PTS (4-6 3PT), 5 REB, 3 AST
Nikola Jokic (DEN): 19 PTS, 7 REB, 6 AST
The Nuggets went into Saturday's contest without three starters, Jamal Murray, Gary Harris and Will Barton, which meant more minutes for promising reserves such as Monte Morris, Michael Porter Jr. and Bol Bol.
Denver kept the score close through the first half, and their youngsters showed flashes throughout the contest. Yet the Heat outscored the Nuggets by 16 points in the third quarter. Jimmy Butler beat two defenders for a bucket to finish a strong period.
Without their starting backcourt, Denver's frontcourt made some highlights with smooth assists. Mason Plumlee had a no-look pass to Porter for an easy two. Bol showed great vision, running the court and threading the needle to Plumlee.
Miami caught fire from beyond the arc in the second half. Jae Crowder went 3-of-4 from deep, and Kelly Olynyk scored all of his 20 points in the final quarter, knocking down three consecutive triples to close out the game.
Oklahoma City Thunder 110, Utah Jazz 94
Shai Gilgeous-Alexander (OKC): 19 PTS, 6 AST, 3 STL
Chris Paul (OKC): 18 PTS, 7 REB, 7 AST
Steven Adams (OKC): 16 PTS, 11 REB, 2 BLK
Rudy Gobert (UTA): 10 PTS, 7 REB, 2 STL, 2 BLK
The Oklahoma City Thunder jumped out in front of the Utah Jazz from the opening quarter and never looked back. They led 63-42 at halftime.
The Jazz sorely missed their second-leading scorer, Bojan Bogdanovic, who averaged 20.2 points with three triples per game this season. In May, he underwent season-ending wrist surgery.
Utah went 8-of-31 from beyond the arc Saturday. Donovan Mitchell missed all four of his shots from deep, and Jordan Clarkson shot 4-of-17 from the floor.
In the first half, Shai Gilgeous-Alexander found his rhythm early and distributed several dimes, while Chris Paul broke down the Jazz defense on the dribble.
Going back to March before the NBA stoppage, Oklahoma City has won four consecutive games.
Los Angeles Clippers 126, New Orleans Pelicans 103
Paul George (LAC): 28 PTS (8-11 3PT) 3 STL
Kawhi Leonard (LAC): 24 PTS, 6 REB, 5 AST
Brandon Ingram (NOP): 14 PTS
Derrick Favors (NOP): 12 PTS, 9 REB
The Pelicans left the floodgates open for the Los Angeles Clippers, allowing 76 points, including 16 three-pointers, by the halfway point. Paul George had the hot hand.
The Pelicans limited Zion Williamson to 14 minutes with the game out of hand in the third quarter. He scored seven points on 3-of-7 shooting from the floor. New Orleans must give him more minutes to make a playoff push in its final six games. He brings the energy this team needs on both ends of the court.
George and Kawhi Leonard gave their squad enough of a cushion to coast late in this matchup. Reggie Jackson provided a boost off the bench with 15 points and eight rebounds.
Indiana Pacers 127, Philadelphia 76ers 121
T.J. Warren (IND): 53 PTS (9-12 3PTS), 4 REB, 3 AST, 2 BLK
Joel Embiid (PHI): 41 PTS, 21 REB, 4 AST, 3 BLK
Tobias Harris (PHI): 30 PTS, 8 REB
Ben Simmons (PHI): 19 PTS, 13 REB, 4 AST
Unheralded forward T.J. Warren propelled the Pacers to a victory in a tight contest with the Sixers. He scored a career-high 53 points, scorching the net on 9-of-12 attempts from three-point land.
Defensively, Philadelphia didn't have an answer for Warren, though Joel Embiid and Tobias Harris tried to match him on the scoreboard. They combined for 71 points. The 7-footer had some high-energy moments that made the virtual crowd look a little closer at their screens.
Although Warren won't explode like this on a regular basis, Indiana needed scoring help, with Victor Oladipo playing in only his 14th regular-season game coming off a torn quadriceps and Domantas Sabonis set to see a specialist for a foot injury, per ESPN's Adrian Wojnarowski.
As a result of the win, Indiana broke a tie with Philadelphia and took sole possession of the No. 5 seed.
Toronto Raptors 107, Los Angeles Lakers 92
Kyle Lowry (TOR): 33 PTS, 14 REB, 6 AST
OG Anunoby (TOR): 23 PTS, 4 REB, 2 STL
Pascal Siakam (TOR): 15 PTS, 9 REB, 2 STL 2 BLK
LeBron James (LAL): 20 PTS, 10 REB, 5 AST
The Raptors opened the game on a 13-0 run. Eventually, the Lakers slowed down Toronto's offensive rhythm and clawed their way back into a gritty battle.
The virtual crowd saw quality half-court play and, of course, Kyle Lowry put his body on the line taking multiple charges. Viewers also saw LeBron James' classic chase-down block off the glass.
This contest reached a turning point with 7:01 left in regulation. Lakers head coach Frank Vogel subbed James out of the game, and the Raptors seized an opportunity to attack their opponent without its best player.
From there, Toronto pulled away from Los Angeles. Lowry hit a big-time three-pointer and celebrated on his way to the bench as he felt victory within his grasp.
The Raptors started and finished on a strong note. The champions are still a formidable squad without Leonard. If OG Anunoby continues to play at a high level, this squad will have another spark on both ends of the court. He worked on his game during the extended break—his dedication paid off Saturday.
Updated Playoff Picture Following August 1
1. Milwaukee Bucks (54-12)
2. Toronto Raptors (47-18)
3. Boston Celtics (43-22)
4. Miami Heat (42-24)
5. Indiana Pacers (40-26)
6. Philadelphia 76ers (39-27)
7. Orlando Magic (31-35)
8. Brooklyn Nets (30-35)
9. Washington Wizards (24-41)
1. Los Angeles Lakers (50-15)
2. Los Angeles Clippers (45-21)
3. Denver Nuggets (43-23)
4. Utah Jazz (42-24)
5. Oklahoma City Thunder (41-24)
6. Houston Rockets (41-24)
7. Dallas Mavericks (40-28)
8. Memphis Grizzlies (32-34)
9. Portland Trail Blazers (30-37)
10. San Antonio Spurs (28-36)
11. Sacramento Kings (28-37)
12. New Orleans Pelicans (28-38)
13. Phoenix Suns (27-39)