Lakers-Clippers highlight NBA’s return from COVID-19 hiatus

NEW YORK (AFP) – The NBA will offer a tasty Western Conference matchup between the Los Angeles Lakers and LA Clippers when play resumes after a near four-month shutdown on July 30.

The game is one of two on the slate for the opening night of play in the season re-start, which will be taking place with 22 teams competing in a “bubble” quarantine environment in Florida and playing games at the Walt Disney World Resort campus.

The NBA announced the schedule for 88 “seeding games” on Friday, starting with the July 30 double-header of the Utah Jazz v New Orleans Pelicans and Lakers-Clippers.

The Milwaukee Bucks, who owned the best record in the league when play was shut down on March 11 after Jazz big man Rudy Gobert tested positive for coronavirus, highlight a six-game slate on July 31 taking on the Boston Celtics.

From there, the NBA will play up to seven games each day, with tip-offs taking place between noon and 9pm across three different courts at the sports complex at Disney World.

The entrance to the parking lot at the Magic Kingdom at Walt Disney World. Twenty-two teams will compete in a “bubble” quarantine environment in Florida and play games at the Walt Disney World Resort campus. PHOTO: AP

Each team will be designated as the home team in four seeding games and the visiting team in four seeding games.

The NBA said the seeding matchups were selected from the games that remained among the remaining 259 to be played in the regular season and will count toward the final regular-season standings and regular-season statistics.

But not every team will be around to finish out the disrupted season.

Nine teams in the post-season running from the Eastern Conference are led by the Bucks and the reigning champion Toronto Raptors.

They’re joined by the Celtics, Miami heat, Indiana Pacers, Philadelphia 76ers, Brooklyn Nets, Orlando Magic and Washington Wizards.

Thirteen teams from the West are conference leaders the Lakers, the Dallas Mavericks, Denver Nuggets, Houston Rockets, Clippers, Memphis Grizzlies, Pelicans, Oklahoma City Thunder, Phoenix Suns Portland Trail Blazers, Sacramento Kings, San Antonio Spurs and
the Jazz.

The seven teams with the top overall season win percentages after the seeding games will take the top seven seeds in each conference for the NBA playoffs.

If the eighth-placed team in either conference leads the number nine club by more than four games in the overall standings, it will become the eighth seed in that conference.

If the gap is four games or fewer, there, those two clubs would meet in a one-game play-in matchup to decide the eighth spot.

That would set the field for a typical playoff run of four best-of-seven rounds, concluding with the NBA Finals ending no later than October 13.