It’s more NBA, NCAA tournament-style on Sunday with six games.
But before we get to that, a quick reminder that Indiana’s T.J. Warren scored 53 points in the Pacers’ victory over Philadelphia, and Toronto, the defending champ in case you forgot, beat the Los Angeles Lakers behind a stellar performance from Kyle Lowry on Saturday.
Today’s games began with Brooklyn’s 118-110 victory over Washington, which further dims the Wizards’ chances of forcing a play-in game for the eighth seed in the Eastern Conference.
Boston blew a big lead then managed to beat Portland 128-124.
Also on tap today: San Antonio-Memphis at 4 p.m. ET, Sacramento-Orlando at 6 p.m., Milwaukee-Houston at 8:30 p.m. ET and Dallas-Phoenix at 9 p.m. ET.
Remember, playoff spots and seeding are on the line during the final stretch, no matter how much it feels like the beginning of a new season.
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:
Celtics win wild one against Blazers
The Portland Trail Blazers trailed the Boston Celtics by 24 points in the first half and were down 21 with 7:28 left in the third quarter.
By 9:51 of the fourth quarter, the Blazers had tied the score. During that stretch, Portland All-Star guard Damian Lillard scored 18 points and then helped the Blazers take the lead.
But the Celtics managed to come away with a 128-124 victory, a much-needed win for Boston, which has Miami chasing it for the third seed in the Eastern Conference. It was a tough loss for the Blazers, who are in ninth place in the Western Conference and trying to get into the playoffs.
Lillard finished with 30 points and 16 assists, and Jusuf Nurkic had 30 points and nine rebounds.
Jayson Tatum bounced back from a poor offensive game against Milwaukee on Friday with 34 points and eight assists, and Jaylen Brown dropped in 30 points for the Celtics.
Popovich answers question, his way
San Antonio coach Gregg Popovich stood for the national anthem in the Spurs’ first game of the NBA restart, but that doesn’t mean he doesn’t stand with Black Lives Matter. He has been one of the most outspoken coaches when it comes to race and equality.
On Sunday, a reporter asked if Marco Belinelli was in or out for Sunday’s game against Memphis. In response, Popovich launched into 374-word history lesson and commentary about what happened on Aug. 2, 1900, and it focused on race and treatment of Black people in America. Popovich perhaps learned on this from the Equal Justice Initiative Calendar which details a racial injustice every day of the year.
He began, “Our No. 1 priority as far as the county and society is concerned is racial justice, actually racial injustice that exists in our country and trying to make everything just for all people. Just as a reminder, in this world a lot of people really do not understand the breadth and depth of this horrific situation that Black people have been in for so long. And I just want to give you one example. …”
After he finished, he said, “Marco Belinelli is out tonight.”
Butler misses practice with excused absence
Miami Heat star Jimmy Butler, who had 22 points, seven rebounds and four assists in the Heat’s win against Denver on Saturday, missed Sunday’s practice with an excused absence.
The Heat play Toronto on Monday at 1:30 p.m. ET, and coach Erik Spoelstra declined to give more details on Sunday. However, Heat forward Jae Crowder had a concerning tone when he used the word quarantine in relation to Butler.
“We’re going to talk to him as soon as he gets out of quarantine and whatever he’s in,” Crowder said. “But it’s just next-man-up mentality from the standpoint of staying locked-in and engaged because we know he’s locked-in and engaged once he’s able to get back with us. It’s definitely a curveball for all of us to hear stuff like what’s going on with him, and you never know what to expect. You just have to stay mentally engaged as much as possible during this time.”
Butler was not listed on the Heat’s 5:30 p.m. ET injury report which is meant to “designate a participation status and identify a specific injury, illness or potential instance of a healthy player resting for any player whose participation in the game may be affected by such injury, illness or rest.”
Battle of young bigs in Nets-Wizards game
Washington center Thomas Bryant, 23, had 18 points and seven rebounds and made four three-pointers in the first half against Brooklyn. He’s matched up against 22-year-old Nets center Jarrett Allen, who had 14 points and seven rebounds in the opening half.
While this game has marginal impact on the standings for playoffs seeds (the Wizards are unlikely to make the playoffs), this a fun matchup of young centers.
Bryant finished with 30 points and 13 rebounds, and Allen had 21 points and 14 rebounds as Brooklyn inched closer to securing a playoff spot.