By: Robert Bishop
Back again, and the defending champion Toronto Raptors notched a showcase win over the Los Angeles Lakers on Saturday night. Led by a superstar performance from Kyle Lowry (33 points, 14 boards, six dimes), the Raptors downed L.A. by 15 points. Marc Gasol’s box-score impact wasn’t staggering. Still, his defensive play on Anthony Davis was a major cause for Toronto’s upset win. The Raptors have won five straight games—including pre-shutdown—and are locked into the second seed in the East.
Wing Jonathan Isaac suffered an assumed season-ending knee injury in January only to work his way back in time to be ready for the playoffs following the on-court delay caused by COVID-19. On Sunday night, the Magic defensive wonder re-injured the knee, tearing his ACL on a non-contact play. In the short-term, this is a massive hit to Orlando’s hopes of making noise in the playoffs. Long-term, Isaac’s injury will likely force him to miss most—if not all—of next season.
Oklahoma City’s push for the three-seed in the West received a considerable boost with a comfortable win over the Utah Jazz on Saturday. The Thunder were heavily reliant upon Shai Gilgeous-Alexander, who continues to evolve into a star-level contributor despite OKC’s tendency to use him in various roles. The Thunder have a pair of tough match-ups next on the schedule, with dates against the Denver Nuggets and Los Angeles Lakers on Monday and Wednesday, respectively.
Speaking of the Nuggets, Denver has lost both of its games within the Orlando bubble as injuries continue to plague the team. Point guard Jamal Murray (hamstring), off-guard Gary Harris (hip), and Will Barton (knee) continue to be questionable for the short-term future. The Nuggets entered the bubble with a chance at moving into the two-seed in the West. Now, Denver is hoping to tread water and remain in the top half of the West.
New Orleans received a crushing blow to its playoff hopes with a blowout loss against the Clippers. The Pelicans are now unlikely to make a postseason push. New Orleans could look to shut down Zion Williamson as a result. Already on a minutes limit, Williamson will likely hit the sidelines as soon as the Pelicans are eliminated from the postseason. Following back-to-back losses to open the team’s bubble play, New Orleans has fallen to twelfth in the Western Conference standings.
Wing T.J. Warren put on a show on Saturday night, scoring a career-high 53 points while leading the Indiana Pacers to a much-needed win over the Philadelphia 76ers. With Malcolm Brogdon and Domantas Sabonis sidelined, Warren operated as the go-to option for the Pacers. Victor Oladipo scored 15 while playing 32 minutes, an encouraging sign for his readiness to endure a playoff series, though his production remains a work-in-progress. The win propelled the Pacers above the 76ers in the Eastern Conference standings.
In Major League Baseball, the rough times continued as the St. Louis Cardinals joined the Miami Marlins in having multiple positive COVID-19 tests within the dugout. Miami has been limited to three games this season as a result, and exposure to the Marlins has also derailed the Philadelphia Phillies. It is not clear how widespread the virus within the locker room of the Cardinals, but St. Louis will miss the next week-plus of action. Four games on Sunday’s slate were postponed due to COVID-19.
Reds first baseman Joey Votto hit the injured list after self-reporting COVID-19 symptoms. While he has yet to produce a positive test result, this is obviously cause for concern since he was in action for the Reds before the team’s doubleheader on Sunday. Elsewhere, Mets outfielder Yoenis Cespedes and Brewers outfielder Lorenzo Cain became two of the most high-profile players to opt-out of the 2020 season, doing so after a week-plus of MLB proving to be unable to responsibly manage a season during the pandemic. More players will join Votto on the IL, and as that happens, more will likely be joining Cain and Cespedes in opting-out.