The NBA returns tonight after a four month break and arguably the best two teams in the league get things underway. Dave Gray previews the action...
"LeBron James' chances of winning a fifth MVP went away with the layoff but his eyes will be firmly set on the championship."
LeBron and co heading for another title
LA Clippers @ Los Angeles Lakers
Friday, 02:00 GMT
Live on Sky Sports Arena
The Lakers looked to be heading towards the title ahead of the coronavirus break, and they can pick up where they left off as things get back underway in Orlando.
Anthony Davis' status was in doubt with an eye injury but he should be available. LeBron James' chances of winning a fifth MVP went away with the layoff but his eyes will be firmly set on the championship. Both players had carried injuries at times this season and the break could allow them to heal up and get set for this final run. James was playing some of his best basketball but at 35 the situation could be playing right into his hands.
The Clippers will be without Lou Williams who is still in quarantine after sneaking out of the NBA bubble set up at Disney Land. But eyes will be on Kawhi Leonard and Paul George as they go up against the Lakers big two. Both teams are heavily reliant on their two stars, but depth could be the thing that decides this one. Without Williams and Montrezl Harrell the Clippers may struggle against their neighbours.
Both teams have plenty of experience and should handle this extraordinary situation better than most teams, but the Lakers showed so much more consistency through the season and are rightfully favourites to get their season back underway with a win.
Hungry Pelicans can get off to a fast start
Utah Jazz @ New Orleans Pelicans
Thursday, 23:30 GMT
Live on Sky Sports Arena
Zion Williamson had to leave the bubble for personal reasons but he is expected to play in tonight's kick off game. The rookie gave the young, talented Pelicans team a real boost when he finally made his debut and if New Orleans are going to sneak into the playoffs, Williamson will be key. They are 3.5 games behind the Grizzlies for the eight seed right now. They are fourth in scoring offence but it is at the other end where they have struggled.
The Jazz will be without Bojan Bogdanovic who is out for the season after surgery to repair his wrist. It is a big loss for a team that was in the bottom half in scoring before the break. Even more pressure will be on Donovan Mitchell to lead the team. He is capable but Bogdanovic's 20.2 points per game will be hard to replace.
The Pelicans young team make it hard to predict how they will handle this situation, but they will be fired up as they look to chase down a spot in the postseason. Take them to edge a close one.
Dave Gray's Regular Season NBA 2019/20 P/L