Players, coaches kneel before reopening night
LAKE BUENA VISTA, Fla. — Black players were next to white players. Coaches from one team were next to their compatriots from the opposing side. Many locked arms with the man next to them, some shut their eyes tightly, a few, including LeBron James, briefly raised a fist into the air or pointed skyward.
When it comes to demanding change, the league stands united — and Thursday, the four teams that played on the first night of the league’s restart showed that by not standing. The Jazz, Pelicans, Lakers and Clippers are among 22 teams fighting for playoff seeding while the Bulls watch from home.
The Jazz and Pelicans knelt alongside one another during “The Star-Spangled Banner,” their way of joining the chorus of those demanding racial justice and equality in society. In the second game, James’ Lakers and the Clippers did the same during the anthem.
Even the referees took a knee during the pregame scene.
In the first game of the restart, Rudy Gobert sank two free throws with 6.9 seconds left to cap a 14-point, 12-rebound and three-block performance, giving the Jazz a 106-104 victory over the Pelicans.
New Orleans, which led for most of the game and by as many as 16, nearly pulled out the victory as time expired when Brandon Ingram’s three-point attempt rimmed out in a bitter end to his 23-point night.
Zion Williamson, who missed nearly two weeks of practice after leaving the team for a family medical matter July 16, scored 13 points in a little over 15 minutes, highlighted by a couple alley-oop dunks, one on a nearly halfcourt lob from Lonzo Ball. He left the game with 7:19 left in the fourth quarter.
In the second game of the doubleheader, LeBron James had the go-ahead basket with 12.8 seconds left and the Lakers moved closer to clinching the No. 1 seed in the Western Conference playoffs by topping the Clippers 103101. The Lakers moved 6½ games ahead of the Clippers.
Paul George’s three-pointer with 1:50 left cut the Lakers’ lead to 99-98. James muscled his way to a layup on the next possession, and then George hit another three to tie the game at 101 with 29 seconds remaining.
James followed his own miss down the lane for the go-ahead basket, then was brilliant on the last defensive possession — forcing the ball out of Leonard’s hands and covering George as his three-point try at the buzzer misfired.