Warriors forward Draymond Green entered the NBA’s health and safety protocols on Sunday. Jeff Chiu/Associated Press

The way Miami’s Caleb Martin sees things, he’s lucky.

He just missed seven games while completing the NBA’s health and safety protocols related to the coronavirus, the worst of his symptoms being a couple days of fatigue. And when looking at the still-rising numbers of positive tests around the league right now, Martin offered a stark assessment.

“It almost seems it’s inevitable,” Martin said.

The numbers in the NBA indeed keep getting higher and may continue that way for the foreseeable future. Expanded testing, agreed to earlier this month, went into place Sunday for players who have yet to receive their booster shots. The new testing plan is expected to remain in place until Jan. 8, after weeks of urging by the league and the National Basketball Players Association for players to get boosted.

By early Sunday evening, the numbers of players known to be in the protocols was up to 116 – and probably slightly higher, considering some teams had yet to update injury reports. Numbers can fluctuate quickly as players test in and out, and being on the protocols list does not always mean someone has tested positive.

“I think any logical person would worry how far is this going to go, and there’s a couple teams that have quite a few people in the protocols. … You don’t know where it’s going to go,” San Antonio Coach Gregg Popovich said.

Almost all NBA teams are dealing with at least one known case of virus-related issues now, and some teams are down to mere skeletons of what an NBA team should look like. Toronto played Cleveland on Sunday with eight players, four of them hardship signings brought on because 10 Raptors are currently in the protocols.

Here’s what the Orlando injury report looked like on Sunday: Six players out because of virus-related problems, another sidelined while he completes the process of getting cleared from a protocols stint, and another six players out with injuries.

Yes, that’s 13 players — from one team.

“You expect the unexpected,” Magic Coach Jamahl Mosley said.

Golden State’s Draymond Green was the latest big name added to the protocols list on Sunday, less than 24 hours after the Warriors beat Phoenix in what was the best game on the league’s five-game Christmas lineup and probably one of the more anticipated games so far this season.

“This is the reality of this association right now,” Miami Coach Erik Spoelstra said.

Spoelstra was missing, among others, point guard Kyle Lowry, head athletic trainer Jay Sabol and assistant coaches Chris Quinn and Caron Butler on Sunday. Quinn was at the arena – just not in the arena. He was waiting in a parking garage, watching a stream of the game, hoping a confusing testing situation got cleared up in time for him to go to work.

It didn’t.

Talks between the NBA and the NBPA have been going on for several days about a potential shortening of the return-to-play protocols, though nothing has been finalized.

The Raptors hadn’t played for more than a week. But the schedule said they were playing Sunday, so they showed up to play on Sunday.

“We haven’t done a thing since our last game,” Raptors Coach Nick Nurse said about 90 minutes before tip-off.

In Chicago, where the Bulls just had 10 players go through protocols and are now without coach Billy Donovan as he navigates them, it had been pointed out that Lonzo Ball was the lone player to appear in every game for the team so far this season.

That streak is about to end: Ball is one of three players on the latest list of Bulls in the protocols.

“Y’all jinxed me,” Ball tweeted.

Memphis saw its protocols list grow to five on Sunday. San Antonio — one of the few teams that hadn’t had a player in protocols of late — had its run of luck on that front end when Dejounte Murray was added to the list, and Atlanta added John Collins to its already-jammed list, now up to 10 players.

SUNDAY’S GAMES

HEAT 93, MAGIC 83: Jimmy Butler returned from a bruised tailbone to score 17 points and grab 11 rebounds, Caleb Martin added 17 more points and Miami won at home.

Omer Yurtseven, making his first career start at center for Miami, finished with 16 points and 15 rebounds in the Heat’s third straight victory. Gabe Vincent and Max Strus each had 13 points for Miami.

Butler had missed 12 of Miami’s last 13 games because of the injury. Martin had missed Miami’s last seven games because of a stint in the NBA’s health and safety protocols.

76ERS 117, WIZARDS 96: Joel Embiid had 36 points and 13 rebounds and a spat with Montrezl Harrell, Tobias Harris added 23 points and Philadelphia won in Washington.

Philadelphia improved to 17-16 after dropping four of its last five.

Spencer Dinwiddie led Washington with 17 points. The Wizards also are 17-16.

Consecutive 3-pointers by Tyrese Maxey, Seth Curry and Embiid keyed a 15-0 run that put the 76ers ahead 80-59 with 5:22 to play in the third quarter.

With 3:04 left in the third, Harrell fouled Embiid, and the two exchanged words. Both were assessed technical fouls, and Embiid made the two free throws.

CAVALIERS 144, RAPTORS 99: Kevin Love and Darius Garland scored 22 points apiece, and Cleveland tied its franchise record with 46 points in the third quarter of a rout over COVID-19 depleted Toronto in Cleveland.

Lauri Markkanen added 20 points and Garland had eight assists for Cleveland, which led by 47 points twice late in the fourth. The Cavaliers won their fifth in a row at home and made 22 3-pointers in a team-record 52 attempts.

Yuta Watanabe posted career highs of 26 points and 13 rebounds for Toronto, and Chris Boucher scored 21 points. The Raptors have 10 players in the NBA’s health and safety protocols, including top scorer Fred VanVleet, rookie Scottie Barnes and Pascal Siakam.

GRIZZLIES 127, KINGS 102: Desmond Bane scored 28 points and Memphis defeated Sacramento for the second time in 10 days, beating the Kings in Sacramento, California.

Ja Morant had 18 points, nine assists and seven rebounds to help the Grizzlies end a three-game losing streak. Jaren Jackson scored 21 points and John Konchar added 11 points and 14 rebounds.

Tyrese Haliburton had 18 points and seven assists for Sacramento, ending his run of four consecutive games with at least 20 points and 10 assists. De’Aaron Fox scored 12 points in his return for the Kings after missing nearly two weeks while in the NBA’s health and safety protocol.

THUNDER 117, PELICANS 112: Shai Gilgeous-Alexander scored 31 points and rookie Aaron Wiggins added a career-high 24 as Oklahoma City won at home, snapping the Pelicans’ four-game win streak.

Wiggins, who had never scored in double figures this season, eclipsed his previous season best by halftime when he led the Thunder with 11 points.

Josh Hart had 29 points and 10 rebounds to lead the Pelicans. Garret Temple came off the bench to score 22 points, including 15 in the first half.

SPURS 114, PISTONS 109: Keldon Johnson scored 27 points and San Antonio had its highest-scoring game of the season to beat short-handed Detroit, extending the Pistons’ road skid to 10.

San Antonio has won three straight and four of five to move into 10th in the Western Conference.

Spurs reserve center Jock Landale had 18 points, starting center Jakob Poeltl added 14 and Doug McDermott scored 13. San Antonio sat its primary starters in the fourth quarter ahead of playing five games in seven days.

BULLS 113, PACERS 105: Zach LaVine scored 32 points in his return from the NBA’s health and safety protocols, DeMar DeRozan added 24 points and Chicago won at home.

Nikola Vucevic had 16 points and 15 rebounds as the Bulls (20-10) won their third straight.

Caris LeVert scored 27 points and Domantas Sabonis had 14 points and 16 rebounds after missing a game with a right calf injury as the Pacers dropped their third straight game.

Chicago had a comfortable lead throughout most of the game before Indiana pulled within 108-100 on a 3-pointer by LeVert with 3:19 to play. LaVine answered with a 20-footer and, after a miss by the Pacers, added another basket to essentially put the game away.

NUGGETS 103, CLIPPERS 100: Nikola Jokic had 26 points and 22 rebounds, rallying Denver past host Los Angeles after the Nuggets blew a 17-point lead.

The Nuggets led by 19 points against Charlotte in their previous game at home and lost. For a while, it looked like they’d give away another one, this time on the road.

Luke Kennard almost made it happen. His 3-pointer from the right corner with 19 seconds remaining got the Clippers to 101-100.

Jokic was trying to catch an inbounds pass when he got fouled by Eric Bledsoe, sending them both crashing into the Clippers bench. Jokic made both free throws to extend the Nuggets’ lead to three.

Brandon Boston Jr. took the Clippers’ final shot but his potential tying 3-pointer was off the mark at the buzzer.


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