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16-1 closing run carries Celtics past Thunder

Marcus Morris’ tiebreaking 3-pointer with 28.7 seconds left lifted the Boston Celtics to a 101-95 win over the host Oklahoma City Thunder on Thursday night. Morris’ shot punctuated a 16-1 run by the Celtics over the final 4:14. The game was similar to last season’s meeting between the teams in Oklahoma City, when the Celtics […] The post 16-1 closing run carries Celtics past Thunder appeared first on Interaksyon......»»

Category: newsSource: interaksyon interaksyonOct 26th, 2018

Storylines abound after 2018 NBA All-Star draft

NBA.com staff report There is an alternate universe in which LeBron James and Kyrie Irving are once again teammates, where the Warriors' star quartet is divided, and where players who very recently exchanged barbs must now share locker rooms. Welcome to the world of the 2018 NBA All-Star Game, which sports a very different twist after Thursday's (Friday, PHL time) inaugural draft in which team captains James and Stephen Curry selected their teammates. Here is what we know: James had the first pick, Curry the second, and so on, back and forth until the rosters were set. We do not know in what order the players were picked despite the valiant efforts of TNT's Ernie Johnson. The dust has settled and the rosters are set, with the line between East and West officially dissolved. The focus is squarely on players rather than conference. Here's a look at the most intriguing takeaways after Thursday's (Friday, PHL time) results: Hello Old Friend The offseason parting between LeBron James and Kyrie Irving was dramatically awkward, with the latter leaving the former in order to show his athletic independence. Irving has since proved capable of leading the Celtics to contender status despite the opening-night loss of fellow All-Star swingman Gordon Hayward. James, meanwhile, has been forced to do much of the heavy lifting while the rest of his teammates have either plateaued (Kevin Love), dropped off (J.R. Smith, Tristan Thompson) or been unavailable (Derrick Rose, Isaiah Thomas). The Cavs have suffered as a result, posting one of the worst records in the league since the calendar flipped to 2018. Could it be that James is hoping to recapture some of his old magic by temporarily reuniting with Irving? Or does he just miss/like the guy despite their on-court differences? "To be able to team up back with Kyrie is always special, along with Kevin Love," James said during a post-drat interview with TNT. "Just for us to have another weekend to bring some of the memories we had when we were all together. Kyrie was available on the draft board. He's one of the best point guards we have in our league. So, it was an easy choice for me." Other reunions are scattered among Team LeBron's roster. Russell Westbrook and Kevin Durant will enjoy an encore of their much publicized All-Star get-together last season. The Thunder guard will also play with his old college teammate, Kevin Love, for the first time since they both represented the Western Conference in the 2012 midseason classic.   Bench Mob. #TeamLebron #NBAAllStar A post shared by @ kevinlove on Jan 25, 2018 at 4:23pm PST Don't forget, too, that Pacers guard Victor Oladipo is making his All-Star debut alongside Westbrook, the man many now think held back the former No. 2 overall pick in Oklahoma City. After putting up his worst numbers since his rookie year while playing alongside Westbrook, Oladipo is enjoying a career year while guiding the upstart Pacers to the middle of the playoff pack. I Never Can Say Goodbye Some teammates are just meant to stay together. Curry and James certainly struggled to separate several dynamic duos, including those from the Timberwolves (Butler/Towns), Pelicans (Davis/Cousins), Wizards (Beal/Wall) and Raptors (Lowry/DeRozan). The NBA teammates not sticking together are those from Golden State and Boston. James managed to chip away at the Warriors' dominant quartet, selecting Kevin Durant for his squad before Curry made sure to keep Klay Thompson and Draymond Green on his own team. Curry also selected Al Horford, presumably at some point after James took Irving. What Have You Done For Me Lately? Most All-Stars already come with a bag full of accomplishments under their belts, and this year is no exception. How they are distributed, however, is interesting to note. Everyone who made the team this year and has won an All-Star Most Valuable Player award in the past is on Team LeBron. Good luck guessing which one will make a push for a repeat at that honor (assuming someone new doesn't beat them to the punch). Meanwhile, the majority of most recent Olympic gold medalists resides on Team Stephen: Jimmy Butler, DeMar DeRozan, Draymond Green, Kyle Lowry and Klay Thompson. Team LeBron sports three Olympians from that year: Cousins, Durant and Irving. One skill that surely matters on All-Star weekend is simply putting the ball in the bucket. And wouldn't you know it, Team Stephen sports the top three scorers in the league in Harden and Giannis Antetokounmpo. Of course, Team LeBron carries the next four names from that scoring leaders list. It's Too Late to Apologize Some words you can't take back, and it would be difficult to see Russell Westbrook or Damian Lillard doing so after recent events. Oklahoma City's star guard took exception to teammate Paul George not being voted in as an All-Star, proceeding to call out the Warriors for having four players so honored. Then he targeted another player, and though he didn't use names, it seemed pretty clear that he was talking about  Lillard when he referred to "guys complaining about being snubbed so they can get in." Lillard has been extremely vocal on social media about not making the All-Star teams the last two years despite both those seasons marking career years. That was after making the All-Star team in 2014 and 2015. The Blazers guard seemed to pick up on the hint, and he responded directly to his Western Conference counterpart. "I respect Russ a lot, so it was kind of disappointing to see him say that," Lillard said prior to Wednesday's game against the Minnesota Timberwolves. "Because he's played against me, he's played against our team, he knows what I've accomplished. Not just this year, but over my career." Will the point guards clear the air, or will tension linger heading into the game? Also worth monitoring: does James' All-Star selection of Kevin Love mean all is well between the much-maligned forward and his team? Reports surfaced earlier this week that several Cavaliers expressed frustration with Love's recent illness that caused him to miss most of a game and a practice. Perhaps the King's stamp of approval will silence that once and for all. If it doesn't, Charles Barkley will surely continue to defend Love's case......»»

Category: sportsSource:  abscbnRelated NewsJan 26th, 2018

Old School Power Rankings 2018-19: Weeks 15-16

By Scott Wraight, NBA.com It almost happened. The King almost surrendered the throne and his crown. But thanks to an impressive performance, the kingdom avoids disarray -- for now. Over the past month or so, it's becoming clear that we have a slight separation of powers, with the Big Three putting some distance between themselves and the field. But that could change depending on how a certain big man responds to his new surroundings in Toronto. And now that he's back and healthy, that gritty guard in Houston could quickly ascend the ranks. - NOTE: Statistics are through games of Feb. 8 (PHL time) - Any player who turns 32 during regular season can be added to rankings. - Check out previous rankings. 1. LeBron James (34), Los Angeles Lakers Previous rank: 1 Latest stats: 3 games, 23.3 ppg, 11.0 rpg, 10.0 apg Season stats: 27.0 ppg, 8.5 rpg, 7.4 apg James must have sensed he was about to lose his spot at the top of the mountain, as he quickly responded with an impressive triple-double against the Celtics (we'll overlook the 1-for-5 from the free-throw line). The King hasn't shown much rust since returning from a long-term groin injury, but others have elevated their game. 2. LaMarcus Aldridge (33), San Antonio Spurs Previous rank: 2 Latest stats: 7 games, 24.4 ppg, 11.6 rpg, 2.6 apg Season stats: 21.1 ppg, 8.9 rpg, 2.5 apg If not for James' triple-double on Thursday (Friday, PHL time), Aldridge would've claimed the throne. That's what happens when you grab double-doubles in five of the last seven, and go for 30-9 and 22-9 in the other two. In fact, over his last 10 games, he's only had one subpar performance (13 points and five rebounds on Jan. 24, PHL time). 3. Lou Williams (32), LA Clippers Previous rank: 3 Latest stats: 8 games, 23.3 ppg, 4.0 rpg, 6.9 apg Season stats: 19.3 ppg, 3.0 rpg, 5.2 apg We didn't forget. Williams started the stint with his first career triple-double. If that wasn't enough, he poured in a career-high 39 four games later. If that wasn't enough, he added 31 two games after that. Despite closing out the period with a relative stinker (10 points in 17 minutes), Williams is averaging 24.5 in February after 20.4 in January. 4. Marc Gasol (34), Toronto Raptors Previous rank: 5 Latest stats: 6 games, 18.0 ppg, 8.0 rpg, 3.7 apg Season stats: 15.7 ppg, 8.6 rpg, 4.7 apg It was another mixed bag for Gasol, who managed two games of 24 or more, two games of 18-19 points and two games between 8-11 points. We fully expect Gasol to step up now that he's playing on a team in the Raptors with serious title aspirations, as he should be able to integrate nicely with both the offense and defense. 5. Rudy Gay (32), San Antonio Spurs Previous rank: 8 Latest stats: 8 games, 16.5 ppg, 6.0 rpg, 3.1 apg Season stats: 14.4 ppg, 6.3 rpg, 2.5 apg Shooting 50.5 from the field and 52.2 from beyond the arc, Gay turned in six games of 15 or more points. He's now managed to score in double figures in 12 straight while shooting better than 50 percent in eight of those contests. No wonder he's shooting a career-best 52.2 percent from the field. 6. J.J. Redick (34), Philadelphia 76ers Previous rank: 4 Latest stats: 3 games, 16.7 ppg, 1.3 rpg, 2.7 apg Season stats: 18.3 ppg, 2.2 rpg, 2.8 apg A small sample size is the reason for Redick's slip, as he failed to make any big impressions in his three games. He did, however, shoot 42.3 from deep (11-for-26) while scoring 13 or more in all three. But he'll need to pocket more 20-point games if he hopes to climb back to where he was. 7. Kyle Lowry (32), Toronto Raptors Previous rank: 6 Latest stats: 5 games, 14.2 ppg, 4.4 rpg, 8.4 apg Season stats: 14.2 ppg, 4.5 rpg, 9.3 apg In three wins, Lowry averaged 17.3 points and 9.3 assists. In two losses, he averaged 9.5 points and 7.0 assists. But the shooting remains a big issue. Lowry's 40.6 FG% is his lowest since 2012-13 (40.1) and his 32.5 3PT% is his lowest since '09-10 (27.2). On a positive, Lowry's 9.3 assists per game easily rise to a career-best mark. 8. Jeff Green (32), Washington Wizards Previous rank: Just missed Latest stats: 7 games, 19.9 ppg, 3.9 rpg, 3.1 apg Season stats: 12.6 ppg, 4.5 rpg, 1.9 apg Shooting 50.0 percent from the field and 42.3 from three-point range, Green went for 20 or more points in five of seven games, including four straight -- his longest such stretch all season. Green's stellar run has been boosted by increased playing time; he's averaging 35.7 minutes in three February games after averaging 30.5 minutes in 14 January games. 9. Chris Paul (33), Houston Rockets Previous rank: NA Latest stats: 5 games, 15.0 ppg, 3.8 rpg, 7.2 apg Season stats: 15.5 ppg, 4.0 rpg, 7.9 apg Paul finally returned to action Jan. 27 (Jan. 28, PHl time) after missing 17 games with a hamstring injury. He's managed to turn in five straight double-figure scoring games to go along with six or more assists in four of the games. There's a little rust, but we like what we see, especially the 2.4 steals and 47.2 FG% during the span. 10.  Al Horford (32), Boston Celtics Previous rank: 10 Latest stats: 7 games, 14.6 ppg, 7.9 rpg, 5.1 apg Season stats: 12.6 ppg, 6.6 rpg, 3.8 apg Horford started the stint on fire, turning in back-to-back double-doubles for the first time this season. Yes, you read that right. In addition to the double-doubles, he shot 60.3 percent from the field and 2.3 blocks, including a season-best six blocks in last Monday's win over the Nets. Just missed the cut: Rajon Rondo, Dwyane Wade, Trevor Ariza, Marco Belinelli The views on this page do not necessarily reflect the views of the NBA, its clubs or Turner Broadcasting......»»

Category: sportsSource:  abscbnRelated NewsFeb 10th, 2019

Young wins point guard battle, Hawks top Thunder 142-126

By Charles Odum, Associated Press ATLANTA (AP) — Trae Young had 24 points and 11 assists to win the showdown of past and former Atlanta point guards, leading the Hawks over the Oklahoma City Thunder 142-126 on Tuesday night (Wednesday, PHL time). Former Hawks point guard Dennis Schroder scored 21 points in his return to Atlanta. Schroder struggled early but had 14 points in the third period when the Thunder outscored the Hawks 41-27 to reclaim the lead. Atlanta was similarly dominant in the second period, outscoring Oklahoma City 45-30 to match its high mark for any quarter this season. After holding a big lead of 15 points, the last time at 70-55, the Hawks led 70-59 at halftime. Led by Schroder and Russell Westbrook, Oklahoma City answered strong in the third period. A jumper by Westbrook tied the game at 87-all. Schroder scored the Thunder's final 11 points of the third period, the last six on free throws, for a 100-97 lead. John Collins made 12-of-14 shots from the field and led Atlanta with 26 points. Alex Len had 24 points and 11 rebounds. The Hawks were 18-of-37 on three-pointers. Westbrook led the Thunder with 31 points and 11 assists. Paul George had 24 points and Jerami Grant added 21. Young, Atlanta's rookie starter, opened the final period with a tying three-pointer. Young added a three-point play and another basket as the Hawks regained momentum. A jam by Omari Spellman pushed Atlanta's lead to 117-107, and another dunk by Spellman pushed the advantage to 121-109. George sank a three-pointer with about 90 seconds remaining to cut Atlanta's lead to 132-123, but the Hawks quickly pushed the advantage back to double figures. A steal and reverse jam by DeAndre Bembry iced the win. The Hawks had a "welcome back" video tribute for Schroder during a first-quarter timeout. Schroder raised his arm to acknowledge the fans. The Hawks wore new powder blue uniforms with red trim and numbers for the first time. The uniforms were introduced as part of the Hawks' 50-year celebration in Atlanta. TIP-INS Thunder: F Nerlens Noel (concussion protocol) "is doing a little more each day," coach Billy Donovan said before the game. ... G Alex Abrines (personal reasons) missed his eighth straight game. Hawks: G Jeremy Lin (flu-like symptoms) was not with the team. F Taurean Prince was limited in his second game back while recovering from similar symptoms. ... G Kent Bazemore (right ankle sprain) and F Dewayne Dedmon (left ankle sprain) did not play. Dedmon may return Saturday (Sunday, PHL time) against Boston. UP NEXT Thunder: Host Lakers on Thursday (Friday, PHL time). Hawks: Host Celtics on Saturday (Sunday, PHL time)......»»

Category: sportsSource:  abscbnRelated NewsJan 16th, 2019

MVP Ladder: Giannis bolsters case with key win in Houston

By Sekou Smith, NBA.com Giannis Antetokounmpo doesn’t think he’s quite “there yet” when it comes to the Kia MVP chase. With all due respect, Mr. “Greek Freak,” the basketball world begs to differ. You are definitely there, sir, based on your performance through the midpoint of this NBA season. In fact, if there were hardware to hand out from Kia Race to the MVP Ladder HQ at this point, Antetokounmpo would be the recipient (edging out a crowded field that includes the reigning MVP, James Harden). By the grace of the scheduling gods, the two leading candidates just happened to hook up on Wednesday night (Thursday, PHL time), the official halfway point of 2018-19. And they put on a show worthy of MVP mention, with Antetokounmpo’s Milwaukee Bucks knocking off Harden’s Houson Rockets at Toyota Center. Harden continued his torrid scoring streak, collecting his league-leading 14th 40-point game of the season. In doing so, he tied Tracy McGrady for the second-longest 30-point streak since the ABA/NBA merger at 14. (Kobe Bryant has the record at 16 straight.) But Harden didn’t have his most efficient outing (shooting 13-for-30 overall with nine turnovers) as the Bucks took control late. All Antentokounmpo did was shred the Rockets for 27 points on 8-for-16 shooting to go along with a career-high 21 rebounds, five assists and yet another showcase performance for his MVP resume. (The Bucks pounded the Rockets to the tune of a 70-24 advantage in points in the paint and outscored them 19-2 in fast break points.) The Bucks have won seven of their past eight games heading into today’s game against the Washington Wizards at Capital One Arena. They’ve stormed the top of the Eastern Conference standings and own a 10-5 record over Western Conference opponents with Antetokounmpo as their undisputed leader and, yes, MVP. Not there yet, huh? Yeah, right. * * * The top five this week in the 2018-19 Kia Race to the MVP Ladder: * * * 1. Giannis Antetokounmpo, Milwaukee Bucks Last week: No. 2 Season stats: 26.6 points, 12.8 rebounds, 6.0 assists, 1.5 blocks, 1.3 steals Antetokounmpo seems to be the only person on the planet who isn’t moved by his consistent brilliance this season. If he doesn’t think he’s "there yet," then the rest of the league should brace themselves for whatever comes next. He’s been an unstoppable force on both ends of the floor, but particularly as an offensive catalyst on one of the most improved teams in the league. Doing it without the aid of a reliable long-distance shot is what has made watching Antetokounmpo crush the competition so intriguing. If there was any skepticism about the Bucks being both a legitimate threat in the East and a title contender, that should be vanishing as the second half of the season begins. As long as Antetokounmpo stays focused and healthy (he’s probable Saturday, PHL time, with right quadriceps soreness and a left hip bruise), the possibilities are endless. 2. James Harden, Houston Rockets Last week: No. 1 Season stats: 33.9 points, 8.6 assists, 6.0 rebounds, 2.0 steals Harden has moved into hallowed ground with his current scoring barrage, as his 14 straight games of 30-plus points ties Hall of Famer (and fellow Rockets legend) Tracy McGrady for the second-longest streak since the ABA/NBA merger. Those debates about whether or not Harden is the best offensive player ever aren’t out of line, not when you consider the way he generates offense for himself and his teammates. Harden has a chance to obliterate the record with the Rockets’ friendly upcoming schedule (they play seven of their next 10 games at Toyota Center). The only glitch for Harden as he's hit this nuclear level is the one key flaw in his game is rising, too. He’s averaging 5.7 turnovers this season, which ties his career-high from 2016-17. He's up to 7.3 tpg in his last five games, which he, of course, would point out is world-class nit-picking of a guy playing as well as he is. 3. Stephen Curry, Golden State Warriors Last week: No. 3 Season stats: 28.9 points, 5.5 assists, 5.2 rebounds, 1.3 steals Curry shot a rather un-Splash Brother-ish 5-for-19 in Tuesday’s (Wednesday, PHL time) home win against the New York Knicks, which includes an ugly 3-for-12 showing from three-point range. That was a huge come down from his 42-point outburst (including 10 made three-pointers) Saturday (Sunday, PHL time) in a road win against the Sacramento Kings. But as often happens with a rare rough shooting night for the two-time former MVP, Curry displayed a brilliant floor game against the Knicks. He finished with 14 assists (and just one turnover) while grabbing seven rebounds as Klay Thompson went off for 43 points and Kevin Durant dropped 24. Curry’s had just three hiccups since returning from his 11-game, groin-injury induced absence on Dec. 1 (Dec. 2, PHL time). Over his last 18 games, Curry has failed to score at least 20 points only once. What should worry the Chicago Bulls, who visit Oracle today, is what Curry has done in those other two games after he struggled (averaged 32.0 points). 4. Kawhi Leonard, Toronto Raptors Last week: No. 4 Season stats: 27.3 points, 7.8 rebounds, 3.1 assists, 1.9 steals MVP voters must decide if the work Leonard did while he was playing outweighs how good the Raptors were all season whether he was in or out of the lineup. As convenient as it might be to try to diminish what Leonard has done by knocking him for the games he missed, you’d be wise to pay attention to just how good he's been when he plays. The Milwaukee Bucks can certainly attest to his impact after what Leonard did to them Saturday (Sunday, PHL time). He logged 30 points and a season-high five steals, playing his trademark lockdown defense, as the Raptors won the battle between the NBA’s top two teams (in the standings). Leonard has such tight control over his own game that he continues to play as efficiently as anyone on this list. He has notched eight games this season where he’s scored 30 or more points while shooting better than 50 percent, including his last two games (30 on 50 percent shooting in the win against the Bucks and 31 points on 61.1 percent shooting in their recent win against the Hawks). 5. Nikola Jokic, Denver Nuggets Last week: No. 7 Season stats: 19.2 points, 10.2 rebounds, 7.6 assists, 1.5 steals Jokic continues to deliver for the Nuggets in every category, doing his crafty best to help keep coach Michael Malone’s team at the top of the Western Conference. He notched his 21st career triple-double (18 points, 14 rebounds, 10 assists and two blocks) in Thursday’s (Friday, PHL time) win over the LA Clippers. It was his second straight triple-double, coming two days after lighting up the Heat in Miami for 29 points, 11 rebounds and 10 assists. In doing so, he tied Kareem Abdul-Jabbar for the second-most career triple-doubles by a center and can now chase Wilt Chamberlain’s big man record of 78. Jokic will probably dig into that deficit considerably the season if he keeps playing the way he has to kick off 2019 (27.2 points on .523 shooting, 12.6 rebounds, 7.2 assists and 1.4 steals in his last five games). Jokic and the rest of the Nuggets are focused on team goals first, of course. After missing out on the playoffs on the season's final night in 2017-18, they’re making sure to avoid any such drama this time. * * * The next five 6. Paul George, Oklahoma City Thunder 7. Joel Embiid, Philadelphia 76ers 8. LeBron James, Los Angeles Lakers 9. Kevin Durant, Golden State Warriors 10. Anthony Davis, New Orleans Pelicans And five more: DeMar DeRozan, San Antonio Spurs; Kyrie Irving, Boston Celtics; Damian Lillard, Portland Trail Blazers;Victor Oladipo, Indiana Pacers; Lou Williams, Los Angeles Clippers Sekou Smith is a veteran NBA reporter and NBA TV analyst. You can e-mail him here, find his archive here and follow him on Twitter. The views on this page do not necessarily reflect the views of the NBA, its clubs or Turner Broadcasting......»»

Category: sportsSource:  abscbnRelated NewsJan 12th, 2019

MVP Ladder: Irving enters chase with work on, off the floor

By Sekou Smith, NBA.com The best of Kyrie Irving, both on and off the floor, has been on display the past few weeks. With the Boston Celtics’ season at an early crossroad, of sorts, it was Irving who stepped into the leadership void to steer things in the right direction. With injuries to key players complicating matters and chemistry issues still being sorted out, Irving was the veteran willing to step up and speak out in an effort to make sure the Celtics dealt with their issues head on. The Celtics had an inconsistent start to the season (10-10) before going on a eight-game win streak that was more like what was expected of them, only to hit the skids again briefly and lose three straight games before Irving piped up. "I think everyone can see that we've obviously had some inconsistencies regarding our play,” he said, “so I think it was just time to address it." A 36-minute players meeting in the locker room after a Dec. 21 (Dec. 22, PHL time) home thumping from Giannis Antetokounmpo and the Milwaukee Bucks was enough for Irving, who didn’t spare anyone (himself included) from the harsh spotlight. It was a cathartic moment for the Celtics, who saw Al Horford return from a seven-game absence just in time for Sunday’s win in Charlotte. Kyrie was at his superstar best with the bright lights shining on Christmas. He torched the Philadelphia 76ers for 40 points, unleashing his full offensive arsenal (shooting 17-for-33 from the floor, 5-for-10 from deep), while also grabbing 10 rebounds and dishing out three assists. He was in showtime mode again Thursday night (Friday, PHL time) against James Harden and the Houston Rockets at Toyota Center, finishing his night with 23 points, 11 assists, five rebounds and just one turnover. The Celtics simply had no answer for Harden, who like Irving moves up the ranks on this week’s Kia Race to the MVP Ladder. But it’s clear Irving is ready to shoulder the burden of leading these Celtics, in whatever way necessary. * * * The top five this week in the 2018-19 Kia Race to the MVP Ladder: * * * 1. Giannis Antetokounmpo, Milwaukee Bucks Last week: No. 1 Season stats: 26.4 points, 12.8 rebounds, 5.9 assists, 1.4 blocks, 1.3 steals Antetokounmpo turned Madison Square Garden into his very own Christmas playground when he smoked the Knicks for 30 points, 14 rebounds, four steals, three assists and two blocks to kick off the league’s showcase day. And just so the Knicks know it wasn’t a fluke, he hurried them again Thursday night (Friday, PHL time) at Fiserv Forum with 31 points, 14 rebounds, eight assists and four blocks in another rout. The Greek Freak is making it tough for anyone to nudge him from the top spot on this list; he’s averaging 24.8 points (on 60.9 shooting), 12.6 rebounds  5.6 assists and 1.7 blocks in his last 10 games. The Bucks are cruising during this stretch as well, solidifying their position as one of  the top teams in the Eastern Conference and the entire league at the close of the calendar year 2018. If this is just the warm up for 2019, Antetokounmpo can really crank up his MVP campaign between now and the All-Star break. 2. Kawhi Leonard, Toronto Raptors Last week: No. 2 Season stats: 26.4 points, 8.5 rebounds, 3.2 assists, 1.8 steals Leonard and the Raptors didn’t get an opportunity to showcase themselves for the world to see on Christmas but made up for that scheduling snafu with an instant classic in a win over Miami on the day after the holiday. Leonard scored 30 points, grabbed eight rebounds and had two assists and two steals in the winning effort. December has been good to the Raptors’ prized summer acquisition — he’s averaging 30.1 points (on .520 shooting) to go along with his 8.1 rebounds, 3.0 assists and 2.0 steals. For all of the chatter about how good the Raptors have been with Leonard out of the lineup and how good their quality depth is and has been all season, the fate of this team rests on Leonard’s broad shoulders come playoff time. He’s the one element they’ve lacked in previous runs, as a true crunch-time, go-to player in the postseason. All that noise about him not being an ideal vocal leader looks like just that at this stage of his tenure in Toronto. 3. LeBron James, Los Angeles Lakers Last week: No. 3 Season stats: 27.3 points, 8.3 rebounds, 7.1 assists, 1.3 steals Lakers Nation held its collective breath earlier this week, awaiting the word on LeBron’s MRI after he heard a “pop” when he went down in the third with a groin injury in the third quarter of the Lakers’ Christmas Day (Dec. 26, PHL time) blowout over the Golden State Warriors at Oracle Arena. The news was better than expected but the catalyst for the Lakers’ revival this season is still expected to miss “several games.” This could actually prove to be a critical stretch for the Lakers. If they can manage to maintain their position in the Western Conference standings without LeBron in uniform, it’ll speak volumes about the growth and development of their youngsters. It will also instill some confidence in the entire group if they can piece together a few wins without the new king of Los Angeles. All that said, it would be shortsighted of anyone to dismiss the work LeBron has put in during the early-season turnaround this team has undergone. He was playing as well as anyone in the league this month (25.8 points on .516 shooting, 9.3 rebounds, 8.2 assists and 1.3 steals). 4. Stephen Curry, Golden State Warriors Last week: No. 4 Season stats: 28.6 points, 5.2 assists, 5.0 rebounds, 1.3 steals Curry bounced back from yet another uncharacteristic Christmas Day (Dec. 26, PHL time) performance (just 15 points on an ugly 5-for-17 shooting) with a big night against his brother Seth and the Portland Trail Blazers. But his 29 points and a triple-double from Kevin Durant wasn’t enough to lift the Warriors past Damian Lillard’s late-game heroics against his hometown team. If there was ever a time to be concerned about Curry and these Warriors, it’s now. Draymond Green and Klay Thompson cannot find their marks. The bench production is non-existent at times. And the edge the Warriors have used to their advantage for years seems to have vanished. The boost they need is more than just adding a superstar talent like Boogie Cousins (whose recovery from his Achilles injury seems to be in hyperdrive). The Warriors might need both Curry and Durant to go off script a bit and shake things up by going nuclear offensively to strike fear in teams the way this team once did. They’ve become far too predictable a target without the proper support from their other stars. 5. James Harden, Houston Rockets Last week: No. 7 Season stats: 32.3 points, 8.4 assists, 5.7 rebounds, 2.1 steals The reigning Kia MVP will not be denied any longer. Harden has been on an absolute tear of late and is bringing the Rockets back into focus in the Western Conference playoff chase while doing so. He’s posted back-to-back 40 point games (45 in their Friday, PHL time showdown win over the Boston Celtics and 41 in their Dec. 26, PHL time win over the Oklahoma City Thunder). He’s currently on a career-best eight-game run scoring 30 or more points, the first player to do so since Russell Westbrook did it in November of 2016. Harden’s the first to score 35 or more in six straight games since former teammate Carmelo Anthony accomplished the feat in April of 2013. Harden’s eight games of 40 or more points this season leads the league (Anthony Davis is second with five). The Celtics tried every player in uniform to stop him but to no avail. But Harden’s best work has been pulling the Rockets out of their sub-.500 hole at Thanksgiving to a season-best four games over .500 as they close out the 2018 portion of their schedule. * * * The next five 6. Paul George, Oklahoma City Thunder 7. Nikola Jokic, Denver Nuggets T-8. Kevin Durant, Golden State Warriors T-8. Joel Embiid, Philadelphia 76ers 10. Kyrie Irving, Boston Celtics And five more: Anthony Davis, New Orleans Pelicans; De’Aaron Fox, Sacramento Kings; Tobias Harris, Los Angeles Clippers; Damian Lillard, Portland Trail Blazers; Russell Westbrook, Oklahoma City Thunder Sekou Smith is a veteran NBA reporter and NBA TV analyst. You can e-mail him here, find his archive here and follow him on Twitter. The views on this page do not necessarily reflect the views of the NBA, its clubs or Turner Broadcasting......»»

Category: sportsSource:  abscbnRelated NewsDec 29th, 2018

NBA s Christmas lineup headlined by LeBron vs Warriors

By Tim Reynolds, Associated Press There’s no NBA Finals rematch this year on Christmas. Not technically, anyway. It’s LeBron James vs. the Golden State Warriors for the fourth consecutive year on Dec. 25 (Dec. 26, PHL time), though James will be wearing a Los Angeles Lakers uniform this time. It was a predictable matchup. It isn’t, however, a break from tradition. That’s one of the biggest misnomers about the NBA and the schedule. An NBA Finals rematch is not common, not the norm, not a guarantee for the last two teams that were standing the previous season. The league has crowned a champion every year since 1947, and the tradition of Christmas Day games started later that same year. (They’ve been an annual fixture since, with the exception of 1998, when a lockout didn’t allow that season to begin until February.) But there have been only nine NBA Finals rematches on Dec. 25 (Dec. 26, PHL time). The recent Golden State-Cleveland history may make it seem like more. James has been in five Finals rematches on Christmas, all since 2011: Miami vs. Dallas that year, Oklahoma City vs. Miami the following year, and Cleveland vs. Golden State in each of the last three years. The other four rematches on the holiday: Orlando vs. Houston in 1995, Philadelphia vs. the Lakers in 2001, San Antonio vs. Detroit in 2005 and Boston vs. the Lakers in 2008. So instead of a Cavs-Warriors rematch, getting Lakers vs. Warriors — for the first time in the LeBron L.A. era — makes perfect sense. “Bron is Bron,” Warriors forward Draymond Green said. “They’re going to be tough, a tough matchup on Christmas Day, but we’re looking forward to it.” Inevitably, so will James. Even with the Lakers having lost four of their last six games, they’re off to a 19-14 start — their best since the 2011-12 season. “We’ve got a long way to go to get to Golden State,” James said in September. He’s about to get his first look at how the Lakers measure up with the champs. CHRISTMAS LINEUP Tuesday’s (Wednesday, PHL time) slate starts with Milwaukee at New York, followed by Oklahoma City at Houston, Philadelphia at Boston, the Lakers at the Warriors and then Portland at Utah. It’s Milwaukee’s first Christmas game since 1977, which will end what was by far the league’s longest Dec. 25 (Dec. 26, PHL time) drought. Utah hasn’t played on Christmas since 1997. A look at each of the five games: BUCKS AT KNICKS Congratulations to the schedule-makers, because there’s no way they could have known this Christmas game would be wrapped in animus. Giannis Antetokounmpo was peeved at New York forward Mario Hezonja — who dunked on him, stared at him and then stepped over him when the teams last met on Dec. 1 (Dec. 2, PHL time). THUNDER AT ROCKETS A rematch of a game from Christmas 2017, which the Thunder won 112-107. Oklahoma City is 6-2 on Christmas since the team moved there; when the franchise was in Seattle, it was 0-11 on the holiday. Rockets star Chris Paul will miss Christmas for the third straight year — with the Clippers, he had a left hamstring strain and missed their game with the Lakers in 2016, sat out last year’s Houston-OKC game with a groin strain and this year, it’s another left hamstring issue that will keep him out. 76ERS AT CELTICS These are heated, historic rivals, but they’ve met on Christmas only once before — in 1961, when the 76ers were the Syracuse Nationals. Boston, which famously avoided home Christmas games forever (the Celtics played their first 30 such games away from Boston), will be at home on the holiday for the second consecutive season. LAKERS AT WARRIORS It’s the 20th consecutive Christmas appearance for the Lakers, and with LeBron James there now don’t expect that streak to end anytime soon. Warriors star Kevin Durant apparently loves playing on the holiday; he’s averaging 31.1 points in his eight previous Christmas games. TRAIL BLAZERS AT JAZZ Portland is 14-3 all-time on Christmas, and could tie Miami (10-2) for the best winning percentage on the holiday if it tops the Jazz. Meanwhile, for Utah, it’s a chance for Jazz star guard Donovan Mitchell to get his first — but almost certainly not his last — look at playing on Christmas. CHRISTMAS HISTORY The NBA’s five-game Christmas lineup is back for an 11th consecutive year, and that may seem like a lot of matchups but has been exceeded plenty of times in the past. There were seven games on the holiday in 1949, 1971 and 1977, as well as six in 1970 and 1976. And there were some years where everybody played on Christmas. In 1952, the league had 10 teams so that meant five Christmas games. In 1956, the league’s eight teams got together for two Christmas doubleheaders — two games at Madison Square Garden, two others at the War Memorial in Rochester, New York. And in 1959, eight teams meant four games on the holiday again. With Milwaukee playing, the league’s longest Christmas drought will belong to the Atlanta Hawks, who haven’t appeared on the holiday since 1989. After the Hawks, the longest droughts will be held by Charlotte (no appearances in 29 seasons), Memphis (no appearances in 24 seasons), Toronto (2001), Sacramento (2003), Indiana (2004) and Detroit (2005). Everyone else has played at least one Christmas game since 2009. YEAR OF THE 3 Houston set the NBA record for three-pointers made in a game with 26, doing that against Washington last week. It cemented that, without question, 2018 in the NBA was the year of the three-pointer. So far this season, 11 franchises — Atlanta, Boston, Charlotte, Golden State, Houston, Milwaukee, Minnesota, New Orleans, New York, Sacramento and Utah — have set or tied team records for three-pointers made in a regular-season game. That doesn’t even take into account Brooklyn, Chicago, Denver, Detroit, Oklahoma City and Philadelphia also doing it in 2018, albeit last season. Maybe the craze hasn’t caught on in Canada. The longest-standing team record for three's in a game is held by the Toronto Raptors, who made 21 on March 13, 2005. Orlando’s mark of 23 has stuck since Jan. 13, 2009 and Phoenix’s record of 22 came on Nov. 14, 2010. Meanwhile, Zaza Pachulia’s quest for a three continues. Pachulia has the NBA record for most three's attempted in a career without a make — the Detroit backup center is now 0-for-29 in the regular season, 0-for-31 when including playoffs. He’s 0-for-3 in 2018, though all those tries in this calendar year were desperation heaves from midcourt or deeper. And in fairness, only six of his career three-point tries have been shots inside of 30 feet......»»

Category: sportsSource:  abscbnRelated NewsDec 24th, 2018

Borrego: Hiring female coaches shows NBA trending right way

By Tim Reynolds, Associated Press NBA Commissioner Adam Silver wants more women throughout the league. He’s getting his wish. In recent days, two significant moves were made, with Kristi Toliver being added to Washington’s staff of assistant coaches, and Chasity Melvin getting hired as an assistant coach with Charlotte’s G League affiliate in Greensboro, North Carolina. Those hires are signs of progress. Few seemed to notice, which also is not all bad. Women are a becoming a bigger part of the league now than ever before. The hires of Toliver and Melvin were not overlooked; it just no longer seems like such an unusual thing to bring a woman into the fray of an NBA club, probably because the likes of San Antonio assistant Becky Hammon, former Sacramento assistant Nancy Lieberman, Dallas assistant Jenny Boucek, Clippers G League assistant Natalie Nakase and Memphis analyst Nicki Gross took care of the first wave of trailblazing. “I think it’s great and I think it’s great for the NBA,” said Charlotte’s James Borrego, the league’s first Hispanic full-time coach. “It speaks to our league, the diversity, the openness, the inclusion and I’m proud to be part of that, part of a league that’s open to that. I’ve been around Becky Hammon for a number of years now. These are bright women that belong in our league.” Certainly, there’s much more progress to be made, including in business offices around the league — as well as on the sidelines. There’s never been a female NBA head coach, though Hammon — a longtime part of the staff in San Antonio, where Borrego was before taking the Charlotte job — seems on the cusp of breaking that glass ceiling. Only three women have been hired as full-time NBA referees, though Natalie Sago and Ashley Moyer-Gleich will get games this season and are already highly respected by many peers. Borrego expects the numbers of women in the league to increase. “They’re here to stay,” Borrego said. “That’s not going anywhere. It’s only going to trend in that direction.” SCORING UP If you think there’s been a lot more scoring than usual in the NBA this season, you’re right. Granted, six days of basketball is a small —and statistically insignificant— sample size in a six-month season. But teams averaged 106.3 points per game last season, and they’re off to an average of 113.3 points so far this season. Should that average somehow hold up over the course of a full season, it would be the league’s highest since teams averaged 116.7 points in 1969-70. “This is a new age of basketball and this is where we are,” Dallas coach Rick Carlisle said. “The days of games in the 80s are probably done. Everything’s spread out. It’s freedom of movement. There’s four attackers and often times five three-point shooters and there are missiles flying everywhere.” For perspective: There were eight instances in October 2017 of teams scoring 130 or more points. So far in October 2018, there’s been nine — with 10 days of play left this month. But big numbers hasn’t meant every game is a rout. There’s already been 12 games this season decided by three points or less. G LEAGUE CHANGES Over the next few weeks, more details will likely come out about the G League’s plan to offer $125,000 contracts to elite prospects who aren’t yet eligible for the NBA draft. Much of the details remain unclear: who will get them, how they’ll get them, how many deals will be offered. Another murky part of all this is how the players will be assigned to teams. What would make the most sense is for the G League to go back into the NBA’s past for an answer there. The last territorial pick in the NBA was in 1965, but that’s the road the G League needs to go down now. For a league that’s still looking to grow, imagine the possibilities of putting a potential star with plenty of potential near his hometown. It’ll generate interest, which the G League surely could use. GAMES OF THE DAY If you’re going to watch only one game per day this week, we recommend: — Wizards at Trail Blazers, Monday (Tuesday, PHL time): John Wall and Bradley Beal in one backcourt, Damian Lillard and CJ McCollum in the other. — Clippers at Pelicans, Tuesday (Wednesday, PHL time): Anthony Davis averaged 29.8 points, 11.5 rebounds and 3.0 blocks against the Clippers last season. — Knicks at Heat, Wednesday (Thursday, PHL time): New York’s David Fizdale coached on the Miami side of the rivalry for years as a Heat assistant. — Celtics at Thunder, Thursday (Friday, PHL time): Oklahoma City took leads into the fourth quarter against Boston twice last season, and went 0-2. — Bucks at Timberwolves, Friday (Saturday, PHL time): Milwaukee was one of the teams rumored to be in the Jimmy Butler sweepstakes in recent weeks. — Lakers at Spurs, Saturday (Sunday, PHL time): LeBron James’ teams are 5-1 when he scores at least 30 at San Antonio, and 1-14 when he doesn’t. — Warriors at Nets, Sunday (next Monday, PHL time): Stephen Curry put on a dynamic show in Brooklyn last season — 39 points, 11 rebounds, seven assists. MILESTONE WATCH Spurs coach Gregg Popovich enters this week two wins shy of 1,200 for his regular-season career. He’ll be the fifth NBA coach to reach that milestone. ___ AP Sports Writer Schuyler Dixon in Dallas contributed......»»

Category: sportsSource:  abscbnRelated NewsOct 22nd, 2018

DA s 2018 NBA Offseason Rankings: The Bottom 10

By David Aldridge, TNT Analyst Wonder what the rental market is like in San Luis Obispo, Calif. San Luis Obispo is, give or take a few miles, one of the closest cities that is near the midway point between Los Angeles and San Francisco. Given the events of the NBA’s offseason, it’s not hare to imagine national reporters are going to be spending a lot of time in California next season, bouncing back and forth between the Bay and L.A. Catch LeBron James and the Lakers on Wednesday and then, Stephen Curry, Kevin Durant and the Warriors on Thursday. The Western Conference only got stronger and deeper with James leaving Cleveland for a second time, this time to go to the Lakers. Add four of the top five Draft picks -- including No. 1 overall selection Deandre Ayton (Phoenix Suns), No. 2 pick Marvin Bagley III (Sacramento Kings) and international phenom Luka Doncic (No. 3 pick, acquired by Dallas Mavericks) -- going to Western Conference teams, and the talent disparity between conferences only seems greater. But did Eastern Conference teams take advantage of Cleveland deflating to make their teams better? And how effective were West teams in making their teams better prepared to at least compete with the Warriors? That’s where this year’s Offseason Rankings come in -- big, bold, definitive. You love them, if the amount of hate tweets and e-mails I get after they’re published are any indication. Every year, we rank how all 30 teams have done since the end of their respective seasons. We look at everything -- how they drafted, what trades they made, what players they signed in free agency, and for how much -- or if they didn’t participate in free agency much at all. We look at if they’ve changed coaches, executives, owners, or if they’re moving into a new building that can generate big revenues. And you have to decide which ones you liked the most. Here's what these rankings ARE NOT: A predicted order of finish for next season. It's an opinion that seeks to answer a question: is the team better now than at the end of last season? The ranking reflects the belief on whether, and how much, that is so. (I liked certain guys who were in the Draft more than others, so if your team took them, I probably weighed it more positively. Doesn't mean I'm right.) I do not expect the Suns, for example, to have a better record than the Celtics, just because they had a better summer. It is not a ranking of the teams in order from 1 through 30 right now; I do not believe the Mavericks are now a better team than Rockets. This is just one person’s opinion about offseason moves -- offseason moves only. Is your team better now than it was before? - If your team is ranked in the top 10, it doesn't mean I love your team.       - If your team is ranked in the bottom 10, it doesn't mean I hate your team. It's an opinion that seeks to answer a question: is the team better now than at the end of last season? The ranking reflects the belief on whether, and how much, that is so. (I liked certain guys who were in the Draft more than others, so if your team took them, I probably weighed it more positively. Doesn't mean I'm right.) What plays into the rankings: - This isn’t science. It’s an educated guess, weighing the impact both of the Draft and free agency, but also assessing whether teams got value in their free-agent signings. Overpaying the right player is as much a sin as signing the wrong player. A good new coach can coax some more wins out of a roster. But if a team’s players don’t believe in the system their team uses, the best Xs and Os on earth don’t matter.       - Teams that are rebuilding obviously have different priorities than teams making a championship push. That's factored in. So Chicago, for example, gets credit for adding young, affordable players as it stockpiles its talent -- but that talent has to fit together, as Wendell Carter Jr. does with Lauri Markannen. And a team like the Warriors that shows it’s willing to go deep into the luxury tax -- which most teams try to avoid -- in order to keep winning has to be commended, and its rankings reflect that commendation.       - Continuity matters here as well. The most successful teams usually not only identify a core group of players, they keep them together for a while, finding that sweet spot: everyone doesn’t get a max contract, but most get paid well enough to keep the train moving down the tracks. That reflects both good roster construction and good financial management -- and, again, is rewarded. The explosion in the cap means everyone has to spend; keeping your powder dry for another day doesn’t have as much cache as it used to. But you still have to manage your money wisely. Salary numbers, with a couple of exceptions, come from Basketball Insiders, whose Eric Pincus does the best job of anyone in the game of keeping track of all the moving financial parts, quickly and accurately -- which is why we use him at NBA TV during the Draft and free agency to tell us what the hell this all means. The Bottom 10 * * * 21. DETROIT PISTONS 2017-18 RECORD: 39-43; missed playoffs ADDED: Coach Dwane Casey; New executive Ed Stefanski; G Bruce Brown (No. 42 pick, 2018 Draft); G Jose Calderon (one year, $2.3 million); C Zaza Pachulia (one year, $2.3 million); G/F Glenn Robinson III (two years, $8.3 million); G Khyri Thomas (No. 38 pick, 2018 Draft) LOST: Former coach Stan Van Gundy; G Dwight Buycks (waived); F/C Eric Moreland (waived); F Anthony Tolliver (signed with Wolves) RETAINED: None THE KEY MAN: F Blake Griffin. And he will be for some time. The Pistons need him to be his former All-Star self again, able to take slower defender to the basket, able to stretch the floor if he plays the five in small-ball lineups. They need him to be a playmaker, to get Reggie Jackson more looks off the ball and Andre Drummond some high-low lobs at the rim. They need him to sell tickets at Little Caesars Arena in Detroit’s revitalized downtown -- a building that seems to be more for the NHL’s Red Wings than the NBA’s Pistons. And they need Griffin to be an anchor that draws players to the Motor City during the life of his extension. THE SKINNY: Owner Tom Gores agonized over firing Van Gundy, but he finally did so, and was fortunate that Casey was available and willing to step right back into the fray after being cashiered in Toronto. Casey will be quite in his element building a defense around Drummond, but, like Van Gundy, Casey will need Jackson to stay healthy; he’s missed a combined 67 games the last two seasons. Detroit did well for not having a first-round pick to come out of the Draft with two solid guard prospects deep in the second in Thomas and Brown. However, the new coaching staff will have to get more out of the team’s last three first-rounders: Stanley Johnson (2015), Henry Ellenson (2016) and Luke Kennard (2017). 22. BOSTON CELTICS 2017-18 RECORD: 55-27; lost in Eastern Conference finals ADDED: G Brad Wanamaker (one year, $838,000); C Robert Williams (No. 27 pick, 2018 Draft) LOST: G Shane Larkin (signed to play in Turkey); F Abdel Nader (traded to Thunder) RETAINED: C Aron Baynes (two years, $10.6 million); F Jabari Bird (two years, $3 million), G Marcus Smart (four years, $52 million) THE KEY MAN: F Gordon Hayward. All indications are he’s well on his way back from that horrific injury he suffered on opening night last season. He can do so many great things in coach Brad Stevens’ system, and if he’s 100 percent by the playoffs, Boston may well be the one team that can match up, player for player, with Golden State in a Finals meeting. (Remember this when people inevitably say I ranked the Celtics 23rd in offseason moves.) THE SKINNY: Boston got its biggest work done after Smart couldn’t loosen up an offer sheet from the Sacramento Kings or Dallas Mavericks, and eventually worked out a deal for less than he sought to return. Smart’s deal puts Boston in the tax for the foreseeable future, but the Celtics knew that was the next step in keeping a Finals-capable core group together. With Kyrie Irving and Hayward expected back on line Stevens can throw so many different lineups out there, all committed to stifling opponent movement with long, switching defenders led by Smart, Jaylen Brown and Jayson Tatum. Williams was worth an end of the first flier, though he didn’t get off to a great start. If he gets a good wake-up alarm on his phone, he has a chance to be the Celtics’ center of the future. 23. PHILADELPHIA 76ERS 2017-18 RECORD: 52-30; lost in Eastern Conference semifinals ADDED: F Wilson Chandler (acquired from Nuggets); F/C Mike Muscala (acquired from Hawks); G Zhaire Smith (No. 16 pick, 2018 Draft); G Landry Shamet (No. 26 pick, 2018 Draft); G Shake Milton (No. 54 pick, 2018 Draft) LOST: Former GM Bryan Colangelo (resigned); F Justin Anderson (traded to Hawks); G Marco Belinelli (signed with Spurs); F/C Richaun Holmes (traded to Suns); F Ersan Ilyasova (signed with Bucks); G/F Timothe Luwawu-Cabarrot (traded to Thunder) RETAINED: C/F Amir Johnson (one year, $1.5 million); G T.J. McConnell (picked up team option); G J.J. Redick (one year, $12.2 million) THE KEY MAN: G Markelle Fultz. His rookie year laid waste by a combination of injury and the yips -- which the Sixers have finally copted to -- Fultz is reportedly rebuilding his shot successfully under the learned eye of development coach Drew Hansen. If that carries over to the fall, Fultz will get a true opportunity (he had some cameos late in his rookie season) to show a skeptical Philly fan base he was worth the top pick in 2017, and worth Philly trading up to get him. He definitely could fill a need with the 76ers for a second playmaker to go with and occasionally in place of reigning Kia Rookie of the Year winner Ben Simmons. But if Fultz has another setback, physically or otherwise, it will be hard for him to stick much longer in Philly -- not a town known for patient reflection with regard to its sports teams. THE SKINNY: Coach Brett Brown was quite clear when he said the Sixers were hunting for a superstar this summer with the cap space they’d assiduously cleared the last couple of years. But the summer has come and gone and there’s no LeBron, no Kawhi, no trade, at least not yet, for Jimmy Butler or anyone else at that level. Belinelli and Ilyasova both played huge roles for Philly in the playoffs; maybe Fultz (see above) takes on some of that role, and Chandler will help. But this doesn’t feel like a successful offseason for one of the real risers in the East. 24. PORTLAND TRAIL BLAZERS 2017-18 RECORD: 49-33; lost in first round ADDED: G Seth Curry (one year, $2.7 million); G Nik Stauskas (one year, $1.6 million); G Anfernee Simons (No. 24 pick, 2018 Draft); G Gary Trent Jr. (No. 37 pick, 2018 Draft) LOST: G/F Pat Connaughton (signed with Bucks); F/C Ed Davis (signed with Nets); G Shabazz Napier (signed with Nets); C Georgios Papagiannis (waived) RETAINED: C Jusuf Nurkic (four years, $48 million) THE KEY MAN: Assistant coaches David Vanterpool, Nate Tibbets, Dale Osbourne, Jim Moran, John McCullough and Jonathan Yim. With the Blazers mostly landlocked the next two seasons -- they’re currently above the projected luxury tax line both for next season and 2019-20 -- there aren’t likely going to be many significant roster changes for a while. And in the West, especially, standing pat is often falling behind. It will thus fall to Portland’s excellent staff behind coach Terry Stotts to maximize the production of the current group. They can point with some pride to success stories like Will Barton and Allen Crabbe, now in Denver and Brooklyn, respectively, along with Maurice Harkless and Al-Faroqu Aminu. For Portland to take another step up, they’ll have to coach up someone like 2017 first-rounder Zach Collins or this year’s first-rounder, Simons. They must have them exceed expectations to become a third legit star behind Damian Lillard and C.J. McCollum. THE SKINNY: Lillard insists the rumblings heard in some quarters that he’s unhappy in Portland aren’t true, and the franchise better hope he’s being honest. The decisions the Blazers made in 2016 continue to lock them in place; if they catch a favorable first-round matchup (a grumbling Rockets team in 2014; an injury-strafed Clippers squad in 2016), they can advance a round. But last year’s 4-0 sweep by the New Orleans Pelicans had to give everyone pause. How does Portland respond mentally? Re-upping Big Nurk in the middle on a very reasonable deal -- $12 million for a starting center was the going rate five years ago, when the Wolves gave Nikola Pekovic a five-year, $60 million contract -- was necessary. But losing Davis, a locker room and fan favorite for superior work ethic, will hurt, even though Collins should sop up a lot of those minutes. 25. ORLANDO MAGIC 2017-18 RECORD: 25-57; missed playoffs ADDED: Coach Steve Clifford; C Mohamed Bamba (No. 6 pick, 2018 Draft); G Isaiah Briscoe (three years, $3.9 million); F Melvin Frazier (No. 35 pick, 2018 Draft); F Jerian Grant (acquired from Bulls); F Justin Jackson (No. 43 pick, 2018 Draft); F Jarrell Martin (acquired from Grizzlies); C Timofey Mozgov (acquired from Hornets) LOST: C Bismack Biyombo (traded to Hornets); G Mario Hezonja (signed with Knicks); C Dakari Johnson (traded to Grizzlies); G Shelvin Mack (waived); G Rodney Purvis (traded to Thunder) RETAINED: F Aaron Gordon (four years, $82 million) THE KEY MAN: G D.J. Augustin. A vet’s vet, he’s played 10 years in the league and started 226 games for eight teams, including 56 over the last two for the Magic. He’ll enter this season as the unquestioned starter at the point with Elfrid Payton in New Orleans and Orlando still looking to solve its long-term search for a point guard. It’s Augustin’s turn. THE SKINNY: At some point, Orlando’s yearly gambles on size and potential will pay off. Bamba could be the goods; he’s got a demeanor and toughness that should keep him together while he learns the craft at the pro level. But -- again -- it will take some time for Bamba, like 2017 first-rounder Jonathan Isaac, and Gordon, in whom Orlando invested a sizeable sum in July, to flourish. And Magic fans rightly can ask exactly how long they’re to remain patient. Clifford is supposed to improve the defense, but so was Frank Vogel … and so was Scott Skiles … and so was Jacque Vaughn. 26. NEW ORLEANS PELICANS 2017-18 RECORD: 48-34; lost in Western Conference semifinals ADDED: G Tony Carr (No. 51 pick, 2018 Draft); G Elfrid Payton (one year, $3 million); F Julius Randle (two years, $17 million) LOST: C DeMarcus Cousins (signed with Warriors); G Rajon Rondo (signed with Lakers) RETAINED: G Ian Clark (one year, $1.7 million); F Nikola Mirotic (picked up player option) THE KEY MAN: Owner Gayle Benson. Mrs. Benson took control of the team after the death of her husband, Tom, last March. She displayed great grace in the days and weeks after Tom Benson’s death, making it clear at the time she had no interest in selling the team and would continue to make outlays to keep the team competitive. The Pels didn’t blink last summer giving Jrue Holiday $126 million, and that will have to remain the case going forward if New Orleans is to repeat its surprising run to the Western Conference semifinals last spring. THE SKINNY: Can’t lose your starting point guard and your starting All-Star center in one offseason -- no matter what the circumstances -- and come out of it with high offseason marks. And especially when Rondo seemed like the perfect fit for the team. Mirotic mentioned during the Warriors series how good Rondo was at picking him up and connecting him quickly with the team after he was traded to New Orleans from Chicago. And, yes, coach Alvin Gentry mentioned he may have exchanged cusses with Rondo every now and again, too. Life in RondoWorld. The path forward is narrower, but not impassible; Randle can be tantalizing at times, maddening at others, but he could plug-and-play at the four, and he can take some of the playmaking burden off of Holiday. But big minutes on the ball for Holiday again is not what New Orleans had in mind. Payton is going to have to perform immediately. And losing “Boogie” Cousins is a big minus. It’s not what the Pelicans gave up to get him. It’s the fit and flow he had with Anthony Davis before the injury, and what the promise of a return this season could have meant toward carrying the momentum of last year forward. 27. MINNESOTA TIMBERWOLVES 2017-18 RECORD: 47-35; lost in first round ADDED: F Anthony Tolliver (one year, $5.7 million); G Josh Okogie (No. 20 pick, 2018 Draft); F Keita Bates-Diop (No. 48 pick, 2018 Draft) LOST: C Cole Aldrich (waived); F Nemanja Bjelica (signed with Kings) RETAINED: G Derrick Rose (one year, $1.5 million) THE KEY MAN: Vikings QB Kirk Cousins. He signed for big, big money by NFL standards (three years, $84 million), and the Vikings have Super Bowl aspirations. So all the light will be on the Vikes most of the fall and winter in Minneapolis, keeping it off of the still-young Wolves, who won’t be able to sneak up on anyone after breaking their long postseason drought. THE SKINNY: The Wolves should be positioned to build on their playoff run, especially if Butler can get through a full season healthy and Karl-Anthony Towns adds consistency to his prodigious talents. But they didn’t do much in the offseason, and the team that they beat out on the last day of the regular season, Denver, looks to be much improved. Tolliver should help the Wolves’ depth; they essentially traded him for Bjelica, and he shot slightly better on 3-poiners last season than Belly. Plus, they don’t come better as a guy than Tolliver and he can help Minnesota in the locker room. The issue of Butler’s contract isn’t going away; there will be a reckoning at some point, and he’ll have a lot more options next summer than free agents had this summer. Until then, coach Tom Thibodeau has pretty much the same team that he has to cajole better defense out of next season (22nd in Defensive Rating; 17th in points allowed). 28. CHARLOTTE HORNETS 2017-18 RECORD: 36-46; missed playoffs ADDED: Coach James Borrego; GM Mitch Kupchack; C Bismack Biyombo (acquired from Magic); F Miles Bridges (No. 12 pick, 2018 Draft); G Devonte' Graham (No. 34 pick, 2018 Draft); F Arnoldas Kulboka (No. 55 pick, 2018 Draft); ; G Tony Parker (two years, $10.2 milliion) LOST: G Michael Carter-Williams (signed with Rockets); C Dwight Howard (traded to Nets); C Timofey Mozgov (traded to Magic); G Julyan Stone (traded to Bulls) RETAINED: None THE KEY MAN: C Cody Zeller. It’s a guess -- Borrego could opt for Frank Kaminsky III -- but Zeller would seem to be the replacement at center for Dwight Howard, who wound up in Washington after the Hornets traded him to the Nets. Zeller started 58 games two years ago and was very good in screen and rolls with Kemba Walker. Zeller only played in 33 games last season because of a left knee injury; if he returns to form, the Hornets could pick up offensively and actually have a little more diversity at that end than last season. THE SKINNY: Team owner Michael Jordan cleaned house after a disappointing 2017-18, bringing another Tar Heel back home in the veteran Kupchak. Kupchak dispatched Howard and then got Mozgov’s guaranteed 2019-20 season off his books to take back Biyombo, who’d left Toronto two years ago for $72 million from the Magic and who’s got a player option for 2019-20. Well before then, the Hornets are going to have to decide what to do with Walker, who’ll be one of the top free agents available next summer if Charlotte can’t get him re-signed or extended. The Hornets were 8.8 points worse when the two-time All-Star was off the court rather than on. Nicolas Batum has to make a return to the all-around talent that enticed Charlotte to trade for him and give him a $120 million extension; he averaged just 11.6 points per game last year, his lowest in three years. Howard’s presence in the paint may have clogged things up some, but that’s no longer the case. 29. CLEVELAND CAVALIERS 2017-18 RECORD: 50-32; lost in The Finals ADDED: F Channing Frye (one year, $2.3 million); G Collin Sexton (No. 8 pick, 2018 Draft) LOST: G Jose Calderon (signed with Pistons); F Jeff Green (signed with Wizards); F LeBron James (signed with Lakers); C Kendrick Perkins (waived); F Okaro White (waived) RETAINED: F Kevin Love (contract extension) THE KEY MAN: GM Koby Altman. Altman has a blank slate now after trying to steer a championship-contending ship that had been stripped of a few propeller blades in the last 13 months. With James gone, as well as former GM David Griffin, the 35-year-old Altman has team owner Dan Gilbert’s charge to rebuild the Cavs without taking them down to the studs (as the Cavs did after James first departure in 2010). Altman’s next task after working out Kevin Love’s $130 million extension is clearing the roster of all the veterans brought in the last three years mainly because of their ability to play off of James. THE SKINNY: There weren’t any widespread jersey burnings this time in the Land. James left for L.A. with relative good will from his hometown, having delivered the championship it had waited 52 years for in 2016. Truly, the Cavs’ rebuild started the minute Kyrie Irving demanded a trade; last season seemed more rearguard action than an attack at another title. Extending Love through 2023 with no outs -- keeping him locked with rookie Sexton through the latter’s last controllable season before hitting unrestricted free agency -- gives Cleveland a base upon which to build. Cap room will follow in 2019, but next season will be difficult; Sexton has a lot of toughness and potential, but rookie point guards tend to get their lunch handed to them. 30. MIAMI HEAT 2017-18 RECORD: 44-38; lost in first round ADDED: None LOST: None RETAINED: G Wayne Ellington (one year, $6.2 million); F/G Derrick Jones Jr. THE KEY MAN: G Josh Richardson. Like many of his teammates, Richardson got an extension a couple of years ago -- four years and $42 million. Last season, he was (again) a solid two-way player for Miami -- almost 13 points per game, 84.5 percent from the line, 37.8 percent on 3-pointers. But if the Heat is going to shake out of the middle lane in which it currently seems stuck, Richardson will have to expand. Miami’s current roster makes it complicated; Pat Riley thinks Richardson’s probably more of a two, but he plays mostly three for coach Erik Spoelstra because Miami’s best lineups were small ball ones. Another offseason at P3 in California will help Richardson continue his development. THE SKINNY: No, Heat people: I don’t hate your team. But when you have no Draft picks, and you have no cap space, and thus you literally could do nothing in the offseason, and basically did nothing in the offseason, and your biggest, most newsy event was whether your 36-year-old future Hall of Fame guard will come back for one more season or play over in China … well, what am I supposed to do with that information? Rank you first? The question is, how much better is your team now than it was at the end of last season? It’s essentially the same team; other than the likes of Richardson (see above) or Justise Winslow, it’s not like there’s a great step up expected from Hassan Whiteside or Goran Dragic, is there? The Heat is not any better than last season. It isn’t any worse. It just … is. So, 30. Longtime NBA reporter, columnist and Naismith Memorial Basketball Hall of Famer David Aldridge is an analyst for TNT. You can e-mail him here, find his archive here and follow him on Twitter. The views on this page do not necessarily reflect the views of the NBA, its clubs or Turner Broadcasting......»»

Category: sportsSource:  abscbnRelated NewsAug 8th, 2018

LeBron James reigns supreme over Eastern Conference yet again

By Steve Aschburner, NBA.com BOSTON – For nearly a decade, the general managers of the NBA’s Eastern Conference have had, essentially, one job: Arm, equip and overhaul their teams specifically to get past LeBron James and whatever squad with which he happened to be rolling. They have failed. Miserably and spectacularly. And that’s even spotting them the first couple of summers to get their bearings after the whole “Super Team” genesis in Miami back in 2010-11. James’ domination of the conference continued Sunday (Monday, PHL time) when he and the Cleveland Cavaliers persevered in Game 7 against the Boston Celtics at TD Garden. Clawing back from 2-0 and 3-2 deficits in the series, and playing the final seven quarters without their second All-Star, forward Kevin Love (concussion protocol), the Cavaliers hung around in an ugly game. They took advantage of a Boston team on training wheels – 7-of-39 on three-pointers, oh my! – and snagged a ticket to their fourth consecutive NBA Finals. For James, it’s eight in a row and nine overall, these Cleveland four added to the four he reached with the Heat from 2011-14. It’s a run unprecedented since Bill Russell’s Celtics were winning 11 championships in 13 years, a stranglehold on half of all Finals opportunities this decade. He has a 6-2 record in Game 7 situations, with nothing but triumphs after dropping his first two. “I mean, the bigger the stage, the bigger the player, and he's been doing it for us since we've been here,” Cavs coach Tyronn Lue said. “The great quote from the great [Clippers coach] Doc Rivers is, ‘You always want to go into the Game 7 with the best player,’ and we have the best player on our team going into a Game 7. I like our chances. And he delivered again.” Next year at this point, maybe by league proxy, James will have one hand tied behind his back. That’s the next logical step in handicapping him against the field. He has made it to The Finals without his most talented sidekicks. He has taken or dragged along an ever-changing cast of teammates. This time, he did with arguably the Cavaliers’ barest cupboard since first dipping their collective toes in The Finals water back in 2007. Two All-Star point guards, Kyrie Irving (with whom James won a ring in 2016) and Isaiah Thomas (from whom James won his freedom after five awkward weeks), already were long gone when Love went down. And now he was facing elimination with a shaky crew and a huge, inflated question mark hovering over his and Cleveland’s offseason, whenever it comes. Then again, the Celtics were facing him. Like the Raptors, the Pacers, the Bulls, the Hawks and several others before them, Boston well understood the player through whom its playoff ambitions had to go. “I think we’ve played now until May 25th and May 27th the last two years and we started on September 25th. That’s every day,” Boston coach Brad Stevens said about his team’s 2017 and 2018 tangles with Cleveland in the East finals. “Every day you’re totally focused on this, and he’s gone past that eight straight times. “It’s ridiculous. And he does it at this level and with the pressure, with the scrutiny – doesn’t matter.” Plenty of the foes chasing James when his Finals streak began have headed into retirement ringless and unfulfilled. Others were in high school or grade school. Celtics forward Jayson Tatum, for instance, was 13 years old when James began his streak against Dallas in 2011. There are so many others like Horford, with tire tracks on their backs, no mercy coming their way from James and very little hope on the horizon. At age 33, James played all 82 games in the regular season for the first time in his 15-year career. He made it an even 100 with Sunday’s (Monday, PHL time) appearance and he did it with aplomb, staying on the floor for all 48 minutes. “Our goal going into the series was to make him exert as much energy as humanly possible, and try to be as good as we can on everybody else,” Stevens said. “For the most part, I thought we were pretty good at that. Multiple games now in TD Garden, held them under 100, three games in the 80s – but he still scored 35. It’s a joke.” James’ stats line – 35 points, 15 rebounds, nine assists – was enough this time because he got a reasonable amount of help. Three other Cavaliers scored in double figures, including Jeff Green, the journeyman forward who started in Love’s spot. Being one of James’ teammates requires a thick skin for when things don’t go well. It also carries a sense of obligation, to occasionally come through the way Green did in Game 7 (19 points, eight rebounds) given the debt they all owe their resident superstar. “You want to be there for him,” Green said. “You want to be in the trenches, in the battle, helping him achieve the ultimate goal. For me, it’s a no-brainer to go out there and give it all I have.” Green was a part of James’ most tumultuous campaign yet, with so many twists and turns – the shotgun Irving trade, Thomas’ bad fit, a rash of injuries, a desperate reset at the trade deadline and a bumpy learning curve once the new guys arrived – that James and Lue casually referred to it as “five seasons” crammed into one. “It's now six seasons in one,” James said after midnight. “I guess this is the last chapter for our team in this season. It's been a whirlwind. I mean, it's been [a rollercoaster]. It's been good, it's been bad, it's been roses. There have been thorns in the roses. There's been everything that you can ask for.” For eight years, a conference full of rivals has targeted one player, who happens to be the league’s best, the first among alleged equals with the Heat and clearly the leader when he headed back home to Ohio. In that time, the players have worked, the coaches have schemed and the GMs have plotted. No one has found the answer. None have stopped him. Fact is, nobody’s really laid a glove on him. It’s his conference, seemingly for as long as he wants it. “It's been a satisfaction in the fact that I like to be successful,” James said. “But more importantly, just the work that I put into it. I mean, it's an every-single-day work ethic that I have while I'm playing this game, while I have the ability to play this game at this level. I love the competition. “I think about the teams that I've played over this run and the players that I've played over this run, slightly. But more importantly, me just being healthy. I've been healthy throughout this run. I put a lot of work into my body, into my craft. Being available to my teammates and being available to my franchise, the two franchises I've been with, and throughout this run is what's been more important to me than anything. Always being available.” It was late. James was weary. Another Game 7 in less than 24 hours would determine his and the Cavaliers’ next playoff challenge. “I'll be available for at least four more games,” he said. “And we'll see what happens.” Steve Aschburner has written about the NBA since 1980. You can e-mail him here, find his archive here and follow him on Twitter. The views on this page do not necessarily reflect the views of the NBA, its clubs or Turner Broadcasting......»»

Category: sportsSource:  abscbnRelated NewsMay 28th, 2018

Wicked good: LeBron undaunted by Boston, Celtics mystique

By Tom Withers, Associated Press INDEPENDENCE, Ohio (AP) — There haven’t been any championship banners hoisted into Boston’s hallowed rafters since 2008. LeBron James won’t let go of the rope. Cleveland’s star has bounced the Celtics from the playoffs four times in the past seven years, and James carries a six-game postseason winning streak at Boston into this year’s Eastern Conference finals, which open Sunday (Monday, PHL time) at TD Garden. As a member of both the Miami Heat and Cavaliers, James — whose success against Boston did a 180-degree turn with a mesmerizing Game 6 performance in 2012 — has made the Celtics green(er) with envy. But while the 33-year-old has the utmost respect for the NBA’s most decorated franchise, James’ admiration hasn’t stopped him from standing in the way of Boston stuffing more Larry O’Brien trophies into its crowded case. And if he beats the Celtics again and advances to his eighth straight NBA Finals, James would join a club currently exclusive to Boston players with legendary status. Only Bill Russell (10), Sam Jones (9), Tommy Heinsohn (9) and Frank Ramsey (8) have played in more consecutive Finals than James, who said he hasn’t reflected on the possibility of admission to their group. “I do know that this is my eighth straight conference finals and I have an opportunity to play for a championship if I’m able to be successful in this conference finals, so I don’t take that for granted,” James said Friday (Saturday, PHL time). “You dream about being able to play in big games in the NBA. Even when I got to the NBA that was one of my only goals — to be as great as I can be, to play in big games in the NBA and be remembered — and I think I’ve done that in my career. “Just trying to add onto it while I can.” Early in his career, James saw the Celtics as a postseason exit ramp. The “Big 3” Boston team featuring Kevin Garnett, Paul Pierce and Ray Allen ousted him and the Cavs in 2008 and 2010, the latter series ending with James famously storming off the floor and pulling off his jersey to foreshadow his free-agent departure later that summer for South Beach. He avenged that loss the following year in the conference semifinals, and then in 2012, James had one of his most magnificent postseason exhibitions of his career in Boston. With the Heat down 3-2 in the series, James scored 45 points on 19 of 26 shooting and added 15 rebounds as Miami forced a Game 7 and went on to win consecutive titles. Since then, he’s 8-1 against the Celtics with a four-game sweep in 2015 and a five-game dusting last year in the conference finals. James has scored 979 points in 34 playoff games against the Celtics, the most by one player against a single team. And in his past six games on Boston’s parquet, he’s averaging 34.3 points, 9.5 rebounds and 6.5 assists. James has eight playoff wins in Boston, more than all but four current Celtics. One of them, Jaylen Brown, knows what’s coming. “Physically, he is more superior than any guy that is on the floor,” Brown said. “He’s 260-plus pounds. Can run like a gazelle. Athletic. He’s physical. He’s just unstoppable. We gotta be mentally locked in and have a mindset to try and do the best we can. LeBron is top 3, top 5 of all-time. He’s going to do what he does. We just gotta take away the other guys and have a great mindset of mentally being locked in every possession.” Boston’s notorious crowd is known for rattling opposing players. In the first round, Celtics fans taunted Milwaukee guard Eric Bledsoe with chants of “Who Is Bledsoe?” after he unwisely made a comment about Celtics playoff phenom Terry Rozier. James and his teammates know they’ll have their ears rung as well. “One of the rowdy environments,” Cavaliers forward Kyle Korver said. “Boston is fun. They have a great crowd. They’re ready to get behind their team. There’s been moments where I’ve been on a team where there’s a decent lead and then they make one shot and the place just erupts. You’re like, ‘Man, they’re going to come back.’ You just feel it. It’s a great place to play, especially in the playoffs.” Boston’s roar only seems to strengthen James, who appreciates the passion and pride in the Celtics. “Just the history, you look up in the rafters and you see all the greats that has either played there or the previous arena they played in,” he said. “It’s a sports town. You look at the Patriots. You look at the Bruins. You look at the Red Sox. You add them, look at all that history. It’s just a sports town. If you’re not green, they don’t mess with you.” ___ AP Sports Writer Kyle Hightower in Boston contributed to this report......»»

Category: sportsSource:  abscbnRelated NewsMay 12th, 2018

Wicked good: LeBron undaunted by Boston, Celtics’ mystique

INDEPENDENCE, Ohio --- There haven't been any championship banners hoisted into Boston's hallowed rafters since 2008. LeBron James won't let go of the rope. Cleveland's star has bounced the Celtics from the playoffs four times in the past seven years, and James carries a six-game postseason winning streak at Boston into this year's Eastern Conference finals, which open Sunday at TD Garden. As a member of both the Miami Heat and Cavaliers, James --- whose success against Boston did a 180-degree turn with a mesmerizing Game 6 performance in 2012 --- has made the Celtics green(er) with envy. But while the 33-year-old has the utmost respect for the NBA's most decorated franchise, James...Keep on reading: Wicked good: LeBron undaunted by Boston, Celtics’ mystique.....»»

Category: newsSource:  inquirerRelated NewsMay 12th, 2018

Brown returns, Tatum shines as Celtics beat 76ers 108-103

By Kyle Hightower, Associated Press BOSTON (AP) — Rookie Jayson Tatum scored 21 points and hit a pair of free throws in the closing second, and the Boston Celtics rallied from a 22-point deficit to beat the Philadelphia 76ers 108-103 on Thursday night (Friday, PHL time) and take a 2-0 lead in the Eastern Conference semifinals. Terry Rozier added 20 points, nine assists and seven rebounds. Marcus Smart finished with 19 points and five rebounds as the Celtics improved to 6-0 at TD Garden this postseason. They have never blown a 2-0 lead. Game 3 is Saturday (Sunday, PHL time) in Philadelphia. J.J. Redick had 23 points for the 76ers, making five three-pointers. Robert Covington added 22 points and nine rebounds. Joel Embiid finished with 20 points, 14 rebounds and five assists, but rookie star Ben Simmons missed all four shots and had just one point. Philadelphia recovered after squandering its big lead to nudge back in front 93-88 midway through the fourth quarter. But an 11-4 run put Boston back in the lead 99-95 with less than four minutes to play. It was 101-97 when a missed Philadelphia jumper led to a 2-on-1 fast break and alley-oop dunk from Rozier to Tatum with 2:23 left. A layup by Dario Saric cut it to 104-101. But Al Horford was able to drive past Embiid for a layup with 8.3 seconds left. Saric scored out of a timeout to make it 106-103. The Sixers quickly fouled Tatum, who calmly hit a pair of free throws. Following an anemic offensive effort in Game 1, the Sixers looked rejuvenated early in Game 2, using a 14-2 run to begin the second quarter on their way to building a 48-26 lead. It didn’t last. The Celtics responded by ending the half on a 25-8 run. It included three straight three-pointers and a tip-dunk by Jaylen Brown, who returned to action after sitting out the series opener with a strained right hamstring. He came off the bench and played 25 minutes, scoring 13 points and grabbing four rebounds. The Sixers’ lead was completely erased midway through the third quarter, when Aron Baynes got a three-pointer to bounce in and put Boston in front for the first time. The lead grew to 76-68 on a baseline dunk by Tatum that capped a 50-20 Celtics run. Brown entered the game for the first time at the 7:14 mark of first quarter. It took less than a minute to make an impact. He missed his first shot attempt before chasing down a loose ball and sprinting ahead for a one-handed dunk . Prior to Thursday (Friday, PHL time), Brown had started every game he’d appeared in this season. It was his first time off the bench since Game 5 of last season’s Eastern Conference Finals. TIP-INS 76ers: Outrebounded the Celtics 49-41. ... Went 13-of-33 from the three-point line. Celtics: Went 15-of-36 from the three-point line. ... Held a 19-13 edge in fast-break points and 30-23 in bench scoring. SLOW START Despite Brown’s early highlight, the Celtics were sluggish early. They started off the game 0-for-5 and didn’t score until Smart’s three-pointer at the 8:37 mark of the first quarter. Horford (1-for-3), Rozier (0-for-4), Brown (1-for-4) and Marcus Morris (0-for-3) were a combined 2-for-14 in the period, allowing Philadelphia to build a 31-22. FACE OFF Brown caught an inadvertent slap across the face from Covington on a layup attempt late in the second quarter. Brown stayed down briefly as the Sixers proceeded to fast break. Following a Philly miss Brown, who was still standing under Boston’s basket, caught a long outlet pass and was fouled hard by Covington. But Brown wanted no part of Covington helping him to his feet, and violently brushed back his hand. CELEB SIGHTINGS Philadelphia-born rapper Meek Mill sat courtside for Game 2. Mill was released from jail last week after spending nearly five months behind bars on a probation violation. Rapper Gucci Mane sat across from the 76ers bench wearing a Brown jersey. The two met last year when Brown attended one of his concerts. Another Philly native, actor Kevin Hart, sat a few seats down from Gucci. Hart at times antagonized the TD Garden fans, drawing boos......»»

Category: sportsSource:  abscbnRelated NewsMay 4th, 2018

Celtics stare down adversity, look forward to 76ers

By Kyle Hightower, Associated Press BOSTON (AP) — So much of the chatter before Boston’s first-round matchup with Milwaukee focused on who wouldn’t be on the court for the Celtics. Injuries forced Kyrie Irving and Marcus Smart to join Gordon Hayward and Daniel Theis as spectators by the end of the regular season. It seemingly left the East’s second seed vulnerable against a Bucks team boasting one of the league’s most versatile scorers in All-Star Giannis Antetokounmpo. It took seven games, but the Celtics got just enough from the healthy players left on their roster to hold off Milwaukee with a 112-96 victory on Saturday night (Sunday, PHL time). Now they’ll turn their attention to Ben Simmons, Joel Embiid and another youth-led team in the Eastern Conference semifinals against Philadelphia. “It’s something we’ve had to go through all season,” said rookie Jayson Tatum, who had 20 points on Saturday (Sunday, PHL time), becoming just the second rookie in Celtics’ history to score 20 in a Game 7. “Some way, somehow, we figure it out. And I think that’s what’s unique about our team.” Tatum is just one of the young faces that remain on Boston’s bench that have grown up fast over the past three weeks. Because of it, the Celtics that have squeezed out their best basketball despite the multiple subtractions to their roster. Terry Rozier put up career numbers after stepping into a starting role. Smart injected new life into the team over the last three games following his return to action from thumb surgery. Then there was rookie Semi Ojeleye, who made things difficult late in the series for Antetokounmpo. And they still had at least a veteran to lean on. Al Horford provided not only his voice, but probably his best stretch of games in a Celtics uniform over the last seven games. He matched his playoff career high with 26 points on 13-of-17 shooting in Game 7 and averaged a team-high 18.1 points and 8.7 rebounds for the series. “It’s what I think I’ve been doing all year,” Horford said. “It’s what we’ve been doing as a group. We didn’t treat this any differently. ... I felt like our guys, their poise was great. Milwaukee fought hard. They kept giving us shots, our guys stayed with it and eventually we wore them [out].” But Boston will enter the series with the 76ers facing yet another challenge. Jaylen Brown, who had two 30-point games in the series, left near the end of the second quarter on Saturday (Sunday, PHL time) and sat out the entire second half with a right hamstring injury. He said afterward that trainers believe he has a Grade 1 sprain. He was put on anti-inflammatory medication and will get an MRI on Sunday (Monday, PHL time). With rest and treatment he’s optimistic that he’ll be ready to go for Game 1 against the 76ers on Monday night (Tuesday, PHL time). “Whatever it takes, I wouldn’t miss this series for the world,” Brown said. FAMILIAR CHANT Late in the fourth quarter with the Celtics leading the Bucks by 19 points, “We want Philly!” chants began to echo throughout TD Garden. It wasn’t quite “Beat L.A.!” But it certainly had echoes of the 1982 rendition that Boston fans bellowed in the closing minutes of Boston’s Game 7 loss to Philadelphia in the Eastern Conference Finals that year. Now it’s the 76ers that stand in the way of Boston getting back to the conference finals for the second straight year. “We’ve played them quite a bit. It’s been awhile since we played them,” Tatum said. “But they’re a big, physical team.” GAME 7 DOMINANCE Boston improved to 20-4 all-time in Game 7's at home. The Celtics are 23-8 in Game 7 overall. BACK IN THE SEMIS With the win, the Celtics have advanced to the Eastern Conference semifinals in back-to-back seasons for the first time since the 2011-2012 postseasons......»»

Category: sportsSource:  abscbnRelated NewsApr 29th, 2018

BLOGTABLE: 2018 pre-playoffs predictions

NBA.ph blogtable 1) Which first-round series in the West is most likely to see an upset result (lower seed beating higher seed)? Enzo Flojo: For sure it’s Portland-New Orleans. I love Damian Lillard’s game, but the Pels are a really tough bunch with a lot of weapons, even sans Boogie Cousins. Jusuf Nurkic will have a really tough time containing AD; that’s one reason this has a high potential for an upset! Migs Bustos: The Jazz and Thunder matchup. It's a tale of upward momentum versus inconsistency. The Jazz have won seven out of their last 10 games, and OKC are 5-5 in their last 10. With how the Jazz are playing great team basketball, led by super rookie, Donovan Mitchell, they have a great chance of upsetting the erratic OKC Thunder. If maganda ang gising ng Utah for four games, may tulog ang OKC sa kanila. Marco Benitez: I think the Thunder-Jazz series is the one where most likely we will see an upset. The Thunder experiment of Westbrook-George-Anthony has been up and down all season, while the Jazz are a well-coached team anchored on a great defensive presence in Gobert. The Thunder win if Westbrook dominates the game and Adams is able to neutralize Gobert. But if OKC becomes stagnant on offense and their usual selves defensively, then the Jazz can wreck havoc on this matchup. Favian Pua: Portland Trail Blazers vs. New Orleans Pelicans: In order for the Pelicans to stun the Blazers, Anthony Davis must cement his status as the best player on both ends of the floor throughout the series. A Playoff Rondo sighting paired with the feisty defense of Jrue Holiday should stymie the backcourt attack of Damian Lillard and C.J. McCollum. Adrian Dy: If it turns out Kawhi Leonard was just saving himself for a postseason run, then the Spurs would absolutely wreck the Stephen Curry-less Golden State Warriors. Barring such a comeback though, I'm riding high on the Pelicans. The Blazers don't have the bigs to even slow down Davis, and the Jrue Holiday + Playoffs Rajon Rondo combo could make things really tough for Damian Lillard and CJ McCollum 2) Which first-round series in the East is most likely to see an upset result (lower seed beating higher seed)? Enzo Flojo: Don’t look past the veteran-laden Miami Heat. Philadelphia is by far the deeper team, sure, but if Embiid is hampered by his injury and both D-Wade and Goran Dragic have their way, Miami can push the Sixers to the distance and an upset may not be that surprising. Also, coach Spo shines in 7-game series! Migs Bustos: In the East, it's a bit more challenging. We all know about the success of the Sixers this season; no matter what seed Lebron's team is, it will be hard to upset them; the Raptors have been long consistent at the number 1 spot all season. So, the best bet would be the Bucks overthrowing home court advantage. And this is because Kyrie is out of the season. It's just up to Giannis and Co. to take advantage of that disadvantage by the Celtics to pull through. Marco Benitez: The plague of injuries to the Boston Celtics really hurt their chances of contending in the East, much less win a championship this season. Without Kyrie, Marcus Smart, and Gordon Hayward, the Celtics are vulnerable against the Greek Freak-led Bucks, who are long and talented. With that being said, Boston is still an extremely well-coached, albeit young team, and Giannis will have to be the best player on the floor for most of the series for the inconsistent Bucks to pull off the upset. Favian Pua: Philadelphia 76ers vs. Miami Heat: Though the Sixers are rolling into the playoffs, only J.J. Redick and Marco Belinelli can boast of a legitimate postseason resume. Led by All-Star Goran Dragic, the Heat are an unrelenting unit of two-way veterans who can both muck it up inside and bait opponents into a long-range shootout. Joel Embiid’s uncertain status will force Sixers head coach Brett Brown to find a counter for Hassan Whiteside. Adrian Dy: Though I have the 76ers advancing, it wouldn't surprise me if the Heat shut down Ben Simmons and shut up Joel Embiid. Erik Spoelstra has a knack for getting the best out of his squads, Dwyane Wade could have some clutch moments, and if the aforementioned Embiid doesn't return as soon as expected, South Beach could be singing after round one. 3) Which team that missed the playoffs has the best shot at making it next season? Enzo Flojo: I’d love to say Denver, but their being in the West really makes their window tight. That’s why I’m picking the Detroit Pistons, who have enough talent to make quite a big impact in the East, especially if their big names (e.g. Drummond, Griffin, Jackson) all stay put and stay healthy! Migs Bustos: To be honest, there are not much compelling story lines on teams that barely missed the playoffs this year. There's nothing like one of the most recent examples -- the Heat's 2016-2017 season where they made a late season run but just missed it at .500 (41-41), or how about Phoenix having a winning record at 48-34 in the 2013-2014 season missing out? The 16 teams were more or less 'predicted' to make the postseason this year so there wasn't a big surprise. Marco Benitez: I think a healthy Memphis Grizzlies team, with Conley, Gasol, Parsons and Tyreke Evans (assuming all are still with the Grizzlies next season) will be a lock to make the playoffs after a disappointing 22-60 win-loss record this season that saw a season-ending surgery for Conley happen in late January. Favian Pua: The Denver Nuggets. Nikola Jokic and his ragtag bunch of scorers were an overtime loss away against the Minnesota Timberwolves from getting their first taste of the postseason. To do so, the Nuggets will need to handle their business and take care of bottom-feeders, as it was backbreaking losses to the Memphis Grizzlies and Dallas Mavericks in March that prevented them from securing an outright playoff berth. Adrian Dy: The Dallas Mavericks. Dirk Nowitzki will likely want to go out with a bang, Rick Carlisle is still a really good coach, Dennis Smith Jr. is a fantastic attacking guard, and if the lotto balls bounce the right way, they could return to the upper echelon of the West. 4) Which team that made these playoffs has the biggest chance of missing it next season? Enzo Flojo: It may sound crazy, but the Spurs are at great risk for next season. Kawhi continues to be a huge question mark and their veterans will get even older in 2018-2019. They nearly didn’t make it this year, and next year could be the tipping point! Migs Bustos: I'd have to go with the San Antonio Spurs. No doubt all of the other teams are on the up-swing, and they all boast of youth. If Kahwi does not play for the Spurs next season, expect younger teams with great potential like the Nuggets and Lakers to overtake SAS. Marco Benitez: Depending on what happens in terms of offseason trades, and assuming that the rest of the Western Conference regains full strength next season, the two teams I feel have the biggest chance of missing the playoffs next season are Miami and New Orleans. For Miami, DWade is not getting any younger, and Hassan Whiteside has not been at a consistent All-Star level all season. With Blake Griffin and Andre Drummond getting a full year under their belt in Detroit and Kristaps Porzingis back at full strength in New York, I see Miami as the most likely team to get bumped off in the East next season. For New Orleans, the Davis-Cousins experiment did not necessarily turn them into a legitimate playoff contender in the West, and when Cousins fell to injury, they've had to rely on AD to carry them almost entirely on his shoulders. With the ultra competitive West getting healthier next season, unless the Pels are able to get better on the wings -- assuming of course Cousins doesn't bolt in the offseason -- they may find themselves out of the playoffs. Favian Pua: Cleveland Cavaliers. Hinging on the premise that LeBron James bolts for the Sixers or Los Angeles Lakers in free agency this offseason, the Cavaliers are headed for a massive nosedive towards the number one pick in the 2019 draft. No other team has more to lose than the Cavaliers this postseason, and it is highly probable that winning the title is the only way The King stays in The Land. Adrian Dy: If we get another round of LeBron James free agency sweepstakes, and he winds up getting the Banana Boat Gang together in Houston, it's hard to see the Cleveland Cavaliers being competitive, let alone back in the Eastern Conference playoffs. Should that happen, I'd expect them to trade guys like Kevin Love, and hope that lotto luck favors them anew. 5) Which team is your early favorite to win it all? Enzo Flojo: Despite all the injuries and all their inconsistencies, the Warriors are still my odds-on fave to win it all. They have four big time playoff performers, and they know this is where their real season begins. Migs Bustos: Don't count out the Warriors. Even though they have been plagued with injuries towards the end of the season, the Dubs will hope that they will be healthy in time and turn 'on' the button with their championship experience Marco Benitez: Still the Warriors. Although they'll be without Steph in the first round, I foresee the same dominant Dubs starting the second round all the way to the Finals. The regular season has been a bit of a drag for them this season, and I believe that's why we haven't seen the same Warriors squad as that of past years. But come playoffs, there's no reason why the defending champs don't get locked in; and when they do, frankly, there's still no better team in the league than Golden State. Favian Pua: The Houston Rockets. The playoffs is all about trimming the fat in the roster and letting star power take over in the biggest moments. In James Harden and Chris Paul, the Rockets will always have at least one elite shot creator and facilitator on the court for all 48 minutes. Flanked by capable three-point shooters and wing defenders acquired specifically to neutralize the Golden State Warriors’ juggernaut, Clutch City is on track for its first Larry O’Brien trophy since 1995. Adrian Dy: Yes the defending champions are banged-up and looked uninterested as the regular season wound down, but now that it's winning time, I expect the Warriors to do their thing, although there's no way it'll be as smooth as their 16-1 romp last season......»»

Category: sportsSource:  abscbnRelated NewsApr 14th, 2018

MVP Ladder: No topping Harden in award chase

By Sekou Smith, NBA.com Stump speeches aren’t necessary. Not when your campaign drives itself on performance alone, when you elevate the conversation with each and every outing, the way James Harden did from the opening tip of this regular season until the final buzzer. So if it seems like Harden has skillfully avoided getting caught up in this reporter-crafted Kia MVP pickles that often drive the rest of our NBA dialogue on a daily basis, it’s by design. Besides, who needs to dive in on the debate when you have unsolicited celebrity endorsements from the likes of Kobe Bryant, who made clear to USA Today Sports that Harden’s time is now. “It’s got to be James,” Bryant said. “I really don’t understand the debate about picking somebody else. I don’t get it. Like, what the hell does this guy have to do? I mean for the last three years, the guy has been absolutely lights out, and now you still want to sit here and debate who should be MVP when he leads the league in scoring (30.4 points per game), his assists numbers (8.8 apg) are off the charts, they have the best record in the league (65-16). “If he doesn’t win MVP this year, what the hell is he supposed to do to win MVP, average 40 [points], 15 [assists] and 15 [rebounds]? I mean, come on now. Enough is enough.” After coming up short twice in the past three seasons, Harden is poised to capture the Maurice Podoloff Trophy. It is something he felt he earned last season, when his former Oklahoma City Thunder teammate, Russell Westbrook, used a triple-double season to claim the hardware. Stephen Curry won the award in 2015 and 2016, his star rising in concert with the Golden State Warriors' surge from lottery team, to contender to championship-winner in two of the last three seasons. While Curry claimed those awards, Harden won MVP honors in a vote of his peers at the NBPA’s first Players Awards in July 2015. There will be no dispute this time around. There is no other narrative that trumps Harden’s.   No other player's performance rises above what he’s done for the Rockets this season, the first with he and fellow superstar point guard  Chris Paul sharing the leadership load of the league’s best team. Not even four-time Kia MVP LeBron James, who turned in one of the finest seasons of his 15 year career in Cleveland, could catch Harden on the Kia Race to the MVP Ladder or in the minds of most voters. Rockets coach Mike D’Antoni coached Bryant, Carmelo Anthony and two-time Kia MVP Steve Nash. Yet it was Harden who received D'Anton's greatest compliment after a win in Portland last month when called Harden the “best offensive player I’ve ever seen.” “He’s a hell of a player, first off,” D’Antoni told USA Today Sports when asked to explain his declaration. “It’s a combination of everything. There are other players who might be better at this, or a little bit better at that. But when you put everything together, and the way he passes, the way he sees teammates, the way he can lob, the way he can fight through a foul. I mean even on an off night, he’s probably getting 30, 40 points, and I mean efficiently. And he doesn’t even have anything going. But he’s so efficient, and he gets other guys involved.” If the strength of Harden’s MVP case this season was just his own individual offensive brilliance, he’d still have a rock-solid case. He did record the first 60-point triple-double in NBA history this season and won the scoring title a season after leading the league in assists. But, as D’Antoni noted, Harden's ability to raise the level of play from teammates like Clint Capela, Eric Gordon, Trevor Ariza and others is what stands out. “I don't think there's a player that's had to create as much as I've had to in these last three years," Harden said in a GQ profile that came out this week. "I don't know if there's a guy in NBA history.” That comment can be interpreted in a number of ways, and it’s sure to spark yet another debate as the conversation continues deep into this postseason about who is most deserving of Kia MVP honors. But we’re done here. “It’s James Harden, no doubt about it,” a Western Conference executive told me when asked if there was any dispute about this season’s most valuable player. “Harden in a landslide.” * * * The top five in the Final Edition of the 2017-18 Kia Race to the MVP Ladder: 1. James Harden, Houston Rockets Last week: No. 1 2017-18 season stats: 30.4 points, 8.8 assists, 5.4 rebounds Harden declared early on that this was the Rockets’ season. He felt they finally had the pieces to challenge the Golden State Warriors for the top spot in the Western Conference standings, and, therefore, the entire league. He served notice on opening night, when he and the Rockets spoiled the Warriors' championship banner and rings celebration at Oracle Arena by claiming a win. Harden’s 27 points, 11 assists and six rebounds was the opening salvo in what turned into the best season in Rockets history. Harden’s ability to blend his point guard responsibilities with his role as the most lethal scorer in the league fueled one brilliant performance after another. As well, Harden also silenced the critics who suggested he and Paul would not be able to play well off of each other. The Rockets enter the postseason with the No. 1 overall seed and with all the confidence needed for a championship run. 2. LeBron James, Cleveland Cavaliers Last week: No. 2 2017-18 season stats: 27.5 points, 9.1 assists, 8.6 rebounds LeBron put the final touches on his outstanding 15th NBA regular season by capturing Eastern Conference Player of the Month honors for March/April, the fourth time this season he took those honors (October/November, December and February). In addition to the parade of milestones LeBron reached this season, he also piled up a career-high 18 triple-doubles, led the Cavaliers through a tumultuous year that ended with 50 or more wins for the fourth straight season. He shot better than 54 percent from the floor (.542) and also had his best shooting from beyond the 3-point line (.367) since returning to Cleveland from Miami before the 2014-15 season. The true test of his super powers, though, will be on display in this postseason. The Cavaliers finished as the fourth seed in the Eastern Conference but go into the playoffs as the favorite, in the eyes of most, to survive the gauntlet due in large part to LeBron’s work the past seven seasons guiding his teams to The Finals. 3. Anthony Davis, New Orleans Pelicans Last week: No. 3 2017-18 season stats: 28.1 points, 11.1 rebounds, 2.3 blocks Davis turned it on when the Pelicans needed it most, after DeMarcus Cousins went down with a season-ending Achilles injury. He powered the Pelicans with 50 double-doubles, one triple-double and, when the Pelicans needed grind their way into the postseason as 2017-18 waned, he picked his game up even more. He averaged 29 points, 11.2 rebounds, 3.8 blocks, 2.4 assists and 2.2 blocks during the Pelicans’ season-ending five-game win streak that helped them secure the No. 6 seed. That sealed up Davis' second career playoff run and he’s still looking for his first playoff win. His ability to carry the load for the Pelicans the way he did, though, is easily the most impressive part of his season. There was no guarantee the Pelicans would make the playoffs in a rugged Western Conference even with Cousins healthy. To do it without him speaks volumes about the impact Davis had on his team. 4. Damian Lillard, Portland Trail Blazers Last week: No. 4 2017-18 season stats: 26.9 points, 6.6 assists, 4.5 rebounds Lillard has done what few thought possible after the Portland team he joined as a rookie was taken apart and rebuilt around him. The catalyst for a Blazers team that finished third in the West, Lillard forced his way onto that short list of names in the best-point-guard-in-the-game discussion. He lacks the championship and/or Kia MVP hardware guys like Curry, Kyrie Irving and Westbrook all have. But his body of work as the face of Portland's franchise makes it difficult to leave him out of the discussion. The Blazers wouldn't have come anywhere close to that No. 3 seed without Lillard going nuclear in February (31.4 points, six assists and nearly five rebounds in 10 games). This has been a transformative year on and off the court for Lillard, who is not only had a career-best season, but also celebrated the birth of his son late last month. 5. Kevin Durant, Golden State Warriors Last week: No. 5 2017-18 season stats: 26.4 points, 6.8 rebounds, 5.4 assists Durant followed up his 2017 Finals MVP honors with a steady season, by his lofty standard, but not one that pushed him closer to the top of this list. His understanding of the way the regular season connects to the postseason no doubt played a role in the way he paced himself. That’s not to say that Durant didn't have an outstanding regular season, because he did. But just like James and to an extent his All-Star teammate, Curry, Durant’s seasons are now measured against the high standard he’s set in past ones. He actually averaged more points and assists this season compared to his first with the Warriors. And he set a career-high with 1.8 blocks per game, showing off his improved awareness and effectiveness on defense. With Curry out for the first round of the playoffs due to injury, Durant will get a chance to remind the San Antonio Spurs and the rest of the league just how dangerous he can be with everything on the line. The next five 6. Russell Westbrook, Oklahoma City Thunder 7. DeMar DeRozan, Toronto Raptors 8. Stephen Curry, Golden State Warriors 9. Giannis Antetokounmpo, Milwaukee Bucks 10. Joel Embiid, Philadelphia 76ers And five more: LaMarcus Aldridge, San Antonio Spurs; Kyrie Irving, Boston Celtics; Nikola Jokic, Denver Nuggets; Victor Oladipo, Indiana Pacers; Karl-Anthony Towns, Minnesota Timberwolves Sekou Smith is a veteran NBA reporter and NBA TV analyst. You can e-mail him here, find his archive here and follow him on Twitter. The views on this page do not necessarily reflect the views of the NBA, its clubs or Turner Broadcasting......»»

Category: sportsSource:  abscbnRelated NewsApr 14th, 2018

MVP Ladder: Davis shrugs off pain, makes case for MVP

By Sekou Smith, NBA.com You’ll have to forgive New Orleans Pelicans coach Alvin Gentry for not feeling the need to mount some coordinated public campaign for Anthony Davis for Kia MVP. Gentry figures the voters have eyes, so they've seen the same jaw-dropping things from the superstar big man that he sees every night. “He’s great, man. Just an absolutely great player in every aspect,” Gentry said in a hallway at the Smoothie King Center after Davis and the Pelicans came up short in a critical game against the Portland Trail Blazers. “You want to know what kind of guy he is? He’s in there beating himself up saying he should have done more. What more could he have done? He got 36 and 14 with three guys handing on him all night. Come on, man, he’s just a great, great player.” Davis finished with 36 points, 14 rebounds, six blocks and played the final 17 minutes in pain after injuring his left ankle late in the third quarter. He took a minute to shake it off and finished the game favoring the ankle, that required treatment after the game. These are the sorts of performances he’s turned in routinely this season, particularly since the Pelicans’ other All-Star big man, DeMarcus Cousins, went down with a season-ending Achilles injury Jan. 26 (Jan. 27, PHL time). He and Cousins were on pace to become the first pair of teammates in NBA history to each average better than 25 points and 10 rebounds. Davis is averaging 31.1 points, 12.3  rebounds and 3.6 blocks since the All-Star break, after averaging 27.4, 10.7 and 2.1 in the 51 games before the break. So the “M-V-P” chants he heard in those final minutes against the Trail Blazers were well warranted for a player with range and versatility as a two-way performer that might be unrivaled in the league. “I can only think of a couple guys in this league who can impact a game the way he can from end to end. It’s AD and … ” Gentry said, before a reporter blurted out the name of the other player he was thinking of, “yeah, LeBron. I mean, these guys can guard from the three-point line to the rim and can score from those same spaces on anybody. Guys like that, wth that ability and those talents, they are just very rare.” James and Davis (who occupy the No. 2 and 3 spots, respectively, in this week’s Kia Race to the MVP Ladder) will square off today at Quicken Loans Arena. It’ll be another chance for Davis to be measured against the league’s standard-bearer in regards to the MVP conversation. James has four MVPs in his war chest, and could (and probably should) have a couple more. Meanwhile, Davis is still searching for his first. At 33, James has shown a durability and staying power that Davis, 25, is also still searching for. If there is a knock on his game, it’s that he’s struggled with injuries, bumps and bruises to a degree that’s greater than you’d expect from a player as physically gifted as the 6'11", 253-pound dynamo. Tuesday night’s (Wednesday, PHL time) spill against the Trail Blazers marked the 11th time this season Davis has had to exit a game because of an injury. The reaction of the crowd, a collective hush as Davis writhed in pain under the basket, was followed by wild cheers when he got to his feet and limped to the bench. Davis refused to go to the locker room, choosing instead to take a moment to gather himself and return to the game, knowing the severity of his injury was overshadowed by the weight of the Pelicans’ current predicament. They need every single game to reach the postseason for just the second time in his career, the same postseason he suggested the Pelicans would have dominated had Cousins not gotten injured. That’s why he’ll play through whatever lingering discomfort he has to against the Cavaliers tonight. The gravity of the Pelicans’ situation demands that he fight through the pain, dust himself off and get back on the floor the same way he did Tuesday night (Wednesday, PHL time). “Just knowing the type of situation we’re in,” Davis told reporters in New Orleans Thursday (Friday, PHL time), “I just wanted to be on the floor. I felt I couldn't leave that game, even though it was bothering me. I just tried to tough it out and just play through it.” * * * The top five in the Week 24 edition of the 2017-18 Kia Race to the MVP Ladder: * * * 1. James Harden, Houston Rockets Last week: No. 1 Season stats: 30.7 points, 8.7 assists, 5.4 rebounds Harden took a rare night off Tuesday (Wednesday, PHL time) and the Rockets still rolled over the Chicago Bulls. The Rockets are good enough to go on auto-pilot the way they’re playing. They’ve already set the franchise record for wins in a season and secured the Western Conference's No. 1 seed ... all with seven games to go in their season. Harden’s work from the start of training camp has been the catalyst for this special season for the Rockets. He worked to integrate the new additions to the lineup, but did so without sacrificing any of the things that made him the strong MVP candidate he was last season. Topping his performance from last season should be more than enough to secure his first Kia MVP. The official word will come on June 25 (June 26, PHL time) at the NBA Awards show. But with the way the Rockets have played down the stretch of this season with Harden leading the way, the suspense in this MVP chase has evaporated. 2. LeBron James, Cleveland Cavaliers Last week: No. 2 Season stats: 27.6 points, 9.1 assists, 8.6 rebounds You have to appreciate LeBron’s admission that he would indeed vote for himself if he had a say in the race for the Kia MVP. And it’s hard to argue with his logic. Given all that the Cavaliers have endured since Kyrie Irving’s trade request was made public, it’s truly remarkable that he’s been able to compartmentalize the way he has and continue to play at an otherworldly level. If not for James Harden, LeBron would be clearing space on his mantle for his fifth Maurice Podoloff Trophy. Instead, he’ll have to settle for another season of milestones and his continued assault on nearly every career statistic the league has to offer. Not to mention he's still on track to play all 82 games for the first time in his career. And if you were wondering how the old man (relatively speaking, of course) bounces back after tough night (18 points in their Wednesday, PHL time, loss to Miami), catch the highlights from his 41-point, 10-rebound, eight-assist masterpiece in Charlotte on the second night of a back-to-back set. 3. Anthony Davis, New Orleans Pelicans Last week: No. 4 Season stats: 28.3 points, 11.1 rebounds, 2.5 blocks Back-to-back losses at Houston and at home to Portland have put Davis and the Pelicans in a familiar position in the Western Conference playoff chase. Every game until the finish is a must-win affair, with today’s tilt against LeBron James and the Cleveland Cavaliers serving as the ideal showcase for Davis. He’s been an absolute monster of late (29.6 points, 11.5 rebounds, 3.8 blocks and 2.4 assists in his last 10 games). He knows what it will take to push the Pelicans into the playoff mix without DeMarcus Cousins, as that is something Davis had to do three years ago to secure his lone playoff voyage. It took a home win over San Antonio on the final night of the regular season to clinch a spot and it might take the same this time around -- Davis and the Pelicans finish up the regular season April 11 (April 12, PHL time) with a home game against the Spurs. 4. DeMar DeRozan, Toronto Raptors Last week: No. 3 Season stats: 23.3 points, 5.2 assists, 3.9 rebounds Saturday’s trip game in Boston (Sunday, PHL time) couldn't have come at a better time for DeRozan and the Raptors, who still have some work to do secure the top spot in the Eastern Conference. Their lead over the Celtics is down to three games. Given Toronto's recent losses to the Cavs and LA Clippers, a statement win on the road against the surging Celtics would go a long way towards resetting the Raptors' collective confidence. DeRozan’s continued evolution as a playmaker has remained on full display (15 assists in his last two games) and will be crucial to the Raptors’ offensive effectiveness in the playoffs. That's assuming coach Dwane Casey does indeed plan to keep his rotation as deep in the playoffs as he has all season. But the scoring prowess that has propelled DeRozan to All-Star status the past four seasons will be just as important, if not more so, given the relative inexperience of several of the Raptors’ role players. Both DeRozan and fellow All-Star Kyle Lowry know how vital it will be for them to be in a good rhythm for the postseason. 5. Damian Lillard, Portland Trail Blazers Last week: No. 5 Season stats: 26.8 points, 6.5 assists, 4.5 rebounds Lillard was spectacular in a critical road win in New Orleans Tuesday night, finishing with a game-high 41 points (and nine rebounds, six assists and four steals). He did all that while out-dueling fellow MVP candidate Davis in what was a thrilling, must-see fourth quarter. It didn’t matter who was guarding Lillard -- sometimes it was Davis and other times it was Pelicans defensive wiz Jrue Holiday. Lillard was locked in and on absolute fire in a playoff atmosphere. His importance to the Trail Blazers, though, was even more evident a night later when he was missing from a deflating road loss to in Memphis. Lillard missed the game for a good reason: the birth of his son. But it should be clear by now that these Trail Blazers will go only as far as the mercurial Lillard can take them in the postseason. C.J. McCollum is as good a No. 2 option as you’ll find and Terry Stotts has done Coach of the Year-caliber in developing the roster. It’s Lillard’s scoring and playmaking, however, that takes them from a solid team to a top-three seed in the Western Conference. The next five: 6. Kevin Durant, Golden State Warriors 7. Russell Westbrook, Oklahoma City Thunder 8. Stephen Curry, Golden State Warriors 9. Kyrie Irving, Boston Celtics 10. Karl-Anthony Towns, Minnesota Timberwolves And five more ... LaMarcus Aldridge, San Antonio Spurs; Giannis Antetokounmpo, Milwaukee Bucks; Joel Embiid, Philadelphia 76ers; Nikola Jokic, Denver Nuggets; Victor Oladipo, Indiana Pacers Next up? An inside look at LaMarcus Aldridge from an Western Conference advance scout: “I would love to know exactly what was said in the conversation he had with [Spurs coach Gregg] Pop[ovich] after last season, from both sides. Because whatever it was, it’s produced the best season I’ve seen from LA since he’s been in the league. And I’m dating that back to his best years in Portland. The Spurs aren't close to the team they are with all of the heavy lifting he’s done this season. He’s been more physical and much more active on the defensive end than he was last season and obviously, with Kawhi Leonard missing from the lineup for basically the entire season, his responsibilities as the No. 1 option for them offensively has been tremendous. He’s always been a skilled, face-up big. Working from the L and on the baseline extended, he’s as tough a cover as you’ll find at that position. "He embraced the other stuff, though, and perhaps at Pop’s urging. He’s made himself a more physical presence around the basket and at the rim. When he’s working in space against opposing [centers], that’s when he really has an advantage, because he’ll abuse guys his size and bigger who aren’t as mobile, guys who cannot match his quickness. He’s not an above the rim guy or a rim protector that causes you any concern, but he’s stronger than he looks and this season, he’s mixed it up more when necessary. He’s been more physical than usual. I’d suggest that’s a direct result of what Pop was trying to convey to him. Without Kawhi out there, someone had to play that role as their offensive catalyst and to do that LaMarcus was going to have to toughen up and show more fire than he did last season. I give him credit for stepping up to that challenge. I’ll admit, I was a bit of a skeptic when he was the hot free agent name a couple summers back. It’s easy to forget that. He was the player everybody wanted and the Spurs got him. And it seems like he’s finally comfortable there now in the role he’s playing leading that team right now. I’ve gained a lot of respect for him and his game with the way he’s played this season.” Sekou Smith is a veteran NBA reporter and NBA TV analyst. You can e-mail him here, find his archive here and follow him on Twitter. The views on this page do not necessarily reflect the views of the NBA, its clubs or Turner Broadcasting......»»

Category: sportsSource:  abscbnRelated NewsMar 31st, 2018

Lillard, McCollum believe Blazers peaking at the right time

This time last season, the Portland Trail Blazers were struggling to make it into the Western Conference Playoffs. Ultimately, they finished with a 41-41 record, just a win ahead of the Denver Nuggets for the eighth seed. Fast-forward to 2018, and it's a whole different story. The Blazers are already three victories better than last season, with 11 games still to play. More importantly, they're now the third seed, with a two-game cushion over the next team, and they're healthy, in sharp contrast to other West powers. Not bad for a team that was 16-16 late in December. The Blazers didn't do a lot during the offseason. In fact, their major move, aside from two first round selections, was a subtraction, shipping out Allen Crabbe to the Brooklyn Nets, and then waiving the player they got for him, Andrew Nicholson, in a cost-cutting move. But by standing pat, Portland have the blessing of continuity, something superstar Damian Lillard believes is key to their current run. "I think the biggest difference between our team this season and last season is our experience together," Lillard told reporters in an international call. "One more year of us being on the same team, understanding each other a little bit better. Also, just being a much better defensive team. "In the past, we've had the ability to score points. Obviously, we're doing a much better job offensively this season because everybody's a part of it....But I think our defense has been a huge deal. We worked our way into being one of the top defensive teams in the league....Over time we've gotten comfortable with each other, and I think we're starting to mesh really well." As of writing, the Blazers have a 104.3 defensive rating, good for #7 in the NBA. A season ago, they were 21st, at 107.8. "I think we have become a much better team because of how we're leaning on each other and counting on each other," Lillard added. The Blazers were riding high on a 13-game win streak, before they finally succumbed to the league leaders Houston Rockets, in a tight, 115-111 loss Wednesday (PHL time). Still, it's a defeat the team is taking in stride. "We had the winning streak and we beat a lot of good teams during that winning streak....But I think playing against Houston, you know, the best team in the league right now, and myself and CJ [McCollum], our top two guys on the offensive end are not having a great night, and we still find ourselves down two under a minute left with a chance to get a stop and maybe go to overtime or win the game....I think we just have a lot of confidence when we don't have great games and our team is still in position to win the game." That's a notion Lillard's running-mate, CJ McCollum, agrees with, giving extra credit to the squad's reserves. "The bench was huge, and they've been great all season. [They] extended leads for us, figuring out ways to contribute, whether that be from scoring, rebounding, or defending. I mean, even last night against the Rockets guys stepped up and were aggressive and made plays and impacted the game." Against the Rockets, Lillard and McCollum combined for just 28 points on 9-of-32 shooting, missing all 12 of their three-point attempts. However, 22 markers from Al-Farouq Aminu, 17 from Mo Harkless, plus, 23 from the bench, gave them a chance to steal one from Houston. Given Portland's slow start to the season, and their under-the-radar approach, it's fair to say that the Blazers are peaking at just the right time. "I think sometimes people come out in the beginning of the season and they play great and look great. You always hear people saying they're playing really well early, and it's almost kind of scary because you want them to be playing really well late," Lillard points out. "I think what's unique about our team is the fact that we started the season off up and down," adds McCollum. "We weren't playing our best basketball. We had some home losses. Then as the season progressed, we continued to get better. We got healthy and just figured out ways to win games." Of course, the Blazers are not yet in the clear. Their next game is against the Boston Celtics on Saturday (PHL time), and their remaining schedule includes fellow playoff squads the Oklahoma City Thunder, the Rockets again, the San Antonio Spurs, the Denver Nuggets, and the Utah Jazz. With teams clustered together tightly in the standings, all of those matches will likely have a major impact on the chase for homecourt advantage. The Blazers, of course, are well aware of all that. "With how good those other teams are," McCollum says, "it's hard enough to beat them in a regular game, let alone on the road. So the more games you can play at home, the better. "I think we can improve on our late-game execution. Figuring out ways to get stops and second-chance opportunities and being a little more sharp down the stretch in games. That's going to be the difference in advancing in the playoffs and having a long playoff life, compared to essentially losing early." "We know it's a tough task and the Rockets are a great team, and the Warriors are a great team, so is OKC. We just feel like the kind of basketball we're playing and how our team is clicking, we feel like we've got a chance," said Lillard. "We're a team that's capable of winning the West. We've just got to go out there and prove it.".....»»

Category: sportsSource:  abscbnRelated NewsMar 22nd, 2018

Westbrook s triple-double leads Thunder past Spurs 104-94

By CLIFF BRUNT ,  AP Sports Writer OKLAHOMA CITY (AP) — Russell Westbrook scored 21 points and posted his 19th triple-double of the season to help the Oklahoma City Thunder defeat the San Antonio Spurs 104-94 on Saturday night. Westbrook had 12 rebounds and 10 assists in the 98th triple-double of his career. Jerami Grant scored 15 points, Corey Brewer added 12, Paul George and Alex Abrines each scored 11 and Patrick Patterson had 10 for the Thunder. Nick Collison scored all seven of his points in six critical minutes in the fourth quarter for Oklahoma City, which improved to 6-3 since the All-Star break. Rudy Gay and Davis Bertans each scored 14 points for the Spurs, who have lost eight of 10. LaMarcus Aldridge was held to 11 points on 5-for-16 shooting in the matchup between teams that are in the running for the No. 3 seed in the Western Conference. Brewer's corner 3-pointer in the closing seconds of the first half gave the Thunder a 52-43 lead. He led Oklahoma City with 10 points before the break. Thunder center Steven Adams came down hard on his left ankle early in the third quarter and did not return. Without his presence on both ends of the floor, the Spurs quickly took advantage and cut Oklahoma City's lead to 62-58. The Thunder recovered after a timeout and led 77-68 after three quarters. Collison took over in the early part of the fourth quarter. He made a reverse layup to make it 82-70, drew the fifth foul on Aldridge with 7:41 to play, then scored in close a minute later to give the Thunder an 89-72 lead. The Spurs cut their deficit to seven with about two minutes to play, but Westbrook clinched the triple-double on an assist to Grant for a 3-pointer that put the Thunder up 12. TIP-INS Spurs: F/C Pau Gasol started after sitting out against Golden State on Thursday with a right shoulder injury. ... F Kawhi Leonard remained out while recovering from a right quadriceps injury. Thunder: G Terrance Ferguson was out with a concussion he received when he ran into Adams on Thursday against the Phoenix Suns. ... The reserves scored 50 points. UP NEXT Spurs: at the Houston Rockets on Monday. Thunder: host the Sacramento Kings on Monday......»»

Category: sportsSource:  abscbnRelated NewsMar 11th, 2018

Westbrook s 3-pointer at buzzer lifts Thunder past Kings

By Michael Wagaman, Associated Press SACRAMENTO, Calif. (AP) — Russell Westbrook made a three-pointer as time expired, lifting the Oklahoma City Thunder to a 110-107 victory over the Sacramento Kings on Thursday night (Friday, PHL time). The Thunder blew a 23-point lead and trailed 105-102 with 4.5 minutes remaining before closing the game on an 8-2 run. "Westbrook for the win...GOT IT!" Russell Westbook nails the @TISSOT Buzzer-Beater to lift the @okcthunder to victory! #ThisIsYourTime pic.twitter.com/Ui6nO8iBPS — NBA (@NBA) February 23, 2018 Westbrook, who notched his 18th triple-double of the season, made three free throws sandwiched around a bucket in the paint by Steven Adams to put Oklahoma City up 107-105. Justin Jackson's six-foot jumper off an offensive rebound tied the game. After a timeout, the Thunder got the ball in front of Sacramento's bench and Carmelo Anthony found Westbrook atop the three-point line for the winner. Westbrook lifted the Thunder from what would have been a devastating loss after a fast start in their first game since the All-Star break. They set a season high with 44 points in the first quarter and made 12 three-pointers but still had to rally in the final minutes to win. Anthony matched his season-high of seven three-pointers and Paul George had three from beyond the arc, ending his five-game streak with five or more triples. It was the second-longest streak in NBA history behind George McCloud's six-game streak in 1996. The Thunder shot nearly 70 percent in the first quarter and made seven three's, including three straight by Anthony. George had two of them and added a three-point play and two free throws to put Oklahoma City up 44-21. It was the complete opposite for Billy Donovan's club after that. Sacramento went on a pair of big runs early in the second quarter and got within 64-60 before Anthony's fifth triple of the first half briefly halted the onslaught and put Oklahoma City up by seven at halftime. The Thunder led 85-74 midway through the third before the Kings made another surge. Vince Carter, the 41-year-old former dunk champion, had a three-point play and three-pointer and Sacramento scored the final 16 points of the period to go up 90-85. TIP-INS Kings: Frank Mason scored six points in his first game since Dec. 31 (Jan. 1, PHL time). Mason had been sidelined with a partially torn right facscia. ... De'Aaron Fox (conjunctiveitis) and Kosta Koufos (ill) were held out. Thunder: After scoring 44 points in the first quarter, the Thunder totaled just 41 over the next two periods. UP NEXT Thunder: At Golden State on Saturday (Sunday, PHL time). Kings: Host the Lakers on Saturday (Sunday, PHL time)......»»

Category: sportsSource:  abscbnRelated NewsFeb 23rd, 2018

Rubio, Hood lead Jazz over Grizzlies 92-88 for 7th straight

By Clay Bailey, Associted Press MEMPHIS, Tenn. (AP) — Ricky Rubio had 29 points and eight rebounds, Rodney Hood scored 18 and the Utah Jazz beat the Memphis Grizzlies 92-88 on Wednesday night (Thursday, PHL time) for their seventh straight victory. Utah's latest win was hardly indicative of its recent play on offense. During the streak, the Jazz had averaged almost 118 points and 52 percent shooting. They made only 42 percent of their shots against Memphis. Andrew Harrison led the Grizzlies with a career-high 23 points, and Marc Gasol scored 20. JaMychal Green and Dillon Brooks added 11 apiece as Memphis lost its fifth straight. Utah led by 11 in the fourth quarter, but Memphis cut it to 80-74 midway through the period. Utah never let Memphis get any closer. Mario Chalmers made a three-pointer as the horn sounded for the final margin. After a ragged first half, the Jazz held a 44-39 lead at the break. Both teams had committed 11 turnovers by halftime, and neither was shooting above 40 percent. Rubio had 16 points at the half, while Gasol scored 13 for Memphis. Utah maintained a 68-63 lead entering the fourth, as both teams continued to struggle from the field. Both teams ended the night shooting 42 percent. The Jazz committed 20 turnovers, while Memphis had 16. TIP-INS Jazz: Royce O'Neal, the rookie from Baylor, missed his first three-pointer, ending a streak of converting five straight from outside the arc over the past two games. ... Rubio had his 36th game in double figures. ... Rudy Gobert had 12 rebounds and two blocks. Grizzlies: Memphis snapped a string of nine straight games allowing at least 100 points. ... Interim coach J.B. Bickerstaff was ejected in the fourth quarter after drawing his second technical foul — both courtesy of official Marc Davis. ... Davis also ejected Brooks in the closing minutes. ... Gasol had three blocks and five assists. UP NEXT Jazz: Host the Charlotte Hornets on Friday (Saturday, PHL time). Grizzlies: Travel to Oklahoma City to face the Thunder on Sunday (Monday, PHL time)......»»

Category: sportsSource:  abscbnRelated NewsFeb 8th, 2018