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Bills reverse tank talk by ending 17-year playoff drought

By John Wawrow, Associated Press ORCHARD PARK, N.Y. (AP) — It took four months and a dramatic turn of events on one of the final plays of the NFL's regular season for coach Sean McDermott and the Buffalo Bills to finally — and succinctly — put to rest any suggestion the team had any intention of tanking last summer. "I'll let you guys handle that," McDermott said, referring to reporters on Monday. "We're moving on after today to the first round of the playoffs." And that's all that matters to the first-year coach, who took the high road rather than an "I told you so" approach some 18 hours after the Bills clinched the AFC's sixth and final playoff berth and ended a 17-year postseason drought — the longest in North America's four major professional sports. McDermott never gave into the doubters and instead preached a simple "Trust The Process" message that resonated with his players. "Every season's a little bit different. Every season you go through tests and challenges," McDermott said. "It's going to try to pull you apart. It's going to test you, and it's going to test your mental toughness," he added. "And our players hung in there." Rather than packing up, as 17 of Buffalo's preceding teams did on the day after the regular-season finale, these Bills returned home to a jubilant reception early Monday. They were greeted at Buffalo Niagara International Airport by some 400 chanting fans, who braved 2-degree temperatures after Buffalo beat Miami 22-16 and clinched its playoff berth once Baltimore gave up a last-minute touchdown in a 31-27 loss to Cincinnati. McDermott is even considering sending the Bengals a gift — chicken wings, perhaps — as a thank you for Andy Dalton hitting Tyler Boyd for a 49-yard touchdown pass on fourth-and-12 with 44 seconds left. And now, Buffalo (9-7) is moving on in preparing to play at AFC South champion Jacksonville (10-6) on Sunday. McDermott rewarded his players by giving them the next two days off, before the team returns to practice Wednesday. They earned it. Buffalo overcame exceedingly low expectations following a major yearlong roster overhaul which led to the departures of numerous high-priced stars. Among the players traded were receiver Sammy Watkins (to the Los Angeles Rams) and defensive tackle Marcell Dareus (Jacksonville). The Bills' secondary was retooled as was their group of receivers, leaving the team to open the season with 24 holdovers from 2016. On the field, the Bills overcame the elements by beating Indianapolis 13-7 in overtime amid white-out conditions on Dec. 10. And the team failed to unravel when McDermott's decision to start Nathan Peterman backfired after the rookie quarterback threw five interceptions in the first half of a 54-24 loss to the Los Angeles Chargers on Nov. 19. Buffalo could face even more adversity with running back LeSean McCoy's status uncertain after hurting his right ankle against Miami. What stood out to McDermott was how the Bills responded to the loss to the Chargers the following week by snapping a three-game skid with a 16-10 win at Kansas City. "If you're going to put a landmark moment for this first year, that was probably one of them," he said of a win that improved Buffalo's record to 6-5. "That goes back to the resiliency of this football team and really what this city is all about ... that no matter what people say about us, we're going to compete like crazy." McDermott needed no more validation of how his team has captured the imagination of its supporters than witnessing the scene at the airport. Fans waved Bills flags and placards, sang the team's "Shout!" song and chanted "Let's Go Buffalo." "I've been around a couple of playoffs or two in my 20 years around the NFL, and that was unmatched," he said. "This type of welcome home just speaks volumes about our city and our fans." Defensive coordinator Leslie Frazier said the staff and players couldn't initially see the fans while de-boarding the plane, but could hear them. "We were like, 'This is incredible.' It just kind of brings home what this means to Buffalo, to western New York," Frazier said. "It just pushes you on to want to keep it going and just show them how much we appreciate their support." Rookie tackle Dion Dawkins was stunned by the reception, "It's 2 degrees out here and they're screaming their tails off," Dawkins said. "This is just flat-out unbelievable." Funny, some were saying the same about the Bills' playoff chances four months ago, too......»»

Category: sportsSource: abscbn abscbnJan 2nd, 2018

UAAP: UP has its first MVP in 32 years in Bright Akhuetie

The UAAP 81 Men’s Basketball Tournament continues to be a historic one for the University of the Philippines. Not even a week after ending its 21-year playoff drought, Bright Akhuetie has been hailed as the Season MVP – the first time since 1986 that a Fighting Maroon has done so. Akhuetie follows in the footsteps of Eric Altamirano who last took home the award to State U. The Nigerian powerhouse has been the MVP leader all throughout the tournament and ends the elimination round with per game counts of 18.9 points, 14.6 rebounds, 2.8 assists, and 1.1 steals in just his first season. That was more than enough for him to accumulate 82.50 Statistical Points (SPs) and more than enough to for him to have a six-point edge over his closest competitor. That turned out to be another first-year big man in Ateneo de Manila University’s Angelo Kouame who had 76.21 SPs built on averages of 14.4 points, 13.6 rebounds, and 3.2 blocks. Due to a league rule that states that only one foreign student-athlete can be included, Kouame will also not be making the Mythical Team. Instead, the Mythical selections are Akhuetie, UP teammate Juan Gomez de Liano, University of the East’s Alvin Pasaol, De La Salle University’s Justine Baltazar, and Adamson University’s Jerrick Ahanmisi. --- Follow this writer on Twitter, @riegogogo......»»

Category: sportsSource:  abscbnRelated NewsNov 19th, 2018

Panthers rally with 21 fourth-quarter points to beat Eagles

By The Associated Press PHILADELPHIA (AP) — Cam Newton tossed a 1-yard touchdown pass to Greg Olsen with 1:22 left and the Carolina Panthers overcame a 17-point deficit in the fourth quarter to beat the Philadelphia Eagles 21-17 on Sunday. Julius Peppers sacked Carson Wentz, forcing a fumble on fourth down from the Panthers 14, to seal the victory. The Panthers improved to 4-2 with the biggest comeback in franchise history. The defending Super Bowl champion Eagles fell to 3-4. After Carolina took the lead, the Eagles started at their 30. A 48-yard pass interference penalty on James Bradberry against Alshon Jeffery put the ball at the Carolina 22. Eric Reid appeared to intercept Wentz's overthrown pass but the play was overturned on a video review. Wentz threw incomplete to Jeffery in the end zone on third-and-2 and was stripped on the next play. Down 17-0, the Panthers started their rally when Curtis Samuel ran in from the 14 on a reverse but Graham Gano missed the extra point. Newton then quickly drove the Panthers 87 yards, tossing an 18-yard pass to Devin Funchess. He connected with Jarius Wright on the 2-point conversion with 4:08 left. The Panthers forced a three-and-out. Newton threw three straight incomplete passes, but took a hit on fourth down and still completed a 35-yard catch-and-run pass to Torrey Smith to reach the Philadelphia 34. A 22-yard pass to Christian McCaffrey gave Carolina first down at the 4. Newton ran it to the 1, setting up third down. He threw it to Olsen wide open in the back of the end zone. BUCCANEERS 26, BROWNS 23, OT TAMPA, Fla. (AP) — Chandler Catanzaro kicked a 59-yard field goal, the longest ever in overtime, with 1:50 remaining. Redeeming himself after missing an extra point, as well as a 40-yard field goal on the final play of regulation, Catanzaro's kick barely made it over the crossbar to end Tampa Bay's three-game skid and hand the Browns (2-4-1) a NFL record-tying 24th consecutive road loss. Cleveland, which has played four overtime games this season — most for a team since Arizona won all four it played in 2011, and tied for second most in NFL history — doesn't have a road victory since winning in overtime at Baltimore on Oct. 11, 2015. The Detroit Lions also dropped 24 in a row away from home from 2001-03. Jameis Winston and DeSean Jackson scored on 14-yard runs for Tampa Bay (3-3). Rookie Ronald Jones II added his first pro TD on a 2-yard run that put Tampa Bay up 23-9 heading into the fourth quarter. The Browns, who had 126 yards of offense through three quarters, used Nick Chubb's 1-yard TD run to cut into their deficit and pulled even on Baker Mayfield's 16-yard pass to Jarvis Landry with 2:28 remaining in regulation. SAINTS 24, RAVENS 23 BALTIMORE (AP) — Justin Tucker missed the first conversion of his career after the Ravens scored the potential tying touchdown with 24 seconds left. Drew Brees threw two touchdown passes, locked up two more milestones and engineered a comeback that enabled the Saints (5-1) to wipe out a 10-point deficit. It was 24-17 before Joe Flacco directed a beat-the-clock drive covering 81 yards and ending with a 14-yard touchdown pass to John Brown. That seemingly set up overtime, given that Tucker had connected on 112 straight extra points and was the only NFL kicker without a miss since the placement of the ball was moved back in 2015. He made the first 222 tries of his career. This attempt, however, went wide right — the deciding moment in a matchup between the NFL's highest-scoring offense and top-ranked defense. Brees brought back the Saints from a 10-point deficit against a unit that allowed only 12 second-half points all season. The 39-year-old quarterback threw a 5-yard TD pass to Michael Thomas with 4:58 remaining to put New Orleans ahead 21-17, and the Saints tacked on a field goal just before the two-minute warning. Earlier, Brees threw his 500th career touchdown pass, connecting with tight end Benjamin Watson for a 1-yard score to put New Orleans up 7-3 late in the second quarter. REDSKINS 20, COWBOYS 17 LANDOVER, Md. (AP) — Redskins linebacker Ryan Kerrigan's strip-sack of Cowboys quarterback Dak Prescott was recovered for a touchdown by Preston Smith with just under five minutes left and Washington held on when a last-second field-goal attempt by Brett Maher went off the left upright. What would have been a 47-yard kick became a 52-yarder when Louis-Philippe Ladoceur was called for a snap infraction. The Kerrigan-Smith play that provided the winning points was Washington's fourth sack of Prescott, who appeared to use smelling salts after taking a shoulder to his helmet at the end of a run in the first quarter. Prescott lost two fumbles in the game, including one on an earlier fourth-and-1 keeper. The Redskins (4-2) won consecutive games for the first time this season and stretched their lead atop the NFC East. They also dropped the Cowboys to 0-4 on the road, 3-4 overall, as they head into their bye week. CHIEFS 45, BENGALS 10 KANSAS CITY, Mo. (AP) — Patrick Mahomes threw for 358 yards and four touchdowns, Kareem Hunt finished with three scores and Kansas City rebounded from its first loss to throttle Cincinnati. Mahomes was 28 of 39 with his only big mistake an underthrown interception, though the Chiefs (6-1) were already so far ahead of Cincinnati (4-3) by that point it didn't really matter. Mahomes spread the wealth, too, connecting with eight targets. Tyreek had seven catches for 68 yards and a touchdown, and Demetrius Harris had the other scoring grab for Kansas City. The Bengals' Andy Dalton was held to just 148 yards passing with a touchdown and an interception by the NFL's worst defense. Joe Mixon managed 50 yards rushing on 13 carries. RAMS 39, 49ERS 10 SANTA CLARA, Calif. (AP) — Todd Gurley scored three touchdowns and Jared Goff threw two TD passes as the Rams took advantage of four takeaways and a blocked punt. The Rams (7-0) intercepted C.J. Beathard twice and recovered two fumbles to give them seven straight wins to open the season for the first time since 1985. The Rams began 6-0 for three straight seasons in 1999-2001 before losing the seventh game. The 49ers (1-6) made sure that wouldn't happen this year by repeatedly giving away the ball, justifying the decision the NFL made to flex this game out of prime time following the season-ending knee injury to San Francisco quarterback Jimmy Garoppolo. Beathard has thrown seven interceptions and lost three fumbles in four starts as the 49ers have committed 14 straight turnovers since their last takeaway on Sept. 30 against the Chargers. The Rams dominated defensively with Aaron Donald recording four sacks, a forced fumble and a fumble recovery; linebacker Cory Littleton having two sacks and a blocked punt for a safety; and Troy Hill and John Johnson III intercepting passes. PATRIOTS 38, BEARS 31 CHICAGO (AP) — Tom Brady threw for three touchdowns and the Patriots hung on when Kevin White got stopped at the 1 on a 54-yard pass from Mitchell Trubisky. About four or five defenders swarmed White after he leaped to haul in that long heave, preventing him from crossing the goal line while preserving the fourth straight win for New England. The Patriots (5-2) also got two special teams touchdowns and came out on top even though they were missing Rob Gronkowski. The five-time Pro Bowl tight end missed the game because of ankle and back injuries. Brady improved to 5-0 against Chicago (3-3), one of five teams yet to beat him. He was 25 of 36 for 277 yards and an interception. Cordarrelle Patterson ran a kickoff back 95 yards for his sixth career return TD. Kyle Van Noy became the first New England player in 22 years to return a blocked punt for a touchdown. Dont'a Hightower blocked the kick. Rookie running back Sony Michel left in the second quarter because of a knee injury. But the Patriots beat the Bears for the eighth time in nine games since the 1985 team got routed in the Super Bowl. TEXANS 20, JAGUARS 7 JACKSONVILLE, Fla. (AP) — Blake Bortles fumbled on Jacksonville's third play of each half, leading to 10 points and his benching. The Texans (4-3) won their fourth consecutive game thanks to those two turnovers and took a one-game lead in the AFC South. Deshaun Watson, who reportedly made the 800-mile road trip by bus instead of plane, had a touchdown pass despite playing with a bruised lung and injured ribs. Lamar Miller ran for a season-high 100 yards and a score. Cody Kessler replaced Bortles in the third quarter and threw a short touchdown pass to T.J. Yeldon , creating speculation he might supplant Bortles in the starting lineup. The Jaguars (3-4) signed Bortles to a three-year, $54 million contract in February with the belief he was good enough to lead the defensive-minded team back to the playoffs. Bortles has been downright awful in three straight losses, with two touchdown passes and eight turnovers. LIONS 32, DOLPHINS 21 MIAMI GARDENS, Fla. (AP) — Kerryon Johnson rushed for 158 yards and the Lions repeatedly mounted long scoring drives. Matt Stafford was 18 for 22 for 217 yards and two touchdowns. Detroit had 457 total yards and 248 on the ground, with scoring drives covering 64, 85, 75, 65, 75, 63 and 44 yards. The Lions (3-3) punted once and had no turnovers to win on the road for the first time. They've climbed back to .500 after being outscored 78-44 in their first two games. Injury-ravaged Miami (4-3) lost at home for the first time this season — and lost another key player. Dynamic receiver Albert Wilson was sidelined in the first half with a leg injury. Receiver Kenny Stills also limped to the locker room with a minute left. Johnson carried 19 times and needed barely a quarter to reach 100 yards. CHARGERS 20, TITANS 19 LONDON (AP) — Adrian Phillips broke up Marcus Mariota's pass attempt, the Titans' second try for a 2-point conversion after a defensive penalty on the first attempt, and the Chargers held on. It was the fourth consecutive victory for the Chargers (5-2), who weathered the absence of running back Melvin Gordon (hamstring) and relied upon their defense to pull out the win. The Titans (3-4) drove 89 yards over the final 4:55 before Mariota's 1-yard pass to tight end Luke Stocker pulled them within one point. Mariota, who went 24 for 32 for 237 yards with an interception, thought he had scored the touchdown himself. With 40 seconds left, he ran 3 yards on a draw and stretched for the end zone, but replay showed he was down inches shy of the goal line. After Stocker scored, Mariota's first attempt was a pass intended for Tajae Sharp, an incompletion negated by a defensive holding call on Casey Hayward, and his second, toward Taywan Taylor, was tipped by Phillips. Philip Rivers completed 19 of 26 passes for 306 yards and threw two touchdown passes — one that went 75 yards to Tyrell Williams on Los Angeles' first play from scrimmage, and one that traveled 55 yards to Mike Williams to cap the first drive of the second half. VIKINGS 37, JETS 17 EAST RUTHERFORD, N.J. (AP) — Kirk Cousins threw two touchdown passes, Latavius Murray ran for two scores, and the Vikings pulled away in the second half for their third straight victory. Vikings wide receiver Adam Thielen became the fifth player in NFL history to get at least 100 yards receiving in seven consecutive games, catching nine passes for 110 yards and a touchdown. Murray, coming off career-high 155 yards rushing against Arizona, finished with 69 yards on 15 carries to help lift the Vikings (4-2-1) to their first win against the Jets on the road after losing the first five meetings away from home. In his first game against the Jets (3-4) since spurning their massive offer in free agency, Cousins was far from spectacular but made some big plays late. With the game still hanging in the balance and the Vikings facing fourth-and-8 from the 34, Cousins connected with Aldrick Robinson for a TD to seal it. Jets rookie QB Sam Darnold was 17 of 42 for 206 yards with a TD pass to Chris Herndon and a TD run, but was intercepted three times as New York's two-game winning streak ended. COLTS 37, BILLS 5 INDIANAPOLIS (AP) — Andrew Luck threw four touchdown passes and Marlon Mack had his first rushing scores of the season. The Colts (2-5) snapped a four-game losing streak and finally won their 300th game since moving to Indianapolis from Baltimore in 1984. Adam Vinatieri scored five points to move within five of breaking Morten Andersen's NFL career record (2,544). The Bills (2-5) lost their second straight, playing this one without injured starting quarterback Josh Allen. Luck was 17 of 23 with 156 yards and extended the league's longest active streak of consecutive games with a TD pass to 30 — breaking a tie with Dan Marino, Ben Roethlisberger and Matt Ryan for No. 8 all-time. It's the third time in four weeks he's thrown four TDs in a game. Mack added 19 carries for 126 yards. Derek Anderson made his first start since December 2016 and the 35-year-old quarterback was 20 of 31 with 175 yards, three interceptions and lost a fumble......»»

Category: sportsSource:  abscbnRelated NewsOct 22nd, 2018

Patriots, Brady top Chiefs for wild 43-40 win

By The Associated Press FOXBOROUGH, Mass. (AP) — Stephen Gostkowski hit a 28-yard field goal as time expired, and the New England Patriots beat the Kansas City Chiefs 43-40 on Sunday night after blowing a big halftime lead. Tom Brady passed for 340 yards and a touchdown and ran for another score in his 200th victory as a starting quarterback, tops in NFL history. Brady also passed former teammate Adam Vinatieri for most career wins in the regular season and playoffs combined with 227. It was the first loss of the season for the Chiefs (5-1). New England (4-2) led 24-9 at intermission, but Patrick Mahomes directed an impressive rally by Kansas City in the second half. He finished 23 of 36 for 352 yards in his first loss as a starting quarterback, with three of his four TD passes going to Tyreek Hill. Mahomes threw two interceptions in the first half, but was unflappable down the stretch. He found Hill for a 75-yard touchdown pass that tied it with just over three minutes remaining. STEELERS 28, BENGALS 21 CINCINNATI (AP) — James Conner ran for 111 yards and a pair of touchdowns on the eve of Le'Veon Bell's possible return, and Antonio Brown turned a short pass into a 31-yard touchdown with 10 seconds left as Pittsburgh pulled off another improbable comeback in Cincinnati. The Steelers (3-2-1) have won eight in a row against their AFC North rival, three times rallying in the final minute at Paul Brown Stadium to keep it going. After Joe Mixon's 4-yard touchdown run with 1:18 left got the Bengals (4-2) thinking this might finally be the time they end the streak, Ben Roethlisberger and the Steelers stunned them again. Brown caught a short pass and outran the secondary for the winning score, leaving thousands of Steelers fans twirling their towels in the stands. The Steelers are 16-2 at Paul Brown Stadium during Marvin Lewis' 16 seasons as Bengals coach, including a pair of playoff wins. Same outcome as usual. This one ended with a brief scuffle after Andy Dalton's final pass fell incomplete, leaving him 3-12 all-time against Pittsburgh. The Steelers have found their stride behind Conner , who became the featured back when Bell decided to hold out. He has run for more than 100 yards in each of the last two games, and his two 1-yard touchdown runs Sunday put him in the company of a pair of Steelers Hall of Famers. Conner has seven rushing touchdowns in six games, joining Franco Harris (1976) and Jerome Bettis (2004) as the only Steelers with that accomplishment. RAVENS 21, TITANS 0 NASHVILLE, Tenn. (AP) — The Ravens piled up a franchise-record 11 sacks in the rain. Za'Darious Smith had three sacks and Patrick Onwuasor had two for the Ravens (4-2), who had six sacks by halftime. They finished a sack off the NFL record for a game, shared by five teams. Dean Pees and the Titans simply couldn't stop his old team as the Ravens outgained Tennessee 361-106 and punted only once against a defense led by their former defensive coordinator. Pees came out of a short retirement to join first-year head coach Mike Vrabel. Joe Flacco threw for 238 yards and a touchdown for Baltimore. Alex Collins scored on TD runs of 13 and 2 yards. The Titans (3-3) lost their second straight and were shut out at home for the first time since moving into Nissan Stadium in 1999. Tennessee has not scored a touchdown in eight straight quarters. The Ravens couldn't have looked much better handing Tennessee its first shutout since Nov. 28, 2010. Marcus Mariota tried playing both with and without the partial glove covering his ring and pinkie fingers on his throwing hand. It didn't' help as Mariota was sacked the most in his four-year NFL career and most allowed by the Titans since giving up seven in a loss at Houston on Nov. 1, 2015. Coach Ken Whisenhunt was fired two days later. RAMS 23, BRONCOS 20 DENVER (AP) — Todd Gurley rushed for a career-high 208 yards and two touchdowns on 28 carries and the Rams celebrated Wade Phillips' homecoming. The Rams, who had surrendered 31 points in back-to-back games, improved to 6-0 in sending the Broncos (2-4) to their fourth straight loss. The Broncos pulled to 23-20 on Case Keenum's 1-yard dart to Demaryius Thomas with 1:22 remaining, capping a 77-yard drive that included three defensive penalties. Rams receiver Robert Woods, however, knocked Brandon McManus' onside kick out of bounds, and the Rams ran out the clock with Jared Goff (14 of 28 for 201 yards) twice taking a knee. Phillips was the Broncos' beloved bandmaster when they were celebrating their Super Bowl 50 triumph, but his contract wasn't renewed after the 2016 season and he joined Sean McVay in sunny Southern California. After an overnight snowstorm, the game-time temperature of 25 degrees marked the second-coldest in Denver prior to November in franchise history. The cold did nothing to slow down Gurley, who scored his 10th and 11th touchdowns of the season. COWBOYS 40, JAGUARS 7 ARLINGTON, Texas (AP) — Dak Prescott threw two touchdown passes to Cole Beasley to spark the previously punchless Dallas passing game and rushed for a career-high 82 yards. Perhaps pumped up by some pregame mingling with UFC fighter Conor McGregor, the Cowboys rolled to a 24-0 halftime lead. Beasley got his first two touchdowns of the season for the NFL's 30th-ranked passing offense that was facing the league's No. 1 pass defense. Prescott had 151 of his 183 yards passing in the first half because Dallas didn't need to throw while coasting during a second-half blowout that dropped Jacksonville to 3-3. The 2016 NFL Offensive Rookie of the Year had already set his personal best in rushing for a game when he spun out of a sack for the longest run of his career, a 28-yarder. He scored Dallas' first touchdown on a 17-yard run. The Cowboys (3-3) won their first three games of the season at 9-year-old AT&T Stadium for the first time. Most of their offensive struggles have been in the three road losses. Blake Bortles, who established a career high in yards passing in consecutive weeks and had a chance to become the fifth NFL quarterback with three straight games of at least 375 yards, was 15 of 26 for 149 yards with a touchdown and an interception. DOLPHINS 31, BEARS 28, OT MIAMI GARDENS, Fla. (AP) — Jason Sanders kicked a 47-yard field goal on the final play of overtime after Cody Parkey missed a 53-yard try for the Chicago Bears, who blew an 11-point lead in the final 16 minutes of regulation. Miami's Brock Osweiler threw for 380 yards and three touchdowns subbing for Ryan Tannehill, who sat out because of an injured throwing shoulder. Albert Wilson turned two short passes into long touchdowns in the fourth quarter and finished with 155 yards on six receptions. The Dolphins took the kickoff to start overtime, marched 74 yards and were on the verge of victory when Kenyan Drake fumbled just before crossing the goal line. Eddie Goldman recovered for the Bears, who then drove to the Miami 35. But former Dolphin Parkey was wide right on his attempt with 2 minutes left. Miami (4-2) snapped a two-game losing streak and ended a three-game winning streak for Chicago (3-2). The Bears' offense came alive after they trailed 7-0 at halftime. Miami then rallied from a 21-10 deficit in the final 16 minutes of regulation to tie the game twice and force overtime. Mitchell Trubisky threw for 316 yards and three second-half touchdowns, but the Bears were hurt by two turnovers in the red zone. Jordan Howard lost a fumble at the 1, and Trubisky was intercepted in the end zone by T.J. McDonald. FALCONS 34, BUCCANEERS 29 ATLANTA (AP) — Matt Ryan threw for 354 yards and three touchdowns as the Falcons snapped a three-game losing streak, holding off Tampa Bay in Jameis Winston's return as Buccaneers starting quarterback. The Falcons (2-4) scored on their first three possessions and held off a wild comeback by Tampa Bay (2-3), avoiding their first 1-5 start since 2007. Winston and the Bucs almost pulled off a miracle on the final play of the game after driving to the Atlanta 21. With no timeouts, the quarterback took the snap and tried to surprise the Falcons by taking off up the middle of the field. When he was about to be tackled at the 10, he pitched toward receiver Adam Humphries, who couldn't hang on. The ball skipped to Mike Evans, who blindly flung it in the direction of DeSean Jackson at the 5. Jackson might've had a chance to dive for the end zone, but he couldn't come up with another bouncing ball. It hopped out of bounds to end the game. Jackson ripped off his helmet, kicked the pylon in disgust and headed straight for the locker room. Winston threw for 395 yards and four TDs but also had a pair of interceptions. Ryan's three TD passes gave him 274 in his career, passing Joe Montana for 16th on the career list. JETS 42, COLTS 34 EAST RUTHERFORD, N.J. (AP) — Jason Myers kicked a franchise-record seven field goals, Sam Darnold threw two touchdown passes, and the Jets held on to win consecutive games for the first time in more than a year. Morris Claiborne returned the first of three interceptions thrown by Andrew Luck for a touchdown as the Jets (3-3) moved to .500 by taking advantage of mistakes by the short-handed Colts (1-5), who lost their fourth straight. With Joe Namath and the 1968 Super Bowl-winning team celebrating its 50th anniversary, Darnold was 24 of 30 for 280 yards, with TD throws to Terrelle Pryor and Chris Herndon and an interception to give New York its first back-to-back victories since taking three in a row in Weeks 3-5 last season. Myers hit field goals from 30, 48, 32, 37, 45, 37 and 45 yards to break the Jets record previously held by Jim Turner (1968) — the kicker for the Super Bowl champions — and Bobby Howfield (1972). Luck was 23 of 43 for 301 yards with touchdowns to Marcus Johnson, Eric Ebron, Erik Swoope and Chester Rogers, the last coming with 1:51 left to make the score close. Neal Sterling recovered the Colts' onside kick to seal the win for the Jets. TEXANS 19, BILLS 14 HOUSTON (AP) — Johnathan Joseph's 28-yard interception return for a touchdown with 1:23 remaining lifted the Texans. Houston trailed by three when Phillip Gaines was called pass interference on Will Fuller in the end zone with 2 minutes remaining, moving the Texans 41 yards to the 1-yard line. But the Texans (3-3) lost 7 yards on three plays, capped by an incomplete pass intended for Ryan Griffin that Matt Milano knocked down to force Houston to kick. A 27-yard field goal by Ka'imi Fairbairn tied it with 1:34 remaining. Two plays later, Joseph stepped in front of a pass from backup Nathan Peterman intended for Kelvin Benjamin and dashed untouched into the end zone to put the Texans on top and help them avoid their third straight overtime game. Kareem Jackson intercepted Peterman with 35 seconds left to secure the victory, dropping Buffalo to 2-4. Joseph's late-game heroics helped Houston to its third straight win on a day that quarterback Deshaun Watson committed three turnovers. VIKINGS 27, CARDINALS 17 MINNEAPOLIS (AP) — Latavius Murray helped the Minnesota Vikings revive their running attack with 155 yards and a touchdown on 24 carries, wearing down the Cardinals. Even Kirk Cousins joined the fun for the Vikings (3-2-1) with an option-style run across the goal line in the third quarter, before throwing to Adam Thielen for a score on the following possession. Thielen had 11 receptions for 123 yards, his sixth straight 100-yard game to become the first player in the NFL since 1961 to start a season with a streak that long. Thielen's 58 catches are the most in league history through six games. Budda Baker returned a fumble off a sack by Chandler Jones for a 36-yard touchdown and Tre Boston had a diving interception later in the second quarter, and the Cardinals (1-5) constantly pressured Cousins with four sacks, seven hits and seven deflected passes. Cousins managed to complete 24 of 34 attempts for 233 yards, thanks mostly to Thielen and his exceptional ability to get open anywhere on the field and turn off-target throws into clutch catches. SEAHAWKS 27, RAIDERS 3 LONDON (AP) — Russell Wilson threw for three touchdowns, including one off a botched snap in the second quarter. Chris Carson rushed for 59 yards and rookie Rashaad Penny gained an additional 43 for the Seahawks (3-3), who played to a vociferously supportive crowd — a London-record 84,922 were in attendance — despite the Raiders (1-5) being the designated home team. Oakland quarterback Derek Carr left with an apparent left arm injury with 8:52 remaining in the fourth quarter after the last of his six sacks and did not have the chance to return before the Seahawks ran out the clock. Carr went 23 for 31 for 142 yards. He was hit by Jarran Reed on third down and immediately grabbed his upper left arm as he sat up before being helped to the sideline for evaluation. Wilson, who completed 17 of 23 attempts for 222 yards with an interception, connected with Jaron Brown for a 5-yard touchdown pass in the first quarter; a 19-yard touchdown pass to David Moore in the second; and a 10-yard touchdown pass to Tyler Lockett in the fourth. After picking up a low snap, Wilson faked a throw and stepped forward, then made a throw to Moore over Daryl Worley. Moore punctuated his touchdown, his third in the Seahawks' past two games, by accidentally crashing into and tumbling over the temporary video advertising boards set up around the field. Sebastian Janikowski, who joined the Seahawks in the offseason after 17 seasons with the Raiders, made two field goals. REDSKINS 23, PANTHERS 17 LANDOVER, Md. (AP) — Josh Norman bounced back from his prime-time benching by intercepting former teammate Cam Newton and forcing a fumble. Norman ended his 19-game interception drought by catching a jump ball thrown by Newton on a third-and-long play early in the second quarter, his first pick since Dec. 24, 2016. Norman also popped the ball out of Panthers rookie receiver D.J. Moore's hands in a showcase performance against the team that abruptly cut ties with him after his All-Pro 2015 season. Newton threw for 275 yards and two touchdowns on 27 of 40 passing and rushed for 43 yards in a turnover-marred loss. He engineered a late drive that got the Panthers to the Washington 16-yard line, but threw incomplete on second, third and fourth downs to seal the loss. Carolina (3-2) was long before that doomed by turnovers, including Moore's on a punt return that set up Smith's 22-yard TD pass to Davis. In his second game with the Panthers, safety Eric Reid continued his tradition of kneeling during the national anthem. Reid took a knee just at the corner of the American flag on the field by the Carolina sideline, the only Panthers player to do so. Reid last week became the first Carolina player to kneel during "The Star-Spangled Banner." CHARGERS 38, BROWNS 14 CLEVELAND (AP) — Philip Rivers threw two touchdown passes to Tyrell Williams — the veteran quarterback threw a block — and Melvin Gordon had three TD runs as the Chargers banged around rookie Baker Mayfield and the Browns. The 36-year-old Rivers continued one of the best starts of his 15-year career, leading the Chargers (4-2) to their third straight win. Rivers finished 11 of 20 for 207 yards and had only one mistake, an interception midway through the fourth quarter. San Diego did most of its damage on the ground, with Gordon running for 132 yards and scoring on runs of 4, 10 and 11 yards. Rivers and Williams connected on scoring plays of 45 and 29 yards in the first half, and Gordon's 11-yard run put the Chargers up 35-6. Mayfield's third start as a pro was a rough one. The No. 1 overall pick was sacked five times, tweaked his ankle when he slid on a sideline marker and threw two interceptions. The Browns (2-3-1) were blown out after playing five tight games — three going to overtime — and showed there's still a long road ahead......»»

Category: sportsSource:  abscbnRelated NewsOct 15th, 2018

49ers lose QB Jimmy Garoppolo to season-ending knee injury

By JOSH DUBOW,  AP Pro Football Writer SANTA CLARA, Calif. (AP) — Jimmy Garoppolo's addition last season immediately turned around the fortunes of the San Francisco 49ers. Now the 49ers will have to go back to life before Garoppolo for the rest of the season. The Niners announced Monday that Garoppolo tore the ACL in his left knee while making a cut late in a loss at Kansas City, sidelining him for the rest of the season. "It is very unfortunate," coach Kyle Shanahan said. "I'm not going to sugarcoat it. It was hard waking up today. We were down and disappointed about it because we were looking forward a lot to playing with Jimmy this year and going through the good and the bad knowing that he'd benefit from all of it. Now we don't get to do it. I know Jimmy is really down about it and so are we but it's still going to be all right." The injury deals a serious blow to the 49ers (1-2), who had planned their rebuild around Garoppolo and now must turn again to C.J. Beathard at quarterback. Garoppolo will undergo surgery in the next week or two after the swelling goes down and should be ready to play again next season. The 49ers are planning to promote Nick Mullens from the practice squad and also will bring several veterans in for tryouts this week, including Tom Savage, Kellen Clemens, possibly T.J. Yates and Matt Moore. One quarterback who won't be brought in is former 49ers starter Colin Kaepernick, who opted out of his contract with San Francisco in March 2017 after Shanahan decided he wanted to go with a style of offense that didn't fit Kaepernick's game. "That's what I said last year and it's the same situation now," Shanahan said. "I always look into what style of offense I want to do and what style of offense we've been doing the last two years." The Niners struggled with Beathard and Brian Hoyer last season before the midseason addition of Garoppolo changed their fortunes. San Francisco won the final five games last year after Garoppolo took over as starter and the team rewarded him with a $137.5 million, five-year contract. The 49ers will have to wait another year to earn dividends on that investment. Garoppolo got hurt in the fourth quarter of a 38-27 loss Sunday when he was scrambling toward the sideline and decided to cut up field instead of going out of bounds. Garoppolo's left knee buckled just before Kansas City cornerback Steven Nelson delivered a big hit, ending what was supposed to be his first full season as a starter after just three games. Shanahan said the play should serve as a reminder to quarterbacks about the importance of protecting their bodies. "That's something that Jimmy will probably look at differently going forward because now he'll remember this the rest of his life," Shanahan said. "Nothing against him. This happens with everyone. You see it every Sunday. It's a reminder for everyone why it's an obvious coaching point." Expectations were high in San Francisco this season that the team could end a four-year playoff drought after Garoppolo had a full offseason to immerse himself in Shanahan's offense. But with Garoppolo and new running back Jerick McKinnon both knocked out for the season with torn ACLs in September, those high hopes have been put on hold. Garoppolo had completed 59.6 percent of his passes with five TDs, three interceptions and an average of 8.1 yards per attempt for a 90 passer rating. While he hasn't been quite as efficient as he was late last year after being acquired at the trade deadline from New England for a second-round pick, the Niners offense has been far more potent than it was before he took over as quarterback. Beathard started five games as a rookie last year, completing 54.9 percent of his passes with four touchdowns, six interceptions, 19 sacks, 6.4 yards per attempt and a 69.2 passer rating that was second lowest in the NFL. Beathard threw a touchdown pass to George Kittle on his first snap Sunday only to have it negated by a penalty and wasn't in for any other plays in the game. "I have a lot of confidence in C.J.," Shanahan said. "I think C.J. got a lot of experience last year. We liked him a lot coming out of college. ... He got thrown into as tough a situation as I could imagine a rookie quarterback being thrown in and the guy didn't blink." NOTES: CB Richard Sherman will miss a couple of weeks with a strained left calf. ... RB Matt Breida hyperextended his knee and is questionable this week. ... RG Mike Person will be questionable with a sprained knee......»»

Category: sportsSource:  abscbnRelated NewsSep 25th, 2018

Draw of another title lights postseason path of Warriors

By David Aldridge, TNT Analyst One of the Golden State Warriors’ people, walking out of Smoothie King Center Sunday (Monday, PHL time), summarized the team’s season so far in detailing Kevin Durant’s 38-point performance against the Pelicans in Game 4 of the Western Conference semifinals. “Sometimes, people forget,” he said, a wry smile on his face -- and, yes, they do. With all that has gone on around the league this season, the Warriors’ storyline hasn’t been quite as eyeballed nationally this season compared with previous years. (Not that they should care. It’s just an observation.) The Cleveland Cavaliers blew things up last summer and reformed in the fall, blew it up again in the winter and reformed again in the spring. The Boston Celtics are displaying amazing resilience through seemingly devastating injuries to put themselves on the brink of another conference finals. The Philadelphia 76ers have their Fun Bunch. There was Paul George’s trade to Oklahoma City (and all that entailed, now and later) and the Toronto Raptors’ dramatic and successful changes throughout the year. And, at the forefront, there was the Houston Rockets’ rise as a legit and serious challenger to the Warriors in the Western Conference. During the regular season, the Warriors’ energy and productivity dropped off ever so slightly, like the planet killer in “The Doomsday Machine,” one of the all-time best original “Star Trek” episodes, after the doomed Commodore Decker drove a Shuttlecraft right down its throat. (Of course, Captain Kirk figured out to destroy it. Dude, come on. This is James Tiberius Kirk we’re talking about.) And at the end of the regular season, they were hit with a series of body shot injuries: Stephen Curry’s MCL strain, Durant’s ribs, Klay Thompson’s thumb injury, Draymond Green’s hip, and on and on. Those all sapped their continuity and made them look mortal down the stretch of the 2017-18 season, and the Warriors went 7-10 as the season waned. But, after dispatching the Kawhi Leonard-less Spurs in five games in the first round, and taking a 3-1 lead on the Pelicans now, they’re again on the precipice of the Western Conference finals. A date with Houston is looming and a chance at a third title in four seasons is still on their racket. “I think as the playoffs go on, every series requires a different intensity level,” Green said last week. “I think we met that standard that it takes to win playoff games at the level we’re at right now, which is the second round. It’s not our first rodeo. We’ve been here a lot of times and we know what it takes.” Steve Kerr rolled the “Hamptons Five” lineup out Sunday (Monday, PHL time), the Lineup Formally Known as Death -- Curry, Thompson, Andre Iguodala, Green and Durant. It’s been their trump card for almost two years, the lineup that can’t be solved by the opposition, even as it’s chipped away at most of Golden State’s other conventional units. Durant went for 38, and the Warriors rolled to a 118-92 win and a 3-1 series lead. They didn’t use it much this season -- that quintet only played 127 minutes together this season, after logging 224 minutes last season -- because of all the injuries, because they tried to limit their biggest players’ minutes and because using Iguodala as a starter thins out Golden State’s bench. The Warriors’ most frequently used five-man unit this season featured Zaza Pachulia at center; among five-man units leaguewide that played 200 minutes or more together this season, per NBA.com/Stats, that quintet was third in the league in Offensive Rating, at 118.6. But Pachulia hasn’t played a minute in the playoffs, and if the Rockets are the Warriors’ next opponent, he may not play much then, either, against Clint Capela. Kerr often points out that the Warriors have six centers on the current roster, and most of them have gotten at least a little run at various points. But after JaVale McGee was ineffective in Game 3 against New Orleans Friday (Saturday, PHL time), Kerr pulled his trump card. It’s still a game-changer, and when a season comes down to a best-of-seven series, one game can be the difference. “We all bring the best of each other,” Curry said of the Hamptons unit. “We increase the pace of the game, but the versatility [is] at the defensive end -- Andre, Draymond, KD shoring up the paint, switching a lot of the screens and the action from the offense and Klay doing what he does on the perimeter. I think the biggest thing offensively is that we’re all playmakers, try to look for the best shot, stay within ourselves and just make the right play.” Going back to the old playlist may give the Warriors comfort in what has been another drama-filled season, with the contretemps about being disinvited from the White House by President Trump in September getting things off to a rollicking start. But the end of the season was what raised eyebrows around the league. Curry’s absence down the stretch combined with a teamwide ennui -- “I really don’t like talking about it,” Thompson said -- that gave potential playoff opponents hope they might be able to catch Golden State napping. The Warriors’ boredom showed up most at the defensive end. After being in the top seven in both unadjusted and adjusted Defensive Rating in each of the last four seasons -- including first in the league in both categories in the first championship season of 2014-15 -- Golden State fell to 11th and 12th, respectively, in the regular season. They came out of the All-Star break focused -- they were fifth in the league in Defensive Rating on March 1. But all the injuries blunted their momentum, and the scariest of all -- a serious injury to second-year guard Patrick McCaw in Sacramento March 31 (April 1, PHL time) -- shook the team more than people on the outside realized. “Throughout that time, we had spurts,” Durant said. “We played a great OKC team. We went in there and won. Then we lost to Indiana by 20, and then it’s like, when you’re riding just on emotion a lot, you tend to go up and down. It’s like a roller coaster. I think that’s what it was. We had those spurts where we played well and played a focused game, but then Patty goes out, boom, and there was just so much that went on with that. Then Steph goes out with a freak injury. So much went on with that. I think we were just so up and down emotionally it kind of blinded us from our goal, which was to be good every single night as basketball players.” McCaw’s injury -- a bone bruise suffered when he fell after a dunk attempt against the Kings, which required him to be carried off the court in Sacramento on a stretcher -- hit everyone hard. “When Pat got injured, I think that took a little bit out of us,” Durant said. “It took a little bit out of Steve as well. You could just feel it, when Steph went out, then I went out, then Draymond, then Klay. Our emotions were so up and down. When your emotions are, you have too many emotions in the game of basketball, it can kind of blind you from what you really have to do. This is a technical game. So when you put too many emotions into it, it kind of took us away from what we wanted to do.” McCaw, who played in 57 games this season, was not only a part of Kerr’s rotation. He is also a well-liked person who was getting better on the floor. He was re-evaluated last week and will be checked out again in a month. Though he’s been traveling with the team during the playoffs, his season is almost certainly over. And as his injury came during the Warriors’ many injuries down the stretch, its chilling effect was multiplied. “It definitely got to everybody,” Green said. “Kind of the uncertainty of not knowing what’s going on with him. The rotations. Everybody’s like, ahh, kind of tiptoeing around, trying to make sure you get to the playoffs healthy. A lot of that makes a difference. I mean, that’s our brother. To see him down like that, not be able to walk off the court under his own power, him not being around us for two or three weeks, it was kind of like the unknown. It sucked. And I think it definitely had an effect on everything.” But Durant doesn’t like the metaphor of the proverbial switch being turned on at playoff time explaining the team’s improvement the last couple of weeks. “I don’t like when you call it a switch,” he said. “Because guys come in and get extra work in every single day. They work on their bodies every day, they get treatment. You come in here any time, you see guys in here working on their games. I think when you say ‘a switch turned on,’ if guys went cold turkey on everything as professionals during the season, and just tried to pick it up in the playoffs, I think that’s turning on a switch. Mentally, focus-wise, game plan-wise, I think you can turn on a switch, because you can lock in on an opponent, you know their tendencies, you can just focus in on one group of players instead of one day it’s San Antonio, the next day it’s Phoenix, next day it’s Sacramento. You’re going so up and down. If that makes sense. “So I think everybody’s putting in that work individually all year, and as a team, you know, stuff has to come together. We have to focus in on what we need to do, game plan wise, tendency wise, just try to take away things. I think that’s where you kind of turn it up just a bit.” Golden State has performed in fits and starts in the first two rounds. The Spurs didn’t have enough firepower to be a serious threat, but they played hard and were increasingly effectively on defense as the series went on. The Warriors didn’t really have an answer for LaMarcus Aldridge after Game 1. New Orleans had, until Sunday (Monday, PHL time), been more and more successful at making the Warriors shoot contested shots. That certainly gibes with Curry’s return after five weeks. He’s healthy, but rusty. After his adrenaline-filled return last Tuesday (Wednesday, PHL time) in Game 2 against the Pelicans, he made just 14-of-33 from the floor in the two games in New Orleans. There was talk afterward about breakthroughs for Curry cardiovascularly. The next few games will tell whether Curry is truly recovered and ready to be two-time Kia MVP Steph … or will he just be on the floor (as he was for long and important stretches in the 2016 playoffs after returning from a Grade 1 knee sprain). The Warriors still made The Finals, but Curry wasn’t Curry against Cleveland, and everyone, starting and ending with LeBron James, knew it. No one in NBA history has changed the geometry of basketball more than Curry, and when he’s on the floor, the ball starts flying around. “Our formula is simple: if we out-pass people, we win,” Warriors forward David West said. “Ball movement. With guys going in and out of the lineup, it causes moments where guys try to carry the load, maybe try to shoulder the load individually. But the strength of the group is the group.” But the Warriors can still throw so many different things and people at you. Iguodala shot a career-worst 28.2 percent on three-pointers in the regular season. He’s at 39.3 percent in the 2018 playoffs. Does anyone doubt he was biding his time until the postseason? No one wearing an NBA uniform is in better shape than the 34-year-old Iguodala, no one is smarter about the game or matchups, and no one is a prouder, fiercer competitor. The 2015 Finals MVP brings his bag of intangibles with him on the road even more than at home, as he did Sunday. In that game, he was making life miserable for the Pelicans’ Nikola Mirotic, creating deflections, making the right reads and impacting the game despite scoring just six points. Kerr likened him to Scottie Pippen after Game 4, but Iggy wasn’t buying it -- “Steve just does that to make sure I don’t get mad ‘cause I don’t shots,” Iguodala quipped. He may be right. But Iguodala and Green have a mind meld defensively that’s at the heart of the Hamptons’ effectiveness. “Andre and I, we’re usually on the same page,” Green said. “Two guys who really think the game, especially on that side of the ball. Sometimes we can talk things out and it works perfect and not say a word, and know what each other’s going to do. It definitely helps our team out defensively kind of having two coaches out there on the floor on that side of the ball.” Whether it’s switching to guard each other’s man, running at an open shooter to close before the ball gets there with the other man rotating, they know what the other guy is going to do. And that second or so the Warriors save defensively keeps them from being broken down. “How fast can you make that decision?,” Green says. “How demonstrative are you going to be about that decision? Are you going to second guess that decision? That’s usually when it doesn’t work; if you’re going to go, just go. That’s kind of the motto that Andre and I go by. If you’re going to go, just go; everybody else fall in line and rotate, and we’ll work it out from there.” And while Green and Rajon Rondo have been exchanging pleasantries throughout this series, Green didn’t pick up his first postseason technical foul until Sunday (Monday, PHL time). He’s been under control, coming up to the edge without going over. Someone without access to the internet asked Kerr if he’d ever played with anyone who instigated or tried to get under the skin of opponents. It’s a testament to Kerr’s comic timing that he actually did wait a beat before answering. “I did play with Dennis Rodman,” he said. Never be fooled by Kerr’s overall pleasant disposition and quick-with-a-quip acuity, though. He is a fierce competitor that wants to win big, the same as his current point guard, who is similarly underrated on the competition scale. Kerr has seven rings as a player and coach, and it’s not a coincidence he’s frequently been around teams that got it done in June. But the Warriors are playing for even bigger stakes than just winning the 2018 title. Legacies are created this time of year. A third title in four seasons, with four straight Finals appearances, would put Golden State in very rarified air in the modern game. San Antonio won three titles from 2002-07. But the Spurs, famously, never have won back-to-back titles. The Kobe Bryant-Shaquille O’Neal-led Lakers, which won three straight from 2000-02, are the closest modern-day team to pulling off what the Warriors are trying to accomplish. Before then, you’re talking about the Michael Jordan-led Chicago Bulls, with six titles in eight seasons -- the two non-title seasons coinciding with Jordan’s sojourn to the minor leagues of baseball. Moreover, the Warriors are the hub around which the modern NBA now spins. And that is an even bigger legacy. Almost everyone (hi, Thibs!) tries to play the way Golden State does now -- the quick hitters, ball movement, pace. Teams do it in different ways. The 76ers look very different than the Warriors, with Joel Embiid their centerpiece of operations, and with 6'10" Ben Simmons taking up so much space with the ball in the halfcourt. The Rockets look different still as there’s not a ton of ball movement. There’s just an unending series of screen and rolls with Chris Paul and James Harden with the rock, looking for the inevitable open man in the corner or way, way behind the three-point line. A lot of things have happened the last 15 years to lead us where we are now. The league changed almost all the rules regarding zone defense, and got rid of almost all defensive contact on the perimeter. Rockets GM Daryl Morey and others led the burgeoning analytics movement, which championed shooting more and more three-pointers as a primary means of scoring, not as a novelty. Mike D’Antoni’s Phoenix Suns went with Amar’e Stoudemire at center, surrounding him with four smalls that could all shoot it from deep, and scoring came out of its coma leaguewide. Kerr and Pelicans Coach Alvin Gentry have always been quick to credit D’Antoni’s influence on the modern game, starting in Phoenix and working through his current team in Houston. “He’s the guy that just eliminated the center position -- let’s just go small and fast and shoot more threes,” Kerr said of D’Antoni. “I was inspired by Mike, but I was also inspired by Pop (the Spurs’ Gregg Popovich) and Phil Jackson in terms of basic ball movement, screening. But pace is the name of the game these days, and people go about it in different ways. Ironically, Mike’s team (in Houston) is the slowest team in the league now. I didn’t see that coming.” But no one has put all of it together -- pace, small ball, shooting and defense -- like the Warriors have the last four seasons. The Rockets are the closest thing we’ve seen to Golden State, and they’re hungry, and they’re coming. And the Warriors and Rockets are just a win apiece away from seeing the clash of the Western Conference titans. They are in the middle of it, so they can’t stop and think about what it all means. We get that. But everyone wants to put a marker out there that’s hard to catch. LeBron is chasing a ghost. The Warriors have already made their mark on the game. They’re almost in position to do more. History is forever. “It’s important, because it’s what’s right in front of us,” Curry said Sunday. “We don’t think about the historical context of anything. For us, we have an amazing group of guys, amazing coaches sitting behind us. We’re appreciating the moment. That’s really all it is. You have tunnel vision for Game 5 at home, then a new series, hopefully (after that). The historic context doesn’t really seep into the locker room when it comes to what that means. It’s just about this year.” 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 NewsMay 8th, 2018

The curse of the Western Conference '4 seed

Here's a reminder for the Western Conference teams next season when they start jockeying for playoff seeding: Avoid the fourth seed at all costs. Sure you'll get home court advantage against the fifth seed, but that hasn't meant anything since the 2012 Playoffs. For the past seven years, all fourth seeds have lost to the fifth seeds, with the latest victims being the Oklahoma City Thunder, who were ousted in six games by the Utah Jazz. Is it sheer coincidence? A hardwood hex? A sign of parity? We'll run through the aforementioned seven series and let you decide for yourself. 2012 Playoffs - #5 LA Clippers (40-26) defeat #4 Memphis Grizzlies (41-25) in seven games The setup: It feels appropriate that this "curse" began during the lockout-shortened 2011-12 season. The Clippers were in year one of Lob City, having acquired Chris Paul during the offseason, while the Grizzlies were looking to build on their epic #8 vs #1 upset of the San Antonio Spurs from the previous postseason. What happened: The Grizzlies began this series in the worst possible way. In game one, they led by as much as 27 points, and were up 95-71 with 9:13 left to play. But then Nick Young happened. Swaggy P came off the Clippers bench and buried three straight triples, helping LA win game one, and build a 3-1 series lead. The Grizzlies won the next two though, sending things back to Bluff City for a game seven. Ultimately though, home court didn't help, as the Clippers broke the game wide open in the fourth, outscoring the Grizzlies 27-16, for an 82-72 victory. "That guy was on the team?": Reggie Evan led the Clippers in rebounding with 8.7 a night, while Gilbert Arenas played in six out of the seven games, totaling 23 minutes and four points for the Grizzlies. What next?: The Spurs swept the Clippers in the semis. 2013 Playoffs - #5 Memphis Grizzlies (56-26) defeat #4 LA Clippers (56-26) in six games The setup: The Clippers won their division for the VERY FIRST TIME in franchise history, while the Grizzlies were in full Grit 'N Grind mode, with Marc Gasol winning Defensive Player of the Year that season. What happened: Things started off well, with the Clippers winning the first two games in LA. However, the Grizzlies stood firm at home, knotting the series at 2-all. Things turned dire for LAC when star forward Blake Griffin suffered an ankle sprain during practice, limiting him to just 19:34 minutes in game five, which they lost. With their season on the line in the City of Angels for game six, Griffin could only play 13:56, and not even a career postseason-best 30 points by Matt Barnes could save the Clips. To add insult to injury, Chris Paul was ejected with 2:29 left, before the game ended with a 118-105 score. "That guy was on the team?": Tayshaun Prince was Memphis' starting small forward, while Grant Hill and Lamar Odom, both with the Clips, played their last NBA seasons. What next?: The Grizzlies dispatched the OKC Thunder in five games in the conference finals, before losing to the Spurs via a sweep in the West Finals. 2014 Playoffs - #5 Portland Trail Blazers (54-28) defeat #4 Houston Rockets (54-28) in six games The setup: The Houston Rockets added Dwight Howard to a roster that already had James Harden, Jeremy Lin, and Chandler Parsons, making them one of the top teams in the West. The Portland Trail Blazers meanwhile built on Damian Lillard's 2013 Rookie of the Year campaign and snapped a two-year postseason drought. What happened: While things were tightly contested, three of the first four games went to overtime, the Blazers seemingly had the Rockets' number, winning two of those OT games, en route to a 3-1 series lead. The Rockets managed to stave off elimination at home in game five, but in game six, Lillard truly made a name for himself, by canning a series-winning shot, allowing Rip City to advance for the first time in 14 years. "That guy was on the team?": Mo Williams was Portland's sixth man (8.2 ppg, 1.8 rpg, 1.8 apg), while Omer Asik teamed up with Howard in the Houston frontcourt. What next?: The Blazers managed to take one game from the Spurs, before bowing out in the conference semifinals. 2015 Playoffs - #5 Memphis Grizzlies (55-27) defeat #4 Portland Trail Blazers (51-31) in five games The setup: The Blazers won the Northwest Division, but the next two teams in the standings, the Grizzlies and the Spurs, both had notched 55 wins, four more than them. Portland's main problem though was swingman Wesley Matthews tearing an achilles tendon early in March, a season-ending injury. What happened: Portland struggled to find someone who could take the starting SG spot on their roster with Matthews out, cycling through CJ McCollum, Allen Crabbe, and Arron Afflalo. That trio, as starters, combined to shoot 4-of-22 for 10 points over five games, allowing the Memphis D to concentrate on Lillard and LaMarcus Aldridge. The Grizzlies won the first three games, before picking up the clincher in game five, despite starting point guard Mike Conley suffering a facial fracture in game three and missing the rest of the series. "That guy was on the team?": Nick Calathes wound up assuming the point guard duties for the Grizzlies, in what turned out to be his final NBA stint (he went back to playing in Greece after the season). What next?: The Grizzlies lost in six games in the next round to the Golden State Warriors, after the Dubs made their famous adjustment to use Andrew Bogut to guard Tony Allen. 2016 Playoffs - #5 Portland Trail Blazers (44-38) defeat #4 LA Clippers (53-29) in six games The setup: The LA Clippers came really close to losing center DeAndre Jordan to the Dallas Mavericks in the offseason, but you all know what happened instead. As for the Portland Trail Blazers, the team rebuilt after losing LaMarcus Aldridge and Nic Batum, among others, pairing Lillard with Most Improved Player winner CJ McCollum in the backcourt. What happened: The Paul-Griffin-Jordan trio looked splendid early on, going up 2-0 after games in LA. The Blazers struck back and won game three, but then disaster waylaid LA in game four, with BOTH Paul (broken hand) and Griffin (quad) exiting the game and the series. That paved the way for the Blazers to complete their run and advance. "That guy was on the team?": It was Chris Kaman's final NBA season, and he spent it as a locker room guy for the Blazers. It was also Clippers guard Pablo Prigioni's last stint in the NBA (not counting several preseason games with the Rockets the next season, before he got cut and returned to Europe). What next?: The Blazers advanced to the West semis, where they lost in five games to the Warriors, despite Stephen Curry missing the first three matches. 2017 Playoffs - #5 Utah Jazz (51-31) defeat #4 LA Clippers (51-31) in seven games The setup: It was a battle between two teams looking to go far in the postseason in the hopes of enticing their future free agents to re-up. For the Jazz, Gordon Hayward was the player in question, while for the Clippers, both Chris Paul and Blake Griffin had the ability to depart in the offseason. What happened: Iso-Joe Johnson did Iso-Joe things, stealing game one for the Jazz on the Clippers' home court. Undeterred, the Clippers proceeded to win the next two, for a 2-1 advantage, but game three turned out to be costly. The team the next day announced that Blake Griffin was out for the rest of the season due to a toe injury. Still, things went to a game seven, in LA, but the Clippers did not have the firepower to win out, and the Jazz were able to get the victory and advance. What next?: The Jazz got swept by the Warriors in the West semis. And ironically, both Hayward and Paul wound up departing their respective teams. In addition, Griffin did sign an extension with the Clippers, but they wound up trading him mid-way through the 2017-18 campaign. 2018 Playoffs - #5 Utah Jazz (48-34) defeat #4 Oklahoma City Thunder (48-34) in six games The setup: The Jazz equaled their postseason rank from last season, thanks to the brilliance of rookie Donovan Mitchell, while the Thunder formed a "Big Three" comprising Russell Westbrook, Paul George, and Carmelo Anthony. What happened: Paul George sizzled for 36 points to help the Thunder win game one, but Ricky Rubio and Donovan Mitchell teamed up to help the Jazz win the next three. On the brink of elimination, Russell Westbrook led a dominant third quarter effort in OKC to force a game six, but in Salt Lake City, the Jazz managed to hold on, and earn the series victory. What next?: The Jazz will now test themselves against the top-seeded Houston Rockets. Should be a good one. The views on this page do not necessarily reflect the views of the NBA, its clubs or ABS-CBN Sports......»»

Category: sportsSource:  abscbnRelated NewsApr 29th, 2018

Warriors re-introduce themselves in rout of Spurs

By Shaun Powell, NBA.com OAKLAND, CALIF. — It is generally accepted that the Warriors will perspire some, feel a degree of burn in their lungs, receive an urgency slap in the face and get pushed toward the edge of their defending championship throne once they play a team from Texas. Just not this team from Texas. No, not the Spurs, at least that’s what the hunch and the outset of this first-round playoff series says. Common sense, too, wants to chime in and declare the Spurs without Kawhi Leonard are just standing in the way, albeit proudly, of the Warriors’ path to greater things in the post-season. And so, the long and antsy wait for the anticipated and projected Warriors vs. Houston Rockets showdown in the West began in earnest Saturday (Sunday, PHL time) when the Warriors breezed from jump ball to buzzer against San Antonio, and also torpedoed the notion that they’re somehow vulnerable (at least for now). The playoff tipoff was all about the Warriors re-establishing their muscle flex and their defense and most importantly, their aura, even with Steph Curry still out and ailing, because the rest of the NBA was watching. That’s what a 113-92 wipeout Game 1 win at Oracle Arena accomplished, if nothing else. The combination of the Spurs being overmatched and the Warriors needing to put on a more menacing face than what they showed the last month of the regular season delivered the predictable result: A smackdown. Or, as Spurs coach Gregg Popovich put it: “Got our ass kicked.” Too much Kevin Durant, the sneaky elevation of Andre Iguodala to the starting point guard spot, a JaVale McGee sighting and Klay Thompson getting swishy was exactly what the Warriors needed and received. Seriously, though: Anything less would’ve been a big surprise. The Warriors couldn’t afford to stay locked into the season-ending fog that turned coach Steve Kerr’s hair a lighter shade of gray and created the perception of a fat, too-satisfied winner of two championships in three years. Most likely, they were merely victims of human nature: While going 7-10 down the stretch, the Warriors simply grew bored with the meaningless late season, especially once Curry hurt his knee on March 23 (Mar. 24, PHL time). Seriously, what was left to accomplish, other than to stay healthy? This team was created and molded for the sole purpose of winning in June, not for placing importance on, say, drop-kicking the Sacramento Kings on April Fools. “We’re a championship ballclub and we know what it takes to win this time of year,” said Draymond Green, applying the perspective. “You heard, 'The Warriors lost it, they’re not together, they’re not the same team without Steph, blase, blase, blase, blah blah blah.' Well, we know what we’re capable of. There have been series where we’ve won without Kevin, without myself, without our head coach. A lot of people forgot.” In case you’re one of the people Draymond was referring to, here’s a refresher course, courtesy of Game 1: Durant is very long and tough to defend, Thompson usually doesn’t miss when he has three feet of separation from his defender, Iggy always earns his fat paycheck in springtime, and as for McGee? “He’s very tall,” said Kerr. Actually, Kerr wasn’t purposely trying to troll his starting center, just stating the obvious when it comes to defending Spurs leading scorer LaMarcus Aldridge. McGee brings four more inches and therefore made it tough for Aldridge, who managed only 14 points and was mainly a ghost. With Aldridge on lockdown, the Warriors’ D had accomplished its main mission, because the Spurs lack a secondary source of punch. What, is Rudy Gay going to turn back the clock? Manu Ginobili? Tony Parker? Because that’s what needs to happen for San Antonio. Without it, well, unfortunately for the Spurs, Kawhi isn’t limping through that door. What irritated Kerr was how the Warriors dialed down their defensive intensity in the weeks leading into the playoffs. They spotted 126 points each to the Pelicans and Pacers, and in the season finale did a complete no-show, getting spanked by 40 courtesy of Utah. Remember, the Warriors constantly ranked among the better defensive teams during their multiple runs to the NBA Finals. As coaches tend to do in these matters, Kerr jeopardized his vocal chords a few times while trying to get the message across in the disinterested locker room. But deep down, did anyone buy the notion of the Warriors suddenly forgetting how to play defense? With the second-best record in the West secured, and first place conceded to Houston, weren’t they just tapping their toes until the first round? Is that such a crime? Wouldn’t that be understandable, and wise on some levels, given the risk of something bad happening to a hamstring? Anyway, Kerr barely uncrossed his legs on the bench Saturday (Sunday, PHL time); no need to scold a team that held the Spurs to 40 percent shooting and claimed the rebounding edge by 21 and never felt threatened. “We finally got back to defending,” said Kerr. He made sure of that, by inserting Iguodala, his best all-around defender, into the starting lineup and also using McGee extensively instead of Zaza Pachulia. Iggy spread his limbs all over the floor, guarding bigs and smalls, switching on the screen and generally being a pest to the other team, as he generally is this time of year. “I just wanted to put our best defensive lineup on the floor from the beginning,” he explained. “The last month or so our defense had been subpar. You can’t win in this league unless you defend. You could feel the intensity right from the start. We set a good tone.” To be fair, the awakening of the Warriors’ defense will receive a more accurate measure if and when they advance beyond the Spurs and face, for example, the Blazers with Damian Lillard and CJ McCollum and of course the turbocharged Rockets with James Harden and Chris Paul and all those three-point slingers. But until then, wrapping up the Spurs will serve as necessary preparation. Less worry was the Warriors on the other end of the floor, where Durant assumed the lead and took 17 shots, scoring 24 points. More efficient was Thompson, who missed only twice in 13 shots and finished with 27 points. All of this was necessary with Curry not expected back for the first round; he just received the green light to press the accelerator during rehab and begin lateral movements. If the Warriors, a top-10 team in both offensive and defensive efficiency, continue to get this kind of killer balance, there’ll be some long nights upcoming for the Spurs and a quick series as well. “We were not as ready to face a team like them,” said Ginobili. “They were much better than us. Klay got away from us many times. Overall, they were so much better in every aspect that we had no shot. We’ve got to regroup, feel hurt and desperate, got to be smarter … We understand we’re not favorites. We’re underdogs. To get a win here we’ve got to overachieve. We got to do better than we can.” It’s too bad that the Kawhi Situation continues to follow the Spurs like a dark cloud. He remains stymied by a quad injury that apparently hasn’t healed enough for his liking. The Spurs with Kawhi and the Warriors without Curry would tip the scales in this series toward being somewhat level, or at least invite some suspense. Without Kawhi, the Spurs are shooting spitballs at a tank. Guts and hard work and good coaching can only go so far against the suddenly-refocused and playoff-locked Warriors. So, yes, the Warriors set out to re-introduce themselves and did so Saturday (Sunday, PHL time). “We want to make a statement in Game 2 as well,” said Thompson. “We hobbled to the playoffs but we know how good we are and what it takes in the post season to win. When our intensity and focus are high, we’re tough to beat.” Well, tough for one team in Texas. We’ll see about the other soon enough. Veteran NBA writer Shaun Powell has worked for newspapers and other publications for more than 25 years. You can e-mail him here or 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 15th, 2018

10 things to know about the 2018 NBA Playoffs

By Tim Reynolds, Associated Press With the NBA playoffs starting Saturday (Sunday, PHL time), here are 10 things to know: LEBRON’S STREAK Pacers fans, avert your eyes. LeBron James hasn’t experienced losing a first-round game in nearly six years. James’ teams have won 21 consecutive opening-round contests, a streak that started in Game 5 of the Miami-New York series in 2012. Combining his Cleveland and Miami years, James’ teams have won 46 of their last 51 first-round games. James and the Cavs play Indiana in the first round this season. MORE LEBRON James could set a slew of NBA records in these playoffs. He’s already the all-time postseason leader in points, is seven steals from passing Scottie Pippen (395) for the playoff record in that department, is four shots from passing Kobe Bryant (4,499) for another career postseason mark. Depending on how long Cleveland’s postseason lasts, James also has a shot at passing Ray Allen (385) for career postseason 3-pointers; he’s 55 shy of taking over the No. 1 spot there. And if the Cavs make a deep run James could also catch Kareem Abdul-Jabbar (2,356) for most field goals. KERR BATTLE Golden State coach Steve Kerr is estranged from his son. Temporarily. Nick Kerr works for the San Antonio Spurs — the Warriors’ opponent in a Western Conference first round series. This has long been a source of great amusement for Spurs coach Gregg Popovich, who coached Steve Kerr as a player and remains close with him now. Popovich has said that Nick Kerr is the subject of additional security screenings at work, just to ensure he’s not a spy for the Warriors. (No, Pop wasn’t serious.) Steve Kerr says he and his son are “recusing ourselves” from family interaction during the series. “I think they already confiscated Nick’s phone,” he said. SO CLOSE ... You have to feel for Omri Casspi and DeMarcus Cousins. No active players have appeared in more regular-season games without any getting any postseason run than Casspi and Cousins. Casspi has played in 552 games, Cousins 535. And both were right on the cusp of ending their droughts this year; Casspi was waived by Golden State because it needed a roster spot once he hurt his ankle, and Cousins tore his Achilles’ to end his season with New Orleans. Tom Van Arsdale (929) is the record-holder for most regular-season games without seeing postseason play, followed by Otto Moore (682), Nate Williams (642), Sebastian Telfair (564), then Casspi and Cousins. GLOBAL GAME These NBA playoffs will be more global than ever. A record 62 international players, from a record 33 countries, are headed to the postseason. Every playoff team has at least one international player on its roster, with Utah and Philadelphia both featuring seven and Boston, Toronto and San Antonio six each. France and Australia lead the way in international representation in these playoffs, with seven players from each nation making it to the second season. Canada and Spain both have four. STREAKING SPURS This wasn’t San Antonio’s best season; the Spurs got “only” the seventh seed in the West. But their streak lives. This is the 21st consecutive season the Spurs have made the playoffs, one shy of matching Philadelphia for the longest NBA run. To put their current streak in perspective, the soonest any other NBA club will be able to say that it has a 21-season postseason streak will be 2033. Golden State and Houston have the second-longest active postseason streaks, at six. Portland and Toronto have been to five in a row, and four teams in this postseason — Miami, Minnesota, Philadelphia and New Orleans — didn’t qualify for the playoffs a year ago. MONEY MATTERS Portland and Philadelphia have already won a little extra money. By winning on the season’s final night to ensure each finished alone in third in their respective conferences, the Trail Blazers and 76ers picked up another $64,842 from the NBA’s record $20 million playoff pool this season. Playoff teams split payouts from the pool, often toward bonuses for players and staff. Houston is assured $1,380,065 from the pool so far. Toronto is assured $803,222 while Boston and Golden State are up to $704,169. Every playoff team will receive at least $298,485 — and the payouts keep rising as teams keep advancing. The NBA champion will claim at least $4,782,438; the runner-up, at least $3,587,489. START FAST Of the 15 series played in the 2017 postseason, Game 1 winners ultimately won the best-of-seven 12 times. That 80 percent clip is consistent with the league norm. Since the 1983-84 season, winners of Game 1 have gone on to win the series 79 percent of the time. But that guarantees nothing — over the last seven years, four teams have lost Game 1 of the NBA Finals and gone on to win the championship anyway. DEFEND HOME COURT Home-court “advantage” really didn’t exist in the 2017 playoffs. Road teams won 43 percent of the postseason games played last year, and it’s reasonable to think such a success rate might be in play again this year. The 16 teams in these playoffs combined to win 351 games on the road in the regular season, or 54 percent. Ordinarily, road teams win playoff games about 35 percent of the time. FINALLY, MINNESOTA The Timberwolves are in the playoffs for the first time since 2004. During that 14-year drought, the franchise had nine different coaches, used 131 different players, 92 different starters, took 93,776 field-goal attempts and scored 112,664 points. Here might be the best illustration of how long the postseason wait was for Minnesota: Only 12 of the 59 players taken in the 2004 draft were still in the NBA this season. The only player the Timberwolves drafted in the year of their last playoff run was Blake Stepp, who never made the NBA but played at least three times in the World Series of Poker......»»

Category: sportsSource:  abscbnRelated NewsApr 14th, 2018

2018 MLB preview: AL Central

By The Associated Press Capsules of American League Central teams, listed in order of finish last year: ___ Cleveland Indians 2017: 102-60, first place, lost to Yankees in ALDS. Manager: Terry Francona (sixth season). He's Here: 1B-DH Yonder Alonso, LF Rajai Davis, RHP Alexi Ogando. He's Outta Here: 1B Carlos Santana, OF Jay Bruce, RHP Bryan Shaw, RHP Joe Smith, OF Austin Jackson, LHP Boone Logan. Projected Lineup: SS Francisco Lindor (.273, 33 HRs, 89 RBIs, 44 2Bs, 15 SBs, 10 errors), 2B Jason Kipnis (.232, 12 HRs, 35 RBIs in 90 games), 3B Jose Ramirez (.318, 29, 83, AL-leading 56 2Bs), DH Edwin Encarnacion (.258, 38, 107), 1B Yonder Alonso (.266, career-high 28 HRs, 67 RBIs with Athletics and Mariners), RF Lonnie Chisenhall (.288, 12, 53 in 82 games), C Roberto Perez (.207, 8, 38, club went 44-22 in his starts) or Yan Gomes (.232, 14, 56), CF Bradley Zimmer (.241, 8, 39, 18 SBs, 0 errors), LF Michael Brantley (.299, 9, 52 in 90 games) or Rajai Davis (.235, 5, 20, 29 SBs with Oakland and Boston). Rotation: RH Corey Kluber (18-4, 2.25 ERA, 265 Ks, 2nd Cy Young Award), RH Carlos Carrasco (18-6, 3.29, 226 Ks), RH Trevor Bauer (17-9, 4.19, 10-1 in final 13 starts), RH Mike Clevinger (12-6, 3.11, 137 Ks in 121 2/3 innings), RH Danny Salazar (5-6, 4.28, 12.67 Ks per 9 innings). Key Relievers: RH Cody Allen (3-7, 2.94, 30/34 saves, 96 saves past 3 seasons), LH Andrew Miller (4-3, 1.44, 2 saves), RH Dan Otero (3-0, 2.85, walked just 19 of 511 batters since 2016), LH Tyler Olson (1-0, 0.00 in 20 innings over 30 games), RH Zack McAllister (2-2, 2.61 in 50 games). Hot Spots: Kipnis and Brantley. The former All-Stars have been hindered by injuries in recent years, but both appear on track to bounce back in 2018. The Indians need them to produce. Cleveland is better defensively with Ramirez at second base, but he'll stay at third as long as the 31-year-old Kipnis hits. Kipnis has been mentioned in trade talk for two years. Brantley, once considered one of baseball's best all-around talents, has played in only 101 games since 2015. Outlook: No team has felt postseason pain lately quite like the Indians. They blew a 3-1 lead and lost the 2016 World Series to the Cubs, and squandered a 2-0 advantage in last year's best-of-five Division Series against the Yankees. With arguably baseball's strongest rotation led by Kluber, the Indians are poised to possibly end a championship drought approaching its 70th anniversary. Alonso must help the offense offset the losses of Santana and Bruce. Francona won't have Shaw in the bullpen anymore after the durable reliever pitched in at least 74 games each of the past four seasons. Winning the AL Central won't suffice for the Indians, who are determined to finish the job this year. ___ Minnesota Twins 2017: 85-77, second place, lost to Yankees in wild-card game. Manager: Paul Molitor (fourth season). He's Here: RHP Lance Lynn, RHP Jake Odorizzi, DH-1B Logan Morrison, RHP Fernando Rodney, RHP Addison Reed, LHP Zach Duke, SS-3B Erick Aybar, RHP Michael Pineda. He's Outta Here: RHP Matt Belisle, RHP Bartolo Colon, C Chris Gimenez, DH-1B Kennys Vargas, LHP Hector Santiago, LHP Glen Perkins, LHP Buddy Boshers, RHP Michael Tonkin. Projected Lineup: 2B Brian Dozier (.271, 34 HRs, 93 RBIs, 106 runs), 1B Joe Mauer (.305, 7, 71, .384 OBP), 3B Miguel Sano (.264, 28, 77, 173 Ks in 114 games), DH Logan Morrison (.246, 38, 85, .868 OPS with Rays), LF Eddie Rosario (.290, 27, 78), SS Eduardo Escobar (.254, 21, 73), CF Byron Buxton (.253, 16, 51, 29/30 SBs), RF Max Kepler (.243, 19, 69), C Jason Castro (.242, 10, 47). Rotation: RH Ervin Santana (16-8, 3.28 ERA, 5 CGs, 211 1/3 IP, expected to begin season on DL), RH Jose Berrios (14-8, 3.89), RH Lance Lynn (11-8, 3.43 with Cardinals), RH Jake Odorizzi (10-8, 4.14 with Rays), RH Kyle Gibson (12-10, 5.07). Key Relievers: RH Fernando Rodney (5-4, 4.23, 39/45 saves with Diamondbacks), RH Addison Reed (2-3, 2.84, 19 saves with Mets and Red Sox), LH Taylor Rogers (7-3, 3.07), LH Zach Duke (1-1, 3.93 in 18 1/3 IP with Cardinals), RH Ryan Pressly (2-3, 4.70), RH Trevor Hildenberger (3-3, 3.21, 1 save), RH Phil Hughes (4-3, 5.87 in 53 2/3 IP). Hot Spot: Left Side Of The Infield. Sano had surgery in November to have a rod inserted in his left shin after a stress reaction kept him out for the last six weeks of the 2017 regular season, and the burly slugger has struggled to keep his weight down. He's also been under investigation by Major League Baseball, facing potential discipline, for alleged harassment of a woman during an encounter in 2015. Jorge Polanco, who got so hot at the plate down the stretch of his first full season as a regular in the lineup that he wound up third in the batting order, was suspended for the first 80 games this season for testing positive for a performance-enhancing substance. Escobar can fill in capably at shortstop, but he's also the top backup for Sano if the All-Star has to sit for any reason. Outlook: After their massive 26-win turnaround last season, earning Molitor the AL Manager of the Year award and a new contract through the 2020 season, the Twins were already on the upswing with their 25-and-under core of Berrios, Buxton, Sano, Rosario and Kepler. Then, after spring training began, they traded for Odorizzi and signed Morrison and Lynn, all at market-bargain prices. They've already had some setbacks, with finger surgery for Santana expected to keep him out for most or all of April, and the gut-punch news of Polanco's suspension, plus the uncertainty that surrounds Sano. But this is a team, even with the bold offseason moves made by AL heavyweights Boston and New York, and the strength of reigning AL Central champion Cleveland, that has the talent and spunk to be right in the playoff mix. With Hughes and Tyler Duffey on track for long-relief roles and a spate of well-regarded prospects set to fill out the rotation at Triple-A Rochester, this is as much starting pitching depth as the Twins have had in years. After using 16 different starters in 2017, they needed that. Rodney, Reed and Duke were important additions to bolster the bullpen, too, after Minnesota relievers ranked 22nd in the majors with a collective 4.40 ERA. ___ Kansas City Royals 2017: 80-82, third place. Manager: Ned Yost (ninth season). He's Here: RHP Jesse Hahn, CF Jon Jay, 1B Lucas Duda, RHP Wily Peralta, RHP Justin Grimm. He's Outta Here: 1B Eric Hosmer, CF Lorenzo Cain, LHP Jason Vargas, RHP Joakim Soria, LHP Mike Minor, OF Melky Cabrera, LHP Scott Alexander, DH Brandon Moss, RHP Mike Morin, LHP Ryan Buchter, RHP Trevor Cahill. Projected Lineup: CF Jon Jay (.296, 2 HRs, 34 RBIs with Cubs), 2B Whit Merrifield (.288, 19, 78, AL-leading 34 SBs), 3B Mike Moustakas (.272, 38, 85), C Salvador Perez (.268, 27, 80), 1B Lucas Duda (.217, 30, 64 with Mets and Rays), DH Jorge Soler (.144, 2, 6), LF Alex Gordon (.208, 9, 45), RF Paulo Orlando (.198, 2, 6), SS Alcides Escobar (.250, 6, 54). Rotation: LH Danny Duffy (9-10, 3.81 ERA), RH Ian Kennedy (5-13, 5.38), RH Jason Hammel (8-13, 5.29), RH Jakob Junis (9-3, 4.30), RH Nate Karns (2-2, 4.17). Key Relievers: RH Kelvin Herrera (3-3, 4.25, 26/31 saves), RH Wily Peralta (5-4, 7.85 in 19 games, 8 starts with Brewers), RH Brandon Maurer (2-2, 8.10 in 26 games with Royals; 1-4, 5.72 in 42 games with Padres), RH Justin Grimm (1-2, 5.53 with Cubs), LH Brian Flynn (5-3, 5.40 at Triple-A Omaha), RH Kevin McCarthy (1-0, 3.20), RH Brad Keller (10-9, 4.68 ERA at Double-A Jackson). Hot Spots: Just About Everywhere. The Royals struggled to score last year, and losing Hosmer and Cain in free agency won't help. They'll turn to Moustakas, who set a club record for home runs in a season, and newcomers Jay and Duda to ignite the offense. The only starting pitcher with a track record of success is Duffy, while the bullpen features plenty of unproven talent that must show it can close down games if the Royals are to approach .500 this season. Outlook: This was supposed to be a rebuilding year in Kansas City, when most of the Royals' top players hit free agency en masse. With Moustakas and Escobar finding little market, both returned to Kansas City with prove-it contracts. That gives the Royals a fighting chance to stay competitive into July, and then all bets are off. But the reality is there are still far too many holes, both in the lineup and on the pitching staff, for the Royals to be considered contenders. They would do well to match the 80 wins they had last season, and could be a big seller at the July 31 trade deadline, which would allow them to replenish a shallow farm system and begin their rebuilding job in earnest. ___ Chicago White Sox 2017: 67-95, fourth place. Manager: Rick Renteria (second season). He's Here: RHP Miguel Gonzalez, C Welington Castillo. He's Outta Here: LHP Derek Holland, RHP Mike Pelfrey, RHP Al Alburquerque, RHP Jake Petricka, C Geovany Soto, OF-2B Alen Hanson, RHP Zach Putnam. Projected Lineup: 2B Yoan Moncada (.231, 8 HRs, 22 RBIs), RF Avisail Garcia (.330, 18, 80), 1B Jose Abreu (.304, 33, 102), DH Matt Davidson (.220, 26, 68), C Welington Castillo (.282, 20, 53 with Orioles), SS Tim Anderson (.257, 17, 56), 3B Yolmer Sanchez (.267, 12, 59), LF Nicky Delmonico (.262, 9, 23), CF Adam Engel (.166, 6, 21). Rotation: RH James Shields (5-7, 5.23 ERA), RH Lucas Giolito (3-3, 2.38), RH Reynaldo Lopez (3-3, 4.72), RH Miguel Gonzalez (8-13, 4.62 with White Sox and Rangers), RH Carson Fulmer (3-1, 3.86) or LH Hector Santiago (4-8, 5.63 with Twins). Key Relievers: RH Nate Jones (1-0, 2.31, 11 appearances), LH Luis Avilan (2-3, 2.93 with Dodgers), RH Joakim Soria (4-3, 3.70, 1 save with Royals), RH Juan Minaya (3-2, 4.53, 9 saves), RH Gregory Infante (2-1, 3.13), RH Danny Farquhar (4-2, 4.20 with White Sox and Rays). Hot Spot: Bullpen. A particular strength for the first half of 2017 is now a major question mark after Chicago traded away Tommy Kahnle, Anthony Swarzak, Dan Jennings and closer David Robertson last season. Soria has 204 career saves but his best days might be behind him, and there aren't many other proven late-inning options. Renteria and respected pitching coach Don Cooper might have their hands full mixing and matching while trying to figure out how to hold leads. Outlook: For a team with five straight losing seasons and a record that ranked among baseball's worst last year, the White Sox are generating plenty of buzz. That's because they're loaded with promising young players after going all-in on a rebuild prior to last season. The moves have sparked a belief that better days are ahead. Moncada and hard-throwing pitchers Giolito and Lopez showed promise in the majors last season. Right-hander Michael Kopech, outfielder Eloy Jimenez and outfielder Luis Robert are elite prospects on their way in the minors. Garcia, coming off a breakout season, is looking to prove he's not a one-hit wonder. Anderson hopes to bounce back from a trying season in which a close friend was shot to death. Abreu is back after the slugger was viewed as a potential trade candidate this winter. Left-hander Carlos Rodon is expected to be out until at least June following shoulder surgery last September. It's not clear when he'll be ready. Rodon also was sidelined at the start a year ago because of shoulder and biceps problems. The big question is whether he'll ever develop into the pitcher the White Sox envisioned when they drafted him with the No. 3 overall pick in 2014. ___ Detroit Tigers 2017: 64-98, fifth place. Manager: Ron Gardenhire (first season). He's Here: OF Leonys Martin, RHP Mike Fiers, LHP Francisco Liriano, OF Victor Reyes. He's Outta Here: Manager Brad Ausmus, 2B Ian Kinsler, RHP Anibal Sanchez, INF Andrew Romine, RHP Bruce Rondon. Projected Lineup: CF Leonys Martin (.172, 3 HRs, 9 RBIs with Mariners and Cubs), 3B Jeimer Candelario (.283, 3, 16 with Cubs and Tigers), 1B Miguel Cabrera (.249, 16, 60), RF Nicholas Castellanos (.272, 26, 101), DH Victor Martinez (.255, 10, 47), C James McCann (.253, 13, 49), LF Mikie Mahtook (.276, 12, 38), SS Jose Iglesias (.255, 6, 54), 2B Dixon Machado (.259, 1, 11). Rotation: RH Michael Fulmer (10-12, 3.83 ERA), RH Jordan Zimmermann (8-13, 6.08), LH Francisco Liriano (6-7, 5.66 with Blue Jays and Astros), RH Mike Fiers (8-10, 5.22 with Astros), LH Daniel Norris (5-8, 5.31) or LH Matthew Boyd (6-11, 5.27). Key Relievers: RH Shane Greene (4-3, 2.66, 9/13 saves), RH Joe Jimenez (0-2, 12.32), RH Alex Wilson (2-5, 4.50, 2 saves), LH Daniel Stumpf (0-1, 3.82). Hot Spot: The Farm System. After finishing tied for the worst record in baseball last year, the Tigers enter 2018 with no real expectations of success at the big league level, so the question is how quickly the franchise can make it through this rebuilding stage. Franklin Perez, a right-hander acquired last season when Detroit traded Justin Verlander, is expected to be out at least until June with a lat strain, and right-hander Matt Manning is also dealing with an injury. Alex Faedo and Beau Burrows are other pitching prospects to watch as they try to work their way toward the majors. Wins may be few and far between in Detroit, but Tigers fans will hope Cabrera — one star who avoided the roster purge of the last year — can rebound from a rough season. Outlook: The Tigers traded Verlander, Justin Upton and J.D. Martinez last season, then dealt away Kinsler during the offseason. There could be more big moves on the horizon — Fulmer, Iglesias and Castellanos should all have some trade value, but each of them is young enough that he could be useful to the Tigers when they become competitive again. That's especially true of Fulmer, the 2016 AL Rookie of the Year. Barring a huge surprise in terms of on-field results, the biggest suspense this season might revolve around how general manager Al Avila approaches the next few steps in the rebuild......»»

Category: sportsSource:  abscbnRelated NewsMar 29th, 2018

Cuban s tanking talk raises key issue for NBA

By David Aldridge, TNT Analyst The NBA fined Dallas Mavericks owner Mark Cuban $600,000 for being honest. Cuban told Naismith Memorial Hall of Famer Julius Erving on Erving’s podcast a couple of weeks ago that he told his players during a recent dinner that “losing is our best option. Adam (Silver) would hate hearing that…(but) we want the players to understand. As a player, you know that even though you may not agree, but at least if you respect the fact that someone took the time to talk to you, and you understood their perspective, you’re going to give me your feedback, but you’re part of the process.” But the league fined Cuban for what it called “public statements detrimental to the NBA” three days later. And Silver sent a memo to all 30 teams last week detailing the league’s position. “Throughout this period,” Silver wrote, “we have been careful to distinguish between efforts teams may make to rebuild their rosters, including through personnel changes over the course of several seasons, and circumstances in which players or coaches on the floor take steps to lose games. “The former can be a legitimate strategy to construct a successful team within the confines of league rules; the latter -- which we have not found and hope never to see in the NBA -- has no place in our game.” Yet Cuban did not in any way, nor has any evidence to the contrary emerged, state the Mavericks were losing games on purpose; that is, players were intentionally missing shots, or not putting forth effort on defense to let the other team score, or anything like that. (Even Silver acknowledged in the memo that the league has “no basis at this time to conclude that the Mavericks team is giving anything less than its best effort on the court, and Mark has assured us that this is not the case.”) So, why the fine? Was what Cuban said so incendiary? ‘’Mark knew his comments were public, so it surprised me that he was so candid, but that's who Mark is,” said one very high-ranking official from another team over the weekend. “To me his comment wasn't indicating tanking as their strategy but more about setting the expectation that playoffs were not a possibility. The only consolation of not making the playoffs is being in the lottery. You can't blame a team from trying to turn the lemon (losing) into lemonade (top 4 pick). The league needs to find a way not to reward losing.” Exactly. What Cuban said was spot on -- losing to improve the Mavericks’ Draft position was, and is, the best and quickest way for Dallas to get better and start winning games again. That doesn’t mean everyone agreed with Cuban being so blunt. “I think it was a totally inappropriate to say that to players,” said another extremely high-ranking team official for another team. “Whatever the team’s strategy may be, I firmly believe that the players should always play to win. The fine is meaningless to Mark; in fact, sometimes I think he enjoys the publicity he gets from the fines.” But. We ask people to be truthful and not lie about their intentions. We tell our kids that no lie is worth telling, and that telling the truth, no matter how painful, is always the best choice. So Cuban is honest and tells the truth, that short-term losing makes more sense for his franchise’s long-term interests, and he’s relieved of 600 large by the league. Meanwhile, the Philadelphia 76ers are lauded -- and revel in their slogan, “Trust the Process,” celebrated by the team’s most ardent supporters -- whose central tenet was to lose, and keep losing, until you could draft a player good enough to build around and win down the road. Which is, exactly, what Dallas is doing now. Indeed, increased tanking is the logical extension of an analytics-dominant league. If three is greater than two -- the reasoning behind the primacy of the 3-pointer in today’s NBA -- then doing anything you can to get more ping-pong balls in the hopper is the correct thing to do. You can’t just embrace the parts of doing it by the numbers that are pleasant. This is the flip side. Burying one’s head in the sand and pretending teams don’t do this doesn’t make sense. Everyone does it in every sport, or don’t you recall “Suck for Luck,” the chant of Indianapolis Colts’ fans before the 2012 NFL Draft? What of Major League Baseball’s Houston Astros losing 324 games from 2011-13? Were they trying to win games, or did we all imagine them going from $102 million in payroll in 2009 to $26 million by 2013? “I resist the word ‘tanking,’ but I’m very pro ‘rebuilding,’ when it’s necessary,” said Los Angeles Dodgers President Stan Kasten, who in a former life ran the Hawks as general manager in the ‘80s and ‘90s, by telephone Sunday. “And, it’s painful,” Kasten said. “You’ve got to explain it to your team, your fans, to your front office, to your coaches, to your wife, to your kids, to the country club. It’s hard. It’s painful. It’s nobody’s first choice. But if it’s necessary, it’s often the quickest way to get the team back to winning. And don’t lose sight of that.” Kasten’s Dodgers lost the World Series to the Astros, who methodically built their team the last four years around young drafted players like Series MVP George Springer, last fall in seven games. But not only is he not angry with Houston for the way management took the franchise’s foundation to the studs -- compared with his high-spending Dodgers -- he admires the speed with which they went from worst to first. “I have real feelings about what they did,” Kasten said. “Because Mark Walter (the CEO of Guggenheim Partners, the global firm that bought the Dodgers in 2012) and I, before we bought the Dodgers, we were looking at Houston. Because they were available. And truthfully, when we looked at where they were, we were going to do the same thing. It had to be done. Because they were not on a track to win. And frankly, I don’t think I could have done it as fast, or as well, as (Astros owner) Jim Crane, or (GM) Jeff Luhnow. Because doing that, to the extreme, takes real intestinal fortitude.” Kasten makes a strong distinction between a team cutting payroll and going young and that winds up losing, and one that’s actively seeking ways to lose more games. “All of these owners are hyper-competitive, and they want to win,” Kasten said. “And truthfully, the quickest way to win, at least if you look at the last three world champions, is to rebuild and get young and get prospects and do it that way. And if you don’t think that’s the better way to go, ask the fans in Houston and Chicago and Kansas City how they feel. You won’t get one fan who disagrees with what is done. It is the quickest way to win.” Please do not misunderstand. I hate tanking. I hate the idea of introducing losing into your shop, even indirectly. It’s like a virus, extremely difficult to get rid of once it gets in a franchise’s bloodstream. A ticket is, in essence, a contract between parties: I pay top dollar, you give me top-dollar product in exchange. When a team tanks, it violates that compact; I don’t recall any team that’s given fans a tanking discount. It is also very difficult to tank effectively in the NBA. The last three teams with the best odds of getting the No. 1 in the Draft going into the Lottery -- Boston (2017), Philadelphia (2016) and Minnesota (2015) -- have indeed won. But prior to that, the team with the best odds didn’t get the first pick for 10 consecutive years, and 22 times out of the last 25 years. And even the teams that did buck the odds and get the first pick often picked wrong, or did I miss Anthony Bennett Night in Cleveland, or the Andrea Bargnani statue outside of Air Canada Centre? “The Draft is often a crap shoot anyway,” the official from the second team said. “So why not give your fans the best product that you can and then draft Donovan Mitchell,” as Utah did this season. The Jazz traded for the rights to the Kia Rookie of the Year candidate, who was taken near the bottom of the Lottery (13th overall by the Denver Nuggets). This came a season after the Jazz went 51-31 and won its first-round playoff series. I agree. Tanking does not reward excellence in team building -- good drafting, good free-agent signings, good player development -- it rewards the exact opposite of that. It’s a Golden Ticket that doesn’t even require you to buy an Everlasting Gobstopper. But, tanking is reality. You can’t pretend it isn’t. And the only way to completely get tanking out of pro sports is to eliminate the Draft in all sports, including the NBA. We don’t want to have that conversation, do we? Personally, I’d love it. Can you imagine the fight that would set up between interested teams -- and who wouldn’t be interested? -- in a certain 7-foot-1 freshman center almost certain to leave school early who currently plays for a school that’s been in the news for all the wrong reasons lately? Would he help the Lakers? The Knicks? The Bulls? The NBA team in the state in which the college player currently plays, which rather desperately needs another star to pair with its one really great player (whose name, if you must know, rhymes with “Nevin Cooker”)? Would he help any team in the league that doesn’t currently employ Anthony Davis, Joel Embiid or Karl-Anthony Towns in the middle? Most assuredly. And if he could control where he wanted to go, and for how much, the process would be must-see TV. Yet, while the real-world implications would be fascinating, I’m not sure how you could eliminate the Draft without loosening the underpinnings of the entire pro basketball enterprise (and, yes, one could make a moral case for doing just that, as it does go against the whole Manifest Destiny thing to artificially bind someone to a company rather than letting them market their services to the highest bidder). If there was no Draft, why would any player with Lottery-level talent go to college? Yes, there would be the occasional Grant Hill/unicorn who wants to go to college to better themselves intellectually and/or embrace the person growth that often comes from being on your own for four years. But, while sad to say, most kids with NBA dreams go to college because that’s the path through which they can ultimately get to the pros the fastest. With no Draft, and few of the top college-age players thus needing/wanting to go to college, you’d have a very different March Madness than you have now. And as that is a multi-billion enterprise, both for the broadcast networks that air it (including Turner Sports, which runs NBA.com) and the colleges that reap the financial deluge it produces, the likelihood of across the board support for a new player acquisition model is slight. Not to mention, you’d have a much different salary structure in the NBA, as there would be no rookie slotting for drafted players. And if you think the game’s superstars would stand idly by and watch more of that cheddar that they helped produce go out the door to guys who haven’t yet done anything … you’d be wrong. So, the Draft isn’t going anywhere. Which means the NBA must decide whether it wants to continue to be shocked, shocked that tanking is going on in its league, or accept the reality that there is not much patience for being in the middle ground in a league where every team is now worth more than $1 billion. There is only, as Pat Riley said a long time ago, winning and misery. 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 NewsMar 6th, 2018

Denver Nuggets face tough test in fight for playoff spot

By John Schuhmann, NBA.com The Denver Nuggets seem to be a big beneficiary of the Blake Griffin trade this week. At the time of the deal, the LA Clippers were just one game behind the Nuggets for the final playoff spot in the West. And if the Clippers were going to fade after trading their best player, the Nuggets' chances of ending a four-year playoff drought were going to increase dramatically. But the Clips are still hanging around, the Nuggets still have some work to do, and the work will be tough in February. Denver has one of the league's toughest February schedules, with seven of their 10 games against teams that are currently at or above .500. That includes six games against the Warriors, Rockets (x 2), Spurs (x 2) and Thunder. Denver has the league's toughest February schedule in regard to both opposing offenses and opposing defenses. Through January, the Nuggets are 8-16 against the other 15 teams that are currently at or above .500, having allowed more than 110 points per 100 possessions over those 24 games. Ten of those 16 losses (including two to Boston and San Antonio in the last three days) were games that were within five points in the last five minutes, though. And there is good news with the Nuggets' February schedule. Seven of their 10 games are at home, where they're 19-7 (6-5 against other teams that are currently at or above .500) and where they've been 10.9 possessions better than they've been on the road. Only Utah (13.4) and New York (11.9) have bigger home-road NetRtg differentials. The Nuggets also have just one February back-to-back, and the second game is in Phoenix. They have three games this month with a rest advantage (where their opponent played the night before but they did not). The Utah Jazz, coming off wins over Toronto and Golden State, could be Denver's biggest threat in regard to that last playoff spot. The Nuggets and Jazz have already finished their season series, with each team winning its two home games. But if the Clippers are still hanging around in a few weeks, the Nuggets' most important February game could be their last, when they host LA on Feb. 27 (Feb. 28, PHL time). Note: Every team has at least seven full days off for the All-Star break. Two teams - Dallas and San Antonio - have the longest All-Star breaks: nine days off between games. Rest advantage / Rest disadvantage: Games in which one team (at a disadvantage) played the day before and the other (at an advantage) did not. Teams are currently 120-82 (.594) with a rest advantage, 98-49 (.667) at home and 22-33 (.400) on the road. Here's a breakdown of every Western Conference team's February schedule... More Western Conference notes... - James Harden just scored 60 points against the league's 27th ranked defense and will get more bad defenses to pick on in February. The Rockets visit the second-ranked defense (San Antonio) on Thursday and will spend most of the month on the road, but they play a league-high seven February games against bottom-10 defenses. - With the All-Star Game in L.A., the Clippers and Lakers have the league's most road-heavy February schedules. Both will play seven of their 10 February games away from Staples Center. - The Timberwolves, with the league's third-ranked offense, are the only team that doesn't have any February games against teams that currently rank in the top 10 defensively. - The Thunder are one of four teams that doesn't play any February games against opponents on the second game of a back-to-back. But they have five games (only the Lakers have more) against the eight teams that are currently 14 or more games below .500. - The Spurs will play a league-low nine games this month, but that includes a league-high six games against the league's top 10 offenses, as well as the annual rodeo road trip, which is split by the All-Star break. After hosting the Rockets and Jazz this week, the Spurs will have a three-game trip going into the break and then another three-game trip coming out of it. But no team has a longer All-Star break (nine full days off between games). Their last game before their break and their first game before the break are both in Denver. - After visiting the Raptors and Celtics this weekend, the Blazers will play seven of their final eight February games against teams that are currently under .500. But their road trip concludes with a visit to Detroit on Monday (Tuesday, PHL time) and they'll have two important games against the 10th-place (and improving) Jazz. - The Jazz are coming off wins over the Raptors and Warriors, and have a chance to climb back into the playoff picture, with three games against two teams - New Orleans and Portland (x 2) - they're chasing in the West. Two of those games are on the road, where the Jazz will be for five of their first six February games. Utah won in Toronto last week, but as noted above, the Jazz have the league's biggest home-road NetRtg differential. They've been 13.4 points per 100 possessions better at home than on the road. They will play their last two pre-break games at Vivint Smart Home Arena, and they'll begin their post-break schedule with a four-game homestand.     Eastern Conference The Washington Wizards have not lived up to expectations this season, unable build off a trip to Game 7 of the conference semifinals last May. They're in fifth place in the East, but their bad losses (11 to teams that are currently at least six games under .500) have overshadowed their quality wins (they're 5-5 against teams with the league's eight best records). Now, the Wizards are dealing with an extended absence for John Wall, who had knee surgery on Wednesday (Thursday, PHL time). Things could certainly come together for the Wizards if Wall returns healthier and stronger in April and May (they won't have to play the Nets or Mavs in the playoffs), but as they look to stay in the mix for a top four seed in the East, they'll have a difficult schedule to navigate without one of their All-Stars. Seven of the Wizards' 12 February games are against the other seven teams in playoff position in the East. That includes four games against the three teams - Indiana, Milwaukee and Philadelphia (x 2) - behind them and within two games in the loss column in the standings. Three of the Wizards' other five games are on the road. And they'll finish the month of February by hosting the Warriors on the second night of a road-home back-to-back (with the Warriors not playing the day before). But it doesn't end there. That Golden State game will be only the second game of 12 straight against teams that are currently over .500. The Wizards' March might be tougher than their February, and just staying in playoff position at all could be a challenge. More Eastern Conference notes ... - It's a big month for the Celtics and Sixers in regard to the Lakers' pick in this year's Draft. The Sixers get the pick if it lands at No. 1 or at No. 6 or higher, while the Celtics get it if it lands at Nos. 2-5. The Lakers currently have the league's ninth worst record, but the team with the fifth worst record (Phoenix) has just one fewer win. And L.A. will play six of its 10 February games against the eight teams currently below them in the combined standings. A bad month could have them slide into that range where the Celtics get the pick (while also increasing the Sixers' chances of getting the No. 1 pick). - After hosting the Hawks on Friday (Saturday, PHL time), the Celtics will go into the All-Star break with six straight games against teams that are currently at or above .500. That includes big games against Toronto and Cleveland. And then they'll come out of the break with four straight games against teams with losing records, though that includes a visit to Detroit. - The Hornets are the only team with four back-to-backs in February. - The Pistons, with Blake Griffin set to make his debut on Thursday (Friday, PHL time), have the most home-heavy February schedule, with nine of their 12 games at Little Caesars Arena. And they'll have a rest advantage (with their opponent playing the second game of a back-to-back) in six of the nine home games, including each of their first four games this month. - Entering the month, only two games in the loss column separate the fourth-place Heat from the eighth-place Sixers, and Philadelphia actually has the stronger point differential. To settle the record vs. point differential debate, those two teams will play each other three times in February. Two of those meetings (including a matchup on Friday) will be in Philadelphia, and the second of those (Feb. 14) will be a rest-advantage game for the Sixers. In total, the Sixers have five February games against opponents playing the second game of a back-to-back, with three of those being rest advantage games. - The Bucks are one of four teams that doesn't play any February games against opponents on the second game of a back-to-back. John Schuhmann is a staff writer for NBA.com. 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 NewsFeb 2nd, 2018

BEST OF 5 PART 2: In 2006, the reign of the Red Lion began

Read Part 1 of ABS-CBN Sports’ Best of 5 series on the San Beda Red Lions here. --- San Beda College is the winningest team in all of NCAA basketball. With 21 championships in the Seniors division, they have four more than second-running archrival Colegio de San Juan de Letran. Almost half of that total comes from the last 12 years where the Red Lions have claimed 10 titles. A dozen years ago, Mendiola having the rightful claim as the winningest all but seemed to be a far- fetched idea. Back in 2005, the red and white only had 11 championships in the Seniors division – way behind what the Knights had. THIS ISN’T WHAT YOU KNOW Then, San Beda was not the dynasty that it is now – and not even one of the top contenders as that recognition belonged to Letran and Philippine Christian University. More than that, they were also right smack in the middle of a 28-year title drought, with their last title coming in the late ‘70s. That 1978 championship was under the guidance of famed mentor Bonnie Carbonell. After him, a number of coaches tried to take home the championship for the Red Lions only to come up short time and again. THEN AND NOW Enter Koy Banal in 2005 and continuing into 2006. And just to give him a good start, he brought along the very same Carbonell who was the school’s last vestige of a championship. “I brought in Freddie Abuda sa coaching staff to add to Chito Victolero and JB Sison who were already there. More important was I also got coach Bonnie Carbonell who was my hero,” he shared. He then continued, “He’s the one who inspired me to coach and he was the last coach who gave San Beda a championship.” As it turns out, Carbonell’s arrival was some sort of premonition as that year was the magical season they had long been waiting for. Even Banal, 11 years since and numerous stints in the PBA and PBA D-League after, could not forget that magical season. As he put it, “That year was really special. That is still in my heart, that is still in my memory. You won’t forget those experiences.” THE EARLY BIRD GETS THE WORM So much so that the now 56-year-old head coach could still narrate what had happened then like it was yesterday. The story of San Beda’s modern-day dynasty starts at the end of Season 81 – following another finish outside of the playoff picture. “Right after our last game in Season 81, I just gave the players one week off,” Banal recalled. “I told them Season 82 is already starting for us.” And so, from October of 2005 onto 2006, they were already gearing up for another shot at ending an almost three-decade long title drought. KINGS OF THE QUEEN CITY OF THE SOUTH That gearing up took them as Cebu where, in Banal’s eyes, all came together for them. “Ang key rito is yung aming preparation. I wanted to create adversity kasi nga I wanted to buil their character kaya we went to Cebu,” he said. He then continued, “’Di lang kami sa isang gym naglaro. Nagpunta kami mismo sa campuses – sa UV (University of Visayas), sa UC (University of Cebu), sa USC (University of San Carlos), USJ-R (University of San Jose-Recoletos. Yun talaga yung key kasi araw-araw na laro tapos may practice pa.” He also added, “Dun talaga kami nag-bond kasi biro mo, magkakasama kami ng one week. Dun talaga nabuo ang San Beda.” Still, all those preparations would have been all for naught without game-changing players. CATALYST FOR CHANGE Fortunately for Mendiola, that time also saw them with perhaps the biggest game-changer in the history of the NCAA. Banal’s very first order of business when he took the job was to bring in a big man – and not just a big man, but a dominant big man. “The primary plan was to recruit a dominant big man because that was the problem of San Beda in the previous seasons. The solution to the problem? A six-foot eight-inch powerhouse hailing from Nigeria. “We brought in Sam Ekwe. I believe his arrival turned the tides for us kasi Rookie (of the Year)-MVP, ano pa bang pwedeng ibigay sa kanya nun,” the mentor said. Indeed, from the get-go, Ekwe proved to be a force the league had not seen before and averaged 10.6 points, 16.5 rebounds, and three blocks. While he has always had the tools, Banal said what made him special was that he was more than willing to know more about how to make good use of those tools. “Very dominant, but willing to learn and listen and follow. Kaya I would like to give the credit to Freddie Abuda kasi siya ang tumutok talaga,” he said. BREAKTHROUGH With Ekwe wowing just about everybody all the way to both the MVP and RoY awards, the Red Lions followed his lead all the way to the championship round. There, they bested the Dolphins – then with future PBA stars such as Beau Belga, Jayson Castro, Gabby Espinas – in an epic three-game series. And it wasn’t even until the very last seconds when Belga’s would-be game-winner clanged off the rim and into the hands of Yousif Aljamal that the decision was definite – Mendiola’s title drought has come to an end. For the head coach who ended it all, even at that moment, he knew full well that it wasn’t about him. “Yung iniisip ko talaga, para sa mga players e. Yung sakripisyo nila, nagbunga kaya kung makikita mo yung video nun, bawat isa, umakap sa akin e,” he said. He then continued, “Special talaga yun, nasa puso ko yun at ‘di makakalimutan. Nothing compares to the championship we all won in San Beda.” FULL CIRCLE As if the good ending needed to be even better, that 28-year wait was tied up neatly by the presence of one Bonnie Carbonell – the head coach of the last title before the drought and a consultant of the first title after the drought. “After winning the championship, kami ni coach Bonnie, may maganda kaming kuha na nag-akapan kaming dalawa. ‘Di ko rin makakalimutan yun,” Banal said. Until now, it’s not just Banal who hasn’t forgotten. Nobody at all will be forgetting about San Beda, winners of 10 of the last 12 championships, anytime soon. --- Follow this writer on Twitter, @riegogogo......»»

Category: sportsSource:  abscbnRelated NewsDec 29th, 2017

Coach Bo says season-ending win is ‘defining moment for UP’

It was a short-lived celebration for the University of the Philippines. Two hours and 18 minutes after staying alive in the UAAP 80 Men’s Basketball Tournament, the playoff hopes of the Fighting Maroons were effectively extinguished when Far Eastern University triumphed over Adamson University. “Wala na naman talaga yung bola sa kamay namin,” head coach Bo Perasol said. “What’s important now is we (had for) ourselves a chance for the playoffs.” Indeed, a lot had to go right for them to end what is now a 20-year playoff drought. Heading into today’s gameday, State U was tied with National University at 5-8. A win there then raised their record to 6-8. Along with that, however, they also needed 6-7 FEU to lose to Adamson. If such scenario would have happened, FEU and UP, both at 6-8, would have figured in a knockout bout for the fourth and final playoff berth. Of course, their first playoffs in two decades wasn’t meant to be as they downed NU, 106-81, only to see the Tamaraws gore the Soaring Falcons, 71-54. Still, Perasol said how they came through in a must-win game was only a good sign for their program. “Ang sabi ko sa kanila, this is going to be a defining moment for our program. If you wanna grow, you have to undergo these kinds of games – knockout games, all for the marbles games – kasi rito mo nage-gain yung confidence mo,” he shared. He then went on to say how the Fighting Maroons, long used to be at the bottom of the standings, just did not have the experience of how to win. “Lahat ng teams have to overcome high-pressure games. E kami, yung simpleng laro lang, pagdating sa dulo, bumabagsak kami,” he said. He then continued, “Kaya kailangang merong pinaghuhugutan. They have to remember this experience na, ‘Hey, we have done this already.’” Indeed, Perasol’s wards got just that and persevered – imposing their will on the also determined Bulldogs from tip-off to final buzzer. “Whatever happens, I’m really proud of how we played this game. All of them really responded well,” he said. While they are yet to end that 20-year playoff drought, the always amiable mentor said they are on their war there, slowly but surely. “When we began this season, we really had high hopes on getting into the Final Four. Now, here we are and we were just a win away,” he said. And Perasol has the numbers to back him up as in his first season, he guided State U to a 5-9 record. Now, they wrap up their campaign at 6-8. “It’s an improvement to what we had last season. So no matter what happens, I believe we added some character to these gentlemen which we are going to hopefully bring into next season,” he said. --- Follow this writer on Twitter, @riegogogo......»»

Category: sportsSource:  abscbnRelated NewsNov 11th, 2017

Now or never for the Minnesota Timberwolves

em>By Jon Krawczynski, Associated Press /em> MINNEAPOLIS (AP) — The Minnesota Timberwolves have gone through a makeover this summer, changing their logo, their uniforms and renovating Target Center to usher in a new look for a team that has been a doormat for well over a decade now. If logo designer Rodney Richardson wanted to add a Bulls head to the new look, it would have been appropriate. After a disappointing first season in Minnesota, coach and president Tom Thibodeau went looking for some familiar faces from his days with the Chicago Bulls to set a different tone with a team that has spent the last four seasons billing itself as a young and exciting group on the rise. Jimmy Butler came from Chicago in a trade. Former Bulls Taj Gibson and Aaron Brooks were added in free agency. Thibs even added John Lucas III to the coaching staff to try and bring another voice familiar with his system and knowledgeable of his demands to the organization to make sure nothing gets lost in translation. Thibodeau will never admit that there was a concerted effort to target ex-Bulls. But there is no dispute he went looking for players from his Chicago era to add an edge to a team that features young stars Karl-Anthony Towns and Andrew Wiggins. “It was who fit us best and what we needed,” Thibodeau said. At the top of that list was toughness. A young team with few proven veterans lost 22 games last season in which it held a double-digit lead. Butler and Gibson bring that by the bucketful, and the Wolves also added 37-year-old Jamal Crawford to the bench for another veteran who has been in all kinds of big spots. “A lot of guys don’t understand when you get to the NBA, it’s not just about running up and down the court and smiling and having fun,” Gibson said. “It’s a business. Everyone has to align with each other like a puzzle piece.” The Wolves go into the season in a loaded Western Conference looking to end the longest active playoff drought in the league, which stretches back to 2004. After hoping that streak would end for several years, this year that is the expectation. The season opener is Oct. 18 at San Antonio. Here are some things to watch with the Timberwolves this season: strong>WIGGINS RE-UPS: /strong>Wiggins finally signed a five-year, $148 million contract extension on Wednesday, ending a head-scratching process that was made more complicated by his decision to part ways with agent Bill Duffy on the brink of a new deal in August. The deal is sure to be one of the more polarizing in the NBA for a gifted scorer who has yet to make an All-Star team. strong>KAT’S MEOW: /strong>Towns has put up some incredible numbers in his first two seasons, making him a fashionable choice to become the league’s next big star. Perhaps the only thing holding him back is a bigger commitment on the defensive end. Towns frequently lost focus on that end last season, but flashed strong potential as a rookie when playing alongside Kevin Garnett. Playing in a starting five with Gibson and Butler figures to help him make the necessary strides. strong>BJELICA’S RECOVERY: /strong>Nemanja Bjelica has never been a starter in his three seasons with the Wolves, but he may be one of the team’s most important players. At his best, he is a versatile, playmaking shooter who can play multiple positions and give the second unit some much-needed offensive punch. He was just starting to show everything he can do last season when he went down with a broken foot. He has been playing in the preseason, and the Wolves will need him to stay healthy and effective to compete in the West. strong>MUHAMMAD RETURNS: /strong>Shabazz Muhammad turned down a four-year, $40 million contract offer from the Timberwolves before last season, hopeful that another strong year could help him break the bank as a free agent in the summer. But the salary cap did not increase as many projected, and Muhammad was one of many restricted free agents to get squeezed. He wound up settling for a one-year deal for the veteran’s minimum, a bargain for the Wolves. Now Muhammad is motivated to have a strong season for a competitive team to try to recoup some of the money he lost. “We felt fortunate we were able to get him back,” Thibodeau said. strong>RUBIO’S REPLACEMENT: /strong>The Wolves traded longtime point guard Ricky Rubio to the Utah Jazz this summer and brought in Jeff Teague on a three-year, $57 million deal to give Thibodeau the scoring point guard he wanted. Rubio is an immensely popular figure locally, and it didn’t take Teague long to figure out what kind of shoes he has to fill. “He was a fan favorite,” Teague said. “I hear it every day. No, seriously. I really do.” .....»»

Category: sportsSource:  abscbnRelated NewsOct 12th, 2017

Magic seek better results, more wins with mostly same roster

em>By Terrance Harris, Associated Press /em> ORLANDO, Fla. (AP) — A disappointing season for the Orlando Magic in previous years was followed by drastic changes to the roster during the offseason. They’re taking a different approach this season. Instead of adding an impact player or trading a disappointing star, the Magic chose to follow up their fifth straight non-playoff season by not making a significant change to their roster. Even second-year coach Frank Vogel isn’t quite sure what to expect. “We will have to take a big jump if we want to consider ourselves competing for a playoff spot,” Vogel said when asked how well this season’s team is constructed for success. “We weren’t close last year and we didn’t make a bunch of changes, so the improvement has to come from within. It has to come from player development. That’s the task that has been put in front of me and that’s what I’m embracing.” The team is banking on continuity to help turnaround its fortunes. For the first time since the 2014-15 season, the Magic have a second year coach. That means the second year of Vogel’s defensive system and the continuation of the small-ball offensive scheme Vogel gave into midway through last season. And while there isn’t a superstar on the roster, Orlando returns the starting five of Elfrid Payton, Evan Fournier, Terrence Ross, Aaron Gordon and Nikola Vucevic that wrapped up last season’s 29-53 finish. The most significant additions are No. 6 overall pick Jonathan Isaac, who entered the NBA draft after a one-and-done year at Florida State, and Jonathon Simmons, a perimeter defense specialist who joined the club as a free agent from San Antonio. New president of basketball operations Jeff Weltman has defended the decision to virtually stand still and not make wholesale change to the roster. Weltman is in listen, learn and evaluate mode now. “We come in without a history with some of the organization and the players and we have to give ourselves the time to understand what it is that we have,” Weltman said. “But what our hope is is to put everybody in the best possible situation to succeed while we are making those evaluations.” __ Here are some other things to know about the Magic this season. strong>PLAYOFFS THIS YEAR? /strong>Even without doing much to improve their roster, the Magic could be on the brink of ending their five-year playoff drought. But it has much less to do with their improvement and more to do with three teams that were in the Eastern Conference playoffs last season but are now in rebuild mode. That creates an opportunity for Orlando to be the postseason chance. Atlanta, Indiana and Chicago have overhauled their rosters, opening up possibilities for teams that were on the outside of the playoff race last season like Philadelphia, Miami and Orlando. strong>PAYTON’S PLACE: /strong>There probably hasn’t been a Magic player more scrutinized than Payton. His perimeter shot isn’t consistent and his on-ball defense has left a lot to be desired. But clearly the Magic believe in Payton. A lot of that has to do with the improvement he made once Vogel shifted to the small-ball lineup last season. He had five triple doubles and averaged 13.5 points, 7.0 rebounds, 8.4 assists and 2.5 turnovers after the All-Star break. strong>BEING DEFENSIVE: /strong> Vogel is a defense-first coach but he inherited a team that was anything but that last season. The continuity of players gives the Magic a chance to be improved defensively this year. The addition of Simmons will also help. He has the athleticism to get after opponents on the perimeter like the Magic couldn’t last season. strong>PERIMETER PROBLEMS: /strong> In a league where the three-point shot has taken over, the Magic have struggled from beyond the arc. That could continue to be the case unless Gordon and Payton improve immensely and Fournier and Ross become more consistent. The Magic ranked 29th in the NBA last season in three-point shooting after making just 33 percent from long range. strong>JONATHAN ISAAC IMPACT? /strong> Isaac’s impact may not be obvious. At 6’10” and 210 pounds, the 20-year-old may not be ready to deal with the physical aspects of playing in the NBA. But his length and athletic ability gives him a chance to be a solid defender off the bench while he bulks up. .....»»

Category: sportsSource:  abscbnRelated NewsOct 11th, 2017

As calendar flips to October, the MLB postseason from A to Z

em>By Ben Walker, Associated Press /em> All those home runs by Aaron Judge, all those wins by the Los Angeles Dodgers, nicely done. Except none of that matters now — a sinker that bounces to the backstop, a liner that hooks barely foul, the whole script flips. October has a way of doing that. The Major League Baseball playoffs start Tuesday night at Yankee Stadium when New York hosts the Minnesota Twins in the AL wild-card game. A look at the 2017 postseason, from A to Z: strong>A: ALTUVE'S ASTROS — /strong>Generously listed at 5-foot-6, Jose Altuve is baseball's little big man. The do-everything second baseman won his third AL batting title and aims to lead the Astros to their first World Series crown. With the Houston area recovering from Hurricane Harvey, they're the sentimental favorites. strong>B: BULLPENS — /strong> Kenley Jansen and Aroldis Chapman going long, Andrew Miller entering early, Clayton Kershaw as a closer. The old rules were out last October when it came to relief roles. We'll see what pops up in the 'pens this year. strong>C: CUBS VS. CLEVELAND — /strong>Kris Bryant, Anthony Rizzo, Corey Kluber & Crew, once more? It's been a while since a World Series rematch, when Reggie Jackson led the Yanks over the Dodgers in 1977-78. But, it's already been a ripe year for repeats — Warriors vs. Cavaliers, Alabama vs. Clemson. strong>D: DEBUTS — /strong>Strikeout king Chris Sale makes his first playoff appearance when Boston starts at Houston on Thursday in the best-of-five AL Division Series. Rockies bopper Nolan Arenado and Twins slugger Brian Dozier are postseason newbies, too. So is Nationals backup Adam Lind, after 12 years and more than 1,300 games. strong>E: EXTRA — /strong>Hmmm, anyone remember the last time a postseason game went to extra innings? Hard to top the Cubs' 10-inning, rain-delayed, 8-7 thriller over Cleveland in Game 7. The Red Sox are the experts of extras this year — they're 15-3, including seven straight wins. strong>F: FREE AGENTS — /strong>Sure, 20 teams are done. But their fans can always dream. Cubs righty Jake Arrieta, Royals third baseman Mike Moustakas and Rays thumper Logan Morrison are on the list of who'll soon be available. The most intriguing possibility might be Shohei Otani, a star pitcher and hitter in Japan. strong>G: GOOD TO SEE YA — /strong> Rockies outfielder Carlos Gonzalez returns to the playoffs for the first time since 2009, when he was 10 for 17. Twins star Joe Mauer has been absent since 2010. And Nationals ace Stephen Strasburg has pitched just once in Washington's three trips, heading into this matchup with the Cubs. strong>H: HOME FIELD — /strong>World Series home-field advantages go to the team with the best record. Thankfully, it's no longer based on who wins the All-Star Game. That means the Dodgers (104 wins) get first dibs, followed by Cleveland (102), Houston (101), Washington (97), Boston (93) and the Cubs (92). strong>I: INJURIES — /strong>Nationals ace Max Scherzer tweaked his hamstring, teammate Bryce Harper is getting over a bad knee. Banged-up All-Stars Miguel Sano of the Twins and Michael Brantley of the Indians might be able contribute this week. Might not. strong>J: JOE MADDON — /strong>A cool cat, he keeps his Cubs loose. He reveled in last year's rallying cry: 'Try Not to Suck.' The skipper became the toast of Chicago, ending that century-old drought. Funny, all those warm-and-fuzzy Wrigley Field feelings are gone now, at least beyond the Friendly Confines. strong>K: KERSHAW — /strong>He tied for the major league lead in wins and won his fifth ERA title. He's a three-time Cy Young Award winner and seven-time All-Star. But will anyone get more scrutiny in the postseason than Clayton Kershaw? Probably not, because the LA lefty is 4-7 with a 4.55 ERA in the postseason. strong>L: LOUSY WEATHER — /strong>Too bad, the temperature is often better suited for snowballs than baseballs. It was in the low 40s at Wrigley last year, and just imagine how it might feel in Denver or Minneapolis. If you want clear conditions, root for Arizona vs. Houston and their retractable roofs. strong>M: MANAGERS — /strong> Twin Cities native Paul Molitor, Torey Lovullo of the Diamondbacks and Bud Black of the Rockies are first-time skippers in the playoffs. Washington's Dusty Baker is back for his ninth try, still seeking that elusive first World Series championship. strong>N: NETTING — /strong>Fan safety has drawn special focus ever since a 1-year-old girl was recently hit by Todd Frazier's 105 mph foul ball at Yankee Stadium. Of the teams in these playoffs, three already had extended the netting to screen spectators: Houston, Washington and Minnesota. The Yankees say they'll have it next year. strong>O: OCTOBER — /strong>Of course. But if the World Series goes to Game 7, they'll go beyond Halloween and play on Nov. 1. strong>P: PUERTO RICO — /strong> Carlos Beltran, Francisco Lindor and Carlos Correa are among the many players from Puerto Rico trying to raise money and awareness for the damage done to their island by Hurricane Maria. Look for messages on caps and shoes over the next few weeks. strong>Q: QUICK? — /strong>Extra mound conferences, longer TV commercials, more pitching changes, they all contribute to slowing down the pace in the playoffs. MLB wants to speed up the action and avoid a repeat from last year, when postseason games averaged almost 3 1/2 hours. Not a good sign that regular-season games this year took more than 3 hours, 5 minutes on average, the longest ever. strong>R: ROOKIES — /strong>Yankees behemoth Aaron Judge broke the major league record with 52 home runs by a rookie, Dodgers surprise Cody Bellinger set the NL mark with 39. Other newcomers who could make an impact: Red Sox outfielder Andrew Benintendi, Cubs outfielder/infielder Ian Happ and 33-year-old Astros first baseman Yuli Gurriel. strong>S: STREAKS — /strong> Jose Ramirez and the Indians set an AL record by winning 22 straight, the Dodgers dropped 11 in a row for their worst skid since moving from Brooklyn. A year after winning its first six postseason games, and in this season of streaks, Cleveland hopes to do it again. strong>T: TRADES — /strong>Justin Verlander (5-0, 1.06 ERA for Houston), J.D. Martinez (29 homers in 62 games for Arizona) and Jose Quintana (7-3, 3.74 for the Cubs) are some of the stars who were acquired in midseason trades. Yu Darvish, David Robertson and Eduardo Nunez also gave their new teams a boost. strong>U: UMPIRES — /strong>It won't be long before some team is hollering about an ump's strike zone. Those calls can't be contested, but others can. Some teams are very good at getting them overturned (Joe Girardi and the Yankees won 72 percent of their challenges). Others, not so much (the Nationals were right only 36 percent). strong>V: VOTING — /strong>All ballots for MVP, Cy Young and other major awards must be sent before the playoffs begin. These honors will generate plenty of debate before the winners are announced in November. Altuve or Judge, Kluber or Sale? strong>W: WILD CARDS — /strong> Madison Bumgarner and the 2014 Giants are the only wild-card team to win the World Series since MLB went to a one-and-done format in 2012. Before that, five wild cards took the title: Cardinals (2011), Red Sox (2004), Marlins (2003, 1997) and Angels (2002). strong>X: XANDER BOGAERTS — /strong> Perhaps the Boston shortstop might be the next infielder to really break out in postseason. Think Javier Baez, Daniel Murphy, Ben Zobrist and Alcides Escobar in recent years. strong>Y: YANKEE STADIUM — /strong> The playoffs begin the Bronx, with Yankees youngster Luis Severino starting the AL wild-card game, taking on Ervin Santana and the Twins. strong>Z: ZACK GREINKE — /strong>The Arizona ace is set to throw the first pitch in Wednesday's NL wild-card game at home against a familiar opponent. He's 2-1 in five starts vs. Colorado this year. .....»»

Category: sportsSource:  abscbnRelated NewsOct 2nd, 2017

Camp time! Warriors, Wolves prepare to open training camp

em>By Jon Krawczysnki, Associated Press /em> The Golden State Warriors were the last team standing when the NBA season closed in June. Thanks to a preseason trip to China, they are one of the first teams to get going this season as the league gets up and rolling again. The Warriors and Minnesota Timberwolves will hold their media days on Friday and open training camps Saturday, a few days ahead of the rest of the league as they prepare for an early October trip to China for games in Shanghai and Shenzhen as part of the league’s ongoing efforts to grow the game in the basketball-crazy nation. Golden State will be the headliner in China, just like it has been in the NBA for the last three seasons. And the Warriors open camp this season with a major advantage over everyone else that goes above and beyond the sheer talent the organization has assembled with Kevin Durant, Steph Curry, Klay Thompson and Draymond Green. While the rest of the league spent the entire summer scrambling to upgrade in a desperate attempt to enter Golden State’s stratosphere, the Warriors return almost the entire roster from the team that won its second championship in three seasons. In fact, Golden State should only be better this year because it will not have to spend part of the early season figuring out how to incorporate Durant’s game with three other All-Stars. Meanwhile, teams like the Rockets, Cavaliers, Thunder, Timberwolves and Celtics will need all of the preseason and then some to get on the same page with the new stars in town. There will be no such orientation process in Golden State. Free agents Nick Young and Omri Casspi will have to acclimate, but that is a lot easier to do when Durant and Curry are showing them around. ___ So as media days and training camps get up and running, here are a few things to watch at the outset: strong>HARD FEELINGS? /strong> It appeared that Durant was on his way to mending some fences in Oklahoma City after he left the organization to join Golden State last season. But the fence posts may have been torn down again when Durant disparaged the Thunder team and coach Billy Donovan as the biggest reasons he left to join the Warriors. Durant has since apologized , but the topic will likely come up again when he speaks to the media on Friday. And it should be interesting to see if Russell Westbrook has anything to say about it when the Thunder open early next week. strong>CP3 ARRIVES: /strong>The most intriguing roster experiment this year may be in Houston, where GM Daryl Morey is teaming James Harden with Chris Paul in a star-studded backcourt. Harden finished second in the MVP voting last season after moving from shooting guard to point guard and now will have to move back to accommodate Paul. Both players are used to having the ball in their hands and orchestrating the offense, so there will likely be some feeling-out that needs to be done in camp. The two have already appeared in a television commercial together, so they’re off to a running start. strong>KYRIE’S MOVE: /strong>The biggest headline in a wild offseason was Kyrie Irving’s request for a trade from the Cavaliers. He landed in Boston in a move that could define his legacy, the All-Star who didn’t want to play with LeBron James. Irving did little to shed light on his motives in an enigmatic interview with ESPN and likely will be bombarded with questions about it at media day. How the Celtics handle the early crush of attention and move past Irving’s exit from Cleveland could play a big role in their ability to truly challenge the Cavs in the Eastern Conference. strong>CRASH COURSE: /strong>The Timberwolves are one of the teams that made significant roster changes this summer after a disappointing 31-win season in Tom Thibodeau’s first year as coach. They added Jimmy Butler, Jeff Teague, Taj Gibson and Jamal Crawford while trading away Ricky Rubio in an offseason overhaul aimed at ending the league’s longest active playoff drought at 13 seasons. Thibodeau asked owner Glen Taylor to allow the team to hold training camp in San Diego before they head out to China to get them away from the distractions of home and allow them to bond in a preseason that only includes three games. That Butler and Gibson played for Thibodeau with the Bulls should help that transition, but it will no doubt be a process worth watching. strong>RULES CHANGES: /strong>When players start taking the court for exhibition games, it will offer an opportunity for them to start to adjust to rules changes and points of emphasis that are new every season. One notable difference this year will be the “James Harden rule,” a change in the way the game is called aimed at reducing the number of instances a player tricks a defender into fouling them and then goes into a shooting motion to try to earn free throw attempts. Harden is the master , though dozens of players do the same thing. .....»»

Category: sportsSource:  abscbnRelated NewsSep 23rd, 2017

UAAP: Winning Maroons join rainy UP Lantern Parade

The rain did not bother the UAAP Season 81 men's basketball runners-up as the Fighting Maroons participated in the annual Lantern Parade Friday at the University of the Philippines in Diliman. Seven members of the history-making team namely UAAP Season 81 MVP Bright Akhuetie, Jun Manzo, Javi Gomez de Liano, Janjan Jaboneta, Gelo Vito, Diego Dario, and Will Gozum rode a truck that slowly went around the campus' massive academic oval. During the ride, they took selfies with fans along the road. Happening now: #UAAPSeason81 silver medalists UP MBT participating in the annual Lantern Parade. Players are riding a truck as they take selfies with fans around the academic oval. @abscbnsports pic.twitter.com/cIQ5wXJ3Fr — Danine Cruz (@the9cruz) December 14, 2018 UP MBT's turn to be introduced in the Quezon Hall. Several fans still showed up to witness the team despite the rainy weather. @abscbnsports pic.twitter.com/VuaNR1MjSl — Danine Cruz (@the9cruz) December 14, 2018 It was drizzling the whole afternoon but the players and fans still continued the parade. The crowd chanted 'Atin 'To!' and 'UP Fight' while the drummers kept hitting their signature beats just a few vehicles away from the basketball team's truck. The participation of the team in the yearly tradition of the community is in celebration of the men's basketball program ending a 32-year medal drought in men's basketball. "Sobrang sarap ng feeling. At least for one last time lalo na ngayong Pasko na nakita namin yung buong community, na kahit umuulan andito pa rin para sa amin, todo suporta pa rin. We are really blessed as a team and as individuals to have this opportunity and probably this is the best UP experience for me if you're gonna ask me," said graduating player Gelo Vito. "It's really a blessing, may mga naririnig pa nga ako na may dumayo pa from UP Baguio to be here," added Vito. Akhuetie was thrilled to see the warm reception from UP supporters. "It's awesome. I can't wait to make these guys proud by getting the championship. Look at the hearts these people are pouring out. There is nothing you can do for them that can be too much. Despite the weather, the rain and all, they still showed up." However, Akhuetie expressed that despite the love they have been getting from the community, a bridesmaid finish is not enough. "I just couldn't get it in my head that 'Oh okay, for them to be this happy, I've done enough' I still feel we have to do more so I like it, it's okay but I'm not carried away by it," he said. Aside from the basketball team, the men's track and feld team, which ended a 36-year title drought, also had their own truck to celebrate the achievement. Aside from the UP MBT, the track and field team also has a truck of their own in the Lantern Parade. The team ended a 36 year title drought in the #UAAPSeason81. @abscbnsports pic.twitter.com/Rx2S2noGH0 — Danine Cruz (@the9cruz) December 14, 2018.....»»

Category: sportsSource:  abscbnRelated NewsDec 14th, 2018

Mavs extend home streak, end skid vs. Hawks in 114-107 win

By Schuyler Dixon, Associated Press DALLAS (AP) — Harrison Barnes scored 25 points, Luka Doncic added 24 and the Dallas Mavericks extended their home winning streak to 11 games while ending a 10-game skid against Atlanta in a 114-107 victory over the Hawks on Wednesday night (Thursday, PHL time). J.J. Barea had 18 points before leaving with a sprained left ankle as the Mavericks finally beat the Hawks after blowing a 26-point lead in October, when rookie Trae Young had a strong fourth quarter in his home debut to help the Hawks rally to a 111-104 win. Instead of wilting in the fourth quarter, the Mavericks took control with a 7-0 opening run for a 10-point lead and eventually went up by as many as 15 before the Hawks made it closer with an 11-1 run late. It was Dallas' first win over Atlanta since Oct. 30, 2013, and the home winning streak is the longest since a 12-game run in 2007-08. Young had 24 points and 10 assists, but the rematch reiterated the opposite directions both teams are headed after ending the first meeting at 2-2. The Mavericks are 13-9 since then and among the current playoff teams in the rough Western Conference. The Hawks have gone 4-19. Kent Bazemore scored 22 for Atlanta, and John Collins had 20 points and a career-high 17 rebounds. Role players got the fourth moving for Dallas rather than Barnes and the rookie sensation Doncic, who was drafted third overall by Atlanta and traded to Dallas while the Mavericks selected Young fifth for the Hawks. Maxi Kleber opened the fourth with a dunk and scored all seven of his points in the final quarter, and Dorian Finney-Smith's free throw gave Dallas its first 10-point lead. Finney-Smith scored 11. Doncic had 10 rebounds and a team-high six assists, and DeAndre Jordan had 11 points and 11 rebounds. NO DIRK YET Dirk Nowitzki was inactive after being listed as questionable for the first time as the longer-than-expected recovery from left ankle surgery delays him from officially becoming the first NBA player with 21 seasons for one franchise. Coach Rick Carlisle said the designation meant the 40-year-old Nowitzki was getting closer to returning, but didn't want to discuss his status further before the game. TIP-INS Hawks: Vince Carter, Nowitzki's former teammate also in his 21st season, got a nice ovation when he entered the game in the first quarter. The 41-year-old scored his only points on a triple in the first quarter. ... Collins had nine offensive rebounds, most by a Dallas opponent this season. Mavericks: Carlisle was ejected after two quick technicals in the third quarter when he thought Barnes got fouled without a call. Assistant Stephen Silas took over. ... PG Dennis Smith Jr. missed his fourth straight game with a sprained right wrist. ... Doncic was 12-of-15 from the line as Dallas attempted a season-high 43 free throws. UP NEXT Hawks: At Boston on Friday (Saturday, PHL time). Mavericks: At Phoenix on Thursday (Friday, PHL time)......»»

Category: sportsSource:  abscbnRelated NewsDec 13th, 2018

Dominant defense leads Bears over Rams 15-6

By Andrew Seligman, Associated Press CHICAGO (AP) — Eddie Goldman led a dominant effort by the defense, and the Chicago Bears shut down Jared Goff and Los Angeles' high-powered offense in a 15-6 victory over the NFC West champion Rams on Sunday night. The Rams (11-2) missed a chance to secure a first-round playoff bye and fell into a tie with New Orleans for home-field advantage throughout the NFC playoffs. Goff threw a career-high four interceptions and was sacked three times, with Goldman getting to him for a tiebreaking safety early in the third quarter. Bradley Sowell became the first Bears offensive lineman in 11 years with a touchdown reception when he caught a 2-yarder from Mitchell Trubisky in the third quarter. "For them to go out and do it (against) a team that had only one loss all year long ... is so powerful for our guys now because it helps us grow," coach Matt Nagy said. "It helps us grow with confidence. It helps us grow togetherness. When you teach that and you talk about it over and over and over — as a culture, as a building, everyone together as a family — and then they do it, it lights a fire. It puts us in a great position. We do talk about one game at a time. They're gonna enjoy tonight and then we're gonna get right back in it and get ready for next week." Coming off a shaky outing against Detroit, Goff was 20 of 44 for 180 yards with a 19.1 rating. NFL rushing leader Todd Gurley ran for a season-low 28 yards on 11 carries, and the Rams' three-game win streak came to an end. The Rams' only other loss was at New Orleans. But against the Monsters of the Midway, they managed just 214 yards. "Tonight was a humbling experience for me as a head coach," Los Angeles' Sean McVay said. The NFC North-leading Bears (9-4) bounced back from a wild overtime loss at the New York Giants and won for the sixth time in seven games. Trubisky was about as bad as Goff. After missing the previous two games because of a right shoulder injury, he was 16 of 30 for 110 yards and three interceptions. But Khalil Mack and Akiem Hicks had sacks. Roquan Smith, Prince Amukamara, Eddie Jackson and Kyle Fuller had interceptions, helping Chicago beat the team that came in with the NFL's best record. Goldman broke a 6-6 tie in the opening minute of the third quarter when he sacked Goff for Chicago's first safety this season. The Bears then used a trick play they call "Santa's Sleigh" to make it 15-6, when Sowell hauled in a 2-yarder from Trubisky on a play-action with defensive end Hicks. That made him the first Bears offensive lineman with a TD reception since John St. Clair against Kansas City on Sept. 16, 2017. The Rams had a big opportunity late in the third when John Johnson III returned an interception 35 yards to the Chicago 27. But Fuller picked off a wobbly pass from Goff intended for Josh Reynolds on the next play. Los Angeles' Greg Zuerlein missed a 40-yard field goal off the right upright in the opening minutes of the fourth after making a 50-yarder earlier in the game. INJURIES Rams: CB Dominique Hatfield was taken from the field on a cart with an ankle injury in the third quarter. He was hurt on the kickoff following Sowell's TD. ... C John Sullivan was evaluated for a concussion after being shaken up blocking on a run by Gurley late in the first quarter. But he returned in the second half. Bears: CB Bryce Callahan left the game with a foot injury late in the first half. UP NEXT Rams: Host Philadelphia on Dec. 16. Bears: Host Green Bay on Dec. 16......»»

Category: sportsSource:  abscbnRelated NewsDec 10th, 2018