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Kawhi Leonard s improved playmaking has Raptors on cusp of Finals

By John Schuhmann, NBA.com MILWAUKEE -- At some point in the regular season, Toronto Raptors coach Nick Nurse had a feeling that his team's best player would be even better in the playoffs. "He seemed to cruise to 30 points a lot of nights," Nurse said of Kawhi Leonard. "Thirty is a lot in this league, and that's why I kept saying, 'Geez, it just feels like there's another gear here with this guy that we're going to see.'" [Watch the Playoffs on NBA League Pass for 30% less with this limited time offer! Select Annual package and use code SAVE30 at checkout to redeem] Leonard acknowledged as much in early March. "There's 82 games and for me, these are just practices," he said, "and playoffs is when it's time to lace them up." Nurse's reaction when he heard that? "Now we're talking." Indeed, Leonard has taken things to another level in this postseason, playing big minutes, making huge shots, and defending at an elite level. But Game 5 of the Eastern Conference finals brought something new. Leonard scored 35 points in the biggest win in Toronto Raptors franchise history, a 105-99 victory over the Milwaukee Bucks that gave the two-seed a 3-2 series lead with Game 6 in Toronto on Saturday (Sunday, PHL time). Fifteen of those 35 points, including two huge step-back three-pointers over the seven-foot-tall Brook Lopez, came in the fourth quarter. That wasn't the new part. This was Leonard's seventh game of 35 or more points in this postseason. And you might recall a couple of big fourth-quarter shots over a seven-footer in the last series. Leonard also played smothering defense on Giannis Antetokounmpo. That wasn't new either. Since Game 3, Leonard, with plenty of help from his teammates, has made the presumed MVP look somewhat mortal. The new part was the number "9" in the assists column. In 570 career games (regular season and playoffs combined) prior to Thursday, Leonard had never recorded as many as nine assists. That he did it in Game 5 of the Eastern Conference finals on the road and against the league's No. 1 defense says a lot about Leonard as a big-game star. That, given his star status, he had never had nine assists before just as much about his history as a playmaker. Leonard may be the most complete player in the game right now, but his passing can still get better. It doesn't come naturally to him. In regard to making his teammates better, Leonard is certainly not LeBron James. And you can even say that Antetokounmpo, still emerging as a superstar himself, has been better at reading the defense and finding open shooters. In the regular season, Leonard recorded assists on just 12.2 percent of his possessions, the fifth lowest rate among 35 players with a usage rate of 25 percent or higher. And his assist rate has actually been lower (11.7 percent) in the playoffs. But over the last two series, Leonard has been the focus of the Philadelphia and Milwaukee defenses. At times, he has tried to score through multiple defenders. And often, because his teammates weren't willing or able to do much offensively themselves and because he was scoring so efficiently, he was probably right to force things. Leonard forced little on Thursday (Friday, PHL time). He drove into the teeth of the Bucks' defense, saw where the help was coming from, and made the right play. "We keep stressing that in this series and in the last series, too," Nurse said. "When you've drawn two, you've done your job. You've got to find the guy who's open." And on the 22 possessions in which he drove, the Raptors scored 29 points, 10 from Leonard himself and 19 from his teammates. "Pretty much try to stay with a consistent mindset throughout the whole game," Leonard said of his performance. "Just trying to read the defense throughout the entire game, see what's working." It was all working, whether it was Leonard calling his own number or making plays for others. And it certainly helps that the others have seemingly found their mojo. Fred VanVleet, who shot 6-for-42 over a nine-game stretch from Game 2 of the conference semis through Game 3 of this series, is a 63 percent shooter (10-for-12 from three-point range) when he has more than one child. All of Leonard's nine assists in Game 5 were on three-pointers - so he accounted for 62 (59 percent) of the Raptors' 105 points via his own points and assists - and four of them were to the dad who hasn't slept much since Fred Jr. was born on Monday. "Any time he chooses to get the rest of us involved," VanVleet said of Leonard, "it's going to bode well for our offense. The rest of us just got to be ready to step up and knock them down." VanVleet had both the biggest shot of the night - a three from the right wing off a Leonard kick-out that broke a 93-93 tie with 2:19 to go - and the quote of the night when asked about his formula for success: "Zero sleep, have a lot of babies, and go out there and let loose." The Raptors' offense has been the biggest key to this series, because Toronto's defense, when it has been set, has been tremendous. They've kept Antetokounmpo from getting all the way to the basket, and they've been able to recover out to and contest the Bucks' shooters. While the Raptors scored 1.32 points per possession when Leonard drove in Game 5, the Bucks scored at a rate less than half of that (0.57, 12 points on 21 possessions) when Antetokounmpo drove. "We've got to play good offense," Nurse said, "not turn it over and score the basketball, because if you don't, they're getting what they want, which is downhill basketball in a hurry. If we can score it, if we can take care of it, we can get our defense set up, for the most part we get down and guard them and make the shots a lot tougher." Just six days ago, the Raptors were a possession away from falling into an 0-3 hole, one that no team in NBA history has ever come back from. Now, they've won three straight games against the team that hadn't lost three straight all season. After scoring less than a point per possession over the first two games of this series, the Raptors have scored 110.3 per 100 over the last three. The defense feeds off of the offense. And the offense feeds off of the star that keeps taking things to a new level. "I'm not afraid of the moment," Leonard said. "I enjoy it." The Kawhi Leonard that we saw in Games 1-4 against Philadelphia (when he averaged 38.0 points on 62 percent shooting) was a preposterously efficient scorer, good enough to keep his team even in the second round. The Kawhi Leonard that we saw on Thursday (Friday, PHL time) has his team playing even better ... and just one win from the NBA Finals. John Schuhmann is a senior stats analyst 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 NewsMay 24th, 2019

Antetokounmpo learning how to deal with playoff disappointment

By Steve Aschburner, NBA.com TORONTO – Whenever LeBron James struggled through the sort of playoff performance Giannis Antetokounmpo had Sunday (Monday, PHL time), he seemed to want to put it behind him as swiftly as he could. His routine – assuming it wasn’t The Finals, where he got summoned to the podium, win or lose – typically went like this: the door to the Cleveland or Miami dressing room would swing open and there James would be, ready to face the questions, antsy to move on ASAP. Once he ‘fessed up to the shots he’d missed or the plays he’d botched, that was it. Oh, you knew he’d be looking plenty at video of that game in the hours before he played again, as a way to find and fix the flaws. But for public consumption at least, he shed it fast, like an ill-fitting suit. Antetokounmpo, the Milwaukee Bucks’ young star, is still learning this face-of-the-franchise and cutthroat competitor stuff. He took his time afterward in the spartan visitors’ room at Scotiabank Arena. [Watch the Playoffs on NBA League Pass for 30% less with this limited time offer! Select Annual package and use code SAVE30 at checkout to redeem] There he sat, with his knees wrapped and his feet plunged into an ice bath. The Kia MVP candidate stared at the score sheet that had been handed to him, the one bearing all sorts of dreary news from the double-overtime setback that cut Milwaukee’s lead in the best-of-seven series to 2-1. Antetokounmpo barely looked up as the semicircle of cameras, microphones and reporters around him grew with media people tip-toeing that fine line between giving him some space and blocking out for position whenever he’d finally take their questions. (“Talk,” as we say in the trade). Heck, Antetokounmpo barely looked up when Bucks coach Mike Budenholzer strode through the dressing room and tapped him on his left knee, a little atta-boy bonding near the end of a long, disappointing night. While teammates poked habitually at their phones in the aftermath of Milwaukee’s 118-112 loss, Antetokounmpo mostly let his lie there on the seat next to him. By the standards he set this year as an MVP favorite, he knew he’d had a lousy night. The reporters standing there, like fans everywhere, knew he’d struggled, of course, in ways rarely seen since his first taste of the postseason four years ago. And he knew that they knew, so… “Obviously it wasn’t my best game,” Antetokounmpo said eventually. “I’ve got to be more aggressive… I’ve got to make the right play.” Defensively, Antetokounmpo was pretty much his usual self, grabbing 23 rebounds for the Bucks, challenging Toronto’s players out on the floor and close to the rim, and blocking four shots. Offensively, though, Antetokounmpo was a mess. He scored only 12 points, his fewest in a playoff game since he was first dipping his toe into postseason waters as a 20-year-old back in 2015. Through three quarters, Antetokounmpo had only six points on 3-for-8 shooting. Seven Milwaukee players and five Raptors had outscored him to that point, and he hadn’t earned his way to the foul line even once. What made it all worse was that the game was sitting there, aching to be taken by someone, anyone. Antetokounmpo got himself going a bit in the fourth quarter, making a couple of shots and earning five free throws. But he missed three. Then he went scoreless while playing the entire first overtime. And then he fouled out just 36 seconds into the second OT. He didn’t object, either, when that sixth foul for stepping in front of Toronto’s Pascal Siakam sent him to the side. Antetokounmpo just took it and exited, sealing it as one of those “not your night, kid” hard lessons. Asked about the frustration that Antetokounmpo might have shown to teammates, if not the public, Bucks guard Eric Bledsoe said: “If you don’t feel bad when you play bad, you don’t need to be playing this game. That’s the feeling that drives you to success. I’m happy he’s feeling like that.” Antetokounmpo’s game didn’t just spin sideways on its own. Raptors coach Nick Nurse switched some defensive duties around and assigned Kawhi Leonard – a two-time Defensive Player of the Year with the wingspan, instincts and reflexes to confound any open-court player – as the tip of Toronto’s spear against the Greek Freak. Then, as expected, Toronto sent second defenders at him, the surest way to get the ball out of Antetokounmpo’s hands or force him into difficult shots. So he tried to make the right basketball plays, as they say, and sometimes he did – he dished a team-high seven assists. Sometimes, though, he did not, turning over the ball eight times. For the record, Antetokounmpo has played 31 postseason games in his young career. In the games in which he has scored fewer than 19 points, his team’s record is 3-6. When he scores 19 or more, the Bucks are 14-8. Not to lay it all at Antetokounmpo’s feet. Fellow All-Star Khris Middleton was way off his usual offensive form, missing 13 of his 16 shots. And Bledsoe matched that. Together, those three starters were a combined 11-of-48. The rest of the team shot 50 percent (27 of 54). “We have the utmost respect and belief that the next game is not going to be as bad as [this] was,” said guard George Hill, who scored 24 points off the bench. “But I know it's sitting in their head that they go for a combined 11-of-48 or something like that. We're not worried about it.” Right. Who’s even counting? Budenholzer and his staff are going to have to figure out ways to get scoring opportunities without being stymied by all the defensive traffic. Teammates are going to have to shoot better, to keep those diggers honest in their matchups. And Antetokounmpo is going to need to play more aggressively and take what happened in Game 3 very personally. He wasn’t quite there yet, Sunday night (Monday, PHL time). “Obviously I want to stay aggressive. But we stick to our game plan,” Antetokounmpo said. “Some days I’m going to have a bad night. But my team has to focus on doing their job and I’ll do mine.” Said Brook Lopez, after watching the throng swallow Antetokounmpo on the opposite side of the room: “We know he’s not going to quit or stop playing. He’s going to continue to be him.” As he talked, Lopez’s phone began vibrating next to him. He said it was Bucks GM Jon Horst calling and, in a bit of gallows humor after a stinging loss, joked that maybe he shouldn’t answer. “I don’t know if I should pick up or not,” the Milwaukee center said, “’cause I want to be here tomorrow.” Antetokounmpo has a call to answer now, too. In Game 4, Tuesday (Wednesday, PHL time). Steve Aschburner has written about the NBA since 1980. You can e-mail him here, find his archive here and follow him on Twitter. The views on this page do not necessarily reflect the views of the NBA, its clubs or Turner Broadcasting......»»

Category: sportsSource:  abscbnRelated NewsMay 20th, 2019

Bucks making case as favorites to win title

By John Schuhmann, NBA.com MILWAUKEE -- In the wake of a wire-to-wire, 125-103 victory in Game 2 of the Eastern Conference finals, a question for the group: Shouldn't the Milwaukee Bucks be the favorites to win this thing? No, not the conference finals. At this point, they're obviously the heavy favorite to win the East. Prior to this year, 72 teams had a 2-0 lead in the conference finals, and 67 of them went on to win. But why aren't the Bucks the favorites to win the NBA championship? Is there a case to be made against 1) what was the best team in the regular season and 2) what has been an even better team in the playoffs? [Watch the Playoffs on NBA League Pass for 30% less with this limited time offer! Select Annual package and use code SAVE30 at checkout to redeem] Maybe this is a we'll-believe-it-when-we-see-it league. How can you pick a team to win a championship when its best player had never won a playoff series prior to this year? Until they lost in five, it was easier to imagine the Celtics, with their talent and with their recent history of playoff success (back-to-back trips to the conference finals), being the team to represent the East in The Finals in the first year A.L. (after LeBron). And then the Bucks outscored the Celtics by a total of 65 points over the last four games of the conference semis. It's similarly difficult to pick against the Golden State Warriors until they actually lose. The two-time defending champs have Stephen Curry, Klay Thompson and Draymond Green. Presumably, they'll have Kevin Durant back for The Finals should they finish off the Portland Trail Blazers in the Western Conference finals. And even without Durant, the Warriors boast the same 2-0 conference finals lead the Bucks currently possess. But the Warriors haven't been as sharp as they were in each of the previous two postseasons. Five of their 10 playoff wins have been within five points in the last five minutes. Last year, only four of their 16 wins were within five in the last five. In 2017, it was four of 16 as well. With the postseason's 10th-ranked defense, Golden State has outscored its opponents by 6.4 points per 100 possessions over its 14 games. The Bucks have outscored their opponents by more than double that: 15.1 per 100. That feels like the mark of an eventual champion. Through 10 playoff wins last year, the Warriors had outscored their opponents by 9.6 points per 100 possessions. Through 10 playoff wins in 2015, they had outscored their opponents by just 7.7 points per 100. It was only in 2017, when they won their first 15 playoff games in Durant's first season in Golden State, that the Warriors were as dominant as the Bucks have been thus far. At 10-0 two years ago, Golden State had outscored its playoff opponents by 16.5 points per 100 possessions. At that point, the Warriors had the No. 2 offense and the No. 1 defense in the postseason. That's exactly where the Bucks stand after Game 2 on Friday (Saturday, PHL time). Milwaukee is a complete team in more ways than one. The defense has been there almost every night. The Bucks have held their opponents under a point per possession (the measure of elite defense) in six of their 11 games and only once (their Game 1 loss to Boston) have they allowed them to score more than what was the league average (109.7 points scored per 100 possessions) in the regular season. Even with the rise in three-point shooting over the last few years, the most important shots on the floor remain those at the basket, and no team has been better at both preventing and defending those shots than the Bucks. After allowing a league-low 29.6 points per game in the restricted area in the regular season, the Bucks have allowed just 22.0 per game in the playoffs. In this series, Raptors drives have been met with a swarm of Milwaukee defenders, making it difficult to either score in the paint or get off a clean pass to an open shooter. After shooting 57 percent in the paint through the first two rounds (in which they faced two very good defenses), the Raptors have shot just 49 percent (36-for-73) in the paint through the first two games of the conference finals. On Toronto's first possession of Game 2, Marc Gasol posted up Khris Middleton after a switch and spun around Middleton for a layup, only to be rejected by Giannis Antetokounmpo. The Raptors went scoreless on their first five possessions, had just 39 points on 49 possessions at halftime, and were too far behind for a 39-point third quarter to matter much. "I think the way we played on both ends of the court in the first half," Budenholzer said afterward, "is what we're trying to get to." After a bit of an offensive struggle in Game 1, the Bucks broke out on Friday (Saturday, PHL time). The elite defense led to 28 fast-break points, a size advantage inside led to 17 second-chance points, and six of their nine rotation players scored in double-figures. Three of those six came off the bench. While Toronto coach Nick Nurse has had to both shorten and alter his rotation in these playoffs, Bucks coach Mike Budenholzer has seemingly found contributors wherever he has turned. George Hill and Pat Connaughton were huge in the Boston series, Malcolm Brogdon didn't need long to find his rhythm after missing the first eight postseason games, and on Friday (Saturday, PHL time), Ersan Ilyasova had what Budenholzer called "clearly his best game of the year," scoring 17 points, drawing three charges, and registering a plus-22 in just over 21 minutes off the bench. The Bucks have the presumed Kia MVP, but their biggest strength in these playoffs has been their depth. Through 11 games, they've outscored their opponents by 12.0 points per 100 possessions with Antetokounmpo off the floor. Unlike his fellow Eastern Conference coaches, Budenholzer has never had to rush his best player back onto the floor. And this team is now 10-1 with Antetokounmpo ranking 40th in postseason minutes per game at 32.3. While the Raptors' offense has struggled to take advantage of the attention paid to Kawhi Leonard, every Bucks rotation player has played with confidence and freedom. "They're not going to let me play one-on-one," Antetokounmpo said after registering 30 points, 17 rebounds and five assists in Game 2. "So this series is not going to be about me; it's going to be about my teammates being ready to shoot, being ready to make the right play." "We try and empower them," Budenholzer said of his team's role players. "We try to play a way where they all feel like they can contribute and do things. Hopefully that's paying off for us." There's no argument to the contrary. But is there an argument against this team being the favorite to win the championship? While it remains difficult to pick against the team that won last year and remains intact, new champions come along all the time, and it's easier to see them in hindsight than in the moment. Of course, as good as they've been playing and as special as this run has felt, Bucks players refuse to get ahead of themselves. "You can't," Eric Bledsoe said. "That's how you lose focus. The biggest thing with this group is just taking a game at a time, and not looking forward to The Finals. Anything can happen. So we're focused on Game 3." "It's a great opportunity that we have," George Hill added, "but it means nothing until we get there." The players have to keep their minds on Toronto. But the rest of us can feel free to envision the future, one that includes an NBA championship. John Schuhmann is a senior stats analyst 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 NewsMay 18th, 2019

Bucks seeking 2-0 lead over Raptors in East finals

By Tim Reynolds, Associated Press When the season started, everyone knew the Eastern Conference would have a new king. LeBron James left Cleveland, having taken his talents to Los Angeles. And even Milwaukee star Giannis Antetokounmpo wasn’t sure who would take his place. “I didn’t know we were going to be in the Eastern Conference finals or not,” Antetokounmpo said. “I just know that he’s a top player that we always had problems against him and the Cavs. Now he’s not playing for the Cavs, so it’s going to be a little bit easier. I didn’t see it as an opening. But when you look back and see how everything went, it’s definitely an opening not having LeBron in the East.” [Watch the Playoffs on NBA League Pass for 30% less with this limited time offer! Select Annual package and use code SAVE30 at checkout to redeem] The Bucks are three wins away from taking full advantage of that opening, and becoming the team that replaces James after his eight consecutive seasons going to the NBA Finals as a representative of the Eastern Conference. Game 2 of the East final is Friday night (Saturday, PHL time) in Milwaukee, where the Bucks will aim to take a 2-0 series lead over the Toronto Raptors. “We’re happy,” Antetokounmpo said. “But the job is not done. We’ve got to protect our home. We’ve got to be able to get Game 2.” Toronto got swept out of the 2017 and 2018 playoffs by James and the Cavs. Now they’re already facing a 1-0 deficit against Antetokounmpo and the Bucks, after dropping Game 1 despite leading for 37 of the game’s 48 minutes. “Sometimes, we just missed some shots,” Raptors guard Kyle Lowry shrugged. The way the Raptors see it, the adjustment to make finals might not be an adjustment at all. They liked most everything but the outcome of Game 1 — a 108-100 Bucks win — and figure that if they play the same Friday (Saturday, PHL time), they’ll have another chance at stealing away home-court advantage. “This team has handled downs pretty well and ups pretty well, and that’s been one of our focuses since day one of training camp,” Raptors coach Nick Nurse said. “So let’s hope we can keep that going a little bit.” The Bucks won a game where they shot just under 40 percent and were 11-of-44 from three-point range. They made up for that on the defensive end and on the backboards — they held every Raptor not named Lowry or Kawhi Leonard to 1-for-23 shooting after halftime, and outrebounded Toronto 60-46. Still, Toronto insists it is not worried about the offense. “Everything starts on the defensive end,” Raptors forward Serge Ibaka said. Here’s some other things to know going into Game 2: RARE LOSS The last time Toronto had two 30-point scorers in the same game and lost — before it happened Wednesday (Thursday, PHL time) — was Feb. 2, 2012. Game 1 was only the third time this season that the Bucks allowed two opponents to score 30 in the same game; Brandon Ingram and LeBron James did it for the Los Angeles Lakers in a Milwaukee win on March 1 (Mar. 2, PHL time), and Leonard and Pascal Siakam did it in a Toronto victory on Jan. 5 (Jan. 6, PHL time). RARE WIN Before Wednesday (Thursday, PHL time), Milwaukee had been 0-7 this season when not shooting better than 40 percent. The Bucks shot 39.8 percent in Game 1. The Raptors had been 9-1 this season when holding teams to such a low shooting percentage; the only other previous blip came in Game 2 of the second round against Philadelphia, when the 76ers shot 39.5 percent and won in Toronto. BROGDON’S IMPACT Much gets made of Milwaukee’s bench mob, and rightly so, but having Malcolm Brogdon back after he was out for basically all of the first two playoff rounds with a heel injury is a huge plus for the Bucks. Brogdon played 27 minutes in Game 1; he scored 15 points and the Bucks outscored the Raptors 57-39 in those minutes. When Brogdon wasn’t on the floor, Toronto held a 61-51 edge. DANGER TIME Friday (Thursday, PHL time) isn’t technically a must-win for the Raptors, but a loss might conjure up some unfriendly memories for the franchise. Toronto has dropped the first two games of a playoff series seven times; the Raptors are 0-7 in those series, and four of them ended in sweeps — one of them a 3-0 decision, the others by 4-0 counts. ALMOST PERFECT Milwaukee is off to a 9-1 start in these playoffs. It’s the 24th time in NBA history that a team has opened a postseason with at least nine wins in 10 games; of the previous 23 to start at least 9-1, 15 went on to win the NBA championship. Only six teams have started 10-0......»»

Category: sportsSource:  abscbnRelated NewsMay 16th, 2019

Leonard, Raptors to face Bucks, Antetokounmpo in East final

By Ian Harrison, Associated Press TORONTO (AP) — For the second time in four seasons, the Toronto Raptors are headed to the Eastern Conference final. While the Raptors won’t have to deal with playoff nemesis LeBron James this time, they will face a tough task in controlling Milwaukee Bucks All-Star Giannis Antetokounmpo and the rest of the NBA’s highest-scoring offense. Of course, Toronto will counter with Kawhi Leonard. [Watch the Playoffs on NBA League Pass for 30% less with this limited time offer! Select Annual package and use code SAVE30 at checkout to redeem] He hit the game-winning buzzer-beater Sunday (Monday, PHL time) to help Toronto edge Philadelphia 92-90 in Game 7 of its Eastern Conference semifinal series, setting up a showdown between the East’s top teams during the regular season. Leonard’s shot bounced around the rim four times before dropping through the basket. “It was great,” Leonard said. “That’s something I never experienced before, Game 7, a game-winning shot. It was a blessing to be able to get to that point and make that shot and feel that moment.” Leonard and the Raptors will have a few hours to enjoy it; the conference final begin Wednesday night (Thursday, PHL time) in Milwaukee. In its only other conference final appearance, Toronto lost to LeBron James and Cleveland in six games in 2016. The Raptors are well aware of the challenge ahead. Toronto guard Kyle Lowry said the Bucks have been “pretty dominant” in winning eight of nine postseason games — including the past four straight. “They’ve got a lot of weapons and they’re pretty deep,” Lowry said. “They shoot the ball as well as anybody in the NBA and then they’ve got the one-man fast break in Giannis.” The Bucks beat the Raptors three times in four regular-season meetings. Lowry was injured when Toronto won 123-116 at Milwaukee on Jan. 5 (Jan. 6, PHL time). “We know we’ve got a tough task at hand,” Lowry said. “We have to prepare for it and get ready to go.” Toronto coach Nick Nurse said the Bucks present challenges his team hasn’t faced in eliminating Orlando and Philadelphia in the first two rounds. “It’s a little different style that we’re going to see,” Nurse said. “We’re going to have to adjust to that really quickly, obviously, and forget about how happy we are pretty quickly because it’s a hungry team. It’s a very deep team, a very good team. We’re going to have to continue to grow and we’re going to have to play better.” Leonard scored 41 points on 16-of-39 shooting in Game 7 against Philadelphia. He topped 30 points five times in the series and averaged 34.7 points overall. Nurse said Leonard has been playing at an “elite level” in the postseason. Toronto center Marc Gasol agrees with his coach. Leonard “can create a shot out of pretty much nothing,” Gasol said. “He’s a mismatch all around.” In Antetokounmpo, the Bucks have a similar matchup nightmare for Toronto. The Raptors will need contributions for everyone, including Lowry — who briefly left Game 7 because of a sprained left thumb but returned and played the entire second half. “I couldn’t really pass the ball and grip the ball, but that doesn’t matter,” Lowry said. “I’m fine.” Milwaukee has been resting since eliminating Boston in Game 5 on Wednesday (Thursday, PHL time). Toronto, which used only seven players on Sunday (Monday, PHL time), will not practice Monday (Tuesday, PHL time), giving players some extra rest. They may need it to derail the surging Bucks......»»

Category: sportsSource:  abscbnRelated NewsMay 13th, 2019

LeBron James Ohio school gets $1M grant to build gymnasium - Inquirer Sports

AKRON, Ohio An Ohio school that receives funding from basketball star LeBron James foundation is getting $1 million from the foundation of a sporting goods retailer to build a new gymnasium. The Akro.....»»

Category: newsSource:  philippinetimesRelated NewsMay 13th, 2019

Lakers fans to stage protest vs team s front office

Initially reported by NBC LA's Fred Roggin on twitter, the protest will come at the heels of numerous failed deals and a mediocre NBA season that led to LA star LeBron James missing the playoffs......»»

Category: sportsSource:  philstarRelated NewsMay 10th, 2019

Has Kyrie Irving played his last game for Celtics?

By Tim Reynolds, Associated Press It begins. When the buzzer sounded in Milwaukee on Wednesday night, the question immediately became this: Has Kyrie Irving played his last game for the Boston Celtics? It’s very possible. Welcome to free agency, Kyrie. [Watch the Playoffs on NBA League Pass for 30% less with this limited time offer! Select Annual package and use code SAVE30 at checkout to redeem] He’s now in the place that other big names like Kevin Durant, Jimmy Butler, Kawhi Leonard and Klay Thompson all will be whenever their respective seasons end, whether that happens with a playoff defeat, or with an injury — Durant left Game 5 of Golden State’s Western Conference semifinal series against Houston on Wednesday night (Thursday, PHL time) with a right calf strain — or with their fingerprints smudging the golden surface of the Larry O’Brien Trophy. They will all hear some version of the question that Irving got. Free agency doesn’t technically start until July 1, but in actuality it began for the superstar point guard with 8:40 left in the fourth quarter of Game 5 — when he checked out for the last time in what capped Boston’s ousting from the Eastern Conference semifinals by the Milwaukee Bucks. He has a player option for next season, one that would pay him about $21 million. No one expects him to pick up that option. Irving got the question a number of different ways Wednesday night (Thursday, PHL time), and his defense was stellar. No hints, whatsoever. “I’m just trying to make it back to Boston first, safely,” Irving said. “Get to see my family. Decompress. Do what human beings do.” This will be a seismic free-agent summer in the NBA and everyone has known this was coming for some time. Durant, Butler, Leonard, Thompson, Irving and Kemba Walker all may sign deals worth well over $100 million apiece. Combined, the total value of those six looming contracts could flirt with $1 billion if everyone involved decides to max-out and not take shorter-term deals. The New York Knicks might have close to $75 million in salary-cap space, more than enough to potentially land Irving and Durant. The Los Angeles Clippers could have close to $60 million. Brooklyn, Dallas, Atlanta and Indiana might have about $50 million apiece. The Los Angeles Lakers — even with LeBron James’ big contract and a coaching search that has gone from slow to stuck — have more than enough to add some major names. It will be wild, starting with lots of eyes on Golden State. Questions about Durant leaving have percolated all season and will only pick up between now and July 1. Thompson’s future has been the source of much debate. Imagine: The Warriors could win their third straight title and fourth in five years, and they might break up anyway. Butler will take a long look at signing elsewhere, and he might start hearing ‘the question’ as soon as Thursday (Friday, PHL time) when Philadelphia now on the ropes against Toronto. Leonard’s future with the Raptors may be tied to how deep they go in the playoffs. Walker’s situation in Charlotte hinges on the size of the offer the Hornets make to keep him. Irving tried to make all the chatter about his future go away in early October, when he stole the show at a preseason event for Celtics fans at the team’s arena in Boston. He grabbed the microphone, walked toward midcourt and delivered a sentence that is going to get replayed a lot over the next eight weeks. “If you guys will have me back, I plan on re-signing here,” Irving said. Sounded great then. Doesn’t seem so iron-clad now. And truth be told, the Celtics might be thinking they’re better off without Irving anyway given how they went deeper in the playoffs with him sidelined last season and his struggles over the last four games of the Milwaukee series. They were 35-19 at one point. They went 19-18 the rest of the way. They went 14-17 in Irving’s last 31 appearances. They were 12-3 when he didn’t play this season. Irving won’t be taking a whole lot of questions — if any — over the next few weeks about his future. He knows what would be asked. All that matters now is his answer. ___ Tim Reynolds is a national basketball writer for The Associated Press. Write to him at treynolds@ap.org.....»»

Category: sportsSource:  abscbnRelated NewsMay 9th, 2019

LeBron not OK with Magic& rsquo;s weird departure from Lakers

LeBron not OK with Magic& rsquo;s weird departure from Lakers.....»»

Category: sportsSource:  thestandardRelated NewsMay 7th, 2019

LeBron not OK with Magic’s ‘weird’ departure from Lakers

"I came here to be a part of the Lakers organization, having a conversation with Magic and really kind of breaking it down and saying how we was going to make this 'Showtime' again, and I wanted to be part of that process," - LeBron James #NBA.....»»

Category: newsSource:  tempoRelated NewsMay 6th, 2019

Harden, Durant both covet championship, mantle of best player

By Shaun Powell, NBA.com Houston -- Steve Kerr’s mind is made up. He’s seen enough. The debate is closed and conquered, the election over and the firm conclusion has been reached, at least from where he stands. Kevin Durant “is the best player in the world, the most skilled player in the world” according to Kerr, who may be biased, but he didn’t sound like it. Kerr said this not once, but four times in the last two weeks, just in case someone didn’t get the message. [Watch the Playoffs on NBA League Pass for 30% less with this limited time offer! Select Annual package and use code SAVE30 at checkout to redeem] It’s hard to see where the Warriors’ coach is going wrong. Durant is evidently on a mission to (a) win his third and perhaps final championship with the Warriors, and (1-a) become universally recognized as the singularly greatest force in the league, a distinction that means so much to him. To paraphrase Durant, y’all know who he is by now. Durant is sitting at the mythical 50-40-90 threshold in the playoffs, the benchmark for shooting accuracy and efficiency from the floor, three-point range and free-throw line. He’s averaging 35 points in the postseason, 39 in the last seven games. He has two near-masterpieces, the 50-point closeout of the Clippers in the first round and 46 on the Rockets in Game 3 of this series. He’s making contested jumpers from all over the floor and from all angles. There’s really no defense for him. But when this series is over, James Harden hopes to change the conversation. If he does, that means (a) the Rockets will pull off a stunning comeback from being down two games, and (b) Harden out-dueled Durant in the process. Is either possible? Well, Harden might be the only player qualified to do so, even with a left eye that still looks like the Japanese flag. He managed to minimize if not eliminate that poked eye by chopping down the Warriors and pulling the Rockets within 2-1 of the series. “I was just being aggressive,” he said. “I was in attack mode.” He’s attacking something else. Harden, too, wants exactly the same as his friend and former Oklahoma City teammate. A championship would be his first, so obviously that’s paramount. The mantle of “game’s greatest player” is also desired because Harden believes the last four years bear that out. In that span, he won the MVP award and finished runner-up twice, better than anyone. Of course, the missing prize is the championship, which is the final and most authentic validation, and this season at least he must go through Durant to achieve that. Harden’s postseason hasn’t been as stellar as Durant’s, although perhaps Game 3 marked a shift. Harden scored 41 points and sent the Warriors home on a step-back three-pointer in the final seconds of overtime. He and the Rockets are bringing a fresh sense of confidence and also have Game 4 in their house. Sending this series all square back to Oakland wouldn’t be beyond his or their abilities. “In `Harden World,’ that was good, but he can play better,” said Rockets coach Mike D’Antoni. “That’s James. That’s what he does.” There’s a growing sense among the Warriors, and with some justification, that Harden’s bloody eye is no longer an issue. Harden’s vision was pure when it counted two nights ago and every day brings him a step closer to normalcy, if he isn’t already there. “I think he’s good to go,” said D’Antoni. The other concern for Golden State: Harden’s beginning to figure out the rotations and the Warriors’ defensive scheme. They know Harden adapts quickly to defenders and their tendencies because, at this point, he’s seen it all. Harden is a tough cover because of his shooting range and unwillingness to lose confidence after a string of misses, and his craftiness off the dribble while attacking the rim. “He had 41 points and it was a good chess game,” said Andre Iguodala. “He made some really tough shots. Some shots, where you pat him on the butt, and you say ‘helluva shot’. I felt like it was a little bit of cat and mouse. A guy like that -- you can’t stop him one on one. The defense did a good job of helping off and stopping him. We just have to try to make it hard as possible for him.” The nightmare game for the Warriors is Harden hitting enough early baskets and forcing them to double, then finding teammates for open looks that they make, such as Eric Gordon. In that scenario, points would come in an avalanche and place stress on the defense and possibly get key players into foul trouble, most notably Draymond Green and a suddenly-foul-prone Steph Curry. There’s also an intriguing subplot in the works: The Harden-Durant can-you-top-this drama. With Curry and Chris Paul both performing below their standards in this series, the series seems fixated on Harden and Durant and  what they’re capable of doing to the other team and, by extension, against each other. There’s a genuine and hefty amount of respect between the two, who are friends away from the floor as well. Both left OKC and have since generated millions in endorsement money and find themselves near or at the top of the superstar pecking order. Durant has what Harden doesn’t, a championship. But perhaps Harden has what Durant craves, a team to call his own. That would be the only reason Durant leaves the Warriors in free agency this summer, because it’s difficult to imagine him signing with a team that offers a better chance to win championships or make more in salary than the one he’s already on. Durant earned more points with Harden a few days ago when he defended the Rockets guard, saying Harden doesn’t “cheat the rules” when he tries to draw fouls and manipulate the referees. Durant added: “He can do everything. If you’re not focused, he can drive past you, hit you with the shoulder because he’s strong, and finish with either hand. He can shoot floaters now. Obviously the step-back 3-pointer is one of his staples, but I never believed he was just a free throw guy. He can score in a variety of ways.” Harden must prove that in this series. Last season in the Western Conference finals, he turned to vapor as that series stretched seven games. He made just 24 percent from deep and, after Paul suffered a hamstring pull in Game Five, couldn’t handle the load. In the elimination game, he missed 11-of-13 from deep. Durant, meanwhile, was the star and weeks later would clinch another title and Finals MVP award, outplaying LeBron James in the process. So Kerr’s contention about Durant has much weight and credibility. Through three games of this second-round series, there’s been no reason to question the coach’s claim. Only one person can flip that perception and create doubt. James Harden, therefore, has a tough job ahead. 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 NewsMay 6th, 2019

UAAP Season 81: Whatever it takes -- Laure

Rookie Eya Laure and the rest of University of Sto. Tomas picked up a good line for motivation before they faced the three-time defending champion De La Salle University in playoff for the last twice-to-beat advantage in the UAAP Season 81 women’s volleyball Final Four.      The top Rookie of the Year candidate borrowed the tagline of the blockbuster film ‘Avengers: Endgame’ and last year’s battlecry of the then LeBron James-led Cleveland Cavaliers.    “Noong huddle pa lang kasi, sa dugout pa lang ni-remind sa amin ni coach na parang ‘Whatever it takes’. Basta yun,” said Laure after the Tigresses’ 25-14, 25-23, 23-25, 25-19 win over the Lady Spikers on Wednesday at the FilOil Flying V Centre in San Juan witnessed by a 5,001-strong crowd. UST entered the game with all guns blazing, taking the first two sets as the Tigresses dismantled DLSU behind Laure and graduating hitter Sisi Rondina. Rondina finished with 29 points built on 25 kills, two aces and two kill blocks while Laure had 17 markers including 15 off attacks.        The Tigresses played fluidly and despite yielding the first set, UST grabbed the opportunity to move a step closer to the Finals for the first time since Season 73 – also the last time the Espana-based squad earned a semis advantage.   “Yung ‘whatever it takes’ yun lang yung parang ginamit sa game na ito,” said Laure. “Whatever it takes gagawin namin lahat talaga and yung mga posibleng pwedeng mangyari…” “Sabi nga ni Ate Si sa amin sa huddle na ‘Wala namang mawawala sa atin. Gawin lang natin kung ano ang kaya natin as a team and walang bibitaw, walang susuko basta-basta hangga’t haya lumaban. Whatever it takes,’ she added. UST and DLSU will face off once again on Sunday in the Final Four in a rematch of their Season 79 semis but this time the Tigresses will have the advantage.   ---    Follow this writer on Twitter, @fromtheriles.....»»

Category: sportsSource:  abscbnRelated NewsMay 1st, 2019

LeBron considering return to US Olympic team under Popovich

em>By Tom Withers, Associated Press /em> INDEPENDENCE, Ohio (AP) — LeBron James might make another run at Olympic gold with Gregg Popovich. James, who already has two gold medals, said that Popovich taking over as coach of the U.S. team will influence his decision on whether to play in the 2020 Tokyo Games. 'It factors a lot,' James said Saturday as the Cavaliers prepared to host Popovich's San Antonio Spurs. 'I've said that before. He's just a great mastermind of the game of basketball.' James skipped last summer's Olympics in Rio de Janeiro to get rest after leading Cleveland to an NBA championship. But he's still connected with Team USA and Popovich replacing outgoing coach Mike Krzyzewski could be enough to draw James back to the Olympics. James will be 36 in 2020, but his game is showing no signs of decay and the three-time NBA champ has relished his previous Olympic appearances. He was a key member of the American teams that captured gold in Beijing (2008) and (2012), performances that helped him and the U.S. squad erase some of the disappointment from taking bronze in Athens (2004). Krzyzewski, the Duke coach who led the U.S. team to three consecutive gold medals, had a hand in naming Popovich as his successor. For James, the pick was perfect. 'Team USA is in good hands with him,' James told The Associated Press in 2015. 'It was in good hands with Coach K. It's almost like 'The Godfather.' We hand it off to Michael Corleone now.' Earlier this week, James said he considers Popovich, who has led the Spurs to five NBA titles, 'the greatest coach of all time. I've said that over and over and over. You have to be sharp, mentally and physically, when you go against his ballclub. If you were an NFL player, it's probably the same as going against a [Bill] Belichick team. 'What they're going to do, they're going to do and you have to try to figure it out.' James has lost twice to teams coached by Popovich in the NBA Finals — in 2007 with Cleveland and in 2014 with Miami. He admires the way the 67-year-old coach has adjusted and adapted over the years. 'A guy that's been able to do what he's done in an era of basketball where it's changed so much and he's been able to have a growth mindset and be able to change with the game,' James said. 'Obviously Tim Duncan was a huge part of that because Timmy was allowed to change with the game as well, but he's just continued to build around Timmy and Manu [Ginobili] and Tony [Parker] and bring pieces in and out throughout his whole tenure.' On Saturday (Sunday, PHL time), the Spurs will play their first game without center Pau Gasol, sidelined indefinitely with a broken left hand. James said that won't change San Antonio much — because of Popovich. 'It doesn't matter who is in the lineup for the Spurs,' James said. 'They'll play Spurs basketball and Pop will have them ready. I mean, what's their record, 33-9, I believe? And if you asked me how things would change without Timmy D., they still pushing forward, man. It's just nothing out of the ordinary.' .....»»

Category: sportsSource:  abscbnRelated NewsJan 22nd, 2017

Durant, James, Irving als0 top choices In All-Star Curry beats W’brook as starter

NEW YORK – Stephen Curry won a tiebreaker to join Golden State teammate Kevin Durant in the lineup, while LeBron James and Kyrie Irving also gave Cleveland t.....»»

Category: sportsSource:  philstarRelated NewsJan 20th, 2017

NBA: Curry in as West starter

Stephen Curry won a tiebreaker to join Golden State teammate Kevin Durant in the lineup for the NBA All-Star Game, while LeBron James and Kyrie Irving also gave Cleveland two starters......»»

Category: newsSource:  tempoRelated NewsJan 20th, 2017

NBA: Suns fade against Cavs’ LeBron, Irving

Kyrie Irving scored 26 points, All-Star teammate LeBron James had 21 points and 15 assists, and the Cleveland Cavaliers looked more like themselves at home in a 118-103 win over the Phoenix Suns on Thursday night......»»

Category: newsSource:  tempoRelated NewsJan 20th, 2017

NBA Wrap: Kyrie, LeBron power Cavs over Suns

CLEVELAND — Kyrie Irving scored 26 points, All-Star teammate LeBron James had 21 points and 15 assists, and the Cleveland Cavaliers looked more like themselv.....»»

Category: sportsSource:  philstarRelated NewsJan 20th, 2017

All-Stars LeBron, Irving lead Cavs past Suns

em>By Tom Withers, Associated Press /em> CLEVELAND -- Kyrie Irving scored 26 points, All-Star teammate LeBron James had 21 points and 15 assists, and the Cleveland Cavaliers looked more like themselves at home in a 118-103 win over the Phoenix Suns on Thursday night (Friday, PHL time). The Cavs were back in Quicken Loans Arena following a six-game road trip (their longest of the season) that concluded with an embarrassing 35-point loss at Golden State. But on their home floor, they had better offensive balance and ball movement while improving to 30-11 -- the same record Cleveland had at the halfway point of its 2016 NBA championship season. Channing Frye scored 18, Iman Shumpert 17 and James Jones 14 while filling in for star forward Kevin Love, still bothered by back spasms. Tyson Chandler had 22 points and 16 rebounds, but the Suns lost for the fourth time in five games. Already thin on their front line with Love out, the Cavs lost forward Tristan Thompson in the second quarter with a dislocated left index finger. However, Thompson returned after halftime. And Cleveland's offense was in a much better rhythm from the start after a trip that wasn't always pleasing to the eye. While trying to integrate newly acquired Kyle Korver into their rotation on the road, the Cavs got into some bad habits as they forced passes to one of the league's best shooters. A couple of practices seem to have helped as Korver made a pair of three-pointers in the second quarter of his home debut to help Cleveland open a 21-point lead. The Suns made a brief run in the third and got within 12 before Shumpert hit a pair of three’s and Jones hit one from long range. strong>TIP-INS /strong> em> strong>Suns: /strong> /em> Chandler has at least 15 rebounds in six straight games, matching the club record set by Jim Fox in 1969. Phoenix coach Earl Watson has known Korver for years. When he joined the Jazz in 2010, Watson leased Korver's condominium in Utah. 'We go back. I sent him a lot of money every month,' Watson said with a smile. 'I'm glad I don't do that anymore.' On a serious note, Watson said Korver is a perfect addition for Cleveland, especially while J.R. Smith recovers from thumb surgery. 'He's a deadly knock-down shooter. He knows how to win,' Watson said. 'They're looking more long term instead of immediate. You get into the playoffs and you need a big three to stretch the floor. He's obviously the best shooter on their team. It's an impressive move.' em> strong>Cavaliers: /strong> /em>James, who missed his 46th career triple-double by one rebound, will be making his 13th consecutive All-Star Game appearance next month. He said the honor never gets old. 'Just means I've been doing something right in this league,' he said. 'Means I'm consistent and taking pride in my individual ability to go out and produce for the team every night, and whatever team I've been on in my career. It's always great to see my name up there with the best guys in the league, so it's a pretty cool thing.' Smith has had the hard cast removed from his right hand. He's expected back in late March. Jones made his first start since April 2, 2015. strong>UP NEXT /strong> em> strong>Suns: /strong> /em> At the New York Knicks on Saturday (Sunday, PHL time). Phoenix won the first meeting this season in overtime. em> strong>Cavaliers: /strong> /em>Host the San Antonio Spurs on Saturday (Sunday, PHL time) in a matchup between two of the NBA's best teams. .....»»

Category: sportsSource:  abscbnRelated NewsJan 20th, 2017

Curry, Durant, LeBron, Irving to start NBA All-Star game

Curry, Durant, LeBron, Irving to start NBA All-Star game.....»»

Category: sportsSource:  philstarRelated NewsJan 20th, 2017

Warriors break ground on San Francisco arena with fanfare

em>By Janie McCauley, Associated Press /em> SAN FRANCISCO (AP) — Hard hats on, Steve Kerr and Kevin Durant lifted their golden shovels filled with dirt in a ceremonial moment for the Warriors franchise as it broke ground on snazzy new San Francisco digs at long last. And keeping KD in a Golden State uniform to see it through is a key part of the grand plan. This project has already been 4.5 years in the making. 'Honestly, a relief to some extent,' owner and CEO Joe Lacob said. Kerr is campaigning for the Golden State name to stay put along with his superstar players. 'We are the Golden State Warriors and it's not up to me, but I don't want it to change,' Kerr said. 'It's a unique name. It's the only one like it in the league. I would like to see that remain. I fully believe we are still the Bay Area's team, no matter whether we're playing in Oakland or San Jose or San Francisco. The name Golden State Warriors, there's too much history, there's too much tradition to change.' Even if in a success-oriented business like the NBA, nobody knows who will still be around when 18,000-seat Chase Center is complete. Kerr has no idea if he will even still be on the sidelines then. 'If you're lucky enough in life, like I've been, you reach a point where you get to choose who you work with, you get to choose where you live and you get to choose where you work,' Kerr said. 'By those metrics, I want to stay here forever. I'm also an NBA coach and I'm well aware that this building is going to take about three years to build, so the chances of me standing on the sidelines for the Warriors are slim to hopeful. Maybe as, like, the coach of another team. 'So far, so good, so hopefully I'll still be here.' Next, Golden State will likely work to keep both two-time reigning MVP Stephen Curry and Durant for the long haul by negotiating new deals this year. Kerr speaks to Durant daily and knows he is happy with his new Bay Area surroundings. 'We're going to win for a long time. ... We'll do whatever it takes to be champions again,' Lacob said of spending on players. He even publicly put KD on the spot: 'Kevin Durant came here without a new arena. Thank you, Kevin ... and also for agreeing to re-sign this summer. I have no idea how he's going to respond to that.' The Warriors did a little bit of everything to showcase how this will be far more than just a sports venue: The over-the-top groundbreaking featured a trio of songs by a gospel choir to kick off festivities, included a performance by the San Francisco Symphony and even acrobatic dancers dressed as construction workers for a grand finale of sorts that included beach balls dropping from an excavator before the equipment rigs moved in synchronization to the music in an extravagant routine featuring trampolines. Only boosting the mood was the California Supreme Court's decision earlier in the day to deny a petition by arena opponents seeking to overturn the Warriors' entitlements, further clearing the way for the project to move ahead — 'so we're totally good to go here,' Lacob noted. 'Wow, what a day!' said Warriors COO Rick Welts, noting the team will boast one of the world's premier 'gathering places' — for concerts and conventions, political events and more. 'Every city needs it. We need it. It will be great for San Francisco,' co-owner Peter Guber said. 'We now have proof, not just promises.' Curry got a break from public duties this time, a day after the Warriors pulled off a stunning 126-91 rout of LeBron James and the defending champion Cavaliers. Golden State hosts Oklahoma City on Wednesday night (Thursday, PHL time). San Francisco Mayor Ed Lee — among dozens of dignitaries in attendance — hollered, 'finally welcoming the Golden State Warriors home to San Francisco!' He rattled off the Warriors' star-studded roster and the energy around the franchise and its long-term mission. 'What's not to love?' he said. Lacob can't wait — and realizes how many people will miss the great vibe at the team's current home of Oracle Arena, an atmosphere the Warriors hope to replicate in many ways. Not only will the 11 acres include restaurants, cafes, businesses and other new additions to add vitality to the neighborhood, there will be a 51.5-acre bay-front park across from the arena. 'It is going to sing,' he said. 'It takes my breath away when we look at the renderings.' .....»»

Category: sportsSource:  abscbnRelated NewsJan 18th, 2017