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Brown scores 30, Celtics roll to 120-106 win over Bucks

By Kyle Hightower, Associated Press BOSTON (AP) — Jaylen Brown had a playoff career-high 30 points and the Boston Celtics pulled away into second half to earn a 120-106 win over the Milwaukee Bucks on Tuesday night (Wednesday, PHL time). Terry Rozier added 23 points for Boston, which took a 2-0 series lead in the first-round matchup. Game 3 is set for Friday (Saturday, PHL time) in Milwaukee. The Celtics led by as many as 20 in the fourth quarter. Milwaukee got as close as 107-97 with 4:13 to play. But the Celtics responded with an 11-2 run, capped by a banked in three-pointer by Brown to push their lead back up to 118-99. Giannis Antetokounmpo finished with 30 points, nine rebounds and eight assists. Khris Middleton added 25 points. Turnovers were an issue for the second straight game for Milwaukee. The Bucks finished with 15, leading to 21 Boston points. They also shot just 41 percent from the free-throw line (7-of-17). The Celtics bench came up big, outscoring their Milwaukee counterparts 41-25. Marcus Morris led Boston’s reserves with 18 points. Boston led by as many as 13 in the first half, taking advantage of 10 Milwaukee turnovers. Antetokounmpo scored 18 points in the opening 24 minutes. He had his way on the inside, connecting on eight of his nine shots from the field. TIP-INS Bucks: Have been outscored 42-13 in second-chance points through two games. ... Shot 62 percent in the first half (23 of 37). Celtics: Brown is the youngest player in Celtics history to score 30 or more points in a playoff game. .. Boston went 13-of-31 from the three-point line. ... Shane Larkin (11 points) scored double-digits in a playoff game for the first time in his NBA career. FREAK’S STREAK Tuesday (Wednesday, PHL time) marked the ninth straight game that Antetokounmpo has scored at least 20 points against the Celtics. HEAVY HEART Celtics guard Marcus Smart has a heavy heart as he continues to work his way back from right thumb surgery. Smart revealed prior to Tuesday’s (Wednesday, PHL time) game that his mother, Camellia Smart, was recently diagnosed with bone marrow cancer. He was able to visit her briefly in Texas last week. But he said she wants him to be with the team because seeing him play would “put a smile on her face.” “She told me she’d rather me be here than back there,” Smart said. “Doing what I love to do.” HAYWARD UPDATE Gordon Hayward has hit a new milestone in his left ankle rehab. He is currently at St. Vincent Sports Performance in Indianapolis, Indiana, working with a running mechanics specialist. “We’re just trying to get him ready for Friday’s (Saturday, PHL time) game. And we’re hopeful he can play,” Stevens joked before the game. He then quickly made it clear it’s simply the “logical next step” in what remains a long rehab process. “He’s not gonna join us in Milwaukee,” Stevens said. “He’s still a long, long, long way away.” SPECIAL GUESTS Boston Marathon winner Desiree Linden was honored during a timeout in the first quarter. On Monday Linden became the first American woman to win the race since 1985. ... There were also several New England Patriots seated on the sideline and the crowd, including team owner Robert Kraft, Julian Edelman, Duron Harmon, James White and Kyle Van Noy......»»

Category: sportsSource: abscbn abscbnApr 18th, 2018

Rozier scores 33 as Celtics roll past Kings, 104-93

By Michael Wagaman, Associated Press SACRAMENTO, Calif. (AP) — Terry Rozier scored a season-high 33 points and nearly matched the Celtics' franchise record for three-pointers, Jaylen Brown made consecutive buckets to break open a close game in the fourth quarter, and Boston held on to beat the Sacramento Kings 104-93 on Sunday (Monday, PHL time). Making his sixth start in place of injured All-Star point guard Kyrie Irving, Rozier shot 12-of-16, including 8-of-12 on three's, in the rookie's most impressive game of the season. Rozier, who had been averaging 16.2 points in Irving's absence, also had five rebounds and three assists. The eight triples were one shy of the Celtics' single-game record of nine shared by Isaiah Thomas and Antoine Walker. One of Rozier's missed three's came on a rushed attempt with the shot clock winding down early in the fourth. Brown had 19 points in his return after missing two weeks with a concussion. Al Horford scored 14 points while Jayson Tatum added 12 points and seven rebounds to help Boston win in Sacramento for the first time since Feb. 1, 2011. Rozier's big game came 24 hours after Irving underwent surgery to remove a tension wire in his left knee. Irving is expected to miss three to six weeks. Boston, which began the day 4.5 games behind Toronto for the top spot in the East, won for the fourth time in five games. Buddy Hield scored 24 points for Sacramento, and Willie Cauley-Stein and Skal Labissiere had 14 points apiece. The Kings had won five straight home games against the Celtics and entered the fourth quarter down 80-78 before being held to 13 points in the final frame. Two days after protesters formed a human chain blocking entrances to Golden1 Center and prevented all but about 1,500 fans from entering, things were back to normal in and outside the arena. Metal barricades were extended further out than usual to form a bigger perimeter but that was the only indication that anything had happened. TIP-INS Celtics: Brown went to the bench with three fouls in the opening seven minutes of the first quarter. Kings: Zach Randolph did not play for the second consecutive game. Garrett Temple was also held out and missed his second straight since spraining his left ankle in practice Thursday. UP NEXT Celtics: At Phoenix on Monday night (Tuesday, PHL time). Kings: Host Dallas on Tuesday night (Wednesday, PHL time)......»»

Category: sportsSource:  abscbnRelated NewsMar 26th, 2018

LeBron scores 44 as Cavs even series with Celtics

By Tom Withers, Associated Press CLEVELAND (AP) — LeBron James scored 44 points, surpassed Kareem Abdul-Jabbar atop a postseason list and helped the Cleveland Cavaliers even the Eastern Conference finals at 2-2 on Monday night (Tuesday, PHL time) with a 111-102 victory over the Boston Celtics, who are looking forward to getting home. Pushed by a raucous crowd that wasn't so confident a few days ago, the Cavs held off Boston's comeback in the fourth quarter and squared a series that is now a best-of-three. Cleveland is trying to become the 20th team — out of 300 — to overcome a 2-0 deficit and James, who has already orchestrated two such rallies, is a step closer to a third. But to do it again the Cavs will have to win in Boston, where the Celtics are 9-0 this postseason. Game 5 is Wednesday night (Thursday, PHL time) at TD Center. Kyle Korver added 14 points with several hustle plays, and Tristan Thompson had 13 points and 12 rebounds for Cleveland. Jaylen Brown scored 25 and Boston had all five scorers in double figures, but the Celtics fell behind by 19 in the first half and didn't have enough to catch Cleveland. And, of course, they didn't have James, who moved past Jabbar (2,356) for the most field goals in playoff history. James also recorded his 25th career postseason game with at least 40 points — his sixth in this postseason. The Celtics hung around in the second half and pulled within 100-93 on Marcus Smart's basket with 4:29 left. But Thompson got free for a dunk, and after a miss by Boston, James recovered after making his seventh turnover by making a steal and layup. Moments later, James drilled a three-pointer from the left wing to finally put away the young Celtics, who will now feel the immense pressure of trying to hold off the three-time champion. Celtics coach Brad Stevens considered changing his starting lineup, but decided to stick with the same first five — Brown, Jayson Tatum, Marcus Morris, Al Horford, and Terry Rozier — as the first three games. Boston's starters held their own, but none of them was able to match James when it mattered most. The Celtics couldn't afford another slow start and that's exactly what happened. Boston got some open looks in the first quarter, but the Celtics shot just 27 percent (7-of-26) and both Tatum and Brown missed dunks. Also, Morris picked up three fouls and his teammates all seemed tentative as the Cavs pushed their lead to 15 at halftime. TIP-INS Celtics: Stevens was deliberately evasive about his starting lineup during his pregame news conference, not wanting to give the Cavs any advance notice. "We will start five people. I promise," he said, drawing laughs from media members. ... Injured stars Gordon Hayward and Kyrie Irving are not traveling with the team so they can continue their respective rehabs. Both have been sitting on the bench with their teammates in Boston. Cavaliers: Won their seventh straight playoff game at home. ... James also recorded his 106th 30-point game in the postseason. Only Michael Jordan (109) has more. ... Love threw one of his patented "touchdown" passes in the first quarter to James, who outmaneuvered Smart and Brown like a wide receiver to make the catch and score. ... Browns rookie quarterback Baker Mayfield, the No. 1 pick in last month's NFL draft, attended the game. Improved to 9-3 vs. Boston in the playoffs at Quicken Loans Arena. BLOWOUT CITY Like most fans, Lue has been stunned — but not necessarily disappointed — by the number of lopsided wins in the playoffs, especially in the semifinals. The first six games between Boston-Cleveland and Houston-Golden State were decided by an average of 24 points. The Warriors won Game 3 on Sunday night (Monday, PHL time) by 41, the largest margin of victory in franchise history. "It does surprise me," he said. "All four teams are really good. But the home court has shown it's been a factor." UP NEXT Game 5 is Wednesday (Thursday, PHL time) in Boston......»»

Category: sportsSource:  abscbnRelated NewsMay 22nd, 2018

Young Celtics look to stop James, Cavaliers

By Steve Aschburner, NBA.com For a few days at least, much of the talk about this rematch of the 2017 Eastern Conference finals will focus on what might have been. In what could have offered some poetic closure to the Eastern Conference portion of this season, former Cleveland Cavaliers point guard Kyrie Irving would be taking on his old team and, specifically, LeBron James, the superstar “big brother” whom he’d dissed by demanding a trade. Meanwhile, in a more perfect pulp-fiction world, Cleveland would be setting loose point guard Isaiah Thomas on the Boston Celtics, giving him a chance for payback to the team that dealt him away the instant it sniffed the chance to land Irving. Those plotlines are kaput; Irving’s season ended in March with left knee surgery, Thomas got dealt from Cleveland at the February trade deadline. The best we’ll get now are sideline shots of Irving in street clothes on Boston’s bench, reacting to the series’ ebbs and flows. Thomas might be limited to tweeting from afar. That leaves one clear, distinct narrative: The King of the East vs. perhaps the best collection of aspirants to his throne. James is trying to cap one of his most remarkable seasons by advancing to his eighth consecutive Finals, having led the Cavaliers to the past three after four with the Miami Heat. He has coaxed and carried these Cavs along a steep learning curve, finally getting them spiffed up by the end of their sweep of Toronto. “He’s been doing this for a long time,” Boston’s Marcus Smart said after the clincher over Philadelphia. “He’s, if not the greatest, one of the greatest to do it. What better way than to go up and compete against a guy that’s [going to have] statues and things like that.” The Celtics, by contrast, are a team trying to write fresh history. They’re ahead of schedule, too, given Irving’s absence and the loss of prize free agent Gordon Hayward way back on opening night to a gruesome leg injury, coincidentally, in Cleveland. Boston put out a talented Milwaukee Bucks club in the opening round, then dumped the Philadelphia 76ers -- another rising franchise in the East – in five games. And for those who think the West has the sexier conference clash, this one offers a pretty slick matchup: James against Boston coach Brad Stevens. Widely regarded as a master tactician, Stevens -- whose Celtics lost in five games to the Cavaliers in last year’s East finals -- gets another multi-game shot. In last year’s series, James averaged these numbers to beat: 29.6 ppg, 6.4 rpg, 6.8 apg, 2.2 spg and 1.2 bpg. 3 quick questions and answers 1. Who guards LeBron? This is the first question (or should be) of every preview of every playoff series every year of James’ career since he first started qualifying in 2006. Toronto used the length of OG Anunoby and Pascal Siakam on James but neither of the Celtics’ young, long forwards -- Jaylen Brown or Jayson Tatum -- would be ideal for the duty, because Boston needs their scoring. Brown will take his turn but look for Marcus Morris and Marcus Smart in the crosshairs, counting on their physical force to bother Cleveland’s star. With undoubtedly lots of help and different looks, all the while sticking close to shooters like Kyle Korver, J.R. Smith and Kevin Love. Said center Aron Baynes late Wednesday (Thursday, PHL time): “We know where the head of the snake is and we know what we have to focus on but he’s got a lot of great role players around him and some other guys that can really create as well. 2. Will Point Guard Showdown 1A be a letdown? So instead of Irving vs. Thomas, we’ll get Terry Rozier vs. George Hill. That’s not a bad backup plan, because Rozier has had a star-is-born postseason so far and Hill has been a huge help to the Cavs after missing 3.5 games in the first round. Hill has more experience and is a scrappy defender, but Rozier -- who averaged 16.7 points and shot 47.1 percent from three in the regular season vs. Cleveland -- has speed and energy that might swing this matchup in Boston’s favor. 3. Will Love love this matchup with Horford? Kevin Love doesn’t like playing center, but Cavs coach Tyronn Lue likes the effect that has on opposing defenses. Love has an inside-outside game that makes him a tough cover for both the big fives and for more agile power-forward types. The challenge in this round is how Love copes with Al Horford, who has comparable forward’s skills. It won’t be a traditional battle of bigs, for which Love will be grateful after tangling with Toronto’s jumbo Jonas Valanciunas. The number to know 18.5 -- The Cavs scored 121.5 points per 100 possessions in the conference semifinals against Toronto, 18.5 more than they scored in the first round against Indiana (103.0). The Indy series was too close for comfort; The Pacers actually outscored Cleveland by 40 points in the series and Cavs not named James registered an effective field goal percentage of just 47 percent (the league average is 52 percent). But things were much different against the No. 1 seed, with Kyle Korver and J.R. Smith combining to shoot 24-for-38 (63 percent) from 3-point range and Kevin Love recovering from a funk to average 25 points on 54 percent shooting over the final three games. The Cavs' defense remains a question, but they always have the ability to score points in bunches. The Celtics had the No. 1 defense in the regular season and the regular season series was on the ugly side (the teams combined to score just 100 points per 100 possessions), but Boston will have to pick its poison with James surrounded by shooters that have started to shoot well. -- John Schuhmann Making the pick The Cavaliers won two of the three meetings between these teams in the regular season, with their more impressive victory coming mere days after the Cleveland roster makeover at the trade deadline. The Cavs were plus-11 in the season series, James averaged 24.0 ppg, 10.3 rpg and 8.3 apg, Boston shot 30-of-106 from three and ... aw, who are we kidding? Regular season results matter little now. James is determined to win his 24th consecutive Eastern Conference series to reach his eighth straight Finals. He was a maestro vs. the Raptors in drawing out his teammates’ games. The Celtics, allowing for their injuries, already have overachieved. That ends here. Cavaliers in 6......»»

Category: sportsSource:  abscbnRelated NewsMay 11th, 2018

Celtics stare down adversity, look forward to 76ers

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

Category: sportsSource:  abscbnRelated NewsApr 29th, 2018

Giannis, Bucks beat Celtics 97-86 to force Game 7

By Genaro C. Armas, Associated Press MILWAUKEE (AP) — Giannis Antetokounmpo had 31 points and 14 rebounds and the Milwaukee Bucks pulled away late to beat the Boston Celtics 97-86 on Thursday night (Friday, PHL time) to force a Game 7 in the first-round series. Khris Middleton and Malcolm Brogdon each added 16 points, with Brogdon hitting a momentum-swinging triple from the left corner to give the Bucks a two-possession lead with 5:22 left. The Bucks held the Celtics at bay from there to force the winner-take-all game Saturday night (Sunday, PHL time) in Boston. The up-and-coming Bucks haven't played a seventh game in the playoffs since losing to the Atlanta Hawks in the first round in 2010. Both teams went on extended runs to take big leads. The Bucks made the last big push to close out the Celtics. Boston had to settle for perimeter looks down the stretch. They couldn't hit enough three's, finishing 10-of-36 (28 percent) on the night, and the Bucks limited Boston on the glass. On offense, Antetokounmpo led the Bucks' charge right at the heart of the Celtics' defense. After Eric Bledsoe picked off Jayson Tatum's inbounds pass, Antetokounmpo converted an offensive rebound with a putback off the glass for an 89-81 lead with 3:08 left. It was part of an 11-3 run late to help the Bucks pull away for 10-point advantage. With his team facing elimination, Antetokounmpo vowed to be more aggressive following a five-point loss in Game 5. The two-time All-Star produced in the crunch time, scoring 20 points in the second half on 8-of-14 shooting. Tatum finished with 22 points, and Terry Rozier had 18 for the Celtics. After holding the edge on the glass for most of the series, Boston got outrebounded 48-39. TIP-INS Celtics: Coach Brad Stevens stuck with the same starting five he used for Game 5, with Semi Ojeleye in for Aron Baynes for a quicker frontcourt on defense. ... Former President Bill Clinton attended the game and exchanged handshakes with guard Marcus Smart. ... Jaylen Brown added 14 points on 6-of-15 shooting. Bucks: C John Henson (back) missed his fourth straight game, with Thon Maker getting his first start of the series over Tyler Zeller. Maker finished with four points and one block. ... Held a 25-4 edge on transition points. ... Jabari Parker had another strong game off the bench with 11 points and 11 rebounds, while Tony Snell had 13 points. UP NEXT Game 7 is Saturday night (Sunday, PHL time) at the TD Garden in Boston......»»

Category: sportsSource:  abscbnRelated NewsApr 27th, 2018

Tied up: Giannis tip-in lifts Bucks over Celtics in Game 4

By Genaro C. Armas, Associated Press MILWAUKEE (AP) — After losing a 20-point lead to the Boston Celtics, the Milwaukee Bucks were determined not to lose another playoff game. Leave it to All-Star forward Giannis Antetokounmpo to come up with a big play in the final seconds on Sunday (Monday, PHL time). Antetokounmpo scored 27 points, including tipping in the go-ahead basket with five seconds left, and the Bucks held on for a 104-102 win to tie their first-round playoff series at two games apiece. The Greek Freak wins it!!#FearTheDeer pic.twitter.com/gQXjPcTbvS — Milwaukee Bucks (@Bucks) April 22, 2018 Boston's Marcus Morris missed a 14-footer at the buzzer with Khris Middleton's hand in his face to seal a nail-biting win for the Bucks. Seconds earlier, the 6'11" Antetokounmpo jumped and reached up with his left arm around Boston's Jayson Tatum to put back Malcolm Brogdon's missed layup for the game-winner. "It's a heck of play," coach Joe Prunty said. Game 5 is Tuesday night (Wednesday, PHL time) in Boston. Antetokounmpo added seven rebounds and five assists, while Middleton scored 23 points. The Bucks' two best players were clutch in the closing seconds of a tense victory, another sign of maturity for the one of the league's up-and-coming teams. "One of the most important things that we can carry from this game moving forward is that we stayed disciplined and we trusted one another," Antetokounmpo said. It could just as easily have fallen apart for Milwaukee after losing a 20-point lead with 7:37 left in the third quarter. Jaylen Brown had 34 points for the Celtics, while Tatum added 21. Tatum's 18-footer with 52 seconds left gave the Celtics a brief 100-99 lead. He just couldn't hold off Antetokounmpo on the other end for the decisive tip-in. The disappointing end for the Celtics overshadowed their spirited rally from a 65-45 deficit. Play got chippy and the Celtics limited the Bucks' transition game. They came up one basket short at the end. Antetokounmpo "made a great tip-in and he was battling for the ball. That's what great players do," coach Brad Stevens said. Both teams traded clutch buckets down the stretch. After Tatum's long jumper, Brogdon hit a transition triple from the corner for a 102-100 lead with 33 seconds left. Al Horford followed with two foul shots to tie the game at 102 with 29 seconds remaining. They couldn't send the game into overtime. Morris bent over in frustration near the Boston bench after his fadeaway hit the rim. "We got the look we wanted ... It's a shot that [Morris] can make 10 out of 10 times," Brown said. "It didn't go in tonight. So Game 5, keep moving forward." TIP-INS Celtics: Stevens kept his starting five intact after the team never recovered from a disastrous first quarter in Game 3. Stevens said he would likely only make a switch for matchup purposes. ... Boston ended with a 43-36 edge on the boards. ... Morris finished with 13 points and shot 4-of-14. Bucks: Starting C John Henson missed a second straight game with a sore back. ... The Bucks went with the same starting five as Game 3, with Zeller replacing Henson and Brogdon starting for Tony Snell. ... Jabari Parker led a vigorous effort off the bench with 16 points and seven rebounds. Backup C Thon Maker blocked five shots and played most of the fourth quarter. OFF THE BENCH The Bucks' reinvigorated bench outscored the Celtics' reserves 31-15. Parker, in particular, gave the team a lift in the first half with perhaps his best defensive play of the year after forcing turnovers on two straight Boston possessions at one point. QUOTABLE "We played great in the second half. We played great in the first six minutes of the game. The 18 minutes that ended the first half were not good. They had a lot to do with that." — Stevens. BLOCK PARTY The Bucks set a franchise playoff high with 14 blocks, eclipsing the previous high of 13 set in Game 3. The 7'1" Maker has turned into disruptive presence after playing sparingly in the first two games. He's getting extended minutes because Henson's injury. "Thon is playing extremely assertive. The blocked shots are going to stand out because that's something somebody can see on the stat sheet," Prunty said. STAT LINES Brown picked up the second 30-point game of the postseason after scoring just one 30-point game in the regular season. He was 13-of-24 from the field but 2-of-10 from the three-point arc. ... The Bucks shot at least 52 percent from the field for the third straight game. UP NEXT Game 5 is Tuesday (Wednesday, PHL time) at the TD Garden in Boston......»»

Category: sportsSource:  abscbnRelated NewsApr 22nd, 2018

Budding Sixers take control of series in Miami

By Shaun Powell, NBA.com MIAMI — Back in 2014, when the Miami Heat were wrapping up their championship-fueled era, the Philadelphia 76ers began plotting their own. And they did it unconventionally, laughably and by any measure, dreadfully. It was Year One of the most ambitious rebuilding plan before or since, when the Sixers willingly laid down and became a doormat and allowed other teams to wipe their sneakers on them. That season, while LeBron James and Dwyane Wade and Chris Bosh cruised to a fourth straight appearance, and their last together, in the NBA Finals, the Sixers lost 63 games. And then they got better at this tanking technique and lost 64 and 72 the next two years. But fast-forward to now, to Saturday (Sunday, PHL time) at American Airlines Arena, and the roles with the Heat and Sixers are threatening to flip. Maybe not so drastically, but it’s clear through four games of this first-round playoff series that the Sixers are going one way and the Heat another. The Sixers have Ben Simmons and Joel Embiid, a pair of young bedrocks slowly building something with the potential to be big. The Heat? They have banners in the rafters commemorating what they used to be, not so long ago. Philly also has something else on Miami, namely a 3-1 series lead after Simmons became the first rookie since Magic Johnson to drop a triple-double in a playoff game and Embiid fought through a poor shooting game and an irritating protective mask to spook any Heat player that challenged him at the rim. It was the Sixers who made all the right plays in the final crucial moments in the 106-102 win, getting key stops and buckets and pulling away, a team with a young core turning mature, and doing it rapidly, despite their lack of post-season experience. And having a front-row seat to this new Process was none other than Wade, a proud if aging member of the extinct Big Three who realizes something unique is happening with the Sixers. “This is a very good team,” said Wade. “They’ve got talent at almost every position. This is definitely one of the best first-round opponents I’ve played in my career.” Are the Sixers all that, already? “They’re good,” said Wade. “They’re special. They put the right team together.” Yes, they have. Maybe it wasn’t properly done in the spirit of competition, and perhaps they embarrassed themselves if not the league while doing so, but that’s all behind the Sixers right now. What’s ahead of them is a potential series-clinching Game 5 in Philly and from there, who knows? Yes, the core of the Sixers is Simmons, Embiid and Dario Saric, all under 25, and in the playing rotation only JJ Redick and Marco Belinelli earned any significant playoff money. But if a young team is ever going to reach the NBA Finals, this is the right time, and this is the right team. Just look at the wide-open landscape in the East: LeBron and the Cavaliers, winners of the last three East titles, are down 2-1 to the Pacers and haven’t appeared this fragile since LeBron returned to Cleveland. The Celtics are missing Kyrie Irving and Gordon Hayward. Toronto is the No. 1 seed in the East but inspires few outside Canada. Why not the Sixers? Why not now? Simmons is lacking a jump shot and little else, and still manages to score anyway. His direction of the club in the fourth quarter of Game 4 was near-masterful; Simmons stayed poised, found the open man and popped the Heat’s comeback hopes with an uncontested dunk when Miami pulled within a point. Embiid couldn’t hit a shot and yet didn’t fall into a funk; rather he terrorized Miami by being a defensive force, punctuated by his spike of a Goran Dragic late-fourth quarter breakaway layup attempt (followed by an Embiid stare down). “They make you pay every time you make a mistake,” said Wade. Speaking of which, the Sixers had 27 turnovers, certainly the recipe for disaster, and still found a way. In the words of coach Brett Brown: “I’m surprised we won this game. We really didn’t have any right to win this game.” But maybe it’s just additional proof that this is Philly’s time. It’s quite a contrast to the ex-bully on the block. Four years after LeBron made the second biggest decision of his life, the Heat are still searching for the identity they had when the champagne flowed, and the party rolled on South Beach. The only reminder is Wade, and at age 36 he’s only capable of having flashes now, like his 28 points in Game 2 and an impressive 25-point follow up Saturday that was marred only by a missed free throw in the final seconds. Besides that, there’s nothing special. Pat Riley’s latest attempt to recreate a winner is looking dubious right now. Riley decided two summers ago to build the Heat around a seven-foot center with low post-skills, which means Riley gave a $100 million to a dinosaur. And one with a decaying relationship with coach Erik Spoelstra. Hassan Whiteside can’t get on the floor in today’s NBA, where small-ball makes him a liability in certain situations. With no shooting range, and perhaps no incentive to develop one, Whiteside finds himself on the bench in fourth quarters and on the nerves of Spoelstra. “He’s a prisoner of the style of play,” said Brown. Plus: Riley also paid Josh Richardson, James Johnson, Tyler Johnson and Kelly Olynyk. Which means the Heat are almost guaranteed to be a 43-win team fighting for the final playoff spot for the next few years. When the Heat searched for someone to bail them out Saturday (Sunday, PHL time), who did they turn to? An aging All-Star who’s on the downside, which says something about Wade … and the Heat’s roster. “He ended up being our best option,” said Spoelstra. There’s another path the Heat can take, of course. They could follow the current Hawks, Nets, Lakers and Magic, who all took their cues from the 2014 Sixers, and take a few steps back before moving forward. But that’s not a fool-proof plan — have you seen the Magic the last few years? — and besides, losing by any means isn’t in Riley’s DNA. So, mediocrity it is, then. Meanwhile, the Sixers have Embiid and Simmons and if you ask fans in Philly, they’d say it was well worth the steep price, in terms of the misery of tanking, paid for them. “They’re two players that have the chance to be great,” said Brown. “Joel has no right to be doing some of the things he does. Ben’s composure down the stretch is amazing. Those two are exceptional.” What the Sixers just did was win a pair in Miami, under the banners that hung over them, was fly in the face of basketball convention which says youth doesn’t get served in the post-season. They can close out at home and then get the survivor of Celtics-Bucks, and Philly can expect to be the favorite in that conference semifinal. “I can see how much we’ve grown and how much more room we have to grow,” said Brown. “To come here and get a win, in this building, against an organization of winning and culture and history, it’s special.” There’s another story here: If the Sixers eliminate the Heat, then it could be curtains for Wade, who doesn’t have a contract for next season, who hasn’t committed to playing beyond this season, and who paused suspiciously for about three seconds when asked if Saturday was his final game in Miami. “I don’t want to answer that right now,” he said. Whether he sticks around or takes the sunset cruise, Wade must realize that a transformation is taking place in the East. After years of deliberately bad basketball the Sixers are finally bearing fruit, and oh, speaking of food, Wade and the Heat can chew on this for a minute: The Sixers have room under the salary cap to give Embiid and Simmons some help next season. LeBron James, free agent-to-be, might reach the conclusion that the Sixers are his best championship option. 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 22nd, 2018

BLOGTABLE: 2018 pre-playoffs predictions

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

Category: sportsSource:  abscbnRelated NewsApr 14th, 2018

Celtics still eyeing long playoff run after rash of injuries

By Kyle Hightower, Associated Press BOSTON (AP) — Kyrie Irving and Gordon Hayward exchanged the kind of toothy giggles normally only found between kids on a playground when they were introduced as the new faces of the Celtics. “It’s about to be crazy, G,” Irving said in the ear of Hayward to a soundtrack of clicking camera lenses as they sat on a dais back in September two days after Boston’s blockbuster trade with the Cleveland Cavaliers. Seven months later, Irving has proven to be prophetic — albeit not how he had in mind. It has been crazy unlucky for the Celtics. Stunning too. Al Horford said even shocking. And though things haven’t gone as scripted in Boston, the Celtics will open the playoffs at the No. 2 seed in the Eastern Conference believing they can win it all without their injured offseason acquisitions. “Finals. I’m very confident,” guard Terry Rozier when asked how far Boston can go. “Everybody has to be on the same page. And we just gotta play. And play hard.” That’s been Boston’s calling card throughout the season. They have no choice but to play hard because from Hayward’s gruesome, season-ending left ankle injury on opening night, to the recent pair of left knee surgeries that has sidelined Irving, luck has been in short supply beyond the Celtics’ Leprechaun mascot named Lucky. Horford acknowledged being shocked when he heard that Irving was done for the season. But he said the time has passed for sulking about misfortunes. “We can’t dwell on the past,” Horford said. Obviously it makes it more difficult. Kyrie, he’s the leader of this team. We won with him and now we have to find ways to do it without him.” In addition to Irving and Hayward, Boston will also be without productive rookie Daniel Theis (left knee surgery) for the season and Marcus Smart (right thumb surgery) until at minimum the second round. That’s not to mention a plethora of nagging injuries that have dogged the rest of the roster. Yet, in an Eastern Conference that features a less-than-dominating LeBron James-led Cavaliers team, Boston veterans Horford and Marcus Morris and its corps of talented young players led by Jaylen Brown, Rozier and rookie Jayson Tatum give it as legitimate a chance as anyone to make it to the NBA Finals. The Celtics will finish with their second straight 50-win season and their highest number of victories under coach Brad Stevens. Last season as the East’s top seed, Boston made it to the conference finals in spite of being smacked with adversity on the eve of the postseason following the death of Isaiah Thomas’ sister. Thomas returned to the team, but was then lost midway through the conference finals to a hip injury he’d been quietly playing through. “With Isaiah, we had him all year. Even though he was banged up, he was with us,” Horford said. “Now with our group this year it’s different. We’ve been having so many injuries throughout the year that I feel like our guys — we’re much more prepared handling everything that we’re going through.” The good news is this Celtics team has already done an admirable job of figuring things out without Hayward and Irving. They’ve played all but five minutes this season without Hayward. In 20 games without Irving they are 13-7. Irving played his last game on March 11 (Mar. 12, PHL time). That’s given Boston time to see what its remaining rotation will look like. One thing it will certainly mean is a lot more minutes for reserves like Shane Larkin and Greg Monroe, as well as rookies Semi Ojeleye and Guerschon Yabusele. Stevens acknowledged that there was hope after Irving’s first surgery on his knee last month that removed a tension wire that he would be able to return early in the playoffs. Having him ruled out has “just solidified that this is where our focus needs to be” he said. “It’s a great opportunity for the other guys and it’s our job to coach them,” Stevens said. “I believe in the guys in our locker room. They believe in themselves.” Without Irving, the most glaring deficiency for Boston is its lack of a go-to scorer. Brown is just a few games removed from scoring a career-high 32 points, and Rozier only recently had a 25-game double-digit scoring streak stopped. He’s also proven to be a dependable defender. Still, there is a sense in the East that Boston may be susceptible to a first-round upset. Miami and Milwaukee, currently have the same record (43-37) as the No. 6 and 7 seeds respectively. The Heat won 2-of-3 meetings this season with Boston, while the Celtics split their four games with the Bucks. Washington, at No. 8 leads the season series with Boston 2-1 with the series finale set on Tuesday night (Wednesday, PHL time). Vulnerable or not, Horford has a message for whoever their first-round opponent is. “We’re the [No.] 2 seed. We have home-court advantage,” he said. “And this point, the only thing I can say to that is I can’t wait for the playoffs to start.”.....»»

Category: sportsSource:  abscbnRelated NewsApr 10th, 2018

No stopping Rockets as they roll to 17th straight victory

MILWAUKEE --- The Houston Rockets had trouble at times holding on to the ball and keeping up with the young Milwaukee Bucks. But as long as the Rockets keep hitting their 3-pointers, they're pretty hard to beat. James Harden scored 26 points, Eric Gordon had 18 points and two momentum-swinging 3s in the third quarter, and Houston beat Milwaukee 110-99 on Wednesday night for its 17th straight win. The Rockets passed the Boston Celtics for the longest winning streak in the NBA this season. Houston hasn't lost since Jan. 26 at New Orleans. "We find ways to win," Harden said. "It's not going to be the same way every game." The latest victory came on the second of a tough...Keep on reading: No stopping Rockets as they roll to 17th straight victory.....»»

Category: newsSource:  inquirerRelated NewsMar 8th, 2018

Brown scores 21 as Celtics pound Bulls without Irving

CHICAGO --- This time, Boston delivered the big beating in Chicago with Kyrie Irving sidelined. Jaylen Brown scored 21 points, and the Celtics pounded the Bulls 105-89 on Monday night even though their All-Star guard sat out because of a sore left knee. They remembered what happened when they visited in December, getting blown out with Irving sidelined by a bruised quadriceps, and made it clear right from the start that wasn't going to happen again. The Celtics immediately took control, building a 37-point lead on the way to their fifth win in six games. "Kyrie didn't play last time (and) they felt like they could beat us and they did beat us by 20-plus points," Brown said...Keep on reading: Brown scores 21 as Celtics pound Bulls without Irving.....»»

Category: newsSource:  inquirerRelated NewsMar 6th, 2018

This Week in NBA History: Cavs blow it up at the 2008 deadline

Prior to the 2018 NBA trade deadline, the Cleveland Cavaliers decided they were in need of a big-time shakeup. We all know now what happened back on February 9 (PHL time). In three trades, GM Koby Altman sent out Isaiah Thomas, Channing Frye, Iman Shumpert, Jae Crowder, Derrick Rose, and Dwyane Wade, getting back in exchange Jordan Clarkson, Larry Nance Jr., Rodney Hood, and George Hill (they also sent out their 2018 first round pick, a 2020 second-round pick via Miami, cash, and the draft rights to Dimitrios Agravanis). Initial reactions have been positive. The Cavaliers definitely were not going back to the Finals with the roster they had coming into the season. They were too old, didn't have enough shooting, and had severe chemistry problems. Not only did The Land upgrade at several positions of need, they got younger, and they didn't have to shed their coveted 2018 unprotected Brooklyn Nets first rounder. Obviously, they'll need to work on their chemistry now, and when Kevin Love returns to the lineup, but you can't help but feel their chances of making it to four straight Finals increased as a result of all their wheeling and dealing. Ten years ago, the Cavaliers found themselves in a similar situation. On February 21, 2008 (back when the trade deadline came after All-Star Weekend), the Cavaliers, the Chicago Bulls, and the Seattle Supersonics, agreed to a three-team trade that shook up their squads. Cleveland sent out Donyell Marshall and Ira Newble to the Supersonics, and shipped Shannon Brown, Drew Gooden, Larry Hughes, and Cedric Simmons to the Bulls. In exchange, Team LBJ welcomed Joe Smith, Ben Wallace, Wally Szczerbiak, and Delonte West (plus a 2009 second-round pick that later turned out to be...Danny Green!). Cavaliers press release The day before that trade deadline, the Cavaliers were 30-24, in fifth place in the East, and a whopping 12 games behind the newly-formed Big Three of the Boston Celtics (though they did beat them that same month, 114-113 on Feb. 5). The season prior, LeBron James and company made it to the NBA Finals, only to get swept by the San Antonio Spurs. Now, with Boston dominating, team management obviously felt they needed a little extra push if they were to make it back. Prior to the trade, Cleveland was running out a first-five of James, Hughes, Newble, Gooden, and Zydrunas Ilgauskas. Boobie Gibson, Damon Jones, and Marshall provided shooting off the bench, while Dwayne Jones and Anderson Varejao were extra muscle. Post-trade, the hope was that Wallace and Smith would boost their interior defense, while sprinkling in some much-needed veteran know-how. Delonte West was seen as a more dynamic, versatile running-mate to James, and Szczerbiak could further bolster their long-range shooting. Cleveland won their first game with the new additions (they edged the Washington Wizards in the game they played before the new additions had finished their physicals), thumping the Memphis Grizzlies 109-89. They dropped their next two though, versus the Milwaukee Bucks, and those aforementioned Celtics, before winding up with a 45-37 record, good for #4 in the East (though they went just 14-13 in the aftermath of the trade). In the Playoffs, Cleveland needed six games to hurdle the Wizards in round one, before running smack into the team they made the moves to counter: the Celtics. The two squads went back-and-forth, each winning on their respective courts, but with Game 7 at the TD Garden, it was the Celtics who emerged triumphant, via a 97-92 result. And we know of course that Boston then went on to win the 2008 NBA Championship. But back to 2018. After a spirited pair of wins prior to All-Star Weekend, Cleveland has now gone 1-2 after the breaking, losing to the John Wall-less Wizards and the San Antonio Spurs. There's still 23 games left to play though, and a lot can still happen, including, as previously mentioned, working Kevin Love back in. Suffice to say, things are always interesting in in Cleveland when LeBron James is involved. With a special talent like he is, general managers really do have to ensure they're creating a roster that can put him in the best position to go deep into the postseason. That's what happened in 2008, and that's what happened again this year. Now the question is, how far will they go? The views on this page do not necessarily reflect the views of the NBA, its clubs or ABS-CBN Sports......»»

Category: sportsSource:  abscbnRelated NewsFeb 26th, 2018

BLOGTABLE: Can Bucks make a push for third in the East?

NBA.com blogtable With Jabari Parker set to return to the lineup this week, can you see the Milwaukee Bucks securing a top three seed in the East? * * * David Aldridge: I don’t think so. The Cavs and Wizards, with Kevin Love and John Wall each out at least six weeks with hand and knee injuries, are both vulnerable to be sure and likely to be bottom four in the East rather than top four. But I have the feeling Miami’s going to be a buyer at the deadline and add another piece in order to rise to and solidify that third spot. Now, if Milwaukee moves John Henson or otherwise makes an impact deal at the deadline to add more shooting, I might feel differently about it. Plus, I do think it’s going to take Parker a while to get back up to speed, and that adjustment period could cost Milwaukee in the short term. Steve Aschburner: With Parker set to return and with Kevin Love out for 6-8 weeks with a broken hand and with John Wall missing 6-8 weeks to knee surgery? That’s how the question really sets up, with two of the three reachable teams ahead of Milwaukee in the standings losing the services of a vital player for the near future. But y’know what, I’ll still say no. First, the Bucks will have their own adjustments to make to adding a player rather than subtracting one -- they’ve got to learn anew how to best blend Parker, Giannis Antetokounmpo, Khris Middleton and Eric Bledsoe. Second, Milwaukee doesn’t need the first three seeds but it sure could use the fourth for homecourt edge in Round 1. If we get a little more separation among those teams, that’s where I see the Bucks aiming: No. 4. Trey Kerby: Jabari Parker will help the Bucks in a lot of different ways -- more scoring, more shooting, another starter-caliber player on the court to take a little responsibility off the shoulders of Giannis and Bledsoe -- but he’s still just 22 years old and coming off his second knee injury in four NBA seasons. Considering the Bucks are chasing teams that have one of the best offenses (the Raptors), defenses (Celtics) or players (Cavaliers) in the league, I can’t see them making a realistic run at a top three spot in the Eastern Conference. Homecourt advantage in the first round should be the goal for this team. Tas Melas: Whose spot would they take? The Celtics and the Raptors aren’t going anywhere, but the 3rd-seeded Cavs, in the words of the late Tom Petty, are "Free Fallin’". I would pick Miami as more likely to jump Cleveland based on a more home-heavy schedule and less growing pains of working with a new (interim) coach and new-ish rotational player. Shaun Powell: Uh, no. You're asking Jabari Parker to hit the ground running after missing two-thirds of the season, and the Bucks are also getting used to a new coach and a tweaked system at the moment. That's a lot going on for a team that's still very inconsistent. Their ceiling is the four or five spot because Miami is on a roll and the Cavs will figure it out in time to prevent a free-fall in the standings. John Schuhmann: Kevin Love's injury might make things more interesting, but it's still hard to see Parker giving the Bucks enough to catch the Cavs for third place in the East. Prior to getting hurt last season, he didn't move the needle much on either end of the floor. But the hope should be that he can help in the minutes when Giannis Antetokounmpo is on the bench, when the Bucks have been almost 14 points per 100 possessions worse than in the minutes with Antetokounmpo on the floor. Either way, Milwaukee is the clear favorite to secure the 4 seed in the East, and not because Parker is coming back. The Wizards are without John Wall for the next 6-8 weeks and Miami isn't as good as their record (they're 4th in the East with the conference's 10th best point differential). Sekou Smith: No. I can't see it right now. Not from here. But that doesn't mean it's impossible. Jabari Parker could provide the Bucks with a huge boost if he's ready to get back to playing the way he was before his latest injury occurred. But that's asking a lot, more than what is fair, to be honest. Parker is probably eager to prove me, and anyone else who doubts the Bucks' lofty playoff ambitions, wrong. And he should be. But not at the expense of his comeback. He has to find his rhythm first. And with a new point guard and new head coach, that won't be as easy as some people think. A top four seed should be the carrot the Bucks chase the rest of the way. Anything beyond that is a bonus......»»

Category: sportsSource:  abscbnRelated NewsFeb 1st, 2018

Embiid scores 26, Sixers beat Celtics 90-89

By Doug Alden, Associated Press BOSTON (AP) — Joel Embiid celebrated his first NBA All-Star selection with 26 points and matched a career best with 16 rebounds, leading the Philadelphia 76ers to an 89-80 win over the Boston Celtics on Thursday night (Friday, PHL time). Dario Saric scored 16 for Philadelphia, which won for the sixth time in seven games and ended a three-game losing streak against Boston. T.J. McConnell had 15 points — all in the second half. Boston played without All-Star guard Kyrie Irving, who rested a sore left shoulder. Al Horford and Marcus Morris each scored 14 points. After winning seven in a row, Boston has lost two straight. The Celtics had no answer for Embiid, who was 10-for-19 from the floor and 6-of-7 at the foul line. He also had six assists and blocked two shots. Embiid scored 10 in the third quarter and McConnell had nine points in the period, helping the Sixers pull away. Marcus Smart scored 13 and Jaylen Brown had 12 points for Boston, which committed 19 turnovers and was outrebounded 41-31 by the Sixers. Boston and Philadelphia also played last Thursday (last Friday, PHL time) in London, with the Celtics winning 114-103. The 76ers led this one 71-53 after three. McConnell made a three-pointer with 9:58 to go for a 79-59 lead — the largest of the game. Jayson Tatum’s three-pointer with 2:01 remaining trimmed Philadelphia’s lead to 86-79, but Boston’s rally fizzled from there. TIP-INS 76ers: Embiid is the first Philadelphia player selected as an All-Star starter since Allen Iverson in the 2010-2011 season. He is the first Sixers All-Star since Jrue Holiday in 2013. ... McConnell was coming off a career-high 18 points Monday (Tuesday, PHL time) against Toronto. ... JJ Redick, who injured his left leg Monday (Tuesday, PHL time) against Toronto, did not play. Celtics: Irving made the All-Star game for the fifth time. ... The Celtics honored Jo Jo White, a two-time NBA champion who played 10 seasons for Boston, with a video tribute and a No. 10 draped over his regular seat. White died Tuesday (Wednesday, PHL time) at age 71. UP NEXT 76ers: Host Milwaukee on Saturday night (Sunday, PHL time). Celtics: Host Orlando on Sunday (Monday, PHL time).  .....»»

Category: sportsSource:  abscbnRelated NewsJan 19th, 2018

Beasley scores 32, carries Knicks past Celtics, 102-93

By Brian Mahoney, Associated Press NEW YORK (AP) — Michael Beasley scored 28 of his season-high 32 points in the second half, helping the New York Knicks shake off a dismal return by Kristaps Porzingis to beat the Boston Celtics 102-93 on Thursday night (Friday, PHL time). Beasley went back to the bench with Porzingis back from a knee injury, but he was on the floor in the fourth quarter while Porzingis watched from the sideline as the former No. 2 overall pick punished the Celtics inside and out to help the Knicks pull away. Porzingis was 0-for-11 from the field and finished with one point after missing two games with a sore left knee. The “MVP! MVP!” chants he has heard this season instead went to Beasley, who also had 12 rebounds. He surpassed the 30 points he scored last Saturday (last Sunday, PHL time) against Carmelo Anthony and Oklahoma City with a jumper with 1:06 remaining that stopped a little run by Boston and gave New York an eight-point lead. The Knicks held on for their fifth victory in six games. Kyrie Irving scored 32 points for the Celtics, who lost for the second night. They played without starter Jaylen Brown because of left Achilles tendon soreness. Jayson Tatum added 17 points. The Knicks were blown out in Boston to cap their 0-3 start but have since turned things around behind a home-heavy schedule. They have 15 of their 17 victories at Madison Square Garden, where a sellout crowd of 19,812 grew louder with every Beasley basket against the Eastern Conference leaders. New York jumped to a 13-2 lead and led by 14 in the first quarter, but it appeared the Celtics were starting to take control by the third. Irving made three three-pointers and one by Tatum gave Boston a nine-point lead midway through the period before Beasley brought the Knicks back. He made three consecutive Knicks baskets late in the period to keep it close and it was 68-all going to the fourth. It was still tied before Beasley outscored the Celtics 11-4 to give New York an 86-79 lead, and Boston never got closer than six again. TIP-INS Celtics: Brown had appeared in 32 of Boston’s 34 games, all starts. Coach Brad Stevens said Brown told the team recently he had been feeling soreness for a little bit and the decision to rest him was the team “told been bothering him for a little bit couple days ago, just getting out ahead of it. ... G Shane Larkin was out with a sore left knee. Stevens said Larkin felt pain during Wednesday’s game and felt worse Thursday (Friday, PHL time) so they would send him for testing Friday after they return to Boston. Knicks: Enes Kanter, who Stevens said before the game always hurts the Celtics, had 14 points and 10 rebounds. ... Coach Jeff Hornacek said Tim Hardaway Jr., out with a lower left leg stress injury, was able to do more shooting and light jumping, but still no running. HAYWARD’S HEALTH Gordon Hayward, out since breaking his left ankle in the season opener, wrote a blog post titled “Improving Every Day” to provide an update on his recovery and thoughts about the team. Hayward recently had his walking boot removed and is now wearing a brace while he does his rehab. “The mental side of it is 100% the most difficult,” he wrote. UP NEXT Celtics: Host Chicago on Saturday (Sunday, PHL time). Knicks: At Detroit on Friday (Saturday, PHL time)......»»

Category: sportsSource:  abscbnRelated NewsDec 22nd, 2017

The Headlines So Far in the 2017-18 NBA Season

The new NBA season is still in its early stages, but it feels like we’re already in the thick of things with so much happening already. Luck of the Irish The Celtics, despite losing Gordon Hayward to a season-ending injury, currently have the best record in the league and own the longest winning streak so far this year with 16 games won consecutively. Kyrie Irving and Al Horford have been leading the charge, with young guns Jaylen Brown and Jayson Tatum upping their game. It certainly won’t be surprising to see them secure the top seed in the East this season if their remarkable play continues. Steve Kerr even declared the Celtics as the East’s “team of the future.” International Beasts of the East Giannis Antetokounmpo is already staking his claim as the league’s MVP, averaging nearly 30 points a game at a very efficient 55% clip as of this writing. With Eric Bledsoe assisting with ball-handling duties, the young Buck’s play is only bound to get better. Remember, Antetokounmpo still hasn’t even developed an outside shot yet. Imagine what the Greek Freak can do when he finally does. Kristaps Porzingis has also been unleashed in New York after the departure of Carmelo Anthony and Phil Jackson. The Latvian big man has been on a roll, taking advantage of an increased usage rate to average 27.3 points per game. The Knicks are exceeding expectations—The Playoffs doesn’t seem to be a far-fetched reality for them if Porzingis and the rest of the team can keep this up. After playing only 31 games last season, Joel Embiid has been making up for lost time. Along with Ben Simmons, the Cameroonian standout has been leading the Philadelphia to its best start in years, averaging 22.7 points and 11 boards. Additionally, Embiid has been posting roughly 2 blocks per game, and he says that he’s going to go for the Defensive Player of the Year Award this season. It looks like the Sixers fans’ are finally being rewarded for trusting the process. The Rookies Have Been Doing Work In his first season on the floor, Ben Simmons has been averaging 18. 7 points, 9.2 rebounds, and 7.6 assists per outing. And in almost every game, he’s been flirting with a triple-double. At this rate, it looks like he’s going to be the frontrunner in the Rookie of the Year race. Another solid performer is Jayson Tatum, who is one of the primary contributors in the Celtics’ stellar start. He’s been averaging an efficient 14.2 points, 5.9 rebounds, and 1.5 assist per game in around 30 minutes of play. From deep, Tatum has been drilling 48% of his threes. With his smart play, sometimes, it feels like we’re not watching a rookie. Kyle Kuzma, perhaps the biggest steal in this year’s draft class, is currently outperforming most rookies picked ahead of him, including fellow Laker and #3 draftee Lonzo Ball. Kuzma has been averaging 16.8 points, 6.3 rebounds, and 15 assists, and he’s shooting nearly 50% from the field and 36% from deep. While he still has a bit of work to do on the defensive end, he’s shaping up to be a cornerstone in LA’s post-Kobe era. Warriors still Super Team to Beat During the offseason, several teams secured major acquisitions to reinforce their lineups. The Cavs were able to reload with future Hall of Fame guards and versatile wings on board. OKC acquired two All-Stars in Paul George and Carmelo Anthony, but are still in the process of figuring things out. Minnesota was able to add Jimmy Butler to its young core. But despite the trades and signings, the Golden State Warriors remain the most “super” of the squads with the “super team” tag. After starting the season 1-2, the Warriors have regained their dominating form and are now back with their winning ways—and it seems that they won’t be slowing down anytime soon. Kevin Durant has been on a tear, but it’s Steph Curry that currently leads the team in points per game (25.5), steals per game (1.8), and in Player Efficiency Rating (27.6). He remains the fulcrum of Golden State’s offense, the man that won’t let the Dubs down. Steph Curry continues to perform at a high level because he depends on the World’s No. 1 Deodorant to stay cool and confident. The two-time MVP only trusts Rexona Ice Cool to help him fee dry and fresh all day, so he can be his best on the court, and even off it. It’ll be interesting to see if these stories and trends continue as we go along the new season. Stay tuned, hoops fans!  .....»»

Category: sportsSource:  abscbnRelated NewsDec 21st, 2017

Olynyk scores career-high 32 for Heat in return to Boston

By Ken Powtak, Associated Press BOSTON (AP) — Kelly Olynyk scored a career-high 32 points in his rousing return to Boston, and the undermanned Miami Heat hung on Wednesday (Thursday, PHL time) for a 90-89 victory over the Celtics. On a night when the Celtics honored their former forward in his first game back, the popular Olynyk received a standing ovation from Boston fans and led the Heat (16-15) to another win against the top team in the Eastern Conference. Josh Richardson had 19 points and six assists for Miami, which took two of three in the season series. The Heat ended Boston’s 16-game winning streak earlier this season with a victory at home. Olynyk signed with Miami as a free agent during the offseason. His previous high was 30 points on Dec. 15, 2014. When this one was over, he took photos with fans. Kyrie Irving paced the Celtics (26-8) with 33 points, but missed a jumper from the right wing that bounced off the rim at the buzzer. Jaylen Brown scored 16 and Marcus Smart had 15. Boston big man Al Horford went 2-for-10 from the floor with eight rebounds and fouled out with 8:14 to play. Miami led 87-76 with 2.5 minutes left before Irving sparked a 13-3 run with nine points. Miami pulled out to a 71-60 lead when Olynyk drained consecutive three-pointers in front of Boston’s bench with just under 10 minutes to go. The Celtics sliced it to 79-75, but Richardson converted a three-point play and Olynyk nailed a 3 on consecutive possessions with less than five minutes left. The Heat went on a 15-2 run midway through the third quarter, taking their first lead and building a 58-51 advantage on Bam Adebayo’s one-handed flip in the lane. TIP-INS Heat: G Goran Dragic missed his second straight game with a sore left elbow and F Justise Winslow sat out his fourth in a row with strained left knee. It was the second consecutive game in which the Heat were missing six players due to injuries. ... The Heat were called for delay of game because they weren’t on the court quickly enough to start the second half. Celtics: Jayson Tatum dislocated his right pinkie when it was stepped on after he dove for a loose ball in the opening minutes. He went straight to the locker room, but returned late in the first quarter. ... F Daniel Theis played with a mask after surgery for a broken nose Tuesday (Wednesday, PHL time). . F Guerschon Yabusele pretends to shoot an arrow and does a “dab” after he hits a triple. THANK YOU The Celtics honored Olynyk as the “Hero Among Us” for doing more than 100 community appearances and helping raise thousands of dollars for their charity when he was with the team. “I think it’s a fun way to honor. It’s bigger than what you do on the court,” Boston coach Brad Stevens said before the game. “He embraced that, and I thought he lived that out well. It wasn’t just talk when the cameras were on. He was out all the time.” There was a brief video of Olynyk doing events and he was given a standing ovation early in the second quarter. THAT WAS UGLY The teams combined to miss 24 shots in the second quarter — with both under 39 percent — and went long stretches without a basket. UP NEXT Heat: Host the Dallas Mavericks on Friday (Saturday, PHL time) in the opener of a four-game homestand. Celtics: At the New York Knicks on Thursday (Friday, PHL time)......»»

Category: sportsSource:  abscbnRelated NewsDec 21st, 2017

Antetokoumpo scores 33 points, Bucks beat Kings 109-104

MILWAUKEE -- Giannis Antetokounmpo scored 33 points and the Milwaukee Bucks held off the Sacramento Kings 109-104 on Saturday night. Antetokounmpo made 17 free throws and had 13 rebounds, Khris Middleton added 25 points and Eric Bledsoe had 18. Milwaukee beat the Kings 112-87 on Tuesday night in Sacramento. Zach Randolph led the Kings with 22 points, and Buddy Hield added 19. They were coming off a victory Friday night in Chicago. The Bucks led by as many as 20 in the third quarter and took a 12-point advantage into fourth. Milwaukee's shooting went cold for an extended stretch in the fourth, allowing the Kings to pull ton 100-96 on Garrett Temple's 3-pointer with 3:19 remaining. After Antetokounmpo's two free throws, Bogdan Bogdanovic connected on a 3-pointer to pull the Kings within three points. After the Bucks came up empty again, Bogdanovic made two free throws to cut the lead to one with less than two minutes remaining. John Henson's hook shot and two free throws by Antetokounmpo put the Bucks up 106-101. Middleton sealed the win with a pair of free throws. Milwaukee jumped out to a 14-0 lead, taking advantage of five Kings turnovers. The Kings scored their first points on Randolph's jumper with 7:44 remaining in the first. Sacramento trailed by 16 at one point, finished with eight turnovers and was down 33-25 after the quarter. TIP-INS Kings: Willie Cauley-Stein sustained a lower back strain in the second quarter after falling awkwardly on a layup and didn't return. ... With the Kings down 12-0 three minutes into the game, coach Dave Joerger replaced his entire lineup at once. Joerger picked up a technical foul a short time later after storming onto the court to argue a foul call. Joerger said gaining mental toughness is part of the maturation process for his young team. "Playing the second night back-to-back. There's a mental toughness to that," he said. Bucks: Recalled guard Sterling Brown and forward D.J. Wilson from the Wisconsin Herd of the NBA G League. ... Returned home after a 3-1 road trip against Western Conference foes. UP NEXT Kings: At Cleveland on Wednesday night. Bucks: At Boston on Monday night......»»

Category: sportsSource:  abscbnRelated NewsDec 3rd, 2017

Irving, Brown help Celtics rally for 15th straight win

ATLANTA -- Kyrie Irving scored 30 points, Jaylen Brown added a career-high 27 and the Boston Celtics won their 15th straight game with a 110-99 victory over the Atlanta Hawks on Saturday night. At 15-2, Boston leads the NBA and matched the best start in franchise history through 17 games. The winning streak is the club's fifth-longest, four behind the 2008-09 team that set the franchise mark. Dennis Schroder had 23 points, and Kent Bazemore added 19 for Atlanta. The Hawks are an Eastern Conference-worst 3-13, but they still had plenty of adrenaline following a 46-point victory over Sacramento -- the biggest in franchise history -- two nights ago The Celtics erased a 16-point deficit to take their first lead on Brown's 3-pointer midway through the third. It marked Boston's fourth win when trailing by at least 16 during the streak. Irving, playing with a protective mask to protect a minor facial fracture, ended the game with a right-handed finger-roll layup, delighting a few thousand Boston fans who were chanting "MVP! MVP!" in the fourth quarter. In 31 minutes, Irving made 10 of 12 shots, including five 3-pointers, and hit all five of his free throws. Irving, frustrated that the mask was affecting his peripheral vision two nights ago, took it off to help Boston beat defending NBA champion Golden State by four points. He scored 16 points, but was just 4 for 16 from the field. Brown was 10 of 13 from the field. The Celtics lead NBA in scoring defense, but they gave up 35 points in the first quarter and trailed by 15 entering the second. Atlanta used a 16-0 run in the first to take a 15-point lead. But fueled by Marcus Smart and other reserves, Boston pulled within four twice in the second and cut the lead to six in the closing minutes on Brown's 3. Marcus Morris and Jayson Tatum each had 14 points for Boston. TIP-INS Celtics: Tatum was scoreless until he stole the ball and dunked to cut the lead to four in the third. The 19-year-old former Duke standout followed with an acrobatic, one-handed dunk on a fast break to make it 75-72 and had another dunk to put Boston up 78-77 near the end of the period. Tatum had all 14 of his points in the third. Hawks: F Taurean Prince is developing into a solid option on offense, spinning for a layup against Shane Larkin and floating a soft assist on John Collins' dunk that put Atlanta up 84-82. But Prince has a substandard reputation as a defender, and coach Mike Budenholzer gave him an earful after calling timeout in the third. Prince had just missed an assignment that left Brown open to hit the big 3 from the left corner. UP NEXT Celtics: Visit Dallas, the NBA's worst team, on Monday night. Hawks: Visit San Antonio on Monday night......»»

Category: sportsSource:  abscbnRelated NewsNov 19th, 2017

24 NBA questions before 17-18 tips off

By David Aldridge, TNT analyst The season starts on Tuesday night (Wednesday, PHL time). You’ve been waiting patiently all summer with your questions. Fire away.     1. So … what’s the point of playing this season? The Golden State Warriors are still the prohibitive favorites to repeat this season, next season and into the foreseeable future. But it was good to see a good chunk of the Western Conference -- the Houston Rockets, Oklahoma City Thunder and Denver Nuggets, to name three teams -- not fold before the first card is dealt. That fact alone is incredibly important. The Warriors are still the best team in the West, without question. But if teams don’t even try to get better, or spend money to compete, the whole rationale for playing fades away. The Thunder could have rode Russell Westbrook alone to another first-round playoff loss, watched him walk out the door in free agency next summer and thrown up its hands, plead ‘woe is us and all small-market teams,’ and enjoyed a luxury tax-free life for the next few years. The Rockets could have just kept selling tickets to fans to watch James Harden and his pals shoot 50 threes a game for the next two or three years. It’s an appealing brand of basketball. Denver could have just kept building through the Draft, climbing a few more wins here or there for a while, and snuck into the eighth seed, choosing to be comfortable rather than bold. But they didn’t. They’ve called and raised. In all likelihood, it won’t be enough to beat Golden State. But those teams can sleep well at night. They’re not cheating their players, or fans. 2. So, is OKC now a legit threat to the Warriors? The short answer: no. But it’s closer. Carmelo Anthony will be as good a third option as anyone in the league has, though; he will eat regularly on the weak side as defenses scramble to handle Westbrook-Paul George pick and rolls; a quick seal and ‘Melo will be off to the races. If coach Billy Donovan goes small ball with Patrick Patterson at the five, there will be many nights when OKC drops a 130 spot. Yes, the Thunder’s defense is going to be an issue; while Enes Kanter was a sieve off the bench, he was coming off the bench, playing behind Steven Adams. Anthony will be starting and playing big minutes, many at the four. But it won’t matter most nights when the Thunder is up 20 to start the fourth quarter, after 36 minutes of Westbrook sorties, George 3-pointers and transition dunks, and Carmelo post-ups and spot-ups (he shot 44.8 percent last season on catch and shoot shots. Among forwards who played 30 or more minutes last season, per NBA.com/Stats, only Kevin Durant, Otto Porter and Kawhi Leonard shot better). The Thunder can guard you with George, Andre Roberson and Adams and they can outscore you with Westbrook and George and ‘Melo. They have a solid bench (Patterson, Ray Felton, Jerami Grant, Alex Abrines) and Westbrook won’t be physically spent by the end of the 2018 playoffs. Wait; what am I saying? Of course he’ll be spent. But he’ll also be playing way deeper into May. 3. Did not getting Anthony hurt Houston or nah? The Rockets -- okay, Chris Paul -- wanted this done bad. It won’t hurt Houston in the regular season, when Paul and James Harden will dominate. And while Harden didn’t like Kevin McHale’s critique of his leadership, Mac was spot on. That doesn’t make “The Beard” a bad guy or teammate -- people gravitate to their comfortable roles in life, and CP3 is a natural-born leader. Harden will, one thinks, be more comfortable with slightly less light on him. They’ll do fine playing together and off one another. But the shadow of the Rockets’ implosion from deep -- 29 of 88 on three-pointers the last two games against the Spurs in their Western Conference semifinals series -- still hangs over them. Ryan Anderson was negated in the postseason. There’s a reason CP3 pushed for ‘Melo so hard. The Rockets will need unexpected consistent offense from a P.J. Tucker or Luc Mbah a Moute in May if they have any hopes of playing in June. 4. Can we just start the Cleveland-Boston East finals now? Maybe Toronto, with C.J. Miles shooting 40 percent on 3-pointers to complement Kyle Lowry and DeMar DeRozan, will break up what seems inevitable. Maybe Washington, with its super-solid starting five intact, now has the mental toughness to bust past the second round, where it’s been beached three of the last four postseasons. But it doesn’t feel like that. Boston, ultimately, should be a lot better this season than last. It will take a while for coach Brad Stevens to figure out the rotation and whether Jaylen Brown can really stick at the two, but ultimately, the Celtics have two dynamic playmakers/scorers in Kyrie Irving and Gordon Hayward, and with Al Horford providing the glue at both ends, they’re going to be a load by the end of the season. And while Cleveland will have to wait a while for Isaiah Thomas, the Cavs have more than enough firepower until Thomas can make his debut. Whatever Dwyane Wade has left will be accentuated playing with James, and Kevin Love (holy moly, is he underrated) will feast drawing slower, bigger centers out to him on the perimeter. J.R. Smith doesn’t like losing his starting job to Wade, and he should be ticked. But he nonetheless will help Cleveland’s bench, which will be incredibly difficult in its own right with Tristan Thompson and Kyle Korver complementing Smith. And that’s before Thomas returns, which will put Derrick Rose on that second unit. There won’t be any rest for defenses who’ll then have to contend with a rested James, et al, coming back. It says here that not only will the Cavs not miss Irving offensively, they could be even more diverse and difficult to guard this season. Not to mention that James is supremely motivated to make an eighth straight Finals. 5. Could Curry break his record of 402 3-pointers in a season? At first glance, with Durant and Klay and Draymond (and, now, Nick Young) all needing to get fed as well, it would seem impossible for Curry to best the mark he set two years ago, on the 73-9 regular season team. But consider: coach Steve Kerr thinks a new guy always blossoms in his second year with the Warriors, which means Durant should be even more lethal offensively this year, as the Warriors’ offense reaches an even higher level of efficiency. And the way they move the ball, it’s not a stretch to think that with defenses tripping over themselves to get to Durant, Curry could get into one of those ridiculous grooves that could leave him within striking distance of 402 by the end of the season. 6. Could the last one in the Eastern Conference turn out the lights? The New York Knicks were hardly a power in the East before trading Anthony, but his departure creates one more team that will struggle to win 35 games this season. With the paucity of talent there should be at least four 50-win teams in the East -- Cleveland, Boston, Toronto and Washington -- with the Milwaukee Bucks knocking on the door. 7. Who’s going to regret their offseason? The Bucks were fine off the court -- their new arena is already more than halfway constructed and looks like it’s going to be a gem -- although the surrounding mall that is supposed to be part of the complex is not going up as quickly. But the Bucks didn’t address their bigs-heavy roster and move some of the surplus -- how can coach Jason Kidd keep all of Greg Monroe, Jabari Parker and John Henson happy with Thon Maker scarfing up more and more frontcourt minutes? -- for the shooting Milwaukee still needs. The East is so open, and Milwaukee is so close to breaking through into elite status with Giannis Antetokounmpo an elite performer. 8. Rudy Gay -- sneaky good pickup? Gay says he’s cool starting or coming off the bench for the Spurs, but he’d best as San Antonio’s sixth man, at least to start things. Bringing Pau Gasol off the bench didn’t work so well, so if he’s starting at center, coach Gregg Popovich can’t go small ball with “Cousin” LaMarcus Aldridge at the five and Gay at the four alongside Kawhi Leonard. (Current state of Spurs fans’ cuticles here and here as they consider a season with an extended Klaw absence if this quad injury doesn’t improve soon.) The Spurs could have some serious firepower in reserve if Gay and Patty Mills come off the bench, but Mills or Dejounte Murray will likely have to start at the point until Tony Parker comes back. 9. Speaking of Popovich … Should he and Steve Kerr and Stan Van Gundy stick to sports? No. 10. Who’s gonna be Kia Rookie of the Year? I say Markelle Fultz. What, you thought I was gonna pick against a DeMatha Catholic man? (Actual unretouched photo of me as a sophomore at the most successful high school in the history of the United States may or may not be here). Playing off of Joel Embiid, J.J. Redick, Robert Covington … it’s hard to see Fultz not looking really good when he should have all kinds of room to operate. Lonzo Ball will put up bigger numbers, and Tatum will be on a better team. But Boston was good last year, and Jayson Tatum will likely not play as much as the others. The Sixers are poised for a big jump up in the standings, and that’s always a narrative that voters like and get behind -- which is what will hurt Dennis Smith Jr.'s chances in Dallas. 11. What does Dwyane Wade really have left? Now that the inevitable buyout of Wade’s $24 million deal by the Bulls has led to the equally inevitable trek to Cleveland to play with James, can the 35-year-old Wade still be a significant contributor on a title contender? Given the general dysfunction in Chicago last season, you can dismiss most of the good and bad numbers Wade put up, with two exceptions: he still averaged almost five free throw attempts per game, and he shot 31 percent on 3-pointers -- not great, but more than double his anemic 15.9 percent behind the arc in 2015-16, his last with the Miami Heat. Wade obviously knows the cheat code for how to most effectively play off of James, so he’ll use the regular season to learn his teammates and be ready for the playoffs. But can Wade hold up over seven games defensively if he has to chase, say, Bradley Beal around, or try to deny DeRozan his preferred mid-range spots, and still be productive offensively? 12. Back to the Sixers -- how good will they be? My guess is they’ll pretty good in the 60 or so games I anticipate Embiid will play this season -- I’m assuming several designated off days for him during the season, not another injury. The mix of young talent (Fultz, Embiid, Ben Simmons, Dario Saric, Covington) and crafty vets (Redick, Amir Johnson) should mesh to make the 76ers a very tough team to defend. But Philly has to resolve the Jahlil Okafor situation, and in fairness to him, give him a fresh start somewhere else with a trade as soon as possible. If I were a good team that would be hard-pressed to add a free agent any time soon and feels a player short of true contention -- I’m looking at you, Memphis Grizzlies and Wizards -- I’d work hard to get the new, slimmed-down Okafor on my squad while he’s still on his rookie contract and make him the focal point of a kick-ass second unit. 13. Should we feel some kind of way about the Trail Blazers? I’m picking up what you’re putting down. A full season of the “Bosnian Beast” in the middle, it says here, will vault Portland into the top four in the West. Note I said “full season.” That means Jusuf Nurkic has to give coach Terry Stotts between 65-70 starts for the above premonition to be, as they say in the legal world, actionable. If so, Nurkic’s underrated scoring and passing out of the post will only make Damian Lillard and C.J. McCollum that much more deadly out front, along with improving Portland’s defense. Per Basketball-Reference.com, the Blazers were 11.6 points per game better than the opposition with those three on the floor together and a +5 when their regular five-man lineup with Maurice Harkless and Al-Farouq Aminu joined the guards and Nurkic. And that’s pronounced, “Noor-kitch,” accent on Noor. 13. A little movie break ... Kevin Costner’s accent in “Robin Hood” -- worst ever, right? Yes, but Natalie Wood’s in “West Side Story” was painful, too. 14. Many have written the post-CP3 Clippers off. Should they? The Clippers are my darkhorse this season -- if they do the right thing and go small more often. They’re doing it more in practice so far than in games because Danilo Gallinari is working through a foot injury, but Blake Griffin at the five and Gallinari at the four could be spicy during the regular season. That would mean Sam Dekker and/or Wes Johnson would have to become credible and dependable at the three, allowing coach Doc Rivers to play a Pat Beverly-Milos Teodosic backcourt more often, which will just be fun. This would, of course, mean less DeAndre Jordan, and … that may not be the worst thing. Nothing against DJ, who is the best defensive big in the league, bar none. Unfortunately, the NBA isn’t about defense any more -- at least not in the traditional sense. Even someone like Jordan who doesn’t just block shots, but also helps snuff out opposing pick and rolls, becomes less valued by the league’s advanced stats crowd if he doesn’t contribute more offensively. The three has gone a long way to tyrannizing the defense-dominant big man out of the game. (Zach Lowe recommends the Wizards try to get Jordan via trade, and it’s not the first time I’ve heard that name mentioned in connection with Washington, the idea being the only chance the Wizards have of beating Cleveland or Boston is to slow them down enough defensively that Wall-Beal-Porter can try and keep up offensively. Washington is definitely a load when Wall gets locked in on D and creates turnovers, and the idea of Jordan inhaling lobs from Wall is enticing to think about. But the Wizards are not -- not -- going to take on a fourth big contract, and Jordan’s surely going to opt out after this season; he’s rightly expecting a massive payday in 2018, and the Clippers certainly now have motive and means to retain him.) Anyway, some Lou Williams, Austin Rivers and/or Teodosic and Willie Reed off the bench isn’t bad, either. 15. Could Kyle Kuzma be the best rookie on the Lakers this season? Don’t @me, LaVar. Kuzma has followed up a very strong Vegas Summer League with high notes in preseason, averaging better than 19 points per game for the Lakers. He’s been dazzling at times, displaying in-between skills that intrigue, and showing why so many teams were trying to trade back into the first round to get the Utah forward before L.A. snagged him with its second and much less heralded first-round pick last June. And there will be minutes available at the four this season. So far, Kuzma has displayed unusual strength for a rookie and confidence in his ability to score. Of course, he’s inexperienced, and like all rookies, has to differentiate between an open shot and a good shot. The other, more famous first-rounder, Lonzo Ball, will almost certainly be the better all-around player in time. For this year, though … hmmm. 16. What does a Hawks fan have to look forward to this season? Honestly, not much. But they’ll always be well-coached and get better. I’d pick one of the young players, like rookie John Collins or second-year small forward Taurean Prince, and concentrate on them during the season. See what they do with their minutes on the floor, and watch how they gradually expand their games at both ends. Seeing a young guy get better as he gains experience and accepts coaching is one of the great joys of watching the NBA every night. 17. Orlando? What gives there? The team’s new braintrust of Jeff Weltman and John Hammond will need some time to fix the roster -- a mélange of athletic wings that have trouble defending and guards that have trouble shooting. The former is addressed somewhat with the signing of Jonathon Simmons from San Antonio, but I don’t see a solution to the latter with any of the existing backcourt contributors. Unless coach Frank Vogel figures out some way to get more turnovers/runouts from his group, they just can’t get in transition enough for their length and legs to make a difference. 18. New Orleans? What gives there? The short answer is, I have no idea. All of NBA Earth has DeMarcus Cousins out of there one way or another (he’s an unrestricted free agent in ’18 and wants to be on a contender/the Pelicans will never pay him what he wants and will have to trade him by the deadline/no way he and Anthony Davis fit together/Wall agitates for a reunion with his former Kentucky big man in D.C./your departure theory here) by this time next year, but we’ll see what coach Alvin Gentry has come up with for “Boogie” and “the Brow” after a summer to think it over. Rajon Rondo being out hurts their depth, but I have to be honest -- I don’t see how he and Jrue Holiday can possibly work together in a backcourt, and Holiday’s the guy the Pelicans just gave $125 million to, so he should probably have the ball in his hands every night, shouldn’t he? I like Ian Clark and Frank Jackson down there, but that untethered three spot burns a hole in the New Orleans sun. Well, at any rate, should be more fun than watching reruns of My Life on the D-List. 19. Favorite D-List Muppet? Beaker. 20. LeBron is leaving Cleveland again after this season, isn’t he? Everything points to yes, and a relocation to Los Angeles to play with the Lakers or Clippers next year – except … what if the Cavs win it all again this year? That’s not an impossible scenario -- in fact, it’s a pretty simple one to lay out: Cavs run roughshod through the Eastern Conference in the playoffs again, get through a good but hardly great Boston team in the conference Finals and set up a fourth straight encounter with Golden State. It’s easy now to say the Warriors dominated the Cavs in last season’s Finals -- but only if you ignore the fact that Cleveland led by six with just more than three minutes remaining in Game 3, only to see the Warriors score the game’s last 11 points to take a 3-0 lead instead of 2-1. And given that Cleveland vaporized the Warriors in Game 4, a 2-2 series would have meant the Cavs just needed to win once in Oracle -- which they’d done twice in the 2016 Finals -- to have a real shot at repeating. The point is, the difference between the teams isn’t as big as Draymond Green would have you believe; the Cavs have no fear of the Warriors, and Jae Crowder gives coach Tyronn Lue a viable on-ball defender for Kevin Durant, leaving LeBron free to play off of Green. And: that unprotected Nets pick, whether one or three or five or seven, is Cleveland’s best recruiting tool. LeBron knows everyone in college basketball and he can literally pick whoever he’d like to finish his career with in Cleveland before handing over the reins. I’m not saying he’s definitely staying, either -- only that his departure isn’t the lead pipe cinch some would have you believe. The season to come will have a lot to do with his next decision. 21. So, how will the playoffs go this season? Eastern Conference (seeds No. 1-8): Cleveland, Boston, Washington, Toronto, Milwaukee, Miami, Detroit, Philadelphia Western Conference (seeds No. 1-8): Golden State, Houston, Oklahoma City, Portland, San Antonio, Memphis, Utah, Minnesota Eastern Conference semifinalists: Cleveland, Boston, Washington, Milwaukee Western Conference semifinalists: Golden State, Houston, OKC, San Antonio Eastern Conference finals: Cleveland over Boston Western Conference finals: Golden State over OKC (you heard me) NBA Finals: Golden State over Cleveland (in seven games) 22. Tell me something crazy that’s going to happen this season that no one’s predicting! Giannis Antetokounmpo. NBA MVP, 2017-18. 23. Are you high? No, ma’am. 24. So, why 24 questions? As always, we start the season with 24 questions (or predictions, or issues, whatever) in honor of Danny Biasone, the late owner of the Syracuse Nationals, whose discovery in 1954 helped save the league. At that time, the NBA was in the midst of a literal slowdown, in large part by teams that were desperate to figure out some kind of way to stay competitive with George Mikan, the league’s first superstar big man, and his team, the Minneapolis Lakers. Teams would hold the ball for minutes at a time without shooting in an effort to shorten the game and give them a chance to beat Minneapolis late. But the end result was boring -- very boring -- basketball. At the owners’ meetings that year, Biasone came up with an idea. NBA games were 48 minutes long. Biasone figured out that in a normal game, one not waylaid by the slowdown tactics, about 120 shots -- 60 per team -- were taken. So, why not just divide the number of minutes in every game -- 2,880 -- by the number of shots in an average game -- 120 -- to come up with some kind of a time limit in which a team had to shoot. And thus, the 24-second shot clock (2,800/120) was born. With the implementation of the shot clock in the 1954-55 season, scoring went way up, as did the quality of play. Teams were now running up and down the floor in order to try and beat the shot clock, complementing the “fast break” game that many colleges had played for years. But the new style in the pros was immensely popular with fans. And it still is. Plus, there’s just something iconic about that clock counting down every 24 seconds. It’s unique to the NBA. Thus, we ask 24 questions, in honor of the guy who owned a bowling alley as well as the Nationals for much of his adult life, and probably enjoyed the bowling more. 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 NewsOct 17th, 2017