Advertisements


We are sorry, the requested page does not exist




Bucks making case as favorites to win title

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

Category: sportsSource:  abscbnRelated NewsMay 18th, 2019

Anthony Davis joins Lakers with championship plans

By Greg Beacham, Associated Press EL SEGUNDO, Calif. (AP) — Anthony Davis' year of uncertainty finally felt finished when he stood in the Los Angeles Lakers' training complex and proudly held up his new gold jersey while LeBron James looked on approvingly. After months of upheaval around his departure from New Orleans, the superstar forward is looking forward to years of success and stability on the West Coast. Sure, Davis knows the Lakers are rarely stable, and championships are the only success this franchise understands. The six-time All-Star can't wait for the challenge of winning big in the Hollywood spotlight. "The most difficult part for me was just not knowing," Davis said Saturday (Sunday, PHl time). "When it was announced that I was being traded, I don't want to say it was a relief, (but) it was something that I'd thought about for a long time. Obviously it was tough to leave the city I'd been playing in for seven years, but I think it was best for me. "When I found out I'd been traded to the Lakers, I realized it was an unbelievable opportunity for me," he added. "To be here with a wonderful organization, and then to be able to play alongside LeBron and the players that we have now ... to get the opportunity to do that and come here and play for an organization that's all about winning, and winning championships, and that's the only goal, I think that was the biggest thing for me." The Lakers formally acquired Davis this month in one of the biggest moves of the NBA's tumultuous offseason, but this courtship has been happening for much longer. Davis became determined to leave New Orleans last season, and Los Angeles made an in-season run at Davis before eagerly blowing up its young core to get a second game-changing star to play alongside James. Lakers general manager Rob Pelinka introduced Davis as "the most dominant young basketball player in the world." "There is no more complete basketball player in the game," Pelinka added. "There is nothing he can't do. He can shoot. He can make plays. He can defend 1 to 5. He can protect the rim. He can handle the ball. His dedication to his craft is unparalleled. To sit here next to him and think he's going to be on our team and he's going to be a pillar in this franchise for many years is just something we're incredibly proud of." The Lakers gave up Brandon Ingram, Lonzo Ball, Josh Hart and a slew of draft picks to land Davis one year before he could become an unrestricted free agent. While Pelinka clearly expects Davis to sign a long-term deal to stay with the Lakers, Davis didn't make a declaration of his intentions right away. "Right now, my focus is on this year, and trying to help this organization become a championship team," Davis said. Davis' new jersey will bear a No. 3 after his plan to take his usual No. 23 from James fell through thanks to rules involving jersey supplier Nike, who had already begun planning for next season with James in the No. 23 shirt. Davis will go back to the number he wore in elementary and middle school, although he jokingly said the denial of No. 23 "was pretty hurtful." Davis and James have been kept up to speed on Pelinka's machinations to build a strong roster around them. Davis strongly endorsed the signing of DeMarcus Cousins, his former teammate in New Orleans — and not just because Davis prefers to play as a power forward instead of a center. "I like playing the 4," Davis said to a laughing coach Frank Vogel. "I'm not even going to sugarcoat it. I don't like playing the 5, but if it comes down to it, Coach, I'll play the 5." Pelinka said the Lakers signed Cousins and re-signed JaVale McGee precisely so that Davis wouldn't wear down his body guarding centers. Davis was asked about load management, and he dismissed it: "I'm playing. I'm 26-years-old. I love the game of basketball. I'm ready to play." Davis also waived a $4 million trade kicker in his contract so the Lakers would have cap room to take their failed run at Kawhi Leonard, a move that Pelinka praised as selfless. "Anytime you're able to acquire a player like Kawhi, I think you have to do almost everything to get a guy like that," Davis said. "It didn't work out for us, but I wanted to make sure I did whatever I could to help the team." Basketball-loving Los Angeles is still buzzing after its two teams were turned into immediate contenders during free agency, but they're hardly alone in a league that might have achieved a measure of parity after years of Golden State dominance. While Leonard and Paul George landed with the Clippers, Davis and James are confident about the future ahead for the 16-time NBA champions, who are exponentially more beloved in their hometown than their local rivals. Davis has lived in Los Angeles during the offseason for several years, and he loves everything about it but the traffic. "It's going to be fun," Davis said of the new-look league with its new crop of superstar pairings. "I'm excited about it. I think the league has grown. I think it's better. (With) all the players teaming up and spreading that talent throughout the league, it's going to be a fun season. I like our roster. I like every player that we have, from one through 14." The Lakers have been the worst team in the NBA during their team-record six consecutive seasons out of the playoffs, but Davis and James expect to end those struggles and drought in the year ahead. They're aiming for much more, too. "I know we'll talk about it and do whatever we can to definitely make this team a championship team next season," Davis said, before correcting himself: "This season.".....»»

Category: sportsSource:  abscbnRelated NewsJul 14th, 2019

Haiti beats Canada, reaches Gold Cup semifinals

HOUSTON (AP) — Haiti reached the semifinals of the CONCACAF Gold Cup for the first time, overcoming a two-goal deficit to beat Canada 3-2 on Saturday night. The 101st-ranked Haitians will play Mexico on Tuesday night in Glendale, Arizona. Mexico beat Costa Rica 5-4 in a shootout after they tied 1-1 in the second game of the doubleheader. "All it takes is one goal and we can create history after that," Andrew Jean-Baptiste told his Haiti teammates at halftime. "Miraculously, that's exactly what happened. ... I pointed out that this may be a few guys' last Gold Cup and I said, 'I'm going to go out there and give every single thing that I can possibly give and I want my brothers to follow with me." Jonathan David scored on a free kick in the 18th minute, his tournament-high sixth goal, and No. 78 Canada doubled its lead when Lucas Cavallini beat goalkeeper Jhony Placide in the 28th minute for his fifth goal. Duckens Nazon cut Haiti's deficit in the 50th and Herve Bazile tied the score in the 70th with a penalty kick after he was taken down by Marcus Godinho. Wilde-donald Guerrier scored the go-ahead goal in the 76th. "The players all have certain qualities and they know that, as long as the match is going on, before the final whistle they have to fight on the field, not only for themselves but also the team," Haiti coach Marc Collat said. "We just looked at the fact that we had goals that could have been avoided and, despite the fact that Canada was dominating, we had opportunities we had created. If during the second half we were more serious, we could be more difficult for them and I think that's what happened and we came back and that's when Canada started to doubt.".....»»

Category: sportsSource:  abscbnRelated NewsJun 30th, 2019

Fowler and the USGA off to a good start at US Open

By Doug Ferguson, Associated Press PEBBLE BEACH, Calif. (AP) — Rickie Fowler had an ideal start Thursday in the U.S. Open, and so did the USGA. Pebble Beach was as gentle as could be in the opening round, and Fowler was among those who took advantage with six birdies for a 5-under 66, giving him a share of the early lead with Xander Schauffele and Louis Oosthuizen. The notorious wind off the Pacific coast was little more than a breeze. The course was lush green and relatively soft. The USGA wanted to start conservatively and make it progressively more difficult, a forecast of dry weather gives officials a lot more control. This was the day to take advantage. Schauffele, who keeps showing up in golf's biggest events, holed a 12-foot eagle putt on the par-5 18th to join Fowler at 66. Oosthuizen holed out for eagle from 95 yards at No. 11, his second hole of the day. "It's a very soft start to a U.S. Open, which is a good thing," Rory McIlroy said after a 68, his first sub-70 round at the U.S. Open since he won at Congressional in 2011. "They can do whatever they want with from here. It's not as if you're starting with a course that's in the condition like a Sunday, and then you get three days and it sort of starts to get away from you." Two-time defending champion Brooks Koepka and Tiger Woods played in the afternoon. Koepka reached 4 under through seven holes until a bogey on No. 8, while Woods had three birdies to atone for a double bogey on par-3 fifth. He was 1 under through seven. Scott Piercy made bogey on the 18th for a 67. He was the first player to get everyone's attention when he made three birdies and an eagle through the opening six holes — the scoring holes at Pebble — and was 5 under. Graeme McDowell saw the score when he walked off the 10th green at the start of his round and quipped to his caddie, "All the USGA radios are going off and they're saying, 'Turn off the water — NOW!'" McDowell won the last U.S. Open at Pebble Beach in 2010 when it was so difficult he made only one birdie in the final round and no one broke par for the week. Even as he saw low scores on the board — he had a bogey-free 69, one of 16 rounds in the 60s among the early starters — McDowell feared what was to come. What really got his attention was Phil Mickelson being some 30 feet above the hole at No. 1, which should ordinarily have been a lightning fast putt. Mickelson left it short. "I don't think level par wins this week," he said. "Careful what you wish for, because I think we're going to see it come the weekend." Mickelson, in his fifth attempt at the career Grand Slam, opened with a 72 that certainly didn't hurt him, but only two birdies held him back. Two of his bogeys came from missing the fairway with an iron off the tee. The other was a careless three-putt — he missed from 22 inches. Dustin Johnson was only one shot better, and he could have been a lot worse except for a magnificent short game, no shot better than his flop shop from well behind the eighth green to 2 feet. He nearly drove the green on No. 4, a dangerous shot because the coast line hugs the right side. Why driver? "Because I'd bogeyed the last two holes," Johnson said with a wry smile. "I needed a birdie." That wasn't impatience that often dooms chances at a U.S. Open. That was recognition that scores were to be had, and this might be the best day. Fowler picked up three birdies in seven holes, dropped a shot at the turn and added three birdies on the back. It's the second time in three years at the U.S. Open he has started well — he had a 65 in the first round at Erin Hills — but the focus is on how he finishes. Even though he's 30, with seven victories on the PGA Tour and European Tour combined, Fowler is on that list of best without a major, perhaps because he's had so many top finishes. So the start was important. "It was very stress free," Fowler said. "You never feel in cruise control at a major, especially a U.S. Open, but the execution was very good today. ... It was the worst I could have shot, so that's a good thing. I'm happy with the start. You can't go out and win it up the first day, but you can obviously take yourself out of it and you're having to fight back." Schauffele also appears poised to break through in his third full year on tour. He first gained attention with his tie for fifth in his U.S. Open debut two years ago, and he tied for sixth last year at Shinnecock Hills. He also has runner-up finishes in the British Open and the Masters. His big break came at the end when he caught his drive off the toe and it hit off a rock framing the left side, bounding down the fairway. From there, he only had 8-iron to set up his eagle. "Very fortunate, and happy we capitalized on a really lucky break," he said......»»

Category: sportsSource:  abscbnRelated NewsJun 14th, 2019

Warriors F Durant undergoes surgery for ruptured Achilles

By Janie McCauley, Associated Press OAKLAND, Calif. (AP) — Golden State Warriors star Kevin Durant announced Wednesday on social media that he underwent surgery for a ruptured right Achilles tendon. Durant revealed the severity of his injury two days after getting hurt during Game 5 of the NBA Finals in Toronto in his return following being sidelined for a month with a right calf strain. The 30-year-old posted a photo on Instagram showing himself in a hospital bed and wrote: “I wanted to update you all: I did rupture my Achilles. Surgery was today and it was a success, EASY MONEY.”         View this post on Instagram                   What’s good everybody I wanted to update you all: I did rupture my Achilles. Surgery was today and it was a success, EASY MONEY My road back starts now! I got my family and my loved ones by my side and we truly appreciate all the messages and support people have sent our way. Like I said Monday, I'm hurting deeply, but I'm OK. Basketball is my biggest love and I wanted to be out there that night because that’s what I do. I wanted to help my teammates on our quest for the three peat. Its just the way things go in this game and I'm proud that I gave it all I physically could, and I'm proud my brothers got the W. It's going to be a journey but I'm built for this. I’m a hooper I know my brothers can get this Game 6, and I will be cheering with dub nation while they do it. A post shared by 35 (@easymoneysniper) on Jun 12, 2019 at 12:54pm PDT Just 15 minutes before Durant went public, Warriors coach Steve Kerr said during a finals media availability that he didn’t yet have a formal update on Durant. Durant has made his own announcements before, such as writing on The Players’ Tribune website about his decision to leave Oklahoma City to join Golden State in July 2016. Kerr said the team had no idea that Durant risked a serious Achilles injury by returning from a strained calf. After the game Monday (Tuesday, PHL time), a teary, emotional general manager Bob Myers asked anyone who was looking to place blame to do so on him — not Durant, the medical staff or athletic trainers who worked so tirelessly to get him back. Kerr said he also understands people wanting to point blame somewhere, though he noted, “Kevin checked all the boxes, and he was cleared to play by everybody involved,” including doctors from within the organization and from the outside. “Now, would we go back and do it over again? Damn right,” he said. “But that’s easy to say after the results. When we gathered all the information, our feeling was the worst thing that could happen would be a re-injure of the calf. That was the advice and the information that we had. At that point, once Kevin was cleared to play, he was comfortable with that, we were comfortable with that. So the Achilles came as a complete shock. I don’t know what else to add to that, other than had we known that this was a possibility, that this was even in the realm of possibility, there’s no way we ever would have allowed Kevin to come back.” The two-time reigning NBA Finals MVP was injured Monday night (Tuesday, PHL time) in the second quarter of Golden State’s 106-105 victory that forced a Game 6 at Oracle Arena on Thursday (Friday, PHL time). The Raptors lead the best-of-seven series 3-2. Durant initially was injured May 8 (May 9, PHL time) in Game 5 of the Western Conference semifinals against the Rockets, then missed the next nine games. A pending free agent, it’s unclear what might be next for Durant now that he is set for a long rehab and recovery. Teammate DeMarcus Cousins returned in January nearly a year after rupturing his left Achilles tendon and undergoing surgery last season while with New Orleans. Stephen Curry can only imagine how much Durant is hurting emotionally not being able to play — but second-guessing benefits nobody at this stage, the two-time MVP said. “Everybody has great 20/20 hindsight,” Curry said, then added: “I trust our medical staff and know Bob Myers has our best interests in terms of not just what we can do in this series, but long term in our overall health. You see how hard he took it, talking to you guys after the game. And that’s really genuine and authentic. So you can waste time talking about the what-ifs and this and that. Injuries are tough and they suck. They’re a part of our game, and they’re going to continue to be a part of our game. But everybody putting their collective brains together to make the sound, smart decisions, you kind of just live with that, because that’s what’s a part of our game.”.....»»

Category: sportsSource:  abscbnRelated NewsJun 12th, 2019

Durant s injury devastates victorious Warriors as they head home

By Shaun Powell, NBA.com TORONTO — When a superstar crumples to the floor like that, after everything he’d been through, after mustering the will to return to action, after giving his team the lift it so desperately needed in a win-or-go-home game, everything that happens next is muted: The flow of a tense game, the pulsating fourth quarter, even the Warriors’ inspired Game 5 victory in the final seconds. All that’s left is a siren blaring and asking … Why? Why did the Warriors clear Kevin Durant to return to the NBA Finals on Monday (Tuesday, PHL time)? Why did he feel compelled to do so after missing nearly a month with a calf strain? Why did a segment of the basketball populace question the severity of his injury -- and, by extension, his heart -- during the lead-up? And why do the basketball Gods seem to have it in for a two-time Finals MVP and all-time great who put his team first, and possibly just put his career in jeopardy? The Raptors fans who lined up 24 hours early in the rain just to watch on TV outside Scotiabank Arena aren’t shook. The citizens who braced for a championship celebration into the wee hours and now must deal with deflation aren’t shook. Not even the Raptors, who coughed up a six-point lead with 3.5 minutes left and now must fly 3,000 miles for another tip. No, it’s the Warriors who were left dazed and confused despite extending the series to another game with the 106-105 victory, and it was all captured in the quivering voice of team president Bob Myers while revealing Durant suffered an Achilles injury early in the second quarter. “He’s a good teammate,” Myers finally managed to say. “He’s a good person … it’s not fair … he just wants to play basketball and right now he can’t.” No, he can’t, and Tuesday's (Wednesday, PHL time) MRI will determine when that can happen again. Slow-motion TV replays that showed Durant executing a dribble move past Serge Ibaka and then dropping quickly to the floor were not positive. When Durant grabbed his leg on May 8 (May 9, PHL time), he reached high on his calf. This time, he reached low. A segment of the fans initially cheered Durant’s misfortune, and when Kyle Lowry and Serge Ibaka put them in check, the reaction quickly flipped from insensitive to respectful. But it didn’t matter in the big picture that they applauded Durant. He was helped to the locker room by director of sports medicine and performance Rick Celebrini and Andre Iguodala. Stephen Curry left the bench and walked behind Durant, consoling him. Durant cursed loudly as he reached the tunnel. Then he disappeared from view and later left the arena by crutches right after halftime. In the history of the NBA Finals, there was no tougher scene to witness, no matter the rooting interest. This was a basketball betrayal, pure and simple, that happened to Kevin Durant. But should it have? Plenty of questions now surround the medical protocol used by the Warriors. Durant took part in what was loosely termed a practice for the first time just a day earlier. Was that enough? Did he pass all the stress tests by then? Did the exams and MRIs give a green light? Were the experts fully apprised? And, perhaps most crucially, how much of this Achilles injury could be directly related to the calf injury and should that have been perhaps a larger concern? “He went through four weeks with a medical team and it was thorough and we felt good about the process," Myers insisted. "He was cleared to play tonight, that was a collaborative decision. I don’t believe there is anyone to blame, but I understand in this world that if you have to, you can blame me.” Beyond that, was there any pressure -- either implied or indirectly placed or discreetly suggested -- within the organization for Durant to return and rescue the Warriors? They were down 3-1 without him. Durant is famously sensitive about how he’s perceived, especially regarding his toughness. Maybe he felt pressure himself to quiet the noise and whispers. Complicating matters is his pending free agency. Durant stood to make hundreds of millions on the market this summer, and a torn Achilles, if that’s what the MRI will show, can require a year to rehab. In the moment, Durant's injury had a temporary bonding effect between the two teams; a handful of Toronto players approached Durant before he checked out and both benches appeared equally stunned. “In this league,” explained Lowry, “we’re all brothers, and it’s a small brotherhood and you never want to see a competitor like him go down.” Before the injury, Durant showed flashes of the next-level skills that helped him lead the Warriors to the last two championships. He hit his first two shots, both from deep. He commanded coverage from Kawhi Leonard, Toronto’s best defender. He had a presence. This injected confidence within the Warriors, who broke out a nine-point lead with Durant on the floor and seized early command. He, Curry and Thompson were 12-for-19 shooting for 36 points through the early second quarter. With their missing star in the fold for the first time this series, Golden State looked whole again. Once Durant left the floor, the game tightened until the fourth. Leonard (26 points), who shot poorly to that point, made his move, with 10 quick points to send a quake through the arena. Curiously, Raptors coach Nick Nurse called a timeout with his team buzzing and up five with three minutes left. Did that kill the momentum? Curry and Thompson answered with consecutive three-pointers to tie and then take the lead with 56 seconds left. Then, on Toronto’s final possession, Thompson and Andre Iguodala trapped Leonard and forced him to surrender the ball. It found its way to Lowry, deep in the corner. But Draymond Green got his fingertips on the ball, Lowry’s shot was harmless and the buzzer sounded. No confetti fell from the ceiling, no bottles were popped in the home locker room, no trophy was ceremoniously awarded. Curry and Thompson combined for 57 points and took 27 three-pointers, making 12. They’ll need to duplicate that production Thursday (Friday, PHL time) in Oakland and beyond if the Warriors force a seventh game. DeMarcus Cousins was helpful post-Durant and had 14 points. “They’ve accomplished so much over the years and that doesn’t happen just with talent,” Kerr said. “There has to be more that goes into it and it’s that fight, that competitive desire and ability to stay poised under pressure. It was brilliant to watch.” And yet: There was little joy. “It’s hard to even celebrate this win,” said Klay Thompson. “I told the team I didn’t know what to say because, on one hand I’m so proud of them for the amazing heart and grit they showed, and on the other I’m just devastated for Kevin," Kerr said. "So it’s a bizarre feeling that we all have right now.” It’s a reflex to say the Warriors were inspired by Durant and perhaps they were. When he fell, they had their excuse, yet thought otherwise. For them to play the final 2.5 quarters while dealing with a fractured state of mind says plenty about their mental toughness. “It had made it difficult, especially with the start we got off to and Kevin was playing so well, so it was a real shock when he went down,” said Kerr. “So I give our guys credit.” Durant at times became a magnet for his personality quirks and especially his non-commitment regarding free agency; it was even raised by Green when the two infamously clashed on the bench earlier this season. If nothing else, the injury further endeared Durant to the locker room and, in particular, to his fellow MVP. “Everybody gets so wrapped up in chasing championships, but life is more important in terms of caring about an individual and what they’re going through,” Curry said. “And you see the commitment and the challenges and just what has been thrown at KD this whole year, really. He gave us what he had, he went out there and sacrificed his body and we know how that turned out. “When you get to know somebody and see how genuine they are and how committed they are to basketball, you root for those type of guys. All those emotions come into play when you see him go down like that. It’s not even about this series; it’s about long term, his mindset and being able to get back to being the player and the person he has shown consistently over the course of his career.” The Warriors return to Oracle Arena for the final game in the old barn before moving to San Francisco next season, so there is motivation to shut it down in style. Of course, there’s the goal of forcing a seventh game, and finally, to win a title so Durant’s injury won’t be in vain. “We do it for Kevin,” said Thompson. “He wants us to compete and the highest level, and we’ll think of him every time we step on the hardwood. You think of him every time you dive for a loose ball or go for a rebound, because I know him and I know how bad he wants to be out there. I’m going to miss him, man. It’s not the same being out there without him.” Shaun Powell has covered the NBA for more than 25 years. 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 NewsJun 11th, 2019

Warriors injuries create opening with Finals in balance

By Shaun Powell, NBA.com OAKLAND, Calif. — From now until further notice, each game of the 2019 NBA Finals will be largely influenced not by a go-ahead basket or a big stop or a rally-induced comeback, but a hot-off-the-press medical update prior to tipoff. Is Klay Thompson's tweaky hamstring a go? Will this be the day Kevin Durant finally shakes that lingering calf strain and suits up? The hints and subtle signs seem to point toward the positive for Golden State. Thompson was a late scratch Wednesday night (Thursday, PHL time) because the Warriors -- with a mixture of confidence and arrogance and concern -- felt the guard missing Game 3 was perhaps best for his recovery without proving deadly in the long run. And as for Durant, he’s still “ramping up” his workouts, in the description of coach Steve Kerr, and so his status has been upgraded to "stay tuned." It has become must-watch after a 123-109 loss. Yet if the answer is negative to all of the above, the next entry on the medical report might be the grim health of the dynasty built by these two-time defending champions. Their still-under-construction monument now teeters, prone to a nudge from Toronto. The Warriors find themselves down 2-1 to the Raptors, lacking any guarantee they’ll see two of their three leading scorers back in the lineup Friday (Saturday, PHL time) for Game 4 ... or for however long this series lasts. Thompson joined Durant on the sideline, and the Raptors (as could be anticipated) pounced on the gift to seize control of the series. It was a game the Raptors had to win, and they did. The production came from multiple players, with Kyle Lowry finally making an imprint on this series and Danny Green rediscovering his long-lost three-point touch. Meanwhile, the Warriors consisted of Steph Curry and not much else. The two-time Kia MVP dazzled and fought through traps and triple-teams all night to drop a career-high 47 points, some of it on shot-making wizardry. But the short-handed Warriors were doomed when Draymond Green and DeMarcus Cousins in particular were underwhelming on a night they needed to be stellar for Golden State to have a chance. As a result, the atmosphere inside Oracle Arena was flatter than most of the shots taken by Curry's teammates, and this was partly due to the introduction of the starting lineups, when Thompson’s name wasn’t announced. The fans knew then, officially, that their eyes and the home team were in for a long night. While the Warriors fought, scrappy doesn’t win games at this point in the postseason, not when the other team is good and opportunistic. Playing in a hostile building for the first time in the Finals, the Raptors made a collective decision to greet fire with fire. Or, as they wrote on the blackboard inside the visitor’s locker room: Let It Rip. “I think we all kind of followed that advice,” said Danny Green. “We hadn’t really had a good team shooting night and I knew we were due.” For Toronto, it wasn’t just that they won, but that they did so with their most impressive outing in the series. And now, the question for the Raptors is this: Will their inconsistent players use this outing to turn the corner and push the Warriors, even if Thompson and/or Durant return? This is aimed, first and foremost, at Lowry. He took the “let it rip” plea personally. Entering this game, he had six baskets total in this series and at times suffered defensively. Challenged by a pregame talk from coach Nick Nurse, Lowry embraced his inner pit bull and was relentless all night. The All-Star point guard took 16 shots, making eight, for 23 points and nine assists while making his presence felt for the first time this Finals. “For me, it was just not being so passive and trying to get everyone else involved and get myself going and let everyone else feed off that,” Lowry said. He and Green re-introduced the three-pointer to the Raptors’ offense. The two shot 11-for-19 and repeatedly stole whatever momentum Golden State could generate by responding with long-distance daggers that forced fans to slump back into their seats. This from the same player who had five total three's in his previous five playoff games, ruining more than a handful of runs with momentum-deflating misses. There’s no other way to describe the last three weeks of Green’s postseason shooting but dreadful. He has only one job: Stand in the corner and shoot open 3s. He’s made a career of that. So what do the Raptors make of Green shooting 6-of-10 from deep Wednesday (Thursday, PHL time)? In the short term, it helped win Game 3. In the big picture, will this confidence carry over from one night to another, or does it depend on whether Green hits his first few? Nurse said: “Danny’s buckets boosted our whole team’s confidence because we were used to relying on those most of the year.” With better production from players who had been mostly missing, the Raptors had the balance needed to deliver their highest-scoring and most efficient (52 percent shooting) contest of the series. Green and Lowry joined Kawhi Leonard (30 points) and Pascal Siakam (18) and Marc Gasol (17) to take turns pummeling the Warriors from all different directions and manners. One reason for this was Thompson’s absence. Not only is he a proven outside shooter, but his defense is top-notch as well. You could even argue that Thompson’s missing defense was just as costly as his jumper. Yet the 109 points Golden State did manage were mainly because of Curry providing nearly half the offense. Given the circumstances of being without Thompson and Durant, and the constant pressing by Toronto whenever he had the ball, this was Curry’s finest post-season effort. His shooting was superb all across the floor, making three's (six) and free throws (13-14) and in general (14-31). “It’s the Finals,” Curry said. “You give everything you’ve got, sacrifice your body when you have the opportunity. Just competitiveness and trying to play until the buzzer.” “He does things that honestly I don’t think anyone has done before," Kerr added. "The way he plays the game, the way he shoots and the combination of his ball-handling, it’s incredible to watch.” If only he had someone riding shotgun. Cousins was sloppy on both ends, with three turnovers and one basket, and a step slow on defense against Gasol. This came one game after he seemingly regained his legs and confidence to gave Golden State a much-needed lift. Green’s continued recklessness was mystifying; he often made questionable decisions as a playmaker, suffered four turnovers and once again struggled to contain Siakam. The Warriors needed Green’s best, given their missing parts, and received something less. “We’ve got to be more solid with the ball and it starts with me,” he said. “I’ve had a bunch of turnovers in every game of this series. I think if I played better with the night (Curry) had, we would have won.” And so the Warriors, while talking bravely about their next-man-up mentality and embracing their “Strength in Numbers” slogan, must realize, deep down, that preventing the Raptors from winning two more games with a handicapped team might be difficult, if not impossible. Keep in mind that Golden State hasn’t sparkled for four quarters since the first game of the Western Conference finals. The last three games of that series, and the first three of the NBA Finals, the Warriors trailed by double digits. Thompson has an off day and Friday's (Saturday, PHL time) pregame period for therapy on his hamstring, although such strains are unpredictable and tricky. Will he be able to cut and fight through screens and be bouncy for 35-plus minutes through the intensity of an NBA Finals game, or will the injury restrict him and cause Kerr to seek a healthier, yet less productive replacement? “The whole point was to not risk a bigger injury that would keep him out the rest of the series,” said Kerr, explaining a decision made in consultation with the team doctors. “I feel very comfortable with it. I never would have forgiven myself if I played him and he had gotten hurt. So you live with the decision you made. The good thing is Klay has done well the last two days; hopefully he’ll be out there Friday.” Then there’s Durant, who last played May 8 (May 9, PHL time). After doing nothing but individual drills the last few days, he’ll go through a more normal practice session that will be simulated with the help of some assistant coaches and bench players. They'll see how Durant holds up. But that won’t match the stress level of a real game. And even if Durant gets clearance for Game 4, he hasn’t played in roughly a month. What about his timing? His wind? His touch? His ability to bring the same energy on defense? All legit questions and concerns for the Warriors -- until they’re not, whenever that is. “No one cares if guys are hurt,” Green said. “Everyone wants to see us lose anyway. So I’m sure people are happy they’re hurt.” Chances are that basketball fans, even if they’re against the Warriors, want to see stars on the floor this time of year. That’s what the NBA Finals is always about: Premium players doing premium things, or failing to do so, and letting the championship odds rise or fall on their performances. This year’s Finals have been denied one star for every game, and an additional star for one game. The battle with star attrition finally cost the Warriors a postseason loss, and at the worst possible time. The flow of the remainder of the NBA Finals, then, could rest with aching tendons and muscles and the recovery powers of those who own them. “We’re missing 50 points with KD and Klay, but we’ll adjust,” said a confident Curry. “It’s a long series, you know. It’s going to be fun for us.” The next Warriors medical update will arrive Thursday afternoon (Friday, PHL time). And another one Friday (Saturday, PHL time) just prior to tipoff. All along, the Warriors have led everyone to believe that it’s only a matter of time before they’re fully healthy. But will it be in time? And even then, will it be enough against a Toronto team suddenly thinking big? Shaun Powell has covered the NBA for more than 25 years. 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 NewsJun 6th, 2019

F1 eyes may have opened after Alonso s Indy 500 flop

By Dave Skretta, Associated Press INDIANAPOLIS (AP) — Alexander Rossi had no idea what he was getting into when he moved from Formula One to IndyCar. Turning left the whole race? Looks easy. But as Rossi soon found out — and as two-time world champion Fernando Alonso and his McLaren team learned in failing to qualify for the Indianapolis 500 last weekend — getting around Indianapolis Motor Speedway at speeds eclipsing 230 mph is a lot tougher than it looks. "I didn't understand what oval racing was. I didn't understand what IndyCar racing was, because there is no exposure to it in Europe," said Rossi, an American who moved to Europe as a teenager and made his F1 dreams come true with seven starts during the 2014 and '15 seasons. "So when guys haven't been a part of it," Rossi said, "they don't understand how difficult it is, how unique it is to everything they've done. On TV, let's be honest, it doesn't look that challenging, so being a European driver, in your mind you're at the pinnacle of the sport. You think, 'Of course I can go over there and do that and it wouldn't be a problem.'" That inherent arrogance was underscored two years ago, when Alonso showed up at the Indy 500 for the first time. He ran near the front all race, only for his Honda engine to let him down. Naturally, many F1 drivers were quick to pounce on their rival open-wheel series, claiming it must not be too difficult to win in IndyCar if Alonso could be competitive right out of the gate. "I looked at the times and, frankly, for his first-ever qualifying for Fernando to be fifth — what does that say about Indy?" five-time F1 champion Lewis Hamilton mused to L'Equipe shortly afterward. "A great driver," he said, "if he cannot win in Formula 1, will look for other races to win." In other words, Hamilton was calling IndyCar second-rate. That's part of why so many eyebrows jumped at McLaren's spectacular disappointment. "Fernando may have done well in 2017, so there may have been a feeling like all he has to do is show up and take it over," said Mark Miles, the chairman of Hulman & Co., which owns Indianapolis Motor Speedway. "I think this causes that sense of, 'Hey, this is harder than we thought.'" The team that bumped the well-funded, England-based team with the rich racing heritage from this year's field? None other than Juncos Racing, the tiny team founded by Argentina-born Ricardo Juncos and to this day run on such a shoestring budget that it was still signing up sponsors on Wednesday. The moment Kyle Kaiser put their car in the field last Sunday was the moment McLaren's world collapsed, leading to the firing of Bob Fernley, who headed its IndyCar operation. "We got it wrong," the team's boss, Zak Brown, said Thursday ahead of this weekend's Monaco Grand Prix, the showcase race on the F1 calendar. "There are little stories behind each of those individual issues and how they transpired, but you know, we didn't execute and therefore we didn't qualify for the Indy 500." In doing so, they showed just how difficult it is to win the "Greatest Spectacle in Racing," and perhaps earned IndyCar drivers a certain measure of respect from their F1 counterparts. "You've got to be a good driver, but setup and all those things at those margins is so important," said F1 driver Daniel Ricciardo, who has never driven an Indy car or raced on an oval. "I don't know the ins and outs, but everything needs to work right and that's the thing with race cars. It's a love-hate relationship. Obviously, this year for (Alonso) was more of a hate one. "It's sad to see," Ricciardo added. "Obviously as part of the F1 family, we want him to do well." One of the reasons the Indy 500 is so difficult is it tests the machines — and how they are tuned — just as much as the drivers. Manufacturers such as Mercedes and Ferrari can pump $300 million into their teams and essentially buy the crucial tenths of a second they need to win races, but IndyCar teams work with a relatively stock setup that puts the onus on crew and driver. "A big team like McLaren, and you see a small team like Juncos, it just shows this competition, it's not easy no matter who you are," three-time Indy 500 winner Helio Castroneves said. "It is one of the toughest places on Earth to get in, and you've seen big teams like Penske have failed." Rossi has so far bucked the trend, winning the 100th running of the Indy 500 in his 2016 debut. He was second the following year and fourth last year, each time benefiting from the experience, equipment and resources that his Andretti Autosport team has poured into its efforts over the years. "Fernando is a world champion. You expect him to do a good job," Rossi said. "But at Indianapolis, to find speed, it's experience, kind of the tricks of the trade that money can't buy, and I think that gets lost on a lot of people, and I think that was on full display this past week." ___ AP Auto Racing Writer Jenna Fryer and AP Sports Writer Jerome Pugmire contributed......»»

Category: sportsSource:  abscbnRelated NewsMay 24th, 2019

Koepka survives Bethpage Black to win PGA Championship

By Doug Ferguson, Associated Press FARMINGDALE, N.Y. (AP) — Brooks Koepka took his place in PGA Championship history with a wire-to-wire victory, minus the style points. In a raging wind that turned Bethpage Black into a beast, Koepka lost all but one shot of his record seven-shot lead Sunday. He lost the brutal Long Island crowd, which began chanting "DJ!" for Dustin Johnson as Koepka was on his way to a fourth straight bogey. But he delivered the key shots over the closing stretch as Johnson faded with two straight bogeys, and Koepka closed with a 4-over 74 for a two-shot victory and joined Tiger Woods as the only back-to-back winners of the PGA Championship since it went to stroke play in 1958. Koepka said at the start of the week that majors are sometimes the easiest to win. This one should have been. It wasn't. His 74 was the highest final round by a PGA champion since Vijay Singh won in a playoff in 2004 at Whistling Straits. "I'm just glad I don't have to play any more holes," Koepka said. "That was a stressful round of golf. I'm glad to have this thing back in my hands." Koepka appeared to wrap it up with a gap wedge from 156 yards to 2 feet on the 10th hole for a birdie, as Johnson made his first bogey of the round up ahead on the 11th. That restored the lead to six shots, and the coronation was on. And then it all changed in a New York minute. Koepka missed three straight fairways and made three straight bogeys, having to make a 6-foot putt on No. 11 to keep it from being worse. The wind was so fickle that it died as he hit 7-iron to the par-3 14th that sailed over the green, leading to a fourth straight bogey. The crowd sensed a collapse, and began chanting, "DJ! DJ! DJ!" as Koepka was playing the hole. Ahead of him, Johnson made birdie on the 15th — the toughest hole at Bethpage Black all week — and the lead was down to one. That was as close as Johnson got. His 5-iron pierced through a wind that gusted close to 25 mph, over the green and into a buried lie. He missed the 7-foot par putt, went long of the green on the par-3 17th for another bogey and had to settle for 69. "Hit the shot I wanted to right at the flag," Johnson said of his 5-iron from 194 yards on the 16th. "I don't know how it flew 200 yards into the wind like that. Johnson now has runner-up finishes in all four of the majors, the wrong kind of career Grand Slam. "I gave it a run," he said. "That's all you can ask for." Koepka returned to No. 1 in the world with a performance that defines his dominance in golf's biggest events. He becomes the first player to hold back-to-back titles in two majors at the same time, having won a second straight U.S. Open last summer 60 miles down the road at Shinnecock Hills. He was the first wire-to-wire winner in the PGA Championship since Hal Sutton at Riviera in 1983. And what stakes his claim as one of the best in his generation was a third straight year winning a major. He joins a most elite group — only Woods, Phil Mickelson, Tom Watson, Jack Nicklaus and Arnold Palmer have done that since the Masters began in 1934. He now has four majors in his last eight, a streak not seen since Woods won seven out of 11 when he captured the 2002 U.S. Open at Bethpage Black. Next up is the U.S. Open at Pebble Beach, where Koepka defends his title for the third time. No one has won the U.S. Open three straight years since Willie Anderson in 1905. No one will doubt whether Koepka is capable the way he is playing. The 29-year-old Floridian is an imposing figure, a power off the tee and out of the rough with no obvious weakness in his game and the kind of mental fortitude that majors require. He needed all of it over the final hour of this one. Koepka doesn't know his resting heart rate, and he said on the eve of the final round that it probably was not much different on the first tee of a major than when he was chilling on his couch. But he could feel this one getting away from him. He could sense Johnson making a charge. He could hear it. "How could you not with the 'DJ' chants," Koepka said. "I heard everything." Bethpage has a reputation for being over the top, and it irritated Harold Varner III, who shot 81 playing in the final group. "I thought it was pretty weird how they were telling Brooks to choke," Varner said about the 14th hole. "That's not my cup of tea. I was pulling for him after that." Koepka held it together at the most crucial moment. He piped his driver down the 15th fairway and two-putted for par. And he drilled another one into the 16th, which played the most difficult in the final round because it was into the wind. Johnson hit 5-iron just over the green. The wind died enough 20 minutes later that Koepka hit 7-iron only to 50 feet and had another good lag putt to get par. He kept it interesting to the end, three-putting the 17th as the lead went back to two shots, and pulling his driver on the 18th into fescue so thick it left him little choice but to lay up and scramble for par. Once his medium lob wedge settled 6 feet away, he could relax. Finally. Woods won the Wanamaker Trophy in consecutive years twice, in 1999 and 2000, and again in 2006 and 2007. Koepka was starting to draw comparisons with Woods for the way he obliterated the competition, much like Woods in his 12-shot victory in the 1997 Masters and 15-shot victory in the 2000 U.S. Open at Pebble Beach. Koepka tied the PGA Championship record by opening with a 63. He broke the major championship record for 36 holes at 128. He set another PGA Championship record with his seven-shot lead. In the end, just having his name on the heaviest championship trophy in golf was all that mattered. Jordan Spieth registered his first top 10 since the British Open last summer with a 71 to finish at 2-under 278, six shots behind. He tied for third with Patrick Cantlay (71) and Matt Wallace (72). This really was a two-man race over the back nine that not many would have seen coming at the start of the final round. Only the outcome was expected......»»

Category: sportsSource:  abscbnRelated NewsMay 20th, 2019

Lopez sticks to the Bucks plan, and it s more fun for everyone

By Steve Aschburner, NBA.com MILWAUKEE — Come for the three-point melodrama, stay for the rim protection, the put-backs, the block-outs and the blocked shots. Come for the anguish and frustration that plays out across Brook Lopez’s face over the course of a typical NBA game, stay for the maniacal, jubilant, fourth-quarter clapping that gets turned into a GIF and goes viral within minutes. Brook Lopez clapping violently dot gif pic.twitter.com/a22arVkUSc — CJ Fogler (@cjzero) May 16, 2019 Come for the unbuttoned Fresno Grizzlies minor league baseball jersey, stay for the Disney fashion T-shirt showing beneath it and the Pizza Planet cap up top. “I’ve always tried to have fun when I go out and play basketball,” said Lopez. The Milwaukee Bucks’ center embodied his team’s performance as they clawed back Game 1 of the Eastern Conference finals, beating the Toronto Raptors, 108-100, Wednesday night (Thursday, PHL time) at Fiserv Forum. [Watch the Playoffs on NBA League Pass for 30% less with this limited time offer! Select Annual package and use code SAVE30 at checkout to redeem] “I obviously love playing the game,” said Lopez, dressed like a 7-foot 10-year-old for his podium appearance. “But no question I’ve been having a great time here.” Lopez, 31, scored 29 points, a personal playoff best, and grabbed 11 rebounds. It was his first 20-point night of the Bucks’ 10 playoff games so far, only the fourth of his career (he has appeared in just 23 postseason games in 11 seasons). And it came on the heels of a Game 5 effort against Boston a week ago in which Lopez was held scoreless. Milwaukee clinched anyway. This one was an ordeal for Lopez and for the Bucks, an opener in the best-of-seven series in which they slogged through three quarters without much touch or rhythm. The style of play they’ve embraced over 82 games and the past month of postseason was betraying them; Milwaukee kept hoisting and missing three-pointers, as single-mindedly in spite of horrid results as if they all wore beards and played for Houston. The resulting nastiness: A 6-for-34 (17.6 percent) showing from the arc, while digging an 83-76 hole that maxed out at 13 points. Lopez was a notable offender. He missed his first three from deep and only broke through midway through the second quarter. His shot from out front that got the Bucks within 42-37 was followed by a reaction of one part frustration, one part exasperation and a couple parts relief. That’s the wide open space of Lopez’s game, out there on the wing or in the corner launching for all the world to see. Home fans seem to live and die on each attempt, riding an emotional rollercoaster while – on nights such as this one – they wait for his results to regress to the mean. That finally happened in the fourth quarter. Lopez – who shot a total of 31 three-pointers in his first eight seasons, 300-plus in each of the next two and ultimately 512 in 2018-19 with the Bucks – hit two to get his team going in the quarter. His third in the period, one possession after Lopez finished a slo-mo fast-break for a 101-100 lead, sent Toronto into a timeout, down four with 1:55 left. That was when Lopez came with the clapping. And when play resumed, there was Lopez again, getting a hand on Kawhi Leonard’s attempt to attack the rim, stripping and corralling the ball for a block and rebound. As good as Kyle Lowry was over the final 12 minutes, as potent as the Raptors’ offense was at certain points earlier, they were done scoring for the night. Lopez did the small stuff all night, even finishing off the dribble a couple times. It’s just that, by virtue of how he and the Bucks have played this season, those things get overshadowed by the broad strokes that didn’t go his way until late. “This is the Brook we all know and we all love,” said Giannis Antetokounmpo. Said Khris Middleton: “He’s a beast. Inside the paint, made some big plays for us. On the defensive end, he covers up so much for our mistakes.” The Bucks’ adherence to what works has been tested for quarters, for halves, but so far only for one whole game in these playoffs – they dropped the opener against Boston. Milwaukee won the next four in a row to oust the Celtics. In the dressing room afterward, there was chatter that they’d snatched one away, that they couldn't have played worse – at least on offense. In that fourth quarter, outscoring Toronto 32-17, Milwaukee made up for a multitude of sins. The Bucks hit 50 percent of their shots, missed only 1-of-10 free throws and dominated the boards (14-4) to finish with a 60-45 edge. The Raptors were held to 5-of-22 shooting in the quarter. And Lopez, dragging a minus-5 plus/minus rating through three quarters, was sitting on a plus-7 by the horn. The key? Absolutely faith in the style they’ve honed since late September, and a commitment to letting it fly. Whether we’re talking about a conscienceless approach to three-pointers or Lopez’s irrepressible good nature. He has made as many as eight three-pointers in a game this season (at Denver, Nov. 12, PHL time) and attempted as many as 15 (vs. Brooklyn, Dec. 30, PHL time). There is no such thing as too many. “That’s what my teammates have been telling me,” Lopez said. “George Hill specifically and then [Giannis], too. They just stick in my mind: ‘Keep shooting the ball, you just need one to go down. Keep letting it fly.” Steve Aschburner has written about the NBA since 1980. You can e-mail him here, find his archive here and follow him on Twitter. The views on this page do not necessarily reflect the views of the NBA, its clubs or Turner Broadcasting......»»

Category: sportsSource:  abscbnRelated NewsMay 16th, 2019

No extra drama needed for Nuggets, Blazers in Game 7

By Sekou Smith, NBA.com DENVER -- All the posturing you can muster won’t win you this all-important game. No amount of name-calling, shoving, screaming, shouting or tough guy antics and gestures will save you when it’s all on the line in Game 7 of the NBA playoffs. And there are enough guys playing for both the Denver Nuggets and Portland Trail Blazers that know it, even if most of them have only observed a Game 7 from the stands or even further afar. [Watch the Playoffs on NBA League Pass for 30% less with this limited time offer! Select Annual package and use code SAVE30 at checkout to redeem] It’s a simple proposition, these Game 7 affairs. You win, you play on. Your season continues and all of the goals you set are still attainable. You lose, you’re done. None of the things you believed in before that last opening tip of the season remain. Pack up your stuff and head home for the summer. That’s the reality, the fate both the Nuggets and Trail Blazers are facing Sunday afternoon (Monday morning, PHL time) at Pepsi Center, the all-important Game 7 showdown in the Western Conference semifinals that will define one team’s season and render the other’s mute. There’s a finality to it, a certain air of drama that cannot be found anywhere else in the postseason. So it doesn’t matter if you have “sassy *** dudes, frontrunners,” as Blazers reserve guard Seth Curry put it after things got chippy late in Game 6 Thursday night (Friday, PHL time), one side or broadcast talent on the other taking cheap and unnecessary shots at injured Blazers center Jusuf Nurkic, Sunday afternoon's (Monday, PHL time) business is an up-and-down affair for all involved. Win and you play on or lose and you’re done. “I’m looking forward to Game 7,” Blazers coach Terry Stotts said. “Games 7s are special.” No extracurricular activity from either side will change that fact. “Both teams want to win the game,” said Nuggets center Nikola Jokic. “Basketball is an emotional game. Of course, we’re going to talk trash or whatever. Both teams just want to win the game.” That doesn’t mean you don’t look for every advantage possible to help fuel your cause. Blazers big man Zach Collins played a huge role in making sure this series found its way to Game 7, joining Rodney Hood in providing a huge boost off the bench in Game 6. And it was more than just his season-high 29 minutes and playoff career-high 14 points and five blocks. It was his physicality and activity around the rim and in the paint on both ends of the floor, his refusal to allow the Nuggets to find a groove. “We’ve just got to go in and keep playing our game,” Collins said. “I said it after the game, [Denver] has been way too comfortable for a lot of games in this series and [in Game 6] we made them a little uncomfortable. We just need to continue that, regardless of if it’s a Game 7 or not. Obviously, it’s win or go home for both teams. It’s going to be very difficult, especially in [Denver] to go in and get a win, but we can do it.” The Nuggets leaned on their sterling 34-7 record at Pepsi Center during the regular season, the best home mark in the league, as a confidence booster two weeks ago. “We have the best home court advantage in the NBA,” Nuggets coach Michael Malone said. “We’re going to rely on that once again and try to close it out in Game 7.” The Nuggets owning that recency advantage: they needed a Game 7 win here to survive the San Antonio Spurs in the first round, means something. The game and that series provided lessons Malone’s postseason rookies need to tap into this time around, even if they don’t realize it now. “It’s weird,” Nuggets guard Jamal Murray said. “Everybody keeps talking about experience. And I just want to say that we’ve been here before. [We go] back home and regroup like we did for San Antonio, come back with energy and just … be ready to play. I think we had too many lapses [in Game 6]. Dame [Lillard] felt really comfortable, he wasn’t comfortable last time, so we need to be tougher on him … like I said, just regroup, come back and get a win.” If only it was that simple. The pressure to get out of the first round is one thing. The opportunity to make the conference finals is a different monster. The Nuggets last played in a conference final in 2009, when Carmelo Anthony, Chauncey Billups, Kenyon Martin, J.R. Smith and Nene led the way. That group had a mix of seasoned pros who had championship (Billups) and extensive experience (Billups and Martin) competing on a championship level, to go along with younger and emerging superstar talent like Anthony. And they were ultimately no match for the Kobe Bryant and Pau Gasol-led Los Angeles Lakers. So these current Nuggets are well within their right to acknowledge the very real anxiety that comes with a game of this magnitude. “No nerves, “Jokic said. “I just felt something different the first game of the playoffs because it was something different. Just because we call it the playoffs, Besides that, everything else is the same.” The Blazers haven’t seen a Game 7 since a 2003 first-round series against Dallas. But they do not believe the absence of experience in this case makes any bit of difference. “It’s just another game -- a game we want to win, obviously,” Blazers guard CJ McCollum said. “We understand what’s at stake. Somebody’s got to go home. Somebody’s got to go to Cabo, go to Cancun, as Chuck [Barkley] would say. For us, it’s go out there and compete, find the coach’s game plan, understanding that it’s going to be a pretty hostile crowd and they’ll be confident at home, but we’ve got to bring the energy and pressure just like we did [in Game 6].” Damian Lillard has guided his team this far and promised to stick to the basics in the days and hours leading up to the game. Rested bodies and minds are crucial. “The number one thing is have our minds right,” he said. “Don’t overthink, don’t make some big crazy deal or anything like that. We’re going to play a basketball game. It’s a big game and we’ve won on their floor before and we know what type of mentality we had when we did that. We’ve got to go out there, be tough, be physical, be sharp in our scouting report, play for each other, play with each other on both ends and just put the pressure on them. “Make them earn everything on their offensive end and then when we get the ball, make sure that we get shots up,” Lillard continued with his simple but extremely detailed breakdown of what needs to be done. “Value every possession, don’t go out there turning the ball over, playing into their hands where they get an opportunity to get their crowd involved. So that has to be our mentality, to just be sharp, be physical, go in there ready to take the game, because the only way it’s going to happen is us going in there and taking it.” It’s a Game 7, after all, no extra drama needed. Sekou Smith is a veteran NBA reporter and NBA TV analyst. You can e-mail him here, find his archive here and follow him on Twitter. The views on this page do not necessarily reflect the views of the NBA, its clubs or Turner Broadcasting......»»

Category: sportsSource:  abscbnRelated NewsMay 12th, 2019

BLOGTABLE: What s most impressive about Bucks?

NBA.com blogtable What impresses you most about Milwaukee’s 8-1 postseason record? * * * Steve Aschburner: The Bucks’ depth. Everyone knows who Giannis Antetokounmpo is. But not everyone notices how frequently this team adds to its leads when Antetokounmpo is on the bench, at least in these playoffs. During the regular season, Milwaukee was 9.7 points better, per 100 possessions, when "The Greek Freak" was on the floor. During this postseason? The Bucks are 10.3 points better when Antetokounmpo sits down. Now, those playoff on/off numbers are 11.4 vs. 21.7, so it’s hard to go wrong either way. Small sample size, but it indicates how well the reserves are playing, how much coach Mike Budenholzer and GM Jon Horst have cultivated this bench and how effectively these guys play in whatever combination they need. [Watch the Playoffs on NBA League Pass for 30% less with this limited time offer! Select Annual package and use code SAVE30 at checkout to redeem] John Schuhmann: Giannis Antetokounmpo can't not be the most impressive thing about the Bucks, but the most noteworthy aspect of Milwaukee's postseason thus far is the play of their bench. While other teams have been forced to shorten their rotations because some reserves have been disappointing (or downright unplayable) in the playoffs, the Bucks have had some reserves play better than they did in the regular season. George Hill's regular season's contributions were rather minimal, but he was huge in the conference semis, averaging 15.5 points on 62 percent shooting over the Bucks' four wins. Pat Connaughton, meanwhile, has given them some important rebounding and floor spacing. And the Bucks have outscored their opponents by more than 21 points per 100 possessions with Hill and Connaughton on the floor together. Now, they've added more depth with the return of Malcolm Brogdon. Sekou Smith: The most impressive thing about the Bucks' 8-1 postseason run is that, save for Game 1 against the Boston Celtics, they treated each and every other game the same way. They didn't show the Celtics any more respect than they did the Detroit Pistons in that first round sweep. That's the mark of a champion, a team willing to disregard the opposition completely in its quest to win 16 games and bring home a Larry O'Brien Trophy. Like most everyone else, I needed to see if what the Bucks did during the regular season would translate to the postseason. And the overmatched Pistons couldn't provide the evidence needed in the first round. Punishing the Celtics the way they did, though, speaks to me in a completely different manner......»»

Category: sportsSource:  abscbnRelated NewsMay 10th, 2019

Bucks stars sit down, supporting cast steps up

By Steve Aschburner, NBA.com BOSTON – Giannis Antetokounmpo sat down. Khris Middleton sat down. And the Milwaukee Bucks’ chance of beating the Boston Celtics in Game 4 of their Eastern Conference semifinal series seemed to sit down with them. In a hostile arena, against an opponent that by all rights should have been desperate (though the emotion never did quite translate to the Celtics’ performance), losing your best two players to foul trouble at a crucial point in the second half should have been too much for Milwaukee. [Watch the Playoffs on NBA League Pass for 30% less with this limited time offer! Select Annual package and use code SAVE30 at checkout to redeem] Antetokounmpo got whistled for his fourth personal foul with 8:18 left in the third quarter, the teams tied at 59-59. Before the score ever budged, 61 seconds later, Middleton got his fourth. It was automatic for Bucks coach Mike Budenholzer to yank both his All-Stars, with so much game left and the risk of one or both fouling out so great. This should have been the opportunity the Celtics needed. They had misfired their way to that point, shooting 37 percent overall in the first half and 4-of-19 on three-pointers. But they had their full complement of starters available. Boston should have pounced. Boston should have cracked open the game right there and earned itself a 2-2 series tie. Instead, the Bucks stiffened, then pushed back. They might even have ended the series, turning that stretch of resiliency to end the third quarter into a 113-101 victory. They hold a 3-1 lead now with a chance to close it out at home in Game 5 Wednesday (Thursday, PHL time) and advance to the conference finals. That’s how pivotal the Bucks’ plucky response to adversity was. They not only fended off the Celtics during that star-starved stretch, they took the lead: Milwaukee went on a little 13-9 run to the 2:31 mark of the third, triggering a timeout by Boston coach Brad Stevens. Then play resumed, and the Bucks outscored them again 8-4 to close the quarter. It was the exact opposite of what should have happened, Milwaukee opening up an 80-72 lead while playing shorthanded, and Boston squandering such a ripe chance to seize the game. Yet there wasn’t much surprise showing in the visitors’ dressing room. “We were just playing the same way,” said center Brook Lopez. “We always say, ‘Same way. Same way,’ and just keep grinding. We did a great job these past two games just grinding for the first 30, 35 minutes or whatever, and then just taking advantage whenever the moment comes.” This should have been Boston’s moment, though. It’s true that the Bucks’ depth has been a weapon all season and that their role players have prided themselves on maintaining -- or adding to -- leads. But c’mon, they were working without a net this time. Antetokounmpo and Middleton had to sit for a while at least, if not the balance of the quarter. The worst thing that could happen if they came back too soon would be picking up their fifth fouls. The second-worst thing would be playing overly cautious to avoid doing that. Didn’t the players who stepped into the breach feel the burden? “We didn’t really feel that way,” Lopez said. “We had that trust and belief in one another. We were just trying not to have any sort of letdown.” Budenholzer dealt with the fragile situation by reminding himself that he typically subs out his stars in that general vicinity of the game. Keeping them fresh for the fourth quarter is a priority, particularly with Antetokounmpo. It’s just that this time, the terms were dictated to the Bucks coach. “It’s always hard to take out Giannis, let’s just start there,” Budenholzer said. But he added, “Because of our normal subs rotation, it wasn’t as tough to take him out.” Lopez, George Hill, Ersan Ilyasova, Eric Bledsoe, Nikola Mirotic, Pat Connaughton and Sterling Brown all played during Antetokounmpo’s and Middleton’s absences. (Middleton returned for an uneventful final 20 seconds in the period.) Bledsoe got it going offensively, then Hill – not unlike his super-sub showing in Game 3 – scored nine of Milwaukee’s final 11 points in the quarter. And they all locked in defensively, making life miserable for a Celtics team that never recovered. “Absolutely. We’re always defense first,” Lopez said. “I think we even stepped up our intensity in that moment.” The Greek Freak, while all this was going on, sat between deep reserves D.J. Wilson and inactive rookie Donte DiVincenzo with a concerned look on his face and nervous energy bouncing through one leg. Tough benchmate? “I mean, he’s one of those guys who wants to play all 48,” Wilson said. “He hates when he comes out. He’s kind of like that every game.” Said Antetokounmpo: “It’s amazing to see that the bench can keep playing hard, keep defending hard and set the tone for us.” The past two games, the Bucks’ bench has outscored Boston’s 74-23. So Milwaukee didn’t just survive, it thrived. It started the fourth with its top guys more rested than usual. And oh, did it show. Antetokounmpo scored 17 points in that quarter, but, playing all 12 minutes during which he scored half of the Bucks’ 12 field goals and grabbed seven rebounds. Middleton was scoreless but was a plus-seven the rest of the way, second only to Connaughton’s plus-11. Boston wound up trading baskets for much of the fourth. Al Horford’s layup at 7:25 got his team within 91-86, only to see Lopez and Antetokounmpo score all of the Bucks’ points in a 14-6 stretch that ate up five minutes. The home team seemed to be fraying, bringing an air of inevitability to the night. Speculation that it might have been All-Star guard Kyrie Irving’s final game as a Celtic in Boston – he’ll be a free agent this summer and never has seemed particularly happy here – began immediately. Irving, after a golden Game 1, has played haphazardly in the past three while shooting a combined 19-of-62. “Who cares?” he said. “It’s a little different when your rhythm is challenged every play down. You’re being picked up full court. They’re doing things to test you. The expectations on me are going to be sky high. I try to utilize their aggression against them and still put my teammates in great positions, while still being aggressive and trying to do it all. “For me, the 22 shots? I should have shot 30.” The Bucks, boasting strong chemistry since training camp, never has looked tighter. In fact, when Lopez was asked if he felt a sense of relief that they reached the fourth quarter without getting pummeled, he wouldn’t go there. “I don’t think it’s a sense of relief,” he said. “I don’t want to say that, because one through 15 we have trust in everyone in this locker room. Whoever we have out on the floor, we’re never like, ‘Oh damn, we’re stuck with these guys.’” Steve Aschburner has written about the NBA since 1980. You can e-mail him here, find his archive here and follow him on Twitter. The views on this page do not necessarily reflect the views of the NBA, its clubs or Turner Broadcasting......»»

Category: sportsSource:  abscbnRelated NewsMay 7th, 2019

Numbers to know heading into Raptors-Sixers Game 5

By John Schuhmann, NBA.com It's not clear that, by the end of the Eastern Conference semifinals series between the Toronto Raptors and Philadelphia 76ers, we'll know which is the better team. One of these teams is going to beat the other four times. But it may just be a case of survival, one team scratching out four wins and moving on to the conference finals. [Watch the Playoffs on NBA League Pass for 30% less with this limited time offer! Select Annual package and use code SAVE30 at checkout to redeem] Through four games, this has been the least efficient series in the conference semifinals, with the teams combining to score just 104 points per 100 possessions. The two teams rank sixth and eighth in offensive efficiency among the eight teams playing in this round. "We haven't been in great rhythm here in the last few games," Raptors coach Nick Nurse admitted Tuesday (Wednesday, PHL time). "That's playing the same team over and over." The Raptors did score 101 points on 93 possessions in Game 4, their second-best offensive game of the series. The Sixers have been the better offensive team overall, but have really had just one good offensive game and three rough ones. Game 2 was one of two in these playoffs where a team won while scoring less than a point per possession. A slow grind This series has also been played at a pace (95.4 possessions per team per 48 minutes) slower than that of any NBA team in the regular season. And that could an issue for the Sixers, who played at a faster pace than the Raptors in the regular season and at a much faster pace than Toronto in the first round. The 95.4 rating is only 0.3 possessions per 48 minutes slower than the Toronto-Orlando series, but it's 10.2 possessions per 48 slower than the Philly-Brooklyn series. Prior to Game 4, it was noted that the Raptors weren't scoring in transition as efficiently as they did in the regular season. With J.J. Redick having shot 5-for-6 from three-point range in the first six seconds of the shot clock, the Sixers have actually scored very efficiently in transition in this series: 1.33 points per transition possession. But they haven't gotten the same number of transition opportunities as they did in the regular season or in the first round. In the regular season, Philly scored 1.07 points per possession (a bottom-10 rate) on 20.0 transition possessions per game. In the first round against Brooklyn, the Sixers scored just 1.00 points per possession on 19.0 transition possessions per game. In this series, they've scored those 1.33 points per possession, but on just 13.5 transition possessions per game. Against Brooklyn, Ben Simmons averaged 3.6 shots per game in the first six seconds of the shot clock, according to Second Spectrum tracking. In the conference semis, he has just five total field-goal attempts in the first six seconds. The Raptors have seemingly won the pace battle, in part because they've averaged only 5.5 live-ball turnovers per game, with Brooklyn having averaged 7.8 in the first round. But Sixers coach Brett Brown explained after Game 2 that, with his team's shorter rotation and the remaining players playing more minutes, it's more difficult to push the ball in transition on every opportunity. "We'll try from time to time to play as fast as we can," Brown said, "but the reality is it's just a grind. And when you shrink your rotation, you're probably not going to be able to call upon that type of freshness as much as if you were playing like a normal 9 1/2, 10 [guys]." Problems in the paint The bigger difference between Toronto's two wins and Philadelphia's two wins has been on the Toronto end of the floor, where he Raptors have scored 109.4 points per 100 possessions in Games 1 and 4, and just 96.8 in Games 2 and 3. But one number stands out in regard to the Sixers' offense in wins vs. losses. In their two wins, they've shot 45-for-77 (58 percent) in the paint. In their two losses, they've shot 37-for-79 (47 percent) in the paint. "We have to own some of it," Brown said Monday (Tuesday, PHL time) of his team's inability to finish in Game 4. "You give credit to Toronto's length and their attention to that area." Indeed, the Raptors played bigger in Game 4 and Serge Ibaka blocked three shots inside. In the regular season, Philly ranked fifth in field goal percentage in the paint (57.4 percent), but 17th in effective field goal percentage on shots from outside the paint (49.3 percent). So defending the former seems like a good priority for Toronto. Of course, if the Raptors are going to collapse in the paint and focus on contesting shots inside, the Sixers will get open looks on the perimeter. They made 12 three's on Sunday (Monday, PHL time), but Tobias Harris (2-for-13) and Mike Scott (0-for-3) were a combined 2-for-16 from beyond the arc. Over the four games, Harris (7-for-22) has attempted more catch-and-shoot three's than J.J. Redick (9-for-20), which is probably a good thing for the Raptors. Right after Kawhi Leonard hit the biggest shot of the series on Sunday (Monday, PHL time), Harris missed a wide-open corner three when the Toronto defense collapsed on a Joel Embiid roll to the rim. If Harris made that shot, it's back to a one-point game with about 40 seconds left. Alas, he missed and the Raptors made enough free throws to seal the game and even the series. John Schuhmann is a senior stats analyst for NBA.com. You can e-mail him here, find his archive here and follow him on Twitter. The views on this page do not necessarily reflect the views of the NBA, its clubs or Turner Broadcasting......»»

Category: sportsSource:  abscbnRelated NewsMay 7th, 2019

Celtics need best version of Irving back

By Steve Aschburner, NBA.com BOSTON — The Boston Celtics are looking forward to getting guard Marcus Smart back, possibly as soon as Game 4 against Milwaukee Monday night (Tuesday, PHL time) at TD Garden. They would be better served, however, getting guard Kyrie Irving back. The Irving who led Boston to its victory on the Bucks’ court in Game 1 of the Eastern Conference semifinals series was the latest, greatest iteration of the six-time All-Star point guard. Irving scored 26 points, passed for 11 assists and showed such maturity in orchestrating Boston’s attack that, even for a guy who has been on the national stage as long as he has, it seemed like some sort of breakthrough performance. That guy, though, exited this series some time in the 48 hours before Game 2. Kryie 3.0 became Kyrie uh-oh. Irving’s play looked rushed, detached and not at all mature. After hitting 12-of-21 shots in the series opener, he shot a combined 12-of-40 in Games 2 and 3 as the Celtics dropped both. They gave back the homecourt edge they had snatched with the opening victory and now need to win Monday (Tuesday, PHL time) just to force a best-of-three mini-series with two in Milwaukee. Irving had a plus/minus rating of minus-26 in the two Celtics defeats. And most disconcerting, the player who arguably is the NBA’s best at making difficult shots seemed bent on making his shots difficult. Too often he went solo, didn’t probe for something better, didn’t spot or even look for another option. Irving and Boston coach Brad Stevens had a conversation off to the side after the Celtics’ practice Sunday afternoon (Monday, PHL time) of moderate length. Afterward, each spoke with reporters. The point guard wouldn’t share what they discussed, while the coach deftly sidestepped the question. “We just wanted to spend 15 minutes talking about the objection of the Kentucky Derby,” Stevens said. “How that could possibly have happened. And so we just created a conversation as long as the objection, and that’s what we discussed in great detail.” Not likely. Stevens probably talked with Irving about some of the things the coach had said to reporters Saturday and Sunday (Sunday and Monday, PHL time): the need for the Celtics not to settle and not to succumb to whatever chaos Milwaukee’s defense was instigating by getting chaotic themselves. For two days, answering various questions, Stevens has steered the discussion to Boston moving the ball as the surest way to high-quality shots. “One of the things that we have to do as a team is just make those right reads off the first drive,” Stevens said, “and then go from there. We do have to do a better job of getting the ball to the second side of the floor, to the third side of the floor, and hopefully that includes as many paint attacks as possible.” The Bucks’ unveiled a switching style of defense in Game 2, something they hadn’t done much all season. Too often, Irving’s eyes lit up seeing center Robin Lopez or forward Nikola Mirotic isolated in front of him, and the tunnel vision that triggered didn’t even generate the best shots for Irving. Too seldom, the Celtics failed to get Milwaukee’s defense shifting left-to-right, and back again. “We have to make sure we’re patient in getting the best looks,” Stevens said Sunday (Monday, PHL time). “That patience doesn’t mean you ease into it. You have to work really hard and be patient against these guys. Because they do a great job of covering up the paint.” Celtics players made only 9-of-19 attempts inside five feet, a feeble rate by NBA standards. Lopez has been one of the league’s best defending the rim this season, and Giannis Antetokounmpo has the mobility to guard his man away from the hoop and still help inside. Admirably, Irving has been willing to shoulder responsibility, flatly stating after the Game 2 loss: “This is what I signed up for. This is what Boston traded for me for.” After each game, he has given detailed breakdowns of what’s gone right, what’s gone wrong and, most important, what he planned to do in the next game. It’s just that his most recent results haven’t matched his pledges. The Celtics have more talent than the Bucks, and more players capable of carrying them offensively through a game or just a pivotal stretch. But those scorers, from Jayson Tatum and Jaylen Brown to Al Horford and Gordon Hayward, are dependent on Irving finding them and delivering the ball in a rhythm. Admittedly, Boston has to cinch things up defensively. Averaging 110 points ought to be enough, if you’re not getting blistered at a 39-percent rate from three-point range while sending your opponents to the free throw line an average of 30 times nightly. Irving blamed all those stoppages for stealing transition opportunities and generally messing with the Celtics’ offense. Even so, he must do what Stevens calls “controlling the controllables” and be his best self. He has gotten the better of his individual matchup with Milwaukee point guard Eric Bledsoe, but that’s not enough. And yes, this is what he signed up for. The great unknowns of this offseason, as in Irving’s future whereabouts, could swing wildly on what happens in the coming days. And what he makes happen. “I’ve got to be me. That’s the easy part,” Irving said Sunday (Monday, PHL time). “The same mindset that I’ve always had. Being aggressive. Being patient. Being able to be aware of the time of the game and where I need to make my impact. Being able to be in the right defensive positions and being able to communicate with my teammates as well. “That’s the easy part though. That’s the fun part, if you go out there and just allow the flow of the game to dictate your instincts.” Steve Aschburner has written about the NBA since 1980. You can e-mail him here, find his archive here and follow him on Twitter. The views on this page do not necessarily reflect the views of the NBA, its clubs or Turner Broadcasting......»»

Category: sportsSource:  abscbnRelated NewsMay 6th, 2019

Bucks learn playoff lesson in closing out late Celtics charge

By Steve Aschburner, NBA.com BOSTON — In snatching a 2-1 lead in their Eastern Conference semifinals series, the Milwaukee Bucks demonstrated so much of what’s gone right about their season. They also sputtered through a stretch late in the game during which things most definitely went wrong. The list of happy things stretched long: Giannis Antetokounmpo was the best player on the floor and in Kia NBA MVP contention mode as he scored 32 points with 13 rebounds, eight assists and three blocks in Milwaukee’s 123-116 victory over the Boston Celtics Friday night (Saturday, PHL time) at TD Garden. Fans and viewers got a glimpse of the Bucks’ scoring potency when, coming out of halftime, they posted the first 40-point quarter of this series. The defense that coach Mike Budenholzer demands was especially evident in limiting Boston to 14-of-36 shooting in the second half. Then there was Milwaukee’s deep rotation and trust in reserves – guards George Hill (21 points) and Pat Connaughton (14) led their bench’s 42-16 scoring advantage. [Watch the Playoffs on NBA League Pass for 30% less with this limited time offer! Select Annual package and use code SAVE30 at checkout to redeem] The down side came near the end, when Milwaukee’s late-game execution was so poor Budenholzer didn’t even want to talk about it in front of the cameras and microphones afterward. He preferred to wait until Saturday (Sunday, PHL time), when he could directly address his players while they review video of Game 3. “I’ll save it for film tomorrow,” Budenholzer said. “It’s not very smart. It’s not very good. That’s the great thing for coaches … we’ll find more things where we can get better. We just touched on one of them for sure.” What happened was, the Bucks opened a fat lead – 17 points in the fourth quarter – and squandered much of it. They did it in the most damaging way possible, too, by sending a parade of Celtics to the foul line to score with the game clock stopped. With 4:51 left Milwaukee was up 114-97, more than doubling the eight-point edge they held when the final period began. With 1:20 left, that lead was down to 118-111, whittled down by Jaylen Brown’s fast-break layup and the Celtics’ perfect 12-for-12 from the line in that stretch. Many of the fans at TD Garden were heading to the exits, even as the Bucks appeared to be heading for trouble. You wondered if some might wind up knocking to get back in, à la the Miami fans who bailed on the Heat before Ray Allen’s famous three-pointer saved Game 6 of the 2013 Finals. Those late minutes of the fourth quarter seemed to last an eternity, and that was just for spectators and viewers. It felt twice that to the Bucks’ players and coaches. “It was [long],” said Pau Gasol, the veteran All-Star watching these days as an inactive player on Milwaukee’s roster. “But I think it’s part of the growth of this team, learning how to deal with those type of scenarios and situations.” It wasn’t just that the Bucks were burning through their lead. It’s that Boston was energized watching their late scramble pay off. Al Horford sank six free throws in the run; Jayson Tatum, four; and Gordon Hayward, two. “On the road, that gets a little dicey,” Connaughton said. “Whenever a team gets a little life at the end of a game, especially when they cut a [17-point lead to seven], that’s never a fun thing. But I think the way we were able to withstand it and make a bucket here or there to nullify what they were doing at the free throw line was good.” Said Gasol: “The Celtics are trying to rush possessions, trying to rush you into bad decisions. So you have to be patient, hold the ball, understand the possessions and get a good shot. Don’t turn it over. We didn’t do a very good job of that at the end.” Step by step, point by point, the Celtics were gaining hope. So … much … time … left. Gasol’s analysis from the side? “We were very aggressive tonight defensively. And at the end, we weren’t able to turn it down and play smarter. We kept that pressure on, and that led us to commit silly fouls or unnecessary fouls, and put them at the line when we didn’t want them there. The experience in your brain has to tell you to be smarter.” Milwaukee did manage a few high notes during the low period: Hill pounced on an offensive rebound to steal a basket. At 118-105, Antetokounmpo blocked Kyrie Irving’s fast-break layup to save two points and stifle a sure crowd explosion. “I don’t think we were really concerned,” said center Brook Lopez. “We just tried to keep our foot on the gas. Keep that intensity. They drew some fouls and made some free throws. And then they had the little funky 1-3-1 defense, whatever that was. They were trying to trap a little. We’ll look at that [on film].” This is not about nitpicking. This is about focusing on the growth still available to a Milwaukee team with lofty ambitions. Antetokounmpo was special. The Bucks were stingy enough on defense. But when they talked about playing their game for 48 minutes, they should have ‘fessed up on the three-and-a-half of those that nearly bit them. The Celtics ran out of time – only 10.6 seconds remained when they got within five, 121-116. And Antetokounmpo, who missed six of his first 20 free throws, didn’t miss his final pair. The Bucks, in essence, earned the ability to swoon by padding their lead early. But their close out was less than optimal, which is probably not how Budenholzer will put it in closed quarters. “We know they’re not going to quit,” Lopez said. “So we’ve just got to stick with it the entirety of the game. I know it’s a boring answer, but Game 4, we’ve got to do the same thing.” Maybe not exactly the same. Steve Aschburner has written about the NBA since 1980. You can e-mail him here, find his archive here and follow him on Twitter. The views on this page do not necessarily reflect the views of the NBA, its clubs or Turner Broadcasting......»»

Category: sportsSource:  abscbnRelated NewsMay 4th, 2019

Celtics ready to take best charge by Giannis, Bucks

By Steve Aschburner, NBA.com MILWAUKEE -- Giannis Antetokounmpo and his Milwaukee Bucks teammates are eager to get going in the Eastern Conference semifinals, as bottled up as they’ve felt in waiting six days between playoff games. A perfect offensive start to Game 1 of their best-of-seven series against Boston would look something like Giannis grabbing the basketball, racing downcourt with one of his breathtaking, three-dribble, end-to-end run-outs and attacking the rim with the ferocity and scowl with which he’s played all season. [Watch the Playoffs on NBA League Pass for 30% less with this limited time offer! Select Annual package and use code SAVE30 at checkout to redeem] Perfect, that is, until Jaylen Brown slides over to plant himself between Antetokounmpo and the restricted area. Whoops! Pancaked Jaylen gets the whistle, while chastened Giannis picks up his first foul and turnover of the Sunday matinee (early Monday, PHL time). It's a strategy out of judo or jiu-jitsu, using your opponent’s power and aggression to your advantage, and it’s one the Celtics likely will deploy against the Bucks’ star and Kia MVP candidate. Getting between Antetokounmpo and the rim isn’t the most comfortable way to defend the against the Greek Freak’s drives into the lane, his maddening Euro Step and his ability to reach up, over and beyond with arms fit for a crane. He’s all elbows and knees, muscles and bones, and at 6'11" and 242 pounds, he’s been giving as much physical punishment as he takes this season. A defender has to absorb that and then sell the move, too, falling backward to the floor. No fun. But it might be one of the few effective ways to slow – if not stop – Antetokounmpo on a Bucks possession, with the added benefits of killing momentum, planting some doubt and ticking up his personal fouls count closer toward an all-critical sixth. Brown and Celtics teammate Terry Rozier both suggested Antetokounmpo could be slowed by such a maneuver. Celtics coach Brad Stevens, in a conference call with reporters Saturday (Sunday, PHL time), wasn’t so sure. “The bottom line is, if you go downhill with the force and speed that he does, there are going to be moments where he charges,” Stevens said. “There also are moments where he draws blocking fouls and scores 'and-ones.' He does that a lot more than he charges. “So you’d better not let him get that head of steam very often.” Easier said than done. Antetokounmpo has become one of the most ferocious rim attackers in the league. He was seemingly unstoppable inside this season, shooting 72.6 percent from five feet or less per NBA.com stats. With 583 field goals from that range, Antetokounmpo had nearly 100 more than the league’s No. 2, Detroit center Andre Drummond (486). Oh, and counting the games against the Pistons in the first round, Antetokounmpo has successfully dunked the ball 289 times – 119 of which have come without assists, meaning either put-backs or throwdowns in which he brought the ball in there with him. Here’s where the 24-year-old’s attack mode can be used against him: He also committed 68 offensive fouls this season – tied for most in the NBA with Minnesota’s Karl-Anthony Towns. Certainly he got fouled with the ball way more than he fouled – Antetokounmpo shot 686 free throws, second only to James Harden’s 858. Nearly seven of his 27.7 points per game came from the line. But foul trouble can slow Antetokounmpo’s roll, as with anybody. If it’s early enough or severe enough, it can take him off the floor completely, and for long stretches. At the least, it might make him a bit less assertive, a wee more passive the next time he might otherwise barrel downcourt. “I definitely keep it in my mind,” Antetokounmpo said Friday (Saturday, PHL time), asked about the charge/block challenge he might face against the Celtics. “It’s not just them. A lot of teams try to stop me by taking charges. “But that’s the fun part about it. They’re not thinking about how they’re going to defend me; they’re thinking about how they’re going to try to take charges. If I can be under control and be at my own pace and try to be smart with not taking charges, if I get to my spot it’s going to be tough.” Here’s a breakdown of Antetokounmpo’s impact with and without nagging foul concerns: In the 31 games in which he was called for four fouls or more (including two disqualifications with six), the Bucks star averaged 25.7 points and eight times logged fewer than 30 minutes. Milwaukee’s record: 23-8 (.742). In the 41 games Antetokounmpo finished with three fouls or fewer, he averaged 29.2 points. He played at least 30 minutes in 34 of the 41, and the Bucks went 33-8 (.805). Boston has defenders willing to give up their bodies, including three of the NBA’s top 20 in charges drawn: Aron Baynes (18), Marcus Smart (15) and Kyrie Irving (13). Smart, still out with a left oblique tear, won’t play in at least the first two games of the series. But Semi Ojeleye is a physical forward who drew Antetokounmpo as an assignment at times in the three regular season meetings – he started twice – and took three charges this season. In the three games, Antetokounmpo was called for a total of seven fouls, including three charges. (For the record, Milwaukee’s Ersan Ilyasova led the NBA in that defensive category with 50, despite playing only 1,231 minutes in 67 games.) Several Celtics will try standing in or stepping in, depending how the referees call it, against Antetokounmpo. It will take timing, footwork, physical sacrifice … and some good fortune. “It’s one of those things that’s easier said than done,” said Milwaukee coach Mike Budenholzer. “Luckily for us, it’s nothing that he hasn’t seen or nothing new.” Said Stevens: “The No. 1 thing [Giannis] has always been is exceptional downhill, exceptional in transition. And when I say ‘exceptional’ I mean one of very few to ever have played the game. “I just think, ultimately, you have to be able to move your feet. You have to be able to guard with pride. You have to be able to do all that, but nobody can do that by themselves against him.” Steve Aschburner has written about the NBA since 1980. You can e-mail him here, find his archive here and follow him on Twitter. The views on this page do not necessarily reflect the views of the NBA, its clubs or Turner Broadcasting......»»

Category: sportsSource:  abscbnRelated NewsApr 28th, 2019

Pochettino, Guardiola confounding expectations in EPL

ROB HARRIS, AP Global Soccer Writer   LONDON (AP) — In one dugout at Etihad Stadium on Saturday will be a manager enjoying a six-match winning streak with his second-place team. In the other, a manager reeling from the biggest loss of his career and down in fifth place. Few at the start of the English Premier League would have predicted it would be Tottenham manager Mauricio Pochettino with the edge over struggling Manchester City counterpart Pep Guardiola. But the top of the standings is confounding expectations in the second half of the season. City hosts Tottenham with Guardiola's side trailing the second-place London club by three points and leader Chelsea by 10 points. Having already ruled City out of the title race, Guardiola is now in a scrap just to secure Champions League qualification by finishing in the top four as he endures a difficult first season in English soccer. It was against Tottenham in early October when Guardiola experienced his first setback at City, with Pochettino ending the former Barcelona and Bayern Munich coach's winning league start. Last weekend, he was humbled by a 4-0 loss at Everton, a career low for the Champions League-winning coach. Has Guardiola lost the Midas touch? 'The coach has to adapt with the players, the players have to adapt with the coach,' Eric Abidal, who played under Guardiola at Barcelona, told The Associated Press on Thursday. 'Tactically, and the methodology of Pep Guardiola is methodology from Barcelona ... he needs time. They will win trophies. 'I spoke with some players from (City), tactically they learn a lot,' Adibal added at a Barcelona event on Thursday in Singapore. 'But when you have a good coach and good players, a lot of teams want to beat you. So it's not easy, every weekend, and we know the intensity of English football.' City racked up six successive wins in the league before losing 2-0 at Tottenham on Oct. 2. Since then City has dropped 18 points, winning seven of its 14 games as the shortcomings of the brittle defense and shaky goalkeeper Claudio Bravo has been exposed. City's attacking options have been reinforced with Gabriel Jesus completing his move from Palmeiras in time to feature against Tottenham. 'Gabriel is a technically gifted player who was chased by some of Europe's biggest clubs and we are delighted he decided to join City,' director of football Txiki Begiristain said. 'He has the potential to become one of the best attacking players in the game.' And for the 19-year-old Jesus, Guardiola played a big part in deciding his next destination. 'He was the only manager who called me so I was very pleased,' Jesus said. 'One thing I've noticed is that, like me, he is mad about football. He lives football 24 hours a day. I'm like that, too. 'When I'm not playing, I'm watching, or playing a video game, doing something linked to football. This is very important, that I'm the same as him, and I hope to learn.' Tottenham could move six points clear of City by completing the double over Guardiola's side. And for Pochettino it's not just about securing a second successive season in the Champions League but delivering the north London club's first domestic title since 1961. 'We have to try to show that we can be real contenders for the Premier League, that's the real challenge,' Pochettino said. 'It's more important that we can show ourselves, rather than show Manchester City. 'We need to show ourselves we are capable of dealing with that pressure, and to try to win games to achieve big things.' Tottenham has received more positive news on defender Jan Vertonghen's ankle injury. After initial fears the center back could be out for three months, Tottenham now expects him back in six weeks. Here are some other talking points around the Premier League: ___ PAYET PREDICAMENT West Ham travels to Southampton on Saturday with the fate of star player Dimitri Payet still uncertain after the France midfielder told the club more than a week ago he wants to leave to rejoin Marseille. Payet would not play against Crystal Palace last weekend, according to manager Slaven Bilic. 'Is his departure inevitable? I don't know,' Bilic said. 'We are not going to sell our best players on the cheap just because someone wants to sign them or even because they want to go home. 'I left it with the chairman and I'm sure he's going to do the best thing. The ball is in Marseille's court. They are the ones who expressed interest. Now they should act ... like everybody, he has his price.' AT THE BOTTOM Two of the teams in the relegation zone have tricky trips to top-four opposition. Paul Clement takes Swansea to third-place Liverpool on Saturday for a daunting second league game in charge of the bottom-place team. 'It does not look hopeless,' the former Bayern Munich assistant coach said. 'We are one point behind the team outside the relegation zone and not far behind the teams just above that as well.' Sunderland, which is above Swansea on goal difference, is at West Bromwich Albion. Hull is a point further up the standings going into Sunday's game at leader Chelsea. .....»»

Category: sportsSource:  abscbnRelated NewsJan 20th, 2017

Chile amateur goes from no big victories to Masters

DOUG FERGUSON, AP Golf Writer   HONOLULU (AP) — Toto Gana hit what he described as the 'best shot I've hit in my whole life,' a wedge to 3 feet for a birdie to win the Latin America Amateur Championship and earn a trip to the Masters in April. His best shot produced his biggest trophy. Asked what his greatest achievement in golf was before his victory in Panama, the 19-year-old from Chile said: 'I didn't have any achievements, to be honest. I had won a couple of tournaments at home when I was really, really young.' The Latin America Amateur completed its third year, a stroke-play tournament created by Augusta National, the USGA and the Royal & Ancient to spur growth in that part of the world. It follows the successful launch of the Asia Pacific Amateur. The Asia Pacific Amateur is producing a higher pedigree of champions — Hideki Matsuyama won twice, and the winner last year was Curtis Luck, the reigning U.S. Amateur champion. The last two Latin America winners were surprises — Gana and 16-year-old Paul Chaplet of Costa Rica last year. The other winner was Matias Dominguez of Chile, who was a junior at Texas Tech. Gana said the only hard part about his victory was beating Joaquin Niemann of Chile, one of his best friends who won the Junior World in 2015 at Torrey Pines. 'I really never thought I could win this tournament because all the other players have won many other tournaments, very big tournaments,' Gana said in a conference call after his victory Sunday. 'What I did was keep a cool head. When I saw that I had a chance to win, I believed in myself that I could do. And I gave it my all.' Chile will have a player represented at Augusta National for the second time in three years. The only other Chilean player at the Masters was Enrique Orellana, who missed the cut in 1964. Gana has flair, and he showed how much passion he has for golf when explaining how he got started. 'When I was a little boy, 8 years old, my stepfather taught me to play golf on the practice range,' he said. 'When I shot a really nice shot, I never quit.' Gana will be enrolling at Lynn University in Florida. ___ BLOOMING START: Justin Rose played the Sony Open as part of the new 'strength of field' regulation on the PGA Tour that requires players who played fewer than 25 events last year to add a tournament they had not played in four years. Rose was so excited about this year that he might have started earlier if he would have been eligible. He failed to win a PGA Tour event for the first time since 2009. But in a year slowed by injury, Rose geared himself for golf's return to the Olympics and won the gold medal in Rio. That was worth an exemption into the four majors (Rose already is eligible for them), but the PGA Tour did not offer a spot in SBS Tournament of Champions. 'I didn't inquire,' Rose said about Kapalua. 'But in my mind, I was surprised that it didn't count in a way, just because, why wouldn't it? It's a one-off thing.' He thought maybe the tour would only give a spot to Kapalua if the gold medalist was already a PGA Tour member, much like it treated the HSBC Champions early on in its World Golf Championships history. Rose chuckled, however, when he realized his history in Hawaii. 'It's funny enough, I don't have the right to say I should have been at Kapalua,' he said. 'Because I've won six years in a row and I've only been once.' A birdie on the final hole at the Sony Open gave him second place alone, which was worth $648,000. ___ PLAYING TO HIS STRENGTH: Jason Dufner is the defending champion at the CareerBuilder Challenger, where he won last year for the first time since the 2013 PGA Championship at Oak Hill. What changed? Very little. He attributed the drought to a neck and shoulder injury that he suffered at the 2014 Masters. Dufner tried to play through it all year until he was forced to pull out of his title defense in the PGA Championship at Valhalla, which kept him off the Ryder Cup team. Playing with the injury led to bad habits with his swing, which led to bad shots, too many memories of bad shots and eventually shattered confidence. 'People don't realize, once you start playing, you have to redo everything,' Dufner said. 'You see it with a lot of guys coming back. It takes them 6, 8, 12 months. I spent 2015 trying to get back to where I was.' Where he wants to be is one of the top ball-strikers in the game. As for putting? He manages. Dufner has finished no higher than No. 143 in the key putting statistic over the last four years, and while he has to pay attention to his setup, it's not as though he's going to abandon what got him here (his swing) to pour everything into becoming Jordan Spieth. 'I've been putting bad for 17 years,' he said. 'It's tough to change. I can hit it good enough to make up for it. I'll wait for my weeks where I putt good and try to win.' ___ THE RACE TO MEXICO: Mackenzie Hughes won the RSM Classic, and his first thought was going to the Masters. Now that it's beginning to sink, the Canadian rookie has reason to consider other tournaments that were not on his schedule at the start of the season. First up is the World Golf Championship in Mexico. The top 10 in the FedEx Cup standings through the Honda Classic are eligible for the Mexico Championship, and there are only six tournaments between now and then. That's also true for Pat Perez, who tied for third at Kapalua and is No. 3 in the FedEx Cup. Rod Pampling is at No. 6. The other World Golf Championships event in March is based off the world ranking, so those three players have much more to do for them to get into the top 64. One player who might have secured his spot was Kevin Kisner, who shot 60 in the third round of the Sony Open and wound up in a tie for fourth. That took Kisner from No. 51 to No. 41, making it difficult to fall that far in two months. ___ DIVOTS: Justin Thomas moving to No. 8 in the world means that six of the top 10 players are under 30. ... The Golf Writers Association of America has voted former PGA Tour Commissioner Tim Finchem for the William D. Richardson Award for outstanding contributions to golf. For the GWAA's award for press cooperation, it was a tie between Ben Crenshaw and Stewart Cink. They will be honored at the GWAA annual awards dinner on April 5 in Augusta. ... The three courses used for the CareerBuilder Challenge — PGA West Stadium Course, PGA West Nicklaus and La Quinta — ranked among the top 10 in easiest courses on the PGA Tour last year. ... The fourth Latin America Amateur Championship will be played at Prince of Wales Country Club next year in Santiago, Chile. ... The European Tour now has eight events in its Rolex Series with China-based HNA Group signing a five-year deal to be title sponsor of the French Open. That will raise the purse to $7 million in line with other Rolex Series events. ___ STAT OF THE WEEK: Justin Thomas hit 34 drives that went at least 330 yards during his two weeks in Hawaii — 20 on the Plantation Course at Kapalua, 14 at Waialae Country Club. ___ FINAL WORD: 'If there's no defense, then you ought to be able to make birdies. If there's wind, you ought to be struggling.' — Kevin Kisner. .....»»

Category: sportsSource:  abscbnRelated NewsJan 18th, 2017

Carroll: Sherman played 2nd half of season with knee injury

TIM BOOTH, AP Sports Writer br /> RENTON, Washington (AP) — Seattle Seahawks cornerback Richard Sherman played the second half of the season with an injured knee, although he was never listed on any injury report. Seattle coach Pete Carroll said Monday that Sherman had an MCL injury in his knee, similar to the ones suffered by quarterback Russell Wilson and wide receiver Tyler Lockett earlier in the season. Carroll called the injury 'significant' on his weekly radio show on KIRO-AM Monday morning and expanded on the situation later in his end-of-season news conference. 'He never missed anything. Just like Russell never missed anything. Tyler. They all happened over the course of the season and they all just made it through it,' Carroll said. 'They never complained, they didn't want to miss a practice and they basically didn't miss anything. But they were legit, those were legit injuries, they showed up in the whole thing. That's a challenge. Guys all over the league are going through the same thing, but our guys just happened to be doing it as well.' Carroll did not specify which knee Sherman injured and Sherman never appeared to miss any game time due to an injury in the latter half of the season. Yet the disclosure raised questions of whether the Seahawks circumvented the NFL's injury reporting policy. Sherman was not listed on any injury or practice report this season with a knee injury. Sherman typically sat out at least one practice per week starting around midseason, but each of those was given an 'NIR' — not injury related — designation on the practice report. The only time Sherman was listed as having an injury designation came in Week 12 against Tampa Bay when he was listed with an ankle injury. 'I'm feeling like I screwed that up with not telling you that because that happened, but he was OK,' Carroll said. 'So I don't know. He never missed anything, which is probably why.' Carroll said he had a 'big meeting' with Sherman after the season-ending 36-20 loss to Atlanta on Saturday in the NFC divisional playoff game. It was a tumultuous season for the cornerback that included two sideline blowups during games, conflicts with local media and an undisclosed injury. 'I just wanted to make sure we left on really good terms,' Carroll said. 'We talk a lot, I talk with him all the time. I just wanted to make sure to touch base one more time because it was a difficult year for him. The media thing was a big deal and all that. He made it through it. It was hard.' .....»»

Category: sportsSource:  abscbnRelated NewsJan 17th, 2017