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Celtics’ Stevens remains humble as team continues to thrive

WALTHAM, Mass. --- When Brad Stevens accepted the Celtics head coaching job five years ago, he didn't allow himself to get caught up in thinking about how he could add his name to the franchise's rich history. He was too busy trying to figure out how to avoid being buried under it. "You realize that if you're going to break records here, you're probably going to break bad ones," he recently said. "Because none of the good ones are reachable." While achieving Red Auerbach status may not be on Stevens' radar, in just his fifth season there's no question the 41-year-old is also beyond being the wide-eyed former Butler University coach who arrived in Boston. In a timeframe that has oft...Keep on reading: Celtics’ Stevens remains humble as team continues to thrive.....»»

Category: newsSource: inquirer inquirerMay 12th, 2018

Celtics’ Stevens remains humble as team continues to thrive

WALTHAM, Mass. --- When Brad Stevens accepted the Celtics head coaching job five years ago, he didn't allow himself to get caught up in thinking about how he could add his name to the franchise's rich history. He was too busy trying to figure out how to avoid being buried under it. "You realize that if you're going to break records here, you're probably going to break bad ones," he recently said. "Because none of the good ones are reachable." While achieving Red Auerbach status may not be on Stevens' radar, in just his fifth season there's no question the 41-year-old is also beyond being the wide-eyed former Butler University coach who arrived in Boston. In a timeframe that has oft...Keep on reading: Celtics’ Stevens remains humble as team continues to thrive.....»»

Category: newsSource:  inquirerRelated NewsMay 12th, 2018

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

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

Category: sportsSource:  abscbnRelated NewsApr 18th, 2018

By the Numbers: Why the Celtics are up 2-0 over the Cavs

By John Schuhmann, NBA.com Are we witnessing the end of LeBron James' dominance of the Eastern Conference? For the first time in the last eight years, James' team trails an East playoff series by two games. And the team that's up 2-0 in the Eastern Conference finals is the one missing two of its three highest-paid players and one that struggled to get through the first round almost as much as the Cleveland Cavaliers did. Forget what we've seen from Cleveland all season; If you watched the Boston Celtics through six games against the Milwaukee Bucks, you'd have a hard time believing that they'd go on to win seven of their next eight playoff games, with the postseason's best NetRtg (point differential per 100 possessions) over that stretch. So how did we get here? Here are some numbers to know about the Celtics and Cavs, with the series taking three days off before it resumes with Game 3 in Cleveland on Saturday (Sunday, PHL time)). Celtics score without leading scorer The Celtics ranked 18th offensively in the regular season, slightly worse than the league average in effective field goal percentage, offensive rebounding percentage and free throw rate (and right at the league average in turnover rate). They ranked third in effective field goal percentage from outside the paint, but 28th in field goal percentage in the paint. In 22 games without Kyrie Irving, they scored just 102.6 points per 100 possessions (a rate which would have ranked 25th). In the playoffs, the Celtics have been more efficient offensively (107.7 points scored per 100 possessions) than the Cavs (107.4). Boston is one of only two playoff teams (Indiana was the other) that have scored more efficiently in the postseason than they did in the regular season. Through the first two rounds, the Celtics' effective field goal percentage took a dip, but they cut down on turnovers and saw an increase in free throw rate. In the conference finals, they've been able to get to the basket more often, with 38 percent of their shots coming in the restricted area, up from 32 percent over the first two rounds. And that goes to the fact that they're playing a bad defensive team; The Cavs ranked 29th defensively this season. In the previous 40 years, no team that had ranked in the bottom thee defensively in the regular season had won a playoff series. So the Cavs have already made history, but it's not a coincidence that the only other team that scored more points per 100 possessions in the playoffs than they did in the regular season is the team -- the Indiana Pacers -- that the Cavs played in the first round. Even in getting swept by the Cavs in the conference semifinals, the Toronto Raptors were just as efficient offensively (110.1 points scored per 100 possessions) as they were in the first round (110.2). But the Celtics had an improved offense even before they got to this series. They've been incredibly balanced, with six guys in their rotation having a postseason usage rate between 19.6 and 24.0 (none higher than 28th overall in these playoffs). As Al Horford said after Game 1, they've found "what fits this group." They've also found, against the Philadelphia 76ers and Cavs in particular, matchups that can be taken advantage of. They've been able to execute with precision and patience. Cavs' not-so-great shots Two things stand out about the Cleveland offense as it has scored less than a point per possession in each of the first two games. First, LeBron James has just 18 total points in the restricted area after averaging a postseason-high 14.4 points per game in the restricted area through the first two rounds. The Celtics have done well in transition (the Cavs have just 16 total fast break points) and in staying in front of James in half-court situations. Even when he scored 21 points in the first quarter of Game 2, five of his eight buckets came from outside the paint. And over the two games, only 27 percent of his shots have come from the restricted area, down from 41 percent through the first two rounds. James has shot 77 percent in the restricted area and 29 percent from 3-point range in the playoffs, so if most of his offense continues to come from the perimeter, the Celtics are in great shape. The other thing that stands out (regarding the Cleveland offense) from Games 1 and 2 is that the Cavs have shot just 1-for-10 on corner 3-pointers. Game 1 was just the fourth game this season in which the Cavs didn't make a corner three, and the two games are just the third time in the four seasons since James returned to Cleveland that they've made fewer than two corner threes over a two-game stretch. Corner threes are one thing that distinguishes the Toronto series from the other two that the Cavs have played. They averaged 5.3 per game against the Raptors, but just 2.3 against the Pacers and now, 0.5 against the Celtics. It's about the attempts as much as it is about the success rate. In the regular season, Boston opponents took only 19 percent of their 3-pointers from the corners. That was the lowest opponent rate in the league. The lack of corner threes is tied to James' lack of shots in the restricted area. Because the Celtics have done a good enough job of staying in front of James, they've been able to (generally) stay at home on the Cavs' shooters. If the Cavs can find a way to get their star to the basket, the Boston defense will have to react and other things will open up. Matching up down low The Cavs started Tristan Thompson in Game 2, with the thought that he had matchup advantage (on the glass, in particular) against Horford. In last year's conference finals, the Cavs outscored the Celtics by 81 points in 134 minutes with both Thompson and Horford on the floor. In this series, the Cavs are a plus-4 in 18 minutes with Thompson on the floor and Horford playing center, and that probably keeps Thompson in the starting lineup for Game 3. Having been outscored by 38 points overall in the series, Cleveland should see some encouragement in any configuration that has produced a positive point differential. Before Game 2, Celtics coach Brad Stevens said he wouldn't change his starting lineup if the Cavs did. But the Celtics didn't let the Horford-Thompson matchup last too long, especially in the second half, when Aron Baynes subbed in for Jayson Tatum less than 2 1/2 minutes into the third quarter. Thompson has played more minutes (20) in the series with Horford at power forward (alongside Baynes or Greg Monroe) than with Horford at center (18). And the Celtics have outscored the Cavs by nine points in those 20 minutes with Thompson on the floor and Horford at the four. Will change of venue matter? With their wins in Games 1 and 2, the Celtics are 9-0 at home in the postseason. If they remain undefeated at TD Garden, they'll win this series. But the Celtics have been more than 20 points per 100 possessions better at home (plus-10.8) than on the road (minus-9.4) in the postseason. Their only road win (Game 3 at Philadelphia) came in overtime and the only team with a bigger home-road NetRtg differential (26.5) in these playoffs is the team (Milwaukee) that the Celtics played in the first round. The Cavs are 5-1 at home and have been 11.7 points per 100 possessions better at Quicken Loans Arena than they've been on the road in the playoffs. But four of those five home wins have been by four points or less. They haven't exactly taken care of business at The Q. John Schuhmann is a staff writer for NBA.com. You can e-mail him here, find his archive here and follow him on Twitter. The views on this page do not necessarily reflect the views of the NBA, its clubs or Turner Broadcasting......»»

Category: sportsSource:  abscbnRelated NewsMay 19th, 2018

Young Celtics look to stop James, Cavaliers

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

Category: sportsSource:  abscbnRelated NewsMay 11th, 2018

BLOGTABLE: Will LeBron win a 24th straight East series?

NBA.com blogtable LeBron James has won 23 consecutive Eastern Conference playoffs series. Is there any reason at all to think it won't be 24? * * * David Aldridge: Two words: Brad Stevens. He's the best chance the Celtics (I am assuming Boston doesn't blow its 3-1 lead over Philadelphia) have against Cleveland; his ability to take whatever players are in front of them and make them a cohesive unit is amazing. And his roster this year is better equipped to compete with James's Cavaliers than last year's, even with all the current injuries that have taken out Kyrie Irving and Gordon Hayward. Terry Rozier has been a revelation at point guard in the playoffs and he'll cause the Cavs problems; his matchup with George Hill will be a huge factor in the series. If the Celtics can get Jaylen Brown through the rest of the Sixers' series without him aggravating his hamstring, three potential days off before the conference finals could be big. I just think Boston is much more dynamic offensively this year than at this time last year, when Isaiah Thomas was hobbling. Having said all that, seeing J.R. Smith and George Hill show signs of life in the Toronto series and seeing Kevin Love really get rolling the last three games against the Raptors means James should have enough help to make it 24 out of 24. Steve Aschburner: Not anymore. There were reasons he might not have won No. 22: the Cavaliers weren’t playing well as the regular season ended and the Indiana Pacers came into the first round with no fear, no intimidation and both the game plan and the personnel to give Cleveland fits. James & Co. survived, but that series – the fatigue of it, the lack of preparation for their next opponent – became the reason they would fall in No. 23. Didn’t happen. Not even close. The Cavs have plugged leaks and polished their act into something close to Finals-worthy, and that will continue against either of the two, young, vulnerable teams on the other side of the East bracket. Shaun Powell: It'll be a surprise if he doesn't win 24. This isn't to take away from the gutsy Celtics or upstart Sixers, whomever will be standing in LeBron James' way next. But this might be the weakest Eastern playoff field LeBron has ever seen, given that he went through (a) the post-Paul George Indiana Pacers and (b) the mentally-flawed Toronto Raptors and will then see (c) the Celtics without Kyrie Irving or the Sixers will a bunch of kids. Also, the Cavs are finally hitting their stride right about now. John Schuhmann: There are certainly reasons to believe that Boston has a chance. (With apologies to Philadelphia, I'm assuming the Sixers don't make history by coming back from a 3-0 deficit.) The Celtics had the No. 1 defense in the league and have the size on the perimeter to defend LeBron James and stay at home on the Cavs' shooters a lot better than Toronto did. The Celtics have been the better, more consistent and more resilient team than the Cavs (who have won just two playoff games by more than four points), and Al Horford has been the second best player in the Eastern Conference playoffs. They will be able to take advantage of some matchups on their end of the floor, though they might not have the overall firepower to keep up with the Cavs if James' teammates can provide some support. And of course, it remains difficult to pick against James before he reaches The Finals. Sekou Smith: There's no reason to believe in anything other than the power of LeBron. He's shown us enough the past 15 years -- and the last eight in particular -- that when it comes to the race for the Eastern Conference title, he's the one thing we can count on. Boston and Philadelphia pose much different problems for the Cavaliers compared to the Toronto Raptors, so LeBron and Co. shouldn't go into this next round overconfident. But they should be secure in the fact that the one, true difference-maker in this whole thing still resides in northeast Ohio. Until that changes, it's wise to bet on LeBron......»»

Category: sportsSource:  abscbnRelated NewsMay 10th, 2018

Kuzma gets 28, leads Lakers past rival Celtics 108-107

By Greg Beacham, Associated Press LOS ANGELES (AP) — Kyle Kuzma scored 17 of his 28 points in a phenomenal fourth quarter, and the surging Los Angeles Lakers sent the Boston Celtics to their fourth consecutive loss, 108-107 Tuesday night (Wednesday, PHL time). Jordan Clarkson scored 22 points in the sixth consecutive home win by the Lakers, who have won three straight and seven of nine overall during their best stretch of the season. Los Angeles nearly gave it away by missing four free throws in the final 20 seconds, but Marcus Smart missed a three-pointer at the buzzer for the Eastern Conference-leading Celtics. Kyrie Irving scored 33 points for the Celtics, who opened a four-game road trip by extending their longest losing streak in nearly two years. Kuzma hit five three-pointers and dominated down the stretch before Irving and Smart, who added 22 points, led the Celtics back. Kentavious Caldwell-Pope missed two free throws for Los Angeles with 5.7 seconds left, but Smart's final miss over Caldwell-Pope's defense allowed Los Angeles to snap a four-game losing streak in this hallowed NBA rivalry. Kuzma, the Lakers' impressive rookie forward from Utah, had his best offensive game of the month. He put the Lakers ahead during a 3.5-minute stretch of the fourth quarter with 13 points and a behind-the-back assist to Larry Nance Jr. for a dunk that brought Staples Center to its feet. Irving led the Celtics back within two points late, but Kuzma and Julius Randle came up with big baskets on offensive rebounds. Smart then hit two free throws for Boston with 19.2 seconds left after Josh Hart missed two for LA, trimming the lead to 106-105. Clarkson hit two free throws, and Terry Rozier hit a twisting layup with seven seconds left before Caldwell-Pope's missed free throws. Lonzo Ball missed his fifth consecutive game with a sore left knee for the Lakers, but they've developed a solid offensive approach in the absence of the rookie point guard. Replacements Tyler Ennis and Alex Caruso contributed little offensively, but Clarkson had another outstanding playmaking game, and Randle contributed 14 points and 14 rebounds. Irving staked Boston to a lead early in the fourth quarter, but Kuzma erased it with a pair of three-pointers and the behind-the-back pass to Nance. TIP-INS Celtics: Al Horford returned with 13 points and 12 rebounds after missing the last game in the concussion protocol after taking an elbow to the head. ... Boston beat the Lakers 107-96 on Nov. 8 (Nov. 9, PHL time). Lakers: Caldwell-Pope (right heel) and Brandon Ingram (sprained left ankle) played after being questionable before game time. Ingram had seven points on 2-for-11 shooting. ... Kuzma has 15 20-point games this season, the most by a Lakers rookie since Eddie George in 1995. ... Fans near courtside included Ryan Leaf, Dodgers stars Kenley Jansen and Yasiel Puig, and comedian Nick Kroll. HAYWARD HERE Gordon Hayward was with the Celtics after traveling to Los Angeles last week. He will stay in town for the next 7-10 days to continue his rehabilitation from his horrifying left ankle injury just five minutes into the season. Boston coach Brad Stevens said the move is designed "just to mix it up" during Hayward's extensive rehab, which is still proceeding on schedule. Stevens said Hayward could begin traveling with the team full-time by early March as he continues to work toward a return. Until then, he'll watch practice from the sidelines while staying as stationary as possible. "He's a really good spot-up shooter," Stevens said with a grin. UP NEXT Celtics: Stay in LA to face the Clippers at Staples Center on Wednesday night (Thursday, PHL time). Lakers: At the Chicago Bulls on Friday night (Saturday, PHL time) to open a five-game road trip. LA plays 11 of its next 14 on the road......»»

Category: sportsSource:  abscbnRelated NewsJan 24th, 2018

The Headlines So Far in the 2017-18 NBA Season

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

Category: sportsSource:  abscbnRelated NewsDec 21st, 2017

LeBron scores 44 as Cavs even series with Celtics

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

Category: sportsSource:  abscbnRelated News21 hr. 37 min. ago

LA Lakers prepare for busy offseason

NBA.com staff report It has to be tough to watch the Eastern Conference finals for the Los Angeles Lakers' brass. While they are mired in a rebuilding campaign that has lasted longer than anyone in the organization is comfortable with, their rivals in Boston are playing in a second straight Eastern Conference finals during what was supposed to be their rebuilding stretch under Brad Stevens. The Lakers and Celtics, the NBA's leaders in all-time titles won, measure themselves against each other, even when they're not on the same level on the court. That might be why the Lakers are making it clear ahead of next month's draft that no one on the roster is "untouchable" as Magic Johnson and Rob Pelinka continue the heavy lifting in remaking the roster and trying to do in the rugged Western Conference what the Celtics have done in the East the past two seasons. It could make for an interesting time for some of the talented youngsters the Lakers already have in the fold. Tania Ganguli of the Los Angeles Times explains: To be clear, the Lakers are not actively shopping any of their players. They are willing to listen to offers and could move one of them — even a member of the talented young cadre of Lonzo Ball, Kyle Kuzma, Brandon Ingram or Josh Hart — if an offer blows them away. Publicly the Lakers have remained mum on the subject. When Magic Johnson, president of basketball operations, was asked during a news conference in April whether he would consider trading any of his young core this summer, Johnson declined to entertain the question. Since a regime change in the spring of 2017, the Lakers have worked to position themselves to have the option to be major players in the free-agency periods of this summer and 2019. Johnson and general manager Rob Pelinka made clear they were planning to save salary cap space for two summers that will have talented free-agent classes. LeBron James and Paul George are expected to be free agents this summer, while next year's class could include Kawhi Leonard, Kyrie Irving, Kemba Walker and Klay Thompson. Leonard might be available this summer if the Spurs choose to trade him. The All-Star forward played in only nine games this season while recovering from a right quad injury, leading to tension between him and the team. There are those around the league who believe the Lakers would be his preferred destination. In order to keep their salary cap flexible, the Lakers refused to offer any multiyear contracts to free agents last summer. They focused on one-year deals in free agency (Kentavious Caldwell-Pope) and acquiring expiring contracts in trades (Brook Lopez, Isaiah Thomas and Channing Frye)......»»

Category: sportsSource:  abscbnRelated NewsMay 21st, 2018

LeBron, Cavs overpower Celtics 116-86 at home in Game 3

By TOM WITHERS,  AP Sports Writer CLEVELAND (AP) — LeBron James had 27 points and 12 assists, Kevin Love added 14 rebounds and the Cleveland Cavaliers looked like a different team on their home floor, tightening the Eastern Conference finals with a 116-86 victory in Game 3 over the Boston Celtics on Saturday night. Outplayed during two losses in Boston, the Cavs used a three-day break in the series to regroup and re-grip this series. They built a 19-point lead in the first quarter, pushed it to 30 in the second half and overpowered the Celtics, who fell to 1-5 on the road in the postseason. Any discussion of Cleveland's demise is premature. Kyle Korver made four of the Cavs' 17 3-pointers and Cleveland had six players in double figures. Game 4 is Monday night before the series returns to Boston. Jaylen Brown was in foul trouble all night and scored just 10 for the Celtics after averaging 23 in the first two games. Jayson Tatum scored 18 and Terry Rozier 13 for Boston. Only 19 of a possible 300 teams have ever overcome a 2-0 deficit in the playoffs. James and the Cavs, who previously did it in 2007 and again in 2016 while winning the NBA title, took the first step toward a third comeback. To return to the NBA Finals for the fourth straight year, the Cavs have to win four of five and re-write Boston's illustrious history. The Celtics are 37-0 when they win the first two games in a series. "That doesn't bother me," Cleveland coach Tyronn Lue said before Game 3. "The games have to be played. They won two games on their home court, which we know they've been playing well the whole playoffs, but we're not discouraged. "So, 0-2 doesn't really mean anything." Apparently not. The Cavs came in wanting to play faster and be more physical with the younger Celtics, who were the aggressors in Games 1 and 2. Lue also needed more from point guard George Hill after two poor performances (8 points, 1 assist) in Boston. Hill responded with a driving layup to start the game and drained three 3-pointers in the first quarter as Cleveland wasted no time taking control. Hill finished with 13, J.R. Smith 11 and Cleveland's supporting cast played so well that James only had to play 37 minutes. Boston coach Brad Stevens was confident his team would play better on the road than earlier in these playoffs, but the Celtics were shaky early, committing four turnovers and shooting 2 of 10 while the Cavs opened a 27-11 lead. James arrived at 5:45 p.m., greeted by the usual phalanx of cameras waiting to record his walk from the security entrance at Quicken Loans Arena to Cleveland's locker room. Earlier in the day, James said the fact he has twice rallied from 2-0 deficits in the postseason offered no relief. "There's nothing about the playoffs that's comfortable until you either win it all or you lose and go into the summer," he said. Summer might not be as close as it once seemed. FAMILY TIES Stevens has deep Cleveland roots, but he's slowly converting family members to pull for Boston's teams. His parents are from Northeast Ohio and his wife, Tracy, is from suburban Rocky River. Before the game, Stevens was asked what happens to all the Cavs, Browns and Cavaliers gear he gets as gifts. "My 7 1/2-year-old nephew was offered 10 extra-credit points (in school) if he wore anything regarding Cleveland yesterday, and he went all green," Stevens said. "And three years ago, I think he was all Cleveland stuff. So we're making strides with him. But yeah, we have a large contingent. Maybe they'll get some of those (Game 3 giveaway) yellow shirts and pass them around to some people who haven't completely converted to rooting for the Celtics yet." TIP-INS Celtics: Seeking to become the sixth No. 2 seed to win the East in eight years. Boston was a No. 4 seed when it advanced to the finals in 2010. ... Fell to 3-8 in playoff games in Cleveland, the most by a Cavs opponent at the Q. ... Stevens was relieved to learn that Boston legend Bill Russell was recovering after a hospital stay brought on by dehydration. Russell won 11 NBA titles with the Celtics. "He's the ultimate basketball winner," Stevens said. "The way he impacted winning, the unselfishness of a teammate, what he stood for off the floor — everything about him." Cavaliers: James needs six field goals to surpass Kareem Abdul-Jabbar (2,356) for the most in postseason history. ... Cleveland has won six straight playoff games at home. ... Improved to 14-6 vs. Boston in the playoffs. UP NEXT Game 4 is Monday night......»»

Category: sportsSource:  abscbnRelated NewsMay 20th, 2018

Celtics’ Marcus Smart has been unflappable against Cavaliers

BOSTON --- Celtics coach Brad Stevens has said what has carried his team through the NBA postseason is its ability to make "winning plays" with the game on the line. And more times than not, it's been Marcus Smart making them. Since returning from thumb surgery late in the first round, Smart has been unflappable and Boston's unquestioned deacon of toughness. From sacrificing his body diving for loose balls or keeping plays alive with a rebound , to causing deflections on defense, to popping up out of the crowd for a timely rebound or tip-in, Smart is the proud everyman for a once underdog Celtics team that has outworked the Cavaliers through the first two games of the Easter...Keep on reading: Celtics’ Marcus Smart has been unflappable against Cavaliers.....»»

Category: newsSource:  inquirerRelated NewsMay 17th, 2018

Celtics take Game 1 of East finals, beat Cavaliers 108-83

By Jimmy Golen, Associated Press BOSTON (AP) — Jaylen Brown had 23 points and eight rebounds, Marcus Morris added 21 points and 10 boards, and the Boston Celtics opened a 21-point, first-quarter lead and scorched the Cleveland Cavaliers 108-83 on Sunday (Monday, PHL time) in Game 1 of the Eastern Conference finals. Al Horford scored 20 points for the Celtics, who ran off 17 consecutive points in the first quarter and never allowed the Cavaliers within single digits again. Boston led by 28 when Cleveland coach Tyronn Lue pulled LeBron James for good with 7:09 left. Game 2 is Tuesday night (Wednesday, PHL time). Kevin Love had 17 points and eight rebounds, and James finished with 15 points, nine assists and seven boards. The Cavaliers missed their first 14 three-point attempts of the game and shot just 32 percent in the first half. By that time, Boston led 61-35 — the biggest halftime playoff deficit in James’ career. With injured stars Gordon Hayward and Kyrie Irving on the bench in street clothes, the Celtics continued their stunning run this season with what may have been the most surprising turn of events yet. A year after dropping the first two games at home against Cleveland in a five-game East final, the Celtics pounced on James, and the favored Cavaliers were never really in it. The Celtics took the floor to a hype video that began with the broadcast of Hayward’s injury in the first quarter of the first game, at Cleveland. A variety of commentators predicted the team’s demise, including Hall of Famer Charles Barkley saying: “Their season’s over.” As more players went down to injury, the prophesies grew even gloomier. But there the Celtics were, back in the Eastern Conference finals against the Cavaliers for the second year in a row — with Hayward, Irving, Daniel Theis and Shane Larkin all injured and coach Brad Stevens down to an eight-man rotation. It was more than they needed. Morris, starting in place of Aron Baynes, backed up his boast that he could cover James better than anyone except Kawhi Leonard and helped pester James into seven of Cleveland’s nine turnovers. (James had eight in the entire four-game, second-round sweep of the Raptors.) Horford made his first seven shots of the game and scored 10, including eight straight, during the 17-0 run that turned a three-point deficit into a 21-7 lead. After James wiggled his way to a layup — Cleveland’s first points in 4 minutes, 43 seconds — Boston ran off eight more points in a row; Brown had six of them, and he finished the quarter with 13 points and five rebounds. Cleveland scored seven straight points early in the third and finished the quarter with six in a row to make it 78-64. But Boston made the first three baskets in the fourth and, after running off nine in a row to make it 96-68 with 7:09 left, the Cavs conceded. TIP-INS Cavaliers: Kyle Korver’s three-pointer with nine minutes left in the third period was their first after missing 14 in a row. It cut the deficit from 28 points to 65-40. ... Tristan Thompson had eight points and 11 rebounds. Celtics: The Celtics improved to 8-0 at home this postseason. They do not have to win on the road to reach the NBA Finals. ... Boston’s 36-18 lead at the end of one quarter was the second-largest in a playoff game in franchise history. UP NEXT Game 2 is Tuesday night (Wednesday, PHL time), Boston......»»

Category: sportsSource:  abscbnRelated NewsMay 13th, 2018

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

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

Category: sportsSource:  abscbnRelated NewsApr 27th, 2018

Bucks hold serve again, force Game 7

By Steve Aschburner, NBA.com MILWAUKEE -- The sports’ rallying cry of “Not in our house!” held special significance for the Milwaukee Bucks and their fans in Game 6 against the Boston Celtics on Thursday night (Friday, PHL time) at the BMO Harris Bradley Center. It wasn’t just a matter of fending off a series-clinching by the visiting Celtics, who led 3-2 in the best-of-seven Eastern Conference first-round series when the night began. It was more complicated and emotional than that, considering the 30-year-old arena is about to be shuttered and eventually demolished as the Bucks move into a massive, state-of-the-art, still-to-be-dubbed facility for the start of the 2018-19 NBA season. So Milwaukee did all the right things in beating Boston 97-86 and forcing Game 7 on Saturday (Sunday, PHL time), and still might never get another chance to defend this particular court in this particular building. If the series finale goes to the Celtics at TD Garden, the Bucks essentially will be homeless until the hard hats come off, the ribbons get cut and the Taj Mahoops immediately to the north opens for business. If, on the other hand, Milwaukee somehow manages to replicate in Boston the performances it has given at the Bradley Center -- so far, the home team has won all six games in the series -- the gray and largely non-descript joint at 4th and State St. will stay relevant at least for a couple more weeks. For accuracy’s sake, then, the battle cry ought to be more along the lines of “Keep home alive!” Just how can Milwaukee, the East’s No. 8 seed, go about that? By getting the individual excellence again of Giannis Antetokounmpo and by flexing the same sort of tenacious yet controlled defense that stymied so many Celtics shooters. Antetokounmpo, the 23-year-old All Star who’s as elite as he is elongated, had scolded himself after Tuesday’s (Wednesday, PHL time) Game 5 loss in Boston for not being assertive enough. Specifically, that meant not seeking out and taking more than 10 shots in more than 41 minutes. He scored only 16 points, nearly 11 below his season average and not hardly enough in a loss decided by five. This time, playing nearly identical minutes, Antetokounmpo took 23 shots, made 13 of them and scored 31 points, with 15 rebounds and four assists. The “Greek Freak” first made good on a pledge to himself to get “his” shots -- ones he felt more comfortable launching -- and then fulfilled the implicit promise he’s made with his teammates and Bucks fans to muster all his skills as effectively as possible. “I don’t think he forced anything,” coach Joe Prunty said. “He knows the spots he needs to get to, but we also need to get him space around those spots.” And while it might seem like a media obsession and lazy playoff marketing to drop all sorts of imperatives in a star player’s lap – can LeBron or The Beard or Giannis come through? -- there is plenty of history and evidence supporting the view that the best players must play their best at this point both in the season and in a series. “In the last game,” Prunty said, “he was one assist shy of a triple-double ... and everyone was saying that he wasn’t aggressive.” Antetokounmpo scored 20 of his points after halftime, 12 in the final quarter. That included a putback in which he reached high to claim teammate Malcolm Brogdon’s missed layup, then dropped the ball through for an 89-81 lead with 3:08 to go, cooling the last of the Celtics’ scrambles on the scoreboard. “He knows what he wants -- it’s humbling to see,” the Bucks’ Thon Maker said. “We know we can trust him. We know we can always go back to him. And now we know where his spots are, where he’s going to shoot it, so we can always get him the ball there.” The other side of Milwaukee’s survival effort Thursday was its strong work choking off the inside on Boston. As currently constituted -- that is, without Kyrie Irving or Gordon Hayward -- the Celtics are perimeter-challenged, so that’s where the Bucks defenders pushed them. In the two previous games at Bradley Center, Milwaukee had 12 and 14 blocked shots. By Thursday (Friday, PHL time), the Celtics had gotten the message and shifted more to the outside – which didn’t go well, evidenced by their 10-of-36 three-point shooting. They’ve gone 62-for-177 (35 percent) from beyond the arc in the series and 28-for-89 (31.5 percent) in the three games they’ve lost. The Bucks have played more aggressively in their three homes games, and harder overall than they have in Boston. It has had its impact on the Celtics’ offensive tendencies. “Any time we got stagnant, we weren’t very good,” coach Brad Stevens said. “Clearly [the Bucks’] speed, length and athleticism affected us. “They’re all coming into the paint,” Stevens added. “So you’ve got to take the next best shot. We’d like to take layups but they are converging. ... Those guys have put us in those positions. I don’t want to act like we can control everything. They did stuff to us that was very, very effective.   “This has been the same story for the most part here all three games. They just physically dominated us.” In Boston? Nah, not so much. So the challenge for the Bucks -- who already have been whistled for 33 more fouls than the Celtics in the series, while making 32 fewer free throws -- is to do all the good stuff again, but this time on the road. It is, after all, the only way Milwaukee actually can keep home alive. 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 27th, 2018

Marcus Smart set to return for Celtics in game five

NBA.com staff report The Boston Celtics have made do in the playoffs with a backcourt lacking in depth. That could change in today's Game 5, though, as guard Marcus Smart may suit up. About two hours before tip, Celtics coach Brad Stevens confirmed that Smart would play in Game 5 against the Bucks. Celtics coach Brad Stevens says, barring an unexpected setback pregame, Marcus Smart will play in Game 5 vs the Bucks. He felt fine after shootaround. — Chris Forsberg (@ESPNForsberg) April 24, 2018 Smart had surgery to repair a torn ulnar collateral ligament in his right thumb in mid-March and was expected to miss six to eight weeks because of the injury. He is listed as questionable by the Celtics as Boston tries to climb from a 2-2 series tie with Milwaukee. Mark Murphy of the Boston Herald has more on Smart and his status for tonight: Though Smart originally was scheduled to meet with his surgeon today in New York regarding his right thumb, the meeting took place yesterday. The result was Smart being cleared for action a day early, according to a league source. When Smart told the media on Sunday that he was targeting a Game 6 return, even that goal was ahead of schedule, considering that his original projection called for an April 27 return, a day before a potential Game 7. ... Smart’s desire to return is being driven by a lot of motivations — the fact his team just dropped Games 3 and 4 in Milwaukee and the fact he hates watching from the bench, to name two. But the tragic news that Camellia Smart has been diagnosed with bone marrow cancer is undoubtedly the greatest motivator of all. When he went back to Texas two weeks ago, and was given the news by Camellia in person, she also told him to go back to Boston to get ready to play again. In late January, Smart suffered a cut to his right hand as the result of a self-inflicted injury. He punched a picture frame in his Los Angeles hotel room during the team's road trip, causing an gash on the hand that required stitches and for him to be out of the lineup. He returned to the lineup on Feb. 23 (Feb. 24, PHL time) vs. Detroit and played in every game after that. Then, on March 11 (Mar. 12, PHL time), Smart injured his right thumb again. Days later, the length of Smart's absence from the lineup was undetermined as he was reportedly seeking second opinions on how to treat the injury. He then had the surgery on his thumb, which has sidelined him ever since......»»

Category: sportsSource:  abscbnRelated NewsApr 24th, 2018

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

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

Category: sportsSource:  abscbnRelated NewsApr 22nd, 2018

Region 6 continues to bag medals on Day 4 of Palaro

STUDENT-athletes of the Western Visayas Regional Athletic Association (WVRAA) continue to harvest medals on the fourth day of the 2018 Palarong Pambansa in Vigan, Ilocos Sur, April 19. The region’s secondary girls’ sepak takraw team remains undefeated after three games. Represented by Sagay City, Negros Occidental, the team hammered Bicol Region, 25-23 and 21-19 in […] The post Region 6 continues to bag medals on Day 4 of Palaro appeared first on The Daily Guardian......»»

Category: newsSource:  thedailyguardianRelated NewsApr 19th, 2018

Warriors re-introduce themselves in rout of Spurs

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

Category: sportsSource:  abscbnRelated NewsApr 15th, 2018

BLOGTABLE: 2018 pre-playoffs predictions

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

Category: sportsSource:  abscbnRelated NewsApr 14th, 2018

MVP Ladder: No topping Harden in award chase

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

Category: sportsSource:  abscbnRelated NewsApr 14th, 2018