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Dominant at home, Europe where Bayern & City measure success

By Rob Harris, Associated Press Three of the teams in the Champions League quarterfinals are in a luxurious position, and running away with their domestic competitions allows them to concentrate on European glory. Manchester City and Bayern Munich could even secure trophies between the first and second legs in Europe over the next week or so. City, which travels to Liverpool in an all-northwest England quarterfinal on Wednesday, has a 16-point lead in the Premier League. Bayern, which is a point better off at the Bundesliga summit, visits on Tuesday a Sevilla side that is in the European Cup quarterfinals for the first time in 60 years. Barcelona has a nine-point lead at home as it prepares to host Roma on Wednesday, with defending champion Real Madrid trailing by 13 points in third place. Madrid, though, is a European force. Champions League winners in three of the last four seasons, Zinedine Zidane's side visits Serie A leader Juventus on Tuesday. A closer look at the quarterfinal match-ups: ___ JUVENTUS-REAL MADRID Has Gareth Bale done enough to retain his place in Madrid's starting lineup? Either side of the recent international break, Bale scored three goals in two matches. But he wasn't entrusted with a starting place in the round of 16 against Paris Saint-Germain — reflecting the uncertainty surrounding the Wales forward's status in the squad. "I'm pleased with his performance," Madrid coach Zidane said after Bale scored twice in a 3-0 win at relegation-threatened Las Palmas on Saturday. "You'll have to wait and see if he plays on Tuesday." Lucas Vazquez could drop out if Zidane restores the "BBC" front-line of Cristiano Ronaldo, Karim Benzema and Bale. Bale, though, could miss out again if Madrid decide to add an extra midfielder for the first leg in Turin by including Marco Asensio or Francisco "Isco" Alarcon. Madrid and Juventus are meeting for the first time since last season's final when the Spanish capital club swept to a 12th European title. The only Champions League final Madrid has failed to reach in the last four seasons was in 2014-15 — when it lost to Juventus in the semifinals. Juventus must raise its game after struggling in Serie A recently. After a 0-0 draw at lowly Spal, the team was outplayed by AC Milan for much of Saturday's match before Juan Cuadrado came off the bench to turn things around. On his first appearance after more than three months out with a groin injury, Cuadrado grabbed the crucial second goal in a 3-1 win. "He's come back well and has astounded me," Juventus coach Massimiliano Allegri said, "because often in the past he hasn't done well coming off the bench." Juventus is once again in the hunt for a treble, leading Serie A by four points and through to the Italian Cup final. ___ BARCELONA-ROMA Barcelona can count on Lionel Messi again but how fit is he? After missing recent Argentina games with a muscular problem, he made a scoring return from the bench on Saturday against Sevilla to preserve Barcelona's unbeaten La Liga record this season. Coach Ernesto Valverde, however, said Messi is still bothered by pain heading into the game against Roma. The Italian capital club is awaiting a prognosis on Radja Nainggolan's thigh injury. The Belgium international, who has started all of Roma's Champions League matches, limped off 16 minutes into Saturday's 1-1 draw at Bologna. Roma coach Eusebio Di Francesco is doubtful Nainggolan will recover in time "He is the 'Ninja,'" Di Francesco said. "He told me to wait and tried to run it off, but if he had to give up and leave the pitch that means there's really something wrong and the problem is serious." With Roma prioritizing the game against Barcelona, the lack of depth was evident on Saturday when Edin Dzeko had to come off the bench to salvage a draw. __ LIVERPOOL-MAN CITY City makes a return trip to the only stadium where it has lost during an otherwise unbeaten Premier League campaign. With Mohamed Salah, Roberto Firmino and Sadio Mane boasting 75 goals between them this season, Liverpool has an impressive attacking armory to take on Pep Guardiola's side. "They are almost unstoppable," Guardiola said. "The way Liverpool play is so complicated for us. We know that. They are so quick, they are so good." The 4-3 loss at Anfield in January was a blip in City's progression to the Premier League title that can be sealed with a win against Manchester United on Saturday. With the European first leg on Wednesday and the return at the Etihad Stadium next Tuesday, Guardiola's predicament will be whether to rest players for the Manchester derby and potentially miss out on winning the Premier League in perhaps the sweetest way. Guardiola is hoping to welcome Sergio Aguero back from a knee injury that has kept the striker out of action for a month. While Liverpool is England's most successful side with five European Cups, City has never won the competition. Guardiola, though, led Barcelona to two Champions League titles. ___ SEVILLA-BAYERN MUNICH Bayern's players must be dreading the sight of Sevilla: Spanish teams have eliminated them in the past four seasons. Before then, Bayern lifted the European Cup in the all-German 2013 final against Borussia Dortmund when Jupp Heynckes completed a treble before stepping down. The 72-year-old coach was brought out of retirement to return in October when Carlo Ancelotti was fired after losing to PSG. Heynckes has overseen a remarkable turnaround, with Bayern on course to repeat the 2013 treble. Sevilla, though, keeps on upsetting more illustrious sides. Not only was Jose Mourinho's Manchester United stunned in the round of 16 but Barcelona was held to a draw on Saturday. Sevilla, which won the Europa League in 2014, 2015 and 2016, is contesting its first European Cup quarterfinal since 1958. ___ Tales Azzoni in Madrid, Daniella Matar in Milan and Ciaran Fahey in Berlin contributed to this report......»»

Category: sportsSource: abscbn abscbnApr 3rd, 2018

DA s 2018 NBA Offseason Rankings: The Top 10

By David Aldridge, TNT Analyst Wonder what the rental market is like in San Luis Obispo, Calif. San Luis Obispo is, give or take a few miles, one of the closest cities that is near the midway point between Los Angeles and San Francisco. Given the events of the NBA’s offseason, it’s not hare to imagine national reporters are going to be spending a lot of time in California next season, bouncing back and forth between the Bay and L.A. Catch LeBron James and the Lakers on Wednesday and then, Stephen Curry, Kevin Durant and the Warriors on Thursday. The Western Conference only got stronger and deeper with James leaving Cleveland for a second time, this time to go to the Lakers. Add four of the top five Draft picks -- including No. 1 overall selection Deandre Ayton (Phoenix Suns), No. 2 pick Marvin Bagley III (Sacramento Kings) and international phenom Luka Doncic (No. 3 pick, acquired by Dallas Mavericks) -- going to Western Conference teams, and the talent disparity between conferences only seems greater. But did Eastern Conference teams take advantage of Cleveland deflating to make their teams better? And how effective were West teams in making their teams better prepared to at least compete with the Warriors? That’s where this year’s Offseason Rankings come in -- big, bold, definitive. You love them, if the amount of hate tweets and e-mails I get after they’re published are any indication. Every year, we rank how all 30 teams have done since the end of their respective seasons. We look at everything -- how they drafted, what trades they made, what players they signed in free agency, and for how much -- or if they didn’t participate in free agency much at all. We look at if they’ve changed coaches, executives, owners, or if they’re moving into a new building that can generate big revenues. And you have to decide which ones you liked the most. Here's what these rankings ARE NOT: A predicted order of finish for next season. It's an opinion that seeks to answer a question: is the team better now than at the end of last season? The ranking reflects the belief on whether, and how much, that is so. (I liked certain guys who were in the Draft more than others, so if your team took them, I probably weighed it more positively. Doesn't mean I'm right.) I do not expect the Suns, for example, to have a better record than the Celtics, just because they had a better summer. It is not a ranking of the teams in order from 1 through 30 right now; I do not believe the Mavericks are now a better team than Rockets. This is just one person’s opinion about offseason moves -- offseason moves only. Is your team better now than it was before? - If your team is ranked in the top 10, it doesn't mean I love your team.       - If your team is ranked in the bottom 10, it doesn't mean I hate your team. It's an opinion that seeks to answer a question: is the team better now than at the end of last season? The ranking reflects the belief on whether, and how much, that is so. (I liked certain guys who were in the Draft more than others, so if your team took them, I probably weighed it more positively. Doesn't mean I'm right.) What plays into the rankings: - This isn’t science. It’s an educated guess, weighing the impact both of the Draft and free agency, but also assessing whether teams got value in their free-agent signings. Overpaying the right player is as much a sin as signing the wrong player. A good new coach can coax some more wins out of a roster. But if a team’s players don’t believe in the system their team uses, the best Xs and Os on earth don’t matter.       - Teams that are rebuilding obviously have different priorities than teams making a championship push. That's factored in. So Chicago, for example, gets credit for adding young, affordable players as it stockpiles its talent -- but that talent has to fit together, as Wendell Carter Jr. does with Lauri Markannen. And a team like the Warriors that shows it’s willing to go deep into the luxury tax -- which most teams try to avoid -- in order to keep winning has to be commended, and its rankings reflect that commendation.       - Continuity matters here as well. The most successful teams usually not only identify a core group of players, they keep them together for a while, finding that sweet spot: everyone doesn’t get a max contract, but most get paid well enough to keep the train moving down the tracks. That reflects both good roster construction and good financial management -- and, again, is rewarded. The explosion in the cap means everyone has to spend; keeping your powder dry for another day doesn’t have as much cache as it used to. But you still have to manage your money wisely. Salary numbers, with a couple of exceptions, come from Basketball Insiders, whose Eric Pincus does the best job of anyone in the game of keeping track of all the moving financial parts, quickly and accurately -- which is why we use him at NBA TV during the Draft and free agency to tell us what the hell this all means. The Top 10 * * * 1. OKLAHOMA CITY THUNDER 2017-18 RECORD: 48-34; lost in first round ADDED: G/F Timothé Luwawu-Cabarrot (acquired from Sixers); G Hamidou Diallo (No. 45 pick, 2018 Draft); G Devon Hall (No. 53 pick, 2018 Draft); F Kevin Hervey (No. 57 pick, 2018 Draft); F Abdel Nader (acquired from Celtics); C Nerlens Noel (two years, $3.7 million); G Dennis Schröder (acquired from Hawks) LOST: F Carmelo Anthony (traded to Hawks); F Nick Collison (retired); C Dakari Johnson (traded to Magic); G Rodney Purvis (traded to Celtics) RETAINED: G Raymond Felton (one year, $2.3 million); F Paul George (four years, $136.9 million); F Jerami Grant (three years, $27.3 million) THE KEY MAN: G Andre Roberson. This is real simple: with Roberson on the court last year, OKC’s opponent offensive rating was 99.2; when he was off, it was 110.7. The Thunder was a near-elite defensive unit when Roberson played and was awful when he didn’t. His Real Defensive Plus-Minus, per ESPN.com, was 4.34, second only to Utah’s Rudy Gobert (5.06). So when Roberson ruptured his patellar tendon in late January, the Thunder’s ability to use George as a weakside defender who could freelance and use his length to create deflections and turnovers (because Roberson had the strong side absolutely locked down) went away. Any chance the Thunder has next season to compete at the highest levels in the West will depend on the 26-year-old Roberson’s recovery and return to the lineup. THE SKINNY: None of us -- none -- thought George was going to stay in OKC. And we all thought Sam Presti and the Thunder were crazy for trading for him last year, because it was just going to be a one-year rental and he was going to be off to the Lakers in 12 months, and OKC would have nothing to show for its deal. But George’s presence helped convince Russell Westbrook -- also long rumored to eventually head back to Cali -- to sign a long-term deal with the Thunder. And OKC’s acquisition of Carmelo Anthony helped convince George that the Thunder was all in on competing. And even though OKC went out in the first round of the playoffs to Utah, its year-long courtship of George and his family paid off when PG-13 spurned L.A. once and for all to stay in the 405. Anthony ultimately wasn’t a good fit, but he brought back Schroder, who will give Billy Donovan a dynamic scorer off the bench that can give Westbrook a blow and keep OKC’s offense from immolating when Westbrook is on the bench, a common malady the last two years. The Thunder has been relevant in an incredibly small market now for almost a decade. With George and Westbrook and Steven Adams and, now, Schroder, all signed up through 2021, that remarkable run will continue for some time. 2. LOS ANGELES LAKERS 2017-18 RECORD: 35-47; missed playoffs ADDED: F Michael Beasley (one year, $3.5 million); F Joel Berry II; F Issac Bonga (No. 39 pick, 2018 Draft); G Jeffrey Carroll; F LeBron James (four years, $153 million); C JaVale McGee (one year, $1.4 million); G Sviatoslav Mykhailiuk (No. 47 pick, 2018 Draft); G Rajon Rondo (one year, $9 million); G Lance Stephenson; F Mo Wagner (No. 25 pick, 2018 Draft) LOST: C Thomas Bryant (waived); G Tyler Ennis (waived); F/C Channing Frye (signed with Cavs); C Brook Lopez (signed with Bucks); F Julius Randle (signed with Pelicans); G Isaiah Thomas (signed with Nuggets) RETAINED: G Kentavious Caldwell-Pope (one year, $12 million); G Travis Wear THE KEY MAN: F Brandon Ingram. The third-year man should be the major beneficiary of James’ presence going forward. Driving lanes previously clogged with defenders should now be runway clear. Opponents who previously could close out strong on Ingram will now have their attention elsewhere. Ingram need only look at James’ last stop: per NBA.com/Stats, among players leaguewide who appeared in at least 60 games last season, three Cavaliers -- Kyle Korver, J.R. Smith and Cedi Osman -- were among the top 20 in the league in lowest frequency of having their closest defenders within two feet of them, meaning James created many wide open looks for teammates all season. Ingram vastly improved his range last season over his rookie one, shooting 39 percent on 3-pointers. But he only attempted 1.8 threes per game last season. That number will surely skyrocket in 2018. Ingram must ready to take advantage. That will make him that much more deadly as a driver. THE SKINNY: Team president Magic Johnson was tasked with landing a whale in free agency, and he and GM Rob Pelinka bagged Moby Dick in James. Their subsequent free agent moves once Paul George opted to stay in Oklahoma City were all short-term plays with an eye toward the promising 2019 free agent class, which include the likes of All-Stars Klay Thompson, Kemba Walker and DeMarcus Cousins. But that doesn’t mean Lake Show ’18 isn’t going to be the rip-roaringest circus this side of your standard Ozzy Ozbourne tour. What’s the over-under on the first time Rondo cusses out coach Luke Walton, or when we hear of a “spirited practice” that is code for “Lance ‘bowed ‘Bron in the neck and Walton sent everyone home”? The Lakers could be in The Finals or out in the first round, but what they decidedly will not be is boring. 3. DENVER NUGGETS 2017-18 RECORD: 46-36; missed playoffs ADDED: F Michael Porter Jr. (No. 14 pick, 2018 Draft); G Isaiah Thomas (one year, $2 million); F Jarred Vanderbilt (No. 41 pick, 2018 Draft); C Thomas Welsh (No. 58 pick, 2018 Draft) LOST: F Darrell Arthur (traded to Nets); F Wilson Chandler (traded to 76ers); F Kenneth Faried (traded to Nets); G Isaiah Whitehead (waived) RETAINED: G Will Barton (four years, $53 million); G/F Torrey Craig (two years, $4 million); C Nikola Jokic (five-year, $147.7 million contract extension) THE KEY MAN: G Jamal Murray. Denver ended all pretense that the full-time point guard job wasn’t his last season and his second-year numbers were very encouraging. Among regularly playing (60+ games) floor generals, per NBA.com/Stats, Murray’s .577 True Shooting Percentage ranked only behind D.J. Augustin, Kyrie Irving, Darren Collison and Kyle Lowry. No one doubts the still-just-21-year-old Murray can fill it up, and that the Nuggets don’t need a classic ball distributor to light up the Pepsi Center scoreboard. But they do need to get more credible defensively. So does he. THE SKINNY: A great offseason for the Nuggets, who did what they said they would -- keep Jokic off the market next summer -- while clearing roster spots and minutes with two trades, and simultaneously reducing their luxury tax bill for 2019. (The Chandler trade to the Sixers also created an enormous $12.8 million trade exception for Denver through August of 2019.) Jokic should anchor one of the most athletic starting quintets in the game -- along with Jamal Murray, Gary Harris, the re-signed Barton (penciled in for now as the starting three) and Paul Millsap. the Nuggets didn’t add much at the defensive end, which was their Achilles’ heel the last couple of seasons and the main reason they didn’t make the playoffs in 2017-18. Denver opted to strengthen a strength by bringing in Thomas, who’ll be in prove-it mode next season on a short deal with a coach that he knows from their Sacramento days in Mike Malone. Look for Malone to unleash Thomas on second units throughout the West. Porter Jr. was worth a flier at 14; he was the consensus likely first pick in the Draft a year ago, before his back injury took him out of all but a couple of games in his one season at Missouri. Denver can give him the entire year to rehab from two surgeries, the latest last week, and reset his clock for 2019-20. 4. GOLDEN STATE WARRIORS 2017-18 RECORD: 58-24; won NBA Finals ADDED: C DeMarcus Cousins (one year, $5.3 million); F Jacob Evans (No. 28 pick, 2018 Draft); F Jonas Jerebko (one year, $2.1 million); G Damion Lee LOST: C JaVale McGee (signed with Lakers); C Zaza Pachulia (signed with Pistons); Head of Physical Performance and Sports Medicine Chelsea Lane (went to Hawks) RETAINED: F Kevin Durant (two years, $61.5 million); F Kevon Looney THE KEY MAN: Brett Yamaguchi, Director of Game Operations/Entertainment, Oracle Arena. One doesn’t envy Yamaguchi, whose tasks will be twofold next season: create lifetime memories for the loudest and most loyal fanbase in the league, as the Warriors play their final season at Oracle Arena (aka Roaracle) -- they’re moving into the Chase Center, their tony new digs across the Bay in downtown San Francisco, come 2019-20. And, provide atmosphere and sizzle that will help coach Steve Kerr keep his veteran core from being bored out of its collective mind during the regular season while it waits for the playoffs and a chance at a three-peat. THE SKINNY: So, sure, the best team in the league adds one of the top two or three big men in the game in Cousins. But that’s the ancillary benefit of having such a dominant organization; everyone wants to figure out a way to get to the Bay. Cousins took less money to do so; now he can take his time rehabbing his torn Achilles tendon. If that means he’s not all the way back until All-Star, who cares? The Warriors will roll Kevon Looney, Jordan Bell and Jonas Jerebko out at the five in non-Death lineups until Cousins is ready. Meanwhile, Kerr has to keep his vets, but especially Andre Iguodala and Shawn Livingston, off their feet as much as possible during the regular season so they’ll be good to go from April through June. Losing Iguodala for the bulk of the 2018 Western finals was almost the Warriors’ downfall. 5. MEMPHIS GRIZZLIES 2017-18 RECORD: 22-60; missed playoffs ADDED: F Kyle Anderson (four years, $37 million); G Jevon Carter (No. 32 pick, 2018 Draft); F Omri Casspi (one year, $2.3 million); F Jaren Jackson Jr. (No. 4 pick, 2018 Draft); C Dakari Johnson (acquired from Magic); G Garrett Temple (acquired from Kings) LOST: C/F Deyonta Davis (traded to Kings); G Tyreke Evans (signed with Pacers); F Jarell Martin (traded to Magic); G Ben McLemore (traded to Kings) RETAINED: Coach J.B. Bickerstaff THE KEY MAN: G Mike Conley. It’s no secret how vital Conley is to the franchise, so a return to form is vital for the veteran point, who’ll be 31 on opening night and who missed 70 games last season with a heel injury. Next season will be the third of Conley’s five-year, $150 million deal signed in 2016; remember when so many people thought the world would end when a small market like Memphis invested so much in him? Well, Conley has already dropped to fifth in the league in salary among point guards, behind Stephen Curry Curry, Chris Paul, Russell Westbrook and Kyle Lowry. He’ll fall even further down the list next season, when John Wall’s massive extension kicks in, and Kyrie Irving and Kemba Walker each get new contracts that could leap his. THE SKINNY: Memphis couldn’t have had a worse 2017-18 if it tried, and the Grizzlies compounded their on-court implosion by not trading Evans when everyone in the league -- seemingly, except for them -- knew he was going to walk in the summer if they didn’t. But, the Grizzlies’ front office recovered in a big way, selling the 18-year-old Jackson that he would fit right in despite not working out for the Grizz before the Draft, then doubling up on “Grit And Grind 2.0” by taking Carter, college basketball’s fiercest on-ball defender, in the second. Ownership was willing to let the front office use the full mid-level exception on Anderson, who isn’t the sexiest pickup to many fans but whose defensive numbers in San Antonio were outstanding. Temple is the ultimate good vet and locker room guy who will get a chance to play for Bickerstaff after the Kings opted to go with their young guys and he was likely out of the rotation. GM Chris Wallace was adamant that the Grizzlies could rebuild again around the aging Conley and Marc Gasol and that they wouldn’t trade Gasol after the latter’s difficult relationship with former coach David Fizdale. They did, and they didn’t. 6. PHOENIX SUNS 2017-18 RECORD: 21-61; missed playoffs ADDED: Coach Igor Kokoskov; F Trevor Ariza (one year, $15 million); F Darrell Arthur (acquired from Nets); C Deandre Ayton (No. 1 pick, 2018 Draft); F Mikal Bridges (No. 10 pick, 2018 Draft); F Richaun Holmes (acquired from 76ers); G George King (No. 59 pick, 2018 Draft); G Elie Okobo (No. 31 pick, 2018 Draft) LOST: Former interim coach Jay Triano; F Jared Dudley (traded to Nets); C Alex Len (signed with Hawks); G Elfrid Payton (signed with Pelicans); G Tyler Ulis (waived); F/C Alan Williams (waived) RETAINED: G Devin Booker (contract extension) THE KEY MAN: Ayton. Let’s not bury the lead here: he was the first pick overall for a reason, because he has franchise-turning capability. The Suns don’t need singles or the occasional double any more; they need someone to put them back on the map with big, sweaty, nasty four-baggers, night after night. (cc: mixed metaphor police.) It’s been a minute since Amar’e Stoudemire was at his destructive best, and the list of impactful bigs in franchise history is thin: Connie Hawkins, Alvan Adams, Tom Chambers, Charles Barkley, Stoudemire. Ayton has a chance to be as good as any of them, and better, and he’s a potential stash of Kryptonite down the pike to the Warriors dynasty. THE SKINNY: There’s the makings of a Jazz-like reimaging of the franchise in short order. Kokoskov not only comes from Utah’s staff, but has significant coaching chops outside of Salt Lake City. He’s been coaching since he was 24, and that was 22 years ago. He’s coached both around the world and around the NBA as an assistant and development maven, and he’ll be great at bolstering the confidence of the Suns’ young guys -- including Bridges, a mature and solid rook with collegiate titles from Villianova who’ll be able to grow quietly outside the huge media shadow cast on Ayton. Kokoskov will also make things a lot easier for Devin Booker offensively. But GM Ryan McDonough was also smart enough to surround the kids with some solid vets, starting with Ariza, who will help the Suns again become acquainted with a long-honored NBA concept called “defense.” 7. DALLAS MAVERICKS 2017-18 RECORD: 24-58; missed playoffs ADDED: F Kostas Antetokounmpo (No. 60 pick, 2018 Draft); G Jalen Brunson (No. 33 pick, 2018 Draft); G Luka Doncic (No. 3 pick, 2018 Draft); C DeAndre Jordan (one year, $22 million); C Chinanu Onuaku (acquired from Rockets); F Ray Spalding (No. 56 pick, 2018 Draft); F Ding Yanyuhang; LOST: G Kyle Collinsworth (waived); G Seth Curry (signed with Blazers); G Yogi Ferrell (signed with Kings); F Doug McDermott (signed with Pacers); F Jonathan Motley (traded to Clippers); C Nerlens Noel (signed with Thunder) RETAINED: G/F Wesley Matthews (picked up player option); F Dirk Nowitzki (one year, $5 million) THE KEY MAN: CEO Cynthia Marshall. The former AT&T executive was put in charge after Sports Illustrated’s explosive story last February detailing a toxic workplace for female employees on the team’s business side, with sexual harassment rampant and no relief forthcoming from the supervisors who should have provided it. Marshall has been fast at work changing the business side culture, as separate investigations of who was responsible for allowing the previous environment to fester wind down. After their results are made public, it will be Marshall who will have to both enact their recommendations and sell the public that owner Mark Cuban’s organization has been fumigated for good. THE SKINNY: Dallas is banking that the 19-year-old Doncic is not only the real deal, but that he can come out of the gate in the NBA after starring in Europe and immediately give the Mavs a boost. There’s a large body of work suggesting Doncic will do just that, and accelerate the Mavs’ rebuild. Second-year guard Dennis Smith Jr.’s improvements should also speed up, and Jordan’s presence should start to close the sieve that has plagued Dallas’s defense the last couple of years. Losing both Curry and Ferrell will hurt the Mavs’ guard depth, though, and Brunson won’t be able to work in slowly. 8. INDIANA PACERS 2017-18 RECORD: 48-34; lost in first round ADDED: G/F Tyreke Evans (one year, $12 million); G Aaron Holiday (No. 23 pick, 2018 Draft); F Alize Johnson (No. 50 pick, 2018 Draft); F Doug McDermott; C/F Kyle O'Quinn LOST: C Al Jefferson (waived); G/F Glenn Robinson III (signed with Pistons); G Lance Stephenson (signed with Lakers) RETAINED: G Cory Joseph (picked up player option); F Thaddeus Young (picked up player option) THE KEY MAN: Kevin Pritchard, president of basketball operations. He’s been instrumental in putting this team together -- first as Larry Bird’s assistant, but on his own the last year-plus since Bird left. Now Pritchard will have to deal with not just the expectations last season’s surprising turnaround season will create with fans, but with the incessant calls and texts one receives when one has a team in which six players among the team’s core are on one-year deals and free agents next summer. It is extremely difficult for a team so constituted to stay unified and keep pulling on the rope together. Human nature is human nature, and players (and their families, and their agents) need reassurances they’re part of the organization’s future, just like any drone from Sector 7G would. It’s hard to think about sacrificing minutes and shots when almost players are judged by are their numbers. Nate McMillan, meanwhile, is only concerned, as any coach is, with the game in front of him, tonight. Pritchard’s phone will rarely have an hour off next season. THE SKINNY: What does a team that surprised so many last season need? More depth, because there aren’t going to be a lot of nights off going forward. The Pacers filled in nicely with a bunch of under-the-radar players, getting Evans after a bounce-back season in Memphis and O’Quinn after good years in New York. McBuckets is running out of stops to show he can be a key contributor in the NBA, but everything is tailor made for him to succeed here: he’ll have all the space in the world playing alongside Victor Oladipo, Bogdanovic and/or Myles Turner, depending on the lineup. Holiday was very good value at 23 in the first round. And Oladipo is on his grind. The Pacers are as big a threat as anyone to Boston’s assumed ascension in the post-LeBron East. 9. NEW YORK KNICKS 2017-18 RECORD: 29-53; missed playoffs ADDED: Coach David Fizdale; G Mario Hezonja (one year, $6.5 million); G Kevin Knox (No. 9 pick, 2018 Draft); C Mitchell Robinson (No. 36 pick, 2018 Draft); F Noah Vonleh (one year) LOST: Former coach Jeff Hornacek; F Michael Beasley (signed with Lakers); C/F Kyle O'Quinn (signed with Pacers); F Troy Williams (waived) RETAINED: G Ron Baker (picked up player option); F/C Luke Kornet; C Enes Kanter (picked up player option); THE KEY MAN: F Kristaps Porzingis. It’s unlikely Porzingis will play much, if at all, next season, as he rehabs his torn ACL suffered in February. New York will be extremely cautious with a timeline, and in Porzingis’ absence, if more losing brings more figurative ping pong balls the Knicks’ way … well, they won’t complain about that, either. None if it matters if “The Unicorn” doesn’t regain his form, though. So much of the Knicks’ 2018-19 improvement, or regression, will take place off camera. THE SKINNY: Fizdale won’t have a mandate to try and win with a veteran team in his first season in New York, as was the case in his year-plus in Memphis. So he can implement his position-less/fitness regimen with the young Knicks without looking over his shoulder. New York’s planning for 2019, when it hopes to strike in a big way in free agency, but that doesn’t mean next season won’t be important. Knox will have a lot of light on him, especially after playing well during NBA Summer League, but the Knicks truly believe Robinson will make some contributions this season with his significant physical gifts. Both must continue changing the narrative in Gotham that the team’s new braintrust is rebuilding the brand the right way -- slowly, and correctly. Hezonja was a good low-cost flier for New York who’ll give Fizdale some small ball options. Hezonja came on strong the second half of last season for the Magic, who hadn’t picked up his third-year option and were hamstrung in what they could offer him as a result. 10. SAN ANTONIO SPURS 2017-18 RECORD: 47-35; lost in first round ADDED: G Marco Belinelli (two years, $12 million); F Dante Cunningham (one year, $2.5 million); G DeMar DeRozan (acquired from Raptors); C Jakob Poeltl (acquired from Raptors); G Lonnie Walker IV (No. 18 pick, 2018 Draft); F Chimezie Metu (No. 49 pick, 2018 Draft) LOST: F Kyle Anderson (signed with Grizzlies); G Danny Green (traded to Raptors); F Kawhi Leonard (traded to Raptors); F Joffrey Lauvergne (signed with Fenerbahce); G Tony Parker (signed with Hornets); G Brandon Paul (waived) RETAINED: C/F Davis Bertans (two years, $14.5 million); G Bryn Forbes (two years, $6 million); F Rudy Gay (one year, $10 million) THE KEY MAN: Coach Gregg Popovich. There is no way to tell, nor is it really anyone’s business, how Pop will cope with the loss of his wife Erin, who died in April during the Spurs’ first-round series with Golden State. But the NBA grind is an unforgiving one, and Popovich is adding Olympic team coach duties to an already taxing schedule. He knows best how he’s doing and you can only hope he listens to himself when or if he needs time away. THE SKINNY: Backed up against it with Leonard’s still-murky insistence for a divorce, the Spurs did as well as could be expected in getting a four-time All-Star who’ll play with a huge chip on his shoulder next season. DeRozan will certainly help San Antonio extinguish the offensive droughts that came when teams loaded up on LaMarcus Aldridge defensively. LA was sensational for long stretches last season, making second team All-NBA for the second time in his career. Belinelli, rookie Walker and Poeltl should lengthen San Antonio’s bench significantly and reduce the Spurs’ dependence on nightly brilliance from 40-year-old Manu Ginobili, if he comes back for a 17th season. Longtime NBA reporter, columnist and Naismith Memorial Basketball Hall of Famer David Aldridge is an analyst for TNT. You can e-mail him here, find his archive here and follow him on Twitter. The views on this page do not necessarily reflect the views of the NBA, its clubs or Turner Broadcasting......»»

Category: sportsSource:  abscbnRelated NewsAug 8th, 2018

The curse of the Western Conference '4 seed

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

Category: sportsSource:  abscbnRelated NewsApr 29th, 2018

Champions League back in Chelsea s sights as rivals stumble

LONDON (AP) — Chelsea could squeeze into the Champions League after all. In the space of 20 days, Antonio Conte's side has reduced Tottenham's hold on fourth place in the English Premier League from 10 to two points. Cesc Fabregas was set up by Eden Hazard to secure a 1-0 victory over Swansea that gave Chelsea a third successive victory to take advantage of Tottenham's stumbles on Saturday. After Tottenham plays Watford on Monday, the north London club and Chelsea will have three games remaining. Adding further intrigue to the hunt for the three places below newly crowned champion Manchester City was Liverpool slipping to a third draw in four matches. With Mohamed Salah failing to score a 44th goal of the season, Liverpool was held by Stoke to 0-0. Juergen Klopp's priority is protecting a 5-2 advantage over Roma in the Champions League semifinals when it travels to Italy for the second leg on Wednesday. But if the five-time European champions aren't careful they might need to lift the cup again to secure a route back into the Champions League next season. Liverpool is only six points ahead of Chelsea having played a game more than the deposed champion it meets next Sunday at Stamford Bridge. Manchester United, which is two points ahead of Liverpool in second place, has four games remaining, starting on Sunday at home to sixth-place Arsenal. RELEGATION SCRAP The three teams in the bottom three staved off relegation, for now. West Bromwich Albion has mounted an improbable recovery under caretaker manager Darren Moore. Matt Phillips sealed a 1-0 victory at Newcastle — Moore's second success in a four-game unbeaten stint — to nudge the last-place team five points from safety. That's where Swansea is, a place and a point above the drop zone. Stoke is sandwiched between Southampton and West Brom, separated by two points from both fellow strugglers. Dusan Tadic scored twice to give Southampton its first home win since November, 2-1 over Bournemouth. Huddersfield isn't out of danger yet, sitting three points above Southampton after being beaten 2-0 by Everton, whose goals came from Cenk Tosun and Idrissa Gueye. PALACE MAJESTIC Cyrstal Palace looked doomed after losing its opening seven games without scoring. The south London club climbed to 11th place — six points clear of the bottom three — after beating Leicester 5-0. Wilfried Zaha again excelled and scored the opening goal and James McArthur doubled the lead before gaining a man advantage in the 55th minute. Marc Albrighton was sent off for bringing down Zaha. The goal flurry came in the last 10 minutes when Ruben Loftus-Cheek and Patrick van Aanholt netted and Christian Benteke struck a penalty. Leicester, the surprise 2016 champion, is six points ahead of Palace in ninth place. BURNLEY FOR EUROPE Burnley can start to dream of playing in Europe after a 51-year absence, with seventh place virtual assured after drawing with Brighton 0-0. The northwest England club is six points clear of eighth-place Everton with two games remaining and a superior goal difference. Brighton moved five points clear of the relegation zone with nine points to play for. PROMOTION PUSH Cardiff has the edge to join Wolverhampton in returning to the Premier League. Cardiff beat Hull 2-0 to reclaim second place in the second-tier League Championship, a point ahead of Fulham heading into the final round......»»

Category: sportsSource:  abscbnRelated NewsApr 29th, 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

Guardiola struggles to explain collapses at City, Bayern

By Steve Douglas, Associated Press MANCHESTER, England (AP) — It has become an alarming trait for Pep Guardiola in his post-Barcelona coaching career. His teams keep on imploding on the big occasion. And the Manchester City manager knows it. "I drop a lot of Champions League games in (the space of) 10 to 15 minutes, and I think about that many times," he said, candidly. "It happened many times. Maybe it's my fault." Guardiola was speaking soon after his City side conceded three goals in 16 minutes on Saturday to lose the Manchester derby 3-2 against United. It denied City the chance to wrap up the Premier League title in record time. Three days earlier, City conceded three goals in 19 minutes to lose 3-0 at Liverpool in the first leg of their Champions League quarterfinal matchup. Guardiola, it seems, is struggling to get that collapse at Anfield out of his head. He constantly referred to it in news conferences before and after the United loss. It might be because he has previous experience at Bayern Munich, the team he left after three seasons to join City and where he failed to win the Champions League in three attempts. In the 2014 semifinals, Bayern conceded three goals in 18 minutes on the way to losing 4-0 at home to Real Madrid in the second leg and 5-0 on aggregate. A year later, the German team was drawing 0-0 after 77 minutes at Barcelona in the first leg of the semifinals. Then Lionel Messi scored twice and Neymar added an injury-time third as Barcelona won 3-0. Even in his first season at City last year, Monaco scored twice in the opening 30 minutes on its way to a 3-1 win in the second leg and a victory via the away-goals rule. "When you play against Liverpool in Europe or against United, when you have momentum, you have to close the door," Guardiola said. "We didn't close it. When it's time to defend, you have to defend." Still, Guardiola doesn't think he needs to change his attacking, possession-based approach that has brought him plenty of trophies — and admirers — throughout his career, even if his two Champions League titles were at a Messi-inspired Barcelona in 2009 and '11. City is set to clinch a Premier League-League Cup double this season, playing some of the best football the English game has ever seen. "I have to think about it, but I feel when you dominate and you create chances, you are closer to winning the games," he said. "I think this season showed that. The numbers we have shown in terms of goals ... not just the goals but when the team is stable, the chances we concede, I think we are the best with these type of players.".....»»

Category: sportsSource:  abscbnRelated NewsApr 9th, 2018

Chelsea looks for another good showing at Camp Nou

By Tales Azzoni, Associated Press MADRID (AP) — Few teams have caused as much trouble for Barcelona as Chelsea since Lionel Messi started playing with the Spanish club almost 15 years ago. Barcelona has been dominant with Messi against nearly every opponent it has faced in Europe. But not against Chelsea. The English club is even used to doing well against Barcelona at Camp Nou Stadium, where the teams will meet Wednesday in the second leg of their last-16 series in the Champions League. Chelsea is unbeaten against Barcelona in eight matches, with four straight draws at Camp Nou. Barcelona earned a 1-1 draw in the first match in England thanks to a late away goal by Messi, who had never scored against the Premier League club. "It will be a hard match just like in the away leg," Barcelona coach Ernesto Valverde said. "They have a strong team that defends well in a block and has a great counterattack. We will struggle." Barcelona has been thriving again this season. Its only loss came against Real Madrid in its first match of the season in the Spanish Super Cup final. It has won 18 of its last 20 home matches since then, with two draws — 2-2 against Celta Vigo and 0-0 against Getafe in the Spanish league. "We have to show great resilience," Chelsea coach Antonio Conte said. "We are playing against one of the best teams in the world. We must pay great attention and have the same focus and concentration of the first leg." This is the first time Chelsea and Barcelona are facing each other in the Champions League since the semifinals in 2012, when the English club advanced 3-2 on aggregate after securing an astonishing 2-2 draw in the second leg at Camp Nou, after trailing 2-0 with 10 men for most of the match. Chelsea also drew at Camp Nou in the Champions League semifinals in 2009, as well as in the group stage of the 2006-07 season and the round of 16 a year earlier. Chelsea is trying to make the quarterfinals for the first time since 2014, when eliminated by Atletico Madrid in the semis. Barcelona is looking to reach the last eight for a record 11th straight time. The Spanish league leaders are coming off a 2-0 win at last-place Malaga on Saturday, when Messi didn't play because of the birth of his third son, Ciro. It remains unclear if Valverde will be able to count on midfielder Andres Iniesta on Wednesday because of a hamstring injury. Here's a look at the other matches this week: ___ MAN UNITED-SEVILLA Jose Mourinho may be faced with a dilemma when Manchester United hosts Sevilla on Tuesday. With Paul Pogba ruled out of United's Premier League victory over Liverpool on Saturday, Mourinho's side finally managed to find the balance it has been lacking in recent weeks. If the France midfielder is available, Mourinho would have to drop Juan Mata or 21-year-old Scott McTominay to make room for him. United, which drew the first leg 0-0 in Seville, is trying to reach the quarterfinals for the first time since 2013-14. "The next game is very important for us, maybe the most important game of the season," United midfielder Nemanja Matic said. Sevilla is trying to make the quarterfinals for the first time. ___ ROMA-SHAKHTAR Roma will be hoping it has turned its poor home form around when it hosts Shakhtar Donetsk needing to overturn a 2-1 defeat. Roma beat Torino 3-0 on Friday for what was only its second win at Stadio Olimpico since mid-December. "Mentally, the lads felt a bit of pressure because we hadn't won at the Olimpico for a while — and I could see that," Roma coach Eusebio Di Francesco said. "Today's win shows that we've cleared the hurdle now." ___ BESIKTAS-BAYERN Besiktas is dreaming of becoming the first team to overturn a five-goal deficit in the UEFA competition when it hosts Bayern Munich on Wednesday, although restoring its pride will likely be enough after a chastening 5-0 first-leg defeat in Munich. The Turkish champion, playing in the knockout rounds of the Champions League for the first time, is hoping to extend its 12-game unbeaten run at home in European competitions. Bayern has made it to the Champions League quarterfinals six years in a row, but hasn't won the title since coach Jupp Heynckes' previous stint in 2013, when he led the side to a treble. It warmed up for its trip to Istanbul with a 6-0 rout of Hamburger SV on Saturday. "You can never hide in football, you can never take it easy," said Heynckes, who has 25 wins and just one defeat in 27 games across all competitions since returning to Bayern. ___ Associated Press writers Ciaran Fahey, Daniella Matar and Sam Johnston contributed to this report......»»

Category: sportsSource:  abscbnRelated NewsMar 12th, 2018

New era, new challenges emerge for Warriors

By David Aldridge, TNT Analyst "It’s the lack of faith that makes people afraid of meeting challenges, and I believe in myself. He who is not courageous enough to take risks will accomplish nothing in life. I figured that if I said it enough, I would convince the world that I really was the greatest." -- Muhammad Ali Ali defended his heavyweight championship 20 times, during two eras: when he was young and unstoppable, after beating Sonny Liston in Miami in 1964, and when he was old and vulnerable, after beating George Foreman in Zaire in 1974. He was the fastest heavyweight ever in the first era; he was smart and could take a punch in the second. A generation later, the Golden State Warriors are defending their NBA title for a second time, in three years. But they, too, are doing so in two eras. In 2014, no one had seen anything like what Golden State did on a basketball court, and how Stephen Curry’s and Klay Thompson’s shooting range changed the geometry of NBA defenses. They stretched to the breaking point trying to get out to Curry and Thompson. They couldn’t figure out how to handle the Warriors’ five-man switching defenses. They couldn’t stand up under Golden State’s withering pace. There is no need to hold a telethon yet for the Warriors, three years later. They are 49-14 today, with four All-Stars among their five starters, including Kia MVP candidate Kevin Durant, in the prime of his career, who wasn’t there when the Warriors first beat the Cleveland Cavaliers in the 2015 Finals. They are still first in the league in Offensive Rating, first in True Shooting Percentage, first in Effective Field Goal Percentage. They still are unsolvable to most opponents. But maybe not all, not anymore. The margin of separation between Golden State and the rest of the league is still there, most of the time. But there are tiny signs of slippage. Tiny. You recall what Warriors assistant coach Bruce Frasier said in the preseason, when no one is injured and everyone thinks they’re going 82-0. “Teams are starting to figure us out a little bit,” he said then. “We’re talented, so that sometimes overrides strategy. But I feel like teams are figuring certain things out to do to counter what they’ve seen. Year one, it was really hard, because it was all new. The pieces have changed a little bit, but I feel like our challenge will be to see if we can layer on some of the offense, our fluid movement, and counters, and change things up, and execute better. Defense is always big, too, so I wouldn’t go into the complacent (problem). I think it’s going to be more execution, and how smart can we really be, and can we keep that energy up through this year?” In each of their previous three seasons, the Warriors led the league in margin of victory -- 10.1 points in 2014-15, 10.8 points in 2015-16 and 11.6 points last season. This year, though, they’ve fallen to third, behind the Houston Rockets and Toronto Raptors -- and their win margin is down to 8.5 points per game. Two years ago, the Warriors were fourth in the league in Defensive Rating (100.9). Last season, Golden State was second (101.1). This season, the Warriors are fifth, at 103.4. In 2014-15, they were 14th in the league in points allowed in the paint; this year, they’re 24th (to be fair, they were 23rd last year, when they won it all anyway). Are they bored? Tired? Aging? Is their bench inconsistency this year the result of vets saving themselves for the playoffs, or guys just getting old? And will it matter against anyone other than Houston? “Once you start getting a little older, it’s harder and harder,” guard Shaun Livingston said last week. “We definitely need the youth, we definitely need the health. We’ve got to be healthy. We’ve got to be healthy. Sometimes you see teams that maybe are over the hill -- they have the experience, but maybe not (the ability). It’s human nature. Obviously, I don’t think we’re there yet. We’ve got guys that are still in their prime. It’s mental now.” In the Jean-Pierre Coopman phase of their latest title defense (oh, how one misses spectacles like Ali fighting Coopman, the “Lion of Flanders” -- with Pat Summerall and Tom Brookshier on the call!), the Warriors came to Washington last week. There was no White House visit on the docket, only time with D.C. area kids and a trip to the African-American History Museum, with owner Joe Lacob and GM Bob Myers on the trip as well. They have been in the public eye for five years now, back to Mark Jackson’s last season as coach, when the Splash Brothers exploded into the national consciousness. That’s a long time for one NBA team to have all that light and heat on it. For a minute, the Warriors tried to convince themselves that there was a backlash building against them nationally, that people had grown tired of their 3-pointers and video game point totals. It was, of course, a ridiculous posit -- Golden State and its players are more popular than ever, the love for Curry such that he felt perfectly comfortable posting a photo of the glass table he accidentally smashed in his hotel room on Instagram, any criticism surely to be muted amid America’s love for the two-time MVP.   when you feel like you’re on the @pgatour so you gotta get some swings going in the hotel room 😂😂😂 #idiot A post shared by Wardell Curry (@stephencurry30) on Mar 1, 2018 at 1:33pm PST “There was a little guy who was probably eight years old, and he came up and introduced himself,” Steve Kerr said. “His name was Ryan, and I’m talking to him, and he goes ’oh, my God, there’s Quinn Cook!’ And he ran over to Quinn Cook. Not Steph, not me -- he loved Quinn Cook. That was cool.” Throughout the Warriors’ run, they’ve faced down different challengers in the Western Conference -- the first iteration of the Rockets with Harden, a hybrid inside-out attack where Houston unhappily and unsuccessfully tried to meld Harden and Dwight Howard in the post. The Durant/Russell Westbrook one-two combo in Oklahoma City. The Spurs, morphing from the Tim Duncan/Tony Parker-led team to the Kawhi Leonard-dominant one. The “Lob City” Clippers, followed by the Chris Paul/Blake Griffin halfcourt version. But this season’s Rockets, with Paul at the point, may be the most unique and dangerous threat to the Warriors. They are much more than a team that just rains 3-pointers on you -- though they most certainly do that, and do it historically well. They’re also an outstanding defensive team, with the additions of P.J. Tucker and Luc Mbah a Moute giving them a grit they haven’t had in past seasons to pair with the shot blocking and rim presence of Clint Capela. The numbers are stark: Houston is 32-1 this season when Paul, Harden and Capela all play, including two wins over the Warriors The Rockets have no obvious weakness. They have no fear of Golden State, either, having won two of the three meetings with the Warriors this season. It’s not just that they’re good, it’s how they’re good that makes them look like the greatest challenge yet to Golden State’s hegemony in the West. “I mean, yes, because they do it a different way, I guess,” Curry said last week. “They adopted the power of the three ball and try to use it as a main weapon, and obviously with James and CP together. Honestly, we know that they’re playing well. We’re chasing that number one seed and keeping tabs on how they’re playing and whatnot. But at the end of the day, we’ve got a lot of time left before we have to face them again. We know they’re serious. But so are we.” The Warriors have had to deal with great adversity during their run, to be sure. The biggest challenge came about this time last year, when a collision between teammates -- Zaza Pachulia and Durant, in D.C., ironically -- culminated in a Grade 2 MCL sprain and bone bruise for Durant, taking him out of the lineup at the worst possible part of the season. Golden State had just ripped off wins in 23 of its previous 27 games since a lamentable Christmas Day loss to the Cavs. Curry had started to figure out how to play with KD, and vice versa. They were in the middle of a brutal stretch of seven road games in eight overall, with the one brief return home to play the Celtics. When Durant went down, the initial fear was that he’d torn his ACL and would be out for the season. The Warriors’ locker room was funeral after the Wizards game. “Obviously, we were trying to figure out if he was like ’done-done’ for the year, or whether or not there was going to be a chance he’d return,” forward David West said. “We were, at the time he got hurt, we were just starting to figure out the sort of roles, everybody was getting comfortable with roles. We basically had to reset., change some of the functions we were doing. We lost a few games  trying to literaly just figure out and recalibrate and re-balance. That was one of those periods where we were just looking at each other, trying to start this thing -- we lost this huge, huge piece.” Yet the Warriors figured it out on the fly. And how they responded then provides a big clue to how they might respond to the challenge the Rockets present to them now. “It took us, I think we needed to get home before we were able to stablize,” Kerr said. “I want to say we lost three of the last four on the trip or something  (they did lose three of four, but one of the three losses was at Oracle in that one home game with the Celtics). We got home and righted the ship and got going. But sometimes (an injury is) a galvanizing force when a guy gets hurt, and you have to do certain things. Like, for us, when Kevin got hurt, we talked about it and we said we have to be the best defensive team in the league. We don’t have that luxury of throwing the ball to Kevin and saying ’get us 30 points tonight.'” During that stretch without Durant (March 2, 2017 to April 5, 2017), who returned just before the start of the playoffs, the Warriors led the league in the league in Defensive Rating (100.0, just head of San Antonio’s 100.2), first in opponent field goal percentage (.429), tied for second in opponent 3-point percentage (.316) and fourth in opponent points allowed per game (100.9). And once Durant returned for good, the Warriors again flexed. They tore through the West, winning all but one game en route to a third straight NBA Finals. And they took the Cavaliers apart in five games for their second title in three years. “You could see Draymond, Klay, Andre, Shaun, those guys, even Loon (Kevin Looney), were like, ’we didn’t have KD last year,’ ” West said. “For someone like myself, I just followed their lead. Klay got a little more aggressive. Draymond sort of settled everybody defensively. And we started winning.” That muscle memory will come in handy this year. Durant and Curry have missed time with injuries, and Golden State hasn’t figured out things at center just yet. (Would it shock me if rookie Jordan Bell played a big role there down the stretch? No, it would not.) But the Warriors still are smoking people in the second halves of games; per teamrankings.com, the Warriors lead the lead in third-quarter scoring margin at 5.3 points per game, more than double the margin of the second-place Denver Nuggets. Whether it’s adjustments or something else (“mainly, fiery halftime speeches, Knute Rockne style,” Kerr opines), they have again put a lot of opponents away with 12 minutes to spare. Since the All-Star break, they’re fourth in the league in opponent field goal percentage (.433) and Defensive Rating (100.3). “This year, obviously, knock on wood, we want to stay healthy,” Curry said. “We want to continue to push in the right direction. Every year’s different. That’s the fun part about this league. No matter how much success you’ve had and what your expectations are, it’s a different journey every year. We’re right in the middle of that right now. We have an amazing record, considering how we’ve played. I think we’d all say we haven’t lived up to our own expectations. That’s okay. We have an opportunity to build the right habits and the right momentum going into the playoffs this year and do it, all 15 guys.” Longtime NBA reporter, columnist and Naismith Memorial Basketball Hall of Famer David Aldridge is an analyst for TNT. You can e-mail him here, find his archive here and follow him on Twitter. The views on this page do not necessarily reflect the views of the NBA, its clubs or Turner Broadcasting......»»

Category: sportsSource:  abscbnRelated NewsMar 6th, 2018

Warriors keep evolving in rivalry with Cavs

By Steve Aschburner, NBA.com CLEVELAND -- You might expect, given the familiarity from what’s gone on for four years now, that the Golden State Warriors and Cleveland Cavaliers have worked up some serious mutual contempt. They both covet what the other wants -- in fact, the Warriors or the Cavs could make a persuasive case that, if not for the other guys, one already would have notched a three-peat and be chasing Bill Russell’s Celtics in pursuit of a fourth consecutive championship. They both have poured buckets of blood, sweat, tears, money, Gatorade and offseason counter moves into their nouveau NBA rivalry. And they both, well, as Golden State coach Steve Kerr phrased it to the San Jose Mercury News Sunday (Monday, PHL time), “We just want to kick each other’s ass.” And yet the Warriors and the Cavaliers -- who play again Monday (Tuesday, PHL time) at Quicken Loans Arena in the NBA’s prime-time MLK showdown -- have more in common with each other than they do with any of the league’s other 28 teams. Playing 100 games or so every year. Locking in mentally and surviving physically longer than anyone else. Showing up each night targeted as a measuring stick, even a season maker, by the opponents. While trying like heck to keep things fresh. Renew. Find and tap into a new source of energy, because old ones wane over time. “It’s the biggest challenge of this whole season,” Kerr told NBA.com late last week, with the Warriors starting a back-to-back in Milwaukee and Toronto on their way back to The Land. Even if it were possible -- and it realistically is not, given free agency, injuries, trades, the salary cap, luxury taxes, hirings and firings each NBA offseason -- playing a pat hand from one championship-level season to the next isn’t desirable. Voices, locker rooms, relationships get stale. Rivals adjust and escalate in the arms race. Some players ebb in the pecking order, others flow. It’s important to inject new faces, add skills and even find fresh themes to fend off monotony, even boredom, through the 82-game slogs. The Warriors, in winning 20 of 23 games over the past seven weeks, largely have managed to do that. The Cavaliers, at 26-15 after 2-7 stretch that started at Golden State on Christmas (Dec. 26, PHL time)? Not so much. Golden State shifts gears after each season It’s easy to think of Golden State’s success since Kerr’s hiring before the 2014-15 season as one uninterrupted run of excellence. Three-pointers, “death lineups,” and the rest. But the differences from one year to the next have been fairly pronounced. “In Year 1, we were trying to prove ourselves to the world,” Kerr said. “Then we win the championship -- it was all so fresh. There were no letdowns at all that year. It was the most exciting, it was the most energized, it was the most refreshing. It was brand new to all of us. It felt like we were riding this wave all year -- we were all giddy, like, ‘Oh my God, we’re really good!’ We didn’t know we could be like that. And for me, it was my first year coaching.” Steph Curry won his first MVP award. He and Klay Thompson generated considerable conversation about the best shooting backcourts in league history. Draymond Green forever changed the old NBA notion of “’tweeners.” The Warriors finished 67-15, ranked second in the league in offense (111.6) and first in defense (101.4) and beat Cleveland in the Finals in six games. “It was maybe like the first stages when you fall in love,” Kerr said. “You’re just on Cloud 9 and she can’t do anything wrong. There’s infatuation and then you truly fall in love, and it’s amazing. “The second year, we sort of rode that wave of euphoria of being the best team in the league and having won the title. The next thing you know, we’re 24-0 and we’ve got a chance to set an all-time record. That 73-win mark carried us all year. We were going to prove that, not only were we the champs but we were one of the best teams ever.” The Warriors were -- by regular season standards. Curry won his second MVP award. Kerr missed the first 43 games due to health issues but assistant coach Luke Walton steered them to a 39-4 mark. They bought into the chase for 73 victories fairly late, but instead of a 16-5 playoff run like the previous spring’s, the Warriors went 15-9 -- coming up one victory short when the Cavaliers became the first team to claw back from a 3-1 deficit. That led directly to Golden State’s next new wrinkle, a reconfiguration that came close to buckling the league’s knees. “We got KD,” Kerr said. “Now we’re changing our team, right? Last year was about incorporating KD, welcoming this incredible player into our organization and our roster. Figuring how to do it, how we were going to adjust. I felt like there were times last year that were tiring, where our guys were done a little bit. But it was ‘new’ again.” Even the challenges were fresh, like counting Curry’s or Klay Thompson’s touches relative to Durant’s or closing ranks around Golden State’s thin man as his reputation took blows for the first time in his NBA career. Not interested in shooting for 74 victories, the Warriors simply took care of business and stayed coiled for the postseason. Then it was a 16-1 dash to title No. 2, Durant snagging the Finals MVP trophy after the five-game dispatching of the Cavs. All of which just set the Warriors’ bar higher, requiring them to search for something new, somebody borrowed, presumably nothing blue. “This year it’s just survive and advance,” Kerr said. “It’s ‘let’s get to April, May, June in one piece.’ There’s a reason we’ve lost six home games already. We don’t have the driving force that we had the last few years. We’re dealing with what any team in NBA history that’s tried to do this has dealt with. The Lakers (1982-85), the Celtics (1984-87, 1957-66)... It’s just really hard and you need that driving force.” Said Warriors vet Andre Iguodala: “Your body is mindful of it, because it hurts.” A couple of young guys -- Patrick McCaw, Kevon Looney -- have taken on bigger roles. Nick Young brings some sort of buzz into any locker room that will have him. Still, as veteran guard Shaun Livingston said: “We’re not chasing any records. We’re not adding another All Star. We’re just trying to make it through the marathon.” Cavs' challenges mount during 2017-18 The Cavaliers are just trying to make it through the marathon, too. But if they could, they might do it like Rosie Ruiz, the 1980 women’s “winner” of the Boston Marathon who perpetrated a hoax by hopping the subway and running only the final mile of Beantown’s famous race. The 2017-18 has been anything but fun for Cleveland so far. It began with the departure of All-Star point guard Kyrie Irving, a not-so-funhouse mirror image of Durant’s arrival a year earlier in the Bay Area. Irving, for reasons still not quite explained, made it known in the offseason that he wanted out. He wanted to be the man on his own team. Or he didn’t want to be left in the lurch if (when?) LeBron James took his talents elsewhere again. Or both. Or neither. Regardless, once the Cavaliers made his request come true by dealing him to Boston for All-Star point guard Isaiah Thomas and Brooklyn’s coveted first-round pick this June, their task got tougher and their season longer. Losing one of the league’s best ball handlers and shot makers doesn’t qualify as “renewal” any more than what went on in Oklahoma City when Durant packed up. There’s been more. Shooting guard J.R. Smith seemingly got old overnight. Jae Crowder, who came from the Celtics in the Irving deal, hasn’t meshed with the Cavs’ style. Kevin Love has been moved to center but hasn’t done anything to satisfy the Cavs’ need for rim protection. Thomas only returned to action from a hip injury as the calendar turned to 2018 and has played only four games in these two weeks. Even with so many new faces -- seven of the top 12 in coach Tyronn Lue’s rotation weren’t here 12 months ago -- it’s a group heavy on veterans, players a little too established or mature to naturally instill raw energy. James said recently that none of this is new, it’s another case of the Cavs biding their time for the “second” season that means everything. But Lue also introduced the topic of “agendas,” suggesting that some of his guys were looking out for their own responsibilities and performances -- particularly on defense -- rather than the group’s. At best, this is another dose of the midseason blahs, the Cavs in their doldrums in need of an All-Star break. At worst, though, they might be honing some bad habits that won’t be so easy to break in May or June. Especially if East rivals such as Toronto, Boston or Washington are emboldened after witnessing or administering some of the Cavs’ more embarrassing beat downs this season. Will any of this matter come spring? It will if the switch each team is minding stubbornly decides not to flip. “That’s the key. You’ve got to find that balance,” Kerr said. “Are you flipping the switch or are you navigating? The idea is, don’t let bad habits slip in. Right now, this moment, we’re into some bad habits. Our defensive efforts  the last five, six games [before the weekend] were awful. We got away with it because Steph was going nuts.” The Cavaliers repeatedly have not gotten away with bad defensive habits, even on nights when James has been dominant. “It’s tough,” Livingston said. “They’re a team that’s built for the playoffs. But our core guys still are in there prime. Their core guys are still good. But we’re talking about ‘prime.’” Most still would pick both Golden State and Cleveland to advance all the way to a “Finals Four” (after last year’s “Rubber Match” series). But one of these years, most will be wrong -- about one or both. That alone might be motivation enough. 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 NewsJan 15th, 2018

Soccer s big clash of nations not only at World Cup in 2018

By Rob Harris, Associated Press Footballing supremacy between nations will be determined in 2018, just maybe not in the way expected. The World Cup remains the ultimate prize in sport, and a Russia buffeted by doping scandals and geopolitical rifts will open up like never before to welcome thousands of fans. When the tournament reaches its climax in Moscow on July 14, the biggest global television audience of the year is likely to see the World Cup handed over. Will Germany be the first team to retain the title since Brazil in 1962? Can Neymar inspire Brazil to a record-extending sixth success? Will the players who have shared major individual honors for a decade — Cristiano Ronaldo (Portugal) and Lionel Messi (Argentina) — finally become world champions? But it became clearer in 2017 that appearing at the World Cup is no longer the only vehicle — or preferred means — for countries to validate their status and strength in the world's biggest sport. That isn't much of a reassurance, though, for Italy, the Netherlands and the United States who failed to qualify for Russia. The international soccer landscape is being reshaped by the Gulf state-funded clubs, and their clout reached new heights in the last year. Just as Qatar and the United Arab Emirates became ensnared in a diplomatic standoff, the jewels in their soccer crowns slugged it out in the transfer market pursuing the top talent. Around $300 million was spent in the summer transfer window alone by both Manchester City, which is owned by the UAE's Abu Dhabi, and Paris Saint-Germain, which is funded by 2022 World Cup host nation Qatar. The biggest statement came from PSG which more than doubled the previous transfer record by splurging 222 million euros on Neymar — an unexpected windfall for Barcelona but a deal that solidified the power shifts. Both PSG and City have already obliterated the field in their French and English leagues respectively and are racing toward regaining their domestic titles. The true test of power in this intriguing rivalry between energy-rich Gulf powers should be determined in the Champions League. The competition has been won in three of the last four years by Real Madrid, and the holders now stand in the way of PSG reaching the quarterfinals in March. Madrid and Barcelona remain in the control of their fans, a structure able to resist foreign ownership, although both teams have accepted injections of cash through UAE or Qatar sponsorships. The future spending capabilities of the nascent forces at PSG and City will be determined in the coming months. However wealthy their ownership, unfettered spending remains subject to curbs in an often forlorn attempt to maintain a competitive balance in competitions and prevent them stockpiling players. The ultimate threat hanging over PSG is exclusion from the Champions League unless it balances the books by cashing in on stars in the January transfer window. PSG's legal team is already preparing to take the fight to UEFA over its implementation of Financial Fair Play rules, having faced an earlier round of punishments — along with City — in 2014 that led to limits on the squad size and financial penalties. UEFA has also served notice on AC Milan that sanctions could be looming after around $250 million was spent in the summer by new private Chinese investors. Milan is an illustration of why authorities don't want clubs risking their financial health in the pursuit of success. Despite the investment, Milan is closer to the relegation zone than the top four Champions League qualification places halfway through the Serie A season. City is in a more advantageous position than either PSG or Milan due to its cut from domestic television rights. The Premier League is banking 8.3 billion pounds ($11 billion) from broadcasters under the current three-year deals, far eclipsing European counterparts. One of the early defining moments of 2018 in soccer won't happen on the field but in the Premier League's negotiations over the 2019-2022 rights. The winning outlets will provide an indicator of the vitality of traditional networks in an era of fragmented viewing habits where streaming platforms are luring viewers. The value of the deals will also influence the spending power of clubs in the coming years and the destination of the players. The flow of cash from Abu Dhabi since 2008 has already produced the dominant City team imagined by Sheikh Mansour. At the start of the second half of the season, Pep Guardiola's side enjoys a commanding lead over the previously pre-eminent Manchester United. How rapidly fortunes change in soccer. Guardiola, a serial title winner at Barcelona and Bayern Munich, was facing doubts over his managerial prowess as he opened his City reign with his first trophyless season. He remains on course for a quadruple at the second attempt. Across Manchester, it was Jose Mourinho buoyant in the first half of 2017 after collecting the Europa League and League Cup to offset a sixth-place domestic finish. But Mourinho enters 2018 in sullen mood, seething with envy about the lavish investment from Abu Dhabi that enabled Guardiola to remodel his squad. It's another indicator that with all the cash pumped into soccer by Gulf ruling families, the World Cup can no longer be relied on to determine the true kings of soccer in 2018......»»

Category: sportsSource:  abscbnRelated NewsDec 31st, 2017

Matter of when Man City wins title and how many records fall

By Steve Douglas and Rob Harris, Associated Press English soccer has never seen a team so utterly dominant as Manchester City entering the packed Christmas program. There seems little doubt Pep Guardiola will be raising the Premier League trophy for the first time in May. It is just a question of when City will wrap up its third title since 2014, and how many records will tumble on the way. City has already reeled off the most consecutive English top-flight wins — a record extended at the weekend to 17 games. Manchester United's record Premier League title-winning margin of 18 points from 2000 could also be under threat. And England could be looking at its third unbeaten "Invincibles" team after Preston in 1888-89 and Arsenal in 2003-04. So it doesn't bode well for a compelling second half of the Premier League season? Think again. The chase for the other three Champions League spots should be fierce with eight points separating second-place Manchester United and Arsenal in sixth. Chelsea, Liverpool and Tottenham are in the mix among them. Two leading sides will fall by the wayside and be denied a place among the European elite. The battle to stay in the world's richest soccer league is also intense. No team is stranded at the bottom, with Swansea in 20th place only six points behind Southampton in 13th. A closer look at the first half of the season: ___ TITLE RACE City leads by 13 points at the halfway stage after winning 18 of its 19 games and drawing one in the best ever start to a Premier League season. The only dropped points came at home to Everton in the second game on Aug. 21, when City played more than a half with 10 men following Kyle Walker's sending-off. Guardiola won the Bundesliga with Bayern Munich in late March in 2014 — aided by a winning streak of 19 games never before seen in a major European league. It will be tough for Guardiola to win the title that early in England as he chases a quadruple after finishing his first season at the club without a trophy. City is already through to the League Cup semifinals, into the Champions League last 16 and begins its FA Cup campaign in two weeks. Man United is in second place, with defending champion Chelsea three points further back in third. United manager Jose Mourinho says the title race is still on, but the rest of his peers among the chasing pack don't see City faltering now. It will be intriguing how Mourinho reacts to be seeing his title ambitions further fade in his second season at United, having already opted to publicly call out his "childish" players after a draw at Leicester on Saturday. ___ PICK OF THE PLAYERS Kevin De Bruyne is playing in a deeper role for City this season, virtually as a center midfielder, and it is bringing the best of out the Belgium midfielder. He has provided many of this season's wow moments, from scoring the winning goal at former club Chelsea in September with a fierce left-footed strike from outside the area to the assists for goals by Leroy Sane and Raheem Sterling in the 7-2 win over Stoke in October Dovetailing perfectly with fellow playmaker David Silva, De Bruyne has six goals and eight assists but it's more than just his statistics. His prodigious work rate, range of passing and crossing ability — arguably the best in the Premier League since the days of David Beckham — that make him a strong contender for the player of the season awards. No wonder City is determined to nail down the 26-year-old De Bruyne to an improved, longer contract. ___ EMERGING TALENT Amid an offseason of record spending in English soccer, little was made of Watford signing Richarlison from Brazilian team Fluminense for 13 million pounds ($17 million). Yet the 20-year-old forward is proving a bargain, settling in quickly to the pace and intensity of the Premier League and being one of the key factors in Watford's impressive start to the season that, at one stage, saw them challenging around the top four. Direct, skilful and quick, Richarlison already has five goals and keeps getting himself in great positions to score more, with his finishing sometimes letting him down. Opponents have cottoned on to his impact, with Richarlison telling ESPN Brazil this month: "Teams are already marking me individually, they are putting two players there on my side." Chelsea and Tottenham have been linked with the Brazil under-20s player, who has yet to earn a call-up to the senior squad. That appears only a matter of time. Other players to break through this season are Chelsea's Andreas Christensen, the Danish center back who has ousted David Luiz, and Liverpool's Joe Gomez, the right back who has ensured long-term injury absentee Nathaniel Clyne hasn't been missed. ___ SURPRISE TEAM An unfashionable club is mixing it with the heavyweights of the Premier League against all the odds. We've heard this before, right? Two years ago, it was Leicester delivering a soccer fairy tale by somehow winning the league. Now it's Burnley's turn to provide the feel-good story of the season. Widely regarded as a relegation candidate at the start of the season, Burnley is currently seventh. Don't rule Burnley out of staying in the tussle for the Champions League qualification places, with Liverpool only three points better off in fourth. The northwest team hasn't finished a season higher than sixth place in the top flight since 1974. Burnley, which has conceded just 15 goals in 19 games, has already beaten Chelsea away and drawn at Tottenham and Liverpool. Not bad for a team that returned a profit of about $20 million in summer player sales when most of the rest of the Premier League was spending freely. ___ POINTS TO PROVE Alexis Sanchez is a superstar performing well below expectations this season, perhaps as a result of failing to secure a move to Man City from Arsenal during the summer. That transfer could be revived in January — Guardiola cut an awkward figure recently when asked about making a new bid for the Chile forward — to potentially leave City with an even greater wealth of attacking riches. Sanchez has five league goals. By this stage last season, he had already scored 12 on his way to career-high haul of 24 for a single league campaign. In the dugout, these are testing times for two British managers: Alan Pardew and Mark Hughes. Pardew succeeded Tony Pulis a month ago with a mission to keep West Bromwich Albion in the Premier League. Then the Baggies were two points above the bottom three. Now they are next-from-bottom after collecting only two points from Pardew's first five games. Hughes' future appears on a knife-edge at Stoke despite a pressure-relieving victory over West Brom on Saturday that hauled the team three points from the danger zone......»»

Category: sportsSource:  abscbnRelated NewsDec 25th, 2017

Atletico puts new stadium to the test in Champions League

A look at what's happening around the Champions League this week: ___ strong>ATLETICO'S HOME SUCCESS /strong> Atletico Madrid will try to extend its successful home streak when it makes its Champions League debut at the new Wanda Metropolitano Stadium on Wednesday against Chelsea. It will be Atletico's third match at the venue which replaced the Vicente Calderon Stadium, where Atletico was unbeaten in its last 11 games in the European competition. Atletico has won both of its matches at the Wanda Metropolitano — 1-0 against Malaga and 2-0 against Sevilla, both in the Spanish league 'The Metropolitano has the feel of a Roman circus,' Atletico coach Diego Simeone said. Barcelona travels to Portugal to face Sporting Lisbon on Wednesday, riding a seven-game winning streak that includes the emphatic 3-0 win over Juventus in its Champions League opener. Sporting, off to a great start in the Portuguese league, can make it two wins in a row to start its Group D campaign. On Tuesday, Sevilla will host Maribor, which is coming off its first loss of the season against Atletico Madrid. ___ strong>MOSCOW CHALLENGE /strong> The Champions League provides Russian authorities with a key test of their World Cup readiness this week, and a glimpse at the welcome fans can expect next year. Two of England's fiercest rivals, Liverpool and Manchester United, play on consecutive nights in Moscow. Liverpool is first up against Spartak Moscow on Tuesday, and CSKA Moscow plays United the following night. There isn't typically disorder when the teams — separated by about 30 miles (48 kilometers) in northwest England — meet on home soil. But since England fans were attacked by Russians at the 2016 European Championship in Marseille, concerns have heightened about hooliganism in the 2018 World Cup host nation. United and Liverpool fans have been advised by the British government not to wear club colors on the streets of Moscow and to avoid walking alone. On the pitch, United and CSKA both won their opening games in Group A. Liverpool and Spartak are chasing their first wins after starting Group E with draws. ___ strong>DORTMUND THRIVING BUT FLAWED /strong> Real Madrid heads to Germany to face on Tuesday a Borussia Dortmund side enjoying its best start to the Bundesliga. Dortmund hadn't even conceded a goal in five domestic games until Lars Stindl netted Borussia Moenchengladbach's consolation in a 6-1 rout on Saturday. While Dortmund has scored 19 goals in six league games, there is no perfection in the high pressing game. The team remains prone to lapses at the back and opponents can suddenly find themselves with wide spaces to run into behind the Dortmund defense. That happened three times alone in the first half against 'Gladbach but it didn't prove as costly as when Dortmund visited London earlier this month and lost its Group H opener against Tottenham 3-1. ___ strong>NEEDING NEYMAR /strong> A bust-up between Edinson Cavani and Neymar combined with a goalless draw at Montpellier have generated a sense of trouble at Paris Saint-Germain ahead of Bayern Munich's visit on Wednesday. Cavani and Neymar have reportedly made peace after arguing on the pitch, but PSG dropped its first points this season following a dismal performance at Montpellier that raised concerns about the side's dependence on its Brazilian star. Neymar sat out Saturday's game because of a toe injury and his absence was obvious. Facing a very defensive side which closed spaces efficiently, PSG did not find a way to break the deadlock in a 4-3-3 system that lacked rhythm and creativity. 'We need to push more in order to score goals,' PSG coach Unai Emery said. 'This match leaves us with a lot of things to analyze in order to continue our progression.' Neymar is expected to return for the Bayern game in Group B. ___ strong>ROMA'S NEGATIVE STREAK /strong> Roma will be hopeful of ending a woeful away record in the Champions League when it travels to Azerbaijan for the first time, to play Qarabag on Wednesday. Including qualifying, Roma has won only one of its past 13 matches on its travels in Europe's elite competition, with that sole victory coming against Basel in 2009. But coach Eusebio Di Francesco will be hopeful of success against Qarabag, which lost 6-0 at Chelsea in the last round. He will again look to an in-form Edin Dzeko, who netted his fifth goal in three matches in Saturday's 3-1 win over Udinese. Stephan El Shaarawy scored twice in that match and Di Francesco has described him as 'the ideal attacker' for his preferred 4-3-3 formation, which he hopes will boost Roma in Europe as well as domestically. .....»»

Category: sportsSource:  abscbnRelated NewsSep 25th, 2017

Trail Blazers beat Rockets as Harden s 40-point streak ends

By Anne M. Peterson, Associated Press PORTLAND, Ore. (AP) — Jusuf Nurkic had 25 points and 15 rebounds, and the Portland Trail Blazers snapped James Harden's 40-point streak and the Houston Rockets' six-game winning streak with a 110-101 victory on Saturday night (Sunday, PHL time). Harden finished with 38 points, falling just short of his sixth straight game with 40 or more. He was 13-of-35 from the field, shooting 5-of-17 from three-point range. CJ McCollum added 24 points and Damian Lillard finished with 17 points and 12 rebounds for the Blazers, who have won three of their last four games. Austin Rivers scored a season-high 21 points for Houston, while Clint Capela had 13 points and 21 rebounds. Portland led by as many as 16 points in the third quarter, but Harden started to show some life after a surprisingly cold first half. Gerald Green's dunk got Houston within 88-83 early in the fourth but Nurkic's layup pushed Portland's lead to 97-85 with just under six minutes left. After Harden collected his fourth foul, McCollum hit a long jumper to put Portland up 101-90 with 3:10 left. Evan Turner's layup and free throw made it 106-95 and Moda Center fans started heading for the doors. There was some controversy when Harden got three free throws on Turner's foul and he made all three to close the gap with 1:02 left. After Lillard made a free throw on the other end, Harden's step-back jumper got the Rockets within 107-101 with 34 seconds left — but it was a close as they could get. Portland was the last team to hold Harden under 30. He had 29 in Houston's 111-104 home victory on Dec. 11 (Dec. 12, PHL time). Maurice Harkless had some success guarding Harden, but he out with a sore left knee after Saturday night's (Sunday, PHL time) loss to the Thunder and Turner started for the Blazers. Portland surrendered the lead to Oklahoma City heading into the fourth quarter and came up short 111-109 despite a late rally. Harden had a triple-double in a 135-134 overtime victory over Golden State on Thursday night (Friday, PHL time). He had 44 points, 10 rebounds and 15 assists for his second straight 40-point triple-double and 11th of his career. Rivers hit all four of his three-point attempts to start the game and finished the first quarter with 14 points. Neither team was able to make much of a move until the final two minutes of the half, when Portland went up 54-46 on Turner's layup. Nene was charged with a flagrant foul on Nurkic, who made one of the two free throws then added a basket. Lillard had a floater before time ran out and the Blazers went to the break with a 59-46 lead. Harden was 0-for-8 from three-point range in the opening half and had nine points. It was just the second time this season he failed to reach double digits in the first half. Lillard's three-pointer pushed Portland's lead to 77-61, but Harden answered with his own. Harden had 20 points in the third quarter but the Blazers led 86-77 going into the final period. TIP-INS Rockets: It was the third and final meeting of the season between the two teams. They split the first two. ... Harden hit his first two three-point attempts in the second half. Trail Blazers: Nurkic has 20 double-doubles this season. ... It was the first time Portland has defeated the Rockets twice in a season since 2015-16. .. The win snapped a two-game losing streak to the Rockets in Portland. UP NEXT Rockets: Host the Denver Nuggets on Monday (Tuesday, PHL time). Trail Blazers: Host the New York Knicks on Monday (Tuesday, PHL time)......»»

Category: sportsSource:  abscbnRelated NewsJan 6th, 2019

Lillard s 3-pointer in OT lifts Blazers over Warriors

By Janie McCauley, Associated Press OAKLAND, Calif. (AP) — Damian Lillard hit a go-ahead three-pointer with 6.3 seconds left in overtime and scored 21 points in his final regular-season game at home in Oakland, sending the Portland Trail Blazers past the Golden State Warriors 110-109 in a wild one Thursday night (Friday, PHL time). The kid from Oakland hits the game winner at our last game in Oakland. pic.twitter.com/oWXoGC019M — Trail Blazers (@trailblazers) December 28, 2018 Kevin Durant missed a 13-footer off the front rim as the final buzzer sounded but finished with his second triple-double of the season: 26 points, 11 assists and 10 rebounds. Jusuf Nurkic had 27 points and 12 rebounds for the Blazers. Durant hit a tying three-pointer with 19 seconds left in regulation following a driving one-handed dunk the previous possession but the Warriors couldn't overcome a comedy of errors in losing a second straight at home. They took a 127-101 beating from the Lakers on Christmas night. Seth Curry largely outplayed big brother and Golden State star Stephen down the stretch, scoring 11 straight points. In fact, their sister, Sydel posted on Twitter: "Wouldn't have been mad at all at a Seth game winner." Wouldn’t have been mad at all at a Seth game winner 🤷🏽‍♀️ — Sydel Curry-Lee (@SydelCurryLee) December 28, 2018 Lillard shot 7-for-20 with friends and family cheering him in the Blazers' final scheduled trip to Oracle Arena before the Warriors move to San Francisco next season. Stephen Curry made a three-pointer with 10:46 to play in regulation, then his little brother Seth rattled off 11 in a row with three consecutive triples. Klay Thompson's shooting struggles continued. He went 6-for-19 and was just 2-of-9 on three-point tries on the way to 15 points. He made a triple late in the third and was fouled, drawing a rousing ovation, then missed the free throw. Curry's 33-footer with 8:42 left in the third on a pass from Draymond Green got Golden State within two, then Curry found Green for a tying layup the next time down to make it 55-all. A series of silly mistakes followed: Thompson made a steal and threw it toward midcourt and Green couldn't keep the ball from going over the line for a backcourt violation, as Portland regained possession. Then, Green clanked a one-handed dunk try off the back of the rim. This after he had earlier thrown a pass off Thompson's head. The Warriors missed nine of their initial 11 free throws and finished an uncharacteristic 6-for-15 at the line. Both teams were trying to rebound from embarrassing Christmas losses two days earlier in which the three-point shooting was dismal: Golden State following that flop to the Lakers at home and the Blazers a 117-96 defeat at Utah. Portland coach Terry Stotts said whichever team lost this game at least would get another chance right away with the rivals playing twice in a three-day span. The Warriors beat the Blazers 125-97 on Nov. 23 (Nov. 24, PHL time) at Oracle Arena. In his last five games against the Warriors, Lillard has averaged 31 points, shooting 42.4 percent and 38.8 percent on three's. "I represent this city, so when I come here I want to represent myself well. I have a lot of family and friends coming to see me play, so you're excited about that. You've got energy, that's what it is, "Lillard said. "And they've been one of the best teams in the league, so you want to beat them. To do that you've got to put your best foot forward." After the Warriors shot 9-for-36 on three's in the loss to the Lakers — Curry 2-of-8, Durant 3-for-8 and Green 0-of-3 — Golden State was just 13-of-44 with Curry 6-for-15 and Durant 2-of-7. LILLARD'S ORACLE MEMORIES When Lillard was 9 or 10, he came to a Rockets-Warriors game with his brother and lucked into getting to take a shot on the court. "My brother and I were up at our seats and Steve Francis was doing his pregame workout and the ball bounced up and into the stands and I ran down the stairs and got it and I was going to throw it back and he was like, 'No, come shoot it.' And I went on the court and shot a three and airballed. That's the story." He used to walk to the games he lived so close in East Oakland. Lillard clearly had mixed emotions about the Warriors' upcoming move, saying: "You wish it wasn't happening. You know how much it means to the city of Oakland to have something positive happening, especially with the team having so much success right now. ... So it's sad to see them moving on." SELLOUT STREAK Golden State's 311th straight sellout Thursday became a new franchise best, topping a run of 310 consecutive sellouts from March 9, 1989, to April 19, 1996. TIP-INS Trail Blazers: Seth Curry quickly threw up his hand acknowledging his foul on brother Stephen early in the fourth. ... Portland pushed Golden State into nine first-half turnovers while committing just two. ... The Blazers were 21-of-23 on free throws. Warriors: Durant has scored 20 or more points in his last nine games 23-of-24. ... The Warriors dropped to 11-3 at home against the Western Conference. ... Golden State lost by 20-plus points at home twice in the previous six seasons but has done it four times already. UP NEXT Trail Blazers host Warriors on Saturday (Sunday, PHL time). The Warriors last played an opponent in two straight regular-season games against the Lakers on Nov. 23-25, 2016......»»

Category: sportsSource:  abscbnRelated NewsDec 28th, 2018

ONE Championship: Mark Sangiao looks to carry over Team Lakay s success in 2019

2018 will be over and done in a few days, but it will be remembered as the banner year of the legendary Team Lakay.   Widely associated with the local mixed martial arts scene in the Philippines due to the big number of notable homegrown talents that it has produced since its inception in 2003, Team Lakay has reached new heights in 2018 as it now houses four world champions under the ONE Championship banner.   Since the beginning of the year, the legendary camp from Baguio City, Benguet has been on an extraordinary run in the organization.   Geje “Gravity” Eustaquio kicked off the year for Team Lakay by copping the ONE Interim Flyweight World Championship with a unanimous decision victory over Kazakhstan’s Kairat Akhmetov in a rematch this past January.   Eustaquio was enshrined as the undisputed flyweight kingpin of the promotion five months later when he edged out Brazilian arch-nemesis Adriano Moraes in a world title unification bout.   It was followed by Kevin “The Silencer” Belingon, who had his first taste of gold last July when he routed two-division titleholder Martin “The Situ-Asian” Nguyen by way of clear-cut unanimous decision for the ONE Interim Bantamweight World Championship.   Belingon became ONE Championship’s official bantamweight champion by defeating longtime division ruler Bibiano “The Flash” Fernandes via split decision in their highly-anticipated title unification rematch last November.   Meanwhile, Joshua “The Passion” Pacio settled the score with Yoshitaka Naito in September, dethroning his Japanese rival by unanimous decision to bring home the ONE Strawweight World Championship.   Eduard Folayang joined Eustaquio, Belingon and Pacio in the cast of Team Lakay world titleholders, recapturing the ONE Lightweight World Championship at the expense of Singapore’s Amir Khan this past November.   Speaking on behalf of his teammates, Folayang believes that Team Lakay coach Mark Sangiao played a pivotal role in their success.   “Coach Mark should have a belt,” Folayang said. “We are a good team because we have a brilliant and selfless coach who supports us all the way.”   At the peak of his professional career in 2010, Sangiao opted to hang up his gloves for good to focus on coaching Folayang and other members of Team Lakay.   Although he had to make the ultimate sacrifice of calling it a career at the age of 30, Sangiao disclosed that there is no tinge of regret in his decision, especially after seeing what his athletes have become.   “When I see these belts, I know that my sacrifice was worth it. I feel that I’m also a champion,” the Team Lakay headmaster stated. “I decided to retire eight years ago. I’m a positive guy, so I don’t regret my decision to retire. I’m very happy with it.”   Finishing their campaign with four world titles in ONE Championship, Sangiao acknowledges that 2018 is Team Lakay’s most successful year so far.   “It’s our biggest year. We won titles and received many awards this year. This is the result of our hard work, dedication, and sacrifice. These awards and titles are just the fruit of our hard labor,” he mentioned.   With the achievements that they are presently basking in, Sangiao conceded that not even in his wildest dream did he expect Team Lakay to be highly acclaimed in the sport or reach its present stature.   “When I started this group in 2003, I did not even think that it would get to this. All I thought at the time was that I liked what I was doing,” he remembered. “I am happy with the outcome of my passion.”   It appears that everything Team Lakay lays its hands on turns into gold, but for Sangiao, this is only the tip of the iceberg.   “It’s only the beginning. There is more to come. We look forward to defending our belts and prevailing as champions for a long time,” he declared.   Sangiao may be looking to carry over Team Lakay’s success into 2019, but he knows that it will be no walk in the park.   “We had an amazing run in 2018. With all of the titles that we won, we have a big target on our back. Tougher challenges await us next year. Like we always say, we will do our best,” he expressed.   Pacio, Eustaquio and Folayang are all booked to defend their respective world titles in the first quarter of 2019.   Team Lakay may have cemented its position as a global force in mixed martial arts in 2018, but Sangiao assured that he and his wards are not resting on their laurels.   "This is definitely the best year for us, but of course, we will not stop. We have to keep on improving and defend those belts,” he vowed......»»

Category: sportsSource:  abscbnRelated NewsDec 27th, 2018

NBA s Christmas lineup headlined by LeBron vs Warriors

By Tim Reynolds, Associated Press There’s no NBA Finals rematch this year on Christmas. Not technically, anyway. It’s LeBron James vs. the Golden State Warriors for the fourth consecutive year on Dec. 25 (Dec. 26, PHL time), though James will be wearing a Los Angeles Lakers uniform this time. It was a predictable matchup. It isn’t, however, a break from tradition. That’s one of the biggest misnomers about the NBA and the schedule. An NBA Finals rematch is not common, not the norm, not a guarantee for the last two teams that were standing the previous season. The league has crowned a champion every year since 1947, and the tradition of Christmas Day games started later that same year. (They’ve been an annual fixture since, with the exception of 1998, when a lockout didn’t allow that season to begin until February.) But there have been only nine NBA Finals rematches on Dec. 25 (Dec. 26, PHL time). The recent Golden State-Cleveland history may make it seem like more. James has been in five Finals rematches on Christmas, all since 2011: Miami vs. Dallas that year, Oklahoma City vs. Miami the following year, and Cleveland vs. Golden State in each of the last three years. The other four rematches on the holiday: Orlando vs. Houston in 1995, Philadelphia vs. the Lakers in 2001, San Antonio vs. Detroit in 2005 and Boston vs. the Lakers in 2008. So instead of a Cavs-Warriors rematch, getting Lakers vs. Warriors — for the first time in the LeBron L.A. era — makes perfect sense. “Bron is Bron,” Warriors forward Draymond Green said. “They’re going to be tough, a tough matchup on Christmas Day, but we’re looking forward to it.” Inevitably, so will James. Even with the Lakers having lost four of their last six games, they’re off to a 19-14 start — their best since the 2011-12 season. “We’ve got a long way to go to get to Golden State,” James said in September. He’s about to get his first look at how the Lakers measure up with the champs. CHRISTMAS LINEUP Tuesday’s (Wednesday, PHL time) slate starts with Milwaukee at New York, followed by Oklahoma City at Houston, Philadelphia at Boston, the Lakers at the Warriors and then Portland at Utah. It’s Milwaukee’s first Christmas game since 1977, which will end what was by far the league’s longest Dec. 25 (Dec. 26, PHL time) drought. Utah hasn’t played on Christmas since 1997. A look at each of the five games: BUCKS AT KNICKS Congratulations to the schedule-makers, because there’s no way they could have known this Christmas game would be wrapped in animus. Giannis Antetokounmpo was peeved at New York forward Mario Hezonja — who dunked on him, stared at him and then stepped over him when the teams last met on Dec. 1 (Dec. 2, PHL time). THUNDER AT ROCKETS A rematch of a game from Christmas 2017, which the Thunder won 112-107. Oklahoma City is 6-2 on Christmas since the team moved there; when the franchise was in Seattle, it was 0-11 on the holiday. Rockets star Chris Paul will miss Christmas for the third straight year — with the Clippers, he had a left hamstring strain and missed their game with the Lakers in 2016, sat out last year’s Houston-OKC game with a groin strain and this year, it’s another left hamstring issue that will keep him out. 76ERS AT CELTICS These are heated, historic rivals, but they’ve met on Christmas only once before — in 1961, when the 76ers were the Syracuse Nationals. Boston, which famously avoided home Christmas games forever (the Celtics played their first 30 such games away from Boston), will be at home on the holiday for the second consecutive season. LAKERS AT WARRIORS It’s the 20th consecutive Christmas appearance for the Lakers, and with LeBron James there now don’t expect that streak to end anytime soon. Warriors star Kevin Durant apparently loves playing on the holiday; he’s averaging 31.1 points in his eight previous Christmas games. TRAIL BLAZERS AT JAZZ Portland is 14-3 all-time on Christmas, and could tie Miami (10-2) for the best winning percentage on the holiday if it tops the Jazz. Meanwhile, for Utah, it’s a chance for Jazz star guard Donovan Mitchell to get his first — but almost certainly not his last — look at playing on Christmas. CHRISTMAS HISTORY The NBA’s five-game Christmas lineup is back for an 11th consecutive year, and that may seem like a lot of matchups but has been exceeded plenty of times in the past. There were seven games on the holiday in 1949, 1971 and 1977, as well as six in 1970 and 1976. And there were some years where everybody played on Christmas. In 1952, the league had 10 teams so that meant five Christmas games. In 1956, the league’s eight teams got together for two Christmas doubleheaders — two games at Madison Square Garden, two others at the War Memorial in Rochester, New York. And in 1959, eight teams meant four games on the holiday again. With Milwaukee playing, the league’s longest Christmas drought will belong to the Atlanta Hawks, who haven’t appeared on the holiday since 1989. After the Hawks, the longest droughts will be held by Charlotte (no appearances in 29 seasons), Memphis (no appearances in 24 seasons), Toronto (2001), Sacramento (2003), Indiana (2004) and Detroit (2005). Everyone else has played at least one Christmas game since 2009. YEAR OF THE 3 Houston set the NBA record for three-pointers made in a game with 26, doing that against Washington last week. It cemented that, without question, 2018 in the NBA was the year of the three-pointer. So far this season, 11 franchises — Atlanta, Boston, Charlotte, Golden State, Houston, Milwaukee, Minnesota, New Orleans, New York, Sacramento and Utah — have set or tied team records for three-pointers made in a regular-season game. That doesn’t even take into account Brooklyn, Chicago, Denver, Detroit, Oklahoma City and Philadelphia also doing it in 2018, albeit last season. Maybe the craze hasn’t caught on in Canada. The longest-standing team record for three's in a game is held by the Toronto Raptors, who made 21 on March 13, 2005. Orlando’s mark of 23 has stuck since Jan. 13, 2009 and Phoenix’s record of 22 came on Nov. 14, 2010. Meanwhile, Zaza Pachulia’s quest for a three continues. Pachulia has the NBA record for most three's attempted in a career without a make — the Detroit backup center is now 0-for-29 in the regular season, 0-for-31 when including playoffs. He’s 0-for-3 in 2018, though all those tries in this calendar year were desperation heaves from midcourt or deeper. And in fairness, only six of his career three-point tries have been shots inside of 30 feet......»»

Category: sportsSource:  abscbnRelated NewsDec 24th, 2018

Kings of the World: Team Lakay s dominance highlights 2018 in Mixed Martial Arts

As always, 2018 offered up another year's worth of memorable moments from the world of mixed martial arts.  From the East to the West, the world's fastest growing sport found a way into sports headlines, and here are some of the biggest stories inside and out of the cage from the past twelve months.    "CHAMPIONS ARE NOT BORN, THEY ARE MADE" 2018 definitely belonged to famed Filipino mixed martial arts stable Team Lakay.  The humble La Trinidad, Benguet-based gym has established themselves as the top team in the Philippines for the past few years, but in 2018, they cemented their status as one of the best in the world.  Building off their elite-level striking skills and continuously-improving grappling accumen, the boys from Baguio City dominated Singapore-based MMA promotion ONE Championship, capturing four world championships in just a span of a single year.  Flyweight star Geje "Gravity" Eustaquio opened the year with an interim championship win over former champion Kairat Akhmetov in Manila back in January. Six months later, Eustaquio dropped the "interim" tag by defeating two-time champion Adriano Moraes in Macau to become the undisputed ONE Flyweight World Champion.  After putting together a tremendous winning streak, young strawweight star Joshua "The Passion" Pacio earned a well-deserved rematch for the ONE Strawweight World Championship against two-time champion Yoshitaka "Nobita" Naito. Back in September, Pacio erased the bitter memory of his previous defeat against Naito two years prior by stifling the Japanese submission specialist with impeccable grappling defense to earn a unanimous decision win and capture the strawweight crown in Jakarta. Much like his stablemate Eustaquio, Kevin "The Silencer" Belingon had to go through two world champions to take his place at the top of the bantamweight division. After blasting former world title challenger Andrew Leone with a now-famous spinning back kick in April, Belingon dominated then-two division world champion Martin Nguyen to become the ONE Interim Bantamweight World Champion and finally earn a long-awaited rematch with long-time bantamweight king Bibiano Fernandes. In November, Belingon did what no other man in ONE has done and defeated Bibiano Fernandes via split decision to become the undisputed ONE Bantamweight World Champion, ending Fernandes' seven-year winning streak and five-year reign as ONE world champion.  Capping off Team Lakay's spectacular 2018 campaign was the return to glory of arguably the biggest homegrown MMA star in the country, Eduard "Landslide" Folayang. After losing his title twelve months prior, Folayang put on a masterclass against dangerous Singaporean contender Amir Khan at ONE: Conquest of Champions in Manila in early December to once again capture the ONE Lightweight World Championship for the second time in his storied career.  Outside the ONE Championship banner, another world champion from Team Lakay continues to reign, as BRAVE Combat Federation Bantamweight World Champion Stephen "The Sniper" Loman successfully defended his title twice in 2018.    THE TRUTH RETURNS Speaking of Filipino world champions, the biggest one of them all finally made his return in 2018.  After a two-year absence due to outside commitments, reigning ONE Heavyweight World Champion Brandon "The Truth" Vera made his way back to the cage, and his comeback was nothing short of explosive.  Taking on the hard-hitting Italian challenger Mauro Cerilli in Manila last December 7th, Vera needed only 64 seconds to dispatch Cerilli via knockout and remain the king of the ONE Championship heavyweight kingdom.    NOTORIOUS Conor "The Notorious" McGregor was arguably the biggest combat sports star of 2017, after crossing over to boxing and facing off against Floyd Mayweather Jr. in the year's biggest combat sports event.  In 2018, the Notorious one was all over the headlines once again.  In April of 2018, McGregor was stripped of the UFC Lightweight World Championship due to inactivity.  Earlier that month, the Irish star was at the forefront of a backstage melee during the UFC 223 media day in Brooklyn, New York that saw McGregor hurl a dolly at a bus full of fighters, leading to a number of minor injuries. McGregor would later be slapped with charges due to the attack.  In August, it was announced that McGregor would be making his return to the Octagon to challenge reigning lightweight king Khabib "The Eagle" Nurmagomedov, who was the initial target of McGregor's backstage bus attack earlier that year.     "I COME FOR SMASH THIS GUY" The drama-filled leadup to the UFC Lightwieght World Championship bout between Khabib Nurmagomedov and Conor McGregor made it no doubt one of the most anticipated matches of the year, and when the two were finally locked inside the Octagon, it didn't disappoint.  Nurmagomedov ultimately imposed his will, grounding McGregor for three rounds, before finishing the Irishman off in the fourth round with a rear-naked choke to remain unbeaten and retain the UFC's 155-pound strap.  What happened after, however, overshadowed everything that came before it.  After forcing McGregor to tap out, Nurmagomedove scaled the Octagon fence and jumped out to the crowd to confront Dillon Danis, McGregor's grappling coach.  It didn't take long for mayhem to ensue, as chaos broke out inside and out of the cage.  Both Nurmagomedov and McGregor have been suspended indefinitely, with the final hearing, which will decide the fate of the two fighters, expected to take place this month.    THE HOME OF MARTIAL ARTS Since ONE Championship's inception in 2011, it has primarily operated as a mixed martial arts promotion. In the past years, ONE has put on grappling superfights and special martial arts bouts.  In 2018 however, ONE took it to a whole new level by introducing the ONE Super Series back in April, which features Muay Thai and kickboxing bouts.  The new wrinkle has attracted some of the world's best strikers, including Giorgio Petrosyan, Yodsanklai IWE Fairtex, Andy Souwer, Cosmo Alexandre, and many more.  ONE also dipped their foot in boxing, bringing in reigning WBC Super Flyweight World Champion Srisaket Sor Rungvisai as the headliner for ONE's October card in Bangkok, where he successfully defended his title against Mexican challenger Iran Diaz in front of a raucous hometown crowd at the Impact Arena.    "DC" ALSO STANDS FOR "DOUBLE CHAMP"  No other fighter has had a better 2018 than Daniel "DC" Cormier.  After being named the UFC Light Heavyweight World Champion after Jon Jones tested positive for banned substances during their 2017 title bout, Cormier successfully defended the 205-pound belt against Volkan Oezdemir.  Six months later, Cormier jumped up to heavyweight and shocked the world by knocking out the once-dominant champion Stipe Miocic to become just the fifth two-division world champion and the second simultaneous two-division world champion in UFC history.  In November, DC made even more history by becoming just the first fighter in UFC history to successfully defend world titles in two weight divisions after submitting Derrick Lewis in the second round.    BIG STARS HEAD EAST Asian mixed martial arts giant ONE Championship made worldwide MMA news in 2018 after snagging a handful of big name talents in former UFC and Bellator Lightweight World Champion Eddie "The Underground King" Alvarez, former long-time UFC Flyweight World Champion and pound-for-pound great Demetrious "Mighty Mouse" Johnson, and former UFC lightweight and welterweight standout  "Super" Sage Northcutt.  Alvarez and Northcutt signed with ONE after their UFC contracts had expired, while Johnson made his way to ONE via the first-ever trade in MMA history, which sent former ONE Welterweight World Champion Ben "Funky" Askren to the UFC.  All three stars are set to make their debuts in 2019.  Aside from bringing in top-tier athletes, ONE also brought in another big name to fill an executive spot, with former UFC and Strikeforce Women's Bantamweight World Champion Miesha Tate coming in as a Vice President. .....»»

Category: sportsSource:  abscbnRelated NewsDec 22nd, 2018

Rubio scores 24 as Jazz beat Trail Blazers 120-90

By ERIK GARCIA GUNDERSON, Associated Press PORTLAND, Ore. (AP) — Ricky Rubio had 24 points and eight assists to lead the Utah Jazz to a 120-90 win over the Portland Trail Blazers on Friday night (Saturday, PHL time). Kyle Korver scored 18 points and Jae Crowder added 16 as the two combined to shoot 7 for 14 on 3-pointers for Utah. Damian Lillard had 19 points to lead the Trail Blazers, who suffered their worst home loss since 2004. The Jazz took control of the game in the first quarter thanks to reserves Korver and Crowder. The two helped the Jazz take a 2-point lead early in the second and the advantage The Jazz took a 12-point early in the second quarter, led by 14 after three before pulling away in the fourth. Crowder and Korver seemingly alternated 3-point baskets while back-up point guard Dante Exum racked up assist after assist setting them up. Exum finished with seven assists and six points. Things only got better for the Jazz from there as their strong 3-point shooting did not stop. Utah finished 16 for 31 (51 percent) on 3s.  Everybody from the bench players, to unheralded shooters like Ricky Rubio, got open 3s to go. While things were going well for the Jazz, the Blazers were struggling.  They shot 41 percent from the field and 31 percent from long-distance. Their turnovers were also costly as the Jazz scored 21 points off Portland turnovers. One sequence in particular seemed to encapsulate the night for Portland as Lillard missed a dunk and then upon getting the rebound, threw the ball to teammate Jusuf Nurkic, who was standing near the bench but not in the game. TIP-INS Jazz: Donovan Mitchell hasn't had a very efficient shooting season, and he's shot even worse as of late. For the past seven games, he's been shooting 35 percent from the field, including 29 percent on 3s. Don't expect him to stop shooting. As coach Quin Snyder said before the game, he's being selfish if he doesn't shoot. "He's got to play, he's got to attack," Snyder said. "He's our guy. You start questioning that, he's fine. We won a game and he didn't shoot great. He's not going to shoot great at times but there's been plenty of games when he's had a rough night. He's capable of doing that for him, that's what we want. If he doesn't shoot, that's Donovan being selfish." Mitchell was 1 for 10 from the field against the Blazers. Trail Blazers: After a brief swoon, the Trail Blazers entered the game having won three straight. A big key to the success was the play of the reserves. That is something Stotts believes is an indicator. "That group has done a good job of Evan (Turner), Seth (Curry), Nik (Stauskas), Zach (Collins), Meyers (Leonard), have all done a good job of keeping things going," he said. "We had a rough stretch and our record kind of reflected that but two out of the last three games." The above group has performed very well this season as they've outscored their opponents by 15.7 points per 100 possessions, according to NBA.com. UP NEXT Jazz: Host Oklahoma City on Saturday. Trail Blazers: Host Dallas on Sunday......»»

Category: sportsSource:  abscbnRelated NewsDec 22nd, 2018

After dominant 2018, San Miguel looks to replicate success

p.p1 {margin: 0.0px 0.0px 0.0px 0.0px; font: 12.0px 'Helvetica Neue'} p.p2 {margin: 0.0px 0.0px 0.0px 0.0px; font: 12.0px 'Helvetica Neue'; min-height: 14.0px} After a dominant showing in sports for 2018, San Miguel is looking to replicate the feat once again for 2019. The San Miguel-backed teams have thoroughly enjoyed success in the sporting scene, taking home championships in both basketball and volleyball. A triumvirate of the San Miguel Beermen, Ginebra Gin Kings, and the Magnolia Hotshots swept the PBA season and took home the three conference championships, a first. Alab Pilipinas, who is also sponsored by the conglomerate, waltzed its way to the ASEAN Basketball League plum earlier this year. Volleyball also saw the coronation of the Petron Tri-Activ Spikers twice in the Philippine Superliga this year. For San Miguel Corp. Sports Director Alfrancis Chua, the unprecedented success of the corporation’s teams were a result of a mixture of good management and relations between none other than SMC Chairman Ramon S. Ang to each of his squads. Also a factor was having an understanding of the sports they handle, which Chua said he did in handling the affairs of the PSL squad. “[H]ands-on talaga si Boss [Ramon S. Ang] eh. Sa lahat ng bagay. Talagang hands-on siya. Pati sa sports, alam niya ang lahat ng nangyayari. Siguro kung wala siya, iba ang mangyayari. Iba ang utak ng tao na yun. Kaya mahal na namin namin si boss RSA,” Chua said at the victory party of the Magnolia Hotshots at company headquarters in Mandaluyong. A continuous plan that has been going on for three to four years now, the conglomerate is now reaping the benefits of success, and aims to continue dominating the Philippine sports landscape for years to come. “We're not going to stop now. 2019, 2020, we have to find ways to make us competive,” Chua assured. “Hindi kami puwedeng tumigil. I told the coaches, I told the managers of the teams, we need to learn more. Lalo pang palakasin and mag-improve ang bawat team. “     ___   Follow this writer on Twitter, @philipptionary......»»

Category: sportsSource:  abscbnRelated NewsDec 21st, 2018

Mitchell, Jazz roll over short-handed Heat 111-84

By Matthew Coles, Associated Press SALT LAKE CITY (AP) — Donovan Mitchell scored 21 points and Derrick Favors had 17 to help the Utah Jazz romp over the short-handed Miami Heat 111-84 on Wednesday night (Thursday, PHL time). "It started from the tip," Mitchell said after the Jazz led by as many as 42. "We came out strong and didn't let up." Playing against one of his basketball idols probably for the final time, Mitchell unleashed a variety of moves — the crossovers and misdirection dribbles that have prompted comparisons to a young Dwyane Wade. Mitchell has acknowledged he studies film of Wade to develop his own offensive repertoire. On Tuesday night (Wednesday, PHL time), Mitchell took Wade to dinner in downtown Salt Lake City and gifted him a rocking chair. Then, the second-year guard, who said he calls Wade on the phone often and picks his brain, matched up and scored on the 12-time All-Star at least a few times in the blowout. Rodney McGruder paced the Heat with 16 points and Kelly Olynyk had 14 as Miami played without Hassan Whiteside and Goran Dragic. Wade, set to retire after the season, scored six points. Less than two weeks ago, the Jazz also went up big in the first quarter against the Heat, leading by as many as 19 before allowing a 20-0 run and watching Wade sink two free throws to win it in Miami, 102-100. This time, there was no such drama. The Jazz sprinted out to a 34-10 lead on hot shooting and tenacious defense that denied the Heat any easy looks early. Favors went 7-of-8 and had eight boards in 19 minutes, while Rudy Gobert had 10 points and 11 rebounds. Kyle Korver, who has opened up the floor for the Jazz since arriving via trade from Cleveland, made four more three-pointers and scored 16 points. The Jazz have had an up-and-down year by any measure. This win marked Utah's second by 27 points or more in eight days, but the Jazz have also lost games by 33 and 50 points and have yet to reach the .500 mark at home (now 5-6). Even within the same game, the Jazz were nearly unstoppable in the first quarter — shooting 70 percent — but went through long stretches later in the game when they couldn't generate any offense and had a spate of turnovers. They ended up shooting 52.6 percent, including 16-of-32 from three-point range, with 17 turnovers. The Heat have been riding their own rollercoaster. They led by 31 in the second quarter of a win against New Orleans on Nov. 30 (Dec. 1, PHL time) and then trailed by 31 — and more — in the second quarter to the Jazz less than two weeks later. MISSING YOU Whiteside, who left the court for the locker room during the fourth quarter of a home loss to Orlando last week, is still not with the team for personal reasons. He later said he just needed to go to the bathroom, but Miami coach Erik Spoelstra was upset and said the Heat "handled it as a team." Whiteside is expected back with the club on Friday (Saturday, PHL time). Dragic, who has battled a sore right knee for the last six weeks and had it drained in mid-November, missed the game — his 12th scratch of the season. Fellow guard Dion Waiters hasn't played at all since having ankle surgery in January. TIP-INS Heat: Wade, making his last regular-season appearance in Salt Lake City, got a standing ovation when he checked in midway through the first quarter and another when exited the court after the game. ... The Heat's 15 points were a season low in the first quarter for a Jazz opponent. Jazz: Raul Neto missed the game with a sore right leg. ... The win snapped a four-game skid against Miami. UP NEXT Heat: Visit the Memphis Grizzlies on Friday night (Saturday, PHL time). Jazz: At the Orlando Magic on Saturday (Sunday, PHL time)......»»

Category: sportsSource:  abscbnRelated NewsDec 13th, 2018

Dominant defense leads Bears over Rams 15-6

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

Category: sportsSource:  abscbnRelated NewsDec 10th, 2018