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Falcons show playoff poise in 26-13 win over upstart LA Rams

By Greg Beacham, Associated Press LOS ANGELES (AP) — The Atlanta Falcons jumped to an early 13-point lead before the Rams mounted two swift scoring drives. Los Angeles went to the Coliseum locker room at halftime with just a three-point deficit amid raucous cheers from a home crowd thirsty for playoff success. And then Matt Ryan and the tough, tested Falcons showed the upstart Rams what postseason poise is all about. Ryan passed for 218 yards and hit Julio Jones for an 8-yard touchdown with 5:48 to play, and the defending NFC champion Falcons advanced from the wild-card round with a 26-13 victory over the Rams on Saturday night. Devonta Freeman rushed for an early score and Matt Bryant kicked four field goals for the Falcons (11-6), who spoiled the Rams' first playoff game in 13 years with a methodical performance derived from hard-earned experience. Atlanta's journey to the Super Bowl last season ended infamously with that blown 28-3 lead against New England. In their first playoff game since, the Falcons allowed no surprises from the NFC West champion Rams (11-6). "We knew it was a situation we've been through before," Atlanta defensive tackle Dontari Poe said. "We just had to keep playing and use what we've learned." Jones caught nine passes for 94 yards for Atlanta, which never trailed while winning playoff games in consecutive seasons for the first time in franchise history. Against an opponent that had just six players on its roster with prior postseason appearances, the Falcons' experience showed through. "I think having gone through these situations, understanding what it's like, the atmosphere, those kinds of things, knowing that it's going to be tough, all those things kind of carry forward," Ryan said. "But at the end of the day, experience or no experience, you've got to execute." The Falcons advanced to face the top-seeded Eagles on Jan. 13 in Philadelphia. "Doesn't matter where we're going, we're going," Ryan said. "And that's the most exciting part." A raucous crowd of 74,300 packed the Coliseum on a crisp evening for the first NFL playoff game in the nation's second-largest city since early 1994. Los Angeles went 21 years without pro football before the Rams returned last season, and the franchise emphatically ended a 13-year streak of non-winning seasons this fall with an inspiring run to the Rams' first division title since 2003. But the Falcons have been here before, and they showed it. The Falcons jumped to their early lead by capitalizing on two mistakes by Pharoh Cooper, the Rams' Pro Bowl kick returner. Atlanta's offense then chewed up the clock and field position, with the first drive after halftime consuming 8:15. "To end with a time of possession over 37 minutes, that's hard to do in our league," Atlanta coach Dan Quinn said. "There was a nine-minute drive to start the second half, and I thought that really set the tone." The Falcons' defense did more than enough to slow down the NFL's highest-scoring offense, harassing Jared Goff into a 24-for-45 performance in his playoff debut. "They did a real nice job there moving the ball up the field and keeping us on the sideline," Goff said. "That can sure get you out of your rhythm." Robert Woods caught nine passes for 142 yards for the Rams, but rookie Cooper Kupp scored their only touchdown late in the first half. Atlanta held MVP candidate Todd Gurley to 101 yards rushing — just 43 in the first three quarters — and four receptions for a mere 10 yards. The Falcons ruined a celebratory night for the Rams, who rebounded from a rough homecoming season in 2016 with an outstanding debut year under 31-year-old Sean McVay, the youngest head coach to reach the playoffs in NFL history. "You see why the Falcons are the defending NFC champs," McVay said. "Certainly this is a humbling game. ... This is an experience that we can learn from. But I don't think this game was too big for our guys." The Rams' offense finally figured it out late in the first half: Goff made several sharp throws on a 79-yard drive ending in Kupp's TD catch, and Sam Ficken's first field goal trimmed the halftime deficit to 13-10. But the Rams' defense simply couldn't get off the field in the third quarter, whether due to missed tackles or clever play-calling by the Falcons. Los Angeles trimmed the lead to 19-13 with 10:49 to play, but the Falcons made another drive highlighted by a beautiful 52-yard screen pass from a blitz-avoiding Bryant to Mohamed Sanu. Jones then caught the sixth playoff TD pass of his career. Goff drove the Rams deep into Falcons territory, but LA turned it over on down at the Atlanta 5 with 2:05 to play. The Falcons stopped the Rams again on downs at midfield with 1:08 left. SARK'S RETURN Although the Falcons' offense took a step back in production this season, Atlanta chipped away at the Rams' defense throughout the Coliseum return of offensive coordinator Steve Sarkisian, who coached USC here until 2015. Ryan was methodical under relentless pressure from All-Pro lineman Aaron Donald, repeatedly avoiding trouble and making big throws. Freeman rushed for 66 yards, and Sanu had that key 52-yard gain on a screen pass. "Great call by Sark," Ryan said. COOPER'S MISTAKES Cooper is headed to the Pro Bowl after his outstanding regular season as a kick returner, but the second-year pro's misadventures in his playoff debut cost the Rams dearly. He muffed a punt that bounced off teammate Blake Countess in the first quarter, and Bryant subsequently hit the Falcons' first field goal. After Bryant's second field goal later in the quarter, Cooper got stripped by Damontae Kazee during a kickoff return at the Rams 32, and the Falcons drove for Freeman's short TD run. UP NEXT After the Falcons' defensive performance against Goff, they look like a potential problem for the powerful Eagles without quarterback Carson Wentz in the early Saturday divisional playoff game......»»

Category: sportsSource: abscbn abscbnJan 7th, 2018

Falcons topple Rams, Titans edge Chiefs in NFL playoff openers

LOS ANGELES, USA – The Atlanta Falcons kept their bid for Super Bowl redemption on track Saturday, January 6 (Sunday Manila time) with a 26-13 victory over the upstart Los Angeles Rams in the first round of the NFL playoffs. Matt Bryant booted 4 field goals and the Falcons defense kept ........»»

Category: newsSource:  rapplerRelated NewsJan 7th, 2018

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

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

Category: sportsSource:  abscbnRelated NewsMay 10th, 2018

Donovan Mitchell hits his own postseason bump

By Shaun Powell, NBA.com SALT LAKE CITY -- He saved one of his best performances for the morning of a playoff game, when Donovan Mitchell once again showed the poise and maturity that’s taken him places where few rookies in history have earned the right to travel. Hours after Ben Simmons, the unapologetic and self-proclaimed best rookie in the NBA, laid an egg against the Celtics by scoring one measly point and instantly became a social media punch-line, Mitchell refused to pile on his rival. This took guts, especially after Simmons dismissed any comparisons between himself and Mitchell weeks ago, but Mitchell went high road and had a veteran’s response anyway: “The biggest thing that people don’t understand is that every player has that night. You look at LeBron against the Mavs in the Finals … there was one year when I was watching Harden in a playoff game against the Warriors and he had like 10 turnovers. So it happens to everybody.” Yes, to everybody … and how prophetic, even to Mitchell, who rose to stardom by chopping down Russell Westbrook and Paul George in the first round, only to come close to pulling a Simmons in Game 3 of the Jazz-Rockets series Friday night (Saturday, PHL time). “I didn’t really do much as a whole,” he said. He struggled. He wasn’t a factor. This wasn’t the rookie who pulled the Jazz to the playoffs by commanding double teams and dunking with force and dropping shots from deep. This was different. This was … one of those games Mitchell spoke about. He missed 10 of his first 11 shots. His 10 points were his lowest for a game since Feb. 7 (Feb. 8, PHL time) when he scored seven against the Grizzlies. “I had terrible shots,” he said. “I don’t know how many shots I missed, but the shots I missed were terrible shots that weren’t good looks. I can’t do that.” Therefore, there were two factors which made for a strange and non-typical night for the Jazz. His disappearance, along with Utah’s No. 1-rated defense coughing up 39 points in the first quarter, gave the Rockets a breezy 113-92 victory and a 2-1 series lead. The Rockets finally broke 110 points for the first time this series, no major surprise given James Harden and Chris Paul and their three-point mentality. That’s too much fire to keep contained for very long. And whenever the Rockets break loose as they did, it puts massive pressure on the Jazz to keep up, which they couldn’t, if only because they’re not built for engaging in a scoring contest with most teams, let alone the Rockets. It’s the surest way to a quick basketball death. “For us,” said Jazz coach Quin Snyder, “the margin for error is not so great when you play a team [like Houston].” Just as alarming is Mitchell’s slow fade this series. He’s shooting 33 percent overall and 24 percent from deep, and this is sudden and unexpected, even against the No. 1 seed in the West. Maybe not for most rookies. But Mitchell raised the bar for himself after a strong regular season and a ballistic effort against Oklahoma City where he averaged 28.5 points and 7.2 rebounds and never once looked overmatched or uncomfortable in his first taste of the playoffs and high stakes. And isn’t that the ultimate sign of respect for a player, when a poor game, or a small string of them, are met with a surprise reaction? Mitchell has made himself into that special player already. He’s the rare dunk contest winner who’s just as dangerous from deep, a one-two combo that won over his Jazz teammates quickly and made him the club’s No. 1 option almost from the jump. Mitchell’s money move is a rapid burst off the dribble into the lane, where he’ll then execute a smooth spin move garnished with a gentle finger roll for the basket. OKC still has flesh wounds from that move. He delivered constantly in the final few months when the Jazz became one of the top three teams in the NBA, at least record-wise, and soared up the West standings. According to the Elias Sports Bureau, Wilt Chamberlain and Kareem Abdul-Jabbar are the only rookies to hit 200 points faster in the playoffs than Mitchell, who did so in eight games. But those shots haven’t fallen with regularity here in the second round, and this was punctuated in Game 3. Either the Rockets have wised up -- which usually happens when a team sees the same player every other night in a playoff series -- or the rookie wall is playing a cruel trick on Mitchell by rising up in May. Snyder is betting on the former: “They shaded Donovan to his left hand and he has to adjust to that, and I think he can.” Mitchell doesn’t really have a choice if the Jazz plan to extend this series. There’s nobody riding shotgun on Utah that frightens anyone; Joe Ingles dropped 27 on Houston in Game 2 but followed up with six. Other than Mitchell, there’s no consistency, nobody who’s a big threat, and when others turn chilly, Mitchell is often forced to press, which he did Friday (Saturday, PHL time). Chris Paul said: “We just tried to make it tough on him. Donovan’s been great all year but Trevor [Ariza] is good defensively and Clint [Capela] is challenging him at the rim. He’s a tough cover and it’s hard to stop him with one person. Guys have to do it collectively. We try to make him feel crowded.” Which means the Rockets will take their chances on Ingles and Derrick Favors and Rudy Gobert beating them, a wise strategy. Mitchell’s load is heavier than most rookies, even more burdensome than Simmons’ in Philly from a scoring standpoint. Simmons has Joel Embiid and JJ Redick. Mitchell must be the lead singer for Utah, or else. Those are the odds, anyway, and the Rockets exploited that Friday. “I think the biggest thing is, my mindset has always been the aggressor,” Mitchell said. “Now they’re playing me in a certain way where I’ve got to make certain passes that I just didn’t make the entire game. That will be what I’ll take away the most. It’s like I would’ve been better off not showing up, and that’s what I did. I didn’t show up for my teammates. I’ll fix it.” That’s some pretty strong accountability there. However, Mitchell can’t do it all against a team like Houston, even though he’s done exactly that up to this point of the season. He may not be a “rookie” anymore, or play like one, but he’s human. Much like Simmons and everyone else. Here’s more of what Mitchell said about Simmons: "It just so happens that it happened to him, and I expect him to respond back. He’s a good player. Good players respond back, and it's all about the response. It's a testament to his character. But it happens. He can't play great every night. It's not as easy as some people think.” No, it isn’t, and the league’s showpiece rookies discovered the hard way, on back-to-back nights, here in the playoffs where rookies don’t normally shine or at least for long before they’re figured out. Yet, as Mitchell said: It’s all about the response. Game 4 is Sunday (Monday, PHL time), a day for atonement. Veteran NBA writer Shaun Powell has worked for newspapers and other publications for more than 25 years. You can e-mail him here or follow him on Twitter. The views on this page do not necessarily reflect the views of the NBA, its clubs or Turner Broadcasting. .....»»

Category: sportsSource:  abscbnRelated NewsMay 5th, 2018

Are the Sixers too young for playoff success?

By Shaun Powell, NBA.com The learning curve of the Philadelphia 76ers has taken on a new, more direct and simpler geometric shape. It’s now a straight line, pulled and yanked that way by an impatient team determined to take the expressway from now on. And so this is where The Process has led them, to the NBA playoffs, a place exclusively reserved for Big Boy Basketball, where we get to see if the Sixers will skip another floor in their rapid developmental rise or if youth is about to get served a lesson. Hey, if nothing else, it beats wiping away the stench of losing, which is what coach Brett Brown was doing this time the last few years before this club finally grew up and as we now see, blew up. "This year we exceeded 50 wins and when you do that, you get into NBA elite territory which is something different for us,” he said. “But what’s interesting is we want more. We have more room to grow and we want to do that now.” Yes, the Sixers, finally sprung free of the dark ages, have crashed the annual spring show and are doing so rather emphatically in addition to surprisingly. Surely you saw this coming this quickly, no? On Christmas Eve they were 14-18. Their sensational big man, Joel Embiid, was getting the kid glove treatment, rarely playing extended minutes or consecutive games because of his brittle injury history. Their top draft pick, Markelle Fultz, was out with a bad shoulder and a broken jumper. Obviously, they’d just emerged from their four years of Tankapalooza with the trepidation of a chick stumbling from the nest. And quite simply, four months ago they just weren’t good enough to be lumped with the lead pack. Yet. But since then, what the hell just happened? “This group has come together from a toughness standpoint, a spirit standpoint,” Brown said. To say the least. The Sixers are 50-game winners, with a strong Kia Rookie of the Year candidate in Ben Simmons and a top-10 talent in Embiid, whose orbital injury that cost him the final eight regular season games should be healed for the playoffs at some point. Everything has fallen into place to make Philly a basketball destination once again, and these Sixers find themselves in a unique situation heading into the weekend. That’s because the playoff landscape in the East is favorable for someone like Philly to pull a surprise or two. Can they last a round? Of course; they’ll be a favorite initially. How about reaching the Eastern Conference finals? That’s trickier, and it’ll come down to matchups, but stranger things have happened. And, the NBA Finals? Well. Consider that there’s no true beast taking up space in the East and sending shivers everywhere. All of the contenders are showing a scratch or two: Toronto brings a blah playoff history; some of LeBron James’ supporting cast in Cleveland is untested; the Celtics are without Kyrie Irving, not to mention Gordon Hayward. The Sixers are the wild card in the playoff picture. Their wart is their inexperience in these matters. And so: Are they too young to be taken seriously? “I understand why people might think that, but I think we’ll be fine,” said JJ Redick, the resident senior citizen at age 33. “I don’t expect any of us to play differently than we have lately. These young guys are all gamers.” The Sixers are uniquely built; their twin core of Simmons and Embiid has played a combined three NBA seasons. Redick is the only starter with playoff experience and is also the only player in the rotation who ever played a major role in the playoffs. The Sixers are cubs compared to most of the East, even those teams below them. Essentially, the veterans on the Sixers orbit around the youngsters, instead of vice versa. Brown regularly takes the temperature of his players and has yet to pause at the results he’s seeing. For the most part, this has worked out better than he and they expected. “At this stage you figure how you deliver a team to the playoffs, how do you arrive at the playoffs,” Brown said. “Well, you can check three boxes: Their health, their spirit and their form. And finally: Are they playing good basketball? They’re all very interconnected, they’re all closely intertwined. Those things rule my day when I watch film and see how hard and long we’re going to go in practice. These guys have embraced and improved in those areas. Our defense has been excellent and we’re regularly getting 30 assists as a team, another example of a team enjoying each other’s company.” This makes for an interesting postseason baptism. There’s hope in Philly that Simmons and Embiid and Robert Covington and Dario Saric won’t know the difference between March basketball and May basketball. “We’ll just come and play the same way we’ve been doing,” Simmons said. The other advantage for Philly is Simmons appears well beyond his years. His expression is stoic, no matter the game circumstances, and his poise has yet to shatter memorably and cost the Sixers when it counts. He’s giving 16 points, eight rebounds and eight assists a night and had at least 10 points, five rebounds and five assists in 58 games, second only to Russell Westbrook and LeBron James. He is the first rookie in NBA history to average eight assists on a 50-win team. It remains to be seen how a 56-percent free throw shooter will respond if he’s put in that situation with the game on the line. Otherwise, his court direction and ability to reach the rim should not suffer from springtime stage fright. “Ben sits behind a glass wall and watches everyone else on the other side,” Redick said. “There’s nothing that affects him. He plays with the same demeanor and purpose no matter what’s going on around him. He brings a calm presence, and the maturity he plays with is beyond his years. Impressive.” Brown said: “He’s the stone cold Rookie of the Year and to me it’s not even close.” Philly’s best player is Embiid, though, and he’ll play with a mask once he does return, perhaps sometime in the first round. If he doesn’t suffer any lasting effects from the facial injury (vision, lack of balance), he’ll be the premier big man on the floor in the East. This allows the Sixers to exploit their low-post advantage over the Celtics, Raptors and Cavs should Philly meet any of those contenders along the way. The Sixers are also working with a pair of bonuses in Fultz and Ersan Ilyasova, two players they didn’t anticipate being in the playoff mix just a few months ago. Fultz is finally free of his shoulder woes and his shooting is starting to come around, to the point where Brown says he’ll find a role for Fultz in the rotation. Basically, the Sixers feel safe enough to put him on the floor, something that would’ve been a reach before he was activated, when he showed a nasty mechanical hitch in a jumper that somehow went south on him. “We don’t feel we’re going to be caught off guard with him,” Brown said. Ilyasova was gift-wrapped to Philly by the Hawks at midseason and has since been a solid source of scoring (17 points in a two-point win over Cleveland last week) and deepened the Sixers’ bench, allowing Brown to use a variety of different lineups and strategies. In all, the manner in which the season has come together is paying off at the right time for Philly. “We didn’t have this level of maturity in November and December,” Redick said. “If you look at some of our losses early in the season I felt they were immature losses. We’re more focused, more together, developed a mental toughness. Sometimes in life and in this league you have to go through things and experience things to grasp how to do them. There’s no better learning tool than the actual experience. So blowing a lead or coming back from a large halftime deficit, you have to do those things to understand that you can do it. Having those lessons early in the season has prepared us to have a great run since Christmas; we have the second best record in the league since then. This is better than what I expected or even hoped for. It’s been a long sustained growth period.” What does it all mean? Well, even though they’re entering the playoffs with the force of a hurricane, this isn’t the NCAA tournament. This is best-of-seven basketball, which means a team must prove itself worthy of moving on, instead of hoping to get lucky or hot. In the case of Philly and others in the East, that means beating LeBron four times in a series, and that hasn’t happened since 2010. You could also make the case the Sixers are playing with house money at this point, no matter what happens; after enduring The Process and painful progress, this is a blessing, a reward. The Sixers aren’t seeing it that way, though, not after growing up in a hurry. They want to seize the opportunity now, and any playoff success will largely depend on how they handle this as first-timers. Your guess is as good as Brown’s. “You really don’t know what to expect,” Brown said. “There’s no body of work. I will give our guys the benefit of the doubt. The poise they have shown in the regular season, the poise they’ve shown in big games and key moments, gives me tremendous confidence that we will handle this stage with a greater level of poise than what I might have guessed in October, or what I might have guessed not so long ago if you asked me questions about how will rookies and young guys handle this very different part of the season.” Veteran NBA writer Shaun Powell has worked for newspapers and other publications for more than 25 years. You can e-mail him here or follow him on Twitter. The views on this page do not necessarily reflect the views of the NBA, its clubs or Turner Broadcasting. .....»»

Category: sportsSource:  abscbnRelated NewsApr 11th, 2018

These Adamson Baby Falcons are nobodies no more

In the first round of the 80th Season of the UAAP Juniors Basketball Tournament, it was all about fully-loaded Ateneo de Manila High School, powerhouse Nazareth School of National University, awoken giant University of Sto. Tomas, and defending champion Far Eastern University-Diliman. With those four locking down the top half of the standings, the Final Four seemed to be set. Then came the second round and a brand new upstart entered the playoff picture. Competitive in their contests up against the top teams in the first round, Adamson High School built upon that confidence to register a record of 4-3 in the second round. That, along with the Tiger Cubs’ struggles, led to a 7-7 elimination round finish for the Baby Falcons – extending their campaign with a playoff for the fourth-seed. The motivation was pretty simple for the squad nobody thought would be contending this quick. “Ang battle cry namin is we are nobody and we want to make a name for ourselves,” head coach Mike Fermin shared. He then continued, “Imagine, 14 rookies, sino ba yang mga yan? Yun lang nasa utak namin.” Adamson was expected to be rebuilding as it has not even been a year after the departure of former head coach Goldwyn Monteverde along with what was once a championship-caliber core including Gerry Abadiano, EJ Agbong, Forthsky Padrigao, Encho Serrano, and Carl Tamayo. Enter Fermin – and really, his track record of maximizing whatever materials he has should have told us that the Baby Falcons were taking flight sooner than later. The 38-year-old mentor once took over for Kenneth Duremdes and led the Soaring Falcons to a respectable finish. When Franz Pumaren was installed as Seniors head coach, Fermin then took his talents to the Lady Falcons whom he guided to the Final Four. Now, the always amiable mentor has been tasked to make sure that there is wind beneath the wings of Adamson High. And for the third time, the San Marcelino-based school’s faith in Fermin has paid dividends – with the Baby Falcons taking the Tiger Cubs to the limit before surrendering a one-point defeat in overtime in their do-or-die game for the fourth-seed. Of course, it had to help that three of Monteverde’s recruits opted to stay. “Malaking bagay na nandito pa rin yung Doria brothers at yung Sabandal kasi nadadala nila yung leadership on and off the court,” the head coach said, talking about starting forwards Andrey and Adam Doria and lead guard Joem Sabandal. He then continued, “Tapos yung experience nila, malaking bagay rin. Masasabi nilang, ‘Nakapaglaro na kami ng UAAP at mase-share namin yung experience na yun.’” And oh, of course, it had to help that one of those three returnees happened to be a star just waiting for a chance to shine.w Sabandal has been, without a doubt, the breakout star of the second round of the season – and even the entire season because, well, really, CJ Cansino has already been doing CJ Cansino things since a year ago. That was again evident in the fourth-seed playoff as the Cagayan de Oro native almost had a triple-double with a stat line of 20 points, nine assists, nine rebounds, and three steals. While their surprise contention didn’t put them in the semifinals, Adamson will remain intact and reap the rewards of their experience for next season. Without a doubt, nobody could say they are nobodies anymore. --- Follow this writer on Twitter, @riegogogo......»»

Category: sportsSource:  abscbnRelated NewsFeb 14th, 2018

Storylines abound after 2018 NBA All-Star draft

NBA.com staff report There is an alternate universe in which LeBron James and Kyrie Irving are once again teammates, where the Warriors' star quartet is divided, and where players who very recently exchanged barbs must now share locker rooms. Welcome to the world of the 2018 NBA All-Star Game, which sports a very different twist after Thursday's (Friday, PHL time) inaugural draft in which team captains James and Stephen Curry selected their teammates. Here is what we know: James had the first pick, Curry the second, and so on, back and forth until the rosters were set. We do not know in what order the players were picked despite the valiant efforts of TNT's Ernie Johnson. The dust has settled and the rosters are set, with the line between East and West officially dissolved. The focus is squarely on players rather than conference. Here's a look at the most intriguing takeaways after Thursday's (Friday, PHL time) results: Hello Old Friend The offseason parting between LeBron James and Kyrie Irving was dramatically awkward, with the latter leaving the former in order to show his athletic independence. Irving has since proved capable of leading the Celtics to contender status despite the opening-night loss of fellow All-Star swingman Gordon Hayward. James, meanwhile, has been forced to do much of the heavy lifting while the rest of his teammates have either plateaued (Kevin Love), dropped off (J.R. Smith, Tristan Thompson) or been unavailable (Derrick Rose, Isaiah Thomas). The Cavs have suffered as a result, posting one of the worst records in the league since the calendar flipped to 2018. Could it be that James is hoping to recapture some of his old magic by temporarily reuniting with Irving? Or does he just miss/like the guy despite their on-court differences? "To be able to team up back with Kyrie is always special, along with Kevin Love," James said during a post-drat interview with TNT. "Just for us to have another weekend to bring some of the memories we had when we were all together. Kyrie was available on the draft board. He's one of the best point guards we have in our league. So, it was an easy choice for me." Other reunions are scattered among Team LeBron's roster. Russell Westbrook and Kevin Durant will enjoy an encore of their much publicized All-Star get-together last season. The Thunder guard will also play with his old college teammate, Kevin Love, for the first time since they both represented the Western Conference in the 2012 midseason classic.   Bench Mob. #TeamLebron #NBAAllStar A post shared by @ kevinlove on Jan 25, 2018 at 4:23pm PST Don't forget, too, that Pacers guard Victor Oladipo is making his All-Star debut alongside Westbrook, the man many now think held back the former No. 2 overall pick in Oklahoma City. After putting up his worst numbers since his rookie year while playing alongside Westbrook, Oladipo is enjoying a career year while guiding the upstart Pacers to the middle of the playoff pack. I Never Can Say Goodbye Some teammates are just meant to stay together. Curry and James certainly struggled to separate several dynamic duos, including those from the Timberwolves (Butler/Towns), Pelicans (Davis/Cousins), Wizards (Beal/Wall) and Raptors (Lowry/DeRozan). The NBA teammates not sticking together are those from Golden State and Boston. James managed to chip away at the Warriors' dominant quartet, selecting Kevin Durant for his squad before Curry made sure to keep Klay Thompson and Draymond Green on his own team. Curry also selected Al Horford, presumably at some point after James took Irving. What Have You Done For Me Lately? Most All-Stars already come with a bag full of accomplishments under their belts, and this year is no exception. How they are distributed, however, is interesting to note. Everyone who made the team this year and has won an All-Star Most Valuable Player award in the past is on Team LeBron. Good luck guessing which one will make a push for a repeat at that honor (assuming someone new doesn't beat them to the punch). Meanwhile, the majority of most recent Olympic gold medalists resides on Team Stephen: Jimmy Butler, DeMar DeRozan, Draymond Green, Kyle Lowry and Klay Thompson. Team LeBron sports three Olympians from that year: Cousins, Durant and Irving. One skill that surely matters on All-Star weekend is simply putting the ball in the bucket. And wouldn't you know it, Team Stephen sports the top three scorers in the league in Harden and Giannis Antetokounmpo. Of course, Team LeBron carries the next four names from that scoring leaders list. It's Too Late to Apologize Some words you can't take back, and it would be difficult to see Russell Westbrook or Damian Lillard doing so after recent events. Oklahoma City's star guard took exception to teammate Paul George not being voted in as an All-Star, proceeding to call out the Warriors for having four players so honored. Then he targeted another player, and though he didn't use names, it seemed pretty clear that he was talking about  Lillard when he referred to "guys complaining about being snubbed so they can get in." Lillard has been extremely vocal on social media about not making the All-Star teams the last two years despite both those seasons marking career years. That was after making the All-Star team in 2014 and 2015. The Blazers guard seemed to pick up on the hint, and he responded directly to his Western Conference counterpart. "I respect Russ a lot, so it was kind of disappointing to see him say that," Lillard said prior to Wednesday's game against the Minnesota Timberwolves. "Because he's played against me, he's played against our team, he knows what I've accomplished. Not just this year, but over my career." Will the point guards clear the air, or will tension linger heading into the game? Also worth monitoring: does James' All-Star selection of Kevin Love mean all is well between the much-maligned forward and his team? Reports surfaced earlier this week that several Cavaliers expressed frustration with Love's recent illness that caused him to miss most of a game and a practice. Perhaps the King's stamp of approval will silence that once and for all. If it doesn't, Charles Barkley will surely continue to defend Love's case......»»

Category: sportsSource:  abscbnRelated NewsJan 26th, 2018

The Patriots and Eagles will square off in Super Bowl 52

By Arnie Stapleton, Associated Press Tom Brady and the New England Patriots are going back to the Super Bowl in search of a sixth title. They'll face a Philadelphia Eagles team looking for their first Lombardi Trophy. Brady led the Patriots (15-3) back from a 10-point, fourth-quarter deficit to beat the Jacksonville Jaguars 24-20 in the AFC championship game Sunday. Starting his 36th playoff game, Brady shook off an injury to his right hand and the loss of top target Rob Gronkowski to rally the Patriots to their record 10th Super Bowl appearance. The Patriots will try to match the Pittsburgh Steelers' six Super Bowl trophies when they face the Eagles (15-3) on Feb. 4 in Minneapolis. Nick Foles, the backup QB who was thrust into the starting role when Carson Wentz blew out his left knee last month, led the Philadelphia to a 38-7 rout of the Minnesota Vikings in the NFC championship game. Foles threw for 352 yards and three touchdowns, showing poise and moxie in going 26 for 33. The Vikings were hoping to become the first NFL team to serve as host to a Super Bowl in its own stadium, but they followed up their "Minneapolis Miracle " with a "Flop in Philly." So, they'll clear out their lockers long before the Eagles and Patriots and their fans take over U.S. Bank Stadium for Super Bowl 52 in two weeks. Oddsmakers like the chances of Brady winning a sixth Super Bowl ring , making the Patriots nearly a touchdown favorite to beat the Eagles. The Patriots and Eagles, who last won an NFL title in 1960, several years before the first Super Bowl, met in the Super Bowl after the 2004 season with the Patriots prevailing 24-21. Hours after Brady's game-winning 4-yard TD pass to Danny Amendola with 2:48 remaining in Foxborough, the Eagles won for the fourth time in five tries under Foles. It started out ominously, however. The Vikings celebrated Kyle Rudolph's 25-yard touchdown catch from Case Keenum on their opening drive by mimicking the Olympic sport of curling for their TD celebration. It was the Eagles who had all the fun after that. Patrick Robinson's spectacular 50-yard interception return got Philadelphia started. Then Foles and his offense tore up the league's stingiest scoring defense, with long TD throws to Alshon Jeffery and Torrey Smith. LeGarrette Blount had an 11-yard scoring run when things were decided in the first half, and the Eagles were headed to an NFL title game the Vikings (14-4) hoped to be in at their own stadium. "You know everyone was against us," Foles said. "Coming out here and stick together and (we) come away with an amazing victory against a great team." Blake Bortles and the stingy Jaguars (12-7) led New England 20-10 early in the fourth quarter, but couldn't hold against the defending champions. The NFL's second-ranked defense kept Brady and the Patriots at bay for most of the game, but lost linebacker Myles Jack and defensive tackle Marcell Dareus on consecutive plays on New England's winning drive. It was New England's 13th win in 14 games since their 2-2 start. Their only stumble since September was a 27-20 loss at the Dolphins on Dec. 11. Brady, wearing a black bandage on his right hand after needing stitches to close a cut that happened on a play during practice earlier in the week, showed no signs of being hampered. And, with the game — and the season — possibly on the line, the Patriots star came up big again. "I've had a lot worse," Brady said. "I didn't know that on Wednesday. It was a crazy injury. Wednesday, Thursday, Friday was a little scary. Then I started getting some confidence and today we did just enough to win." Brady finished 26 of 38 for 290 yards and two touchdowns to Amendola. It's the eighth Super Bowl appearance for Brady and coach Bill Belichick, who have won five times — including last year's 34-28 overtime rally against the Falcons. "It's pretty amazing," Brady said. "Just to be on a team that wins these kinds of games, it's just a great accomplishment.".....»»

Category: sportsSource:  abscbnRelated NewsJan 22nd, 2018

Atlanta s Matt Ryan aims for happy homecoming in Philly

By Rob Maaddi, Associated Press PHILADELPHIA (AP) — Quarterback Matt Ryan has another shot at a happy homecoming. A berth in the NFC championship game is at stake when Ryan leads the Atlanta Falcons (11-6) against the Philadelphia Eagles (13-3) in a divisional playoff Saturday. Ryan, who grew up rooting for the Eagles and went to Philadelphia's William Penn Charter School, is 1-3 at the Linc. "I'm used to it now," Ryan said about returning home. "Playing as long as I have, I understand regardless of where we play you have to be at your best every week. The one nice part is there will be a lot of familiar faces, friendly faces after the game, which is always nice." Ryan had his worst game of his MVP season last year in Atlanta's 24-15 loss in Philly on Nov. 13, 2016. He was 18 of 33 for 267 yards with one touchdown and one interception. "Obviously, there will be some scheme from that game that we'll take, what went well and what didn't go well and try to improve on that," Ryan said. "We're a different team than we were last year when we played them and they're a different team. It will be some carry over, but it will be a little bit different." Here's some things to watch for when the teams meet in the playoffs for the first time since Philadelphia's win over Michael Vick's Falcons in the 2005 NFC championship game: NICK'S UP: Nick Foles makes his fourth start since replacing Carson Wentz after the MVP candidate tore his ACL in Week 14. Foles played well in his first five quarters and struggled in the next five. He's certainly a dropoff from Wentz, but he's also capable of spectacular performances. Wentz once tossed seven TDs in a game in 2013. He had four TDs in his first start in Week 15. "There's enough substance behind his career that merits having confidence," Eagles offensive coordinator Frank Reich said. 'NORTHEAST' NOISE: There's crowd noise, and then there's the noise generated by Philadelphia fans known for their intensity. Falcons coach Dan Quinn seemed to search for a polite term to compare Eagles fans with the fans the team heard in last week's wild-card win at the Los Angeles Rams. "I'm not going to say more passionate, but I would say more Northeast," Quinn said with a smile. The Falcons have pumped in artificial noise in practice this week but will lean heavily on Ryan and center Alex Mack to use their experience with silent counts and hand signals. "That's huge," said tight end Levine Toilolo. "That's where it all starts, coming off the ball, the cadence and stuff like that. We definitely work on that every week. Their fans, we're expecting a loud crowd in a big playoff game." Mack said he expects Philadelphia's fans "to be really dedicated, really loud, really involved. So it's going to be a challenge just in terms of crowd noise." COMFORT ZONE: After leading the league in scoring in 2016, the Falcons finished the regular season 15th with first-year offensive coordinator Steve Sarkisian. Atlanta averaged 22.1 points per game, down from 33.8 last season. Ryan says he has become more comfortable with Sarkisian, especially the last two weeks in wins over Carolina and the Rams. "I think Sark has done a great job of finding who we are week to week, specifically the last two weeks I think he's done a great job," Ryan said. STOPPING JULIO: The Eagles had some success against Julio Jones in their win last year, keeping him out of the end zone but allowing 10 catches for 135 yards. Jalen Mills held him to four catches for 48 yards when he was matched up against Jones. The second-year pro is confident he can contain Jones again. Ronald Darby will have to cover Jones when he's on his side. "You have to think the ball is coming to him each and every play," Mills said. "Whether they're having a run or a pass play, you've just got to think the ball is coming to him." MULTIPLE BACKS: Both teams have options in the backfield. The Falcons are led by Devonta Freeman, who had 865 yards rushing and seven TDs. Tevin Coleman had 628 yards rushing and five TDs. LeGarrette Blount led the Eagles with 766 yards rushing and scored two TDs. Jay Ajayi had 873 yards rushing and one TD combined with the Dolphins and Eagles. He ran for 130 yards against Atlanta in Miami's win on Oct. 15. ___ AP Sports Writer Charles Odum contributed to this report......»»

Category: sportsSource:  abscbnRelated NewsJan 12th, 2018

EYES ON YOU, KID: UAAP 80 Jrs. players to watch

The first round of the UAAP 80 Juniors Basketball Tournament is over and done with. And we can’t wait for the second round to get started just so we could get even more glimpses of the future of Philippine basketball courtesy of these players: CJ CANSINO – University of Sto. Tomas (yellow jersey with ball) ROUND 1 AVERAGES: 27.6 points, 43.5 percent shooting, 14.6 rebounds, 2.6 assists, 1.7 steals (yellow jersey number 27) CJ Cansino has single-handedly made University of Sto. Tomas matter again – and that’s not an exaggeration. Through his sheer will, the Tiger Cubs find themselves well inside the playoff picture at the end of the first round. The long-limbed forward is an all-around weapon who can get his shots inside the paint, from the perimeter, and even from the charity stripe where he has already scored a mind-boggling 60 points – that’s out of 76 attempts, giving him a 78.9 percent shooting clip from there. It’s not just scoring where he makes an impact, though, as he also can also make plays for teammates like scoring guard Kobe Palencia as well as disrupt plays for opponents. And oh, the six-foot-two graduating player is also tops in the league in rebounding – yes, he has more rebounds than the next kid on our list. The even better news for UST? Cansino wants to stay for college. KAI SOTTO – Ateneo de Manila High School (blue jersey number 11) ROUND 1 AVERAGES: 12.9 points, 52.5 percent shooting, 12.7 rebounds, 4.9 blocks (blue jersey number 11) All eyes have been on Kai Sotto ever since he was discovered in the Jr. NBA. Now in his second season for currently league-leading Ateneo de Manila University, he has given all of us more than enough reason to never take our eyes off of him and all of his now 7-foot 1-inch stature. A legitimate inside presence the likes of which the high school ranks have never seen before, Sotto is unstoppable in getting points near the basket and collaring rebounds from anywhere inside the paint. And yeah, the kid atop our list has more rebounds than him, but nobody in the Juniors can touch the 15-year-old’s rim protecting ability. 34 blocks through seven games? That’s unheard of! The even better news for Ateneo? He’s just in Grade 9, that’s three more seasons of eligibility after this one. SJ BELANGEL – Ateneo de Manila High School (white jersey number 0) ROUND 1 AVERAGES: 16.3 points, 50.6 percent shooting, 5.6 assists, 5.3 rebounds, 1.7 steals (blue jersey number 0) Sotto has been getting all the attention, but just like a year ago, Ateneo has been SJ Belangel’s show to run. The kid who famously scored 99 points back in his hometown of Bacolod is now a complete player. The scoring has always been there for Belangel, but it’s his now pinpoint passing that is the more welcome development for the still undefeated Blue Eaglets. It doesn’t hurt either that the 18-year-old is doing nothing but living up to being a floor leader. L-JAY GONZALES – Far Eastern University-Diliman (yellow jersey number 0) ROUND 1 AVERAGES: 12.6 points, 9.7 rebounds, 6.0 assists, 2.6 steals (yellow jersey number 0) No doubt, the shots have yet to fall for L-Jay Gonzales as he is only shooting 32.4 percent from the field. Just like what he showed in his starmaking stint in last season’s Finals, however, it has again become clear that he doesn’t have to score to make an impact. In all of the league, Far Eastern University-Diliman’s main man is first in steals, second in assists, and fifth in rebounds. And there’s one thing we all learned last season, it’s never to count out the Baby Tamaraws and their do-it-all guard. DAVE ILDEFONSO – Ateneo de Manila High School (white jersey number 10) ROUND 1 AVERAGES: 12.9 points, 42.7 percent shooting, 8.9 rebounds, 3.6 assists, 1.4 steals (white jersey number 10) Dave Ildefonso is not top five in the league in anything – he is well inside the top 10 in many things, though. With Sotto, Belangel, and the rest of Ateneo’s stacked lineup, it’s easy to forget that they have a versatile player who can score from all over the floor while also defending the opposing team’s forwards and guards. And among all of high school, the son of Philippine basketball legend Danny Ildefonso has one of the most college-ready bodies – he can bump with the best of them and he can move with the best of them. That is exactly why make no mistake about it, Dave Ildefonso has been a key cog in the Blue Eaglets’ ascent to the top of the leaderboard. RHAYYAN AMSALI – Nazareth School of National University (blue jersey number 13) ROUND 1 AVERAGES: 13.0 points, 43.2 percent shooting, 8.7 rebounds, 2.4 assists, 2.1 steals As expected, there has been an adjustment period for Nazareth School of National University and new head coach Goldwyn Monteverde. That hasn’t stopped Rhayyan Amsali from producing as expected, though. Already having proven himself as an all-around offensive weapon, the third-year forward is now displaying the development of his defense to the tune of a third-best steals total. RJ ABARRIENTOS – Far Eastern University-Diliman (green jersey number 17) ROUND 1 AVERAGES: 14.0 points, 6.0 rebounds, 5.0 assists, 1.0 steals FEU-Diliman is already fortunate to have somebody like L-Jay Gonzales and yet, they actually have two of that kind of player on their roster. RJ Abarrientos can do the very same things his Finals MVP teammate can, but when focused, has proven himself to be an impactful 3-and-D swingman. The nephew of “Flying A” Johnny Abarrientos will never have the ball in his hands all that much, but when he does, good things happen more often than not. JOEM SABANDAL – Adamson High School (blue jersey number 21) ROUND 1 AVERAGES: 16.3 points, 45.9 percent shooting, 6.7 rebounds, 6.3 assists, 2.2 steals A new day has dawned upon Adamson High School and serving as the brightest ray of light is Joem Sabandal. The heady guard is best in the league in assists, second in steals, and third in points – doing anything and everything in his power to keep his team afloat. The journey back to the heights they once reached is far and long, but the Baby Falcons are nothing but glad that they already have the person to steer them there. AGEM MIRANDA – University of the East (white jersey number 4) ROUND 1 AVERAGES: 17.9 points, 41.1 percent shooting, 8.6 rebounds, 5.4 assists, 2.1 steals University of the East remains winless Round 1, but unlike a year ago, there is reason to watch and there is reason to hope. Agem Miranda has made the most out of his opportunities on a talent-lacking squad and has opened eyes on how his all-around game will translate if given more help. The one-and-done guard will have to find that out on some other team, but at the very least, he has energized the Junior Warriors back on track. RAVEN CORTEZ – De La Salle Zobel (green jersey number 6) ROUND 1 AVERAGES: 12.6 points, 64.2 percent shooting, 10.9 rebounds, 3.3 blocks, 1.1 assists It looks like Boris Aldeguer, the mentor who molded Joshua Webb and Arnold Van Opstal into promising big men, has finally gotten his hands on his next project. There is no doubt that Raven Cortez is raw, even rawer than Ateneo’s Sotto, but his size and skill give him all the potential in the world, much like Ateneo’s Sotto. The Batang Gilas member may not have an outside shot just yet, but he has already put his 6-foot 7-inch frame to good use as the second-best blocker and fourth-best rebounder in the league......»»

Category: sportsSource:  abscbnRelated NewsJan 6th, 2018

Bills reverse tank talk by ending 17-year playoff drought

By John Wawrow, Associated Press ORCHARD PARK, N.Y. (AP) — It took four months and a dramatic turn of events on one of the final plays of the NFL's regular season for coach Sean McDermott and the Buffalo Bills to finally — and succinctly — put to rest any suggestion the team had any intention of tanking last summer. "I'll let you guys handle that," McDermott said, referring to reporters on Monday. "We're moving on after today to the first round of the playoffs." And that's all that matters to the first-year coach, who took the high road rather than an "I told you so" approach some 18 hours after the Bills clinched the AFC's sixth and final playoff berth and ended a 17-year postseason drought — the longest in North America's four major professional sports. McDermott never gave into the doubters and instead preached a simple "Trust The Process" message that resonated with his players. "Every season's a little bit different. Every season you go through tests and challenges," McDermott said. "It's going to try to pull you apart. It's going to test you, and it's going to test your mental toughness," he added. "And our players hung in there." Rather than packing up, as 17 of Buffalo's preceding teams did on the day after the regular-season finale, these Bills returned home to a jubilant reception early Monday. They were greeted at Buffalo Niagara International Airport by some 400 chanting fans, who braved 2-degree temperatures after Buffalo beat Miami 22-16 and clinched its playoff berth once Baltimore gave up a last-minute touchdown in a 31-27 loss to Cincinnati. McDermott is even considering sending the Bengals a gift — chicken wings, perhaps — as a thank you for Andy Dalton hitting Tyler Boyd for a 49-yard touchdown pass on fourth-and-12 with 44 seconds left. And now, Buffalo (9-7) is moving on in preparing to play at AFC South champion Jacksonville (10-6) on Sunday. McDermott rewarded his players by giving them the next two days off, before the team returns to practice Wednesday. They earned it. Buffalo overcame exceedingly low expectations following a major yearlong roster overhaul which led to the departures of numerous high-priced stars. Among the players traded were receiver Sammy Watkins (to the Los Angeles Rams) and defensive tackle Marcell Dareus (Jacksonville). The Bills' secondary was retooled as was their group of receivers, leaving the team to open the season with 24 holdovers from 2016. On the field, the Bills overcame the elements by beating Indianapolis 13-7 in overtime amid white-out conditions on Dec. 10. And the team failed to unravel when McDermott's decision to start Nathan Peterman backfired after the rookie quarterback threw five interceptions in the first half of a 54-24 loss to the Los Angeles Chargers on Nov. 19. Buffalo could face even more adversity with running back LeSean McCoy's status uncertain after hurting his right ankle against Miami. What stood out to McDermott was how the Bills responded to the loss to the Chargers the following week by snapping a three-game skid with a 16-10 win at Kansas City. "If you're going to put a landmark moment for this first year, that was probably one of them," he said of a win that improved Buffalo's record to 6-5. "That goes back to the resiliency of this football team and really what this city is all about ... that no matter what people say about us, we're going to compete like crazy." McDermott needed no more validation of how his team has captured the imagination of its supporters than witnessing the scene at the airport. Fans waved Bills flags and placards, sang the team's "Shout!" song and chanted "Let's Go Buffalo." "I've been around a couple of playoffs or two in my 20 years around the NFL, and that was unmatched," he said. "This type of welcome home just speaks volumes about our city and our fans." Defensive coordinator Leslie Frazier said the staff and players couldn't initially see the fans while de-boarding the plane, but could hear them. "We were like, 'This is incredible.' It just kind of brings home what this means to Buffalo, to western New York," Frazier said. "It just pushes you on to want to keep it going and just show them how much we appreciate their support." Rookie tackle Dion Dawkins was stunned by the reception, "It's 2 degrees out here and they're screaming their tails off," Dawkins said. "This is just flat-out unbelievable." Funny, some were saying the same about the Bills' playoff chances four months ago, too......»»

Category: sportsSource:  abscbnRelated NewsJan 2nd, 2018

Falcons clinch playoff spot, beat Panthers on Bryant’s 5 FGs

By Charles Odum, Associated Press ATLANTA (AP) — Matt Bryant kicked five field goals, including a 56-yarder, for all of Atlanta’s second-half points and the Falcons clinched a playoff spot by beating the Carolina Panthers 22-10 on Sunday. After the teams played to a 7-7 halftime tie, the 42-year-old Bryant kicked field goals of 30, 42, 30, 56 and 33 yards without a miss. Atlanta (10-6) clinched the No. 6 seed in the NFC and will play at the Los Angeles Rams next week in the first round of the playoffs. On a day when Cam Newton and the Panthers’ offense struggled, Bryant’s 15 points provided a margin too great for Carolina to overcome. The Panthers (11-5) had a playoff spot secured entering the weekend, but they couldn’t improve their position. Minnesota’s 23-10 win over Chicago earlier Sunday ended the Panthers’ hopes of a first-round bye. The loss to the Falcons ended Carolina’s goal of winning the NFC South, and the Panthers will open the playoffs at New Orleans. Matt Ryan completed 28 of 45 passes for 317 yards, including a 19-yard touchdown pass to Devonta Freeman on Atlanta’s opening drive, and no interceptions. The Panthers pulled even on Newton’s 4-yard scoring pass to Devin Funchess late in the first half. Newton threw three second-half interceptions. The third interception, by Robert Alford in the end zone with 8 seconds remaining, ended the Panthers’ final drive. Newton completed 14 of 34 passes for 180 yards and one touchdown. With the game tied in the third quarter, the Falcons had an apparent touchdown taken off the board when a review showed Mohamed Sanu didn’t maintain control of a 12-yard catch in the end zone. The ball hit the ground after Sanu collided with Julio Jones, who also was crossing to the middle of the end zone. The Falcons settled for Bryant’s first 30-yard field goal for a 10-7 lead. Newton led the Panthers on a 16-play touchdown drive that consumed more than half of the second quarter and tied the game at 7. Newton gained the needed yard on a fourth-down keeper, but the true back-breaking play for Atlanta’s defense was his 27-yard pass to Brenton Bersin on a third-and-23 play. The pass set up Newton’s 4-yard scoring pass to Funchess. SLOW START Newton was 0 for 9 before finally completing his final seven passes of the first half. Newton completed his first pass to McCaffrey — for a loss of 3 yards — midway through the second quarter. MILESTONE FOR JULIO Jones caught a 14-yard pass midway through the third quarter to reach 9,000 career yards faster than any receiver since the 1970 merger. The two-time All-Pro and five-time Pro Bowl selection last month set the league mark with the most catches and yards receiving in a receiver’s first 90 games. Jones finished with five catches for 80 yards. He survived an injury scare after he took a big hit from Carolina strong safety Mike Adams on the opening drive. He returned to the field on the same drive, which ended with Ryan’s touchdown pass to Freeman. NO STEWART Running back Jonathan Stewart was out due to back tightness. The Panthers also were without two more starters: safety Kurt Coleman (ankle), and right guard Trai Turner (concussion). UP NEXT Panthers: Carolina will play at New Orleans next week in the first round of the NFC playoffs. Falcons: Atlanta will visit the Rams next week in the first round of the playoffs......»»

Category: sportsSource:  abscbnRelated NewsJan 1st, 2018

49ers earn first win of the season, top Giants

SANTA CLARA, Calif. (AP) — C.J. Beathard threw for 288 yards and two touchdowns and ran for a third score to lead the San Francisco 49ers to their first win of the season, 31-21 over the New York Giants on Sunday. Beathard connected on an 83-yard TD to Marquise Goodwin and a 47-yarder to Garrett Celek in the second quarter as the 49ers (1-9) took advantage of another listless effort by the Giants (1-8) to win for the first time under coach Kyle Shanahan. Beathard's time as starting quarterback in San Francisco figures to be numbered after the team acquired Jimmy Garoppolo two weeks ago in trade from New England. Garoppolo has been learning the offense and could take over when the team returns from the bye in two weeks. While the Niners could be making a quarterback change soon, this performance will only heighten the questions about whether the Giants will need to change coaches. Ben McAdoo has been under fire after a report this past week from ESPN that quoted an anonymous player as saying the players have given up on the season and don't view McAdoo as a leader. The Giants have not fired a coach during the season since 1976 when Bill Arnsparger was let go after a 0-7 start and replaced by John McVay. FALCONS 27, COWBOYS 7 ATLANTA (AP) — Adrian Clayborn set an Atlanta record with six sacks, Matt Ryan threw a pair of short touchdown passes and the Falcons romped to victory over Dallas. The Cowboys looked anemic offensively in their first game without suspended running back Ezekiel Elliott. Ryan hooked up with Justin Hardy on a 3-yard pass for Atlanta's first offensive touchdown in the third quarter this season. Early in the fourth, Ryan put the game away for the Falcons (5-4) by tossing one to Austin Hooper for a 1-yard score. While the Cowboys (5-4) sure missed Elliott, who finally began serving a six-game suspension for allegations of domestic abuse after three legal reprieves, they really noticed the absence of left tackle Tyron Smith. He sat out the game with back and groin injuries, leaving third-year player Chaz Green to protect Dak Prescott's blind side. It didn't go well for Dallas. Beating Green time after time, Clayborn forced two fumbles, recovered one of them and surpassed the team record of five sacks, held by Chuck Smith and Hall of Famer Claude Humphrey. Even more impressively, Clayborn's performance matched the second-most sacks in NFL history. RAMS 33, TEXANS 7 LOS ANGELES (AP) — Robert Woods caught two of Jared Goff's three touchdown passes during a dominant third quarter, and surging Los Angeles returned after a month away from home for their fourth straight victory, 33-7 over depleted Houston. After struggling to a 9-7 lead during a quiet first half for the NFL's highest-scoring team, the Rams (7-2) ran away with a series of big throws by Goff, who passed for a career-high 355 yards. Woods caught a 94-yard TD pass to break it open before Sammy Watkins and Woods made TD catches 19 seconds apart late in the third quarter. The Rams defense shut out Houston in the second half and won at the Coliseum for just the third time in 11 games since returning to Los Angeles last season. Woods finished with eight catches for 171 yards, making the longest catch of his NFL career before following it up with a 12-yard TD. Bruce Ellington caught a 26-yard TD pass for the Texans (3-6), who have lost three straight and four of five. Tom Savage passed for 221 yards with two interceptions for Houston, which lost its second straight since losing rookie quarterback Deshaun Watson for the season with a knee injury. SAINTS 47, BILLS 10 ORCHARD PARK, N.Y. (AP) — Mark Ingram scored a career-best three touchdowns and New Orleans won its seventh straight game by plowing through a porous Buffalo defense. Alvin Kamara also had a 3-yard touchdown rushing as the Saints blew the game open by scoring five times on their first six possessions, not including a one-play series to close the first half. Ingram finished with 131 yards rushing. He scored twice from 3 yards and again on a 1-yard plunge. The Saints finished with 298 yards rushing and 32 first downs. Their defense was just as dominating in limiting Buffalo to 198 yards and 10 first downs. And five of those first downs came on Buffalo's meaningless final drive that ended with backup quarterback Nathan Peterman hitting Nick O'Leary on a 7-yard touchdown pass. New Orleans set a franchise record by scoring six touchdowns rushing, and it marked the most allowed by Buffalo in team history. Even Saints quarterback Drew Brees got involved in the run of rushing touchdowns by scrambling in from 6 yards in the final minute of the third quarter. Trey Edmunds capped the scoring with a 41-yard touchdown run. The Saints never punted, the only thing to stop them was tight end Josh Hill losing a fumble at the Buffalo 9 in the first quarter. The Saints (7-2) haven't lost since dropping their first two games and matched their longest winning streak since closing the 2011 season 8-0. New Orleans has already matched its win total from each of the past three seasons. The Bills (5-4) simply unraveled in losing their second straight and dropping to 4-1 at home. STEELERS 20, COLTS 17 INDIANAPOLIS (AP) — Ben Roethlisberger's 32-yard completion to Antonio Brown with 35 seconds set up a 33-yard field goal from Chris Boswell as time expired. The Steelers (7-2) have won four straight overall and five in a row in the series. But it sure wasn't easy as the Colts (3-7) held Roethlisberger, Brown and Le'Veon Bell in check. Pittsburgh needed two second-half TD passes from Roethlisberger to fight its way out of a 17-3 third-quarter deficit. And Roethlisberger reverted to his traditional form on the Steelers' final possession. The two -time Super Bowl champion methodically marched the Steelers 70 yards in the final 3 minutes, 10 seconds to give Pittsburgh its only lead. Roethlisberger was 19 of 31 for 236 yards with one interception. Bell had 26 carries for 80 yards and Brown, the league's leading receiver, caught three passes for 47 yards. VIKINGS 38, REDSKINS 30 LANDOVER, Md. (AP) — Case Keenum threw touchdowns to four different receivers to build a big lead, and the NFC North-leading Vikings won their fifth in a row. With Teddy Bridgewater active for the first time since January 2016 after a devastating knee injury, Keenum was 21 of 29 for 304 yards and TD passes to Stefon Diggs, Adam Thielen, David Morgan and Jarius Wright. He was picked off on consecutive throws by D.J. Swearinger. Thielen had eight catches for a season-high 166 yards. Latavius Murray also ran for a score as five players got into the end zone for Minnesota (7-2), which was 8 of 12 on third downs. The Vikings won their first game out of the bye week for the second time in eight seasons as they try to avoid a repeat of the swoon that cost them a playoff spot last season. Washington quarterback Kirk Cousins had three TDs — two rushing and one passing — and was 26 of 45 for 327 yards with an interception. The Redskins (4-5) failed to build off an upset victory at Seattle and now find themselves on an uphill climb in the wild-card race. PACKERS 23, BEARS 16 CHICAGO (AP) — Brett Hundley threw for 212 yards and a touchdown, Nick Perry had three sacks and the Packers snapped a three-game losing streak. Hundley, starting his third game for an injured Aaron Rodgers, threw a 17-yard touchdown to Davante Adams to make it 23-13 with 5:29 to play, and the Packers (5-4) hung on to beat the Bears (3-6) for the eighth time in nine games. It was the first victory for a Packers QB not named Rodgers or Brett Favre since 1989. Chicago's Mitchell Trubisky threw for a career-high 297 yards. The rookie hit Josh Bellamy for a 46-yard touchdown in the fourth quarter, but the Bears dropped their second in a row after winning back-to-back games. The win was Green Bay's first since a narrow victory at Dallas on Oct. 8. A week later, Rodgers got driven to the turf by the Vikings' Anthony Barr in a loss at Minnesota week and the Packers haven't been the same since then. Hundley completed 18 of 25 passes to help the Packers win their eighth straight at Soldier Field counting the playoffs. TITANS 24, BENGALS 20 NASHVILLE, Tenn. (AP) — Marcus Mariota tossed a 7-yard touchdown pass to DeMarco Murray with 36 seconds left , and the Titans rallied for their fourth consecutive victory. It's the longest winning streak for the Titans (6-3) since takin five straight in 2009, and it's their best start to a season since 2008 when the Titans last reached the playoffs as the AFC's No. 1 seed. Murray ran for two touchdowns, and Mariota finished with 264 yards passing. The Bengals (3-6) lost for the third time in four games despite sacking Mariota four times. They started with three defensive starters scratched and lost a fourth when linebacker Vontaze Burfict was ejected in the second quarter after pushing the arm of an official. Cincinnati took its only lead at 20-17 on a 70-yard TD pass from Andy Dalton to A.J. Green with 5:03 left, but the Bengals couldn't stop the Titans, who drove 73 yards for the winning TD. JAGUARS 20, CHARGERS 17, OT JACKSONVILLE, Fla. (AP) — Josh Lambo kicked a 30-yard field goal with 3:12 remaining in overtime, lifting the Jaguars in a wild game. Lambo's kick got tipped at the line of scrimmage and still cleared the crossbar. The former soccer player and one-time Charger ran the other way and slid on both knees near midfield before getting mobbed by teammates. It gave Jacksonville its first three-game winning streak since 2013. The game ended up in overtime after a wacky final two minutes of regulation that included a fumble, two interceptions, a taunting penalty and a costly flag for roughing the passer. At times, it looked as if neither team wanted to win. After all the chaos, Lambo drilled a 34-yard field goal to send it to the extra period. After Jacksonville punted, A.J. Bouye intercepted a pass from Philip Rivers on third down and returned it to the 2-yard line. But a taunting call on cornerback Aaron Colvin pushed the Jaguars (6-3) back 15 yards. Lambo hit the winner a few plays later. The Chargers are 3-6. LIONS 38, BROWNS 24 ALLEN PARK, Mich. (AP) — Matthew Stafford lofted a 29-yard, tiebreaking touchdown to Eric Ebron early in the fourth quarter and the Lions went on to beat the winless Browns. The Lions (5-4) rallied from first- and second-half deficits to earn consecutive victories for the first time since winning the first two games this season. The Browns, who fell to 0-9 on the season, led 10-0 early in the game for their first double-digit lead of the season, and were up 24-17 in the third after Deshone Kizer led two consecutive touchdown drives. Detroit is the only franchise to have a 0-16 season in 2008. Cleveland's chances to finally win this season were hurt when Kizer took a shot to the ribs by blitzing defensive back Quandre Diggs late in the third period. The rookie quarterback, who came back to play late in the fourth, had perhaps his best game. He completed 21 of 37 passes for 232 yards with a 19-yard touchdown pass to Kenny Britt in the first quarter. Kizer ran seven times for 57 yards, including a go-ahead, 1-yard sneak with 6:01 left in the third. BUCCANEERS 15, JETS 10 TAMPA, Fla. (AP) — Ryan Fitzpatrick led two long scoring drives and Tampa Bay limited the Jets to less than 200 yards of offense until late in the fourth quarter to snap a five-game losing streak. With Fitzpatrick filling in for injured quarterback Jameis Winston, the Buccaneers (3-6) used three field goals to build a 9-3 lead. Charles Sims put the game out of reach with a 6-yard touchdown reception with just over six minutes remaining. Fitzpatrick, facing the team he played for the past two seasons, completed 17 of 34 passes for 187 yards and was intercepted once. The 34-year-old Fitzpatrick, one of just four players in NFL history to throw TD passes for seven different teams, led a seven-minute drive that produced a field goal in the first quarter. He finished a 15-play, 81-yard march, also lasting more than seven minutes, with his TD pass to Sims to make it 15-3. Josh McCown, also facing one of his former teams, was 23 of 39 for 263 yards, one touchdown and one interception. Robby Anderson caught a 38-yard TD pass in the final minute for the Jets (4-6), scoring for the fourth straight game to give New York one last chance......»»

Category: sportsSource:  abscbnRelated NewsNov 13th, 2017

Gano field goal lifts Panthers over Patriots 33-30

FOXBOROUGH, Massachusetts (AP) — Graham Gano hit a 48-yard field goal as time expired, helping the Carolina Panthers stun the New England Patriots 33-30 on Sunday. The winner served as redemption for Gano, who missed an extra point in the third quarter. It was the second home loss this season for the usually unbeatable Patriots at Gillette Stadium. The defeat marked just the second time since 2012 that Tom Brady has lost two home starts within a season. Cam Newton threw for three touchdowns and ran for another . Jonathan Stewart rushed 14 times for 68 yards to pass DeAngelo Williams and become the franchise's all-time leading rusher. Newton finished 22 of 29 for 316 yards and an interception, picking apart a New England defense that was giving up an NFL-worst 461 yards and 31.7 points per game. The Patriots (2-2) forced a pair of turnovers, but had trouble containing Newton's stable of targets. Carolina (3-1) finished with 444 total yards, marking the fourth straight game the Patriots have given up at least 300 yards. Brady finished 32 of 45 for 307 yards and two scores. strong>BRONCOS 16, RAIDERS 10 /strong> DENVER (AP) — The Broncos throttled running back Marshawn Lynch and sent quarterback Derek Carr to the sideline with a back injury, then sealed their win on safety Justin Simmons' interception of EJ Manuel at the Denver 8 in the closing minutes. Despite holding Lynch to 12 yards on nine carries, the Broncos found themselves in danger of frittering away an AFC West showdown they had dominated. Trailing by six, Manuel heaved a high toss to Amari Cooper just after the two-minute warning. Simmons, who won the job from three-time Pro Bowl safety T.J. Ward this summer, came down with the ball just shy of the goal line and took it out to 8. The Broncos ran out the clock to hit their bye week at 3-1. Oakland (2-2) had cut its deficit to six on Giorgio Tavecchio's 38-yard field goal with 5:23 remaining. That came after Brandon McManus hit the left upright from 29 yards out early in the fourth quarter after nailing kicks from 28, 36 and 46 yards. strong>CARDINALS 18, 49ERS 12, OT /strong> GLENDALE, Arizona (AP) — Carson Palmer threw 19 yards to Larry Fitzgerald with 32 seconds left in overtime for the game's only touchdown. The scoring had been limited to nine field goals on an ugly afternoon in the desert before Palmer directed a seven-play, 75-yard drive with 1:52 to play. Fitzgerald, who had three catches for 13 yards before the winning grab, rose to catch the ball under tight coverage by Rashard Robinson. Robbie Gould kicked his fifth field goal, a 23-yarder with 2:24 left in overtime to put the 49ers ahead 15-12. Phil Dawson kicked four field goals for the Cardinals (2-2), whose two victories both have come in overtime. The 49ers (0-4), losing to the Cardinals for the fifth time in a row, won the coin toss to start the overtime. They used up 7:36 of the extra session, which was shortened from 15 to 10 minutes this season. strong>EAGLES 26, CHARGERS 24 /strong> CARSON, California (AP) — Carson Wentz passed for 242 yards, LeGarrette Blount rushed for 136 and the Eagles extended their promising start to the season. Rookie Jake Elliott kicked four field goals for the Eagles (3-1), who had thousands of roaring fans in the Chargers' temporary stadium while they hung on to win on the road for the second time in 10 tries. Playing without several injured defensive regulars, the Eagles matched last year's 3-1 start even though they blew most of an early 13-point lead. Rookie Austin Ekeler rushed for a score and Hunter Henry made a one-handed TD catch during the Chargers' fourth-quarter surge. But Blount rushed for 88 yards in the fourth quarter alone, and Philadelphia ran out the clock after Henry's TD catch with 6:44 to play. Philip Rivers passed for 347 yards and two TDs for the Chargers, who have lost nine consecutive games dating to last season in San Diego. Tyrell Williams caught a 75-yard touchdown pass , but the Bolts are off to their first 0-4 start since 2003 — three years before Rivers became their starting quarterback. New coach Anthony Lynn is still winless after Los Angeles' new team wrapped up a three-game homestand. strong>BUCCANEERS 25, GIANTS 23 /strong> TAMPA, Florida (AP) — Jameis Winston threw for 332 and three touchdowns without an interception, and Nick Folk kicked a 34-yard field goal as time expired. Folk redeemed himself after missing two field goals and an extra point earlier in the day, booting the winner after Winston answered Eli Manning's second TD pass of the day with an impressive drive that began at his 25. The Giants (0-4) lost on a last-second field goal for the second straight week. They took a 23-22 lead on Rhett Ellison's 2-yard TD reception with 3:16 remaining. Manning threw to Odell Beckham Jr., in the rear of the end zone for a 2-point conversion that was disallowed because the receiver had stepped out of bounds before making the catch. Winston threw TDs passes of 6 yards to Mike Evans and 58 yards to O.J. Howard in building an early 13-0 lead. His 14-yard scoring pass to Cameron Brate put the Bucs up 22-17 midway through the fourth quarter, setting the stage for an exciting close. strong>RAMS 35, COWBOYS 30 /strong> ARLINGTON, Texas (AP) — Todd Gurley scored the go-ahead touchdown on a 53-yard catch-and-run, and Greg Zuerlein kicked a career-high seven field goals. Gurley finished with 215 total yards — 121 rushing and 94 receiving — as the Rams overcame two first-half touchdowns from Ezekiel Elliott the day before a federal appeals court hearing related to the star Dallas running back's blocked six-game suspension over a domestic incident in Ohio. The Rams (3-1) rallied from 11 points down late in the first half and matched their start from a year ago, when they went 1-11 the rest of the way as No. 1 overall pick Jared Goff was sitting and later lost the first seven starts of his career. Goff showed more poise in first-year coach Sean McVay's offense, throwing for 255 yards and two touchdowns without an interception. He has seven TD passes and one interception this season. The Cowboys (2-2) are already a loss shy of their total from last season when Dak Prescott was the NFL Offensive Rookie of the Year and Elliott led the league in rushing, also as a rookie. strong>BILLS 23, FALCONS 17 /strong> ATLANTA (AP) — Stephen Hauschka kicked a tiebreaking, 56-yard field goal with less than five minutes remaining and the Buffalo Bills made a last-minute defensive stand. The Falcons lost star wide receiver Julio Jones to a hip injury and also saw fellow WR Mohamed Sanu (hamstring) leave the game. Hauschka padded the lead with a 55-yarder with about three minutes remaining. Buffalo's defense stopped the Falcons at the Bills 10 with less than a minute remaining when Matt Ryan couldn't complete a fourth-down pass to Taylor Gabriel, and Atlanta became the last NFC team to lose this season. Tre'Davious White returned a fumble recovery 52 yards for a third-quarter touchdown as the tough Buffalo defense delivered again even when it yielded its first passing touchdown of the season. Bills defensive end Jerry Hughes hit Ryan's arm as Ryan was trying to pass, forcing the fumble. It was one of three turnovers by Atlanta (3-1) on a day the Bills (3-1) set a team record for consecutive quarters without a turnover. Ryan threw two interceptions, giving him five in his last two games. strong>STEELERS 26, RAVENS 9 /strong> BALTIMORE (AP) — Le'Veon Bell rushed for 144 yards and two touchdowns to seize first place in the AFC North. Though held to a touchdown over the final 30 minutes, Pittsburgh (3-1) mounted enough of an attack before halftime to earn its first win in Baltimore since 2012. Ben Roethlisberger went 18 for 30 for 216 yards and a touchdown. Bell did more than his share, carrying the ball 35 times to help the Steelers amass 381 yards on offense. The Ravens (2-2), meanwhile, looked every bit like the 32nd-ranked offense in the NFL. Baltimore trailed 19-0 at halftime, generated only 154 yards through three quarters and stumbled through a second straight game with only one touchdown. Joe Flacco completed 31 of 49 passes for 235 yards, was sacked four times and intercepted twice. strong>TEXANS 57, TITANS 14 /strong> HOUSTON (AP) — Rookie Deshaun Watson threw for four touchdowns and ran for another as the Texans scored the most points in franchise history. Watson, the 12th pick in this year's draft, became the first rookie to throw four touchdowns and run for another one since Fran Tarkenton in 1961, and tied an NFL record for most TDs by a rookie quarterback. The Texans (2-2) outdid their previous highest point total of 45 set in a victory over the Titans in 2014 and are the first NFL team to score 50 points since the Jaguars scored 51 in December 2015. Houston's defense got things going when Andre Hal intercepted Marcus Mariota on the game's third play. It was the first of four interceptions for Houston's defense. Mariota, who became the first Titans quarterback with two rushing touchdowns in a game since Steve McNair in 2003, injured his hamstring and didn't play after halftime. Matt Cassel took over for the Titans (2-2) and threw for 21 yards with two interceptions. Watson then led Houston's offense to touchdowns on three straight possessions for a 21-0 lead early in the second quarter. It was the first time since Oct. 19, 2008 that Houston scored a touchdown on each of its first three possessions. strong>LIONS 14, VIKINGS 7 /strong> MINNEAPOLIS (AP) — Anthony Zettel led a ferocious performance by Detroit's defense with two sacks, four hurries and a fumble recovery, as the Lions forced three turnovers while holding Minnesota scoreless in the second half. The Lions turned two fumbles lost by the Vikings in the third quarter into 11 points, taking the lead on Ameer Abdullah's 1-yard touchdown run five plays after rookie Dalvin Cook fumbled at the Minnesota 29. The Vikings (2-2) lost more than just possession when Cook limped off with an injury to his left knee and did not return. Tahir Whitehead recovered that fumble for the Lions, plus one by Adam Thielen with 1:43 left at the Detroit 45 that ended the last-chance drive for the Vikings. Detroit (3-1) leads the NFL in turnover margin at plus-9. Abdullah came close to ending a four-year stretch by the Lions without a 100-yard rusher, finishing with 94 yards on 20 carries before leaving with an undisclosed injury. Matthew Stafford was sacked six times for 55 yards, but he hung on to the ball each time and completed 19 of 31 passes for 209 yards, plus the key 2-point conversion to T.J. Jones to give the Lions a seven-point lead. Case Keenum started in place of Sam Bradford at quarterback for the Vikings for the third straight game, going 16 for 30 for 219 yards. He was sacked by Zettel for an 11-yard loss on third-and-goal from the 3 right before the two-minute warning, and his fourth down heave into the end zone sailed over Thielen's head. strong>SAINTS 20, DOLPHINS 0 /strong> LONDON (AP) — Drew Brees threw for 268 yards and two touchdowns and the Saints scored all but three of their points in the second half. Michael Thomas had a touchdown reception in the third quarter, Alvin Kamara added one in the fourth and Will Lutz made two of his three field-goal attempts for New Orleans (2-2), which arrived for the game on Monday and won the lowest-scoring game ever held in London. It was expected to be a big homecoming for the Dolphins' Jay Ajayi, who was born in the city, but the running back finished with 46 yards on 12 carries. Lutz missed his first try, a 41-yarder, wide right on the second play of the second quarter, and the teams threatened to have the first scoreless opening half since Week 14 of the 2011 season until Lutz connected from 43 yards with no time remaining. Brees found Thomas, who had eight catches for 89 yards, on a 4-yarder to push the score to 10-0 in the third quarter, and Kamara took a shovel pass from Brees 12 yards into the end zone with 3:57 remaining to wrap up the victory. strong>JETS 23, JAGUARS 20, OT /strong> EAST RUTHERFORD, New Jersey (AP) — Chandler Catanzaro kicked a 41-yard field goal with 28 seconds left in overtime, lifting the Jets to a wacky win. After Catanzaro split the uprights, he and his teammates celebrated wildly in the middle of the field — but then had to wait because there was a penalty flag on the field. The officials ruled there actually was no penalty on the play, giving the Jets the victory. Bilal Powell rushed for a career-high 163 yards, including a 75-yard touchdown, and rookie Elijah McGuire had a 69-yard score and finished with 93 yards rushing as the Jets (2-2) ran all over the Jaguars (2-2). But New York blew a 10-point, fourth-quarter lead because of some big mistakes, then had to hold on in the extra period. After Jacksonville went three-and-out, on the punt Paul Posluszny was called for unsportsmanlike conduct for taunting as the Jets' Dylan Donahue went down on the Jaguars sideline with an elbow injury. It put the ball on the Jacksonville 25, and after two 1-yard runs, Josh McCown spiked the ball to set up Catanzaro's field goal. McCown finished 22 of 31 for 224 yards with an interception and the Jets outgained the Jaguars 471-311 in total yards, including 256-175 on the ground. strong>BENGALS 31, BROWNS 7 /strong> CLEVELAND (AP) — Andy Dalton threw three of his four touchdown passes in the first half and Cincinnati's offense found the perfect opponent to work out some early season struggles. Dalton only missed on one of 18 throws in the first half as the Bengals (1-3) built a 21-0 lead. He connected with A.J. Green, Tyler Croft and Giovani Bernard while dissecting the young Browns (0-4), who were again plagued by mistakes and were down three defensive starters. Dalton, the NFL's 30th-ranked QB, finished 25 of 30 for 286 yards. His second TD to Croft in the third quarter made it 31-0, and sent even some of the most die-hard Browns fans toward the FirstEnergy Stadium exits. The Browns avoided a shutout with 1:54 left. .....»»

Category: sportsSource:  abscbnRelated NewsOct 2nd, 2017

Knock, knock: Browns there; team set for HBO s Hard Knocks

By Tom Withers, Associated Press CLEVELAND (AP) — Ready or not, the Cleveland Browns are getting their close-up. Coming off a historic, dismal 0-16 season, the Browns have been chosen to appear on HBO's popular "Hard Knocks" series that gives NFL fans a behind-the-scenes look at training camp. The Browns have turned down previous opportunities to be on the award-winning series. But with renewed optimism around Cleveland following the recent draft, and the selection of quarterback Baker Mayfield, the team is granting HBO unlimited access to its upcoming camp. Cleveland is the 13th franchise to participate in "Hard Knocks," which began in 2001 with the Baltimore Ravens. The Tampa Bay Buccaneers were featured last summer. Although they've won only one game the past two seasons under coach Hue Jackson, the Browns see the show as a possibility to highlight some of their younger players and put a positive spin on their rebuild. And for HBO, Mayfield's quest to win the starting job is just one of several juicy story lines. "NFL Films has always been exceptional at bringing fans closer to the game and they do an outstanding job with every show they produce, including HBO's Hard Knocks," Browns owners Dee and Jimmy Haslam said. "We have been asked multiple times about being featured on Hard Knocks, and we really felt like it was our turn this year and the timing was right. We want to be great partners in this league, and we also recognize Hard Knocks gives fans a special opportunity to learn more about our team and players." HBO's cameras are certain to focus on Mayfield, the brash Heisman Trophy winner from Oklahoma the Browns chose over other quarterbacks. Mayfield is expected to back up Tyrod Taylor this season, but their competition could make for the kind compelling TV that has made the series a must-watch for football junkies. A 30-person film crew will be at the team's training facility in Berea to record more than 2,000 hours of footage for the five-segment series that will debut Aug. 7. The Browns have some good young players who are not well known outside Cleveland. But "Hard Knocks" will give national exposure to budding stars like defensive end Myles Garrett, Mayfield and safety Jabrill Peppers and give the network a chance to tell the well-documented story of former Pro Bowl wide receiver Josh Gordon, who has missed most of the past three seasons because of drug suspensions. Mayfield has experience in front of the cameras. He was recently featured in a recent documentary series as he prepared for the draft, and feels the Browns can make "Hard Knocks" a positive experience. "For me looking at it, and us as a team, I'd say it can be good if you handle it right. I'll just say that," he said on SiriusXM NFL Radio. "If you think about it as a way to get on camera and try to show off and do certain things and handle it the wrong way then that can be very negative, it can be a distraction. But if you use it as a sense of, 'OK, I got to block out everything else and just focus on playing ball,' then that can be a great thing for us." Jackson and Browns defensive coordinator Gregg Williams have both been on "Hard Knocks" — Jackson with the Cincinnati Bengals in 2013 and Williams with the Los Angeles Rams in 2016. "Being able to bring our fans in so they can get to know our players and our organization in a different way will be a huge positive for us," Jackson said. "I want people to see how much our players and coaches care, how hard they work and how badly they want to win for Cleveland. This will be a great opportunity for our team." Browns general manager John Dorsey had reservations about the series, but feels the team is equipped to handle the added scrutiny. "Once we sat down and talked about it as an organization, I feel a lot better and understand why the time is right," said Dorsey, who has been overhauling the team since being hired in December. "Hue and I both feel like this team is in a good place and that we are in the process of building something that will lead to success.".....»»

Category: sportsSource:  abscbnRelated NewsMay 18th, 2018

Chris Paul, Houston Rockets take dominant step toward ultimate goal

By Shaun Powell, NBA.com SALT LAKE CITY — There is one more game to be played (at the very least) in this series, and it’ll be on the home court Tuesday (Wednesday, PHL time) when Houston will be in a celebratory mood. But be clear about this: the Jazz are no longer the barrier between the Rockets and the goal. They’re just standing in the way. There’s a difference. Getting rid of the overmatched yet naggingly persistent Jazz is all about keeping pace with the Warriors or perhaps staying one step ahead of the defending champs, nothing more or less. A long-anticipated Western Conference final, and perhaps a classic one, is impatiently waiting, and it’s in the Rockets’ best interest to settle their end of the bargain and if possible on the same night when the Warriors can do the same. And so, just a few hours after the Warriors went up 3-1 on the Pelicans in the other West semifinal, the Rockets did likewise Sunday (Monday, PHL time), using star power to overcome an otherwise blah performance. They only scored 100 points — a level that will certainly rise in the next round. Quite simply, they had James Harden and Chris Paul and Clint Capela when it counted and Utah did not. And speaking of Paul, he’s one win away from advancing beyond the second round for the first time in his otherwise respectable career. His anxiousness to kill that annoying demon was evident in the third quarter of Game 4, when he scored 11 of his 27 points while drilling the Jazz with mid-range jumpers, and the game flipped in Houston’s favor. “I’ve been here before, 3-1,” said Paul on post-game TV, his memory still sharp from blowing that lead while with the Clippers four years ago, coincidentally against Harden and the Rockets. “[Expletive] went bad real quick.” It also happened to be Paul’s birthday, and what more can a 33-year-old do to demonstrate that age is merely a number? “He was really big today," Rockets coach Mike D'Antoni said. "I understand he has another birthday coming up Tuesday (Wednesday, PHL time).” It was a surreal night for Paul as well. While he was busy erasing the Jazz, his brother CJ Paul was being momentarily erased from the arena. CJ Paul, who handles much of his brother’s personal affairs, was escorted from his lower-level seat by arena security in the third quarter for shouting at referee James Williams. He was allowed back to his seat moments later and claimed to be a victim of mistaken identity. “They thought I said something that shouldn’t be printed,” said CJ, right after he took a post-game phone call from Kiki Vandeweghe, the NBA’s executive vice president of basketball operations. “Actually, it was a fan sitting next to me. I addressed the fan who said it. I told security what happened. After they let me back in, the security guy said, `By the way, James said it was definitely you that said that. He didn’t see you, but he heard you.’ What, you mean out of 20,000 people? What’s crazy is James reffed me when I was in college.” CJ Paul, who has never missed any of his brother’s playoff games, didn’t miss much during his brief departure in this one, either. The Rockets stayed in control, save for some teases by the Jazz, and this is where they stand, right on the cusp, right with the Warriors suddenly swelling in their windshield. Remember, the Rockets built their team and their season around overcoming the Warriors; the Jazz never came up in conversation. That’s why they added Paul last summer, and why Harden tweaked his isolation-dominant game to accommodate Paul, and why the rise of Capela is raising the possibility of Houston bringing a new Big Three in Golden State’s direction. That Houston won another game despite a toned-down offense and a vanishing three-point shot — they made just 26 percent Sunday (Monday, PHL time) and in the last three games are at 29 percent — is either an impressive or troublesome trend depending on your hot take. D’Antoni is playing up the former. “We haven’t shot well the whole series,” he said. “But there’s all different ways to win. We’re not strictly a jump-shooting team. Chris has got the midrange. James gets to the hole. You’ve got Clint down there. We’ve got a lot of other stuff we can go to.  The whole plan was to get that so we wouldn’t be a one-dimensional team.” “We’ll get to 100," D'Antoni added. "Anyway, if we do our part defensively, we have a real good shot to win.” Against the Jazz, does it really matter? Utah arrived this far on hard work and solid coaching and an otherworldly rookie, but those teams don’t travel deeper than this in the playoffs. Their lack of star appeal is flaring up and gradually costing them right now. They started a rookie, a guy cut by the Clippers, an undrafted free agent, a Celtics’ castoff and a center who can’t shoot. Also, Derrick Favors isn’t 100 percent and Ricky Rubio missed his third straight game with a bad hamstring. Then, in the third quarter, Dante Exum grabbed his hamstring and was done for the night, perhaps for the series. They’re playing with house money after losing their franchise guy, Gordon Hayward, to free agency last summer. They won 48 games, had winning streaks of 11, nine and six after Jan. 22, grabbed the No. 5 seed and probably sent Paul George plotting an exit strategy from Oklahoma City after beating the Thunder in the first round. Then they stole a game from the No. 1 seed in the West, in Houston no less. What’s not to like? And yet, reality is settling in Utah like the famous bronze sunsets in the Wasatch Valley. Joe Ingles shocked the Rockets with 27 points in the Game 2 win; he totaled 21 points the next two. Exum was a national talking point for 48 hours after becoming a Harden Stopper in Game 2, but his 15 minutes quickly evaporated, and now he has the sore hammy. Mitchell had one insane quarter when the series shifted to Utah — his 13 points in the third quarter Sunday. Otherwise, not much else. Their plight was cruelly spelled out in a few sequences in Game 4. Mitchell stripped Harden and drove for a layup but couldn’t convert. Ingles broke Capela’s ankles on a step-back jumper but missed the three. Rudy Gobert took a pass and drove the lane... and Capela swooped from nowhere and rejected him. That was one of Capela’s six blocks (to go with 15 rebounds), and he influenced roughly a dozen others. “Donovan drove the lane and saw Clint and decided to pass, and that doesn’t show up on the stat sheet,” said Paul. “There was a lot of that.” Harden had issues once again against Utah after opening the series with 41 points. He shot poorly from deep, missing 6-of-7, and coughed up eight turnovers and couldn’t take control of Game 4. That left the savior role to Paul. Such is the luxury the Rockets have this season; when one superstar is handcuffed, the other is released. Paul was the best player on the floor if not the most efficient. In 35 minutes he had just one turnover, and in addition to scoring, he chipped in with 12 rebounds and six assists. “He was extremely aggressive tonight, which is what we needed,” Harden said. And why not? Paul can smell the next round and a chance, once and for all, to change the narrative with regards to his playoff history, which is an awkward fit with the rest of his playing history. When that was brought up to Paul, Harden respectfully interjected, “He’s not thinking about that. We got a game Tuesday and we’ll do whatever we can to close it out.” Paul laughed. “We’re not going to give up,” he confirmed. There’s no reason for that. The Rockets are suddenly on the verge — where they thought they’d be all along. The Western Conference Finals are tapping Paul and the Rockets on the shoulder and reminding them of their season-long mission statement, and the Rockets are very much OK with that. “We didn’t come this far,” said Harden, “just to be up 3-1 in this series.” No, not this one. Veteran NBA writer Shaun Powell has worked for newspapers and other publications for more than 25 years. You can e-mail him here or follow him on Twitter. The views on this page do not necessarily reflect the views of the NBA, its clubs or Turner Broadcasting. .....»»

Category: sportsSource:  abscbnRelated NewsMay 7th, 2018

LeBron makes difficult look easy with game-winner

By Steve Aschburner, NBA.com CLEVELAND – There were a dozen different basketball decisions, plays and moments to review, analyze and talk about Saturday night (Sunday, PHL time). Things Toronto did better, as far as its intensity and tactics compared to the first two games of the series against Cleveland. Things the Cavaliers nailed and, too, things they botched, leading by as many as 17 points in the second half at Quicken Loans Arena. There were lineup changes, defensive adjustments, and a general coarsening and muscling up of the on-court interactions that made Game 3 of this Eastern Conference semifinals round way more interesting than the two that came before. Then that guy makes that play at that point. And everything else seems to fall away. LeBron James sprinted end-to-end in the final eight seconds and sank an improbable, drive-left, shoot-right, kiss-it-off-the-glass floater at the buzzer to lift the Cavaliers to an exhlarating 105-103 victory. The sellout crowd of 20,562 exploded in giddiness, while the unfortunate Raptors mostly looked dazed. This was one part gut punch, one part yank-out-their-hearts-and-show-them-to-the-Raptors-before-they-die, as far as the cruelty involved. Showing up late to the ball to begin with, already dragging from losses up in Toronto that didn’t reflect the strong regular season they had, the Raptors showed real toughness and resiliency down the stretch. Enough that, had this been Game 1, you’d say we all were in for a dynamite series. As it was, the Raptors scored 38 points in the final 12 minutes, two points shy of their first-half total. Down 79-65 when the fourth quarter began, they sank 13 of their 18 final shots, seven of 11 three-pointers, and controlled the boards. Coach Dwane Casey kept All-Star wing DeMar DeRozan – who was hurting their cause at both ends – over on the bench near him for the game’s last 14:16. Casey got solid performances from surprise starter Fred VanVleet, who started for the struggling Serge Ibaka, and then from a rejuvenated Ibaka himself. Point guard Kyle Lowry, who runs hot and even pulled James down to the floor this night, kept his head enough to score 15 of his 27 points in the fourth. And rookie forward OG Anunoby, tasked with primary defensive responsibility on James, went from scoring 12 points on 10 shots, total, through Games 1 and 2 to giving the Raptors 18 points on 7-of-12 shooting. It was Anunoby’s three-pointer with 8.8 seconds left – his fourth of the game, his third of the quarter – that got Toronto even at 103-103. Cleveland, by that time, was dwelling on all the mistakes it had made. For sure, Anunoby’s three-pointer – none of the Cavs accounted for him as 10 men scrambled downcourt, Toronto out of timeouts – was cringe-worthy from the home team’s perspective. But the Cavaliers got real sharp from there. They have in James the NBA’s ultimate closer, the corporate fixer who capable of cleaning up most embarrassing messes. Cleveland coach Tyronn Lue set the stage by not advancing the ball to the frontcourt after using his team’s final timeout. The reason: Give James room to roam. The Cavaliers could space the floor better without cramming everyone into the halfcourt for a static inbounds play. There was plenty of time for James to race to the far end, and all that real estate made it difficult for Toronto to trap him with two defenders. It did, in fact, as the play began but he quickly shed them. That left Anunoby on the left side of the lane. The other Raptors stayed snug to their men, lest James find one open for a clean look. That included C.J. Miles, who was sticking close to Kyle Korver in the left corner, even as James barreled his way in Superman mode (more powerful than a locomotive, able to leap tall buildings). “LeBron’s shot was way tougher than Kyle hitting a three from the corner,” Miles said, a shrug in his voice. “So I’m looking at where he’s going. And he’s shooting a one-footed floater from 15 feet with his body facing the crowd. There’s no need for me to help off Kyle Korver in that situation. If it’s a different shot or he’s got more of a rhythm to it, then maybe I jump in a little bit.” James had made a circus shot to beat Indiana in Game 5 of the first round. He had thrown up several worthy of the big top Thursday (Friday, PHL time), hitting one fadeaway after another, each trickier than the last. This one? It lacked only a calliope as three-ring entertainment. But yes, as impromptu and awkward as it looked, it was a shot James work on. Because he apparently works on everything. “The ability to have different things in my tool box and the repertoire that I have,” James said, “throughout the game I can kind of go to those. That’s just another instance where I had an opportunity to go to something I practice or kind of mess around with, tinkering with shots and things, finding angles.” Said Korver: “I ran out of words a while ago. I’ve seen him shoot that shot countless times when he’s just messing around at shootaround or in practice. It’s always like, ‘When would he shoot a shot like that? Maybe to win a playoff game, I don’t know.’” For drama, for showmanship, it’s hard to top James in the NBA postseason. There was a little fudge factor with the game tied, same as with Game 5 vs. Indiana. The worst that could have happened? Overtime. But no one in the building was thinking that when his shot banked in, framed by the orange backboard lights of time running out. The play-by-play sheet hardly did the highlight justice: “:00.0 L.James 10’ driving back shot.” It was so much more, to the Raptors as they stare out of their 0-3 holes, to the Cavaliers as they start to sniff a postseason run gaining serious traction and to James himself. Such opportunities and successes are not lost on him, he said. “Oh yeah. Listen. Tie game, down one, whatever the case may be, I live for those moments,” the Cavs star said. “I told y’all in the Indiana series, that mental clock of being a kid and just telling myself ‘3, 2, 1...’ and making the noise of the net sound, I’ve been doing that since I was 6, 7, 8 years old. “Maybe even before that – there’s a picture floating around of me besides a little tyke’s hoop, saggy Pampers on. I was doing it back then, all the way up till now at 33.” Steve Aschburner has written about the NBA since 1980. You can e-mail him here, find his archive here and follow him on Twitter. The views on this page do not necessarily reflect the views of the NBA, its clubs or Turner Broadcasting......»»

Category: sportsSource:  abscbnRelated NewsMay 7th, 2018

Rondo, Green serve up spicy subplot in NBA playoffs

By Brett Martel, Associated Press NEW ORLEANS (AP) — Rajon Rondo and Draymond Green have won NBA titles and never have been known to shy away from conflict on the court. Now their combustible convergence in the playoffs is providing spicy subplot to the Western Conference semifinal series between New Orleans and Golden State. “We’re here to fight,” Rondo said following New Orleans’ lopsided Game 3 victory that trimmed the Warriors’ series lead to 2-1. “With my guys on the court, I’m going to fight as hard as I can ... and do whatever it takes.” Green and Rondo had to be separated after whistles twice in the first three games — never mind some other antics in the flow of the game — and they’ll be back at it again in one of two pivotal Game 4s to be played on Sunday (Monday, PHL time). The other pits Houston against Utah in a series that the Rockets lead 2-1. The Rondo-Green sideshow is compelling because of what both players mean to their teams. They are not the type of trash-talking, loud-mouths who otherwise play marginal roles. They are accomplished leaders who produce. Rondo had 21 assists in Game 3, while Green nearly had a triple-double with 11 points, 12 rebounds and nine assist. It just so happens they also are renowned for their masterful command of psychological gamesmanship. Pelicans coach Alvin Gentry might have the best perspective; he’s coached them both. Gentry was a Warriors assistant on Golden State’s 2015 championship team and maintains a friendly off-court relationship with Green. “If he’s on your team you love him and if he’s not on your team you despise him — and to me those are the kind of players that I like to have,” Gentry said of Green. “I appreciate who he is and how he plays because he’s all about winning. And if you’re verbally weak, he’s going to take advantage of that.” Warriors coach Steve Kerr calls Green his team’s “heart and soul,” and its “engine.” Kerr also added lightheartedly that the fact Green hasn’t been assessed a technical foul in the postseason is “one of the great stats in this year’s playoffs.” Green bristled at the notion that he started any of the dust-ups with Rondo, insinuating that Rondo was the instigator. He asserted that his awareness of Rondo’s intentions is why he hasn’t been suckered into escalations that could result in a technical foul or ejection. “I’m not an idiot,” Green said. “I can see what they’re trying to accomplish a mile away.” Green added: “At some point, somebody’s got to tell the truth. It ain’t Draymond this time.” But Green has been in the face of other Pelicans players, tangling with All-Star Anthony Davis behind the play in one instance and yelling at the Pelicans’ bench in another. Green’s antics even agitated TNT studio host and former player Charles Barkley, who said he wanted to punch Green in the face. Barkley later apologized for his word choice, if not the sentiment. Pelicans forward Solomon Hill explained that Rondo — accomplished, playoff-savvy veteran that he is — seeks to neutralize Green’s psychological effect by taking on a “big brother” role for the Pelicans. “If somebody’s yelling in your ear, you’re going to get to a point where it’s about respect,” Hill said, referring to Rondo by his nickname, ‘Do.’ “And that’s kind of where ‘Do’ is. ’Do’s like: ‘We’re going to be respected. You’re not going to come out here and dance around and disrespect us as competitors.’” A closer look at Sunday’s (Monday, PHL time) games: WARRIORS AT PELICANS Warriors lead 2-1. Game 4, 3:30 p.m. EDT (3:30am, PHL time) NEED TO KNOW: Although the Warriors lead the series, the Pelicans have not lost at home yet in the playoffs and have improved considerably in each game since losing by 22 in the series opener. New Orleans lost by only five points in Game 2 and then won by 19 when the series shifted to New Orleans. KEEP AN EYE ON: Warriors stars Stephen Curry, Klay Thompson and Kevin Durant. They combined to miss 36-of-59 shots in Game 3 and will be eager to regain their shooting strokes. “I still don’t think K.D. or Steph was aggressive enough,” Green said. “I’ve said to both of them, I need them to be aggressive. They’re our guys. That’s who we’re going to to get buckets. We need them to be aggressive at all times and they’ll be that way” on Sunday. INJURY UPDATE: Curry will be in his third game back after missing more than a month with a sprained left knee. Kerr said he wasn’t surprised to see Curry’s production dip in his second game back. “Game 2 is always the hardest one after you come back from an injury,” Kerr said, adding that “it just takes some time,” for NBA players to regain their energy, legs and rhythm. PRESSURE IS ON: The Pelicans, who don’t want to go back to the West Coast down 3-1 and on the brink of elimination. “We’ve just got to avoid any kind of letdown,” Gentry said, adding that his players “understand who we’re playing and they understand the situation.” ROCKETS AT JAZZ Rockets lead 2-1. Game 4, 8 p.m. EDT (8am, PHL time) NEED TO KNOW: Following a surprising home loss in Game 2, the Rockets roared back to life in Game 3, picking apart the Jazz on both ends of the court. A fast start, highlighted by a 39-point first quarter, put Houston back on track. The Rockets shot 59 percent from the field before halftime and never looked back. “From the beginning of the game, we made a conscious effort to get stops and offensively push the pace and get shots, and we did that,” Rockets guard James Harden said. KEEP AN EYE ON: Rockets sixth man Eric Gordon has been a tough cover for the Jazz. Gordon broke out for 25 points on 8-of-13 shooting in Game 3, resembling what he did against Utah earlier, averaging 21 points on 48.4 percent shooting in three regular season meetings. ROOKIE STRUGGLES: Utah’s Donovan Mitchell is averaging 16 points on 32 percent shooting in the series while filling in at point guard for Ricky Rubi. He went just 4-of-16 for 10 points in Game 3. “I didn’t really do much,” Mitchell said. “That can’t happen. ... It’s like I would have been better off not showing up — and that’s what I did. I didn’t show up for my teammates. I’ll fix it.” PRESSURE IS ON: The Jazz. A second straight home loss would put Utah in the unenviable position of needing two victories in Houston to stay alive......»»

Category: sportsSource:  abscbnRelated NewsMay 6th, 2018

Celtics stare down adversity, look forward to 76ers

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

Category: sportsSource:  abscbnRelated NewsApr 29th, 2018

Ateneo s Fab 5: The Fearless Underdogs of UAAP Volleyball

Newly-appointed head coach Roger Gorayeb looked at his line-up heading into UAAP Season 71. A champion mentor of NCAA powerhouse San Sebastian College - Recoletos, Gorayeb had in his hands a gargantuan task of rebuilding Ateneo de Manila University women’s volleyball program. Just a few months before, Ronald Dulay, the mentor before him landed a trio of blue chip recruits who were fresh from a successful stint in the Palarong Pambansa. Angeline "Dzi" Gervacio, Fille Saint Cainglet and Jamenea "Jem" Ferrer just joined the Katipunan-based squad. Gervacio and Cainglet were products of St. Scholastica's College in Manila while Ferrer was a gem from Hope Christian School under girl’s volleyball guru Jerry Yee. Looking at his 15-woman line-up with the season just a few months ahead, Gorayeb knew he needed to do something drastic. The roster just won’t do. Talking to then athletic director Ricky Palou and team manager Tony Boy Liao, the mentor told the team officials that he intended to cut five players from the list. One could just imagine the shock in their faces. “Nakita ko may line-up pero player-playeran lang yung ganoon bang tipo, 15 ata yun. Sabi ko ‘Magtatanggal ako ng lima then magre-recruit ako,’” he said. The three rookies were in. Middle Bea Pascual, Kara Acevedo and libero Steph Gabriel retained their spots. He needed more. “Sa mga tinira kong players, si Kara Acevedo sabi niya, ‘Coach mayroong player ang ICA (Immaculate Conception Academy) na gumraduate naka-exam na rito pasado.’ Sabi ko, ‘Sige papuntahin mo,’” said Gorayeb. It was Gretchen Ho. “Sa akin kasi ang talagang nagyaya sa akin si coach Ron Dulay. Si Kara Acevedo teammate ko and she’s been recruited by Ateneo. So one summer wala akong magawa naki-train lang ako noon tapos nagustuhan nila ang laro ko and then fourth year noong graduate na ako I passed the ACET then niyayaya na nila ako,” she said. “Then nagbago ng coach na si Coach Roger and dun niya ako nakita.”   “Pagdating ko ng March (sa Ateneo) wala na akong way para maka-recruit pa. Ang nangyari yung tatlo accepted na kaagad. Si Gretchen tinanong ko sabi ko, ‘ano ba ang laro mo?’ Sabi niya the usual panggitna, tres,” Gorayeb recalled. “So sinubukan ko pero ang laro niya tres hindi quick. Siya panggitna pero hindi quicker na gusto ko saka yung height niya (maliit). Kaya lang si Gretchen takbo ng takbo, mahilig magtatakbo so sabi ko sige pwede na yan. Wala namang player na during that time. So kinuha ko si Gretchen.” Gorayeb just needed just one more. “Ngayon nagkaroon ng STCAA (Southern Tagalog Calabarzon athletic association) eh kulang pa ako ng isa, wala akong panggitna. Ang gitna ko during that time si Bea lang tapos si Gretchen so wala akong pamalit. So naisipan ko may nakita ako sa STCAA,” he said. He spotted a lanky player from Canossa Academy-Lipa, Aillysse Nacachi. “Sabi ko kay Sir Tony pagtyagaan ko na lang ito kahit hindi naman kalakasan at wala naman na rin akong choice na makapili kasi rush ang pagdating ko dyan. Nakiusap lang sila sa akin na magbuo ako ng team kasi si Ronald nag-resign,” said Gorayeb. Another freshman could’ve had ended up with Ateneo, Hope’s libero Melissa Gohing. But a few obstacles prevented her from fulfilling her promise to join Ferrer in Ateneo. She instead chose to join the ladies in green and white in Taft.    SOMETHING PROMISING December 7, 2008. Far Eastern University Gym. Excitement filled the air. Fans, mostly volleyball purists and some who just came to support their classmates or were just curious to see a new spectacle after the basketball season ended, slowly settled in their seats for the women’s division’s second game. It was Adamson University, the previous year’s runner-up, which just visited the turf of their arch nemesis and defending champion FEU, which was led by that era’s finest and most popular volleybelle Rachel Anne Daquis. Fans wanted to see if the Lady Falcons still had the same firepower they had the previous season with the loss of top setter Janet Serafica and power hitter Sang Laguilles. A rookie-laden Ateneo squad should be easy pickings with Angela Benting, rookie Pau Soriano and libero Lizlee Anne Gata in the roster. Besides the Lady Falcons got the Lady Eagles’ number. Or so they thought. “Naalala ko nu’ng time namin sinasabi sa amin ng seniors namin na, ‘Hay naku ang lakas ng Adamson, never kami nanalo dyan,’” Cainglet, now happily married to film director Lino Cayetano and with three beautiful children, recalled.  But the Lady Eagles stunned Adamson in the opening set. The Lady Falcons took the next two frames. Ateneo stole the fourth.  “Ako naalala ko ano eh, parang alam namin na lahat kasi kami palaban. Nasa amin yun. Tapos binigyan kaming lahat ng chance to be in the first six so parang dream come true,” said Ho, now an ABS-CBN host. “Naalala ko rin na palaban kaming lahat kumbaga nothing to lose eh so ang ano namin, sumasabay kami sa laro and nu’ng nakita na namin na ‘Ay kaya pala natin ‘to guys. Kaya pala naming lumaban.’” Still, Adamson had the upper hand in experience. The Lady Falcons, used to pressure and were steady at crunch time, outlasted Ateneo.           The young Katipunan-based squad fell short, 25-22, 22-25, 15-25, 25-15, 8-15. But for the Fab 5, it was a loss that felt like a resounding victory. “Parang sobrang natutuwa kami and everybody in the crowd, kaya siguro kami natawag na Fab 5 kasi rookies kami pero kahit ganoon palaban kami,” said Ho. “Saka close game. Five sets yun.” However, it was the first of five five-set matches that Ateneo will drop that season including one in the second round against the Manilla Santos-bannered De La Salle University. “Pero ang problema di kami nananalo ng five sets. Parang ilan lang ang naipanalo namin na ganoon. Feeling ko na-overwhelm kami na ‘Uy nananalo tayo.’ May ganoong disbelief ng konti pero alam namin na may ibubuga kami,” said Ho. “Definitely, our rookie season was full of five-set matches. It was tough, we felt like we were so close, but still so far away. At some point, it gave us frustration also. We just couldn't figure out that time what is it that's still lacking because we couldn't win the five-set matches,” according to Nacachi. “People said, it was because the team was still so inexperienced. We still didn't have the tenacity unlike of those more matured teams. But we didn't take it as bad, it was a learning experience for us all at the end. We had to learn how to develop that finishing will to be able to win games like that in the future.” The Fab 5 finished their rookie season with a 6-8 slate at fifth spot.   ‘MAY MEDAL NA TAYO’ Gorayeb remembered on their second year the look on Pascual’s face in their last elimination game match against Adamson. Already wrapping up their first win over the Lady Falcons, Pascual was giddy. “Natatawa nga ako dyan kay Bea kasi papanalo na kami nu’n tapos sumesenyas na siya ng tres. Sabi ko, ‘Hoy anong ginagawa mo?’ Yun pala sobrang saya na niya kasi for the first time in 30 years magkaka-medal na sila,” he said. It was the most important match of the season for the Lady Eagles. With the Fab 5 already in their sophomore year, Ateneo was already making great strides. The Lady Eagles closed that season’s elims with five straight wins capped with a victory over Adamson. Ateneo posted a 10-4 win-loss mark to enter the Final Four legitimately. “Ang nangyari kasi nu’ng time nila Charo (Soriano) kaya sila nakapasok sa semis kasi may nag-squeal na si (Jacq) Alarca di pala naka-enroll nu’n kaya na-forfeit mga laro ng La Salle,” said Gorayeb. The Fab 5 proved that they were not just a bunch of much-hyped up pretty faces. They backed it up with their skills on court. It didn’t matter that Ateneo were swept by eventual champion University of Sto. Tomas in the Final Four.      But the podium finish of Season 72 was short-lived. Adamson got its revenge in the last game of Season 73 elims, bumping off the Lady Eagles in the podium finish. The loss put Ateneo in a collision course with the twice-to-beat DLSU, who could’ve completed an elims sweep if not only for a forfeited match against University of the East after UAAP found out that Carmela Garbin and Clarisse Yeung participated in a ‘ligang labas’ while the season was onoing, in the Final Four. Ateneo gave the Lady Spikers a scare before succumbing in another heartbreaking five-set match. The Lady Eagles finished fourth but that lone semis game gave Ateneo and its maturing Fab 5 enough experience to dream for something big – A ticket into the Finals.      ‘HINOG NA KAYO’ The first three years saw the gradual improvement for Ateneo. But Season 74 proved to be the turning point for the Fab 5. A fresh new recruit from University of Sto. Tomas high school, who just completed a year of residency, came into picture and with the Fab 5 armed with years of experience, the Lady Eagles’ fate will forever be changed. Alyssa Valdez, a highly recruited open spiker just like Gervacio, Cainglet-Cayetano and Ferrer years back, gave renewed excitement for the Ateneo faithful. “Alyssa's joining with Ateneo was a great turning point for us. We needed as much support we can get, and Alyssa's entrance to the team was a great boost to the team's morale,” said Nacachi. “The girl is a powerhouse and we felt like with her presence, the team finally became solid.” “We were able to play around with the positions and the rotations, since we had different versatile open players who can also greatly play other roles,” she added. “We were also able to formulate a lot of plays and attacks because Alyssa can generally do all kinds; open, running, quick, name it all. She gave the team the power and the versatility that we previously lacked from the past seasons.” Social media was just gaining traction then but the Lady Eagles were already on the radar of volleyball purists through online forums. For the first time, Ateneo was considered a legitimate contender.   The Fab 5 proved it by winning 11 games in the elimination round, losing only to UST once and dropping two against the Lady Spikers. Valdez’s arrival gave Ferrer an even broader option on offense. It eased the scoring load off the shoulders of Cainglet and Gervacio, who was then moved to an opposite position. “I guess sakto lang din yung dating niya because by that time Kara Acevedo graduated so someone had to fill in her spot so coach Roger decided for me to move to utility or opposite,” said Gervacio. “And then sakto Alyssa naman could fill in the spot na other open spiker.” “So timing din na we had all the pieces put together at the right time,” she added. With a good performance in the elims despite missing a legit middle in Bea Pascual and the entry of Aerieal Patnongon barred by academic problems, Ateneo finished second and for the first-time was armed with a twice-to-beat advantage in the stepladder semifinals. The Lady Eagles faced an experienced Tigresses side in the last stepladder semis stage. UST just came from a hard-fought four-set do-or-die match against FEU and were banking on their four-set win over Ateneo in the second round to force another sudden death. Ateneo’s date with destiny was sealed with a four-set win over the Tigresses, who then bid goodbye to Maika Ortiz and Judy Anne Caballejo. “Pinu-push na rin kami ni Coach Roger noon eh, ‘Hinog na kayo ngayon. Kasi dalawang taon na lang, kailangan makapasok na kayo sa Finals,’” said Ho. “Somehow senior na rin kami,” added Cainglet.  “Season 74 was really the target season for us to be in the finals and target even to win the championship,” according to Nacachi. “During this time, we were already thinking we could not afford to not go in the finals.” “So it was with our mindset and our level of commitment that we were able to finally reach our goal of reaching the finals,” she added. “We had enough experience that time already, and it was really time for us to show the level of game maturity the team had obtained from the past seasons.” But then they had to face an unbeaten team. Unscathed in 14 games, De La Salle University was poised to complete a perfect season. The Lady Eagles spoiled it. Ferrer outplayed DLSU setter Mika Esperanza, 57-42, in excellent sets as Ateneo handed the Lady Spikers its first loss after 25 straight victories in a come-from-behind 23-25, 28-26, 25-23, 25-17, Finals opener win. Witnessed by 3,002 spectators inside the then The Arena in San Juan, all of the Fab 5 produced points. Cainglet had 19 behind Valdez’s 24, Gervacio scored 12, Ho had 10, Nacachi finished with five while Ferrer had one. Gorayeb made a big gambit and it worked. “Dahil sa wala kong panggitna, yung laro namin ng La Salle, ginawa kong quicker si Alyssa. Kasi si Alyssa nakakapalo. Nagulat si Ramil (de Jesus) dun.” It was a big win. A huge upset. Unfortunately, Ateneo needed to win two more.  DLSU held a thrice-to-beat advantage.   THAT SWAG After Ateneo made a miracle in Game One, fans began to feel a new rivalry born. The attendance spiked. From just 3,000 spectators, the gate attendance more than doubled its size. The interest was there. Fans of traditional powers began to notice the Lady Eagles as a rising team. For the first time, a squad with no previous championship experience except for a title during the Marcos era in a different collegiate league, made a giant jolt. Everybody wanted to see what these girls would do next.    The Lady Eagles, still high on adrenaline after their Game 1 upset, took the opening set in Game 2. But just like in their opener, a well-experienced DLSU squad adjusted to take the next three frames to move a step closer to a repeat crown. With then Rookie of the Year Ara Galang, Season Most Valuable Player Aby Marano, an intimidating Michele Gumabao and a very efficient Finals MVP Cha Cruz teaming up for the kill, the Lady Spikers ripped Ateneo apart in Game 3 in straight sets, 25-16, 25-22, 25-13. “Sabi nga ni Dzi na nadyan na lahat eh. So I guess noong Season 74 nandoon na pero may kulang pa rin,” said Ho. “I guess we we’re able to make it to the Finals pero wala pa kaming championship experience.” Ferrer agreed. "Siguro ang kulang yung championship experience kasi nasa La Salle na ‘yun eh. Ilang years na silang nagpa-finals, nag-champion and for Ateneo doon pa lang namin sinimulan," said the three-time Best Setter. Lacking championship experience is one thing, but Ateneo during that time wasn’t ready for DLSU’s most feared weapon: the Lady Spikers’ swag.  “They have that swag,” said Gervacio. “Everyone knows about it naman. It’s really coach Ramil’s style talaga kasi as I remember when we were first year, four out of six of the players inside the court were rookies and even if we go against the powerhouses UST, FEU, Adamson, hindi sila yung nakikita nyo na kapag championship na rivalry, na swag, angas, stare down. Pero La Salle talaga kahit sino ang kalaban nila they’ll bring that attitude inside the court.” That Finals series cemented a new rivalry that will become one of the most celebrated in the sport. “I think it also helped that Ateneo-La Salle basketball didn’t face also,” said Gervacio. “Siyempre nandoon ang hunger for the rivalry eh and timely din na its been Ateneo-La Salle na rin sa volleyball.”   CLOSING A CHAPTER The Fab 5 were now in their fifth and last year. They wanted to leave a winning legacy. The pieces were already there. Gorayeb had at his disposal five seniors, a rising star in Valdez, a sophomore middle in Amy Ahomiro, a versatile Ella De Jesus, a steady libero in Denden Lazaro and a new kind of weapon – a massive crowd that can turn any venue into a sea of blue.              As expected, the second installment of the Ateneo-DLSU rivalry was set into place. Both sweeping their semis opponents. The Lady Spikers crushed National University while the Lady Eagles shot down Adamson. Game One was a shocker. DLSU heading into the Finals are on a 14-game roll but were stunned in the first two sets with Ateneo stepping on the gas. But a string of miscues, mostly from the service line, did the Lady Eagles in as they allowed the Lady Spikers to force a decider. DLSU, smelling blood, punished Ateneo to eke out a 20-25, 17-25, 25-22, 25-22, 15-6, victory inside the Big Dome witnesses by 17,342-strong gate attendance. Then the series transferred to a newly-built, state-of-the-art Mall of Asia Arena that drew a crowd of 18,799. The first two frames were frustrating for the Lady Eagles.   Ateneo came back to life in the third set to gain a 9-5 lead. But DLSU easily erased it with Ateneo crumbling under pressure. The Lady Spikers were on an onslaught. Sophomore Galang pushed DLSU at matchpoint with a cold-blooded ace that went in a few inches from the baseline. The score, 24-16. It was a tense moment for the Fab 5. A long rally ensued in the next play. Gervacio, with all her might pounded a kill. Her hand making a great contact on the ball off Ferrer’s backset.     Smack! The ball ricocheted off the hands of DLSU’s Wensh Tiu before falling on the same landing area of Gervacio, who tried to dive for a dig together with Lazaro. DLSU swept Ateneo, 25-23, 25-20, 25-16. Game over.          “Kahit hindi kami nanalo alam naming ibinigay namin ang lahat namin, all-out talaga kaya wala kaming pagsisisi,” said Ho. It was the end of the Fab 5 era, but they left more than what any of them could have imagined. "I remember so many people or fans telling me that they started really watching UAAP Volleyball because of our batch. And that is really touching and fulfilling to know. Knowing that you were able to leave an impact like that to people. We were not able to bring even a single championship to our school, Ateneo, but we were able to touch a lot of people's hearts despite that," Nacachi shared. The Fab 5 closed a colorful chapter of Ateneo volleyball in tears. They were there during the Lady Eagles’ birth pains. They labored. They shed tears, blood and sweat. They laid the foundation for something big. The Fab 5 planted the seeds that would eventually bear fruit and would change the course of Ateneo women’s volleyball program forever. Glory didn’t happen during their time. It started in theirs.    Amidst the roar of the crowd, the falling confetti, banging of drums and the echoing chant of ‘Animo La Salle’ from the sea of green, the Fab 5 hugged each other tight. They found comfort in each other. It was their time to say goodbye. For those who remained – Valdez, Lazaro, Ahomiro, De Jesus – the defeat added fuel to their already blazing desire to bring glory for the blue and white. They were the next in line, heirs to unfinished business. WATCH: FAB 5 Reunion Part 1 and Part 2 --- Follow this writer on Twitter, @fromtheriles.....»»

Category: sportsSource:  abscbnRelated NewsApr 20th, 2018

Karl-Anthony Towns hoping to find rhythm in Game 2

By Sekou Smith, NBA.com HOUSTON -- Like any good movie or television show, the second viewing always provides a different perspective you might have missed the first time around. The same goes for the playoff debut of Minnesota Timberwolves All-Star center Karl-Anthony Towns. Timberwolves coach Tom Thibodeau had one view in the immediate aftermath of the Timberwolves’ Game 1 loss to the Houston Rockets Sunday night (Monday, PHL time), when Towns struggled in his playoff debut, scoring just eight points on 3-for-9 shooting, well below his season average of 21.3 points. Thibodeau said his big man had to be more active to deal with he swarming and double-teaming defense the Rockets threw at him. But that uncharacteristic performance -- Towns was held to fewer than eight points just twice in the regular season -- looked much different after a thorough study of the film. “After watching the film I thought he made a lot of good plays,” Thibodeau said after the Timberwolves wrapped up practice Tuesday (Wednesday, PHL time) at Rice University. “We’ve had a hard time guarding them in the regular season and there’s still a lot of things we have to do better. But offensively, I thought he made good plays. I think he understands what he has to do, he’ll be fine.” The Timberwolves need Towns to be better than just “fine” in Game 2 Wednesday (Thursday, PHL time), particularly if his Rockets counterpart, Clint Capela (24 points, 12 rebounds and three blocks in Game 1) continues to play at a high level in this series. Towns clearly didn’t take offense to Thibodeau’s initial review of his performance, agreeing with his coach after Game 1 that he’s “got to be better on both sides of the basketball.” But he reiterated several times Tuesday (Wednesday, PHL time) that his objective is to stick with the game plan rather than getting caught up in any game inside the game, just to satisfy someone else’s expectations of what a player of his considerable talents should be able to do in this setting. He did, however, acknowledge the strategic differences between the regular season and postseason atmosphere, and he’ll be sure to adjust accordingly. “I felt good out there, and I never take anything too high or too low. I always stay even-keeled,” he said. “It felt to me like a regular game, but it’s more about playing chess this time, you know. It’s not about playing checkers, it’s about playing chess. And it’s a game about who is the more disciplined team, who sticks to their game plan the most and finds ways to adjust on the fly.” Those adjustments for Towns must include taking advantage of the Rockets’ endless switching on defense, situations where he ends up with a much smaller perimeter player matched up on him. He’ll need to be more aggressive offensively, even if it requires a slight tweak to the game plan he mentioned repeatedly Tuesday (Wednesday, PHL time). “You’ve got to do it when the game seems that it can be taken, or when its getting out of hand,” Town said. “I have to do a better job of assessing the situations and adjusting on the fly quicker, especially in the playoffs.” It helps that the Timberwolves were within striking distance at the end on a night when they didn’t get the best out of Towns. The same way the Rockets don’t expect to struggle through another 10-for-37 shooting performance from beyond the three-point line or for their superstar point guard Chris Paul to turn the ball over the way he did, the Timberwolves don’t foresee another subpar performance from one of the league’s elite big men. “Just makes us more hungry, more confident,” Towns said. “We felt we played well, but we made some mistakes here and there and it ended up costing us in the end. But if we can tweak things here and there, I think we can be something really special and we could possibly win the series.” As for any suggestions that he needs to be more of a priority, as suggested by TNT analyst Charles Barkley after the game, Towns and his teammates were careful to sidestep any outside influence on the situation. Jimmy Butler issued a quick, “nope,” when asked for a response and ended his media obligation immediately after that. Towns took a more nuanced approach. “I mean, we almost won the game,” he said. “So you’ve got to take it as its given. You’ve got to go with the flow of the game. It’s about following the game plan. We went with the flow of the game, had ourselves a great chance to win at the end. We were up with six minutes left, so our game plans were working. We cost ourselves as players, not as coaches, late in the game not getting some stops and James [Harden] making some tough shots. You can’t control that. It’s just great defense and better offense. “It happens sometimes like that, it doesn't matter when it is. It doesn’t matter if it’s game one or game 82, playoffs or whatever. Sometimes the basketball gods don’t play in your favor that night. I think we did everything we could in that game to put ourselves in a position to win and that’s all you can ask for at the end of the day.” Well, that and maybe for the focus to shift just a little bit more on the best big man on the floor. Sekou Smith is a veteran NBA reporter and NBA TV analyst. You can e-mail him here, find his archive here and follow him on Twitter. The views on this page do not necessarily reflect the views of the NBA, its clubs or Turner Broadcasting......»»

Category: sportsSource:  abscbnRelated NewsApr 18th, 2018