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Raptors dominate without super performance from Kawhi

By John Schuhmann, NBA.com TORONTO -- Toronto Raptors coach Nick Nurse didn't believe his team needed another huge performance from Kawhi Leonard to win Game 5 of of his team's Eastern Conference semifinals series against the Philadelphia 76ers. The Raptors were 17-5 without Leonard in the regular season. Kyle Lowry is an All-Star, Pascal Siakam is the next big thing, and the Raptors' go eight deep with capable NBA players with postseason experience. But that 17-5 record without Leonard broke down to 13-0 against non-playoff teams and 4-5 against playoff teams. And in this series, Leonard simply wasn't getting a lot of help. His 68 points over Games 2 and 3 weren't enough, and the Raptors needed every bit of his 39 to win Game 4 in Philadelphia on Sunday (Monday, PHL time) and essentially keep their season alive. The guy was averaging 38 points on 62 percent shooting, and they were a possession or two from being down 3-1. [Watch the Playoffs on NBA League Pass for 30% less with this limited time offer! Select Annual package and use code SAVE30 at checkout to redeem] So yeah, to have Leonard come back down to earth somewhat and still get a blowout, 125-89 victory on Tuesday (Wednesday, PHL time) to take a 3-2 series lead? It was somewhat comforting, as you might imagine. "It was good to prove it a little bit in the playoffs," Nurse said of winning without a superhuman performance from Leonard. "I don't know if 'relief' is the right word, but it's nice to see other guys pick it up." "We needed this type of game where everyone played well," Lowry added. "I don't think we had a game like this in a while. We've still got another level that I think we can play at offensively and defensively. But it was a good team win. We needed that type of win just for our team." Leonard began the game by stripping Ben Simmons on Philly's first two possessions. He had two spectacular dunks, one over multiple Sixers at the end of the first half and another on Joel Embiid's head in the third quarter. He scored 21 points, grabbed 13 rebounds and dished out four assists. But he missed more than half of his shots for just the second time in 10 postseason games, and he did not need to carry his team like he did through the first four games of this series. He was more of a "normal" All-Star than the relentless machine that was shooting a seemingly unsustainable 57 percent from outside the paint prior to Tuesday (Wednesday, PHL time). With Leonard missing his first four shots of Game 4, the Raptors were in a little bit of a hole. The Sixers scored on nine straight possessions and led by seven midway through the first quarter. But after the last of those nine straight Philly scores, Lowry took the inbounds pass, pushed the ball up the floor, and drew a foul on Greg Monroe. On the next possession, Lowry stripped Monroe, leading to a fast break where Leonard found Siakam for a corner three. Two possessions later, a Lowry/Siakam pick-and-pop resulted in another Siakam three-pointer that tied the game. Two possessions after that, Siakam tipped out a Leonard miss and Norman Powell fed Fred VanVleet, who had missed 12 straight shots in the series, for a triple that put the Raptors up four. It was a 12-1 run that gave the Raptors the lead for good, and Leonard was just a cog in the machine, instead of being the entire machine himself. Leonard shot 7-for-16 and missed all four of his three-point attempts. But every other Raptors shot with the confidence that he had earlier in the series. Long gone was the hesitancy which plagued them in Game 3. And Nurse believes his team started to find itself in Game 4, when the Raptors got just enough support from Lowry, Marc Gasol and Serge Ibaka to even the series. "I thought I sensed a little bit better rhythm the other night," Nurse said. "There's three things: You gotta get your feet ready, you gotta get your hands ready, and you gotta between your ears ready to know you're going to pull the trigger and know that you're going to do it. I thought it showed the other night that we were a little bit less hesitant and that again puts you in rhythm." Earlier in this series, ball movement wasn't necessarily a good thing for the Raptors, because Leonard was scoring more efficiently by calling his own number than his teammates were when he was forced to give up the ball. But his off-the-dribble efficiency was bound to regress, and the tide may have turned in regard to his teammates' ability to support him. For the first time in this postseason, six different Raptors scored in double figures in Game 5. The seven rotation players not named Leonard shot 14-for-32 (44 percent) from three-point range. "I think the version of us you saw tonight is probably the best version and a little bit more balanced," VanVleet said. "[Leonard] did a great job of spreading it around a little bit. They showed some more bodies, as you would expect for a guy averaging 40. They were sending more bodies at him and he was moving it pretty well. That was good for us." The Raptors certainly benefited from another sluggish performance from Embiid, who was still suffering from the illness that slowed him down in Game 4. If possible, he looked even more disengaged on Tuesday (Wednesday, PHL time), scoring just 13 points on 5-for-10 shooting and turning the ball over eight times. Embiid couldn't put the ball on the floor without losing control of it, and he didn't have the energy to get in the post, too often settling for three-point attempts that the Raptors were happy to have him shoot. But the Raptors had a lot to do with the Sixers scoring just 73 points on 80 possessions before garbage time set in. They cut off Ben Simmons' drives to the basket, crowded the Sixers in the paint, and were more active on the perimeter, picking up 12 steals. Some of that improved offensive rhythm was a product of what has been the No. 1-ranked defense in the postseason. So after Game 5, there was no "Kyle Lowry struggles to score in the playoffs" narrative. There was no wondering if the Sixers were just too big for VanVleet or if Gasol needed to be more aggressive. There was just a return to what the Raptors had been for most of this season, which is a lot more than a one-man show. "We're a team," Siakam said. "All year, that's what we've done. Even times when Kawhi didn't play, we always came together. "Kawhi's an amazing player. And when there's nights where he's going the way he's going, and he's scoring 40, and shooting fadeaways, and making all those shots, it's kind of amazing to see. But at the same time, we know we're a team, and we always have each other's back. And at the end of the day, we have to keep playing." One more win and they'll keep playing into the conference finals. John Schuhmann is a senior stats analyst for NBA.com. You can e-mail him here, find his archive here and follow him on Twitter. The views on this page do not necessarily reflect the views of the NBA, its clubs or Turner Broadcasting......»»

Category: sportsSource:  abscbnRelated NewsMay 8th, 2019

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Category: newsSource:  philippinetimesRelated NewsMay 25th, 2019

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'ChalkLovesJulia: Julia Barretto Shares How She Ultimately Found Her Peace

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Category: lifestyleSource:  abscbnRelated NewsMay 24th, 2019

Kawhi Leonard s improved playmaking has Raptors on cusp of Finals

By John Schuhmann, NBA.com MILWAUKEE -- At some point in the regular season, Toronto Raptors coach Nick Nurse had a feeling that his team's best player would be even better in the playoffs. "He seemed to cruise to 30 points a lot of nights," Nurse said of Kawhi Leonard. "Thirty is a lot in this league, and that's why I kept saying, 'Geez, it just feels like there's another gear here with this guy that we're going to see.'" [Watch the Playoffs on NBA League Pass for 30% less with this limited time offer! Select Annual package and use code SAVE30 at checkout to redeem] Leonard acknowledged as much in early March. "There's 82 games and for me, these are just practices," he said, "and playoffs is when it's time to lace them up." Nurse's reaction when he heard that? "Now we're talking." Indeed, Leonard has taken things to another level in this postseason, playing big minutes, making huge shots, and defending at an elite level. But Game 5 of the Eastern Conference finals brought something new. Leonard scored 35 points in the biggest win in Toronto Raptors franchise history, a 105-99 victory over the Milwaukee Bucks that gave the two-seed a 3-2 series lead with Game 6 in Toronto on Saturday (Sunday, PHL time). Fifteen of those 35 points, including two huge step-back three-pointers over the seven-foot-tall Brook Lopez, came in the fourth quarter. That wasn't the new part. This was Leonard's seventh game of 35 or more points in this postseason. And you might recall a couple of big fourth-quarter shots over a seven-footer in the last series. Leonard also played smothering defense on Giannis Antetokounmpo. That wasn't new either. Since Game 3, Leonard, with plenty of help from his teammates, has made the presumed MVP look somewhat mortal. The new part was the number "9" in the assists column. In 570 career games (regular season and playoffs combined) prior to Thursday, Leonard had never recorded as many as nine assists. That he did it in Game 5 of the Eastern Conference finals on the road and against the league's No. 1 defense says a lot about Leonard as a big-game star. That, given his star status, he had never had nine assists before just as much about his history as a playmaker. Leonard may be the most complete player in the game right now, but his passing can still get better. It doesn't come naturally to him. In regard to making his teammates better, Leonard is certainly not LeBron James. And you can even say that Antetokounmpo, still emerging as a superstar himself, has been better at reading the defense and finding open shooters. In the regular season, Leonard recorded assists on just 12.2 percent of his possessions, the fifth lowest rate among 35 players with a usage rate of 25 percent or higher. And his assist rate has actually been lower (11.7 percent) in the playoffs. But over the last two series, Leonard has been the focus of the Philadelphia and Milwaukee defenses. At times, he has tried to score through multiple defenders. And often, because his teammates weren't willing or able to do much offensively themselves and because he was scoring so efficiently, he was probably right to force things. Leonard forced little on Thursday (Friday, PHL time). He drove into the teeth of the Bucks' defense, saw where the help was coming from, and made the right play. "We keep stressing that in this series and in the last series, too," Nurse said. "When you've drawn two, you've done your job. You've got to find the guy who's open." And on the 22 possessions in which he drove, the Raptors scored 29 points, 10 from Leonard himself and 19 from his teammates. "Pretty much try to stay with a consistent mindset throughout the whole game," Leonard said of his performance. "Just trying to read the defense throughout the entire game, see what's working." It was all working, whether it was Leonard calling his own number or making plays for others. And it certainly helps that the others have seemingly found their mojo. Fred VanVleet, who shot 6-for-42 over a nine-game stretch from Game 2 of the conference semis through Game 3 of this series, is a 63 percent shooter (10-for-12 from three-point range) when he has more than one child. All of Leonard's nine assists in Game 5 were on three-pointers - so he accounted for 62 (59 percent) of the Raptors' 105 points via his own points and assists - and four of them were to the dad who hasn't slept much since Fred Jr. was born on Monday. "Any time he chooses to get the rest of us involved," VanVleet said of Leonard, "it's going to bode well for our offense. The rest of us just got to be ready to step up and knock them down." VanVleet had both the biggest shot of the night - a three from the right wing off a Leonard kick-out that broke a 93-93 tie with 2:19 to go - and the quote of the night when asked about his formula for success: "Zero sleep, have a lot of babies, and go out there and let loose." The Raptors' offense has been the biggest key to this series, because Toronto's defense, when it has been set, has been tremendous. They've kept Antetokounmpo from getting all the way to the basket, and they've been able to recover out to and contest the Bucks' shooters. While the Raptors scored 1.32 points per possession when Leonard drove in Game 5, the Bucks scored at a rate less than half of that (0.57, 12 points on 21 possessions) when Antetokounmpo drove. "We've got to play good offense," Nurse said, "not turn it over and score the basketball, because if you don't, they're getting what they want, which is downhill basketball in a hurry. If we can score it, if we can take care of it, we can get our defense set up, for the most part we get down and guard them and make the shots a lot tougher." Just six days ago, the Raptors were a possession away from falling into an 0-3 hole, one that no team in NBA history has ever come back from. Now, they've won three straight games against the team that hadn't lost three straight all season. After scoring less than a point per possession over the first two games of this series, the Raptors have scored 110.3 per 100 over the last three. The defense feeds off of the offense. And the offense feeds off of the star that keeps taking things to a new level. "I'm not afraid of the moment," Leonard said. "I enjoy it." The Kawhi Leonard that we saw in Games 1-4 against Philadelphia (when he averaged 38.0 points on 62 percent shooting) was a preposterously efficient scorer, good enough to keep his team even in the second round. The Kawhi Leonard that we saw on Thursday (Friday, PHL time) has his team playing even better ... and just one win from the NBA Finals. John Schuhmann is a senior stats analyst for NBA.com. You can e-mail him here, find his archive here and follow him on Twitter. The views on this page do not necessarily reflect the views of the NBA, its clubs or Turner Broadcasting......»»

Category: sportsSource:  abscbnRelated NewsMay 24th, 2019

F1 eyes may have opened after Alonso s Indy 500 flop

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

Category: sportsSource:  abscbnRelated NewsMay 24th, 2019

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Category: newsSource:  inquirerRelated NewsMay 23rd, 2019

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Category: newsSource:  philippinetimesRelated NewsMay 23rd, 2019

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Category: newsSource:  inquirerRelated NewsMay 22nd, 2019

UAAP 81 Volleyball: Everything was worth the wait for Deanna Wong

Deanna Wong can now call herself a UAAP champion.  The fourth-year playmaker helped the Ateneo Lady Eagles to their first UAAP Women's Volleyball Championship since Season 77 with a 2-1 Finals Series win over the very game University of Santo Tomas Golden Tigresses, led by season MVP Sisi Rondina.  The championship capped off an impressive season for the Lady Eagles, but it was not without its hurdles, as they found themselves in three do-or-die matches throughout course of the semifinals and the finals.  But of course, the victory is made sweeter because of the challenges along the way, and for Wong, the championship made the last four years of hard work and sacrifice all worth it.  "Everything is worth the wait lang talaga," Wong told ABS-CBN Sports. "This has been a very long and very hard journey for me, personally." Wong became Ateneo's lead setter in UAAP Season 80, following the departure of two-time champion and former Best Setter Jia Morado after Season 79.  [RELATED: Morado sees Wong as Lady Eagles' leader in Season 82] While her first season as the Lady Eagles' primary playmaker ended in heartbreak after getting booted out in the semifinals by FEU, Wong and Ateneo bounced back with a vengeance in Season 81, finishing the the best record in the league and ultimately, the title.  "Sa dami ng pinagdaanan ko, sobrang hirap, mahirap talaga, and I think, sobrang overwhelming lang and nakuha namin yung goal namin, and it was my first championship in the UAAP, it’s really great," she continued.  Now, even days after helping steer the Lady Eagles back to the summit of UAAP Women's Volleyball, Wong admits that it has yet to sink in.   "Parang hindi ko parin mapaniwalaan eh, kasi after four years of being in college, ngayon ko lang naranasan talaga," Wong said with a wide smile on her face. .....»»

Category: sportsSource:  abscbnRelated NewsMay 22nd, 2019

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