Advertisements


IN NUMBERS: Golden State Warriors vs Houston Rockets

MANILA, Philippines – The two best teams in the NBA's Western Conference are on a collision course for Game 1 of the Conference Finals on Tuesday morning, May 15, Manila time. The first-seeded Houston Rockets are set to defend their home court against the fully-healthy defending champion Golden State Warriors. Here are ........»»

Category: newsSource: rappler rapplerMay 14th, 2018

Threeforall: Bucks become latest team to set a 3-point mark

By Tim Reynolds, Associated Press The best 3-point shooter who ever lived, at least in terms of volume, is Ray Allen. Boston used to have him. Milwaukee used to have him. And he doesn’t figure into either franchise’s greatest single-game 3-point barrage. With NBA records being set from 3-point range this season — Golden State’s Klay Thompson has already busted the mark for 3s in a game with 14, one more than the standard his fellow Warriors sharpshooter Stephen Curry established in 2016, the league is well on its way to making more shots from beyond the arc than ever before. The record, set last season, is 25,807. The NBA is on pace this season to make about 27,300 shots from 3-point land. Now, not even three full weeks into this season, five teams have broken their own franchise record for 3s in a game. The most recent entry into that club was Milwaukee, which connected on 22 3s — on 56 tries, as opposed to 39 from inside the arc — in its 144-109 win over Sacramento on Sunday (Monday, PHL time). The Bucks used 13 players, with everyone trying at least one shot from 3-point range and 11 connecting on at least one triple. It was the second time this season the Bucks tried more 3s than 2s. Number of times in Bucks history that happened before this season? Zero. “We’ll just hopefully keep pushing that record, whatever it is,” Bucks coach Mike Budenholzer said. “See if we can get more. ... Good for us to know that we’re pushing that envelope and we want to be great behind that 3-point line.” The Bucks aren’t alone in their quest for 3-point greatness. Boston, which has had 3-point stars like Larry Bird, Paul Pierce, Antoine Walker and Allen in its rich history, made a team-record 24 3-pointers last week against the Bucks. The Celtics came into this season with 19 3s in a game being their franchise mark; they’ve made 19 or more twice already this season. “We took what the defense gave us,” Celtics coach Brad Stevens said after the barrage of 24 3s. Fueled by Thompson’s 14 3s in Chicago, the Warriors set a team record that night with 24 makes from deep. Atlanta set a team mark with 22 3-pointers against Cleveland, and Utah connected on its record of 19 in a loss to Golden State. “This is the NBA right now,” Miami coach Erik Spoelstra said. Curry is shooting more 3s per game than ever, making more 3s per game than ever — and doing it more accurately than ever. He’s already made 59 3s through the Warriors’ first 10 games, and is shooting 51 percent from deep. Curry is fifth all-time in 3-pointers made with 2,188. Allen is the record-holder with 2,973, a mark Curry is on pace to get in about two years. MUST GET 100 In this NBA, if a team doesn’t score 100 points, they’re not winning. Then again, getting to 100 doesn’t guarantee anything either. Teams that score 100 points or more are 134-99 this season, meaning they win 57.5 percent of the time. Those who don’t score 100 are 5-40, or winning 11.1 percent of the time. That’s a big change from recent years. Last season, teams over 100 won 62.2 percent of the time, and teams that didn’t score 100 won 20.8 percent of the time. A decade ago, those scoring 100 won at a 69.4 percent clip, and those not reaching the century mark won 30.8 percent of the time. THE WEEK AHEAD A six-pack of games to watch this week ... — Minnesota at L.A. Clippers, Monday (Tuesday, PHL time): Jimmy Butler had the Clippers among those on his radar when this trade saga started. — Philadelphia at Indiana, Wednesday (Thursday, PHL time): Joel Embiid’s numbers are fantastic, but Myles Turner is another great young big guy. — Milwaukee at Golden State, Thursday (Friday, PHL time): Bucks have been one of the season’s top early stories, and now get the ultimate test. — Boston at Utah, Friday (Saturday, PHL time): This will be Gordon Hayward’s 262nd time playing in Salt Lake City, and his first in a Celtics uniform. — Houston at San Antonio, Saturday (Sunday, PHL time): Spurs are 14-7 in last 21 with Rockets, and the teams play three times before Christmas. — Atlanta at L.A. Lakers, Sunday (next Monday, PHL time): Hawks rookie Kevin Huerter was LeBron James’ scrimmage teammate at a Nike camp in 2015. ON THE MOVE Now that the Tyson Chandler buyout by the Phoenix Suns has been completed, he’s expected to be on the Los Angeles Lakers’ roster later this week once he clears waivers. Portland coach Terry Stotts, who was a Dallas assistant when Chandler was with the Mavericks, said it’ll be a good move for the Lakers. “I like Tyson Chandler,” Stotts said. “Great teammate, obviously that was a few years ago but he impacts the game at the defensive end. He’s a great locker room guy. ... He’s all about winning. So, any team that has Tyson is going to be better for it.” ___ AP Sports Writer Anne M. Peterson in Portland, Oregon contributed......»»

Category: sportsSource:  abscbnRelated NewsNov 5th, 2018

No surprise, the West title still runs through the Warriors

By Tim Reynolds, Associated Press Golden State coach Steve Kerr is a happy man these days. He’s got a new contract. He’s got his son Nick, who was helping out in San Antonio, working in the Warriors’ video room now. He’s leading a team that has won three of the last four NBA championships and is the overwhelming favorite to win it again this season. Staying happy will be the challenge for Kerr and the Warriors this season, when Western Conference rivals resume their attempts to take down the champs. “Our place in the history of the league is pretty secure,” Kerr said. “I don’t think our guys should feel a ton of pressure. I think they should feel the importance of trying to do it again, because this may be the last time we have this current iteration of the Warriors, just given all the free agents and the money crunch and everything else.” LeBron James took his talents to Los Angeles, signing with the Lakers and moving out of the East for the first time in his career. Houston had the NBA’s best regular-season record a year ago and has reigning MVP James Harden. Utah has a budding superstar in Donovan Mitchell, and certainly got the league’s attention with its playoff run last season. But in the West, until further notice, it’s still the Warriors and then everybody else. “It’s a marathon,” Warriors guard Stephen Curry said. “There’s a lot of time between now and April and May and June, but if we go about it the right way to start the season, it can feed on itself in terms of the expectation we have night in, night out.” A look at the West, in predicted order of finish: PLAYOFF BOUND 1. GOLDEN STATE — Warriors aiming for their third consecutive NBA championship, something only the Lakers, Celtics and Bulls franchises have done. 2. UTAH — Donovan Mitchell is a legitimate star, coach Quin Snyder has been underrated for far too long, and the Jazz went 29-6 to finish last season. 3. HOUSTON — The Rockets have the MVP in James Harden, a leader in Chris Paul and added Carmelo Anthony, but expecting another 67-15 season is a lot. 4. L.A. LAKERS — LeBron James is still the best player in the game and shows no signs of slowing down, so doubting his chances seems less than brilliant. 5. OKLAHOMA CITY — This is a sign of how loaded the West remains: The Thunder are really good, and that won’t assure them home-court for Round 1. 6. DENVER — Losing Game 82 last season to Minnesota and missing the playoffs because of that outcome should serve as a massive motivator for Denver. 7. NEW ORLEANS — DeMarcus Cousins is gone, Rajon Rondo is gone, but Anthony Davis is still there and that should be enough for a Pelicans playoff run. 8. SAN ANTONIO — Dejounte Murray’s ACL tear is a disaster, but any team with LaMarcus Aldridge, DeMar DeRozan and Gregg Popovich still has a lot. IN THE MIX 9. PORTLAND — The West’s No. 3 seed last season, the Blazers were only three games ahead of No. 9 and will face a serious battle in a very loaded West. 10. DALLAS — Luka Doncic is NBA-ready, DeAndre Jordan will make the Mavs better and Dirk Nowitzki deserves to see his franchise trending up again. 11. L.A. CLIPPERS — A possible transitional year for the Clippers, who should be major players in free agency next summer and could add a lottery pick. FACING LONG ODDS 12. MINNESOTA — The Jimmy Butler debacle shows that some big changes in direction are probably going to happen in Minnesota, and sooner than later. 13. PHOENIX — Devin Booker got his max deal and the Suns got No. 1 pick Deandre Ayton, but firing GM Ryan McDonough so close to the season was odd. 14. MEMPHIS — Mike Conley and Marc Gasol are savvy vets, but they are going to need a lot of help if Memphis is going to seriously improve this season. 15. SACRAMENTO — Kings had a league-high 44 games last season where they didn’t score 100 points, and a very young team might not change that much. WHAT TO KNOW L.A. BRON: If he has even an average-for-him season, new Los Angeles Lakers star LeBron James will rise to No. 4 on the NBA’s all-time scoring list this season. He’s currently No. 7, with No. 6 Dirk Nowitzki, No. 5 Wilt Chamberlain and No. 4 Michael Jordan well within reach. Add 2,000 or so points to James’ total of 31,038, and only No. 3 Kobe Bryant, No. 2 Karl Malone and No. 1 Kareem Abdul-Jabbar — all former Lakers — would still be ahead of him. STEPH RISING: Speaking of rising up career charts, Golden State’s Stephen Curry could easily be No. 3 on the all-time list for 3-pointers made by the end of this season. Curry has 2,129 3s in 625 career games, a rate of 3.4 made per game. The six players ahead of him — Ray Allen, Reggie Miller, Jason Terry, Kyle Korver, Jamal Crawford and Paul Pierce — averaged 1.8 made 3s per game. BIG NUMBERS: The only players in the last 30 seasons to average 30 points and eight assists were Oklahoma City’s Russell Westbrook in 2016-17 and Houston’s James Harden last season. Probably not coincidentally, Westbrook and Harden won MVP awards for those seasons. There are seven active players with at least one MVP award in the NBA right now, and all seven play in the West. GREAT COACHES: San Antonio’s Gregg Popovich enters the season with 1,197 wins, fifth-most in NBA history — 13 behind Pat Riley and 24 behind Jerry Sloan. Meanwhile, Golden State’s Steve Kerr comes into the year with the highest winning percentages during both the regular season (265-63, .808) and the postseason (63-20, .759) in NBA history. Here’s how far ahead Kerr is on the NBA’s all-time regular season winning percentage list: If the Warriors go 24-58 this season, which seems less than likely, he would still be above Phil Jackson for the No. 1 spot. VERSUS EAST: The West beat the East for the ninth consecutive season in head-to-head matchups, winning nearly 53 percent of the cross-conference matchups in the regular season (and 100 percent of them in the NBA Finals). Over the last nine seasons, West teams have beaten East teams nearly 57 percent of the time......»»

Category: sportsSource:  abscbnRelated NewsOct 11th, 2018

DA s 2018 NBA Offseason Rankings: The Middle 10

By David Aldridge, TNT Analyst Wonder what the rental market is like in San Luis Obispo, Calif. San Luis Obispo is, give or take a few miles, one of the closest cities that is near the midway point between Los Angeles and San Francisco. Given the events of the NBA’s offseason, it’s not hare to imagine national reporters are going to be spending a lot of time in California next season, bouncing back and forth between the Bay and L.A. Catch LeBron James and the Lakers on Wednesday and then, Stephen Curry, Kevin Durant and the Warriors on Thursday. The Western Conference only got stronger and deeper with James leaving Cleveland for a second time, this time to go to the Lakers. Add four of the top five Draft picks -- including No. 1 overall selection Deandre Ayton (Phoenix Suns), No. 2 pick Marvin Bagley III (Sacramento Kings) and international phenom Luka Doncic (No. 3 pick, acquired by Dallas Mavericks) -- going to Western Conference teams, and the talent disparity between conferences only seems greater. But did Eastern Conference teams take advantage of Cleveland deflating to make their teams better? And how effective were West teams in making their teams better prepared to at least compete with the Warriors? That’s where this year’s Offseason Rankings come in -- big, bold, definitive. You love them, if the amount of hate tweets and e-mails I get after they’re published are any indication. Every year, we rank how all 30 teams have done since the end of their respective seasons. We look at everything -- how they drafted, what trades they made, what players they signed in free agency, and for how much -- or if they didn’t participate in free agency much at all. We look at if they’ve changed coaches, executives, owners, or if they’re moving into a new building that can generate big revenues. And you have to decide which ones you liked the most. Here's what these rankings ARE NOT: A predicted order of finish for next season. It's an opinion that seeks to answer a question: is the team better now than at the end of last season? The ranking reflects the belief on whether, and how much, that is so. (I liked certain guys who were in the Draft more than others, so if your team took them, I probably weighed it more positively. Doesn't mean I'm right.) I do not expect the Suns, for example, to have a better record than the Celtics, just because they had a better summer. It is not a ranking of the teams in order from 1 through 30 right now; I do not believe the Mavericks are now a better team than Rockets. This is just one person’s opinion about offseason moves -- offseason moves only. Is your team better now than it was before? - If your team is ranked in the top 10, it doesn't mean I love your team.       - If your team is ranked in the bottom 10, it doesn't mean I hate your team. It's an opinion that seeks to answer a question: is the team better now than at the end of last season? The ranking reflects the belief on whether, and how much, that is so. (I liked certain guys who were in the Draft more than others, so if your team took them, I probably weighed it more positively. Doesn't mean I'm right.) What plays into the rankings: - This isn’t science. It’s an educated guess, weighing the impact both of the Draft and free agency, but also assessing whether teams got value in their free-agent signings. Overpaying the right player is as much a sin as signing the wrong player. A good new coach can coax some more wins out of a roster. But if a team’s players don’t believe in the system their team uses, the best Xs and Os on earth don’t matter.       - Teams that are rebuilding obviously have different priorities than teams making a championship push. That's factored in. So Chicago, for example, gets credit for adding young, affordable players as it stockpiles its talent -- but that talent has to fit together, as Wendell Carter Jr. does with Lauri Markannen. And a team like the Warriors that shows it’s willing to go deep into the luxury tax -- which most teams try to avoid -- in order to keep winning has to be commended, and its rankings reflect that commendation.       - Continuity matters here as well. The most successful teams usually not only identify a core group of players, they keep them together for a while, finding that sweet spot: everyone doesn’t get a max contract, but most get paid well enough to keep the train moving down the tracks. That reflects both good roster construction and good financial management -- and, again, is rewarded. The explosion in the cap means everyone has to spend; keeping your powder dry for another day doesn’t have as much cache as it used to. But you still have to manage your money wisely. Salary numbers, with a couple of exceptions, come from Basketball Insiders, whose Eric Pincus does the best job of anyone in the game of keeping track of all the moving financial parts, quickly and accurately -- which is why we use him at NBA TV during the Draft and free agency to tell us what the hell this all means. The Middle 10 * * * 11. TORONTO RAPTORS 2017-18 RECORD: 59-23; lost in Eastern Conference semifinals ADDED: Coach Nick Nurse; G Danny Green (acquired from Spurs); F Kawhi Leonard (acquired from Spurs) LOST: Former coach Dwane Casey; G DeMar DeRozan (traded to Spurs); F Alfonzo McKinnie (waived); C Jakob Poeltl (traded to Spurs) RETAINED: G Fred VanVleet (two years, $18.1 million) THE KEY MAN: Nurse. The former Raps assistant has extensive G League head coaching experience. But the NBA isn’t just about a coach’s Xs and Os acumen. We know Nurse can do that. But an NBA coach has to have command presence in a locker room not only full of millionaires, but full of Alpha males who have their own very strong opinions on how they should be used and how their teammates should help them. Nurse will have to show he can put his own stamp on a team that will have some new faces while still having extremely high expectations. THE SKINNY: You may well think Toronto should be higher, based on Leonard’s standing as a top-five player in the league when fully healthy. No matter what you think of DeRozan, a four-time All-Star, no one can realistically say he’s better than “The Klaw” when both are 100 percent. But, of course, we don’t know if Leonard’s 100 percent. And, trading DeRozan, who’d been the franchise’s biggest advocate during his nine seasons there -- and who had led the team to its greatest extended run of success ever -- is not a transaction without consequence for the Raptors. He helped get the best out of Kyle Lowry. He could help recruit free agents. And, the circumstances of his departure have not helped the franchise’s reputation. Still, this is a talent-based league, and Leonard has it. His and Green’s presence on the perimeter gives Toronto the chance to be a switching defensive monster -- and will help the Raptors be able to match up better with the likes of the Boston Celtics and Philadelphia 76ers in a late-May playoff matchup, as long as the Raptors’ young core in which it believes so strongly continues to play as well in reserve as it did last season. 12. MILWAUKEE BUCKS 2017-18 RECORD: 44-38; lost in first round ADDED: Coach Mike Budenholzer; G Donte DiVincenzo (No. 17 pick, 2018 Draft); G Trevon Duval; F Ersan Ilyasova (three years, $21 million); C Brook Lopez (one year, $3.32 million); F Pat Connaughton (two years, $3.2 million); LOST: Former interim coach Joe Prunty; G Brandon Jennings (waived); F Jabari Parker (signed with Bulls) RETAINED: None THE KEY MAN: G Eric Bledsoe. His departure from Phoenix early last season was messy. But once he got to Brewtown, Bledsoe solidified the Bucks at the point, averaging 17.8 points and 5.1 assists per game in 71 starts. At 28, Bledsoe faces the last year of his contract and will have to show a new coach he’s capable of running things long-term and playing alongside Giannis Antetokounmpo through the meat of his prime. THE SKINNY: Budenholzer’s arrival should coincide with an improvement in the Bucks’ defense, something that former coach Jason Kidd could never quite accomplish. Ilaysova’s return for a second tour in Milwaukee should help, with his celebrated charge-taking skill and Lopez’s still-substantial size a double-boon to Milwaukee’s interior D as the Bucks were bottom 10 last season in points allowed in the paint (47.4 per game). If the paint becomes a little tougher to traverse, the Bucks should finally able to use their substantial length on the wing to get back to create deflections and turnovers, and get out in transition, where Antetokounmpo and Friends do their best work and their most damage to the opposition. They’ll do so 41 nights a year for the next couple of decades in the 17,500-seat Fiserv Forum, the Bucks’ new arena that will open in early September with a concert and should pump new revenues into the Bucks’ bloodstream, giving them more financial wherewithal to keep “The Greek Freak” surrounded with high-quality talent. 13. UTAH JAZZ 2017-18 RECORD: 48-34; lost in Western Conference semifinals ADDED: G Grayson Allen (No. 21 pick, 2018 Draft); G Jarius Lyles; G Naz Mitrou-Long LOST: F Jonas Jerebko (waived) RETAINED: G Dante Exum (three years, $33 million); F/C Derrick Favors (two years, $37.6 million), G Raul Neto (two years, $4.4 million); F Georges Niang (three years, $4.9 million) THE KEY MAN: C Rudy Gobert. He’s a monster presence, the hub of the Jazz’s defensive wheel and the reigning Kia Defensive Player of the Year. And he has to take a step back in Utah next season for the Jazz to take the next step forward. He has to understand what Utah has in Donovan Mitchell and let that kid eat. Nobody in the league can do what Gobert does defensively. So embrace that and concentrate on that -- take the Draymond Green attitude about being the “defensive guy” on a great team (not that Jazz fans want you to do anything that Green does). Gobert’s handsomely paid and the DPOY award found him in Salt Lake City; there’s no small-market bias at work here. So let Mitchell and Joe Ingles carry the shooting/scoring load, let Ricky Rubio orchestrate, and snuff out opponent dreams at the other end, night after night. It’s what you were born to do. THE SKINNY: My God, Mitchell had a great rookie season. And Utah brought most of the band back from last season to provide advice and consent for him again, re-signing Favors, Exum and Neto each on very reasonable contracts. Doing so leaves Utah over the cap, still comfortably under the tax, and with nothing on the books that should raise an eyebrow financially. (Utah’s front office should handle my checking account for a while.) Anyway, no reason to expect any backsliding next season with the crew returning, though coach Quin Snyder will surely miss the counsel of his longtime friend Igor Kokoskov, off to run the Suns. 14. ATLANTA HAWKS 2017-18 RECORD: 24-58; missed playoffs ADDED: Coach Lloyd Pierce; F Justin Anderson (acquired from 76ers); G Kevin Huerter (No. 19 pick, 2018 Draft); C Alex Len (two years, $8.5 million); G Jeremy Lin (acquired from Nets); F Omari Spellman (No. 30 pick, 2018 Draft); G Trae Young (No. 5 pick, 2018 Draft) LOST: Former coach Mike Budenholzer; G Antonius Cleveland (waived); G Damion Lee (signed with Warriors); F/C Mike Muscala (traded to 76ers); G Dennis Schröder (traded to Thunder); G Isaiah Taylor (waived) RETAINED: C Dewayne Dedmon (picked up player option) THE KEY MAN: GM Travis Schlenk. The second-year executive will be judged on how well Atlanta uses its trove of Draft picks -- three firsts this year, three firsts next year, two firsts in 2022 -- the next few years. And, ultimately, the Hawks will live or die by whether Young or Luka Doncic becomes the bigger NBA producer. Schlenk’s chances of completing the rebuild may well ride on that. THE SKINNY: The Hawks’ roster teardown is nearing completion, but the renovated Philips Arena will come online faster than the team, which now needs Young to live up to all the hype after his one season at Oklahoma. He has incredible range and great potential, but he’ll be challenged every night to stay in front of the legion of great points in this league. Pierce, the former Sixers’ assistant, is going to have a very tough time melding all the newcomers with the small core of players who survived, including John Collins, Kent Bazemore, DeAndre' Bembry and Taurean Prince. 15. LA CLIPPERS 2017-18 RECORD: 42-40; missed playoffs ADDED: C Marcin Gortat (acquired from Wizards); G Shai Gilgeous-Alexander (No. 11 pick, 2018 Draft); F Johnathan Motley (acquired from Mavericks); F Mike Scott (one year, $4.3 million); F Luc Mbah a Moute (one year, $4.3 million), G Jerome Robinson (No. 13 pick, 2018 Draft) LOST: G Austin Rivers (traded to Wizards); C DeAndre Jordan (signed with Mavs); G C.J. Williams (waived) RETAINED: G Avery Bradley (two years, $24.9  million); C Montrezl Harrell (two years, $12 million); G Wesley Johnson (picked up player option); G Milos Teodosic (picked up player option) THE KEY MAN: F Tobias Harris. He was the key tangible piece of the Blake Griffin trade last season (the intangible being the unprotected first from Detroit in the deal that eventually became Gilgeous-Alexander after a Draft night trade with Charlotte). And Harris played quite well in his 32 games with the Clips, averaging 19.3 points and six rebounds per game. Those numbers could each well go up in a contract year and with few others outside of Lou Williams on the roster that can go get their own buckets. THE SKINNY: Amazing, but true: the Clipper player with the longest current tenure is … Wesley Johnson, who came aboard in 2015. “Lob City” is in the history books and change will be the norm here for a while, including next summer, when the Clippers expect to be a free-agent destination. The Clips did what they could with that not-insignificant restriction, but the best stuff was in the Draft, winding up with a potential long-term point in Gilgeous-Alexander and a two in Robinson that rocketed up the pre-Draft charts. Bradley’s on a very team-friendly and controllable contract, as is Patrick Beverley, whose modest 2018-19 salary isn’t guaranteed until January. Those two and Mbah a Moute can give coach Doc Rivers hope that he can get some stops on the perimeter, because while Gortat is still willing defensively and still takes a bunch of charges, he is not Jordan when it comes to rim protection. 16. BROOKLYN NETS 2017-18 RECORD: 28-54; missed playoffs ADDED: F/C Ed Davis (one year, $4.4 million); F Jared Dudley (acquired from Suns); F Kenneth Faried (acquired from Nuggets); G/F Treveon Graham (two years); F Rodions Kurucs (No. 40, 2018 Draft); F Dzanan Musa (No. 29 pick, 2018 Draft); G Shabazz Napier (two years, $3.7 million) LOST: F Darrell Arthur (traded to Suns); F Dante Cunningham (signed with Spurs); C Dwight Howard (waived); G Jeremy Lin (traded to Hawks); C Timofey Mozgov (traded to Hornets); G Nik Stauskas (signed with Blazers); G Isaiah Whitehead (traded to Nuggets) RETAINED: G Joe Harris (two years, $16 million) THE KEY MAN: Co-owner Joseph Tsai. The Alibaba executive and billionaire has 49 percent of the team, and can buy majority control from Mikhail Prokhorov by 2021. Until then, they’ll run the team jointly, so no matter Prokhorov’s ups and downs, Brooklyn’s financial spigot should never run dry. Tsai reportedly has designs on expanding the Nets’ brand further in China, just as Prokhorov believed the Nets had global reach. They didn’t, at least not the post-KG and Pierce squads. THE SKINNY: If you love Ed Davis like smart people who know basketball do, Brooklyn makes the top half by bringing the ex-Blazer in on a short deal. If he plays great, he’ll cost the Nets a pretty penny in 2019, but Brooklyn has to take chances on guys who can outperform their contracts. The only thing the Nets couldn’t do was take on more ’19 salary when they’ll be in line to potentially add two max players. Won’t be easy to lure the elites, but Brooklyn also has accumulated enough assets to be able to make uneven trades for salaries if need be. In the interim comes next season, with coach Kenny Atkinson needing to continue to develop diamonds in the rough like Graham, who Cleveland wanted and who will help the Nets at multiple positions. 17. CHICAGO BULLS 2017-18 RECORD: 27-55; missed playoffs ADDED: G Antonius Cleveland; C Wendell Carter Jr. (No. 7 pick, 2018 Draft); F Chandler Hutchison (No. 22 pick, 2018 Draft); F Jabari Parker (two years, $40 million) LOST: F Jerian Grant (traded to Magic); G Sean Kilpatrick (waived); G Julyan Stone (waived); F Noah Vonleh (signed with Knicks); G Paul Zipser (waived) RETAINED: G Antonio Blakeney; G Zach LaVine (matched four year, $78 million offers sheet from Kings) THE KEY MAN: G Kris Dunn. As the 24-year-old will be every season he’s in Chicago. The Jimmy Butler trade in 2017 yielded the pick that became Lauri Markannen, and he’s also a key piece to the Bulls’ future. But Chicago won’t ever get elevation again if Dunn doesn’t become an elite point guard in a league full of them. He showed signs last season that he could be just that, most notably a December in which Dunn averaged 14.9 points and eight assists, and the Bulls went 10-6. But a concussion in January derailed Dunn’s progress and his production fell sharply the rest of the season. THE SKINNY: Can Parker play the three, as the Bulls insist he can? There isn’t a ton of evidence suggesting so, and Parker’s hypothesis that he isn’t getting paid to play defense does not provide much comfort. But the Bulls will try him there alongside Markannen and rookie Carter Jr. in what would be a huge frontcourt. Almost $20 million annually for LaVine going forward is also a stretch, but less of one if LaVine comes all the way back from his 2017 ACL tear with a full training camp and season. Carter may be more important to the Bulls’ hoped-for resurgence than Parker and LaVine; the Duke big man has that much potential. 18. WASHINGTON WIZARDS 2017-18 RECORD: 43-39; lost in first round ADDED: C Thomas Bryant; G Troy Brown (No. 15 pick, 2018 Draft); F Jeff Green (one year, $2.5 million); C Dwight Howard (two years, $11 million); G Austin Rivers (acquired from Clippers); G Issuf Sanon (No. 44 pick, 2018 Draft) LOST: C Marcin Gortat (traded to Clippers); F Mike Scott (signed with Clippers) RETAINED: G Jodie Meeks (picked up player option); C Jason Smith (picked up player option) THE KEY MAN: Coach Scott Brooks. Entering his third season in Washington, Brooks keeps saying he wants the Wizards to defend and play fast. But he has to follow that up with action, especially when and if John Wall doesn’t provide the on-ball defense Washington needs to have any chance to unleash a still-potent fast break. Wall is 27 and, if healthy, in his prime. The team takes almost all of its cues from him; when he’s locked in, the Wizards can compete with anyone. But when he’s indifferent, so are they -- as evidenced by their horrible record against bad teams. Brooks has to demand Wall’s best, or be ready to limit his minutes. THE SKINNY: NBA protocol almost demands you hate the pickup of Howard, such is his current perceived valued among many after multiple stops the last few seasons. The guess here is that Howard won’t hijack the Wizards’ locker room, as he had been accused of while in with the Houston Rockets and Charlotte Hornets, especially. Howard’s skill set can help Washington, which fell off defensively last season. But there’s also not much sense he’ll be a significant pick-me-up in D.C., either. He can’t stretch the floor and he’s not especially potent finishing in pick and roll, either. But the Wizards should at least be deeper off the bench with Green, who played well for the Cavs last season, and Rivers, who gives Washington legit guard depth along with Tomas Satoransky. 19. SACRAMENTO KINGS 2017-18 RECORD: 27-55; missed playoffs ADDED: F Nemanja Bjelica (three years, $20.4 million); C Marvin Bagley III (No. 2 pick, 2018 Draft); G Yogi Ferrell (two years, $4.1 million); G Ben McLemore (acquired from Kings); F Deyonta Davis (acquired from Grizzlies) LOST: G Garrett Temple (traded to Grizzlies) RETAINED: G Iman Shumpert (picked up player option); C Kosta Koufos (picked up player option) THE KEY MAN: F Harry Giles. The Kings traded for the one-and-done forward on Draft night 2017 and redshirted him, feeling he needed a year to fully recover from the multiple knee surgeries he’d undergone the last three years. Those surgeries stopped his top-five Draft potential in its tracks, before and after a year at Duke. But Giles is back on the floor, having flashed his skills during NBA Summer League, as Sacramento gushed about his progress. If the 20-year-old is ready to roll come October, he could be an enormous boost. He’ll have to at least become a contributor, lest folks remind the Kings they passed on the likes of Kyle Kuzma and O.G Anunoby to trade for his rights. THE SKINNY: Bagley III has superstar potential, and he better become one, or the Doncic Stans among the Kings’ fan base will have aneurysms. The Kings were all over everyone, seemingly, this summer, dropping sheets on Zach LaVine, almost doing the same with Marcus Smart and Jabari Parker, and going after unrestricted free agent Mario Hezonja. All well and good, and getting Bjelica out from under Philly and prying Ferrell from Dallas were decent late July pickups. But it will be Bagley III who’ll be under the microscope. His skill sets are prodigious and he’s been working out feverishly all summer. And he wants to make a mark in restoring the Kings to where they were on the floor during the Webber Years. He worked out for them. He’s enthusiastic about them. That counts for something. 20. HOUSTON ROCKETS 2017-18 RECORD: 65-17; lost in Western Conference finals ADDED: G Michael Carter-Williams (one year, $1.5 million); G De'Anthony Melton (No. 46 pick, 2018 Draft); F Vincent Edwards (No. 52 pick, 2018 Draft) LOST: F Trevor Ariza (signed with Suns); Luc Mbah a Moute (signed with LA Clippers); C Chinanu Onuaku (traded to Mavs) RETAINED: C Clint Capela (five years, $90 million); G/F Gerald Green (one year, $2.3 million); G Aaron Jackson (picked up team option); G Chris Paul (four years, $159 million) THE KEY MAN: Jason Biles, Joe Rogowski, Keith Jones and Javair Gillett -- the Rockets’ athletic trainers, sports performance and rehab staff. Their only mission next season, should they decide to accept it, is to get Paul through an 82-game regular season and a two-month playoff slog without breaking or pulling anything of importance that keeps him out of key games. Of course, should any of the staff be unsuccessful, the Morey will disavow any knowledge of their employment. Good luck, men. THE SKINNY: We have not yet included Carmelo Anthony, who will be signing in Houston any minute now. When he’s officially on the roster, he’ll certainly help, and we all saw that even Houston can go through extended scoring droughts in the playoffs. Having Anthony around should alleviate that. The Rockets may have had the best signing of the summer, keeping the 24-year-old Capela locked up long-term for $18 million per -- incredible value these days, given the way salaries are skyrocketing. But that was mitigated by the losses of Ariza and Mbah a Moute, who were crucial to the switching defense Houston employed and perfected by the playoffs, which threw sand in the gears of the Warriors’ impenetrable offense and would likely have propelled the Rockets to The Finals if Paul hadn’t gotten hurt in Game 5. Ennis and Carter-Williams will help some in that regard, but they don’t have the resume of Mbah a Moute and Ariza -- which means they sometimes won’t get the benefit of the doubt from refs that the old heads do. Houston’s still the clear number two to Golden State in the West, but the gap between the Rockets and the best of the rest has closed. Longtime NBA reporter, columnist and Naismith Memorial Basketball Hall of Famer David Aldridge is an analyst for TNT. You can e-mail him here, find his archive here and follow him on Twitter. The views on this page do not necessarily reflect the views of the NBA, its clubs or Turner Broadcasting......»»

Category: sportsSource:  abscbnRelated NewsAug 8th, 2018

Record futility dooms Houston Rockets in Game 7

By Sekou Smith, NBA.com HOUSTON — In the end, all the questions remain. For Mike D’Antoni, for Chris Paul, James Harden and the rest of the Houston Rockets. All of the demons of playoffs past that the were to be eradicated with one game, Game 7 of the Western Conference finals on their home floor against the reigning champion Golden State Warriors, and all of the noise would be silenced. But it wasn’t to be. The team these Rockets were built to beat, would not be denied. The Rockets’ record-setting season, the best regular season in franchise history, was undone by another record they ran into head on in what turned out to be the final night of their would-be magical campaign. The Rockets shot a jaw-dropping 44 times from beyond the three-point line, making just seven while enduring a cover-your-eyes stretch that saw them miss a staggering 27 straight. The 37 misses from deep are a playoff record. They broke their own record of 36, which they set in the first round against Minnesota when they shot 16-for-52 in Game 2 against the Minnesota Timberwolves and won by 20 points. You can go cold as ice from deep in a first-round series against an overmatched opponent and still win in a runaway. You can’t do it against the best shooting team in NBA history in a game with everything on the line. And as the Rockets sputtered in the third quarter the Warriors heated up. A Kevin Durant three-pointer tied the game at 61 with 4:34 to play in the third and a corner three from Curry with 36 seconds later gave the Warriors a 64-61 lead they’d never surrender. “These guys, you think you’ve got them or you think you are guarding them okay, and it’s just, if you take a deep breath one time, it’s a three,” D’Antoni said. “That’s why they’re so good.” Here is a compilation of all of the Rockets 27 straight missed threes ....🤮🤮🤮 pic.twitter.com/p9HRJuMJNz — gifdsports (@gifdsports) May 29, 2018 P.J. Tucker’s corner triple late in the game was the Rockets’ only made basket from distance after halftime, an ugly 1-for-21 effort that precipitated their collapse from an earlier 15-point lead. “Man, it hurts bad,” said veteran Rockets forward Trevor Ariza, who had perhaps the most brutal night of all, going scoreless on 0-for-12 shooting from the floor, including 0-for-9 from deep. “We played hard, though, we fought hard. I’m just hurt right now. Yeah, this one hurt real bad.” Their early lead provided even more false security for a team that already had to work without Paul in Games 6 and 7; that right hamstring strain suffered in the final minute of the Rockets’ Game 5 win ending his season prematurely. The Rockets’ season-long focus on the Warriors provided the ultimate incentive, from Daryl Morey’s obsession with the four-time Western Conference champs as he put this Rockets team together last summer, until the final buzzer Monday night (Tuesday, PHL time). But now the after taste of being so close but just not quite healthy or good enough will linger into another offseason that begins before June. The manner in which they lost cuts particularly deep for a team that bragged about its “swagger” all season, from opening night at Oracle Arena when they spoiled ring/banner night for the Warriors right up until their fall in Game 7, when the strength they’d relied on all season failed them. “One half of basketball,” Harden said. “Two games, Game 6 and 7. One half of basketball. We just didn’t have the same energy that we had in the first half or the pace. So it’s extremely frustrating … we had an opportunity tonight and last game without Chris. Obviously he’s a big part of why we are here, but we had opportunities, especially in the first half of both games.” D’Antoni praised his team after it was all over, refusing once again to measure them based solely on the results of this series and this postseason. He stayed true to his word before the playoffs began, insisting that what happens now would not define the careers of Harden or Paul. It’s a noble thought, a fine gesture from an accomplished coach who helped revolutionize the game but is lacking that one breakthrough trip to basketball's biggest stage: The Finals. If that’s the way it looks and feels from the inside, fine. But externally, the results are all that matter. And D’Antoni, Harden and Paul go into the offseason with the same whispers, the same doubters wondering about their readiness for the magnitude of these sorts of moments. D’Antoni is still the great coach without a signature accomplishment. His team had a 3-2 edge in this series and home-court advantage in their back pocket, and couldn't finish against a team that has mastered the style of play he introduced to the league during his days in Phoenix with a two-time Kia MVP running the show. D’Antoni’s confidence, however, will not be shaken by yet another postseason failure. “No, because the other team’s doing it,” he said. “No, not at all. That’s where the game’s going. Now we should have made some more [three's] but no, I don’t lose confidence in that. We’ve got the right formula. We’ve got to execute it. We’ve got to do a little bit better and it would be nice if they would help out a little bit, but it seems like they’re not. We’ll get better.” Paul is still the all-time great point guard who can’t seem to stay healthy long enough to fulfill his destiny on a championship stage. “We knew it was going to be tough on him,” D’Antoni said. “Mostly I hate it for him. He’s probably more devastated than anybody. But again, I know the fans of Houston, especially myself, to have him on your side is incredible. He’ll be back. Like I said, he’ll be even better. We’ll be better.” Harden, the likely Kia MVP this season, is favored to join an unfortunate cast of players with the most valuable hardware but without a championship ring to go with it. After scoring 41 points in Game 1, his numbers continued to slide. He averaged 26.7 points on 38 percent shooting from the floor, including 20 from beyond the arc, over the final six games. And since Paul was relegated to a sideline motivator role for the final two games, the burden Harden carries into the offseason for this latest setback is magnified. But like his coach, Harden said there was no turning back. Even with a record blizzard of three-point misses, there was never so much as a passing thought to change up and try something different. “I mean, we had a lot of open shots,” Harden said, confident to the bitter end. "I think we competed , and competed the best we can.” The Rockets’ best would have been good enough to beat anyone else in the NBA Monday night (Tuesday, PHL time). Just not the one team they were supposed to built for. Sekou Smith is a veteran NBA reporter and NBA TV analyst. You can e-mail him here, find his archive here and follow him on Twitter. The views on this page do not necessarily reflect the views of the NBA, its clubs or Turner Broadcasting......»»

Category: sportsSource:  abscbnRelated NewsMay 29th, 2018

IN NUMBERS: All even in NBA East and West finals

  MANILA, Philippines – After 8 games combined in the NBA’s Eastern and Western Conference Finals, we are back to square one. The 4 teams remaining – the Golden State Warriors, Cleveland Cavaliers, Houston Rockets and Boston Celtics – all have two wins under their belt, and of course, all remain ........»»

Category: newsSource:  rapplerRelated NewsMay 23rd, 2018

IN NUMBERS: Golden State Warriors vs Houston Rockets

MANILA, Philippines – The two best teams in the NBA's Western Conference are on a collision course for Game 1 of the Conference Finals on Tuesday morning, May 15, Manila time. The first-seeded Houston Rockets are set to defend their home court against the fully-healthy defending champion Golden State Warriors. Here are ........»»

Category: newsSource:  rapplerRelated NewsMay 14th, 2018

MVP Ladder: No topping Harden in award chase

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

Category: sportsSource:  abscbnRelated NewsApr 14th, 2018

All-Star break works wonders for Blazers, Jazz, Heat

By John Schuhmann, NBA.com The Portland Trail Blazers are doing it again. For the second straight season, the Blazers are the most improved team after the All-Star break. Last year, spurred by the acquisition of Jusuf Nurkic at the trade deadline, the Blazers were 7.8 points per 100 possessions better after the break (plus-5.3) than they were before it (minus-2.5). This year, without a rotation-altering trade, the Blazers have been 9.5 points per 100 possessions better since the break (plus-10.0) than they were before it (plus-0.4). Their 13-game winning streak (which started with their last game before All-Star weekend) came to an end at the hands of James Harden and the Houston Rockets on Tuesday (Wednesday, PHL time), but prior to that, they were the only undefeated team (12-0) since the break, climbing from seventh place in the West at the break to third place (with a relatively comfortable three-game lead in the loss column over the teams behind them) going into Thursday's (Friday, PHL time) games. Improvement has come on both ends of the floor. The Blazers have been 5.5 points per 100 possessions better offensively and 4.0 points per 100 possessions better defensively since the break. With the league average seeing an increase of 1.3 per 100, that's about even improvement on both ends of the floor. On offense, the Blazers have increased their three-point rate (3PA/FGA) from 31 percent before the All-Star break to 35 percent since, but have seen just a small jump in effective field goal percentage. Improvement has come more from taking better care of the ball and getting to the line more often. Over the last 16 games, Damian Lillard has averaged 9.2 points at the free throw line, 3.4 more than he averaged prior to that (5.8). Lillard has also seen a drop in turnover ratio, from 9.8 per 100 possessions before the break to 7.8 since. That 7.8 is the second lowest (higher than that of only LaMarcus Aldridge) among 14 players with a usage rate of greater than 30 percent since the break. On defense, rebounding has been key. After allowing 12.2 second chance points per game before the break, the Blazers have allowed just 9.5 (second fewest in the league) since. They continue to lead the league in opponent field goal percentage in the restricted area and have been at their best defensively with Jusuf Nurkic on the floor. The defensive improvement may be more impressive, given that six of the Blazers' 13 post-break games have been against the league's top-10 offenses, though that includes games against Minnesota without Jimmy Butler and Golden State without Stephen Curry. It should also be noted that nine of the 13 games have been at home. Of course, the Blazers have been better defensively on the road (103.9 points allowed per 100 possessions) than they've been at home (104.6) this season. We'll see how those numbers (and their post-break improvement) hold up when they play seven of nine on the road after hosting the Boston Celtics on Friday (Saturday, PHL time). Does it mean anything? Some teams might want to be playing their best going into the playoffs. But playing better late in the season doesn't necessarily mean anything. In fact, playoff team stats (offensive and defensive efficiency) more strongly correlate with pre-All-Star numbers than with post-All-Star numbers. Over the last 10 full seasons (going back to 2007-08 and skipping 2011-12), the 20 playoff teams that have seen the biggest increase in NetRtg (point differential per 100 possessions) from before the break to after the break have been more likely to underachieve in the playoffs (losing a series in which they had home-court advantage) than overachieve (winning a series they started on the road). The playoff team of the last 20 years that saw the biggest improvement was the 2009-10 Phoenix Suns, who were 8.2 points per 100 possessions better after the break (plus-11.2) than they were before it (plus-2.9). They reached the conference finals as the 3 seed in the West, but did so with home-court advantage in each of the first two rounds (because the seventh-seeded Spurs beat the second-seeded Mavs in the first round). Four of those 20 most improved teams have lost in the first round with home-court advantage, while the 2010-11 Chicago Bulls (4.5 points per 100 possessions better after the break) lost in the conference finals as the No. 1 seed. The overachievers? The 2008-09 Houston Rockets (5.6 points per 100 possessions better after the break) and 2013-14 Washington Wizards (4.8 better) won first-round series as No. 5 seeds without home-court advantage. And finally, the 2014-15 Cleveland Cavaliers (who were 4.8 points per possessions better after the break) reached The Finals as a No. 2 seed. With that in mind, here are the teams that have been most improved on either end of the floor since the All-Star break this season. Most improved offenses 1. Miami Heat Like the Blazers, the Heat are doing this for the second year in a row. When they went from 11-30 in their first 41 games to 30-11 in their last 41 games last season, it was on offense where they really turned things around. Last year's turnaround came with increases in both three-point percentage and three-point volume (3PA/FGA). This year, the Heat have shot better from beyond the arc since the break, but they've actually taken a lower percentage of their shots from three-point range than they did prior, so their jump in effective field goal percentage isn't huge. They have gone from the bottom 10 to the top 10 in both offensive rebounding percentage and turnover rate. Hassan Whiteside has grabbed 28 offensive boards in just eight post-break games, though he hasn't seen a big increase in offensive rebounding percentage since the break. The team increase has been more about six different guys grabbing at least 13 offensive boards over the 14 games. On the turnover front, James Johnson has seen a big drop in his individual rate, from 13.7 turnovers per 100 possessions before the break to just 7.3 since the break. Goran Dragic has also seen seen a reduction. The drop in turnovers, along with more second chances and an increase in pace, as provided the Heat with almost six additional shots per 48 minutes. The Heat's post-break offense has been at its best (more than 123 points scored per 100 possessions) with Kelly Olynyk on the floor. Both Olynyk (60.7 percent) and James Johnson (60.6 percent) rank in the top 20 in post-break effective field goal percentage among 157 players who have taken at least 100 shots since the break. Tyler Johnson, meanwhile, has seen an effective field goal percentage jump from 50 percent before the break to 58 percent since the break. The Heat have played a fairly average post-break schedule in regard to opposing defenses. They've picked on some bad ones (scoring 128 points per 100 possessions in three games against the Suns, Nuggets and Knicks) and have played ugly against some good ones (like those of the Sixers and Blazers), but have been strong against the defenses in the middle of the pack. Going forward, they'll play just three of their 10 remaining games against top-10 defenses. Two of those are against the eighth-ranked Thunder, and one of those is Friday (Saturday, PHl time). Six of their other seven games are against bottom-10 defenses. 2. L.A. Lakers Rookies and second year players have accounted for 45 percent of the Lakers' minutes this season. That's the third highest rate in the league and the highest among teams that aren't at least 23 games under .500. So, in-season improvement both critical and somewhat expected. Of course, a vet has been a big part of the Lakers' offensive improvement. Brook Lopez has seen the second biggest increase in effective field goal percentage (behind that of Wilson Chandler) among players who took at least 300 shots before the break and have taken at least 100 since the break (see table below). For Lopez, as well as the team as a whole, it's been about the three ball, both in regard to percentage and volume. Before the break, the Lakers ranked 29th in three-point percentage and 22nd in the percentage of their shots that were threes. Since the break: fifth and fourth. Kentavious Caldwell-Pope (46.3 percent) ranks seventh in post-break three-point percentage among 98 players with at least 50 attempts. But the biggest key to the Lakers' post-break offense may be a big jump in minutes for Julius Randle. He's actually seen a drop in usage rate and not much of an increase in efficiency, but Randle has gone from averaging less than 25 minutes before the break to 34 since the break. As a result, he's averaged 21.5 points (on 59 percent shooting) over the 13 games. And in that stretch, the Lakers have scored 14.2 more points per 100 possessions with him on the floor (114.1) than they have with him off the floor (99.9). Most improved defenses 1. Utah Jazz Utah's improvement started with the return of Rudy Gobert from a month-long absence in mid-January. Since his return on Jan. 19 (Jan. 20, PHL time), the Jazz have allowed just 96.2 points per 100 possessions, 6.5 fewer than any other team. Over those nine weeks, the difference between the Jazz and the second-ranked Spurs (102.7) is more than the difference between the Spurs and the 20th-ranked Hawks (109.1). More improvement came with the acquisition of Jae Crowder at the trade deadline. And the Jazz have allowed a paltry 85 points per 100 possessions in 308 minutes with Crowder and Gobert on the floor together, with their opponents shooting just 38 percent from the field and 31 percent from three-point range. And the Jazz haven't allowed their opponents to do much with all those misses, grabbing 85 percent of available defensive boards (a rate which would lead the league by a wide margin) in those 308 minutes. There is a schedule-related boost here. Since the break, the Jazz have played seven games against the league's bottom-10 offenses (including six against the bottom six) and just three games against the top 10. But in two of those three games (Feb. 27, PHL time vs. Houston and March 12, PHL time at New Orleans), they held their opponent under a point per possession. They've now done that in nine straight games and in 18 of their last 24. Given the state of league-wide offense (this is now the most efficient season in league history), that's pretty remarkable. The Jazz have four games remaining against top-10 offenses, including two against the Warriors. One of those is Sunday at Golden State (next Monday, PHL time). 2. Indiana Pacers The Pacers have improved defensively six of their 14 post-break games having been against teams that rank in the top 11 offensively (the 11th-ranked Wizards have bounced in and out of the top 10). They've gone 3-3, but held those top-11 offenses - Milwaukee (x 2), New Orleans, Washington (x 2) and Toronto - to just 103.4 points per 100 possessions (about four fewer than the league's post-break average) over the six games. The Pacers' post-break defense has been at its best, allowing just 96 points per 100 possessions, with Myles Turner on the floor. Turner has been improved offensively since the break (seeing a sizeable jump in effective field goal percentage and true shooting percentage), but his defense has been more important. While Turner has made an impact inside, forcing turnovers has been a big part of the Pacers' defensive improvement. They lead the league in opponent turnover rate since the All-Star break, having forced 17.4 per 100 possessions, up from 15.1 (10th) before the break. Victor has been the league leader in steals this season at 2.2 per game, and has seen an increase (from 2.1 to 2.8) since the break, with Thaddeus Young (2.3) joining him in the top four in post-break steals per contest. The Pacers have also rebounded a little better, grabbing 77 percent of available defensive boards (15th in the league) since the break, up from 76 percent (27th) before it. Things haven't gone so well on the other end of the floor. The Pacers have seen the league's biggest drop in offensive efficiency since the break. They ranked sixth offensively (108.5 points scored per 100 possessions) before the break and rank 26th (101.6) since the break. Oladipo (from 59 percent to 46 percent) and Young (from 54 percent to 45 percent) have seen two of the eight biggest drops in effective field goal percentage since the break among 142 players who took at least 300 shots before the break and have taken at least 100 shots since the break. The improved defense will continue to be tested in the next couple of weeks. The Pacers will play six of their next eight games against top-10 offenses. That includes two games against the second-ranked Warriors and two more against the seventh-ranked Clippers. L.A. is in Indiana on Friday (Saturday, PHL time). Most improved shooters Here's a look at the players who have seen the biggest increases in effective field goal percentage since the All-Star break. John Schuhmann is a staff writer for NBA.com. You can e-mail him here, find his archive here and follow him on Twitter. The views on this page do not necessarily reflect the views of the NBA, its clubs or Turner Broadcasting......»»

Category: sportsSource:  abscbnRelated NewsMar 23rd, 2018

New era, new challenges emerge for Warriors

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

Category: sportsSource:  abscbnRelated NewsMar 6th, 2018

BLOGTABLE: Bigger loss - Cousins or Roberson?

NBA.com blogtable Fast-forward to the postseason. Which absence will weigh more heavily: The Thunder without Andre Roberson, or the Pelicans without DeMarcus Cousins? * * * David Aldridge: Oh, Pels without Boogie, no question. He and Anthony Davis were so good together, and he took so much pressure off of AD by playing center. If New Orleans does finish off the deal for Mirotic, that helps some, but the Pelicans are still diminished greatly without Cousins. Roberson being out impacts OKC defensively, no doubt. His presence allows Russell Westbrook and Paul George to be so much more aggressive defensively and on the weak side. But the Thunder can still win at a high clip without him. New Orleans can’t without Cousins. Steve Aschburner: The Thunder will miss their guy more. I’m basing that on their loftier ambitions and upside, pre-Roberson injury, than the Pelicans had with Cousins. New Orleans has wanted to reach the playoffs and, with their All-Star bigs, mess with top seeds Golden State or Houston in a contrast of styles. But Oklahoma City has wanted to go after the Warriors or Rockets for real and seemed to be coalescing into a group that maybe, perhaps, might have pulled off a spring special. Losing their defensive catalyst hurts mightily, by all the numbers and by any eye test. Now Paul George most notably has to handle a bigger defensive load and there’s not enough manpower there, I fear, to counter the West’s big-gun firepower. Trey Kerby: It’s impossible to say now if the Pelicans would have been able to pull a first-round upset against any of the teams they might face in the playoffs, but New Orleans would have no doubt been a trendy upset pick when postseason prediction time comes. But without Boogie, not so much. He is too important to the Pelicans as a creator (second on the Pelicans in assists per game) and a shooter (leading the Pelicans in 3s made per game) to paper over his loss, not to mention his more standard huge guy contributions as the best big man in the game. Losing your starting center is bad, but it’s even worse when he’s also one of your best perimeter players. Tas Melas: I’m not sure the Pelicans get there so I’ll pick OKC. Paul George now has to guard the other team’s best offensive player and shed the habit of jumping passing lanes for steals. More onus on 'Melo defensively. 'Melo might even play some three if Patrick Patterson gets minutes. Billy Donovan has to settle on a new rotation which will always score, but, added defensive responsibilities will hurt that end, too. Shaun Powell: Well, I'm not convinced the Pelicans will definitely make the postseason without DeMarcus Cousins. But I'll play along: Provided they do, then Andre Roberson's absence will hurt OKC more. That's because, even with Cousins, the Pelicans' playoff run was destined to be a short one, given that they would likely see Golden State or Houston in the first round. Meanwhile, OKC was playing its best ball when Roberson got hurt and looked to rise as high as No. 3 in the standings (and still might). Projection: His absence will cost them in the second round when they'll need defense. John Schuhmann: Can I fast-forward to next week to see if either team makes a trade? It's hard to see the Pels winning a playoff series with or without Cousins. But if the ninth-place Clippers didn't just trade their best player, I might have picked New Orleans to miss the playoffs after the Cousins injury, so in that regard, it weighs heavily. (The Jazz have just beat two of the best teams in the league and have an easier schedule than New Orleans going forward, but it's tough to see Utah making up a five-game deficit.) Given their talent, Oklahoma City remains dangerous, though Roberson's value shouldn't be understated. Not only were their defensive numbers much better with Roberson on the floor, but no offense has depended more on points off turnovers and second chance points more than that of the Thunder, and Roberson's absence affects both of those numbers too. If OKC doesn't replace Roberson at the deadline, it's much tougher to pick them to beat one of the top four teams in the West than it would be if he was healthy. Sekou Smith: In the postseason, provided both teams make it there, the absence of DeMarcus Cousins looms much larger. The Pelicans were so dependent on Cousins and what he brings as a scorer, rebounder and playmaker that his absence could very well cost them a spot in the Western Conference playoff chase. As critical as Roberson is to the Thunder's defensive bottom line, the blow of not having him in a postseason series is offset by a player, in Paul George, who is more than capable of picking up the slack as your main perimeter defender. There is no one on the roster or in the city of New Orleans capable of doing what DeMarcus Cousins did for Alvin Gentry's crew......»»

Category: sportsSource:  abscbnRelated NewsFeb 1st, 2018

10 things to know going into the 2017-18 NBA season

By Tim Reynolds, Associated Press Happy New Year, NBA. The 72nd regular season starts Tuesday night (Wednesday, PHL time), when Boston heads to Cleveland and Houston goes to Golden State. Fans in Cleveland will boo Kyrie Irving, fans in Oakland will cheer the Warriors’ latest championship banner, and the march toward April will finally be underway. The offseason was loaded with changes. Carmelo Anthony and Paul George went to Oklahoma City, Gordon Hayward and Irving went to Boston, Isaiah Thomas got sent to Cleveland, Jimmy Butler is now in Minnesota and Paul Millsap calls Denver home. That’s seven All-Stars who moved, a record for an NBA offseason. Every coach who started last season will start this season. That’s an NBA first. Here’s 10 things to know about the NBA season that is finally here: ___ 10. QUICK STARTERS San Antonio, Toronto and Miami will likely start 1-0 — because under current management, San Antonio, Toronto and Miami almost always start 1-0. Spurs coach Gregg Popovich is 18-2 on opening night, Raptors coach Dwane Casey is 7-1 and Heat coach Erik Spoelstra is 7-2. Spoelstra has started 1-0 in each of the last six seasons, the longest such run in the NBA. A coach in need of a 1-0 start? Try New Orleans’ Alvin Gentry. He’s dropped five straight openers and is 2-9 on opening night. Brooklyn, Orlando, Milwaukee and Utah have the league’s longest current opening-night losing streaks, starting 0-1 in each of the last four seasons. 9. FROM DISTANCE Last season was the third straight where the NBA’s team single-season three-point record fell, starting with Houston (933 in 2014-15), Golden State (1,077 in 2015-16) and Houston again (1,181 from 2016-17). Between the Rockets, Cleveland, Boston and the Warriors, four of the five highest single-season three-point totals in history came last season. Don’t expect the 3-ball to go away anytime soon, either. 8. LEBRON’S MARKS LeBron James’ list of milestones is about to get longer. He comes into this season 1,213 points shy of becoming the seventh NBA player to reach 30,000, meaning it should happen by about the All-Star break barring any extended absence. He’s also on pace to eclipse the 8,000-rebound and 8,000-assist marks this season. The only other player in NBA history with 25,000 points, 6,000 rebounds and 6,000 assists is Kobe Bryant. James already has all those numbers, and counting. 7. WHERE’S THE DEFENSE? In 2014-15, half the league — 15 teams — held opponents under 100 points per game. Two seasons later, San Antonio and Utah were the only teams that managed the feat. The league’s planned crackdown on traveling this season might help, but it’ll be interesting to see if defensive numbers improve in this era of three-point-reliant, pace-and-space basketball. 6. MAYBE MINNESOTA Think about this, with apologies to fans in the Pacific Northwest: There have been more NBA playoff games in Seattle over the last 13 years than in Minneapolis. This will finally be the year that changes. The Timberwolves, who last reached the postseason in 2004, should return this spring even in a loaded Western Conference with Karl-Anthony Towns, Andrew Wiggins and new addition Jimmy Butler leading the way. 5. SPURS CHASE HISTORY If the Spurs win 41 games this season — a safe bet — it’ll be the 21st consecutive season where San Antonio finishes the regular season at .500 or better. That would tie the NBA mark in that department, matching the feat set by the Utah Jazz from 1983-84 to 2003-04. The Spurs set a record for consecutive winning seasons last year with their 20th. (Utah was 41-41 in 1984-85.) 4. DIRK’S LONGEVITY Dallas’ Dirk Nowitzki enters this season 31 games away from passing Kevin Willis for No. 6 on the NBA’s all-time list. At 48,673 minutes, he’s also within striking distance of No. 5 Elvin Hayes (50,000), No. 4 Jason Kidd (50,111) and No. 3 Kevin Garnett (50,418). 3. STEPH WATCH Stephen Curry will have just turned 30 when this regular season ends. And by then, he legitimately could be No. 3 on the NBA’s all-time three-point list. Curry starts this season No. 10, and at his current pace will pass Ray Allen for the top spot sometime in the 2019-2020 season. 2. NEW DEADLINE No longer will the All-Star Game be overshadowed by talk of who’s getting moved where (like last year, when DeMarcus Cousins was traded to the Pelicans while players were still in locker rooms in New Orleans immediately after the game). The trade deadline will now be 10 days before the All-Star break, so this season that means Feb. 8 (Feb. 9, PHL time). 1. AND THE WINNER IS ... How can anyone pick against Golden State right now? The Warriors will get their third title in four years, which is the easiest prediction possible. So we’ll finish this with some probably less-than-chalk picks: LeBron James is going to reclaim the MVP award, the Rockets will have a game where they connect 30 times from three-point range and Charlotte’s Steve Clifford will be coach of the year......»»

Category: sportsSource:  abscbnRelated NewsOct 17th, 2017

24 NBA questions before 17-18 tips off

By David Aldridge, TNT analyst The season starts on Tuesday night (Wednesday, PHL time). You’ve been waiting patiently all summer with your questions. Fire away.     1. So … what’s the point of playing this season? The Golden State Warriors are still the prohibitive favorites to repeat this season, next season and into the foreseeable future. But it was good to see a good chunk of the Western Conference -- the Houston Rockets, Oklahoma City Thunder and Denver Nuggets, to name three teams -- not fold before the first card is dealt. That fact alone is incredibly important. The Warriors are still the best team in the West, without question. But if teams don’t even try to get better, or spend money to compete, the whole rationale for playing fades away. The Thunder could have rode Russell Westbrook alone to another first-round playoff loss, watched him walk out the door in free agency next summer and thrown up its hands, plead ‘woe is us and all small-market teams,’ and enjoyed a luxury tax-free life for the next few years. The Rockets could have just kept selling tickets to fans to watch James Harden and his pals shoot 50 threes a game for the next two or three years. It’s an appealing brand of basketball. Denver could have just kept building through the Draft, climbing a few more wins here or there for a while, and snuck into the eighth seed, choosing to be comfortable rather than bold. But they didn’t. They’ve called and raised. In all likelihood, it won’t be enough to beat Golden State. But those teams can sleep well at night. They’re not cheating their players, or fans. 2. So, is OKC now a legit threat to the Warriors? The short answer: no. But it’s closer. Carmelo Anthony will be as good a third option as anyone in the league has, though; he will eat regularly on the weak side as defenses scramble to handle Westbrook-Paul George pick and rolls; a quick seal and ‘Melo will be off to the races. If coach Billy Donovan goes small ball with Patrick Patterson at the five, there will be many nights when OKC drops a 130 spot. Yes, the Thunder’s defense is going to be an issue; while Enes Kanter was a sieve off the bench, he was coming off the bench, playing behind Steven Adams. Anthony will be starting and playing big minutes, many at the four. But it won’t matter most nights when the Thunder is up 20 to start the fourth quarter, after 36 minutes of Westbrook sorties, George 3-pointers and transition dunks, and Carmelo post-ups and spot-ups (he shot 44.8 percent last season on catch and shoot shots. Among forwards who played 30 or more minutes last season, per NBA.com/Stats, only Kevin Durant, Otto Porter and Kawhi Leonard shot better). The Thunder can guard you with George, Andre Roberson and Adams and they can outscore you with Westbrook and George and ‘Melo. They have a solid bench (Patterson, Ray Felton, Jerami Grant, Alex Abrines) and Westbrook won’t be physically spent by the end of the 2018 playoffs. Wait; what am I saying? Of course he’ll be spent. But he’ll also be playing way deeper into May. 3. Did not getting Anthony hurt Houston or nah? The Rockets -- okay, Chris Paul -- wanted this done bad. It won’t hurt Houston in the regular season, when Paul and James Harden will dominate. And while Harden didn’t like Kevin McHale’s critique of his leadership, Mac was spot on. That doesn’t make “The Beard” a bad guy or teammate -- people gravitate to their comfortable roles in life, and CP3 is a natural-born leader. Harden will, one thinks, be more comfortable with slightly less light on him. They’ll do fine playing together and off one another. But the shadow of the Rockets’ implosion from deep -- 29 of 88 on three-pointers the last two games against the Spurs in their Western Conference semifinals series -- still hangs over them. Ryan Anderson was negated in the postseason. There’s a reason CP3 pushed for ‘Melo so hard. The Rockets will need unexpected consistent offense from a P.J. Tucker or Luc Mbah a Moute in May if they have any hopes of playing in June. 4. Can we just start the Cleveland-Boston East finals now? Maybe Toronto, with C.J. Miles shooting 40 percent on 3-pointers to complement Kyle Lowry and DeMar DeRozan, will break up what seems inevitable. Maybe Washington, with its super-solid starting five intact, now has the mental toughness to bust past the second round, where it’s been beached three of the last four postseasons. But it doesn’t feel like that. Boston, ultimately, should be a lot better this season than last. It will take a while for coach Brad Stevens to figure out the rotation and whether Jaylen Brown can really stick at the two, but ultimately, the Celtics have two dynamic playmakers/scorers in Kyrie Irving and Gordon Hayward, and with Al Horford providing the glue at both ends, they’re going to be a load by the end of the season. And while Cleveland will have to wait a while for Isaiah Thomas, the Cavs have more than enough firepower until Thomas can make his debut. Whatever Dwyane Wade has left will be accentuated playing with James, and Kevin Love (holy moly, is he underrated) will feast drawing slower, bigger centers out to him on the perimeter. J.R. Smith doesn’t like losing his starting job to Wade, and he should be ticked. But he nonetheless will help Cleveland’s bench, which will be incredibly difficult in its own right with Tristan Thompson and Kyle Korver complementing Smith. And that’s before Thomas returns, which will put Derrick Rose on that second unit. There won’t be any rest for defenses who’ll then have to contend with a rested James, et al, coming back. It says here that not only will the Cavs not miss Irving offensively, they could be even more diverse and difficult to guard this season. Not to mention that James is supremely motivated to make an eighth straight Finals. 5. Could Curry break his record of 402 3-pointers in a season? At first glance, with Durant and Klay and Draymond (and, now, Nick Young) all needing to get fed as well, it would seem impossible for Curry to best the mark he set two years ago, on the 73-9 regular season team. But consider: coach Steve Kerr thinks a new guy always blossoms in his second year with the Warriors, which means Durant should be even more lethal offensively this year, as the Warriors’ offense reaches an even higher level of efficiency. And the way they move the ball, it’s not a stretch to think that with defenses tripping over themselves to get to Durant, Curry could get into one of those ridiculous grooves that could leave him within striking distance of 402 by the end of the season. 6. Could the last one in the Eastern Conference turn out the lights? The New York Knicks were hardly a power in the East before trading Anthony, but his departure creates one more team that will struggle to win 35 games this season. With the paucity of talent there should be at least four 50-win teams in the East -- Cleveland, Boston, Toronto and Washington -- with the Milwaukee Bucks knocking on the door. 7. Who’s going to regret their offseason? The Bucks were fine off the court -- their new arena is already more than halfway constructed and looks like it’s going to be a gem -- although the surrounding mall that is supposed to be part of the complex is not going up as quickly. But the Bucks didn’t address their bigs-heavy roster and move some of the surplus -- how can coach Jason Kidd keep all of Greg Monroe, Jabari Parker and John Henson happy with Thon Maker scarfing up more and more frontcourt minutes? -- for the shooting Milwaukee still needs. The East is so open, and Milwaukee is so close to breaking through into elite status with Giannis Antetokounmpo an elite performer. 8. Rudy Gay -- sneaky good pickup? Gay says he’s cool starting or coming off the bench for the Spurs, but he’d best as San Antonio’s sixth man, at least to start things. Bringing Pau Gasol off the bench didn’t work so well, so if he’s starting at center, coach Gregg Popovich can’t go small ball with “Cousin” LaMarcus Aldridge at the five and Gay at the four alongside Kawhi Leonard. (Current state of Spurs fans’ cuticles here and here as they consider a season with an extended Klaw absence if this quad injury doesn’t improve soon.) The Spurs could have some serious firepower in reserve if Gay and Patty Mills come off the bench, but Mills or Dejounte Murray will likely have to start at the point until Tony Parker comes back. 9. Speaking of Popovich … Should he and Steve Kerr and Stan Van Gundy stick to sports? No. 10. Who’s gonna be Kia Rookie of the Year? I say Markelle Fultz. What, you thought I was gonna pick against a DeMatha Catholic man? (Actual unretouched photo of me as a sophomore at the most successful high school in the history of the United States may or may not be here). Playing off of Joel Embiid, J.J. Redick, Robert Covington … it’s hard to see Fultz not looking really good when he should have all kinds of room to operate. Lonzo Ball will put up bigger numbers, and Tatum will be on a better team. But Boston was good last year, and Jayson Tatum will likely not play as much as the others. The Sixers are poised for a big jump up in the standings, and that’s always a narrative that voters like and get behind -- which is what will hurt Dennis Smith Jr.'s chances in Dallas. 11. What does Dwyane Wade really have left? Now that the inevitable buyout of Wade’s $24 million deal by the Bulls has led to the equally inevitable trek to Cleveland to play with James, can the 35-year-old Wade still be a significant contributor on a title contender? Given the general dysfunction in Chicago last season, you can dismiss most of the good and bad numbers Wade put up, with two exceptions: he still averaged almost five free throw attempts per game, and he shot 31 percent on 3-pointers -- not great, but more than double his anemic 15.9 percent behind the arc in 2015-16, his last with the Miami Heat. Wade obviously knows the cheat code for how to most effectively play off of James, so he’ll use the regular season to learn his teammates and be ready for the playoffs. But can Wade hold up over seven games defensively if he has to chase, say, Bradley Beal around, or try to deny DeRozan his preferred mid-range spots, and still be productive offensively? 12. Back to the Sixers -- how good will they be? My guess is they’ll pretty good in the 60 or so games I anticipate Embiid will play this season -- I’m assuming several designated off days for him during the season, not another injury. The mix of young talent (Fultz, Embiid, Ben Simmons, Dario Saric, Covington) and crafty vets (Redick, Amir Johnson) should mesh to make the 76ers a very tough team to defend. But Philly has to resolve the Jahlil Okafor situation, and in fairness to him, give him a fresh start somewhere else with a trade as soon as possible. If I were a good team that would be hard-pressed to add a free agent any time soon and feels a player short of true contention -- I’m looking at you, Memphis Grizzlies and Wizards -- I’d work hard to get the new, slimmed-down Okafor on my squad while he’s still on his rookie contract and make him the focal point of a kick-ass second unit. 13. Should we feel some kind of way about the Trail Blazers? I’m picking up what you’re putting down. A full season of the “Bosnian Beast” in the middle, it says here, will vault Portland into the top four in the West. Note I said “full season.” That means Jusuf Nurkic has to give coach Terry Stotts between 65-70 starts for the above premonition to be, as they say in the legal world, actionable. If so, Nurkic’s underrated scoring and passing out of the post will only make Damian Lillard and C.J. McCollum that much more deadly out front, along with improving Portland’s defense. Per Basketball-Reference.com, the Blazers were 11.6 points per game better than the opposition with those three on the floor together and a +5 when their regular five-man lineup with Maurice Harkless and Al-Farouq Aminu joined the guards and Nurkic. And that’s pronounced, “Noor-kitch,” accent on Noor. 13. A little movie break ... Kevin Costner’s accent in “Robin Hood” -- worst ever, right? Yes, but Natalie Wood’s in “West Side Story” was painful, too. 14. Many have written the post-CP3 Clippers off. Should they? The Clippers are my darkhorse this season -- if they do the right thing and go small more often. They’re doing it more in practice so far than in games because Danilo Gallinari is working through a foot injury, but Blake Griffin at the five and Gallinari at the four could be spicy during the regular season. That would mean Sam Dekker and/or Wes Johnson would have to become credible and dependable at the three, allowing coach Doc Rivers to play a Pat Beverly-Milos Teodosic backcourt more often, which will just be fun. This would, of course, mean less DeAndre Jordan, and … that may not be the worst thing. Nothing against DJ, who is the best defensive big in the league, bar none. Unfortunately, the NBA isn’t about defense any more -- at least not in the traditional sense. Even someone like Jordan who doesn’t just block shots, but also helps snuff out opposing pick and rolls, becomes less valued by the league’s advanced stats crowd if he doesn’t contribute more offensively. The three has gone a long way to tyrannizing the defense-dominant big man out of the game. (Zach Lowe recommends the Wizards try to get Jordan via trade, and it’s not the first time I’ve heard that name mentioned in connection with Washington, the idea being the only chance the Wizards have of beating Cleveland or Boston is to slow them down enough defensively that Wall-Beal-Porter can try and keep up offensively. Washington is definitely a load when Wall gets locked in on D and creates turnovers, and the idea of Jordan inhaling lobs from Wall is enticing to think about. But the Wizards are not -- not -- going to take on a fourth big contract, and Jordan’s surely going to opt out after this season; he’s rightly expecting a massive payday in 2018, and the Clippers certainly now have motive and means to retain him.) Anyway, some Lou Williams, Austin Rivers and/or Teodosic and Willie Reed off the bench isn’t bad, either. 15. Could Kyle Kuzma be the best rookie on the Lakers this season? Don’t @me, LaVar. Kuzma has followed up a very strong Vegas Summer League with high notes in preseason, averaging better than 19 points per game for the Lakers. He’s been dazzling at times, displaying in-between skills that intrigue, and showing why so many teams were trying to trade back into the first round to get the Utah forward before L.A. snagged him with its second and much less heralded first-round pick last June. And there will be minutes available at the four this season. So far, Kuzma has displayed unusual strength for a rookie and confidence in his ability to score. Of course, he’s inexperienced, and like all rookies, has to differentiate between an open shot and a good shot. The other, more famous first-rounder, Lonzo Ball, will almost certainly be the better all-around player in time. For this year, though … hmmm. 16. What does a Hawks fan have to look forward to this season? Honestly, not much. But they’ll always be well-coached and get better. I’d pick one of the young players, like rookie John Collins or second-year small forward Taurean Prince, and concentrate on them during the season. See what they do with their minutes on the floor, and watch how they gradually expand their games at both ends. Seeing a young guy get better as he gains experience and accepts coaching is one of the great joys of watching the NBA every night. 17. Orlando? What gives there? The team’s new braintrust of Jeff Weltman and John Hammond will need some time to fix the roster -- a mélange of athletic wings that have trouble defending and guards that have trouble shooting. The former is addressed somewhat with the signing of Jonathon Simmons from San Antonio, but I don’t see a solution to the latter with any of the existing backcourt contributors. Unless coach Frank Vogel figures out some way to get more turnovers/runouts from his group, they just can’t get in transition enough for their length and legs to make a difference. 18. New Orleans? What gives there? The short answer is, I have no idea. All of NBA Earth has DeMarcus Cousins out of there one way or another (he’s an unrestricted free agent in ’18 and wants to be on a contender/the Pelicans will never pay him what he wants and will have to trade him by the deadline/no way he and Anthony Davis fit together/Wall agitates for a reunion with his former Kentucky big man in D.C./your departure theory here) by this time next year, but we’ll see what coach Alvin Gentry has come up with for “Boogie” and “the Brow” after a summer to think it over. Rajon Rondo being out hurts their depth, but I have to be honest -- I don’t see how he and Jrue Holiday can possibly work together in a backcourt, and Holiday’s the guy the Pelicans just gave $125 million to, so he should probably have the ball in his hands every night, shouldn’t he? I like Ian Clark and Frank Jackson down there, but that untethered three spot burns a hole in the New Orleans sun. Well, at any rate, should be more fun than watching reruns of My Life on the D-List. 19. Favorite D-List Muppet? Beaker. 20. LeBron is leaving Cleveland again after this season, isn’t he? Everything points to yes, and a relocation to Los Angeles to play with the Lakers or Clippers next year – except … what if the Cavs win it all again this year? That’s not an impossible scenario -- in fact, it’s a pretty simple one to lay out: Cavs run roughshod through the Eastern Conference in the playoffs again, get through a good but hardly great Boston team in the conference Finals and set up a fourth straight encounter with Golden State. It’s easy now to say the Warriors dominated the Cavs in last season’s Finals -- but only if you ignore the fact that Cleveland led by six with just more than three minutes remaining in Game 3, only to see the Warriors score the game’s last 11 points to take a 3-0 lead instead of 2-1. And given that Cleveland vaporized the Warriors in Game 4, a 2-2 series would have meant the Cavs just needed to win once in Oracle -- which they’d done twice in the 2016 Finals -- to have a real shot at repeating. The point is, the difference between the teams isn’t as big as Draymond Green would have you believe; the Cavs have no fear of the Warriors, and Jae Crowder gives coach Tyronn Lue a viable on-ball defender for Kevin Durant, leaving LeBron free to play off of Green. And: that unprotected Nets pick, whether one or three or five or seven, is Cleveland’s best recruiting tool. LeBron knows everyone in college basketball and he can literally pick whoever he’d like to finish his career with in Cleveland before handing over the reins. I’m not saying he’s definitely staying, either -- only that his departure isn’t the lead pipe cinch some would have you believe. The season to come will have a lot to do with his next decision. 21. So, how will the playoffs go this season? Eastern Conference (seeds No. 1-8): Cleveland, Boston, Washington, Toronto, Milwaukee, Miami, Detroit, Philadelphia Western Conference (seeds No. 1-8): Golden State, Houston, Oklahoma City, Portland, San Antonio, Memphis, Utah, Minnesota Eastern Conference semifinalists: Cleveland, Boston, Washington, Milwaukee Western Conference semifinalists: Golden State, Houston, OKC, San Antonio Eastern Conference finals: Cleveland over Boston Western Conference finals: Golden State over OKC (you heard me) NBA Finals: Golden State over Cleveland (in seven games) 22. Tell me something crazy that’s going to happen this season that no one’s predicting! Giannis Antetokounmpo. NBA MVP, 2017-18. 23. Are you high? No, ma’am. 24. So, why 24 questions? As always, we start the season with 24 questions (or predictions, or issues, whatever) in honor of Danny Biasone, the late owner of the Syracuse Nationals, whose discovery in 1954 helped save the league. At that time, the NBA was in the midst of a literal slowdown, in large part by teams that were desperate to figure out some kind of way to stay competitive with George Mikan, the league’s first superstar big man, and his team, the Minneapolis Lakers. Teams would hold the ball for minutes at a time without shooting in an effort to shorten the game and give them a chance to beat Minneapolis late. But the end result was boring -- very boring -- basketball. At the owners’ meetings that year, Biasone came up with an idea. NBA games were 48 minutes long. Biasone figured out that in a normal game, one not waylaid by the slowdown tactics, about 120 shots -- 60 per team -- were taken. So, why not just divide the number of minutes in every game -- 2,880 -- by the number of shots in an average game -- 120 -- to come up with some kind of a time limit in which a team had to shoot. And thus, the 24-second shot clock (2,800/120) was born. With the implementation of the shot clock in the 1954-55 season, scoring went way up, as did the quality of play. Teams were now running up and down the floor in order to try and beat the shot clock, complementing the “fast break” game that many colleges had played for years. But the new style in the pros was immensely popular with fans. And it still is. Plus, there’s just something iconic about that clock counting down every 24 seconds. It’s unique to the NBA. Thus, we ask 24 questions, in honor of the guy who owned a bowling alley as well as the Nationals for much of his adult life, and probably enjoyed the bowling more. Longtime NBA reporter, columnist and Naismith Memorial Basketball Hall of Famer David Aldridge is an analyst for TNT. You can e-mail him here, find his archive here and follow him on Twitter. The views on this page do not necessarily reflect the views of the NBA, its clubs or Turner Broadcasting......»»

Category: sportsSource:  abscbnRelated NewsOct 17th, 2017

Rockets add All-Star Paul as they look to take next step

em>By Kristie Rieken, Associated Press /em> HOUSTON (AP) — The Houston Rockets believe adding Chris Paul to a team led by James Harden helps close the gap with Golden State. They’ll find out how they stack up against the NBA champions early when they open the season on the road against the Warriors on Tuesday night (Wednesday, PHL time). “We’re looking forward to trying to get as close as we can or better than Golden State,” coach Mike D’Antoni said. “They seem to be the ones that set the bar and we know it’s a high bar but we have a lot of potential and now it’s up to us to try and do the work and get it done.” When the Rockets orchestrated the blockbuster deal with the Clippers in June to acquire Paul, a nine-time All-Star, the obvious question was how he and Harden would coexist. Harden was Houston’s point guard last season. D’Antoni knows there will be bumps along the way as they adjust to each other, but loves having two players of their caliber running his faced-paced offense. “Normally my offenses have been one kind of Hall of Fame point guard,” he said. “And now we’ve got two that will be on the court the whole time and I’m real excited about that.” He’s not worried about it not working out and said that in his experience if players want something to work out it normally does. “If you give them freedom and you have certain philosophies that you want them to do they’ll figure out what’s comfortable for them,” he said. “And putting them into spots where both of them can succeed and adjusting a little bit to me that’s the process.” Paul isn’t worried either, not after what he’s seen from D’Antoni and Harden since arriving in Houston. “One of the best things about this transition has been the communication aspect of it,” he said. “We talk about just about everything so it doesn’t get to a point where it’s out of control ... I think as long as we do that everything will be fine. Harden finished second in the NBA in scoring last year with 29.1 points a game and also was the runner-up in MVP voting to Russell Westbrook in a season where the Rockets were eliminated by the Spurs in the Western Conference semifinals. He knows his numbers could drop playing with another scorer like Paul but also believes his presence improves the team overall. “He’s one of the best we’ve ever seen at facilitating,” Harden said. “And his attention to detail while he’s playing is something I haven’t seen or something I haven’t played with ... he can make me better.” Paul, who has been criticized for failing to get the Clippers out of the second round of the playoffs in his time there, is very clear about his motivation for joining this team. Chasing a title is all that matters to him at this point in his career. “It means everything,” he said. “If I was fine with anything else I probably would have just stayed where I was.” Some things to know about the Rockets as they prepare for the season: strong>CAPELA’S NEXT STEP: /strong> Center Clint Capela had a career-high 12.6 points and 5.4 rebounds last season in his first year as a starter after Dwight Howard left. But he averaged just under 24 minutes a game as he worked on his strength and conditioning. The Rockets hope the fourth-year player can give them about 30 minutes a night as he continues to develop. “His next step is that,” D’Antoni said. “I think he will. It’s a matter of getting older, stronger, getting into a man’s body.” strong>IMPROVED DEFENSE: /strong>Though Houston lost defensive specialist Patrick Beverley in the trade for Paul, D’Antoni believes the defense will be better this season thanks to the addition of Paul, P.J. Tucker and Luc Mbah a Moute. The Rockets had one of the league’s most potent offenses last season, but their defense wasn’t nearly as good. “We need to be in the top five defensively,” D’Antoni said. “If Golden State’s No. 1 offensively and No. 1 or 2 defensively, duh — we’ve got to be up there or otherwise we’re not going to win.” strong>NEW OWNER: /strong> The Rockets have a new owner after billionaire casino and restaurant owner Tilman Fertitta bought the team from Leslie Alexander this offseason. Fertitta paid a NBA-record $2.2 billion to buy the team after losing out to Alexander when he bought it in 1993. The businessman, who owns the Golden Nugget casino and is the star of a reality show called “Billion Dollar Buyer” on CNBC, promised he wouldn’t be as out front and hands on as Mavericks’ owner Mark Cuban, but he’ll certainly be more visible than the 74-year-old Alexander was. .....»»

Category: sportsSource:  abscbnRelated NewsOct 12th, 2017

MVP Ladder: Giannis bolsters case with key win in Houston

By Sekou Smith, NBA.com Giannis Antetokounmpo doesn’t think he’s quite “there yet” when it comes to the Kia MVP chase. With all due respect, Mr. “Greek Freak,” the basketball world begs to differ. You are definitely there, sir, based on your performance through the midpoint of this NBA season. In fact, if there were hardware to hand out from Kia Race to the MVP Ladder HQ at this point, Antetokounmpo would be the recipient (edging out a crowded field that includes the reigning MVP, James Harden). By the grace of the scheduling gods, the two leading candidates just happened to hook up on Wednesday night (Thursday, PHL time), the official halfway point of 2018-19. And they put on a show worthy of MVP mention, with Antetokounmpo’s Milwaukee Bucks knocking off Harden’s Houson Rockets at Toyota Center. Harden continued his torrid scoring streak, collecting his league-leading 14th 40-point game of the season. In doing so, he tied Tracy McGrady for the second-longest 30-point streak since the ABA/NBA merger at 14. (Kobe Bryant has the record at 16 straight.) But Harden didn’t have his most efficient outing (shooting 13-for-30 overall with nine turnovers) as the Bucks took control late. All Antentokounmpo did was shred the Rockets for 27 points on 8-for-16 shooting to go along with a career-high 21 rebounds, five assists and yet another showcase performance for his MVP resume. (The Bucks pounded the Rockets to the tune of a 70-24 advantage in points in the paint and outscored them 19-2 in fast break points.) The Bucks have won seven of their past eight games heading into today’s game against the Washington Wizards at Capital One Arena. They’ve stormed the top of the Eastern Conference standings and own a 10-5 record over Western Conference opponents with Antetokounmpo as their undisputed leader and, yes, MVP. Not there yet, huh? Yeah, right. * * * The top five this week in the 2018-19 Kia Race to the MVP Ladder: * * * 1. Giannis Antetokounmpo, Milwaukee Bucks Last week: No. 2 Season stats: 26.6 points, 12.8 rebounds, 6.0 assists, 1.5 blocks, 1.3 steals Antetokounmpo seems to be the only person on the planet who isn’t moved by his consistent brilliance this season. If he doesn’t think he’s "there yet," then the rest of the league should brace themselves for whatever comes next. He’s been an unstoppable force on both ends of the floor, but particularly as an offensive catalyst on one of the most improved teams in the league. Doing it without the aid of a reliable long-distance shot is what has made watching Antetokounmpo crush the competition so intriguing. If there was any skepticism about the Bucks being both a legitimate threat in the East and a title contender, that should be vanishing as the second half of the season begins. As long as Antetokounmpo stays focused and healthy (he’s probable Saturday, PHL time, with right quadriceps soreness and a left hip bruise), the possibilities are endless. 2. James Harden, Houston Rockets Last week: No. 1 Season stats: 33.9 points, 8.6 assists, 6.0 rebounds, 2.0 steals Harden has moved into hallowed ground with his current scoring barrage, as his 14 straight games of 30-plus points ties Hall of Famer (and fellow Rockets legend) Tracy McGrady for the second-longest streak since the ABA/NBA merger. Those debates about whether or not Harden is the best offensive player ever aren’t out of line, not when you consider the way he generates offense for himself and his teammates. Harden has a chance to obliterate the record with the Rockets’ friendly upcoming schedule (they play seven of their next 10 games at Toyota Center). The only glitch for Harden as he's hit this nuclear level is the one key flaw in his game is rising, too. He’s averaging 5.7 turnovers this season, which ties his career-high from 2016-17. He's up to 7.3 tpg in his last five games, which he, of course, would point out is world-class nit-picking of a guy playing as well as he is. 3. Stephen Curry, Golden State Warriors Last week: No. 3 Season stats: 28.9 points, 5.5 assists, 5.2 rebounds, 1.3 steals Curry shot a rather un-Splash Brother-ish 5-for-19 in Tuesday’s (Wednesday, PHL time) home win against the New York Knicks, which includes an ugly 3-for-12 showing from three-point range. That was a huge come down from his 42-point outburst (including 10 made three-pointers) Saturday (Sunday, PHL time) in a road win against the Sacramento Kings. But as often happens with a rare rough shooting night for the two-time former MVP, Curry displayed a brilliant floor game against the Knicks. He finished with 14 assists (and just one turnover) while grabbing seven rebounds as Klay Thompson went off for 43 points and Kevin Durant dropped 24. Curry’s had just three hiccups since returning from his 11-game, groin-injury induced absence on Dec. 1 (Dec. 2, PHL time). Over his last 18 games, Curry has failed to score at least 20 points only once. What should worry the Chicago Bulls, who visit Oracle today, is what Curry has done in those other two games after he struggled (averaged 32.0 points). 4. Kawhi Leonard, Toronto Raptors Last week: No. 4 Season stats: 27.3 points, 7.8 rebounds, 3.1 assists, 1.9 steals MVP voters must decide if the work Leonard did while he was playing outweighs how good the Raptors were all season whether he was in or out of the lineup. As convenient as it might be to try to diminish what Leonard has done by knocking him for the games he missed, you’d be wise to pay attention to just how good he's been when he plays. The Milwaukee Bucks can certainly attest to his impact after what Leonard did to them Saturday (Sunday, PHL time). He logged 30 points and a season-high five steals, playing his trademark lockdown defense, as the Raptors won the battle between the NBA’s top two teams (in the standings). Leonard has such tight control over his own game that he continues to play as efficiently as anyone on this list. He has notched eight games this season where he’s scored 30 or more points while shooting better than 50 percent, including his last two games (30 on 50 percent shooting in the win against the Bucks and 31 points on 61.1 percent shooting in their recent win against the Hawks). 5. Nikola Jokic, Denver Nuggets Last week: No. 7 Season stats: 19.2 points, 10.2 rebounds, 7.6 assists, 1.5 steals Jokic continues to deliver for the Nuggets in every category, doing his crafty best to help keep coach Michael Malone’s team at the top of the Western Conference. He notched his 21st career triple-double (18 points, 14 rebounds, 10 assists and two blocks) in Thursday’s (Friday, PHL time) win over the LA Clippers. It was his second straight triple-double, coming two days after lighting up the Heat in Miami for 29 points, 11 rebounds and 10 assists. In doing so, he tied Kareem Abdul-Jabbar for the second-most career triple-doubles by a center and can now chase Wilt Chamberlain’s big man record of 78. Jokic will probably dig into that deficit considerably the season if he keeps playing the way he has to kick off 2019 (27.2 points on .523 shooting, 12.6 rebounds, 7.2 assists and 1.4 steals in his last five games). Jokic and the rest of the Nuggets are focused on team goals first, of course. After missing out on the playoffs on the season's final night in 2017-18, they’re making sure to avoid any such drama this time. * * * The next five 6. Paul George, Oklahoma City Thunder 7. Joel Embiid, Philadelphia 76ers 8. LeBron James, Los Angeles Lakers 9. Kevin Durant, Golden State Warriors 10. Anthony Davis, New Orleans Pelicans And five more: DeMar DeRozan, San Antonio Spurs; Kyrie Irving, Boston Celtics; Damian Lillard, Portland Trail Blazers;Victor Oladipo, Indiana Pacers; Lou Williams, Los Angeles Clippers 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 NewsJan 12th, 2019

Patrick Beverley s trademark defense getting new test

By Shaun Powell, NBA.com There was a foul, followed by a stoppage in play, a scene replayed dozens of times in NBA arenas. Except in this case, the victim was former two-time Kia MVP Stephen Curry and the punisher was the notorious Patrick Beverley. And so the situation (of course) turned snippy. Beverley has fought against better players his entire basketball life and carries an underdog gene that tends to flare in these situations. That explains why he tried to slap the ball from the Warriors guard after the whistle. Curry wasn’t having it, and so there was a gentle shove. And then a shove was returned. Then a staredown with noses just inches from each other. Then a separation of bodies. This was Beverley doing what he does by reputation: namely, irritate and push his defensive aggression and agenda to the very limit … and then some. His “crime” was restricting Curry’s movement with a forearm. Sometimes Beverley gets away with it, but in today’s NBA, no longer with any regularity. Such is the new normal. He’s a defensive-minded player with the LA Clippers and works in a league that suddenly favors scoring and shooters. He’s quite possibly, in his estimation and that of others, someone who’s forced to evolve or perish. For him, there’s no other option. “It would be very hard,” Beverley said, “to come into the league today and try to play defense like we did years ago.” Before this season, the NBA's Points of Emphasis centered in part on freedom of movement. The goal is to help players move without barriers, which creates high-scoring games, which makes games more entertaining for fans. Halfway through the season, the evidence is convincing: Scores are up, stops are down. To date, 11 teams have an offensive rating greater than 110 and 18 teams are scoring more than 110 points per game. Last season, those numbers were six and six, respectively. For players born with height, wingspan and leaping ability, these defensive rules don’t handcuff them much. But Beverley buys his clothes off the rack, so to speak. He’s a shade over six feet and is therefore a normal man trying to make a living in a big man’s world. At 30, Beverley deals with players who are often taller and even quicker. It’s his job to make their life tougher -- but here in the new age of barely-contested shots and 120-point games, the opposite is ringing true. He’s averaging a career-high 3.6 fouls per game and can’t get away with much. As Draymond Green, a defensive demon himself and teammate of Curry’s said recently: “Defense is not allowed. You can’t really play defense in this league. I guess that’s not what they want.” ‘We’re forced to adjust’ Green's words are perhaps an extreme assessment and a touch of exaggeration. Fifteen teams averaged at least 106 ppg last season; now it’s 26. Calls are less forgiving, as only 13 teams are averaging 24 free throw attempts per game (it was five last season). The ball moves and there’s less restriction, which was the intention. And there appears to be little blowback in the basketball universe from those who observe and play. It’s just … accepted. For the most part. Even Beverley offers a shoulder shrug. “Guys who make a living off defense, we’re forced to adjust,” he said. This evolution of shifting away from certain defensive tactics is decades in the making. The NBA once allowed defenders to shove a forearm into the back of a post-up player, and subtle jersey grabs were often excused. And there was the hand-check, too. All have been outlawed. The game is far less physical, which means the “Bad Boys”-era Detroit Pistons would have little chance of winning one championship today (let alone two). The NBA has sought to distance itself from that brand of ball, from Pat Riley’s New York Knicks (and their “no free layups” mentality) and from the 85-80 scores that often stifled the creativity of the game. The result is a game that sees open lanes and quicker whistles, and less of what helped players like Beverley overcome tremendous odds to reach the NBA. “There is where we’re at,” he said. “They want to see more scoring, more up-and-down, more points and all that, which is understandable. Of course, it makes it hard for me.” Relishing his ‘instigator’ role This is Beverley’s sixth year in the NBA, but his 10th in professional basketball. His journey curved through various stops overseas before he became rooted with the Houston Rockets, his first true NBA home. It speaks to Beverley’s doggedness and his value, at least initially, as a defensive specialist assigned to the grunt work. With the rise in scoring point guards across the NBA landscape, Beverley’s role became more important, and difficult as well. In a typical week, Beverley could guard Curry, Russell Westbrook, Damian Lillard and opposing shooting guards, too. He brings an edge to the job that he learned from growing up on the West Side of Chicago to a single mother as well as a grandmother who adopted a dozen kids. Daily life was a chore. He was one of the main characters in the documentary “Hoop Reality,” the sequel to the acclaimed “Hoop Dreams.” Beverley was friendly rivals with former Kia MVP winner Derrick Rose since grade school and was actually a scorer in high school, averaging a state-best 37 points as a senior. After getting kicked out of Arkansas in 2008 after two years for academic issues -- a tutor wrote a paper for him -- he played three years in Russia and Greece before filling the point guard void on the 2012-13 Rockets caused by Kyle Lowry’s trade to Toronto the summer before. “I wouldn’t change one thing about how I got here,” he said. “Sometimes you don’t get in through the front door. Sometimes you don’t get in through the back. Sometimes you got to climb through the window. That doesn’t mean the opportunity wasn’t there. There’s a way; you’ve just got to find it.” He immediately became singled out for eyeball-to-eyeball defense that teetered on the edge. The moment that earned him a name was in the first round of the 2013 playoffs against Oklahoma City. He went for a steal on Westbrook in Game 2 while Westbrook signaled for a timeout, causing his knee injury five years ago. He still answers for that, even to this day; not that the play on the ball was reckless, but was it necessary? “I don’t go out there to hurt people, I don’t even know how to attempt to hurt somebody,” Beverley said. “I play hard, bring the edge. I’m an instigator. That gets me going. I like to bump people, to feel me getting into somebody’s jersey. I’m just different. I like contact, like physical play, like pushing and holding. But I’m not dirty.” Beverley hasn’t spoken with Westbrook -- their on-court relationship is clearly frosty -- and with the exception of Rose, he doesn’t encourage any friendships beyond his teammates. “I don’t talk to anybody,” he said. “I don’t want personal battles that take away from the team. I’m trying to win games. When I come to San Francisco or Oklahoma City or Portland, I know I’m going straight to my room because there’s people I got to be ready to play the next day. And I know they do the same. There’s respect that’s not being said. When it comes to Steph, Dame, Westbrook, I make sure I get my rest. But they get their rest, too. They know what I bring to the table.” A game that won’t change Beverley was an All-Defensive first teamer two seasons ago, both a career highlight and confirmation of his devotion to studying film and learning opponents’ tendencies. He has also overcome microfracture knee injury in 2017-18 that limited him to 11 games in his debut season with the Clippers. “I worked my ass off and I’m still working,” he said. “If it’s not one thing it’s another. Me getting hurt, coming back faster and stronger. Got kicked out of school, had to go overseas, knew I was going to the NBA anyway. I didn’t know how. But I knew. “This is bigger than me. It’s for my mom, grandmom, seeing how hard the women in my life worked to raise me. It’s not easy being a single mother raising a kid in the inner city but she made it happen. She taught me to stand on my own two feet and get the best out of hard work, which becomes part of your mindset, especially when you see two women doing it every day.” And now comes another challenge for Beverley and those like him. How do you thrive in a league that’s suddenly married to offense? “Maybe after the All-Star break they’ll stop calling ticky-tack fouls,” he said. “The better defender you are, the more you’re singled out. But I’m going to go out there and be Pat. Don’t care. Won’t change.” Beverley estimates that “70 percent” of the players he guards are rattled by him, to different degrees. He said “only a few don’t,” which he refused to name (for strategic reasons). The game may not be designed to help the underdog, average-sized player who brings intensity and defense. But there’s no sense waiting for Beverley to make excuses. He’s come too far for that. “When you’re done with this game, you don’t want to go around saying, ‘Man I wish I could’ve done this, put more time into that.’” Beverley said. “Every year I go out like a person fighting for my spot, fighting for my contract. That’s the way I train. That’s how I prepare. That’s why I’m still in the league.” 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 NewsJan 10th, 2019

Harden hits game-winner to lift Rockets past Warriors

SAN ANTONIO, USA – James Harden showed once again that he is at the top of his game, rattling in the winning basket with two seconds left in overtime to lift the Houston Rockets to a 135-134 win over Golden State. The reigning NBA MVP drained the three-pointer despite being double ........»»

Category: newsSource:  rapplerRelated NewsJan 4th, 2019

James Harden still unstoppable, rallies Rockets past Warriors in OT

OAKLAND, California --- James Harden hit a contested 3-pointer with 2.7 seconds left in overtime and finished with his second triple-double of the week and fifth straight 40-point game, rallying the Houston Rockets past the Golden State Warriors 135-134 in a thriller between Western Conference powers Thursday night for their sixth straight victory. Kevin Durant's long 3-pointer missed as the buzzer sounded in what will go down as one of the best games this regular season --- a rematch of the seven-game Western Conference finals won by two-time defending champion Golden State. Stephen Curry put the Warriors ahead with 23.1 seconds remaining in OT on the way to 35 points --- a ba...Keep on reading: James Harden still unstoppable, rallies Rockets past Warriors in OT.....»»

Category: newsSource:  inquirerRelated NewsJan 4th, 2019

James Harden rallies Rockets in OT to beat Warriors 135-134

By Janie McCauley, Associated Press OAKLAND, Calif. (AP) — James Harden hit a contested three-pointer with 2.7 seconds left in overtime and finished with his second triple-double of the week and fifth straight 40-point game, rallying the Houston Rockets past the Golden State Warriors 135-134 in a thriller between Western Conference powers Thursday night (Friday, PHL time) for their sixth straight victory. Kevin Durant's long three-pointer missed as the buzzer sounded in what will go down as one of the best games this regular season — a rematch of the seven-game Western Conference finals won by two-time defending champion Golden State. JAMES HARDEN WINS IT FOR THE @HOUSTONROCKETS FROM DOWNTOWN! 😱😱 Final in Oakland:#Rockets 135#DubNation 134 pic.twitter.com/SOJ374U8P0 — NBA (@NBA) January 4, 2019 Stephen Curry put the Warriors ahead with 23.1 seconds remaining in OT on the way to 35 points — a basket that shouldn't have counted because Durant was clearly out of bounds when he flung the ball back in. Harden, however, had one more improbable, acrobatic moment still in him. He released the ball with at least four hands in his face for the game-winner. The reigning MVP finished with 44 points, 15 assists and 10 rebounds, while Clint Capela contributed 29 points and 21 rebounds for Houston. Harden also hit three-pointers at the 3:52 and 2:02 marks of OT in a game featuring dazzling displays on both ends by some of the game's biggest stars. Klay Thompson made a go-ahead layup with 40.6 seconds left in the extra period, then Harden tied it at 132 on a pair of free throws with 33.5 seconds left. Durant added 26 points and seven rebounds. Harden also had a triple-double Monday (Tuesday, PHL time) against Memphis of 43 points, 10 rebounds and 13 assists but he was disappointed with nine turnovers he thought gave the Grizzlies too many transition opportunities. Including his 50-point game Dec. 13 (Dec. 14, PHL time) against the Lakers, Harden has scored at least 30 in 11 straight. Warriors coach Steve Kerr's simple message about defending Harden, who went to the line 27 times Monday: "Don't foul him!" Harden shot five free throws in the first quarter Thursday (Friday, PHL time) and nine in all. His jumper with 5:37 left in regulation cut Golden State's lead to 112-111. He also got the Rockets close by knocking down two three-pointers and assisting on another basket in the final 1:26 of the third as Houston cut its deficit to 98-92 going into the final quarter. Thompson scored 26 points and hit consecutive three-pointers late in the first half. After struggling to find his stroke from deep, Thompson is 10-for-17 on three-pointers the past three games. With his first triple at the seven-minute mark of the opening period, Durant became the 32nd player in NBA history to reach 22,000 points. Falling backward as he released the ball over Harden, Durant swished a three with 59.2 seconds left in the first half. The cold-shooting Rockets fell behind 70-53 at halftime. Houston was just 6-of-23 from long range, 3-for-9 by Harden, while the Warriors shot 62.8 percent. TIP-INS Rockets: F James Ennis, who had been questionable with a strained right hamstring, returned after missing the previous 10 games. ... G Eric Gordon sat out a second straight game with a bruised right knee. Warriors: C Kevon Looney scored in double figures for the ninth time this season. ... Durant is one of six active players in the 22,000-point club, joining LeBron James, Dirk Nowitzki, Carmelo Anthony, Vince Carter and Dwyane Wade. ... Durant has 12 straight games with 20 or more points. ... Golden State dropped to 10-3 when dishing out 30 or more assists. RUN TMC As part of the final season at Oracle Arena, the Warriors honored the "Run TMC" era featuring the trio of Tim Hardaway, Mitch Richmond and Chris Mullin. They were recognized on the big screen during a first-quarter timeout and Hardaway was shown sitting courtside next to Warriors owner Joe Lacob. UP NEXT Rockets: At Portland on Saturday (Sunday, PHL time). Warriors: At Sacramento on Saturday (Sunday, PHL time) looking for a fourth straight road win vs. the Kings......»»

Category: sportsSource:  abscbnRelated NewsJan 4th, 2019

S+A to air Rockets v Warriors to welcome 2019 with a bang

NBA on ABS-CBN action will continue to sizzle to start the new year. After a jam-packed December slate, S+A will once again air a bevy of games this January, starting with the early clash of Western Conference titans Houston Rockets and Golden State Warriors on January 4, 2019. It will be the first of three match-ups between the Western finalists from last year's playoffs. Meanwhile, the top dogs of the Eastern Conference will have a showdown as well when the Toronto Raptors take on the Milwaukee Bucks on January 6. Check out the full January 2019 NBA schedule on S+A:  NOTE: Featured game on January 5, Saturday will be Utah Jazz vs. Cleveland Cavaliers at 8:30 am on ABS-CBN channel 2......»»

Category: sportsSource:  abscbnRelated NewsDec 31st, 2018

Harden has Rockets rolling with visit to Warriors looming

By Brian Mahoney, Associated Press James Harden and the Houston Rockets were one half away from the NBA Finals last time they played at Oracle Arena. The way the Rockets are rolling now, they might just get another shot at the champs this postseason. The Rockets try to wrap up a perfect month at home Monday (Tuesday, PHL time) against Memphis, then visit Golden State for the first time since the Western Conference finals, having recovered from a rough start thanks to Harden’s torrid stretch. He has scored 40 points in three straight games and 35 or more in seven straight, the longest streak since LeBron James did it in nine in a row in 2006. The NBA scoring leader’s quest to repeat as MVP is clearly on track. And after a poor start, so are the Rockets (20-15). They have won four straight and nine of their last 10 games overall, and are 8-0 at home in December after dropping their first four games at the Toyota Center. Just like Game 6 of the West finals, when they blew a double-digit lead, they will play at Golden State for Thursday’s (Friday, PHL time) nationally televised game without Chris Paul because of a hamstring injury. But instead of what had been a shaky season getting worse, the Rockets have surged in his absence because of Harden. “Somebody said the other day that we can only win if he scores 40. OK, that’s kind of a bad thing, but the good thing is he can score 40 every night, so we’re OK with that,” Rockets coach Mike D’Antoni said. “Tell him to keep going.” NEW YEAR, OLD HOME Kawhi Leonard’s first trip of the new year is to his old home. The Toronto Raptors visit San Antonio on Thursday (Friday, PHL time) for what became one of the most anticipated games of this NBA season this summer when the Spurs gave Leonard the exit he had been seeking, trading him to the Raptors. Leonard was the NBA Finals MVP when the Spurs won their last championship in 2014 and had become one of the league’s most complete players by last season. But he was limited to nine games because of a quadriceps injury and his relationship with the organization became strained. The Spurs dealt him along with mainstay Danny Green to Toronto, getting All-Star guard DeMar DeRozan back. Leonard led Toronto to the best record in the league for most of the season and the two-time Defensive Player of the Year’s absence has shown on the Spurs’ defense, long one of the league’s best but well back in the rankings now. While the game Thursday (Friday, PHL time) is the most newsworthy, it’s not the most important of the week for Toronto. The Raptors follow it Saturday (Sunday, PHL time) by visiting the Milwaukee Bucks, who have inched ahead of them for the NBA’s best record and have won both meetings this season. OTHER GAMES TO WATCH THIS WEEK: Orlando at Charlotte, Monday (Tuesday, PHL time). Magic coach Steve Clifford returns to face the team he coached for five seasons. Oklahoma City at Lakers, Wednesday (Thursday, PHL time). Chance for Californians Russell Westbrook and Paul George to put on a show for the fans back home. Atlanta at Milwaukee, Friday (Saturday, PHL time). Mike Budenholzer’s move from Atlanta to Milwaukee couldn’t look much better. Dallas at Philadelphia, Saturday (Sunday, PHL time). The reigning Rookie of the Year (Ben Simmons) against the player (Luka Doncic) who could succeed him. AYTON IN ACTION Deandre Ayton will finish his strong December by testing himself against the NBA champions. Then he opens January against a different kind of test — perhaps the toughest in the league at his position. The rookie center squares off for the second time against Joel Embiid on Wednesday (Thursday, PHL time) when the Phoenix Suns host the Philadelphia 76ers. Luka Doncic might already have too much hype and highlights to be caught in the Rookie of the Year race, but Ayton’s strong play certainly shouldn’t be overlooked. The No. 1 pick scored a season-high 33 points on 16-of-20 shooting and added 14 rebounds Saturday (Sunday, PHL time) in a 122-118 loss to Denver, after he came into the game averaging 16 points and nearly 12 boards for the month. “You can feel game-to-game he is getting better,” coach Igor Kokoskov said last week. “He is working on his game. He is a very dedicated player. It was just a matter of time.” That improvement has helped the Suns go 5-4 in their last nine games — one more victory than they had during a brutal 4-24 start. After facing Golden State on Monday (Tuesday, PHL time), it’s on to his second matchup with Embiid, one of the league’s biggest talkers who was already chirping about Ayton even before he’d played his first game. After the former Arizona star was compared to him in June, Embiid wrote on Twitter: “Don’t compare Ayton to me either. I play DEFENSE.” He then told ESPN in a preseason interview that Ayton was “about to get his (butt) kicked.” Embiid had 33 points to Ayton’s 17 in the 76ers’ victory in Philadelphia in November......»»

Category: sportsSource:  abscbnRelated NewsDec 31st, 2018