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Raptors a win away from first-ever championship

By Janie McCauley, Associated Press OAKLAND, Calif. (AP) — Kawhi Leonard’s hot hand is sending the Raptors home to Toronto on the cusp of a startling upset for Canada. Leonard out-dueled the Splash Brothers for 36 points and 12 rebounds, and the Raptors moved within one victory of the franchise’s first championship by winning a second straight game on Golden State’s home floor, beating the Warriors 105-92 on Friday night (Saturday, PHL time) for a 3-1 lead in the NBA Finals. Klay Thompson made a strong return after missing Game 3 with a strained left hamstring and scored 28 points with six three-pointers in what might have been the final game after 47 seasons at Oracle Arena before the team’s move to new Chase Center in San Francisco next season. Stephen Curry added 27 points but shot just 9-for-22 and 2-of-9 from three-point range on the heels of his postseason career-best 47-point outing in a 123-109 Game 3 defeat. Serge Ibaka scored 20 points on 9-of-12 shooting in 22 minutes off the bench for the composed and confident Raptors, who for a second straight game found an answer to every Warriors threat at raucous Oracle — where home fans were stunned and silenced when the final buzzer sounded. A huge section of Toronto fans over, repeatedly singing “O Canada!” The two-time defending champions’ quest for a three-peat is suddenly in serious jeopardy. Toronto will take its first try at the title in Game 5 on Monday night (next Tuesday, PHL time) back at Scotiabank Arena. Golden State, still hopeful of injured star Kevin Durant’s return, must stave off elimination to guarantee one more game at Oracle. It would be next Thursday (next Friday, PHL time). Leonard’s 2017 postseason with San Antonio got cut short against the Warriors in Game 1 of the Western Conference finals after he re-injured his troublesome left ankle when Zaza Pachulia’s foot slid under his. He’s picked up where he left off in that game. Leonard’s two jumpers in the final 42 seconds of the third put the Raptors up 79-64 heading into the final 12 minutes. Fred VanVleet then dealt another dagger on the first possession of the fourth with a 30-footer. A bloodied VanVleet then went to the locker room with 9:35 left after being hit in the face by Shaun Livingston’s left elbow when the Warriors guard went up for a shot and VanVleet was just behind him. Replays showed a tooth in the middle of the key even after play resumed. These poised Raptors kept level heads again after falling behind by 11 points in the first half. Pascal Siakam scored 19 for Toronto. Two days earlier, Kyle Lowry was praised for staying calm when shoved on the sideline by Warriors minority owner Mark Stevens, who received a one-year ban by the team and NBA along with a $500,000 fine for the incident. Now, the Raptors as first-time finalists and in their 24th year of existence can bring Canada its first NBA championship. Toronto outscored Golden State 37-21 in the decisive third, a complete reverse of the Warriors’ dominance after halftime with an 18-0 run in the Game 2 victory. Draymond Green delivered another impressive all-around performance with 10 points, 12 assists, nine rebounds, two blocks and a steal. Warriors coach Steve Kerr challenged his team to do a better job defensively and Golden State did so early but couldn’t handle Toronto’s depth. Kevon Looney, a key backup big man, scored 10 points for the Warriors after it was initially believed he would be out the remainder of the series because of fractured cartilage near his right collarbone. He was hurt in the first half of Game 2. Looney drew huge applause as he checked into the game at the 6:45 mark of the first. Danny Green, who hit six three's in Game 3, began 0-for-6 with five missed three's before finally connecting from deep midway through the fourth. His 48th three-pointer in the finals tied him with Kobe Bryant and Derek Fisher for seventh place on the NBA list. TIP-INS Raptors: Toronto overcame being outrebounded 29-18 in the first half and a 42-38 deficit overall. ... The Raptors were 10-of-32 from deep after making 17 three's in Game 3, but converted 23-of-24 free throws Friday (Saturday, PHL time). Warriors: The Warriors’ streak this year of 19 straight postseason games scoring 100 points ended. It was 25 dating to last season’s run. ... Golden State fell to 4-2 this postseason in games following a loss. ... Livingston played in his 100th career playoff game with the Warriors, the fifth in team history to reach the mark. ... The Warriors held a closed pregame shootaround 2.5 hours before game time. ATTLES’ PRESENCE Hall of Famer Al Attles, the Warriors’ former general manager, coach and player, attended Game 4. It was the first game in approximately eight months for the 82-year-old Attles, who has had health issues. DURANT’S STATUS Durant missed his ninth straight game since the injury May 8 (May 9, PHL time) in Game 5 of the Western Conference semifinals against the Rockets. Kerr is done providing every detail and step of Durant’s rehab progress. “We’re hoping he can play Game 5 or 6. And everything in between I’ve decided I’m not sharing because it’s just gone haywire,” Kerr said. “There’s so much going on, and so it doesn’t make sense to continue to talk about it. He’s either going to play or he’s not. So tonight he’s not playing.”.....»»

Category: sportsSource:  abscbnRelated NewsJun 8th, 2019

Here s why the Warriors will win the 2019 NBA Finals

By Tim Reynolds, Associated Press TORONTO (AP) — Golden State coach Steve Kerr dropped the hint eight months ago that this season may be the end of the Warriors, at least as the team is currently configured. He was speaking of the Warriors’ run atop the NBA, with three titles in four years. “It’s not going to last forever,” Kerr said on Sept. 24, as training camp was beginning. [Watch the Playoffs on NBA League Pass for 30% less with this limited time offer! Select Annual package and use code SAVE30 at checkout to redeem] Fast-forward to now. There are two or three weeks left in the season and then a most uncertain summer begins. Kevin Durant may leave. DeMarcus Cousins may leave. Klay Thompson may leave. Andre Iguodala may leave. The Warriors know, and have known, that their roster next season may look a whole lot different than it does now. If this run is going to end, it’ll be on their terms. The Warriors are going to win another NBA championship. They have been strangely steeled by this lingering sense of doubt all season. They dealt with injuries; Cousins was out most of the year as he continued recovering from Achilles surgery, Stephen Curry dealt with a groin strain, Draymond Green had toe issues. They dealt with strife; a very popular narrative early in the season was that Durant and Green were warring Warriors. They looked really bored at times. And the postseason hasn’t been a cakewalk. The Los Angeles Clippers tested them in the first round, winning twice on the Warriors’ home floor at Oracle Arena. The second round against Houston was 2-2 after four games. Durant got hurt in Game 5 of that series with the outcome hanging in the balance. Go figure. The Warriors pulled out the win that night and haven’t lost since. For this series against the Toronto Raptors, they’re going to get Cousins back. They’ll probably get Durant back at some point, as well. Thompson tends to play well when he’s angry and he’s got a right to be angry after not being picked for the All-NBA team. And Curry, although individual honors aren’t why he plays the game, will probably be driven on some level to win NBA Finals MVP for the first time. More than anything, they’re playing for something dynastic. Detroit won back-to-back titles in 1989 and 1990 and nobody considers that era of Pistons basketball a dynasty. Same goes for the Houston Rockets, champions in 1994 and 1995. San Antonio won five times in the Tim Duncan era, yet none of those came back-to-back even. Miami went to four straight finals from 2011 through 2014, winning in the middle two years, but didn’t get the elusive three-peat. The Warriors are playing for history. A third straight title, that’s the stuff dynasties are made of. And if they get that one, then maybe the band stays together one more year to chase No. 4, something Michael Jordan never got, something no team in history other than Bill Russell’s Boston Celtics got in a run that ended half a century ago. The Raptors won’t be easy. But the Warriors are playing for something that, unlike rosters, will last forever. Warriors in six. ___ Tim Reynolds is a national basketball writer for The Associated Press. Write to him at treynolds@ap.org.....»»

Category: sportsSource:  abscbnRelated NewsMay 30th, 2019

Things to know about these most-international NBA Finals

By Tim Reynolds, Associated Press TORONTO (AP) — Sometime in the next couple weeks, either the Toronto Raptors or Golden State Warriors will proclaim themselves to be world champions. They won’t be true “world” champions, of course. But these NBA Finals have a very distinct international feel. [Watch the Playoffs on NBA League Pass for 30% less with this limited time offer! Select Annual package and use code SAVE30 at checkout to redeem] Game 1 of the series on Thursday night (Friday, PHL time) is in Canada, the first time a finals game will be played outside the U.S. Raptors President Masai Ujiri was born in Nigeria. There are players from eight different countries — the U.S., along with Canada (Chris Boucher), Spain (Marc Gasol), Britain (OG Anunoby), Cameroon (Pascal Siakam), Congo (Serge Ibaka), Australia (Andrew Bogut) and Sweden (Jonas Jerebko). “It says a lot that the first NBA Finals outside of America is being played here,” Ujiri said. “Maybe one day it will be real ‘world champions’ or something, but this is what we dream of.” It’s even a homecoming of sorts for Warriors guard Stephen Curry, again. His first four trips to the finals pitted him against Cleveland, not far from Akron, Ohio — where he and LeBron James both were born. Toronto has even more direct ties than Cleveland does for Curry; his wife Ayesha was born and raised in Toronto until she was 14, and his father Dell Curry played for the Raptors. So Stephen Curry lived in Toronto for a bit, and went to school there. “A lot of family history,” Stephen Curry said. The finals will be aired in 215 countries, three Canadian networks will air the series live (one of them in French), and broadcasters speaking in 50 different languages will work the games. There are a half-dozen networks from Australia, Estonia, Hong Kong and New Zealand airing the finals for the first time. More of what to know going into this series: FAREWELL, ORACLE Game 4 or Game 6 of this series will be the last time the Warriors call Oracle Arena home. The team is moving from Oakland to the new Chase Center in San Francisco next season. The Warriors have played more than 2,000 games at Oracle, and since this run of NBA Finals appearances began when Steve Kerr took over as coach five years ago they are a staggering 218-40 in their soon-to-be-former home building. “You cannot tell the story of professional basketball without including Oracle,” said ESPN analyst Mark Jackson, a former Warriors coach. “Those fans have been incredibly loyal from the beginning to the end. ... As a former coach, as a former player coming into that building, as an analyst, it’s as good as it gets.” STILL WAITING With Toronto now in the finals for the first time, that means there are only six active franchises that still haven’t been to the championship series. The Los Angeles Clippers, Charlotte Hornets, Denver Nuggets, Minnesota Timberwolves, New Orleans Pelicans and Memphis Grizzlies are still waiting for their first trip to the NBA Finals. MONEY MATTERS The Warriors and the Raptors are playing for a little bit of money — $1,295,117, to be exact. That’s the difference between winning the finals and losing the finals, at least in terms of the take from the NBA playoff pool. The Warriors are already guaranteed $4,435,312 from the playoff pool; the Raptors have clinched $4,325,888. This year’s playoff pool was $21,676,510, which all 16 postseason teams shared. No playoff team got less than $323,506. Milwaukee got the most, by far, of any non-finals team — after finishing with the NBA’s best record and reaching the Eastern Conference finals, the Bucks will share $2,516,774. SECOND TO ONE Golden State is in the finals for the fifth consecutive year. That’s the second-longest such streak in NBA history, only to Boston’s run of 10 consecutive appearances from 1957 through 1966. Boston (this time in 1984 through 1987, separate from the 10-straight streak), Miami (2011-2014), Cleveland (2015-2018) and the Los Angeles Lakers (1982-1985) had all reached the finals in four consecutive seasons. FINISHING STRONG Even with the No. 2 seed in the Eastern Conference locked up, the Raptors finished the regular season with a flourish — winning seven of their last eight games. This was why. A 58-24 record meant the Raptors finished a game ahead of Golden State’s 57-25 mark, and that’s why Game 1 of this series is in Toronto. A good omen for the Raptors: Under the current playoff format, teams with home-court advantage in the NBA Finals have ultimately prevailed 26 out of 35 times. ’NOVA NATION It’s been a long time since a Villanova player won a championship ring, and even longer since a Villanova player actually played in a series where his team won the title. Kyle Lowry is looking to change all that. The Raptors’ point guard — who played for Jay Wright at Villanova — is in the NBA Finals for the first time. He’s looking to be the first Villanova player to win a ring since John Celestand got one with the Los Angeles Lakers in 2000; Celestand didn’t appear in any playoff games that season. The last player from Villanova to actually play in a victorious NBA Finals was Chris Ford with Boston in 1981. Lowry spoke on the eve of Game 1 about the lessons he learned from Wright that still apply. “If you make a mistake, apologize, kind of just accept everything,” Lowry said. “Accept everything as a man and bounce back from it. If anything negative, just bounce back, take it and keep going. I think those are the things that stick with me today. I never shy from anything, I never shy from negative criticism, constructive criticism, I take it all, I understand it, learn from it, digest it and move on.” RECORD CHASING Stephen Curry already has the NBA Finals record for most 3-pointers made in a career, with 98. He enters this series with 247 attempted 3s in his finals appearances, four shy of tying LeBron James for the most in NBA history. And while not a record, here is an odd stat: If Shaun Livingston makes his first shot of these finals, he’ll pass Wilt Chamberlain and move into fourth place on the NBA Finals all-time shooting percentage list. STARTING EARLY The May 30 (May 31, PHL time) start date for these finals is the earliest for the NBA’s title series since 1986, when the Houston-Boston matchup began on May 26. So the 2019 finals started earlier than has been the norm. That doesn’t mean they’ll be over early. If they go the distance, they’ll end on June 17 (June 18, PHL time) — nine days later than last season’s final game......»»

Category: sportsSource:  abscbnRelated NewsMay 30th, 2019

BLOGTABLE: Will Warriors make another push for 73 wins?

em>NBA.com blogtable /em> Through 35 games, the Warriors are just three games off their 73-win pace from 2015-16. Do you think they will finish below last season’s win total, match last season’s win total or exceed it … and why? strong>David Aldridge: /strong> em> strong>Below. Likely well below /strong> /em>. I get the sense that Steve Kerr believes the pursuit of 73 last season, while understandable and perhaps even correct given the unique circumstances, cost his team a lot of emotional energy going into the playoffs. So I suspect he'll rest a lot of his starters down the stretch in April to make sure they're ready for a long postseason run. I am absolutely sure they will not 'go for it' again just for the sake of chasing the record. strong>Steve Aschburner: /strong> em> strong>Golden State doesn’t want to win 73 games or more /strong> /em>. That 73-9 record – a tremendous achievement last season – wound up getting them mocked as much as anything when they didn’t finish off with the NBA championship. Steve Kerr & Co. don’t need that sort of attention or pressure again, and even the players who pushed last spring to eclipse the 1996 Bulls’ 72-10 mark will want to be smarter and embrace this trendy NBA notion of “rest” as a way to better prep for the postseason. strong>Fran Blinebury: /strong> em> strong>The Warriors will not reach last season’s record of 73 wins because they won’t try. /strong> /em> They saw what the pursuit of history did to them a year ago, wore them down and out and had them physically unprepared to go the distance to win a championship. A year ago Stephen Curry and Draymond Green pushed at Steve Kerr to let them go for the record. This time sanity prevails and will give the key members of his lineup plenty of rest coming down the stretch of the regular season. It’s all about Larry O’Brien Trophy or bust this time around, not chasing records. strong>Scott Howard-Cooper: /strong> em> strong>Below /strong> /em>. I’m saying massive tailspin all the way to 68 or 69 wins. The Warriors went for it last season because Steve Kerr could see his locker room really wanted the record, but that won’t happen again. Kerr made it clear from the first day of training camp that rest would be much more of a priority than a year earlier, and the same locker room is on board. Maybe that changes if they get into the final few weeks and 74 gets the heart pounding, but I doubt it. June would have been the only thing that matters anyway. But after the way the Dubs went down in flames, it matters in a special way for them. strong>Shaun Powell: /strong> em> strong>They'll finish below because Steve Kerr will begin resting players on a rotational basis come late March or early April /strong> /em>. He's already on record saying 73 or more wins means nothing to him and, I suspect, the players as well. It's championship or bust for this team, so expect to see Curry, KD, Draymond and Klay logging heavy bench time in the spring. strong>John Schuhmann: /strong> em> strong>They're not getting to 73 (and they'd probably prefer not to), but I wouldn't say that 70 is out of the question /strong> /em>. The Warriors have four of the 20 best players in the league and could rest one of those four guys every game from here on out and still have more talent their opponent most nights. So, more than any other team we've ever seen, they can make their health and energy in April, May and June their No. 1 priority and still win a lot of games in January, February and March. strong>Sekou Smith: /strong>I'm convinced the Warriors learned a lesson from last season in regards to chasing numbers during the regular season. As fun as it might have seemed at the time, that 73-win chase didn't produce the desired results in the playoffs. em> strong>So I say they finish below last season's win total. Why bother with an attempt at breaking your own record when you can keep your focus on the real prize? /strong> /em> They don't hand out Larry O'Brien trophies for the best team in the regular season. strong>Ian Thomsen: /strong> em> strong>They're going to finish short because winning 73 isn't their goal. /strong> /em>And it should not be. The only thing that matters for this group – and for Kevin Durant in particular – is prevailing in the playoffs. The regular season is very simply a means to that end. strong>Lang Whitaker: /strong> em> strong>Below. And if they accidentally mess around and start winning even more games and look like they’re on track to get near 73, I suspect they might self-sacrifice the effort and start sitting guys down the stretch. /strong> /em> Because if we learned anything from last season, as great as it was for the Warriors to finish with 73 wins, the only numbers anyone cares about is 3-1. And for Golden State, getting back to the Finals as healthy and rested as possible should be the goal. .....»»

Category: sportsSource:  abscbnRelated NewsJan 5th, 2017

Looney to give it a go in Game 6; Warriors pay tribute to Durant

OAKLAND, Calif. (AP) — Golden State coach Steve Kerr says ailing Warriors big man Kevon Looney will try to play in Game 6 of the NBA Finals. The 6'9" Looney re-aggravated a cartilage fracture in his right collarbone area during Game 5. Kerr says, "Kevon just warmed up on the court with Chris DeMarco. He's doing decently I think he'll give it a go. We'll see how he holds up." The Warriors will also be honoring injured star Kevin Durant and paying tribute to Oracle Arena with yellow rally towels given to fans for Game 6 of the NBA Finals. PLAY FOR K: Tonight the #Dubs take on the #Raptors in the last game ever at #Roaracle - and they're doing it all for fellow Warrior Kevin Durant. This is what fans will be seeing on tonight's rally towel for #Game 6. GO DUBS! ????????????#PLAYFORK #doitforKD #dubnation pic.twitter.com/I2E4UFGzLP — KRON4 News (@kron4news) June 13, 2019 One line on the towel reads FOR OAK and the next line says LAND (FOR OAKLAND) with the "K'' and "D'' lined up in white for Durant's initials and nickname, "KD." In the 2,070th game at Oracle, the Warriors were set to sell out their 343rd consecutive game and say farewell at last to the place they called home for 47 years. Golden State will move its games, practices and day-to-day operations to new Chase Center in San Francisco beginning next season. Oracle held its first game on Nov. 29, 1966 against Chicago......»»

Category: sportsSource:  abscbnRelated NewsJun 14th, 2019

Durant s injury devastates victorious Warriors as they head home

By Shaun Powell, NBA.com TORONTO — When a superstar crumples to the floor like that, after everything he’d been through, after mustering the will to return to action, after giving his team the lift it so desperately needed in a win-or-go-home game, everything that happens next is muted: The flow of a tense game, the pulsating fourth quarter, even the Warriors’ inspired Game 5 victory in the final seconds. All that’s left is a siren blaring and asking … Why? Why did the Warriors clear Kevin Durant to return to the NBA Finals on Monday (Tuesday, PHL time)? Why did he feel compelled to do so after missing nearly a month with a calf strain? Why did a segment of the basketball populace question the severity of his injury -- and, by extension, his heart -- during the lead-up? And why do the basketball Gods seem to have it in for a two-time Finals MVP and all-time great who put his team first, and possibly just put his career in jeopardy? The Raptors fans who lined up 24 hours early in the rain just to watch on TV outside Scotiabank Arena aren’t shook. The citizens who braced for a championship celebration into the wee hours and now must deal with deflation aren’t shook. Not even the Raptors, who coughed up a six-point lead with 3.5 minutes left and now must fly 3,000 miles for another tip. No, it’s the Warriors who were left dazed and confused despite extending the series to another game with the 106-105 victory, and it was all captured in the quivering voice of team president Bob Myers while revealing Durant suffered an Achilles injury early in the second quarter. “He’s a good teammate,” Myers finally managed to say. “He’s a good person … it’s not fair … he just wants to play basketball and right now he can’t.” No, he can’t, and Tuesday's (Wednesday, PHL time) MRI will determine when that can happen again. Slow-motion TV replays that showed Durant executing a dribble move past Serge Ibaka and then dropping quickly to the floor were not positive. When Durant grabbed his leg on May 8 (May 9, PHL time), he reached high on his calf. This time, he reached low. A segment of the fans initially cheered Durant’s misfortune, and when Kyle Lowry and Serge Ibaka put them in check, the reaction quickly flipped from insensitive to respectful. But it didn’t matter in the big picture that they applauded Durant. He was helped to the locker room by director of sports medicine and performance Rick Celebrini and Andre Iguodala. Stephen Curry left the bench and walked behind Durant, consoling him. Durant cursed loudly as he reached the tunnel. Then he disappeared from view and later left the arena by crutches right after halftime. In the history of the NBA Finals, there was no tougher scene to witness, no matter the rooting interest. This was a basketball betrayal, pure and simple, that happened to Kevin Durant. But should it have? Plenty of questions now surround the medical protocol used by the Warriors. Durant took part in what was loosely termed a practice for the first time just a day earlier. Was that enough? Did he pass all the stress tests by then? Did the exams and MRIs give a green light? Were the experts fully apprised? And, perhaps most crucially, how much of this Achilles injury could be directly related to the calf injury and should that have been perhaps a larger concern? “He went through four weeks with a medical team and it was thorough and we felt good about the process," Myers insisted. "He was cleared to play tonight, that was a collaborative decision. I don’t believe there is anyone to blame, but I understand in this world that if you have to, you can blame me.” Beyond that, was there any pressure -- either implied or indirectly placed or discreetly suggested -- within the organization for Durant to return and rescue the Warriors? They were down 3-1 without him. Durant is famously sensitive about how he’s perceived, especially regarding his toughness. Maybe he felt pressure himself to quiet the noise and whispers. Complicating matters is his pending free agency. Durant stood to make hundreds of millions on the market this summer, and a torn Achilles, if that’s what the MRI will show, can require a year to rehab. In the moment, Durant's injury had a temporary bonding effect between the two teams; a handful of Toronto players approached Durant before he checked out and both benches appeared equally stunned. “In this league,” explained Lowry, “we’re all brothers, and it’s a small brotherhood and you never want to see a competitor like him go down.” Before the injury, Durant showed flashes of the next-level skills that helped him lead the Warriors to the last two championships. He hit his first two shots, both from deep. He commanded coverage from Kawhi Leonard, Toronto’s best defender. He had a presence. This injected confidence within the Warriors, who broke out a nine-point lead with Durant on the floor and seized early command. He, Curry and Thompson were 12-for-19 shooting for 36 points through the early second quarter. With their missing star in the fold for the first time this series, Golden State looked whole again. Once Durant left the floor, the game tightened until the fourth. Leonard (26 points), who shot poorly to that point, made his move, with 10 quick points to send a quake through the arena. Curiously, Raptors coach Nick Nurse called a timeout with his team buzzing and up five with three minutes left. Did that kill the momentum? Curry and Thompson answered with consecutive three-pointers to tie and then take the lead with 56 seconds left. Then, on Toronto’s final possession, Thompson and Andre Iguodala trapped Leonard and forced him to surrender the ball. It found its way to Lowry, deep in the corner. But Draymond Green got his fingertips on the ball, Lowry’s shot was harmless and the buzzer sounded. No confetti fell from the ceiling, no bottles were popped in the home locker room, no trophy was ceremoniously awarded. Curry and Thompson combined for 57 points and took 27 three-pointers, making 12. They’ll need to duplicate that production Thursday (Friday, PHL time) in Oakland and beyond if the Warriors force a seventh game. DeMarcus Cousins was helpful post-Durant and had 14 points. “They’ve accomplished so much over the years and that doesn’t happen just with talent,” Kerr said. “There has to be more that goes into it and it’s that fight, that competitive desire and ability to stay poised under pressure. It was brilliant to watch.” And yet: There was little joy. “It’s hard to even celebrate this win,” said Klay Thompson. “I told the team I didn’t know what to say because, on one hand I’m so proud of them for the amazing heart and grit they showed, and on the other I’m just devastated for Kevin," Kerr said. "So it’s a bizarre feeling that we all have right now.” It’s a reflex to say the Warriors were inspired by Durant and perhaps they were. When he fell, they had their excuse, yet thought otherwise. For them to play the final 2.5 quarters while dealing with a fractured state of mind says plenty about their mental toughness. “It had made it difficult, especially with the start we got off to and Kevin was playing so well, so it was a real shock when he went down,” said Kerr. “So I give our guys credit.” Durant at times became a magnet for his personality quirks and especially his non-commitment regarding free agency; it was even raised by Green when the two infamously clashed on the bench earlier this season. If nothing else, the injury further endeared Durant to the locker room and, in particular, to his fellow MVP. “Everybody gets so wrapped up in chasing championships, but life is more important in terms of caring about an individual and what they’re going through,” Curry said. “And you see the commitment and the challenges and just what has been thrown at KD this whole year, really. He gave us what he had, he went out there and sacrificed his body and we know how that turned out. “When you get to know somebody and see how genuine they are and how committed they are to basketball, you root for those type of guys. All those emotions come into play when you see him go down like that. It’s not even about this series; it’s about long term, his mindset and being able to get back to being the player and the person he has shown consistently over the course of his career.” The Warriors return to Oracle Arena for the final game in the old barn before moving to San Francisco next season, so there is motivation to shut it down in style. Of course, there’s the goal of forcing a seventh game, and finally, to win a title so Durant’s injury won’t be in vain. “We do it for Kevin,” said Thompson. “He wants us to compete and the highest level, and we’ll think of him every time we step on the hardwood. You think of him every time you dive for a loose ball or go for a rebound, because I know him and I know how bad he wants to be out there. I’m going to miss him, man. It’s not the same being out there without him.” Shaun Powell has covered the NBA for more than 25 years. 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 NewsJun 11th, 2019

Durant s return looms large heading into potential clincher

By Shaun Powell, NBA.com TORONTO — Let us dismiss the tasty-yet-faulty comparison folks will try to make regarding Game 5 and Kevin Durant and the fate of the Warriors in these NBA Finals: In 1970, when Knicks center Willis Reed famously limped out of the tunnel at Madison Square Garden for Game 7, he only hit two jumpers and was done, too gimpy to go any further. The Warriors, starved for points against a toothy Raptors defense, will require plenty more than that from Durant before he’s done. Back then, it was winner-take-all, New York vs. L.A. Durant and the Warriors are trailing 3-1 and face elimination at Scotiabank Arena. They’re staring down a far deeper and darker tunnel. This is the stark reality for a would-be savior and his recuperating calf and the desperate two-time defending champions. Durant was upgraded to questionable for Monday (Tuesday, PHL time), which means it's likely he’ll at least be on the floor. Whether he stays long enough to break a sweat or plays well enough to make the Raptors perspire is the real issue. Perhaps never before has an injury to a superstar of this magnitude been this mysterious – and perhaps costly – in the history of The Finals. Remember, with Reed, the Knicks won at the end. Maybe there's more in common with Magic Johnson pulling a hamstring in 1989 during Game 1, but again, Magic was finished for the series, and so were the Lakers, swept by the Pistons. Durant is trying to return and in the process squelch the innuendo swirling about his recovery and also trigger a historic comeback. Can he pull this off after not playing since May 8 (May 9, PHL time), and practicing for the first time only Sunday? It was a practice, but only in the tamest sense. Durant joined his teammates and took part after the media was hustled off the court, leaving no outside witnesses or sneaky TMZ footage. The Warriors, this time of year, only conduct light drills. And it was over within an hour. To recap: Durant is supposed to step into an intense basketball game after missing a month, and battle a Toronto defense led by Kawhi Leonard, and thwart a championship bid by a team and city bracing for a maddening celebration around midnight, and … rescue the Warriors? OK, then. “I think it’s pretty easy to realize we obviously miss him out there and he’s propelled us to two championships in two years,” said Warriors guard Klay Thompson. “So it would be pretty storybook if he could come back and help us do the same.” If it sounds like the Warriors are so stretched for answers and solutions that they’re banking on Durant being close to normal after a lengthy layoff, well … maybe they are. When you’re facing elimination, there’s really no other choice. And the Warriors haven’t been able to solve the Raptors without him. Yet Durant has set himself a high bar. Before his injury, which occurred in the conference semifinals against Houston, he was on another level, nearly galactic. He averaged 34 points, five rebounds and five assists in 11 games and was a finalist for everyone’s “best player in the playoffs" honors with Giannis Antetokounmpo. Since then Leonard, the postseason leader in points, and rebounds, and minutes, has yanked that praise for himself. The Raptors, as a result, are heavy favorites to lift the trophy. Durant may not be 100 percent, leaving what he can possibly do an open question: Will he be more of a decoy than a legitimate offensive threat? And on defense, how can the Warriors cover for him, since the Raptors will surely try to exploit the situation by running Durant through screens? Without Durant, the scoring burden had to be carried by Thompson and Steph Curry, and while both have done fairly well, the Warriors have had little margin for error. Whenever Draymond Green or Andre Iguodala or DeMarcus Cousins failed to lend support for Thompson and Curry, the results have been disastrous for Golden State. Coach Steve Kerr feels Durant’s presence will be enough to cause a ripple effect that influences what both teams do when he’s on the floor. “The game plan changes if Kevin is out there, or if he’s not,” Kerr said. “So you adapt accordingly. It changes matchups, it changes rotations, all that stuff.” It’ll be a surprise if Durant’s return causes issues within the Warriors and the system that was tweaked in his absence. Although they’ve been without him for nine games, he did play three seasons with the club, so there shouldn’t be any adjustment problems. Quite the contrary, says Curry. “We’ll be able to adjust in transition pretty smoothly,” said Curry. “He’s been in plenty of Finals and has played well. No matter what the percentage he’s at, I’m sure he’ll be impactful and effective.” It’s always tricky to play doctor and determine how much time Durant should’ve missed, although that never deters anyone from doing so. Taking it a step further, while none of his teammates or coaches publicly questioned the depths of Durant’s injury, dealing with the daily dose of “is he or isn’t he?” became tiring to some. They all suspect that if Durant could’ve played, he would. What possible motive would encourage him to stay out longer than necessary? To show everyone how much the Warriors need him? That seems a stretch for someone who craves a championship. Possibly not his pending free agency either; if anything Durant would get bonus points for playing through pain and would have all summer to recover in the event of re-injuring the calf, which is not considered career-threatening. Injured players have no obligation to speak to the media, and Durant hasn’t, with his silence only feeding speculation. “I feel for Kevin,” Thompson said. “I know what type of competitor he is and we obviously miss him dearly. But whether it’s tomorrow or Game 6, we just have to do everything in our power to help him get back. He will be very welcome, I’ll say that much. Kevin’s (injury) is serious and I know how badly he wants to be out there. He’s one of the best competitors I’ve been around.” The stretchy shooting range, the high release of a shot that’s nearly impossible to block or discourage, the energy and determination and ability to make plays in tense moments, those are the elements Durant brings and the Warriors have missed in The Finals. They’ll take whatever he can give, whatever that might be.   “I would like to think he would make a difference,” Shaun Livingston said. “Again, it’s just any time a player of that caliber comes back or goes out of the lineup, it’s going to be felt certain ways. We’ll see what happens.” And if Durant is unable to play extended minutes or sputters around the floor, making mistakes and dogged by rust and fatigue and inefficiency? Then it’ll fall on his teammates, a group that couldn’t beat the Raptors in two games at Oracle Arena yet somehow must thrive in a Canadian madhouse that awaits Monday (Tuesday, PHL time). “You’re going to see a resilient Warriors team,” Thompson said. “We’ve had our backs against the wall with this same group. Obviously, it’s a little more daunting being down 3-1 but usually when our backs are against the wall, we respond the best.” Question is, will Durant have their back? Or will he and that wall crumble under pressure from these hungry Raptors and the long odds? Shaun Powell has covered the NBA for more than 25 years. 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: lifestyleSource:  abscbnRelated NewsJun 10th, 2019

Five things we learned from Game 4 of the 2019 Finals

By Steve Aschburner, NBA.com OAKLAND, Calif. – Five things we learned from the Toronto Raptors’ 105-92 victory over the Golden State Warriors in Game 4 of the 2019 NBA Finals on Friday at Oracle Arena: 1. Dynasties eventually become ‘die-nastys’ Will we get one more game at Oracle Arena? The scene of so much Golden State wonderfulness the past five seasons? A building about to be abandoned when the Warriors move from Oakland to a state-of-the-art arena across the Bay? Hold up. Asking one more game out of the Warriors seems a lot at the moment. These guys just suffered their second consecutive home playoff loss by 10 points or more, something that hasn’t happened to this franchise in 50 years. After three straight games scoring precisely 109 points, the Warriors came up 15 short Friday (Saturday, PHL time). They are 0-9 overall this season when held to double digits, and 0-11 in the playoffs during the Steve Kerr era, when they score 94 or fewer. And now they’re on the wrong side of a 3-1 deficit, lacking everything from certain healthy bodies to an edge, a sharpness that was missing in the second half. Granted, Golden State once held a 3-1 edge in a Finals, all the way back in 2016 … when LeBron James, Kyrie Irving and the Cavaliers chased them down and became the only Finals team to claw out of such a chasm. The Warriors did the same to Oklahoma City in the 2016 Western Conference finals. So they not only have a blueprint, they have the know-how and an opportunity to do it again. Like Kerr before him on Friday's (Saturday, PHL time) postgame podium, Warriors forward Draymond Green spoke of simply trying to win one basketball game, the next game, as the proper way to dig out of this series hole. But then he dropped his guard and mentioned winning three in a row, something the Warriors have done often. But they’re a whole year removed from doing that in a Finals (last year’s sweep of the Cavs) with a healthy Kevin Durant. This is a more worn-down, tired team. In fact, Game 4 was more than Golden State’s 102nd game of 2018-19, regular and postseason combined. It was the 102nd playoff game of their five consecutive Finals runs, which means they have crammed an extra season-plus into their schedules compared to the underachievers on lottery teams sitting at home. From the looks of it Friday (Saturday, PHL time), these guys are ready to be toppled, like the Lakers in 1989 and again in 2004, like the Heat in 2014 and the Cavaliers last June. The boisterous Raptors fans who staged their takeover of the Warriors’ building after Game 4 were merely mirroring what their favorite team did on the court from halftime on. Golden State could not stop it. Rudy Tomjanovich might still be inclined to scream into the darkness. (“Never underestimate the heart of a champion!”) But pride only takes you so far, and that’s mostly what the Warriors have left. 2. Third quarter? That’s Toronto’s now It took the Raptors more than 18 minutes to score 30 points Friday night (Saturday, PHL time), stymied by the pace of the game and particularly Golden State’s scrappy, hustling defense. Immediately after halftime, it took Toronto only 12 minutes to put up 37. The time of death for Golden State on Friday was immediately after Kawhi Leonard drained consecutive three-pointers – “F-you” shots, teammate Fred VanVleet memorably coined them – that boosted Toronto from a four-point deficit to a 12-point advantage. The Warriors already had played well enough to rightly feel they should have had a bigger cushion; falling behind so rudely seemed to buckle the defending champs. That they feel third quarters are their birthright made the switcheroo intolerable. “We had a big problem with the third quarter in Game 2,” Toronto coach Nick Nurse said. “We had to make some adjustment there to try to combat the way they come out of the half. We made the decision to put Fred in, [first] in Game 3 and then Game 4 again. Mostly it's to try to keep up pace of our offense going. It gives us two point guards out there that can push the ball, get it in and get it going, and it kind of paid off. “I know Kawhi's two big three's to start the half really changed the whole feel of everybody. Everybody was like, ‘Okay, man, we know we are here, let's go,’ and we just kind of kept going from those two three's.” For the Warriors, who have done that to so many others, turnabout was a pain in the rump. “Oh, this sucks,” Draymond Green recalled thinking as Toronto took control of the quarter. “It sucks really bad. You just try and do whatever you can to change it. Get a stop, get a bucket, get some momentum.  Every time we did, they answered.” Green was asked about the difficulty of rattling the stone-faced Leonard with whatever defensive tactic Golden State could muster, and brushed the question aside. “I don't think you're ever going to rattle Kawhi. Not sure we used that word one time in our scouting report, ‘We're going to rattle him,’” Green said. But it’s not just Leonard now. It’s the Raptors. Time after time, whenever Golden State revved up with a couple of scoring possessions, signaling to their fans they ready to make a run, Toronto snuffed it with a three-pointer or a well-executed pick and roll. They’ve got a team of Kawhis-in-training, unflappable lately if not as inscrutable. “Most teams will take cues from their leaders or their star players, so I think that spreads around a little bit,” Nurse said. But he also praised vets such as Marc Gasol, Danny Green, Kyle Lowry and VanVleet for how steady they’ve been. Now, with the temptation to imagine hoisting a championship trophy, the Raptors might be expected to buy into the stat that, of the 34 teams in The Finals who have led 3-1, 33 of them got their rings. But this team is so focused, so resolute in taking care of business down to the smallest and most mundane task, that all Nurse might have to do is remind them how many aspiring champs won three games in a Finals and still headed into summer empty-handed. (It's 19.) No trophy, no rings. 3. A surge from Serge The chemistry between Serge Ibaka and Kyle Lowry was evident in their playful banter on the podium Friday night. Each slipped into his role, Lowry as the instigator, Ibaka as the target of his playful jibes. “You joining me?” Lowry asked, as Ibaka got to the podium a half minute after him. “Serge Ibaka, everybody. You all know him. Nice outfit. Worth a lot of money. Is that jacket real leather?” “Yes, it’s real leather,” Ibaka said. "Pants too tight, he can't even sit down,” Lowry said. On court, Ibaka’s defensive impact and 20 points in reserve dampened a lot of Warrior enthusiasm. There are nights when Ibaka comes across like Chief in “One Flew Over the Cuckoo’s Nest,” a large, lumbering and rather stiff option near the rim with very little to say. Some nights, he even seems to be asleep. But still waters often run deep, too deep for the Warriors in Game 4, it turned out. Ibaka’s here-today, gone-tomorrow shooting touch had him playing in a way that none of Golden State’s three centers – DeMarcus Cousins, Kevon Looney or Andrew Bogut – could match. “Once he gets into the series," Nurse said, "which he did in Game 3 with the blocked shots and the rebounding and stuff, he seems to stay in the series. He usually gives you all of it.” Said Lowry, about knowing when a Serge surge is coming: “He doesn't say anything. When Serge is effective defensively is when he's at his best. I think the scoring just comes. We're going to make sure he gets that pick-and-pop jump shot, he's rolling … When he brings that intensity and that fierceness, it's kind of tough to stop him on both ends of the floor.” 4. Stephen Curry had a bad game One of the most famous pieces of magazine journalism ever was entitled, “Frank Sinatra Has a Cold,” by Gay Talese, a profile written when Sinatra obviously was ill of body and temper, and didn’t even grant Talese an interview. So our headline kind of tells the story as his did: Curry, one of the top five players in the NBA and probably the greatest overall shooter of all time, was not his two-time MVP self. He wasn’t even the Game 3 version (47 points). The Warriors point guard scored 20 fewer points in this one, and was 2-of-9 from three-point range. He missed all five of his shots from the arc in the first half and he picked up some obvious frustration fouls. Curry played 43 of the 48 minutes, and Golden State was outscored by 11 points when he was on the court. “It wasn’t his best game,” Kerr said. Evaluating Curry, for the Warriors, was going to come down to breaking down video and keeping the faith. Evaluating him, for the rest of us, is getting complicated these days by a sense that Curry did not get his due in past Finals – at least in terms of winning the Bill Russell Award as Finals MVP. But that’s no excuse to don rose-colored glasses every time he hits the floor. As scintillating as his performance was in defeat Wednesday (Thursday, PHL time) as the Warriors’ only healthy threat, his Game 4 work was raggedy and unproductive. “They have been aggressive all series and trying to take space away from me and Klay,” Curry said. “I missed some shots early that I usually make, especially from the three-point line. But overall, I thought I got good looks.” Every game doesn’t need to be a referendum on the level of Curry appreciation. He might have deserved more consideration as Finals MVP in 2015, when Andre Iguodala snagged it with a strong performance in the clinching game. And even though Kevin Durant was an easy choice in 2017, there were some who felt Curry was more essential (including this voter). In some cosmic and just way, Curry probably should have been recognized with hardware somewhere among the three. But all signs are pointing to Leonard now, so Curry might have to muddle along with "only" those two Maurice Podoloff trophies for regular-season MVP, along with his All-NBA berths and assorted accolades, his ginormous contract and bounty of commercial endorsements, three rings (unless this series turns around) and a better life than most people who’ve ever walked the planet. 5. Durant to play in Game … 8? It’s possible that Durant will come walking through Rick Pitino’s proverbial door and seize what’s left of the championship series by the throat, playing like the two-time Finals MVP he is. Failing that, if there’s a Game 6, maybe that’s the night Durant at least does a Willis Reed impersonation, limping through the Oracle tunnel to a thunderous roar and hitting a couple of early shots to inspire his teammates to something special. (There still, alas, would be a pesky Game 7 for which to account, back in Toronto, likely muddying the drama.) Then again, maybe Durant doesn’t come back at all. For The Finals or with the Warriors, period. Speculation at this point is all over the map. Some think the Warriors planned to hold him out until things got really dire, to buy extra healing time and maybe not use him at all. Others now believe Durant’s rehab process of his strained right calf back-slid to some degree on Thursday, when he participated in a checkpoint workout with the training staff. A few folks think he never was going to return, regardless. After all, the All-NBA forward hasn’t played since May 8 (May 9, PHL time), missing nine fairly important games. This is a league where injuries typically face an “If this were a playoff game, would he play?” threshold. Durant has been nearly as absent from this NBA postseason as LeBron James. Look, all injuries are different, and even the same type of injury can have different timelines with different sufferers. Klay Thompson rushing back from his hamstring issue after skipping only Game 3 is at the crazy-resilient end of the durability scale. Kevon Looney basically rose from the ashes, giving the Warriors a rim runner and 10 points with six rebounds in 20 minutes off the bench. He had been ruled out for the rest of the series after suffering a rib cartilage fracture in his crash to the floor in Game 2. After anticipation of Durant’s availability got out in front of his reality for a few days, the chatter is more tempered now. There’s a shrug and a whiff of uncertainty folded into every mention. If Durant had his Thursday workout, he would have played Friday (Saturday, PHL time). If he had a setback … Heck, at this point it might be more pragmatic for the medical peeps to declare him out and let the Warriors who’ve come this far see this through, yea or nay. “As far as KD, there's been hope that he will come back the whole series,” Draymond Green said. “So that's not going to change now. Obviously we hope to have him, but we'll see what happens. We don't make that final call, he don't really even make that final call.  His body will tell him if he can get out there or not. And if he can, great. And if not, you still got to try to find a way to win the next game.” The Warriors had been holding out hope for Durant’s return as if he was their ace in the hole, imagining him with zero rust or rhythm issues once back and no limitations on his gait. But he has passed the “In case of emergency, break glass” point of urgent help possibilities. Now Durant resembles more the keg hanging from a Saint Bernard dog’s collar. It’s a nice idea, but when was the last time one of those dogs saved somebody who literally drank from the little barrel? Toronto is in a foreign land, by NBA standards. But it ain’t the Alps. Steve Aschburner has written about the NBA since 1980. You can e-mail him here, find his archive here and follow him on Twitter. The views on this page do not necessarily reflect the views of the NBA, its clubs or Turner Broadcasting......»»

Category: sportsSource:  abscbnRelated NewsJun 9th, 2019

Championship in sight, Raptors control Oracle Arena endgame

By Shaun Powell, NBA.com OAKLAND, Calif. — What once began as a fantasy, then progressed as hope and then grew to a reasonable wish has now evolved and crystalized once again. And this time, everyone south of Saskatoon can begin to see it and maybe even buy in. The Toronto Raptors have the scent of a champion. This may come as a surprise to the nostrils of anyone who saw them crumble in past postseasons or figured their chances of getting out of the East this season were dicey … but Toronto just took a pair of NBA Finals games at Oracle Arena — and maybe closed it down in the process. The Raptors are headed home with one game to win and history on their side. Thirty-four times in The Finals have teams taken 3-1 leads, and they sipped champagne all but once. (Let’s not discuss that lone team to lose; the Warriors are suffering enough.) This latest Raptors victory was impressively convincing, especially considering the circumstances. They stared at a desperate home team, one that welcomed back Klay Thompson after a one-game injury absence … a two-time defending champion known for rising to the occasion … and the Raptors dusted them anyway. You understand exactly what the Raptors did Friday (Saturday, PHL time) and how it was done? They emerged from the halftime locker room with fire and outclassed a team known for championship pedigree and owning third quarters in the postseason. Kawhi Leonard, who’s uplifting a team and a country, began the onslaught with a pair of three-point jumpers. The Toronto defense, relentless most of the night and throughout the series as well, squeezed the Warriors and especially Steph Curry. Time after time, Serge Ibaka delivered a counter punch with a key jumper off the pick and roll or a defensive stop. Ibaka had 20 points in 21 minutes in what was his first strong outing from jump to buzzer. Fred VanVleet, felled by a stray Shaun Livingston elbow to the chops in the third quarter, was left bloodied and missing a tooth in a scene that embodied Toronto's grit. The Raptors simply wore down the more experienced Warriors and Golden State never came up with an answer. Toronto stole the atmosphere — a smattering of red-garbed Raptors fans suddenly cheered louder and stomped harder and stayed buzzed long after the buzzer — and sent the Warriors off the court with heads bowed and egos deflated. Oh, something else: Nick Nurse, the first-year Toronto coach, kept pressing the right buttons with his various defensive schemes and substitutions as Golden State failed to break 100 for the first time this postseason. And the Raptors seized control of the series, ensuring that Scotiabank Arena will be a mixture of tense and hysterical Monday for Game 5 (Tuesday, PHL time). And that’s just from Drake. The crowd will be hyped, too. This is the moment that the basketball population in Toronto has long awaited, to get a sense something special is about to happen, or at least could. And this was made possible by a former Finals MVP who, this time last summer, was in exile with his reputation, at least in San Antonio, in tatters. By November, in Toronto, none of that mattered. “Once we saw him early in the year, your team’s vision of who they can become changes,” said Nurse. Leonard is a victory away from another Finals MVP and trophy, and mostly a sense of redemption. His passion and championship drive was evident Friday in two stages, both influential to his team. He set an example early by showing pep from the opening tip, carrying the Raptors with 14 of their 17 points over the first 12 minutes. And then, coming out of halftime, Leonard went scorched Earth once again. He posted 17 points and five rebounds in the third, and this time the Raptors lent support. Toronto outscored the Warriors, 37-21, and spent the rest of the game keeping a sneaker pressed on the Warriors’ throat. Kawhi tore through the Warriors constantly, totaling 36 points and 12 rebounds. Yet it was his tone that influenced the game just as much, if not more. “He imposed his will on the game and his team followed him,” said Draymond Green. “He gets the job done.” This is why Kawhi’s value to the Raptors is priceless. Until now, Toronto lacked a player with his presence, someone who forced other teams to gameplan differently, someone who seems to thrive when the stakes are highest and is driven in these situations. They didn’t have that with DeMar DeRozan or Kyle Lowry, the leaders and best players of those teams that flourished in the regular season and failed in the postseason. Leonard clearly has the Warriors rattled and their defense stressed whenever he’s in isolation or bracing to attack. “He hit every big shot, every big momentum shot,” said Curry. Just the same, the Kawhi-inspired defense weighed heavily not only in this game but for much of the series. With the exception of Curry’s monstrous 47-point outburst in Game 3, Toronto hasn’t yielded much from the Warriors — surely, Kevin Durant’s absence and Thompson’s missed game contributed. Yet the Raptors are floating Leonard around the floor, sneaking in doubles on Thompson and Curry, leaving Green open and encouraging him to shoot, and essentially making it tough for the Warriors to go on a big scoring spree. Toronto has outscored the Warriors in 13 of the 16 quarters of this series. Hounded by the Raptors’ perimeter defense, and maybe gassed from two nights earlier, Curry made only a pair of three-pointers Friday (Saturday, PHL time) and never developed a rhythm. And while Thompson returned from his injury with 28 points, he was harmless in the fourth quarter and his team quiet. “They’ve been aggressive all series in trying to take space away from me and Klay,” Curry said. As the Warriors and the crowd disappeared from the arena, there was a sense of finality in the air inside Oracle. If the Warriors don’t win Monday (Tuesday, PHL time), then the last memory of their home of nearly six decades will be a deflating one. Instead of dreamy visions of Curry and Thompson and Durant spraying jumpers, it will be Leonard punishing the Warriors and the home team powerless to stop him or from being pushed to the brink. And speaking of Durant: Coach Steve Kerr has now gone radio silent about his superstar’s availability for Monday (Tuesday, PHL time) or beyond. The subject has become tiresome because there’s no resolution regarding someone who hasn’t played in a month. And so the Warriors have twin motivations for Monday (Tuesday, PHL time): Win to stay alive and also to play once more at Oracle for a Game 6. Yet at this point, with the dynasty showing cracks, that might be a lost cause. “I know we’re capable,” said Kerr. “We’ve got a lot of talent and got a lot of pride and these guys have been to The Finals five straight years for a reason. They’re going to fight the whole way.” Green added: “I’ve been on the wrong side of 3-1 before, so why not make our own history?” Well, that now-or-never talk is fine. Yet it’s all about the Raptors making history now, and stopping the Warriors’ streak in the process. It’s all there for the taking for Toronto: One win, a chance to celebrate on the home floor, and a marvelous and striking professional rebound for Kawhi Leonard, who surely will be named Finals MVP should all of the above happen. Dare we say, it’s the Raptors title to lose now. A title anointed to the Warriors even before the season began. Well, plenty has happened in the last seven months. And especially the last seven days. Shaun Powell has covered the NBA for more than 25 years. 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 NewsJun 8th, 2019

In big trouble: Warriors trail Raptors 3-1 in NBA Finals

By Tim Reynolds, Associated Press OAKLAND, Calif. (AP) — The biggest challenge of this five-year run for the Golden State Warriors has arrived. Win three in a row, two of them on the road — or else. It is quite the predicament, and one that they’ve never faced in the NBA Finals. Golden State is on the brink of being dethroned as champions, after a 105-92 loss to the Toronto Raptors on Friday night (Saturday, PHL time) put the Warriors in a 3-1 hole in this title series. Game 5 is Monday (Tuesday, PHL time) in Toronto, which will spend the next three days in delirious anticipation of seeing the Larry O’Brien Trophy getting hoisted on Canadian soil. “It’s not over,” Warriors guard Stephen Curry said. “It’s not a good feeling right now, obviously, but we have been on both sides of it. And for us it’s an opportunity for us to just flip this whole series on its head, and you got to do it one game at a time. It sounds cliché — and for us that is literally the only way we’re going to get back in this series — is give everything we got for 48 minutes, everybody that sets foot on that floor in Game 5.” They’ve been down 3-1 before, back in 2016 in the Western Conference finals against Kevin Durant and Oklahoma City. But they needed to win only once on the road to pull off that comeback. “You just try to win one game,” Warriors coach Steve Kerr said. “That’s what we did a few years ago against OKC. Win one game, and then you move forward. So that’s our focus now. We’ll fly to Toronto (on Sunday, PHL time) and take a look at the film, see what we can do better and try to win a game. We have won a lot of games over the years, so we’ll try to win another one.” Kerr is fond of saying that the Warriors have seen everything in these five seasons. They have now, anyway. They’ve blown a 3-1 lead — the 2016 NBA Finals against Cleveland, falling twice at home in that collapse. But the Warriors’ collapse that year was due in part to Andrew Bogut getting hurt in Game 5 and Draymond Green losing his cool and earning a one-game suspension. The Raptors have no such injury concerns, no such behavioral matters to deal with right now. “They’re a great team,” Warriors guard Klay Thompson said. They’ve rallied from 3-1 down. But they’re 1-5 against the Raptors this season, and now need to win three in a row against a team that has had all the answers against them. “We haven’t done anything yet,” Raptors guard Kyle Lowry said. The Raptors are as poised as can be. They were in trouble in each of the first three rounds of these playoffs — down 1-0 to Orlando, down 2-1 to Philadelphia, down 2-0 to Milwaukee. It steeled them. Toronto got better every step of the way. Golden State looked the exact opposite on Friday night. The Warriors are still without Kevin Durant, endured a night where Curry struggled, and where their biggest boosts came from Thompson returning from a balky hamstring and Kevon Looney playing through the pain of a cartilage injury in his upper body. The Warriors made a run. Curry’s three-pointer with three minutes left pulled Golden State within eight and gave the Warriors a chance. They scored three points the rest of the way. “You got to win three games in a row,” Warriors forward Draymond Green said. “We have won three games in a row before. However you got to get that done, you just got to get it done.” They may have walked off the court at Oracle Arena for the last time, with the team moving across the bay to San Francisco and the brand-new Chase Center next season. They know the stakes, they know that the roster may change in some big ways this summer and nobody knows if Durant will be ready for Game 5. Kerr said he doesn’t think of this as daunting. “We go to Toronto, and this is what we do for a living, we play basketball,” Kerr said. “So we look forward to playing another basketball game in an exciting atmosphere, and the ultimate test.”.....»»

Category: sportsSource:  abscbnRelated NewsJun 8th, 2019

Warriors injuries create opening with Finals in balance

By Shaun Powell, NBA.com OAKLAND, Calif. — From now until further notice, each game of the 2019 NBA Finals will be largely influenced not by a go-ahead basket or a big stop or a rally-induced comeback, but a hot-off-the-press medical update prior to tipoff. Is Klay Thompson's tweaky hamstring a go? Will this be the day Kevin Durant finally shakes that lingering calf strain and suits up? The hints and subtle signs seem to point toward the positive for Golden State. Thompson was a late scratch Wednesday night (Thursday, PHL time) because the Warriors -- with a mixture of confidence and arrogance and concern -- felt the guard missing Game 3 was perhaps best for his recovery without proving deadly in the long run. And as for Durant, he’s still “ramping up” his workouts, in the description of coach Steve Kerr, and so his status has been upgraded to "stay tuned." It has become must-watch after a 123-109 loss. Yet if the answer is negative to all of the above, the next entry on the medical report might be the grim health of the dynasty built by these two-time defending champions. Their still-under-construction monument now teeters, prone to a nudge from Toronto. The Warriors find themselves down 2-1 to the Raptors, lacking any guarantee they’ll see two of their three leading scorers back in the lineup Friday (Saturday, PHL time) for Game 4 ... or for however long this series lasts. Thompson joined Durant on the sideline, and the Raptors (as could be anticipated) pounced on the gift to seize control of the series. It was a game the Raptors had to win, and they did. The production came from multiple players, with Kyle Lowry finally making an imprint on this series and Danny Green rediscovering his long-lost three-point touch. Meanwhile, the Warriors consisted of Steph Curry and not much else. The two-time Kia MVP dazzled and fought through traps and triple-teams all night to drop a career-high 47 points, some of it on shot-making wizardry. But the short-handed Warriors were doomed when Draymond Green and DeMarcus Cousins in particular were underwhelming on a night they needed to be stellar for Golden State to have a chance. As a result, the atmosphere inside Oracle Arena was flatter than most of the shots taken by Curry's teammates, and this was partly due to the introduction of the starting lineups, when Thompson’s name wasn’t announced. The fans knew then, officially, that their eyes and the home team were in for a long night. While the Warriors fought, scrappy doesn’t win games at this point in the postseason, not when the other team is good and opportunistic. Playing in a hostile building for the first time in the Finals, the Raptors made a collective decision to greet fire with fire. Or, as they wrote on the blackboard inside the visitor’s locker room: Let It Rip. “I think we all kind of followed that advice,” said Danny Green. “We hadn’t really had a good team shooting night and I knew we were due.” For Toronto, it wasn’t just that they won, but that they did so with their most impressive outing in the series. And now, the question for the Raptors is this: Will their inconsistent players use this outing to turn the corner and push the Warriors, even if Thompson and/or Durant return? This is aimed, first and foremost, at Lowry. He took the “let it rip” plea personally. Entering this game, he had six baskets total in this series and at times suffered defensively. Challenged by a pregame talk from coach Nick Nurse, Lowry embraced his inner pit bull and was relentless all night. The All-Star point guard took 16 shots, making eight, for 23 points and nine assists while making his presence felt for the first time this Finals. “For me, it was just not being so passive and trying to get everyone else involved and get myself going and let everyone else feed off that,” Lowry said. He and Green re-introduced the three-pointer to the Raptors’ offense. The two shot 11-for-19 and repeatedly stole whatever momentum Golden State could generate by responding with long-distance daggers that forced fans to slump back into their seats. This from the same player who had five total three's in his previous five playoff games, ruining more than a handful of runs with momentum-deflating misses. There’s no other way to describe the last three weeks of Green’s postseason shooting but dreadful. He has only one job: Stand in the corner and shoot open 3s. He’s made a career of that. So what do the Raptors make of Green shooting 6-of-10 from deep Wednesday (Thursday, PHL time)? In the short term, it helped win Game 3. In the big picture, will this confidence carry over from one night to another, or does it depend on whether Green hits his first few? Nurse said: “Danny’s buckets boosted our whole team’s confidence because we were used to relying on those most of the year.” With better production from players who had been mostly missing, the Raptors had the balance needed to deliver their highest-scoring and most efficient (52 percent shooting) contest of the series. Green and Lowry joined Kawhi Leonard (30 points) and Pascal Siakam (18) and Marc Gasol (17) to take turns pummeling the Warriors from all different directions and manners. One reason for this was Thompson’s absence. Not only is he a proven outside shooter, but his defense is top-notch as well. You could even argue that Thompson’s missing defense was just as costly as his jumper. Yet the 109 points Golden State did manage were mainly because of Curry providing nearly half the offense. Given the circumstances of being without Thompson and Durant, and the constant pressing by Toronto whenever he had the ball, this was Curry’s finest post-season effort. His shooting was superb all across the floor, making three's (six) and free throws (13-14) and in general (14-31). “It’s the Finals,” Curry said. “You give everything you’ve got, sacrifice your body when you have the opportunity. Just competitiveness and trying to play until the buzzer.” “He does things that honestly I don’t think anyone has done before," Kerr added. "The way he plays the game, the way he shoots and the combination of his ball-handling, it’s incredible to watch.” If only he had someone riding shotgun. Cousins was sloppy on both ends, with three turnovers and one basket, and a step slow on defense against Gasol. This came one game after he seemingly regained his legs and confidence to gave Golden State a much-needed lift. Green’s continued recklessness was mystifying; he often made questionable decisions as a playmaker, suffered four turnovers and once again struggled to contain Siakam. The Warriors needed Green’s best, given their missing parts, and received something less. “We’ve got to be more solid with the ball and it starts with me,” he said. “I’ve had a bunch of turnovers in every game of this series. I think if I played better with the night (Curry) had, we would have won.” And so the Warriors, while talking bravely about their next-man-up mentality and embracing their “Strength in Numbers” slogan, must realize, deep down, that preventing the Raptors from winning two more games with a handicapped team might be difficult, if not impossible. Keep in mind that Golden State hasn’t sparkled for four quarters since the first game of the Western Conference finals. The last three games of that series, and the first three of the NBA Finals, the Warriors trailed by double digits. Thompson has an off day and Friday's (Saturday, PHL time) pregame period for therapy on his hamstring, although such strains are unpredictable and tricky. Will he be able to cut and fight through screens and be bouncy for 35-plus minutes through the intensity of an NBA Finals game, or will the injury restrict him and cause Kerr to seek a healthier, yet less productive replacement? “The whole point was to not risk a bigger injury that would keep him out the rest of the series,” said Kerr, explaining a decision made in consultation with the team doctors. “I feel very comfortable with it. I never would have forgiven myself if I played him and he had gotten hurt. So you live with the decision you made. The good thing is Klay has done well the last two days; hopefully he’ll be out there Friday.” Then there’s Durant, who last played May 8 (May 9, PHL time). After doing nothing but individual drills the last few days, he’ll go through a more normal practice session that will be simulated with the help of some assistant coaches and bench players. They'll see how Durant holds up. But that won’t match the stress level of a real game. And even if Durant gets clearance for Game 4, he hasn’t played in roughly a month. What about his timing? His wind? His touch? His ability to bring the same energy on defense? All legit questions and concerns for the Warriors -- until they’re not, whenever that is. “No one cares if guys are hurt,” Green said. “Everyone wants to see us lose anyway. So I’m sure people are happy they’re hurt.” Chances are that basketball fans, even if they’re against the Warriors, want to see stars on the floor this time of year. That’s what the NBA Finals is always about: Premium players doing premium things, or failing to do so, and letting the championship odds rise or fall on their performances. This year’s Finals have been denied one star for every game, and an additional star for one game. The battle with star attrition finally cost the Warriors a postseason loss, and at the worst possible time. The flow of the remainder of the NBA Finals, then, could rest with aching tendons and muscles and the recovery powers of those who own them. “We’re missing 50 points with KD and Klay, but we’ll adjust,” said a confident Curry. “It’s a long series, you know. It’s going to be fun for us.” The next Warriors medical update will arrive Thursday afternoon (Friday, PHL time). And another one Friday (Saturday, PHL time) just prior to tipoff. All along, the Warriors have led everyone to believe that it’s only a matter of time before they’re fully healthy. But will it be in time? And even then, will it be enough against a Toronto team suddenly thinking big? Shaun Powell has covered the NBA for more than 25 years. 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 NewsJun 6th, 2019

Warriors head into Game 3 vulnerable, yet pressure is on Raptors

By Shaun Powell, NBA.com OAKLAND, Calif. -- The two-time defending champion Warriors will be of divided attention here in the next few days. They’ll be occupied by Game 3 of The Finals … and Game 1 of Kevin Durant’s rehabilitation. The two go hand-in-hand, actually, and hold equal importance. With untimely injuries threatening to delay the Warriors’ third straight title or downright prevent it from happening, the club teeters on edge, unsure whether its next step will be on the gas pedal or a banana peel. Klay Thompson is iffy for Wednesday (Thursday, PHL time) because of a gimpy hamstring that cut short his floor time in Game 2, which the Warriors managed to win anyway. He did some light shooting on the eve of Game 3 against the Raptors and, Klay being Klay, counted himself in after three days’ rest. But it’s not really up to him, is it? It’s up to the team medical staff and mostly a tendon that’s moody and doesn’t always cooperate with the human attached to it. And so: This all depends on what side of the bed the hamstring lands on Wednesday morning. Kevon Looney, the fast-developing big man who has been a pleasant surprise throughout the postseason, is done for the summer with a cartilage fracture in his collarbone area. At least in this case, his loss is minimized by the re-emergence of DeMarcus Cousins, back from two months off with a bum quad muscle and feeling frisky about it and his encouraging effort in Game 2. OK, now here’s the elephant in the emergency room: What does the future of The Finals hold for Durant, MIA for roughly a month now, who has been ruled out for Wednesday (Thursday, PHL time)? Durant didn’t practice with the team Tuesday morning (Wednesday evening, PHL time), but he did go through an individual workout that afternoon. There is no scheduled team practice on Thursday (Friday, PHL time), the only off-day between Games 3 and 4 at Oracle Arena. Yet all signs point to Durant putting his body through a workout/practice/scrimmage at some point between now and Friday’s (Saturday, PHL time) Game 4 because coach Steve Kerr said the former MVP is “ramping up” his workouts. It’s safe to say the Warriors will be interested spectators for that one, biting their fingernails to the knuckle, although Kerr indicated Durant’s availability for The Finals is more “when” than “if.” That means Durant has given them some reason to feel optimistic about Friday (Saturday, PHL time) if not Game 5 in Toronto. “Klay and Kevin, we’re very hopeful we’re going to get them back out there,” Kerr said. In a worst-case scenario, the Warriors in Game 3 would be without two players averaging more than 50 points combined in the postseason, and their scoring and defensive presence is impossible to replace. That would put them in a tough spot, needing to rely on replacements who aren’t familiar with, or quite capable of, carrying that amount of minutes with impact. Yes, it’s true the Warriors finished Game 2 without either player and managed to win. Yet, no disrespect to the champs, that’s a big chore to do for four full quarters and against a solid defensive team such as the Raptors. Even if Thompson plays, will he be healthy enough to supply the energy and flexibility needed to perform his usual top-notch defense and running through screens for his jumper? “If I can just be out there even at 80 percent, I still think I can be very effective,” he said. “From the progress I've made these last two days, I'm very encouraged that I'll be able to go out there. As long as nothing is torn or really injured, I'm not too fearful of it because, knock on wood, I've been very blessed with not very many traumatic injuries in my career. I don't think this one is of greatest concern. It's just the day and age we live in where little things can just grow to be big problems, but I don't think this will be one of them.” How would a diminished or missing Klay affect the Warriors? Well, Stephen Curry could not afford to be anything less than MVP-ish. He’d see doubles and triples thrown his way by the Raptors and that would cause him to take tougher shots than normal. In that situation, as the Warriors’ only volume scorer and shooter on the floor, Curry could feel overwhelmed and force the issue. Cousins would be required to ratchet up his shooting and intensity on offense, but will he stay clear of foul trouble, which would put a crimp in his playing time? Finally, the Warriors would lean more on Shaun Livingston, Draymond Green, Andre Iguodala and Quinn Cook than normal. Cook made a pair of important shots in Game 2 after Thompson limped off and could be an X-factor, or at least he’d need to be for Golden State’s sake. “Our team is very adaptable,” Kerr said. “We have a lot of versatility. What it requires is bench players being ready to step up, like they always are, and guys just playing hard and playing together. I think you have to be fearless, too, which our team is. You can't worry about anything. You just go out there and play and compete and let it fly and whatever happens, happens.” And then there’s Toronto. A weakened or missing Thompson would be an opportunity they simply couldn’t afford to blow. How many times does a gift present itself in the biggest series of the season? Not often. It must be seized. In such a situation, the Raptors would be wise to occupy Curry and dare others to produce for four quarters. If Thompson plays, they’d be best to take advantage by running him ragged through screens on defense, putting that hamstring to the test. That would be one less player with high defensive credentials for Kawhi Leonard to deal with. Assuming that scoring will be an issue for the Warriors, the Raptors must get a bounce-back game from Pascal Siakam (who regressed from 32 points to 12) and more punch from Kyle Lowry (six baskets total for the series) to make it tough if not impossible for the Warriors to keep up. If the Raptors have any shot at winning this title, they must win at least one game at Oracle anyway, and from a practical standpoint, Game 3 is the most inviting. They may never see the Warriors this vulnerable, this ripe for the taking again. “I think we come into a sense of urgency, period,” said Lowry, “no matter the situation. We want to be the first to four, and every game is an urgent game. You're in the NBA Finals, so it doesn't matter. They still have professional basketball players down there, and they're really talented basketball players. So you still got to be ready to go out there and play your butt off and play hard.” The Warriors do not feel the same level of urgency because they’re not down 0-2, and the next two games are at home, and the core group is championship tested. As they demonstrated in Game 2, they don’t get rattled by tense championship games, even with Thompson and Durant off the floor. They also know, or at least feel strongly, that Thompson and Durant will suit up soon. “If there’s pain, it will be a no-go (for Game 3) because of the position we’re in,” Thompson said. “This could be a longer series, so there's no point in trying to go out there and re-aggravate it and potentially keep myself out of the whole entire Finals instead of just one game.” The Warriors might not get much sympathy from a basketball world that perhaps feel the champs are finally getting their just due. Everyone saw them play the 2015 championship series against Cleveland without Kevin Love and all but one game without Kyrie Irving. In the 2017 Western Conference finals, Leonard, then with San Antonio, went down after lighting it up for most of Game 1. And how can anyone forget Chris Paul missing Houston's final two games of a seven-game playoff series last season? Not saying those were the reasons for three championships in four years; still, all of those misfortunes suffered by others favored the Warriors. But who’s keeping score? “There's a certain amount of luck involved with this, and we know that,” Kerr said. “We have been on both sides of that. Some of our opponents have suffered injuries. We have suffered injuries. It's just part of the deal. You just keep pushing forward.” Shaun Powell has covered the NBA for more than 25 years. 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 NewsJun 5th, 2019

Five things we learned from Game 1 of the 2019 Finals

By Steve Aschburner, NBA.com TORONTO – Five things we learned from the Toronto Raptors’ 118-109 victory over the Golden State Warriors in Game 1 of The Finals Thursday (Friday, PHL time) at Scotiabank Arena ... 1. So much for ‘glad to be here’ If we thought we had learned one thing about the Toronto Raptors when it comes to the NBA playoffs, it was this: They back their way into most series. Losing the opener was a tradition for this franchise -- they were 3-15 in Game 1s prior to Thursday (Friday, PHL time), dating back to their inaugural playoff run in 2000. Nothing shoves a team closer to elimination in a best-of-seven showdown than a lousy start. That’s why grabbing the opener against Golden State was so essential. Had the Raptors squandered their home-court advantage on the first night, we all would be assuming the worst for these Finals in competitive, stylistic and entertainment terms. Only by rocking the Warriors in Game 1 -- and most impressively, by refusing to cough up all of their 12-point lead in the second half -- could the Raptors generate legitimate excitement for Game 2 and beyond. Had we all been honest (and able to pull this off), we would have begun this series by spotting Toronto to a 1-0 lead -- just to handicap the defending champions and force them to show us something they haven’t in their four previous Finals trips. But such a move would have been demeaning, of course, to the Raptors. Instead, coach Nick Nurse and his affable newbies seized early control themselves. How Portland looked in the Western Conference finals, as if the Trail Blazers had maxed out and were just happy to still be involved? Toronto wanted none of that. It found a way to win when Kawhi Leonard and Kyle Lowry were ordinary at best. And now we have a series worthy of the Larry O’Brien Trophy. 2. Triple-doubles continue to decline in value It’s fun as a game progresses to track stats, whether it’s Pascal Siakam’s absurd 11 consecutive field goals or Stephen Curry’s refusal to miss a free throw. We’re always aware of the leading scorer and his growing point total, particularly as it passes the big round numbers (30, 40, 50…). But Draymond Green’s latest triple-double was a reminder that the bar has been set too low for that stat from its inception. Green finished with 10 points, 10 rebounds and 10 assists, which makes it a minimalist’s triple-double at best and more of a statistical fluke than an achievement. Ten assists? That’s strong any night. Ten rebounds? Solid, and necessary if no one else on your roster is claiming more than six. Ten points, though? Come on now. Green had a Jason Kidd triple-double, which isn’t mean to disparage the Hall of Fame point guard but speaks to Kidd’s limitations as a scorer for most of his career. Heck, the Warriors’ versatile forward had six turnovers, inspiring the bad “quadruple-double watch” that Kidd sparked on occasion. What Green didn’t do was put the ball through the net effectively, shooting 2-for-9 overall and 0-for-2 on three-pointers. Yes, his value to Golden State usually doesn’t rise or fall on his scoring, but he could have been more helpful in that area Thursday. When Oscar Robertson averaged a triple-double in 1961-62 (and cumulatively did it over his first six NBA seasons), he was scoring 30 points per game. When Russell Westbrook matched what had been a rare feat two years ago, he too was up above 30 points nightly. But Westbrook has done it the past two seasons as well, with his scoring average dipping below 23 this season. That would seem to be near the minimum -- say, 20 points -- to gush over a player’s triple-double on a given night. We get it, double figures means 10 or more. But 10 points is no big deal at all in the NBA, so it seems silly to celebrate it when it’s the free rider on the triple-double quirk. 3. Don’t double-dawg dare an NBA player Warriors coach Steve Kerr admitted after Game 1 that, by mistake more than by design, his team didn’t defensively do its job well in the early minutes against center Marc Gasol. “Gasol we left a couple times early in the game and didn't rotate, we just gave him a couple of dare shots and he knocked them down,” Kerr said. Daring is not defending, and the Warriors would be well-advised not to do that again to a player as proud and as accomplished as Gasol. He’s struggled at times as a shooter in these playoffs, shooting 34 percent in the Eastern Conference finals while going 2-for-9 on three-pointers in Games 1 and 2 of that series (both losses). It was embarrassing at times to see the affable 7'1" Spaniard miss shots badly, whether he felt that way or not. But Gasol was 10-for-20 on three-pointers entering The Finals, all during the Raptors’ four consecutive victories to eliminate the Bucks. He went 2-for-4 in Game 1 of The Finals, scoring a playoff-high 20 points to help compensate for Leonard’s and Lowry’s muted firepower. Asked about it afterward, on taking such a “dare” personally, the big man shrugged. “If you're open, you got to shoot them. Dare, no dare,” he said. “And then we go from there. If they go in, great. If not you keep taking them with confidence.” That’s speaking truth to a dare. 4. The ratings for Game 1 will soar… … if they can somehow count the number of times the Warriors and the Raptors watch and re-watch the video tape. A big theme heading into this series was the relative lack of familiarity the teams had with each other. Now, that’s a common aspect of The Finals, pitting the champs of opposite conferences and all. But given Golden State’s knowledge of the Cleveland Cavaliers after four consecutive Finals, Toronto is a relative stranger. Beyond that, key players from both sides were absent in the two regular-season meetings. But now they have a whole 48 minutes to dissect, digest and learn from. For the Warriors, who spoke about it the most, they saw things they might not have expected and things they definitely did not like. Such as? Try Siakam’s attacks on the basket (in transition and otherwise), their own inability to be the team that pushes pace and Fred VanVleet as the game’s essential reserve (15 points on a night when his three-point shot was MIA). Green, in particular, sounded as if he was going to binge-watch Siakam’s romp and figure a way to thwart the unorthodox flip shots the forward from Cameroon deployed. “He's become ‘a guy,’” Green said phrasing that as a nod of respect. “He put a lot of work into get there and I respect that. But like I said, I got to take him out of the series and that's on me.” Toronto can make use of the video for as long as the Warriors roster stays the way it is, which means sans Kevin Durant. Which leads into … 5. Who's here (and who isn't)? (And no, we don’t mean LeBron James.) Durant’s continued absence with a calf injury since Game 5 of the Western Conference semifinals became an official problem in Game 1 of The Finals (the team’s first loss without him). Questions that had been bottled up for a couple weeks -- What did you miss most without Durant? How might he have changed your offense or defense? -- came spilling out from the large media crew that covers the NBA’s glamour team. Neither Kerr nor his players took the bait, which was smart. Not only would it look like excuse-making (considering how they hadn’t needed those before), it might have opened a crack of vulnerability into something wider and more troublesome. Durant is out for Game 2, but per a Yahoo Sports report is expected back at the series’ midway point (read: Game 3 or Game 4).  “KD's an all-time great player on both ends of the floor,” Curry said, “so I could sit here and talk for days about what he adds to our roster.  We obviously have proven that when he's out we can have guys step up, and that's going to be the case until he gets back.” Rushing him back would seem desperate, something the Warriors aren’t and shouldn’t be. Plus, it is early in a long series. And it really is irrelevant: NBA players and teams’ medical staffs don’t “rush back” anyone these days. Then again, once they’re ready to play -- as Golden State showed in using DeMarcus Cousins in Game 1 -- there’s no sense in letting talent help languish in street clothes. No time too, either. Steve Aschburner has written about the NBA since 1980. You can e-mail him here, find his archive here and follow him on Twitter. The views on this page do not necessarily reflect the views of the NBA, its clubs or Turner Broadcasting......»»

Category: sportsSource:  abscbnRelated NewsJun 1st, 2019

Harden, Durant both covet championship, mantle of best player

By Shaun Powell, NBA.com Houston -- Steve Kerr’s mind is made up. He’s seen enough. The debate is closed and conquered, the election over and the firm conclusion has been reached, at least from where he stands. Kevin Durant “is the best player in the world, the most skilled player in the world” according to Kerr, who may be biased, but he didn’t sound like it. Kerr said this not once, but four times in the last two weeks, just in case someone didn’t get the message. [Watch the Playoffs on NBA League Pass for 30% less with this limited time offer! Select Annual package and use code SAVE30 at checkout to redeem] It’s hard to see where the Warriors’ coach is going wrong. Durant is evidently on a mission to (a) win his third and perhaps final championship with the Warriors, and (1-a) become universally recognized as the singularly greatest force in the league, a distinction that means so much to him. To paraphrase Durant, y’all know who he is by now. Durant is sitting at the mythical 50-40-90 threshold in the playoffs, the benchmark for shooting accuracy and efficiency from the floor, three-point range and free-throw line. He’s averaging 35 points in the postseason, 39 in the last seven games. He has two near-masterpieces, the 50-point closeout of the Clippers in the first round and 46 on the Rockets in Game 3 of this series. He’s making contested jumpers from all over the floor and from all angles. There’s really no defense for him. But when this series is over, James Harden hopes to change the conversation. If he does, that means (a) the Rockets will pull off a stunning comeback from being down two games, and (b) Harden out-dueled Durant in the process. Is either possible? Well, Harden might be the only player qualified to do so, even with a left eye that still looks like the Japanese flag. He managed to minimize if not eliminate that poked eye by chopping down the Warriors and pulling the Rockets within 2-1 of the series. “I was just being aggressive,” he said. “I was in attack mode.” He’s attacking something else. Harden, too, wants exactly the same as his friend and former Oklahoma City teammate. A championship would be his first, so obviously that’s paramount. The mantle of “game’s greatest player” is also desired because Harden believes the last four years bear that out. In that span, he won the MVP award and finished runner-up twice, better than anyone. Of course, the missing prize is the championship, which is the final and most authentic validation, and this season at least he must go through Durant to achieve that. Harden’s postseason hasn’t been as stellar as Durant’s, although perhaps Game 3 marked a shift. Harden scored 41 points and sent the Warriors home on a step-back three-pointer in the final seconds of overtime. He and the Rockets are bringing a fresh sense of confidence and also have Game 4 in their house. Sending this series all square back to Oakland wouldn’t be beyond his or their abilities. “In `Harden World,’ that was good, but he can play better,” said Rockets coach Mike D’Antoni. “That’s James. That’s what he does.” There’s a growing sense among the Warriors, and with some justification, that Harden’s bloody eye is no longer an issue. Harden’s vision was pure when it counted two nights ago and every day brings him a step closer to normalcy, if he isn’t already there. “I think he’s good to go,” said D’Antoni. The other concern for Golden State: Harden’s beginning to figure out the rotations and the Warriors’ defensive scheme. They know Harden adapts quickly to defenders and their tendencies because, at this point, he’s seen it all. Harden is a tough cover because of his shooting range and unwillingness to lose confidence after a string of misses, and his craftiness off the dribble while attacking the rim. “He had 41 points and it was a good chess game,” said Andre Iguodala. “He made some really tough shots. Some shots, where you pat him on the butt, and you say ‘helluva shot’. I felt like it was a little bit of cat and mouse. A guy like that -- you can’t stop him one on one. The defense did a good job of helping off and stopping him. We just have to try to make it hard as possible for him.” The nightmare game for the Warriors is Harden hitting enough early baskets and forcing them to double, then finding teammates for open looks that they make, such as Eric Gordon. In that scenario, points would come in an avalanche and place stress on the defense and possibly get key players into foul trouble, most notably Draymond Green and a suddenly-foul-prone Steph Curry. There’s also an intriguing subplot in the works: The Harden-Durant can-you-top-this drama. With Curry and Chris Paul both performing below their standards in this series, the series seems fixated on Harden and Durant and  what they’re capable of doing to the other team and, by extension, against each other. There’s a genuine and hefty amount of respect between the two, who are friends away from the floor as well. Both left OKC and have since generated millions in endorsement money and find themselves near or at the top of the superstar pecking order. Durant has what Harden doesn’t, a championship. But perhaps Harden has what Durant craves, a team to call his own. That would be the only reason Durant leaves the Warriors in free agency this summer, because it’s difficult to imagine him signing with a team that offers a better chance to win championships or make more in salary than the one he’s already on. Durant earned more points with Harden a few days ago when he defended the Rockets guard, saying Harden doesn’t “cheat the rules” when he tries to draw fouls and manipulate the referees. Durant added: “He can do everything. If you’re not focused, he can drive past you, hit you with the shoulder because he’s strong, and finish with either hand. He can shoot floaters now. Obviously the step-back 3-pointer is one of his staples, but I never believed he was just a free throw guy. He can score in a variety of ways.” Harden must prove that in this series. Last season in the Western Conference finals, he turned to vapor as that series stretched seven games. He made just 24 percent from deep and, after Paul suffered a hamstring pull in Game Five, couldn’t handle the load. In the elimination game, he missed 11-of-13 from deep. Durant, meanwhile, was the star and weeks later would clinch another title and Finals MVP award, outplaying LeBron James in the process. So Kerr’s contention about Durant has much weight and credibility. Through three games of this second-round series, there’s been no reason to question the coach’s claim. Only one person can flip that perception and create doubt. James Harden, therefore, has a tough job ahead. Veteran NBA writer Shaun Powell has worked for newspapers and other publications for more than 25 years. You can e-mail him here or follow him on Twitter. The views on this page do not necessarily reflect the views of the NBA, its clubs or Turner Broadcasting. .....»»

Category: sportsSource:  abscbnRelated NewsMay 6th, 2019

Sleepwalking Warriors snap to behind ultimate weapon Durant

By Shaun Powell, NBA.com LOS ANGELES -- The only sound in a basketball game that mimics an alarm clock blaring is the final buzzer, but by then the score is official and it’s too late to wake up. And maybe the Warriors needed seven months and 88 games to recognize this, because when you’ve won three championships in four years and bring four All-Stars in their prime and play nightly against the rank-and-file, there’s a tendency to doze off just to, you know, make things interesting. Well, nap’s over. After Friday's (Saturday, PHL time) 129-110 victory over the Clippers, the buzzer has shifted to the opening tip, and suddenly the Warriors are aware of where they are and who they’re up against and what time it is. [Watch the Playoffs on NBA League Pass for 30% less with this limited time offer! Select Annual package and use code SAVE30 at checkout to redeem] At least, those are the signals they’re giving off now, on the eve of the second round of the playoffs, when there is no better moment -- to paraphrase the noted prophet Kevin Durant -- to let folks know who you are. They’ll be led into their next basketball battle by Durant, fresh off a fiddy, which of course is basketball slang for 5-0 points, which finally silenced the Clippers and made the basketball world revisit the belief that the Warriors are not to be denied. This of course will be put to the test by the Rockets, arguably the biggest threat facing the Warriors between now and a June champagne sip. But really, now: If Durant plays like he has the last few games, does it really matter what James Harden and Chris Paul bring in this upcoming best-of-seven? “He’s in a groove right now,” said Steph Curry. “Special to see.” With the exception of last year’s Western Conference finals, when Houston took Golden State to the limit, the Durant Warriors have been one level above all others in the playoffs. The Clippers just took two from them -- despite Durant -- and nobody else claimed more than one victory in a best-of-seven. Overall, excluding that Rockets’ series, the Durants are 32-5 in the postseason, a clean 9-0 in series play. Everything that the Warriors were projected to do once Durant signed up for duty two summers ago has come true. They’re three superstars ahead of good teams and two superstars ahead of very good teams. Right now, they’re alone on the island, the only true great team in the league, even on nights when they don’t play the part. With all due respect to Damian Lillard, no one has has drawn more awe lately than Durant, who’s on pace to cause major problems for whomever crouches in a defensive stance before him. In the last four games, he averaged 42 points on 55 percent shooting, and at times was a singular force against the stubborn Clippers. Remember, Steph Curry is trying to climb out of a fog, stifled and troubled by missed jumpers in the last week and momentarily sidelined Friday (Saturday, PHL time) by a tweaked right ankle, which always causes the Warriors to hold their breath. Klay Thompson, as is his pattern, went ballistic for one game, then was rather tame by comparison in the others. “I just play my game through it all,” Durant said. “I definitely don’t want to go away from my teammates if they’re struggling to shoot the ball. But at the same time, I have to be aggressive and try to win the game as well.” Given how leaky the Warriors’ defense looked and how carelessly they handled the ball, the one constant in the first round was Durant drilling shots from all angles and distances, especially once he confined his chatter to making shots instead of taking them at Pat Beverley, the Clippers’ All-Star instigator. Warriors coach Steve Kerr called it “one of the greatest performances I’ve ever seen” and this is someone who rode with Michael Jordan and Tim Duncan. Whether Kerr was simply caught up in the moment, it doesn’t minimize what Durant did to close out the Clippers and what he’s capable of doing against the Rockets. “He's the ultimate weapon because there's no defense for Kevin,” Kerr said. “No matter what anybody does, he can get a good shot. And he knew we needed him badly. And he just took over the game in the first half and set a great tone.” Durant appears to be locked in and on a mission, and if this is his last run with the Warriors, it’s morphing into a gallop. His 50 points Friday (Saturday, PHL time) were a personal playoff high and his 38 in the first half tied Charles Barkley for second on the all-time list. And this came on the heels of the 45 points he delivered in a losing Game 5 effort. “Sometimes you come across special people and it doesn’t matter what defense you send to them,” said Clippers guard Lou Williams. “There is no scheme. There’s nothing you can do with special people. He’s one of them and he showed it. He put them guys on his shoulders. He proved exactly who people think he is, who he thinks of himself, and he did it.” The Warriors finished with the best record in the West this season, almost on reputation or cruise control. Once again, there were lapses that seemed suspiciously like a team bored with the schedule and awaiting a summer coronation. This breezy attitude seeped into the opening round, when the Warriors choked away a 31-point lead and then lost another home game to an eighth-seeded team devoid of All-Stars. This doesn’t happen unless the heavily-favored one-seed is taking their championship rings for granted. “I think I made a joke like this first round felt like it was two months,” said Curry. “It was just the emotional part of it, I mean, losing (DeMarcus Cousins) and a 31-point lead and trying to come back on the road and the mental investment you put into it. We’ve got to be able to flip the switch from one team to the next and that will be the biggest test.” Well, and this might be a stretch, but expect the Warriors to show the Rockets a lot more respect. Deep down, Kerr knows losing a pair to the Clippers was perhaps the face-slap his team needed, and at the right time. The Warriors know any lapse in this series will likely be their last, and a fatal one as well. “We know what Houston's about,” said Kerr. “We know how good they are. We've got to be ready.” There are positive signs beyond Durant. Thompson will be the first line of defense against Harden, the league’s leading scorer this season, and Thompson is coming off a lockdown of Williams, who finally cooled and went 3-for-21 Friday (Saturday, PHL time). This will be of major importance, of course, given Harden’s usage rate and relentlessness. “If you’re not focused,” Durant said, “he can drive past you, he shoots floaters now, he’s a strong finish with either hand and obviously the step-back three-pointers is one of his staples. He can score in a variety of ways so you have to be locked in from the beginning. You’ve got to be ready to play tough all game.” Draymond Green is coming off a triple-double, while the aging Andre Iguodala seems springy and active, usually his profile this time of year. Yes, there’s finally perhaps a sense of urgency or at least an understanding of what’s at stake and more of an emphasis on staying woke for the Warriors. “Obviously we would love to win every series 4-0,” said Durant. “That would be ideal. But we know it’s not really going to happen that way.” Perhaps not. But the Durant Warriors, based on their track record, are convincing enough. Veteran NBA writer Shaun Powell has worked for newspapers and other publications for more than 25 years. You can e-mail him here or follow him on Twitter. The views on this page do not necessarily reflect the views of the NBA, its clubs or Turner Broadcasting. .....»»

Category: sportsSource:  abscbnRelated NewsApr 27th, 2019

Warriors break ground on San Francisco arena with fanfare

em>By Janie McCauley, Associated Press /em> SAN FRANCISCO (AP) — Hard hats on, Steve Kerr and Kevin Durant lifted their golden shovels filled with dirt in a ceremonial moment for the Warriors franchise as it broke ground on snazzy new San Francisco digs at long last. And keeping KD in a Golden State uniform to see it through is a key part of the grand plan. This project has already been 4.5 years in the making. 'Honestly, a relief to some extent,' owner and CEO Joe Lacob said. Kerr is campaigning for the Golden State name to stay put along with his superstar players. 'We are the Golden State Warriors and it's not up to me, but I don't want it to change,' Kerr said. 'It's a unique name. It's the only one like it in the league. I would like to see that remain. I fully believe we are still the Bay Area's team, no matter whether we're playing in Oakland or San Jose or San Francisco. The name Golden State Warriors, there's too much history, there's too much tradition to change.' Even if in a success-oriented business like the NBA, nobody knows who will still be around when 18,000-seat Chase Center is complete. Kerr has no idea if he will even still be on the sidelines then. 'If you're lucky enough in life, like I've been, you reach a point where you get to choose who you work with, you get to choose where you live and you get to choose where you work,' Kerr said. 'By those metrics, I want to stay here forever. I'm also an NBA coach and I'm well aware that this building is going to take about three years to build, so the chances of me standing on the sidelines for the Warriors are slim to hopeful. Maybe as, like, the coach of another team. 'So far, so good, so hopefully I'll still be here.' Next, Golden State will likely work to keep both two-time reigning MVP Stephen Curry and Durant for the long haul by negotiating new deals this year. Kerr speaks to Durant daily and knows he is happy with his new Bay Area surroundings. 'We're going to win for a long time. ... We'll do whatever it takes to be champions again,' Lacob said of spending on players. He even publicly put KD on the spot: 'Kevin Durant came here without a new arena. Thank you, Kevin ... and also for agreeing to re-sign this summer. I have no idea how he's going to respond to that.' The Warriors did a little bit of everything to showcase how this will be far more than just a sports venue: The over-the-top groundbreaking featured a trio of songs by a gospel choir to kick off festivities, included a performance by the San Francisco Symphony and even acrobatic dancers dressed as construction workers for a grand finale of sorts that included beach balls dropping from an excavator before the equipment rigs moved in synchronization to the music in an extravagant routine featuring trampolines. Only boosting the mood was the California Supreme Court's decision earlier in the day to deny a petition by arena opponents seeking to overturn the Warriors' entitlements, further clearing the way for the project to move ahead — 'so we're totally good to go here,' Lacob noted. 'Wow, what a day!' said Warriors COO Rick Welts, noting the team will boast one of the world's premier 'gathering places' — for concerts and conventions, political events and more. 'Every city needs it. We need it. It will be great for San Francisco,' co-owner Peter Guber said. 'We now have proof, not just promises.' Curry got a break from public duties this time, a day after the Warriors pulled off a stunning 126-91 rout of LeBron James and the defending champion Cavaliers. Golden State hosts Oklahoma City on Wednesday night (Thursday, PHL time). San Francisco Mayor Ed Lee — among dozens of dignitaries in attendance — hollered, 'finally welcoming the Golden State Warriors home to San Francisco!' He rattled off the Warriors' star-studded roster and the energy around the franchise and its long-term mission. 'What's not to love?' he said. Lacob can't wait — and realizes how many people will miss the great vibe at the team's current home of Oracle Arena, an atmosphere the Warriors hope to replicate in many ways. Not only will the 11 acres include restaurants, cafes, businesses and other new additions to add vitality to the neighborhood, there will be a 51.5-acre bay-front park across from the arena. 'It is going to sing,' he said. 'It takes my breath away when we look at the renderings.' .....»»

Category: sportsSource:  abscbnRelated NewsJan 18th, 2017

Warriors chill Heat with Klay Thompson resting

em>By Janie McCauley, Associated Press /em> OAKLAND, Calif. (AP) — Stephen Curry had 24 points, nine assists and eight rebounds, Kevin Durant added 28 points and the Golden State Warriors picked it up late to beat the Miami Heat 107-95 on Tuesday night (Wednesday, PHL time) in another victory while hardly at their best. Durant also had eight rebounds and Draymond Green had 13 points, nine rebounds and five assists in the Warriors' fifth straight win against the Heat and eighth in 10, including three in a row at home. Klay Thompson had the night off for rest after he played through illness the past two games. Coach Steve Kerr said he was worn down. Hassan Whiteside had 28 points and 20 rebounds for the Heat, who were outscored 26-14 in the third quarter after leading 54-53 at halftime. Rookie Patrick McCaw made his first career start in Thompson's place and contributed a key 3-pointer in the third that put the Warriors ahead 67-60. While they finished with 28 assists, that zippy passing game the Warriors have with Thompson on the court wasn't quite as crisp -- though one pretty sequence of several quick touches led to Ian Clark's key triple on a pass from Andre Iguodala with 5:44 to go. Iguodala later dished to Clark again for a layup. Curry hit just 4-of-11 three-pointers as the Warriors shot 11-for-27 from beyond the arc and 45.3 percent overall. The two-time reigning NBA MVP fell short of a fourth straight game with 30 or more points. Golden State, which played its lone road game in 10 on Sunday (Monday, PHL time) with a bus trip to nearby Sacramento, again struggled to find an offensive flow while missing everything from layups to open three’s during stretches. Miami lost its third straight game and dropped to 1-4 on this five-game road as coach Erik Spoelstra works to help his team find 'our identity on both ends of the court and doing it more consistently.' Whiteside's alley-oop dunk with 7:15 remaining pulled the Heat within 85-80 and forced a Warriors timeout. Tyler Johnson scored to make it a three-point game before the Warriors closed it out in their typical, impressive fashion. Luke Babbitt returned for Miami after sitting out against the Clippers on Sunday (Monday, PHL time) with an illness, but he was limited in 18 minutes. Zaza Pachulia had scored in double figures in four straight games for the Warriors but had eight points, six rebounds and three assists. strong>QUOTABLE /strong> Kerr was asked about visiting the White House with Donald Trump as President if the Warriors were to win a championship. 'I certainly hope that we have to have that decision to make next year,' he said. 'I'll move on to the next question.' strong>TIP-INS /strong> em> strong>Heat: /strong> /em>Whiteside has eight or more rebounds in a career-high and franchise-best 50 straight games. The Heat have held opponents below 50 percent from the field in 33-of-40 games. Udonis Haslem was available but didn't play while dealing with a chest cold. em> strong>Warriors: /strong> /em>Clark notched his eighth game scoring in double figures. Golden State outscored Miami 21-9 on fast-break points in the first half. Since 2014-15, Golden State is 33-2 at home against the Eastern Conference and 5-0 this season. Chicago and Boston are the lone East teams to win at Oracle Arena during that span. strong>UP NEXT /strong> em> strong>Heat: /strong> /em>At Milwaukee on Friday night (Saturday, PHL time) to wrap up this trip after beating the Bucks 96-73 on Nov. 17 (Nov. 18, PHL time). The Warriors visit Miami on Jan. 23 (Jan. 24, PHL time). em> strong>Warriors: /strong> /em> Host Detroit on Thursday night (Friday, PHL time) for the middle game of a three-game home stretch vs. Eastern Conference opponents, including Monday's (Tuesday, PHL time) matchup against LeBron James and the champion Cavaliers. .....»»

Category: sportsSource:  abscbnRelated NewsJan 11th, 2017

Warriors' Zaza Pachulia has Kerr, not critics, in his head

JANIE McCAULEY, AP Sports Writer OAKLAND, California (AP) — Zaza Pachulia heard all the negative noise from his Golden State Warriors fans, and he began taking it personally. He was the new guy at the start of this NBA season, the lone non-All-Star in Golden State's decorated starting lineup. He was no Andrew Bogut, the imposing big man he replaced, and fans got nasty with their frustration. Now, Pachulia constantly recalls what coach Steve Kerr preaches: The only thing that matters is how the Warriors feel about each other, not what anyone outside thinks or says. Not that it was easy for Pachulia to ignore the scrutiny. 'That was one of the biggest challenges I've had. I've never been in this situation,' he said on Monday. 'It's a lot of responsibility, I understand it. It was very emotional for me at the beginning. I was kind of taking it very personal. But that's where mental toughness kicks in. 'I'm fortunate I have friends who have been in this situation throughout the league, but most importantly, the biggest help came from my coaching staff.' With Kerr in his ear, Pachulia has made an effort to tune out the critics. As expected, the Warriors have needed time to jell this season, and Pachulia's been at the center of the development. Early on, the center from Georgia took a passive approach, and also found himself in subpar shape. Now he's getting more comfortable, and is emerging at the perfect time. The Warriors are headed into the second half, and Pachulia has found his place complementing Stephen Curry, Kevin Durant, Draymond Green, and Klay Thompson. Last month, Pachulia had season-bests of 15 points and 14 rebounds in a win at Brooklyn, and he believes that helped him turn a corner. He has four straight games scoring in double figures entering Tuesday's home matchup with Miami after doing so just twice in his first 32 games. In a victory at Sacramento on Sunday, Pachulia made a jaw-dropping, no-look backward heave that was right on target to Curry and led to an easy basket by the league MVP. 'He's tried some crazy stuff before, but he made a good, timely read as the best way to get me the ball,' Curry said. 'It was right on target, one bounce into my lap and I was able to finish it. I'm sure Coach will make sure he's not experimenting too much more with that.' Pachulia's enjoyed being part of the 'fancy stuff' these pass-happy Warriors get up to — Golden State wracks up 30-assist performances at an astonishing rate. 'Zaza's got a little flair to him,' Kerr said on Monday. 'He likes making plays like that. Not that he's constantly making them, but he's got a little of that in him. I know he had fun with that play.' Never before had the big man been part of a team with so many great players, and finding his way with this group made for a daunting adjustment. That core of talent is the reason he chose to join Golden State for his 14th season. 'No disrespect to Dallas, Milwaukee, but we weren't this type of team. No one was expecting a championship from us,' Pachulia said. 'This team is different, right? Let's be honest. So every time you make a mistake on the court, and that's very normal, especially in the beginning, it looks like 10 times, 100 times worse. 'Fans are spoiled here because of the types of seasons they had — last year, where they broke the record even though they lost in the Finals, it was amazing. The year before they won the championship, so they were feeling really comfortable with the players and the personalities they had.' For Pachulia, the improvements have come from focusing on the small things — such as minor footwork adjustments and working to better defend the perimeter. That has come with a willingness to learn. 'The thing that I'm most proud of in watching him this year is his growth. I'm talking about a guy who's played a lot of basketball,' Warriors assistant coach and defensive guru Ron Adams said. 'The ability to be coached at his age has really been fun. ... He is one of those lifelong learners.' Still, Pachulia knows the compliments from those around him must be earned. From the basketball-crazed Bay Area fans, too. 'My skin got thicker,' Pachulia said. 'I don't listen to stuff from outside or even if I hear or if I read something, I just let it go very easily. It's not bothering me, because the truth is that Steph or Klay or KD or Draymond or Andre (Iguodala), all these guys, they either like playing with me or they don't. That's what matters. The coaching staff is happy with my presence or not. 'Maybe the first day, you're not expecting any of your teammates to give you some good words. We've played enough games that my teammates have a lot of compliments to say about me. My coaching staff has a lot of compliments to say about me. Those compliments don't come just like that. They are professionals and you get a compliment because you deserve it. That means a lot.' .....»»

Category: sportsSource:  abscbnRelated NewsJan 10th, 2017

V-LEAGUE: Successful 13th season

Huge crowds, high TV ratings from the country's largest network, a two-title romp by Pocari Sweat and a National University repeat highlighted another banner year for the V-League, which continued to pack wallops, deliver top-notch matches and stay on top of the heap. With all matches shown live over ABS-CBN S+A and via livestrean through sports.abs-cbn.com/livestrean/vleague, the league had a very successful 13th season and reached broader audience nationwide and even abroad.    It was also a season of firsts and comebacks with Iriga City Mayor Madeleine Alfelor-Gazmen playing an actual game in the Open Conference and the Summer Spikers making their return after a one-year absence, shuttling from Baguio and Manila and back during games. Veering away from its regular opening conference fare, the league, where it all started, actually marked its 13th season with a fans’ day where they played with their favorite stars in a variety of game-related skills challenge and ended up mingling with their idols for photo-ops and autograph signing sessions during the All-Star. The league, in partnership with ABS-CBN, held its All-Star Game, along with that of the Spikers’ Turf, as part of its social commitment with proceeds, amounting to P200,000 going to the typhoon Lawin victims through ABS CBN Foundation. The All-Star was also staged to give something back to the league’s ever-loyal fans through the backing of Shakey’s, Mikasa, Accel, Pocari Sweat, BaliPure, the Philippine Sports Commission and ABS-CBN Sports + Action. Bannered by veterans Michele Gumabao, Melissa Gohing, Myla Pablo and Desiree Dadang, Pocari Sweat made sure to mark its maiden stint in the country’s premier volley league with a victory – grounding the Air Force Lady Jet Spikers in sudden death to snare the Open Conference crown before a huge crowd. Pocari Sweat also came into the season-ending Reinforced Conference armed to the teeth, tapping a pair of talented imports in Andrea Kacsits and Breanna Mackie and sweeping another Alyssa Valdez-led team, this time, the Bureau of Customs Transformers in the finals to complete the Lady Warriors’ remarkable two-title sweep before another banner crowd. Most marquee matches were beamed live over ABS-CBN Sports + Action Channel 23 with the championships aired on primetime, further adding to the popularity and following of the league which turned a once-dormant sport in 2004 into what it is today. Customs also toughened up in a bid to claim a V-League championship on its very first try, luring not only the high-flying, power-hitting Valdez but also tapping Thai imports Nic Jaisaen and Kanjana Kuthaisong, while BaliPure, raring to atone for its failed bid in the Open, also came in with reinforcements Kaylee Manns and Kate Morell. But both fell short against the Lady Warriors, so did the five other teams which showed up with an all-local crew with UST and UP dishing out solid games while underscoring their readiness for the UAAP wars. The Lady Bulldogs also proved they’re more than ready for the UAAP battle, beating the Ateneo Lady Eagles in a pair of five-setters to repeat as champions of the mid-season Collegiate Conference. MVP Jaja Santiago and former utility spiker-turned-setter Jasmine Nabor took charge for the Bustillos-based school, which actually notched its third V-League title, including its breakthrough in Season 10, also against Ateneo. Over in the men’s side, the second season of Spikers’ Turf also proved to be a big success with the Air Force Jet Spikers dispatching the Cignal HD Spikers in both the Open and Reinforced Conference finals. Air Force’s season-ending conference victory also served as a revenge of sorts as Cignal edged it in three matches to clinch last year’s Reinforced crown. Ateneo, on the other hand, got back at NU as the Eagles kept the Collegiate Championship for the second straight season. Both squads have figured in the last three UAAP finals as well as the first two V-League Collegiate Conference championships with the Katipunan-based squad lording it over NU, 4-1, in their head-to-head duel. With Sports Vision lining up a number of innovations to make the league more interesting and at the same time compete for media attention in mainstream sports, there’s no other way for Season 14 to go but up.     .....»»

Category: sportsSource:  abscbnRelated NewsDec 31st, 2016

The ten most intriguing NBA free agents for 2019

By John Schuhmann, NBA.com We knew that the postseason would affect free agency. But the idea was that the success or failure of certain teams would affect what their free agents' thoughts about staying or leaving. Unfortunately, the last two games of The Finals brought devastating injuries to two of the three most coveted free agents on the market. Kevin Durant, arguably the best player in the world, tore his Achilles in Game 5, just 12 minutes into his return from a calf injury. And Klay Thompson tore his ACL in Game 6. The two injuries will certainly have repercussions beyond the two players and the Golden State Warriors. Maybe they already have. With the Western Conference seemingly wide open next season, the Los Angeles Lakers have reportedly made a deal for Anthony Davis, sending a bevy of young players and future picks to New Orleans so they can team the 26-year-old star with 34-year-old LeBron James ... and maybe another star added in free agency. As always, the free agent market and the trade market are tied together. The pending Davis trade could affect the decisions of players and teams come July 1. And if teams miss out on the free agents they're seeking, they could always fill their cap space by making a trade. With all that in mind, the players listed below aren't necessarily the 10 best free agents (or potential free agents). They're the 10 (actually 12) most interesting in regard to where they're going and what kind of contract they get. For players to be on this list, there needs to be some intrigue regarding their (and/or their team's) decision this summer. That's why Thompson isn't included. 1. Kawhi Leonard, Toronto (Player option) Whether he leaves or not, trading for Leonard last summer was well worth it for the Raptors, who won their first championship, with Leonard averaging 30.5 points per game in the postseason. The Raptors' "load management" program (which limited Leonard to just 60 games in the regular season) clearly worked, and director of sports science Alex McKechnie should be seen as a major asset in the quest to keep Leonard in Toronto. There should be a "run-it-back" sentiment for the new champs, with Danny Green also a free agent and Marc Gasol holding a player option this summer. A short-term deal would make sense, unless Leonard is looking for long-term security, having missed almost all of the 2017-18 season with a leg injury. It's all up to Leonard, maybe the toughest player in the league to read. If he takes his two-way talent elsewhere, the Raptors may have to go in a new direction. Number to know: In the postseason, Leonard had a true shooting percentage of 69.1 percent, the highest mark for a player that averaged at least 30 points per game in the playoffs and won the championship. 2. Kevin Durant, Golden State (Player option) Durant's torn Achilles probably won't scare any team, including the Warriors, from paying him as much as possible. As deep and talented as this free agent class is, the top two guys on this list are in a class by themselves. Rumors have long had Durant ready to leave Golden State and even with his injury, he seems more likely than Thompson to find a new home. But an ESPN report had Thompson's father talking about "unfinished business" after overhearing a conversation between the two injured Warriors. Durant could always put free agency off for a year by exercising his player option and remaining on the Warriors' payroll through his rehab. Number to know: Durant was the first player in NBA history to average 30 points per game in at least 10 playoff games while shooting at least 50 percent from the field, 40 percent from three-point range and 90 percent from the free throw line. 3. Kyrie Irving, Boston The disappointment of the Celtics' season, along with Irving's questionable leadership with a group that underachieved, has taken some of the shine off his star. Irving's injury history also must be taken into consideration. But talent is the most important thing in this league and Irving is one of its most talented players. He's still just 27-years-old and he can still get buckets when buckets are needed. A return to Boston appears far less likely than it did six months ago (especially with Davis being traded elsewhere) and there have been a lot of signals that Irving is bound for Brooklyn. Number to know: In the regular season, Irving had an effective field goal percentage of 56.1 percent with the score within five points in the last five minutes of the fourth quarter or overtime, the second-best mark among player with at least 50 clutch field goal attempts. 4. Jimmy Butler and Tobias Harris, Philadelphia The Sixers lost to the eventual NBA champions on a Game 7 buzzer-beater that bounced on the rim four times before falling through. They're right there. But their starting lineup, which outscored its opponents by more than 21 points per 100 possessions in 334 total minutes (regular season and playoffs), includes three free agents. In regard to future assets, the Sixers didn't give up as much for Butler as they did for Harris. And of course, Butler has more baggage in regard to accepting his role. But, with his defense and his ability to get his own shot, he's is the most important of the three. Harris struggled a bit in the conference semifinals against Toronto and is the least important of the Sixers' three free-agent starters; J.J. Redick's shooting was clearly more critical in the postseason. But Harris isn't easily replaceable and he appears to be the most likely to leave, with a lot of teams looking for versatile forwards. Number to know: In the regular season, Harris shot 41.3 percent on pull-up three-pointers, the second-best mark among 69 players who attempted at least 100. 5. Kemba Walker, Charlotte Walker has expressed some level of loyalty to the Hornets. But immediately after the Davis trade was agreed to, there was a report that Walker would be a "top target" of the Lakers with their cap space. Walker would be an ideal offensive complement to James and Davis, in that he can play off the ball (though he shot less than 35 percent on catch-and-shoot three-pointers last season) and take some of the playmaking burden off of James' shoulders. The Hornets, meanwhile, would likely have a tough time upgrading their roster around Walker, with Nicolas Batum, Bismack Biyombo, Michael Kidd-Gilchrist, Marvin Williams and Cody Zeller all under contract next season for a total of $85 million. Number to know: Walker led the league with 126 field goal attempts with the score within five points in the last five minutes. That was 43 percent of the Hornets' total (295). His effective field goal percentage on those shots (49.6 percent) ranked 15th among 45 players with at least 50 clutch field goal attempts. 6. D'Angelo Russell, Brooklyn (Restricted) A finalist for the Most Improved award, Russell took a big step forward this season, both in regard to his production and his maturity. He earned himself an All-Star appearance and helped the Nets reach the playoffs with a 14-win increase from last season. He's only 23-years-old and is one of the league's most flammable shooters. But because he doesn't get to the basket or the free throw line very often, Russell is neither all that efficient (his true shooting percentage of 53.3 percent ranked 66th among 94 guards with at least 500 field goal attempts) nor consistent, and he struggled (shooting 36 percent) in Brooklyn's first-round loss to Philadelphia. If the Nets are targeting another ball-handler in free agency (with Caris LeVert and Spencer Dinwiddie already under contract), they'll probably let Russell head elsewhere. Number to know: In the regular season, Russell ranked second with 11.4 pick-and-roll ball-handler possessions per game. He scored 0.89 points per possession as a pick-and-roll ball-handler, the 26th best mark among 44 players that averaged at least five ball-handler possessions. 7. DeMarcus Cousins and Kevon Looney, Golden State Cousins hadn't made it back to 100 percent from his Achilles tear before he suffered a torn quad in his second career playoff game. He made it back for The Finals from that injury and showed flashes of his old self with 14 important points in the Warriors' Game 5 win and a big bucket in the final minute of Game 6. But he also struggled on both ends of the floor at times, and the Warriors were outscored with him on the floor in seven of his eight playoff games. Now he goes back on the free agent market with teams still not sure of what they're getting. Looney is an unrestricted free agent at 23-years-old, and he was the Warriors' most important center this season. The Western Conference champs have Looney's Bird rights, but they could also be spending a lot of money to retain Durant and Thompson (and possibly extend Draymond Green). Another team might have a larger role and more money for an improving young big. Number to know: In the regular season, the Warriors' lineup of Curry, Thompson, Durant, Green and Looney scored 121.5 points per 100 possessions and outscored opponents by 18.7 per 100. Those were the best marks for points scored and point differential per 100 possessions among 40 league-wide lineups that played at least 200 minutes together. 8. Malcolm Brogdon, Milwaukee (Restricted) The Milwaukee Bucks were the best team in the league through the first two games of the Eastern Conference finals. But, with four of their top eight players being free agents (or potential free agents) this summer, they have a lot of work to do if they want to keep Giannis Antetokounmpo surrounded by players who can get it done on both ends of the floor. Brogdon, Khris Middleton and Brook Lopez are the three key pieces. They're all due a pay raise and they all belong on this list. Brogdon is the restricted free agent, but he's also the youngest of the three (he'll be 27 in December) and the one that could be projected into a larger role on another team. Number to know: Brogdon shot 47.5 percent on catch-and-shoot three-pointers, the third-best mark among 223 players who attempted at least 100. 9. Julius Randle, New Orleans (Player option) After five years in the league, Randle is still just 24-years-old. So he's not necessarily a bad fit for David Griffin's plans for the future in New Orleans. But the Pelicans might not be ready to commit the money Randle is seeking (should he opt out of the final year of his contract) after averaging a career-high 21.4 points per game. Defense remains an issue, but Randle has expanded his offensive skill set; he was a respectable 34.4 percent from three-point range this season, taking 18 percent of his shots from beyond the arc (up from six percent over his three previous full seasons). Number to know: Randle averaged 13.2 points in the paint per game, seventh most in the league, and he made more three-pointers (67) than all but one of the six players in front of him. 10. Ricky Rubio, Utah According to Rubio himself, he's not Utah's top priority in free agency. He remains a good defender and one of the league's best passers, but the Jazz need to get more potent offensively if they're going to take the next step. At 31.1 percent, Rubio ranked 153rd in three-point percentage among 163 players with at least 200 attempts. There could be as many as 10 teams (not including the Jazz) in need of a starting point guard this summer, and Rubio could have more value on a team more in need of a distributor. Number to know: The Jazz were 5.8 points per 100 possessions better offensively with both Rubio and Donovan Mitchell on the floor (scoring 110.4 per 100) than they were with Mitchell on the floor without Rubio (104.6). John Schuhmann is a senior stats analyst for NBA.com. You can e-mail him here, find his archive here and follow him on Twitter. The views on this page do not necessarily reflect the views of the NBA, its clubs or Turner Broadcasting......»»

Category: sportsSource:  abscbnRelated NewsJun 17th, 2019