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Lakers trounce short-handed Thunder

LOS ANGELES — The Los Angeles Lakers spent the morning giving themselves the financial flexibility to sign two free agents to max deals......»»

Category: sportsSource: philstar philstarFeb 9th, 2018

Lakers trounce short-handed Thunder, 106-81

By Dan Greenspan, Associated Press LOS ANGELES (AP) — Kentavious Caldwell-Pope scored 20 points, and the balanced Los Angeles Lakers defeated the short-handed Oklahoma City Thunder 106-81 on Thursday night (Friday, PHL time). Brandon Ingram added 19 points, Julius Randle scored 17 and Kyle Kuzma had 16 for the Lakers, who won their eighth straight at home. Los Angeles is 12-5 in its last 17 games, including four consecutive wins. Paul George scored 29 points for the Thunder, who played without Russell Westbrook and Carmelo Anthony as each was hampered by a sprained ankle. Steven Adams had 13 points and nine rebounds as the Thunder lost for the fifth time in six games. After knocking off the Thunder 108-104 in Oklahoma City on Sunday (Monday, PHL time), the Lakers breezed to a lead as large as 27 points in the fourth quarter. Rookie Josh Hart had 10 points, eight rebounds and five assists. George started strong with 12 points in the opening 6:52, hitting his first five shots including three three-pointers. The Thunder opened up an 11-point lead, but the Lakers closed the first quarter on a 22-8 run and took a lead they would not relinquish at 30-27 on a three-point play by Randle with 3.8 seconds left. Randle scored 13 points in the first half and Caldwell-Pope added 10 as the Lakers took a 52-46 lead into the locker room. George had 22 points at the break, making 8-of-14 shots from the field and 4 of 6 from the 3-point line. The rest of the Oklahoma City lineup shot 27 percent (10-of-37), and no other Thunder player took more than nine shots. TIP-INS Thunder: Raymond Felton had seven points, five rebounds and three assists as he took Westbrook's place in the starting lineup. Patrick Patterson, who replaced Anthony, was scoreless in 26 minutes. Jerami Grant and Alex Abrines each scored eight points. Lakers: G Lonzo Ball (left knee) missed his 12th straight game. CLEARING THE DECKS The Lakers traded G Jordan Clarkson and F Larry Nance Jr. to the Cleveland Cavaliers for G Isaiah Thomas, F Channing Frye and a 2018 first-round pick. With Thomas and Frye on expiring contracts, it gives Los Angeles a path toward clearing enough cap space to sign two free agents to max deals next summer. Lakers fans made it clear who they would like to see join the team, giving George a loud ovation when he was introduced as a starter. One fan yelled, "Come home, Paul," as George was at the free-throw line in the third quarter. NO TIME FOR I.T. DEPARTMENT Lakers coach Luke Walton was so caught up in preparing for the Thunder that he had yet to begin figuring out how Thomas might fit in with the surging young team. Walton hadn't even spoken to Thomas, as the two traded voicemails in an attempt to reach one another. "If there was no game today, then, yeah, most of today would have been spent watching film on him and calling people that I know around the league that may either have played with him or coached him and coming up with game plans, but most of today has been spent on prepping for OKC," Walton said. UP NEXT Thunder: Host the Memphis Grizzlies on Sunday (Monday, PHL time). Lakers: Open a three-game trip at the Dallas Mavericks on Saturday (Monday, PHL time)......»»

Category: sportsSource:  abscbnRelated NewsFeb 9th, 2018

Nuggets beat Kings 114-98 without coach and 2 starters

By Michael Wagaman, Associated Press SACRAMENTO, Calif. (AP) — Will Barton and Trey Lyles made two three-pointers apiece during a big run in the third quarter, and the short-handed Denver Nuggets pulled away to beat the Sacramento Kings 114-98 on Monday night (Tuesday, PHL time). Barton finished with 25 points, six rebounds and five assists in his third start this season for Denver, which played without suspended coach Mike Malone and injured starters Paul Millsap and Wilson Chandler. Nikola Jokic added 16 points and 14 rebounds and Gary Harris scored 20 for the Nuggets, who bounced back after losing by 21 to the Los Angeles Lakers a night earlier. Denver couldn't shake Sacramento until a 19-7 run late in the third quarter sparked by the long-distance shooting of Barton and Lyles. The Nuggets shot 15-of-32 beyond the arc and led by as many as 22 in the final period. Wes Unseld Jr. coached the Nuggets while Malone served a one-game NBA suspension for making contact with a referee in Sunday's (Monday, PHL time) loss. Denver also was missing Millsap, who sprained his left wrist against the Lakers, and Chandler (lower back pain). George Hill and Kosta Koufos scored 16 points apiece to lead six players in double figures for Sacramento. The Kings, who had won their three previous home games against the Thunder, 76ers and Trail Blazers, have lost five of six overall. TIP-INS Nuggets: With Millsap and Chandler out, Unseld went to a three-guard lineup but the offense sputtered in the first half with 11 turnovers. Denver did a much better job after the break and pulled away. Barton shot 9-of-15, including 5-for-6 on three's. ...The Nuggets outscored the Kings 19-6 in second-chance points. Kings: Zach Randolph had 12 points and six rebounds in his third consecutive start at center. ...Buddy Hield missed his second straight game with a sore right ankle. UP NEXT Nuggets: Play at Houston on Wednesday (Thursday, PHL time). The Rockets have won four straight against Denver. Kings: Host the Lakers on Wednesday (Thursday, PHL time). The teams split the season series last year......»»

Category: sportsSource:  abscbnRelated NewsNov 21st, 2017

Game 2 win puts Jazz in position for upset anew

By Sekou Smith, NBA.com HOUSTON — They’ve already sprung one upset this postseason. Do the Utah Jazz have another one in them? There’s no reason to doubt the fearless, short-handed Jazz after they toppled the Houston Rockets in Toyota Center Wednesday (Thursday, PHL time) with a 116-108 win in Game 2 over the Western Conference’s No. 1 seed, evening up this second-round series at 1-1. The Jazz led by 19 before halftime, surrendered that advantage and trailed by five in the third quarter before re-taking control with a decisive 16-2 run late to shock the Jazz and snatch home court advantage with Games 3 and 4 this weekend in Salt Lake City. “That to me was maybe the most important thing in the game,” Jazz coach Quin Snyder said of his team’s resilience. “To get off to a good start and play well and then you know they’re going to come back. It’s just a question of how far and how quickly, and I thought they cut the gap and not only made it a game, but basically took control of the game. "I think we could feel that. At that point, for our guys to keep their focus on what we’re trying to do, and continue to run and continue to shoot and try to defend says a lot about the team and how they function together and that they didn’t break at that point.” Playing into May wasn’t supposed to be in the cards for this Jazz team that lost All-Star Gordon Hayward to Boston in free agency. Only six players returned from the fifth-seeded squad that knocked off the Los Angeles Clippers in the first round last season and got swept by the eventual champion Golden State Warriors in the conference semifinals. There weren't necessarily any playoff expectations for this team at the start of training camp. But no one told rookie guard Donovan Mitchell, who has led the Jazz all season and in their upset of Oklahoma City in six games in their first-round series. Mitchell shot just 6-for-21 from the floor, filling in for injured starting point guard Ricky Rubio, but showed up every time the Jazz needed him. He registered five assists in the first six minutes as the Jazz took control, finishing with 17 points, a career-high 11 assists, five rebounds and a jaw-dropping dunk on his own missed floater in the fourth quarter that helped ignited his team’s game-closing run. “Just being poised and staying under control was the biggest thing,” Mitchell said. “Understand how they were going to guard me and when you have the big fella [Rudy Gobert] rolling as fas he did, making the right plays to kind of predict what the defense was going to do next.” Clearly no one mentioned it to Joe Ingles, one of those six veteran holdovers from last season. The veteran forward smoked the Rockets for a career-high 27 points, drained 10 of his 13 shots, including 7-of-9 from beyond the three-point line, two huge ones in the final five minute to help hold the Rockets off. “Just sticking together and just keep executing,” Ingles said about what carried the Jazz down the stretch. “We knew they were going to make runs. So just sticking together, I think we did a really good job of that and we were able to make our runs when it was our turn.” It was the sort of group effort that has been the trademark of this Jazz team all season. Mitchell and Ingles served as the catalysts for an inspired bunch that jumped on the Rockets early, took the home team’s best retaliatory shots, and then pounced at the finish. Their confidence in each other and the rest of their teammates was obvious after two full days to study and digest how they wanted to attack the Rockets after getting drilled in the series opener. The Jazz bench nearly doubled up their Rockets counterparts in scoring (41-22) and got a career night from Alec Burks (17 points, six assists), a double-double from Jae Crowder (15 points and 10 rebounds) and quality work on both ends of the floor from Dante Exum, whose drive-and-dunk with 55.3 seconds to play closed the door on any hopes the Rockets had of a last-minute comeback of their own. “I thought Dante’s dunk was better than mine,” Mitchell said. The Jazz hit a franchise playoff-high 15 three-pointers and finally beat a Rockets team that had owned them in the five games (wins all by 11 or more points) they played leading up to Wednesday's (Thursday, PHL time) dramatic momentum shifter. It was the game Rockets coach Mike D’Antoni had been dreading as his team eased its way into this postseason. They played three outstanding quarters in five games against the Minnesota Timberwolves in the first round. They led the Jazz by 27 points in Sunday’s (Monday, PHL time) opener but watched that lead dwindle to just 11 points after halftime, as the Jazz found some cracks in the Rockets’ improved defense down the stretch. He warned his team about thinking they could flip the switch in the postseason just because they’d won a league-best 65 games during the regular season. The real wake-up call didn’t come until now. “Yeah, we flipped it,” D’Antoni said. “We came back from 19 down. We flipped it and then they flipped it back on us. You've got to give them credit, they played great down the stretch. They hit shots, they did what they were supposed to do.” The Jazz did exactly what they did to the Thunder in the first round. They studied the film from their Game 1 loss, made the necessary adjustments and finished that series in six games, never allowing the Thunder to enjoy the home-court advantage they earned for that series. Duplicating that feat against these Rockets should prove to be a much tougher task, especially without Rubio, who was one of the most animated individuals on the Jazz bench all night while rocking Mitchell’s signature rookie sweatshirt. His hamstring injury might force Mitchell to continue working at the point for the remainder of the series. It remains to be seen, though, if that’s an advantage for the Rockets. For all the work Kia MVP frontrunner James Harden (32 points, 11 assists and six rebounds) and Chris Paul (23 points, five rebounds and three assists) did in Game 2, neither one of them could will their team to the win the way the rookie did the Jazz. “They were just too comfortable,” Paul said. “They were getting layups, dunks, free throws, a little bit of everything. We fought back hard. But give them a lot of credit, they did what they were supposed to do. They came in here and got a win.” The pressure is on the Rockets now to do the same in Utah. Sekou Smith is a veteran NBA reporter and NBA TV analyst. You can e-mail him here, find his archive here and follow him on Twitter. The views on this page do not necessarily reflect the views of the NBA, its clubs or Turner Broadcasting......»»

Category: sportsSource:  abscbnRelated NewsMay 3rd, 2018

Melo leads the way as Thunder rout Lakers, 114-90

(This recap will be updated) Carmelo Anthony scored 27 points, one short of his season-high, as the Oklahoma City Thunder used a big third period to rout the visiting LA Lakers, 114-90, Thursday (PHL time) at the Chesapeake Energy Arena in Oklahoma City. The Thunder led by just six points, 60-54, at the start of the third, but they proceeded to dominate their foes 33-18 in that quarter, pulling away for good. The Lakers had Brandon Ingram back in the line-up, but played once again without rookie point guard Lonzo Ball. They then proceeded to lose shooting guard Kentavious Caldwell-Pope to a strained right Achilles tendon, further shortening their rotation. Anthony shot 10-of-15 from the field, 4-of-6 on three's, and added three rebounds, two assists, and a steal. Steven Adams added 21 points and 10 rebounds, while Russell Westbrook managed 19 on 22 shots, to go with six boards, seven dimes and two swipes. Julius Randle led the Lakers with 16 points on an 8-of-11 clip, but had just one rebound. He did manage three assists and a block in 23 minutes. Caldwell-Pope scored 10 in his 15-minute stint, the only other Laker in double-figures......»»

Category: sportsSource:  abscbnRelated NewsJan 18th, 2018

Ingram sends Lakers past Spurs for 3rd straight win

LOS ANGELES — Brandon Ingram scored 26 points, Lonzo Ball added 18 and the Los Angeles Lakers held off the short-handed San Antonio Spurs, 93-81, Thursday ni.....»»

Category: newsSource:  philstarRelated NewsJan 12th, 2018

Career night by Rivers leads Clippers over Rockets 128-118

HOUSTON — Austin Rivers scored a career-high 36 points with six 3-pointers, and the short-handed Los Angeles Clippers withstood James Harden's second straight 51-point performance to beat the Houston Rockets 128-118 on Friday night. The Rockets, who had a 14-game winning streak snapped by the Lakers on Wednesday, lost consecutive games for just the second time this season and the first since Oct. 28 and 30. Rivers made a 3-pointer with just under three minutes to play that pushed the lead to 117-111. Ryan Anderson made two free throws for Houston before C.J. Williams added a layup for the Clippers. Former Rocket Lou Williams, who had 32 points off the bench, then made his fourth 3-pointer of the quarter after that to make it 122-113 before a turnover by Harden spurred coach Mike D'Antoni to call a timeout. Rivers made another 3-pointer after the timeout and Harden made a layup before fouling out a few seconds later. He received a technical for arguing about the call and was ejected from the game. It was Harden's third 50-point game this season. This game lacked much of the intrigue it could have had with Chris Paul sitting out in the first meeting with his former team because of a groin injury. The nine-time All-Star spent the last six seasons with the Clippers before a blockbuster trade brought him to the Rockets this summer. Patrick Beverley, who was the highest-profile Rocket involved in the trade, also missed the game while recovering from knee surgery. The Rockets were without two starters, with center Clint Capela missing a second straight game because of a bruised left heel. The Clippers have been dealing with injuries all season after losing Beverley for the season in November and playing without All-Star Blake Griffin for the last 12 games because of a knee injury. The Clippers, who trailed by as many as 15 points in the first half, were up by nine after a dunk by Sam Dekker with about seven minutes remaining. Harden led Houston with five points during a 10-3 run to cut the lead to 108-106 with about 4 1/2 minutes left. Los Angeles led by two entering the fourth quarter, and Lou Williams made three 3-pointers in just over a minute to power a 9-2 run that 101-93 with about eight minutes left. Houston led by 12 early in the third quarter before the Clippers used a 10-2 run, with the last five points from Rivers, to cut the lead to 71-67 with 8 1/2 minutes left in the quarter. Eric Gordon made a 3-pointer after that before Los Angeles made the next seven points. Rivers led the team in that span, too, scoring the last five points to tie it at 74 with about five minutes left in the third. Houston had the next six points before the Clippers used a 10-2 spurt, capped by consecutive 3s from Williams to take their first lead of the game, 84-82. Harden made all of his free throws after being fouled on a 3-pointer to put Houston back out front, but C.J. Williams added a 3 for the Clippers at the buzzer to leave them up 87-85 entering the fourth quarter. Houston led 65-52 at halftime after Harden made a 3-pointer at the buzzer. TIP-INS Clippers: DeAndre Jordan had 15 points, 20 rebounds and two blocks. ... The Clippers made 18 of 42 3-pointers. Rockets: Gordon added 28 points and made six 3-pointers. ... Paul is listed as day to day and the team doesn't think the injury is serious. This injury comes after he missed 14 games early this season with a knee injury. ... Nene started in place of Capela and had three points and two rebounds. UP NEXT Clippers: Visit Memphis on Saturday. Rockets: Visit Oklahoma City on Monday......»»

Category: sportsSource:  abscbnRelated NewsDec 23rd, 2017

Short-handed Nets beat Thunder in Mexico City

MEXICO CITY --- Caris Levert scored 19 points, Rondae Hollis-Jefferson added 17 and short-handed Brooklyn overcame another strong performance by Russell Westbrook to beat the Oklahoma City Thunder 100-95 on Thursday night in the first of the Nets' two games in Mexico City. Westbrook had 31 points, eight rebounds and six assists. Allen Crabbe had 15 points for Brooklyn, playing without guards Jeremy Lin and D'Angelo Russell because of injuries and without power forward Trevor Booker after he was traded to Philadelphia before the game. The Nets improved to 10-14 with their second straight victory and third in four games. They will play the Miami Heat on Saturday at Arena Ciuda...Keep on reading: Short-handed Nets beat Thunder in Mexico City.....»»

Category: newsSource:  inquirerRelated NewsDec 8th, 2017

Westbrook s triple-double leads Thunder past depleted Spurs

OKLAHOMA CITY — It was an ugly win against a short-handed opponent, but the struggling Oklahoma City Thunder are in no position to worry about such details......»»

Category: sportsSource:  philstarRelated NewsDec 4th, 2017

Westbrook’s triple-double leads Thunder past depleted Spurs

OKLAHOMA CITY --- Russell Westbrook had his seventh triple-double of the season to help the Oklahoma City Thunder defeat the short-handed San Antonio Spurs 90-87 on Sunday night. Westbrook had 22 points, 10 rebounds and 10 assists for the Thunder, who won their second straight. Steven Adams added 19 points and 10 rebounds for Oklahoma City, which won even though No. 2 scorer Paul George had just eight points on 2-for-17 shooting. Dejounte Murray had 17 points and Derrick White added 16 for San Antonio. With a chance to tie it at the end, Brandon Paul missed a 3-pointer and the Thunder rebounded. Spurs starters LaMarcus Aldridge and Tony Parker sat out. San Antonio coach Gregg Popov...Keep on reading: Westbrook’s triple-double leads Thunder past depleted Spurs.....»»

Category: newsSource:  inquirerRelated NewsDec 4th, 2017

Westbrook’s triple-double leads Thunder past depleted Spurs

By Cliff Brunt, Associated Press OKLAHOMA CITY (AP) — Russell Westbrook had his seventh triple-double of the season to help the Oklahoma City Thunder defeat the short-handed San Antonio Spurs 90-87 on Sunday night (Monday, PHL time). Westbrook had 22 points, 10 rebounds and 10 assists for the Thunder, who won their second straight. Steven Adams added 19 points and 10 rebounds for Oklahoma City, which won even though No. 2 scorer Paul George had just eight points on 2-for-17 shooting. Dejounte Murray had 17 points and Derrick White added 16 for San Antonio. With a chance to tie it at the end, Brandon Paul missed a three-pointer and the Thunder rebounded. Spurs starters LaMarcus Aldridge and Tony Parker sat out. San Antonio coach Gregg Popovich said Aldridge rested with a minor knee issue and Parker was “dinged-up.” The Spurs still are waiting for forward Kawhi Leonard’s right quadriceps injury to heal. San Antonio’s Kyle Anderson sprained his left knee with a minute remaining in the third quarter and did not return. Jerami Grant’s three-pointer as time expired in the first half gave the Thunder a 54-43 advantage. Adams had 17 points on 7-for-10 shooting and Oklahoma City led even though George went scoreless and Carmelo Anthony managed just three points. San Antonio rallied in the third quarter and cut Oklahoma City’s lead to 76-73 at the end of the period. Westbrook clinched his triple-double on an assist to George for a three-pointer that gave the Thunder an 87-79 lead. George had made just 1-of-14 shots before connecting with 4:13 remaining. TIP-INS Spurs: Popovich said reserve forward Rudy Gay was “dinged-up,” so he did not play. ... Paul made his first NBA start and was issued a technical foul in the second quarter. Thunder: G Alex Abrines, who is healthy but did not play the previous two games, scored five points in 15:22. ... Westbrook had seven points, six assists and five rebounds in the first quarter. ... Westbrook shot 2-of-6 on free throws. UP NEXT Spurs: Host the Detroit Pistons on Monday (Tuesday, PHL time). Thunder: Host the Utah Jazz on Tuesday (Wednesday, PHL time)......»»

Category: sportsSource:  abscbnRelated NewsDec 4th, 2017

Lonzo Ball’s triple-double sends Lakers past Denver, 127-109

By Greg Beacham, Associated Press LOS ANGELES (AP) — Lonzo Ball had his second career triple-double and Julius Randle scored 24 points in the Los Angeles Lakers’ 127-109 victory over the short-handed Denver Nuggets on Sunday night (Monday, PHL time). Ball had 11 points, a career-high 16 rebounds and 11 assists in the 20-year-old rookie’s first triple-double in front of his hometown fans at Staples Center. Brook Lopez scored 21 points and Jordan Clarkson added 18 for the Lakers, who surged to a 24-point lead in the first half and easily won for just the second time in seven games. Denver coach Mike Malone and top scorer Nikola Jokic were ejected in the second quarter after Malone stepped onto the court during play to argue a no-call on a play by Jokic around the basket. Malone furiously confronted referee Rodney Mott, who swiftly ejected the coach and his best player when Jokic joined in the argument. Forward Paul Millsap also left with a sprained left wrist in the second quarter of a miserable night at Staples Center for the Nuggets, who lost for just the second time in six games. Ball had another big game at another turbulent moment in his family life. With his father, LaVar, engaged in a public argument with Donald Trump over the president’s role in resolving brother LiAngelo’s misdeeds during a UCLA basketball trip to China, Lonzo Ball put together an outstanding floor game to boost the Lakers. Ball and Magic Johnson are the only Lakers with multiple triple-doubles in their rookie seasons. Johnson had seven, and his new point guard has two in his first 17 games. Randle added seven points and five assists in a stellar game off the bench. TIP-INS Nuggets: Jamal Murray got a technical foul for gesturing at Mott after a no-call shortly after the two ejections. ... Two nights after Denver scored 146 points in a win over New Orleans, the Nuggets mustered just 48 points in the first half while committing 13 turnovers. Lakers: The 6'6" Ball’s 16 rebounds were the most in the NBA by any rookie this season. ... Los Angeles had a season-high 36 assists. ... Randle scored 17 points before halftime. ... Josh Hart and Ivica Zubac were recalled from the South Bay Lakers before the game. Hart scored three points, and Zubac played two minutes. TOSSED Malone was infuriated when Mott didn’t call a foul on the Lakers for contact while Jokic battled underneath the basket. When the teams headed upcourt, Malone took two steps onto the hardwood and blocked Mott’s path. Jokic had barely joined the argument when Mott tossed him as well, prompting a profane response. Malone’s assistants had to calm him down. UP NEXT Nuggets: At Sacramento Kings on Monday night (Tuesday, PHL time). Lakers: Host the Chicago Bulls on Tuesday night (Wednesday, PHL time)......»»

Category: sportsSource:  abscbnRelated NewsNov 20th, 2017

Antetokounmpo leads Bucks past Spurs in Bledsoe s debut

SAN ANTONIO -- Giannis Antetokounmpo had 28 points and 12 rebounds, and Milwaukee snapped a four-game skid with a 94-87 victory over San Antonio on Friday night in Eric Bledsoe's debut with the Bucks. Bledsoe started in his first game with Milwaukee three days after being acquired in a trade with Phoenix. Bledsoe made his first attempt, a runner from 13 feet, and he finished with 13 points and seven assists on 6-for-15 shooting. The Bucks won for the first time in November and snapped the Spurs' three-game winning streak. Antetokounmpo and San Antonio forward LaMarcus Aldridge played to an early stalemate in a battle of the teams' star big men. Aldridge muscled his way to the basket and scored 20 points on 8-for-14 shooting. Antetokounmpo elevated to the rim for a series of layups and dunks in shooting 12-for-24. The Bucks' length and quickness, especially Antetokounmpo's, created havoc for the Spurs. San Antonio had 18 turnovers, two short of its season worst. Five San Antonio turnovers came in the third as Milwaukee rolled to a 30-23 advantage in the period behind Antetokounmpo. The league's leading scorer had 10 points, five rebounds and three blocked shots in the third. Manu Ginobili's hanging, left-handed bank shot led to a three-point play that pulled San Antonio within 89-87 with 2:26 remaining, but Milwaukee extended the lead on jumpers by Bledsoe and Khris Middleton. Middleton finished with 13 points. Ginobili had a season-high 18. TIP-INS Bucks: Despite having scored 20 points in three straight games, Malcolm Brogdon came off the bench for the first time this season after starting nine games. Brogdon finished with nine points and seven rebounds. ... Middleton averaged 26.3 points, 8.3 assists and 6.3 rebounds in his previous three games. ... Mirza Teletovic missed his first game, sitting out after experiencing soreness in his left knee. Spurs: San Antonio continued to play without Kawhi Leonard (right quadriceps tendinopathy), Tony Parker (left quadriceps tendon surgery) and Joffrey Lauvergne (sprained right ankle). The three have missed a combined 33 games, with Parker and Leonard having yet to play this season ... Aldridge has 16 blocks this season. ... Danny Green and Pau Gasol were pulled from the game a minute into the third quarter for Ginobili and Rudy Gay. ... Brandon Paul had his 10th steal, which is tied for fifth on the team with Aldridge and Kyle Anderson. UP NEXT Bucks: Host the Los Angeles Lakers on Saturday night in their third back-to-back of the season. Spurs: Host Chicago on Saturday night in the finale of a six-game homestand......»»

Category: sportsSource:  abscbnRelated NewsNov 11th, 2017

24 NBA questions before 17-18 tips off

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

Category: sportsSource:  abscbnRelated NewsOct 17th, 2017

Resilient Rockets strike back with Game 4 victory

By Sekou Smith, NBA.com OAKLAND, Calif. -- Maybe they are built for this after all, these rugged Houston Rockets. Twice they absorbed knockout blows from the reigning champion Golden State Warriors in a do-or-die Game 4 of the Western Conference finals in a raucous Oracle Arena. And both times the Rockets got up off the floor and battled back, showing championship mettle of their own, to do what no team has done to these Warriors since Kevin Durant joined them. The Rockets showed up five minutes late, battled back from a 12-0 blitz to start the game and a 27-8 third quarter avalanche to win 95-92 and tie this series at 2-2 and reclaim the home-court advantage they lost in Game 1. With the game, and their franchise-best 65-win regular season and basically everything on the line, the Rockets outplayed the mighty Warriors down the stretch to snap the NBA playoff-record 16-game home win streak. They proved that they belong on this big stage and that they are who they thought they were when they were dominating the league throughout the course of the regular season. “I just think this was confidence,” said veteran forward Trevor Ariza, the only player on the Rockets’ roster who owns a championship ring (Los Angeles Lakers, 2009). “We're a confident team. We believe in ourselves and we went out and showed that we can win anywhere.” It was the Warriors, the group with all of the experience in these moments, that melted down late in the game, not the Rockets. The pressure that Rockets coach Mike D’Antoni insisted was on the Warriors after his team’s 41-point loss in Game 3 Sunday (Monday, PHL time) was there. The Rockets outscored the Warriors 25-12 in the fourth quarter. The Warriors shot just 3-for-18 after torching the Rockets for 34 points, 17 from Stephen Curry, in a third quarter that looked like one of their signature waves that usually slams the door on the opposition. But not this time. Not with the Rockets playing their best defensive quarter of the season, according to D’Antoni. “Yeah, I thought it was the highest level we’ve ever played defensively, without a doubt,” he said. “Because you're talking about maybe the best offensive team ever, and they got on a roll. Even when we were down 12-zip, there was some good defense in there to get us back, because we weren’t lighting it up to get it back. “So [we] just got a lot of tough stops and a lot of tough rebounds, getting loose balls and we didn’t get into foul trouble too early. It was just a lot of good things. Great switching and they got a little tired in the fourth quarter, and that’s because they felt us for three quarters. If we can repeat that, and that’s what the formula is, and we’ll see if we can do that when we get to Houston.” The Rockets couldn’t have gone home even without the work Chris Paul put in during the first pressure-cooker game of this series. Playing on a sore foot, he was nothing short of magnificent in the fourth, scoring eight of his 27 points, while showing the sort of toughness the Rockets lacked before his arrival last summer in a blockbuster trade. “Man, he’s been doing it for so long,” James Harden said of his fellow superstar point guard. “Now he has an opportunity to do it on this stage. I mean, everybody knows how great he is, from his passing ability to his big shot-making ability, and even to his defense. He was huge for us tonight." That’s all Paul was focused on. One game. One night. One chance to make things right. “It was a good win for us,” he said. “We knew we needed it, but we said all along with both teams home court doesn’t really matter. Both teams have the ability to win on the road. We had to prove that to ourselves. Weathering the storm, the runs that they made, and knowing that now we got a chance to go back home, we knew we had to get at least one win here. We got it, so now it’s a three-game series.” D’Antoni only used seven players to get the job done, leaning on his core group in a grueling game to flip this series into a best-of-three with the Rockets back in a position of power. The trust and faith he showed in his core group paid off. “We’re confident in what we do,”Ariza said.“When we are locked in to what we are doing and what we are supposed to be doing, we are a really good defensive team. We’re a really good team, period. We just came out and played hard tonight. For all the hard-earned hype about the Warriors and what they are capable of, the Rockets still haven’t lost consecutive games in this postseason. They are 4-2 on the road, 2-0 in games decided by three points or less and a perfect 5-0 when Paul scores 25 or more points. They still have work to do in this series, of course, but they are on a path that suggests they possess the sort of fiber needed to make it into the championship discussion. D’Antoni called them soft after that Game 3 embarrassment. He praised their toughness on this night, and rightfully so. “We’ve been doing it all year long,” said Harden, who scored just two of his game-high 30 points in the fourth quarter. “That’s the main reason we’re in the position we’re in today. That third game was just one loss. We all know that. We’ve got the mentality that we’re going to win Game 4. We talked about it. We’ve preached it. “They made runs and they were going to, especially at home. And we kept fighting, kept fighting and defensively kept locking in and making big-time shots. Chris and Eric [Gordon] and Trevor, guys made big-time shots in that fourth quarter.” A fourth quarter that changed this series and could potentially change the entire postseason landscape, depending on what comes next from this team with its destiny back in its own hands. Sekou Smith is a veteran NBA reporter and NBA TV analyst. You can e-mail him here, find his archive here and follow him on Twitter. The views on this page do not necessarily reflect the views of the NBA, its clubs or Turner Broadcasting......»»

Category: sportsSource:  abscbnRelated NewsMay 23rd, 2018

Warriors need just one game to establish superiority

By Sekou Smith, NBA.com HOUSTON — Months of building up the hard shell required to wade this deep into the NBA’s merciless playoff waters can evaporate in a snap. One bad rotation, followed by a missed layup on the back of yet another dagger from the other team and even a mighty, 65-win juggernaut can see it all unravel. The Houston Rockets know the feeling now, after living through it on what could turn out to be the biggest night of the best [regular] season in the history of the franchise. They invited the Golden State Warriors in, dared to beat the reigning NBA champions at their own game in these Western Conference finals with an emphatic win and came up woefully short of that goal in the opener. The home court advantage they worked for all throughout a brilliant season is gone. The comfort provided by a 2-1 record against the Warriors during the regular season series the Rockets held tight since January was blown away after just four quarters. Whatever aura they thought they owned heading into the Toyota Center Monday night (Tuesday, PHL time) for Game 1, they shed long before the final seconds of their decisive 119-106 loss to the Warriors. It looked good early, when James Harden had the Rockets rolling to a nine-point lead in the frenzied opening minutes. But Kevin Durant, Klay Thompson, Draymond Green, Stephen Curry and the rest of a Warriors team making its fourth straight appearance in the conference finals, they don’t fold at the first sign of danger. “You’re not going to just come in and knock them out,” Rockets coach Mike D’Antoni said. “I mean, there’s just too many times we had mental lapses. We either didn’t switch properly or we didn’t switch hard enough. We turned the ball over  little too much. Every time we missed a layup, which we missed a lot of layups, they ran out. “They’re really devastating. We’ve got to make layups, don’t turn it over and do a little bit better job of mentally just staying up on people.” The fact that they were starting this series away from the friendly confines of Oracle Arena for the first time during their recent run did nothing to shake their belief in themselves. And if there is anything that is clear after just four wild quarters of this most anticipated series, it’s that the Warriors’ collective confidence is far superior to the artificial skin the Rockets wrapped themselves in leading up to the opening round of this heavyweight fight. Harden played inspired, for most of his 35 minutes, finishing with a game-high 41 points and seven assists. Chris Paul’s 23 points, 11 rebounds and three assists look good on paper. But it wasn’t enough. It was nowhere near enough to offset the Rockets’ self-inflicted mistakes or the fury the Warriors can rain down on their opponents this time of year. “They’re obviously champions for a reason,” D’Antoni said. “If we want to beat them, we have to be mentally sharper. KD, he’s tough. Obviously, he was on tonight. Hey, you can live with that. But you can’t live with that and then make mental mistakes, and that's what we do. The combination of the two was devastating.” Durant was hell bent on devastation, torching an assortment of Rockets defenders for his 37 points. Thompson drilled the Rockets for 28 points of his own, his 15 attempts from beyond the three-point line serving as a more demoralizing dagger for a Rockets defense designed to limit those attempts. With so much attention on them, the Rockets seemed to lose their defensive focus on basically everyone else. “Defensively, we’ve got to be better,” Paul said. “You know it’s funny, I got caught helping a couple times in the first half and I think Nick Young hit three [three-pointers] off those plays. Some games, some series, you may make those mistakes and guys don’t make the shots. But tonight, every time we did it, they made the shot. They make you pay when you make mistakes.” Just to be clear about what kind of armor the Warriors travel with these days, they’ve won a game on the road in 18 consecutive playoff series, well before the Durant era. So as much as this is about the back and forth between Durant and Harden, the former Oklahoma City Thunder teammates who once got this point in a season together and elbowed their way into The Finals in 2012, it’s about Curry, Thompson, Green and Andre Iguodala, the 2015 Finals MVP. Those are the other four members of the Warriors’ “Hamptons Five” lineup that started the game, the group that withstood everything the Rockets threw at them Monday (Tuesday, PHL time) and then beat them up over the final 15 minutes of a must-have game on their home floor. “They’re a good team,” Eric Gordon said, stating the obvious. "They’ve been playing together, they know who they are. They’ve been to four straight Western Conference finals. We just got to be a little better.” The Rockets’ must-win game is now Wednesday (Thursday, PHL time). The pressure shifts to a Game 2 effort that has to be much better offensively if they want to keep pace with the Warriors. They’ll also need a much cleaner effort that doesn’t include sloppiness (the Warriors converted 16 turnovers into 17 points) and deficient defense (the Warriors shot .525 from the floor and .394 from the three-point line) that was on display in Game 1. These are all things D’Antoni believes to be correctable. And they could be. Indeed, they better be if the Rockets plan on stretching this series to the limit. Because there is still no way to account for the experience factor, the muscle memory edge the Warriors have when it comes to recognizing the time and place to apply the ultimate pressure on an opponent that’s ready to break. They sniffed it late in the third quarter, when the Rockets were reeling under a relentless barrage of Durant buckets. The only thing that saved them then were crucial baskets of their own from Eric Gordon and Gerald Green, and Warriors coach Steve Kerr subbing Durant out for a breather the Warriors closer did not want. “Yeah, he wasn’t really thrilled and I probably should have left him in,” Kerr said. “Late third he was going pretty well. I knew I had to get him some rest at some point. As soon as I took him out, they went on a quick run, so he was not thrilled. But he came back in and got us back on track.” You can toy with a team like the Minnesota Timberwolves in the first round, dropping Game 3 on the road only to come back and close out the series with back-to-back wins, especially when you are clearly the superior team and own that coveted home-court advantage. You might be able to get away with it in next round against a team like the Utah Jazz, when you lose home-court advantage in Game 2, but are are once again clearly the superior team and win three straight games to squash that challenge. Slip up a third time, as the Rockets did Monday night (Tuesday, PHL time), against a team that has won two of the last three Larry O’Brien trophies, a team with their sights set on a third, and … and there might not be another chance. Sekou Smith is a veteran NBA reporter and NBA TV analyst. You can e-mail him here, find his archive here and follow him on Twitter. The views on this page do not necessarily reflect the views of the NBA, its clubs or Turner Broadcasting......»»

Category: sportsSource:  abscbnRelated NewsMay 15th, 2018

FEU bests UP for top-seed; Pirates boot out Blazers in City Hoops

In a battle between two of the top teams in the 2018 SMART City Hoops 25-under Summer Classic, it was the Far Eastern University Tamaraws who were able to outlast the University of the Philippines Fighting Maroons in overtime, taking a 56-52 triumph last Thursday in Ortigas.  With the win, the Tamaraws finished the eliminations with an unblemished 5-0 record and secured an outright Finals berth in the tournament.  More than that, however, the squad showed tremendous character in the contest, according to head coach Olsen Racela.  "I liked the way we grinded it out right from the start. It was a very low-scoring game," shared the second-year Tamaraws tactician. "Everyone chipped in, kahit yung mga hinugot ko sa bench really helped. Their focus and awareness was there all throughout the game."  With the game knotted at 52-all with 39 seconds remaining, Axel Inigo, who had eight points in the contest, blew by his defender to score the go-ahead floater.   On the other end, Kenneth Tuffin was able to force David Murell into a tough layup that then led to a split from the stripe for JR Parker.  Leading the way for FEU in regulation was Tuffin, finishing the game with 14 points and eight rebounds. Ino Comboy chipped in 10 markers as well.  The Fighting Maroons, who ended the round with a 4-1 slate and will face the Lyceum Pirates in the knockout quarterfinals, were paced by Bright Akhuetie. The Nigerian student-athlete had a double-double with 10 points and 15 rebounds but shot just 3-for-13 from the field.  UP ace Paul Desiderio was limited to just 10 points on a 3-of-11 shooting clip.  Meanwhile, even with the odds stacked against them, Renzo Navarro and short-handed Lyceum dug deep, surviving a grueling overtime tilt against the College of St. Benilde Blazers, 73-66.  Lyceum was able to pick up monster games from incoming rookie Lian Barbero and Yancy Remulla. Barbero had 16 points and 11 rebounds while Remulla added 14 markers and 19 boards.  But it was Renzo Navarro who steered the wheel, tallying 25 points, 11 assists, and four steals.  The Blazers, who ended their campaign with a 0-5 record, were led by Prince Carlos who had 16 markers.   WEDNESDAY GAME  LPU 73 - Navarro 25, Barbero 16, Remulla 14, Salo 7, Japson 6, Mahinay 5, Valencia 0.  CSB 66 - Carlos 16, Pagulayan 10, Flores 8, Pangalanan 7, Pili 7, Nayve 5, Miranda 4, Wilson 3, Velasco 2, Barnes 2, Belgica 2, San Juan 0.  THURSDAY GAME  FEU 56 - Tuffin 14, Comboy 10, Inigo 8, Ebona 6, Parker 6, Cani 5, Orizu 3, Bienes 2, Jopia 2, Ramirez 0, Casino 0, Bayquin 0, Nunag 0.  UP 52 - Akhuetie 10, Desiderio 10, Manzo 9, Murrell 6, Gozum 4, Dario 2, Tungcab 2, Lim 0, Vito 0, Santiago 0, Longa 0, Espanola 0. .....»»

Category: sportsSource:  abscbnRelated NewsMay 11th, 2018

Undermanned Lyceum outlasts Benilde, nails quarters berth

MANILA, Philippines – Even with the odds stacked against them, Renzo Navarro and the short-handed Lyceum Pirates dug deep, surviving a grueling overtime duel against the St. Benilde Blazers, 73-66, in the 2018 Smart City Hoops Under-25 Summer Classic on Wednesday, May 9, in San Juan City. Navarro ........»»

Category: newsSource:  rapplerRelated NewsMay 10th, 2018

Kobe Bryant s 'Dear Basketball' wins Sports Emmy

Kobe Bryant continues to add hardware to his mantle in his post-playing days. After taking home a "Best Animated Short" Oscar for "Dear Basketball" last March, the Lakers great's creation won a Sports Emmy for "Outstanding Post-Produced Graphic Design," Wednesday (PHL time), during a ceremony at the Jazz at Lincoln Center in New York.   WINNER VIDEO: Outstanding Post-Produced Graphic Design @verizon Dear Basketball @kobebryant @_dearbasketball #SportsEmmys pic.twitter.com/gV9btM8YKL — Sports Emmys (@sportsemmys) May 9, 2018 Bryant was not there personally to receive the award though. The video is an animated reading of Bryant's poem of the same name, which he used to announce his retirement in 2015. The short previously also won an Annie award for "Best Animated Short Subject." Bryant is a five-time NBA champion, a two-time Finals MVP, a one-time regular season MVP, and a 16-time NBA All-Star, with four NBA All-Star Game MVP awards......»»

Category: sportsSource:  abscbnRelated NewsMay 9th, 2018

Tamaraws remain unscathed, Eagles improve record in City Hoops action

The Far Eastern University Tamaraws showed no mercy against a short-handed Lyceum of the Philippines University Pirates, in an 87-62 rout on Saturday afternoon at the Greenhills West indoor court in San Juan City......»»

Category: sportsSource:  philstarRelated NewsMay 5th, 2018

NBA slaps Westbrook with $10,000 fine after Gobert skirmish

LOS ANGELES, United States – Oklahoma City Thunder star Russell Westbrook has been fined $10,000 and handed a retrospective technical foul after a clash with Utah's Rudy Gobert, the NBA said Tuesday. A statement from NBA basketball operations executive Kiki VanDeWeghe said Westbrook had been sanctioned after an ........»»

Category: newsSource:  rapplerRelated NewsApr 25th, 2018