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LeBron gets third straight triple-double, Cavs trip Wizards

By Howard Fendrich, Associated Press WASHINGTON (AP) — LeBron James played the first half wearing a pair of shoes — one black, one white — reading “equality” in gold capital letters and finished with 20 points, 15 assists and 12 rebounds to lead the Cleveland Cavaliers past the Washington Wizards 106-99 on Sunday night (Monday, PHL time) for their 18th victory in 19 games. James had his fourth triple-double in the past five games despite being called for four fouls in the final quarter. Kevin Love added 25 points and nine rebounds for the Cavs. Bradley Beal led Washington with 27 points, and John Wall had 15 points, 10 rebounds and six assists in 32 minutes in his third game back after missing nine with an injured left knee. In a matchup of Eastern Conference division leaders, neither team led by more than seven until Wall turned the ball over, leading to a fast break for James, who was fouled at the other end and completed the three-point play for a 103-94 lead. The last time these teams played, at Washington on Nov. 3 (Nov. 4, PHL time), Cleveland won thanks to 57 points from James. That prompted Wizards coach Scott Brooks to joke before tipoff Sunday (Monday, PHL time) both that holding the four-time league MVP to “56 would be pretty good tonight” and “I have a lot of respect for Coach [Tyronn] Lue, but I think he’s making a bad decision if he doesn’t sit LeBron tonight. Back-to-back games, right? Our fans saw 57. They don’t need to see any more.” James did not carry that much of a scoring load this time, but he did a bit of everything. He also made his statement with his sneakers, wearing that pair for the first half, before switching gear at halftime. He sported a pair of black shoes with “equality” written on them for Cleveland’s opening game of the season. If it seems as if James climbs up some career list each and every night, well, that’s because he pretty much does. This time, he overtook Hakeem Olajuwon for ninth-most made field goals in NBA history and tied Nick Van Exel for 24th-most three-pointers. James made only 4-of-12 shots in the first half for nine points, but it was his triple with 1.1 seconds remaining that made it 60-all at the break. Wall’s three shortly before that moved him up to No. 5 on Washington’s franchise scoring list. He began the night at No. 7, but surpassed Phil Chenier and Gus Johnson in the second quarter. The game was still tied heading into the fourth period, at 83-all. TIP-INS Cavaliers: G Dwyane Wade was rested on the second half of a back-to-back. ... Finished with 24 assists, ending their streak of three consecutive games with at least 30. ... Cleveland made 14 three-pointers, its 20th game in a row with at least 10. ... The Cavs scored at least 100 points for the 24th straight game. Wizards: F Otto Porter Jr. sat out with an injured right hip. ... His replacement in the starting lineup, Kelly Oubre Jr., had 11 points and eight rebounds. TECHNICAL DIFFICULTIES There were three technical fouls handed out in the first 10 minutes, one apiece to Cleveland G J.R. Smith, Washington F Markieff Morris and Brooks. BROOKS AND ‘BIG Z’ Brooks was by turns earnest, nostalgic and funny while recalling former Cavs teammate Zydrunas Ilgauskas, who will receive a lifetime achievement award during the Greater Cleveland Sports Awards Show next month. “He took me in. I stayed with him for two months. A lot of interesting nights,” Brooks said with a chuckle. “What a great sense of humor. ... I don’t know why in the world did the state of Ohio give him a driver’s license. I mean, it was an adventure going to dinner every night. ... Just a horrible driver, but a great teammate. One of the nicest guys you’ll ever meet.” UP NEXT Cavaliers: At Milwaukee on Tuesday night (Wednesday, PHL time). The Cavs have beaten the Bucks the last five times they’ve played. Wizards: Host New Orleans on Tuesday night (Wednesday, PHL time)......»»

Category: sportsSource: abscbn abscbnDec 18th, 2017

Blazers win 11th straight with 113-105 victory over Cavs

By Anne M. Peterson, Associated Press PORTLAND, Ore. (AP) — CJ McCollum scored 29 points and the Portland Trail Blazers won their NBA-best 11th straight game with a 113-105 victory over the Cleveland Cavaliers on Thursday night (Friday, PHL time). Damian Lillard added 24 points for the Blazers, on their longest run since also winning 11 in a row in 2013. It was the Blazers' eighth straight win at home. LeBron James had 35 points, including a highlight-reel dunk in the first quarter that had the fans at the Moda Center momentarily stunned. He also had 14 rebounds for his sixth straight double-double. Kyle Korver added 19 points. The Blazers, currently sitting in third in the Western Conference standings, led by as many as 15 points in the third quarter. Portland kept the margin at double digits well into the final period, but James and George Hill made layups to get the Cavaliers within 105-99 with 3:25 to go. Hill's three-pointer pulled Cleveland within three points but Al-Farouq Aminu answered with a triple and Evan Turner added a jumper to hold off Cleveland's rally. Jordan Clarkson's three-pointer made it 110-105, but James missed a layup with 33 seconds left and Lillard made three free throws to seal it. The Cavaliers, in third in the East, didn't have Larry Nance Jr. because of a hamstring injury he sustained early in the third quarter of Cleveland's 129-107 victory over the Suns on Tuesday (Wednesday, PHL time). Tristan Thompson missed his sixth game with a right ankle sprain. Kevin Love, who grew up in nearby Lake Oswego, missed his ninth game with a left hand fracture. Love could return to the Cavaliers as early as next week. Lillard, the reigning conference player of the week, made his first attempt of the game, a three-pointer. But the highpoint of the first quarter was easily James' monster dunk over Jusuf Nurkic that pulled Cleveland in front 15-14. McCollum's three-pointer gave the Blazers their largest lead of the half, 55-46. James made a turnaround jumper at the buzzer to get Cleveland to 59-54 at the half. McCollum consecutive three-pointers and Lillard made another that stretched Portland's lead to 81-66 midway through the third quarter. TIP-INS Cavaliers: James became the sixth active player with 400 double-doubles. ... It was the fifth game of a six-game road trip for the Cavs. Trail Blazers: Lillard went 0-for-5 from three-point range in the first half, but he led all players with five assists. With nine assists, Lillard became the third player in league history have 1,500-plus points and 400-plus rebounds in each of his first six seasons. PRAISE James was asked at shootaround earlier in the day if Lillard was unappreciated. "Give me Damian Lillard. I'll show you how appreciated he'd be," he said. UP NEXT Cavaliers: Conclude their road trip on Saturday (Sunday, PHL time) against the Bulls. Trail Blazers: Host Detroit on Saturday (Sunday, PHL time)......»»

Category: sportsSource:  abscbnRelated NewsMar 16th, 2018

James triple-double leads Cavaliers past lowly Suns

By Bob Baum, Associated Press PHOENIX (AP) — LeBron James earned his 69th career triple-double, and 14th this season, leading the Cleveland Cavaliers to a wire-to-wire 129-107 win over the Phoenix Suns on Tuesday night (Wednesday, PHL time). James, averaging a triple-double over his last 15 games, had 28 points, 13 rebounds and 11 assists for his second triple-double in 10 days. Kyle Korver added 22 points on 6-of-7 shooting — making 5-of-6 three's — for the Cavaliers, who bounced back from a couple of losses in Los Angeles to the Clippers and Lakers with a dominating victory. Jordan Clarkson scored 23 for the Cavs, including 6-of-10 three's. T.J. Warren and Josh Jackson scored 19 apiece and Devin Booker added 17 for the Suns, losers of six straight and 21 of their last 23. Phoenix became the first team to lose 50 games this season. Cleveland led from the opening basket. The Cavs scored nine straight to go up 23-8 on Larry Nance Jr.'s dunk, and Phoenix never got the lead to single digits again. The Suns shot just 26 percent, including 1-of-9 on three-pointers, and trailed 38-18 after one quarter. Korver scored five as the Cavaliers opened an early 13-2 lead. A technical foul against the Suns' Marquese Chriss started a 7-0 run to end the first quarter for Cleveland. Clarkson's three-pointer capped the spurt and made it a 20-point lead after one quarter. J.R. Smith's three-pointer gave the Cavs their largest lead of the half, 59-37, with 3:55 left in the half. Jackson's two free throws cut the lead to 59-47 before Cleveland ended the half with a 9-3 run to lead 68-52 at the break. The Cavs, who made 17-of-35 three-pointers, led by as many as 27 in the second half, the highlight of which was a breakaway, one-handed windmill dunk by James after a Phoenix turnover in the third quarter. TIP-INS Cavaliers: Have beaten the Suns six straight times. .... Korver ranks second in the NBA with 149 triples off the bench. ... James had two rocket cross-court passes to Korver for three-pointers in the first half. ... Cleveland is 2-2 so far on a six-game trip. ... Nance scored only four to see an end to his career-best string of seven consecutive double-digit scoring games. ... Korver entered the game shooting .433 from three-point range, fifth-best in NBA. Suns: The Suns made 6-of-31 triples. ... Booker failed to score at least 30 for only the second time in eight games. ... Booker's 22 30-point games this season are fourth-most in the NBA. ... Phoenix last beat Cleveland on Jan. 13, 2015. UP NEXT Cavaliers: At Portland on Thursday night (Friday, PHL time). Suns: At Utah on Thursday night (Friday, PHL time)......»»

Category: sportsSource:  abscbnRelated NewsMar 14th, 2018

BLOGTABLE: Who is the NBA s Person of the Year for 2017?

NBA.com blogtable Using Time magazine’s “for better or worse” criterion, who is your choice for NBA Person of the Year for 2017? * * * David Aldridge: Good question. I'm going to take a different tack and say Kyrie Irving. Think about everything that went haywire because one guy -- Irving -- decided he didn't want to play with LeBron James any more. Everybody wants to play with LeBron James. But in part because of Irving's decision, the Cleveland Cavaliers weren't able to add Jimmy Butler or Paul George, and Cleveland had to ship its 25-year-old future to its biggest Eastern Conference rival to get anything approaching equal value for him. Does anyone doubt that LeBron would have already extended in Cleveland by now if Irving and either or Butler or George were there with him? As I said at the time, I thought Irving was nuts for demanding to be traded -- but I'm not 25, and I didn't hit the shot that brought Cleveland its first major sports championship in 50-plus years. From his perspective, I kind of understood why he wanted out, and his play so far in Boston proves his point -- he would have never had this kind of freedom, both on the court and to lead his team, in James' shadow in Cleveland. Steve Aschburner: An obvious choice would be LeBron James for how he stands astride NBA world in matters on the court and off. Isaiah Thomas embodied much of what players face, good and bad, from performances worthy of Kia MVP consideration to the tumult of getting traded to the disruption of careers and goals by injury. But I’ll go with Kevin Durant as 2017’s “Person of the Year” for having his hand in so many storylines. He won himself a ring, without earning respect or enhancing his reputation because of how he got it -- about as bloodlessly as buying a bunch of Apple stock. His departure from OKC ignited Russell Westbrook, which culminated in the calendar year with Westbrook’s historic triple-double season, a Kia MVP award and a long-term commitment to the fans Durant left. There’s Durant’s growing game and climb toward James’ status as the league’s best player. And there’s his increasingly prickly attitude, which makes him less nice as a guy but maybe interesting as a case study of success. Shaun Powell: Kevin Durant walks away with this prize. He combined brilliance and a championship with polarization. The best player on the floor in The 2017 Finals was also mocked in some public corners for hitching a ride on the Warriors train and being hypersensitive to any and all criticism. Inside the body of a true superstar is a nice guy who is desperate to be loved. In his entire charmed basketball life, Durant never heard the level of boos and hisses that followed his departure from OKC and it rattled him to the bone. John Schuhmann: Mike D'Antoni. The 2016-17 season was the most efficient offensive season we've ever had, and '17-18 is on track to top it. In The Finals, with the traditional bigs on the rosters seeing their playing time reduced as the series went on, the Cavs and Warriors combined for an effective field goal percentage of 57 percent (a mark higher than any team has ever recorded in a season in NBA history) over the final four games. Teams are spacing the floor better and shooting 3-pointers more than ever before. There are a lot of people who have pushed that trend along, but none more than D'Antoni, architect of the seven-seconds-or-less Suns and coach of the team that's now taking more than half of its shots from beyond the arc. Sekou Smith: As much as this year was about Kevin Durant finally cashing in his chips for a title and the Warriors winning it all again, I can't help but think about the year LeBron James has enjoyed/endured. Some 15 years deep into his unbelievable career and he's still sitting atop the heap. He doesn't need team (Durant and Stephen Curry took care of that) or individual hardware (Russell Westbrook snagged that) to validate his position, either. That is pretty remarkable in our what-have-you-done-lately era of sports (and life in general). The seventh straight trip to The Finals and the summertime break up with Kyrie Irving stick out as well. The fact is, LeBron's impact on and off the court, his influence on the game and his reach and position in the culture beyond the game transcendent. His fearlessness when it comes to speaking his mind on social and political issues is perhaps the most memorable thing he's done this year, the thing history will highlight most in retrospect......»»

Category: sportsSource:  abscbnRelated NewsDec 28th, 2017

Victor-y: Oladipo scores 32 as Pacers stun LeBron, Cavs

By Tom Withers, Associated Press CLEVELAND (AP) — Victor Oladipo scored 32 points and the Indiana Pacers held off Cleveland's second-half rally for a stunning 98-80 victory Sunday (Monday, PHL time) in Game 1 of the Eastern Conference series, handing LeBron James and the Cavaliers' their first loss in the opening round in eight years. Indiana was in control from the outset, opening a 21-point lead in the first quarter and leading by 23 in the third. The Cavs stormed back and got within seven, but Oladipo hit a big three-pointer and Bojan Bogdanovic helped put Cleveland away with a triple to make it 88-71. The Pacers completely outplayed the three-time defending conference champions, whose turbulent regular season has carried over into the playoffs. Game 2 is Wednesday night (Thursday, PHL time). James scored 24 with 12 assists and 10 rebounds for his 20th career triple-double. But James got little help as Cleveland's four other starters — Kevin Love, Jeff Green, Rodney Hood and George Hill — combined for 25 points. This is all new to James, who had won 21 consecutive first-round games and lost a postseason for the first time in his 13th playoffs. The 33-year-old is trying to get to his eighth straight Finals, and already the path is tougher than imagined. Cleveland had won 14 straight first-round games, last losing on April 22, 2010, the last season of James' first stint with the Cavs. Indiana was swept by Cleveland in last year's opening round. Those Pacers, though, didn't have Oladipo or the balance of this Indy squad, which may lack experience but not confidence. Lance Stephenson, a longtime playoff nemesis for James, helped set the tone in the first quarter with a dunk he punctuated by throwing several punches into the padded basket stanchion. The Pacers took the fight to the Cavs. They were more physical, more energetic and more composed. Oladipo has become one of the NBA's rising stars, and after being a role player in Oklahoma City, he's Indiana's main attraction and looked like a seasoned star on the playoff stage. He made six three-pointers, swiped the ball from James on two occasions and more than doubled his previous playoff scored high of 15. The Cavs fell behind 33-12 during a strange first quarter that included Cleveland missing all eight three-pointers, James not attempting his first field goal until 1:52 remained and fans in Quicken Loans Arena wondering what they were seeing. As he does for every postseason, James shuts down all social media activities, a routine he calls Zero Dark 23 Mode. And this time, he began it Saturday (Sunday, PHL time) by posting a quote on Instagram from Martin Luther King Jr: "Darkness cannot drive out darkness, only light can do that." The Pacers drove him into a darker place. TIP-INS Pacers: Only have two starters __ Myles Turner and Thaddeus Young — from the team Cleveland swept last year. ... Oladipo wasn't seen as a franchise-changing player when Indiana acquired him along with Domantas Sabonis in the trade for Paul George. However, coach Nate McMillan said the guard wanted to prove himself and did with hard work. "He's a very coachable kid," McMillan said. "We've had many film sessions and one-on-one sessions to try to improve and he's shown that. This is a different season, a good opportunity for him to show where he's at again."... Indiana came in 15-6 in the playoffs when it wins the opener. The Pacers are 4-18 wheb losing Game 1. Cavaliers: James surpassed Michael Jordan (2,188) for the second-most made field goals in playoff history. Kareem Abdul-Jabbar (2,356) tops the list. ... James dropped to 48-8 in first-round games. ... Coach Tyronne Lue started Hood over Kyle Korver, who has lingering soreness in his right foot and was on a minutes' restriction. Korver played just four minutes. ... Green was 0-for-7 from the field, 0-for-3 from the line and the Cavs were outscored by 15 when he was on the floor. UP NEXT Game 2 is Wednesday night (Thursday, PHL time)......»»

Category: sportsSource:  abscbnRelated NewsApr 16th, 2018

March memo: LeBron, Cavs send message with win over Raptors

By Tom Withers, Associated Press CLEVELAND (AP) — The drama has included turmoil and trades, head-scratching losses, infighting, injuries and illness. Cleveland’s stormy season seems extracted from the script of a scandalous TV soap opera — “All My Cavaliers.” But just when it looked as if LeBron James and this group of Cavaliers, some of whom have yet to play together, were about to implode with the postseason in sight, a startling win may have turned them around. “I always say there is one game during the season that changes your team,” acting coach Larry Drew said following Cleveland’s 132-129 win over Toronto. “That game can be early, it can be midway, it can be late. There’s always one game that kind of changes your team, the mindset. “And I really believe tonight’s game might have done that for us.” With James on a mission to remind the Raptors of his magnificence, the short-handed Cavs, missing five rotational players and coach Tyronn Lue, rallied from a 15-point deficit in the second half Wednesday night (Thursday, PHL time) to stun the Eastern Conference’s top team and send a message to the NBA. Don’t count them out. James scored 14 in the fourth and finished with 35 points, 17 assists and didn’t commit a turnover in 40 minutes, a stat line not seen since the league began charting turnovers in 1977-78, according to Elias Sports Bureau. At 33, James continues to defy age while padding his impeccable resume. Although Houston’s James Harden appears to be a lock to win MVP honors this season, there is no debate about the game’s best all-around player. Since Feb. 7 (Feb. 8, PHL time), the day before the Cavs deconstructed their roster with three major trades, James is averaging a triple-double — 30.5 points, 10.4 rebounds and 10.5 assists. “It just seems like every night, every night the things that he does, I sit over there and I just kind of shake my head,” Drew said. “I’m just glad that I’m coaching him.” James scored or assisted on 80 of his team’s 132 points, and in the process silenced any doubts as to whether the Cavs could handle an improved Toronto team that has more depth, shooters and experience than the squads Cleveland dispatched the past two postseasons. At halftime, none of that seemed possible. Toronto tied a franchise record with 79 points in the first half, and James confessed the Cavs “had that depleted feel” as they headed to the locker room. On his way back to the floor, James, who recently couldn’t recall a season with as much adversity as this one, grabbed a box score from one of the team’s media relations staffers, took a quick glance and handed it back. It was time to get to work. “I know with LeBron I could see that he was going to take it to another gear, he was going to take it to another level,” said Drew, who is filling in while Lue addresses health issues. “I could kind of see that in his eyes. ... You can kind of see as the game kind of went on, he just kind of took it upon himself, and started making more plays. Bron is just that guy that when things seem a little bleak, he’s the guy that can get you over that hump.” The Cavs haven’t finished their climb, but they’re nearly over their injury bug. Forwards Tristan Thompson (ankle) and Rodney Hood (back) could be back in the lineup as early as Friday (Saturday, PHL time) against Phoenix, and Larry Nance Jr. (hamstring) will likely be back on the floor by next week. Kyle Korver will be out a few more games after he was excused to be with his family in Iowa following the sudden death of his younger brother, Kirk. Cleveland isn’t quite whole, but with James that doesn’t really matter. “You can’t overlook ’em or underlook ’em,” Raptors forward DeMar DeRozan said. “No type of way, no matter what type of changes they make.” James has carried less talented teams than these Cavs to the NBA Finals. And as the three-time champion showed against the Raptors, there is no player who can take over a game like he can. With 11 regular-season games left, the Cavs are up against the clock to get healthy, tweak their rotations and work out any kinks before the playoffs begin. They trail second-place Boston by six games in the East. But Cleveland’s win over the Raptors was a needed confidence boost in a season that has sometimes defied description. “We got work to do,” said James, who will be seeking his eighth straight Finals appearance. “There’s a lot of teams in the East that’s been playing better basketball than us for the majority of the season. We want to try to continue to just to build off what we did the last couple games and if we do that, we’ll put ourselves in a good position going into the postseason.”.....»»

Category: sportsSource:  abscbnRelated NewsMar 23rd, 2018

New era, new challenges emerge for Warriors

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

Category: sportsSource:  abscbnRelated NewsMar 6th, 2018

5 questions ahead of the NBA s 2017 Christmas Day games

It's already December 25 in the Philippines, but that's still a few hours away in the United States, meaning we have to wait before holiday's best tradition will take place: the NBA's annual slate of Christmas Day games. This year's batch of games sees the 76ers head to MSG to play the Knicks, the Cavaliers go to the Bay to face the Warriors in an NBA Finals rematch, the Wizards tackle the Celtics in an Eastern Conference semis redux, the Rockets battle the Thunder, also a 2017 postseason rematch, and the Timberwolves face off versus the Lakers. While you're unwrapping gifts and munching on Noche Buena leftovers, here are five questions to ponder: 1. Will the injury bug play Grinch to this set of holiday games? The Golden State Warriors officially ruled out Stephen Curry from playing. The LA Lakers just announced that Lonzo Ball is sidelined. Chris Paul is a question mark, while fingers are crossed that Joel Embiid and Kristaps Porzingis will be able to go long when they face off. Injury report for tomorrow's game vs. Cleveland: Shaun Livingston (sore right knee), Kevon Looney (gluteal strain) & Zaza Pachulia (left shoulder soreness) are probable. Stephen Curry (sprained right ankle) is out. — Warriors PR (@WarriorsPR) December 25, 2017 Hurt superstars are definitely the coal in an NBA fan's stocking, but let's hope that despite the absence of some of the bigger names, the games will still be able to provide plenty of entertainment. Bonus question: We may not get Curry vs. LeBron this Christmas, but how great of a consolation gift is Durant vs. LeBron? 2. Who will be the Christmas unicorn? Kristaps Porzingis is of course, the OG unicorn, having the tag bestowed upon him by Kevin Durant. The nickname refers to the mythical convergence of height, ball-handling, skill, and three-point shooting, all of which, Porzingis possesses. He's not alone though, as the 76ers' Joel Embiid has all of that in spades too, it's just that, seeing him on court has been more rare, due to an assortment of injuries that have held him back. Imagine, I suppose, if My Little Ponies could draw DNPs. When Porzingis' Knicks and and Embiid's 76ers collide, all eyes will be on the two, as they will inevitably go head-to-head against each other. As of writing, the Knicks are in the eighth seed in the East, while a 1-9 stretch in their last 10 games has the 76ers on the outside looking in at 10th place, three back of the Knicks. Therefore, it's not just pride at stake here; the East is wide open and every game will matter, as both squads harbor postseason dreams. Bonus question: Will 76ers rookie point guard Ben Simmons wind up stealing the show? 3. Who will triumph in the Wall vs. Irving point guard duel? After some strong starts to the season, the Boston Celtics and the Washington Wizards, the two squads most picked to be potential spoilers to the Cleveland Cavaliers' march to yet another Finals, are going through some rough patches. The Celtics of course, lost Gordon Hayward and started 0-2, but eventually righted the ship through tough defense, only to finish just 5-5 in their latest stretch (though they're still #1 in the conference). Meanwhile, injuries to John Wall and some of their role players have really prevented the Wizards from taking off. They're 18-15, and occupy the seventh spot in the East right now. If someone's going to take charge for either side in this Christmas duel, it'll be each side's respective point guards. Kyrie Irving has embraced being the man for the green and white, while John Wall is an established superstar in the Chocolate City. A Christmas day win for either team could be the foundation for a lengthy run of wins if they can maintain momentum. Bonus question: Who will be the better Morris twin - Boston's Marcus or Washington's Markieff? 4. Which nu-super team will do the most damage, the Rockets or the Thunder? The two most aggressive teams this offseason in revamping their roster to take on the defending champs were without a doubt, the Houston Rockets and the Oklahoma City Thunder. H-Town added Chris Paul and a bevy of long-limbed, rangy defenders who can nail open three's, while OKC formed their version of a big three by trading for Paul George and Carmelo Anthony. The early returns have looked better for the Rox than the Thunder. Even with Paul sidelined, the team was able to shoot to the top of the West standings, and looked even better when CP3 was healthy alongside the Beard, James Harden. On the other hand, it's been an on-going adjustment for reigning MVP Russell Westbrook to integrate the two other established stars. Their defense has been on-point, but their offense is prone to long, fatal droughts. Chris Paul has been listed as doubtful for this one (among several other Houston players), so we may not get the full experience, but this Western Conference Playoffs rematch from last season should still be interesting, even if it's just in an offense versus defense kind of way. Bonus question: Better odds of happening in this game, Harden scores 50+ for a third straight game or Westbrook adds another triple-double to his season tally? 5. Can Kyle Kuzma carry the Lakers? One can make a pretty convincing argument that Kyle Kuzma should be the Rookie of the Year. Despite not being a lottery pick, Kuz has had a major impact on the court, his scoring prowess adding quite the punch to a Lakers team that needs some (okay, a lot). Originally, this question was going to involve Lonzo Ball too, but with the Lakers announcing that his shoulder will keep him out of this game and the rest of the week, this could be a rare opportunity for Kuzma to steal the LA spotlight. Doubly so if Brandon Ingram remains sidelined too. Sure, he'll likely need to contend with the Timberwolves placing super-stopper Jimmy Butler on him, but wouldn't that be a fun duel to watch? Bonus question: How bummed are you that we won't be having LaVar Ball Christmas shenanigans with Lonzo out? The views on this page do not necessarily reflect the views of the NBA, its clubs or ABS-CBN Sports......»»

Category: sportsSource:  abscbnRelated NewsDec 25th, 2017

LeBron powers streaking Cavs past Wizards

The results Indiana 109, Brooklyn 97; Cleveland 106, Washington 99; Detroit 114, Orlando 110; Toronto 108, Sacramento 93 LOS ANGELES (AFP) - LeBron James posted his fourth triple-double in five games with 20 points, 12 rebounds and 15 assists as the streaking Cleveland Cavaliers defeated the Washington Wizards 106-99 on….....»»

Category: newsSource:  journalRelated NewsDec 18th, 2017

LeBron James has 60th triple-double; Cavs beat Jazz 109-100

CLEVELAND, United States --- LeBron James had 29 points, 11 rebounds and 10 assists for his 60th career triple-double and the Cleveland Cavaliers beat the short-handed Utah Jazz 109-100 on Saturday night. James had his fifth triple-double of the season and third in his last four games. He had 10 points in the fourth quarter, was 9 of 15 from the field and 10 of 10 at the foul line. Cleveland has won 17 of 18 overall and 11 straight at Quicken Loans Arena. Center Rudy Gobert (sprained ligament and bone bruise in left knee) and forward Derrick Favors (left eye laceration) were out for Utah. Both were injured during Friday night in a win in Boston. Rookie Donovan Mitchell le...Keep on reading: LeBron James has 60th triple-double; Cavs beat Jazz 109-100.....»»

Category: newsSource:  inquirerRelated NewsDec 17th, 2017

Lebron James carries Cleveland Cavs, Clippers edge Wizards

LOS ANGELES, USA –LeBron James posted his third triple double of the season and 58th of his career as the Cleveland Cavaliers defeated the Philadelphia 76ers 105-98 on Saturday night, December 9. James' late-game productive streak is the most points scored or assisted on for any player this season to ........»»

Category: newsSource:  rapplerRelated NewsDec 10th, 2017

James, Harden named NBA Players of the Week

Cleveland Cavaliers press release CLEVELAND – The NBA announced on Monday, December 4 (Tuesday, Dec. 5, PHL time) that Cleveland Cavaliers forward LeBron James has been named the Eastern Conference Player of the Week for Week 7 (games played Nov. 28-Dec. 4, PHL time). This marks the first time James has won the award in 2017-18, increasing his total to an NBA-record 58 Player of the Week awards. In four games this past week, James led the Cavaliers to a perfect 4-0 record after averaging 27.3 points, 8.5 rebounds, 9.0 assists, 1.8 steals and 1.0 block in 34.0 minutes. He registered a double-double in all four outings, while shooting .597 (43-72) from the field, .368 (7-19) from long-range and .800 (16-20) from the charity stripe. Among Eastern Conference leaders, the 6'8" forward ranked first in double-doubles (4), first in assists per game (9.0), first in field goals made (43), third in points per game (27.3), ninth in field goal percentage (.597) and tied for 10th in rebounds per game (8.5). James, who was the only player in the NBA with averages of at least 25.0 points, 8.0 rebounds and 8.0 assists this past week, scored at least 20 points and shot over .500 from the field in all four contests. James started off the week with 30 points on 12-22 (.545) shooting from the field, a 3-7 (.429) clip from deep, 13 rebounds and six assists in 31 minutes during the Cavs’ 113-91 win at Philadelphia on Nov. 27 (Nov. 28, PHL time). The following night against Miami on Nov. 28 (Nov. 29, PHL time), a 108-97 victory, James recorded another double-double with 21 points on 10-16 (.625) shooting, 12 rebounds, six assists and a season-high five steals in 28 minutes. In the 121-114 win at Atlanta on Nov. 30 (Dec. 1, PHL time), he set a season-high in field goal percentage (.727, 8-11) and tallied 24 points, six rebounds, 12 assists, two steals and two blocks in 38 minutes, while also moving past Alex English (10,659 FGM) for 10th all-time in NBA history in field goals made with his fifth basket of the night. James closed out the week by scoring Cleveland’s final 13 points and finishing with 34 points (13-22 FG, 8-8 FT) and 12 assists in 39 minutes during a 116-111 win over Memphis on Dec. 2 (Dec. 3, PHL time). In 23 games (all starts) in 2017-18, James is averaging 28.3 points (3rd in NBA) on .583 shooting from the field (7th in NBA), including a career-high .413 from three-point range, 7.9 rebounds, 8.7 assists (4th in NBA), 1.26 steals and 1.17 blocks (tied-22nd in NBA) in 37.1 minutes per game. He also has 15 double-doubles (tied for 4th in NBA) and two triple-doubles. Houston Rockets press release HOUSTON – Today, the NBA announced that James Harden has been named Western Conference Player of the Week for games played in Week 7. It is the third time this season and the 16th time in his career that Harden has received Player of the Week honors, all coming with Houston. For the week, Harden averaged a league-best 34.0 points (53.1% FGs, 47.1% 3FGs, 90.0% FTs), 9.0 assists, 7.3 rebounds, and 1.67 steals with a 3.00 assist-to-turnover ratio while leading Houston to a 3-0 mark. The Rockets outscored opponents by an average of 19.3 points for the week and extended their winning streak to a season-best seven games. In the first game of the week vs. Brooklyn on Nov. 27 (Nov. 28, PHL time), Harden posted 37 points, 10 rebounds, 8 assists, 2 steals and 2 blocks. It was the first time a player recorded those numbers in a single game since Harden did so back in January of last season; prior to that, it was Kevin Durant in February of 2014. Harden also hit an NBA season-high tying 8 three-pointers against the Nets and averaged 5.3 3FGM for the week.  He has 16 more 3FGM than any other player in the league this season. Harden had game-highs of 29 points and 10 assists along with 8 rebounds in the Rockets 21-point win vs. Indiana on Nov. 29 (Nov. 30, PHL time). He closed out the week with game-highs of 36 points and 9 assists in a 23-point win at the Los Angeles Lakers on Dec. 3 (Dec. 4, PHL time). That marked Houston’s sixth straight road win by at least 15 points, which is the longest streak in NBA history according to the Elias Sports Bureau. In addition to averaging an NBA-high 31.7 points and a league-high tying 9.7 assists this season, Harden has recorded at least 20 points and 7 assists in all 22 games. According to Elias, the previous record for the most consecutive games with at least 20 points and 5 assists to start a season was 14 games by Allen Iverson in 2005-06......»»

Category: sportsSource:  abscbnRelated NewsDec 5th, 2017

LeBron wants teammate Rose to be ‘happy with whatever decision he makes’

The NBA world was once again abuzz, as former NBA MVP Derrick Rose announced he'd be once again taking a leave of absence from basketball due to personal concerns. READ:Derrick Rose leaves Cavaliers to handle personal matter Earlier today, Cleveland Cavaliers head coach Tyronn Lue advised the injury-riddled guard to "take all the time he needs," and it looks likeLeBron James wishes the same for his troubled teammate. "We want, whatever he decides to do, we want the best for him," James told ESPN's Dave McMenamin shortly after the team's 100-99 victory over the Charlotte Hornets on Friday (Saturday in Manila). READ:James has triple-double, Cavs beat Hornets for 7th straight "At...Keep on reading: LeBron wants teammate Rose to be ‘happy with whatever decision he makes’.....»»

Category: newsSource:  inquirerRelated NewsNov 25th, 2017

Harden’s triple-double leads Rockets over Cavs 117-113

By Kristie Rieken, Associated Press HOUSTON (AP) — James Harden had a triple-double of 35 points, 11 rebounds and 13 assists to help the Houston Rockets beat the Cleveland Cavaliers 117-113 on Thursday night (Friday, PHL time). Harden also had five steals and a block as Houston extended its winning streak to four games. LeBron James had 33 points for the Cavaliers, and Jeff Green added 27. Houston led by seven after a layup by James with about 10 minutes left. The Rockets scored the next six points, capped by a three-pointer by P.J. Tucker to make it 111-98. The Cavaliers used a 13-1 run, with five points from James, to cut the lead to 112-111 with 90 seconds left. Harden missed a layup after that, but grabbed a rebound and threw an alley-oop to Clint Capela, who finished for Houston’s first basket since Tucker’s three. He was fouled on the play and made the free throw to make it 115-11 with just over a minute remaining. James made a layup on the other end, but Capela made another basket after a grabbing the rebound on a miss by Harden to put Houston back up by four with 10.7 seconds left. Capela, who finished with 19 points, 13 rebounds and four blocks, blocked a shot by James in the final seconds to secure the win. Harden has scored 30 or more points in three of the last four games, highlighted by a 56-point performance in a win over the Jazz on Sunday (Monday, PHL time). It’s the second triple-double of the season for Harden and the 33rd of his career. The Rockets made the first seven points of the second half thanks to a three-pointer by Eric Gordon and a four-point play by Trevor Ariza to take a 72-67 lead. Cleveland got going soon after that and a layup by Iman Shumpert got the Cavaliers within 1 point soon after that. But Harden made two three-pointers to power an 8-2 run that extended Houston’s lead to 81-74 lead with about 7.5 minutes left in the quarter. The Cavaliers scored five quick points, capped by a three-pointer by Green, to tie it at 87-87 about three minutes later. A three-point play by Gordon put Houston back on top and the Rockets had extended their lead to 100-93 entering the fourth quarter. The Rockets led by as many as 18 in the first half, but the Cavaliers made a big run in the second quarter to take the lead. Harden made a pair of free throws in the final seconds of the half cut Cleveland’s lead to 67-65 at halftime. TIP-INS Cavaliers: G Derrick Rose sat out because of soreness in his left ankle. Rose missed four straight games after spraining his ankle on Oct. 20 (Oct. 21, PHL time) before returning to play the last two. But the ankle was still bothering him, forcing him to sit out again on Thursday night (Friday, PHL time). ... Shumpert started in his place and finished with seven points. ... Love had 17 points before fouling out in the fourth quarter. Rockets: F Luc Mbah a Moute missed because of a bruised left knee. ... Gordon added 20 points. ... Harden made 13-of-14 free throws. UP NEXT Cavaliers: At Dallas on Saturday night (Sunday, PHL time). Rockets: Host Memphis on Saturday night (Sunday, PHL time)......»»

Category: sportsSource:  abscbnRelated NewsNov 10th, 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

Budding Sixers take control of series in Miami

By Shaun Powell, NBA.com MIAMI — Back in 2014, when the Miami Heat were wrapping up their championship-fueled era, the Philadelphia 76ers began plotting their own. And they did it unconventionally, laughably and by any measure, dreadfully. It was Year One of the most ambitious rebuilding plan before or since, when the Sixers willingly laid down and became a doormat and allowed other teams to wipe their sneakers on them. That season, while LeBron James and Dwyane Wade and Chris Bosh cruised to a fourth straight appearance, and their last together, in the NBA Finals, the Sixers lost 63 games. And then they got better at this tanking technique and lost 64 and 72 the next two years. But fast-forward to now, to Saturday (Sunday, PHL time) at American Airlines Arena, and the roles with the Heat and Sixers are threatening to flip. Maybe not so drastically, but it’s clear through four games of this first-round playoff series that the Sixers are going one way and the Heat another. The Sixers have Ben Simmons and Joel Embiid, a pair of young bedrocks slowly building something with the potential to be big. The Heat? They have banners in the rafters commemorating what they used to be, not so long ago. Philly also has something else on Miami, namely a 3-1 series lead after Simmons became the first rookie since Magic Johnson to drop a triple-double in a playoff game and Embiid fought through a poor shooting game and an irritating protective mask to spook any Heat player that challenged him at the rim. It was the Sixers who made all the right plays in the final crucial moments in the 106-102 win, getting key stops and buckets and pulling away, a team with a young core turning mature, and doing it rapidly, despite their lack of post-season experience. And having a front-row seat to this new Process was none other than Wade, a proud if aging member of the extinct Big Three who realizes something unique is happening with the Sixers. “This is a very good team,” said Wade. “They’ve got talent at almost every position. This is definitely one of the best first-round opponents I’ve played in my career.” Are the Sixers all that, already? “They’re good,” said Wade. “They’re special. They put the right team together.” Yes, they have. Maybe it wasn’t properly done in the spirit of competition, and perhaps they embarrassed themselves if not the league while doing so, but that’s all behind the Sixers right now. What’s ahead of them is a potential series-clinching Game 5 in Philly and from there, who knows? Yes, the core of the Sixers is Simmons, Embiid and Dario Saric, all under 25, and in the playing rotation only JJ Redick and Marco Belinelli earned any significant playoff money. But if a young team is ever going to reach the NBA Finals, this is the right time, and this is the right team. Just look at the wide-open landscape in the East: LeBron and the Cavaliers, winners of the last three East titles, are down 2-1 to the Pacers and haven’t appeared this fragile since LeBron returned to Cleveland. The Celtics are missing Kyrie Irving and Gordon Hayward. Toronto is the No. 1 seed in the East but inspires few outside Canada. Why not the Sixers? Why not now? Simmons is lacking a jump shot and little else, and still manages to score anyway. His direction of the club in the fourth quarter of Game 4 was near-masterful; Simmons stayed poised, found the open man and popped the Heat’s comeback hopes with an uncontested dunk when Miami pulled within a point. Embiid couldn’t hit a shot and yet didn’t fall into a funk; rather he terrorized Miami by being a defensive force, punctuated by his spike of a Goran Dragic late-fourth quarter breakaway layup attempt (followed by an Embiid stare down). “They make you pay every time you make a mistake,” said Wade. Speaking of which, the Sixers had 27 turnovers, certainly the recipe for disaster, and still found a way. In the words of coach Brett Brown: “I’m surprised we won this game. We really didn’t have any right to win this game.” But maybe it’s just additional proof that this is Philly’s time. It’s quite a contrast to the ex-bully on the block. Four years after LeBron made the second biggest decision of his life, the Heat are still searching for the identity they had when the champagne flowed, and the party rolled on South Beach. The only reminder is Wade, and at age 36 he’s only capable of having flashes now, like his 28 points in Game 2 and an impressive 25-point follow up Saturday that was marred only by a missed free throw in the final seconds. Besides that, there’s nothing special. Pat Riley’s latest attempt to recreate a winner is looking dubious right now. Riley decided two summers ago to build the Heat around a seven-foot center with low post-skills, which means Riley gave a $100 million to a dinosaur. And one with a decaying relationship with coach Erik Spoelstra. Hassan Whiteside can’t get on the floor in today’s NBA, where small-ball makes him a liability in certain situations. With no shooting range, and perhaps no incentive to develop one, Whiteside finds himself on the bench in fourth quarters and on the nerves of Spoelstra. “He’s a prisoner of the style of play,” said Brown. Plus: Riley also paid Josh Richardson, James Johnson, Tyler Johnson and Kelly Olynyk. Which means the Heat are almost guaranteed to be a 43-win team fighting for the final playoff spot for the next few years. When the Heat searched for someone to bail them out Saturday (Sunday, PHL time), who did they turn to? An aging All-Star who’s on the downside, which says something about Wade … and the Heat’s roster. “He ended up being our best option,” said Spoelstra. There’s another path the Heat can take, of course. They could follow the current Hawks, Nets, Lakers and Magic, who all took their cues from the 2014 Sixers, and take a few steps back before moving forward. But that’s not a fool-proof plan — have you seen the Magic the last few years? — and besides, losing by any means isn’t in Riley’s DNA. So, mediocrity it is, then. Meanwhile, the Sixers have Embiid and Simmons and if you ask fans in Philly, they’d say it was well worth the steep price, in terms of the misery of tanking, paid for them. “They’re two players that have the chance to be great,” said Brown. “Joel has no right to be doing some of the things he does. Ben’s composure down the stretch is amazing. Those two are exceptional.” What the Sixers just did was win a pair in Miami, under the banners that hung over them, was fly in the face of basketball convention which says youth doesn’t get served in the post-season. They can close out at home and then get the survivor of Celtics-Bucks, and Philly can expect to be the favorite in that conference semifinal. “I can see how much we’ve grown and how much more room we have to grow,” said Brown. “To come here and get a win, in this building, against an organization of winning and culture and history, it’s special.” There’s another story here: If the Sixers eliminate the Heat, then it could be curtains for Wade, who doesn’t have a contract for next season, who hasn’t committed to playing beyond this season, and who paused suspiciously for about three seconds when asked if Saturday was his final game in Miami. “I don’t want to answer that right now,” he said. Whether he sticks around or takes the sunset cruise, Wade must realize that a transformation is taking place in the East. After years of deliberately bad basketball the Sixers are finally bearing fruit, and oh, speaking of food, Wade and the Heat can chew on this for a minute: The Sixers have room under the salary cap to give Embiid and Simmons some help next season. LeBron James, free agent-to-be, might reach the conclusion that the Sixers are his best championship option. 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 22nd, 2018

MVP Ladder: No topping Harden in award chase

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

Category: sportsSource:  abscbnRelated NewsApr 14th, 2018

Eight NBA Playoffs storylines to watch

By David Aldridge, TNT Analyst Suddenly, we’re not quite as certain that Warriors-Cavs, Part IV, Sure to be Way Better than “Jaws: The Revenge” and “Superman IV: The Quest for Peace”, is going to make air, are we? The 2018 playoffs are just about here, and Stephen Curry isn’t, and Kyrie Irving won’t be, and Joel Embiid might be, and Jimmy Butler will be -- if his team is, that is. And both conference champions from a year ago are equally unsettled going into the postseason, for different reasons. The Golden State Warriors are banged up, while the Cleveland Cavaliers are brand new. Golden State hasn’t looked like an offensive leviathan, while Cleveland has been one of the league’s worst defenses. And, most importantly, each has legit challengers this year in Houston and Toronto in its respective conferences -- deep, tough, elite defensively, hard to stop offensively, and tempered/hardened/driven by recent playoff failures. Which should make late May and early June even more compelling than normal. At the least, we’ll have the Warriors going for three rings in four years, and LeBron James going for an eighth straight Finals appearance -- each representing something special. The postseason, then, should provide some theatre that Meryl Streep will drop what she’s doing to watch. Among the biggest storylines: 1. The Hinkie Referendum, Passed The Philadelphia 76ers’ scintillating run to end the regular season sets up them for a glorious postseason run, that will finalize a season in which the decisions by former GM Sam Hinkie -- the successful ones, anyway -- are rightly celebrated. (The failures of Jahlil Okafor and Michael Carter-Williams to fire as stars after Hinkie took each high in the first round are not only not ignored by Hinkie’s biggest supporters, they are cited as proof that he had to do what he did for as long as he did, because you’re going to have some misses at the top of the Draft. God, I love Hinkie Stans.) It says here that a healthy Joel Embiid and an exponentially improving Ben Simmons are the one team that can give LeBron’s Cavs true night sweats in the Kyrie-less east playoffs. Embiid is a problem for any team, but especially for the defensively indifferent and ineffective Cavaliers, who have no one remotely capable of keeping “The Process” from running wild. Since New Year’s Day, only Curry (120.4), Chris Paul (116.1) and Jamal Murray (114.7) have better Offensive Ratings among point guards than Simmons’s 113.9, per NBA.com/Stats. Who, from among George Hill (6'3"), Jose Calderon (6'1"), Jordan Clarkson (6'5") and J.R. Smith (6'5") is Cavs coach Tyronn Lue going to put on the 6'10" Simmons? Yes, Lue could try James on Simmons, who is no threat to shoot from deep or run through a maze of pindowns. But that doesn’t make him any easier to slow down. No matter who Philly plays in the postseason, the Sixers are going to be a problem. 2. Indiana George and the Tempo of Doom It’s taken the Oklahoma City Thunder much longer than any of us thought, but OKC is a win from the postseason (even if the Thunder can’t beat the Heat in Miami tonight, the Cancun-bound Memphis Grizzlies will be in Oklahoma City Wednesday). And that’s when Paul George will determine whether his future is in the 405 or elsewhere. The Thunder’s up-and-down regular season doesn’t provide much clue to how far they could go in the playoffs, thought OKC looked formidable in ending the Rockets’ 20-game home win streak Saturday (Sunday, PHL time). It was a game that featured Russell Westbrook successfully taking on the challenge of defending James Harden down the stretch. When Oklahoma City plays with pace and gets up and down the floor, it can beat anyone. The Thunder will likely have to take down an elite unit like Houston at some point in the playoffs to convince George to stay. 3. A Series of Fortunate Events With Irving’s injury, the Washington Wizards’ failure to launch and other maladies to Eastern Conference contenders, the Cavaliers have an increasingly clear path back to The Finals. Doing this is best way to keep LeBron: The Sequel in town for an extended run, but the proof will be in the doing, of course. Cleveland will need Larry Nance, Jr., Rodney Hood and Jordan Clarkson to perform under playoff pressure, which Nance and Clarkson have never had to do and Hood did briefly in the 2017 playoffs with the Utah Jazz. 4. She packed my bags last night, pre-flight/Zero Hour, 9 a.m The Rockets have been the best team in the league most of this season -- an offensive and defensive juggernaut, the logical extension at both ends of the floor of the standards the Warriors set the last few seasons. James Harden will likely walk away with Kia MVP honors after the season and Chris Paul has been everything Houston hoped he’d be. But Houston must finish the deal with a championship to make its own mark. 5. Jurassic Park Everything is set up for Toronto, as well -- the Raptors have the Eastern Conference’s best record and are tied with Houston for the best home record (34-7) in the league. They have home court until The Finals. Their two lynchpins, All-Stars DeMar DeRozan and Kyle Lowry, are healthy. They’ve diversified their offense and learned to love the 3-pointer. They’re back to guarding at an elite level. The East is laid out open for a Toronto run to The Finals. There’s no excuse for the Raps not to. 6. ‘Brow’, Beating We don’t know for sure that the New Orleans Pelicans will make the playoffs. As of this writing, they haven’t clinched yet, although beating the Warriors in Oakland on Saturday went a long way toward their getting to the postseason. But assuming New Orleans is playing next weekend, its success in the playoffs can only help the franchise as it recovers from the recent death of former owner Tom Benson. “The Brow” (aka Anthony Davis) may have got us on April Fool’s Day, but the next couple of weeks will be dead serious. What if the Pelicans manage a first-round upset? Don’t say it’s not possible with the way Davis is playing. That would go an awful long way to quieting the “How the Boston Celtics Will Get Anthony Davis in 2020, Vol. MCMLXXXVII” hot takes. 7.  The Boston Medical Group The Celtics as imagined played exactly five minutes together this season. Everything that’s transpired since has been wrapped in gauze and sutured shut. Kyrie Irving’s latest knee procedure has everyone hopping off the Celtics’ postseason bandwagon -- a mistake, unless coach Brad Stevens pulls a hammy before Game 1 in the first round. Stevens has coached up whatever 12 guys are active pretty damn well since he’s come to the NBA, and he’ll still have a lot to work with in the playoffs: Al Horford, Jaylen Brown, Jayson Tatum and Terry Rozier (the Celtics hope they can get Marcus Smart back after the first round). The bigger issue, of course, is Irving’s health going forward -- and into next season, after which he can opt out of the last year of his deal and become an unrestricted free agent in 2019. The current belief in Boston is that Irving’s knee -- the cartilage, ligaments, tendons and bones -- is sound and that he’ll have no long-term issues with it. But Irving and the team thought taking out the tension wire that had helped heal his broken patella after his 2015 surgery would do the trick. It didn’t.   There should be no doubt Boston will be all in on Irving. But after missing these playoffs after going out in Game 1 of the Finals in ’15, Irving will again have to show he’s able to handle a season-long campaign and still be able to bring his best to the postseason. 8. Bah Gawd, That’s Kawhi Leonard’s Music! We have all worked on the assumption that Leonard isn’t going to play for the Spurs any more this season as he rehabs his quad injury, even though they’ve never quite actually said he’s out for the year -- and he, as per usual, has said next to nothing. The Spurs have ridden LaMarcus Aldridge’s All-NBA-level season to the cusp of the playoffs, but no one has much expectation they’ll be there very long if they make it without their former Finals MVP. “Do I have any expectation I’ll see Kawhi?,” Danny Green said a week ago, repeating my question to him. “As of right now, my mindset is no. I’m just going to forward without him … if he does come back, great. Our mindset is this is the group we have today, this is the group we’ll have tomorrow. If somebody does come and join, we’ll have them and it’ll be great. But right now we’re moving forward with the expectation that this is who we have.” But, it’s not like we haven’t seen guys come back suddenly for the playoffs after missing large chunks of a season. A fellow named Michael Jordan played just 18 regular season games in his second season with the Bulls in 1986, recovering from a foot injury and not returning to the lineup until mid-March. True, he did get 15 games under his belt before the playoffs. But that did not prepare anyone for his showing up in Boston Garden in Game 2 of the first round against the Celtics and dropping 63 on the home team. There are, to be sure, issues between Leonard and the Spurs, and maybe they’re insurmountable. But if, somehow, “The Klaw” wakes up one morning this month and says he’s good to go, and reports for duty … who doesn’t think San Antonio can’t start assimilating opponents into its collective just like old times? 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 NewsApr 10th, 2018

LeBron scores 33 points, Cavs rally to stun Wizards 119-115

By Tom Withers, Associated Press CLEVELAND (AP) — LeBron James scored 13 of his 33 points in the fourth quarter and brought the Cleveland Cavaliers back from a 17-point deficit to stun the Washington Wizards 119-115 on Thursday night (Friday, PHL time) and maintain the No. 3 playoff spot in the Eastern Conference. The Cavs trailed 104-87 with 7:35 left before storming back behind James, who added 14 assists, nine rebounds and made sure coach Tyronn Lue got a win in his return after missing nine games due to health reasons. Jeff Green added 21 points and Kevin Love had 16 for the Cavs, who are 10-1 since March 17 (Mar. 18, PHL time), when Lue was forced to leave a game in Chicago with "piercing" chest pains. Lue, who has changed his diet and is taking sleep medication, has come back to a team that seems to be hitting its stride just in time for the playoffs. But it took another of those patented James' comebacks to down the Wizards, who have dropped seven of nine and are in a three-way battle with Milwaukee and Miami for playoff positioning. Washington's John Wall looked more like his speedy All-Star self in his third game back from knee surgery, scoring 28 points with 14 assists. But he had a costly turnover in the closing seconds and the Wizards couldn't put away the Cavs down the stretch. A basket by Markieff Morris gave the Wizards a 110-100 lead with 3:16 left, but James scored six straight, fed Green for layup, and Rodney Hood made two free throws to complete a 10-0 run by the Cavs. Green's two free throws — on a tough call against Washington — gave the Cavs a 116-115 lead, but after Walls missed a short jumper, James split a pair of three throws, giving Washington one last chance. Wall drove the lane but his twisting pass back outside was stolen by rookie Cedi Osman, who made two free throws to close it out. Playing in just his third game since surgery, Wall had that burst back in his first step and he found his touch after two tough games. Bradley Beal added 19 points, and Otto Porter had 18 for Washington. Lue came back to a familiar situation as the Cavs, who have endured injuries for months, were missing point guards Jose Calderon (hamstring) and George Hill (ankle). Lue started Osman at point. TIP-INS Wizards: Wall lost weight during his recovery, and coach Scott Brooks said that should help the All-Star going forward. "It's going to be good for his long-term recovery," Brooks said. "It's good for him. It's good for us. He just needs to gets some reps." Cavaliers: Won their eighth straight at home. ... James has scored 30 points in 429 games, tying Kareem Abdul-Jabbar for fifth place in league history. ... Osman is the seventh different starting point guard for Cleveland, which because of injuries has had 29 starting lineups. ... Lue was sorry to learn Celtics guard Kyrie Irving will miss the playoffs with a knee infection. Irving had a great run with Cleveland and will be forever remembered for his go-ahead three-pointer in the closing minutes of Game 7 in the 2016 Finals. "He was a big part of what we did here, a big part of winning the championship and even though he's on another team you still don't want to see anyone go through that," Lue said. UP NEXT Wizards: Host Atlanta on Friday night (Saturday, PHL time). Cavaliers: At Philadelphia on Friday night (Saturday, PHL time)......»»

Category: sportsSource:  abscbnRelated NewsApr 6th, 2018

James ties Jordan’s double-digit scoring streak as Cavs down Hornets

LOS ANGELES: Cleveland superstar LeBron James matched NBA icon Michael Jordan’s record streak of 866 straight double-digit scoring games Wednesday (Thursday in Manila) in leading the Cavaliers to a 118-105 victory over the Charlotte Hornets. James finished with 41 points, 10 rebounds and eight assists for the Cavs, who bounced back from a dismal defeat [...] The post James ties Jordan’s double-digit scoring streak as Cavs down Hornets appeared first on The Manila Times Online......»»

Category: newsSource:  manilatimesRelated NewsMar 29th, 2018

James ties Jordan s double-figures streak; Cavs top Hornets

By Steve Reed, Associated Press CHARLOTTE, N.C. (AP) — LeBron James matched Michael Jordan's streak of 866 consecutive double-digit scoring games with 41 points, and the Cleveland Cavaliers beat the Charlotte Hornets 118-105 on Wednesday night (Thursday, PHL time). James finished 14-of-26 from the field and had 10 rebounds and eight assists for the Cavaliers, who remained ahead of the Philadelphia 76ers for the third-best record in the Eastern Conference. James matched Jordan's 17-year-old mark against the team Jordan owns in the second quarter when he scored his 10th point on a powerful alley-oop dunk off a pass from J.R. Smith. The 33-year-old James, who began his streak on Jan. 6, 2007, can break Jordan's record Friday night (Saturday, PHL time) at home against the New Orleans Pelicans. He wasn't the only one making history. Kemba Walker scored 21 points to pass Dell Curry as the Hornets' career scoring leader. Walker received a big hug from James after breaking the mark with 20 seconds left on a reverse layup. Walker broke down in tears a few moments later as he was being interviewed on the court. "I wasn't supposed to be here. ... Anything is possible. If I can do it, anybody can," the six-foot Walker said to the crowd. James scored 16 points in the second quarter and 13 in the third on 10-of-15 shooting, including 4-of-6 from beyond the arc as the Cavaliers built a 17-point lead heading into the fourth quarter. The Hornets cut Cleveland's 20-point lead to 11 points but James re-entered the game and made an immediate impact with a few more highlight reel plays. He stole Frank Kaminsky's pass near the top of the key and raced the length of the floor and threw down an emphatic one-handed dunk over Jeremy Lamb. Then with 3:09 left in the game, he grabbed Rodney Hood's miss out of the air and dunked it hard, punctuating the Cavaliers' victory. James left the game to a standing ovation from the Charlotte crowd, which was filled with Cavaliers fans wearing James' No. 23 jersey. Jordan's streak came with the Chicago Bulls and Washington Wizards from 1986-2001. James continued his dominance against the Hornets. He had his way against Charlotte in two previous meetings this season, combining for 58 points, 22 rebounds and 21 assists. It was also a strong bounce-back game for James, who was limited to 18 points on 7-of-18 shooting in a lopsided loss to the Miami Heat on Tuesday night (Wednesday, PHL time). TIP-INS Cavaliers: Shot 71 percent from the field in the second quarter and outscored the Hornets 42-28 to take control. Hornets: Walker established a new team record with his 44th consecutive made free throw. That free throw also brought his career total to 1,999, which broke Gerald Wallace's franchise record of 1,998. UP NEXT Cavaliers: Host Pelicans on Friday night (Saturday, PHL time). Hornets: Visit Wizards on Saturday (Sunday, PHL time)......»»

Category: sportsSource:  abscbnRelated NewsMar 29th, 2018