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Lillard, Blazers clinging to pride at playoffs edge

By Shaun Powell, NBA.com PORTLAND, Ore. — He’s top-10 in the NBA in talent, perhaps top-five in likability and there’s no question where Damian Lillard ranks in the only place he has ever called home in the NBA. Taken as a bundle, the Trail Blazers guard presents an impressive case for himself as a player worthy of your respect, something he craves and certainly deserves to a large degree. [Watch the Playoffs on NBA League Pass for 30% less with this limited time offer! Select Annual package and use code SAVE30 at checkout to redeem] Lillard had his Playoff Moment when he sank the buzzer-and-series-winning shot from nearly half-court to erase Oklahoma City and his nemesis, Russell Westbrook, from the first round. It was the kind of play that separates the truly great players from the very good. It was as if the casual basketball fan discovered Lillard overnight, or rather, the next morning on social media and TV highlight replays, since that game ended well past bedtime for much of the country. But as Kenny Smith, the former player and popular commentator on TNT once said: “The regular season is when you make your fame. The playoffs is when you make your name.” And so, with that in mind: Since Lillard has since been unable to duplicate those heroics of three weeks ago and is struggling mightily here in his first taste of the Western Conference finals, what do we call him in this, his seventh season? Great? Or very good? Right now he gives the appearance of a marathon runner who wheezes toward the finish line only to see someone cruelly push it forward another mile. His ribcage might not be totally intact (to what extent only he knows) after Warriors forward Kevon Looney fell on Lillard while they chased a loose ball in Game 2. The Warriors are causing additional problems for Lillard by trapping him constantly with elite defenders Draymond Green and Andre Iguodala, making him work for shots and space. "I'm seeing Draymond Green, and he's behind that kind of like tracking my movements," Lillard explained. "So it's like a next layer of defense that I'm paying attention to... I'm not, I guess, wanting to explode and get around that guy because I see what's waiting for me, and then just the crowd, and I put myself in a tough position." Clearly, he’s not right physically. The Warriors are singling him out defensively, and the Blazers are one loss from elimination partly, if not mainly, because Lillard’s impact has been minimized. His pain goes beyond his ribs and frustration. To know Lillard is to know his pride is certainly aching as well. This is his chance to get his due, to shine deep into May for once, and do that against the two-time defending champions, and yet it’s all going wrong for him. Even if healthy, Lillard lacks a high level of championship savvy talent around him, and elimination from the conference finals was probably destined to happen regardless of Golden State riding without Kevin Durant. The Warriors are that good and the Blazers are that raw. But with Lillard shooting 33 percent in the series, they might get swept, and that’s too bitter of a pill for any player with Lillard’s credentials. He’s one of the most complete shooters in the game, someone who mixes three-pointers, mid-range jumpers and rim attacks to rank annually among the top scorers in the NBA. He’s also smart with the dribble and deadly in isolation. This season was one of his best, when he averaged nearly 26 points and helped the Blazers to a No. 3 seed. This will surely place Lillard on one of the All-NBA teams, perhaps even First Team, which is difficult to do in a league rich with standout combo guards. Even more admirable is Lillard doing this on a team largely of role players, with the exception of CJ McCollum. Even including the other half of their backcourt, the Blazers have only one player with All-Star honors: Lillard. He’s the rare player under 6'4" who carries a team. On that note, Lillard always bristled when he felt he wasn’t getting his proper respect, be it All-Star mentions or MVP discussions. And most of the time, he had a point. Lillard suffers from two issues: his regular season games tip at 10:30 ET and, until now, he never took the Blazers beyond the second round. His playoff record is 19-31. Last spring was especially agonizing: Lillard was outplayed by Jrue Holiday and the Blazers were swept by the Pelicans in the first round. He made redemption a goal and this year’s first round was a smashing success made sweeter by the series-winning shot. And yet, did the grueling seven-game second round against Denver drain the energy from Lillard? Including the last game of that series, he’s shooting just above 30 percent in his last four games. Against the Warriors, he has one more basket than turnovers (15 to 14). The rib injury certainly hasn’t helped (although Lillard downplayed it). "It's there, but it's not something that's affecting anything that I'm doing,” he insisted. “Obviously you feel it, but that's it." Although he’s averaging more career points against the Warriors than any other team, those were mainly regular-season numbers. It’s an entirely different level in the postseason and particularly this deep into it. The Warriors are forcing the ball from his hands, daring other Blazers to take shots, and when Lillard does keep the ball, his looks aren’t always clean. "It's tough,” he admitted. “They're doing a good job in their coverages.” So what’s left of the Blazers? Unless there’s a premium performance coming from Lillard and McCollum in Game 4, their season is likely done after Monday night (Tuesday, PHL time). With Green and Stephen Curry looking nostalgic, the Warriors have that 2015 feeling when they won a title without Durant. The Warriors also know they’ll get nine days’ rest with a sweep, as if they need any further motivation. At this point, all the Blazers have is their pride, with none bigger than Lillard’s. Shaun Powell has covered the NBA for more than 25 years. You can e-mail him here, find his archive here, and follow him on Twitter. The views on this page do not necessarily reflect the views of the NBA, its clubs or Turner Broadcasting. .....»»

Category: sportsSource:  abscbnRelated NewsMay 20th, 2019

He makes us go : Green elevates Warriors to 3-0 series lead

By Shaun Powell, NBA.com PORTLAND, Ore. — There is nothing Draymond Green failed to do Saturday (Sunday, PHL time) when he helped push the Blazers to the edge and the Warriors to the verge. Here is the checklist of his duties: Dribbler, pace-setter, rescuer, shooter, director, shot blocker, shot-caller and the one that probably escaped most witnesses, psychiatrist. Yes, Dr. Dray suddenly offered his services and sofa when poor Jordan Bell blew a breakaway dunk during a critical moment, just as the Warriors were in the process of flipping an 18-point deficit during their 110-99 victory in Game 3 of the Western Conference Finals. [Watch the Playoffs on NBA League Pass for 30% less with this limited time offer! Select Annual package and use code SAVE30 at checkout to redeem] Bell immediately hung his head as he returned downcourt, and seconds later at the next timeout, he slowly headed toward the Warriors bench with slumped shoulders. But who intercepted him before he could take another step? That’s right, it was Green, famously known for his cool and soothing words in times of crisis. (OK, put the laugh track here.) But seriously … The type of leader every team needs ????pic.twitter.com/Tr3JblKAyX — Warriors on NBCS (@NBCSWarriors) May 19, 2019 “I knew he wasn’t going to lecture me or anything like that,” said Bell. “He just told me that everybody misses dunks, that I shouldn’t worry about it, that mine happened to be an open one, and to keep my head into the game because I’d get another chance.” Bell paused. “I was down here,” he said, lowering his hand, “and he lifted me up here.” And wouldn’t you know, Bell got that next chance minutes later. This time, the dunk was thrown down ferociously and completed with a chin-up that belonged at LA Fitness. We can give Green credit for the 20-point, 13-rebound, career playoff-high 12-assist triple double, and we can give Green partial credit for that second-chance slam, too. That’s more like it JB ???? pic.twitter.com/JUvMfKQDsl — Warriors on NBCS (@NBCSWarriors) May 19, 2019 The man was that multi-layered. “I don’t even know what to say about Draymond,” said Warriors coach Steve Kerr. Once again, Green demonstrated his value to the Warriors in these playoffs with a magnificent all-around game. He left fingerprints all over the Moda Center court and various Blazers' efforts. He was there for the Warriors when nothing else worked, and he was there for the Warriors when everything finally began to click and they needed a finishing touch. His desire and will do not show up directly on the stat sheet, yet those elements made the victory possible. The Warriors won for the fourth straight game without Kevin Durant and are one more away from reaching the NBA Finals for the fifth straight year. It makes you wonder: As great as Durant is, would the Warriors be more vulnerable if it was Green who were out with a calf strain instead? That question stands valid because the Warriors lack anyone who does what he does. The energy, intensity, floor direction, ability to defend three and sometimes four different positions, as well as the rebounding were all apparent Saturday (Sunday, PHL time) and in heavy doses. They came alongside leadership, evidenced by Green giving Bell a pat on the back during that down moment. Green played Game 3 as a blur, grabbing rebounds, pushing the ball up the floor, creating scoring chances for himself or his teammates and providing help defense that triggered the pace. Green was forceful because Steph Curry and Klay Thompson were 9-for-24 shooting in the first half, at times overwhelmed by the trapping Blazers defense. So Green took it upon himself to make things happen and provide the foundation for a second-half comeback. The Golden State defense held Portland to 13 points in the third quarter, Curry had 11 points in the fourth quarter, and this series simply continued along the same path. “He was the difference-maker,” said Blazers coach Terry Stotts. “His energy, the way he was pushing the ball, he kept them going. He makes his teammates better and defensively he’s all over the place. He impacted the game.” In the third quarter, Green poked the ball loose from Damian Lillard for one of his four steals. At the time, the Warriors were down 12 and in dire need of a jolt. But here’s what was remarkable about the play. Not only did the 6'7" Green stoop and strip one of the NBA's most composed ballhandling point guards (although perhaps not in this series), but he also managed to search for and grab it while it bounced between him and Lillard, then dribbled downcourt without missing a beat. The dexterity, quickness, daring and smarts sets Green apart from others who play his role, or at least try to emulate it. “More than reacting, he acts,” said Warriors assistant coach Ron Adams, who oversees the team’s defensive schemes. “There’s reacting and then there's acting. He’s an actor. He sees things. He’s decisive.” Green is averaging 18 points, 12 rebounds and almost 10 assists across the last two games and those numbers barely tell the real story. It’s just heightened because of Durant’s absence. In those two games, the Warriors trailed Portland by 17 and 18 points and Green was the point man on the rally. He says his main purpose is to give Thompson and Curry a breather from the load and responsibility. With the Blazers throwing traps at those two guards to limit their scoring, Green is forcing Portland to pay him respect. He is, in essence, breaking down Portland’s defense by pushing the ball and directing the attack. “I know I have to be more aggressive,” he said. “I think it’s easy to get (Curry and Thompson) to take more shots, but we can’t put that much pressure on them, so I just take it upon myself to get the tempo where I want it and make plays for other guys as well.” It was no coincidence that six Warriors off the bench managed to get at least one basket with Green directing traffic. And Green managed to play such a high-energy game without making constant mistakes; he had only two turnovers in 38 minutes. “He’s playing with force and he’s playing with discipline,” said Kerr. “He’s playing under control. He’s not letting anything bother him, like officiating, bad shots, he’s just moving on to the next play. From that standpoint, he’s as good as he’s ever been.” This is the Draymond Green that makes the Warriors more than willing to put up with the occasional nonsense, mostly stemming from his short temper and low tolerance with the officiating yet also with teammates and coaches at times. The constant technical fouls, the early-season clash with Durant, the high maintenance that often comes with coaching him, those are all part of the package. Taken as whole, that package is more positive than negative. And when there’s no negative, as it’s been through much of this postseason, the package is irresistible. “It’s nothing new; I’ve seen him do this for seven years,” said Thompson. “I’m just so proud of Dray. He makes us go.” There was no more positive reinforcement from Green than when he comforted Bell and told the young player to shake off a missed dunk seen by millions and laughed at by thousands inside Moda Center. Green gave Bell the encouragement needed to forget the embarrassment and maintain composure, which was important because Kerr kept Bell in the game. That set Bell up to gain redemption. And the Warriors, after struggling through a sloppy start, to gain complete control of a series that could end Monday (Tuesday, PHL time) in a sweep. “I’m one of the leaders of this team and in those situations you either go one of two ways. You’re either going to do your job and lift everybody up or you’re going to go the opposite way,” said Green. And so Green, with passing, defense and pace-setting, is stamping his signature on this series. His floor direction is flawless. He hasn’t shown the ability to direct the Blazers right out of the playoffs, but that’s perhaps just a matter of time. Shaun Powell has covered the NBA for more than 25 years. You can e-mail him here, find his archive here, and follow him on Twitter. The views on this page do not necessarily reflect the views of the NBA, its clubs or Turner Broadcasting. .....»»

Category: sportsSource:  abscbnRelated NewsMay 19th, 2019

Warriors miss Kevin Durant, but do they need him?

By Shaun Powell, NBA.com PORTLAND, Ore. — Along with the equipment, uniforms, basketballs and the confidence that comes with being up 2-0 in the Western Conference finals, the Warriors brought along another piece of cargo to Portland and it is the heaviest of them all. It didn’t come packed in luggage or a box; instead, it’s just wrapped in a hunch and tied with a question mark, and it is this: When do the Warriors start missing Kevin Durant? [Watch the Playoffs on NBA League Pass for 30% less with this limited time offer! Select Annual package and use code SAVE30 at checkout to redeem] The back-to-back champs are now 3-0 in these playoffs without their superstar and his aching calf. And 4-0 overall in games in which Durant didn’t finish. That probably says something about the Rockets, and so far about the Trail Blazers — two teams unable to exploit his absence. However, while the (bleeping) Giants — Steve Kerr’s description of his undermanned team — are honorably playing with a sense of urgency, they aren’t buying the notion that they don’t need Durant. It’s an easy trap to fall into, to believe the outside chatter that they’re better off without him. The next two games, both at Moda Center, will either feed that belief or destroy it. Yes, because the Blazers must beat the Warriors four out of five to advance, there’s little to no chance of them denying Golden State a fifth trip to the Finals regardless of whether Durant shows up in this series or not. And that’s good for the visitors, since Durant didn’t make the trip for Games 3 and 4. “There's no mental adjustment,” said Kerr. “You just play. You go out there with what you have, and this is our third game, 3 1/2 games, really without him, and so we're just trying to hold down the fort. Hopefully he continues to progress and he has made progress, but it's a little more serious than we thought at the very beginning. So we'll see where it all goes, but he's in there all day long getting treatment. He's done a great job of committing himself to that process.” There’s a thought that, even if Durant was 80 percent, the Warriors will keep him benched to prevent a chance of re-injury, and that’s a wise decision with wide-ranging ramifications. By protecting Durant’s best interest here in this free agent year, the Warriors score big points with him and his camp less than two months before Durant must make a decision on his future. That said, what are the Warriors doing right to remain unharmed by his absence? The easy answer is they won championships without Durant and so this is more of the same-old, same-old. Except it isn’t. This actually might be more impressive. Understand that Golden State's system had to be changed here on the fly and in the middle of the postseason, not only to compensate for Durant’s 37 points per game in these playoffs, but also his defense. Once Durant was lost late in the third quarter of the fifth game of the second round, Kerr had to reach down his bench and rely on players who weren’t thrust into roles of significance and seldom saw fourth-quarter minutes up until this point. Meaning, Jonas Jerebko, Quinn Cook, Kevon Looney, Jordan Bell and Alfonzo McKinnie have either seen their minutes rise and/or their roles inflated in the process. Of course, most of the burden fell on the proven core: Steph Curry, Klay Thompson, Draymond Green and Andre Iguodala. Each of those four, in his own way, is playing at a premium, even if it’s a small sample size. “That’s what it takes in the playoffs," said Kerr. "You have to have guys playing at a really high level.” Curry seems reborn or at least sprung free of a playoff fog where his numbers and production didn’t match his regular season. He finished strong in a pair of fourth quarters while closing out the Rockets and is the most impactful player in this series so far. He’s averaging 35 points on 51 percent shooting in the three games without KD. It wouldn’t be a stretch to suspect Curry is getting a charge out of this, and his ego, which he keeps hidden, is being fed. Thompson is now clearly the second option, whereas before he was often No. 3 and often only if his shot was falling. The green light never turns yellow without Durant around, like Curry, Thompson is working without handcuffs or a leash. After hitting 20 shot attempts once in the playoffs before Durant’s injury, Thompson is now hoisting 22 a game, good for a respectable 25-point average. The Warriors are constantly feeding him and running screens for him and urging him to take the shot, even if it’s contested. For a player who insists he’ll re-sign with Golden State this summer, Thompson is getting a taste of what life must be like if he played for, let’s say, the Clippers and was the focal point of the offense. “This team's been together a long time and they trust each other,” said Kerr. “When the ball starts moving, that's when we're tough to guard.” Green has never been better this season than in the last few weeks. Recharged after losing weight immediately following the All-Star break and no longer feeling pain in his previously-injured shoulder, Green is menacing on the defensive end where once again he’s guarding all positions except point guard and doing it marvelously. In addition, he’s pushing the ball up court to help Curry and Thompson stay as fresh as possible and directing the offense from the high post. He’s averaging 10 rebounds, 6.5 assists and three blocks without KD. “You know, we can't sit and look over our shoulder and say, `Hey, man, when is K going to be back?’ We just got to play with whatever we got,” Green said. “We got to play and give him an opportunity to get back, and I think that's what really falls on our shoulders. We're a very confident group. Hopefully he's back sooner than later, but as a guy who is in the battle every night, we can't sit and look over our shoulder and wonder when he or DeMarcus [Cousins] is coming back. We have to assume they are not coming back and play with what we got. Obviously, we are hoping that they do. But while they are not out there, we just got to play.” Finally, there’s Iguodala. He stayed hibernated all regular season while averaging career lows across the board. At age 35, it appeared time had finally caught up. Instead, this was a case of a crafty veteran preserving himself for springtime, and with the amount of talent on the Warriors, he could afford to do so. Iguodala had solid moments guarding James Harden in the second round and is among those trapping Damian Lillard and CJ McCollum this round. One of the signature plays of the series was Iguodala coming up with a walk-off strip of Lillard as time expired in Game 2. “You're kind of in awe of it because not many guys can make plays like that consistently,” said Curry. So this is where the Warriors are without Durant and also DeMarcus Cousins. They were good enough to stump the Rockets (again), then proved too much for the Blazers in a pair of home games. Nobody would be shocked if they take a game in Portland or maybe finish the sweep. It’s a luxury that few teams have or could pull off even if they did. This comes from a core that’s been together for six years, a coach pulling the proper strings and a bench that isn’t shrinking in the moment. “We feel like we can still win no matter who is out there on the floor, and that's why we're in the position that we’re in and have won championships with all the injuries and all types of stuff,” said Curry. “We know what the mission is, and we're on it right now.” These Warriors are playing flashback basketball to the time before Durant came aboard — and prepping themselves for next season, when and if Durant jumps overboard this summer. Shaun Powell has covered the NBA for more than 25 years. You can e-mail him here, find his archive here, and follow him on Twitter. The views on this page do not necessarily reflect the views of the NBA, its clubs or Turner Broadcasting. .....»»

Category: sportsSource:  abscbnRelated NewsMay 18th, 2019

Blazers head home for Game 3, down 2-0 to Golden State

By Anne M. Peterson, Associated Press PORTLAND, Ore. (AP) — Damian Lillard says Golden State did its job and protected home court. Now it’s time for the Trail Blazers to do the same. The Western Conference finals between the upstart Blazers and the defending champion Warriors shifts to Portland on Saturday (Sunday, PHL time) with Golden State holding a 2-0 advantage. [Watch the Playoffs on NBA League Pass for 30% less with this limited time offer! Select Annual package and use code SAVE30 at checkout to redeem] The Blazers were up 15 points at the half and led by eight with 4.5 minutes left before the Warriors rallied — boosted by Kevon Looney’s dunk with less than a minute left, and a game-sealing steal from Andre Iguodala — for a 114-111 victory in Game 2 on Thursday night (Friday, PHL time). Golden State capped the game with a 14-3 run to avoid falling into a tie in the best-of-seven series. “Lost the game, but you know, their job was to take care of their home floor, and we’ve got an opportunity to do the same thing,” Lillard said. Lillard, who grew up just a few miles from Oracle Arena, finished with 23 point and 10 assists, but was thwarted by Golden State’s defense, including Iguodala’s at the end. CJ McCollum had 22 points in Portland’s eighth straight playoff loss to the Warriors since 2016. “We’ve got to bring that same energy at home, understand that this is the first time in 19 years we’ve been in the conference final,” McCollum said. “I know they (the fans) will be excited and I’m really looking forward to the opportunity playing at home and building on what we’ve done. “Being down 0-2, it’s not what you would like to see but it’s our reality, so now we got to go get some at home.” Stephen Curry led Golden State with 37 points. Warriors coach Steve Kerr said experience pushed Golden State at the end after Portland’s dominant play for most of the game. “We’ve done this a few times, and yeah, we stole it for sure,” Kerr said. Golden State, vying for a fifth straight trip to the NBA Finals, won the opening game against the Blazers 116-94, with Curry scoring 36 points to lead the way. The series so far, and particularly Game 2, has been an entertaining battle between Curry and his younger brother Seth, who plays for the Blazers. It is the first time that brothers have played each other in a conference final. The younger Curry had 16 points and four steals off the bench on Thursday (Friday, PHL time), including a steal on his brother. Seth Curry even engaged in a little trash talk when his brother was at the free throw line as the game wound down. “This was like the coolest experience I think I’ve ever had playing against him. We talked about the stage and he was amazing tonight,” Steph Curry said. “You know, every minute he was out there defensively, he was a pest. Made three big shots the fourth quarter that were very timely.” He added with a smile that it must have been nerve-wracking for his parents, “but it worked out perfectly tonight: He played well and we won.” Game 3 will be the first conference final game in Portland since 2000. The Blazers lost that series to the eventual champion Los Angeles Lakers in seven games. “I know they are going to be excited,” Stephen Curry said in noting the atmosphere at the Moda Center. “We’ve got to do whatever we can to hopefully take them out of it early. Knowing Portland is going to feed off that energy, it’s going to be tough to win up there, so we got to bring it.” Back at home, the Blazers won’t need to deal with the return of Kevin Durant. The two-time reigning NBA Finals MVP is still out with a right calf injury and isn’t set to be re-examined until next week, meaning it’s likely he’ll miss the rest of this series. Durant, who won’t travel with the team to Portland, averaged 34.2 points in the playoffs before he was injured in the third quarter of Golden State’s Game 5 victory over Houston. The third-seeded Blazers bested Oklahoma City 4-1 in the opening round, then needed all seven games to get past the Denver Nuggets in the semifinals. The Warriors downed both the Los Angeles Clippers and the Houston Rockets in six games to get to the conference finals. The winner in the West will go on to face the winner of the East series between the Toronto Raptors and the Milwaukee Bucks. ___ AP Sports Writer Janie McCauley contributed to this report......»»

Category: sportsSource:  abscbnRelated NewsMay 18th, 2019

Curry, Lillard battle for NBA supremacy, Oakland s affection

By Shaun Powell, NBA.com OAKLAND — He arrived at the Western Conference finals wearing the jersey of the Oakland A’s, who play right next door at the Coliseum, just a five-minute drive from where he was born. Damian Lillard paused and signed a few autographs before entering Oracle Arena, because he is a man of the people, and these are his people. None of them mention that, in their hearts, they’re rooting for him to lose this playoff series, and so it goes unspoken, a truce in a sense. For this fleeting moment, they’re Lillard fans, until the ball goes up. And then it’s all for Steph Curry, all night long. There is a competition within the competition between the Warriors and Blazers, and it is the battle for the affection of Oakland. There is Lillard, the pride of the Brookfield Village neighborhood, who has blossomed into a bonafide star with the Blazers. And then there’s Curry, the symbol of a basketball renaissance here, who has raised the profile of Oakland the last several years. Now you see why The Town is a bit conflicted. A bit. [Watch the Playoffs on NBA League Pass for 30% less with this limited time offer! Select Annual package and use code SAVE30 at checkout to redeem] The conference championship may well hinge on the performance of these All-NBA guards. Game 1 was fairly lopsided, both in terms of the teams — Warriors 116, Blazers 94 — and the two principles. Lillard struggled Tuesday (Wednesday, PHL time) and appeared whipped, physically if not mentally, no doubt from a grueling seven-game second round that just wrapped up 48 hours earlier. He missed 8-of-12 shots, had seven turnovers and, in a rarity for him, he was a non-factor for Portland. He’s a combined 7-for-29 in his last two games. Meanwhile, Curry rolled, dropping 36 points and the Blazers along with them. And so, this is the verdict: Portland cannot hope to stretch this series beyond four games, five tops, without the max from Lillard. He obviously means that much. And Curry, now working without the comforts of his injured co-star Kevin Durant for the second straight game, and maybe without Durant for another two games, needs to keep his skills elevated to prevent suspense from encroaching on the series. The Warriors are well aware of what Lillard has done to them in the past; he has averaged more points against the hometown team (27.0) than any in his career likely because of provincial pride. Yet Golden State is also aware that he has yet to beat them in any game or series of significance. “He’s one of the best guards in this league and carries a chip on his shoulder and it has (worked) well for him in his career,” said Draymond Green. “A special talent. I know he’s excited to be back home playing in the last year at Oracle. So it’s special for him but it don’t mean nothing to us. We’ve got to come out here and try to stop him. A tall task.” While the East Bay has given birth to its share of NBA stars, with Bill Russell, Jason Kidd and Gary Payton among them, Lillard is still freshly active and refreshingly loyal. The connection between him and Oakland remains unwavering despite fame and distance and the fact it’s his job and desire to shock the world in the next few weeks. He played at St. Joseph Notre Dame in Alameda and then finished at Oakland High, and a thick section of fans at Oracle Wednesday were wrapped in Blazers gear and made their preference clear. Most were either from the old neighborhood or family members. His high school coach, Damon Jones, is a Warriors season ticket holder, and Jones said: “Nobody bought me a drink tonight.” The coach added, playfully: “They gave me a hard time. When the Warriors scored, they wanted to turn around and slap five but then caught themselves at the last minute.” Jones remembers Lillard as being a promising and quick guard who picked up the nuances of the game rapidly. “He was very personable for someone his age, a solid teammate,” Jones said. “He still keeps in touch with all of his former teammates. It’s a brotherhood and he’s the leader. He’s always trying to be a positive influence on everyone around here.” Lillard returns every summer to give away backpacks with school supplies and funded the renovation of the Oakland High gym. He’s a familiar sight around town in the offseason and always approachable, and that loyalty and devotion doesn’t go unnoticed. “People here respect him,” said Raymond Young, Lillard’s AAU coach. “When he comes here to play, people here say they’re going to clap for Damian but cheer for the Warriors. Only he can get that kind of reaction. His loyalty comes from his family. His mother and father were no-problem parents. They let us coach him. He was a joy to be around. Still is.” Lillard is even more endearing because he comes from humble beginnings and is self-made. Both of his youth coaches are admittedly shocked by his impact in the NBA. He wound up at Weber State. He wasn’t highly recruited by the big schools. Even nearby Cal-Berkeley came late. “But if he goes there,” said Young, “does all this happen?” Lillard is revered in another place as well. Portland is also smitten by his loyalty; in an age of transient stars, Lillard has never wanted to play anywhere else. Perhaps this has cost him some visibility, with a majority of his games tipping off at 10:30 ET. It’s a price he’s more than willing to pay. Lillard has never taken a team this deep into the playoffs, where legends and reputations are made, and so being in the conference finals represents some new and deserved shine for him. A layer of that invisibility was peeled off in these playoffs where Lillard has come up massive. His shot from nearly 40 feet that eliminated Oklahoma City in the first round, and the bye-bye wave reaction, became iconic. Then he followed up with a strong second round as well against the Nuggets, although as that series crept to the conclusion, Lillard shot just 3-for-17 in that Game 7, then followed up with a 4-for-12 Tuesday (Wednesday, PHL time), proof that he might be gassed — and also that the Warriors cooked up a defensive game plan specifically for him. “Obviously it’s a little bit difficult physically and emotionally just because you’re excited about being in the Western Conference finals,” said Lillard. “You come straight here form Denver and get ready for the best team in the league. But once we lace our shoes and put our uniforms on, it’s fair and square. You got to go out there and handle your business. "They did a good job defensively and even when I was trying to find (teammates), they were getting deflections. They were making me play in a crowd. I thought they were successful at that … in this first game.” But his toughest task of all might be upstaging Curry, particularly here in Oakland. While Lillard has flourished through much of the postseason, Curry by comparison has been mild, especially by his standards. The missed layups, a famously flubbed dunk attempt and sporadic three-point shooting was unsightly. And then, after Durant limped off the floor, Curry felt a sense of urgency and a flush of greatness. He buried the Rockets with a pair of epic fourth quarters, then kept the faucet running Tuesday (Wednesday, PHL time). The Blazers couldn’t limit or at least slow him anywhere on the floor, especially from the three-point line, where Curry was a sizzling 9-for-15. And no missed layups. In his last six quarters of basketball, Curry has scored 69 points with 13-for-24 shooting on 3s. “I know what I’m capable of doing on the floor," Curry said, "and the situation calls for me to be more aggressive and hopefully that will continue. It’s nice to see the ball go in. I want to maintain that. I didn’t shoot well for 4.5 games the last series. Every game is different. You have to reestablish yourself and that’s my perspective no matter how I play.” Curry didn’t arrive wearing the baseball jersey of the home team, and if anything has been spotted at San Franciso Giants games across the Bay, where the Warriors will call home starting next season. But don’t get anything twisted. Curry’s bond with Oakland, developed over time, is genuine and real for someone born and bred a country away in Charlotte, and the feeling is mutual. The tug of war for the heartstrings of Oakland is subtle between the pair of franchise players on the floor in this playoff series. Call it a draw from the standpoint of whom the fans here respect and appreciate. There’s enough love to be shared by both. Yet in the basketball sense, this series is on the verge of being owned by the one wearing the jersey that reps Oakland. Curry has more momentum and better teammates, and Durant is on deck. Oakland, therefore, will indeed cheer for one of its own, for Damian Lillard. But the way this series and these playoffs are going, The Town is anxious to pop bottles with Steph Curry once again, at the usual place and time, for one last time. Shaun Powell has covered the NBA for more than 25 years. You can e-mail him here, find his archive here, and follow him on Twitter. The views on this page do not necessarily reflect the views of the NBA, its clubs or Turner Broadcasting. .....»»

Category: sportsSource:  abscbnRelated NewsMay 15th, 2019

Portland takes Game 2 against Denver, series tied 1-1

DENVER — CJ McCollum scored 20 points, picking up the slack with backcourt mate Damian Lillard struggling, and the Portland Trail Blazers turned back the Denver Nuggets 97-90 Wednesday night (Thursday morning, Philippine time) to even their playoff series at 1-1. The Trail Blazers led by 15 at halftime, 17 in the third quarter and 14 […] The post Portland takes Game 2 against Denver, series tied 1-1 appeared first on Cebu Daily News......»»

Category: newsSource:  inquirerRelated NewsMay 2nd, 2019

Sleepwalking Warriors snap to behind ultimate weapon Durant

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

Category: sportsSource:  abscbnRelated NewsApr 27th, 2019

Lillard drops 28, Blazers rout Pacers

Lillard drops 28, Blazers rout Pacers.....»»

Category: sportsSource:  abscbnRelated NewsDec 1st, 2016

Trail Blazers cohesiveness helped them to conference finals

By Anne M. Peterson, Associated Press PORTLAND, Ore. (AP) — The Portland Trail Blazers faced a number of challenges on the journey to their first Western Conference finals in 19 years. But there was one they couldn’t overcome: The Golden State Warriors. Portland’s run in the playoffs, which captured fans’ imaginations after Damian Lillard’s buzzer-beating three-pointer to clinch the opening-round series over the Thunder, ended with a sweep by the defending champions. [Watch the Playoffs on NBA League Pass for 30% less with this limited time offer! Select Annual package and use code SAVE30 at checkout to redeem] “We put together a great season and we put ourselves in position to go to the Finals,” Lillard said. “I think every other team in the league would wish they could be in our shoes; not only making the playoffs but playing for an opportunity to get a chance to go to the Finals. We just ran up on a team who has been there the last four years.” Portland was coming off two straight seasons that ended with first-round playoff sweeps. The team, which had surprisingly little turnover over those years, came into the season unified and determined to take the next step. But before the first game was played, the Blazers were hit by the death of owner Paul Allen after a battle with non-Hodgkins lymphoma. The co-founder of Microsoft was a hands-on owner and a familiar face at the Moda Center, and Portland dedicated its season to him. Injuries would challenge the Blazers down the stretch. Lillard’s backcourt partner CJ McCollum missed 10 games with a knee injury. But it was center Jusuf Nurkic’s injury that caused the most concern going into the playoffs. Portland’s seven-foot big man broke his left leg after crashing awkwardly in an overtime victory at home over the Brooklyn Nets on March 25 (Mar. 26, PHL time). Nurkic was averaging 15.6 points and 10.4 rebounds a game and many considered Portland’s playoff prospects dim without him. Fortunately, the Blazers were able to turn to Enes Kanter, who was waived by the New York Knicks following the trade deadline and signed by Portland for the rest of the season. Kanter averaged 13.1 points and 8.6 rebounds in 23 regular-season games with the Blazers, including eight starts. Portland finished 53-29 and clinched the third seed in the Western Conference, earning home court for the first round — and a series with the Thunder. The Blazers wrapped that series up in five games — capped by Lillard’s walkoff three-pointer. But even in the playoffs the Blazers couldn’t escape misfortune. Kanter separated his left shoulder in the final game against Oklahoma City. He was questionable for the conference semifinals against Denver but played, although he often winced in pain. Jonathan Yim, Portland’s video coordinator and player development coach, was in a serious car accident before the series with the Nuggets. The Blazers coaching staff wore bow ties in his honor in Game 2. That series went to seven games, with the Blazers sealing their date with Golden State on Denver’s home court. The Warriors were simply too much for the Blazers, climbing back from double-digit deficits in each of the final three games. Lillard played with separated ribs in the final two. The team’s on-court leader, Lillard averaged 25.8 points and 6.9 assists and earned his fourth All-Star nod during the regular season. He averaged 33 points in the opening round against the Thunder, but his production fell against Denver and Golden State when he was double-teamed. Lillard said the past few seasons of relative stability — after four of Portland’s five starters moved on to other teams in 2015 — have bonded the team. “Each year we’ve come back with the right attitude,” Lillard said Tuesday (Wednesday, PHL time). “We’ve been able to stick together through a lot of adversity and I think just what we’ve hung our hats on, what we’ve believed in, our culture, the togetherness, we’ve been able to truly build on that. And I think we should be encouraged.” Lillard could be in line for a hefty raise in the offseason. If he is named to one of the postseason’s All-NBA teams, he’ll qualify for a supermax contract extension worth $191 million. Lillard has two years remaining on his current contract. Asked about the prospects of a big extension, Lillard laughed and said: “I don’t understand why that’s even a question.” Coach Terry Stotts already benefited from the team’s run in the playoffs, signing a multi-year contract with the team that was announced at exit interviews. Terms of the deal were not released. “The guys in the locker room are special, it’s been a special season,” Stotts said. “Always tough to lose the last game of the year, but I couldn’t be more proud of the group that we’ve had.”.....»»

Category: sportsSource:  abscbnRelated News18 hr. 32 min. ago

Lillard, lalabanan ang Warriors nang may “separated ribs”

United States –  “There’s nothing you can really do about it.” Ito ang pahayag ni Portland Trail Blazers star guard Damian Lillard matapos niyang kumpirmahin nitong Linggo, ika-19 ng Mayo, na maglalaro siya kontra Warrrios […].....»»

Category: newsSource:  remateRelated NewsMay 20th, 2019

Stephen bests Seth in Curry brothers backyard basketball showdown

By Shaun Powell, NBA.com OAKLAND, Calif. — For a special moment, Game 2 of the Western Conference finals relocated from Oracle Arena to a backyard court with a hoop in suburban Charlotte, N.C., and every player save for two suddenly disappeared, and 19,595 witnesses were reduced by 19,593, with the remaining pair watching and pointing from the kitchen window. Yes, late-1990s nostalgia intervened in a tight contest between the Warriors and Trail Blazers. It was Curry vs. Curry all over again, an entertaining spectacle for their amused parents yet a tense one for their sons, Steph and Seth, fiercely trying to take down the other. [Watch the Playoffs on NBA League Pass for 30% less with this limited time offer! Select Annual package and use code SAVE30 at checkout to redeem] Even if you weren’t there at the Curry household for those brotherhood battles back in the day, couldn’t you just envision how they developed, much as it did on a dramatic Thursday, two decades later on the other side of the country? There was so much riding on those 1-on-1s then, such as a noogie for the loser, the last remaining cookie for the winner, and most certainly bragging rights, at least for the day. This time, the stakes were tame by comparison, just an ordinary game in mid-May that could dictate which brother eventually goes to the NBA Finals and which one sits next to Dell and Sonya in the stands and watches, nothing more or less. “Yeah, sure,” laughed Seth. “Something like that.” OK, perhaps this was huge after all. This was Steph with 37 points and eight assists rallying the Warriors back from 17 points down, only to get push-back from his brother, who played the best game of his NBA career. This was Seth, younger by three years, getting 16 points and four steals in the game -- all four out of Steph's pocket -- to give the Blazers an unexpected lift. The performance earned enough confidence from coach Terry Stotts that he played the entire fourth quarter. Seth was assigned to check Steph, and vice-versa, and it was a family issue played out before the basketball world. It was a thrilling one at that, because at one point you weren’t sure which Curry would get the best of the other. “This was like the coolest experience I think I’ve ever had playing against him,” said Steph. “Every minute he was out there defensively, he was a pest. Made big shots in the fourth quarter. He was amazing tonight.” Seth made all three of his shots in the fourth quarter, all of them on three-pointers, and a few in Steph’s mug. If he wasn’t the Blazers’ best option, at least he was an option, one that the Warriors -- and the other Curry -- had to respect. He helped the Blazers cling to an eight-point lead with four minutes and change left, until the expected happened and those early bragging rights were rudely snatched back. Playing once again without the comfort of Kevin Durant, Steph shot and willed his team to victory and a 2-0 lead in the series, drawing a foul beyond the arc and draining three free throws to put the Warriors up two. Seth had one last answer, a 29-footer that temporarily regained the lead before the Warriors wore down Portland and went home, 114-111, on Andre Iguodala's last-second strip of Damian Lillard. In all, it was a must-see contest … and the game wasn’t too bad, either. “I mean, they’re brothers,” said Lillard. “For me, having my own older brother, I know what it’s like to go against your brother and what it means. They both know there’s going to be conversations about this at some point when this series is over and they’re going to play like it.” Perhaps somewhat surprisingly, there wasn’t much chatter between them; Seth said they were too involved in the game for that. Well, maybe just a touch: “He tried to distract me at the free-throw line in the fourth quarter and I knew I had to go back at him to stay focused on what I needed to do,” admitted Steph. There was more of an urgency on Seth’s part to make this game and this drama happen. After his brother and Klay Thompson took turns dropping an avalanche of jumpers on the Blazers in Game 1, Portland needed a new strategy to defend the pick and roll. So they decided to trap constantly, and they needed agile players for that, which meant less time for Enes Kanter and more time for others, including Seth. Of course, there was another reason to play Seth for 29 minutes: Who else knows Steph Curry better than him? “I’ve seen every Warriors game and every Steph game for the past 10 years,” he said. “I feel like I know some things he likes to do, but it wasn’t enough.” That’s true. You can have all the scouting reports and, in this case, all the backyard hoop experience in the world. There’s only so much one can do against a two-time Kia MVP and widely-regarded Best Shooter Of All Time. Still: there were those four steals by Seth, two of them clean picks off Steph, who’s difficult to strip because of his crafty dribble. And those shots against him. Seth was a problem Thursday (Friday, PHL time), and an irritating one. “I felt like he was thinking where I was at times,” Seth said. I was just trying to make it tough on him. He’s going to do what he does, but if you make him work a little more, make it tough on him, that’s all you can ask.” Seth's had the harder road to this point. While Steph became a basketball icon, Seth kept bouncing between teams over five years, never securing the big contract, fighting to carve a spot in the rotation, and finally getting the chance to do just that. Just a few years ago, Seth played for the Warriors’ G-League team in Santa Cruz, in the shadow of his brother, wondering when he’d get his chance to make his own path. “I don’t take this for granted,” he said. “To get to this point and be a contributor, this is what I worked for all those years. I was confident I could be here, and now that I’m here, I will try to make the most of it. I always want the ball and try to be aggressive and tonight when I found the ball in my hands, I was locked in.” This will give Stotts and the Blazers something to ponder as the series moves to Portland, where they’ll try to keep from becoming another piece of Warriors playoff roadkill. Chances are good, then, that Seth’s spot in heavy rotation is safe. “Every time we played them this season, Seth has played great and I think it has something to do with playing his brother,” said Lillard. “This time I thought he guarded Steph well, and Steph is always on the move, out there running around, coming off screens and just looking to shoot the ball. That’s what he does.” Well, there’s one little detail that Lillard left out, one that Steph Curry was too happy to provide: “It worked out perfectly tonight: He played well and we won.” Shaun Powell has covered the NBA for more than 25 years. You can e-mail him here, find his archive here, and follow him on Twitter. The views on this page do not necessarily reflect the views of the NBA, its clubs or Turner Broadcasting. .....»»

Category: sportsSource:  abscbnRelated NewsMay 17th, 2019

The Trail Blazers patience has been rewarded

By Tim Reynolds, Associated Press Bravo, Portland. Bravo. Doing the right thing isn’t easy in the NBA, where patience is a rare virtue. The Trail Blazers were swept in the first round of the 2017 playoffs. They got swept again in the first round last season. Portland had lost 10 consecutive playoff games going into this year. Ordinarily, that’s a recipe for firings, trade demands and roster dismantling. Instead, the Blazers stayed the course. And their reward is a trip to the Western Conference final, starting Tuesday (Wednesday, PHL time) against two-time defending champion Golden State. [Watch the Playoffs on NBA League Pass for 30% less with this limited time offer! Select Annual package and use code SAVE30 at checkout to redeem] “It speaks to the character of our organization and what we’ve become,” All-Star guard Damian Lillard said. The Blazers have become a model of consistency. They could have gone the other way. A lot of teams have gone the other way. Neil Olshey, the Blazers’ general manager, took an uncommonly measured approach last season and kept Terry Stotts — currently the fourth-longest-tenured coach in the NBA. Lillard stayed committed and didn’t stomp his feet or force a trade like so many other players in his situation have done or tried to. CJ McCollum, Lillard’s backcourt partner who carried them Sunday (Monday, PHL time) with 37 points, doesn’t mind that he could get more shots elsewhere. “This is arguably the biggest win that we’ve had in the franchise for a long time,” Stotts said after Sunday’s (Monday, PHL time) Game 7 win at Denver — the first Game 7 road win in team history. “To be a part of it, to do it the way we did, I’m thrilled.” In a lot of ways, Sunday (Monday, PHL time) epitomized what the Blazers have done in recent years. They got down 17 early on the road in a Game 7. They battled, chipped at the deficit, eventually found the right combination of things that worked and didn’t panic. “Just stay with it,” Stotts said. “Trust was the biggest thing.” He was speaking of Game 7. He could have meant the last two offseasons. Trust takes time to build, and the Blazers now have it from top to bottom. This is how close-knit they are: After the game, Lillard lauded teammates, coaches, the training staff, the front office, the team’s security and the members of the sports media relations staff. He forgot nobody. “Everybody we see every day, everybody’s invested in what we’ve created,” Lillard said. Some teams should be taking notes. So should some players. This is an era in which teams spend years tanking instead of competing, yet still charge plenty to fans willing to come see their inferior product. An era where a bad team like Phoenix somehow decides after one year that a well-regarded coach like Igor Kokoskov needs to be fired — a move that means Devin Booker will start his fifth NBA season playing for a fifth different coach. An era where an elite player like Anthony Davis can pursue a trade with a year and a half left on his contract in New Orleans, starting a circus that became a massive problem for both the Pelicans and the Los Angeles Lakers. The Blazers didn’t demand that someone else fix their mistakes. They did it themselves. Olshey knew Portland’s roster was flawed after being swept by Davis and the Pelicans last season, that it wasn’t deep enough to handle injury issues. So he took a chance on Seth Curry, Warriors star Stephen Curry’s brother who wasn’t in the league last season, and signed him over the summer. He swung a trade in February and got Rodney Hood to fortify the bench. He fought off plenty of other clubs to sign Enes Kanter when he was freed by the New York Knicks — and that move proved enormous after center Jusuf Nurkic went down with a broken leg. But the moves Olshey didn’t make the last two summers are part of why the Blazers are here now. So are the moves he made three months ago. So, too, are the moves he made four years ago when the Blazers were rebuilders after LaMarcus Aldridge and three other starters left. “We had the roster turnover four years ago and everybody was quick to shoot us down, count us out,” Lillard said. “And at that point, we didn’t know for sure what direction we were going to go in.” Now they know. They’re heading to Oakland and the Western Conference final. ___ Tim Reynolds is a national basketball writer for The Associated Press. Write to him at treynolds@ap.org.....»»

Category: sportsSource:  abscbnRelated NewsMay 13th, 2019

No extra drama needed for Nuggets, Blazers in Game 7

By Sekou Smith, NBA.com DENVER -- All the posturing you can muster won’t win you this all-important game. No amount of name-calling, shoving, screaming, shouting or tough guy antics and gestures will save you when it’s all on the line in Game 7 of the NBA playoffs. And there are enough guys playing for both the Denver Nuggets and Portland Trail Blazers that know it, even if most of them have only observed a Game 7 from the stands or even further afar. [Watch the Playoffs on NBA League Pass for 30% less with this limited time offer! Select Annual package and use code SAVE30 at checkout to redeem] It’s a simple proposition, these Game 7 affairs. You win, you play on. Your season continues and all of the goals you set are still attainable. You lose, you’re done. None of the things you believed in before that last opening tip of the season remain. Pack up your stuff and head home for the summer. That’s the reality, the fate both the Nuggets and Trail Blazers are facing Sunday afternoon (Monday morning, PHL time) at Pepsi Center, the all-important Game 7 showdown in the Western Conference semifinals that will define one team’s season and render the other’s mute. There’s a finality to it, a certain air of drama that cannot be found anywhere else in the postseason. So it doesn’t matter if you have “sassy *** dudes, frontrunners,” as Blazers reserve guard Seth Curry put it after things got chippy late in Game 6 Thursday night (Friday, PHL time), one side or broadcast talent on the other taking cheap and unnecessary shots at injured Blazers center Jusuf Nurkic, Sunday afternoon's (Monday, PHL time) business is an up-and-down affair for all involved. Win and you play on or lose and you’re done. “I’m looking forward to Game 7,” Blazers coach Terry Stotts said. “Games 7s are special.” No extracurricular activity from either side will change that fact. “Both teams want to win the game,” said Nuggets center Nikola Jokic. “Basketball is an emotional game. Of course, we’re going to talk trash or whatever. Both teams just want to win the game.” That doesn’t mean you don’t look for every advantage possible to help fuel your cause. Blazers big man Zach Collins played a huge role in making sure this series found its way to Game 7, joining Rodney Hood in providing a huge boost off the bench in Game 6. And it was more than just his season-high 29 minutes and playoff career-high 14 points and five blocks. It was his physicality and activity around the rim and in the paint on both ends of the floor, his refusal to allow the Nuggets to find a groove. “We’ve just got to go in and keep playing our game,” Collins said. “I said it after the game, [Denver] has been way too comfortable for a lot of games in this series and [in Game 6] we made them a little uncomfortable. We just need to continue that, regardless of if it’s a Game 7 or not. Obviously, it’s win or go home for both teams. It’s going to be very difficult, especially in [Denver] to go in and get a win, but we can do it.” The Nuggets leaned on their sterling 34-7 record at Pepsi Center during the regular season, the best home mark in the league, as a confidence booster two weeks ago. “We have the best home court advantage in the NBA,” Nuggets coach Michael Malone said. “We’re going to rely on that once again and try to close it out in Game 7.” The Nuggets owning that recency advantage: they needed a Game 7 win here to survive the San Antonio Spurs in the first round, means something. The game and that series provided lessons Malone’s postseason rookies need to tap into this time around, even if they don’t realize it now. “It’s weird,” Nuggets guard Jamal Murray said. “Everybody keeps talking about experience. And I just want to say that we’ve been here before. [We go] back home and regroup like we did for San Antonio, come back with energy and just … be ready to play. I think we had too many lapses [in Game 6]. Dame [Lillard] felt really comfortable, he wasn’t comfortable last time, so we need to be tougher on him … like I said, just regroup, come back and get a win.” If only it was that simple. The pressure to get out of the first round is one thing. The opportunity to make the conference finals is a different monster. The Nuggets last played in a conference final in 2009, when Carmelo Anthony, Chauncey Billups, Kenyon Martin, J.R. Smith and Nene led the way. That group had a mix of seasoned pros who had championship (Billups) and extensive experience (Billups and Martin) competing on a championship level, to go along with younger and emerging superstar talent like Anthony. And they were ultimately no match for the Kobe Bryant and Pau Gasol-led Los Angeles Lakers. So these current Nuggets are well within their right to acknowledge the very real anxiety that comes with a game of this magnitude. “No nerves, “Jokic said. “I just felt something different the first game of the playoffs because it was something different. Just because we call it the playoffs, Besides that, everything else is the same.” The Blazers haven’t seen a Game 7 since a 2003 first-round series against Dallas. But they do not believe the absence of experience in this case makes any bit of difference. “It’s just another game -- a game we want to win, obviously,” Blazers guard CJ McCollum said. “We understand what’s at stake. Somebody’s got to go home. Somebody’s got to go to Cabo, go to Cancun, as Chuck [Barkley] would say. For us, it’s go out there and compete, find the coach’s game plan, understanding that it’s going to be a pretty hostile crowd and they’ll be confident at home, but we’ve got to bring the energy and pressure just like we did [in Game 6].” Damian Lillard has guided his team this far and promised to stick to the basics in the days and hours leading up to the game. Rested bodies and minds are crucial. “The number one thing is have our minds right,” he said. “Don’t overthink, don’t make some big crazy deal or anything like that. We’re going to play a basketball game. It’s a big game and we’ve won on their floor before and we know what type of mentality we had when we did that. We’ve got to go out there, be tough, be physical, be sharp in our scouting report, play for each other, play with each other on both ends and just put the pressure on them. “Make them earn everything on their offensive end and then when we get the ball, make sure that we get shots up,” Lillard continued with his simple but extremely detailed breakdown of what needs to be done. “Value every possession, don’t go out there turning the ball over, playing into their hands where they get an opportunity to get their crowd involved. So that has to be our mentality, to just be sharp, be physical, go in there ready to take the game, because the only way it’s going to happen is us going in there and taking it.” It’s a Game 7, after all, no extra drama needed. Sekou Smith is a veteran NBA reporter and NBA TV analyst. You can e-mail him here, find his archive here and follow him on Twitter. The views on this page do not necessarily reflect the views of the NBA, its clubs or Turner Broadcasting......»»

Category: sportsSource:  abscbnRelated NewsMay 12th, 2019

Blazers bibitbitin ang Nuggets sa Game 7

NBA – Tiniyak ng Portland Trail Blazers na may Game 7 pa sa kanilang Western Conference semifinal playoff series laban sa Denver Nuggets sa kanilang 119-108 panalo nitong Game 6. Nanguna si Damian Lillard para […].....»»

Category: newsSource:  remateRelated NewsMay 10th, 2019

Raptors crush Sixers, Nuggets rout Blazers to gain NBA series edge

LOS ANGELES: The Toronto Raptors dismantled the Philadelphia 76ers and the Denver Nuggets dominated Portland Tuesday (Wednesday in Manila) to take commanding leads in their NBA playoff series. The Raptors…READ The post Raptors crush Sixers, Nuggets rout Blazers to gain NBA series edge appeared first on The Manila Times Online......»»

Category: newsSource:  manilatimes_netRelated NewsMay 8th, 2019

No need for Malone to sell Nuggets: Their time is now

By Sekou Smith, NBA.com PORTLAND, Ore. — Give Michael Malone credit, the Denver Nuggets coach is as relentless a salesman as there is in basketball. Whether it’s moving speeches delivered to his own team or pleading with television audiences to stand up and take notice of the splendid compilation of talent the franchise has stockpiled in recent years, he refuses to let up. From building the legend of Jamal Murray or waxing poetic about the virtues of Nikola Jokic, the nimble giant prone to triple-doubles on the regular, Malone is prepared to use the bully pulpit to make sure no one overlooks the Nuggets. [Watch the Playoffs on NBA League Pass for 30% less with this limited time offer! Select Annual package and use code SAVE30 at checkout to redeem] A seven-game series win over San Antonio in the first round produced some of Malone’s best stuff to date, including him trumpeting Jokic as not only a legitimate Kia MVP candidate (true, this season) but also a surefire future Hall of Famer (could be, the way he’s playing). So you had to know Malone was going to be on his Nuggets informercial grind after they refused to lose Sunday (Monday, PHL time) in Portland, bouncing back after losing a grueling four-overtime thriller to the Trail Blazers here Friday night (Saturday, PHL time) with a gritty 116-112 triumph to tie this series at 2-2 headed back to Denver for Tuesday’s (Wednesday, PHL time) critical Game 5. “I’m so proud of our group,” Malone said, after his talented crew showed off the chops needed to regain the homecourt advantage they surrendered in their Game 2 loss at Pepsi Center. “And in the closing moments, I really was confident because in close games this year we were 13-3 [in games] decided by three points or less, best record in the NBA. We’re 12-1 in the second nights of back-to-backs, best record in the NBA. Our guys are tough; to come in here and win this game some 36 hours after losing a four-overtime game speaks to just how tough we are. So I wasn’t worried, we had our starting group out there. “Jamal, who I thought was phenomenal tonight, goes 11-for-11 from the foul line in a hostile environment and really kind of with the series hanging in the balance. You go down 1-3, and we all know how that story ends. I think the confidence of doing the same thing in the first round against San Antonio helped us, but our guys stepped up. We never frayed. We stayed together. And I can’t speak enough about the resiliency and toughness of our team.” And he shouldn’t. The Blazers had won 12 straight games at home dating back to the regular season and were 22-2 on their home floor since January 5. When the Nuggets saw their 10-point lead shrink to just a point with 3:02 to play as Portland closers Damian Lillard (28 points) and C.J. McCollum (29) led the charge, Denver could have easily folded up under the emotional weight of Game 3 and their current predicament. But they proved to be as resilient and tough as Malone said they were. Jokic was brilliant again, collecting his fourth triple-double (21 points, 12 rebounds and 11 assists) in his first postseason, second only to the five Magic Johnson piled up during his rookie season with the Los Angeles Lakers. And Murray was even better, finishing with a game-high 34 points and draining six straight free throws in the frantic closing seconds to seal the win for a Nuggets team that didn’t allow fatigue, a raucous and sellout Moda Center crowd or the pressure to avoid that 3-1 hole rattle them. “It wasn’t the first time,” Murray said of his embrace of the pressure with the game on the line at the line. “I think free throws are my thing. My dad and I do a lot of training [on] free throws. Blindfolded, he’ll talk to me just like how the crowd is, put pressure on me. I take 1,000 free throws in practice to make or or two … and tonight, it ended up being six.” The number Malone focused on afterwards was 11, as in the number of playoff games Murray and Jokic have played in as they continue to establish themselves as postseason stars. “You think about how young we are and and what we are doing, going on the road and winning a tough game in a hostile environment,” Malone said, “and for Jamal to be the centerpiece of that has been phenomenal. If you’re a Denver Nuggets fan, how excited are you about this team now. More importantly, how excited are you for our future? We have a chance to be a really good team for many, many years and Jamal is going to be a big part of that.” The same goes for Jokic, obviously. He’s already an All-Star and is going to end up on the All-NBA first or second team as well as the top five of the voting for Kia MVP after the regular season he put together. That might explains why the entire Nuggets bench froze as they watched him limp to the sideline in the final moments after being kneed in the leg in the final seconds. “Your heart skips a beat,” Malone said. “Nikola is the face of our franchise, but he just got kneed, it was nothing serious and and we were able to hold on for the win.” For all of Malone’s bluster about his group, it’s not even necessary at this stage of the season. The Nuggets earned the No. 2 seed in the Western Conference playoff chase on the strength of a talented and deep roster that might not resonate with casual NBA fans, but is celebrated by those in the know. Touting their accomplishments in real time makes sense for a coach trying to empower his team to believe in themselves in what could and perhaps should be a nice stretch of playoff runs in the future. But anyone paying attention can tell that the future could be now for these Nuggets. A trip to the conference finals one year after they failed to make the postseason field on the final night of the season in what amounted to a play-in game in Minneapolis last April, is a hell of a start. Malone knows it. His team knows it. And so do the Trail Blazers, who are well aware of the opportunity they squandered in a series where wavering confidence by the Nuggets might have been the only advantage they could exploit. “The good thing for us is that we won a game on their court,” Lillard said. “So it’s not like we lose both games there. We’re in a good space, 2-2, we know we’re capable of winning on their floor and that’t what we’ve got to get done. Obviously, it’s disappointing … we didn’t want to let an opportunity like this slip, but it happens. It’s playoff basketball and we’ve got to move forward.” So do the Nuggets, which is where Malone the master motivator comes into play. And just so we’re clear about something, his sell job is genuine. He knows of what he speaks in assessing a young team on the rise, having spent time coaching in Cleveland and Golden State during the formative stages with what would turn out to be teams that made it to The Finals (2007 in Cleveland). He was on Mark Jackson’s Warriors staff when they turned the corner from a lottery team to  playoff outfit (2012-13 season), helping nurture the core group of a team that has won three of the past four NBA titles and become a potential dynasty that no one saw coming at the time. So if Malone sees special things in his current team, it’s his responsibility to shout about it every now and then, both to the basketball public and especially internally. Youngsters like Jokic and Murray, Gary Harris and Malik Beasley, Torrey Craig and Monte Morris and even veterans like Paul Millsap, Mason Plumlee and Game 4 hero Will Barton, who knocked down huge shots to help seal the deal, need to hear the positive reinforcement from their coach. And that’s not even taking into account what absorbing these moments means for Michael Porter Jr., who is spending his rookie season recovering from back surgery, and is certainly going to be a part of that bright future Malone is so passionate about. If anything, this Nuggets team is ahead of schedule, two wins shy of a trip to the Western Conference finals with three games to play. Two of those are coming on their home floor, where Denver compiled the best record (34-7) in the league during the regular season. Maybe Malone is right to speak the Nuggets’ success into existence rather than wishing and hoping for it to come to fruition without a word otherwise. But he won’t have to go all car salesmen on the final day of month much longer. A couple more performances like the one the Nuggets put on Sunday (Monday, PHL time) and this whole thing, the refurbished franchise with all the boxes checked on the roster -- now and for the foreseeable future -- sells itself. Sekou Smith is a veteran NBA reporter and NBA TV analyst. You can e-mail him here, find his archive here and follow him on Twitter. The views on this page do not necessarily reflect the views of the NBA, its clubs or Turner Broadcasting......»»

Category: sportsSource:  abscbnRelated NewsMay 6th, 2019

No rest for the weary: Nuggets, Blazers back at it

By Brian Mahoney, Associated Press Nikola Jokic and the Denver Nuggets could use the kind of break everybody else is getting in the second round of the NBA playoffs. If anybody deserved some time off, it’s the All-Star center who just played 65 minutes in a game. But there’s no rest for the weary now. The Nuggets and Trail Blazers will be back on the court Sunday (Monday, PHL time) for Game 4, surely a little low on fuel after they tied an NBA record by playing four overtimes Friday night (Saturday, PHL time) in Portland’s 140-137 victory. [Watch the Playoffs on NBA League Pass for 30% less with this limited time offer! Select Annual package and use code SAVE30 at checkout to redeem] “Both teams are exhausted, so it’s the same for them as it is for us,” Denver coach Michael Malone said. “We will not use that as an excuse. We haven’t used it all year long and we won’t start using it now.” The conference semifinal round is a series of starts and stops, where it’s difficult for any team to build much momentum because there have been so many gaps between games. Philadelphia and Toronto, who have Game 4 of their series Sunday (Monday, PHL time), play just twice in a seven-day span. In the other Eastern Conference semifinal, Milwaukee and Boston had two days off in between both Games 2 and 3, and Games 3 and 4. When Golden State and Houston played Game 3 of their series Saturday night (Sunday, PHL time), it was their first time back on the court since Tuesday (Wednesday, PHL time). Then there’s Denver and Portland, who barely had time to catch their breath after the Trail Blazers’ victory in Friday’s marathon gave them a 2-1 lead. They are playing every other day to start their series, and would only have an extra day between games if it’s extended to a seventh game. So while Philadelphia’s Joel Embiid has ample opportunity for treatment on his sore left knee that was such a problem when the postseason began, Portland’s Enes Kanter’s left shoulder has little time to heal before he’d have to get back on the court to resume tussling with Jokic. “As far as the minutes, everybody’s tired. Were built for what’s happening right now. That’s what we had to do to win the game,” Portland’s Damian Lillard said. “Now we’ve got to go do our jobs away from the floor to make sure that at 4 o’clock Sunday we’re ready.” At least Portland wrapped up its first-round series against Oklahoma City quickly, earning some down time after Lillard’s long three-pointer ended the series in five games. But the Nuggets had to go the distance against San Antonio, meaning they had only one day off between ending one series and starting the next. Recover quickly and win Sunday (Monday, PHL time), and they’ve evened the series and regained home-court advantage. But if not, the No. 2 seeds are facing a 3-1 hole, which is a tough spot no matter their energy level. The seven-foot, 250-pound Jokic insists he’ll be ready. “They always talking about I’m not in shape. I’m in really good shape. I don’t know what they’re talking about,” Jokic said. “When I came here I was maybe a little bit chubby, but there’s really no difference in me now. I’m feeling good.” A look at Sunday’s (Monday, PHL time) games: RAPTORS AT 76ERS Philadelphia leads 2-1. Game 4, 3:30 p.m. EDT (3:30am, PHL time) NEED TO KNOW: The 76ers have won the last two games after Toronto’s Game 1 victory. The Raptors have not lost three straight since Nov. 12-16. Kawhi Leonard’s 31.5 points per game rank second to Kevin Durant so far, but Toronto has averaged just 91 per game in the last two games. INJURY WATCH: Toronto is listing forward Pascal Siakam, one of the leading candidates for the Most Improved Player award, as doubtful because of a bruised right calf. Siakam, averaging 22.9 points, was called for a flagrant foul when he stuck his right leg in the path of Embiid during the fourth quarter of Game 3. Embiid’s knee appeared to strike Siakam’s calf. Siakam left the game moments later and did not return. KEEP AN EYE ON: The score at halftime. The 76ers had 64 at the break in Game 3, the fourth time they’ve reached 60 in the first half this postseason, and Leonard noted that was an area the Raptors had to improve. PRESSURE IS ON: Kyle Lowry. All Toronto’s players need to step up more in support of Leonard but the point guard in particular acknowledged he needed to be better after a dismal 2-for-10, seven-point performance in Game 3. NUGGETS AT TRAIL BLAZERS Portland leads, 2-1. Game 4, 7 p.m. EDT (7am, PHL time) NEED TO KNOW: CJ McCollum, who scored 41 points in 60 minutes, along with Lillard (58 minutes) and Kanter (56) are the Blazers who went the longest in Game 3. So there might be an opportunity for Rodney Hood, who scored seven points in the fourth OT, or one of Portland’s big men to get a little more time Sunday (Monday, PHL time). INJURY WATCH: Kanter posted a photo of himself on the training table getting treatment soon after Game 3. He finished with 18 points and 15 rebounds and said afterward he didn’t know if he’d be able to play in Game 4. Whatever it freaking takes #RipCity pic.twitter.com/ok9l0Mf5I8 — Enes Kanter (@Enes_Kanter) May 4, 2019 KEEP AN EYE ON: The energy levels. Game 4 might be one of those that isn’t determined by who plays better, but rather by who has the most left in the tank. PRESSURE IS ON: Jokic’s supporting cast. The Serbian has three triple-doubles and ranks second among all players in both rebounds (12.6) and assists (9.1) per game in his first postseason. But the Nuggets probably can’t count on him staying at that level Sunday after he played the fourth-most minutes in NBA playoff history in Game 3, falling just two short of the record, so other players have to take on some of his usual load. ___ AP Sports Writer Anne Peterson in Portland, Oregon contributed to this report......»»

Category: sportsSource:  abscbnRelated NewsMay 5th, 2019

WATCH: NBA game recap and highlights

      MANILA, Philippines – Damian Lillard struggled but CJ McCollum took charge as the Portland Trail Blazers overpowered the Denver Nuggets, 97-90, to level the series at one game apiece in the NBA Western Conference semifinals on Wednesday, May 1 (Thursday, May 2, Manila time). McCollum collected 20 points, 6 rebounds ........»»

Category: newsSource:  rapplerRelated NewsMay 3rd, 2019

Blazers aren t worried; Nuggets aren t satisfied

By Sekou Smith, NBA.com DENVER -- Terry Stotts has his schedule locked in through Mother’s Day. Same goes for Damian Lillard. That would take the Portland Trail Blazers’ coach and star point guard through Game 7 of their Western Conference semifinal against the Denver Nuggets, themselves hunkered down and prepared to go the distance in this series, if need be. [Watch the Playoffs on NBA League Pass for 30% less with this limited time offer! Select Annual package and use code SAVE30 at checkout to redeem] They’ve only played one game; Game 2 is Wednesday night (Thursday, PHL time) at Pepsi Center. But both sides seem resigned to the fact that the victor won’t get out of this series anytime soon. The Blazers are undaunted after coming up short in Monday’s (Tuesday, PHL time) Game 1, when the Nuggets capitalized on 18 Portland turnovers and turned them into 23 points in a 121-113 win. “It’s a seven-game series,” Stotts said Tuesday (Wednesday, PHL time). “I think both teams feel like they can play better. I read where coach [Michael] Malone and their players seem to think they can play better. We think we can play better. That’s part of a NBA series." “There’s certainly a lot we could have done better,” Stotts continued. “And when you have a chance to go back and watch it on video, you need that confidence going into the next game. A lot of it was at the defensive end. Offensively, the turnovers were a big concern. Hopefully, we’ll take care of that. But defensively there were a lot of areas we could clean up.” The Blazers had no answer for Nikola Jokic, who played a fantastic all-around game and took advantage of every defender Stotts tried on him. But the Nuggets didn’t fare much better against Lillard, who had his way with them to the tune of a game-high 39 points. “He still had 39 points, so we still have to do a better job and I think we will,” Nuggets guard Gary Harris said. “We just have to continue to stay locked in, continue to come back and get ready and just look at the film and look at the areas we can get better.” So for all the data you want to utilize from their respective first-round series, most simply do not apply this time around. Not only is the style completely different, but also the sense of urgency shifts into high gear, given what’s at stake for the winner. The adjustments, both schematically and emotionally, require work from both sides. “It’s a completely different game and opponent,” Malone said. “From Derrick White and DeMar DeRozan, who are not known as three-point shooters, to guarding CJ [McCollum] and Damian Lillard, who are very efficient three-point shooters. So your mindset has to change there on that alone, the personnel. “But now, I think going into this series, Damian Lillard in the first round, he was averaging 33 pick-and-rollls per game. That’s a crazy number. Your bigs are under constant duress, constant pressure to guard and contain, as are your smalls.” Lillard and McCollum promise to keep the pressure on, like always. Now they have to wipe their own history clean of what worked and didn’t work against the Thunder and focus squarely on the Nuggets. Attacking the perimeter defenders the Nuggets can throw at them might not produce the same results they did against the Thunder. The Nuggets have an assortment of longer and more active defenders they can throw at the guys who power the Blazers’ attack. With only a day between games to make adjustments, mistakes must be kept to a minimum. “Every series is going to be different,” Lillard said, clearly ready to move on from the Blazers’ recent playoff past. “Teams are different. The first round is not the second round. The Thunder are not the Nuggets. So I think your approach … obviously, that’s why you prepare so completely different. But the mentality has to stay the same as far as what we’re trying to get done. Being aggressive, being connected, doing everything together. I think in that way it’s the same. They’re a completely different team. And all that said, we had a chance to win the game … so in the end it’s just one game.” There’s a chance for six more in this series. And both sides seem prepared for as much. Sekou Smith is a veteran NBA reporter and NBA TV analyst. You can e-mail him here, find his archive here and follow him on Twitter. The views on this page do not necessarily reflect the views of the NBA, its clubs or Turner Broadcasting......»»

Category: sportsSource:  abscbnRelated NewsMay 1st, 2019

Bucks loathe to adjust gameplan after season-long success

By Steve Aschburner, NBA.com MILWAUKEE — Just one game removed from one of the most marvelous seasons of basketball in Milwaukee Bucks history – 60 victories in the regular season, a sweep of Detroit in the first round, the debut of a dazzling new arena – the team is loathe to let all that go and overreact to 48 minutes that didn’t go their way in Sunday's (Monday, PHL time) Game 1 loss to the Celtics. But if they underreact in Game 2 Tuesday (Wednesday, PHL time) at Fiserv Forum, it will be at their own peril. [Watch the Playoffs on NBA League Pass for 30% less with this limited time offer! Select Annual package and use code SAVE30 at checkout to redeem] Adjustments – from game-to-game, at halftime, even on the fly during live action – are as much a part of the NBA postseason as podium interviews. The reason is simple: Strategic mistakes, small failings and tendencies you can get away with facing teams randomly across a six-month canvas are sniffed out and exploited by an opponent you see as many as seven times in a two-week span. You can stubbornly stick with a pat hand, but most coaches and players would rather change things up to minimize what didn’t work last time and might, if repeated, prove fatal again. The Bucks, though, sounded a little clingy Monday (Tuesday, PHL time) in the wake of their 112-90 defeat. Wanting to hold on to everything that worked so well from October until, well, noon on April 28 (April 29, PHL time). “No, no. Definitely not,” forward Giannis Antetokounmpo said. “We’re just going to keep doing what we’ve been doing all year.” You might be inclined to read that quote assuming sarcasm, as in: Oh right, we’re just going to keep doing exactly what got us blown out and stripped of home-court advantage. Sure. After all, Antetokounmpo had one of his worst performances of the season (7-for-21 FGs, a minus-24 rating). But no, the Greek Freak was sincere. “I don’t think there should be no change at all,” he said. “Why should there be a change after a game that we lost, like … we should not be the team that makes the adjustments.” Antetokounmpo was not alone. “The way we’ve been playing all season has been just letting it fly,” center Brook Lopez said. “So even if we miss it 10-out-of-10 times, just keep [shooting].” The Bucks made 13 of their 39 three-point shots Sunday (Monday, PHL time), well off their regular-season rate of 38.2 percent. Lopez was 1-for-4 on three's and 1-for-5 overall, combining with fellow Bucks starters Sterling Brown and Eric Bledsoe to shoot 3-for-17 from the floor. Said Milwaukee coach Mike Budenholzer: “I think adjustments and all those things are sometimes overrated.” So unless the Bucks are trying to snooker the Celtics with some tweaks they weren’t willing to share, we’ll get to see how that pat hand plays out. Milwaukee did get serious mileage out of its formulas prior to Game 1. Offensively, they’ve surrounded Antetokounmpo with potent three-point shooters, relying on his drives into the lane to draw defenders and offer them unobstructed views from the arc. Defensively, they committed to defending the other guys’ three-pointers, protecting the rim and keeping foes off the foul line. What did that leave? Contested two-pointers and mid-range jumpers – so ugly and out-of-style in the NBA of 2019. It all worked tremendously – until the Celtics shot 15-of-27 on mid-range attempts in their rout. Suddenly, the Bucks’ sagging defense against pick-and-rolls looked as gimmicky and ineffective as that tactic deployed late this season of guarding Houston scorer James Harden from behind. Once the prolific Rockets scorer got over his shock at the unusual method, he was able to pick it apart. Ditto for the Celtics' shooters. Kyrie Irving is one of the most dangerous scorers from any place on the floor but particularly inventing ways to put the ball in the hoop in the mid-range. Celtics veteran Al Horford savored his looks inside the arc, as did Gordon Hayward. The Bucks, meanwhile, were 5-of-12 from mid-range. They try to avoid those shots for the same reasons they encourage opponents to take them. Never mind that the same dynamic was in play in the Houston-Golden State opener later in the day: the Rockets took only four mid-range shots, were 14-of-47 on three's and lost, because the Warriors were 10-of-23 on mid-range attempts and 31-of-53 on two-pointers overall. There is one area in which the Bucks believe they can adjust without, y’know, adjusting. They can play harder. A pervasive lack of hustle and urgency was apparent in real time at Fiserv but was undeniable when Budenholzer and his staff went to “the truth machine” before practice Monday (Tuesday, PHL time). That would be the video the Bucks reviewed before Monday's (Tuesday, PHL time) workout. “He chewed us out. And like I say, ‘Film don’t lie,’” Bledsoe said. “It was effort, man. We weren’t playing our game.” Antetokounmpo said he got scolded on that front in a postgame phone call from his older brother Thanasis. “No. 1, I play for my family,” he said. “So when he’s like, ‘C’mon man. Giannis! You’ve got to go, you’ve got to go. You’ve got to still be aggressive. You’ve got to make the right pass,’ it stabs you in your heart. But at the end of the day, I know it’s the truth.” The Bucks appeared a step slow on both ends. It showed when they went after loose balls or closed out on Celtics shooters. And it showed when lollygagging, relatively, in getting to their spots on offense. Boston already was sending extra defenders at Antetokounmpo, and the Bucks not being crisp in their execution never made them pay. “We weren’t as quick in transition,” Lopez said. “Our pace wasn’t great … We can be better at getting it out. Everyone running the floor, finding their spots. Keeping the spacing wide.” It should be noted the Bucks only lost two games in a row one time all season (March 2-4 against the Jazz and Suns). They’re proud of that resiliency. Of course, in the regular season, they only played the same opponent in consecutive games one time (New York, Dec. 26-28, PHL time). The Bucks never had to react after losses to specific things the other guys did. They merely had to be themselves, only better. “Even though we lost the first game, we’re just gonna come out and play our hardest and see how Game 2 goes,” Antetokounmpo said. “If it doesn’t go well for us, then you can think about adjusting. But right now, we’re not adjusting nothing.” Fine. But unless someone rattles Boston out of its comfort zone in the mid-range, Milwaukee’s adherence to its style of play could contribute to its undoing. Steve Aschburner has written about the NBA since 1980. You can e-mail him here, find his archive here and follow him on Twitter. The views on this page do not necessarily reflect the views of the NBA, its clubs or Turner Broadcasting......»»

Category: sportsSource:  abscbnRelated NewsApr 30th, 2019