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Lillard scores 25 as Trail Blazers beat Clippers 116-105

By Anne M. Peterson, Associated Press PORTLAND, Ore. (AP) — Damian Lillard had 25 points and the Portland Trail Blazers won their third straight game, 116-105 over the Los Angeles Clippers on Thursday night (Friday, PHL time). CJ McCollum added 23 points for Portland, which has won 6-of-7. Danilo Gallinari and Lou Williams each scored 20 for the Clippers. Shai Gilgeous-Alexander had a career-high 19. Portland had struggled all night to separate from the Clippers, but pulled in front 93-83 on Zach Collins' dunk with 9:42 left. Another dunk by Collins put the Blazers up 100-90 with 6:10 to go. The Clippers closed to 107-101 on Gallinari's jumper, but Jusuf Nurkic answered for Portland with a layup and Los Angeles could not get any closer down the stretch. There were questions before the game about the availability of Clippers forward Tobias Harris because of illness. Coach Doc Rivers said Harris was a game-time decision, but he was ultimately in the starting lineup. Harris, the team's leading scorer and rebounder, finished with 15 points and 11 boards for his fifth double-double this season. The Clippers were without Avery Bradley for the second straight game because of a left ankle sprain, and Luc Mbah a Moute missed his seventh game with a sore left knee. The Clippers missed Bradley's perimeter defense against Lillard and McCollum. Portland was without Maurice Harkless, who has missed seven straight games because of a sore left knee. Jake Layman has been starting in his place. The Blazers led 37-28 after the first quarter, paced by McCollum's 10 points. Portland never could extend the lead to double digits and led just 61-57 at the break. Gilgeous-Alexander and Montrezl Harrell each had 12 first-half points for the Clippers, while Lillard led all scorers with 14. Al-Farouq Aminu hit a three-pointer that gave Portland a 78-68 lead, its largest to that point, midway through the third quarter. The Clippers narrowed it again, closing to 81-77 on Harris' driving floater. Nurkic fouled out with 1:57 left, finishing with 16 points and nine rebounds. TIP-INS Clippers: The team put out a statement of sympathy for victims of the mass shooting in Thousand Oaks, California, on Wednesday night (Thursday, PHL time). Thousand Oaks is located northwest of Los Angeles. ... The Clippers were coming off a 120-109 win at home over Minnesota. Trail Blazers: The club held a moment of silence for victims of the shooting in California. ... Portland was coming off a 118-103 win at home over Milwaukee on Tuesday (Wednesday, PHL time). ... The Blazers have won the last four meetings between the teams. ... Lillard did not shoot a free throw. UP NEXT The Clippers host the Bucks on Saturday (Sunday, PHL time). The Trail Blazers host the Celtics on Sunday night (Monday, PHL time)......»»

Category: sportsSource: abscbn abscbnNov 9th, 2018

Durant scores 29 points, Warriors hold off Mavericks 120-116

By Janie McCauley, Associated Press OAKLAND, Calif. (AP) — Kevin Durant had 29 points with a key three-pointer with 15 seconds left, and added 12 rebounds and eight assists, as the Golden State Warriors held off a fourth-quarter rally and beat the Dallas Mavericks 120-116 on Saturday night (Sunday, PHL time). Durant and Andre Iguodala made consecutive three's for the Warriors late in the third for a 94-87 lead entering the final 12 minutes, then the Warriors extended the lead to double digits before the Mavericks made a game of it in the closing minutes. Harrison Barnes' jumper with 1:20 remaining against his former team got Dallas within 117-115, then Durant missed a layup on the other end. Stephen Curry contributed 22 points, five rebounds and five assists and Jonas Jerebko provided a nice boost with a season-high 23 points on 10-for-12 shooting with six rebounds in 21 minutes off the bench. The made field goals also were his most this season, and Jerebko received a rousing ovation when he took a seat with 6:39 to play. Mavericks rookie sensation Luka Doncic made 5-of-11 shots with three three-pointers in the first half for 14 of his 19 points, helping Dallas take a 61-58 lead at intermission. DeAndre Jordan matched his season-high with 23 rebounds, getting 12 before the break. Draymond Green had 14 points, 10 rebounds and five assists in Golden State's 12th straight victory against the Mavericks at Oracle Arena. Green, limited by injuries, vowed that his shots would start falling. He hit just his second and third three-pointers since early November, then gestured at the Mavericks to guard him. Green had been 1-of-16 from deep since making two on Halloween. Wesley Matthews scored 25 points on 9-for-15 shooting as Dallas lost its fifth straight. The Mavericks beat the two-time defending champions 112-109 at Dallas on Nov. 17 (Nov. 18, PHL time). Both teams played the first night of back-to-backs. BELOVED USHER LOST Georgia Wilton, an usher at Oracle Arena for 23 years, was honored during the second quarter with a tribute on the scoreboard from Warriors COO Rick Welts. Her photo was shown with the message "In Loving Memory of Georgia Wilton." Her daughters, June and Carol, were in attendance and shown on the screen. TIP-INS Mavericks: Jordan's rebounds were four off his career-best of 27. ... Barnes made three of his initial five shots for eight quick points and scored 17, but missed all seven of his three-point tries. ... G Dennis Smith Jr. sat out his ninth game with a sprained right wrist. ... The Mavericks dropped to 2-13 on the road and 1-11 away vs. the Western Conference. ... Dallas hasn't won on the Warriors' home floor since a 112-103 victory on April 12, 2012. Warriors: Golden State is 7-4 following a loss after falling 108-103 at Utah on Wednesday (Thursday, PHL tiem). ... Playing again Sunday (Monday, PHL time), this will be the second of three back-to-backs in which both games are home for Golden State. UP NEXT Mavericks: At Trail Blazers on Sunday night (Monday, PHL time). Warriors: Host the Clippers on Sunday night (Monday, PHL time) in their sixth time playing consecutive nights......»»

Category: sportsSource:  abscbnRelated NewsDec 23rd, 2018

Rubio scores 24 as Jazz beat Trail Blazers 120-90

By ERIK GARCIA GUNDERSON, Associated Press PORTLAND, Ore. (AP) — Ricky Rubio had 24 points and eight assists to lead the Utah Jazz to a 120-90 win over the Portland Trail Blazers on Friday night (Saturday, PHL time). Kyle Korver scored 18 points and Jae Crowder added 16 as the two combined to shoot 7 for 14 on 3-pointers for Utah. Damian Lillard had 19 points to lead the Trail Blazers, who suffered their worst home loss since 2004. The Jazz took control of the game in the first quarter thanks to reserves Korver and Crowder. The two helped the Jazz take a 2-point lead early in the second and the advantage The Jazz took a 12-point early in the second quarter, led by 14 after three before pulling away in the fourth. Crowder and Korver seemingly alternated 3-point baskets while back-up point guard Dante Exum racked up assist after assist setting them up. Exum finished with seven assists and six points. Things only got better for the Jazz from there as their strong 3-point shooting did not stop. Utah finished 16 for 31 (51 percent) on 3s.  Everybody from the bench players, to unheralded shooters like Ricky Rubio, got open 3s to go. While things were going well for the Jazz, the Blazers were struggling.  They shot 41 percent from the field and 31 percent from long-distance. Their turnovers were also costly as the Jazz scored 21 points off Portland turnovers. One sequence in particular seemed to encapsulate the night for Portland as Lillard missed a dunk and then upon getting the rebound, threw the ball to teammate Jusuf Nurkic, who was standing near the bench but not in the game. TIP-INS Jazz: Donovan Mitchell hasn't had a very efficient shooting season, and he's shot even worse as of late. For the past seven games, he's been shooting 35 percent from the field, including 29 percent on 3s. Don't expect him to stop shooting. As coach Quin Snyder said before the game, he's being selfish if he doesn't shoot. "He's got to play, he's got to attack," Snyder said. "He's our guy. You start questioning that, he's fine. We won a game and he didn't shoot great. He's not going to shoot great at times but there's been plenty of games when he's had a rough night. He's capable of doing that for him, that's what we want. If he doesn't shoot, that's Donovan being selfish." Mitchell was 1 for 10 from the field against the Blazers. Trail Blazers: After a brief swoon, the Trail Blazers entered the game having won three straight. A big key to the success was the play of the reserves. That is something Stotts believes is an indicator. "That group has done a good job of Evan (Turner), Seth (Curry), Nik (Stauskas), Zach (Collins), Meyers (Leonard), have all done a good job of keeping things going," he said. "We had a rough stretch and our record kind of reflected that but two out of the last three games." The above group has performed very well this season as they've outscored their opponents by 15.7 points per 100 possessions, according to NBA.com. UP NEXT Jazz: Host Oklahoma City on Saturday. Trail Blazers: Host Dallas on Sunday......»»

Category: sportsSource:  abscbnRelated NewsDec 22nd, 2018

Lillard scores 39, leads Trail Blazers over Clippers 131-127

By Beth Harris, Associated Press LOS ANGELES (AP) — Damian Lillard scored 22 of his 39 points in a dominant third quarter and the Portland Trail Blazers defeated the Los Angeles Clippers 131-127 on Monday night (Tuesday, PHL time). Lillard hit five of his six three-pointers in the third when the Blazers outscored the Clippers 42-28. Portland was 10-of-20 from three-point range in the game. C.J. McCollum added 27 points and Jusuf Nurkic had 20. Tobias Harris matched Lillard with a career-high 39 points and rookie Shai Gilgeous-Alexander added 24 for the Clippers, who have lost four in a row for the first time this season. Los Angeles trailed by 15 in the first quarter but erased the deficit in the second when the Clippers took their first lead, only to fall behind by 15 again in the third. Lillard's fifth triple left the Clippers down 95-80. Portland made seven three's in the period and stretched its lead to 18 points early in the fourth. The Clippers chipped away and got to 125-123 after Harris hit 3-of-4 free throws. McCollum's jumper kept Portland ahead 127-123. Danilo Gallinari, who finished with 22 points, missed a three-pointer, but after a scramble, got the ball back and made the same shot to leave the Clippers trailing 127-126. McCollum got fouled and made both to keep the Trail Blazers ahead by three. The Clippers were forced to foul Lillard, who hit both free throws to seal the win. Gilgeous-Alexander's three-pointer in the final seconds missed. The Trail Blazers set the tone in the opening quarter when they began the game on a 33-18 run while shooting 80 percent from the floor. TIP-INS Trail Blazers: Terry Stotts recorded his 289th victory and is two from tying Rick Adelman for second on the team's all-time coaching wins list. ... The Blazers have won five of their last six against the Clippers. Clippers: Montrezl Harrell committed a flagrant-2 foul in the fourth and was ejected. ... Los Angeles fell to 7-2 against West opponents at home. ... Tyronn Lue, fired as Cavaliers coach in October, was a visitor. He was a Clippers assistant in 2013-14. ... G Lou Williams (sore left hamstring) and F Luc Mbah a Moute (sore left knee) could return within the next week. Williams has missed four straight games, while Mbah a Moute has been out for 26 in a row. UP NEXT Trail Blazers: Host Memphis on Wednesday (Thursday, PHL time). Clippers: Host Dallas on Thursday (Friday, PHL time)......»»

Category: sportsSource:  abscbnRelated NewsDec 18th, 2018

George scores 33 to help Thunder top Clippers 110-104

By Cliff Brunt, Associated Press OKLAHOMA CITY (AP) — Paul George scored 33 points to help the Oklahoma City Thunder beat the Los Angeles Clippers 110-104 on Saturday night (Sunday, PHL time). It was the fourth time in seven games George scored at least 30 points. Russell Westbrook had 13 points, 12 assists, nine rebounds and six steals for Oklahoma City. Jerami Grant scored 18 points and Steven Adams added 16 for the Thunder, who bounced back from a 109-98 loss at Denver on Friday night (Saturday, PHL time). Danilo Gallinari matched a season high with 28 points, Tobias Harris scored 22 and Montrezl Harrell added 21 for the Clippers. The Thunder led 61-50 at halftime, despite Westbrook going scoreless for almost 22 minutes to start the game. George picked up the slack with 21 points in the first half. Los Angeles' Patrick Beverley got called for a technical foul in the closing seconds of the third quarter, and George made the free throw to give the Thunder an 86-69 lead at the end of the period. Harrell scored, was fouled and made the free throw with just over a minute remaining to cut Oklahoma City's lead to six. With the margin still six, Harrell was fouled by Westbrook on a dunk attempt with 20.7 seconds left. He missed both free throws, and the Thunder called timeout. Oklahoma City got the ball inbounds, and George passed his way out of a trap to find Grant for a dunk that put the game out of reach. TIP-INS Clippers: G Lou Williams missed his third straight game with a sore left hamstring. ... C Marcin Gortat was called for a technical in the second quarter. ... Beverley, long hated by Thunder fans for his numerous run-ins with Westbrook, scored nine points but committed five fouls. Thunder: Forced 26 turnovers, the most for an opponent this season. ... Shot 47 percent from the field. UP NEXT Clippers: Host the Portland Trail Blazers on Monday (Tuesday, PHL time). Thunder: Host the Chicago Bulls on Monday (Tuesday, PHL time)......»»

Category: sportsSource:  abscbnRelated NewsDec 16th, 2018

Lillard scores 24, Blazers hold off NBA-best Raptors 128-122

By Anne M. Peterson, Associated Press PORTLAND, Ore. (AP) — Damian Lillard had 24 points and the Portland Trail Blazers snapped a two-game slide with a confidence-boosting 128-122 victory over the NBA-leading Toronto Raptors on Friday night (Saturday, PHL time). Zach Collins scored 16 points and Seth Curry added a season-high 13, including three key tbhree-pointers at the start of the fourth quarter. Both were part of a Portland bench that outscored Toronto's reserves 58-26. Kawhi Leonard returned after missing two games and had 28 points for the Raptors (23-8), who played without All-Star point guard Kyle Lowry. Danny Green added 19 points and 11 rebounds, matching his season high with five triples. Portland led by 16 in the fourth quarter but Leonard and C.J. Miles made consecutive three's to pull the Raptors to 117-113 with 2:44 left. Lillard hit a three-pointer for Portland before Leonard had another three and Fred VanVleet made a layup to get Toronto to 120-118. CJ McCollum and Al Farouq-Aminu answered with consecutive three's to extend Portland's lead to 126-118 with just under a minute to go. Leonard dunked on the other end, but the Raptors couldn't get any closer. Portland was in first place in the Western Conference after beating Washington on the road back on Nov. 18 (Nov. 19, PHL time) to improve to 11-5. But the team lost eight of 11 going into Friday night's (Saturday, PHL time) game to tumble into ninth in the conference. The Raptors, meanwhile, had lost just three previous games on the road this season. The victory snapped a six-game Portland losing streak to the Raptors. Lowry sat out with a left thigh bruise. VanVleet started in his place and finished with 21 points. Lowry led the Raptors with 23 points in a 113-93 win over Golden State on Wednesday (Thursday, PHL time). The victory was costly, however. Jonas Valanciunas dislocated his thumb in the game and required surgery. He will be in a cast for the next four weeks. Valanciunas was averaging 12.8 points and 7.2 rebounds a game. Portland was coming off a pair of losses on the road to Houston and Memphis. The Blazers went up 42-31 in the first half after Meyers Leonard's alley-oop dunk from Evan Turner. Portland led by as many as 13 and went into the break in front 58-50. Leonard, who was 0-for-5 from the field in the first half, had eight points to open the third quarter and his jumper got the Raptors to 59-64. But Leonard picked up his fourth foul later in the quarter and went to the bench for a while. OG Anunoby's jumper closed the Raptors to 82-80 but Collins answered with a three-pointer for the Blazers. After Portland had a 91-89 edge going into the fourth, Curry made a pair of three-pointers and the Blazers pushed the lead to 101-90. Curry hit another triple to give Portland a 107-93 advantage. TIP-INS Raptors: Former Oregon Ducks forward Chris Boucher was called up from the G-League on Thursday (Friday, PHL time). He will help fill the void created by Valanciunas' absence. ... It was the third of a four-game road trip for Toronto. Trail Blazers: It was Portland's third straight win at home. ... There was a sizable contingent of Raptors fans and several Canadian flags at the Moda Center. One group sang along loudly to the Canadian national anthem before the game. UP NEXT Raptors: Play at Denver on Sunday (Monday, PHL time). Trail Blazers: Portland has a one-game road trip to play the Clippers on Monday (Tuesday, PHL time)......»»

Category: sportsSource:  abscbnRelated NewsDec 15th, 2018

Harris, Gallinari help Clippers edge Blazers 104-100

By Erik Garcia Gundersen, Associated Press PORTLAND, Ore. (AP) — Tobias Harris had 34 points and 11 rebounds, and the Los Angeles Clippers beat the Portland Trail Blazers 104-100 on Sunday night (Monday, PHL time). Danilo Gallinari made the tie-breaking jumper with 47 seconds left and added 17 points for the Clippers. Damian Lillard scored 30 points for Portland, which led by 13 at halftime but then had to play the second half without starting center Jusuf Nurkic because of a bruised shoulder. With Portland missing its defensive anchor, the Clippers began the half on a 20-4 run. The Clippers kept the momentum going, outscoring the Blazers 38-16 in the third quarter. With the game slipping away, Blazers coach Terry Stotts left Lillard in the game to start the fourth quarter, and the star guard’s personal 7-0 run in a span of 12 seconds tied it at 100 with 1:53 left. But Gallinari made a short pull-up jumper, Portland missed a couple jumpers on the next possession and Patrick Beverley clinched it with a pair of free throws. The loss ruined Maurice Harkless’ first start of the season. He had returned Wednesday (Thursday, PHL time) from a knee injury that kept him out since Oct. 29 (Oct. 30, PHL time). TIP-INS Clippers: Los Angeles improved to 13-6, the best record in the Western Conference. The Clippers have done it with a roster absent of household names, but depth is the reason they are where they are. “You have seven or eight guys that can start and they do,” Clippers coach Doc Rivers said. “We move it around. But as long as your group is good with that and the changes and we have good group.” Trail Blazers: After a strong start to the season, the Blazers sputtered in the last two games of their road trip, losing by a combined 71 points. The defense, which was at one point in the top five in the league, has fallen to 16th in defensive efficiency. “We’ve had three relatively poor defensive games, two of them against very good offensive teams,” coach Terry Stotts said before the game. “I am concerned. It’s not a trend I want to continue. Milwaukee was a train wreck.” UP NEXT Clippers: Host Phoenix on Wednesday (Thursday, PHL time). Trail Blazers: Host Orlando on Wednesday (Thursday, PHL time)......»»

Category: sportsSource:  abscbnRelated NewsNov 26th, 2018

Borrego: Hiring female coaches shows NBA trending right way

By Tim Reynolds, Associated Press NBA Commissioner Adam Silver wants more women throughout the league. He’s getting his wish. In recent days, two significant moves were made, with Kristi Toliver being added to Washington’s staff of assistant coaches, and Chasity Melvin getting hired as an assistant coach with Charlotte’s G League affiliate in Greensboro, North Carolina. Those hires are signs of progress. Few seemed to notice, which also is not all bad. Women are a becoming a bigger part of the league now than ever before. The hires of Toliver and Melvin were not overlooked; it just no longer seems like such an unusual thing to bring a woman into the fray of an NBA club, probably because the likes of San Antonio assistant Becky Hammon, former Sacramento assistant Nancy Lieberman, Dallas assistant Jenny Boucek, Clippers G League assistant Natalie Nakase and Memphis analyst Nicki Gross took care of the first wave of trailblazing. “I think it’s great and I think it’s great for the NBA,” said Charlotte’s James Borrego, the league’s first Hispanic full-time coach. “It speaks to our league, the diversity, the openness, the inclusion and I’m proud to be part of that, part of a league that’s open to that. I’ve been around Becky Hammon for a number of years now. These are bright women that belong in our league.” Certainly, there’s much more progress to be made, including in business offices around the league — as well as on the sidelines. There’s never been a female NBA head coach, though Hammon — a longtime part of the staff in San Antonio, where Borrego was before taking the Charlotte job — seems on the cusp of breaking that glass ceiling. Only three women have been hired as full-time NBA referees, though Natalie Sago and Ashley Moyer-Gleich will get games this season and are already highly respected by many peers. Borrego expects the numbers of women in the league to increase. “They’re here to stay,” Borrego said. “That’s not going anywhere. It’s only going to trend in that direction.” SCORING UP If you think there’s been a lot more scoring than usual in the NBA this season, you’re right. Granted, six days of basketball is a small —and statistically insignificant— sample size in a six-month season. But teams averaged 106.3 points per game last season, and they’re off to an average of 113.3 points so far this season. Should that average somehow hold up over the course of a full season, it would be the league’s highest since teams averaged 116.7 points in 1969-70. “This is a new age of basketball and this is where we are,” Dallas coach Rick Carlisle said. “The days of games in the 80s are probably done. Everything’s spread out. It’s freedom of movement. There’s four attackers and often times five three-point shooters and there are missiles flying everywhere.” For perspective: There were eight instances in October 2017 of teams scoring 130 or more points. So far in October 2018, there’s been nine — with 10 days of play left this month. But big numbers hasn’t meant every game is a rout. There’s already been 12 games this season decided by three points or less. G LEAGUE CHANGES Over the next few weeks, more details will likely come out about the G League’s plan to offer $125,000 contracts to elite prospects who aren’t yet eligible for the NBA draft. Much of the details remain unclear: who will get them, how they’ll get them, how many deals will be offered. Another murky part of all this is how the players will be assigned to teams. What would make the most sense is for the G League to go back into the NBA’s past for an answer there. The last territorial pick in the NBA was in 1965, but that’s the road the G League needs to go down now. For a league that’s still looking to grow, imagine the possibilities of putting a potential star with plenty of potential near his hometown. It’ll generate interest, which the G League surely could use. GAMES OF THE DAY If you’re going to watch only one game per day this week, we recommend: — Wizards at Trail Blazers, Monday (Tuesday, PHL time): John Wall and Bradley Beal in one backcourt, Damian Lillard and CJ McCollum in the other. — Clippers at Pelicans, Tuesday (Wednesday, PHL time): Anthony Davis averaged 29.8 points, 11.5 rebounds and 3.0 blocks against the Clippers last season. — Knicks at Heat, Wednesday (Thursday, PHL time): New York’s David Fizdale coached on the Miami side of the rivalry for years as a Heat assistant. — Celtics at Thunder, Thursday (Friday, PHL time): Oklahoma City took leads into the fourth quarter against Boston twice last season, and went 0-2. — Bucks at Timberwolves, Friday (Saturday, PHL time): Milwaukee was one of the teams rumored to be in the Jimmy Butler sweepstakes in recent weeks. — Lakers at Spurs, Saturday (Sunday, PHL time): LeBron James’ teams are 5-1 when he scores at least 30 at San Antonio, and 1-14 when he doesn’t. — Warriors at Nets, Sunday (next Monday, PHL time): Stephen Curry put on a dynamic show in Brooklyn last season — 39 points, 11 rebounds, seven assists. MILESTONE WATCH Spurs coach Gregg Popovich enters this week two wins shy of 1,200 for his regular-season career. He’ll be the fifth NBA coach to reach that milestone. ___ AP Sports Writer Schuyler Dixon in Dallas contributed......»»

Category: sportsSource:  abscbnRelated NewsOct 22nd, 2018

DA s 2018 NBA Offseason Rankings: The Bottom 10

By David Aldridge, TNT Analyst Wonder what the rental market is like in San Luis Obispo, Calif. San Luis Obispo is, give or take a few miles, one of the closest cities that is near the midway point between Los Angeles and San Francisco. Given the events of the NBA’s offseason, it’s not hare to imagine national reporters are going to be spending a lot of time in California next season, bouncing back and forth between the Bay and L.A. Catch LeBron James and the Lakers on Wednesday and then, Stephen Curry, Kevin Durant and the Warriors on Thursday. The Western Conference only got stronger and deeper with James leaving Cleveland for a second time, this time to go to the Lakers. Add four of the top five Draft picks -- including No. 1 overall selection Deandre Ayton (Phoenix Suns), No. 2 pick Marvin Bagley III (Sacramento Kings) and international phenom Luka Doncic (No. 3 pick, acquired by Dallas Mavericks) -- going to Western Conference teams, and the talent disparity between conferences only seems greater. But did Eastern Conference teams take advantage of Cleveland deflating to make their teams better? And how effective were West teams in making their teams better prepared to at least compete with the Warriors? That’s where this year’s Offseason Rankings come in -- big, bold, definitive. You love them, if the amount of hate tweets and e-mails I get after they’re published are any indication. Every year, we rank how all 30 teams have done since the end of their respective seasons. We look at everything -- how they drafted, what trades they made, what players they signed in free agency, and for how much -- or if they didn’t participate in free agency much at all. We look at if they’ve changed coaches, executives, owners, or if they’re moving into a new building that can generate big revenues. And you have to decide which ones you liked the most. Here's what these rankings ARE NOT: A predicted order of finish for next season. It's an opinion that seeks to answer a question: is the team better now than at the end of last season? The ranking reflects the belief on whether, and how much, that is so. (I liked certain guys who were in the Draft more than others, so if your team took them, I probably weighed it more positively. Doesn't mean I'm right.) I do not expect the Suns, for example, to have a better record than the Celtics, just because they had a better summer. It is not a ranking of the teams in order from 1 through 30 right now; I do not believe the Mavericks are now a better team than Rockets. This is just one person’s opinion about offseason moves -- offseason moves only. Is your team better now than it was before? - If your team is ranked in the top 10, it doesn't mean I love your team.       - If your team is ranked in the bottom 10, it doesn't mean I hate your team. It's an opinion that seeks to answer a question: is the team better now than at the end of last season? The ranking reflects the belief on whether, and how much, that is so. (I liked certain guys who were in the Draft more than others, so if your team took them, I probably weighed it more positively. Doesn't mean I'm right.) What plays into the rankings: - This isn’t science. It’s an educated guess, weighing the impact both of the Draft and free agency, but also assessing whether teams got value in their free-agent signings. Overpaying the right player is as much a sin as signing the wrong player. A good new coach can coax some more wins out of a roster. But if a team’s players don’t believe in the system their team uses, the best Xs and Os on earth don’t matter.       - Teams that are rebuilding obviously have different priorities than teams making a championship push. That's factored in. So Chicago, for example, gets credit for adding young, affordable players as it stockpiles its talent -- but that talent has to fit together, as Wendell Carter Jr. does with Lauri Markannen. And a team like the Warriors that shows it’s willing to go deep into the luxury tax -- which most teams try to avoid -- in order to keep winning has to be commended, and its rankings reflect that commendation.       - Continuity matters here as well. The most successful teams usually not only identify a core group of players, they keep them together for a while, finding that sweet spot: everyone doesn’t get a max contract, but most get paid well enough to keep the train moving down the tracks. That reflects both good roster construction and good financial management -- and, again, is rewarded. The explosion in the cap means everyone has to spend; keeping your powder dry for another day doesn’t have as much cache as it used to. But you still have to manage your money wisely. Salary numbers, with a couple of exceptions, come from Basketball Insiders, whose Eric Pincus does the best job of anyone in the game of keeping track of all the moving financial parts, quickly and accurately -- which is why we use him at NBA TV during the Draft and free agency to tell us what the hell this all means. The Bottom 10 * * * 21. DETROIT PISTONS 2017-18 RECORD: 39-43; missed playoffs ADDED: Coach Dwane Casey; New executive Ed Stefanski; G Bruce Brown (No. 42 pick, 2018 Draft); G Jose Calderon (one year, $2.3 million); C Zaza Pachulia (one year, $2.3 million); G/F Glenn Robinson III (two years, $8.3 million); G Khyri Thomas (No. 38 pick, 2018 Draft) LOST: Former coach Stan Van Gundy; G Dwight Buycks (waived); F/C Eric Moreland (waived); F Anthony Tolliver (signed with Wolves) RETAINED: None THE KEY MAN: F Blake Griffin. And he will be for some time. The Pistons need him to be his former All-Star self again, able to take slower defender to the basket, able to stretch the floor if he plays the five in small-ball lineups. They need him to be a playmaker, to get Reggie Jackson more looks off the ball and Andre Drummond some high-low lobs at the rim. They need him to sell tickets at Little Caesars Arena in Detroit’s revitalized downtown -- a building that seems to be more for the NHL’s Red Wings than the NBA’s Pistons. And they need Griffin to be an anchor that draws players to the Motor City during the life of his extension. THE SKINNY: Owner Tom Gores agonized over firing Van Gundy, but he finally did so, and was fortunate that Casey was available and willing to step right back into the fray after being cashiered in Toronto. Casey will be quite in his element building a defense around Drummond, but, like Van Gundy, Casey will need Jackson to stay healthy; he’s missed a combined 67 games the last two seasons. Detroit did well for not having a first-round pick to come out of the Draft with two solid guard prospects deep in the second in Thomas and Brown. However, the new coaching staff will have to get more out of the team’s last three first-rounders: Stanley Johnson (2015), Henry Ellenson (2016) and Luke Kennard (2017). 22. BOSTON CELTICS 2017-18 RECORD: 55-27; lost in Eastern Conference finals ADDED: G Brad Wanamaker (one year, $838,000); C Robert Williams (No. 27 pick, 2018 Draft) LOST: G Shane Larkin (signed to play in Turkey); F Abdel Nader (traded to Thunder) RETAINED: C Aron Baynes (two years, $10.6 million); F Jabari Bird (two years, $3 million), G Marcus Smart (four years, $52 million) THE KEY MAN: F Gordon Hayward. All indications are he’s well on his way back from that horrific injury he suffered on opening night last season. He can do so many great things in coach Brad Stevens’ system, and if he’s 100 percent by the playoffs, Boston may well be the one team that can match up, player for player, with Golden State in a Finals meeting. (Remember this when people inevitably say I ranked the Celtics 23rd in offseason moves.) THE SKINNY: Boston got its biggest work done after Smart couldn’t loosen up an offer sheet from the Sacramento Kings or Dallas Mavericks, and eventually worked out a deal for less than he sought to return. Smart’s deal puts Boston in the tax for the foreseeable future, but the Celtics knew that was the next step in keeping a Finals-capable core group together. With Kyrie Irving and Hayward expected back on line Stevens can throw so many different lineups out there, all committed to stifling opponent movement with long, switching defenders led by Smart, Jaylen Brown and Jayson Tatum. Williams was worth an end of the first flier, though he didn’t get off to a great start. If he gets a good wake-up alarm on his phone, he has a chance to be the Celtics’ center of the future. 23. PHILADELPHIA 76ERS 2017-18 RECORD: 52-30; lost in Eastern Conference semifinals ADDED: F Wilson Chandler (acquired from Nuggets); F/C Mike Muscala (acquired from Hawks); G Zhaire Smith (No. 16 pick, 2018 Draft); G Landry Shamet (No. 26 pick, 2018 Draft); G Shake Milton (No. 54 pick, 2018 Draft) LOST: Former GM Bryan Colangelo (resigned); F Justin Anderson (traded to Hawks); G Marco Belinelli (signed with Spurs); F/C Richaun Holmes (traded to Suns); F Ersan Ilyasova (signed with Bucks); G/F Timothe Luwawu-Cabarrot (traded to Thunder) RETAINED: C/F Amir Johnson (one year, $1.5 million); G T.J. McConnell (picked up team option); G J.J. Redick (one year, $12.2 million) THE KEY MAN: G Markelle Fultz. His rookie year laid waste by a combination of injury and the yips -- which the Sixers have finally copted to -- Fultz is reportedly rebuilding his shot successfully under the learned eye of development coach Drew Hansen. If that carries over to the fall, Fultz will get a true opportunity (he had some cameos late in his rookie season) to show a skeptical Philly fan base he was worth the top pick in 2017, and worth Philly trading up to get him. He definitely could fill a need with the 76ers for a second playmaker to go with and occasionally in place of reigning Kia Rookie of the Year winner Ben Simmons. But if Fultz has another setback, physically or otherwise, it will be hard for him to stick much longer in Philly -- not a town known for patient reflection with regard to its sports teams. THE SKINNY: Coach Brett Brown was quite clear when he said the Sixers were hunting for a superstar this summer with the cap space they’d assiduously cleared the last couple of years. But the summer has come and gone and there’s no LeBron, no Kawhi, no trade, at least not yet, for Jimmy Butler or anyone else at that level. Belinelli and Ilyasova both played huge roles for Philly in the playoffs; maybe Fultz (see above) takes on some of that role, and Chandler will help. But this doesn’t feel like a successful offseason for one of the real risers in the East. 24. PORTLAND TRAIL BLAZERS 2017-18 RECORD: 49-33; lost in first round ADDED: G Seth Curry (one year, $2.7 million); G Nik Stauskas (one year, $1.6 million); G Anfernee Simons (No. 24 pick, 2018 Draft); G Gary Trent Jr. (No. 37 pick, 2018 Draft) LOST: G/F Pat Connaughton (signed with Bucks); F/C Ed Davis (signed with Nets); G Shabazz Napier (signed with Nets); C Georgios Papagiannis (waived) RETAINED: C Jusuf Nurkic (four years, $48 million) THE KEY MAN: Assistant coaches David Vanterpool, Nate Tibbets, Dale Osbourne, Jim Moran, John McCullough and Jonathan Yim. With the Blazers mostly landlocked the next two seasons -- they’re currently above the projected luxury tax line both for next season and 2019-20 -- there aren’t likely going to be many significant roster changes for a while. And in the West, especially, standing pat is often falling behind. It will thus fall to Portland’s excellent staff behind coach Terry Stotts to maximize the production of the current group. They can point with some pride to success stories like Will Barton and Allen Crabbe, now in Denver and Brooklyn, respectively, along with Maurice Harkless and Al-Faroqu Aminu. For Portland to take another step up, they’ll have to coach up someone like 2017 first-rounder Zach Collins or this year’s first-rounder, Simons. They must have them exceed expectations to become a third legit star behind Damian Lillard and C.J. McCollum. THE SKINNY: Lillard insists the rumblings heard in some quarters that he’s unhappy in Portland aren’t true, and the franchise better hope he’s being honest. The decisions the Blazers made in 2016 continue to lock them in place; if they catch a favorable first-round matchup (a grumbling Rockets team in 2014; an injury-strafed Clippers squad in 2016), they can advance a round. But last year’s 4-0 sweep by the New Orleans Pelicans had to give everyone pause. How does Portland respond mentally? Re-upping Big Nurk in the middle on a very reasonable deal -- $12 million for a starting center was the going rate five years ago, when the Wolves gave Nikola Pekovic a five-year, $60 million contract -- was necessary. But losing Davis, a locker room and fan favorite for superior work ethic, will hurt, even though Collins should sop up a lot of those minutes. 25. ORLANDO MAGIC 2017-18 RECORD: 25-57; missed playoffs ADDED: Coach Steve Clifford; C Mohamed Bamba (No. 6 pick, 2018 Draft); G Isaiah Briscoe (three years, $3.9 million); F Melvin Frazier (No. 35 pick, 2018 Draft); F Jerian Grant (acquired from Bulls); F Justin Jackson (No. 43 pick, 2018 Draft); F Jarrell Martin (acquired from Grizzlies); C Timofey Mozgov (acquired from Hornets) LOST: C Bismack Biyombo (traded to Hornets); G Mario Hezonja (signed with Knicks); C Dakari Johnson (traded to Grizzlies); G Shelvin Mack (waived); G Rodney Purvis (traded to Thunder) RETAINED: F Aaron Gordon (four years, $82 million) THE KEY MAN: G D.J. Augustin. A vet’s vet, he’s played 10 years in the league and started 226 games for eight teams, including 56 over the last two for the Magic. He’ll enter this season as the unquestioned starter at the point with Elfrid Payton in New Orleans and Orlando still looking to solve its long-term search for a point guard. It’s Augustin’s turn. THE SKINNY: At some point, Orlando’s yearly gambles on size and potential will pay off. Bamba could be the goods; he’s got a demeanor and toughness that should keep him together while he learns the craft at the pro level. But -- again -- it will take some time for Bamba, like 2017 first-rounder Jonathan Isaac, and Gordon, in whom Orlando invested a sizeable sum in July, to flourish. And Magic fans rightly can ask exactly how long they’re to remain patient. Clifford is supposed to improve the defense, but so was Frank Vogel … and so was Scott Skiles … and so was Jacque Vaughn. 26. NEW ORLEANS PELICANS 2017-18 RECORD: 48-34; lost in Western Conference semifinals ADDED: G Tony Carr (No. 51 pick, 2018 Draft); G Elfrid Payton (one year, $3 million); F Julius Randle (two years, $17 million) LOST: C DeMarcus Cousins (signed with Warriors); G Rajon Rondo (signed with Lakers) RETAINED: G Ian Clark (one year, $1.7 million); F Nikola Mirotic (picked up player option) THE KEY MAN: Owner Gayle Benson. Mrs. Benson took control of the team after the death of her husband, Tom, last March. She displayed great grace in the days and weeks after Tom Benson’s death, making it clear at the time she had no interest in selling the team and would continue to make outlays to keep the team competitive. The Pels didn’t blink last summer giving Jrue Holiday $126 million, and that will have to remain the case going forward if New Orleans is to repeat its surprising run to the Western Conference semifinals last spring. THE SKINNY: Can’t lose your starting point guard and your starting All-Star center in one offseason -- no matter what the circumstances -- and come out of it with high offseason marks. And especially when Rondo seemed like the perfect fit for the team. Mirotic mentioned during the Warriors series how good Rondo was at picking him up and connecting him quickly with the team after he was traded to New Orleans from Chicago. And, yes, coach Alvin Gentry mentioned he may have exchanged cusses with Rondo every now and again, too. Life in RondoWorld. The path forward is narrower, but not impassible; Randle can be tantalizing at times, maddening at others, but he could plug-and-play at the four, and he can take some of the playmaking burden off of Holiday. But big minutes on the ball for Holiday again is not what New Orleans had in mind. Payton is going to have to perform immediately. And losing “Boogie” Cousins is a big minus. It’s not what the Pelicans gave up to get him. It’s the fit and flow he had with Anthony Davis before the injury, and what the promise of a return this season could have meant toward carrying the momentum of last year forward. 27. MINNESOTA TIMBERWOLVES 2017-18 RECORD: 47-35; lost in first round ADDED: F Anthony Tolliver (one year, $5.7 million); G Josh Okogie (No. 20 pick, 2018 Draft); F Keita Bates-Diop (No. 48 pick, 2018 Draft) LOST: C Cole Aldrich (waived); F Nemanja Bjelica (signed with Kings) RETAINED: G Derrick Rose (one year, $1.5 million) THE KEY MAN: Vikings QB Kirk Cousins. He signed for big, big money by NFL standards (three years, $84 million), and the Vikings have Super Bowl aspirations. So all the light will be on the Vikes most of the fall and winter in Minneapolis, keeping it off of the still-young Wolves, who won’t be able to sneak up on anyone after breaking their long postseason drought. THE SKINNY: The Wolves should be positioned to build on their playoff run, especially if Butler can get through a full season healthy and Karl-Anthony Towns adds consistency to his prodigious talents. But they didn’t do much in the offseason, and the team that they beat out on the last day of the regular season, Denver, looks to be much improved. Tolliver should help the Wolves’ depth; they essentially traded him for Bjelica, and he shot slightly better on 3-poiners last season than Belly. Plus, they don’t come better as a guy than Tolliver and he can help Minnesota in the locker room. The issue of Butler’s contract isn’t going away; there will be a reckoning at some point, and he’ll have a lot more options next summer than free agents had this summer. Until then, coach Tom Thibodeau has pretty much the same team that he has to cajole better defense out of next season (22nd in Defensive Rating; 17th in points allowed). 28. CHARLOTTE HORNETS 2017-18 RECORD: 36-46; missed playoffs ADDED: Coach James Borrego; GM Mitch Kupchack; C Bismack Biyombo (acquired from Magic); F Miles Bridges (No. 12 pick, 2018 Draft); G Devonte' Graham (No. 34 pick, 2018 Draft); F Arnoldas Kulboka (No. 55 pick, 2018 Draft); ; G Tony Parker (two years, $10.2 milliion) LOST: G Michael Carter-Williams (signed with Rockets); C Dwight Howard (traded to Nets); C Timofey Mozgov (traded to Magic); G Julyan Stone (traded to Bulls) RETAINED: None THE KEY MAN: C Cody Zeller. It’s a guess -- Borrego could opt for Frank Kaminsky III -- but Zeller would seem to be the replacement at center for Dwight Howard, who wound up in Washington after the Hornets traded him to the Nets. Zeller started 58 games two years ago and was very good in screen and rolls with Kemba Walker. Zeller only played in 33 games last season because of a left knee injury; if he returns to form, the Hornets could pick up offensively and actually have a little more diversity at that end than last season. THE SKINNY: Team owner Michael Jordan cleaned house after a disappointing 2017-18, bringing another Tar Heel back home in the veteran Kupchak. Kupchak dispatched Howard and then got Mozgov’s guaranteed 2019-20 season off his books to take back Biyombo, who’d left Toronto two years ago for $72 million from the Magic and who’s got a player option for 2019-20. Well before then, the Hornets are going to have to decide what to do with Walker, who’ll be one of the top free agents available next summer if Charlotte can’t get him re-signed or extended. The Hornets were 8.8 points worse when the two-time All-Star was off the court rather than on. Nicolas Batum has to make a return to the all-around talent that enticed Charlotte to trade for him and give him a $120 million extension; he averaged just 11.6 points per game last year, his lowest in three years. Howard’s presence in the paint may have clogged things up some, but that’s no longer the case. 29. CLEVELAND CAVALIERS 2017-18 RECORD: 50-32; lost in The Finals ADDED: F Channing Frye (one year, $2.3 million); G Collin Sexton (No. 8 pick, 2018 Draft) LOST: G Jose Calderon (signed with Pistons); F Jeff Green (signed with Wizards); F LeBron James (signed with Lakers); C Kendrick Perkins (waived); F Okaro White (waived) RETAINED: F Kevin Love (contract extension) THE KEY MAN: GM Koby Altman. Altman has a blank slate now after trying to steer a championship-contending ship that had been stripped of a few propeller blades in the last 13 months. With James gone, as well as former GM David Griffin, the 35-year-old Altman has team owner Dan Gilbert’s charge to rebuild the Cavs without taking them down to the studs (as the Cavs did after James first departure in 2010). Altman’s next task after working out Kevin Love’s $130 million extension is clearing the roster of all the veterans brought in the last three years mainly because of their ability to play off of James. THE SKINNY: There weren’t any widespread jersey burnings this time in the Land. James left for L.A. with relative good will from his hometown, having delivered the championship it had waited 52 years for in 2016. Truly, the Cavs’ rebuild started the minute Kyrie Irving demanded a trade; last season seemed more rearguard action than an attack at another title. Extending Love through 2023 with no outs -- keeping him locked with rookie Sexton through the latter’s last controllable season before hitting unrestricted free agency -- gives Cleveland a base upon which to build. Cap room will follow in 2019, but next season will be difficult; Sexton has a lot of toughness and potential, but rookie point guards tend to get their lunch handed to them. 30. MIAMI HEAT 2017-18 RECORD: 44-38; lost in first round ADDED: None LOST: None RETAINED: G Wayne Ellington (one year, $6.2 million); F/G Derrick Jones Jr. THE KEY MAN: G Josh Richardson. Like many of his teammates, Richardson got an extension a couple of years ago -- four years and $42 million. Last season, he was (again) a solid two-way player for Miami -- almost 13 points per game, 84.5 percent from the line, 37.8 percent on 3-pointers. But if the Heat is going to shake out of the middle lane in which it currently seems stuck, Richardson will have to expand. Miami’s current roster makes it complicated; Pat Riley thinks Richardson’s probably more of a two, but he plays mostly three for coach Erik Spoelstra because Miami’s best lineups were small ball ones. Another offseason at P3 in California will help Richardson continue his development. THE SKINNY: No, Heat people: I don’t hate your team. But when you have no Draft picks, and you have no cap space, and thus you literally could do nothing in the offseason, and basically did nothing in the offseason, and your biggest, most newsy event was whether your 36-year-old future Hall of Fame guard will come back for one more season or play over in China … well, what am I supposed to do with that information? Rank you first? The question is, how much better is your team now than it was at the end of last season? It’s essentially the same team; other than the likes of Richardson (see above) or Justise Winslow, it’s not like there’s a great step up expected from Hassan Whiteside or Goran Dragic, is there? The Heat is not any better than last season. It isn’t any worse. It just … is. So, 30. Longtime NBA reporter, columnist and Naismith Memorial Basketball Hall of Famer David Aldridge is an analyst for TNT. You can e-mail him here, find his archive here and follow him on Twitter. The views on this page do not necessarily reflect the views of the NBA, its clubs or Turner Broadcasting......»»

Category: sportsSource:  abscbnRelated NewsAug 8th, 2018

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

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

Category: sportsSource:  abscbnRelated NewsMar 23rd, 2018

Portland wins 12th straight with 100-87 victory over Detroit

By Anne M. Peterson, Associated Press PORTLAND, Ore. (AP) —Damian Lillard had 24 points, eight assists and seven rebounds, and the Portland Trail Blazers beat the Detroit Pistons 100-87 on Saturday night (Sunday, PHL time) for their 12th straight victory. CJ McCollum added 16 points for the Blazers, who have the longest current winning streak in the league. It's the longest streak for the franchise since it also won 12 in a row in 2002. Portland (43-26) also earned its season-best ninth straight home win -- a timely streak as it tries to hold on to third place in the Western Conference standings. While the Blazers are soaring, the Pistons are struggling. Andre Drummond had 18 points and 22 rebounds in Detroit's 12th consecutive road loss. Blake Griffin had 15 points. The Pistons (30-39) have dropped eight of 10 overall, and currently sit in ninth place in the East. The Pistons trailed by as many as 19 points in the third quarter, but they closed to 84-74 on Stanley Johnson's dunk with 8:18 left. Evan Turner responded with a jumper for the Blazers. After Luke Kennard was whistled for a technical foul, Lillard made a foul shot and McCollum converted a layup to make it 89-74 with 6:19 remaining. Kennard was a game-time decision with a tight hamstring, but he finished with 12 points. Blazers center Jusuf Nurkic got two quick fouls within the first four minutes of the game, so he was replaced by Meyers Leonard. Portland went up 20-9 early. The Blazers led 60-45 at the break. Lillard led all scorers with 12 points. After extending the lead in the third quarter, Lillard went to the bench to start the fourth and it looked as if he might be done for the night. But he returned when Detroit got within 10 points. TIP-INS Pistons: It was the third of a six-game road trip. ... Forward/Center Eric Moreland played at Oregon State. ... Reggie Jackson, who has missed 35 games with a right ankle sprain, participated in a 3-on-3 optional practice earlier this week. Trail Blazers: Terry Stotts tied Nate McMillan for third-most victories as a Blazers coach. Stotts is 266-213. ... The Blazers had lost five straight to the Pistons. ... All five of Portland's starters scored in double figures. UP NEXT The Pistons visit the Sacramento Kings on Monday (Tuesday, PHL time). The Trail Blazers visit the Los Angeles Clippers on Sunday (Monday, PHL time)......»»

Category: sportsSource:  abscbnRelated NewsMar 18th, 2018

Lillard scores 50 in 3 quarters, Blazers beat Kings 118-100

SACRAMENTO, Calif. (AP) — Damian Lillard scored 22 of his season-high 50 points in the third quarter, and the Portland Trail Blazers beat the Sacramento Kings 118-100 on Friday night. Lillard scored at will, making 16 of 26 shots — including eight 3-pointers — and all 10 of his free-throw attempts. He reached the half-century mark by the end of the third period and sat the entire fourth. Lillard, who also had six assists, joined teammate CJ McCollum and Houston’s James Harden as the only players to score 50 points through three quarters this season. Maurice Harkless added 15 points, McCollum scored 13 and Ed Davis had five points and 14 rebounds for Portland, which made 15 3-pointers. The Blazers were coming off an overtime win in Charlotte on Thursday that snapped a three-game losing streak. Lillard, Portland’s lone All-Star this season, scored 15 points during a 17-0 run that closed out the third quarter and put the Blazers up 92-74. He made two 3s during the run and silenced the crowd when he drove the left side of the lane and flipped the ball in with his right hand. Sacramento made five consecutive 3s in the fourth quarter, four by Buddy Hield, and pulled within 107-94 with 4:45 left. Shabazz Napier made a 3-pointer for Portland to stop the Kings’ surge. Willie Cauley-Stein had 19 points and six rebounds, and Zach Randolph added 17 points and nine boards for Sacramento. Lillard had 14 points and made three of Portland’s six 3-pointers in the first quarter. Evan Turner hit an off-balance 11-footer to end the period and put the Blazers up 33-31. After Randolph’s layup over Nurkic pulled Sacramento within 49-47 in the second, Lillard scored nine consecutive points and then added a 17-foot step-back jumper with 1.7 seconds left to put Portland up 62-52 at halftime. TIP-INS Blazers: Lillard’s eight 3-pointers are one shy of his own franchise record, which he matched earlier this season against Houston on Dec. 9. ... Portland improved to 2-1 against the Kings this season. The teams split back-to-back games in November. Kings: Iman Shumpert, who was part of the trade that sent George Hill to Cleveland, arrived for the game but did not suit up. ... Skal Labissiere (left rotator cuff strain) expects to come back after the All-Star break. UP NEXT Blazers: Host Utah on Sunday. Kings: Visit Minnesota on Sunday......»»

Category: sportsSource:  abscbnRelated NewsFeb 10th, 2018

James Harden scores 48 points, Rockets win 9th in row

By Nick Daschel, Associated Press PORTLAND, Ore. (AP) — The NBA’s hottest team has found a home on the road. Houston won its ninth consecutive game after James Harden scored 48 points and the Rockets rallied from 14-point, fourth-quarter deficit to beat the Portland Trail Blazers 124-117 on Saturday night (Sunday, PHL time). The Rockets, who trailed for most of the game, won their eighth consecutive road game, running their season road record to 12-1. It is Houston’s best road start since the 1996-97 season. Harden hit 16-of-29 shots and grabbed eight rebounds, while Chris Paul scored 24 points and Trevor Ariza had 13 for Houston. The Rockets’ 20-4 record is the best by percentage in the NBA this season. “We’re riding high right now. That’s great. We know we’ll have some bumps. We have a lot of things to figure out, but we just keep getting better and grinding it out,” Houston coach Mike D’Antoni said. Houston took a good punch from Portland, which was trying to end a three-game home court losing streak. Damian Lillard tied a franchise record with nine three-pointers and scored 35 points, while C.J. McCollum had 28 for the Blazers (13-12). “It was disappointing to lose. ...We had a lot of good efforts from a lot of different players. It was good to be in a game at the end against a really good team,” Portland coach Terry Stotts said. Houston hasn’t had a close game in a while, particularly with Paul returning to action from an early season knee injury. That changed Saturday (Sunday, PHL time) as Portland built a 98-84 lead after three quarters, though Lillard started the fourth quarter with an ice bag on his right foot after limping to the bench. Houston went to a small lineup, and punished Portland’s defense with 1-on-1 offense. The Rockets hit 15-of-18 shots, and Harden and Paul combined to score 25 of the team’s 40 fourth-quarter points. “Me and James were talking about how cool it was. I went a few times and then he got to go a few times. It was fun that we got to play off of each other like that,” Paul said. Harden went 6-of-7 during the fourth quarter, including five layups. “We went small and they had to adjust to us . once they did that, we had shooters on the court and the lane was wide open. So it was layup, layup, layup, 3-ball,” Harden said. With Lillard’s foot on ice, Houston launched a rally, pulling to 103-98 when Lillard returned with seven minutes remaining. But the Rockets had momentum, and took a 110-109 lead on Ariza’s three-pointer. The Rockets never trailed again, outscoring Portland 14-6 during the final three minutes. “It took everything we had to beat them,” D’Antoni said. The Blazers, eager not to finish a home stand 0-4, were aggressive early, as Lillard hit two three-pointers but also drew two fouls during the first three minutes. Midway through the first quarter, Lillard stepped in front of Paul and earned a charging foul, touching off a battle of words that resulted in technicals to Portland’s Meyers Leonard and Paul. Lillard’s three-pointer gave Portland its largest lead of the first half at 57-46, but Houston outscored the Blazers 16-5 during the final 5:37 to pull even at 62 at halftime. TIP-INS Rockets: Houston is 10-0 with Paul in the lineup. ... Paul missed 14 games with a knee injury. ... Nene returned to action after missing one game with a corneal abrasion. ... Houston plays its next seven games at home. ... Harden has scored at least 20 points in each of Houston’s 24 games this season, only the second player to accomplish such a feat since the 1990-91 season. Trail Blazers: Portland had fresh faces in its starting lineup, as Leonard made his first start and guard Evan Turner his second of the season. They were replacements for injured Jusuf Nurkic (ankle) and Maurice Harkless (quad). ... The Blazers hit a season-high nine three-pointers during the first half. ... Portland begins a five-game trip Monday (Tuesday, PHL time) at Golden State. ROCKETS WIN BIG AT THE LINE Houston piled up a big edge at the free throw line, making 34-of-42 shots, while Portland took only 12 free throws, making nine. “The disparity was ridiculous,” Stotts said. UP NEXT Rockets: Host New Orleans on Monday night (Tuesday, PHL time). Trail Blazers: At Golden State on Monday night (Tuesday, PHL time)......»»

Category: sportsSource:  abscbnRelated NewsDec 10th, 2017

C.J. McCollum scores 25 points, Blazers beat Kings 102-90

PORTLAND, Ore. -- C.J. McCollum scored 25 points, Damian Lillard had 22 and the Portland Trail Blazers handed the Sacramento Kings their ninth consecutive road loss, 102-90 on Saturday night. McCollum hit four 3-pointers and shot 9 of 16 to help Portland avenge an 86-82 road loss to the Kings on Friday night. Lillard had six assists, the Blazers shot 54 percent (38 of 70) from the floor and made 10 of 21 3-pointers. Portland's Jusuf Nurkic, bouncing back from a season-low four-point performance Friday, had 14 points and seven rebounds. Meyers Leonard, in his second game back after missing four weeks with a right ankle injury, hit three 3-pointers and had a season-high 11 points for the Blazers. Shabazz Napier also had 11 on 5-of-6 shooting. Willie Cauley-Stein had 18 points and nine rebounds to lead Sacramento, and Zach Randolph had 17. Neither team had a significant advantage for most of the first half. But Portland, trailing 33-32 midway through the second quarter, finished the half by hitting four 3-pointers during a 21-8 run as the Blazers grabbed a 53-41 lead at the break. Portland widened its lead to 22 points during the third quarter. During a nine-minute stretch, only Randolph scored for the Kings. Lillard scored nine points that fueled an 11-3 run as Portland took a 78-56 lead late in the third quarter. Sacramento never got closer than 12 points the rest of the game. TIP-INS Kings: Buddy Hield, who sprained his ankle in Friday's game against the Blazers, did not make the trip to Portland. ... Vince Carter (kidney stones) missed his sixth consecutive game. ... Randolph, scoreless against Portland on Friday, scored the Kings first four points Saturday. .... Sacramento lost its ninth consecutive game in Portland. Trail Blazers: Ed Davis returned to action after missing Friday's game (ankle). ... Portland heads to Memphis on Monday to start a five-game road trip, tied for its longest of the season. UP NEXT Kings: Host Denver on Monday night. Trail Blazers: At Memphis on Monday night......»»

Category: sportsSource:  abscbnRelated NewsNov 19th, 2017

24 NBA questions before 17-18 tips off

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

Category: sportsSource:  abscbnRelated NewsOct 17th, 2017

MVP Ladder: Giannis bolsters case with key win in Houston

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

Category: sportsSource:  abscbnRelated NewsJan 12th, 2019

Trail Blazers beat Rockets as Harden s 40-point streak ends

By Anne M. Peterson, Associated Press PORTLAND, Ore. (AP) — Jusuf Nurkic had 25 points and 15 rebounds, and the Portland Trail Blazers snapped James Harden's 40-point streak and the Houston Rockets' six-game winning streak with a 110-101 victory on Saturday night (Sunday, PHL time). Harden finished with 38 points, falling just short of his sixth straight game with 40 or more. He was 13-of-35 from the field, shooting 5-of-17 from three-point range. CJ McCollum added 24 points and Damian Lillard finished with 17 points and 12 rebounds for the Blazers, who have won three of their last four games. Austin Rivers scored a season-high 21 points for Houston, while Clint Capela had 13 points and 21 rebounds. Portland led by as many as 16 points in the third quarter, but Harden started to show some life after a surprisingly cold first half. Gerald Green's dunk got Houston within 88-83 early in the fourth but Nurkic's layup pushed Portland's lead to 97-85 with just under six minutes left. After Harden collected his fourth foul, McCollum hit a long jumper to put Portland up 101-90 with 3:10 left. Evan Turner's layup and free throw made it 106-95 and Moda Center fans started heading for the doors. There was some controversy when Harden got three free throws on Turner's foul and he made all three to close the gap with 1:02 left. After Lillard made a free throw on the other end, Harden's step-back jumper got the Rockets within 107-101 with 34 seconds left — but it was a close as they could get. Portland was the last team to hold Harden under 30. He had 29 in Houston's 111-104 home victory on Dec. 11 (Dec. 12, PHL time). Maurice Harkless had some success guarding Harden, but he out with a sore left knee after Saturday night's (Sunday, PHL time) loss to the Thunder and Turner started for the Blazers. Portland surrendered the lead to Oklahoma City heading into the fourth quarter and came up short 111-109 despite a late rally. Harden had a triple-double in a 135-134 overtime victory over Golden State on Thursday night (Friday, PHL time). He had 44 points, 10 rebounds and 15 assists for his second straight 40-point triple-double and 11th of his career. Rivers hit all four of his three-point attempts to start the game and finished the first quarter with 14 points. Neither team was able to make much of a move until the final two minutes of the half, when Portland went up 54-46 on Turner's layup. Nene was charged with a flagrant foul on Nurkic, who made one of the two free throws then added a basket. Lillard had a floater before time ran out and the Blazers went to the break with a 59-46 lead. Harden was 0-for-8 from three-point range in the opening half and had nine points. It was just the second time this season he failed to reach double digits in the first half. Lillard's three-pointer pushed Portland's lead to 77-61, but Harden answered with his own. Harden had 20 points in the third quarter but the Blazers led 86-77 going into the final period. TIP-INS Rockets: It was the third and final meeting of the season between the two teams. They split the first two. ... Harden hit his first two three-point attempts in the second half. Trail Blazers: Nurkic has 20 double-doubles this season. ... It was the first time Portland has defeated the Rockets twice in a season since 2015-16. .. The win snapped a two-game losing streak to the Rockets in Portland. UP NEXT Rockets: Host the Denver Nuggets on Monday (Tuesday, PHL time). Trail Blazers: Host the New York Knicks on Monday (Tuesday, PHL time)......»»

Category: sportsSource:  abscbnRelated NewsJan 6th, 2019

MVP Ladder: Irving enters chase with work on, off the floor

By Sekou Smith, NBA.com The best of Kyrie Irving, both on and off the floor, has been on display the past few weeks. With the Boston Celtics’ season at an early crossroad, of sorts, it was Irving who stepped into the leadership void to steer things in the right direction. With injuries to key players complicating matters and chemistry issues still being sorted out, Irving was the veteran willing to step up and speak out in an effort to make sure the Celtics dealt with their issues head on. The Celtics had an inconsistent start to the season (10-10) before going on a eight-game win streak that was more like what was expected of them, only to hit the skids again briefly and lose three straight games before Irving piped up. "I think everyone can see that we've obviously had some inconsistencies regarding our play,” he said, “so I think it was just time to address it." A 36-minute players meeting in the locker room after a Dec. 21 (Dec. 22, PHL time) home thumping from Giannis Antetokounmpo and the Milwaukee Bucks was enough for Irving, who didn’t spare anyone (himself included) from the harsh spotlight. It was a cathartic moment for the Celtics, who saw Al Horford return from a seven-game absence just in time for Sunday’s win in Charlotte. Kyrie was at his superstar best with the bright lights shining on Christmas. He torched the Philadelphia 76ers for 40 points, unleashing his full offensive arsenal (shooting 17-for-33 from the floor, 5-for-10 from deep), while also grabbing 10 rebounds and dishing out three assists. He was in showtime mode again Thursday night (Friday, PHL time) against James Harden and the Houston Rockets at Toyota Center, finishing his night with 23 points, 11 assists, five rebounds and just one turnover. The Celtics simply had no answer for Harden, who like Irving moves up the ranks on this week’s Kia Race to the MVP Ladder. But it’s clear Irving is ready to shoulder the burden of leading these Celtics, in whatever way necessary. * * * The top five this week in the 2018-19 Kia Race to the MVP Ladder: * * * 1. Giannis Antetokounmpo, Milwaukee Bucks Last week: No. 1 Season stats: 26.4 points, 12.8 rebounds, 5.9 assists, 1.4 blocks, 1.3 steals Antetokounmpo turned Madison Square Garden into his very own Christmas playground when he smoked the Knicks for 30 points, 14 rebounds, four steals, three assists and two blocks to kick off the league’s showcase day. And just so the Knicks know it wasn’t a fluke, he hurried them again Thursday night (Friday, PHL time) at Fiserv Forum with 31 points, 14 rebounds, eight assists and four blocks in another rout. The Greek Freak is making it tough for anyone to nudge him from the top spot on this list; he’s averaging 24.8 points (on 60.9 shooting), 12.6 rebounds  5.6 assists and 1.7 blocks in his last 10 games. The Bucks are cruising during this stretch as well, solidifying their position as one of  the top teams in the Eastern Conference and the entire league at the close of the calendar year 2018. If this is just the warm up for 2019, Antetokounmpo can really crank up his MVP campaign between now and the All-Star break. 2. Kawhi Leonard, Toronto Raptors Last week: No. 2 Season stats: 26.4 points, 8.5 rebounds, 3.2 assists, 1.8 steals Leonard and the Raptors didn’t get an opportunity to showcase themselves for the world to see on Christmas but made up for that scheduling snafu with an instant classic in a win over Miami on the day after the holiday. Leonard scored 30 points, grabbed eight rebounds and had two assists and two steals in the winning effort. December has been good to the Raptors’ prized summer acquisition — he’s averaging 30.1 points (on .520 shooting) to go along with his 8.1 rebounds, 3.0 assists and 2.0 steals. For all of the chatter about how good the Raptors have been with Leonard out of the lineup and how good their quality depth is and has been all season, the fate of this team rests on Leonard’s broad shoulders come playoff time. He’s the one element they’ve lacked in previous runs, as a true crunch-time, go-to player in the postseason. All that noise about him not being an ideal vocal leader looks like just that at this stage of his tenure in Toronto. 3. LeBron James, Los Angeles Lakers Last week: No. 3 Season stats: 27.3 points, 8.3 rebounds, 7.1 assists, 1.3 steals Lakers Nation held its collective breath earlier this week, awaiting the word on LeBron’s MRI after he heard a “pop” when he went down in the third with a groin injury in the third quarter of the Lakers’ Christmas Day (Dec. 26, PHL time) blowout over the Golden State Warriors at Oracle Arena. The news was better than expected but the catalyst for the Lakers’ revival this season is still expected to miss “several games.” This could actually prove to be a critical stretch for the Lakers. If they can manage to maintain their position in the Western Conference standings without LeBron in uniform, it’ll speak volumes about the growth and development of their youngsters. It will also instill some confidence in the entire group if they can piece together a few wins without the new king of Los Angeles. All that said, it would be shortsighted of anyone to dismiss the work LeBron has put in during the early-season turnaround this team has undergone. He was playing as well as anyone in the league this month (25.8 points on .516 shooting, 9.3 rebounds, 8.2 assists and 1.3 steals). 4. Stephen Curry, Golden State Warriors Last week: No. 4 Season stats: 28.6 points, 5.2 assists, 5.0 rebounds, 1.3 steals Curry bounced back from yet another uncharacteristic Christmas Day (Dec. 26, PHL time) performance (just 15 points on an ugly 5-for-17 shooting) with a big night against his brother Seth and the Portland Trail Blazers. But his 29 points and a triple-double from Kevin Durant wasn’t enough to lift the Warriors past Damian Lillard’s late-game heroics against his hometown team. If there was ever a time to be concerned about Curry and these Warriors, it’s now. Draymond Green and Klay Thompson cannot find their marks. The bench production is non-existent at times. And the edge the Warriors have used to their advantage for years seems to have vanished. The boost they need is more than just adding a superstar talent like Boogie Cousins (whose recovery from his Achilles injury seems to be in hyperdrive). The Warriors might need both Curry and Durant to go off script a bit and shake things up by going nuclear offensively to strike fear in teams the way this team once did. They’ve become far too predictable a target without the proper support from their other stars. 5. James Harden, Houston Rockets Last week: No. 7 Season stats: 32.3 points, 8.4 assists, 5.7 rebounds, 2.1 steals The reigning Kia MVP will not be denied any longer. Harden has been on an absolute tear of late and is bringing the Rockets back into focus in the Western Conference playoff chase while doing so. He’s posted back-to-back 40 point games (45 in their Friday, PHL time showdown win over the Boston Celtics and 41 in their Dec. 26, PHL time win over the Oklahoma City Thunder). He’s currently on a career-best eight-game run scoring 30 or more points, the first player to do so since Russell Westbrook did it in November of 2016. Harden’s the first to score 35 or more in six straight games since former teammate Carmelo Anthony accomplished the feat in April of 2013. Harden’s eight games of 40 or more points this season leads the league (Anthony Davis is second with five). The Celtics tried every player in uniform to stop him but to no avail. But Harden’s best work has been pulling the Rockets out of their sub-.500 hole at Thanksgiving to a season-best four games over .500 as they close out the 2018 portion of their schedule. * * * The next five 6. Paul George, Oklahoma City Thunder 7. Nikola Jokic, Denver Nuggets T-8. Kevin Durant, Golden State Warriors T-8. Joel Embiid, Philadelphia 76ers 10. Kyrie Irving, Boston Celtics And five more: Anthony Davis, New Orleans Pelicans; De’Aaron Fox, Sacramento Kings; Tobias Harris, Los Angeles Clippers; Damian Lillard, Portland Trail Blazers; Russell Westbrook, Oklahoma City Thunder 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 NewsDec 29th, 2018

Lillard s 3-pointer in OT lifts Blazers over Warriors

By Janie McCauley, Associated Press OAKLAND, Calif. (AP) — Damian Lillard hit a go-ahead three-pointer with 6.3 seconds left in overtime and scored 21 points in his final regular-season game at home in Oakland, sending the Portland Trail Blazers past the Golden State Warriors 110-109 in a wild one Thursday night (Friday, PHL time). The kid from Oakland hits the game winner at our last game in Oakland. pic.twitter.com/oWXoGC019M — Trail Blazers (@trailblazers) December 28, 2018 Kevin Durant missed a 13-footer off the front rim as the final buzzer sounded but finished with his second triple-double of the season: 26 points, 11 assists and 10 rebounds. Jusuf Nurkic had 27 points and 12 rebounds for the Blazers. Durant hit a tying three-pointer with 19 seconds left in regulation following a driving one-handed dunk the previous possession but the Warriors couldn't overcome a comedy of errors in losing a second straight at home. They took a 127-101 beating from the Lakers on Christmas night. Seth Curry largely outplayed big brother and Golden State star Stephen down the stretch, scoring 11 straight points. In fact, their sister, Sydel posted on Twitter: "Wouldn't have been mad at all at a Seth game winner." Wouldn’t have been mad at all at a Seth game winner 🤷🏽‍♀️ — Sydel Curry-Lee (@SydelCurryLee) December 28, 2018 Lillard shot 7-for-20 with friends and family cheering him in the Blazers' final scheduled trip to Oracle Arena before the Warriors move to San Francisco next season. Stephen Curry made a three-pointer with 10:46 to play in regulation, then his little brother Seth rattled off 11 in a row with three consecutive triples. Klay Thompson's shooting struggles continued. He went 6-for-19 and was just 2-of-9 on three-point tries on the way to 15 points. He made a triple late in the third and was fouled, drawing a rousing ovation, then missed the free throw. Curry's 33-footer with 8:42 left in the third on a pass from Draymond Green got Golden State within two, then Curry found Green for a tying layup the next time down to make it 55-all. A series of silly mistakes followed: Thompson made a steal and threw it toward midcourt and Green couldn't keep the ball from going over the line for a backcourt violation, as Portland regained possession. Then, Green clanked a one-handed dunk try off the back of the rim. This after he had earlier thrown a pass off Thompson's head. The Warriors missed nine of their initial 11 free throws and finished an uncharacteristic 6-for-15 at the line. Both teams were trying to rebound from embarrassing Christmas losses two days earlier in which the three-point shooting was dismal: Golden State following that flop to the Lakers at home and the Blazers a 117-96 defeat at Utah. Portland coach Terry Stotts said whichever team lost this game at least would get another chance right away with the rivals playing twice in a three-day span. The Warriors beat the Blazers 125-97 on Nov. 23 (Nov. 24, PHL time) at Oracle Arena. In his last five games against the Warriors, Lillard has averaged 31 points, shooting 42.4 percent and 38.8 percent on three's. "I represent this city, so when I come here I want to represent myself well. I have a lot of family and friends coming to see me play, so you're excited about that. You've got energy, that's what it is, "Lillard said. "And they've been one of the best teams in the league, so you want to beat them. To do that you've got to put your best foot forward." After the Warriors shot 9-for-36 on three's in the loss to the Lakers — Curry 2-of-8, Durant 3-for-8 and Green 0-of-3 — Golden State was just 13-of-44 with Curry 6-for-15 and Durant 2-of-7. LILLARD'S ORACLE MEMORIES When Lillard was 9 or 10, he came to a Rockets-Warriors game with his brother and lucked into getting to take a shot on the court. "My brother and I were up at our seats and Steve Francis was doing his pregame workout and the ball bounced up and into the stands and I ran down the stairs and got it and I was going to throw it back and he was like, 'No, come shoot it.' And I went on the court and shot a three and airballed. That's the story." He used to walk to the games he lived so close in East Oakland. Lillard clearly had mixed emotions about the Warriors' upcoming move, saying: "You wish it wasn't happening. You know how much it means to the city of Oakland to have something positive happening, especially with the team having so much success right now. ... So it's sad to see them moving on." SELLOUT STREAK Golden State's 311th straight sellout Thursday became a new franchise best, topping a run of 310 consecutive sellouts from March 9, 1989, to April 19, 1996. TIP-INS Trail Blazers: Seth Curry quickly threw up his hand acknowledging his foul on brother Stephen early in the fourth. ... Portland pushed Golden State into nine first-half turnovers while committing just two. ... The Blazers were 21-of-23 on free throws. Warriors: Durant has scored 20 or more points in his last nine games 23-of-24. ... The Warriors dropped to 11-3 at home against the Western Conference. ... Golden State lost by 20-plus points at home twice in the previous six seasons but has done it four times already. UP NEXT Trail Blazers host Warriors on Saturday (Sunday, PHL time). The Warriors last played an opponent in two straight regular-season games against the Lakers on Nov. 23-25, 2016......»»

Category: sportsSource:  abscbnRelated NewsDec 28th, 2018

Reasons to watch 2018 slate of NBA X mas day games

By Sekou Smith, NBA.com Bucks vs. Knicks (1am, PHL time) Why you should be watching: Two words; Giannis Antetokounmpo. The most dominant force in the league this season resides in Milwaukee. That’s right, the Greek Freak sits atop the Kia Race to the MVP Ladder heading into the Christmas Day showcase games. And with good reason. The Bucks are riding the wave their dynamic superstar forward has created in his first season in Mike Budenholzer’s system. Open it up and enjoy because … The Bucks are more than a one-man show. Antetokounmpo should be joined on the All-Star team this season by Khris Middleton, who is playing at that level, and point guard Eric Bledsoe is shooting better than he ever has in Budenolzer’s aggressive, shooter-friendly system. Watching the Bucks try and set a record for three-pointers taken and made should be entertaining enough. But the Knicks will offer some entertainment value of their own as they attempt to match the Bucks shot-for-shot with Tim Hardaway Jr. leading the way. The gift we’re hoping for is … The Knicks could use a statement win before a global audience to jump start the post-Christmas portion of their season-long grind. The Bucks have spent most of this season frightening the competition, both in the Eastern Conference and beyond. They’ve got the gift that’ll keep on giving for years in Antetokounmpo, who’ll get another chance to show the basketball public that what they’ve hard about a contender rising in the Central Division is real. Thunder vs. Rockets (4am, PHL time) Why you should be watching: Do we really need anyone to remind us to tune in for every Russell Westbrook-James Harden matchup for the foreseeable future? Didn’t think so. The matchup of the last two Kia MVPs winners is enough of an incentive to lock in on this one. And the fact that the Thunder occupy the space in the standings most thought was reserved for the Rockets only adds to the intrigue. Open it up and enjoy because … The real showstopper in this one isn’t either one of the MVP winners. Thunder swingman Paul George is the player you need to lock in on as he continues his dark horse MVP campaign for a much-improved team (the Thunder are light years away from the group that started the season 0-4). There are few soap operas better right now than the Rockets, who are dealing with yet another injury to All-Star point guard Chris Paul (hamstring) and a failure to play up to expectations that threatens to swallow up their season before Santa’s finished off his cookies and milk. The gift we’re hoping for is … What Westbrook and Harden wear into the building is worth a few moments of your time as these two fashion-forward superstars never fail to make an impression. But it’s the competitive fervor on the court that should provide the ultimate viewing pleasure. The Thunder would love to take over the position the Rockets held last season, as the legitimate threat to the Golden State Warriors’ stranglehold on the Western Conference throne. In the absence of a Christmas tilt against the two-time defending champs, the Rockets make an ideal fill in. Sixers vs. Celtics (6:30am, PHL time) Why you should be watching: The Eastern Conference version of Thunder-Rockets, the schedule makers look pretty good slotting the Sixers and Celtics in this spot. No one relishes an opportunity to take down a projected heavyweight the way the Sixers do (what else would you expect with Jimmy Butler and Joel Embiid leading the charge?). The suddenly chummy Celtics, however, appear to be the team most eager to prove that they are indeed who we all thought they were in the summer, when they were the consensus pick to ascend to the top of the heap in place of Cleveland. Open it up and enjoy because … Kyrie Irving has embraced his role as the leader of this disjointed Celtics bunch in ways that fans in Cleveland have to be enjoying with an eyebrow raised. Kyrie trying to convince his young teammates to follow his lead is rich, given his reluctance to do exactly that when he was in their shoes. As far as rivalries go, this is perhaps the day’s deepest and most volatile. The Sixers are still smarting from that playoff ouster at the hands of the Celtics. And they won’t have ant sympathy for the Celtics as they continue their search for good health and better chemistry. The gift we’re hoping for is … A Ben Simmons-Kyrie point guard duel will make this game shine even brighter than usual. And they’re both more than capable of going off on the big stage. But the real treat here is going to be watching Jimmy Butler and Jayson Tatum match wits in what could be a preview of fireworks to come in a potential playoff matchup. Tatum’s sophomore season has been a bit choppier than expected. And Butler, whose shown a penchant for schooling youngsters (teammates and opponents) is surely betting on himself in this game within the game. Lakers vs. Warriors (9am, PHL time) Why you should be watching: With all of the recent history dripping off of this LeBron James-Warriors rivalry, the inclusion of the Los Angeles Lakers into the mix only serves to take this spectacle to the next level. LeBron insists this isn’t a measuring stick game for the upstart Lakers, not against a Warriors juggernaut that has won three of the last four Larry O’Brien trophies. Yeah, whatever you say big fella. Folks who haven’t watched a minute of NBA basketball season will be tuned into this one. Count on it. Open it up and enjoy because … Stephen Curry and Kevin Durant have moved into that cosmic zone that only the all-time greats are capable of locating (see their work in their Monday, PHL time win over the Los Angeles Clippers for proof). We already know how the superstars respond in a matchup of this nature. The great unknown is how the likes of Kyle Kuzma, Brandon Ingram and Lonzo Ball will react to the marquee spotlight at Oracle Arena. The Lakers’ youngsters have thrived at times and struggled at others in their first season inside the LeBron bubble. But they haven’t seen anything like what they’ll experience in Oakland on this night. The gift we’re hoping for is … Draymond Green hasn’t had a true breakout game since returning from his extended injury absence. With Lance Stephenson in uniform on the other side, the opportunity for fireworks would appear to be extremely high. We’d settle for some Finals-level intensity from both of the world class agitators in the building. That and vintage performances from LeBron, Steph, KD and Klay Thompson are expected. Anything else beyond that is really gravy on the best basketball meal of the day. Trail Blazers vs. Jazz (11:30am, PHL time) Why you should be watching: We’re dubbing the nightcap of the Christmas Day showcase the “Respect Bowl.” The Trail Blazers are always on the hunt for more respect and the Jazz, one of the trendy summer picks as a team poised to become a contender in the Western Conference this season, could stand to show a little self-respect in the way they tackle the remainder of this season. Open it up and enjoy because … Second-year Jazz guard Donovan Mitchell is suffering from the same sophomore spell that has plagued Jayson Tatum in Boston. It’s one thing to surprise the basketball world as a rookie and another to come back better and even more dangerous the second time around. We’re betting on Spider showing up and showing out for the Christmas Day crowd. Never one to shy away from a challenge, Damian Lillard will not allow someone else to steal the spotlight from him. He warmed up for Mitchell and the Jazz by finishing off Luka Doncic and the Dallas Mavericks Sunday night. You know his swagger travels, so expect to see his competitive best against Mitchell and the Jazz. The gift we’re hoping for is … Joe Ingles stealing the show would make for an ideal end to a day full of some the league’s biggest and brightest superstars. And the sweet-shooting Jazz swingman is one of the league’s criminally underrated stars. It would also be nice to see the rest of that Jazz team we expected to make things interesting this season make an appearance. Christmas Day games have always served as a launching pad/turning point for teams willing to dive in. And the Blazers and Jazz both seem like prime candidates to take advantage of the opportunity. 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 NewsDec 25th, 2018

Harden scores 29 to lead Rockets past Blazers 111-103

HOUSTON (AP) — James Harden had 29 points and seven Rockets scored in double-figures as Houston used a big second-half run and snapped a three-game losing streak with a 111-104 victory over the Portland Trail Blazers on Tuesday night (Wednesday, PHL time). Clint Capela added 13 points and seven rebounds before fouling out with five minutes left, and Eric Gordon, who started in place of James Ennis, had 14 points for the Rockets, who shot 49 percent from the field. Houston's bench played a key role in a 24-6 first-half run that erased a 15-point deficit, and then led a charge in the second half. Gerald Green had 13 points, and Danuel House had 12 off the bench. Damian Lillard had 34 points, CJ McCollum scored 22 points and Jusuf Nurkic added 15 points and 10 rebounds for Portland, which shot 44 percent after starting the game by making seven of its first nine shots. Houston used a 25-5 run to end the third and start the fourth quarters, and opened a 100-83 lead on three-pointer by Harden with 6:48 left. House and Green each had five points in the run. The Blazers responded with a 14-2 run and cut the lead to 102-97 when Nurkic made a pair of free throws with three minutes left. After trading baskets, Houston pushed the lead to 107-99 on a free throw by Harden and two free throws by Chris Paul. After Lillard missed a layup, Paul hit two more free throws to push the lead back to 10 points with 1:38 left. Portland got no closer than eight the rest of the way. TIP-INS Trail Blazers: Al-Farouq Aminu had 10 points and 15 rebounds. . Portland shot 17-of-21 from the free throw line. . The Blazers shot 10-of-25 from three-point range. Rockets: Houston's bench outscored Portland's 37-13. Nene had 10 points. . Paul had 11 points. . The Rockets shot 18 of 27 from the free-throw line. . Coach Mike D'Antoni said Brandon Knight (knee) could see playing time early next week. . Ennis left the game with a strained right hamstring. CLEAN UP ON THE FLOOR PJ Tucker dove for a loose ball during the second quarter, landing in front of Houston Astros third baseman Alex Bregman and Astros owner Jim Crane, who were seated courtside, and splashing their drinks on them. Bregman and Crane were given towels to help dry off. UP NEXT Trail Blazers: Travels to Memphis on Wednesday (Thursday, PHL time). Rockets: Host the Lakers on Thursday (Friday, PHL time)......»»

Category: sportsSource:  abscbnRelated NewsDec 12th, 2018