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Mahindra Floodbuster electrifies PBA with small ball offense

Mahindra Floodbuster electrifies PBA with small ball offense.....»»

Category: sportsSource: thestandard thestandardJan 12th, 2017

Warriors show off firepower, Cavs show off flaws in Finals rematch

By Steve Aschburner, NBA.com CLEVELAND -- Tyronn Lue’s bathroom break came early in the fourth quarter. No, not literally. But the coach of the Cleveland Cavaliers had used the familiar call of duty to describe the suddenness with which a game against the Golden State Warriors can turn. And sure enough, on Monday night at Quicken Loans Arena, it turned on Lue and his team. “They’re the only team,” Lue told reporters before tipoff, “where you can be looking at the game and it’s a two-point game. You go to the bathroom, come back, they’re up 15.” Lue’s “loo” moment, figuratively anyway, came after David West sank two free throws to put the Warriors up 95-93 with 9:07 to play. There it was – the two-point lead – in what had been 39 minutes of mostly entertaining, back-and-forth, you-loved-them-then-you’ll-love-them-again basketball between the familiar adversaries. Draymond Green extends the @warriors lead to 10 on @NBAonTNT! 4:47 to play in Q4 #DubNation pic.twitter.com/q2Drea9Jxy — NBA (@NBA) January 16, 2018 Exactly three minutes and 23 seconds later, Draymond Green cut to the basket, took a pass from Shaun Livingston and dropped in a layup that made it 105-95. It was the biggest lead of the night to that point. Lue twice had called timeouts during the run in an attempt to stop the bleeding. Now there was only 5:44 left. The Warriors’ margin would grow to 14. And the Cavaliers, to stick with Lue’s imagery, were circling the bowl. That the defending champions can go into hyperdrive against anybody is a reminder, not a revelation. But there were some things revealed, discovered and learned in the second and final regular-season clash of the respective West and East favorites, including: Isaiah Thomas has a way to go. This was our most extended look yet at Cleveland’s new point guard, their Kyrie Irving replacement, in circumstances most like those he’ll face when the meat of the Cavs’ schedule – the postseason – rolls around. Thomas scored 19 points, matching his high from the four previous games he played. He was on the floor for 32 minutes, nearly eight minutes more than his previous high. Both Thomas, who missed the season’s first 11 weeks recovering from a hip injury left over from last spring in Boston, and the Cavaliers know a) he’s not sharp or in great shape yet, and b) neither he nor the team has gotten familiar enough with the other to achieve the best results. Yet Thomas took 21 shots Monday (Tuesday, PHL time), more than LeBron James (18), more than Dwyane Wade (14) and more than double any other Cleveland player. He made just eight, including just one of his seven 3-point attempts. Lue, though, said he had no problem with Thomas’ gunning, as long as they were good shots. Thomas sounded as if he was seeking out work where he could find it. Granted, it was his hip that kept him out but his elbow, wrist and shooting hand apparently profit from heavy usage now too. “I’ve got to get in shape,” he said later. “I’ve got to get my legs back. Especially when I get a little winded, my legs get even heavier. “The only thing that’s gonna help me is getting reps. Running up and down the floor. Getting my hip, getting my body accustomed to taking a beating. ... Getting in basketball shape.” Kevin Durant didn’t put much stock in Thomas’ play Monday (Tuesday, PHL time) as a sign of how he’ll help Cleveland come springtime. Durant went through a similar enough trial in 2014-15, when surgery in October to repair a Jones fracture in his right foot sidelined him into December, then finally scuttled his season after just 27 games. “Obviously IT is just getting back,” the Warriors forward said. “He hadn’t played in seven months – you’ve got to give him some time. I know exactly how that feels. Especially being thrown in in the middle of the season and starting and playing 30-plus minutes now ... I know it’s gonna take him a while to get into a comfortable groove here.” What we saw is what we’d get. Mostly. It looked at various points as if both coaches were trying lineups, testing young players, tinkering with substitution patterns or probing matchups with an eye on a possible re-re-rematch in June. Likewise, it would be understandable for Lue and Golden State’s Steve Kerr to hold back a few wrinkles, just to have something fresh to try the next time they face each other. ”We don’t hold too much back, to be honest with you,” Kerr said. “I think matchups can dictate some things that you do in the playoffs and sometimes you may make a few different play calls, whatever. But I don’t think there’s a conscious effort to hold anything back for fear of tipping the hand for later.” Kerr started rookie big Jordan Bell again, same as in the Christmas game in Oakland, for more mobility against Cleveland’s small lineup than center Zaza Pachulia would provide. The coach gave Kevon Looney, Nick Young and Patrick McCaw more tastes of the rivalry too. Lue, meanwhile, was asked if he had the Cavaliers target Steph Curry defensively to get him into foul trouble and generally make life difficult. That’s a tactic that has helped when most others have failed against the two-time MVP and it might come in handy down the road. “I can’t remember,” Lue said, pointedly declining to answer. Curry can dunk. And David West still can. It was a rare Curry-in-flight moment early in the second half when the Golden State guard, who usually does his damage from deep, threw down a two-handed dunk. It was his first of the season. Steph Curry throws down the two-handed jam on #PhantomCam! #DubNation pic.twitter.com/eHaHsw2yZV — NBA (@NBA) January 16, 2018 “I think he was taking out some anger from the first half,” Kerr said. “Sometimes that will get him going. Steph loves to dunk more than anybody, you know that. Doesn’t happen often, so when it does, it jacks him up.” Said Durant, who fed Curry for the slam: “He surprised me on that one. Hopefully he’s feeling better tomorrow. I know it took a lot for him to get up there.” David West turns back the clock!#DubNation leads #AllForOne 103-95 with 6:16 to play in the 4th. 📺: @NBAonTNT pic.twitter.com/dj2iFuZGrr — NBA (@NBA) January 16, 2018 West got his 37-year-old bones up there too, dunking off the dribble during his nine-minute, plus-nine stint in the fourth quarter. The veteran power forward had missed his three shots in the second.   “He was a little short on his jump shot to start the game,” Durant said. “But D. West is such a smart player, he makes adjustments, he doesn’t get discouraged. He made a huge play – his left-handed dunk kind of got us all going. That was definitely surprising when he turned that one over.” But seriously, Cleveland has issues. Besides losing for the eighth time in 10 games, the Cavaliers had their 13-game home winning streak broken in Monday's (Tuesday, PHL time) 118-108 loss. And when it was second unit vs. second unit to start the fourth quarter, the Warriors had little trouble switching on defense and crowding away the Cavs’ long-range game. Cleveland shot just 6-of-23 in the fourth quarter, and got outscored 61-44 in what Kerr considered one of his club’s most complete second halves.   The Cavaliers’ defensive leaks have been extensively criticized, and more IT as he gets his game back is not the best way to address those. Even more problematic is the offense now, which over the past few weeks has been grinding, with none of them having much fun with the ball or without. “This is an important time for us,” Wade said, “and we want to see how we respond coming out of this game. ... It’s not about just winning a ball game. It’s about building good habits as a team.” Given James’ record and reputation – seven consecutive trips to the Finals, most in spite of some in-season doldrums for his Heat or Cavs crews – there’s a lot of “In LeBron We Trust,” both inside and outside the Cleveland locker room. Until a rival in the Eastern Conference proves it can knock off the King, no one will believe it. But if the Cavaliers, after so many exposures to their Bay Area nemeses (9-17 in regular- and postseason meetings since the start of 2014-15), can’t come up with solutions, maybe NBA fans should want to see someone else get a crack at them. Steve Aschburner has written about the NBA since 1980. You can e-mail him here, find his archive here and follow him on Twitter. The views on this page do not necessarily reflect the views of the NBA, its clubs or Turner Broadcasting......»»

Category: sportsSource:  abscbnRelated NewsJan 16th, 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

Mourning Jaylen Brown sparks Celtics win over Warriors

By Matt Petersen, NBA.com Less than five minutes into Thursday night's (Friday, PHL time) clash of best vs. best, the Warriors were already threatening to pull away. They led the Celtics 15-6 after a pair of Kevin Durant free throws, and appeared to have already solved the formula Boston had used to fuel a 13-game winning streak. As they often do when the offense grinds to a halt, the Celtics turned to a reliable half-court play to settle in. It worked, producing a wide-open Jaylen Brown cutting down the baseline. The second-year forward could have laid it in quickly and efficiently. He didn't. Instead he opted for a quick spin and vicious jam, with a little flourish for good measure. It was a small choice, made in the split-second it took for the play to transpire. It also set a tone, one that allowed the Celtics to survive its worst offensive night of the season against the best team in the NBA. Brown steals, Brown slams! #SunLifeDunk4Diabetes pic.twitter.com/wvzDggz4RZ — Boston Celtics (@celtics) November 17, 2017 Later in the first quarter, Brown did what few are good (or brave) enough to do: he pressured two-time MVP Stephen Curry into coughing up a loose ball. Just as rare, he pursued and won the possession in the kind of frenetic setting the Warriors usually feast. Brown got around Curry, controlled the ball before Zaza Pachulia could reach it, and sprinted down the other end for a tomahawk jam. Another scene from the first quarter: Brown briefly lost Durant through a maze of screens, and the reigning Finals MVP rose for the mid-range shot he normally converts without thought. He didn't count on 1) Brown not giving up on the play and 2) having the audacity to block his shot. And that's the way it went for the rest of the night. Whenever Kyrie Irving's 4-for-16 night seemed to doom them, whenever it felt Jayson Tatum's quiet showing (2-for-5 FG) would leave Boston wanting, Brown did something to spark them. It turns out the 21-year-old wasn't just fighting the odds of scoreboard or opponent. Brown was also waging a battle with his heart, which was sorely tempted to mourn alone the loss of his best friend, who passed away on Wednesday night (Thursday, PHL time). "I knew coming into today that he would have wanted me to play," a quietly emotional Brown said after the game. "After talking to his mom and family, they inspired me to come out and play. I wasn't in any shape to come out. I wanted to be in my room." Emotional Jaylen Brown on playing after the loss of a friend. pic.twitter.com/wTooFBfKRE — Chris Forsberg (@ESPNForsberg) November 17, 2017 Instead, Brown leaned on the escape of the game and the support of his teammates, rewarding both with one of the best performances of his young career. He finished with a team-high 22 points, seven rebounds, two blocks and two steals in 34 minutes of action. The effort was instrumental in extending Boston's win streak to a league-best 14 games while also halting the Warriors' own seven-game streak of dominance. All of that was, of course, a footnote to the individual more focused on personal loss than the results of a game. Brown remembered clearly when his friend, Trevin Steede, reached out to him when he was a new transfer in high school, too introverted to make new friends. "He walked up to me the third or fourth day and asked who I was sitting with [at lunch], even though I wasn't sitting with anybody," Brown recalled with a slight break in his voice. "He told me to come over and sit with him." After helping his team clinch its biggest victory yet, Brown let the knowledge that Steede was no longer there to sit with wash over him. Like that not-so-long ago day in high school, however, someone was there to reach out to him. It was Irving, embracing him after the final buzzer sounded, letting him know that others were there to fill the hole left in his life. "I've lost individuals in my life. It's never a good thing when someone else is going through it," Irving said afterward, via MassLife.com. "You do your best to console and to encourage them, but at the end of the day, it's about the strength within themselves and he showed a lot of that tonight, to be able to go out there and perform the way he did, I knew exactly where the game ball was going to." Facing a 17-point deficit, the defending champions, and the loss of a friend, there is no doubt that Brown earned it. The views on this page do not necessarily reflect the views of the NBA, its clubs or Turner Broadcasting......»»

Category: sportsSource:  abscbnRelated NewsNov 17th, 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

E-Painters post easy win over Floodbuster

MANILA, Philippines – Rain or Shine, impressive in its season debut versus TNT KaTropa, put in a more remarkable effort last night, beating the Mahindra ball.....»»

Category: sportsSource:  philstarRelated NewsNov 30th, 2016

Cavaliers blow big lead, hang on to beat Magic 104-103

By Tom Withers, Associated Press CLEVELAND (AP) — Isaiah Thomas made two free throws with 11 seconds left and the Cleveland Cavaliers came up with a defensive stop in the frantic final seconds after blowing a 23-point lead to beat the Orlando Magic 104-103 on Thursday night (Friday, PHL time). After Thomas made his shots, Orlando’s Elfrid Payton missed a contested layup with three seconds left. The officials ruled there was an inadvertent whistle and held a jump ball at midcourt. Magic forward Aaron Gordon grabbed the toss and sank an apparent game-winning 45-footer as the horn sounded and Cleveland’s crowds shrieked in disbelief. But Gordon committed a jump-ball violation with the move and Cleveland then only had to inbound the ball to come away with a win that shouldn’t have been so difficult. LeBron James closed in on 30,000 career points, Thomas scored 21 and the Cavs snapped a four-game losing skid — but not out of a January funk. James scored 16 and now needs 25 to become the seventh player in NBA history to reach 30,000. He’ll likely reach the plateau on Saturday (Sunday, PHL time) when Cleveland hosts Oklahoma City. The Cavs were rolling to a rare, easy win before they went cold from the outside and were outscored 33-17 in the third quarter by the Magic, who have dropped 17-of-19. Cleveland went 1-for-17 on three-pointers in the second half. Payton scored 19 and Gordon 17 for Orlando, which didn’t get any breaks down the stretch. With guard Derrick Rose back after missing more than two months with ankle injuries, the Cavs were closer to full strength and for a while they put together a solid performance after dropping nine of 12, a slide that raised questions about their legitimacy to contend for another title. But some of the same problems that have plagued the Cavs — defensive lapses, stagnant offense — resurfaced in the second half. Rose deepens Cleveland coach Tyronn Lue’s rotation to 10, for now, and he pulled all five reserves in the second quarter for his starters. Lue remains confident the Cavs will work through their struggles, and the Magic were the perfect opponent to fix some issues. Orlando coach Frank Vogel was worried the Cavs would play better. “As the season goes on they’ll figure it out and they’ll get their stuff together and be as good as they’ve always been,” he said. Cleveland made nine three-pointers — more than they had in its previous three games — while building a 23-point lead in the first half. CAPTAIN, MY CAPTAIN Before the game, James was chosen as one of the captains for this year’s All-Star game after receiving the most votes in balloting by fans, players and media. James will have first choice from a pool of selected players, which will include former Cavs teammate Kyrie Irving and players from Western Conference teams. Golden State’s Stephen Curry is the other captain. SITTING OUT The Magic played without guard Aaron Afflalo, who was suspended two games without pay by the NBA for fighting with Minnesota’s Nemanja Bjelica on Tuesday (Wednesday, PHL time). TIP-INS Magic: Afflalo took a wild swing at Bjelica, a punch Vogel knew would result in league punishment. “We’ll respect their decision,” he said. ... Earlier this season, Orlando snapped a 17-game losing streak against Cleveland. ... Vogel burned some early timeouts to scold his players after they gave up six three-pointers in the opening minutes. ... Cavaliers: James will make his 14th straight All-Star start, one behind Kobe Bryant’s record. ... James set a goal to play 82 games, and Lue said that’s a possibility although it’s expected the four-time MVP will be rested for the playoffs. “He has to understand that his health is most important and without that we can’t go very far,” Lue said. “We just have to be smart about it.” ... With James on the cusp of scoring history, Lue, who played 11 seasons, appreciates the accomplishment. “When he came into the league they talked about he was a pass-first guy,” Lue said. “But to make guys better and still score 30,000 points, that’s a great achievement.” ... G Iman Shumpert remains sidelined with a knee injury, but is close to returning. UP NEXT Magic: At Boston on Sunday (Monday, PHL time). Cavaliers: Host Oklahoma City on Saturday (Sunday, PHL time)......»»

Category: sportsSource:  abscbnRelated NewsJan 19th, 2018

Warriors keep evolving in rivalry with Cavs

By Steve Aschburner, NBA.com CLEVELAND -- You might expect, given the familiarity from what’s gone on for four years now, that the Golden State Warriors and Cleveland Cavaliers have worked up some serious mutual contempt. They both covet what the other wants -- in fact, the Warriors or the Cavs could make a persuasive case that, if not for the other guys, one already would have notched a three-peat and be chasing Bill Russell’s Celtics in pursuit of a fourth consecutive championship. They both have poured buckets of blood, sweat, tears, money, Gatorade and offseason counter moves into their nouveau NBA rivalry. And they both, well, as Golden State coach Steve Kerr phrased it to the San Jose Mercury News Sunday (Monday, PHL time), “We just want to kick each other’s ass.” And yet the Warriors and the Cavaliers -- who play again Monday (Tuesday, PHL time) at Quicken Loans Arena in the NBA’s prime-time MLK showdown -- have more in common with each other than they do with any of the league’s other 28 teams. Playing 100 games or so every year. Locking in mentally and surviving physically longer than anyone else. Showing up each night targeted as a measuring stick, even a season maker, by the opponents. While trying like heck to keep things fresh. Renew. Find and tap into a new source of energy, because old ones wane over time. “It’s the biggest challenge of this whole season,” Kerr told NBA.com late last week, with the Warriors starting a back-to-back in Milwaukee and Toronto on their way back to The Land. Even if it were possible -- and it realistically is not, given free agency, injuries, trades, the salary cap, luxury taxes, hirings and firings each NBA offseason -- playing a pat hand from one championship-level season to the next isn’t desirable. Voices, locker rooms, relationships get stale. Rivals adjust and escalate in the arms race. Some players ebb in the pecking order, others flow. It’s important to inject new faces, add skills and even find fresh themes to fend off monotony, even boredom, through the 82-game slogs. The Warriors, in winning 20 of 23 games over the past seven weeks, largely have managed to do that. The Cavaliers, at 26-15 after 2-7 stretch that started at Golden State on Christmas (Dec. 26, PHL time)? Not so much. Golden State shifts gears after each season It’s easy to think of Golden State’s success since Kerr’s hiring before the 2014-15 season as one uninterrupted run of excellence. Three-pointers, “death lineups,” and the rest. But the differences from one year to the next have been fairly pronounced. “In Year 1, we were trying to prove ourselves to the world,” Kerr said. “Then we win the championship -- it was all so fresh. There were no letdowns at all that year. It was the most exciting, it was the most energized, it was the most refreshing. It was brand new to all of us. It felt like we were riding this wave all year -- we were all giddy, like, ‘Oh my God, we’re really good!’ We didn’t know we could be like that. And for me, it was my first year coaching.” Steph Curry won his first MVP award. He and Klay Thompson generated considerable conversation about the best shooting backcourts in league history. Draymond Green forever changed the old NBA notion of “’tweeners.” The Warriors finished 67-15, ranked second in the league in offense (111.6) and first in defense (101.4) and beat Cleveland in the Finals in six games. “It was maybe like the first stages when you fall in love,” Kerr said. “You’re just on Cloud 9 and she can’t do anything wrong. There’s infatuation and then you truly fall in love, and it’s amazing. “The second year, we sort of rode that wave of euphoria of being the best team in the league and having won the title. The next thing you know, we’re 24-0 and we’ve got a chance to set an all-time record. That 73-win mark carried us all year. We were going to prove that, not only were we the champs but we were one of the best teams ever.” The Warriors were -- by regular season standards. Curry won his second MVP award. Kerr missed the first 43 games due to health issues but assistant coach Luke Walton steered them to a 39-4 mark. They bought into the chase for 73 victories fairly late, but instead of a 16-5 playoff run like the previous spring’s, the Warriors went 15-9 -- coming up one victory short when the Cavaliers became the first team to claw back from a 3-1 deficit. That led directly to Golden State’s next new wrinkle, a reconfiguration that came close to buckling the league’s knees. “We got KD,” Kerr said. “Now we’re changing our team, right? Last year was about incorporating KD, welcoming this incredible player into our organization and our roster. Figuring how to do it, how we were going to adjust. I felt like there were times last year that were tiring, where our guys were done a little bit. But it was ‘new’ again.” Even the challenges were fresh, like counting Curry’s or Klay Thompson’s touches relative to Durant’s or closing ranks around Golden State’s thin man as his reputation took blows for the first time in his NBA career. Not interested in shooting for 74 victories, the Warriors simply took care of business and stayed coiled for the postseason. Then it was a 16-1 dash to title No. 2, Durant snagging the Finals MVP trophy after the five-game dispatching of the Cavs. All of which just set the Warriors’ bar higher, requiring them to search for something new, somebody borrowed, presumably nothing blue. “This year it’s just survive and advance,” Kerr said. “It’s ‘let’s get to April, May, June in one piece.’ There’s a reason we’ve lost six home games already. We don’t have the driving force that we had the last few years. We’re dealing with what any team in NBA history that’s tried to do this has dealt with. The Lakers (1982-85), the Celtics (1984-87, 1957-66)... It’s just really hard and you need that driving force.” Said Warriors vet Andre Iguodala: “Your body is mindful of it, because it hurts.” A couple of young guys -- Patrick McCaw, Kevon Looney -- have taken on bigger roles. Nick Young brings some sort of buzz into any locker room that will have him. Still, as veteran guard Shaun Livingston said: “We’re not chasing any records. We’re not adding another All Star. We’re just trying to make it through the marathon.” Cavs' challenges mount during 2017-18 The Cavaliers are just trying to make it through the marathon, too. But if they could, they might do it like Rosie Ruiz, the 1980 women’s “winner” of the Boston Marathon who perpetrated a hoax by hopping the subway and running only the final mile of Beantown’s famous race. The 2017-18 has been anything but fun for Cleveland so far. It began with the departure of All-Star point guard Kyrie Irving, a not-so-funhouse mirror image of Durant’s arrival a year earlier in the Bay Area. Irving, for reasons still not quite explained, made it known in the offseason that he wanted out. He wanted to be the man on his own team. Or he didn’t want to be left in the lurch if (when?) LeBron James took his talents elsewhere again. Or both. Or neither. Regardless, once the Cavaliers made his request come true by dealing him to Boston for All-Star point guard Isaiah Thomas and Brooklyn’s coveted first-round pick this June, their task got tougher and their season longer. Losing one of the league’s best ball handlers and shot makers doesn’t qualify as “renewal” any more than what went on in Oklahoma City when Durant packed up. There’s been more. Shooting guard J.R. Smith seemingly got old overnight. Jae Crowder, who came from the Celtics in the Irving deal, hasn’t meshed with the Cavs’ style. Kevin Love has been moved to center but hasn’t done anything to satisfy the Cavs’ need for rim protection. Thomas only returned to action from a hip injury as the calendar turned to 2018 and has played only four games in these two weeks. Even with so many new faces -- seven of the top 12 in coach Tyronn Lue’s rotation weren’t here 12 months ago -- it’s a group heavy on veterans, players a little too established or mature to naturally instill raw energy. James said recently that none of this is new, it’s another case of the Cavs biding their time for the “second” season that means everything. But Lue also introduced the topic of “agendas,” suggesting that some of his guys were looking out for their own responsibilities and performances -- particularly on defense -- rather than the group’s. At best, this is another dose of the midseason blahs, the Cavs in their doldrums in need of an All-Star break. At worst, though, they might be honing some bad habits that won’t be so easy to break in May or June. Especially if East rivals such as Toronto, Boston or Washington are emboldened after witnessing or administering some of the Cavs’ more embarrassing beat downs this season. Will any of this matter come spring? It will if the switch each team is minding stubbornly decides not to flip. “That’s the key. You’ve got to find that balance,” Kerr said. “Are you flipping the switch or are you navigating? The idea is, don’t let bad habits slip in. Right now, this moment, we’re into some bad habits. Our defensive efforts  the last five, six games [before the weekend] were awful. We got away with it because Steph was going nuts.” The Cavaliers repeatedly have not gotten away with bad defensive habits, even on nights when James has been dominant. “It’s tough,” Livingston said. “They’re a team that’s built for the playoffs. But our core guys still are in there prime. Their core guys are still good. But we’re talking about ‘prime.’” Most still would pick both Golden State and Cleveland to advance all the way to a “Finals Four” (after last year’s “Rubber Match” series). But one of these years, most will be wrong -- about one or both. That alone might be motivation enough. Steve Aschburner has written about the NBA since 1980. You can e-mail him here, find his archive here and follow him on Twitter. The views on this page do not necessarily reflect the views of the NBA, its clubs or Turner Broadcasting......»»

Category: sportsSource:  abscbnRelated NewsJan 15th, 2018

Showdown set: Battle-tested Patriots vs. fresh-faced Jaguars

By Dennis Waszak Jr., Associated Press NEW YORK (AP) — Watch out, New England. Here comes Sacksonville. Tom Brady and the big game-tested Patriots square off against the sack-happy Jacksonville Jaguars next Sunday in the AFC championship game in Foxborough, Massachusetts — with the winner headed to the Super Bowl. That's nothing new for New England, of course, which has been there three of the past six seasons. For fresh-faced Jacksonville, however, this is all rare territory. The Jaguars are playing in the conference title game for just the third time in franchise history, and first since losing to Tennessee during the 1999 season. Jacksonville is also one of four franchises to never play in the Super Bowl. "I'm sure there will still be tons of people that are going to disapprove or talk negative or hate or do whatever they want," quarterback Blake Bortles said. "But we get to keep playing. We get an opportunity to go play in Foxborough for another week, so I'm just honored to be able to do this and especially with this group of guys." And, it has all come full circle for Tom Coughlin, who was Jacksonville's coach the previous time the franchise got this far in the postseason. He went on to win two Super Bowls with the New York Giants — both against Bill Belichick's Patriots — but is now the Jaguars' executive vice president of football operations. He helped assemble a squad with coach Doug Marrone that has been powered by a tenacious defense that ranked second in the NFL during the regular season in sacks. After a few ho-hum games, Bortles, running back Leonard Fournette and the Jaguars offense showed it isn't too shabby, either, outslugging Ben Roethlisberger and the Pittsburgh Steelers in a stunning 45-42 victory Sunday . "Obviously, with what they have on their side of the ball, it's a good team and we know they've got a good offense," Bortles said. "We knew we had to keep scoring." There's also this neat nugget: Jacksonville's first AFC championship game appearance came during the 1996 season — against New England, which went on to play in the Super Bowl under then-coach Bill Parcells and lost to the Brett Favre-led Green Bay Packers. "It's been an awesome year," Bortles said, "and we want to keep it going." The Patriots have made it to the AFC championship game for seven straight seasons, clinching this trip with a 35-14 drubbing of the Tennessee Titans on Saturday night . New England has advanced to the Super Bowl in three of the past six seasons. "The reality of the NFL is what we did this week will have nothing to do with what happens next week," Brady said. "We're going to have to go repeat it, so you've got to get right back to work, right back to the process of trying to figure out how to break down our opponent. "Everyone's got to feel good physically and mentally and go out there and try to cut it loose one more time in a huge game." The Patriots know how to do that, and they're masters of tuning out distractions. Despite a published report during the week that raised questions about the relationships between Brady, Belichick and team owner Robert Kraft, New England was all business on the field against the Titans. "It's pretty incredible to be a part of that," Brady said. "I think the thing is that we don't really take it for granted around here. I know how hard it is to get to this game. We're very blessed to do it." Meanwhile, Philadelphia awaits the winner of the New Orleans-Minnesota game later Sunday to find out who it will face in the NFC title game. The Eagles used steady play by Nick Foles and a late goal-line stand to beat the Atlanta Falcons 15-10 on Saturday. "We'll be ready for next week," defensive tackle Fletcher Cox said......»»

Category: sportsSource:  abscbnRelated NewsJan 15th, 2018

The case for Keenum: Vikings QB keeps on disproving doubters

By Dave Campbell, Associated Press MINNEAPOLIS (AP) — When Minnesota's offense huddled for the first time that mid-September afternoon in Pittsburgh, Case Keenum's energy and confidence quickly filled the circle. The Vikings were forced to turn to their backup quarterback to start the second game of the season after Sam Bradford's knee acted up, an ominous development that can doom a team to an autumn of disenchantment and playing for draft pick position. Despite the decisive defeat against the Steelers that day, though, there was a certain assurance Keenum gave his teammates that suggested they'd be all right. "He's a guy you want to play for," wide receiver Adam Thielen said. Four months later, the Vikings and Keenum are still playing. They're two wins away from reaching the Super Bowl. "It's been a blast, man. It's been incredible. I'm sure one of these days I'll be able to look back and really appreciate it, but there's so much to enjoy right now," Keenum said. "Not really putting too much into perspective. Not really looking too much at the big picture. I'm keeping my blinders on." With a modest 6-foot-1, 215-pound frame, Keenum was mostly ignored by major college programs despite leading Abilene Wylie High School to its first state championship in football-obsessed Texas. Houston made his only FBS scholarship offer, from then-head coach Art Briles, and by the time Keenum was finished with the Cougars he was the NCAA's all-time leading passer with 19,217 yards and 155 touchdowns. Yet he still went undrafted in 2012, needing the Houston Texans practice squad to get his professional career off the ground. Keenum started 10 games over the next two years before being traded to the Rams in 2015, but they made Jared Goff the first pick in the 2016 draft so there was no future for Keenum there beyond being a veteran mentor. Even Vikings head coach Mike Zimmer was among those who typecast Keenum as a just-in-case second-stringer. Zimmer acknowledged recently he didn't gain full confidence in Keenum until the 11th or 12th game of the season and, when Teddy Bridgewater was cleared to play in mid-November, Zimmer never declared Keenum the starter for more than a week at a time. "He just wanted a chance," his father, Steve Keenum, said this week in a phone interview. "He's got to have the knack. It's just a God-given, innate thing that he's maximized by working hard." As the oldest of his three children, Case made clear at an early age to Steve that he had the makeup to be an NFL quarterback even if there was no way to predict how the skill set would unfold. "He was competitive in everything. It could be a board game. It could be playing darts. It could be playing cards. It didn't matter. But if it had a ball, he wanted to do it," said Steve, who was a high school and college coach around Texas for 24 years, including 10 seasons as the head coach at his alma mater McMurry University. Good coaching, starting with dad's tips in the family backyards, was another success factor. When Briles left for Baylor, Kevin Sumlin arrived at Houston for Keenum's sophomore year. Dana Holgorsen, now the head coach at West Virginia, was the offensive coordinator and quarterbacks coach. After he departed, Kliff Kingsbury, currently the head coach at Texas Tech, took charge of the quarterbacks. "They had some speed, and the next thing you know they were throwing the ball all over the field," said Steve, who attended all 57 of Case's games with the Cougars and has been to each game he's played for the Vikings. "They had some really talented kids. People talked about him being a system guy, with short passes and a run after the catch, but they didn't see him play." Steve is now an area director for the Fellowship of Christian Athletes, an organization that Case has long been active in as well. "He's come to the realization like a lot of people in big situations that there are things that are really too big to do by yourself, and in order to stay grounded you've got to find somebody or something that you believe strongly in," Steve said. "I think his faith has been that for him." Though Keenum had prior NFL experience, including nine starts for the Los Angeles Rams in 2016, he was signed by the Vikings as a one-year stopgap to be the guy in the ball cap providing sideline support and give Bridgewater ample time to recover from his colossal knee injury. Bradford had just produced an injury-free career-best performance in 2016, after all, so the Vikings were banking on him. Over the last four months, though, they've been cashing in on Keenum, a dividend that has paid out handsomely for both parties. "We've got a great group of guys here," he said, "and I think we're all excited to be extending our season." With offensive coordinator Pat Shurmur deftly adapting the team's scheme to use Keenum's mobility to better advantage and a sleeker offensive line mostly protecting him well, the Vikings have leaped up the league rankings in every significant statistical category. Among them: 28th to ninth in scoring touchdowns on possessions after passing the 20-yard line, and 19th to third in third-down conversions. Keenum will start his first playoff game Sunday against New Orleans, with a raucous home crowd at U.S. Bank Stadium ready to cheer the next step toward the franchise's elusive first championship. "Our fans are awesome," Keenum said. "All my friends and family who have come up from Texas and my friends from other teams that come in, they'll text me after the games and they'll be like, 'Dude, that place is ridiculous.' It really is.".....»»

Category: sportsSource:  abscbnRelated NewsJan 12th, 2018

Mavericks beat Magic, stop 3-game slide

DALLAS --- Dennis Smith Jr. and Yogi Ferrell helped set the pace for the Dallas Mavericks in their 114-99 win over the Orlando Magic on Tuesday night. It started with rebounding. The 6-foot Ferrell led the team with eight boards, the 6-3 Smith had seven and the Mavericks used that spark to get offense going the other way. "Me and Yogi run (after rebounding)," Smith said. "We find each other on the break pretty well, and when we can get into the paint it opens up the floor for everybody." Ferrell said it was a result of the rest of the team boxing out, and he just benefited by grabbing the ball. "Those guys do the hard part. We do the easy part and get boards," Ferrell...Keep on reading: Mavericks beat Magic, stop 3-game slide.....»»

Category: newsSource:  inquirerRelated NewsJan 10th, 2018

Falcons show playoff poise in 26-13 win over upstart LA Rams

By Greg Beacham, Associated Press LOS ANGELES (AP) — The Atlanta Falcons jumped to an early 13-point lead before the Rams mounted two swift scoring drives. Los Angeles went to the Coliseum locker room at halftime with just a three-point deficit amid raucous cheers from a home crowd thirsty for playoff success. And then Matt Ryan and the tough, tested Falcons showed the upstart Rams what postseason poise is all about. Ryan passed for 218 yards and hit Julio Jones for an 8-yard touchdown with 5:48 to play, and the defending NFC champion Falcons advanced from the wild-card round with a 26-13 victory over the Rams on Saturday night. Devonta Freeman rushed for an early score and Matt Bryant kicked four field goals for the Falcons (11-6), who spoiled the Rams' first playoff game in 13 years with a methodical performance derived from hard-earned experience. Atlanta's journey to the Super Bowl last season ended infamously with that blown 28-3 lead against New England. In their first playoff game since, the Falcons allowed no surprises from the NFC West champion Rams (11-6). "We knew it was a situation we've been through before," Atlanta defensive tackle Dontari Poe said. "We just had to keep playing and use what we've learned." Jones caught nine passes for 94 yards for Atlanta, which never trailed while winning playoff games in consecutive seasons for the first time in franchise history. Against an opponent that had just six players on its roster with prior postseason appearances, the Falcons' experience showed through. "I think having gone through these situations, understanding what it's like, the atmosphere, those kinds of things, knowing that it's going to be tough, all those things kind of carry forward," Ryan said. "But at the end of the day, experience or no experience, you've got to execute." The Falcons advanced to face the top-seeded Eagles on Jan. 13 in Philadelphia. "Doesn't matter where we're going, we're going," Ryan said. "And that's the most exciting part." A raucous crowd of 74,300 packed the Coliseum on a crisp evening for the first NFL playoff game in the nation's second-largest city since early 1994. Los Angeles went 21 years without pro football before the Rams returned last season, and the franchise emphatically ended a 13-year streak of non-winning seasons this fall with an inspiring run to the Rams' first division title since 2003. But the Falcons have been here before, and they showed it. The Falcons jumped to their early lead by capitalizing on two mistakes by Pharoh Cooper, the Rams' Pro Bowl kick returner. Atlanta's offense then chewed up the clock and field position, with the first drive after halftime consuming 8:15. "To end with a time of possession over 37 minutes, that's hard to do in our league," Atlanta coach Dan Quinn said. "There was a nine-minute drive to start the second half, and I thought that really set the tone." The Falcons' defense did more than enough to slow down the NFL's highest-scoring offense, harassing Jared Goff into a 24-for-45 performance in his playoff debut. "They did a real nice job there moving the ball up the field and keeping us on the sideline," Goff said. "That can sure get you out of your rhythm." Robert Woods caught nine passes for 142 yards for the Rams, but rookie Cooper Kupp scored their only touchdown late in the first half. Atlanta held MVP candidate Todd Gurley to 101 yards rushing — just 43 in the first three quarters — and four receptions for a mere 10 yards. The Falcons ruined a celebratory night for the Rams, who rebounded from a rough homecoming season in 2016 with an outstanding debut year under 31-year-old Sean McVay, the youngest head coach to reach the playoffs in NFL history. "You see why the Falcons are the defending NFC champs," McVay said. "Certainly this is a humbling game. ... This is an experience that we can learn from. But I don't think this game was too big for our guys." The Rams' offense finally figured it out late in the first half: Goff made several sharp throws on a 79-yard drive ending in Kupp's TD catch, and Sam Ficken's first field goal trimmed the halftime deficit to 13-10. But the Rams' defense simply couldn't get off the field in the third quarter, whether due to missed tackles or clever play-calling by the Falcons. Los Angeles trimmed the lead to 19-13 with 10:49 to play, but the Falcons made another drive highlighted by a beautiful 52-yard screen pass from a blitz-avoiding Bryant to Mohamed Sanu. Jones then caught the sixth playoff TD pass of his career. Goff drove the Rams deep into Falcons territory, but LA turned it over on down at the Atlanta 5 with 2:05 to play. The Falcons stopped the Rams again on downs at midfield with 1:08 left. SARK'S RETURN Although the Falcons' offense took a step back in production this season, Atlanta chipped away at the Rams' defense throughout the Coliseum return of offensive coordinator Steve Sarkisian, who coached USC here until 2015. Ryan was methodical under relentless pressure from All-Pro lineman Aaron Donald, repeatedly avoiding trouble and making big throws. Freeman rushed for 66 yards, and Sanu had that key 52-yard gain on a screen pass. "Great call by Sark," Ryan said. COOPER'S MISTAKES Cooper is headed to the Pro Bowl after his outstanding regular season as a kick returner, but the second-year pro's misadventures in his playoff debut cost the Rams dearly. He muffed a punt that bounced off teammate Blake Countess in the first quarter, and Bryant subsequently hit the Falcons' first field goal. After Bryant's second field goal later in the quarter, Cooper got stripped by Damontae Kazee during a kickoff return at the Rams 32, and the Falcons drove for Freeman's short TD run. UP NEXT After the Falcons' defensive performance against Goff, they look like a potential problem for the powerful Eagles without quarterback Carson Wentz in the early Saturday divisional playoff game......»»

Category: sportsSource:  abscbnRelated NewsJan 7th, 2018

Popovich s odd alliance with red state fans

By Shaun Powell, NBA.com SAN ANTONIO -- About 400 people gathered at the Oak Hills Country Club in June 2016 and paid $500 to $250,000 to sip iced tea and nibble hors d’oeuvres next to a golf course designed by noted architect AW Tillinghast, who built many. One is owned by the man who was feted at this political fundraiser, Donald J. Trump. The presidential campaign was in full blast and saltier than the crackers on the cheese plate being passed around. Fresh off the plane, Trump thanked the Republicans for the big ‘ole Texas welcome, witnesses say, before launching a blistering attack on the usual targets: Hillary Clinton, Barack Obama, illegal immigration. Then, near the end of his 30-minute lunchtime appearance, in an effort to connect with the locals, he pivoted and mentioned perhaps the most famous man in town: Gregg Popovich. Witnesses say Trump called Popovich “a great coach” and said “he does a good job” and then there was some fidgeting in the room when the soon-to-be polarizing leader of the free world said this: “I don’t know if the coach is on my side.” Confirmation came emphatically, right after Trump won a divisive election that November. The coach of the Spurs lit into the President over the next several months with a handful of rants that had the stealth of Kawhi Leonard ambushing a timid ball-handler. In no particular order, here were Pop’s Greatest Hits, all issued through the media and without prompting or provocation: “The disgusting tenure and tone and all the comments … have been xenophobic, homophobic, racist, misogynistic. I live in a country where half the people ignored that to elect someone.” And: “He is in charge of our country. That’s disgusting.” And: “The man in the Oval Office is a soulless coward who thinks he can only become large by belittling others.” And: “We have a pathological liar in the White House ... You can’t believe anything that comes out of his mouth.” Popovich didn’t stop there with a President whose sensitivity and intelligence he questioned and accused of being guilty of “gratuitous fear-mongering.” When he took Trump to task for criticizing NFL players who knelt during the National Anthem and defended their rights to do so, Popovich also suspected a measure of the public outrage was racially motivated. “Our country is an embarrassment to the world,” he said. A 68-year-old wealthy white man, therefore, became a sports voice with weight in the political and social justice arena, where the NBA league office has greenlighted players and coaches to speak up. Popovich has done so with clarity and insight to gain national applause in certain corners. He wasn’t the first or the last in sports to verbally spank the president or tackle right-leaning sensitivities, yet he’s certainly the most unique in one respect. As a graduate of the Air Force Academy who works in a military town, and a five-time NBA champion coach who might symbolize the city more than The Alamo, Popovich has long been elevated to icon status, perhaps permanently so, in San Antonio, where folks are mad about the Spurs. Still, this is mostly conservative Texas, one of the most Republican of states based on the state legislature and the congressional delegation, a state that voted Republican in 10 straight presidential elections and saw 52.6 percent of voters punch for Trump. While voters in San Antonio-proper lean liberal, the surrounding areas swing solidly the opposite. Julianna Holt, the Spurs CEO and Popovich’s boss since March after assuming the position held for 20 years by her husband Peter, supported various Republican presidential candidates before eventually donating $5,400 to Trump’s campaign and $250,000 to the Trump Victory Fund, according to Federal Election Commission records. Popovich is therefore a blue blood in a red state and the contrast makes for strange if not uncomfortable alliance between a beloved coach and a group of conflicted Spurs worshippers. His views have in fact shattered the sacrilege by generating hostility from a segment of the basketball flock, something no coach with his credentials would ever feel. The constant winning and acts of charity do not insulate him from those who would prefer Popovich stuff a sweat sock in his bullhorn. Party lines not Popovich's focus “While we all believe Gregg Popovich has the right to his opinions, where was Popovich when Hillary called half of us a 'basket of deplorables?’Many were Spurs fans who are now tired of being insulted ... many of us will never pay to see a Spurs game again.” -- Donna Howington  “The money I will save this year not attending Spurs games should buy me a nice set of golf clubs. Thanks Pop!” -- Jake Ingorgia  “I will never watch them again until Popovich is gone. He is just like all the other leftist celebrities.” -- Lee Harbach, Bulverde They arrive on cue, most from the dusty towns that orbit around San Antonio, some from the city itself. Popovich has unloaded three times this year on Trump, once after the election, once at the start of training camp and most recently by cold-calling Dave Zirin, a friend and liberal writer from The Nation, a progressive magazine. And each time, the letters land in the office of Ricardo Pimentel, the editor who coordinates the comments section of the Express-News, San Antonio’s newspaper of record. “It’s a cycle,” says Pimental, with a sigh. “He speaks out. People who disagree with him send us letters to the editor, then people who object to their disagreement write us letters to the editor defending Pop. Then they respond to one another.” The initial reaction, he said, is always stacked against Popovich and many identify themselves as Spurs fans ripping up their tickets or promising to never attend or watch games again. Even if those who made threats actually carried them out, the change in the Spurs’ home attendance is a blip, from 99.2 percent capacity last season to 98.6 so far this season. Popovich, of course, has been big for business since his first full season as coach in 1997-98. Besides the titles, the Spurs have reached the playoffs every season and won 50 games every season (except for the lockout-shortened 50-game 1998-99 campaign, when they won 37). In short, Popovich's Spurs have a track record beyond reproach in the NBA. If the 2017-18 Spurs stay on pace, it’ll be 20 straight winning seasons for Popovich, one more than Phil Jackson for the all-time NBA record. He hasn’t been this politically vocal until lately, due to Trump, yet was always politically aware, say those who know him. Well-versed through his readings and observations, Popovich welcomes discussion with acquaintences about classism, leadership, government and preferably over a bottle of wine. His two-decades exposure to young black men from humble beginnings raised his awareness and sensitivities about race and bias. Golden State Warriors coach Steve Kerr once played for the Spurs and lately has echoed many of the same thoughts as Popovich. But Kerr coaches in the Bay Area, where folks nod their heads in agreement. Kerr said he can only imagine the flak Popovich catches in Texas. “Here’s this iconic coach who stands for everything that’s right and for honor and integrity, he served in the military, you see him stand at attention for the American flag — man, Pop loves his country,” Kerr said. “And in the middle of Texas for him to be questioning the Republican President, some of the people down there are probably confused. Like, 'I don’t get it, we love this guy but he’s on the other side from us.' “What I love about Pop is that it’s not about party, not about politics. It’s about integrity and character and that’s what people need to pay attention to. It’s not about some policy, not about how much we pay in taxes. If we can just get back to the point where character matters, then we’ll be in better shape. The problem is, it’s clear character has gone down the tubes in many leadership positions in our country. That’s what Pop is calling out.” True enough, Popovich never publicly attached himself to a political party; to suggest he is against Republicans might be as misleading as believing Colin Kaepernick is against the military. When he played for Popovich, Kerr couldn’t recall a time when the coach was this annoyed by the country’s leadership. “The country was in a better place in terms of a relatively peaceful time back then,” Kerr said. “Yes, 9-11 happened and the whole world changed. But we didn’t have quite the same partisan nature, not only in politics but the national conversation. And so people could just admire Pop for who he was and people might not have been aware of his political leanings because they didn’t ask. When we won and went to the White House, Pop and the team went when Bush was in office. We went in ’99 when President Clinton was there. Republican, Democrat, didn’t matter. The times are so different now.” Kerr laughed quickly when asked about the semi-serious groundswell of social media support for a Kerr-Popovich ticket in 2020. Kerr said he hopes to be on his fifth NBA title as a coach then, but turned semi-serious about Popovich. “Our country needs somebody like Pop who can actually lead and unite from a position of authority and credibility,” Kerr said. “This guy served in the military, grew up in a melting pot, understands leadership. More than anything, he’ll cut through all the [expletive].” Since going nuclear on Trump, Popovich declined invites from the national political shows (and wouldn’t comment for this story). That proves what friends have maintained all along: Popovich doesn’t want to be anyone’s political hero or pundit. He’d rather speak when the moment calls for it, then be left alone. That last part is tricky, though. Empathy often marks Popovich's way “Can you imagine being Republican on the Spurs? Would you feel welcome? He’s like Berkeley -- for free speech unless you disagree with him. Shut up and coach, Gregg.” -- Shannon Deason  “When it comes to coaching basketball or drinking wine, Popovich has experience. When it comes to our country, his opinion is no better than anyone else’s." -- Harold Siemens, Seguin  “Open letter to the NBA referee who ejected Pop from the Warriors-Spurs game: Don’t feel bad about what Gregg Popovich called you. He called the POTUS worse and got away with it.” -- Larry Peabody Once the wheels touched down, the pilot jokingly announced over the loudspeaker: “Welcome to Gregg Popovich International Airport,” and one particular passenger noticed that nobody on the plane thought it was strange. Sean Elliott always knew how deeply rooted Popovich is with San Antonio. Aside from the famous Spanish missions and the River Walk, the city is known for the only professional sports team in town. And while George Gervin, David Robinson and Tim Duncan have come and gone, the one lingering reminder is a sometimes gruff and scruffy coach, maybe the NBA’s best ever. “He’s one of the pillars of the community,” said Elliott, twice an All-Star with the Spurs. “He’s looked at with great admiration. He is as respected as anyone who has ever lived in or been part of the city. It’s not just because he’s a basketball coach. Pop has been a big part of the community, huge contributor to charitable functions, good leader.” Elliott was a Spurs rookie in 1989 when their relationship began and he saw the start of Popovich’s reach in the region. Popovich then was an assistant coach under Larry Brown and just planting his feet in the NBA. That summer, Elliott and Popovich piled into a van with the team's "Coyote" mascot and conducted basketball clinics in San Marcos, Corpus Christi, Laredo and similar places. They were signing autographs in malls and running kids through drills in 100 degree heat, never hearing a complaint from the coach. Elliott said folks in those small conservative towns loved him. “If you sit and hear him talk about something, you tend to agree with him,” Elliott said. “He’ll put it in a logical way and he’s very thoughtful, well read and super intelligent, maybe the most intelligent person I’ve ever known.” The owner of the Spurs then was Red McCombs, a homespun Texan who made his fortune in car dealerships and media companies. McCombs didn’t give Popovich the coaching job after firing Brown, telling Popovich “you’ve got a chance to be a great coach” if he got more experience, which he did, going to the Warriors to work for Don Nelson. Popovich returned to San Antonio two years later as general manager, then became coach and the rest is history. Now 90, McCombs said: “Popovich has become the distinguished part of the franchise. He wears it well. Can’t say enough about what kind of man he is and what he’s meant to San Antonio. God has blessed us with Gregg Popovich.” McCombs loves to tell how Popovich, by chance, learned that a local family needed a car. The coach wrote a check, gave it to the father and walked away. McCombs said it was “typical Popovich” who has empathy for those with less. McCombs, curiously, has traditionally been one of the biggest Republican bankrollers in the state, who gave to the Trump campaign and is fully aware of what Popovich thinks of his choice for President. And so one of the most powerful men in Central Texas, who leans politically to the color of his nickname, had a strong reaction to that. “He’s earned the right to give his comments about citizenship or Trump or anything else,” said McCombs, voice rising. “Yes, he made some statements that others might disagree with. But I’ll tell you this: Popovich would be elected to anything he wants to in San Antonio.” Remaining silent never an option “Our country is not an embarrassment to the world. I will tell you what an embarrassment is. It is an American citizen who got a free education from the great Air Force Academy ... and then has the audacity to say that the greatest nation in the world is an embarrassment because the President rightly demands that Americans stand for the anthem. Popovich should be ashamed of himself.” -- Nick DeLouis, Fair Oaks Ranch  “Nowhere on God’s green Earth do they have the right to disrespect our flag and the men and women who died to keep us free. I’m appalled that you stooped so low to join in that disrespect. Shame on you!” -- Fred Martin, Fair Oaks Ranch  “Coach Pop has squashed my love and enthusiasm for the team. A national treasure, he is not. Coach Pop has a voice, but not my voice." -- Jo Ivan A few years ago Popovich was in New York with his daughter to catch a Broadway play when the coach had a last minute change in strategy. He learned that John Carlos was giving a lecture at New York University that night. So Popovich told his daughter to take one of her friends instead; said he was going to see “Dr. Carlos” speak. “When he came in I was surprised and delighted,” Carlos said recently. “Quite naturally, everyone knew who he was but he just wanted to sit and listen.” A year later, in 2015, Popovich flew Carlos to San Antonio to address the team and Carlos admitted to being star struck around Tim Duncan and others. Yet Carlos was most curious about Popovich and why the coach took a strong interest in an Olympic sprinter who raised a fist on the victory stand in 1968, which is frozen as an iconic civil rights moment. “Being with the Spurs gave me an opportunity to check his character out,” Carlos said. “I knew he was a whiz at putting players together to bring out their best ability. But through my conversations with him it became apparent that he was a social activist himself at one point in his life. He was teaching his players about activism and to be concerned about their fellow man and what was going on around their lives, not just basketball. “I was impressed. He just wanted them to know they had a larger role than just playing basketball in the society in which they live.” Carlos, therefore, was not surprised to see Popovich defend the rights of kneeling black football players who came under attack from Trump. On the first day of training camp in September, Popovich said: “Obviously race is the elephant in the room and we all understand that. Unless it is talked about constantly it is not going to get better.” What followed was another swirl of exchanges between Popovich critics and supporters in San Antonio, and Popovich acknowledged receiving mail from both sides. The anti-Pop mail, though, was jarring to Carlos, given the coach’s work in town. “When people write and lambast him for taking leaders to task for what they’re doing to society, that’s like water rolling off a duck’s back, man,” Carlos said. “When they write negative things about him, it encourages him to keep doing what he’s doing. Those people are the problem. Go ahead and throw stones and it just motivates him to do his job. “Look, I’m a black man who spoke out. Imagine what they think of him as a white man who speaks just as strong, to try and get people to see things in a better light? They throw stones at him even more, like, 'Hey you’re white, you have a great life. Keep your mouth shut.’ Well, God points people in certain directions. We know who we are. We do what we do.” And what Popovich does is enlist the help of giants in the social justice world and bring them into his world. He did that with Cornel West, the Harvard professor and civil rights activist, last fall. Popovich invited West to San Antonio to speak at an East Side community center with a few hundred mostly black and Latino students and their parents. Done without TV cameras or media invitation, the discussion was about the importance of education, the imperfect world, self respect and how to help communities. This was an audience that, presumably and unanimously, connected with a white man who didn’t live among them, but was with them. They were the people Popovich had in mind when he attacked present leadership. This was not the audience that writes to the Spurs and the Express-News asking him to take a vow of silence, though he is aware of them, too. “Some responses make you wonder what country you live in,” Popovich said, “and other responses make you very hopeful … overall, it renews my feeling that something must be done because there is enough people willing to listen.” Veteran NBA writer Shaun Powell has worked for newspapers and other publications for more than 25 years. You can e-mail him here or follow him on Twitter. The views on this page do not necessarily reflect the views of the NBA, its clubs or Turner Broadcasting. .....»»

Category: sportsSource:  abscbnRelated NewsJan 5th, 2018

Stable Packers embark on offseason of change with GM search

By Genaro C. Armas, Associated Press GREEN BAY, Wis. (AP) — One of the NFL’s model franchises for stability and success, the Green Bay Packers have embarked on an offseason of change after missing the playoffs and finishing with a losing record for the first time since 2008. Ted Thompson is out after 13 years as general manager but will remain as senior adviser of football operations. President/CEO Mark Murphy said a search for a replacement has started. This should be an attractive opening since the Packers aren’t far off from returning to contender status. Two-time NFL MVP quarterback Aaron Rodgers is expected to return to full health next season following a collarbone injury. “I think with our organization, the success we’ve had in the past, I think very realistically we can win Super Bowls in the near future,” Murphy said Tuesday at Lambeau Field. “And it’s now on us to get the right people in place and move forward.” The Packers have several in-house candidates. But whoever replaces Thompson will have Mike McCarthy under contract through 2019, after Murphy said the coach was given a one-year extension during the season. The extension prevents McCarthy from having lame-duck status with a new GM. “Kind of like Ted, the two of them together have had a great run. We have all the confidence in the world in Mike,” Murphy said. The Packers’ Super Bowl victory in 2010 was the highlight of Thompson’s 13-year tenure, which also included four NFC championship game appearances. The Packers abided by a “draft-and-develop” philosophy on Thompson’s watch. “The organization, our fans and our community were fortunate to have had one of the NFL’s all-time great general managers leading our football operations,” Murphy said. But Green Bay lost its season finale 35-11 on Sunday to the Detroit Lions, slipping below .500 in a season in which Rodgers missed nine games with the collarbone injury. The offense struggled with backup Brett Hundley, and a defense stocked with high draft picks failed to improve again. Murphy said the subject of a transition was broached with Thompson after the season finale. Thompson, who has often spoken about his love of scouting, was given options. But Murphy said he wasn’t forced out. “It was a decision we made jointly,” Murphy said. “It was something in my mind I think it’s going to be good for the organization and Ted.” Thompson, notoriously media shy, did not attend the news conference. “This is a special place and we’ve had some success along the way, but it’s the relationships that I value most,” he said in a statement. “I look forward to supporting this team in my new role as we strive to win another championship.” Several players spoke about the transition as they cleaned out their lockers on Tuesday after a team meeting. “It is a little uncharted territory for us. It’s going to be different, we’re going to have some different voices, some different faces in here,” said kicker Mason Crosby, one of the team’s longest tenured players. “Ted Thompson with his transition through my 11 years here, it’s always hard to see people leave.” Thompson took over on Jan. 14, 2005, and selected Rodgers in the first round of the draft that year. He hired McCarthy as head coach the following year, and the Packers won six NFC North titles under his watch. “It’s tough to see him step down. I wouldn’t be here if it wasn’t for him, taking a shot on me coming out as a free agent meant a little more,” said guard Lane Taylor, a fifth-year player who rose from undrafted free agent to starter. But standards are high in a city nicknamed “Titletown.” The Packers are the only publicly owned team in the NFL and play in the league’s smallest market, about a two-hour drive north of Milwaukee. Thompson has long been a target for some restless fans eager for the club to take a more aggressive approach in free agency. A defense plagued by injuries at cornerback had some moments trying to adjust to the loss of Rodgers on the other side of the ball. But production slacked off toward the end of the season. Green Bay lacked a consistent pass rush and didn’t force a turnover over the season’s final three weeks. While the team has not made a formal announcement about the departure of veteran defensive coordinator Dom Capers, Murphy said McCarthy has the go-ahead to search for a replacement without waiting for a new GM. “Mike has that authority,” Murphy said when asked about the coordinator search. “This is the time of year when things move pretty quickly, and I think on the coaching side, you don’t want to put yourself at a disadvantage.” Green Bay, which finished 22nd in total defense for a second consecutive year, used its top draft pick in each of the past six seasons on defensive players. The Packers were 15th in defense in both 2014 and 2015......»»

Category: sportsSource:  abscbnRelated NewsJan 3rd, 2018

Falcons clinch playoff spot, beat Panthers on Bryant’s 5 FGs

By Charles Odum, Associated Press ATLANTA (AP) — Matt Bryant kicked five field goals, including a 56-yarder, for all of Atlanta’s second-half points and the Falcons clinched a playoff spot by beating the Carolina Panthers 22-10 on Sunday. After the teams played to a 7-7 halftime tie, the 42-year-old Bryant kicked field goals of 30, 42, 30, 56 and 33 yards without a miss. Atlanta (10-6) clinched the No. 6 seed in the NFC and will play at the Los Angeles Rams next week in the first round of the playoffs. On a day when Cam Newton and the Panthers’ offense struggled, Bryant’s 15 points provided a margin too great for Carolina to overcome. The Panthers (11-5) had a playoff spot secured entering the weekend, but they couldn’t improve their position. Minnesota’s 23-10 win over Chicago earlier Sunday ended the Panthers’ hopes of a first-round bye. The loss to the Falcons ended Carolina’s goal of winning the NFC South, and the Panthers will open the playoffs at New Orleans. Matt Ryan completed 28 of 45 passes for 317 yards, including a 19-yard touchdown pass to Devonta Freeman on Atlanta’s opening drive, and no interceptions. The Panthers pulled even on Newton’s 4-yard scoring pass to Devin Funchess late in the first half. Newton threw three second-half interceptions. The third interception, by Robert Alford in the end zone with 8 seconds remaining, ended the Panthers’ final drive. Newton completed 14 of 34 passes for 180 yards and one touchdown. With the game tied in the third quarter, the Falcons had an apparent touchdown taken off the board when a review showed Mohamed Sanu didn’t maintain control of a 12-yard catch in the end zone. The ball hit the ground after Sanu collided with Julio Jones, who also was crossing to the middle of the end zone. The Falcons settled for Bryant’s first 30-yard field goal for a 10-7 lead. Newton led the Panthers on a 16-play touchdown drive that consumed more than half of the second quarter and tied the game at 7. Newton gained the needed yard on a fourth-down keeper, but the true back-breaking play for Atlanta’s defense was his 27-yard pass to Brenton Bersin on a third-and-23 play. The pass set up Newton’s 4-yard scoring pass to Funchess. SLOW START Newton was 0 for 9 before finally completing his final seven passes of the first half. Newton completed his first pass to McCaffrey — for a loss of 3 yards — midway through the second quarter. MILESTONE FOR JULIO Jones caught a 14-yard pass midway through the third quarter to reach 9,000 career yards faster than any receiver since the 1970 merger. The two-time All-Pro and five-time Pro Bowl selection last month set the league mark with the most catches and yards receiving in a receiver’s first 90 games. Jones finished with five catches for 80 yards. He survived an injury scare after he took a big hit from Carolina strong safety Mike Adams on the opening drive. He returned to the field on the same drive, which ended with Ryan’s touchdown pass to Freeman. NO STEWART Running back Jonathan Stewart was out due to back tightness. The Panthers also were without two more starters: safety Kurt Coleman (ankle), and right guard Trai Turner (concussion). UP NEXT Panthers: Carolina will play at New Orleans next week in the first round of the NFC playoffs. Falcons: Atlanta will visit the Rams next week in the first round of the playoffs......»»

Category: sportsSource:  abscbnRelated NewsJan 1st, 2018

Chris Gavina quits as head coach of Kia

Kia's unconventional ways just took another unconventional turn. Elevated as official head coach of the Picanto for the 2018 PBA season after spending time as the team's top deputy, Chris Gavina has resigned from his post Saturday. First reported by PBA Press Corps president Gerry Ramos of Spin.ph, this latest development for Kia came after the team lost its first two games of the Philippine Cup. Per Ramos' report, top assistant Ricky Dandan will take over the Picanto while Gavina will step away from coaching for a bit to put more attention in managing the production and marketing of his sports drink, IMPAKT. With Gavina handling coaching duties, Kia, then known as the Mahindra Floodbuster, made its first ever playoff appearance in the 2016 Governors' Cup. The team largely stayed in the hunt for the eight spot in last season's first two conference before things fell apart in the 2017 Governors' Cup when the Picanto lost all of their 11 games. Then, the team traded away its number 1 pick to San Miguel in exchange of role players and the franchise has been the butt of jokes ever since.   --- Follow this writer on Twitter, @paullintag8.....»»

Category: sportsSource:  abscbnRelated NewsDec 30th, 2017

Six standout local volleybelles of 2017

We’ve seen them shine this year whether in the collegiate stage, in the club leagues or even in the international scene. These six Pinay volleyball players took the sport’s limelight in the year that’s about to end.     DESIREE CHENG Desiree Cheng came into De La Salle University during the time bitter rival Ateneo de Manila University got the Lady Spikers’ number. From Seasons 76 to 77, Cheng saw her team fall prey to the might of the Lady Eagles in the UAAP Finals. Then redemption came in Season 78. Unfortunately, the 5-foot-8 spiker was forced to watch from the sidelines with an ACL tear as her crew reclaimed the crown. A year after, Cheng got her biggest break. DLSU lost most of its veteran core after Season 78 and needed another scoring option. Cheng heeded the call. Though Cheng struggled at the start of the eliminations, the hitter slowly got her groove back and delivered when DLSU needed offense in their sixth straight championship showdown against Ateneo. Cheng was the X-factor for the Ramil De Jesus-mentored squad during the series. Her contributions both on offense and floor defense played a huge part in the Lady Spikers’ series sweep of the Lady Eagles for the school’s 10th title. Cheng also helped F2 Logistics claim the Cargo Movers’ breakthrough Philippine Superliga Grand Prix title and a runner-up finish in the All-Filipino Conference.   ALYSSA VALDEZ Although Alyssa Valdez failed to claim a crown in the Premier Volleyball League this year and a continued title drought since 2016, the Phenom’s magic remains. She can still fill up game venues whenever she takes the court and 2017 proved as the former Queen Eagles’ biggest year in terms of her flourishing volleyball career. Valdez brought her talents abroad, landing a stint with 3BB Nakornnont in the Thai League and in the Thai-Denmark Superleague where her team finished third in both tournaments. After her appearance in Thailand, Valdez donned the Creamline jersey and led the Rebisco franchise to a bronze medal finish both in the PVL Reinforced and Open conferences. Valdez also had another tour of duty, playing for the national team in the AVC Asian Women’s Senior Volleyball Championship and the 29th Southeast Asian Games in Kuala Lumpur, Malaysia. The 24-year old hitter got another international gig when she was tapped by Attack Line to play in the Chinese-Taipei Volleyball League.          Outside volleyball, Valdez has a blooming relationship with basketball star Kiefer Ravena. If she’s not busy with her volleyball and other commitments, Valdez also drew attention as one of the newest member of the so-called PBA players’ WAGS (wives and girlfriends) cheering for Ravena and the NLEX Road Warriors.      DAWN MACANDILI She may be only 5-foot tall but Dawn Macandili stood alongside Asia’s volleyball giants this year. The De La Salle University libero was the catalyst in the Lady Spikers’ back-to-back UAAP championship run. Her pesky floor defense frustrated DLSU’s rivals while giving her teammates a good first ball to operate their lethal offense.  But her biggest showing was when she landed a spot in the national team that competed in the AVC Asian Senior Women’s Volleyball Championship and in the Kuala Lumpur SEA Games. A first-timer donning the national colors, Macandili did not disappoint as she earned the respect and admiration of Japanese coaches and trainers during the Nationals’ training camp in Japan. She performed even better when the PHI hosted the AVC Asian Seniors. Ms. Everywhere gave teams like Asian powerhouse Vietnam, Kazakhstan, South Korea and Thailand a hard time with her floor defense. All her efforts caught the eyes of the AVC tournament officials and she was rewarded with the historic 2nd Best Libero award. She made the final list of in the national team that participated in the SEA Games. Back in the local scene, Macandili helped F2 Logistics to runner-up finish in the PSL All-Filipino Conference and a breakthrough crown in the Grand Prix.    JAJA SANTIAGO Tall, powerful and versatile, Jaja Santiago is a force to reckon with.  At 6-foot-5, Santiago dominated the Premier Volleyball League Collegiate Conference as she led the National University Lady Bulldogs to a perfect championship run. She also bagged the conference’s Most Valuable Player award. Though NU failed to make it in the Final Four of UAAP for the second straight year, Santiago’s effort for the Lady Bulldogs was rewarded with a third straight Best Attacker award to go with the Best Scorer and Best Blocker recognitions. In the PSL, Santiago was a consistent scorer for the Foton Tornadoes in the All-Filipino Conference and the Grand Prix. Under the tutelage of Serbian import Moro Branislav, Santiago became an even more dangerous and versatile player. Aside from her natural position as a middle blocker, she can now wreak havoc on both wings the puts her height advantage to good use. She made it into the national team that competed in the AVC Asian Seniors and SEA Games and was the Nationals’ scoring ace. Santiago received an offer from Thai powerhouse Bangkok Glass but declined the offer to play in her last year with the Lady Bulldogs.             KIM FAJARDO Setter Kim Fajardo left winning legacy when she played her swan song for DLSU. It took her a few months to decide to play her fifth year with the Lady Spikers. Leading a young crew after the departure of the core of the Season 78 championship squad, Fajardo faced a tough challenge in the Taft-based squad’s title-retention bid. But the Batanguena proved her worth as a leader and the skipper rallied the Lady Spikers back into the Finals in a sixth straight collision against bitter rival Ateneo. Fajardo’s composure carried DLSU in a tough Game 1 match and again in the five-set title-clincher to complete the Lady Spikers’ series sweep of the Lady Eagles. She earned a spot in the national team as a starting setter. Fajardo steered F2 Logistics to its first PSL Grand Prix crown bagged the conference’s Best Setter award. She helped the Cargo Movers to a runner-up finish in the All-Filipino Conference.     JOVIELYN PRADO Silent but deadly. Jovielyn Prado may not be the typical vocal leader but her presence inside the court is enough to rally the Arellano University Lady Chiefs to meet their goals. The outside hitter proved her worth to the Lady Chiefs when she led the Legarda-based squad back on the NCAA women’s volleyball throne. A year removed from the title, Arellano U turned to Prado to provide the spark the Lady Chiefs needed to make another shot at the crown. Consistent, efficient and effective, Prado delivered for the Obet Javier-mentored squad. Arellano U advanced in the stepladder semifinals and dethroned College of St. Benilde to set up a date with thrice-to-beat, three-time Most Valuable Player Grethcel Soltones-led San Sebastian College. Undaunted even with a great series disadvantage, Prado played her best three games of the season to power the Lady Chiefs to an impressive sweep of the Lady Stags. Prado continued her great performance in the PVL Reinforced and Open Conference playing for the Power Smashers. She then bannered the Lady Chiefs to a bronze medal finish in the Collegiate Conference at the expense of UAAP team Adamson University.   --- Follow this writer on Twitter, @fromtheriles   .....»»

Category: sportsSource:  abscbnRelated NewsDec 28th, 2017

Royal upset: Kings drub Cavaliers, 109-95

By Michael Wagaman, Associated Press SACRAMENTO, Calif. (AP) — Vince Carter scored a season-high 24 points, and the Sacramento Kings handed the Cleveland Cavaliers their second straight loss with a 109-95 victory on Wednesday night (Thursday, PHL time). Carter had missed the previous three games due to a rib injury and coach's decision. The 40-year-old former dunk king gave Cleveland all kinds of problems in his return, shooting 10-of-12 in 30 minutes. Willie Cauley-Stein had 17 points and nine rebounds for Sacramento, and Bogdan Bogdanovic added 16 points and eight assists. Zach Randolph had 14 points and seven boards. Cleveland was coming off a 99-92 loss at Golden State on Christmas Day (Dec. 26, PHL time), stopping the Cavaliers' 26-game streak with 100 points or more. Cleveland had not dropped consecutive games since a four-game slide from Oct. 25-Nov. 1 (Oct. 26-Nov. 2, PHL time). LeBron James had 16 points, 10 rebounds and 14 assists for the Cavs, and Kevin Love scored 23 points. James cited the team's transition defense as the primary reason for its loss to Golden State. This time it was an inconsistent offense and a big night by Carter that did in the reigning Eastern Conference champs. Carter made a buzzer-beating three-pointer to give Sacramento an 85-80 lead heading into the fourth quarter. He connected again from long range to make it 101-87 with 5:38 left, and then made a 16-foot double-pump shot over Jae Crowder before leaving to a standing ovation with 20.1 seconds left. Carter had not scored more than eight points in a game this season. WAITING ON I.T. Isaiah Thomas' long-awaited debut for Cleveland was held off for at least for another game. The veteran point guard, who is coming back from a right hip injury, worked out before the loss and there was speculation he might play against the Kings before being ruled out. Coach Tyronn Lue left open the possibility that he could be activated for Saturday's (Sunday, PHL time) game in Utah. TIP-INS Cavaliers: Cleveland had won five of the last six against the Kings. Unlike the first game between the teams this season when the Cavs rallied in the second half to win, Lue's team was outscored 47-40 in the second half. Kings: Rookie Frank Mason scored four points in his first start of the season as part of coach Dave Joerger's decision to go with a small lineup against the bigger Cavs. Malachi Richardson also made his first career start and also scored four points. UP NEXT Cavaliers: Play in Utah on Saturday (Sunday, PHL time). Cleveland has lost three straight in Salt Lake City. Kings: Host Phoenix on Friday night (Saturday, PHL time)......»»

Category: sportsSource:  abscbnRelated NewsDec 28th, 2017

Eagles clinch No. 1 seed with 19-10 win over Raiders

By Rob Maaddi, Associated Press PHILADELPHIA (AP) — Jake Elliott kicked a 48-yard field goal with 22 seconds left, and the Philadelphia Eagles clinched the No. 1 seed for the NFC playoffs with a sloppy 19-10 victory over the Oakland Raiders on Monday night. Ronald Darby intercepted Derek Carr's pass and ran it back 52 yards with 54 seconds left, but was ruled down by contact at the spot of the pick. Nick Foles then completed four straight passes for 21 yards. After an incomplete pass, Elliott nailed his kick right down the middle. Derek Barnett returned a fumble for a touchdown after picking up a lateral on Oakland's final play from scrimmage. The Eagles (13-2) went to the Super Bowl and lost 24-21 to New England the last time they had home-field advantage following the 2004 season. Coming off a 12-4 season, the Raiders (6-9) were a popular pick to challenge the Patriots for the AFC title. But they've had a disappointing season and were eliminated from the playoff chase on Sunday. Still, playing for pride, Oakland nearly spoiled Philadelphia's Christmas. Carr threw a 63-yard TD pass to Amari Cooper to tie it at 7 early in the second quarter. Cooper was wide open after cornerback Jalen Mills tried to jump the route. Giorgio Tavecchio kicked a 25-yard field goal on the opening drive of the third quarter to give the Raiders a 10-7 lead. The teams traded turnovers on three straight possessions, starting with Patrick Robinson intercepting Carr and returning it to Oakland's 44. Eagles left guard Chance Warmack then caused Jay Ajayi to fumble when he tried to push the pile and hit his teammate. The Raiders recovered at their 30, but gave it back on the next play when Marshawn Lynch fumbled at the same spot. Philadelphia couldn't do much with excellent field position and settled for Elliott's tying 35-yard field goal. After Tavecchio missed a 48-yard field goal with 7:58 remaining, Foles threw a pass that bounced off Pro Bowl tight end Zach Ertz's hands and was intercepted by Reggie Nelson at the Eagles 37. But Philadelphia quickly got the ball back when Malcolm Jenkins stripped Jalen Richard and recovered it at the Eagles 16. The offense went three-and-out. Oakland's first drive ended with Carr throwing the ball away on fourth-and-2 from Philadelphia's 42. The Eagles scored on the ensuing possession when Foles tossed a 17-yard TD pass to Ajayi for a 7-0 lead. Corey Clement ran 2 yards on fourth-and-1 to extend the drive. STREAK SNAPPED Foles had gone 170 passes without throwing a pick. It was the longest active streak in the NFL. MISSED CHANCES Raiders: Nelson dropped what should've been a pick-6 in the second quarter. Eagles: Elliott was wide right on a 33-yard field goal at the end of the first half. INJURIES Raiders: OT Vadal Alexander sustained a concussion. Eagles: DE Brandon Graham left with an ankle injury in the fourth quarter. UP NEXT Raiders: Host the Los Angeles Chargers (8-7), who are still in contention for an AFC wild card. Eagles: Host the Dallas Cowboys (8-7) in a game that has no playoff implications......»»

Category: sportsSource:  abscbnRelated NewsDec 26th, 2017

Seahawks beat Cowboys 21-12 in playoff elimination game

By Schuyler Dixon, Associated Press ARLINGTON, Texas (AP) — Justin Coleman put Seattle in front for good with a 30-yard interception return for a touchdown and the Seahawks won a playoff elimination game against Dallas, beating the Cowboys 21-12 on Sunday in Ezekiel Elliott’s return from a six-game suspension. Dak Prescott threw two interceptions and the Dallas offense didn’t score a touchdown despite the reunion with his backfield mate, the one he shared a remarkable rookie season with a year ago when Cowboys had an NFC-best 13 wins. Now Dallas (8-7) is eliminated from the postseason with the end of its three-game winning streak, and the Seahawks (9-6) still have a chance to keep their five-year playoff streak alive after Russell Wilson threw for two touchdowns despite a career-low 93 yards passing. Coleman gave Seattle a 14-9 lead in the third quarter when he reached down to catch Prescott’s badly overthrown pass to Elliott and ran untouched 30 yards for a touchdown. It was the fourth pick-six of the season for Prescott, who threw just four interceptions last season when he was the NFL Offensive Rookie of the Year. He has 13 interceptions for the season. The Seahawks were eliminated in the NFC West race by the Los Angeles Rams’ 27-23 win at Tennessee. But they can still make the postseason with some help despite gaining just 136 total yards — their fewest since getting 135 in a 14-9 win over the St. Louis Rams in 2013. Seattle’s first two offensive touchdowns were set up by pass interference penalties in the end zone. The first was a 3-yarder to Jimmy Graham, the second a 6-yarder to Doug Baldwin after running plays backed up the Seahawks both times. The Cowboys, who lost their first three without Elliott before the winning streak, didn’t take it easy on last year’s NFL rushing leader after his six-week layoff, giving him 15 carries for 73 yards in the first half. The longest carry was a 9-yarder as he averaged 4.7 per carry. Elliott finished with 97 yards on 24 carries. But Dallas didn’t give Elliott the ball with a first down at the Seattle 3 when trailing by nine points midway through the fourth quarter. After a Prescott run, a holding penalty on a pass play and the third sack of Prescott, Dan Bailey missed a 34-yarder. Bailey, who had two 51-yarders among his four kicks, missed again in the closing seconds. Dallas receiver Dez Bryant dropped the first pass of the game and was caught on camera on the sideline yelling at former Cowboys receiver Miles Austin, now a staff member. Soon after, he fumbled after making a catch, setting up Wilson’s scoring toss to Graham. Bryant had another ball go off his hands on a throw behind him, and the tipped ball was intercepted by K.J. Wright to wipe out one of several promising Dallas scoring chances. MIMICKING ZEKE Coleman repeated an Elliott antic from last season, when the Dallas running back jumped into the jumbo Salvation Army red kettle after a touchdown on Thanksgiving. Coleman got the same penalty, too — a 15-yarder for unsportsmanlike conduct. WAY BACK The Seahawks had 2 yards passing at halftime thanks in part to DeMarcus Lawrence’s 22-yard sack of Wilson in the first half. Lawrence overpowered Germain Ifedi, forced Wilson to backtrack after he tried scrambling to his right and tackled Wilson as he tried to run away from him at the Seattle 8. GRAHAM MILESTONE Graham’s second-quarter touchdown made him the first NFL tight end with at least 10 scoring catches in a season for two franchises. He did it three times with New Orleans and has 69 career TDs. INJURIES Cowboys: Five-time Pro Bowl LT Tyron Smith started despite a right knee injury that kept him out of practice most of the week. He came out after the first series, replaced by Byron Bell. UP NEXT Seahawks: Home against Arizona next Sunday. Cowboys: At Philadelphia next Sunday......»»

Category: sportsSource:  abscbnRelated NewsDec 25th, 2017

Fitz has a big day, Cardinals get first shutout in 25 years

By Bob Baum, Associated Press GLENDALE, Ariz. (AP) — Larry Fitzgerald had a big day in what might have been the final home game of his prolific career and the Arizona Cardinals shut out an opponent for the first time in 25 seasons in a 23-0 victory over Eli Manning and the New York Giants on Sunday. Fitzgerald, an 11-time Pro Bowl selection in his 14 NFL seasons, caught nine passes for 119 yards and a touchdown. He even completed a pass for the first time (in three career tries), a 21-yarder to Jaron Brown. Manning, on the other hand, could not get the offense moving for the Giants (2-13) and got no help on the ground. The 36-year-old quarterback completed 27 of 45 passes for 263 yards and was intercepted twice, both by Antoine Bethea. Manning also had the ball stripped by Deone Bucannon and returned 21 yards for a touchdown by Robert Nkemdiche. Arizona had not shut out an opponent since a 17-0 win over the Giants on Dec. 12, 1992. The Giants were last shut out on Oct. 12, 2014, 27-0 by the Eagles. The only real New York threat came when Aldrick Rojas missed a 33-yard field goal. With the victory for Arizona (7-8), Bruce Arians moved into a tie with Ken Whisenhunt for most victories by a Cardinals coach (49). The Giants fell to 0-3 under interim coach Steve Spagnuolo, who took over after Ben McAdoo was fired. Arians benched quarterback Blaine Gabbert after five starts and returned to Drew Stanton, who completed 20 of 34 for 209 yards, including TDs passes of 13 yards to Fitzgerald and 15 yards to John Brown but was intercepted twice. Fitzgerald, at 34, became the oldest player with 100 catches and 1,000 yards in the same season. He has a contract for next season with Arizona but said last week he didn’t know when he’d make a decision on whether to play anymore. The Cardinals entered the game without a touchdown — but 10 field goals — in their previous 10 quarters, and they added another three-pointer with Phil Dawson’s 21-yard chip shot with 5:29 left in the first quarter. After the kickoff, New York drove near midfield but, looking over the middle, Manning apparently didn’t see Bethea move from his safety spot to pick off the pass, and tight end Evan Engram, the Giants’ leading receiver, injured his ribs on the play and didn’t return. Arizona’s touchdown drought ended in the waning moments of the first half. In a drive that started at their 21, the Cardinals went 79 in 11 plays, aided by a roughing-the-passer penalty against Olivier Vernon on third-and-3, Stanton hit Fitzgerald with a 13-yard TD pass that put Arizona up 10-0 with 1:01 left in the second quarter. Arizona took the second-half kickoff and went 75 yards in eight plays, culminated by a 15-yard touchdown pass to John Brown that made it 16-0. Dawson’s conversion try was no good. INJURIES The Giants lost their leading receiver, tight end Evan Engram, in the first half with a rib injury. New York safety Landon Collins was knocked out of the game with a forearm injury in the third quarter. Arizona linebacker Haason Reddick left with a foot injury in the second quarter. UP NEXT Giants: Finish their season at home against Washington on Sunday. Cardinals: Complete their season at Seattle on Sunday......»»

Category: sportsSource:  abscbnRelated NewsDec 25th, 2017