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Kawhi Leonard s improved playmaking has Raptors on cusp of Finals

By John Schuhmann, NBA.com MILWAUKEE -- At some point in the regular season, Toronto Raptors coach Nick Nurse had a feeling that his team's best player would be even better in the playoffs. "He seemed to cruise to 30 points a lot of nights," Nurse said of Kawhi Leonard. "Thirty is a lot in this league, and that's why I kept saying, 'Geez, it just feels like there's another gear here with this guy that we're going to see.'" [Watch the Playoffs on NBA League Pass for 30% less with this limited time offer! Select Annual package and use code SAVE30 at checkout to redeem] Leonard acknowledged as much in early March. "There's 82 games and for me, these are just practices," he said, "and playoffs is when it's time to lace them up." Nurse's reaction when he heard that? "Now we're talking." Indeed, Leonard has taken things to another level in this postseason, playing big minutes, making huge shots, and defending at an elite level. But Game 5 of the Eastern Conference finals brought something new. Leonard scored 35 points in the biggest win in Toronto Raptors franchise history, a 105-99 victory over the Milwaukee Bucks that gave the two-seed a 3-2 series lead with Game 6 in Toronto on Saturday (Sunday, PHL time). Fifteen of those 35 points, including two huge step-back three-pointers over the seven-foot-tall Brook Lopez, came in the fourth quarter. That wasn't the new part. This was Leonard's seventh game of 35 or more points in this postseason. And you might recall a couple of big fourth-quarter shots over a seven-footer in the last series. Leonard also played smothering defense on Giannis Antetokounmpo. That wasn't new either. Since Game 3, Leonard, with plenty of help from his teammates, has made the presumed MVP look somewhat mortal. The new part was the number "9" in the assists column. In 570 career games (regular season and playoffs combined) prior to Thursday, Leonard had never recorded as many as nine assists. That he did it in Game 5 of the Eastern Conference finals on the road and against the league's No. 1 defense says a lot about Leonard as a big-game star. That, given his star status, he had never had nine assists before just as much about his history as a playmaker. Leonard may be the most complete player in the game right now, but his passing can still get better. It doesn't come naturally to him. In regard to making his teammates better, Leonard is certainly not LeBron James. And you can even say that Antetokounmpo, still emerging as a superstar himself, has been better at reading the defense and finding open shooters. In the regular season, Leonard recorded assists on just 12.2 percent of his possessions, the fifth lowest rate among 35 players with a usage rate of 25 percent or higher. And his assist rate has actually been lower (11.7 percent) in the playoffs. But over the last two series, Leonard has been the focus of the Philadelphia and Milwaukee defenses. At times, he has tried to score through multiple defenders. And often, because his teammates weren't willing or able to do much offensively themselves and because he was scoring so efficiently, he was probably right to force things. Leonard forced little on Thursday (Friday, PHL time). He drove into the teeth of the Bucks' defense, saw where the help was coming from, and made the right play. "We keep stressing that in this series and in the last series, too," Nurse said. "When you've drawn two, you've done your job. You've got to find the guy who's open." And on the 22 possessions in which he drove, the Raptors scored 29 points, 10 from Leonard himself and 19 from his teammates. "Pretty much try to stay with a consistent mindset throughout the whole game," Leonard said of his performance. "Just trying to read the defense throughout the entire game, see what's working." It was all working, whether it was Leonard calling his own number or making plays for others. And it certainly helps that the others have seemingly found their mojo. Fred VanVleet, who shot 6-for-42 over a nine-game stretch from Game 2 of the conference semis through Game 3 of this series, is a 63 percent shooter (10-for-12 from three-point range) when he has more than one child. All of Leonard's nine assists in Game 5 were on three-pointers - so he accounted for 62 (59 percent) of the Raptors' 105 points via his own points and assists - and four of them were to the dad who hasn't slept much since Fred Jr. was born on Monday. "Any time he chooses to get the rest of us involved," VanVleet said of Leonard, "it's going to bode well for our offense. The rest of us just got to be ready to step up and knock them down." VanVleet had both the biggest shot of the night - a three from the right wing off a Leonard kick-out that broke a 93-93 tie with 2:19 to go - and the quote of the night when asked about his formula for success: "Zero sleep, have a lot of babies, and go out there and let loose." The Raptors' offense has been the biggest key to this series, because Toronto's defense, when it has been set, has been tremendous. They've kept Antetokounmpo from getting all the way to the basket, and they've been able to recover out to and contest the Bucks' shooters. While the Raptors scored 1.32 points per possession when Leonard drove in Game 5, the Bucks scored at a rate less than half of that (0.57, 12 points on 21 possessions) when Antetokounmpo drove. "We've got to play good offense," Nurse said, "not turn it over and score the basketball, because if you don't, they're getting what they want, which is downhill basketball in a hurry. If we can score it, if we can take care of it, we can get our defense set up, for the most part we get down and guard them and make the shots a lot tougher." Just six days ago, the Raptors were a possession away from falling into an 0-3 hole, one that no team in NBA history has ever come back from. Now, they've won three straight games against the team that hadn't lost three straight all season. After scoring less than a point per possession over the first two games of this series, the Raptors have scored 110.3 per 100 over the last three. The defense feeds off of the offense. And the offense feeds off of the star that keeps taking things to a new level. "I'm not afraid of the moment," Leonard said. "I enjoy it." The Kawhi Leonard that we saw in Games 1-4 against Philadelphia (when he averaged 38.0 points on 62 percent shooting) was a preposterously efficient scorer, good enough to keep his team even in the second round. The Kawhi Leonard that we saw on Thursday (Friday, PHL time) has his team playing even better ... and just one win from the NBA Finals. John Schuhmann is a senior stats analyst for NBA.com. You can e-mail him here, find his archive here and follow him on Twitter. The views on this page do not necessarily reflect the views of the NBA, its clubs or Turner Broadcasting......»»

Category: sportsSource:  abscbnRelated NewsMay 24th, 2019

All-Stars LeBron, Irving lead Cavs past Suns

em>By Tom Withers, Associated Press /em> CLEVELAND -- Kyrie Irving scored 26 points, All-Star teammate LeBron James had 21 points and 15 assists, and the Cleveland Cavaliers looked more like themselves at home in a 118-103 win over the Phoenix Suns on Thursday night (Friday, PHL time). The Cavs were back in Quicken Loans Arena following a six-game road trip (their longest of the season) that concluded with an embarrassing 35-point loss at Golden State. But on their home floor, they had better offensive balance and ball movement while improving to 30-11 -- the same record Cleveland had at the halfway point of its 2016 NBA championship season. Channing Frye scored 18, Iman Shumpert 17 and James Jones 14 while filling in for star forward Kevin Love, still bothered by back spasms. Tyson Chandler had 22 points and 16 rebounds, but the Suns lost for the fourth time in five games. Already thin on their front line with Love out, the Cavs lost forward Tristan Thompson in the second quarter with a dislocated left index finger. However, Thompson returned after halftime. And Cleveland's offense was in a much better rhythm from the start after a trip that wasn't always pleasing to the eye. While trying to integrate newly acquired Kyle Korver into their rotation on the road, the Cavs got into some bad habits as they forced passes to one of the league's best shooters. A couple of practices seem to have helped as Korver made a pair of three-pointers in the second quarter of his home debut to help Cleveland open a 21-point lead. The Suns made a brief run in the third and got within 12 before Shumpert hit a pair of three’s and Jones hit one from long range. strong>TIP-INS /strong> em> strong>Suns: /strong> /em> Chandler has at least 15 rebounds in six straight games, matching the club record set by Jim Fox in 1969. Phoenix coach Earl Watson has known Korver for years. When he joined the Jazz in 2010, Watson leased Korver's condominium in Utah. 'We go back. I sent him a lot of money every month,' Watson said with a smile. 'I'm glad I don't do that anymore.' On a serious note, Watson said Korver is a perfect addition for Cleveland, especially while J.R. Smith recovers from thumb surgery. 'He's a deadly knock-down shooter. He knows how to win,' Watson said. 'They're looking more long term instead of immediate. You get into the playoffs and you need a big three to stretch the floor. He's obviously the best shooter on their team. It's an impressive move.' em> strong>Cavaliers: /strong> /em>James, who missed his 46th career triple-double by one rebound, will be making his 13th consecutive All-Star Game appearance next month. He said the honor never gets old. 'Just means I've been doing something right in this league,' he said. 'Means I'm consistent and taking pride in my individual ability to go out and produce for the team every night, and whatever team I've been on in my career. It's always great to see my name up there with the best guys in the league, so it's a pretty cool thing.' Smith has had the hard cast removed from his right hand. He's expected back in late March. Jones made his first start since April 2, 2015. strong>UP NEXT /strong> em> strong>Suns: /strong> /em> At the New York Knicks on Saturday (Sunday, PHL time). Phoenix won the first meeting this season in overtime. em> strong>Cavaliers: /strong> /em>Host the San Antonio Spurs on Saturday (Sunday, PHL time) in a matchup between two of the NBA's best teams. .....»»

Category: sportsSource:  abscbnRelated NewsJan 20th, 2017

Cavs, Warriors stars lead first fan returns of ASG voting

em>NBA press release /em> NEW YORK -- LeBron James and Kyrie Irving of the defending NBA champion Cleveland Cavaliers are the top two vote-getters overall, while Kevin Durant and Stephen Curry of the Golden State Warriors lead all Western Conference players in the first fan returns of NBA All-Star Voting 2017 presented by Verizon. The first week of fan voting for the 66th NBA All-Star Game, which will take place on Sunday, Feb. 19 (Feb. 20, PHL time) at Smoothie King Center in New Orleans, produced close races in both conferences and generated 138% more votes cast (11,174,153) than during the same time period last year (4,693,433). James, a 12-time All-Star, received 595,288 votes to earn the top spot among all players. Joining James at the top of the Eastern Conference frontcourt are the Milwaukee Bucks’ Giannis Antetokounmpo (500,663) and Cleveland’s Kevin Love (250,347), with rookie Joel Embiid of the Philadelphia 76ers (221,984) next on the list. Irving (543,030) and 12-time All-Star Dwyane Wade of the Chicago Bulls (278,052) lead the East guards, followed by the Toronto Raptors’ DeMar DeRozan (253,340). Durant, who owns the highest scoring average in All-Star Game history (25.6 ppg), paces all West players with 541,209 votes. He is followed in the West frontcourt by Golden State’s Zaza Pachulia (439,675) and the San Antonio Spurs’ Kawhi Leonard (341,240), who edges the New Orleans Pelicans’ Anthony Davis (318,144).  Curry (523,597) narrowly tops a tight race among West guards, with the Houston Rockets’ James Harden (519,446) edging two-time reigning All-Star Game MVP Russell Westbrook of the Oklahoma City Thunder (501,652) for second place. For the first time ever, NBA players and basketball media will join fans in selecting the starters for the NBA All-Star Game. Fans will account for 50 percent of the vote, while all current players and a media panel will account for 25 percent each.  Player and media voting will begin next week, with each participant completing one full ballot featuring two guards and three frontcourt players from both conferences.  After all votes are tallied, players will be ranked in each conference by position (guard and frontcourt) within each of the three voting groups – fan votes, player votes and media votes.  Each player’s score will be calculated by averaging his weighted rank from the fan votes, the player votes and the media votes.  The five players (two guards and three frontcourt players) with the best score in each conference will be named NBA All-Star Game starters. Fan voting will serve as the tiebreaker for players in a position group with the same score. See below for the first fan returns of NBA All-Star Voting 2017 presented by Verizon. strong>NBA ALL-STAR VOTING 2017 PRESENTED BY VERIZON /strong> em> strong>Eastern Conference Frontcourt /strong> /em> 1. LeBron James (CLE) 595,288 br /> 2. Giannis Antetokounmpo (MIL) 500,663 br /> 3. Kevin Love (CLE) 250,347 br /> 4. Joel Embiid (PHI) 221,984 br /> 5. Carmelo Anthony (NY) 189,817 br /> 6. Jimmy Butler (CHI) 189,066 br /> 7. Kristaps Porzingis (NY) 184,166 br /> 8. Paul George (IND) 138,332 br /> 9. Hassan Whiteside (MIA) 72,628 br /> 10. Jabari Parker (MIL) 64,141 em> strong>Eastern Conference Guards /strong> /em> 1. Kyrie Irving (CLE) 543,030 br /> 2. Dwyane Wade (CHI) 278,052 br /> 3. DeMar DeRozan (TOR) 253,340 br /> 4. Isaiah Thomas (BOS) 193,297 br /> 5. Derrick Rose (NY) 129,924 br /> 6. Kyle Lowry (TOR) 128,940 br /> 7. John Wall (WAS) 87,360 br /> 8. Jeremy Lin (BKN) 59,562 br /> 9. Kemba Walker (CHA) 52,122 br /> 10. Avery Bradley (BOS) 32,822 em> strong>Western Conference Frontcourt /strong> /em> 1. Kevin Durant (GS) 541,209 br /> 2. Zaza Pachulia (GS) 439,675 br /> 3. Kawhi Leonard (SA) 341,240 br /> 4. Anthony Davis (NO) 318,144 br /> 5. Draymond Green (GS) 236,315 br /> 6. DeMarcus Cousins (SAC) 202,317 br /> 7. Karl-Anthony Towns (MIN) 125,278 br /> 8. LaMarcus Aldridge (SA) 101,724 br /> 9. Blake Griffin (LAC) 100,524 br /> 10. Marc Gasol (MEM) 97,370 em> strong>Western Conference Guards /strong> /em> 1. Stephen Curry (GS) 523,597 br /> 2. James Harden (HOU) 519,446 br /> 3. Russell Westbrook (OKC) 501,652 br /> 4. Klay Thompson (GS) 293,054 br /> 5. Chris Paul (LAC) 173,830 br /> 6. Damian Lillard (POR) 117,857 br /> 7. Eric Gordon (HOU) 76,609 br /> 8. Manu Ginobili (SA) 65,832 br /> 9. Andre Iguodala (GS) 64,247 br /> 10. Zach LaVine (MIN) 53,642 * * * strong>How Fans Can Vote /strong> NBA fans may submit one full ballot each day through NBA.com, the NBA App (available on Android and iOS), Twitter, Facebook and Google Search, as well as via Sina Weibo and Tencent Microblogs in China. All current NBA players are available for selection.  em> strong>NBA.com voting page at NBA.com/vote: /strong> /em> Fill out one full ballot per day (once every 24 hours) on NBA.com/vote from a desktop or mobile browser. Fans can select up to two guards and three frontcourt players from each conference when choosing starters.   br />   br /> em> strong>NBA App: /strong> /em>Access the ballot and vote through the app, which is available on Android and iOS. Fans can fill out one full ballot per day and select up to two guards and three frontcourt players from each conference when choosing starters. br />   br /> em> strong>Twitter: /strong> /em>Tweet, retweet or reply with an NBA player’s first and last name or Twitter handle, along with the hashtag 'NBAVOTE.  Each tweet may include only one player’s name or handle. Fans may vote for 10 unique players each day throughout the NBA All-Star voting period.  br />   br /> em> strong>Facebook: /strong> /em>Post the player’s first and last name along with the hashtag 'NBAVOTE on your personal Facebook account, or comment on another’s Facebook post.   Each post may include only one player’s name. Fans may post votes for 10 unique players per day throughout the voting period. br />   br /> em> strong>Google Search: /strong> /em> Search “NBA Vote All-Star” or “NBA Vote Team Name” (ex: NBA Vote Celtics) and use respective voting cards to select teams and then players.  Fans may submit votes for 10 unique players per day throughout the voting period. The next fan voting update will be shared on Thursday, Jan. 12 (Jan. 13, PHL time).  Voting for fans, players and media will conclude on Monday, Jan. 16 at 11:59 p.m. ET (Jan. 17, 12:59 a.m., PHL time). Starters will be announced live on TNT on Thursday, Jan. 19 (Jan. 20, PHL time) during a special one-hour edition of TNT NBA Tip-Off presented by Autotrader.com, featuring Ernie Johnson, Charles Barkley, Shaquille O’Neal and Kenny Smith. The special will air prior to TNT’s doubleheader showcasing the Washington Wizards at the New York Knicks and the Minnesota Timberwolves at the LA Clippers. The Eastern Conference and Western Conference All-Star reserves, as selected by NBA head coaches, will be announced the following week on Thursday, Jan. 26 (Jan. 27, PHL time).  .....»»

Category: sportsSource:  abscbnRelated NewsJan 6th, 2017

NBA Wrap: James, Irving lead Cavs over Raptors to tie franchise-best start

CLEVELAND — LeBron James had 28 points and 14 assists, Kyrie Irving scored 24 points and the Cleveland Cavaliers beat the Toronto Raptors 121-117 on Tuesday.....»»

Category: sportsSource:  philstarRelated NewsNov 16th, 2016

LeBron scores 28 as Cavs edge Raptors for 9th win

em>By Tom Withers, Associated Press /em> CLEVELAND (AP) — LeBron James had 28 points and 14 assists, Kyrie Irving scored 24 points and the Cleveland Cavaliers beat the Toronto Raptors 121-117 on Tuesday night (Wednesday, PHL time) to ma.....»»

Category: sportsSource:  abscbnRelated NewsNov 16th, 2016

Durant s status looms large as Warriors face Raptors

By Shaun Powell, NBA.com Every so often the best team doesn’t win the NBA championship; sometimes it’s the healthiest. A few examples come to mind, such as the 1988-89 Lakers who lost Byron Scott to a hamstring injury caused by Pat Riley’s pre-Finals boot camp and then Magic Johnson similarly one game into the series with the Pistons, who swept. Then the 2015 Cavaliers, already without Kevin Love, saw Kyrie Irving lost with a fractured kneecap suffered in Game 1. Maybe those two teams would’ve won, maybe not. It’s one of those basketball mysteries that’ll go unsolved. [Watch the Playoffs on NBA League Pass for 30% less with this limited time offer! Select Annual package and use code SAVE30 at checkout to redeem] Well, what the Warriors are trying to do is become the best team to win in spite of their health, specifically with Kevin Durant, who’s expected to play against the Raptors although precisely when, and to what extent, and how effectively, all remain unclear right now. The Warriors romped quite impressively if not mildly surprisingly the last five full games without Durant in the final two rounds of the West playoffs, and while that bodes well for their confidence, at some point, conventional thinking says they will need Durant. Will he be around to bail them out when the ball doesn’t fall for Steph Curry and Klay Thompson? Should Durant be the Durant who sizzled in the first round and through much of round two, this series might be short on suspense. And if DeMarcus Cousins returns? Well. The Warriors for the first time in five years don’t have to go through LeBron James to win a title, and while Kawhi Leonard is a former Finals MVP and rolling for the Raptors right now, he (or most any other human) isn’t on the King’s post-season level. This has been a satisfying season for the Raptors’ franchise, which finally experienced a post-season breakthrough (thanks partly by LeBron’s defection). Yet: Kawhi would need to be a close imitation of LeBron to keep a national audience fixated and the Raptors close enough to prevent the Warriors from taking another summer champagne bath before summer officially begins. Three things to watch 1. Will Kawhi Leonard survive Draymond Green and Andre Iguodala? It’s one thing to see a solid defender in your path, as Kawhi did with Giannis Antetekounmpo. But what happens when the Warriors can throw Green and then Iguodala and perhaps Klay Thompson and maybe Kevin Durant, all of whom bring different looks? This could prove problematic for Toronto and frustrating for Kawhi, especially if Danny Green, Pascal Siakam, Serge Ibaka and company don’t rise up. 2. Can Kyle Lowry keep up with Stephen Curry defensively? This will be quite the challenge for Lowry, to place handcuffs on a guard who averaged 35 points in five games (four vs. Blazers, one Rockets) without Kevin Durant and bring the same energy on the other end to ease the load from Kawhi Leonard. Lowry didn’t check a big-time scorer in any of the three rounds: DJ Augustin, JJ Redick, Eric Bledsoe. 3. Will any readjusting be necessary if and when Kevin Durant returns? This is one of the more confounding debates raging outside the Warriors’ organization. There shouldn’t be any discomfort with Durant back in the fold unless you weigh the last four weeks over the previous two seasons. Besides, he’s surrounded by the most unselfish teammates he’ll likely ever have, starting with Curry. The pick The Raptors rolled the dice last summer to get Kawhi Leonard and even if they lose this series and he leaves through free agency, it was a gamble well worth taking if only because they’re in the NBA Finals. Canada will be forever grateful. Still, in spite of that, and also Kawhi’s sizzling playoff run, Toronto is at a disadvantage everywhere except fan support. A fully-loaded Warriors team wins easily. A team with Kevin Durant missing a pair of games wins a little less easily. Warriors in 5......»»

Category: sportsSource:  abscbnRelated News6 hr. 48 min. ago

Leonard scores 35, Raptors beat Bucks 105-99 for 3-2 lead

By Andrew Seligman, Associated Press MILWAUKEE (AP) — Kawhi Leonard scored 35 points and the Toronto Raptors beat the Milwaukee Bucks 105-99 on Thursday night (Friday, PHL time) to take a 3-2 lead in the Eastern Conference finals. [Watch the Playoffs on NBA League Pass for 30% less with this limited time offer! Select Annual package and use code SAVE30 at checkout to redeem] Leonard showed no obvious signs of the leg soreness that bothered him in Toronto's victories in the previous two games, hitting the 30-point mark for the fourth time in the series. He made five three-pointers and had seven rebounds and nine assists. Fred VanVleet scored 21 points, hitting seven three's. Kyle Lowry added 17 as the Raptors put themselves in position to advance to the NBA Finals for the first time. A victory at home Saturday (Sunday, PHL time) would set up a matchup with two-time defending champion Golden State. The Raptors battled out of an early 14-point hole, then got 15 points from Leonard in the fourth quarter to send the top-seeded Bucks to their first three-game losing streak of the season. Giannis Antetokounmpo had 24 points for Milwaukee hours after being announced as a unanimous first-team, All-NBA selection. Eric Bledsoe scored 20 and Malcolm Brogdon added 18 points and 11 rebounds in his return to the starting lineup. The Raptors were clinging to a two-point lead in the closing minute after Khris Middleton drove around Leonard on the baseline for a layup. Toronto was initially called for a shot-clock violation when Leonard missed a fadeaway jumper with 35 seconds left. That got overturned by a replay review, and Brook Lopez was called for a foul, instead, for bumping Marc Gasol after he retrieved the loose ball. Gasol hit both free throws to make it 100-97. Another replay review went in Toronto's favor when officials determined a ball went out of bounds off Brogdon with 26.8 seconds left. Brogdon pulled his hand away, thinking his dribble had gone off Pascal Siakam's foot. Siakam then drove for a dunk, making it 102-97, and the Raptors hung on from there. Milwaukee was leading 81-79 with about 8.5 minutes left when Leonard nailed back-to-back three-pointers. He hit two free throws before Siakam threw down a put-back dunk to make it 89-81. The Bucks tied it at 93-all with 2:44 left on a three-pointer by Lopez. VanVleet answered with one of his own before Antetokounmpo threw down an alley-oop dunk to cut it to 96-95 with just over two minutes remaining. The Bucks set a fast pace early on and led by 10 after the first quarter, delighting the towel-waving fans chanting "Fear The Deer! Fear the Deer!" They withstood a 16-2 run by Toronto to start the second, with Antetokounmpo nailing a triple to stop it. The Bucks also went on a 14-2 run early in the third, with the Greek Freak throwing down a hard dunk off a feed by Middleton for a 63-51 lead. But the Raptors got right back into it. TIP-INS Raptors: Lowry now has 1,126 points in 66 playoff games for Toronto, surpassing DeMar DeRozan (1,117) as the franchise's postseason scoring leader. Bucks: Brogdon started all 64 games he played in during the regular season, before missing basically all of the first two rounds because of a heel injury. With Brogdon back in the lineup, Nikola Mirotic came off the bench. UP NEXT Game 6 is at Toronto on Saturday (Sunday, PHL time)......»»

Category: sportsSource:  abscbnRelated NewsMay 24th, 2019

Antetokounmpo learning how to deal with playoff disappointment

By Steve Aschburner, NBA.com TORONTO – Whenever LeBron James struggled through the sort of playoff performance Giannis Antetokounmpo had Sunday (Monday, PHL time), he seemed to want to put it behind him as swiftly as he could. His routine – assuming it wasn’t The Finals, where he got summoned to the podium, win or lose – typically went like this: the door to the Cleveland or Miami dressing room would swing open and there James would be, ready to face the questions, antsy to move on ASAP. Once he ‘fessed up to the shots he’d missed or the plays he’d botched, that was it. Oh, you knew he’d be looking plenty at video of that game in the hours before he played again, as a way to find and fix the flaws. But for public consumption at least, he shed it fast, like an ill-fitting suit. Antetokounmpo, the Milwaukee Bucks’ young star, is still learning this face-of-the-franchise and cutthroat competitor stuff. He took his time afterward in the spartan visitors’ room at Scotiabank Arena. [Watch the Playoffs on NBA League Pass for 30% less with this limited time offer! Select Annual package and use code SAVE30 at checkout to redeem] There he sat, with his knees wrapped and his feet plunged into an ice bath. The Kia MVP candidate stared at the score sheet that had been handed to him, the one bearing all sorts of dreary news from the double-overtime setback that cut Milwaukee’s lead in the best-of-seven series to 2-1. Antetokounmpo barely looked up as the semicircle of cameras, microphones and reporters around him grew with media people tip-toeing that fine line between giving him some space and blocking out for position whenever he’d finally take their questions. (“Talk,” as we say in the trade). Heck, Antetokounmpo barely looked up when Bucks coach Mike Budenholzer strode through the dressing room and tapped him on his left knee, a little atta-boy bonding near the end of a long, disappointing night. While teammates poked habitually at their phones in the aftermath of Milwaukee’s 118-112 loss, Antetokounmpo mostly let his lie there on the seat next to him. By the standards he set this year as an MVP favorite, he knew he’d had a lousy night. The reporters standing there, like fans everywhere, knew he’d struggled, of course, in ways rarely seen since his first taste of the postseason four years ago. And he knew that they knew, so… “Obviously it wasn’t my best game,” Antetokounmpo said eventually. “I’ve got to be more aggressive… I’ve got to make the right play.” Defensively, Antetokounmpo was pretty much his usual self, grabbing 23 rebounds for the Bucks, challenging Toronto’s players out on the floor and close to the rim, and blocking four shots. Offensively, though, Antetokounmpo was a mess. He scored only 12 points, his fewest in a playoff game since he was first dipping his toe into postseason waters as a 20-year-old back in 2015. Through three quarters, Antetokounmpo had only six points on 3-for-8 shooting. Seven Milwaukee players and five Raptors had outscored him to that point, and he hadn’t earned his way to the foul line even once. What made it all worse was that the game was sitting there, aching to be taken by someone, anyone. Antetokounmpo got himself going a bit in the fourth quarter, making a couple of shots and earning five free throws. But he missed three. Then he went scoreless while playing the entire first overtime. And then he fouled out just 36 seconds into the second OT. He didn’t object, either, when that sixth foul for stepping in front of Toronto’s Pascal Siakam sent him to the side. Antetokounmpo just took it and exited, sealing it as one of those “not your night, kid” hard lessons. Asked about the frustration that Antetokounmpo might have shown to teammates, if not the public, Bucks guard Eric Bledsoe said: “If you don’t feel bad when you play bad, you don’t need to be playing this game. That’s the feeling that drives you to success. I’m happy he’s feeling like that.” Antetokounmpo’s game didn’t just spin sideways on its own. Raptors coach Nick Nurse switched some defensive duties around and assigned Kawhi Leonard – a two-time Defensive Player of the Year with the wingspan, instincts and reflexes to confound any open-court player – as the tip of Toronto’s spear against the Greek Freak. Then, as expected, Toronto sent second defenders at him, the surest way to get the ball out of Antetokounmpo’s hands or force him into difficult shots. So he tried to make the right basketball plays, as they say, and sometimes he did – he dished a team-high seven assists. Sometimes, though, he did not, turning over the ball eight times. For the record, Antetokounmpo has played 31 postseason games in his young career. In the games in which he has scored fewer than 19 points, his team’s record is 3-6. When he scores 19 or more, the Bucks are 14-8. Not to lay it all at Antetokounmpo’s feet. Fellow All-Star Khris Middleton was way off his usual offensive form, missing 13 of his 16 shots. And Bledsoe matched that. Together, those three starters were a combined 11-of-48. The rest of the team shot 50 percent (27 of 54). “We have the utmost respect and belief that the next game is not going to be as bad as [this] was,” said guard George Hill, who scored 24 points off the bench. “But I know it's sitting in their head that they go for a combined 11-of-48 or something like that. We're not worried about it.” Right. Who’s even counting? Budenholzer and his staff are going to have to figure out ways to get scoring opportunities without being stymied by all the defensive traffic. Teammates are going to have to shoot better, to keep those diggers honest in their matchups. And Antetokounmpo is going to need to play more aggressively and take what happened in Game 3 very personally. He wasn’t quite there yet, Sunday night (Monday, PHL time). “Obviously I want to stay aggressive. But we stick to our game plan,” Antetokounmpo said. “Some days I’m going to have a bad night. But my team has to focus on doing their job and I’ll do mine.” Said Brook Lopez, after watching the throng swallow Antetokounmpo on the opposite side of the room: “We know he’s not going to quit or stop playing. He’s going to continue to be him.” As he talked, Lopez’s phone began vibrating next to him. He said it was Bucks GM Jon Horst calling and, in a bit of gallows humor after a stinging loss, joked that maybe he shouldn’t answer. “I don’t know if I should pick up or not,” the Milwaukee center said, “’cause I want to be here tomorrow.” Antetokounmpo has a call to answer now, too. In Game 4, Tuesday (Wednesday, PHL time). 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 NewsMay 20th, 2019

Bucks making case as favorites to win title

By John Schuhmann, NBA.com MILWAUKEE -- In the wake of a wire-to-wire, 125-103 victory in Game 2 of the Eastern Conference finals, a question for the group: Shouldn't the Milwaukee Bucks be the favorites to win this thing? No, not the conference finals. At this point, they're obviously the heavy favorite to win the East. Prior to this year, 72 teams had a 2-0 lead in the conference finals, and 67 of them went on to win. But why aren't the Bucks the favorites to win the NBA championship? Is there a case to be made against 1) what was the best team in the regular season and 2) what has been an even better team in the playoffs? [Watch the Playoffs on NBA League Pass for 30% less with this limited time offer! Select Annual package and use code SAVE30 at checkout to redeem] Maybe this is a we'll-believe-it-when-we-see-it league. How can you pick a team to win a championship when its best player had never won a playoff series prior to this year? Until they lost in five, it was easier to imagine the Celtics, with their talent and with their recent history of playoff success (back-to-back trips to the conference finals), being the team to represent the East in The Finals in the first year A.L. (after LeBron). And then the Bucks outscored the Celtics by a total of 65 points over the last four games of the conference semis. It's similarly difficult to pick against the Golden State Warriors until they actually lose. The two-time defending champs have Stephen Curry, Klay Thompson and Draymond Green. Presumably, they'll have Kevin Durant back for The Finals should they finish off the Portland Trail Blazers in the Western Conference finals. And even without Durant, the Warriors boast the same 2-0 conference finals lead the Bucks currently possess. But the Warriors haven't been as sharp as they were in each of the previous two postseasons. Five of their 10 playoff wins have been within five points in the last five minutes. Last year, only four of their 16 wins were within five in the last five. In 2017, it was four of 16 as well. With the postseason's 10th-ranked defense, Golden State has outscored its opponents by 6.4 points per 100 possessions over its 14 games. The Bucks have outscored their opponents by more than double that: 15.1 per 100. That feels like the mark of an eventual champion. Through 10 playoff wins last year, the Warriors had outscored their opponents by 9.6 points per 100 possessions. Through 10 playoff wins in 2015, they had outscored their opponents by just 7.7 points per 100. It was only in 2017, when they won their first 15 playoff games in Durant's first season in Golden State, that the Warriors were as dominant as the Bucks have been thus far. At 10-0 two years ago, Golden State had outscored its playoff opponents by 16.5 points per 100 possessions. At that point, the Warriors had the No. 2 offense and the No. 1 defense in the postseason. That's exactly where the Bucks stand after Game 2 on Friday (Saturday, PHL time). Milwaukee is a complete team in more ways than one. The defense has been there almost every night. The Bucks have held their opponents under a point per possession (the measure of elite defense) in six of their 11 games and only once (their Game 1 loss to Boston) have they allowed them to score more than what was the league average (109.7 points scored per 100 possessions) in the regular season. Even with the rise in three-point shooting over the last few years, the most important shots on the floor remain those at the basket, and no team has been better at both preventing and defending those shots than the Bucks. After allowing a league-low 29.6 points per game in the restricted area in the regular season, the Bucks have allowed just 22.0 per game in the playoffs. In this series, Raptors drives have been met with a swarm of Milwaukee defenders, making it difficult to either score in the paint or get off a clean pass to an open shooter. After shooting 57 percent in the paint through the first two rounds (in which they faced two very good defenses), the Raptors have shot just 49 percent (36-for-73) in the paint through the first two games of the conference finals. On Toronto's first possession of Game 2, Marc Gasol posted up Khris Middleton after a switch and spun around Middleton for a layup, only to be rejected by Giannis Antetokounmpo. The Raptors went scoreless on their first five possessions, had just 39 points on 49 possessions at halftime, and were too far behind for a 39-point third quarter to matter much. "I think the way we played on both ends of the court in the first half," Budenholzer said afterward, "is what we're trying to get to." After a bit of an offensive struggle in Game 1, the Bucks broke out on Friday (Saturday, PHL time). The elite defense led to 28 fast-break points, a size advantage inside led to 17 second-chance points, and six of their nine rotation players scored in double-figures. Three of those six came off the bench. While Toronto coach Nick Nurse has had to both shorten and alter his rotation in these playoffs, Bucks coach Mike Budenholzer has seemingly found contributors wherever he has turned. George Hill and Pat Connaughton were huge in the Boston series, Malcolm Brogdon didn't need long to find his rhythm after missing the first eight postseason games, and on Friday (Saturday, PHL time), Ersan Ilyasova had what Budenholzer called "clearly his best game of the year," scoring 17 points, drawing three charges, and registering a plus-22 in just over 21 minutes off the bench. The Bucks have the presumed Kia MVP, but their biggest strength in these playoffs has been their depth. Through 11 games, they've outscored their opponents by 12.0 points per 100 possessions with Antetokounmpo off the floor. Unlike his fellow Eastern Conference coaches, Budenholzer has never had to rush his best player back onto the floor. And this team is now 10-1 with Antetokounmpo ranking 40th in postseason minutes per game at 32.3. While the Raptors' offense has struggled to take advantage of the attention paid to Kawhi Leonard, every Bucks rotation player has played with confidence and freedom. "They're not going to let me play one-on-one," Antetokounmpo said after registering 30 points, 17 rebounds and five assists in Game 2. "So this series is not going to be about me; it's going to be about my teammates being ready to shoot, being ready to make the right play." "We try and empower them," Budenholzer said of his team's role players. "We try to play a way where they all feel like they can contribute and do things. Hopefully that's paying off for us." There's no argument to the contrary. But is there an argument against this team being the favorite to win the championship? While it remains difficult to pick against the team that won last year and remains intact, new champions come along all the time, and it's easier to see them in hindsight than in the moment. Of course, as good as they've been playing and as special as this run has felt, Bucks players refuse to get ahead of themselves. "You can't," Eric Bledsoe said. "That's how you lose focus. The biggest thing with this group is just taking a game at a time, and not looking forward to The Finals. Anything can happen. So we're focused on Game 3." "It's a great opportunity that we have," George Hill added, "but it means nothing until we get there." The players have to keep their minds on Toronto. But the rest of us can feel free to envision the future, one that includes an NBA championship. John Schuhmann is a senior stats analyst for NBA.com. You can e-mail him here, find his archive here and follow him on Twitter. The views on this page do not necessarily reflect the views of the NBA, its clubs or Turner Broadcasting......»»

Category: sportsSource:  abscbnRelated NewsMay 18th, 2019

Raptors running out of options as series shifts to Toronto

By Steve Aschburner, NBA.com MILWAUKEE – The Toronto Raptors are two bounces on the rim into their Eastern Conference championship series against Milwaukee. Two more and – unless things change radically for the Raptors in every phase of the game from what we’ve seen – the basketball metaphor of their 2019 postseason is going to fall harmlessly to the side. No points, no buzzer-beater, no victory, no nothing. [Watch the Playoffs on NBA League Pass for 30% less with this limited time offer! Select Annual package and use code SAVE30 at checkout to redeem] Two games into this best-of-seven series, it’s already hard to see a way out for the Raptors that doesn’t include Hefty bags, cleaned-out lockers and a wide-open month of June. Toronto played well enough to win in Game 1, yet managed to lose it anyway thanks to an open elevator shaft of a fourth quarter that qualified instantly as something that would haunt them. Then they played miserably in Friday's (Saturday, PHL time) Game 2, save for a stretch in the third quarter when slippage in Milwaukee’s focus appeared as culpable as anything Raptors-related. Kyle Lowry, Toronto’s veteran point guard, is wandering around these days with a modified blue oven mitt on his left hand. It’s there to protect the thumb he sprained in Game 7 against Philadelphia. That’s the game that got the Raptors here, the one decided by Kawhi Leonard’s eternal-highlight shot at the end that bounced four times on the rim before dropping through the net. It’s been kind of downhill for their crew since then. Anyway, Lowry was asked a series of questions after Milwaukee's 125-103 triumph at Fiserv Forum about the defense, about the rebounding, about the shift from the Bucks’ floor to the Raptors’ for Games 3 and 4 beginning Sunday (Monday, PHL time). And Lowry earnestly answered by saying, yes, they have to defend better, they have to rebound better and they definitely have to assert themselves more to defend their Scotiabank Arena home court. Lowry said the right things. Problem is, that’s a lot of things. The Raptors don’t appear to have the wherewithal – or even the duct tape, if you prefer – to fix so many flaws at once. They have been outrebounded 113-86, a major factor in the Bucks’ 41-20 advantage in second-chance points. They have been outscored by 30 points in the two games and most of the difference has come from the bench (76-51), adding to the sense that Milwaukee isn’t just beating Toronto, it’s ganging up on them. Defensively, the Raptors haven’t been nearly good enough and their coach, Nick Nurse, put the blame squarely on them. He went into detail – both before and after Game 2 – to explain the difference between a good contest of a jump shot and a great, playoffs-worthy contest. After talking at length before tipoff about needing and hoping to see effort from his players as a sign they grasped the urgency involved, it had to be embarrassing for Nurse to acknowledge afterward that, no, that effort in fact was not there. “We were just a step too slow on just about everything,” he observed. To illustrate how casually his players closed on Bucks’ shooters, Nurse did a deep dive on a play in which center Marc Gasol needed to get out to Nikola Mirotic. “It was a good contest, but it wasn't a full-out contest,” the Toronto coach said. “We know the level of contest is going to affect these shots or not, and if you don't go with everything you've got and jump high and really try to let them know you're right pressed up against them, then the chances of [the shots] going in are pretty good.” Poor Gasol. This supremely skilled big man who was so valuable to the Memphis Grizzlies in numerous playoff wars is an early nominee for series scapegoat here. He at least had 12 rebounds and five assists in the opener, but his contributions and minutes fizzled in Game 2. By the time he got to 1-for-9 (3-for-20 in the series), the 34-year-old Gasol was looking creakier than his brother Pau, 38, who was wheeling himself through the halls on a scooter Friday night (Saturday, PHL time) after undergoing foot surgery this week. Then there’s Danny Green, a helpful 3-and-D guy with tons of postseason experience from his San Antonio days. Green’s challenge has been touching the ball enough to make a difference; he’s 3-for-11, getting about two thirds as many shots as he’d expect. But as he noted, Toronto’s ball movement has been spotty, the Bucks’ top-ranked defense stingy and little has been done to alter either from one game to the next. “Our offense was out of whack a little bit tonight, and we didn’t tighten it up,” Green said. A little more Norman Powell, a little less Gasol going forward? Doesn’t seem like it’ll be enough. Now take Pascal Siakam and Lowry from the margin for error that Toronto really doesn’t have. They were good for 45 points in the opener but scored a total of 23 Friday (Saturday, PHL time), each burdened with foul trouble from daring to mess with Milwaukee’s gears. Siakam, a favorite to be named the NBA’s Most Improved Player, wound up as the night’s most removed player, his minutes dropping from more than 42 on Wednesday (Thursday, PHL time) to 26 on Friday (Saturday, PHL time). There’s no reason to let Leonard off the hook, either. The Raptors’ best player has scored 31 points in each game, but they’ve been about as quiet as 62 points can be, coming almost from a bubble that has nothing in common with the rest of Toronto’s attack. Sometimes Leonard is bailing them out, sure, but many times the ball and the possession stop with him. The Bucks are OK with that, defending him with Khris Middleton, Eric Bledsoe and helpers. Leonard has taken 20 of his team’s 45 free throws, but dished only four assists in the two games. That’s one area in which Leonard is so different from – and so far in this series, lacking when compared to – Giannis Antetokounmpo. The Bucks’ star, with his gravitational pull on defenders, creates a bounty of opportunities for others. Leonard isn’t making any of his teammates better at this stage. And let’s not forget the intangibles. Antetokounmpo is the catalyst for Milwaukee’s superior team chemistry, a top-five talent who is all in on the Bucks’ ambitions and the players corralled around him. Leonard? For all anyone knows, he still has one foot out the door to free agency. His laconic nature doesn’t lend itself to firing up others, and it’s difficult to see how he leads by anything other than example. The cloud of Leonard’s future has been squatting over Toronto’s whole season. Every game is a referendum on whether he feels he has enough help or not. Does Nurse or another Raptors coach dare to challenge him, for fear he’ll start packing his bags immediately? Did anyone object to his “load management” nights off this season? It has been a tough way to grind through a long year, held hostage by your star’s inscrutability. But it’s what they signed up for when GM Masai Ujiri traded for him with just one season to woo and recruit. Compare that to what Bucks coach Mike Budenholzer was sharing about Antetokounmpo, as far as pushing him to greater heights. “We're coaching him and we're on him,” Budenholzer said. “We think he can be doing more, and he just soaks it up.” As the series shifts to Canada, the Raptors will look to Friday’s (Saturday, PHL time) third quarter as quickly as the Bucks will dismiss it. Toronto outscored Milwaukee 39-31 over those 12 minutes, the only portion of the game in which they managed to send a ripple of nervousness through the building. OK, well, maybe not quite that, but a few fans surely noticed that what had been a 28-point lead soon after halftime got chiseled down to 13. Not once, but twice. But Malcolm Brogdon and George Hill went to work off the Bucks’ bench, Giannis came back mean-muggin’ to start the fourth and that most definitely was that. Playoff protocol says we must give the Raptors their home games to demonstrate a difference. But they need to know that 0-2 is a gaping hole, from which only 20 teams in NBA history have come back in a seven-game series. Two more bounces on the rim, and we’ll see which way the Raptors fall. 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 NewsMay 18th, 2019

Leonard, Raptors to face Bucks, Antetokounmpo in East final

By Ian Harrison, Associated Press TORONTO (AP) — For the second time in four seasons, the Toronto Raptors are headed to the Eastern Conference final. While the Raptors won’t have to deal with playoff nemesis LeBron James this time, they will face a tough task in controlling Milwaukee Bucks All-Star Giannis Antetokounmpo and the rest of the NBA’s highest-scoring offense. Of course, Toronto will counter with Kawhi Leonard. [Watch the Playoffs on NBA League Pass for 30% less with this limited time offer! Select Annual package and use code SAVE30 at checkout to redeem] He hit the game-winning buzzer-beater Sunday (Monday, PHL time) to help Toronto edge Philadelphia 92-90 in Game 7 of its Eastern Conference semifinal series, setting up a showdown between the East’s top teams during the regular season. Leonard’s shot bounced around the rim four times before dropping through the basket. “It was great,” Leonard said. “That’s something I never experienced before, Game 7, a game-winning shot. It was a blessing to be able to get to that point and make that shot and feel that moment.” Leonard and the Raptors will have a few hours to enjoy it; the conference final begin Wednesday night (Thursday, PHL time) in Milwaukee. In its only other conference final appearance, Toronto lost to LeBron James and Cleveland in six games in 2016. The Raptors are well aware of the challenge ahead. Toronto guard Kyle Lowry said the Bucks have been “pretty dominant” in winning eight of nine postseason games — including the past four straight. “They’ve got a lot of weapons and they’re pretty deep,” Lowry said. “They shoot the ball as well as anybody in the NBA and then they’ve got the one-man fast break in Giannis.” The Bucks beat the Raptors three times in four regular-season meetings. Lowry was injured when Toronto won 123-116 at Milwaukee on Jan. 5 (Jan. 6, PHL time). “We know we’ve got a tough task at hand,” Lowry said. “We have to prepare for it and get ready to go.” Toronto coach Nick Nurse said the Bucks present challenges his team hasn’t faced in eliminating Orlando and Philadelphia in the first two rounds. “It’s a little different style that we’re going to see,” Nurse said. “We’re going to have to adjust to that really quickly, obviously, and forget about how happy we are pretty quickly because it’s a hungry team. It’s a very deep team, a very good team. We’re going to have to continue to grow and we’re going to have to play better.” Leonard scored 41 points on 16-of-39 shooting in Game 7 against Philadelphia. He topped 30 points five times in the series and averaged 34.7 points overall. Nurse said Leonard has been playing at an “elite level” in the postseason. Toronto center Marc Gasol agrees with his coach. Leonard “can create a shot out of pretty much nothing,” Gasol said. “He’s a mismatch all around.” In Antetokounmpo, the Bucks have a similar matchup nightmare for Toronto. The Raptors will need contributions for everyone, including Lowry — who briefly left Game 7 because of a sprained left thumb but returned and played the entire second half. “I couldn’t really pass the ball and grip the ball, but that doesn’t matter,” Lowry said. “I’m fine.” Milwaukee has been resting since eliminating Boston in Game 5 on Wednesday (Thursday, PHL time). Toronto, which used only seven players on Sunday (Monday, PHL time), will not practice Monday (Tuesday, PHL time), giving players some extra rest. They may need it to derail the surging Bucks......»»

Category: sportsSource:  abscbnRelated NewsMay 13th, 2019

Has Kyrie Irving played his last game for Celtics?

By Tim Reynolds, Associated Press It begins. When the buzzer sounded in Milwaukee on Wednesday night, the question immediately became this: Has Kyrie Irving played his last game for the Boston Celtics? It’s very possible. Welcome to free agency, Kyrie. [Watch the Playoffs on NBA League Pass for 30% less with this limited time offer! Select Annual package and use code SAVE30 at checkout to redeem] He’s now in the place that other big names like Kevin Durant, Jimmy Butler, Kawhi Leonard and Klay Thompson all will be whenever their respective seasons end, whether that happens with a playoff defeat, or with an injury — Durant left Game 5 of Golden State’s Western Conference semifinal series against Houston on Wednesday night (Thursday, PHL time) with a right calf strain — or with their fingerprints smudging the golden surface of the Larry O’Brien Trophy. They will all hear some version of the question that Irving got. Free agency doesn’t technically start until July 1, but in actuality it began for the superstar point guard with 8:40 left in the fourth quarter of Game 5 — when he checked out for the last time in what capped Boston’s ousting from the Eastern Conference semifinals by the Milwaukee Bucks. He has a player option for next season, one that would pay him about $21 million. No one expects him to pick up that option. Irving got the question a number of different ways Wednesday night (Thursday, PHL time), and his defense was stellar. No hints, whatsoever. “I’m just trying to make it back to Boston first, safely,” Irving said. “Get to see my family. Decompress. Do what human beings do.” This will be a seismic free-agent summer in the NBA and everyone has known this was coming for some time. Durant, Butler, Leonard, Thompson, Irving and Kemba Walker all may sign deals worth well over $100 million apiece. Combined, the total value of those six looming contracts could flirt with $1 billion if everyone involved decides to max-out and not take shorter-term deals. The New York Knicks might have close to $75 million in salary-cap space, more than enough to potentially land Irving and Durant. The Los Angeles Clippers could have close to $60 million. Brooklyn, Dallas, Atlanta and Indiana might have about $50 million apiece. The Los Angeles Lakers — even with LeBron James’ big contract and a coaching search that has gone from slow to stuck — have more than enough to add some major names. It will be wild, starting with lots of eyes on Golden State. Questions about Durant leaving have percolated all season and will only pick up between now and July 1. Thompson’s future has been the source of much debate. Imagine: The Warriors could win their third straight title and fourth in five years, and they might break up anyway. Butler will take a long look at signing elsewhere, and he might start hearing ‘the question’ as soon as Thursday (Friday, PHL time) when Philadelphia now on the ropes against Toronto. Leonard’s future with the Raptors may be tied to how deep they go in the playoffs. Walker’s situation in Charlotte hinges on the size of the offer the Hornets make to keep him. Irving tried to make all the chatter about his future go away in early October, when he stole the show at a preseason event for Celtics fans at the team’s arena in Boston. He grabbed the microphone, walked toward midcourt and delivered a sentence that is going to get replayed a lot over the next eight weeks. “If you guys will have me back, I plan on re-signing here,” Irving said. Sounded great then. Doesn’t seem so iron-clad now. And truth be told, the Celtics might be thinking they’re better off without Irving anyway given how they went deeper in the playoffs with him sidelined last season and his struggles over the last four games of the Milwaukee series. They were 35-19 at one point. They went 19-18 the rest of the way. They went 14-17 in Irving’s last 31 appearances. They were 12-3 when he didn’t play this season. Irving won’t be taking a whole lot of questions — if any — over the next few weeks about his future. He knows what would be asked. All that matters now is his answer. ___ Tim Reynolds is a national basketball writer for The Associated Press. Write to him at treynolds@ap.org.....»»

Category: sportsSource:  abscbnRelated NewsMay 9th, 2019

Is renewable energy unreliable? and other questions about RE answered

MANILA, Philippines – The world is well aware of the dangers of climate change. Just this March, Greta Thunberg , a 15-year-old Swedish kid, sparked a climate revolution led by children like herself around the globe. It’s dubbed as the “school strike for climate.” Her message to political ........»»

Category: newsSource:  rapplerRelated NewsMay 8th, 2019

Madrid sends Stay strong message to former keeper Casillas

By Joseph Wilson, Associated Press BARCELONA, Spain (AP) — Real Madrid's players and fans took a moment before Sunday's 3-2 Spanish league win over Villarreal to send messages of support to former star goalkeeper Iker Casillas as he recovers from a heart attack. Players posed for a team photo wearing T-shirts that said in Spanish "Iker, we are all with you," while spectators at Santiago Bernabeu Stadium chanted his name and unfurled a huge banner saying "Madrid fans are with you. Stay strong, eternal captain." The 37-year-old Casillas fell ill while training for his club, FC Porto, on Wednesday and remains hospitalized after undergoing a catheterization. Porto's doctors said the former Spain goalkeeper is expected to fully recover, but it is too early to know if he can keep playing professionally. Casillas was a fan favorite during his 16 seasons with Madrid, where he won three Champions League and five Spanish league trophies. Casillas also helped Spain to win the 2010 World Cup and two European Championships. He joined Portuguese club Porto in 2015. Against Villarreal, Madrid bounced back from a 0-0 draw at Getafe and a 1-0 loss at Rayo Vallecano as it struggles to compete consistently despite the return of coach Zinedine Zidane. Barcelona clinched the league title last week. With Madrid in a distant third place, all the talk in the Spanish capital is what the club will do in the offseason to shake up its squad. Zidane left stars Gareth Bale and Luka Modric off his squad for the match. "You can interpret it anyway you want, but I have to pick a squad (for the game), nothing more," Zidane said afterward. "I am not going to talk about the next season of anyone." Little used striker Mariano Díaz and defender Jesús Vallejo responded to their rare starts Sunday by scoring. Díaz struck twice, while Vallejo got his first goal for the club. Gerard Moreno and Juame Costa scored for Villarreal. Madrid's Vinicius Junior returned as a late substitute after two months sidelined with a leg injury. GETAFE FOUTH Getafe is trying to join Madrid, second-place Atletico Madrid and Barcelona in the Champions League next season. The modest club moved back ahead of Sevilla into fourth place and the final spot for Europe's top club competition after beating relegation-threatened Girona 2-0 at home. Jorge Molina continued his excellent season at age 37 by scoring his 14th league goal before Ángel Rodríguez put the result beyond doubt. TWO TEAMS RELEGATED Rayo and Huesca became the first teams to be relegated from the top tier. Rayo was left seven points from safety with two matches remaining — after Valladolid beat Athletic Bilbao 1-0. Huesca is also down after it was routed 6-2 by Valencia, leaving it eight points from safety......»»

Category: sportsSource:  abscbnRelated NewsMay 6th, 2019

Harden, Durant both covet championship, mantle of best player

By Shaun Powell, NBA.com Houston -- Steve Kerr’s mind is made up. He’s seen enough. The debate is closed and conquered, the election over and the firm conclusion has been reached, at least from where he stands. Kevin Durant “is the best player in the world, the most skilled player in the world” according to Kerr, who may be biased, but he didn’t sound like it. Kerr said this not once, but four times in the last two weeks, just in case someone didn’t get the message. [Watch the Playoffs on NBA League Pass for 30% less with this limited time offer! Select Annual package and use code SAVE30 at checkout to redeem] It’s hard to see where the Warriors’ coach is going wrong. Durant is evidently on a mission to (a) win his third and perhaps final championship with the Warriors, and (1-a) become universally recognized as the singularly greatest force in the league, a distinction that means so much to him. To paraphrase Durant, y’all know who he is by now. Durant is sitting at the mythical 50-40-90 threshold in the playoffs, the benchmark for shooting accuracy and efficiency from the floor, three-point range and free-throw line. He’s averaging 35 points in the postseason, 39 in the last seven games. He has two near-masterpieces, the 50-point closeout of the Clippers in the first round and 46 on the Rockets in Game 3 of this series. He’s making contested jumpers from all over the floor and from all angles. There’s really no defense for him. But when this series is over, James Harden hopes to change the conversation. If he does, that means (a) the Rockets will pull off a stunning comeback from being down two games, and (b) Harden out-dueled Durant in the process. Is either possible? Well, Harden might be the only player qualified to do so, even with a left eye that still looks like the Japanese flag. He managed to minimize if not eliminate that poked eye by chopping down the Warriors and pulling the Rockets within 2-1 of the series. “I was just being aggressive,” he said. “I was in attack mode.” He’s attacking something else. Harden, too, wants exactly the same as his friend and former Oklahoma City teammate. A championship would be his first, so obviously that’s paramount. The mantle of “game’s greatest player” is also desired because Harden believes the last four years bear that out. In that span, he won the MVP award and finished runner-up twice, better than anyone. Of course, the missing prize is the championship, which is the final and most authentic validation, and this season at least he must go through Durant to achieve that. Harden’s postseason hasn’t been as stellar as Durant’s, although perhaps Game 3 marked a shift. Harden scored 41 points and sent the Warriors home on a step-back three-pointer in the final seconds of overtime. He and the Rockets are bringing a fresh sense of confidence and also have Game 4 in their house. Sending this series all square back to Oakland wouldn’t be beyond his or their abilities. “In `Harden World,’ that was good, but he can play better,” said Rockets coach Mike D’Antoni. “That’s James. That’s what he does.” There’s a growing sense among the Warriors, and with some justification, that Harden’s bloody eye is no longer an issue. Harden’s vision was pure when it counted two nights ago and every day brings him a step closer to normalcy, if he isn’t already there. “I think he’s good to go,” said D’Antoni. The other concern for Golden State: Harden’s beginning to figure out the rotations and the Warriors’ defensive scheme. They know Harden adapts quickly to defenders and their tendencies because, at this point, he’s seen it all. Harden is a tough cover because of his shooting range and unwillingness to lose confidence after a string of misses, and his craftiness off the dribble while attacking the rim. “He had 41 points and it was a good chess game,” said Andre Iguodala. “He made some really tough shots. Some shots, where you pat him on the butt, and you say ‘helluva shot’. I felt like it was a little bit of cat and mouse. A guy like that -- you can’t stop him one on one. The defense did a good job of helping off and stopping him. We just have to try to make it hard as possible for him.” The nightmare game for the Warriors is Harden hitting enough early baskets and forcing them to double, then finding teammates for open looks that they make, such as Eric Gordon. In that scenario, points would come in an avalanche and place stress on the defense and possibly get key players into foul trouble, most notably Draymond Green and a suddenly-foul-prone Steph Curry. There’s also an intriguing subplot in the works: The Harden-Durant can-you-top-this drama. With Curry and Chris Paul both performing below their standards in this series, the series seems fixated on Harden and Durant and  what they’re capable of doing to the other team and, by extension, against each other. There’s a genuine and hefty amount of respect between the two, who are friends away from the floor as well. Both left OKC and have since generated millions in endorsement money and find themselves near or at the top of the superstar pecking order. Durant has what Harden doesn’t, a championship. But perhaps Harden has what Durant craves, a team to call his own. That would be the only reason Durant leaves the Warriors in free agency this summer, because it’s difficult to imagine him signing with a team that offers a better chance to win championships or make more in salary than the one he’s already on. Durant earned more points with Harden a few days ago when he defended the Rockets guard, saying Harden doesn’t “cheat the rules” when he tries to draw fouls and manipulate the referees. Durant added: “He can do everything. If you’re not focused, he can drive past you, hit you with the shoulder because he’s strong, and finish with either hand. He can shoot floaters now. Obviously the step-back 3-pointer is one of his staples, but I never believed he was just a free throw guy. He can score in a variety of ways.” Harden must prove that in this series. Last season in the Western Conference finals, he turned to vapor as that series stretched seven games. He made just 24 percent from deep and, after Paul suffered a hamstring pull in Game Five, couldn’t handle the load. In the elimination game, he missed 11-of-13 from deep. Durant, meanwhile, was the star and weeks later would clinch another title and Finals MVP award, outplaying LeBron James in the process. So Kerr’s contention about Durant has much weight and credibility. Through three games of this second-round series, there’s been no reason to question the coach’s claim. Only one person can flip that perception and create doubt. James Harden, therefore, has a tough job ahead. 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 NewsMay 6th, 2019

Rights activists protest drug war at Portugal policy conference

Human rights defenders from around the world rallied in Porto, Portugal to send a message to the Philippine government: Stop the killings associated with its campaign against illegal drugs......»»

Category: newsSource:  philstarRelated NewsMay 2nd, 2019

Cavs' Irving shares inspirational message to motivate kids

em>By Tom Withers, Associated Press /em> CLEVELAND (AP) — Kyrie Irving spent a day dedicated to transition and big speeches by delivering a message from the heart. Cleveland's All-Star point guard, whose own life has undergone major changes over the past year or so because of fatherhood, an Olympic gold medal and NBA championship, spoke to hundreds of school kids on Friday (Saturday, PHL time) about following their dreams. To kick off a program promoting physical fitness, Irving shared some wisdom and experiences he hopes will help motivate kids to reach their potential. He urged them to listen to their parents, follow their own path and reminded them that life's journey never ends. 'I'm still figuring it out,' he said. 'I'm still you.' Teaming with Kids Foot Locker, Irving visited one of the city's Boys & Girls Clubs to launch a six-week fitness challenge which promotes a healthy lifestyle and encourages kids to excel outside and inside the classroom. Not far removed from their age group, the 24-year-old Irving easily connected with the kids, who wore 'Go Big' T-shirts and could barely contain their excitement when the Cavaliers' star was introduced and walked to the middle of the basketball court. 'Listen to your parents,' Irving told them, but not in a preachy way, rather the way an older brother would tell his siblings. 'Make sure you cherish the friendships you have and family is first — always.' Before the event, Irving, who was named an All-Star starter for the Eastern Conference on Thursday (Friday, PHL time), spent a few minutes with the Associated Press discussing the motivation to support his community and aspirations beyond basketball. Irving understands both his place and platform and wants to maximize it. And as the nation looked toward Washington, D.C., Irving simply wanted to make a positive impact on some kinds in Cleveland. 'I want to be a generational leader and I am that already,' he told AP. 'I have to accept that and to do that you have to acquire as much knowledge and still grow every single day, make sure I'm living the truth and share that with the rest of the world. It's not necessarily opening up to the media or anyone else, but it's about opening up to the kids that matter — that are going to be changing our world in a few years. 'I'm OK with this, man. As long as I can shape a kid's day or shape a kid's life in any way possible, and help them realize their potential is endless, you are limitless. You can be your own decider in your life. Whatever else is going on, you have to take control of it.' Irving was raised almost exclusively by his father, Drederick, after his mother, Elizabeth, died when he was four. The elder Irving didn't have to push his child, who was driven from an early age. It's that independence, the strength to be unafraid and willingness to fail but learn, that's at the heart of Irving's message. 'I want them to think bigger,' he said. 'It's a lost simpler for me now as I've gotten older. There were things that I thought were going to stop me and limit me, but those things aren't necessarily real, they're false and created by whatever it is that tells us what we can't do, the outside influences. Never listen to that, man. I've always figured it out one day at a time. 'As long as you can see through it, and find your own truth, you'll be fine. I try to give kids the truth. I still am that kid that was growing up in Boys & Girls Clubs in New York and New Jersey, going to different neighborhoods. I'm that same kid. I've never changed and being able to acquire the knowledge that I have from other people helps me — and hopefully resonates with the kids.' .....»»

Category: sportsSource:  abscbnRelated NewsJan 21st, 2017

NBA Wrap: Kyrie, LeBron power Cavs over Suns

CLEVELAND — Kyrie Irving scored 26 points, All-Star teammate LeBron James had 21 points and 15 assists, and the Cleveland Cavaliers looked more like themselv.....»»

Category: sportsSource:  philstarRelated NewsJan 20th, 2017

Durant dazzles against former Thunder team anew

em>By Janie McCauley, Associated Press /em> OAKLAND, Calif. (AP) -- Kevin Durant dazzled against his old team once again with a season-best 40 points, and the Golden State Warriors beat Oklahoma City 121-100 on Wednesday night (Thursday, PHL time) despite Russell Westbrook's 21st triple-double for the Thunder. Westbrook had 27 points, 15 rebounds and 13 assists in an improved showing from his 20-point outing on 4-for-15 shooting when OKC first faced Durant in the other jersey here 2.5 months ago and watched him dismantle the Thunder from every which way. In his two games against OKC, Durant has scored 79 points on 28-for-50 shooting. He hit seven three-pointers in the first meeting, a 122-96 Warriors rout Nov. 3 (Nov. 4 PHL time), also at Oracle Arena. Durant also had 12 rebounds Wednesday (Thursday, PHL time). Stephen Curry added 24 points and eight assists, and Klay Thompson had 14 points after he arrived back in the Bay Area just in time to play after a short absence dealing with a personal family matter. This one had tension, which just might be the norm from here on out when Durant faces the Thunder. There were words exchanged and stare downs, and of course a few hard fouls -- then an occasional smile to balance things out, like when Durant missed on a driving tomahawk jam and the ball shot back to midcourt. This atmosphere wasn't that much different from two days earlier when the champion Cavaliers visited Golden State's home floor and left with an embarrassing 126-91 defeat. Enes Kanter added 22 points and nine rebounds off the bench for the Thunder, who missed center Steven Adams for a second straight game with a concussion. Tied at 63 after the game was also even at halftime, the Warriors scored eight unanswered points with three’s by Thompson and Durant. Thompson scored five straight points during the exact kind of scoring flurry Oklahoma City coach Billy Donovan described before the game as what makes these star-studded Warriors so dangerous. It wasn't that long ago Donovan could only watch as Golden State rallied from a 3-1 deficit to beat OKC in the Western Conference finals last season. Westbrook shot just 8-for-23 this time and missed all but one of his six three-point tries, but made 10-of-11 free throws. With 4.4 seconds left in the first half, Zaza Pachulia collided with Westbrook and clobbered the OKC star in the face as the Warriors center went with his man as Kanter set a screen on Andre Iguodala. Westbrook went down and grabbed his face in obvious pain and Pachulia glared at Westbrook as he stood over him. The play went to official review before Pachulia received a flagrant 1 foul, drawing boos from the sellout crowd. Golden State outscored Oklahoma City 37-22 in the third to turn the game into another blowout on the way to wrapping up 9-1 stay in Northern California over the past 3.5 weeks. Durant posted his 11th game with 30 or more points and fifth with at least 30 points and 10 boards. As dominant as KD has been against the Thunder, the Warriors still must go to Oklahoma City on Feb. 11 and March 20 (Feb. 12 and Mar. 21, PHL time). strong>TIP-INS /strong> em> strong>Thunder: /strong> /em> Oklahoma City is 5-11 on the road against Golden State and hasn't won on the Warriors' home floor since Dec. 18, 2014. Adams wasn't with the team. em> strong>Warriors: /strong> /em>PF David West has a non-displaced fracture of his left thumb and will be re-evaluated in two weeks. Golden State was tied at halftime for the first time all season. After out-rebounding the Cavs 58-35, the Warriors led the category 46-36. Golden State committed 13 first-half turnovers and 18 total. strong>UP NEXT /strong> em> strong>Thunder: /strong> /em>At Utah on Monday (Tuesday, PHL time) after a four-day break without a game. em> strong>Warriors: /strong> /em> At Houston on Friday (Saturday, PHL time). Golden State wrapped up a stretch of more than three weeks at home that included only a bus ride to Sacramento for a lone road game in a 10-game stretch since Dec. 26 (Dec. 27, PHL time). .....»»

Category: sportsSource:  abscbnRelated NewsJan 19th, 2017

Packers-Falcons NFC matchup expected to produce big offense

CHARLES ODUM, AP Sports Writer br /> FLOWERY BRANCH, Georgia (AP) — The high-scoring offenses of the Atlanta Falcons and Green Bay Packers appear poised to provide a memorable send-off for the Georgia Dome in Sunday's NFC championship game. The Falcons led the NFL in scoring. Even so, they know it won't be easy to keep up with the scoring pace set by quarterback Aaron Rodgers and the Packers. 'It's obvious they've got a stud at quarterback,' Falcons left tackle Jake Matthews said Tuesday. 'We've played a lot of great teams with great players at quarterback... Whatever it takes, we just have to put up as many points as we need to.' Matthews said the weekly message from offensive coordinator Kyle Shanahan is 'I don't know if we're going to have to win 6-3 or 40-37.' Of those alternatives, 40-37 appears to be the more likely target, in part because the Atlanta and Green Bay defenses don't dominate the statistics like their offensive counterparts. The game will be the Falcons' farewell to the Georgia Dome, which will be demolished in the offseason. The Falcons will move into the $1.5 billion Mercedes-Benz Stadium next season. The Falcons and Packers finished the regular season ranked 28th and 31st, respectively, in pass defense. The Falcons allowed 25.4 points per game to rank 27th, only a few spots below the Packers (24.2) at 21st. Atlanta led the NFL with 33.8 points per game. Green Bay linebacker Nick Perry said the goal will be to prevent big plays. 'They are very explosive,' Perry said. 'When we look at the film, we have to make sure we don't give up those explosive plays. Everything lives off that. They are good at what they do. We are going to look at the film and go over it and make sure we prevent as much as we can of those guys giving up explosive plays.' The Falcons advanced with a 36-20 divisional playoff win over Seattle last week. Green Bay's offense also rolled in a 34-31 win over Dallas. Despite the unimpressive season totals, Atlanta allowed fewer than 20 points in four of its last six regular-season games. But none of those games were against Rodgers. The Falcons have faced Russell Wilson, Cam Newton and Drew Brees in their past three games. Asked who compares with Rodgers, Falcons linebacker De'Vondre Campbell had a quick answer. 'Nobody. It's just that simple,' Campbell said. 'The things that he can do, it's just amazing to see. There's no one I can compare him to.' The Falcons are led by MVP candidate Matt Ryan, the All-Pro who ranked second in the NFL in yards passing and TD passes. Atlanta's offense featured depth, as Ryan threw scoring passes to a record 13 players during the season, and balance with running back Devonta Freeman and Tevin Coleman. Atlanta's offense provides nice support for its defense, but cornerback Jalen Collins insisted Tuesday he doesn't want to have to rely on that strength. 'You don't go in the game thinking you're going to give up hundreds of yards and a bunch of points,' Collins said. 'We're looking forward to trying to limit the points as best we can and give our offense an opportunity to put points on the board.' Falcons cornerback Robert Alford said expectations for a high-scoring game gives the defense reason 'to have a chip on our shoulders.' Added Alford: 'We're all going to have something to prove. I love it.' .....»»

Category: sportsSource:  abscbnRelated NewsJan 18th, 2017