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MVP Ladder: Hot start pushes Curry to forefront

By Sekou Smith, NBA.com When Kevin Durant raised the Finals MVP trophy in the air in June -- his second straight, mind you -- it was supposed to be over for Stephen Curry. The prevailing wisdom said there was no way the former two-time Kia MVP winner Curry would be able to contend for a third Maurice Podoloff Trophy playing alongside Durant (a former Kia MVP himself). Their individual brilliance would be muted by the collective strength of their partnership as the two best players on the best team in the league. This notion they would continue to split Kia MVP votes made sense given their super team required all of its stars to sacrifice personal glory for the greater team good. That was the thinking before the first nine games of this season ... and then Curry decided to attack things as he did in 2015-16. That season, he went nuclear -- averaging 30.1 points, 5.4 rebounds and 6.7 assists per game while shooting 50.4 percent overall and 45.4 percent on three-pointers -- becoming the NBA's first unanimous MVP winner as the Warriors won an NBA-record 73 games. Durant was still toiling for the rival Oklahoma City Thunder then, sharing the spotlight with another eventual Kia MVP in Russell Westbrook. Curry’s opening salvo this season, though, has been nothing short of staggering. His pace right now -- leading the league in scoring while shooting nearly 55 percent overall and 53 percent on three-pointers  -- could top that 2015-16 season. Doing all this with teammates who could make their own compelling cases for Kia MVP honors makes Curry’s start even more mind-boggling. Both Durant (check out his 25-point fourth quarter at Madison Square Garden) and Klay Thompson (who topped Curry’s three-pointers made record in Chicago) are taking turns showing out, all of which speaks to the Warriors' mastery of a situation that easily could have overloaded these three stars. Curry’s consistent brilliance sticks out in a sea of transcendent scoring performances in the early stages of this season. He was the one who dropped 51 points in 32 minutes in a win over Washington, making 11 of his 16 three-pointers. He went 6-for-11 on three-pointers en route to 29 points when Durant worked the Knicks for 41 points at MSG. When Thompson was in the zone against the Bulls, Curry scored 23 points (on 7-for-9 shooting) in just 25 minutes. And when the New Orleans Pelicans showed up to Oracle Arena Wednesday night (Thursday, PHL time), Curry lit them up for 37 on 12-for-20 shooting and a 7-for-11 night on three-pointers. That's all why Curry sits atop the first Kia Race to the MVP Ladder this season. And if he keeps this up, there’s no reason Curry won't be in the thick of this season's MVP conversation when the dust settles. The top five in the Week 1 edition of the 2018-19 Kia Race to the MVP Ladder: * * * 1. Stephen Curry, Golden State Warriors Season stats: 33 points, 5.9 assists, 5.0 rebounds Here's the kind of damage Curry is doing so far: he’s not only leading the league in scoring, but doing so while shooting a preposterous 54.9 percent overall and an equally bonkers 52.9 percent on three-pointers. Scoring around the league is on the rise this season, and perhaps no one is taking more advantage of the freedom of movement rule the way Curry has. He’s scoring from everywhere, against any and everyone whenever he wants in a system built around his skills. He’s got one of the league’s early 50-point games (51 points, vs. Washington), and, given the way he’s shooting now, could go for another 50-spot at any time. That’s a warning for the Minnesota Timberwolves, who will see Curry today. 2. Kawhi Leonard, Toronto Raptors Season stats: 27.3 points, 7.8 rebounds, 3.2 assists Leonard is off to a monstrous start with Toronto, shattering that pesky myth that he was a product of a system in San Antonio. Anyone who forgot just how devastating a two-way player he could be after his nine-game run with the Spurs last season should have a clearer understanding of what he can do when healthy. Just ask Philadelphia 76ers stud Ben Simmons, who couldn't praise Leonard enough after matching wits with the two-time Kia Defensive Player of the Year. “He’s a freak,” Simmons said after turning the ball over 11 times while being guarded by Leonard on Tuesday (Wednesday, PHL time). “His hands are huge. He’s got long arms. He’s a great defender.” The scary part for the rest of the league? Leonard is shooting as good or better than ever on three-pointers (44.4 percent) while logging a career-high 34.7 minutes. And, technically, he is still undefeated in a Raptors uniform (he got a rest day for Bucks-Raptors). 3. Giannis Antetokounmpo, Milwaukee Bucks Season stats: 26.1 points, 13.7 rebounds, 5.1 assists It took a franchise-record 24 made three-pointers for the Boston Celtics to hold off Antetokounmpo and the Bucks Thursday night (Friday, PHL time) at TD Garden. It was the Bucks’ first loss this season, but it wasn’t because the "Greek Freak" didn’t show up. He roasted the Celtics for 33 points (on just 22 shots), 11 rebounds, three steals and two assists. The increased floor spacing that comes with the arrival of coach Mike Budenholzer has allowed Antetokounmpo to put opposing defenders in compromising positions. His three-point shot is still in the development stage, but if Budenholzer can help transform that part of his game (as he did for Al Horford and Paul Millsap in Atlanta), the rest of the league will be on notice. As for Antetokounmpo's groove elsewhere on the court, it has made him virtually unstoppable when he’s in attack mode. 4. Anthony Davis, New Orleans Pelicans Season stats: 25.2 points, 13.0 rebounds, 5.2 assists, 3.2 blocks Had there been a top five after the first four games of this season, Davis would have been a runaway pick for the No. 1 spot. He was that good in powering New Orleans' 4-0 start. But the Pelicans have lost four straight and three to the four games since as Davis deals with nagging right elbow pain. Davis missed back-to-back games against Utah and Denver, then played Wednesday (Thursday, PHL time) against the Warriors. It was clear he wasn’t at his best, as he had 17 points, 12 rebounds and seven assists. (Pelicans coach Alvin Gentry held him out in a road loss to the Portland Trail Blazers.) Davis hasn’t been shy about proclaiming that he’s chasing both Kia MVP and Kia Defensive Player of the Year honors, a double-dip that only half a handful of players could realistically set as a goal. The talent and high ceiling have never been in question. His availability to chase such lofty goals, however, remains a question at times. 5. Damian Lillard, Portland Trail Blazers Season stats: 29.1 points, 6.0 assists, 5.1 rebounds Lillard entered this season as determined to prove his team’s early 2018 playoff exit wasn't a true measure of Portland's status. Still, getting swept by the Pelicans sent the Blazers into the offseason with tons of questions and skeptics. Since the first whistle of training camp, Lillard has gone about the business of answering those questions. He’s averaging career-highs in points (29.1), field goal percentage (49.7 percent), three-point percentage (40 percent) and free throw percentage (94 percent). The Blazers finished their recent four-game road trip at 3-1, which included wins against Orlando, Indiana and the struggling Houston Rockets. Thursday night’s (Friday, PHL time) win over the Anthony David-less Pelicans was fueled by Lillard’s team-high 26 points, seven rebounds and six assists. Saturday night’s home game against LeBron James and the Los Angeles Lakers could be another opportunity for Lillard and Co. to show they aren’t stepping aside for anyone. * * * The next five 6.  Nikola Jokic, Denver Nuggets 7.  Kevin Durant, Golden State Warriors 8.  Rudy Gobert, Utah Jazz 9.  LeBron James, Los Angeles Lakers 10.  Joel Embiid, Philadelphia 76ers And five more: Jimmy Butler, Minnesota Timberwolves; DeMar DeRozan, San Antonio Spurs; Blake Griffin, Detroit Pistons; Kyrie Irving, Boston Celtics; Victor Oladipo, Indiana Pacers Sekou Smith is a veteran NBA reporter and NBA TV analyst. You can e-mail him here, find his archive here and follow him on Twitter. The views on this page do not necessarily reflect the views of the NBA, its clubs or Turner Broadcasting......»»

Category: sportsSource: abscbn abscbnNov 3rd, 2018

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

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

Category: sportsSource:  abscbnRelated NewsDec 29th, 2018

Reasons to watch 2018 slate of NBA X mas day games

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

Category: sportsSource:  abscbnRelated NewsDec 25th, 2018

Rookie Ladder: Mavericks Doncic starts on top

By Drew Packham, NBA.com Welcome back to another season of the Rookie Ladder. If you’re like me, there’s nothing you love more than watching the first-year players find their way in the NBA. This will be my 11th season covering the rookies (first for SI.com, now here) and it has yet to grow old. The beauty of covering rookies is that every season provides something that will surprise you. There are so many storylines, so many angles to keep an eye on. Players break out. Players flop. Players live up to expectations. Players fail to live up to expectations. Players have incredible performances. Players have awful performances. But yet, night in and night out, across virtually every arena, there’s something intriguing and exciting to watch. Each week, in this space, I’ll do my best to highlight the Top 5 rookies (and another five just missing the cut) and rank them on the Ladder according to their standing on the season. Last year, the Ladder was primarily a video released each week with my Top 5 rookies, but this season I’ll be able to write a little more and dig deeper into the ups and downs of the rookie class. So, with all that said, here’s the inaugural Rookie Ladder for the 2018-19 season. (All stats through Thursday, Nov. 1, PHL time) * * * 1. Luka Doncic, Dallas Mavericks Through the first week, Doncic has been the most consistently entertaining rookie and it’s difficult to pick one aspect of his game to feature. Do you like step-back 3-pointers? Check. Do you dig floaters in the lane? You’ll see several a game. How about court vision and slick passes? He’s got it. The thing with Doncic is he looks so comfortable being the Mavs’ leader, and the season is just two weeks old. He’s already the team’s leading scorer (19.6 ppg, first among rookies) and put up 31 points and eight rebounds in a tough 113-108 OT loss in San Antonio on Monday (Tuesday, PHL time). The only knock on Doncic so far are the turnovers (4.0 against 4.4 apg), but that should improve as he acclimates to his teammates and the style of play in the NBA. If you haven’t tuned in to a Mavs game, now’s the time. Doncic is must-see TV and earns the top rung to start the season. 2. Deandre Ayton, Phoenix Suns The No. 1 overall pick has lived up to the hype early in the season, averaging a double-double (16.9 ppg, 10 rpg) while giving Phoenix the dominating inside presence it has long desired. Devin Booker is dealing with a sore hamstring, but when the pair has been on the floor together, they’ve been a tough duo to defend. Drop down on the massive Ayton? He’ll kick it to Booker or his other shooters. Defend Booker on the perimeter? He’ll drop it in to get Ayton going inside. “He’s going to be a force down there the whole season,” Booker said. “I feel like teams are going to have to figure out what they want to do.” Ayton is shooting at a 61.6-percent clip (85.7 pct. on free throws) and he’s fourth among rookies in assists (3.3 apg), so it’s clear he’s comfortable passing out of the post. He’s going to be in the Kia Rookie of the Year chatter all season and while he may not be as exciting as Doncic and Young, his efficiency and dominance should give him a great shot at claiming the award. 3. Trae Young, Atlanta Hawks The No. 5 pick has been hit-or-miss in the early going, but his big games have been impressive. In the Hawks’ third game of the season, Young erupted for 35 points and 11 assists, while going 6-for-14 from 3-point land in a 131-117 loss to the Grizzlies. He’s only the third rookie since 2000 to top 35 and 10. The other two? LeBron James and Stephen Curry. But Young followed that outburst with a stretch of three games in which he was 11-for-37, going 2-for-15 from beyond the arc. This is likely what we’re going to see from Young throughout this season -- briliant performances followed by typical rookie struggles. Still, it’s clear Young can play. He leads all rookies in assists (6.6 per game) and he’s not turning the ball over at a terrible rate (3.0 per game). The Hawks are Young’s team, so he’ll have every opportunity to shine, which should keep him high on the Ladder all season. 4. Marvin Bagley III, Sacramento Kings At 5-3, the Kings are one of the early surprises of the season, and Bagley has been a big reason for their success. Working with the second unit, Bagley has been key as Sacramento has looked to push the tempo. While Bagley was more of a typical post-up player at Duke, he’s best when running the floor and finishing in transition. The Kings are winning, and Bagley is putting up decent numbers in just 23.3 minutes per game. Among rookies, he’s currently fourth in scoring (12.4 ppg) and second in rebounding (7.1 rpg), while shooting 53.4 percent overall and 5-for-9 from 3-point land. His most notable performance came Oct. 23 (Oct. 24, PHL time) in a 126-112 loss to the Nuggets in which he finished with 20 points, nine rebounds and five blocks in 32 minutes. Bagley could see his minutes increase as he improves, but he’s making the most of his minutes so far, which should keep him high on the Ladder. 5. Josh Okogie, Minnesota Timberwolves Okogie is one of the season’s early surprises as he’s made the most of his opportunity in Minnesota. After not seeing the floor in the Wolves’ first two games, Okogie got his chance when Jimmy Butler rested a game, then saw heavy action with Andrew Wiggins out with a quad contusion. In six games, the No. 20 pick out of Georgia Tech is averaging 9.8 points (8th among rookies) and 5.3 rebounds (sixth). More notably, he leads rookies in steals per game (1.7), which will certainly endear him to coach Tom Thibodeau. “You just like him,” Thibodeau said after Okogie scored 17 to help the Wolves beat the Lakers 124-120 on Monday (Tuesday, PHL time). “You just like his energy, and he makes things happen.” He’s struggling from the floor (38.3 percent), but his energy and defense could make him hard to bench once Wiggins returns. For now, though, he’s earned his rung on the Ladder. Just missed the cut: Jaren Jackson, Memphis Grizzlies Through six games, Jackson is averaging 11.5 points (6th among rookies), 5.2 rebounds (7th) and 1.0 blocks (4th) in 22.7 minutes. Scored in double-digits in the first four games, but has just 10 points in last two games while seeing playing time dip due to foul trouble. Mo Bamba, Orlando Magic Fifth in rebounding (5.4 rpg) and leads rookies in blocks at 2.0 per game (ninth among all players). Also managing to put up almost two 3s a night (at a 38.5 percent clip) while seeing around 20 minutes of action. Wendell Carter, Jr., Chicago Bulls Fourth in rebounding (6.3 rpg) in just over 25 minutes per game. Field goal percentage down for a big man (43.6 percent) but he’s scored in double-digits in last three games. Shai Gilgeous-Alexander, LA Clippers Has been solid as Clippers’ backup. His ability to get to the rim and defend has earned him a spot in the rotation and even crunch-time minutes. Averaging 8.4 points and 3.6 assists (4th), while picking up a steal per game. Collin Sexton, Cleveland Cavaliers Has scored in double-digits in his last four games, averaging 14.3 points in that span. His ability to get to the line (nine times in each of last two games) may be his best feature. His career-best 17 points helped Cleveland get its first win Tuesday night (Wednesday, PHL time), and it will be interesting to see how his role changes under interim coach Larry Drew. The views on this page do not necessarily reflect the views of the NBA, its clubs or Turner Broadcasting......»»

Category: sportsSource:  abscbnRelated NewsNov 2nd, 2018

Draw of another title lights postseason path of Warriors

By David Aldridge, TNT Analyst One of the Golden State Warriors’ people, walking out of Smoothie King Center Sunday (Monday, PHL time), summarized the team’s season so far in detailing Kevin Durant’s 38-point performance against the Pelicans in Game 4 of the Western Conference semifinals. “Sometimes, people forget,” he said, a wry smile on his face -- and, yes, they do. With all that has gone on around the league this season, the Warriors’ storyline hasn’t been quite as eyeballed nationally this season compared with previous years. (Not that they should care. It’s just an observation.) The Cleveland Cavaliers blew things up last summer and reformed in the fall, blew it up again in the winter and reformed again in the spring. The Boston Celtics are displaying amazing resilience through seemingly devastating injuries to put themselves on the brink of another conference finals. The Philadelphia 76ers have their Fun Bunch. There was Paul George’s trade to Oklahoma City (and all that entailed, now and later) and the Toronto Raptors’ dramatic and successful changes throughout the year. And, at the forefront, there was the Houston Rockets’ rise as a legit and serious challenger to the Warriors in the Western Conference. During the regular season, the Warriors’ energy and productivity dropped off ever so slightly, like the planet killer in “The Doomsday Machine,” one of the all-time best original “Star Trek” episodes, after the doomed Commodore Decker drove a Shuttlecraft right down its throat. (Of course, Captain Kirk figured out to destroy it. Dude, come on. This is James Tiberius Kirk we’re talking about.) And at the end of the regular season, they were hit with a series of body shot injuries: Stephen Curry’s MCL strain, Durant’s ribs, Klay Thompson’s thumb injury, Draymond Green’s hip, and on and on. Those all sapped their continuity and made them look mortal down the stretch of the 2017-18 season, and the Warriors went 7-10 as the season waned. But, after dispatching the Kawhi Leonard-less Spurs in five games in the first round, and taking a 3-1 lead on the Pelicans now, they’re again on the precipice of the Western Conference finals. A date with Houston is looming and a chance at a third title in four seasons is still on their racket. “I think as the playoffs go on, every series requires a different intensity level,” Green said last week. “I think we met that standard that it takes to win playoff games at the level we’re at right now, which is the second round. It’s not our first rodeo. We’ve been here a lot of times and we know what it takes.” Steve Kerr rolled the “Hamptons Five” lineup out Sunday (Monday, PHL time), the Lineup Formally Known as Death -- Curry, Thompson, Andre Iguodala, Green and Durant. It’s been their trump card for almost two years, the lineup that can’t be solved by the opposition, even as it’s chipped away at most of Golden State’s other conventional units. Durant went for 38, and the Warriors rolled to a 118-92 win and a 3-1 series lead. They didn’t use it much this season -- that quintet only played 127 minutes together this season, after logging 224 minutes last season -- because of all the injuries, because they tried to limit their biggest players’ minutes and because using Iguodala as a starter thins out Golden State’s bench. The Warriors’ most frequently used five-man unit this season featured Zaza Pachulia at center; among five-man units leaguewide that played 200 minutes or more together this season, per NBA.com/Stats, that quintet was third in the league in Offensive Rating, at 118.6. But Pachulia hasn’t played a minute in the playoffs, and if the Rockets are the Warriors’ next opponent, he may not play much then, either, against Clint Capela. Kerr often points out that the Warriors have six centers on the current roster, and most of them have gotten at least a little run at various points. But after JaVale McGee was ineffective in Game 3 against New Orleans Friday (Saturday, PHL time), Kerr pulled his trump card. It’s still a game-changer, and when a season comes down to a best-of-seven series, one game can be the difference. “We all bring the best of each other,” Curry said of the Hamptons unit. “We increase the pace of the game, but the versatility [is] at the defensive end -- Andre, Draymond, KD shoring up the paint, switching a lot of the screens and the action from the offense and Klay doing what he does on the perimeter. I think the biggest thing offensively is that we’re all playmakers, try to look for the best shot, stay within ourselves and just make the right play.” Going back to the old playlist may give the Warriors comfort in what has been another drama-filled season, with the contretemps about being disinvited from the White House by President Trump in September getting things off to a rollicking start. But the end of the season was what raised eyebrows around the league. Curry’s absence down the stretch combined with a teamwide ennui -- “I really don’t like talking about it,” Thompson said -- that gave potential playoff opponents hope they might be able to catch Golden State napping. The Warriors’ boredom showed up most at the defensive end. After being in the top seven in both unadjusted and adjusted Defensive Rating in each of the last four seasons -- including first in the league in both categories in the first championship season of 2014-15 -- Golden State fell to 11th and 12th, respectively, in the regular season. They came out of the All-Star break focused -- they were fifth in the league in Defensive Rating on March 1. But all the injuries blunted their momentum, and the scariest of all -- a serious injury to second-year guard Patrick McCaw in Sacramento March 31 (April 1, PHL time) -- shook the team more than people on the outside realized. “Throughout that time, we had spurts,” Durant said. “We played a great OKC team. We went in there and won. Then we lost to Indiana by 20, and then it’s like, when you’re riding just on emotion a lot, you tend to go up and down. It’s like a roller coaster. I think that’s what it was. We had those spurts where we played well and played a focused game, but then Patty goes out, boom, and there was just so much that went on with that. Then Steph goes out with a freak injury. So much went on with that. I think we were just so up and down emotionally it kind of blinded us from our goal, which was to be good every single night as basketball players.” McCaw’s injury -- a bone bruise suffered when he fell after a dunk attempt against the Kings, which required him to be carried off the court in Sacramento on a stretcher -- hit everyone hard. “When Pat got injured, I think that took a little bit out of us,” Durant said. “It took a little bit out of Steve as well. You could just feel it, when Steph went out, then I went out, then Draymond, then Klay. Our emotions were so up and down. When your emotions are, you have too many emotions in the game of basketball, it can kind of blind you from what you really have to do. This is a technical game. So when you put too many emotions into it, it kind of took us away from what we wanted to do.” McCaw, who played in 57 games this season, was not only a part of Kerr’s rotation. He is also a well-liked person who was getting better on the floor. He was re-evaluated last week and will be checked out again in a month. Though he’s been traveling with the team during the playoffs, his season is almost certainly over. And as his injury came during the Warriors’ many injuries down the stretch, its chilling effect was multiplied. “It definitely got to everybody,” Green said. “Kind of the uncertainty of not knowing what’s going on with him. The rotations. Everybody’s like, ahh, kind of tiptoeing around, trying to make sure you get to the playoffs healthy. A lot of that makes a difference. I mean, that’s our brother. To see him down like that, not be able to walk off the court under his own power, him not being around us for two or three weeks, it was kind of like the unknown. It sucked. And I think it definitely had an effect on everything.” But Durant doesn’t like the metaphor of the proverbial switch being turned on at playoff time explaining the team’s improvement the last couple of weeks. “I don’t like when you call it a switch,” he said. “Because guys come in and get extra work in every single day. They work on their bodies every day, they get treatment. You come in here any time, you see guys in here working on their games. I think when you say ‘a switch turned on,’ if guys went cold turkey on everything as professionals during the season, and just tried to pick it up in the playoffs, I think that’s turning on a switch. Mentally, focus-wise, game plan-wise, I think you can turn on a switch, because you can lock in on an opponent, you know their tendencies, you can just focus in on one group of players instead of one day it’s San Antonio, the next day it’s Phoenix, next day it’s Sacramento. You’re going so up and down. If that makes sense. “So I think everybody’s putting in that work individually all year, and as a team, you know, stuff has to come together. We have to focus in on what we need to do, game plan wise, tendency wise, just try to take away things. I think that’s where you kind of turn it up just a bit.” Golden State has performed in fits and starts in the first two rounds. The Spurs didn’t have enough firepower to be a serious threat, but they played hard and were increasingly effectively on defense as the series went on. The Warriors didn’t really have an answer for LaMarcus Aldridge after Game 1. New Orleans had, until Sunday (Monday, PHL time), been more and more successful at making the Warriors shoot contested shots. That certainly gibes with Curry’s return after five weeks. He’s healthy, but rusty. After his adrenaline-filled return last Tuesday (Wednesday, PHL time) in Game 2 against the Pelicans, he made just 14-of-33 from the floor in the two games in New Orleans. There was talk afterward about breakthroughs for Curry cardiovascularly. The next few games will tell whether Curry is truly recovered and ready to be two-time Kia MVP Steph … or will he just be on the floor (as he was for long and important stretches in the 2016 playoffs after returning from a Grade 1 knee sprain). The Warriors still made The Finals, but Curry wasn’t Curry against Cleveland, and everyone, starting and ending with LeBron James, knew it. No one in NBA history has changed the geometry of basketball more than Curry, and when he’s on the floor, the ball starts flying around. “Our formula is simple: if we out-pass people, we win,” Warriors forward David West said. “Ball movement. With guys going in and out of the lineup, it causes moments where guys try to carry the load, maybe try to shoulder the load individually. But the strength of the group is the group.” But the Warriors can still throw so many different things and people at you. Iguodala shot a career-worst 28.2 percent on three-pointers in the regular season. He’s at 39.3 percent in the 2018 playoffs. Does anyone doubt he was biding his time until the postseason? No one wearing an NBA uniform is in better shape than the 34-year-old Iguodala, no one is smarter about the game or matchups, and no one is a prouder, fiercer competitor. The 2015 Finals MVP brings his bag of intangibles with him on the road even more than at home, as he did Sunday. In that game, he was making life miserable for the Pelicans’ Nikola Mirotic, creating deflections, making the right reads and impacting the game despite scoring just six points. Kerr likened him to Scottie Pippen after Game 4, but Iggy wasn’t buying it -- “Steve just does that to make sure I don’t get mad ‘cause I don’t shots,” Iguodala quipped. He may be right. But Iguodala and Green have a mind meld defensively that’s at the heart of the Hamptons’ effectiveness. “Andre and I, we’re usually on the same page,” Green said. “Two guys who really think the game, especially on that side of the ball. Sometimes we can talk things out and it works perfect and not say a word, and know what each other’s going to do. It definitely helps our team out defensively kind of having two coaches out there on the floor on that side of the ball.” Whether it’s switching to guard each other’s man, running at an open shooter to close before the ball gets there with the other man rotating, they know what the other guy is going to do. And that second or so the Warriors save defensively keeps them from being broken down. “How fast can you make that decision?,” Green says. “How demonstrative are you going to be about that decision? Are you going to second guess that decision? That’s usually when it doesn’t work; if you’re going to go, just go. That’s kind of the motto that Andre and I go by. If you’re going to go, just go; everybody else fall in line and rotate, and we’ll work it out from there.” And while Green and Rajon Rondo have been exchanging pleasantries throughout this series, Green didn’t pick up his first postseason technical foul until Sunday (Monday, PHL time). He’s been under control, coming up to the edge without going over. Someone without access to the internet asked Kerr if he’d ever played with anyone who instigated or tried to get under the skin of opponents. It’s a testament to Kerr’s comic timing that he actually did wait a beat before answering. “I did play with Dennis Rodman,” he said. Never be fooled by Kerr’s overall pleasant disposition and quick-with-a-quip acuity, though. He is a fierce competitor that wants to win big, the same as his current point guard, who is similarly underrated on the competition scale. Kerr has seven rings as a player and coach, and it’s not a coincidence he’s frequently been around teams that got it done in June. But the Warriors are playing for even bigger stakes than just winning the 2018 title. Legacies are created this time of year. A third title in four seasons, with four straight Finals appearances, would put Golden State in very rarified air in the modern game. San Antonio won three titles from 2002-07. But the Spurs, famously, never have won back-to-back titles. The Kobe Bryant-Shaquille O’Neal-led Lakers, which won three straight from 2000-02, are the closest modern-day team to pulling off what the Warriors are trying to accomplish. Before then, you’re talking about the Michael Jordan-led Chicago Bulls, with six titles in eight seasons -- the two non-title seasons coinciding with Jordan’s sojourn to the minor leagues of baseball. Moreover, the Warriors are the hub around which the modern NBA now spins. And that is an even bigger legacy. Almost everyone (hi, Thibs!) tries to play the way Golden State does now -- the quick hitters, ball movement, pace. Teams do it in different ways. The 76ers look very different than the Warriors, with Joel Embiid their centerpiece of operations, and with 6'10" Ben Simmons taking up so much space with the ball in the halfcourt. The Rockets look different still as there’s not a ton of ball movement. There’s just an unending series of screen and rolls with Chris Paul and James Harden with the rock, looking for the inevitable open man in the corner or way, way behind the three-point line. A lot of things have happened the last 15 years to lead us where we are now. The league changed almost all the rules regarding zone defense, and got rid of almost all defensive contact on the perimeter. Rockets GM Daryl Morey and others led the burgeoning analytics movement, which championed shooting more and more three-pointers as a primary means of scoring, not as a novelty. Mike D’Antoni’s Phoenix Suns went with Amar’e Stoudemire at center, surrounding him with four smalls that could all shoot it from deep, and scoring came out of its coma leaguewide. Kerr and Pelicans Coach Alvin Gentry have always been quick to credit D’Antoni’s influence on the modern game, starting in Phoenix and working through his current team in Houston. “He’s the guy that just eliminated the center position -- let’s just go small and fast and shoot more threes,” Kerr said of D’Antoni. “I was inspired by Mike, but I was also inspired by Pop (the Spurs’ Gregg Popovich) and Phil Jackson in terms of basic ball movement, screening. But pace is the name of the game these days, and people go about it in different ways. Ironically, Mike’s team (in Houston) is the slowest team in the league now. I didn’t see that coming.” But no one has put all of it together -- pace, small ball, shooting and defense -- like the Warriors have the last four seasons. The Rockets are the closest thing we’ve seen to Golden State, and they’re hungry, and they’re coming. And the Warriors and Rockets are just a win apiece away from seeing the clash of the Western Conference titans. They are in the middle of it, so they can’t stop and think about what it all means. We get that. But everyone wants to put a marker out there that’s hard to catch. LeBron is chasing a ghost. The Warriors have already made their mark on the game. They’re almost in position to do more. History is forever. “It’s important, because it’s what’s right in front of us,” Curry said Sunday. “We don’t think about the historical context of anything. For us, we have an amazing group of guys, amazing coaches sitting behind us. We’re appreciating the moment. That’s really all it is. You have tunnel vision for Game 5 at home, then a new series, hopefully (after that). The historic context doesn’t really seep into the locker room when it comes to what that means. It’s just about this year.” 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 NewsMay 8th, 2018

MVP Ladder: Davis shrugs off pain, makes case for MVP

By Sekou Smith, NBA.com You’ll have to forgive New Orleans Pelicans coach Alvin Gentry for not feeling the need to mount some coordinated public campaign for Anthony Davis for Kia MVP. Gentry figures the voters have eyes, so they've seen the same jaw-dropping things from the superstar big man that he sees every night. “He’s great, man. Just an absolutely great player in every aspect,” Gentry said in a hallway at the Smoothie King Center after Davis and the Pelicans came up short in a critical game against the Portland Trail Blazers. “You want to know what kind of guy he is? He’s in there beating himself up saying he should have done more. What more could he have done? He got 36 and 14 with three guys handing on him all night. Come on, man, he’s just a great, great player.” Davis finished with 36 points, 14 rebounds, six blocks and played the final 17 minutes in pain after injuring his left ankle late in the third quarter. He took a minute to shake it off and finished the game favoring the ankle, that required treatment after the game. These are the sorts of performances he’s turned in routinely this season, particularly since the Pelicans’ other All-Star big man, DeMarcus Cousins, went down with a season-ending Achilles injury Jan. 26 (Jan. 27, PHL time). He and Cousins were on pace to become the first pair of teammates in NBA history to each average better than 25 points and 10 rebounds. Davis is averaging 31.1 points, 12.3  rebounds and 3.6 blocks since the All-Star break, after averaging 27.4, 10.7 and 2.1 in the 51 games before the break. So the “M-V-P” chants he heard in those final minutes against the Trail Blazers were well warranted for a player with range and versatility as a two-way performer that might be unrivaled in the league. “I can only think of a couple guys in this league who can impact a game the way he can from end to end. It’s AD and … ” Gentry said, before a reporter blurted out the name of the other player he was thinking of, “yeah, LeBron. I mean, these guys can guard from the three-point line to the rim and can score from those same spaces on anybody. Guys like that, wth that ability and those talents, they are just very rare.” James and Davis (who occupy the No. 2 and 3 spots, respectively, in this week’s Kia Race to the MVP Ladder) will square off today at Quicken Loans Arena. It’ll be another chance for Davis to be measured against the league’s standard-bearer in regards to the MVP conversation. James has four MVPs in his war chest, and could (and probably should) have a couple more. Meanwhile, Davis is still searching for his first. At 33, James has shown a durability and staying power that Davis, 25, is also still searching for. If there is a knock on his game, it’s that he’s struggled with injuries, bumps and bruises to a degree that’s greater than you’d expect from a player as physically gifted as the 6'11", 253-pound dynamo. Tuesday night’s (Wednesday, PHL time) spill against the Trail Blazers marked the 11th time this season Davis has had to exit a game because of an injury. The reaction of the crowd, a collective hush as Davis writhed in pain under the basket, was followed by wild cheers when he got to his feet and limped to the bench. Davis refused to go to the locker room, choosing instead to take a moment to gather himself and return to the game, knowing the severity of his injury was overshadowed by the weight of the Pelicans’ current predicament. They need every single game to reach the postseason for just the second time in his career, the same postseason he suggested the Pelicans would have dominated had Cousins not gotten injured. That’s why he’ll play through whatever lingering discomfort he has to against the Cavaliers tonight. The gravity of the Pelicans’ situation demands that he fight through the pain, dust himself off and get back on the floor the same way he did Tuesday night (Wednesday, PHL time). “Just knowing the type of situation we’re in,” Davis told reporters in New Orleans Thursday (Friday, PHL time), “I just wanted to be on the floor. I felt I couldn't leave that game, even though it was bothering me. I just tried to tough it out and just play through it.” * * * The top five in the Week 24 edition of the 2017-18 Kia Race to the MVP Ladder: * * * 1. James Harden, Houston Rockets Last week: No. 1 Season stats: 30.7 points, 8.7 assists, 5.4 rebounds Harden took a rare night off Tuesday (Wednesday, PHL time) and the Rockets still rolled over the Chicago Bulls. The Rockets are good enough to go on auto-pilot the way they’re playing. They’ve already set the franchise record for wins in a season and secured the Western Conference's No. 1 seed ... all with seven games to go in their season. Harden’s work from the start of training camp has been the catalyst for this special season for the Rockets. He worked to integrate the new additions to the lineup, but did so without sacrificing any of the things that made him the strong MVP candidate he was last season. Topping his performance from last season should be more than enough to secure his first Kia MVP. The official word will come on June 25 (June 26, PHL time) at the NBA Awards show. But with the way the Rockets have played down the stretch of this season with Harden leading the way, the suspense in this MVP chase has evaporated. 2. LeBron James, Cleveland Cavaliers Last week: No. 2 Season stats: 27.6 points, 9.1 assists, 8.6 rebounds You have to appreciate LeBron’s admission that he would indeed vote for himself if he had a say in the race for the Kia MVP. And it’s hard to argue with his logic. Given all that the Cavaliers have endured since Kyrie Irving’s trade request was made public, it’s truly remarkable that he’s been able to compartmentalize the way he has and continue to play at an otherworldly level. If not for James Harden, LeBron would be clearing space on his mantle for his fifth Maurice Podoloff Trophy. Instead, he’ll have to settle for another season of milestones and his continued assault on nearly every career statistic the league has to offer. Not to mention he's still on track to play all 82 games for the first time in his career. And if you were wondering how the old man (relatively speaking, of course) bounces back after tough night (18 points in their Wednesday, PHL time, loss to Miami), catch the highlights from his 41-point, 10-rebound, eight-assist masterpiece in Charlotte on the second night of a back-to-back set. 3. Anthony Davis, New Orleans Pelicans Last week: No. 4 Season stats: 28.3 points, 11.1 rebounds, 2.5 blocks Back-to-back losses at Houston and at home to Portland have put Davis and the Pelicans in a familiar position in the Western Conference playoff chase. Every game until the finish is a must-win affair, with today’s tilt against LeBron James and the Cleveland Cavaliers serving as the ideal showcase for Davis. He’s been an absolute monster of late (29.6 points, 11.5 rebounds, 3.8 blocks and 2.4 assists in his last 10 games). He knows what it will take to push the Pelicans into the playoff mix without DeMarcus Cousins, as that is something Davis had to do three years ago to secure his lone playoff voyage. It took a home win over San Antonio on the final night of the regular season to clinch a spot and it might take the same this time around -- Davis and the Pelicans finish up the regular season April 11 (April 12, PHL time) with a home game against the Spurs. 4. DeMar DeRozan, Toronto Raptors Last week: No. 3 Season stats: 23.3 points, 5.2 assists, 3.9 rebounds Saturday’s trip game in Boston (Sunday, PHL time) couldn't have come at a better time for DeRozan and the Raptors, who still have some work to do secure the top spot in the Eastern Conference. Their lead over the Celtics is down to three games. Given Toronto's recent losses to the Cavs and LA Clippers, a statement win on the road against the surging Celtics would go a long way towards resetting the Raptors' collective confidence. DeRozan’s continued evolution as a playmaker has remained on full display (15 assists in his last two games) and will be crucial to the Raptors’ offensive effectiveness in the playoffs. That's assuming coach Dwane Casey does indeed plan to keep his rotation as deep in the playoffs as he has all season. But the scoring prowess that has propelled DeRozan to All-Star status the past four seasons will be just as important, if not more so, given the relative inexperience of several of the Raptors’ role players. Both DeRozan and fellow All-Star Kyle Lowry know how vital it will be for them to be in a good rhythm for the postseason. 5. Damian Lillard, Portland Trail Blazers Last week: No. 5 Season stats: 26.8 points, 6.5 assists, 4.5 rebounds Lillard was spectacular in a critical road win in New Orleans Tuesday night, finishing with a game-high 41 points (and nine rebounds, six assists and four steals). He did all that while out-dueling fellow MVP candidate Davis in what was a thrilling, must-see fourth quarter. It didn’t matter who was guarding Lillard -- sometimes it was Davis and other times it was Pelicans defensive wiz Jrue Holiday. Lillard was locked in and on absolute fire in a playoff atmosphere. His importance to the Trail Blazers, though, was even more evident a night later when he was missing from a deflating road loss to in Memphis. Lillard missed the game for a good reason: the birth of his son. But it should be clear by now that these Trail Blazers will go only as far as the mercurial Lillard can take them in the postseason. C.J. McCollum is as good a No. 2 option as you’ll find and Terry Stotts has done Coach of the Year-caliber in developing the roster. It’s Lillard’s scoring and playmaking, however, that takes them from a solid team to a top-three seed in the Western Conference. The next five: 6. Kevin Durant, Golden State Warriors 7. Russell Westbrook, Oklahoma City Thunder 8. Stephen Curry, Golden State Warriors 9. Kyrie Irving, Boston Celtics 10. Karl-Anthony Towns, Minnesota Timberwolves And five more ... LaMarcus Aldridge, San Antonio Spurs; Giannis Antetokounmpo, Milwaukee Bucks; Joel Embiid, Philadelphia 76ers; Nikola Jokic, Denver Nuggets; Victor Oladipo, Indiana Pacers Next up? An inside look at LaMarcus Aldridge from an Western Conference advance scout: “I would love to know exactly what was said in the conversation he had with [Spurs coach Gregg] Pop[ovich] after last season, from both sides. Because whatever it was, it’s produced the best season I’ve seen from LA since he’s been in the league. And I’m dating that back to his best years in Portland. The Spurs aren't close to the team they are with all of the heavy lifting he’s done this season. He’s been more physical and much more active on the defensive end than he was last season and obviously, with Kawhi Leonard missing from the lineup for basically the entire season, his responsibilities as the No. 1 option for them offensively has been tremendous. He’s always been a skilled, face-up big. Working from the L and on the baseline extended, he’s as tough a cover as you’ll find at that position. "He embraced the other stuff, though, and perhaps at Pop’s urging. He’s made himself a more physical presence around the basket and at the rim. When he’s working in space against opposing [centers], that’s when he really has an advantage, because he’ll abuse guys his size and bigger who aren’t as mobile, guys who cannot match his quickness. He’s not an above the rim guy or a rim protector that causes you any concern, but he’s stronger than he looks and this season, he’s mixed it up more when necessary. He’s been more physical than usual. I’d suggest that’s a direct result of what Pop was trying to convey to him. Without Kawhi out there, someone had to play that role as their offensive catalyst and to do that LaMarcus was going to have to toughen up and show more fire than he did last season. I give him credit for stepping up to that challenge. I’ll admit, I was a bit of a skeptic when he was the hot free agent name a couple summers back. It’s easy to forget that. He was the player everybody wanted and the Spurs got him. And it seems like he’s finally comfortable there now in the role he’s playing leading that team right now. I’ve gained a lot of respect for him and his game with the way he’s played this season.” Sekou Smith is a veteran NBA reporter and NBA TV analyst. You can e-mail him here, find his archive here and follow him on Twitter. The views on this page do not necessarily reflect the views of the NBA, its clubs or Turner Broadcasting......»»

Category: sportsSource:  abscbnRelated NewsMar 31st, 2018

Draymond Green’s intensity, leadership pushes Durant, others

By Janie McCauley, Associated Press OAKLAND, Calif. (AP) — Draymond Green and Kevin Durant bet on just about anything. “Life,” Green explained, “who drives home faster from the practice facility, who gets to the game earlier. You want us to tell you our whole life?” KD and Dray have formed quite a bond since way back, when Green was part of the strategic recruiting process to bring Durant to the Bay Area from Oklahoma City before last season. They’ve had a few heated moments, too, and both say they are better for it. And there’s no official count — that has been shared, anyway — on who owes who what for losing those friendly wagers. “Yeah, I’m not in those bets,” teammate Shaun Livingston said. “It could be a shot to start the practice, in the corner, anything. It doesn’t matter. Wherever. They just walk up to each other all the time, ‘Bet, bet it, bet it.’” Green, part of the Warriors contingent in the Hamptons to meet with Durant before the big July 4 decision announcement last year, lit into Durant during a loss to Memphis back in January. Then they got into it again in a three-point defeat at Sacramento on Feb. 4 (Feb. 5, PHL time). “Hollered at me? Ha! We’re grown men, ain’t nobody hollering at me,” Durant said good-naturedly after a recent practice when asked about the animated back-and-forth, as surrounding media members erupted into laughter at his response. He then chose far more colorful language — and expletives — to describe their heated exchange during a timeout. Green acknowledges being mad that night. He and Durant are thriving now. “It just shows the trust that we have in each other, the relationship we have that we can go at each other,” Green said. “No one takes it personal. You say what you got to say, I say what I got to say. We figure it out and then we move on. That’s kind of what that was. You want to grow from moments like that if you’re a strong team, if your chemistry’s strong, you grow from moments like that. Chemistry’s not so strong, you’re not much of a together team, you can crumble from situations like that. But our chemistry is one of the things that makes us special.” Golden State seemed to build from those moments, and the defending NBA champs withstood Durant’s absence for 19 games shortly thereafter because of a knee injury. Livingston is the guy who stood between them that night in the Golden 1 Center, and notes, “They’re cut from the same cloth in a sense.” “It’s good to have that type of relationship, honestly, because when adversity strikes and things hit, they’re not afraid to say anything to each other,” Livingston said, “and you need that.” The Warriors’ emotional leader has been doing a bit of everything. After a recent outing, Green stole a look at his stat line and grinned. He certainly appreciated that performance: 10 points, 10 rebounds, seven assists, a season-best five blocked shots, two steals and just one turnover in 31 impressive minutes. “I like a line like that,” he said. “It kind of shows that you did everything on the floor and not just one thing. I definitely enjoy having a stat line like that if it means anything.” It means plenty to the Warriors, who are still working to find a consistent flow this season. They have struggled at times to take care of the ball and handle the basic fundamentals. That’s also typical Green, who lately is also having games in which he catches defenses off guard by knocking down three-pointers. His teammates love it all. “I knew he would make my job way easier and I knew I could help him,” Durant said. “I knew that his intensity was going to up the level of everybody on the floor, the way he approaches the game, his passion and love for the game. That stuff stood out more than anything. Obviously he’s quick for his position, he’s got long arms, he can shoot the 3, he can pass, he can rebound, but just his passion and love for the game that kind of shines bright, and it’s contagious.” Green raised his right arm in the air on back-to-back possessions in the fourth quarter of a Nov. 13 (Nov. 14, PHL time) win against the Magic, knocking down a three-pointer from the top of the arc before a layup moments later. “He’s unique from the standpoint of Steph, Klay and KD are guys that can go for 60. But Draymond just impacts the game in so many ways that you’ve just got to compete against him. You’ve got to understand that he can do it all,” Orlando coach Frank Vogel said. Green and Durant spent time together as 2016 Olympians in Rio. KD couldn’t wait to play with Green regularly — even if they went at it back on Feb. 4 (Feb. 5, PHL time) in Sacramento. “It’s just two teammates in the heat of the moment, both needed, at that point, that game, we were all bad,” Durant said. “We needed energy somehow. We kind of both sensed that. We came back to the huddle and got after it.” Still, that fire is what Durant loves about his intense teammate. Not to mention the work he puts in shooting from every spot on the floor. “It means a lot,” Green said. “You have to have those guys’ trust. If somebody sees you working, they have more trust in that. Obviously as one of the leaders of this team, you should be one of the hardest workers.” In the past three seasons, Green has notched five games with at least five points, five rebounds, five assists and five blocks. “You understand how impactful he can be without really scoring a lot of points or having any ooh or aah moments on the offensive end,” Stephen Curry said. “He has a lot of ooh and aah moments with the hustle plays and defensively. It seems like he’s always kind of in the play somehow. We appreciate every little bit of that effort and the results he prides himself in every single time he’s out there on the floor. His stat lines sometimes look like this where he’s so well-rounded across the board — points, rebounds, assists, blocked shots and whatnot — and he’ll bang down three, four triples every once in a while. You appreciate what he brings to the squad every single night and his energy and his passion.”.....»»

Category: sportsSource:  abscbnRelated NewsNov 24th, 2017

UAAP: Bullpups wary of revenge-minded Blue Eaglets

Games on Sunday at the Filoil Flying V Centre 9:00 AM – UE vs UST 11:00 AM – FEU-Diliman vs Adamson 1:00 PM – DLSZ vs UPIS 3:00 PM – NU vs Ateneo We won’t have to wait long for Round 2 of the heavyweight bout between Nazareth School of National University and Ateneo de Manila High School in the UAAP 81 Juniors Basketball Tournament. The Bullpups and the Blue Eaglets wage war once more to start the second round of the season on Sunday at the Filoil Flying V Centre. At the end of the first round, NU (7-0) bested Ateneo (5-2) to stand alone atop the leaderboard. Now, the defending champions want nothing more than to get back at last year’s runners-up in the much anticipated matchup tipping off at 3:00 PM. Earlier in the day, Far Eastern University-Diliman and Adamson High School also figure in a big-time battle at 11:00 AM. The Baby Tamaraws and the Baby Falcons hold similar slates of 5-2 and are in a three-way logjam together with the Blue Eaglets for the second-seed. Meanwhile, University of Sto. Tomas (3-4) and De La Salle Zobel (3-4) are also out for boosts to their playoff pushes up against the University of the Philippines Integrated School (0-7) at 1:00 PM and University of the East (1-6), respectively. For the first time ever, the UAAP Juniors will have its elimination games broadcast on S+A and S+A HD and via livestream. The NU-Ateneo matchup will air on S+A and S+A HD at 7:00 PM while the DLSZ-UPIS matchup will air at 5:00 PM. --- Follow this writer on Twitter, @riegogogo......»»

Category: sportsSource:  abscbnRelated NewsJan 12th, 2019

MVP Ladder: Giannis bolsters case with key win in Houston

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

Category: sportsSource:  abscbnRelated NewsJan 12th, 2019

Rookie Ladder: Big performances abound at season s midway point

By Drew Packham, NBA.com Due to a much-needed holiday break on my part, it’s been two weeks since we last checked in on this impressive rookie class, and they didn’t disappoint since then. There have been some monster games in the past 14 days including the following: - Luka Doncic scored a career-high 34 points on Dec. 29 (PHL time) in New Orleans, going 7-for-10 from beyond the arc (10-for-16 overall) in a 114-112 loss to the Pelicans.       - Deandre Ayton scored a career-high 33 points with 14 rebounds (10 offensive) and four steals (also a career high) on Dec. 30 (PHL time) in a 122-118 loss to the Nuggets. Ayton was 16-for-20 from the field.       - Landry Shamet scored a career-high 29 points to lead the Sixers to a 132-115 win over the Wizards on Jan. 9 (PHL time). Shamet was 8-for-14 from three-point land in what was easily his biggest night of his career.       - Hawks rookie Kevin Huerter scored a career-high 22 points on Jan. 1 (PHl time) in a 116-108 loss to the Pacers. Huerter was 8-for-15 from the field, going 6-for-8 from beyond the arc.       - Pelicans rookie Frank Jackson scored a career-high 17 points Monday night (Tuesday, PHL time) in 17 minutes in a 114-95 win over the Grizzlies, then topped that two nights later with 19 points -- hitting all four three-point attempts -- in 19 minutes in a 140-124 win over the Cavs.   We’ve just hit the midway point of the season, and big games should start becoming more common as teams falling further out of the playoff race give their youngsters more opportunities. * * * 1. Luka Doncic, Dallas Mavericks Last week: No. 1 Doncic dominated his third matchup with No. 1 pick Deandre Ayton, notching 30 points, six rebounds, five assists and three steals. It was Doncic’s fourth 30-point game of the season, while no other rookie has more than one. It was also his seventh game with 20-5-5. All other rookies have combined for five such games. Over the past two weeks, the Slovenian has averaged 22.8 points, 6.9 rebounds and 4.7 assists while shooting 40 percent from 3-point land. 2. Deandre Ayton, Phoenix Suns Last week: No. 2 While Ayton has had some monster games over the past two weeks -- averaging 16.2 points and 9.7 rebounds over nine games -- he’s also had some clunkers in the New Year. In a 121-111 loss to the LA Clippers, Ayton finished with four points and five rebounds with four turnovers, then struggled mightily in Wednesday’s (Thursday, PHL time) loss to the Mavs. In 20 minutes, the big man had six points and five rebounds while hitting just 1-of-7 shots. "For the first time, I think I ever, went scoreless in the first half and stuff like that just started to get to me a little bit," said Ayton. "It was just me being the bad egg today. I'm going to apologize to them about this, but yeah, it was a bad game for me." 3. Trae Young, Atlanta Hawks Last week: Not ranked Young has shot more consistently over the last two weeks, shooting 44.7 percent overall and 47.4 percent on three-pointers. I’ve hammered Young repeatedly for his poor shooting numbers, so I have to give him props for his turnaround. Over his last nine games, he’s averaged 15.9 points and 7.6 assists and has generally looked more in control and selective with his shots. Young continues to lead rookies in assists at 7.3 per game, which puts him ninth among all players. 4. Kevin Knox, New York Knicks Last week: No. 3 Knox was named Eastern Conference Rookie of the Month for December after averaging 17.1 points and six rebounds. The 6'9" forward out of Kentucky is certainly on the rise, but also admitted he may not even be done growing. “Doctors said I have a half-inch or an inch left in the tank,” Knox told the New York Post recently. “You never know -- hopefully I have an inch [left]. Maybe 6-10, 6-10.5. If not, I’m perfectly fine with where I’m at.” For his part, coach David Fizdale is letting his young prospect grow with more minutes and responsibility. “Right now, he’s gained momentum, and [I want to] keep him rolling. It’s starting to become I need him on the court. That’s pretty good to say about a 19-year-old. We need him out there.” 5. Jaren Jackson Jr., Memphis Grizzlies Last week: Not ranked Jackson has scored in double figures in 10 of his last 11 games, but his rebounding and foul troubles are areas of concern. Jackson is first (or worst, depending on how you look at it) among all players in fouls per game (3.9) and is just sixth in rebounds per game among rookies. "Because of how long, tall and narrow he is, when guys lock him up he has a hard time escaping or staying on balance," Bickerstaff told The Commercial Appeal last week. "To be honest, with him, with his length and athleticism, he needs to be trying to escape people more and not let them get their hands or body on him where they can wedge him out." These are all things the 19-year-old will figure out, as Bickerstaff says. “The way he works, the way he studies, he's going to figure it out.” * * * Just missed the cut: Rodions Kurucs, Brooklyn Nets Kurucs falls out of the top five, but it was a close call thanks to an impressive night in Boston. Kurucs tied a career high with 24 points. He finished 8-for-15 from the field, hitting a career-high five triples on eight attempts. Wendell Carter Jr., Chicago Bulls Carter has scored in double-digits in five of his last seven games, with a pair of double-doubles to close out 2018. Most notably, he had a 17-point, 13-rebound, three-block showing in a win over the Wizards on Dec. 28 (Dec. 29, PHL time). Landry Shamet, Philadelphia 76ers Shamet not only scored a career-high 29 on Tuesday (Wednesday, PHL time), but he also set personal bests by making eight three's (one shy of Dana Barros’ team record set in ‘95) on 14 attempts. He scored 15 of his points in the third quarter when he was 4-for-4 from beyond the arc. “It just happens,” Shamet said afterward. “That might not be the answer you’re looking for, but it’s just simple, and it just comes in the flow of everything.” Frank Jackson, New Orleans Pelicans This could be an anomaly and Jackson won’t stick around these parts, but he deserves some love for his work off the bench. With E’Twaun Moore nursing a quad injury, Jackson has stepped up, scoring 17 points in a win on Monday (Tuesday, PHL time), followed by 19 in Wednesday’s (Thursday, PHL time) win over the Cavs. Jackson was 11-for 15 overall in the two games, going 7-for-12 from three-point land (7-for-7 from the FT line). Collin Sexton, Cleveland Cavaliers Sexton has scored in double figures in his last six games, but the Cavs are mired in an 11-game skid and the rookie is dealing with his own shooting woes. During the slide, Sexton is shooting 32.4 percent from the field, 35.5 percent on three-pointers. * * * (All stats through Jan. 10, PHL time).....»»

Category: sportsSource:  abscbnRelated NewsJan 10th, 2019

Clippers beat up on Suns again, win 121-111

By JACK MAGRUDER,  Associated Press PHOENIX (AP) — Marcin Gortat figures he is the beneficiary of coach Doc Rivers' New Year's resolution. Gortat had not played in the fourth quarter in the first 36 games of the season until the calendar turned, and he responded with his first double-double of the season when the Clippers extended their dominance of the Phoenix Suns with a 121-111 victory Friday night (Saturday, PHL time). "You never know with Doc," Gortat said after getting 18 points and 13 rebounds in 25 minutes. "You just have to be ready. You earn your minutes. Obviously if you play well, you might earn a few more minutes. That's all I'm trying to do, help the team to win." Danilo Gallinari and Lou Williams scored 21 points apiece and four other Clippers finished in double figures as they won their third straight against the Suns this season and their 11th straight in the series. Patrick Beverley scored 16 points for the Clippers, who led by 29 points in the second quarter. Beverley made four 3-pointers, Williams had three and Tobias Harris added two with his 16 points. Montrezl Harrell scored 15. "I loved how we started the game," Rivers said. "The way we can score, if we defend, it's hard for anyone to beat us." Devin Booker scored 23 points and T.J. Warren had 20 for the Suns, who lost their fifth straight. The Suns, down by 30 with 4 1/2 minutes remaining in the third quarter, used 22-5 run fueled by seven points from Jamal Crawford and six by Josh Jackson to close to 91-78 entering the fourth quarter. Mikal Bridges' slam on the first possession of the period brought the Suns within 11, but Williams made two 3-pointers and a three-point play as the Clippers again pulled away. "We understand (Phoenix) is a young team," Williams said. "They are putting pieces together, trying to figure out their identity. So we just come in and play hard." The Clippers shot 51 percent from the field and held a 43-25 rebounding edge. Los Angeles outrebounded the Suns by 42 in the three meetings this season. "We don't have stupid great rebounders on this team," Gortat said. "Everybody has to rebound. We have to box out, hit somebody. "Make sure we are the guys who are hitting first. Then go get the ball. We have to make them miss and get the ball. Not every game is going to look that way, but today it worked perfectly. Reserves Richaun Holmes and Crawford had 16 points apiece for the Suns. Suns center Deandre Ayton had four points, tying a season low set in the first game against the Clippers on Nov. 28. He had three field goal attempts, five rebounds, three assists and four turnovers. "You know (coach) Larry Brown used to say, 'You need the touches, you go get it,'" Suns coach Igor Kokoskov said. "(Three) touches? It's on all of us." The Suns fell behind early, a problem in their last several starts. Harris and Williams made two 3-pointers apiece in the first quarter, when the Clippers shot 71.4 percent and finished on a 23-6 run for a 38-19 edge. The Clippers led 63-34 on Gallinari's first 3-pointer with 4 minutes left in the half. It was 68-44 at halftime. Phoenix trailed Philadelphia by 22 points after 16 minutes of its 132-127 loss on Wednesday and was down by 17 at halftime of a 132-109 loss to Golden State on New Year's Eve. TIP-INS Clippers: The Clippers play six of their next seven games at home, only away for an over-night trip to Denver on Jan. 10. ... Boban Marjanovic, one of three Clippers to have a double-double against the Suns on Nov. 28, did not play. Suns: Ayton had double-doubles in nine of his previous 11 games, and he had nine rebounds in the other game in that stretch. ... The Suns are 5-16 at home. Only New York (4-12) has fewer home victories. ... Booker has seven 35-point games, tied for third in the league behind James Harden (15) and Stephen Curry (eight). BIG BENCH The Clippers' reserves had 61 points. They entered the game averaging a league-high 52.4 Williams and Harrell have not started a game this season, and Beverley flip-flopped with Avery Bradley on Nov. 20. All average at least 25 minutes a game, and Williams (18.2) and Harrell (15.7) are the Clippers' third- and fourth-leading scorers. "'Trez' could start, we know that. Lou could start," Rivers said. "The fact that they are OK coming off the bench is the first key. I do think it takes a special mindset for a guy to want to do that and then guys who accept to do that. We have that." UP NEXT Clippers: Host Orlando on Sunday. Suns: Host Charlotte on Sunday......»»

Category: sportsSource:  abscbnRelated NewsJan 5th, 2019

Rookie Ladder: Nets Kurucs taking full advantage of big opportunity

By Drew Packham, NBA.com There’s an international rookie from the Barcelona pipeline making waves this season. No, not Luka Doncic (although he’s not doing too shabby himself). The other foreign phenom is doing his work in Brooklyn – Rodions Kurucs. Kurucs, whom the Nets grabbed with the No. 40 pick in the 2018 Draft, has burst onto the scene, becoming a key contributor as resurgent Brooklyn has won nine of its last 10. Kurucs saw his playing time spike after Allen Crabbe went down with a knee injury, and he’s made the most of his opportunity. Since becoming the starter, the 6'9" Latvian has averaged 12.9 points and 6.0 rebounds in 29.2 minutes over seven games. His energy and defensive effort has won over coach Kenny Atkinson. “He’s just confirming, it doesn’t seem like this is a flash in the pan,” Atkinson said. “This is sustainable to me.” With Crabbe close to returning, Atkinson has a decision to make, but the team’s winning ways will make it hard to remove Kurucs from the starting lineup. Kurucs grabbed his first career double-double in Sunday’s (Monday, PHL time) 111-103 win over the Suns, then tallied another one Wednesday night (Thursday, PHL time) in Brooklyn’s 132-132 win over Charlotte in double-OT, notching 13 points, 12 rebounds, three assists and three steals. “I’m just playing basketball. I was hungry. I didn’t play for years; Now I’m enjoying it,” said the 20-year-old Kurucs, the youngest foreign-born player to ever start for the Nets. “I think also the thing I wasn’t playing in Barcelona it helped me mentally to prepare myself to be together, work harder and someday come back, I just kept working on my game and that’s it.” * * * 1. Luka Doncic, Dallas Mavericks Last week: 1st Doncic had some memorable moments over the past week: First, he dazzled with a career-high 32 points last Thursday (Friday, PHl time) in a loss to the Clippers. Then, he put up 23 points, 11 rebounds, nine assists and hit one of the craziest shots at the buzzer to force OT in Portland (the Mavs would eventually lose 121-118). To close out the week, Doncic just missed a triple-double with 21 points, nine rebounds and 10 assists to help the Mavs end a six-game winning streak. Doncic also hit the game-clinching free throws with 30 seconds left to seal the win. Ayton is nipping at his heels with some monster games, but Doncic is the Mavs’ everything right now, and he’s not letting up. 2. Deandre Ayton, Phoenix Suns Last week: 2nd Ayton is so close to taking over the top rung from Doncic. (If you ask his coach, Igor Kokoskov, it’s no contest for Rookie of the Year, which is saying something since the Suns coach managed Doncic on the Slovenian national team.) After jumping last week back to the second rung, Ayton is putting up monster numbers to give Doncic a run at the No. 1 spot. Check out some of the Suns big man’s numbers: Over his last three games, Ayton is averaging 20.0 points, 15.7 rebounds and 2.3 blocks while shooting 68.3 percent from the field. He’s grabbed double-digit rebounds in six straight and nine of his last 10 games. What’s most important, though, are the three shots he’s blocked in each of the last two games. “You’re seeing him put games together,” Suns veteran Jamal Crawford said. “Not just games, but quarters together. He’s doing it every single night. That’s a sign of going from good to great.” 3. Kevin Knox, New York Knicks Last week: 3rd The Knicks are mired in a five-game losing streak, but Knox has emerged as the team’s best player. Knox says the game is “starting to slow down,” and it shows in his numbers. In December he’s averaging 17.9 points and 6.1 rebounds thanks to a stretch in which he’s scored 20-plus in his last three games and five of his last eight. Knox credits his ability to hit his floater in the lane for his recent success. “It’s been really consistent the last few games,” Knox told Newsday. “So I’ve just been able to do that without going in the paint to the bigs. The bigs in this game are really good at walling up and not fouling, so being able to go to a floater [and use my] really good touch around the basket [works].” 4. Jaren Jackson Jr., Memphis Grizzlies Last week: Not ranked Jackson rejoins the Top 5 after a monumental performance against the Lakers. Jackson scored 27 points, including a game-clinching three-pointer in the final minute – over LeBron James, no less – to help Memphis snap a five-game losing streak. L.A. had no answer for Jackson, who also grabbed nine rebounds in the 107-99 win. It was the kind of performance that shows just how good Jackson can become. Over his last four games, Jackson is averaging 16.5 points, 5.5 rebounds and 1.8 blocks while shooting 52.9 percent from the field, 44.4 pct. on three's. ''With that size, length and speed, he's a tough matchup -- period,'' coach J.B. Bickerstaff said after the win in L.A. ''He's coming into his own still, trying to figure all of this stuff out that's going on, but the skill set is unique.'' 5. Rodions Kurucs, Brooklyn Nets Last week: Not ranked Over his last three games, the Latvian has put up numbers on par with the top rookies. He’s averaged 17.7 points, 8.3 rebounds, 1.3 steals and 1.0 block while seeing 35.4 minutes per game. He’s been incredibly efficient, as well, shooting 54.3 percent from the field and 55.6 percent on three's. If you haven’t had a chance to catch a Nets game, they’re playing an energetic, fun style of basketball and Kurucs seems to always be in the mix when the Nets need a big bucket or rebound. There’s no way Atkinson can keep him off the floor once Allen Crabbe returns considering the impact he’s had in the last few weeks. Just missed the cut: Trae Young, Atlanta Hawks The Hawks point guard had a decent week shooting, scoring 14.7 points on 41.2 percent shooting (40.0 pct on three's). He also put up 8.3 assists per game as the Hawks went 2-1, picking up wins in New York and Detroit before faliling at home to the Pacers. Collin Sexton, Cleveland Cavaliers Sexton drops out of the Top 5 for the first time since Nov. 29 after struggling from the field. Teams are starting to figure out how to defend Sexton, and his numbers have dipped. After averaging 16.1 ppg on 45.0 percent shooting in November (48.1 pct on three's), Sexton’s numbers dipped to 15.4 ppg while shooting 41.2 percent, 33.3 on three's. Wendell Carter Jr., Chicago Bulls The Bulls’ big man fell off the chart last week, but jumps back in as other rookies have faltered. Carter averaged 9.0 points, 8.0 rebounds and helped the Bulls go 2-1 this week, picking up wins over the Magic and Cavs. He’s only seeing about 20-25 minutes per night, but it’s clear to see the talent is there. With increased time and maturation, Carter could become a big-time big man. Shai Gilgeous-Alexander, LA Clippers Gilgeous-Alexander has literally been up-and-down over his past 12 games, going from scoring in double digits to single digits every other game. It’s quite odd, really. This week, SGA had 14 points and six assists in a win over the Nuggets, then disappeared against the Warriors with three points and two assists. Wednesday (Thursday, PHL time), the Clippers rookie put up 13 points on 6-for-11 shooting to help LA hold off a Kings rally. Landry Shamet, Philadelphia 76ers After jumping into the Top 5 with some clutch performances, the Sixers’ sharpshooter takes a tumble after a quiet week in which he scored eight points over two games, going 1-for-6 from three-point range. * * * (All stats through Thursday, Dec. 27).....»»

Category: sportsSource:  abscbnRelated NewsDec 28th, 2018

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

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

Category: sportsSource:  abscbnRelated NewsDec 23rd, 2018

Rubio scores 24 as Jazz beat Trail Blazers 120-90

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

Category: sportsSource:  abscbnRelated NewsDec 22nd, 2018

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

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

Category: sportsSource:  abscbnRelated NewsDec 15th, 2018

Curry, Thompson help Warriors beat Kings 130-125

By Michael Wagaman, Associated Press SACRAMENTO, Calif. (AP) — Klay Thompson made a go-ahead three-pointer with 38.5 seconds left, Stephen Curry added four free throws down the stretch and the Golden State Warriors ended the game on a big run after a sluggish start to the fourth quarter, beating the Sacramento Kings 130-125 on Friday night (Saturday, PHL time). Curry finished with 35 points, seven rebounds and six assists. Thompson had 27 points and nine rebounds while Kevin Durant added 33 points, eight rebounds and eight assists. Two days after a 20-point home loss to NBA-leading Toronto, the Warriors put up 103 points through three quarters, went stagnant for more than eight minutes in the fourth before outscoring the Kings 17-2 over the final 3:03. Durant had 13 points in the fourth quarter, including eight of the first 10 during Golden State's late surge, but Thompson came up with the biggest shot with his fourth three-pointer of the night. The Kings repeatedly left Thompson unguarded throughout the game and paid for it in the end when his 27-footer put the Warriors up 126-125. After De'Aaron Fox missed a jumper, Curry made two free throws with 14.8 seconds remaining. Buddy Hield's desperation three-point try also missed, and Curry added two more free throws to close out Golden State's second win over Sacramento this year. Draymond Green had 14 rebounds and 10 assists for the Warriors. Hield scored 27 points for the Kings. Fox had 25 points, nine assists and six rebounds. Willie Cauley-Stein finished with 22 points and 11 rebounds. The wild ending was in stark contrast to the first half when Golden State controlled the pace and the flow while leading by 16. The Warriors came out much crisper and sharper offensively than they had been in their 113-93 loss to the Raptors two nights earlier. Curry, Durant and Thompson combined for 51 point and nine triples, and Golden State had a 13-2 run late in the second quarter to go up 76-64. TIP-INS Warriors: Andre Iguodala (sore right hip) was held out for a third consecutive game, although coach Steve Kerr is hopeful that Iguodala will play against the Memphis Grizzlies on Monday (Tuesday, PHL time). ... Shaun Livingston did not play after suffering a pelvic contusion in the fourth quarter of Wednesday's (Thursday, PHL time) loss to Toronto. Kings: Marvin Bagley III left in the first half with a left knee sprain and did not return. UP NEXT Warriors: Host Memphis on Monday night (Tuesday, PHL time). Kings: Play at Dallas on Sunday night (Monday, PHL time)......»»

Category: sportsSource:  abscbnRelated NewsDec 15th, 2018

Vince Carter enjoying his decision to go to Atlanta

By Tim Reynolds, Associated Press Vince Carter could have gone anywhere. To a contender, to chase a ring. To retirement, because he has nothing left to prove. To television, which seems like it will be his next vocation whenever his playing days end. Instead, he chose Atlanta — a young team, a rebuilding team, a team that probably has minimal chance of making the playoffs. And he’s happy. “I’m with a great bunch of guys,” Carter said. “I enjoy helping young guys who want to learn, who are willing to be coached and let you coach them and ask questions. It’s a small thing, but it’s a major thing — because if you’re asking questions, that means you’re trying to learn and grow. And these guys are all great.” He’s the NBA’s oldest active player, someone who turns 42 next month. When he was drafted in June 1998, neither Trae Young nor Kevin Huerter had been born yet. And they’re the starting backcourt for the Hawks this season, Carter’s 21st in the league, with Atlanta being the eighth team he’s played with. Carter talked with Dwyane Wade during the offseason about their options; Wade was considering retirement, and Carter was deciding where to play next. Wade said Carter doesn’t need a ring to complete any sort of legacy, and applauded the decision to go to Atlanta. “It’s very cool,” Wade said. “I think everybody on the outside has what they think someone should do. I was like, ‘Man, it’d be cool if he went back to Toronto.’ I had my story for him. But he decided to continue to do things the way that he’s done it, and I think it’s him understanding the importance of what he has to offer to the game and young players, and an organization that wanted him to come in and give that.” There are no regrets. Barring a change of address or another season — which is possible — Carter’s career will end with him getting to the conference finals only once, and never appearing in the NBA Finals. The closest he got was with Orlando in 2010, when the Magic lost the Eastern Conference finals to Boston in six games. “It’s easy to go sit on the bench and watch your team win and not really contribute,” Carter said. “Yeah, with my voice, I could contribute. But I want to do both.” So Carter is hanging with the kids. “It’s good for me,” Carter said. “Keeps me young.” RAPTORS RISING Toronto is off to the best start in the NBA at 20-4, four games clear of Milwaukee in the Eastern Conference already (and four games in the loss column ahead of Philadelphia as well). The scary thing is, it could have been better. It’s been forgotten, but the Raptors’ season also includes a three-game losing streak — all in a five-day span last month. They lost by 16 against New Orleans to fall to 12-2, then wasted a 19-point lead and lost to Detroit, then watched Kawhi Leonard miss late in regulation in what became an overtime loss to Boston. They’re 8-0 since, and first-year coach Nick Nurse has his team rolling. “Nick has done a really good job with this team and the way they play,” New Orleans coach Alvin Gentry said. THE WEEK AHEAD A game per day to check out this week: Oklahoma City at Detroit, Monday (Tuesday, PHL time): Former teammates Russell Westbrook and Reggie Jackson seem to like going head-to-head. San Antonio at Utah, Tuesday (Wednesday, PHL time): The Spurs struggled with the Jazz last season, and this opens a tough road back-to-back. Philadelphia at Toronto, Wednesday (Thursday, PHL time): The Raptors have opened up a sizable lead in the East, and face a good test here. New York at Boston, Thursday (Friday, PHL time): After a sluggish start, the Celtics are starting to look like the team many envisioned. Golden State at Milwaukee, Friday (Saturday, PHL time): Stephen Curry, Kevin Durant and Giannis Antetokounmpo on the same floor is must-watch. Miami at L.A. Clippers, Saturday (Sunday, PHL time): Wade is eager for this — his wife and their newborn daughter are currently staying in Los Angeles. Milwaukee at Toronto, Sunday (next Monday, PHL time): A matchup of two of the East’s best teams, and it’s never too early to think about positioning. HISTORIC WARRIORS Not even two months into the season, and the Golden State Warriors have already done something that no team in more than 50 years has accomplished. The Warriors are the second team in NBA history, joining the 1961-62 Los Angeles Lakers, to have three different players with a 50-point game in the same regular season. Kevin Durant, Stephen Curry and Klay Thompson have reached 50 already this season. The 1961-62 Lakers’ trio to do so: Jerry West, Elgin Baylor and Rudy LaRusso. Could Golden State get a fourth into the 50-point column? Who knows, but remember, DeMarcus Cousins — who hasn’t played yet this season — has a pair of 50-point games in on his career resume......»»

Category: sportsSource:  abscbnRelated NewsDec 3rd, 2018

Drama, the long ball center of early season NBA intrigue

By Kyle Hightower, Associated Press There has been some early tinkering to lineups, a few hiccups and lots of drama to start the NBA season. None of the league’s final four teams from last season — Boston, Cleveland, Houston, Golden State — look like locks to hoist the Larry O’Brien Trophy this time. The addition of Carmelo Anthony to the Rockets’ roster produced more thorns than fruit, and now he is out. In Boston, the Celtics are having early trouble trying to figure out how best to use their overflowing mix of young and veteran talent following the return of Kyrie Irving and Gordon Hayward from injuries. And Cleveland has gotten off to a predictable slow start to the post-LeBron James’ era, but few expected the total collapse by the Cavaliers. However, there is no drama like championship drama and the defending champion Warriors suddenly look more like the cast of a reality series than a harmonious lineup rolling along and vying for a third straight championship. Draymond’s Green public outburst at Kevin Durant during the Warriors’ overtime loss to the Clippers on Nov. 12 lingers. Now there is tension on a team that has managed to remain mostly drama-free during its run. Durant’s impending free agency, Green’s lack of an apology, and Steph Curry’s injury has opened a window for teams. Some of the NBA’s most recent mini-dynasties have dissipated because of infighting. Squabbling between Michael Jordan and Chicago Bulls management at least contributed to their decline after Jordan’s second three-peat and subsequent second retirement in 1999. Kobe Bryant and Shaquille O’Neal couldn’t coexist long enough to extend the Los Angeles Lakers’ run of three straight titles from 2000 to 2002. Green has vowed the Warriors will still be there in the end. That remains to be seen. 3'S COMPANY Little guys doing work outside and big men camped out close to the basket is an old-school approach to basketball that’s starting to look as old as James Naismith’s original peach baskets. The NBA needs to send out thank-you cards to the ABA. Everyone digs the long ball. Next year will mark the 40th anniversary of the adoption of the 3-point shot in the league. Over those four decades it’s gone from being one of the handful of innovations carried over from the ABA to a necessity for any player — from guards to seven-footers — wanting to have longevity in the league. During the 2012-13 season, 33 NBA players listed at 6'8" or taller averaged at least one three-point attempt. That number grew to 124 last season. The 2018-19 season is barely two months old, but two teams (Boston and Golden State) have already logged 24 made three-pointers in a game. The record of 25 was set late last season by Cleveland. And in case anyone needed a reminder of the shot’s increased popularity, look no further than Milwaukee’s Brook Lopez. He became the third seven-footer in NBA history to hit eight three-pointers in a game when he did it against Denver last week. “You see the way the game’s trending, it’s definitely moving in that direction,” Lopez said. “I’m just trying to be professional, do my job, try to get my work in. I want to be as good as I can in every possible area of the game.” Lopez said Bucks coach Mike Budenholzer has been supportive of him stepping out beyond the arc. “Regardless if I miss, if I have off-games where I don’t shoot as well, they just tell me” to keep shooting, Lopez said. Other veteran big men around the league are hearing similar refrains. THE WEEK AHEAD — San Antonio at New Orleans, Monday (Tuesday, PHL time): DeMar DeRozan had 26 points and LaMarcus Aldridge added 22 points and 12 rebounds during the Spurs’ win in San Antonio earlier this month. The Pelicans look to return the favor after recovering nicely from a six-game losing skid. — Los Angeles Lakers at Cleveland, Wednesday (Thursday, PHL time): In a pre-Turkey Day appetizer, LeBron James returns to face Cleveland for the first time this season following his free agency departure to L.A. — New Orleans at Philadelphia, Wednesday (Thursday, PHL time): The Pelicans get their first crack at the new-look 76ers following their acquisition of Jimmy Butler. — Portland at Golden State, Friday (Saturday, PHL time): The Warriors get a look at one of their chief challengers in the West when they meet the Blazers for the first time this season. ___ AP Sports Writer Genaro Armas in Milwaukee contributed to this report......»»

Category: sportsSource:  abscbnRelated NewsNov 19th, 2018

Curry injured, Bucks snap Warriors 8-game win streak

By Janie McCauley, Associated Press OAKLAND, Calif. (AP) — Stephen Curry left with an injury and the Golden State Warriors were unable to recover in a 134-111 loss to the Milwaukee Bucks that snapped their eight-game winning streak Thursday night (Friday, PHL time). Eric Bledsoe scored seven straight points during Milwaukee's big third quarter and finished with 26. Giannis Antetokounmpo added 24 points, nine rebounds and four assists as the Bucks handed the Warriors their first defeat at home this season. The two-time defending NBA champions were already missing All-Star Draymond Green and then lost Curry midway through the third. The two-time NBA MVP strained the adductor muscle in his left leg and went to the locker room shortly thereafter. He did not return. Curry grabbed at his inner thigh after trying to contest Bledsoe's shot in transition at the 6:50 mark of the third. He is expected to have an MRI on Friday (Saturday, PHL time). Klay Thompson led the Warriors with 24 points and Kevin Durant had 17 points, nine assists and seven rebounds. Curry, limited to 51 regular-season games last season because of injuries, scored 10 points in his second straight game below 20 after getting at least 23 points in every game previously — including five 30-point performances and a 51-point outing in three quarters. He dished out six assists in 26 minutes. Malcolm Brogdon scored 20 points and Khris Middleton had 17 and six assists as Milwaukee (9-2) won for the second straight time at Oracle Arena after a 116-107 victory on March 29 (Mar. 30, PHL time). The Bucks outscored the Warriors 41-28 in the third and shot 65 percent inside the arc (43 of 66) overall. Antetokounmpo had 19 points, seven rebounds, three assists, a steal and a block by halftime as the Bucks led 64-51 at the break. Bledsoe hit back-to-back layups to put the Bucks ahead 84-64 midway through the third then answered Curry's jumper with a three-pointer the next time down. Donte DiVincenzo's basket at the 4:06 mark made it 93-69 and coach Steve Kerr called a timeout. Jordan Bell had four points and five rebounds for the Warriors while moving into the starting lineup in place of Green, sidelined after spraining his right foot and toe in the first half of Monday's win over the Grizzlies. Golden State (10-2) is still tied for the second-best start in franchise history behind the 2015-16 team that began 24-0. The Warriors dropped to 6-1 at home. TIP-INS Bucks: Held a 46-38 rebounding advantage. ... Milwaukee made it to the free throw line 19 times and made 15 of those in the first half to a 7-of-8 showing at the stripe by Golden State. ... The Bucks shot 5-of-20 from three-point range in the first half. Warriors: Golden State shot 4-for-15 from deep in the first half and Thompson was the lone player to score in double figures. ... Bell made his 14th career start and first of the season. ... G Shaun Livingston missed his sixth straight game and eighth in the last 10 with a sore right foot. ... Andre Iguodala returned after sitting out Monday (Tuesday, PHL time) against Memphis as a rest day, checking into the game for the first time late in the opening quarter. ... Baron Davis of the 2007 "We Believe" Warriors received a roaring ovation when introduced and shown on the big screen 4:39 before halftime. MOMENT OF SILENCE A moment of silence was held for victims of the mass shooting in Thousand Oaks. Kerr said he is "devastated" for the victims and families in a "horrifying" shooting he read up on Thursday (Friday, PHL time). Of taking time before the game to remember the victims, Kerr is becoming accustomed to doing so. "We had one last week and we're probably going to have one next week," he said. "That's the reality until we do something about it. It's beyond sad." UP NEXT Bucks: At the Los Angeles Clippers on Saturday (Sunday, PHL time) trying to end a two-game losing streak in the series. Warriors: Host Brooklyn on Saturday (Sunday, PHL time) seeking an eighth straight victory against the Nets and seventh in a row at home......»»

Category: sportsSource:  abscbnRelated NewsNov 9th, 2018

Curry s big night carries Warriors to sixth straight win

Steve Kerr scratched of his head when asked why Stephen Curry is shooting the ball so well at the start of his 10th NBA season......»»

Category: newsSource:  philstarRelated NewsNov 1st, 2018

BLOGTABLE: What s the secret behind Warriors hot start?

NBA.com blogtable The 7-1 Warriors seem refreshed and rejuvenated, more so than they were at this time last season. What can you attribute to this near-perfect start? * * * Steve Aschburner: How ‘bout a sense of gratitude and the realization that this incredible experience they’re all enjoying isn’t going to last forever? It’d be nice to think the Warriors all realize their specialness is temporary and inevitably will end, either fractiously or through sports’ natural life cycle. These teams that think the expectations and pressure to win represents some sort of burden, well, they haven’t lost in a while and have forgotten what that is like. My sense is Golden State went through the anticipated, earthly challenges of managing their collective greatness and has come out the other side, where they get to enjoy this until, one day, it ends. Because it always ends (aside from Gregg Popovich’s obvious deal with the devil). Shaun Powell: Perhaps deep down, the Warriors realize that there's a decent possibility of change next summer so they're showing a sense of purpose a little earlier than usual. Or maybe the boredom stretch is right around the corner. Also: They're getting a kick out of taking turns lighting up the league. First Steph, then KD, then Klay, each trying to one-up the other. All in fun, of course (at least for the Warriors). John Schuhmann: Talent, of course. At times this season, the Warriors haven't looked that sharp, but Stephen Curry and Kevin Durant have the ability to make something out of nothing more than anybody else in the league. They would have lost in Utah had Durant not kept them close in the first half with his unparalleled ability to simply get buckets. Still, they are defending better than they did last season, when they ranked 28th defensively in October. There's an understanding that they let things slip a little too much last season and Draymond Green said earlier this month that, with the departures of their veteran bigs, there's more to "make work" this year. At the same time, this group knows who they are and how to win. Sekou Smith: Superior talent and exquisite team chemistry make it much easier for the Warriors to flip the switch and remember that they are the universe's best basketball outfit. The moves made around them, however, served as the perfect reminder to coach Steve Kerr's crew that their margin for error isn't as great as it should be. They had to dig out a Game 7 win on the road in the Western Conference finals last season to collect that second straight title and third in the last four seasons. That danger was real. The Warriors don't look like a team interested in testing that fate again. They recognize the importance of controlling their own destiny in their chase for another ring. When you have the firepower they possess in Stephen Curry, Kevin Durant and Klay Thompson, why not let it loose as early and often as possible, just so there is no doubt as to who is running the league right now. This hot start is a reminder that the dynasty will not slow down anytime soon (at least until there is another parade in Oakland)......»»

Category: sportsSource:  abscbnRelated NewsNov 1st, 2018