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Trail Blazers cohesiveness helped them to conference finals

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

Category: sportsSource:  abscbnRelated NewsMay 22nd, 2019

Leonard stars in Raptors Game 3 adjustments

By John Schuhmann, NBA.com TORONTO -- Kawhi Leonard has grown into one of the best offensive players in the world, a machine that ranks second in this postseason in scoring (32.0 points per game), with an ultra-efficient true shooting percentage of 65.5 percent (third-best among players with at least 50 postseason field goal attempts). But what makes Leonard truly special is how good he can be on both ends of the floor ... in the playoffs ... having played more than 50 minutes ... while hobbled by a leg injury ... and with his team's season on the line. [Watch the Playoffs on NBA League Pass for 30% less with this limited time offer! Select Annual package and use code SAVE30 at checkout to redeem] The Toronto Raptors are still alive in the Eastern Conference finals, having escaped with a 118-112, double-overtime victory in Game 3 on Sunday (Monday, PHL time). They're still alive because Marc Gasol finally made the shots the Milwaukee Bucks have been daring him to shoot all along, because Pascal Siakam had his best game of the series, and because Fred VanVleet and Danny Green picked timely moments for their only buckets on a night in which they combined to shoot 2-for-20. But mostly, the Raptors have a chance to even this series in Game 4 because Leonard was the better of the two superstars on the floor. And he was just that, in part, because he was defending the other one. Through the first two games of the series, Pascal Siakam has been the primary defender on Giannis Antetokounmpo, with Leonard defending Khris Middleton. Antetokounmpo hadn't exactly gone wild in the first two games (totaling 54 points and 11 assists), but the Raptors needed to change something. And the primary adjustments in Game 3 were in the matchups. On the first possession, Leonard was guarding Antetokounmpo, Siakam had shifted over to Eric Bledsoe, and Kyle Lowry had taken the Middleton assignment. Things didn't stay that way all game long. The Raptors switched often and couldn't worry about matchups when defending the Bucks in transition. And no matter who the initial defender is, guarding Antetokounmpo is always a five-man job, with the other four needing to be ready to help on Antetokounmpo's relentless attacks of the basket. "One man can't guard him," Leonard acknowledged. "It takes the whole team." But in regard to 1-on-1 defense, Leonard is the best that the Raptors have. And the adjustment worked. The Bucks scored just seven points on their first 13 possessions of Game 3 and only three of their 26 first-quarter shots came in the restricted area. "We wanted to take a look at it early to see how it looked," Nurse said of the Antetokounmpo-Leonard matchup. "It looked pretty good, so we stuck with it." Leonard played Antetokounmpo tighter than the MVP favorite had been defended in the first two games. "He was up and not giving him quite as much runway to get flying off of," Nurse said. "But so were the other guys that ended up on him in a switch or in different parts of the game. They were all a little bit more locked in. We took steps forward to get physical. The other night we were backing away from everything." The Bucks punished the Raptors with a few transition three's and eventually got to the basket. But their 112 points on 120 possessions was their second-worst offensive output of the postseason. Antetokounmpo, who entered Game 3 averaging a postseason-best 15.1 points in the paint per game, finished with just 10 points in the paint on Sunday (Monday, PHL time). It wasn't his lowest total of the postseason, but it was a low mark considering the season-high 45 minutes that he played before fouling out on the Raptors' first possession of the second overtime. The 8.1 points in the paint per 36 minutes were Antetokounmpo's third-lowest output in his 84 games this season. Leonard, meanwhile, scored a game-high 36 points despite suffering an apparent left leg injury less than three minutes in, either on the take-off or the landing of a fast-break bucket after one of Milwaukee's 20 turnovers. He looked hobbled for the rest of the night, but a hobbled Kawhi Leonard is still the best that the Raptors have. "Obviously, he wasn't moving very fast," VanVleet said. "But if he's out there, he's good enough." And he was, seemingly, all the Raptors had offensively late in the game. When they couldn't get him the ball in the post against Malcolm Brogdon, he had to go out to the perimeter to get it. Most of the iso-ball stuff didn't work, but all the work the Raptors' did defensively eventually allowed them to break through in the second overtime. With the Raptors up one and a little more than three minutes to go, Bledsoe got a switch onto Gasol and attacked. Danny Green came from the weak side to help, leaving Brogdon wide-open in the corner. That's where Bledsoe was looking to go with it, but Green got his hand on the pass, Leonard picked up the loose ball, and raced down the floor for a lefty dunk over Nikola Mirotic. Three possessions later, Toronto's lead was back to one point when Middleton got a switch onto VanVleet. Leonard came over to double and deflected the pass. Brogdon was the first to get to the loose ball, but Leonard snatched it away from him and took it the other way for another dunk. "His defense was probably the biggest key of the game," Nurse said of Leonard. "Offense was hard to come by there for both teams for a while, and any time you can get a steal and a breakout, it's a huge momentum play." In 568 career games prior to Sunday (Monday, PHL time), Leonard had never played more than 46 minutes. He played 52 minutes and eight seconds in Game 3, and the Raptors needed every last bit of it. They'll need more in Game 4 on Tuesday (Wednesday, PHL time), and they'll have to hope that Leonard can recover in the next 48 hours. "Fifty-two minutes and it's in the playoffs," Leonard said, "so you definitely feel it. When you play 30 minutes, you feel it still. You just got to not worry about it, get my treatment and move on to the next one." There was always going to be a next one. But Leonard and the Raptors have made sure that Game 4 won't be the last one. John Schuhmann is a senior stats analyst for NBA.com. You can e-mail him here, find his archive here and follow him on Twitter. The views on this page do not necessarily reflect the views of the NBA, its clubs or Turner Broadcasting......»»

Category: sportsSource:  abscbnRelated NewsMay 20th, 2019

Raptors dominate without super performance from Kawhi

By John Schuhmann, NBA.com TORONTO -- Toronto Raptors coach Nick Nurse didn't believe his team needed another huge performance from Kawhi Leonard to win Game 5 of of his team's Eastern Conference semifinals series against the Philadelphia 76ers. The Raptors were 17-5 without Leonard in the regular season. Kyle Lowry is an All-Star, Pascal Siakam is the next big thing, and the Raptors' go eight deep with capable NBA players with postseason experience. But that 17-5 record without Leonard broke down to 13-0 against non-playoff teams and 4-5 against playoff teams. And in this series, Leonard simply wasn't getting a lot of help. His 68 points over Games 2 and 3 weren't enough, and the Raptors needed every bit of his 39 to win Game 4 in Philadelphia on Sunday (Monday, PHL time) and essentially keep their season alive. The guy was averaging 38 points on 62 percent shooting, and they were a possession or two from being down 3-1. [Watch the Playoffs on NBA League Pass for 30% less with this limited time offer! Select Annual package and use code SAVE30 at checkout to redeem] So yeah, to have Leonard come back down to earth somewhat and still get a blowout, 125-89 victory on Tuesday (Wednesday, PHL time) to take a 3-2 series lead? It was somewhat comforting, as you might imagine. "It was good to prove it a little bit in the playoffs," Nurse said of winning without a superhuman performance from Leonard. "I don't know if 'relief' is the right word, but it's nice to see other guys pick it up." "We needed this type of game where everyone played well," Lowry added. "I don't think we had a game like this in a while. We've still got another level that I think we can play at offensively and defensively. But it was a good team win. We needed that type of win just for our team." Leonard began the game by stripping Ben Simmons on Philly's first two possessions. He had two spectacular dunks, one over multiple Sixers at the end of the first half and another on Joel Embiid's head in the third quarter. He scored 21 points, grabbed 13 rebounds and dished out four assists. But he missed more than half of his shots for just the second time in 10 postseason games, and he did not need to carry his team like he did through the first four games of this series. He was more of a "normal" All-Star than the relentless machine that was shooting a seemingly unsustainable 57 percent from outside the paint prior to Tuesday (Wednesday, PHL time). With Leonard missing his first four shots of Game 4, the Raptors were in a little bit of a hole. The Sixers scored on nine straight possessions and led by seven midway through the first quarter. But after the last of those nine straight Philly scores, Lowry took the inbounds pass, pushed the ball up the floor, and drew a foul on Greg Monroe. On the next possession, Lowry stripped Monroe, leading to a fast break where Leonard found Siakam for a corner three. Two possessions later, a Lowry/Siakam pick-and-pop resulted in another Siakam three-pointer that tied the game. Two possessions after that, Siakam tipped out a Leonard miss and Norman Powell fed Fred VanVleet, who had missed 12 straight shots in the series, for a triple that put the Raptors up four. It was a 12-1 run that gave the Raptors the lead for good, and Leonard was just a cog in the machine, instead of being the entire machine himself. Leonard shot 7-for-16 and missed all four of his three-point attempts. But every other Raptors shot with the confidence that he had earlier in the series. Long gone was the hesitancy which plagued them in Game 3. And Nurse believes his team started to find itself in Game 4, when the Raptors got just enough support from Lowry, Marc Gasol and Serge Ibaka to even the series. "I thought I sensed a little bit better rhythm the other night," Nurse said. "There's three things: You gotta get your feet ready, you gotta get your hands ready, and you gotta between your ears ready to know you're going to pull the trigger and know that you're going to do it. I thought it showed the other night that we were a little bit less hesitant and that again puts you in rhythm." Earlier in this series, ball movement wasn't necessarily a good thing for the Raptors, because Leonard was scoring more efficiently by calling his own number than his teammates were when he was forced to give up the ball. But his off-the-dribble efficiency was bound to regress, and the tide may have turned in regard to his teammates' ability to support him. For the first time in this postseason, six different Raptors scored in double figures in Game 5. The seven rotation players not named Leonard shot 14-for-32 (44 percent) from three-point range. "I think the version of us you saw tonight is probably the best version and a little bit more balanced," VanVleet said. "[Leonard] did a great job of spreading it around a little bit. They showed some more bodies, as you would expect for a guy averaging 40. They were sending more bodies at him and he was moving it pretty well. That was good for us." The Raptors certainly benefited from another sluggish performance from Embiid, who was still suffering from the illness that slowed him down in Game 4. If possible, he looked even more disengaged on Tuesday (Wednesday, PHL time), scoring just 13 points on 5-for-10 shooting and turning the ball over eight times. Embiid couldn't put the ball on the floor without losing control of it, and he didn't have the energy to get in the post, too often settling for three-point attempts that the Raptors were happy to have him shoot. But the Raptors had a lot to do with the Sixers scoring just 73 points on 80 possessions before garbage time set in. They cut off Ben Simmons' drives to the basket, crowded the Sixers in the paint, and were more active on the perimeter, picking up 12 steals. Some of that improved offensive rhythm was a product of what has been the No. 1-ranked defense in the postseason. So after Game 5, there was no "Kyle Lowry struggles to score in the playoffs" narrative. There was no wondering if the Sixers were just too big for VanVleet or if Gasol needed to be more aggressive. There was just a return to what the Raptors had been for most of this season, which is a lot more than a one-man show. "We're a team," Siakam said. "All year, that's what we've done. Even times when Kawhi didn't play, we always came together. "Kawhi's an amazing player. And when there's nights where he's going the way he's going, and he's scoring 40, and shooting fadeaways, and making all those shots, it's kind of amazing to see. But at the same time, we know we're a team, and we always have each other's back. And at the end of the day, we have to keep playing." One more win and they'll keep playing into the conference finals. John Schuhmann is a senior stats analyst for NBA.com. You can e-mail him here, find his archive here and follow him on Twitter. The views on this page do not necessarily reflect the views of the NBA, its clubs or Turner Broadcasting......»»

Category: sportsSource:  abscbnRelated NewsMay 8th, 2019

Gloria Diaz, mapapanuod sa “Insatiable” ng Netflix

Manila, Philippines – Mapapanuod si Gloria Diaz sa Season 2 ng “Insatiable,” isang Netflix original series tungkol sa mundo ng pageantry. Ang balita ay inanunsiyo ng Miss Universe 1969 queen sa kaniyang Instagram account. Makikita […].....»»

Category: newsSource:  remateRelated NewsMay 5th, 2019

Bucks learn playoff lesson in closing out late Celtics charge

By Steve Aschburner, NBA.com BOSTON — In snatching a 2-1 lead in their Eastern Conference semifinals series, the Milwaukee Bucks demonstrated so much of what’s gone right about their season. They also sputtered through a stretch late in the game during which things most definitely went wrong. The list of happy things stretched long: Giannis Antetokounmpo was the best player on the floor and in Kia NBA MVP contention mode as he scored 32 points with 13 rebounds, eight assists and three blocks in Milwaukee’s 123-116 victory over the Boston Celtics Friday night (Saturday, PHL time) at TD Garden. Fans and viewers got a glimpse of the Bucks’ scoring potency when, coming out of halftime, they posted the first 40-point quarter of this series. The defense that coach Mike Budenholzer demands was especially evident in limiting Boston to 14-of-36 shooting in the second half. Then there was Milwaukee’s deep rotation and trust in reserves – guards George Hill (21 points) and Pat Connaughton (14) led their bench’s 42-16 scoring advantage. [Watch the Playoffs on NBA League Pass for 30% less with this limited time offer! Select Annual package and use code SAVE30 at checkout to redeem] The down side came near the end, when Milwaukee’s late-game execution was so poor Budenholzer didn’t even want to talk about it in front of the cameras and microphones afterward. He preferred to wait until Saturday (Sunday, PHL time), when he could directly address his players while they review video of Game 3. “I’ll save it for film tomorrow,” Budenholzer said. “It’s not very smart. It’s not very good. That’s the great thing for coaches … we’ll find more things where we can get better. We just touched on one of them for sure.” What happened was, the Bucks opened a fat lead – 17 points in the fourth quarter – and squandered much of it. They did it in the most damaging way possible, too, by sending a parade of Celtics to the foul line to score with the game clock stopped. With 4:51 left Milwaukee was up 114-97, more than doubling the eight-point edge they held when the final period began. With 1:20 left, that lead was down to 118-111, whittled down by Jaylen Brown’s fast-break layup and the Celtics’ perfect 12-for-12 from the line in that stretch. Many of the fans at TD Garden were heading to the exits, even as the Bucks appeared to be heading for trouble. You wondered if some might wind up knocking to get back in, à la the Miami fans who bailed on the Heat before Ray Allen’s famous three-pointer saved Game 6 of the 2013 Finals. Those late minutes of the fourth quarter seemed to last an eternity, and that was just for spectators and viewers. It felt twice that to the Bucks’ players and coaches. “It was [long],” said Pau Gasol, the veteran All-Star watching these days as an inactive player on Milwaukee’s roster. “But I think it’s part of the growth of this team, learning how to deal with those type of scenarios and situations.” It wasn’t just that the Bucks were burning through their lead. It’s that Boston was energized watching their late scramble pay off. Al Horford sank six free throws in the run; Jayson Tatum, four; and Gordon Hayward, two. “On the road, that gets a little dicey,” Connaughton said. “Whenever a team gets a little life at the end of a game, especially when they cut a [17-point lead to seven], that’s never a fun thing. But I think the way we were able to withstand it and make a bucket here or there to nullify what they were doing at the free throw line was good.” Said Gasol: “The Celtics are trying to rush possessions, trying to rush you into bad decisions. So you have to be patient, hold the ball, understand the possessions and get a good shot. Don’t turn it over. We didn’t do a very good job of that at the end.” Step by step, point by point, the Celtics were gaining hope. So … much … time … left. Gasol’s analysis from the side? “We were very aggressive tonight defensively. And at the end, we weren’t able to turn it down and play smarter. We kept that pressure on, and that led us to commit silly fouls or unnecessary fouls, and put them at the line when we didn’t want them there. The experience in your brain has to tell you to be smarter.” Milwaukee did manage a few high notes during the low period: Hill pounced on an offensive rebound to steal a basket. At 118-105, Antetokounmpo blocked Kyrie Irving’s fast-break layup to save two points and stifle a sure crowd explosion. “I don’t think we were really concerned,” said center Brook Lopez. “We just tried to keep our foot on the gas. Keep that intensity. They drew some fouls and made some free throws. And then they had the little funky 1-3-1 defense, whatever that was. They were trying to trap a little. We’ll look at that [on film].” This is not about nitpicking. This is about focusing on the growth still available to a Milwaukee team with lofty ambitions. Antetokounmpo was special. The Bucks were stingy enough on defense. But when they talked about playing their game for 48 minutes, they should have ‘fessed up on the three-and-a-half of those that nearly bit them. The Celtics ran out of time – only 10.6 seconds remained when they got within five, 121-116. And Antetokounmpo, who missed six of his first 20 free throws, didn’t miss his final pair. The Bucks, in essence, earned the ability to swoon by padding their lead early. But their close out was less than optimal, which is probably not how Budenholzer will put it in closed quarters. “We know they’re not going to quit,” Lopez said. “So we’ve just got to stick with it the entirety of the game. I know it’s a boring answer, but Game 4, we’ve got to do the same thing.” Maybe not exactly the same. Steve Aschburner has written about the NBA since 1980. You can e-mail him here, find his archive here and follow him on Twitter. The views on this page do not necessarily reflect the views of the NBA, its clubs or Turner Broadcasting......»»

Category: sportsSource:  abscbnRelated NewsMay 4th, 2019

New original docuseries, Stephen vs The Game now available on Facebook Watch

MANILA, 3 May 2019 – Unanimous Media and Facebook have teamed up to deliver a new six-episode original docuseries, Stephen vs The Game, which chronicles three-time NBA Champion Stephen Curry’s journey throughout the 2018-19 season. The series premieres today, exclusively on Facebook Watch.  Stephen vs The Game delivers an unprecedented look into the life of Curry, a transcendent athlete who, through is uncanny three-point shooting ability and unbridled joy for the sport, continues to reinvent the way basketball is played. The series will explore what drives him on and off the court, including his family, faith, personal passions, and legendary work ethic — all of which have helped him become one of the most revered athletes in the world. The documentary will also include never-before-seen childhood footage of Curry and behind-the-scenes footage from his 2018 NBA championship run.  Executive produced by Unanimous Media and Religion of Sports and directed by Gotham Chopra, the series marks the second installment in the Facebook Watch VS series, which aims to explore the personal motivations that drive some of the world’s most accomplished athletes. The first installment, Tom vs Time, aired in 2018 and chronicled Tom Brady's quest to outlast Father Time as a 40-year-old championship-caliber quarterback in the NFL. “This past year has been an incredible chapter in my life—from the birth of my first son to winning a third championship—and we’ve been capturing it all,” Curry says. “This series is deeply personal, providing an in-depth look into the pivotal moments from the last year and exploring everything that is important to me. It’s been a fun project to work on with my Unanimous team and Facebook. I have incredible fans, and I’m excited to share my life with them in a way I never really have before.”  “Stephen has an amazing story that should really resonate with the Facebook community, which makes him the perfect next subject for our VS series,” Chopra says. “A lot of people have heard about his faith, but I don’t think they know the half of it. Being able to ride shotgun with Stephen across this historic season and get a glimpse into the three foundational elements of his life - faith, family, and hoops - has been an amazing ride and something I think millions around the world will be fascinated by.”  "Stephen has become one of the most beloved athletes in the world, and for the first time in his nine years in the league, we're getting unprecedented access into his life and journey,” say Jeron Smith and Erick Peyton, co-founders of Unanimous Media. “It’s been great to work with Religion of Sports on extending the franchise and bringing the vision for this series to life. Stephen's social media presence has always been engaging and genuine, and we're excited to offer fans a richer storytelling experience and honest look at who he really is on Facebook Watch. It's another example of Stephen and Unanimous creating unique and compelling content that brings people together and simply entertains."  Curry has developed a vibrant community on Facebook and Instagram by using the platforms to give people a window into his personal life, speak directly to fans, and raise support and awareness for important causes such as Nothing But Nets. Stephen vs The Game will be yet another way for Curry to meaningfully connect with this community—including basketball-loving Filipinos who enjoy and admire Curry's game-changing style of play.  In addition to the docuseries, Curry will interact with fans in his official Facebook Group, provide real-time updates via Facebook and Instagram Live broadcasts, and use Instagram Stories and IGTV to share bonus content from the series.  Filipino fans can add episodes to their Watchlists by following the VS on Watch Facebook Page......»»

Category: sportsSource:  abscbnRelated NewsMay 3rd, 2019

UP, UE share 2019 s king of recruiting crown

Who was our King of Recruiting in 2018? Find out here. --- Last season, the University of the Philippines, at long last, broke through in the UAAP. Behind the leadership of Paul Desiderio and key contributions from Season MVP Bright Akhuetie and Mythical selection Juan Gomez de Liano, the Fighting Maroons made their first Final Four since 1997 and first Finals in 32 years. Now, even without the iconic Desiderio, State U is nothing but confident it could build on its breakthrough. The reason? Well, because two of the brightest young stars in Kobe Paras and Ricci Rivero are now orbiting Diliman. Paras has all the physical tools to take any league by storm and now in maroon and green, he is out to continue the legacy of his father Benjie who delivered the school’s first and only championship. Meanwhile, the Euro-stepping Rivero already knows a thing or two about taking the UAAP by storm, having been chosen for the Mythical Team when he was still playing for De La Salle University in 2017. Add big man J-Boy Gob, another transferee, to that and, indeed, UP is only equipped to keep contending. On the strength of the transfers of Paras and Rivero alone, the Fighting Maroons would have been worthy of the title of 2019 King of Recruiting. Right up there with them, though, in terms of getting a big boost in the offseason is University of the East. Absent from the Final Four in the last decade, the Red Warriors will be heading into the upcoming season with a fully stocked arsenal. Now up front for them – alongside stalwart Philip Manalang, of course – will be 6-foot-9 Senegalese Adama Diakhite, three-time champion and two-time MVP in the CESAFI Rey Suerte, and college-ready Harvey Pagsanjan, the no. 7 high school player in the 2019 NBTC 24. Diakhite is a hulking presence who will prove to be a tough matchup even for the likes of reigning MVP Akhuetie and last year’s Rookie of the year Ange Kouame. Suerte, a gifted scorer from anywhere on the court, fills right into the hole left behind by scoring dynamo Alvin Pasaol while Pagsanjan can continue making all the right plays he had been doing as the longtime beacon of hope for Hope Christian High School. Also flanking them are former Ateneo de Manila University forward John Apacible, defensive stopper Neil Tolentino, Filipino-Kiwi swingman Richie Rodger, and Filipino-Australian point guard Jasper Rentoy. And with that, UP and UE will have joint custody of the crown of the 2019 King of Recruiting. They dethrone National University which claimed the crown a year ago behind a big-time recruiting class that included Ildefonso brothers Dave and Shaun, John Lloyd Clemente, and John Galinato. Just like last year, there remains no doubt that the new Fighting Maroons and Red Warriors will make their respective sides forces to reckon with come UAAP 82. Still, several squads also made it a point to be better in the offseason. In fact, the graduating players in the 2019 NBTC 24 have been spread out among eight different teams. From the 2019 NBTC 24, the annual ranking of the best high school players in the country, 14 are moving on up to the Seniors. Adamson University is the biggest winner in terms of recruits from that ranking, with three of the top 15 players now in San Marcelino. Ninth-ranked Aaron Fermin is a double-double machine in the NCAA Jrs. and is nothing but determined to realize his potential as a two-way force under multi-titled mentor Franz Pumaren. In CESAFI standout Joshua Yerro and UAAP Jrs. Mythical selection Joem Sabandal, coach Franz also has young blood to bolster the backcourt that will no longer have Koko Pingoy. The Soaring Falcons also scored four other former Baby Falcons in big man Lorenz Capulong and wings Adam and Andrey Doria and AP Manlapaz. When it comes to reaping the rewards of its high school program, though, nobody could still touch Mapua University which again got two keep its Jrs. studs in Clint Escamis and Dan Arches, both of whom made it into the top two-thirds of the 2019 NBTC 24. Escamis and Arches are offensive guards who will give much-needed firepower to a promising core comprised of fellow Mapua HS products Warren Bonifacio, Eric Jabel, Noah Lugo, and Laurenz Victoria. Also, the Cardinals are the favorites to land NCAA 94 Jrs. Finals MVP Paolo Hernandez, another Red Robin. Also bagging two prized prospects from the 2019 NBTC 24 is La Salle which is now the place where the talented tandem of Joel Cagulangan and Joshua David get to work. Cagulangan has long been a star in the making and the NCAA 94 Jrs. MVP is, without question, Taft Avenue’s point guard of the future. The even better news is that he will still have wingman David, a tried and tested glue guy, to grow with. Also set to debut for the Green Archers are Filipino-Americans Jordan Bartlett, a speedster guard; Tyrus Hill, a high-flying forward; and Kurt Lojera, a big-bodied swingman. In all, there are six graduates from the top 10 of the 2019 NBTC 24. All of them would be on different teams in the Srs. Two players from 2019 NBTC 24 are yet to commit to any school, but there is no doubt that Red Robin Hernandez and Greenie Inand Fornilos will be able additions to any collegiate team. For the second straight year, Aldin Ayo will be adding a top three recruit out of high school as incoming sophomore CJ Cansino will now join forces with another triple-doubling talent in Mark Nonoy, a rookie who plays way beyond his years. But wait, there’s more as UST also welcomes with open arms its newest foreign student-athlete in Beninese Soulemane Chabi Yo whose speed and skill will make him a problem for the other foreign student-athletes more used to being powerhouses. Sprinkle in stretch four Sherwin Concepcion as well as versatile forwards Rhenz Abando and Brent Paraiso and there’s a reason why the Growling Tigers are now very much a darkhorse contender. L-Jay Gonzales and RJ Abarrientos remain FEU’s backcourt for tomorrow, but in the meantime, the former is poised for a breakout just as the latter is poised to wrap up his K-12 schooling. Yes, Abarrientos is not yet good to go come UAAP 82, but his steady hand is still the perfect pairing for the burst of energy that is Gonzales. Make no mistake, however, the Tamaraws have gotten help in the form of 6-foot-10 Cameroonian Patrick Tchuente as well as former Baby Tams Daniel Celzo and Jack Gloria. Letran is already the biggest it has ever been up front with NCAA 94 Rookie of the Year Larry Muyang alongside Jeo Ambohot, Christian Balagasay, and Christian Fajarito. Now, the Knights have also beefed up at the wings with Allen Mina and Mark Sangalang as well as former Red Warrior and Growling Tiger Jordan Sta. Ana. LPU will have to prove it could continue contending even without NCAA 93 MVP CJ Perez, but the good news is that now backtopping Marcelino twins Jaycee and Jayvee are former San Sebastian College-Recoletos key cogs Alvin Baetiong, Jayson David, and Renzo Navarro. That’s still a pretty solid lineup in our books. Just like last year, the now two-time UAAP champions are mostly intact, only losing team captain Anton Asistio as well as reserve guard Aaron Black. That doesn’t mean, however, that there are no new faces in Ateneo. Geo Chiu, Kai Sotto’s twin tower, decided to stay in Katipunan just as fellow ex-Blue Eaglets RV Berjay and Jason Credo are now seeing minutes in head coach Tab Baldwin’s rotation. And oh, there is a possibility that double-double machine Fornilos, who placed no. 13 in the 2019 NBTC 24, is bound to be a Blue Eaglet. Perps is nothing but determined to build on the triumphant return to the NCAA of head coach Frankie Lim and to do that, they will be leaning on former San Beda University pillar Ben Adamos as well as ex-Adamson HS workhorse Jefner Egan. Count out the Altas at your own risk. JRU is just on the first phase of a grand rebuild, but there is no doubt that things are looking up for Kalentong. In John Amores, they now have an end-to-end force who is all set to make an immediate impact as a rookie. These are the new names to watch for the teams: Baste CSB National U San Beda --- Follow this writer on Twitter, @riegogogo......»»

Category: sportsSource:  abscbnRelated NewsMay 3rd, 2019

Hulu reports increasing users, new shows, with Disney in control

NEW YORK, USA – Hulu announced Wednesday, May 1 that its user base has grown to some 28 million as the streaming video platform now controlled by Walt Disney gears up to take on Netflix. Hulu said it was adding new original shows including the Marvel ........»»

Category: newsSource:  rapplerRelated NewsMay 2nd, 2019

WATCH: Behind the scenes video teases 'Game of Thrones' season 7

MANILA, Philippines It's going to be a long wait until theGame of Thrones season 7 premiere including the announced delay ,which adds to the agony. But we get a first glimpse of what's going to happen ........»»

Category: newsSource:  rapplerRelated NewsJul 24th, 2016

WATCH: 'Once Upon A Time' season 6 features Aladdin, Jafar in new clip

MANILA, Philippines Television seriesOnce Upon A Time heads to Agrabah this September, as the show gave a sneak peek of Aladdin and Jafar in the upcoming 6th season. In the trailer, a messenger is seekingAladdin (Deniz Akdeniz) for help as he is.....»»

Category: newsSource:  rapplerRelated NewsJul 24th, 2016

WATCH: Nadine Lustre Binibining Pilipinas lookalike does Darna moves

Like Nadine who recently made a “Darna” transformation video for her fellow Viva Artist Donnalyn Bartolome’s YouTube channel, the actress’ lookalike at this year’s Binibining Pilipinas beauty pageant also did the same thing......»»

Category: newsSource:  philstarRelated News14 hr. 13 min. ago

FRENCH OPEN 19: Serena Williams tries again for 24th major

By Howard Fendrich, Associated Press Women to watch at the French Open, where play begins Sunday: ___ NAOMI OSAKA Ranked: 1 Country: Japan Age: 21 2019 Match Record: 19-5 2019 Singles Titles: 1 Career Singles Titles: 3 Grand Slam Singles Titles: 2 — Australian Open (2019), U.S. Open (2018) Last 5 French Opens: 2018-Lost in 3rd Round, 2017-1st, 2016-3rd, 2015-Did Not Play, 2014-DNP Aces: After going only 5-4 on clay last year, heads to Paris with a 7-1 mark on the surface in 2019. ... Withdrew with injuries from tournaments in Stuttgart (abdominal muscle) and Rome (thumb). Topspin: Big hitting carried her to two Grand Slam titles in a row on hard courts. Clay presents different challenges. ___ SIMONA HALEP Ranked: 3 Country: Romania Age: 27 2019 Match Record: 23-8 2019 Singles Titles: 0 Career Singles Titles: 18 Grand Slam Singles Titles: 1 — French Open (2018) Last 5 French Opens: 2018-Won Championship, 2017-Runner-Up, 2016-4th, 2015-2nd, 2014-RU Aces: Among the WTA's top 10 in break points converted and first-serve percentage in 2019. ... Pulled out of Italian Open with hamstring problem, but said she was sure she'd be OK for Paris. Topspin: Tries to defend a Grand Slam title for the first time. Her movement and defense-to-offense skills have carried her to three of the past five finals at Roland Garros. ___ KIKI BERTENS Ranked: 4 Country: Netherlands Age: 27 2019 Match Record: 26-10 2019 Singles Titles: 2 Career Singles Titles: 9 Grand Slam Singles Titles: 0 — Best: SF, French Open (2016) Last 5 French Opens: 2018-3rd, 2017-2nd, 2016-SF, 2015-1st, 2014-4th Aces: Ranks in the tour's top two in aces and service points won this season. ... Hit 20 aces in one match. ... At past three clay events, went semifinals-title-semifinals. Topspin: Has the game and the confidence to go far in Paris. Many in tennis think she is ready to play well deep into the second week at a major tournament. ___ PETRA KVITOVA Ranked: 6 Country: Czech Republic Age: 29 2019 Match Record: 28-8 2019 Singles Titles: 2 Career Singles Titles: 27 Grand Slam Singles Titles: 2 — Wimbledon (2011, 2014) Last 5 French Opens: 2018-3rd, 2017-2nd, 2016-3rd, 2015-4th, 2014-3rd Aces: Pulled out of Rome with a left calf issue. ... Is third on tour in aces this year, but also has hit by far the most double-faults. Topspin: Since getting to the 2012 semifinals at Roland Garros, only has been past the third round once. Her strong lefty strokes and recent form on clay could mean that changes this year. ___ SLOANE STEPHENS Ranked: 7 Country: United States Age: 26 2019 Match Record: 14-9 2019 Singles Titles: 0 Career Singles Titles: 6 Grand Slam Singles Titles: 1 — U.S. Open (2017) Last 5 French Opens: 2018-RU, 2017-DNP, 2016-3rd, 2015-4th, 2014-4th Aces: Recently hired coach Sven Groeneveld, who has worked with such past French Open champions as Maria Sharapova and Ana Ivanovic. Topspin: Run to last year's final in Paris showed that Stephens is capable of winning a Grand Slam championship on clay to go with her hard-court title from the U.S. Open. ___ ASH BARTY Ranked: 8 Country: Australia Age: 23 2019 Match Record: 24-5 2019 Singles Titles: 1 Career Singles Titles: 4 Grand Slam Singles Titles: 0 — Best: QF, Australian Open (2019) Last 5 French Opens: 2018-2nd, 2017-1st, 2016-DNP, 2015-DNP, 2014-1st Aces: After going 1-6 against top-10 opponents in 2018, she is 6-4 in those matches in 2019. ... Played cricket while away from the tour for nearly two years after the 2014 U.S. Open. Topspin: After major breakthroughs at the Australian Open in January and when she collected the title at the Miami Open in March, seems poised to show big improvement on her 2-5 career record at the French Open. ___ SERENA WILLIAMS Ranked: 10 Country: United States Age: 37 2019 Match Record: 7-2 2019 Singles Titles: 0 Career Singles Titles: 72 Grand Slam Singles Titles: 23 — French Open (2002, 2013, 2015), Australian Open (2003, 2005, 2007, 2009, 2010, 2015, 2017), Wimbledon (2002, 2003, 2009, 2010, 2012, 2015, 2016), U.S. Open (1999, 2002, 2008, 2012, 2013, 2014) Last 5 French Opens: 2018-4th, 2017-DNP, 2016-RU, 2015-W, 2014-2nd Aces: Back in the top 10 this year after dropping out of the top 400 while away from the tour to have a baby. ... After missing about 1½ years of majors, reached two Grand Slam finals in 2018. ... Pulled out of last two tournaments because of injured left knee. Topspin: Comes to Paris with only one clay-court match since last year's French Open. There's also uncertainty about the status of her knee. So while she's always considered a favorite, no matter the site or surface, when she is healthy, it is hard to know what to expect from her this time around......»»

Category: sportsSource:  abscbnRelated News15 hr. 26 min. ago

Season over, Real Madrid faces turbulent summer

By Joseph Wilson, Associated Press BARCELONA, Spain (AP) — The best thing for Real Madrid about this season is that it is finally over. A humiliating 2-0 loss at home to Real Betis on the last day of the Spanish league on Sunday brought to a close one of the most disappointing seasons in years for the most successful team in European club competition. Madrid's last match exemplified the collective decline of a group of players who had won four of the previous five Champions League titles but found themselves practically out of the running for any major trophies months ago. Defenders often a step too slow, midfielders unable to maintain ball possession, and forwards incapable of producing sufficient scoring chances, much less put the ball in the net. Madrid finished in third place and 19 points adrift of champion Barcelona, the largest-ever deficit with its fiercest rival by the end of a season. Madrid was effectively out of the league title race by January and was eliminated from the Champions League and Copa del Rey in early March, leaving the club with nothing to play for other than pride. And pride couldn't stop the team from failing to get a win in its last five away matches, or ending the season with back-to-back losses. Coach Zinedine Zidane wants his players to remember this feeling. "When you want to try harder and you can't even achieve the smallest little thing, it is complicated," Zidane said. "We have to accept that it has been a bad season. We can't forget it; we have to have it very present in the future so it can help us improve." Now Zidane and club president Florentino Pérez can finally put in motion their plans to breathe some life into a squad that performed far below what its fans expect. "Football is motivation ... Next season this is going to change," Zidane said. WHO'S OUT? Candidate No. 1 to leave is Gareth Bale. Bale arrived at Madrid in 2013 as the biggest signing in football history. Six years, multiple titles and more than 100 goals later, Zidane looks more than ready to part ways with the Wales winger. Zidane has rarely counted on Bale since he returned to the club in March nine months after stepping down, becoming Madrid's third manager of the season following the failures of Julen Lopetegui and Santiago Solari. Bale didn't leave the bench on Sunday in what many believed was his last game for Madrid. But with Bale under contract until 2022, his exit may hinge on finding a club that can cope with the 29-year-old winger's salary of a reported 15 million euros a season. Goalkeeper Keylor Navas is reported to be unwanted after he became a second-choice player following the signing of Thibaut Courtois. The future of midfielders Toni Kroos and Francisco "Isco" Alarcon and defender Marcelo are also in doubt after their sub-par campaigns, while Zidane has shown little interest in playing midfielders Dani Ceballos, Marcos Llorente and left back Sergio Reguilón. "Nobody is going to take away what these players did for five years," Zidane said. "(But) we don't have excuses. We ask our fans for forgiveness because we have the obligation to give it our all." WHO'S IN? Of all the names floated, Belgium midfielder Eden Hazard's is the most commonly heard. His contract with Chelsea expires in 2020 and he may be ready before then for a change after seven years in London. The other major name is Manchester United star Paul Pogba, who Zidane has said he admires. But unless Madrid can somehow succeed in prying Kylian Mbappé away from Paris Saint-Germain, then the goals that went missing when Cristiano Ronaldo left last year won't be found in a single player. Zidane will still have to solve the pending problem of retooling a team that spent most of the last decade feeding that goal-scoring machine called Ronaldo. If not, then next season may not be much better......»»

Category: sportsSource:  abscbnRelated NewsMay 21st, 2019

Antetokounmpo learning how to deal with playoff disappointment

By Steve Aschburner, NBA.com TORONTO – Whenever LeBron James struggled through the sort of playoff performance Giannis Antetokounmpo had Sunday (Monday, PHL time), he seemed to want to put it behind him as swiftly as he could. His routine – assuming it wasn’t The Finals, where he got summoned to the podium, win or lose – typically went like this: the door to the Cleveland or Miami dressing room would swing open and there James would be, ready to face the questions, antsy to move on ASAP. Once he ‘fessed up to the shots he’d missed or the plays he’d botched, that was it. Oh, you knew he’d be looking plenty at video of that game in the hours before he played again, as a way to find and fix the flaws. But for public consumption at least, he shed it fast, like an ill-fitting suit. Antetokounmpo, the Milwaukee Bucks’ young star, is still learning this face-of-the-franchise and cutthroat competitor stuff. He took his time afterward in the spartan visitors’ room at Scotiabank Arena. [Watch the Playoffs on NBA League Pass for 30% less with this limited time offer! Select Annual package and use code SAVE30 at checkout to redeem] There he sat, with his knees wrapped and his feet plunged into an ice bath. The Kia MVP candidate stared at the score sheet that had been handed to him, the one bearing all sorts of dreary news from the double-overtime setback that cut Milwaukee’s lead in the best-of-seven series to 2-1. Antetokounmpo barely looked up as the semicircle of cameras, microphones and reporters around him grew with media people tip-toeing that fine line between giving him some space and blocking out for position whenever he’d finally take their questions. (“Talk,” as we say in the trade). Heck, Antetokounmpo barely looked up when Bucks coach Mike Budenholzer strode through the dressing room and tapped him on his left knee, a little atta-boy bonding near the end of a long, disappointing night. While teammates poked habitually at their phones in the aftermath of Milwaukee’s 118-112 loss, Antetokounmpo mostly let his lie there on the seat next to him. By the standards he set this year as an MVP favorite, he knew he’d had a lousy night. The reporters standing there, like fans everywhere, knew he’d struggled, of course, in ways rarely seen since his first taste of the postseason four years ago. And he knew that they knew, so… “Obviously it wasn’t my best game,” Antetokounmpo said eventually. “I’ve got to be more aggressive… I’ve got to make the right play.” Defensively, Antetokounmpo was pretty much his usual self, grabbing 23 rebounds for the Bucks, challenging Toronto’s players out on the floor and close to the rim, and blocking four shots. Offensively, though, Antetokounmpo was a mess. He scored only 12 points, his fewest in a playoff game since he was first dipping his toe into postseason waters as a 20-year-old back in 2015. Through three quarters, Antetokounmpo had only six points on 3-for-8 shooting. Seven Milwaukee players and five Raptors had outscored him to that point, and he hadn’t earned his way to the foul line even once. What made it all worse was that the game was sitting there, aching to be taken by someone, anyone. Antetokounmpo got himself going a bit in the fourth quarter, making a couple of shots and earning five free throws. But he missed three. Then he went scoreless while playing the entire first overtime. And then he fouled out just 36 seconds into the second OT. He didn’t object, either, when that sixth foul for stepping in front of Toronto’s Pascal Siakam sent him to the side. Antetokounmpo just took it and exited, sealing it as one of those “not your night, kid” hard lessons. Asked about the frustration that Antetokounmpo might have shown to teammates, if not the public, Bucks guard Eric Bledsoe said: “If you don’t feel bad when you play bad, you don’t need to be playing this game. That’s the feeling that drives you to success. I’m happy he’s feeling like that.” Antetokounmpo’s game didn’t just spin sideways on its own. Raptors coach Nick Nurse switched some defensive duties around and assigned Kawhi Leonard – a two-time Defensive Player of the Year with the wingspan, instincts and reflexes to confound any open-court player – as the tip of Toronto’s spear against the Greek Freak. Then, as expected, Toronto sent second defenders at him, the surest way to get the ball out of Antetokounmpo’s hands or force him into difficult shots. So he tried to make the right basketball plays, as they say, and sometimes he did – he dished a team-high seven assists. Sometimes, though, he did not, turning over the ball eight times. For the record, Antetokounmpo has played 31 postseason games in his young career. In the games in which he has scored fewer than 19 points, his team’s record is 3-6. When he scores 19 or more, the Bucks are 14-8. Not to lay it all at Antetokounmpo’s feet. Fellow All-Star Khris Middleton was way off his usual offensive form, missing 13 of his 16 shots. And Bledsoe matched that. Together, those three starters were a combined 11-of-48. The rest of the team shot 50 percent (27 of 54). “We have the utmost respect and belief that the next game is not going to be as bad as [this] was,” said guard George Hill, who scored 24 points off the bench. “But I know it's sitting in their head that they go for a combined 11-of-48 or something like that. We're not worried about it.” Right. Who’s even counting? Budenholzer and his staff are going to have to figure out ways to get scoring opportunities without being stymied by all the defensive traffic. Teammates are going to have to shoot better, to keep those diggers honest in their matchups. And Antetokounmpo is going to need to play more aggressively and take what happened in Game 3 very personally. He wasn’t quite there yet, Sunday night (Monday, PHL time). “Obviously I want to stay aggressive. But we stick to our game plan,” Antetokounmpo said. “Some days I’m going to have a bad night. But my team has to focus on doing their job and I’ll do mine.” Said Brook Lopez, after watching the throng swallow Antetokounmpo on the opposite side of the room: “We know he’s not going to quit or stop playing. He’s going to continue to be him.” As he talked, Lopez’s phone began vibrating next to him. He said it was Bucks GM Jon Horst calling and, in a bit of gallows humor after a stinging loss, joked that maybe he shouldn’t answer. “I don’t know if I should pick up or not,” the Milwaukee center said, “’cause I want to be here tomorrow.” Antetokounmpo has a call to answer now, too. In Game 4, Tuesday (Wednesday, PHL time). Steve Aschburner has written about the NBA since 1980. You can e-mail him here, find his archive here and follow him on Twitter. The views on this page do not necessarily reflect the views of the NBA, its clubs or Turner Broadcasting......»»

Category: sportsSource:  abscbnRelated NewsMay 20th, 2019

Lillard, Blazers clinging to pride at playoffs edge

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

Category: sportsSource:  abscbnRelated NewsMay 20th, 2019

Kyle Kaiser knocks Alonso, McLaren out of Indy 500

By Jenna Fryer, Associated Press INDIANAPOLIS (AP) — Fernando Alonso and McLaren missed the Indianapolis 500 after a 23-year-old American in a rebuilt race car for an underfunded team snagged the final spot in the field. Kyle Kaiser bumped Alonso out of "The Greatest Spectacle in Racing" by .02 mph in the "Last Row Shootout" to set the 33-driver field. All the attention was on McLaren, which leaned on Andretti Autosport, Team Penske, Chevrolet and anyone who would help in an effort to get the two-time Formula One champion into the race. Alonso made his final qualifying attempt Sunday on a cold track for an undermatched McLaren group and only had to beat three other drivers to make the race. It seemed he had enough until Sage Karam jumped to the top of the running order and Alonso fell to the bubble. Max Chilton and Patricio O'Ward were both eliminated, and that left only Kaiser to keep the Spaniard out of the race. Nothing to worry about, right? Hardly. Kaiser turned four nearly flawless laps to claim that final spot. Alonso, swarmed by fans and media as he tried to watch Kaiser's qualifying lap, saw the final speed, hopped on a waiting golf cart and was driven away. "I don't think I can wrap my mind around what we just did," Kaiser said. Karam and James Hinchcliffe, who crashed in Saturday qualifying and needed a backup, took the other two qualifying spots. Juncos Racing had everything stacked against it this week. The team lost both its primary sponsors right before Tuesday's opening day but Kasier still managed to find decent speed. Then he crashed in Friday practice and destroyed the Juncos car. The team worked overnight to have a backup prepared in time for the start of Saturday qualifying, but Kaiser found himself in the bottom six and had to shoot it out Sunday for his spot. The Juncos plight was compelling, but dwarfed by the McLaren odyssey. McLaren last raced in the Indy 500 in the 1970s but is back this season to both help Alonso complete his quest to win motorsports' version of the Triple Crown and as a feeler for a potential full-time IndyCar team. But the entire process has been a disaster from opening day because of electrical issues, an Alonso accident, a lengthy delay in rebuilding him a car, a tire puncture on his first qualifying attempt, and, finally, a car too difficult to handle for Alonso to qualify in the top 30 on Saturday. McLaren head Zak Brown acknowledged the stress after the team tried a completely different setup in Sunday morning practice. But McLaren was about 10 minutes late getting on track, the rear of the car dragged and sparked and had to return to the pits after one lap. The team got a total of six laps in before rain shortened practice, and McLaren spent a lengthy delay negotiating for parts from Andretti and advice from Penske and Chevrolet. Alonso was presented with a setup he had never felt when it was his turn to make his qualifying attempt, and it was his smoothest run of the week. It just wasn't fast enough. "I think the car felt better but obviously it had no practice," Alonso said. "It is not enough. It is just the way it is. We tried our best.".....»»

Category: sportsSource:  abscbnRelated NewsMay 20th, 2019

Raptors simply being outpaced by Bucks in conference finals

By John Schuhmann, NBA.com The Toronto Raptors are being outplayed. And through two games of the the Eastern Conference finals, the Milwaukee Bucks clearly are winning the battle of pace. With each team averaging 102 possessions per game, they've stretched a Raptors roster that averaged between 95 and 96 possessions per game in each of the first two rounds. [Watch the Playoffs on NBA League Pass for 30% less with this limited time offer! Select Annual package and use code SAVE30 at checkout to redeem] The first two games of the conference finals have been the two fastest-paced games of Toronto's postseason. They're now 5-0 when they've had 94 or fewer possessions, and 3-6 when they've had 95 or more. On the defensive end of the floor, they've allowed just 96.3 points per 100 possessions in the five slower-paced games and 105.6 in the nine others. The context in those numbers, of course, is that three of the five slow-paced games were against the Orlando Magic's 22nd-ranked offense, while seven of the other nine have been against two top-10 offenses in Philadelphia and Milwaukee. The Bucks rank second offensively in the playoffs, having scored the same number of points per 100 possessions (113.5) as they did in the regular season, when they ranked just ahead of the Raptors in offensive efficiency. Toronto was actually the most efficient regular-season team in transition, averaging 1.19 points on those possessions, according to Synergy play-type tracking. Kawhi Leonard and Pascal Siakam scored 1.31 and 1.26 points per possession in transition, respectively. Those were the fourth- and seventh-best marks among 101 players who averaged at least two transition possessions per game in the regular season. In this series, the Raptors don't want to play slow and deliberate. Against the league's No. 1 defense, they have to seek out scoring opportunities, and walking the ball up the floor in order to minimize possessions would waste precious seconds off the shot clock. Not to mention allow the Bucks to set up their defense, and put additional pressure on every action and every pass in the half-court. Kyle Lowry has looked to push the ball up the floor against Milwaukee, off of both misses and makes. But the Bucks have simply been more prolific and efficient in transition. According to Second Spectrum tracking, the Raptors have outscored the Bucks by 10 points on field goals in the last 18 seconds of the shot clock, but Milwaukee has outscored Toronto, 49-26, on field goals in the first six seconds of the shot clock. The Raptors' issues have been with both the volume and accuracy of their shots early in the clock. In Game 1, they took 20 shots in the first six seconds, but shot just 5-for-20, in part because 12 of the 20 shots came from three-point range. They got early offense, but not early offense at the rim. In Game 2, the Raptors took just eight of their 87 shots in the first six seconds of the shot clock, while the Bucks attempted twice as many. The two ends of the floor are linked, of course. A defensive stop is more likely to lead to a transition opportunity, and a successful offensive possession is more likely to allow a team to get set defensively. And pace isn't just about shots early in the clock. It's also about the quickness with which actions are run in a half-court offense. "A lot of people kinda tend to think [playing with pace] means playing super fast, up the floor and shooting quickly," Nick Nurse said during the Philadelphia series. "We talked about our pace in the halfcourt. I think the games where the shots were better and going in ... our pace in the halfcourt was crisper. It was more speed of cuts, which translated to a little better rhythm, which translated to a little better shots." Both of these teams are defending similarly, putting an emphasis on protecting the basket, which means that paint attacks are met with multiple defenders. The result is ball movement and defensive rotations. And in regard to ball and player movement, the Milwaukee offense has played with more pace. Through the first two games, the Bucks have averaged 348 passes and 11.6 miles traveled per 24 minutes of possession. Toronto, meanwhile, has averaged 322 and 11.1. Sure, the Raptors have scored more points from the field in the last 18 seconds of the shot clock, but they haven't been nearly sharp enough to make up for the differential in transition. The Raptors don't want to turn the conference finals into a track meet. But if they're going to come back in this series, it seems they'll have to play with more pace offensively, while preventing the Bucks from doing the same. It's a tough needle to thread. John Schuhmann is a senior stats analyst for NBA.com. You can e-mail him here, find his archive here and follow him on Twitter. The views on this page do not necessarily reflect the views of the NBA, its clubs or Turner Broadcasting......»»

Category: sportsSource:  abscbnRelated NewsMay 19th, 2019

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

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

Category: sportsSource:  abscbnRelated NewsMay 19th, 2019

Bucks lead East finals 2-0, and now series shifts to Toronto

By Tim Reynolds, Associated Press Kawhi Leonard and Kyle Lowry have more than held their own against Giannis Antetokounmpo and Khris Middleton so far in these Eastern Conference finals. Other than some pretty boxscores, the Toronto Raptors have nothing to show for those efforts. [Watch the Playoffs on NBA League Pass for 30% less with this limited time offer! Select Annual package and use code SAVE30 at checkout to redeem] The supporting cast hasn’t supported much for Toronto, and with what is almost certainly a must-win Game 3 of the East title series looming on Sunday night at home, Raptors coach Nick Nurse is weighing lineup tweaks. Nurse suggested Saturday (Sunday, PHL time) that Serge Ibaka may start at center over struggling Marc Gasol, and Norman Powell may get minutes that would figure to come at Danny Green’s expense. “We’ve got to be better, man,” Nurse said Saturday (Sunday, PHL time). “We’ve got to be more physical, we’ve got to hustle more and we’ve got to work harder.” He may as well have punctuated that by adding “or else.” In this playoff format that was put into play in 1984, teams that win the first two games at home of a best-of-seven series have ultimately prevailed 94% of the time. And that’s the luxury Milwaukee has right now, leading the series 2-0 after rallying to win the opener and then controlling Game 2 start to finish. “We can’t rest,” Bucks coach Mike Budenholzer said. “We can’t relax. We can’t assume anything.” So the odds are stacked against the Raptors. Nurse was told the lack of success teams have when down 0-2 in a series, and insisted he doesn’t care. “I don’t really give a crap about that,” he said. “I just want our team to come play their (butt) off tomorrow night and get one game and it changes the series.” Leonard and Lowry are outscoring Antetokounmpo and Middleton 107-77 — which would figure to have been a boon to Toronto’s chances. It hasn’t worked that way. Add up everyone else’s scoring in the series, and it’s Bucks 156, Raptors 96. Rebounding has been one-sided in both games, with Milwaukee controlling things on the backboards. Bench scoring has tilted heavily toward Milwaukee as well. “We’re just trying to be us,” Bucks center Brook Lopez said. “We’re not playing any differently, regular season or postseason. We’re just trying to go out there and play Bucks basketball. It starts with our defense. Getting stops. Getting out. Playing in transition. Playing with pace. Sharing the ball and being aggressive and attacking the basket.” The Raptors don’t have to look at the history books to know this series isn’t over. All they need to do is recall the 2012 Western Conference finals. Leonard and Green were with top-seeded San Antonio, and Ibaka was with second-seeded Oklahoma City. The Spurs won Games 1 and 2 at home — then lost the next four, and the Thunder went to the NBA Finals. “We have another chance to bounce back on Sunday,” Gasol said. “That’s all that matters right now. That’s all that matters.” Here’s some of what to know before Game 3: QUICK WIT: Leonard, who isn’t the most talkative guy in the league to put it mildly, had a simple answer when asked where the Raptors go from here after the Game 2 loss. “I’m going to Toronto for Game 3,” Leonard said. WE (BARELY) THE NORTH: The series now shifts to Toronto, where the Raptors’ motto is “We The North.” It is, but barely in this case. Toronto is about 430 miles east of Milwaukee by air, and is only slightly north. And it should be noted that Toronto isn’t even the northernmost city that will be playing host to conference final games this weekend — Portland holds that distinction. GREEK FREAKS: Census figures show that at least a quarter-million Greeks live in Canada, and roughly half of those live in Ontario. Antetokounmpo isn’t expecting an overly warm welcome, but has seen a few Greek flags in the crowd on his past trips to Toronto. Antetokounmpo said he’d be touched if they were there Sunday, but isn’t thinking about it too much. “I’m going to try not to focus as much in the people and the Greeks and the population in Toronto,” Antetokounmpo said. “Just focusing on Game 3 and what we’ve got to do.” OFF, WISCONSIN: Including Games 1 and 2 of this series, matchups in Wisconsin are rarely kind to Nurse. He played at Northern Iowa, a conference rival of Green Bay — and his teams went 1-8 in those games, 0-4 at Green Bay’s former home court, the being-demolished Brown County Arena. Nurse said it was a nice place, but wasn’t upset to hear it’s coming down. “There weren’t very many good memories for me,” he said. BREAK FROM DRAKE: At least one Milwaukee radio station is taking this series extremely seriously. WXSS-FM is not allowing any songs by Raptors superfan Drake to be played on its station until the East finals are over. “We’re taking a break from you,” the station wrote in an open letter of sorts to the Toronto native and courtside ticketholder......»»

Category: sportsSource:  abscbnRelated NewsMay 19th, 2019

Bucks making case as favorites to win title

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

Category: sportsSource:  abscbnRelated NewsMay 18th, 2019