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Patriots chase 7th straight AFC title berth against Titans

By Kyle Hightower, Associated Press FOXBOROUGH, Mass. (AP) — Two things, among many, have been consistent for the Patriots the past decade: Tom Brady at quarterback and New England in the AFC championship game. Brady will try to lead his team to its seventh straight conference title game Saturday when it hosts the Tennessee Titans in the divisional round. It has been a challenging week off the field for the Patriots following reports of turmoil involving Brady, coach Bill Belichick and team owner Robert Kraft. But Brady says he's never doubted his team's ability to compartmentalize potential distractions. "I think we have a job to do and we know what our job is and that's to go out and play football at a high level and play well," he said. "Nothing really should get in the way of that." Tennessee hasn't been to a conference championship game since the 2002 season, but has been invigorated coming off its first playoff win in 14 years. The Titans enter as 13-point underdog, but linebacker Derrick Morgan said it's a role they happily embrace. "Nobody respects us. Nobody really expects a lot from us. That's fine," he said. "We haven't been a very successful team in the last 10 years. So it's easy for people to overlook us. So we've got to take care of business and start winning games like this to get the respect that we desire." To get it, they'll have to stop a quarterback that has been nearly unbeatable in this round of the postseason. Brady is 11-2 in 13 divisional-round games since 2002 , passing for 3,700 yards and 28 touchdowns. He also has a 6-1 career record against the Titans with 13 touchdowns and just one interception. Titans quarterback Marcus Mariota was mostly unflappable in leading his team back from an 18-point halftime deficit to beat Kansas City — the largest comeback on road in Super Bowl era. But since 2001, quarterbacks making their first or second career playoff start are 0-7 against New England. "When it comes down to it, it's all about us," Mariota said. "I think that's kind of been the mindset through this entire season. Ups and downs come and go, you just want to try and make the most of this opportunity." Some things to watch on Saturday: MOVING ON UP: It will be Bill Belichick's 37th career playoff game as a head coach, breaking a tie with Tom Landry and Don Shula for the most in NFL history. HEISMAN BROTHERS: Mariota, the 2014 Heisman winner, and Derrick Henry, the 2015 Heisman winner, combined to turn in the best rushing performance in franchise history in the wild-card round. Henry ran for a career-high 156 yards, and Mariota added 46 yards. Henry will be starting his third straight game with DeMarco Murray already out (right knee). PRESSURE: The Titans ranked fifth in the league with 43 sacks during the season and added four more against the Chiefs last week. Three-time Pro Bowl defensive lineman Jurrell Casey had six from his interior spot, while Morgan led the Titans with 7 ½ sacks. Linebackers Brian Orakpo (seven) and Wesley Woodyard (five) give the Titans a variety of options to attack Brady, not counting backup linebacker Erik Walden (four). EXPERIENCE GAP: New England has 41 players with postseason experience, most of 2017 playoff teams. Fourteen Patriots players have played at least 10 playoff games. That's more such players than 11 other playoff teams combined (13). Before the start of this postseason, the Titans had 18 players who had appeared in a playoff game. BELICHICK AND LEBEAU: There aren't too many current NFL coaches that have been around the game longer than Belichick and Titans defensive coordinator Dick LeBeau . LeBeau has an NFL-record 45 consecutive seasons as a coach, with Belichick at 43. Yet, with Belichick as head coach, he and LeBeau have faced off in the playoffs only once: the 2004 AFC championship game that New England won in Pittsburgh 41-27. The respect between the two is mutual. "Not very many coaches have the record coach Belichick's gotten. In fact he's probably closing in on the best ever," LeBeau said. Said Belichick: "Coach LeBeau is as good as there is, as good a defensive coach as there is." ___ AP Football Writer Teresa Walker in Nashville contributed to this report......»»

Category: sportsSource: abscbn abscbnJan 12th, 2018

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

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

Category: sportsSource:  abscbnRelated NewsJan 15th, 2018

Titans beat Jaguars 15-10, end playoff drought with AFC spot

By Teresa M. Walker, Associated Press NASHVILLE, Tenn. (AP) — Marcus Mariota threw a touchdown and used his legs to help the Tennessee Titans end an eight-season playoff drought by beating the Jacksonville Jaguars 15-10 Sunday to clinch an AFC wild-card berth. The Titans (9-7) snapped a three-game skid in a game they needed to win or get some help with losses elsewhere to advance. They also posted their first back-to-back winning seasons since 2007 and 2008. Mariota ran a season-high 10 times for 60 yards, the biggest a 13-yard scramble on third-and-5 at the 2:00 mark . Mariota also threw for 134 yards. Derrick Henry took a screen pass from Mariota 66 yards for a TD in the second quarter, and Ryan Succop kicked three field goals. The Titans also sacked Blake Bortles twice and forced four turnovers, two interceptions by Kevin Byard. The Jaguars (10-6) clinched their first AFC South title a week ago when Tennessee lost to San Francisco. Coach Doug Marrone promised they came to win. Only left tackle Cam Robinson and wide receiver Marqise Lee were scratched — both were on the injury report this week. Yet they head into the postseason having lost two straight. The Jaguars had a chance to win after Mariota lost his first fumble this season in the fourth quarter. Henry collided with Mariota on a handoff, popping the ball in the air. Yannick Ngakoue picked it up and ran 67 yards for a TD, pulling the Jaguars within 15-10 with 10:48 left. But Byard got his second pick with 10 seconds remaining to seal the win. The Titans led 6-3 when they forced two turnovers 42 seconds apart just before halftime. Jaguars returner Jaydon Mickens signaled for a fair catch only to try blocking Taywan Taylor of the Titans as the ball arrived, and Phillip Supernaw recovered the bobble for Tennessee. On the next drive, Titans rookie cornerback Adoree Jackson punched the ball loose from Keelan Cole and Jayon Brown recovered. Succop capped each drive with a field goal, his second a 39-yarder as time expired for a 12-3 halftime lead. HENRY’S CHANCE The 2015 Heisman Trophy winner got his fourth career start and first this year with DeMarco Murray scratched with an injured right knee. Henry struggled in the first quarter and was tackled for too many losses. But Henry gave the Titans’ their lone TD when he took a screen on the second play of the second quarter for a 6-0 lead. It was Henry’s first TD catch of his career. It was his third TD of 60 yards or longer this year, second in the NFL to Kansas City’s Tyreek Hill who has five. INJURIES Jaguars safety Barry Church hurt a hamstring, but he returned. Titans left tackle Taylor Lewan left for a play when officials stopped action in the fourth quarter for an injury. He also returned and finished the game. UP NEXT Jaguars: Host AFC wild-card game for their first playoff game in Jacksonville since the AFC championship game in January 2000. Titans: Hitting road for first playoff game since January 2009......»»

Category: sportsSource:  abscbnRelated NewsJan 1st, 2018

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

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

Category: sportsSource:  abscbnRelated NewsDec 26th, 2017

Sale reaches 300-strikeout mark in Major League Baseball

BALTIMORE, Maryland (AP) — Chris Sale struck out 13 to become the first AL pitcher in 18 years to reach the 300 mark, and the Boston Red Sox clinched a playoff berth hours after beating the Baltimore Orioles 9-0 on Wednesday night. Boston (88-64) was assured at least a wild card and its second consecutive trip to the postseason when the Los Angeles Angels lost to the Cleveland Indians. Of course, the Red Sox are looking for much more than that. They lead the AL East by three games over the rival New York Yankees with 10 to play as Boston pursues its third division title in five years. Sale (17-7) reached the milestone on his last pitch, a called third strike against Ryan Flaherty to end the eighth inning. The last AL pitcher to fan 300 batters in a season was Boston's Pedro Martinez in 1999, when he set a club record with 313. Mookie Betts and Deven Marrero homered for the Red Sox. After winning two straight 11-inning games over the skidding Orioles, Boston jumped to a 6-0 lead in the fifth and coasted to its 11th win in 14 games. Betts and Marrero hit two-run homers in the fourth against Wade Miley (8-14), and Hanley Ramirez added a two-run double in the fifth. Sale allowed four hits and walked none in matching his career high for wins. Boston joined AL Central champion Cleveland and AL West champion Houston in the American League playoffs, which begin next month. Two spots are still up for grabs. strong>INDIANS 6, ANGELS 5 /strong> ANAHEIM, Calif. (AP) — Francisco Lindor snapped a seventh-inning tie with a two-run homer and the remarkable Cleveland Indians held off Los Angeles for their 26th victory in 27 games. It was Lindor's 31st home run of the season, most by a switch-hitting shortstop in major league history. Albert Pujols hit his 614th home run for the Angels, who remained 1½ games behind Minnesota for the second AL wild card. The AL Central champion Indians have beaten the Angels 10 consecutive times. Tyler Olson (1-0) won in relief of Josh Tomlin, who allowed two runs in 5 1/3 innings. Bryan Shaw worked two hitless innings for his third save. The game was tied 2-all when Lindor connected off reliever Yusmeiro Petit (5-1). Edwin Encarnacion had an RBI single in the seventh and Jose Ramirez added one of his own in the eighth. The Indians are 95-57, only one game back of the slumping Los Angeles Dodgers for the best record in baseball and home-field advantage throughout the postseason. Cleveland trailed the Dodgers by 20 games on Aug. 25. C.J. Cron homered and hit an RBI single for the Angels. strong>YANKEES 11, TWINS 3 /strong> NEW YORK (AP) — Aaron Judge hit his AL-leading 45th home run and topped 100 RBIs, Didi Gregorius surpassed Derek Jeter for the most home runs by a Yankees shortstop and New York beat Minnesota for a three-game sweep. The game was briefly halted in the fifth inning when a foul ball down the third-base line off the bat of Todd Frazier struck a young girl, who was carried out of the stands, given first aid and taken to a hospital. Frazier knelt down and covered his head, and many other Yankees and Twins watched in stunned silence as the fan was helped. The Yankees, who have won 10 of 12, opened a seven-game advantage over the Twins for the top AL wild card with 10 games remaining. The Twins have lost five of six and were outscored 18-6 in the three-game series. They lead the Angels by 1½ games for the second wild card. Judge's two-run homer down the right-field line came on an 0-2 pitch from Bartolo Colon (4-6 in the AL and 6-14 overall). Chasen Shreve (4-1) pitched three hitless innings in relief of Luis Severino. strong>RAYS 8, CUBS 1 /strong> ST. PETERSBURG, Fla. (AP) — Blake Snell gave up two hits in seven shutout innings, and Tampa Bay ended Chicago's season-best seven-game winning streak. The Cubs, who had not lost since being swept by the Milwaukee Brewers in a three-game series in Chicago on Sept. 8-10, are scheduled to open a four-game series in Milwaukee on Thursday night. They lead the Brewers by 3½ games in the NL Central. Steven Souza Jr. hit his 30th home run in the first inning and the Rays added three more runs in the second off Jon Lester. Wilson Ramos, who had three of Tampa Bay's 10 hits, made it 7-0 with a two-run single in the fifth that knocked Lester (11-8) out of the game. Lester, who had won three starts since coming off the disabled list on Sept. 2, gave up seven runs and eight hits with three walks in 4 1/3 innings. He had no strikeouts. Snell (4-6) gave up singles to John Jay in the third and Addison Russell in the fifth. He walked three and struck out five in seven innings. Snell is 4-0 in 10 starts since July 24. strong>PHILLIES 7, DODGERS 5 /strong> PHILADELPHIA (AP) — Aaron Altherr hit a tiebreaking, two-run single in the eighth after launching a tying, two-run homer an inning earlier, and Philadelphia beat slumping Los Angeles. The Dodgers have lost four straight and 20 of 25 and will have to wait until at least Friday to wrap up the NL West. The Phillies have won eight of 10 and are 32-33 since the All-Star break, climbing out of last place in the majors. Luis Avilan (2-3) walked Cesar Hernandez to start the bottom of the eighth. Freddy Galvis bunted and catcher Austin Barnes made a wild throw to second base for an error that allowed the runners to reach second and third. Odubel Herrera struck out and Rhys Hoskins was intentionally walked. Brandon Morrow entered and Altherr ripped a hit off the right-field fence. Earlier in the series, Altherr became the first major leaguer to hit a grand slam off Clayton Kershaw. Luis Garcia (2-4) got the win despite allowing a run in the eighth. Hector Neris finished for his 23rd save in 26 chances. strong>PIRATES 6, BREWERS 4 /strong> PITTSBURGH (AP) — Adam Frazier hit a two-run homer off Milwaukee closer Corey Knebel with two outs in the ninth inning to lift Pittsburgh to the victory. The Pirates tied it in the eighth on a throwing error by Knebel then ended a seven-game losing streak when Frazier homered into the first row of seats in the right-field stands. Jesus Aguilar and Domingo Santana homered for the Brewers but Milwaukee missed a chance to pull into a tie with Colorado for the second wild-card spot in the National League. Knebel (1-2) had converted 21 straight save opportunities. Milwaukee lost for just the third time in its last 12 games. Felipe Rivero (5-2) earned the victory in relief. Frazier finished 2 for 5 with four RBIs. Starling Marte added two hits for the Pirates. strong>DIAMONDBACKS 13, PADRES 7 /strong> SAN DIEGO (AP) — David Peralta hit a leadoff homer and added a go-ahead double in the seventh for Arizona, which scored 11 runs in the final four innings and overcame Hunter Renfroe's three homers for San Diego. The Padres, who blew a 6-2 lead, hit five home runs and set a team record with 181 this season. Renfroe had his first career three-homer game and tied Nate Colbert's club mark for rookies with 24. Renfroe became the first Padres rookie to hit three home runs, and the seventh San Diego player overall to do it. The Diamondbacks, who have a comfortable lead in the NL wild-card race, hit four homers in avoiding a three-game sweep. They scored four times in the sixth to tie it, including a two-run homer by J.D. Martinez, and went ahead in the seventh. Chris Herrmann singled off Craig Stammen (2-3) and scored the go-ahead run on Peralta's double. A.J. Pollock hit a three-run homer in the four-run ninth. Jake Lamb connected for his 28th home run in the second. Jimmie Sherfy (2-0) pitched one inning for the win. strong>RANGERS 8, MARINERS 6 /strong> SEATTLE (AP) — Rougned Odor's grand slam capped a seven-run fourth inning and Texas beat Seattle to make up ground in the playoff chase. The Rangers moved within 2½ games of Minnesota for the second AL wild card. Seattle dropped its fifth straight and remained four games behind the Twins. Seattle, which trailed 7-1 early, pulled to 8-5 on Robinson Cano's two-run single in the seventh but then left the bases loaded. The Mariners made it 8-6 in the eighth. Andrew Cashner (10-10) allowed three runs in six innings for Texas. Alex Claudio got six outs for his 10th save. Longtime ace Felix Hernandez (5-5), making his second start for Seattle since coming off the disabled list, allowed six runs — five earned — on two hits and three walks in 3 1/3 innings. Nelson Cruz and Mitch Haniger homered for the Mariners. strong>ROYALS 15, BLUE JAYS 5 /strong> TORONTO (AP) — Mike Moustakas hit his 37th home run of the season, breaking Steve Balboni's Royals record, Salvador Perez and Whit Merrifield also connected and Kansas City routed Toronto. Rookie right-hander Jakob Junis (8-2) allowed four runs, two earned, in 6 1/3 innings, improving to 5-0 with a 2.42 ERA over his past eight starts. Moustakas went 3 for 4 and came within a triple of hitting for the cycle. He eclipsed Balboni's 1985 record with a solo blast to right off Carlos Ramirez in the sixth. Merrifield also had three hits and drove in a pair of runs as the Royals snapped a three-game losing streak and won for the second time in their past seven. Kansas City came within a run of matching its season high. The Royals scored 16 against Detroit twice within a seven-day span in late July. Leading 1-0, the Royals exploded for eight runs and seven hits in the second. Brett Anderson (3-4) allowed eight runs and seven hits in 1 1/3 innings. strong>GIANTS 4, ROCKIES 0 /strong> SAN FRANCISCO (AP) — Tyler Chatwood dug himself an early hole and Colorado lost to last-place San Francisco for its third straight defeat. Joe Panik hit a one-out triple in the first inning off Chatwood (8-13) and immediately scored on Denard Span's sacrifice fly. Panik then doubled in the third and came home on Buster Posey's sacrifice fly. Brandon Crawford hit a solo homer in the third to back Matt Moore (6-14), who earned his first win against Colorado after going 0-2 over his first three outings of the year. After two straight 4-3, walk-off setbacks, the Rockies lost for the fifth time in seven games overall following a six-game winning streak. They lead Milwaukee by one game for the second NL wild card. strong>CARDINALS 9, REDS 2 /strong> CINCINNATI (AP) — Dexter Fowler homered for the third straight game while Matt Carpenter and Paul DeJong also homered as St. Louis gained ground in its playoff push with a win over Cincinnati. Tommy Pham finished with two doubles, a single and two RBIs and Yadier Molina added a two-run double as the third-place Cardinals (79-72) gained a game on Colorado in the wild-card race to move within 2½ games. St. Louis sits five games behind the Cubs in the NL Central chase. Rookie right-hander Luke Weaver (7-1) retired 10 straight batters in one stretch on the way to his seventh straight winning start, the major leagues' longest active streak and the longest by a Cardinals pitcher this season. The 24-year-old allowed five hits and two runs with seven strikeouts in five innings. Relievers Zach Duke, Seung Hwan Oh, Sandy Alcantara and Sam Tuivailala teamed up to retire 12 of the final 13 Reds batters. Rookie Davis (1-3) gave up all three homers and five runs on five hits with three strikeouts in three innings. strong>NATIONALS 7, BRAVES 3 /strong> ATLANTA (AP) — Braves closer Arodys Vizcaino issued three bases-loaded walks in the six-run eighth, Gio Gonzalez pitched seven strong innings and Washington beat Atlanta. Gonzalez (15-7) allowed two runs, three hits and one walk to enjoy some rare good luck in the series. The left-hander, who struck out eight, began the night 4-11 with a 5.27 ERA in 20 career starts against the Braves. The NL East champion Nationals rallied from a 2-1 deficit for their third straight win. Pinch-hitter Wilmer Difo singled, Trea Turner doubled and Jayson Werth walked in the eighth against Jose Ramirez (2-3). Braves manager Brian Snitker brought in Vizcaino, and the move quickly backfired. Daniel Murphy, Ryan Zimmerman and Anthony Rendon walked, and Vizcaino left without a retiring a batter. Rex Brothers then gave up Adam Lind's two-run single and Michael Taylor's RBI single to make it 7-2. Ramirez allowed three runs, two hits and one walk with one strikeout in 1/3 of an inning. strong>ASTROS 4, WHITE SOX 3 /strong> HOUSTON (AP) — Yuli Gurriel had three hits, including a two-run double, Brad Peacock threw six solid innings and Houston extended its winning streak to six games with a win over Chicago. Peacock (12-2) allowed two runs on one hit with six strikeouts. The right-hander continues to throw well, allowing two runs or fewer in each of his last five starts. After Yoan Moncada put the White Sox up 2-1 in the top of the fourth with a two-run homer, Gurriel answered with his two-run hit in the bottom half of the inning. Jose Altuve upped Houston's lead to 4-2 with an RBI single in the seventh, but Yolmer Sanchez cut the lead to one with an RBI double in the eighth. Joe Musgrove struck out Moncada with the tying run on second to end the eighth and struck out Omar Narvaez with the tying run on second to end the game for his second save. James Shields (4-7) allowed three runs on six hits with four walks and five strikeouts in 5 2/3 innings. strong>MARLINS 5, METS 4, 10 INNINGS /strong> MIAMI (AP) — J.T. Realmuto homered in the 10th inning, and Miami beat New York after rallying for three runs in the ninth against former teammate A.J. Ramos. With one out, Realmuto hit a 1-1 pitch from Paul Sewald (0-6) into the Mets' bullpen for his 17th homer. Miami trailed 4-1 in the ninth before coming back against Ramos, who faced the Marlins for the first time since they traded the closer to New York on July 28. Justin Bour led off with his 22nd homer and first since a six-week stint on the disabled list. Ramos then gave up four singles, including two-out RBI hits by pinch-hitter A.J. Ellis and Ichiro Suzuki. Sewald replaced Ramos and struck out Christian Yelich on a 3-2 breaking ball with the bases loaded to force extra innings. Ramos' blown save was his first with the Mets. Major league home run leader Giancarlo Stanton walked a season-high four times and struck out in his only at-bat to remain at 55 homers with 11 games to go. strong>ATHLETICS 3, TIGERS 2 /strong> DETROIT (AP) — Daniel Mengden pitched seven scoreless innings, and Marcus Semien homered and drove in three runs, leading Oakland to a 3-2 win and three-game sweep of Detroit. Mengden (2-1) allowed seven hits and struck out four, extending his scoreless streak to 16 1/3 innings and helping the A's to their fourth consecutive win. The 24-year-old right-hander missed the first two months of the season after undergoing offseason foot surgery and was making his fifth major league start this year. Liam Hendriks got the final two outs in the ninth to earn his first save. Anibal Sanchez (3-5) pitched well in a losing effort, allowing three hits and one run in six innings. He struck out eight and walked three. .....»»

Category: sportsSource:  abscbnRelated NewsSep 21st, 2017

Joe Maddon wins in return to Tropicana Field

ST. PETERSBURG, Florida (AP) — Mike Montgomery took a no-hit bid into the sixth inning, Kyle Schwarber hit his 28th home run and the Chicago Cubs extended their winning streak to a season-high seven games by beating the Tampa Bay Rays 2-1 on Tuesday in manager Joe Maddon's return to Tropicana Field. Maddon managed Tampa Bay from 2006-14, then left for Chicago and last year led the Cubs to their first World Series title since 1908. Chicago holds a 3½-game lead over second-place Milwaukee in the NL Central. A crowd of 25,046, the largest at the Trop since opening day, gave Maddon a standing ovation in the middle of the first inning. Montgomery (7-8) allowed one hit in six innings, a one-out homer in the sixth by Brad Miller. The left-hander struck out six and walked one. Pedro Strop, Carl Edwards Jr. and Wade Davis each followed with an inning of perfect relief to complete the one-hitter. Davis struck out the side and remained perfect in 32 save chances. Javier Baez hit an RBI double against Chris Archer (9-11), who gave up four hits in six innings. strong>INDIANS 6, ANGELS 3 /strong> ANAHEIM, California (AP) — Jay Bruce had a triple and a double among his three hits, Austin Jackson singled four times and the incredible Cleveland Indians notched their 25th victory in 26 games. Roberto Perez added a solo home run for the AL Central champions to support a strong outing by Mike Clevinger (11-5). Los Angeles' offense struggled for the third consecutive game as the Angels missed a chance to gain ground on Minnesota in their bid for the final American League playoff berth. strong>RED SOX 1, ORIOLES 0, 11 INNINGS /strong> BALTIMORE (AP) — Jackie Bradley Jr. scored the game's lone run on a wild pitch by Brad Brach in the 11th inning, helping the Red Sox improve to 15-3 in extra-inning games. Boston has won 10 of 13 to move a season-high 23 games over .500 (87-64) and draw closer to clinching a postseason berth. The Red Sox stayed three games ahead of the second-place Yankees in the AL East. With a runner on second and two outs in the 11th, Brach (4-5) walked Andrew Benintendi and Mookie Betts to load the bases for Mitch Moreland, who sidestepped a bouncing pitch from Brach that enabled Bradley to score without a throw. Joe Kelly (4-1) worked the 10th and Matt Barnes got three outs for his first save. The Orioles have lost 11 of 13 to fall out of contention. strong>YANKEES 5, TWINS 2 /strong> NEW YORK (AP) — CC Sabathia recovered from a shaky start to pitch six innings, Brett Gardner had a pair of tying hits and the Yankees clinched their sixth straight series win. With their ninth victory in 11 games, the Yankees opened six-game lead over the Twins for the top AL wild card. Minnesota, which started the night 1 1/2 games ahead of the Los Angeles Angels for the second AL wild card, has lost four of five. Pitching on seven days' rest in a game that started 65 minutes late because of a downpour, Sabathia (12-5) allowed two runs and six hits. Aroldis Chapman worked a scoreless ninth for his 20th save in 24 chances. Minnesota right-hander Jose Berrios (12-8) yielded three runs in 3 1/3 innings. strong>PHILLIES 6, DODGERS 2 /strong> PHILADELPHIA (AP) — Rhys Hoskins had four RBIs for Philadelphia, including a tiebreaking three-run double off Pedro Baez in seventh inning. Los Angeles' magic number to clinch its fifth straight division title is two. The Dodgers have lost three consecutive games and 19 of 24. Hoskins saw 30 pitches in going 2 for 3 with a walk. He knocked out Yu Darvish with a sixth-inning RBI single that cut Philadelphia's deficit to 2-1, and then doubled to the left-center gap on the 10th pitch of his at-bat against Baez (3-6) for a 5-2 lead. Aaron Nola (12-10) allowed two runs in seven innings while striking out eight. The Phillies have won seven of 10. strong>BREWERS 1, PIRATES 0 /strong> PITTSBURGH (AP) — Chase Anderson struck out eight in six innings, Domingo Santana homered and the Brewers shut out the Pirates for the second straight day. The Brewers won for the ninth time in 11 games, keeping pace in the NL Central and wild-card races. They won for the fourth time in the past seven days against reeling Pittsburgh, which has lost a season-high seven consecutive games and 12 of 13. It was the 12th shutout of the season for the Brewers, tied for the second-most in the NL. Anderson (11-3) allowed five singles. Anthony Swarzak retired six of his seven batters, and Corey Knebel earned his 37th save. Pirates right-hander Trevor Williams (6-9) pitched five innings of three-hit ball. strong>MARLINS 5, METS 4, 10 INNINGS /strong> MIAMI (AP) — J.T. Realmuto homered in the 10th inning and Miami beat New York after rallying for three runs in the ninth against former teammate A.J. Ramos. With one out, Realmuto connected off Paul Sewald (0-6) for his 17th homer. Miami trailed 4-1 in the ninth before coming back against Ramos, who faced the Marlins for the first time since they traded him to New York on July 28. Justin Bour led off with his 22nd homer, and first since a six-week stint on the disabled list. Ramos then gave up four singles, including two-out RBI hits by pinch-hitter A.J. Ellis and Ichiro Suzuki. Ramos' blown save was his first with the Mets. Major league home run leader Giancarlo Stanton walked a season-high four times and struck out in his only at-bat to remain at 55 homers with 11 games to go. strong>CARDINALS 8, REDS 7, 10 INNINGS /strong> CINCINNATI (AP) — Dexter Fowler hit a tying homer in the eighth inning and a go-ahead double in the 10th to help St. Louis get past Cincinnati. Yadier Molina and Paul DeJong also connected for the Cardinals, who were swept by NL Central-leading Chicago last weekend and had dropped four of five overall. Juan Nicasio (4-5) pitched 1 1/3 innings for the win, and Tyler Lyons got two outs for his third save. The third-place Cardinals (78-72) remained six games back of the Cubs in the division. St. Louis also is in the mix for a wild card after missing the playoffs last season. The winning rally began when Tim Adelman (5-11) hit Kolten Wong with a pitch leading off the 10th. After the double by Fowler, DeJong added a two-out RBI single. Cincinnati got one back on Scooter Gennett's 26th homer. Zack Cozart also went deep for the Reds. Each team used eight pitchers. strong>NATIONALS 4, BRAVES 2 /strong> ATLANTA (AP) — Max Scherzer allowed five hits in seven innings, and Washington tuned up for the playoffs with a victory over Atlanta. Scherzer (15-6) bounced back from his worst start of the season, also against the Braves last week, when he walked six and was roughed up for seven runs in an 8-2 loss. This time, Scherzer struck out seven and walked only one while throwing 83 of 112 pitches for strikes. Sean Doolittle earned his 22nd save, his 19th in as many chances since the Nationals acquired him from Oakland on July 16. Ryan Zimmerman had three hits and two RBIs for the NL East champions. Braves rookie Luiz Gohara (1-2) gave up four runs and 11 hits in 6 1/3 innings. strong>BLUE JAYS 5, ROYALS 2 /strong> TORONTO (AP) — Marcus Stroman pitched seven innings to win for the first time in six starts and Darwin Barney hit a two-run homer, helping the Blue Jays to the victory. Alex Gordon's solo drive for Kansas City in the eighth was the majors' 5,694th homer of the season, breaking the record set in 2000 at the height of the Steroids Era. There were 5,610 homers last year, an average of 2.31 per game, and this year's average of 2.53 entering Tuesday's action projects to 6,139. Barney went 2 for 3 with three RBIs as the Blue Jays opened their final homestand on a winning note. Stroman (12-8) allowed one run and four hits, and Roberto Osuna got his 37th save. Royals right-hander Ian Kennedy (4-12) was charged with two runs in five-plus innings. strong>ASTROS 3, WHITE SOX 1 /strong> HOUSTON (AP) — Jose Altuve homered, Alex Bregman hit an RBI double and AL West champion Houston extended its winning streak to five games with a victory over Chicago. Collin McHugh (3-2) allowed one run and five hits with five strikeouts in five innings for the Astros. It was the right-hander's first outing since detaching a fingernail on his pitching hand Sept. 8. McHugh has made only 10 starts this season after also missing time with a shoulder issue. Will Harris, Luke Gregerson and Chris Devenski each threw a scoreless inning before Ken Giles pitched the ninth for his 32nd save. Lucas Giolito (2-3) gave up two runs in 6 2/3 innings for the White Sox. strong>ATHLETICS 9, TIGERS 8 /strong> DETROIT (AP) — Jed Lowrie hit a go-ahead grand slam against Alex Wilson, and Oakland overcame a four-run deficit to beat Detroit. The Tigers trailed 3-0 in the third inning, then took an 8-4 lead into the seventh, when Ryon Healy hit a bases-loaded grounder to shortstop Jose Iglesias, who bobbled the ball for an error as Lowrie scored. Joey Wendle, Franklin Barreto and Chad Pinder started the eighth with singles off Wilson (2-5), and Lowrie followed with his third career slam. Miguel Cabrera singled off Chris Hatcher starting the bottom half and took third on Nicholas Castellanos' double. But Jeimer Candelario grounded out and, after an intentional walk, Hatcher struck out James McCann and Mikie Mahtook. Santiago Casilla (4-5) pitched a perfect seventh. Blake Treinen closed for his 12th save this season and ninth since being traded from Washington to Oakland. Oakland rookie Matt Olson homered for the fifth straight game, tying Matt Stairs (1998), Dave Kingman (1986) and George Alusik (1962) for the second-longest streak in Athletics history behind Frank Thomas' six in 2006. Olson has 15 home runs in his last 21 games. Castellanos, Alex Presley and Ian Kinsler homered for Detroit. .....»»

Category: sportsSource:  abscbnRelated NewsSep 20th, 2017

Royals beat Indians 4-3 to halt Cleveland's record streak

The Associated Press br /> CLEVELAND (AP) — The Cleveland Indians can return to clinching their division and playoff preparations. Their historic winning streak is, well, history. Cleveland's AL-record run was stopped at 22 straight games by Friday night's 4-3 loss to the Kansas City Royals, who became the first team to conquer the defending league champions since Aug. 23. Jason Vargas (16-10) pitched into the sixth and Brandon Moss homered off Trevor Bauer (16-9) as the Royals ended baseball's longest win streak in 101 years. With one last chance in the ninth, the Indians put the tying run on base before Mike Minor struck out the side for his first pro save, fanning Francisco Lindor on a pitch in the dirt for the final out. DODGERS 7, NATIONALS 0 WASHINGTON (AP) — Alex Wood struck out eight in six innings, Corey Seager hit a three-run homer during a five-run second and the Dodgers won on the road. Wood (15-3) allowed three hits and walked one. Los Angeles has won three in a row after losing 11 consecutive games and 16 of 17. The teams entered the highly anticipated three-game series having clinched playoff berths and owning the top two records in the National League. The Dodgers lowered their magic number to clinch the NL West to six. Justin Turner and Yasiel Puig homered in the Dodgers' first Washington appearance since winning Game 5 of the NL Division Series last October. Edwin Jackson (5-6) lasted just 2 1/3 innings. The NL East champion Nationals fell six games back of Los Angeles in the chase for home-field advantage in the playoffs. BREWERS 10, MARLINS 2 MILWAUKEE (AP) — Neil Walker hit a grand slam during an eight-run eighth inning, and the Brewers beat the Marlins in the opening game of a series relocated from Miami to Milwaukee because of the aftermath of Hurricane Irma. The Marlins were technically the home team and batted in the bottom of the innings. Milwaukee even used palm trees, fake flamingos and giant blue and pink sea shells to give Miller Park a South Florida feel. Miami's Dee Gordon went hitless in four at-bats to end his 17-game hitting streak. Brian Ellington (0-1) got the loss. Jared Hughes (4-3) picked up the win after tossing a scoreless seventh inning. RED SOX 13, RAYS 6, 15 INNINGS ST. PETERSBURG, Fla. (AP) — Xander Bogaerts had two hits in Boston's seven-run 15th inning and the Red Sox beat Tampa Bay in a game that lasted 6 hours, 5 minutes. Austin Pruitt (7-5) walked Jackie Bradley Jr. to lead off the top of the 15th. Bogaerts followed with a single. Dustin Pedroia hit a ground ball that was misplayed by second baseman Brad Miller, allowing Bradley to score the lead run. Andrew Benintendi, Mitch Moreland, Deven Marraro and Bogaerts drove in extra runs for the Red Sox, who maintained their three-game lead over the New York Yankees in the AL East. Brandon Workman (1-1) got the win. Blaine Boyer, the 21st pitcher to appear in the game, pitched the 15th for Boston. Nine Red Sox pitchers set a club record with 24 strikeouts. CUBS 8, CARDINALS 2 CHICAGO (AP) — Kris Bryant had three hits, including his 27th homer, and the Cubs opened a big weekend series with their fourth consecutive win. Bryant went deep in the fourth and singled twice in Chicago's seven-run sixth. The NL Central-leading Cubs stayed three games ahead of Milwaukee and increased their advantage over St. Louis to four games. Chicago pitcher John Lackey and catcher Willson Contreras were thrown out for yelling at plate umpire Jordan Baker in the fifth. Carl Edwards Jr. (4-4) pitched a perfect sixth for the win. Tommy Pham homered for St. Louis. Carlos Martinez (11-11) was charged with seven runs and six hits in 5 1/3 innings. YANKEES 8, ORIOLES 2 NEW YORK (AP) — Didi Gregorius hit a tiebreaking two-run homer and drove in four runs, leading the Yankees to their fifth win in six games. Luis Severino (13-6) allowed three hits in eight innings. He made one big mistake, Welington Castillo's opposite-field, two-run homer to right that put the Orioles ahead 2-1 in the second. Severino is 8-2 with a 2.09 ERA in 12 starts since the All-Star break. Gregorius hit a sacrifice fly in the first, homered against Miguel Castro for a 4-2 lead in the fifth and added another sacrifice fly in a three-run seventh. Baltimore lost for the eighth time in nine games. Gabriel Ynoa (1-2) allowed three runs — two earned — and five hits in 4 1/3 innings. ASTROS 5, MARINERS 2 HOUSTON (AP) — Carlos Correa and Evan Gattis had two hits apiece and each drove in a run, and the Astros moved closer to clinching the AL West title. Houston's magic number dropped to two, meaning the Astros could secure their first division championship since 2001 with a win on Saturday if the Angels lose Friday or Saturday. The Astros led 3-0 after one inning as James Paxton (12-4) struggled in his return from the disabled list after sitting out since Aug. 10 with a strained pectoral muscle. He allowed three runs in 1 1/3 innings to snap a seven-game winning streak. Charlie Morton (12-7) pitched six strong innings for Houston. Ken Giles tossed a scoreless ninth for his 31st save. DIAMONDBACKS 3, GIANTS 2 SAN FRANCISCO (AP) — Robbie Ray won his fifth straight start and A.J. Pollock hit a two-run double as Arizona beat San Francisco. Ray (14-5) struck out 10 and gave up two runs (one earned), six hits and no walks as the Diamondbacks won for the 19th time in 24 games and for the eighth straight time on the road. The Diamondbacks trailed 2-1 when Pollock doubled in two runs off Jeff Samardzija (9-14) in the seventh inning. Arizona reduced its magic number for clinching its first postseason berth since 2011 to seven. BLUE JAYS 4, TWINS 3 MINNEAPOLIS (AP) — Josh Donaldson homered and drove in the go-ahead run in the seventh inning with an infield single that ricocheted off the mound, sending Toronto to the win. J.A. Happ (9-10) pitched into the seventh inning in his third straight win, and Roberto Osuna got three outs for his 36th save in 46 opportunities. The Twins had a three-game lead over the Los Angeles Angels for the second AL wild card going into the night, with the Seattle Mariners 3 1/2 games back. The New York Yankees hold the first wild card with a four-game edge on the Twins. Twins starter Bartolo Colon (6-13) was charged with four runs in six-plus innings on 'Big Sexy Night.' The Twins had souvenir T-shirts for fans who bought a special ticket package in honor of the burly right-hander, who joined the Twins two months ago and has more than held his own despite his decreased velocity. ANGELS 7, RANGERS 6 ANAHEIM, Calif. (AP) — C.J. Cron hit a two-run homer to cap the a five-run rally in the sixth inning, and Los Angeles trimmed its deficit in the AL wild-card race to two games. Andrelton Simmons had two run-scoring singles for the Angels (75-72), who gained a game on the Minnesota Twins (77-70) with just their third win in eight games. Los Angeles used seven pitchers in a bullpen start, with former closer Bud Norris getting the first six outs. Yusmeiro Petit (5-0) pitched two perfect innings, and Blake Parker earned a six-out save. Shin-Soo Choo hit a two-run homer in the sixth for Texas (72-75). The Rangers have lost four straight and six of seven, their playoff hopes down to a flicker. Yohander Mendez (0-1) took the loss. ROCKIES 6, PADRES 1 DENVER (AP) — Tyler Chatwood pitched into the sixth inning and drove in his first runs of the season, helping the Rockies to the victory. Nolan Arenado homered as Colorado remained 2 1/2 games ahead of Milwaukee and moved 3 1/2 games ahead of St. Louis for the second NL wild card. Chatwood (8-12) tossed 5 2/3 innings and left after Wil Myers' 28th homer. It was Chatwood's third start after six relief appearances. San Diego's Clayton Richard (7-14) allowed four runs and seven hits in six innings. REDS 4, PIRATES 2 CINCINNATI (AP) — Zack Cozart hit two of Cincinnati's four solo home runs, powering the last-place Reds to the victory. Joey Votto and Scott Schebler also connected, sending the Pirates to their third straight loss and eighth in the last nine games. Homer Bailey (5-8) allowed one run in 5 2/3 innings for his first win in six starts since Aug. 11. Raisel Iglesias got five outs for his 27th save. Chad Kuhl (7-11) gave up all four home runs, a single-game career high for the second-year right-hander. ATHLETICS 4, PHILLIES 0 PHILADELPHIA (AP) — Daniel Mengden pitched a two-hitter for Oakland, and Matt Olson and Matt Joyce each hit a two-run homer. Mengden (1-1) struck out seven and walked none in his first career shutout in his 18th start. J.P Crawford had both hits off Mengden. Phillies starter Mark Leiter Jr. (3-6) allowed four runs and seven hits in six innings. Mengden also got his first career hit, a single off Crawford's glove in the shortstop hole before Joyce connected in the second. TIGERS 3, WHITE SOX 2 DETROIT (AP) — Mikie Mahtook hit a game-ending RBI single with two outs in the ninth inning, helping Detroit stop a six-game skid. Former Tigers reliever Al Alburquerque (0-2) walked Jeimer Candelario with one out in the ninth, and Aaron Bummer walked Tyler Collins with two outs. White Sox manager Rick Renteria brought in Juan Minaya, who uncorked a wild pitch to move the runners to second and third. Mahtook then hit a 3-2 pitch up the middle for his first career game-ending hit. Shane Greene (4-3) got four outs for the win. BRAVES 3, METS 2 ATLANTA (AP) — Sean Newcomb struck out eight in 5 1/3 innings, and the Braves handed the Mets their fifth straight loss. Newcomb (3-8) gave up two runs and six hits. Arodys Vizcaino pitched the ninth for his 11th save in 13 opportunities. Rafael Montero (5-10) became the fourth straight Mets starter pitcher to fail to complete five innings. He was lifted with two outs in the fifth after throwing 108 pitches and allowing three runs and seven hits. .....»»

Category: sportsSource:  abscbnRelated NewsSep 16th, 2017

Paul and Harden lead No. 1 seed Rockets against Wolves

By Kristie Rieken, Associated Press HOUSTON (AP) — So far the trade for Chris Paul to give the Houston Rockets another superstar to help James Harden has worked famously. Now the two, who have both had their fair share of playoff disappointments, will try to carry their regular-season success into the postseason when the Rockets open a first-round series with Minnesota on Sunday night (Monday, PHL time). The guards have been effusive in their praise for one another, with Harden recently joking that his relationship with the nine-time All-Star was "love at first sight." Paul didn't go quite that far, but a huge smile crossed his often serious face when asked how their pairing has worked. "Unbelievable," he said. "You just [don't] get this opportunity too often in a career to play with somebody like James ... you get a chance to appreciate greatness. "What he's doing on a nightly basis and stuff like that, it's crazy and I'm in awe," Paul continued. "I'm grateful I get to play alongside him." When told of what Paul said about him, Harden was quick to answer. "You can tell," he said. "It feels like it's been forever but it's not even been a year yet." Their work in the regular season led the Rockets to a franchise-record 65 wins, their first No. 1 seed and sixth straight playoff appearance. They are looking to win the title for the first time capturing back-to-back championships in 1994-95. For the 32-year-old Paul, it's a chance for him to finally shake off years off playoff woes after making nine playoff trips without advancing past the second round. But if he is haunted by the ghosts of playoffs past, he wouldn't acknowledge it and was dismissive when asked if he thought this was his best chance to win it all. "I don't know," he said. "I don't think about all that." What he and the Rockets do know is that they're facing a talented team in the eighth-seeded Timberwolves, who had to win their last regular-season game to get into the postseason. They ended the NBA's longest active playoff drought with their berth, putting them back in the postseason for the first time since 2004 when they lost to the Lakers in the Western Conference finals. Getting the Timberwolves into the playoffs is a huge accomplishment for the entire team, but might mean just a little more to star Karl-Anthony Towns, who made a vow the night Minnesota selected him with the top overall pick in the 2015 draft. "It means more than I think words can express honestly," he said. "I made a promise to ... Flip Saunders and it meant a lot to me that I was able to keep my word." Some things to know as the Timberwolves and Rockets open their series: BACK HOME The series is a homecoming for Minnesota's Jimmy Butler, who grew up in Tomball, a suburb about 35 miles from downtown Houston. But he insists he won't have any time to get back out there this week. "Nope," he said. "Zero [time]. I ain't even going home. I'm here to work." But he did spend a little time on Saturday (Sunday, PHL time) reminiscing about his high school days when he idolized a former Rockets star. "I used to walk around the hallways and in the gym thinking I was Tracy McGrady," he said. "I remember it like it was yesterday. He was my favorite player. I wanted to wear his number, wear his tennis shoes, all of that good stuff." Butler, who returned on April 6 (April 7, PHL time) after missing 17 games with a knee injury, said he's fully recovered from his injury and is "well-rested" entering the playoffs. PLAYOFF HISTORY This is the second time these teams have met in the playoffs. Their other meeting came in Minnesota's first trip in 1997, when the Timberwolves were swept in three games. That Houston team was led by Hakeem Olajuwon, Clyde Drexler and Charles Barkley, and the Wolves featured Kevin Garnett, Stephon Marbury and Tom Gugliotta. LIMIT KAT FROM LONG RANGE The Rockets are resigned to the fact that Towns, who led the NBA in double-doubles, will get his points under the basket and plenty of rebounds. "He's going to get a double-double," Houston coach Mike D'Antoni said. "That's who he is." However, they are not OK with letting him shoot three-pointers. The seven-foot Towns ranked 14th in the league with a 42 percent average from three-point range and knocked down a career-high 120 three-pointers this season. "We [can't] leave him open or let him walk into a 3 because we're not guarding him," D'Antoni said. "We have to be aware of that. You can't take away his post-ups and his moves in there. He's going to score on anybody, but you can do a really good job on the three's." HARDEN'S MOTIVATION Despite finishing as the runner-up for MVP last season and being a front-runner for this year's award, Harden still faces plenty of criticism for some of his past performances in the playoffs, notably, a terrible performance in an embarrassing 114-75 elimination loss to San Antonio in the conference semifinals last season. But he has never been motivated by criticism, and he finds his drive in a far different place. "Just going out there and being the best that I can be," he said. "There's no negativity that someone can say that can motivate me. Some people can get motivated by that. I don't really care.".....»»

Category: sportsSource:  abscbnRelated NewsApr 15th, 2018

MVP Ladder: No topping Harden in award chase

By Sekou Smith, NBA.com Stump speeches aren’t necessary. Not when your campaign drives itself on performance alone, when you elevate the conversation with each and every outing, the way James Harden did from the opening tip of this regular season until the final buzzer. So if it seems like Harden has skillfully avoided getting caught up in this reporter-crafted Kia MVP pickles that often drive the rest of our NBA dialogue on a daily basis, it’s by design. Besides, who needs to dive in on the debate when you have unsolicited celebrity endorsements from the likes of Kobe Bryant, who made clear to USA Today Sports that Harden’s time is now. “It’s got to be James,” Bryant said. “I really don’t understand the debate about picking somebody else. I don’t get it. Like, what the hell does this guy have to do? I mean for the last three years, the guy has been absolutely lights out, and now you still want to sit here and debate who should be MVP when he leads the league in scoring (30.4 points per game), his assists numbers (8.8 apg) are off the charts, they have the best record in the league (65-16). “If he doesn’t win MVP this year, what the hell is he supposed to do to win MVP, average 40 [points], 15 [assists] and 15 [rebounds]? I mean, come on now. Enough is enough.” After coming up short twice in the past three seasons, Harden is poised to capture the Maurice Podoloff Trophy. It is something he felt he earned last season, when his former Oklahoma City Thunder teammate, Russell Westbrook, used a triple-double season to claim the hardware. Stephen Curry won the award in 2015 and 2016, his star rising in concert with the Golden State Warriors' surge from lottery team, to contender to championship-winner in two of the last three seasons. While Curry claimed those awards, Harden won MVP honors in a vote of his peers at the NBPA’s first Players Awards in July 2015. There will be no dispute this time around. There is no other narrative that trumps Harden’s.   No other player's performance rises above what he’s done for the Rockets this season, the first with he and fellow superstar point guard  Chris Paul sharing the leadership load of the league’s best team. Not even four-time Kia MVP LeBron James, who turned in one of the finest seasons of his 15 year career in Cleveland, could catch Harden on the Kia Race to the MVP Ladder or in the minds of most voters. Rockets coach Mike D’Antoni coached Bryant, Carmelo Anthony and two-time Kia MVP Steve Nash. Yet it was Harden who received D'Anton's greatest compliment after a win in Portland last month when called Harden the “best offensive player I’ve ever seen.” “He’s a hell of a player, first off,” D’Antoni told USA Today Sports when asked to explain his declaration. “It’s a combination of everything. There are other players who might be better at this, or a little bit better at that. But when you put everything together, and the way he passes, the way he sees teammates, the way he can lob, the way he can fight through a foul. I mean even on an off night, he’s probably getting 30, 40 points, and I mean efficiently. And he doesn’t even have anything going. But he’s so efficient, and he gets other guys involved.” If the strength of Harden’s MVP case this season was just his own individual offensive brilliance, he’d still have a rock-solid case. He did record the first 60-point triple-double in NBA history this season and won the scoring title a season after leading the league in assists. But, as D’Antoni noted, Harden's ability to raise the level of play from teammates like Clint Capela, Eric Gordon, Trevor Ariza and others is what stands out. “I don't think there's a player that's had to create as much as I've had to in these last three years," Harden said in a GQ profile that came out this week. "I don't know if there's a guy in NBA history.” That comment can be interpreted in a number of ways, and it’s sure to spark yet another debate as the conversation continues deep into this postseason about who is most deserving of Kia MVP honors. But we’re done here. “It’s James Harden, no doubt about it,” a Western Conference executive told me when asked if there was any dispute about this season’s most valuable player. “Harden in a landslide.” * * * The top five in the Final Edition of the 2017-18 Kia Race to the MVP Ladder: 1. James Harden, Houston Rockets Last week: No. 1 2017-18 season stats: 30.4 points, 8.8 assists, 5.4 rebounds Harden declared early on that this was the Rockets’ season. He felt they finally had the pieces to challenge the Golden State Warriors for the top spot in the Western Conference standings, and, therefore, the entire league. He served notice on opening night, when he and the Rockets spoiled the Warriors' championship banner and rings celebration at Oracle Arena by claiming a win. Harden’s 27 points, 11 assists and six rebounds was the opening salvo in what turned into the best season in Rockets history. Harden’s ability to blend his point guard responsibilities with his role as the most lethal scorer in the league fueled one brilliant performance after another. As well, Harden also silenced the critics who suggested he and Paul would not be able to play well off of each other. The Rockets enter the postseason with the No. 1 overall seed and with all the confidence needed for a championship run. 2. LeBron James, Cleveland Cavaliers Last week: No. 2 2017-18 season stats: 27.5 points, 9.1 assists, 8.6 rebounds LeBron put the final touches on his outstanding 15th NBA regular season by capturing Eastern Conference Player of the Month honors for March/April, the fourth time this season he took those honors (October/November, December and February). In addition to the parade of milestones LeBron reached this season, he also piled up a career-high 18 triple-doubles, led the Cavaliers through a tumultuous year that ended with 50 or more wins for the fourth straight season. He shot better than 54 percent from the floor (.542) and also had his best shooting from beyond the 3-point line (.367) since returning to Cleveland from Miami before the 2014-15 season. The true test of his super powers, though, will be on display in this postseason. The Cavaliers finished as the fourth seed in the Eastern Conference but go into the playoffs as the favorite, in the eyes of most, to survive the gauntlet due in large part to LeBron’s work the past seven seasons guiding his teams to The Finals. 3. Anthony Davis, New Orleans Pelicans Last week: No. 3 2017-18 season stats: 28.1 points, 11.1 rebounds, 2.3 blocks Davis turned it on when the Pelicans needed it most, after DeMarcus Cousins went down with a season-ending Achilles injury. He powered the Pelicans with 50 double-doubles, one triple-double and, when the Pelicans needed grind their way into the postseason as 2017-18 waned, he picked his game up even more. He averaged 29 points, 11.2 rebounds, 3.8 blocks, 2.4 assists and 2.2 blocks during the Pelicans’ season-ending five-game win streak that helped them secure the No. 6 seed. That sealed up Davis' second career playoff run and he’s still looking for his first playoff win. His ability to carry the load for the Pelicans the way he did, though, is easily the most impressive part of his season. There was no guarantee the Pelicans would make the playoffs in a rugged Western Conference even with Cousins healthy. To do it without him speaks volumes about the impact Davis had on his team. 4. Damian Lillard, Portland Trail Blazers Last week: No. 4 2017-18 season stats: 26.9 points, 6.6 assists, 4.5 rebounds Lillard has done what few thought possible after the Portland team he joined as a rookie was taken apart and rebuilt around him. The catalyst for a Blazers team that finished third in the West, Lillard forced his way onto that short list of names in the best-point-guard-in-the-game discussion. He lacks the championship and/or Kia MVP hardware guys like Curry, Kyrie Irving and Westbrook all have. But his body of work as the face of Portland's franchise makes it difficult to leave him out of the discussion. The Blazers wouldn't have come anywhere close to that No. 3 seed without Lillard going nuclear in February (31.4 points, six assists and nearly five rebounds in 10 games). This has been a transformative year on and off the court for Lillard, who is not only had a career-best season, but also celebrated the birth of his son late last month. 5. Kevin Durant, Golden State Warriors Last week: No. 5 2017-18 season stats: 26.4 points, 6.8 rebounds, 5.4 assists Durant followed up his 2017 Finals MVP honors with a steady season, by his lofty standard, but not one that pushed him closer to the top of this list. His understanding of the way the regular season connects to the postseason no doubt played a role in the way he paced himself. That’s not to say that Durant didn't have an outstanding regular season, because he did. But just like James and to an extent his All-Star teammate, Curry, Durant’s seasons are now measured against the high standard he’s set in past ones. He actually averaged more points and assists this season compared to his first with the Warriors. And he set a career-high with 1.8 blocks per game, showing off his improved awareness and effectiveness on defense. With Curry out for the first round of the playoffs due to injury, Durant will get a chance to remind the San Antonio Spurs and the rest of the league just how dangerous he can be with everything on the line. The next five 6. Russell Westbrook, Oklahoma City Thunder 7. DeMar DeRozan, Toronto Raptors 8. Stephen Curry, Golden State Warriors 9. Giannis Antetokounmpo, Milwaukee Bucks 10. Joel Embiid, Philadelphia 76ers And five more: LaMarcus Aldridge, San Antonio Spurs; Kyrie Irving, Boston Celtics; Nikola Jokic, Denver Nuggets; Victor Oladipo, Indiana Pacers; Karl-Anthony Towns, Minnesota Timberwolves 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 NewsApr 14th, 2018

UAAP VOLLEYBALL: We deserve that (win) -- Deanna Wong

We deserve that victory. This was setter Deanna Wong’s statement after Ateneo de Manila University pulled off one of the most exciting comebacks in 80th UAAP women’s volleyball tournament. Who would not agree? The Lady Eagles came back from a seven-point deficit late in the fourth set and needed to thread the proverbial eye of the needle in the deciding frame on Sunday just to repel an upset-conscious Adamson University side, 24-26, 25-19, 21-25, 26-24, 15-12, at the Big Dome to secure at least a playoff for a Final Four berth.      “We concentrated on the team, on ourselves, all we needed to do was like to talk to each other lang and trust talaga, it’s really what brought the team up,” said Wong, who played a superb game as she led Ateneo’s fluid offense. “I couldn’t let that fifth set slip away from us and I knew we deserve that (win).” The third year volleybelle tallied a career-best 63 excellent sets in 140 attempts. Her great setups were converted by the Lady Eagles to 57 attack points including 20 kills from Jho Maraguinot, who finished with 23 points. Her performance came on the heels of her 50-excellent set outing in a four-set win over University of the East last Wednesday.  “Actually, hindi ko napapansin or I really don’t mind,” she said. “All I really had sa head ko lang is how I can chase the ball, how I can set the ball kahit misreceive.” “So like ano it’s a good thing but it’s better talaga if we win kahit anong number ‘yan hindi naman ‘yan magma-matter if we lose,” she added. Ateneo built an 11-6 lead in the deciding frame only to see Adamson tie it at 11 after Jho Maraguinot sent her attack straight to the net. Bea De Leon put the Lady Eagles back on top before Mylene Paat committed a net touch error that gave Ateneo a 13-11 lead. Jema Galanza saved a point the Lady Falcons but Maraguinot answered with a hammer before the Lady Eagles sealed the win with a solid net defense to deny Paat.     The Lady Eagles went down, 15-22, in the fourth frame before mounting a blistering 11-2 rally to steal the set and turn the tide of the battle in their favor.  “We never gave up lang, that’s the thing, it really all boils down to character and what coach Tai (Bundit) always says, heartstrong talaga ‘yung nakapunta sa isip namin eh,” said Wong. “We trusted our teammates lang and we encouraged each other back, we said na no matter what happens just play our best and everything else will follow.” The win was Ateneo’s fourth straight as the Katipunan-based squad improved to 8-3 win-loss record. The Lady Eagles will face University of Sto. Tomas on April 4, University of the Philippines on April 7 before closing the elims on April 15 against archrival two-time defending champion De La Salle University.    “We may have clinched the playoff spot but our goal is the Top 2 or the Top 1 so importante talaga ang twice-to-beat advantage. I think that’s our next goal naman,” said Wong.     --- Follow this writer on Twitter, @fromtheriles.....»»

Category: sportsSource:  abscbnRelated NewsMar 25th, 2018

Arellano U dethrones CSB, sets up Finals showdown against Perpetual

Arellano University clinched the a championship berth after dethroning College of St. Benilde, 25-22, 28-26, 25-23, Tuesday in the 93rd NCAA men’s volleyball stepladder semifinals at the Filoil Flying V Centre in San Juan. The Chiefs set up a best-of-three championship showdown against unbeaten University of Perpetual Help starting Friday. Christian dela Paz and Kevin Liberato combined for 27 points to help lift the Arellano U. Meanwhile, reigning titlist Perpetual Help downed Arellano U, 25-17, 20-25, 25-19, 25-17, to clinch the first finals berth in juniors’ play. Noel Michael Kampton led the way with 20 points including 15 on kills to help power the Junior Altas back into the best-of-three finale against the winner of the other Final Four match pitting Emilio Aguinaldo and Letran. The Las Pinas-based school is gunning a fourth straight crown and 11th overall, which would put it the second most titled team in NCAA high school volleyball behind Letran, which has a league-best 14 championships. The Squires, seeded fourth, spoiled a Perpetual-EAC title showdown, after it pulled off a shock 21-25, 25-20, 25-13, 25-13 win over the top-seeded Brigadiers to force a knockout duel for the last championship berth scheduled Friday. It was the second straight win of a do-or-die game for Letran, which also edged San Beda, 25-16, 24-26, 25-19, 20-25, 20-18, Friday to clinch the last spot to the Final Four. Christian Wilsan dela Cruz led a balanced attack with 15 hits while Mark Denver Omega, John Paulo Lorenzo and Mhel Gabuyo chipped in 13, 12 and 11 points, respectively, to help the Squires to snatch the win. EAC, which clinched the top seeding entering the Final Four, will have another chance to make a return trip to the finals as it hopes to stop Letran......»»

Category: sportsSource:  abscbnRelated NewsFeb 13th, 2018

Lions hope coach Matt Patricia ends their search for winner

By Larry Lage, Associated Press ALLEN PARK, Mich. (AP) — Matt Patricia’s unlikely path to becoming an NFL coach began with his buddies, setting up miniature players on a vibrating, metal field for fierce games of electric football. “I knew at a very young age the strategic part of the game was something that I just loved,” Patricia said Wednesday after being introduced as coach of the Detroit Lions. “I thrived on it. We would try to just out plan each other all the time and we’d have huge games that would roll into weeks at a time.” Years later, Patricia took a pivotal step toward his dream job after earning an aeronautical engineering degree at Rensselaer Polytechnic Institute by being a graduate assistant at his alma mater. The former offensive lineman — who is from Sherrill, New York — coached up one of the players at RPI and saw him do what he was taught during a game. “The success that we had and his joy that he showed from being able to do that, that’s really when it clicked for me as a coach,” Patricia said with his previously bushy beard trimmed and a pencil over his right ear. “At that point, the strategic part of the game along with my coaching aspirations just kind of put things in motion.” The Lions desperately hope Patricia takes full advantage of his first opportunity to lead a football team and ends their decades-long search for a coach who can lead them to elusive success in the playoffs. Since winning the 1957 NFL title, Detroit’s only postseason victory was more than a quarter-century ago. “Our goal is to win and to compete for championships,” team president Rod Wood said. “I believe that we are taking the next step in meeting those expectations.” Lions general manager Bob Quinn fired coach Jim Caldwell last month with a 36-28 mark over four years and two playoff appearances. The Lions went 9-7 last season and missed the playoffs, ranking among the NFL’s worst rushing teams for the fourth straight year. “I wanted to find a leader that could take us to the next level and I am confident we have found that in Matt Patricia,” Quinn said. The 43-year-old Patricia helped New England win three Super Bowls over 14 years. He was the Patriots’ defensive coordinator the past six seasons. Detroit’s search was focused on Patricia right from the start because he worked with Quinn for a dozen years in New England. “We sat next to each other in a lot of team meetings in New England for many of our years together,” Quinn recalled. “We also spent a great deal of time together on the road scouting college prospects, traveling around the country trying to find new players.” In recent years, Patricia has become a candidate to lead a team in the league as one of Bill Belichick’s top assistant coaches. He appeared to be in the running to be hired by his homestate New York Giants and perhaps the Arizona Cardinals, but choose the challenge in the Motor City at least in part because of his relationship with Quinn. “My comfort level with Bob is huge in all of this,” he said. After being a graduate assistant at RPI in 1996, Patricia shifted gears to be an aeronautical engineer for two years. Patricia got back on the sideline as a defensive line coach at Amherst College in 1999 and went on to be a graduate assistant for Paul Pasqualoni, whom he has hired to be Detroit’s defensive coordinator. Jim Bob Cooter was not mentioned in the Lions’ release regarding staff additions , but he is listed on the team’s website as its returning offensive coordinator. “Jim Bob is on staff and he will be here,” Patricia said. “Obviously, he’s done a great job here in what he’s been able to accomplish with both him and (Matthew) Stafford and the offense.”.....»»

Category: sportsSource:  abscbnRelated NewsFeb 8th, 2018

Comeback Kings: Patriots thrive at late-game playoff rallies

By Josh Dubow, Associated Press BLOOMINGTON, Minn. (AP) — Tom Brady is the comeback king in the playoffs. From his past two Super Bowl wins to the AFC championship game rally against Jacksonville that got the Patriots to the NFL's biggest stage for the third in four seasons, no quarterback has engineered more late-game playoff comebacks than Brady. But he is not alone. Whether it was Marcus Mariota and the Tennessee Titans in the wild-card round against Kansas City earlier this postseason, or Russell Wilson against Green Bay in (2015) or Andrew Luck against the Chiefs the previous year, there have been as many playoff comebacks from at least 10 points down in the fourth quarter the past five seasons as there were the previous 26 seasons. "What happens is instead of playing the team, they start playing the clock. Sometimes you win and sometimes you go against a bad boy like Tom Brady and you get burned," former Colts receiver and current NFL Network analyst Reggie Wayne said. "A lot of that falls onto the coaches. The players are going to run what the coaches call." Whether it's Atlanta failing to run the ball enough late in last year's Super Bowl that helped the Patriots rally from 28-3 down to win in overtime or Seattle's decision to pass at the goal line instead of hand it to Marshawn Lynch back in 2015, questionable coaching decisions have contributed to some of those comebacks. But nobody is better at exploiting those mistakes than Brady and the Patriots. He has four playoff wins in games he trailed by at least 10 points in the fourth quarter, including the "Tuck Rule" game against Oakland in 2002. No other quarterback has led more than one such comeback in playoff history. "There's a great belief no matter what the circumstances, that we have enough to overcome it," Brady said. "I don't think we want to try to overcome that again this year. That was pretty tough to do. Hopefully we can get a lead, play from ahead, play on our terms." The Patriots are comfortable when that happens. They are 6-6 in the playoffs when trailing after three quarters under Brady and coach Bill Belichick, while the rest of the NFL has a 27-140 record in that span with only Russell Wilson and Eli Manning having more than two fourth-quarter comebacks with four each. Not that it is by design. "That whole comeback thing is overrated," said NFL Network analyst Willie McGinest, who won three Super Bowl titles as Brady's teammate in New England. "Players can't go in and say, 'Hey, we want to win this game in dramatic fashion, be down 11 with eight minutes to go and come back and have the crowd go crazy.' You want to be in control, play a certain way and be in front. Because that changes how you play the game." The biggest deficit overcome to win a Super Bowl before last season was just 10 points and the Patriots were the first team to overcome a deficit that big in the second half when they did it against the Seahawks three years ago. The only other teams to come back from 10 points down to win a Super Bowl faced those deficits early in the second quarter with New Orleans rallying against Indianapolis in 2010 and Washington against Denver in 1988. Brady's postseason passer rating when trailing in fourth quarter the past four years is a staggering 121.2, compared to 75.6 for the rest of the NFL. In last year's Super Bowl comeback, the Falcons appeared to tire and struggled to generate pressure, sending more than four pass rushers on just two of 24 pass plays in the fourth quarter. The Jaguars also only brought more than four rushers on two of 15 fourth-quarter pass plays in the AFC title game when New England came back from 20-10 down to win 24-20. "What teams do wrong is they go zone," Wayne said. "He's going to pick zone apart all day, every day. He's going to spread you out and they're the best at creating mismatches.".....»»

Category: sportsSource:  abscbnRelated NewsFeb 4th, 2018

Patriots back in AFC title game, Titans trip into offseason

Patriots back in AFC title game, Titans trip into offseason.....»»

Category: sportsSource:  abscbnRelated NewsJan 14th, 2018

Chargers rout Raiders 30-10, but playoff chase falls short

By Greg Beacham, Associated Press CARSON, Calif. (AP) — Philip Rivers passed for 387 yards and three touchdowns, but the Los Angeles Chargers missed out on a playoff berth despite their 30-10 victory over the Oakland Raiders on Sunday. Keenan Allen scored on a 27-yard fumble recovery and a 6-yard TD catch for the Chargers (9-7), who won six of their final seven games in their relocation season. The Bolts needed help from losses by two other AFC teams to become the second team in NFL history to make the playoffs after an 0-4 start, and they were eliminated when Tennessee beat Jacksonville moments after the final gun in Carson. Tyrell Williams caught a 56-yard TD pass and Travis Benjamin caught a 62-yard scoring pass for the Chargers, who won nine of their final 12 games. They fought fiercely to overcome their 0-4 start, which included two losses decided by missed field goals on the final snap, but the Bolts couldn’t quite do it. The Chargers swept their season series with their fiercest rivals and earned their fifth straight win at StubHub Center despite a crowd cheering loudly for the Raiders, who played in Los Angeles County for the first time since moving back to Oakland after the 1994 season. Those fans had little to celebrate as the Chargers beat down the Raiders, and a handful of silver-and-black fans threw bottles at the Chargers’ defense while it celebrated a fourth-quarter turnover in the end zone. Amari Cooper caught an 87-yard touchdown pass from Derek Carr, but the Raiders (6-10) gave their faithful LA fans little else to cheer. Carr passed for 243 yards as the Raiders wrapped up their 14th non-winning season in the past 15 years amid loud speculation about coach Jack Del Rio’s future. Rivers became the ninth quarterback in NFL history to surpass 50,000 yards passing, and he tied Fran Tarkenton for sixth place in league history with 342 touchdown passes. The 36-year-old passer left little doubt he’s still on top of his game with a series of fine long passes, shredding the Raiders’ beleaguered secondary. After a scoreless first quarter, Allen finished a 99-yard drive for the Chargers by being in the right place when running back Melvin Gordon fumbled for the first time all season. The ball popped in the air and straight to Allen, who took it in for the sixth TD of his Pro Bowl season. The Raiders answered with a beautiful, long strike down the middle from Carr to Cooper, who took it in untouched. Williams scored untouched on another long strike down the middle of the Raiders’ defense later in the quarter. Allen then capped the half with an exceptional TD grab on a pinpoint fade pass from Rivers. Gordon rushed for 93 yards for the Chargers, who finished the scoring in the third quarter when Benjamin went in untouched on another long throw by Rivers. KEENAN’S HISTORY Allen finished with nine catches for 133 yards in the latest spectacular game in his Pro Bowl season. He broke LaDainian Tomlinson’s single-season Chargers record on his 101st catch of the season in the fourth quarter. GET THAT MONEY Marshawn Lynch finished strong in his first season with his hometown team, getting 101 yards rushing and earning a $600,000 bonus for surpassing 800 yards on the season. He also surpassed 10,000 yards rushing for his career with an 11-yard gain late in the fourth quarter. INJURIES Raiders: S Karl Joseph injured his hamstring in the first half. ... DL Eddie Vanderdoes had to be helped off the field in the fourth quarter. Chargers: Backup S Adrian Phillips missed his first game of the season after injuring his ankle last week......»»

Category: sportsSource:  abscbnRelated NewsJan 1st, 2018

UAAP Finals Flashback: The last time an Ateneo-La Salle championship series went the distance

The UAAP season 80 men’s basketball tournament will boil down to one final game. The Ateneo Blue Eagles, then armed with a 1-0 Finals lead, looked poised to win the title in Game 2 when they took a commanding 21-point lead over the De La Salle Green Archers early in the first half. But the defending champion Green Archers, sparked by a feisty Kib Montalbo, an inspired Ricci Rivero, a dominant Ben Mbala, and a resurgent Andrei Caracut, rallied past the Blue Eagles to tie the series and force a winner-take-all game slated this Sunday, December 3.  And now, we’re faced with the two sweetest words in UAAP basketball: Game Three. The last two times an Ateneo-La Salle Finals clash was pushed to a deciding game was back in 2001, and 2002, more than 15 years ago, with both schools splitting the spoils.  Let’s look back at the epic clash between the Blue Eagles and the Green Archers in the 64th and 65th season of the UAAP men’s basketball Finals that went the distance, as a preview of the upcoming chapter of this historic rivalry. -- 2001: A DLSU Odyssey Since Ateneo and La Salle’s last Finals clash back in 1988, the two squads went on separate paths before rekindling their storied rivalry. The Blue Eagles took home the title back in ’88, but the Green Archers scored back-to-back titles in 1989 and 1990 before UST and FEU burst into the UAAP basketball scene for much of the decade. Behind sweet-shooting guard Ren-Ren Ritualo, and the crafty Don Allado powering the Franz Pumaren-led Green Archers, La Salle was fast becoming a dynasty, scoring a three-peat from 1998-2000. Meanwhile, Ateneo was deep into its so-called “dark ages”, with their title drought stretching into 13 years, but the best was yet to come heading into season 64. UAAP 2001 FINALS, GAME 1: La Salle 74, Ateneo 68 With DLSU focused on extending its dominance by claiming its fourth straight championship, the rebirth of the rivalry was on. Ateneo, with its best collection of players in a long time, had the best possible chance to put an end to the dark ages. The Green Archers proved why they were three-time defending champs, showing their championship poise by going on a huge fourth quarter run to down the Blue Eagles and to move one win away from their four-peat. UAAP 2001 FINALS, GAME 2: Ateneo 76, La Salle 72 With their backs against the wall, Ateneo forced a deciding match behind a masterful 22-point performance. by blossoming big man Enrico Villanueva.  It was also Villanueva who found Magnum Membrere for a three-pointer to put the game away and to keep the Blue Eagles alive. The victory also marked Ateneo’s first win over DLSU that season, after three attempts. UAAP 2001 FINALS, GAME 3: La Salle 93, Ateneo 88 The deciding game was a shootout between DLSU’s Carlo Sharma and Ateneo’s LA Tenorio, who dropped 22 points, and 30 points respectively. Sharma’s production was a career-high for him, and it came at the best possible time. He made 11 of his 22 markers in the fourth quarter, helping the DLSU Green Archers claim their fourth straight UAAP championship. It was a fitting end to Ritualo’s collegiate career, who got his number 4 jersey retired after leading La Salle to a rare four-peat.   -- 2002: Ateneo's Great Revenge Revenge was the main storyline in the UAAP season 65 Finals. For Ateneo, it was redemption for the previous season’s devastating loss at the hands of De La Salle.  Meanwhile, the Green Archers wanted to exact revenge to the Blue Eagles, who stained their undefeated record at the final game of the elimination round, to deny a sweep, and an outright Finals berth for DLSU in a  shocking 83-71 win. UAAP 2002 FINALS, GAME 1: Ateneo 72, La Salle 70 With unfinished business from last year, Enrico Villanueva took over late in the game, scoring Ateneo’s final ten points to seal Game 1 for the blue side. This game served as a huge statement not just for the Blue Eagles, but also for Larry Fonacier whose iconic block on Mark Cardona proved to be the difference maker to help move Ateneo one win away from redemption. UAAP 2002 FINALS, GAME 2: La Salle 85, Ateneo 77 Again, championship poise proved to be La Salle’s edge against an Ateneo squad that was deemed as “tense” in Game 2. After struggling in the first game, Mike Cortez was sat down by Coach Franz to have a talk, reminding his ward that as a veteran, he should lead his teammates by example. Facing elimination, the Green Archers, and Cortez were on fire to start the second game, taking a commanding 18-point lead over Ateneo by the end of the first half, 50-32. Cortez finished with 21 points as De La Salle evened up the series to force a deciding Game 3. UAAP 2002 FINALS, Game 3: Ateneo 77, La Salle 70 With DLSU gaining momentum from a convincing Game 2 win, a five-peat looked imminent heading into the third and final game of the season. Timely baskets from Wesley Gonzales and then-rookie LA Tenorio early on helped the Blue Eagles take the lead, however slim, over La Salle heading into the payoff period, 56-52 for the first time in the Finals series. Enrico Villanueva, the season MVP, put on a career-defining performance in final game as a Blue Eagle, finishing with 14 points, 11 rebounds, capped off by four assists, and two steals as they hold off a fierce rally by DLSU to bring home the title back to Katipunan for the first time since 1988. The win was an apt send-off for Villanueva, who helped Ateneo halt fierce rival La Salle’s consecutive championship run to four titles......»»

Category: sportsSource:  abscbnRelated NewsDec 3rd, 2017

Bottas has Hamilton in a spin at season-ending Abu Dhabi GP

By Jerome Pugmire, Associated Press ABU DHABI, United Arab Emirates (AP) — Performing celebratory spins around the track was about as emotional as it got for Valtteri Bottas, after he beat his Mercedes teammate Lewis Hamilton to win the season-ending Abu Dhabi Grand Prix on Sunday. Hamilton joined the straight-faced Finnish driver in performing spins — known in Formula One as donuts — having already sealed his fourth world title before the season's finale. The race offered little excitement, but there wasn't much to fight over as the serious stuff had already been pretty much decided. Sebastian Vettel joined them on the podium, finishing third — and second overall — in an anti-climax to a season that had promised so much for Ferrari as it hoped to win its first drivers' title since 2007. As the three drivers soaked each other with celebratory bottles on the podium, Hamilton used his to douse Vettel as the German driver tried to turn and protect himself. It seemed a triumphant and fitting image, victor over vanquished. Vettel was already thinking of drowning his sorrows, perhaps understandably considering how his title challenge collapsed spectacularly following the summer break. "Probably find something to drink tonight and sober up tomorrow," Vettel said. "Congratulations to Lewis on his season. He was the better man. I hate to say it but he deserved it." Starting from pole position for the second straight race Bottas secured the third win of his career — all since joining from Williams. His 22nd career podium was his 13th with Mercedes. "It is a really important win for me after having a pretty difficult start to the second half of the year," said Bottas, who had a mid-season slump that damaged his confidence. "We Finns don't show much emotion but it doesn't mean we don't have any. I am so happy." Bottas placed third overall, 12 points behind Vettel and 58 behind Hamilton. "Hopefully better next year," Bottas said. He has only been given a one-year extension to his Mercedes contract, having joined this year as an emergency replacement for 2016 world champion Nico Rosberg. Having sealed the title, Hamilton had no need to chase Bottas too hard. The 32-year-old British driver finished 4 seconds behind and did not get close enough to attack on a track he called among the worst for overtaking in F1. "Never going to overtake unless he makes a massive mistake," Hamilton said. The race started at 5 p.m. local time with the sun setting on the desert setting of the Yas Marina circuit and finished under floodlights. Vettel, who won the last race in Brazil, finished about 20 seconds behind Bottas. "After three or four laps, I just couldn't go any faster," Vettel said. Vettel's Ferrari teammate Kimi Raikkonen — the 2007 F1 champion — was fourth and also moved up to fourth in the standings. Hamilton clinched the title — his third with Mercedes — in Mexico two races ago when he ended Vettel's fading hopes. The German driver's challenge evaporated in the Asian heat between September and October. Perfectly poised to regain the championship lead, he crashed out of the Singapore GP from pole position. "It's a bit different if you finish the race rather than if you don't finish the first lap," Vettel said with evident sarcasm. Then, plagued by reliability issues unbefitting a team of Ferrari's stature, he started last and finished fourth at the Malaysian GP. Bad luck struck again when he qualified third before retiring from the Japanese GP. "Mercedes has been more consistent," Vettel said generously. "It's a straight fight and they just did better." Continuing the sportsmanlike mood, Hamilton added: "Looking forward to another battle next year." Red Bull driver Max Verstappen finished the race in fifth while teammate Daniel Ricciardo retired, dropping to fifth in the standings. The other wins for Bottas this season came in Russia and in Austria — also from pole. Hamilton won nine races this year — having won 10 during the past two seasons and a career-best 11 in 2014. The lower total is due to Ferrari's marked improvement this year. "I don't think it's a shame to come second in the way that we did," Vettel said. "But it's not what we want." Bottas made a clean start while Hamilton held off Vettel, who locked his left front tire angling into the first corner. Vettel was the first of the trio to pit for new tires. Bottas did one lap later, leaving Hamilton briefly in front. At much the same time, Ricciardo retired, leaving his stranded Red Bull on a patch of grass as he hitched a lift on the back of a scooter. It was the third time in four races — and sixth this year — that the Australian driver has failed to finish. He is weighing up his Red Bull future. Felipe Massa, the 2008 F1 runner-up to Hamilton, finished 10th in his last race......»»

Category: sportsSource:  abscbnRelated NewsNov 26th, 2017

The Pistons are 10-3, and might be the surprise of the NBA

By Tim Reynolds, Associated Press The Detroit Pistons are heading on the road for a few days, so maybe someone will see them play. They’ve certainly been worth watching. Detroit’s 10-3 start, good for No. 2 in the Eastern Conference standings, is one of the biggest good surprises in the NBA through the season’s first month. The Pistons already have a road win at Golden State, swept a five-game homestand — possibly to the delight of all those unoccupied red seats at Little Caesars Arena, more on that in a moment — and are off to their best start in 12 years. “I know that we’re playing as a team right now,” Detroit’s Luke Kennard said. “We’re really locked in. We’re really playing together and we play hard. When you have a team that does that together, you win.” Now comes the test. Starting Wednesday (Thursday, PHL time), the Pistons play five of their next six games on the road — visiting Milwaukee, Indiana and Minnesota before returning home to face Cleveland, then heading right back out for a trip to Oklahoma City and Boston. After topping Miami to finish off a 5-0 homestand Sunday (Monday, PHL time), Pistons coach Stan Van Gundy made no effort to hide how pleased he is right now. “We did a great job here, and now you just move on to the next challenge,” Van Gundy said. “Now 9-of-11 on the road, the next three games on the road against teams you beat at home so you know they want back at you. The challenges just keep mounting, but you put wins in the bank.” Maybe at some point, there will be fans in the seats. The brand-new Detroit arena has a listed capacity for basketball at 20,491, which was the announced crowd for opening night. In seven games since, the Pistons have announced crowds between 13,709 and 17,683 — and those numbers may be generous, given how empty the building looks on television. Officially, Detroit sold 76 percent of its tickets in those seven games. ___ GIANNIS WATCH Technically, no foreign player has ever won an NBA scoring title. Dominique Wilkins has one and he was born in Paris, but only because his father was in the U.S. Air Force. Giannis Antetokounmpo may change that in a few months. And if not this season, then probably soon enough. The Milwaukee star who hails from Greece went into this week averaging just over 31 points per game and leading the league in that department. He was the Most Improved Player last season and don’t be surprised if he gets more votes for that trophy this season — along with MVP ballots as well. “He plays now to destroy you,” Spurs coach Gregg Popovich told reporters last week before Antetokounmpo scored 28 in Milwaukee’s road win over San Antonio. “In the beginning he was pretty darn good and he would do this and he would do that. But now he knows he can do it to you every time. He’s for real.” Antetokounmpo turns 23 on Dec. 6. The only other players in the last 50 years with 5,000 points, 2,000 rebounds and 1,000 assists before celebrating their 23rd birthdays — Hall of Famer Tracy McGrady, and future Hall of Famer LeBron James. ___ ANNIVERSARIES A couple of significant milestone dates are nearing. Sunday (Monday, PHL time) marks the 13th anniversary since the so-called “Malice at The Palace,” the infamous brawl involving Indiana and Detroit after Metta World Peace (then Ron Artest) went into the stands after a fan hit him with a drink. The aftermath included nine players being suspended, and security in NBA arenas has been different ever since. And Tuesday (Wednesday, PHL time) is the 16th anniversary of the first call-up from what is now called the NBA G League — the Denver Nuggets brought eventual NBA champion Chris Andersen up from the Fayetteville Patriots, a move that paved the way for hundreds of players to truly view the development league as a springboard to the NBA. ___ THE WEEK AHEAD Some games to keep an eye on over the coming days: — Philadelphia at L.A. Lakers, Wednesday (Thursday, PHL time): Ben Simmons and Lonzo Ball, a matchup of future NBA assist leaders. — Golden State at Boston, Thursday (Friday, PHL time): An NBA Finals preview? The road team has won five straight in this series. — Oklahoma City at San Antonio, Friday (Saturday, PHL time): Russell Westbrook has triple-doubles in his last two games vs. the Spurs. — Houston at Memphis, Saturday (Sunday, PHL time): The Rockets’ wide-open offense goes up against the Grizzlies’ airtight defense. — Washington at Toronto, Sunday: John Wall vs. Kyle Lowry might get overlooked on an NFL Sunday, but shouldn’t. ___ STAT LINE OF THE WEEK Paul George, Oklahoma City: His 37-point, eight-rebound, five-assist game against Dallas on Sunday (Monday, PHL time) wasn’t even his best game of the week (he had 42, 9 and 7 two nights earlier against the Clippers). But the Sunday (Monday, PHL time) game gets the nod since it came on Russell Westbrook’s birthday and when asked what he got his teammate, George said “I got him 37.”.....»»

Category: sportsSource:  abscbnRelated NewsNov 15th, 2017

10 things to know going into the 2017-18 NBA season

By Tim Reynolds, Associated Press Happy New Year, NBA. The 72nd regular season starts Tuesday night (Wednesday, PHL time), when Boston heads to Cleveland and Houston goes to Golden State. Fans in Cleveland will boo Kyrie Irving, fans in Oakland will cheer the Warriors’ latest championship banner, and the march toward April will finally be underway. The offseason was loaded with changes. Carmelo Anthony and Paul George went to Oklahoma City, Gordon Hayward and Irving went to Boston, Isaiah Thomas got sent to Cleveland, Jimmy Butler is now in Minnesota and Paul Millsap calls Denver home. That’s seven All-Stars who moved, a record for an NBA offseason. Every coach who started last season will start this season. That’s an NBA first. Here’s 10 things to know about the NBA season that is finally here: ___ 10. QUICK STARTERS San Antonio, Toronto and Miami will likely start 1-0 — because under current management, San Antonio, Toronto and Miami almost always start 1-0. Spurs coach Gregg Popovich is 18-2 on opening night, Raptors coach Dwane Casey is 7-1 and Heat coach Erik Spoelstra is 7-2. Spoelstra has started 1-0 in each of the last six seasons, the longest such run in the NBA. A coach in need of a 1-0 start? Try New Orleans’ Alvin Gentry. He’s dropped five straight openers and is 2-9 on opening night. Brooklyn, Orlando, Milwaukee and Utah have the league’s longest current opening-night losing streaks, starting 0-1 in each of the last four seasons. 9. FROM DISTANCE Last season was the third straight where the NBA’s team single-season three-point record fell, starting with Houston (933 in 2014-15), Golden State (1,077 in 2015-16) and Houston again (1,181 from 2016-17). Between the Rockets, Cleveland, Boston and the Warriors, four of the five highest single-season three-point totals in history came last season. Don’t expect the 3-ball to go away anytime soon, either. 8. LEBRON’S MARKS LeBron James’ list of milestones is about to get longer. He comes into this season 1,213 points shy of becoming the seventh NBA player to reach 30,000, meaning it should happen by about the All-Star break barring any extended absence. He’s also on pace to eclipse the 8,000-rebound and 8,000-assist marks this season. The only other player in NBA history with 25,000 points, 6,000 rebounds and 6,000 assists is Kobe Bryant. James already has all those numbers, and counting. 7. WHERE’S THE DEFENSE? In 2014-15, half the league — 15 teams — held opponents under 100 points per game. Two seasons later, San Antonio and Utah were the only teams that managed the feat. The league’s planned crackdown on traveling this season might help, but it’ll be interesting to see if defensive numbers improve in this era of three-point-reliant, pace-and-space basketball. 6. MAYBE MINNESOTA Think about this, with apologies to fans in the Pacific Northwest: There have been more NBA playoff games in Seattle over the last 13 years than in Minneapolis. This will finally be the year that changes. The Timberwolves, who last reached the postseason in 2004, should return this spring even in a loaded Western Conference with Karl-Anthony Towns, Andrew Wiggins and new addition Jimmy Butler leading the way. 5. SPURS CHASE HISTORY If the Spurs win 41 games this season — a safe bet — it’ll be the 21st consecutive season where San Antonio finishes the regular season at .500 or better. That would tie the NBA mark in that department, matching the feat set by the Utah Jazz from 1983-84 to 2003-04. The Spurs set a record for consecutive winning seasons last year with their 20th. (Utah was 41-41 in 1984-85.) 4. DIRK’S LONGEVITY Dallas’ Dirk Nowitzki enters this season 31 games away from passing Kevin Willis for No. 6 on the NBA’s all-time list. At 48,673 minutes, he’s also within striking distance of No. 5 Elvin Hayes (50,000), No. 4 Jason Kidd (50,111) and No. 3 Kevin Garnett (50,418). 3. STEPH WATCH Stephen Curry will have just turned 30 when this regular season ends. And by then, he legitimately could be No. 3 on the NBA’s all-time three-point list. Curry starts this season No. 10, and at his current pace will pass Ray Allen for the top spot sometime in the 2019-2020 season. 2. NEW DEADLINE No longer will the All-Star Game be overshadowed by talk of who’s getting moved where (like last year, when DeMarcus Cousins was traded to the Pelicans while players were still in locker rooms in New Orleans immediately after the game). The trade deadline will now be 10 days before the All-Star break, so this season that means Feb. 8 (Feb. 9, PHL time). 1. AND THE WINNER IS ... How can anyone pick against Golden State right now? The Warriors will get their third title in four years, which is the easiest prediction possible. So we’ll finish this with some probably less-than-chalk picks: LeBron James is going to reclaim the MVP award, the Rockets will have a game where they connect 30 times from three-point range and Charlotte’s Steve Clifford will be coach of the year......»»

Category: sportsSource:  abscbnRelated NewsOct 17th, 2017

24 NBA questions before 17-18 tips off

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

Category: sportsSource:  abscbnRelated NewsOct 17th, 2017

Goals dry up for Man United as Man City delivers masterclass

em>By Steve Douglas, Associated Press /em> LIVERPOOL, England (AP) — The goals finally dried up for Manchester United in the English Premier League. They are flowing more than ever at title rival Manchester City. Hours after United's cautious approach eked out its latest 0-0 draw at Liverpool on Saturday, City produced an attacking masterclass in a 7-2 home win over Stoke — the biggest victory in the league this season. The standard of opponent was vastly different but it was hard to escape the contrast between the top two teams, who many are tipping to be vying for the title. After eight rounds, the Manchester rivals remain unbeaten but City has taken the outright lead for the first time by two points from its neighbor. City is setting new standards in attacking play: Its goal tally of 29 is the most by a team in the first eight league games of a top-flight season in 123 years, since Everton scored 30 in 1894. Before its trip to Anfield, United had 21 goals from seven games. There was finally something to celebrate for Crystal Palace, which registered its first points and goals of the season in a surprise 2-1 win over Chelsea. With Chelsea losing for the second straight game, third-placed Tottenham leads the chase to the Manchester clubs after beating Bournemouth 1-0 for a first league win at its temporary home of Wembley Stadium in four attempts. Arsenal conceded in injury time to lose 2-1 at Watford. Here's a look at Saturday's action: strong>HISTORY REPEATED /strong> Twelve months after a 0-0 draw in what has traditionally been regarded as the biggest fixture in English soccer, Liverpool and Man United played out another goalless draw at Anfield. Afterward, coaches Juergen Klopp and Jose Mourinho launched a defense of their respective footballing philosophies, aiming little digs at each other and claiming private victories. The loser was a global audience that expects more quality from England's most decorated and illustrious clubs. United defended in numbers and had goalkeeper David De Gea to thank for preserving a point in the game's most significant incident, the Spain goalkeeper sticking out his left boot to keep out Joel Matip's effort from point-blank range. Liverpool controlled possession but couldn't pierce the wall of white United jerseys set up by Mourinho, whose players carried out his game plan to the letter. strong>SLICK CITY /strong> City didn't even need top scorer Sergio Aguero in its latest attacking clinic. The Argentina striker stayed on the bench on his return to the squad after sustaining a broken rib in a car crash. He watched as City's free-scoring attack — a front three of Gabriel Jesus, Leroy Sane and Raheem Sterling, with David Silva and Kevin De Bruyne orchestrating behind them — ran amok at Etihad Stadium. On his 100th appearance for City, De Bruyne had a hand in four of the goals — including a no-look pass in one of the build-ups and a threaded ball that took out four Stoke players for Sane to score. Gabriel Jesus scored twice and Sterling, David Silva, Fernandinho and Bernardo Silva also netted for City, which has at least five goals in its last three home league games. City has won seven of its eight games. strong>RELIEF FOR PALACE /strong> 'We're Crystal Palace, we score when we want,' sang the fans as the league's bottom club found the net for the first time this season — in its eighth game. Invariably, it was an own goal, by Chelsea defender Cesar Azpilicueta, in the 11th minute, but it sparked a surprisingly impressive display by Palace at Selhurst Park. Tiemoue Bakayoko equalized for the champions with a header from a corner in the 18th but Palace responded on the stroke of halftime through winger Wilfried Zaha, who was back in the team for the first time since getting injured on the opening weekend. Chelsea has lost back-to-back games, having been beaten by Manchester City 1-0 before the international break, and has dropped nine points behind first-place City. strong>TOTTENHAM WINS, ARSENAL LOSES /strong> After two draws and a loss at Wembley, Tottenham finally won at its new home thanks to Christian Eriksen's goal just after halftime. Harry Kane had his first game in six without a goal. In contrast to its concerning home form, Spurs have won all four away league games. They stayed five points behind City, and trimmed the gap to United to three points. Tom Cleverley scored Watford's winner against Arsenal in the second minute of injury time, completing his team's comeback from going behind to Per Mertesacaker's goal. Troy Deeney equalized from the penalty spot. In other games, Burnley came back to draw 1-1 against West Ham, which had Andy Carroll was sent off for two bookings, and Swansea beat Huddersfield 2-0. .....»»

Category: sportsSource:  abscbnRelated NewsOct 15th, 2017