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Curry, Lillard battle for NBA supremacy, Oakland s affection

By Shaun Powell, NBA.com OAKLAND — He arrived at the Western Conference finals wearing the jersey of the Oakland A’s, who play right next door at the Coliseum, just a five-minute drive from where he was born. Damian Lillard paused and signed a few autographs before entering Oracle Arena, because he is a man of the people, and these are his people. None of them mention that, in their hearts, they’re rooting for him to lose this playoff series, and so it goes unspoken, a truce in a sense. For this fleeting moment, they’re Lillard fans, until the ball goes up. And then it’s all for Steph Curry, all night long. There is a competition within the competition between the Warriors and Blazers, and it is the battle for the affection of Oakland. There is Lillard, the pride of the Brookfield Village neighborhood, who has blossomed into a bonafide star with the Blazers. And then there’s Curry, the symbol of a basketball renaissance here, who has raised the profile of Oakland the last several years. Now you see why The Town is a bit conflicted. A bit. [Watch the Playoffs on NBA League Pass for 30% less with this limited time offer! Select Annual package and use code SAVE30 at checkout to redeem] The conference championship may well hinge on the performance of these All-NBA guards. Game 1 was fairly lopsided, both in terms of the teams — Warriors 116, Blazers 94 — and the two principles. Lillard struggled Tuesday (Wednesday, PHL time) and appeared whipped, physically if not mentally, no doubt from a grueling seven-game second round that just wrapped up 48 hours earlier. He missed 8-of-12 shots, had seven turnovers and, in a rarity for him, he was a non-factor for Portland. He’s a combined 7-for-29 in his last two games. Meanwhile, Curry rolled, dropping 36 points and the Blazers along with them. And so, this is the verdict: Portland cannot hope to stretch this series beyond four games, five tops, without the max from Lillard. He obviously means that much. And Curry, now working without the comforts of his injured co-star Kevin Durant for the second straight game, and maybe without Durant for another two games, needs to keep his skills elevated to prevent suspense from encroaching on the series. The Warriors are well aware of what Lillard has done to them in the past; he has averaged more points against the hometown team (27.0) than any in his career likely because of provincial pride. Yet Golden State is also aware that he has yet to beat them in any game or series of significance. “He’s one of the best guards in this league and carries a chip on his shoulder and it has (worked) well for him in his career,” said Draymond Green. “A special talent. I know he’s excited to be back home playing in the last year at Oracle. So it’s special for him but it don’t mean nothing to us. We’ve got to come out here and try to stop him. A tall task.” While the East Bay has given birth to its share of NBA stars, with Bill Russell, Jason Kidd and Gary Payton among them, Lillard is still freshly active and refreshingly loyal. The connection between him and Oakland remains unwavering despite fame and distance and the fact it’s his job and desire to shock the world in the next few weeks. He played at St. Joseph Notre Dame in Alameda and then finished at Oakland High, and a thick section of fans at Oracle Wednesday were wrapped in Blazers gear and made their preference clear. Most were either from the old neighborhood or family members. His high school coach, Damon Jones, is a Warriors season ticket holder, and Jones said: “Nobody bought me a drink tonight.” The coach added, playfully: “They gave me a hard time. When the Warriors scored, they wanted to turn around and slap five but then caught themselves at the last minute.” Jones remembers Lillard as being a promising and quick guard who picked up the nuances of the game rapidly. “He was very personable for someone his age, a solid teammate,” Jones said. “He still keeps in touch with all of his former teammates. It’s a brotherhood and he’s the leader. He’s always trying to be a positive influence on everyone around here.” Lillard returns every summer to give away backpacks with school supplies and funded the renovation of the Oakland High gym. He’s a familiar sight around town in the offseason and always approachable, and that loyalty and devotion doesn’t go unnoticed. “People here respect him,” said Raymond Young, Lillard’s AAU coach. “When he comes here to play, people here say they’re going to clap for Damian but cheer for the Warriors. Only he can get that kind of reaction. His loyalty comes from his family. His mother and father were no-problem parents. They let us coach him. He was a joy to be around. Still is.” Lillard is even more endearing because he comes from humble beginnings and is self-made. Both of his youth coaches are admittedly shocked by his impact in the NBA. He wound up at Weber State. He wasn’t highly recruited by the big schools. Even nearby Cal-Berkeley came late. “But if he goes there,” said Young, “does all this happen?” Lillard is revered in another place as well. Portland is also smitten by his loyalty; in an age of transient stars, Lillard has never wanted to play anywhere else. Perhaps this has cost him some visibility, with a majority of his games tipping off at 10:30 ET. It’s a price he’s more than willing to pay. Lillard has never taken a team this deep into the playoffs, where legends and reputations are made, and so being in the conference finals represents some new and deserved shine for him. A layer of that invisibility was peeled off in these playoffs where Lillard has come up massive. His shot from nearly 40 feet that eliminated Oklahoma City in the first round, and the bye-bye wave reaction, became iconic. Then he followed up with a strong second round as well against the Nuggets, although as that series crept to the conclusion, Lillard shot just 3-for-17 in that Game 7, then followed up with a 4-for-12 Tuesday (Wednesday, PHL time), proof that he might be gassed — and also that the Warriors cooked up a defensive game plan specifically for him. “Obviously it’s a little bit difficult physically and emotionally just because you’re excited about being in the Western Conference finals,” said Lillard. “You come straight here form Denver and get ready for the best team in the league. But once we lace our shoes and put our uniforms on, it’s fair and square. You got to go out there and handle your business. "They did a good job defensively and even when I was trying to find (teammates), they were getting deflections. They were making me play in a crowd. I thought they were successful at that … in this first game.” But his toughest task of all might be upstaging Curry, particularly here in Oakland. While Lillard has flourished through much of the postseason, Curry by comparison has been mild, especially by his standards. The missed layups, a famously flubbed dunk attempt and sporadic three-point shooting was unsightly. And then, after Durant limped off the floor, Curry felt a sense of urgency and a flush of greatness. He buried the Rockets with a pair of epic fourth quarters, then kept the faucet running Tuesday (Wednesday, PHL time). The Blazers couldn’t limit or at least slow him anywhere on the floor, especially from the three-point line, where Curry was a sizzling 9-for-15. And no missed layups. In his last six quarters of basketball, Curry has scored 69 points with 13-for-24 shooting on 3s. “I know what I’m capable of doing on the floor," Curry said, "and the situation calls for me to be more aggressive and hopefully that will continue. It’s nice to see the ball go in. I want to maintain that. I didn’t shoot well for 4.5 games the last series. Every game is different. You have to reestablish yourself and that’s my perspective no matter how I play.” Curry didn’t arrive wearing the baseball jersey of the home team, and if anything has been spotted at San Franciso Giants games across the Bay, where the Warriors will call home starting next season. But don’t get anything twisted. Curry’s bond with Oakland, developed over time, is genuine and real for someone born and bred a country away in Charlotte, and the feeling is mutual. The tug of war for the heartstrings of Oakland is subtle between the pair of franchise players on the floor in this playoff series. Call it a draw from the standpoint of whom the fans here respect and appreciate. There’s enough love to be shared by both. Yet in the basketball sense, this series is on the verge of being owned by the one wearing the jersey that reps Oakland. Curry has more momentum and better teammates, and Durant is on deck. Oakland, therefore, will indeed cheer for one of its own, for Damian Lillard. But the way this series and these playoffs are going, The Town is anxious to pop bottles with Steph Curry once again, at the usual place and time, for one last time. Shaun Powell has covered the NBA for more than 25 years. You can e-mail him here, find his archive here, and follow him on Twitter. The views on this page do not necessarily reflect the views of the NBA, its clubs or Turner Broadcasting. .....»»

Category: sportsSource:  abscbnRelated NewsMay 15th, 2019

No need for Malone to sell Nuggets: Their time is now

By Sekou Smith, NBA.com PORTLAND, Ore. — Give Michael Malone credit, the Denver Nuggets coach is as relentless a salesman as there is in basketball. Whether it’s moving speeches delivered to his own team or pleading with television audiences to stand up and take notice of the splendid compilation of talent the franchise has stockpiled in recent years, he refuses to let up. From building the legend of Jamal Murray or waxing poetic about the virtues of Nikola Jokic, the nimble giant prone to triple-doubles on the regular, Malone is prepared to use the bully pulpit to make sure no one overlooks the Nuggets. [Watch the Playoffs on NBA League Pass for 30% less with this limited time offer! Select Annual package and use code SAVE30 at checkout to redeem] A seven-game series win over San Antonio in the first round produced some of Malone’s best stuff to date, including him trumpeting Jokic as not only a legitimate Kia MVP candidate (true, this season) but also a surefire future Hall of Famer (could be, the way he’s playing). So you had to know Malone was going to be on his Nuggets informercial grind after they refused to lose Sunday (Monday, PHL time) in Portland, bouncing back after losing a grueling four-overtime thriller to the Trail Blazers here Friday night (Saturday, PHL time) with a gritty 116-112 triumph to tie this series at 2-2 headed back to Denver for Tuesday’s (Wednesday, PHL time) critical Game 5. “I’m so proud of our group,” Malone said, after his talented crew showed off the chops needed to regain the homecourt advantage they surrendered in their Game 2 loss at Pepsi Center. “And in the closing moments, I really was confident because in close games this year we were 13-3 [in games] decided by three points or less, best record in the NBA. We’re 12-1 in the second nights of back-to-backs, best record in the NBA. Our guys are tough; to come in here and win this game some 36 hours after losing a four-overtime game speaks to just how tough we are. So I wasn’t worried, we had our starting group out there. “Jamal, who I thought was phenomenal tonight, goes 11-for-11 from the foul line in a hostile environment and really kind of with the series hanging in the balance. You go down 1-3, and we all know how that story ends. I think the confidence of doing the same thing in the first round against San Antonio helped us, but our guys stepped up. We never frayed. We stayed together. And I can’t speak enough about the resiliency and toughness of our team.” And he shouldn’t. The Blazers had won 12 straight games at home dating back to the regular season and were 22-2 on their home floor since January 5. When the Nuggets saw their 10-point lead shrink to just a point with 3:02 to play as Portland closers Damian Lillard (28 points) and C.J. McCollum (29) led the charge, Denver could have easily folded up under the emotional weight of Game 3 and their current predicament. But they proved to be as resilient and tough as Malone said they were. Jokic was brilliant again, collecting his fourth triple-double (21 points, 12 rebounds and 11 assists) in his first postseason, second only to the five Magic Johnson piled up during his rookie season with the Los Angeles Lakers. And Murray was even better, finishing with a game-high 34 points and draining six straight free throws in the frantic closing seconds to seal the win for a Nuggets team that didn’t allow fatigue, a raucous and sellout Moda Center crowd or the pressure to avoid that 3-1 hole rattle them. “It wasn’t the first time,” Murray said of his embrace of the pressure with the game on the line at the line. “I think free throws are my thing. My dad and I do a lot of training [on] free throws. Blindfolded, he’ll talk to me just like how the crowd is, put pressure on me. I take 1,000 free throws in practice to make or or two … and tonight, it ended up being six.” The number Malone focused on afterwards was 11, as in the number of playoff games Murray and Jokic have played in as they continue to establish themselves as postseason stars. “You think about how young we are and and what we are doing, going on the road and winning a tough game in a hostile environment,” Malone said, “and for Jamal to be the centerpiece of that has been phenomenal. If you’re a Denver Nuggets fan, how excited are you about this team now. More importantly, how excited are you for our future? We have a chance to be a really good team for many, many years and Jamal is going to be a big part of that.” The same goes for Jokic, obviously. He’s already an All-Star and is going to end up on the All-NBA first or second team as well as the top five of the voting for Kia MVP after the regular season he put together. That might explains why the entire Nuggets bench froze as they watched him limp to the sideline in the final moments after being kneed in the leg in the final seconds. “Your heart skips a beat,” Malone said. “Nikola is the face of our franchise, but he just got kneed, it was nothing serious and and we were able to hold on for the win.” For all of Malone’s bluster about his group, it’s not even necessary at this stage of the season. The Nuggets earned the No. 2 seed in the Western Conference playoff chase on the strength of a talented and deep roster that might not resonate with casual NBA fans, but is celebrated by those in the know. Touting their accomplishments in real time makes sense for a coach trying to empower his team to believe in themselves in what could and perhaps should be a nice stretch of playoff runs in the future. But anyone paying attention can tell that the future could be now for these Nuggets. A trip to the conference finals one year after they failed to make the postseason field on the final night of the season in what amounted to a play-in game in Minneapolis last April, is a hell of a start. Malone knows it. His team knows it. And so do the Trail Blazers, who are well aware of the opportunity they squandered in a series where wavering confidence by the Nuggets might have been the only advantage they could exploit. “The good thing for us is that we won a game on their court,” Lillard said. “So it’s not like we lose both games there. We’re in a good space, 2-2, we know we’re capable of winning on their floor and that’t what we’ve got to get done. Obviously, it’s disappointing … we didn’t want to let an opportunity like this slip, but it happens. It’s playoff basketball and we’ve got to move forward.” So do the Nuggets, which is where Malone the master motivator comes into play. And just so we’re clear about something, his sell job is genuine. He knows of what he speaks in assessing a young team on the rise, having spent time coaching in Cleveland and Golden State during the formative stages with what would turn out to be teams that made it to The Finals (2007 in Cleveland). He was on Mark Jackson’s Warriors staff when they turned the corner from a lottery team to  playoff outfit (2012-13 season), helping nurture the core group of a team that has won three of the past four NBA titles and become a potential dynasty that no one saw coming at the time. So if Malone sees special things in his current team, it’s his responsibility to shout about it every now and then, both to the basketball public and especially internally. Youngsters like Jokic and Murray, Gary Harris and Malik Beasley, Torrey Craig and Monte Morris and even veterans like Paul Millsap, Mason Plumlee and Game 4 hero Will Barton, who knocked down huge shots to help seal the deal, need to hear the positive reinforcement from their coach. And that’s not even taking into account what absorbing these moments means for Michael Porter Jr., who is spending his rookie season recovering from back surgery, and is certainly going to be a part of that bright future Malone is so passionate about. If anything, this Nuggets team is ahead of schedule, two wins shy of a trip to the Western Conference finals with three games to play. Two of those are coming on their home floor, where Denver compiled the best record (34-7) in the league during the regular season. Maybe Malone is right to speak the Nuggets’ success into existence rather than wishing and hoping for it to come to fruition without a word otherwise. But he won’t have to go all car salesmen on the final day of month much longer. A couple more performances like the one the Nuggets put on Sunday (Monday, PHL time) and this whole thing, the refurbished franchise with all the boxes checked on the roster -- now and for the foreseeable future -- sells itself. 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 NewsMay 6th, 2019

Bucks learn playoff lesson in closing out late Celtics charge

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

Category: sportsSource:  abscbnRelated NewsMay 4th, 2019

Green, Parker help Spurs rally to beat Trail Blazers

em>By Raul Dominguez, Associated Press /em> SAN ANTONIO (AP) — In the midst of another dispirited effort, San Antonio coach Gregg Popovich decided not to yell at the Spurs — and they responded as he hoped. Danny Green and Tony Parker each had 18 points and San Antonio overcame another listless first half to beat the Portland Trail Blazers 110-94 on Friday night (Saturday, PHL time). 'Sometimes I go crazy, sometimes I decide to just sit and let them figure it out,' Popovich said. 'It just depends on how I'm feeling, how I think the game might go, or who's on the court at the time. Tonight, I wanted them to see what was going on for themselves. They did a good job of it.' The Spurs won their ninth game after trailing by 10-plus points, falling behind by 13 in the first half against the Trail Blazers. San Antonio forward Kawhi Leonard sat out his second straight game with a stomach virus and Portland point guard Damian Lillard missed his third consecutive game with an injured left ankle. Even when Leonard has played, the Spurs' first-half struggles have made things difficult. San Antonio is at a loss to understand why that is. 'I don't know,' Parker said. 'If I knew, I would not do it. No idea.' Despite the struggles, the Spurs have won four straight and 13 of 15. San Antonio had another sluggish first half, trailing by double-digits for 12 minutes and falling behind by 13 points midway through the second quarter. Portland forced 14 turnovers and shot 51 percent from the field through two quarters. 'We've got to do a better job of coming out with more of an edge to the game,' said Spurs center Pau Gasol, who finished with 10 points and seven rebounds. 'Teams know we've been having the slow starts and they play with confidence. Then we turn it up and win games, but it's something we need to keep in mind going forward so that it's not something that is repetitive or too repetitive.' C.J. McCollum finished with 29 points for Portland. Maurice Harkless and Allen Crabbe were the only others in double figures, with Harkless finishing with 12, and Crabbe 11. The Trail Blazers shot 43 percent in the third quarter after shooting 51 percent in the first half. Spurs reserve Manu Ginobili's second three-pointer with 3:49 remaining in the third quarter gave San Antonio a 69-67 lead, its first since holding an 11-8 edge 3 minutes into the game. San Antonio had seven three-pointers in the second half to win their seventh straight at home. LaMarcus Aldridge was held to eight points on 2-for-3 shooting, but Jonathon Simmons added 19 points for the Spurs. Green had six three-pointers in scoring a season-high. 'Today their strategy obviously was they were not going to let LaMarcus go off,' Parker said. 'In the last two games LaMarcus has been scoring a lot and been playing unbelievable. That's their strategy and other guys stepped up.' strong>TIP-INS /strong> em> strong>Trail Blazers: /strong> /em> Lillard missed his third straight game after playing in the team's first 32. He leads the team in scoring with 27.0 points and in assists at 6.2 per game. Portland entered Friday (Saturday, PHL time) allowing 111.5 points per game and 38 percent on 3-pointers, which are both 28th in the league. F/C Mason Plumlee had his streak of two straight double-doubles stopped. Plumlee had eight points and five rebounds. em> strong>Spurs: /strong> /em> Green has 33 games with at least five three-pointers, the most in franchise history. San Antonio finished 2016 at 66-15, its most successful calendar year in franchise history. The Spurs are 13-0 when Parker scores in double figures. strong>STILL HELPING OUT /strong> After shooting 25-for-32 and scoring 60 points in his previous two games, Aldridge was limited to three attempts against Portland. 'They double-teamed him all the time,' Popovich said. 'So, you can pretty much take a player out of the game if you do that. So, they decided to do that, and he did a good job getting rid of the ball when he figured it out.' Aldridge only had one assist, but his passes helped set up San Antonio's 11 three-pointers. strong>LEARNING FROM THE MASTER /strong> McCollum said he spent the offseason studying film of Parker's mid-range jumper after taking a step to his left away from a defender. The shot helped McCollum shoot 10-for-19 against the Spurs. strong>UP NEXT /strong> em> strong>Trail Blazers: /strong> /em>At Minnesota on Sunday night (Monday, PHL time). em> strong>Spurs: /strong> /em> At Atlanta on Sunday night (Monday, PHL time). .....»»

Category: sportsSource:  abscbnRelated NewsDec 31st, 2016

Kawhi Leonard s improved playmaking has Raptors on cusp of Finals

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

Category: sportsSource:  abscbnRelated NewsMay 24th, 2019

UAAP 81: Ateneo celebrates Volleyball, Football titles in Back on Top Bonfire

Ateneo de Manila University closed out the 81st season of the UAAP with two more championships, after the Men's Football and Women's Volleyball teams both brought UAAP gold back to Katipunan.  The men's football team, led by season MVP Jarvey Gayoso, defeated collegiate rivals De La Salle University, 2-1, last May 16th in a match that needed a 30-minute extension to decide.  The Lady Eagles volleyball team meanwhile, came back from a one-game deficit to defeat the Sisi Rondina-led University of Santo Tomas Golden Tigresses in a best-of-three finals series to reclaim their spot at the top of the UAAP women's volleyball landscape.  Both achievements were celebrated in Ateneo's Back on Top Bonfire, Friday evening at the Ateneo de Manila Grade School Parking grounds in Katipunan.  This was Ateneo's second bonfire celebration for Season 81, with the first taking place back in December of 2018 to celebrate their first-semester triumphs, highlighted by the Blue Eagles men's basketball team's second-straight championship. Ateneo President Fr. Jose Ramon "Jet" Villarin opened the festivities by thanking all the athletes who proudly represented Ateneo's colors thoughout the season as well as speaking about the UAAP as being not only a competition, but a community as well.  "The uaap is community first before its a competition," Villarin stated. "Maybe we're competitors, but we're a community first. We need our rivals for our better selves. We need our competitors to go beyond ourselves. We need passion and transendence, going beyond ourselves, that's a gift."  Blue Eagle Bonfire happening now inside the Ateneo De Manila campus. The bonfire celebrates Ateneo's triumphs during this past #UAAPSeason81 pic.twitter.com/3RZVJVNdMh — Santino Honasan???? (@honasantino) May 24, 2019 The first championship team to grace the stage were the Blue Eagle booters, who after a rough start to the season, managed to turn things around and ultimately finish the elimination round with the top seed. In the semifinals, Gayoso powered the Blue Eagles past Far Eastern University. In the finals, it was Gayoso again, who came up big as his last-minute equalizer forced extra time against DLSU. In the extension, it was graduating team captain Julian Roxas who provided the heroics, scoring the go-ahead header to secure the win and hand Ateneo their second men's football crown in the last two seasons.  #UAAPSeason81 Men's Football Champs now on stage | @abscbnsports pic.twitter.com/mflr5Agbuo — Santino Honasan???? (@honasantino) May 24, 2019 When asked about his game-tying conversion in the first minute of injury time, Gayoso had a pretty simple response. "I think we can all say that it feels good that it was against La Salle," said the fourth-year striker, drawing cheers from the crowd.  Afterwards, it was the Lady Eagles volleyball team's turn to be recognized, as the masses of fans stormed towards the stage to get a closer look at their champion idols.  The Lady Eagles were dominant throughout the women's volleyball season, also finishing at the top of the standings and earning a twice-to-beat advantage in the semifinals. Ateneo faced a lot of adversity in the post-season, as they were pushed to two matches in the semfinals by Far Eastern University, and then again in the finals, losing Game 1 to UST before bouncing back and winning two straight to capture their first women's volleyball title since UAAP Season 77.  Fans storm the stage as the #UAAPSeason81 Women's Volleyball Champion Lady Eagles are introduced | @abscbnsports pic.twitter.com/kBXsFn61Bk — Santino Honasan???? (@honasantino) May 24, 2019 The highlight of the night was the lighting of the celebratory bonfire, which was done by men's football MVP Gayoso and Women's Volleyball Finals MVP Bea De Leon.  #UAAPSeason81 Women's Volleyball Finals MVP @_beadel and Men's Football MVP @JarveyGayoso light the bonfire to close the festivities | @abscbnsports pic.twitter.com/0QANEYebtQ — Santino Honasan???? (@honasantino) May 24, 2019 Also recognized during the bonfire were the Ateneo Juniors Basketball Team and the Ateneo Men's Lawn Tennis Team, both finishing as first runners-up in their respective tournaments.  .....»»

Category: sportsSource:  abscbnRelated NewsMay 24th, 2019

Trail Blazers cohesiveness helped them to conference finals

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

Category: sportsSource:  abscbnRelated NewsMay 22nd, 2019

Raptors simply being outpaced by Bucks in conference finals

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

Category: sportsSource:  abscbnRelated NewsMay 19th, 2019

Raptors running out of options as series shifts to Toronto

By Steve Aschburner, NBA.com MILWAUKEE – The Toronto Raptors are two bounces on the rim into their Eastern Conference championship series against Milwaukee. Two more and – unless things change radically for the Raptors in every phase of the game from what we’ve seen – the basketball metaphor of their 2019 postseason is going to fall harmlessly to the side. No points, no buzzer-beater, no victory, no nothing. [Watch the Playoffs on NBA League Pass for 30% less with this limited time offer! Select Annual package and use code SAVE30 at checkout to redeem] Two games into this best-of-seven series, it’s already hard to see a way out for the Raptors that doesn’t include Hefty bags, cleaned-out lockers and a wide-open month of June. Toronto played well enough to win in Game 1, yet managed to lose it anyway thanks to an open elevator shaft of a fourth quarter that qualified instantly as something that would haunt them. Then they played miserably in Friday's (Saturday, PHL time) Game 2, save for a stretch in the third quarter when slippage in Milwaukee’s focus appeared as culpable as anything Raptors-related. Kyle Lowry, Toronto’s veteran point guard, is wandering around these days with a modified blue oven mitt on his left hand. It’s there to protect the thumb he sprained in Game 7 against Philadelphia. That’s the game that got the Raptors here, the one decided by Kawhi Leonard’s eternal-highlight shot at the end that bounced four times on the rim before dropping through the net. It’s been kind of downhill for their crew since then. Anyway, Lowry was asked a series of questions after Milwaukee's 125-103 triumph at Fiserv Forum about the defense, about the rebounding, about the shift from the Bucks’ floor to the Raptors’ for Games 3 and 4 beginning Sunday (Monday, PHL time). And Lowry earnestly answered by saying, yes, they have to defend better, they have to rebound better and they definitely have to assert themselves more to defend their Scotiabank Arena home court. Lowry said the right things. Problem is, that’s a lot of things. The Raptors don’t appear to have the wherewithal – or even the duct tape, if you prefer – to fix so many flaws at once. They have been outrebounded 113-86, a major factor in the Bucks’ 41-20 advantage in second-chance points. They have been outscored by 30 points in the two games and most of the difference has come from the bench (76-51), adding to the sense that Milwaukee isn’t just beating Toronto, it’s ganging up on them. Defensively, the Raptors haven’t been nearly good enough and their coach, Nick Nurse, put the blame squarely on them. He went into detail – both before and after Game 2 – to explain the difference between a good contest of a jump shot and a great, playoffs-worthy contest. After talking at length before tipoff about needing and hoping to see effort from his players as a sign they grasped the urgency involved, it had to be embarrassing for Nurse to acknowledge afterward that, no, that effort in fact was not there. “We were just a step too slow on just about everything,” he observed. To illustrate how casually his players closed on Bucks’ shooters, Nurse did a deep dive on a play in which center Marc Gasol needed to get out to Nikola Mirotic. “It was a good contest, but it wasn't a full-out contest,” the Toronto coach said. “We know the level of contest is going to affect these shots or not, and if you don't go with everything you've got and jump high and really try to let them know you're right pressed up against them, then the chances of [the shots] going in are pretty good.” Poor Gasol. This supremely skilled big man who was so valuable to the Memphis Grizzlies in numerous playoff wars is an early nominee for series scapegoat here. He at least had 12 rebounds and five assists in the opener, but his contributions and minutes fizzled in Game 2. By the time he got to 1-for-9 (3-for-20 in the series), the 34-year-old Gasol was looking creakier than his brother Pau, 38, who was wheeling himself through the halls on a scooter Friday night (Saturday, PHL time) after undergoing foot surgery this week. Then there’s Danny Green, a helpful 3-and-D guy with tons of postseason experience from his San Antonio days. Green’s challenge has been touching the ball enough to make a difference; he’s 3-for-11, getting about two thirds as many shots as he’d expect. But as he noted, Toronto’s ball movement has been spotty, the Bucks’ top-ranked defense stingy and little has been done to alter either from one game to the next. “Our offense was out of whack a little bit tonight, and we didn’t tighten it up,” Green said. A little more Norman Powell, a little less Gasol going forward? Doesn’t seem like it’ll be enough. Now take Pascal Siakam and Lowry from the margin for error that Toronto really doesn’t have. They were good for 45 points in the opener but scored a total of 23 Friday (Saturday, PHL time), each burdened with foul trouble from daring to mess with Milwaukee’s gears. Siakam, a favorite to be named the NBA’s Most Improved Player, wound up as the night’s most removed player, his minutes dropping from more than 42 on Wednesday (Thursday, PHL time) to 26 on Friday (Saturday, PHL time). There’s no reason to let Leonard off the hook, either. The Raptors’ best player has scored 31 points in each game, but they’ve been about as quiet as 62 points can be, coming almost from a bubble that has nothing in common with the rest of Toronto’s attack. Sometimes Leonard is bailing them out, sure, but many times the ball and the possession stop with him. The Bucks are OK with that, defending him with Khris Middleton, Eric Bledsoe and helpers. Leonard has taken 20 of his team’s 45 free throws, but dished only four assists in the two games. That’s one area in which Leonard is so different from – and so far in this series, lacking when compared to – Giannis Antetokounmpo. The Bucks’ star, with his gravitational pull on defenders, creates a bounty of opportunities for others. Leonard isn’t making any of his teammates better at this stage. And let’s not forget the intangibles. Antetokounmpo is the catalyst for Milwaukee’s superior team chemistry, a top-five talent who is all in on the Bucks’ ambitions and the players corralled around him. Leonard? For all anyone knows, he still has one foot out the door to free agency. His laconic nature doesn’t lend itself to firing up others, and it’s difficult to see how he leads by anything other than example. The cloud of Leonard’s future has been squatting over Toronto’s whole season. Every game is a referendum on whether he feels he has enough help or not. Does Nurse or another Raptors coach dare to challenge him, for fear he’ll start packing his bags immediately? Did anyone object to his “load management” nights off this season? It has been a tough way to grind through a long year, held hostage by your star’s inscrutability. But it’s what they signed up for when GM Masai Ujiri traded for him with just one season to woo and recruit. Compare that to what Bucks coach Mike Budenholzer was sharing about Antetokounmpo, as far as pushing him to greater heights. “We're coaching him and we're on him,” Budenholzer said. “We think he can be doing more, and he just soaks it up.” As the series shifts to Canada, the Raptors will look to Friday’s (Saturday, PHL time) third quarter as quickly as the Bucks will dismiss it. Toronto outscored Milwaukee 39-31 over those 12 minutes, the only portion of the game in which they managed to send a ripple of nervousness through the building. OK, well, maybe not quite that, but a few fans surely noticed that what had been a 28-point lead soon after halftime got chiseled down to 13. Not once, but twice. But Malcolm Brogdon and George Hill went to work off the Bucks’ bench, Giannis came back mean-muggin’ to start the fourth and that most definitely was that. Playoff protocol says we must give the Raptors their home games to demonstrate a difference. But they need to know that 0-2 is a gaping hole, from which only 20 teams in NBA history have come back in a seven-game series. Two more bounces on the rim, and we’ll see which way the Raptors fall. Steve Aschburner has written about the NBA since 1980. You can e-mail him here, find his archive here and follow him on Twitter. The views on this page do not necessarily reflect the views of the NBA, its clubs or Turner Broadcasting......»»

Category: sportsSource:  abscbnRelated NewsMay 18th, 2019

Blazers head home for Game 3, down 2-0 to Golden State

By Anne M. Peterson, Associated Press PORTLAND, Ore. (AP) — Damian Lillard says Golden State did its job and protected home court. Now it’s time for the Trail Blazers to do the same. The Western Conference finals between the upstart Blazers and the defending champion Warriors shifts to Portland on Saturday (Sunday, PHL time) with Golden State holding a 2-0 advantage. [Watch the Playoffs on NBA League Pass for 30% less with this limited time offer! Select Annual package and use code SAVE30 at checkout to redeem] The Blazers were up 15 points at the half and led by eight with 4.5 minutes left before the Warriors rallied — boosted by Kevon Looney’s dunk with less than a minute left, and a game-sealing steal from Andre Iguodala — for a 114-111 victory in Game 2 on Thursday night (Friday, PHL time). Golden State capped the game with a 14-3 run to avoid falling into a tie in the best-of-seven series. “Lost the game, but you know, their job was to take care of their home floor, and we’ve got an opportunity to do the same thing,” Lillard said. Lillard, who grew up just a few miles from Oracle Arena, finished with 23 point and 10 assists, but was thwarted by Golden State’s defense, including Iguodala’s at the end. CJ McCollum had 22 points in Portland’s eighth straight playoff loss to the Warriors since 2016. “We’ve got to bring that same energy at home, understand that this is the first time in 19 years we’ve been in the conference final,” McCollum said. “I know they (the fans) will be excited and I’m really looking forward to the opportunity playing at home and building on what we’ve done. “Being down 0-2, it’s not what you would like to see but it’s our reality, so now we got to go get some at home.” Stephen Curry led Golden State with 37 points. Warriors coach Steve Kerr said experience pushed Golden State at the end after Portland’s dominant play for most of the game. “We’ve done this a few times, and yeah, we stole it for sure,” Kerr said. Golden State, vying for a fifth straight trip to the NBA Finals, won the opening game against the Blazers 116-94, with Curry scoring 36 points to lead the way. The series so far, and particularly Game 2, has been an entertaining battle between Curry and his younger brother Seth, who plays for the Blazers. It is the first time that brothers have played each other in a conference final. The younger Curry had 16 points and four steals off the bench on Thursday (Friday, PHL time), including a steal on his brother. Seth Curry even engaged in a little trash talk when his brother was at the free throw line as the game wound down. “This was like the coolest experience I think I’ve ever had playing against him. We talked about the stage and he was amazing tonight,” Steph Curry said. “You know, every minute he was out there defensively, he was a pest. Made three big shots the fourth quarter that were very timely.” He added with a smile that it must have been nerve-wracking for his parents, “but it worked out perfectly tonight: He played well and we won.” Game 3 will be the first conference final game in Portland since 2000. The Blazers lost that series to the eventual champion Los Angeles Lakers in seven games. “I know they are going to be excited,” Stephen Curry said in noting the atmosphere at the Moda Center. “We’ve got to do whatever we can to hopefully take them out of it early. Knowing Portland is going to feed off that energy, it’s going to be tough to win up there, so we got to bring it.” Back at home, the Blazers won’t need to deal with the return of Kevin Durant. The two-time reigning NBA Finals MVP is still out with a right calf injury and isn’t set to be re-examined until next week, meaning it’s likely he’ll miss the rest of this series. Durant, who won’t travel with the team to Portland, averaged 34.2 points in the playoffs before he was injured in the third quarter of Golden State’s Game 5 victory over Houston. The third-seeded Blazers bested Oklahoma City 4-1 in the opening round, then needed all seven games to get past the Denver Nuggets in the semifinals. The Warriors downed both the Los Angeles Clippers and the Houston Rockets in six games to get to the conference finals. The winner in the West will go on to face the winner of the East series between the Toronto Raptors and the Milwaukee Bucks. ___ AP Sports Writer Janie McCauley contributed to this report......»»

Category: sportsSource:  abscbnRelated NewsMay 18th, 2019

Stephen bests Seth in Curry brothers backyard basketball showdown

By Shaun Powell, NBA.com OAKLAND, Calif. — For a special moment, Game 2 of the Western Conference finals relocated from Oracle Arena to a backyard court with a hoop in suburban Charlotte, N.C., and every player save for two suddenly disappeared, and 19,595 witnesses were reduced by 19,593, with the remaining pair watching and pointing from the kitchen window. Yes, late-1990s nostalgia intervened in a tight contest between the Warriors and Trail Blazers. It was Curry vs. Curry all over again, an entertaining spectacle for their amused parents yet a tense one for their sons, Steph and Seth, fiercely trying to take down the other. [Watch the Playoffs on NBA League Pass for 30% less with this limited time offer! Select Annual package and use code SAVE30 at checkout to redeem] Even if you weren’t there at the Curry household for those brotherhood battles back in the day, couldn’t you just envision how they developed, much as it did on a dramatic Thursday, two decades later on the other side of the country? There was so much riding on those 1-on-1s then, such as a noogie for the loser, the last remaining cookie for the winner, and most certainly bragging rights, at least for the day. This time, the stakes were tame by comparison, just an ordinary game in mid-May that could dictate which brother eventually goes to the NBA Finals and which one sits next to Dell and Sonya in the stands and watches, nothing more or less. “Yeah, sure,” laughed Seth. “Something like that.” OK, perhaps this was huge after all. This was Steph with 37 points and eight assists rallying the Warriors back from 17 points down, only to get push-back from his brother, who played the best game of his NBA career. This was Seth, younger by three years, getting 16 points and four steals in the game -- all four out of Steph's pocket -- to give the Blazers an unexpected lift. The performance earned enough confidence from coach Terry Stotts that he played the entire fourth quarter. Seth was assigned to check Steph, and vice-versa, and it was a family issue played out before the basketball world. It was a thrilling one at that, because at one point you weren’t sure which Curry would get the best of the other. “This was like the coolest experience I think I’ve ever had playing against him,” said Steph. “Every minute he was out there defensively, he was a pest. Made big shots in the fourth quarter. He was amazing tonight.” Seth made all three of his shots in the fourth quarter, all of them on three-pointers, and a few in Steph’s mug. If he wasn’t the Blazers’ best option, at least he was an option, one that the Warriors -- and the other Curry -- had to respect. He helped the Blazers cling to an eight-point lead with four minutes and change left, until the expected happened and those early bragging rights were rudely snatched back. Playing once again without the comfort of Kevin Durant, Steph shot and willed his team to victory and a 2-0 lead in the series, drawing a foul beyond the arc and draining three free throws to put the Warriors up two. Seth had one last answer, a 29-footer that temporarily regained the lead before the Warriors wore down Portland and went home, 114-111, on Andre Iguodala's last-second strip of Damian Lillard. In all, it was a must-see contest … and the game wasn’t too bad, either. “I mean, they’re brothers,” said Lillard. “For me, having my own older brother, I know what it’s like to go against your brother and what it means. They both know there’s going to be conversations about this at some point when this series is over and they’re going to play like it.” Perhaps somewhat surprisingly, there wasn’t much chatter between them; Seth said they were too involved in the game for that. Well, maybe just a touch: “He tried to distract me at the free-throw line in the fourth quarter and I knew I had to go back at him to stay focused on what I needed to do,” admitted Steph. There was more of an urgency on Seth’s part to make this game and this drama happen. After his brother and Klay Thompson took turns dropping an avalanche of jumpers on the Blazers in Game 1, Portland needed a new strategy to defend the pick and roll. So they decided to trap constantly, and they needed agile players for that, which meant less time for Enes Kanter and more time for others, including Seth. Of course, there was another reason to play Seth for 29 minutes: Who else knows Steph Curry better than him? “I’ve seen every Warriors game and every Steph game for the past 10 years,” he said. “I feel like I know some things he likes to do, but it wasn’t enough.” That’s true. You can have all the scouting reports and, in this case, all the backyard hoop experience in the world. There’s only so much one can do against a two-time Kia MVP and widely-regarded Best Shooter Of All Time. Still: there were those four steals by Seth, two of them clean picks off Steph, who’s difficult to strip because of his crafty dribble. And those shots against him. Seth was a problem Thursday (Friday, PHL time), and an irritating one. “I felt like he was thinking where I was at times,” Seth said. I was just trying to make it tough on him. He’s going to do what he does, but if you make him work a little more, make it tough on him, that’s all you can ask.” Seth's had the harder road to this point. While Steph became a basketball icon, Seth kept bouncing between teams over five years, never securing the big contract, fighting to carve a spot in the rotation, and finally getting the chance to do just that. Just a few years ago, Seth played for the Warriors’ G-League team in Santa Cruz, in the shadow of his brother, wondering when he’d get his chance to make his own path. “I don’t take this for granted,” he said. “To get to this point and be a contributor, this is what I worked for all those years. I was confident I could be here, and now that I’m here, I will try to make the most of it. I always want the ball and try to be aggressive and tonight when I found the ball in my hands, I was locked in.” This will give Stotts and the Blazers something to ponder as the series moves to Portland, where they’ll try to keep from becoming another piece of Warriors playoff roadkill. Chances are good, then, that Seth’s spot in heavy rotation is safe. “Every time we played them this season, Seth has played great and I think it has something to do with playing his brother,” said Lillard. “This time I thought he guarded Steph well, and Steph is always on the move, out there running around, coming off screens and just looking to shoot the ball. That’s what he does.” Well, there’s one little detail that Lillard left out, one that Steph Curry was too happy to provide: “It worked out perfectly tonight: He played well and we won.” Shaun Powell has covered the NBA for more than 25 years. You can e-mail him here, find his archive here, and follow him on Twitter. The views on this page do not necessarily reflect the views of the NBA, its clubs or Turner Broadcasting. .....»»

Category: sportsSource:  abscbnRelated NewsMay 17th, 2019

Pelicans going at own pace after hitting NBA lottery jackpot

By Brett Martel, Associated Press NEW ORLEANS (AP) — In the NBA city most familiar with “gris-gris,” folks see no small measure of poetic justice in the fact that their team will dictate the fate of a coveted prospect named Zion. Mystical explanations aside, the Pelicans are in the driver’s seat now — but say they’re in no hurry to disclose their plans for likely pick Zion Williamson or disgruntled All-Star Anthony Davis. [Watch the Playoffs on NBA League Pass for 30% less with this limited time offer! Select Annual package and use code SAVE30 at checkout to redeem] A franchise that looked downtrodden for months since Davis requested a mid-season trade has been suddenly buoyed by the leverage that comes with winning the NBA’s draft lottery— and the option to pick the Duke star, widely seen as the best pro prospect since Davis entered the league in 2012. “What it’s doing to the franchise and to the city of New Orleans is probably not even measurable at this point,” said David Griffin, hired just weeks ago as New Orleans’ top basketball executive. “There’s a groundswell of excitement that frankly is palpable. “What has to come next is that we have to make it mean something. This is a lot of fun, but we’ve got to build a winner now.” It was welcome news for beleaguered sports fans in Louisiana, who had endured a rough start to 2019. It started with the “NOLA no-call,” a pair of missed penalties in the waning minutes of the NFC championship that likely cost the NFL’s Saints a Super Bowl berth. Fans were so angry that many joined lawsuits against the league or attended parties on Super Bowl Sunday which featured re-runs of the Saints’ 2010 title triumph instead of the most recent championship game between New England and the Los Angeles Rams. Less than two weeks later, Davis, the city’s six-time NBA All-Star and face of the Pelicans, publicly requested a trade, and the firing of ninth-year general manager Dell Demps followed not long after. Even at the major college level there was disappointment when one of LSU’s best campaigns in program history was tainted by the suspension of coach Will Wade amid questions surrounding his recruiting tactics. Wade wasn’t reinstated until after LSU was eliminated in the third round of the NCAA Tournament, and his future remains far from certain. Political commentator James Carville — a Louisiana native, New Orleans resident and avid sports fan — said Wednesday (Thursday, PHL time) that the recent series of setbacks had led him to adopt a pessimistic theory that, “We are a cursed people, and so all we’re going to get is curses.” Then came Tuesday night’s (Wednesdahy, PHL time) NBA draft lottery, which the Pelicans had a 6% chance of winning. In New Orleans, interest had focused more on seeing which other team would get the top overall pick and become more of a player in a potential Davis trade. Instead, the Pelicans got that pick, placing them in a stronger position to try to change Davis mind — or dictate more favorable trade terms. “This is big,” said Carville, a Pelicans season ticket holder along with his wife, and fellow political commentator, Mary Matalin. “It’s good for the psyche of everybody.” Pelicans coach Alvin Gentry stood up and joyously shouted an expletive when New Orleans was announced as the lottery winner, after which he apologized with a grin, sat back down and put both hands on his head. Pelicans ticket office staff celebrated wildly with shouts, leaps and hugs. Owner Gayle Benson’s decision to hire Griffin, who announced at his introduction last month that he would not make a coaching change, combined with the New Orleans’ top draft position, represent a sharp turn in fortune for Gentry after a trying year that began with last summer’s defections during free agency of DeMarcus Cousins and Rajon Rondo. But it could take a while to see how the Pelicans’ lottery luck plays out. Griffin, the club’s executive vice president of basketball operations, foreshadowed a deliberate approach to dealing with Davis, who is under contract through next season. “I want Anthony Davis to be part of this,” Griffin said. “If Anthony wants to buy into that, then that’s fantastic. And if he doesn’t, then we’ll deal with it when it becomes appropriate. But this isn’t something for me where that answer happens because of a conversation. That answer is going to reveal itself over a period of time.” Griffin also stopped short of confirming that the Pelicans would draft Williamson — albeit for reasons relating more to his insistence on adhering to his own managerial process than because of any doubts about the 6'7", 285-pound Duke star. “We just have to know what the fit is like among those people in the pool for us in terms of who we thought were the most elite players,” Griffin said, emphasizing that “there was more than one” such player. “Everybody wants to look at this as this is a fait accompli. If that were true, we would have gotten up there with somebody’s jersey in our hands,” Griffin said. “I’m not saying there’s anything at all derogatory about Zion in any way. What I’m saying is ... you can hope that people are like-minded, but until you talk about what matters to you and you sit in a room together, it’s hard to know.” One thing is for sure, it’s nice to have options......»»

Category: sportsSource:  abscbnRelated NewsMay 15th, 2019

Now or never

It ends tonight. The PBA Philippine Cup Finals will reach a dramatic conclusion in Game 7 of the best-of-7 series at the Smart Araneta Coliseum tonight with San Miguel Beer intent on bagging its fifth straight title in the conference and Magnolia determined to win two consecutive crowns......»»

Category: sportsSource:  philstarRelated NewsMay 15th, 2019

Will it end tonight?

There’s a 58 percent chance that the PBA Philippine Cup Finals will go to a Game 7 at the Smart Araneta Coliseum on Wednesday......»»

Category: newsSource:  philstarRelated NewsMay 11th, 2019

Upbeat Magnolia aims to finish off Beermen in Game 6

Magnolia is poised to snatch its seventh Philippine Cup and 15th overall crown at 6:30 p.m. tonight when it battles defending champion San Miguel Beer in Game 6 of the…READ The post Upbeat Magnolia aims to finish off Beermen in Game 6 appeared first on The Manila Times Online......»»

Category: newsSource:  manilatimes_netRelated NewsMay 11th, 2019

Coach’s pep talk works wonders for Mandaue Ballers

Cebu City, Philippines—For a moment there, all appeared lost for the Mandaue City Ballers as they went down by as many as 16 points to the defending champions Talisay City Aquastars in an atrocious first half of Game Two of the 2019 Governor’s Cup finals that saw them turn the ball over a mind-blowing 19 […] The post Coach’s pep talk works wonders for Mandaue Ballers appeared first on Cebu Daily News......»»

Category: newsSource:  inquirerRelated NewsMay 10th, 2019

San Mig, Magnolia break standoff tonight

“I’m expecting that the next game will be different because Magnolia wants to bounce back hard,” - Leo Austria.....»»

Category: newsSource:  tempoRelated NewsMay 10th, 2019

Raptors dominate without super performance from Kawhi

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

Category: sportsSource:  abscbnRelated NewsMay 8th, 2019

Nuggets put Blazers on the ropes with series-shifting Game 5 rout

By Sekou Smith, NBA.com DENVER — Two points separated the Denver Nuggets and Portland Trail Blazers after the first four, grueling games of these Western Conference semifinals. They piled up the same number of three-pointers and free throws as well. The games were that good, that tight, and the difference between the two teams was negligible at best. Then Tuesday night (Wednesday, PHL time) happened. Paul Millsap happened. Nikola Jokic happened. Jamal Murray happened. The manifestation of a Nuggets team that’s been dancing with a destiny that leads to the Western Conference finals, finally happened. Their 124-98 rout of the Trail Blazers in Game 5 at Pepsi Center was the sort of declaration Nuggets coach Michael Malone has been predicting for his team since they were locked into a back-and-forth struggle with the San Antonio Spurs in the first round. [Watch the Playoffs on NBA League Pass for 30% less with this limited time offer! Select Annual package and use code SAVE30 at checkout to redeem] They evened the series Sunday (Monday, PHL time) in Portland, showing mettle beyond their years by snapping the Trail Blazers’ 12-game home winning streak that dated back to the regular season, with an inspired effort to stave off the certain doom of a 3-1 deficit. Tuesday night’s (Wednesday, PHL time) salvo was a seismic shift in the opposite direction. The Nuggets’ biggest lead was 31 points and their intentions were plain for everyone to see. Millsap roasted the Blazers for 24 points and eight rebounds, dominating while being featured more and executing his considerable advantage in small-ball situations. “The best thing about Paul Millsap is he’s true to himself, he never tries to be something he’s not,” Malone said. “He’s not a rah-rah guy, he’s not a guy that’s going to be screaming and yelling. But I think his calm demeanor has an effect on our group. Young team going through all of this for the first time and when you can look to a four-time All-Star with 90 playoff games under his belt, that’s reassuring. He’s kind of the calm for our team and I think that has a tremendous impact on all of our young players.” Two in particular during this postseason and this series, to be sure. Jokic led the way with 25 points, 19 rebounds and six assists before fouling out late, leaving little doubt as to who deserves to wear the crown as the best big man in the league right now. Murray was splendid again, with 18 points and nine assists, while his backcourt mate Gary Harris chipped in with 16 points and six rebounds. Will Barton and Malik Beasley scored 10 points each off the bench, leading a 33-point bench scoring effort that will need to travel back to Portland for Thursday’s (Friday, PHL time) Game 6 if the Nuggets have any chance of winning three straight and ending this series in six games. “We know going to Portland for Game 6 is going to be really tough,” Malone said, referencing his team’s Game 6 struggles in the first round. “Game 6 in San Antonio, we did not come ready to play, mentally or physically. I hope that we have a much different mindset going in to Portland for Game 6.” The Blazers have some serious tweaking to do, in a short amount of time, as well. Their starters didn’t even play in the fourth quarter, Terry Stotts acknowledging that the 30-point hole his team was fighting out of might have been too large, given the circumstances. And the need to preserve the energy of Damian Lillard, CJ McCollum and the crew for what sets up as their biggest game of the season was obvious. “At this point, it’s one game at a time facing elimination,” Lillard said. “We know that we’re more than capable of getting it done in the next game. We don’t feel like we’ve played our best basketball yet, and with our back against the wall, we don’t really have a choice. Our mindset is to just get to the next one, take care of home and make it back here.” Stotts has adjustments to make before Thursday night (Friday, PHL time) as well, after the Nuggets bludgeoned his team in the paint for a 66-44 scoring advantage, while also outrebounding them 62-44. The decision to switch Enes Kanter’s primary defensive assignment from Jokic to Millsap Tuesday (Wednesday, PHL time), with Al-Farouq Aminu being tasked to try and contain the much bigger Jokic, backfired as Millsap went to work immediately on Kanter. “They just played harder than us,” Kanter said. “I think that was probably … even the coach said, probably this was our worst basketball the last six weeks. Shots didn’t fall in, on defense we weren’t really communicating with each other, we didn’t really trust each other. We’ve just got to learn from this and just go home and take care of home, because right now, that’s the most important game of the year.” The atmosphere Thursday night (Friday, PHL time) at Moda Center promises to be electric. The Blazers have long enjoyed one of the best home atmospheres in the league. But will it serve as the advantage it has in the past when the Nuggets are fresh off two straight huge wins in this series, the first on that floor? “We have two must-wins,” Stotts said. “Somebody was going to have a must-win after tonight and it’s us. So we have two must-wins ahead of us.” That four-overtime loss in Game 3 Friday night (Saturday, PHL time) could have been the emotional breaking point for the Nuggets. It wasn’t. A school shooting Tuesday morning (late Tuesday, PHL time) in a Denver suburb where Malone lives with his wife and daughters rattled the coach and an entire community. That sort of life-altering event could easily have sidetracked Malone and his team. They persevered. The Nuggets were locked in from the start. When it became clear that the Blazers weren’t going to be able to keep up the pace, they kept pushing until the final buzzer. They understand the opportunity staring them in the face; a conference finals date with the two-time reigning champion Golden State Warriors or Houston Rockets, who are tied 2-2 heading into Game 5 Wednesday (Thursday, PHL time) at Oracle Arena. It’s a wild shift for a team that failed to play its way into the playoffs last year on the final night of the regular season, only to rebound and earn the No. 2 seed in the Western Conference playoff chase this season. If the atmosphere for Game 4 or even Game 5 seemed overwhelming, Thursday night (Friday, PHL time) promises to be otherworldly for both of these teams that were previously separated by so little. 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 NewsMay 8th, 2019

Rockets physicality puts vaunted Warriors on the defensive

By Shaun Powell, NBA.com HOUSTON — This Western Conference semifinal series is tied at 2-2. Each game has been decided by six points or less. Kevin Durant and Steph Curry, perhaps the best shooters in the NBA and among the greatest all-time, each had clean looks at 3-pointers in the final seconds Monday (Tuesday, PHL time) for the Warriors and missed a chance to send Game 4 into overtime. The Rockets won, 112-108. Yes, this is now closer than identical twins and possibly headed to the same finish of a year ago, when the Warriors took out Houston in seven games during the conference finals. And if you look under the hood and examine the parts, you’ll see that in the moments of truth over the last two games that Houston won and created this deadlock. The Rockets were the aggressor, the bully, the chance-taker and ultimately more clutch than the champs. They’re beating the Warriors up inside and out. [Watch the Playoffs on NBA League Pass for 30% less with this limited time offer! Select Annual package and use code SAVE30 at checkout to redeem] This doesn’t mean they’ll be the better team at the finish line, whether in six games or seven. But right now, they’ve made this contest closer than most imagined and given themselves a shot in what is now a best-two-out-of-three. “It’s a dogfight, and every possession matters,” said Chris Paul. The Rockets claimed victory Monday (Tuesday, PHL time) because James Harden was aces again, scoring 38 points and becoming more efficient – though, to the horror of the Warriors, he was no longer alone. Suddenly, Harden is getting ample help, and the more his supporting cast grows in confidence, the bigger the task it’ll be for the Warriors to finish the job. Here’s the tale of the tape: The Rockets are punching Golden State in the gut, with forward PJ Tucker delivering the body blows. Tucker is just 6'6", yet brings the temperament of a honey badger in a bad mood when it comes to grabbing rebounds. For the second straight game, Tucker snagged double-figures and been especially menacing on the offensive end; he’s going for seconds and sometimes thirds in heavy traffic and giving Houston additional chances at buckets. It’s not just ordinary rebounds he’s getting, but the most important ones. That hunger has a psychological effect as well, breaking the spirits of the Warriors while rousting the passion in his teammates. The sight of Tucker out-fighting Draymond Green for loose balls and missed shots is an emotional boost and keeps possessions alive. “I’m pleased people get a chance to see Tuck,” said Paul. “Everybody sees players in commercials and all that, but they don’t get a chance to see someone play defense and go after rebounds like him. That energy fuels everyone else. That’s basketball.” Houston has out-rebounded the Warriors in its two straight wins and Green says that can’t continue. “We have to change our mindset,” he said, “and that begins with me. That’s my department. They’re slapping us. It’s an easy correction, and if we correct it we’ll be fine.” Maybe the more disturbing aspect of this series is how the Warriors are also getting out-splashed. It’s not terribly surprising to see the Rockets dropping more three-pointers; after all, they take more than anyone in basketball. Yet, the Warriors just aren’t efficient and that’s especially the case with Curry and Klay Thompson. Harden has made just two fewer three-pointers than Curry and Thompson combined. While Curry seemed to break free of his semi-slump Monday (Tuesday, PHL time) with 30 points, his highest single-game point total of the series, he missed 10 of his 14 shots from deep. And Thompson is trapped in a thicker fog right now; he missed 5-of-6 from deep and delivered a weak 11 points and really hasn’t stepped forward for Golden State all series. The shot selection for Curry and Thompson has appeared wicked and surprisingly reckless at times, especially in the fourth quarter. “I felt we were in a rush a lot tonight with our shots,” said Kerr. “I don’t think we got great shots for much of the night. When you’re not searching for great shots, you’re not going to shoot that well.” With only Durant managing to look efficient from beyond the arc, the Warriors are getting lapped. In the last three games, or once Harden’s poked eye improved, the Rockets have made 18 more three-pointers than Golden State. “Our mentality changed after Game 2,” said Harden. “We’re not going to let up. We’re going to keep coming at you.” There are reasons the Warriors shouldn’t be in a state of panic. The next game is at Oracle Arena. And the two they just lost at Toyota Center they could’ve been won had they made plays at the end. Game 3 went into overtime and Curry missed an uncontested layup in the final 90 seconds of that tight game. And the Warriors had those pair of looks by Curry and Durant in Game 4, the sight of which sent chills through the Rockets. “I thought it was going into overtime,” said Austin Rivers. “One hundred percent. KD got one and I’m like, ‘C’mon man.’ And then Steph got one. We are fortunate.” Paul added: “Going back to the Bay, they’re probably not going to miss those shots.” Besides, Houston was qualified to be the most difficult out for the Warriors to win a third straight title, or at least reach the NBA Finals. After all, the Rockets have Harden and Paul, and their ability to shoot three's means they can seldom be counted out of games even if they’re trailing. A furious rally is always a moment away. Besides, aside from Trevor Ariza, this is virtually the same team that took Golden State to the seven-game limit last year and had to play the final two games without Paul, who had a hamstring pull. “I thought they were great,” said Kerr. “They did what they had to do, win their two home games.” But there wasn’t the scent of concern coming from the Warriors. Perhaps it’s the pride of a team still believing it’s heads and shoulders above the league, or a stern belief that whatever advantages Houston had over the last two games will be snuffed. Durant remains playing at an epic level and the basketball logic says Curry, and perhaps Thompson, will eventually snap out of it, not because the Rockets’ defense will weaken, but because Curry and Thompson have, you know, a track record of excellence. “We know what we have to do,” Kerr said bravely. Perhaps. But for the second time in as many years, the Rockets have the Warriors’ full attention, and Golden State must be near-perfect to prevent from being pushed to the ledge. “What I like is how everybody does their job,” said Tucker. “That makes us ‘us.’ We’re tough. We’re that kind of team.” If the Warriors didn’t know it before, they know that now. Shaun Powell has covered the NBA for more than 25 years. You can e-mail him here, find his archive here, and follow him on Twitter. The views on this page do not necessarily reflect the views of the NBA, its clubs or Turner Broadcasting. .....»»

Category: sportsSource:  abscbnRelated NewsMay 7th, 2019