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NBA Finals: Raptors title win would be “special” for Toronto says Fil-Canadian Matthew Wright

Kawhi Leonard wouldn’t answer it directly so ABS-CBN Sports got someone who would delightfully answer the question of what would an NBA title win mean for Toronto and Canada. While Phoenix guard Matthew Wright is not exactly just “somebody on the street,” he’s a huge Raptors fan and can certainly offer a better response to the question given to Leonard. Wright is not in Toronto now, the Fil-Canadian guard is trying to have a professional basketball career across the world in the PBA, but he’s been watching his Raptors try to make history in the NBA Finals against two-time defending champion Golden State. If the Raptors, currently up 3-1 on the Warriors, can pull this championship win off, it would be pretty special not only for the city of Toronto but for the whole of Canada. The way fans celebrate every win in this incredible postseason run should be proof of that. “You guys see it, the frenzy that happens outside the game, you see the fan support in Canada. I’m just proud. When I was growing up watching them, from then until now, they’ve made a huge jump,” Wright told ABS-CBN Sports. “I don’t wanna jinx it, there’s still one game left. Just making it to the Finals and having the world see how big of a basketball country Canada really is or what it’s becoming, especially the city of Toronto, it’s really special. You can see it for yourself, the fanbase is crazy there,” he added. As soon as LeBron James left the Eastern Conference, the Raptors find themselves in the NBA Finals and on the verge of taking down one of the greate modern-day NBA dynasties in the Warriors. After years of torture at the hands of the King, this Finals run has to be a delight to witness for fans like Wright. However, while those losses were painful, no one really remembers them in the grand scheme of things, especially if Toronto could pull it off this year. Winning will get you remembered. “I know from my career and my perspective, you don’t really remember the losses. You remember the wins,” Wright said. “You remember the good things. When it’s all said and then, that’s history. I guess all the Raptos can do now is enjoy the present. All those losses to LeBron, that’s what brought them to this point, like how Jordan used to lose to the Bad Boys. You do have to go through tough losses in order to achieve something,” he added. Up 3-1, Toronto has three chances to close out the Warriors and end Golden State’s reign on top of the NBA. Two of those chances will be at home in Canada and the Raptors can win the title as early as Game 5 Monday [Tuesday in Manila]. Wright won’t make a prediction but if the Raptors can win the whole thing, he might have to go home to Toronto real quick. “I’m not saying anything, I haven’t said anything the whole year. I’ve spoken too soon in the past so I’m just gonna keep my mouth shut and enjoy every game,” he said. “[But] if the Raptors pull it off, I might have to book a private jet home for a couple of days just to celebrate,” Wright added.   — Follow this writer on Twitter, @paullintag8.....»»

Category: newsSource:  inquirerRelated NewsJun 10th, 2019

NBA Finals: Raptors title win would be “special” for Toronto says Fil-Canadian Matthew Wright

Kawhi Leonard wouldn’t answer it directly so ABS-CBN Sports got someone who would delightfully answer the question of what would an NBA title win mean for Toronto and Canada. While Phoenix guard Matthew Wright is not exactly just “somebody on the street,” he’s a huge Raptors fan and can certainly offer a better response to the question given to Leonard. Wright is not in Toronto now, the Fil-Canadian guard is trying to have a professional basketball career across the world in the PBA, but he’s been watching his Raptors try to make history in the NBA Finals against two-time defending champion Golden State. If the Raptors, currently up 3-1 on the Warriors, can pull this championship win off, it would be pretty special not only for the city of Toronto but for the whole of Canada. The way fans celebrate every win in this incredible postseason run should be proof of that. “You guys see it, the frenzy that happens outside the game, you see the fan support in Canada. I’m just proud. When I was growing up watching them, from then until now, they’ve made a huge jump,” Wright told ABS-CBN Sports. “I don’t wanna jinx it, there’s still one game left. Just making it to the Finals and having the world see how big of a basketball country Canada really is or what it’s becoming, especially the city of Toronto, it’s really special. You can see it for yourself, the fanbase is crazy there,” he added. As soon as LeBron James left the Eastern Conference, the Raptors find themselves in the NBA Finals and on the verge of taking down one of the greate modern-day NBA dynasties in the Warriors. After years of torture at the hands of the King, this Finals run has to be a delight to witness for fans like Wright. However, while those losses were painful, no one really remembers them in the grand scheme of things, especially if Toronto could pull it off this year. Winning will get you remembered. “I know from my career and my perspective, you don’t really remember the losses. You remember the wins,” Wright said. “You remember the good things. When it’s all said and then, that’s history. I guess all the Raptos can do now is enjoy the present. All those losses to LeBron, that’s what brought them to this point, like how Jordan used to lose to the Bad Boys. You do have to go through tough losses in order to achieve something,” he added. Up 3-1, Toronto has three chances to close out the Warriors and end Golden State’s reign on top of the NBA. Two of those chances will be at home in Canada and the Raptors can win the title as early as Game 5 Monday [Tuesday in Manila]. Wright won’t make a prediction but if the Raptors can win the whole thing, he might have to go home to Toronto real quick. “I’m not saying anything, I haven’t said anything the whole year. I’ve spoken too soon in the past so I’m just gonna keep my mouth shut and enjoy every game,” he said. “[But] if the Raptors pull it off, I might have to book a private jet home for a couple of days just to celebrate,” Wright added.   — Follow this writer on Twitter, @paullintag8.....»»

Category: newsSource:  inquirerRelated NewsJun 10th, 2019

Durant s return looms large heading into potential clincher

By Shaun Powell, NBA.com TORONTO — Let us dismiss the tasty-yet-faulty comparison folks will try to make regarding Game 5 and Kevin Durant and the fate of the Warriors in these NBA Finals: In 1970, when Knicks center Willis Reed famously limped out of the tunnel at Madison Square Garden for Game 7, he only hit two jumpers and was done, too gimpy to go any further. The Warriors, starved for points against a toothy Raptors defense, will require plenty more than that from Durant before he’s done. Back then, it was winner-take-all, New York vs. L.A. Durant and the Warriors are trailing 3-1 and face elimination at Scotiabank Arena. They’re staring down a far deeper and darker tunnel. This is the stark reality for a would-be savior and his recuperating calf and the desperate two-time defending champions. Durant was upgraded to questionable for Monday (Tuesday, PHL time), which means it's likely he’ll at least be on the floor. Whether he stays long enough to break a sweat or plays well enough to make the Raptors perspire is the real issue. Perhaps never before has an injury to a superstar of this magnitude been this mysterious – and perhaps costly – in the history of The Finals. Remember, with Reed, the Knicks won at the end. Maybe there's more in common with Magic Johnson pulling a hamstring in 1989 during Game 1, but again, Magic was finished for the series, and so were the Lakers, swept by the Pistons. Durant is trying to return and in the process squelch the innuendo swirling about his recovery and also trigger a historic comeback. Can he pull this off after not playing since May 8 (May 9, PHL time), and practicing for the first time only Sunday? It was a practice, but only in the tamest sense. Durant joined his teammates and took part after the media was hustled off the court, leaving no outside witnesses or sneaky TMZ footage. The Warriors, this time of year, only conduct light drills. And it was over within an hour. To recap: Durant is supposed to step into an intense basketball game after missing a month, and battle a Toronto defense led by Kawhi Leonard, and thwart a championship bid by a team and city bracing for a maddening celebration around midnight, and … rescue the Warriors? OK, then. “I think it’s pretty easy to realize we obviously miss him out there and he’s propelled us to two championships in two years,” said Warriors guard Klay Thompson. “So it would be pretty storybook if he could come back and help us do the same.” If it sounds like the Warriors are so stretched for answers and solutions that they’re banking on Durant being close to normal after a lengthy layoff, well … maybe they are. When you’re facing elimination, there’s really no other choice. And the Warriors haven’t been able to solve the Raptors without him. Yet Durant has set himself a high bar. Before his injury, which occurred in the conference semifinals against Houston, he was on another level, nearly galactic. He averaged 34 points, five rebounds and five assists in 11 games and was a finalist for everyone’s “best player in the playoffs" honors with Giannis Antetokounmpo. Since then Leonard, the postseason leader in points, and rebounds, and minutes, has yanked that praise for himself. The Raptors, as a result, are heavy favorites to lift the trophy. Durant may not be 100 percent, leaving what he can possibly do an open question: Will he be more of a decoy than a legitimate offensive threat? And on defense, how can the Warriors cover for him, since the Raptors will surely try to exploit the situation by running Durant through screens? Without Durant, the scoring burden had to be carried by Thompson and Steph Curry, and while both have done fairly well, the Warriors have had little margin for error. Whenever Draymond Green or Andre Iguodala or DeMarcus Cousins failed to lend support for Thompson and Curry, the results have been disastrous for Golden State. Coach Steve Kerr feels Durant’s presence will be enough to cause a ripple effect that influences what both teams do when he’s on the floor. “The game plan changes if Kevin is out there, or if he’s not,” Kerr said. “So you adapt accordingly. It changes matchups, it changes rotations, all that stuff.” It’ll be a surprise if Durant’s return causes issues within the Warriors and the system that was tweaked in his absence. Although they’ve been without him for nine games, he did play three seasons with the club, so there shouldn’t be any adjustment problems. Quite the contrary, says Curry. “We’ll be able to adjust in transition pretty smoothly,” said Curry. “He’s been in plenty of Finals and has played well. No matter what the percentage he’s at, I’m sure he’ll be impactful and effective.” It’s always tricky to play doctor and determine how much time Durant should’ve missed, although that never deters anyone from doing so. Taking it a step further, while none of his teammates or coaches publicly questioned the depths of Durant’s injury, dealing with the daily dose of “is he or isn’t he?” became tiring to some. They all suspect that if Durant could’ve played, he would. What possible motive would encourage him to stay out longer than necessary? To show everyone how much the Warriors need him? That seems a stretch for someone who craves a championship. Possibly not his pending free agency either; if anything Durant would get bonus points for playing through pain and would have all summer to recover in the event of re-injuring the calf, which is not considered career-threatening. Injured players have no obligation to speak to the media, and Durant hasn’t, with his silence only feeding speculation. “I feel for Kevin,” Thompson said. “I know what type of competitor he is and we obviously miss him dearly. But whether it’s tomorrow or Game 6, we just have to do everything in our power to help him get back. He will be very welcome, I’ll say that much. Kevin’s (injury) is serious and I know how badly he wants to be out there. He’s one of the best competitors I’ve been around.” The stretchy shooting range, the high release of a shot that’s nearly impossible to block or discourage, the energy and determination and ability to make plays in tense moments, those are the elements Durant brings and the Warriors have missed in The Finals. They’ll take whatever he can give, whatever that might be.   “I would like to think he would make a difference,” Shaun Livingston said. “Again, it’s just any time a player of that caliber comes back or goes out of the lineup, it’s going to be felt certain ways. We’ll see what happens.” And if Durant is unable to play extended minutes or sputters around the floor, making mistakes and dogged by rust and fatigue and inefficiency? Then it’ll fall on his teammates, a group that couldn’t beat the Raptors in two games at Oracle Arena yet somehow must thrive in a Canadian madhouse that awaits Monday (Tuesday, PHL time). “You’re going to see a resilient Warriors team,” Thompson said. “We’ve had our backs against the wall with this same group. Obviously, it’s a little more daunting being down 3-1 but usually when our backs are against the wall, we respond the best.” Question is, will Durant have their back? Or will he and that wall crumble under pressure from these hungry Raptors and the long odds? 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: lifestyleSource:  abscbnRelated NewsJun 10th, 2019

Five things we learned from Game 4 of the 2019 Finals

By Steve Aschburner, NBA.com OAKLAND, Calif. – Five things we learned from the Toronto Raptors’ 105-92 victory over the Golden State Warriors in Game 4 of the 2019 NBA Finals on Friday at Oracle Arena: 1. Dynasties eventually become ‘die-nastys’ Will we get one more game at Oracle Arena? The scene of so much Golden State wonderfulness the past five seasons? A building about to be abandoned when the Warriors move from Oakland to a state-of-the-art arena across the Bay? Hold up. Asking one more game out of the Warriors seems a lot at the moment. These guys just suffered their second consecutive home playoff loss by 10 points or more, something that hasn’t happened to this franchise in 50 years. After three straight games scoring precisely 109 points, the Warriors came up 15 short Friday (Saturday, PHL time). They are 0-9 overall this season when held to double digits, and 0-11 in the playoffs during the Steve Kerr era, when they score 94 or fewer. And now they’re on the wrong side of a 3-1 deficit, lacking everything from certain healthy bodies to an edge, a sharpness that was missing in the second half. Granted, Golden State once held a 3-1 edge in a Finals, all the way back in 2016 … when LeBron James, Kyrie Irving and the Cavaliers chased them down and became the only Finals team to claw out of such a chasm. The Warriors did the same to Oklahoma City in the 2016 Western Conference finals. So they not only have a blueprint, they have the know-how and an opportunity to do it again. Like Kerr before him on Friday's (Saturday, PHL time) postgame podium, Warriors forward Draymond Green spoke of simply trying to win one basketball game, the next game, as the proper way to dig out of this series hole. But then he dropped his guard and mentioned winning three in a row, something the Warriors have done often. But they’re a whole year removed from doing that in a Finals (last year’s sweep of the Cavs) with a healthy Kevin Durant. This is a more worn-down, tired team. In fact, Game 4 was more than Golden State’s 102nd game of 2018-19, regular and postseason combined. It was the 102nd playoff game of their five consecutive Finals runs, which means they have crammed an extra season-plus into their schedules compared to the underachievers on lottery teams sitting at home. From the looks of it Friday (Saturday, PHL time), these guys are ready to be toppled, like the Lakers in 1989 and again in 2004, like the Heat in 2014 and the Cavaliers last June. The boisterous Raptors fans who staged their takeover of the Warriors’ building after Game 4 were merely mirroring what their favorite team did on the court from halftime on. Golden State could not stop it. Rudy Tomjanovich might still be inclined to scream into the darkness. (“Never underestimate the heart of a champion!”) But pride only takes you so far, and that’s mostly what the Warriors have left. 2. Third quarter? That’s Toronto’s now It took the Raptors more than 18 minutes to score 30 points Friday night (Saturday, PHL time), stymied by the pace of the game and particularly Golden State’s scrappy, hustling defense. Immediately after halftime, it took Toronto only 12 minutes to put up 37. The time of death for Golden State on Friday was immediately after Kawhi Leonard drained consecutive three-pointers – “F-you” shots, teammate Fred VanVleet memorably coined them – that boosted Toronto from a four-point deficit to a 12-point advantage. The Warriors already had played well enough to rightly feel they should have had a bigger cushion; falling behind so rudely seemed to buckle the defending champs. That they feel third quarters are their birthright made the switcheroo intolerable. “We had a big problem with the third quarter in Game 2,” Toronto coach Nick Nurse said. “We had to make some adjustment there to try to combat the way they come out of the half. We made the decision to put Fred in, [first] in Game 3 and then Game 4 again. Mostly it's to try to keep up pace of our offense going. It gives us two point guards out there that can push the ball, get it in and get it going, and it kind of paid off. “I know Kawhi's two big three's to start the half really changed the whole feel of everybody. Everybody was like, ‘Okay, man, we know we are here, let's go,’ and we just kind of kept going from those two three's.” For the Warriors, who have done that to so many others, turnabout was a pain in the rump. “Oh, this sucks,” Draymond Green recalled thinking as Toronto took control of the quarter. “It sucks really bad. You just try and do whatever you can to change it. Get a stop, get a bucket, get some momentum.  Every time we did, they answered.” Green was asked about the difficulty of rattling the stone-faced Leonard with whatever defensive tactic Golden State could muster, and brushed the question aside. “I don't think you're ever going to rattle Kawhi. Not sure we used that word one time in our scouting report, ‘We're going to rattle him,’” Green said. But it’s not just Leonard now. It’s the Raptors. Time after time, whenever Golden State revved up with a couple of scoring possessions, signaling to their fans they ready to make a run, Toronto snuffed it with a three-pointer or a well-executed pick and roll. They’ve got a team of Kawhis-in-training, unflappable lately if not as inscrutable. “Most teams will take cues from their leaders or their star players, so I think that spreads around a little bit,” Nurse said. But he also praised vets such as Marc Gasol, Danny Green, Kyle Lowry and VanVleet for how steady they’ve been. Now, with the temptation to imagine hoisting a championship trophy, the Raptors might be expected to buy into the stat that, of the 34 teams in The Finals who have led 3-1, 33 of them got their rings. But this team is so focused, so resolute in taking care of business down to the smallest and most mundane task, that all Nurse might have to do is remind them how many aspiring champs won three games in a Finals and still headed into summer empty-handed. (It's 19.) No trophy, no rings. 3. A surge from Serge The chemistry between Serge Ibaka and Kyle Lowry was evident in their playful banter on the podium Friday night. Each slipped into his role, Lowry as the instigator, Ibaka as the target of his playful jibes. “You joining me?” Lowry asked, as Ibaka got to the podium a half minute after him. “Serge Ibaka, everybody. You all know him. Nice outfit. Worth a lot of money. Is that jacket real leather?” “Yes, it’s real leather,” Ibaka said. "Pants too tight, he can't even sit down,” Lowry said. On court, Ibaka’s defensive impact and 20 points in reserve dampened a lot of Warrior enthusiasm. There are nights when Ibaka comes across like Chief in “One Flew Over the Cuckoo’s Nest,” a large, lumbering and rather stiff option near the rim with very little to say. Some nights, he even seems to be asleep. But still waters often run deep, too deep for the Warriors in Game 4, it turned out. Ibaka’s here-today, gone-tomorrow shooting touch had him playing in a way that none of Golden State’s three centers – DeMarcus Cousins, Kevon Looney or Andrew Bogut – could match. “Once he gets into the series," Nurse said, "which he did in Game 3 with the blocked shots and the rebounding and stuff, he seems to stay in the series. He usually gives you all of it.” Said Lowry, about knowing when a Serge surge is coming: “He doesn't say anything. When Serge is effective defensively is when he's at his best. I think the scoring just comes. We're going to make sure he gets that pick-and-pop jump shot, he's rolling … When he brings that intensity and that fierceness, it's kind of tough to stop him on both ends of the floor.” 4. Stephen Curry had a bad game One of the most famous pieces of magazine journalism ever was entitled, “Frank Sinatra Has a Cold,” by Gay Talese, a profile written when Sinatra obviously was ill of body and temper, and didn’t even grant Talese an interview. So our headline kind of tells the story as his did: Curry, one of the top five players in the NBA and probably the greatest overall shooter of all time, was not his two-time MVP self. He wasn’t even the Game 3 version (47 points). The Warriors point guard scored 20 fewer points in this one, and was 2-of-9 from three-point range. He missed all five of his shots from the arc in the first half and he picked up some obvious frustration fouls. Curry played 43 of the 48 minutes, and Golden State was outscored by 11 points when he was on the court. “It wasn’t his best game,” Kerr said. Evaluating Curry, for the Warriors, was going to come down to breaking down video and keeping the faith. Evaluating him, for the rest of us, is getting complicated these days by a sense that Curry did not get his due in past Finals – at least in terms of winning the Bill Russell Award as Finals MVP. But that’s no excuse to don rose-colored glasses every time he hits the floor. As scintillating as his performance was in defeat Wednesday (Thursday, PHL time) as the Warriors’ only healthy threat, his Game 4 work was raggedy and unproductive. “They have been aggressive all series and trying to take space away from me and Klay,” Curry said. “I missed some shots early that I usually make, especially from the three-point line. But overall, I thought I got good looks.” Every game doesn’t need to be a referendum on the level of Curry appreciation. He might have deserved more consideration as Finals MVP in 2015, when Andre Iguodala snagged it with a strong performance in the clinching game. And even though Kevin Durant was an easy choice in 2017, there were some who felt Curry was more essential (including this voter). In some cosmic and just way, Curry probably should have been recognized with hardware somewhere among the three. But all signs are pointing to Leonard now, so Curry might have to muddle along with "only" those two Maurice Podoloff trophies for regular-season MVP, along with his All-NBA berths and assorted accolades, his ginormous contract and bounty of commercial endorsements, three rings (unless this series turns around) and a better life than most people who’ve ever walked the planet. 5. Durant to play in Game … 8? It’s possible that Durant will come walking through Rick Pitino’s proverbial door and seize what’s left of the championship series by the throat, playing like the two-time Finals MVP he is. Failing that, if there’s a Game 6, maybe that’s the night Durant at least does a Willis Reed impersonation, limping through the Oracle tunnel to a thunderous roar and hitting a couple of early shots to inspire his teammates to something special. (There still, alas, would be a pesky Game 7 for which to account, back in Toronto, likely muddying the drama.) Then again, maybe Durant doesn’t come back at all. For The Finals or with the Warriors, period. Speculation at this point is all over the map. Some think the Warriors planned to hold him out until things got really dire, to buy extra healing time and maybe not use him at all. Others now believe Durant’s rehab process of his strained right calf back-slid to some degree on Thursday, when he participated in a checkpoint workout with the training staff. A few folks think he never was going to return, regardless. After all, the All-NBA forward hasn’t played since May 8 (May 9, PHL time), missing nine fairly important games. This is a league where injuries typically face an “If this were a playoff game, would he play?” threshold. Durant has been nearly as absent from this NBA postseason as LeBron James. Look, all injuries are different, and even the same type of injury can have different timelines with different sufferers. Klay Thompson rushing back from his hamstring issue after skipping only Game 3 is at the crazy-resilient end of the durability scale. Kevon Looney basically rose from the ashes, giving the Warriors a rim runner and 10 points with six rebounds in 20 minutes off the bench. He had been ruled out for the rest of the series after suffering a rib cartilage fracture in his crash to the floor in Game 2. After anticipation of Durant’s availability got out in front of his reality for a few days, the chatter is more tempered now. There’s a shrug and a whiff of uncertainty folded into every mention. If Durant had his Thursday workout, he would have played Friday (Saturday, PHL time). If he had a setback … Heck, at this point it might be more pragmatic for the medical peeps to declare him out and let the Warriors who’ve come this far see this through, yea or nay. “As far as KD, there's been hope that he will come back the whole series,” Draymond Green said. “So that's not going to change now. Obviously we hope to have him, but we'll see what happens. We don't make that final call, he don't really even make that final call.  His body will tell him if he can get out there or not. And if he can, great. And if not, you still got to try to find a way to win the next game.” The Warriors had been holding out hope for Durant’s return as if he was their ace in the hole, imagining him with zero rust or rhythm issues once back and no limitations on his gait. But he has passed the “In case of emergency, break glass” point of urgent help possibilities. Now Durant resembles more the keg hanging from a Saint Bernard dog’s collar. It’s a nice idea, but when was the last time one of those dogs saved somebody who literally drank from the little barrel? Toronto is in a foreign land, by NBA standards. But it ain’t the Alps. 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 NewsJun 9th, 2019

Championship in sight, Raptors control Oracle Arena endgame

By Shaun Powell, NBA.com OAKLAND, Calif. — What once began as a fantasy, then progressed as hope and then grew to a reasonable wish has now evolved and crystalized once again. And this time, everyone south of Saskatoon can begin to see it and maybe even buy in. The Toronto Raptors have the scent of a champion. This may come as a surprise to the nostrils of anyone who saw them crumble in past postseasons or figured their chances of getting out of the East this season were dicey … but Toronto just took a pair of NBA Finals games at Oracle Arena — and maybe closed it down in the process. The Raptors are headed home with one game to win and history on their side. Thirty-four times in The Finals have teams taken 3-1 leads, and they sipped champagne all but once. (Let’s not discuss that lone team to lose; the Warriors are suffering enough.) This latest Raptors victory was impressively convincing, especially considering the circumstances. They stared at a desperate home team, one that welcomed back Klay Thompson after a one-game injury absence … a two-time defending champion known for rising to the occasion … and the Raptors dusted them anyway. You understand exactly what the Raptors did Friday (Saturday, PHL time) and how it was done? They emerged from the halftime locker room with fire and outclassed a team known for championship pedigree and owning third quarters in the postseason. Kawhi Leonard, who’s uplifting a team and a country, began the onslaught with a pair of three-point jumpers. The Toronto defense, relentless most of the night and throughout the series as well, squeezed the Warriors and especially Steph Curry. Time after time, Serge Ibaka delivered a counter punch with a key jumper off the pick and roll or a defensive stop. Ibaka had 20 points in 21 minutes in what was his first strong outing from jump to buzzer. Fred VanVleet, felled by a stray Shaun Livingston elbow to the chops in the third quarter, was left bloodied and missing a tooth in a scene that embodied Toronto's grit. The Raptors simply wore down the more experienced Warriors and Golden State never came up with an answer. Toronto stole the atmosphere — a smattering of red-garbed Raptors fans suddenly cheered louder and stomped harder and stayed buzzed long after the buzzer — and sent the Warriors off the court with heads bowed and egos deflated. Oh, something else: Nick Nurse, the first-year Toronto coach, kept pressing the right buttons with his various defensive schemes and substitutions as Golden State failed to break 100 for the first time this postseason. And the Raptors seized control of the series, ensuring that Scotiabank Arena will be a mixture of tense and hysterical Monday for Game 5 (Tuesday, PHL time). And that’s just from Drake. The crowd will be hyped, too. This is the moment that the basketball population in Toronto has long awaited, to get a sense something special is about to happen, or at least could. And this was made possible by a former Finals MVP who, this time last summer, was in exile with his reputation, at least in San Antonio, in tatters. By November, in Toronto, none of that mattered. “Once we saw him early in the year, your team’s vision of who they can become changes,” said Nurse. Leonard is a victory away from another Finals MVP and trophy, and mostly a sense of redemption. His passion and championship drive was evident Friday in two stages, both influential to his team. He set an example early by showing pep from the opening tip, carrying the Raptors with 14 of their 17 points over the first 12 minutes. And then, coming out of halftime, Leonard went scorched Earth once again. He posted 17 points and five rebounds in the third, and this time the Raptors lent support. Toronto outscored the Warriors, 37-21, and spent the rest of the game keeping a sneaker pressed on the Warriors’ throat. Kawhi tore through the Warriors constantly, totaling 36 points and 12 rebounds. Yet it was his tone that influenced the game just as much, if not more. “He imposed his will on the game and his team followed him,” said Draymond Green. “He gets the job done.” This is why Kawhi’s value to the Raptors is priceless. Until now, Toronto lacked a player with his presence, someone who forced other teams to gameplan differently, someone who seems to thrive when the stakes are highest and is driven in these situations. They didn’t have that with DeMar DeRozan or Kyle Lowry, the leaders and best players of those teams that flourished in the regular season and failed in the postseason. Leonard clearly has the Warriors rattled and their defense stressed whenever he’s in isolation or bracing to attack. “He hit every big shot, every big momentum shot,” said Curry. Just the same, the Kawhi-inspired defense weighed heavily not only in this game but for much of the series. With the exception of Curry’s monstrous 47-point outburst in Game 3, Toronto hasn’t yielded much from the Warriors — surely, Kevin Durant’s absence and Thompson’s missed game contributed. Yet the Raptors are floating Leonard around the floor, sneaking in doubles on Thompson and Curry, leaving Green open and encouraging him to shoot, and essentially making it tough for the Warriors to go on a big scoring spree. Toronto has outscored the Warriors in 13 of the 16 quarters of this series. Hounded by the Raptors’ perimeter defense, and maybe gassed from two nights earlier, Curry made only a pair of three-pointers Friday (Saturday, PHL time) and never developed a rhythm. And while Thompson returned from his injury with 28 points, he was harmless in the fourth quarter and his team quiet. “They’ve been aggressive all series in trying to take space away from me and Klay,” Curry said. As the Warriors and the crowd disappeared from the arena, there was a sense of finality in the air inside Oracle. If the Warriors don’t win Monday (Tuesday, PHL time), then the last memory of their home of nearly six decades will be a deflating one. Instead of dreamy visions of Curry and Thompson and Durant spraying jumpers, it will be Leonard punishing the Warriors and the home team powerless to stop him or from being pushed to the brink. And speaking of Durant: Coach Steve Kerr has now gone radio silent about his superstar’s availability for Monday (Tuesday, PHL time) or beyond. The subject has become tiresome because there’s no resolution regarding someone who hasn’t played in a month. And so the Warriors have twin motivations for Monday (Tuesday, PHL time): Win to stay alive and also to play once more at Oracle for a Game 6. Yet at this point, with the dynasty showing cracks, that might be a lost cause. “I know we’re capable,” said Kerr. “We’ve got a lot of talent and got a lot of pride and these guys have been to The Finals five straight years for a reason. They’re going to fight the whole way.” Green added: “I’ve been on the wrong side of 3-1 before, so why not make our own history?” Well, that now-or-never talk is fine. Yet it’s all about the Raptors making history now, and stopping the Warriors’ streak in the process. It’s all there for the taking for Toronto: One win, a chance to celebrate on the home floor, and a marvelous and striking professional rebound for Kawhi Leonard, who surely will be named Finals MVP should all of the above happen. Dare we say, it’s the Raptors title to lose now. A title anointed to the Warriors even before the season began. Well, plenty has happened in the last seven months. And especially the last seven days. 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 NewsJun 8th, 2019

Warriors lead 46-42 after cold-shooting half

OAKLAND, Calif. (AP) — Klay Thompson has 14 points and the Golden State Warriors lead the Toronto Raptors 46-42 at halftime of Game 4 of the NBA Finals. It has not been offensively pretty so far. The teams are shooting a combined 4-for-30 from three-point range — Toronto is 2-for-17, Golden State 2-for-13. Golden State's Stephen Curry is 0-for-5 from beyond the arc, and so is Toronto's Danny Green. Curry and Kevon Looney each have eight points for the Warriors. Kawhi Leonard has 14 and Kyle Lowry has eight for Toronto. The 88 combined points is the lowest total in the first half of a finals game since the Warriors led Cleveland 45-43 at the break in Game 6 of the 2015 series......»»

Category: sportsSource:  abscbnRelated NewsJun 8th, 2019

Raptors rip a page from Warriors playbook to go up 3-1

In a sloppy, miss-filled first half, the Toronto Raptors and the Golden State Warriors combined to shoot 4-of-30 from long-range, with each team accounting for two triples. Given how prolific both sides' offenses can be, everyone was sure that the cold spell was not going to last. Come the third quarter, it seemed a given that one team would be able to find their range and go on a big run. Many thought it would be the home team Warriors. Instead, it was the visiting Raptors. After hitting a mere 34.1% from the field in the first half, Toronto opened the third with back-to-back Kawhi Leonard triples, which set the tone for a 37-21 quarter, and a 79-67 lead. Toronto wound up shooting 52.2% in that quarter, converting 5-of-7 three-pointers, and burying the Warriors under a flurry that should be familiar to the defending champions. After all, "how did he hit that?" three-pointers and suffocating defense (GSW was just 7-of-20 from the field, 3-of-9 on three's) used to be their third quarter modus operandi, and in the face of what they used to terrorize the league with, Golden State had no answer. "We played pretty well for 26 minutes," said Stephen Curry in the postgame. "And then they took control of the game. It's one of those nights where you play [with] a lot of energy and you start to build momentum and then the wheels fall off a little bit." Based on the injury report prior to this game, things seemed to be headed for a Warriors win and a 2-2 series tie. Klay Thompson was back in the starting five, while the team got a boost from the unexpected return of Kevon Looney, who was initially ruled out of the remainder of the Finals. Thompson led the Warriors in first-half points with 14, and Looney was not far back with eight on 4-of-5 shooting, while playing stingy defense. But there were warning signs that unless the Warriors could come out strong in the third, there would be trouble brewing from Toronto. Curry also had eight points but was a miserable 0-of-5 on three's. Another starter, DeMarcus Cousins, accounted for three of his side's nine turnovers, in addition to two fouls. And most importantly, Golden State, for all that early momentum, was up by just four at the break. "I thought they just took it to us right from the beginning of the [third] quarter," admitted Warriors coach Steve Kerr. "Kawhi hit two three's immediately and they turned up their defense, and they just got on a run. And we just sort of lost that defensive tenacity that we had in the first half." Back in Game 2, the Warriors opened the third with an 18-0 run, as the Raptors just missed shot after shot, including ones that seemingly refused to drop into the hoop. This third period run wasn't as explicit, but the visiting side had a 13-5 edge in fast break points, and committed just half the amount of Golden State's six turnovers, converting those errors into nine easy markers. "I know Kawhi's two big three's to start the half...I thought changed the whole feel of everybody," said Raptors coach Nick Nurse. "I just thought everybody was like, okay, man, we know we are here, let's go, and we just kind of kept going from those two three's." Toronto's poise simply has to be commended. Despite this being the first time the franchise has gotten this far in the NBA Playoffs, the team has co-opted the robotic, can't-get-him-to-flinch persona of their main gun, Kawhi Leonard. Going back to Finals Game 2, which already seems like months ago, despite Golden State's big run to start the third, the Raptors were still in the game, right up until Andre Iguodala's massive triple, which turned out to be the dagger. And so with the deficit being a mere four points at the half, they were calm, and more importantly confident, that they'd be able to get back on top, which is exactly what they did. With Thompson and Looney back in the lineup, Golden State really only has one more trump card: a returning Kevin Durant. But as talented as the Slim Reaper is, it's hard to believe that he, coming off a month of no hoops, can single-handedly turn things around. "We got to win one game," Draymond Green pointed out. "We win one, then we'll build on that. I've been on the wrong side of 3-1 before, so why not make our own history." The champs have their bravado, and it's well-earned, but in the face of an unblinking opponent that seems to be out-Warriors-ing the Warriors, it may just be a matter of "how much longer." "We were confident," says Kawhi Leonard of that explosive third quarter. "We wanted to come in and have a good third quarter coming out of the first five minutes, stay aggressive on both ends of the floor, keep our energy up. "And that's all we did." The views on this page do not necessarily reflect the views of the NBA, its clubs or ABS-CBN Sports......»»

Category: sportsSource:  abscbnRelated NewsJun 8th, 2019

Five things we learned from Game 3 of the 2019 Finals

By Steve Aschburner, NBA.com OAKLAND – Five things we learned from the Toronto Raptors’ 123-109 victory over the Golden State Warriors in Game 3 of the 2019 Finals Wednesday (Thursday, PHL time) at Oracle Arena: 1. What Stephen Curry learned … Curry was remarkable in Game 3, consciously seizing more of Golden State’s offensive burden to make up for Klay Thompson’s and Kevin Durant’s absences and turning that desperation into something historic. With 47 points, eight rebounds and seven assists, the Warriors point guard became only the ninth man to score at least 45 points in a Finals game. The lesson in that? Curry learned for a night what it has felt like for LeBron James on many such occasions. James put himself on that specific list a year ago when he logged 51 points, eight board and eight assists against Curry’s team in Game 1, same court. Like Curry, James’ team lost that night as well. Struggling mightily in something of a one-against-five predicament is the sort of things James has done often, while Curry never had faced it during Golden State’s five-year run to The Finals. They both -- James in the past and Curry on Wednesday (Thursday, PHL time) -- had legit NBA players around them. But the responsibility to put up points fell in both cases mostly on their shoulders. This was even a chance to revisit the 2015 Finals MVP selection, which attracted some attention on social media Tuesday (Wednesday, PHL time) over bogus speculation about the voting process. Andre Iguodala won the award that June, getting seven votes from the panel of media reps to James’ four. Curry got no votes. The point was, Curry had as a single game Wednesday (Thursday, PHL time) what James had as an entire series in ’15. He averaged 35.8 points, 13.3 rebounds and 8.8 assists, scoring 38.5 percent of Cleveland’s points (215-of-561) while assisting on 52.7 percent of his teammates’ baskets while he was on the court. Now Curry is the guy in position, if Golden State loses the series, to get a few MVP votes in a losing effort. By the way, Jerry West is the only player to win the Finals MVP trophy in a losing effort. And West is one of the nine to score 45 or more – he did it three times, but his Lakers teams went 1-2 in those games. (The others: Michael Jordan three times, Bob Pettit, Elgin Baylor, Rick Barry, Wilt Chamberlain and Allen Iverson once each. Their teams all won on their big scoring nights.) 2. Is the scoreboard broken? It’s tempting to say that the Warriors’ attack is in broken-record mode, except the resurgence of vinyl might not be sufficient yet to bring that phrase back into the mainstream. So we’ll go with a cultural reference that’s more classic than archaic. Think of The Beatles’ “Revolution 9,” but substitute “109… 109… 109…” Yeah, it’s been about as monotonous and unsatisfying for Golden State as it was on the White Album. At least Warriors coach Steve Kerr was somewhat bemused by his team’s scoreboard consistency. In each game of these Finals, Golden State has scored 109 points. “I just knew we were going to score 109 points because that’s all we’re going to do the rest of this series,” Kerr said. “So if we’re going to keep scoring 109, we got to keep them to 108.” The Warriors kept Toronto to 104 points in Game 2. Some of that was to their credit, some to the Raptors’ misfires and mid-game chill. The simplest stat? Toronto launched 38 three-pointers in both games. The night the Raptors made 11, they lost. When they made 17, they won. Getting Thompson back for Game 4 could make a big difference there. He is one of Golden State’s best defenders. For that matter, Durant’s length could assert itself as a defensive weapon, too, if he comes back later in the series. As for 109 being a winning points total, here is some background: taken in isolation, averaged over a full Finals, that would have been plenty to win 19 of the past 20 championships. The lone exception? In 2017, when Cleveland averaged 114.8 ppg yet lost because Golden State was putting up 121.6 nightly. In 2018, the Warriors averaged 116 points to the Cavaliers’ 101. The only other times a Finals team in the past 20 years averaged within five points of 109 were the Spurs in 2015 (105.6) and in 2007 (104.4) and the Lakers in 2002 (106.0) and 2000 (104.8). Obviously, a few of those were in the game’s relative “dark ages” for use of the 3-ball, but all four won championships. The Warriors are scoring enough points to win. 3. ‘Boogie’ fever has broken   DeMarcus Cousins called his decision to sign with Golden State for a cut-rate contract, while rehabbing from an Achilles injury, his “chess move.” He wound up joining the defending champions and favorite to three-peat, and got his game back in time to contribute. Cousins subsequently suffered a quadriceps injury but returned in time to participate in The Finals. Only thing is, he looked like he was back playing checkers in Game 3. The Warriors center stood out Sunday (Monday, PHL time), scoring 11 points with 10 rebounds, six assists and two blocks. But those numbers drooped to four points, three boards, three turnovers and 1-for-7 shooting in Game 3. Cousins went from plus-12 impact in Game 2 to minus-12 Wednesday (Thursday, PHL time). The big man looked a step slow and appeared to be bothered by Toronto’s length, in the forms of Marc Gasol, Pascal Siakam and Serge Ibaka. With little lift these days, he’s playing a little smaller than his 6'11", 270-pound specs. And given how long he was off and the mere eight minutes he got in Game 1, what Cousins did in Game 2 was starting to look more adrenaline-fueled than a reliable return to form. Since Curry handled just about everything else for Golden State in Game 3, he was asked afterward about Cousins’ “regression.” The point guard handled the awkward moment well -- being asked a critical question about a teammate might have tempted Curry to blow it off or lie. Instead, he talked of the Warriors’ shared responsibility on defense and noted a few calls offensively that didn't go Cousins' way. Then Curry added: “Like any great player, if you have a rough game, that resiliency to bounce back and the confidence to know that you can still go out there and impact the game, that’s something that he’ll bring, and we all will follow suit for sure.” 4. Danny Green’s big moment Understandably, when an All-Star and potential Kia MVP candidate gets traded, the deal becomes all about him. Next, folks focus on the key player or players swapped out and how the move might work for the other team. Only then do we play much attention to the guy or guys accompanying the All-Star to his new destination. That’s how it’s been for Danny Green for much of the 2018-19 season. Green and Kawhi Leonard were teammates in San Antonio for seven seasons. They went to two Finals together with the Spurs, winning rings in 2014. But when Leonard wanted out after an injured and rancorous 2017-18, the deal the Spurs put together with Toronto shipped out Danny Green, too. The reality of NBA trades is that salaries must match up, so teammates often become collateral damage to even up the dollar sufficiently to satisfy league rules. Sometimes, a teammate is thrown into a deal because he and the star are chums. A familiar face gives the featured guy some comfort -- or someone to carry his bags. But Green was a helpful playoff performer in his own right with the Spurs -- in his 12 Finals games before this year, he had made 52 percent of his three-pointers. And in 2013 he made 27 of them against the Miami Heat, a Finals record that was his for all of three years until Curry drained 32 in 2016. Green struggled with his shot in the Eastern Conference finals against the Milwaukee Bucks, going 4-for-23 on three-pointers. But his marksmanship early in Game 3 and against near the end of the third quarter propelled the Raptors’ victory. 5. Those rebounds are offensive   Toronto dominated on the offensive glass 15-6 in Game 2 and lost. Golden State dominated on the offensive glass 13-5 in Game 3 and lost. Typically, that’s a positive category for the team that wins it, something coaches hate when the other guys are reclaiming their own misses time and again. But lately, the demerits associated with offensive rebounds have loomed larger than the benefits. You grab a shot you or your teammate missed, that ought to be a good thing. But the Raptors in Game 2 (37.2 percent) and the Warriors in Game 3 (39.6 percent) were beset by inaccuracy, so there were more offensive rebounds to be had, period. The other down side of a generally positive stat is how you go about getting them. If you get overeager and the defense controls the errant shot, you might denude your transition defense. Both the Raptors and the Warriors in Games 2 and 3 respectively built considerable edges in second-chance points off their offensive rebound totals. Toronto had a 23-0 scoring advantage Sunday (Monday, PHL time), yet lost by five. Golden State held it 23-12 Wednesday, yet lost by 14. The losing team in both cases slightly won the battle of fast-break points, but offensive-rebounding strategy still forces a choice on teams. “We have a general kind of rule of thumb that once a shot goes up, we tell our guys to make a really quick, good decision,” Raptors coach Nick Nurse said before Game 3. “Either they're going hard to the offensive rebound or they're going hard to defense transition. … There's certain moments of the game – I mean, some of those late are almost scrambles, right, you're behind five and you're throwing it up there and everybody's trying to rebound, just to keep the game alive as well.” It’s a stat worth watching, even if it’s inversely related lately to the games’ outcomes. Sing it loud, sing it proud ???????? #WeTheNorth pic.twitter.com/8HfjoM9Cht — Toronto Raptors (@Raptors) June 6, 2019 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 NewsJun 7th, 2019

All s well that ends well for No. 1 Osaka at French Open

By Howard Fendrich, Associated Press PARIS (AP) — Naomi Osaka screamed "Oh, my God!" after one shanked shot. Mouthed something and clasped her hands together, as if praying, after another. There were plenty of deep sighs and exaggerated eyerolls, too. The No. 1-seeded Osaka got off to a terrible start at the French Open again, never masking her frustration. After some slip-ups near the end, Osaka also prevailed again, displaying the grit and groundstrokes that just won't let her lose during what's become a 16-match Grand Slam winning streak. Osaka trailed by a set and a break Thursday against former No. 1 Victoria Azarenka in the second round at Roland Garros, before coming all the way back to win an entertaining matchup 4-6, 7-5, 6-3 and prolong her bid for a third consecutive major championship. "I have this mindset that I feel like I can win if it gets down to the wire. Like, if I have to break a person, I feel like I have the ability to do that," Osaka said. "So I probably shouldn't wait until the last minute." Probably. In the first round, Osaka not only dropped the opening set, but did so by a 6-0 score. This time, Osaka ceded the first four games against Azarenka and was responsible for their match's initial seven unforced errors. "Technically, like, she kind of killed me in the first set," Osaka said, "and I just kept trying to find a way to stay positive." Defending champion Simona Halep required that same sort of resolve to get through her own test, blowing a big lead in the second set and a trio of match points before holding on to beat 87th-ranked Magda Linette 6-4, 5-7, 6-3. Halep, who said afterward she felt a "little bit sick" and plans to "sleep all day tomorrow," was up a set and 5-3 in the second before dropping four games in a row and getting broken twice while serving for the match. Neither Osaka nor Halep managed to put on the sort of solid performance seen from Serena Williams — barely bothered during a 6-3, 6-2 victory over qualifier Kurumi Nara — or top-seeded man Novak Djokovic, also a straight-set winners. Azarenka sought to control points with deep, attacking strokes and by going after Osaka's backhand side. "I played very smart. I really played the right spots," Azarenka said. "I was doing everything that I was supposed to do. And, especially, moving well and pushing her back." Azarenka knows a thing or two about how to perform on the sport's biggest stages: She won two titles at the Australian Open, reached two finals at the U.S. Open and was a semifinalist at both Wimbledon and, back in 2013, the French Open. She is currently ranked 43rd, though, on account of missing time over the past few seasons while pregnant and then dealing with a custody issue involving her son. So what, in terms of talent and tenacity, could have passed for a late-in-the-proceedings showdown at a major was held, instead, in Week 1, with the temperature barely above 60 degrees Fahrenheit (15 Celsius) and the occasional raindrop. When Azarenka sprinted for a cross-court forehand winner that closed a 15-stroke exchange, she led 4-2 in the second set after 77 minutes. They would play for more than 1½ additional hours, and Azarenka certainly had opportunities to edge even farther ahead, such as when she had a break point to go up 5-2 and serve for the victory but netted a forehand. Or the three times she was one point from leading 5-3 but got broken there with her second double-fault of the game. It was Azarenka's serve that faltered down the stretch. It also was Osaka's top-notch returning that contributed to a key stretch in which she grabbed 9 of 11 games. "She has, obviously, a lot of confidence," Azarenka said. Which Osaka should, of course, given that she won the U.S. Open in September and the Australian Open in January and is trying to become the first woman in tennis history to collect her first three Slam trophies in a row. "She's very powerful. She's very explosive," Azarenka said. "Her shots are pretty heavy. She can hit both sides, pretty even. She has a big serve, and she's consistent. ... And proving that she deserves to be where she's at right now." All of which is true. And all of which made it fascinating, then, to hear Osaka describe her attitude going into the match. "Today I kind of felt like a challenger," she said. "Like, I know she went to the semis here before, so obviously she has a lot more experience here," said the 21-year-old Osaka, who has never been past the third round in Paris but is 9-1 on clay in 2019 after entering the season with a 9-11 mark on the slow surface. "She won Grand Slams and she was No. 1 way before I was. I'm still kind of new at this." New at it, maybe. Good at it, definitely......»»

Category: sportsSource:  abscbnRelated NewsMay 31st, 2019

Raptors on brink of first Finals berth in franchise history

By Steve Aschburner, NBA.com TORONTO -- Twenty-one would be a very cool number for the Toronto Raptors. Before they get it, though, they’ll need to get one. And one would be beyond cool. Off the charts, historic, potentially transformative and largely indescribable. Twenty-one: That’s how many teams in NBA playoff history will have overcome an 0-2 start to win a best-of-seven series, if the Raptors manage to close out the Milwaukee Bucks in the Eastern Conference finals. Whether it happens in Game 6 Saturday night (Sunday, PHL time) at Scotiabank Arena or in Game 7 back in Milwaukee Monday (Tuesday, PHL time), Toronto would buck outlandish odds -- this is the 289th series to begin with the same team winning the first two games, so we’re talking a seven percent likelihood (20-of-288). [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] One: That’s all that stands between the Raptors and the first NBA Final appearance in Toronto franchise history. One more victory in the next three days would validate the risks and twists of this 2018-19 season for the Raptors, while exorcising nearly a quarter century’s worth of demons. One little win and Toronto finally will break through, capping a stellar six-year run of promising regular seasons and heartbreaking postseasons. They will have earned, in the face of so much uncertainty, their best shot yet at a championship, even if it means going through the mighty Golden State Warriors. When Raptors president Masai Ujiri traded for star forward Kawhi Leonard, he was gambling not just that Leonard could recover from the right quadriceps injury that scuttled his 2017-18. He was guessing that swapping in Leonard for former All-Star wing DeMar DeRozan could push Toronto to, well, right where they’re at. And he was hoping Leonard, a rent-a-player able to leave this summer in free agency, would enjoy the whole experience enough to let Ujiri pay him $220 million over the next five seasons. It’s impossible to know where things stand on that last front, owing to Leonard’s inscrutability and a decision that’s still six weeks away. But the Raptors never have gotten this far, so there is an opportunity here to be savored, with more potentially to come. “It would be a very, very long summer thinking about what could have been or what you could have done,” guard Fred VanVleet said, framing things a bit negatively after raining 7-of-9 three-pointers on Milwaukee in the 105-99 Game 5 victory. “So we've just got to go out there and have no regrets. … One win away from the Finals sounds pretty good to me.” Sounds a little easier, maybe, than it actually will be. The Raptors are at home for Game 6 and the crowd at Scotiabank crowd, already dialed high, will be able to let it rip without any fear -- immediate fear, anyway -- of failure. But Milwaukee will be desperate. Giannis Antetokounmpo has pledged that his team will not “fold.” And the Bucks have zero interest in a knock-knock year, believing all season that they were good enough to reach and win the championship. They wouldn’t be human if they weren’t shaken by the three consecutive defeats Toronto has dealt them. The Raptors have managed to surround and partially stifle Antetokounmpo, while still firing out enough to bother Milwaukee’s three-point shooters into repeated misfires. The Bucks’ defense has been probed and poked like a cut-rate steak. They resorted again to some uncharacteristic switching in Game 5 but had most of their success inside the arc. Late in the pivotal loss, they got beat for five offensive rebounds, when grabbing two or three might have swung the outcome. “It's win or lose,” coach Mike Budenholzer said Friday (Saturday, PHL time) in a conference call with reporters. “When you win, there are things that [still] are concerning and unsettling that you need to work on and improve. I think there's just enough possessions where there's a couple of rebounds that stand out. “Can we do a little bit better job in some of our activity in certain situations. Offensively, I think at times can our spacing be better and our ball movement be better? But I would say it's like a lot of games. We didn't get it done.” One area in which Budenholzer refuses to budge, dire circumstances be darned, is in his use vs. overuse of Antetokounmpo. The load the Greek Freak carries when he’s on the floor, the activity he generates, leads to fatigue and wear-and-tear that requires regular breathers. Extending his star’s minutes, Budenholzer believes, would lead to less “peak Giannis” rather than more, an inevitable tradeoff of quality over quantity. And the Bucks need every bit of Antetokounmpo’s best, or what’s left of it in their 97th game of the season. “Giannis, it's so impressive what he does and how important he is,” Budenholzer said. “I maintain that him getting appropriate rest, appropriate kind of just a chance to catch his breath, refuel… At the end of the day, you need to be able to produce and perform, including in the fourth quarter.” At the possible end of your season, though, you’ll have plenty of time to refuel if the opponent pounces while your star sits. Said Raptors coach Nick Nurse, in his own teleconference: “It's a ‘whatever it takes’ game. It's an unlimited-minutes night. This is just like any other critical must-win game.” 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 25th, 2019

PBA: Yeng irate over “stupid” foul that cost NLEX a win

In a close game Saturday against Northport, one particular call got NLEX head coach Yeng Guiao irate. With the Road Warriors trailing by one in the final minute, Kyles Lao was called for a pushing foul on Nico Elorde. Elorde was going out of bounds and tried to call timeout. No timeout was awarded but instead, Lao was called for the push when he rushed in and tried to trap Elorde near the sideline. Guiao argued the call and was given a technical in the process. And while Elorde ended up missing two of the three free throws awarded to him, NLEX ended up still losing by four, dropping to 0-2 for the 2019 Commissioner’s Cup. “I'm not surprised that people are complaining about the officiating. My problem with that call is si [technical director] Eric Castro justified [it]. I think that's stupidity. That is a stupid way to justify that call. They justified it by saying there was contact. The problem is not all contacts are foul. To me, that is a stupid way to justify that,” Guiao said. “Sobrang nipis. And previous to that action, kung gusto nilang tumawag ng foul, we just watched the tape, Sean Anthony was climbing all over the back of Kenneth Ighalo. They did not call that but they called an itsy bitsy physical contact. To me, that's not justifiable,” he added. With such a close game and the timing of the call, coach Yeng says that the foul should have been let go. It pretty much cost NLEX the win he said. “We got a really ugly break. I don't think the foul on Kyles Lao was something that you should call in a situation like that,” Guiao said. “That's a really bad call and it cost us the game,” he added. Still, coach Yeng was satisfied with his team’s effort in the loss. NLEX went All-Filipino against Northport as import Tony Mitchell’s documents didn’t arrive in time to make the game. “I'm actually happy with our effort. We played without an import but we had a chance to win the game in the last one or two possessions,” Guiao said. — Follow this writer on Twitter, @paullintag8.....»»

Category: sportsSource:  abscbnRelated NewsMay 25th, 2019

PBA: Jones gets 40-20 and TNT rolls past Alaska

There’s no stopping Terrence Jones and TNT in the 2019 PBA Commissioner’s Cup. At least for now. Jones was dominant once again, leading the KaTropa to a big 99-85 win over Alaska Saturday at the Big Dome. After firing 41 points in his PBA debut, Jones was good for 43 points this time and TNT won a second game in as many outings. He also had 22 rebounds before getting ejected with two minutes left for two technical fouls in the game. “Our main short-term goal is to win as much as possible, especially in the early part of the conference,” said head coach Bong Ravena. “Kailangan main laging maka-panalo, hahanapin kasi namin mga talo namin sa una [late in the conference],” he added. TNT got the job done against the Aces to be on top of the standings this early. The KaTropa pulled away in the fourth, leading by as many as 19 after being only up two at the break. Jones was largely responsible for that, scoring 14 in the second quarter and another 21 in the second half to anchor the TNT offense. Jayson Castro was the top local for the KaTropa, adding 14 points, three asssists, three steals, and two blocks. Alaska got 23 from import Chris Daniels and 22 from Jvee Casio but the Aces have now lost back-to-back games for a 1-2 record. — Follow this writer on Twitter, @paullintag8.....»»

Category: sportsSource:  abscbnRelated NewsMay 25th, 2019

PBA: “Nakakainip” says Almazan as he waits for Meralco debut

Raymond Almazan’s on-court debut for Meralco is coming very soon. The Bolts acquired the star big man during the conference break in a trade with Rain or Shine, giving up two first round picks in the process. However, with Almazan bothered by ankle injuries that limited him in the All-Filipino, Meralco is letting him fully recover before making him suit up in an actual game. That and the Bolts just want to incorporate Almazan better in their system. “There’s no set time for him to come back yet. He had a realy strenuous workout two days ago, and I think he proved to the doctor that he could play already,” Meralco head coach Norman Black said. “So now it’s just a matter of getting him in shape and getting him used to our system. So it maybe another two games at least before he comes back. But he’ll be back soon,” he added. For Almazan, he’s just doing his due diligence and getting into game shape. He’s also working on being the anchor of the defense for Meralco once he actually plays. “Nakakainip. Nagpapa-kundisyon na ako for almost two weeks so sana next week, makasabay na ako sa kanila ng five-on-five,” Almazan said. “Defense-first ako bago shoot. I started with defense bago pa ako makarating sa liga, so sana madala ko yung intensity sa defense and then makatulong ako sa team, rebounding, blocking, at helping sa weak side,” he added.   — Follow this writer on Twitter, @paullintag8.....»»

Category: sportsSource:  abscbnRelated NewsMay 24th, 2019

Filipinos Munzon, Statham break into top 100 of world 3x3 rankings

Though Pasig Chooks-to-Go was not able to come home with a win during the main draw of the 2019 FIBA 3x3 Kunshan Challenger last weekend, the club and its players continued to rise in the world rankings. Filipino-Americans Joshua Munzon (374,440 points) and Taylor Statham (372,360) cracked the top 100 players in the world ranking, placing 93rd and 95th, respectively. Munzon averaged 8.0 points per game in the tournament while Statham normed 6.0 points per contest. For its part, Pasig Chooks jumped three places from being the no. 27 club in the world to 24 because of their participation in the level nine-tourney. "We lost to the better teams in Kunshan, but it's a learning experience for our players," said Chook Pilipinas 3x3 owner Ronald Mascariñas. The Philippines, however, dropped to 34th in the world in the men's category. Hoping to reverse that trend, the Filipinos will have two teams in the Tinkoff Moscow Challenger on June 7 and 8. Joining Pasig Chooks in Russia is Balanga Chooks which will enter the tournament as a wildcard entry in the qualifier for the Prague Masters......»»

Category: sportsSource:  abscbnRelated NewsMay 23rd, 2019

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

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

Category: sportsSource:  abscbnRelated NewsMay 23rd, 2019

Raymond, natakot sa pagganap bilang Quezon

AMINADO si Raymond Bagatsing na na nakaramdam siya ng takot sa  pagkakakuha sa kanya para gumanap na Manuel Luis Quezon sa Quezon’s Game ng ABS-CBN Films’ Star Cinema at Kinetek Productions. “It can make or break you kasi. Malaking challenge talaga ang pagkakuha sa akin dito. Kasi mahusay ka tapos biglang may, ‘ay hindi siya ........»»

Category: filipinoSource:  hatawtabloidRelated NewsMay 21st, 2019

Leonard stars in Raptors Game 3 adjustments

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

Category: sportsSource:  abscbnRelated NewsMay 20th, 2019

2019 National Youth Futsal Invitational Mindanao Regional Finals: Matchday 1 Results

The first day of the regional finals has been an intense one as a lot of goals have went in and from 23 combined teams for the boys and girls across two age groups, seven has been trimmed heading into the semifinals of the tournament. We now look into the highlights of matchday one.   Corpus Christi FC def. Lianga FC 6-1 (U-16 Boys) In their first game of the day, the Northern Mindanao winners Corpus Christi FC showed how dominant they can be against Lianga FC. They started the game with taking things slow and passing the ball around. However, when they got their first goal into the back of the net, there’s no turning back for Corpus Christi as they went on to win six goals to nil against Lianga FC. Despite not keeping a clean sheet, it was still a convincing victory for the boys in blue and yellow. With that victory, they had a momentum on their side as they went on as well to win their second match of the day against Crocs FC to seal their spot in the semifinals.   Watashi FC 1-1 Pantukan NHS FC (U-16 Girls) Despite not having a lot of goals in this match, it was still an entertaining match as Watashi FC and Pantukan NHS FC refused to be beaten by one another that’s why they both settled for a draw. In the first half of the match, Pantukan NHS FC looked to be the dominant side as they were able to pass the ball around and looked for openings of Watashi’s defence. With their patience they went into the halftime break with a one-nil lead. Watashi, on the other hand, turned the tables around in the second half as they spent most of the time with the ball. In the end they got a late equalizer as the time run down to share the points. Both teams went on to progress into the semifinals at the end of matchday one.   Tuloy Sa Davao def.  Dipolog FC 2-1 (U-14 Boys) In the final elimination game in the U-14 Boys division, it seemed like Tuloy sa Davao and Dipolog FC saved all their energy to bring their A-game and entertain the crowd at the Davao City National High School Futsal Court. Both teams kicked off with the desire to win and Dipolog FC their front foot ahead of the competitions as they scored a goal in the first half. It was then equalled by a stunning equalizer before the end of the first period. The second half saw a bit of tit-for-tat action between these sides but in the end, Tuloy sa Davao went home victorious as they slotted in a late goal towards the end of the game. Despite the win, Tuloy sa Davao failed to progress to the semifinals as they lost their first game against Lianga FC who joined Dipolog FC and Crocs FC into the next stage of the competition.   Calinan FC def. Sakya FC 2-1 (U-14 Girls) With what proved to be a vital win for Calinan FC, they were able to survive the threat from Sakya FC in their opening match. It was an intense match between these two sides who left everything inside the playing court. In the first half, Sakya FC found the opening goal as Calinan FC failed to organize their defense. Sakya FC thought they were able to hold down the opposition but Calinan FC refused to be defeated. As the second half commenced, Calinan FC went on with a barrage of attack against their opponent’s defense and their tenacity paid off. With almost four minutes into the half, Calinan FC got their equalizer before they’ve slotted the victory deep into the final minutes of the second half. Calinan FC made it out of the eliminations unscathed as they also won their second game against Stonefield FC.   Here are the complete results of Matchday 1 of the 2019 Allianz National Youth Futsal Invitational Regional Finals, Mindanao Leg   U-14 Boys Cafe Kat 1-1 RedCorals Culianan FC Lianga FC 2-0 Tuloy sa Davao Crocs FC 2-0 Cafe Kat Dipolog FC 2-0 Lianga FC RedCorals Culianan FC 0-1 Crocs FC Tuloy sa Davao 2-1 Dipolog FC   U-14 Girls Bulua Strikers 0-2 Cafe Kat Cafe Kat 0-3 Pantukan NHS FC Stonefield 1-4 Calinan FC Pantukan NHS FC 2-0 Bulua Strikers   U-16 Boys Tagum City Parents Utd 0-2 PCT Alligators Corpus Christi 6-1 Lianga FC PCT Alligators 2-1 Holy Cross FC Lianga FC 1-3 Crocs FC Holy Cross FC 0-0 Tagum City Parents Utd Crocs FC 0-2 Corpus Christi FC      .....»»

Category: sportsSource:  abscbnRelated NewsMay 20th, 2019

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

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

Category: sportsSource:  abscbnRelated NewsMay 19th, 2019

Bucks making case as favorites to win title

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

Category: sportsSource:  abscbnRelated NewsMay 18th, 2019