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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

Raptors running out of options as series shifts to Toronto

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

Category: sportsSource:  abscbnRelated NewsMay 18th, 2019

Stephen bests Seth in Curry brothers backyard basketball showdown

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

Category: sportsSource:  abscbnRelated NewsMay 17th, 2019

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

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

Category: sportsSource:  abscbnRelated NewsMay 8th, 2019

Rockets physicality puts vaunted Warriors on the defensive

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

Category: sportsSource:  abscbnRelated NewsMay 7th, 2019

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

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

Category: sportsSource:  abscbnRelated NewsMay 6th, 2019

Harden, Durant both covet championship, mantle of best player

By Shaun Powell, NBA.com Houston -- Steve Kerr’s mind is made up. He’s seen enough. The debate is closed and conquered, the election over and the firm conclusion has been reached, at least from where he stands. Kevin Durant “is the best player in the world, the most skilled player in the world” according to Kerr, who may be biased, but he didn’t sound like it. Kerr said this not once, but four times in the last two weeks, just in case someone didn’t get the message. [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] It’s hard to see where the Warriors’ coach is going wrong. Durant is evidently on a mission to (a) win his third and perhaps final championship with the Warriors, and (1-a) become universally recognized as the singularly greatest force in the league, a distinction that means so much to him. To paraphrase Durant, y’all know who he is by now. Durant is sitting at the mythical 50-40-90 threshold in the playoffs, the benchmark for shooting accuracy and efficiency from the floor, three-point range and free-throw line. He’s averaging 35 points in the postseason, 39 in the last seven games. He has two near-masterpieces, the 50-point closeout of the Clippers in the first round and 46 on the Rockets in Game 3 of this series. He’s making contested jumpers from all over the floor and from all angles. There’s really no defense for him. But when this series is over, James Harden hopes to change the conversation. If he does, that means (a) the Rockets will pull off a stunning comeback from being down two games, and (b) Harden out-dueled Durant in the process. Is either possible? Well, Harden might be the only player qualified to do so, even with a left eye that still looks like the Japanese flag. He managed to minimize if not eliminate that poked eye by chopping down the Warriors and pulling the Rockets within 2-1 of the series. “I was just being aggressive,” he said. “I was in attack mode.” He’s attacking something else. Harden, too, wants exactly the same as his friend and former Oklahoma City teammate. A championship would be his first, so obviously that’s paramount. The mantle of “game’s greatest player” is also desired because Harden believes the last four years bear that out. In that span, he won the MVP award and finished runner-up twice, better than anyone. Of course, the missing prize is the championship, which is the final and most authentic validation, and this season at least he must go through Durant to achieve that. Harden’s postseason hasn’t been as stellar as Durant’s, although perhaps Game 3 marked a shift. Harden scored 41 points and sent the Warriors home on a step-back three-pointer in the final seconds of overtime. He and the Rockets are bringing a fresh sense of confidence and also have Game 4 in their house. Sending this series all square back to Oakland wouldn’t be beyond his or their abilities. “In `Harden World,’ that was good, but he can play better,” said Rockets coach Mike D’Antoni. “That’s James. That’s what he does.” There’s a growing sense among the Warriors, and with some justification, that Harden’s bloody eye is no longer an issue. Harden’s vision was pure when it counted two nights ago and every day brings him a step closer to normalcy, if he isn’t already there. “I think he’s good to go,” said D’Antoni. The other concern for Golden State: Harden’s beginning to figure out the rotations and the Warriors’ defensive scheme. They know Harden adapts quickly to defenders and their tendencies because, at this point, he’s seen it all. Harden is a tough cover because of his shooting range and unwillingness to lose confidence after a string of misses, and his craftiness off the dribble while attacking the rim. “He had 41 points and it was a good chess game,” said Andre Iguodala. “He made some really tough shots. Some shots, where you pat him on the butt, and you say ‘helluva shot’. I felt like it was a little bit of cat and mouse. A guy like that -- you can’t stop him one on one. The defense did a good job of helping off and stopping him. We just have to try to make it hard as possible for him.” The nightmare game for the Warriors is Harden hitting enough early baskets and forcing them to double, then finding teammates for open looks that they make, such as Eric Gordon. In that scenario, points would come in an avalanche and place stress on the defense and possibly get key players into foul trouble, most notably Draymond Green and a suddenly-foul-prone Steph Curry. There’s also an intriguing subplot in the works: The Harden-Durant can-you-top-this drama. With Curry and Chris Paul both performing below their standards in this series, the series seems fixated on Harden and Durant and  what they’re capable of doing to the other team and, by extension, against each other. There’s a genuine and hefty amount of respect between the two, who are friends away from the floor as well. Both left OKC and have since generated millions in endorsement money and find themselves near or at the top of the superstar pecking order. Durant has what Harden doesn’t, a championship. But perhaps Harden has what Durant craves, a team to call his own. That would be the only reason Durant leaves the Warriors in free agency this summer, because it’s difficult to imagine him signing with a team that offers a better chance to win championships or make more in salary than the one he’s already on. Durant earned more points with Harden a few days ago when he defended the Rockets guard, saying Harden doesn’t “cheat the rules” when he tries to draw fouls and manipulate the referees. Durant added: “He can do everything. If you’re not focused, he can drive past you, hit you with the shoulder because he’s strong, and finish with either hand. He can shoot floaters now. Obviously the step-back 3-pointer is one of his staples, but I never believed he was just a free throw guy. He can score in a variety of ways.” Harden must prove that in this series. Last season in the Western Conference finals, he turned to vapor as that series stretched seven games. He made just 24 percent from deep and, after Paul suffered a hamstring pull in Game Five, couldn’t handle the load. In the elimination game, he missed 11-of-13 from deep. Durant, meanwhile, was the star and weeks later would clinch another title and Finals MVP award, outplaying LeBron James in the process. So Kerr’s contention about Durant has much weight and credibility. Through three games of this second-round series, there’s been no reason to question the coach’s claim. Only one person can flip that perception and create doubt. James Harden, therefore, has a tough job ahead. Veteran NBA writer Shaun Powell has worked for newspapers and other publications for more than 25 years. You can e-mail him here or follow him on Twitter. The views on this page do not necessarily reflect the views of the NBA, its clubs or Turner Broadcasting. .....»»

Category: sportsSource:  abscbnRelated NewsMay 6th, 2019

Mighty Adamson falls for first time at hands of FEU-Diliman

strong>TEAM STANDINGS /strong> br /> Adamson 7-1 br /> NU 7-1 br /> FEU-Diliman 6-2 br /> Ateneo 4-4 br /> DLSZ 2-5 br /> UPIS 2-5 br /> UE 1-6 br /> UST 1-6 Mark one up on the loss column for Adamson High School in the UAAP 79 Juniors Basketball Tournament. And doing the marking, from out of nowhere, is Far Eastern University-Diliman. Leaning on disciplined defense along with the hot hands of JJ Sapinit, the Baby Tamaraws ambushed the erstwhile undefeated Baby Falcons, 75-73, on Saturday at the San Juan Arena. Executing the gameplan to a tee, FEU-Diliman shut down the league-leaders, who were coming off an 83-point win, to only 18 made field goals. More than that, the Baby Tamaraws suffocated their opponents into only 32.7 percent shooting. According to coach Allan Albano, however, they didn’t do anything different. “Wala naman kaming ginawang extraordinary. In-improve lang talaga namin yung first round namin,” he said. At the other end, Sapinit took charge with a total of 24 points, leading FEU-Diliman to a feat no other team has done in the tournament. With the win, they solidified their stranglehold on solo third at 6-2 – just a game behind 7-1 Adamson and Nazareth School of National University. It definitely didn’t come easy, however, as Jason Celis waxed hot in the final frame to keep the Baby Falcons alive and kicking. Scoring eight of his 22 points inside the last seven minutes, he had them threatening at 73-74 with 2:13 to go. Celis even had a chance to retake the lead for Adamson, but muffed on both of his free throws. The Baby Tamaraws would not allow any more makes as Gonzales’ split from the line wrapped up their big-time win. Encho Serrano topped the scoring column in the Baby Falcons’ losing effort with 24 points. Downes for the first time in eight games, they fell into a first-place tie with the Bullpups. BOX SCORES SECOND GAME FEU-DILIMAN 75 – Sapinit 24, Jabel 11, Roman 9, Alforque Ro 7, Gloria 6, Torres 6, Gonzales 5, Celzo 5, Abarrientos 2, Gabane 0, Baclay 0, Bieren 0 ADAMSON 73 – Serrano 24, Celis 22, Agbong 7, Abadiano 5, Santos 5, Tamayo 3, Padrigao 2, Antiporda 2, Sabandal 2, Flores 1, Desoyo 0, Beltran 0 QUARTER SCORES: 19-20, 47-38, 59-59, 75-73 --- Follow this writer on Twitter, @riegogogo. .....»»

Category: sportsSource:  abscbnRelated NewsJan 14th, 2017

Beermen stay hot after surviving Gin Kings in thriller

It wasn't as dominant as their last couple of wins but it was a win regardless. Two-time defending Philippine Cup champion San Miguel pushed its winning streak to six games after surviving sister team Ginebra in a low-scoring affair, 72-70, Sunday at the Big Dome. Already assured of a quarterfinal berth after taking care of Blackwater just two days ago, the Beermen have started their quest for a twice-to-beat advantage in the quarterfinals. The champs also maintained their stranglehold of first place after pushing their record to a near-perfect 7-1. San Miguel appeared to cruise to a victory, leading by eight with two minutes to go but Ginebra got two booming treys from Joe Devance and LA Tenorio to make things interesting. With 11 seconds to go, the Gin Kings had the chance to tie or go for the win after Marcio Lassiter missed two crucial free throws but Tenorio's floater was way short against the defense of Arwind Santos. 'I know from the start na this will be a tight game for us dahil I think the energy of our team has gone down since our last game against Blackwater,' head coach Leo Austria said who once again started his post-game talk with his now infamous 'well ah...' remark. 'Mabuti na lang talagang may kaunti pang Petron na laman ang gas tank ng mga players,' he added finding time to put a little product placement here and there. Despite a broken nose, Alex Cabagnot once again led the Beermen in scoring with 16 points while Santos posted a double-double of 10 points and 12 rebounds. Ronald Tubid came off the bench to add another 10 points for the champs. Meanwhile, Ginebra's up-and-down season continued as the Gin Kings dropped to 3-4 in the Philippine Cup. Japeth Aguilar picked up where he left off from Christmas and paced Ginebra with 17 points.   The scores: SAN MIGUEL 72 - Cabagnot 16, Tubid 12, Santos 10, Fajardo 9, Lassiter 7, Espinas 7, De Ocampo 5, Ross 4, Garcia 2, Heruela 0. GINEBRA 70 - Aguilar 17, Mercado 11, Tenorio 8, Devance 7, Ferrer 7, Thompson 6, Cruz 6, Ellis 2, Mariano 2, Marcelo 2, Caguioa 2. Quarters: 15-17, 32-31, 53-49, 72-70   --- Follow this writer on Twitter, @paullintag8 .....»»

Category: sportsSource:  abscbnRelated NewsJan 8th, 2017

Butler drops 42 points as Bulls gore Raptors in OT

CHICAGO (AP) Jimmy Butler scored 42 points, and the Chicago Bulls overcame a 19-point deficit to beat the Toronto Raptors 123-118 in overtime Saturday night. Butler led a big run in the fourth quarter and hit a 3 with 17.3 seconds left in overtime for a five-point lead. He also hit the 40-point mark for the third time in six games. Dwyane Wade added 20 points, and Doug McDermott had 17 to help the Bulls win their 10th in a row against Toronto. DeMar DeRozan led the Raptors with 36 points. Kyle Lowry added 27 points, 12 assists and nine rebounds, but the Atlantic Division leaders lost for the fourth time in six games. The Raptors led by 19 late in the third, only to see the Bulls come charging back. It was tied in overtime when McDermott hit three free throws and cut for a dunk to give the Bulls a 116-111 lead with 2:18 remaining. Two free throws by Lowry made it a three-point game. But Terrence Ross missed potential tying 3-pointers on back-to-back possessions. Butler hit two free throws for Chicago after DeMarre Carroll converted 1 of 2 to make it 118-114 with 1:06 remaining. Lowry then drove for a layup to cut it to two, but Butler nailed a dagger 3 from the wing to make it 121-116 with 17.3 seconds left. All that happened after a wild finish in regulation, with both teams missing in the closing seconds. Wade missed a spinning, driving layup and Felicio missed the tip-in. Toronto had a chance to win, but DeRozan missed a floater and Lowry could not knock down a fadeaway as time expired. The Raptors led 82-63 late in the third quarter and were up 99-87 midway through the fourth when the Bulls went on a 14-0 run. Butler, who had 14 points in the fourth against Cleveland, scored nine in that stretch and fed Wade for a layup to put Chicago on top 101-99 with three minutes left. After Lowry hit a jumper for Toronto, Mirotic made a corner 3 to put the Bulls back on top 104-101 with 2:18 left. .....»»

Category: sportsSource:  abscbnRelated NewsJan 8th, 2017

NBA: Free throws lift Rockets

Brazil’s Nene drained two clutch free throws with 0.7 seconds left on the clock to lift the Houston Rockets to a 118-116 victory over the Oklahoma City Thunder on Thursday......»»

Category: newsSource:  tempoRelated NewsJan 6th, 2017

James scores 26 as short-handed Cavaliers beat Pelicans

em>By Steve Herrick, Associated Press /em> CLEVELAND (AP) — LeBron James scored 26 points and the short-handed Cleveland Cavaliers rallied for a 90-82 win over the New Orleans Pelicans on Monday night (Tuesday, PHL time). Cavaliers guard Kyrie Irving missed his second straight game because of tightness in his right hamstring. Cleveland dressed only 10 players thanks to a rash of recent injuries. After Buddy Hield hit two free throws to pull the Pelicans to 84-82 with 2:56 remaining, James scored six straight points and blocked a shot over a 1:47 stretch to seal the Cavaliers' eight win in nine games. Cleveland's Kevin Love had 12 points and 11 rebounds despite playing only 24 minutes. Channing Frye added 14 points for the defending NBA champions, who have won 13 of 15. Anthony Davs scored 20 points with 17 rebounds for the Pelicans, whose four-game winning streak came to an end. Cleveland erased a 10-point deficit late in the third quarter and took a 73-71 lead on a basket by rookie Kay Felder, who scored eight points in the fourth. Felder and Iman Shumpert each finished with 12 points. James and Davis tumbled into the courtside seats chasing a loose ball late in the hotly-contested game. Cleveland was 6-of-26 from the field and missed all 10 of its three-point attempts in the first quarter, which ended with New Orleans leading 22-15. The Cavaliers shot 34-for-90 from the field for the game. The Cavaliers were also without Mike Dunleavy (sprained right ankle), J.R. Smith (fractured right thumb) and Chris Andersen (torn ACL in right knee). Davis, who was moved to center last week, was 10-of-27 from the field. New Orleans didn't shoot a free throw until midway through the second quarter when Davis missed two attempts. The Pelicans were 7-of-10 from the line. strong>TIP-INS /strong> em> strong>Pelicans: /strong> /em>Omer Asik and Alexis Ajinca have seen their playing time cut with Davis moving to center. Asik hasn't played in five straight games while Ajinca hasn't seen action in the last four. New Orleans plays five of its next six on the road. em> strong>Cavaliers: /strong> /em> Dunleavy also missed his second straight game. James' late flurry helped the Cavs avoid their season-low in points (85), set against Memphis last month when James, Irving and Love all sat out. strong>UP NEXT /strong> em> strong>Pelicans: /strong> /em>Host Atlanta on Thursday (Friday, PHL time). em> strong>Cavaliers: /strong> /em>Host Chicago on Wednesday (Thursday, PHL time). The Bulls won their lone meeting this season. .....»»

Category: sportsSource:  abscbnRelated NewsJan 3rd, 2017

Hayward helps Jazz hold off Suns

SALT LAKE CITY (AP) Rudy Gobert had 18 points and 13 rebounds and Gordon Hayward added 18 points and nine rebounds in the Utah Jazz's 91-86 victory over the Phoenix Suns on Saturday night. Rodney Hood added 13 points to help the Jazz win their third straight and improve to 21-13. Devin Booker scored 18 of his 20 points in the first quarter for Phoenix, and Eric Bledsoe added 19 points, eight rebounds and eight assists. The Suns dropped to 10-24, scoring just one basket over the final 6:45. The game featured 20 lead changes and eight ties, until Hayward tipped in a missed basket to put Utah ahead for good. Gobert followed with a pair of dunks to give the Jazz an 89-84 lead with 1:46 left. The Suns had a chance to force overtime in the final seconds, but Booker missed a 3-pointer with 5 seconds remaining. Hayward grabbed the rebound and hit two free throws to seal it. .....»»

Category: sportsSource:  abscbnRelated NewsJan 1st, 2017

Bluejays drop first game to defending champion Villanova

OMAHA, Neb. (AP) -- It was New Year's Eve, but it sure felt like March to Josh Hart and the rest of the top-ranked Villanova Wildcats. The defending national champions overcame an early 10-point deficit, Hart's slow start and a frenzied crowd to defeat No. 10 Creighton 80-70 on Saturday. ''It's good to get in here, play Villanova basketball against a tough team and have something we can build on,'' Hart said. ''We know we can get a lot better. In March we can say we played in a tough environment. We faced adversity and we overcame it.'' Jalen Brunson scored a career-high 27 points, including 11 in a row as the Wildcats wiped out their early deficit, and Villanova (14-0, 2-0 Big East) extended its school-record winning streak to 20 games. The game marked only the second time in Big East history that two unbeaten teams met in a conference game, and it lived up to the hype with nine lead changes and five ties before the Wildcats pulled away late. Kris Jenkins added 21 points and Hart had 18 points and 10 rebounds for the Wildcats. Marcus Foster led the Bluejays (13-1, 1-1) with 22 points. Justin Patton had 18 points and eight rebounds. ''Certainly disappointed we lost, but a great learning experience for us,'' Creighton coach Greg McDermott said. ''Villanova is terrific. We knew they we were terrific and knew it would take a great effort to win.'' The Wildcats were the first defending national champion to visit Omaha since 1946, and the third-largest crowd (18,831) in the CenturyLink Center's 13-year history was there to greet them. The towel-waving fans filled the seats early and made the building as loud as it's ever been as the Bluejays ran onto the court. Creighton used that fuel to make its first five shots and build a quick 10-point lead. ''I'm happy this is my last time here,'' Hart said. ''This environment is crazy, it's hectic. When they get on a run, you hear it. We'll be talking on the court and we can barely hear what we're saying. One time Coach called a play, I had no idea what he was calling. Kris was 5 feet away trying to tell me, and I was like, 'What are you saying?''' After Isaiah Zierden's 3-pointer with 4:47 left tied it at 66, the Bluejays missed four straight shots before Maurice Watson Jr. snaked his way for a layup to cut the deficit to five with a minute left. The Wildcats made all six of their free throws in the last 36 seconds to finish off the win. Brunson and Hart hit clutch shots to keep Villanova mostly in control the second half. Donte DiVincenzo's tear-drop shot put Villanova up 63-54 before Patton's two dunks started a 9-0 run that tied it with 7:41 to play. Creighton went cold after that, and Villanova ran off to its fifth straight win over the Bluejays. ''We knew we had to stick to what we were doing,'' Hart said, ''and that's just being solid and playing Villanova basketball for 40 minutes. We know against the best teams it's going to take 40 minutes. This is a great team, one of the best in our league.'' BIG PICTURE Villanova: The Wildcats showed the mettle of a champion in maybe the most challenging atmosphere in which they'll play this season. Creighton: In a game with nine lead changes and five ties, the Bluejays went toe-to-toe with Villanova until the last 4 minutes and still look like a team capable of making a deep run in March. POLL IMPLICATIONS Villanova remains a solid No. 1, and Creighton does not merit a demotion from No. 10 after giving the Wildcats all they wanted. HE SAID IT ''It's a completely different crew, completely different team, and we're playing differently. But they have to deal with everyone else's impact from last season. They have to deal with everybody treating them like the No. 1 team, like former national champions, still talking about last year. It's part of the responsibility. It's a good challenge to have.'' Villanova coach Jay Wright, on how his players have handled expectations during a 14-0 start. UP NEXT Villanova visits Butler on Wednesday. Creighton visits St. John's on Wednesday. .....»»

Category: sportsSource:  abscbnRelated NewsJan 1st, 2017

76ers survive late flurry to beat Nuggets

DENVER (AP) — The Philadelphia 76ers came up big in the fourth quarter a night after collapsing in the final 12 minutes. Ersan Ilyasova had a career-high 23 points and 13 rebounds and the 76ers survived a flurry in the final seconds to beat the Denver Nuggets 124-122 on Friday night (Saturday, PHL time). 'I feel like the trip has been rewarded with a win and us having the ability to finally close out a game and finish off the fourth period,' Philadelphia coach Brett Brown said. Joel Embiid returned after sitting out Thursday's (Friday, PHL time) loss in Utah to score 23 points and hit key free throws down the stretch. The Sixers ended their four-game trip with just their third win away from home despite having just nine available players. They had a chance to win the other three games on this trip but consistently faltered in the fourth quarter. The Jazz outscored them 30-9 to end Thursday's game, and the Sixers went over the tape of the period Friday morning. The attention to detail paid off. 'Tonight, that was the emphasis at the end of the third quarter, that's what everybody was talking about,' Embiid said. 'We focused, we locked in and got the win.' Nikola Jokic had a game-high 25 points for the Nuggets, and Emmanuel Mudiay scored 22. Denver had won four of its last five home games but a bad start led to another defeat. 'I thought our focus at shootaround [Friday, Saturday PHL time] was not great,' coach Michael Malone said. 'And I think that when you win a few games you start to feel pretty good about yourself and you forget why you have been winning games.' The Nuggets had a chance to tie it during a frantic ending. After Embiid hit two free throws to put the Sixers up four, Jokic was fouled on a three-point attempt. Jokic made the first two free throws and intentionally missed the third. Denver's Gary Harris grabbed the rebound but missed a short bank shot, and Kenneth Faried's tip-in try was off as time expired. 'Jokic did a great job missing, I got a shot up and we had a chance for a tip-in, but it just didn't go our way,' Harris said. The Nuggets pulled within 114-113 with 1:43 left, but Philadelphia's T.J. McConnell hit his third three-pointer of the night — matching his total makes for the season. He finished with 17 points and eight assists. Four straight foul shots by Denver tied it, but Embiid split a pair of free throws to put Philadelphia ahead by one. He then stripped Jokic on the other end as the center went up for a go-ahead layup and drained two more free throws to put the Sixers ahead 120-117 with 15.9 seconds left. strong>TIP-INS /strong> em> strong>Sixers: /strong> /em> Sergio Rodriguez sprained his left ankle in the loss at Utah on Thursday (Friday, PHL time) and did not play Friday. Richaun Holmes was not with the team and is in concussion protocol. G Gerald Henderson missed his second straight game with left hip soreness. em> strong>Nuggets: /strong> /em> Wilson Chandler (right neck sprain/strain) and Jamal Murray (groin soreness) both played. Jokic has scored in double figures in 12 of his last 14 games. strong>CENTER OF ATTENTION /strong> Nuggets big man Jusuf Nurkic played 18:33 after not playing in four straight games and averaging just 6:16 in three other games. Nurkic expressed his disappointment after practice Thursday (Friday, PHL time), telling The Denver Post, 'I'm not here to sit on the bench; I'm here to play basketball.' Malone said before Friday's (Saturday, PHL time) game he had no problem with Nurkic's sentiments. 'Nurk's been great,' Malone said. 'I understand guys want to be out there. They're competitive. You want them to be competitive. Just make sure you're being a good teammate.' strong>UP NEXT /strong> em> strong>Sixers: /strong> /em> Host Minnesota on Tuesday night (Wednesday, PHL time). em> strong>Nuggets: /strong> /em>At the Golden State Warriors on Monday night (Tuesday, PHL time). .....»»

Category: sportsSource:  abscbnRelated NewsDec 31st, 2016

PBA: Horrible game – Compton on Alaska’s blowout loss

ANTIPOLO CITY --- Alaska head coach Alex Compton didn’t need a long explanation for the beat down the Aces suffered at the hands of NorthPort on Wednesday. He described it in the most accurate and simplest way possible. “Horrible game,” said a very frustrated Compton following Alaska’s 81-103 defeat in the 2019 PBA Commissioner’s Cup at the Ynares Sports Center here.   The Aces looked sluggish the whole game, lacking the energy and intensity they had when they stopped Columbian Dyip in their tracks last Sunday to open the import-laden conference. “I don’t know how that happened. We didn’t have a hard practice. I find no excuse for that. They should’ve been fresh,” said Compton. The Aces shot 31-of-78 from the field and committed 20 turnovers that the Batang Pier converted to 23 points.   And they bricked more than half of their free throws. “I think we’re 10-for-24 from the line,” Compton said. “We had an effort that did nothing in the game.”   NorthPort had an easy time dismantling Alaska in the second half, turning a 51-42 halftime lead to a 103-79 advantage late in the payoff period. Import Robert Daniels led the Aces, whose only taste of the lead is at the start of the game at 3-2, with 21 points and 13 boards while Simon Enciso and Jesper Ayaay were the only locals with significant contributions with 10 markers each.     “Coach Pido (Jarencio) deserves credit. He did an excellent job, really, really great job,” said Compton referring to NorthPort’s great debut. “But I don’t control whatever job he does, I’m worried about us.” Compton declined to answer what he said to his team after the game. “I think I’m not allowed to say that. That’s not the way we play,” he said before excusing himself from the media after just a minute and a half postgame interview.     ---   Follow this game on Twitter, @fromtheriles.....»»

Category: sportsSource:  abscbnRelated News6 hr. 8 min. ago

Messi hits 50 goals for Barca, Madrid ends season to forget

By Joseph Wilson, Associated Press BARCELONA, Spain (AP) — Lionel Messi scored twice to hit the 50-goal mark for the sixth time in his career on Sunday while Real Madrid put a fittingly poor ending to its worst season in recent memory after losing in the final round of the Spanish league. Messi scored his 49th and 50th goals in all competitions this season to give Barcelona a 2-2 draw at Eibar and finished as the league's top scorer with 36 goals for the Spanish champions. This is the sixth season Messi has finished as the top La Liga scorer, equaling a record held by Athletic Bilbao striker Telmo Zarra from the 1950s. Barcelona, which had clinched the league title with three rounds to play, will now look to also retain the Copa del Rey title next weekend when it faces Valencia. Its chance of a rare treble of major titles was ended by Liverpool in the Champions League semifinals. Barcelona won the league with 11 points more than second-place Atletico Madrid. It also finished 19 points ahead of Madrid, the biggest-ever points advantage by Barcelona over its fiercest rival. "We were very consistent all season long and that's what allowed us to win the league by such a comfortable margin," Barcelona coach Ernesto Valverde said. JEERS FOR MADRID Madrid endured the jeers of its own frustrated fans after a 2-0 loss to Real Betis at the Santiago Bernabeu. Most of Madrid's supporters have long placed their hopes on what changes the club will make to an underperforming squad in the summer. Not even coach Zinedine Zidane could find a saving grace to the campaign. "It isn't that we don't want to (play better), we aren't able to," Zidane said. "The best thing is for this to be over. We are already thinking about the future and next season." Madrid entered the match with nothing to play for, locked into a third-place finish for the second consecutive season for the first time since 1974. Since the return of Zidane to take charge of the club after its shock loss to Ajax in the round of 16 in the Champions League, Madrid has finished the campaign with a record of five wins, two draws and four losses. "The fault is ours," Madrid defender Marcelo said. "We didn't start well and we didn't finish it well either. In no way was this the season we wanted to have." MESSI'S DOUBLE Messi moved four goals ahead of Paris Saint-Germain forward Kylian Mbappé — who has 32 in the French league with a round left — as the top scorer in Europe's major domestic leagues. Marc Cucurella, a Barcelona youth player on loan to Eibar, opened the scoring before Messi got his first goal from a pass by Arturo Vidal in the 31st. Messi added a second just a minute later when he broke behind Eibar's high defensive line, received the ball from Ivan Rakitic and chipped it over goalkeeper Marco Dmitrovic. Eibar defender Pablo de Blasis leveled just before halftime when he scored from distance into an open net after Barcelona goalkeeper Jasper Cillessen made a poor clearance with his head outside the area. Barcelona right back Nelson Semedo was taken to the hospital for tests after he received a knock on the head and had to be substituted. Youth player Carles Pérez debuted for Barcelona in the second half. TEAM WINS, SETIÉN LOSES The victory at Madrid didn't save Quique Setién's job. Betis announced shortly after that Setién and the Seville-based club had agreed to part ways after two seasons together, confirming weeks of speculation that he was on his way out. At least Setién's last match in charge was one to remember for the coach. Betis outplayed the hosts from the start and got second-half goals from Loren Morón and former Madrid forward Jesé Rodríguez. A long ball by Giovani Lo Celso set Andrés Guardado free down the left as he sprinted clear of Raphael Varane before crossing for Morón to score. Lo Celso then slipped a ball through to Junior Firpo, who found Jesé unmarked at the edge of the six-yard box. Betis, which beat both Madrid and Barcelona at their stadiums, ended the season in 10th place. "This allows us to finish a season that has been a bit disappointing with a victory against a team and at a stadium that will always be a nice memory," Setién said before the club announced his departure. HOW IT ENDED Champion Barcelona, Atletico, Madrid and fourth-place Valencia qualify for the Champions League. Getafe, Sevilla and Espanyol took the Europa League spots. Girona, Huesca and Rayo Vallecano were relegated......»»

Category: sportsSource:  abscbnRelated NewsMay 20th, 2019

CSKA Moscow beats Efes Istanbul 91-83 in Euroleague final

VITORIA, Spain (AP) — Americans Will Clyburn and Cory Higgins scored 20 points each to lead CSKA Moscow to the Euroleague title in a 91-83 win over Efes Istanbul in Sunday's final. It was the eighth European title for the Russian team, leaving it two short of the record held by Real Madrid. Clyburn and Higgins both made four 3-pointers as CSKA as a team went 14 of 22 from behind the line. Guard Nando de Colo chipped in with 15 points and four assists. Shane Larkin scored a game-high 29 points for an Efes team that otherwise shot poorly in its first Euroleague final. Led by Larkin, Efes was able to reduce a nine-point lead by CSKA after the first and take the lead briefly after halftime. CSKA was back ahead 68-62 going into the fourth quarter, but Larkin cut the deficit to four points with just under two minutes remaining. Clyburn, Higgins and De Colo all hit pairs of free throws down the stretch to seal the victory. "It was going to be a fight until the end," Higgins said. "They played great, Larkin played great. But we just believed in ourselves. Once we got to the championship game we weren't going to let this get away." Real Madrid, which lost to CSKA in the semifinals, beat Fenerbahce 94-75 in the third-place game......»»

Category: sportsSource:  abscbnRelated NewsMay 20th, 2019

Koepka keeps 7-shot lead at PGA Championship

By Doug Ferguson, Associated Press FARMINGDALE, N.Y. (AP) — Brooks Koepka is on the cusp of some elite company at the PGA Championship — in the record book, not on the leaderboard. He is all alone on Bethpage Black, the public course he has turned into his private playground. Koepka wasn't at his best, particularly with his putter on the toughest scoring day of the championship, and he still kept everyone far enough behind to make the final round feel more like a victory lap. With an even-par 70 that featured a pair of three-putt bogeys, he kept a seven-shot lead and earned another entry in the record book with the largest lead since the PGA Championship switched to stroke play in 1958. No one has ever lost a seven-shot lead in the final round at any major, or even a PGA Tour event. That leaves Koepka 18 holes away from joining Tiger Woods as the only back-to-back winners of the PGA in stroke play. He is one round away from becoming the first player to hold back-to-back major title at the same time. Not since Hal Sutton in 1983 has anyone led from start to finish in the PGA Championship. And a third straight year winning a major? Woods and Phil Mickelson are the only players to have done that over the last 30 years. Tom Watson, Jack Nicklaus and Arnold Palmer are the only others to win majors in three straight years dating to 1960. Asked if there was any doubt he would win, Koepka said flatly, "No." He is unflappable in speech and on the golf course. Koepka has never bothered to check his heart rate at rest, but he figures it wouldn't be much different from standing on the first tee of a major championship with a big lead and thousands of rowdy New York fans witnessing a master performance. "Every time I set up to a golf shot, I feel like I know what the ball is going to do," Koepka said. "And if I don't, then I guess I'd be nervous. ... I'm trying my butt off, and from there, sometimes you need a little bit of luck. But I'd say I'm pretty flat-lined most of the time, as you can tell." He has all but flattened the strongest field in golf. Koepka was at 12-under 198, the first time this week he did not set or tie a scoring record. "I think we're all playing for second," said Luke List, one of four players tied for second. Dustin Johnson tried to make a run with six birdies, only to stall with five bogeys in his round of 69. No bogey was more damaging than the 18th. A drive into the fairway would have given the world's No. 1 player a reasonable shot at birdie. Instead, he sent it right into bunker, came up well short into the native grass, left the next one in the bunker and had to scramble to limit the damage. That kept Johnson from joining his close friend in the final group. Koepka will play the final round with Harold Varner III, whose week began with plans to play a practice round with Woods on the eve of the PGA Championship until Woods called in sick. Varner birdied the 18th to cap off a bogey-free 67 and lead the group at 5-under 205 that includes Jazz Janewattananond (67) and List, who holed two shots from off the green for a 69. Jordan Spieth did not put any pressure on Koepka at all. Playing in the final group on the weekend for the first time since the British Open last summer, Spieth didn't have a realistic birdie chance until the sixth hole, and he missed that one from 8 feet. He shot 72 and was nine shots behind. Spieth would not speak to a reporter after the round. There was simply no stopping Koepka, who is one round away from a fourth major in his last eight tries and a return to No. 1 in the world. The plan for Sunday was no different from the previous three rounds. "It doesn't really matter. I'm just trying to play good golf," Koepka said. "If I can get off to a good start tomorrow, these first six holes are very scorable. I feel like if you can get 1 or 2 under after six, you're in a good spot." That's what worked on Saturday. Koepka had birdie chances on the opening six holes and converted two of them, from 5 feet on a blind shot up the hill at No. 2, and a gap wedge that landed next to the pin and settled just over 2 feet away on No. 5. His only struggle was missing a 2-foot par putt on the ninth hole for a three-putt bogey, and then missing the 10th fairway to the right to set up another bogey. The most important putt for Koepka was just under 5 feet for par on the 11th, which kept him from three straight bogeys. And then he was back in his groove. List ran off three straight birdies, chipping in from 70 feet on No. 12, holing a 30-foot putt on the par-5 13th and making a 15-foot putt on the 14th. That pulled him within five, but it wasn't long before Koepka birdied the 13th and List began missing enough shots that it finally cost him. Johnson has the most experience and skill among those chasing Koepka, if he even allows there to be a chase. "It's going to take something special to catch Brooks, but it's doable," Johnson said. He then tried to work out the math, and then he stuck to a more practical outlook. "I'm going to need some help from him," Johnson said. "And then I'm going to have to play very, very well.".....»»

Category: sportsSource:  abscbnRelated NewsMay 19th, 2019

Warriors miss Kevin Durant, but do they need him?

By Shaun Powell, NBA.com PORTLAND, Ore. — Along with the equipment, uniforms, basketballs and the confidence that comes with being up 2-0 in the Western Conference finals, the Warriors brought along another piece of cargo to Portland and it is the heaviest of them all. It didn’t come packed in luggage or a box; instead, it’s just wrapped in a hunch and tied with a question mark, and it is this: When do the Warriors start missing Kevin Durant? [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 back-to-back champs are now 3-0 in these playoffs without their superstar and his aching calf. And 4-0 overall in games in which Durant didn’t finish. That probably says something about the Rockets, and so far about the Trail Blazers — two teams unable to exploit his absence. However, while the (bleeping) Giants — Steve Kerr’s description of his undermanned team — are honorably playing with a sense of urgency, they aren’t buying the notion that they don’t need Durant. It’s an easy trap to fall into, to believe the outside chatter that they’re better off without him. The next two games, both at Moda Center, will either feed that belief or destroy it. Yes, because the Blazers must beat the Warriors four out of five to advance, there’s little to no chance of them denying Golden State a fifth trip to the Finals regardless of whether Durant shows up in this series or not. And that’s good for the visitors, since Durant didn’t make the trip for Games 3 and 4. “There's no mental adjustment,” said Kerr. “You just play. You go out there with what you have, and this is our third game, 3 1/2 games, really without him, and so we're just trying to hold down the fort. Hopefully he continues to progress and he has made progress, but it's a little more serious than we thought at the very beginning. So we'll see where it all goes, but he's in there all day long getting treatment. He's done a great job of committing himself to that process.” There’s a thought that, even if Durant was 80 percent, the Warriors will keep him benched to prevent a chance of re-injury, and that’s a wise decision with wide-ranging ramifications. By protecting Durant’s best interest here in this free agent year, the Warriors score big points with him and his camp less than two months before Durant must make a decision on his future. That said, what are the Warriors doing right to remain unharmed by his absence? The easy answer is they won championships without Durant and so this is more of the same-old, same-old. Except it isn’t. This actually might be more impressive. Understand that Golden State's system had to be changed here on the fly and in the middle of the postseason, not only to compensate for Durant’s 37 points per game in these playoffs, but also his defense. Once Durant was lost late in the third quarter of the fifth game of the second round, Kerr had to reach down his bench and rely on players who weren’t thrust into roles of significance and seldom saw fourth-quarter minutes up until this point. Meaning, Jonas Jerebko, Quinn Cook, Kevon Looney, Jordan Bell and Alfonzo McKinnie have either seen their minutes rise and/or their roles inflated in the process. Of course, most of the burden fell on the proven core: Steph Curry, Klay Thompson, Draymond Green and Andre Iguodala. Each of those four, in his own way, is playing at a premium, even if it’s a small sample size. “That’s what it takes in the playoffs," said Kerr. "You have to have guys playing at a really high level.” Curry seems reborn or at least sprung free of a playoff fog where his numbers and production didn’t match his regular season. He finished strong in a pair of fourth quarters while closing out the Rockets and is the most impactful player in this series so far. He’s averaging 35 points on 51 percent shooting in the three games without KD. It wouldn’t be a stretch to suspect Curry is getting a charge out of this, and his ego, which he keeps hidden, is being fed. Thompson is now clearly the second option, whereas before he was often No. 3 and often only if his shot was falling. The green light never turns yellow without Durant around, like Curry, Thompson is working without handcuffs or a leash. After hitting 20 shot attempts once in the playoffs before Durant’s injury, Thompson is now hoisting 22 a game, good for a respectable 25-point average. The Warriors are constantly feeding him and running screens for him and urging him to take the shot, even if it’s contested. For a player who insists he’ll re-sign with Golden State this summer, Thompson is getting a taste of what life must be like if he played for, let’s say, the Clippers and was the focal point of the offense. “This team's been together a long time and they trust each other,” said Kerr. “When the ball starts moving, that's when we're tough to guard.” Green has never been better this season than in the last few weeks. Recharged after losing weight immediately following the All-Star break and no longer feeling pain in his previously-injured shoulder, Green is menacing on the defensive end where once again he’s guarding all positions except point guard and doing it marvelously. In addition, he’s pushing the ball up court to help Curry and Thompson stay as fresh as possible and directing the offense from the high post. He’s averaging 10 rebounds, 6.5 assists and three blocks without KD. “You know, we can't sit and look over our shoulder and say, `Hey, man, when is K going to be back?’ We just got to play with whatever we got,” Green said. “We got to play and give him an opportunity to get back, and I think that's what really falls on our shoulders. We're a very confident group. Hopefully he's back sooner than later, but as a guy who is in the battle every night, we can't sit and look over our shoulder and wonder when he or DeMarcus [Cousins] is coming back. We have to assume they are not coming back and play with what we got. Obviously, we are hoping that they do. But while they are not out there, we just got to play.” Finally, there’s Iguodala. He stayed hibernated all regular season while averaging career lows across the board. At age 35, it appeared time had finally caught up. Instead, this was a case of a crafty veteran preserving himself for springtime, and with the amount of talent on the Warriors, he could afford to do so. Iguodala had solid moments guarding James Harden in the second round and is among those trapping Damian Lillard and CJ McCollum this round. One of the signature plays of the series was Iguodala coming up with a walk-off strip of Lillard as time expired in Game 2. “You're kind of in awe of it because not many guys can make plays like that consistently,” said Curry. So this is where the Warriors are without Durant and also DeMarcus Cousins. They were good enough to stump the Rockets (again), then proved too much for the Blazers in a pair of home games. Nobody would be shocked if they take a game in Portland or maybe finish the sweep. It’s a luxury that few teams have or could pull off even if they did. This comes from a core that’s been together for six years, a coach pulling the proper strings and a bench that isn’t shrinking in the moment. “We feel like we can still win no matter who is out there on the floor, and that's why we're in the position that we’re in and have won championships with all the injuries and all types of stuff,” said Curry. “We know what the mission is, and we're on it right now.” These Warriors are playing flashback basketball to the time before Durant came aboard — and prepping themselves for next season, when and if Durant jumps overboard this summer. Shaun Powell has covered the NBA for more than 25 years. You can e-mail him here, find his archive here, and follow him on Twitter. The views on this page do not necessarily reflect the views of the NBA, its clubs or Turner Broadcasting. .....»»

Category: sportsSource:  abscbnRelated NewsMay 18th, 2019