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Bucks seeking 2-0 lead over Raptors in East finals

By Tim Reynolds, Associated Press When the season started, everyone knew the Eastern Conference would have a new king. LeBron James left Cleveland, having taken his talents to Los Angeles. And even Milwaukee star Giannis Antetokounmpo wasn’t sure who would take his place. “I didn’t know we were going to be in the Eastern Conference finals or not,” Antetokounmpo said. “I just know that he’s a top player that we always had problems against him and the Cavs. Now he’s not playing for the Cavs, so it’s going to be a little bit easier. I didn’t see it as an opening. But when you look back and see how everything went, it’s definitely an opening not having LeBron in the East.” [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 Bucks are three wins away from taking full advantage of that opening, and becoming the team that replaces James after his eight consecutive seasons going to the NBA Finals as a representative of the Eastern Conference. Game 2 of the East final is Friday night (Saturday, PHL time) in Milwaukee, where the Bucks will aim to take a 2-0 series lead over the Toronto Raptors. “We’re happy,” Antetokounmpo said. “But the job is not done. We’ve got to protect our home. We’ve got to be able to get Game 2.” Toronto got swept out of the 2017 and 2018 playoffs by James and the Cavs. Now they’re already facing a 1-0 deficit against Antetokounmpo and the Bucks, after dropping Game 1 despite leading for 37 of the game’s 48 minutes. “Sometimes, we just missed some shots,” Raptors guard Kyle Lowry shrugged. The way the Raptors see it, the adjustment to make finals might not be an adjustment at all. They liked most everything but the outcome of Game 1 — a 108-100 Bucks win — and figure that if they play the same Friday (Saturday, PHL time), they’ll have another chance at stealing away home-court advantage. “This team has handled downs pretty well and ups pretty well, and that’s been one of our focuses since day one of training camp,” Raptors coach Nick Nurse said. “So let’s hope we can keep that going a little bit.” The Bucks won a game where they shot just under 40 percent and were 11-of-44 from three-point range. They made up for that on the defensive end and on the backboards — they held every Raptor not named Lowry or Kawhi Leonard to 1-for-23 shooting after halftime, and outrebounded Toronto 60-46. Still, Toronto insists it is not worried about the offense. “Everything starts on the defensive end,” Raptors forward Serge Ibaka said. Here’s some other things to know going into Game 2: RARE LOSS The last time Toronto had two 30-point scorers in the same game and lost — before it happened Wednesday (Thursday, PHL time) — was Feb. 2, 2012. Game 1 was only the third time this season that the Bucks allowed two opponents to score 30 in the same game; Brandon Ingram and LeBron James did it for the Los Angeles Lakers in a Milwaukee win on March 1 (Mar. 2, PHL time), and Leonard and Pascal Siakam did it in a Toronto victory on Jan. 5 (Jan. 6, PHL time). RARE WIN Before Wednesday (Thursday, PHL time), Milwaukee had been 0-7 this season when not shooting better than 40 percent. The Bucks shot 39.8 percent in Game 1. The Raptors had been 9-1 this season when holding teams to such a low shooting percentage; the only other previous blip came in Game 2 of the second round against Philadelphia, when the 76ers shot 39.5 percent and won in Toronto. BROGDON’S IMPACT Much gets made of Milwaukee’s bench mob, and rightly so, but having Malcolm Brogdon back after he was out for basically all of the first two playoff rounds with a heel injury is a huge plus for the Bucks. Brogdon played 27 minutes in Game 1; he scored 15 points and the Bucks outscored the Raptors 57-39 in those minutes. When Brogdon wasn’t on the floor, Toronto held a 61-51 edge. DANGER TIME Friday (Thursday, PHL time) isn’t technically a must-win for the Raptors, but a loss might conjure up some unfriendly memories for the franchise. Toronto has dropped the first two games of a playoff series seven times; the Raptors are 0-7 in those series, and four of them ended in sweeps — one of them a 3-0 decision, the others by 4-0 counts. ALMOST PERFECT Milwaukee is off to a 9-1 start in these playoffs. It’s the 24th time in NBA history that a team has opened a postseason with at least nine wins in 10 games; of the previous 23 to start at least 9-1, 15 went on to win the NBA championship. Only six teams have started 10-0......»»

Category: sportsSource:  abscbnRelated NewsMay 16th, 2019

Heat still struggling, and now hit road for six-game trip

em>By Tim Reynolds, Associated Press /em> MIAMI (AP) — When the Miami Heat return home from their road trip, the season will officially be half over. It's already seemed like a marathon. Barely seven months removed from being a game shy of the NBA's Final Four, the Heat were the first team this season to reach the 25-loss mark. Only Philadelphia and Brooklyn are keeping Miami from having the league's worst record, and it's a paper-thin buffer right now between the Heat and the cellar. Injuries have piled up as well, further adding to the struggle of rebuilding. 'It's not so much frustration,' Heat forward Justise Winslow said, talking about the team's collective mood. 'It's more just like sympathy.' Banged-up and usually beaten, the Heat start a six-game trip in Phoenix on Tuesday night (Wednesday, PHL time). The good news is that the first three games on this swing are against teams that are like the Heat, well below the .500 mark. The bad news is that Miami hasn't beaten anybody on the road in more than a month, and seems to have a different lineup every night. Just in Sunday's (Monday, PHL time) loss to Detroit alone, the Heat were without Goran Dragic, Hassan Whiteside, Dion Waiters, Josh McRoberts and Winslow. McRoberts is out indefinitely with a stress fracture in his left foot, and Whiteside (scratched right eye) and Winslow (right shoulder stinger) did not travel with the team Monday (Tuesday, PHL time) — though that doesn't mean they can't meet the Heat somewhere on this trip. 'We'll get guys back,' coach Erik Spoelstra said. Dion Waiters hasn't played since late November because of a torn groin muscle; he was on the team flight Monday (Tuesday, PHL time), a sign that his return might finally be coming. Whiteside got poked in the eye during Miami's game at Boston on Friday (Saturday, PHL time), when Winslow got hurt on the final play of the game. At this rate, there will be a point where Miami starts thinking more about the future than the present. Plenty of trade talk in the next few weeks will involve the Heat, who have a ton of salary-cap space to use this summer and will undoubtedly hear from contending teams looking to add a player or two for the looming playoff runs. And unless there's some seismic improvement, Miami's NBA draft lottery odds might look pretty good as well. 'I know this about Erik's teams: They're going to play really, really hard,' Detroit coach Stan Van Gundy said of Spoelstra, his longtime friend going back to when they were both part of the Heat staff. Just take some examples from Sunday's (Monday, PHL time) loss: James Johnson dove on the floor to salvage what looked like a sure turnover, setting up a three-pointer. He leaped into the Detroit bench a couple minutes later to save a ball, and the Heat got another triple out of that possession. Rodney McGruder thwarted a 4-on-1 Detroit fast break later in the game as well, though the Pistons wound up scoring on that possession. That's sort of the theme for the Heat season so far. Even when things go right, it's not right enough. 'I'm seeing the guys out there diving on the floor, making winning plays, putting their bodies out there, putting themselves out there,' captain Udonis Haslem said. 'That's how you become a championship team.' Even with Whiteside's numbers looking good — averages of 17.3 points and 14.3 rebounds per game — he's far from a lock for the All-Star team, in part because there's no true center designation in the roster-choosing process. No one currently playing for the Heat has ever been an All-Star, and it's probably reasonable to think that won't change in the next few weeks. For comparison's sake, last year's Heat lineup featured players with a combined 38 All-Star trips. Dwyane Wade's now in Chicago, Joe Johnson is in Utah, Luol Deng is with the Lakers, Amare Stoudemire is in Israel and Chris Bosh is in basketball exile, sidelined by concerns about his blood-clot situations and now seen with Heat teammates only in photos from New Year's Eve gatherings. 'It is what it is,' Winslow said. 'Take it with a grain of salt. Not going to make any excuses. We're all basketball players. We get paid to do this. We get paid to show up on time, get paid to have your brother's back on the court.' .....»»

Category: sportsSource:  abscbnRelated NewsJan 3rd, 2017

Patriots clinch home-field advantage

The Associated Press br /> MIAMI GARDENS, Florida (AP) — Tom Brady threw for 276 yards and three scores Sunday as the Patriots clinched home-field advantage throughout the AFC playoffs by beating the Dolphins 35-14. New England took a 20-0 lead in the first half, and turned away Miami's comeback bid with the help of a 77-yard touchdown catch-and-run by Julian Edelman and a 69-yard fumble return by linebacker Shea McClellin. The Patriots (14-2), already assured of a first-round bye, became the ninth team since 1972 to go undefeated on the road during the regular season. The Dolphins (10-6), beaten for only the second time in the past 11 games, had already earned an AFC wild-card berth. They play their first postseason game since 2008 next weekend at Pittsburgh. STEELERS 27, BROWNS 24 PITTSBURGH (AP) — Steelers backups assured the Browns of the top pick in the 2017 draft. Landry Jones hit Cobi Hamilton with a 26-yard touchdown with 2:57 left in overtime. The Browns took a lead on Cody Parkey's 34-yard field goal with 7:17 remaining in the extra session. Jones, who started while the playoff-bound Steelers rested Ben Roethlisberger, took the Steelers 75 yards in nine plays. The last was a pretty lob to the end zone that Hamilton hauled in to give Pittsburgh (11-5) its seventh straight victory. Jones finished with 277 yards passing and three touchdowns and one interception. Isaiah Crowell ran for a career-high 152 yards for the Browns (1-15), who finished with the worst record in franchise history. JETS 30, BILLS 10 EAST RUTHERFORD, New Jersey (AP) — Ryan Fitzpatrick threw two touchdown passes in what was likely his final game for the Jets. Despite a 5-11 record, the Jets are making no changes in leadership, meaning both coach Todd Bowles and general manager Mike Maccagnan will remain with the team next season. Bowles is 15-17 in his two-year tenure with New York, which hired him in January 2015 after firing Rex Ryan. Maccagnan is also in his second season with the Jets, and had also been criticized for the team's roster, which likely faces an overhaul this offseason. The Bills (7-9) also face some uncertainty this offseason after firing Ryan earlier in the week and elevating offensive coordinator Anthony Lynn to the interim role. Two other people with direct knowledge of the situation told the AP before the game that Lynn is the clear favorite to take over the job permanently. TITANS 24, TEXANS 17 NASHVILLE, Tennessee (AP) — A concussion that sidelined quarterback Tom Savage could have the biggest impact coming out of the Texans' loss. Savage started for the AFC South champions, left in the second quarter to be evaluated for a concussion and was cleared. He took a snap to kneel down on the final play of the first half and was diagnosed with a concussion after being re-evaluated at halftime. That left Brock Osweiler, benched for Savage last month, running the offense. He threw for 253 yards and a touchdown and also ran for a 1-yard TD on fourth-and-goal in the fourth quarter. Houston (9-7) will host Oakland next weekend, possibly with uncertainty at quarterback. DaQuan Jones recovered a fumble for a touchdown in the first quarter and the Titans never trailed to finish with their first winning season since 2011. EAGLES 27, COWBOYS 13 PHILADELPHIA (AP) — Tony Romo threw his first touchdown pass in nearly 14 months as the playoff-bound Cowboys played it safe. The Cowboys (13-3) had already locked up the No. 1 seed and home-field advantage throughout the NFC playoffs so Dak Prescott played only two series and Ezekiel Elliott watched from the sideline. Carson Wentz tossed two TD passes to Zach Ertz to help Philadelphia finish with a two-game winning streak. Prescott was 4 for 8 for 37 yards before giving way to Romo, who hadn't played in a regular-season game since Thanksgiving 2015 when he broke his left collarbone for the second time in less than three months. Romo broke a bone in his back in the third preseason game against Seattle this season, paving the way for Prescott to have one of the best years by a rookie quarterback in NFL history. BUCCANEERS 17, PANTHERS 16 TAMPA, Florida (AP) — Jameis Winston threw for 202 yards and one touchdown as the Buccaneers broke up Cam Newton's 2-point conversion throw in the closing seconds for their first winning season in six years. Winston threw a 10-yard pass to Mike Evans to snap a fourth-quarter tie and became the first player in NFL history to start his career with consecutive 4,000-yard seasons. But the Bucs (9-7) were eliminated from playoff contention, not getting the help they needed in other games for their first berth since 2007. Winston's franchise record-setting 28th TD pass put the Bucs ahead 17-10 with 3:10 remaining. Newton, however, moved the Panthers (6-10) right down the field, with help of a 47-yard pass to Kelvin Benjamin and two fourth-down completions to set up a 5-yard scoring pass to trim Carolina's deficit to one with 17 seconds left. VIKINGS 38, BEARS 10 MINNEAPOLIS (AP) — Sam Bradford concluded his first season with Minnesota with three first-half touchdown passes. Bradford went 25 for 33 for 250 yards and one interception, finishing with a 71.6 percent completion rate to set an NFL single-season record. Kyle Rudolph caught 11 passes for 117 yards and a score for the Vikings (8-8), who started 5-0 before stumbling out of their bye week and never recovering. The Bears (3-13) wound up with their fewest wins in a non-strike year since 1973 after turning the ball over five times. Everson Griffen returned one of their three lost fumbles for a touchdown. Jordan Howard, the lone bright spot, rushed for 135 yards on 23 carries to break Matt Forte's franchise rookie record and finish with 1,313 yards for the season for Chicago. COLTS 24, JAGUARS 20 INDIANAPOLIS (AP) — Andrew Luck threw a 1-yard touchdown pass to Jack Doyle with 9 seconds left. Indy (8-8) went 75 yards in 84 seconds with no timeouts to avoid its first losing season since 2011, sending retiring linebacker Robert Mathis out with a win in his final NFL game. Jacksonville (3-13) matched the second-worst record in franchise history after blocking a punt with 1:54 to go and breaking a 17-17 tie with 1:33 left. Instead, Luck took the Colts right downfield for the score. Mathis extended his league record of strip-sacks to 41 in the fourth quarter, two days after announcing he would retire. BENGALS 27, RAVENS 10 CINCINNATI (AP) — Andy Dalton completed his first 10 passes, one for a touchdown, and Rex Burkhead ran for a pair of scores in the Bengals' fifth straight win at home over the Ravens. The Bengals (6-9-1) missed the playoffs for the first time in six years. Coach Marvin Lewis says he'll return in 2017. Baltimore (8-8) failed to reach the playoffs for the third time in four years. The Ravens played their final game as if they were emotionally hung over from a last-minute loss at Pittsburgh last Sunday that eliminated them. .....»»

Category: sportsSource:  abscbnRelated NewsJan 2nd, 2017

Wild-card Dolphins draw Steelers in 1st round of playoffs

STEVEN WINE, AP Sports Writer br /> MIAMI GARDENS, Florida (AP) — As the Miami Dolphins trudged to the locker room after a 35-14 thumping by New England, fans stood and cheered the home team, losers on Sunday but playoff-bound for the first time since 2008. The crowd was looking at the big picture and the Dolphins were, too. Miami (10-6) clinched an AFC wild-card berth a week ago and will play next weekend at Pittsburgh. 'All you want is the opportunity,' guard Jermon Bushrod said. 'You know where we want to go and we've got an opportunity.' Still to be determined is whether quarterback Ryan Tannehill might contribute to any playoff push. He missed the final three regular-season games with a sprained left knee and Matt Moore has gone 2-1 as a replacement. Coach Adam Gase was noncommittal about any timetable for Tannehill's return. 'I don't even know where he's at right now,' Gase said. 'I'm going to make the call on it. If I don't feel comfortable with it, then Matt will stay the starting quarterback. I need to get a lot of information. I have to see him practice and I have to see him move around and I have to feel really good about it. I'm not going to jeopardize his career.' Moore went 24 for 34 for 205 yards and two scores and an interception against the Patriots and has eight touchdown passes in his three starts. 'He has done a great job,' Gase said. 'He has protected the ball and has operated the offense very well and has led those guys. We just have to build on what we've done in the last 3½ games with him.' If Moore starts next weekend, it will be his first playoff game. His only other postseason season experience was as an inactive backup for the Carolina Panthers in 2008. 'It's a big deal,' Moore said. 'It's hard to get there.' And harder to win there. The Dolphins are bidding for their first playoff victory since 2000. Their game at AFC North champion Pittsburgh will be a rematch. Miami won at home in Week 6 against the Steelers, 30-15. 'We beat them here in the heat,' Bushrod said. 'Now we've got to go up there and beat them in the cold.' The win over the Steelers in October helped the Dolphins turn their season around after a 1-4 start. 'We're a different team; they're a different team,' Gase said. 'Both of us have different players. That's what makes this part of the season interesting.' If the Dolphins win next week, they'll face New England again. The Patriots swept the regular-season series between AFC East rivals for the first time since 2012. The Dolphins are in the playoffs even though they have been outgained by 798 yards and outscored by 17 points this season. But in games decided by a touchdown or less, they've won nine in a row, despite a slew of injuries. Gase's players sounded confident of their chances against the Steelers. 'They're a great team,' receiver Jarvis Landry said. 'So are we.'   .....»»

Category: sportsSource:  abscbnRelated NewsJan 2nd, 2017

Raptors on brink of first Finals berth in franchise history

By Steve Aschburner, NBA.com TORONTO -- Twenty-one would be a very cool number for the Toronto Raptors. Before they get it, though, they’ll need to get one. And one would be beyond cool. Off the charts, historic, potentially transformative and largely indescribable. Twenty-one: That’s how many teams in NBA playoff history will have overcome an 0-2 start to win a best-of-seven series, if the Raptors manage to close out the Milwaukee Bucks in the Eastern Conference finals. Whether it happens in Game 6 Saturday night (Sunday, PHL time) at Scotiabank Arena or in Game 7 back in Milwaukee Monday (Tuesday, PHL time), Toronto would buck outlandish odds -- this is the 289th series to begin with the same team winning the first two games, so we’re talking a seven percent likelihood (20-of-288). [Watch the Playoffs on NBA League Pass for 30% less with this limited time offer! Select Annual package and use code SAVE30 at checkout to redeem] One: That’s all that stands between the Raptors and the first NBA Final appearance in Toronto franchise history. One more victory in the next three days would validate the risks and twists of this 2018-19 season for the Raptors, while exorcising nearly a quarter century’s worth of demons. One little win and Toronto finally will break through, capping a stellar six-year run of promising regular seasons and heartbreaking postseasons. They will have earned, in the face of so much uncertainty, their best shot yet at a championship, even if it means going through the mighty Golden State Warriors. When Raptors president Masai Ujiri traded for star forward Kawhi Leonard, he was gambling not just that Leonard could recover from the right quadriceps injury that scuttled his 2017-18. He was guessing that swapping in Leonard for former All-Star wing DeMar DeRozan could push Toronto to, well, right where they’re at. And he was hoping Leonard, a rent-a-player able to leave this summer in free agency, would enjoy the whole experience enough to let Ujiri pay him $220 million over the next five seasons. It’s impossible to know where things stand on that last front, owing to Leonard’s inscrutability and a decision that’s still six weeks away. But the Raptors never have gotten this far, so there is an opportunity here to be savored, with more potentially to come. “It would be a very, very long summer thinking about what could have been or what you could have done,” guard Fred VanVleet said, framing things a bit negatively after raining 7-of-9 three-pointers on Milwaukee in the 105-99 Game 5 victory. “So we've just got to go out there and have no regrets. … One win away from the Finals sounds pretty good to me.” Sounds a little easier, maybe, than it actually will be. The Raptors are at home for Game 6 and the crowd at Scotiabank crowd, already dialed high, will be able to let it rip without any fear -- immediate fear, anyway -- of failure. But Milwaukee will be desperate. Giannis Antetokounmpo has pledged that his team will not “fold.” And the Bucks have zero interest in a knock-knock year, believing all season that they were good enough to reach and win the championship. They wouldn’t be human if they weren’t shaken by the three consecutive defeats Toronto has dealt them. The Raptors have managed to surround and partially stifle Antetokounmpo, while still firing out enough to bother Milwaukee’s three-point shooters into repeated misfires. The Bucks’ defense has been probed and poked like a cut-rate steak. They resorted again to some uncharacteristic switching in Game 5 but had most of their success inside the arc. Late in the pivotal loss, they got beat for five offensive rebounds, when grabbing two or three might have swung the outcome. “It's win or lose,” coach Mike Budenholzer said Friday (Saturday, PHL time) in a conference call with reporters. “When you win, there are things that [still] are concerning and unsettling that you need to work on and improve. I think there's just enough possessions where there's a couple of rebounds that stand out. “Can we do a little bit better job in some of our activity in certain situations. Offensively, I think at times can our spacing be better and our ball movement be better? But I would say it's like a lot of games. We didn't get it done.” One area in which Budenholzer refuses to budge, dire circumstances be darned, is in his use vs. overuse of Antetokounmpo. The load the Greek Freak carries when he’s on the floor, the activity he generates, leads to fatigue and wear-and-tear that requires regular breathers. Extending his star’s minutes, Budenholzer believes, would lead to less “peak Giannis” rather than more, an inevitable tradeoff of quality over quantity. And the Bucks need every bit of Antetokounmpo’s best, or what’s left of it in their 97th game of the season. “Giannis, it's so impressive what he does and how important he is,” Budenholzer said. “I maintain that him getting appropriate rest, appropriate kind of just a chance to catch his breath, refuel… At the end of the day, you need to be able to produce and perform, including in the fourth quarter.” At the possible end of your season, though, you’ll have plenty of time to refuel if the opponent pounces while your star sits. Said Raptors coach Nick Nurse, in his own teleconference: “It's a ‘whatever it takes’ game. It's an unlimited-minutes night. This is just like any other critical must-win game.” Steve Aschburner has written about the NBA since 1980. You can e-mail him here, find his archive here and follow him on Twitter. The views on this page do not necessarily reflect the views of the NBA, its clubs or Turner Broadcasting......»»

Category: sportsSource:  abscbnRelated News7 hr. 25 min. ago

Metro League: QC gains playoff

Quezon City clinched a playoff berth after crushing Pateros-Metro Asia, 100-86, in the Metro League Reinforced (Second) Conference Thursday night at the San Andres Sports Complex in Manila......»»

Category: newsSource:  tempoRelated NewsMay 25th, 2019

Chadao-FEU nips CEU for last PBA D-League playoff berth

"Our goal is to make it to the playoffs and nakuha na namin ang first goal namin," said coach Olsen Racela......»»

Category: newsSource:  philstarRelated NewsMay 23rd, 2019

UAAP: Coaching change to Anton Brodett gives UE Jrs. a shot in the arm

University of the East will no longer left behind. With the Red Warriors already having shown signs of life, the Junior Warriors have now also been resuscitated. The first step in their quest to contend? Naming a brand new head coach in Anton Brodett. Brodett takes over a team that only has seven wins to show in the last five years. The last time UE's Juniors program contended was even farther back in Season 70 when it lost in a playoff for the fourth-seed. Now, however, the Recto-based squad is dead serious in its attempt to make its own noise in the high school ranks. That begins by streamlining its Seniors and Juniors programs. And so, as Joe Silva enters his second season as Red Warriors' head coach, his assistant in Brodett will now be calling the shots for the Junior Warriors. The 35-year-old knows a thing or two about contending in the Juniors, also having served as longtime assistant coach for La Salle Greenhills which won a breakthrough championship two years ago. UE HS only hopes he brings over that winning culture now he takes the coaching reins. Along with aiding Marvin Bienvenida for the Greenies, he was also under the tutelage of Eric Altamirano in National University as well as Richard Del Rosario in College of St. Benilde. He is also the son of former Crispa Redmanizer and San Beda Hall of Famer Dave Brodett. Brodett will have ex-pro Estong Ballesteros as well as Ferdinand Ali-Ali and Domeng Uson as his assistants in his new post. --- Follow this writer on Twitter, @riegogogo......»»

Category: sportsSource:  abscbnRelated NewsMay 23rd, 2019

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

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

Category: sportsSource:  abscbnRelated NewsMay 19th, 2019

Bucks making case as favorites to win title

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

Category: sportsSource:  abscbnRelated NewsMay 18th, 2019

Curry, Lillard battle for NBA supremacy, Oakland s affection

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

Category: sportsSource:  abscbnRelated NewsMay 15th, 2019

Leonard, Raptors to face Bucks, Antetokounmpo in East final

By Ian Harrison, Associated Press TORONTO (AP) — For the second time in four seasons, the Toronto Raptors are headed to the Eastern Conference final. While the Raptors won’t have to deal with playoff nemesis LeBron James this time, they will face a tough task in controlling Milwaukee Bucks All-Star Giannis Antetokounmpo and the rest of the NBA’s highest-scoring offense. Of course, Toronto will counter with Kawhi Leonard. [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] He hit the game-winning buzzer-beater Sunday (Monday, PHL time) to help Toronto edge Philadelphia 92-90 in Game 7 of its Eastern Conference semifinal series, setting up a showdown between the East’s top teams during the regular season. Leonard’s shot bounced around the rim four times before dropping through the basket. “It was great,” Leonard said. “That’s something I never experienced before, Game 7, a game-winning shot. It was a blessing to be able to get to that point and make that shot and feel that moment.” Leonard and the Raptors will have a few hours to enjoy it; the conference final begin Wednesday night (Thursday, PHL time) in Milwaukee. In its only other conference final appearance, Toronto lost to LeBron James and Cleveland in six games in 2016. The Raptors are well aware of the challenge ahead. Toronto guard Kyle Lowry said the Bucks have been “pretty dominant” in winning eight of nine postseason games — including the past four straight. “They’ve got a lot of weapons and they’re pretty deep,” Lowry said. “They shoot the ball as well as anybody in the NBA and then they’ve got the one-man fast break in Giannis.” The Bucks beat the Raptors three times in four regular-season meetings. Lowry was injured when Toronto won 123-116 at Milwaukee on Jan. 5 (Jan. 6, PHL time). “We know we’ve got a tough task at hand,” Lowry said. “We have to prepare for it and get ready to go.” Toronto coach Nick Nurse said the Bucks present challenges his team hasn’t faced in eliminating Orlando and Philadelphia in the first two rounds. “It’s a little different style that we’re going to see,” Nurse said. “We’re going to have to adjust to that really quickly, obviously, and forget about how happy we are pretty quickly because it’s a hungry team. It’s a very deep team, a very good team. We’re going to have to continue to grow and we’re going to have to play better.” Leonard scored 41 points on 16-of-39 shooting in Game 7 against Philadelphia. He topped 30 points five times in the series and averaged 34.7 points overall. Nurse said Leonard has been playing at an “elite level” in the postseason. Toronto center Marc Gasol agrees with his coach. Leonard “can create a shot out of pretty much nothing,” Gasol said. “He’s a mismatch all around.” In Antetokounmpo, the Bucks have a similar matchup nightmare for Toronto. The Raptors will need contributions for everyone, including Lowry — who briefly left Game 7 because of a sprained left thumb but returned and played the entire second half. “I couldn’t really pass the ball and grip the ball, but that doesn’t matter,” Lowry said. “I’m fine.” Milwaukee has been resting since eliminating Boston in Game 5 on Wednesday (Thursday, PHL time). Toronto, which used only seven players on Sunday (Monday, PHL time), will not practice Monday (Tuesday, PHL time), giving players some extra rest. They may need it to derail the surging Bucks......»»

Category: sportsSource:  abscbnRelated NewsMay 13th, 2019

The Trail Blazers patience has been rewarded

By Tim Reynolds, Associated Press Bravo, Portland. Bravo. Doing the right thing isn’t easy in the NBA, where patience is a rare virtue. The Trail Blazers were swept in the first round of the 2017 playoffs. They got swept again in the first round last season. Portland had lost 10 consecutive playoff games going into this year. Ordinarily, that’s a recipe for firings, trade demands and roster dismantling. Instead, the Blazers stayed the course. And their reward is a trip to the Western Conference final, starting Tuesday (Wednesday, PHL time) against two-time defending champion Golden State. [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 speaks to the character of our organization and what we’ve become,” All-Star guard Damian Lillard said. The Blazers have become a model of consistency. They could have gone the other way. A lot of teams have gone the other way. Neil Olshey, the Blazers’ general manager, took an uncommonly measured approach last season and kept Terry Stotts — currently the fourth-longest-tenured coach in the NBA. Lillard stayed committed and didn’t stomp his feet or force a trade like so many other players in his situation have done or tried to. CJ McCollum, Lillard’s backcourt partner who carried them Sunday (Monday, PHL time) with 37 points, doesn’t mind that he could get more shots elsewhere. “This is arguably the biggest win that we’ve had in the franchise for a long time,” Stotts said after Sunday’s (Monday, PHL time) Game 7 win at Denver — the first Game 7 road win in team history. “To be a part of it, to do it the way we did, I’m thrilled.” In a lot of ways, Sunday (Monday, PHL time) epitomized what the Blazers have done in recent years. They got down 17 early on the road in a Game 7. They battled, chipped at the deficit, eventually found the right combination of things that worked and didn’t panic. “Just stay with it,” Stotts said. “Trust was the biggest thing.” He was speaking of Game 7. He could have meant the last two offseasons. Trust takes time to build, and the Blazers now have it from top to bottom. This is how close-knit they are: After the game, Lillard lauded teammates, coaches, the training staff, the front office, the team’s security and the members of the sports media relations staff. He forgot nobody. “Everybody we see every day, everybody’s invested in what we’ve created,” Lillard said. Some teams should be taking notes. So should some players. This is an era in which teams spend years tanking instead of competing, yet still charge plenty to fans willing to come see their inferior product. An era where a bad team like Phoenix somehow decides after one year that a well-regarded coach like Igor Kokoskov needs to be fired — a move that means Devin Booker will start his fifth NBA season playing for a fifth different coach. An era where an elite player like Anthony Davis can pursue a trade with a year and a half left on his contract in New Orleans, starting a circus that became a massive problem for both the Pelicans and the Los Angeles Lakers. The Blazers didn’t demand that someone else fix their mistakes. They did it themselves. Olshey knew Portland’s roster was flawed after being swept by Davis and the Pelicans last season, that it wasn’t deep enough to handle injury issues. So he took a chance on Seth Curry, Warriors star Stephen Curry’s brother who wasn’t in the league last season, and signed him over the summer. He swung a trade in February and got Rodney Hood to fortify the bench. He fought off plenty of other clubs to sign Enes Kanter when he was freed by the New York Knicks — and that move proved enormous after center Jusuf Nurkic went down with a broken leg. But the moves Olshey didn’t make the last two summers are part of why the Blazers are here now. So are the moves he made three months ago. So, too, are the moves he made four years ago when the Blazers were rebuilders after LaMarcus Aldridge and three other starters left. “We had the roster turnover four years ago and everybody was quick to shoot us down, count us out,” Lillard said. “And at that point, we didn’t know for sure what direction we were going to go in.” Now they know. They’re heading to Oakland and the Western Conference final. ___ Tim Reynolds is a national basketball writer for The Associated Press. Write to him at treynolds@ap.org.....»»

Category: sportsSource:  abscbnRelated NewsMay 13th, 2019

No extra drama needed for Nuggets, Blazers in Game 7

By Sekou Smith, NBA.com DENVER -- All the posturing you can muster won’t win you this all-important game. No amount of name-calling, shoving, screaming, shouting or tough guy antics and gestures will save you when it’s all on the line in Game 7 of the NBA playoffs. And there are enough guys playing for both the Denver Nuggets and Portland Trail Blazers that know it, even if most of them have only observed a Game 7 from the stands or even further afar. [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 a simple proposition, these Game 7 affairs. You win, you play on. Your season continues and all of the goals you set are still attainable. You lose, you’re done. None of the things you believed in before that last opening tip of the season remain. Pack up your stuff and head home for the summer. That’s the reality, the fate both the Nuggets and Trail Blazers are facing Sunday afternoon (Monday morning, PHL time) at Pepsi Center, the all-important Game 7 showdown in the Western Conference semifinals that will define one team’s season and render the other’s mute. There’s a finality to it, a certain air of drama that cannot be found anywhere else in the postseason. So it doesn’t matter if you have “sassy *** dudes, frontrunners,” as Blazers reserve guard Seth Curry put it after things got chippy late in Game 6 Thursday night (Friday, PHL time), one side or broadcast talent on the other taking cheap and unnecessary shots at injured Blazers center Jusuf Nurkic, Sunday afternoon's (Monday, PHL time) business is an up-and-down affair for all involved. Win and you play on or lose and you’re done. “I’m looking forward to Game 7,” Blazers coach Terry Stotts said. “Games 7s are special.” No extracurricular activity from either side will change that fact. “Both teams want to win the game,” said Nuggets center Nikola Jokic. “Basketball is an emotional game. Of course, we’re going to talk trash or whatever. Both teams just want to win the game.” That doesn’t mean you don’t look for every advantage possible to help fuel your cause. Blazers big man Zach Collins played a huge role in making sure this series found its way to Game 7, joining Rodney Hood in providing a huge boost off the bench in Game 6. And it was more than just his season-high 29 minutes and playoff career-high 14 points and five blocks. It was his physicality and activity around the rim and in the paint on both ends of the floor, his refusal to allow the Nuggets to find a groove. “We’ve just got to go in and keep playing our game,” Collins said. “I said it after the game, [Denver] has been way too comfortable for a lot of games in this series and [in Game 6] we made them a little uncomfortable. We just need to continue that, regardless of if it’s a Game 7 or not. Obviously, it’s win or go home for both teams. It’s going to be very difficult, especially in [Denver] to go in and get a win, but we can do it.” The Nuggets leaned on their sterling 34-7 record at Pepsi Center during the regular season, the best home mark in the league, as a confidence booster two weeks ago. “We have the best home court advantage in the NBA,” Nuggets coach Michael Malone said. “We’re going to rely on that once again and try to close it out in Game 7.” The Nuggets owning that recency advantage: they needed a Game 7 win here to survive the San Antonio Spurs in the first round, means something. The game and that series provided lessons Malone’s postseason rookies need to tap into this time around, even if they don’t realize it now. “It’s weird,” Nuggets guard Jamal Murray said. “Everybody keeps talking about experience. And I just want to say that we’ve been here before. [We go] back home and regroup like we did for San Antonio, come back with energy and just … be ready to play. I think we had too many lapses [in Game 6]. Dame [Lillard] felt really comfortable, he wasn’t comfortable last time, so we need to be tougher on him … like I said, just regroup, come back and get a win.” If only it was that simple. The pressure to get out of the first round is one thing. The opportunity to make the conference finals is a different monster. The Nuggets last played in a conference final in 2009, when Carmelo Anthony, Chauncey Billups, Kenyon Martin, J.R. Smith and Nene led the way. That group had a mix of seasoned pros who had championship (Billups) and extensive experience (Billups and Martin) competing on a championship level, to go along with younger and emerging superstar talent like Anthony. And they were ultimately no match for the Kobe Bryant and Pau Gasol-led Los Angeles Lakers. So these current Nuggets are well within their right to acknowledge the very real anxiety that comes with a game of this magnitude. “No nerves, “Jokic said. “I just felt something different the first game of the playoffs because it was something different. Just because we call it the playoffs, Besides that, everything else is the same.” The Blazers haven’t seen a Game 7 since a 2003 first-round series against Dallas. But they do not believe the absence of experience in this case makes any bit of difference. “It’s just another game -- a game we want to win, obviously,” Blazers guard CJ McCollum said. “We understand what’s at stake. Somebody’s got to go home. Somebody’s got to go to Cabo, go to Cancun, as Chuck [Barkley] would say. For us, it’s go out there and compete, find the coach’s game plan, understanding that it’s going to be a pretty hostile crowd and they’ll be confident at home, but we’ve got to bring the energy and pressure just like we did [in Game 6].” Damian Lillard has guided his team this far and promised to stick to the basics in the days and hours leading up to the game. Rested bodies and minds are crucial. “The number one thing is have our minds right,” he said. “Don’t overthink, don’t make some big crazy deal or anything like that. We’re going to play a basketball game. It’s a big game and we’ve won on their floor before and we know what type of mentality we had when we did that. We’ve got to go out there, be tough, be physical, be sharp in our scouting report, play for each other, play with each other on both ends and just put the pressure on them. “Make them earn everything on their offensive end and then when we get the ball, make sure that we get shots up,” Lillard continued with his simple but extremely detailed breakdown of what needs to be done. “Value every possession, don’t go out there turning the ball over, playing into their hands where they get an opportunity to get their crowd involved. So that has to be our mentality, to just be sharp, be physical, go in there ready to take the game, because the only way it’s going to happen is us going in there and taking it.” It’s a Game 7, after all, no extra drama needed. 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 12th, 2019

BLOGTABLE: What s most impressive about Bucks?

NBA.com blogtable What impresses you most about Milwaukee’s 8-1 postseason record? * * * Steve Aschburner: The Bucks’ depth. Everyone knows who Giannis Antetokounmpo is. But not everyone notices how frequently this team adds to its leads when Antetokounmpo is on the bench, at least in these playoffs. During the regular season, Milwaukee was 9.7 points better, per 100 possessions, when "The Greek Freak" was on the floor. During this postseason? The Bucks are 10.3 points better when Antetokounmpo sits down. Now, those playoff on/off numbers are 11.4 vs. 21.7, so it’s hard to go wrong either way. Small sample size, but it indicates how well the reserves are playing, how much coach Mike Budenholzer and GM Jon Horst have cultivated this bench and how effectively these guys play in whatever combination they need. [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] John Schuhmann: Giannis Antetokounmpo can't not be the most impressive thing about the Bucks, but the most noteworthy aspect of Milwaukee's postseason thus far is the play of their bench. While other teams have been forced to shorten their rotations because some reserves have been disappointing (or downright unplayable) in the playoffs, the Bucks have had some reserves play better than they did in the regular season. George Hill's regular season's contributions were rather minimal, but he was huge in the conference semis, averaging 15.5 points on 62 percent shooting over the Bucks' four wins. Pat Connaughton, meanwhile, has given them some important rebounding and floor spacing. And the Bucks have outscored their opponents by more than 21 points per 100 possessions with Hill and Connaughton on the floor together. Now, they've added more depth with the return of Malcolm Brogdon. Sekou Smith: The most impressive thing about the Bucks' 8-1 postseason run is that, save for Game 1 against the Boston Celtics, they treated each and every other game the same way. They didn't show the Celtics any more respect than they did the Detroit Pistons in that first round sweep. That's the mark of a champion, a team willing to disregard the opposition completely in its quest to win 16 games and bring home a Larry O'Brien Trophy. Like most everyone else, I needed to see if what the Bucks did during the regular season would translate to the postseason. And the overmatched Pistons couldn't provide the evidence needed in the first round. Punishing the Celtics the way they did, though, speaks to me in a completely different manner......»»

Category: sportsSource:  abscbnRelated NewsMay 10th, 2019

Has Kyrie Irving played his last game for Celtics?

By Tim Reynolds, Associated Press It begins. When the buzzer sounded in Milwaukee on Wednesday night, the question immediately became this: Has Kyrie Irving played his last game for the Boston Celtics? It’s very possible. Welcome to free agency, Kyrie. [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] He’s now in the place that other big names like Kevin Durant, Jimmy Butler, Kawhi Leonard and Klay Thompson all will be whenever their respective seasons end, whether that happens with a playoff defeat, or with an injury — Durant left Game 5 of Golden State’s Western Conference semifinal series against Houston on Wednesday night (Thursday, PHL time) with a right calf strain — or with their fingerprints smudging the golden surface of the Larry O’Brien Trophy. They will all hear some version of the question that Irving got. Free agency doesn’t technically start until July 1, but in actuality it began for the superstar point guard with 8:40 left in the fourth quarter of Game 5 — when he checked out for the last time in what capped Boston’s ousting from the Eastern Conference semifinals by the Milwaukee Bucks. He has a player option for next season, one that would pay him about $21 million. No one expects him to pick up that option. Irving got the question a number of different ways Wednesday night (Thursday, PHL time), and his defense was stellar. No hints, whatsoever. “I’m just trying to make it back to Boston first, safely,” Irving said. “Get to see my family. Decompress. Do what human beings do.” This will be a seismic free-agent summer in the NBA and everyone has known this was coming for some time. Durant, Butler, Leonard, Thompson, Irving and Kemba Walker all may sign deals worth well over $100 million apiece. Combined, the total value of those six looming contracts could flirt with $1 billion if everyone involved decides to max-out and not take shorter-term deals. The New York Knicks might have close to $75 million in salary-cap space, more than enough to potentially land Irving and Durant. The Los Angeles Clippers could have close to $60 million. Brooklyn, Dallas, Atlanta and Indiana might have about $50 million apiece. The Los Angeles Lakers — even with LeBron James’ big contract and a coaching search that has gone from slow to stuck — have more than enough to add some major names. It will be wild, starting with lots of eyes on Golden State. Questions about Durant leaving have percolated all season and will only pick up between now and July 1. Thompson’s future has been the source of much debate. Imagine: The Warriors could win their third straight title and fourth in five years, and they might break up anyway. Butler will take a long look at signing elsewhere, and he might start hearing ‘the question’ as soon as Thursday (Friday, PHL time) when Philadelphia now on the ropes against Toronto. Leonard’s future with the Raptors may be tied to how deep they go in the playoffs. Walker’s situation in Charlotte hinges on the size of the offer the Hornets make to keep him. Irving tried to make all the chatter about his future go away in early October, when he stole the show at a preseason event for Celtics fans at the team’s arena in Boston. He grabbed the microphone, walked toward midcourt and delivered a sentence that is going to get replayed a lot over the next eight weeks. “If you guys will have me back, I plan on re-signing here,” Irving said. Sounded great then. Doesn’t seem so iron-clad now. And truth be told, the Celtics might be thinking they’re better off without Irving anyway given how they went deeper in the playoffs with him sidelined last season and his struggles over the last four games of the Milwaukee series. They were 35-19 at one point. They went 19-18 the rest of the way. They went 14-17 in Irving’s last 31 appearances. They were 12-3 when he didn’t play this season. Irving won’t be taking a whole lot of questions — if any — over the next few weeks about his future. He knows what would be asked. All that matters now is his answer. ___ Tim Reynolds is a national basketball writer for The Associated Press. Write to him at treynolds@ap.org.....»»

Category: sportsSource:  abscbnRelated NewsMay 9th, 2019

Legendary Moments: Jordan eliminates Cavs with iconic shot

NBA.com staff report On May 7, 1989, Chicago Bulls superstar Michael Jordan delivered one of the most legendary moments of his career when he hit "The Shot" to eliminate the Cleveland Cavaliers in Game 5 of the 1989 first-round NBA playoffs series. With the series tied 2-2, the Bulls needed to win Game 5 to advance in the best-of-five series. The pivotal game was tight throughout, with six lead changes in the final minutes of regulation. Cavaliers guard Craig Ehlo gave his squad the lead 100-99 with 3.0 seconds left. That was just enough time for Jordan, though, who created space over Ehlo to hit the iconic foul-line jumper at the buzzer. Jordan finished the game with 44 points on 17-for-32 shooting. [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] After the game, Bulls coach Doug Collins said of the last play, "that was get the ball to Michael and everybody get the [expletive] out of the way!" The Bulls went on to reach the East finals where they were eliminated by the Detroit Pistons in six games. During the 1989 playoffs, Jordan averaged 34.8 points, 7.6 assists, 7.0 rebounds and 2.5 steals in 17 games. Box Score.....»»

Category: sportsSource:  abscbnRelated NewsMay 8th, 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

Diliman College nips Wangs, boosts playoff hopes in PBA D-League

Diliman College-Gerry's Grill fanned its hopes for a playoff berth with a 108-95 drubbing of Wangs Basketball Tuesday in the 2019 PBA D-League......»»

Category: newsSource:  philstarRelated NewsApr 30th, 2019

PBA D-League: Metropac-San Beda drops 49-point hammer on CD14-Trinity

Metropac-San Beda hardly broke a sweat against CD14 Designs-Trinity for a 49-point rout, 119-70, to inch closer to a playoff berth in the 2019 PBA D-League, Tuesday at JCSGO Gym in Cubao. James Canlas started off the mauling when he went for 14 in the first quarter and finished with 16 points to lead the Movers' 18-3 opening salvo. "Medyo maganda ang simula namin," said coach Boyet Fernandez. "Gusto ko lang makita ang attitude ng players namin how they react in this game, lalo na we're facing a winless team." Clint Doliguez chipped in 12 points in the victory as four other players got to double-digit in scoring as Metropac-San Beda forced a tie for the Foundation Group top spot at 6-1 together with CEU. It was all Movers in the game, with their stingy defense leading to 26 White Stallion turnovers and turned to 33 points in their favor. The snoozefest resulted to a seveth straight defeat for the cellar-dwelling CD14 Designs-Trinity. Kimley Medina poured 17 points in the losing cause for the White Stallions. Meanwhile, Diliman College-Gerry's Grill fanned its hopes for a playoff berth with a 108-95 drubbing of Wangs Basketball. Beninese big man Kevin Gandjeto scored a team-best 33 points, on top of 17 rebounds, three steals, and two blocks as the Blue Dragons pulled up to an even 3-3 standing. The victory was a big morale-booster for Diliman-Gerry's as coach Rensy Bajar believes that his side can snag a top four finish in the Foundation Group. "The way were playing, we're starting to pick up. I think we can show some more and play  good basketball," he said. BOX SCORES FIRST GAME DILIMAN-GERRY'S 108  -- Gandjeto 33, Balagtas 20, Brutas 19, Bauzon 13, Mahari 9, Cabanag 5, Torrado 4, Darang 3, Sombero 2, Bonsubre 0, Enriquez 0, Brill 0, Ngo 0, Tay 0, Salazar 0. WANGS 95 -- Inigo 33, Tolentino 16, Vito 8, Lim 8, Bulawan 7, Estrella 6, Tongco 5, De Mesa 5, Wong 5, Santos 2, Brojan 0, Lucas 0, Ilac 0, Evangelista 0, Singontiko 0. QUARTER SCORES: 25-16, 53-34, 78-65, 108-95. SECOND GAME METROPAC-SAN BEDA 119 -- Canlas 16, Doliguez 12, Soberano 11, Bahio 11, Oftana 10, Alfaro 10, Obenza 9, Tankoua 8, Visser 8, Nelle 7, Etrata 7, Carino 6, Abuda 4, Presbitero 0, Cuntapay 0. CD14 DESIGNS-TRINITY 70 -- Medina 17, Tayongtong 14, Mabayo 11, Vitug 7, Montero 6, Dela Cruz 5, Balucanag 4, Juanico 2, Juico 2, Ingel 2, Tadeo 0, Nidoy 0, Chua 0. QUARTER SCORES: 34-16, 66-35, 87-48, 119-70......»»

Category: sportsSource:  abscbnRelated NewsApr 30th, 2019