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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

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

Antetokounmpo learning how to deal with playoff disappointment

By Steve Aschburner, NBA.com TORONTO – Whenever LeBron James struggled through the sort of playoff performance Giannis Antetokounmpo had Sunday (Monday, PHL time), he seemed to want to put it behind him as swiftly as he could. His routine – assuming it wasn’t The Finals, where he got summoned to the podium, win or lose – typically went like this: the door to the Cleveland or Miami dressing room would swing open and there James would be, ready to face the questions, antsy to move on ASAP. Once he ‘fessed up to the shots he’d missed or the plays he’d botched, that was it. Oh, you knew he’d be looking plenty at video of that game in the hours before he played again, as a way to find and fix the flaws. But for public consumption at least, he shed it fast, like an ill-fitting suit. Antetokounmpo, the Milwaukee Bucks’ young star, is still learning this face-of-the-franchise and cutthroat competitor stuff. He took his time afterward in the spartan visitors’ room at Scotiabank Arena. [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] There he sat, with his knees wrapped and his feet plunged into an ice bath. The Kia MVP candidate stared at the score sheet that had been handed to him, the one bearing all sorts of dreary news from the double-overtime setback that cut Milwaukee’s lead in the best-of-seven series to 2-1. Antetokounmpo barely looked up as the semicircle of cameras, microphones and reporters around him grew with media people tip-toeing that fine line between giving him some space and blocking out for position whenever he’d finally take their questions. (“Talk,” as we say in the trade). Heck, Antetokounmpo barely looked up when Bucks coach Mike Budenholzer strode through the dressing room and tapped him on his left knee, a little atta-boy bonding near the end of a long, disappointing night. While teammates poked habitually at their phones in the aftermath of Milwaukee’s 118-112 loss, Antetokounmpo mostly let his lie there on the seat next to him. By the standards he set this year as an MVP favorite, he knew he’d had a lousy night. The reporters standing there, like fans everywhere, knew he’d struggled, of course, in ways rarely seen since his first taste of the postseason four years ago. And he knew that they knew, so… “Obviously it wasn’t my best game,” Antetokounmpo said eventually. “I’ve got to be more aggressive… I’ve got to make the right play.” Defensively, Antetokounmpo was pretty much his usual self, grabbing 23 rebounds for the Bucks, challenging Toronto’s players out on the floor and close to the rim, and blocking four shots. Offensively, though, Antetokounmpo was a mess. He scored only 12 points, his fewest in a playoff game since he was first dipping his toe into postseason waters as a 20-year-old back in 2015. Through three quarters, Antetokounmpo had only six points on 3-for-8 shooting. Seven Milwaukee players and five Raptors had outscored him to that point, and he hadn’t earned his way to the foul line even once. What made it all worse was that the game was sitting there, aching to be taken by someone, anyone. Antetokounmpo got himself going a bit in the fourth quarter, making a couple of shots and earning five free throws. But he missed three. Then he went scoreless while playing the entire first overtime. And then he fouled out just 36 seconds into the second OT. He didn’t object, either, when that sixth foul for stepping in front of Toronto’s Pascal Siakam sent him to the side. Antetokounmpo just took it and exited, sealing it as one of those “not your night, kid” hard lessons. Asked about the frustration that Antetokounmpo might have shown to teammates, if not the public, Bucks guard Eric Bledsoe said: “If you don’t feel bad when you play bad, you don’t need to be playing this game. That’s the feeling that drives you to success. I’m happy he’s feeling like that.” Antetokounmpo’s game didn’t just spin sideways on its own. Raptors coach Nick Nurse switched some defensive duties around and assigned Kawhi Leonard – a two-time Defensive Player of the Year with the wingspan, instincts and reflexes to confound any open-court player – as the tip of Toronto’s spear against the Greek Freak. Then, as expected, Toronto sent second defenders at him, the surest way to get the ball out of Antetokounmpo’s hands or force him into difficult shots. So he tried to make the right basketball plays, as they say, and sometimes he did – he dished a team-high seven assists. Sometimes, though, he did not, turning over the ball eight times. For the record, Antetokounmpo has played 31 postseason games in his young career. In the games in which he has scored fewer than 19 points, his team’s record is 3-6. When he scores 19 or more, the Bucks are 14-8. Not to lay it all at Antetokounmpo’s feet. Fellow All-Star Khris Middleton was way off his usual offensive form, missing 13 of his 16 shots. And Bledsoe matched that. Together, those three starters were a combined 11-of-48. The rest of the team shot 50 percent (27 of 54). “We have the utmost respect and belief that the next game is not going to be as bad as [this] was,” said guard George Hill, who scored 24 points off the bench. “But I know it's sitting in their head that they go for a combined 11-of-48 or something like that. We're not worried about it.” Right. Who’s even counting? Budenholzer and his staff are going to have to figure out ways to get scoring opportunities without being stymied by all the defensive traffic. Teammates are going to have to shoot better, to keep those diggers honest in their matchups. And Antetokounmpo is going to need to play more aggressively and take what happened in Game 3 very personally. He wasn’t quite there yet, Sunday night (Monday, PHL time). “Obviously I want to stay aggressive. But we stick to our game plan,” Antetokounmpo said. “Some days I’m going to have a bad night. But my team has to focus on doing their job and I’ll do mine.” Said Brook Lopez, after watching the throng swallow Antetokounmpo on the opposite side of the room: “We know he’s not going to quit or stop playing. He’s going to continue to be him.” As he talked, Lopez’s phone began vibrating next to him. He said it was Bucks GM Jon Horst calling and, in a bit of gallows humor after a stinging loss, joked that maybe he shouldn’t answer. “I don’t know if I should pick up or not,” the Milwaukee center said, “’cause I want to be here tomorrow.” Antetokounmpo has a call to answer now, too. In Game 4, Tuesday (Wednesday, PHL time). 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 20th, 2019

Lopez sticks to the Bucks plan, and it s more fun for everyone

By Steve Aschburner, NBA.com MILWAUKEE — Come for the three-point melodrama, stay for the rim protection, the put-backs, the block-outs and the blocked shots. Come for the anguish and frustration that plays out across Brook Lopez’s face over the course of a typical NBA game, stay for the maniacal, jubilant, fourth-quarter clapping that gets turned into a GIF and goes viral within minutes. Brook Lopez clapping violently dot gif pic.twitter.com/a22arVkUSc — CJ Fogler (@cjzero) May 16, 2019 Come for the unbuttoned Fresno Grizzlies minor league baseball jersey, stay for the Disney fashion T-shirt showing beneath it and the Pizza Planet cap up top. “I’ve always tried to have fun when I go out and play basketball,” said Lopez. The Milwaukee Bucks’ center embodied his team’s performance as they clawed back Game 1 of the Eastern Conference finals, beating the Toronto Raptors, 108-100, Wednesday night (Thursday, PHL time) at Fiserv Forum. [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] “I obviously love playing the game,” said Lopez, dressed like a 7-foot 10-year-old for his podium appearance. “But no question I’ve been having a great time here.” Lopez, 31, scored 29 points, a personal playoff best, and grabbed 11 rebounds. It was his first 20-point night of the Bucks’ 10 playoff games so far, only the fourth of his career (he has appeared in just 23 postseason games in 11 seasons). And it came on the heels of a Game 5 effort against Boston a week ago in which Lopez was held scoreless. Milwaukee clinched anyway. This one was an ordeal for Lopez and for the Bucks, an opener in the best-of-seven series in which they slogged through three quarters without much touch or rhythm. The style of play they’ve embraced over 82 games and the past month of postseason was betraying them; Milwaukee kept hoisting and missing three-pointers, as single-mindedly in spite of horrid results as if they all wore beards and played for Houston. The resulting nastiness: A 6-for-34 (17.6 percent) showing from the arc, while digging an 83-76 hole that maxed out at 13 points. Lopez was a notable offender. He missed his first three from deep and only broke through midway through the second quarter. His shot from out front that got the Bucks within 42-37 was followed by a reaction of one part frustration, one part exasperation and a couple parts relief. That’s the wide open space of Lopez’s game, out there on the wing or in the corner launching for all the world to see. Home fans seem to live and die on each attempt, riding an emotional rollercoaster while – on nights such as this one – they wait for his results to regress to the mean. That finally happened in the fourth quarter. Lopez – who shot a total of 31 three-pointers in his first eight seasons, 300-plus in each of the next two and ultimately 512 in 2018-19 with the Bucks – hit two to get his team going in the quarter. His third in the period, one possession after Lopez finished a slo-mo fast-break for a 101-100 lead, sent Toronto into a timeout, down four with 1:55 left. That was when Lopez came with the clapping. And when play resumed, there was Lopez again, getting a hand on Kawhi Leonard’s attempt to attack the rim, stripping and corralling the ball for a block and rebound. As good as Kyle Lowry was over the final 12 minutes, as potent as the Raptors’ offense was at certain points earlier, they were done scoring for the night. Lopez did the small stuff all night, even finishing off the dribble a couple times. It’s just that, by virtue of how he and the Bucks have played this season, those things get overshadowed by the broad strokes that didn’t go his way until late. “This is the Brook we all know and we all love,” said Giannis Antetokounmpo. Said Khris Middleton: “He’s a beast. Inside the paint, made some big plays for us. On the defensive end, he covers up so much for our mistakes.” The Bucks’ adherence to what works has been tested for quarters, for halves, but so far only for one whole game in these playoffs – they dropped the opener against Boston. Milwaukee won the next four in a row to oust the Celtics. In the dressing room afterward, there was chatter that they’d snatched one away, that they couldn't have played worse – at least on offense. In that fourth quarter, outscoring Toronto 32-17, Milwaukee made up for a multitude of sins. The Bucks hit 50 percent of their shots, missed only 1-of-10 free throws and dominated the boards (14-4) to finish with a 60-45 edge. The Raptors were held to 5-of-22 shooting in the quarter. And Lopez, dragging a minus-5 plus/minus rating through three quarters, was sitting on a plus-7 by the horn. The key? Absolutely faith in the style they’ve honed since late September, and a commitment to letting it fly. Whether we’re talking about a conscienceless approach to three-pointers or Lopez’s irrepressible good nature. He has made as many as eight three-pointers in a game this season (at Denver, Nov. 12, PHL time) and attempted as many as 15 (vs. Brooklyn, Dec. 30, PHL time). There is no such thing as too many. “That’s what my teammates have been telling me,” Lopez said. “George Hill specifically and then [Giannis], too. They just stick in my mind: ‘Keep shooting the ball, you just need one to go down. Keep letting it fly.” 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 16th, 2019

Bucks stars sit down, supporting cast steps up

By Steve Aschburner, NBA.com BOSTON – Giannis Antetokounmpo sat down. Khris Middleton sat down. And the Milwaukee Bucks’ chance of beating the Boston Celtics in Game 4 of their Eastern Conference semifinal series seemed to sit down with them. In a hostile arena, against an opponent that by all rights should have been desperate (though the emotion never did quite translate to the Celtics’ performance), losing your best two players to foul trouble at a crucial point in the second half should have been too much for Milwaukee. [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] Antetokounmpo got whistled for his fourth personal foul with 8:18 left in the third quarter, the teams tied at 59-59. Before the score ever budged, 61 seconds later, Middleton got his fourth. It was automatic for Bucks coach Mike Budenholzer to yank both his All-Stars, with so much game left and the risk of one or both fouling out so great. This should have been the opportunity the Celtics needed. They had misfired their way to that point, shooting 37 percent overall in the first half and 4-of-19 on three-pointers. But they had their full complement of starters available. Boston should have pounced. Boston should have cracked open the game right there and earned itself a 2-2 series tie. Instead, the Bucks stiffened, then pushed back. They might even have ended the series, turning that stretch of resiliency to end the third quarter into a 113-101 victory. They hold a 3-1 lead now with a chance to close it out at home in Game 5 Wednesday (Thursday, PHL time) and advance to the conference finals. That’s how pivotal the Bucks’ plucky response to adversity was. They not only fended off the Celtics during that star-starved stretch, they took the lead: Milwaukee went on a little 13-9 run to the 2:31 mark of the third, triggering a timeout by Boston coach Brad Stevens. Then play resumed, and the Bucks outscored them again 8-4 to close the quarter. It was the exact opposite of what should have happened, Milwaukee opening up an 80-72 lead while playing shorthanded, and Boston squandering such a ripe chance to seize the game. Yet there wasn’t much surprise showing in the visitors’ dressing room. “We were just playing the same way,” said center Brook Lopez. “We always say, ‘Same way. Same way,’ and just keep grinding. We did a great job these past two games just grinding for the first 30, 35 minutes or whatever, and then just taking advantage whenever the moment comes.” This should have been Boston’s moment, though. It’s true that the Bucks’ depth has been a weapon all season and that their role players have prided themselves on maintaining -- or adding to -- leads. But c’mon, they were working without a net this time. Antetokounmpo and Middleton had to sit for a while at least, if not the balance of the quarter. The worst thing that could happen if they came back too soon would be picking up their fifth fouls. The second-worst thing would be playing overly cautious to avoid doing that. Didn’t the players who stepped into the breach feel the burden? “We didn’t really feel that way,” Lopez said. “We had that trust and belief in one another. We were just trying not to have any sort of letdown.” Budenholzer dealt with the fragile situation by reminding himself that he typically subs out his stars in that general vicinity of the game. Keeping them fresh for the fourth quarter is a priority, particularly with Antetokounmpo. It’s just that this time, the terms were dictated to the Bucks coach. “It’s always hard to take out Giannis, let’s just start there,” Budenholzer said. But he added, “Because of our normal subs rotation, it wasn’t as tough to take him out.” Lopez, George Hill, Ersan Ilyasova, Eric Bledsoe, Nikola Mirotic, Pat Connaughton and Sterling Brown all played during Antetokounmpo’s and Middleton’s absences. (Middleton returned for an uneventful final 20 seconds in the period.) Bledsoe got it going offensively, then Hill – not unlike his super-sub showing in Game 3 – scored nine of Milwaukee’s final 11 points in the quarter. And they all locked in defensively, making life miserable for a Celtics team that never recovered. “Absolutely. We’re always defense first,” Lopez said. “I think we even stepped up our intensity in that moment.” The Greek Freak, while all this was going on, sat between deep reserves D.J. Wilson and inactive rookie Donte DiVincenzo with a concerned look on his face and nervous energy bouncing through one leg. Tough benchmate? “I mean, he’s one of those guys who wants to play all 48,” Wilson said. “He hates when he comes out. He’s kind of like that every game.” Said Antetokounmpo: “It’s amazing to see that the bench can keep playing hard, keep defending hard and set the tone for us.” The past two games, the Bucks’ bench has outscored Boston’s 74-23. So Milwaukee didn’t just survive, it thrived. It started the fourth with its top guys more rested than usual. And oh, did it show. Antetokounmpo scored 17 points in that quarter, but, playing all 12 minutes during which he scored half of the Bucks’ 12 field goals and grabbed seven rebounds. Middleton was scoreless but was a plus-seven the rest of the way, second only to Connaughton’s plus-11. Boston wound up trading baskets for much of the fourth. Al Horford’s layup at 7:25 got his team within 91-86, only to see Lopez and Antetokounmpo score all of the Bucks’ points in a 14-6 stretch that ate up five minutes. The home team seemed to be fraying, bringing an air of inevitability to the night. Speculation that it might have been All-Star guard Kyrie Irving’s final game as a Celtic in Boston – he’ll be a free agent this summer and never has seemed particularly happy here – began immediately. Irving, after a golden Game 1, has played haphazardly in the past three while shooting a combined 19-of-62. “Who cares?” he said. “It’s a little different when your rhythm is challenged every play down. You’re being picked up full court. They’re doing things to test you. The expectations on me are going to be sky high. I try to utilize their aggression against them and still put my teammates in great positions, while still being aggressive and trying to do it all. “For me, the 22 shots? I should have shot 30.” The Bucks, boasting strong chemistry since training camp, never has looked tighter. In fact, when Lopez was asked if he felt a sense of relief that they reached the fourth quarter without getting pummeled, he wouldn’t go there. “I don’t think it’s a sense of relief,” he said. “I don’t want to say that, because one through 15 we have trust in everyone in this locker room. Whoever we have out on the floor, we’re never like, ‘Oh damn, we’re stuck with these guys.’” 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 7th, 2019

Celtics need best version of Irving back

By Steve Aschburner, NBA.com BOSTON — The Boston Celtics are looking forward to getting guard Marcus Smart back, possibly as soon as Game 4 against Milwaukee Monday night (Tuesday, PHL time) at TD Garden. They would be better served, however, getting guard Kyrie Irving back. The Irving who led Boston to its victory on the Bucks’ court in Game 1 of the Eastern Conference semifinals series was the latest, greatest iteration of the six-time All-Star point guard. Irving scored 26 points, passed for 11 assists and showed such maturity in orchestrating Boston’s attack that, even for a guy who has been on the national stage as long as he has, it seemed like some sort of breakthrough performance. That guy, though, exited this series some time in the 48 hours before Game 2. Kryie 3.0 became Kyrie uh-oh. Irving’s play looked rushed, detached and not at all mature. After hitting 12-of-21 shots in the series opener, he shot a combined 12-of-40 in Games 2 and 3 as the Celtics dropped both. They gave back the homecourt edge they had snatched with the opening victory and now need to win Monday (Tuesday, PHL time) just to force a best-of-three mini-series with two in Milwaukee. Irving had a plus/minus rating of minus-26 in the two Celtics defeats. And most disconcerting, the player who arguably is the NBA’s best at making difficult shots seemed bent on making his shots difficult. Too often he went solo, didn’t probe for something better, didn’t spot or even look for another option. Irving and Boston coach Brad Stevens had a conversation off to the side after the Celtics’ practice Sunday afternoon (Monday, PHL time) of moderate length. Afterward, each spoke with reporters. The point guard wouldn’t share what they discussed, while the coach deftly sidestepped the question. “We just wanted to spend 15 minutes talking about the objection of the Kentucky Derby,” Stevens said. “How that could possibly have happened. And so we just created a conversation as long as the objection, and that’s what we discussed in great detail.” Not likely. Stevens probably talked with Irving about some of the things the coach had said to reporters Saturday and Sunday (Sunday and Monday, PHL time): the need for the Celtics not to settle and not to succumb to whatever chaos Milwaukee’s defense was instigating by getting chaotic themselves. For two days, answering various questions, Stevens has steered the discussion to Boston moving the ball as the surest way to high-quality shots. “One of the things that we have to do as a team is just make those right reads off the first drive,” Stevens said, “and then go from there. We do have to do a better job of getting the ball to the second side of the floor, to the third side of the floor, and hopefully that includes as many paint attacks as possible.” The Bucks’ unveiled a switching style of defense in Game 2, something they hadn’t done much all season. Too often, Irving’s eyes lit up seeing center Robin Lopez or forward Nikola Mirotic isolated in front of him, and the tunnel vision that triggered didn’t even generate the best shots for Irving. Too seldom, the Celtics failed to get Milwaukee’s defense shifting left-to-right, and back again. “We have to make sure we’re patient in getting the best looks,” Stevens said Sunday (Monday, PHL time). “That patience doesn’t mean you ease into it. You have to work really hard and be patient against these guys. Because they do a great job of covering up the paint.” Celtics players made only 9-of-19 attempts inside five feet, a feeble rate by NBA standards. Lopez has been one of the league’s best defending the rim this season, and Giannis Antetokounmpo has the mobility to guard his man away from the hoop and still help inside. Admirably, Irving has been willing to shoulder responsibility, flatly stating after the Game 2 loss: “This is what I signed up for. This is what Boston traded for me for.” After each game, he has given detailed breakdowns of what’s gone right, what’s gone wrong and, most important, what he planned to do in the next game. It’s just that his most recent results haven’t matched his pledges. The Celtics have more talent than the Bucks, and more players capable of carrying them offensively through a game or just a pivotal stretch. But those scorers, from Jayson Tatum and Jaylen Brown to Al Horford and Gordon Hayward, are dependent on Irving finding them and delivering the ball in a rhythm. Admittedly, Boston has to cinch things up defensively. Averaging 110 points ought to be enough, if you’re not getting blistered at a 39-percent rate from three-point range while sending your opponents to the free throw line an average of 30 times nightly. Irving blamed all those stoppages for stealing transition opportunities and generally messing with the Celtics’ offense. Even so, he must do what Stevens calls “controlling the controllables” and be his best self. He has gotten the better of his individual matchup with Milwaukee point guard Eric Bledsoe, but that’s not enough. And yes, this is what he signed up for. The great unknowns of this offseason, as in Irving’s future whereabouts, could swing wildly on what happens in the coming days. And what he makes happen. “I’ve got to be me. That’s the easy part,” Irving said Sunday (Monday, PHL time). “The same mindset that I’ve always had. Being aggressive. Being patient. Being able to be aware of the time of the game and where I need to make my impact. Being able to be in the right defensive positions and being able to communicate with my teammates as well. “That’s the easy part though. That’s the fun part, if you go out there and just allow the flow of the game to dictate your instincts.” 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 6th, 2019

Bucks respond, play their game in Game 2 win over Celtics

By Steve Aschburner, NBA.com MILWAUKEE – The Stonecutter’s Credo is best known around the NBA as the philosophy and culture of the San Antonio Spurs. The shorthand version – “pounding the rock” – has been embraced as the organization’s mantra across 23 seasons under coach Gregg Popovich. The Spurs hold no monopoly, though, on that faith in hammering away a hundred times without results in order, finally, to split open the rock on blow No. 101. It has been in play in both games so far of the Milwaukee-Boston Eastern Conference semifinal series at Fiserv Forum. [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] In the opener, the Bucks were relieved to still be within a possession at halftime after bringing none of their usual energy or intensity. Then the Celtics struck their pivotal blow, splitting the stone when they dominated the third quarter 36-21. This time, in Game 2 Tuesday night (Wednesday, PHL time) at Fiserv Forum, the roles were reversed. Milwaukee dialed up everything, threw in a couple of adjustments and still couldn’t get much separation from Boston. Then wham! Again it happened in the third quarter, the Bucks delivering the blow this time, 39-18. One moment, Milwaukee was up 74-71. The next, 98-73. By the end it was 123-102, the best-of-seven series even at 1-1. Games 3 and 4 will be in Boston Friday and Monday (Saturday and next Tuesday, PHL time). Fans watch scoreboards, the equivalent of counting each team’s whacks at the rock. Coaches watch everything else, which is why both Milwaukee’s Mike Budenholzer and Boston’s Brad Stevens felt Game 2 was won well before it broke open or officially was decided. Stevens wasn’t fooled by the points. He saw how both teams were getting or denying them, and that was enough. “I thought they dominated a lot in the first half and we were lucky to be down by four,” he said. “They owned their space on both ends of the court better than we did. Our reaction to that was to settle on offense, and it led to some run outs. Then it just steamrolled us.” Budenholzer had the all-full perspective. “That’s more what we’re accustomed to seeing," he said. “I liked our spirit, our activity and our competitiveness up and down the roster.” Those things had been absent, or at least in short supply, when Milwaukee lost its homecourt edge in the series on Sunday (Monday, PHL time). That’s why this one turned must-win so swiftly for the East’s No. 1 seed. Mathematically, the Bucks had wiggle room, but going to Boston down 0-2 raised the very real specter of not getting back to Fiserv at all. The Bucks players claimed not to let that bad mojo in, focusing only on the frustration they felt in starting the series with such a clunker. True or not, they fixed what needed fixing. Giannis Antetokounmpo, especially early, tried less often to bust through a wall of Boston defenders. Instead, he gave up the ball to wing Khris Middleton or let guard Eric Bledsoe probe the defense in a more aggressive performance. Antetokounmpo’s teammates did their part in the symbiotic relationship by taking and making the good perimeter looks he earned them by drawing so much defensive attention. With so many dropping – the Bucks were 20-of-47 on three-pointers, outscoring Boston by 30 in that category – there invariably was more space for Antetokounmpo to work. The Greek Freak scored 29 points and grabbed 10 rebounds, and shot more free throws (18) than the Celtics’ starting lineup combined (11). He wasn’t likely to get the scolding from his older brother Thanasis that he’d gotten in after the first game. Middleton was the one who served notice to the Celtics that their jobs would be tougher, scoring 20 of his 28 points by halftime. Seven of the three-pointers were his, on 10 tries. “We need to get better with that,” Boston’s Al Horford said. Bledsoe forced action and got the better of his matchup with the Celtics’ Kyrie Irving, who, in 48 hours, went from a game worth bronzing to one in need of forgetting. Irving, arguably the NBA’s top shot maestro, scored nine points on 4-of-18 shooting and shouldered a lot of the responsibility after. “I tried to get to my spots but they were really sending guys over every time,” he said. “That’s a sign of respect and I just have to be more efficient in controlling the tempo of the game, the pace, where I want to get to on the floor and making reads better around that mid-range area.” Irving said that Milwaukee’s “frantic” defensive style in Game 2 revved up Boston’s offensive decisions, and not in a good way. When rushed shots missed, the Bucks pounced for run-outs. The Celtics shot 39.5 percent after their 54 percent success in the opener. Budenholzer unleashed that “frantic” defense by having his guys switch their assignments with each screen. That’s not how they played this season, but those who were around in 2017-18 did that sort of stuff under Jason Kidd. It kept the energy level high, even when a pair of Bucks occasionally ran into each other. The Bucks' other adjustment was starting Nikola Mirotic at forward in place of Sterling Brown, the sub who’d been holding injured Malcolm Brogdon’s place. Mirotic scored just nine points, finally hitting a three-pointer after it mattered, but his size was helpful defensively, Budenholzer said. Boston heads home knowing it can advance without winning another game in Milwaukee. The Bucks assured themselves of a Game 5 and have fresher, happier film to study for the weekend games. As a series, this rock feels like it’s going to take a lot more whacks. 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 1st, 2019

AMA Titans battle Batangas Province in D-League opener

MANILA, Philippines – Jeron Teng makes his much-awaited debut when the 2017 PBA D-League Aspirants’ Cup opens Jan.19 at Ynares Sports Arena in Pasig......»»

Category: sportsSource:  philstarRelated NewsJan 8th, 2017

Raptors defense

In crucial moments the other day, the Raptors appeared to be finding ways not to win. Down zero to two and with their backs against the wall in the Eastern Conference Finals, they came up with a crucial adjustment that allowed them to battle the otherwise-superior Bucks to a standstill until crunchtime of Game Three: They solved the problem that was Giannis Antetokounmpo by slotting top defender Kawhi Leonard on the presumptive Most Valuable Player along with a consistent blitz, and it worked. Unfortunately, their own offense continued to sputter, and especially with the outcome of the match on the line in regulation......»»

Category: newsSource:  bworldonlineRelated NewsMay 21st, 2019

Leonard stars in Raptors Game 3 adjustments

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

Category: sportsSource:  abscbnRelated NewsMay 20th, 2019

Blackwater wins debut with Bobby Ray Parks

The Blackwater Elite gave coach Alex Dimaunahan and rookie Bobby Ray Parks a rousing debut with a pulsating 94-91 overtime squeaker over the Meralco Bolts at the start of the PBA Commissioner’s Cup last night at the Mall of Asia Arena in Pasay City......»»

Category: newsSource:  philstarRelated NewsMay 20th, 2019

Bucks 2-0 versus Raptors sa angas nina Giannis, Ilyasova

INUMPISAHAN ni Gia­nnis Antetokounmpo ang laro sa isang payanig na dunk. Sa sumu­nod na posesyon, binutata si Marc Gasol. Sa sumunod, isa pang dak­dak.The post Bucks 2-0 versus Raptors sa angas nina Giannis, Ilyasova appeared first on Abante News Online......»»

Category: newsSource:  abanteRelated NewsMay 19th, 2019

Parks marks PBA debut for Elite

Four squads that landed in the bottom five of the previous conference launch their bids for redemption as they blast off hostilities in the PBA Commissioner’s Cup today at the MOA Arena......»»

Category: newsSource:  philstarRelated NewsMay 19th, 2019

Parks makes Blackwater debut today

Rookie Bobby Ray Parks Jr. makes his Blackwater debut today as the Elite battle Meralco in the opener of Season 44 Philippine Basketball Association Commissioner’s Cup at the Mall of…READ The post Parks makes Blackwater debut today appeared first on The Manila Times Online......»»

Category: newsSource:  manilatimes_netRelated NewsMay 18th, 2019

Bucks rout Raptors to take 2-0 NBA Eastern Conference finals lead

LOS ANGELES: Giannis Antetokounmpo scored 30 points and grabbed 17 rebounds to lead the Milwaukee Bucks to a convincing 125-103 victory over the Toronto Raptors Friday (Saturday in Manila) for…READ The post Bucks rout Raptors to take 2-0 NBA Eastern Conference finals lead appeared first on The Manila Times Online......»»

Category: newsSource:  manilatimes_netRelated NewsMay 18th, 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

Bucks rout Raptors to take 2-0 NBA Eastern Conference finals lead

LOS ANGELES: Giannis Antetokounmpo scored 30 points and grabbed 17 rebounds to lead the Milwaukee Bucks to a convincing 125-103 victory over the Toronto Raptors Friday for a 2-0 lead…READ The post Bucks rout Raptors to take 2-0 NBA Eastern Conference finals lead appeared first on The Manila Times Online......»»

Category: newsSource:  manilatimes_netRelated NewsMay 18th, 2019

NBA reveals awards finalists for 2018-19 season

NBA press release NEW YORK – The NBA today announced the finalists for six awards that honor top performers from the 2018-19 regular season: Kia NBA Most Valuable Player, Kia NBA Rookie of the Year, Kia NBA Sixth Man Award, Kia NBA Defensive Player of the Year, Kia NBA Most Improved Player and NBA Coach of the Year.  The winners of these awards will be revealed at the 2019 NBA Awards presented by Kia on Monday, June 24 at 9 p.m. ET on TNT (Tuesday, June 25, PHL time).  The third annual NBA Awards will take place at Barker Hangar in Los Angeles. [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 finalists for the six annual awards, based on voting results from a global panel of sportswriters and broadcasters, are below: Kia NBA Most Valuable Player Giannis Antetokounmpo, Milwaukee Bucks Paul George, Oklahoma City Thunder James Harden, Houston Rockets Kia NBA Rookie of the Year Deandre Ayton, Phoenix Suns Luka Don?i?, Dallas Mavericks Trae Young, Atlanta Hawks Kia NBA Sixth Man Award            Montrezl Harrell, LA Clippers Domantas Sabonis, Indiana Pacers Lou Williams, LA Clippers Kia NBA Defensive Player of the Year Giannis Antetokounmpo, Milwaukee Bucks Paul George, Oklahoma City Thunder Rudy Gobert, Utah Jazz Kia NBA Most Improved Player De’Aaron Fox, Sacramento Kings D’Angelo Russell, Brooklyn Nets Pascal Siakam, Toronto Raptors NBA Coach of the Year Mike Budenholzer, Milwaukee Bucks Michael Malone, Denver Nuggets Doc Rivers, LA Clippers Complete voting results for each award will be posted on pr.nba.com the night of the 2019 NBA Awards presented by Kia. The 2019 NBA Awards presented by Kia will also feature the announcement of the winners for the NBA Basketball Executive of the Year Award, the Twyman-Stokes Teammate of the Year Award, the NBA Sportsmanship Award, the Seasonlong NBA Cares Community Assist Award presented by Kaiser Permanente, the NBA Hustle Award and the fan-voted House of Highlights Moment of the Year. In addition, basketball icons Magic Johnson and Larry Bird will receive the Lifetime Achievement Award and broadcasting legend Robin Roberts will be honored with the Sager Strong Award......»»

Category: sportsSource:  abscbnRelated NewsMay 18th, 2019

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

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

Category: sportsSource:  abscbnRelated NewsMay 18th, 2019

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