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Turns out, not being second-seed was a good thing for Finals-bound Alab

STA. ROSA, LAGUNA – Renaldo Balkman remained fired up even after Alab Pilipinas completed an emphatic semifinals sweep of now-dethroned champion Hong Kong. “Everybody kept talking about (how) they (were) the number one team,” he told reporters post-game. “Hey, they got a great team, but I know how good we prepared for these games and I think we had an edge on them.” Apparently, that edge is a winning streak which has now stretched to seven games, dating back to the tail-end of the elimination round. Then, the Filipinos won all of their last three assignments and gave themselves a good chance at the second-seed and the automatic advance into the semifinals. All they needed to happen was for Eastern to defeat Chong Son in their own last assignment. That didn’t happen, however, and Chong Son got the top-seed, Hong Kong got the second-seed, and the Philippines was relegated to the third-seed. That meant that there wouldn’t be any rest for Alab and they would be matched up with dangerous Saigon in the quarterfinals. For Balkman, continuing to play – and continuing to roll – was just what they needed. “Well, not being arrogant or what, I just know how my guys are. We’re playing well, we’re playing together, and I think the best thing that happened to us is that we played in the (quarterfinals),” he shared. He then continued, “If we sat home and rested, I mean, it would hurt us, but since we played in the (quarterfinals), we got better going into the (semifinals). Indeed, Balkman and company have only gotten better and better as they followed up a blanking of the Heat with a sweep of Hong Kong. Now, the Filipinos are back in the Finals of the Asean Basketball League. “I’m just really proud of our guys. They have fought and clawed their way into the Finals,” head coach Jimmy Alapag said. He then continued, “We have a confident group that deserves to be in the Finals. Like I’ve been telling them in the beginning, let’s give ourselves an opportunity, let’s get to the end and let’s see what happens there.” The Philippines will face either top-seeded Kung Fu of China or resurgent Mono of Thailand in the best-of-five championship round. Whatever happens there, Balkman promised that the show would go on. “The next step for us is to win the championship so we gotta prepare. I’m gonna tell it one more time, it’s gonna be another show whoever we gonna play,” he said. He then continued, “Win or lose, no matter what, it’s gonna be a show because it’s the last three games we got to win and it’s all over.” --- Follow this writer on Twitter, @riegogogo......»»

Category: sportsSource: abscbn abscbnApr 16th, 2018

BLOGTABLE: 2018 pre-playoffs predictions

NBA.ph blogtable 1) Which first-round series in the West is most likely to see an upset result (lower seed beating higher seed)? Enzo Flojo: For sure it’s Portland-New Orleans. I love Damian Lillard’s game, but the Pels are a really tough bunch with a lot of weapons, even sans Boogie Cousins. Jusuf Nurkic will have a really tough time containing AD; that’s one reason this has a high potential for an upset! Migs Bustos: The Jazz and Thunder matchup. It's a tale of upward momentum versus inconsistency. The Jazz have won seven out of their last 10 games, and OKC are 5-5 in their last 10. With how the Jazz are playing great team basketball, led by super rookie, Donovan Mitchell, they have a great chance of upsetting the erratic OKC Thunder. If maganda ang gising ng Utah for four games, may tulog ang OKC sa kanila. Marco Benitez: I think the Thunder-Jazz series is the one where most likely we will see an upset. The Thunder experiment of Westbrook-George-Anthony has been up and down all season, while the Jazz are a well-coached team anchored on a great defensive presence in Gobert. The Thunder win if Westbrook dominates the game and Adams is able to neutralize Gobert. But if OKC becomes stagnant on offense and their usual selves defensively, then the Jazz can wreck havoc on this matchup. Favian Pua: Portland Trail Blazers vs. New Orleans Pelicans: In order for the Pelicans to stun the Blazers, Anthony Davis must cement his status as the best player on both ends of the floor throughout the series. A Playoff Rondo sighting paired with the feisty defense of Jrue Holiday should stymie the backcourt attack of Damian Lillard and C.J. McCollum. Adrian Dy: If it turns out Kawhi Leonard was just saving himself for a postseason run, then the Spurs would absolutely wreck the Stephen Curry-less Golden State Warriors. Barring such a comeback though, I'm riding high on the Pelicans. The Blazers don't have the bigs to even slow down Davis, and the Jrue Holiday + Playoffs Rajon Rondo combo could make things really tough for Damian Lillard and CJ McCollum 2) Which first-round series in the East is most likely to see an upset result (lower seed beating higher seed)? Enzo Flojo: Don’t look past the veteran-laden Miami Heat. Philadelphia is by far the deeper team, sure, but if Embiid is hampered by his injury and both D-Wade and Goran Dragic have their way, Miami can push the Sixers to the distance and an upset may not be that surprising. Also, coach Spo shines in 7-game series! Migs Bustos: In the East, it's a bit more challenging. We all know about the success of the Sixers this season; no matter what seed Lebron's team is, it will be hard to upset them; the Raptors have been long consistent at the number 1 spot all season. So, the best bet would be the Bucks overthrowing home court advantage. And this is because Kyrie is out of the season. It's just up to Giannis and Co. to take advantage of that disadvantage by the Celtics to pull through. Marco Benitez: The plague of injuries to the Boston Celtics really hurt their chances of contending in the East, much less win a championship this season. Without Kyrie, Marcus Smart, and Gordon Hayward, the Celtics are vulnerable against the Greek Freak-led Bucks, who are long and talented. With that being said, Boston is still an extremely well-coached, albeit young team, and Giannis will have to be the best player on the floor for most of the series for the inconsistent Bucks to pull off the upset. Favian Pua: Philadelphia 76ers vs. Miami Heat: Though the Sixers are rolling into the playoffs, only J.J. Redick and Marco Belinelli can boast of a legitimate postseason resume. Led by All-Star Goran Dragic, the Heat are an unrelenting unit of two-way veterans who can both muck it up inside and bait opponents into a long-range shootout. Joel Embiid’s uncertain status will force Sixers head coach Brett Brown to find a counter for Hassan Whiteside. Adrian Dy: Though I have the 76ers advancing, it wouldn't surprise me if the Heat shut down Ben Simmons and shut up Joel Embiid. Erik Spoelstra has a knack for getting the best out of his squads, Dwyane Wade could have some clutch moments, and if the aforementioned Embiid doesn't return as soon as expected, South Beach could be singing after round one. 3) Which team that missed the playoffs has the best shot at making it next season? Enzo Flojo: I’d love to say Denver, but their being in the West really makes their window tight. That’s why I’m picking the Detroit Pistons, who have enough talent to make quite a big impact in the East, especially if their big names (e.g. Drummond, Griffin, Jackson) all stay put and stay healthy! Migs Bustos: To be honest, there are not much compelling story lines on teams that barely missed the playoffs this year. There's nothing like one of the most recent examples -- the Heat's 2016-2017 season where they made a late season run but just missed it at .500 (41-41), or how about Phoenix having a winning record at 48-34 in the 2013-2014 season missing out? The 16 teams were more or less 'predicted' to make the postseason this year so there wasn't a big surprise. Marco Benitez: I think a healthy Memphis Grizzlies team, with Conley, Gasol, Parsons and Tyreke Evans (assuming all are still with the Grizzlies next season) will be a lock to make the playoffs after a disappointing 22-60 win-loss record this season that saw a season-ending surgery for Conley happen in late January. Favian Pua: The Denver Nuggets. Nikola Jokic and his ragtag bunch of scorers were an overtime loss away against the Minnesota Timberwolves from getting their first taste of the postseason. To do so, the Nuggets will need to handle their business and take care of bottom-feeders, as it was backbreaking losses to the Memphis Grizzlies and Dallas Mavericks in March that prevented them from securing an outright playoff berth. Adrian Dy: The Dallas Mavericks. Dirk Nowitzki will likely want to go out with a bang, Rick Carlisle is still a really good coach, Dennis Smith Jr. is a fantastic attacking guard, and if the lotto balls bounce the right way, they could return to the upper echelon of the West. 4) Which team that made these playoffs has the biggest chance of missing it next season? Enzo Flojo: It may sound crazy, but the Spurs are at great risk for next season. Kawhi continues to be a huge question mark and their veterans will get even older in 2018-2019. They nearly didn’t make it this year, and next year could be the tipping point! Migs Bustos: I'd have to go with the San Antonio Spurs. No doubt all of the other teams are on the up-swing, and they all boast of youth. If Kahwi does not play for the Spurs next season, expect younger teams with great potential like the Nuggets and Lakers to overtake SAS. Marco Benitez: Depending on what happens in terms of offseason trades, and assuming that the rest of the Western Conference regains full strength next season, the two teams I feel have the biggest chance of missing the playoffs next season are Miami and New Orleans. For Miami, DWade is not getting any younger, and Hassan Whiteside has not been at a consistent All-Star level all season. With Blake Griffin and Andre Drummond getting a full year under their belt in Detroit and Kristaps Porzingis back at full strength in New York, I see Miami as the most likely team to get bumped off in the East next season. For New Orleans, the Davis-Cousins experiment did not necessarily turn them into a legitimate playoff contender in the West, and when Cousins fell to injury, they've had to rely on AD to carry them almost entirely on his shoulders. With the ultra competitive West getting healthier next season, unless the Pels are able to get better on the wings -- assuming of course Cousins doesn't bolt in the offseason -- they may find themselves out of the playoffs. Favian Pua: Cleveland Cavaliers. Hinging on the premise that LeBron James bolts for the Sixers or Los Angeles Lakers in free agency this offseason, the Cavaliers are headed for a massive nosedive towards the number one pick in the 2019 draft. No other team has more to lose than the Cavaliers this postseason, and it is highly probable that winning the title is the only way The King stays in The Land. Adrian Dy: If we get another round of LeBron James free agency sweepstakes, and he winds up getting the Banana Boat Gang together in Houston, it's hard to see the Cleveland Cavaliers being competitive, let alone back in the Eastern Conference playoffs. Should that happen, I'd expect them to trade guys like Kevin Love, and hope that lotto luck favors them anew. 5) Which team is your early favorite to win it all? Enzo Flojo: Despite all the injuries and all their inconsistencies, the Warriors are still my odds-on fave to win it all. They have four big time playoff performers, and they know this is where their real season begins. Migs Bustos: Don't count out the Warriors. Even though they have been plagued with injuries towards the end of the season, the Dubs will hope that they will be healthy in time and turn 'on' the button with their championship experience Marco Benitez: Still the Warriors. Although they'll be without Steph in the first round, I foresee the same dominant Dubs starting the second round all the way to the Finals. The regular season has been a bit of a drag for them this season, and I believe that's why we haven't seen the same Warriors squad as that of past years. But come playoffs, there's no reason why the defending champs don't get locked in; and when they do, frankly, there's still no better team in the league than Golden State. Favian Pua: The Houston Rockets. The playoffs is all about trimming the fat in the roster and letting star power take over in the biggest moments. In James Harden and Chris Paul, the Rockets will always have at least one elite shot creator and facilitator on the court for all 48 minutes. Flanked by capable three-point shooters and wing defenders acquired specifically to neutralize the Golden State Warriors’ juggernaut, Clutch City is on track for its first Larry O’Brien trophy since 1995. Adrian Dy: Yes the defending champions are banged-up and looked uninterested as the regular season wound down, but now that it's winning time, I expect the Warriors to do their thing, although there's no way it'll be as smooth as their 16-1 romp last season......»»

Category: sportsSource:  abscbnRelated NewsApr 14th, 2018

Lo Domingo’s breakout reminds us that Alab is deepest team in ABL

HO CHI MINH, VIETNAM – Alab Pilipinas put away Saigon last Saturday at the CIS Arena, finishing off a quarterfinals sweep that sends them back into the Final Four. Facing the tough, tough Heat and their rowdy, rowdy crowd, the Filipinos needed to play their best to come out on top. They did just that as Renaldo Balkman and Justin Brownlee both did their thing, Ray Parks Jr. and Josh Urbiztondo provided support, and even Pao Javelona and Pamboy Raymundo delivered contributions of their own. The star of Game 2, though, was sixth man Lo Domingo who had 21 points, six rebounds, and three assists in 25 minutes of action – bar none, his best game in the season. Lawrence Domingo escapes his defender for the JAM! #ABL8Playoffs pic.twitter.com/EkhVNhLEfa — ABS-CBN Sports (@abscbnsports) Abril 7, 2018 It was also his thunderous throwdown that ignited the 10-2 blast that boosted the Philippines ahead for good. Asked about it post-game, he answered, “That dunk, I was kind of really bouncy in warmups. I had the lane there and that gave me a chance to do it so I did.” The six-foot-five forward would only continue his strong play from there, outmuscling the likes of Maxie Esho, David Arnold, and Moses Morgan and having his way inside. For head coach Jimmy Alapag, Domingo’s breakout was yet another proof that hard work pays off. “He’s been great for us for a while now and it’s great to see a young kid come in and work hard every day. It’s great see him reap the rewards of his hard work,” he said. For the Filipino-American from New Mexico, his breakout was just him doing anything and everything to help his team win. “I was just being patient, knowing that my time is gonna come. It’s already come now that it’s the playoffs,” he said. He then continued, “I feel like I’ve been playing hard all year and this is just something that comes from playing hard. In the end, I’m just gonna do whatever my team needs me to do.” With Domingo, Balkman, Brownlee, Parks Jr., Urbiztondo, Javelona, and Raymundo all on-point, Alab is indeed proving Heat point guard Akeem Scott’s statement that “they have a deep bench and it’s hard to beat a team like that.” They are going to need to keep proving that if they are to go through defending champion Hong Kong in the semifinals and then a Finals battle up against whoever among top-seed Chong Son of China, upstart Mono of Thailand, or rival Singapore. --- Follow this writer on Twitter, @riegogogo......»»

Category: sportsSource:  abscbnRelated NewsApr 8th, 2018

Coach Jimmy finding his balance a big key to Alab s Finals run

San Miguel-Alab Pilipinas' turnaround in the ABL season can be mostly attributed to the arrival of imports Justin Brownlee and Renaldo Balkman. However, those two can't win all the games for Alab. That's why as the season went on, head coach Jimmy Alapag slowly figured out how to balance his team, creating a rotation where all the needed players are on the floor at specific times. Now, Alab's fire is still burning and the team has the chance to be the first Philippine team to win the ABL title in five years. "As a player, confidence is such a valuable part of playing in this game and that’s one thing that I wanna make sure I encourage my guys that I told them, as we progress in the season, we will need everybody," Alapag said, talking about his improved rotation after advancing to the ABL Finals. "Even guys who early on, weren’t getting minutes. Like Pamboy (Raymundo), like Pao (Javelona), but again, we had some injuries. Josh (Urbiztondo) is still banged up, Rico (Maierhofer) is still out, we’re hopeful he’ll be back in the Finals. It’s a credit to these guys’ work ethic. Whether they’re playing, or they’re not playing, they come in every day, work hard, put in the time and the effort. It wasn’t surprising to see them come off the bench and ready to contribute," he added. But while Alab's local guys have started to get their groove on, Alapag acknowledges that his two outstanding imports have done their part in helping install a winning attitude to the team. And coach Jimmy is thankful. "If you guys remember back in the season, we were dead last. These guys [Brownlee and Balkman] showed up off the plane and got a big win against Malaysia. It really just kind of set us off. It just seemed like the whole environment of our team changed when you bring in two quality imports who are not just again good players, that’s the obvious part, but great people," Alapag said. "Being able to have the opportunity to go up against Balk and Jus, both with Gilas and my last year playing. To be finally on the same side with them, it’s been huge. I couldn’t be more thankful to having both the locals and Justin and Balk," he added.     --- Follow this writer on Twitter, @paullintag8.....»»

Category: sportsSource:  abscbnRelated NewsApr 19th, 2018

ABL: 'Balkmania' coming to a basketball court near you

Renaldo Balkman's redemption is more or less complete. Playing for San Miguel-Alab Pilipinas in the Asean Basketball League, the formerly-controversial Balkman has reinvented himself in more ways than one. In his rather colorful stint for Alab --- which includes game-winners, in-game shimmies, and record-setting scoring performances --- Balkman has re-introduced himself to Filipino fans and Pinoy hoop junkies were reminded why they loved Renaldo in the first place. As the cherry on top, Balkman  has been forgiven by the PBA for his previous controversies. Looking for the cherry on top of the cherry, Renaldo now wants a title for Alab. "I know how good we prepared for these games and in the semifinals, I think we had an edge on them," Balkman said, talking about Hong Kong Eastern, the defending ABL champions Alab just swept in the semifinals. In taking down Hong Kong, Balkman feels like Alab is in the best position to win the title. After all, they just beat the supposedly best team in the ABL. That makes them the best now, right? "I told coach Jim [Alapag] and the guys tonight, I said they [Hong Kong] was the best last year. You know, that's the whole thing about it, they got the championship last year but we got to [beat the best] to be the best, right?" Renaldo said. In making the Finals, Balkman was just really hyped about the whole thing. His whole post-game talk, which was amazingly anmated, was just pure happiness. "Balkmania" has taken over once again. And Renaldo has the shirt to match... soon to be on sale according to Renaldo himself. "This shirt right here? For the Finals, it will be on sale. I'll let you all know when, where, where to get it from. This shirt will be on sale," Balkman said.   --- Follow this writer on Twitter, @paullintag8.....»»

Category: sportsSource:  abscbnRelated NewsApr 16th, 2018

Finals-bound Alab Pilipinas dethrones Hong Kong in emphatic sweep

STA. ROSA, LAGUNA – Alab Pilipinas is into its first-ever Finals now in the 2017-2018 Asean Basketball League. And they are going there with their confidence as high as ever, having gone undefeated thus far in the playoffs. Renaldo Balkman yet again proved to be no match for neither Ryan Moss nor Christian Standhardinger, Justin Brownlee and Ray Parks Jr. were right there by his side, and the Filipinos blasted the crown off the heads of now-dethroned Hong Kong, 79-72, on Sunday at the Sta. Rosa Multi-Purpose Complex. Coming off a league playoff record 46-point outburst in Game 1 of the semifinals series, the Puerto Rican reinforcement remained a force and pounded in 21 points, 11 rebounds, four assists, and three steals. Balkman was a mismatch inside and also had the thunderous throwdown that detonated the 16-5 burst that broke off a tied tally of 43-all and built up a 52-43 advantage in favor of the Philippines. The home team would hold on to the lead for the remainder of the game, even as Marcus Elliott and Christian Standhardinger kept coming and pulled Eastern to within 70-77 with 38 ticks to go. Brownlee’s free throws and a pair of defensive stops, however, ultimately boosted Alab to the best-of-five championship round. There, they try to continue streaking all the way to their first-ever title. Brownlee wound up with a team-high 22 points, 11 rebounds, four blocks, and three assists while Parks Jr. chipped in 13 markers, 13 boards, and five dimes. Pao Javelona also came up big with 11 points, eight rebounds, and four assists as starting point guard Josh Urbiztondo was still hobbled. Winners of seven straight, the Filipinos will face either top-seed Chong Son of China or resurgent Mono of Thailand in the Finals commencing next week. Elliott topped the scoring column for Hong Kong with 25 points. Filipino-German Standhardinger had a 15-point, 16-rebound double-double in his last game in the ABL before he takes his talents to San Miguel in the PBA. BOX SCORES SAN MIGUEL ALAB PILIPINAS 79 — Brownlee 22, Balkman 21, Parks 13, Javelona 11, Raymundo 6, Alabanza 4, Domingo 2, Hontiveros 0, Sumalinog 0, Urbiztondo 0. HONG KONG EASTERN 72 — Elliott 25, Standhardinger 16, Moss 15, Lamb 8, Lee 4, Lau 3, Tang 1, Xu 0. QUARTER SCORES: 16-16, 37-32, 60-49, 79-72. —— Follow this writer on Twitter, @riegogogo......»»

Category: sportsSource:  abscbnRelated NewsApr 15th, 2018

D’Antoni, Harden and Paul poised to capture trio’s 1st title

HOUSTON (AP) — Chris Paul has a long history of playoff heartbreak. So does James Harden. And Mike D’Antoni has more than either of them combined. Separately, they’ve never gotten it done at playoff time. Together, their fortunes might change. They’ve led the Houston Rockets to the NBA’s best record going into these playoffs, and in a league that Golden State and Cleveland have dominated in recent years, it may not be overly surprising to see the Paul-Harden-D’Antoni triumvirate win it all this spring. With two regular-season games left, the Rockets have already piled up a franchise-record 64 wins to secure the No. 1 seed in the Western Conference. But this group — perhaps fueled by past playoff shortcomings — knows it has much more work to do. “The ultimate goal is holding that trophy up,” Harden said. “So until we do that there’s no celebrations ... we haven’t done anything yet.” D’Antoni, who’ll turn 67 next month and would be the oldest coach to win an NBA title if Houston gets it done, has revived his career in Houston. He got the Rockets to the West semifinals in his first year with them last season. And on the eve of these playoffs, D’Antoni insists he won’t spend a second thinking about all the times things went wrong in his previous postseason trips. “Zero,” he said when asked how much he thinks about his playoff failures. “Twenty-nine teams look back every year. It’s hard to win.” D’Antoni might know that better than most. In 2004-05, his Phoenix Suns won 62 games in the regular season and reached the conference finals before losing to eventual champion San Antonio in five games. The Suns advanced to the conference finals again the following year, but were eliminated by Dallas in six games. They lost in the second round in 2007, the first round in 2008. More failures followed in his stints with New York and the Los Angeles Lakers. The Knicks were swept by Boston in 2011, the Lakers swept by the Spurs in 2013, both of those coming in the first round. Before last season, D’Antoni hadn’t won a playoff game in nine years. “We’ve had a great regular season, but it doesn’t matter,” he said. “But what it does mean is that we’re pretty good and if we make big shots and do what we’re supposed to do ... then we’ll see if we can do it.” Paul’s failures in the postseason may be even more scrutinized. The nine-time All-Star, who came to Houston in an offseason trade, has made nine playoff trips without advancing past the second round. The worst of those flops came in 2015, ironically against Houston, when Paul and the Clippers had a 3-1 lead in the conference semifinals. They got blown out in Game 5, wasted a 19-point second-half lead in Los Angeles in Game 6, then fell in Game 7 at Houston. That was then, Paul said. “It is cool when you stop and think about it,” Paul said. “But for us right now we’re trying to enjoy the moment. Trying to enjoy the process and not worry about all that stuff. Maybe after it’s all said and done you can reflect on it.” Harden knows playoff pain as well. His splendid 2016-17 season was so promising, especially after Houston routed San Antonio, on the road, in Game 1 of the West semifinals. The Spurs won four of the next five, including a 114-75 embarrassing series-clincher in Houston where Harden was held to 10 points. “These last few years I’ve learned that obviously you can’t do it by yourself,” Harden said. “You need guys to step up, make big shots, make big plays and so we have enough guys in here on any given night that can change a playoff series. So that’s what you need. That’s what puts you over the top.” Paul might be the topper Harden needed. From the moment Paul arrived in Houston, Harden raved about what he would bring to the team. After playing with him for a season, the normally reserved Harden was even more effusive in his praise of the fellow guard. “I don’t mean to sound too mushy or what-not but it was like love at first sight,” Harden said. “It was just meant to be.” This will be Harden’s ninth playoff appearance after three trips with the Thunder and five in Houston. He’s led the Rockets to the postseason in each of his seasons in Houston, but his failure to shine in big games has dogged him for years. Bringing a title to Houston, which hasn’t seen the Rockets hoisting a Larry O’Brien Trophy since the back-to-back crowns in 1994 and 1995, will render all those criticisms moot. “We’re all in this together,” Harden said. “That’s what it’s all about. We talk about it every single day. We’re in this together and if one fails we all fail. So we’re going to ride this thing out together.”.....»»

Category: sportsSource:  abscbnRelated NewsApr 10th, 2018

Celtics still eyeing long playoff run after rash of injuries

By Kyle Hightower, Associated Press BOSTON (AP) — Kyrie Irving and Gordon Hayward exchanged the kind of toothy giggles normally only found between kids on a playground when they were introduced as the new faces of the Celtics. “It’s about to be crazy, G,” Irving said in the ear of Hayward to a soundtrack of clicking camera lenses as they sat on a dais back in September two days after Boston’s blockbuster trade with the Cleveland Cavaliers. Seven months later, Irving has proven to be prophetic — albeit not how he had in mind. It has been crazy unlucky for the Celtics. Stunning too. Al Horford said even shocking. And though things haven’t gone as scripted in Boston, the Celtics will open the playoffs at the No. 2 seed in the Eastern Conference believing they can win it all without their injured offseason acquisitions. “Finals. I’m very confident,” guard Terry Rozier when asked how far Boston can go. “Everybody has to be on the same page. And we just gotta play. And play hard.” That’s been Boston’s calling card throughout the season. They have no choice but to play hard because from Hayward’s gruesome, season-ending left ankle injury on opening night, to the recent pair of left knee surgeries that has sidelined Irving, luck has been in short supply beyond the Celtics’ Leprechaun mascot named Lucky. Horford acknowledged being shocked when he heard that Irving was done for the season. But he said the time has passed for sulking about misfortunes. “We can’t dwell on the past,” Horford said. Obviously it makes it more difficult. Kyrie, he’s the leader of this team. We won with him and now we have to find ways to do it without him.” In addition to Irving and Hayward, Boston will also be without productive rookie Daniel Theis (left knee surgery) for the season and Marcus Smart (right thumb surgery) until at minimum the second round. That’s not to mention a plethora of nagging injuries that have dogged the rest of the roster. Yet, in an Eastern Conference that features a less-than-dominating LeBron James-led Cavaliers team, Boston veterans Horford and Marcus Morris and its corps of talented young players led by Jaylen Brown, Rozier and rookie Jayson Tatum give it as legitimate a chance as anyone to make it to the NBA Finals. The Celtics will finish with their second straight 50-win season and their highest number of victories under coach Brad Stevens. Last season as the East’s top seed, Boston made it to the conference finals in spite of being smacked with adversity on the eve of the postseason following the death of Isaiah Thomas’ sister. Thomas returned to the team, but was then lost midway through the conference finals to a hip injury he’d been quietly playing through. “With Isaiah, we had him all year. Even though he was banged up, he was with us,” Horford said. “Now with our group this year it’s different. We’ve been having so many injuries throughout the year that I feel like our guys — we’re much more prepared handling everything that we’re going through.” The good news is this Celtics team has already done an admirable job of figuring things out without Hayward and Irving. They’ve played all but five minutes this season without Hayward. In 20 games without Irving they are 13-7. Irving played his last game on March 11 (Mar. 12, PHL time). That’s given Boston time to see what its remaining rotation will look like. One thing it will certainly mean is a lot more minutes for reserves like Shane Larkin and Greg Monroe, as well as rookies Semi Ojeleye and Guerschon Yabusele. Stevens acknowledged that there was hope after Irving’s first surgery on his knee last month that removed a tension wire that he would be able to return early in the playoffs. Having him ruled out has “just solidified that this is where our focus needs to be” he said. “It’s a great opportunity for the other guys and it’s our job to coach them,” Stevens said. “I believe in the guys in our locker room. They believe in themselves.” Without Irving, the most glaring deficiency for Boston is its lack of a go-to scorer. Brown is just a few games removed from scoring a career-high 32 points, and Rozier only recently had a 25-game double-digit scoring streak stopped. He’s also proven to be a dependable defender. Still, there is a sense in the East that Boston may be susceptible to a first-round upset. Miami and Milwaukee, currently have the same record (43-37) as the No. 6 and 7 seeds respectively. The Heat won 2-of-3 meetings this season with Boston, while the Celtics split their four games with the Bucks. Washington, at No. 8 leads the season series with Boston 2-1 with the series finale set on Tuesday night (Wednesday, PHL time). Vulnerable or not, Horford has a message for whoever their first-round opponent is. “We’re the [No.] 2 seed. We have home-court advantage,” he said. “And this point, the only thing I can say to that is I can’t wait for the playoffs to start.”.....»»

Category: sportsSource:  abscbnRelated NewsApr 10th, 2018

Will Alab Pilipinas be rooting for Hong Kong against China’s Chong Son?

Taking care of their own business last Sunday, Alab Pilipinas just need one more thing to happen to claim the two-seed in the 2017-2018 Asean Basketball League. In the elimination round-ending matchup between China’s Chong Son and Hong Kong, both 14-5, on Wednesday, the Filipinos are hoping for a win by the latter. An Eastern win would give them the one-seed, give the Filipinos the two-seed, and give Kung Fu the three-seed. A Chong Son win, on the other hand, would give them the one-seed, give Hong Kong the two-seed, and give the Philippines the three-seed. And so, Alab will have to root for the team which had swept them in the eliminations – if they want the second spot and the automatic advance into the semifinals it entails. “I hope we get the number two spot so we can rest a little bit and maka-recover sina [Renaldo] Balkman and Josh [Urbiztondo] going to the playoffs,” Pao Javelona said. He then continued, “As coach Jimmy [Alapag] said, we need everyone going to the playoffs.” In their head-to-head matchups thus far, Kung Fu owns a 2-1 edge over Eastern. Whatever happens, however, the Filipinos remain confident they can take on any opponent across them. “Kampi tayo sa Hong Kong sa Wednesday, pero either way, we’re good. Ang importante, we’re playing well,” assistant coach Mcc Cuan said. Ray Parks Jr. could only agree. “We’ll be ready for whichever outcome. Let God’s plan prevail,” he said. Indeed, with a 38-point win to end the elims and with players like Pao Javelona and Pamboy Raymundo ready and raring to step up, Alab will be a force to reckon with for any among Chong Son, Hong Kong, Thailand’s Mono, Singapore, or Vietnam’s Saigon. --- Follow this writer on Twitter, @riegogogo......»»

Category: sportsSource:  abscbnRelated NewsMar 26th, 2018

Towns, Wiggins step up for Timberwolves in win vs Warriors

By Steve Aschburner, NBA.com MINNEAPOLIS – Certain games count more than others over the course of an NBA team’s 82-game schedule, and the one the Timberwolves played – and won 109-103 – against the Golden State Warriors Sunday afternoon (early Monday, PHL time) at Target Center was one of those. Did it count double what some ordinary contest might have? Triple? Keep going. More like exponential. It’s too early to claim that Minnesota’s resiliency in the comeback from 12 points down, against the defending champ, saved their season. But the dueling scenarios, win vs. lose, were rather stark for a team facing a rigorous and largely uncharted final month. Fail Sunday (Monday, PHL time), and the Wolves would be lugging a four-game skid on the road to face Washington Tuesday (Wednesday, PHL time) and San Antonio Saturday (Sunday, PHL time). By the time they got home to face Houston Sunday night (next Monday, PHL time), the losing streak could be six, going on seven. The Timberwolves at the All-Star break was a surprising third seed in the West. However, since Jimmy Butler’s absence from the lineup after a right meniscus tear on Feb. 23 (Feb. 24, PHL time), the Wolves have gone 2-4. Now the Wolves, whether they admit it publicly or not, are driven simply to qualify. Period. Ending up seventh or eighth is no prize, given a likely first-round ordeal against either the Rockets or the Warriors. But for a franchise that hasn’t reached the postseason since 2004, either would be far better than landing ninth. By beating the Warriors, though, the Wolves bought themselves time and opened a smidgen of breathing room over the next few days. More than that, they responded to a serious challenge the way a playoff wannabe is supposed to. They didn’t unravel, they stuck to what was working and they had players slide into Butler’s roles as primary defender, go-to scorer and late-game closer. That is essential until the All-Star wing and obvious team leader returns, ideally, for playoffs that his teammates can deliver. Center Karl-Anthony Towns scored 14 of his team-high 31 points in the fourth quarter. Wing Andrew Wiggins scored 22 of his 23 in the first three quarters to help Minnesota claw back to an 84-84 tie. Those two stepping into the void of Butler’s injury suggested the sort of growth that, frankly, coach Tom Thibodeau and the team’s followers might look back on after this season (and postseason?) as a turning point. “This is a great opportunity for everybody, and certainly those two, in that whenever you have someone like Jimmy go out, it’s an opportunity to grow and get experience in different situations,” Thibodeau said. “We’ve talked about it a lot. We have good veterans on the team. But this is an opportunity for them to step up and lead.” Sure, Golden State was playing without team MVP Steph Curry (ankle) and ace reserve Andre Iguodala (wrist). But the visitors still had three All-Stars and the motivation of Friday’s (Saturday, PHL time) loss in Portland to propel them through the matinee. So, the Wolves did well to start with what Towns admitted was both “urgency” and “desperation.” They did even better to close with aplomb. Towns and Wiggins, both still 22-years-old, stayed cool in reacting and thwarting Golden State double-teams. Wiggins, who still needs to attack and earn his way to the foul line more often, wound up with a team-high plus-21. Towns shot 6-of-10 in the final quarter, while Kevin Durant and Klay Thompson were combining to go 3-for-13 and 11 points. Butler’s presence this season often has taken the ball out of the two younger stars’ hands late in games. But Towns is so skilled, inside and out, he should get more opportunities when games are on the line – and will in Butler’s absence. He came in averaging just 3.2 field-goal attempts in the fourth quarter this season, with 1.8 buckets and 5.1 points. Compare that to his 5.7 makes, 10.6 shots and 15.4 scoring averages through the first three quarters of games so far this season. His usage rate drops from 22.4 to 20.9 when it ought to go up. You’d believe that too if you saw his work in the final three minutes, from bulling through Draymond Green for a layup that made it 101-96 to stepping in for a left baseline jumper two possessions later. At 104-103, Towns posted up Green near the end line again, banged a bit, then spun for a fadeaway jumper. Next time down, he followed up a shot against Durant to all but clinch it. The play of Towns, Wiggins and the other three Minnesota starters took any onus off Derrick Rose. Newly signed by his old Chicago coach, Rose had a rusty, regrettable debut with the Wolves, missing five of his six shots with two turnovers and a minus-17 in just 6:36. But his presence, if nothing else, ought to remind Towns and Wiggins that 22 is plenty old enough to grab a pack of Wolves by the scruff of their necks and take responsibility. Rose was 22 when he became the youngest MVP in NBA history, leading the Bulls all the way to the Eastern Conference finals that season. Minnesota basically is in the playoffs now – every outcome matters, bolstering or damaging its run to the postseason. There’s no running away now, no hiding either. “I think we’re more prepared because we’ve had most of the season to go through experiences,” Towns said. “Now that we’re at this point, we have the chance to do something great. It’s for us as a group to take all the experiences we’ve had – of losing close games, winning big, winning games offensively, winning games defensively – and putting them to [use].” It is vital that the Wolves’ young stars stay focused on the opportunities before them, rather than succumbing to the pressure. Said Towns: “The thing is, you don’t ever want to have pressure turn to stress. We have to make sure we keep our composure. Obviously, the situation we’re in, it’s a lot of pressure on us. But we can’t turn that into stress, because that’s when we start becoming undisciplined and start making errors that are more mental.” The proof now is in the playing, said Thibodeau. “The best leadership you can have is your actions,” the coach said. “What are you doing? It’s not what you say. Oftentimes people say things and never do what they say. It’s what you do.” 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 NewsMar 12th, 2018

New era, new challenges emerge for Warriors

By David Aldridge, TNT Analyst "It’s the lack of faith that makes people afraid of meeting challenges, and I believe in myself. He who is not courageous enough to take risks will accomplish nothing in life. I figured that if I said it enough, I would convince the world that I really was the greatest." -- Muhammad Ali Ali defended his heavyweight championship 20 times, during two eras: when he was young and unstoppable, after beating Sonny Liston in Miami in 1964, and when he was old and vulnerable, after beating George Foreman in Zaire in 1974. He was the fastest heavyweight ever in the first era; he was smart and could take a punch in the second. A generation later, the Golden State Warriors are defending their NBA title for a second time, in three years. But they, too, are doing so in two eras. In 2014, no one had seen anything like what Golden State did on a basketball court, and how Stephen Curry’s and Klay Thompson’s shooting range changed the geometry of NBA defenses. They stretched to the breaking point trying to get out to Curry and Thompson. They couldn’t figure out how to handle the Warriors’ five-man switching defenses. They couldn’t stand up under Golden State’s withering pace. There is no need to hold a telethon yet for the Warriors, three years later. They are 49-14 today, with four All-Stars among their five starters, including Kia MVP candidate Kevin Durant, in the prime of his career, who wasn’t there when the Warriors first beat the Cleveland Cavaliers in the 2015 Finals. They are still first in the league in Offensive Rating, first in True Shooting Percentage, first in Effective Field Goal Percentage. They still are unsolvable to most opponents. But maybe not all, not anymore. The margin of separation between Golden State and the rest of the league is still there, most of the time. But there are tiny signs of slippage. Tiny. You recall what Warriors assistant coach Bruce Frasier said in the preseason, when no one is injured and everyone thinks they’re going 82-0. “Teams are starting to figure us out a little bit,” he said then. “We’re talented, so that sometimes overrides strategy. But I feel like teams are figuring certain things out to do to counter what they’ve seen. Year one, it was really hard, because it was all new. The pieces have changed a little bit, but I feel like our challenge will be to see if we can layer on some of the offense, our fluid movement, and counters, and change things up, and execute better. Defense is always big, too, so I wouldn’t go into the complacent (problem). I think it’s going to be more execution, and how smart can we really be, and can we keep that energy up through this year?” In each of their previous three seasons, the Warriors led the league in margin of victory -- 10.1 points in 2014-15, 10.8 points in 2015-16 and 11.6 points last season. This year, though, they’ve fallen to third, behind the Houston Rockets and Toronto Raptors -- and their win margin is down to 8.5 points per game. Two years ago, the Warriors were fourth in the league in Defensive Rating (100.9). Last season, Golden State was second (101.1). This season, the Warriors are fifth, at 103.4. In 2014-15, they were 14th in the league in points allowed in the paint; this year, they’re 24th (to be fair, they were 23rd last year, when they won it all anyway). Are they bored? Tired? Aging? Is their bench inconsistency this year the result of vets saving themselves for the playoffs, or guys just getting old? And will it matter against anyone other than Houston? “Once you start getting a little older, it’s harder and harder,” guard Shaun Livingston said last week. “We definitely need the youth, we definitely need the health. We’ve got to be healthy. We’ve got to be healthy. Sometimes you see teams that maybe are over the hill -- they have the experience, but maybe not (the ability). It’s human nature. Obviously, I don’t think we’re there yet. We’ve got guys that are still in their prime. It’s mental now.” In the Jean-Pierre Coopman phase of their latest title defense (oh, how one misses spectacles like Ali fighting Coopman, the “Lion of Flanders” -- with Pat Summerall and Tom Brookshier on the call!), the Warriors came to Washington last week. There was no White House visit on the docket, only time with D.C. area kids and a trip to the African-American History Museum, with owner Joe Lacob and GM Bob Myers on the trip as well. They have been in the public eye for five years now, back to Mark Jackson’s last season as coach, when the Splash Brothers exploded into the national consciousness. That’s a long time for one NBA team to have all that light and heat on it. For a minute, the Warriors tried to convince themselves that there was a backlash building against them nationally, that people had grown tired of their 3-pointers and video game point totals. It was, of course, a ridiculous posit -- Golden State and its players are more popular than ever, the love for Curry such that he felt perfectly comfortable posting a photo of the glass table he accidentally smashed in his hotel room on Instagram, any criticism surely to be muted amid America’s love for the two-time MVP.   when you feel like you’re on the @pgatour so you gotta get some swings going in the hotel room 😂😂😂 #idiot A post shared by Wardell Curry (@stephencurry30) on Mar 1, 2018 at 1:33pm PST “There was a little guy who was probably eight years old, and he came up and introduced himself,” Steve Kerr said. “His name was Ryan, and I’m talking to him, and he goes ’oh, my God, there’s Quinn Cook!’ And he ran over to Quinn Cook. Not Steph, not me -- he loved Quinn Cook. That was cool.” Throughout the Warriors’ run, they’ve faced down different challengers in the Western Conference -- the first iteration of the Rockets with Harden, a hybrid inside-out attack where Houston unhappily and unsuccessfully tried to meld Harden and Dwight Howard in the post. The Durant/Russell Westbrook one-two combo in Oklahoma City. The Spurs, morphing from the Tim Duncan/Tony Parker-led team to the Kawhi Leonard-dominant one. The “Lob City” Clippers, followed by the Chris Paul/Blake Griffin halfcourt version. But this season’s Rockets, with Paul at the point, may be the most unique and dangerous threat to the Warriors. They are much more than a team that just rains 3-pointers on you -- though they most certainly do that, and do it historically well. They’re also an outstanding defensive team, with the additions of P.J. Tucker and Luc Mbah a Moute giving them a grit they haven’t had in past seasons to pair with the shot blocking and rim presence of Clint Capela. The numbers are stark: Houston is 32-1 this season when Paul, Harden and Capela all play, including two wins over the Warriors The Rockets have no obvious weakness. They have no fear of Golden State, either, having won two of the three meetings with the Warriors this season. It’s not just that they’re good, it’s how they’re good that makes them look like the greatest challenge yet to Golden State’s hegemony in the West. “I mean, yes, because they do it a different way, I guess,” Curry said last week. “They adopted the power of the three ball and try to use it as a main weapon, and obviously with James and CP together. Honestly, we know that they’re playing well. We’re chasing that number one seed and keeping tabs on how they’re playing and whatnot. But at the end of the day, we’ve got a lot of time left before we have to face them again. We know they’re serious. But so are we.” The Warriors have had to deal with great adversity during their run, to be sure. The biggest challenge came about this time last year, when a collision between teammates -- Zaza Pachulia and Durant, in D.C., ironically -- culminated in a Grade 2 MCL sprain and bone bruise for Durant, taking him out of the lineup at the worst possible part of the season. Golden State had just ripped off wins in 23 of its previous 27 games since a lamentable Christmas Day loss to the Cavs. Curry had started to figure out how to play with KD, and vice versa. They were in the middle of a brutal stretch of seven road games in eight overall, with the one brief return home to play the Celtics. When Durant went down, the initial fear was that he’d torn his ACL and would be out for the season. The Warriors’ locker room was funeral after the Wizards game. “Obviously, we were trying to figure out if he was like ’done-done’ for the year, or whether or not there was going to be a chance he’d return,” forward David West said. “We were, at the time he got hurt, we were just starting to figure out the sort of roles, everybody was getting comfortable with roles. We basically had to reset., change some of the functions we were doing. We lost a few games  trying to literaly just figure out and recalibrate and re-balance. That was one of those periods where we were just looking at each other, trying to start this thing -- we lost this huge, huge piece.” Yet the Warriors figured it out on the fly. And how they responded then provides a big clue to how they might respond to the challenge the Rockets present to them now. “It took us, I think we needed to get home before we were able to stablize,” Kerr said. “I want to say we lost three of the last four on the trip or something  (they did lose three of four, but one of the three losses was at Oracle in that one home game with the Celtics). We got home and righted the ship and got going. But sometimes (an injury is) a galvanizing force when a guy gets hurt, and you have to do certain things. Like, for us, when Kevin got hurt, we talked about it and we said we have to be the best defensive team in the league. We don’t have that luxury of throwing the ball to Kevin and saying ’get us 30 points tonight.'” During that stretch without Durant (March 2, 2017 to April 5, 2017), who returned just before the start of the playoffs, the Warriors led the league in the league in Defensive Rating (100.0, just head of San Antonio’s 100.2), first in opponent field goal percentage (.429), tied for second in opponent 3-point percentage (.316) and fourth in opponent points allowed per game (100.9). And once Durant returned for good, the Warriors again flexed. They tore through the West, winning all but one game en route to a third straight NBA Finals. And they took the Cavaliers apart in five games for their second title in three years. “You could see Draymond, Klay, Andre, Shaun, those guys, even Loon (Kevin Looney), were like, ’we didn’t have KD last year,’ ” West said. “For someone like myself, I just followed their lead. Klay got a little more aggressive. Draymond sort of settled everybody defensively. And we started winning.” That muscle memory will come in handy this year. Durant and Curry have missed time with injuries, and Golden State hasn’t figured out things at center just yet. (Would it shock me if rookie Jordan Bell played a big role there down the stretch? No, it would not.) But the Warriors still are smoking people in the second halves of games; per teamrankings.com, the Warriors lead the lead in third-quarter scoring margin at 5.3 points per game, more than double the margin of the second-place Denver Nuggets. Whether it’s adjustments or something else (“mainly, fiery halftime speeches, Knute Rockne style,” Kerr opines), they have again put a lot of opponents away with 12 minutes to spare. Since the All-Star break, they’re fourth in the league in opponent field goal percentage (.433) and Defensive Rating (100.3). “This year, obviously, knock on wood, we want to stay healthy,” Curry said. “We want to continue to push in the right direction. Every year’s different. That’s the fun part about this league. No matter how much success you’ve had and what your expectations are, it’s a different journey every year. We’re right in the middle of that right now. We have an amazing record, considering how we’ve played. I think we’d all say we haven’t lived up to our own expectations. That’s okay. We have an opportunity to build the right habits and the right momentum going into the playoffs this year and do it, all 15 guys.” Longtime NBA reporter, columnist and Naismith Memorial Basketball Hall of Famer David Aldridge is an analyst for TNT. 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 NewsMar 6th, 2018

Where the Eastern Conference stands after the All-Star break

With roughly a third of the regular season left to play in the NBA, here's where the Eastern Conference teams stand at the All-Star break. GOING TO THE LOTTERY #10 Charlotte Hornets 24-33 WL record (4-6 in last 10 games), 5.5 games back of #8 #11 New York Knicks 23-36 WL record (2-8 in last 10 games), 7.5 games back of #8 #12 Chicago Bulls 20-37 WL record (2-8 in last 10 games), 9.5 games back of #8 #13 Brooklyn Nets 19-40 WL record (1-9 in last 10 games), 11.5 games back of #8 The Nets of course, don't own their 2018 first-round pick. That's going to the Cleveland Cavaliers, who were able to improve their roster at the trade deadline while hanging on to that asset. Right now the pick is slotted in at #7, but there's just one game separating them and the two last-place teams, the Phoenix Suns and the Hawks. Of course, unlike those teams, Brooklyn is not incentivized to lose games and improve their draft position, and so where this selection winds up could still fluctuate wildly. #14 Orlando Magic 18-39 WL record (4-6 in last 10 games), 11.5 games back of #8 #15 Atlanta Hawks 18-41 WL record (4-6 in last 10 games), 12.5 games back of #8 ON THE CUSP OF THE PLAYOFFS #9 Detroit Pistons 28-29 WL record (6-4 in last 10 games), 1.5 games back of #8 The Pistons got a big boost from the Blake Griffin trade, helping them win the latter four games of a 5-0 stretch. After that though, they lost three in a row, including to trade partners the Clippers, before entering the break with a win over the Hawks. The biggest variable for the Pistons is point guard Reggie Jackson, who hasn't played since December 27 (PHL time) due to a right ankle sprain. He's projected to return in March, and how he fits in with Griffin and All-Star Andre Drummond will likely decide whether or not the Pistons go to the postseason. PRECARIOUS POSITION #8 Miami Heat 30-28 WL record (3-7 in last 10 games), 1.5 game cushion over #9 #7 Philadelphia 76ers 30-25 WL record (6-4 in last 10 games), 3 game cushion over #9 Two teams going in opposite directions right now. Miami had a red-hot January, winning 10 games out of 15, but have just one victory in February, versus 6 losses. In contrast, Philly has overcome a stretch where they were 3-5 spanning the last two months, and won five straight entering the break. And oh yes, the two teams played each other twice in February, with the 76ers winning both match-ups. It'll be interesting to see how Miami continues to use Dwyane Wade, whom they acquired at the trade deadline. In three games back in South Beach, Wade is averaging 7.0 points, 5.3 rebounds, 3.3 assists, 1.0 steals, and 1.0 blocks in 22 minutes. However, he's also norming a whopping 4.0 turnovers. For the 76ers, it'll obviously be on Joel Embiid and Ben Simmons to carry the load, but improved play from Robert Covington would be a great boost. His three-point shooting has decreased each month, from 46.7 percent in November, to now just 27.9 percent in February. LOOKING FOR HOMECOURT #6 Milwaukee Bucks 32-25 WL record (7-3 in last 10 games), 4 game cushion over #9 #5 Indiana Pacers 33-25 WL record (7-3 in last 10 games), 4.5 game cushion over #9 #4 Washington Wizards 33-24 WL record (7-3 in last 10 games), 5 game cushion over #9 These three squads are Playoffs-bound, but the question is which of them will snag #4 and get home court advantage in round one. Right now, the team with the most upside has to be the Washington Wizards, who have so far done well without superstar John Wall, going 7-2 while he recovers from knee surgery. If they can continue to weather the storm until he returns in mid-to-late March, they should lock up #4. HERE THEY COME... #3 Cleveland Cavaliers 34-22 WL record (7-3 in last 10 games), 6.5 games back of #1 No doubt, it's a small sample size, one game sans traded pieces but before the new acquisitions were medically cleared, and then two with their four new players, but the Cavs were rolling entering the break, and LeBron James looks locked in anew. We'll need more games to see if James indeed has better chemistry with Jordan Clarkson, Rodney Hood, Larry Nance Jr., and George Hill, and one more factor to consider is the impending return of Kevin Love from his broken hand, which will obviously necessitate changes to the amount of shots everyone gets. Right now though, the King seems to have the necessary type of players that he needs to return to the Finals anew. REGRESSING TO THE MEAN? #2 Boston Celtics 40-19 WL record (5-5 in last 10 games), 2 games back of #1 Boston has slipped from the top spot of the East in recent games, their defense suddenly giving up a ton of points to opponents. After a stretch of seven straight wins early in January, they're now just 6-9 in their last 15 outings. We'll need to see if the rest over the All-Star break gives them a boost, or if this is just the Celtics coming back down to Earth. Remember, in the aftermath of the Gordon Hayward injury, nobody expected them to play this well. That they did, and are now seeing a mini-slump, might just mean we need to adjust our expectations anew of how good this Boston team is. TORONTO ON TOP #1 Toronto Raptors 41-16 WL record (9-1 in last 10 games) Not only does Toronto have the best record in the East, they have the best home record too, dropping just four of their 28 games in Canada. In contrast, West #1 Houston Rockets have four losses, while defending champs Golden State Warriors have seven. Toronto's biggest boon, aside from DeMar DeRozan finally embracing the three-pointer, has been their bench. Right now, the five-man group of CJ Miles, Jakob Poeltl, Pascal Siakam, Fred VanVleet, and Delon Wright is their second-most used lineup, and it's +34.6. Their best quintet is the previously mentioned one, but with DeRozan in place of Miles (+82.5). There are still questions about how Toronto will look come the postseason. Over the past few years, DeRozan and Kyle Lowry have struggled mightily with their shot in the playoffs. Should they get there though with the #1 seed in the East, things might turn out differently. They have two more games each against Boston and Cleveland, and so the opportunity to get home court through the Eastern Conference Finals is definitely in play. The views on this page do not necessarily reflect the views of the NBA, its clubs or ABS-CBN Sports......»»

Category: sportsSource:  abscbnRelated NewsFeb 21st, 2018

Warriors show off firepower, Cavs show off flaws in Finals rematch

By Steve Aschburner, NBA.com CLEVELAND -- Tyronn Lue’s bathroom break came early in the fourth quarter. No, not literally. But the coach of the Cleveland Cavaliers had used the familiar call of duty to describe the suddenness with which a game against the Golden State Warriors can turn. And sure enough, on Monday night at Quicken Loans Arena, it turned on Lue and his team. “They’re the only team,” Lue told reporters before tipoff, “where you can be looking at the game and it’s a two-point game. You go to the bathroom, come back, they’re up 15.” Lue’s “loo” moment, figuratively anyway, came after David West sank two free throws to put the Warriors up 95-93 with 9:07 to play. There it was – the two-point lead – in what had been 39 minutes of mostly entertaining, back-and-forth, you-loved-them-then-you’ll-love-them-again basketball between the familiar adversaries. Draymond Green extends the @warriors lead to 10 on @NBAonTNT! 4:47 to play in Q4 #DubNation pic.twitter.com/q2Drea9Jxy — NBA (@NBA) January 16, 2018 Exactly three minutes and 23 seconds later, Draymond Green cut to the basket, took a pass from Shaun Livingston and dropped in a layup that made it 105-95. It was the biggest lead of the night to that point. Lue twice had called timeouts during the run in an attempt to stop the bleeding. Now there was only 5:44 left. The Warriors’ margin would grow to 14. And the Cavaliers, to stick with Lue’s imagery, were circling the bowl. That the defending champions can go into hyperdrive against anybody is a reminder, not a revelation. But there were some things revealed, discovered and learned in the second and final regular-season clash of the respective West and East favorites, including: Isaiah Thomas has a way to go. This was our most extended look yet at Cleveland’s new point guard, their Kyrie Irving replacement, in circumstances most like those he’ll face when the meat of the Cavs’ schedule – the postseason – rolls around. Thomas scored 19 points, matching his high from the four previous games he played. He was on the floor for 32 minutes, nearly eight minutes more than his previous high. Both Thomas, who missed the season’s first 11 weeks recovering from a hip injury left over from last spring in Boston, and the Cavaliers know a) he’s not sharp or in great shape yet, and b) neither he nor the team has gotten familiar enough with the other to achieve the best results. Yet Thomas took 21 shots Monday (Tuesday, PHL time), more than LeBron James (18), more than Dwyane Wade (14) and more than double any other Cleveland player. He made just eight, including just one of his seven 3-point attempts. Lue, though, said he had no problem with Thomas’ gunning, as long as they were good shots. Thomas sounded as if he was seeking out work where he could find it. Granted, it was his hip that kept him out but his elbow, wrist and shooting hand apparently profit from heavy usage now too. “I’ve got to get in shape,” he said later. “I’ve got to get my legs back. Especially when I get a little winded, my legs get even heavier. “The only thing that’s gonna help me is getting reps. Running up and down the floor. Getting my hip, getting my body accustomed to taking a beating. ... Getting in basketball shape.” Kevin Durant didn’t put much stock in Thomas’ play Monday (Tuesday, PHL time) as a sign of how he’ll help Cleveland come springtime. Durant went through a similar enough trial in 2014-15, when surgery in October to repair a Jones fracture in his right foot sidelined him into December, then finally scuttled his season after just 27 games. “Obviously IT is just getting back,” the Warriors forward said. “He hadn’t played in seven months – you’ve got to give him some time. I know exactly how that feels. Especially being thrown in in the middle of the season and starting and playing 30-plus minutes now ... I know it’s gonna take him a while to get into a comfortable groove here.” What we saw is what we’d get. Mostly. It looked at various points as if both coaches were trying lineups, testing young players, tinkering with substitution patterns or probing matchups with an eye on a possible re-re-rematch in June. Likewise, it would be understandable for Lue and Golden State’s Steve Kerr to hold back a few wrinkles, just to have something fresh to try the next time they face each other. ”We don’t hold too much back, to be honest with you,” Kerr said. “I think matchups can dictate some things that you do in the playoffs and sometimes you may make a few different play calls, whatever. But I don’t think there’s a conscious effort to hold anything back for fear of tipping the hand for later.” Kerr started rookie big Jordan Bell again, same as in the Christmas game in Oakland, for more mobility against Cleveland’s small lineup than center Zaza Pachulia would provide. The coach gave Kevon Looney, Nick Young and Patrick McCaw more tastes of the rivalry too. Lue, meanwhile, was asked if he had the Cavaliers target Steph Curry defensively to get him into foul trouble and generally make life difficult. That’s a tactic that has helped when most others have failed against the two-time MVP and it might come in handy down the road. “I can’t remember,” Lue said, pointedly declining to answer. Curry can dunk. And David West still can. It was a rare Curry-in-flight moment early in the second half when the Golden State guard, who usually does his damage from deep, threw down a two-handed dunk. It was his first of the season. Steph Curry throws down the two-handed jam on #PhantomCam! #DubNation pic.twitter.com/eHaHsw2yZV — NBA (@NBA) January 16, 2018 “I think he was taking out some anger from the first half,” Kerr said. “Sometimes that will get him going. Steph loves to dunk more than anybody, you know that. Doesn’t happen often, so when it does, it jacks him up.” Said Durant, who fed Curry for the slam: “He surprised me on that one. Hopefully he’s feeling better tomorrow. I know it took a lot for him to get up there.” David West turns back the clock!#DubNation leads #AllForOne 103-95 with 6:16 to play in the 4th. 📺: @NBAonTNT pic.twitter.com/dj2iFuZGrr — NBA (@NBA) January 16, 2018 West got his 37-year-old bones up there too, dunking off the dribble during his nine-minute, plus-nine stint in the fourth quarter. The veteran power forward had missed his three shots in the second.   “He was a little short on his jump shot to start the game,” Durant said. “But D. West is such a smart player, he makes adjustments, he doesn’t get discouraged. He made a huge play – his left-handed dunk kind of got us all going. That was definitely surprising when he turned that one over.” But seriously, Cleveland has issues. Besides losing for the eighth time in 10 games, the Cavaliers had their 13-game home winning streak broken in Monday's (Tuesday, PHL time) 118-108 loss. And when it was second unit vs. second unit to start the fourth quarter, the Warriors had little trouble switching on defense and crowding away the Cavs’ long-range game. Cleveland shot just 6-of-23 in the fourth quarter, and got outscored 61-44 in what Kerr considered one of his club’s most complete second halves.   The Cavaliers’ defensive leaks have been extensively criticized, and more IT as he gets his game back is not the best way to address those. Even more problematic is the offense now, which over the past few weeks has been grinding, with none of them having much fun with the ball or without. “This is an important time for us,” Wade said, “and we want to see how we respond coming out of this game. ... It’s not about just winning a ball game. It’s about building good habits as a team.” Given James’ record and reputation – seven consecutive trips to the Finals, most in spite of some in-season doldrums for his Heat or Cavs crews – there’s a lot of “In LeBron We Trust,” both inside and outside the Cleveland locker room. Until a rival in the Eastern Conference proves it can knock off the King, no one will believe it. But if the Cavaliers, after so many exposures to their Bay Area nemeses (9-17 in regular- and postseason meetings since the start of 2014-15), can’t come up with solutions, maybe NBA fans should want to see someone else get a crack at them. 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 NewsJan 16th, 2018

BEST OF 5 PART 4: Credit to coach Boyet Fernandez, says San Beda

Read Part 1 of ABS-CBN Sports’ Best of 5 series on the San Beda Red Lions here. Read Part 2 of ABS-CBN Sports’ Best of 5 series on the San Beda Red Lions here. Read Part 3 of ABS-CBN Sports’ Best of 5 series on the San Beda Red Lions here. --- San Beda College has not only had top-tier players through its dynastic 12-year run, it has also had top-level coaches. Of the 10 championships in 12 years they have won, Frankie Lim called the shots for four, Boyet Fernandez led the way for three, and all of Koy Banal, Jamike Jarin, and Ronnie Magsanoc had one apiece. Next year, Fernandez has a chance to match Lim’s total. While that is not yet sure to happen, there is one thing that Fernandez is sure to do: just as he has always had, he will deflect all the praise away from himself. FOR AND AGAINST From then to now and onto the future, reporters are certain to hear the very same first four words in each and every one of Fernandez’s post-game conferences: “Credit to the boys.” From the times of Ola Adeogun and Baser Amer before to Robert Bolick and Javee Mocon now, the Red Lions’ mentor never fails to make it known that all the wins are because of his boys. He will also make it a point to laud the effort of their opponents and his counterpart coach. In fact, just in the most recent season, he had nothing but good words for Lyceum of the Philippines University’s Topex Robinson, San Sebastian College-Recoletos’ Egay Macaraya, and archrival Colegio de San Juan de Letran’s Jeff Napa – coaches of teams which have trained their targets on toppling the Mendiola dynasty. BECAUSE OF YOU After steering San Beda to perhaps its most dramatic title since its drought-ending one in 2006, however, the players themselves are saying it’s high time to give Fernandez his due. “Coach Boyet really deserves this championship. I want to thank coach Boyet dahil siya ang nagtulak sa aking mag-grow sa basketball,” Robert Bolick said. “Ginawa niya akong MVP. Kaya na ako ganito dahil sa kanya.” Bolick had a solid first season in red and white under Jarin in 2016, but truly blossomed under the watch of Fernandez in 2017. From a defensive stopper, the heady guard transformed himself into a complete player and had himself recognized as PBA D-League MVP as well as one of the top talents in the NCAA. BELIEVE WHAT I SAY Not only that, Bolick has also proven himself to be one of the most clutch players in all of college. The 21-year-old dropped seven points in the last two minutes in Game 1 of the Finals and then scored seven points in the last five minutes in Game 2. And perhaps there was no shot that defined all they had to overcome than this cold-blooded triple from “Big Shot Bolick.”   Robert Bolick breaks out LeBron celebration after the dagger against LPU. #NCAASeason93 #NCAAStrong pic.twitter.com/33kzBDvuUC — ABS-CBN Sports (@abscbnsports) Nobyembre 16, 2017   As it turns out, those shots may not have gone in if not for Fernandez. “Since the start of the season kasi, coach Boyet wants us to shoot before and after training. He always tells me na I can shoot from the outside kaya ayan, nakita na nga natin,” Bolick said. WE GOT THIS For that full faith, the Red Lions promised to win the championship for their mentor – even though just about everybody was seeing a historic season from the then league-leading Pirates. “Noong natalo kami (ng LPU) two times, nag-team building kami and I told coach na he’s going to have to trust us. For me, for all of us, the only thing na makakabawi kami for coach for everything he’s done, is with the championship,” Bolick shared. He then continued, “I always told him, ‘I got you.’ Para sa kanya talaga ‘to.” True to form, however, right after they finally won that dramatic title, Fernandez made it a point to mention his predecessor for setting the table for him. “Coach Jamike is a very good coach and he won a championship for San Beda. Kaya nga sabi ko dati pa, I will defend the crown for him,” he said. FOR LIFE Next year, it will be the crown he won himself that he will be defending. By then, there is no doubt whatsoever that Fernandez will be giving credit where credit is due – just not for himself. And for him, there is no place he’d rather be doing that in than Mendiola – for now until the foreseeable future. “Sana I’ll continue to coach San Beda. Of course, it will be up to the bosses and I will respect whatever their decision will be,” he said. He then continued, “But if I will be asked to stay with San Beda, pwede bang lifetime na?” Boyet Fernandez, lifetime head coach of San Beda? Sounds good to us. --- Follow this writer on Twitter, @riegogogo......»»

Category: sportsSource:  abscbnRelated NewsDec 31st, 2017

Isaac Go just went ‘Atin ‘to, papasok ‘to’ for Ateneo

Isaac Go missed a shot that would have lifted Ateneo de Manila University over De La Salle University in the last game of eliminations of the UAAP 80 Men’s Basketball Tournament. Down by one with 12.6 ticks to go on the clock, the Blue Eagles perfectly executed the play drawn up by coach Tab Baldwin and inbounder Anton Asistio had a wide open Go near the basket. And so, Asistio inbounded to Go. The good look turned bad, however, and the six-foot-six center got bothered by an oncoming Ben Mbala. The semi-hook, a shot he usually makes good on, missed and not long after, Mbala and the Green Archers completed a comeback win. That prevented an elimination round sweep by Go and the Katipunan-based squad. Post-game then, the second-year center and Baldwin were adamant that the shot was the right decision. More than a week later, he was given another golden opportunity to come through. With Ateneo staring at a three-point deficit with 14.5 seconds remaining, Baldwin designed a play for Go. This time around, the 21-year-old made his shot – a triple that sent the game into overtime where Matt Nieto then took over. Final score read 88-84 in favor of the Finals-bound Blue Eagles. Afterward, he kidded that during that timeout, he channeled his inner Paul Desiderio. “Gusto ko sanang parang kay Paul e, na ‘Atin ‘to, pare,’” he said to the jeers of teammates Matt and Mike Nieto who were in the post-win interview with him. As it turns out, however, it was Baldwin himself who had an “Atin ‘to, papasok ‘to” moment. “Coach Tab made a great play – one of the options of that play was for Isaac to shoot that three. Actually, before coach Tab drew (up) anything, he already told Isaac, ‘You’re gonna make this three,’” coach Sandy Arespacochaga shared. He then continued, “That’s what happened.” Indeed, Go did not let Baldwin down. “That just shows how coach Tab trusts the work we put in. we’ve put hours and hours of work for that one moment so we have to dig deep. Coach Tab had more confidence in me than I had in myself,” he said. He then continued, “If it wasn’t for his belief in me, maybe it wouldn’t have gone in.” That is exactly why even though he missed his shot against DLSU, he said that his confidence remained sky-high when it came to his shot against FEU. “At the end of the day, even though I missed that shot, basketball is just a game. Win or lose, we still get to go home, we still get to live our lives. We don’t die or anything if we lose the game.,” he shared. He then continued, “My friends, family, teammates, and coaches just kept encouraging me. That carried over to today.” --- Follow this writer on Twitter, @riegogogo......»»

Category: sportsSource:  abscbnRelated NewsNov 22nd, 2017

Mourning Jaylen Brown sparks Celtics win over Warriors

By Matt Petersen, NBA.com Less than five minutes into Thursday night's (Friday, PHL time) clash of best vs. best, the Warriors were already threatening to pull away. They led the Celtics 15-6 after a pair of Kevin Durant free throws, and appeared to have already solved the formula Boston had used to fuel a 13-game winning streak. As they often do when the offense grinds to a halt, the Celtics turned to a reliable half-court play to settle in. It worked, producing a wide-open Jaylen Brown cutting down the baseline. The second-year forward could have laid it in quickly and efficiently. He didn't. Instead he opted for a quick spin and vicious jam, with a little flourish for good measure. It was a small choice, made in the split-second it took for the play to transpire. It also set a tone, one that allowed the Celtics to survive its worst offensive night of the season against the best team in the NBA. Brown steals, Brown slams! #SunLifeDunk4Diabetes pic.twitter.com/wvzDggz4RZ — Boston Celtics (@celtics) November 17, 2017 Later in the first quarter, Brown did what few are good (or brave) enough to do: he pressured two-time MVP Stephen Curry into coughing up a loose ball. Just as rare, he pursued and won the possession in the kind of frenetic setting the Warriors usually feast. Brown got around Curry, controlled the ball before Zaza Pachulia could reach it, and sprinted down the other end for a tomahawk jam. Another scene from the first quarter: Brown briefly lost Durant through a maze of screens, and the reigning Finals MVP rose for the mid-range shot he normally converts without thought. He didn't count on 1) Brown not giving up on the play and 2) having the audacity to block his shot. And that's the way it went for the rest of the night. Whenever Kyrie Irving's 4-for-16 night seemed to doom them, whenever it felt Jayson Tatum's quiet showing (2-for-5 FG) would leave Boston wanting, Brown did something to spark them. It turns out the 21-year-old wasn't just fighting the odds of scoreboard or opponent. Brown was also waging a battle with his heart, which was sorely tempted to mourn alone the loss of his best friend, who passed away on Wednesday night (Thursday, PHL time). "I knew coming into today that he would have wanted me to play," a quietly emotional Brown said after the game. "After talking to his mom and family, they inspired me to come out and play. I wasn't in any shape to come out. I wanted to be in my room." Emotional Jaylen Brown on playing after the loss of a friend. pic.twitter.com/wTooFBfKRE — Chris Forsberg (@ESPNForsberg) November 17, 2017 Instead, Brown leaned on the escape of the game and the support of his teammates, rewarding both with one of the best performances of his young career. He finished with a team-high 22 points, seven rebounds, two blocks and two steals in 34 minutes of action. The effort was instrumental in extending Boston's win streak to a league-best 14 games while also halting the Warriors' own seven-game streak of dominance. All of that was, of course, a footnote to the individual more focused on personal loss than the results of a game. Brown remembered clearly when his friend, Trevin Steede, reached out to him when he was a new transfer in high school, too introverted to make new friends. "He walked up to me the third or fourth day and asked who I was sitting with [at lunch], even though I wasn't sitting with anybody," Brown recalled with a slight break in his voice. "He told me to come over and sit with him." After helping his team clinch its biggest victory yet, Brown let the knowledge that Steede was no longer there to sit with wash over him. Like that not-so-long ago day in high school, however, someone was there to reach out to him. It was Irving, embracing him after the final buzzer sounded, letting him know that others were there to fill the hole left in his life. "I've lost individuals in my life. It's never a good thing when someone else is going through it," Irving said afterward, via MassLife.com. "You do your best to console and to encourage them, but at the end of the day, it's about the strength within themselves and he showed a lot of that tonight, to be able to go out there and perform the way he did, I knew exactly where the game ball was going to." Facing a 17-point deficit, the defending champions, and the loss of a friend, there is no doubt that Brown earned it. The views on this page do not necessarily reflect the views of the NBA, its clubs or Turner Broadcasting......»»

Category: sportsSource:  abscbnRelated NewsNov 17th, 2017

BLOGTABLE: One thing you re eager to see in 2017-18 season?

NBA.com blogtable Entering the new season, what's the one thing you’re most eager to see? * * * Steve Aschburner: Let’s face it, I’m working against my own claim to fame when I say I’m eager to see Minnesota end its 13-year playoff drought. After all, all these years later, I remain the only Timberwolves beat writer (1993-2007) to have covered that franchise’s entire postseason run. I’ve given up hope of convincing owner Glen Taylor to bring me back in a phony-baloney $250K job as a combo good-luck charm/“team historian.” So they might as well go ahead and win 50 games under Tom Thibodeau, with Jimmy Butler showing the ropes to Karl Anthony-Towns, Andrew Wiggins and the rest. At least I’ll be positioned to cover Minnesota’s next playoff game. Shaun Powell: I can't wait to see how the new pieces with little to no previous experience playing with each other mesh together. Chris Paul and James Harden. Russell Westbrook and Paul George and Carmelo Anthony. LeBron James and Isaiah Thomas. Not all of them will work. Chances are, somebody's bound to flop, and if so, who will it be? John Schuhmann: Milwaukee's development. With its youth, length and versatility, this could be the next great team in the Eastern Conference. Giannis Antetokounmpo (22 years old) is the league's next top-three player and Thon Maker (20) could has a lot of room to grow as well. Their bench seems thin right now, but the Bucks have the ability to improve both offensively and defensively and approach top 10 rankings on both ends of the floor (and compete for a top 3 seed in the East) this season. Sekou Smith: As intrigued as I was with the idea of the Celtics going into this season, Gordon Hayward's injury just minutes into his first regular season game in green and white has clouded my view. Prayers up for Hayward and on a complete recovery. The goings on in Oklahoma City moved to the top of my list the moment Sam Presti pulled off the deal to add Carmelo Anthony to core group led by Russell Westbrook and Paul George. It's the latest iteration of the "super team" phenomenon that has spread around the league. Unlike some of my scribe friends around the globe, I don't see this as some train wreck waiting to happen. I love the idea of these guys teaming up to challenge the order of things in the Western Conference. Kudos to Sam Presti for being aggressive in his approach and this is a chance for Westbrook and Anthony, in particular, to change some minds about who and what they are as players in this league......»»

Category: sportsSource:  abscbnRelated NewsOct 19th, 2017

24 NBA questions before 17-18 tips off

By David Aldridge, TNT analyst The season starts on Tuesday night (Wednesday, PHL time). You’ve been waiting patiently all summer with your questions. Fire away.     1. So … what’s the point of playing this season? The Golden State Warriors are still the prohibitive favorites to repeat this season, next season and into the foreseeable future. But it was good to see a good chunk of the Western Conference -- the Houston Rockets, Oklahoma City Thunder and Denver Nuggets, to name three teams -- not fold before the first card is dealt. That fact alone is incredibly important. The Warriors are still the best team in the West, without question. But if teams don’t even try to get better, or spend money to compete, the whole rationale for playing fades away. The Thunder could have rode Russell Westbrook alone to another first-round playoff loss, watched him walk out the door in free agency next summer and thrown up its hands, plead ‘woe is us and all small-market teams,’ and enjoyed a luxury tax-free life for the next few years. The Rockets could have just kept selling tickets to fans to watch James Harden and his pals shoot 50 threes a game for the next two or three years. It’s an appealing brand of basketball. Denver could have just kept building through the Draft, climbing a few more wins here or there for a while, and snuck into the eighth seed, choosing to be comfortable rather than bold. But they didn’t. They’ve called and raised. In all likelihood, it won’t be enough to beat Golden State. But those teams can sleep well at night. They’re not cheating their players, or fans. 2. So, is OKC now a legit threat to the Warriors? The short answer: no. But it’s closer. Carmelo Anthony will be as good a third option as anyone in the league has, though; he will eat regularly on the weak side as defenses scramble to handle Westbrook-Paul George pick and rolls; a quick seal and ‘Melo will be off to the races. If coach Billy Donovan goes small ball with Patrick Patterson at the five, there will be many nights when OKC drops a 130 spot. Yes, the Thunder’s defense is going to be an issue; while Enes Kanter was a sieve off the bench, he was coming off the bench, playing behind Steven Adams. Anthony will be starting and playing big minutes, many at the four. But it won’t matter most nights when the Thunder is up 20 to start the fourth quarter, after 36 minutes of Westbrook sorties, George 3-pointers and transition dunks, and Carmelo post-ups and spot-ups (he shot 44.8 percent last season on catch and shoot shots. Among forwards who played 30 or more minutes last season, per NBA.com/Stats, only Kevin Durant, Otto Porter and Kawhi Leonard shot better). The Thunder can guard you with George, Andre Roberson and Adams and they can outscore you with Westbrook and George and ‘Melo. They have a solid bench (Patterson, Ray Felton, Jerami Grant, Alex Abrines) and Westbrook won’t be physically spent by the end of the 2018 playoffs. Wait; what am I saying? Of course he’ll be spent. But he’ll also be playing way deeper into May. 3. Did not getting Anthony hurt Houston or nah? The Rockets -- okay, Chris Paul -- wanted this done bad. It won’t hurt Houston in the regular season, when Paul and James Harden will dominate. And while Harden didn’t like Kevin McHale’s critique of his leadership, Mac was spot on. That doesn’t make “The Beard” a bad guy or teammate -- people gravitate to their comfortable roles in life, and CP3 is a natural-born leader. Harden will, one thinks, be more comfortable with slightly less light on him. They’ll do fine playing together and off one another. But the shadow of the Rockets’ implosion from deep -- 29 of 88 on three-pointers the last two games against the Spurs in their Western Conference semifinals series -- still hangs over them. Ryan Anderson was negated in the postseason. There’s a reason CP3 pushed for ‘Melo so hard. The Rockets will need unexpected consistent offense from a P.J. Tucker or Luc Mbah a Moute in May if they have any hopes of playing in June. 4. Can we just start the Cleveland-Boston East finals now? Maybe Toronto, with C.J. Miles shooting 40 percent on 3-pointers to complement Kyle Lowry and DeMar DeRozan, will break up what seems inevitable. Maybe Washington, with its super-solid starting five intact, now has the mental toughness to bust past the second round, where it’s been beached three of the last four postseasons. But it doesn’t feel like that. Boston, ultimately, should be a lot better this season than last. It will take a while for coach Brad Stevens to figure out the rotation and whether Jaylen Brown can really stick at the two, but ultimately, the Celtics have two dynamic playmakers/scorers in Kyrie Irving and Gordon Hayward, and with Al Horford providing the glue at both ends, they’re going to be a load by the end of the season. And while Cleveland will have to wait a while for Isaiah Thomas, the Cavs have more than enough firepower until Thomas can make his debut. Whatever Dwyane Wade has left will be accentuated playing with James, and Kevin Love (holy moly, is he underrated) will feast drawing slower, bigger centers out to him on the perimeter. J.R. Smith doesn’t like losing his starting job to Wade, and he should be ticked. But he nonetheless will help Cleveland’s bench, which will be incredibly difficult in its own right with Tristan Thompson and Kyle Korver complementing Smith. And that’s before Thomas returns, which will put Derrick Rose on that second unit. There won’t be any rest for defenses who’ll then have to contend with a rested James, et al, coming back. It says here that not only will the Cavs not miss Irving offensively, they could be even more diverse and difficult to guard this season. Not to mention that James is supremely motivated to make an eighth straight Finals. 5. Could Curry break his record of 402 3-pointers in a season? At first glance, with Durant and Klay and Draymond (and, now, Nick Young) all needing to get fed as well, it would seem impossible for Curry to best the mark he set two years ago, on the 73-9 regular season team. But consider: coach Steve Kerr thinks a new guy always blossoms in his second year with the Warriors, which means Durant should be even more lethal offensively this year, as the Warriors’ offense reaches an even higher level of efficiency. And the way they move the ball, it’s not a stretch to think that with defenses tripping over themselves to get to Durant, Curry could get into one of those ridiculous grooves that could leave him within striking distance of 402 by the end of the season. 6. Could the last one in the Eastern Conference turn out the lights? The New York Knicks were hardly a power in the East before trading Anthony, but his departure creates one more team that will struggle to win 35 games this season. With the paucity of talent there should be at least four 50-win teams in the East -- Cleveland, Boston, Toronto and Washington -- with the Milwaukee Bucks knocking on the door. 7. Who’s going to regret their offseason? The Bucks were fine off the court -- their new arena is already more than halfway constructed and looks like it’s going to be a gem -- although the surrounding mall that is supposed to be part of the complex is not going up as quickly. But the Bucks didn’t address their bigs-heavy roster and move some of the surplus -- how can coach Jason Kidd keep all of Greg Monroe, Jabari Parker and John Henson happy with Thon Maker scarfing up more and more frontcourt minutes? -- for the shooting Milwaukee still needs. The East is so open, and Milwaukee is so close to breaking through into elite status with Giannis Antetokounmpo an elite performer. 8. Rudy Gay -- sneaky good pickup? Gay says he’s cool starting or coming off the bench for the Spurs, but he’d best as San Antonio’s sixth man, at least to start things. Bringing Pau Gasol off the bench didn’t work so well, so if he’s starting at center, coach Gregg Popovich can’t go small ball with “Cousin” LaMarcus Aldridge at the five and Gay at the four alongside Kawhi Leonard. (Current state of Spurs fans’ cuticles here and here as they consider a season with an extended Klaw absence if this quad injury doesn’t improve soon.) The Spurs could have some serious firepower in reserve if Gay and Patty Mills come off the bench, but Mills or Dejounte Murray will likely have to start at the point until Tony Parker comes back. 9. Speaking of Popovich … Should he and Steve Kerr and Stan Van Gundy stick to sports? No. 10. Who’s gonna be Kia Rookie of the Year? I say Markelle Fultz. What, you thought I was gonna pick against a DeMatha Catholic man? (Actual unretouched photo of me as a sophomore at the most successful high school in the history of the United States may or may not be here). Playing off of Joel Embiid, J.J. Redick, Robert Covington … it’s hard to see Fultz not looking really good when he should have all kinds of room to operate. Lonzo Ball will put up bigger numbers, and Tatum will be on a better team. But Boston was good last year, and Jayson Tatum will likely not play as much as the others. The Sixers are poised for a big jump up in the standings, and that’s always a narrative that voters like and get behind -- which is what will hurt Dennis Smith Jr.'s chances in Dallas. 11. What does Dwyane Wade really have left? Now that the inevitable buyout of Wade’s $24 million deal by the Bulls has led to the equally inevitable trek to Cleveland to play with James, can the 35-year-old Wade still be a significant contributor on a title contender? Given the general dysfunction in Chicago last season, you can dismiss most of the good and bad numbers Wade put up, with two exceptions: he still averaged almost five free throw attempts per game, and he shot 31 percent on 3-pointers -- not great, but more than double his anemic 15.9 percent behind the arc in 2015-16, his last with the Miami Heat. Wade obviously knows the cheat code for how to most effectively play off of James, so he’ll use the regular season to learn his teammates and be ready for the playoffs. But can Wade hold up over seven games defensively if he has to chase, say, Bradley Beal around, or try to deny DeRozan his preferred mid-range spots, and still be productive offensively? 12. Back to the Sixers -- how good will they be? My guess is they’ll pretty good in the 60 or so games I anticipate Embiid will play this season -- I’m assuming several designated off days for him during the season, not another injury. The mix of young talent (Fultz, Embiid, Ben Simmons, Dario Saric, Covington) and crafty vets (Redick, Amir Johnson) should mesh to make the 76ers a very tough team to defend. But Philly has to resolve the Jahlil Okafor situation, and in fairness to him, give him a fresh start somewhere else with a trade as soon as possible. If I were a good team that would be hard-pressed to add a free agent any time soon and feels a player short of true contention -- I’m looking at you, Memphis Grizzlies and Wizards -- I’d work hard to get the new, slimmed-down Okafor on my squad while he’s still on his rookie contract and make him the focal point of a kick-ass second unit. 13. Should we feel some kind of way about the Trail Blazers? I’m picking up what you’re putting down. A full season of the “Bosnian Beast” in the middle, it says here, will vault Portland into the top four in the West. Note I said “full season.” That means Jusuf Nurkic has to give coach Terry Stotts between 65-70 starts for the above premonition to be, as they say in the legal world, actionable. If so, Nurkic’s underrated scoring and passing out of the post will only make Damian Lillard and C.J. McCollum that much more deadly out front, along with improving Portland’s defense. Per Basketball-Reference.com, the Blazers were 11.6 points per game better than the opposition with those three on the floor together and a +5 when their regular five-man lineup with Maurice Harkless and Al-Farouq Aminu joined the guards and Nurkic. And that’s pronounced, “Noor-kitch,” accent on Noor. 13. A little movie break ... Kevin Costner’s accent in “Robin Hood” -- worst ever, right? Yes, but Natalie Wood’s in “West Side Story” was painful, too. 14. Many have written the post-CP3 Clippers off. Should they? The Clippers are my darkhorse this season -- if they do the right thing and go small more often. They’re doing it more in practice so far than in games because Danilo Gallinari is working through a foot injury, but Blake Griffin at the five and Gallinari at the four could be spicy during the regular season. That would mean Sam Dekker and/or Wes Johnson would have to become credible and dependable at the three, allowing coach Doc Rivers to play a Pat Beverly-Milos Teodosic backcourt more often, which will just be fun. This would, of course, mean less DeAndre Jordan, and … that may not be the worst thing. Nothing against DJ, who is the best defensive big in the league, bar none. Unfortunately, the NBA isn’t about defense any more -- at least not in the traditional sense. Even someone like Jordan who doesn’t just block shots, but also helps snuff out opposing pick and rolls, becomes less valued by the league’s advanced stats crowd if he doesn’t contribute more offensively. The three has gone a long way to tyrannizing the defense-dominant big man out of the game. (Zach Lowe recommends the Wizards try to get Jordan via trade, and it’s not the first time I’ve heard that name mentioned in connection with Washington, the idea being the only chance the Wizards have of beating Cleveland or Boston is to slow them down enough defensively that Wall-Beal-Porter can try and keep up offensively. Washington is definitely a load when Wall gets locked in on D and creates turnovers, and the idea of Jordan inhaling lobs from Wall is enticing to think about. But the Wizards are not -- not -- going to take on a fourth big contract, and Jordan’s surely going to opt out after this season; he’s rightly expecting a massive payday in 2018, and the Clippers certainly now have motive and means to retain him.) Anyway, some Lou Williams, Austin Rivers and/or Teodosic and Willie Reed off the bench isn’t bad, either. 15. Could Kyle Kuzma be the best rookie on the Lakers this season? Don’t @me, LaVar. Kuzma has followed up a very strong Vegas Summer League with high notes in preseason, averaging better than 19 points per game for the Lakers. He’s been dazzling at times, displaying in-between skills that intrigue, and showing why so many teams were trying to trade back into the first round to get the Utah forward before L.A. snagged him with its second and much less heralded first-round pick last June. And there will be minutes available at the four this season. So far, Kuzma has displayed unusual strength for a rookie and confidence in his ability to score. Of course, he’s inexperienced, and like all rookies, has to differentiate between an open shot and a good shot. The other, more famous first-rounder, Lonzo Ball, will almost certainly be the better all-around player in time. For this year, though … hmmm. 16. What does a Hawks fan have to look forward to this season? Honestly, not much. But they’ll always be well-coached and get better. I’d pick one of the young players, like rookie John Collins or second-year small forward Taurean Prince, and concentrate on them during the season. See what they do with their minutes on the floor, and watch how they gradually expand their games at both ends. Seeing a young guy get better as he gains experience and accepts coaching is one of the great joys of watching the NBA every night. 17. Orlando? What gives there? The team’s new braintrust of Jeff Weltman and John Hammond will need some time to fix the roster -- a mélange of athletic wings that have trouble defending and guards that have trouble shooting. The former is addressed somewhat with the signing of Jonathon Simmons from San Antonio, but I don’t see a solution to the latter with any of the existing backcourt contributors. Unless coach Frank Vogel figures out some way to get more turnovers/runouts from his group, they just can’t get in transition enough for their length and legs to make a difference. 18. New Orleans? What gives there? The short answer is, I have no idea. All of NBA Earth has DeMarcus Cousins out of there one way or another (he’s an unrestricted free agent in ’18 and wants to be on a contender/the Pelicans will never pay him what he wants and will have to trade him by the deadline/no way he and Anthony Davis fit together/Wall agitates for a reunion with his former Kentucky big man in D.C./your departure theory here) by this time next year, but we’ll see what coach Alvin Gentry has come up with for “Boogie” and “the Brow” after a summer to think it over. Rajon Rondo being out hurts their depth, but I have to be honest -- I don’t see how he and Jrue Holiday can possibly work together in a backcourt, and Holiday’s the guy the Pelicans just gave $125 million to, so he should probably have the ball in his hands every night, shouldn’t he? I like Ian Clark and Frank Jackson down there, but that untethered three spot burns a hole in the New Orleans sun. Well, at any rate, should be more fun than watching reruns of My Life on the D-List. 19. Favorite D-List Muppet? Beaker. 20. LeBron is leaving Cleveland again after this season, isn’t he? Everything points to yes, and a relocation to Los Angeles to play with the Lakers or Clippers next year – except … what if the Cavs win it all again this year? That’s not an impossible scenario -- in fact, it’s a pretty simple one to lay out: Cavs run roughshod through the Eastern Conference in the playoffs again, get through a good but hardly great Boston team in the conference Finals and set up a fourth straight encounter with Golden State. It’s easy now to say the Warriors dominated the Cavs in last season’s Finals -- but only if you ignore the fact that Cleveland led by six with just more than three minutes remaining in Game 3, only to see the Warriors score the game’s last 11 points to take a 3-0 lead instead of 2-1. And given that Cleveland vaporized the Warriors in Game 4, a 2-2 series would have meant the Cavs just needed to win once in Oracle -- which they’d done twice in the 2016 Finals -- to have a real shot at repeating. The point is, the difference between the teams isn’t as big as Draymond Green would have you believe; the Cavs have no fear of the Warriors, and Jae Crowder gives coach Tyronn Lue a viable on-ball defender for Kevin Durant, leaving LeBron free to play off of Green. And: that unprotected Nets pick, whether one or three or five or seven, is Cleveland’s best recruiting tool. LeBron knows everyone in college basketball and he can literally pick whoever he’d like to finish his career with in Cleveland before handing over the reins. I’m not saying he’s definitely staying, either -- only that his departure isn’t the lead pipe cinch some would have you believe. The season to come will have a lot to do with his next decision. 21. So, how will the playoffs go this season? Eastern Conference (seeds No. 1-8): Cleveland, Boston, Washington, Toronto, Milwaukee, Miami, Detroit, Philadelphia Western Conference (seeds No. 1-8): Golden State, Houston, Oklahoma City, Portland, San Antonio, Memphis, Utah, Minnesota Eastern Conference semifinalists: Cleveland, Boston, Washington, Milwaukee Western Conference semifinalists: Golden State, Houston, OKC, San Antonio Eastern Conference finals: Cleveland over Boston Western Conference finals: Golden State over OKC (you heard me) NBA Finals: Golden State over Cleveland (in seven games) 22. Tell me something crazy that’s going to happen this season that no one’s predicting! Giannis Antetokounmpo. NBA MVP, 2017-18. 23. Are you high? No, ma’am. 24. So, why 24 questions? As always, we start the season with 24 questions (or predictions, or issues, whatever) in honor of Danny Biasone, the late owner of the Syracuse Nationals, whose discovery in 1954 helped save the league. At that time, the NBA was in the midst of a literal slowdown, in large part by teams that were desperate to figure out some kind of way to stay competitive with George Mikan, the league’s first superstar big man, and his team, the Minneapolis Lakers. Teams would hold the ball for minutes at a time without shooting in an effort to shorten the game and give them a chance to beat Minneapolis late. But the end result was boring -- very boring -- basketball. At the owners’ meetings that year, Biasone came up with an idea. NBA games were 48 minutes long. Biasone figured out that in a normal game, one not waylaid by the slowdown tactics, about 120 shots -- 60 per team -- were taken. So, why not just divide the number of minutes in every game -- 2,880 -- by the number of shots in an average game -- 120 -- to come up with some kind of a time limit in which a team had to shoot. And thus, the 24-second shot clock (2,800/120) was born. With the implementation of the shot clock in the 1954-55 season, scoring went way up, as did the quality of play. Teams were now running up and down the floor in order to try and beat the shot clock, complementing the “fast break” game that many colleges had played for years. But the new style in the pros was immensely popular with fans. And it still is. Plus, there’s just something iconic about that clock counting down every 24 seconds. It’s unique to the NBA. Thus, we ask 24 questions, in honor of the guy who owned a bowling alley as well as the Nationals for much of his adult life, and probably enjoyed the bowling more. Longtime NBA reporter, columnist and Naismith Memorial Basketball Hall of Famer David Aldridge is an analyst for TNT. 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 NewsOct 17th, 2017

Justin Brownlee is moving on from "The Shot"

Brgy. Ginebra fans will never forget 'The Shot' obviously, after all, it ended the team's miserable eight-year drought without a championship in the PBA. However, as the Gin Kings prepare to defend that same title against Meralco in a Governors' Cup Finals rematch, the man responsible for 'The Shot' says he's trying his best to move on. Because fixating with the things that happened in the past might hamper the way things go in the present and in the future. 'I definitely remember it but I'm just trying to move on from it,' Brownlee said, talking about his booming three over Allen Durham in Game 6 of the 2016 Governors' Cup Finals that won the title for Ginebra. 'A lot of people still talk about it but this is a new year, new conference. Whatever we did last year, it doesn't matter in this time. I'm just trying to move forward from that. It was a great memory, nothing can take that away, but I'm just moving on,' he added. Already playing his third conference with the Gin Kings and making his second PBA Finals appearance, Brownlee added to his Ginebra legend as he led the barangay to a rousing Game 4 win over no. 2 seed TNT Sunday. Brownlee set a new PBA career high of 46 points, 28 in the second half, and hit another booming three in the fourth quarter that broke the series' final deadlock. 'I didn't know it was going to be that kind of night,' Brownlee said of his career outing. 'I did feel good [going in] but the team, they just gave me great confindence, keeping me aggressive and just telling me to close this thing out,' he added.   br /> --- Follow this writer on Twitter, @paullintag8 .....»»

Category: sportsSource:  abscbnRelated NewsOct 8th, 2017

ABL: DPoY Balkman on 7-5 Deguara: ‘I can’t wait to see him (again)’

STA. ROSA, LAGUNA – Alab Pilipinas dropped Game 2 of the 2017-2018 Asean Basketball League Finals at home to Mono Vampire. And just like everybody else, Filipino head coach Jimmy Alapag knew the biggest difference between the two teams. “[Sam] Deguara really hurt us tonight. A 30-20 game in a 40-minute game is a heck of a game,” he told reporters post-game. Deguara, Thailand’s 7-foot-5 reinforcement, towered above all of Renaldo Balkman, Lo Domingo, and JR Alabanza to pound in 30 points, 20 rebounds, and five blocks. It was also him who made good on the basket and bonus that proved to be the go-ahead basket for his team. “I thought they did a great job of finding him. We allowed him to establish himself in the pain and every time we did, he made us pay,” Alapag said. “We just gotta be better on Saturday.” Being better in Game 3 of the best-of-five series starts and ends with Balkman, who has done nothing but an admirable job of mixing it up with Deguara’s height and heft. And true to his self, the Filipino team’s reinforcement from Puerto Rico is only looking forward to having another crack at his latest challenge. “I can’t wait to see him on Saturday. He played a good game, that’s all I can say,” he said. He then continued, “But it’s all good, man. Let’s wait to see what happens in Game 3.” If needed, Balkman said he can go another full game without rest. “I’ll play another 40 minutes, that’s how I feel right now. It’s all good,” he said, after collecting 37 points, 12 rebounds, six assists, two blocks, and two steals while playing all 40 minutes of Game 2. Alapag knows his big man is only telling the truth. Asked about not resting Balkman, he answered, “He’s built for it. That’s the least of my concerns.” As always, Game 3 of the ABL Finals will still be LIVE and EXCLUSIVE on S+A, S+A HD, and livestream. --- Follow this writer on Twitter, @riegogogo......»»

Category: sportsSource:  abscbnRelated News3 hr. 4 min. ago

ABL: Alab has no answer for 7-5 Deguara as Mono evens Finals series

STA. ROSA, LAGUNA - Sam Deguara has been, literally, the biggest difference in the 2017-2018 Asean Basketball Finals. Fouling out in the endgame the last time around, the 7-foot-5 made sure to wreak havoc all game long in this one to tow Thailand’s Mono Vampire to a gritty 103-100 victory versus Alab Pilipinas on Wednesday at the Sta. Rosa Multi-Purpose Complex. Deguara towered above all of Renaldo Balkman, Lo Domingo, and JR Alabanza to pound in 30 points, 20 rebounds, and five blocks and ultimately lifted the Thais into evening the best-of-five series at 1-1. It was also the reinforcement from Malta who made good on the basket and bonus that broke off a tied tally of 98-all and built up a 101-98 advantage in his team’s favor with 1:10 remaining. Balkman came right back with a short stab in the next possession, but that would be the last bucket the Filipinos would hit as Ray Parks Jr. and Justin Brownlee botched their attempts in the dying moments. Deguara had backup as American import Mike Singletary and Filipino import Paul Zamar scored 26 and 12 points, respectively. Filipino-American Jason Brickman also masterfully quarterbacked their offense and totaled 15 points, 11 assists, six rebounds, and two steals. Now, both momentum and homecourt advantage are with Mono as the series swings to Bangkok. Nonetheless, the Philippines will go all out to overcome the odds. Freshly-crowned Defensive Player of the Year Balkman showed the way for Alab with 37 points, 12 rebounds, six assists, two blocks, and two steals while newly-minted Local MVP Parks Jr. contributed 21 markers, eight boards, four dimes, three pilfers, and two rejections. Brownlee got off to a strong start with 11 points in the first quarter, but only wound up with 14. He also battled an apparent leg injury that forced him to the bench near the end of the third quarter. He missed majority of the final frame and was clearly not 100 percent when he launched his triple tries in the last 15 seconds that would have forced overtime. —— Follow this writer on Twitter, @riegogogo......»»

Category: sportsSource:  abscbnRelated News15 hr. 24 min. ago