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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

Oh, how big have the Letran Knights become

HOW’D THEY DO LAST SEASON? 10-10 overall, fifth, lost to San Sebastian in battle for fourth-seed YES, THEY’RE STILL HERE: Jeo Ambohot, Jerrick Balanza, JP Calvo, Bong Quinto WELCOME TO THE FAMILY: EJ Agbong, Bonbon Batiller, Christian Fajarito, Larry Muyang, Fran Yu GOOD LUCK ON FUTURE ENDEAVORS: Rey Nambatac WHAT SHOULD WE EXPECT FROM LETRAN? Even before CSB opened eyes and became the trendy pick as the darkhorse in the oncoming NCAA Season 94, Letran was the league’s most underrated team since last year. With strong showings in several preseason leagues this year ranging from championships and playoff appearances, though, the Knights have already proven themselves to be more than a darkhorse. “’Di na kami pwede biruin ng teams na makakalaban namin.” – head coach Jeff Napa Letran will bank on the same core that got it one win short of the playoffs a season ago – only now, that same core is better than ever. Bong Quinto is the prototype point forward for modern basketball, JP Calvo is as steady and as reliable as they come, Jerrick Balanza looks like he has matured, and Jeo Ambohot has gone from two-way force to, well, Gilas cadet. “Yung mga leaders namin, nandyan pa rin like si Jerrick, si Bong, si JP, at si Ambohot.” – head coach Jeff Napa Yes, Letran lifer Rey Nambatac is no longer here, but replacing him will be a couple of capable wings in former University of the East stud Bonbon Batiller and ex-Adamson High School and Chiang Kai Shek do-it-all player EJ Agbong. However, the biggest – and we mean that literally – change for the Knights is their big, big frontline now composed of Ambohot, Larry Muyang, Christian Fajarito, and Christian Balagasay. None of those big men are shorter than 6-foot-4 and with the four of them taking turns manning the post, Letran’s size problem is now a thing of the past. “Last year talaga, masyaong nag-rely ako sa veterans e. Ngayon, ‘di na kailangang ganun masyado kasi yung mga bago namin, nagko-compliment sa kanila.” – head coach Jeff Napa WHO IS/ARE THE PLAYER/S TO WATCH OUT FOR FROM LETRAN? We can no longer call Letran a darkhorse, but what we can do is call Quinto a darkhorse for MVP. Mark my words, the graduating forward will be right there alongside CJ Perez and Prince Eze in putting up numbers for his team. Aside from Quinto, we will see that the Knights are now truly Jeff Napa’s team – meaning a team built on interior dominance and physical defense. Napa built up a UAAP Juniors dynasty in Nazareth School of National University by discovering and then developing bigs such as Mark Dyke and Justine Baltazar. In Quinto, Ambohot, and the rest of that big, big Letran frontline, he has the materials to do that in the NCAA Seniors. WHY SHOULD WE ROOT FOR LETRAN? It wasn’t that too long ago when Letran made a magical run all the way to a championship. In fact, that was just in 2015. That magical run can happen again for Intramuros, but only this time, the Knights will not be using size as their advantage instead of speed. WHERE WOULD LETRAN BE AT THE END OF NCAA SEASON 94? Book a playoff return for Letran. Book it. There’s even a possibility that they can creep into the Finals – if somehow, some way, they figure out either San Beda or LPU. “Very confident ako ngayon kasi last year, kulang talaga kami sa tao. Ngayon, naging maganda na yung composition ng team. That’s why magiging maganda ang performance namin ngayong taon.” – head coach Jeff Napa What’s certain is that the Knights complete the three surefire contenders for NCAA Season 94. WHEN IS LETRAN’S FIRST GAME IN NCAA SEASON 94? Letran unleashes its big bad lineup to the rest of the NCAA on July 10 at the Filoil Flying V Centre. First up for them will be rebuilding Emilio Aguinaldo College. As always, all of the #GalingNCAA will be on S+A, S+A HD, LIGA, LIGA HD, and livestream. --- Follow this writer on Twitter, @riegogogo......»»

Category: sportsSource:  abscbnRelated NewsJul 1st, 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

Golden State Warriors not just good, they re lucky too

By Shaun Powell, NBA.com LAS VEGAS -- In this town, fates and fortunes can turn drastically any day, hour or minute. A flip of the card, pull of the switch or roll of the dice can make or break souls. Which brings us to NBA Summer League, the Golden State Warriors and the field. The league is holding its annual gathering of executives, coaches and player hopefuls here, and 29 of the 30 NBA teams are wondering about their chances this upcoming season and why the Warriors are the Chosen Ones. Meanwhile, the Warriors, winners of three of the last four championships, are no doubt doing some head-scratching about how a key injury is once again helping their cause and making them stronger. This is about luck, then, and why those chasing the Warriors can’t seem to get a break, and how the Warriors managed to make themselves both good and lucky. There is considerable buzz among the basketball throng in Vegas regarding the Warriors, who are less than a month removed from a convincing sweep of LeBron James and the Cavaliers in the NBA Finals and how they won twice this summer: championship and then free agency. The collective moan from the rest of the NBA seems to say: What the hell? DeMarcus Cousins agreed to a one-year deal with the Warriors for the NBA equivalent of loose change in a sofa: $5.3 million. Just like that, the Warriors added a dominant and versatile center, maybe the best in the game, which made coach Steve Kerr wisecrack about how the Warriors “needed another All-Star.” This was made possible because of a quirky circumstance that caused Cousins a lot of pain, which translated into plenty of gain for Golden State. When Cousins tore his Achilles last spring with the Pelicans, his market value in free agency fell to the floor right along with him. Suddenly, the rest of the league, including the Pelicans, became wary about investing heavily in a hulking center who most certainly would need most of the 2018-19 season to rehab, without any guarantee Cousins would return to form once medically cleared to play. Cousins averaged 25.2 points, 12.9 rebounds, 5.4 assists and 1.6 blocks last season, perhaps the best of his career. He turns 28 in late August. Had he avoided injury, he would’ve been far too expensive for the Warriors to afford. They’re well over the luxury tax and are limited to exceptions, which allow them to sign players but only on the cheap. A healthy Cousins was destined to command in excess of $20 million a season, more had he stayed with the Pelicans. “If he’s healthy, he’s the best player at his position in the league,” said Pelicans coach Alvin Gentry. Well, when free agency opened, Cousins’ phone didn’t ring, and you probably know the story by now: He personally called the Warriors and signed up on the spot. His reasoning: If my only choice in this league is a short-term deal, might as well be with the team in the midst of a dynasty. The Warriors understandably were shocked, but why would they be? This isn’t the first time an injury went their way. Steph Curry’s chronic ankle sprains once threatened his career. He underwent surgery in the summer of 2011 and played only 26 games the next season. At that time, Curry was a good player, but far from the superstar who’d win a pair of MVPs and destroy three-point shooting records. So the Warriors were understandably worried, especially once Curry was due a contract extension. The two sides made a compromise that protected both parties: Four years, $44 million. The risk the Warriors took is Curry would continue having ankle issues and never see a full season. Curry’s risk: He’d remain healthy and see his production swell and spend most of that contract as a bargain. A bargain, for sure: At the end of that deal, Curry was the fourth-highest-paid player. On his own team. The upside for the Warriors and Curry: That contract helped them extend Draymond Green, Klay Thompson and Andre Iguodala and more importantly, add Kevin Durant. When you’re good and lucky -- remember, the Warriors won their first title over the Cavs when Cleveland was largely without Kyrie Irving and Kevin Love, and beat the Rockets last spring after Chris Paul suffered a series-ending hamstring injury -- then you get plenty of rings. The beauty of the Cousins situation is the Warriors don’t need him during the regular season. This was mentioned more than a few times by rival general managers and coaches in Vegas. Cousins’ rehab is expected to require another five or six months -- full recovery form Achilles surgery is usually a year -- yet there’s no rush. Golden State won 73 games a few years ago without him and won 58 games last season on cruise control. They can wait until next spring, where Cousins could return, say, in March and use the final few weeks as a warm-up for the playoffs. After using the likes of the plodding Zaza Pachulia and quirky JaVale McGee in the middle, the Warriors are legit at center. Cousins fits the Warriors’ style because he can shoot 3s and is a willing and efficient passer from the high and low post. “That’s really an area where they’ve struggled and been inconsistent,” said Gentry, a former Warriors assistant coach before taking the top job in New Orleans. “It’s going to be a position where they make an upgrade." Meanwhile, Houston lost Trevor Ariza and Luc Mbah a Moute, a pair of athletic swingmen, this summer from free agency and therefore aren’t a better team on paper than last season, although the Rockets might soon add Carmelo Anthony, for whatever that’s worth. The Lakers welcome LeBron, but they didn’t get Paul George, who stayed in Oklahoma City, and the idea of trading for Kawhi Leonard this season remains a fantasy, at least for now. Which means the Warriors are once again the odds on favorites across town in the Vegas casinos to sip champagne next June. “Hey, that’s the NBA,” said Gentry with a shrug. “It’s supposed to be that way. You’re supposed to put out the best team you can. It’s up to the rest of us to catch them. They’ve put together a great team, drafted great, and guys in free agency wanted to come there. That’s what it’s all about. We have to pick up our game, it’s not that they should say, 'Oh we’re too good, let’s give away players.’ We all have to find a way to catch them, not them coming back to us.” Damian Lillard, the star guard for the Trail Blazers, spoke for the field when he said: “It's just going to get tougher and tougher. It is what it's always been, but just a little tougher. But you know what? Once the season starts, we gotta go. Nobody’s got time to be out there, not having fun and being stressed and all that BS. We gotta find to make it happen.” Twenty-nine teams, and especially the contenders in the West, are at a disadvantage regarding the Warriors because of a lack of All-Stars; not only do the Warriors now have five, but they’re all in their prime years. It’s one thing to try to be as good as the Warriors. Nowadays, you must rise to their level of luck as well. Veteran NBA writer Shaun Powell has worked for newspapers and other publications for more than 25 years. You can e-mail him here or follow him on Twitter. The views on this page do not necessarily reflect the views of the NBA, its clubs or Turner Broadcasting. .....»»

Category: sportsSource:  abscbnRelated NewsJul 12th, 2018

PBA: Magnolia takes bittersweet win vs. SMB to the playoffs

Magnolia just beat defending champion San Miguel Beer and yet the Hotshots are stuck as the no. 7 seed in the 2018 PBA Commissioner's Cup Cup. It was quite a bittersweet Saturday for Magnolia. However, the sweetness of the win should overcome the bitterness of being a no. 7 seed as the Hotshots just did beat the reigning champions. Head coach Chito Victolero will take that as he now turns to prepare his team for a quarterfinal series against Alaska where the Aces are basically already up 1-0 in a best-of-3 series. "Very happy pa rin ako because it affords us momentum going to the playoffs," Victolero said. "Pag nanalo ka naman laging masaya eh. Di mo naman pwedeng sabihin na nanalo kami, di pa kami masaya," he added. Against the no. 2 Aces, Victolero says the Hotshots will just have to continue with their improving effort as they hope to avoid elimination. A two-game winning streak going to the playoffs should help with their confidence a little bit. "Against Alaska. They’re the No. 2 team. Obviously we’re the underdog. We just have to prepare hard. Good thing we have two days to prepare. Our game’s on Tuesday," Victlero said. "I think it’s going to be a hard game for us. But we will try to give our best effort, our best game sa laro na yon," he added.     --- Follow this writer on Twitter, @paullintag8.....»»

Category: sportsSource:  abscbnRelated NewsJul 7th, 2018

LeBron s free agency decision could swing NBA s balance of power

By Steve Aschburner, NBA.com CLEVELAND -- These combo coronation-funerals can be tricky. Imagine the crowning of a new monarch where the royal subjects couldn’t stop chattering about the freshly deposed or deceased predecessor. Where the traditional cry of continuity and succession, “The king is dead! Long live the king!” got flipped, with what was overshadowing what is. That’s pretty much how it went Friday night (Saturday, PHL time) at Quicken Loans Arena, with the Golden State Warriors’ latest NBA championship having to share the stage with speculation, instantly revved up, about LeBron James and the choice he’ll soon make about his next employer. The Warriors are the kings, claiming pro basketball’s throne yet again by completing a sweep of James’ Cleveland Cavaliers in the 2018 Finals. But of course, James is the King, and as so many of us learned in sophomore English – thanks, CliffsNotes! – “Uneasy lies the head (of those who fret and obsess about the future whereabouts of the NBA superstar) that wears a crown.” Long live the kings! The King is ... gone? There was so much energy before, during and after Game 4 Friday (Saturday, PHL time) poured into the last game/next game conjecture about James, the Cavaliers and seismic shifts in the league’s 2018-19 landscape that even the player’s surprise reveal near the end of the night – a bruised and bandaged right hand – couldn’t derail it. Turns out, as James ‘fessed up, the sore shooting paw was an injury he had been playing with ever since Game 1 in Oakland eight days earlier. He had “self-inflicted” it in a fit of pique when he smacked a whiteboard in the visitors’ dressing room at Oracle Arena after Cleveland’s overtime loss in the series-setter, an outcome driven at least in part by some teammates’ mistakes and an arcane wrinkle in the NBA’s replay rules regarding block/charge fouls. Despite the hordes of media people chronicling every waking detail of the Finals, James had kept the injury on the down-low (along with the possibility that J.R. Smith’s nickname amongst his Cavs teammates might be “whiteboard”). The cameras zoomed in and clicked in a paparazzi frenzy of motor drives every time James raised the hand, wrapped in black tape, above the table during his postgame podium remarks. Whether a legit Page-2-the-rest-of-the-story factor in the championship series or a too-late alibi, the contused hand wound up as a sidebar to where James plans to be using it when training camps open in a few months. As of Friday (Saturday, PHL time), it had been 95 months since “The Decision,” the 2010 announcement that James made in a tone-deaf vanity TV production that he was taking his talents from Cleveland to South Beach. Nearly 47 months had passed since he broke the news of his return in a Sports Illustrated ghost-written essay, envisioning much of what actually has unfolded in the four years since. Now savvy insiders and casual observers alike presume James will be on the move again, pushed to leave the franchise he has defined in an urgent search for more and better talent with which he can compete. As in, y’know, some horses, some horses, his kingdom for some horses. James’ free-agency process next month (he can opt out of a $35.6 million deal in the final season of his current contract) is expected to dictate the market of player movement this summer like an oversized domino. It easily could swing the balance of power, if not quite at Golden State’s lofty level then immediately below it. The monster he helped create Dr. Frankenstein eventually was done in by his macabre creation, and it can similarly be argued that James has no one but himself to blame for the predicament in which he again finds himself. He set in motion the machinery of the super team, after all, when he chose to join forces with Dwyane Wade and Chris Bosh in Miami eight years ago. Oh sure, the Boston Celtics in 2007-08 got there first by luring Kevin Garnett and Ray Allen to join Paul Pierce, but that was about knitting together three stars, all age 30 or older, for what would be their last best chance to win in an extremely limited run. That group won one title, went to two Finals in three seasons and was done, Allen leaving to join James & Co. with the Heat while Garnett and Pierce morphed into trade chips for Boston POBO Danny Ainge. When James, Wade and Bosh teamed up, they were in their basketball primes and their initial giddy boasts of “not four, not five, not six” championships turned off fans league-wide as much for its portent as its pretension. That crew went 4-for-4 in Finals, winning two rings before James, nudged by staleness and chafing as well as his grand plan for northeast Ohio, went home. From there, a line can be drawn through the ill-conceived 2012-13 L.A. Lakers of Kobe Bryant, Steve Nash, Dwight Howard and Pau Gasol all the way to this season’s Houston Rockets of James Harden and Chris Paul and the talent-gorged Golden State roster. James was the centerpiece as Cleveland replicated the Big Three concept around him with Kyrie Irving and Kevin Love, two younger, playoff-stymied All-Stars. The new-look Cavaliers went to the Finals in their first season together and clambered atop the basketball world to win the franchise’s first NBA title by the end of the second, becoming the first team in league history to do so after digging a 1-3 hole in the best-of-seven series. In that moment, regardless of the two Finals trips that followed, James’ bill was stamped: Paid In Full. Misguided fans might burn his jersey if he leaves again, but James burned the mortgage after that Game 7 in Oakland in 2016 as far as any remaining obligation to fulfill. “I came back because I felt like I had some unfinished business,” he said after elimination Friday (Saturday, PHL time). “To be able to be a part of a championship team two years ago with the team that we had and in the fashion that we had is something I will always remember. Honestly, I think we'll all remember that. It ended a drought for Cleveland of 50-plus years, so I think we'll all remember that in sports history.” James added: “When you have a goal and you're able to accomplish that goal, it actually – for me personally – made me even more hungry to continue to try to win championships. And I still want to be in championship mode. I think I've shown this year why I will still continue to be in championship mode.” In other words, James intends to sustain his high level of performance. He expects to win. And he presumably will do whatever – and go wherever – is necessary to achieve that. There’s no perfect fit So what does that mean for the NBA’s best player (never mind what the annual MVP balloting says in any given season)? It means this: compromise. There is no ideal situation, certainly no easy answer to the guesswork surrounding James’ looming free agency. He could transform any of the 30 teams, but not without some trade-offs for him, for them or for both. Most of them won’t be in play. Teams in markets such as Indianapolis, Milwaukee, Portland, Sacramento, the Twin Cities and so on can’t scratch James’ itches for either championship-worthy depth chart or spotlight. New York and Chicago, among the biggies, are out of synch with his timeline. Toronto? No way James is resettling his brand north of the border, and given his stated desire for teammates who have not just sufficient basketball skills but also mental toughness, well, the Raptors teams he and the Cavs have dominated do not qualify. The Boston club that stretched Cleveland to seven games in the Eastern Conference finals is built for the long haul and would have to surrender much of that to adjust to James’ career calendar. There’s a little Kyrie problem lurking there and, truth be told, the Celtics look to be on their way and are doing just fine without the 33-year-old heading, one of these years, toward decline. At some point in each of the 2018 Finals’ final three days, James spoke admiringly of the Warriors and the San Antonio Spurs title teams that blocked his path whether in Miami or Cleveland. He was at it again even as the Warriors were dousing the opponent’s locker room at The Q with Moet champagne. “I made the move in 2010 to be able to play with talented players, cerebral players that you could see things that happen before they happened on the floor,” James said. “When you feel like you're really good at your craft, I think it's always great to be able to be around other great minds as well and other great ballplayers. “That's never changed. Even when I came here in '14, I wanted to try to surround myself and surround this franchise with great minds and guys that actually think outside the box of the game and not just go out and play it.” Where might James find that now or recruit that swiftly? Hard to say. There are asterisks and “buts” everywhere: * If he were to sign with the Houston Rockets, James would be hitching his star to Chris Paul, a buddy with an injury history that’s about the mirror opposite of his own. He would be teaming up with an elite coach in Mike D’Antoni, something he’s never had (though Miami’s Erik Spoelstra was just young and unproven, on his way to big things). But it also would require another big ask of James Harden, who had to adapt last summer to Paul’s arrival and need for the ball. * If James chooses the Lakers, he has the chance to hit reset with the league’s glitziest franchise, in a market that can meet his every off-court wish and where he and his family already own one or more ultra-comfortable homes. The Lakers have young talent to help James transition into a lower-usage veteran’s role, favored status as a destination team for other top free agents and the salary-cap space to get it done this summer with the likes of Paul George or his pal Paul. But that roster might not be capable of insta-contending, which could burn a season or two when James’ clock most definitely is clicking. * If it’s San Antonio, James could link up with the elite coach in Gregg Popovich, where the winning culture is in the DNA rather than some acquired taste. The Spurs have talent, particularly if Kawhi Leonard finds happiness again there. But they might not have enough to rattle the Warriors’ cage. And for all their professed admiration, James and Popovich might both fare better by keeping their relationship long-distance vs. the 82-game grind. * If it’s Golden State? Perish the thought. The NBA might have to board up itself if competitive balance were capsized to that extent. And as Draymond Green shrewdly noted on Thursday (Friday, PHL time), if James climbed aboard, it likely would require him and several other Golden State teammates to be dispatched to parts unknown. * If James prefers to stay East, where the winning comes easier, he could pick Philadelphia. The Sixers have two foundational young stars at positions that matter most, center Joel Embiid and point guard Ben Simmons. But Simmons is a non-shooter at the moment, the antithesis of what makes a great complementary LeBron teammate. As for Embiid, James never has had to play off of and service a top center. And Philly might feel like a basketball-only move, with the hungriest and most demanding of any new fan base he would embrace. * If it’s Miami – wait, could it be Miami? Could he go second-home again? The Heat always strive to be competitive and offer a talent base deep enough for the East and lots of familiarity. But they also have players such as Hassan Whiteside and Dion Waiters whose mental approaches don’t seem to fit the model James was cooing about in Golden State and with the Tim Duncan-era Spurs. * That brings us to Cleveland, where it’s possible James might choose to remain. Staying with the Cavaliers, after leading them to four Finals and that heady 2016 title, would be the easiest choice as far as pressure to win. He owes these fans nothing anymore – in fact, had the bargain been offered to them in 2010 (“LeBron will leave and win elsewhere for four years, but will come back and deliver a championship and four Finals trips”), most would have grabbed it. Here, James and the fans who have watched him even through the interruption develop from ridiculously touted high schooler to one of the world’s most famous athletes could grow older together. Then he could partner up and buy the team from owner Dan Gilbert for a long-term future. Certainly, staying has a certain place in his and the rest of the James clan’s hearts. “The one thing that I've always done is considered, obviously, my family,” he said at series end Friday (Saturday, PHL time). “Understanding especially where my boys are at this point in their age. They were a lot younger the last time I made a decision like this four years ago. I've got a teenage boy, a pre-teen and a little girl that wasn't around as well. So sitting down and considering everything, my family is a huge part of whatever I'll decide to do in my career, and it will continue to be that.” It’s worth noting that as James contemplates his options as a modern pursuer of championship excellence, the prospect of him moving again qualifies at some level as a failure. Not just by the support system in Cleveland, where he and Gilbert have their friction and James gets snidely mentioned as the team’s unofficial GM and head coach, but by him too. He’s the one who went off to seek his “college education” in south Florida in what it takes to win, whether on the court, in the front office or in and around the seams 365 days a year, straight out of the Pat Riley handbook. The teams about which James talks so glowingly in Oakland now and in San Antonio then have cultures he covets, stability up and down the flowchart he craves. In Cleveland, for a variety of reasons, his team has been incapable of establishing and maintaining that to a lasting degree. He is part of that missed opportunity and he has to own it, no matter if he goes or stays. James is inseparable from the dynamic of the Cavaliers’ ever-changing and often melodramatic roster maneuvers. Spending big, swapping out draft picks to import current stars and supporting players, and overvaluing secondary guys like Smith and Tristan Thompson are risks the Warriors and the Spurs largely avoided thanks to shrew drafting and laudable continuity. The Cavs’ scrap heap, by contrast, is high with traded picks, scuttled plans, panic deals, short-term patches and folks such as former coach David Blatt and former GM David Griffin. And maybe James could have nurtured a little better relationship with All-Star point guard and 2016 title sidekick Kyrie Irving, enough to have kept Irving from bailing on them all with his trade demand last summer. Now he’s on the verge of casting about again, prioritizing what matters most for however long he continues to play. James is more at peace with it than he was before, particularly in 2010, and surely can enjoy the leverage he wields and the riches it delivers. But there is a burden there as well, one that could be seen as completing a circle. So many of the NBA’s greatest stars have been stuck playing and living in the Age of LeBron, right? Their paths to the Finals blocked, on one whole side of the league, by him and his? Well, LeBron James is stuck now in the Era of the Warriors, freshly swept and anxious to close the gap. What goes around comes around, though the key more pressing of the big W’s now is, where? Steve Aschburner has written about the NBA since 1980. You can e-mail him here, find his archive here and follow him on Twitter. The views on this page do not necessarily reflect the views of the NBA, its clubs or Turner Broadcasting......»»

Category: sportsSource:  abscbnRelated NewsJun 11th, 2018

Donovan Mitchell hits his own postseason bump

By Shaun Powell, NBA.com SALT LAKE CITY -- He saved one of his best performances for the morning of a playoff game, when Donovan Mitchell once again showed the poise and maturity that’s taken him places where few rookies in history have earned the right to travel. Hours after Ben Simmons, the unapologetic and self-proclaimed best rookie in the NBA, laid an egg against the Celtics by scoring one measly point and instantly became a social media punch-line, Mitchell refused to pile on his rival. This took guts, especially after Simmons dismissed any comparisons between himself and Mitchell weeks ago, but Mitchell went high road and had a veteran’s response anyway: “The biggest thing that people don’t understand is that every player has that night. You look at LeBron against the Mavs in the Finals … there was one year when I was watching Harden in a playoff game against the Warriors and he had like 10 turnovers. So it happens to everybody.” Yes, to everybody … and how prophetic, even to Mitchell, who rose to stardom by chopping down Russell Westbrook and Paul George in the first round, only to come close to pulling a Simmons in Game 3 of the Jazz-Rockets series Friday night (Saturday, PHL time). “I didn’t really do much as a whole,” he said. He struggled. He wasn’t a factor. This wasn’t the rookie who pulled the Jazz to the playoffs by commanding double teams and dunking with force and dropping shots from deep. This was different. This was … one of those games Mitchell spoke about. He missed 10 of his first 11 shots. His 10 points were his lowest for a game since Feb. 7 (Feb. 8, PHL time) when he scored seven against the Grizzlies. “I had terrible shots,” he said. “I don’t know how many shots I missed, but the shots I missed were terrible shots that weren’t good looks. I can’t do that.” Therefore, there were two factors which made for a strange and non-typical night for the Jazz. His disappearance, along with Utah’s No. 1-rated defense coughing up 39 points in the first quarter, gave the Rockets a breezy 113-92 victory and a 2-1 series lead. The Rockets finally broke 110 points for the first time this series, no major surprise given James Harden and Chris Paul and their three-point mentality. That’s too much fire to keep contained for very long. And whenever the Rockets break loose as they did, it puts massive pressure on the Jazz to keep up, which they couldn’t, if only because they’re not built for engaging in a scoring contest with most teams, let alone the Rockets. It’s the surest way to a quick basketball death. “For us,” said Jazz coach Quin Snyder, “the margin for error is not so great when you play a team [like Houston].” Just as alarming is Mitchell’s slow fade this series. He’s shooting 33 percent overall and 24 percent from deep, and this is sudden and unexpected, even against the No. 1 seed in the West. Maybe not for most rookies. But Mitchell raised the bar for himself after a strong regular season and a ballistic effort against Oklahoma City where he averaged 28.5 points and 7.2 rebounds and never once looked overmatched or uncomfortable in his first taste of the playoffs and high stakes. And isn’t that the ultimate sign of respect for a player, when a poor game, or a small string of them, are met with a surprise reaction? Mitchell has made himself into that special player already. He’s the rare dunk contest winner who’s just as dangerous from deep, a one-two combo that won over his Jazz teammates quickly and made him the club’s No. 1 option almost from the jump. Mitchell’s money move is a rapid burst off the dribble into the lane, where he’ll then execute a smooth spin move garnished with a gentle finger roll for the basket. OKC still has flesh wounds from that move. He delivered constantly in the final few months when the Jazz became one of the top three teams in the NBA, at least record-wise, and soared up the West standings. According to the Elias Sports Bureau, Wilt Chamberlain and Kareem Abdul-Jabbar are the only rookies to hit 200 points faster in the playoffs than Mitchell, who did so in eight games. But those shots haven’t fallen with regularity here in the second round, and this was punctuated in Game 3. Either the Rockets have wised up -- which usually happens when a team sees the same player every other night in a playoff series -- or the rookie wall is playing a cruel trick on Mitchell by rising up in May. Snyder is betting on the former: “They shaded Donovan to his left hand and he has to adjust to that, and I think he can.” Mitchell doesn’t really have a choice if the Jazz plan to extend this series. There’s nobody riding shotgun on Utah that frightens anyone; Joe Ingles dropped 27 on Houston in Game 2 but followed up with six. Other than Mitchell, there’s no consistency, nobody who’s a big threat, and when others turn chilly, Mitchell is often forced to press, which he did Friday (Saturday, PHL time). Chris Paul said: “We just tried to make it tough on him. Donovan’s been great all year but Trevor [Ariza] is good defensively and Clint [Capela] is challenging him at the rim. He’s a tough cover and it’s hard to stop him with one person. Guys have to do it collectively. We try to make him feel crowded.” Which means the Rockets will take their chances on Ingles and Derrick Favors and Rudy Gobert beating them, a wise strategy. Mitchell’s load is heavier than most rookies, even more burdensome than Simmons’ in Philly from a scoring standpoint. Simmons has Joel Embiid and JJ Redick. Mitchell must be the lead singer for Utah, or else. Those are the odds, anyway, and the Rockets exploited that Friday. “I think the biggest thing is, my mindset has always been the aggressor,” Mitchell said. “Now they’re playing me in a certain way where I’ve got to make certain passes that I just didn’t make the entire game. That will be what I’ll take away the most. It’s like I would’ve been better off not showing up, and that’s what I did. I didn’t show up for my teammates. I’ll fix it.” That’s some pretty strong accountability there. However, Mitchell can’t do it all against a team like Houston, even though he’s done exactly that up to this point of the season. He may not be a “rookie” anymore, or play like one, but he’s human. Much like Simmons and everyone else. Here’s more of what Mitchell said about Simmons: "It just so happens that it happened to him, and I expect him to respond back. He’s a good player. Good players respond back, and it's all about the response. It's a testament to his character. But it happens. He can't play great every night. It's not as easy as some people think.” No, it isn’t, and the league’s showpiece rookies discovered the hard way, on back-to-back nights, here in the playoffs where rookies don’t normally shine or at least for long before they’re figured out. Yet, as Mitchell said: It’s all about the response. Game 4 is Sunday (Monday, PHL time), a day for atonement. Veteran NBA writer Shaun Powell has worked for newspapers and other publications for more than 25 years. You can e-mail him here or follow him on Twitter. The views on this page do not necessarily reflect the views of the NBA, its clubs or Turner Broadcasting. .....»»

Category: sportsSource:  abscbnRelated NewsMay 5th, 2018

ABL: Paul Zamar hit a dagger right through the hearts of Filipinos

BANGKOK, THAILAND – As if the 2017-2018 Asean Basketball League Finals needed even more of it, Ray Parks Jr. and Paul Zamar have even more evidence to prove just how equally matched Alab Pilipinas and Mono Vampire are. In Game 4 on Saturday, Zamar swished a floater over the outstretched arms of Parks Jr. to put out the fire in Alab’s comeback and push Mono to an 88-83 win. This, coming from two days earlier when Parks Jr. hit a fadeaway jumper over the outstretched arms of Zamar to keep Mono at bay and claim for Alab a 99-93 win. Filipino head coach Jimmy Alapag could only marvel at the parallelism of those shots. “Down the stretch, Zamar hit a big one-legged shot similar to Ray’s the other night. That was a big shot,” he told reporters. For Zamar, his clutch shot wasn’t answer to Parks Jr.’s clutch shot. “I didn’t look at it as redemption. I looked at is as survival because our season was on the line,” he said. Indeed, the Thais needed to win Game 4 to level the best-of-five championship series at 2-2 and schedule a winner-take-all Game 5. Good thing then that their Filipino import came through with, in his own eyes, one of the biggest shots of his career. “Coach was stressing before the game that it’s not gonna be easy so we have to find other ways to win. We pushed especially in the end when we needed it the most the most,” he said. In the end, staying true to how he has long known to be, Zamar remained modest and deflected all credit to his teammates. “That clutch shot, it’s team effort that gave me the opportunity. We were trading blows with them (Alab) and I made it,” he said. He then continued, “I’m thankful and relieved I made it.” Zamar and Mono Vampire hope for the same result when they travel to the Philippines for Game 5 on Wednesday at the Sta. Rosa Multi-Purpose Complex in Laguna. That final showdown of the season tips off at 8:00 PM and will be on S+A, S+A HD, and livestream. --- Follow this writer on Twitter, @riegogogo......»»

Category: sportsSource:  abscbnRelated NewsApr 30th, 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