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Warriors injuries create opening with Finals in balance

By Shaun Powell, NBA.com OAKLAND, Calif. — From now until further notice, each game of the 2019 NBA Finals will be largely influenced not by a go-ahead basket or a big stop or a rally-induced comeback, but a hot-off-the-press medical update prior to tipoff. Is Klay Thompson's tweaky hamstring a go? Will this be the day Kevin Durant finally shakes that lingering calf strain and suits up? The hints and subtle signs seem to point toward the positive for Golden State. Thompson was a late scratch Wednesday night (Thursday, PHL time) because the Warriors -- with a mixture of confidence and arrogance and concern -- felt the guard missing Game 3 was perhaps best for his recovery without proving deadly in the long run. And as for Durant, he’s still “ramping up” his workouts, in the description of coach Steve Kerr, and so his status has been upgraded to "stay tuned." It has become must-watch after a 123-109 loss. Yet if the answer is negative to all of the above, the next entry on the medical report might be the grim health of the dynasty built by these two-time defending champions. Their still-under-construction monument now teeters, prone to a nudge from Toronto. The Warriors find themselves down 2-1 to the Raptors, lacking any guarantee they’ll see two of their three leading scorers back in the lineup Friday (Saturday, PHL time) for Game 4 ... or for however long this series lasts. Thompson joined Durant on the sideline, and the Raptors (as could be anticipated) pounced on the gift to seize control of the series. It was a game the Raptors had to win, and they did. The production came from multiple players, with Kyle Lowry finally making an imprint on this series and Danny Green rediscovering his long-lost three-point touch. Meanwhile, the Warriors consisted of Steph Curry and not much else. The two-time Kia MVP dazzled and fought through traps and triple-teams all night to drop a career-high 47 points, some of it on shot-making wizardry. But the short-handed Warriors were doomed when Draymond Green and DeMarcus Cousins in particular were underwhelming on a night they needed to be stellar for Golden State to have a chance. As a result, the atmosphere inside Oracle Arena was flatter than most of the shots taken by Curry's teammates, and this was partly due to the introduction of the starting lineups, when Thompson’s name wasn’t announced. The fans knew then, officially, that their eyes and the home team were in for a long night. While the Warriors fought, scrappy doesn’t win games at this point in the postseason, not when the other team is good and opportunistic. Playing in a hostile building for the first time in the Finals, the Raptors made a collective decision to greet fire with fire. Or, as they wrote on the blackboard inside the visitor’s locker room: Let It Rip. “I think we all kind of followed that advice,” said Danny Green. “We hadn’t really had a good team shooting night and I knew we were due.” For Toronto, it wasn’t just that they won, but that they did so with their most impressive outing in the series. And now, the question for the Raptors is this: Will their inconsistent players use this outing to turn the corner and push the Warriors, even if Thompson and/or Durant return? This is aimed, first and foremost, at Lowry. He took the “let it rip” plea personally. Entering this game, he had six baskets total in this series and at times suffered defensively. Challenged by a pregame talk from coach Nick Nurse, Lowry embraced his inner pit bull and was relentless all night. The All-Star point guard took 16 shots, making eight, for 23 points and nine assists while making his presence felt for the first time this Finals. “For me, it was just not being so passive and trying to get everyone else involved and get myself going and let everyone else feed off that,” Lowry said. He and Green re-introduced the three-pointer to the Raptors’ offense. The two shot 11-for-19 and repeatedly stole whatever momentum Golden State could generate by responding with long-distance daggers that forced fans to slump back into their seats. This from the same player who had five total three's in his previous five playoff games, ruining more than a handful of runs with momentum-deflating misses. There’s no other way to describe the last three weeks of Green’s postseason shooting but dreadful. He has only one job: Stand in the corner and shoot open 3s. He’s made a career of that. So what do the Raptors make of Green shooting 6-of-10 from deep Wednesday (Thursday, PHL time)? In the short term, it helped win Game 3. In the big picture, will this confidence carry over from one night to another, or does it depend on whether Green hits his first few? Nurse said: “Danny’s buckets boosted our whole team’s confidence because we were used to relying on those most of the year.” With better production from players who had been mostly missing, the Raptors had the balance needed to deliver their highest-scoring and most efficient (52 percent shooting) contest of the series. Green and Lowry joined Kawhi Leonard (30 points) and Pascal Siakam (18) and Marc Gasol (17) to take turns pummeling the Warriors from all different directions and manners. One reason for this was Thompson’s absence. Not only is he a proven outside shooter, but his defense is top-notch as well. You could even argue that Thompson’s missing defense was just as costly as his jumper. Yet the 109 points Golden State did manage were mainly because of Curry providing nearly half the offense. Given the circumstances of being without Thompson and Durant, and the constant pressing by Toronto whenever he had the ball, this was Curry’s finest post-season effort. His shooting was superb all across the floor, making three's (six) and free throws (13-14) and in general (14-31). “It’s the Finals,” Curry said. “You give everything you’ve got, sacrifice your body when you have the opportunity. Just competitiveness and trying to play until the buzzer.” “He does things that honestly I don’t think anyone has done before," Kerr added. "The way he plays the game, the way he shoots and the combination of his ball-handling, it’s incredible to watch.” If only he had someone riding shotgun. Cousins was sloppy on both ends, with three turnovers and one basket, and a step slow on defense against Gasol. This came one game after he seemingly regained his legs and confidence to gave Golden State a much-needed lift. Green’s continued recklessness was mystifying; he often made questionable decisions as a playmaker, suffered four turnovers and once again struggled to contain Siakam. The Warriors needed Green’s best, given their missing parts, and received something less. “We’ve got to be more solid with the ball and it starts with me,” he said. “I’ve had a bunch of turnovers in every game of this series. I think if I played better with the night (Curry) had, we would have won.” And so the Warriors, while talking bravely about their next-man-up mentality and embracing their “Strength in Numbers” slogan, must realize, deep down, that preventing the Raptors from winning two more games with a handicapped team might be difficult, if not impossible. Keep in mind that Golden State hasn’t sparkled for four quarters since the first game of the Western Conference finals. The last three games of that series, and the first three of the NBA Finals, the Warriors trailed by double digits. Thompson has an off day and Friday's (Saturday, PHL time) pregame period for therapy on his hamstring, although such strains are unpredictable and tricky. Will he be able to cut and fight through screens and be bouncy for 35-plus minutes through the intensity of an NBA Finals game, or will the injury restrict him and cause Kerr to seek a healthier, yet less productive replacement? “The whole point was to not risk a bigger injury that would keep him out the rest of the series,” said Kerr, explaining a decision made in consultation with the team doctors. “I feel very comfortable with it. I never would have forgiven myself if I played him and he had gotten hurt. So you live with the decision you made. The good thing is Klay has done well the last two days; hopefully he’ll be out there Friday.” Then there’s Durant, who last played May 8 (May 9, PHL time). After doing nothing but individual drills the last few days, he’ll go through a more normal practice session that will be simulated with the help of some assistant coaches and bench players. They'll see how Durant holds up. But that won’t match the stress level of a real game. And even if Durant gets clearance for Game 4, he hasn’t played in roughly a month. What about his timing? His wind? His touch? His ability to bring the same energy on defense? All legit questions and concerns for the Warriors -- until they’re not, whenever that is. “No one cares if guys are hurt,” Green said. “Everyone wants to see us lose anyway. So I’m sure people are happy they’re hurt.” Chances are that basketball fans, even if they’re against the Warriors, want to see stars on the floor this time of year. That’s what the NBA Finals is always about: Premium players doing premium things, or failing to do so, and letting the championship odds rise or fall on their performances. This year’s Finals have been denied one star for every game, and an additional star for one game. The battle with star attrition finally cost the Warriors a postseason loss, and at the worst possible time. The flow of the remainder of the NBA Finals, then, could rest with aching tendons and muscles and the recovery powers of those who own them. “We’re missing 50 points with KD and Klay, but we’ll adjust,” said a confident Curry. “It’s a long series, you know. It’s going to be fun for us.” The next Warriors medical update will arrive Thursday afternoon (Friday, PHL time). And another one Friday (Saturday, PHL time) just prior to tipoff. All along, the Warriors have led everyone to believe that it’s only a matter of time before they’re fully healthy. But will it be in time? And even then, will it be enough against a Toronto team suddenly thinking big? Shaun Powell has covered the NBA for more than 25 years. You can e-mail him here, find his archive here, and follow him on Twitter. The views on this page do not necessarily reflect the views of the NBA, its clubs or Turner Broadcasting. .....»»

Category: sportsSource:  abscbnRelated NewsJun 6th, 2019

Cantlay s past shows why the future of golf is promising

By Doug Ferguson, Associated Press DUBLIN, Ohio (AP) — To the victor go the social media requests. This proved far more difficult for Patrick Cantlay than his 64 at Muirfield Village, the lowest final round by a winner in 44 years of the Memorial and a performance that suggested his move to No. 8 in the world was about more than any mathematical formula. Cantlay looked at the phone as the PGA Tour social media team tried to explain what it wanted — a short video saying what this victory meant to him. He stretched his arm and struggled to get the right angle while still being able to start the video. Finally, a tour employee held it for him. Cantlay smiled and said all the right things. "First selfie?" someone cracked as he walked off the stage. Cantlay rolled his eyes. He doesn't do social media. Cantlay appears to be anti-social on the golf course, which is misleading. In the absence of cameras and microphones, the 27-year-old from California is smart, honest and insightful with an occasional needle. On the golf course, he has a cold focus with no apologies. He knows how he comes across because when he arrived at Muirfield Village on Sunday, someone jokingly said, "It can't be that bad, can it?" Cantlay could easily fit the description of an old soul on young shoulders — except for his back. It was a stress fracture in his back that kept him out of golf for the better part of three years — two straight years without playing one tournament — and kept him from the pace set by others from his own age group. Jordan Spieth saw it coming. Neither of them had PGA Tour status when Spieth and Cantlay were paired together in the opening two rounds of the 2013 Puerto Rico Open. Spieth got him by one shot each round and went on to tie for second, the important step that led to a PGA Tour card — and victory — later that year. Cantlay, who had won the week before in Colombia on the Web.com Tour, was two months away from one swing that nearly ended his career, a pain he described as a knife in his back. That was the start of back trouble so severe there was no guarantee he would ever return. He was 20 when he turned pro. He was 25 for his official rookie season in 2017 on the PGA Tour. Trying to manage his schedule after not having competed for two straight years, Cantlay played 11 times and still made it to the Tour Championship. "If he had the full year this year, I would imagine he'd have been on the Presidents Cup team, no question," Spieth said at the TPC Boston that year. "He's extremely talented, and he's going to work his way up into the top 10 in the world, in my opinion." And here he is. Predictions are never easy in golf — Cantlay knows that better than anyone — and so where he goes remains a work in progress. It's where he has been that explains why his victory Sunday got so much attention, even if it wasn't worthy of the front of sports pages. Anyone who saw Cantlay play in Ohio eight years ago would have expected a performance like this. His time at Muirfield Village was short. Cantlay received the Jack Nicklaus Award as the best player in college — as a freshman at UCLA — and posed for photos with Nicklaus, then got ready for U.S. Open qualifying at the sectional site filled with PGA Tour players. Cantlay was the only amateur to get one of the 16 spots. Two weeks later, he was low amateur in the 2011 U.S. Open at Congressional, his first tournament against the best in the world. The following week, he set a PGA Tour record for amateurs with a 60 in the second round of the Travelers Championship. He was low amateur at the Masters in 2012. He made the cut at the U.S. Open again at Olympic Club (Spieth was low amateur that year). Much like Spieth, he had a knack for delivering. It was a tournament Cantlay did not win that might be the most revealing. After the stabbing pain he felt at Colonial in 2013, he didn't play for three months as his status on the Web.com Tour money list kept dropping. Cantlay tried to play two more events to stay in the top 25 to earn a PGA Tour card and missed the cut in both, finishing 29th. His last chance was a four-tournament series with a special money list. Cantlay played the first one and finished one shot behind Trevor Immelman. It was enough to get his card, and then he couldn't play again for nearly nine months. Cantlay has been through a lot, but he is still relatively new considering he had to start over. "It really is my third year on tour," he said. "It's just taken me seven years to do it." He ended that first full year with a victory in Las Vegas, and Cantlay was mildly irritated that more wins didn't follow. "Being out for so long and to come back and play really well and win within a year ... I didn't think it would take me this long," he said. "But I've played a lot of really good golf, a lot of really solid golf. And so I think I was closer than it seems. So maybe this one will do it.".....»»

Category: sportsSource:  abscbnRelated NewsJun 5th, 2019

UAAP Season 81: Sobra sa ini-expect – Miguel on NU’s campaign

National University head coach Norman Miguel gave a good assessment of his team as the Lady Bulldogs overachieved in a very challenging season for the rookie-laden squad. The mentor lauded his squad’s resiliency and gallant stand in UAAP Season 81 women’ volleyball tournament despite the adversities NU faced throughout the tournament. “Para sa amin malaking achievement na ang four wins,” said Miguel after NU finished the season with a 4-10 win-loss record.  “Para sa akin sobra ito sa ini-expect,” added Miguel, whose squad closed their campaign with a 25-27, 17-25, 25-20, 16-25, loss to semifinals-bound University of Sto. Tomas. Coming into the season, the Lady Bulldogs, who saw the exit of Jaja Santiago and Aiko Urdas, made a coaching change just two months before the start of the tournament as NU parted ways with Babes Castillo last December and was replaced by Miguel. The Lady Bulldogs also lost their veteran core with Jasmine Nabor, Jorelle Singh and Roma Doromal skipping the season for personal reasons while middle Risa Sato was deemed ineligible to play because of academic deficiencies.       It left Miguel with only a handful of players led by veterans Joni Chavez, Audrey Paran and graduating Roselyn Doria and rookies Princess Robles, Ivy Lacsina, libero Jennifer Nierva and setter Joyme Cagande. Fate played a cruel joke on the Lady Bulldogs as Cagande sustained a season-ending knee injury in NU’s debut game against Far Eastern University.      “Bago pa lang mag-start ‘yung season alam naman namin composition ng team na puro rookies and then Risa Sato wasn’t able to play then Joyme got injured,” said Miguel. “Maski di pa nangyayari injury ni Joyme, nag-uusap kami ng coaching staff na di kami nagi-expect na we will be in the Final Four,” he added. “Actually, to be honest, iniisip namin nina coach Reg (Diego), wag lang kaming winless in two rounds. Yun lang ang para sa amin basta ito muna ang mangyari, basta di mangyari na 0-0 sa two rounds because of the composition of the team compared sa other teams na competitive sila sa lineup nila.” After losing their opening game and Cagande out for the season, NU converted Chavez from libero to setter and tasted victory at the expense of University of the East.    “And it happened. Nu’ng nagkaron na kami ng first win sobrang tumaas yung momentum na kaya pala ma-increase namin yung ano nu’ng game namin and baka madagdagan ang wins namin,” said Miguel. The Lady Bulldogs then tripped University of the Philippines for a two-win first round run. NU had a string of misfortunes to open the second round before scoring a win over its first round tormentor Adamson. Then came the biggest win of the Lady Bulldogs when NU showed UP the exit door in the race for the Final Four that completed the young team’s domination of the Lady Maroons, who coming into the season were one of the title contenders following their pair of offseason championships. “Alam mo sa totoo lang itong team namin, we all have the reasons para gumive up. Unang una panglimang coach na nila ako, panglima o pang-apat? O whatever. Tapos may na-injure, ineligible to play, merong mga injuries during training pa, during the game. Ang dami tapos from 11 naging 10 naging 9. Di ba ang daming reason para gumive up? Pero hindi,” he said. “Eto kami nagsama-sama, nag-stay put.” “Those are the things that we have to be thankful for na marami kaming natutunan sa journey na ito,” Miguel said.   --- Follow this writer on Twitter, @fromtheriles  .....»»

Category: sportsSource:  abscbnRelated NewsApr 27th, 2019

Jeron Teng explodes for 42 in his D-League debut

Jeron Teng's PBA D-League stint is off to a promising start. Suiting up for AMA Online Education, the former two-time UAAP Finals MVP lived up to his billing as a top pick and powered the Titans to a 101-95 win over Batangas in the Aspirants' Cup Thursday at the Ynares Sports Arena. With Teng as the featured man on offense, AMA jumped on Batangas early but had to weather several second-half storms to open the new season on the winning track. Down 14 at the break, Batangas was able to cut to deficit to three in the third quarter, 60-63, before Teng responded with six straight points to keep things in check, 69-61. Batangas would make another run in the payoff period but AMA landed the knockout punch behind Teng as the former La Salle Green Archer dropped nine straiht in a commanding 16-2 run to turn a 73-70 lead to a comfortable 89-72 cushion. Teng exploded for 42 points in his D-League debut, seven more than the biggest output he put up for his UAAP career. He also had seven rebounds and six assists. .....»»

Category: sportsSource:  abscbnRelated NewsJan 19th, 2017

Pelicans, minus Davis, hand Nets eighth straight loss

em>By Jeffrey Bernstein, Associated Press /em> NEW YORK (AP) — Tyreke Evans scored a season-high 29 points and the New Orleans Pelicans, playing without All-Star big man Anthony Davis, defeated the reeling Brooklyn Nets 104-95 on Thursday night (Friday, PHL time). Terrance Jones added 24 points and 12 rebounds for New Orleans (16-24), which improved to 6-13 on the road by winning both games during its stay in New York City. Jrue Holiday scored 21 and Solomon Hill had 14 points and 10 rebounds. Davis missed the game with a bruised left hip sustained during Monday night's (Tuesday, PHL time) 110-96 win over the New York Knicks at Madison Square Garden. He participated in pregame warmups in Brooklyn, but didn't shoot. Davis is second in the NBA in scoring, averaging 29.1 points. He ranks sixth with more than 12 rebounds per game. Brook Lopez led the Nets with 20 points and Sean Kilpatrick had 18, but Brooklyn has dropped eight straight and 13-of-14. Brooklyn led 94-91 after Lopez's basket with 3:35 left, but didn't score again until Joe Harris hit 1-of-2 free throws with 23 seconds remaining for the team's final point. Jones contributed six points in the 13-1 run to end the game, including the go-ahead basket with 2:44 remaining. Trevor Booker gave the Nets their largest lead, 56-48, with 1:51 left in the second quarter. Brooklyn used a 10-2 spurt in the third to open a 77-70 advantage and was ahead 79-73 heading into the fourth. Evans tied it at 84 on a three-point play with 8:29 to go, and the score remained close until the Pelicans' late surge. Harris finished with 15 points, while Caris LeVert and Bojan Bogdanovic each scored 10 for the Nets. strong>TIP-INS /strong> em> strong>Pelicans: /strong> /em>Buddy Hield is the only New Orleans player to see action in all 40 games this season. He has started exactly half of them. Nets GM Sean Marks played for New Orleans from 2008-10, appearing in 74 games and averaging 2.7 points and 2.8 rebounds. em> strong>Nets: /strong> /em>Booker returned to Brooklyn's starting lineup after missing Tuesday's loss to the Hawks with a bruised left hip. Kilpatrick is the second-leading scorer (14.8 points per game) of any current undrafted NBA player. Only Wes Matthews of the Mavericks (15 ppg entering Friday, PHL time) has a higher average. strong>NEW YORK, NEW YORK /strong> The Pelicans spent nearly all week in New York City. 'If we're here any longer, we're going to have to take out a small business meal loan to continue to eat,' coach Alvin Gentry said. 'Obviously, this is a great city. You can do a million things here and have a million left to do.' strong>OH FOR 2017 /strong> The Nets have yet to win since the calendar turned to the new year. Brooklyn has won only once (on Dec. 27, PHL time, 120-118 over Charlotte) in almost a month. The team's previous win was a 107-97 victory over the Lakers on Dec. 14 (Dec. 15, PHL time) strong>EIGHT IS ENOUGH /strong> The Nets' eight-game losing streak ties the Pelicans, 76ers and Lakers for the longest in the NBA this season. However, Philadelphia has won four of five, the Pelicans have won two straight and the Lakers had won two of three entering Thursday night's (Friday, PHL time) game at San Antonio. strong>UP NEXT /strong> em> strong>Pelicans: /strong> /em>New Orleans visits Chicago on Saturday (Sunday, PHL time). The teams meet again in New Orleans on April 2 (April 3, PHL time). The Bulls have won four in a row in the series, sweeping the Pelicans in each of the last two seasons. em> strong>Nets: /strong> /em>Brooklyn visits Toronto on Friday (Saturday, PHL time). The Nets lost 116-104 there on Dec. 20 (Dec. 21, PHL time). The teams play again next week (Jan. 18, PHL time) and next month (Feb. 6, PHL time). The Raptors have won five straight in the series, including all four meetings last season. .....»»

Category: sportsSource:  abscbnRelated NewsJan 13th, 2017

Djokovic beats Murray to successfully defend Qatar title

SANDRA HARWITT, Associated Press br /> DOHA, Qatar (AP) — Novak Djokovic successfully defended his Qatar Open title by beating top-seeded Andy Murray 6-3, 5-7, 6-4 in the final on Saturday. The dramatic match showcased the best of men's tennis for 2 hours, 54 minutes. Djokovic needed four match points - three in the second set and one in the third - to prevail. He was also fortunate not to be defaulted for accidentally hitting a woman in the stands with a ball hit in anger. 'Best scenario I could ask for for beginning of the season,' Djokovic said. 'Playing all five matches in this tournament and then three hours against No. 1 of the world, (my) biggest rival, and winning in a thrilling marathon match is something that definitely can serve as a positive incentive for what's coming up in Australia. 'It's only the beginning of the season, so we had a little laugh at the net actually about it. We both felt like if every match we're going to play against each other is going to be this way this season, we're going to have a fun time.' Murray's loss ended his 28-match winning streak that dated to Sept. 18. Djokovic had three match points in the 10th game of the second set, but couldn't prevent Murray from making it 5-5 and eventually winning the second set. Murray finally capitalized on his fourth break point - second in that 10th game - with an inside out forehand winner. Despite going up 0-30, Murray wasn't able to come up with the same magic when Djokovic served for the match a second time at 5-4 in the third set. Murray also failed to take advantage of a break point in the sixth game of the set. 'Physically, it was a good test to start the year,' Murray said. 'My body feels all right just now, so that's positive. 'Still think there are things I can do better. I wasn't that clinical on break points this week, which maybe that comes with playing a few more matches.' Djokovic's frustration got the better of him twice, which caused umpire Carlos Bernardes to hand the Serb two warnings, including the loss of a point on the second warning. The second warning resulted when Djokovic smashed his racket in frustration at 40-30 to end the 11th game of the second set prematurely. The first warning came in the sixth game of the first set. Annoyed at losing a point, Djokovic angrily smacked a ball to the ground that accidentally flew into the stands and hit a woman. While that could have resulted in a default, Bernardes just issued Djokovic a warning. 'I definitely didn't want to hit the ball at anybody,' Djokovic said. 'Just happened. Fortunate not to get a bigger fine. I have to be more careful I guess. I accept that I made a mistake. It was not intentional at all.' The top-ranked Murray has lost all 20 matches he's played against Djokovic when he's lost the first set. Overall, Djokovic held a 25-11 career record over Murray. 'Playing against Andy, somehow it feels like playing the mirror image of (me) because we have very similar styles of game,' Djokovic said. 'I can't recall out of the 35-plus matches how many were kind of one-sided really. Most of the matches we play it's always going down to the very last few points to decide the winner.' Murray won their last encounter 6-3, 6-4 in the ATP Finals in November. That victory catapulted Murray ahead of Djokovic to the year-end No. 1 ranking for the first time. .....»»

Category: sportsSource:  abscbnRelated NewsJan 7th, 2017

Leonard quiet on future as Raptors celebrate with parade

By Ian Harrison, Associated Press TORONTO (AP) — Fresh off leading the Toronto Raptors to their first NBA title, Kawhi Leonard received the key to the city at Monday’s (Tuesday, PHL time) championship parade. For now, however, the two-way star and two-time NBA Finals MVP still isn’t saying whether he’ll use it to keep a door open, or close it behind him and move on. Leonard spent several days partying with his teammates in Las Vegas and Los Angeles after last Thursday’s (Friday, PHL time) Game 6 clincher, returning to Toronto in time to ride in one of five open-top double decker buses that carried the Raptors along a crowded parade route. A three-time All-Star and two-time NBA defensive player of the year, Leonard is expected to decline the player option on the final year of his contract and become a free agent. Toronto can offer him a five-year deal worth around $190 million, one year and some $50 million more than any other team. Before stepping on stage Monday (Tuesday, PHL time) for a ceremony in the square outside Toronto’s City Hall, Leonard said he hasn’t been thinking about his future. Instead, he’s trying to extend the celebratory vibe as long as possible. “I’m enjoying this” he said. “It’s not time to stress, it’s still time to have some fun. I’ve just been enjoying my experience.” After precisely two months of playoff basketball, Leonard doesn’t have a lot of time left to be a fun guy — free agency gets underway at 6 p.m. on June 30 (6am, Monday, PHL time). “I’m going to take the right time,” he said. “You don’t need too many days to figure it out. We’ll see what happens. Once that time comes, then we’ll all lay the pros and cons out.” Visibly bothered by soreness during stretches of the Eastern Conference Finals against Milwaukee, Leonard declined to say how much pain he endured en route to winning his second career title. “We’re always battling through things,” he said. “You know, knee pains, ankles, fingers. Everybody was just grinding it out.” Injured for all but nine games in his final season with San Antonio, Leonard played 60 regular-season games for Toronto and another 24 in the postseason, upping his minutes once April arrived. While winning a trophy was an obvious success, Leonard said he’s enjoyed all aspects of his season north of the border, even the varied Canadian weather. “It was a good experience, experiencing Mother Nature, all four seasons,” he said. “Man, it was a great experience. Everybody off the court was great. The fans, just meeting people in Canada. It’s been fun.” Fans chanted ‘Stay! Stay! Stay!’ when Toronto mayor John Tory presented Leonard with the key. Later, the festive mood of the event was marred by gunfire. Four people were shot, leading to a stampede. Three people were arrested and two guns were recovered, Toronto police said. Leonard is one of three Raptors starters with uncertain futures. Center Marc Gasol also has a player option, while guard Danny Green is a free agent. Guards Kyle Lowry and Fred VanVleet, and forward Serge Ibaka, are heading into the final year of their deals. Ibaka and Leonard have become friends in their time together as teammates. “I’ve been talking with him a lot during the season and in the playoffs, but after we won, I can see the man is happy,” Ibaka said. “That’s the most important. We play this sport because we want to enjoy and have fun and be happy and be somewhere people love you. I’m sure he feels that people here love him, and after this moment, that’s the most important.” Lowry attended the parade wearing a game-worn Damon Stoudamire pinstripe Raptors jersey. Stoudamire was the first player drafted by Toronto in 1995, and won rookie of the year honors in 1996. Lowry and Stoudamire were teammates in Memphis from 2006 to 2008......»»

Category: sportsSource:  abscbnRelated NewsJun 18th, 2019

James Spencer ready, raring to don different kind of Pilipinas

James Spencer was made to wait a little longer for the golden opportunity to represent the Philippines. The Filipino-Australian came to the Philippines last year with the primary purpose of suiting up for Gilas Youth - then still known as Batang Gilas. "I've been eyeing the (youth) team since before I was even thinking to play college basketball out here. Batang Gilas was my first connection to the Philippines," he shared. However, he fell short of being eligible for the 2018 FIBA Asia Under-18 Championship in Thailand. "I got to practice with the team a bit before they went to the qualifiers. Unfortunately, my Filipino passport, basically, wasn't in line then," he recalled. Spencer made it clear, however, that his Filipino passport was actually good to go before that regional meet, but some complications apparently arose when it was forwarded to FIBA. The 6-foot-3 promising prospect would have been a much welcome addition to a Batang Gilas side that reached the semifinals of the qualifiers. Not only is he a big-bodied guard, he is also a knockdown shooter. He showed that sort of promise in last season's UAAP where he was part of the University of the Philippines' Cinderella run to the Finals. Spencer totaled two points, 10 rebounds, and 40 minutes in nine games that gave him a taste of how it feels like to have "Pilipinas" on his jersey. Fast forward a year and now, he is all set to contribute to Gilas Youth who will wage war in the 2019 FIBA Under-19 World Cup as he has been named into the 14-man pool going to Qatar for training camp and then to Greece for the tournament proper. For that, the 19-year-old is nothing but thankful. "Once the new coaching staff was in place, coach Sandy [Arespacochaga] gave me a call and said I should try out with my team. That's what I did and I've been given an opportunity to play in Qatar to play in a few tuneup games and participate in training camp," he said. He then continued, "From there, they're gonna make a decision on who will play in Greece. I'm just glad to be part of it all and I'm just excited to play for the country." And so, Spencer is now cherishing the golden opportunity to wear "Pilipinas" in international competition - "Pilipinas" without "Unibersidad ng" accompanying it. If and when he makes the cut for the national youth team, he hopes he can be part of the process that will smooth over relations between the Philippines and Australia. After all, a Fil-Aussie is the ideal candidate to prove that Filipinos and Australians can play nice once more. "I don't think people outside the Philippines understand Filipino hoops properly. I think it's something they really have to experience firsthand to appreciate how we play," he said. He then continued, "There might be that stereotype that we're rough players who are not skillful and just wanna be rough. But really, we're just physical." Whatever it is, Spencer promises to go all out for his family who have roots in Fairview, Quezon City. "I'm just happy for all of this and thankful my family is with me for all of this," he said. --- Follow this writer on Twitter, @riegogogo......»»

Category: sportsSource:  abscbnRelated NewsJun 17th, 2019

Seven takeaways from Lakers reported trade for Anthony Davis

By Steve Aschburner, NBA.com Here are seven takeaways on the reported blockbuster trade sending New Orleans star forward Anthony Davis to the Los Angeles Lakers. 1. Davis gets what he wanted all along Davis and his camp, fronted by agent Rich Paul, first made noise about getting out of New Orleans in January, when he still had a year and a half to go before he even reached the player-option year in his Pelicans contract extension. New Orleans management, notably GM Dell Demps, resisted the power play then. Of course, Demps lost his job after resisting the trade demand and seeing the ripple effects undermine his own team’s season. Demps’ replacement, David Griffin, took over on a more traditional timeline -- one year out from the dreaded possibility of having a star free agent walk without compensation. After apparently trying to change Davis’ mind, Griffin did what he felt he had to do. So the six-time All-Star doesn’t have to wait until the summer of 2020, or even the trade deadline in February, to swap a less glamorous market for the bright lights and a franchise that has never won for the Lakers’ legacy of champions built around elite big men. 2. Will future franchise players do the same? What cost did Davis pay for his trade demand? Not much. His playing time plummeted from about 37 minutes in the first four months of 2018-19 to 22 in the 16 games he actually played after Jan. 18 (Jan. 19, PHL time). He did not participate at all in 21 games as New Orleans tried to protect its asset, which derailed any ambitions with which the Pelicans began the season. They went 12-24 in those 36 games to fall into the lottery – and land the No. 1 pick. But that didn’t concern Davis. He got what he wanted. The Pelicans got what they could. 3. Right package at right time for Pelicans There’s a time-value to money and there’s a time-value in trades, too. The best time for Griffin to deal was now, with the No. 4 pick in this year’s Draft in play to team with the No. 1 pick that presumably will be on Duke’s Zion Williamson. Landing that, along with two more first-round picks from the Lakers, a Draft pick swap, and players Brandon Ingram, Lonzo Ball and Josh Hart (per ESPN’s report), shifts New Orleans into full rebuild mode with an exciting core of current and maybe future young players. Could Griffin have gotten more had he waited deeper into the offseason or heading toward the in-season trade deadline? Perhaps. But Boston, the other oft-purported suitor for Davis, no longer could count on teaming Davis with Kyrie Irving, who will explore free agency (and likely leave). Besides, the Celtics never did want to part with Jayson Tatum, so what they could offer the Pelicans was limited. Didn’t matter, anyway. Griffin didn’t want to drag this into a new season. In fact, he might work the phones to find point guard Jrue Holiday’s market value. As strong as Holiday is as a leader and two-way player, at 29 with 10 seasons in, he’s out of sync with the new era in N’Awlins. 4. Griffin should have held out for Kyle Kuzma OK, the Lakers had committed publicly to keeping Kuzma, the overachieving forward and No. 27 pick in 2017, out of the deal. And as noted above, the Pelicans were on the clock to make a clean break with Davis pre-Draft. But would the Lakers really have scuttled the deal if Griffin had held out for Kuzma? Some say yes, as the time factor gave them leverage. I’m not so sure. I’m reminded of the blockbuster deal that sent Kevin Garnett from Minnesota to Boston in 2008. Word eventually got out that Kevin McHale, the Wolves’ president of basketball operations, had wanted a raw point guard named Rajon Rondo in the package of players Minnesota received. His Celtics’ counterpart and buddy, Danny Ainge, pushed Sebastian Telfair instead. But with Paul Pierce and Ray Allen on board, and Garnett so close to his wearing o’ the green, would Ainge have blown up the trade over young Rondo? Same applies here. So the positive spin on Kuzma staying put is, the Lakers did well to keep him. 5. LeBron gets his greatest sidekick yet That statement might offend a few folks. Dwyane Wade for one. Maybe Irving, Chris Bosh or Kevin Love, too. Heck, Davis might bristle at the idea of being anyone’s “sidekick” after being the man in Mardi Gras to this point in his career. But the truth can’t be controversial, and the success of this deal will be measured in the short-term by how well Davis meshes with James in the superstar’s quest for a fourth ring and beyond. Some believed that agent Rich Paul, who represents both James and Davis, was more concerned with helping the former than the latter, which Paul refuted a few days before news came out on this blockbuster trade. Who’s to say AD wouldn’t have thrived and won sooner in Boston had the Celtics and Pelicans worked out a Kawhi-like rent-a-player price? What if James not only is past his best years, but his most durable ones, and injuries intervene as he heads to age 35 and beyond to stymie title hopes? For James, though, there’s no downside to this. Ingram, because of the blood clot issue that cut short his 2018-19 season, is an unknown for now. Ball isn’t essential with James as a ball dominator. Hart actually backslid in his second season. And James has little or no use for draft picks at this stage of his career. Davis is good enough to carry the bigger load relative to James, more than any of his past Super Friends who all caught him in his extended prime. But it’s still to be determined how they’ll work that out – the two previous elite big men that he played alongside, Bosh and Love, wound up as No. 3 options once they teamed with James. 6. Kemba Walker might be next in Lakers’ sights Walker is a free agent who has served his time in Charlotte, a team that might not want to be locked into a super-max deal for their lone star anyway. He would be a nice backcourt complement to James and Davis, another scorer if not the pure shooter L.A. would seem to need. Speaking of which, that suggests other free-agent implications as the Lakers search for shooters. Say, if not J.J. Redick himself, then the next Redick perhaps. 7. So long Warriors, hello Lakers in 2020 Finals? You’ve got to admit, it would be something to see LeBron James pop up on the Western Conference’s finalist vying for a championship, in what lately has been Golden State’s accustomed spot. That’s what some anticipated for this June, until the Lakers went sideways with injuries and dysfunction. But with ESPN’s report of the Davis trade, a team that already was ranked atop the NBA’s contenders for 2020 saw its odds improve. Caesars Sportsbook put the Lakers as 7-2 favorites, ahead of the Bucks (6-1), the L.A. Clippers (6-1), the newly crowned Raptors (8-1), the Rockets (8-1) and what would be a distinctly different Warriors team (11-1). 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 16th, 2019

Five things we learned from Game 4 of the 2019 Finals

By Steve Aschburner, NBA.com OAKLAND, Calif. – Five things we learned from the Toronto Raptors’ 105-92 victory over the Golden State Warriors in Game 4 of the 2019 NBA Finals on Friday at Oracle Arena: 1. Dynasties eventually become ‘die-nastys’ Will we get one more game at Oracle Arena? The scene of so much Golden State wonderfulness the past five seasons? A building about to be abandoned when the Warriors move from Oakland to a state-of-the-art arena across the Bay? Hold up. Asking one more game out of the Warriors seems a lot at the moment. These guys just suffered their second consecutive home playoff loss by 10 points or more, something that hasn’t happened to this franchise in 50 years. After three straight games scoring precisely 109 points, the Warriors came up 15 short Friday (Saturday, PHL time). They are 0-9 overall this season when held to double digits, and 0-11 in the playoffs during the Steve Kerr era, when they score 94 or fewer. And now they’re on the wrong side of a 3-1 deficit, lacking everything from certain healthy bodies to an edge, a sharpness that was missing in the second half. Granted, Golden State once held a 3-1 edge in a Finals, all the way back in 2016 … when LeBron James, Kyrie Irving and the Cavaliers chased them down and became the only Finals team to claw out of such a chasm. The Warriors did the same to Oklahoma City in the 2016 Western Conference finals. So they not only have a blueprint, they have the know-how and an opportunity to do it again. Like Kerr before him on Friday's (Saturday, PHL time) postgame podium, Warriors forward Draymond Green spoke of simply trying to win one basketball game, the next game, as the proper way to dig out of this series hole. But then he dropped his guard and mentioned winning three in a row, something the Warriors have done often. But they’re a whole year removed from doing that in a Finals (last year’s sweep of the Cavs) with a healthy Kevin Durant. This is a more worn-down, tired team. In fact, Game 4 was more than Golden State’s 102nd game of 2018-19, regular and postseason combined. It was the 102nd playoff game of their five consecutive Finals runs, which means they have crammed an extra season-plus into their schedules compared to the underachievers on lottery teams sitting at home. From the looks of it Friday (Saturday, PHL time), these guys are ready to be toppled, like the Lakers in 1989 and again in 2004, like the Heat in 2014 and the Cavaliers last June. The boisterous Raptors fans who staged their takeover of the Warriors’ building after Game 4 were merely mirroring what their favorite team did on the court from halftime on. Golden State could not stop it. Rudy Tomjanovich might still be inclined to scream into the darkness. (“Never underestimate the heart of a champion!”) But pride only takes you so far, and that’s mostly what the Warriors have left. 2. Third quarter? That’s Toronto’s now It took the Raptors more than 18 minutes to score 30 points Friday night (Saturday, PHL time), stymied by the pace of the game and particularly Golden State’s scrappy, hustling defense. Immediately after halftime, it took Toronto only 12 minutes to put up 37. The time of death for Golden State on Friday was immediately after Kawhi Leonard drained consecutive three-pointers – “F-you” shots, teammate Fred VanVleet memorably coined them – that boosted Toronto from a four-point deficit to a 12-point advantage. The Warriors already had played well enough to rightly feel they should have had a bigger cushion; falling behind so rudely seemed to buckle the defending champs. That they feel third quarters are their birthright made the switcheroo intolerable. “We had a big problem with the third quarter in Game 2,” Toronto coach Nick Nurse said. “We had to make some adjustment there to try to combat the way they come out of the half. We made the decision to put Fred in, [first] in Game 3 and then Game 4 again. Mostly it's to try to keep up pace of our offense going. It gives us two point guards out there that can push the ball, get it in and get it going, and it kind of paid off. “I know Kawhi's two big three's to start the half really changed the whole feel of everybody. Everybody was like, ‘Okay, man, we know we are here, let's go,’ and we just kind of kept going from those two three's.” For the Warriors, who have done that to so many others, turnabout was a pain in the rump. “Oh, this sucks,” Draymond Green recalled thinking as Toronto took control of the quarter. “It sucks really bad. You just try and do whatever you can to change it. Get a stop, get a bucket, get some momentum.  Every time we did, they answered.” Green was asked about the difficulty of rattling the stone-faced Leonard with whatever defensive tactic Golden State could muster, and brushed the question aside. “I don't think you're ever going to rattle Kawhi. Not sure we used that word one time in our scouting report, ‘We're going to rattle him,’” Green said. But it’s not just Leonard now. It’s the Raptors. Time after time, whenever Golden State revved up with a couple of scoring possessions, signaling to their fans they ready to make a run, Toronto snuffed it with a three-pointer or a well-executed pick and roll. They’ve got a team of Kawhis-in-training, unflappable lately if not as inscrutable. “Most teams will take cues from their leaders or their star players, so I think that spreads around a little bit,” Nurse said. But he also praised vets such as Marc Gasol, Danny Green, Kyle Lowry and VanVleet for how steady they’ve been. Now, with the temptation to imagine hoisting a championship trophy, the Raptors might be expected to buy into the stat that, of the 34 teams in The Finals who have led 3-1, 33 of them got their rings. But this team is so focused, so resolute in taking care of business down to the smallest and most mundane task, that all Nurse might have to do is remind them how many aspiring champs won three games in a Finals and still headed into summer empty-handed. (It's 19.) No trophy, no rings. 3. A surge from Serge The chemistry between Serge Ibaka and Kyle Lowry was evident in their playful banter on the podium Friday night. Each slipped into his role, Lowry as the instigator, Ibaka as the target of his playful jibes. “You joining me?” Lowry asked, as Ibaka got to the podium a half minute after him. “Serge Ibaka, everybody. You all know him. Nice outfit. Worth a lot of money. Is that jacket real leather?” “Yes, it’s real leather,” Ibaka said. "Pants too tight, he can't even sit down,” Lowry said. On court, Ibaka’s defensive impact and 20 points in reserve dampened a lot of Warrior enthusiasm. There are nights when Ibaka comes across like Chief in “One Flew Over the Cuckoo’s Nest,” a large, lumbering and rather stiff option near the rim with very little to say. Some nights, he even seems to be asleep. But still waters often run deep, too deep for the Warriors in Game 4, it turned out. Ibaka’s here-today, gone-tomorrow shooting touch had him playing in a way that none of Golden State’s three centers – DeMarcus Cousins, Kevon Looney or Andrew Bogut – could match. “Once he gets into the series," Nurse said, "which he did in Game 3 with the blocked shots and the rebounding and stuff, he seems to stay in the series. He usually gives you all of it.” Said Lowry, about knowing when a Serge surge is coming: “He doesn't say anything. When Serge is effective defensively is when he's at his best. I think the scoring just comes. We're going to make sure he gets that pick-and-pop jump shot, he's rolling … When he brings that intensity and that fierceness, it's kind of tough to stop him on both ends of the floor.” 4. Stephen Curry had a bad game One of the most famous pieces of magazine journalism ever was entitled, “Frank Sinatra Has a Cold,” by Gay Talese, a profile written when Sinatra obviously was ill of body and temper, and didn’t even grant Talese an interview. So our headline kind of tells the story as his did: Curry, one of the top five players in the NBA and probably the greatest overall shooter of all time, was not his two-time MVP self. He wasn’t even the Game 3 version (47 points). The Warriors point guard scored 20 fewer points in this one, and was 2-of-9 from three-point range. He missed all five of his shots from the arc in the first half and he picked up some obvious frustration fouls. Curry played 43 of the 48 minutes, and Golden State was outscored by 11 points when he was on the court. “It wasn’t his best game,” Kerr said. Evaluating Curry, for the Warriors, was going to come down to breaking down video and keeping the faith. Evaluating him, for the rest of us, is getting complicated these days by a sense that Curry did not get his due in past Finals – at least in terms of winning the Bill Russell Award as Finals MVP. But that’s no excuse to don rose-colored glasses every time he hits the floor. As scintillating as his performance was in defeat Wednesday (Thursday, PHL time) as the Warriors’ only healthy threat, his Game 4 work was raggedy and unproductive. “They have been aggressive all series and trying to take space away from me and Klay,” Curry said. “I missed some shots early that I usually make, especially from the three-point line. But overall, I thought I got good looks.” Every game doesn’t need to be a referendum on the level of Curry appreciation. He might have deserved more consideration as Finals MVP in 2015, when Andre Iguodala snagged it with a strong performance in the clinching game. And even though Kevin Durant was an easy choice in 2017, there were some who felt Curry was more essential (including this voter). In some cosmic and just way, Curry probably should have been recognized with hardware somewhere among the three. But all signs are pointing to Leonard now, so Curry might have to muddle along with "only" those two Maurice Podoloff trophies for regular-season MVP, along with his All-NBA berths and assorted accolades, his ginormous contract and bounty of commercial endorsements, three rings (unless this series turns around) and a better life than most people who’ve ever walked the planet. 5. Durant to play in Game … 8? It’s possible that Durant will come walking through Rick Pitino’s proverbial door and seize what’s left of the championship series by the throat, playing like the two-time Finals MVP he is. Failing that, if there’s a Game 6, maybe that’s the night Durant at least does a Willis Reed impersonation, limping through the Oracle tunnel to a thunderous roar and hitting a couple of early shots to inspire his teammates to something special. (There still, alas, would be a pesky Game 7 for which to account, back in Toronto, likely muddying the drama.) Then again, maybe Durant doesn’t come back at all. For The Finals or with the Warriors, period. Speculation at this point is all over the map. Some think the Warriors planned to hold him out until things got really dire, to buy extra healing time and maybe not use him at all. Others now believe Durant’s rehab process of his strained right calf back-slid to some degree on Thursday, when he participated in a checkpoint workout with the training staff. A few folks think he never was going to return, regardless. After all, the All-NBA forward hasn’t played since May 8 (May 9, PHL time), missing nine fairly important games. This is a league where injuries typically face an “If this were a playoff game, would he play?” threshold. Durant has been nearly as absent from this NBA postseason as LeBron James. Look, all injuries are different, and even the same type of injury can have different timelines with different sufferers. Klay Thompson rushing back from his hamstring issue after skipping only Game 3 is at the crazy-resilient end of the durability scale. Kevon Looney basically rose from the ashes, giving the Warriors a rim runner and 10 points with six rebounds in 20 minutes off the bench. He had been ruled out for the rest of the series after suffering a rib cartilage fracture in his crash to the floor in Game 2. After anticipation of Durant’s availability got out in front of his reality for a few days, the chatter is more tempered now. There’s a shrug and a whiff of uncertainty folded into every mention. If Durant had his Thursday workout, he would have played Friday (Saturday, PHL time). If he had a setback … Heck, at this point it might be more pragmatic for the medical peeps to declare him out and let the Warriors who’ve come this far see this through, yea or nay. “As far as KD, there's been hope that he will come back the whole series,” Draymond Green said. “So that's not going to change now. Obviously we hope to have him, but we'll see what happens. We don't make that final call, he don't really even make that final call.  His body will tell him if he can get out there or not. And if he can, great. And if not, you still got to try to find a way to win the next game.” The Warriors had been holding out hope for Durant’s return as if he was their ace in the hole, imagining him with zero rust or rhythm issues once back and no limitations on his gait. But he has passed the “In case of emergency, break glass” point of urgent help possibilities. Now Durant resembles more the keg hanging from a Saint Bernard dog’s collar. It’s a nice idea, but when was the last time one of those dogs saved somebody who literally drank from the little barrel? Toronto is in a foreign land, by NBA standards. But it ain’t the Alps. 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 9th, 2019

Warriors head into Game 3 vulnerable, yet pressure is on Raptors

By Shaun Powell, NBA.com OAKLAND, Calif. -- The two-time defending champion Warriors will be of divided attention here in the next few days. They’ll be occupied by Game 3 of The Finals … and Game 1 of Kevin Durant’s rehabilitation. The two go hand-in-hand, actually, and hold equal importance. With untimely injuries threatening to delay the Warriors’ third straight title or downright prevent it from happening, the club teeters on edge, unsure whether its next step will be on the gas pedal or a banana peel. Klay Thompson is iffy for Wednesday (Thursday, PHL time) because of a gimpy hamstring that cut short his floor time in Game 2, which the Warriors managed to win anyway. He did some light shooting on the eve of Game 3 against the Raptors and, Klay being Klay, counted himself in after three days’ rest. But it’s not really up to him, is it? It’s up to the team medical staff and mostly a tendon that’s moody and doesn’t always cooperate with the human attached to it. And so: This all depends on what side of the bed the hamstring lands on Wednesday morning. Kevon Looney, the fast-developing big man who has been a pleasant surprise throughout the postseason, is done for the summer with a cartilage fracture in his collarbone area. At least in this case, his loss is minimized by the re-emergence of DeMarcus Cousins, back from two months off with a bum quad muscle and feeling frisky about it and his encouraging effort in Game 2. OK, now here’s the elephant in the emergency room: What does the future of The Finals hold for Durant, MIA for roughly a month now, who has been ruled out for Wednesday (Thursday, PHL time)? Durant didn’t practice with the team Tuesday morning (Wednesday evening, PHL time), but he did go through an individual workout that afternoon. There is no scheduled team practice on Thursday (Friday, PHL time), the only off-day between Games 3 and 4 at Oracle Arena. Yet all signs point to Durant putting his body through a workout/practice/scrimmage at some point between now and Friday’s (Saturday, PHL time) Game 4 because coach Steve Kerr said the former MVP is “ramping up” his workouts. It’s safe to say the Warriors will be interested spectators for that one, biting their fingernails to the knuckle, although Kerr indicated Durant’s availability for The Finals is more “when” than “if.” That means Durant has given them some reason to feel optimistic about Friday (Saturday, PHL time) if not Game 5 in Toronto. “Klay and Kevin, we’re very hopeful we’re going to get them back out there,” Kerr said. In a worst-case scenario, the Warriors in Game 3 would be without two players averaging more than 50 points combined in the postseason, and their scoring and defensive presence is impossible to replace. That would put them in a tough spot, needing to rely on replacements who aren’t familiar with, or quite capable of, carrying that amount of minutes with impact. Yes, it’s true the Warriors finished Game 2 without either player and managed to win. Yet, no disrespect to the champs, that’s a big chore to do for four full quarters and against a solid defensive team such as the Raptors. Even if Thompson plays, will he be healthy enough to supply the energy and flexibility needed to perform his usual top-notch defense and running through screens for his jumper? “If I can just be out there even at 80 percent, I still think I can be very effective,” he said. “From the progress I've made these last two days, I'm very encouraged that I'll be able to go out there. As long as nothing is torn or really injured, I'm not too fearful of it because, knock on wood, I've been very blessed with not very many traumatic injuries in my career. I don't think this one is of greatest concern. It's just the day and age we live in where little things can just grow to be big problems, but I don't think this will be one of them.” How would a diminished or missing Klay affect the Warriors? Well, Stephen Curry could not afford to be anything less than MVP-ish. He’d see doubles and triples thrown his way by the Raptors and that would cause him to take tougher shots than normal. In that situation, as the Warriors’ only volume scorer and shooter on the floor, Curry could feel overwhelmed and force the issue. Cousins would be required to ratchet up his shooting and intensity on offense, but will he stay clear of foul trouble, which would put a crimp in his playing time? Finally, the Warriors would lean more on Shaun Livingston, Draymond Green, Andre Iguodala and Quinn Cook than normal. Cook made a pair of important shots in Game 2 after Thompson limped off and could be an X-factor, or at least he’d need to be for Golden State’s sake. “Our team is very adaptable,” Kerr said. “We have a lot of versatility. What it requires is bench players being ready to step up, like they always are, and guys just playing hard and playing together. I think you have to be fearless, too, which our team is. You can't worry about anything. You just go out there and play and compete and let it fly and whatever happens, happens.” And then there’s Toronto. A weakened or missing Thompson would be an opportunity they simply couldn’t afford to blow. How many times does a gift present itself in the biggest series of the season? Not often. It must be seized. In such a situation, the Raptors would be wise to occupy Curry and dare others to produce for four quarters. If Thompson plays, they’d be best to take advantage by running him ragged through screens on defense, putting that hamstring to the test. That would be one less player with high defensive credentials for Kawhi Leonard to deal with. Assuming that scoring will be an issue for the Warriors, the Raptors must get a bounce-back game from Pascal Siakam (who regressed from 32 points to 12) and more punch from Kyle Lowry (six baskets total for the series) to make it tough if not impossible for the Warriors to keep up. If the Raptors have any shot at winning this title, they must win at least one game at Oracle anyway, and from a practical standpoint, Game 3 is the most inviting. They may never see the Warriors this vulnerable, this ripe for the taking again. “I think we come into a sense of urgency, period,” said Lowry, “no matter the situation. We want to be the first to four, and every game is an urgent game. You're in the NBA Finals, so it doesn't matter. They still have professional basketball players down there, and they're really talented basketball players. So you still got to be ready to go out there and play your butt off and play hard.” The Warriors do not feel the same level of urgency because they’re not down 0-2, and the next two games are at home, and the core group is championship tested. As they demonstrated in Game 2, they don’t get rattled by tense championship games, even with Thompson and Durant off the floor. They also know, or at least feel strongly, that Thompson and Durant will suit up soon. “If there’s pain, it will be a no-go (for Game 3) because of the position we’re in,” Thompson said. “This could be a longer series, so there's no point in trying to go out there and re-aggravate it and potentially keep myself out of the whole entire Finals instead of just one game.” The Warriors might not get much sympathy from a basketball world that perhaps feel the champs are finally getting their just due. Everyone saw them play the 2015 championship series against Cleveland without Kevin Love and all but one game without Kyrie Irving. In the 2017 Western Conference finals, Leonard, then with San Antonio, went down after lighting it up for most of Game 1. And how can anyone forget Chris Paul missing Houston's final two games of a seven-game playoff series last season? Not saying those were the reasons for three championships in four years; still, all of those misfortunes suffered by others favored the Warriors. But who’s keeping score? “There's a certain amount of luck involved with this, and we know that,” Kerr said. “We have been on both sides of that. Some of our opponents have suffered injuries. We have suffered injuries. It's just part of the deal. You just keep pushing forward.” Shaun Powell has covered the NBA for more than 25 years. You can e-mail him here, find his archive here, and follow him on Twitter. The views on this page do not necessarily reflect the views of the NBA, its clubs or Turner Broadcasting. .....»»

Category: sportsSource:  abscbnRelated NewsJun 5th, 2019

The Finals Stat, Game 2: Matchup adjustment stifles Toronto

By John Schuhmann, NBA.com TORONTO -- They ain't all gonna be pretty. The Golden State Warriors survived two new injuries and a 5 1/2-minute stretch of scoreless basketball to escape with a 109-104 victory over the Toronto Raptors in Game 2 of The Finals, punctuated by Andre Iguodala's dagger three-pointer with 5.9 seconds left. The Warriors' backcourt of Stephen Curry and Klay Thompson combined for 48 points and Draymond Green came one assist shy of recording his fourth straight triple-double. The Warriors assisted on 34 of their 38 field goals and evened the series at one game apiece. One stat stood out from the rest as the Warriors grabbed home-court advantage as we head to Oakland for Games 3 and 4, with the champs now dealing with injuries to Kevin Durant (strained right calf), Thompson (left hamstring tightness) and Kevon Looney (left chest contusion). The stat 12 -- Scoreless possessions for the Raptors to start the third quarter. The context The Warriors trailed by as many as 12 points in the second quarter, and it was an 11-point Toronto lead late in the half. But Golden State closed the period on a 9-3 run to make it a five-point game at the break. What followed was one of those game-changing third quarters that has become a hallmark of these Warriors. This wasn't about their explosive offense, but rather a stifling defense that shut down Toronto for the first 5:38 of the second half. It started with a matchup adjustment. Iguodala had been the primary defender on Kawhi Leonard through the first three halves of this series. But to open the third quarter on Sunday (Monday, PHL time), it was Thompson defending Leonard, Iguodala checking Pascal Siakam, and Green on Kyle Lowry. It's hard to argue with the results. On the Raptors' first possession of the third, they weren't able to get the ball to Leonard until there were just five seconds left on the shot clock, and he missed a contested three from the right wing. On the next possession, Green helped off his man to deflect a Danny Green pass, one of five Toronto turnovers on their first nine possessions of the period. On Toronto's third time with the ball in the third, DeMarcus Cousins cut off a Leonard pick-and-roll drive and Thompson came back to contest a stepback jumper. After the Raptors outscored the Warriors 28-12 in the paint in the first half, five of Toronto's first six shots of the third came from outside the paint. They missed some open jumpers, but the Warriors made it a point to give the Raptors nothing easy on the inside. Both Iguodala and Cousins blocked Siakam in the post, and Thompson stripped Leonard on his way to the bucket. In total, over those first 12 possessions of the third quarter, the Raptors shot 0-for-8 (with none of the eight shots coming in the restricted area) and committed five turnovers. By the time Fred VanVleet ended the drought on a corner three with 6:22 on the clock, the Warriors had turned a five-point deficit into a 13-point lead. Going back to the end of the second quarter, it was a 27-3 run. The Raptors made things interesting with a late 10-0 run -- the Warriors' scoreless drought in the fourth was just a little shorter (5:33) than that of the Raptors in the third (5:38) -- but never had a shot to tie or take the lead after the game turned early in the second half. Like they did last year, the Warriors ranked 11th defensively in the regular season. But they also had the No. 1 defense in the playoffs, allowing just 101.8 points per 100 possessions as they won their second straight championship. After Game 1 on Thursday (Friday, PHL time), the Warriors ranked 10th defensively in this postseason, having allowed 110.8 points per 100 possessions. They suffered some slippage and just weren't the same defensive team as they had been during their championship runs. Maybe it was a sign that this is the year that their dynasty comes to an end. Or maybe they just needed some adversity before they flipped the switch. And maybe the idea of a 2-0 deficit in The Finals was just enough to do it. The first 5 1/2 minutes of the third quarter on Sunday (Monday, PHL time) were game-changing, and perhaps series-changing. It started with a matchup adjustment (preliminary matchup data from Second Spectrum has the Raptors scoring just 15 points on the 25 possessions that Thompson defended Leonard) and it continued with a little more effort. In these playoffs, the Warriors are now 5-4 after trailing by double-digits and 13-0 when they've allowed fewer than 115.5 points per 100 possessions. When they've defended to some degree of success, they've won. John Schuhmann is a senior stats analyst for NBA.com. You can e-mail him here, find his archive here and follow him on Twitter. The views on this page do not necessarily reflect the views of the NBA, its clubs or Turner Broadcasting......»»

Category: sportsSource:  abscbnRelated NewsJun 3rd, 2019

Five things we learned from Game 1 of the 2019 Finals

By Steve Aschburner, NBA.com TORONTO – Five things we learned from the Toronto Raptors’ 118-109 victory over the Golden State Warriors in Game 1 of The Finals Thursday (Friday, PHL time) at Scotiabank Arena ... 1. So much for ‘glad to be here’ If we thought we had learned one thing about the Toronto Raptors when it comes to the NBA playoffs, it was this: They back their way into most series. Losing the opener was a tradition for this franchise -- they were 3-15 in Game 1s prior to Thursday (Friday, PHL time), dating back to their inaugural playoff run in 2000. Nothing shoves a team closer to elimination in a best-of-seven showdown than a lousy start. That’s why grabbing the opener against Golden State was so essential. Had the Raptors squandered their home-court advantage on the first night, we all would be assuming the worst for these Finals in competitive, stylistic and entertainment terms. Only by rocking the Warriors in Game 1 -- and most impressively, by refusing to cough up all of their 12-point lead in the second half -- could the Raptors generate legitimate excitement for Game 2 and beyond. Had we all been honest (and able to pull this off), we would have begun this series by spotting Toronto to a 1-0 lead -- just to handicap the defending champions and force them to show us something they haven’t in their four previous Finals trips. But such a move would have been demeaning, of course, to the Raptors. Instead, coach Nick Nurse and his affable newbies seized early control themselves. How Portland looked in the Western Conference finals, as if the Trail Blazers had maxed out and were just happy to still be involved? Toronto wanted none of that. It found a way to win when Kawhi Leonard and Kyle Lowry were ordinary at best. And now we have a series worthy of the Larry O’Brien Trophy. 2. Triple-doubles continue to decline in value It’s fun as a game progresses to track stats, whether it’s Pascal Siakam’s absurd 11 consecutive field goals or Stephen Curry’s refusal to miss a free throw. We’re always aware of the leading scorer and his growing point total, particularly as it passes the big round numbers (30, 40, 50…). But Draymond Green’s latest triple-double was a reminder that the bar has been set too low for that stat from its inception. Green finished with 10 points, 10 rebounds and 10 assists, which makes it a minimalist’s triple-double at best and more of a statistical fluke than an achievement. Ten assists? That’s strong any night. Ten rebounds? Solid, and necessary if no one else on your roster is claiming more than six. Ten points, though? Come on now. Green had a Jason Kidd triple-double, which isn’t mean to disparage the Hall of Fame point guard but speaks to Kidd’s limitations as a scorer for most of his career. Heck, the Warriors’ versatile forward had six turnovers, inspiring the bad “quadruple-double watch” that Kidd sparked on occasion. What Green didn’t do was put the ball through the net effectively, shooting 2-for-9 overall and 0-for-2 on three-pointers. Yes, his value to Golden State usually doesn’t rise or fall on his scoring, but he could have been more helpful in that area Thursday. When Oscar Robertson averaged a triple-double in 1961-62 (and cumulatively did it over his first six NBA seasons), he was scoring 30 points per game. When Russell Westbrook matched what had been a rare feat two years ago, he too was up above 30 points nightly. But Westbrook has done it the past two seasons as well, with his scoring average dipping below 23 this season. That would seem to be near the minimum -- say, 20 points -- to gush over a player’s triple-double on a given night. We get it, double figures means 10 or more. But 10 points is no big deal at all in the NBA, so it seems silly to celebrate it when it’s the free rider on the triple-double quirk. 3. Don’t double-dawg dare an NBA player Warriors coach Steve Kerr admitted after Game 1 that, by mistake more than by design, his team didn’t defensively do its job well in the early minutes against center Marc Gasol. “Gasol we left a couple times early in the game and didn't rotate, we just gave him a couple of dare shots and he knocked them down,” Kerr said. Daring is not defending, and the Warriors would be well-advised not to do that again to a player as proud and as accomplished as Gasol. He’s struggled at times as a shooter in these playoffs, shooting 34 percent in the Eastern Conference finals while going 2-for-9 on three-pointers in Games 1 and 2 of that series (both losses). It was embarrassing at times to see the affable 7'1" Spaniard miss shots badly, whether he felt that way or not. But Gasol was 10-for-20 on three-pointers entering The Finals, all during the Raptors’ four consecutive victories to eliminate the Bucks. He went 2-for-4 in Game 1 of The Finals, scoring a playoff-high 20 points to help compensate for Leonard’s and Lowry’s muted firepower. Asked about it afterward, on taking such a “dare” personally, the big man shrugged. “If you're open, you got to shoot them. Dare, no dare,” he said. “And then we go from there. If they go in, great. If not you keep taking them with confidence.” That’s speaking truth to a dare. 4. The ratings for Game 1 will soar… … if they can somehow count the number of times the Warriors and the Raptors watch and re-watch the video tape. A big theme heading into this series was the relative lack of familiarity the teams had with each other. Now, that’s a common aspect of The Finals, pitting the champs of opposite conferences and all. But given Golden State’s knowledge of the Cleveland Cavaliers after four consecutive Finals, Toronto is a relative stranger. Beyond that, key players from both sides were absent in the two regular-season meetings. But now they have a whole 48 minutes to dissect, digest and learn from. For the Warriors, who spoke about it the most, they saw things they might not have expected and things they definitely did not like. Such as? Try Siakam’s attacks on the basket (in transition and otherwise), their own inability to be the team that pushes pace and Fred VanVleet as the game’s essential reserve (15 points on a night when his three-point shot was MIA). Green, in particular, sounded as if he was going to binge-watch Siakam’s romp and figure a way to thwart the unorthodox flip shots the forward from Cameroon deployed. “He's become ‘a guy,’” Green said phrasing that as a nod of respect. “He put a lot of work into get there and I respect that. But like I said, I got to take him out of the series and that's on me.” Toronto can make use of the video for as long as the Warriors roster stays the way it is, which means sans Kevin Durant. Which leads into … 5. Who's here (and who isn't)? (And no, we don’t mean LeBron James.) Durant’s continued absence with a calf injury since Game 5 of the Western Conference semifinals became an official problem in Game 1 of The Finals (the team’s first loss without him). Questions that had been bottled up for a couple weeks -- What did you miss most without Durant? How might he have changed your offense or defense? -- came spilling out from the large media crew that covers the NBA’s glamour team. Neither Kerr nor his players took the bait, which was smart. Not only would it look like excuse-making (considering how they hadn’t needed those before), it might have opened a crack of vulnerability into something wider and more troublesome. Durant is out for Game 2, but per a Yahoo Sports report is expected back at the series’ midway point (read: Game 3 or Game 4).  “KD's an all-time great player on both ends of the floor,” Curry said, “so I could sit here and talk for days about what he adds to our roster.  We obviously have proven that when he's out we can have guys step up, and that's going to be the case until he gets back.” Rushing him back would seem desperate, something the Warriors aren’t and shouldn’t be. Plus, it is early in a long series. And it really is irrelevant: NBA players and teams’ medical staffs don’t “rush back” anyone these days. Then again, once they’re ready to play -- as Golden State showed in using DeMarcus Cousins in Game 1 -- there’s no sense in letting talent help languish in street clothes. No time too, either. 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 1st, 2019

UAAP: Ex-San Beda playmaker Penny Estacio transfers to FEU-Diliman

Far Eastern University-Diliman's new era just got a shot in the arm with the entry of long-limbed point guard Penny Estacio. Estacio had played last season for San Beda High School where he posted per game counts of 11.1 points, a team-high, to go along with 2.5 assists, 2.1 rebounds, and 1.1 steals. However, he decided to transfer from Taytay to Diliman as he believed the latter is the best place he could showcase his skills. "I had to transfer so that I can maximize my playing years to be able to prepare myself for the future and the bigger leagues," Estacio said. In Estacio, the Baby Tamaraws get a ready-made replacement for former top gun RJ Abarrientos as well as versatile guard Royce Alforque who are now with the school's Seniors squad. The 5-foot-11 playmaker will team up with Jorick Bautista for the green and gold's new talented, albeit young, backcourt. That golden opportunity was what led Estacio to choose FEU-Diliman among other choices. "There were a lot of offers, but FEU made a very promising commitment. For that, I will play harder po," he said. Even though he has transferred, however, Estacio made it clear that he only has gratitude for San Beda. As he put it, "It was not an easy decision because San Beda was a great part of my playing career. I will be forever thankful sa coaches and teammates ko." The now 17-year-old will have two seasons of eligibility for the Baby Tamaraws. He will be good to go for them come Season 82. --- Follow this writer on Twitter, @riegogogo......»»

Category: sportsSource:  abscbnRelated NewsMay 29th, 2019

PVL: Will Creamline bring back coach Tai Bundit?

Creamline decided to part ways with Chinese coach Huanning Li as management wanted a more suitable program for the defending champions Cool Smashers. Li was sacked from his post on Monday, a day after Creamline suffered a devastating straight sets loss to PetroGazz to open the Premier Volleyball League Season 3 Reinforced Conference. Assistant coach Ed Ortega took over Li’s spot for the meantime. “Actually, sinabihan ako ng management to take over the training and the game. They are trying to find a suitable program for the team,” said Ortega on Wednesday after Creamline’s 25-21, 25-16, 25-18 beating of PacificTown Army for a 1-1 win-loss slate tied with their victim. “Sad to say, Creamline and coach Li kailangan talaga mag part ways,” added Ortega. Li, a former China national juniors team mentor, replaced Tai Bundit after the Thai mentor’s contract expired last year. Bundit steered the same Cool Smashers core to a Season 2 title sweep, winning the Reinforced and Open Conference crowns. Ortega followed the system of Bundit during practice and reverted to the Thai coach’s tried and tested rotation and plays that resulted in the quick win. “Yes, even the training, the drills tsaka 'yung happy happy,” said Ortega. Veteran Michele Gumabao, who played only in the third set off the bench in their opener and finished with only one point under Li’s watch, exploded with 13 points to lead Creamline.            A source privy with the transaction said Bundit received a message from the Creamline management on Tuesday asking for his return and the former Ateneo de Manila University mentor is expected to fly back to Manila on Monday. Ortega said that the management has yet to give a name of Li’s replacement. “Sinabihan lang ako ng management na may head coach pero hindi nila sinasabi kung sino,” Ortega said. “Wala talaga akong idea so ngayon, ako pa rin bahala sa trainings.” Ortega is expected to call the shots on Sunday in Creamline’s match against BanKo Perlas.     --- Follow this writer on Twitter, @fromtheriles.....»»

Category: sportsSource:  abscbnRelated NewsMay 29th, 2019

Common threads: Warriors and Raptors

The Golden State Warriors are back in the Finals for a fifth straight year, but standing across from them is a new face: the Toronto Raptors, who are playing for the Larry O'Brien trophy for just the first time in franchise history. [Watch the Playoffs on NBA League Pass for 30% less with this limited time offer! Select Annual package and use code SAVE30 at checkout to redeem] Warriors versus Raptors isn't exactly a matchup that screams "historic rivalry." Golden State is 28-17 in the overall series against Toronto, with Canada's club winning both their encounters this season. Still, the two clubs do have some overlap - players having suited up for both teams, plus some on- and off-court history. Here are eight common threads between the two teams in the 2019 NBA Finals. 1. Patrick McCaw Patrick McCaw has made the NBA Finals in all three season of his NBA career, something not many players can say. The first two years, he was with the Warriors, but now, he's facing his old club as a Raptor. McCaw was a second round pick by the Warriors in 2016. The team's long-term hope was that he could possibly succeed Andre Iguodala as a versatile, defense-first swingman, but he opted not to re-sign with GSW this past offseason. Sitting out most of the latter part of 2018, he eventually inked a loaded offer sheet (he was a restricted free agent) with Finals rivals the Cleveland Cavaliers, which the Warriors did not match. The Cavaliers waived him after three appearances, but he eventually found his way to Toronto. McCaw has averaged 2.7 points, 1.7 rebounds, and 1.0 assists up north, but has only logged seven appearances, norming 5.1 minutes, in the postseason. With his ex-teammates decidedly miffed about his decision not to come back to the Bay, things could get interesting if he sees playing time in the Finals. SAY WHAT YOU WANT 3 STRAIGHT NBA FINALS APPEARANCES?! I CAN'T MAKE THIS UP ... MY FAITH GOT ME HERE, NOTHING BUT GOD!!! ???????? ZERO WORRIES ZERO DOUBTS ???? — Patrick McCaw (@PMcCaw0) May 26, 2019 2. Jeremy Lin We're a long way from the highs of Linsanity with the New York Knicks, but let's not forget that it was the Golden State Warriors that first had a roster spot for the Harvard product. After going undrafted in 2010, the Warriors snapped up Lin, fielding him as a backup behind Stephen Curry and Monta Ellis. In his rookie season, Lin managed 9.8 minutes, 2.6 points, 1.2 rebounds, 1.4 assists, and 1.1 steals in 29 games. Golden State opted not to keep Lin following the 2011 lockout, which paved the way for him to sign, first with the Houston Rockets, and then with the New York Knicks. We know what happened there, right? Recently though, Lin has struggled due to injuries. He started this season getting traded from the Brooklyn Nets to the Atlanta Hawks. The Hawks then bought him out in February, which allowed the Raptors to sign him after he cleared waivers. He put up 7.0 points, 2.6 rebounds, and 2.2 assists in 23 regular season games for Toronto, but has played even less than McCaw in the Playoffs (7 games, 3.7 minutes, 1.3 points). 3. Alfonzo McKinnie 4. Chris Boucher Same story, different teams. Warriors swingman McKinnie and Raptors big Boucher began last season with the opposite ball club, though they actually spent more time with their respective G League affiliates. McKinnie, who went undrafted in 2015, bounced around playing as an import in Luxembourg and Mexico, before landing in the G League in 2016 with the Windy City Bulls. He signed a multi-year deal with the Raptors the next season, but got waived last July. McKinnie bounced back as a training camp invitee for Golden State, but with McCaw not signing, that opened up a roster spot for the journeyman. He's made the most of the opportunity since, averaging 4.7 points and 3.4 rebounds in 72 regular season games, 3.3 points and 2.5 rebounds in 16 postseason games. Boucher got a two-way contract from the Warriors last season, but was waived this past offseason. He got another two-way contract from the Raptors shortly after, before having his deal converted to a standard contract back in February. Appearing in 28 regular season games, Boucher normed 3.3 points and 2.0 rebounds. He really made his presence felt on Raptors 905, the G League affiliate of Toronto, getting named G League MVP and DPoY. He's been fielded in a pair of postseason games, amassing a total of 5 points and 1 rebound. 5. Stephen Curry The first time Stephen Curry shot hoops in Toronto was not as a Warrior, but as a kid. Curry's father Dell closed out his NBA career with three seasons in Toronto, and Steph and his brother Seth were a familiar presence in the arena, shooting hoops with their dad. The team's star back then, Vince Carter, even played 1-on-1 against him back in the day. In addition, Steph's wife Ayesha was born in Toronto and lived there until the age of 14. 6. Phil Handy He's far from a household name, but Phil Handy might be an x-factor in this series. The long-time player development guru was an assistant coach of the Cleveland Cavaliers from 2013 to 2018, which includes those four straight Finals matchups against the Warriors. Handy's worked with names like Kobe Bryant, Derek Fisher, Pau Gasol, Steve Nash, Kyrie Irving, Kevin Love, and LeBron James, before bringing his talents to aid Kawhi Leonard and Pascal Siakam, among others. Ironically though, Handy's a California native, and lived in Oakland until the age of 11. 7. Kawhi Leonard The journey that saw Kawhi Leonard go from San Antonio Spur to Toronto Raptor began in a series against the Golden State Warriors. Back in the 2017 Western Conference Finals, Leonard's 26 points had the San Antonio Spurs up big against the Warriors, before he landed on then-Golden State center Zaza Pachulia's foot. That re-aggravated an ankle injury he suffered in the previous series against the Houston Rockets, and Kawhi subsequently missed the rest of the series. Leonard would play just nine more games for the Spurs, due to a right quadriceps injury. The extent though of said injury is something we'll probably never know. Some Spurs players believe Kawhi could have played had he wanted to, while Leonard himself opted to rehab on his own, away from the Spurs medical staff. Regardless of the origin of the animosity between the franchise and the player, the Spurs moved to trade Leonard to the Raptors this past offseason. Safe to say, it's a deal that's worked out swimmingly for Toronto. 8. Will they stay or will they go? Speaking of Kawhi, he's in a similar boat with the currently-injured Warriors star Kevin Durant. Both Leonard and Durant could become free agents this offseason, with both possessing player options. It's largely believed that should they opt out and test the market, they would be the two top options for teams seeking a superstar. Who knows? No matter what the outcome of the Finals is, there's a possibility that a team like the Clippers or the Knicks could put the two of them on the same squad come 2019-20. The views on this page do not necessarily reflect the views of the NBA, its clubs or ABS-CBN Sports......»»

Category: sportsSource:  abscbnRelated NewsMay 27th, 2019

Raptors on brink of first Finals berth in franchise history

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

Category: sportsSource:  abscbnRelated NewsMay 25th, 2019

PVL: BaliPure: Ready for the challenge

BaliPure will make its return in the Premier Volleyball League Season 3 Reinforced Conference after skipping last year’s season-ending tournament. New head coach Romel Abella welcomes the new challenge of leading a revamped Water Defenders, who won the 2017 Open Conference title.   “Challenge na rin kasi na puro bago ang mga players namin and at the same time yung mga players namin since bago nga it’s their time to prove na yung skills nila at par sa level ng pagplalaruan namin,” said Abella, who steered former team Pocari Sweat to the throne in the inaugural staging of the import-laden conference. “Challenge sa akin, sa coaching staff and sa mga players na rin. Pero masaya ang challenge,” added Abella. The Water Defenders skipped the 2018 Open Conference after a sixth place finish in the Reinforced contest where BaliPure fielded a core of high school and college standouts from National University. This time, BaliPure will lean on the leadership of veteran player Grazielle Bombita, who played for Iriga last year. Helping Bombita are first-time imports Danijela Dzakovic from Montenegro and Slovakian Alexandra Vajdova. Other local stars looking to prove their mettle in the league are Menchie Tubiera, setter Necelle Gual of Perpetual Help, Vira Guillema and Jewelle Bermillo of San Sebastian College, Sandy Delos Santos, Satrianni Espiritu of San Beda College, Carrie Pronuevo, Miracle Mendoza, Patria Pena and Kat Racelis of Mapua University.   “Masaya ngayon since bago ang tuturuan mo, nandoon ang eagerness na ma-prove ang sarili nila,” said Abella. BaliPure will open its campaign on Sunday against newcomer ParificTown Army. “Nilu-look forward ko kung ano ang ilalabas ng mga players natin, na kung hanggang saan ang maipapakita namin as individuals and a team,” Abella said. “Hopefully, mag-translate yung pina-practice namin sa laro namin.”   --- Follow this writer on Twitter, @fromtheriles.....»»

Category: sportsSource:  abscbnRelated NewsMay 25th, 2019

Kawhi Leonard s improved playmaking has Raptors on cusp of Finals

By John Schuhmann, NBA.com MILWAUKEE -- At some point in the regular season, Toronto Raptors coach Nick Nurse had a feeling that his team's best player would be even better in the playoffs. "He seemed to cruise to 30 points a lot of nights," Nurse said of Kawhi Leonard. "Thirty is a lot in this league, and that's why I kept saying, 'Geez, it just feels like there's another gear here with this guy that we're going to see.'" [Watch the Playoffs on NBA League Pass for 30% less with this limited time offer! Select Annual package and use code SAVE30 at checkout to redeem] Leonard acknowledged as much in early March. "There's 82 games and for me, these are just practices," he said, "and playoffs is when it's time to lace them up." Nurse's reaction when he heard that? "Now we're talking." Indeed, Leonard has taken things to another level in this postseason, playing big minutes, making huge shots, and defending at an elite level. But Game 5 of the Eastern Conference finals brought something new. Leonard scored 35 points in the biggest win in Toronto Raptors franchise history, a 105-99 victory over the Milwaukee Bucks that gave the two-seed a 3-2 series lead with Game 6 in Toronto on Saturday (Sunday, PHL time). Fifteen of those 35 points, including two huge step-back three-pointers over the seven-foot-tall Brook Lopez, came in the fourth quarter. That wasn't the new part. This was Leonard's seventh game of 35 or more points in this postseason. And you might recall a couple of big fourth-quarter shots over a seven-footer in the last series. Leonard also played smothering defense on Giannis Antetokounmpo. That wasn't new either. Since Game 3, Leonard, with plenty of help from his teammates, has made the presumed MVP look somewhat mortal. The new part was the number "9" in the assists column. In 570 career games (regular season and playoffs combined) prior to Thursday, Leonard had never recorded as many as nine assists. That he did it in Game 5 of the Eastern Conference finals on the road and against the league's No. 1 defense says a lot about Leonard as a big-game star. That, given his star status, he had never had nine assists before just as much about his history as a playmaker. Leonard may be the most complete player in the game right now, but his passing can still get better. It doesn't come naturally to him. In regard to making his teammates better, Leonard is certainly not LeBron James. And you can even say that Antetokounmpo, still emerging as a superstar himself, has been better at reading the defense and finding open shooters. In the regular season, Leonard recorded assists on just 12.2 percent of his possessions, the fifth lowest rate among 35 players with a usage rate of 25 percent or higher. And his assist rate has actually been lower (11.7 percent) in the playoffs. But over the last two series, Leonard has been the focus of the Philadelphia and Milwaukee defenses. At times, he has tried to score through multiple defenders. And often, because his teammates weren't willing or able to do much offensively themselves and because he was scoring so efficiently, he was probably right to force things. Leonard forced little on Thursday (Friday, PHL time). He drove into the teeth of the Bucks' defense, saw where the help was coming from, and made the right play. "We keep stressing that in this series and in the last series, too," Nurse said. "When you've drawn two, you've done your job. You've got to find the guy who's open." And on the 22 possessions in which he drove, the Raptors scored 29 points, 10 from Leonard himself and 19 from his teammates. "Pretty much try to stay with a consistent mindset throughout the whole game," Leonard said of his performance. "Just trying to read the defense throughout the entire game, see what's working." It was all working, whether it was Leonard calling his own number or making plays for others. And it certainly helps that the others have seemingly found their mojo. Fred VanVleet, who shot 6-for-42 over a nine-game stretch from Game 2 of the conference semis through Game 3 of this series, is a 63 percent shooter (10-for-12 from three-point range) when he has more than one child. All of Leonard's nine assists in Game 5 were on three-pointers - so he accounted for 62 (59 percent) of the Raptors' 105 points via his own points and assists - and four of them were to the dad who hasn't slept much since Fred Jr. was born on Monday. "Any time he chooses to get the rest of us involved," VanVleet said of Leonard, "it's going to bode well for our offense. The rest of us just got to be ready to step up and knock them down." VanVleet had both the biggest shot of the night - a three from the right wing off a Leonard kick-out that broke a 93-93 tie with 2:19 to go - and the quote of the night when asked about his formula for success: "Zero sleep, have a lot of babies, and go out there and let loose." The Raptors' offense has been the biggest key to this series, because Toronto's defense, when it has been set, has been tremendous. They've kept Antetokounmpo from getting all the way to the basket, and they've been able to recover out to and contest the Bucks' shooters. While the Raptors scored 1.32 points per possession when Leonard drove in Game 5, the Bucks scored at a rate less than half of that (0.57, 12 points on 21 possessions) when Antetokounmpo drove. "We've got to play good offense," Nurse said, "not turn it over and score the basketball, because if you don't, they're getting what they want, which is downhill basketball in a hurry. If we can score it, if we can take care of it, we can get our defense set up, for the most part we get down and guard them and make the shots a lot tougher." Just six days ago, the Raptors were a possession away from falling into an 0-3 hole, one that no team in NBA history has ever come back from. Now, they've won three straight games against the team that hadn't lost three straight all season. After scoring less than a point per possession over the first two games of this series, the Raptors have scored 110.3 per 100 over the last three. The defense feeds off of the offense. And the offense feeds off of the star that keeps taking things to a new level. "I'm not afraid of the moment," Leonard said. "I enjoy it." The Kawhi Leonard that we saw in Games 1-4 against Philadelphia (when he averaged 38.0 points on 62 percent shooting) was a preposterously efficient scorer, good enough to keep his team even in the second round. The Kawhi Leonard that we saw on Thursday (Friday, PHL time) has his team playing even better ... and just one win from the NBA Finals. John Schuhmann is a senior stats analyst for NBA.com. You can e-mail him here, find his archive here and follow him on Twitter. The views on this page do not necessarily reflect the views of the NBA, its clubs or Turner Broadcasting......»»

Category: sportsSource:  abscbnRelated NewsMay 24th, 2019

PVL: Creamline: Building a Dynasty

It’s a no-brainer that other squads look at defending champion Creamline as the team to beat in the Premier Volleyball League Season 3 Reinforced Conference. But more than its star-studded line-up and veteran core, the Cool Smashers’ success and expected good run comes from the foundation it built that resulted in a winning culture. The team did struggle in its maiden campaign before working its way up to where it is now - both a champion in the import-laden and Open conferences.     After all Rome wasn’t built in a day.   Now with a chance to solidify their claim as PVL’s powerhouse team, the Cool Smashers are relying on their tried and tested core and team chemistry in spite of having a new foreign coach, the addition of new local players and a pair of impressive imports.      “From the last conference marami ang core ng players na ever since nagkaroon ng Creamline Cool Smashers kami-kami na rin ang naroon,” said Creamline’s prized hitter Alyssa Valdez. “So I think it’s a good sign na maganda ang foundation namin as a team.” Back to help Valdez retain the throne are local stars Michele Gumabao, Melissa Gohing, Pau Soriano, Rissa Sato, Jema Galanza, Coleen Bravo, top setter Jia Morado, Rizza Mandapat, Fille Cainglet-Cayetano, Kyla Atienza and Rose Vargas. Joining the crew are Far Eastern University’s Celine Domingo, Heather Guino-o and playmaker Kyle Negrito.   Creamline re-signed Thai import Kuttika Kaewpin and will introduce a new reinforcement in Venezuelan veteran Aleoscar Blanco. “‘Pag may mga pumapasok naman di naman nalalayo ang mantra nila or attitude and character ng mga players kung ano ang gusto namin as a team,” added two-time conference Most Valuable Player Valdez. "I think maganda na mayroong culture na naitayo at na-build ang team namin. Kasi maraming players na nasa Creamline ever since na natayo, kami pa rin ang nandoon,” Valdez said. The Cool Smashers will be under a new coach in former Chinese national team player Huanning Li, who replaced Tai Bundit of Thailand. “We have a new coach, we have a new system so we hope na dahil dun iba rin ang mabibigay namin this conference,” said Valdez. Though the team is stacked with big names in local volleyball, Valdez points out that what’s good about their team is that players know very well their specific role. “My teammates are very humble and down to earth, they’re really taking the roles kung ano ang role nila in our team. Yun talaga ang ginagawa nila,” she said. Creamline will be tested on Sunday against PetroGazz. Catch the Premier Volleyball League Season 3 Reinforced Conference starting May 26, Sunday LIVE on S+A, S+A HD, LIGA, LIGA HD, iWant and via livestream. --- Follow this writer on Twitter, @fromtheriles.....»»

Category: sportsSource:  abscbnRelated NewsMay 22nd, 2019