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Trail Blazers cohesiveness helped them to conference finals

By Anne M. Peterson, Associated Press PORTLAND, Ore. (AP) — The Portland Trail Blazers faced a number of challenges on the journey to their first Western Conference finals in 19 years. But there was one they couldn’t overcome: The Golden State Warriors. Portland’s run in the playoffs, which captured fans’ imaginations after Damian Lillard’s buzzer-beating three-pointer to clinch the opening-round series over the Thunder, ended with a sweep by the defending champions. [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] “We put together a great season and we put ourselves in position to go to the Finals,” Lillard said. “I think every other team in the league would wish they could be in our shoes; not only making the playoffs but playing for an opportunity to get a chance to go to the Finals. We just ran up on a team who has been there the last four years.” Portland was coming off two straight seasons that ended with first-round playoff sweeps. The team, which had surprisingly little turnover over those years, came into the season unified and determined to take the next step. But before the first game was played, the Blazers were hit by the death of owner Paul Allen after a battle with non-Hodgkins lymphoma. The co-founder of Microsoft was a hands-on owner and a familiar face at the Moda Center, and Portland dedicated its season to him. Injuries would challenge the Blazers down the stretch. Lillard’s backcourt partner CJ McCollum missed 10 games with a knee injury. But it was center Jusuf Nurkic’s injury that caused the most concern going into the playoffs. Portland’s seven-foot big man broke his left leg after crashing awkwardly in an overtime victory at home over the Brooklyn Nets on March 25 (Mar. 26, PHL time). Nurkic was averaging 15.6 points and 10.4 rebounds a game and many considered Portland’s playoff prospects dim without him. Fortunately, the Blazers were able to turn to Enes Kanter, who was waived by the New York Knicks following the trade deadline and signed by Portland for the rest of the season. Kanter averaged 13.1 points and 8.6 rebounds in 23 regular-season games with the Blazers, including eight starts. Portland finished 53-29 and clinched the third seed in the Western Conference, earning home court for the first round — and a series with the Thunder. The Blazers wrapped that series up in five games — capped by Lillard’s walkoff three-pointer. But even in the playoffs the Blazers couldn’t escape misfortune. Kanter separated his left shoulder in the final game against Oklahoma City. He was questionable for the conference semifinals against Denver but played, although he often winced in pain. Jonathan Yim, Portland’s video coordinator and player development coach, was in a serious car accident before the series with the Nuggets. The Blazers coaching staff wore bow ties in his honor in Game 2. That series went to seven games, with the Blazers sealing their date with Golden State on Denver’s home court. The Warriors were simply too much for the Blazers, climbing back from double-digit deficits in each of the final three games. Lillard played with separated ribs in the final two. The team’s on-court leader, Lillard averaged 25.8 points and 6.9 assists and earned his fourth All-Star nod during the regular season. He averaged 33 points in the opening round against the Thunder, but his production fell against Denver and Golden State when he was double-teamed. Lillard said the past few seasons of relative stability — after four of Portland’s five starters moved on to other teams in 2015 — have bonded the team. “Each year we’ve come back with the right attitude,” Lillard said Tuesday (Wednesday, PHL time). “We’ve been able to stick together through a lot of adversity and I think just what we’ve hung our hats on, what we’ve believed in, our culture, the togetherness, we’ve been able to truly build on that. And I think we should be encouraged.” Lillard could be in line for a hefty raise in the offseason. If he is named to one of the postseason’s All-NBA teams, he’ll qualify for a supermax contract extension worth $191 million. Lillard has two years remaining on his current contract. Asked about the prospects of a big extension, Lillard laughed and said: “I don’t understand why that’s even a question.” Coach Terry Stotts already benefited from the team’s run in the playoffs, signing a multi-year contract with the team that was announced at exit interviews. Terms of the deal were not released. “The guys in the locker room are special, it’s been a special season,” Stotts said. “Always tough to lose the last game of the year, but I couldn’t be more proud of the group that we’ve had.”.....»»

Category: sportsSource:  abscbnRelated NewsMay 22nd, 2019

Raptors simply being outpaced by Bucks in conference finals

By John Schuhmann, NBA.com The Toronto Raptors are being outplayed. And through two games of the the Eastern Conference finals, the Milwaukee Bucks clearly are winning the battle of pace. With each team averaging 102 possessions per game, they've stretched a Raptors roster that averaged between 95 and 96 possessions per game in each of the first two rounds. [Watch the Playoffs on NBA League Pass for 30% less with this limited time offer! Select Annual package and use code SAVE30 at checkout to redeem] The first two games of the conference finals have been the two fastest-paced games of Toronto's postseason. They're now 5-0 when they've had 94 or fewer possessions, and 3-6 when they've had 95 or more. On the defensive end of the floor, they've allowed just 96.3 points per 100 possessions in the five slower-paced games and 105.6 in the nine others. The context in those numbers, of course, is that three of the five slow-paced games were against the Orlando Magic's 22nd-ranked offense, while seven of the other nine have been against two top-10 offenses in Philadelphia and Milwaukee. The Bucks rank second offensively in the playoffs, having scored the same number of points per 100 possessions (113.5) as they did in the regular season, when they ranked just ahead of the Raptors in offensive efficiency. Toronto was actually the most efficient regular-season team in transition, averaging 1.19 points on those possessions, according to Synergy play-type tracking. Kawhi Leonard and Pascal Siakam scored 1.31 and 1.26 points per possession in transition, respectively. Those were the fourth- and seventh-best marks among 101 players who averaged at least two transition possessions per game in the regular season. In this series, the Raptors don't want to play slow and deliberate. Against the league's No. 1 defense, they have to seek out scoring opportunities, and walking the ball up the floor in order to minimize possessions would waste precious seconds off the shot clock. Not to mention allow the Bucks to set up their defense, and put additional pressure on every action and every pass in the half-court. Kyle Lowry has looked to push the ball up the floor against Milwaukee, off of both misses and makes. But the Bucks have simply been more prolific and efficient in transition. According to Second Spectrum tracking, the Raptors have outscored the Bucks by 10 points on field goals in the last 18 seconds of the shot clock, but Milwaukee has outscored Toronto, 49-26, on field goals in the first six seconds of the shot clock. The Raptors' issues have been with both the volume and accuracy of their shots early in the clock. In Game 1, they took 20 shots in the first six seconds, but shot just 5-for-20, in part because 12 of the 20 shots came from three-point range. They got early offense, but not early offense at the rim. In Game 2, the Raptors took just eight of their 87 shots in the first six seconds of the shot clock, while the Bucks attempted twice as many. The two ends of the floor are linked, of course. A defensive stop is more likely to lead to a transition opportunity, and a successful offensive possession is more likely to allow a team to get set defensively. And pace isn't just about shots early in the clock. It's also about the quickness with which actions are run in a half-court offense. "A lot of people kinda tend to think [playing with pace] means playing super fast, up the floor and shooting quickly," Nick Nurse said during the Philadelphia series. "We talked about our pace in the halfcourt. I think the games where the shots were better and going in ... our pace in the halfcourt was crisper. It was more speed of cuts, which translated to a little better rhythm, which translated to a little better shots." Both of these teams are defending similarly, putting an emphasis on protecting the basket, which means that paint attacks are met with multiple defenders. The result is ball movement and defensive rotations. And in regard to ball and player movement, the Milwaukee offense has played with more pace. Through the first two games, the Bucks have averaged 348 passes and 11.6 miles traveled per 24 minutes of possession. Toronto, meanwhile, has averaged 322 and 11.1. Sure, the Raptors have scored more points from the field in the last 18 seconds of the shot clock, but they haven't been nearly sharp enough to make up for the differential in transition. The Raptors don't want to turn the conference finals into a track meet. But if they're going to come back in this series, it seems they'll have to play with more pace offensively, while preventing the Bucks from doing the same. It's a tough needle to thread. 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 19th, 2019

Warriors miss Kevin Durant, but do they need him?

By Shaun Powell, NBA.com PORTLAND, Ore. — Along with the equipment, uniforms, basketballs and the confidence that comes with being up 2-0 in the Western Conference finals, the Warriors brought along another piece of cargo to Portland and it is the heaviest of them all. It didn’t come packed in luggage or a box; instead, it’s just wrapped in a hunch and tied with a question mark, and it is this: When do the Warriors start missing Kevin Durant? [Watch the Playoffs on NBA League Pass for 30% less with this limited time offer! Select Annual package and use code SAVE30 at checkout to redeem] The back-to-back champs are now 3-0 in these playoffs without their superstar and his aching calf. And 4-0 overall in games in which Durant didn’t finish. That probably says something about the Rockets, and so far about the Trail Blazers — two teams unable to exploit his absence. However, while the (bleeping) Giants — Steve Kerr’s description of his undermanned team — are honorably playing with a sense of urgency, they aren’t buying the notion that they don’t need Durant. It’s an easy trap to fall into, to believe the outside chatter that they’re better off without him. The next two games, both at Moda Center, will either feed that belief or destroy it. Yes, because the Blazers must beat the Warriors four out of five to advance, there’s little to no chance of them denying Golden State a fifth trip to the Finals regardless of whether Durant shows up in this series or not. And that’s good for the visitors, since Durant didn’t make the trip for Games 3 and 4. “There's no mental adjustment,” said Kerr. “You just play. You go out there with what you have, and this is our third game, 3 1/2 games, really without him, and so we're just trying to hold down the fort. Hopefully he continues to progress and he has made progress, but it's a little more serious than we thought at the very beginning. So we'll see where it all goes, but he's in there all day long getting treatment. He's done a great job of committing himself to that process.” There’s a thought that, even if Durant was 80 percent, the Warriors will keep him benched to prevent a chance of re-injury, and that’s a wise decision with wide-ranging ramifications. By protecting Durant’s best interest here in this free agent year, the Warriors score big points with him and his camp less than two months before Durant must make a decision on his future. That said, what are the Warriors doing right to remain unharmed by his absence? The easy answer is they won championships without Durant and so this is more of the same-old, same-old. Except it isn’t. This actually might be more impressive. Understand that Golden State's system had to be changed here on the fly and in the middle of the postseason, not only to compensate for Durant’s 37 points per game in these playoffs, but also his defense. Once Durant was lost late in the third quarter of the fifth game of the second round, Kerr had to reach down his bench and rely on players who weren’t thrust into roles of significance and seldom saw fourth-quarter minutes up until this point. Meaning, Jonas Jerebko, Quinn Cook, Kevon Looney, Jordan Bell and Alfonzo McKinnie have either seen their minutes rise and/or their roles inflated in the process. Of course, most of the burden fell on the proven core: Steph Curry, Klay Thompson, Draymond Green and Andre Iguodala. Each of those four, in his own way, is playing at a premium, even if it’s a small sample size. “That’s what it takes in the playoffs," said Kerr. "You have to have guys playing at a really high level.” Curry seems reborn or at least sprung free of a playoff fog where his numbers and production didn’t match his regular season. He finished strong in a pair of fourth quarters while closing out the Rockets and is the most impactful player in this series so far. He’s averaging 35 points on 51 percent shooting in the three games without KD. It wouldn’t be a stretch to suspect Curry is getting a charge out of this, and his ego, which he keeps hidden, is being fed. Thompson is now clearly the second option, whereas before he was often No. 3 and often only if his shot was falling. The green light never turns yellow without Durant around, like Curry, Thompson is working without handcuffs or a leash. After hitting 20 shot attempts once in the playoffs before Durant’s injury, Thompson is now hoisting 22 a game, good for a respectable 25-point average. The Warriors are constantly feeding him and running screens for him and urging him to take the shot, even if it’s contested. For a player who insists he’ll re-sign with Golden State this summer, Thompson is getting a taste of what life must be like if he played for, let’s say, the Clippers and was the focal point of the offense. “This team's been together a long time and they trust each other,” said Kerr. “When the ball starts moving, that's when we're tough to guard.” Green has never been better this season than in the last few weeks. Recharged after losing weight immediately following the All-Star break and no longer feeling pain in his previously-injured shoulder, Green is menacing on the defensive end where once again he’s guarding all positions except point guard and doing it marvelously. In addition, he’s pushing the ball up court to help Curry and Thompson stay as fresh as possible and directing the offense from the high post. He’s averaging 10 rebounds, 6.5 assists and three blocks without KD. “You know, we can't sit and look over our shoulder and say, `Hey, man, when is K going to be back?’ We just got to play with whatever we got,” Green said. “We got to play and give him an opportunity to get back, and I think that's what really falls on our shoulders. We're a very confident group. Hopefully he's back sooner than later, but as a guy who is in the battle every night, we can't sit and look over our shoulder and wonder when he or DeMarcus [Cousins] is coming back. We have to assume they are not coming back and play with what we got. Obviously, we are hoping that they do. But while they are not out there, we just got to play.” Finally, there’s Iguodala. He stayed hibernated all regular season while averaging career lows across the board. At age 35, it appeared time had finally caught up. Instead, this was a case of a crafty veteran preserving himself for springtime, and with the amount of talent on the Warriors, he could afford to do so. Iguodala had solid moments guarding James Harden in the second round and is among those trapping Damian Lillard and CJ McCollum this round. One of the signature plays of the series was Iguodala coming up with a walk-off strip of Lillard as time expired in Game 2. “You're kind of in awe of it because not many guys can make plays like that consistently,” said Curry. So this is where the Warriors are without Durant and also DeMarcus Cousins. They were good enough to stump the Rockets (again), then proved too much for the Blazers in a pair of home games. Nobody would be shocked if they take a game in Portland or maybe finish the sweep. It’s a luxury that few teams have or could pull off even if they did. This comes from a core that’s been together for six years, a coach pulling the proper strings and a bench that isn’t shrinking in the moment. “We feel like we can still win no matter who is out there on the floor, and that's why we're in the position that we’re in and have won championships with all the injuries and all types of stuff,” said Curry. “We know what the mission is, and we're on it right now.” These Warriors are playing flashback basketball to the time before Durant came aboard — and prepping themselves for next season, when and if Durant jumps overboard this summer. Shaun Powell has covered the NBA for more than 25 years. You can e-mail him here, find his archive here, and follow him on Twitter. The views on this page do not necessarily reflect the views of the NBA, its clubs or Turner Broadcasting. .....»»

Category: sportsSource:  abscbnRelated NewsMay 18th, 2019

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

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

Category: sportsSource:  abscbnRelated NewsMay 18th, 2019

Steph or Seth? Coin flip to decide who mom, dad represent

By Steve Reed, Associated Press Dell Curry was standing near the loading dock at the Pepsi Center in Denver when Trail Blazers guard C.J. McCollum approached, gave him a big hug and asked, “Which shirt are you wearing” for the Western Conference final? “Got to flip a coin,” Curry responded. Literally. With sons Stephen and Seth Curry becoming the first siblings to face each other in an NBA conference final, it’s a dilemma most any parent would love to have. [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] Dell and his wife, Sonya, decided wearing a split jersey with the Warriors and Blazers would be “too easy.” Instead, they’ll flip a coin before each game in the best-of-seven series to determine which team they’ll represent. It will go something like this: If Sonya flips heads, she’ll wear Blazers attire to support Seth, while Dell wears Stephen’s Warriors colors. If the coin lands on tails, she’ll dress in Warriors clothing while Dell dons Blazers gear. The next game Dell gets to flip the coin, and so on — until the series is decided. So who gets to flip the coin for Game 1 on Tuesday night (Wednesday, PHL time)? “Well, we have to flip to see who flips first,” Dell said with a laugh. “There’s going to be a lot of coin flipping going on.” And a lot of traveling. Dell and Sonya Curry plan to attend every game, sitting with Stephen’s wife Ayesha at Warriors home games and with Seth’s fiance Callie Rogers when the Blazers host. But Dell, who played 16 seasons in the NBA and is currently a TV analyst for the Charlotte Hornets, said the entire situation is just a bit unnerving for him. “I normally don’t get nervous for games when either one of them play,” he said. “But I got a little nervous knowing how they’re going to play against each other.” As hard as this will be on the parents, Dell knows it will be even more difficult for his sons. “It’s going to be tough to put everything aside and battle each other because as siblings they want each other to do well,” Dell said. “They watch each other’s games and cheer for each other.” Earlier this year, the Curry boys competed against each other in the three-point shootout at the All-Star game in their hometown of Charlotte, with 31-year-old Steph getting the best of his younger brother. Seth, 28, said it’s hard to believe they’ll now meet in the playoffs. “So many years I’ve watched Steph play in the Western Conference final, the NBA Finals, being in the crowd,” Seth Curry said. “It’s going to be fun to be out there on the court, competing, to get to that final. It’s a dream come true for us, but our families are going to have a lot of fun as well.” Steph Curry has been to the NBA Finals four times, winning three with the Warriors. This is his brother’s first playoff run. “It would be great for Seth to get a (championship) ring, but we can’t root for one son over the other,” 54-year-old Dell Curry said. “We’re just going to let it play out and have fun watching them both play.” Dell said it’s been fun, and exhausting. The Currys have been jetting around the country for the last month on commercial flights, back and forth between Oakland, Portland, Los Angeles, Denver and Houston to see their sons play. They’ve attended 21 of their sons’ combined 24 playoff games, only missing two Blazers’ first-round games in Oklahoma City and one second-round game in Denver. Sometimes, they wake up in a hotel unsure of what city they’re in. “Everybody says to us, ‘you guys have to be tired,’” Dell said. “I’m like, well, we’ll probably sleep for a week when it’s over.” __ AP Sports Writer Pat Graham in Denver, Colorado contributed to this report......»»

Category: sportsSource:  abscbnRelated NewsMay 13th, 2019

Valencia-SSC advances

Valencia City, Bukidnon-San Sebastian hung tough at the finish, frustrating Metropac-San Beda in a pulsating double overtime battle, 96-92, to secure a playoff seat in the PBA D-League at the JCSGO Gym in Cubao yesterday......»»

Category: newsSource:  philstarRelated NewsMay 7th, 2019

Sleepwalking Warriors snap to behind ultimate weapon Durant

By Shaun Powell, NBA.com LOS ANGELES -- The only sound in a basketball game that mimics an alarm clock blaring is the final buzzer, but by then the score is official and it’s too late to wake up. And maybe the Warriors needed seven months and 88 games to recognize this, because when you’ve won three championships in four years and bring four All-Stars in their prime and play nightly against the rank-and-file, there’s a tendency to doze off just to, you know, make things interesting. Well, nap’s over. After Friday's (Saturday, PHL time) 129-110 victory over the Clippers, the buzzer has shifted to the opening tip, and suddenly the Warriors are aware of where they are and who they’re up against and what time it is. [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] At least, those are the signals they’re giving off now, on the eve of the second round of the playoffs, when there is no better moment -- to paraphrase the noted prophet Kevin Durant -- to let folks know who you are. They’ll be led into their next basketball battle by Durant, fresh off a fiddy, which of course is basketball slang for 5-0 points, which finally silenced the Clippers and made the basketball world revisit the belief that the Warriors are not to be denied. This of course will be put to the test by the Rockets, arguably the biggest threat facing the Warriors between now and a June champagne sip. But really, now: If Durant plays like he has the last few games, does it really matter what James Harden and Chris Paul bring in this upcoming best-of-seven? “He’s in a groove right now,” said Steph Curry. “Special to see.” With the exception of last year’s Western Conference finals, when Houston took Golden State to the limit, the Durant Warriors have been one level above all others in the playoffs. The Clippers just took two from them -- despite Durant -- and nobody else claimed more than one victory in a best-of-seven. Overall, excluding that Rockets’ series, the Durants are 32-5 in the postseason, a clean 9-0 in series play. Everything that the Warriors were projected to do once Durant signed up for duty two summers ago has come true. They’re three superstars ahead of good teams and two superstars ahead of very good teams. Right now, they’re alone on the island, the only true great team in the league, even on nights when they don’t play the part. With all due respect to Damian Lillard, no one has has drawn more awe lately than Durant, who’s on pace to cause major problems for whomever crouches in a defensive stance before him. In the last four games, he averaged 42 points on 55 percent shooting, and at times was a singular force against the stubborn Clippers. Remember, Steph Curry is trying to climb out of a fog, stifled and troubled by missed jumpers in the last week and momentarily sidelined Friday (Saturday, PHL time) by a tweaked right ankle, which always causes the Warriors to hold their breath. Klay Thompson, as is his pattern, went ballistic for one game, then was rather tame by comparison in the others. “I just play my game through it all,” Durant said. “I definitely don’t want to go away from my teammates if they’re struggling to shoot the ball. But at the same time, I have to be aggressive and try to win the game as well.” Given how leaky the Warriors’ defense looked and how carelessly they handled the ball, the one constant in the first round was Durant drilling shots from all angles and distances, especially once he confined his chatter to making shots instead of taking them at Pat Beverley, the Clippers’ All-Star instigator. Warriors coach Steve Kerr called it “one of the greatest performances I’ve ever seen” and this is someone who rode with Michael Jordan and Tim Duncan. Whether Kerr was simply caught up in the moment, it doesn’t minimize what Durant did to close out the Clippers and what he’s capable of doing against the Rockets. “He's the ultimate weapon because there's no defense for Kevin,” Kerr said. “No matter what anybody does, he can get a good shot. And he knew we needed him badly. And he just took over the game in the first half and set a great tone.” Durant appears to be locked in and on a mission, and if this is his last run with the Warriors, it’s morphing into a gallop. His 50 points Friday (Saturday, PHL time) were a personal playoff high and his 38 in the first half tied Charles Barkley for second on the all-time list. And this came on the heels of the 45 points he delivered in a losing Game 5 effort. “Sometimes you come across special people and it doesn’t matter what defense you send to them,” said Clippers guard Lou Williams. “There is no scheme. There’s nothing you can do with special people. He’s one of them and he showed it. He put them guys on his shoulders. He proved exactly who people think he is, who he thinks of himself, and he did it.” The Warriors finished with the best record in the West this season, almost on reputation or cruise control. Once again, there were lapses that seemed suspiciously like a team bored with the schedule and awaiting a summer coronation. This breezy attitude seeped into the opening round, when the Warriors choked away a 31-point lead and then lost another home game to an eighth-seeded team devoid of All-Stars. This doesn’t happen unless the heavily-favored one-seed is taking their championship rings for granted. “I think I made a joke like this first round felt like it was two months,” said Curry. “It was just the emotional part of it, I mean, losing (DeMarcus Cousins) and a 31-point lead and trying to come back on the road and the mental investment you put into it. We’ve got to be able to flip the switch from one team to the next and that will be the biggest test.” Well, and this might be a stretch, but expect the Warriors to show the Rockets a lot more respect. Deep down, Kerr knows losing a pair to the Clippers was perhaps the face-slap his team needed, and at the right time. The Warriors know any lapse in this series will likely be their last, and a fatal one as well. “We know what Houston's about,” said Kerr. “We know how good they are. We've got to be ready.” There are positive signs beyond Durant. Thompson will be the first line of defense against Harden, the league’s leading scorer this season, and Thompson is coming off a lockdown of Williams, who finally cooled and went 3-for-21 Friday (Saturday, PHL time). This will be of major importance, of course, given Harden’s usage rate and relentlessness. “If you’re not focused,” Durant said, “he can drive past you, he shoots floaters now, he’s a strong finish with either hand and obviously the step-back three-pointers is one of his staples. He can score in a variety of ways so you have to be locked in from the beginning. You’ve got to be ready to play tough all game.” Draymond Green is coming off a triple-double, while the aging Andre Iguodala seems springy and active, usually his profile this time of year. Yes, there’s finally perhaps a sense of urgency or at least an understanding of what’s at stake and more of an emphasis on staying woke for the Warriors. “Obviously we would love to win every series 4-0,” said Durant. “That would be ideal. But we know it’s not really going to happen that way.” Perhaps not. But the Durant Warriors, based on their track record, are convincing enough. Veteran NBA writer Shaun Powell has worked for newspapers and other publications for more than 25 years. You can e-mail him here or follow him on Twitter. The views on this page do not necessarily reflect the views of the NBA, its clubs or Turner Broadcasting. .....»»

Category: sportsSource:  abscbnRelated NewsApr 27th, 2019

Williams, Safarova in French Open final rematch at Melbourne

DENNIS PASSA, AP Sports Writer br /> MELBOURNE, Australia (AP) — On paper, Serena Williams' second-round match on Thursday against Lucie Safarova should be no contest. The six-time Australian Open champion in search of her record 23rd Grand Slam singles title has beaten the Czech player all nine times they've met, including the 2015 French Open final. But Safarova, ranked 61st, saved nine match points in the second set of her first-round match here against Yanina Wickmayer before advancing 3-6, 7-6 (7), 6-1. So Williams may need to be patient, or ruthless, in the match which opens night play at Rod Laver Arena. After her win Tuesday, Safarova wasn't aware of the extent of her feat. 'I stopped counting after a few (match points), I was like, just another one,' she said. 'But I was like, 'I'm just going to go for it and if she closes the match, well OK, but I'm just going to play my game.' It was exciting.' Safarova is expecting a fast start from Williams. 'Serena's always a tough opponent,' Safarova said. 'She hasn't played many matches so that could be maybe a little bit to my advantage, but she always comes out strong. I have nothing to lose so I'll be ready.' ___ Here is a look at some other matches in the bottom half of the draw on Thursday, the fourth day of the Australian Open: CONCERN FROM RAONIC: Milos Raonic takes on Gilles Muller, who is coming off his first career tournament victory at the Sydney International last week. Muller broke down at the trophy presentations in Sydney, relieved that he finally achieved a win. Raonic lost to Muller in Valencia, Spain in 2012, although that was before Raonic developed into the third-ranked player in the world. Raonic also had to retire from a second-round match at Wimbledon in 2011 while leading 3-2 in the first set due to a right hip injury. 'I have struggled with him,' Raonic said. 'He had a great, phenomenal week last week. For him it was something very special, and obviously it was pretty special to see, as well, that final and his reaction to it.' They play an afternoon match on Margaret Court Arena. ___ MUTUAL RESPECT: Johanna Konta beat Naomi Osaka in straight sets in their only previous meeting in the semifinals of qualifying at the U.S. Open in 2015. The pair, who meet again Thursday — the opening match of the day at Rod Laver — made positive impressions on each other during that match in New York. 'I remember playing her, and she had a real good serve and a really good return,' Osaka said of last year's semifinalist. 'I think it's really awesome like how she rose so high and quickly. She's a really good player.' Konta returned the favor: 'She's improved a lot. I know she plays a big game. She has big shots. I'm definitely prepared to go in for a battle.' ___ DOMINATING DJOKOVIC: Six-time champion Novak Djokovic has beaten his second-round opponent, Dennis Istoman, all five times they have met. Two of those matches have come at the Australian Open, although it wasn't until the third round. Istoman has won only one set in those five career matches. Among other matches Thursday, 2009 champion Rafael Nadal plays 2006 finalist Marcos Baghdatis and No. 3-seeded Agnieszka Radwanska takes on Mirjana Lucic-Baroni. .....»»

Category: sportsSource:  abscbnRelated NewsJan 18th, 2017

Thomas caps off record week with trophy at Sony Open

DOUG FERGUSON, AP Golf Writer   HONOLULU (AP) — Challenged only by the record book, Justin Thomas won the Sony Open on Sunday with the lowest 72-hole score in PGA Tour history. Thomas capped off his wonderful week at Waialae that began with a 59 with his second straight victory. He two-putted birdie from 60 feet on the par-5 18th and closed with a 5-under 65 to set the record at 253. Tommy Armour III shot 254 at the 2003 Texas Open. 'It's been an unbelievable week. Unforgettable,' Thomas said before going to sign his historic card. Make that two weeks. The 23-year-old from Kentucky won the SBS Tournament of Champions at Kapalua last week by three shots, then destroyed the full field at the Sony Open to win by seven shots. Thomas is the first player since Tiger Woods in 2009 (Buick Open and Bridgestone Invitational) to win back-to-back weeks by three shots or more. 'I felt like I was trying to win a tournament for second place,' Jordan Spieth said, summing up the helpless feeling of everyone. That honor went to Justin Rose, who closed with a 64 to finish alone in second. Spieth shot a 63 to finish alone in third. The first full-field event of the year on the PGA Tour was a one-man show. Thomas began the final round with a seven-shot lead and no one got closer than five shots all day. His only nervous moment was an 8-foot par putt on the sixth hole when he was five shots ahead. He made that, and the rest of the day was a Pacific breeze. Thomas joined Ernie Els in 2003 as the only players to sweep Hawaii, and this performance might have been even better. Thomas was 49-under par for his two weeks, compared with Els at 47 under. Thomas joined Johnny Miller (1974 and 1975) and Tiger Woods (2003, 2008, 2013) as the only players since 1970 to win three of the their first five starts in a PGA Tour season. It started last fall with the CIMB Classic in Malaysia. He moved to No. 8 in the world. 'He's got full control of his game, full confidence, and he's executing under pressure,' Spieth said. 'It's a lot of fun to see. Certainly stuff that myself and a lot of our peers have seen going back almost 10 years now. He's certainly showing the world what he's capable of.' No one ever lost a seven-shot lead in the final round of a PGA Tour event, a fact that never entered the conversation on a balmy afternoon at Waialae. Thomas, thinking more about the trophy and another record when he started the final round, took no chances early on. He was 1 over through seven holes, making a soft bogey with a three-putt from 45 feet on No. 4 and a tough par save on No. 6, and still no one got closer than five shots. But when he poured in a 20-foot birdie putt on the eighth, Thomas shifted into another gear. That was the start of four birdies in five holes — the exception was a birdie putt he missed from just inside 10 feet — and he stretched his lead to as many as nine shots. Waialae was vulnerable all week with not much wind, fast fairways and greens that were softer than usual. Thomas produced the eighth sub-60 round in PGA Tour history on Thursday. Kevin Kisner had a shot at 59 on Saturday until missing a 9-foot eagle putt on his final hole. And on Sunday, Chez Reavie made a hole-in-one with a 6-iron on the 17th hole that gave him a shot at a sub-60 round. Only a bogey on the sixth hole (he start on No. 10) stopping him, and he had to settle for a 61. That matched the third-best score of the week. Even in easier conditions, no one played like Thomas. He felt the nerves early, perhaps knowing that he could only lose with such a big lead. But when he made the turn with a six-shot lead, it was a chase for the record, and there was no stopping him. He hit a lob wedge over a bunker to 3 feet for birdie on the 14th, made a 12-foot par save on the 15th and picked up the last birdie he needed on the par-5 18th by easily reaching the middle of the green. .....»»

Category: sportsSource:  abscbnRelated NewsJan 16th, 2017

Alaska, TNT shoot for share of 2nd vs. different foes

Finding their groove following a slow start, the Alaska Aces set their sights on a share of second place as they battle struggling Blackwater Sunday in the 2017 PBA Philippine Cup at the Big Dome. Winners of four of their last five games, Calvin Abueva and the rest of the Aces (4-3) go for win number five, putting them in a tie with idle Rain or Shine and Globalport for the league's second-best record. In order to do so, they'll have to get past a hungry Elite side looking to bounce back after suffering a pair of tough defeats. Since zooming to a 4-2 start, Blackwater has dropped back to .500 basketball, barely holding on to one of the eight playoff spots as of posting time. The Elite's matchup with the Aces is set at 4:30 p.m. at the Araneta Coliseum. In the second game, TNT KaTropa (4-3) also shoot for a share of second place against a Star (3-4) team that lost all momentum from their recent three-game run. Losing their first game of 2017 against sister team NLEX, the KaTropa look to jump back on the win column as the flagship MVP franchise continue to chase a playoff bonus. Gametime is set at 6:45 p.m.   .....»»

Category: sportsSource:  abscbnRelated NewsJan 15th, 2017

Team SEA braces for tough Ladies Challenge duel

Team SEA braces for tough Ladies Challenge duel.....»»

Category: newsSource:  manilatimes_netRelated NewsJan 11th, 2017

PH expects tough battle vs Indonesia in Davis Cup

PH expects tough battle vs Indonesia in Davis Cup.....»»

Category: newsSource:  manilatimes_netRelated NewsJan 11th, 2017

Team SEA braces for tough Ladies Challenge showdown

Team SEA braces for tough Ladies Challenge showdown.....»»

Category: sportsSource:  thestandardRelated NewsJan 11th, 2017

Top-ranked Kerber loses her opening match in Sydney

SYDNEY (AP) — Top-ranked Angelique Kerber lost her opening match at the Sydney International on Tuesday, upset 7-6 (5), 6-2 by Darya Kasatkina in a setback ahead of her Australian Open title defense next week. Kerber, who won last year's Australian and U.S. Open for her first major titles, has opened the new season with one win in two tournaments in Brisbane and Sydney. The Australian Open starts Monday in Melbourne. Eugenie Bouchard continued her resurgent run, meanwhile, with a 6-4, 6-3 win over WTA Finals champion Dominika Cibulkova to reach the quarterfinals in Sydney. Bouchard improved her career record to 4-1 against Cibulkova, who was ranked No. 5 and was voted the WTA's comeback player of the year in 2016 after her title win at the season-ending championship. 'Any time you play one of the best players in the world it's like a standard of where you're at,' said Bouchard, who had a wild-card entry in Sydney. 'Every time I have played a match with Domi, we have had the toughest battles. 'I have won, I guess, more often than not, but everyone is a really tough battle.' Bouchard had an early break in the second set, but dropped serve and allowed Cibulkova, a finalist at the 2014 Australian Open, a way back into the match. But the Canadian star broke again quickly and held onto the advantage. Bouchard had a breakout season in 2014, reaching the semifinals at the Australian Open and French Open before making the final at Wimbledon. But she has only gone past the fourth round at a major once since then and slipped to No. 46 at the end of last year. After winning back-to-back matches at a tournament for the first time since August in Cincinnati, she will play a quarterfinal against Anastasia Pavlyuchenkova, who beat defending champion Svetlana Kuznetsova 7-5, 6-3. 'I have taken a couple of solid steps this week, but I'm far from where I want to be,' Bouchard said. 'Even though I won, to me, I could do a lot of things better.' Barbora Strycova had a 6-2, 6-3 win over No. 9-seeded Roberta Vinci. At the ASB Classic in Auckland, New Zealand, fifth-seeded Spaniard Albert Ramos-Vinola lost 6-1, 7-5 in the first round to friend and training partner Joao Sousa. Ramos-Vinola, ranked 27, and Portugal's Sousa, ranked 44, are both based in Barcelona and are supporters of the city's rival football clubs and Sousa described their match as 'a kind of a derby.' 'On court we are no friends but off court we are,' he said. Ramos-Vinola's main weapon is his powerful forehand but he lacked accuracy in his first match of the season, missing too many easy points in the first set and making 18 unforced errors to Sousa's eight. He dropped serve in the fourth game and again in the sixth to lose the first set in 32 minutes. .....»»

Category: sportsSource:  abscbnRelated NewsJan 10th, 2017

5 questions for a new year, starting with Tiger Woods

br /> DOUG FERGUSON, AP Golf Writer   KAPALUA, Hawaii (AP) — The new year in golf is consumed by an old topic, this time with a twist. Instead of wondering when (or if) Tiger Woods will play, the question now is how will he play? And here's another question: Who ever imagined a time when the guys he beat for so many years would be rooting for him to play better? 'I think we've proved that golf does not need Tiger to be successful,' Brandt Snedeker said last month in the Bahamas. 'That being said, golf is better when Tiger is around. I don't think we need Tiger necessarily any more. We all want Tiger. I think golf is a better product, it's better TV and I want to see Tiger play again. It's fun. You see the crowds he brings and he still has an innate ability to do something only a couple of guys can do.' No one commands attention like Woods. The biggest problem for golf might be battling the perception that it matters only when Woods is playing. Compared with last year, that's a nice problem to have. There remains a battle for supremacy, minus any talk about a 'Big Three.' Europe has to face a Midwestern crowd, this time in the Solheim Cup. Two of the majors are going to courses that have never held one — Erin Hills for the U.S. Open, Quail Hollow for the PGA Championship. The first tee shot of the year is Thursday. Answers to a few topics will take months to sort out. TIGER WOODS By most accounts, Woods made a successful return in the Bahamas, except for the one that matters. He finished in 15th place out of 17 players and 14 shots out of the lead. But it was a start, and a healthy one. The best bet is that Woods will return at Torrey Pines at the end of the month, and with each event, the measure will shift form his health to his score. Jack Nicklaus is mostly curious about his motivation, and he speaks from experience. Nicklaus won his 16th and 17th majors at age 40, and he refers to his final major in the 1986 Masters as 'an accident in many ways.' 'It's really difficult when you've had as much success as I had over a long period of time to charge your batteries, day after day, and go back out and say, 'Man, I want to do this again.' That's what he's going to have to do,' Nicklaus said. 'Whether he can do that or not, I don't know. That's going to be the question.' THE BATTLE FOR NO. 1 Jordan Spieth started last year at No. 1, won three times and fell to No. 5. Spieth, Jason Day and Rory McIlroy were separated by 0.76 points of their world ranking average going into last year, so some movement was inevitable. Day has been at No. 1 since the end of the March, and while there is slightly more separation at the top, there are a half-dozen players or more who could end 2017 at No. 1. McIlroy came on strong at the end of the year. Dustin Johnson won the U.S. Open and was the PGA Tour player of the year. Henrik Stenson won his first major and became a threat every time he teed it up. Hideki Matsuyama ended last year by winning four of his last five tournaments. A different player has finished No. 1 for the eighth consecutive year. Odds are this will be the ninth. MAJOR MYSTERIES No one knows what to expect at the U.S. Open for the second time in three years. The USGA took golf's second-oldest championship to Chambers Bay in the Pacific Northwest in 2015, and now heads to Erin Hills in the middle of Wisconsin. The last time the U.S. Open went to two courses in a three-year span that had never held a professional major was Hazeltine (1970) and Pebble Beach (1972). Then again, Pebble had been around since 1919 and hosted the U.S. Amateur four times. Erin Hills opened in 2006. The PGA Championship is going to Quail Hollow, the North Carolina club's first time holding a major, though it has held the Wells Fargo Championship since 2003. CUPS RUNNETH OVER The Americans will be going for a third straight victory in the Solheim Cup when it goes to Iowa this summer. Nothing brings out passion in team golf quite like the United States vs. Europe. The Presidents Cup also holds some intrigue. The International team has lost six straight times and has won only once since the Presidents Cup began in 1994. More pressure would seem to be on U.S. captain Steve Stricker, not only because the Americans haven't lost since 1998, but because he is the likely Ryder Cup captain for 2020 at Whistling Straits in his native Wisconsin. Speaking of Ryder Cup captains, expect the next American skipper to be named next week. But those matches are two years away. WHAT WILL PHIL DO NEXT? Phil Mickelson was runner-up at a major for the third straight year since his last victory, which was the 2013 British Open at Muirfield for his fifth major. The focus, as always, will be whether Lefty can complete the career Grand Slam at the U.S. Open. At age 46, and having gone through two hernia operations in the offseason, it would seem a victory anywhere would suffice. Mickelson, however, shouldn't be ruled out after last year. He made 10 birdies in a Ryder Cup singles match against Sergio Garcia. He shot 267 at the British Open, matching the fourth-lowest score in major championship history. Just his luck, he got only a half-point against Garcia, and he was runner-up at the Open. .....»»

Category: sportsSource:  abscbnRelated NewsJan 4th, 2017

Red Booters rarin’ to nail 22nd crown

MANILA, Philippines – San Beda braces for a tough second round campaign in NCAA football next month, hoping to top the four-team competition and reclaim the.....»»

Category: sportsSource:  philstarRelated NewsDec 21st, 2016

Fil-Am Runas ready

Fil-Am Demi Runas braces for a spirited battle for top honors against the cream of the local pro crop and the best from the Taiwan LPGA Tour in the $80,000 ICTSI Philippine Ladies Masters which fires off tomorrow at the Alabang Country Club in Muntinlupa......»»

Category: newsSource:  tempoRelated NewsDec 20th, 2016

Fil-Am eyes big finish at Phl Ladies Masters

MANILA, Philippines - Fil-Am Demi Runas braces for a spirited battle for top honors against the cream of the local pro crop and the best from the Taiwan LPGA.....»»

Category: sportsSource:  philstarRelated NewsDec 19th, 2016

Anton expects tough field in Asian karting

MANILA, Philippines - Inigo Anton braces for a tough outing against the region’s best as he competes in the Asian Karting Open Championship at the Kartodromo.....»»

Category: sportsSource:  philstarRelated NewsNov 28th, 2016

Carrageenan makers in PH gear up for tough battle ahead

Carrageenan makers in PH gear up for tough battle ahead.....»»

Category: newsSource:  inquirerRelated NewsNov 21st, 2016