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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: abscbn abscbnJun 9th, 2019

Pinoy Basketball in 2019: High, low, and then High again

Another year, another time when basketball literally did not stop in the Philippines. There was a lot to see when it came to Pinoy hoops in 2019, as if everyone was trying to make sure to end the decade on a bang. It was definitely a pretty hectic year for Philippine basketball, proving time and again that ball truly is life.   SPIDER-MEN, GRAND SLAMS, AND EPIC TRILOGIES The PBA is technically still not over, with the 2019 PBA Governors’ Cup stretching all the way to mid January 2020. The country’s top league for sure had a lot happening, perhaps most infamously being in the 2019 Philippine Cup Finals when a random fan dressed as the friendly neighborhood Spider-Man stormed the court late in Game 5 between San Miguel Beer and Magnolia. Safe to say, things got crazy. The other PBA Spider-Man, Arwind Santos, saw his signature dunk banned by the league. He also got fined P200k for hurling racial gestures against an opposing import and is now indefinitely suspended by his own team for fighting against his own import. All that with Peter Parker having his identity revealed in the Marvel Cinematic Universe (*spoiler alert*) and it’s just been a pretty wacky year for Spider-Men. San Miguel also tried to win a Grand Slam this year, it looked great too as the Beermen won their second title despite being a no. 7 seed and were undefeated almost halfway through the third conference. But just like this current batch of Beermen’s first Grand Slam attempt, they never really got close as Barangay Ginebra ended the bid in round 1 of the Governors’ Cup. Oh and speaking of the Gin Kings, they’re back in the Governors’ Cup Finals... against Meralco. Oh yes, we’re getting a Trilogy. If that’s not the way to start a whole new decade then we don’t know what is.   HIGH, LOW, AND THEN HIGH AGAIN Switching over to Gilas Pilipinas, the national team was pretty busy this year, which is one of the way reasons why the current PBA season is getting dragged all the way to the next decade. After a gloomy ending in 2018, Gilas showed us where the lights shine brightest by booking a trip to the 2019 FIBA World Cup in China. Gilas overcome freezing weather in Kazakhstan to advance, making sure that the Philippines will be stringing together three straight World Cup appearances. Once Gilas got to China though, it appeared that the national team got blinded by said bright lights. Loss after loss after loss after loss after loss, the Philippines ended up finishing in 32nd place out of 32 teams, setting the Gilas program back a couple of notches. But 2019 will not be a lost year though, as Gilas put together an incredible loaded team to put on a show in the Southeast Asian Games in Manila. Win after win after win after win after win, the Philippines ended up with a 13th straight gold medal in the SEA Games.   FLAMING OUT Fresh from a first ABL title in 2018, San Miguel-Alab Pilipinas was off to a sizzling start for the 2019 season, opening with eight straight wins. The team returned most of its title-winning core from the season prior and added behemoth PJ Ramos as a second import. Even with losses here and there, Alab maintained its number one ranking for most of the year... that is until injuries caught up to the team. Alab flamed out it its title defense, first losing the no. 1 seed to Formosa and then getting swept out of the opening round of the playoffs by Hong Kong Eastern, the team they swept in the semis the year before. Ultimately, Alab lost six straight games on its way to giving up its title. Fortunately, Alab has ended the decade with a four-game run and Jimmy Alapag’s crew is currently tied for first place in the new 2019-2020 season.   BRAND NEW KNIGHTS After a banner first conference, the MPBL quickly expanded to an incredible 26 teams. Following a crazy season with 364 games played, and old MBA dynasty in the San Juan Knights emerged as champions, taking down Davao Occidental in a classic five-game series for the title. The Knights’ title conquest came in the middle of the year and the MPBL is back in action, with 31 teams battling it out in the ongoing Lakan Cup. 2019 saw a ton of basketball games to be played, and 2020 looks like there’s no slowing down in terms of hoops action. Let’s get to it.   — Follow this writer on Twitter, @paullintag8.....»»

Category: sportsSource:  abscbnRelated NewsDec 26th, 2019

PBA: Defense keys Meralco’s return to Governors’ Cup Finals

ANTIPOLO — To win against TNT in the 2019 PBA Governors’ Cup semifinals, Meralco really had to get things done on the defensive side of the ball. In the deciding Game 5 Monday, the final PBA game of the decade, the Bolts did just that. Meralco limited TNT to just 78 points, just 36 in the second half.  The Bolts' tight defense in the last two quarters helped trigger a slow breakaway that allowed them to advance to another Governors’ Cup Finals. “Just like it has been the entire conference, our defense is what held up for us,” head coach Norman Black said. “TNT is a high-powered team, a high-scoring team but defensively we were able to slow them down to beat them tonight,” he added. Meralco’s rad back to the Finals was difficult this time around too. The Bolts had to erase a 1-2 series deficit, coming up with two straight grind-out games to steal the series victory. “In this series, I feel like we literally had everything thrown at us. I give credit a lot of credit to the TNT team and their coaching staff because the coaching staff from Meralco, as well as our players, really had to work hard to get back to the Finals again,” Black said. “I'd like to thank my players because we were down 2-1 and we had to win both games to win both games to get to the Finals. Everybody focused in and stayed positive. Everybody was very attentive to the game plan in how we wanted to execute for us to make it back to the championship round again,” Coach Norman added.   — Follow this writer on Twitter, @paullintag8.....»»

Category: sportsSource:  abscbnRelated NewsDec 23rd, 2019

PBA: Castro on TNT’s needs for deciding Game 5: “Lahat”

ANTIPOLO — Jayson Castro kept things pretty simple after TNT lost its first chance to make the Finals of the 2019 PBA Governors’ Cup. Dragged to a deciding Game 5 of the semifinals by Meralco, the Blur says the KaTropa will have to pretty much play a 100 percent better game Monday to avoid elimination. “Lahat,” Castro said when asked about TNT’s needs in the semis decider. “Nalabas na yung mga cards eh. Siguro, kung sino na lang talaga gustong manalo,” he added. Getting into some specifics, Castro singled out Meralco import Allen Durham. The Blur says its AD that’s been the biggest problem for TNT. True in enough, the former two-time Best Import dropped 36 points and 13 rebounds for a Game 4 win by the Bolts. “Then siguro kailangan naming ma stop si Durham, kasi both wins nila, siya talaga eh, hindi yung mga locals nila eh,” Castro said. “So kailangan talaga naming humanap ng paraan kug pano talaga siya ma-stop,” he added.   — Follow this writer on Twitter, @paullintag8.....»»

Category: sportsSource:  abscbnRelated NewsDec 21st, 2019

PBA: Pogoy keeps focus on himself after shenanigans backfire anew

Hopefully, RR Pogoy has learned his lesson for good. In Game 2 of the 2019 PBA Governors’ Cup semifinals against Meralco, RR Pogoy scored a grand total of zero points in a 20-point blowout. He also pretty much caused a scuffle early in the game after Meralco guard Baser Amer finally took offense to his apparent pinching. “Kaharutan ko lang eh. Siguro nung Game 2, ayaw ata ni Lord ng mga ganun so pumangit laro ko,” Pogoy said, who rebounded with 15 points and eight rebounds in a TNT win in Game 3. “Kasi naalala ko yung last time na zero points ako, yung kay Arwind [Santos] eh,” Pogoy added, remembering some past kerfuffles against the San Miguel Beermen star, mostly in the playoffs too. As TNT gets closer to another Finals appearance, Pogoy says he’ll try to focus on himself and his own team. No more shenanigans against opposing players he says. “Ngayon, iniisip ko na focus lang tlaga sa laro,” Pogoy said. “Focus na lang sa laro kesa sisirain yung laro ng iba, kaso lang sakin yung nasira eh. Bumawi ako ngayong Game 3. Sabi ko nga kay Amer, "Amer, friends na tayo Amer ah," sabi ko sa kanya. Wala lang naman yun. Tumawa lang siya,” he added.   — Follow this writer on Twitter, @paullintag8.....»»

Category: sportsSource:  abscbnRelated NewsDec 20th, 2019

PBA: McDaniels has his locals to thank in big Game 3 win for TNT

KJ McDaniels wasn’t exactly having the best of outings Thursday as TNT battled Meralco for a crucial Game 3 in the 2019 PBA Governors’ Cup semifinals. After scoring 51 points but losing by 20 in Game 2, McDaniels couldn’t buy a bucket against the Bolts. Worse, TNT was losing too, trailing by as many as 13 in the first half. McDaniels only had two points at the break and only eight through three quarters. However, his teammates picked things up, with the KaTropa locals taking over for a 35-point third quarter allowing TNT to take the lead. Come the fourth, it was McDaniels’ turn to take over, scoring 10 points, including a clutch putback with 37 seconds to go as the KaTropa took a close 101-97 win for a 2-1 series lead. “They did a great job. That’s what a team is for. The team has your back, when you’re struggling or having bad nights, which was the case for me tonight,” McDaniels said. “I just had to step up on defense, make sure my teammates are involved so they have confidence as well,” he added. One win away from the Finals, KJ is stressing the fact that TNT should keep its focus. The Bolts will simply not hand a Finals appearance to the KaTropa after all. “We have to stay locked in, can’t celebrate because they’re not a team we can just sit back and just play with. They’re a great team and they’ve shown that,” McDaniels said. “They’ve challenged us every game. We have to come out here with the right mentality again, stay focused, and play defense,” he added.   — Followt his writer on Twitter, @paullintag8.....»»

Category: sportsSource:  abscbnRelated NewsDec 19th, 2019

UAAP Season 82 Finals: Ito yung sakit na for sure na matututo kami -- Ayo

University of Sto. Tomas head coach Aldin Ayo believed that his Growling Tigers could measure up against the mighty Ateneo de Manila Blue Eagles in the UAAP Season 82 men’s basketball Finals. For some it was a longshot or UST may have just overachieved but Ayo held on to his faith that they had what it takes to give Ateneo a run for its money. That’s why the Growling Tigers’ defeat hurt even more.    “In a way [overachieve] pero I told the kids na it is more painful to lose in the Finals than not making it to the Final Four,” said Ayo on Wednesday after UST absorbed a 79-86 loss to three-peat champion Blue Eagles on Wednesday at the MOA Arena. The fourth-seeded Tigers’ journey to the championship – their first since a runner-up finish in 2015 – toughened UST up when they won against Far Eastern University in the first semis stepladder phase and pulled off an upset over twice-to-beat University of the Philippines. But reality hit them hard against an unbeaten and well-experienced foe. “I told them that na dumating kami dito, we need to make sure that we are up to it,” said Ayo. “Mas masakit ito. Pero ito yung sakit na for sure na matututo kami.” The series opener showed the dominance of the Blue Eagles. The Tigers gave Ateneo a scare midway in the fourth quarter of Game 2 only to falter in the end. “Siguro, ngayong Game Two. Pero yung Game One, it was a learning experience for us especially dun sa mga rookies. I'm sure, they were able to learn a lot, especially playing in a Finals atmosphere. Dun kami nagkaproblema nung Game One,” said Ayo. “’Yung Game Two naman, there were stretches na I was really disappointed. There were things na hindi namin nagawa especially sa depensa,” he added. “But I told the boys that I may look like disappointed but actually, I was disappointed with myself and sa coaching staff. Yun yung mga bagay na tinrabaho namin nung preseason na lumabas dito sa Finals na in-exploit ng Ateneo.” The Tigers may be licking their wounds right now but what they learned this season gave UST the much needed fuel for next year. “Next season madadala namin ‘yung experience namin this season especially sa nine rookies namin,” said Ayo.     --- Follow this writer on Twitter, @fromtheriles.....»»

Category: sportsSource:  abscbnRelated NewsNov 21st, 2019

UAAP Finals: Animam-less Lady Bulldogs close in on another season sweep

For the sixth straight season, National University is on the verge of rewriting history anew, topping University of Santo Tomas, 70-65, in a hardfought Game One of the UAAP Season 82 women's basketball Finals Wednesday at Mall of Asia Arena and move on the cusp of a historic sixth straight championship. Kelli Hayes got things done for the Lady Bulldogs with her 16 points, four rebounds, two steals, an assist, and a block as they had to scratch and claw for this 95th straight win to extend this historic win streak. Her efforts couldn't have come at a better time with Mythical Team member Jack Animam missing the tiff. Animam hurt her right eye after getting elbowed in Gilas Womens' game against Korea last Saturday in the 2019 Fiba Women's Pre-Olympic Qualifying Tournament that kept her in New Zealand. "Everyone has big shoes to fill with Jack, not just Kelli," said coach Pat Aquino, relieved from the efforts that his girls showed. "I'm just happy. What can I say? I'm sad that Jack was not here with us, but happy that everyone stepped up." With NU holding on to a close 67-65 lead, Kaye Pingol buried the crucial three with 1:32 left to make it a five-point affair, before Hayes snuffed Jeorge Panti's drive in the final 37 seconds to quash UST's hopes for an upset. "I know they were going to come back. I just told the girls to keep on playing and don't mind the score and they were able to do so," he said. "I know that UST is going to come back, they've been great this season, but we always have to play NU basketball all 40 minutes." Pingol got her share of 12 points, six rebounds, five assists, and four steals, as Rhena Itesi topscored for the Lady Bulldogs with her 17 points, 13 rebounds, and two blocks. Mikka Cacho also added 11 points and six rebounds as she had two of the three three-pointers for NU as it only shot 3-of-24 from deep. History is once again on the hands of the Lady Bulldogs, with a chance to lock up this sixth straight title in Game Two on Saturday, still at the same venue. Season MVP Grace Irebu bannered the Golden Tigresses with 17 points, 18 rebounds, and five blocks, as Tacky Tacatac collected 10 points, two boards, and two steals in the loss. The Scores: NU 70 -- Itesi 17, Hayes 16, Pingol 12, Cacho 11, Canuto 4, Del Carmen 4, Surada 4, Clarin 2, Bartolo 0, Cac 0, Fabruada 0, Harada 0. UST 65 -- Irebu 17, Tacatac 10, Ferrer 9, Soriano 8, Callangan 7, Gandalla 5, Portillo 4, Rivera 4, Panti 1, Gonzales 0, Javier 0. Quarters: 21-22, 41-38, 57-53, 70-65......»»

Category: sportsSource:  abscbnRelated NewsNov 20th, 2019

Tsitsipas, Thiem set up title match at ATP Finals

By Mattias Karen, Associated Press LONDON (AP) — The ATP Finals will have a first-time champion for the fourth year in a row after Stefanos Tsitsipas and Dominic Thiem won their semifinals on Saturday. Thiem beat defending champion Alexander Zverev after Tsitsipas ousted six-time winner Roger Federer, with both players reaching their first final at the season-ending tournament. Tsitsipas had to keep his nerve at the key moments to beat Federer 6-3, 6-4, saving 11 of 12 break points along the way. He also took advantage of an error-filled performance from Federer, who continually put his opponent under pressure only to come up short when it mattered. "I'm proud of myself, how hard I fought today, how concentrated I stayed in the breakpoints," said Tsitsipas, who reached the biggest final of his career. "Didn't crack under pressure. I was very composed and very mature in my decisions." In the evening match, Zverev doubled-faulted on set point to hand Thiem a 1-0 lead and was then broken for the second time to make it 4-2 in the second set. Thiem saved two break points in the next game, Zverev held, and Thiem served out the match, clinching the victory with a forehand winner on his first match point. Federer and Novak Djokovic combined to win the ATP Finals nine times in 10 years between 2006-15 before Andy Murray broke that streak and Gregor Dimitrov won it in 2017. Zverev was trying to repeat last year’s title win but couldn’t convert any of the four break points he forced against Thiem. As he sat down for the changeover after his double-fault to end the first set, he slammed his racket down so hard it bounced along the court and came to rest behind the baseline. Tsitsipas, who is making his first appearance at the event, saved all six break points he faced against Federer in the first set. That included two at 5-3, when he needed seven set points before finally winning a marathon game. He broke again for a 2-1 lead in the second, then saved three break points from 0-40 in the next game before Federer finally converted his fourth to level the set. But the 21-year-old Tsitsipas broke again straight away with a forehand winner and then saved two more break points from 15-40 down when serving for the match at 5-4. He didn’t give the 38-year-old Federer any more chances of a comeback, serving out the match with an ace. "No doubt I had my chances," Federer said. "I'm just frustrated I couldn't play better. And when I did and fought my way back, I threw it away again." The 17-year age gap between the two players was the largest in the history of the tournament. For Federer, it was a surprisingly erratic performance after he played near-flawless tennis to beat Djokovic in straight sets on Thursday to reach the semifinals. He finished that match with five unforced errors - including two double-faults - but had 26 in this match. Federer was especially unhappy with the service break in the first set, when he missed two fairly routine overheads to gift his opponent the early lead. "Getting broken with missing two smashes in one game, that hasn't happened in a long, long time. Or ever," Federer said. "So that was tough." Reaching the final is another milestone in a breakthrough season for Tsitsipas after he also beat Federer on the way to the Australian Open semifinals. He is now 2-2 against Federer after losing to him in the Dubai final and Basel semifinals this year. "I think I learned a lot of things from my Basel match against him," Tsitsipas said. "Once you get the patterns, once you analyze a bit the game better and know what to expect next time, you always feel and you always want to put yourself in the state of mind where you think that you can always do better." Thiem, a two-time runner-up at the French Open, beat both Federer and Djokovic in the group phase to reach the semis......»»

Category: sportsSource:  abscbnRelated NewsNov 17th, 2019

PBA: At 36 years young, Doug Kramer looks forward to a happy retirement

Following Phoenix’s win over Blackwater Friday to wrap up its campaign in the 2019 PBA Governors’ Cup, Doug Kramer has ended his 12-year basketball career. Drafted 5th in the 2007 Draft, Kramer is choosing to retire at 36 years young. “I’m looking forward to the next journey,” Kramer said. “It wasn’t a spontaneous thing. I planned this for the past year and parang na-solidify yung mga plans ko the past few months,” he added. In his last PBA game, Kramer finished with three points and 10 rebounds in 19 minutes of play as a starter. Doug says he can still play, but it’s time to give up basketball now to focus on other things. “I’m very healthy, I’m very strong. Physically I can still take it, but parang naging notion na kasi for almost every basketball player na parang you wait until something’s really painful until you give up, until puro painkillers ka na lang? I’m not like that,” he said. “At the end of the day, I’m still very young. I’m 36. I still wanna do so much. I have plans with my family. It’s gonna be a nice retirement,” Kramer added. As he walks away from basketball, Kramer says his 2012 run with Powerade is up there in his list of favorites. Seven  years ago, the Tigers went all the way to the Philippine Cup Finals as a no. 8 seed. His one and only title, the 2015 All-Filipino with San Miguel Beer, is also a favorite for Kramer. “Winning the championship with San Miguel is up there,” Doug said as he remembers his career. “The Cinderella team with Powerade. That’s what I remember the most. The no. 8 seed going all the way [to the Finals]. We didn’t make it but grabe, the odds that were against us,” he added.   — Follow this writer on Twitter, @paullintag8.....»»

Category: sportsSource:  abscbnRelated NewsNov 15th, 2019

17 NBA things that have been ghosted from memory

By Steve Aschburner, NBA.com On a night traditionally known more for tricks and treats than picks and rolls, it seems appropriate to do a little ghost hunting, NBA-style. We’re not talking the Ghost Ballers of BIG3 fame or even the Skirvin Hilton Hotel in Oklahoma City, a stop on the circuit that some teams claim is actually haunted. We’re thinking of things that used to be, gone-but-not-forgotten aspects of the league that lurk in the memory, even if they’re never coming back. Here in no particular order are some Halloween hoops hobgoblins that fall somewhere on the scary scale between the chain-rattling Jacob Marley and Casper: 1. Long-gone arenas. Oracle Arena, so recently vacated by the Golden State Warriors, is the latest addition to the NBA’s long list of abandoned homes. Many are gone themselves, though you still can catch a glimpse now and then on Hardwood Classics. There are too many to list, due to NBA teams moving on up to bigger, better digs over time. But a sampling would include the Cow Palace, Cobo Arena, Chicago Stadium, Boston Garden, The Forum, L.A. Sports Arena, Milwaukee’s MECCA, the Salt Palace, McNichols Arena, HemisFair Arena, Market Square, the Summit, the Spectrum, the Omni, the Pyramid, ARCO Arena/Sleep Train Arena and on and on. 2. Belted shorts. Relegated to the throwback bin, along with the more recent sleeved jerseys. 3. The six-foot lane. Heck, the 12-foot lane. The former was widened in 1951 in response to Minneapolis big man George Mikan’s dominance. Then it was widened again in 1964 to its current 16 feet in hopes of tamping down Wilt Chamberlain’s impact. 4. Commercial air travel. Some things on a used-to-be list inspire nostalgia in those who experienced them and curiosity in those who didn’t. But it’s highly unlikely any former or current players and coaches would swap today’s luxury charter flights for the way the NBA used to travel. Wake-up calls at 5 a.m. for the first flight out. Waiting out delays at the gate with the beat writers and civilians. Seven-footers folding themselves into economy class seating. 5. Obstacle-course schedules. The NBA in recent years has tried to be responsive to players’ performance needs and physical limitations, working to minimize the number of back-to-back games and four-in-five-night stretches. Didn’t used to be that way. Consider the Baltimore Bullets, who in January 1966 were put through these paces: Games in St. Louis, Detroit, back to St. Louis, day off, to Philadelphia, to Boston, home vs. Lakers. A week later, they bounced back and forth between L.A. (Lakers) and San Francisco for four games in four nights, then traveled to New York to face the Knicks for their fifth game in five nights. Baltimore’s record in those 11 games: 2-9. 6. Doubleheaders. Some teams in the NBA’s first few decades would book a Harlem Globetrotters exhibition as the night’s opening attraction. But the biggies were when the Knicks would host at Madison Square Garden a neutral-site game for two other NBA clubs. A lingering memory for some who attended: The thick haze that hung over the arena’s upper reaches, courtesy of the smokers puffing away all evening. 7. Tape-delay. It seems inconceivable in 2019 that an NBA playoff game, never mind a Finals contest, might be shown on anything but live TV. Nope. The league didn’t have much leverage in the late 1970s, before Magic Johnson and Larry Bird arrived to help goose interest and ratings. Networks forced fans to stay up late to watch games that were off before the telecasts tipped off. The practice continued into the ‘80s, with four of six Finals games in 1981 held till 11:30 p.m. ET. Michael Jordan was already creating new fans when the last tape-delayed game, Game 3 of the West finals between the Lakers and Rockets, aired on Friday, May 16, 1986. 8. “Illegal!” That used to be a frequent bellow from the league’s benches, with coaches trying to alert the refs when opposing defenses breached (or didn’t) the complicated illegal defense rules. The NBA purged most of that around the turn of the century by legislating in zone play. 9. Shattered backboards. For a while, it seemed as if backboards were exploding every few weeks in the Association. Darryl (“Chocolate Thunder”) Dawkins was the most avid crack-titioner, getting two in 1979. The earliest recorded instance came in 1946, when a Celtics forward named Chuck Connors (later more famous as TV’s “Rifleman”) shattered one during warmups. Baltimore’s Gus Johnson is said to have shattered three. Shaquille O’Neal didn’t get the glass but twice got entire support structures, pulling the backboards down to the court in his rookie season. In March 1993, against Chicago, New Jersey’s Chris Morris dunked and shattered a board without glass falling to the floor. 10. Three to make two. That old free-throw bonus was abolished by 1981-82. It made the game drag, and Jerry Colangelo, then GM of the Suns and the chairman of the NBA’s competition committee, rightly said: “Pro players shouldn’t need that extra foul shot.” 11. Phantom franchises. Oooh, pretty scary, kids, when you think of all the teams that are no more. They are rattling around in the mind long after they were supposedly dead and buried. We’re not talking just about the antiquities such as the Indianapolis Olympians, the Washington Capitols or the Toronto Huskies. The spirits of the Seattle SuperSonics, Buffalo Braves, San Diego Clippers and Vancouver Grizzlies still walk the NBA earth. Then there are most of the ABA franchises -- Virginia Squires, Utah Stars, Kentucky Colonels, Spirits of St. Louis -- that died more than 40 years ago before or in the merger. 12. Hand checking. A lot of capable defenders had their effectiveness vaporized overnight when the laying on of hands vs. a ball handler was outlawed in 2004. The NBA, in case you hadn’t noticed, likes scoring. 13. Injury shenanigans. As silly or frustrating as labels like “DNP-Old” or “load management” seem today, the reporting of injuries real or feigned used to be much less authentic. Before the inactive list, there was “injured reserve,” to which NBA teams would designate up to two players. Anyone put on that list was sidelined for a minimum of five games, and with smaller roster sizes in effect, it was a handy place to stash guys. So there was a whole lot of tendinitis and plantar fasciitis going on. This practice was snuffed in 2005-06. 14. “Play on!” Like the force-out ruling, this is a remnant of the days when the referees had and used more discretion in working their games. If a player lost the ball out of bounds but his elbow was knocked by a foe, the force-out meant the ball handler’s team retained possession. “Play on!” was a frequent order barked by refs when certain contact or violations were deemed minimally intrusive. Heavier scrutiny of the game officials’ performance and, later, video reviews now try to adjudicate everything down to the tip of a fingernail. 15. The 2-3-2 Finals format. This was adopted in 1985 as a reaction to those Lakers-Celtics or Lakers-Sixers championship series, which had the NBA universe crossing the country four or five times in a span of two weeks. Suggestions that the league was being energy-conscious, in terms of jet fuel, were part of it, too. The practice fiddled some with the notion of home-court advantage, although MLB continues to use it for its World Series. With charter flights deployed by all teams, league execs and even some of the media, the NBA changed back to the 2-2-1-1-1 format in 2014 to align with its postseasons’ earlier rounds. 16. Player-coaches. Forty men in NBA history have done it. The first was Ed Sadowski of the Toronto Huskies in the Basketball Association of America precursor to the NBA. Only two men won championships as player-coaches: Baltimore’s Buddy Jeannette in 1948 and Boston’s Bill Russell in 1968 and 1969. The youngest player coach ever was Dave DeBusschere, who took over the Pistons in 1964 at age 24 (not long after ending his second career as an MLB pitcher). The Hawks’ Richie Guerin logged the most games (372) in the role, yet was named Coach of the Year in the one season in the middle when he stopped playing. Legend Lenny Wilkens was a player-coach for two teams, spending three seasons at it in Seattle and one in Portland. And the last player-coach in NBA history was Dave Cowens, who accepted the gig after coach Satch Sanders got fired in 1978-79. None of the players wanted to learn a new system, Cowens said, so “I kind of took one for the team.” The practice died with the arrival of the salary cap in 1984, with NBA brass wary that paying a coaching bonus might enable a team to circumvent the cap. 17. Victory cigars. For obvious reasons. Probably victory vaping, too. 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 NewsNov 1st, 2019

Warriors lose Stephen Curry to broken hand, look for answers

By Janie McCauley, Associated Press SAN FRANCISCO (AP) — D’Angelo Russell has done this before, forced to take on a far bigger role just last season because of injuries in Brooklyn. And now the new Golden State guard must do it again with the absence of both Stephen Curry and Klay Thompson in a suddenly short-handed backcourt. Curry broke his left hand in a 121-110 loss to Phoenix on Wednesday night (Thursday, PHL time) and it remained unclear a day later how long he might be sidelined, while Splash Brother Thompson could miss the entire season recovering from July 2 surgery for a torn ACL in his left knee that he hurt in a Game 6 loss in the NBA Finals that gave Toronto its first title. Curry underwent a CT scan Thursday (Friday, PHL time) but the team said it would have specialists evaluate the results before providing an update on his status. However long he is out, it hurts for far more than what he brings on the court. Curry’s presence in the locker room provides an example for the young Warriors, and he is their longest-tenured player and their oldest at age 31. It will be up to players like Russell and Draymond Green to help keep things afloat for the time being. Curry posted a smiling photo of himself, with the hand heavily wrapped, Thursday (Friday, PHL time) on his Instagram account with the message: “Appreciate all the love/texts/support all that ... Be back soon!”         View this post on Instagram                   Why him ????‍?? he’s like the truest & realist leader of this team always will be the heart & soul of the Dubs gonna be different without you @stephencurry30 ???????????? #GetWellSoon A post shared by GSWReign (@goldenstatewarriorsreign) on Oct 31, 2019 at 3:17pm PDT The two-time MVP drove to his left defended by Kelly Oubre Jr. and with Aron Baynes standing solidly in the paint trying to draw a charge. Curry leapt with the ball then came down head first landing awkwardly on his hands to brace himself from the court, with Baynes crashing onto Curry’s left hand. Curry grimaced in pain grabbing his hand then walked to the locker room with 8:31 left in the third quarter. Russell understands he faces a tall task. “Definitely trying to take on that leadership role and continue to get better every year with being able to lead guys on what I see and what I’ve been through,” he said. “It’s definitely a similar situation, but it’s going to be tougher. We’ve got a lot of young guys that are going to be forced to mature and step up, so I’m looking forward to it as well. ... It’s an opportunity. Go back to the drawing board with the team and the coaching staff, and see what we can do to prepare for each game day in and day out. The big thing I see is just opportunity for a lot of people.” In fact, Warriors coach Steve Kerr planned to gather his staff Thursday (Friday, PHL time) — the player development coaches have already been working on overload — for a serious meeting of the minds to figure out how to push ahead and what combinations might work going forward with so many men down. Golden State already was missing key big man Kevon Looney, who is dealing with a hamstring injury and scheduled to see specialists next week because of an “on-going presence of a neuropathic condition in his body.” Green tweaked his back Wednesday (Thursday, PHL time), too. “It’s been a tough start for us on many levels, so we’re just trying to find our footing,” Kerr said. “This puts us in a tough spot, so we’ll assess it and go from there.” The challenge of putting a winning team on the court now seems daunting. What so recently featured five All-Stars in the same starting five is now a cast of mostly rookies thrown into action right away out of necessity — not the norm with these Warriors in recent years. They are 1-3 with two ugly losses — the Suns led 43-14 after the first quarter — at home in new Chase Center, where they are winless and hardly have that overwhelming home-court advantage that Oracle Arena provided night after night across the bay in Oakland. Many already consider it a lost season, with playoff hopes in the powerful Western Conference grim at best. “We just got to make up for it by playing hard and playing together, and making sure we’re together the time he’s out,” said rookie Eric Paschall, who made his first career start and scored a team-high 20 points against the Suns. Two players returned from injuries Wednesday (Thursday, PHL time) to make their debuts with Golden State: center Willie Cauley-Stein and guard Alec Burks. General manager Bob Myers mentioned months ago this would be a rebuilding season for the Warriors in many ways. Now, Golden State might be lining itself up for a lottery pick in next year’s NBA draft. The Warriors’ recent fortunes also shed light on just how much must go right to win a championship, let alone reach five straight NBA Finals and capture three titles in four years. There are nine players age 23 or younger. “I don’t know how long it’ll take. It’ll take as long as it takes, I guess,” Myers said at media day. ”... I do know this: We believe that things take time to evolve, and we’re prepared especially with a younger roster to allow that to happen, and that’s the mindset that we have from a coaching staff, from a front office staff, is ‘let’s see how things are going before we make any blanket decisions or judgment on any of it.’ But we’re excited. I mean, look, we’re excited about the youth. We’re excited about the unknown. In years past we’ve had a lot of known, which has been fantastic, but this is different.” Notes: The Warriors on Thursday (Friday, PHL time) announced they have exercised the third-year contract options for the 2020-21 season on guard Jacob Evans III and forward Omari Spellman......»»

Category: sportsSource:  abscbnRelated NewsNov 1st, 2019

Westbrook wins battle of guards vs. former teams

By Michael C. Wright, NBA.com HOUSTON -- Russell Westbrook scrapping under the rim for a loose ball with good friend Steven Adams set the tone for odd visuals Monday in a clash between star point guards facing their former teams. Oklahoma City point guard Chris Paul returned to Houston for the first time since the Rockets moved him for first-round picks and pick swaps over the summer to acquire Westbrook, who dominated the night of reunions by nearly logging his second consecutive triple-double (21 points, 12 rebounds, 9 assists) to fuel a 116-112 triumph. Brodie coming up big to help us get the W! ????21pts ????12reb ????9ast pic.twitter.com/Q18ZxHsMSJ — Houston Rockets (@HoustonRockets) October 29, 2019 In doing so, Westbrook nearly became the first player to post triple-doubles against all 30 NBA teams. “This is how it goes,” Westbrook said. “When I hoop, I have no friends. On the court, they know not to talk to me. Steven’s a real close friend of mine. But inside those lines, there’s no friends. Spalding, that’s my friend, and my teammates. That’s it. If you try to be my friend, I ain’t gonna say s--- to you.” Shortly after saying those words, Westbrook walked down the hall to the Thunder locker room, where he hugged coach Billy Donovan before entering as his former teammates dressed. Westbrook played 11 years for the Thunder before the July trade, and earned NBA All-Star recognition on eight occasions in addition to capturing the 2017 Kia NBA Most Valuable Player Award. “He obviously has done an enormous amount for the organization, for the state and the city,” Donovan said. “I’ve always respected how hard he competed and played. We had a chance to spend four great years together. It was good to just connect.” As Westbrook strolled into the locker room, several Thunder officials approached him for hugs. Glass of water in hand, the point guard eventually settled near Adams’ locker adjacent to injured guard Andre Roberson. Nearby, Paul dressed and joked that Westbrook could be fined by the league for entering the opponent’s locker room, which drew laughter from all over the room. Westbrook eventually moved to Paul’s locker, where the two talked quietly for several minutes. On the floor, though, Westbrook overcame a slow start to dominate over the final three quarters which helped push the Rockets to their second consecutive victory. Westbrook finished at a game-best plus-19, while James Harden led all scoring with 40 points. Westbrook has posted a 20-point double-double in all three of Houston’s games this season, including a triple-double Saturday in a win over the New Orleans Pelicans. Westbrook has also pulled down 38 rebounds over his first three games, which ranks as the most by a Rocket through the first three games of the season since Dwight Howard registered 51 rebounds during the 2013-14 season. Congrats to @russwest44 of the @HoustonRockets for moving up to 20th on the all-time ASSISTS list! pic.twitter.com/CAxe023sQd — NBA (@NBA) October 29, 2019 In addition, Westbrook moved into 20th on the NBA’s all-time assists list (6,918). “He just brings a different dynamic to the game: his speed, his pace, his athleticism, his playmaking ability,” Harden said. “He does so much and creates for his teammates. It’s pretty tough to guard. He’s a superstar. But he’s getting offensive rebounds, he’s hustling. He’s doing the dirty things that help you win. It feels good to have that on your side.” On the other side, Paul didn’t fare as well against his former team, finishing with 15 points and four assists. Paul missed his first five shots, making his first bucket with 54.9 seconds left in the first half. At the 5:57 mark of the first quarter during a timeout, the Toyota Center played a tribute video featuring Paul’s days as a Rocket that lasted a minute and 30 seconds, ending with the message of “Thank you CP3.” The crowd gave Paul a standing ovation as he waved to the fans from the bench area, before hugging Houston guard Eric Gordon as he checked back into the game. Thank you, @CP3! pic.twitter.com/xshVifhtFI — Houston Rockets (@HoustonRockets) October 29, 2019 “The fans here were always great to me. Some of the people here became like family to me,” Paul said. “And I try to stay in touch with those who were as genuine as could be. I had some great memories here. I’m grateful to the fans for how they always treated me and my family. I’ll forever be grateful for that.” Paul played two seasons in Houston (2017-19), averaging 17.1 points, 8.0 assists and 5 rebounds, before the club traded him to Oklahoma City. Paul helped the Rockets to a franchise-best record of 65-17 in his first season, but they fell in the Western Conference Finals to the eventual champion Golden State Warriors. With the Rockets leading that series 3-2, Paul suffered a hamstring injury that forced him out of the last two games. “He’s one of the best point guards that’s ever played and still is. What he does is incredible,” Rockets coach Mike D’Antoni said. “With his knowledge of the game, his competitiveness, he’s going to be around for a while. He was just really good for us. It’s hard to win a whole lot more than what we won with him. We could’ve gone a little bit further in the playoffs. One year, he just got a hamstring problem. Then the next year, it just didn’t work out. It’s hard to be better than what he was.” Michael C. Wright is a senior writer 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 NewsOct 29th, 2019

5 players who could challenge for the 2019-20 NBA MVP

By Sekou Smith, NBA.om James Harden was spot on when he said he lost the Kia MVP race last season because of a narrative. That wasn’t the only reason he came up short to Milwaukee’s Giannis Antetokounmpo en route to his historic season in 2018-19. Antetokounmpo’s intriguing basketball life story decidedly played a part in voters’ minds, many of whom are in the narrative business. “Once the media, they create a narrative about somebody from the beginning of the year, I think they just take that narrative and just run with it the entire year," Harden said in an August radio interview with 97.9 The Box. "I don’t want to get into details. All I can do is control what I can do, and I went out there and did what I was supposed to do at a high level. There’s only a few other seasons that anybody has ever done that before.” Blaming the media is a cop out. But there is merit in Harden’s assessment -- that the media-spun narrative surrounding a player’s candidacy for MVP has an oversized impact on the race itself. Every NBA MVP has had an underlying story that has helped push their case for the award along. Westbrook won his MVP the season after Kevin Durant left for Golden State in free agency. That season, Westbrook averaged a triple-double -- the first to do so since Oscar Robertson in 1961-62. Harden won his after finishing second twice in other bids (2015 and 2017). Antetokounmpo clinched his after turning in the finest season Milwaukee had seen since Kareem Abdul-Jabbar won the third of his record six MVPs in 1973-74. Harden didn’t complain about narratives when he won in 2018, so there’s no need to throw shade at Antetokounmpo or others for doing likewise. There will be new players who enter this season’s Kia MVP mix, which kicks off in earnest during this first full weekend of the season. We know the usual suspects: Antetokounmpo, Harden, Westbrook, LeBron James, Stephen Curry, Kawhi Leonard, Anthony Davis, Joel Embiid, Paul George and Kyrie Irving. But what about the players who should be on your radar in 2019-20? Here are five to keep an eye on: Nikola Jokic, Denver Nuggets “The Joker” finished fourth in 2018-19, his first season as an All-Star and his first playoff run. His true breakout MVP opportunity is this season, now that he’s established himself as arguably the best big man in basketball. Jokic must battle his own instincts to stay in the mix. He’s a better passer than most of the league’s point guards and would rather make the right play than chase individual glory. “When you score, one person is happy. But when you [get an assist], you make two people happy,” Jokic said. “I’m smart enough to know that two is better than one.” Damian Lillard, Portland Trail Blazers Lillard’s sixth-place finish in 2018-19 did justice to the Western Conference finals run he took the Blazers on. This may just be the beginning of the prime of “Dame Dolla’s” career. While many superstars have no hesitation about seeking the most desirable destination to play in, Lillard’s devotion to Portland’s quest will only enhance his case. Lillard is one of the best point guards in the league and if the Blazers challenge for a top seed in the West, he’ll stay in the top of the MVP chase, too. Donovan Mitchell, Utah Jazz Mike Conley’s addition could unlock things for Mitchell. His opening-night performance proved that even when Conley struggles offensively, Mitchell can still dominate the action. A summer spent with the U.S. Men’s Senior National team may have only boosted his momentum. True, teammate Rudy Gobert -- the reigning Kia Defensive Player of the Year -- is a fringe MVP candidate as well. But a hot start to 2019-20 will fuel his campaign in ways that rim protection and low-post stability cannot for Gobert. Karl-Anthony Towns, Minnesota Timberwolves Towns hasn’t been shy about his desire to be the man in the middle of the Wolves’ franchise rebranding. Even as Kyrie Irving scored 50 in the season opener, it was Towns who was truly dominant in that game. He’ll regularly pile up nights like that under coach Ryan Saunders, who has embraced the increased leadership role Town has sought this season. The talent has never been in question concerning Towns -- now he can showcase, too. Jimmy Butler, Miami Heat While most of the summer’s high-profile free agents went one way, the always-interesting Butler did not. Given his track record of believing in the power of Jimmy, it shouldn’t have surprised us that Butler bet on himself in Miami. While it might seem like a strange choice on the surface, it might end up being a genius move if a scrappy Heat team rises in the ranks of the Eastern Conference. If nothing else, Butler will have plenty of opportunities this season to prove his elite two-way skills. Sekou Smith is a veteran NBA reporter and NBA TV analyst. You can e-mail him here, find his archive here and follow him on Twitter. The views on this page do not necessarily reflect the views of the NBA, its clubs or Turner Broadcasting......»»

Category: sportsSource:  abscbnRelated NewsOct 26th, 2019

30 Teams in 30 Days: Rockets see Harden, Westbrook team up

Like most summers in the NBA, the 2019 edition was chock full of trades, free agent news and player movement. From the defending-champion Toronto Raptors to just about every other team in the league, change was the most applicable word when it came to describing team rosters for the 2019-20 season. With the opening of training camps just around the corner, NBA.com's Shaun Powell will evaluate the state of each franchise as it sits today -- in order of regular-season finish from 2018-19 -- as we look at 30 teams in 30 days. * * * Today's team: Houston Rockets 2018-19 Record: 53-29, lost to the Warriors in the conference semifinals Key additions: Russell Westbrook (trade), Tyson Chandler (free agency), Ben McLemore (free agency) Key departures: Chris Paul The lowdown: Juiced by yet another epic, and on some levels, historic season by James Harden, the Rockets amassed 50 wins, reached the playoffs and were denied (again) by the Golden State Warriors. As in 2018, this ouster was met with a high degree of frustration. The year before, Houston lost Paul to a hamstring injury late in the series and fell in Game 7 of the Western Conference finals. This time, the Rockets were unable to beat a Golden State team that clinched the series in Game 6 without Kevin Durant (who got injured in Game 5 of the series), a cold slap of an ending to Houston's realistic Finals hopes. In one of the NBA's all-time best offensive seasons, Harden averaged 36.1 points per game and revived Houston's season while Paul was on the mend from yet another injury. Harden scored 30 or more in 32 straight games, scored 50 or more nine times and had two 61-point games. He was a singular force with the ball and didn’t show any wear in the postseason. Unlike Paul, Harden was a symbol of sturdiness and strength, averaging 36.8 minutes per game in 78 games played. Paul played only 58 games, although when healthy he was respectable (8.2 apg) and at times looked like an All-Star. However, his customarily high level of play dropped a few floors. Eric Gordon played solid enough to earn a max extension, and Clint Capela gave the Rockets a front-line weapon at both ends. The Carmelo Anthony experience folded after 10 games, but Houston got supporting help from Austin Rivers and PJ Tucker (who was noticeably effective in the playoffs). Another effective-yet-disappointing year was unacceptable to ownership and, quite honestly, the locker room as well. Summer summary: When he purchased the Rockets for $2.2 billion a few years ago, owner Tilman Fertitta was a reasonable and patient man. He pledged his faith in GM Daryl Morey, sung the gospel of Harden and thought the world of Paul. But everyone has their limits and Fertitta was clearly discouraged by the manner and speed in which the Rockets were bounced last season. Something had to be done and a big opportunity presented itself. When Kawhi Leonard signed with the LA Clippers and convinced Paul George to request a trade from the Oklahoma City Thunder, it led to Westbrook being available. While this was happening, Harden and Paul were having relationship issues, or at least that was the word in Rockets’ circles. Just two years earlier they were thrilled to be teammates and even made commercials together. Now, they were on the outs. Therefore, the solution was simple: Trade Paul and his hefty contract for Westbrook and his hefty contract, and reunite a pair of Kia MVP winners. Advantage, Rockets? It bears repeating that Harden and Westbrook are tight and respectful of each other’s accomplishments, because this will be worth revisiting if this attempt to help Harden win a ring fails like the others. That relationship is the selling point, because based purely on styles of play, this appears to be major clash. Both players need the ball, perhaps more than any two players in the NBA right now, if not in history. They’re high-usage talents, meaning, they work best when creating opportunities for themselves or teammates and neither can happen if they’re playing off the ball. Westbrook has never done that in his NBA life and Harden only did so briefly as a youngster with OKC. Harden gave the trade his blessing, and once the deal was done, both players said all the right things -- if anything, they scolded any observers who dared to raise the obvious. Can it work? Well, sure, but it’ll take some concessions by both players, and coach Mike D’Antoni must change (if not overhaul) his system in order to accommodate this duo. Meanwhile, the Rockets are somewhat on the clock. It is not to say that Harden and Westbrook are approaching their sunset years, but the chances of playing for a title are increased if the two players click sooner than later. There’s also a question of what Westbrook has left. His efficiency and 3-point shooting faded last season. Will defenses respect him when he’s left open in Houston? He at least appears to have more in the tank than Paul, which was another reason the Rockets were anxious to make this swap. For all of his explosiveness, Westbrook is rather durable and dependable; the same can’t be said of Paul as he approaches his mid-30s. Westbrook was sad to leave OKC, the only team he’d ever known, a city that embraced him and a franchise that gave him a supermax contract. Now he’s going to a new team where the demand for June basketball will only increase. The last time he and Harden were teammates, they did play in June, where they lost to LeBron James and the Miami Heat in 2012. Can they make a triumphant return together? Given all they’ve accomplished -- MVPs, scoring titles, triple-doubles, All-Star appearances -- they’re certainly due. A championship is all they’re missing. 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 NewsSep 26th, 2019

Hall of Fame: Jack Sikma s reverse pivot clears lane to induction

By Steve Aschburner, NBA.com SPRINGFIELD, Mass. -- When Jack Sikma officially enters the Naismith Memorial Basketball Hall of Fame Friday night (Saturday, PHL time), one of his presenters will be Kareem Abdul-Jabbar. Which is a terrific example of game recognizing game. Or in this case, move recognizing move. Just as Abdul-Jabbar ranks as the NBA’s most prolific scorer and arguably its greatest player ever, so does his signature sky hook loom as the league’s most famous individual move. Most unstoppable, too, and for defenders, most deflating. Well, Sikma had a signature move of his own, one that helped elevate him from an NAIA program at Illinois Wesleyan to seven NBA All-Star appearances, a championship with the Seattle SuperSonics in 1979 and now to the brink of his craft’s highest honor. It was the reverse pivot or inside pivot, which were its names when it was an arcane maneuver used by a small number of big men, taught mostly at the sport’s lower levels. Once Sikma learned it in 1974, brought it with him to the NBA in 1977 and helped the Sonics reach The Finals as a rookie and win the championship a year later, though, it swiftly became known as his: The Sikma move. “It was just an experiment after my freshmen season,” Sikma said Thursday (Friday, PHL time) at the Hall, after being introduced at a news conference as one of the Class of 2019’s 12 honorees. Others being inducted this weekend: coach Bill Fitch; NBA stars Bobby Jones, Sidney Moncrief and Paul Westphal; as well as WNBA legend Teresa Weatherspoon. Longtime Warriors player, coach and executive Al Attles was elected as a contributor. NBA center and current Sacramento GM Vlade Divac was chosen by the international committee. Being honored posthumously are: guard Carl Braun, a star in the 1950s; and Chuck Cooper, the first black player drafted by an NBA team (Boston, 1950). Finally, there are two college team entries: the Wayland Baptist women’s teams from 1948-82 and the Tennessee A&I teams from 1957-59. Divergent paths, compelling stories all. Including the one about the slender, blond kid from Kankakee, Illinois, whose offensive game needed a makeover. “My college coach [Dennie Bridges] and I sat down and he said, ‘Jack, you’ve just got to be more effective in the post if you want to take the next step.’ I was a good shooter – I’d learned the game as a wing and grew late, so I was comfortable facing the basket. “He had a friend who suggested, ‘Hey, down in southern Illinois there are some coaches who do an inside pivot with their guys to face the hoop. It might create a little space for Jack.’ I was really thin – I just wanted to get dislodged from the defender.” Basically, Sikma choreographically held a mirror to the post-up moves of traditional centers of the time. Holding the ball with his back to the basket, rather than turning on his pivot foot to the outside and attacking over his shoulder, he would spin to the inside. That motion would set up him a few feet back, facing the hoop, allowing for a simple hop and shot. And then there's this priceless Hubie Brown interview, in which Sikma teaches the move:  “A lot of coaches would pooh-pooh it because you’re catching the ball in one spot and then you’re stepping three feet farther away from the basket,” Sikma said. “That’s not the concept of big-men play, right? But I’ve got to hand it to Coach. He said, ‘Jack, I think this is it.’ And I said, ‘I’m not uncomfortable with the pivot.’” Sikma went from averaging 15.4 points as a freshman to 20.3 as a sophomore, with his shots increasing from 14.5 per game to 17.9. By his senior season, he averaged 27.0 points. As Sikma honed it in the NBA, at 6-foot-11, he would hold the ball above his head with a high release point that gave him the option of flipping up his shot or faking, then powering inside. In 14 seasons, by Sikma’s count, he played against 15 Hall of Fame centers, including Abdul-Jabbar. So he wanted every edge he could get. “You didn’t know which way he was going to go with it,” said fellow inductee Bobby Jones, a Sikma contemporary known for his defensive prowess. “Most of the time he would go back and shoot that shot, but sometimes he would go forward and draw the contact. I was just sitting there thinking, with all the other [inductees], if I ever blocked his shot. And I don’t think I ever did.” Jones, at 6-foot-9, matched up with him early in Sikma’s career (when Sikma was cast as a power forward for Seattle). Later, Jones had to decide how much help to give the teammate guarding Sikma. “The only thing I could ever have done was maybe come from behind and get him,” Jones said. “But he was a pretty good passer too. To ever leave your man that much, there’s a danger there.” Opponents weren’t the only ones made uncomfortable by Sikma’s unusual tactic. “I know I surprised some of the officials because I got called for traveling a few times,” Sikma said. “And I said, ‘Nope, I’m not traveling. I’ve got my foot up in the air, I plant it and then I pivot on it. By stepping out, that creates the space.’ “So even though it was a long time ago, they had film. They checked it out and they realized it wasn’t a walk. But I got called two or three times doing it.” Sikma laughed, recalling chatty Sonics teammate Fred Brown pleading his case for him to some of the referees. “I’d get called and Fred was in the ref’s face, ‘That’s his move! That’s his move! It’s not a travel,” Sikma said. “Fred had seen it enough in practice and figured it out.” Sikma had another facet to his game with which current NBA fans might be more familiar: he was a protypical “stretch 5.” Said Sidney Moncrief, another 2019 Hall newcomer who played for Milwaukee before and after Sikma was traded there for his final five seasons: “People don’t remember this about Jack Sikma, but Don Nelson was the first coach who started emphasizing 3-point shots for big men. He put Jack on the perimeter to take the big men out of the lane so we could make plays.” Not unlike current Bucks center Brook Lopez, Sikma underwent a late-career transformation as a deep threat. In his first 11 seasons, Sikma took 68 3-pointers and made seven (10.3 percent). During his final three seasons – from age 33 to 35 – Sikma shot 550 times from behind the arc and made 196 (35.6 percent). Still, it’s the quick inside step about 10 feet from the hoop that puts Sikma in a select subset of Hall of Famers already enshrined and those who will be. Call it the Alcove of Famous Moves. Hakeem Olajuwon’s “Dream Shake,” Kevin McHale’s up-and-under, George Gervin’s finger roll, Dominique Wilkins’ double-pump reverse, Allen Iverson’s crossover, Dirk Nowitzki’s one-legged fadeaway and Abdul-Jabbar’s sky hook will be joined, in time, by James Harden’s step-back 3-pointer, Manu Ginobili’s Euro-step, LeBron James’ chase-down block and Steph Curry’s long range pull-up 3. Each became or has become a signature move. But that only matters if the idea works. “They made it look good, so it was effective,” Sikma said. “If I tried to do the sky hook, if I tried to do the up-and-under, you’d probably think, ‘Meh, that’s not such a good move.’ A lot of it has to do with how effective a person is doing it.” The 2019 Enshrinement Ceremony at Springfield’s Symphony Hall will air on NBA TV Friday (Saturday, PHL time) beginning at 6:30 p.m. ET. 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 NewsSep 6th, 2019

FIBA: Back to normal for Kiefer as he returns from 18-month ban

Kiefer Ravena is finally back. On Sunday, Ravena played his first game in 18 months as Gilas Pilipinas took on Australia’s Adelaide 36ers for the national team’s final tuneup game ahead of the 2019 FIBA World Cup. Kiefer came off the bench and scored 11 points. He had a stretch to start the second quarter where he scored seven straight to try and spark the Gilas offense. Unfortunately, the Philippines lost to the 36ers, 75-85. “Okay naman,” Ravena said of his return. “Sayang talo, pero a lot of lessons learned.” “It could have been a better ending for us going to the World Cup, but for me, I just want to get my feet wet especially ang tagal ko hindi nakalaro. It was really nice to be aroung the guys again,” he added. With his FIBA suspension finally up, Kiefer is relieved to get everything back to normal in terms of his basketball career. While he still have some things to sharpen after his long layoff, not thinking about the things he’s not allowed to do is a huge difference in his overall approach. “Parang pag-tapak ko nung umpisa, nung pinasok ako, yun ang naramdaman ko. Di ko na kailangan magtago, mag-isip na bawal to, bawal yan,” Ravena said. “I'm just back to playing the sport that I love and representing my country to the highest and best of my abilities,” he added.   — Follow this writer on Twitter, @paullintag8.....»»

Category: sportsSource:  abscbnRelated NewsAug 25th, 2019

PVL: Nandito na ulit ako -- EJ Laure

EJ Laure cherished her return on the volleyball court after a two-year absence. The University of Sto. Tomas star may still be a long way from her ideal form years back, but the UAAP Season 77 Rookie of Year was just glad to once again don the Tigresses’ jersey.       “Siyempre sobrang happy kasi nasabi ko noong (UAAP Season 81) Finals nila na babalik [ako],” said Laure. “Sobrang happy ako na nandito na ulit ako kasama sila coach.” The wing spiker made her comeback on Sunday as UST opened its Premier Volleyball League Season 3 Collegiate Conference Group B campaign on a winning note after taking down Lyceum of the Philippines University, 25-18, 25-13, 25-21, Sunday at the FilOil Flying V Centre in San Juan.     Laure last played in the Philippine Superliga late 2017 under the Foton banner where she sustained a shoulder injury that prevented her from suiting up for the Tigresses in UAAP Season 80 and in UST’s Season 81 championship stint, where the Espana-based squad led by Sisi Rondina and Eya Laure finished runner-up to Ateneo de Manila University.    EJ Laure admitted that it felt like her rookie debut all over again being back on the floor. “Nanibago lang ako sa court kasi, ewan ko? Di ako nagko-court, di pa ako nagba-ball masyado kasi pinapalakas ko pa shoulders ko,” she said. Laure played two sets where she started in the first and third frames. “Sabi ko nga kay EJ para sa kanya yung PVL and UniGames namin kasi for two years [siya] sit out,” said UST head coach Kungfu Reyes. “Familiarization ng laro nandyan pero yung actual game, yung energy, yung power wala pa rin,” added Reyes of Laure. “Ieensayo ulit namin kaya lang ano muna yung systematic talaga tapos holistic yung gagawin namin. Siyempre itetreasure ulit namin nandito na si EJ.” Laure finished with two points off an ace and the game-clinching cross court hit. She also had five digs and a pair of excellent receptions. Laure ace. UST up, 3-1, in the 3rd set pic.twitter.com/TjQ8xorWQ0 — Mark Escarlote (@fromtheriles) August 18, 2019 Laure ends the match! pic.twitter.com/8qwTCYDfXJ — Mark Escarlote (@fromtheriles) August 18, 2019 For now, Laure doesn’t want to rush things but to slowly take her time to regain her old form. “Siyempre gagawin ko lahat. Kahit hindi ako sa points, at least, tutulong ako sa kanila sa mga receive at tsaka sa pagsasalita sa kanila sa kung anong kaiangan nilang gawin para umayos yung laro nila,” said Laure. The Laure sisters’ most-awaited tandem on court might not happen this tournament but EJ just wants to be ready when that time comes. “Siyempre abangan natin sa UniGames or sa UAAP yung pagbabalik naming dalawa,” she said.     --- Follow this writer on Twitter, @fromtheriles.....»»

Category: sportsSource:  abscbnRelated NewsAug 18th, 2019

PBA Finals: Beermen close in on title after Game 5 win

San Miguel Beer is closing in on another title. The Beermen erased a 16-point deficit in the fourth quarter to take a big 99-94 Game 5 win over TNT in the 2019 PBA Commissioner’s Cup Finals Wednesday at the Big Dome. Chris McCullough made things happen in the fourth as his tough lay-up over Terrence Jones finally pushed the Beermen up, 95-94. San Miguel then got a couple of stops and handled business from the line to take a 3-2 series lead. The Beermen can win the title with Game 6 Friday also at the Big Dome. TNT’s momentum in the third carried over into the early parts of the fourth as the KaTropa established a 16-point lead after a booming RR Pogoy triple, 85-69. But then McCullough went to work, outscoring TNT by himself and San Miguel is now on top in this series for the first time. C-Mac poured 19 of his total of 35 points in the final 12 minutes. For good measure, McCullough also had 22 rebounds, four assists, and three blocks. Terrence Romeo was the top local for San Miguel, finishing with 22 points. TR scored 15 in the opening half to keep the Beermen in the game. For TNT, Terrence Jones scored 35 points to go along with 17 rebounds and eight assists. Jayson Castro added 18 but unfortunately, the pair combined for just six points in the fourth.   The Scores: San Miguel 99 - McCullough 35, Romeo 22, Fajardo 16, Pessumal 9, Ross 7, Cabagnot 4, Standhardinger 4, Santos 2. TNT 94 - Jones 35, Castro 18, Rosario 16, Pogoy 12, Trollano 7, D. Semerad 6, Taha 0, Reyes 0, Heruela 0, Magat 0. Quarters: 22-28, 45-49, 69-80, 99-94.   — Follow this writer on Twitter, @paullintag8.....»»

Category: sportsSource:  abscbnRelated NewsAug 14th, 2019

PBA Finals: McCullough on title: “We’re gonna win this s***”

Chris McCullough willled San Miguel Beer to victory in Game 5 of the 2019 PBA Commissioner’s Cup Finals. McCullough outscored TNT KaTropa by himself in the final 12 minutes, 19-14, and San Miguel Beer completed a comeback from 16 points down to take a crucial 3-2 lead in the best-of-7 series for the title. The man was simply on a mission and he wants this title bad. “We’re going to win this s***,” McCullough said repeatedly after they pulled through in Game 5. The young San Miguel import finished the win with 35 points and 22 rebounds. His clutch basket inside the last 30 seconds over Terrence Jones finally pushed the Beermen ahead, 95-94. “I don’t remember it to be honest,” McCullough said of his go-ahead layup. “But coach drew a play and I got a bucket. You do those things in practice and we got the win,” he added. One win away from the title, McCullough is determined to win it all Friday in Game 6. “We'll come ready to play and mentally locked in to get this win, and not let it go to Game 7,” he said.   — Follow this writer on Twitter, @paullintag8.....»»

Category: sportsSource:  abscbnRelated NewsAug 14th, 2019

PBA Finals: No apology from Arwind after monkey gesture aimed at Jones

For the most part, Game 5 of the 2019 PBA Commissioner’s Cup Finals between TNT and San Miguel Beer went normal. No shenanigans or anything like that. No more physical mind games. And then there’s Arwind. Santos was caught on camera doing a monkey gesture late in the first half after TNT’s Best Import Terrence Jones was called for a foul, resulting in a change in possession. Without a shadow of a doubt, that counts as racism especially on the part of Jones, who is African-American. Unfortunately and quite disappointingly, Arwind doesn’t see it that way. In fact, he’s unapologetic about it. “Sorry ako? Hindi. Depende yun sa kanya. Kung mapipikon siya, totoong monkey siya. Kung di ka mapipikon, di ka monkey. Kami nanga-asar lang. Kami nga magka-kapatid naga-asaran din kami. Di ko naman siya kaano-ano,” Santos said. “Gusto lang namin manalo. Kung mapikon siya, hindi ko na kasalanan yun,” Arwind added. Jones didn’t see the gesture and so it was a non-issue. However, fans have started to call out Arwind on social media, even San Miguel supporters. It’s 2019, those things have no place in this world, especially a Finals that has been beautifully-played by both teams. Looks like Arwind didn’t get the memo. “Dati naman di ba, pwede mo isigaw yan. Kami nung nasa Air 21 pa ako, time nila Dorian [Pena] tinatawag din namin na ganun, gorilla,” he said. “Pero wala yun pang-asar lang yun, sinusubukan mo lang mang-asar. Kasi magaling eh,” Santos added. After the gesture, Arwind did admit that he got a warning from PBA Commissioner Willie Marcial and from his own coaches, after all, he did the gesture while on the bench. “Sinabi ko nga di ba, mind games yun, Pero sinabihan naman ako kanina, kaya di ko na ginawa yun. Dati ginagawa ko yan, wala naman warning so okay lang. Kanina na-warning ako ni Commissioner tsaka ng mga coaches ko, kaya di ko na ginawa,” Santos said. “Basketball, mind games di ba? Malay mo makita niya at mapikon siya pag tinatawag siya na ganun. Eh pabor samin. Na-warning naman kami, sinabihan kami. Nakaka-intindi naman kami,” he added.   — Follow this writer on Twitter, @paullintag8.....»»

Category: sportsSource:  abscbnRelated NewsAug 14th, 2019