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NCAA 95: Nelle wasn t making shots, but was making all the right plays for San Beda

Evan Nelle was off from the field, shooting just two of eight for San Beda University in their matchup opposite Jose Rizal University, Friday at Filoil Flying V Centre. More particularly, the second-year guard who is a known knockdown shooter, only made good on two of his seven shots from deep. And so, showing much-welcome maturity, Nelle turned his attention on helping his team another way. "Bad game for me eh. Honestly, hindi ako maka-shoot so nag-create na lang ako para sa teammates ko kasi sila, nakaka-shoot," he said. He did that, and more, even threatening to top Jiovani Jalalon's record for assists in a game at 16. "Yun naman talaga ang trabaho ko eh: to pass," he said. Just at halftime, the 21-year-old had 11 dimes to his name. "We thought na yung 11 assists niya (at halftime), magiging record-breaking na, but we missed shots nung second half," head coach Boyet Fernandez said. He would only be able to add three more from that point, but nonetheless, there is no doubt it was his 14 assists that keyed the Red Lions' back-to-back wins to begin their title defense. And for Coach Boyet, this is just the start for their playmaker. As he put it, "One day, he'll be one of the best point guards in college and hopefully in the future, the PBA." He then continued, "He's good. He has to bulk up a bit lang kasi payat." Of course, Nelle's mentor knows what he's talking about as back in his playing days, the latter was one of the best playmakers in all of the PBA. For his part, though, the promising point guard is just returning the full faith that his coaches, his teammates, and the San Beda community have in him. "It's a privilege to be a starter for San Beda. Nagpapasalamat ako kay coach na pinagkakatiwalaan niya ako," he shared. He then continued, "Tapos when my teammates are making their shots din, mas madali mag-create. So basically, I just have to do my job." --- Follow this writer on Twitter, @riegogogo......»»

Category: sportsSource: abscbn abscbnJul 12th, 2019

SUPER SHOWDOWN: CJ s 2017 LPU vs Calvin s 2019 San Beda

A perfect run in NCAA Men's Basketball, as it stands today, has not been done. Yes, San Beda University scored a season sweep in 2010, but that tournament totaled nine teams - meaning, the Red Lions won 16 elimination round games as well as two more in the best-of-three Finals for an overall record of 18-0. Even farther back, San Sebastian College-Recoletos didn't lose once in several seasons from the 1980s to the 1990s, but played, at maximum, 13 games. As it stands today, the Grand Old League has 10 squads - making for 18 elims matches and then a race-to-two championship round. As such, an eye-popping 20-0 perfect run has not been done. In the last three years, two teams have come close - CJ Perez's Lyceum of the Philippines University in 2017 and Calvin Oftana's San Beda in 2019. After winning each and every game in the elims, however, both squads went on to lose in the Finals - and so, not only did they miss out on a season sweep, but also got denied of a championship. Looking back, which almost-but-not-quite was more powerful - and therefore, more painful? That is what we hope to answer in this ABS-CBN Sports Super Showdown. In reviewing the elims masterpiece and Finals meltdown of the two teams, we will be judging them in five categories (elims dominance, expectations exceeded, inherent talent, competition, and Finals fight) with a boxing-style 10-point must system determining the decision. ELIMS DOMINANCE Simply put, San Beda just ran roughshod over the rest of the league in the NCAA 95 elims. Doubted after having lost Robert Bolick and Javee Mocon, the Red Lions sent a statement that the title still goes through them and beat up their opponents by an average of 18.9. In the end, their closest call was a four-point triumph over archrival Colegio de San Juan de Letran and the number of their single-digit wins were a staggering, well, three out of 18. For comparison, LPU normed a winning margin of 12.8 in the Season 93 elims - with more than a few close calls against also-rans in Arellano University, Emilio Aguinaldo College, and Mapua University. After ambushing the rest of the league with their run-and-gun game, the Pirates had to fight tooth and nail in the stretch run of the elims. In fact, in the last game before the playoffs, LPU needed two extra periods to put away San Beda. Yes, a win is a win, but it's clear as day that between the wo teams, it was the 2019 Red Lions who dominated the elims. Advantage San Beda, 10-8 EXPECTATIONS EXCEEDED As aforementioned, San Beda was expected to go through growing pains in 2019 as they had lost Bolick and Mocon and would have to rely on a talented yet young core of James Canlas, Evan Nelle, and Calvin Oftana. Still, the Red Lions were the Red Lions - and in recent history, a playoff fixture in the Grand Old League. And so, expectations were quite a bit lower - for the dynasty in Mendiola, that is - and the red and white did nothing but far exceed them with an unbeaten run in the elims. Still, back in 2017, LPU literally came out of nowhere to go undefeated in the elims. On a sunken ship in their first years in the NCAA, the Pirates finally got winds in their sails in the form of Perez and Marcelino twins Jaycee and Jayvee. Those three, alongside captain MJ Ayaay and Cameroonian powerhouse Mike Nzeusseu, led them to their first-ever playoff berth which they got with their 13th win in as many games in the season. And with an 18th consecutive victory, LPU then booked for itself an automatic advance into its first-ever Finals. Expectations were highest in school history for the Pirates with Perez in tow, but nobody at all assumed they were sailing straight to the championship round. Advantage LPU, 10-9 INHERENT TALENT 2017 was the year that Perez became Perez. Putting up per game counts of 19.3 points in 45.1 percent shooting on top of 6.5 rebounds, 3.6 assists, and 1.9 steals, the 6-foot-1 swingman was the undisputed MVP. At the same time, the Marcelino twins terrorized opposing backcourts by making an immediate impact as end-to-end menaces. Add to that Ayaay and Nzeusseu and LPU had a championship core - just about everybody else didn't know it just yet. On the other hand, 2019 was the first time that, arguably, San Beda wasn't the most talented team in the tournament. Make no mistake, the Red Lions remained loaded with the likes of "Bandana Bros." Canlas and Nelle, but it was actually former reserve forward Oftana who emerged as the league's top individual player with norms of 15.6 points, 8.2 rebounds, 2.7 assists, and 1.2 blocks. Still, in the end, San Beda went 18-0 in the elims by staying true to itself - utilizing an uncompromising total team effort. Advantage LPU, 10-9 COMPETITION LPU had to traverse rough seas in 2017 for its elims sweep. Back then, San Beda had Bolick and Mocon, Jose Rizal University had Teytey Teodoro and Jed Mendoza, San Sebastian had Michael Calisaan and Allyn Bulanadi, Letran had Rey Nambatac and Bong Quinto, and Arellano had Kent Salado and Lervin Flores. Even more, the Mythical Team had Perez, teammate Nzeusseu, Red Lion Mocon, Sidney Onwubere from non-Final Four team EAC, and University of Perpetual Help's Nigerian tower Prince Eze. Fast forward to 2019 and household names were hard to come by as the Mythical Team had San Beda's Oftana, a former reserve forward; Nelle, a former backup point guard; Canlas, a former secondary scorer; as well as San Sebastian late-bloomer Bulanadi and LPU playmaker Jaycee Marcelino. Of those five, Marcelino was the most recognizable name - and he was not necessarily known for putting a team on his back. Safe to say, Season 93 was much more competitive than Season 95. Even more, 2019 was the last year with foreign student-athletes and by then, only three remained. Tankoua is as solid as they come, Nzeusseu is spectacular at times, and College of St. Benilde's Clement Leutcheu is serviceable. The crop of reinforcements in 2017, though, had those three as well as MVP runner-up Eze of Perpetual, Hamadou Laminou of EAC, and JRU's Abdul Wahab Abdul Razak and Abdel Poutuouchi. Advantage LPU, 10-8 FINALS FIGHT Both LPU and San Beda woke up from dreaming of a perfect season in Game 1 of the Finals. The Pirates were sent crashing back to earth by the defending champion Red Lions and were ultimately swept in the championship round of Season 93. On the other hand, San Beda went the distance with archrival Letran in the Season 95 Finals, but was also at the losing end. Also, if not for Bonbon Batiller's botched reverse layup in the dying moments, Game 2 may have had a different ending, and the Red Lions may have been swept as well. Still, the fact that San Beda was able to take one from the eventual champions nudges it ahead of LPU which went winless in the championship round after a perfect elims. Advantage San Beda, 10-9 FINAL SCORE, 47-46, for LPU.....»»

Category: sportsSource:  abscbnRelated NewsApr 7th, 2020

SUPER SHOWDOWN: FEU s L-Jay Gonzales vs San Beda s Evan Nelle

Razzle. Dazzle. Those are the two words the could best describe what Far Eastern University and San Beda University have in their backcourt. In L-Jay Gonzales, the Tamaraws have a speedy playmaker while in Evan Nelle, the Red Lions have a stylish playmaker. While they go about their games in their own different ways, though, what's certain is Gonzales and Nelle make all the plays - and make all the right plays at that - for their teams. Who does the better razzling and dazzling between them, though? We set out to find out just who in this week's Super Showdown where we match up the best young playmakers in Philippine collegiate basketball. To determine the result, we will judge them in five categories (making plays for teammates, making plays for himself, making plays on defense, threat in transition, leadership) with a boxing-style 10-point must system determining the decision. MAKING PLAYS FOR TEAMMATES Nelle is tops in assists in the NCAA in just his first full season at the controls of San Beda's offensive with 6.7 per game. Gonzales isn't doing too bad either, with 3.8 dimes per game in his first full season in charge of FEU's attack - good for fourth in the UAAP. Both players masterfully orchestrate their teams' game plan while at the same time, also making ways for some highlight plays. In terms of those highlight plays, though, Nelle's stylish setups are more of a treat to watch than Gonzales' deliberate dishes. Just run down the Red Lion point guard's best plays and you will have to ask yourself, just how many no-look passes can anybody make? Advantage, Nelle, 10-9 MAKING PLAYS FOR HIMSELF While both are pass-first point guards, they are also no slouches in terms of scoring. In fact, Gonzales is top scorer for FEU with 10.4 points per game while Nelle is fourth in San Beda in terms of points per game with 10.2 markers. When it comes down to it, though, the Red Lions' playmaker is a threat from all over the floor, with the shooting touch from long-range as well as the finishing capability from up close. The Tamaraws' court general is actually a much better finisher, what with his nifty bag of reverses and hand-switching layups, but his outside shot has a long ways to go. Advantage, Nelle, 10-9 MAKING PLAYS ON DEFENSE Nelle's first and foremost point for improvement has always been his reed-thin frame. He has gotten bigger since his days as a Red Cub, but he also still doesn't present much of a problem for big-bodied guards who can bully him. The opposite is true for Gonzales who not only has the body strength, but also couples it with elite speed and agility to be a frustrating faceoff. Not only that, FEU actually has its point guard at the head of the defensive attack and still, he doesn't seem to run out of energy. Safe to say, nobody would ever say that having Gonzales in front of you will ever be a walk in the park. Advantage, Gonzales, 10-9 THREAT IN TRANSITION Gonzales has all the speed in the world to leave opponents, and even his teammates, in the dust. The transition game is the most dangerous game to play with FEU because it has just the point guard to take advantage of it. When it comes to taking advantage of the whole court, however, Nelle has got it on lock as not only can he set up his teammates for easy transition baskets, he can also pull up for open jumpers or take it straight to the rim. And so, just like he has the advantage in the halfcourt, San Beda's floor leader also has the advantage on his Tamaraw counterpart on the open court. Either of the two is a scary sight charging straight at you, but it's actually easier to defend Gonzales' drive than the threat of Nelle from all over the floor. Advantage, Nelle, 10-9 LEADERSHIP Both of them are at the head of the attack for their contending teams. Neither of them, however, are necessarily the vocal leaders of their contending teams. It must be the youth and it must be the inexperience, but Gonzales and Nelle still defer to other teammates when it comes to leadership. Perhaps, that will come in time, but as of right now, their sophomore seasons, this is the one department they have much room to improve on. Push, 10-10 FINAL SCORE, 49-47 for San Beda's Evan Nelle.....»»

Category: sportsSource:  abscbnRelated NewsOct 17th, 2019

SUPER SHOWDOWN: La Salle s Justine Baltazar v Letran s Larry Muyang

Almost two decades ago, the power of Pinatubo was felt all over the Philippines. Now in 2019, two towers from Pampanga are making their presence felt in the premiere collegiate leagues of the country. De La Salle University's Justine Baltazar and Colegio de San Juan de Letran's Larry Muyang are the undisputed best local big men in the UAAP and in the NCAA, respectively. Baltazar has done a stand up job replacing Cameroonian MVP Ben Mbala while Muyang has made sure the Knights are no longer pushovers in the paint. So what happens when an irresistible force like Baltazar collides with an immovable object like Muyang? That's what we're here to find out in the second edition of the Super Showdown as we pit Philippine collegiate basketball's top Filipino centers against one another - judging them in five categories (post scoring, perimeter scoring, rebounding, defense, and playmaking) with a boxing-style 10-point must system determining the decision. POST SCORING These two learned from one of the best in the business in so-called big man whisperer Jeff Napa. Napa discovered and then developed Baltazar in Nazareth-NU and then harnessed the potential of Muyang in Letran. When it all boils down to it, though, Muyang's bulk is just perfect for the back to the basket game and he has honed his skills so much that even the likes of Cameroonians Donald Tankoua and Mike Nzeusseu have a tough time bodying him up. Baltazar is no slouch posting up, make no mistake, but his lankier frame is also not that much of a problem for bigger defenders such as Nigerian Bright Akhuetie or Senegalese Alex Diakhite. Letan's big boy has a big body in need of big sustenance - and it just so happens that he can do just that by feasting inside the paint. Advantage, Muyang, 10-9 PERIMETER SCORING Put simply, Baltazar is a threat from outside while Muyang is not - not yet, at the very least. La Salle's versatile center has the touch to take and make shots from long-range as well as mid-range. In fact, he already has five triples to his name in eight games in the season. On the other hand, Letran calls for its hulking center to make a living down low and, as such, he has not had that many chances to show off his shooting. More than that, Baltazar is the prototype for the modern big man - a tall, long-limbed, and agile giant who needs to be defended even when he's standing behind the arc. Advantage, Baltazar, 10-9 REBOUNDING Baltazar just had for himself a 25-point, 25-rebound double-double. In terms of cleaning up the glass in the UAAP, nobody is better aside from the foreign student-athletes, with his norms of 12.5 rebounds the fourth-best in all of the league. Muyang inhales his fair share of rebounds, but also lags behind in terms of cleaning up his teammates' misses. Of course, the simple explanation is that La Salle just has the more athletic big man compared of Letran's more ground-bound behemoth. Advantage, Baltazar, 10-9 DEFENSE Rim protection has always been Baltazar's elite skill - even when he was just a raw prospect as a Bullpup. Now, he has blossomed into a menace patrolling the paint and his mere presence can alter shots, if not swat them away all the way. And because he is more ground-bound, Muyang was never one to host a block party, but he more than holds his own inside thanks to his bulk. Bottom line, though, La Salle can actually boast of having the more well-rounded two-way player. Advantage, Baltazar, 10-9 PLAYMAKING Muyang is such a force down low that he attracts double and triple-teams. As such, he always has a golden opportunity to make plays for his teammates and, more often than not, makes the right plays. After all, it wasn't that long ago that Muyang, along with Jeo Ambohot, Christian Fajarito, and Bong Quinto, all clogged the paint, but still had many, many assists to share among them. This is then the department where Baltazar has the biggest room for improvement as he only has a total of eight assists in the season. Advantage, Muyang 10-9 FINAL SCORE, 48-47 for La Salle's Justine Baltazar.....»»

Category: sportsSource:  abscbnRelated NewsOct 10th, 2019

Ateneo s Fab 5: The Fearless Underdogs of UAAP Volleyball

(This story was originally published on April 20, 2018) Newly-appointed head coach Roger Gorayeb looked at his line-up heading into UAAP Season 71. A champion mentor of NCAA powerhouse San Sebastian College - Recoletos, Gorayeb had in his hands a gargantuan task of rebuilding the Ateneo de Manila University women’s volleyball program. Just a few months before, Ronald Dulay, the mentor before him, landed a trio of blue chip recruits who were fresh from a successful stint in the Palarong Pambansa. Angeline "Dzi" Gervacio, Fille Saint Cainglet and Jamenea "Jem" Ferrer just joined the Katipunan-based squad. Gervacio and Cainglet were products of St. Scholastica's College in Manila while Ferrer was a gem from Hope Christian School under girl’s volleyball guru Jerry Yee. Looking at his 15-woman line-up with the season just a few months ahead, Gorayeb knew he needed to do something drastic. The roster just won’t do. Talking to then athletic director Ricky Palou and team manager Tony Boy Liao, the mentor told the team officials that he intended to cut five players from the list. One could just imagine the shock in their faces. “Nakita ko may line-up pero player-playeran lang yung ganoon bang tipo, 15 ata yun. Sabi ko ‘Magtatanggal ako ng lima then magre-recruit ako,’” he said. The three rookies were in. Middle Bea Pascual, Kara Acevedo and libero Steph Gabriel retained their spots. He needed more. “Sa mga tinira kong players, si Kara Acevedo sabi niya, ‘Coach mayroong player ang ICA (Immaculate Conception Academy) na gumraduate naka-exam na rito pasado.’ Sabi ko, ‘Sige papuntahin mo,’” said Gorayeb. It was Gretchen Ho. “Sa akin kasi ang talagang nagyaya sa akin si Coach Ron Dulay. Si Kara Acevedo teammate ko and she’s been recruited by Ateneo. So one summer wala akong magawa naki-train lang ako noon tapos nagustuhan nila ang laro ko and then fourth year noong graduate na ako I passed the ACET then niyayaya na nila ako,” Ho said. “Then nagbago ng coach na si Coach Roger and dun niya ako nakita.”   “Pagdating ko ng March (sa Ateneo) wala na akong way para maka-recruit pa. Ang nangyari yung tatlo accepted na kaagad. Si Gretchen tinanong ko sabi ko, ‘ano ba ang laro mo?’ Sabi niya the usual panggitna, tres,” Gorayeb recalled. “So sinubukan ko pero ang laro niya tres hindi quick. Siya panggitna pero hindi quicker na gusto ko saka yung height niya (maliit). Kaya lang si Gretchen takbo ng takbo, mahilig magtatakbo so sabi ko sige pwede na yan. Wala namang player na during that time. So kinuha ko si Gretchen.” Gorayeb just needed just one more. “Ngayon nagkaroon ng STCAA (Southern Tagalog Calabarzon athletic association) eh kulang pa ako ng isa, wala akong panggitna. Ang gitna ko during that time si Bea lang tapos si Gretchen so wala akong pamalit. So naisipan ko may nakita ako sa STCAA,” he said. He spotted a lanky player from Canossa Academy-Lipa, Aillysse Nacachi. “Sabi ko kay Sir Tony pagtyagaan ko na lang ito kahit hindi naman kalakasan at wala naman na rin akong choice na makapili kasi rush ang pagdating ko dyan. Nakiusap lang sila sa akin na magbuo ako ng team kasi si Ronald nag-resign,” said Gorayeb. Another freshman could’ve had ended up with Ateneo, Hope’s libero Melissa Gohing. But a few obstacles prevented her from fulfilling her promise to join Ferrer in Ateneo. She instead chose to join the ladies in green and white in Taft.    SOMETHING PROMISING December 7, 2008. Far Eastern University Gym. Excitement filled the air. Fans, mostly volleyball purists and some who just came to support their classmates or were just curious to see a new spectacle after the basketball season ended, slowly settled in their seats for the women’s division’s second game. It was Adamson University, the previous year’s runner-up, which just visited the turf of their arch nemesis and defending champion FEU, which was led by that era’s finest and most popular volleybelle Rachel Anne Daquis. Fans wanted to see if the Lady Falcons still had the same firepower they had the previous season with the loss of top setter Janet Serafica and power hitter Sang Laguilles. A rookie-laden Ateneo squad should be easy pickings with Angela Benting, rookie Pau Soriano and libero Lizlee Anne Gata in the roster. Besides the Lady Falcons got the Lady Eagles’ number. Or so they thought. “Naalala ko nu’ng time namin sinasabi sa amin ng seniors namin na, ‘Hay naku ang lakas ng Adamson, never kami nanalo dyan,’” Cainglet, now happily married to Taguig mayor Lino Cayetano and with three beautiful children, recalled.  But the Lady Eagles stunned Adamson in the opening set. The Lady Falcons took the next two frames. Ateneo stole the fourth.  “Ako naalala ko ano eh, parang alam namin na lahat kasi kami palaban. Nasa amin yun. Tapos binigyan kaming lahat ng chance to be in the first six so parang dream come true,” said Ho, now an ABS-CBN host. “Naalala ko rin na palaban kaming lahat kumbaga nothing to lose eh so ang ano namin, sumasabay kami sa laro and nu’ng nakita na namin na ‘Ay kaya pala natin ‘to guys. Kaya pala naming lumaban.’” Still, Adamson had the upper hand in experience. The Lady Falcons, used to pressure and were steady at crunch time, outlasted Ateneo.           The young Katipunan-based squad fell short, 25-22, 22-25, 15-25, 25-15, 8-15. But for the Fab 5, it was a loss that felt like a resounding victory. “Parang sobrang natutuwa kami and everybody in the crowd, kaya siguro kami natawag na Fab 5 kasi rookies kami pero kahit ganoon palaban kami,” said Ho. “Saka close game. Five sets yun.” However, it was the first of five five-set matches that Ateneo will drop that season including one in the second round against the Manilla Santos-bannered De La Salle University. “Pero ang problema di kami nananalo ng five sets. Parang ilan lang ang naipanalo namin na ganoon. Feeling ko na-overwhelm kami na ‘Uy nananalo tayo.’ May ganoong disbelief ng konti pero alam namin na may ibubuga kami,” said Ho. “Definitely, our rookie season was full of five-set matches. It was tough, we felt like we were so close, but still so far away. At some point, it gave us frustration also. We just couldn't figure out that time what is it that's still lacking because we couldn't win the five-set matches,” according to Nacachi. “People said, it was because the team was still so inexperienced. We still didn't have the tenacity unlike of those more matured teams. But we didn't take it as bad, it was a learning experience for us all at the end. We had to learn how to develop that finishing will to be able to win games like that in the future.” The Fab 5 finished their rookie season with a 6-8 slate at fifth spot.   ‘MAY MEDAL NA TAYO’ Gorayeb remembered on their second year the look on Pascual’s face in their last elimination game match against Adamson. Already wrapping up their first win over the Lady Falcons, Pascual was giddy. “Natatawa nga ako dyan kay Bea kasi papanalo na kami nu’n tapos sumesenyas na siya ng tres. Sabi ko, ‘Hoy anong ginagawa mo?’ Yun pala sobrang saya na niya kasi for the first time in 30 years magkaka-medal na sila,” he said. It was the most important match of the season for the Lady Eagles. With the Fab 5 already in their sophomore year, Ateneo was already making great strides. The Lady Eagles closed that season’s elims with five straight wins capped off with a victory over Adamson. Ateneo posted a 10-4 win-loss mark to enter the Final Four legitimately. “Ang nangyari kasi nu’ng time nila Charo (Soriano) kaya sila nakapasok sa semis kasi may nag-squeal na si (Jacq) Alarca di pala naka-enroll nu’n kaya na-forfeit mga laro ng La Salle,” said Gorayeb. The Fab 5 proved that they were not just a bunch of much-hyped up pretty faces. They backed it up with their skills on court. It didn’t matter that Ateneo were swept by eventual champion University of Sto. Tomas in the Final Four.      But the podium finish of Season 72 was short-lived. Adamson got its revenge in the last game of Season 73 elims, bumping off the Lady Eagles for a podium finish. The loss put Ateneo in a collision course with the twice-to-beat DLSU, who could’ve completed an elims sweep if not only for a forfeited match against University of the East after UAAP found out that Carmela Garbin and Clarisse Yeung participated in a ‘ligang labas’ while the season was onoing, in the Final Four. Ateneo gave the Lady Spikers a scare before succumbing in another heartbreaking five-set match. The Lady Eagles finished fourth but that lone semis game gave Ateneo and its maturing Fab 5 enough experience to dream for something big – A ticket into the Finals.      ‘HINOG NA KAYO’ The first three years saw the gradual improvement for Ateneo. But Season 74 proved to be the turning point for the Fab 5. A fresh new recruit from University of Sto. Tomas high school, who just completed a year of residency, came into picture and with the Fab 5 armed with years of experience, the Lady Eagles’ fate will forever be changed. Alyssa Valdez, a highly recruited open spiker just like Gervacio, Cainglet-Cayetano and Ferrer years back, gave renewed excitement for the Ateneo faithful. “Alyssa's joining with Ateneo was a great turning point for us. We needed as much support we can get, and Alyssa's entrance to the team was a great boost to the team's morale,” said Nacachi. “The girl is a powerhouse and we felt like with her presence, the team finally became solid.” “We were able to play around with the positions and the rotations, since we had different versatile open players who can also greatly play other roles,” she added. “We were also able to formulate a lot of plays and attacks because Alyssa can generally do all kinds; open, running, quick, name it all. She gave the team the power and the versatility that we previously lacked from the past seasons.” Social media was just gaining traction then but the Lady Eagles were already on the radar of volleyball purists through online forums. For the first time, Ateneo was considered a legitimate contender.   The Fab 5 proved it by winning 11 games in the elimination round, losing only to UST once and dropping two against the Lady Spikers. Valdez’s arrival gave Ferrer an even broader option on offense. It eased the scoring load off the shoulders of Cainglet and Gervacio, who was then moved to an opposite position. “I guess sakto lang din yung dating niya because by that time Kara Acevedo graduated so someone had to fill in her spot so coach Roger decided for me to move to utility or opposite,” said Gervacio. “And then sakto Alyssa naman could fill in the spot na other open spiker.” “So timing din na we had all the pieces put together at the right time,” she added. With a good performance in the elims despite missing a legit middle in Bea Pascual and the entry of Aerieal Patnongon barred by academic problems, Ateneo finished second and for the first-time was armed with a twice-to-beat advantage in the stepladder semifinals. The Lady Eagles faced an experienced Tigresses side in the last stepladder semis stage. UST just came from a hard-fought four-set do-or-die match against FEU and were banking on their four-set win over Ateneo in the second round to force another sudden death. Ateneo’s date with destiny was sealed with a four-set win over the Tigresses, who then bid goodbye to Maika Ortiz and Judy Anne Caballejo. “Pinu-push na rin kami ni Coach Roger noon eh, ‘Hinog na kayo ngayon. Kasi dalawang taon na lang, kailangan makapasok na kayo sa Finals,’” said Ho. “Somehow senior na rin kami,” added Cainglet.  “Season 74 was really the target season for us to be in the finals and target even to win the championship,” according to Nacachi. “During this time, we were already thinking we could not afford to not go in the finals.” “So it was with our mindset and our level of commitment that we were able to finally reach our goal of reaching the finals,” she added. “We had enough experience that time already, and it was really time for us to show the level of game maturity the team had obtained from the past seasons.” But then they had to face an unbeaten team. Unscathed in 14 games, De La Salle University was poised to complete a perfect season. The Lady Eagles spoiled it. Ferrer outplayed DLSU setter Mika Esperanza, 57-42, in excellent sets as Ateneo handed the Lady Spikers its first loss after 25 straight victories in a come-from-behind 23-25, 28-26, 25-23, 25-17, Finals opener win. Witnessed by 3,002 spectators inside the then The Arena in San Juan, all of the Fab 5 produced points. Cainglet had 19 behind Valdez’s 24, Gervacio scored 12, Ho had 10, Nacachi finished with five while Ferrer had one. Gorayeb made a big gambit and it worked. “Dahil sa wala kong panggitna, yung laro namin ng La Salle, ginawa kong quicker si Alyssa. Kasi si Alyssa nakakapalo. Nagulat si Ramil (de Jesus) dun.” It was a big win. A huge upset. Unfortunately, Ateneo needed to win two more.  DLSU held a thrice-to-beat advantage.   THAT SWAG After Ateneo made a miracle in Game One, fans began to feel a new rivalry born. The attendance spiked. From just 3,000 spectators, the gate attendance more than doubled its size. The interest was there. Fans of traditional powers began to notice the Lady Eagles as a rising team. For the first time, a squad with no previous championship experience except for a title during the Marcos era in a different collegiate league, made a giant jolt. Everybody wanted to see what these girls would do next.    The Lady Eagles, still high on adrenaline after their Game 1 upset, took the opening set in Game 2. But just like in their opener, a well-experienced DLSU squad adjusted to take the next three frames to move a step closer to a repeat crown. With then Rookie of the Year Ara Galang, Season Most Valuable Player Aby Marano, an intimidating Michele Gumabao and a very efficient Finals MVP Cha Cruz teaming up for the kill, the Lady Spikers ripped Ateneo apart in Game 3 in straight sets, 25-16, 25-22, 25-13. “Sabi nga ni Dzi na nadyan na lahat eh. So I guess noong Season 74 nandoon na pero may kulang pa rin,” said Ho. “I guess we we’re able to make it to the Finals pero wala pa kaming championship experience.” Ferrer agreed. "Siguro ang kulang yung championship experience kasi nasa La Salle na ‘yun eh. Ilang years na silang nagpa-finals, nag-champion and for Ateneo doon pa lang namin sinimulan," said the three-time Best Setter. Lacking championship experience is one thing, but Ateneo during that time wasn’t ready for DLSU’s most feared weapon: the Lady Spikers’ swag.  “They have that swag,” said Gervacio. “Everyone knows about it naman. It’s really Coach Ramil’s style talaga kasi as I remember when we were first year, four out of six of the players inside the court were rookies and even if we go against the powerhouses UST, FEU, Adamson, hindi sila yung nakikita nyo na kapag championship na rivalry, na swag, angas, stare down. Pero La Salle talaga kahit sino ang kalaban nila they’ll bring that attitude inside the court.” That Finals series cemented a new rivalry that will become one of the most celebrated in the sport. “I think it also helped that Ateneo-La Salle basketball didn’t face also,” said Gervacio. “Siyempre nandoon ang hunger for the rivalry eh and timely din na its been Ateneo-La Salle na rin sa volleyball.”   CLOSING A CHAPTER The Fab 5 were now in their fifth and last year. They wanted to leave a winning legacy. The pieces were already there. Gorayeb had at his disposal five seniors, a rising star in Valdez, a sophomore middle in Amy Ahomiro, a versatile Ella De Jesus, a steady libero in Denden Lazaro and a new kind of weapon – a massive crowd that can turn any venue into a sea of blue.              As expected, the second installment of the Ateneo-DLSU rivalry was set into place. Both sweeping their semis opponents. The Lady Spikers crushed National University while the Lady Eagles shot down Adamson. Game One was a shocker. DLSU heading into the Finals are on a 14-game roll but were stunned in the first two sets with Ateneo stepping on the gas. But a string of miscues, mostly from the service line, did the Lady Eagles in as they allowed the Lady Spikers to force a decider. DLSU, smelling blood, punished Ateneo to eke out a 20-25, 17-25, 25-22, 25-22, 15-6, victory inside the Big Dome witnesses by 17,342-strong gate attendance. Then the series transferred to a newly-built, state-of-the-art Mall of Asia Arena that drew a crowd of 18,799. The first two frames were frustrating for the Lady Eagles.   Ateneo came back to life in the third set to gain a 9-5 lead. But DLSU easily erased it with Ateneo crumbling under pressure. The Lady Spikers were on an onslaught. Sophomore Galang pushed DLSU at matchpoint with a cold-blooded ace that went in a few inches from the baseline. The score, 24-16. It was a tense moment for the Fab 5. A long rally ensued in the next play. Gervacio, with all her might pounded a kill. Her hand making a great contact on the ball off Ferrer’s backset.     Smack! The ball ricocheted off the hands of DLSU’s Wensh Tiu before falling on the same landing area of Gervacio, who tried to dive for a dig together with Lazaro. DLSU swept Ateneo, 25-23, 25-20, 25-16. Game over.          “Kahit hindi kami nanalo alam naming ibinigay namin ang lahat namin, all-out talaga kaya wala kaming pagsisisi,” said Ho. It was the end of the Fab 5 era, but they left more than what any of them could have imagined. "I remember so many people or fans telling me that they started really watching UAAP Volleyball because of our batch. And that is really touching and fulfilling to know. Knowing that you were able to leave an impact like that to people. We were not able to bring even a single championship to our school, Ateneo, but we were able to touch a lot of people's hearts despite that," Nacachi shared. The Fab 5 closed a colorful chapter of Ateneo volleyball in tears. They were there during the Lady Eagles’ birth pains. They labored. They shed tears, blood and sweat. They laid the foundation for something big. The Fab 5 planted the seeds that would eventually bear fruit and would change the course of Ateneo women’s volleyball program forever. Glory didn’t happen during their time. It started in theirs.    Amidst the roar of the crowd, the falling confetti, banging of drums and the echoing chant of ‘Animo La Salle’ from the sea of green, the Fab 5 hugged each other tight. They found comfort in each other. It was their time to say goodbye. For those who remained – Valdez, Lazaro, Ahomiro, De Jesus – the defeat added fuel to their already blazing desire to bring glory for the blue and white. They were the next in line, heirs to an unfinished business. WATCH: FAB 5 Reunion Part 1 and Part 2 --- Follow this writer on Twitter, @fromtheriles.....»»

Category: sportsSource:  abscbnRelated News17 hr. 23 min. ago

REWIND RANKINGS: Juan GDL, Mallillin, and 17 NBTC All-Stars

The National Basketball Training Centre 24 is now on its third year and through its run, it has been graced by the likes of Kai Sotto, Joel Cagulangan, SJ Belangel, Carl Tamayo, Rhayyan Amsali, and Kevin Quiambao as top three talents. From 2018 onward, a selection committee made up of scribes from ABS-CBN Sports, ESPN5, Spin, and Tiebreaker Times have reviewed the best of the best in the NCAA, UAAP, MMBL, CESAFI-NBTC, and FCAAF and then ranked them in the definitive list of the most promising prospects in the Philippines. That list of names then became the final roster for the annual NBTC All-Star Game. Even before the NBTC 24, though, the grassroots national tournament has organized All-Star Games with 24 of the most promising prospects in the Philippines. And so, wouldn't it be fun if the All-Stars before 2018 will get the NBTC 24 treatment? In this space, the current selection committee will be retroactively ranking the NBTC All-Stars in their respective years from the game's debut in 2012 all the way to 2017. Now, we'll do the 2017 NBTC All-Stars - the time when the undisputed top talent came from a "two-win" team. --- From out of nowhere in UAAP 79, Adamson High School had the best team in all of high school. And that's because from out of nowhere, the Baby Falcons had the best player in all of high school. Behind first-year player Encho Serrano, the blue and white blasted off to an 11-1 start and looked like a freight train headed towards the school's first championship since 1993. Only, Adamson and Serrano, all of a sudden, ran into a wall - a wall that ultimately forfeited each and every one of their wins. Not only that, the 5-foot-11 ball of energy was deemed supposed-to-be ineligible for the season and had a surefire MVP award - as well as a title they were favored to take home - taken away from him. Still, there was no doubt that in 2017, Serrano was the top talent - what with his non-stop motor that none of his opponents, and even his teammates, could keep up with. Posting per game counts of 19.3 points in 58 percent shooting and 8.1 rebounds, the Kapampangan finally found his game and his home in his third try. And so, he is the rightful no. 1 in our re-rankings despite the fact that he comes from a "two-win" team - and not even the NBTC 24's valuing of wins first and foremost could take that away from him. Behind him in our Rewind Rankings is L-Jay Gonzales of UAAP champion Far Eastern University-Diliman. The primetime playmaker didn't actually play in the All-Star Game after failing to show up for tryouts. Nonetheless, his breakout when it mattered most - the Finals where he stuffed the stat sheet with averages of 9.5 points, 8.0 assists, and 6.5 rebounds - was more than enough to thrust him right into the front of the re-rankings even ahead of MVPs Troy Mallillin of La Salle Green Hills and Juan Gomez de Liano of the University of the Philippines Integrated School. Mallillin was solid if unspectacular for the Greenies who fell short of the Finals in the NCAA while Juan GDL was a one-man show that fell short of contending for the Final Four in the UAAP. The NCAA MVP and the UAAP MVP would have to settle for no. 4 and no. 5, respectively, as the third spot would have to go to Ateneo de Manila High School's SJ Belangel who, in only his second season, already established himself as the best point guard in high school. Belangel's teammate Kai Sotto - the now 7-foot-2, 17-year-old Filipino making noise in the US - was slotted at 15th after his rookie year in the UAAP. Then, he pretty clearly had a long ways to go as the likes of undersized big men Kenji Roman of FEU-Diliman and Karl Penano of Nazareth School of National University had their way with him. As a whole, the UAAP dominated this re-rankings as its players occupied all but one of the top six spots. Mallillin and Arellano High School's Aaron Fermin are the only NCAA players in the top 10 while Jonas Tibayan from Chiang Kai Shek yet again emerged as the best player from other leagues. In all, the 2017 NBTC All-Stars counted 10 players from the NCAA, nine players from the UAAP, four players from other leagues in Manila, and one player from Cebu. This is the final NBTC 24 for 2017 - retroactively, that is: 1. Encho Serrano, F/G, Adamson 2. L-Jay Gonzales, G, FEU-Diliman 3. SJ Belangel, G, Ateneo 4. Troy Mallillin, F, LSGH 5. Juan Gomez de Liano, G, UPIS 6. John Lloyd Clemente, G/F, National U 7. Jonas Tibayan, F, Chiang Kai Shek (blue no. 18) 8. Aaron Fermin, C, Arellano (grey no. 18) 9. Dave Ildefonso, F/G, Ateneo 10. Inand Fornilos, F, UST (leftmost, in yellow top) 11. Rom Junsay, G, Mapua 12. Harvey Pagsanjan, G, Hope (photo courtesy of FIBA) 13. Guillmer Dela Torre, G, Arellano 14. Sam Abu Hijleh, F, San Beda 15. Kai Sotto, C, Ateneo 16. Rhayyan Amsali, F, National U 17. Evan Nelle, G, San Beda 18. John Galinato, G, Chiang Kai Shek 19. Germy Mahinay, C, San Beda 20. Sherwin Concepcion, F, Mapua 21. Migs Oczon, G, Chiang Kai Shek 22. Unique Naboa, G, LSGH 23. Jancork Cabahug, F, UV 24. Lars Sunga, F, Arellano.....»»

Category: sportsSource:  abscbnRelated NewsApr 15th, 2020

The Beast remains NCAA basketball s best moniker in 20 years

We have already gone through the most memorable monikers in the UAAP since 2000. Not to be outdone, of course, the NCAA has had its own nicknames to easily identify its shining stars. From Baser Amer to Rey Nambatac and from CJ Perez to Robert Bolick, the Grand Old League has been a grand old stage for tantalizing talents to make a name for themselves - and even more, make a nickname for themselves. Here, we have gathered the cream of the crop monikers for the NCAA in the last 20 years. First and foremost, there is not one nickname that had as much of an impact as this: THE ULTIMATE NCAA MONIKER Without a doubt, Calvin Abueva is a beast on the court. The now-Phoenix Fuel Master can make his presence felt anywhere and everywhere - and he has always done so even in his time in San Sebastian. Abueva was such a problem for defenses, even dynastic San Beda's, and that's exactly why it was just perfect to call him "The Beast." Also, did you know that "beast" is actually an anagram for Baste? How 'bout that, huh?! More than the perfect fit, though, Abueva's nickname has also had an impact quite like "Phenom" from the UAAP. After Abueva, San Sebastian just had to have more beasts in the form of "Baby Beast" CJ Perez and "Lady Beast" Grethcel Soltones. MONIKERS THAT FOLLOWED SUIT Perez's nickname isn't original - as already said, it came from Abueva's "The Beast." Still, "Baby Beast" is a perfect fit for the top overall pick in the 2018 PBA Draft - a player who can make his presence felt anywhere and everywhere. He just does it all while standing two inches shorter and packing 20 lbs. lighter than "The Beast." MONIKERS ABOUT DEFINING MOMENTS Once upon a time, Robert Bolick was a bench player in La Salle. Not getting his shot in his time as a Green Archer is his origin story - as he loves to tell. Fast forward to his donning the red and white for San Beda and Bolick got his shot. 2??3??PTS 0?? 6??ASTS 0??4??REBS Big Shot Bolick made sure San Beda punched a ticket to the #NCAASeason94 Finals! pic.twitter.com/8z5GYsNXRn — ABS-CBN Sports (@abscbnsports) October 26, 2018 Once he did, not only did he deliver, he delivered big-time - hitting the biggest shots in the biggest moments in the biggest games. BIG. SHOT. BOLICK. #NCAASeason94 #GalingNCAA pic.twitter.com/votXDwW7xE — ABS-CBN Sports (@abscbnsports) August 10, 2018 That is why he was "Big Shot Bolick." MONIKERS THAT GO TOGETHER Abueva already has the ultimate NCAA moniker - and still, he also has the best name for a group. "Pinatubo Trio" was an ominous moniker that denoted doom and gloom for San Sebastian's opponents. And it wasn't just scare tactics either. Abueva, Ronald Pascual, and Ian Sangalang are all Kapampangan and therefore, hail from Mt. Pinatubo, indeed. It was always just a matter of time before any of them - or worse for the rest of the NCAA, all of them - erupted. A close second was San Beda's "Bandana Bros" in James Canlas and Evan Nelle. With Robert Bolick and Javee Mocon gone, the spotlight, all of a sudden, shone on two guards who were just entering the second seasons. Still, Canlas and Nelle did nothing but take the challenge head-on - and the black bandanas on their foreheads game in and game out symbolized that the Red Lions' future was now. Unfortunately, "Bandana Bros" is no more, but we will always have that "new drip." MONIKERS THAT PLAYED ON GIVEN NAMES When an opportunity presents itself, you just have to take it. That's what happened with the names of these guys: Bright Akhuetie became "Mr. Brightside" Baser Amer became "The Hammer" Sudan Daniel became "Superman" Sam Ekwe became "The Equalizer" Rey Nambatac became "Stingrey" And Scottie Thompson became "The Pearl" (his full name is Earl Scottie Thompson) MONIKERS THAT ARE JUST… COOL Nothing much to explain here other than the fact that RJ Jazul, now of Phoenix, had one of the most unique nicknames in all of sports. "So Cool" encapsulated what he was as a lead guard for Letran - and it just so happened that it rhymed so well with his last name. All in all, "So Cool" RJ Jazul is just, well, so cool. HONORABLE MENTIONS Of course, how could we forget how both Mark Cruz and Borgie Hermida played way bigger than their actual heights. "Ant-man" Cruz came through time and time again for Letran while Hermida transformed into "The Mighty Kid" to take charge for San Beda. There's also "Master Chief" for Kent Salado to definitely describe how he led Arellano into remaining a tough out even after the departure of Jiovani Jalalon - much like how Halo's supersoldier stood strong in the face of The Covenant. --- Follow this writer on Twitter, @riegogogo......»»

Category: sportsSource:  abscbnRelated NewsMar 27th, 2020

EYES ON YOU, KID: UAAP 82 Jrs. players to watch

The first round of the UAAP 82 Juniors Basketball Tournament is over and done with. And we can’t wait for the second round to get started just so we could get even more glimpses of the future of Philippine basketball courtesy of these players: CARL TAMAYO and KEVIN QUIAMBAO – Nazareth School of National University TAMAYO’S ROUND 1 AVERAGES: 12.7 points, 52.3 percent shooting, 8.3 rebounds, 1.3 assists QUIAMBAO’S ROUND 1 AVERAGES: 12.7 points, 51.4 percent shooting, 10.7 rebounds, 1.7 blocks, 1.7 assists 7-foot-2, 17-year-old Kai Sotto was, hands down, the top individual talent last year in UAAP Jrs. – but even he was no match for National U’s twin towers who stood as the pillars in their dominant championship. A year later, Carl Tamayo and Kevin Quiambao have only been better all while the Bullpups have breezed to a clean sweep of Round 1. The 6-foot-7 Tamayo is yet to explode, but is still posting per game counts that any team would want their big man to have. The 6-foot-8 Quiambao, on the other hand, has had for himself a couple of powerful performances and finds himself in the league’s top five in rebounds and blocks. Either of them would have no problem whatsoever making this list on their own, but together, National U’s twin towers, well, tower over all the competition. LEBRON LOPEZ and JOSH LAZARO – Ateneo de Manila University LOPEZ’S ROUND 1 AVERAGES: 16.3 points, 10.1 rebounds, 2.1 blocks, 1.1 steals LAZARO’S ROUND 1 AVERAGES: 13.7 points, 12.6 rebounds, 1.6 assists, 1.3 blocks, 1.1 steals What National U has in imposing big men, Ateneo has in versatile forwards. Lebron Lopez and Josh Lazaro are long-limbed, athletic, and agile and it is when they share the floor together that the Blue Eagles do the most damage. Lopez, standing at 6-foot-5, has the higher ceiling between the two and is now already in the league’s top five in blocks and rebounds, but he remains in the process of putting it all together after having a tough time seeing the court when he was still in La Salle Green Hills. The 6-foot-4 Lazaro, meanwhile, has always been solid even when he was reppin’ San Beda and has only translated that, as well as a more well-rounded game, now in blue and white. Katipunan may have lost Sotto, but its future remains secure with these talented transferees who have done nothing but make an immediate impact. GERRY ABADIANO – Nazareth School of National University ROUND 1 AVERAGES: 11.7 points, 3.2 rebounds, 1.7 assists, 1.5 steals Other guards have the highlights and the numbers, but in terms of being a court general, Gerry Abadiano is still the standard. National U has the most loaded team in all of high school, but its engine remains in good condition with much thanks to the leadership of Abadiano. The Bullpups’ boat just could not be rocked with the 5-foot-11 guard’s hands at the wheel as everybody from Carl Tamayo to Echo Laure and from Terrence Fortea to Steve Nash Enriquez heeds the call of their captain. And when the blue and gold needs a shot all of a sudden? All of us could count on Abadiano to hit his patented midrange jumper. Now that’s a leader. FORTHSKY PADRIGAO – Ateneo de Manila University ROUND 1 AVERAGES: 19.4 points, 19 total threes, 4.4 rebounds, 4.0 steals, 3.9 assists No doubt about it, Ateneo is now Forthsky Padrigao’s show to run for the foreseeable future. With his running mate in Sotto having taken his talents to the US, Padrigao has been thrust into the spotlight by his lonesome – and he has done nothing but shine. The playmaking is still there as the 5-foot-11 guard is tops in the league in assists, but he has now also unleashed his scoring skills to the tune of 19.4 points per game – second-best among all players. The shooting percentages have a long ways to go, but it’s just a matter of time before Padrigao truly makes himself into Katipunan’s next great point guard. PENNY ESTACIO – Far Eastern University-Diliman ROUND 1 AVERAGES: 17.1 points, 16 total threes, 6.1 rebounds, 3.0 assists, 2.7 steals There’s a reason FEU-Diliman went all-out in securing the services of Penny Estacio – and he has wasted no time repaying their full faith. A year after showing promise at the point of the attack for San Beda, Estacio has now blossomed into a primetime playmaker for the Baby Tamaraws. The 5-foot-11 guard could make plays for his teammates, of course, but as of right now, his capabilities and confidence are all about making plays for himself all the way to the top five in scoring. And make no mistake, Estacio is no points guard – he also uses his long limbs to good use by harassing opposing guards into turnovers he quickly converts into scoring opportunities for the green and gold. TERRENCE FORTEA – Nazareth School of National University ROUND 1 AVERAGES: 12.6 points, 19 total threes, 2.1 rebounds, 2.0 assists To be honest, Terrence Fortea has not had a good season – for his high standards, at the very least. The shooting percentages have not been kind to Fortea thus far as he is yet to hit the mark, especially from beyond the arc. Still, the 5-foot-10 scoring guard remains a frightening sight for opponents with the ball in his hands and with his uber-quick release always threatening. Terrence gonna Terrence and shooters gonna shoot – and all of the league is not at all looking forward to the game where the shots finally fall and fall and fall for Fortea. JOHN EROLON – Adamson High School ROUND 1 AVERAGES: 14.6 points, 25 total threes, 3.6 rebounds, 2.0 assists, 1.1 steals There’s a new marksman in town – and he is wearing the colors of Adamson. John Erolon, the Baby Falcons’ prized recruit from Dumaguete’s St. Louis of Don Bosco, has only proven that his shooting touch in the 2019 National Basketball Training Centre was no mirage as he has scorched the UAAP Jrs. nets for the second-most total threes after the first round. The other facets of his game have much room for improvement, of course, but there is no doubt that the rookie already has an elite skill on lock. KEAN BACLAAN – De La Salle Zobel ROUND 1 AVERAGES: 17.1 points, 7.6 rebounds, 2.6 assists, 1.1 steals DLSZ has not had its day under the sun since the days of Aljun Melecio, but with the entry of talented transferee Kean Baclaan, it hoped its time would come again. Thus far, Baclaan has held up his end of the bargain with his super scoring already making its way to the UAAP Jrs. all while doing a little bit of everything else. Now, all that’s left for the 5-foot-8 playmaker to do is to energize the rest of his teammates so that the Jr. Archers could finally put an end to their three-year playoff drought. SEAN TORCULAS – University of the Philippines Integrated School ROUND 1 AVERAGES: 10.6 points, 17.0 rebounds, 3.3 assists, 2.3 steals, 2.4 blocks Yes, UPIS remains winless. Yes, head coach Paolo Mendoza’s eight-man rotation plays somewhere between 15 to 34 minutes per game. Yes, statistics never tell the true story. Still, being first in rebounds, first in blocks, second in assists, and third in steals in a league filled to the brim with talent is nothing to brush aside – especially if you are an undersized forward. That’s exactly what Sean Torculas has done after Round 1, though, and it is, without a doubt, all because his motor never stops working. That’s exactly what a rebuilding team wants and needs from its building block. JACOB CORTEZ – University of Sto. Tomas ROUND 1 AVERAGES: 16.1 points, 6.0 rebounds, 2.9 assists, 1.0 steals UST has its own talented transferee who has, thus far, flown under the radar, in Jacob Cortez. Nonetheless, the son of ex-pro Mike Cortez has begun to open eyes as he has the ability to score from all over the floor. With “Cool Cat” genes in him, the 5-foot-9 has only made sure that the Tiger Cubs remain a threat in the post-Mark Nonoy era. HONORABLE MENTIONS Jorick Bautista – Far Eastern University-Diliman John Dalisay – De La Salle Zobel --- Follow this writer on Twitter, @riegogogo......»»

Category: sportsSource:  abscbnRelated NewsDec 28th, 2019

Morant among the NBA rookies who made noise in their debuts

By Tim Reynolds, Associated Press MIAMI (AP) — The first three baskets of the season for the Memphis Grizzlies were all reminders of why the team wanted Ja Morant. Getting free inside for a layup. An acrobatic reverse layup off a lob. A swooping score over two defenders in transition. Those were his first three NBA shots, his first three NBA makes and with that the career of the No. 2 pick in this year’s draft is off and running. It wasn’t storybook — Memphis flopped in the fourth and wound up losing 120-101 to the Miami Heat on Wednesday night (Thursday, PHL time) — but Morant’s debut was impressive nonetheless, one of many eye-catching performances by rookies getting a chance to have their openers this week. “I’m real close with Ja,” Heat rookie Tyler Herro said. “He’s a great player. He was drafted No. 2 for a reason and I thought he showed that tonight, just the way he controls the pace on the floor and gets his guys in the right spots. He’s a great point guard.” Morant had 14 points, four rebounds and four assists in his debut. Those numbers might sound modest — but no one in Grizzlies history has ever finished with such a stat line when playing their first NBA game. “When you sit down with the guy and you talk about basketball, you talk about what he’s seeing on the floor, he’s a step ahead,” Grizzlies coach Taylor Jenkins said. “He’s already seeing plays before they develop. I think our entire team is going to benefit from his unselfish style of play.” No. 1 pick Zion Williamson is likely to miss the first couple months of the season while dealing with the aftereffects of meniscus surgery, so Morant is the highest 2019 pick to take the floor so far this season. No. 3 pick R.J. Barrett scored 21 points in his debut for New York on Wednesday (Thursday, PHL time), coming in a loss at San Antonio. No. 4 pick De’Andre Hunter is expected to make his debut Thursday (Friday, PHL time) when Atlanta opens against Detroit. No. 5 pick Darius Garland had eight points in Cleveland’s season-opening loss in Orlando. Other notable rookie openers so far include No. 12 selection P.J. Washington hitting seven three-pointers and scoring 27 points for Charlotte on Wednesday (Thursday, PHL time) in its win over Chicago, No. 7 pick Coby White’s 17-point debut for the Bulls in that game, No. 9 pick Rui Hachimura’s 14-point, 10-rebound effort for Washington in a loss at Dallas — and undrafted rookie Kendrick Nunn scoring 24 points for Miami in the win over Memphis. Nunn is 24, making him one of the older rookies who have gotten their NBA debuts this week. He had a 40-point preseason finale last week and turned more heads Wednesday (Thursday, PHL time). “Man, it’s been a long journey,” Nunn said. “I was in the G League last year, all season and got a last-day callup with the Heat. That worked out and it’s been just an unbelievable ride.” Morant shot 6-for-12 and had six turnovers in 25 minutes. He had a dunk attempt swatted away by rookie Chris Silva in the fourth quarter, that play coming during a run where Miami outscored Memphis 24-1 to pull away. “I’m looking forward to tomorrow, practice,” Morant said. “That’s where we can get better, study film and go out there and fix our mistakes.” He was asked his goal for the season and didn’t hesitate. “To be the best Ja I can be,” he said......»»

Category: sportsSource:  abscbnRelated NewsOct 24th, 2019

Harden dazzles, then Raptors rally past Rockets in Japan

By Tim Reynolds, Associated Press When James Harden's night was over, defense got easier for the Toronto Raptors. Pascal Siakam scored 24 points and grabbed 11 rebounds and the Raptors — in their first game since winning the NBA Finals — rallied from a 17-point deficit to beat the Houston Rockets 134-129 in Tokyo on Tuesday to open the NBA Japan Games. The exhibition game at the Saitama Super Arena, a site for basketball at the 2020 Tokyo Olympics, was the NBA's first in Japan since 2003. The Rockets and Raptors return there to conclude the two-game series on Thursday. Raptors coach Nick Nurse said he liked the arena and felt energy from the Japanese fans. "We get 'Let's go Raptors' in a lot of cities," Nurse said. "It's nice to see it in Tokyo as well. Lot of Raptors fans around the world. It's great." There were plenty of Rockets fans as well, for good reason. Harden put on yet another dazzling offensive show, making his first six shots and finishing 11 for 14 from the field and scoring 34 points in 27 minutes. His final points were a pair of free throws with 3:40 left in the third quarter that put Houston up 104-87. He checked out shortly afterward, and Toronto outscored Houston 47-25 the rest of the way. "It was amazing," Harden said. "They got an opportunity to see what NBA basketball is about, what Rockets basketball is about. They brought the energy tonight. They were excited from the beginning of the game. They made us want to go out there and put on a show, so hopefully it can be that same kind of atmosphere on Thursday." Russell Westbrook played for Houston for the first time, scoring 13 points in 21 minutes in his preseason debut. "It wasn't bad," said Westbrook, the longtime Oklahoma City star and former MVP now in his first season with Houston. "Unfortunately, we didn't win. That's the main goal. But it was good to get on the floor for the first time, get up and down, try to find a rhythm. We've got a lot of work to do." Serge Ibaka scored 18 points and Fred VanVleet scored 16 for the Raptors, who played without Marc Gasol and Kyle Lowry. There are six games later Tuesday (Wednesday morning, PHL time): Philadelphia plays host to Guangzhou of the Chinese Basketball Association, San Antonio visits Miami, Memphis hosts New Zealand, Dallas goes to Oklahoma City, Minnesota is at Phoenix and Denver plays in Portland......»»

Category: sportsSource:  abscbnRelated NewsOct 8th, 2019

San Beda-Letran rivalry game banners big, big week in NCAA 95

These are the NCAA 95 Men's Basketball Tournament games from October 1 to 4 all of us just CAN NOT miss! TUESDAY, 10:00 a.m., Squires vs Red Cubs Rivalry game in the Jrs.! San Beda is, as of right now, the one and only team to be already assured of making it into the next round. Hoping to do the same is Letran, but to give itself a good shot at doing so, it needs to win all of its remaining assignments – and the next one just so happens to be opposite its archrival. The Squires and the Red Cubs do battle and y'all can watch VIA LIVESTREAM. TUESDAY, 2:00 p.m., Letran vs San Beda Rivalry game in the Srs.! San Beda remains undefeated, unbeaten, and unchallenged in its quest for a four-peat. Letran is coming off a sorry loss to neighboring and fellow contender LPU, but it also remains one of the biggest, if not the biggest, threats to dethrone its archrival. The Knights and the Red Lions do battle and y'all can watch on ABS-CBN S+A Channel 23, ABS-CBN S+A HD Channel 166, LIGA SkyCable Channel 86, LIGA HD SkyCable Channel 183, and iWant as well as livestream. TUESDAY, 4:00 p.m., LPU vs Mapua LPU gained much-needed separation for the second-seed when it downed Letran a week ago. Now, the Pirates are out to build on that momentum by clipping the wings of a Mapua side which has been flying high, all the way inside the playoff picture actually, as of late. The Pirates and the Cardinals do battle and y'all can watch on ABS-CBN S+A Channel 23, ABS-CBN S+A HD Channel 166, LIGA SkyCable Channel 86, LIGA HD SkyCable Channel 183, and iWant as well as livestream. TUESDAY, 6:00 p.m., Jr. Pirates vs Red Robins Defending champion Mapua is on the brink of being dethroned and one more loss may very well put an end to its title reign. That golden opportunity rests on the shoulders of upstart LPU which has been struggling in recent weeks, but still believes that a taking the crown off of the head of the Red Robins is just what it needs to get going once more. The Jr. Pirates and the Red Robins do battle and y'all can watch VIA LIVESTREAM. FRIDAY, 10:00 a.m., Red Cubs vs Red Robins Whether or not Mapua is still the defending champion when this matchup rolls along is yet to be determined, but whatever it is, a clash between the two teams that has dominated the NCAA Jrs. in the last decade is always a must-watch. The Red Cubs and the Red Robins do battle and y'all can watch VIA LIVESTREAM. FRIDAY, 2:00 p.m., San Beda vs Mapua San Beda is yet to find its match in its title defense, but who knows, probably that challenge may very well come from a Mapua side flying high with multi-titled mentor Randy Alcantara calling the shots. At the same time, though, this may very well end up as one more chance for the Red Lions to send a statement. The Red Lions and the Cardinals do battle and y'all can watch on ABS-CBN S+A Channel 23, ABS-CBN S+A HD Channel 166, LIGA SkyCable Channel 86, LIGA HD SkyCable Channel 183, and iWant as well as livestream......»»

Category: sportsSource:  abscbnRelated NewsSep 30th, 2019

Arellano s rebuild has a pillar in Player of the Week Justin Arana

In just his first year in Arellano and in just his first round in the NCAA, Justin Arana is already making the most out of his second shot in his collegiate career. A seldom used bench player in his three-year stint in UST, Arana has transformed into a pillar for the Chiefs and their rebuild. The 6-foot-5 big man left his biggest mark yet in the past week, coming up big in the clutch to lead Arellano in its game-defining run, hitting shot after shot as they downed two-time finalist Lyceum. Arana wound up with 24 points, 11 rebounds, and three blocks in the Chiefs' 87-81 sinking of the Pirates, a win that put an end to their three-game skid and, at the same time, positioned him as the Chooks-to-Go Collegiate Press Corps NCAA Player of the Week. Without question, the first-year forward has been repaying his new team's trust with stellar play. "We talk from time to time and I remind him na magaling talaga siya," said Arellano mentor Cholo Martin. "He was consistent the whole week and today, nag-deliver ulit siya." Making his effort even more impressive, Arana actually outworked opposing Cameroonian bruiser Mike Nzeusseu in crunch time, holding him scoreless in the fourth quarter. Moving forward, Arellano's rising tower only promises to keep growing as a leader for the Season 95 hosts. "Sobrang laking bagay sa akin ngayon 'to kasi before sa UST, quality minutes lang ako. Binigyan ako ng kumpyansa ng Arellano and ng coach namin," shared Arana, who bested San Beda's Calvin Oftana and Evan Nelle as well as San Sebastian's Allyn Bulanadi for the weekly plum handed out by scribes from print and online covering the beat. "Kaya ko ni-grab ko lang talaga ang opportunity na 'to para ibalik sa kanila yung pasasalamat ko na tinanggap nila ako.".....»»

Category: sportsSource:  abscbnRelated NewsAug 25th, 2019

NCAA 95: San Beda s Bandana Bros got a Bolick-Mocon-sized chip on their shoulder

San Beda University has remained unscathed in its title defense in the NCAA 95 Men's Basketball Tournament. Through five games, the Red Lions have set themselves as the standard as they already count victories versus title hopefuls Colegio de San Juan de Letran and San Sebastian College-Recoletos. Even more impressive, the three-peat champions have done it with second-year stars showing the way. Thus far in their sophomore seasons, James Canlas and Evan Nelle have been as good as advertised. Canlas has looked the part of a go-to-guy with averages of 14.6 points, including 32 percent from deep, on top of 5.2 rebounds and 1.8 assists while Nelle seems to be the school's next in a long line of great point guards, averaging 12.2 markers, including also 32 percent from deep, to go along with 6.6 dimes, 5.8 boards, and 1.2 steals. Of course, they have had huge help from the likes of Cameroonian powerhouse Donald Tankoua and Calvin Oftana. Still, the fact remains that the "Bandana Bros." have only proven worthy to be wearing the red and white crowns of leaderships that, for them, just so happen to be, well, bandanas. Even better, rather than be dragged down by the weight of taking over for Robert Bolick and Javee Mocon, both now making waves in PBA, the challenge of being the storied squad's new leaders have actually done nothing but lift up the two. "We want to prove something to everyone that we're still a winning team without Bolick and Mocon," Canlas said. "We're still sophomores, but we just want to improve every game and show what we can do every game." And this is, apparently, just the start for San Beda's "Bandana Bros." as the rest of the league better watch out because both of them also want to prove they can also do what the other does. "Coach puts me at two and Evan at one and we switch," Canlas said. "I can also play the point guard aside from the scoring role and he can do more than just playmaking and passing." That means, Evan setting up a James score in one possession and then Nelle finishing what Canlas started the next? Without a doubt, the Red Lions are in good hands. --- Follow this writer on Twitter, @riegogogo......»»

Category: sportsSource:  abscbnRelated NewsAug 15th, 2019

Bad game for me : San Beda s Nelle downplays passing exhibition in rout of JRU

"Bad game for me eh, halos hindi ako maka-shoot... so what I thought nalang [my teammmates] were making their shots so pass it to them nalang," Nelle said after the game......»»

Category: newsSource:  philstarRelated NewsJul 13th, 2019

Zion Williamson brings rare potential to New Orleans

By Steve Aschburner, NBA.com BROOKLYN, N.Y. – Eventually, as with every NBA Draft, there will be a “re-draft” of the Class of 2019. That’s the irresistible exercise in hindsight from media outlets that rank a particular year’s prospects not on their projected value but on actual demonstrated value five, 10 or more seasons into their professional careers. Some players will rise. Others will fall. “Bust” and “sleeper” tags will be dispersed accordingly. This team or GM will be lauded for an especially savvy selection, that one will be razzed for the quality player or players on whom it whiffed. But the through line of the dreams-come-true event Thursday night (Friday, PHL time) at Barclays Center, the lone selection that will not or at least should not change, is Zion Williamson. Williamson is the sure thing, the “can’t miss,” consensus No. 1 pick bound for the New Orleans Pelicans. He’s a 6'7", 285-pound freshman from Duke whose comps aren’t merely established players currently in the NBA but some of the game’s legends. So think Blake Griffin, sure. But also think LeBron James. And Charles Barkley. And, for that matter, every other wide-body who’s ever played with muscles on muscles, above-the-rim explosiveness, balletic body control and an instantly recognizable game that’s as charismatic as it is freakish. Yeah, awfully small subset. “I’m looking forward to playing against everybody,” Williamson said soon after his selection. “I want to be the best. I feel I have to earn everybody’s respect.” It’s not just a matter of Williamson’s game tickling NBA fans’ fancy, either. He managed, in almost his first official pro moment, to capture a lot of their hearts too. No sooner had Williamson – the first No. 1 pick to be born in this millennium (July 6, 2000) – strode to the stage in his cream-white suit, tugged on a Pelicans draft cap and embraced NBA commissioner Adam Silver, he dropped his guard to let the world share his emotions in the moment. His status as college basketball’s best and his draft position had been established months ago. There was no new mystery as to when his name would be called by Silver at the podium. And yet, when the first ESPN microphone was poked in front of him, with his mother Sharonda Sampson at his side, the big guy lost it. He choked up and blinked back tears, not quite winning that battle. “My mom sacrificed a lot for me,” Williamson said. “I wouldn’t be here without my mom. She did everything for me. I just want to thank her.” Several interviews and maybe 20 minutes later, Williamson explained how the horribly kept secret of his No. 1 selection could trigger his response. “Because I love the game of basketball,” he said. “You can hear people say things like, ‘Oh, it was likely I was going to go No. 1.’ But I guess you don’t know until you actually go through it.” What mattered most to Williamson about his mother’s role in his life? “Tough love,” he said. “She was always be the first one to keep it real with me. … She put aside her dreams just so me and my brothers could have a chance at ours.” The love already heading Williamson’s way in New Orleans was less tough and more unconditional at this stage, for the teenager represents a re-birth for a Pelicans franchise rocked by the loss of All-Star forward Anthony Davis. Davis, coincidentally, was the No. 1 pick in 2012 and generally considered the top prospect to hit the Draft before Williamson. But after six-and-a-half seasons and only two trips to the playoffs, Davis asked in December to be traded, despite having more than two-plus seasons left on his contract. David Griffin, the Pelicans' new vice president of basketball operations, had hoped that Williamson’s arrival might convince Davis to stay. When that didn’t happen, Griffin swiftly shifted to Plan B, arranging to trade the discontented big man to the Los Angeles Lakers in a deal that won’t be official until July. Now New Orleans, which has won just two playoff series in its 17 seasons and failed to qualify 10 times, has a new cornerstone. Williamson figures to be under team control contractually for as long or longer than Davis stuck around, with teammates relocated from L.A. such as Brandon Ingram, Lonzo Ball and Josh Hart to run with him and Pelicans holdovers. “What excites me the most is the fact that they’re young and they’re close to my age,” said Duke’s third No. 1 overall pick (Elton Brand in 1999, Kyrie Irving in 2011). “So they can help me a lot more, like how to deal with this transition. I think we can build something over there.” The essential block is Williamson, who swept college basketball’s major awards with a game that strains credulity. At 285 pounds, his listed weight is greater than almost every big man in the NBA, but he has quick-twitch speed and thrives in the open court. He can stare down into the rim before slamming home dunks with unnerving ferocity, and he is a deft and willing passer. Williamson averaged 22.6 points, 8.9 rebounds and 1.8 blocks in 30 minutes for the Blue Devils, while making 68 percent of his shots. He and fellow Top 10 picks R.J. Barrett (New York, No. 3) and Cam Reddish (Atlanta, No. 10) helped Duke reach the Elite Eight, with Williamson earning ACC Tournament MVP along the way. He’s not a perfect player – his jump shot and range need work – but he already is working to complement his transition and low-post repertoire. Defensively, Williamson has the motor and mobility to switch assignments and quick hands to dislodge the ball without fouling. As a rebounder, his verticality is matched by, well, his horizontality in controlling the air space above and around him. “His size, his athleticism, his power is visible,” former St. John’s coach and Naismith Hall of Famer Chris Mullin said. “But to me his speed is really incredible from end to end. “I would morph Charles Barkley and Shawn Kemp and put them together [as a comparison]. When he gets to the NBA and he plays with that extra space they have in the wide key, he’s going to be a monster.” Williamson arrives with hype – no, make that expectations, because of all he’s shown already on courts around America – that rival what James shouldered when he arrived from high school in 2003. His plan for lugging that responsibility: “Whatever the team needs me to do, I’m willing to do it, because I feel people remember winners.” The selections immediately after Williamson were nearly as predictable, based on intelligence and mock drafts that solidified in the days before the Draft. Murry State guard Ja Morant was chosen by Memphis at No. 2, and Barrett’s ensuing selection by the Knicks delighted their always boisterous fans in the stands at Barclay. The order of the next four choices was jumbled from some predictions. Yet by the time the smoke cleared, sure enough, the seven players projected to come off the board soonest had slotted into the night’s top seven spots. That included Virginia forward De’andre Hunter to Atlanta at No. 4 (via the Lakers, in the aforementioned Davis trade that has yet to be completed), Vanderbilt point guard Darius Garland to Cleveland at No. 5, Texas Tech wing Jarrett Culver to Minnesota at No. 6 and North Carolina guard Coby White to Chicago at No. 7. Just because there wasn’t a lot of suspense at Barclays didn’t mean there was no intrigue. Much of that came from unusually heavy trade action – all technically unofficial – that had teams moving up, down and all around to snag picks, dump picks or clean up their salary-cap positions in anticipation of free agency that starts June 30. The timing of the Draft, relative to when the NBA’s new business year begins, had players donning caps of teams they’ll never play for, while speaking guardedly about those for whom they really were picked. A reported nine trades impacted draft decisions made in the first round alone. There even was a moment when Morant, in his post-Draft media session, gave a shout-out to veteran Grizzlies guard Mike Conley, whose spot he’ll presumably be taking once Conley’s trade to Utah officially goes through. But there’s no such uncertainty about Williamson, the through line of this year’s class, the true line in his heartfelt reactions Thursday (Friday, PHL time) and broad-shouldered hope of a Big Easy franchise in need. Williamson showed his grasp of the NBA’s and sports’ need for fresh icons, in effect accepting his status as a legend in waiting. “You know, times change,” he said. “That’s why there are so many debates about who people think the greatest players of all time are. If you were in the time of Wilt Chamberlain and Bill Russell, you’d probably say one of those two. If you were in the time of Jordan, you’d say Jordan. In our generation, a lot of them say LeBron. “So times changes and I think younger fans like younger players.” You don’t have to be young, though, to have your eye on Zion. Steve Aschburner has written about the NBA since 1980. You can e-mail him here, find his archive here and follow him on Twitter. The views on this page do not necessarily reflect the views of the NBA, its clubs or Turner Broadcasting......»»

Category: sportsSource:  abscbnRelated NewsJun 21st, 2019

Lloyd, a World Cup starter again, scores 2 as US beats Chile

By Anne M. Peterson, Associated Press PARIS (AP) — Carli Lloyd wasn't thrilled to open the Women's World Cup on the bench for the United States. She accepted the role, but made no secret she wanted to start. When the call came Sunday, Lloyd made it count with a pair of goals to lead the defending champions to a 3-0 victory over Chile. The win pushed the United States into the round of 16. Lloyd was the hero of the World Cup in Canada four years ago when she scored three goals in the final against Japan that gave the Americans their third World Cup title. But she was on the bench when the U.S. opened the tournament, even though she scored later as a substitute in the 13-0 victory over Thailand. "I know that my ability is there, I know this is my best version of me. I've just got to go out there and prove it," she said. "Whether that's coming off the bench and making an impact, whether that's starting and getting the opportunity, which I'm grateful for, I'm just trying to make the most of it. I want to win." Lloyd became the first player to score in six straight World Cup matches with her goal in the 11th minute. She added another on a header off a corner in the 35th for her 10th career World Cup goal, which moved her into third on the U.S. list behind Abby Wambach (14) and Michelle Akers (12). At 36, she became the oldest player to have a multi-goal game in the tournament. She nearly got another hat trick — which would have made her the first player with two in the World Cup — but her penalty kick in the 81st minute went wide left. "It's haunting me right now," Lloyd said. "Wasn't good enough." The score could have been worse for Chile without unshakable goalkeeper Christiane Endler, who finished with six saves and fended off a flurry of U.S. shots in the second half. Endler was named player of the match. "I love the balls coming towards me and being able to showcase my skills," she said through a translator. "Obviously it's difficult to maintain concentration. I think in the first half it was difficult for me to get into the game. I think the second half went better for me and in general for the team." The victory over Chile was more subdued than the U.S. team's record-breaking rout of Thailand. The Americans celebrated every goal even after the win was well in hand, and the display offended many who thought the champions should have shown more class. The controversy clouded the run-up to the match against Chile. Several of the American players reached out to their Thai counterparts following the match. Lloyd exchanged encouraging words and tweets with goalkeeper Sukanya Chor Charoenying, and FIFA posted an interview with Thailand's coach thanking the U.S. players for being professional and playing well. After such a rout, Jill Ellis made sweeping changes to the starting lineup against Chile, including a new front line with Lloyd, Christen Press and Mallory Pugh. Alex Morgan was moved to the bench along with Megan Rapinoe and Tobin Heath. Becky Sauerbrunn, who sat out the match against Thailand because of a minor quad injury, returned and anchored a backline that included 20-year-old Tierna Davidson, who was making her World Cup debut. Davidson is the youngest player to start for the United States in a World Cup since Tiffany Roberts against Norway in 1995. Chile made just one lineup change, starting midfielder Claudia Soto in place of Yanara Aedo. Chile lost its opener to Sweden 2-0, but Endler was solid in that game, too, keeping the Swedes out of the goal until 83rd minute. The second goal got past the 6-footer in stoppage time. Julie Ertz scored in the 26th minute with a header off a corner kick from Davidson that Endler got her hands on but couldn't stop. It was Ertz's first World Cup goal and came with her husband Zach Ertz, a tight end for the Philadelphia Eagles, looking on. Endler denied Lloyd another chance at the hat trick when she tipped the U.S. captain's shot over the net in the 72nd minute. Sweden also advanced out of Group F with a victory 5-1 victory over Thailand earlier Sunday in Nice. Japan, playing in Group D with England, also went through to the knockout stage because both the United States and Sweden won. Former Vice President Joe Biden was among the U.S. team's well-wishers before the sold-out game at Parc des Princes stadium. Biden, who is seeking the Democratic nomination for president in 2020, referenced the team's lawsuit against U.S. Soccer alleging gender discrimination and seeking equitable pay. "As we cheer them on in the World Cup, we must support their fight off the field for equal pay. In 2019, it's past time we close the pay gap and ensure women get paid as much as men," Biden tweeted. U.S. soccer maintains the two teams have different pay structures because of separate collective bargaining agreements. But for now, the players are concentrating on France and bringing home a fourth World Cup championship. The United States plays Sweden on Thursday to wrap up the group stage. It is the first meeting between the two teams since Sweden ousted the Americans from the quarterfinals at the 2016 Olympics. Chile wraps up the group with a match against Thailand on Thursday......»»

Category: sportsSource:  abscbnRelated NewsJun 17th, 2019

Film Study: Raptors ignore the non-shooters in Game 4

By John Schuhmann, NBA.com TORONTO -- In Game 4 of The Finals on Friday (Saturday, PHL time), the Toronto Raptors went back to the box-and-one defense - four guys in a zone and Fred VanVleet chasing Stephen Curry - that helped them come almost all the way back from 12 points down in the fourth quarter of Game 2. This time, the Raptors went to the box and one for just three possessions late in the third quarter. The Golden State Warriors scored just one point on those three possessions, but then Klay Thompson checked back into the game and the Raptors returned to their standard defense. Their standard defense is, technically, a man-to-man. But often, there's at least one Toronto defender playing zone and ignoring his assignment. And in Game 4, the Warriors being ignored weren't able to do anything about it. This was the ninth straight game that the Warriors played without Kevin Durant. And it was the one where his presence, at least on the offensive end of the floor, was missed the most. Over the previous eight games, the Warriors had scored 113.3 points per 100 possessions. They were better in their 11 playoff games with Durant (117.0 per 100), but 113.3 was still sufficiently efficient. Game 4 was the Warriors' worst offensive game of the postseason, though. They scored just 92 points on 95 possessions, a rate more than 10 points per 100 possessions worse than any of their previous 19 games. Even with both Curry and Thompson on the floor, the Warriors were held to just a point per possession (77 on 77). It's hard to think that a team with Curry and Thompson doesn't have enough shooting. And the pair combined to score 55 points in Game 4. But most of those 55 points did not come easy. And getting enough offensive production from elsewhere on the roster was even more difficult. Zoning up On the Warriors' very first possession of Game 4, Pascal Siakam left Andre Iguodala alone once he cleared out to the weak side. Siakam hung near the basket for a full 12 seconds before DeMarcus Cousins committed the first of the Warriors' 19 turnovers. For contrast, note how Siakam followed Klay Thompson on a similar action just three possessions later, when Danny Green left Draymond Green to help force another turnovers out of Cousins... In regard to Golden State perimeter players not with the ball, the Raptors chased Curry and Thompson, while ignoring Green, Iguodala, and Shaun Livingston. And it's hard to argue with the results, as the latter three shot a combined 1-for-8 from outside the paint. Brick city Livingston, of course, has attempted just five three-pointers (not including shots from the backcourt) over the last three years. Iguodala attempted six three's in Game 3, but is just 4-for-24 (17 percent) from beyond the arc since the start of the conference finals. And the 10-for-49 (20 percent) that Green has shot from three-point range in the playoffs is the worst mark among 71 players with at least 25 attempts. Green was given two wide-open looks from outside in the first half on Friday (Saturday, PHL time). The first came off an Iguodala drive when Siakam was ignoring him on the right wing. Danny Green could have rotated off of Curry to contest, but chose (wisely) to stay with his man. The second jumper for Green came when Siakam helped on a Curry drive, and it doesn't get much worse than a wide-open corner three off the side of the backboard... After that shot off the side of the backboard, Green didn't attempt another shot from outside the paint. Not only was he not making shots, he wasn't even threatening to take them. Midway through the third quarter, a quick-hitting Iguodala screen for Thompson drew two defenders to the shooter. Iguodala was open on his roll to the basket, but the Toronto defense collapsed, and the ball found its way back to Green at the top of the arc. Instead of shooting an open three himself, Green got the ball back to Iguodala, who had relocated to the left corner, doing his best Curry imitation. Alas, Iguodala's shot (with 12 seconds still on the shot clock) barely touched the rim... Notice that, after Thompson gave the ball up, Kawhi Leonard never left Thompson and VanVleet never left Curry. The screen option The Warriors have ways to take advantage of a defense that doesn't want to guard their non-shooters. On the possession following the Iguodala miss above, Siakam was sagging way off of Green, who was on the right wing... Green set two screens on Kyle Lowry, the second freeing Thompson for a catch-and-shoot three before Siakam could recover and contest... But there wasn't enough of that. And even if there was more, it puts a lot of stress on Thompson and Curry to keep moving until they get open, and when they do get open, make 25-foot shots at a high rate. There also weren't a lot of Curry/Green pick-and-rolls. According to Second Spectrum tracking, Curry used a Green screen only nine times in Game 4. The first resulted in a Curry hitting a step-back jumper over Leonard, but those nine plays resulted in only eight points for the Warriors. You could certainly argue that Curry's tank wasn't full after scoring 47 points in Game 3 (with 3 and 4 being the only games with just one day of rest in between). But according to Second Spectrum, Curry's average speed on offense in Game 4 (5.02 miles per hour) was faster than he averaged through his first 19 playoff games (4.79). The missing piece The Warriors can obviously be better offensively than they were on Friday (Saturday, PHL time). But Game 4 was a pretty desperate situation (33 of 34 teams to take a 3-1 lead in The Finals have gone on to win the championship), and they just couldn't summon up the offense they needed to keep up with the Raptors. The difference between having three shooting threats on the floor and having just two is huge, especially against a defensive team as good as the one the Warriors are facing in this series. Toronto has earned this 3-1 lead and there should be no implied asterisk should the Raptors win one of the next three games. But there's no denying that a big part of their success has been their ability to have smart and athletic defenders like Siakam and Leonard play off their primary assignments and help their guards defend the Warriors' remaining threats. Durant's status for Game 5 in Toronto on Monday (Tuesday, PHL time)) is unknown as of Sunday. If he remains out, the Raptors' defensive priorities remain clear. John Schuhmann is a senior stats analyst for NBA.com. You can e-mail him here, find his archive here and follow him on Twitter. The views on this page do not necessarily reflect the views of the NBA, its clubs or Turner Broadcasting......»»

Category: sportsSource:  abscbnRelated NewsJun 9th, 2019

Warriors injuries create opening with Finals in balance

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

Category: sportsSource:  abscbnRelated NewsJun 6th, 2019

Curry, Warriors lose game of numbers versus Raptors

Stephen Curry had one of those nights that Warriors fans all secretly hope to see. Golden State normally loves to share the ball, spread the wealth, make sure the opponents are bewildered by the buffet of offensive options on the defending champions' side. In Game 3 of the 2019 NBA Finals though, they didn't have a lot of choices to get points from. In fact, they only had one player who could put the ball into the bucket reliably: the former two-time MVP. It was, as many hoped it would be, spectacular to watch. Curry notched a postseason-best 47 points on 14-of-31 shooting, converting 6-of-14 three-pointers and 13-of-14 free throws. He drove hard into the lane. He broke down defenders with his dribbles. He flung insane shots from far away. The only unanimous pick for Most Valuable Player logged 43 minutes, and made sure the Raptors did not have a comfortable game. "Steph was incredible," Warriors head coach Steve Kerr said after the game. "The stuff he does, he does things that honestly I don't think anybody has ever done before. The way he plays the game, the way he shoots it and the combination of his ball handling and shooting skills, it's incredible to watch. He was amazing." It just wasn't enough. On a night when Kevin Durant and Klay Thompson both failed to hit the court, only Curry stepped up to the plate. Draymond Green belatedly canned a few triples, but had as many assists (four) as turnovers. DeMarcus Cousins looked like the complete opposite of his Game 2 self, making just 1-of-7 shots and failing to provide any semblance of playmaking. Quinn Cook had nine points, but didn't hit any three's. But there was Curry, perpetually keeping the Warriors within spitting distance of the Toronto Raptors. Only it wasn't enough. Curry's brilliance was met and exceeded by not one, not two, but all three members of Canada's backcourt: Kyle Lowry, Danny Green, and Fred VanVleet. Where Curry had 47 points and six three's, the trio combined for 52 points and 14 triples. Whenever the Warriors seemingly had a comeback lined up, one of them would hit a big three-pointer, or come up with a huge defensive play, or find a Raptors big man for the assist. "I think Danny's [Green's] buckets boosted our whole team's confidence," said Raptors coach Nick Nurse. Green had been a putrid 6-of-32 from downtown in the Eastern Conference Finals against the Milwaukee Bucks, but has been heating up, going 7-of-16 over Games 1 and 2. "I think that when he banked a couple there and then he kind of kept it going, I think it was just a huge confidence boost all around." It was a game the Raptors knew they had to win. The Warriors had stolen Game 2 and home court advantage in Toronto, despite Thompson and Kevon Looney exiting mid-way through that one. And with Durant's presence looming over the series like the Falcon ready to tell Curry's Captain America "on your left," the challengers to the NBA throne knew they could ill afford a 2-1 series deficit. "For me it was just coming off being aggressive and not being so passive and trying to get everybody else involved," said Kyle Lowry. The team had been told to "let it rip" by Nurse and the rest of their coaching staff, and answered in kind. They were 17-of-38 on three's in this one (44.7%) compared to 11-of-38 (28.9%) in Game 2. Stretching it back further, the Raptors were 13-of-33 (39.4%) in Game 1, which they had won. The Warriors have scored 109 points in all three games so far; to come out on top, it seems, the Raptors simply have to better that number. "We just kept scoring," Fred VanVleet added. "We knew that they were going to make a run. [We] just tried to keep continuing to put pressure on them and just work the game." "Every time we made a run or got the crowd into it, they either made a tough three or there was tough foul called," Curry pointed out. "They slowed the tempo down, or something went their way. "So it's just how it goes sometimes. You have to tip your cap to all the guys that made pivotal plays in the right times." It would have been one thing if it were just that trio of Raptor guards, but it wasn't. Kawhi Leonard, appropriately enough, had the quietest 30-7-6 outing you'll probably ever see. Pascal Siakam and Marc Gasol added 18 and 17, respectively, while Serge Ibaka provided a late jolt with six points and six blocks. And again, the only real Warrior of note was Curry. The question of these Finals for the Warriors has always been whether or not they'd be able to ride out the Kevin Durant injury. On one hand, they could be down 1-3, have Durant come back and go on to win the whole thing. On the other, that's hardly realistic, and the Raptors aren't going to just fold if the Slim Reaper shows up opposite them. "We didn't play well enough and we ran into a team that played an excellent game," admitted Kerr. "So, a long series. We got to bounce back and move on from here." "I mean, we fought, but we lost," added Curry. "So we got to go back to the drawing board and jus recalibrate for Game 4. It's kind of been like a roller coaster type of series these first games, and I like the things that we saw tonight that we can make adjustments on and protect home court on Friday (Saturday, PHL time). "It's the Finals man, an oppotunity for us to get back in the series on Friday (Saturday, PHL time) and take it from there." The views on this page do not necessarily reflect the views of the NBA, its clubs or ABS-CBN Sports......»»

Category: sportsSource:  abscbnRelated NewsJun 6th, 2019

Moore s 65 leads by 1 at Memorial as Woods rallies for 70

By Doug Ferguson, Associated Press DUBLIN, Ohio (AP) — Tiger Woods got off to a slower start than he would have liked Thursday at the Memorial. That had more do with a stopwatch than a scorecard. Ryan Moore opened with five birdies in seven holes and never missed a fairway after the first one, posting a 7-under 65 for his best start in his 14th appearance at Muirfield Village. He was one shot ahead of Jordan Spieth, who chipped in for birdie, chipped in for par and holed a 35-foot eagle putt. Woods made a pair of late birdies to salvage a 70 in his first round since missing the cut at the PGA Championship. He played his back nine in a foursome with Bryson DeChambeau, Justin Rose and a rules official in a cart timing them because they were so far out of position. "We were on the clock most of the back nine," Woods said. "That made things a little more complicated." Getting caught up wasn't easy with various tee shots in water hazards, though it was obvious how far behind they were. Spieth, Rory McIlroy and Justin Thomas were in the group ahead of them, and McIlroy hit his tee shot on the par-4 second into a backyard. With no official nearby, he had to walk 300 yards back to the tee to hit again. That took time. Still, walking off the fourth green, the group of Woods, DeChambeau and Rose still had not reached the third tee. DeChambeau, who considers such variables as air density and elevation change in his pre-shot routine, went over his allotted time on No. 5 and was given a warning for a bad time. He made birdie, took double bogey from a fairway bunker on the next hole and began his title defense with a 74. He was frustrated by being on the clock, and by not getting through to the PGA Tour on how to measure pace of play. "The time to hurry is in between shots. It's not the shot," DeChambeau said. "It's timing how people walk. You have to add that to the equation. If you've got someone walking slow, they get up to the shot, take their 20 seconds. What's the aggregate time for them to hit that shot in between shots? That's really what matters. That's what I believe. The total time it took me — if you were to take my process and walking time — is the exact time as everyone else." Golf still is measured by score, and Moore had the lowest on a rain-softened Muirfield Village. Only two of his seven birdies were longer than 10 feet, and the only time he came close to a bogey was on his opening hole, where he saved par with a 6-foot putt. He was among 22 players who broke 70, and only 44 players broke par despite the soft conditions. Phil Mickelson, using two drivers this week to go after longer tee shots on a half-dozen holes, opened with a 70. Spieth looked as though he couldn't miss for the longest time. On his second hole, the par-5 11th, his wedge came up so short on a soft green that it spun off the front. He chipped in from 50 feet for birdie. Another chip from thick rough caught the slope on the back of the par-5 15th green and rolled down to 3 feet for a birdie. He went out in 32, made an 8-foot birdie putt on No. 3 and then had consecutive holes that illustrated how his round was going. On the par-3 fourth, his tee shot was buried in the slope of a mound above the bunker. With his feet well below the ball, he hooked it out onto and across the green into more rough, and then chipped in for par. On the par-5 fifth, his hybrid caught the right side of the green and he rolled in the long eagle putt. Spieth took only 22 putts for the round. And then his luck ran out with a tee shot that plugged into the sand left of the green on the par-3 eighth, leaving him two options: go at the pin and run off the green into rough, or aim away from the flag and leave a 60-foot putt for par. He chose the latter and came inches within making it. "Sooner or later, it was going bite me," Spieth said with a smile. Even so, he had no complaints. "Six under around Muirfield I'd take any day of the week, no matter what form you're coming into it with," he said. "I felt like I hit more fairways today, gave me some more opportunities, and the putter stayed hot." Thomas, in his first tournament since the Masters because of a bone bruise in his right wrist, showed plenty of rust in his round of 71. McIlroy had a 75 with two double bogeys, both from tee shots either lost (No. 15) or out-of-bounds (No. 2). Anirban Lahiri, Marc Leishman and Martin Kaymer were at 67. Woods made birdies on all but one of the par 5s. His regret was a few loose iron shots that led to bogey, especially on the 13th when he hit 9-iron from the fairway into a bunker that led to a careless bogey. But he finished strong — eventually — and while 10 players from his side of the draw broke 70, he wasn't too far behind. At least on the leaderboard. "That was frustrating, because the last eight holes we were on the clock," Woods said. "The group ahead of us ... JT doesn't take a lot of time, Rory plays quick and Jordan was 7 under. So they were obviously playing fast. And we were obviously not.".....»»

Category: sportsSource:  abscbnRelated NewsMay 31st, 2019

Kawhi Leonard s improved playmaking has Raptors on cusp of Finals

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

Category: sportsSource:  abscbnRelated NewsMay 24th, 2019