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Henry Liao

  1. NBA Draft: Is Fultz No. 1?

    It has never happened before in National Basketball Association (NBA) draft history but there could yet be a first in this year's point guard-stacked grab-bag at the Barclays Center in Brooklyn, New York on June 22 (June 23, 7:00 a.m., Manila time).

    History will be made if the teams that own the first three overall selections in a draft trade away their first-round picks even before the draft proceedings commence.

    In the past, there have been occasions wherein the team with the right to select first in an entire draft gave up the opportunity via a trade.

    This year will follow that same route as the Boston Celtics, who owned the No. 1 selection in the entire draft, agreed in principle on June 17 to ship that pick to the Philadelphia 76ers in exchange for the 76ers' own No. 3 overall choice plus the 2018 first-rounder that the Sixers had earlier obtained from the LA Lakers due to a pair of past trades ? the July 2012 deal that sent Phoenix?s Steve Nash to LAL, and the February 2015 three-way swap that jettisoned the Sixers? Michael Carter-Williams to Milwaukee, the Bucks? Brandon Knight to Phoenix and the Suns? top three-protected first-rounder via the Lakers to Philly).

    That 2018 first-rounder is to be transported to the Celtics only if the Lakers? selection is not anywhere from No. 2 to No. 5 overall. Otherwise, the Sixers will send to the Celtics the 2019 first-rounder they had previously acquired from the Sacramento Kings.

    While Boston owned the best regular record in the Eastern Conference at 53-29 and subsequently reached the conference final playoffs, the boys from Beantown got to make the first dance in the draft proceedings after winning the draft lottery utilizing Brooklyn?s first-round pick that was obtained in a trade four years ago.

    The moribund Nets posted the NBA?s worst record during the 2016-17 regular wars at 20-62 and would have had the best chance to secure the No. 1 selection in the college/international draft. However, a July 12, 2013 trade with the Celtics changed the entire landscape.

    Brooklyn shipped Kris Humphries, Keith Bogans, Kris Joseph, Gerald Wallace, three first-round draft choices and a second-round pick to Boston in return for a trio of past-their-prime stars in Paul Pierce, Kevin Garnett and Jason Terry along with journeyman D.J. White.

    Anent to the transaction, the Celtics owned the option to exchange first-rounders with Brooklyn this year and utilized it because of the Nets? porous regular performance.

    With the No. 1 choice in the 2017 NBA draft, Philadelphia is expected to take the University of Washington's much-coveted 6-4 point guard Markelle Fultz.

    An athletic, high-scoring playmaker, the Maryland-born Fultz, who turned 19 last month, averaged a Pacific-12 Conference-best and freshmen-leading 23.3 points, 5.9 assists and 5.7 rebounds and shot 41.3 percent from three-point range in his only season with the Huskies, who, however, failed to make the NCAA playoffs due to a losing (9-22) record under coach Lorenzo Romar, a former NBA guard who was fired after 15 seasons at the helm.

    The Lakers have the No. 2 selection but are not solid on taking UCLA point guard Lonzo Ball with the pick as they question the 6-6 Bruins star?s work ethic and unorthodox shooting form (for sure, it has nothing to do with his loud-mouthed and controversial dad).

    While Ball is the front-running choice, El-Ay is also considering Kentucky point guard De?Aaron Fox and Kansas forward Josh Jackson (a third-team Associated Press All-American) at No. 2.

    Ball, who turns 20 in late October, is a native Californian. He played prep ball back home and posted a triple-double average (23.9 points, 11.3 rebounds and 11.7 assists per game) as a senior for a 35-0, state champion Chino Hills High School team.

    As a college frosh in 2016-17, Ball topped the NCAA Division I in assists at 7.6 a game (shattering the school record for most assists in a single season) and averaged 14.6 points (shooting .551 from the field, including .412 from trifecta land), 6.0 rebounds and 1.8 steals every time out for UCLA, which plays in the same conference as Fultz?s Washington Huskies.

    The Bruins posted a 31-5 record this past campaign (after a frigid 15-17 mark in 2015-16) and reached the Sweet Sixteen of the 2017 NCAA tourney before dropping an 86-75 decision to Kentucky, which also has a top-five draft prospect in 6-4 Fox (who racked up 39 points against UCLA for an NCAA tournament freshman record).

    The Pac-12 Freshman of the Year (over Fultz), Ball was awarded the Wayman Tisdale Award (named after the late former NBA player) by the United States Basketball Writers Association (USBWA) as the country?s top frosh and earned Associated Press All America First Team honors (in contrast, Fultz ...
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  2. KD Was the NBA Brightest Star in Season 71

    What a 71st National Basketball Association renewal it was! ?This is why we play? was the season?s slogan and it resulted in several league records broken, including one that had stood for more than half a century.

    Hard-hat star Russell Westbrook, the meal ticket of the Oklahoma City Thunder, took the American pro league by storm during the 2016-17 regular season, shattering a pair of 55-year-old league records of ?The Big O? Oscar Robertson in chalking up 42 triple-double games and also registering a T-D average of an NBA-high 31.6 points (a nine-year career high), 10.7 rebounds and a league third-best 10.4 assists in 81 appearances. Westbrook captured his second NBA scoring crown but unlike the first that came in 2014-15, the Thunder made the playoffs this time.

    In 1961-62, Robertson of the Cincinnati Royals (the forerunners of the Sacramento Kings) garnered 41 triple-double games and averaged 30.8 points, 12.5 rebounds and 11.4 assists in 79 games as a sophomore pro out of the University of Cincinnati.

    Westbrook?s co-finalist in the 2017 NBA Most Valuable player derby, silky-smooth operator James Harden of Houston, propelled his Rockets to a 14-game turnaround ? from 41-41 to 55-27. ?The Beard? ranked first in the majors in assists (11.2 apg) and second in point production (29.1 ppg) and averaged 8.1 rebounds in 81 outings ? for an eight-year career high in all three categories.

    Harden topped the NBA in double-double games at 64 (to the second-place 62s of Westbrook and Minnesota?s Karl-Anthony Towns) and trailed only Westbrook in triple-double performances at 22. The Rockets beat the Thunder, 4-1, in the first-round playoffs before dropping a 4-2 decision to the Texas rival San Antonio Spurs in the West semifinals.

    Meanwhile, LeBron James of the 2016 titlist Cleveland Cavaliers was not among the top three finalists for this year?s Maurice Podoloff (MVP) hardware to be contested by Westbrook, Harden and San Antonio?s Kawhi Leonard during the NBA?s first-ever Awards Night on June 26 (June 27, Manila time).

    The snub served as a motivation for The King, a four-time league MVP (2009 and 2010 in his first tour of duty with Cleveland and 2012 and 2013 when he powered Miami to a pair of championships).

    During the 2017 NBA playoffs, James, who reached the NBA Finals for an eighth consecutive season (including the last three with the Cavs), elevated his numbers in minutes played, scoring, rebounding (career-high 8.6 rpg during the regulars), steals, shot blocks, field goal percentage, three-point field goal percentage and free throw percentage from the regular campaign.

    A 14-year pro out of high school, the 6-8, 32-year-old native of Akron, Ohio averaged 41.3 minutes, 32.8 points, 9.1 rebounds, 7.8 assists, 1.9 steals and 1.3 blocks in 18 games (13-5) with shooting clips of .565 (playoff career-tying) from the field, including .411 (an all-time postseason best) from three-ball country, and .698 from the free-throw line.

    James was even better in the NBA Finals, posting the first-ever triple-double average in NBA championship-round history with 33.6 points, 12.0 rebounds and 10 assists with a .564 (66-of-117) field goal percentage.

    However, James fell to his fifth defeat in eight Finals trips as the Cavs were beaten by the Golden State Warriors in five games.

    And that?s because of Kevin Durant, a big fella who left Oklahoma City last summer following nine title-less seasons, including a 4-1 loss to James? Heat in the 2012 Finals despite the Thunder owning the home-court advantage and a 1-0 series lead, to go west with Warriors in search for a championship ring.

    Success finally found the 6-9, 28-year forward this year but it was not easy. Durant overcame injuries in the second half of the regular season ? he missed 19 consecutive regular games (March 2-April 5) due to a strained MCL and a bone bruise in his left leg and even into the early part of the playoffs ? he sat out Games 2 and 3 of the first-round, 4-0 sweep of the Portland Trail Blazers due to a strained left calf) - to turn in a memorable Finals effort.

    In the Finals, Durant averaged 35.2 points ? going 38, 33, 31, 35 and 39 in the five-game series ? 8.4 boards and 5.0 handouts and became the first player in NBA history to shoot at least 50 percent from the field (.556), 40 percent from beyond the arc (.474) and 90 percent from the charity stripes (.927) with that high a scoring average in the Finals.

    For the entire 2017 postseason, he posted averages of 28.5 points (on .556 FG, .442 3-FG, .893 FT shooting), 8.0 rebounds, 4.3 assists and 1.33 blocks in 15 games.

    In the end, it was the star of Durant that shone brightest in helping the Warriors secure the Larry O?Brien hardware for the second time in three years and in his ...
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  3. NBA Finals: Warriors in 5

    A historic playoff perfection was not theirs to claim but the Golden State Warriors were rewarded with the ring that matters most to their gallant troops and the hardware that 29 other member teams in the National Basketball Association had coveted all season long ? the Larry O?Brien trophy that goes to the league champions.

    Deservedly so, the Warriors claimed their second NBA title in three years with a 4-1 decision over the Cleveland Cavaliers ? their 2016 Finals tormentors ? in the best-of-seven titular showdown that came to a close yesterday with a 129-120 victory in Game 5 before their home folks at the Oracle Arena.

    Cleveland, which pinned Golden State with its first defeat in 16 games in the just-concluded playoffs with a 137-116 rout in Game 4 at the Quicken Loans Arena, came out strong off the gates to lead by as many eight points (20-12) in the first quarter that ended in its favor, 37-33.
    The Cavs were still ahead by four, 43-39, when the Warriors pulled off a torrid run in the second quarter that gave them a lead of as much as 16 points (69-53) before settling for a 71-60 advantage at intermission.

    Cleveland, which a year ago became the first team in NBA Finals history to rally from a 3-1 series deficit and steal the NBA diadem from Golden State on its home floor with a Game 7 win, was still within striking distance as it trailed by just five, 98-93, after three points. Then came the customary offensive avalanche that the Dubs have made against the opposition throughout the regular season (67-15) and playoffs (16-1), pulled away from the Cavs halfway through the payoff canto behind Kevin Durant, Stephen Curry and the X-Man Andre Iguodala, the 2015 Finals MVP when the Bay Area squad corralled its first NBA title following a 40-year famine.

    Durant, who last summer left the Oklahoma City Thunder following nine ring-less seasons to join Curry, Klay Thompson and Draymond Green at Golden State, received a unanimous vote from an 11-member media panel as this year?s Finals MVP, validating his controversial decision to move West with the Warriors.

    The 6-9, 28-year-old Durant went 5-of-8 from beyond the arc and shot 14-of-20 (.700) overall from the field ? the best percentage ever in a title-clinching victory in Finals history (with a minimum of 20 attempts) ? grabbed seven rebounds and dished out five assists in 40:15 minutes.
    In the five-game series, the Washington D.C. native, whose love for his mom is eternal (?she?s the real MVP? for singlehandedly raising his son), posted averages of 35.2 points, 8.4 rebounds and 5.4 assists with shooting clips of .556 (60-of-10 from the field, including .474 (18-of-3 from rainbow territory, and .927 (38-of-41) from the charity stripes.

    Durant?s 35.2-point average is the highest in NBA Finals history for a player who shot 50 percent from the field, 40 percent from the three-point area and 90 percent from the free-throw line ? far better that Orlando?s Anfernee (Penny) Hardaway?s 25.5 ppg in a 1995 loss to Houston by a 4-0 sweep and Detroit?s Chauncey Billups? 21.0 ppg in 2004 in a 4-1 Pistons win over the Los Angeles Lakers.

    KD also is the first player since the Lakers? Shaquille O?Neal in 2000 to register five straight 30-point games in a Finals series. (O?Neal?s team beat Indiana, 4-2, in that year?s Finals.)

    In the series-clincher, Curry collected 34 markers (10-20 FGA), six boards, 10 assists and three steals to finish with averages of 26.8 ppg, 8.0 rpg and 9.7 apg while his Splash Brothers mate Thompson struggled with 11 points on 4-of-13 floor shooting and wound up with a series norm of 16.4 ppg. Green, who had been off offensively throughout the Finals (19-of-55, .345), shot a frigid 3-10 from the field for 10 scores but he made up for this deficiency with a team-high 12 boards and five assists.

    But what turned out to be a pleasant surprise for the Warriors was the performance of Iguodala on both ends of the floor, netting 20 points (9-14 FGA), three rebounds and three assists off the pines while making life a bit harder for LeBron James on defense.

    Be that as it may, James still managed to chalk up 41 points (around 10 of them in the final minutes when the game was already practically decided) on 19-of-30 FG shooting, 13 rebounds and eight handoffs in 46:13 of playing time for the dethroned Cavs.

    Kyrie Irving shot 9-of-22 to get his 26 points in Game 4 and normed 29.4 ppg overall in the Finals for the wine and Gold. His backcourt partner J.R. Smith, drilled in a series-high 25 markers on 9-of-11 floor clip, including 7-of-8 from trifecta. Smith averaged 18.7 ppg in his final three appearances by going 19-of-31 from the field, including 17-of-27 (.630) from three-ball country, after tallying just a triple in the series opener and being held scoreless in Game 2. ...
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  4. The End of the Road for the Cavs?

    The rampaging Golden State Warriors go for the jugular on Saturday June 10 (Manila time, 9:00 a.m.) when they take on the about-to-be-deposed National Basketball Association titlist Cleveland Cavaliers in Game Four of the best-of-seven 2007 Finals at the Quicken Loans Arena seeking a 4-0 series sweep and attain playoff perfection for the first time ever in the 71-year existence of the league at 16-0.

    If ever, the Bay Area squad will take the NBA crown for the second time in three years and turn in the trick on the Wine City outfit?s home floor. In 2015, Golden State whipped Cleveland, 4-2, in the Finals for its first Larry O?Brien championship hardware in 40 years. The Warriors grabbed the title in Game 6 also at the Quicken Loans Arena.

    This year's NBA Finals marks only the third time since 1996 that one team has gained a 3-0 lead in a championship series.

    During the stretch, Chicago (led by Michael Jordan) also went 3-0 against Seattle (led by Shawn Kemp) in the 1996 Finals and San Antonio was up, 3-0, versus Cleveland in the 2007 Finals.

    The Spurs eventually swept the Cavs in four games.

    However, the Bulls, who had posted the all-time best record in NBA regular-season history at the time at 72-10 (before Golden State shattered the mark in 2015-16 with a 73-9 mark), allowed the SuperSonics (now the Oklahoma City Thunder) to steal Games 4 and 5 under the old 2-3-2 (home-road) Finals format before the Bulls finished them off in Game 6 on their home floor.

    The most recent time that a 4-0 sweep was registered in an NBA Finals occurred exactly a decade ago.

    In 2007, Tim Duncan and Finals MVP Tony Parker powered the San Antonio Spurs to a 4-0 Finals sweep of LeBron James and the Cleveland Cavaliers.

    At the time, James was in his first tour duty with the Cavs and was a fourth-year pro out of high school.
    Who was the Cavs' head coach at the time?

    Mike Brown, now an assistant coach with Golden State who held the reins in lieu of a sick Steve Kerr in 11 straight playoff victories (11-0), including the Finals series -opening win over reigning champion Cleveland.

    +++

    How the hell did 6-3 Stephen Curry grab a team-high 13 rebounds (eight of them on the defensive end) for Golden State in NBA Finals Game 3 to tie Cleveland's 6-10 Kevin Love (13) for game-high honors?

    Who says small men don't jump?
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  5. Warriors One Win Away From NBA Title and Playoff Perfection

    ?And now, the end is near and so I face the final curtain? ? the defending National Basketball Association champion Cleveland Cavaliers.

    ?I did my best, but my best was not good enough? but still ?I did it my way? ? a duet by the Cavaliers? LeBron James and Kyrie Irving.

    Nobody?s perfect but we are ? the Golden State Warriors, 15-0, and just one win away from scoring the first playoff perfection in NBA history.

    The rampaging Golden State Warriors look to whitewash the reigning NBA titlist Cleveland Cavaliers on Saturday June 10 (Manila time, 9:00 a.m.) in Game Four of the 2017 NBA Finals at the Quicken Loans Arena for a 4-0 series sweep and attain playoff perfection for the first time ever in the 71-year existence of the league at 16-0.

    If ever, the Bay Area squad will take the NBA crown for the second time in three years and turn in the trick on the Wine City outfit?s home floor. In 2015, Golden State whipped Cleveland, 4-2, in the Finals for its first Larry O?Brien championship hardware in 40 years. The Warriors grabbed the title in Game 6 also at the Quicken Loans Arena.

    In yesterday?s Game Three in Cleveland, the Warriors absorbed the Cavaliers? best punch, scoring the game's final 11 points, including the last five from Kevin Durant, to pull out a stunning come-from-behind 118-113 victory and seize an insurmountable 3-0 series lead.

    Durant drilled in 31 points - his third straight 30-point effort in the series - along with eight rebounds and four assists for the Warriors, who lifted their playoff record to 15-0.

    Klay Thompson went 11-of-18 from the field, including 6-of-11 from beyond the arc, to tally 30 points and Stephen Curry netted 26 markers, 13 rebounds and six assists. Draymond Green chalked up eight points, eight boards and seven dimes.

    With Cleveland ahead by two points, 113-111, in the final minute, do-everything LeBron James opted to be a passer. He dished off the rock to Kyle Korver for a corner triple that went blank.

    Question: Did James purposely set up Korver for a corner three that could have gotten him a 10th assist and second straight triple-double in the Finals instead of hoisting a shot himself as the team?s meal ticket?)

    Korver?s miss led to a trey by Durant at the other end that gave the Warriors a 114-113 edge. Kyrie Irving then wasted so much time before pulling a three-point attempt that went awry. To stop the clock, the Cavs were forced to foul Durant, who meekly went 2-for-2 from the foul line.
    Down by three, 116-113, with 10.4 seconds left, James stepped on the baseline, a miscue that sealed the deal for the Dubs. Curry finalized the count with two successful trips to the charity stripes.

    James collected 39 points, 11 rebounds and nine assists (a Korver three off LJ?s pass would have given him a triple-double). Irving had 38 points, including 16 in the third quarter that gave Cleveland a 94-89 lead. Kevin Love grabbed 13 boards but was held to nine scores on 1-of-9 field shooting. JR Smith finally came out of a slump with 16 points on 5-10 floor shooting, all from the three-point area.

    The series is over as no team in NBA Finals history has ever rallied from a 0-2 deficit to win the title. Only once in NBA history has a team rallied from a 0-3 deficit in a best-of-seven Finals to deadlock the count at 3-all with three straight victories.That team, however, eventually lost in Game Seven.

    The Rochester Royals (now the Sacramento Kings) squandered a 3-0 lead in the 1951 Finals before beating the comebacking New York Knicks in Game 7 on home territory.

    The Warriors' playoff perfection beckons.

    A road win by Golden State in Game Four on Saturday June 10 Manila time (9 a.m.) will make the Bay Area squad the first team in NBA history to go unbeaten in the entire playoffs at 16-0.

    If it's any consolation, the motivation for the Cavs in Game 4 is to win if only to prevent the Bay Area squad from attaining a historic playoff perfection.

    James also might not want to be swept a second time in a Finals in his storied career. In his first tour of duty with Cleveland, James? Cavs dropped a 4-0 decision to the San Antonio Spurs.

    Despite James? gaudy numbers in the Finals (32.0 ppg, 12.3 rpg, 10.3 apg, 1.33 spg and 1.33 bpg), it will be a travesty if Golden State's Kevin Durant is not declared the runaway winner of the Bill Russell hardware that goes to the NBA Finals MVP in balloting by the media.

    After three games in the series, Durant is averaging 34 points on .561 (37-of-66) field shooting, including .524 (11-of-21) from beyond the arc, along with 9.7 rebounds, 6.0 assists, 2.00 blocks and 1.33 steals for the Warriors.
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