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Henry Liao

  1. NBA: Final Day Fireworks

    Maundy Thursday (Manila time) marks the final playdate of the National Basketball Association?s 1,230-game regular season. It?s one exciting finale for various seeding positions entering the real season that is the 2017 playoffs have yet to be determined.

    A total of 14 games are scheduled to be played on the last day of the regular wars ? Detroit at Orlando, Toronto at Cleveland, Milwaukee at Boston, Philadelphia at New York, Washington at Miami, Brooklyn at Chicago, Dallas at Memphis, Minnesota at Houston, Denver at Oklahoma City, Atlanta at Indiana, San Antonio at Utah, Sacramento at the Los Angeles Clippers, the Los Angeles Lakers at Golden State and New Orleans at Portland.

    Seven of the aforementioned contests have playoff implications.

    All eight playoff tickets from the Western Conference have been secured although the Los Angeles Clippers (50-31) and Utah Jazz (50-31) are still fighting it out for the important No. 4 seed. The two teams are slated to tangle in the first-round playoffs but the fourth-seeded team will enjoy home-court advantage against the No. 5 seed in their best-of-seven series.

    Out in the Eastern Conference, six teams have qualified for the postseason but the final two (seventh and eighth) are still being contested by three teams ? Indiana Pacers (41-40) Chicago Bulls (40-41) and Miami Heat (40-41) ? and the No. 1 overall seed in the conference is still up for grabs between Boston (52-29) and the reigning NBA titlist but slumping Cleveland Cavaliers (51-30).

    Here are the playoff scenarios heading into the final regular playdate on Thursday, April 13 (Manila time):
    1-If the LA Clippers beat the lottery-bound Sacramento Kings or Utah loses to No. 2 seed San Antonio (61-20), the Clippers will secure the No. 4 seed. Granting that LAC and Utah both win or both lose, the Clippers will still land at No. 4 because of their tie-breaking, season-series win over the Jazz. If LAC loses and Utah wins, the Jazz will get the 4-seed.

    Golden State, which owns the best regular-season card in the NBA for the third year in a row at 66-15, will have home-court advantage during the entire playoffs, including the NBA Finals, assuming the Warriors advance that far.

    With Houston (54-27) locked in at No. 3 and Oklahoma City (47-34) at No. 6 in the West, a Rockets-Thunder matchup in the first-round playoffs ? and Clash of the Titans warfare between the top two NBA Most Valuable Player contenders and scoring and triple-double machines in James Harden (21 T-D games) and Russell Westbrook (an all-time league record 42 T-Ds) ? is guaranteed.

    Memphis (43-3 is a lock at No. 7 and Portland (41-40) has the No. 8 slot.

    2-If Boston beats No. 6 seed Milwaukee (42-39) or if Cleveland loses to No. 3 seed Toronto (50-31), the Celtics will have the No. 1 seed in the East. If Boston loses to the Bucks and the Cavaliers beat the Raptors, the Celts and Cavs will be deadlocked at 52-30. However, Cleveland will have the tie-breaker advantage because of its 3-1 season-series win over Boston.

    If Cleveland loses to Toronto, both the Cavs and Raptors will own identical records. Cleveland, though, owns the tie-breaker advantage over the Raptors and will still be ranked No. 2.

    A loss by Toronto and a win by No. 4 seed Washington (49-32) over Miami will produce a deadlock between the Raptors and Wizards at 50-32. Toronto will be ranked higher at No. 3 because of its tiebreaker advantage over Washington.

    3-Atlanta (43-3, with its 100-76 victory over Charlotte today, has clinched the No. 5 seed even with a loss at Indiana tomorrow. The Hawks (43-3 own the tie-breaker edge over temporary No. 6 seed Milwaukee (42-39) in case Atlanta loses to Indiana and the Bucks beat Boston to create a deadlock at 43-39.

    Atlanta will take on No. 4 seed Washington (49-32) in the first-round playoffs with the Wizards enjoying home-court advantage.

    If Toronto (50-31) loses to Cleveland and Washington beats Miami tomorrow, both teams will be 50-32. The Raptors will be seeded No. 3 with their tiebreaker advantage over the Wizards.

    A win by Indiana (41-40) over Atlanta and a loss by Milwaukee (42-39) to Boston will create a deadlock between the Pacers and Bucks at 42-40. Indiana will move up to No. 6 and Milwaukee will slip to No. 7 due to a tiebreak advantage.

    4-If Indiana (41-40) beats Atlanta and Chicago (40-41) beats Brooklyn in their respective games today, Miami (40-41) will automatically eliminated even if it beats Washington. The Bulls own the tiebreaker advantage over the Heat, which was once mired at 11-30.

    A final-day loss by either Chicago or Miami will assure the Pacers of a playoff berth even if they drop their game against the Hawks. If both Indiana and Chicago lose and ...
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  2. NBA MVP: Westbrook or Harden?

    Recently-retired National Basketball Association and Los Angeles Lakers icon Kobe Bryant said that point guards Russell Westbrook of the Oklahoma City Thunder and James Harden of the Houston Rockets should share the league?s Most Valuable Player award this season.

    With the declaration, Bryant was probably just being polite and his belief may be politically correct considering the tight MVP derby that is expected to come down to a toss-up between Westbrook and Harden, both of whom have had mind-boggling individual accomplishments to back up their respective cases ? even if statistics have never been a basis for MVP selection since the league institutionalized the award in 1955-56.

    Until 1979-80, the players controlled the MVP balloting. But since 1980-81, the sportswriters and broadcasters that covered the league games have taken over the chores.

    Though, it has likely come down to Westbrook and Harden, a one-time Manila visitor, it does not mean there are no other worthy MVP contenders in this history-filled season. There?s Cleveland?s LeBron James, a four-time awardee in the past; San Antonio?s Kawhi Leonard, and even Golden State?s Stephen Curry, the back-to-back reigning titlist whose Warriors have secured the best regular-season record in the NBA for the third consecutive year.

    To have a tie for the MVP award when this has never ever happened before is easier said than done.

    The NBA MVP voting system is the culprit. A nationwide media panel of 125 sportswriters and broadcasters ? three from each of the 30 member clubs that cover the league games and the remainder by national media ? does the balloting. They are asked to name their top five choices according to their preferences with points being assigned (10 points for a first-place vote, 7 for second, 5 for third, 3 for fourth and 1 for fifth) on the basis of their rankings.

    It?s the overall points accumulated ? and not the number of first-place votes secured ? that will determine the MVP winner.
    As such, the voting system would likely preclude the possibility of a deadlock in the race for the Maurice Podoloff (MVP) hardware. Only an identical points total by multiple players will produce a tie.

    There have been cases in the past where one player had the most first-place votes and yet lost the MVP race. The most recent occurrence came in 1990 when burly forward Charles Barkley of the Philadelphia 76ers had 11 more first-place votes than the eventual winner Magic Johnson of the LA Lakers.

    During the 1961-62 wars, Oscar Robertson of the Cincinnati Royals (the predecessors of the Sacramento Kings) chalked up 41 triple-double games and registered a T-D average, but the ?Big O? placed only third in the MVP race.

    That same campaign, the Philadelphia Warriors' Wilt Chamberlain had his 100-point game for an all-time NBA record and averaged 50.4 points and 25.7 rebounds - both NBA season highs - in 80 games. The Big Dipper finished only second in the MVP poll by the players.
    The winner: Boston's Bill Russell (18.9 ppg, 23.6 rpg).

    Note that at the time, and even as it is now, regular-season stats were only used as a guide, nothing more.

    Russell, of course, went on to power the title-streaking Celtics to the NBA crown in 1961-62.

    The 6-3 Westbrook posted his 42nd triple-double game of the season today ? 50 points, 16 rebounds and 10 assists in 37 minutes during the Thunder?s 106-105 win over the Nuggets in Denver on his first career game-winning buzzer beater, a three-pointer from 36 feet ? to shatter the old NBA single-season record for T-D games he previously shared with Robertson.

    With two games remaining (at Minnesota, Apr. 12, Manila time; and against visiting Denver, Apr. 13, MT), Westbrook is averaging a nine-year career-high 31.9 points, 10.7 rebounds and 10.4 assists in 80 appearances for the playoffs-bound Oklahoma City, which is seeded sixth in the Western Conference with a 46-34 record.

    Westbrook is a cinch to capture his second NBA scoring title. The first came in 2014-15 when he normed 28.1 ppg in 67 assignments for a Thunder unit that missed the playoffs.

    In contrast, the 6-5 Harden himself has produced an NBA second-leading 21 triple-doubles, including a 35-point, 11-rebound, 15-assist performance in the playoffs-headed Rockets? 135-128 road victory over the Sacramento Kings today.

    In averaging an eight-year career highs of 29.4 points (in a tight battle with Boston?s Isiah Thomas for second place in the NBA) and 11.3 assists (best in the majors) and grabbing 8.1 rebounds in 79 outings (he missed a game due to flu), ?The Beard? has powered Houston to the third-best record in the West at 54-26 (with two games remaining) after the Rockets barely qualified for the postseason a year ago as the ...
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