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Henry Liao

  1. NBA Playoffs: Warriors in Finals, Cavs Ahead 3-1 vs. Boston

    The red-hot Golden State Warriors whitewashed the injury-riddled San Antonio Spurs, 4-0, in their best-of-seven West final playoffs in the National Basketball Association (including a 129-115 cakewalk in the series-clinching Game Four where the Spurs did not have the services of three injured players in franchise cornerstone Kawhi Leonard, Tony Parker and David Lee) to become the first team in league annals to open the postseason 12-0 and enter the NBA Finals for the third consecutive year.

    The Warriors also are the first team in league annals to sweep three best-of-seven series in the same postseason.
    In the past, there were two 11-0 starts through the first three rounds of the four-tier playoffs ? both registered by the 1989 and 2001 Los Angeles Lakers ? albeit with contrasting results in the Finals. The first round was a best-of-five at the time before it was stretched to a seven-game affair in 2003.

    The Lakers reached the 1989 Finals against Detroit but were swept in four games by the Pistons due to injuries to starting backcourters Byron Scott (before the series opener) and Earvin (Magic) Johnson (after Game 1). In the 2001 edition, El-Ay dropped the opening game of the championship series against Philadelphia but eventually beat the 76ers, 4-1, to retain the NBA crown and complete the playoffs with a 15-1 record, the closest to NBA playoff perfection.

    In the lockout-shortened 1998-1999 season, the San Antonio Spurs defeated the New York Knicks, 4-1, in the Finals and accomplished something that hoop fans are remembering them by. En route to the first of five titles in franchise history and a 15-2 overall record, the Spurs won 12 straight playoff games at one stretch (victories in the final two games of a first-round 3-1 decision over Minnesota, 4-0 sweeps against the Lakers and Portland Trail Blazers in the West semifinal and final series, respectively, and a 2-0 lead in the Finals against the Knicks).

    That team mentored by Gregg Popovich was led by Twin Towers Tim Duncan (the Finals Most Valuable Player recipient) and David Robinson and valuable substitute guard Steve Kerr, now Golden State?s third-year bench tactician whose availability for the 2017 NBA Finals remains in doubt after missing the team?s last 10 playoff assignments (since Game 3 of first-round series vs. Portland) due to complications arising from a pair of back surgeries he underwent in the summer of 2015.

    As Golden State?s associate current associate head coach, Mike Brown, who had had a pair of tours of duty with potential Finals rival Cleveland and was the first NBA coach of LeBron James in the mid-2000s, has temporarily taken over the Warriors? reins from Kerr.

    In sweeping Portland, Utah and San Antonio in the ongoing NBA playoffs, the Dubs have posted an average winning margin of 16.3 points an outing.

    Two-time reigning NBA MVP Stephen Curry is averaging a team-high 28.6 points on .502 field shooting, 5.5 rebounds, 5.6 assists and 1.92 steals in the postseason for the Warriors. Kevin Durant, who missed a pair of games due to an injury, owns per-game clips of 25.2 ppg on .556 floor shooting, 7.8 rpg and 3.7 apg. Two-guard Klay Thompson is struggling offensively, making a frigid .383 of his attempts from the field and tallying just 14.4 scores every time out. Do-everything frontliner Draymond Green is the straw that stirs the Warriors? drink with norms of 13.9 ppg (.500 FG shooting), 8.7 rpg, 7.2 apg, 1.92 spg and 2.08 blocks. The energetic Green leads the team in rebounding, assists and shot blocks and is tied with Curry in steals.

    Golden State awaits the winner of the East final series between reigning NBA titlist Cleveland and upset-conscious Boston, which the Cavaliers lead, 3-1, following today's 112-99 victory in Game 4 at the Quicken Loans Arena behind a playoff career-high 42 points from Kyrie Irving; 34 points, five rebounds and six assists from LeBron James (who had 10 points and four fouls in the first half but never fouled thereafter); and a fourth straight double-double from Kevin Love, who collected 17 points, 17 boards and five dimes. (Boston?s Game 3 hero Avery Bradley topped the Celtics with 19 points but his backcourt partner Marcus Smart, who knocked in a team-high 27 in the Game 3 win, was held to eight scores.)

    With a 3-1 series lead, the Wine and Gold go for the jugular in Game 5, which is set for Friday May 26 (8:30 a.m. Manila time) at the TD Garden in Boston. If necessary, the sixth game will be held in Cleveland on Sunday May 26 (8:30 a.m., MT).

    Meantime, Golden State will have nine days off before the 2017 NBA Finals commence on June 1 (June 2, 9:00 a.m., Manila time). The Warriors will enjoy homecourt advantage against Cleveland or Boston by virtue of their league-best 67-15 mark during the regular campaign.

    The Dubs have posted a 207-39 ...
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  2. NBA Playoffs: Cavs Bite the Dust

    No one team in National Basketball Association playoff history has reached the championship round with an unblemished record of 12 consecutive victories, let alone both qualifiers to the Finals.

    The Golden State Warriors, the 2015 NBA titlists, have an opportunity to enter the Finals at 12-0 if they defeat the injury-riddled San Antonio Spurs on May 23 (Manila time, 9:00 a.m.) in Game 4 of the best-of-seven West finals at the AT&T Center for their third consecutive series sweep (4-4-4).

    In contrast, the Cleveland Cavaliers, the reigning league champions who opened the postseason with 11 consecutive victories, blew their chance at perfection after dropping a stunning 111-108 home decision to a gritty Boston team that played without its injured meal ticket Isaiah Thomas in Game 3 of the East final series at the Quicken Loans Arena.

    The Celtics? miraculous win, which came on Avery Bradley?s up-and-down, trickling triple with 0.1 second left in the game clock that broke a 108-108 deadlock, sliced Cleveland? series advantage to 2-1 with the fourth game still to be hosted by the Cavs on May 24 (MT, 8:30 a.m.)
    Boston was trounced badly in the first two games of the series at home, losing 117-104 and 130-86 at the TD Garden.

    In today?s Game Three where all the odds were stacked against them, the Celtics? gallant starting backcourt of Marcus Smart and Bradley combined for 47 points to offset the season-ending injury to 5-9 meal ticket Isaiah Thomas, who led the Celts with 23.3 points and 6.7 assists in 15 postseason appearances but was declared out of the playoffs following a re-aggravation of a torn right hip in the first half of Game 2, a 44-point debacle in which Boston trailed, 72-31, at intermission for the largest halftime deficit in NBA playoff history.

    Smart contributed 27 points, five rebounds and seven assists and made seven of his 10 attempts from beyond the arc and 8-of-14 from the field overall. Bradley, the game hero, had 20 scores and four dimes. In the frontline, forward Jae Crowder had a double-double with 14 points and 11 rebounds and center Al Horford got 16 points and half-a-dozen assists. Bruising forward Kelly Olynyk shamed the King LeBron James ? at least for one game ? with 15 points and even his fellow substitute, 6-8 forward Jonas Jerebko out of Sweden, got into the act, tallying 10 points on 4-for-4 field shooting (including a pair of threes) and grabbing five boards off the unsuspecting eyes of LeBron.

    A listless and fatigued James had a bad day in the office for the first time in 11 playoff appearances. Coming into the game, the do-everything star was shooting .569 from the field, including. 458 from the three-point area. In this one, he was just 4-of-13 from the field (including 0-for-4 from the three-point area) and 3-of-6 from the charity stripes for a measly 11 points after registering eight straight playoff games with at least 30 points ? the longest since a gangling center by the name of Lew Alcindor (now known as Kareem Abdul-Jabbar) accomplished the feat with the Milwaukee Bucks in 1970.

    The King, who won?t finish in the top three in this year?s NBA Most Valuable Player race for the first time since 2008 after the league announced just before Game 2 of the Cleveland-Boston series that Oklahoma City?s Russell Westbrook, Houston?s James Harden and San Antonio?s Kawhi Leonard were the three finalists in the derby for the Maurice Podoloff Trophy, grabbed six rebounds and dished out six assists in 45 minutes but also coughed up the rock six times.

    Kyrie Irving topscored for the Cavs with 29 points along with seven assists, Kevin Love posted his third straight double-double with 28 points and 10 rebounds for the Wine and Gold, which also got a D-D from Olynyk?s Canadian compatriot Tristan Thompson, who chalked up 18 points and 13 reebies.

    After enjoying a 77-56 lead midway through the third quarter, the Cavaliers look complacent and eventually saw their NBA record-tying 13-game playoff winning streak (including the final three games in 2016 when Cleveland overcame a 3-1 Finals deficit against Golden State to snare its first-ever NBA crown) over two years come to a shocking halt with the Game 3 loss. (The Los Angeles Lakers previously won 13 straight playoff contests in 1988 ? becoming the first NBA team to successfully defend its title with a 4-3 win over Detroit after trailing 3-2 in the Finals ? and 1989 when they opened the playoffs with 11 consecutive victories but were swept, 4-0, by the Pistons in the Finals.)

    Boston took Game Three but the series odds remain tilted in favor of Cleveland. LeBron?s teams (Cleveland, Miami and then Cleveland again since 2015), are 20-0 all time in playoff series in which they have owned a 2-0 lead.

    Expect James, who?s averaging 32.2 points, 8.3 rebounds, 7.0 assists, 2.18 steals ...
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  3. NBA Playoffs: Are Cavs. Warriors headed to a Historic 3rd Straight Finals Date?

    Are the defending National Basketball Association Cleveland Cavaliers and the 2015 titlist Golden State Warriors headed for an unprecedented third consecutive Finals matchup?

    No two teams in NBA history have ever faced each other in three consecutive championship series.

    Not even the perennial powerhouses Boston Celtics Los Angeles Lakers crossed path three years in a row in the Finals during the storied 1960s.

    Only the Cavs and Warriors remain unbeaten in the ongoing playoffs.

    Cleveland beat Toronto, 109-102, yesterday in Game 4 of their best-of-seven East semifinal duel at the Air Canada Centre for a second straight 4-0 series sweep and a lily-white 8-0 record.

    LeBron James racked up 35 points, nine rebounds and six assists in 46 minutes and Kyrie Irving netted 27 points and nine dimes for the Cavaliers.

    Overall, James posted four-game series averages of 36.0 points, 8.3 rebounds and 5.3 assists against Toronto, shooting .573 (43-for-75) from the field and .833 (45-for-54) from the charity stripes.

    In the current playoffs, the do-it-all 6-8 frontliner is norming 34.4 points, 9.0 boards and 7.1 assists in eight appearances.

    Meanwhile, Golden State is up, 3-0, against Utah heading into Game 4 of their West semifinal series Tuesday (Manila time) on the Jazz? home floor.

    The Warriors, who whitewashed Portland, 4-0, in their first-round setto, are 7-0 overall and look to duplicate Cleveland?s feat.

    In the other East semifinal matchup, Bradley Beal collected 29 points and his backcourt mate John Wall collected 27 points, 12 assists and five steals as Washington routed Boston, 121-102, yesterday in Game Four to register its second straight home victory that equalized their best-of-seven series at 2-2.

    In another West semifinal duel between two Texas rivals, Houston whipped San Antonio, 125-104, in Game Four yesterday to even up their series at two wins apiece.

    James Harden netted 28 points and 12 assists, Eric Gordon contributed 22 markers (including 6-of-9 from the three-point territory) and Trevor Ariza got 16 points, six rebounds and five assists to lead seven Rockets with twin-digit scores.

    Game Five will be held on Wednesday May 10 (Manila time) in San Antonio.
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  4. NBA Playoffs: Bad News/Good News

    Bad news for points guards in the ongoing NBA playoffs.

    The bad news: Tony Parker (San Antonio), out for remainder of the postseason with a ruptured left quadriceps tendon; George Hill (Utah), out for Game 2 vs. Washington with soreness in left toe; and Kyle Lowry (Toronto), questionable for Game 3 vs. Cleveland with sprained left ankle.
    Parker suffered the injury during the Spurs? Game 2 victory over the Rockets that evened up their West semifinal series at 1-1.

    Expect no sympathy from opposing players or teams, certainly none from Spider-Man Peter Parker.

    Player injuries to a title-contending team are a great stabilizer, putting in jeopardy the Alamo City outfit's chances to hoist the Larry O'Brien trophy for the sixth time in franchise history.

    I picked San Antonio to win all the marbles this year but it could well be crying time this early.

    Parker has never missed an NBA playoff game in his entire 16-year NBA tenure, playing in 221 career postseason contests with the Spurs.

    Parker, who turns 35 on May 170r-year championship veteran who turns 35 on May 17, and reserve guard Manu Ginobili, who turns 40 in July, won four titles together. The duo won their 131st playoff game as teammates in the Game 2 victory over the Rockets, matching the NBA record held by Parker and retired all-time great Tim Duncan.

    Now, even the record-surpassing bid is over.

    Meanwhile, a pair of Kellys squared off in the second quarter of Game Three of the East semifinal duel between and Washington ? Celtics? Olynk and Wizards' Oubre Jr. (recipient of two hard screens by Olynk).

    Oubre took exception to a pair of hard screens by Olynk and pushed him on the chest hard enough to flatten Olynk following the second hard pick.

    It resulted in Oubre?s ejection in the game for Flagrant Foul 2 and forthcoming could be a fine and suspension from the NBA police.


    For a tough hombre like Oubre, enough is enough in a series that has featured a lot of physicality.

    Cleveland's Kevin Love sends Olynk his best regards. The Canadian hustler loves Love's right shoulder so much that he wouldn't let it go after an entanglement in the deciding Game 4 of 2015 East first-round series between Cavs and Celtics and resulted in playoffs-ending separated shoulder injury by Love.

    The Celts' six-game playoff winning skein eventually came to a halt as the hosting Wizards reduced their series deficit to 2-1 with a 116-89 rout. John Wall netted 24 points for the Wizards while Boston's Isaiah Thomas, who tallied 33 and 53 markers in the first two games of the series, was held to 13 points on 3-of-8 field shooting.

    Expect more bad blood as the series progresses with Game 4 on Monday May 8 (Manila time) also in Washington.

    Golden State beat Utah, 115-104, to go up 2-0 in their West semifinal series and 6-0 overall in the playoffs as Kevin Durant (25 points, 11 rebounds and seven assists), Stephen Curry ( 23 points and seven assists) and Draymond Green (21 points, five three-pointers, seven rebounds and six assists) each scored 20 points or more.

    Game Three of the Warriors-Jazz duel will be held on Sunday May 7 (Manila time) in Utah.

    On Saturday (Manila time), the reigning champion Cleveland Cavaliers seek to gain a 3-0 lead in their best-of-seven Eastern semifinal series against the Toronto Raptors at the Air Canada Centre and Texas rivals San Antonio and Houston look to break a 1-1 deadlock when the Rockets host Game Three.

    The Cavaliers, who own a nine-game playoff winning streak over two seasons, took the first two games at the Quicken Loans Arena and are headed to a second consecutive four-game series sweep against the Raptors.

    The Rockets stole homecourt advantage from the higher-seeded Spurs with a victory at the AT@T Center in the series opener before San Antonio secured Game 2 for a split at its home floor.
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  5. NBA Playoffs: Is Perfection Possible?

    Since it opened shop in 1946-47 under the Basketball Association of America, the National Basketball Association (which became as such in 1949-50) has yet to witness perfection in the playoffs where one team breezes through one postseason without a single loss.
    Chances are it will never ever happen.

    To register a perfect record in the playoffs, a team must go 16 and 0.

    That?s a four-game sweep in each of the four best-of-seven series. Since 2003, every series throughout the postseason has been a race-to-four-wins duel.

    The closest to NBA playoff perfection came in 2001. That year, the Los Angeles Lakers, who were powered by the Batman-and-Robin tandem of Shaquille O?Neal and recently-retired Kobe Bryant, compiled a 15-1 record in securing the second of their three consecutive NBA titles from 2000 to 2002.

    Through the first three rounds of the 2001 playoffs, the fabulous Lakers squad won 11 straight games against the Portland Trail Blazers (3-0 ? the first round was still a best-of-five affair at the time), Sacramento Kings (4-0) and San Antonio Spurs (4-0).

    However, El-Ay subsequently lost in its 12th assignment, which was the opener of the NBA Finals against then-NBA regular-season Most Valuable Player Allen Iverson and the Philadelphia 76ers. The gallant troops of Lakers bench boss Phil Jackson, who is the winningest head coach in league annals with 11 rings and is currently the New York Knicks president, dropped a 107-101 overtime decision to the 76ers in Game One of the Finals at the Staples Center.

    Thereafter, the Lakers racked up four consecutive victories, including the last three on the 76ers? home floor, to secure the title series in five games.

    Note that O?Neal and Iverson were inducted into the Naismith Memorial Basketball Hall of Fame in Springfield, Massachusetts last September. And Tyronn Lue, now the Cleveland head coach who owns a third championship ring as an NBA rookie coach with the Cavaliers a year ago, was a pesky guard with the Lakers' 2000 and 2001 title units.

    Another instance of near-perfection was the astonishing playoff run of the now-deceased Moses Malone, Julius Erving and the Philadelphia 76ers in 1983.

    That year, the Sixers won their first seven outings before winding up with a 12-1 record, including a 4-0 spanking of the LA Lakers in the best-of-seven NBA Finals.

    Along the way, Philly whipped New York, 4-0, and Milwaukee, 4-1, to march into the Finals against the then-reigning NBA titlist Lakers.
    Unlike now, the division winners at the time ? including Philadelphia (Atlanta Division) ? received best-of-three first-round byes.

    Moreover, starting this season, the division winners do not automatically gain a playoff ticket unless they rank among the top eight teams (in terms of win-loss records) in their respective conferences. A division race is only important in cases where the winner owns an identical record with a team from the same or another division within their conference. In that instance, the division leader will have the advantage over the others in the playoff seedings.

    (Such a thing happened in the ongoing NBA playoffs where Miami, the Southeast Division champion, was seeded higher (No. 3) than division rivals Atlanta (No. 4) and Charlotte (No. 6) and Atlantic Division second-placer Boston (No. 5) even though all four teams owned identical 48-34 ledgers.)

    Outside of the 2001 Lakers and 1983 76ers, no other club in NBA history has gone through one playoff campaign without tasting at least two losses.
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