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  1. NBA Playoffs: Cavs, Warriors in Historic Finals Matchup

    ?Gaano man kahaba ang prosesyon sa simbahan rin ang tuloy.?

    What most prognosticators had declared prior to the start of the 71st renewal of the National Basketball Association in late October has finally come to fruition.

    Yes, it will be the defending champion Cleveland Cavaliers against the unblemished Golden State Warriors in the NBA Finals for a historic third consecutive year.

    By virtue of their league-best and West-leading 67-15 record during the regular wars, the Warriors will enjoy homecourt advantage in the best-of-seven Finals against the Cavaliers, who were seeded No. 2 in the East at 51-31 but defeated top-seeded Boston, 4-1, in the conference finals.

    In the series-clinching Game 5 today at the TD Garden in Boston, the Cavaliers routed the Celtics, 135-102, behind ? who else but ? LeBron James. The King, who along with seldom-used reserve James Jones reached the NBA Finals for the seventh consecutive year in stints with Miami and Cleveland , chalked up 35 points en route to surpassing the eminent Michael Jordan as the all-time leading scorer in NBA playoff history. He also grabbed eight rebounds and dished out eight assists in just three quarters of action.

    James? sidekick Kyrie Irving netted 24 points and seven dimes and Kevin Love secured a double-double in each of the five games in the East finals and got 15 points and 11 reebies. Late-season acquisition Deron Williams came off the pines to tally 14 points ? all in the first half ? as Cleveland took a 75-57 lead at intermission for the highest halftime score by one team in the NBA playoffs since 2003 and the most points ever in the first half of a postseason contest in franchise history.

    Avery Bradley topscored for Boston with 23 points but his backcourt partner Marcus Smart was held to a single-digit score for a second straight game with six points. Gerald green came off the pines with 14 points. Al Horford only had eight points and three reebies.

    Cleveland and Golden State each triumphed once in their past two head-to-head Finals duels.

    This one has been described as the ?three-match? ? a trilogy that is unprecedented as no two teams in NBA had ever faced each other in the Finals in three straight years until now ? to decide who gets to move ahead in their three-leg run and romp away with Larry O?Brien championship hardware.

    This year?s Finals also feature what is the best-ever titular showdown ? record-wise ? in NBA history.

    The two high-powered combatants have combined for a mind-boggling 23-1 playoff record heading into the Finals. At no time in the past had there been two finalists combining for just a single loss. (In 1989, the Los Angeles Lakers were 11-0 and the eventual titlist Detroit Pistons were 11-2 entering that year?s Finals.)

    The Warriors are lily-white at 12-0 in becoming the first playoff team ever to sweep three straight best-of-seven series and enter the Finals with 12 straight losses without a loss, having whitewashed Portland, Utah and San Antonio in the first three rounds. The Cavaliers, on the other hand, are 12-1 with 4-0 sweeps versus Indiana and Toronto in the first two segments and a 2-0 lead over Boston in the East finals before dropping a 111-108 home decision in Game 3 then winning the final two outings of the series against the Celtics.

    My fearful forecast: Cavaliers over Warriors in six games to retain their NBA crown.
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  2. 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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  3. 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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  4. Sixty-two

    Sixty-two ?? and counting. Help me if you can for when I turn 64, I hope to break bread with Beatle Paul McCartney.

    As I enter my 62nd year of earthly existence on the 16th of May , allow me to take you to memory lane with some of the most forgettable moments in my life.

    The long and winding road traversed, no matter how difficult and rocky , is what has made me today ? strong ,determined, compassionate and at peace in the face of any adversity or tragedy in life.

    The destination is only the icing on the cake, so to speak.

    All-time great Michael Jordan once admitted in a commercial endorsement for a major U.S. shoe and apparel company that he had missed so many shots during his illustrious National Basketball Association (NBA) tenure.

    The number of times he had failed made him stronger ? what does not kill you makes you stronger, it?s said.

    Eventually Jordan?s storied basketball career was defined by the times he had risen after each fall and succeeded after each failure.

    Then there was this inspiring line from one of the old ?Spiderman? movies that I had watched where Uncle Ben told a young boy by the name of Peter Parker: ?Don?t just follow the path, make your own trail.?

    The words of Michael Jordan and Uncle Ben are what have shaped my life.

    Instead of joining the family?s handicraft business after my school days, I got to craft my own career path. Officially, I became a professional sportswriter on June 5, 1981 when my first materials on basketball, particularly the NBA scene, got published in a weekly sports magazine.

    Thirty-six years later, here I am still churning out one column/article after another.

    While it?s true the monetary benefits gained by a journalist won?t make him a Bill Gates, the ?mental nourishment? aspects of writing simply are immeasurable.

    Believe it or not, never in my wildest dreams did I think I would go into professional writing some day.

    But fate intervened and, by God?s grace, I have succeeded long enough to leave behind a legacy when I shall have crossed the Great Divide.

    It?s worth recalling a few events in my younger days at Xavier School that perhaps played a role in what became of me when I joined the ?real life? after college.

    It was my school mate and friend Samuel Dy Tang who baptized me to the ?NBA world? when he brought various NBA magazines to school for me to read and peruse during break-time. My interest in the American pro game grew quickly. How often I borrowed the printed materials from Sam and brought them home for ?scrutiny? and longer reading.

    We were in our grade school days or early teenaged years and since then, I have been hooked up to NBA chronicling and eventually, through the past decades, mastered on local and international sports in general.

    Another batchmate, Jeffrey Yao, also lent me some NBA materials for which I am truly grateful.

    Those magazines really got me rocking and rolling. During my spare time off classes, I would often take a jeepney ride to Rizal Avenue or the Binondo area (Jim?s Counter was one favorite hangout) to get my fill of various sports magazines that carried NBA stories for several pieces of silver coins.

    At the start of the eighties, vintage play-by-play announcer for Philippine Basketball Association telecasts Dick Ildefonso sought me out for help on the credentials of prospective imports for the league. The man with the silky cool voice subsequently introduced me to the editor-in-chief of a sports weekly magazine, Sports World.

    From there, I graduated to the major leagues like the Philippine Daily Inquirer, where I wrote a twice-a-week column on NBA developments for 16 years (1986-2002); and became the EIC of Tower Sports magazine for more than a decade while moonlighting as a TV analyst for Tiong Lian games from the mid-2000s onwards.

    Youtube.com has some of my TV interviews (the latest being the December 30, 2016 episode of PTV Sports on Channel 4) and gameface.ph has carried scores of my write-ups through the years.

    The Facebook page for a couple of prestigious Chinese-Filipino high school sports leagues, the PCYAA and MASA, were set up several years ago upon my initiative. Both sites remain active to this date.

    For seven years (2006-13), I also was a disc jockey (no joke!) for a Beautiful Sunday program ?Buhay Pinoy Noon at Ngayon? in a government-owned radio station (DZSR Sports Radio) under the monicker Hyper Henry. I played good, old music from the fifties, sixties and seventies and shared stories about life as only a Baby Boomer like me had experienced.

    Songs by the Fabulous Four from Liverpool, England, the Beatles, were my all-time favorites ...
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  5. What Are They Doing, Really? Part 2

    At our most recent lunch over the last weekend, Mr Libog was at it again.

    "O ayan, talo tayo sa Lyceum at UE," he said in between bites of crispy pata and long looks at the waitress of his favorite Filipino restaurant. "Biruin mo, sino ba naman ang Lyceum at UE para talunin tayo?"

    I said its only the off-season anyway, plus those were only one-basket losses, no big deal in the grand scheme of things. Plus a player or two who rode the pines last season are now getting some much needed burn.

    He just chortled, swallowing his umpteenth mouthful of the crispy pata. "Kahit na ba summer league lang, gano ba naman kalakas ang Lyceum at UE para talunin tayo? Kahit pa chamba, dalawang chamba 'yan ha, hindi ba nakakaalarma 'yan?"

    I don't really know with him, but the summer leagues, especially the Fil Oil, was never much of an indication of UAAP fortunes as far as I can tell. Lasalle swept the Fil Oil all the way to the championship last year, and then went on to win the Season 79 UAAP diadem as well. But taking a look over the last 10 years, there was never a co-relation between Fil Oil success and UAAP success.

    Even during the 5-Peat reign of the Ateneo, the Fil Oil and the Fr Martin summer tournaments were really just for tuning up for the regular UAAP wars. One might even say the annual US training junket of the Blue Eagles is actually more important in the team calendar, since they would willingly play daily games alternating between the Fil Oil and the Fr Martin just to keep in step with the schedules of those tournaments before they made off for the US. They would then come back just in time for the last few elimination games of the summer tournaments. More often than not they'd make the Finals of either or both tournaments. Heck they even won the now-defunct Nike Summer League in 2008, which was their springboard into the first of their five straight UAAP titles, and the launchpad for Rabeh Al-Hussaini's UAAP stardom.

    So, really, I don't know why Mr Libog was in such a tizzy.

    "Alam mo hindi naman kasi 'yan dapat nangyayari, kahit sa summer, 'yang matalo tayo sa mga patakbuhing teams. Seriously, mukha bang nagfa-Final 4 ang mga 'yan? So bakit tayo natalo sa kanila," he asked rather exasperatedly.

    I said these things were bound to happen. Even back in Magic's day, when the Clippers were a joke of a franchise (the days of Benoit Benjamin and Company), there was one time or two that they upset the Showtime Lakers. "Bilog ang bola," as Wang-bu, Jake Salazar, and other old soul Pinoy basketball sages would say.

    "Hindi kaya the actual fact of the matter is that sadyang mahina ang team natin? And if this is the case, papanong nagkaganun?" He was warming up to something, I could see the signs already.

    "Balikan ko lang 'yung pinagusapan natin dati. Magkano ba ginagastos natin sa team? Every year may US training hindi ba? May gumaling na ba diyan gawa niyang training na 'yan? Si (Frank) Golla ba naging Reynel Hugnatan man lang after niyang mga US training na 'yan? Si Juami (Tiongson) ba naging Terrence Romeo man lang? Hindi naman ah. Magkano ba gastos sa isang biyahe nila? Maybe P4 to 5 million? Just for that trip? Baka annual budget na 'yan ng UST or UE team. And yet in spite of that kind of spending we get beaten by Lyceum and UE. Granted its the off-season, but still." I was sure he wasn't done yet. He was in financial management / cost-benefit mode.

    "Kung ganun kalaki ginagastos mo hindi ba nakakahiya na ang team na hindi gumagastos ng ganun kalaki tinatalo ka? And I don't even buy that excuse that we don't take the off-season all that seriously. Assuming that to be true, during the 5-Peat years I don't think we ever opened the Fil Oil with back to back losses to shit teams. Even when we 'weren't taking this seriously', as you say."

    "So the only logical explanation is mahina ang team natin ngayon. Which brings us back to the question of bakit ba tayo humina. Hindi kaya humina tayo kasi may problema sa recruitment strategy natin? Do we even have a recruitment strategy? Or do we just see who happens to be the UAAP or NCAA Juniors, or Tiong Lian superstar of the moment and just go get that kid, not even thinking to much if he will continue being a star in college?" He's about to get to his usual point.

    "After the 5-Peat we just couldn't seem to get or to hang on to real talent, or we didn't know how to maximize them. Look at New (Chris Newsome). The two years he played he had to take a backseat to Phenom (Kiefer Ravena). Why? Have you seen what New is doing in the PBA? You think Phenom can dunk on an import in traffic? So why did Phenom get to chuck up 30 shots a game while New was second fiddle?"

    "We went out and got CJ Perez, at sa Fr Martin pa lang nagpakita na kagad siya, tapos hindi pala natin naalagaan sa aral. ...
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