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  1. 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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  2. NBA Playoffs: Cavs, Warriors Unblemished

    The reigning National Basketball Association champion Cleveland Cavaliers and the 2015 titlist Golden State Warriors, the two teams that clashed in the Finals in each of the last two years, remain unblemished in the current playoffs.

    Cleveland owns a five-game winning streak (eight consecutive postseason victories overall since whipping Golden State in seven dramatic games to become the first team in NBA annals to capture the Finals after overcoming a 3-1 series deficit) heading into Game 2 of its best-of-seven Eastern semifinal duel with Toronto today (Manila time) at the friendly Quicken Loans Arena.

    The No. 2-seeded Cavs easily disposed of the Raptors in Game 1, registering a 116-105 success behind do-it-all LeBron James? 35 points, 10 rebounds and four assists and Kyrie Irving?s 24-point, 10-assist effort.

    The Wine City outfit had swept the 7-seed Indiana Pacers in four straight contests in the first round by just a combined 16 points (tying the fewest total winning margin in a four-game series sweep in league history set by the Washington Bullets against the Golden State Warriors in the 1975 Finals) while pinning the Pacers with their first four- in their 50-year American Basketball Association-NBA existence.

    A three-time Most Valuable Player awardee in the NBA Finals, the 32-year-old James needs 25 points in Game 2 to surpass Kareem Abdul-Jabbar (5,762 points) as the No. 2 all-time leading scorer in NBA playoff history behind only Michael Jordan (5,987).

    Meanwhile, Golden State also is 5-0 in the ongoing playoffs. The Warriors, the No. 1 overall seed in the postseason after topping the regular wars with a 67-15 record, downed the No. 5-seed Utah Jazz, 106-94, in Game 1 of their Western semifinal series yesterday (Manila time) at the Oracle Arena. Stephen Curry chalked up 22 points, seven rebounds and five assists for Golden State.

    The Dubs will again host Game 2 on Friday May 5 (MT).

    Golden State swept the eighth-seeded Portland Trail Blazers, 4-0, in the first round. While it got back star Kevin Durant in the series clincher after he missed the second and third games due to a strained left calf, Warriors head coach Steve Kerr has yet to return to the team since Game 3 vs. Portland due to complications from a pair of back surgeries.

    Warriors assistant coach Mike Brown, who had uneventful stints with Cleveland (where he was bullied by James to the exit door in two tours of duty with the Cavs) and Los Angeles Lakers, has been calling the shots from the bench since the time.

    In the other East second-round matchup, Boston grabbed a 2-0 lead over No. 4-seeded Washington with a 129-119 overtime decision in Game 2 yesterday at the TD Garden for the Celtics? sixth consecutive postseason victory. Isaiah Thomas, the East?s scoring leader during the regulars at 28.9 ppg, netted a playoff career-high 53 points for the Green, including 38 points in the fourth quarter (29) and five-minute extension (nine). John Wall topped Washington with 40 points and 13 assists.

    Boston had secured the series opener, 123-111, also at home as Thomas put together a masterful 33-point, nine-assist performance.

    Boston, the top seed in the conference, beat 8-seed Chicago in six games during their first- round series after surrendering the first two games at home to become only the third squad in NBA playoff history to capture a best-of-seven series after going 0-2 at home.

    The Los Angeles Lakers were the first team to turn in the trick during the 1969 Western Division semifinals against the San Francisco (now Golden State), rallying for a 4-2 win following home setbacks in the first two games of the series. The title-bound Houston Rockets duplicated the feat during the 1994 West semifinals, overcoming a 0-2 hole with twin losses on home territory in knocking off the Phoenix Suns in seven games.

    Game 3 of the Celtics-Wizards series will be held in Washington on Friday May 5 (Manila time). The Wizards will also host the fourth encounter on Monday May 8 (MT).

    Out West, Houston looks to improve to 2-0 in its semifinal battle against Texas rival San Antonio today (MT) with another road victory.
    The third-seeded Rockets crushed the second-seeded Spurs, 126-99, in Game One to steal homecourt advantage.

    Houston, which ousted Oklahoma City, 4-1, in the first round, got 23 points from Trevor Ariza, a one-time championship veteran with the 2009 LA Lakers, and 20 points and 14 rebounds from MVP contender James Harden, who collected 20 points and 14 rebounds.

    Kawhi Leonard, the Spurs? two-way forward who is an MVP candidate like Harden and OKC?s Russell Westbrook, struggled in the series opener, shooting a frigid 5-for-14 from the field for 21 points following an outstanding 31.2-point performance ...
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  3. NBA Playoffs: Cavs Advance to the Second round

    LeBron James and the Cleveland Cavaliers may have stumbled heading into the playoffs, going just 23-23 over its last 46 games (including 10-14 since March 1) in the regular wars, but the reigning National Basketball Association titlists are the first team to advance to the second round of the ongoing four-tier playoffs following a 4-0 sweep of the 7-seed Indiana Pacers in their best-of-seven East duel.

    James chalked up 33 points, 10 boards, four dimes, four steals and two blocks to power the second-seeded Cavs to a 106-102 victory over the Pacers today in Game 4 of their first-round series in Indiana.

    James also won his 21st consecutive first-round playoff assignment under the current 16-team, four-tier postseason format established in 1984. This shattered the previous league mark of 20 straight victories shared by the Los Angeles Lakers? Earvin (Magic) Johnson, James Worthy and Michael Cooper. (Overall, he?s 48-7 in his career in first-round games.) The four-time league Most Valuable Player also is now 12-0 for his career in opening-round playoff series wins without a loss (trailing just Robert Horry and Derek Fisher, both at 16-0)

    For the four-game series, LeBron averaged 32.8 points on .543 (50-for-92) FG and .579 (22-for-38 FT shooting), 9.8 rebounds and 9.0 assists, Kyrie Irving normed 25.3 scores and 3.0 assists and Kevin Love owned clips of 15.5 ppg and 9.3 rpg.

    The series was more closely-fought than the final result indicated. Cleveland won the series by a combined total of just 16 points ? matching the smallest margin of victory in a four-game sweep set by the Golden State Warriors in their 1975 NBA Finals triumph over the Washington Bullets.
    The Cavs will face the winner of the series between No. 3 Toronto vs. No. 6 seed Milwaukee, which is deadlocked at 2-2 going into today?s Game five in Air Canada Centre, in the second segment of the four-round playoffs.

    In another East first-round matchup, the top-seeded Boston Celtics and No. 8 seed Chicago Bulls are tied at 2-2 entering Game 5 on Thursday April 27, Manila time, at the TD Garden. Each of the first four games has gone to the dark-colored (road) team ? the first time it has happened in the postseason since the 1994 Western semifinal series between Houston and Phoenix that stretched to seven games with the homecourt-advantageous Rockets emerging victorious not only in the series but eventually securing the league crown via a 4-3 decision over the New York Knicks in the 1994 NBA Finals.

    Coping with the effects of the emotional rollercoaster ride arising from the death of the 22-year-old sister of point guard Isaiah Thomas, the Celtics? top scorer and the NBA?s third-leading scorer Isaiah Thomas during the regulars at 28.9 ppg, Boston dropped the first two games of the series at home. The Green, however, bounced back to take the third and fourth games in Chicago, which lost playmaker and former Celtics championship star (200 Rajon Rondo due to a fractured right thumb after leading the Bulls to a 2-0 lead on averages of 11.5 points, 10 assists 8.5 rebounds and 3.5 steals.

    The winner of the Boston-Chicago series will clash with the winner of the series between No. 4 seed Washington vs. No. 5 seed Atlanta, which the Wizards lead, 2-1, going into Tuesday's Game 4 in Atlanta, in the second round.

    In the West, the 2015 NBA champion and the 2017 playoffs? No. 1 overall seed Golden State Warriors have taken a commanding 3-0 lead over the eighth-seeded Portland Trail Blazers despite the absence of Kevin Durant in the last two games due to a strained left calf and head coach Steve Kerr in Game Three ? and also his unavailability in Tuesday's Game Four in Portland ? due to head and neck pains arising from his chronic back problems.

    No team in NBA playoff history has ever come back from a 0-3 deficit to win a best-of-seven series.

    The winner of the Golden State-Portland setto will take on the winner of the series between No. 4 seed Los Angeles Clippers and No. 5 seed Utah Jazz, which is evened up at 2-all following a 105-98 home win by the Jazz in Game 4 today that coincided with the return of Utah?s 7-1 French center Rudy Gobert following a two-game absence due to a left knee injury. The LA Clippers? Blake Griffin is out for the remainder of the playoffs after sustaining a right toe injury in the first half of Game 3.

    The series between the No. 2 seed San Antonio Spurs and the No. 7 Memphis Grizzlies is tied at 2-2 with each of the first four games having gone to the home team. Game Five will be held Tuesday (Manila time) in San Antonio.

    The San Antonio-Memphis series victor will tangle with the No. 3 seed Houston vs. No. 6 seed Oklahoma City series winner in the second round.
    Houston leads OKC, 3-1, after the Rockets took Game Four, 113-109, today on the ...
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  4. NBA Playoffs: Right place at the right time

    Sometimes you don?t need to be an outstanding player to win a championship in team sports.

    You don?t have to be very talented so long as you have a star athlete or two for a teammate.

    You only need to be lucky and be in the right place at the right time.

    Vagabond frontliner Cris Bolado easily comes to mind. The roly-poly Bolado from the Beau Belga factory captured numerous championships in the local professional league with nine teams from 1994-2003.

    In the 71-year history of the U.S. National Basketball Association, there are several marginal players (or so-called ?role? players) from the Boston Celtics that earned title rings by simply hopping onto the broad shoulders of all-time great Bill Russell during his storied 13-year pro tenure from 1956-57 through 1968-69.

    Chief of the lot was rugged James (Jim) Loscutoff Jr., a menacing enforcer who endeared himself to the Celtic Nation with his defensive tenacity and hard-driving physical moves. He was known as the Hub City squad?s hatchetman who did the all the dirty jobs inside the paint.

    A 6-5 power forward, ?Jungle Jim? or ?Loscy? snared six NBA championships in 1957, 1959, 1961, 1962, 1963 and 1964 with the Green. He sat out the 1960 playoffs ? which also produced an NBA crown for the Celtics ? due to an injury.

    Loscutoff, who was born in San Francisco, California of Russian parents, registered pedestrian averages of 6.2 points, 5.6 rebounds and 0.7 assist in 511 regular games during his entire nine-year career with Boston from 1955-64.

    If it were any big deal, Loscy as a second-year pro knocked in the final two free throws in the Celts? 125-123 double-overtime success against the St. Louis (now Atlanta) Hawks in the deciding Game 7 of the 1957 NBA Finals at the now-defunct Boston Garden that gave the Green its first of 17 NBA championships.

    After calling it quits in 1964, the Celtics organization sought to honor Loscutoff but he asked that his jersey number (1 not be retired so that a future Celtics player could wear it. Instead, Boston added a banner with his nickname ?Loscy? to the banners of retired numbers hanging from the rafters of the Boston Garden (then to the current TD Garden). The No. 18 was eventually retired in honor of Hall of Famer David (Dave) Cowens.

    Loscy died on December 1, 2015 at the age of 85.

    How lucky Loscutoff was in comparison to fellow Celtic products Larry Bird and Kevin McHale, both Hall of Famers who won only three titles each in 1981, 1984 and 1986 as teammates.

    Even William Walton (Bill) Sharman snared only four rings with Boston in 1957, 1959, 1960 and 1961.
    Sharman is one of four two-time Naismith Memorial Basketball Hall of Fame inductees (the others are John Wooden, Lenny Wilkens and Tommy Heinsohn), turning in the trick in 1976 as a player (Boston) and in 2004 as a head coach (having steered the Los Angeles Lakers to a 69-13 record during the 1971-72 regular season and subsequently rewarding the franchise with its first NBA crown since moving out of Minneapolis in 1960).

    For the record, Russell is the winningest player in NBA history with 11 championships in 12 trips to the Finals.
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  5. 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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