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Sultan of swat

Since I started playing basketball, shot-blocking has always been my forte.

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JAPETH Aguilar’s (right) defensive effort against Meralco keeps Barangay Ginebra on top of the PBA Governors’ Cup best-of-seven finals.   ROMAN PROSPERO @tribunephl_RRP

Barangay Ginebra has been displaying elite defense in the ongoing Philippine Basketball Association (PBA) Governors’ Cup best-of-seven finals series against Meralco the past couple of games.
And one slotman should be credited as the anchor of this rim-locking action: Japeth Aguilar.

The high-flying former Ateneo de Manila University star is turning this finals showdown into his show by making a living out of swatting enemy missiles.

Aguilar is averaging 3.6 blocks per contest that puts the Kings two wins away from claiming their third Governors’ Cup crown in four years.

More than that, his gallant effort at the paint crushed the confidence of Meralco big men led by a prolific inside operator in import Allen Durham.

Still, Aguilar brushed off the credit, saying that he draws his defensive muscles from his teammates.

“The reason why I’m successful on defense is because I’m confident that my teammates will help me out. It’s really a collective team effort,” the wiry 6-foot-9 Aguilar said, a well-known intimidator since his high school days at Mapua and college years at Ateneo.

“Since I started playing basketball, shot-blocking has always been my forte. I have been a defender from high school to college.”

“So there’s nothing special there. I’m just doing my role inside the court and use my strength, which is shot-blocking, to the fullest.”

In this finals series, Aguilar had turned the art of blocking into exact science.

He delivered a booming block in Game 1 when he thwarted the dunk of Durham in the final 11.3 seconds to seal the victory for the Kings, 91-87.

That rejection was the 575th of his career that moved him past Ricky Relosa at No. 15 in the league’s all-time shot-block list.

Then in Game 3, he swatted seven shots to register his second-best blocking performance. He also climbed the all-time list to No. 12 with 582 blocks, moving past Alvin Patrimonio (576), Abe King (580) and Poch Juinio (582).

Ginebra coach Tim Cone said Aguilar has been his pillar of strength underneath and his shot-blocking ability prompted the Kings to come up with good executions at the other end.

“It was a block party out there,” said Cone, the league’s most successful mentor with 21 PBA crowns.

“He has great timing and he gets off the floor so quick. He’s also long so you would thing that you got the shot off until he comes out of nowhere and blocks your attempt.”

Cone added that Aguilar’s defensive muscle was a product of hard work and perseverance.

“That’s something he has been working on through the years and I’m recognizing that it’s a fun skill for him,” Cone said, stressing that Aguilar is the best in the business when it comes to blocking shots.
“Blocking shots is a big turnaround play. I don’t think there’s anybody in the league that’s a better weak side defender than Japeth,” he said.
“He decided Game 1 with a block and he decided Game 3 with seven blocks because our team’s anchor was really defense.”

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From zero to Herro

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TYLER Herro erupts for 37 points to lift the Miami Heat to a 112-109 win over the Boston Celtics. AGENCE FRANCE-PRESSE

MIAMI (AFP) — Rising star Tyler Herro scored a career high 37 points and Jimmy Butler chipped in 24 as the Miami Heat seized command of their Eastern Conference final series with a 112-109 win on Wednesday.

The 20-year-old rookie Herro made five of 10 threes as Miami took a 3-1 lead in the best-of-seven series in the NBA’s quarantine bubble in Orlando, Florida.

“It is a good win for us. I feel good we are up 3-1 but we still have a lot of work to do,” Herro said.

“We put a lot of effort into preparing for Game 4 and we got it done.”

Herro’s point total is the second most in a playoff game for a player 20 or younger behind only Magic Johnson who had 42.

The win moved them to within one victory of an NBA finals berth, which they will try to secure in Game 5 on Friday.

“Not too many people get an opportunity to make it this far in the playoffs and be in a game like this, but for him it’s another day in the office,” said Butler of Herro.

“He’s just going to keep playing basketball the right way.”

Goran Dragic had 22 points, and Bam Adebayo added 20 points and 12 rebounds for Miami, who rebounded from just their second loss of the postseason in Game 3.

Jayson Tatum scored a team high 28 points, all coming in the second half, and Jaylen Brown had 21 for Boston, which was looking to win consecutive playoff games for the first time since the start of their second-round series against the Toronto Raptors.

Kemba Walker scored 20 points, Gordon Hayward had 14 and Marcus Smart finished with 10 points and 11 assists.

The Celtics turned the ball over 19 times in the game.

“We’ve got to do a better job of handling the ball and taking care of it,” said coach Brad Stevens.

Miami went on a 10-4 run at the end of the first half after Hayward hit a pair of free throws to tie the score 40-40 with 3:38 left in the second.

“Just trying to get a rhythm going early,” said Herro.

“Once you see a couple shots go down, the rest of the game is easier for you. Tonight was definitely a good night.”

Herro nailed a three pointer with just over four minutes left in the fourth quarter to give Miami a 98-90 lead.

Brown made a three pointer and Smart dropped in a layup to get the Celtics within three, but Dragic and Butler each made baskets to pad Miami’s lead.

Dragic responded from beyond the arc and Herro added a layup to put Miami up by nine with 56 seconds left in regulation.

Boston got within three again on a Brown three-pointer with 16 seconds to go, but free throws by Herro and Butler sealed the victory.

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PBA bubble gets green light

Bea Micaller

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The resumption of the Philippine Basketball Association (PBA) 45th season is finally a go.

PBA chairman Ricky Vargas on Thursday announced that they have already secured a provisional authority from the Inter Agency Task Force on the Management of Emerging Infectious Diseases (IATF) that will effectively allow them to restart their aborted season.

Vargas, who sat down with ranking IATF executives together with PBA commissioner Willie Marcial, said they have already secured the confidence of the government through the help of Bases Conversion and Development Authority chief Vince Dizon, who played a key role in holding the games inside the Clark Freeport Zone using a bubble concept.

“This is a happy event,” said Vargas, who has good relationship with Dizon after serving as president of the Philippine Olympic Committee during the country’s buildup for its hosting of the 30th Southeast Asian Games last year.

“We are happy to announce that, through the help of Sec. Dizon, we have secured the provisional approval of the IATF.”

The PBA had already ironed out all the kinks in its bubble plan.

The league would house around 350 delegates composed of players, coaches and team officials from 12 teams at the Quest Hotel inside Clark Freeport Zone.

Games would be held at the Angeles University Foundation gymnasium starting 11 October, but delegates would start entering the bubble on 28 and 29 September.

But now that the IATF finally issued its green light, the PBA will formally become the first league in the country to open amid the threat of the coronavirus pandemic.

Dizon, who is also the deputy chief implementer of the national COVID-19 task force, explained that the PBA was given provisional authority because its health measures are strict and stringent than that of the Joint Administrative Order (JAO) group, which is composed of the Philippine Sports Commission, Department of Health and Games and Amusement Board.

“The current issue here is that the protocols stated in JAO are different from the protocols set by the PBA for the bubble,” Dizon said.

“We just need to amend the protocols and with the provisional approval, we now have the authority to begin the bubble.”

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Herro drops 37 as Heat push East Finals lead to 3-1

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Tyler Herro waxed-hot with 37 points to lead Miami to a 112-109 win over the Boston Celtics in Game 4 of the Eastern Conference Finals on Thursday (Manila time) as the Heat inched closer to their first NBA championship appearance since 2014.

The rookie went 14-of-21 from the field including 5-of-10 treys for Miami, which bounced back from a Game 3 defeat for a 3-1 series advantage. Jimmy Butler had 24 points and nine rebounds, Goran Dragic finished with 22 points and Bam Adebayo had 20 points and pulled down 12 rebounds for Boston.

Game 5 is on Saturday (Manila time).

Jayson Tatum led the Celtics with 28 points and nine rebounds, Jaylen Brown had 21 points while Kemba Walker finished with 20. Gordon Hayward got 14 points for Boston.

Miami went on a 10-4 run at the end of the first half after Hayward hit a pair of free throws to tie the score 40-40 with 3:38 left in the second.

In the second half, Herro nailed a three pointer with just over four minutes left in the fourth quarter to give Miami a 98-90 lead.

Brown made a three pointer and Smart dropped in a layup to get the Celtics within three, but Dragic and Butler each made baskets to pad Miami’s lead.

Dragic responded from beyond the arc and Herro added a layup to put Miami up by nine with 56 seconds left in regulation.

Boston got within three again on a Brown three-pointer with 16 seconds to go, but free throws by Herro and Butler sealed the victory.

 

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Murray keeps Nuggets afloat

I just wanted to see them have a lot of fun today.

Agence France-Presse

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JAMAL Murray fires 28 points to lead the Denver Nuggets to a 114-106 win over the Los Angeles Lakers. / Garrett Ellwood/NBAE via Getty Images/Agence france-presse

MIAMI (AFP) — Jamal Murray scored 28 points as the Denver Nuggets held off a ferocious late fightback from the Los Angeles Lakers to roar back into contention in the Western Conference finals series on Tuesday.

Murray nailed two crucial late three-pointers in the closing minutes as Denver held on for a 114-106 victory in Game 3 to reduce the Lakers’ lead to 2-1 in their best-of-seven series.

But the Nuggets — who looked in complete control for long periods of the contest — were given a mighty scare by the Lakers in a thrilling fourth-quarter battle.

The Lakers had trailed by 20 points with just over 10 minutes remaining but whittled away the Denver lead to just three points with 3:53 left on the clock.

But just as it looked as if LeBron James and Anthony Davis were poised to complete a remarkable comeback, Murray regrouped to take the game away from the Lakers.

The 23-year-old Canadian’s three-pointer from 26 feet gave Denver a seven-point advantage at 106-99 and he then provided the assist for Paul Millsap to make it 108-99.

With less than a minute on the clock, Murray struck the dagger blow with a 29-foot three-point jumper to make it 111-99 and effectively seal victory.

Denver coach Michael Malone said his team — which had suffered an agonizing buzzer-beater defeat in Game 2 on Sunday — was determined not to go 3-0 down in the series.

The Nuggets have already overturned 3-1 series deficits en route to the Western Conference finals.

“I had no doubt we were going to show up tonight,” Malone said.

“We have won six straight elimination games. Everybody always has us packing our bags and leaving, but we’re not ready to go. They’re a very resilient group and they have proved that time and time again.”

Asked about his late flourish, Murray said he had set out to lead by example.

“That’s my whole energy, my whole approach to the game, not getting down if I miss a couple of shots,” Murray said.

“I’m just trying to be aggressive but the most important part is the energy I bring when I’m talking to my teammates, being a vocal leader, getting up and down and pushing everybody so they tend to follow. I just wanted to see them have a lot of fun today.”

The Lakers, meanwhile, were left reflecting on an uneven display which ultimately left James and Davis with too much to do.

James led the scoring with a triple double comprised of 30 points, 10 rebounds and 11 assists, with six turnovers. Davis had 27 points, with Kentavious Caldwell-Pope (12) and Kyle Kuzma (11) the only other Lakers players to crack double figures.

Murray, who also had 12 assists, was backed with 26 points from Jerami Grant while Nikola Jokic weighed in with 22 points, 10 rebounds and five assists.

“You put yourself in an 18-point hole, it’s tough to climb out of that,” Lakers coach Frank Vogel said.

“I thought Denver played with great energy throughout the game. We didn’t match it early; we matched it late. They’re a great basketball team so credit it to them for the win. They played a really good basketball game.”

“We were not as sharp as we could have been on both ends of the floor. We were playing at a high level, but were a little bit off in the first half.”

“But I liked the spirit that the guys competed with down the stretch to try and make it a game.”

Game 4 takes place on Thursday.

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Thompson repays Altas

Bea Micaller

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Scottie Thompson played the role of an ambassador when Frankie Lim decided to step down as head coach of University of Perpetual Help System Dalta in the National Collegiate Athletic Association (NCAA).

Speaking in the latest edition of The Athletes Tribune, Thompson said the owners of Perpetual sought his help to convince his players to stay in the wake of Lim’s sudden resignation.

“The owners talked to me and asked me if I can speak to the players and convince them to stay,” said Thompson, the Barangay Ginebra swingman who is regarded as one of the most successful alumni of Perpetual.

“They worry that the players might transfer to other school due to what happened.”

In an interview with Daily Tribune, Lim said his contract was supposed to be effective until November, but was suspended last July as he started missing his paychecks.

He quit, leaving behind a good run in Season 94 with Prince Eze emerging as Most Valuable Players.

Thompson said he is repaying Perpetual’s trust in him by helping it in keeping the team intact.

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Simon rings final buzzer

Bea Micaller

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Peter June Simon formally announced his retirement, putting an end to a colorful 17-year career that saw him winning eight titles in the Philippine Basketball Association (PBA).

In a social media post, the 40-year-old veteran expressed gratitude, saying that he didn’t expect that somebody like him would make it to the PBA despite being left unsigned after being drafted with the 43rd pick in the 2001 Rookie Draft.

He brought his talent to the Metropolitan Basketball Association before seeing action in the Philippine Basketball League until finally finding his way to the PBA.

“I did not expect that a lanky and small boy from Makilala, North Cotabato will make it to the PBA,” Simon said in a lengthy farewell message that came a couple of days after Daily Tribune broke the report that Magnolia left him in the free agency.

“It’s heartbreaking, but I think this is a perfect time to bid the league goodbye.”

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NBA, Olympics on collision course

The goal for us next season is to play a standard season.

Agence France-Presse

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League commissioner Adam Silver says next NBA season won’t happen until 2021. / Getty Images/Getty Images for CNN/AGENCE FRANCE-PRESSE

LOS ANGELES (AFP) — NBA commissioner Adam Silver said Tuesday the 2020-2021 season would probably not start until next year due to ongoing uncertainty surrounding the coronavirus pandemic.

Speaking during a panel discussion on CNN, Silver said the league hoped next season would see a full 82-game schedule with teams playing before fans inside their home arenas.

But the NBA supremo said for that to happen, the start of the season would need to be pushed back from December to January.

“My best guess is even though it’ll be the 2020-21 season, that the season won’t start until 2021,” said Silver, who based his viewpoint on feedback from Anthony Fauci, the head of the National Institute of Allergies and Infectious Diseases.

“We said the earliest we would start is Christmas of this year. But the more I’m learning and listening to Dr. Fauci this morning, I continue to believe we’re going to be better off going into January. The goal for us next season is to play a standard season.”

The NBA halted its 2019-2020 season in March as COVID-19 sent sports in North America grinding to a standstill.

The league restarted the season inside a secure “bubble” in Orlando, Florida in July, with teams based at a single location.

If the league does not start until January, it means the climax of the NBA season would almost certainly clash with the rescheduled Tokyo Olympics, due to take place from 23 July 2021.

Silver indicated that the scheduling clash would likely see a US team stripped of top talent at the Olympics.

“It would be tough for us to make a decision in January based on the Olympics happening on schedule when that is so unclear,” Silver said.

“I just add that there are a lot of great US players. We may be up against a scenario where the top 15 NBA players aren’t competing in the Olympics. But other great American players are competing.”

Silver’s comments came as the United States registered its 200,000th death from COVID-19, which has also infected more than 6.8 million Americans.

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Phoenix includes Abueva in roster for PBA bubble

Bea Micaller

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Phoenix Super LPG is ready to gamble on Calvin Abueva when the Philippine Basketball Association (PBA) Philippine Cup resumes on 9 October.

Team manager Paolo Bugia said they have included the fiery forward in their 15-man roster despite having no assurance that he would be reinstated to see action the PBA bubble in Clark Freeport Zone in Pampanga.

Abueva already completed all requirements for his reinstatement, but PBA commissioner Willie Marcial has yet to formally lift his indefinite suspension that has been dragging for more than a year.

“We’re definitely putting him on the roster with the hopes of bringing him there, but we’re hopeful that commissioner, before the opening on 9 October, will get him reinstated,” Bugia said in a telephone interview.

“We’re taking that risk and we’re optimistic because it’s been a long time coming and we’ve seen the changes in Calvin both on and off the court. Hopefully, the commissioner will reconsider his reinstatement.”

Bugia said Abueva is worth the roster spot.

“I think based on the rules of the league, once we decided not to reinstate Calvin, we cannot bring in another player,” Bugia said.

“So, we will have to live with it, but we’re talking the risk because I think he’s worth it.”

Even with Abueva staying suspended, the Fuel Masters still have a loaded frontcourt in Jason Perkins, JC Intal, Jake Pascual, Alex Mallari, Justin Chua and Dave Marcelo.

“As of now, we will stick with the current team because it’s a short-term plan,” Bugia said.

“But if he does get reinstated, that’s going to be a huge factor for us.”

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Thompson helps keep Altas intact

Bea Micaller

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Scottie Thompson played the role of ambassador when Frankie Lim decided to step down as head coach of University of Perpetual Help System Dalta in the National Collegiate Athletic Association (NCAA).

Speaking in the latest edition of The Athletes’ Tribune, Thompson said the owners of Perpetual sought his help to convince players to stay in the wake of Lim’s sudden resignation.

“The owners talked to me and asked me if I can speak to the players and convince them to stay,” said Thompson, the Barangay Ginebra swingman who is regarded as one of the most successful alumni of Perpetual.

“They worry that the players might transfer to other school due to what happened.”

In an interview with Daily Tribune, Lim said his contract was supposed to be effective until November, but was suspended last July as he started missing his paychecks.

He quit, leaving behind a good run in Season 94 with Prince Eze emerging as Most Valuable Players (MVP).

Thompson said he is repaying Perpetual’s trust in him by helping it in keeping the team intact.

“That’s the favor they asked from me — to ask the players not to transfer to other school or leave the program,” said Thompson, a four-time PBA champion and the Finals MVP in the 2018 PBA Commissioner’s Cup.

With Thompson delivering the pitches, the Altas managed to keep its promising core of Jielo Razon and Tonton Peralta as well as 6-foot-2 forward Kim Aurin, who anchored the team’s 5-13 win-loss record last season.

“I am in constant communication with the school’s owner and if ever they need something from me, I am willing to help in any way I can,” Thompson said.

“It’s because they are also helping me whenever I needed something.”

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