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Nuggets stun Clippers to reach West Finals

Agence France-Presse

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Jamal Murray of the Denver Nuggets drives the ball against Montrezl Harrell of the LA Clippers during the fourth quarter in Game 7 of the Western Conference Semifinals. (AFP)

Jamal Murray scored a game-high 40 points and Nikola Jokic had a triple-double as the Denver Nuggets stunned the Los Angeles Clippers 104-89 in Game 7 to reach their first Western Conference finals in 11 years.

The underdog Nuggets became the first team in NBA history to rally from a 3-1 series deficit twice in the same postseason.

Jokic completed his triple double by the third quarter of Tuesday night’s contest in the NBA’s quarantine bubble in Florida, finishing with 16 points, 13 assists and 22 rebounds.

His rebound count is the most by a Nuggets player in an NBA playoff game, breaking his old record of 19. Denver’s dynamic duo combined for 56 points.

“We are just improving. We have talks, we have fights, everything. We are like a couple,” Jokic said of playing with Murray.

An odd couple for sure. A Serbian and a Canadian dynamic duo that has engineered the biggest upsets of the 2020 postseason so far.

Denver will once again be the underdogs when they face LeBron James and the Los Angeles Lakers in the conference finals beginning Friday.

“Nobody wants us here,” insisted Jokic.

But Murray issued a warning for people who think the Lakers’ juggernaut is going to steamroller them.

“They got to worry about us too,” Murray said.

The Nuggets found themselves down by 12 in the first half. They also trailed 61-54 with 10:50 left in the third when they stepped it up and went on a 35-13 run to compile a 15-point lead in the fourth.

“Next is Lakers, another tough opponent,” Jokic said. “But we are going to be out there having fun. It is simple for us, effort and energy.”

Montrezl Harrell scored 20 points, Patrick Beverley got 11 points while  Kawhi Leonard and Paul George combined combined for just 24 points for the Clippers.

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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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Murray to the rescue as Nuggets hold off Lakers

Agence France-Presse

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Jamal Murray of the Denver Nuggets shoots the ball against the defense of the Los Angeles Lakers during Game 3 of the Western Conference Finals. (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 three to reduce the Lakers lead in the best-of-seven series to 2-1.

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 in the contest but whittled away the Denver lead to just three points with 3min 53sec left on the clock in Orlando.

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 jumpshot to make it 111-99 and effectively seal victory.

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.

Game four in the series takes place in Orlando on Thursday.

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Donovan named new Chicago Bulls head coach

Agence France-Presse

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(File photo, AFP)

The Chicago Bulls named Billy Donovan as the team’s new head coach on Tuesday, replacing Jim Boylen who was fired last month after the franchise’s latest failure to make the playoffs.

Donovan, 55, joins the Bulls after parting company with the Oklahoma City Thunder by mutual agreement earlier this month after his team were eliminated from the postseason.

“We are very pleased to welcome Billy and his family to the Chicago Bulls,” Chicago Bulls executive vice president of basketball operations Arturas Karnisovas said in a statement.

“The success that he has sustained over the course of his coaching career puts him on a different level. We feel his ability to help his players reach their potential, both individually and collectively, will mesh well with our roster.

“Whether as a player or as a coach, he has won everywhere his career has taken him, and we hope that will continue here in Chicago.”

Donovan heads to Chicago after a broadly successful five-year stint with the Thunder.

The team compiled a winning record during his reign, with 243 victories against 157 defeats, and made five consecutive trips to the postseason.

This season he was named coach of the year alongside Milwaukee Bucks head coach Mike Budenholzer by the National Basketball Coaches Association.

The Bulls have failed to reach the playoffs for the past three seasons, and have not appeared in an NBA Finals since the 1997-1998 season when Michael Jordan led the franchise to victory over the Utah Jazz.

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Dizon keys PBA restart

We had our presentation before the PBA board of governors and we showed that Clark City is a very viable location for the PBA bubble.

Bea Micaller

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Uplifting the morale of a country battered by the coronavirus pandemic was the main objective of Vince Dizon in helping the Philippine Basketball Association (PBA) restart its season.

Dizon, the deputy chief implementer of the national task force COVID-19, helped in spearheading the restart of the 45th season of the PBA so it could bring back a semblance of normalcy and revive the country’s ailing economy.

“I am involved in the national task force against COVID-19 and, as of now, our direction is towards gradually reopening our economy,” said Dizon in an interview with Sports Page late Monday.

“And we thought that what better symbol of trying to get back to normal — or new normal as they say — was restarting the most important pastime in the Philippines, which is basketball.”

True enough, Dizon played a key role in the return of the PBA.

In fact, he was instrumental in raising the idea of bringing the league’s bubble concept in Clark Freeport Zone in Pampanga through his capacity as president and chief operating officer of the Bases Conversion Development Authority (BCDA).

Aside from helping the league secure hefty discounts from the hotel, competition venue and other suppliers, the BCDA, through Dizon, would also cover the coronavirus testing, logistics, transportation and security for the 350-man delegation that would enter the bubble starting 27 September until mid-December.

After all, Clark has the medical facility, particularly its molecular laboratory and a very serviceable hospital in The Medical City.

Dizon said the former American military base is an ideal place to restart the league since it has very reliable security, well-rounded facilities, amenities and infrastructure perfect for professional basketball players.

“We had our presentation before the PBA board of governors and we showed that Clark City is a very viable location for the PBA bubble,” said Dizon, who also hosted the 30th Southeast Asian Games at the New Clark City.

“Number one, it is very secure and number two, we can provide facilities, infrastructure, health care facilities and leisure activities. We are confident that we can provide a safe bubble.”

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Celtics smell blood

I’ve always been saying that before you see the rainbow, it has to storm.

TDT

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MARCUS Smart lights a fire under the Boston Celtics in Game 3./ Michael Reaves/Getty Images/Agence france-presse

LAKE BUENA VISTA, Florida — Getting angry worked wonders for the Boston Celtics.

Their first win in the Eastern Conference finals just happened to come two nights after Marcus Smart sparked a loud and emotional series of shouting matches inside the Celtics’ locker room, all of that starting only a few seconds after the Miami Heat won to take a 2-0 lead in the series.

That lead is down to 2-1 now, the Celtics playing brilliantly in Game 3 and leading wire-to-wire to take a bunch of newfound momentum into Game 4 of the series on Wednesday night.

“I’ve always been saying that before you see the rainbow, it has to storm,” Smart said Monday, speaking about the post-Game 2 dustup for the first time publicly.

“For us, that was a storm that we had to go through. We found our happy place.”

It’s now Miami’s turn to find a happy place — though an unhappy place would seem more appropriate.

The Heat never led in Game 3, got themselves into a double-digit hole for the third consecutive game in this series and fourth straight overall, and because of a scheduling quirk now get to sit around and stew for three full off days before getting a chance to atone for what went wrong Saturday.

“Look, there are two teams competing against each other,” Heat coach Erik Spoelstra said.

“So as much as you want to say, ‘hey, it’s just about us and we just have to do X, Y and Z,’ the Boston Celtics have something to say about that. Likewise, when they’re doing whatever they’re trying to do, we have something to say about that.”

The Celtics’ anger was no secret and was displayed at least somewhat publicly: Reporters near their locker room heard the commotion after Game 2, with Smart being the one who lit the fuse.
“He’s the guy who keeps us going and keeps us inspired, keeps us being competitive,” Boston’s Grant Williams said.

“You just have to follow his lead and trust that we have a lot of guys on this team that can do a lot of great things. He’s just going to compete his butt off and we follow that standard.”

The Heat didn’t have a visible — or audible — blowup after Game 3, took Sunday off to rest physically and mentally, then got back to work Monday with a film session, on-court work and then more meetings set for the evening.

“Our spirit is right, our head is right, our energy is there, so I think we’re responding the right way,” Miami wing Jae Crowder said.

“We’re just trying to get better and trying to see how we can play a complete game, play a complete 48-minute game and be as sharp as we can be on both ends of the court. With that being said, I think we took the loss, we took the adversity in a good way. And we’re still taking it in.”

Some of the numbers posted so far in the East finals are more than a little overwhelming.

They’re also simultaneously puzzling, at least from the Celtics’ perspective.

There have been 17 instances of someone scoring to give his team a double-digit lead at some point in the first three games of the series; all 17 of those have been done by the Celtics.

The Celtics have yet to trail by more than eight, have led by as much as 20 and have been in front for 75 percent of the first 149 minutes played in this matchup.

But it’s Miami still leading the series, which is why the Celtics are seeking to show up for Game 4 with the same aggression that carried them in Game 3.

“I think each game is its own entity, so it is what it is. We’re all on the same schedule,” Celtics coach Brad Stevens said.

“We know we’re going to have to play the best game that we’ve played in Game 4 of this series to have a chance to win. That’s just the way series work. That’s the way the playoffs work. You have to get better every game.”

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Tenorio faces bubble trouble

I was experiencing anxiety knowing that I will be gone for almost three months.

Bea Micaller

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LA Tenorio (right) is doubtful over the PBA bubble. / Photograph by RIO DELUVIO for the Daily Tribune @tribunephl_rio

LA Tenorio is getting anxious over the possibility of leaving his family to enter the bubble in the resumption of the 45th season of the Philippine Basketball Association (PBA) on 9 October.

Tenorio, the playmaker of Barangay Ginebra, has yet to miss a single game since getting drafted in 2006, but the PBA bubble inside the Clark Freeport Zone could give him trouble.

“In the earlier part of the bubble discussion, I was excited because after six months, I can finally play basketball,” said Tenorio in the latest episode of The Athletes’ Tribune late Monday.

“But as discussion furthers, I was experiencing anxiety knowing that I will be gone for almost three months.”

Holding the league inside an isolated area is the most effective and safest way to restart the PBA season.

The games would be held at the Angeles University Foundation while the players would be housed at Quest Hotel for more than two months starting 27 September until mid-December if their respective advance all the way to the best-of-seven finals.

Tenorio’s college teammate, Larry Fonacier of NLEX, was the first to opt out of the bubble.

Road Warriors coach Yeng Guiao said they decided to excuse Fonacier since his wife has some health issues.

“Yes, we excused him. His wife has health issues,” Guiao said in a statement Monday.

Tenorio appears to be on the same boat.

After all, his wife — Chesca — had just given birth to their first daughter and she and their three sons need him in this time of pandemic.

Still, his family understands his situation.

“I think it will really be hard because I will be away from them for months. But I already talked to my family and they understand the situation,” he said, admitting that there are still some reservations on his mind.

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Jordan enters car racing

I’ve been a NASCAR fan my whole life.

Agence France-Presse

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Michael Jordan is set to fulfill a childhood fantasy. / FRANCK FIFE/AGENCE FRANCE-PRESSE

LOS ANGELES (AFP) — Basketball icon Michael Jordan announced Monday he has purchased a NASCAR Cup series charter team and recruited trailblazing black driver Bubba Wallace to race for the new outfit next season.

Jordan, widely regarded to be the greatest player in NBA history with an estimated net worth of $1.6 billion, will be the majority owner in the new franchise with veteran racer Denny Hamlin as minority partner.

“Growing up in North Carolina, my parents would take my brothers, sisters and me to races, and I’ve been a NASCAR fan my whole life,” Jordan said in a statement.

“The opportunity to own my own racing team in partnership with my friend Denny Hamlin, and to have Bubba Wallace driving for us is very exciting for me.”

Jordan, who also owns the Charlotte Hornets NBA team, said he hoped his ownership could bring new audiences to the white-dominated world of NASCAR and boost involvement of minorities.

“Historically, NASCAR has struggled with diversity and there have been few black owners,” Jordan said.

“The timing seemed perfect as NASCAR is evolving and embracing social change more and more. In addition to the recent commitment and donations I have made to combat systemic racism, I see this as a chance to educate a new audience and open more opportunities for black people in racing.”

Wallace, the only black driver in NASCAR, will spearhead the team behind the wheel. The 26-year-old had confirmed earlier this month that he would not race again for Richard Petty Motorsports.

Wallace has spoken out against racism repeatedly this year in the wake of George Floyd’s killing in Minneapolis, and in June called on NASCAR chiefs to ban the Confederate flag from racetracks used on the circuit.

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This is our job so we really have to do it — Tenorio on PBA bubble

Bea Micaller

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(Photo: Rio Deluvio)

LA Tenorio is getting anxious over the possibility of leaving his family to enter the bubble in the resumption of the 45th season of the Philippine Basketball Association (PBA) on 9 October.

Tenorio, the peppery playmaker of Barangay Ginebra, has yet to miss a single game since getting drafted in 2006, but the PBA bubble inside the Clark Freeport Zone could give him trouble.

“In the earlier part of the bubble discussion, I was excited because after six months, I can finally play basketball,” said Tenorio in the latest episode of The Athletes’ Tribune late Monday.

“But as discussion furthers, I was experiencing anxiety knowing that I will be gone for almost three months.”

Holding the league inside an isolated area is the most effective and safest way to restart the PBA season.

The games would be held at the Angeles University Foundation while the players would be housed at Quest Hotel for more than two months starting 27 September until mid-December if their respective advance all the way to the best-of-seven finals.

Tenorio’s college teammate, Larry Fonacier of NLEX, was the first to opt out of the bubble.

Road Warriors coach Yeng Guiao said they decided to excuse Fonacier since his wife has some health issues.

“Yes, we excused him. His wife has health issues,” Guiao said in a statement Monday.

“The team and management understand his situation. Family is always a priority.”

Tenorio appears to be on the same boat.

After all, his wife – Chesca – had just given birth to their first daughter and she and their three sons need him in this time of pandemic.

Still, his family understands his situation.

“I think it will really be hard because I will be away from them for months. But I already talked to my family and they understand the situation,” he said, admitting that there are some reservations on his mind.

“Honestly, I am thinking twice, but I think I really have to do this (not only) for the team but also as a professional basketball player.”

“This is our job so we really have to do it.”

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