Drama expected in NBA playoffs

The cast is now complete. 16 teams remain to battle for one trophy. Will the Miami Heat achieve the vaunted three-peat? Will another team take the throne this time? These questions will be gradually answered starting on Easter Sunday as the NBA playoffs unravel until the finals in June.

The San Antonio Spurs continue to defy the passage of time as last season’s finalists finish the regular season on top. Meanwhile, the youth movement rallied by teams like the Oklahoma City Thunder, Los Angeles Clippers, Portland Trailblazers, Houston Rockets, and the Golden State Warriors want to create their own legacy.

Photo Courtesy of ESPN

Photo Courtesy of ESPN

Photo Taken from Nicekicks

Photo Taken from Nicekicks

Image Source: Bleache Rreport | AP

Image Source: Bleacher Report | AP

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

The Dallas Mavericks continue to plod along with battle-hardened veterans Dirk Nowitzki and Vince Carter at the helm, while the Memphis Grizzlies had to directly eliminate the Phoenix Suns by winning on them just to take the eighth seed in a competitive Western conference. If only the Suns were playing at the Eastern conference, their above-.500 win-loss record is enough to net them the fifth seed.

Photo: Jerome Miron | USA Today

Photo: Jerome Miron | USA Today

Speaking of the east, the Indiana Pacers claimed the top seed of the Eastern conference, guaranteeing that they will have homecourt advantage until the conference finals. Their emotional playoff tussle against the Heat last season still on their minds, the Pacers prefer that the crucial game seven will be played at the Bankers Life Fieldhouse in Indianapolis in the eventuality they meet again.

Teams not expected to make a dent this season made a considerable amount of noise as the Toronto Raptors, Chicago Bulls, Washington Wizards, and Charlotte Bobcats made the most out of circumstances and the manpower that they have to be able to play in the postseason.

Image Taken from Jonathan Daniel | Getty Images

Image Taken from Jonathan Daniel | Getty Images

After a slow start, the Brooklyn Nets found their form at the turn of the year as Jason Kidd will be in the playoffs for the first time as a coach. The Atlanta Hawks experienced the opposite as after a relatively hot start they went on a free fall by the All-Star break that nearly cost them their playoff opportunity.

Expect the action to pick up in the next two months. No more easy games, no more players in autopilot. Tears will flow and blood will shed as teams sweat it out and leave their all on

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What is next for Pacquiao after Bradley?

Whatever happens in the afternoon of April 13 and whatever the result will be, Manny Pacquiao and his crew will have to decide what to do next.

Photo taken from ibtimes.com | wikimedia.org

Photo taken from ibtimes.com | wikimedia.org

A win will once again open doors for Pacquiao: a possible fifth bout with the indefatigable Juan Manuel Marquez, the pipe dream match with Floyd Mayweather, Jr… the options are limitless. However, a defeat, and a more decisive one than the one in his meeting with Timothy Bradley, will hurtle Pacman down faster than a flush in a clogged toilet.

Photo Courtesy of: bbc.com | Getty Images

Photo Courtesy of: BBC Sports | Getty Images

Image Source: Photo: Robert Beck | Sports Illustrated

Image Source: Robert Beck | Sports Illustrated

Bradley has called out that Pacquiao has lost his killer instinct and that he has gone soft. The eight-division champion wants to prove that the ferocity that brought him to the top is still there and he will show that he still has it this Sunday.

Trainer Joel Diaz and Bradley both echo the same thought – they will put the 35-year old General Santos native to pasture. It is up to them to put the bite in their bark.

As for Pacquiao, it will be like the first time he climbed the ladder a decade ago. All he needs to do is make that first step once again.

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Can New York nick a spot into the NBA playoffs? Knicks’ remaining games dissected

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The New York Knicks have four games to go to make it into the playoffs this NBA season. Aside from needing to win as many games as possible, their fate also hinges on how the Altanta Hawks fare in the homestretch as the latter hold a two-game lead for the eighth and final postseason position of the Eastern conference.

New York currently has a 33-45 win-loss card, and its next game is against Atlantic division leader Toronto Raptors on April 12, then it is the Chicago Bulls at the Madison Square Garden on the 14th. Finally, Carmelo Anthony and company make that bus trip to Brooklyn on April 16 before closing out the schedule against the Raptors a day later.

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NBA playoffs race hit the homestretch

There are only about two more weeks and less than ten games per team in the remainder of the 2013-14 NBA regular season, and the attention shifts to which teams will make the playoffs and where they end up.

2014 NBA Playoffs

NBA Photo

 

 

 

 

 

 

Battles are everywhere in the Eastern conference as a three-game winning streak by the Miami Heat and a three-match skid by the Indiana Pacers erased the same number games separating the two since they met last week. As things stand right now, the Heat gets first place by virtue of having the better winning percentage.

The Toronto Raptors and the Chicago Bulls also have the same win-loss standings as of April 1 and are locked in a battle for the third seed. They are followed by the Brooklyn Nets, Washington Wizards, and the Charlotte Bobcats, all two games apart of each other. The three are secured of their respective positions unless something drastic happens in the last few games among them.

After suffering a slump after the All-Star break, the Atlanta Hawks are threatened by the determined New York Knicks for the eighth slot with only a game separating them. Meanwhile, the Cleveland Cavaliers and the Detroit Pistons still have mathematical chances to make it to the playoffs, although they need to look at the subsequent results of the ones above them.

Over at the Western conference, San Antonio made some headway behind its franchise record setting 18-game win binge as they are now three and a half games ahead of the Oklahoma Thunder as well as two victories away from a 60-win season.

The Los Angeles Clippers, Houston Rockets, Portland Trail Blazers, and the Golden State Warriors are pretty much safe in the middle, as there is a three-way battle for the final two positions among the Dallas Mavericks, Memphis Grizzlies, and the Phoenix Suns.

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The other stars of the World Cup

In a previous article, we enumerated the top contending teams and their main players in the coming 2014 FIFA World Cup. But a good lineup goes beyond a single individual. Here are several more players from some of those top teams.

Left-Right: David Luiz, Ramires and Oscar - Photo by: Nick Potts | PA Wire.

Left-Right: David Luiz, Ramires and Oscar – Photo by: Nick Potts | PA Wire.

David Luiz, Ramires, Oscar (Brazil) – Chelsea manager José Mourinho cannot help but fall in love with his troika of Brazilians. David Luiz is a steady force on defense, while Ramires is a box-to-box reconnaissance man who can give the occasional goal, and Oscar has been a revelation since transferring to the Blues.

Andrés Iniesta, Cesc Fàbregas, Sergio Busquets (Spain) – they are the cogs that turn the Lionel Messi scoring machine in Barcelona, and they are the key members of Spain’s champion squads. Their control of the midfield frustrates opponents as their Tiki-Taka style is hard to stop.

Left-Right: Cesc Fabregas, Andres Iniesta and Sergio Busquets Image Source: EPA | Metro.co.uk

Left-Right: Cesc Fabregas, Andres Iniesta and Sergio Busquets Image Source: EPA | Metro.co.uk

Wesley Sneijder (Netherlands) – a product of the AFC Ajax football academy, he remains to be prolific even after playing for the senior squad for more than a decade now, scoring 26 goals in 97 caps. The 29-year old was subject to transfer rumors a few years ago, but he has now settled in Galatasaray where he has chipped in 11 goals and eight assists in all competitions of the club this season.

Wesley Sneijder | Photo: EPA | DANIEL DAL ZENNARO

Dutch Midfielder Wesley Sneijder | Photo By: EPA | Daniel Dal Zennaro

Manuel Neuer, Bastian Schweinsteiger, Mario Götze (Germany) – Bayern Munich is not the powerhouse club that it is without these three. Neuer is prolific between the sticks, vice-captain Schweinsteiger is an intimidating presence in the middle of the pitch, and Götze is continually showing why he was a coveted transfer last summer.

Romelu Menama Lukaku (Belgium) – Belgium is more than Eden Hazard. Ever since being loaned by Chelsea to Everton, he has had ten goals in 20 league appearances. He has also scored five goals in 27 caps for his country.

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Assessing the opposition – Gilas and Group B of 2014 FIBA World Cup

The Philippine men’s basketball still has five and a half months to prepare for the 2014 FIBA World Cup in Spain. In here, MSW assesses the group where Gilas belong.

Group B of the 2014 FIBA World CUP ( Photo from fiba.com )

Group B of the 2014 FIBA World CUP ( Photo from fiba.com )

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

The PHL team opens its campaign by meeting European team Croatia on August 30 at the Palacio Municipal de Deportes San Pablo in Seville. After that, Gilas go up against Greece, followed by Argentina.

Photo taken from: Nuki Sabio | pba.inquirer.net

Photo taken from: Nuki Sabio | pba.inquirer.net

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Action resumes after a one-day break as the Pinoy cagers face Puerto Rico on September 3, closing out the group stages against Senegal. According to men’s basketball national team head coach Chot Reyes, they have to win at least two of their matches to advance to the knockout round.

The Philippines relies on their speed and outside shooting as Reyes primarily employs a dribble-drive offense. The key here is for the penetrators to attract the defense so that they can dish it out to a perimeter player or drop it to a big man inside the paint.

On paper, the weakest team among our country’s opponents is Senegal, being the lowest ranked team in the group. Puerto Rico and Croatia are two squads that can be beaten on a splendid day by Gilas, while Argentina and Greece are both in the top ten in the world and are considered the most formidable sides of Group B.

Two players in Senegal’s 2013 FIBA Africa Championship lineup had NBA experience, Mouhamed Sene and Hamady N’Diaye. Puerto Rico, meanwhile, is expected to field in the core that finished second at the 2013 FIBA Americas Championship, such as JJ Barea, Carlos Arroyo, and Renaldo Balkman.

Croatians Roko Ukić and Damir Markota have been lined up by NBA teams, but it is Bojan Bogdanović they rely on for scoring. Vassilis Spanoulis and Antonis Fotsis are the most recognizable names coming from fellow Euro-based country Greece.

Luis Scola may be the only one who is actively playing at the NBA who was called up by Argentina for the FIBA Americas tournament last year. Still, it is expected that the South American sports powerhouse will have all hands on deck in Spain.

It is already an achievement the Philippines has gone this far. Whatever happens in this tournament and wherever Gilas finish is a matter of pride for every Filipino.

Photo Source: Nuki Sabio | Smart Gilas Pilipinas 2.0 Official Facebook

Image Source: Nuki Sabio | Smart Gilas Pilipinas 2.0 Official Facebook

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Pacquiao then and now

Manny Pacquiao has gone so far already.

He used to box for a measly sum in town fiestas, but now, the whole country and parts of the world go on a standstill whenever he fights. He used to do odd jobs just to earn a living. Compare that to today where he has a documentary about him that features celebrities and athletes lauding him and raving on his skills.

Side by side: Lanky Manny and Pacquiao Time. (Taken from jhetvanruyven.com)

Side by side: Lanky Manny and Pacquiao Time. (Taken from jhetvanruyven.com)

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Back then, he was a scrawny light flyweight who made his debut in the tv program “Blow by Blow” in his fourth professional fight. Now, he will fight this April 13 in Las Vegas, Nevada at the welterweight division against Timothy Bradley to wrestle back the belt Pacquiao used to carry.

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Between those, he has defeated the likes of Marco Antonio Barrera, Juan Manuel Márquez, Érik Morales, Oscar dela Hoya, Ricky Hatton, Miguel Cotto, Antonio Margarito, and Shane Mosley. Missing in that list is Floyd Mayweather, Jr, a big name boxer who continually evades the eight-division champion.

Before focusing on “Money” though, Manny has to hurdle past Bradley, the controversial winner in their first meeting in 2012. Still undefeated, “Desert Storm” has logged 31 wins, 12 by knockout. His most recent exploits include victories against Ruslan Provodnikov and Márquez.

Pacquiao goes by many names, from “Pacman”, “Ang Pambansang Kamao”, “The Mexicutioner”, to “The Destroyer”. His nicknames describe his fighting style, a tireless machine that goes for the kill. Despite that, the crowd chants only one name when he is on the ring: Manny.

Born in Bukidnon, grew up in General Santos, was adopted by Manila, now resides in Sarangani, and proudly Filipino, Pacquiao has represented our country well in the world stage, and he continues to be an inspiration to everyone else in the world.

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