Some supporters have been critical of their style of play, and they’ve failed to score in four out of their last seven matches in all competitions.But they can replace Leicester at the top of the Premier League when they play the leaders tomorrow.
“It was incredible it wasn’t a penalty in the first half (for the foul on Rodri in the box) but VAR said it wasn’t and then at the end they did.”Tottenham manager Mauricio Pochettino shared a touchline conversation with Guardiola immediately after the goal was disallowed and after the match the Argentine joked he was “in love with VAR”.“I didn’t agree when we started to talk about VAR, but sometimes you get the benefit like today and in the Champions League (last season),” Pochettino said.“Of course it is difficult to accept because we love the football from 30 years ago where it was more the decision of the referee – sometimes unfair things happen but at the end of the season we find a good balance.“But we need to accept a different era and technology is in football now. We need to accept that today it is a benefit for us and when it is against us we have to deal with it with patience.” Premier League VAR Manchester, United Kingdom | AFP | Pep Guardiola called for VAR to be “fixed” after Manchester City were denied a last-gasp winner in their dramatic 2-2 draw against Tottenham on Saturday.Guardiola’s side failed to win for the first time in 16 Premier League games dating back to last season as a result of the latest VAR row.The champions thought they had stolen the points when Gabriel Jesus fired home in stoppage-time, only for the goal to be disallowed for handball after a replay review showed Aymeric Laporte had flicked the ball on with his arm.It was the second time City have been frustrated by VAR against Tottenham following last season’s Champions League quarter-final second leg when Fernando Llorente scored for Mauricio Pochettino’s team despite a potential handball, while Raheem Sterling had what would have been the winner ruled out for offside.“I thought we left that situation in Tottenham in the Champions League last season. But it is the same. The referee and VAR disallow it. It’s the second time it’s happened. It’s honestly tough but it’s the way it is,” Guardiola said.“It happened last week with Wolves (against Leicester) and we saw for Chelsea on Wednesday — the keeper wasn’t on his line — Adrian in the penalty shoot-out. They have to fix it.“The whistle inside matches now isn’t quite clear. But they believe it’s hands with Llorente in the Champions League and sometimes they don’t. Share on: WhatsApp
By John BurtonMIDDLETOWN – Recent terrorist attacks in France have stunned and outraged everyone, with members of the local Islamic community joining the condemnation of such acts.The Islamic extremists’ attacks on the Paris offices of French satirical magazine Charlie Hebdo that left 11 dead and 11 others wounded Jan. 7 and other violent attacks in France in its aftermath have been condemned by Reda Shata, the imam, or religious leader, of the Islamic Society of Monmouth County.“This is 100 percent against the Muslim faith,” Shata, an Egyptian, said through an interpreter in an interview with The Two River Times on Tuesday.Shata joined some members of the mosque at 496 Red Hill Road to talk a little about their faith, current events and where they and their religion stand on the acts of violence, following their regular Tuesday night prayer service.Shata regularly visits other mosques to conduct services and discussions. Following the events in France earlier this month, Shata, in a mosque in New York expressed his objections to the violent acts and the faith’s overall aversion to violence, said Ayman El-Sawa, a Highlands resident and member of the Middletown mosque who served as Shata’s interpreter.And Shata would offer his condemnation when he held regular prayer services at this site on Friday, Jan. 23, and invited The Two River Times to attend, according to El-Sawa.“Islam is the most against killing of any religion,” the imam maintained. But the media and many others concentrate on the actions of less than 1 percent of Muslims who embrace an extreme radicalism, he said. “What makes it sad is that the media and everyone else listens to the 1 percent,” Shata continued.The Quran states the only justification for killing is a punishment under rule of law for killing or other extreme violent acts, explained Mohammed Wasim Khan, Old Bridge, a mosque member and Quran scholar. Khan quoted a Quran passage which states “whoever kills a soul…it is as if he’s slain mankind entirely.” Conversely, the passage continues, “And whoever saves one – it is as if he has saved mankind entirely,” Khan noted.“On the other hand,” Shata noted, “we believe insulting the Prophet, no one agrees with,” referring to the magazine’s pejorative illustration of the Prophet Mohammad, believed to have instigated the violence.“Any disrespect to him is painful to us,” Shata added.But Shata still believed the response shouldn’t have been violence. At a recent service Shata told worshippers: “Whoever wanted to defend Mohammad should do it with Mohammad values,” meaning peacefully.The correct response should have been with discussions, peaceful demonstrations and writing letters to publications. “There are hundreds of ways,” said Tarek Sharaf, Piscataway.“Human life is more sacred than the Kaaba,” Sharaf said, quoting the Quran, referring to Islam’s most sacred mosque in Mecca, Saudi Arabia.“People should get to know each other,” as a way of hopefully preventing additional bloodshed, Sharaf continued.“We don’t want people to judge us by the 1 percent,” of their faith who embrace violent extremism, Shata added.The Islamic Society of Monmouth County has been at its Red Hill Road location for about 25 years. It has roughly 1,500 members, mostly from Monmouth County, but also coming from northern New Jersey and from New York to attend prayer services and community activities, according to Shata, who has been with the mosque for 10 years.New Jersey has “no less than 1 million” Muslims, said Shata, noting only New York, Michigan and Illinois having larger populations.
AB de Villiers brings World Cup experience to the team. (Image: AB de Villiers) Jacques Kallis is the Proteas’ top batsman. Hashim Amla looks to improve his ODI strike rate. (Images: CSA Facebook Page) MEDIA CONTACTS • Lerato Malekutu Communications, Cricket South Africa +27 11 880 2810 or +27 82 813 4078 RELATED ARTICLES • New campaign to power SA’s Proteas • More international cricket for SA • SA to host women’s cricket challenge • Koertzen still in the gameBongani NkosiThe Proteas, South Africa’s national cricket squad, will look to pull off a much better campaign in the upcoming World Cup, and squad selectors say they are confident all the right players have been roped in to take the team to glory.The team will soon head to the Asian sub-continent to battle it out in the International Cricket Council‘s (ICC) one day international (ODI) tournament, which starts on 19 February and ends on 2 April. It will take place at sports grounds in three countries – India, Sri Lanka and Bangladesh.The recently announced final squad comprises 15 players who are all top performers in their respective domestic teams and for the Proteas.“The squad consists of seven specialist batsmen, three specialist spin bowlers and four specialist seamers, with Morne van Wyk providing wicket-keeping cover as well as an extra top-order batting option,” selection convener Andrew Hudson said.Jacques Kallis, a top batsman for the Proteas, has been declared fit to play after suffering a side strain and bruised rib during a test match against India in January. The final result was a draw, but the two centuries Kallis secured earned him the Player of the Test Award.His score of 109 not out in the final match was his 40th test century, while the double century scored in the first test in December 2010 was Kallis’s maiden in a glittering international career spanning 15 years. “Cricket South Africa’s medical committee is happy with Kallis’s progress and he will be ready to play a full role with both bat and ball from the start of the tournament,” Hudson said.The veteran all-rounder nicknamed “The King” is one of seven specialist batsmen who South Africa will look to, to score multiple runs. He will partner with experienced international campaigners like Proteas captain Graeme Smith, as well as Hashim Amla, AB de Villiers and JP Duminy.Left-handed batsman Colin Ingram has made it into the final squad, as well as recent ODI debutant Faf du Plessis. “I am very happy with Faf du Plessis’s debut and form. He gives us a leg-spinning option as well and is an outstanding fielder,” said Hudson. Du Plessis managed to score 60 runs on debut in the third ODI match that South Africa lost by two wickets to India. The ODI series between the two countries is currently under way and will be concluded on 23 January at SuperSport Park in Pretoria. India has won two matches and South Africa one.Spin magic from Tahir Pakistan-born cricketer Imran Tahir looks set to be a significant player for South Africa. The Nashua Dolphins champ is now eligible to play for the Proteas after being granted South African citizenship by naturalisation.Tahir, a highly acclaimed spin bowler, has made it into the World Cup squad even though he’s never played an ODI. The leg-spinner, who’s played extensively in England and also featured for Pakistan, is one of the top-ranking bowlers in the South African franchise’s current season.“It is not a worry that Tahir has not played an ODI yet,” Hudson said. “His record in domestic cricket both in South Africa and England speaks for itself. We know exactly what he offers us.”There have been two more specialist spinners added to the team, Proteas T20 captain Johan Botha and Robin Peterson, who will no doubt help keep the opponents’ runs at bay. “The selection of three specialist spin bowlers is essential for the conditions we expect to encounter at the World Cup,” added Hudson.Four top seamersFast bowler Lonwabo Tsotsobe has been one of the brightest stars of the current ODI series. Taking four wickets for 22 runs against India on 15 January was a career highlight and made him one of only two South African cricketers to ever pull off such a feat. The other was former skipper Shaun Pollock.After such a convincing performance with the ball, it was a disappointment when the Proteas lost the match by a single run.Tsotsobe also took four wickets in the first match of the series, when India was crushed by 135 runs.The lad from Port Elizabeth is one of four fast bowlers who have been selected to increase the fortunes of the Proteas in the World Cup. The evergreen Dale Steyn and Morne Morkel, as well as youngster Wayne Parnell, complete the bowling attack troop.Kenya and ZimbabweIn total, 15 national teams will lock horns in the ICC World Cup, with Zimbabwe and Kenya also representing Africa.Pakistan, Sri Lanka, Bangladesh and India carry the hopes of their fellow citizens on the Asian continent; while Australia, New Zealand, Canada, England, West Indies, Netherlands and Ireland will also offer some tough competition.South Africa will start their campaign on 24 February in New Delhi when they take on the West Indies.After bombing out in the semi-finals in the last ODI World Cup in 2007, the Proteas will be looking to win the tournament for the first time.• New campaign to power SA’s Proteas
WATCH: Streetboys show off slick dance moves in Vhong Navarro’s wedding Lervin Flores jumps over three people! Perfect 50! #NCAASeason93 pic.twitter.com/B1s93NQCeh— Randolph B. Leongson (@RLeongsonINQ) September 1, 2017FEATURED STORIESSPORTSWATCH: Drones light up sky in final leg of SEA Games torch runSPORTSSEA Games: Philippines picks up 1st win in men’s water poloSPORTSMalditas save PH from shutout #KicksStalker: High schooler LaMelo Ball gets signature shoe Don’t miss out on the latest news and information. MOST READ The Kapampangan forward also relished winning the title on his second try after losing last year to champion Yankie Haruna.“Without Yankie, I really took the opportunity to be a champion,” he said.Justin Gutang pys a tribute to last year’s dunk champ Yankie Haruna, gets a 45. #NCAASeason93 pic.twitter.com/Krsnuhjm7a— Randolph B. Leongson (@RLeongsonINQ) September 1, 2017ADVERTISEMENT Photo by Tristan Tamayo/INQUIRER.netLervin Flores jumped over Renato Ular, host Andrei Felix, and judge Empoy Marquez and hammered the tomahawk dunk to win the Slam Dunk contest in the 2017 NCAA All-Star Friday at Filoil Flying V Centre in San Juan.The Arellano forward scored a perfect 50 in the Finals to outlast St. Benilde’s Justin Gutang and Ular.ADVERTISEMENT LATEST STORIES UPLB exempted from SEA Games class suspension Kammuri turning to super typhoon less likely but possible — Pagasa LOOK: Venues for 2019 SEA Games View comments Brace for potentially devastating typhoon approaching PH – NDRRMC “I really prepared hard for it. I was thinking in the final round to jump over (Eugene) Toba, but he lost, so I just convinced myself to be firm. I was also thinking to jump over (Elie) Ongolo Ongolo,” kidded Flores, who was undoubtedly enjoying his time with his dance celebrations to pump the crowd. Gutang paid tribute to Haruna in his championship slam with a 360 flush while wearing Haruna’s jersey, which got him a 45.Ular, meanwhile, failed to make his ambitious off-the-glass dunk in the championship and settled for 30.Flores topped the first round after completing an off-the-bounce two handed reverse to nab a 45.Letran’s Renato Ular makes his dunk, gets a 45. #NCAASeason93 pic.twitter.com/dVjVAdXjY5— Randolph B. Leongson (@RLeongsonINQ) September 1, 2017Also joining the competitions were San Beda’s Toba, JRU’s Jed Sarmiento, Lyceum’s Yancy Remulla, EAC’s Rustan Bugarin, San Sebatsian’s Allyn Bulanadi, Perpetual’s Kervin Lucente, who all missed their dunk attempts in the first round.The competition was judged by Alab Pilipinas coach Jimmy Alapag, reigning ABL Local MVP Bobby Ray Parks, celebrities Marquez and Ria Atayde, and NCAA Press Corps president Cedelf P. Tupas of the Philippine Daily Inquirer. SEA Games in Calabarzon safe, secure – Solcom chief Catriona Gray spends Thanksgiving by preparing meals for people with illnesses Typhoon Kammuri accelerates, gains strength en route to PH Trump talks impeachment while meeting NCAA athletes PLAY LIST 01:07Trump talks impeachment while meeting NCAA athletes00:50Trending Articles00:50Trending Articles01:37Protesters burn down Iran consulate in Najaf01:47Panelo casts doubts on Robredo’s drug war ‘discoveries’01:29Police teams find crossbows, bows in HK university01:35Panelo suggests discounted SEA Games tickets for students02:49Robredo: True leaders perform well despite having ‘uninspiring’ boss02:42PH underwater hockey team aims to make waves in SEA Games Read Next For the complete collegiate sports coverage including scores, schedules and stories, visit Inquirer Varsity.
neil: LOLchris.herring: Not just Hood, either. Zach Collins played his butt off, too, in Game 6 and stepped up in a way I didn’t expect.All this while the Nuggets’ bench did almost nothing on the night.That’s kind of been the story of the entire series, really. neil (Neil Paine, senior sportswriter): The elephant in the room is how eerily similar to last year this is playing out. The Warriors were in the same spot Houston is, down 3-2, with the opponent suffering a key injury. (That time it was Chris Paul who was out, and Golden State stormed back, obviously.)chris.herring: Right.natesilver: At the same time, although Harden disappeared down the stretch run for Game 5 and that wasn’t great, I think Houston gets a little bit too much grief. Beating the KD-less Warriors is still a big feat — remember, they won 73 games without KD! — especially at Oracle Arena.chris.herring: It’s just that Houston had erased a 20-point Warriors lead and taken the lead on the road, with KD out of the picture, and Steph struggling. If you win that game, you’re up 3-2 with a chance to close it at home. They can still do it, but now they have to come back instead of merely going in for the kill.neil: We often talk about the seeming inevitability of Golden State winning these past few years. But if they win again, that fourth quarter will be looked back at as a turning point of sorts, I think. A place where they made their stand as the season could have begun slipping away. Curry even started to get things rolling in that fourth quarter, after a brutal series for the most part.natesilver: I don’t know — the whole game felt like Golden State’s to lose. The first half in particular was wide-open and sloppy, which you’d think was the Warriors’ jam more than Houston’s.chris.herring: Just a couple of really clear things that killed the Rockets. Paul has never shot that poorly in a playoff game. Kevon Looney basically became PJ Tucker for a night, with all the offensive rebounds. The bizarre, fluke play at the end of the game.natesilver: Sometimes I wonder if these analytics-heavy teams don’t emphasize offensive rebounding enough. Of course, they’ve spent way more time looking at the data than I have. But certain types of situations increase offensive rebound percentage more than others, and it can be a hidden source of value.chris.herring: Maybe it was just GSW’s game to take unless the Rockets took it from the Warriors, which goes to Nate’s point about the game having been in Oakland.I’m just really stuck on the “What if?” of that outcome. What if that was the last game at Oracle, potentially, and the Rockets could close this out tonight at home? The hype surrounding tonight would be insane.I guess similar to last year, when Houston had a 3-2 lead but without Paul.neil: It’s worth noting that with KD on the court in the series, the Warriors are +8.8 per 100 possessions; without him, they’re -6.2. So this injury really does add a huge late wrinkle to what was already a mega-interesting series.chris.herring: I know the Warriors have won championships without KD and have even played stretches without him since he joined the team. But I do think it’s interesting that they’d gotten so used to relying on him this postseason.He’d led them in scoring for eight straight games.neil: He also completely changes HOW they play. They run so many more isolations with KD.chris.herring: Even for Steph and Klay, going from that to having to do it all themselves again is a shift.gfoster: Obviously, Curry and Thompson will need to step up on the offensive side to make up for that lost production — and both have been pretty so-so if not bad. But without DeMarcus Cousins and with a thin bench, I wonder how this affects them defensively. How do you think both teams adjust?chris.herring: I would assume the Warriors are going to start Looney without Durant there.You don’t have a ton of options, really.But the Rockets can shade their defense a lot differently without Durant in the mix.natesilver: I guess the one thing about Golden State is that with both KD and Steph out there — and Klay! — there are probably some diminishing returns in terms of being able to get good looks. Meaning, KD won’t hurt quite as much as if they didn’t have another super-high-usage player (Curry) and another super-efficient player (Thompson). Maybe there’s less margin of error against Houston’s defense, though.neil: If the Warriors’ lack of depth was ever going to finally catch up to them, it’s now.natesilver: Yeah, what I really worry about for GSW is the bench units. Curry still doesn’t look exactly right, and if you’re playing him 42 minutes, or whatever, that probably isn’t great.But also not great if you’re playing him 38 minutes and have 10 minutes of a pretty terrible lineup.gfoster: Likewise, Draymond Green gets into foul trouble again, and it’s even more complicated.chris.herring: It’s pretty wild to consider how inevitably we talk of the Warriors winning it all again when an injury like this — one that keeps him out the remainder of the series, but not for the entire playoffs — is so consequential.neil: The flip side, though, is how they still have a good chance to win without a top-five player. Any other team loses a player of KD’s stature and it’s sorta over.natesilver: For the past several seasons, our model has usually had Golden State at about 50 percent to win the championship when the playoffs begin. Sometimes a little higher, sometimes a little lower. Either way, though, that’s a long way from 100 percent.chris.herring: I’m interested to see how Paul responds tonight. And to see whether Tucker is a pest again the way he was in Game 4.He’s not a big-time offensive player, but Tucker not having to guard KD all game long could open things up for him, too.neil: Tucker, Paul and (weirdly) Austin Rivers seem to be the bellwethers for Houston. When they play well, the Rockets have won. Harden, on the other hand, has been pretty even in production between wins and losses this series.natesilver: Which is usually how it works, Neil. 😉 But I agree. This is one of those series where I think basically every game was the deserved outcome, notwithstanding some of the foul controversies in Game 1.neil: Well, my point is that it hasn’t exactly been Harden abnormally taking over games to will Houston to their wins. (To the extent that 35 points per game is just normal for him, haha.)natesilver: I agree, it’s been the entire game plan working. And I don’t think the game plan really worked in Game 5.gfoster: The Trail Blazers and Nuggets will play Game 7 in Denver. Game 7s in the NBA playoffs strongly favor the home team: Nearly 80 percent of them have gone to the home side. How are Portland’s chances of being in that 20 percent group?neil: You would think that number would be even higher in Denver’s favor because the Nuggets have such a strong home-court advantage.natesilver: We actually have Denver at “only” 76 percent, so a bit lower than the historical norm, and we account for the fact that teams at altitude have a bigger home court-advantage. But the home team in Game 7 is by definition the higher seed, and the thing about the Nuggets is that they aren’t as strong as a typical highly seeded team.chris.herring: The Blazers’ chances are wonderful if they can get one more game of bench production like the one they just got in Game 6.neil: Rodney Hood! He knows a new contract is coming. Averaging 16.2 PPG in this series.It was also big for Dame Lillard to get hot from three again like he was against OKC.chris.herring: This tweet blew me the hell away: natesilver: If Zach Collins and Enes Kanter and Rodney Hood are having breakout games … maybe that just means that Denver isn’t very good?chris.herring: The Nuggets haven’t been able to take Nikola Jokic off the court at all.gfoster: I wonder how much fatigue will begin to play a factor, which we have obviously seen in these long series. Dame looks a little gassed no?natesilver: Jokic has also looked gassed at times, except that’s how he always looks so it’s hard to read too much into it.chris.herring: Dame hit some ridiculous shots yesterday — both of the “he’s in a different area code” sort of way, and one where he was falling over and just threw something up and got it go down anyway.natesilver: Did we discuss the four-overtime game? I thought some of the player usage decisions were pretty ridiculous, in terms of teams not incorporating their benches more.neil: Yeah, there were some wild minute totals being recorded in that game. Jokic played 65 minutes!natesilver: Most ever in a playoff game.chris.herring: Yeah. Mike Malone said he needs to trust his bench a bit more.gfoster: C.J. McCollum played 60. Dame played a relatively breezy 58.chris.herring: It’s been tough. Denver’s backup point guard, Monte Morris, who in my opinion was one of the two or three most consistent bench players in the league, has scored 4, 3, 0, 2, 6 and 0 in this series.And trusting a bench that is consistently giving you negative returns whenever Jokic takes a breather … there isn’t time to watch negative returns roll in!It’s the playoffs. Every minute is huge.natesilver: Random aside, but it does seem like teams that are dependent on a PG or a C can have more problems with their depth than a look at their roster might imply. If your star is a SG or SF or maybe a PF, you can slide guys around a lot more and give the team different looks. It’s hard to replace a guy like Jokic, though, in way that’s fluid with your overall gameplan.neil: Yeah, there’s a lot more benefit to versatility in the middle of basketball’s “defensive spectrum” (or whatever we’re calling it).chris.herring: 100 percent, Nate.neil: Both ends call for more specific skills that aren’t as easily replicated when your star needs a breather.natesilver: This is also sort of an interesting problem with on/off statistics. If certain types of players make roster construction harder, and lead to worse lineups when they’re off the floor, a lot of the +/- stats will mistakenly give them credit for that.chris.herring: There was that game to start the playoffs that Denver lost, where Jokic took only nine shots. I was close to writing an entire story about that notion.They’ve done a much better job making sure he’s constantly involved in everything since then. They just have a limited bench.I still wouldn’t like their chances in the next round. But if KD takes a while to come back, at least they’d be playing another thin team in GSW, assuming the Warriors find a way to get one of the next two.gfoster: Moving to the East, Philly staved off elimination and will go back to Canada for Game 7 — and they didn’t get booed (that much) by their home fans, so that’s big. Obviously, this was a big game for Ben Simmons and Jimmy Butler, but Joel Embiid posting a +40 in 36 minutes while only scoring 17 is absurd.neil: Philly’s Big 3 were amazing in Game 6. They finally got it all together at once.chris.herring: I thought Simmons was the story of the night.natesilver: While Embiid’s +40 stood out in Game 6, I noticed that Simmons has had a positive rating in every Philly win so far in the playoffs and a negative one in every Philly loss.chris.herring: Exactlynatesilver: gfoster (Geoff Foster, sports editor): After a lopsided and — let’s face it — largely uninteresting first round, the second round of the NBA playoffs is delivering on its promise. We have only one team that’s already punched its ticket (Milwaukee). Philadelphia and Portland were each able to force a Game 7 last night with clutch wins at home, but let’s start with the Golden State-Houston series, which resumes with Game 6 in Houston tonight. The extent of the Kevin Durant injury is not totally known, but we do know he is out for the remainder of this series. This possibly devastating news was likely a little bit easier to swallow for Golden State fans considering that many people (including myself) looked at that noncontact injury Wednesday and assumed he injured his Achilles.Does this give Houston a legitimate shot to take this series? Or did they blow a crucial opportunity by not stealing Game 5 when KD went down?chris.herring (Chris Herring, senior sportswriter): Both.If they lose the series, they’re going to kick themselves for what happened in Game 5. But that said, they still have a decent shot to pull the upset. The margin for error is so much less now without KD there. They have to play well enough on offense while hoping that either Steph Curry or Klay Thompson are simply ineffective for a game or two. Steph reached down deep and remembered who he was in that fourth quarter, but it’s not inconceivable to me that Houston takes advantage of this.natesilver (Nate Silver, editor in chief): It absolutely gives them a shot. Golden State was basically the equivalent of half a star player better than the rest of the top tier (Houston, Milwaukee, Toronto). Take that player away, and they’re probably a half-step behind instead. Without KD, they’re underdogs in a neutral-court series against all of those teams. HOWEVER, the Warriors only need to win one of the two remaining games to close out against Houston, and one of those games is at home, so they’re still overall favorites (64 percent favorites, more precisely) to win the series. natesilver: Historically, lots and lots of players have learned to shoot the three, especially recently.neil: Yeah, especially big men, I suppose.chris.herring: I legitimately can’t believe Jason Kidd is still in consideration for jobs when he convinced Giannis (and Jabari Parker) not to shoot threes anymorenatesilver: But with Simmons, his free-throw percentage is pretty bad, and he’s bad on long twos, so that does suggest there might be something structurally wrong with his shot.chris.herring: Anyway, I think the Raptors should be fine at home. The series has showcased a number of swings in either direction. If they keep Simmons out of transition, Kyle Lowry doesn’t lay an offensive egg at home, and Kawhi Leonard is himself, I think they’ll be OKgfoster: Kristaps Porzingis aside, was there a bigger trade deadline move than Toronto getting Marc Gasol? I suppose we could point back to Rodney Hood.chris.herring: Gasol was tailor-made for this series, and the matchup with Embiid. He’s not nearly as talented, but he can hold his own with a player who otherwise would have had a chance to break this series open.(Although it’s fair to point out that Embiid has also had, like, three different illnesses this series, somehow.)natesilver: It’s a pretty high-leverage Game 7 in that whichever team loses isn’t going to feel at all good about its season. Not like, say, Portland, which to be honest can be pretty happy even if they get blown out in Denver.chris.herring: That’s certainly true.neil: And this is the point where both teams’ seasons ended last year, too. So they couldn’t even point to a second-round berth as progress.gfoster: Does Brett Brown keep his job if Philadelphia loses?natesilver: I don’t think so.chris.herring: I’d like to think he *should* be safe with a loss, since the series made it seven games. But the owner has been pretty clear in saying that he wanted to see progress with how all-in the Sixers just went. And losing in the second round again, technically, wouldn’t be progress.natesilver: I know Philly has a bunch of weird fits, but Occam’s razor is that a team with Embiid, Simmons, Butler, Tobias Harris and JJ Redick ought to be VERY good, even with no bench.chris.herring: We talked about it before, but I don’t know if I could blame Brown for not getting more out of a group that hasn’t spent that much time together. Especially with Embiid being less than healthy this series. But I’m also not the one making multimillion-dollar decisions in these trades, hirings and firings.neil: Yeah, even though it wouldn’t surprise me at all if they went in a new direction, it would feel a little unfair given the fit and the lack of cohesion.natesilver: I do sort of wonder if they trade Simmons if they lose.gfoster: Does Butler return if they lose?chris.herring: The city of Philadelphia will riot if they don’t bring Butler back.neil: 🔔chris.herring: He’s been fantastic at times, and it’s clear how much he cares about winning. I think the better question is whether they’ll bring Harris back — and if so, at what money.Butler is fascinating because of the mileage he has on his body. But the fans will legitimately be furious if they don’t bring him back.neil: I’m always shocked at how young Butler is. He feels like he’s been around forever.natesilver: Who they would trade Simmons for is a tricky question, because his salary is still pretty low next year. On Twitter the other day, I suggested that an interesting trade might be Simmons straight up for the No. 2 or 3 overall pick, and everyone semed to hate that.chris.herring: A Simmons trade could immediately improve the playoff outlook of the team, but he’s also so young to where it’s very easy to see how and where he could improve. But it’s part of the reason why I’d at least like to see him experimenting with a jumper during games. You really can’t go entire postseasons without so much as even attempting a shot outside the paint. And playing center on a team with Embiid won’t work long-term.natesilver: Because he’s only making like $8 million next year, though, it’s hard to trade him for a veteran talent without having to package him with someone else and messing up your books. So if you could trade him for a young point guard, and actually use Butler as your primary ball handler in a lot of lineups, that might be interesting.chris.herring: It’s easy to say in hindsight, but having Landry Shamet still would have been massive for this team. You also have the question of what to do with a player like Redick — one of your few floor-spacers — once his deal ends this summer.gfoster: Speaking of next season’s plans, I wanted to touch on Boston quickly, who was knocked out this week by Milwaukee (who we haven’t even mentioned). What is going to happen with that team? Does Kyrie Irving stay?neil: What a miserable end to the series (and probably his Celtics career) for Kyrie.chris.herring: I just want to reiterate here: I think Milwaukee can, and probably will, win the whole thing this year.The Bucks haven’t gotten quite enough credit for taking care of business. We wrote the piece about the Celtics having shut down Giannis in Game 1 — and then didn’t mention them again. The Bucks have been impressive as hell.neil: If the Rockets hold court at home in Game 6, the Bucks will be the only team to advance in less than seven games. (And they did it in five.) Although idk how much that says about the Celtics.chris.herring: But Kyrie … who knows with this guy?natesilver: Good news, New York: Kyrie Irving is now officially enough of a headcase to play for the Knicks!neil: LOL, Nate.chris.herring: I don’t think you can go as far as to say that Kyrie burned bridges with the Celtics. But there were so many odd moments where he seemed to be talking about his teammates and what all they needed to do when it wasn’t clear that Kyrie had the stature to say those things.What I mean by that: If you aren’t all the way in, and you waffle on the idea of being somewhere long-term, it looks weird if you readily critique your younger teammates, who probably feel just as invested, if not more invested, as you are. So it was interesting to see Terry Rozier say that he felt he dealt with BS all season. It was interesting to see Jaylen Brown’s many faces on the bench as their season was winding down.natesilver: It’s still hard to see him coming back. I mean, he hasn’t been that subtle about conveying his intentions. Which doesn’t mean he couldn’t change his mind later.chris.herring: It was interesting to hear Al Horford admit that the Bucks reminded him of his 60-win Hawks team, but with a legitimate superstar. And it was interesting to watch Kyrie have a horrible shooting series in which he said he should just take more shots to shoot himself out of the slump.Yeah. I think he’s gone. Knick fans had to be ecstatic at how that all played out.natesilver: It’s also not clear how much Boston wants him back. Certainly the fans have turned on him. His teammates don’t love him. He doesn’t provide that much value relative to the max contract. I’m pretty bullish on Kyrie, but he’s not a huge bargain.chris.herring: Aside from wanting to make up for whatever this season was, I don’t know why Kyrie would return to Boston at this point if he feels over the whole situation.gfoster: I think Kyrie’s status in Boston is contingent on whether the Celtics pursue Anthony Davis, right? Wouldn’t he stay in that scenario?chris.herring: I never understood why he committed to staying as the season was starting. But the fact that he did, if he doesn’t actually want to be there, doesn’t mean he should still follow through with it. I think they’ll likely pursue Davis regardless of Irving.natesilver: Mayyybee not, Geoff? A lot of the other teams that Kyrie might go to could also put together a decent offer for AD.chris.herring: The challenge there is if Irving is gone/leaving, you would have a pretty bare cupboard to entice Davis to stay. Because he’ll be a free agent pretty soon, too.natesilver: By this point next week, we’ll know who has the No. 1 overall pick, too.chris.herring: That was the risk the Celtics waged by trading for Irving in the first place. (They gave up a banged-up Isaiah Thomas, so it wasn’t a huge risk. But still.)This risk would likely involve Jayson Tatum and other important pieces. You’d have to make sure Davis wanted to be there before pulling that trigger, I’d think.natesilver: If push comes absolutely to shove, the Celtics still have Tatum and Brown on cheap deals, a ton of extra draft picks and a good coaching/scouting/analytics staff.So that’s a fair bit of assets to fall back on. It might make you a little more risk-averse, even though Danny Ainge has a reputation as a gambler.gfoster: So under the new lottery rules, the Knicks, Cavs and Suns each have a 14 percent chance at landing Zion Williamson. The Bulls are 12.5 percent, Atlanta 10 percent, Wizards 9 percent.natesilver: Which is the most annoying scenario? That he ends up in Cleveland, maybe?gfoster: Yes. Has to be.neil: Yet ANOTHER Cavs No. 1 pick would be hilarious.gfoster: It’s like when the Edmonton Oilers won the lottery in four out of six years. (hockey reference!!)chris.herring: Maybe I’m too much of a purist? The idea of them winning a fourth lotto in such a tight window would be insane (and maybe depressing on some level, because it feels like incompetent ownership would be gifted with a star yet again). But I also think it would make the Cavs interesting. That said: If he goes to the Hawks, that would be kind of fascinating — perhaps the most interesting fit of the teams with a realistic chance.neil: Trae Young + Zion, let’s GOOOOOO.chris.herring: If he goes to the Knicks, the hype will be like something I’ve never seen in my lifetime. Especially with the KD/Kyrie rumors having been out there, too.gfoster: I do like the idea of Ja Morant on the Knicks.natesilver: Would you trade him for Anthony Davis, though?chris.herring: Will give a lot of voice to the idea of the Knicks swapping the No. 1 pick for a Davis package or somethingnatesilver: WOULD YOU DO IT, CHRIS, IF YOU’RE THE KNICKS?!?gfoster: All-caps questions need answers.chris.herring: LOL.neil: Yeah, I feel like the bottom part of this chat has just been Nate angling to get AD, KD and Kyrie on the Knicks.chris.herring: If I had a really strong sense that I was going to get Durant and/or Kyrie, I would be fine with that. If it was just Davis, and no pieces around him, no. I don’t trust the Knicks enough to truly build it from the ground up, with a single star player in place.Hopefully that makes sense and won’t get me stoned by the Knick fans who read this.natesilver: I’m reading Knicks message boards where people are like “Mitchell Robinson is too good to trade for Anthony Davis.”chris.herring: He’s not. But man, it would be great to hold on to him if you could.Especially if you’re giving them Zion/the first pick. Kevin Knox and Frank Ntilikina, you’d feel more comfortable giving away.natesilver: Yeah, I think Zion for Davis is at least fair value for New Orleans, considering that he really just has one year left on the contract. So if the Knicks are giving up a bunch of other stuff too, I start to not like the trade.gfoster: All right, the lottery is Tuesday, so next week we will have more developments to discuss in this weekly 2018-19 Playoffs/Wild Knicks Speculation chat. Enjoy the conclusion of the second round!Check out our latest NBA predictions. chris.herring: Simmons had 21 points in Game 6, but had only managed 33 TOTAL in Games 2-5.natesilver: I guess that isn’t hugely surprising, but still — Simmons is one of the ultimate “can’t live with him, can’t live without him” players.neil: And one narrative of these playoffs has been about whether Simmons truly fits into Philly’s group, especially long-term. He’s been under a LOT of scrutiny and criticism.chris.herring: I think it’s somewhat unlikely that he has a repeat performance in Game 7 on the road. But even if they can get 15 or so from him on halfway efficient shooting, it’s massive.We know what he is for now.natesilver: I was sorta-kinda persuaded by the argument that his natural position is as a stretch center.chris.herring: But I think that’s part of what works against him in these playoffs: If you keep him and Philly out of transition, he’s going to struggle to score, and he’s going to clog the paint in that dunker’s spotI really loved that story, too, Nate — and was going to find a reason to post it in here.neil: “A bigger and more athletic version of Draymond Green with more scoring ability”chris.herring: And in a way, that’s what he did yesterday.natesilver: I think he’s become a bit underrated at this point. Like, even if you concede the argument that he and Embiid are a bad fit together, if I’m one of the 29 other GMs, I’d be looking for a way to buy low on Simmons.chris.herring: He scored off a couple putbacks. And he scored on fastbreaks. Your challenge is that you can game-plan him during the playoffs as an opposing defense.The fact that he isn’t a jump-shooting threat whatsoever — like, we KNOW he’s not going to shoot — makes him different in that sense than a Draymond, or a Giannis Antetokounmpo. It puts more pressure on the other guys to find ways to score while playing defenses that take advantage of that.But he’s still really, really good.natesilver: If Simmons shot a Giannis number of threes, could he shoot at Giannis’s percentage? It’s not that high a bar to clear.chris.herring: Nah, I’ve watched him warm up several times before. Whereas most NBA players, at any position, can knock down a handful of threes without much trouble, it doesn’t come natural for Simmons at all.natesilver: Hahachris.herring: You’re more likely to see him miss five or six triples in a row than you are to see him hit three or four out of 10 when he’s warming up wide-open.natesilver: Do you buy the theory that he’s shooting with the wrong hand?chris.herring: I think it’s a real possibility, yes. When you watch him shoot with his right hand, it looks more natural than with his left.And I said it on Twitter recently: I think Giannis will be a league-average shooter from three next year.neil: Is perimeter shooting a skill that a player can learn to at least be competent at with enough work? I guess Giannis is a weird comparison point because his best 3-point percentage in a season was still the 34.7 percent he hit as a 19-year-old rookie.
On these lists you’ll find all the old standbys but probably some surprises, too. Kyle Lowry’s performance last year put him the 97th percentile, well within the mark we’d expect to find for the best player on a championship-caliber team. The Toronto Raptors team around him just wasn’t up to that level.You’ll also notice that four members of the San Antonio Spurs appear on these lists, while just one member of the Miami Heat does: LeBron James. The Heat were something of an outlier last season as Dwyane Wade, the team’s second-best player, had an SPM that placed him in the 82nd percentile, more than a standard deviation less than the average second-best player on finals teams. In fact the average SPM percentile rank of the Heat’s three best players last season — James, Wade and Mario Chalmers — was just 82. On only six of the 40 finals teams in this sample did the three players have a lower average mark. By comparison, the average SPM percentile rank of the Spurs’ three best players last season was 92nd.Which brings us to the 2004 Pistons, the championship team often acknowledged as lacking a transcendent star. But this perception is a misconception. No players on the team were dominant individual scorers, sure, but the Pistons’ best players performed at levels of elite stardom. Their three best players that season — Ben Wallace, Rasheed Wallace and Chauncey Billups — had SPM marks that placed them in the 95th, 95th and 92nd percentiles, respectively. In fact, the average of the trio’s SPM percentiles that season ranks higher than that of all but five of the 40 teams in this sample. The 2004 Pistons may have been starless in terms of the subjective ways we define the term, but by objective measures of performance, they had as much star power as nearly any championship-caliber team of the last 20 years.This should bring hope to teams like the Warriors, Grizzlies, Raptors and Wizards. We may not see Andrew Bogut, Mike Conley, Marc Gasol, Kyle Lowry or John Wall as the kind of stars who can help lead a team to the finals. But each has been at or near that level of production in the past. If the teams around them can provide the necessary support, the fact that they aren’t dominating scorers or sneaker-selling heroes won’t stop them from winning championships. You need stars to win championships. It’s one of the oldest pieces of NBA conventional wisdom, and every year it’s validated as another star leads his team to the title. So far this year the Golden State Warriors, Memphis Grizzlies, Toronto Raptors and Washington Wizards may hold some of the top spots in each conference while seemingly lacking the celestial requirements for championship contention. But at some point they’ll be overtaken by the Cleveland Cavaliers, Chicago Bulls, Houston Rockets, San Antonio Spurs or Los Angeles Clippers.It’s an idea that gains more credence every time an NBA analyst trots it out. Bill Simmons asks, “Can you win an NBA Championship if Carmelo Anthony is your best player?” Jeff Caplan wonders if a team “lacking a legit superstar” like the Grizzlies or the Indiana Pacers can really win it all. NBA.com roundtables lead off with questions like, “Can a team win it all nowadays without an MVP-type superstar?” The starless 2004 Detroit Pistons are often acknowledged as the exception that proves the rule.What we do know for sure is that it takes an elite team performance to win a championship, and elite teams are usually (but not always) driven by elite players. The problem is that there is no objective definition of what makes somebody a suitable enough star to win championships. Dwyane Wade didn’t have the experience to lead his team to a title … until he did just that in the 2006 NBA Finals. After his playoff struggles in 2006 and 2007, Dirk Nowitzki clearly couldn’t help his team break through … until he did in the 2011 finals. Often we don’t recognize the players who meet our imagined championship threshold until the second before they cross it.But the data — the data holds some answers. We can use it to look at the rosters of teams that made the finals and better understand just how good their best players were. Using Statistical Plus-Minus — an estimated measure of a player’s value in points per 100 possessions relative to the league average — I looked at where each finals player ranked, relative to the league, in the season his team made the finals.The table at left covers the past 20 seasons and shows the average, minimum and maximum SPM percentile for the first, second and third-best players on finals teams.That bottom row is not the fabled 2004 Pistons. It’s the 1999 New York Knicks, who made their way to the finals as an eight seed during the lockout-shortened season. Only two other finals teams over the past 20 seasons had their best player rank below the 90th percentile in SPM — the 2010 Boston Celtics and the 2000 Indiana Pacers.So the best teams are indeed almost always driven by the best players. But who are those players? Let’s use last season as an example. The table below shows SPM percentile ranks from 2013-14. The table is color-coded, separating the players into two groups: those who are within one standard deviation of the average for the best players on NBA Finals teams for the 1994-95 through 2013-14 seasons, and those who just missed the cut.1Percentile ranks are for players who played at least 115 minutes, a pool of about 200 players per season.
Maybe Corey “Philly” Brown just needed his coach’s permission. Three days after Buckeyes coach Urban Meyer said – only half kidding – that the junior wide receiver is “allowed to make a guy miss,” Brown answered Meyer’s call with one of the biggest plays in Ohio State’s biggest victory of the 2012 season. Brown returned a punt 76 yards for a touchdown roughly five minutes into the third quarter, putting OSU up, 49-31, against Nebraska Saturday night at Ohio Stadium. The highlight-reel worthy play all but sealed the now-No. 8-ranked Buckeyes’ 63-38 win against the then-No. 21-ranked Huskers. At the same time, the touchdown showcased the skills Meyer has wanted to see from his should-be playmaker all season. “The thing I’m looking for from Philly is, we need some explosiveness in this offense,” Meyer said last Wednesday. After going down on contact and failing to run past defenses through five games, Brown said he was pleased with the “explosiveness” he displayed during the return. He deferred credit to his teammates after the game, though. “Basically they made the perfect blocking and made it easy for me,” Brown said. “The blocking was so good all I saw was me and the punter. I knew I had to make just one person miss and change the game.” Brown said he knew he had to make a play as he jogged onto the field and prepared himself for the return. Not just because Meyer had been imploring him to, but due to the way the game had been hanging in the balance. OSU was up 11 points at the time, but the Buckeyes had not yet had a lead bigger than two scores. Nebraska’s offense – after scoring with relative ease through two-and-a-half quarters – just had its first three-and-out possession of the second half. Brown said he saw an opportunity to change the way the game was flowing, as did his coaches. “Going out there, I knew I had to make a play. (OSU running backs coach Stan Drayton) was in my ear, he was in my face, telling me I had to change the game,” Brown said. After the game, Meyer and many other OSU players claimed Brown’s return, along with the interception sophomore cornerback Bradley Roby returned for a touchdown in the first quarter, were the plays of the day. “We do a ceremony after the game (and) let some guys talk who performed well, and every one of them to a man said that,” Meyer said of the praise Brown received from his teammates. Brown’s performance Saturday night didn’t just include the special teams touchdown. He had three catches for 35 yards and was the only Buckeyes wide receiver with a reception. On OSU sophomore quarterback Braxton Miller’s 72-yard touchdown run in the second quarter, it was a block from Brown that sprung the OSU sophomore quarterback. “Philly Brown probably turned (the game around),” Miller said. Yet again though, Brown gave credit to his teammates before accepting any praise of his own. “We had a couple punts leading up to (Miller’s run), and having someone like Braxton to excite the crowd – because the crowd kind of got out of it and everything – having someone like Braxton to be able to make a play like that, (to) get us into the game, being able to score was good,” Brown said. While Brown has trouble accepting praise from the media, he will gladly accept praise from his head coach with a smile. “It’s always good to be one of (Meyer’s) guys,” Brown said. “He told me he loved me, I told him I love him, I appreciate him. He’s turning most of the wide receivers’ careers around, basically.” Brown has been arguably the most consistent wide receiver on OSU’s roster. He has 35 catches on the season, the most on the team. The junior said he’s grown tremendously since the start of the season and that he is “learning now” every day. Still, Brown said he knows there is plenty of room to improve, with Meyer’s call for more broken tackles near the top of his things to do list. “I’ve just got to get better using my vision, speed and obviously, like (Meyer) said, break some tackles,” Brown said.
Watford managed to beat Newcastle United 2-1 at home and Javi Gracia insisted that especially the first-half performance was great and his team deserved the win for their amazing effort at the home stadium.The Spanish coach claimed that his team had enough chances to kill the game before the half-time whistle as they missed a penalty as well – but they were leading just 2-0 and the Magpies were close to equalizíng the game.The Watford manager spoke about this tough win as he said, according to Chronicle Live:Jose Mourinho is sold on Lampard succeeding at Chelsea Tomás Pavel Ibarra Meda – September 14, 2019 Jose Mourinho wanted to give his two cents on Frank Lampard’s odds as the new Chelsea FC manager, he thinks he will succeed.There really…“We played better in the first half. We could have killed the game and missed a penalty.”“After that, Newcastle played better and created chances to draw the game but we were a bit luckier than in the last games, where we didn’t have it. I’m very pleased to achieve the objective and I am proud of my players.”“Many times we have lost points [late on] and this was an important game. We needed the points and the players showed a good attitude, character and desire, and for that, I’m very happy.”