Green group flags ‘overkill’ use of plastic banderitas in Manila Sto. Niño feast Truck driver killed in Davao del Sur road accident Judy Ann’s 1st project for 2020 is giving her a ‘stomachache’ In this Nov. 18, 2017 photo, Houston Rockets guards James Harden, left, and Chris Paul warm up before and NBA basketball game against the Memphis Grizzlies in Memphis, Tenn. Chris Paul has a long history of playoff heartbreak. So does James Harden. And coach Mike D’Antoni has more than either of them combined. Separately, they’ve never gotten it done at playoff time. Together, their fortunes might change. They’ve led the Houston Rockets to the NBA’s best record going into these playoffs. In a league that Golden State and Cleveland have dominated in recent years this might be the Paul-Harden-D’Antoni triumvirate that breaks through this spring. (AP Photo/Brandon Dill)HOUSTON — Chris Paul has a long history of playoff heartbreak.So does James Harden.ADVERTISEMENT The Knicks were swept by Boston in 2011, the Lakers swept by the Spurs in 2013, both of those coming in the first round. Before last season, D’Antoni hadn’t won a playoff game in nine years.“We’ve had a great regular season, but it doesn’t matter,” he said. “But what it does mean is that we’re pretty good and if we make big shots and do what we’re supposed to do … then we’ll see if we can do it.”Paul’s failures in the postseason may be even more scrutinized. The nine-time All-Star, who came to Houston in an offseason trade, has made nine playoff trips without advancing past the second round. The worst of those flops came in 2015, ironically against Houston, when Paul and the Clippers had a 3-1 lead in the conference semifinals. They got blown out in Game 5, wasted a 19-point second-half lead in Los Angeles in Game 6, then fell in Game 7 at Houston.That was then, Paul said.“It is cool when you stop and think about it,” Paul said. “But for us right now we’re trying to enjoy the moment. Trying to enjoy the process and not worry about all that stuff. Maybe after it’s all said and done you can reflect on it.”Harden knows playoff pain as well. His splendid 2016-17 season was so promising, especially after Houston routed San Antonio, on the road, in Game 1 of the West semifinals. The Spurs won four of the next five, including a 114-75 embarrassing series-clincher in Houston where Harden was held to 10 points.“These last few years I’ve learned that obviously you can’t do it by yourself,” Harden said. “You need guys to step up, make big shots, make big plays and so we have enough guys in here on any given night that can change a playoff series. So that’s what you need. That’s what puts you over the top.”Paul might be the topper Harden needed.From the moment Paul arrived in Houston, Harden raved about what he would bring to the team. After playing with him for a season, the normally reserved Harden was even more effusive in his praise of the fellow guard.“I don’t mean to sound too mushy or what-not but it was like love at first sight,” Harden said. “It was just meant to be.” Matthysse raring to face ‘legend, monster’ Pacquiao Nadine Lustre’s phone stolen in Brazil MOST READ P16.5-M worth of aid provided for Taal Volcano eruption victims — NDRRMC Scientists seek rare species survivors amid Australia flames And Mike D’Antoni has more than either of them combined.Separately, they’ve never gotten it done at playoff time. Together, their fortunes might change. They’ve led the Houston Rockets to the NBA’s best record going into these playoffs, and in a league that Golden State and Cleveland have dominated in recent years, it may not be overly surprising to see the Paul-Harden-D’Antoni triumvirate win it all this spring.FEATURED STORIESSPORTSGinebra beats Meralco again to capture PBA Governors’ Cup titleSPORTSAfter winning title, time for LA Tenorio to give back to Batangas folkSPORTSTim Cone, Ginebra set their sights on elusive All-Filipino crownWith two regular-season games left, the Rockets have already piled up a franchise-record 64 wins to secure the No. 1 seed in the Western Conference. But this group — perhaps fueled by past playoff shortcomings — knows it has much more work to do.“The ultimate goal is holding that trophy up,” Harden said. “So until we do that there’s no celebrations … we haven’t done anything yet.” D’Antoni, who’ll turn 67 next month and would be the oldest coach to win an NBA title if Houston gets it done, has revived his career in Houston. He got the Rockets to the West semifinals in his first year with them last season. And on the eve of these playoffs, D’Antoni insists he won’t spend a second thinking about all the times things went wrong in his previous postseason trips.“Zero,” he said when asked how much he thinks about his playoff failures. “Twenty-nine teams look back every year. It’s hard to win.”D’Antoni might know that better than most.In 2004-05, his Phoenix Suns won 62 games in the regular season and reached the conference finals before losing to eventual champion San Antonio in five games. The Suns advanced to the conference finals again the following year, but were eliminated by Dallas in six games. They lost in the second round in 2007, the first round in 2008.More failures followed in his stints with New York and the Los Angeles Lakers.ADVERTISEMENT Jiro Manio arrested for stabbing man in Marikina LATEST STORIES Jo Koy draws ire for cutting through Cebu City traffic with ‘wang-wang’ Lights inside SMX hall flicker as Duterte rants vs Ayala, Pangilinan anew This will be Harden’s ninth playoff appearance after three trips with the Thunder and five in Houston. He’s led the Rockets to the postseason in each of his seasons in Houston, but his failure to shine in big games has dogged him for years.Bringing a title to Houston, which hasn’t seen the Rockets hoisting a Larry O’Brien Trophy since the back-to-back crowns in 1994 and 1995, will render all those criticisms moot.“We’re all in this together,” Harden said. “That’s what it’s all about. We talk about it every single day. We’re in this together and if one fails we all fail. So we’re going to ride this thing out together.”Sports Related Videospowered by AdSparcRead Next Carpio hits red carpet treatment for China Coast Guard PLAY LIST 02:14Carpio hits red carpet treatment for China Coast Guard02:56NCRPO pledges to donate P3.5 million to victims of Taal eruption00:56Heavy rain brings some relief in Australia02:37Calm moments allow Taal folks some respite03:23Negosyo sa Tagaytay City, bagsak sa pag-aalboroto ng Bulkang Taal01:13Christian Standhardinger wins PBA Best Player award Don’t miss out on the latest news and information. View comments
Today’s tennis fans are spoiled. They have watched Serena Williams, Venus Williams, Roger Federer and Rafael Nadal, four of the best tennis players of all time, dominate the sport for a decade, winning a combined total of 60 majors in their careers. Now the four are old by the sport’s historical standards — all are at least 30, and only Nadal is under 35 — but instead of fading away like their predecessors, they’ve dragged the sport along with them. This weekend’s Australian Open finals are Grand Slam showcases of their longevity: Williams vs. Williams IX on Saturday and Federer vs. Nadal IX on Sunday. The mid-30s is past closing time for most tennis greats, and all four have declined. Combined they’ve won just one title at the last five majors. But they’ve remained remarkably competitive, regularly beating their younger peers and threatening to go all the way once more. Two of them will do so this weekend. Federer and Nadal benefited from early exits by No. 1 Andy Murray and No. 2 Novak Djokovic but also knocked out five of the top 10 seeds themselves. The Williams sisters had easier paths to the final, after many of their inconsistent younger rivals lost early. All four have looked like their best selves for long stretches at this tournament, outplaying and outlasting younger opponents.Now Serena Williams will go for an Open-era record 23rd major title, while Venus will seek her eighth, and her first since 2008. Federer will try to extend his lead over Nadal in the career major title count to four; Nadal will try to narrow it to two.By historical standards, what Nadal is doing is remarkable; what the other three are doing is almost unheard of. Federer is the oldest men’s Grand Slam finalist since Ken Rosewall more than 40 years ago. Whichever Williams sister wins will be the oldest woman to do so in the Open era, surpassing Serena’s record, first set at Wimbledon in 2015 and extended in last year’s Wimbledon.How are they defying the laws of aging? Partly, the sport has aged around them. Veterans have gotten smarter about diet, conditioning, practice and scheduling. Their biggest rivals (Angelique Kerber, Maria Sharapova, Murray and Djokovic) are themselves 29. None of them made the semifinals in Australia (Sharapova is serving a doping suspension that ends in April), but two of the other four players who did are in their 30s; the other two are 25. The next generation of players hasn’t broken through.But in large part, the four greats are the reason tennis has aged. When they were young, they dominated, and tennis seemed young. Now they’re old — and tennis is, too. All-time greats, even after they’ve been diminished by age, often remain great, as did Peyton Manning, Wilt Chamberlain and Hank Aaron. Tennis’s oldsters remain four of the main faces of the sport. Federer by himself has accomplished about as much at majors since turning 32 as has every man 27 and younger combined. By contrast, the average age of men’s major semifinalists was under 27 each year from 1987 to 2011.Andy Roddick provides an instructive contrast. He’s a year younger than Federer and has 16 fewer Grand Slams, yet he retired more than four years ago, unable to continue competing at the very top of the sport. At a press conference in Australia this week about his induction into the sport’s hall of fame, Roddick marveled that his peers were still going. “What Roger’s doing and maintaining at 35 years old, what Venus and Serena are still doing …,” Roddick said. “Everyone here is going to talk about it in every story they write for the rest of this tournament, and I still don’t know if that’s enough. It’s pretty amazing.”There’s no guarantee that this will last. No one can spot the last hurrah in advance. Rod Laver won all four majors in 1969, the year he turned 31 — and then never reached another major semifinal. Andre Agassi, at age 35, led Federer in the 2005 U.S. Open final and then never reached another major fourth round and retired a year later. Martina Navratilova reached the 1994 Wimbledon final at age 37 and then played just two more majors in a brief comeback bid a decade later. But there isn’t much sense in writing off any of this weekend’s finalists. Others have done so before and turned out to be way premature.After clinching her spot in the final, Venus Williams said aging has been good for the sport, which gets to keep its headliners headlining finals for longer. “I think people realize this is an amazing job, so it’s best to keep it,” she said at a press conference. “I think this generation is going to inspire the rest of the generations to, obviously, play a schedule that’s achievable, sustainable, and that you can play Grand Slam tennis for a long time. This is beautiful for the game because it will be able to retain its stars for a long time, which is a great business model.” After all, no matchups are easier to market than Williams vs. Williams and Federer vs. Nadal.