NBA sees seven of the eight first-round matchups set

Oklahoma City Thunder and Miami Heat play during the first half of an NBA basketball game on Aug. 12, 2020, in Lake Buena Vista, Florida. (Kevin C. Cox/Pool Photo via AP)
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Updated 13 August 2020

NBA sees seven of the eight first-round matchups set

  • In the Western Conference: Houston and Oklahoma City will meet in the first round
  • In the East, Miami and Indiana will meet in the first round

LAKE BUENA VISTA, Florida: The NBA playoff bracket is nearly set.
Wednesday’s results filled in five of what were the six unknown matchups for Round 1 of the postseason, which starts next week at Walt Disney World.
In the Western Conference: Houston and Oklahoma City will meet in the first round, meaning Rockets guard Russell Westbrook and Thunder guard Chris Paul get the chance to face their former teams.
“It’ll be interesting,” Paul said. “Two teams that know a lot about each other. We’ll prepare, get ready and we’ll see what’s what.”
Other West matchups that got clinched on Wednesday include the second-seeded Los Angeles Clippers against No. 7 Dallas, and No. 3 Denver against No. 6 Utah.
In the East, Miami and Indiana will meet in the first round — after the clubs close the regular season on Friday against one another to decide which team will be seeded No. 4 and which will be No. 5.
Indiana’s win over Houston on Wednesday set what had been the last two unknown series on the East bracket. No. 3 Boston will play No. 6 Philadelphia in a meeting between longtime rivals, and the Pacers are now locked into an East opening series against the Heat — with the potential of those teams playing nine times in a span of 10 games.
Miami beat Indiana on Monday. The teams meet again Friday then face off in Game 1 to begin a best-of-seven series early next week.
That means, for just the second time since 2011, teams that end the regular season against one another will open the postseason against one another. The last time it happened was 2016, when Cleveland faced Detroit.
“It’s good to know that we play them,” Heat coach Erik Spoelstra said. “Just need to figure out what uniform we’re wearing.”
That will be decided Friday, when home-uniform advantage gets decided.
“We’ve got to match Miami’s energy,” Indiana’s Edmond Sumner said. “That’s a team that’s going to play hard for 48 minutes.”
The other East matchups were known previously: No. 1 Milwaukee plays No. 8 Orlando, and No. 2 Toronto plays No. 7 Brooklyn.
In the West, Houston and Oklahoma City will be in the 4-5 matchup and Utah will be the No. 6 seed. The Jazz were locked into that slot by the Thunder defeating Miami, and Denver became the No. 3 seed when they lost to the Clippers.
The full list of matchups won’t be known until at least Saturday, when the West play-in series begins with Portland, Memphis, Phoenix and San Antonio bidding for those two spots. The winner of that series will take on the top-seeded Los Angeles Lakers in the first round, the only matchup that’s yet to be determined.


Valcke and Al-Khelaifi brace for ‘Fifagate’ corruption trial verdict

Updated 5 min 36 sec ago

Valcke and Al-Khelaifi brace for ‘Fifagate’ corruption trial verdict

  • Prosecutors have called for a jail term of three years for Valcke, a 28-month sentence for Al-Khelaifi, who is also president of beIN Media
  • Valcke was the former right-hand man of disgraced FIFA President Sepp Blatter,

LAUSANNE, Switzerland: Former FIFA No. 2  Jerome Valcke and Paris Saint-Germain President Nasser Al-Khelaifi will discover Friday if their roles in the “Fifagate” scandal, regarding alleged corruption in the allocation of World Cup TV rights, are damning enough to land them a stretch behind bars.

That is when the Swiss Federal Criminal Court of Bellinzona, which conducted 10 days of hearings in September, will announce the verdict on the two men, along with Greek businessman Dinos Deris.

Prosecutors have called for a jail term of three years for Valcke, a 28-month sentence for Al-Khelaifi, who is also president of beIN Media, and 30 months for Deris — with partial suspension in all three cases.

It will be the first judgement handed down in Switzerland, the seat of most international sports organizations, in the 20 or so proceedings opened in the last five years involving FIFA. Two former Latin American football leaders have been jailed in the US.

Valcke, the former right-hand man of disgraced FIFA President Sepp Blatter, was on trial on two charges related to his quest for money to maintain what Federal Prosecutor Joel Pahud called a “spendthrift” lifestyle.

Al-Khelaifi is included in the first charge.

BACKGROUND

It will be the first judgement handed down in Switzerland, the seat of most international sports organizations, in the 20 or so proceedings opened in the last five years involving FIFA.

The public prosecutor’s office said Valcke sought the Qatari’s help in the summer of 2003 to buy a luxury villa in Sardinia, at a time when beIN, a Qatari-owned broadcaster, was negotiating the extension of its media rights in North Africa and the Middle East for the 2026 and 2030 World Cups.

The prosecutor said Al-Khelaifi acquired the house for five million euros ($5.85 million), via a company that was transferred almost immediately to the brother of one of his close collaborators, before it was made available to Valcke.

The two men denied a “corrupt agreement” and said the deal was a “private” arrangement, unrelated to the contract concluded by beIN with FIFA in April 2014.

The prosecution said Valcke committed to “do what was in his power” to ensure beIN would win the contract and should have declared the Villa Bianca deal to his employers. They said he had been pressured by Al-Khaleifa to damage FIFA’s interests illegally.

The defense argued that the trial was “muddied” by the revelation of informal meetings between former Swiss attorney general Michael Lauber and current FIFA president Gianni Infantino.

Lauber resigned from his post in July and both men are under investigation for suspected collusion.

Al-Khelaifi’s lawyers have told AFP that the charges against their client are “clearly artificial.” 

The Swiss prosecutors had to drop a charge of corruption because of an out-of-court settlement in January between Al-Khelaifi and FIFA, which then withdrew its complaint against him.