Title-hungry upstart Suns and Bucks meet in NBA Final

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The Milwaukee Bucks bench reacts after P.J. Tucker made a three-point basket during their final game against the Atlanta Hawks on Saturday. (Jason Getz-USA TODAY Sports)
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The Phoenix Suns team celebrate after a 130-103 final game victory against the Los Angeles Clippers on June 30, 2021. (Gary A. Vasquez-USA TODAY Sports)
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Updated 05 July 2021

Title-hungry upstart Suns and Bucks meet in NBA Final

  • The Milswaukee Bucks won their only title in 1971 when legendary center Kareem Abdul-Jabbar sparked a sweep over the Baltimore Bullets
  • Phoenix Suns dropped the 1976 NBA Finals to the Boston Celtics and then again to the Michael Jordan-sparked Chicago Bulls in 1993

PHOENIX, US: Two long-frustrated franchises, the Phoenix Suns and Milwaukee Bucks, will meet in the NBA Finals starting Tuesday and one of them will put an end to an epic title drought.
The Bucks captured their only title half a century ago while the Suns have never claimed the crown since the club began play in 1968.
With star guard Chris Paul reaching the best-of-seven championship series for the first time in his 16-season career, the Suns have reached the NBA Finals for the first time since 1993.
A Charles Barkley-led Suns squad lost to the Michael Jordan-sparked Chicago Bulls 28 years ago and the Suns also dropped the 1976 NBA Finals to the Boston Celtics.
Many thought Paul, an 11-time NBA All-Star and two-time Olympic champion, was too far past his prime at 36 to spark a title run.
Instead, the poised veteran leader averaged 16.4 points, 8.9 assists, 4.5 rebounds and 1.4 steals a game for the Suns after arriving in a trade from Oklahoma City last November.
“I’ve wanted to be part of this all of my career,” said Paul, who writes “Can’t give up now” on his shoes before every game.
The Bucks had not reached the NBA Finals since 1974 and won their only title in 1971, when legendary center Kareem Abdul-Jabbar — still known then as Lew Alcindor — sparked a sweep over the Baltimore Bullets.
Greek superstar Giannis Antetokounmpo, the Bucks’ new dominating big man, has reached the NBA Finals after taking NBA Most Valuable Player honors the previous two seasons only to suffer playoff disappointment.
Whether or not the 26-year-old will be able to play, however, is another question. Antetokounmpo missed the last two games of the Eastern Conference finals after hyperextending his left knee in game four against Atlanta.
The Bucks went a league-best 60-22 in the 2018-19 campaign and won a playoff series for the first time since 2001. They reached the Eastern Conference finals and grabbed a 2-0 lead only to drop the next four games and fall to eventual NBA champion Toronto.
The next season, Antetokounmpo sparked the Bucks to a league-best 56-17 mark, but suffered a right ankle injury and missed most of the last two games as the Bucks lost to Miami in five games in the second round.
While they didn’t produce the league’s best record this season, the Bucks did reach the final despite Antetokounmpo’s injury.
“Certainly any time you lose you’ve got to be honest with yourself,” Bucks coach Mike Budenholzer said.
“When this group hasn’t been able to advance it has hurt, it has been hard and the off-season the guys have put the work in — but there’s still more to be done.”

The Bucks and Suns outlasted teams with more wins to reach the final, but only one fairy tale run is going to have a happy ending.
“This is like a storybook, going somewhere I’ve never been,” Suns star Devin Booker said. “It has been a long time coming to get to this moment. This is nice right here, but we still have work to do.”
Suns coach Monty Williams, who says he likes Booker’s “fearlessness” and killer instinct, is enjoying seeing Paul and others revel in the moment.
“I’m enjoying watching our players enjoy this moment,” Williams said. “I know how badly (Paul) wants to win.”
Booker is averaging 27.0 points, 6.4 rebounds and 4.8 assists a contest in the playoffs while Paul is contributing 18.1 points, 8.7 assists and 3.9 rebounds a game in the post-season to make the Suns bright.
Bahamas big man Deandre Ayton has 16.2 points and 11.8 rebounds a game.
The Suns will enjoy five days off before the NBA Finals opener while the Bucks will have only two.
“We’ve had kind of long, extended pauses between each round and I’m kind of excited to try it without one,” Budenholzer said. “Maybe we can be the team that’s in a rhythm. It’s a quick turn, but we’ll be ready.”
Antetokounmpo has averaged 28.2 points, 12.7 rebounds and 5.2 assists a game but has had great support from Khris Middleton — with 23.4 points, 8.0 rebounds, 5.1 assists and 1.5 steals a game — and Jrue Holiday with 17.6 points, 8.4 assists and 5.6 rebounds a game.
“To get to the finals is amazing,” Holiday said. “It’s a feeling I’ve never felt before.”
“Everybody stays ready. Everybody plays together. Everybody stays locked in,” Middleton said. “That’s all you can ask for.”
Phoenix won both regular-season games against Milwaukee but only by one point each time.


Rauf helps high-flying Pakistan beat New Zealand in World Cup showdown in Sharjah

Updated 26 October 2021

Rauf helps high-flying Pakistan beat New Zealand in World Cup showdown in Sharjah

  • Fast bowler Haris Rauf took a career best 4-22 to help Pakistan defeat New Zealand by five wickets
  • This was Pakistan’s second successive win in Twenty20 World Cup, first one was against archrival India

SHARJAH: Fast bowler Haris Rauf took a career best 4-22 to help Pakistan defeat New Zealand by five wickets and record their second successive win in the Twenty20 World Cup on Tuesday.
Boosted by their brilliant performance in the 10-wicket rout of arch-rivals India on Sunday, Rauf inspired the 2009 champions to victory in front of a boisterous Sharjah crowd mainly comprised of Pakistani expats.
Devon Conway and Daryl Mitchell both scored 27 for New Zealand, while skipper Kane Williamson made a laborious 25 off 26 balls as New Zealand were held to a below-par 134-8.
Veteran Shoaib Malik (27) and Asif Ali (26) came together with Pakistan wobbling at 87-5 and led the team to their target in 18.4 overs.

Pakistan's Shoaib Malik greets New Zealand's players after winning the Cricket Twenty20 World Cup match between New Zealand and Pakistan in Sharjah, UAE, on October 26, 2021. (AP)

Pakistan had lost skipper Babar Azam to Tim Southee — bowled for nine in the sixth over — as the paceman took his 100th wicket in his 84th T20 international.
He is only the third bowler behind Bangladesh’s Shakib Al Hasan (117 in 92 T20Is) and Sri Lankan Lasith Malinga (107 in 84) to take 100 or more wickets in the format.
Leg-spinner Ish Sodhi trapped both Fakhar Zaman (11) and Mohammad Rizwan leg-before to leave Pakistan reeling at 69-4.
In between those two dismissals, Conway produced a brilliant diving catch at wide long-off to dismiss Mohammad Hafeez who attempted to lift spinner Mitchell Santner out of the ground.
When Imad Wasim fell for 11, Pakistan still needed 47 off 31 deliveries.
It was left to Asif — maligned for his continuous failures — to hit two sixes off Southee in the 17th over to bring down the target to 24 off the last three. Malik reduced that to nine in two overs by hitting a four and a six off Santner. Asif then smacked Boult for six before hitting the winning runs.

Pakistan's Asif Ali hits a six during the Cricket Twenty20 World Cup match between New Zealand and Pakistan in Sharjah, UAE, Tuesday, Oct. 26, 2021. (AP)

It was Rauf who did much of the damage with the ball against New Zealand — sent into bat on a sluggish pitch — improving on his previous best of 3-29, also against the same opponents last year.
Pakistan applied the pressure right from the start as left-arm paceman Shaheen Shah Afridi, whose three wickets against India earned him player of the match, bowled a maiden first over.
New Zealand reached 36 without loss when Rauf bowled Martin Guptill off his pads for 17. He also accounted for Conway and Glenn Phillips (13) in one over as New Zealand failed to lift the tempo at any stage.
There were no boundaries in overs 14 to 16 as even Phillips — who hit most sixes in the T20 blast in England this year with 36 — failed to clear the boundary.
Rauf also dismissed Santner (six) with the last ball of the final over.
Shaheen finished with 1-21 while spinners Hafeez and Imad also took a wicket each.
Pakistan kept the same team that beat India.
New Zealand — playing their first game in the Super 12s — were jolted before the start of the match when fast bowler Lockie Ferguson was ruled out of the tournament with a calf injury.
Pakistan next play Afghanistan in Dubai on Friday while New Zealand face India, also in Dubai, on Sunday.


Pakistan restrict New Zealand to 134-8 in T20 World Cup match in Sharjah

Updated 26 October 2021

Pakistan restrict New Zealand to 134-8 in T20 World Cup match in Sharjah

  • Pakistan produced another disciplined bowling display
  • Pakistan were this time led by fast bowler Haris Rauf

SHARJAH: Pakistan produced another disciplined bowling display to limit New Zealand to 134-8 in their Twenty20 World Cup clash in Sharjah on Tuesday.
Boosted after their brilliant performance in the 10-wicket win over arch-rivals India on Sunday, Pakistan were this time led by fast bowler Haris Rauf who finished with 4-22.
Devon Conway and Daryl Mitchell were joint top-scorers with 27 each while skipper Kane Williamson made a laborious 26-ball 25.
Pakistan applied the pressure right from the start as left-arm paceman Shaheen Shah Afridi, whose three wickets against India earned him player of the match, bowled a maiden first over.
New Zealand reached 36 without loss when Rauf bowled Martin Guptill off his pads for 17. He also accounted for Conway and Glenn Phillips (13) in one over as New Zealand failed to lift the tempo at any stage.
Rauf also dismissed Mitchell Santner (six) with the last ball of the final over.
Shaheen finished with 1-21 while spinners Mohammad Hafeez and Imad Wasim also took a wicket each.
Pakistan kept the same team that won against India.
New Zealand — playing their first game in the Super 12s — were jolted before the start of the match when fast bowler Lockie Ferguson was ruled out of the tournament with a calf injury.


Bayern star Kimmich sparks vaccination debate in Germany

Updated 26 October 2021

Bayern star Kimmich sparks vaccination debate in Germany

  • On Saturday, Kimmich revealed he decided against being vaccinated, despite having founded the 'We Kick Corona" charity last year
  • Bayern president Herbert Hainer said he would be happy if Kimmich "still gets vaccinated, but there is no compulsory vaccination.

BERLIN: Joshua Kimmich will be under the spotlight for Bayern Munich at rivals Moenchengladbach on Wednesday amid a fiery debate in Germany since the footballer revealed he opted not to be vaccinated against Covid-19.
The 26-year-old is set to play for Bayern in a German Cup second-round tie, but off the pitch, his decision not to get vaccinated has even drawn comment from the government in Berlin.
On Saturday, Kimmich revealed he decided against being vaccinated, despite having founded the ‘We Kick Corona” charity last year.
“It’s not that I’m a denier of the coronavirus or an opponent of vaccination,” said Kimmich, who based his decision on “personal concerns.”
The footballer’s stance drew comment from Caretaker Chancellor Angela Merkel’s spokesman, Steffen Seibert, who hopes the footballer will inform himself and “let all available information about the vaccines approved in the EU sink in.”
Siebert urged Kimmich to get vaccinated because the Bayern star is “someone who is looked up to by millions” as a role model.
Kimmich appears to be in the minority among Germany’s top flight footballers.
Christian Seifert, managing director of the German Football League (DFL), has said around 94 percent of Bundesliga players are vaccinated.
Of Germany’s population of 83 million, around 66 percent are fully vaccinated, but Europe’s biggest economy is currently in the fourth wave with 10,000 new cases of the coronavirus reported Tuesday.
Since testing positive for Covid-19 last week, Bayern coach Julian Nagelsmann has been giving training and matchday instructions from home where he is quarantined.
Kimmich says he may get vaccinated in the future and team-mate Thomas Mueller hopes it will be sooner rather than later.
“As a friend, it’s an absolutely acceptable decision,” said Mueller.
“As a teammate, and if you also look a little at what might be better for everyone... my opinion is perhaps that the vaccination would be better.”
On Monday, Bayern president Herbert Hainer said he would be happy if Kimmich “still gets vaccinated, but there is no compulsory vaccination. One has to respect the decision.”
Kimmich has drawn plenty of criticism from medical experts.
“Joshua Kimmich is certainly a proven expert in matters of football, but not an expert in matters of vaccination and vaccines,” Thomas Mertens, chairman of Germany’s Standing Vaccination Commission (Stiko), told German media.
“It is the personal decision of Kimmich and it should have stayed that way.”
There is also some support.
In a statement, Carsten Ramelow, vice president of the footballers’ union VDV, said it must be “accepted if individual players have concerns about side effects of the vaccination and therefore hold a different opinion.”
The chair of the German Ethics Council also stressed the importance of respecting Kimmich’s “private decision.”
However, the council’s chairwoman Alena Buyx told Sky “I think it’s a pity. It would be great if he would have used his platform to get better advice in order to be a role model.”
Buyx is concerned skeptics could use his statements to “cast doubt over vaccinations.”


Students in Indian-administered Kashmir face terror law for cheering Pakistan win

Updated 26 October 2021

Students in Indian-administered Kashmir face terror law for cheering Pakistan win

  • Students and staff at two medical colleges being probed for celebrating India’s loss to Pakistan in T20 cricket game
  • Hundreds danced in the streets, lit firecrackers and chanted “Long live Pakistan” while seeking end of India’s rule over disputed region

SRINAGAR: Police in Indian-administered Kashmir are investigating students and staff at two medical colleges under a harsh anti-terror law for celebrating India’s loss to archrival Pakistan in a T20 World Cup cricket game, officials said Tuesday.
Police said some students and staff at the government-run colleges cheered and shouted pro-Pakistan slogans during the match Sunday night, calling it “anti-national” activity.
Pakistan crushed India by 10 wickets for its first-ever victory against its archrival in a T20 World Cup game in Dubai. Minutes after Pakistan won the match, hundreds of people in Indian-administered Kashmir danced in the streets, lit firecrackers and chanted “Long live Pakistan” while seeking the end of India’s rule over the disputed region.
The celebrations came as India’s powerful home minister, Amit Shah, was visiting the region for the first time since New Delhi in 2019 stripped Kashmir of its semi-autonomy, scrapped its statehood and removed inherited protections on land and jobs, further fueling tensions in the region.
Love of cricket, a legacy of Britain’s long colonial role of South Asia, is one of the few things that unites Pakistan and India despite their long history of animosity that has fueled three wars since the subcontinent’s partition in 1947, including two over control of Kashmir, which is divided between the two nuclear-armed rivals.
The fracas over Sunday’s match shows how easily passions can be inflamed in predominantly Muslim Kashmir, where anti-India sentiment runs deep. Rebels have been fighting for Kashmir’s independence or its merger with Pakistan since 1989.
A police spokesman said authorities on Monday registered preliminary investigations at two police stations in the city of Srinagar under the anti-terror law, the Unlawful Activities (Prevention) Act.
Police said the suspects were yet to be identified and officers were using videos of the celebrations on social media in an attempt to name them.
The anti-terror law was amended in 2019 to allow the government to designate individuals as terrorists. Police can detain people for six months without producing any evidence, and the accused can subsequently be imprisoned for up to seven years. Rights activists have called the law draconian.
Over a dozen Kashmiri students were attacked in India’s northern Punjab state for celebrating Pakistan’s victory, news reports said.
India describes the armed rebellion in the portion of Kashmir it controls as a Pakistan proxy war and state-sponsored terrorism. Most Muslim Kashmiris consider it a legitimate freedom struggle. Islamabad denies state complicity in any violence and says it only offers moral and diplomatic support to Kashmiris.
The region is one of the most heavily militarized in the world. Tens of thousands of civilians, rebels and government forces have been killed in the conflict.


Afghanistan beats Scotland by 130 runs in T20 World Cup

Updated 26 October 2021

Afghanistan beats Scotland by 130 runs in T20 World Cup

  • All of Afghanistan’s top-order batsmen were among the runs and hit big sixes

SHARJAH: Offspinner Mujeeb Ur Rahman and legspinner Rashid Khan bowled Scotland for 60 as Afghanistan started the T20 World Cup with a massive 130-run victory on Monday.
Mujeeb claimed three wickets in an over to finish with 5-20 while Rashid (4-9) ran through the tail quickly to dismiss Scotland in just 10.2 overs and raise Afghanistan’s biggest win in a T20.
Afghanistan had earlier posted a daunting total of 190-5 in its opening Group 2 match after skipper Mohammad Nabi won the toss and elected to bat.
“This was our plan, to bat first and put a big score,” Nabi said with a broad smile at the presentation ceremony. “Our openers started really well and finished the powerplay with a good score. … Everyone knows Rashid and Mujeeb are among the best (bowlers) in the world.”
All of Afghanistan’s top-order batsmen were among the runs and hit big sixes with Najibullah Zadran leading the way by scoring 59 off 34 balls.
Rahmanullah Gurbaz (46) smashed four sixes while opening batsman Hazratullah Zazai (44) hit three sixes and three fours to set the tone for a big total.
Scotland had upset Bangladesh in the qualifiers and advanced with convincing victories over first-timer Papua New Guinea and co-host Oman.
Opener George Munsey (25) started the run-chase in style by reverse sweeping offspinner Nabi for a six and a four in the first over as they raced to 27-0 in three overs.
But the wheels came off quickly in the fourth over when Mujeeb grabbed three wickets off five deliveries.
Mujeeb had Coetzer clean bowled and followed it up by trapping Calum MacLeod lbw on the backfoot off the next ball. Richie Berrington was out soon after when Mujeeb had him leg before wicket — again on the backfoot.
Recalled wicketkeeper Mohammad Shahzad then took a stunning diving catch to his right to dismiss Matthew Cross off fast bowler Naveen-ul-Haq before Mujeeb made it 37-5 in no time when he rattled Munsey’s stump in his next over.
Rashid resigned from the captaincy before the tournament, saying he had not been consulted on the team selection. But the legspinner bemused Scotland’s tailenders in a 14-ball spell by claiming four wickets to wrap up big win.
“We have been playing some good cricket to get here, but sometimes things don’t go to plan,” Scotland skipper Kyle Coetzer said. “We have to keep moving forward.”
Pakistan, which routed archrival India by 10 wickets on Sunday, and Namibia are the other teams in the same group.