Warriors on brink of NBA title as Andrew Wiggins punishes Celtics

Andrew Wiggins delivered a huge performance for the Warriors at both ends of the court, shooting 12-of-23 while hauling in 13 rebounds with two steals and a block. (USA TODAY Sports)
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Updated 14 June 2022

Warriors on brink of NBA title as Andrew Wiggins punishes Celtics

  • Wiggins seizes control to lead a balanced Golden State offensive effort
  • The Warriors can clinch the championship when the series heads back to Boston

SAN FRANCISCO: Andrew Wiggins scored 26 points as the Golden State Warriors battled past the Boston Celtics 104-94 to move within one win of a seventh NBA championship crown on Monday.
With Stephen Curry having a rare off-night after his 43-point game four heroics, Wiggins seized control to lead a balanced Golden State offensive effort which leaves the Warriors 3-2 up in the best-of-seven series.
Wiggins delivered a huge performance at both ends of the Warriors’ Chase Center court, shooting 12-of-23 while hauling in 13 rebounds with two steals and a block.
The Warriors can clinch the championship when the series heads back to Boston for game six on Thursday.
“We have two cracks at getting one win, but we also know how difficult it’s going to be,” Warriors coach Steve Kerr said.
“Nobody’s celebrating but we are excited to be in this spot and we want to take advantage of it.”
Kerr led the tributes for Wiggins, the Canadian former No.1 draft pick who has steadily become an integral part of the Warriors set-up since joining the franchise two years ago.
“He loves the challenge. He loves the competition. And he’s found such a crucial role on our team, and I think that empowers him,” Kerr said. “He knows how much we need him, so he’s been fantastic.”
Wiggins led the Warriors scorers while Klay Thompson provided support with 21 points including five three-pointers. Gary Payton II (15 points) and Jordan Poole (14) both made double-digits from the bench.
Curry, the Warriors’ talisman and front-runner for NBA Finals MVP, chipped in with 16 points but shot only 7-of-22 from the field, going 0/9 from three-point distance.
It was the first time in Curry’s playoff career he has failed to score a three-pointer and the first time he has drawn a blank from beyond the arc in any NBA game since 2018.
“I think Steph was probably due for a game like this,” Kerr said. “But we’ve got a lot of talent and a lot of depth that can make up for that, and the guys did a good job of that tonight.”
Warriors star Draymond Green, who had an improved performance despite fouling out in the fourth quarter, said Curry’s display was good news for Golden State.
“He’s going to be livid going into game six, and that’s exactly what we need,” Green said.
Jayson Tatum led Boston’s scorers with 27 points while Marcus Smart added 20 and Jaylen Brown 18.
But the Celtics, who effectively marked Curry out of the game for long periods, were left ruing another high turnover count of 18 compared to just six from Golden State.
Boston had threatened to produce a repeat of their stunning game one win in San Francisco during a rampant third quarter display in which they outscored the Warriors 35-24 before fading in the fourth quarter.
Celtics coach Ime Udoka lamented his team’s inconsistent form from one quarter to the next.
“That’s the thing — (what) we’re not having throughout a full game is consistent efforts, sustained effort, more so offensively than anything,” Udoka said.
“That’s the part where we got to have carryover, not only game to game but quarter to quarter, where we saw it happened in the third but not the fourth.”
Boston’s electrifying burst of second-half scoring wiped out a 12-point Warriors advantage after the first two quarters.
After a superb Golden State defensive performance in the first half, Boston had been restricted to just 39 points to trail 51-39 at the break.
But the Celtics flipped the switch after the interval, erasing Golden State’s advantage in a matter of minutes with back-to-back Tatum three-pointers to get within two at 51-49.
Smart drained another three soon afterwards to tie the game at 55-55 before Al Horford rained in another triple — Boston’s eighth straight three-pointer — to give the Celtics their first lead of the game at 58-55.
Boston would go on to lead by five points at 66-61 — a 17-point turnaround from half-time — but the Warriors dug deep to respond.
Poole’s buzzer-beating three-pointer put the Warriors ahead 75-74 heading into the final period.
The Warriors regrouped in the fourth quarter, Wiggins driving home a layup to launch an unanswered 10-0 run by the home team that gave Golden State a hefty 11-point advantage at 85-74.
From there the Warriors never looked like surrendering the initiative and Wiggins would go on to score 10 points as the Warriors slammed the door to close out a deserved win.

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Djokovic makes winning return to ATP action in Tel Aviv

Updated 19 sec ago

Djokovic makes winning return to ATP action in Tel Aviv

TEL AVIV: Novak Djokovic, playing a singles tournament for the first time since winning Wimbledon in July, reached the Tel Aviv quarter-finals on Thursday with a straight-sets victory over Spain’s Pablo Andujar.
Djokovic eased to a 6-0, 6-3 win over his 115th-ranked opponent in 86 minutes, firing 30 winners and breaking Andujar four times.
It was the fewest games Djokovic has lost in any match this season.
He was always in control against his Spanish rival who he has now defeated three times, taking control of the match by winning the first seven games.
“The first match started off in a perfect way for me,” said Djokovic, who last played in Israel as a teenager 16 years ago in a Davis Cup tie.
“I won seven games in a row and we were fighting in that eighth game (which took over 20 minutes to complete).
“It was one of the longest games I’ve ever played in my life and I’ve played many, many games in my life. But credit to Pablo for fighting and playing a great match as well.”
Former world number one Djokovic hasn’t played a singles event since capturing a seventh Wimbledon title 10 weeks ago after his refusal to get vaccinated ruled him out of the US Open and the entire American hardcourt swing.
His only other appearance had been in the Laver Cup team tournament in London last week.
It was there that he saw long-time rival Roger Federer retire from the sport.
However, the 35-year-old Djokovic, now ranked at seven in the world, insisted on the eve of the Tel Aviv event that retirement was not on his agenda.
“I still want to play tennis even though I achieved pretty much everything that you can achieve in tennis,” said Djokovic, whose 21 Grand Slam titles is just one short of Rafael Nadal’s men’s record of 22.
“I still have passion and hunger to play at a highest professional level.”
Djokovic, showing no sign of the right wrist trouble which bothered him in London, will face Canada’s 149th-ranked Vasek Pospisil in Friday’s quarter-finals.
The Serb boasts a 5-0 career record over the 32-year-old Canadian.
Pospisil reached the last-eight by eliminating Israeli qualifier Edan Leshem 6-3, 6-2.
France’s Arthur Rinderknech saved a match point to clinch a 6-3, 2-6, 7-6 (9/7) win against third seed Diego Schwartzman.
The world number 58 will next play Roman Safiullin.
British qualifier Liam Broady stunned fifth seed Botic van de Zandschulp 6-4, 4-6, 6-3 to set up a meeting with second seed Marin Cilic.

Injury-hit Barcelona visits Mallorca with hole in defense

Updated 29 September 2022

Injury-hit Barcelona visits Mallorca with hole in defense

  • After a spate of injuries that has decimated Barcelona over the international break, Xavi may have a huge hole in his defense ahead of Sunday’s game at Mallorca
  • Barcelona will also be without midfielder Frenkie de Jong and forward Memphis Depay

BARCELONA, Spain: When Xavi Hernández oversaw the remodeling of Barcelona’s squad this summer, the coach made sure he was so well covered at right-back that his club could afford to loan out US defender Sergiño Dest to AC Milan.
But after a spate of injuries that has decimated Barcelona over the international break, Xavi may have a huge hole in his defense ahead of Sunday’s game at Mallorca.
Jules Koundé, Ronald Araújo and Héctor Bellerín, who have played at right back this season, are all out for an undetermined period of time. Koundé and Araújo, who can play at center back as well, were hurt while playing for France and Uruguay, respectively, in games to prepare for the World Cup in November. Bellerín hurt his left leg while training for Barcelona.
That leaves Barcelona waiting to see if veteran Sergi Roberto can recover from a muscle problem that has sidelined him for three weeks in time for the trip to the Balearic Islands.
If not, Xavi may be forced to shoehorn a player with little or no experience at right back into the position, draft a player from Barcelona’s youth team, or opt to play with three centerbacks and two wing backs.
Barcelona will also be without midfielder Frenkie de Jong and forward Memphis Depay after they were both hurt while playing for the Netherlands. Neither has been a first-choice player for Xavi this season.
Of the injuries, Araújo’s appears to be the most serious. The 23-year-old defender underwent surgery this week in Finland to repair an abductor muscle in his right thigh that he damaged in Uruguay’s 1-0 loss to Iran on Friday.
Over the next three weeks, Barcelona face two Champions League group games against Inter Milan and a clásico against Real Madrid on Oct. 16.
The only good news for Xavi is that Robert Lewandowski returned in perfect shape from his stint with Poland. The striker leads the Spanish league with eight goals in six games.
Mallorca, coached by Mexican Javier Aguirre, has lost 12 of the last 13 visits by Barcelona to their stadium. Their only win during that stretch came in 2009 with Barcelona already crowned the league champion.
BENZEMA BACK
Karim Benzema is back for Real Madrid after recovering from a tendon injury and a strained muscle in his right thigh that had kept him off the field for over three weeks.
Benzema led Madrid to the Champions League and Spanish league double last season after scoring 44 goals in all competitions.
But his team have not missed him much and have kept up their perfect record this season of nine wins in as many games in all competitions.
Carlo Ancelotti’s side leads the league by two points ahead of Barcelona before they host fifth-placed Osasuna on Sunday.
“I’m feeling very good, comfortable. I’m looking forward to the game on Sunday,” Benzema said. “We’ve got a great team, although it could be said that we’ve got two teams. There’s no difference between those who start the game and those who come on.”
Meanwhile a struggling Sevilla faces a tough test when they visit Atlético Madrid on Saturday. Pressure is growing on coach Julen Lopetegui and the club’s leadership, which sold off talented players this summer, after the team have won just once in eight games overall.
Third-place Real Betis play at Celta Vigo on Sunday, while fourth-place Athletic Bilbao host Almería on Friday.


No respite for Bayern players with Leverkusen game looming

Updated 29 September 2022

No respite for Bayern players with Leverkusen game looming

  • Bayern coach Julian Nagelsmann welcomed Germany players Thomas Müller, Joshua Kimmich, Leroy Sané, Jamal Musiala and Serge Gnabry back
  • Bayern’s players took their poor form to the Germany team

BERLIN: The international break provided little respite for Bayern Munich’s struggling stars ahead of the team’s high-stakes Bundesliga game against Bayer Leverkusen on Friday.
Bayern coach Julian Nagelsmann welcomed Germany players Thomas Müller, Joshua Kimmich, Leroy Sané, Jamal Musiala and Serge Gnabry back to training on Wednesday after what proved to be a frustrating two games with the national team.
The rain they encountered in Munich matched the mood.
Bayern, after four games without a win in the Bundesliga, had been hoping that Germany’s Nations League games against Hungary and England would help reinvigorate their players and restore confidence ahead of a busy schedule of domestic and Champions League games.
Instead, Bayern’s players took their poor form to the Germany team, which lost 1-0 at home to Hungary, then drew 3-3 with England after throwing away a two-goal lead.
Bayern captain Manuel Neuer and midfielder Leon Goretzka missed the Germany games due to coronavirus infections, but both were back on the training field for Nagelsmann on Tuesday.
Nagelsmann had said he was going to use the break to think “about everything” after Bayern ended their run of three draws with a loss in Augsburg, the team’s first defeat of the season.
Only a convincing performance on Friday will ease the pressure on the coach, who seemed to be at a loss to explain his team’s slump. Bayern next face a visit to Borussia Dortmund for “der Klassiker” the following weekend.
Leverkusen also need to make amends after their disappointing start. Gerardo Seoane’s team are in crisis after just one win from seven league games so far.
“Both teams are in a similar situation – each at their own level. Both are dissatisfied with the results, but both also show many positive signs,” Seoane said.
“Bayern Munich had an incredible number of scoring chances in every game. We don’t need to talk about quality.”


Qatar: COVID-19 vaccinations not compulsory for World Cup fans

Updated 29 September 2022

Qatar: COVID-19 vaccinations not compulsory for World Cup fans

  • All visitors aged over six would have to produce negative COVID-19 tests before taking flights to Qatar for the tournament

DOHA: Coronavirus vaccinations will not be mandatory for the million-plus fans going to the World Cup in Qatar this year, authorities in the Gulf state said on Thursday.

All visitors aged over six will have to produce negative COVID-19 tests before taking flights to Qatar for the tournament that starts November 20, the authorities said in new health guidelines.

The 29-day tournament will be the first major global sporting event with fans since the eruption of the Covid pandemic in December 2019.

The Qatar organizers and world football’s governing body FIFA have said they want the event to be a sign that the world is getting over the devastating pandemic.

But they have warned that health guidelines will change if the threat blows up again.

Fans will have to wear masks in public transport in Qatar and anyone who tests positive for Covid-19 “will be required to isolate in accordance with Ministry of Public Health guidelines,” the health ministry said.

The ministry added that it may force players, referees and officials to stay in a secure “bio-bubble” if coronavirus cases take off “to allow for the safe operation and continuation of the event.”


Pakistan fast bowler Naseem Shah tests positive for COVID-19

Updated 29 September 2022

Pakistan fast bowler Naseem Shah tests positive for COVID-19

  • Shah was discharged from hospital on Thursday after being diagnosed with pneumonia
  • Shah played only one game in 7-match series against England at Karachi before being rested

LAHORE: Pakistan fast bowler Naseem Shah has tested positive for COVID-19 and will miss the remaining two Twenty20s against England, the Pakistan Cricket Board said on Thursday.

Shah was discharged from hospital on Thursday after being diagnosed with pneumonia and the PCB said the fast bowler was feeling “much better.”

“Shah is back in the team hotel where he will follow all COVID-19 protocols,” the PCB said in a statement.

Pakistan is due to leave for New Zealand next Monday to participate in a triangular Twenty20 series also featuring Bangladesh.

The PCB didn’t clarify whether the fast bowler will accompany the team to New Zealand.

Shah played only one game in the seven-match series against England at Karachi before being rested. He returned expensive figures of 0-41 off his four overs in the first match, which England won by six wickets.

He was admitted to hospital late Tuesday night in Lahore with a chest infection and fever.

Pakistan leads the series 3-2 with back-to-back narrow wins at Karachi and Lahore in the last two games as England couldn’t chase down below-par totals.

The remaining two matches will be played on Friday and Sunday at Lahore.