Nuggets take 3-0 lead over Timberwolves, Knicks dominate Cavs

Denver Nuggets center Nikola Jokic (15) shoots next Minnesota Timberwolves' Karl-Anthony Towns, left, during the first half of Game 3 of an NBA basketball first-round playoff series in Minneapolis. (AP)
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Updated 22 April 2023
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Nuggets take 3-0 lead over Timberwolves, Knicks dominate Cavs

  • The Hawks clawed back to 2-1 after dropping the first two games against the Celtics in Boston with a 130-122 triumph

LOS ANGELES: The Denver Nuggets, fueled by a Nikola Jokic triple-double, beat Minnesota 120-111 on Friday to take a 3-0 stranglehold on their NBA Western Conference playoff series as the New York Knicks and Atlanta Hawks notched big home wins.

The Knicks had Madison Square Garden rocking with a dominant 99-79 victory over the Cleveland Cavaliers that put New York up 2-1.

The Hawks clawed back to 2-1 after dropping the first two games against the Celtics in Boston with a 130-122 triumph.

Atlanta crucially avoided falling into a 3-0 hole — a deficit no NBA team has ever recovered from to win a best-of-seven series.

And that’s exactly where Western Conference top seeds Denver have the Timberwolves after two-time reigning NBA Most Valuable Player Jokic’s seventh career playoff triple-double.

Jokic scored 20 points with 11 rebounds and 12 assists, and when he was limited by foul trouble in the third quarter his teammates kept the pressure on.

Michael Porter Jr scored 25 points to lead six Nuggets players in double figures and Denver’s reserves out-scored the Timberwolves bench 29-10.

They kept the Timberwolves at bay despite a sparkling 36 points from Anthony Edwards, whose three-pointer early in the third pulled Minnesota within three points.

They were down by five with less than five minutes remaining, but couldn’t break through.

Jokic, who led the league with 29 triple-doubles in the regular season, said he knows they’ll be even more determined on Sunday to prevent a sweep on their home floor.

“We know they’re going to go even more aggressive in two days,” Jokic said. “So we just need to keep our composure and we know what to expect.”

In New York, Jalen Brunson scored 21 points and RJ Barrett added 19 for the Knicks, who rebounded from a humbling game two defeat in Cleveland.

The Knicks’ suffocating defense contributed to a dismal night for Cleveland’s Darius Garland, who missed 17 of his 21 shot attempts on the way to 10 points.

Donovan Mitchell scored 22 to lead the Cavs, who became the first team this season to be held under 80 points in an NBA game.

To top it off, Garland — who scored 32 points in the Cavs’ win on Tuesday — needed treatment on his left ankle in the second half after stepping on a courtside photographer’s foot.

The game was the first playoff contest at Madison Square Garden in two years and the “chaos” that New York native and Cavs star Mitchell predicted materialized.

Both teams made sloppy starts in the raucous atmosphere, but the Knicks steadied to take a 13-point halftime lead that they pushed to as many as 27.

“This was great,” said Brunson, but he warned that the Cavs would punch back in game four on Sunday.

“You want to carry it over, but at the same time we’ve got to be focused, we’ve got to be ready to go.”

In Atlanta, Trae Young scored 32 points and Dejounte Murray added 25 as the hot-shooting Hawks clawed back into their series against the Celtics.

Young shook off two sub-par performances with a stellar display, connecting on 12 of 22 shots from the field with six rebounds and nine assists.

“Our whole team was making plays all night and it was up to me to go make the right one,” Young said. “It’s not only to score, sometimes it’s to get everybody involved.”

He also produced a pair of blocks as the Hawks out-hustled the second-seeded Celtics — who fell to Golden State in the NBA Finals last year.

Jayson Tatum scored 29 points and grabbed 10 rebounds for Boston. Marcus Smart added 24 and Jaylen Brown had 15 for the Celtics, who drained 21 three-pointers but were out-rebounded 48-29.

Smart said there was no secret to the Hawks’ advantage on the boards, which led to their 23-9 edge in second-chance points.

“It’s just a matter of will,” Smart said, “and they wanted it more tonight.”

Tatum still had a chance to tie it with 58.1 seconds left but his three-point attempt bounced off the rim and the Hawks pulled away.

“I’ve got to play better,” said a dejected Tatum, who said he made too many untimely turnovers and poor decisions. “This one tonight is on me.”

Atlanta will try to level the series when they host game four on Sunday.


Boston Celtics sweep Indiana Pacers to reach NBA finals

Updated 28 May 2024
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Boston Celtics sweep Indiana Pacers to reach NBA finals

  • The Celtics will face the winner of the Western Conference finals, where the Dallas Mavericks hold a 3-0 over the Minnesota Timberwolves

WASHINGTON: The Boston Celtics clinched the Eastern Conference championship on Monday with a 105-102 win over the Indiana Pacers, sweeping the series 4-0 and booking a spot in the NBA Finals.
The Celtics will face the winner of the Western Conference finals, where the Dallas Mavericks hold a 3-0 over the Minnesota Timberwolves ahead of Tuesday’s game four.
The Celtics win in Indianapolis was their seventh straight in the post-season but they left it late against a Pacers team again without injured star guard Tyrese Haliburton.
Jaylen Brown once again proved decisive.
He hit a step through to level at 102-102 with 2:40 left in the fourth, then superbly rose to block Andrew Nembhard at the rim.
With 45 seconds remaining Brown found Derrick White in the corner who sank the three-point jumper that ultimately clinched the game.
Nembhard, who had 24 points, 10 assists and six rebounds for the Pacers, missed a three-pointer with 33 seconds left which would have tied the game.
Brown led Boston’s scoring with 29 points and Jayson Tatum had 26 points, 13 rebounds and eight assists.
The Celtics return to the finals two years after losing to the Golden State Warriors as they search for their first NBA title since 2008.
“It’s been nothing but a grind, we haven’t skipped no steps all season,” said Brown, who was named the Eastern Conference finals MVP.
“We’ve got a bunch of great guys in this locker room, tough guys. Our coaching staff has been great, front office great and now we want to take the next step,” he added.
It was the third time in the four series games that Indiana had lost after holding leads or being tied in the final minute of a game.
“Expectations will be raised for next year, which is good,” said Pacers head coach Rick Carlisle.
“There are challenges to meet over the summer for our guys to get better, all of us involved need to get better,” he added.


Unpredictable Pakistan aim for ‘third time lucky’ at T20 World Cup

Updated 28 May 2024
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Unpredictable Pakistan aim for ‘third time lucky’ at T20 World Cup

  • Pakistan’s build-up to the tournament, which takes place in West Indies and the USA, has been chaotic
  • Men in green have shown they still have the capacity to be the best outfit one day and the worst the next

KARACHI: Pakistan skipper Babar Azam is hoping it is third time lucky for his side at the Twenty20 World Cup after finishing losing semifinalists in 2021 and runners-up a year later.
Pakistan’s build-up to the tournament, which takes place in West Indies and the USA, has been chaotic, with Azam replacing Shaheen Shah Afridi as captain barely three months before it gets underway.
They squeaked a 2-2 T20 series draw at home against a depleted New Zealand in April before heading to Ireland where they slumped to defeat in the opener before coming back to win that series 2-1.
As now seems to be entirely normal, the men in green have shown they still have the capacity to be the best outfit one day and the worst the next, making them the most unpredictable side in the 20-team event which kicks off in the United States on June 1.
Pakistan are placed alongside India, co-hosts United States, Canada and Ireland in Group A. The top two teams will qualify for the next round of Super Eight, to be held in the West Indies with the final in Barbados on June 29.
If they lose to India in what is likely to be a monumental clash in New York on June 9 — Pakistan have won just one of seven T20 World Cup matches against them — their final group game with Ireland in Florida a week later could become a knock-out affair.
But Azam is confident his side can be lucky this time.
“Semi-final and then final, so it’s our turn to win the trophy this time,” he said before leaving for Ireland.
Since crashing out of the 50-over World Cup in November last year, Pakistan cricket has undergone a multitude of changes with coaching staff changed twice and the white-ball captaincy changed hands from Azam to Shaheen and back.
A news channel owner, Mohsin Naqvi, who is also the country’s interior minister, has taken charge of the Pakistan Cricket Board (PCB).
Naqvi reconstructed the selection committee, held a training camp at an army base to improve the often vulnerable fitness and brought in former South African opener Gary Kirsten as white-ball coach — all to improve their chances in the World Cup.
Fast bowler Mohammad Amir — the only surviving member of Pakistan’s T20 World Cup title win in England in 2009 — and spinner Imad Wasim were brought out of retirement to further bolster the bowling attack, spearheaded by Shaheen and fast-rising Naseem Shah.
“My mood is good and my fitness is good and I am looking forward to winning the World Cup,” Shaheen told a PCB podcast recently, in spite of reported dissent over the captaincy saga.
“I have good partners and when they do well then you are also motivated.”
To spur the players further, Naqvi also announced a $100,000 bonus for each player if they win the World Cup.
Mystery spinner Abrar Ahmed and Shadab Khan supplement Wasim in slow bowling.
“This is the best team with every base covered, so we can win and there should be no excuse,” said Shaheen, whose fitness will be the key for Pakistan.
Pakistan’s batting approach and lack of consistency are big problems.
While the other teams have started to blast totals over 200 regularly, Pakistan have gone 43 T20Is without achieving that figure.
Pakistan rely heavily on Azam and Mohammad Rizwan who have a world record 10 century partnerships between them.
Dashing left-hander Saim Ayub is set to break up the Azam-Rizwan opening partnership which has been criticized for being too slow.
Star batter Fakhar Zaman, newcomer Usman Khan, Azam Khan and Iftikhar Ahmed form a powerful middle-order, but they have struggled for consistency.
If Pakistan are, indeed, to “return with the trophy,” the batters will need to step up and match their bowlers.


Mike Tyson ‘doing great’ after falling ill during weekend flight from Miami to Los Angeles

Updated 28 May 2024
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Mike Tyson ‘doing great’ after falling ill during weekend flight from Miami to Los Angeles

LOS ANGELES: Mike Tyson was recovering Monday after falling ill a day earlier during a flight from Miami to Los Angeles, his representatives said.

The 58-year-old boxing legend “became nauseous and dizzy due to an ulcer flare up 30 minutes before landing” on Sunday, his publicist’s office said in a statement.

“Thankfully Mr. Tyson is doing great,” the statement said. “He is appreciative to the medical staff that were there to help him.”

American Airlines flight 1815 was met by first responders upon landing at LA International Airport “due to the medical needs of a customer,” an airline statement said.

Tyson is preparing to fight the 27-year-old social media star-turned-boxer Jake Paul this summer at the 80,000-seat home of the Dallas Cowboys. Netflix will carry the fight live, a first for the streaming platform.

Tyson was the undisputed world heavyweight champion from 1987 to 1990. He retired in 2005, but most recently fought in an exhibition in November 2020 against Roy Jones in California.


Ronaldo sets Saudi Pro League season scoring record while Al-Hilal finishes unbeaten

Updated 28 May 2024
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Ronaldo sets Saudi Pro League season scoring record while Al-Hilal finishes unbeaten

RIYADH, Saudi Arabia: Cristiano Ronaldo finished the Saudi Pro League by setting the season goal-scoring record on Monday.
Ronaldo scored twice in Riyadh as Al-Nassr defeated Al-Ittihad 4-2 and lifted his league tally to 35, one more than the record in 2019 by Abderrazak Hamdallah.
In the final seconds of the first half, Ronaldo, who had already had two goals ruled out for offside, chested down a long pass from Mohammed Al-Fatil and opened the scoring with a low shot from the left side of the area.
With 21 minutes remaining, the five-time Ballon d’Or winner celebrated wildly after heading home a corner from Marcelo Brozovic. He was substituted off the field five minutes later to a standing ovation from the home fans.
It ended an action-packed season for Ronaldo, who scored four hat tricks and collected one red card. He was also suspended for an obscene gesture in February at Al-Shabab fans who had been chanting the name of Lionel Messi, Ronaldo’s longstanding soccer rival.
Al-Nassr finished second in the league, 14 points behind local rival Al-Hilal, which won the championship more than two weeks ago and completed the 34-round league unbeaten on Monday.
Al-Hilal was too strong even without Neymar, who joined the club in August from Paris Saint-Germain but suffered a season-ending ACL injury in October.
Aleksandar Mitrovic stepped in and ended the season with a goal in the final seconds to clinch a 2-1 win over Al-Wehda. The Serbian striker, signed from London club Fulham last summer, reached 27 league goals, second only to Ronaldo.
On its way to the title, Al-Hilal went on a 34-game winning streak in all competitions, a new world record for a top tier team.
“This season has been truly exceptional for the team, arguably our best ever,” coach Jorge Jesus said. “The credit goes to the immense talent within the squad and the incredible sense of unity that transcends both on and off-field interactions.”
Al-Ittihad’s defeat at Al-Nassr ended a disappointing season for the defending champion. Karim Benzema, signed from Real Madrid, struggled with injuries and even with N’Golo Kante and Fabinho in midfield, signed from Chelsea and Liverpool respectively, the team from Jeddah could manage only fifth place.
Poor results cost Nuno Santo his job as coach in November, and the Portuguese tactician returned to the English Premier League a month later to take over Nottingham Forest.
Al-Ahli, the fourth of the ‘Big Four’ clubs taken over by Saudi Arabia’s Public Investment Fund last June, finished third, 17 points behind Al-Nassr. Al-Ahli beat Al-Fayha 1-0 thanks to a late goal — his ninth of the season — from former Liverpool forward Roberto Firmino.
Ronaldo took the headlines, however, and the 39-year-old still had one more chance to end the season with a trophy when Al-Nassr meets Al-Hilal in the King’s Cup final on Friday.


England’s Jacks thankful for Kohli influence ahead of T20 World Cup

Updated 27 May 2024
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England’s Jacks thankful for Kohli influence ahead of T20 World Cup

  • Jacks goes into third game of England’s warm-up series against Pakistan having helped propel the hosts to a 23-run win on Saturday
  • The Surrey all-rounder struck a quickfire 37 in what proved to be a decisive stand with captain Jos Buttler as England went 1-0 up

LONDON: Will Jacks hopes to put the on-field “coaching” he received from Virat Kohli to good use when England bid to retain their T20 World Cup title next month.
Jacks goes into the third game of England’s warm-up series against Pakistan having helped propel the hosts to a 23-run win at Edgbaston on Saturday.
The Surrey all-rounder struck a quickfire 37 in what proved to be a decisive stand with captain Jos Buttler as England went 1-0 up in the rain-hit four-match series ahead of Tuesday’s game at Cardiff’s Sophia Gardens.
It was another example of Jacks’ power hitting after he recently struck an unbeaten century off just 41 balls — including 28 runs from one Rashid Khan over — as Royal Challengers Bengaluru chased down 200 to beat Gujarat Titans in a high-pressure situation, with India star batsman Kohli looking on from the other end.
“The big thing with the IPL is that every game is such an occasion, the crowd, the atmosphere,” Jacks told reporters on Monday, just over a week from England’s World Cup opener against Scotland in Barbados.
“Every game you feel like you’ve got to step up and that’s similar to international cricket.”
As for batting with Kohli, the 25-year-old added: “He’s a very good role model. The way he approaches all the training and every aspect of the game off the field, his intensity, everything he does is a 100 percent attention.
“He’s done it for such a long time and I can appreciate that as a young guy who often doesn’t want to do the hard yards, but you see him doing it and want to copy that.”
Jacks added: “When we were batting together, he was coaching me through there. I learned some valuable things about chasing in that innings and pacing the game, which was really helpful.
“I was really proud of the way I stayed in the partnership, didn’t throw it away.”
Now Jacks, whose England career currently consists of a mere two Tests, seven one-day internationals and 12 T20s, is looking forward to a major global tournament.
“Playing in a World Cup is something I’ve dreamed of since I was a little kid. I’m really excited to do it,” he said. “It’s getting closer now and we’re building in the right direction.”
Jacks labelled his England T20 record of 218 runs at 18.16 a “mixed bag,” although his cause has not been helped by switching between opening the innings and batting at three.
“I’ve probably opened half my games and batted number three in the other half,” he said. “It’s no lie that I’m new to batting at three, I’m learning on the job.”
He added: “I’ve been getting starts every game and it’s about how do I change those into match-winning scores. That’s more of a mindset thing. It doesn’t matter what I’m averaging: if the team’s winning, then it’s good.”