LeBron James and the Lakers beat Pelicans in play-in, earn a playoff rematch with the Nuggets

LeBron James of the Los Angeles Lakers shoots against Larry Nance Jr. #22 of the New Orleans Pelicans during the second half of a play-in tournament game at the Smoothie King Center on April 16, 2024 in New Orleans, Louisiana. (AFP)
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Updated 17 April 2024
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LeBron James and the Lakers beat Pelicans in play-in, earn a playoff rematch with the Nuggets

  • After the game, Pelicans coach Willie Green said Williamson had “left leg sorenes”
  • The Pelicans will host Sacramento on Friday, with the winner earning the No. 8 seed in the West

NEW ORLEANS: LeBron James, Anthony Davis and their supporting cast have the Los Angeles Lakers looking like a tougher out in the playoffs than they appeared to be just a few weeks earlier.

The New Orleans Pelicans, meanwhile, find themselves on the brink of elimination and wondering about the health of star power forward Zion Williamson, whose dominant NBA postseason debut was cut short by an injury in the final minutes of a tight game.

James had 23 points, nine assists and nine rebounds, and the Lakers secured a playoff berth with a 110-106 victory over the Pelicans in the Western Conference play-in tournament on Tuesday night.

“Tonight we showcased what we were able to do both offensively and defensively,” said James, whose team enters the playoffs having won 12 of 15 games. “We’ve got a good group going right now, good rotation, good plan and guys are coming in ready to go.”

Williamson had 40 points and 11 rebounds. But shortly after tying the game at 95 on a driving layup with 3:19 to go, Williamson went to the locker room, throwing a towel to the floor in disgust as he walked into the tunnel with an apparent injury.

After the game, Pelicans coach Willie Green said Williamson had “left leg soreness.”

“He’s going to have some imaging on it tomorrow and we’ll figure out more,” Green said.

Soon after Williamson went out, James hit a jumper, Davis dunked Austin Reaves’ alley-oop lob, DeAngelo Russell hit a 3 and Davis grabbed a crucial offensive rebound, after which he hit two free throws to help the Lakers hold on.

The Pelicans “threw some heavy blows at us,” Lakers coach Darvin Ham said. “They kept swinging. We kept fighting back.

“It revealed a lot about us and what we’re made of,” he added.

Davis finished with 20 points and 15 rebounds. Russell scored 21, hitting five times from deep. James was 10 of 10 on free throws and Davis 8 of 10.

The Lakers advance to face defending champion Denver in the first round in a rematch of last season’s Western Conference finals, a sweep by the Nuggets. Game 1 is Saturday night.

The Pelicans will host Sacramento on Friday, with the winner earning the No. 8 seed in the West. The Kings eliminated Golden State in the later play-in game on Wednesday night.

“Obviously a tough loss for us,” said Green, whose team could have secured the sixth seed in the playoffs on Sunday but lost at home to the Lakers, 124-108, setting up the rematch in the play-in. “We’ve got to feel this one tonight and regroup and get ready for another one.”

Williamson, Green said, was “fantastic.”

“He settled into the game. He just continued to attack. He found seams. He rebounded the ball. He played fast,” Green continued. “(If) we have him for a few more minutes, maybe we have a chance to pull this thing out.”

The Lakers went 14 of 35 from 3-point range. The Pelicans hit 9 of 29 from deep and Williamson didn’t get a lot of help from the Pelicans’ usual high scorers. Brandon Ingram — in his second game back from a 12-game absence because of a knee injury — missed 8 of 12 shots and finished with 11 points after spending the final few minutes on the bench.

“I just like the group that was on the floor at that time,” Green said. “BI is still getting back, he’s still finding his rhythm. So, I didn’t want to force the issue.”

CJ McCollum missed 11 of 15 shots and scored nine points.

Trey Murphy III scored 12, hitting two 3s from beyond 28 feet in the second half to help New Orleans come back from an 18-point second-half deficit to tie it.

The Lakers led 75-57 after Rui Hachimura’s layup in the third quarter. But New Orleans got back in the game by outscoring Los Angeles 19-8 during the final 5:31 of the period.

Williamson sparked the surge with a pair of layups. Murphy pulled up for a 31-foot 3-pointer in the final minute of the quarter and Williamson’s free throw made it 83-76 at the end of the period.

The Pelicans finally tied it when Williamson slammed down Jose Alvarado’s alley-oop lob in transition to make it 93-all with 3:53 to go.

Looking to redeem themselves for a lackluster loss to the Lakers on Sunday, the Pelicans put together a promising opening quarter and took a 34-28 lead on Herb Jones’ 3.

Los Angeles surged into the lead by outscoring New Orleans 34-16 in the second quarter, leading by as many as 14 after James, who had 15 first-half points, hit two free throws to make it 58-44.

In the final seconds of the half, Williamson sprinted nearly the length of the court on the dribble for a floating layup at the horn that made it 60-50.


Celtics roar back to push Pacers to brink of elimination

Updated 24 sec ago
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Celtics roar back to push Pacers to brink of elimination

  • The Celtics found a way to slow down Indiana’s high-octane offense in the second half to snatch the win in Indianapolis
LOS ANGELES: The Boston Celtics, fueled by 36 points from Jayson Tatum, erased an 18-point deficit to beat the Indiana Pacers 114-111 on Saturday and take a commanding 3-0 lead in the NBA Eastern Conference finals.
Tatum added 10 rebounds and eight assists, Jaylen Brown scored 24 points and Al Horford made seven three-pointers on the way to 23 points.
But the shift came when the Celtics found a way to slow down Indiana’s high-octane offense in the second half to snatch the win in Indianapolis, where they’ll try to close out the series on Monday.
“Closeout games are the hardest,” Tatum said, cautioning that the Celtics can’t afford to relax despite the fact that no NBA team has rallied from 0-3 down to win a playoff series.
Pacers coach Rick Carlisle certainly wasn’t ready to wave the white flag.
“We’re going to be undeterred, we’re going to be back here Monday night looking to extend the series and we’re going to come at them even harder,” vowed Carlisle, who said the Pacers played “a courageous game.”
Indiana, who were unbeaten in six prior home games this post-season, came out determined to avoid the 0-3 hole despite the absence of All-Star guard Tyrese Haliburton, who aggravated the left hamstring strain that troubled him this season in game two.
Andrew Nembhard, taking over at point guard, scored 32 points and handed out nine assists and Pascal Siakam and Myles Turner scored 22 apiece for the Pacers, who pushed their lead to 18 in the second quarter and again in the third.
But a three-point play by Jrue Holiday, who was fouled on a driving layup and made the free throw, put the Celtics up 112-111 with 38.9 seconds to play.
It was their first lead since the first moments of the second quarter and they made it stand up, Holiday coming up with a decisive steal from Nembhard and making a pair of free throws to seal it.
“I think the and-one I just saw the opportunity,” said Holiday, who was questionable to start because of illness until shortly before the game. “I think Siakam was on his heels so I just attacked him and got the and-one.”
Despite the absence of Haliburton, the Pacers got their offense firing and erased an early nine-point deficit, exploding in the second quarter to build their first 18-point lead of the contest.
Nembhard scored 17 points in the second quarter and the Pacers connected on 15 of their 22 shot attempts to surge past the Celtics.
With 21 points by halftime Nembhard had already surpassed his career playoff high.
He drilled a long three-pointer with less than five seconds left in the first half to give the Pacers a 69-57 lead at the break.
Indiana were up by 18 again midway through the third, but Boston bore down defensively and reeled them in.
It remained to be seen if Haliburton will be available for game four on Monday.
“It was determined that tonight was not an option,” Pacers coach Rick Carlisle said before the game, saying Haliburton would be reassessed before game four.
Celtics coach Joe Mazzulla said the absence of Haliburton had left Boston struggling to adjust to early on.
“It took us a little while to figure out how we were going to match up with them in order to slow them down,” he said. “I felt like it was our defense, and I thought we took it to another level in the second half.”

WWE’s epic SmackDown and King And Queen showdowns shake up Jeddah

Updated 6 min 16 sec ago
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WWE’s epic SmackDown and King And Queen showdowns shake up Jeddah

JEDDAH: WWE’s epic SmackDown and King and Queen showdown shook up Jeddah on Saturday night.
WWE star Randy Orton was defeated by Gunther and was crowned King of the Ring. 


Wrestler Nye Jax achieved the title of Queen of the Ring in the women’s category, after defeating Lyra Valkyrie. 
Over 20,000 fans filled up the arena to watch Liv Morgan retain her WWE world champion belt after defeating Becky Lynch. 
In a match for the undisputed WWE championship belt, Cody Rhodes defeated American YouTuber and boxer Logan Paul.


Barcelona avenge Lyon defeats to win third women’s Champions League

Updated 26 May 2024
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Barcelona avenge Lyon defeats to win third women’s Champions League

  • The defending champions had never beaten the French giants, losing in the 2019 and 2022 finals against them, but finally succeeded in Bilbao
  • Securing their third Champions League trophy from five final appearances, Barcelona demonstrated that they are the new powerhouse of the women’s game

BILBAO, Spain: Aitana Bonmati and Alexia Putellas struck to earn Barcelona their third women’s Champions League trophy, securing a 2-0 triumph over record eight-time winners Lyon on Saturday.

The defending champions had never beaten the French giants, losing in the 2019 and 2022 finals against them, but finally succeeded in Bilbao to compete a spectacular quadruple this season in coach Jonatan Giraldez’s last match in charge.

Bonmati pounced after 63 minutes and substitute Putellas finished the job in stoppage time to avenge Barcelona’s prior defeats by Sonia Bompastor’s side.

Securing their third Champions League trophy from five final appearances across the last six seasons, Barcelona demonstrated that they are the new powerhouse of the women’s game.

“(It’s) a dream day, it is difficult to explain with words the feeling I have now. It is a special moment,” said Giraldez.

“It is one of happiest days of my life.”

Barca’s stars had insisted that this time they were capable of beating Lyon, adding experience and mental strength to their undoubted talent, and so it proved at a packed San Mames.

Backed by the vast majority of a 51,000 record crowd at a women’s Champions League final, Bonmati and her side completed one of the few challenges remaining to them.

“It’s the first time we’ve beaten Lyon. I’m proud of the team, and we know that with these fans we have, we can’t fail,” Bonmati told DAZN.

“It’s incredible what we’re living through as a team, I’m so lucky... to see we’re creating that for so many people, the historic amount of fans we’ve brought, it’s the proudest I’ve felt, I wouldn’t change it for anything.”

Giraldez started Mariona Caldentey in attack and moved Fridolina Rolfo to left-back, dropping Ona Batlle to the bench alongside two-time Ballon d’Or winner Putellas.

Lyon left Ada Hegerberg started on the bench too, with the all-time top scorer in the competition’s history struggling for form after injury.

Lucy Bronze deflected a ball onto her own crossbar and Lyon’s towering captain Wendie Renard hit the outside of the post as Barcelona suffered a couple of early jitters.

After going four goals down by half-time in the 2019 final and three down in 2022, this time the Catalans dug deep to hold it together at the back.

Barca threatened increasingly at the other end. Patri Guijarro, who scored twice in last year’s final against Wolfsburg, broke in for their first big chance after half an hour.

Christiane Endler saved and Selma Bacha cleared the ball off the line after it rebounded back toward goal.

Barca’s Caroline Graham Hansen, in sparkling form this season, gave left-back Bacha a torrid time and had 11-time finalist Renard backpedalling fearfully near the end of the first half, but dragged her shot wide.

Barcelona made their quality count after the hour mark when Bonmati sent them ahead.

The Ballon d’Or winner had been quiet but arrived to collect Caldentey’s clever pass and burst into the area.

Bonmati’s low shot deflected off Vanessa Gilles and flew over the helpless Endler, for her sixth goal of the tournament.

Champions League top goalscorer Kadidiatou Diani curled agonizingly over for Lyon as Bompastor’s side tried to fight back. Hegerberg headed off target as Lyon’s chances ebbed away.

“We have to recognize Barcelona had a great match and deserved to win even though it’s hard to accept it,” said Bompastor, tipped to join Chelsea next season, although she stayed tight-lipped on her future.

“We lacked attacking efficiency, we should have scored a goal.”

Eventually Putellas, on as a late substitute, put on the captain’s armband and settled the game by rifling into the top corner to get Barcelona’s celebrations started early.

“Obviously it’s a dream come true, what we have achieved,” said Putellas after her goal locked in Barcelona’s quadruple.

Bronze who won the competition for the fifth time — including three times with Lyon — praised Putellas.

“She’s the captain of the team, she’s the ‘queen’ of Barcelona for a reason,” said Bronze.

“She’s got the quality to do that in the last minute of the Champions League final when we were up against it at the end and just sealed the win for us.”
 


Bayer Leverkusen win the German Cup and complete undefeated domestic double

Updated 26 May 2024
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Bayer Leverkusen win the German Cup and complete undefeated domestic double

  • Leverkusen won the Bundesliga unbeaten, a historic feat
  • The only blip on the record of Xabi Alonso’s team this season was losing the Europa League final to Atalanta 3-0 on Wednesday in Dublin

BERLIN: Granit Xhaka’s early strike was enough for Bayer Leverkusen to win the German Cup final 1-0 over Kaiserslautern for an unbeaten domestic double on Saturday.

Xhaka fired the ball in under the crossbar from distance in the 16th minute. It proved to be enough against second-division Kaiserslautern despite losing defender Odilon Kossounou to a second yellow card just before the break.

Leverkusen won the Bundesliga unbeaten, a historic feat. The only blip on the record of Xabi Alonso’s team this season was losing the Europa League final to Atalanta 3-0 on Wednesday in Dublin. That ended Leverkusen’s record 51-game unbeaten run across all competitions. It was their only loss in 53 games this season.

“The whole journey, the whole season was wonderful,” the Spanish coach said after doubling Leverkusen’s trophy haul in just one season. “What we did this season is unbelievable.”

Alonso and his players ran to their fans after the whistle on Saturday in Berlin’s Olympiastadion. They had supported the team loudly throughout, though were drowned at times by the even more vociferous Kaiserslautern supporters.

They displayed a spectacular tifo of a red devil grasping the trophy in front of a hellish background of fire and brimstone before the game. Flares sending red smoke into the sky embellished the effect – and gave an inkling of what was to come.

The stadium announcer’s repeated requests to stop the pyrotechnics were met with continued indifference. The second half began to a huge fireworks display from the Leverkusen fans.

Despite the smoke above, there was little fire on the field after a long hard season. Kossounou was booked for stopping Kenny Prince Redondo’s break in the third minute, then issued another yellow for a foul on Boris Tomiak in the 44th.

It didn’t stop the Leverkusen machine from grinding out the win. Jeremie Frimpong should have made it 2-0 in the 75th after going past the goalkeeper.

It’s Leverkusen’s second German Cup title after beating Hertha Berlin’s reserve team in the 1993 final. Leverkusen’s other trophy is the 1988 UEFA Cup.


PSG win the French Cup and the double in Kylian Mbappe’s last game

Updated 26 May 2024
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PSG win the French Cup and the double in Kylian Mbappe’s last game

  • Mbappe: Now, I have nothing left with PSG. But I’m very happy to have been able to finish with a trophy
  • PSG won the league and cup for the first time since 2020 when they achieved a domestic treble by also lifting the now defunct League Cup

VILLENEUVE D’ASCQ, France: Paris Saint-Germain beat Lyon 2-1 in the French Cup final and completed the domestic double in Kylian Mbappé’s last game for the club on Saturday.

France winger Ousmane Dembele and Spain midfielder Fabian Ruiz scored for PSG in the first half.

Lyon defender Jake O’Brien got a consolation goal in the second half.

PSG won the league and cup for the first time since 2020 when they achieved a domestic treble by also lifting the now defunct League Cup.

Mbappe celebrated with a big roar after the final whistle. With an equally big smile on his face, he hugged and high-fived his teammates. The ecstatic PSG staff lifted Mbappe and threw him in the air.

“You feel a bit more the weight of things because you realize that it’s really over,” Mbappe told broadcaster beIN Sports. “When I said goodbye to the Parc des Princes, there were still some games left, so you are still focused on what awaits you. Now, I have nothing left with PSG. But I’m very happy to have been able to finish with a trophy.”

Despite losing in the final, Lyon still qualified for the Europa League by finishing sixth in the league.

Dembélé opened the scoring in the 22nd minute by heading home a cross from Nuno Mendes.

Ruiz doubled the lead by converting a rebound in the 34th after his header was blocked by O’Brien.

Lyon goalkeeper Lucas Perri pulled off some outstanding saves in the opening minutes, denying Bradley Barcola and Warren Zaire-Emery, but misjudged the flight of the ball when Mendes made the cross for the opener.

O’Brien cut the deficit to 2-1 by heading in a corner in the 55th.

PSG has struggled in the air this season and nearly conceded from another corner in the 64th, but goalkeeper Gianluigi Donnarumma tipped a header from Lyon left back Nicolas Tagliafico over the bar.

“The players are disappointed but let’s not forget that we must also be proud of what we have done,” Lyon coach Pierre Sage told broadcaster beIN Sports.

Lyon was bottom of the league in December but racked up more points than any other club in the second half of the season to finish sixth.

Mbappe tried hard to find the net in his last outing for PSG. A curling shot from the edge of the box didn’t trouble Perri in the 20th and he volleyed over the bar in the 41st.

In seven seasons with PSG, Mbappe has won 15 trophies, including four French Cups.

Although Mbappe did not add to his tally, he leaves as PSG’s all-time top scorer in all competitions with 256 in 308 appearances.

“I’m happy to have been part of its history and to have made it a bit,” Mbappe said.

The French Cup final was marred by violence as Lyon and PSG supporters clashed on a highway leading to the venue a few hours before kickoff.

Supporters threw flares and windows were smashed on buses full of supporters. Some buses were set on fire.

The match was relocated to Stade Pierre Mauroy in the north of France because of preparations for the Olympic Games.

Villeneuve d’Ascq became the first city outside the Greater Paris area to host the French Cup final since the competition’s inception in 1917.