Nuggets, Pacers claw back in NBA conference semifinals

Denver Nuggets center Nikola Jokic drives to the basket past Minnesota Timberwolves center Karl-Anthony Towns in the first half during Game 3 of the second round for the 2024 NBA playoffs at Target Center. (USA TODAY Sports)
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Updated 11 May 2024

Nuggets, Pacers claw back in NBA conference semifinals

  • Michael Porter Jr. added 21 points as all five Nuggets starters scored in double figures against a T’Woves team
  • The Pacers also avoided a 0-3 hole with a 111-106 victory over the Knicks

LOS ANGELES: The NBA champion Denver Nuggets roared back into their Western Conference semifinal series with Minnesota with a 117-90 victory over the Timberwolves on Friday as the Indiana Pacers clawed back a game against the New York Knicks.

NBA Most Valuable Player Nikola Jokic and Jamal Murray scored 24 points apiece, with Jokic adding 14 rebounds and nine assists for the Nuggets, who cut the deficit in their best-of-seven series to 2-1.

Denver dispelled any suggestion they would bow out quietly after they were humbled by the young Timberwolves in games one and two in Denver.

The Pacers, who dropped the first two games of their Eastern Conference semifinal series in New York, also avoided a 0-3 hole with a 111-106 victory over the Knicks in Indianapolis.

“Everybody knows what it looks like when you go down 3-0,” Pacers star Tyrese Haliburton said, a nod to the fact that no NBA team has rallied from that deficit to win a playoff series.

“We had to come out play desperate, play hard,” added Haliburton, whose Pacers will now try to level the series at home on Sunday.

Denver will try to pull level on Sunday in Minneapolis, where Jokic said the Nuggets went into the contest determined to “play like a champion.”

“I think we played much simpler,” Jokic told broadcaster ESPN. “We were aggressive, more aggressive than them, and I think that’s definitely the thing that changed the game.”

Murray, who scored just 25 points over the first two games and was fined $100,000 for letting his frustration boil over and throwing a heating pad onto the court during Game 2, connected on 11 of 21 shots and came up with three steals.

“Our guys answered the bell,” Nuggets coach Michael Malone said. “They showed me that they still believe.”

Michael Porter Jr. added 21 points as all five Nuggets starters scored in double figures against a T’Woves team that coach Chris Finch called “sluggish” and “slow.”

Anthony Edwards led Minnesota with 19 points. Karl-Anthony Towns scored 14, but the Timberwolves didn’t play with the pace that overwhelmed the Nuggets in Denver.

They trailed by as many as 34 points, to the dismay of fans at the Target Center who were eager to see the kind of show the Timberwolves had put on in Denver.

“Not a lot of good things on either end of the floor, really,” Finch said.

In Indianapolis, Haliburton scored 35 points and Andrew Nembhard emerged as an unlikely hero, draining a three-pointer from deep as the shot clock was running down to put the Pacers ahead 109-106 with 17.8 seconds left to play.

It was just his second basket of the night, but it turned the tide for good in a physical, back-and-forth battle in which the Pacers surrendered an early 12-point lead and rallied from nine down in the fourth quarter.

“I put (Nembhard) in kind of a bad situation and he just made an unbelievable shot,” said Haliburton, who passed to Nembhard with just four seconds on the shot clock after finding himself unable to get a shot off in the face of a swarming Knicks defense.

“Big, big shot,” Haliburton said. “He really stepped up to the moment when we needed him most.”

Haliburton had six of Indiana’s 12 three-pointers. Pascal Siakam scored 26 points and Myles Turner added 21 and 10 rebounds for Indiana.

The banged-up Knicks, already missing Julius Randle, Mitchell Robinson and Bojan Bogdanovic, were also without OG Anunoby after he suffered a hamstring strain in game two.

Knicks star Jalen Brunson, who wasn’t confirmed to start until after pre-game warm-ups after hurting his right foot on Wednesday, got off to a slow start, but New York briefly pulled ahead in the second quarter — foreshadowing a third-quarter surge that saw them take a 90-85 lead into the final period.

Donte DiVincenzo led the Knicks scoring with 35 points, connecting on seven of 11 from three-point range.

Brunson finished with 26 points and six assists, hitting a game-tying three-pointer with 42.4 seconds left.

Saudi stars Mostafa Nada, Hattan Al-Saif thrill Riyadh crowd at PFL MENA 2

Updated 29 sec ago

Saudi stars Mostafa Nada, Hattan Al-Saif thrill Riyadh crowd at PFL MENA 2

  • Saudi Arabia’s Mostafa Nada needed just a little over two minutes to knock out Abdel Rahmane Driai with a flurry of strikes
  • The inaugural PFL MENA season will continue on Sept. 20 with the PFL MENA playoffs in Jeddah

RIYADH: The Professional Fighters League hosted the second event of the inaugural PFL MENA season at The Green Halls in Riyadh on July 12.

Athletes in the lightweight and welterweight divisions took to the SmartCage looking to secure their spots in the PFL MENA playoffs taking place on Sept. 20.

In the main event, Saudi Arabia’s Mostafa Nada needed just a little over two minutes to knock out Abdel Rahmane Driai with a flurry of strikes.

In the co-main event, Mohammad Al-Aqraa punched his way into the welterweight semifinals with a dominant third-round TKO win over Youcef Ouabbas.

Earlier on the card, Jarrah Al-Selawe made quick work of Rayan Atmani in their welterweight regular season bout, winning by rear naked choke submission in the first round to move on to the semifinals.

Also in the welterweight division, Badreddine Diani defeated Amir Fazli by unanimous decision to claim his spot in the semifinals.

Mohsen Mohammadseifi put his striking power on full display as he stopped Josh Togo by TKO in the first round to advance to the lightweight semifinals.

Souhil Tahiri earned a hard-fought unanimous decision victory over Ahmed Amir in a lightweight regular season bout to secure his spot in the semifinals.

Omar El-Dafrawy put on a dominant performance against Anthony Zeidan, winning by unanimous decision and advancing to the welterweight semifinals.

In a women’s flyweight amateur showcase bout, Saudi Arabia’s Hattan Al-Saif earned her second straight TKO win, defeating Eman Baraka in the second round.

Abdullah Saleem secured his spot in the lightweight semifinals by submitting Omar Reguigui with a triangle choke in the first round.

In the first regular season lightweight bout of the night, Georges Eid outclassed Abbas Khan for three rounds to pick up a unanimous decision win and advance to the semifinals.

Kicking off the card’s action in a flyweight showcase bout, Ziyad Ayman Mokhtar showed off his grappling skills by submitting Hadi Omar Al Hussaini by rear-naked choke in the third round.

The inaugural PFL MENA season will continue on Sept. 20 with the PFL MENA playoffs in Jeddah. The event will start with the bantamweight and featherweight divisions.

US basketball team arrives in Abu Dhabi

Updated 13 July 2024

US basketball team arrives in Abu Dhabi

  • Side faces off against Australia on July 15, Serbia on July 17

RIYADH: The USA men’s national basketball team arrived in Abu Dhabi as part of their preparations for the 2024 Summer Olympics.

The Americans will face Australia and Serbia on July 15 and 17, respectively. Australia and Serbia will face off on July 16. The games will be played at Yas Island’s Etihad Arena.

The team’s visit, as part of the USA Basketball Showcase, highlights Abu Dhabi’s growing prominence as a hub for world-class sporting events.

The city boasts state-of-the-art pitches, top-quality technology and comfortable spectator areas, a press release said.

For the second straight summer, the USA Basketball Showcase is being held in the UAE capital in partnership with the Department of Culture and Tourism Abu Dhabi.

Burmester, Stringers take lead on tough first day at LIV Golf Andalucia

Updated 13 July 2024

Burmester, Stringers take lead on tough first day at LIV Golf Andalucia

  • South African shot a 5-under 66 for a one-shot advantage while leading Stinger GC to the top of the team leaderboard

SOTOGRANDE: Real Club Valderrama bared its teeth in Friday’s first round of LIV Golf Andalucia, making it the toughest scoring day in the league’s young history.

Dean Burmester shot a 5-under 66 for a one-shot advantage while leading Stinger GC to the top of the team leaderboard, but even the South African was not sure how he managed the low score.

“Valderrama is some place,” said Burmester, the individual winner earlier this season in Miami on another difficult course, Doral’s Blue Monster. “… I don’t know how I shot 5-under, to be honest with you.”

Only seven of the 54 players in the field were under par, the fewest amount in a single round of any LIV Golf regular-season tournament. The field stroke average of 3.519 over par, with five players shooting 80 or higher, is the highest for any of LIV Golf’s 88 regular-season rounds. Collectively, the field was 190 over, and just one hole played under par, the par-5 11th.

Gusting winds reaching nearly 20 mph from a direction that was different from the practice days required players to throw their game plans out the window. The winds also dried the greens, creating firm putting surfaces.

Fireballs GC Captain Sergio Garcia, who has more experience at Spain’s most celebrated golf course than any other LIV Golf player, told fellow Spaniard and playing partner Jon Rahm early in their round that Valderrama was “showing some teeth today. Probably not the whole mouth but definitely the teeth.”

The Legion XIII captain replied: “Some teeth? I think it’s more than that.”

Rahm, making his first start in his home country since joining LIV Golf in the offseason, shot a 2-over 73 on a day in which he said he made just one mistake, misjudging his putt on the 13th hole, leading to a three-putt bogey. 

“I feel like I played really good,” said Rahm, in an eight-way tie for 16th. “The scores on this golf course a lot of times are worse than it feels like.”

Garcia was one of those seven players under par, shooting a 2-under 69 to share fourth place with Crushers GC’s Anirban Lahiri. Fireballs teammate Eugenio Chacarra of Spain was one stroke better, shooting a 68 as his game continues to trend up after a tie for third at last week’s International Series Morocco.

“My goal for today was to play smart golf,” Chacarra said. “I know my game is there.”

The Fireballs, with three Spanish players on their roster, are at 2-under and in second place on the team leaderboard, two shots behind the Stingers.

The closest pursuer to Burmester on the individual leaderboard is Iron Heads GC’s Danny Lee, who shot a 4-under 67. It is his fourth-best round relative to par this season as he has struggled for results. He entered this week ranked 45th in points. 

“Definitely a sign that I’m moving into the right direction,” said Lee, whose goal is to finish the regular season inside the top 24 to lock up playing privileges for 2025.

For Burmester, the key to survival on Friday was his putter. He needed just 21 putts, which tied for fewest in the field with wild card player Anthony Kim, who shot a 73.

“It was probably one of the best putting rounds I’ve ever had as a professional,” Burmester said. “Just every time I stood over a putt, I just felt like could I make it. You don’t get days like that too often.”

LIV Golf players have never seen a day like this, and they are hoping for a bit of relief this weekend in the final two rounds.

“Can it be more difficult? Yes, everything can be more difficult,” Rahm said. “… But not a lot harder, obviously. Today was a pretty hard day.”



Standings and counting scores for Friday’s opening round of the team competition at LIV Golf Andalucia. The three best scores from each team count in the first two rounds while all four scores count in the final round. The team with the lowest cumulative score after three rounds wins the team title. 

1. STINGER GC -4 (Burmester 66, Oosthuizen 70, Schwartzel 73)

2. FIREBALLS GC -2 (Chacarra 68, Garcia 69, Ancer 74)

3. IRON HEADS GC -1 (Lee 67, Vincent 72, Na 73)

T4. CRUSHERS GC +4 (Lahiri 69, Casey 74, DeChambeau 74)

T4. MAJESTICKS GC +4 (Horsfield 70, Westwood 71, Poulter 76)

T6. CLEEKS GC +6 (Bland 71, Kaymer 72, Meronk 76)

T6. TORQUE GC +6 (Ortiz 72, Pereira 73, Muñoz 74)

8. 4ACES GC +8 (Reed 72, Johnson 73, Perez 76)

9. LEGION XIII +9 (Hatton 72, Rahm 73, Vincent 77)

10. RIPPER GC +10 (Smith 72, Herbert 75, Leishman 76)

T11. SMASH GC +13 (Koepka 75, McDowell 75, Gooch 76)

T11. HYFLYERS GC +13 (Mickelson 73, Tringale 76, Steele 77)

13. RANGEGOATS GC +18 (Wolff 73, Pieters 79, Watson 79)

Esports Olympic Games in Saudi Arabia will ‘entirely reimagine’ the gaming landscape, says Prince Faisal

Updated 13 July 2024

Esports Olympic Games in Saudi Arabia will ‘entirely reimagine’ the gaming landscape, says Prince Faisal

  • The Kingdom will host the inaugural Esports Olympic Games in 2025 following International Olympic Committee announcement
  • Saudi Esports Federation Chairman Prince Faisal calls announcement ‘proud and humbling’ moment

RIYADH: Saudi Arabia’s hosting of the inaugural Esports Olympic Games in 2025 will “entirely reimagine” the gaming and esports landscape, says Faisal bin Bandar bin Sultan, chairman of the Saudi Esports Federation.

The news was announced by the International Olympic Committee on Friday afternoon. The IOC has partnered with the Saudi Arabian Olympic & Paralympic Committee under an ambitious 12-year agreement — with the Esports Olympic Games set to be held regularly throughout this time.

Saudi Arabia is currently hosting the inaugural Esports World Cup, at Boulevard Riyadh City until Aug. 25, and Prince Faisal said that this latest news consolidated the Kingdom’s position as a destination of choice for leading global esports events.

“The opportunity to host an event of this magnitude is a proud and humbling moment for the Kingdom of Saudi Arabia — it’s something that has captured the attention and imagination of game enthusiasts all around the world,” he said.

“Beginning next year, there’s no doubt that this brand-new event is destined to be a spectacle that entirely reimagines gaming and esports as we know it. It will bring the entire global community even closer together as the spirit of elite competition and international cooperation shine bright while the world’s best athletes provide moments of esports excellence that entertain, delight and inspire.”

In line with the Kingdom’s Vision 2030, gaming and esports is one of 13 sectors being prioritized under the transformational socio-economic framework. From launching talent and infrastructure development projects to hosting international competitions, recent years have seen the Kingdom emerge as a global gaming and esports hub — supported by SEF and the ambitious National Gaming and Esports Strategy launched in 2022 by Crown Prince Mohammed bin Salman.

With the Esports Olympic Games officially confirmed as a regular mainstay on the global calendar from next year onwards, Prince Faisal said that the Saudi-based Esports Olympics could mirror the success of the Summer Olympics by bringing the global community together for inspirational sporting events.

“For countless generations, the Olympic Games has been widely considered as the grandest stage in all of sport,” Prince Faisal said. “They represent something truly special and spectacular — an occasion where the world comes together to watch moments of magnificence that epitomize talent, teamwork, dedication and belief in one’s abilities to fulfill their dreams and aspirations.

“It’s my sincere belief that the Esports Olympic Games will have a similar influence and impact. We’ve already seen esports — the new global sport — morph into a modern-day phenomenon where opportunities are there like never before for athletes to compete, excel and succeed. The Esports Olympic Games will continue this legacy — and we look forward to the honor and privilege of hosting the first-ever edition,” he said.

Soccer-In humble Spanish suburb, wonderkid Lamine Yamal embodies hope

Updated 13 July 2024

Soccer-In humble Spanish suburb, wonderkid Lamine Yamal embodies hope

  • Lamine Yamal was born in Spain from a Moroccan father and an Equatorial Guinea mother, joined Barcelona’s academy when he was six and moved to live in the city aged 11

MATARO: In the working-class, multi-ethnic Barcelona suburb where Lamine Yamal grew up, the stunning rise of Spain’s soccer wonderkid in the European Championship generates both intense pride and hope.
The Barcelona winger, who turns 17 on Saturday, celebrates his goals gesturing 304 with his fingers in a nod to the 08304 postal code of the Rocafonda neighborhood, in the coastal city of Mataro, where he grew up and where his father and grandmother live.
“My son is like any other kid. He has fought for a dream and has had the opportunity to achieve it,” said his jubilant father, Mounir Nasraoui, 38, dressed with Lamine Yamal’s Spanish national jersey at a local bar where people took selfies and embraced him.
He forecasts Spain will beat England 3-0 in Sunday’s Euro 2024 final in Berlin, which he will attend.
The El Cordobes bar, with a framed signed jersey of Lamine Yamal hung on a wall, witnessed the family’s early financial struggles.
Nasraoui would be given his coffee for free so he could instead use his money for a train ride to take his son for training at Barcelona’s academy, said the bar’s owner Juan Carlos Serrano.
“This jersey is the pride of the neighborhood, man!,” said Serrano.
“Lamine is the prototype of a kid who has had to work hard, who has been a good student and just graduated from secondary school,” he added. “For this reason, he is a mirror for children.”
Rocafonda is among Mataro’s neighborhoods with the lowest household income and most residents were born outside the Catalonia region and Spain, primarily in Morocco.
Lamine Yamal was born in Spain from a Moroccan father and an Equatorial Guinea mother, who lives in a nearby town. He joined Barcelona’s academy when he was six and moved to live in the city aged 11, his father said.
On Tuesday, he became the youngest player to score in a World Cup or Euros with a sublime 25-meter strike against France.
He also lifted Rocafonda’s self-esteem.
“People used to be ashamed of saying they are from here. This is a very humble neighborhood where people make 1,000 euros a month,” said 28 year-old Sufian, born from Moroccan parents. “Now people that are not even from Rocafonda or Mataro, say: I am from 304!.”
At Rocafonda’s asphalt pitch where Yamal used to play soccer, young people from Moroccan and Senegalese origin say they dream of following in his footsteps, echoing the humble neighborhoods where other stars grew up such as Argentina’s Lionel Messi and France’s Kylian Mbappe.
Lamine Yamal, who is Black, also represents how Spain has become more ethnically diverse in recent decades due to migration from Africa and Latin America.
His success also comes at a significant political moment. Spain’s far-right party Vox, with a strong anti-migration rhetoric, on Thursday announced it would break five regional government coalitions with the center-right People’s Party over disagreements on the shelter policy for under-18 migrants.
“Lamine’s goal (on Tuesday) was not only a goal, it also sent the message that racism is over and that we are all the same,” said Sufian.