Pacers pummel Knicks to stay alive in NBA playoffs

Pascal Siakam, an NBA champion with Toronto in 2019 and acquired from the Raptors in January, provided a key veteran presence on a young and a crucial skillset that made a big difference on Friday. (Getty Images/AFP)
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Updated 18 May 2024

Pacers pummel Knicks to stay alive in NBA playoffs

  • On the brink of elimination after an embarrassing game five defeat in New York, the Pacers played with desperate aggression

LOS ANGELES: The Indiana Pacers produced another big win on their home court Friday, routing the New York Knicks 116-103 to force a decisive game seven in their NBA Eastern Conference semifinal series.
Pascal Siakam scored 25 points to lead Indiana’s scoring. Tyrese Haliburton added 15 with nine assists and Myles Turner had 17 points as six Pacers players scored in double figures.
On the brink of elimination after an embarrassing game five defeat in New York, the Pacers played with desperate aggression, out-scoring the Knicks 62-38 in the paint and winning the rebounding battle.
They hustled after loose balls, blocked eight shots and handed out 35 assists to keep their offense firing, and kept Knicks talisman Jalen Brunson in check for much of the night as they improved to 6-0 at home in this post-season.
They’ll have to follow up on the road, however, if they want to book a clash with the Boston Celtics in the Eastern Conference finals, with the Knicks hosting game seven on Sunday at Madison Square Garden.
“Now it’s a one game series, and it’s for all the marbles,” Haliburton said. “Where better to have a game seven than the Garden?
“No team’s won a game on the road in this series, so we’ve got to be ready to go from start to finish in 48 minutes.”
The Pacers broke open a close game with a 17-2 scoring run that pushed their lead to 13 points late in the second quarter.
Donte DiVincenzo stopped the rot for New York, draining a three-pointer from the corner that cut the Pacers’ lead to 10, 61-51, at halftime.
Brunson was limited to five points on 2-of-13 shooting in the first half. He found his range after the break, scoring 14 points in the third and finishing with 31.
Miles McBride added 20 for the Knicks, whose brief surge to open the third quarter was quickly squelched by the Pacers.
“There really isn’t any excuse for anything,” Brunson said. “Just the way they played tonight you’ve got to give them credit.”
Pacers coach Rick Carlisle said it was a matter of playing harder.
He said Siakam, an NBA champion with Toronto in 2019 and acquired from the Raptors in January, had provided a key veteran presence on a young and a crucial skillset that made a big difference on Friday.
“He’s the only guy on our roster that can manufacture a 16-foot shot over a seven-foot guy and make it,” Carlisle said. “He did it three or four times in the third, fourth quarter.”
While Carlisle was pleased with his team’s bounce-back win, he was already looking ahead to the test awaiting on Sunday.
“In a series like this, you can’t sit around patting yourself on the back. That’s what gets your ass kicked the next game,” he said.
The Knicks return home with yet another injury concern after forward Josh Hart departed early in the fourth quarter with what the team called abdominal soreness.
He’d clearly been troubled by discomfort around his midriff since the first quarter.
It’s just the latest blow for the Knicks, who saw forward OG Anunoby go down to a hamstring injury in game two after they were already without Julius Randle, Bojan Bogdanovic and Mitchell Robinson.
“We’ll see,” was head coach Tom Thibodeau’s tight-lipped response on whether Hart would be available on Sunday, but he made it clear the Knicks wouldn’t be citing injuries as an excuse.
“This is the nature of the playoffs,” he said. “This is what you play for. Oftentimes it comes down to a hustle play, a loose ball .. so you’re going to get tested physically, mentally, emotionally — and you’ve got to be able to get through all of that.
“So whatever it is that we’re facing, we can overcome and just keep battling.”

Egyptian cyclist Shahd Saeed disqualified from Olympics

Updated 15 July 2024

Egyptian cyclist Shahd Saeed disqualified from Olympics

  • Decision followed a collision with a rival teammate in April

LONDON: Egyptian track cyclist Shahd Saeed has been disqualified from participating in the Paris 2024 Olympics later this month, the BBC reported on Monday.

The decision, taken by the Egyptian Olympic Committee, followed a collision with a rival teammate in April.

Video footage of the incident at the Republic Championship race shows 19-year-old Saeed riding behind teammate Ganna Eliwa before veering into her, resulting in a severe crash.

Eliwa suffered a concussion, a broken right collarbone, and multiple cuts and bruises, according to medical reports.

The incident occurred just 300 meters before the finish line, leaving Eliwa with long-term injuries, including temporary memory loss and an inability to resume competitive cycling.

Saeed consistently maintained that the collision was accidental.

However, Eliwa countered this, stating that Saeed never offered an apology, fueling further speculation about the cause of the crash.

Following an investigation, the Egyptian Cycling Federation suspended Saeed for one year and imposed a fine equivalent to $100 — the maximum penalty under their regulations.

The federation’s decision to register Saeed for the Olympics ignited a wave of public outrage in Egypt. Many social media users urged authorities to reconsider, with some claiming the selection violated the Olympic values of excellence, respect, and friendship.

In a statement issued over the weekend, the EOC emphasized that Saeed’s actions in April were deemed to have violated “the regulations, customs, values, and ethics of sports.”

It continued: “Shahd Saeed is not eligible to participate in any international competition, including the 2024 Paris Olympic Games, due to her one-year suspension until 26 April 2025.”

In a TV interview following the EOC decision, Saeed acknowledged her responsibility for the crash but reiterated that it was “not deliberate.”

She told the talk show: “I wish I had represented Egypt in the Olympics and my efforts over three years had paid off.”

Meanwhile, Eliwa expressed satisfaction with the EOC’s decision, stating: “It was expected. Saeed does not deserve to be in Paris.”

SPL unveils exciting 2024-25 RSL fixtures list

Updated 15 July 2024

SPL unveils exciting 2024-25 RSL fixtures list

  • Opening round of games takes place from Aug. 22, with champions Al-Hilal starting title defence at Al-Okhdood
  • New ‘Magic Rounds’ will feature derbies across Riyadh, Jeddah and the Eastern Province in weeks 9 and 26

Riyadh: The Saudi Pro League’s competitions department has officially announced the fixtures for the upcoming 2024-25 Roshn Saudi League season, which is set to kick off from Aug. 22-24.

The opening weekend will see reigning champions Al-Hilal beginning their title defense away against Al-Okhdood.

This season will feature 306 matches, meticulously scheduled to accommodate international breaks, continental competitions, and Saudi Arabian Football Federation tournaments. Notably, no fixtures will be held during the last 10 days of Ramadan, ensuring respect for the holy month.

The league has also prioritized player welfare by ensuring a minimum two-day rest between matches.

One of the highlights of this season is the introduction of “Magic Rounds.” Scheduled for Matchweeks 9 and 26, these special weekends will host thrilling derbies across Riyadh, Jeddah, and the Eastern Province, showcasing rivalries such as Al-Ahli versus Al-Ittihad and Al-Hilal against Al-Nassr.

The league’s fixture list is designed to ensure a balanced competition. Each team will play nine home matches and eight away matches in the first half, mirroring the same structure in the second half. Teams will avoid playing more than two consecutive matches at home or away, with a maximum of two such occurrences permitted per half of the season.

Clubs from the same city will be paired to guarantee that when one team is at home, the other is away, promoting exciting local derbies. Additionally, the season’s start and end are synchronized; a team playing at home in Matchweek 1 will play away in Matchweek 34, and vice versa. The final four rounds will feature each team playing two home and two away matches, ensuring an electrifying conclusion to the season.

The season opens with a series of compelling matchups.

Al-Shabab will host Al-Ettifaq, while 2023-24 runners-up Al-Nassr will face Al-Raed at home. Newly promoted Al-Orobah will travel to Jeddah to challenge Al-Ahli, and Al-Taawoun will welcome Al-Fayha. In Ar Rass, Al-Ittihad will take on newcomers Al-Kholood. The 2023-24 First Division League champions, Al-Qadsiah, will host Al-Fateh, and Damac will begin their campaign at home against Al-Khaleej, with Al-Riyadh traveling to Makkah to meet Al-Wehda.

The Roshn Saudi League fixtures list. photo credit: @SPL_EN

The SPL will announce match dates and kick-off times in a phased manner:
July 18: breakdown for Matchweeks 1 and 2.
Aug. 18: (Subject to AFC draw date) breakdown for Matchweeks 3 to 8.
Sept. 30: (Subject to King’s Cup Round of 16 draw date) breakdown for Matchweeks 9 to 13.
Oct. 31: (Subject to King’s Cup quarter-final draw date) breakdown for Matchweeks 14 to 22.
Feb. 22: (Subject to AFC Round of 16 draw date) breakdown for Matchweeks 23 to 34.

These announcements will depend on confirmation from the AFC and SAFF regarding their respective competition draw dates.

As the league prepares for another thrilling season, fans can look forward to a calendar packed with drama, excitement, and unforgettable moments in Saudi football.

USA’s Dream Team 2.0 ready to rock Abu Dhabi

Updated 15 July 2024

USA’s Dream Team 2.0 ready to rock Abu Dhabi

  • LeBron James, Stephen Curry and co. ramp up Olympics preparations with warmup games in UAE capital

ABU DHABI: Stephen Curry hesitates when asked to give a nickname for the USA Basketball squad headed to the Paris Olympics.

The Golden State Warriors point guard is part of a star-studded 12-man roster that includes the likes of LeBron James, Kevin Durant, Joel Embiid, Jayson Tatum and Anthony Edwards.

No US team has had that much talent and star power since the fabled 1992 dream team that featured Michael Jordan, Magic Johnson and Larry Bird, and which demolished all opposition to bring home gold at the Barcelona Olympics.

Spearheaded by Warriors coach Steve Kerr, Team USA are in Abu Dhabi this week as part of their preparations for the 2024 Olympics and will take on Australia on Monday and Serbia on Wednesday in exhibition games at Yas Island’s Etihad Arena.

With James and company warming up behind Curry ahead of a practice session at NYU Abu Dhabi on Sunday, the star stopped short of picking a label for the group that will be gunning for a fifth consecutive Olympic gold medal in Paris.

“I got to do my homework. I don’t know if Magic, Michael and Larry, if they coined that themselves and walked around calling themselves the ‘Dream Team,’ or if that was the nickname that fans and the media gave them,” Curry told reporters in the UAE capital.

“I feel like we’re going to have the same vibe. We just want to be called a gold medal-winning team and whatever the nickname is that comes with it, we’ll take it. But we’ve got a great group, obviously, so I’m excited about what we’re capable of doing and hopefully we can get it done.”

A first Olympics for Steph

Curry has suited up for USA at previous World Cups, but never at the Olympics, and the 36-year-old is excited for his maiden experience at the games.

“Everything around the Olympics for me, I’m just a kid in the candy store, because I’ve never been able to experience it before,” he said.

The USA’s win over Canada in an exhibition game in Las Vegas last week was Curry’s first appearance on the national team in 10 years. He played for 19 minutes and had 12 points and three assists.

Managing star power

Head coach Steve Kerr assured the press that managing such a loaded roster “isn’t difficult at all” and while the team is still figuring out the best combinations on the court, he is confident that his players will deliver when it matters most.

Curry described what it is like being part of such a strong collective, saying: “It’s been an amazing experience so far. Like, the energy with this group, a lot of guys that have accomplished a lot of things in basketball in their careers and it just seems like we’re just having fun playing the game. And that’s the cool part about what we have in front of us.

“Because you put agendas aside … you put egos — you bring the healthy egos of who you are, but you put aside everything other than just winning. We talk about it every day. And hopefully we can show it when we actually start.”

Tatum, who helped guide the Boston Celtics to the NBA championship title last month, spoke about the challenge of having just three weeks to get acquainted with new teammates ahead of the Olympics.

“You got to get used to playing with 11 new guys. You got to find the balance of being unselfish but still being yourself and being the guy, the reason why they wanted you on this team, you got to be yourself,” said the 26-year-old forward.

“So, figuring out that balance of, you never want to step on anyone’s toes, still got to play the right way and be aggressive in your own way.”

Celtics trio add championship DNA to the team

There are three Celtics players on Team USA — Tatum, Jrue Holiday and Derrick White — and they are keen to add to what has already been a successful year for them.

Tatum and Holiday were part of the team that won gold in Tokyo 2020 but this time return to the squad as reigning NBA champions.

A star in his own right, Tatum is ready to take on whichever role he is assigned by Kerr, even if it means coming off the bench.

Kerr will be testing out different starting lineups during the warmup games in Abu Dhabi and London before the team fly to Lille for their Olympics opener against World Cup silver medalists Serbia on July 28.

“Honestly, every USA team I’ve played on, going back to junior basketball, I would always come off the bench. It’s not something to look down upon. There’s so many talented guys and you know I was the second lead scorer in Tokyo — the main objective is for us to win,” said Tatum.

“If I start, if I come off the bench, I know how to impact the game and how to win at the highest level.”

LeBron ‘excited’ to be back in the Middle East

After a brief visit to Dubai in 2022, and a stop in Riyadh last year where he held a clinic with young Saudi basketballers, James is back in the region, ready to play his first game in the Middle East against Australia on Monday.

“I’m excited to be here once again. I spent a little time in Saudi Arabia, I was in Dubai as well, and now being here in Abu Dhabi. I’m looking forward to playing in the game on Monday, playing the game on Wednesday, and seeing the reception that we get for Team USA. I’m super excited. It’s always a treat,” said James.

The 39-year-old Lakers forward is chasing a third Olympic gold medal this summer to go with the ones he won in 2008 and 2012.

As the oldest player on the roster, James believes it is important to take on a mentorship role in the team, together with his fellow veterans.

“Absolutely, it’s always a responsibility that you should hold with honor and being able to give back to the younger generation because they have to keep going when we’re done,” he said.

“So, it’s definitely a responsibility for myself, KD and Steph to be able to just show them the ropes.”

KD still sidelined

The player with the most Olympics experience on the squad is Durant, who helped lead USA to gold in the last three editions of the games.

The Phoenix Suns forward has yet to practice with Team USA, though, as he continues to nurse a calf strain. Kerr said that Durant will not be playing in Monday’s game against Australia but is not too concerned about the injury.

The coach said he has not lined up a possible replacement for Durant, and sounds confident that the 35-year-old will be good to go in France.

“(A back-up plan is) not something we’ve even discussed at this point. Because we feel good that he’s going to be okay, it’s just day to day,” said Kerr.

Diriyah Club ownership transferred to PIF-backed firm, boosting Saudi sports sector

Updated 15 July 2024

Diriyah Club ownership transferred to PIF-backed firm, boosting Saudi sports sector

RIYADH: Saudi Arabia’s sports sector is set for a major boost as ownership of Diriyah Sports Club transfers from the Ministry of Sport to Diriyah Co., a firm owned by the Public Investment Fund.     

Crown Prince Mohammed bin Salman, serving as chairman of the PIF company’s board of directors, has also approved the formation of Diriyah Sports Club’s board, chaired by Prince Khalid bin Saud. Board members include Jerry Inzerillo, Mohammed Al-Khreiji, Ayman Al-Fallaj, and Hamad Al-Bati, according to a statement.  

The moves align with strategic goals to develop and enhance Diriyah as a premier cultural, tourist, entertainment, and sports destination. The initiative also aims to empower the private sector to play a more significant role in the sports field, in line with Saudi Vision 2030 goals. 

Jerry Inzerill, group CEO of Diriyah Gate Development Authority, said: “The decision by the Ministry of Sport to transfer ownership of the Diriyah Sports Club to Diriyah Gate Development Authority will enable the organization to invest in their development, both from a facilities and a talent perspective.”  

He added: “We will be looking at developing a ground-up approach, from enhanced infrastructure to world-class athletic and athlete services, bolstering and growing the player base to enable them to compete at levels that were previously unachievable.”  

Inzerillo further emphasized that this initiative will expand their audience and fan base, encouraging youth and casual players to aspire to higher levels of competition. These efforts align with Vision 2030's goals of promoting wellness, well-being, and inclusive sports participation across all age groups and skill levels. 

Moreover, this initiative is part of the Sports Clubs Investment and Privatization Project, announced by the Crown Prince in June 2023. The project, rolled out in collaboration with the National Privatization Center, aims to accelerate the development of Saudi Arabia’s sports industry by encouraging business sector involvement with clubs.  

Shortly after the project announcement at that time, PIF stated its intention to acquire ownership of Saudi Arabia's four leading football clubs: Al-Ittihad, Al-Ahli, Al-Nassr, and Al-Hilal. 

Founded in 1976, Diriyah Club is gearing up to compete in the Saudi Second Division League for the upcoming 2024/2025 sports season, having been assigned to Group 2 by the Saudi Arabian Football Federation. 

Thomas Mueller ends Germany career following Euro 2024

Updated 15 July 2024

Thomas Mueller ends Germany career following Euro 2024

  • Mueller, who turns 35 in September, was a key member of the German team that won the 2014 World Cup

BERLIN: Germany striker Thomas Mueller said Monday he was retiring from international football after a disappointing Euro 2024 in which the host nation were eliminated in the quarter-finals.
“After 131 national team games and 45 goals, I am saying goodbye,” Mueller said in a video statement announcing his decision.
Mueller, who turns 35 in September, was a key member of the German team that won the 2014 World Cup.
The charismatic forward also scored the opening goal in Germany’s unforgettable 7-1 win over the hosts Brazil in the semi final.
“When I played my first international match for the German national team over 14 years ago, I could never have dreamed of all this,” Mueller said in the video.
“It always made me very proud to play for my country. We celebrated together and sometimes shed a tear together,” he said.
A tearful Mueller had hinted at retirement following Germany’s exit from Euro 2024.
The tournament hosts lost 2-1 in the quarter-final to Spain, who went on to lift the trophy on Sunday against England.
After the Spain game, Mueller said he would hold talks with national team coach Julian Nagelsmann and decide whether it was the “sensible option” to step aside in favor of younger players.
Goalkeeper Manuel Neuer is the only member of Germany’s 2014 World Cup-winning side still involved in the national team set up.
Germany and Real Madrid midfielder Toni Kroos announced before Euro 2024 that he would retire from football after the tournament.
Unlike Kroos, Mueller will continue to play for his club Bayern Munich, where he is under contract until 2025.
Only Lothar Matthaeus and Miroslav Klose have played more games for Germany than Mueller, who is also Germany’s sixth highest goalscorer of all time.