Youth movement: NBA’s 20-something stars set to battle in conference finals

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Updated 21 May 2024
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Youth movement: NBA’s 20-something stars set to battle in conference finals

  • Boston’s 26-year-old Jayson Tatum and 27-year-old Jaylen Brown are already experienced hands after the Celtics reached the conference finals in each of the past two seasons
  • Kyrie Irving, traded to the Mavericks in February 2023, has seen close-up what Doncic and the rest of the league’s rising stars bring to the table

LOS ANGELES: The NBA conference finals starting Tuesday will showcase a new generation of stars as the Boston Celtics take on Indiana in the East and Dallas clash with Minnesota in the West for a place in the NBA Finals.

Boston’s 26-year-old Jayson Tatum and 27-year-old Jaylen Brown are already experienced hands after the Celtics reached the conference finals in each of the past two seasons.

They made it to the championship series in 2022 but fell to the Golden State Warriors then were stunned by eighth-seeded Miami in the conference finals last year.

In the Pacers they’ll face a high-octane offense led by 24-year-old Tyrese Haliburton while in the West 25-year-old Luka Doncic will lead the Mavericks against 22-year-old Anthony Edwards and the Minnesota Timberwolves.

Kyrie Irving, traded to the Mavericks in February 2023, has seen close-up what Doncic and the rest of the league’s rising stars bring to the table.

“They have no fear,” Irving said after the Mavericks polished off a six-game victory over the top-seeded Oklahoma City in the conference semifinals.

“They want to kill our records. They want to kill us every time they get on the court,” said Irving, an eight-time All-Star who won a title with Cleveland in 2016.

“That was the first thing I noticed about Luka, that he just had no fear going against the best in the world,” Irving said. “He always walks around like he’s the best player in the world. I think that’s the confidence of a champion. That’s where it starts.”

LeBron James is still a force at 39 but his Lakers were swept by Denver in the first round of the playoffs.

The Timberwolves swept Kevin Durant and the Phoenix Suns out of the first round when the Pacers took care of Giannis Antetokounmpo and the Milwaukee Bucks.

Stephen Curry’s Golden State Warriors didn’t make it out of the play-in and three-time Most Valuable Player Nikola Jokic and the defending champion Nuggets were subdued in seven games in the West semis by Minnesota.

Edwards, averaging 28.9 points, 6.2 rebounds and 5.9 assists in the playoffs, showed his maturity in Game 7, when he shook off a poor shooting night to dig in on the defensive end and help author one of the greatest Game 7 comeback wins in NBA history.

“I’m not one-dimensional,” declared Edwards, whose stellar season has seen him tabbed for the US Olympic team.

But Irving thinks Doncic has the edge in maturity. The Slovenian star is in the playoffs for the fourth time, his longest prior run a trip to the conference finals in 2022.

Irving says Doncic is set to shine with a new supporting cast around him — not least himself.

The Mavs, seeking to add to the lone NBA title they won in 2011, host the Timberwolves in Game 1 on Wednesday.

The Celtics, who share the record for most NBA titles at 17, host the Pacers in Game 1 on Tuesday, with Brown and Tatum aiming to become the latest to lead Boston to the crown.

“We’ve just been in a lot of battles together,” Tatum said of his partnership with Brown. “Seven years as teammates. He’s been in the conference finals six times, this is my fifth time.

“(We’re) really getting to a stage where we understand what we can do individually. We know how gifted we are offensively, but each night just kind of presents different challenges ... both of us are capable on the basketball court to do literally everything.”

The Pacers’ Haliburton is in unfamiliar territory, but he can rely on the experience of Pascal Siakam, an NBA champion with Toronto who was acquired from the Raptors in January.

After surprising in the regular season — and earning national attention with their run to the final of the new in-season tournament — the Pacers are out to prove they can flout conventional wisdom and use their up-tempo offense to carry them all the way.

“Well, we’re the uninvited guest,” Pacers coach Rick Carlisle said of sixth-seeded Indiana’s arrival in the conference finals. “So here we are, OK.”


Conor McGregor says a broken toe forced him to withdraw from UFC 303

Updated 13 min 28 sec ago
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Conor McGregor says a broken toe forced him to withdraw from UFC 303

LAS VEGAS: Conor McGregor posted on Instagram on Friday that a broken toe was the reason he had to pull out of his headline UFC 303 bout against Michael Chandler after previously not specifying the injury.
“We had a lapse in concentration and engaged in a training session without wearing the full protective gear and I hit the toe off the elbow and broke the toe clean,” McGregor posted. “It needs a few weeks that’s it. I couldn’t justify to my team, or fans, that I make the walk hindered again. That walk has been seen. This next walk has got to be, and it will be, 100 percent Conor McGregor. The fans deserve it and we are getting close.”
Light heavyweight champion Alex Pereira will face top-ranked challenger Jiri Prochazka in the June 29 main event in Las Vegas in place of the McGregor-Chandler match.
McGregor said he would return to the octagon “Chandler or not.”
He took the X, formerly known as Twitter, to say that Chandler is getting paid 10 times the amount he would have received if he had fought someone else.
“For those saying he could have fought 2 or 3 times by now etc.,” McGregor posted, “He’d need 10 to break even with this cheque.”


CONCACAF to investigate after Canada’s Bombito was targeted on social media with racist messages

Updated 22 June 2024
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CONCACAF to investigate after Canada’s Bombito was targeted on social media with racist messages

ATLANTA: CONCACAF says it will investigate racist messages directed at Canadian soccer player Moise Bombito on social media after he made a tackle on Lionel Messi during a 2-0 Copa America loss to Argentina on Thursday.
The Canadian National Team issued a statement on social media late Thursday night about the messages without mentioning Bombito by name.
“Canada Soccer is aware of and deeply disturbed by racist comments made online and directed at one of our men’s national team players following tonight’s game,” the statement said. “We are in communication with CONCACAF and CONMEBOL about this matter.”
CONCACAF said it stood with Canada Soccer “in condemning the disgraceful social media posts.
“We are now working with the federation and with our colleagues at CONMEBOL and FIFA to seek ways to investigate the accounts which posted racist material. We will continue to use our reach to promote unity and respect.”
Bombito, a 24-year-old from Montreal who plays for the Colorado Rapids in MLS, made an Instagram story post that didn’t reference anything specifically but said, “My beautiful Canada. No room for that bs.”
Bombito caught Messi while attempting a tackle in the 82nd minute after his pass was intercepted by Lautaro Martinez. Messi, clearly in pain, went down in the penalty box after Canada goalkeeper Maxime Crepeau saved an ensuing shot from Martinez.
Replays showed a sliding Bombito getting a foot to the ball and then making contact with Messi’s right ankle. There was no foul called.
Messi walked off the field gingerly after receiving treatment but returned to action and set up Argentina’s second goal in the 88th minute.


Energized Austria win and put Lewandowski’s Poland at risk of elimination from Euro 2024

Updated 21 June 2024
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Energized Austria win and put Lewandowski’s Poland at risk of elimination from Euro 2024

  • Gernot Trauner, Christoph Baumgartner and Marko Arnautovic scored for Austria while Krzysztof Piatek had Poland’s first-half equalizer
  • Robert Lewandowski came on in the second half but failed to make an impact

BERLIN: Austria picked up a crucial win at Euro 2024 by defeating Poland 3-1 in their second group match and leaving the Poles on the brink of elimination on Friday.
Gernot Trauner, Christoph Baumgartner and Marko Arnautovic scored for Austria while Krzysztof Piatek had Poland’s first-half equalizer.
To avoid a group stage exit, Poland need the Netherlands to beat France in a later Group D match on Friday.
Robert Lewandowski, who missed Poland’s first match against the Netherlands due to an injury, came on in the second half but failed to make an impact, and was booked after just five minutes on the pitch.
Austria came out blazing and took the lead within 10 minutes when Trauner headed in a cross from Philipp Mwene.
The Poles clawed their way back and levelled just before the half-hour mark, with Piatek slotting in a rebound from close range.
Polish fans roared as their record goal-scorer Lewandowski rose from the bench 15 minutes into the second half to make his Euro 2024 debut, replacing Adam Buksa in the attack. However, the captain had a disappointing evening in Berlin, receiving a yellow card almost immediately after a tough challenge on Philipp Lienhart.
Baumgartner picked up an excellent pass from Alexander Prass to make it 2-1, and this time Poland didn’t have the energy to reply.
Arnautovic sealed the win for Austria from the penalty spot after Poland goalkeeper Wojciech Szczesny brought down Marcel Sabitzer in the penalty area in the 77th.
Austria, after a loss and a win, next face the Netherlands on Tuesday.
France await two-loss Poland in the final round of the group stage.


Iordanescu challenges Romania to make ‘history’ at Euro 2024

Updated 21 June 2024
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Iordanescu challenges Romania to make ‘history’ at Euro 2024

  • Romania powered to a 3-0 win against Ukraine in their Group E opener on Monday
  • The Belgians slumped to a shock 1-0 loss at the hands of Slovakia

COLOGNE, Germany: Romania boss Edward Iordanescu urged his team to make “history” at Euro 2024 as they bid to seal a place in the last 16 with a victory over Belgium.
Iordanescu’s side will be guaranteed to reach the knockout stage if they follow their impressive win against Ukraine with an even more surprising success when they meet star-studded Belgium in Cologne on Saturday.
Romania powered to a 3-0 win against Ukraine in their Group E opener on Monday, while the Belgians slumped to a shock 1-0 loss at the hands of Slovakia.
Inspired by their first win in a major tournament since beating England at Euro 2000, the Romanians have their sights set on making the competition’s knockout stage for the first time in 24 years.
“It would mean history. It would be a fantastic example for what football and sport means in Romania,” Iordanescu said on Friday.
“After the first game, the whole country was behind our team. It really helped our people. I can feel happiness and hope for all Romanians. That motivates us even more.”
Belgium wasted a host of chances to score against Slovakia and were denied a late Romelu Lukaku equalizer by a controversial VAR decision.
Iordanescu knows Kevin De Bruyne and company will be desperate to make amends against Romania as the talented underachievers fight to avoid another flop at a major tournament.
“Obviously the opponent is amazing. But we are going into the game trying to win it. Why not get the points that would mean qualification?” he said.
“We have to keep the context in mind. They are number three in the world, with great players, and they really need to get a result.
“That is a really difficult challenge for us. We are waiting for it. This is the Euros, the best players and coaches. These are incredible experiences.
“We have to elevate to another level. We have to be very exact and very efficient.”
Ukraine’s 2-1 win against Slovakia on Friday raised the prospect of all four teams having three points heading into the final round of matches if Belgium beat Romania.
Iordanescu acknowledged a draw would be a good result against Belgium as he insisted his players would not lose focus after their memorable start to the tournament.
“The qualification is the most important thing for us. If a point would be enough, then we would take it,” he said.
“Of course we had euphoria on the pitch (after the Ukraine game). That needed to be enjoyed, then we relaxed and started preparing for tomorrow’s game. It is a new challenge.”


Nortje and De Kock star as South Africa edge England in T20 World Cup

Updated 21 June 2024
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Nortje and De Kock star as South Africa edge England in T20 World Cup

  • The Proteas were well-placed at 92-1 after losing the toss
  • England, chasing a seemingly modest 164 to win, slumped to 61-4

GROS-ISLET, Saint Lucia: Anrich Nortje held his nerve as South Africa remained unbeaten at the T20 World Cup after defeating reigning champions England by seven runs in a thrilling second-round Super Eights clash in St. Lucia on Friday.
England, chasing a seemingly modest 164 to win, slumped to 61-4 thanks to fine South Africa bowling and fielding before a partnership of 78 between Harry Brook (53) and Liam Livingstone (33) took them to 139-5 in the 18th over.
But, with England needing 14 off the last over, Brook chipped a slower ball from fast bowler Nortje and South Africa captain Aiden Markram held a brilliant diving catch over his shoulder as he ran back from mid-off to end a 37-ball innings featuring seven fours.
Two balls later, Sam Curran struck a four but then refused a single, as that would have left lower-order batsman Jofra Archer on strike.
England now needed nine off two balls but Curran could only manage a single, leaving Archer with an impossible task off the final ball as England finished on 156-6.
It was a fine display under pressure by South Africa, often accused of ‘choking’ at major events.
Earlier, the Proteas were well-placed at 92-1 after losing the toss, with De Kock hitting fast bowler Archer for 21 in the fourth over, including two sixes off successive balls.
De Kock, however, was brilliantly caught by leaping England captain and wicketkeeper Jos Buttler off Archer for 65 to end a 38-ball innings featuring four fours and four sixes.
England, however, thought they had dismissed De Kock for 58 only for the third umpire to rule Mark Wood had grassed a low catch in the deep — a key decision in a tight game.
De Kock’s exit sparked a collapse that saw South Africa lose three wickets for 21 runs, with the big-hitting Heinrich Klaasen brilliantly run out by Buttler’s direct hit on the stumps at the non-striker’s end.
But David Miller’s rapid 43 helped take South Africa to 163-6 — and that was just enough.