Mavericks humble Celtics 122-84 to stay alive in NBA Finals

Luka Doncic scored 25 of his 29 points in the first half as Dallas Mavericks handed Boston Celtics their first road defeat of the playoffs. (USA TODAY Sports)
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Updated 15 June 2024

Mavericks humble Celtics 122-84 to stay alive in NBA Finals

  • Luka Doncic scored 25 of his 29 points in the first half and Kyrie Irving added 21 for the Mavs
  • Dallas will try to stop the Celtics from celebrating an 18th title when they travel to Boston for game five

LOS ANGELES: Luka Doncic and the Dallas Mavericks dominated Boston 122-84 on Friday to fend off elimination in the NBA Finals, denying the Celtics a sweep in the best-of-seven championship series.
Doncic scored 25 of his 29 points in the first half and Kyrie Irving added 21 for the Mavs, who snapped the Celtics’ 10-game playoff winning streak but still have a mountain to climb as they try to become the first team to rally from a 3-0 deficit to win an NBA playoff series.
Now down 3-1, Dallas will try to stop the Celtics from celebrating an 18th title when they travel to Boston for game five on Monday.
“Like I said at the beginning of the series, it’s first to four,” Doncic said. “We’re going to believe until the end.
“I have big belief in this team that we can do it, so we’ve just got to keep believing.”
Doncic, roundly criticized after game three when he fouled out with more than four minutes left and could only watch as the Mavs’ comeback bid fell short, was dialed in on the defensive end as Dallas held the Celtics to 36.2 percent shooting.
Boston star Jayson Tatum scored 15 points and Jaylen Brown had just 10 as the Mavs posted the third-largest margin of victory in NBA Finals history.
“Thought they played with a ton of energy and physicality,” Celtics coach Joe Mazzulla said of the Mavericks. “And they are a great team, that’s the reason why they are here when they play like that.”
Tim Hardaway Jr. added 15 points off the bench for Dallas and 20-year-old rookie Dereck Lively added 11 — including his first career three-pointer — as the Mavs topped 100 points for the first time in the series.
Dallas handed Boston their first road defeat of these playoffs and ended their bid for the 10th 4-0 sweep in Finals history.
With Doncic and Irving leading the way, Dallas built a 34-21 first-quarter lead — the Mavs’ highest-scoring quarter of the series.
There was no let-up in the second, the Mavs dominating every facet of the game on the way to a 61-35 halftime lead.
Lively electrified the crowd at American Airlines Center with his three-pointer, followed by an alley-oop dunk on the next possession in the first period.
“I think our energy was way higher,” Doncic said. “Everybody was locked in (on the) defensive end.”
The Celtics, harried at every turn, made 14 of their 41 three-point attempts. They were out-scored 60-26 in the paint and out-rebounded 52-31 — Dallas’ dominance on the boards leading to a 16-2 edge in second-chance points.
“They did a great job flying around, making indecision on whether to shoot it or drive and their multiple efforts,” Mazzulla said. “And I thought their five men did a great job protecting the paint. Whenever we went in for a layup, they had multiple guys contesting.”
Doncic said it was the prospect of elimination more than criticism of defense that had him stepping up the intensity, forgoing his usual complaints to officials and letting his game speak for him.
Stripped by Jrue Holiday on a drive to the basket, Doncic dived for the loose ball and swatted it to Irving, who played it back to him for a layup.
Fouled on the play, Doncic made the free throw to put Dallas up 43-25 midway through the second quarter.
Mavs coach Jason Kidd — and Mazzulla — said Doncic was just his normal MVP-candidate self.
“There was not a different Luka out there,” Kidd said. “He’s great, he’s been great, he’s one of the best players in the world, as much as we want to criticize him, he’s a hell of a player.”
The Mavs were up 92-57 when Doncic and Irving checked out of the game to a standing ovation with 1:29 left in the third quarter, Irving offering Doncic a congratulatory embrace on the bench.
Mazzulla had already pulled his starters by then, their attention already turning to game five and their next chance to break out of a tie with the Los Angeles Lakers for most NBA titles.

Saudi Olympians meet with local mayor at Paris Games training camp

Updated 18 July 2024

Saudi Olympians meet with local mayor at Paris Games training camp

  • Marc-Antoine Jamet spoke with pole vaulter Hussain Al-Hizam and swimmer Zaid Al-Sarraj

LONDON: The mayor of Val-de-Reuil in Normandy met with Saudi athletes preparing to compete in the upcoming Paris Olympics at their training camp in the commune on Thursday.

Marc-Antoine Jamet spoke with pole vaulter Hussain Al-Hizam and swimmer Zaid Al-Sarraj as well as the director of the Saudi team, Afnan Barnawi, and a number of camp administrators.

The mayor was joined by local children and they wished the Saudi team luck and success in their Olympic participation.

Also on Thursday, the Saudi show jumping team held a training session in the Kingdom ahead of their journey to join up with the Saudi delegation in Paris two days before the equestrian competition starts on July 27.

England’s Brown birdies last to lead The Open

Updated 1 min 14 sec ago

England’s Brown birdies last to lead The Open

  • Brown leads by one in his very first appearance at The Open Championship
  • Lowry made the most of the calm late afternoon conditions with three birdies in five holes around the turn to shoot 66 and lie solo second

TROON, United Kingdom: Daniel Brown drained an eight-footer on the 18th for a closing birdie that saw him sign for a round of 65 and a one-shot solo lead of the Open Championship in his very first appearance.

Earlier, Shane Lowry shot to the top of the leaderboard at five under par as Rory McIlroy was among the big names to struggle on day one of the 152nd Open at Royal Troon.
McIlroy posted a seven over par round of 78 with his hopes of ending a 10-year wait to win a major floundering as most of the field struggled in the wet and windy conditions on Scotland’s west coast.
Lowry, who won his sole major at The Open five years ago, made the most of the calm late afternoon conditions with three birdies in five holes around the turn to shoot 66 and lie solo second.
Two-time major winner Justin Thomas is lurking at three under, while recently crowned USPGA Championship winner Xander Schauffele is among a group of five on two under that also includes Justin Rose.
World number one Scottie Scheffler cut a frustrated figure on the greens but is still in the mix after a one under round that featured four birdies and three bogeys.
McIlroy was aiming to get over his heartbreak at the US Open last month, where he missed two short putts to blow the lead as Bryson DeChambeau claimed his second major by one shot.
However, the Northern Irishman’s round, and probably championship, was blown off course at the postage stamp 120-yard eighth.
McIlroy was unfortunate as his near-perfect tee shot slipped off the green into a bunker, which he took two attempts to get out of, to post a double bogey five.
Another double bogey followed at the 11th, while he also dropped shots at the 10th, 15th and 18th.
“All I need to focus on is tomorrow and try to make the cut,” said McIlroy.
“I need to go out there and play better and try to shoot something under par and at least be here for the weekend, if not try to put myself up the leaderboard a bit more and feel like I have half a chance.”

DeChambeau had been the form player in the majors so far this year, despite his defection to the breakaway LIV Tour.
The American finished sixth at the Masters and runner-up in the USPGA Championship before claiming his second US Open.
However, his struggles with the windy conditions of links golf continued as he was six over par for his opening nine holes.
DeChambeau battled back on the back nine as an eagle on the 17th helped him to a 76.
“I’m just proud of the way I persevered today,” said DeChambeau.
“I could have thrown in the towel after nine and could have been like, ‘I’m going home’. But no, I’ve got a chance tomorrow. I’m excited for the challenge.”
Thomas recovered from his own double bogey at the 12th to post a 68, which was 14 shots better than his opening round at Royal Liverpool 12 months ago.
“I played really solid, got it around. I felt like I had great control of the ball,” said Thomas.
World number three Schauffele continued his fine form in recent months as he dropped just one shot to put himself among the chasing pack.
Five-time major champion Brooks Koepka defied the worst of the weather to post four consecutive bridies between the fourth and the seventh before dropping back to one under.
Tiger Woods had hit back at suggestions from former European Ryder Cup captain Colin Montgomerie that he should retire, but the 15-time major champion failed to prove he can still be competitive with a 79.
“I didn’t do a whole lot of things right today,” said Woods. “I had three 3-putts today. I didn’t hit my irons very close, and I didn’t give myself a whole lot of looks today.”
Cameron Smith, champion at St. Andrews two years ago, fared even worse with an 80.
World number four Ludvig Aberg was another of the big names to falter in his first ever round at The Open with a four-over round of 75.
The Swede’s playing partner Jon Rahm is two over, while home favorite Bob McIntire is in the running after a one-over 72 to back up his victory at last week’s Scottish Open.

Al-Nassr Women discover opponents for prelim stage of first AFC Women’s Champions League

Updated 18 July 2024

Al-Nassr Women discover opponents for prelim stage of first AFC Women’s Champions League

  • Saudi Arabia will host the preliminary stage of the tournament next month

RIYADH: Saudi champions Al-Nassr Women have been drawn against Myawady Women from Myanmar, the UAE’s Abu Dhabi Country Club and Young Elephants FC of Laos in the inaugural AFC Women’s Champions League.

Saudi Arabia will host the preliminary stage of the tournament next month, it was also confirmed on Thursday.

The first edition of the tournament will welcome the 21 domestic champions from AFC member associations, and the preliminary stage in the Kingdom — which will be played Aug. 25 to 31 — will feature 13 teams competing in four round-robin groups.

The winner of each will progress to the group stage, where eight top-seeded clubs await.

The Kingdom’s selection as hosts for the preliminary stage follows the successful hosting of the West Asian Football Federation Women’s Championship and the growth of the Women’s Premier League ahead of its third season.

Cricket’s future path is clear after recent forum

Updated 18 July 2024

Cricket’s future path is clear after recent forum

  • World Cricket Connects brought together more than 100 influential voices in the game

A focus of this column over the last three years has been the rapidly changing landscape of professional cricket. Some things which may have seemed like straws in the wind in mid-June 2021 are now in full flow, unlikely to be stopped even by hurricane-strength storms.

Cricket’s governing body is the International Cricket Council, tasked with managing the game. In a previous era, this had been the responsibility of the Marylebone Cricket Club. The latter still has influence in the game. Early this year, its current president, Mark Nicholas, an urbane former professional cricketer, initiated the idea of a forum to discuss cricket’s future. This was held on July 5 at Lord’s prior to England’s Test match against the West Indies.

The gathering was called World Cricket Connects. It brought together more than 100 influential voices in the game, including chairs and CEOs from five ICC full members, plus associate nations, Scotland and Oman. Former and current players, both men and women, were present, along with several executives of T20 franchises.

There was one notable omission. Jay Shah, secretary of the Board for Control of Cricket in India, was not there. He had sent his apologies. The need to be pictured with the T20 World Cup Trophy in India prevailed. Why not, especially after an election victory, since his father is Prime Minister Modi’s interior minister. The BCCI’s priorities are clear. They were clear in September 2021 when it pulled its team from a deciding Test match against England, citing mental health issues, only for the players to return immediately to perform in the Indian Premier League.

Without Shah, described by Nicholas as the most powerful person in cricket, the event was an emperor without clothes. Reports of its content took time to emerge. The ICC chair was reported to have said that the ICC is not fit for purpose and that as a “members’ organization,” it falls short of being a global governing body. Whilst not a revelation to many, the fact that it was said in a semi-public forum is a surprise, perhaps reflecting frustration at India’s power. This is not going to decline.

Ravi Shastri, Inda’s representative and a recent former coach, put forward a view that the 12 teams playing Test cricket should have a promotion and relegation system, with two tiers of six, including promotion and relegation. It may well come to that position, hastened by the costs of hosting Test cricket.

In this context, enter the ICC’s long-term ambition for cricket to become the world’s favorite sport. This translates into leading, growing and promoting cricket. The ICC is not really a governing body. It is an organizer and facilitator of global events, a builder of long-term successful commercial partnerships and a catalyst for growth. Almost as an afterthought, it says that “it will continue to make considerable efforts to protect the integrity of the sport.”

On the latter, there remain doubts, Betting is rife in the game. I have been moved by ICC officials from boundary side positions because I may be passing on information obtained from players to gambling companies. This not something that I would do and I am hardly the problem. It is unlikely that betting’s influence on cricket got a mention at Lord’s, which it should have done.

As we all know, T20 is the growth engine of modern-day cricket, like it or not. This fits the ICC’s vision, it is completely in tune with that of the BCCI and it fits with the growth of cricket in countries where growth would not have been possible otherwise. In this context, I was amazed to be appraised of a tournament hosted by Poland, involving teams from Latvia, Lithuania and Montenegro. My amazement centered on the Montenegro Bokaneers team.

It had three players with the surname of Plastics, its base registered as Brighton (England) and had one player with whom I have shared a pitch on more than one occasion. T20 cricket has democratized the game, but at what cost? At the World Cricket Connects event it was reported that there was much talk of money, about levering the consumer and responding to commercial forces. Apparently, those forces are killing Test cricket for all but the major countries. It costs upward of £1 million ($1.3 million) for Ireland and Scotland, for example, to host a Test match, without commensurate return from gate receipts, broadcasting rights and sponsorship. In Pakistan, costs of providing security for a Test match series are estimated to be up to $5 million.

Meanwhile, viewership levels for One Day International cricket have fallen by a quarter since 2019. In that context, discussions about reducing the number of “meaningless” matches surfaced, whatever that means. Some people may regard the recent England vs. West Indies Test match at Lord’s, completed in just over two days, as meaningless. Those who played a Test at Lord’s for the first time, one of whom took 12 wickets, are likely to disagree. In Scotland, the men’s team is hosting Oman and Namibia as part of the ICC Cricket World Cup League Two, part of the qualifying process for the 2027 ODI World Cup. In general, Scotland is desperate to play more cricket, especially against top-quality opposition, in matches that would have real meaning, as it seeks to improve its position in world cricket. Even Latvia vs. Montenegro Bokaneers has meaning for those who achieved an ambition of playing in an “international” match.

The sad truth is that professional cricket has been captured by commercial forces and, in particular, by those in India. Those forces are advertisers, producers of goods and services, broadcasters, betting companies and sponsors. Their most comfortable outlet is T20 cricket, given its short format and adaptability to broadcasting schedules. The COVID-19 pandemic caused substantial financial losses for cricket worldwide that have accelerated the rush to the T20 format, which looks set to dominate the future in its thrall to money. It now seems clear that both Test and ODI cricket will need to shrink to accommodate this new reality of commercialism and measurement of success by income generation.

Professional Fighters League announces extra bouts for August playoffs

Updated 18 July 2024

Professional Fighters League announces extra bouts for August playoffs

  • 2024 PFL Playoffs will see the return of Biaggio Ali Walsh to the SmartCage

NEW YORK: The Professional Fighters League has announced additional bouts for the 2024 PFL Global Season Playoffs in August.

On Friday, Aug. 2 in Nashville, the heavyweight and women’s flyweight divisions will take center stage.

In a marquee addition to the event, Tyrell Fortune (14-2) will face Sergei Bilostenniy (12-3) in a heavyweight alternate contest. In all, five early bouts have been added to an already stacked night of action.

Two weeks later on Aug.16, the light-heavyweight and lightweight playoffs will take place in Hollywood, Florida.

Biaggio Ali Walsh (1-0) makes his sophomore professional appearance against undefeated Korey Taylor (4-0) during the ESPN main card.

A light-heavyweight alternate bout pitting Antonio Carlos Jr. (16-6) against Karl Albrektsson (14-5) is confirmed, while a lightweight alternate fight between Elvin Espinoza (10-1) and Mads Burnell (19-6) is also official for the early card.

The playoffs will conclude on Aug. 23 in Washington D.C. with the welterweight and featherweight divisions.

A welterweight alternate bout pitting Neiman Gracie (13-5) against Luca Poclit (10-2) is confirmed, while a featherweight alternate fight between Tyler Diamond (14-3) and Enrique Barzola (20-9-2) is also official.

The PFL Regular Season has each winner of the six weight divisions receiving a $1 million purse.