LeBron seeks 8th NBA Finals in a row as Cavs face Celtics

In this Feb. 11, 2018, file photo, Cleveland Cavaliers' LeBron James (23) drives against Boston Celtics' Marcus Morris (13) during the third quarter of an NBA basketball game in Boston. (AP Photo/Michael Dwyer, File)
Updated 12 May 2018
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LeBron seeks 8th NBA Finals in a row as Cavs face Celtics

  • James has averaged 24.0 points, 10.3 rebounds and 8.3 assists against the Celtics this season as Cleveland won two of three meetings.
  • The Cavaliers visit Boston on Sunday for the opening game in the best-of-seven Eastern Conference Finals.
WASHINGTON: LeBron James is on the verge of reaching the NBA Finals for an eighth consecutive season, but his Cleveland Cavaliers face a familiar and formidable obstacle in the Boston Celtics.
The Cavaliers visit Boston on Sunday for the opening game in the best-of-seven Eastern Conference Finals, with the winner to face either regular-season pace-setter Houston or defending champion Golden State in the NBA Finals.
Four-time NBA Most Valuable Player James has carried the Cavs on his back at times, averaging 34.3 points, 9.4 rebounds and 9.0 assists in 11 playoff games for the Cavaliers, who edged Indiana in a seven-game first round before sweeping Eastern conference top seed Toronto in the second round.
“LeBron is on just a ridiculous run,” said Celtics coach Brad Stevens. “We know it will be quite a challenge.”
James has averaged 24.0 points, 10.3 rebounds and 8.3 assists against the Celtics this season as Cleveland won two of three meetings.
“At the end of the day, you have to do whatever it takes to win,” James said. “It doesn’t matter how it happens.”
“King James” would share fourth on the all-time list by reaching his eighth consecutive NBA Finals, two shy of Bill Russell’s record run from the 1960s Celtics dynasty team and trailing nine in a row by Russell teammates Sam Jones and Tommy Heinsohn.
James went 2-2 in the finals with Miami from 2011-2014 and 1-2 with Cleveland the past three years, all against Golden State. He’s 3-5 in the finals overall, having also lost with the Cavs in 2007.
“Every time we come to the playoffs he has that edge,” Cavs coach Tyronn Lue said of James. “He’s a special player, and we all know that. What he does for us is big.”
The 33-year-old playmaker, whose dream came true in 2016 as he sparked the Cavaliers to ending Cleveland’s 52-year pro sports title drought, is the maestro of a deep corps of role players led by forward Kevin Love, whose aggressive play has been ignited by a scoring spark.
“More than anything just seeing the ball go through the hoop has been big for me,” Love said. “Just staying in attack mode, miss or make on the offensive end, making the right decision playing hard and then on both ends on the glass just trying to clean up as best I can.”
Add J.R. Smith and Kyle Korver’s 3-point shooting, Tristan Thompson’s rebounding and the Celtics, who boasted the NBA’s best defensive numbers, will be challenged to shut down James and silence his supporting crew.
“We know where the head of the snake is,” said Celtics center Aron Baynes of Australia. “We know what we have to focus on. But he has got a lot of great role players around him and some other guys who can really create as well.”
The Celtics assembled a superteam in the off-season to threaten Cleveland’s reign in the East, in part thanks to a major trade with the Cavaliers that hasn’t brought a lasting impact.
The Celtics lost Gordon Hayward to a broken leg against the Cavaliers in the season opener. And Kyrie Irving, obtained from the Cavs, is sidelined after left knee surgery.
Isaiah Thomas, obtained from Boston in the Irving deal, was traded to the Los Angeles Lakers in February as the Cavaliers went dealing, landing guard George Hill from Sacramento, Larry Nance Jr. from the Lakers and Rodney Hood from Utah in a bid to find the right combination for another deep playoff run.
Boston’s Al Horford and Love will battle inside while Hill and the Celtics’ Terry Rozier figure on another tussle in the backcourt.
But in the end it will likely come down to James, who torched the Celtics in last year’s East finals for 29.6 points, 6.4 rebounds and 6.8 assists a game.
“He has been doing this a long time,” Boston guard Marcus Smart said. “He’s, if not the greatest, one of the greatest to do it.”


Unrivaled: India now 7-0 in World Cup games against Pakistan

Updated 17 June 2019
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Unrivaled: India now 7-0 in World Cup games against Pakistan

  • Conditions did not dampen the enthusiasm of a predominantly pro-India crowd 

MANCHESTER, UK: For such an intense rivalry, it is still a lopsided contest when India and Pakistan meet at the Cricket World Cup.

India extended their record to 7-0 against Pakistan at the World Cup with an 89-run victory in a rain-interrupted encounter Sunday that likely will remain the most-watched game of the six-week tournament.

India started ominously with Rohit Sharma scoring 140 from 113 deliveries and skipper Virat Kohli contributing 77 in a total of 336-5, a record for a One-Day International at Old Trafford.

Pakistan were always behind the run-rate required.

Fakhar Zaman (62) and Babar Azam (48) put on 104 for the second wicket but when both were dismissed by left-arm wrist spinner Kuldeep Yadav within nine balls, Pakistan’s hopes faded with them.

When Hardik Pandya took wickets with consecutive deliveries in the 27th over, Pakistan were 129-5. And with a result in play because both teams had batted more than 20 overs, there was no chance of sharing points if rain prevented any more play. A delay after the 35th with Pakistan at 166-6 just prolonged the inevitable.

Pakistan were  set a revised target of 302 from 40 overs and the last five overs were a non-event with Pakistan finishing 212-6. India remained unbeaten in four games to start the tournament.

The conditions did not dampen the enthusiasm of a predominantly pro-India crowd that filled the 162-year-old venue to its 23,500 capacity. Seats were in excessively high demand, after all, with the International Cricket Council reporting more than 800,000 ticket applications for the game.

There is always extra significance when the nuclear-armed neighboring countries meet at ICC tournaments because India and Pakistan play cricket so infrequently in bilateral series.

This was no different, with a 1 billion-plus TV audience and an almost football-like atmosphere at the ground.

Kohli’s single to get off the mark was met by “Kohli-Kohli-Kohli” chants from the predominantly pro-India crowd.

Sharma set the tone with his second century of the tournament, sharing partnerships of 136 with KL Rahul (57) for the first wicket and 98 with Kohli for the second.

He seemed ready to really unleash when he needlessly paddled a ball from Hasan Ali to Wahab Riaz at short fine leg in the 38th over.

Kohli continued, becoming the third Indian batter to pass 11,000 ODI runs. In doing so in his 222nd innings, he became the fastest to reach the milestone.

Kohli was on 71 and India was 305-4 when rain stopped play for the first time in the 47th over. The India captain was caught behind off Mohammad Amir’s bowling not long after he returned from the 55-minute rain break and, surprisingly, walked off before umpire Marais Erasmus had a chance to signal him out.

There was some speculation Kohli did not edge the ball but it was inconsequential in the end, as India passed Sri Lanka’s 318-7 against England in 2006 to set the highest ODI total in Manchester.

After a batting onslaught at the top, Pakistan pegged back the run-rate slightly as Amir (3-47) dismissed Pandya (26) and then had MS Dhoni (1) and Kohli caught behind — both the ex-captain and captain walking.

Things started going haywire for Pakistan after skipper Sarfaraz Ahmed won the toss and fielded, going against the advice sent via social media by Prime Minister and 1992 World Cup-winning captain Imran Khan.

Overcast and cool overhead conditions that usually would favor swing and seam bowling didn’t greatly assist the Pakistan attack, with India racing to 52-0 in its most productive opening power play of the tournament.

The Pakistan pacemen had trouble with the umpires, with Amir and Wahab each cautioned twice for running on the protected area in the middle of the pitch. One further warning would have resulted in a suspension.

It also didn’t help that opener Imam-ul-Haq got out in rare circumstances to Vijay Shankar’s very first delivery at a World Cup — it coming on the fifth ball of Pakistan’s fifth over after Shankar was asked to finish it off for injured teammate Bhuveshwar Kumar.

Pakistan’s next game is at Lord’s against South Africa, which also has three points and only remote prospects of reaching the semifinals.