Antetokounmpo, Bucks make statement game

Milwaukee Bucks' Giannis Antetokounmpo shoots against multiple Detroit Pistons defenders during their game Sunday. (AP)
Updated 15 April 2019

Antetokounmpo, Bucks make statement game

  • Antetokounmpo had 24 points and 17 rebounds in just 24 minutes

LOS ANGELES: Milwaukee showed why they are the Eastern Conference kingpins and Giannis Antetokounmpo proved he is worthy of a league MVP as the Bucks trampled all over the Detroit Pistons on Sunday.

Antetokounmpo had 24 points and 17 rebounds in just 24 minutes, as the Milwaukee began their hunt for a playoff championship ring with a 121-86 blowout of the Pistons in game one.

“It was fun,” said Greece’s Antetokounmpo. "We did a good job of playing hard and playing together.

“The coach told us at halftime to stay together, keep rebounding the ball and run it down.

"I am just glad we got a win.”

Antetokounmpo and the Bucks ran roughshod over the hapless Pistons all game and the 35-point deficit was flattering to the visitors.

Detroit tried everything to stop the “Greek Freak” and the only time they did was when centre Andre Drummond shoved him to the floor with both hands which got Drummond thrown out of the game by the referees.

Antetokounmpo was nine for 17 from the field and one of five from three-point range.

Drummond threw a kiss to the Fiserv Forum crowd as he headed to the showers but it might as well be the kiss of death for the Pistons against the NBA's top team (60 wins) in the regular season.

Seven Bucks scored in double figures. Eric Bledsoe had 15 points, and Brook Lopez and Khris Middleton each added 14. George Hill came off the bench to score 16 points.

Detroit played without forward Blake Griffin, who has missed five of the last eight games with a sore knee.

Elsewhere, the Portland Trail Blazers snapped their 10-game post-season losing streak, defeating the Oklahoma City Thunder 104-99 to claim their first playoff win in three years.

The Blazers have endured a miserable record in the playoffs in recent years, suffering back-to-back first round sweeps in 2017 and 2018 against Golden State and New Orleans.

On Sunday however Portland's three-year wait for a postseason win came to an end, as Damian Lillard inspired a battling victory over the sixth-seeded Thunder.

Lillard went nine-of-21 from the field on his way to 30 points in 38 minutes, adding four rebounds, four assists and three steals.

He was backed by C.J. McCollum, who added 24 points from nine-of-24 shooting with six rebounds and three assists.

Turkish international Enes Kanter meanwhile reminded his former Thunder teammates of his talent, posting a double-double of 20 points and 18 rebounds.

Lillard said Kanter's fired-up contribution had tipped the balance for the Blazers.

“Any time you're going up against a team you played for, in the most important series of the year, you’re going to want to play well,” Lillard said. “And you’re going to want to come out on the winning side.”

"We understood that he was going to come out ready to play. And he was the MVP of the game, especially down the stretch.

"He had a huge presence and played a big part in us winning this game."

Also, Kyrie Irving scored 20 points as the Boston Celtics shrugged off the injury absence of Marcus Smart to defeat the Indiana Pacers 84-74.

Irving was among five players to make double figures as Boston drew first blood in the best-of-seven series opener at the TD Garden.

Boston had gone into the game reeling from news that Smart is set to miss the opening two rounds of the playoffs after suffering a torn oblique.

However the fourth-seeded Celtics had too much firepower for the fifth-ranked Pacers on their way to a deserved victory.


Saudi-born tennis players to battle it out as part of Diriyah Tennis Cup

Updated 32 min 47 sec ago

Saudi-born tennis players to battle it out as part of Diriyah Tennis Cup

  • Michael Mmoh of USA and Ammar Al-Haqbani of Saudi Arabia to play
  • Both Saudi-born players will feature on the same court that will host big name global superstars

RIYADH: Two of the most exciting Saudi-born tennis stars will go head-to-head when in a showpiece exhibition match as part of Diriyah Tennis Cup presented by Saudi Aramco.

Michael Mmoh (USA) and Ammar Al-Haqbani (KSA) – both 21 – will compete in front of an eager home crowd ahead of the final match of the $3 million tournament that has attracted eight of the world’s best players and the eyes of world tennis.

The special exhibition match will take place at 2pm Saturday, December 14th at the Diriyah Arena ahead of the final’s day of the Kingdom’s inaugural international tennis event.  

Both Saudi-born players will feature on the same court that will host big name global superstars, including three-time Grand Slam winner Stan Wawrinka, big-hitting US champion John Isner, and 2019’s most exciting breakthrough player, Daniil Medvedev of Russia.

American Michael Mmoh said: “I can’t wait to be coming back to Saudi Arabia and play in front of the local fans. It’s going to be a very special experience for me. 

“Having some of the best players in the world coming to the Kingdom can really inspire new fans to pick up a racquet and get on a court for the first time and play this great game.”

Ammar echoed that view, saying: “The Diriyah Tennis Cup presented by Saudi Aramco will have a significant impact on tennis in Saudi, especially for local tennis lovers and young talents who want to be professionals.

“Watching closely as these big names compete at the Diriyah Arena will be a huge inspiration for them to work more and build their professional path  in order to compete on the global stage in the future.”

Named after basketball icon Michael Jordan, Michael Mmoh was born in Riyadh; his father Tony – who peaked at world number 105 – Nigerian, who was a former Saudi-Arabian Davis Cup captain, and his mother from Ireland but an Australian citizen. When leaving the Kingdom aged 13, Michael’s first big move within the tennis world was, when he enrolled in the prestigious IMG Academy student-athlete school in Bradenton (Florida).

That decision and the hard work that followed paid off, with Michael climbing his way to world number two in the junior rankings. By 2018, he had broken into the Top 100 men’s players worldwide. Injury hampered his 2019, but it’s a year he hopes to end with a bang at Ad Diriyah as he closes back in on the Top 100 and seeks to add to his sixth ATP Challenger Tour titles in 2020.

His opponent Ammar Haqbani has followed just as interesting a path. One of three tennis-playing children of US-based Saudi diplomat Faleh Haqbani, Ammar started his tennis career aged five years old. He participated in his first United States Tennis Association (USTA) competition three years later, later scaling the heights to become the seventh best player on the USTA’s Mid-Atlantic section standings, and 135th globally in the International Tennis Federation’s (ITF) ranking.

Ammar is a leader in the Saudi national team in the Davis Cup since 2015 and has been a dominant figure in GCC regional tournaments for seven years. He was also the first Saudi Arabian player to win a gold medal in an international tennis competition.

Held on the outskirts of Riyadh, the three-day Diriyah Cup tournament will welcome eight leading ATP players: Stan Wawrinka (Switzerland), John Isner (USA), Daniil Medvedev (Russia), David Goffin (Belgium), the Frenchmen Gaël Monfils and Lucas Pouille (France), Fabio Fognini (Italy), and Jan-Lennard Struff from Germany.

The Cup is one of several sporting spectacles taking place as part of the Kingdom’s 2019 Diriyah Season festival, which has already featured the Clash of the Dunes heavyweight boxing bout between Anthony Joshua and Andy Ruiz.

Its 15,000-seater venue is set upon the UNESCO World Heritage Site of Ad Diriyah, where the ancient mud-wall city will offer a breath-taking backdrop for three-days of hard-court tennis.