Murray, Leonard shine as Nuggets and Raptors level playoff series

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Denver Nuggets guard Jamal Murray drives against Portland Trail Blazers guard CJ McCollum during game four of the second round of the 2019 NBA Playoffs at Moda Center in Portland, Oregon, on May 5, 2019. (Jaime Valdez-USA TODAY Sports)
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Toronto Raptors forward Pascal Siakam (43) dunks against the Philadelphia 76ers during the fourth quarter in game four of the second round of the 2019 NBA Playoffs at Wells Fargo Center. (Bill Streicher-USA TODAY Sports)
Updated 07 May 2019

Murray, Leonard shine as Nuggets and Raptors level playoff series

  • The Raptors will try to seize a series lead when the action shifts back to Toronto for game five on Tuesday
  • Game five is Tuesday at Denver between the Nuggets and Trailblazers

LOS ANGELES: Jamal Murray scored 34 points, including six clutch free throws down the stretch to lift the Denver Nuggets to a gritty 116-112 NBA playoff win over the Portland Trail Blazers on Sunday.
The 22-year-old Canadian Murray combined with Serbian Nikola Jokic to form a dynamic scoring duo as the Nuggets squared their second round Western Conference series at two games each.
It was a quick turnaround from the Trail Blazers’ 140-137 quadruple overtime victory in Friday’s game three.
Game four didn’t last nearly as long as that three hour, 35 minute marathon, but it was another back-and-forth battle highlighted by Murray’s precision shooting and a fourth playoff triple-double from Jokic.
“The biggest part was mental,” said Murray on playing two playoff games just 40 hours apart. “We know what to do physically but that was a draining game and we had to come back with energy and face a great team.
“We were able to get what we wanted on offense and the stops on defense.”
Jokic had 21 points, 12 rebounds and 11 assists for his second straight triple-double and Murray, who led all scorers, was a perfect 11-for-11 from the free throw line for Denver, who handed Portland their first playoff loss at home this season.
Two free throws by Murray increased the Nuggets’ edge to 112-108 with 13 seconds on the clock.
After Damian Lillard scored on a layup with 7.7 seconds remaining, Murray hit a pair of free throws to make it 114-110 with 6.7 seconds to play.
CJ McCollum scored on a long two-point shot to cut it to 114-112 with 4.4 seconds to go, but Murray clinched it with another pair at the line with 3.4 seconds left.
“I love free throws,” said Murray, the son of Jamaican immigrants who moved to Kitchener, Ontario where he was born. “Everybody knows I love free throws. My team trusts me.”
Said Nuggets coach Mike Malone, “Jamal has got a tremendous amount of grit. You think about how young we are and going on the road to win a tough game four in a hostile environment. For Jamal to be a centerpiece of that is phenomenal.”
McCollum had 29 points and Lillard added 28 for the Trail Blazers.
Game five is Tuesday at Denver.
Elsewhere, Kawhi Leonard scored 39 points and pulled down 14 rebounds to propel the Toronto Raptors to a 101-96 victory over the Philadelphia 76ers that knotted their Eastern Conference series at two games apiece.
Spanish center Marc Gasol added 16 points and Kyle Lowry contributed 14 for the Raptors, who held ailing Sixers center Joel Embiid to 11 points on two-of-seven shooting from the field.
The Raptors will try to seize a series lead when the action shifts back to Toronto for game five on Tuesday.
After losing back-to-back games, Leonard said the Raptors’ mindset was to “come in and play hard.”
“The whole team concept was coming in and playing harder, being smarter and take your shots,” Leonard said. “We needed it. This is a big win, but we’ve got to come back and get it for game five.”
Leonard scored 17 points and grabbed 10 rebounds in a first half that finished with the Raptors holding a narrow 47-45 lead.
It was the first time in his career that he notched at least 15 points and 10 rebounds in a half.
After seven lead changes in the third quarter, the increasingly physical encounter was tied 75-75 heading into the fourth.
The Raptors were clinging to a 91-90 lead when Leonard drained a step-back three-pointer over a reaching Embiid with 1:01 left to play and three seconds left on the shot clock.
It put Toronto up 94-90 and the 76ers wouldn’t get the gap below four points from there.
“I just saw there were about three seconds left on the clock,” Leonard said of the clutch basket. “(Embiid’s) so long so I just I just tried to fade away and shoot it over the top of him and luckily it went down.”
The 76ers made connected on just five of 21 attempts from the field in the fourth quarter, missing nine straight in one span, and the Raptors made seven free throws down the stretch to seal it.


European Ryder Cup stars take aim on 2021 Saudi International

Updated 27 November 2020

European Ryder Cup stars take aim on 2021 Saudi International

  • The February tourney looks set to be one of the strongest events on European Tour schedule

JEDDAH: European Ryder Cup stars Rafa Cabrera-Bello, Paul Casey, Tommy Fleetwood, Sergio Garcia, Tyrrell Hatton, Ian Poulter, Justin Rose, Henrik Stenson and Lee Westwood join defending champion Graeme McDowell in looking to get their campaign to qualify for the 2021 European Ryder Cup team off to the strongest possible start at the Saudi International.

The tournament, powered by Softbank Investment Advisers, will take place  Feb. 4 -7 at the Royal Greens Golf & Country Club in King Abdullah Economic City.

With world No. 1 and 2020 Masters champion Dustin Johnson and 2020 US Open champion Bryson DeChambeau confirmed for the event, along with reigning Open champion Shane Lowry and US stars Phil Mickelson and Patrick Reed, the strength of the field means huge ranking points will be on offer for Europe’s leading golfers as they look to get their 2021 qualifying efforts off to a fast start and secure a coveted place on the 2021 European Ryder Cup team.

With a lineup that looks set to ensure that the Saudi International will be one of the strongest events on the 2021 European Tour schedule, Golf Saudi is looking to build on the momentum resulting from hosting two extremely successful Ladies European Tour events this month as interest and participation in golf continues to grow in the Kingdom.

Fleetwood, a six-time winner on the European Tour and standout player in Europe’s Ryder Cup victory in Paris in 2018, is making his debut this year in the Saudi International. He said: “From all I’ve heard from the lads who played there the last couple of years, the Saudi International has established itself as one of the leading events on the European Tour both in terms of set up and facilities as well as quality of the field, which is really impressive this year.”

Poulter, who played for the first time in the 2020 edition, said: “I really enjoyed the tournament at the beginning of this year and am psyched to be returning next February. The course sets up for my game rather nicely so I was pretty frustrated to only finish in the top 20 and will certainly be aiming to finish rather higher up the leaderboard this year!

“It’s a fantastic championship course with some amazing vistas and I also really like the fact we get to play a part in introducing golf to a whole new audience in a new region. With Ryder Cup qualification on the line, I am obviously looking to get my campaign off to a fast start and getting a decent finish or winning the Saudi International against such a stellar field would be massive.

“It’s been a really weird year with the pandemic so we are all looking forward to a fresh start in 2021 and I am hoping it is also a strong start as I keep my eyes firmly focused on qualifying for the European team at Whistling Straits,” he added.

Majed Al-Sorour, CEO of the Saudi Golf Federation and Golf Saudi, said: “This announcement marks yet another amazing group of golf stars joining our 2021 field and the excitement of all the players to kick off afresh in 2021, in Saudi Arabia, is heartening to hear.

“The lineup for the tournament is looking strong and with more players still to be announced in the coming weeks — and on the back of two excellent Ladies European Tour events earlier this month — we are very much looking forward to the third edition of our tournament. We believe it will be the strongest installment to date and will serve as a fabulous illustration that Saudi Arabia is open for business.”