Bucks, Lakers stunned in playoff openers

Milwaukee Bucks forward Giannis Antetokounmpo (34) dribbles against the Orlando Magic during the first half of Game 1 of an NBA basketball first-round playoff series at The Field House. (Reuters)
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Updated 20 August 2020

Bucks, Lakers stunned in playoff openers

  • These NBA playoffs already promised to be the most challenging yet

LAKE BUENA VISTA, Fla.: First it was Giannis Antetokounmpo and the Bucks, unable to call upon what was one of the best defenses in the league.

Then came LeBron James and the Lakers, clanging 3-pointers off the rim to provide a steady sound in a mostly empty gym.

These NBA playoffs already promised to be the most challenging yet. They got a little tougher Tuesday for the NBA’s top teams.

Milwaukee and Los Angeles lost their playoff openers, the first time both conference No. 1 seeds have been beaten by the No. 8s to start their postseasons since 2003.

So good for most of the season, the top seeds are having trouble in the bubble.

There’s no home court advantage to lose in this postseason at Walt Disney World, making it easier not to panic in what would normally be a tougher predicament.

“No frustration because the game is the game and we came in with a mindset to win. We didn’t take care of business, but we’ve got another opportunity on Thursday to even the series and that’s my only mindset,”
James said.

The Lakers knew they were in against a tougher-than-usual No. 8 seed in the Portland Trail Blazers, who came back from the coronavirus-caused suspension of the season healthy and then played their way into the postseason by winning a play-in series.

Milwaukee’s problem was on the other end. The Bucks surrendered three 30-point quarters — and 29 in its best period — to the short-handed Orlando Magic in a 122-110 loss. That was an especially poor performance from a team that led the league in a number of defensive categories and held opponents to a league-low 41.4 shooting percentage. Orlando made 49.4 percent.

“They played good. You’ve got to give that to Orlando and we’ve just got to keep doing what we’re doing and hopefully things in Game 2 can switch around,” Antetokounmpo said. “But just keep playing hard, keep playing together. That’s all you can do.”

Neither team can blame its MVP candidate. Antetokounmpo had 31 points, 17 rebounds and seven assists. James had 23 points, 17 rebounds and 16 assists, the first 20-15-15 game in NBA playoff history.

But neither team has looked particularly sharp in Orlando. They had arrived at the restart well ahead of their competitors for the No. 1 seeds and were focused more on staying healthy than getting wins in the eight seeding games leading into the playoffs.

They couldn’t turn things around when things became serious and by the time the day was done it was the first time both No. 1s lost since Orlando knocked off Detroit in the East and Phoenix beat San Antonio out West in 2003.


Tokyo Games won’t confirm added costs reported at $3 billion

Updated 40 sec ago

Tokyo Games won’t confirm added costs reported at $3 billion

  • The Tokyo Games are becoming very expensive

TOKYO: Organizers of the delayed Tokyo Olympics have declined to confirm widely circulated reports in Japan that the costs of the one-year postponement will be about $3 billion.

The estimates have been published in the last several days by some of Japan’s top-circulation newspapers, the national broadcaster NHK, and the Japanese news agency Kyodo. All are citing similar figures and unidentified sources close to the games.

“We are in the process of assessing the additional costs associated with the postponement of the games due to COVID-19 and therefore are not able to comment on any details at this time,” Tokyo organizers said Monday in a statement.

The statement did not challenge any of the reports.

The Tokyo Games are becoming very expensive.

The official cost of putting on the Tokyo Olympics is $12.6 billion. However, a government audit last year said it was probably twice that much. All but $5.6 billion is public money.

Tokyo said the games would cost $7.3 billion when it won the bid in 2013. The $3 billion for the delay only adds to the totals. A University of Oxford study published early this year — calculated before the postponement — said Tokyo was the most expensive Summer Olympics on record and the meter is still running.

The Yomiuri newspaper and Kyodo on Sunday detailed added costs of 200 billion yen, about $2 billion, to renegotiate venue leases, pay staff salaries, and cover other operational expenditures.

NHK and the Asahi newspaper on Monday said another 100 billion yen, about $1 billion, was needed for countermeasures against COVID-19. This could include the cost of vaccines, rapid testing, and countless precautions to guard against the coronavirus.

The reported cost of the delay because of the pandemic is in line with repeated estimates of between $2 billion and $3 billion in Japan over the last several months.

The organizers, the Tokyo metro government and the Japanese national government are expected to explain added costs in December and detail how they will be shared.

Organizers in October said they had found cost-savings of about $280 million by simplifying and cutting some frills from next year’s postponed games. This was about 2 percent  of the official costs.

The International Olympic Committee has said it would chip in about $650 million to cover some of the costs of the delay, but has offered few public details.

The Switzerland-based IOC is heavily dependent on revenue from selling broadcast rights, which account for almost three-quarters of its income.

The unprecedented postponement has put financial pressure on the IOC, national Olympic committees, and international sports federations that heavily rely on the IOC for sustenance.

The IOC and organizers have been campaigning over the last several months to convince sponsors and a skeptical Japanese public that the Olympics can be held safely in the middle of a pandemic.

Domestic sponsors in Japan have paid a record of $3.3 billion to organizers, but there are reports of some balking at further payments during the pandemic-caused economic slide.

The Olympics are to open on July 23, 2021, followed by the Paralympics on Aug. 24. They involve 15,400 athletes and ten of thousands of officials, judges, staff, VIPs, sponsors as well as media and broadcasters.

Kyodo reported last week that the Japanese government may require visitors from abroad to have private health insurance to cover costs from any COVID-19 complications.

IOC President Thomas Bach, who was in Tokyo a few week ago, has said a vaccine and improved rapid testing would help pull off the Olympics. But he cautioned they are not “silver bullets.”

Athletes are expected to be closely monitored, held in quarantine-like conditions, discouraged from sightseeing and encouraged to leave as soon as they finish competing.