Suns topple NBA champion Lakers in first round of playoffs

Devin Booker and forward LeBron James fight for the ball during Game 6 of the Lakers-Suns NBA basketball first-round playoff series on June 3, 2021 in Los Angeles. (AP Photo/Ashley Landis)
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Devin Booker and forward LeBron James fight for the ball during Game 6 of the Lakers-Suns NBA basketball first-round playoff series on June 3, 2021 in Los Angeles. (AP Photo/Ashley Landis)
Devin Booker dunks the ball during Game 6 of the Lakers-Suns NBA basketball first-round playoff series on June 3, 2021 in Los Angeles. (AP Photo/Ashley Landis)
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Devin Booker dunks the ball during Game 6 of the Lakers-Suns NBA basketball first-round playoff series on June 3, 2021 in Los Angeles. (AP Photo/Ashley Landis)
Kyle Kuzma of the Los Angeles Lakers reacts as his shot is blocked by Devin Bookerand Mikal Bridgesof the Phoenix Suns during game six of the Western Conference first round series. (Harry How/Getty Images/AFP)
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Kyle Kuzma of the Los Angeles Lakers reacts as his shot is blocked by Devin Bookerand Mikal Bridgesof the Phoenix Suns during game six of the Western Conference first round series. (Harry How/Getty Images/AFP)
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Updated 04 June 2021

Suns topple NBA champion Lakers in first round of playoffs

Suns topple NBA champion Lakers in first round of playoffs
  • Suns victory handed superstar LeBron James his first first-round playoff exit
  • Suns faces in the second round playoff the Denver Nuggets, who eliminated the Portland Trail Blazers

LOS ANGELES: The Phoenix Suns, fueled by 47 points from Devin Booker, toppled the NBA Champion Los Angeles Lakers 113-100 on Thursday, handing superstar LeBron James his first first-round playoff exit.
James scored 29 points to lead the Lakers, but they were unable to dig themselves out of a 29-point first-half hole and lost the best-of-seven Western Conference series four games to two.
The last defending NBA champion to be knocked out in the first round was the San Antonio Spurs in 2015.
“That’s the only way we wanted it to be honest,” Booker said of drawing the Lakers in the first round.
“We knew we weren’t going to get to where we wanted to go without going through them, and it happened to be in the first round.
“It was a tough match-up all the way through. Once they got us down 2-1 we had to regroup and get everything right and we came in and we battled,” added Booker, whose team next faces the Denver Nuggets, who eliminated the Portland Trail Blazers Thursday with a 126-115 victory in game six of their series.
James, who won his fourth NBA title when he led the Lakers to victory in the quarantine bubble in Orlando last season, had never before lost in the first round in 14 prior appearances.
But he and the Lakers clearly felt the lack of star Anthony Davis, who was a game-time decision to start after missing the second half of game four and all of game five with a groin strain.
Davis, clearly hindered by the injury, lasted less than six scoreless minutes and the Suns grabbed the game by the throat in the first quarter with Booker scoring 22 points in the opening period.
“He’s a warrior,” Vogel said of Davis. “It was difficult for him to be able to move. We did everything we could from a treatment standpoint to loosen it up and we were hoping that some in-game adrenaline would help.
“But he certainly wasn’t moving well at all to start the game and then went down grabbing at it early in the first.”
With the series in the balance, Davis said, “I obviously didn’t want to just lay down.
“I wanted to do what I can,” he said. “It never felt good, but the competitive nature in me wanted to go out and help the team as best as I could. But my body didn’t agree.”
Davis and James both said that a series of injuries along with absences due to the league’s Covid-19 protocols prevented the champions from fulfilling their potential.
“Obviously (we) fell short of our goal, but we tried to do everything we could to be as good as we could be,” James said.
Meanwhile, Booker made eight of nine shots from the floor in the first quarter, including six of six from three point range.
The Suns led 36-14 after the first period and from there the Lakers never got the deficit below double digits.
“Credit the Suns,” Vogel said. “They came out and made their first seven threes or something. Booker was red-hot to start the game. They put us in the deficit and it was too much to overcome.”
The Suns have won three straight games to reach the second round for the first time since 2010, when they fell to the Lakers in the Western Conference finals in their most recent playoff appearance.
“I’ve been working my whole life for this moment so it wasn’t time to shy away from it,” Booker said. “Plenty of hours of sacrificing a lot of life to this game. So I wanted to put it on full display tonight.”
But he said the Suns would face another demanding test in the Nuggets.
“It’s going to be a battle and we understand that going into it.”Denver eliminated Portland on their home floor, where Serbian center Nikola Jokic scored 36 points to go with eight rebounds and six assists.
Denver’s Michael Porter Jr. scored 22 of his 26 points in the first quarter while Monte Morris added 22 off the bench for the Nuggets and Jokic had 20 points in the third quarter to spark a rally for the victory.
“We made some big stops and scored some clutch baskets at big times,” Jokic said. “It was a team effort.”
The Trail Blazers seized a 14-point lead early in the third quarter but the Nuggets closed the period on a 14-4 run, then started the fourth on an 8-2 spurt to grab the lead and broke open the game in the final minutes.
“Nobody can take the fight out of us,” Jokic said. “We go out there and fight. That’s what we’re doing. We’re never going to quit.”
Damian Lillard led Portland with 28 points and passed off 13 assists while C.J. McCollum added 21 points, Norman Powell had 17 and Carmelo Anthony scored 14 off the bench.


Court details Ryan Giggs’ alleged pattern of domestic abuse

Court details Ryan Giggs’ alleged pattern of domestic abuse
Updated 23 July 2021

Court details Ryan Giggs’ alleged pattern of domestic abuse

Court details Ryan Giggs’ alleged pattern of domestic abuse
  • Giggs appeared in Manchester Crown Court and pleaded innocent to charges of controlling and coercive behavior toward his ex-girlfriend
  • He allegedly kicked his former girlfriend in the back and threw her naked out of their room

MANCHESTER: Former Manchester United player Ryan Giggs allegedly kicked a former girlfriend and threw her naked out of their hotel room as part of a pattern of abusive behavior, it was claimed in court on Friday.
The 47-year-old Giggs appeared in Manchester Crown Court and pleaded not guilty to a charge of controlling and coercive behavior toward his former girlfriend from August 2017 to November 2020.
Giggs also pleaded not guilty to two assault charges related to an incident at his Manchester-area home on Nov. 1 last year, when he allegedly caused actual bodily harm to his former girlfriend and allegedly physically assaulted the woman’s sister.
Details of Giggs’ alleged controlling and coercive behavior were read out by the court clerk.
At the Stafford Hotel in London, Giggs allegedly kicked his former girlfriend in the back, threw her naked out of their room and threw her bag at her after she accused him of flirting with other women.
Giggs allegedly threatened to send emails to the woman’s friends and employers about their sexual relationship.
After she tried to end their relationship, Giggs allegedly would turn up unannounced and uninvited at her home, workplace and gym. He also allegedly sent unwanted messages and made unwanted calls to her and her friends.
Giggs had previously denied all allegations and said he would “look forward to clearing my name.”
His bail conditions were extended and he must not contact the two women or go to any address where they are.
A pre-trial hearing was scheduled for Oct. 8 and a trial date is set for Jan. 24.
Giggs is on leave as coach of Wales, for which he made 64 appearances as a player.
He played a record 963 times for Manchester United before retiring in 2014. He’s also a co-owner of fourth-division Salford.


Son extends contract at Tottenham, calls it ‘easy’ decision

Son extends contract at Tottenham, calls it ‘easy’ decision
Updated 23 July 2021

Son extends contract at Tottenham, calls it ‘easy’ decision

Son extends contract at Tottenham, calls it ‘easy’ decision
  • Son Heung-min signed a four-year contract extension to keep him at the Premier League club through June 2025
  • Son, 29, has compiled 107 goals and 64 assists in 280 appearances in all competitions

LONDON: At least one star forward wants to stay at Tottenham.
Son Heung-min signed a four-year contract extension Friday to keep him at the Premier League club through June 2025.
Harry Kane’s future is another question. He’s under contract with the north London team until 2024 but has indicated he wants a change of scenery.
Not so for South Korea captain Son.
“It was already a big honor to play here for six years,” he said in a team statement. “The club have showed me massive, massive respect and obviously I’m very happy to be here.”
The 29-year-old Son has compiled 107 goals and 64 assists in 280 appearances in all competitions since joining Tottenham from Bayer Leverkusen in August 2015.
“It’s like home, especially with the fans, the players, the staff,” Son said. “There was no decision. It was easy. I’m so happy to be here and will be so glad to see the fans again soon.”
No financial details were given.
Tottenham tweeted: “He’s here to stay.”
“Everyone can see the real positive impact he has on the club, both on and off the field, and we are delighted that he will play a part in what we are trying to achieve in the coming years,” football managing director Fabio Paratici said.
With Son’s future seemingly set, new manager Nuno Espirito Santo can now turn his attention to Kane. Last week, Nuno affirmed that he expects Kane to return.
After Tottenham’s seventh-place finish in the Premier League left it out of the Champions League, Kane indicated he wants out. The England and Tottenham captain was frustrated with the direction of the team and lack of trophies.
Son told club media that he’s ready to shoulder the responsibility of winning trophies.
“I want to win something with Tottenham,” he said. “This is my aim and this is also the fans’ aim. This is a massive club — big opportunity. I want to be part of this, I want to take a big responsibility of this. That’s what I signed for.”
Kane and Son in 2020-21 set the single-season Premier League record for combining on goals. The pair assisted one another on 14 goals, one better than Alan Shearer and Chris Sutton from the 1994-95 season with Blackburn.
Son has scored 27 goals in 93 appearances for South Korea, including a total of three goals at two World Cups.
Tottenham hosts Premier League champion Manchester City for its season opener on Aug. 15. The only European involvement for Tottenham this season will be in the less lucrative and new third-tier Europa Conference League.


Low-key Opening Ceremony ushers in pandemic-delayed Tokyo Olympics

Saudi Arabia's delegation enters the Olympic Stadium during Tokyo 2020 Olympic Games opening ceremony's parade of athletes, in Tokyo on July 23, 2021. (AFP)
Saudi Arabia's delegation enters the Olympic Stadium during Tokyo 2020 Olympic Games opening ceremony's parade of athletes, in Tokyo on July 23, 2021. (AFP)
Updated 23 July 2021

Low-key Opening Ceremony ushers in pandemic-delayed Tokyo Olympics

Saudi Arabia's delegation enters the Olympic Stadium during Tokyo 2020 Olympic Games opening ceremony's parade of athletes, in Tokyo on July 23, 2021. (AFP)
  • Just a few hundred officials and dignitaries were in the stands of the 68,000-seat venue
  • Athletes, support staff and media are subject to strict COVID-19 protocols, including regular testing and daily health checks

TOKYO: The opening ceremony of the Tokyo Olympics took place on Friday in a nearly empty stadium after a year-long pandemic postponement and a build-up marred by scandal and controversy.
The stripped-back celebration began with a video showing athletes training at home during the pandemic, before fireworks burst into the air above the Olympic Stadium.
Just a few hundred officials and dignitaries were in the stands of the 68,000-seat venue, including French President Emmanuel Macron, US First Lady Jill Biden, and Japan's Emperor Naruhito, who will declare the Games open.
The Olympics have faced opposition in Japan over fears the global gathering of 11,000 athletes could trigger a super-spreader event, and is taking place under strict virus measures.
Overseas fans are banned for the first time in the history of the Games, and domestic spectators can only watch events at a handful of venues.
Athletes, support staff and media are subject to strict COVID-19 protocols, including regular testing and daily health checks.
The restrictions made for an opening ceremony that was far from the usual exuberant celebration.
Every athlete entered the stadium wearing a mask, and the national delegations of athletes marching around the stadium were far smaller than usual, ranging from just a handful of people to a few dozen.
The ceremony wove together references to both Japan's traditional crafts and its globally adored video games, with athletes entering to theme music from famed titles.

READ MORE

Saudi rower Husein Alireza and 100 meter sprinter Yasmine Al-Dabbagh were chosen to carry the Kingdom’s flag at the opening ceremony of the 2020 Olympic Games in Tokyo on Friday. More here.

Polls have consistently shown Japanese people are opposed to holding the Games during the pandemic, but hundreds of people still gathered outside the stadium and cheered as the fireworks exploded overhead.
Mako Fukuhara arrived six hours before the ceremony to grab a spot.
"Until now it didn't feel like the Olympics, but now we are by the stadium, it feels like the Olympics," she told AFP as people snapped selfies nearby.
Inside, fewer than 1,000 dignitaries and officials were in the stands, and in a sign of how divisive the Games remain, several top sponsors including Toyota and Panasonic did not attend the ceremony.
Small groups of protestors demonstrated against the Games outside the stadium as the ceremony began, but their chants were drowned out as the music started.
Tokyo is battling a surge in virus cases, and is under emergency measures that means bars and restaurants must shut by 8:00 pm and cannot sell alcohol.
Olympic officials have put a brave face on the unusual circumstances, with IOC chief Thomas Bach insisting cancelling the Games was never on the table.
"Over the past 15 months we had to take many decisions on very uncertain grounds," he said this week. "We had doubts every day. There were sleepless nights.
"We can finally see at the end of the dark tunnel. Cancellation was never an option for us. The IOC never abandons the athletes... we did it for the athletes."
There are also hefty financial incentives in play. Insiders estimate the IOC would have been on the hook for around $1.5 billion in lost broadcasting revenues if the Games had been cancelled.
The pandemic has not been the only hiccup in preparations though, with scandals ranging from corruption during the bidding process to plagiarism allegations over the design of the Tokyo 2020 logo.
The controversies kept coming right up to the eve of the Games, with the opening ceremony's director sacked on Thursday for making a joke referencing the Holocaust in a video more than two decades ago.
When the full programme of sport begins on Saturday, a new generation of Olympic stars are looking to shine after a decade dominated by the likes of Usain Bolt and Michael Phelps.
US swimmer Caeleb Dressel could target seven gold medals, and in track and field, 400 metre hurdlers Karsten Warholm of Norway and the USA's Sydney McLaughlin are among those hoping to emerge as household names.
In gymnastics, Simone Biles will attempt to crown her dazzling career by equalling Larisa Latynina's record of nine Olympic gold medals.
New Olympic sports will also be on display in Tokyo, with surfing, skateboarding, sport climbing and karate all making their debut.


Ali Al-Khadrawi launches Tokyo 2020 table tennis campaign against Czech opponent

Ali Al-Khadrawi launches Tokyo 2020 table tennis campaign against Czech opponent
Updated 23 July 2021

Ali Al-Khadrawi launches Tokyo 2020 table tennis campaign against Czech opponent

Ali Al-Khadrawi launches Tokyo 2020 table tennis campaign against Czech opponent
  • 24-year-old Saudi arrived in Japan after 23-day training camp in Germany

TOKYO: Saudi table tennis player Ali Al-Khadrawi will on Saturday launch his bid for Olympic success when he faces Lubomir Jancarik of the Czech Republic.

The first round of the table tennis competition will take place at Tokyo Metropolitan Gym in Shibuya and 24-year-old Al-Khadrawi will be in action on table No. 4 at 9 a.m. Saudi Arabian time.

The Kingdom’s sole representative in table tennis at the Games arrived in Tokyo after a 23-day preparation camp in Germany under the supervision of Egyptian coach Youssef Rabie.

The table tennis singles competitions are played in a knockout system, each match decided over the best of seven sets.

Following in the footsteps of his father and older brother, Al-Khadrawi took up the sport 10 years ago, and within five years he was representing his country internationally.

His first appearance in Saudi colors came at the 2016 World Top 16 Championship in India, and two years later he claimed gold in the team and individual categories at the West Asian Championship U-18 in Jordan. He continued his rise through the ranks with another podium finish that same year, a silver at the West Asian Championship U-21, also held in Jordan.

Al-Khadrawi secured his qualification for the Tokyo Olympics by winning the West Asia Championship 2020 in Amman.


Five things we learned from opening Saudi Arabia and Egypt results in Tokyo 2020 football competition

Five things we learned from opening Saudi Arabia and Egypt results in Tokyo 2020 football competition
Updated 23 July 2021

Five things we learned from opening Saudi Arabia and Egypt results in Tokyo 2020 football competition

Five things we learned from opening Saudi Arabia and Egypt results in Tokyo 2020 football competition
  • Tenacious Pharaohs defy Spanish giants, while Green Falcons’ hopes undimmed despite unlucky loss

LONDON: The first day of the Olympic football competition brought a mixture of encouragement and disappointment for the two Arab participants at Tokyo 2020. Egypt managed a commendable 0-0 draw with tournament favorites Spain, while Saudi Arabia will feel a little aggrieved at losing 2-1 to Ivory Coast in another hard-fought game.

1. Saudis suffer harsh defeat

The young Green Falcons may have lost a seventh game out of seven in the Olympics, but that does not tell the whole story. Saudi Arabia had the lion’s share — 56 percent —   of possession against the talented Ivory Coast, and worked incredibly hard with and without the ball.

The pressing in the first half was excellent and seemed to surprise the opposition. In such humid conditions, it was no surprise that the same energy levels could not be sustained for the full 90 and while possession was good, the Africans always looked a little sharper going forward.

What was encouraging was the attitude and response to going behind to an own goal. Just five minutes after that setback, Saudi Arabia were level. The all-round attitude and performance will please coach Saad Al-Shehri, with the fact that the game ended in defeat the only reason there is not widespread satisfaction. 

 
2. Al-Dossary shines for Saudi

There were a number of good Saudi performances, but with Abdullah Al-Hamdan looking far from sharp in the striking role, it was up to main man Salem Al-Dossary to lead the way. The Al-Hilal star scored the senior team’s winning goal against Egypt at Russia 2018 to earn a first win at the World Cup for 24 years, and his goal at Yokohama International Stadium was good enough to win any game.

Picking the ball up just outside the area, Al-Dossary had time to look and then curled an unstoppable shot past the outstretched arms of the Ivory Coast goalkeeper Ira Eliezer Tape. He almost scored another fine goal late in the game, but his shot from just inside the box struck the crossbar in heartbreaking fashion. It was that close to being 2-2.

3. Ivory Coast’s attacking quality edged the encounter

Saudi Arabia is the only team among the 16 currently in Japan with a squad entirely based at home. This is no time to get into that debate, but a difference in quality was noticeable in the second half. Amad Diallo went on a run and then passed to Franck Kessie, who turned smartly on the edge of the area and finished beautifully. In effect, it was a goal made by a Manchester United player and finished by an AC Milan man. This goal was the difference between getting a point or none for the Saudis, and it was one of international quality.

It is always going to be difficult for players who play all their competitive games in Saudi Arabia to suddenly come up against rivals who compete in the upper reaches of the English Premier League and Serie A. Warm-ups against African and South American opposition only help so much and when it came to it, the winner came from players with two of the biggest clubs in the world.

4. Egypt’s heroics deserve international recognition

Before the tournament much was written about the Spanish squad and how it included six members who had taken part in the country’s impressive Euro 2020 campaign, including Barcelona prodigy Pedri.

In the previews, Egypt were hardly mentioned and dismissed as mere fodder for the last European team to win gold back in 1992. Yet the Pharaohs, led by Ahmed Hegazi and defensive partner Mahmoud Hamdi, worked hard to deny Spain a goal in a display of fine and committed defending. It was sometimes far from pretty, but it was effective.

Again, in the match commentaries and reports, there was little mention of Egypt, and the effort and discipline that had been put into the match. It was all about Spain and its failure to score. But Egypt — with players who were in action for Al-Ahly in the CAF Champions League final in Morocco last Saturday — deserve huge credit for their efforts.

5. Both Arab teams still in hunt for last eight 

It was unfortunate that Saudi Arabia, who had chances, especially in the final stages, were not able to get the goal their efforts deserved, but there is still hope. The game against Germany on Sunday is huge, but if Al-Shehri can get another solid performance out of his players then there is no reason they cannot get something off the Germans. It will be tough, but if Egypt can foil Spain, Saudi Arabia can do the same to Germany.

For Egypt, the situation is obviously more encouraging. Taking a point off the best team in the group opened things up unexpectedly. Argentina are next, and the South Americans looked open at the back against Australia and unimpressive going forward. Then comes the final game against the Olyroos, who looked organized and dangerous in attack. It really is up for grabs.

Four points can often be enough, and it is well within reach.