Game 7: Heat, Celtics set to finally decide East champion

Game 7: Heat, Celtics set to finally decide East champion
Head coach Erik Spoelstra of the Miami Heat reacts against the Boston Celtics during the second quarter in Game 6 of the 2022 NBA Playoffs Eastern Conference. (AFP)
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Updated 29 May 2022

Game 7: Heat, Celtics set to finally decide East champion

Game 7: Heat, Celtics set to finally decide East champion
  • Miami have the home-court advantage for the finale, though home court has meant nothing in this series

MIAMI: Erik Spoelstra didn’t even have to finish the sentence. The Miami Heat coach was speaking in the locker room after a season-extending win in Boston, players and staff standing around him in a semicircle.

“There’s no two better words,” Spoelstra said.

“Game 7,” about a half-dozen people responded, in unison.

Game 7, for a berth in the NBA Finals. Either the Heat or the Boston Celtics will become Eastern Conference champions on Sunday night, when they’ll finally finish their series and see which club will face the Golden State Warriors in the title round.

It’ll be the second Game 7 between the teams; the other was in 2012, when the Heat topped the Celtics 101-88 to win that year’s East title.

“Look, we’re here,” Spoelstra said after Miami fended off elimination with a 111-103 win in Boston on Friday night, behind a 47-point, nine-rebound, eight-assist, four-steal effort from Jimmy Butler. “This is the way it should be with these two teams. It should have gone seven games.”

Miami have the home-court advantage for the finale, though home court has meant nothing in this series. The Heat went 2-1 in Boston, the Celtics have gone 2-1 in Miami so far with the two wins coming by a combined 38 points and Boston’s 6-2 road record is the best of any teams in this season’s playoffs.

And that has the Celtics brimming with confidence, even though road teams are 34-110 all-time — a winning percentage of .236 — in Game 7s.

“Scale of 1 to 10? Ten. I mean, it shouldn’t be any less than that, right?” Celtics forward Jayson Tatum said when asked how certain he is that Boston can win the series on Miami’s floor. “You know, it’s the last game. That’s what it’s all about.”

Injuries have been one of the major storylines of the series, and that remains the case Sunday.

Butler has been dealing with knee issues and twisted an ankle late in Game 6 though still came through with arguably the best game of his career. Kyle Lowry and Max Strus — who had big bounce-backs Friday after posting a combined zero points in Game 5 — still have hamstring concerns. For Boston, Marcus Smart’s ankle has been balky, Robert Williams III’s knee is an ongoing question and Jaylen Brown banged a knee on a drive in Game 5 though finished the game with no obvious ill effects.

“This time of year, there’s nobody 100 percent healthy, both sides,” Miami’s P.J. Tucker said. “I’m sure they got a bunch of guys, too, just trying to figure it out and give what they can. Try to win. That’s it. You can’t get these days back. It’s living in the moment, trying to just do what you can.”

The Heat might get one key piece back: Tyler Herro, who has been sidelined for the last three games with a strained groin, is going to try some on-court work Sunday in hopes of playing in Game 7.

“For us, it’s just another opportunity,” Celtics coach Ime Udoka said Saturday. “You put yourself in this position, going up 3-2, to have two games to win one. And so, as much as you’d love to finish it on your home court, we’ve been up and down in the series and due to that it’s where it is right now. ... It’s just another opportunity and we obviously see the big picture ahead.”

The Celtics last went to the NBA Finals in 2010. This is their fifth trip to the East finals since, and Friday’s loss made them 0-5 in potential East clinchers over that span.

“We’ve just got to come out and play, come out and respond,” Brown said. “Backs are on the wall, Game 7, loser go home. We’ve got to come out and find a way to win.”

From Miami’s perspective, the seeds began being planted for this just moments after Game 5. The Celtics had just won in Miami to take a 3-2 series lead, and Spoelstra stepped into a defeated locker room to lay out the objective. He repeated it, over and over.

“Bring this thing back on the 29th,” Spoelstra kept saying.

The 29th is Sunday.

They brought it back. Game 7 awaits.

“There’s nothing like a Game 7,” Spoelstra said. “And I’m just really excited that we all get to experience that together.”

Heat fined

The NBA fined Miami $25,000 on Saturday for violating league rules regarding team bench decorum. The league said “on multiple occasions, several players stood for an extended period in Miami’s team bench area, stood away from the team bench, and were on, encroaching upon or entering the playing court during live game action” during Game 6 in Boston.

It has been a point of emphasis for the league of late. Dallas was fined a total of $175,000 for three similar infractions.

Power of 3

No opposing team has ever won three games at Miami in the same playoff series, a trend that Boston will aim to break on Sunday.

This deep into the playoffs — conference finals or NBA Finals — such a feat has occurred only 10 times in the last 40 seasons, most recently when Toronto won three times at Golden State in the 2019 NBA Finals.

Game 7 history

Miami have two players who have scored at least 30 points in a Game 7. Lowry had 35 for Toronto in a 2016 romp over the Heat, and Victor Oladipo had 30 for Indiana in a 2018 loss to Cleveland. Tatum has averaged 24.0 points in four previous Game 7s, the best of anyone on this Boston roster.

The Celtics are 25-9 in Game 7s, Miami 6-4.

Trends

There have been two Game 7s so far in these playoffs, both in the second round: Boston beat Milwaukee by 28 and Dallas won at Phoenix by 33.

Road teams have won three of the last four Game 7s.

Century mark

Both teams will be playing their 100th games of the season. Miami enters 64-35, Boston 62-37.


Ronaldo misses Manchester United training for ‘family reasons’: reports

Ronaldo misses Manchester United training for ‘family reasons’: reports
Updated 04 July 2022

Ronaldo misses Manchester United training for ‘family reasons’: reports

Ronaldo misses Manchester United training for ‘family reasons’: reports
LONDON: Cristiano Ronaldo missed training with Manchester United on Monday due to “family reasons,” just days after the Portugal star reportedly told the club he wants to leave.
United players who had been away on international duty over the close-season were scheduled to meet up with the rest of the squad on Monday.
But, according to British media reports, Ronaldo did not attend, with his reason for failing to appear at United’s training ground accepted by the club.
However, the 37-year-old’s absence will be interpreted as the latest salvo in his bid to engineer a move away from Old Trafford.
Ronaldo is said to be disappointed by United’s decline since he returned to the club from Juventus last year.
United failed to qualify for this coming season’s Champions League after finishing sixth in the Premier League.
Despite the arrival of new manager Erik ten Hag from Ajax, Ronaldo reportedly does not believe United can challenge for major honors in the near future.
In the twilight of his career, Ronaldo would prefer to join a club capable of satisfying his desire to compete for the game’s top prizes.
Five-time Ballon d’Or winner Ronaldo, who has a year left on his United contract, has played 19 consecutive seasons in the Champions League and is the tournament’s all-time leading scorer.
The former Real Madrid star’s agent Jorge Mendes has reportedly sounded out Bayern Munich and Chelsea about a potential move, yet United are said to be adamant Ronaldo is not for sale.
Ronaldo was United’s top scorer with 24 goals last term, but his campaign was marred by public shows of frustration on several occasions as the team struggled under first Ole Gunnar Solskjaer and then interim boss Ralf Rangnick.
Ronaldo’s absence from training comes as United are due to leave for their pre-season tour of Asia and Australia on Friday.

UAE wins at AJP Tour Fujairah International Pro Jiu-Jitsu Championship

UAE wins at AJP Tour Fujairah International Pro Jiu-Jitsu Championship
Updated 04 July 2022

UAE wins at AJP Tour Fujairah International Pro Jiu-Jitsu Championship

UAE wins at AJP Tour Fujairah International Pro Jiu-Jitsu Championship
  • Commando Group takes the top sport with AFNT and Sharjah Self-Defense Sports Club in second and third
  • Emirati Zayed Al-Kathiri grabs the gold medal in the black belt contest

FUJAIRAH: The AJP Tour Fujairah International Pro Jiu-Jitsu Championship came to a stunning conclusion on Sunday with the UAE taking home the most medals courtesy of excellent performances across the amateur and professional divisions.

Zayed Al-Kathiri, the star of Baniyas Club and the national team, won the gold medal in the 62-kilogram category at the championship, his first official competition in the black belt division. He defeated Brazilian Bruno Borges in a match that stoked the passion of the spectators.

The UAE took the lead in the national rankings, beating Brazil in second and Colombia in third.

The championship, held under the patronage of Sheikh Mohammed bin Hamad Al-Sharqi, crown prince of Fujairah, saw heated contests with plenty of fervor and superb skills on display. The dramatic final day concluded as Commando Group Academy took the title, surpassing AFNT in second, with Sharjah Self-Defense Sports Club in third.

Brig. Ahmed Hamdan Al-Zeyoudi, chairman of the UAE Taekwondo Federation, Mohammed Salem Al-Dhaheri, vice president of the UAE Jiu-Jitsu Federation, and Youssef Abdullah Al-Batran, UAEJJF board member, were among the guests who attended the competition on the second day.

“I express sincere gratitude and appreciation to Sheikh Mohammed bin Hamad Al-Sharqi, the crown prince of Fujairah, for his patronage (of) the championship,” said Al-Batran.

“His highness always provides full support and care for combat sports, especially jiu-jitsu, to ensure its prosperity, and contributes to consolidating the country’s position as the global capital for the sport.”

“The Fujairah International Professional Jiu-Jitsu Championship is becoming more and more significant and offers the perfect environment for developing future world champions in various international forums and championships. The strongest evidence of this is the fact that it was able to draw in more than 800 male and female participants from 50 different nations across the globe,” he added.

Al-Kathiri was ecstatic about his win.

“I am overjoyed with this first black belt accomplishment. Competitions in this category are different from others as the participants are very strong and experienced. I approached most of my fights today with optimism, careful analysis of my opponents’ styles, and a total dedication to the technical staff’s instructions, all of which contributed to this success.”

Obaid Salem Al-Nuaimi of the Al-Jazira Club, who took gold in the 56-kilogram professional division, added: “The path to success was not simple considering the presence of a group of the strongest opponents.”


Arsenal sign Gabriel Jesus from Man City

Arsenal sign Gabriel Jesus from Man City
Updated 04 July 2022

Arsenal sign Gabriel Jesus from Man City

Arsenal sign Gabriel Jesus from Man City
  • Jesus was expected to fall down the pecking order at City had he stayed for the final year of his contract

LONDON: Arsenal have completed the signing of Manchester City forward Gabriel Jesus for a fee of around £45 million ($54 million), the London club announced on Monday.
Jesus, who scored 95 goals in 236 appearances for City, has signed a “long-term contract” with Arsenal after deciding to leave the Premier League champions in search of more regular first-team action.
The Brazil international is reunited with Arsenal manager Mikel Arteta, who was Pep Guardiola’s assistant at City before he took charge at the Emirates Stadium.
“I’m very excited. The club has done a tremendous job to recruit a player of this stature,” Arteta said.
“This is a position that’s been on our radar for a long time now and we have managed to get a player that we all wanted, so I’m really happy.”
Jesus was expected to fall down the pecking order at City had he stayed for the final year of his contract as the champions have bolstered their striking options with the signings of Erling Haaland and Julian Alvarez.
Admitting Arteta’s presence at the Emirates was influential in his decision to join the Gunners, Jesus said: “We spoke a couple of times about the club, the players, the project and the future.
“I believe 100 percent in Mikel. I had a very good time with him before, he’s a very good guy and a very good coach as well.
“He helped me a lot. We would always stick together after the training sessions and do some finishing or something.
“He’s a very intelligent guy and was an amazing player, so if he knows something he can teach me or the young players.”
Arsenal have let senior strikers Pierre-Emerick Aubameyang and Alexandre Lacazette leave the club for free in the past six months.
Despite handing Eddie Nketiah a new five-year deal, Jesus is expected to lead the line for Arteta’s men as the Gunners aim to end a six-year absence from the Champions League.
The 25-year-old won four Premier League titles among eight major honors during his time with City after joining them in January 2017.
Arsenal have already strengthened Arteta’s squad with the signings of Portuguese midfielder Fabio Vieira, Brazilian teenage forward Marquinhos and American goalkeeper Matt Turner.
According to reports, they have also had a bid for Leeds winger Raphinha turned down, but are expected to return with an improved offer for the Brazilian international.
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Newcastle’s Sven Botman idolizes Liverpool’s Virgil van Dijk

Newcastle’s Sven Botman idolizes Liverpool’s Virgil van Dijk
Updated 04 July 2022

Newcastle’s Sven Botman idolizes Liverpool’s Virgil van Dijk

Newcastle’s Sven Botman idolizes Liverpool’s Virgil van Dijk
  • Magpies’ new defender, 22, hopes to reach Premier League elite level
  • Left-footer in team’s summer preparations for season opener on Aug. 6

NEWCASTLE: Sven Botman has laughed off comparisons with compatriot Virgil van Dijk but hopes to one day reach the Liverpool star’s level — and do it with Newcastle United.

Last week Botman became the Magpies’ most expensive ever defender eclipsing the eight-figure sums paid for the likes of Dan Burn, Jonathan Woodgate and Fabricio Coloccini.

And the Netherlands’ youth international hopes to hit the ground running when he begins training with the rest of the Magpies’ first-team squad on Wednesday, after an extended summer break due to his national exertions.

While some look to the development of Van Dijk with Southampton and then the Reds, as a comparison upon which to gauge 22-year-old Botman, the central defender admits he has a long way to go to even be considered in the same conversation as one of the Premier League’s elite.

“I am far from his level,” said Botman, when asked about Van Dijk, regarded by many to be the best defender in world football.

“That is my goal, as Virgil is a great defender. Being in the Premier League, it can help me get faster to his level but I need a lot of time and a lot of matches. And I think Newcastle is the right environment for me to develop myself and to become a defender like him.”

Botman, a near $39 million purchase from Lille, is the third signing of the summer for head coach Eddie Howe, in what has already proven to be a busy transfer window.

The Magpies previously turned Matt Targett’s loan deal from Aston Villa into a permanent one before signing England international goalkeeper Nick Pope from Burnley.

Botman improves a department already blessed with plenty of experience and talent, but how will he complement those around him?

He explained: “I am a tall guy and I am strong in duels. I like to play one (versus one) against a striker but I also like to help the team with the build up from the back. I am left-footed but can also play with the right.

“I need to improve a lot but I am on the right path and I think here at Newcastle is the best step for me to improve myself.

“Newcastle at the moment is a club with a lot of passion. You see players working hard, but at the end Newcastle wants to reach the top end of the league and into Europe. We need to mix that with good football.

“I think in the upcoming five years, things are looking bright.”

It’s much-publicized that United weren’t Botman’s only option this summer.

Serie A champions and seven-times European Cup winners AC Milan were also deep in negotiations to sign the player from under the noses of Newcastle.

“I had some talks with some clubs,” the former Ajax defender admitted.

“I just like the Premier League so much and Newcastle has this project, where the future’s looking brighter. I hope to see myself grow with the club.

“I am delighted. I am thankful to all of the people who worked on this deal. It has been a long trip, but finally we are here.”

While European places and silverware continue to evade United, one of their unique selling points is the club’s fanatical supporters.

More than 30,000 people, bearing in mind the strict eligibility criteria, tried to snap up just 1,000 released season tickets for St James’ Park this season. And home and away sell outs are a weekly occurrence at United.

“I know that they have crazy, super fans,” he said.

“They always play with their heart, and if you watch them it is always played with passion.

“It’s like 52,000 people and I hear it is always sold out, the fans are crazy, so I can’t wait to play.

“I can only say good things about the fans. I get a lot of messages, sorry I can’t read them all.

“When I have seen matches in Newcastle, the whole vibe, the environment in the stadium is incredible. I can’t wait to play there.”

Head coach Howe now turns his attention to signing at least another two forward players to add goals, creativity and speed to the United frontline.

But focusing on getting his number one transfer target through the door, he said: “I’m delighted Sven is joining us. He is technically very good, physically very good and has a great attitude.

“At 22, he already has solid experience at the top level but he is at a great age to grow with this team. I am looking forward to getting to work with him and seeing him with his new teammates.”

Meanwhile, as the Newcastle players returned to pre-season training on Friday, the club announced confirmation of their full pre-season plans.

The club will kick off their summer preparation with a behind-closed-doors encounter with non-league neighbors Gateshead on Saturday. They will then travel to Austria, to a base on the outskirts of Salzburg, to take part in a nine-day training camp, which will see them face 1860 Munich and Mainz during their stay.

The first game of the trip will be on Friday, July 15 against Munich, then Mainz on Monday, July 18. The Magpies will venture out to Portugal to take on Benfica on Tuesday, July 26, although a game the previous weekend is still a possibility.

They will close out their summer games with a double-header at St James’ Park on Friday and Saturday, July 29 and 30. Atalanta then Athletic Bilbao will be the opposition on Tyneside.

Newcastle’s first game of the Premier League season takes place at home on Saturday, Aug. 6 against Nottingham Forest.


Nick Kyrgios eyes Wimbledon quarters as Rafael Nadal picks up the pace

Nick Kyrgios eyes Wimbledon quarters as Rafael Nadal picks up the pace
Updated 04 July 2022

Nick Kyrgios eyes Wimbledon quarters as Rafael Nadal picks up the pace

Nick Kyrgios eyes Wimbledon quarters as Rafael Nadal picks up the pace
  • Australian toppled Stefanos Tsitispas in a heated four-set thriller on Saturday
  • Nick Kyrgios, ranked 40th in the world, thrives on his bad-boy image

LONDON: Nick Kyrgios is back in action at Wimbledon on Monday after his dramatic victory against Stefanos Tsitispas as he closes in on a mouthwatering semifinal with Rafael Nadal.
The maverick Australian toppled Tsitispas in a heated four-set thriller on Saturday, during which he called for the fourth seed to be kicked out of the tournament for hitting a ball into the crowd.
Kyrgios called the umpire a “disgrace” as tempers frayed and the bad feeling spilled over into the post-match press conferences.
The defeated Greek player said his opponent has an “evil side” and described him as a “bully,” comments that Kyrgios laughed off.
Nick Kyrgios, 40th in the world, thrives on his bad-boy image and Saturday’s outbursts were not even his first of the tournament.
But it will be a different challenge against American Brandon Nakashima, a player he has never faced before, and he may struggle to re-create the big-match intensity on Center Court.
Kyrgios, who has only reached the quarter-finals of two Grand Slams, believes he has the firepower to win Wimbledon.
“Round by round, if I keep doing my things, I feel good. I’m all right,” said the 27-year-old, who had vocal support from the crowd on Saturday despite his antics.
Nadal, chasing the third leg of a calendar Grand Slam, found his rhythm in his third-round match against Italy’s Lorenzo Sonego and now faces Dutch 21st seed Botic van de Zandschulp.
The 22-time Grand Slam champion, twice a winner at the All England Club, swept into the last 16 in straight sets after needing four sets to progress in his opening two matches.
“My best match, without a doubt, since the tournament started,” said Nadal, the only top-10 player left in his side of the draw.
“I made improvements today. Very happy for that.
“I made a lot of things much better than the previous days, the determination, the way that I manage to play more aggressive, going to the net plenty of times.”