Bucks seal NBA playoff berth, Nuggets fall to 4th straight defeat

Bucks seal NBA playoff berth, Nuggets fall to 4th straight defeat
Milwaukee Bucks forward Giannis Antetokounmpo drives between Phoenix Suns guard Devin Booker, left, guard Terrence Ross (8), forward T.J. Warren (21) and center Bismack Biyombo, right, during the first half of an NBA game Tuesday in Phoenix. (AP)
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Updated 15 March 2023

Bucks seal NBA playoff berth, Nuggets fall to 4th straight defeat

Bucks seal NBA playoff berth, Nuggets fall to 4th straight defeat
  • Lakers returned to winning ways after Sunday’s defeat to the Knicks with a comprehensive 123-108 road win over Pelicans

LOS ANGELES: The Milwaukee Bucks became the first team to clinch an NBA playoff place on Tuesday after holding off a late rally from the Phoenix Suns to complete a 116-104 road victory in Arizona.

Giannis Antetokounmpo scored 36 points with 11 rebounds and eight assists as the Bucks brought up their 50th win of the regular season to cement their grip on first place at the top of the Eastern Conference.

Antetokounmpo was backed by 21 points from Brook Lopez while three other Milwaukee players finished in double figures.

The Bucks now lead the Eastern Conference by three games from Boston with a 50-19 record as the regular season enters its final stretch.

But it needed a late burst of scoring by Milwaukee to make sure of victory, the Bucks stitching together a 24-9 run in the final seven minutes of the fourth quarter to pull clear after the Suns had edged into a 95-92 lead with 8min 47sec remaining.

Devin Booker led the Suns scorers with 30 points while Deandre Ayton finished with 16 points for the hosts.

At the top of the Western Conference, meanwhile, the Denver Nuggets slumped to a fourth straight defeat as Fred VanVleet kept the Toronto Raptors’ playoff hopes alive with a virtuoso display in a 125-110 victory.

Toronto point guard VanVleet finished with 36 points, including eight three-pointers, with seven assists and three steals to give Toronto a crucial win as they aim to remain in contention for a place in the postseason.

The Raptors went on the front foot from the outset, pouring in a franchise record 49 points in a remarkable first quarter to leave conference leaders Denver shellshocked.

Although a late rally saw Denver close to within six points in the fourth, Toronto went on a late run to pull away once more and complete a wire-to-wire victory at the Scotiabank Arena.

Denver coach Michael Malone had stern words for his team after the defeat.

“I need to find some guys who are ready to fight with me, because right now we’re in chill mode,” Malone said.

“And we can’t be in chill mode with 13 games to go in the season. We’ve got to find a way to get our swagger back and get back to playing Denver Nugget basketball.”

In other games Tuesday, the Los Angeles Lakers got back to winning ways after Sunday’s defeat to the New York Knicks with a comprehensive 123-108 road win over the New Orleans Pelicans in the Big Easy.

With LeBron James sidelined, Anthony Davis once again stepped up for the Lakers with 35 points and 17 rebounds while Malik Beasley put on a three-point shooting clinic, making 7-of-12 attempts from beyond the arc in a 24-point haul.

The win keeps the Lakers firmly in contention for a playoff place with just under four weeks of the regular season remaining.

“We’re just trying to stay alive,” Davis said afterwards. “We came out with a mindset of having this as a must-win game.”

Davis had been determined to produce a big performance against his former club, after blaming himself for the Lakers’ 112-108 loss to the Knicks on Sunday.

“Everybody did their job (on Sunday) except myself. That was on me,” Davis said.

“I never want to have a performance like I did the other night and let my team down. I wanted to come out tonight and make a difference.”

In Portland, the in-form New York Knicks overcame a 38-point display from Damian Lillard which included eight three-pointers to overpower the Trail Blazers 123-107.

Immanuel Quickley had 26 points, Julius Randle 24 and RJ Barrett 22 on a night when six Knicks players broke double figures.

Cleveland meanwhile kept up their pursuit of Philadelphia in the Eastern Conference with a 120-104 win over the Charlotte Hornets in North Carolina.

Evan Mobley led the Cavaliers scorers in the absence of Donovan Mitchell with 26 points as Cleveland improved to 44-27 to remain fourth in the East.

Ons Jabeur defeats Bernarda Pera in straight sets to reach French Open quarterfinals

Ons Jabeur defeats Bernarda Pera in straight sets to reach French Open quarterfinals
Updated 19 sec ago

Ons Jabeur defeats Bernarda Pera in straight sets to reach French Open quarterfinals

Ons Jabeur defeats Bernarda Pera in straight sets to reach French Open quarterfinals
PARIS: Bernarda Pera could not win a single game on her serve Monday as she was eliminated in straight sets in the fourth round of the French Open.
Facing seventh-seeded Ons Jabeur of Tunisia, the unseeded American was broken eight times on Court Philippe Chatrier and lost 6-3, 6-1. Jabeur won 15 of 16 points on Pera’s second serve.
Jabeur, the runner-up at Wimbledon last year, advanced to the quarterfinals at Roland Garros for the first time in her career.
Jabeur also struggled with her serve but managed to save eight of the 12 break points she faced.
“She put a lot of pressure on my service,” Jabeur said. “I’m pleased that I was able to win my service games when I needed to. ... Hopefully, I’ll return well and serve better in my next match.”
Pera looked frustrated and tried to shorten rallies, but the strategy did not work. She ended up making 33 unforced errors in total.
Later Monday, No. 1-seeded Iga Swiatek will face Lesia Tsurenko at Court Suzanne Lenglen, while No. 6 Coco Gauff takes on Anna Karolina Schmiedlova. A year ago, Swiatek defeated Gauff in the final at the clay-court Grand Slam tournament and they would meet in the quarterfinals this week if they both win their fourth-round match.
In the men’s bracket, No. 4 Casper Ruud is up against Nicolas Jarry, No. 6 Holger Rune takes on No. 23 Francisco Cerundolo, No. 27 Yoshihito plays Tomas Martin Etcheverry, and No. 22 Alexander Zverev faces No. 28 Grigor Dimitrov in the night session.

Boxer Nidal Foqahaa hopes to carry Palestine flag to Olympic podium

Boxer Nidal Foqahaa hopes to carry Palestine flag to Olympic podium
Updated 05 June 2023

Boxer Nidal Foqahaa hopes to carry Palestine flag to Olympic podium

Boxer Nidal Foqahaa hopes to carry Palestine flag to Olympic podium
  • Ramallah-based 19-year-old has regained his place on the national team and is now eyeing Paris 2024

Nidal Foqahaa is the first Palestinian boxer to win bouts at a world competition, and now the young fighter is targeting success at the 2024 Olympics in Paris.

Last month in Tashkent, Uzbekistan, Foqahaa, 19, made history for Palestine by triumphing over two former Olympians in the IBA Men’s Elite World Boxing Championships.

Although he did not claim a medal in the International Boxing Association event, just making it onto the world stage was a hard-fought accomplishment for the pugilist, as it is for many elite boxers.

Living in Ramallah, Foqahaa is no stranger to struggle. Training out of the small Elbario Boxing Club, Foqahaa has been on a rollercoaster ride since he won his first boxing match at 16. Less than 10 months ago, he lost his place on the national team due to poor performances.

Although he earned his spot back through sheer determination, without proper funding he has not been able to rack up the fights and international experience he needs.

The Palestinian Boxing Federation has little funding available, so Foqahaa is reliant on development aid from the IBA and assistance from the Elbario club. Without any corporate sponsors, he must often pay his own way with the money he earns from working in construction.

After losing his spot on the national team, Foqahaa was determined to prove his worth. In February, he won a silver medal at the King’s Championship in Jordan, which took him to the IBA contest in May.

“Unfortunately, we do not have the money like other teams. I was so grateful to the International Boxing Association who sponsored the travel and accommodation of the Palestinian team last month,” he said.

“Right now, I am in Russia for a six-month camp. I was graciously invited by the president of the IBA, Umar Kremlev — providing us, the Palestinian team, with the international experience and facilities we do not have at home or cannot afford to get elsewhere.”

Russia has some of the best boxers in the sport, and is currently ranked third in the world by the IBA. During the camp, Foqahaa hopes to gain the skills he needs to compete in the upcoming Olympic qualifying competitions.

Nader Jayousi, owner of the Elbario gym, said he was confident Foqahaa would make it to France.

“Nidal is putting 100 percent of his time and effort into the goal of Paris 2024. He is completely focused on his training camp now, and the next qualifying events,” said Jayousi.

“At the Arab Games in Algeria, we hope to make it to the finals. The first qualifier for the Olympics is the Asian Games in China this September. We will use it as a KPI (key performance indicator) to gauge his progress.

“Then the Continental Qualifier for Asia will be in January, February,” he added. “The World Qualifier is his final chance to qualify for the Olympics, if we don’t through the continental event.”

Fortunately, the Olympic committee will cover his travel expenses to these qualifying events.

These are the real, daily challenges of being from Palestine, a world away from well-funded teams and personalized kits, which makes Foqahaa more determined than ever.

“Every struggle I face, drives me to achieve more. When I was at the World Championships, I didn’t get distracted and chose to isolate myself, focusing on the task at hand. I didn’t worry about the other teams, maybe they do come from better facilities, more experience, and more funding. But I fight for something more.”

Jayousi highlighted some of the inspirations for the current crop of Palestinian fighters.

“Our boxers are inspired by our local champion, Islam Irshaid. He won a few medals in Odivelas, (and the) Eindhoven Box Cup but nothing continental, or on the world stage,” the coach said.

“Because Islam had literally nothing, there wasn’t any gym then, I trained him in the streets, by himself. No teammate or sparring, but despite those limitations he was a great boxer. Sometimes it isn’t the right time, now he inspires a new generation in the gym. They look up to him, and he offers great support to the future champions of our country.”

No Palestinian athlete has ever qualified for the Olympics, and Foqahaa knows he has a long road ahead of him.

Conflict is part of Palestine’s daily life, and understanding what he is fighting for stokes the fire inside Foqahaa. He believes he can go far in the boxing world, and leave behind an important legacy.

He hopes to have a long and successful career in boxing, and possibly turn professional, so he can support his family and look after his father.

But for now, Foqahaa has only one thing on his mind, which is getting to the Paris Olympics.


Crown prince launches Saudi sports clubs’ investment, privatization project

Saudi Arabia's Crown Prince Mohammed bin Salman.
Saudi Arabia's Crown Prince Mohammed bin Salman.
Updated 49 min 49 sec ago

Crown prince launches Saudi sports clubs’ investment, privatization project

Saudi Arabia's Crown Prince Mohammed bin Salman.
  • Special focus has been placed on football with plans to position the Saudi Pro League among the top 10 in the world

Jeddah: Crown Prince Mohammed bin Salman on Monday launched a Saudi sports clubs’ investment and privatization project, according to the Saudi Press Agency.

Part of Vision 2030, the initiative aims to encourage private investment in the sector toward developing national teams, regional sports clubs, and practitioners at all levels.

The current phase of the project involves granting approvals for schemes and transfers of club ownership, as well as the privatization of several sports clubs.

The program has been designed to create opportunities and the right environment for investment in the sports sector, raise levels of professionalism, and administrative and financial governance in sports clubs, while developing their infrastructure to provide the best services to sports fans and improve audience experience.

The transfer and privatization of clubs, in general, aims to achieve qualitative leaps in various sports in the Kingdom by 2030, building an elite generation of athletes at regional and global levels.

Special focus has been placed on football with plans to position the Saudi Pro League among the top 10 in the world. Other goals include increasing league revenues from SR450 million ($120 million) to more than SR1.8 billion annually and raising its market value from SR3 billion to at least SR8 billion.

4 talking points from Miami Heat’s win over Denver Nuggets in Game 2 of NBA Finals

4 talking points from Miami Heat’s win over Denver Nuggets in Game 2 of NBA Finals
Updated 05 June 2023

4 talking points from Miami Heat’s win over Denver Nuggets in Game 2 of NBA Finals

4 talking points from Miami Heat’s win over Denver Nuggets in Game 2 of NBA Finals
  • 4th-quarter surge helped complete comeback that leaves the series tied at 1-1

In a thrilling display of resilience, the Miami Heat mounted an impressive comeback in Game 2 of the NBA Finals against the Denver Nuggets to leave the series tied at 1-1.

Despite facing a daunting 15-point deficit and trailing by eight entering the fourth quarter, the Heat showcased their unwavering determination and refusal to accept defeat, securing a hard-fought 111-108 victory on the Nuggets’ home court.

Throughout this playoff series, the Heat have consistently won at least one road game in the opening two games, giving them back home-court advantage. Here are four key factors that contributed to the Heat’s success in Game 2.

Limiting Jokic’s assists

While Nikola Jokic recorded an impressive 41 points in Game 2, a notable difference was his assist numbers. In contrast to his 14 assists in Game 1, Jokic’s assists decreased significantly to only four in Game 2. The Heat employed a strategic approach to limit Jokic’s playmaking by focusing less on double-teaming him and instead doubling other players on the court. This tactic aimed to disrupt the Nuggets’ offense, as Jokic’s assists often facilitate scoring opportunities for his teammates, boosting their confidence and involvement in the game.

Heat raining threes

The Heat’s three-point shooting proficiency played a crucial role in their remarkable comeback. With an impressive 17-for-35, or 48.6 percent, performance from beyond the arc, the Heat set a new record for the most three-pointers made in any of their NBA Finals games.

This shooting prowess not only fueled their comeback but also enabled them to establish an effective zone defense, and stopped the Nuggets’ transition game.

Strength in unity for Heat

Game 2 witnessed an outstanding display of contributions from multiple Heat players. Gabe Vincent led the charge with a game-high 23 points, including four three-pointers. Max Stus, who struggled in Game 1, rebounded with a stellar performance, hitting four three-pointers in the opening quarter and finishing with 14 points.

Jimmy Butler displayed his leadership with 21 points and nine assists, while Duncan Robinson, Kyle Lowry and Kevin Love all made significant contributions from beyond the arc. Bam Adebayo’s presence in the paint, contributing 21 points and nine rebounds, further bolstered the Heat’s success.

The Heat’s intensified aggression in Game 2 resulted in a significant increase in free-throw attempts compared to Game 1. With 20 free-throw attempts, a staggering 18 more than their previous outing, the Heat capitalized on their aggressive approach to gain momentum and seize control of the game.

Fourth-quarter surge

The Heat’s game took a decisive turn in the fourth quarter, ignited by Robinson’s scoring eruption. His consecutive eight points reduced the Nuggets’ lead to a mere two points at 85-83.

Building on this momentum, the Heat engineered a pivotal 12-0 run, propelling them to a 90-85 advantage that they defended until the final buzzer. Notably, the Heat’s bench players outscored their Nuggets counterparts by 16 points to four in the decisive final 12 minutes, while Butler’s clutch baskets further solidified their victory.

The Miami Heat’s remarkable win in Game 2 has vividly showcased their determination to compete, leading to the series now being tied. As the pressure mounts on the Denver Nuggets for Game 3, the Heat will have the advantage of playing on their home court in front of their fans, creating favorable conditions for supporting shooters to secure familiar rebounds off the rim. The series is shaping up to be even more competitive than initially anticipated.

Max Gunther makes motorsport history with Formula E win in Indonesia

Max Gunther makes motorsport history with Formula E win in Indonesia
Updated 05 June 2023

Max Gunther makes motorsport history with Formula E win in Indonesia

Max Gunther makes motorsport history with Formula E win in Indonesia
  • German driver claims first victory for Maserati in single-seat category since 1957
  • Second race in the 2023 GulaVit E-Prix doubleheader sees Jake Dennis take a consecutive runner-up position

JAKARTA: Maserati MSG Racing driver Maximilian Gunther converted a second consecutive Julius Bar Pole Position into the race win in Jakarta, returning the manufacturer to the top step of the podium in single-seater motorsport for the first time since 1957.

The second race of the 2023 GulaVit Jakarta E-Prix doubleheader saw German Gunther claim his fourth win in the ABB FIA Formula E World Championship and his first in the iconic blue livery of automaker Maserati.

The last time the trident was seen on the top step of a single-seater championship was in 1957 when the legendary Juan Manuel Fangio won the German Grand Prix on his way to that year’s Formula One title.

Gunther was followed home by Jake Dennis from the Avalanche Andretti team who started and finished second in both races on the competition’s return to Indonesia. Dennis is now within just one point of standings leader Pascal Wehrlein of the TAG Heuer Porsche team.

Following a dramatic first race in which he was hit by his own teammate, leaving the Jaguar TCS Racing team pointless on the day, Mitch Evans recovered superbly to produce a classy defensive drive and round out the podium places in third.

Envision Racing’s Nick Cassidy lost his championship lead to the previous day’s race winner Wehrlein — who finished sixth — after an ill-judged overtake led to contact and a point-less day. Cassidy now trails Dennis by five points with six points separating the top three drivers in a tight tussle for the title.

TAG Heuer Porsche lead the way in the team standings with 212 points, pulling further clear of Envision Racing on 190, with Jaguar TCS Racing third on 171.

Just five races remain in season nine of the ABB FIA Formula E World Championship, with the next stop on June 24, which is a fourth debut city this campaign at the 2023 Southwire Portland E-Prix.

Gunther said: “Very proud moment, I am over the moon with this victory — already yesterday was great with another podium. We have made such good progress over the past couple of races, it is fantastic, and to take my first win here in Jakarta is outstanding. I am just so happy.

“In Formula E you always need to keep your feet on the ground, like life in general,” he added. “It can change so quickly, I am just really enjoying this moment here, I know there will be tracks that suit us more, there will be tracks that suit us less. We try to always maximize our package, that is what we have been doing the past few races. I am very proud.”