Denver Nuggets oust Lakers to reach NBA Finals for first time

Denver Nuggets oust Lakers to reach NBA Finals for first time
Nikola Jokic #15 of the Denver Nuggets blocks the shot attempt of Rui Hachimura #28 of the Los Angeles Lakers during the third quarter in game four of the Western Conference Finals. (AFP)
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Updated 23 May 2023

Denver Nuggets oust Lakers to reach NBA Finals for first time

Denver Nuggets oust Lakers to reach NBA Finals for first time
  • Jokic finished with 30 points after the Nuggets overturned a 15-point half-time deficit

LOS ANGELES: Nikola Jokic led a second-half fightback as the Denver Nuggets completed a 4-0 Western Conference championship sweep over the Los Angeles Lakers on Monday to reach the NBA Finals for the first time in franchise history.
Two-time NBA Most Valuable Player Jokic finished with 30 points after the Nuggets overturned a 15-point half-time deficit to send LeBron James and the Lakers crashing out of the postseason with a 113-111 victory at the Arena.
James had looked to be single-handedly keeping the Lakers’ season alive after scoring 31 points in a magnificent first-half display that left the 17-time NBA champions leading 73-58 at half-time.
But Jokic led a resurgent Nuggets offense in the third quarter, scoring 13 points as the Western Conference top seeds outscored the Lakers 36-16 to turn the contest on its head.
A dramatic fourth-quarter finale saw Jokic put Denver 113-111 ahead with a typically barnstorming driving layup through heavy traffic with 51.7sec remaining.
With four seconds remaining James had one last chance to tie it up and force overtime, but his attempted driving floater was blocked by Denver’s Aaron Gordon to leave the Nuggets celebrating a famous win.
Denver — one of 11 teams in the league who have never won the NBA championship — will face either the Miami Heat or Boston Celtics in the finals.
Miami, leading Boston 3-0, can clinch their place in the finals with a victory at home on Tuesday.
“We don’t give up,” Jokic told ESPN. “I’ve been saying this for five years — when we were bad or when we were good — we don’t give up. And that’s what happened today.
“They jumped on us the first half, they were better, more aggressive, scoring easily and didn’t miss basically.
“But in the second half we turned the page and everybody stepped up. It was a collective effort, it’s not just one guy.”
The Nuggets will head into the finals brimming with confidence that they can end their near-half-century wait for a maiden NBA crown after another composed all-round performance proved too much for the Lakers.
The 38-year-old James finished with 40 points, 10 rebounds and nine assists for the Lakers in a heroic attempt to keep the series alive.
“He had an amazing game,” Jokic said of James. “We couldn’t stop him in the first half... he’s still one of the best to ever play this game.”
But the Lakers’ supporting cast once again failed to step up when it mattered, with a series of missed baskets in the fourth quarter allowing the Nuggets to hold on to their slender advantage to clinch victory.
Lakers head coach Darvin Ham said his team had paid the price for not making enough shots, praising Denver’s ruthlessness down the stretch.
“The sign of a great team is if you make any mistake, they’re going to make you pay for it,” Ham said. “And they did just that.”
Ham, who was appointed last year with a brief to rebuild the Lakers after a dismal failure to reach the playoffs, insisted that the NBA giants were on the right path.
“This is year one,” Ham said. “Losing sucks, but I think we can do something special here.”

Brighton and West Ham seal spots in Europa League knockout round

Brighton and West Ham seal spots in Europa League knockout round
Updated 5 sec ago

Brighton and West Ham seal spots in Europa League knockout round

Brighton and West Ham seal spots in Europa League knockout round
LONDON: Brighton booked their place in the Europa League knockout stage with a 1-0 win at AEK Athens, while West Ham also advanced after a late Tomas Soucek goal against Backa Topola on Thursday.
Roberto De Zerbi’s side are competing in Europe for the first time in their history and the Seagulls’ adventure will continue into the new year thanks to Joao Pedro’s winner in Greece.
Brighton sit two points above Marseille at the top of Group B, with the French club able to regain pole position if they beat Ajax later on Thursday.
Europa League group winners go through to the last 16 automatically, while the runners-up play in a two-legged knockout round play-off in February against a team who finish third in a Champions League group.
Albion will vie for first place in the group when Marseille visit the Amex Stadium in the final round of fixtures in December.
The Greeks laid seige to Brighton’s goal for a period in the first half, with Orbelin Pineda denied by keeper Bart Verbruggen.
Steven Zuber became engaged in a virtually one-on-one battle with the Seagulls as the Swiss international’s effort was tipped over by Verbruggen.
Zuber flashed a header wide from the resulting corner, then evaded Joel Veltman and unloaded a powerful shot that was deflected onto the post by Lewis Dunk before Mijat Gacinovic put the rebound wide.
Gacinovic’s strike was well stopped by Verbruggen, whose heroics laid the foundation for Brighton to snatch the lead.
Damian Szymanski fouled Joao Pedro and the Brazilian striker picked himself up to slot home the penalty in the 55th minute.
That made the Brighton man the top scorer in the Europa League with five goals, three of those having been penalties against AEK Athens.
AEK’s fate was sealed when they were reduced to 10 men in the 85th minute when Gacinovic earned a second booking for a foul on Veltman.
Brighton fan Norman Cook, known as DJ Fatboy Slim, was set to perform in Athens after the game, with the Albion supporters who made the trip in party mood.
West Ham became the second Premier League club to move into the knockout round as Soucek’s late goal saw off Serbian minnows Backa Topola 1-0.
Soucek’s 89th-minute volley from Maxwel Cornet’s cross sealed the victory that put his team top of Group A.
The Czech midfielder has scored in his last five matches for club and country, after also netting a last-gasp winner at Burnley last weekend.
Second-placed Freiburg thrashed Olympiakos 5-0 to join West Ham in the knockout round.
The Hammers will seal first place if they avoid defeat against the German side in east London in December.
In Group C, Sparta Prague beat Real Betis 1-0 to close within two points of the first-placed Spanish club and keep alive their bid to reach the knockout stage.
Atalanta wrapped up top spot in Group D after a 1-1 draw against second-placed Sporting Lisbon, who are also through to the knockout round.
Rennes’ 3-0 win against Maccabi Haifa took the French team to the top of Group F and into the knockout round.

Tennis, the latest sport on the rise in Saudi Arabia

Tennis, the latest sport on the rise in Saudi Arabia
Updated 30 November 2023

Tennis, the latest sport on the rise in Saudi Arabia

Tennis, the latest sport on the rise in Saudi Arabia
  • The game has been making its mark in the Kingdom’s sports evolution, so much that its nationwide popularity cannot be missed
  • Arij Almutabagani, president of the STF, has spearheaded the federation’s efforts to grow the sport

RIYADH: Saudi Arabia has become one of the fastest-growing countries in world of sports, emerging not only as an international sporting hub, but also a center of activities, events, and spectacles.
From athletics, football, F1, boxing, basketball, and golf, many sports are driving unprecedented socio-economic transformation under Vision 2030. They are enriching lives, enhancing well-being, and presenting a whole new world of opportunity, paving the way for people to discover passions, pursue dreams, and realize potential.
Tennis has been making its mark in the Saudi sports evolution, so much that its nationwide growth and popularity cannot be missed.
As president of the Saudi Tennis Federation, Arij Almutabagani is one of the key figures leading the charge. Since assuming her position in 2021, she has spearheaded STF’s efforts to grow the sport across all levels, laying strong foundations for tennis and all involved to thrive.
Almutabagani’s primary aspiration is building a vibrant junior tennis scene. With 63 percent of Saudi’s over 32 million population under the age of 30 and with nationwide sports participation now at 50 percent, she is adamant that tennis can embrace the Kingdom’s youth opportunities.
“Our strategy is to nurture young players, develop infrastructure, and invest in grassroots initiatives because youth is the key to any sport’s long-term success,” she said. “We’re certainly on the right path. Our strategy is working and we’re seeing interest and participation increase.”
Almutabagani’s statements are backed by glowing statistics. Saudi today is home to 177 tennis clubs, up 146 percent since 2019. In the last four years, the number of registered players has increased by 46 percent to 2,300, and U14 players by 100 percent — from 500 to over 1,000.
STF also holds 40 national tournaments annually, including hosting three ITF Juniors tournaments in the past year, which marked the return of ITF events since the first was played back in 2022.
“Major strides have been taken and one of these was tennis being added to the school physical education curriculum earlier this year,” said Almutabagani.
STF’s partnership with the Saudi Sports For All Federation presented “Tennis For All” in 2022, a 16-week mass participation program to introduce tennis to a new generation of sports enthusiasts. Over 13,000 people were introduced to tennis in the first edition, with a higher figure in 2023.
This past April, “Tennis For All” was introduced in the Ministry of Education’s curriculum at 90 public schools, with STF training 170 physical education teachers to provide lessons. Participation more than doubled this time around, with an estimated 30,000 people.
“We’re targeting 200 schools in 2024 and 400 by 2025,” Almutabagani said. “Achieving this will support sustained growth as more tennis academies are launched and more national tennis centers are built. We already have 505 coaches and 182 officials in the Kingdom and we’ll be rolling out more opportunities for people to get involved.”
A sure catalyst for further sports transformation, Saudi Arabia currently hosts its first-ever professional tennis event — the Next Gen ATP Finals presented by NEOM. A global, modern, and innovative competition featuring the world’s best U21 players, the finals are currently taking place at Jeddah’s King Abdullah Sports City from until Dec. 2.
Sanctioned by the ATP Tour and hosted by STF, this historic event marks the beginning of a five-year contract to bring the pinnacle of young global tennis talent to the Kingdom.
Saudi Arabia’s top male tennis player, Ammar Alhogbani, has practiced with and played against some of the eight players competing in the Next Gen ATP Finals. He said: “The growth of tennis in Saudi Arabia and for Saudi Arabians has been exceptional in recent years, I’m blessed to be even a small a part of it. To now also have the first sanctioned ATP event in our backyard is an immensely exciting part of our next chapter.
“I’m sure having the best young players from around the world here in Jeddah will inspire future generations of Saudi to follow in their footsteps and encourage all Saudi’s players to come out and experience the event for themselves.”
Looking ahead, the value of Saudi Arabia’s sports event industry is growing by 8 percent per year and will reach $3.3 billion by 2024 — a $1.2 billion increase from 2018. Additionally, significant events investments are being made, with $2 billion committed to help sports grow by 2024.
“Tennis will become a big part of Saudi’s future sports event industry, and this will be the first of many professional tennis tournaments that we stage,” added Almutabagani.
“We eagerly anticipate welcoming tennis enthusiasts from across Saudi Arabia and beyond to witness the exhilarating matches and experience the innovation and excitement that the Next Gen ATP Finals will bring to Jeddah.”

Medals galore on Day 7 of Saudi Games 2023

Medals galore on Day 7 of Saudi Games 2023
Updated 12 min 2 sec ago

Medals galore on Day 7 of Saudi Games 2023

Medals galore on Day 7 of Saudi Games 2023
  • Princess Delayel bint Nahar Al-Saud crowns swimming champions
  • Saudi Professional League’s Riyadh derby broadcast live to spectators

RIYADH: Princess Delayel bint Nahar Al-Saud hosted a medal ceremony for the winners of the swimming competitions at the 2023 Saudi Games on Wednesday.
The princess, who is the Games’ deputy director, was joined at the Prince Faisal bin Fahad Olympic Complex by Patama Leeswadtrakul, who is a member of the International Olympic Committee, and Mona Shehab from the Saudi Swimming Federation.
The star of the women’s events was Imane Elbarodi of Al-Fateh club, who won gold in both the 50-meter freestyle and 50-meter breaststroke events. Halaa Diab from Al-Ahli club and Kawtar Elbarodi, also from Al-Fateh, took silver and bronze, respectively, in both races.
In the youth category, Nadine Abdallah of Al-Ahli took gold in the 50-meter freestyle race ahead of Mashael Alayed and Hana Shahhat.
In the youths’ 50-meter breaststroke, Solaf Elkemary of Al-Shabab won gold, beating Maryam Ahmed of A-ACWA and Mashael Al-Ayed of Al-Ettifaq.

Degnah tops climbers
Nidal Degnah took the individual gold medal in the men’s climbing competition at the Prince Faisal bin Fahd Olympic Complex.
Prince Bandar bin Khalid Al-Saud, chairman of the Saudi Climbing and Hiking Federation, officiated at the medal ceremony, where Taher Al-Haddad took silver and Matteo Largo bronze.
In the women’s event, Sarah Al-Qunebit saw off all-comers to take the gold ahead of Rouwaida Al-Aroui and Lydia Karpova.

Hot shots bag medals
Prince Khalid bin Bandar bin Musaed bin Abdulaziz, vice president of the Saudi Shooting Federation, was in charge at the medal ceremony for some of the top shooters at this year’s Games.
The gold medal in the men’s 10-meter air pistol category, held at the City Public Security shooting range, went to Atallah Al-Enezie, with Muhammad Al-Maliki taking the silver and Salem Al-Mutairi the bronze.

Barghout beats them all
Omar Barghout was the star of the youth gymnastics event, taking gold in the all-around competition.
He held off the challenges of Khaled Al-Muzain from the Al-Ittifaq team and Al-Ittihad’s Faris Al-Harbi, who won silver and bronze, respectively.
The medals were presented by Sulaiman Mohamed Al-Jasser, chairman of the Saudi Gymnastic Federation.

Al-Hilal crowned men's volleyball winners
On Thursday evening, last year’s volleyball champions Al-Ahli lost the title race after Al-Hilal beat them (1-3) in the final match at the Ministry of Sports Hall at the Prince Faisal bin Fahd Olympic Complex. Al-Ahli had a straight-sets win over Al-Ittihad in the semifinals. Meanwhile, this year’s gold medal winners Al-Hilal beat Al-Nassr in their semifinals.
In the women’s event, Al-Nasr won the gold medal after beating Al-Hilal in the final (3-0).

Al-Ettifaq triumph in esports
Al-Ettifaq have been crowned kings of the gamers after seeing off Triple eSport and Quest Esports in the esports competition at Saudi Media City.
Princess Sara bint Faisal Al-Saud, deputy chairman of the Saudi Esports Federation, presided over the medal ceremony.

Masters of martial arts
General Shaddad Al-Omari, president of the Saudi Taekwondo Federation, was on hand at King Saud University to present the medals to the winners in this year’s taekwondo competition.
In the over-80 kg category, Ali Al-Mabrouk of Al-Shabab took gold, with Al-Faraa’s Aaron Cook taking silver and Majed Al-Salim of Al-Ittihad and Yatherb Ali of Al-Fra both winning bronze.
In the under-80 kg event, Al-Shabab’s Ahmed Abu Ghaush took gold after beating Faisal Ali from Abha. Mohamed Al-Suwaiq of Al-Shabab and Mohamed Khayyat from the Falcons each won bronze.
Hasham bin Dookhy emerged as champion in the under-68 kg category, ahead of Rayan Al-Taifi from Al-Ittihad. Abdel Baset Abu Talib of Al-Nahda and Ahmed Al-Khawaher from Al-Salam both took bronze.
In the under-58 kg division, Riyad Hamdi won gold while Abdul-Ilah Asiri from Abha took silver. Fahd Al-Sameeh and Abdul Majeed bin Mughaisib, both youths, took home a bronze medal.

Riyadh derby treat
The Riyadh derby between Al-Nassr and Al-Hilal in the Saudi Professional League was broadcast live to spectators on giant screens at the Saudi Games fan zone.
Visitors to the zone were also treated to live entertainment, children’s play areas and two DJ platforms.

Al-Khawahir lifts herself to the top
A year on from winning bronze at the 2022 Games, Fatemah Al-Khawaher from Al-Salam club rose to the pinnacle of her sport on Sunday, taking gold in the 59 kg weight category.
Guided by former champion and national coach Abbas Al-Qaisoum, the 22-year-old took the top prize lifting just 1 kg more than her nearest rival.
“I experienced remarkable moments that fueled my determination and resilience,” she said. “I achieved what I had worked tirelessly for during these past 15 months. I brought pride and joy to my family, supporters and my club.”

Uganda qualify for T20 World Cup as Zimbabwe miss out 

Uganda qualify for T20 World Cup as Zimbabwe miss out 
Updated 30 November 2023

Uganda qualify for T20 World Cup as Zimbabwe miss out 

Uganda qualify for T20 World Cup as Zimbabwe miss out 
  • Zimbabwe, who lost to both Namibia and Uganda, will miss out for the second time in three editions 
  • Pakistan are among 20 other nations that have qualified for next year's T20 World Cup in US, West Indies 

PARIS: Uganda will make their first appearance at a cricket World Cup next year after qualifying on Thursday for the T20 tournament to be hosted by the West Indies and the United States. 

A nine-wicket win over Rwanda secured Uganda second place in the African regional qualifying event, joining Namibia at the 2024 T20 World Cup while eliminating Zimbabwe from contention. 

Uganda bowled Rwanda out for just 65 and knocked off the runs in 8.1 overs to record their fifth win in six matches in Windhoek. 

Qualifying hosts Namibia sealed their spot on Tuesday with a 58-run win over Tanzania, ensuring they will play at a third consecutive T20 World Cup. 

Zimbabwe, who lost to both Namibia and Uganda, will miss out for the second time in three editions. 

They did not participate in the 2021 showpiece after the ICC suspended Zimbabwe's membership because of government interference. 

Zimbabwe also failed to reach the last two 50-over World Cups. Their recent absence in India cost them the chance to qualify for the 2025 Champions Trophy.  

List of the teams qualified for next year's T20 World Cup: 











New Zealand 



Papua New Guinea 


South Africa 

Sri Lanka 



West Indies 

PIF-backed Professional Fighters League in multi-year US media partnership with ESPN

PIF-backed Professional Fighters League in multi-year US media partnership with ESPN
Updated 30 November 2023

PIF-backed Professional Fighters League in multi-year US media partnership with ESPN

PIF-backed Professional Fighters League in multi-year US media partnership with ESPN
  • Agreement includes live event distribution of PFL MMA Global Regular Season, Playoffs, World Championship on ESPN platforms
  • Combined roster of PFL and Bellator boasts 30 percent of its fighters independently world-ranked in the top 25 of their respective weight class

NEW YORK: The Professional Fighters League and ESPN have announced a new multi-year media rights agreement which includes live event distribution of the PFL Regular Season, Playoffs, and World Championship on ESPN linear networks and ESPN+.

ESPN+ PPV will also distribute the new PFL PPV Super Fight Division in the US when it launches in 2024.

The Saudi Public Investment Fund-backed PFL features some of the sport’s top fighters who will also be highlighted across ESPN platforms in pre- and post-fight coverage, as well as shoulder programming on linear and digital channels.

PFL CEO Peter Murray said: “We’ve had five successful seasons on ESPN, and we’re excited for the next phase of growth for MMA (mixed martial arts) and the Professional Fighters League with this agreement.

“Our innovative sport-season format, elite roster of athletes, and the launch of the PFL PPV Super Fight Division, which will feature some of the world’s greatest combat sports stars such as Francis Ngannou and Jake Paul, are ushering in the new era of MMA as a mainstream global sports entertainment platform.”

The PFL PPV Super Fight Division will be a global platform for some of the best MMA fighters and combat sports stars.

Ngannou, considered one of the greatest heavyweight fighters in the world today, is under an exclusive MMA contract to fight in the division and is joined by one of the most influential figures in combat sports, Paul, and women’s star fighters Claressa Shields, Amanda Serrano, and Savannah Marshall.

The first PFL PPV Super Fight will be in early 2024 with headlining fighters and location to be announced later.

The PFL is the only organization in MMA with the sports-season format, where individual fighters compete in a regular season, playoffs, and championship each year. The combined roster of PFL and Bellator boasts 30 percent of its fighters independently world-ranked in the top 25 of their respective weight class.

The PFL has an expansive global vision for the sport and is building the Champions League of MMA with PFL Europe, PFL MENA, and more international leagues in development.

In addition, the PFL leads in technology and innovation, with its proprietary PFL SmartCage, powering fight analytics, real-time betting, artificial intelligence scoring, and a next-generation viewing experience. It is on ESPN/ESPN+ in the US and is broadcast and streamed in 150 countries with 20 premium media distribution partners.