Warriors edge Thunder in dramatic style as NBA Cup tips off

Warriors edge Thunder in dramatic style as NBA Cup tips off
Golden State Warriors guard Stephen Curry hits a layup, scoring the winning basket in the final second, as Oklahoma City Thunder guard Josh Giddey (3), forward Chet Holmgren (7) and guard Luguentz Dort, back right, defend during an NBA in-season tournament game. (AP)
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Updated 04 November 2023
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Warriors edge Thunder in dramatic style as NBA Cup tips off

Warriors edge Thunder in dramatic style as NBA Cup tips off
  • First win of new competition went to the Indiana Pacers
  • All games in new tournament count in the regular season standings except for the final on Dec. 9 in Las Vegas

LOS ANGELES: Golden State star Stephen Curry drained the winning layup with two-tenths of a second remaining Friday as the Warriors opened the NBA’s new in-season tournament with a dramatic 141-139 victory over the Oklahoma City Thunder.

In a game featuring 23 lead changes, it was tied at 139-139 when Curry drove to the basket and rose to bank in a shot.

But teammate Draymond Green, whose hand was near the rim, was called for offensive goaltending — only for the call to be overturned to allow the Warriors to celebrate the win.

Curry finished with a game-high 30 points, connecting on five of 10 three-pointers and nine of 15 overall.

Green scored 15 points with five rebounds and Chris Paul handed out 13 assists.

Lu Dort scored 29 points and Chet Holmgren added 24 for Oklahoma City, who were without leading scorer Shai Gilgeous-Alexander, sidelined by a knee injury.

Even without him, the Thunder weren’t about to go quietly. The Warriors led by two at halftime, but Dort scored 11 points early in the third to put Oklahoma City up by five before the Warriors battled back, knotting the score at 106-106 heading into the fourth.

“They took it to us the whole game,” said Warriors coach Steve Kerr, who admitted he feared the worst when officials reviewed the interference call on Green.

From courtside, Kerr said, Curry’s shot looked good.

“When I saw the replay on the scoreboard, it looked like Draymond touched the rim,” Kerr said. “And I guess it’s just a determination of did it affect the shot.

“I was sort of expecting them to overturn (Curry’s basket), but obviously they allowed it and we escaped.”

It was among the most dramatic moments on the first night of the new Cup-style tournament that commissioner Adam Silver hopes will fire players’ competitive instincts and give added interest to games early in the season.

The 30 clubs were drawn into six groups of five, and each team will play a total of four tournament games this month to decide six group winners and two wildcard qualifiers for the quarterfinals.

All games in the new tournament count in the regular season standings except for the final on Dec. 9 in Las Vegas.

Reigning NBA champions Denver took the opportunity to hand the Dallas Mavericks their first defeat of the season, 125-114.

Two-time NBA Most Valuable Player Nikola Jokic scored 33 points on 14-of-16 shooting, adding 14 rebounds and nine assists as the Nuggets bounced back from their lone defeat so far this season.

Denver scored 20 second-chance points, dominating in the paint to deny a Mavs team led by 34 points from Luka Doncic. Kyrie Irving, back after missing two games, scored 22 for Dallas.

The first win of the new competition went to the Indiana Pacers, who were fueled by 27 points from Myles Turner in a 121-116 victory over the Cleveland Cavaliers.

Tyrese Haliburton added 18 points and 13 assists for the Pacers, who led by as many as 18 but had to claw back after the Cavs, led by 38 points and nine assists from Donovan Mitchell, grabbed a four-point lead midway through the fourth quarter.

It was close in Chicago, where Dorian Finney-Smith scored 21 points and Mikal Bridges added 20 for the Brooklyn Nets in a 109-107 victory over the Bulls.

In Portland, the Trail Blazers edged the Memphis Grizzles 115-113 in overtime.

Bridges’s dunk with 1:13 remaining gave the Nets a 108-104 lead. Zach Lavine answered with a floater but then missed two shots, and with the Nets up 109-107, LaVine was off-target again as time expired.

“We’ve got a lot of grit — and we want to win,” Bridges said of the Nets’ determined fourth-quarter effort.

In Milwaukee, Damian Lillard scored 15 of his 30 points in the fourth quarter, draining the go-ahead three-pointer with 1:03 to play as the Bucks held off the New York Knicks 110-105.

Milwaukee withstood 45 points from Jalen Brunson, whose three-pointer with 1:10 remaining put the Knicks up for the first time since the second quarter, 103-101.

Lillard drained a three-pointer and converted a three-point play to rebuild the Bucks’ lead, and two big blocks from Brook Lopez — who had eight — helped the Bucks maintain the edge.

Giannis Antetokounmpo added 22 points, eight rebounds and six assists for the Bucks, who had six players score in double figures.


Verstappen’s Bahrain pole delivers relief to Red Bull and Horner

Verstappen’s Bahrain pole delivers relief to Red Bull and Horner
Updated 2 sec ago
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Verstappen’s Bahrain pole delivers relief to Red Bull and Horner

Verstappen’s Bahrain pole delivers relief to Red Bull and Horner
SAKHIR, Bahrain: Max Verstappen delivered some much-needed relief for his Red Bull team on Friday when he resisted Ferrari’s Charles Leclerc to claim pole position for Saturday’s season-opening Bahrain Grand Prix.
The defending three-time world champion picked up where he left off last year by topping the times in a closely-contested qualifying session at the Bahrain International Circuit at Sakhir.
His success, which he admitted was “a little bit unexpected” arrived after another day of speculation and pressure for team boss Christian Horner, following the anonymous leaking of a cache of alleged private messages and photographs between him and a female member of the team.
This came 24 hours after an internal investigation led by an independent London lawyer had resulted in Horner being cleared of all claims of inappropriate behavior.
Verstappen clocked a fastest lap of one minute and 29.179 seconds to beat Leclerc by 0.228 seconds in the final seconds of the session, securing his third Bahrain pole and the 33rd of his career.
“It was a lot of fun,” said Verstappen.
“The track had a lot of grip, but with the wind over the last few days, it’s been quite tricky to get a whole lap together and it was the same in qualifying.
“In Q1 and Q2 you go a bit faster, with the track ramping up, but to really get everything out of it in Q3 was a little bit difficult. So I’m very happy to be on pole.”
He added: “To be honest, it was a little bit unexpected, but I think the car came to us and I felt happier with the whole car.”
He forecast a close race on Saturday.
“We look good for the race and that’s the most important, but we will see tomorrow. I’m confident we can have a strong race.”
Ferrari’s Leclerc missed pole by only two-tenths of a second as he finished second ahead of Mercedes’ George Russell, Carlos Sainz of Ferrari and Sergio Perez in the second Red Bull.
Two-time champion Fernando Alonso qualified sixth for Aston Martin, ahead of the McLarens of Lando Norris and Oscar Piastri with seven-time champion Lewis Hamilton ninth for Mercedes and Nico Hulkenberg 10th for Haas.
“I’m a bit disappointed,” admitted Leclerc.
“But we had a good qualifying and this offers us a good start to the year.”
Russell praised Mercedes for producing a car that he could build on. “P3 is a good place to start,” he said.
Qualifying got under way with Horner, who has always categorically denied any wrongdoing, under renewed pressure despite being cleared in Red Bull’s investigation led by a London lawyer.
Horner, who turned up at the track on Thursday to oversee the start of the new season, said: “I won’t comment on anonymous speculation, but to reiterate, I have always denied the allegations.”
Verstappen ensured events on the track went more smoothly and he will be favorite to emulate last year’s result when he won the first of 19 races as he swept to his third title.
The session began in cool conditions as temperatures fell under the floodlights at Sakhir’s International Circuit where Bahrain’s maiden race took place 20 years ago.
The air temperature was 18, the track 21.
The first qualifying segment ended with Sainz on top as the Alpines made an early exit along with both Saubers and Williams’ Logan Sargeant.
After topping Thursday’s opening practice, Hamilton squeezed through in 15th place.
Leclerc topped the times on the second runs of Q2 and Sainz was third, sandwiching Verstappen in second, while Hamilton was fourth with a late lap.
In the final seconds of the top 10 shoot-out Verstappen improved to 1:29.179, enough to resist Leclerc by 0.228 seconds to launch his 2024 season in ominous fashion.
Exceptionally the Bahrain race and next weekend’s Saudi Arabian Grand Prix are being staged on Saturdays to accommodate the start of the Muslim holy month of Ramadan.

Alonso feeling great after hinting at retirement

Alonso feeling great after hinting at retirement
Updated 18 min 28 sec ago
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Alonso feeling great after hinting at retirement

Alonso feeling great after hinting at retirement
  • “I feel great now, but I know it’s a demanding calendar and in 2026 there are a different set of regulations as well,” said Fernando Alonso
  • “I feel great. I didn’t expect we would be that competitive, to be honest”

SAKHIR, Bahrain: Fernando Alonso on Friday qualified in sixth place for Saturday’s season-opening Bahrain Grand Prix and declared he felt “great” two days after hinting at retirement.
The 42-year-old Aston Martin driver said he had not expected to be so competitive, but added that he hoped he might be in contention to repeat his surprise podium finish last year.
The two-time world champion on Wednesday said he would decide his future after the “first few weeks or races” because of the demands of this year’s unprecedented 24-race calendar.
“Well, first of all, I need to decide if I want to keep racing and that will be the first thing that I need to decide — in a few weeks or a few races,” he said when asked if he was interested in joining Mercedes to succeed Lewis Hamilton next year.
“I feel great now, but I know it’s a demanding calendar and in 2026 there are a different set of regulations as well, which maybe are tempting or maybe not, I don’t know.”
After qualifying, however, the evergreen Spaniard, who has adopted a new diet and fitness schedule, said: “I feel great. I didn’t expect we would be that competitive, to be honest.
“Winter testing was ok, but I think we are not in the pace of the leaders.
“Free practice was competitive, but we found also last year that sometimes in free practice we are running in a different engine mode and in qualifying everything is a bit more realistic.
“It’s going to be difficult in the race, very tight in a group which will damage the tires even more when you are in traffic. So, I think it’s going to be a question mark for everyone. Let’s see.”
He made no further comments about his future, having declared that 24 races is “well over the limit.”
“When I started, we had 16 races, then it was 18 and then I think Liberty (the American owners of F1) came and we had 20 in a season and that was the limit, 20 races, but now we are up to 24.
“It isn’t sustainable for the future, I think, not for anyone.”


Hong Kong beat Saudi Arabia to end Greens’ U19 Cricket World Cup dream

Hong Kong beat Saudi Arabia to end Greens’ U19 Cricket World Cup dream
Updated 56 min 27 sec ago
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Hong Kong beat Saudi Arabia to end Greens’ U19 Cricket World Cup dream

Hong Kong beat Saudi Arabia to end Greens’ U19 Cricket World Cup dream
  • The young Greens scratched their way to 133 all out thanks to a last wicket partnership of 52
  • Hong Kong chased down their target with ease in 25.4 overs with only three wickets down

BANGKOK: Saudi Arabia’s young cricketers lost their do-or-die ICC U19 Cricket World Cup clash with Hong Kong on Friday as their campaign to progress to the next stage ended in heartbreak.

The young Greens scratched their way to 133 all out thanks to a last wicket partnership of 52, but Hong Kong chased down their target with ease in 25.4 overs with only three wickets down.

Saudi Arabia had won the toss and elected to bat first at Terdthai Cricket Ground in the winner-takes-all contest after both sides had beaten Bhutan and lost to Oman earlier in Group B.

Captain Rayyan Khan started confidently with two cover drives for four off Daniel Mapp to begin the innings, but the Saudis never settled and found themselves on 50 for the loss of four wickets within 20 overs.

Four overs later, they were 60 for seven and were staring down the barrel of a thrashing when they lost their penultimate wicket with just 81 runs on the board.

Fahad Munir, who came in at number seven, had got underway with a four and a six and was looking to hit out with nine wickets down. He managed to strike a second six and two more fours to bring up the Saudi Arabia 100 in the 32nd over.

He became a menace for Hong Kong as he hit two more boundaries and got five runs after four overthrows. Another big hit took him to 48 before a straight drive for four brought up his half-century from 35 deliveries.

Munir was finally dismissed on 59 from 42 balls, as the Saudis set Hong Kong 134 to win, and he looked to do some damage with the ball after the changeover.

But Hong Kong had little to worry about as they reached 108 for the loss of three after 20 overs and number three batter Shiv Mathur reached his 50 from 49 balls, to put his side only 21 runs from victory, and ended up carrying his bat with 63 runs off as many balls.

Hong Kong reached their target to win by seven wickets and will face Malaysia in the first semi-final on Sunday at the TCG.

Also on Friday, Oman held off Bhutan to win by three wickets and they will face Kuwait for a place in the next stage of qualification.


Pollard could be key to Mumbai Indians’ IPL success, says head coach Boucher

Pollard could be key to Mumbai Indians’ IPL success, says head coach Boucher
Updated 01 March 2024
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Pollard could be key to Mumbai Indians’ IPL success, says head coach Boucher

Pollard could be key to Mumbai Indians’ IPL success, says head coach Boucher
  • Experience and inspirational qualities come to the fore as MI players chase club’s first IPL title since 2020

LONDON: West Indies legend Kieron Pollard can play a big role in ensuring Mumbai Indians win the Indian Premier League this year, according to head coach Mark Boucher.

Pollard, who is now batting coach at the IPL giants, had a glittering career as a player with the franchise, winning five titles over eight seasons, including four as captain.

His experience and nous will be crucial in helping the current crop of MI players win the club’s first IPL title since 2020, said South African Boucher, who has been head coach since last season.

“(Pollard) is fantastic. He’s got so much character in the changing room; he’s a strong person and a lot of the players trust him and look up to him,” Boucher told sport news website SportsBoom.com.

“Whenever Polly opens his mouth in the dressing room, people listen. Not because he is going to hold them up against the side of the wall, but because they know what he’s done.

“Having him in the dressing room has a calming effect on the batting. You have a look at our stats in the batting, the aggressive nature we went about things (last year), the calmness in the dugouts, all that type of stuff. I think a lot of that can be attributed to Polly as well because of his way that he is and his whole demeanour and understanding that he’s got.

“He’s still playing in franchises around the world he’s in the know about who’s playing good crickets and we feed off that,” he added.

Boucher said the team had high expectations for the coming season, which starts on March 22 and will end, if successful in the grand final, on May 26.

“I think anytime you join Mumbai Indians, there’s a lot of expectation and the expectation is to win at all times. We have won the championship quite a few times. Once the owners and the fans get a sniff of that, then they want to do it every time,” he said.

He particularly praised the team’s batting display and its positive style of cricket last season, acknowledging the challenges faced in the bowling unit as a result of injuries. Although the Indians finished third, falling short of the intended win, Boucher said he viewed it as a commendable effort given the situation.

“Our bowling was a little bit shy because of the injuries that we picked up. The third position is not what we wanted; we wanted to win, but third was not a bad effort, judging what we had to go through last season. But a catch maybe taken here or there could have  put ourselves into a final and then who knows what happens in the final,” he said.

“We do believe in the spinners that we have in the side already. Piyush (Chawla) had a fantastic season last time around. No one really thought that he would probably have that kind of impact that he had. We are backing him to do something similar,” he added.

Boucher also played up the importance of getting results at the team’s home stadium at Wankhede, but also the ability of his team to adapt to different conditions at away grounds.

“In our home games at Wankhede spin doesn’t play a major part in the game. So our side is very much sort of geared toward our home conditions, but we do feel that we’ve got enough cover if we do go into a different venue and the ball is turning and gripping; we do feel that we do have the guys to sort of consolidate those conditions,” he said. 


SAFF launches formal FIFA World Cup 2034 host campaign

SAFF launches formal FIFA World Cup 2034 host campaign
Updated 01 March 2024
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SAFF launches formal FIFA World Cup 2034 host campaign

SAFF launches formal FIFA World Cup 2034 host campaign
  • Logo, website and short film released under slogan ‘Growing Together’
  • Federation chief Yasser Al-Misehal: ‘Our bid is an open invitation to the world to join us on this exciting journey’

JEDDAH: The Saudi Arabian Football Federation on Friday launched its formal bid to host the FIFA World Cup 2034 under the slogan “Growing Together.”
In October last year, the Kingdom said it intended to bid to host the tournament, before the SAFF submitted an official letter of intent and declaration to FIFA.
The campaign proved a formality when the Kingdom became the only country to enter the contest to host the tournament.
The federation, as part of its formal bid, has unveiled a bid logo, website, as well as a short film that celebrates the passion, spirit and diversity of football in the Kingdom.
SAFF President Yasser Al-Misehal said: “Telling our football story to the world is of massive importance. And we believe ‘Growing Together’ is the perfect, yet simple description of our approach to hopefully hosting the tournament in 10 years’ time.”
Bidding to host a FIFA World Cup has been made possible by the rapid transformation taking place in the Kingdom, the SAFF chief said.
“We’ve made unprecedented progress in both the men’s and women’s game and our bid is an open invitation to the world to join us on this exciting journey. As we proved when we welcomed over 100 nationalities to the FIFA Club World Cup Saudi Arabia 2023 in Jeddah, the future is bright when we grow together,” Al-Misehal added.
As one of the fastest and most exciting growth stories in world football, Saudi Arabia, through its bid, seeks to capture the parallel between the Kingdom’s rapid transformation and the positive impacts of hosting FIFA’s flagship event.
Aspiring to become the first single host nation of a 48-team FIFA World Cup, the three pillars underpinning the bid are “Growing People Together,” “Growing Football Together” and “Growing Connections Together.”
Over the last six years, Saudi Arabia has hosted more than 100 international events across almost 40 sports, and is in active football partnerships with more than 100 countries.
The campaign slogan aims to capture the spirit of bonds between the Kingdom and football communities in countries around the world.
The bid logo — made up of intertwined rows of multi-colored ribbons displaying iconic football and cultural symbols — aims to promote Saudi Arabia’s status as a young nation with rich heritage.
It also features five colors reflecting natural diversity across the Kingdom: Desert amber, oasis green, radiance red, rich lavender and sunrise yellow.
The short film released for the bid was filmed across the country, exploring the passion for football in all sections of Saudi society.
It features players from the Saudi under-17 women’s national team and 22-year-old Saudi women’s national team midfielder Layan Jouhari. Background music was composed by powerhouse Saudi platform MDLBEAST.
SAFF recently launched a dedicated bid unit, in line with FIFA regulations, to lead the charge for the Saudi 2034 bid, which will last up until the end of the year.
The unit’s chief, Hammad Al-Balawi, said: “This campaign is powered by the hopes and dreams of 32 million people in Saudi Arabia. Our responsibility is to submit the best possible bid to FIFA, make our country proud and fulfill the trust placed upon us by more than 130 member associations across the world who supported our bid.”
The bid’s website is Saudi2034bid.com. Fans can celebrate the launch of the campaign using the hashtags #Saudi2034bid and #GrowingTogether.