NBA-best Celtics beat Pelicans to snap skid, Bucks triumph

NBA-best Celtics beat Pelicans to snap skid, Bucks triumph
Boston Celtics forward Jayson Tatum shoots between New Orleans Pelicans forward Herbert Jones (5) and guard Trey Murphy III in the second half of an NBA basketball game in New Orleans Saturday. The Celtics won 104-92. (AP)
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Updated 31 March 2024
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NBA-best Celtics beat Pelicans to snap skid, Bucks triumph

NBA-best Celtics beat Pelicans to snap skid, Bucks triumph
  • The Celtics, who have clinched the Eastern Conference crown, improved to 58-16, moving closer to securing a home-court edge throughout the NBA playoffs
  • The Bucks snapped the Hawks’ four-game win streak — which included two wins over the Celtics — and improved to 47-27, stretching their lead over Cleveland for second in the East to two games

WASHINGTON: Jayson Tatum scored 23 points to lead a balanced Boston attack in a 104-92 victory at New Orleans on Saturday, snapping a two-game losing skid for the NBA-best Celtics.

Latvian forward Kristaps Porzingis contributed 19 points, 10 rebounds, four blocked shots, three assists and two steals while Jaylen Brown added 17 points for the Celtics.

Jrue Holiday had 13 points, eight rebounds and seven assists for Boston, which avoided a first three-game losing streak this season after back-to-back losses in Atlanta.

“We want to be a hungry team no matter what,” Porzingis said. “We haven’t done anything and back-to-back losses to Atlanta is not in our DNA. It just didn’t sit right with us, so we came out here tonight and got us a W.”

The Celtics, who have clinched the Eastern Conference crown, improved to 58-16, moving closer to securing a home-court edge throughout the NBA playoffs.

New Orleans, fifth in the Western Conference, fell to 45-29, a half-game ahead of Dallas and two atop Phoenix in a fight for the last two guaranteed West playoff spots.

“We just knew we couldn’t be in cruise control,” Porzingis said. “These teams are hungry. They need these wins. Maybe we at this point of the season don’t need them as much, but still we want to come out here and compete at a high level every night.”

Porzingis was unhappy at shooting only 6-of-14 from the floor, and just 1-of-6 from 3-point range but pleased with his all-around effort.

“There are so many ways we can impact a game if things are not going perfect for us,” Porzingis said. “That’s what I did tonight. I turned up another notch and that’s what we’re going to need the rest of this regular season and then even more in the post-season.”

Boston began the third quarter on a 15-7 run to open a 74-64 advantage on the way to an 83-68 lead entering the fourth quarter and the Celtics kept the Pelicans at bay over the final minutes.

“Once we hit another gear, the game just flipped,” Porzingis said.

Derrick White, who scored 15 points, sank a 3-pointer at the second quarter buzzer to cap an 8-1 Celtics run for a 59-57 half-time Boston lead.

Tatum had 13 first-half points for Boston while Brown and Porzingis each scored 11.

Zion Williamson led New Orleans with a game-high 25 points, 12 in the first quarter, and nine rebounds while CJ McCollum added 24 points for the Pelicans.

Milwaukee’s Giannis Antetokounmpo scored 36 points, grabbed 16 rebounds and added seven assists, three steals and a blocked shot to spark the Bucks to a 122-113 victory in Atlanta.

The Bucks snapped the Hawks’ four-game win streak — which included two wins over the Celtics — and improved to 47-27, stretching their lead over Cleveland for second in the East to two games.

Atlanta, led by Bogdan Bogdanovic’s game-high 38 points, fell to 34-40, clinging to 10th in the East and the last play-in spot, a game behind Chicago.

Orlando’s Wendell Carter had 15 points and 13 rebounds on a night when seven Magic players scored in double figures, none more than 15 points, in a 118-88 home victory over Memphis.

Orlando improved to 43-31, 1.5 games behind fourth-place New York in the East.


DeChambeau outlasts McIlroy to win second US Open crown

DeChambeau outlasts McIlroy to win second US Open crown
Updated 17 June 2024
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DeChambeau outlasts McIlroy to win second US Open crown

DeChambeau outlasts McIlroy to win second US Open crown
  • The 30-year-old American became the second active player of Saudi-backed LIV Golf to win a major title after Brooks Koepka in the 2023 PGA Championship

PINEHURST, United States: Bryson DeChambeau captured his second US Open title on Sunday, outlasting Rory McIlroy in a dramatic back-nine duel to win by a stroke at Pinehurst.
Overtaken by McIlroy with six holes remaining to play, DeChambeau kept his poise over the dome-shaped greens and sandy waste areas of Pinehurst to rally for the crown.
McIlroy, thwarted in a bid to end a 10-year major win drought, led by two strokes with five holes to play.
But the four-time major winner from Northern Ireland made bogeys on three of the last four holes to help hand the trophy to DeChambeau.
“I still can’t believe it,” said DeChambeau. “It’s unbelievable.”
DeChambeau, who also won the 2020 US Open, fired a one-over-par 71 to finish on six-under-par 274 while McIlroy shot 69 to stand on 275 after 72 holes.
The 30-year-old American became the second active player of Saudi-backed LIV Golf to win a major title after Brooks Koepka in the 2023 PGA Championship.
In a collapse mindful of Greg Norman’s epic 1996 last-round loss to Nick Faldo at the Masters, McIlroy missed par putts from 2.5 feet at the par-3 17th and just inside four feet at the par-4 18th — tension-packed bogeys that left McIlroy one behind.
DeChambeau found dirt and weeds left and a bunker at 18 but blasted his third shot to four feet and sank his pressure-packed putt for the victory.
“I was not great today but I got out of trouble really well and then, man, I can’t believe that up and down the last — that was All-World, probably the best shot of my life.”
Raising his arms in triumph, DeChambeau screamed and jumped for joy, then paid tribute to the late Payne Stewart, the 1999 US Open winner at Pinehurst who died only a few months later.
“That’s Payne right there, baby,” DeChambeau said into a television camera, pointing to a pin of Stewart on his cap.
Americans Tony Finau and Patrick Cantlay shared third on 276, two off the pace, with Finau firing a 67. France’s Matthieu Pavon was fifth on 277 after a 71, one stroke ahead of Japan’s Hideki Matsuyama, who fired a 70 to stand on 278.
DeChambeau answered bogeys at the fourth and 12th holes with birdies at the par-5 10th and par-4 13th to keep the pressure on McIlroy until he cracked.
“I felt like I was hitting the driver pretty well. It just wasn’t starting exactly where I wanted to hit to,” DeChambeau said.
“Ultimately on 13 I knew I had to make birdie there to give myself a chance, because Rory was going on a heater.
“He slipped up a couple on the way coming in and I just kept staying the course, focused on trying to do as many fairways as I could.”
McIlroy settled for his second US Open runner-up effort in a row and his 21st top-10 finish since he last won a major at the 2014 PGA Championship.
DeChambeau and McIlroy shared the lead at seven-under when the drama seemed to turn.
McIlroy sank a five-foot putt at 13 for his fourth birdie in five holes while DeChambeau found sand and weeds off the tee and made bogey at 12, a two-shot swing leaving McIlroy on eight-under and DeChambeau two back.
But DeChambeau birdied 13 from just outside 27 feet and McIlroy went over the green at the par-3 15th and missed a 31-foot par putt, leaving them deadlocked at the top again.
DeChambeau then suffered his first three-putt bogey of the tournament, lipping out a four-foot par putt at the par-3 15th to fall one back, only for McIlroy to botch his short putts at the end.
Pavon failed in his bid to become the second Frenchman to win a major title after Arnaud Massy at the 1907 British Open.
Sweden’s sixth-seeded Ludvig Aberg, who began five back, took a triple bogey at the second to fall back. He fired a 73 to share 12th on 281.
World number one Scottie Scheffler, the huge pre-tournament favorite, fired a two-over 72 to stand on eight-over 288 for what was only his second finish outside the top-10 this year.
“Didn’t play my best. A bit frustrating to end,” he said. “I definitely need to do some things better.”


Jude Bellingham’s goal secures England a 1-0 win against Serbia at Euro 2024

Jude Bellingham’s goal secures England a 1-0 win against Serbia at Euro 2024
Updated 17 June 2024
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Jude Bellingham’s goal secures England a 1-0 win against Serbia at Euro 2024

Jude Bellingham’s goal secures England a 1-0 win against Serbia at Euro 2024
GELSENKIRCHEN: Jude Bellingham scored to give England a winning start at the European Championship by beating Serbia 1-0 on Sunday.
The Real Madrid star put England in front with a stooping header in the 13th minute at the Veltins Arena after Bukayo Saka’s cross.
Victory sent England to the top of Group C after Denmark drew 1-1 with Slovenia earlier in the day, with Christian Eriksen scoring three years after suffering a cardiac arrest on the field at the last Euros.
Gareth Southgate’s England was a beaten finalist at the last Euros, losing on penalties to Italy in the final three years ago. It is one of the favorites this time around.
The buildup to the game had been overshadowed by concerns about violence between rival supporters. And some of those fears were realized when police rushed to separate brawling fans in Gelsenkirchen earlier in the day.
Social media footage showed men throwing chairs at each other outside a restaurant festooned with Serbian flags in the city.

Netherlands start Euro 2024 campaign with 2-1 win over Poland

Netherlands start Euro 2024 campaign with 2-1 win over Poland
Updated 16 June 2024
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Netherlands start Euro 2024 campaign with 2-1 win over Poland

Netherlands start Euro 2024 campaign with 2-1 win over Poland

HAMBURG: Substitute Wout Weghorst snatched a late winner for the Netherlands in a 2-1 victory over Poland on Sunday in their opening Euro 2024 clash.

The Burnley striker, who burst into life at the 2022 World Cup, once again brought his best game to the big stage in Hamburg as Poland looked to have frustrated their opponents, despite injured striker Robert Lewandowski being unable to play.

The Barcelona striker’s replacement Adam Buksa, headed Poland in front after 16 minutes before Cody Gakpo levelled with a deflected effort at the Volksparkstadion.

Netherlands failed to convert further openings and Poland improved as the game seemed to be heading for a draw, before Weghorst intervened in the 83rd minute to delight his team’s fans.

Clad in their traditional vibrant orange, a sea of bouncing Dutch supporters took over the streets of Hamburg before the game, hoping for a second European Championship trophy.

Coach Ronald Koeman, in his second stint at the helm, won the tournament with the Oranje as a player in 1988.

The Netherlands, who performed strongly two years ago at the Qatar World Cup after failing to reach Euro 2016 and the 2018 World Cup, came out of the blocks quickly. Despite lacking the star power of previous generations — the likes of Arjen Robben, Ruud van Nistelrooy and Robin van Persie — their current trio of forward are dynamic.

Liverpool winger Gakpo took the creative reins alongside Memphis Depay and Xavi Simons, and tested Wojciech Szczesny with a low drive.

Midfielder Tijjani Reijnders steered a good chance narrowly wide before Michal Probierz’s Poland took the lead against the run of play with one of their first forays forward.

Separately, police shot and injured a man who threatened them with an axe and a Molotov cocktail ahead of a match in Hamburg. The incident triggered a “major operation” in the city’s St. Pauli district, police said on X, formerly Twitter.

“The attacker was injured and is currently receiving medical treatment,” they added.

According to a police spokesman, there was no indication that the incident was linked to the Euro 2024 clash between Poland and the Netherlands taking place later on Sunday.

The attacker “came out of a pub with a pickaxe and a Molotov cocktail and threatened the police,” the spokesman said, adding that the suspect was shot in the leg.

The incident took place near the Reeperbahn station, more than a kilometer away from the city’s official fan zone.

Meanwhile, Scotland manager Steve Clarke said Sunday that he had to “kick a couple of backsides” and “give a couple of cuddles” after his side’s humiliating 5-1 defeat to Germany to open Euro 2024.

Clarke accepted responsibility for a failed tactical plan as the host nation ran riot against the 10-man Scots in Munich on Friday night.

“I’ve spoken to the players about what I feel was wrong from my side and what I gave them,” Clarke told reporters.

“I think their interpretation of what we asked them to do was wrong, so we’ve worked on that.

“I had a little chat with a lot of them on the training pitch this morning. Just to try to put one or two things in their head about things they maybe didn’t do on the pitch that they should have done.”

Scotland have never made it out of the group stage at a major tournament in 11 attempts.


‘I feel dangerous!’: Former champion Robert Whittaker accepts risky Khamzat Chimaev replacement to save UFC Saudi Arabia card

‘I feel dangerous!’: Former champion Robert Whittaker accepts risky Khamzat Chimaev replacement to save UFC Saudi Arabia card
Updated 16 June 2024
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‘I feel dangerous!’: Former champion Robert Whittaker accepts risky Khamzat Chimaev replacement to save UFC Saudi Arabia card

‘I feel dangerous!’: Former champion Robert Whittaker accepts risky Khamzat Chimaev replacement to save UFC Saudi Arabia card
  • Ikram Aliskerov (15-1) steps in to replace Khamzat Chimaev (13-0)
  • Whittaker plans to ‘go in there and conquer’

LONDON: It has been a turbulent week for the UFC, with two high-profile cards enduring significant reshuffling. In the same 24 hours as Conor McGregor’s removal from UFC 300 was confirmed, it transpired that Khamzat Chimaev had been pulled from his main event clash with Robert Whittaker at UFC Saudi Arabia due to illness.

The Kingdom has emerged as an epicenter for combat sports in recent months, and the June 22 event in Riyadh will mark the first time the UFC hosts an event there. The loss of Chimaev is significant; not only is the Swede a significant contender for the middleweight title, but he is also a big star. The UFC was forced to pivot, and in stepped Ikram Aliskerov, a ferocious fighter on a seven-fight winning streak, with his only career loss coming at the hands of Chimaev.

This is a huge opportunity for the Russian. Ranked outside the top 15, but with two straight first-round finishes since his arrival in the UFC, the 31-year-old has a chance to usurp his opponent’s No. 3 ranking in the division. Whittaker deserves huge credit for accepting the fight, where he stands to gain little but lose a lot.

“It’s a little annoying. I spent months working for Chimaev because he’s a unique fighter, but I’m sure none of the skills I worked on will go to waste,” explained the Australian in an exclusive interview with Arab News. “The Reaper” acknowledges the challenge posed by Aliskerov: “Ikram’s a hard fight. I know he’s kind of come out of nowhere, but that element makes him more dangerous in other aspects. Plus, I think he’s better at certain angles in the fight game than Chimaev anyway,” he explained, adding, “The task is the same: Get in there, conquer, and go home.”

Whittaker ascended to the interim middleweight champion status following his victory at UFC 213. He later attained the position of undisputed champion when Georges St-Pierre relinquished the UFC Middleweight Championship in 2017. It was a landmark moment for “Bobby Knuckles,” who became the first-ever Australian champion in UFC history. Aside from knowing what it is like to hold the belt, the 26-7 star is a veteran of 21 fights inside the Octagon, and his attitude exemplifies just why he is so beloved by most MMA fans.

“It is what it is! I came here to fight. I’m headlining the card, I understand the responsibilities that that entails, I understand the amount of work that needs to go around it. The card is reliant on me to some degree,” said Whittaker. “Another thing is I’ve put three months’ work in. I’m shredded, I’m fit, I’m ready to fight. I’m not going to throw that away. If there’s a way to save the card, I’m going to do that. Props to Ikram for taking it. The fight goes on.”

Whittaker comes into this fight on the back of a crucial win over No. 8-ranked Paulo Costa at UFC 288. Having suffered a second-round knockout loss to current champion Dricus du Plessis in his previous fight, it was vital for the Sydneysider to get back in the win column. “It was massive. Any win is important. A win after a loss is even more important, especially the way that I lost against Dricus,” he reasoned, before adding, “I’m going into this fight with my head screwed on with the objective clear in my sights and a new kind of predator’s gaze.”

Du Plessis has already stated in interviews that even if Whittaker were to beat Chimaev, that would not be enough to earn a title shot. With the Aussie now facing an unranked opponent, it is likely he will need one more to seal a crack at gold, and many fans have been calling for a scrap with another former champion, Sean Strickland. “He looks like an awkward fight. I was trying to get him out to fight him before he beat Izzy (Adesanya), and then that obviously derailed my plans a little bit,” said Whittaker.

“We’re both in the division, we’re both at the top. Our paths will cross,” he added.

As far as Du Plessis’ comments go, Whittaker could not care less. The 33-year-old is fully focused on the task at hand and having spent 13 years fighting at the highest level, he understands one thing rings truest in the world of MMA: “Mate, winning opens doors,” he said. “I’ll worry about getting my hand raised and putting on a show and see how the chips fall after.”


T20 World Cup: Babar delivers captain’s knock as Pakistan bow out with win over Ireland

T20 World Cup: Babar delivers captain’s knock as Pakistan bow out with win over Ireland
Updated 16 June 2024
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T20 World Cup: Babar delivers captain’s knock as Pakistan bow out with win over Ireland

T20 World Cup: Babar delivers captain’s knock as Pakistan bow out with win over Ireland
  • Ireland had recovered from a poor start to make 106-9 with Gareth Delany making 31 runs off 19 balls
  • Shaheen Afridi took three wickets and then hit two sixes as Pakistan ended a disappointing tournament

LAUDERHILL: Pakistan skipper Babar Azam guided his team to victory over Ireland on Sunday, with an unbeaten 32, in their final game at the T20 World Cup, avoiding another embarrassing loss for his already eliminated side.
Shaheen Shah Afridi took three wickets and then hit two sixes to win the game as Pakistan ended a disappointing tournament with a three-wicket win at Central Broward Stadium.
Ireland had recovered from a poor start to make 106-9 with Gareth Delany making 31 off 19 balls and although Pakistan wobbled at 62-6, captain Babar’s 32 off 34 balls steadied the ship and avoided another defeat.
Pakistan’s shock defeat to the USA and loss to India meant they were eliminated from second-round contention before Sunday’s final Group A game in Florida.
After the first three games at the South Florida venue were all abandoned because heavy rains caused a waterlogged outfield, the overwhelmingly pro-Pakistan crowd were rewarded with some top class opening bowling.
Left-arm seamer Shaheen Shah Afridi (3-22) did the bulk of the damage picking up three early wickets as Ireland’s top order was ripped apart.

Pakistan’s Shaheen Shah Afridi celebrates the wicket of Ireland’s Andrew Balbirnie during the ICC Men’s T20 World Cup cricket match between Ireland and Pakistan at the Central Broward Regional Park Stadium, Lauderhill, Florida on June 16, 2024. (AP)

The Irish, who have not been able to practice for the past week due to wet facilities, were in deep trouble at 32-6 with seamer Mohammad Amir also picking up two wickets on a surface that was offering plenty for the quick bowlers.
Delany provided some much needed resistance for the Irish, blasting three sixes as he made 31 from 19 balls.
Delany’s entertaining knock — and a 44 run partnership with Mark Adair — came to an end when Imad Wasim’s slow left-arm spin found the edge and Shabad Khan ran in from point to make the catch.
Adair tried to keep the momentum going but he departed for 15 when he slogged Imad to long on and Afridi held on to the catch despite Usman Khan colliding with him.
All-rounder Imad picked up his third wicket by bowling Barry McCarthy but Josh Little provided some valuable lower order runs with his unbeaten 22 taking Ireland to three figures.

Pakistan’s Mohammad Amir, back to the camera, celebrates with teammates the wicket of Ireland’s George Dockrell during the ICC Men’s T20 World Cup cricket match between Ireland and Pakistan at the Central Broward Regional Park Stadium, Lauderhill, Florida, Sunday, June 16, 2024. (AP)

McCarthy, who finished with figures of 3-15, gave Ireland some hope with a lively opening spell, picking up the wickets of Mohammad Rizwan (17) and removing Usman Khan and Shabad Khan cheaply.
When Curtis Campher dismissed Imad Wasim, whose cut shot to point was well held by Harry Tector, Pakistan looked in danger of another upset at 62-6.
But a 33 run seventh wicket partnership between Babar Azam and Abbas Afridi steadied the innings and Shaheen Shah Afridi’s two big heaves over mid-wicket ensured victory with seven balls to spare.
“Let’s see, what team needs, I’ll be okay with it. We have a good bunch of players, we’ve to go home, chat and see where we lacked, and then come back. Couldn’t finish off close games, as a team we weren’t good as a team,” said Babar.
The win meant that Pakistan finished third in the group and Ireland ended bottom with a solitary point from their washed-out game against the USA.