Nikola Jokic leads NBA champions Nuggets past LeBron James, Lakers

Nikola Jokic leads NBA champions Nuggets past LeBron James, Lakers
Nikola Jokic shook off a slow start to beat LeBron James and the Los Angeles Lakers 114-103. (Getty Images/AFP)
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Updated 21 April 2024
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Nikola Jokic leads NBA champions Nuggets past LeBron James, Lakers

Nikola Jokic leads NBA champions Nuggets past LeBron James, Lakers
  • The Nuggets continue dominance of star-studded Los Angeles, who had dropped all three regular-season meetings
  • Minnesota Timberwolves and Cleveland Cavaliers also win their NBA playoff openers

LOS ANGELES: The defending champion Denver Nuggets, powered by 32 points from Nikola Jokic, shook off a slow start to beat LeBron James and the Los Angeles Lakers 114-103 in game one of their NBA playoffs first-round series on Saturday.
The Nuggets, who swept the Lakers in four games in the Western Conference finals on the way to their first title last season, continued their dominance of star-studded Los Angeles, who had dropped all three regular-season meetings.
The game was the finale of the first day of the playoffs, which saw the Minnesota Timberwolves beat the Phoenix Suns 120-95, the New York Knicks beat the Philadelphia 76ers 111-104 and the Cleveland Cavaliers beat the Orlando Magic 97-83.
In Denver, Jokic added 12 rebounds and seven assists, Jamal Murray added 22 points with 10 assists and Michael Porter Jr. scored 19 for the Nuggets, who used a 13-0 scoring run to take charge in the third quarter — in which they limited the Lakers to 18 points.
James scored 32 points and grabbed 14 rebounds and Anthony Davis added 27 for the Lakers, who cut a 15-point deficit early in the fourth quarter to six only for the Nuggets to pull away again.
Jokic’s only three-pointer of the game pushed the Nuggets’ lead to 103-93. He added a dunk over James, who took a hard fall with a minute remaining but stayed in the game to the bitter end.
“Mindset needed to change,” Jokic said of the Nuggets’ third-quarter resurgence. “I think for the second half defense was amazing.”
Lakers coach Darvin Ham said the Nuggets’ 15-6 superiority in offensive rebounding was key as Denver piled up 18 second-chance points.
“You can’t allow them to get multiple possessions,” said Ham, who added that he still believed the best-of-seven series, which resumes Monday, will be a “hard fought” affair.
In Minneapolis, Anthony Edwards scored 23 of his 33 points in the second half as the Minnesota Timberwolves thrashed Kevin Durant and the Phoenix Suns in their Western Conference clash.
Against a team that also had their number in the regular season, Minnesota’s Edwards, Karl-Anthony Towns and Rudy Gobert — bolstered by a strong supporting cast — turned the tables.
Towns scored 19 points, Gobert added 14 points and 16 rebounds and the Timberwolves reserves — led by 18 points from Nickeil Alexander-Walker — out-scored the Suns bench 41-18.
Up by 10 at halftime, the Timberwolves took full control in the third quarter, with Edwards scoring 18 points and taking the opportunity to needle Durant.
“I think everybody here knows that’s my favorite player of all time,” Edwards said of two-time NBA champ Durant. “That was probably one of the best feelings ever in my whole life, for sure.”
Durant finished with 31 points and seven rebounds. Devin Booker added 18 and Bradley Beal 15, but the Suns couldn’t find a way through the Timberwolves’ stifling defense keyed by Gobert.
“It’s just one game,” Edwards said. “They’re going to be ready the next time we play them.”
In New York, Jalen Brunson and Josh Hart scored 22 points apiece for the Knicks and Miles McBride came up big off the bench with 21 — 13 of them in the second quarter.
The 76ers got a jolt shortly before halftime when NBA Most Valuable Player Joel Embiid came down from a highlight reel dunk and appeared to hurt his surgically repaired left knee.
He returned for the third quarter coming up with a steal and feeding Kelly Oubre Jr. for a dunk that gave the Sixers a three-point lead late in the period.
The Sixers, led by 33 points from Tyrese Maxey, couldn’t stay in front, and with less than two minutes remaining Hart drilled a pair of three-pointers and OG Anunoby made another to help the Knicks seal it.
The Knicks host game two on Monday, with the Sixers breathing a sigh of relief that Embiid, who finished with 29 points, eight rebounds and six assists, apparently will be ready as they try to even the series.
In Cleveland, Donovan Mitchell scored 30 points and Jarrett Allen added 16 points and 18 rebounds to lead the Cavaliers in a wire-to-wire victory that Allen hoped would set the tone for their Eastern Conference series.
“We keep saying ‘throw the first punch,’” Allen said in an on-court postgame interview. “I think it was the perfect example tonight.”
Orlando’s Paolo Banchero scored 24 points but had nine of the Magic’s 12 turnovers.


Al-Shabab crowned winners of Women’s Futsal Tournament 2024 in Riyadh

Al-Shabab crowned winners of Women’s Futsal Tournament 2024 in Riyadh
Updated 22 May 2024
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Al-Shabab crowned winners of Women’s Futsal Tournament 2024 in Riyadh

Al-Shabab crowned winners of Women’s Futsal Tournament 2024 in Riyadh
  • Al-Shabab defeated Najmat Jeddah in the final to earn their second futsal title
  • The national tournament featured 18 women’s teams from across the Kingdom in the knock-out tournament from May 8-20

RIYADH: After a sensational 25-match tournament that saw 339 goals, Al-Shabab FC captured their second women’s futsal title on Monday in thrilling fashion to conclude the 2024 edition of the Women’s Futsal Tournament.

With 18 of Saudi Arabia’s top women’s futsal sides competing in the second edition of the tournament, the final saw goals galore as Al-Shabab ran out winners, beating Najmat Jeddah 22-2 in the final to earn their second domestic honor.

The competition aims to inspire the growth of women’s futsal in the Kingdom, with the Saudi National Women’s Futsal team set to meet later this month in Bosnia for a training camp until June 15.

Aalia Al-Rasheed, head of the Women’s Football Department at the Saudi Arabian Football Federation, said: “The Women’s Futsal Tournament has demonstrated the incredible talent that lies within the women’s game in Saudi Arabia. The skill on display has been remarkable, and we congratulate all clubs for their participation in the competition.

“The unprecedented growth we are seeing in the women’s game across all levels is exciting, and we look forward to seeing how this supports our national program to continue to develop in the coming months.”


Babar holds key for success as unpredictable Pakistan gear up for World Cup

Babar holds key for success as unpredictable Pakistan gear up for World Cup
Updated 38 min 57 sec ago
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Babar holds key for success as unpredictable Pakistan gear up for World Cup

Babar holds key for success as unpredictable Pakistan gear up for World Cup
  • Pakistan has experienced massive changes in its cricket board since T20 World Cup 2022
  • Pakistani batter will be first person to lead a team for first time in three successive World Cups

ISLAMABAD: The return of tried and tested Babar Azam as captain for the Twenty20 World Cup belies the massive changes in Pakistan cricket over the last 18 months.

Since Babar’s team lost the T20 World Cup final to England in November 2022, the Pakistan Cricket Board has had four chairmen, the selection panel has been overhauled, and the experiment with Shaheen Shah Afridi as skipper was quickly aborted.

A new head coach for the limited-overs formats joined the squad in England just weeks ahead of the June 1-29 World Cup in the US and Caribbean.

And to top it off, Pakistan will be the last team to confirm its 15-member World Cup squad as it continues to experiment with various combinations.

Babar is urging supporters to be patient, and there’s a plan in place for success.

Babar stepped down from all-formats captaincy during the tenure of Zaka Ashraf as head of the PCB after Pakistan failed to qualify for the semifinals of the 50-over World Cup in India last year.

But he was reinstated as T20 captain by Mohsin Naqvi — the fourth PCB chairman in less than 14 months — ahead of home series against New Zealand in April after Afridi lost the series in New Zealand 4-1.

Allrounder Imad Wasim and fast bowler Mohammad Amir came out of international retirement in the hope that their experience of playing in the Caribbean Premier League will benefit Pakistan in the West Indies.

South African Gary Kirsten, who was appointed last month as head coach, will gain some first-hand knowledge of the Pakistan squad during a four-match series in England that both teams are using to rehearse for the World Cup.

All these off-the-field happenings have impacted Pakistan’s preparations for the tournament.

It badly lost the away series to New Zealand, scraped to a drawn 2-2 series at home against the Black Caps and lost a T20 series against Afghanistan 2-1. A shock loss to Ireland in Dublin preceded back-to-back wins and 2-1 series result.

And so unpredictable Pakistan enters another world tournament as a team to watch because of its rich history in the T20 World Cup. It has featured in three finals, winning the title in 2009, and also reached the semifinals three other times.

One of Kirsten’s coaching tips has already resonated with the players.

“Gary told us, don’t play for the name on the back of your jersey but for the badge in front of your shirt,” Afridi told a PCB podcast. “And that stayed with me.”

The depth in its pace bowling, with the likes of Afridi, fit-again Haris Rauf, Naseem Shah and Amir, can pose a threat to any team. But Pakistan’s top-order batting was still unsettled going into the series in England. Left-hander Saim Ayub is yet to fire in his role after selectors decided to separate the successful T20 opening pair of Babar and Mohammad Rizwan.

Babar has faced criticism for not pushing the scoring rate in the T20 power play, particularly while batting first. Pakistan has mostly aimed for totals in the 170-180 range while other teams have crossed 200 on regular basis.

Political tensions between Pakistan and India means there hasn’t been a bilateral series for over a decade, but the ICC tournaments always attracts a huge TV audience when the archrivals meet.

Pakistan and India will play a group game on June 9 at a newly built 34,000-capacity Nassau County International Cricket Stadium in New York that will be the center of attention for South Asian communities.

Both teams are expected to advance to the Super 8 stage from a group that also contains tournament co-host US, Canada and Ireland.

Babar has twice gone close to lifting the trophy as captain, losing to eventual champion Australia in the 2021 semifinals and to England in the final in the Melbourne final the following year.

And for that, he’ll get the distinction of becoming the first player to lead a country in three successive T20 World Cups and will be aiming for third time lucky if his Pakistan lineup can reach the June 29 decider in Barbados.


Jeddah Superdome to host return of WWE King and Queen of the Ring

Jeddah Superdome to host return of WWE King and Queen of the Ring
Updated 22 May 2024
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Jeddah Superdome to host return of WWE King and Queen of the Ring

Jeddah Superdome to host return of WWE King and Queen of the Ring
  • Likes of Cody Rhodes, Logan Paul and Becky Lynch will take part in the action this weekend

JEDDAH: WWE is set to return to Saudi Arabia with the double-header of SmackDown and King and Queen of the Ring this weekend at Jeddah’s Superdome.

The action will kick off on May 24 with the Kingdom’s inaugural SmackDown event, which will be broadcast live globally.

WWE superstars will battle it out in the semifinals of the the King and Queen of the Ring, with the finals taking place on May 25.

The Superdome, the world’s largest pillarless structure of its kind, will host the first King of The Ring event to take place since 2015, and the first crowning of a Queen of The Ring since the inaugural Queen’s Crown Tournament, which took place at WWE Crown Jewel in Riyadh in 2021.

The match card for this weekend includes:

Undisputed WWE Championship: Cody Rhodes (c) vs. Logan Paul

WWE King and Queen of the Ring is set to be headlined by Cody Rhodes and Logan Paul in a Championship vs. Championship match. Rhodes will be mounting a defense of his new Undisputed WWE Championship after he solidified his reign at WWE Backlash: France.

WWE Women’s Championship: Becky Lynch (c) vs. Liv Morgan

Women’s World Champion Becky Lynch will put her title on the line against Liv Morgan. Lynch won the title in a battle royal after Rhea Ripley was forced to vacate the title after suffering an injury from Morgan backstage. Lynch last eliminated Morgan in the battle royal, but The Liv Morgan Revenge Tour continues with her latest shot at dethroning the champion.

Intercontinental Champion Sami Zayn vs. Chad Gable vs. Bronson Reed (Triple Threat Match)

Sami Zayn will put the Intercontinental Title on the line in a Triple Threat Match against Chad Gable and “Big” Bronson Reed at WWE King and Queen of the Ring. After ending Gunther’s historic title reign at Wrestlemania 40, Zayn was challenged by Gable despite his help in ending the longest Intercontinental Title reign in WWE history. Reed also attacked Zayn and Gable to set his own claim to the title. As a result, all three will battle for the championship.

Queen of the Ring final

There is just one match left until the Queen of the Ring Final, and Bianca Belair and Nia Jax will battle it out to make it there. Belair bested Candice LeRae and Tiffany Stratton, setting up a meeting with Jax, who took out Naomi and Jade Cargill in the tournament.

Belair and Jax have never faced each other one-on-one and with the crown just inches away, each Superstar will be out to prove herself. The winner will face Lyra Valkyria, who won her place in the final after Monday Night Raw this week, in a match against Iyo Sky.

King of the Ring final

On Friday Night SmackDown, Randy Orton and Tama Tonga will compete for a position in the King of the Ring final against Gunther, who defeated Jey Uso in the semifinal match on Monday Night Raw.

Orton made his way into the semifinal after taking out AJ Styles and Carmelo Hayes, while Tama Tonga bested Angelo Dawkins and LA Knight. Before this year, Orton had not yet won a single King of the Ring Match in his career. Now he is set on making his promise to eliminate The Bloodline to advance to the final match on Saturday night.


Saudi Arabia gears up for first Esports World Cup

Saudi Arabia gears up for first Esports World Cup
Updated 22 May 2024
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Saudi Arabia gears up for first Esports World Cup

Saudi Arabia gears up for first Esports World Cup
  • The competition will bring together more than 2,500 gamers
  • The tournament will support the Kingdom’s efforts to elevate the world of esports and highlight its positive impact on society

RIYADH: Riyadh is set to host the first-ever Esports World Cup.

The competition, which will take place at Boulevard Riyadh City from July 4 to Aug. 25, will bring together more than 2,500 gamers representing elite teams and clubs. The event features a prize pool of $60 million, the largest in esports history.

Powered by the Esports World Cup Foundation, the tournament aims to propel the e-gaming industry forward while creating promising opportunities for players and multi-team clubs.

The largest event in esports history, it will unite a global community that includes players, fans, game producers and publishers, with a focus on fostering connections and collaborations.

The unprecedented size of the prize pool means the cup is poised to become a milestone for the EWCF, which seeks to attract top talent and celebrate the popularity of esports.

The tournament will support the Kingdom’s efforts to elevate the world of esports and highlight its positive impact on society.

It will play a vital role in promoting cultural exchange and encouraging brands and companies to invest in the sector.


FIA president praises growth of motorsport industry in Oman

FIA president praises growth of motorsport industry in Oman
Updated 22 May 2024
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FIA president praises growth of motorsport industry in Oman

FIA president praises growth of motorsport industry in Oman
  • Mohammed Ben Sulayem held talks with senior government officials during visit

MUSCAT: FIA President Mohammed Ben Sulayem has held talks with senior government officials in Oman to discuss the growth of motorsports and efforts to bring sustainable mobility initiatives to the country.

Ben Sulayem reaffirmed the FIA’s support for Oman’s development projects and said: “I was delighted to learn more about the growth of motorsport in Oman during the various meetings. The government is supporting grassroots development plans to ensure that motor sport will thrive in the years to come.”

He added: “I applaud the excellent work that is being undertaken by the Oman Automobile Association under the direction of Chairman Brigadier Salem Al-Maskiry in the areas of both sport and mobility.”

The president’s visit was hosted by the Oman Automobile Association, which was founded in 1979 and currently has over 10,500 members.

During the trip, he met with Minister of Culture, Sports and Youth Sayyid Theyazin Bin Haitham Al-Said, Secretary General Royal Court Affairs Nasr Hamoud Al-Kindi, and Minister of Housing and Urban Planning Khalfan Bin Saeed Al-Shueili.

He also enjoyed a visit to the Royal Opera House and shared a convivial dinner with Sheikh Khalid bin Mohammed Al-Zubair, president of the Oman Olympic Committee.

Later this year, the OAA will host the iRracing FIA F4 Esports tournament, which will feature the Middle East and North Africa International Karting Trophy.

Drifting and remote-control racing are also thriving sports in Oman. The country has benefited from FIA grant funding in recent years, including for safety training for both baja and cross country competitions.

On the mobility side, the FIA and OAA co-hosted an environmental seminar which featured more than 30 participants from 14 regional sport and mobility clubs. The event provided a unique opportunity for the FIA and its members to share knowledge and experiences about environmental challenges in MENA countries.

Presentations and discussions focused on the FIA’s environmental strategy and the tools available to support clubs in organizing more sustainable events.

Club representatives also took part in a session aimed at furthering understanding of climate change, empowering them to become proactive contributors to taking action.