NBA

Irving leads Nets to summit as Harden sits out, Jazz players feared 'the end' during flight

By Sports Desk April 01, 2021

Kyrie Irving was the hero for the Brooklyn Nets after James Harden exited due to hamstring tightness as he inspired a 120-108 win over the lowly Houston Rockets.

The Nets trailed by as many as 18 points, while NBA MVP hopeful Harden sat out the fourth quarter against his former team the Rockets with right hamstring tightness.

Harden finished with 17 points, eight rebounds and six assists in 27 minutes on Wednesday.

But star team-mate Irving picked up the slack, posting 31 points and a season-high 12 assists to guide the Nets to the top of the Eastern Conference.

The Nets, who have won 19 of their past 22 games, are a half-game clear of the Philadelphia 76ers.

Meanwhile, the NBA-leading Utah Jazz feared 'the end" before their 111-107 win over the Memphis Grizzlies.

Utah's charter flight was forced into an emergency landing after the plane collided with a flock of birds, causing an engine fire and failure.

After scoring 26 points to lift the Jazz, All-Star Mike Conley told reporters: "For a good 10 or 15 minutes, I think all of us on that flight were questioning if we were going to be here today.

"That's how serious it was for us. I can't speak for everybody, but I know that guys were trying to text family just in case, you know? It was that kind of situation."

"It got to that point where we were all on the plane like, 'This might be really the end'," Utah's Jordan Clarkson added in the absence of Donovan Mitchell. "I mean, it was a crazy situation. I understand fully why Don didn't come."

 

Giannis and Bucks take down Lakers, Booker has Suns sizzling

Giannis Antetokounmpo posted 25 points, 10 rebounds, four assists and three blocks as the Milwaukee Bucks beat the injury-hit Los Angeles Lakers 112-97. Jrue Holiday top-scored with 28 points for the Bucks, who snapped a three-game losing run.

Devin Booker put up a season-high 45 points in the Phoenix Sun's 121-116 victory against the Chicago Bulls. Chris Paul added 19 points and 14 assists.

Luka Doncic had a game-high 36 points as the Dallas Mavericks held on to defeat the Boston Celtics 113-108. Doncic is now tied with Nikola Jokic for the most NBA games with 30-plus points, five-plus rebounds and five-plus assists this season – 15.

The Portland Trail Blazers were 124-101 winners over the Detroit Pistons thanks to a double-double of 33 points and 10 assists from Damian Lillard.

 

Painful debut for Drummond

Andre Drummond's Lakers debut did not go according to plan. Acquired by the defending champions after clearing waivers on Sunday, the two-time All-Star hobbled off the court with a toe injury. Drummond was two-for-six shooting, while he missed both of his free throws prior to exiting after 14 minutes.

 

Family time

It was a special moment as the three Antetokounmpo brothers took to the court in Los Angeles. Two-time reigning MVP Giannis was joined by brother and team-mate Thanasis and Lakers forward Kostas post-game.

 

Wednesday's results:

Portland Trail Blazers 124-101 Detroit Pistons
Miami Heat 92-87 Indiana Pacers
Dallas Mavericks 113-108 Boston Celtics
Brooklyn Nets 120-108 Houston Rockets
Utah Jazz 111-107 Memphis Grizzlies
Minnesota Timberwolves 102-101 New York Knicks
Oklahoma City Thunder 113-103 Toronto Raptors
San Antonio Spurs 120-106 Sacramento Kings
Phoenix Suns 121-111 Chicago Bulls
Milwaukee Bucks 112-97 Los Angeles Lakers

 

76ers at Cavaliers

The 76ers (32-15) will look to snap a two-game losing streak and keep up with the Nets when they visit the Cleveland Cavaliers (17-30) on Thursday.

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  • Verstappen impressed by Red Bull strides after beating Hamilton to pole in France Verstappen impressed by Red Bull strides after beating Hamilton to pole in France

    Max Verstappen feels his pole position for the French Grand Prix underlines the progress Red Bull are making as they take the Formula One title fight to Mercedes.

    Mercedes are hoping to bounce back at Circuit Paul Ricard after chastening outings at the street circuits of Monaco and Baku.

    But while they are close to Red Bull at the more traditional track in Le Castellet, they could not prevent Verstappen from claiming pole on Saturday with an advantage of 0.258 seconds to Hamilton.

    Valtteri Bottas can also apply some pressure to Verstappen after the Finn came third, just ahead of the second Red Bull of Sergio Perez, who won a thriller in Baku last time out. 

    Mercedes were dominant in the two French Grand Prix editions held since the race returned to the F1 calendar as Hamilton won from pole in 2018 and 2019.

    But they will have to triumph from behind this time if they are to make it a hat-trick.

    "So far it has been a really positive weekend on a track where it has been normally a bit difficult for us," Verstappen said after claiming his first pole since the opening race in Bahrain.

    "FP2 was a bit of a turnaround for us - of course to get pole position was even better and really nice. There is some great promise from our side and I hope we can keep it up.

    "No points were scored but for us it is a great day and we have to finish it off on Sunday and try to get the 25 points that we lost in Baku.

    "I am confident [with our race car] actually, the car felt good in FP2 so I am looking forward to it."

    The lost points in Baku referred to Verstappen suffering a heartbreaking tyre failure as he closed in on victory, though his pain would be eased slightly as Perez ensured a Red Bull triumph while Hamilton did not pick up any points.

    It has been another difficult few days for Hamilton, who was pleased to end up on the front row for a race where weather could be a factor.

    "A really, really hard weekend - mentally and just trying to get the car into a happy place," said the seven-time world champion, who trails Verstappen by four points.

    "You wouldn't believe how many changes I have made over the time since FP1, going round and round kind of chasing the tail and then ending up coming back to something similar to where we started. 

    "Congratulations to Max, they are incredibly quick, they've got a new engine this week and they are quick in the straights - a lot of time for them there.

    "We have a race on our hands and we are loving the battle - we are going to keep pushing, fighting and giving it everything.

    "Obviously in second you have at least a fighting chance down to turn one, plus there will be some interesting strategy and maybe some rain so a chance to see who is the rain master!"

    Bottas is under pressure at Mercedes after a miserable start to the season but was satisfied with a solid weekend so far, having been competitive throughout practice.

    "It has been a strong weekend, for sure a lot better than a couple of weeks ago, so at least we have seen the pace has been there," he said. "The last run in Q3 felt good for me.

    "We have seen it is going to be close with Red Bull as it was in qualifying. Can't be too happy being third because it has been a strong weekend otherwise, but I think Red Bull were faster."

    Yuki Tsunoda and Mick Schumacher crashed as two red flags in Q1 led to Lance Stroll being eliminated without setting a time.

    Esteban Ocon, at his home race after signing a new deal with Alpine, was among the eliminated drivers in Q2, as was Sebastian Vettel, who took an impressive second place in Azerbaijan.

    There was a big gap between the two leading teams and the rest in Q3, with Carlos Sainz ultimately taking fifth ahead of home favourite Pierre Gasly and the pole-sitter from the last two races, Charles Leclerc.

    PROVISIONAL CLASSIFICATION

    1. Max Verstappen (Red Bull) 1:29.990
    2. Lewis Hamilton (Mercedes) +0.258s
    3. Valtteri Bottas (Mercedes) +0.386s
    4. Sergio Perez (Red Bull) +0.455s
    5. Carlos Sainz (Ferrari) +0.850s
    6. Pierre Gasly (AlphaTauri) +0.878s
    7. Charles Leclerc (Ferrari) +0.997s
    8. Lando Norris (McLaren) +1.262s
    9. Fernando Alonso (Alpine) +1.350s
    10. Daniel Ricciardo (McLaren) +1.392s

  • Hungary 1-1 France: Griezmann strikes as Les Blues held amid raucous atmosphere in Budapest Hungary 1-1 France: Griezmann strikes as Les Blues held amid raucous atmosphere in Budapest

    World champions France were unable to confirm their place in the Euro 2020 knockout stages as they were held to a surprise 1-1 draw by Hungary amid a raucous atmosphere in Budapest.

    Hungary frustrated Portugal for 84 minutes before their defence was breached in their opening game and they gave France an almighty scare in Saturday's clash in front of a deafening home crowd, which saw them rewarded with a point.

    After squandering a few big chances, France's run of 527 minutes without conceding was ended by Attila Fiola's goal just before half-time at the packed Puskas Arena.

    Antoine Griezmann fired in a leveller with 66 minutes played, but Les Blues – who saw a late penalty appeal dismissed – could not find a winning goal and had to settle for a point that leaves them waiting on their place in the last 16.

    Peter Gulacsi made a brilliant save after 14 minutes to keep out Griezmann from close range, but the offside flag likely would have denied the forward had he scored.

    Kylian Mbappe then sent a free header spinning wide after being picked out by Lucas Digne and Karim Benzema miscued off target from an even bigger chance soon after.

    Those missed opportunities came back to haunt France as Fiola was played in behind down the left after a one-two with Roland Sallai and coolly converted past Hugo Lloris.

    The introduction of Ousmane Dembele around the hour mark gave France a spark and the Barcelona forward struck the outside of the post two minutes after coming on.

    France's pressure told seven minutes later when Mbappe – spotted by a Lloris pass – teed up Griezmann with the help of a scuffed Willi Orban clearance for a simple finish.

    Mbappe guided a Griezmann delivery into the side netting and Gulacsi was alert to Mbappe's next attempt as France, whose appeals for a stoppage-time spot-kick following some shirt grabbing at a set-piece were denied, failed to find a winner.

  • Switzerland v Turkey: Petkovic calls for 'solidarity' and 'positivity' Switzerland v Turkey: Petkovic calls for 'solidarity' and 'positivity'

    Vladimir Petkovic has asked for "solidarity" and "positivity" from Switzerland supporters ahead of the crunch Euro 2020 Group A match against Turkey on Sunday. 

    A 1-1 draw with Wales was followed by a resounding 3-0 defeat to Italy to leave Switzerland's hopes of qualifying for the knockout stages hanging by a thread. 

    They will need to beat Turkey and hope Wales lose to Italy in the group's other game to secure a top-two finish. 

    Petkovic and his players have come under intense scrutiny since the Italy defeat, but the head coach has called on Switzerland supporters to get behind the team for Sunday's clash in Baku. 

    "Against Turkey we have another chance to qualify for the round of 16 and we have to bring all of our values and virtues back to the pitch, in addition to the correct tactical plan, solidarity, joy and respect. Then we can do it," he wrote in an open letter published in Swiss newspaper Schweiz am Wochenende.

    "We do not always do what you expect from us. We are people who try to meet these demands, but unfortunately we do not always succeed. And that is why we need the support of all of you before this crucial game. 

    "Your solidarity, your positivity. We will do everything we can to ensure that we can all be happy together on Sunday evening."

    Turkey, meanwhile, have endured a dismal campaign so far, suffering defeats to Italy and Wales in their opening two games. 

    They cannot finish in the top two and must beat Switzerland to come third in the group.

    PLAYERS TO WATCH

    Switzerland – Granit Xhaka

    Arsenal midfielder Xhaka was criticised by TV pundits in Switzerland for his display in the defeat to Italy. 

    Despite that, no Switzerland player has made more passes (153), had more touches (172) or made more tackles (five) than the 28-year-old at Euro 2020 so far. 

    If they are going to get the win they need against Turkey, Xhaka will need to be at his best.

    Turkey – Burak Yilmaz

    Yilmaz enjoyed a stellar season with Lille as they swept to Ligue 1 glory but he has not got going at this tournament yet. 

    He was involved in 50 per cent of Turkey’s 18 shots against Wales last time out (six shots, three chances created), although just one of those attempts was on target. 

    This could be the last major tournament for the 35-year-old and he will be desperate to make his mark against the Swiss.

     

    KEY OPTA FACTS

    - This will be the second meeting between Switzerland and Turkey at a major tournament. Their first encounter was in the group phase of Euro 2008 where Switzerland, as co-hosts, lost 2-1 to Turkey.
    - The last five games between Switzerland and Turkey have produced 17 goals, an average of 3.4 per game.
    - Switzerland (D1 L1) are looking to avoid remaining winless in all three of their group stage games at a major tournament for the first time since Euro 2004.
    - Turkey have lost both of their games at Euro 2020, by an aggregate score of 0-5. In a full tournament, only Denmark in 2000 (eight) have conceded more goals without reply.
    - Switzerland's loss against Italy was their first defeat in all competitions in 2021. The Swiss last lost consecutive matches in October 2020 (vs Croatia and Spain).

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