NBA

NBA playoffs 2021: Suns thrash Lakers but Paul re-injured, Nets clinch Celtics series

By Sports Desk June 02, 2021

The Phoenix Suns moved 3-2 ahead in their NBA first round playoffs series against the Los Angeles Lakers with a 115-85 victory but star guard Chris Paul went down after re-injuring his shoulder.

Devin Booker top scored for the Suns with 30 points, seven rebounds and five assists as the Suns move within one win of knocking out the reigning champions.

The Suns, however, will be sweating on Paul's fitness ahead of Game 6 after going down clutching his sore right shoulder, having played 23 minutes, with nine points and six assists.

Phoenix blew the game open with a remarkable 32-10 second quarter, opening up a 32-point half-time lead which the Lakers, who were without Anthony Davis, never threatened in the second half.

LeBron James top scored with 24 points including six three-pointers along with five rebounds and seven assists, while Andre Drummond had seven points and 13 rebounds.

The series returns to Los Angeles for Game 6, before the final match in Arizona if required.

 

Nugs win in double over-time, Nets progress

Nikola Jokic and Damian Lillard traded blows as the Denver Nuggets edged the Portland Trail Blazers 147-140 in a double over-time thriller.

Jokic finished with 38 points, 11 rebounds and nine assists, while Michael Porter Jr had 26 points, including a clutch late three-pointer along with 12 rebounds and three assists.

Lillard remarkably scored 55 points for the defeated Blazers, along with six rebounds and 10 assists, although he may regret passing to CJ McCollum with nine seconds left at 143-140 down. McCollum mis-controlled and stepped out of play, forcing the decisive turnover.

In a back-and-forth encounter, McCollum had earlier drained a three-pointer to send the game into over-time.

The Brooklyn Nets finished the job in their first round series against the Boston Celtics with James Harden starring in a 123-109 win which completed a 4-1 victory.

Harden produced a triple-double, scoring 34 points with 10 rebounds and 10 assists for the Nets.

Kyrie Irving added 25 points, while Kevin Durant contributed 24, including four three-pointers shooting at 66 per cent from beyond the arc.

The Nets will next face the Milwaukee Bucks in the Eastern Conference semifinals.

 

Wayward Tatum's radar off

Jayson Tatum was a lone hand for the Celtics, managing 32 points, although he shot poorly, albeit regularly under intense heat, at 12-from-27 from the field and 36.4 per cent from beyond the arc.

 

History-making haul in losing cause

Lillard's 55 points came in a losing cause, making history as the third most in a defeat in NBA playoffs history behind Michael Jordan's 63 against the Celtics in 1986 and Donovan Mitchell's 57 against the Nuggets in 2020. He also had a record 12 threes.

 

Tuesday's results

Brooklyn Nets 123-109 Boston Celtics
Denver Nuggets 147-140 (OT) Portland Trail Blazers
Phoenix Suns 115-85 Los Angeles Lakers

 

Hawks at Knicks

The New York Knicks will look to stay alive as their first round playoffs series returns to Madison Square Garden against the Atlanta Hawks trailing 3-1.

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  • Tokyo Olympics Recap: Lewis lays into Team USA's relay failure, Spain clinch historic golds Tokyo Olympics Recap: Lewis lays into Team USA's relay failure, Spain clinch historic golds

    Nine-time Olympic gold medallist Carl Lewis did not hold back in his criticism of the United States' performance in the men's 4x100 metres relay at Tokyo 2020.

    Team USA have not won the event in 21 years and though they entered Thursday's heat as one of the favourites, they failed to qualify for the final.

    It is the first time Team USA have failed to reach the Olympic final since 2008, though they have hardly had much fortune in the event since their success in Sydney.

    Indeed, they have only once made it to the finish line cleanly, without any mistakes, when they claimed silver at London 2012. That medal, however, was conceded in the wake of Tyson Gay's doping ban.

    This time around, a team including three of the fastest men in the world over 100m in 2021, fared little better.

    Trayvon Bromell, Fred Kerley, Ronnie Baker and Cravon Gillespie finished sixth in the heat with a time of 38.10 seconds.

    "We just didn't get the job done today," Kerley said. "That's all."

    Sprinting great Lewis, who won two golds in the 4x100m relay, hit out at what he labelled a "clown show".

    "The USA team did everything wrong in the men’s relay," Lewis wrote on Twitter. "The passing system is wrong, athletes running the wrong legs, and it was clear that there was no leadership. It was a total embarrassment, and completely unacceptable for a USA team to look worse than the AAU kids I saw."

    He then expanded on his criticism in an interview with USA Today.

    "This was a football coach taking a team to the Super Bowl and losing 99-0 because they were completely ill-prepared," Lewis said.

    "It's unacceptable. It's so disheartening to see this because it’s people's lives. We're just playing games with people's lives. That's why I’m so upset. It's totally avoidable.

    "America is sitting there rooting for the United States and then they have this clown show. I can't take it anymore. It's just unacceptable. It is not hard to do the relay."

    HISTORY MADE BY SPAIN

    Sport climbing and karate were two of the sports introduced for the Tokyo Games, and the first medals in each were won by Spanish athletes.

    At the age of 39 years and 323 days, Sandra Sanchez became Spain's oldest Olympic champion as she triumphed in the women's kata, breaking the record set by Joan Llaneras in the velodrome in 2008.

    Sanchez also became the first Spanish woman to clinch gold in martial arts since judoka Isabel Fernandez did so in 2000.

    Her triumph was followed up by golds for France's Steven da Costa and Bulgaria's Ivet Goranova in the men's and women's kumite respectively.

    At the opposite end of the spectrum to Sanchez, 18-year-old Alberto Gines Lopez became the youngest male Spanish athlete to strike gold at the Games as he pipped Nathaniel Coleman and Jakob Schubert in the sport climbing men's combined final.

    "I think it will help the sport to grow, and for it to get more support. We need good installations in order to help the sport, and I think this will bring more support to the sport," the teenager said, before revealing his plans of celebration: "I'm going to break my diet. And then call my family and friends."

    FOURNIER PREPPED FOR 'THE MOST COMPLICATED MATCH'

    Team USA and France will meet in the final of the men's basketball competition, as the two favourites go head-to-head for gold.

    Luka Doncic's shooting was off as Slovenia fell to an agonising 90-89 defeat to France, who beat the USA in the pool stage.

    The European Champions, who also defeated the USA in the 2019 FIBA World Cup, now face a rematch against a side that has scored over 90 points in the last four games.

    Evan Fournier, whose 23 points was second behind only team-mate Nando de Colo, knows what is in store.

    "It represents a real step towards a dream, and the dream is to win the Olympics against the United States," said Fournier, who has just swapped the Boston Celtics for the New York Knicks.

    "We have to rest and not let our minds wander, and prepare as much as possible, because there's a team waiting for us. They've prepared for us for two years, apparently, and because we beat them in the pool it will be worse, so it will be the most complicated match of the competition for us without any doubt."

    SHOOT-OUT GLORY FOR BELGIUM

    Beaten finalists in 2016, Belgium claimed their first hockey gold, and only their second in an Olympic team sport, after their men beat Australia 3-2 in a shoot-out.

    Goalkeeper Vincent Vanasch was the hero in dramatic circumstances.

    He made two saves before then denying Jacob Whetton, only for Belgium's celebrations to be cut short by a referral. However, Vanasch stood firm for a second time.

    The shoot-out drama followed a 1-1 draw, with Tom Wickham having cancelled out Florent van Aubel's opener.

    "What a feeling. You become Olympic champion, but twice [because of the referral] It's unusual," Vanasch said. "We had to calm down and go again. We knew that.

    "I'm like a musician, it's a rehearsal and then you come to the concert and it comes naturally. That's how I come on the pitch. I'm composed, but also I trust myself, I trust my reflexes."

    Australia have now won seven men's hockey medals across the last eight Games, while Belgium won their first gold in a team event since the 1920 Antwerp Olympics, when their men's football team triumphed.

  • Tokyo Olympics: 'My shots weren't falling' – Doncic explains 18-assist triple-double in defeat Tokyo Olympics: 'My shots weren't falling' – Doncic explains 18-assist triple-double in defeat

    Luka Doncic explained an uncharacteristic poor shooting performance was the reason for his assist-heavy approach in Slovenia's Olympic semi-final defeat to France, despite appearing to sustain a wrist injury in the fourth quarter.

    Slovenia – featuring at their first Games – agonisingly went down 90-89 to France following Nicolas Batum's block in the final three seconds of the game.

    The European champions ran Les Bleus close even as Doncic attempted only two shots in the fourth quarter.

    The Dallas Mavericks superstar looked to have taken a knock when he collided with a court-side screen early in the fourth but did not indicate any issue as he discussed his late preference for passes.

    "My shots weren't falling today, so I was trying to find open team-mates," Doncic said.

    Asked specifically about the final play when Batum blocked Klemen Prepelic's lay-up from a Doncic pass, he added: "I think Batum was helping so I had to pass.

    "I think [Prepelic] was open and it was a great drive, but Batum had an amazing block. I think it was a good choice.

    "Not always you can make a smart choice but I trust them, they trust me and I thought that was a good choice."

    Doncic shot five-for-18 from the field and two-for-nine from three-point range but still tallied 16 points, 10 rebounds and 18 assists.

    He became only the third player in Olympic history to record a triple-double, following in the footsteps of Alexander Belov and LeBron James.

    But having been beaten for the first time in Slovenia colours, falling to 17-1 after success at EuroBasket 2017 and the Olympic Qualifying Tournament in Kaunas, Doncic was not interested in individual achievements.

    "We lost the game so I don't care about my performance," he said.

    Doncic leads the Games in points (121) and assists (50) but has also drawn the most fouls (39) and played the most minutes (160) in a gruelling campaign.

    Opponent Evan Fournier felt the point forward, who led the NBA in usage rate last season (36 per cent), tired under close scrutiny from the French defenders.

    "It was the objective to target him all through the match, several of us in relay," New York Knicks signing Fournier said.

    "Tim [Luwawu-Cabarrot] did an excellent job, Nico did an excellent job, and I think, as strong as he is, in a 40-minute match you still get tired physically.

    "He wasn't taking three-point shots and I think if he'd been fresher he would have done."

    Doncic said of the attention: "I'm used to every defense now."

    Batum embraced the 22-year-old at the end of the game, with the duo facing off in yet another crunch contest after a seven-game playoff series between the Mavs and the Los Angeles Clippers.

    Doncic was on the losing side on that occasion, too, but averaged 35.7 points per game, and he said of the post-game exchange with Batum: "It was a good message. He's a class act. He told me he hates playing against me, in a good way."

  • Tokyo Olympics: France slow Slovenia to deal Doncic dramatic first defeat despite triple-double Tokyo Olympics: France slow Slovenia to deal Doncic dramatic first defeat despite triple-double

    An exhausted Luka Doncic fell agonisingly short of carrying Slovenia into the gold medal game at the Tokyo Olympics as they went down 90-89 in their semi-final against France.

    Dallas Mavericks superstar Doncic has been the dominant player at the Games and was at the centre of the action again on Thursday.

    Despite uncharacteristically slack two-for-nine shooting from deep – hindered by an apparent injury – Doncic put up 16 points, 10 rebounds and 18 assists for a heroic triple-double.

    It was the third in Olympic history and first since LeBron James' against Australia at London 2012.

    The 22-year-old played a game-high 36 minutes and took numerous hits, but it was Nicolas Batum's clutch block on Klemen Prepelic that decided the contest in France's favour.

    Les Bleus will now face the United States, who they have beaten in consecutive tournament games, while Doncic must turn his focus to the bronze medal match against Australia after falling to 17-1 in international play.

    Slovenia – making their Olympics debut this year – led 44-42 at halftime before a tough third quarter in which they struggled to get stops and were outscored 29-21.

    Doncic then sustained a knock to his wrist in a collision with a court-side screen early in the fourth and seemed reluctant to shoot thereafter.

    With their primary scorer pulling the strings but relying on his team-mates to make shots, Slovenia still took the game down to the closing seconds.

    After Doncic's 10th rebound ensured his first triple of the Olympics, Prepelic went through for a lay-up inside the final three seconds, only for Batum's fourth block and Gobert's 16th board to deny Slovenia.

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