NBA

Lakers lose again with LeBron ankle worry, Giannis outduels Durant in Bucks-Nets battle

By Sports Desk May 03, 2021

The Los Angeles Lakers slumped to their sixth loss in seven games with LeBron James finishing their 121-114 defeat to the Toronto Raptors injured in the locker room on Sunday.

James left the court in the fourth quarter due to a sore right ankle, the same ankle which sidelined the Lakers superstar for 20 games until his return against the Sacramento Kings on Friday.

The four-time MVP played 28 minutes, scoring 19 points with seven rebounds and six assists but he could not inspire reigning NBA champions the Lakers to reverse their worrying form ahead of the playoffs.

Toronto forward Pascal Siakam was exceptional with a season-high 39 points, 13 rebounds and four assists, while veteran guard Kyle Lowry also had a double-double with 37 points, including three three-pointers, and 11 assists.

The result means the Lakers slip to 36-28 and sixth spot in the Western Conference, while the Raptors are 27-38.

 

Giannis comes out on top against KD

Giannis Antetokounmpo posted 49 points as the Milwaukee Bucks overcame the star-studded Brooklyn Nets 117-114 in their heavyweight Eastern Conference meeting. Making his return after a minor ankle issue, two-time reigning MVP Antetokounmpo also had eight rebounds and four assists, while Khris Middleton contributed 26 points and 11 rebounds in a key supporting role. Durant did his best to lift the Nets with 42 points and 10 rebounds.

Joel Embiid had his 14th game with 30 or more points and 10 rebounds, with only Antetokounmpo having more this season, as the Eastern Conference-leading Philadelphia 76ers won 113-111 in overtime against the San Antonio Spurs. MVP hopeful Embiid finished with 34 points and 12 rebounds after OT, with Seth Curry adding 22 points.

Devin Booker had 32 points to lead the high-flying Phoenix Suns to a 123-120 victory over the lowly Oklahoma City Thunder.

The New York Knicks kept up their hot run with 122-97 win against the Houston Rockets, fuelled by All-Star Julius Randle's 31 points in three quarters.

C.J. McCollum (33 points), Damian Lillard (26 points and 13 assists) and Jusuf Nurkic (14 points and 11 rebounds) combined to lead the Portland Trail Blazers past the Boston Celtics 129-119. Jayson Tatum's 33 points were not enough for the Celtics. Per Stats Perform, the Trail Blazers are the first team in NBA history to have four consecutive home losses immediately followed by four straight road victories.

 

From hero to zero

Dorian Finney-Smith nailed the game-winner for the Dallas Mavericks against the Washington Wizards on Saturday. But he was struggled in the 111-99 loss to the Sacramento Kings. Finney-Smith was one-for-seven shooting in 35 minutes, missing all five of his three-point attempts for just three points.

 

Timely tip from Simmons

Ben Simmons tipped home in the nick of time after Embiid's attempted buzzer-beating shot missed in the 76ers' win over the Spurs.

 

Sunday's results

Milwaukee Bucks 117-114 Brooklyn Nets
Portland Trail Blazers 129-119 Boston Celtics
New York Knicks 122-97 Houston Rockets
Philadelphia 76ers 113-111 San Antonio Spurs (OT)
Phoenix Suns 123-120 Oklahoma City Thunder
Sacramento Kings 111-99 Dallas Mavericks
Miami Heat 121-111 Charlotte Hornets
Toronto Raptors 121-114 Los Angeles Lakers

 

Nuggets at Lakers

The Lakers (36-28) have a big test to get back on track in the Western Conference against Nikola Jokic's Denver Nuggets (43-21) with playoffs seedings up for grabs.

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  • Gerrard riled by questions over his integrity ahead of Man City showdown Gerrard riled by questions over his integrity ahead of Man City showdown

    Aston Villa manager Steven Gerrard has been disappointed by questions over his side's integrity ahead of their season-ending clash with Manchester City.

    It means Gerrard, a Liverpool great, has the chance to do his old club a huge favour. Should City drop points against Villa on Sunday, then a win for the Reds over Wolves would ensure the Premier League title is theirs.

    Villa hosted Liverpool last week, with some doubts raised over how Gerrard would approach that game, but the Reds were pushed hard before ultimately triumphing 2-1. 

    Philippe Coutinho and Danny Ings started on the bench on Thursday in Villa's final home game of the season – a 1-1 draw with Burnley – with both players coming on in the final 20 minutes.

    Those questions, however, have frustrated Gerrard.

    "In terms of Liverpool, I totally understand and respect the external noise and the questions that have been coming my way for some time," the former England midfielder told a news conference.

    "They're involved in a title race, and I spent a lot of time there. It is disappointing when people mention integrity and aim it towards me or Aston Villa or any of my players.

    "We'll go out at the weekend and give it everything we've got to try to get points for Aston Villa and our supporters. If that inevitably helps Liverpool, fantastic."

    City have won nine of their last 10 Premier League games against Villa (D1), including the last six in a row, while Villa have lost 15 of their last 16 trips to the Etihad Stadium in the league, losing each of their last 11 on the bounce since a 2-0 win in 2007.

    Speaking of facing City and Liverpool, Gerrard said: "In terms of my experience being back in the Premier League, they have been the two best sides by far that we have faced.

    "Very different – one tries to hurt you with positional play and possession and one tries to hurt you with speed and intensity.

    "They are both extremely consistent and have got top managers. They have both recruited extremely well over a period of time and had a lot of time to work with the team so it is no surprise that they get the results that they do."

  • Alexander-Arnold: Liverpool's quadruple hunt 'special', regardless of Premier League outcome Alexander-Arnold: Liverpool's quadruple hunt 'special', regardless of Premier League outcome

    Trent Alexander-Arnold says Liverpool's quadruple tilt represents one of the greatest seasons from a Premier League side, regardless of the outcome of their final-day title tussle with Manchester City.

    Jurgen Klopp's team remain in contention for the second top-flight title of his tenure when they host Wolves at Anfield, having already won the EFL Cup and FA Cup, while reaching the Champions League final.

    With Liverpool one point behind City and possessing an inferior goal difference, the Reds will need Pep Guardiola's men to slip up in their home game against Aston Villa to preserve their hopes of an unprecedented quadruple.

    Liverpool and City have set a relentless pace at the top of the Premier League table this season with the Reds winning 15 and drawing three of their last 18 league games, while City are unbeaten in 11 league outings after rescuing a 2-2 draw at West Ham last Sunday (eight wins, three draws).

    Alexander-Arnold was part of the Liverpool team that finished as runners-up despite amassing 97 points in the 2018-19 season as City finished one point clear of the Reds.

    The England international believes Liverpool's effort on four fronts this term represents a historic achievement amongst Premier League sides, whatever the outcome of Sunday's title fight.

    "I think back in March, or April I was thinking 'this is going to happen again', but when there are seven or eight fixtures to go you think 'surely someone has got to drop a few points'," the full-back told Sky Sports.

    "We have [a 1-1 home draw with Tottenham last month], but it's been quite even and it's all we could do. You think back to January and we were miles behind them, and we fought back and got ourselves into an amazing position.

    "I think, to push the way we have in all competitions this season, it's got to be, for me, one of the best team performances over the course of a season in Premier League history.

    "We've taken every trophy to the last game, that's all you can really ask for, and I think it's been a special achievement no matter what happens on Sunday."

    Liverpool will be supremely confident of doing their part after going unbeaten throughout their last 22 home Premier League games (17 wins, five draws).

    If the Reds avoid defeat against Wolves, they will have gone unbeaten through an entire home Premier League campaign for a fifth time, the joint-most of any club (alongside Chelsea).

    However, rivals City have ended 10 of their last 13 campaigns with a victory (two draws, one defeat), not losing on the final day since suffering a 3-2 reverse against Norwich City in 2013, while the defending champions have won nine of their last 10 Premier League games against Villa.

  • The Numbers Game: Manchester City ready to disappoint Steven Gerrard and Liverpool The Numbers Game: Manchester City ready to disappoint Steven Gerrard and Liverpool

    Look away Liverpool, this may make for painful reading. Manchester City are not quite home and hosed in the Premier League title race, but all signs point to them brushing off Aston Villa on Sunday to clinch the trophy.

    Another gripping race for domestic dominance culminates in City hosting Villa, while rivals Liverpool face Wolves at Anfield.

    If City drop points, a Liverpool win would make Jurgen Klopp's team the champions. Yet recent history shows us that City rarely stumble against Villa, so a slip-up in the clash with Steven Gerrard's side would be a monumental shock.

    A sixth title in the Premier League era beckons, which would rank City outright second behind Manchester United's haul of 13 championships.

    Stats Perform takes a look here at key Opta numbers ahead of the final-day showdown

    Saving the best for last

    Pep Guardiola has repeatedly denied City lost their nerve against Real Madrid, when they remarkably surrendered what should have been a match-winning lead in the Champions League semi-finals.

    Such wild things happen in football, Guardiola has reasoned, which is why he will take a meticulous approach to preparation for the Etihad Stadium clash with Villa. There could yet be an extraordinary finish to the season, but not if Guardiola can help it.

    City have kept running through the tape in each of Guardiola's seasons in England, winning all five of their final league games under the former Barcelona and Bayern Munich boss. That ranks as the best such 100 per cent record for a manager in the competition's history.

    Going back even further, to the start of the Abu Dhabi ownership era, City have lost just one of their final league games in the last 13 campaigns (W10 D2). That loss came when they went down 3-2 at home to Norwich City in 2012-13 when Brian Kidd was in caretaker charge for the last game. A year previously, they famously beat QPR by that same scoreline to clinch a first Premier League title.

    This season, City have lost just one of their last 27 Premier League games (W22 D4), and are unbeaten in 11 since losing 3-2 at home to Spurs in February.

     

    What it would mean for Guardiola

    The City manager, who reports have claimed is ready to extend his contract until 2025, stands on the brink of Premier League history.

    Should his side keep Liverpool at arm's length, Guardiola will become the outright leader for English top-flight titles among non-British managers, going one clear of both Arsene Wenger and Jose Mourinho.

    This would be his fourth such Premier League title success in England, with only Manchester United's Alex Ferguson winning more. Guardiola has no intention of staying long enough to match Ferguson's staggering stack of 13 titles.

    City have won 168 of the 227 Premier League games they have contested in the Guardiola era, scoring 562 goals in that time. Those are inevitably league-best figures, and it would be hideously out of character for them to crack against Villa.

    A one-sided rivalry

    It was not always this way, of course. Villa finished ahead of City as recently as the 2008-09 season (finishing sixth to City's 10th), but the tables turned in the dynamic between the teams when the Abu Dhabi investment began at the Etihad Stadium.

    In recent years, this has been almost a formality victory for City, who have won nine of their last 10 Premier League games against Villa (D1), including the last six in a row.

    City's last defeat to Sunday's opponents was a 3-2 loss at Villa Park in September 2013.

    It is even more of a grim story when the focus falls solely on the games in Manchester. Villa have lost 15 of their last 16 away league games against City, losing each of the last 11 in a row since a 2-0 win in April 2007. This run of 11 is Villa's longest away losing streak against an opponent in their league history.

    What's more, Villa's record when facing any league-leading team is unimpressive. They have won just one of their 21 Premier League away games against league leaders (D3 L17), beating Leeds United 2-1 in January 2000, and have lost the last seven by an aggregate score of 21-1.

    Villa pulled off a shock of sorts when beating fourth-placed finishers Chelsea on the final day of last season, but they have not won their last game of a league campaign in consecutive seasons since the 1996-97 and 1997-98 seasons. The second of those wins came against champions Arsenal, but that is almost a quarter of a century ago.

     

    Doubling up on the last day?

    City will have Erling Haaland on board next season, so a flip of tactics seems inevitable to accommodate the prolific striker. This term, City have tended to rely on their midfield and attacking wide players to deliver in front of goal, and three players have reached double figures: Kevin De Bruyne (15 goals), Raheem Sterling (13) and Riyad Mahrez (11).

    Now it could be Phil Foden's turn.

    Foden has scored nine Premier League goals this season, and if he scores against Villa it would make this season the first for City with two English players (Foden and Sterling) scoring at least 10 goals in a league campaign since 2004-05, when Robbie Fowler and Shaun Wright-Phillips were the pair.

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