NBA

Warriors' Curry embracing underdog status ahead of Lakers showdown

By Sports Desk May 18, 2021

Stephen Curry is embracing underdog status ahead of the Golden State Warriors' play-in game against defending NBA champions the Los Angeles Lakers.

The Warriors finished eighth in the Western Conference and will have to work through the league's new play-in tournament to reach the NBA playoffs.

Led by two-time MVP Curry, Golden State won 18 of their final 25 games to surge into the postseason picture ahead of Wednesday's showdown against LeBron James and the seventh-seeded Lakers.

The winner between the Lakers and Warriors head into the playoffs as the seventh seed. The loser will meet the winner of the Memphis Grizzlies-San Antonio Spurs clash.

"I hope everybody hears the chatter," Curry said after Tuesday's practice. "Even at this point how we match up with LA or potentially with Phoenix or Utah if we get through this play-in tournament and all that.

"Nobody thought we were even going to be in this position. A lot of people had us way, way, way down the standings coming in after Klay [Thompson] got hurt, so there's a lot of things that we already flipped on its head to this point, so we might as well keep going."

Curry has played a crucial role in lifting the Warriors into contention down the stretch, earning his second NBA scoring title after ending the regular season averaging 32.0 points per game following his 46-point outburst against the Grizzlies on Sunday.

The three-time NBA champion became the first player 33 years or older to lead the league in scoring since Hall of Famer Michael Jordan in 1997-98 (35 years at end of season and averaged 28.7ppg).

Curry also joined Jordan, Wilt Chamberlain and Kareem Abdul-Jabbar as the only players with multiple scoring titles, MVPs and championships.

The Warriors guard has played 63 games this season, averaging 5.8 assists per game, a career-best 5.5 rebounds per game and 1.2 steals per game.

Earlier this season, Curry claimed top spots on the Warriors' all-time scoring and assists lists, while surpassing Reggie Miller for second position on the NBA's three-pointers made standings.

Denver Nuggets center Nikola Jokic is the hot favourite to win this season's MVP but Curry was endorsed by upcoming opponent James for candidacy too.

"Obviously, I'm appreciative," Curry said. "He knows when he says something people pay attention so for him to speak on my MVP candidacy is definitely, I respect him for it, I appreciate it.

"We all know as competitors though, when the lights are on, I can talk about how great he is till I'm blue in the face and he can do the same, it doesn't change how we approach that competition when we're out there.

"I won't be giving him a pass because he likes the way I played this year and vice versa."

Related items

  • Giroud eyeing World Cup swansong after Milan's Scudetto triumph Giroud eyeing World Cup swansong after Milan's Scudetto triumph

    Olivier Giroud says he still harbours hopes of featuring for France at the World Cup later this year, having contributed to Milan's extraordinary Serie A title win in his first season in Italy.

    Giroud has been left out of Didier Deschamps' squad for France's four UEFA Nations League fixtures next month, with the World Cup holders' schedule including a double-header against 2018 final foes Croatia.

    But the striker, who appeared in all seven matches during France's second triumphant World Cup campaign in Russia, has impressed since joining Milan at the start of the season, joining Rafael Leao (both 11) as the Rossoneri's highest league goalscorers as Stefano Pioli's men won their first league title since 2010-11.

    Giroud and has 112 caps for France and is just three goals away from equalling Thierry Henry's record of 51 goals for Les Blues, but will be 36 years old by the time his country begin their World Cup campaign on November 22.

    But the former Arsenal and Chelsea striker admits he is keen on making a final appearance at world football's showpiece competition, although he is currently focused on celebrating a successful club campaign.

    "It would be a lie to say that I don't want to play a third World Cup, certainly my last competition," Giroud told Europe1 Sport.

    "At that point I will be 36 years old. And if I am still competitive with my club, yes, I hope to continue helping France. 

    "There are still many months to go. Until then, I'll take advantage of my holidays and savour this title with my club. Then we'll see what happens."

    While Giroud has World Cup, Champions League and Europa League winner's medals, his Serie A triumph represented just the second league title win of his career, and his first since winning Ligue 1 with Montpellier in 2011-12.

    Having held off the challenge of rivals Inter to move level with the Nerazzurri's tally of 19 league titles, Giroud says the current Rossoneri squad have earned a place in the storied history of Milan.

    "There have been great players who have passed from Milan," he added. "But it is a source of pride to have contributed to the construction of this Scudetto, eleven years later with experienced players like [Zlatan] Ibrahimovic, it is fantastic. 

    "We had a great season, we were rewarded for all our efforts and yes, we are entering the history of Milan. We are still a long way from the big names in Milan, but it's nice to be associated with all these great players."

    Referring to the side's incredible celebrations, Giroud added: "I think you really realise the impact it has had in Milan and Italy on the open bus, seeing these hundreds of thousands of Milanese fans who have been waiting for a while. 

    "We are all very proud to bring Milan back to the top. It was a tough fight to the end, and you realise you are joining a very big club when you see all this passion around you and the class that reigns in this historic club. 

    "Not everything was written when we arrived this year. The goal was to qualify for the Champions League, to get back on top of the table. The goal, initially, was not to win the Scudetto. 

    "Being at Milan and fully participating in this beautiful story is incredible. It was another challenge that I needed and in addition, it led to a Scudetto. I could not have dreamed of better."

    Meanwhile, Milan's successful title tilt was aided by several French players, including goalkeeper Mike Maignan and defenders Pierre Kalulu and Theo Hernandez, as well as a number of other French speakers.

    And Giroud says it has been a great source of pride to contribute to the success of a side with a significant French influence.

    "The Milanese dressing room has a strong French accent, so to speak, with all the French," he said. "There are also other players who speak French, like Franck Kessie, Ismael Bennacer, [Fode] Ballo-Toure. There are other French players, like [Tiemoue] Bakayoko. 

    "We speak French, so it is true that there really is this slightly French team, as there was at Arsenal at the time. We are fortunate to have spent most of the season with four Frenchmen in this team and it is a pride."

  • Leclerc profits with home pole after chaotic finish at 'typical Monaco' Leclerc profits with home pole after chaotic finish at 'typical Monaco'

    Charles Leclerc was "incredibly happy" to claim pole position in Monaco Grand Prix qualifying, leading a Ferrari one-two – although Carlos Sainz felt he could have pipped his team-mate if not for a dramatic crash.

    Monegasque driver Leclerc qualified fastest at his home race after the final session was cut short due to a red flag.

    Sergio Perez hit the barrier, prompting a yellow flag that Sainz saw only in time to brake as he careered into the Red Bull.

    That brought a premature end to proceedings but ensured a fine result for Ferrari and, in particular, Leclerc, who secured a precious pole; while he has converted only four of his 13 previous poles into wins, some 15 of the past 17 winners in Monaco have started from the front row, including 12 from first place.

    For Leclerc to add his name to the list of winners, he will have to overcome an awful record which has seen him never manage to finish the Monaco race. Despite taking pole last year, his car also crashed heavily in qualifying, and it meant Leclerc could not take an active part on race day.

    This time it could be a different story.

    "It is very special. I'm so incredibly happy," Leclerc said. "It's been a very smooth weekend until now – I knew the pace was in the car; I just had to do the job, and it went perfectly.

    "That last lap, before the red flag, was really, really good, but it didn't change anything for us."

    That may be true for Leclerc, but Sainz felt he was on course to top the timesheets prior to the collision with Perez.

    "It's a shame – another year that a red flag cost us the end of a session, and we could not go for pole position," he said, "but it's typical Monaco."

    Sainz added: "I think we are in a great position to score a great result for the team. The car has been amazing all weekend, so we'll go for it."

    Perez still qualified in third, ahead of an out-of-sorts Max Verstappen, while Lewis Hamilton's practice woes shifted only enough for him to make eighth before his final flying lap was halted.

    PROVISIONAL CLASSIFICATION

    1. Charles Leclerc (Ferrari) 1:11.376
    2. Carlos Sainz (Ferrari) +0.225s
    3. Sergio Perez (Red Bull) +0.253s
    4. Max Verstappen (Red Bull) +0.290s
    5. Lando Norris (McLaren) +0.473s
    6. George Russell (Mercedes) +0.736s
    7. Fernando Alonso (Alpine) +0.871s
    8. Lewis Hamilton (Mercedes) +1.184s
    9. Sebastian Vettel (Aston Martin) +1.356s
    10. Esteban Ocon (Alpine) +1.671s

  • Salah reveals Kane motivation after Premier League Golden Boot win Salah reveals Kane motivation after Premier League Golden Boot win

    Mohamed Salah has revealed how missing out on the Premier League Golden Boot in the 2020-21 season, when Tottenham's Harry Kane pipped him by just one goal, motivated him to enjoy an incredible individual campaign for Liverpool this time around.

    Salah finished as the Premier League's joint-highest goalscorer this season, matching Son Heung-min's tally of 23 goals as Liverpool finished just one point short of champions Manchester City.

    The forward also edged out team-mate Trent Alexander Arnold by one league assist, laying on 13 goals to emulate Kane's feat of winning both awards in the 2020-21 campaign, as he led Liverpool's fight for silverware. 

    Having already lifted the EFL Cup and FA Cup this season, Jurgen Klopp's team could add the Champions League when they face Real Madrid in Saturday's final, with the Egypt winger looking for revenge after sustaining an injury in Liverpool's 2018 defeat to the same opponents.

    Speaking to Rio Ferdinand for BT Sport ahead of that contest in Paris, Salah revealed how missing out on topping the Premier League's goalscoring charts last season motivated him to "work like crazy" to outdo his fellow forwards this term.

    "When I signed here, I can't say I thought 'I expect myself to go and win three golden boots!'", Salah said. "But in the first season [2017-18] I was fighting with Kane in the beginning, and I thought I had a big chance to win it.

    "When I won it from Kane – and Kane was winning it [each of] the two years before – in the summer I went on holiday and said, 'look, why not?' I did it one time, I took it from Kane, a top goalscorer, so give it a try for a second one.

    "I won it the second year, and once I won the second one, I said, 'you've got to go for four or five!' I think in my mind, for five years now I've always competed for it. I lost some, [like] last season in the last game to Kane.

    "That last year was painful for me, trust me! It pushed me to be who I am now, this year. 

    "I believe that last season as a team, it was not really good, but for the golden boot, in the last game, with one goal difference... that's not good.

    "It didn't kill my summer, I was so motivated, I was working [like] crazy. I said 'look, next year I'm going to win both things – golden boot and assists. I'm going for both from now'. I was working like crazy and I did it."

    Despite Liverpool finishing third last season after enduring an injury-hit campaign, Salah scored 22 league goals, only to see Kane net his 23rd in a final-day 4-2 win over Leicester City.

    But the Liverpool star responded to win his third Golden Boot in five seasons this term, drawing level with Kane and Alan Shearer with three such awards. Only Thierry Henry, with four, has won more.

© 2022 SportsMaxTV All Rights Reserved.