NBA

'Very doable' for Clippers to turn around 3-1 deficit - Lue

By Sports Desk June 27, 2021

Tyronn Lue is confident the Los Angeles Clippers can turn around their 3-1 deficit in the Western Conference Finals with the Phoenix Suns, describing the challenge as "very doable".

The Clippers fell to an 84-80 loss to the Suns on Saturday, leaving Los Angeles needing to win three straight games to progress to the NBA Finals for the first time in franchise history.

In Conference Finals, teams that have led 3-1 have gone on to win a seven-game series 52 times, with that advantage reversed on just four occasions.

Falling 3-1 behind is typically a death knell for a team in any round, with teams that have claimed 3-1 leads in best-of-seven series winning 95 per cent of the time (251-13).

But Lue has experience of coming from 3-1 down to prevail, having done so as head coach of the Cleveland Cavaliers when they incredibly overturned that deficit to beat the Golden State Warriors in the 2016 NBA Finals.

The Warriors did not surrender the same lead in 2017, avenging that loss with a 4-1 Finals win over the Cavs.

Drawing inspiration from the Clippers coming from 2-0 down against the Utah Jazz in the previous round, Lue stated his belief in his team to overcome the odds.

"We beat Utah and won four games in a row," Lue said. "So it's very doable."

 

The Clippers' hopes of fighting back would be significantly boosted were Kawhi Leonard to return from a knee sprain that has seen him miss the final two games of the Jazz series and all four games with Phoenix so far.

But Paul George, who had a double-double with 23 rebounds and 16 rebounds in Game 3, does not want Leonard to rush back regardless of the Clippers' perilous situation.

"I can't speak for him, to the health of Kawhi," George said. "If he's not 100 [per cent], we don't want him out there. I mean, that's just as a brother, as a team-mate.

"His health long term is more important than what's going on now. I can't speak on the extent of his injury or, you know, what he [can] and cannot give us.

"Like I've been saying, his health is just more important than anything else."

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    Ralf Rangnick insisted that his priority will always be with the Manchester United team and not certain individuals amid ongoing questions over Cristiano Ronaldo's behaviour at Brentford.

    United sit seventh in the Premier League but are two points behind fourth-placed West Ham with a game in hand after defeating Brentford 3-1 on Wednesday.

    Ronaldo played a part in Mason Greenwood's goal, the second for United, at the Brentford Community Stadium but was removed nine minutes later, seemingly much to the Portugal captain's disgust.

    The 36-year-old appeared annoyed as he wandered towards the dugout, where he sat on the steps as he continued to gesture as if he was asking why he had been substituted.

    Rangnick, who could be seen having a word in Ronaldo's ear minutes later in an attempt to defuse the situation, said post-match that the commotion did not concern him, a stance he once again reiterated on Friday.

    "I think we shouldn't make too much of a fuss out of it," Rangnick responded when asked about Ronaldo at a pre-match news conference ahead of Saturday's clash with West Ham.

    "I can only speak for myself and my coaching staff. I explained that to him during the game, we had a little conversation after we scored the third goal. In fact, I told him the same as what I said in our press conference. 

    "The job of a football manager is to help the team win the game and it was clear from our experience at Villa Park that this time we have to do things better. 

    "We did it better and the only question was, who do we take off? Of course, Cristiano is a prolific goalscorer and he's a player that will always want to play and score goals. 

    "The team is more important than whoever – Cristiano, Edinson [Cavani], Bruno [Fernandes].

    "He was also asking why me 'why didn't you take off one of the younger players?'. The answer came five minutes later when one of the younger players scored the third goal. 

    "Maybe Cristiano could have also scored the third goal, but football is not about maybe, it is about taking a decision in the right moment."

    Asked for further clarification on his decision to send on centre-back Harry Maguire for Ronaldo, Rangnick added: "In a way in football it's a bit like chess, things can change so quickly during the game. 

    "If you watched last night's semi-final [between Arsenal and Liverpool] in the EFL Cup things can change from one minute to another.

    "In some parts of the game, you are dominating the game, pinning the other team back, and all of sudden it can be different. 

    "Therefore it is important to be able to react to what the game needs now, to what the team needs and we had exactly the same decision at Brentford as at Villa, 70 minutes played, 2-0 up against a team who does not give up. 

    "For me, it was logical with the negative experience we had at Villa Park to do it differently this time and it was clear we bring on Harry [Maguire] and then defend this 2-0 result and in the end we even scored a third one on the counter-attack and it was clear we were going to win the game."

    Ronaldo will likely lead the line again at home to David Moyes' Champions League-chasing Hammers, who the striker has scored seven goals in his last five top-flight appearances against.

    West Ham, however, have already won away at Old Trafford this season, winning 1-0 in the EFL Cup. Only three teams have ever won twice away against the Red Devils in the same season – Aston Villa (1919-20), Tottenham Hotspur (1989-90) and Chelsea (2004-05).

    Rangnick appreciates he has to take a game at a time at the United helm as he refused to look to far ahead in terms of rebuilding at the club.

    "My full focus as I have indicated is to win games with this team, in order to win games as a team we need to develop as a team," he continued.

    "We need to improve in some areas, we have done so in the last couple of weeks, but there is still more space for that in vast areas of our game and this is where my focus is. 

    "I'm not dealing with what might happen in four or five months, that is not on top of my list.

    "It's about how we can win the game against West Ham, then the cup against Middlesbrough and then Burnley, playing Southampton and Brighton [and Hove Albion] at home, this is where my focus is."

  • Nagelsmann hails 'outstanding' Neuer amid ongoing contract discussions Nagelsmann hails 'outstanding' Neuer amid ongoing contract discussions

    Bayern Munich head coach Julian Nagelsmann remains unsure on the progress of Manuel Neuer's contract negotiations but heaped praise on the "outstanding" goalkeeper.

    Neuer has made 300 appearances in the Bundesliga for Bayern since moving from Schalke and holds the record for the most clean sheets in the German top flight (209), having surpassed Oliver Kahn (196) in 2021.

    But the Germany international's current contract in Munich expires at the end of the next season, when he will be aged 37, leading to questions over his future.

    While Nagelsmann was unable to provide an update on the situation, he insisted that the 35-year-old can continue performing for many years to come.

    "I don't know [about negotiations] but I know that he still has a contract and is an outstanding goalkeeper," he told reporters at Friday's pre-match news conference ahead of a trip to Hertha Berlin on Sunday.

    "You could see right away that he played an outstanding game against Cologne. He will keep this quality for a few more years."

    Asked about the competition, or lack of, between Neuer and Alexander Nubel, the Bayern head coach responded: "As long as he's playing at this level, it's difficult for any player to get past him. 

    "Manuel is still the best goalkeeper because he plays every part of the goalkeeping game very consistently.

    "I can't imagine it stopping abruptly at 36. We can analyse the situation when the time comes. Both are currently playing and are satisfied."

     

    The reigning Bundesliga champions head to Berlin six points clear of Borussia Dortmund at the top after a Robert Lewandowski hat-trick inspired them to a 4-0 win over Cologne.

    Hertha have won just one of their last 21 league meetings with the Bavarian side, while Nagelsmann has not lost any of his 12 top-flight clashes with them as a coach.

    Only Christoph Daum, against Bochum, has faced an opponent more often (20) without losing a single time but Nagelsmann downplayed the importance of his record against Sunday's opponents.

    "It's more of a coincidence," he added on his success against Hertha. "We didn't always play exceptionally well in Berlin. If you have a positive record, you should make sure that it's like that remains.

    "They play significantly more football than before, more flat balls, but still a lot of chip balls to [Ishak] Belfodil, who is one of the most under-rated strikers in the league.

    "He works well with his body, it's incredibly difficult to defend. 

    "With [Marco] Richter and [Suat] Serdar, there are good footballers on the outside. It's more the footballing, courageous approach that [Tayfun] Korkut also demands. 

    "The rest of the defence will be very important for us. In the end, you saw against Wolfsburg that there are a lot of spaces you can attack from, but they also defend much more actively and aggressively."

    Despite Bayern's recent dominance, Nagelsmann insisted there is still potential for much improvement, though he feels their progress in Europe could depend on coronavirus.

    "I'm satisfied, but we still have a lot of potential," he added. "The processes haven't worked consistently for several weeks. Me and the players take a critical look. 

    "It's the case that the coronavirus issue is the season will affect how the teams get through. 

    "There are no longer the extreme quarantine rules. Corona is a thing that you cannot influence very well. If you want to go far in the Champions League, you also have to be a little lucky with Corona quarantines."

  • Australian Open: Nadal downs Khachanov to secure fourth-round berth Australian Open: Nadal downs Khachanov to secure fourth-round berth

    Rafael Nadal continued his search for a record-breaking 21st grand slam title with a routine victory over Karen Khachanov at the Australian Open.

    The Spaniard, aiming to achieve the record for most grand slams won by a man, cruised past Khachanov with a 6-3 6-2 3-6 6-1 third-round victory at the first major of 2022 on Friday.

    Nadal improved upon his perfect 7-0 record against the Russian, who he last faced at the 2019 Davis Cup Finals, and has only ever lost two of 20 sets in meetings between the pair.

    The 35-year-old will now wait to see whether he faces Aslan Karatsev, the 18th seed in Melbourne, or Adrian Mannarino in the fourth round.

     

    Nadal raced out the blocks, breaking the 25-year-old at the first time of asking as he grasped a 3-0 lead within the opening exchanges at Rod Laver Arena.

    The 28th seed Khachanov fought back to 5-3 down but Nadal produced another dominant service to secure the first set, in which he dropped just one point on his serve.

    A marathon first service game of the second set eventually ended with Nadal again breaking Khachanov after a gruelling 13 minutes and seven deuces before claiming the second set in straightforward fashion.

    However, Khachanov – who managed silver at the Tokyo Olympics – bounced back in the third with Nadal making numerous mistakes and unable to cope with his mammoth forehand.

    Nadal managed to regain his composure in the following set, celebrating enthusiastically after breaking Khachanov's first service game, before outclassing his opponent, who seemed to run out of steam in a match that lasted 2 hours and 51 minutes.

    DATA SLAM: Nadal powers on at Melbourne Park

    Nadal has lost on only two occasions in his career when boasting a two-set lead, with the most recent coming against Stefanos Tsitsipas in the quarter-final of this tournament last year.

    Despite a spirited fightback from the Russian, Nadal moved onto a 72-15 record at the year's first major, with only Roger Federer (102) and Novak Djokovic (82) recording more victories at Melbourne Park.

    WINNERS/UNFORCED ERRORS

    Nadal – 39/30

    Khachanov – 36/42

    ACES/DOUBLE FAULTS

    Nadal – 4/6

    Khachanov – 14/3

    BREAK POINTS WON

    Nadal – 5/15

    Khachanov – 1/5

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