NBA

Jokic returns and helps Nuggets snap skid amid boos in Miami, Doncic ties Robertson record

By Sports Desk November 30, 2021

Nikola Jokic's return proved the perfect tonic for the slumping Denver Nuggets after the reigning MVP helped snap a six-game slide in a 120-111 victory over the Miami Heat.

All eyes were on Jokic, who had missed four straight games because of a wrist injury amid Denver's worst six-game stretch since the 2014-15 season.

There was also plenty of interest as the Nuggets and Heat renewed hostilities for the first time since Jokic and Miami's Markieff Morris were involved in a dustup on November 8.

Jokic received a one-game ban after shoving Morris in the back as tempers flared – the Nuggets star reacting angrily after the Heat veteran came in with a hard foul, catching his opponent with a left elbow to the chest.

While the Heat were shorthanded in the absence of Morris – who has missed 11 consecutive games since the incident, Jimmy Butler and Tyler Herro, Miami fans let their feelings known, booing Jokic every time he touched the ball.

Jokic, with his two brothers behind the Denver bench, was not fussed as he posted 24 points, 15 rebounds and seven assists.

Double-doubles from Bam Adebayo (24 points and 13 rebounds) and Kyle Lowry (17 points and 14 assists) were not enough for the Heat.

 

Doncic matches Robertson

Luka Doncic had 25 points, 10 assists and 10 rebounds in the Dallas Mavericks' 114-96 loss to the Cleveland Cavaliers. He tied Hall of Famer Oscar Robertson for the most triple-doubles (38) before turning 23. Mavericks star Doncic celebrates his 23rd birthday in February.

Lonzo Ball earned family bragging rights after the Chicago Bulls outlasted the Charlotte Hornets 133-119. Up against brother LaMelo and the Hornets, Lonzo's Balls prevailed thanks to Nikola Vucevic (30 points and 14 rebounds), DeMar DeRozan (28 points) and Zach LaVine (25 points). According to Stats Perform, Chicago are the first team to have a starting guard (LaVine), starting forward (DeRozan) and starting center (Vucevic) have 25-plus points, five-plus rebounds and five-plus assists in the same game since the Orlando Magic in January 1994. LaMelo Ball's 18 points and 13 assists were not enough for the Hornets.

Seth Curry put up 24 points on 10-of-13 shooting as the Philadelphia 76ers held on to beat the Magic 101-96 at home. The 76ers are riding a five-game winning streak against the Magic – their longest such streak against Orlando.

Jonas Valanciunas nailed seven of his three-point attempts as he torched the Los Angeles Clippers in a 39-point and 15-rebound performance, the New Orleans Pelicans triumphing 123-104.

 

Lillard struggles in Blazers loss

Much was said about All-Star Damian Lillard heading into the season amid question marks over his future with the Portland Trail Blazers. Had he outgrown the smalltown market? Well, his topsy-turvy campaign continued after scoring just 11 points on four-of-12 shooting from the floor in the 129-107 defeat at the Utah Jazz.

Rookie of the Year candidate Josh Giddey had a game to forget as fellow strugglers the Houston Rockets eased past the Oklahoma City Thunder 102-89. In 25 minutes, Giddey made only one of his nine shots from the field, missing his five three-point attempts for two points in total.

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    Primoz Roglic will set out on a mission to create cycling history as the Slovenian gets his Vuelta a Espana campaign under way on Friday.

    The 77th edition of the Grand Tour starts in Utrecht, with the opening three stages taking place across the Netherlands before the caravan transfers to Spain.

    It is only the fourth time that the Vuelta has started outside of Spain, after doing so in Portugal in 1997, the Netherlands in 2009 and France in 2017.

    Spanish riders have won 32 of the previous 76 editions, but not since 2014 has a Spaniard triumphed, when Alberto Contador tasted glory.

    It is the longest wait for a Spaniard champion in the race's history, and in the last three years, it is Roglic who has dominated.

    Meanwhile, Alejandro Valverde, the 2009 champion, will bid goodbye to his home Grand Tour.

    Roglic's shot at history

    Roglic won his first Vuelta title in 2019 and successfully defended in 2020, despite his heartbreaking defeat to Tadej Pogacar at that year's Tour de France.

    He crashed out of Le Tour in 2021 but bounced back in style, winning Olympic gold in Tokyo before clinching a third-straight Vuelta triumph to match the feats of Tony Rominger (1992 to 1994) and Roberto Heras (2003 to 2005).

    Now, Roglic has history in his sights. Only Heras has won the Vuelta on four occasions, but no rider has ever won it over four successive years.

    The 32-year-old Roglic's Tour de France again ended early this year, as he watched team-mate Jonas Vingegaard storm to success and set up a rivalry with Roglic's compatriot Pogacar that should enthral for years to come; but at the Vuelta, Roglic is Jumbo-Visma's main man.

    Roglic has won the Vuelta in all of his three appearances, reaching nine stage wins in this period, more than any other rider (Fabio Jakobsen is the next best, with five to his name). He also claimed the points ranking in both 2019 and 2020, and could equal Erik Zabel (three) as joint-second on the all-time list for that classification, behind Sean Kelly, Valverde and Laurent Jalabert (four each).

    "Of course the record gives me more motivation, it's special," said Roglic in a press conference on Thursday. "We're going to fight for that."

    There are some concerns over his fitness after the injury he suffered at Le Tour, however.

    Roglic said: "At certain moments I still feel some pain, but it is already much better than before. We'll see. If I get to the start here, it means I'm ready too. But I'll have to wait and see in the coming days and weeks to find out how it really goes."

    Roglic could also feasibly set a record for the most stages wearing the red leader's jersey. He is currently level with Herras on 36, 12 behind Alex Zulle's haul of 48.

    A last dance for Vuelta veterans?

    Valverde, of Movistar, will be making his 16th Vuelta appearance. The 42-year-old has achieved more podium finishes in the general classification than any other rider, having done so on seven occasions, including his 2009 success.

    If he completes the race, Valverde, who has won 12 individual stages at La Vuelta, will equal Federico Etxabe, Chente Garcia Acosta and Inigo Cuesta as riders who have finished the most times (14).

    "To win a stage would be incredible," Valverde said on Thursday. "I don't believe I will be at the same level as the best during 21 days, but we do have a team-mate who can be among the top three or perhaps even win. What I see for myself is that I will try to win a stage."

    Chris Froome, meanwhile, is a two-time Vuelta champion who is out to prove himself once more.

    The seven-time Grand Tour winner has been struggling with COVID-19 in the build-up this time but is set to make his eighth appearance in the race, having finished on the podium four times, taking the 2011 and 2017 titles.

    The first of those victories was only awarded to Froome in 2019 after original race winner Juan Jose Cobo was disqualified for a doping offence.

    In a stellar career, Froome has become the first British rider to win all three of the biggest races in cycling.

  • Raducanu plots free path to success after thrashing Azarenka Raducanu plots free path to success after thrashing Azarenka

    Emma Raducanu admitted she has been "too tense" in recent defeats and is aiming to play more freely as she prepares to defend her US Open title.

    Raducanu has struggled to follow up last year's shock win at Flushing Meadow, but she appears to have hit form at just the right time.

    The 19-year-old has beaten both Serena Williams and Victoria Azarenka in straight sets during this week's Western and Southern Open in Cincinnati, dropping just four games against Williams and two against Azarenka.

    Her win against Azarenka on Wednesday was just Raducanu's third career victory against a top-25 opponent, after beating Belinda Bencic and Maria Sakkari on her way to winning last year's US Open.

    Speaking after her win against the Belarusian, Raducanu said: "I think I have tried a lot of things, and this year I think some matches, I have lost a lot of matches from leading situations and probably just played too tense.

    "I think that I just need to swing, and I just said that these two tournaments, or this tournament especially, I'm just going to swing freely and take that and see what happens."

    Raducanu also said she will wait until after the tournament to reflect on beating two multiple grand slam champions with relative ease.

    "I think after the tournament I actually have to take a step back and be like, 'Look, you just beat two unbelievable champions'," she said. "It's a pretty good achievement. You know how difficult the wins are to come by."

    The number 10 seed will face seventh seed Jessica Pegula in the third round in Cincinnati on Thursday.

  • Ronaldo 'doesn't have time' to be part of Man Utd project, says Nani Ronaldo 'doesn't have time' to be part of Man Utd project, says Nani

    Cristiano Ronaldo "does not have time" to stick around for another season at Manchester United, according to former team-mate Nani.

    Portugal international Ronaldo is reportedly seeking a move away from United just under a year after returning to the club from Juventus.

    However, a lack of viable options – with Chelsea and Bayern Munich said to have rejected the chance to sign him – has left the 37-year-old superstar in a tricky situation.

    Ronaldo's complicated situation has only been exacerbated following United's opening home defeat to Brighton and Hove Albion and a 4-0 drubbing at the hands of Brentford.

    With United undergoing another rebuild under new manager Erik ten Hag, ex-United winger Nani can understand why his compatriot is looking to leave.

    "Times change and the reactions and attitude can change as well," Nani said on Rio Ferdinand's Vibe with Five podcast.

    "But, as we see, he's doing the same things as usual. He doesn't like to lose and he reacts when the team is not doing well. The only difference is that it's different times. 

    "He's playing again at Man United, but he's been all over the world doing well at different teams with different players.

    "He's in a team where the manager is trying to build a strong team, and it's not easy, it takes time. Cristiano doesn't have time to lose on building teams or waiting for next season. 

    "He wants to continue to be at the top, scoring goals, being the man. That's why the reaction is normal. We all have the wrong reactions sometimes."

    Ronaldo was recalled to United's starting line-up for the defeat to Brentford and had six shots, twice as many as any other player on the field, without finding the net.

    With their latest dismal defeat, United have started a Premier League campaign with back-to-back losses for the first time since the competition's inaugural campaign in 1992-93.

    Stretching back into last season, the Red Devils have now lost four successive league games for the first time since February 1979.

    Nani, who won four Premier League titles and the Champions League during his seven full seasons with United, has hit out at the attitude of the club's current crop of players.

    "I don't like to talk too much. I don't talk about players, but you can see there is no hunger, there is no attitude or desire to win in the club," he said.

    "You have a lot of talented players, but they don't want to get tired. If I had to get sweaty to win, I would. They prefer to not sweat.

    "You have talented players in the team with a lot of skills. They can shoot with their right foot and left, but the last game, no one was shooting at goal, everyone was passing."

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