NBA

Harden stars on 76ers debut alongside Embiid, Clippers edge Lakers

By Sports Desk February 26, 2022

James Harden scored 27 points with 13 assists on his Philadelphia 76ers debut and formed a strong partnership with Joel Embiid in a 133-102 win over the Minnesota Timberwolves on Friday.

Harden, who crossed from the Brooklyn Nets in an NBA Trade Deadline move earlier this month, almost registered a debut triple-double, with eight rebounds.

Embiid has been in irrepressible form this season, although there had been some concern Harden's arrival may blunt some of his offensive impact, but the center contributed 34 points, 10 rebounds and three assists.

The new-look 76ers had immediate cohesion, scoring 65 points in the first half, before a 41-point final quarter with Tyrese Maxey finishing with 28 points while Harden also drained five three-pointers, shooting seven-of-12 from the field.

The 76ers recorded a season-high 19 three-pointers for the game, with head coach Doc Rivers admitting "that was pretty good" when asked post-game if Harden's debut could have gone any better.

 

Lakers fall to Clippers again

Terance Mann led the way with 19 points and 10 rebounds as the Los Angeles Clippers won a tight game with the Los Angeles Lakers 105-102, the sixth time in a row they have beaten their local rivals.

LeBron James top scored with 21 but was unable to stop the Clippers from taking charge in the closing moments, with Amir Coffey adding 12 of his 14 points for the night in the fourth quarter.

The San Antonio Spurs edged the Washington Wizards 157-153 in double over-time, with both teams setting season-highs in scoring. Spurs guard Dejounte Murray recorded a triple-double, although he missed potential winning shots in both regulation and the first over-time.

RJ Barrett scored 46 points including six three-pointers but the New York Knicks went down 115-110 to the Miami Heat, while Donovan Mitchell scored 33 points and Rudy Gobert had a double-double (14 points and 17 rebounds) as the Utah Jazz beat Luka Doncic's Dallas Mavericks 114-109.

 

Suns streak halted

The table-topping Phoenix Suns' eight-game winning streak came to an end, going down 117-102 to the lowly New Orleans Pelicans. Devin Booker top scored with 30 points for the Suns, who were without injured veteran guard Chris Paul. CJ McCollum scored 32 points for the Pels as he continues to thrive following his trade.

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  • Belgium 0-2 Morocco: Sabiri and Aboukhlal sink Red Devils for famous World Cup win Belgium 0-2 Morocco: Sabiri and Aboukhlal sink Red Devils for famous World Cup win

    A superb second-half performance from Morocco secured a famous 2-0 World Cup victory against Belgium at Al Thumama Stadium on Sunday.

    Victory for Roberto Martinez's side would have seen the 2018 semi-finalists become the second side to book their spot in the knockout stage, alongside France, but the Red Devils fell short.

    Having seen a first-half free-kick from Hakim Ziyech disallowed, the same tactic provided dividends in the second period as Abdelhamid Sabiri put Morocco on course for just a third win in their World Cup history.

    The win was then secured in the final minutes of the game, Zakaria Aboukhlal smashing home from close range after Ziyech's fine work.

    Belgium saw the majority of possession early on and dictated play, Michy Batshuayi forcing an early save from Munir Mohamedi, who came into the side as a very late change for Yassine Bounou.

    Having been on the back foot for the majority, Morocco thought they had scored on the brink of half-time as Ziyech's free-kick found its way into the net, but Romain Saiss was offside and adjudged to have blocked Thibaut Courtois' line of sight.

    Lightning struck twice for Martinez's side after the break, as Sabiri whipped in a dangerous free-kick to the near post which found its way past Courtois and, while Saiss was again in the proximity, there was no offside flag to save Belgium this time.

    Any hope of a late fightback from Belgium was wiped away in added time, Ziyech winning the ball off a poor touch from Axel Witsel and teeing up for Aboukhlal to smash home.

  • Costa Rica can 'still dream' after late World Cup win against Japan Costa Rica can 'still dream' after late World Cup win against Japan

    Luis Fernando Suarez is relieved his Costa Rica team can "still dream" after they sealed a vital 1-0 win against Japan at the World Cup on Sunday.

    Coming off the back of a 7-0 thrashing at the hands of Spain in their opening game, Keysher Fuller's 81st-minute strike against the run of play at Ahmad bin Ali Stadium handed Costa Rica a win that gives them a chance of advancing to the knockout stage in Qatar.

    Los Ticos became the first team to concede seven goals in a game and then win their next match at the World Cup since Paraguay in 1958 (lost 7-3 to France, won 3-2 against Scotland).

    Head coach Suarez said he did not want to discuss "tactics or technical aspects" of the win as he praised his team at his post-match press conference.

    "I believe the main thing was our ability to do such amazing things," he said. "I'm not going to talk about tactical or technical aspects, today I need to value and appreciate what they have done to get this result.

    "We had to face many challenges but we firmly believed and wanted to be 100 per cent committed for our country to play well against a strong opponent like Japan.

    "We are alive [in the group], that is the main thing and no-one can forget about us yet. We can still dream."

    Fuller was the hero, with his goal the only shot Costa Rica have had on target in the tournament so far, and the 28-year-old added: "The main thing was to keep ourselves alive and to win, and we managed to do so.

    "We were in pain after the Spain defeat, but now we took a weight off our shoulders. We are a group that wants to achieve great things."

    Japan struggled to reproduce the form that saw them shock Germany in their opening game in Qatar, but the Samurai Blue still dominated large parts of the game, having 13 shots to Costa Rica's four and recording an expected goals (xG) rate of 0.8 to their opponents' 0.1.

    Head coach Hajime Moriyasu was left disappointed but stated in his press conference that his team will go into their final Group E clash against Spain with confidence.

    "It wasn't a bad match," he insisted. "In the second half we were trying to control the game and if we could have had total control, we would have won, but it didn't happen.

    "We beat Germany but that does not mean we will beat Spain. Both countries are World Cup winners, we have a lot of respect for them.

    "The Spain match will be tough but I think there is a good chance for us to win, so we have to prepare and go with confidence."

  • South Korea v Ghana: Taeguk Warriors targeting apparent lack of 'teamwork' as Addo keeps faith South Korea v Ghana: Taeguk Warriors targeting apparent lack of 'teamwork' as Addo keeps faith

    Unity will likely be key if Ghana are to avoid an early elimination from the World Cup, though that is seemingly an area upcoming opponents South Korea are aiming to exploit.

    The Black Stars put up a good fight as they lost 3-2 to Portugal, almost rescuing a commendable point only to see Inaki Williams slip at the vital moment after stealing the ball off goalkeeper Diogo Costa.

    As such, defeat at Education City on Monday will see Ghana exit at the group stage in consecutive appearances at the World Cup (also in 2014) after reaching the knockout rounds in both of their first two (2006 and 2010).

    But Ghana coach Otto Addo retains a positive outlook.

    Granted, his optimism is based partly on Portugal doing Ghana a favour against Uruguay, but Addo sees a real possibility of the Black Stars sitting second in Group H heading into the final game of the first stage.

    Asked if he was confident Ghana could still reach the last 16, Addo said: "First of all, certainly, we have a chance, especially because [South Korea and Uruguay] played a draw.

    "If we win against South Korea and Portugal wins, hopefully, against Uruguay, then we will be second, so the chance is still great.

    "For sure, it will be very, very tough to beat South Korea because they are good, but now we have to win. We are under pressure, but they are too."

    Ghana have not won any of their past five World Cup matches but they rarely fail to score, having netted at least once in six successive games at the tournament – Nigeria (eight) are the only African team to better that streak.

    With that in mind, South Korea will probably need to improve on their run of not scoring in three of their past five World Cup outings if they are to prevail on Monday.

    On top of that, they have failed to get a single shot on target in two of their most recent four fixtures at the tournament, and that includes the stalemate with Uruguay when they looked somewhat toothless.

    However, Paulo Bento's men seem to feel there will be an element of Ghana not helping themselves.

    Midfielder Jeong Woo-yeong said: "They are a fast team, but if we can take advantage of space behind their defence, I think we should have some opportunities.

    "They didn't seem to have such great team work. We played well in our first match and we'll try to build on that against Ghana."

    Fellow midfielder Song Min-kyu did not question Ghana's work ethic, though he picked up on a similar theme with regards to exploiting the Black Star's backline.

    "They have some speedy and physical players with good skills. We know we have to be prepared against them.

    "But we also saw that they had some holes behind their defense, and we should try to exploit that extra space."

    PLAYERS TO WATCH

    South Korea – Lee Kang-in

    Son Heung-min is, of course, South Korea's star. He will undoubtedly be expected to lead from the front, but he was ineffective against Portugal, managing just a single shot.

    Lee had some bright moments off the bench and ended up recording two key passes, a figure bettered by none of his team-mates. It is unclear if he will come into the starting XI, but he certainly has the ability to influence proceedings off the bench.

    Ghana – Thomas Partey

    Arsenal midfielder Partey showed how important he is to Ghana in the defeat to Portugal. Perhaps not known as a creator, he laid on two chances to team-mates in that game, a joint-high for Addo's side.

    But on top of that, he had the most touches (68), successful passes (47) and tackles (four) in the Ghana team. If they do beat South Korea, he will surely have played a vital role.

    PREDICTION

    With a 40.9 per cent chance of winning, South Korea go into this as the favourites according to Stats Perform data. However, the win probability calculator suggests it could be a very tight affair.

    The likelihood of a Ghana win sits at 31.3 per cent, meaning they have every right to feel they can leave with the three points – though a draw looks almost as likely (27.8 per cent).

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