LeBron misses second straight Lakers game with ankle injury

By Sports Desk October 27, 2021

LeBron James will be missing again for the Los Angeles Lakers on Wednesday as he nurses a sore right ankle.

Four-time NBA MVP James started the Lakers' first three games of the season, averaging 26.0 points in 38.0 minutes as his team made a rocky 1-2 start.

But the 36-year-old suffered the injury in a first win of the year against the Memphis Grizzlies and was absent for Tuesday's overtime win over the San Antonio Spurs.

Malik Monk made his first Lakers start in James' place and scored 17 points.

The former Hornets guard, who only started one game in four years in Charlotte, is now set to be included in the line-up again versus the Oklahoma City Thunder with James officially ruled out.

The Lakers could also be without Anthony Davis, listed as questionable against the Thunder after hurting his knee against the Spurs.

These early injuries will concern LA, given James and Davis played just 45 and 36 games respectively in 2020-21 as the Lakers failed to build on their 2020 Finals success.

James played just 42.9 per cent of possible minutes for the Lakers in the regular season last year, the lowest rate of his career and only the second season in which he has dipped below the halfway mark – also 48.9 per cent in 2018-19, his first season as a Laker.

It was a high ankle sprain that caused James the most trouble, but coach Frank Vogel assured reporters this latest issue is not related.

"Same ankle, different spot, different injury," he said.

The Lakers will at least hope to be able to cope without their key men against the Thunder, who are facing a third 0-5 start in franchise history (also 2007-08, 1969-70).

OKC are 2-27 in their past 29 games dating back to last season, when they were swept by the Lakers.

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    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

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    Nadal – 5/15

    Khachanov – 1/5

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    Naomi Osaka is taking pride from her Australian Open campaign despite suffering a shock third-round exit to unseeded Amanda Anisimova on Friday.

    The two-time Melbourne champion fell short in her latest title defence with a 4-6 6-3 7-6 (10-5) loss to Anisimova in a thrilling contest on Margaret Court Arena.

    Osaka, who eased past Camila Osorio and Madison Brengle in straight sets in the first two rounds, squandered two match points to overcome 20-year-old opponent Anisimova.

    It means the Japanese star has now failed to defend any of her four major crowns, with Victoria Azarenka the last women's player to do so at Melbourne Park in 2012 and 2013.

    But competing in her first competitive event since exiting the US Open to Leylah Fernandez in September, Osaka was pleased with her efforts.

    "I fought for every point. I can't be sad about that," said Osaka, who nearly walked away from tennis last year.

    "I'm not God, I can't win every match. It would be nice to win the tournament, but I can't think of winning the grand slam at the start of the year every time.

    "I feel like I grew a lot in this match. The last time I played in New York I think I had a completely different attitude, so I'm really happy, even though I lost. I'm happy how it went."

    Osaka's Australian Open title defence has been halted by a breakthrough American talent for the second time, having previously lost to Coco Gauff at the same stage in 2020.

    Despite match points passing the world number 13 by, she refused to be too downbeat by the manner of the defeat.

    "There are days that I'm going to have bad days, and there are days that I'm going to have great days," she said. 

    "It's always random, and I never know, but no matter what happens for me, I just want to leave the court knowing that I fought for every point.

    "Today, of course there were things I felt I could improve on, but even with that, I had two match points, and I think that's something that I can be proud of myself for."

    Osaka had dropped just one set in her first five matches this season and looked in the mood as she raced ahead against Anisimova.

    But Anisimova hit more than twice the number of winners that Osaka managed (46 to 21) to pull off a huge upset and set up a last-16 clash with top seed Ash Barty.

    The American lifted her second career title at Melbourne Summer Set 2 earlier this month and has now won 10 of the last 11 matches she has played, including all eight in 2022. 

    It is the first time Anisimova has won from match point down since the 2019 Mallorca Open and the youngster was lost for words in her on-court interview.

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    "I knew I had to be playing sharp if I wanted to give myself a chance, Naomi is always going to be playing well and she's an absolute champion. 

    "I knew I had to step up my game and try to be aggressive, I think that's what I started doing in the second set.

    "I'm so grateful I was able to play well and get this win, it means a lot. Stepping on to the court, all I'm thinking is having fun. Every day here is an amazing opportunity."

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    Jota scored twice in a 2-0 win for the Reds at Arsenal on Thursday in the second leg of their EFL Cup semi-final.

    Once more shorn of Sadio Mane and Mohamed Salah, who are on international duty with Senegal and Egypt respectively at the Africa Cup of Nations, Liverpool progressed with relative ease to set up a final against Chelsea next month.

    It is the first time the Reds have made a cup final since 2019, when they won the Champions League by defeating Tottenham in Madrid.

    Liverpool spent £41million to sign Jota from Wolves in September 2020 and he has gone on to score 27 goals in 57 appearances across all competitions.

    Since he made his debut on September 24, 2020, only seven Liverpool players have featured more times across all competitions than Jota, with just Salah (51) able to better the Portugal international's goal tally.

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    Of outfield players to have featured at least five times, Jota has the third-best shooting accuracy (excluding blocks), with 59.1 per cent.

    Jota is second in the Premier League scoring charts this season with 10 goals from 20 appearances, trailing only team-mate Salah (16), although he has slightly underperformed his expected goals (xG) of 11.4, suggesting he has missed some big opportunities.

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    "Work," Klopp answered when asked what the trick to Jota's success was. "But if you don’t have the basis, nobody can perform miracles.

    "Diogo came in and he was an outstanding player, but it helps if you are a striker when your team has more of the ball. Yesterday he had to do an awful lot to make it happen.

    "Diogo is a really impressive person. Really grown up, a really mature young man. Loves football, loves working, training.

    "He was in the middle of the team after three weeks, there was no time to adapt. I'm really happy for him. If you have this quality it’s nice that you can show it and that's what he's done."

    Klopp also stressed the importance of Liverpool switching focus back to the Premier League and putting thoughts of the EFL Cup final to one side.

    "The boys really wanted it and made it happen and are really looking forward to the final. The only problem is six or seven games to play until then. So we have to put it to the side a little bit but keep the feeling," he said.

    "We were flying after the game, the boys were in a really good mood. That's how it should be. It gives us confidence, everything that was said without [Mane, Salah and Naby Keita] available, it's good for us.

    "But we have to create a different mood until Sunday because Palace away, they don't give any presents, so we have to be in the fighting mood again.

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    Liverpool have won their last six Premier League away games against Palace, including a 7-0 victory in the corresponding fixture last season, though Klopp is expecting a much sterner test this time.

    "A one-off, a freak of nature. That day was incredible, we scored pretty much with each shot," Klopp added. 

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