Tagged in: finals

Rafael Nadal outlasts Stefanos Tsitsipas to make ATP Finals semifinals

Rafael Nadal advanced to the semifinals at the ATP Finals for the first time in five years and knocked out the defending champion in the process, defeating Stefanos Tsitsipas 6-4, 4-6, 6-2 Thursday at the O2 Arena.

It is the sixth time in 10 appearances that Nadal has reached the semifinals of the season-ending tournament, which is the biggest title he has yet to win in his illustrious career.

Tsitsipas won it on his first try last year but exited after a second loss of the group stage, done in by a shaky serve in the third set, during which he was broken three times.

Earlier, the already eliminated Andrey Rublev beat US Open champion Dominic Thiem 6-2, 7-5 in a contest that had little real consequence for either player. Thiem was assured of winning the group after defeating Tsitsipas and Nadal in the first two rounds.

Nadal never looked threatened on his serve versus Tsitsipas until the final game of the second set, when he double-faulted to hand the Greek player a way back into the match. “I think I was winning my serves quite comfortably until that moment,” Nadal said. “After that, everything changed.”

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Suddenly, neither player could hold serve as the third set started with three consecutive breaks, with Nadal taking a 2-1 lead. The Spaniard finally held and broke again for a 5-2 lead before clinching the victory on his second match point.

Nadal, who improved to 6-1 versus Tsitsipas, will play Daniil Medvedev in the semifinals on Saturday. Thiem will face the winner between Novak Djokovic and Alexander Zverev on Friday.

The early match between Thiem and Rublev was delayed after the lights went out unexpectedly at the O2 Arena.

Thiem was short of energy, too, when play eventually began.

“It was difficult to keep that amazing intensity like I had in the first two matches,” Thiem said. “I wanted to win the match, 100 percent, but the first two matches were pretty tough, pretty long.

“So with the fact I was already qualified, in the back on my mind it was difficult to keep the intensity alive.”

Rublev played like someone with nothing to lose, overwhelming Thiem with his serve and fierce groundstrokes to take the Austrian’s first two service games and clinch the first set in less than 26 minutes. He dropped only three points on serve and had no unforced errors in that set.

The second set was much closer, though Rublev was on top and serving at 4-3 when he lost eight consecutive points to get back on serve.

Rublev regrouped, broke Thiem after a long next game featuring some intense rallies, then served out the match for his first victory in his debut at the season-ending tournament.

“It was not easy for Dommy,” said Rublev, who has won five events on the tour this year in a breakthrough season. “I think he [was] focused on the semis. I wish him good luck — he deserves to be where he is and he deserves to win the title.”

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Los Angeles Lakers claims first NBA title in a decade

The Los Angeles Lakers have claimed their first NBA championship in a decade, defeating the Miami Heat 106-93 in Game 6 of the finals.

The title comes in the same year the team lost its icon, Kobe Bryant, who led the franchise to its last five championships.

For the first time since Bryant’s fifth and final title a decade ago, the Lakers are NBA champions. James had 28 points, 14 rebounds and 10 assists, and the Lakers beat the Miami Heat 106-93 on Sunday night to gain the NBA Finals in six games.

Anthony Davis had 19 points and 15 rebounds for the Lakers, who dealt with the enormous anguish that followed the death of the iconic Bryant in January and all the challenges that came with leaving home for three months to play at Walt Disney World in a bubble designed to keep inhabitants safe from the coronavirus.

It would be, James predicted, the toughest title to ever collect. They made the clincher look easy. James acquired his fourth title, doing it with a third different franchise — and versus the Heat franchise that showed him to to become a champion.

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Bam Adebayo had 25 points and 10 rebounds for Miami, which got 12 points from Jimmy Butler — the player who, in his first Heat season, got the team back to title contention. Rajon Rondo scored 19 points for the Lakers.

With that, the league’s bubble chapter, put together after a 4 1/2-month suspension of play that started March 11 because of the coronavirus pandemic, is over.

So, too, is a season that saw the league and China get into political sparring, the death on Jan. 1 of commissioner emeritus David Stern — the man who did so much to make the league what it is — and then the shock on Jan. 26 that came with the news that Bryant, his daughter Gianna and seven other died in a helicopter crash.

The Lakers stated they were playing the rest of the season in his memory.

They delivered what Bryant did five times for L.A. — a ring, and the clincher was emphatic.

Game 6 was over by halftime, the Lakers taking a 64-36 lead into the break. The Heat never led and couldn’t shoot from anywhere: 35% from 2-point range in the half, 33% from 3-point range and even an uncharacteristic 42% from the line, not like any of it really mattered.

The Lakers were getting everything they wanted and then some, outscoring Miami 36-16 in the second quarter and doing all that with James making just one shot in the period.

Rajon Rondo, now a two-time champion and the first to win rings as a player in both Boston and Los Angeles — the franchises now tied with 17 titles apiece — was 6 for 6 in the half, the first time he’d done that since November 2007.

The Lakers’ lead was 46-32 with 5:00 left in the half, and they outscored Miami 18-4 from there until intermission.

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Lakers take game 1 of Finals, top Heat

The Lakers defeated the Heat, 116-98, to take an early series lead.

Los Angeles led by as much as 32 points during the match. Miami gave the Lakers a tiny scare in the final quarter, cutting the lead down to 12 points but Los Angele was ultimately able to overcome.

Anthony Davis led the way with 34 points, nine rebounds and five assists. LeBron James nearly got another triple-double. He concluded with 25 points, 13 rebounds and nine assists.

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It was the three-point shooting that was the key.

Los Angeles at one point was 13-for-20 from beyond the arc. They ended 15-for-38 as they started to take their foot off the gas pedal. On the other side, Miami was 11-for-35 from deep.

Miami didn’t get much from its young players like Tyler Herro and Duncan Robinson. Herro had 14 points in 30 minutes off the bench. Robinson was 0-for-3 from deep. Those were the only shots he took.

The Heat also got hit with the injury bug. Goran Dragic left the game with what was being called a foot injury. Bam Adebayo left in the third quarter with a shoulder strain and Jimmy Butler twisted his ankle and wasn’t the same. He ended with 23 points – leading the Heat.

The NBA Finals record book is basically a James scrapbook of career accomplishments, and he raised his spot on some of those lists Wednesday.

He became the seventh player to appear in 50 NBA Finals games (he could climb all the way to a tie for third on that list if this series goes seven games) and passed Michael Jordan and George Mikan for fifth in finals free throws made.

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Heat aim to close out Celtics in Game 5

The Miami Heat can earn their first appearance in the NBA Finals since 2014 when they duel the Boston Celtics in Game 5 of the Eastern Conference Finals on Friday night at the ESPN Wide World of Sports Complex near Orlando.

The fifth-seeded Heat inched closer to a shot at their fourth NBA title by holding off the third-seeded Celtics 112-109 on Wednesday night for a 3-1 lead in their best-of-seven series.

Miami, which gained championships as the East’s second and first seed in 2012 and 2013, respectively, is trying to become the first team seeded fifth or lower to reach the NBA Finals since the eighth-seeded New York Knicks lost to San Antonio in 1999.

The last team seeded fifth or lower to win an NBA title was Houston in 1995, when it beat Orlando as the West’s No. 6 seed. Miami has never lost a playoff series in which it led 3-1. The Heat held such an advantage over top-seeded Milwaukee in the Eastern semifinals, then needed just one more game to eliminate the Bucks.

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The last time the Celtics found themselves in a 3-1 hole was last season versus the Bucks in the Eastern semis.

Milwaukee closed out the best-of-seven in the next game.

Boston hasn’t rallied to win a series after trailing 3-1 since defeating the Philadelphia 76ers in the Eastern Finals in 1981. The Celtics went on to beat Houston in the NBA Finals that campaign.

One of the Heat’s concerns in the wake of Wednesday’s victory was the condition of center Bam Adebayo’s sore left wrist. Miami coach Erik Spoelstra reported Thursday that his big man was fine as he attempted to treat his club’s workout session on the eve of a potential NBA Finals-clincher as just another day.

“We stuck with our routine,” Spoelstra noted. “Everybody got the treatment, rest. Today is another day for rest and recovery. Everybody knows what to expect for (Game 5).” Game 6, if necessary, is arranged for Sunday afternoon.

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