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NEW YORK: Philadelphia’s Joel Embiid returned from injury to score a game-high 31 points and grab 16 rebounds, powering the 76ers to a 112-108 NBA playoff victory at Brooklyn on Saturday.
Despite a third-quarter incident that saw two players ejected, the 76ers seized a 3-1 lead in the first-round series against the Nets and could advance in the Eastern Conference best-of-seven matchup with a home victory Tuesday.
In the other Eastern Conference game, Khris Middleton finished with 20 points and nine rebounds as the top-seeded Milwaukee Bucks put the Detroit Pistons on the brink of elimination with a 119-103 win. The victory give the Bucks a 3-0 lead and they can wrap up the series with a win on the road in the Motor City on Monday.
Philadelphia, down by 10 points early in the third quarter, battled back most of the second half before taking the lead on a run of eight points by Embiid, who missed game three with a sore left knee.
A slam dunk and layup by Embiid gave the 76ers their first late lead at 102-101 but, after an exchange of layups and three-pointers as well as turnovers, fell behind 108-107 on a basket by Brooklyn’s Joe Harris with 25 seconds remaining.
On the next 76er possession, Embiid flipped the last of his seven assists to Mike Scott, whose corner three-pointer put Philadelphia ahead to stay 110-108 with 19 seconds remaining.
Australian Ben Simmons — who added 15 points, eight rebounds and eight assists for the 76ers — stole the ball from Brooklyn’s Jarett Allen and Tobias Harris sank two free throws for the last of his 24 points to clinch the triumph.
Caris LeVert led the Nets with 25 points while Brooklyn had 21 points each from Allen and D’Angelo Russell.
Cameroon star center Embiid was issued a flagrant foul in touching off an altercation 4:18 into the third quarter that saw Philadelphia’s Jimmy Butler Brooklyn’s Jared Dudley ejected. Embiid, who had elbowed Allen in the face in game two, was whistled for a hard foul on Allen that prompted Dudley to rush at Embiid, taking down the Sixers big man. Butler swung his left arm at Dudley, who wound up in the front row seats with Simmons at one stage, to earn his ejection.
In Detroit, Brook Lopez tallied 19 points and had seven rebounds and five blocked shots and Eric Bledsoe scored 19 points for the Bucks.
Giannis Antetokounmpo delivered 14 points and 10 rebounds for his third straight double-double in the series and Nikola Mirotic chipped in 12 points.
Detroit’s hobbled star Blake Griffin had 27 points in 31 minutes after he missed the first two games of the series with a sore knee.
Griffin was cleared with his leg heavily wrapped but it didn’t change the outcome.
The Pistons have now lost 13 straight playoff games dating back to 2008. In the Western Conference, the Denver Nuggets — led by game highs of 29 points, 12 rebounds and eight assists from Serbian playmaker Nikola Jokic — pulled level with San Antonio at 2-2 in their opening series with a 117-103 road triumph over the Spurs.
LIVERPOOL: Ole Gunnar Solskjaer’s problems since taking over as permanent Manchester United manager intensified with a humiliating 4-0 loss away to Everton on Sunday.
Defeat at Goodison Park — United’s sixth in eight games — also dealt a huge blow to the Red Devils’ hopes of playing in the Champions League next season.
Goals from Richarlison, Gylfi Sigurdsson, Lucas Digne and Theo Walcott inflicted the largest defeat on United since they lost by the same scoreline at Chelsea three years ago.
But, after starting his reign with eight consecutive victories, the best start ever made by a manager at the club, former United striker Solskjaer is now collecting some other, very unwanted, statistics.
This latest loss means United have now leaked 48 league goals, the most they’ve conceded in a season, since letting in 63 back in the 42-game 1978/79 campaign.
Sunday’s loss also means United have conceded in 12 consecutive games for the first time since December 1998 while, under Solskjaer, the Reds have lost five consecutive away games for the first time in 38 years.
United looked second best even before the hosts scored twice inside the opening half-hour, conceding a succession of corners from which Everton threatened.
It was another type of set-piece, a long throw-in by Digne, from which Everton took the lead after 12 minutes when the full-back launched the ball deep into the United area.
Dominic Calvert-Lewin helped the ball on with the flick of his head and Richarlison sent a spectacular scissor-kick finish flying past David de Gea.
After a humbling 3-0 Champions League exit at Barcelona in midweek, it was not the start Solskjaer had been looking for. Everton soon made the situation worse for the visitors.
After 27 minutes, Everton cleared a United corner and immediately broke on the counter-attack, with winger Bernard playing a delightful ball inside to Idrissa Gueye.
He, in turn, released Sigurdsson who, with Nemanja Matic backing off, unleashed a magnificent 25-yard shot which bounced just in front of the diving de Gea on its way into the bottom corner.
Richarlison might have given Everton the lead even earlier. His 10th minute shot drew an amazing reaction save from de Gea. From the rebound the Brazilian hurried his follow-up effort wide.
With the recalled Romelu Lukaku booed every time he touched the ball by his former fans at Everton, United had little response to an impressive effort from the home side.
In between the goals, United star Paul Pogba’s long diagonal pass freed Marcus Rashford who could only poke his effort over from a tight angle.
Everton effectively killed the game in the 56th minute. De Gea punched clear a Sigurdsson corner to the unmarked Digne who sent a superb, first-time volley flying back past the United keeper from 20 yards.
Three minutes later, and from the same left wing, another Sigurdsson corner almost crept in at de Gea’s near post before the Spaniard stuck out a boot to clear off his line.
Even though Richarlison had limped off through injury, the agony was not over for United with the Brazilian’s replacement Walcott continuing the rout in the 64th minute.
Sigurdsson again carved out the opening with a brilliantly-timed through ball which allowed the former England international the space to sprint into the area and beat the advancing de Gea.
Not until the 86th minute, and a comfortably saved Anthony Martial strike, did United have a shot on target.
Meanwhile Everton, who had not beaten a ‘big six’ rival in 25 attempts before last month, have now won consecutive home matches against Chelsea, Arsenal and United while keeping three clean sheets in the process.
RIYADH: Saudi national Mansour Abdulrahim Al-Saleem won three gold medals in the snatch, jerk and combination, ranking the first in the 55 kg weight category, at the Asian Weightlifting Championships in China.
He lifted 122 kilograms to head the standings, with Kazakhstan’s Arli Chontey and Malaysia’s Azroy Hazalwafie following on 113kg and 112kg, respectively.
The clean and jerk discipline saw Al-Saleem again head the leaderboard on 140kg.
Hazalwafie lifted just four kilograms less in second, while Sri Lanka’s Dilanka Isuru Kumara was third on 135kg.
Al-Saleem’s efforts in both disciplines saw him convincingly clinch the overall title with a combined 262kg.
He finished ahead of Hazalwafie on 248kg, while Chontey placed third on 246kg.
The champion set a new achievement by winning the first Asian gold medal in weightlifting for the Kingdom.
The president of the Saudi Weightlifting Federation, Mohammed Al-Harbi, thanked King Salman, Crown Prince Mohammed bin Salman, sports officials and the Saudi people for supporting the field, which led to “such a great achievement.”
Amidst an arena full of a host of Olympic and international champions, Saudi Arabia’s national anthem was played and the Kingdom’s flag was raised, as Al-Saleem praised the ability of Saudi sportsmen in all international and regional sports sectors.
A further eight days of competition will continue for the next 8 days in China's eastern city of Ningbo, in Zhejiang province. Medals will be won across 20 categories, 10 for men and 10 for women.
MANCHESTER, UK: Manchester City exacted some measure of revenge on Tottenham for their Champions League exit as Phil Foden’s first Premier League goal earned a 1-0 win to move them back top of the table on Saturday.
Pep Guardiola’s men edge one point ahead of Liverpool once more with four games of a titanic title race left for both sides.
For all their Champions League heroics to get to the semifinals this season, Tottenham still have much to do to qualify for the competition next season as they could easily end the Easter weekend outside the top four should Arsenal and Chelsea beat Crystal Palace and Burnley at home respectively.
City’s quest for an unprecedented quadruple of trophies was ended by defeat on away goals to Spurs on Wednesday, despite winning a thrilling quarter-final, second leg 4-3.
However, they remain on course for a first ever treble of domestic trophies in England as they survived a nervy finale thanks to another blistering start.
City have made a habit of firing out of the blocks this season and just like in midweek to kickstart a kamikaze encounter, they struck within five minutes.
Foden was making just his second Premier League start and immediately justified Guardiola’s faith in the 19-year-old by heading home Sergio Aguero’s nodded pass across goal from Bernardo Silva’s cross.
However, history could easily have repeated itself as after four goals were shared in the opening 11 minutes on Wednesday, Spurs had numerous chances to strike back.
Son Heung-min had already forced Ederson in a smart save from a narrow angle before City scored and the Brazilian goalkeeper had to rush from his goal once more to deny Christian Eriksen an equalizer on 15 minutes.
Two minutes later the Dane played provider with a glorious ball to free Son in behind the City defense.
However, the South Korean, who scored twice in midweek to end City’s European dreams for another season, was caught up just in time by Aymeric Laporte, who made a perfectly timed last-ditch tackle.
Despite Tottenham’s chances on the break, it was the hosts who were still dominating territory and possession with Bernardo Silva a constant threat.
The Portuguese’s outstanding season was rewarded as he was named alongside teammates Aguero and Raheem Sterling in the six-man shortlist for the PFA Player of the Year award and Jan Vertonghen was fortunate to escape without conceding a penalty when he appeared to trip Silva inside the area.
Spurs were without captain Hugo Lloris through injury and his understudy Paulo Gazzaniga looked nervous early on, but the Argentine goalkeeper got down to save Silva’s next effort.
Guardiola’s decision to leave Kevin de Bruyne out for the first leg of the Champions League quarter-final between the sides was doubly questioned after the Belgian bagged a brilliant hat-trick of assists in midweek.
However, Guardiola’s reasoning for being cautious with his playmaker after an injury-plagued season was understandable as De Bruyne limped off again just before the break and may well now miss the rest of the campaign.
Both sides suffered from their midweek exertions and the blazing sun as the second-half meandered along at a much more subdued pace.
Spurs had a big penalty appeal of their own turned down when Kyle Walker handled inside the area against his former club.
Sterling briefly thought he had completed a hat-trick in stoppage time on Wednesday with the goal that would have sent City through to the Champions League last four until VAR ruled the goal out for offside.
And the England international could not believe his misfortune once more when Gazzaniga stuck out an outstretched leg to prevent Sterling sealing a vital three points from Leroy Sane’s cut-back.
Instead, City had to suffer through the closing stages knowing one mistake could cost them the title.
But they held on as Spurs suffered an eighth straight away defeat to English opposition.
MONACO: Fabio Fognini ended Rafael Nadal’s winning streak at the Monte Carlo Masters, stunning the defending champion 6-4, 6-2 Saturday to reach the final for the first time and hand Nadal his first defeat here since a loss to Novak Djokovic in the 2015 semifinals.
Fognini had beaten Nadal twice before on clay, and also once at the US Open in five sets, but this was arguably the most impressive.
“I have the game to play against him,” the 13th-seeded Fognini said. “I had nothing to lose.”
He wasn’t concerned if Nadal was out of form.
“That’s not the question that I have to answer,” Fognini said. “I just say that I played an incredible match.”
Still, the second-ranked Nadal called it “one of my worst matches in 14 years” and the 32-year-old Spaniard said it was “difficult to find an explanation” for capitulating on his favored clay-court surface.
Yet the defeat could have been even more humiliating for Nadal, who had not lost a set here by 6-0 since the 2005 final — which he went on to win for the first of his record 11 titles.
Fognini came so close to drubbing him in the second set. He served for the match at 5-0 and 40-0, but Nadal saved three match points, broke back and held.
“I was lucky to win the two games,” said Nadal, who had not even lost a set here since conceding one in the second round against Britain’s Kyle Edmund in 2017.
Serving again for the match at 5-2, Fognini hit a superb forehand down the line on his fourth match point. He next plays unseeded Serb Dusan Lajovic in their first-ever meeting, and one few would have predicted.
Least of all Fognini.
He trailed by a set and 4-1 down during his first-round match against Andrey Rublev.
“If you told me at the beginning of the week ‘See you on Sunday (for the final),’ I would laugh in your face,” Fognini said.
The 48th-ranked Lajovic staged an impressive comeback of his own, meanwhile, rallying from 5-1 down to beat 10th-seeded Daniil Medvedev 7-5, 6-1.
That match was a suitable appetizer to the higher drama which followed.
Nadal had dropped his first three service games Friday in his quarterfinal against Guido Pella, and the early signs were not good this time.
His first game against Fognini lasted 12 minutes, with Nadal saving four break points before conceding the first of six breaks of serve in the match.
In his quarterfinal and semifinal combined, Nadal conceded 23 break-point chances.
But whether Fognini, who previously lost 11 times to Nadal overall, could capitalize seemed uncertain.
The 31-year-old Italian can lose his temper on court, and it got the better of him during the fourth game.
With heavy winds swirling around the court, Fognini’s towel flew off his seat and landed on the clay during the first point. He complained to the umpire, perhaps to get the point replayed, and then angrily put the offending towel into his drinks box.
Nadal broke him to love to lead 3-1, and Fognini got a warning for unsportsmanlike conduct.
“The chair umpire made a bad call,” Fognini said. “He gave me a warning for nothing.”
Fognini irate, Nadal serving for a 4-1 lead — another comfortable Nadal route to the final looked on.
But Fognini broke back to 3-2 and then broke Nadal to love in the ninth game with some momentous shot-making.
Momentum was on Fognini’s side, not to mention some luck.
Serving for the set at 5-4 and 30-30, his shot hit the net and turned into a perfect drop shot.
Fognini raised both arms in apology, and then superbly put away a volley at full stretch on the next point to clinch the set.
He hit a delightful two-handed, backhand cross-court winner to break at the start of the second set.
Nadal is usually the undisputed crowd favorite on the French Riviera, but shouts of “Fabio, Fabio, Fabio” rang out at the Monte Carlo Country Club.
Many Italian fans likely made the short trip along the coast from nearby San Remo — where Fognini grew up.
“It’s a big opportunity to them to come here and watch me play,” Fognini said. “I don’t know how many are coming tomorrow.”
Still, he should have most of the support against Lajovic, who earlier won 10 straight games to lead 4-0 in the second set before Medvedev finally again held serve.
It could have been an all-Serb semifinal but Medvedev knocked out the top-ranked Djokovic in Friday’s quarterfinals.
There have only been three winners here since 2005: Nadal, Djokovic (2013 and ‘15) and Stan Wawrinka (’14).
A new name will be on the trophy on Sunday.