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Kevin Durant returns for 22 points post-injury as Nets rout Warriors – Sportsnet.ca

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NEW YORK — Kevin Durant shook off 18 months of rust in a matter of minutes.

Durant looked good as new against his old team, Kyrie Irving was even better and the Brooklyn Nets emphatically kicked off the Steve Nash era with a 125-99 victory over the Golden State Warriors on Tuesday night in the NBA’s season opener.

Durant finished with 22 points in 25 minutes of his first official game since rupturing his Achilles tendon while playing for Golden State in Game 5 of the 2019 NBA Finals. It’s a new start for Durant, but he did the same things he’s been doing for years.

“I tried not to make too big a deal out of this whole thing and realize I’ve been playing this game since I was 8 years old, so just got to revert back to what I know,” Durant said.

Irving led Brooklyn with 26 points and Caris LeVert scored 20 as the Nets led by as many as 38, pouring on the points the way the Phoenix Suns did when Nash was their point guard, or more recently Golden State did when Durant was their All-Star forward.

The Nets made the playoffs last season but now are expected to contend for the Eastern Conference title after finally getting Durant and Irving on the court together. They used the first game of the shortened, 72-game season to prove they might be worth the hype.

“I think our goals are a lot higher this year and we just want to be able to come in and dominate and do that consistently,” Irving said.

Stephen Curry had 20 points and 10 assists for the Warriors, a depleted team that looks nothing like the powerhouse that won two titles in Durant’s three seasons there.

Durant left shortly after having surgery following his injury and was expected to sit out the entire 2019-20 season even before it was suspended in March because of the coronavirus pandemic. Teammates who have worked out with him said the four-time scoring champion was back in top form and Durant quickly backed up their boasts in a mostly empty Barclays Center.

He made his first three shots, one a 3-pointer and another while being fouled, and was in double figures in fewer than five minutes. He did everything but keep up with Irving, who made three 3-pointers and had 17 points in 9 1/2 minutes of the opening quarter, when the Nets led by as many as 21.

Irving, himself coming back from injury after playing just 20 games last season because of shoulder problems, had Brooklyn’s last two baskets of the first half, including a deep 3-pointer with 4.1 seconds left that made it 63-45.

Warriors coach Steve Kerr said he was happy for Durant but upset with what he saw from his team, trying to bounce back after winning a league-low 15 games last season.

“Both Kevin and Kyrie just kind of had their way in the first half,” he said. “So the lack of physicality and competition were the most disappointing things.”

Durant then scored 10 more in Brooklyn’s 36-point third quarter, ending his night for good late in the period.

No. 2 pick James Wiseman started at centre despite his limited preparation and had 19 points and six rebounds. But the Warriors, playing without Draymond Green because of a sore right foot, need to find more shooting around Curry with Klay Thompson set to miss a second straight season.

Andrew Wiggins was 4 for 16 for his 13 points and Kelly Oubre Jr. was 3 for 14.

TIP-INS

Warriors: Kerr said Green planned an individual workout Tuesday and would hopefully do some group work Wednesday when they remained in New York to practice. … Wiseman, at 19 years, 266 days, became the third-youngest Golden State player to start a game behind Andris Biedrins (18, 352) and Anthony Randolph (19, 179). … The Warriors signed Juan Toscano-Anderson, who started six games for them last season, to a two-way contract.

Nets: The Nets snapped a seven-game losing streak in season openers. They are 1-0 for the first time since Nov. 3, 2012, their first game at Barclays Center after moving from New Jersey. … Brooklyn re-signed G Chris Chiozza to a two-way contract Tuesday. He played in 18 games for the Nets last season. … The Nets honoured the essential workers who have helped New York fight the coronavirus, raising a banner on one end of Barclays Center.

Travelling FOR THE HOLIDAYS

Golden State is starting the season on a four-game Eastern road trip, including a Christmas game at Milwaukee. It’s the first time the Warriors began in the Eastern time zone since 1975.

UP NEXT

Warriors: Visit Milwaukee on Friday.

Nets: Visit Boston on Friday in what will be Irving’s first regular-season game there since leaving the Celtics.

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Dana White hates Chandler’s UFC 257 celebratory backflip: ‘Somebody’s going to get f—king hurt’ – Bloody Elbow

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Michael Chandler’s promotional debut at UFC 257 couldn’t have gone any better after knocking out Michael Chandler in the first round, but Dana White was not a fan of the newcomer’s celebration.

Chandler (22-5) stopped Hooker (20-10) in the co-main event of UFC 257 this past Saturday, winning a $50,000 bonus to make his victory even sweeter. After the fight ended, Chandler celebrated by doing a backflip off the top of the octagon.

Talking at the post-fight press conference, White said he hates this celebration and feels one day someone will get seriously hurt from it.

“Do you guys hate the backflips as much as I hate the backflips? It’s just f—king, it’s just — the kid gets his fight in the UFC then does a backflip that looks like it’s going to blow out both f—king ankles, knees, and his spine,” White said. “I just — I don’t get the backflip thing and I don’t like it. Somebody’s going to get f—king hurt doing that.”

It’s not the first time we’ve seen fighters in the UFC do this, with fellow lightweight Justin Gaethje also usually flipping off the cage after a win. The Nevada State Athletic Commission (NSAC) has taken action to the celebration, banning fighters from backflipping off the cage when fighting in Vegas.

The unranked Chandler, 34, will likely take Hooker’s #6 spot when the new UFC lightweight rankings are published.

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UFC 257 Aftermath: Dustin Poirier proves that pressure makes Diamonds – MMA Fighting

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Heading into UFC 257, one of the pervasive questions surrounding the main event fight between Dustin Poirier and Conor McGregor was who had improved more since their first fight back in 2014.

Well, now we know. In the second round of the pay-per-view headliner on Saturday night, Poirier answered any such questions definitively, viciously knocking out McGregor with a series of punches against the fence.

McGregor has lost before – a lot, in fact, over the last few years. But this one felt different. Aside from the fact that this is McGregor’s most meme-able loss, it’s also his least explainable one. Nate Diaz? He had little time to prepare for a different stylistic matchup and he blew his gas tank. He then came back and won the rematch. Khabib Nurmagomedov? It’s Khabib. No one beats Khabib.

But Poirier? McGregor already had a knockout win over Poirier, and he was predicting a finish inside of 60 seconds. He spent much of the build up for this fight talking about how prepared he was and that this was the best version of himself. And he got knocked out in 8 minutes.

That’s not an accident. Poirier didn’t finish McGregor because he “had attributes” or because he is a bad stylistic matchup for him. He did it because for the last seven years, Poirier has been steadily improving. Because, in essence, Poirier took to heart the mantra of McGregor’s own team, “win or learn.”

In many ways, Saturday night was the culmination of that journey. McGregor is not just the biggest star in the sport, one who lifts others into the realm of wider public perception. For Poirier specifically, he was the archetypal villain, the man who handed Poirier his worst loss and forced him to reconsider his career in a fundamental way. After their first fight, Poirier moved up to lightweight and reinvented himself. He became a very good defensive fighter who boxed instead of brawled. He put together wins. In his own words, he became mentally stronger by learning to “stop caring about the noise”. He steadily kept improving. He won an interim title. He lost in his title shot. He bounced back with one of the best fights of the year. And then, finally, he conquered the man who set him down that path to begin with. It’s the plot of a Disney movie. The only thing missing was the championship, and that shouldn’t be far off.

Khabib Nurmagomedov is currently the UFC lightweight champion. But Poirier will not fight him next. No one will. Khabib retired after his win at UFC 254, and since then, he has made his thoughts on returning pretty clear: he’s not going to do it.

Now that the prospect of a pay-per-view shattering rematch between Khabib and McGregor is off the table (such that it ever was on the table in the first place), the UFC can move on to crowning a new champion, and Poirier will be one half of that fight. He certainly deserves it. Poirier now has wins over numbers 1, 4, 6, and 9 in the current UFC rankings (and the top-ranked featherweight). That’s more wins over ranked opponents than anyone in the division, other than Khabib.

If Poirier goes on to win the undisputed title and finally get “paid in full,” it would be the perfect conclusion to his career. There is literally not another person in MMA who would deserve it more. Poirier is universally respected by the MMA world, and the reason this fight even came about was Poirier and McGregor began publicly negotiating for a fight to benefit Poirier’s charity, The Good Fight Foundation. But even if Poirier loses in his next fight and never does end up capturing the undisputed UFC lightweight champion, that won’t take away from what he accomplished on Saturday night. He vanquished his demons and ascended to a rarified level of stardom. As the saying goes, pressure makes diamonds, and on Saturday night, none shown brighter than Dustin Poirier.


“Khabib reiterates he doesn’t want to fight any more – dude, I’m the champ. I’m not going to fight, some – and like I said, respect to Chandler – a new guy to the UFC who just beat a guy that’s coming off a loss that I just beat for the belt. That’s not exciting to me.” – Dustin Poirier on possibly fighting Michael Chandler for the UFC lightweight title.

“Just because he’s never had the opportunity. Gaethje just came out here and got beat, as I did. Not a knock on Gaethje, but he lost. I think Oliviera, probably, or let them fight to see who gets it.” – Dustin Poirier on why he thinks Charles Oliveira deserves the title shot.

“If he wants to have his disrespectful comments, come back and let’s go again, my man. I’m here for it. That’s fighting talk. If you’re coming back, come back. You try and do it. That’s that.” – Conor McGregor on Khabib.

“I did talk to Khabib. He said to me, ‘Dana, be honest with yourself. I’m so many levels above these guys. I beat these guys.’ I don’t know. I don’t know what he’s—it doesn’t sound very positive, so we’ll see.” Dana White giving up that Khabib is ever going to fight again.

“I’m by no means a perfect man inside that octagon, but I promise you I can beat that man. I promise you I can beat Khabib, so I told him… I didn’t tell him personally, but I told him through the camera lens. You’ve earned every right to be able to sail off into the sunset and continue living your life and making your impact because you’ve done it thus far. But, man, if you ever do come back, there’s a man over here waiting for you from High Ridge, Missouri.” – Michael Chandler on Khabib.


Stock up

Dustin Poirier: For all the reasons listed above. Poirier not only got back his worst loss, he did so on the biggest platform of his career. Poirier is set to receive the Conor McGregor bump in a huge way, and maybe even the lightweight title to go along with it.

Michael Chandler: Chandler had doubters coming into the UFC. Many of them. He has substantially fewer now. Chandler ran through Dan Hooker in a way no one else really has an immediately put himself in the lightweight title conversation.

Marina Rodriguez: Rodriguez came into this fight having had two subpar performances against grapplers. Well, third time is the charm, I guess. Rodriguez still got taken down, but when she got up she made it count.

Julianna Peña: Five years ago, Peña seemed destined for a bantamweight title shot, but then she lost to Valentina Shevchenko and hasn’t been able to build any momentum since. Finishing former title challenger Sara McMann is a good start and puts her right back in the mix at 135.

Neutral

Joanne Calderwood: Calderwood was supposed to fight for the title last year until an injury to Shevchenko prevented it. Instead, “Jojo” took a fight against Jennifer Maia and lost. This win over Jessica Eye probably doesn’t get her back to a title shot, but it does at least keep her in the conversation.

Brad Tavares: Tavares continues to be one of the most consistent fighters in the middleweight division, racking up wins against all but the very best fighters in the world. Another workmanlike performance against Antonio Carlos Junior just affirms his place in the 185 ranks.

Stock down

Conor McGregor: For all the talk of “win or learn,” McGregor hasn’t been doing a lot of either lately. McGregor has not beaten an elite fighter since the Obama administration, and now the book appears to be out on how to fight him. “Notorious” needs to make some changes.

Dan Hooker: Hooker had a big opportunity to make a name for himself on Saturday, and instead, he got folded up like a lawn chair by a UFC debutant. On top of that, Hooker just looked bad in the fight. He seemed overly concerned about Chandler’s wrestling and presented very little in the way of offense before getting clobbered.

Sara McMann: McMann is a former Olympic silver medalist and widely-respected MMA fighter, but she has a way of snatching defeat from the jaws of victory, and she did so again on Saturday. A win might have gotten McMann a title shot. Instead, at 40 years old she can’t have much time left in the cage.

Khalil Rountree Jr.: Rountree was one of the biggest favorites on the card and ended up losing a decision to Marcin Prachnio. He’s now 1-3 in his last 4 and in danger of being cut from the UFC.


Nik Lentz winning Eric Colón’s scorecard is not a great look. But at this point, it’s expected that there will be at least one weird decision happening on any given UFC card. Much more troubling, though, is the continued decline of Herb Dean. For many years, Dean was one of the best referees in the sport, but those years are pretty far removed at this point. Lately, he has been plagued by indecision or poor decisions with his choices in stopping fights (and last weekend stood idly by as Max Holloway may have taken years off the life of Calvin Kattar) and that problem reared its ugly head again on Saturday.

In the main card opener, Marina Rodriguez dropped Amanda Ribas with a right hand that had Ribas in all sorts of trouble. Rodriguez followed her to the floor and started rifling punches into Ribas who was holding onto a leg in desperation. Dean hovered by the two, preparing for his moment to jump in. He then appeared to do so, but changed his mind while stepping in. The result was that Rodriguez felt Dean make contact with her and walked away triumphantly, only for Ribas to stand up and for Dean to tell them to keep fighting. Rodriguez obliged and then cracked Ribas with a few more shots before Dean stepped in to waive things off.

There are two things here that make this so bad. First, is that Dean basically changed his mind about a stoppage. Had Ribas recovered and then gone on to win the fight, Rodriguez would have a very strong case that Dean negatively impacted the outcome of the fight, which is a core responsibility of the referee – to remain neutral. Secondly, he should have stopped the fight! Ribas was conscious, but clearly done, and instead of protecting her from taking more unnecessary punishment, Dean created a situation where Ribas stood back up and got lit up again. Overall, it was a terrible performance by Dean, and we’re lucky he didn’t do something similar in the main event.


Dustin Poirier vs. Charles Oliveira: Poirier deserves to fight for the title, and Oliveira is the man most deserving of the next one. This should be straightforward.

Conor McGregor vs. Rafael dos Anjos: The Nate Diaz trilogy is what everyone is thinking and probably what will actually happen next, but the RDA fight makes more sense. McGregor wants to stay active and he wants to remain in the lightweight title hunt, and with RDA once again a going concern at 155, there is plenty of backstory here to build on.

Michael Chandler vs. Justin Gaethje: For years this was the dream non-UFC fight and now it can happen in the octagon, with a title shot on the line. A no-brainer.

Dan Hooker vs. Tony Ferguson: There will be violence.

Joanne Calderwood vs. Lauren Murphy: Both women need another win to put a stamp on their title claims, and with things trending toward Jessica Andrade getting the next crack at Valentina Shechenko, this seems like the only true option.

Makhmud Muradov vs. Brad Tavares: No need to overcomplicate this. Muradov is on a 14-fight win streak and deserves a crack at the middleweight elite. That is practically Tavares’ job at this point.

Marina Rodriguez vs. Claudia Gadelha: It would be nice to give Rodriguez a break from people who are going to try and take her down but the strawweight division is not very accommodating in that regard. Gadelha would be a huge scalp for Rodriguez and put her on the path to true contention.

Julianna Peña vs. Raquel Pennington: It’s kind of surprising these two haven’t fought already. Both women are coming off wins, so now is the time.

Movsar Evloev vs. Shane Burgos. Burgos was supposed to fight at UFC 257, but an injury to his opponent forced him off the card. If Evloev is prepared to make a quick turnaround, this would be a good introduction for him to the top-15 of the division.

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LaFleur regrets decision to kick late FG in NFC title game – theScore

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Green Bay Packers head coach Matt LaFleur expressed his regret over how his team’s last possession transpired in Sunday’s NFC Championship Game.

With 2:15 left in the contest and the ball on the Buccaneers’ 8-yard line, Packers quarterback Aaron Rodgers threw an incomplete pass on third down, though it appeared he could have run the ball in for a touchdown.

On the following play, the Packers kicked a field goal rather than take a fourth attempt at a touchdown and two-point conversion to tie the game.

The Packers wouldn’t get the ball back and lost 31-26.

“Anytime it doesn’t work out, you always regret it, right?” LaFleur said, according to ESPN’s Rob Demovsky. “Having three shots and coming away with no yards and knowing not only (we) need the touchdown but the 2-point … anytime something doesn’t work out, do you regret it? Sure.”

Rodgers both defended and expressed surprise at the call from the sideline.

“It wasn’t my decision. I understand the thinking,” Rodgers said, per Bill Huber of Sports Illustrated.

“I thought maybe we were gonna have four chances to go,” he added, according to Matt Schneidman of The Athletic.

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