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NBA Playoffs 2020: Eight observations as Lakers dominate and cruise to comfortable Game 1 win over Nuggets

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No more Game 1 losses for the Lakers.

Their 126-114 win over the Nuggets to begin the Western Conference Finals is their first Game 1 win of the 2020 playoffs and snaps a four-game skid in Game 1s leading back to the first round of the 2012 playoffs.

Their All-Stars led from the front as LeBron James finished with 15 points, 12 assists, and six rebounds while Anthony Davis also stuffed the stat sheet with 37 points, and 10 rebounds. The Lakers reserves showed up, scoring 48 points led by Dwight Howard who had 13 points.

Meanwhile, for the Nuggets, their superstars Nikola Jokic and Jamal Murray only combined for 42 points on 15-of-26 shooting from the field but were battling foul trouble and couldn’t impact the game as they would have liked.

For more, here are the biggest observations from this game:

1. Superstars shine in high-scoring 1st Q duel

Lakers have had great 1st quarters in these 2020 playoffs, averaging a league-best 31.2 points. Nothing changed in this one as they raced to 36 points on 13-of-22 (59.1%) shooting from the field.

Rajon Rondo and Los Angeles’ two All-NBA players in LeBron and AD had their hands all over this period, scoring or assisting on 31 of the team’s 36 points in the first quarter. AD led the way with 14 points, four rebounds, and two assists.

 

But the young Nuggets were right up there with the Lakers. Courtesy of Jamal Murray’s buzzer-beating three, the Nuggets took a 38-36 lead at the end of the first 12 minutes.

 

Denver’s two superstars in Murray and Jokic (11 points, three rebounds, two assists) were responsible for 32 of the team’s 38 points in the period as the team shot 14-of-22 (63.6%) from the field in a quarter that saw four lead changes and six ties.

The rest of the game saw just one lead change and tie.

2. Lakers’ huge 2nd quarter

Los Angeles jumped to a 70-59 halftime lead on the back of a huge second quarter. The experienced squad outscored the Nuggets 34-21 including a 20-3 over the first 5:52 minutes of the second quarter.

James was responsible for scoring 10 of those points including a couple of thunderous slams.

 

 

During the run, Lakers shot 7-8 from the field while restricting the Nuggets to just the one field goal and forcing them into six turnovers.

3. Dwight Howard BIG early impact

After playing just 15 minutes in five games in the Conference Semifinals against the Houston Rockets including three DNPs, 16-year veteran Dwight Howard didn’t take long in this one to remind how impactful and valuable he is as part of the Lakers’ second unit.

 

In just seven minutes, all in the second quarter, he had five points (all FTs), two rebounds, two assists, and two blocks.

4. Nuggets early foul trouble

Part of Denver’s troubles in the second quarter was their key players battling foul trouble.

Jokic picked up his third foul with 7:22 left in the half and sat out the rest of the period. Jamal Murray, fresh of scoring six straight points after he was called for his third foul, had to be pulled with 3:53 left in the second quarter because he picked up his fourth foul.

Veteran Paul Millsap, having played just 5:29 minutes in the period, picked up his third with 3:19 left and he sat out the rest of the way.

Despite the double-digit halftime deficit, Denver should actually be credited to hang around despite all the foul trouble. They were down by 13 when Jokic went to the bench to not return and at the end of the period, they trailed by 11.

5. Howard gets the 2nd half start

His energetic second quarter earned Howard the second half start over JaVale McGee and he made an immediate impact, dunking home this alley-oop early:

 

In the third quarter, Howard made his presence felt once again finishing with eight points on a perfect 4-of-4 shooting and a +7 in 9:28 minutes.

6. Lakers late 3rd quarter charge

Both teams were trading buckets for much of the early portion of the third quarter. However, over the final 6:07 of the period, the Lakers went on a 25-12 that opened up this game and gave the Lakers a 24-point lead heading into the fourth quarter.

During the run, with consecutive dimes to AD, Rondo tied and then passed Michael Jordan for 10th on the all-time playoff career assists leaderboard. He finished with seven points, nine assists, and zero turnovers in his 22 minutes on the floor.

 

In the closing seconds of the quarter, Jokic picked up his fifth foul and given the scoreline at that point, he never checked back into the game.

7. Can MPJ carry 4th Q form to Game 2?

The game was already out of hand before the final quarter began as much of the period was played with the team’s second units.

For the Lakers, JR Smith passed Kobe Bryant for ninth all-time on the leaderboard for most career 3s made in the playoffs.

 

More importantly, the period saw Michael Porter Jr. getting some key minutes. After finishing with just four points (1-6 FGs) in 16 minutes through the first three quarters, the rookie seemed to get into some rhythm in the final period.

He scored 10 (2-3 FGs; 5-6 FTs) of his 14 points in the final period and eventually, also finished with 10 rebounds and four assists for the game. Can he carry this late-game rhythm into Game 2 to provide the Nuggets with an additional option?

8. Up Next

Just like 2009, the previous conference finals matchup between the Lakers and Nuggets, Los Angeles has taken the 1-0 series lead. How will Game 2 go?

It’s scheduled for Sunday, Sept. 20th at 7:30 PM ET.

The views on this page do not necessarily reflect the views of the NBA or its clubs.

Source: – NBA CA

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Toronto FC forced to take "hard lesson" from blowout defeat to Philadelphia Union – MLSsoccer.com

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USA Today Sports

Toronto FC haven’t had many nights in recent seasons like the one they had on Saturday, when the Reds were overrun and looked overmatched in an ugly 5-0 defeat to the Philadelphia Union.

Toronto were fielding a shorthanded lineup due to a rash of injuries, but even so, head coach Greg Vanney said his side should’ve fared more competitively against one of the teams they’ve been measuring themselves against for much of the season. For whatever reason, Vanney said the energy needed to match the intensity of Philadelphia just wasn’t there.

“It was wrong from start to finish,” Vanney said on his postgame video call. “We weren’t close to them the entire night, really. We weren’t in good spots for each other, we weren’t clear in terms of the stepping out in how we were going to defend, we couldn’t put passes together. And they were just at a different speed than we were on the night, that’s for sure. 

“So part of it is just we need to put it behind us. But part of it is we also need to recognize it’s just a reminder of the time of year. You physically have got to be ready to compete and battle and fight for balls and win tackles and all of those things first and foremost, and then you can play. You’ve got to be strong when you’re holding up the ball, the ball has to move a lot quicker. A lot of that stuff has to happen, and tonight it didn’t. Yeah, we were missing some guys, but guys had the opportunity to step in and try to show that this time of year they might be able to help us, and we just from start to finish it was never right.”

Highlights: Philadelphia Union vs. Toronto FC

It’s an even more disappointing result considering the stakes of the matchup, with the Union snatching away first place in the Supporters’ Shield standings with the three points. Both sides currently have 41 points, but the Union are technically on top due to their superior goal differential.

Vanney said going forward the objective will have to be using the lopsided defeat as a reminder for what the games are going to be like come playoff time.

“Obviously credit goes to them because they played at a proper playoff-like intensity and today as a group we didn’t match that,” he said. “And also, in terms of the set-up of things, we needed to put a little bit more into being able to play out of their pressure, maybe play beyond their pressure. We didn’t get behind them enough in the game. There’s a lot of things that went on with that. Credit to them, but I think that’s what you expect this time of year, is teams to come out when you’re fighting for a Supporters’ Shield at the top of table, is you expect a team to come out fighting and you have to fight back and push back and set the intensity bar, but tonight it got set on us and we’ve got to take that as a hard lesson as we go through these last games.

“It’s not one that we needed to take, but we’re going to take it and we’re going to have to move forward.”




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Toronto FC thrashed by Union – TSN

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CHESTER, Pa. — A top-of-the-table showdown turned into a lopsided loss Saturday for an understrength Toronto FC that saw its nine-game undefeated run snapped in a 5-0 thrashing at the hands of the Philadelphia Union.

It was one-way traffic all night long, a night to forget for a Toronto franchise used to being the hammer rather than the nail. Philadelphia took advantage of TFC’s shambolic defending and non-existent attack, bullying a team that had been on a 7-0-2 run.

It was a costly defeat, given a win would have put TFC six points ahead of its nearest challenger. Instead, the Union moved into first place in both the league and Eastern Conference on goal difference over Toronto with the two teams at 12-3-5.

Toronto had gone unbeaten since suffering a pair of losses Sept. 1 and 5, against Montreal and Vancouver respectively.

Toronto coach Greg Vanney called it a “hard lesson,” the kind of performance he had not see for “a long, long time.”

“What went wrong? It was wrong from start to finish,” he said. “We weren’t close to them the entire night, really…We couldn’t put passes together and they were just at a different speed than we were on the night, that’s for sure.”

The decision matched Philadelphia’s largest margin of victory and Toronto’s largest margin of defeat in MLS play, according to Opta. TFC lost 6-0 to the Montreal Impact in a Canadian Championship semifinal second-match in 2013.

Philadelphia outshot Toronto 27-3 (12-1 in shots on target) and had 11 corners to TFC’s three.

“There’s no time to feel sorry for ourselves and nobody’s panicking, I can promise you that,” said captain Michael Bradley, who marked his 200th career MLS start.

Sergio Santos scored three goals, Mark McKenzie and Jamiro Monteiro added singles with Kacper Przybylko contributed three assists for a rampant Philadelphia side. The margin of victory could have been higher had it not been for some fine saves by overworked Toronto ‘keeeper Quentin Westberg.

“The way that we play represents, I think, (Philadelphia) in a lot of ways,” said Union coach Jim Curtin “We don’t fear anyone. We’ll go toe to toe with any superstars and our guys stick together and really fight for each other.”

It marked the first time Toronto had given up five goals since a 5-1 loss to Houston in April 2018. That day, Toronto fielded a second-string lineup in advance of a CONCACAF Champions League game.

Vanney and Bradley were singing off the same hymn sheet after the game, saying it was a reminder for some of the intensity of play in the run-up to the post-season and the playoffs themselves.

Bradley, who came off the bench last week in his return from a knee injury, made his first start since Sept. 1. Fullback Justin Morrow, who had missed the last four matches with a calf strain, returned to action off the bench.

But Vanney had plenty of other injury concerns including designated player Pablo Piatti who sat out with calf tightness.

Centre back Chris Mavinga and striker Ayo Akinola missed their second straight game with hamstring issues. Midfielder Jonathan Osorio, who left last week’s 1-0 win over Atlanta after just 20 minutes with a hamstring injury, did not dress.

Star forward Jozy Altidore, another Toronto DP, is a long-term casualty with a Grade 2 hamstring strain.

“Yeah, we were missing some guys but guys had the opportunity to step in and try to show that this time of year they might be able to help us” said Vanney.

Akinola could be back for Wednesday’s game against New York City FC. Osorio is being pencilled in for either NYFC or next weekend’s game against Inter Miami, TFC’s penultimate regular season match. Vanney is awaiting a final verdict on Piatti from club doctors.

Richie Laryea, Nick DeLeon and Gallardo came into the starting 11. Gallardo had played just 62 minutes in two substitute appearances since March 7, when he started the second game of the season.

The Venezuelan lasted just 35 minutes before Vanney brought on Patrick Mullins in a bid to find someone to boost an impotent attack

Philadelphia ran its undefeated streak to five (4-0-1) since a 2-1 loss to Toronto on Oct 3 in East Hartford. The Union also improved to 7-0-0 in league play this season at Subaru Park, which has opened its door with local authorities allowing 15 per cent capacity or approximately 2,775 spectators.

“They’re making a lot of noise, really pushing the players on,” said Curtin.

Philadelphia wasted little time taking it to a Toronto lineup missing some big names through injury.

The Union outshot Toronto 15-1 (6-0 in shots on target) in the first half alone, with 60 per cent possession and nine corners to TFCs one.

The Union went ahead in the 27th minute on a rapid-fire counter attack after Brazilian fullback Auro and Gallardo both lost possession for Toronto in the Philadelphia end. Jose Martinez swept the ball wide to Kai Wagner, who made a run down the left flank and floated in a perfect cross that Santos headed in as defender Omar Gonzalez lunged in vain at the ball.

The Union doubled the lead off a corner in the 33rd minute, taking advantage of some dreadful defending. Monteiro’s corner found Przybylko alone beyond the back post and he floated a header to an unmarked McKenzie to head it in from close range as a half-dozen defenders looked on.

Monteiro made it 3-0 in the 56th minute with a booming shot off that cracked in off the cross bar after a giveaway by Liam Fraser. Santos scored his second on the night in the 63rd minute, knocking in a cross from Wagner with little opposition from Toronto. A dummy run by Brenden Aaronson added some sizzle to the goal.

Santos’ hat trick came in the 68th minute, with the unmarked Brazilian knocking in an Aaronson cross over Westberg. It raised Santos’ season goals total to seven

Alejandro Pozuelo played up front with Tsubasa Endoh, Gallardo and DeLeon trying to offer support. But the Toronto attack offered nothing and Pozuelo, usually a game-changer, was rarely seen.

Morrow and Fraser replaced Auro and Marky Delgado at halftime.

Midfielder Jahkeele Marshall-Rutty, who turned 16 on June 16, became the youngest player to appear for TFC when he came in the 72nd minute — four minutes after Santos exited to applause. Raph Priso, an 18-year-old midfielder just signed as a homegrown player, also made his Toronto debut in the 64th minute.

Coming into the contest, Toronto had lost just two of 29 regular-season games (16-2-11) since a 2-0 defeat at the New York Red Bulls on Aug. 3, 2019.

This report by The Canadian Press was first published Oct. 24, 2020.

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Khabib Nurmagomedov pays tribute to father after emotional UFC 254 win – MMA Fighting

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UFC lightweight champion Khabib Nurmagomedov shocked the MMA world when he suddenly retired in the octagon after submitting Justin Gaethje at UFC 254.

Just as soon as he upped his record to 29-0, Nurmagomedov left the arena in Abu Dhabi and went on his way. But on Instagram, he posted another tribute to his father, Abdulmanap Nurmagomedov, who passed away in July from complications of COVID-19.

“When ALLAH with you, nobody can broke you, nobody,” he wrote. “Thanks Father for everything, you teach all my life, may ALLAH grant you the highest Paradise.”

The 32-year-old Dagestan native dropped to the canvas after his win and wept uncontrollably. As he fought back tears, he explained his reason for hanging up his gloves after his teammates cut them off and he placed them on the floor.

Here is Nurmagomedov’s full retirement statement:

“Thank you for these guys, these guys with me, been with my father for more than 10 years. All my team, AKA with coach Javier, I love him so much, all my team. Today, I want to say, this was my last fight. No way am I going to come here without my father. It was first time, after what happened with my father, when UFC called me about Justin. I talk with my mother three days, she don’t want that I go fight without father. I promised her, it’s going to be my last fight, and if I give my word, I have to follow this. It was my last fight here.

“I know only one thing I want from UFC, you guys have to be me on No. 1 pound-for-pound fighter in the world, because I deserve this. UFC undisputed, undefeated lightweight champion, 13-0, 13 in UFC, 29 in all pro MMA career. I think I deserve it. One more thing, I want to say thank you Lorenzo Fertitta, thank you Dana, Hunter, all guys. Thank you so much, and of course I don’t forget about Joe Silva who signed me here in UFC. Joe Silva, thank you. All this UFC team, everybody around the world, this whole pandemic stuff, they are doing great show. Thank you so much Justin. Justin, 2016 I remember when I cut weight, you helped me a lot. Thank you brother. I know you are a great man, I know how you take care of your people. I know a lot of things about of you, because of your parents, because one day, it’s going to happen something. You never know what is going to happen tomorrow, you never know.”

Nurmagomedov’s exit from the sport leaves the UFC with some hard decisions to make. Gaethje, Dustin Poirier, Tony Ferguson, Conor McGregor and Michael Chandler are all gunning for the No. 1 spot. So far, only Poirier and McGregor are loosely tied to a matchup on Jan. 23, but that could change now that the belt is up for grabs.

As far as competition for the pound-for-pound No. 1 spot, many fighters believe the lightweight champ locked up the top spot on Saturday. When it comes to the sport’s GOAT, Nurmagomedov’s run is up against all-time greats Georges St-Pierre and Jon Jones.

Check out Khabib’s retirement speech:

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