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NBA Playoffs 2021: Chris Paul punches ticket to first NBA Finals, helps Suns eliminate Clippers with late-game takeover – NBA CA

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The Phoenix Suns are back in the NBA Finals, only their third appearance in franchise history and first since 1993.

Behind a dominant second half, where the Suns outscored the Clippers 64-46, they clinched a 130-103 win in Game 6. Chris Paul led all scorers with 41 points, 31 of which came in the second half while also recording eight assists and three steals.

CP3 received plenty of help as the trio of Devin Booker, Deandre Ayton and Jae Crowder combined for 57 points. For the Clippers, Marcus Morris Sr. was the top scorer with 26 but his incredible shooting game was in vain.

Here’s a quick look at the biggest takeaways from this one.

Booker & Ayton carry Suns early

There was no slow start today as the Suns seemed adamant to play from the front.

They raced to a 7-2 start and shot it efficiently for the rest of the period – 14-of-22 from the field and 5-of-7 from beyond the arc.

The trio of Ayton (10), Booker (9) and Chris Paul (6) combined for 25 of the team’s 33 first-quarter points. They would have held a strong seven-point lead after the first 12 minutes if it wasn’t for a DeMarcus Cousins buzzer-beater.

Clippers never let it get away in 1st half

Phoenix carried their momentum early into the second quarter and extended the lead to 10, the largest in the first half but the Clippers didn’t let it get away from them.

Led by Marcus Morris’ 13 points, on 5-of-8 shooting, the Clippers had four players in double figures at the half. LA came back from 10 down to tie things up.

Suns eventually lead at intermission by seven (66-59) and that was a result of the Clippers not letting the game get away from them.

Chris Paul sparks game-changing run

Given his lofty standards, Paul had sub-par performances in Games 3, 4 and 5 but Game 6 was different.

In the possible clincher, down the stretch, he took over. Late in the third quarter, the Suns’ deficit was down to seven (89-82). From that point on, Paul scored 27 of the team’s last 35 points as he personally outscored the Clippers 27-18.

What’s next?

The Suns wrap things up and advance to their third-ever NBA Finals, awaiting the winner of the Eastern Conference Finals series between the Atlanta Hawks and the Milwaukee Bucks.

For the Clippers, their historic postseason run, when they went to their first Conference Finals ever, comes to an end.

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Canadian flag-bearer's parents delightfully cheer on daughter from across the world – Yahoo Canada Sports

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Miranda Ayim’s parents were ecstatic to watch their daughter carry Canada’s flag at the Opening Ceremony. (Photo via @CBCOlympics/Twitter)

When Canadian women’s basketball player Miranda Ayim triumphantly led the Canadian contingent into the opening ceremony at Tokyo 2020, a small group of friends and family gathered back in London, Ont., to cheer her on.

At the centre of the group were Ayim’s parents, Gus and Sandy Ayim, who were understandably beaming with pride.

Any parent of an Olympic athlete would be on the edge of their seat watching their child enter the Olympic Stadium, but when they are the ones leading the team and carrying the flag, the emotions are surely that much stronger.

“Exhilaration, nervousness, anticipation as we just saw the flag…the Canada flag in the corner in the back, in the tunnel, and then that ratcheted everything up just a little bit as we saw the anticipation of them coming out,” Gus told CTV News.

Suddenly, all those long years of early morning drives to practices and weekends spent on the road at basketball tournaments don’t seem like much of a sacrifice at all. Not when this was what they were leading to.

But still, Ayim knows she wouldn’t be in this spot without the support of her parents. In fact, back in 2018, she thanked her parents in an Instagram post for all they have done for her.

“Of all the people in our lives we take for granted, parents seem to continually rank at the top of the list,” Ayim wrote in the caption. “Without them, there would have been no rebounder in the gym at 6 in the morning, no driver to countless practices and games, no cheerleader in the stands, no consoler after a hard game, no counsellor in the face of hard decisions.”

Now, with the opening ceremony behind her, Ayim can turn her focus to basketball.

The 33-year-old forward and the rest of her Canadian teammates will begin their pursuit of a medal when they face off against Serbia on Monday.

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Canadian cyclist Michael Woods just misses podium after gruelling 234-km ride – CBC.ca

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In a race that lasted nearly six hours and traversed more than 200 kilometres, in the end it came down to a matter of inches for Canadian cyclist Michael Woods.

With Ecuador’s Richard Carapaz capturing gold, Woods was among a group of five riders who were in a flat sprint over the final 100 metres, jockeying for silver and bronze. With a few metres to go, Woods appeared to get boxed out by two other riders, ultimately finishing fifth and missing out on a medal by less than a second.

“I am really happy with how I rode but just off the podium which was my big goal,” Woods told CBC Sports after the race. “I tried to get some separation as much as I could but it just wasn’t in the cards.”

Woods final time was six hours, six minutes and 33 seconds, 1.07 behind Carapaz.

Belgium’s Wout van Aert captured silver. Slovenia’s Tadej Pogacar took the bronze.

Woods overcame gruelling conditions, on what riders called the toughest Olympic course ever, to be in contention at the finish.

Bring on the cheers

Find live streams, must-watch video highlights, breaking news and more in one perfect Olympic Games package. Following Team Canada has never been easier or more exciting.

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The 34-year-old was barely mentioned during this race before, like a coiled spring, thrusting himself into the top group with about 30 kilometres left of the 234-kilometre race.

Coming into this race, the Toronto native and Ottawa resident said the brutal course, full of deadly climbs, “really suited him.”  He was right.

“I thought I was the strongest climber today, but I had to roll the dice [and] it didn’t play out as I’d hoped,” Woods said.

“I really didn’t want it to come down to a sprint. I tried to attack several times and I wanted to get away like Carapaz did, but I just wasn’t as lucky as him and able make the move that he did.”

This race had an Olympic feel that’s been lacking here in Tokyo as for the first time athletes had a crowd cheering them on. Thousands of fans welcomed the riders as they entered the Fuji Motor Speedway two hours from Tokyo, where the race finished. Riders also received strong encouragement from locals who lined parts of the course as the race snaked through the mountains, where COVID-19 protocols aren’t as restrictive as in Tokyo.

A pack of riders goes past Yamanaka Lake during the men’s cycling road race on Saturday. (AFP via Getty Images)

While countries like Italy and Belgium and France had five riders who were able to control the pace throughout the race before launching waves of co-ordinated attacks, Woods did much of the work on his own.

About 80 kilometres into the race, it appeared that Woods might have been involved in a crash that sidelined a pair of British riders, but he escaped contact. He did have to drop back from the pack momentarily as he appeared to have issues with one of his shoes before getting a fresh pair from his team car.

With the iconic Mount Fuji looming over many parts of the course, the 130-rider field had to navigate a series of five gruelling climbs adding up to nearly 5,000 metres, a more arduous challenge than even the most difficult mountain stages at the Tour de France.

As one commentator put it: add in the humidity and it will feel like they are climbing Mount Everest.

The toughest challenge of this race came near the end, after nearly 200 kilometres of racing, called the Mikuni Pass, the steepest climb in cycling.

Woods said before the race that the steep ascents made it a “good course for him.”

“It is a really challenging climb, really steep, but it really suits my skill set. I think with the heat, particularly with the amount of climbing in this race, it really does suit my abilities,” Woods told CBC Sports.

WATCH | The Olympians: Mike Woods

Watch CBC Sports’ The Olympians feature, on Mike Woods. 3:06

Beyond the brutal climbs, riders also had to endure the searing heat. Early this month, Woods actually decided to leave the Tour de France early so he could come to the Olympics early to help acclimate himself to the heat.

“I did three hours in the peak heat of the day, sweating profusely, and I was really happy that I got that in. I think I need a couple more days of that heat exposure and I think I’ll be good in terms of actual race day preparation,” Woods said.

The Olympic road race is usually held on a circuit, but at these Games, riders began at Tokyo’s Musashinonomori Park then passed through Kanagawa and Yamanashi Prefectures before finishing at the Fuji International Speedway. As riders wound their way through the Japanese countryside, they were treated to small slices of Japanese culture, including ancient temples and ornate fountains.

Just two weeks ago, Woods was involved in a crash at the Tour de France, where he suffered a severe road rash. But coming into these Games, Wood said he felt healthy and in great spirits.

Back home, his wife Elly is just about to have a baby boy. Despite changes coming at home and a career that has now included two Olympics, in the moments after this narrow defeat, Woods said that you may see him in Paris, the site of 2024 Olympics.

“We will have to see what the course in Paris is like,” he said. “I will be 38 at the next Olympics, So it’s difficult to say. But this has me all the more motivated and if the course in Paris is challenging, I will be there I think.”

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Canadian medal hopefuls Humana-Paredes, Pavan start beach volleyball with easy win – CBC.ca

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Under a scorching sun, brilliant blue sky and temperatures that soared above 38 degrees Celsius at the Shiokaze Park in Tokyo, Canada’s dynamic beach volleyball duo of Sarah Pavan and Melissa Humana-Paredes wasted no time taking it to their Dutch opponents. 

The No. 1-ranked and defending world champions took a few minutes to get their footing in the golden sand at the venue, but when they did, they were a force to be reckoned with. 

Pavan and Humana-Paredes defeated the Netherlands duo of Katja Stam and Raisa School in straight sets (21-16, 21-14) on Saturday to open their Olympics. 

“I think today we made it clear that everything we’ve been working on has paid off,” Pavan said after the victory. “The three times we’ve played that team it’s gone down to the wire. Today we took care of it.”

The duo fell behind early to the Dutch, trailing 5-2 in the first set and looking somewhat frustrated. But after an end change Canada rallied, stringing together four straight points, the fourth a huge Pavan block at the net, to take a 6-5 lead.

She pumped her fist in the air before sharing a high-five with Humana-Paredes.

“Regardless of the empty stadium I was shaking like a leaf,” Humana-Paredes said. “I was so nervous and so excited and put on a brave face.”

Bring on the cheers

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The team talked about needing to feed off one another’s energy on the court because they normally thrive on the crowd. So any chance they get to ignite one another here at the Olympics, they take full advantage of it. 

Thousands of blue seats around the venue sat empty because of COVID restrictions — a similar scene at every Olympic venue in Tokyo, still in a state of emergency.

WATCH | Pavan, Humana-Paredes win opener in straight sets:

Canada’s Melissa Humana-Paredes and Sarah Pavan opened their Tokyo 2020 beach volleyball campaign with a straight-sets (21-16, 21-14) win over the Netherlands’ Katja Stam and Raisa School. 5:34

The Canadians started to pull away slowly from the Dutch. Pavan’s 6-foot-5 frame was a huge advantage at the net, blocking another Dutch smash to make the score 14-10. 

The Dutch were visibly frustrated by Pavan’s daunting presence at the net and started making unforced errors. The Canadian duo then cruised to a 21-16 opening-set victory.

“We came out a little slow just getting used to the environment, nerves, excitement, everything. We settled in pretty quickly,” Pavan said. 

The Dutch weren’t about to go away too easily in the second set, going shot for shot with the Canadians. Canada mounted a 12-9 lead before a technical timeout for crews to rake the sand court.

Humana-Paredes then took her defensive game to a different level and at times was seemingly all over the court, digging up balls that seemed destined to touch sand. 

Pavan’s presence at the net continually frustrated the Canadians’ Dutch opponents. (AFP via Getty Images)

The experience, poise and power of the Canadians proved to be too much for the Dutch duo. Pavan and Humana-Paredes finished off the match winning the second set, 21-14. 

“Our game plan was on point. We executed our serving game very well and our defensive system. We were very prepared,” Pavan said. 

She finished with four block points and 11 attack points. 

One of the key strengths to Humana-Paredes and Pavan’s game is their ability to communicate. Because of the silent venue their strategy could be heard very clearly throughout the venue. They were constantly talking to one another and sharing information to each other and it slowly wore down the Dutch. 

WATCH | Pavan, Humana-Paredes headed for history:

On this week’s episode of Team Canada Today, we go behind the scenes at training while Andi Petrillo tells you all you need to know about Olympic beach volleyball. 7:57

“That’s something we’ve been working on and it’s a cornerstone of our team,” Humana-Paredes said. “Our communication on and off the court, we put so much work into that. Communication is what we always come back to.”

Pavan and Humana-Paredes now take on Germany in their second match of the tournament in Pool A. 

There are 24 teams competing at the women’s beach volleyball tournament, including another Canadian duo made up of Heather Barnsley and Brandie Wilkerson. They play China in their first game on Saturday night in Tokyo. 

There are six groups made up of four teams. The top two teams from each group advance, with four more joining them in the round of 16. Then that gets trimmed down to eight teams, four teams and then the gold medal game. 

That’s the game Pavan and Humana-Paredes are targeting and are off to a perfect start. 

“It’s such an honour to be here and surreal. It’s something I’ve dreamt of since I was a little girl. I just want to soak it all in.”

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