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Daily Archives: May 18, 2008

Basketball: Lakers hold off Jazz to advance in NBA playoffs

Sample ImageThe Los Angeles Lakers withstood a late rally by the Utah Jazz Friday, posting a 108-105 victory to advance to the Western Conference finals of the National Basketball Association playoffs.
Kobe Bryant, the league's Most Valuable Player, scored 34 points, leading six Lakers players in double figures as Los Angeles completed a four-games-to-two triumph in the best-of-seven second-round series.
To do it, the Lakers had to become the first team in the series to win on the road – against a Jazz team that had the best home record in the regular season.
It was the Lakers' first playoff victory at Utah since 1988, and sent them to their first Western Conference finals since 2004.
The Lakers now await the winner of the other Western Conference series between the defending champion San Antonio Spurs and the New Orleans Hornets.
"We have home court advantage on either team, I think that's a big factor," Lakers coach Phil Jackson said. "We know probably San Antonio the best of the two teams, but I think either team is a very difficult match-up for us."
Pau Gasol added 17 points and 13 rebounds for Los Angeles, who started strong and appeared headed for a rout, but ended up holding off the Jazz in a nail-biting finish.
"That was a wire-to-wire finish for us, even though it got close at the end it was another wire-to-wire finish, and that's impressive," Jackson said.
Deron Williams scored 21 points for the Jazz, who buried five 3-pointers in the final two and a half minutes to get within 105-103.
Two of those 3-pointers came 12 seconds apart from Andrei Kirilenko, a one-time All-Star not known for his perimeter shooting.
Ahead by two with 16 seconds to play, the Lakers gave the Jazz a last gasp when Derek Fisher missed a free throw to give Utah a possession and a chance to force overtime.
"When you play here, you have to have a cushion because they're going to find a way to fight and scrap their way back," Bryant said.
"The important thing is coming on the road and winning in this building, where prior to tonight they only lost, I think, five games all year."
The Jazz missed twice, including an attempt by Williams that rattled in and out of the hoop just before time expired.
"I had confidence that we would make the right play at the end," Jackson said. "They made some incredible shots, obviously five 3-pointers down the stretch is pretty remarkable in itself.
"But we felt like we had established the lead and we were doing the right things moving the ball."
The Lakers signalled early that they weren't interested in waiting for a game seven at home to wrap up the series, seizing the lead at the start and never giving it up.
By the five-minute mark of the first period they had a double-digit advantage, a contrast to the first two games in Salt Lake City, both of which the Jazz led for most of the way.
Fisher rounded off the lopsided first half with three free throws on a controversial call at the buzzer. He made all three to give the Lakers a 62-43 halftime lead.
The Jazz, one of the most efficient offensive clubs in the league throughout the season, shot just 33 percent from the field in the first half.
The frontcourt tandem of Carlos Boozer and Mehmet Okur was ineffective, despite strong rebounding.
Boozer was repeatedly double-teamed by the Lakers' quicker big men, frustrating the three-time All-Star who led the Jazz in scoring this season but has struggled offensively in the postseason. He fouled out in the fourth quarter, finishing with only 12 points.
Okur was just 1-for-7 from the field in the first half, and it was well into the fourth quarter before the Jazz made any headway.
With Boozer taking up the attention of the Lakers' interior defense, Williams found reserve Paul Millsap instead. Millsap, a second-year forward, scored eight straight points to spark a Utah comeback.

 

Football: Tevez aiming to be Champions League box office hit

by Neil Johnston*

Manchester United striker Carlos Tevez has revealed how he hopes winning the Champions League will help him become a box office smash in Argentina during the upcoming close season.
Win or lose Wednesday's European showpiece final against Chelsea, Tevez will fly back home to feature in a film about his life.
The documentary will tell the story of Tevez's rise to stardom and the 24-year-old former Boca Juniors star is determined that the film features him holding a Champions League winners' medal.
In order to do that, Tevez will have to help United shoot down their Premier League rivals in Moscow.
"On a European stage and the world stage, it would be very prestigious for all of us, as individuals and as a team, to win next Wednesday," said the Argentina star, who has not ruled out playing in Spain before the end of his career.
"Once this game is over, I will be going back to Argentina. In June a film about my life will be started and that will be a thrilling project to be involved in.
"It would be great to go back to Argentina with a Champions League winners medal."
Tevez has left the door open to play in La Liga "one day" but he is more than happy with life at Old Trafford for now.
He admits the last 12 months have been something of a whirlwind. This time last season he was celebrating after playing an influential role in saving Chelsea's London rivals West Ham from relegation.
Now Tevez find himself on the brink of writing his name in United's history books as Sir Alex Ferguson's side look to be crowned champions of Europe just days after pipping Chelsea to the domestic title.
"I know a lot of South Americans prefer to play in Italy or Spain when they move to Europe, but I'm really pleased that I came here," Tevez added.
"This is the best league in the world and I am amongst some of the best footballers in the world here. I am really happy about that.
"Maybe one day I will play in La Liga but that is a long way off.
"At the moment I am more than happy here. I would certainly love to extend my contract. I would go and sign right now if the opportunity was there.
"I am not one to be making comparisons between clubs but Manchester United are right up there with anyone in the world.
"From day one, everyone has treated me well and made me feel right at home. The fans even chant 'Argentina'. It has made me feel right at home. That is why I am so happy here."
Despite enjoying super-star status at Old Trafford, he has not forgotten his upbringing in Ciudadela and often gets up in the middle of the night to watch teams from South America in action on cable television.
"I still enjoy watching Boca Juniors," added Tevez, who scored 14 goals in 34 appearances during United's Premier League triumph.
"I got up at 4am the other day to watch a match against Mexican side Atlas in the Libertadores Cup. I follow all the games live when I can."

* AFP

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