NBA

Embiid leads 76ers past Wizards, Jokic hits double-double as Nuggets edge Clippers

By Sports Desk December 27, 2021

The Philadelphia 76ers moved above .500 as Joel Embiid scored 36 points with 13 rebounds in a 117-96 win over the Washington Wizards on Sunday.

The 76ers center was the dominant player on court, but also involved in a spat with Montrezl Harrell, which saw the latter ejected after a second technical foul in the third quarter.

Embiid had good support from Tobias Harris (23 points, seven rebounds, three assists) and Seth Curry (11 points with three triples, five rebounds, nine assists).

The Wizards had held a six-point quarter-time lead but the 76ers responded with excellent second and third periods, totalling 67-41 to take control of the game.


Jokic double-double leads Nugs past Clippers

Reigning MVP Nikola Jokic led the Denver Nuggets past the Los Angeles Clippers 103-100 in a thriller with the Serbian center finishing with 26 points, 22 rebounds and eight assists. Youngster Brandon Boston Jr, who had 18 points, missed a three-point attempt on the buzzer to force over-time. Jokic becomes the first player to record 25 or more points, 20 or more rebounds and five or more assists in back-to-back games since Charles Barkley in 1988.

Veteran Kevin Love scored 22 points making six-of-nine from beyond the arc, with nine rebounds from 18 minutes on court as the Cleveland Cavaliers thrashed the Toronto Raptors 144-99 to improve to 20-13. The 45-point win was the Cavs' largest margin since 1991, when they had a franchise-best 68-point win over the Miami Heat.

Zach LaVine scored 32 points including five three-pointers while DeMar DeRozan added 24 points as the Chicago Bulls got past the Indiana Pacers 113-105.  

 

Morant still finding his feet

Ja Morant continues to adjust after returning from injury, shooting eight-of-18 from the field including zero-of-three from three-point range while having four turnovers in the Memphis Grizzlies' 127-102 win over the Sacramento Kings. Morant did finish with 18 points and nine assists.

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  • Brilliant Benzema declares: 'We are the best... again!' Brilliant Benzema declares: 'We are the best... again!'

    Karim Benzema proudly declared "we are the best again" after Real Madrid secured another Champions League title with a 1-0 win over Liverpool.

    France international Benzema largely watched on as Liverpool bombarded Madrid's goal in the first half at the Stade de France on Saturday.

    Jurgen Klopp's Reds attempted five shots on target in the opening 45 minutes, as many as Liverpool had mustered in their previous two Champions League finals combined (two in 2018 and three in 2019).

    During that first-half rearguard display in Paris, Benzema saw a goal ruled out shortly before the interval after being adjudged to stray offside inside the area.

    But Vinicius Junior delivered the decisive strike just before the hour, while Thibaut Courtois thwarted Liverpool as Madrid held on for a record-extending 14th European Cup, more than double any other side.

    Benzema became just the second French captain to lift the trophy, after Didier Deschamps with Marseille in 1993, and the Madrid talisman was quick to salute his side.

    "We are the best again. It has been a very difficult season for us, and we deserved it again," he told Movistar.

    "The game was very difficult, but we showed everyone that we are alive, and we won. A final always involves hard work and tiredness...

    "We scored an offside goal and got into the game in the second half to end up winning the final."

    Benzema also expressed his delight at winning the Champions League in his home country as he eyes the Ballon d'Or before heading to the World Cup with France.

    "It means a lot to me, it's very important. I'm very proud," he continued.

    On the Ballon d'Or, the 34-year-old added: "Let's see if it happens. Hopefully. But the most important thing is to enjoy today's victory."

  • 'I am the record man' – Real Madrid boss Ancelotti beaming after fourth Champions League triumph 'I am the record man' – Real Madrid boss Ancelotti beaming after fourth Champions League triumph

    Carlo Ancelotti declared himself the "record man" after becoming the first coach to win the European Cup or Champions League four times after Vinicius Junior fired Real Madrid to a 1-0 final win over Liverpool.

    Vinicius' second-half goal proved decisive as Madrid won their 14th European crown – twice as many as any other side has managed in the competition's history – as Los Blancos added European football's biggest prize to their LaLiga title triumph.

    Madrid had to stand firm in the face of sustained Liverpool pressure, with Jurgen Klopp's men registering 24 shots during the course of the contest, but Los Blancos produced a resilient performance to replicate their 2018 final win over the Reds.

    Having led Milan to Champions League titles in 2002-03 and 2006-07 and done likewise with Madrid in 2013-14 and 2021-22, Ancelotti is now the most successful manager in the history of the competition.

    Speaking to BT Sport in the aftermath of the win, the Italian said he felt fortunate to have returned to the Santiago Bernabeu prior to the start of the season, also hailing his team's character after they followed up a series of dramatic European comebacks with another final victory.

    "I am the record man!" he laughed. "I had the luck to come here last year, and to have a fantastic season. 

    "I found, as usual, a fantastic club and a really good squad, with a lot of quality and a strong mental character. I think this season was top. 

    "I cannot believe it. I think that we had a fantastic season, and we did really well. It was a difficult game. 

    "We suffered a lot, more at the start, [we were] better second half. I think in the end, with all the games that we played, we deserved to win this competition.

    "I think that we passed through a really difficult game every game, the supporters helped us a lot, in the last game [a 6-5 aggregate semi-final win over Manchester City] and tonight.

    "We are really happy, honestly, what can I say? I cannot say more."

    Madrid goalkeeper Thibaut Courtois played a crucial role in ensuring the victory, making nine saves during the game, the most on record by a goalkeeper in a single Champions League final (since 2003-04).

    Asked to describe the Belgian's performance, Ancelotti was lost for words, saying: "Unbelievable. I tell you, I cannot believe it!"

    Madrid had already become the first team to reach the Champions League final after losing a game in each of the last 16, quarter-finals, and semi-finals, making their triumph one of the most dramatic in recent history.

    Asked about Madrid's incredible record on the biggest stage by M+, Ancelotti shrugged: "This is Real Madrid."

  • Real Madrid reign again as Ancelotti, Courtois and Vinicius leave Liverpool down and out in Paris Real Madrid reign again as Ancelotti, Courtois and Vinicius leave Liverpool down and out in Paris

    Carlo Ancelotti must have been considering it. He must have been thinking that this would not be Vinicius Junior's night.

    The hour mark was approaching, the Brazilian boy wonder had barely made an impact on this Champions League final, and on the bench there was semi-final hero Rodrygo, straining for a chance.

    Heck, there was Eden Hazard too, and even Isco and Gareth Bale. For old time's sake, did they ever cross Ancelotti's mind.

    There had been a first-half flicker from the 21-year-old Vinicius, when he got the better of Liverpool's Ibrahima Konate with a stealthy piece of skill in the penalty area, but Jordan Henderson read the danger and gladly conceded a corner.

    But that had really been the first and last time in the first 58 minutes of play that Vinicius caused Liverpool any real consternation. He had a team-low 29 touches of the ball at that point, but then Federico Valverde's low cross from the right presented him with a 30th, a tap-in at the far post. The phantom menace became the match-winner.

    Trent Alexander-Arnold, needing to initially cover Karim Benzema, appeared to almost forget about Vinicius, but there he was, lurking, and he could not miss.

    Billed as a Ballon d'Or shootout between Benzema and Liverpool's Mohamed Salah, this final largely ignored that script. If anybody put in a performance worth of such an honour here, it was Madrid's outstanding goalkeeper Thibaut Courtois, who made nine saves, the most on record in a Champions League final since 2003-04.

    Watched by Ronaldo, the great Brazilian whose health scare before the 1998 World Cup final at this very stadium was followed by France romping to glory, Vinicius stayed on the pitch until stoppage time, when Ancelotti opted for Rodrygo's fresh legs.

    Ancelotti, that is, who is now a four-time Champions League winner, the first coach in the history of the competition, in this or its previous guise as the European Cup, to reach that tally.

    He has trusted Vinicius all season long, backed a blossoming talent and been richly rewarded by the youngster, and his winner in such a game of high prestige marks another step forward in a career that could see him finish among the all-time greats.

    There were plenty of greats inside the Stade de France, many in the stands. Needless to say, the likes of Luis Figo, Ronaldo, Clarence Seedorf, Zinedine Zidane and Fabio Cannavaro did not have to tolerate any of the nonsense outside the stadium that forced this game to be delayed by 36 minutes, that left reports of children in tears, of pepper-spraying police, media being mistreated, and of panic on the streets of Paris.

    The Galacticos were joined in the VIP seats by Rafael Nadal, midway through his crusade for a 14th French Open title.

    Madrid now have 14 Champions League and European Cup titles, and Ancelotti, who delivered La Decima in 2014, has delivered two of those after the two he landed with his beloved Milan.

    A double of LaLiga and the Champions League is theirs, while Liverpool must settle for their own twin triumphs from the FA Cup and EFL Cup. The quadruple was beyond them, and Liverpool blew themselves out in the first half here.

    After knocking out Paris Saint-Germain, Chelsea, Manchester City and now sinking Liverpool in the trophy match, Madrid reign once more.

    Vinicius reigns – the first South American aged 21 or younger to have 10 or more goal involvements in a Champions League campaign since Lionel Messi for Barcelona in the 2008-09 season.

    His four goals and six assists in Europe came from a personal all-competitions haul of 22 goals and 16 assists in 52 games for the season. At 21 years and 320 days, Vinícius is the fifth youngest player to score in a Champions League final.

    Ancelotti reigns – "I am a record man," he told BT Sport at full-time.

    Benzema reigns – it was not his night but could have been.

    The Frenchman had a goal ruled out for offside just before half-time, after a three-and-a-half-minute wait for a VAR verdict. Deciphering that moment was as challenging as the task of unravelling the Agatha Christie footballers' wives court saga, and it caused almost as much soapbox frothing on social media.

    Come the final whistle, and Madrid's celebrations of their 1-0 victory, that moment was an afterthought.

    At full-time, former Liverpool and Madrid striker Michael Owen said of Jurgen Klopp's Reds: "I still think they're the team to beat... the most fearsome team in Europe".

    Owen was in Paris, at pitchside even, but must have missed the news. Madrid reign again.

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