NBA

Embiid stars as 76ers down Nets despite Durant return, streaking Bucks extend winning run

By Sports Desk December 30, 2021

Joel Embiid bossed the Eastern Conference-leading Brooklyn Nets despite the return of Kevin Durant as the Philadelphia 76ers center scored 34 points in a 110-102 win on Thursday.

Embiid finished with 34 points, including three triples, six rebounds, three steals and one block as tension boiled over between him and Durant who exchanged words late in the game and gestured demonstrably after the final buzzer based on their history.

Durant returned from protocols with 33 points, seven rebounds and four assists, while James Harden recorded a triple-double with 33 points, 14 rebounds and 10 assists.

The 76ers got home in a tight encounter with a 26-20 final quarter helping them to their third straight win and fourth in a row on the road.

Brooklyn's record moves to 23-10 while the 76ers improve to 19-16 as the east heats up.

 

Champions clinch fifth win in a row

Giannis Antetokounmpo and the Milwaukee Bucks were in the mood with a 136-118 victory over the Orlando Magic. The 2021 NBA Finals MVP scored 33 points with 12 rebounds, five assists, two steals and two blocks for the reigning champions.

Jrue Holiday (25 points, five rebounds, seven assists) and Khris Middleton (22 points, three triples, six assists) made valuable contributions as the Bucks claimed their fifth consecutive win to improve to 24-13.

Bradley Beal returned from protocols with 29 points, six rebounds and 10 assists while Kyle Kuzma had 25 points with 10 rebounds as the Washington Wizards won 110-93 over the Cleveland Cavaliers. Kevin Love top scored for the Cavs, who were without Darius Garland in protocols, with 24 points and 11 rebounds.

 

Mills errant from range

Australian guard Patty Mills had an unhappy time in the Nets' loss to the 76ers, shooting one of eight from beyond the arc and 20 percent from the field for five points.

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  • Vinicius and Courtois star as Madrid down Liverpool: The best Opta facts from Champions League final Vinicius and Courtois star as Madrid down Liverpool: The best Opta facts from Champions League final

    Vinicius Junior and Thibaut Courtois were the heroes as Real Madrid downed Liverpool 1-0 in the Champions League final in Paris, securing a record-extending 14th European crown for Los Blancos.

    Vinicius' second-half winner proved decisive as Liverpool failed to find a way past the outstanding Courtois despite piling on the pressure, as Madrid repeated their 2018 final win over the Reds.

    While Jurgen Klopp's team have now missed out on both the Premier League and Champions League trophies after leading an incredible four-front fight for silverware this season, Carlo Ancelotti has led Madrid to a terrific LaLiga and Champions League double, reaching a personal landmark along the way.

    Here, Stats Perform takes a look at the best Opta facts from the fiercely contested final.

    After kick-off was twice delayed at the Stade de France, Liverpool made a fast start to the contest but found Courtois in imperious form as they eventually fell to their third Champions League final defeat – only Juventus (five) have lost more, while Jurgen Klopp has lost more finals in the competition than any other manager (three).

    It was not for want of trying, however: Liverpool had as many shots on target in the first half (five) as they did in their previous two Champions League final appearances combined (two in 2018 and three in 2019).

    The Reds ended the match having racked up 24 shots, the most on record (since 2003-04) from a team who failed to score in a Champions League final. 

    Meanwhile, Courtois' nine saves in the match made up the highest tally in a single Champions League final (since 2003-04), surpassing Liverpool's Allison (in 2019) and Manchester United's Edwin Van der Sar (in 2011), both with eight.

    Courtois also made 59 saves throughout Madrid's run in the competition this term, setting a new single-season record after Petr Cech made 58 for Chelsea in their triumphant 2011-12 campaign (since 2003-04).

    But it was Vinicius who proved the match-winner, escaping Trent Alexander-Arnold's attentions to tap home from Federico Valverde's cross in the 59th minute.

    Vinicius' goal made him the first South American to register 10 goal involvements in a single Champions League campaign (four goals, six assists) while aged 21 or under since Lionel Messi recorded 14 for Barcelona in 2008-09 (nine goals, five assists).

    Furthermore, at 21 years and 320 days old, the Brazilian became the second-youngest player to net for Los Blancos in a European Cup or Champions League final, after Marco Asensio against Juventus in 2017 (21 years, 133 days), and the first Brazilian to score the winner in the competition's final since Juliano Belletti for Barcelona in 2006, also in Paris (against Arsenal).

    Madrid's victory means they have won the European Cup or Champions League twice as many times (14) as the next-most successful club in the competition's history (Milan with seven), and Los Blancos have also won in each of their last eight final appearances, defeating Liverpool in their past two.

    Finally, Ancelotti became the most successful coach in the competition's history with his fourth title (also 2002-03 and 2006-07 with Milan and 2013-14 with Madrid), as he moved clear of Madrid predecessor Zinedine Zidane and Liverpool great Bob Paisley (both three).

  • 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."

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