For four straight years, meetings between LeBron James and the Golden State Warriors decided the NBA title.

James' Cleveland Cavaliers faced the Warriors in the Finals in consecutive seasons between 2015 and 2018, winning only once as Golden State earned three championships.

James left Cleveland after the Warriors' most recent triumph, though, and his move to the Western Conference with the Los Angeles Lakers means he can no longer face his old rivals in the title decider.

But games between James and Golden State remain blockbuster affairs and they will go at it again on Sunday.

The Lakers swept a threadbare Warriors team in the 2019-20 regular season before James claimed his fourth ring, but Stephen Curry and Golden Stave have already gained revenge once already this year.

And momentum is with the travelling outfit heading into this clash.

 

TOP PERFORMERS

Dennis Schroder - Los Angeles Lakers

As the 23-11 Lakers lost four straight games prior to beating the Portland Trail Blazers on Friday, the continued absence of Anthony Davies appeared the most obvious factor in their poor form.

But that wretched run coincided with Schroder's lay-off due to the league's health and safety protocols. He returned against Portland and scored 22 points, improving his personal record to 23-7 on the year.

A Sixth Man of the Year contender last season with the Oklahoma City Thunder, Schroder has started all 30 of his appearances for the Lakers and provided James with some much-needed help on the offensive end.

Schroder, who weighed in with a season-high 25 points in January's defeat to the Warriors, leading LA in scoring, has averaged 14.5 points and 4.2 rebounds this term.

Stephen Curry - Golden State Warriors

Two-time MVP Curry is putting together another astonishing season, back fit and firing after playing just five games in 2019-20.

He has averaged 29.9 points per game this season, a mark that sits second in the NBA – behind Bradley Beal's 32.8 on a poor Washington Wizards team – and second in Curry's own career, narrowly trailing the 2015-16 campaign (30.1).

A remarkable level of consistency has made Golden State a force again in the west at 19-15 and yet Curry is actually improving as the season goes on.

He has averaged 33.4 points this month, with his lowest return 24 at Indiana, still enough to match the Pacers' top-scoring Malcolm Brogdon.

KEY BATTLE - LEBRON AND DRAYMOND TO RENEW ACQUAINTANCES?

The 2019-20 season was a forgettable one for the injury-hit Warriors, but Draymond Green is unlikely to have let the third and final game against the Lakers slip from his memory.

Green was ejected for two technical fouls in quick succession, departing after less than 10 minutes of action – his fewest minutes in any of the 12 NBA games he has been ejected from.

James, a direct opponent in many of those Finals battles, was not involved due to injury but was spotted laughing at his furious rival's misfortune.

Without the distraction of Davis, Green should have the opportunity to go up against James and perhaps serve a reminder of his talents as one of the league's outstanding defensive players of the past decade.
 

HEAD TO HEAD

Both teams have had runs as the league's dominant team, but the Lakers boast the superior head-to-head regular-season record, with 255 wins to Golden State's 169.

Since James moved to Los Angeles, they have met eight times, winning four apiece, although the Lakers' main man has only appeared in four of those games.

He has a 3-1 record against the Warriors as a Laker, with the sole defeat the 115-113 reverse earlier this season.

Australia off-spinner Nathan Lyon mocked England's team selection for their third Test hammering by India – declaring the spectacle on a sharply turning pitch in Ahmedabad to be "absolutely brilliant".

The tourists recalled James Anderson and Jofra Archer to feature alongside Stuart Broad and all-rounder Ben Stokes, in anticipation of conditions in the day/night Test being favourable to seamers.

However, a volatile surface offered assistance to spinners from the very start, with England bundled out for 112 and 81 as they lost by 10 wickets.

India only managed 145 in their first innings and England skipper Joe Root claimed career-best figures of 5-8 with his part time off-spin.

Despite being a far more respected practitioner of that particular craft, Lyon insisted he had no qualms over a surface that drew criticism from former England captains Michael Vaughan, Andrew Strauss and Alastair Cook.

"The best thing about this Test match that just passed is that England went in with four seamers," Lyon said, as quoted by cricket.com.au.

"That will do me. I don't need to say any more.

"I was up all night watching it. It was absolutely brilliant. I'm thinking about bringing that curator out to the SCG."

Lyon made a pointed reference to Australia's humiliating dismissals for 47 and 60 against South Africa and England in 2012 and 2015 respectively, when conditions favoured seam bowling.

"We play on seaming wickets around the world and get bowled out for 47, 60. Nobody ever says a thing [about the pitch]," he said.

"But as soon as it starts spinning, everyone in the world seems to start crying about it. I don't get it. I'm all for it, it was entertaining."

Despite Lyon's enjoyment of the latest match in the four-Test series, the result harmed Australia's prospects of reaching this year's World Test Championship final.

Only an England win in the final game can edge Tim Paine's side into the inaugural one-off showpiece against New Zealand at India's expense.

That would leave Australia out of action in the longest format until the start of their domestic season at the end of this year – an unhelpfully long time for speculation over ructions between coach Justin Langer and members of his team to fester.

"Me personally, if I had a problem with JL I'd go straight to him," Lyon added, casting doubt upon the rumours that emerged in the aftermath of Australia's humbling 2-1 home loss to an injury-ravaged India.

"But I don't have a problem with him. I don't understand where it's all coming from.

"I'd like to think anyone in that changing room or anyone at Cricket Australia or outside - if anyone has a problem with anyone, we're about being honest with each other."

Luka Doncic rejected comparisons to Larry Bird after leading the Dallas Mavericks to victory over the Brooklyn Nets.

Doncic tallied 27 points as the Mavericks beat a Nets team missing both Kyrie Irving and Kevin Durant 115-98, ending Brooklyn's eight-game winning streak in the process.

The win improved the Mavericks' record to 16-16, but the race for the playoffs still sees ninth-seeded Dallas on the outside looking in.

Doncic is averaging over 28 points for the second successive season and will need to continue scoring at that rate if the Mavericks are to reach the postseason.

His head coach Rick Carlisle is among those to have compared Doncic to Bird, the legendary three-time MVP for the Boston Celtics.

Speaking to ESPN, Doncic said of those comparisons: "You can't compare me to Larry Bird. The things he's done, [I've got], way ways to go, more games to go, a long time so you can't compare me to Larry Bird.

"I just want to keep hooping, having fun out there playing basketball."

The Slovenian is set to play in his second All-Star game next week, surpassing his expectations after being drafted in 2018 following three seasons with Real Madrid.

"Three years ago I was just hoping to get drafted, I didn't even know," Doncic added.

"On Sunday I can be on my second All-Star. It's just a dream come true, it's just unbelievable."

Matt Derbyshire scored the only goal as Macarthur got back to winning ways in the A-League by beating 10-man Sydney FC 1-0.

Derbyshire netted what proved to be the winner in the 36th minute, but his simple tap-in owed much to the great work of Markel Susaeta down the left byline.

Two minutes later Sydney were reduced to 10 when Paulo Retre was shown a red card for a high challenge.

Macarthur could not add to their advantage but still made it three wins out of four following a 4-1 loss to Western United last time out.

They sit second in their inaugural season in the A-League, trailing Central Coast Mariners - who have a game in hand - by a point.

In the day's other game, goals from David Ball and Ben Waine gave Wellington Phoenix only their second win of the campaign, a 2-0 defeat of Newcastle Jets.

Brooklyn Nets head coach Steve Nash was left frustrated after injuries contributed to the end of the team's eight-game winning streak in the NBA.

The short-handed Nets had their streak snapped following Saturday's 115-98 defeat against the Dallas Mavericks.

Kyrie Irving (shoulder) joined fellow star Kevin Durant (hamstring) – who missed his seventh successive game – on the sidelines and former MVP James Harden was unable to lift the Nets in the duo's absence.

Harden posted 29 points for the Nets in Brooklyn, where he only managed four following half-time.

Afterwards, first-year coach Nash said: "I think everyone's frustrated that we just had a little, just shorter obviously options tonight.

"You're missing two All-Star starters, but even beyond that, Jeff [Green] went out, Tyler [Johnson] couldn't play. It just stretched everything and put us in territory where a lot of guys hadn't had a lot of minutes together.

"So, frustrating, but that's the nature of this season. I've said that time and time again. We're gonna have all sorts of nights where we're gonna mix and match, play different things, and tonight I think we weren't quite good enough, but Dallas played well and one or two too many factors that went against us."

"We usually take James out first, not first, but we take him out early so we can get him back in with the second unit," Nash added. "Obviously tonight we couldn't do that. We were just standing a little it and like I said, a bunch of guys who hadn't played a lot, hadn't played a lot together, and Dallas played well. It's a good team.

"We weren't maybe quite up to it tonight and needed to make more shots, turn the all over less, and it wasn't to be."

On playing short-handed against Luka Doncic and the Mavericks, Harden told reporters: "We fought in that first half. We were down double-digits, fought and cut it to four points at half-time.

"That second half, we just didn't have any legs on our entire team after losing a couple players. It was legs. Every time we made a run, they countered it and made a run. Credit to them. They played pretty well tonight. We just didn't have it.

"Throughout the course of a year, there's going to be games like that. We just chalk it up, prepare and get ready for San Antonio."

The Nets (22-13) are second in the Eastern Conference, half a game adrift of leaders the Philadelphia 76ers (22-12).

The Brooklyn Nets' eight-game winning streak ground to a halt at the hands of Luka Doncic and the Dallas Mavericks, who triumphed 115-98 in the NBA.

Nets star Kyrie Irving (right shoulder recovery) joined former MVP Kevin Durant (hamstring) on the sidelines for Saturday's clash.

Their absence proved too much for James Harden to carry, with the MVP candidate finishing the game on the bench in his casuals as the Mavericks won comfortably.

Harden scored 29 points, with seven rebounds and six assists for Brooklyn, who were jumped by the Mavs in a 38-26 opening quarter.

Despite the Nets closing to within four points at half-time, the Mavericks were never headed, led by Doncic – the All-Star posting 27 points, six rebounds and seven assists.

Doncic won special praise from Harden post-game, who said: "He never lets anyone speed him up, and he gets what he wants. We all know he has a very, very bright future. The Mavs got a special one."

The result leaves the Nets 22-13 in the Eastern Conference, while the Mavericks remain in playoffs contention with a 16-16 record in the west.

 

Sixers suffer rare home defeat, no stopping Jazz

Joel Embiid erupted for 42 points and 13 rebounds, but the Eastern Conference-leading Philadelphia 76ers were upstaged by the Cleveland Cavaliers 112-109 in overtime. It was just Philadelphia's third home defeat of the season in 17 games.

NBA leaders the Utah Jazz returned to winning ways with a 124-109 victory against the Orlando Magic. Donovan Mitchell fuelled the Jazz (27-7) with 31 points, including 25 in the second half, while Rudy Gobert contributed a double-double of 12 points and 16 rebounds. Nikola Vucevic had a game-high 34 points for the Magic in Orlando.

It was a memorable outing for Bradley Beal and head coach Scott Brooks in the Washington Wizards' 128-112 success at home to the lowly Minnesota Timberwolves. Beal put up 34 points – his 20th performance of 30-plus points in 29 games played this season. Per NBA history, only Allen Iverson, Carmelo Anthony and Harden have managed that many 30-plus performances in the first 30 games of a season. Scott, meanwhile, celebrated his 500th win as a head coach. Wizards star Russell Westbrook (19 points, 14 rebounds and 12 assists) finished with a triple-double.

Nikola Jokic (19 points, 11 rebounds and 13 assists) had his eighth triple-double of the season as the Denver Nuggets crushed the Oklahoma City Thunder 126-96.

 

Curry crumbles

It was a forgettable game for Philadelphia's Seth Curry, who finished with four points in 39 minutes. Curry was just one-of-13 from the field, making one of seven from beyond the arc.

 

Ben… from beyond the arc

It is not often Ben Simmons attempts a three-pointer, let alone make one. But the 76ers All-Star hit his fourth career three on Saturday. Simmons finished with 24 points on 11-of-17 shooting from the field, while he was 100 per cent from three-point range.

 

Saturday's results

Saul 'Canelo' Alvarez and Billy Joe Saunders will clash in a mouth-watering unification bout on May 8, promoter Eddie Hearn announced.

Canelo defended his WBC and WBA middleweight titles via a brutal TKO after just three rounds against Avni Yildirim in Miami on Saturday.

After being floored in the third round, Turkish challenger Yildirim managed to make it to the bell but his corner through in the towel before the start of the fourth at Hard Rock Stadium, where the gulf in class was evident from the outset.

Following the mismatch, a blockbuster showdown against unbeaten WBO holder and Englishman Saunders (30-0) was confirmed.

"It's Canelo against Saunders — May the 8th — venue announced shortly as he continues to move toward the undisputed championship at 168," Hearn said post-fight on DAZN.

Canelo said: "He's a very difficult fighter. He wants to unify. We want to go for it. We need to go for it.

"People talk whatever, but I'm a very mature fighter. I know how to control myself."

The 30-year-old Canelo is looking to become the first undisputed champion at super-middleweight, with IBF holder Caleb Plant next on the list if he gets past Saunders.

"It hasn't been done," Canelo said of being crowned undisputed champion "I want to make history.

"At 168, no one has done it in the world. I want to make my own history."

There was an electric crowd in attendance for the Canelo-Yildirim contest, with fan capacity capped at 15,000 amid the coronavirus pandemic.

Canelo dominated and made his move in the third round – a combination of jabs sending Yildirim to the canvas, and while the latter survived the round, he did not emerge from his corner for the fourth.

"I wanted to have a great fight here," Canelo added. "I needed to knock [him] out, and that's what I did. That's what I had to do."

Saul 'Canelo' Alvarez dominated Avni Yildirim, successfully defending his super-middleweight titles via a brutal TKO after just three rounds.

Canelo put his WBC and WBA belts on the line in Miami, where the Mexican star was fighting for just the second time since November 2019 due to the coronavirus pandemic.

The 30-year-old barely raised a sweat on Saturday – Yildirim's corner waving off the fight before the start of the fourth round after a combination of jabs floored the Turkish challenger in the third.

Canelo improved to 55-1-2 as he looks ahead to a unification bout against WBO holder Billy Joe Saunders on May 8.

Eyebrows were raised when Canelo opted to fight Yildirim (21-3), who last fought in February 2019, and the gulf in class was evident from the outset.

There were a couple of warning shots from Canelo in the opening round as he worked Yildirim's body in front of an electric crowd at Hard Rock Stadium.

Canelo, who stopped Callum Smith in December last year, continued to move well in the second round – light on his feet with a number of quick uppercuts setting the tone.

Yildirim was on the backfoot early in the third, sent to the canvas following a devastating one-two combo from Canelo.

Smelling blood, Canelo went in for the attack as he forced Yildirim against the ropes, but the latter managed to weather the storm as he survived the round.

But after his trainer was heard saying "I'll give you one more round or I'll stop you", Yildirim's fight came to an end before the bell could sound for the start of the fourth.

Yussuf Poulsen said RB Leipzig are dreaming of winning the Bundesliga title after their dramatic come-from-behind 3-2 win over Borussia Monchengladbach.

Monchengladbach led 2-0 after 20 minutes on Saturday, but Leipzig fought back with three second-half goals – including a 93rd-minute winner from Alexander Sorloth.

For the first time in their Bundesliga history, Leipzig won a match after trailing by two goals.

The result keeps Leipzig two points behind leaders Bayern Munich after the defending champions routed Cologne 5-1 on Saturday.

Leipzig, who finished third in their past two Bundesliga campaigns and were runners-up in 2016-17, have now won five league games in a row to mount significant pressure on Bayern.

"Everybody dreams of the title, especially when you have been at the top of the Bundesliga in the last four seasons," said Poulsen, who has been at Leipzig since 2013.

"Of course everybody is thinking about it but we know there's still a third of the season left."

Leipzig's title challenge has gained momentum, with Bayern dropping points in consecutive games after returning from their triumphant Club World Cup campaign in Qatar.

However, Julian Nagelsmann's Leipzig were staring down the barrel of a defeat which would have significantly dented those title aspirations.

Poulsen was among the second-half goalscorers as Leipzig turned it around, with half-time substitute Sorloth making a major contribution.

"We delivered a top performance and deserved to win," Poulsen said.

"After a game like that, confidence is high and puts a spring in your step."

 

Borussia Dortmund interim head coach Edin Terzic lauded Jadon Sancho after he became the youngest Bundesliga player to reach 50 assists.

Sancho recorded his 50th assist in his 99th Bundesliga appearance as Dortmund defeated Arminia Bielefeld 3-0 on Saturday.

The 20-year-old England international, who continues to be linked with Premier League giants Manchester United, teed up Mahmoud Dahoud for the 48th-minute opener before converting a penalty 10 minutes later.

Reacting to the achievement, Sancho wrote via Twitter: "Solid win, goal and assist. Happy to be the youngest Bundesliga player to reach 50 assists."

After the match, Terzic told reporters: "I'm very happy how Jadon presents himself lately. He shows it as well with scorer-points.

"He scores again and gets assists in the recent weeks.  I talked about it a lot previously. It's not like he forgot how to play football. He's a young lad. We were very spoiled with how much he has done for the club in recent history.

"We tried to get him back into his form. There were two ways of doing that. First, via the way how we dealt with him personally, talking about a lot of things and having a lot of discussions in general. We also did individual analysis' of him. 

"Secondly we tried to help him as a team as well. We put him on the other side. He now comes a lot more from the left side instead. He does a lot of combinations here and there. Primarily today, with Giovanni Reyna, Jude Bellingham and Raphael Guerreiro.

"He has a lot of pace again. That's something that we missed in the past. Now he rewards himself again. We were able to create an atmosphere in training with him and everyone else where we can try and ask for a lot of aggression every day.

"He currently lives it and he rewards himself with his contributions and wins."

Dortmund, who have won back-to-back Bundesliga games, are fifth in the standings – three points adrift of the top four and 13 points behind leaders Bayern Munich.

Arsenal manager Mikel Arteta admitted the club were "expecting many more things" from off-season signing Willian but believes his midweek assist can be a breakthrough.

The Gunners signed veteran Willian on a free transfer in August after seven seasons across London with Premier League rivals Chelsea.

However, the 32-year-old Brazil international is yet to score for Arsenal since his cross-town move and has had an underwhelming impact.

Willian came off the bench to provide the pass for Kieran Tierney's goal in Arsenal's 3-2 win over Benfica in the Europa League on Thursday in a boost which Arteta hopes can lead to more impact.

"I was really pleased with Willian on Thursday," Arteta told reporters.

"He totally deserves some credit because of the way he trains every day and he is trying.

"In games now you can see that he is starting to produce what we think he can do for the team so everyone has to step up and create big moments in games, because the front players in the end have to be the ones that decide the game for us.

"His team-mates like him and we were expecting many more things from him since he joined but for many different reasons he hasn't found his best performances.

"But hopefully Thursday's performance is going to give him the platform and belief that he is a really important player - he is a player I really like and I did a lot to bring him in and hopefully he can still give us more."

Arsenal make the trip to third-placed Leicester City on Sunday, with Willian in contention to make his first league start since December.

Arteta's Arsenal are 11th in the standings, 15 points behind Leicester and 28 points adrift of runaway leaders Manchester City.

Grayson Murray and local hope Rafael Campos share a one-stroke lead after the third round at the Puerto Rico Open.

Murray produced the round of the day with a seven-under-par 65 at the PGA Tour event in Rio Grande on Saturday.

The American – searching for his first Tour victory since the 2017 Barbasol Championship – was flawless on the front nine with five birdies.

Murray finished with eight birdies in total and just one bogey to be level alongside Puerto Rican golfer Campos.

Campos used a third-round 67 to join Murray atop the leaderboard following a rain-hit day.

Australia's Cameron Percy (67) and South African Branden Grace (68) are tied for third and a stroke behind the duo heading into Sunday's final round.

The Brooklyn Nets will be without star Kyrie Irving against the Dallas Mavericks due to "right shoulder injury recovery".

Brooklyn announced the absence of Irving ahead of Saturday's NBA clash with the Mavericks.

Seven-time All-Star and 2016 NBA champion Irving underwent shoulder surgery in March last year.

Irving has been averaging 27.4 rebounds, 5.9 assists and 4.7 rebounds per game for the star-studded Nets this season.

The Nets are already without former MVP Kevin Durant through the All-Star break.

A left hamstring injury means Durant will not return until after the All-Star Game, which takes place in Atlanta on March 7.

Durant has missed the Nets' last six games, though Brooklyn are in the midst of an eight-game winning streak.

The Nets (22-12) are second behind the Philadelphia 76ers (22-11) in the Eastern Conference.

Collin Morikawa's hot putting saw him soar into a two-stroke lead following the third round of the WGC-Workday Championship.

Morikawa went on a birdie blitz, recording seven across an eight-hole stretch and eight in total to surge to the top of the leaderboard at The Concession Golf Club on Saturday.

Despite birdieing his penultimate hole, American golfer Morikawa leads the field at 15 under through 54 holes in Florida, where the star-studded World Golf Championships are taking place.

A three-time PGA Tour champion and winner of last year's U.S. PGA Championship, Morikawa leads by two shots after three for the second time on Tour – the 2019 3M Open.

Brooks Koepka and Billy Horschel (69) are Morikawa's nearest challengers heading into Sunday's final round.

Koepka carried a one-stroke advantage into the penultimate round, but the four-time major champion saw his lead evaporate following a two-under-par 70.

The American star bogeyed his opening two holes before recovering with four birdies, including a flawless back nine.

Webb Simpson (69) is 12 under, while four-time major winner Rory McIlroy catapulted himself into contention thanks to a six-under-par 66.

McIlroy improved eight positions, moving into a tie for fifth – four shots behind Morikawa – courtesy of an eagle and seven birdies, which outweighed his bogey and double bogey.

Defending champion Patrick Reed is also 11 under alongside McIlroy after his third-round 69.

Hideki Matsuyama (68) – tied for seventh at 10 under – has not recorded a three-putt through 54 holes at the tournament and he extended his tour-leading streak without a three-putt to 221 consecutive holes.

World number one and two-time champion Dustin Johnson recorded back-to-back 69s to move into a tie for 42nd – 16 strokes off the lead.

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