NBA

Curry hails 'huge win' for the Warriors over the Suns on Christmas Day

By Sports Desk December 26, 2021

Stephen Curry hailed the Golden State Warriors' win against the Phoenix Suns on Christmas Day as "huge" given the number of players missing.

Against a comparatively healthy Suns squad, the Warriors were without Andrew Wiggins, Jordan Poole, Damion Lee and Moses Moody (health and safety protocols), along with several assistant coaches, and Andre Iguodala (knee), Klay Thompson (Achilles/ACL) and James Wiseman (meniscus) still out with injury.

Curry was available but has previously struggled on Christmas, averaging just 13.1 points in his eight career games on the festive day. That ranked as his worst average points haul on any date he has played on more than twice.

However, the Warriors' star guard excelled against the Suns on Saturday, achieving a game-high 33 points in the 116-107 win.

Otto Porter Jr also impressed in a rare start for Golden State, with a late flurry helping to see his team home as 13 of his 19 points came in the fourth quarter, making several clutch shots.

Speaking after the game, Curry said: "It's nice to win on Christmas, nice to win on the road against the best record in the league, short-handed. All the other context of the situation, a huge win.

"Everybody stepped up. It was a great atmosphere. Just toughed it out at the end, and obviously, Otto took over down the stretch, so that was huge all the way around."

Steve Kerr's Warriors now move half a game ahead of the Suns, with a league-best 27-6 record.

Kerr was delighted with the showing from his depleted side, making special mention of how Curry rose to the occasion despite being one of their only star men available.

"Steph was amazing," he said. "Facing that defense with so much attention on him, missing three of our best shooters, for him to see that type of defense and find his way to 33 points - he was a plus-24 - so even when he was not making shots, he was still impacting the game just by pulling the defense over towards him.

"Steph was brilliant, so was Draymond [Green]. I thought [Kevon] Looney did a hell of a job, as well, so it was a great team win."

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    There is a debate to be had that, even if Real Madrid lose Saturday's Champions League final at Stade de France and Carlo Ancelotti never lifts another trophy again, the Italian will still be able to stake a claim as being remembered as the greatest coach of all time.

    After all, he has already won 22 trophies across a managerial career spanning 27 years that has seen him coach 10 different clubs in five different countries. Indeed, he this month became the first coach to win each of the Premier League, Serie A, Bundesliga, Ligue 1 and LaLiga.

    There is no questioning Carlo's credentials, then, but victory against Jurgen Klopp's Liverpool in Paris really would take the 62-year-old into 'GOAT' territory as the outright most successful coach in terms of major European honours.

    Ancelotti is currently level with Alex Ferguson and Giovanni Trapattoni in that regard with seven UEFA club competition triumphs – three Champions Leagues, three Super Cups and one Intertoto Cup, a much-derided competition that is now defunct.

    Many would suggest a better barometer of determining the true Greatest of All Time would be to simply look at how many Champions Leagues or European Cups, as it was formerly known, a manager has won. In that case, Ancelotti is level with Bob Paisley and Zinedine Zidane with three apiece.

    Triumphing for a fourth time in UEFA's showpiece competition, having previously done so with Milan in 2003 and 2007, and Madrid in 2014, would therefore set Ancelotti apart from the rest.

    The hugely experienced coach has a great record when it comes to Champions League finals, too, with victories in three of his previous four such matches. The only exception to that? In 2004-05 when Liverpool famously beat Milan on penalties in a game they trailed 3-0 at half-time.

    CARLO'S CUP PEDIGREE

    The glitz and glamour of a Champions League final was far from Klopp's mind in that campaign when in his fourth season in charge of Mainz. The 2004-05 season was just as memorable for the German club's supporters as Liverpool's, though, as they finished 11th in what was their first top-flight campaign.

    Seventeen years on, Klopp now has a shot at becoming one of 17 multiple-time winners of the European Cup/Champions League, level with the likes of Jose Mourinho, Pep Guardiola and even Manchester United great Ferguson.

    He went all the way with Liverpool in 2019, triumphing over domestic rivals Tottenham, but his previous two finals in the competition ended in disappointment, with defeat against Bayern Munich as Dortmund boss in 2013 and against Zidane's Madrid as Liverpool manager in 2018.

    Zidane may have been replaced by Ancelotti in the Madrid dugout, but this weekend presents Klopp – and indeed Liverpool – with a shot at redemption. Having won two trophies already with the Reds this season, Klopp's cup final record looks a lot better than it did just a few months ago.

    He has now won eight of his 18 finals, which compares to 16 victories from 22 finals for Ancelotti across all competitions. In percentage terms, Klopp has won 44 per cent of finals he has contested, while Ancelotti has won 73 per cent.

    A FAMILIAR FOE AWAITS

    Ancelotti and Klopp are no strangers to one another, of course, with Saturday's showdown set to be their 11th meeting in all competitions. Ancelotti edges the overall record from the previous 10 encounters with four wins to Klopp's three.

    Despite managing an Everton side far inferior to Klopp's Liverpool, Ancelotti lost just one of his three Merseyside derbies during his season-and-a-half in charge of the Toffees.

    That includes three successive games without defeat, culminating in a 2-0 win in February 2021 – Everton's first Anfield victory since 1999 and their first win either home or away over Liverpool since 2010.

    Ancelotti certainly had Klopp's number in the most recent of their battles, although the results of his two finals against English clubs in European competition have been mixed – the aforementioned shoot-out loss in 2005 and a 2-1 win two years later, both during his time with Milan and both against Liverpool.

    The Italian has certainly stood the test of time, with his 70 per cent win rate in his second stint with Madrid bettered only by the 75 per cent enjoyed the first time around in the Spanish capital, and now a shot at history – a fourth Champions League and an eighth European trophy – awaits.

    Against a familiar opponent in both Liverpool and Klopp, and in a city where he helped grow Paris Saint-Germain into a force to be reckoned with just over a decade ago, the stage is set for Ancelotti to further strengthen his claim as being the greatest of them all.

  • Jaylen Brown insists the Boston Celtics' defensive input is the 'key' after Game 5 win Jaylen Brown insists the Boston Celtics' defensive input is the 'key' after Game 5 win

    Boston Celtics star Jaylen Brown insisted his side will continue to win games with their defense after defeating the Miami Heat 93-80 on Wednesday.

    The Celtics recovered from a disappointing first half to take a 3-2 series lead in the Eastern Conference Finals, setting up a chance to clinch the series and an NBA Finals berth on their home floor.

    Boston scored only 37 points in the first half, shooting 25 per cent from beyond the three-point arc, but only trailed by five points at the main interval.

    Brown asserted that their defence is critical in limiting the damage when they are not clicking on the offensive end, keeping the team in games.

    "Our defence is key," he said after the win. "Every night we come out and hang our hat on that side of the ball. It was great to have, even in a limited role, Marcus [Smart] and Rob [Williams III], to be able to be out there, because their presence on that side of the ball is felt.

    "Every night we give ourselves a chance with our defence. We didn't play great in the first half but we only gave up 42 points. Kept us in the game, we were down five, got settled in the second half and the game opened up and it was over from there.

    "Our defence is what continues to win us games and we've got to keep hanging our hat on that defensive side of the ball."

    In what has been a primarily defensive series, Game 5 was no different, with Miami generating a great amount of offensive impact from their defensive stops.

    Brown was a prominent figure in that regard, coughing up four of Boston's 10 turnovers for the half as the team shot 38.2 per cent from the floor.

    The 25-year-old took over in the second half, however, not turning the ball over once while scoring 19 points off eight-of-12 shooting.

    Post-game, he said there was little variation in approach, despite a dressing down in the first half from Celtics coach Ime Udoka.

    "We knew if we took care of the basketball, we would get some open opportunities and knock them down," Brown said. "Just continue to play basketball and be aggressive, that's why basketball is 48 minutes.

    "I think he [Udoka] was talking to the whole team. I wasn't the only person to have some turnovers but it is what it is. I'm going to keep being aggressive, keep getting into the paint and making them stop me.

    "Miami do a really good job of slapping down, reaching and grabbing and making it tough for you, so it's a little bit of both. I've got to do a better job for sure, but overall as a team, we've got to do a better job too."

  • A tale of two halves as Jaylen Brown lifts Celtics to crucial Game 5 win against the Heat A tale of two halves as Jaylen Brown lifts Celtics to crucial Game 5 win against the Heat

    The Boston Celtics claimed critical home-court advantage and a 3-2 series lead in the Eastern Conference Finals, earning a gritty 93-80 Game 5 win against the Miami Heat on Wednesday.

    In all four quarters the Celtics held the Heat to 23 points or fewer, but the offensive side of the ball was also far from clicking early on.

    The Heat led 19-17 at quarter-time and after winning the second frame 23-20, they held an incredibly low-scoring 42-37 lead at the long break.

    In the first half, both teams shot under 39 per cent from the field and 26 per cent from three-point range, but the Heat were winning the physical battle on the boards, pulling in nine offensive rebounds to just two for the Celtics.

    The two teams also combined for just six fast-break points in the first half, illustrating the slow, grinding pace of play as both defences locked in, forcing better ball and man movement.

    Back in Game 1, also in Miami, the Heat who came out of the locker room for the third quarter and went on a rampage to swing that game, but this time the shoe was on the other foot.

    The Celtics doubled up the Heat in the third period, winning it 32-16 as Jayson Tatum, Jaylen Brown and Al Horford found rhythm on the offensive end.

    Boston led 69-58 after three quarters, and extended that lead to 23 points in the opening minutes of the final frame, as Brown knocked down three big triples.

    After a first half where he was the subject of plenty of criticism for his loose ball handling – with four first-half turnovers – Brown made the difference after half-time, finishing with 25 points on 10-of-19 shooting and five-of-nine from long range. He also had no turnovers in the second half, and the biggest dunk of the game.

    Jayson Tatum was also at his playmaking best, with 22 points on a mediocre seven-of-20 shooting, but he added 12 rebounds and nine assists, consistently creating opportunities for shooters off the dribble and showing advanced ability to make reads as play unfolded.

    The real story of the Celtics' success was their ability to take away the three-point line for the Heat, though.

    With Jimmy Butler's jump shots not falling – finishing with 13 points on four-of-18 shooting – Miami simply had no avenue to reliable outside scoring.

    The Celtics' ability to chase hard over the top of screens and dribble hand-offs made life miserable for Max Strus and Duncan Robinson, taking away their catch-and-shoot opportunities and turning them into dribblers, far outside their comfort zones. 

    Strus finished zero-of-nine from the field, missing all seven of his three-point attempts, while Robinson was four-of-12, including three-of-10 from long range. As a team, the Heat were just seven-of-45 (15 per cent) from beyond the arc.

    Instead, the Celtics dared the Heat to beat them inside, banking on the stoutness of their terrific interior defensive duo of Horford and Robert Williams III. That pairing combined for 17 rebounds, five blocks, two steals and just one foul.

    Game 6 will head back to Boston, meaning the first-seeded Heat need to win on the road to save their season and force a Game 7.

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