NBA

Tatum scores 54 points as Celtics beat star-studded Nets, Middleton leads Bucks win over Suns

By Sports Desk March 07, 2022

Jayson Tatum produced a dominant display with 54 points as the Boston Celtics won 126-120 over the Brooklyn Nets who had the rare partnership of Kevin Durant and Kyrie Irving on Sunday.

Durant and Irving teamed up for only the fourth time this season but their presence would not deny Tatum's brilliance, shooting 16-of-30 from the field and eight-of-15 from beyond the arc.

Tatum, who scored 34 points in the second half, led the Celtics' late charge as they won after trailing by one point at the final change.

Durant scored 37 points in his second game back from an MCL sprain which kept him out since mid-January, becoming the 23rd player to reach 25,000 career NBA points.

Irving only managed 19 points with four rebounds and six rebounds for the Nets who slip to 32-33, while the Celtics have won 21 of their past 27 games to improve to 39-27.

 

Middleton scores season-high

Khris Middleton scored a season-high 44 points as Giannis Antetokounmpo took a back seat in the Milwaukee Bucks' 132-122 win over the Phoenix Suns, who were missing both Chris Paul (thumb) and Devin Booker (protocols). The Bucks, who have won four straight, stormed home with a 12-1 run over the last three minutes as Antetokounmpo got into foul trouble.

The Houston Rockets snapped their 12-game losing run with a shock 123-112 win over the Memphis Grizzlies, for whom Ja Morant scored 22 points with six assists. The Utah Jazz closed on Memphis in the west with a 116-103 win at the Oklahoma City Thunder as Bojan Bogdanovic hit a franchise-record 11 three-pointers for his 35 points.

Nikola Jokic scored 46 points, including 30 in the fourth quarter, as the Denver Nuggets won 138-130 over the New Orleans Pelicans in over-time. Jokic had 46 points plus 12 rebounds and 11 assists as the Nugs rallied after squandering a 21-point lead.

 

Allen injury sours Cavs win

The Cleveland Cavaliers won 104-96 over the Toronto Raptors but lost Jarrett Allen indefinitely to a suspected fractured finger. Rookie Evan Mobley had 20 points with 17 rebounds for the Cavs who are 37-27.

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  • Brunson takes $156.5 million to help Knicks' flexibility Brunson takes $156.5 million to help Knicks' flexibility

    Jalen Brunson signed a four-year, $156.5 million extension with the New York Knicks on Friday.

    The figure is $113 million less guaranteed than he would have been eligible to receive next offseason, but it puts the Knicks in a much better position financially to build a championship-caliber roster around him.

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    It’s an unprecedented move for the All-Star guard who finished fifth in MVP voting last season after he averaged career highs of 28.7 points and 6.7 assists in 2023-24.

    Those numbers were far better than expected when the former second-round pick signed with the Knicks in 2022, with some questioning if a player who had mostly been a backup in Dallas was worth more than $100 million.

    Brunson, 27, helped the Knicks reach the second round of the playoffs for the first time since 2013 before falling to the Indiana Pacers in Game 7 of the Eastern Conference semifinals. Brunson broke his hand in the second half and the Knicks were already dealing with a plethora of injuries to key players.

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    Brunson’s extension will begin with the 2025-26 season and his decision to take less money should help the Knicks manage their payroll after a busy offseason in which they re-signed OG Anunoby to a five-year contract worth more than $210 million and acquired Mikal Bridges from the Brooklyn Nets.

  • KFC Jamaica fuels the future of basketball with JMD$4.5 million investment in youth camps KFC Jamaica fuels the future of basketball with JMD$4.5 million investment in youth camps

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  • The Numbers Game: Messi set for triumphant Argentina send-off in Miami? The Numbers Game: Messi set for triumphant Argentina send-off in Miami?

    The stage is set for what could be Lionel Messi's international swansong, as Argentina face Colombia in Sunday's Copa America final in the forward's new home of Miami.

    The Hard Rock Stadium is the venue as Messi and La Albiceleste go in search of a record-breaking 16th Copa America crown, currently level with Uruguay on 15. It would also be a second in a row after they overcame old rivals Brazil in the 2021 final.

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    Ahead of the showpiece game, we dive into the best Opta data surrounding the two finalists. 

    What's expected?

    Argentina began the tournament as favourites, being given a 30.8% chance of securing back-to-back titles for the first time since 1993 by the Opta supercomputer.

    The supercomputer is still on their side ahead of the final, giving them a 50.9% chance of winning the match in 90 minutes.

    Colombia are assigned a 25.4% chance of victory and a 23.6% chance of taking the game to extra time (which will take place if required after being scrapped for all other knockout matches) and potentially penalties.  

    Argentina have won their last two Copa America shoot-outs, against Ecuador in this year's quarter-finals and Colombia in 2021, though they have lost three of their last four finals at the competition on spot-kicks, versus Brazil in 2004 and Chile in both 2015 and 2016.

    Overall, Lionel Scaloni's team are given a 63% chance of lifting the trophy to Colombia's 37%. 

     

    Colombia will be featuring in just their third Copa America final (also 1975 and 2001), becoming the fourth team to reach multiple finals at the competition this century, after Argentina (six), Brazil (four) and Chile (two).

    Argentina have now reached the final at six of their last eight major tournaments (World Cups and Copa America). The only exceptions were at the 2018 World Cup and the 2019 Copa, losing to the eventual champions (France and Brazil) in both instances.

    Colombia have only won one of their last 12 meetings with Argentina (five draws, six defeats) – a 2-0 group-stage win at the 2019 Copa America. The teams' last draw led to Colombia losing on penalties in the 2021 Copa quarter-finals, with Davinson Sanchez, Yerry Mina and Edwin Cardona all unsuccessful from 12 yards.

    The teams have met on 15 previous occasions in the Copa America, with Argentina recording seven wins to Colombia's three and the remaining five being drawn.

    Fitting farewell for the GOAT?

    Sunday's final could very well be the end of an era, with arguably the greatest footballer of all time contemplating international retirement after the match.

    While there are plenty stateside who are desperate to see Messi continue his glittering Argentina career until the 2026 World Cup, the eight-time Ballon d'Or winner said this week he is fighting his "last battles" on the international stage.

    Having led Argentina to glory at the 2021 Copa and the Qatar World Cup, Messi could go out on a high by inspiring his country to three straight major tournament successes, a feat they only previously achieved by winning three consecutive Copas in 1945, 1946 and 1947, with the World Cup not held during that time.

    It took him a while, but Messi finally got up and running at this year's Copa with a goal in Tuesday's 2-0 semi-final victory over Canada, converting his 12th shot of the tournament.

     

    He has now scored at six different editions of the Copa America, matching the record set by Zizinho all the way back in 1957. Messi has netted at the 2007, 2015, 2016, 2019, 2021 and 2024 editions, only failing to get on the scoresheet in 2011.

    His semi-final strike came 17 years and one day after his first Copa America goal, versus Peru in 2007. That gap is the longest between goals for a single player in the tournament's history, breaking another record previously held by Zizinho (15 years and 52 days between 1942 and 1957).

    Another trophy on Sunday would enable him to end what had previously been a disappointing Argentina career with a perfect run of three tournament triumphs.

    There is also the small matter of another international trophy pulling him clear of his great rival Cristiano Ronaldo, who led Portugal to glory at Euro 2016 and in the 2018-19 UEFA Nations League but now looks unlikely to add to that collection. 

    Cafeteros the Copa's best?

    Argentina may have star quality unmatched by any of their South American rivals, but they were made to work for knockout successes against Ecuador and Canada. Many would argue they have not been the tournament's outstanding team.

    That honour may go to Colombia, who topped Group D ahead of Brazil before dumping out Uruguay – considered second-favourites for the trophy by some – in the semi-finals.

    Nestor Lorenzo's team did not even require a full complement to overcome La Celeste, standing firm after Daniel Munoz's first-half red card as Jefferson Lerma's earlier header proved decisive. 

    Lerma's goal was Colombia's fifth to come via a header at this tournament, the most by a team at a single edition since Argentina netted six times via that route in 1991, when they lifted the trophy.

    Colombia's aerial prowess has been another string to their bow at a tournament where they have been extremely efficient in attack, scoring a competition-high 12 goals from 8.49 expected goals (xG), a tally that puts them second to Argentina (11.1). Colombia rank just sixth for touches in the penalty area (104) but third for shots from inside the box (59).

    Only conceding twice, Lorenzo's side have also been solid at the back – a recipe for tournament success. 

     

    Per game, they have averaged a tournament-low 0.51 expected goals against (xGA), as well as 9.6 shots faced (the third-best figure) and 2.2 shots on target faced (second-best). 

    That solid backline has given James and Luis Diaz the platform from which to make things happen, with the duo ranking third and fourth, respectively, for expected assists (xA) among all players at the competition. 

    Miserly at the back and with two of the competition's most creative players in attack, Colombia will back themselves to spoil Messi's Miami party.

    PLAYERS TO WATCH

    Argentina – Angel Di Maria

    Di Maria made his 27th Copa America appearance in the last four, becoming Argentina's second-most capped player in the competition, behind Messi (38 matches).

    The former Real Madrid wideman will play his final international match on Sunday, and he could go out with a bang, having earned a reputation as a big-game player.

    Di Maria, who has 31 goals in 144 games for La Albiceleste overall, scored the winner in the 2021 Copa America final versus Brazil and also got on the scoresheet in the 2022 World Cup showpiece game against France.

    Only James (17), Nicolas de la Cruz (14) and Messi (13) have bettered his nine chances created at this tournament, while he also ranks sixth for xA (1.01) and only Messi has matched his tally of four chance-creating carries. 

     

    Colombia – James Rodriguez

    Colombia captain James has looked a player reborn at this tournament, recording six assists, with the most recent teeing up Lerma's semi-final winner versus Uruguay.

    That meant he surpassed Messi (five in 2021) for the most assists at a single edition of the Copa America since this data began being recorded by Opta in 2011.

    A remarkable 12 of his 17 chances created at this tournament have come from set-pieces, and with a cagey affair potentially in store, his dead-ball prowess could prove decisive.

    Five of Colombia's 12 goals have come from corners or indirect free-kicks, with James' deliveries helping them surpass their previous best goalscoring return at a Copa America (11 in both 1975 and 2001).

     

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