Saturday 29 December 2012

Clippers Jazz 16th Straight Win

The Clippers pulled off a 19-point comeback for their 16th straight victory -- in a venue where they had often struggled.

Chris Paul did most of the damage, leading the Clippers (24-6) with 29 points, including the final seven, as Los Angeles squeaked out a 116-114 win Friday night over the Utah Jazz.

The Clippers' winning streak is the longest in the NBA since Boston won 19 games in a row from November 15 to December 23, 2008.

The last time the franchise won three straight in Salt Lake City was 1979-81 when they were the San Diego Clippers.

"This one is a great win for us because we kind of needed a challenge," said Blake Griffin, who added 22 points and 13 rebounds for the Clippers. "(We had) to prove not only to everybody else but to ourselves that we can still win close games like this and win a game down 19 in the third quarter."

In the opposing locker room, the Jazz were lamenting another one that got away -- the second loss at home to the Clippers during their franchise-record streak. Utah dropped the first by one on Dec. 3 after leading by 14.

On Friday, ex-Clipper Randy Foye put up a 3-pointer at the buzzer that was contested byMatt Barnes, but no foul was called. Foye finished with a season-high 28 points for Utah.

Foye did his best not to say anything about the officiating.

"I felt as though I pump-faked," Foye said. "He knew that I wanted to shoot the 3 and I felt the contact. He made me go straight up and shoot the ball straight down. It was just a tough play."

Paul was tough down the stretch, hitting the clinching free throws after getting fouled by Al Jefferson with 3.4 seconds left.

"When (DeAndre Jordan) came to give me the ball screen, I wasn't worried about (Gordon) Hayward, I was just worried about Al Jefferson," Paul said. "I could tell (Jefferson) was going to try and blitz me. Anytime two guys try and trap me, I'm always going to attack the slower guy. If they wouldn't have called the foul, I was right around Al anyway."

Paul sank both free throws this time, after missing one with 18 seconds left that allowed Jefferson to grab the rebound, draw a foul and sink two free throws at the other end to tie it at 114.

Paul made sure he hit both the next time.

"Man, I couldn't wait to get to the line. I couldn't wait to get to the line," Paul said. "I was mad at myself for missing that last one. I couldn't wait to get to the line to redeem myself."

Just like the first game this season against the Clippers, Utah had the upper hand early.

The Jazz used a 36-point second quarter to turn a seven-point deficit into a 58-48 halftime lead. Utah reserves did most of the damage.

Alec Burks and Earl Watson pushed the pace, big men Enes Kanter and Derrick Favors provided a presence inside and Hayward found ways to score.

Kanter's block of Ronny Turiaf ignited the crowd.

Hayward's 3-pointer tied it at 34 with 7:04 left in the second and he scored 10 straight for the Jazz, who forced eight turnovers in the quarter and held the Clippers to 37.5 percent shooting.

Foye, who kept Utah close in the first with a 13-point quarter on 4-of-5 shooting, gave the Jazz their biggest lead of the half, 54-41, with two more free throws.

The Jazz led 74-55 with 8:08 left in the third on a pair of free throws by Paul Millsap. But the Clippers outscored Utah 29-14 the rest of the quarter to pull to 88-84 going into the fourth.

Paul provided the offense in the third with 13 points on 4-of-6 shooting.

"At the beginning of the third quarter, they made another run at us but then we got a little bit of a rhythm and then started guarding. We started getting some stops and getting out in the open court," Clippers coach Vinny Del Negro said.

"Give Utah credit but our guys battled back tonight. They found a way to win and that's what it's all about. We stayed together, we weathered the storm when we had to and gave ourselves a chance and we were fortunate to make enough plays."

The loss dropped Utah below .500 at 15-16. The Jazz have lost six of their last eight.

Jefferson added 22 points for Utah. Hayward had 17 off the bench.

The Clippers had six players in double figures. DeAndre Jordan had 16 points and 10 rebounds.

"It's all tough," Jazz coach Tyrone Corbin said. "On our home court, we had a lead, we gave up the lead but we continued to fight. We made some mistakes but fought our way through it and had a chance to win the ballgame at the end. Unfortunately they got a lot of free throws."

The teams combined for 81 free throw attempts, with Utah making 37 of 40 and the Clippers 33 of 41.

Points in the paint were identical and rebounds were close (36-35 Jazz), but the Clippers had a four-point edge on second-chance points.

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Leinster v Connacht - Preview

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Leinster coach Joe Schmidt makes nine changes in the team to face Connacht in the Pro12 derby at the RDS on Saturday.

Andrew Goodman, Fionn Carr and Issac Boss are drafted into the backs while there are six changes in the forwards.

Heinke van der Merwe, Aaron Dundon, Ben Marshall, Rhys Ruddock, Jordi Murphy and captain Shane Jennings also get a start.

Connacht make four changes with Eoin Griffin, Matt Healy, Denis Buckley and Michael Swift coming in.

Connacht are chasing a season double over the European champions after defeating them 34-6 at the Sportsground in September.

Winger Healy earn his first start and cap for the province while Danie Poolman moves to the right wing and makes way for Eoin Griffin, who resumes his centre partnership with Dave McSharry.

In the pack, Buckley is named in the front row alongside Jason Harris-Wright and Nathan White, who captains the side.

Swift, who returned from injury last week and came off the bench against Munster, will partner George Naoupu in the second row.

Jennings leads a young Leinster team and the back-row forward is one of six Ireland internationals in the starting line-up.

Amongst them is Fergus McFadden, who starts on the right wing in a back three alongside Carr and full-back Andrew Conway.

Ian Madigan lies in third place in the league's accumulators list with 74 points in 11 Pro12 games so far, and he will pair up with Boss at half-back.

Van der Merwe is named in the front row alongside Dundon and Ireland prop Michael Bent, with Devin Toner partnering Marshall in the second row.

Marshall will make his fifth appearance for the province and is one of four current Academy players or recent Academy graduates in the pack.

Leinster boss Joe Schmidt is expecting a tough challenge from a Connacht side that probably should have accounted for Munster in Galway last Saturday night.

"They have recruited well, including a number of players we know well, and will look to dominate and to be as combative as they were in their win over us earlier in the season," he said.

"We know from personal experience how good they can be and they'll be disappointed that they didn't make the most of their opportunities against Munster last Saturday, especially when George Naupou crossed the line late in the game.

"They'll be frustrated by that and motivated by it as well so there is no doubt about how committed and passionate they will be arriving into the RDS."

The recent war of words between Schmidt and Connacht chief executive Tom Sears following Mike McCarthy's decision to move from the Galway-based club to Leinster may add a little spice to Saturday's encounter.

Leinster: A Conway; F McFadden, B Macken, A Goodman, F Carr, I Madigan, I Boss, H van der Merwe, A Dundon, M Bent, B Marshall, D Toner, R Ruddock, S Jennings (capt), J Murphy.

Replacements: S Cronin, J McGrath, M Ross, L Cullen, D Ryan, J Cooney, N Reid, A Byrne.

Connacht: R Henshaw, D Poolman, E Griffin, D McSharry, M Healy, D Parks, K Marmion, D Buckley, J Harris-Wright, N White (capt), M Swift, G Naoupu, A Browne, J O'Connor, E McKeon.

Replacements: E Reynecke, B Wilkinson, R Loughney, M Kearney, E Grace, P O'Donohoe, M Jarvis, T O'Halloran.

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Sir Bradley Leads Honours List

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Stars of the London 2012 Olympic and Paralympic Games have been recognised in the New Year Honours list.

Double Olympic champion Mo Farah, plus heptathlete Jessica Ennis, rower Katherine Grainger and cyclist Victoria Pendleton have each been made a CBE. They all won gold in London.

Paralympic athlete David Weir, who won four gold medals at the 2012 Paralympics, becomes a CBE.

Bradley Wiggins and Ben Ainslie are knighted. Sarah Storey is made a dame.

GB cycling performance director Dave Brailsford and rowing chief David Tanner also receive knighthoods.

Britain's remarkable sporting year is reflected in a list dominated by athletes and coaches from the London Games.

Farah, 29, completed the 5,000m and 10,000m double in August, while Ennis claimed victory in the heptathlon. Grainger, 37, won gold at her fourth attempt, having taken silver in Sydney, Athens and Beijing.

Pendleton retired on a high after adding a gold and a silver to the gold medal she won in Beijing four years ago.

Weir's achievements saw him shortlisted for the BBC's Sports Personality of the Year award after a year in which he won four Paralympic gold medals to add to his two from Beijing. The 33-year-old also won his sixth London Marathon.

Dressage star Charlotte Dujardin and cyclists Jason Kenny and Laura Trott, who all won double gold at London 2012, have received OBEs, as has Andy Murray, who won the Olympic men's singles title before adding a maiden Grand Slam at the US Open.

Paralympic dressage star Sophie Christiansen, who won three golds in the summer, and swimmer Ellie Simmonds, who was shortlisted for BBC Sport's Personality of the year after winning two golds, a silver and bronze at London 2012, also get OBEs.

Simmonds, 18, said the award was the perfect way to round off a remarkable 2012 for her and her ParalympicsGB team-mates.

"It's been a great honour to be included in the list, which caps an amazing year for me personally and for British sport," she said.

In total, 29 athletes from ParalympicsGB have been recognised in the New Years Honours list following their achievements in the summer. Britain won a total of 120 medals, 34 of them gold, in London.

Tim Hollingsworth, chief executive of the British Paralympic Association, said: "Their performances on the field of play not only received rapturous applause from the crowds at London 2012 and viewers of the TV coverage - many of whom were experiencing Paralympic sport for the first time - but the 11 days of sport that we witnessed this summer also gripped the nation and changed many peoples' perception of disability sport.

"It is fitting that so many of our gold medallists are offered some of the highest tributes possible, which reflect not only their sporting talent but also the sheer hard work and dedication that they put into preparing for their home Games."

Other London 2012 gold medallists appointed MBEs include boxers Nicola Adams, Luke Campbell and Anthony Joshua. GB boxing coach Robert McCracken, who also trains super-middleweight world champion Carl Froch, also gets an MBE.

Triathlete Alistair Brownlee, taekwondo star Jade Jones and shooter Peter Wilson are also recognised.

Rowers Katherine Copeland, Helen Glover, Alex Gregory, Heather Stanning, Sophie Hoskin, Hannah Watkins, kayaker Ed McKeever and canoeist Etienne Stott, are also among those appointed MBE.

Gymnast Louis Smith, who won team bronze and individual silver at the Games, is made an MBE, a week after becoming the BBC's Strictly Come Dancing champion.

"To receive this honour is out of this world and something I never would have dreamt of as I grew up in the sport of gymnastics," said the 23-year-old Smith.

"This year has been like no other for so many reasons. I wasn't sure it could get any better but to be awarded an MBE is the icing on the cake and without a doubt the proudest moment of my life."

A number of coaches also become MBEs, including Malcolm Brown (triathlon), Ian Coley (shooting), Will Connell (equestrian), Paul Hall (gymnastics), David Howlett (sailing), Paul Thompson (rowing) and Robin Williams (rowing).

Ben Ainslie - sailing, Bradley Wiggins - cycling

Katherine Grainger - rowing, Jessica Ennis - athletics, Mo Farah - athletics, Victoria Pendleton - cycling

Charlotte Dujardin - equestrian, Jason Kenny - cycling, Andy Murray - tennis, Laura Trott - cycling

Nicola Adams - boxing, Tim Baillie - canoeing, Laura Bechtolsheimer - equestrian, Scott Brash - equestrian, Alistair Brownlee - triathlon, Steven Burke - cycling, Luke Campbell - boxing, Peter Charles - equestrian, Katherine Copeland - rowing, Helen Glover - rowing, Alex Gregory - rowing, Carl Hester - equestrian, Philip Hindes - cycling, Sophie Hosking - rowing, Jade Jones - taekwondo, Anthony Joshua - boxing, Peter Kennaugh - cycling, Dani King - cycling, Mary King - equestrian, Ben Maher - equestrian, Ed McKeever - canoeing, Joanna Rowsell - cycling, Greg Rutherford - athletics, Louis Smith - gymnastics, Heather Stanning - rowing, Etienne Stott - canoeing, Anna Watkins - rowing, Peter Wilson - shooting.


Sarah Storey - cycling

David Weir - athletics

Sophie Christiansen - equestrian, Ellie Simmonds - swimming

MBE: Jessica-Jane Applegate - athletics, Natasha Baker - equestrian, Danielle Brown - archery, Mickey Bushell - athletics, Hannah Cockroft - athletics, Mark Colbourne - cycling, Josef Craig - swimming, Deborah Criddle - equestrian, Aled Davies - athletics, Neil Fachie - cycling, Jonathan Fox - swimming, Heather Frederiksen - swimming, Oliver Hynd - swimming, Helena Lucas - sailing, Craig MacLean - cycling, Nigel Murray - boccia, Jonnie Peacock - athletics, Josie Pearson - athletics, Pam Relph - rowing, Naomi Riches - rowing, James Roe - rowing, David Smith - rowing, Lily van den Broecke - rowing, Sophie Wells - equestrian, Richard Whitehead - athletics.

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Friday 28 December 2012

Abidal Back Training at Barca

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Barcelona defender Eric Abidal insists it never crossed his mind to quit football during his fight to recover from a liver transplant.

Abidal returned to training with his Barca team-mates last week, eight months after undergoing his transplant operation.

The Frenchman, who previously had surgery to remove a tumour from his liver in March 2011, has not played for Barca since last February but the 33-year-old has never given up hope of making a comeback.

"I feel good. I'm eager to fight and to return. At times it was tough when I woke up in the morning, but little by little I've trained with the aim of returning and this helped me," he said in an interview on Catalan television channel TV3.

"I never thought about stopping playing because football, apart from my family, is my whole life."
"I never thought about stopping playing because football, apart from my family, is my whole life." - Abidal

He added: "I really wanted to start kicking the ball again. I knew that once I'd touched it again, the path to recovery was a little shorter.

"You always need to try it. If you don't do it, you don't know if you can. That's why I wanted to train, to know if I was capable."

Abidal's return to training last week was overshadowed by news that Barca coach Tito Vilanova had suffered a relapse in his battle with cancer.

The 44-year-old Vilanova underwent surgery on his parotid gland last Thursday and now faces around six weeks of chemotherapy. Vilanova first had a tumour removed from his throat last year.

Abidal said: "Tito and I have gone through similar things, and we think differently to others. Without saying anything we know what the other is thinking. I make an effort for myself, but also for him."

England Close to World Cup Exit

The British government considered pulling the home nations out of the football World Cup in 1982 during the Falklands War with Argentina, official papers show.

In government papers newly released by the National Archives, it was suggested some players felt "revulsion" about competing along with Argentina.

But Prime Minister Margaret Thatcher was warned withdrawal would be a propaganda "opportunity" for Argentina.

England, Scotland and Northern Ireland did go to Spain for the tournament.

Days after the Argentine invasion of the Falklands on 2 April 1982, a directive from sports minister Neil Macfarlane advised: "I urge no sporting contact with Argentina at representative, club or individual level on British soil. This policy applies equally to all sporting fixtures in Argentina."

In a letter to Mrs Thatcher the following month, Mr Macfarlane reported growing doubts about the UK teams' attendance at the World Cup, starting in June.

"Up until a week or 10 days ago I have taken the line that it was up to the Football Authorities to decide whether they should participate," he wrote.

"However, the loss of British life on HMS Sheffield and Sea Harriers has had a marked effect on some international footballers and some administrators. They feel revulsion at the prospect of playing in the same tournament as Argentina at this time."

He added that Fifa, international football's governing body, had made it clear that Argentina would not be pressured to withdraw from the tournament.

"In this case no other country would follow us in withdrawing from the World Cup," Cabinet Secretary Robert Armstrong wrote to Mrs Thatcher days later.

"Argentina would see British withdrawal not as putting any pressure on them but as an opportunity to make propaganda: the United Kingdom, not Argentina, would be the country set apart."

Despite the discussions between the politicians, England, Scotland and Northern Ireland did all go on to compete in the tournament, although none of them met Argentina on the pitch.

Scotland were eliminated in the first group stage, while England and Northern Ireland were both knocked out at the second group stage.

Argentina exited the tournament after finishing bottom of a second round group won by eventual winners Italy.

In August that year, after the end of the conflict, restrictions were lifted on sporting engagements with Argentina.

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Tipsarevic Ends Murray's Mubadala

Andy Murray lost in straight sets to Janko Tipsarevic in the opening match of the Mubadala World Tennis Championship in Abu Dhabi.

The Serb beat the world number three 6-3 6-4 in the $250,000 (£154,559) winner-takes-all exhibition tournament.

Murray, 25, says he will learn from the defeat ahead of the Australian Open, which starts on 14 January.

"I have some things to work on in the next few weeks, but I am looking forward to it," he said.

Murray, a two-time runner-up of the Australian Open, continues his preparations with the defence of the Brisbane International title he won earlier this year.

"I have been training very hard in Miami," he said.

"I enjoy Australia and have had played some of my best tennis there, so I hope that I can do the same this year."

Murray lost just four points on his serve in the opening set, all in the fourth game where Tipsarevic broke to love to go 3-1 up. Murray had two break points in the ninth game, but the Serb held his nerve before converting his fourth set point to take the first set 6-3.

The Scot then dropped his serve again in the first game of the second set. First he double-faulted to give Tipsarevic the opportunity, then he put a forehand into the net on the break point.

The Olympic champion and US Open winner had a chance to break back in the fourth game, but Tipsarevic recovered to hold, then served out the rest of the set with few further scares.

Tipsarevic will face Spain's Nicolas Almagro in Friday's semi-final. World number 11 Almagro is a late replacement for Rafael Nadal, who withdrew from the six-player tournament with a stomach virus.

In the day's other game, Spain's David Ferrer beat Tomas Berdych of the Czech Republic 6-2 6-4 to set up a semi-final meeting with world number one Novak Djokovic.

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Sunday 23 December 2012

Tendulkar Retires from ODI

Record-breaking India batsman Sachin Tendulkar has retired from one-day international cricket.

In a statement, the 39-year-old said: "I feel blessed to have fulfilled the dream of being part of a World Cup-winning Indian team."

The 'Little Master' made his one-day debut in 1989 and collected 463 caps.

He excelled in the 50-over format and became the world's top-run scorer with 18,426 at an average of 44.83, including a record 49 centuries.

His last one-day international cricket game was win against Pakistan in Asia Cup on 18 March, in which he scored a half-century.

His form has dipped in recent years, however, and his average in one-day cricket in 2012 fell to 31.5, a figure that was boosted by a knock of 114 in his penultimate innings against lesser lights Bangladesh which was his 100th on the international stage.

Tendulkar added: "The preparatory process to defend the World Cup in 2015 should begin early and in right earnest. I would like to wish the team all the very best for the future.

"I am eternally grateful to all my well-wishers for their unconditional support and love over the years."

Tendulkar, who made himself unavailable for India's Twenty20 matches after playing just one game in 2006, has faced calls to retire from all international competition from former national captain Sourav Ganguly after several poor performances with the bat in the recent Test series against England.

Tendulkar's 23-year ODI career, which began with ducks in his first two appearances, included him becoming the first batsman to score a double-century in that form of the game when he played South Africa two years ago, as well as being the highest run-getter in the 2003 World Cup.

Tendulkar excelled in India's successful 2011 World Cup campaign, scoring two centuries on his way to an average of 48.2 in the tournament which concluded with victory in the final in his hometown of Mumbai against Sri Lanka.

India spinner Harbhajan Singh saluted his colleague on Twitter: "Sachin Tendulkar, a great batsman. Great human being. A great friend. Great man to look up to. Proud Indian. Real son of India. I salute you and love you."

Tendulkar fact file
1973 - Born in Mumbai on 24 April
1989 - Makes Test debut for India against Pakistan
1990 - Scores first Test century, against England
1998 - Scores first double century for Mumbai against Australia
2005 - Passes Sunil Gavaskar's record of highest number of Test centuries
2008 - Becomes the highest run-scorer in Test cricket, passing West Indies' Brian Lara's mark of 11,953
2010 - Becomes the most capped player in Test history
2011 - Hits his 99th international century in an ODI against South Africa in March
2012 - Scores his 100th international century in ODI v Bangladesh

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Malaga Give Mourinho Worries

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José Mourinho surprisingly benched Iker Casillas for the game atMálaga, and the move may cost him more than just three points as little-used Adán Garrido was overwhelmed in a 3-2 defeat.

Casillas has been a regular starter for a decade and is the captain of both Real and Spain's world champion national team, and is revered by the club's fans.

Saturday's game was the first time he had not started a meaningful league fixture for the Spanish league champions in 54 matches. Relations between Mourinho and his players were already frayed with the team on the slide, and they are likely to be further strained now. "It surprised us, Iker is our captain," the Real defender Sergio Ramos said.

Mourinho justified the move to omit Casillas by saying that the inexperienced Adán was in better form. "We hadn't been playing well in different aspects of the game, among which was our defence," Mourinho said. "It was a technical decision. My opinion is the one that matters. I analysed the players I had available and picked the team to play. You can invent the story you want but it is a purely technical decision and nothing more."

The defeat was Real's fourth in nine away matches and left the defending champions in third place 16 points behind leaders Barcelona.

Adán had only four previous career starts in the league and had made three starts this season: one in a Champions League game after Real's place in the knockout rounds was already assured and two in Copa del Rey ties against lower-division opponents.

The 25-year-old Real youth product was not tested in the first half as they controlled the ball and the scoring chances. But after half-time he let three shots find his net while making only three saves.

Mourinho defended Adán by saying that he thought the choice of goalkeeper "had no influence in the result". However, Real had not conceded three goals in a league game since a 3-1 defeat by Barça last December, and it was the first time they had conceded three goals to a Spanish league team other than Barça since April, 2011.

The 31-year-old Casillas is respected in Spain and abroad as one of the best keepers in the game. He has been voted the top goalkeeper in the world by players in the FIFPro vote for four straight years and is expected to win again next month.

The last time Casillas did not start a league match was on 5 May last season after Real had clinched the title.

Casillas's mood in the dugout at La Rosaleda stadium went from glum to nervous and finally anguished as he watched his team fail to convert a plethora of chances in the first half, and then get picked apart in the second. At one point he zipped up his sweatshirt to hide half his face.

The Málaga forward Isco shot past Adán to open the scoring before Joaquin Sánchez set up Roque Santa Cruz to score twice more.

Málaga's goals were well taken, but if doubts were already brewing about Mourinho's ability to continue at the helm of Real, then his critics received a big boost.

Mourinho scoffed at the question of whether he feared for his job heading into the winter break with little hope of retaining the title.

"Fear for my job?" he said. "I have never feared for my job." 

But in the next breath he acknowledged that "football has no memory. The only thing that matter is the present, not the titles you have won".

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