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LAS VEGAS, July 17, 2018 (News Wires) - The Los Angeles Lakers and Portland Trail Blazers will meet in the NBA Summer League championship for a second straight season. Last year Kyle Kuzma dropped a game-high 30 points to lead the Lakers to a 110-98 victory over Portland.

This year it'll be MVP-candidate Josh Hart - one of two returning players from last year's team - looking to earn a second straight title for the Lakers (6-0). Alex Caruso is also back for Los Angeles.

But for Hart, who didn't play in the 2017 title game, he is not looking at it as a two-peat, given the complexion of this year's squad is different.

"Our identity is totally different, the make-up is totally different, that team last year we had three first-rounders and a second rounder, so the make-up was totally different and how we played was totally different," Hart said.

"This team is tough, is gutty and determined to win. I came here to win, I came here to dominate."

While Hart is a leading candidate for MVP of the entire summer league, he said he's not worried about following in the footsteps of Lonzo Ball, who was awarded the honor last season.

"It's a testament to the hard work I put in this off season, but I don't go for individual accolades, that's never been a reason why I played this game - I play this game to win," said Hart, who is averaging 24.1 through six games. "If we win, that's the biggest thing."

It won't be easy, though, as Portland (6-0) has three players back from last year's squad, including Las Vegas-native Zach Collins, along with Caleb Swanigan and Jake Layman.

"We all want to win out here, we've gotten this far so why go home with a loss," said Layman, who is averaging 14 points after the first six games.

"It's fun for us to play them again, we had a tough loss last year, didn't have our best game. So I think we're all excited to get back out there and get a win this year."

For Collins, he's looking for redemption personally, after struggling last summer in his hometown and getting injured before the championship, then enduring the rigors of a rugged rookie season.

And nothing would mean more for him than to win a pro championship, albeit a summer league title, in front of friends and family.

"The team took care of business and got to the championship and I had to go back to Portland to get better so I wasn't a part of it; technically this is my first year," said Collins, who won four high school state championship at Bishop Gorman and helped lead Gonzaga to the 2017 national championship game.

"I'm excited, we came all this way, we played this well to get this far and this is our goal. Our goal was to come in and win this thing and we're one win away from doing that."

Lakers 112, Cavaliers 109

Hart scored 37 points and grabbed nine rebounds to lead the Lakers to a semifinal win. Svi Mykhailiuk scored 31 points for the Lakers, while Jeff Ayres added 20.

Xavier Rathan-Mayes made the play of the game when he snatched a loose ball and fed Ayres with a pretty touch pass under the basket with 45 seconds left in the second overtime. Rathan-Mayes followed Ayres' lay-in with a slashing lay-up to put the Lakers up 110-106 with 22 seconds left.

Cleveland's Billy Preston missed a 3-pointer at the buzzer. Collin Sexton led the Cavaliers (5-2) with 27 points, while Jamel Artis and John Holland each scored 17.

CLEVELAND, June 9, 2018 (News Wires) - The Golden State Warriors became the NBA's first back-to-back champion since 2013 Friday night, gradually pulling away from the Cleveland Cavaliers to complete a four-game sweep in the Finals with a 108-85 romp in Game 4 in Cleveland.

Stephen Curry poured in 37 points, including 20 in the first half, during which the Warriors took a commanding lead, helping Golden State capture its third championship in the four-year Steve Kerr coaching era.

All three championships have come against the Cavaliers, with the series clincher coming in Cleveland for the second time.

The sweep was the second in Warriors history, duplicating their 1975 feat, and the first in the NBA since the Cavaliers were beaten in four straight by the San Antonio Spurs in 2007.

LeBron James, perhaps playing his final game for the Cavaliers, had his least productive outing of the series, recording 23 points, seven rebounds and eight assists in his eighth consecutive trip to the Finals.

Kevin Durant supplemented Curry's big scoring night with the first Finals triple-double of his career with 20 points, 12 rebounds and a postseason-career-high 10 assists.

It was Durant's 28th consecutive playoff game with 20 or more points.

A majority of Curry's 37 points came from outside the 3-point arc. He buried 7 of 15, and Golden State connected on 14 of 38, including 9 of 17 en route to a 61-52 halftime advantage.

The Warriors buried the Cavaliers in the third quarter, holding them to 13 points on 4-for-17 shooting. James did not have a field goal in the period, going 0-for-2, as Cleveland saw its nine-point halftime deficit balloon to as many as 21.

Klay Thompson had all 10 of his points in the period, during which Golden State outscored the Cavaliers 25-13.

Draymond Green added nine points, nine assists and three blocks in the win, which gave Golden State six all-time championships, tying Chicago for the third-most in NBA history behind Boston (17) and the Los Angeles Lakers (16).

Andre Iguodala, playing for just the second time in the Finals, contributed 11 points to the win.

James left to a standing ovation after playing 41 of the game's first 44 minutes. The three-time champion, including 2016 when the Cavaliers beat Golden State in seven games, can opt out of his Cleveland contract this offseason.

Kevin Love had 13 points, while JR Smith and Rodney Hood chipped in with 10 apiece for Cleveland, which shot just 34.5 per cent from the field and 8-for-27 from behind the 3-point line.

CLEVELAND, June 9, 2018 (News Wires) - Cleveland Cavaliers superstar LeBron James revealed after his team was swept in the NBA Finals that he played the last three games with a broken right hand.

The Golden State Warriors beat the Cavs 4-0 in the best-of-seven championship series, but it was after the opening over-time loss in California when James injured himself.

“I let my emotions get the best of me and played the last three games basically with a broken hand,” James said, displaying his soft cast.

James had become upset in the final seconds of regulation time in the 124-114 defeat, when a foul call was reversed to allow Golden State to equalise and JR Smith grabbed a late rebound with the score level but dribbled away from the basket, thinking the Cavaliers led.

Images of a frustrated James talking to Smith became an internet sensation.

ESPN reported James hit a blackboard in the locker room after that game and underwent two MRI exams that showed the fracture, a fact he kept hidden so the Warriors would not know.

“Obviously, I don’t have a boxing hand,” James said.

 

WASHINGTON, June 6, 2018 (News Wires) - Cleveland Cavaliers forward LeBron James and Golden State Warriors guard Stephen Curry agreed on Tuesday that whichever team wins the NBA championship will skip the traditional White House visit to celebrate with US President Donald Trump.

The players voiced their opinions on the day Trump escalated his feud with the NFL's Philadelphia Eagles after most of the Super Bowl-winning team passed up a White House invitation.

"I know no matter who wins this series, no-one wants the invite anyway," James, whose Cavaliers trail the best-of-seven NBA Finals 2-0, said.

The players voiced their opinions on the day Trump escalated his feud with the NFL's Philadelphia Eagles after most of the Super Bowl-winning team passed up a White House invitation.

"I know no matter who wins this series, no-one wants the invite anyway," James, whose Cavaliers trail the best-of-seven NBA Finals 2-0, said.

It has been a long-standing tradition for championship teams to visit the White House, but there has been some controversy since President Donald Trump took the office.

Last September, Trump revoked an invitation to the Warriors, who beat Cleveland last June for their second title in three seasons, after Curry had said he would vote against a planned visit.

Curry, a former two-time league Most Valuable Player, said he and his team-mates would likely repeat the stance they took last year should they successfully defend their NBA title.

"I hope to be in that situation and win two more games where we win a championship and obviously know what comes with that," said Curry. "But I think I agree with LeBron. Pretty sure the way we handled things last year, kind of stay consistent with that."

Trump yanked his invitation for the Eagles celebration after it became clear that most of the team's players planned to boycott the event. Trump blasted NFL protests in which players kneeled during the playing of the national anthem, even though none of the Eagles kneeled during the anthem last season.

"When somebody says they don't want to come to the White House, he disinvites them so the photo op don't look bad. We get it at this point," said Warriors forward Kevin Durant, who was named the MVP of last year's NBA Finals.

PARIS, June 5, 2018 (News Wires) - Novak Djokovic can reach a 32nd Grand Slam semi-final on Tuesday when the 12-time major winner faces unseeded Italian Marco Cecchinato in the last-eight of the French Open.

Alexander Zverev, the second seeded German, is in his first quarter-final at the majors where he faces Dominic Thiem who has made the semi-finals in Paris in the last two years.

With world number two Caroline Wozniacki and defending champion Jelena Ostapenko already eliminated, the bottom half of the women's draw has been throw wide open.

World number 98 Yulia Putintseva, a quarter-finalist two years ago, tackles Madison Keys of the United States.

Keys's close friend Sloane Stephens, the US Open champion, takes on Russia's Daria Kasatkina who put out Wozniacki.

AFP Sport looks at Tuesday's four quarter-finals:

Novak Djokovic (SRB) v Marco Cecchinato (ITA)

Head-to-head: First meeting

― 2016 champion Djokovic, in a 12th Roland Garros quarter-final and 40th at the majors, is bidding to reach his 32nd Grand Slam semi-final when he faces world number 72 Cecchinato.

Playing at his lowest ranking for almost 12 years after months of struggling with an elbow injury and indifferent form, Djokovic has made the last eight by dropping just one set.

Cecchinato is bidding to become the first Italian man to reach the semi-finals at a Grand Slam since Corrado Barazzutti in Paris in 1978.

The Italian, who has one career title to Djokovic's 68, had never won a match at the majors before this year's French Open.

Two years ago, his career was almost derailed when he became embroiled in match fixing allegations.

He was suspended for 18 months by the Italian tennis federation in July 2016 before later being cleared of any wrongdoing.

Alexander Zverev (GER) v Dominic Thiem (AUT)

Head-to-head: Thiem leads 4-2

― Zverev is playing in a quarter-final at the Slams for the first time while Thiem has made the semi-finals in Paris for the last two years.

After fighting through three consecutive five-set match-wins, Zverev is still on track to be the first German men's champion at Roland Garros since 1937.

Even though he trails Thiem in their head-to-head, he won their most recent meeting on clay in the Madrid final this year.

Thiem boasts being the only player to have defeated Rafael Nadal on clay prior to Roland Garros this year in the Madrid quarter-finals, ending the 10-time French Open champion's 21-match winning streak on clay. It was the first time Nadal had dropped a set on clay since Thiem's victory against him in Rome in 2017.

Yulia Putintseva (KAZ) v Madison Keys (USA)

Head-to-head: First meeting

― Kazakhstan's Putintseva will be playing her second quarter-final at Roland Garros, but this time it has been more of a surprise after slipping to 98th in the world rankings.

Keys had always struggled on clay before this year, but has now reached the last eight at all four Grand Slams after impressively cruising through the draw without dropping a set.

“Once you get to the second week, every match obviously has more nerves, and there's more on the line and all of that,” said last year's US Open runner-up. “So now it's really just managing your expectations and your nerves and the moment.”

Sloane Stephens (USA) v Daria Kasatkina (RUS)

Head-to-head: First meeting

― Like her compatriot and good friend Keys, US Open champion Stephens is in the quarter-finals for the first time and hoping to set up a repeat of last year's final in New York.

But the 10th seed will have to be wary of the dangerous Kasatkina, who saw off Caroline Wozniacki in straight sets to notch her third consecutive win over the Australian Open winner.

The Russian also reached the Indian Wells final earlier this year, and has now won six times against players ranked in the world's top two.

CLEVELAND, June 5, 2018 (News Wires) - Defending champion Golden State has seized command of the NBA Finals as the series shifts to Cleveland, where the Cavaliers must continue their home playoff magic to sustain any title hopes.

The Warriors, seeking their third crown in four seasons, could complete a sweep in the best-of-seven showdown with road wins Wednesday and Friday after taking a 2-0 edge with a 122-103 home triumph Sunday.

“I don't think we're close to our ceiling, which is good for us,” said Warriors forward Draymond Green. “We can play so much better. We're going to need that going out on the road.”

While the Cavaliers made the greatest comeback in NBA Finals history from 3-1 down to beat Golden State in 2016, no team has ever rallied from 3-0 down to win the title.

“We have to make sure that we really bring it in game three because that's really the game right there,” Cavs forward Kevin Love said. “This is a team you don't want to be down 0-3 against.”

The Cavaliers are 8-1 at home in this year's playoffs, losing only in their first-round opener against Indiana.

“We feed off our crowd. We really get up to play at home. We know that come Wednesday we're going to have to be better,” Love said. “Just being in front of our crowd will be huge for us.”

But the Cavaliers, facing Golden State in the finals for the fourth year in a row, are only 4-4 against the Warriors at home in all finals.

“We have to do a better job at home,” Cavs guard JR Smith said. “We can't keep taking positives from losses. We're doing some good things, but it's not translating into Ws so we've got to figure it out.”

James wants discomfort

The Cavaliers were the most recent victims of an NBA Finals sweep, being blanked by San Antonio in 2007 in the first finals trip for LeBron James, now playing in an eighth consecutive finals and ninth overall.

“It sucks to lose, that's for sure, but it definitely won't stop me from preparing to be better,” James said. “We've played some really good basketball on our home floor. But that shouldn't give us any comfort. We should still be uncomfortable.

“Just because we're going home doesn't mean we can relax. This is the last team in the world you want to relax against.”

James won two titles with Miami and achieved his goal of bringing a crown to his home region, but the four-time NBA Most Valuable Player would fall to 3-6 in the finals with a loss this year.

The Warriors have imposed themselves upon the Cavs early and see that as crucial for more success.

“We've got to come out with a sense of urgency to start,” Warriors forward Kevin Durant said. “They have only lost one game so they are very confident there. We've just got to come out, stick to our game plan, keep playing hard and we'll be fine.”

Warriors won't relax

It will be hard for Golden State to top game two, when Stephen Curry sank a finals-record nine 3-pointers in a 33-point effort.

“We had some slip-ups and things we can correct going into game three,” Curry said. “But the energy and effort and physicality and all that from the jump was pretty dialed in and it gave us a lot of momentum and confidence.”

Warriors guard Klay Thompson, playing despite a left ankle injury in the opener, says Golden State has a strong focus knowing the Cavaliers rallied from 2-0 down to beat Boston in the Eastern Conference finals.

“It's nothing to feel happy about being up 2-0,” Thompson said. “This team plays great at home and we expect their other guys to play even better at home, too, not just LeBron, so we're not going to relax at all.”

Cavaliers coach Tyronn Lue stressed the need for a body-banging style from his squad.

“We have to start the game better, being more physical,” Lue said. “It was too easy for them. They ran around a little too freely. They might get some shots, but we've got to take away the easy ones.”

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