Thunder through to face Warriors in Western Conference final

Oklahoma City Thunder beat San Antonio Spurs 113-99 on Thursday to win the NBA Western Conference semi-final series 4-2.

Kevin Durant scored 37 points, with Russell Westbrook adding 28 as Thunder set up a mouth-watering Conference final against the Golden State Warriors.

After losing 124-92 to the Spurs in Game 1, Thunder bounced back in style in win four of the next five.

Westbrook believes the defeat was the wake-up call the team needed.

“We had that game, and we left it behind us,” he said. “We came out after that and had a different mindset.

“We knew what we had to do to win the series. They’re a great team. They’ve been winning for 10-plus years, same pace. I’m just proud of our guys.”

Thunder dominated the first half, racing into a 55-31 lead. They kept up the pressure in the third quarter and led 91-65 at the next break.

Spurs rallied in the final session, but could get no closer than 11 points as the Thunder comfortably closed out the game.

Elsewhere, attention switches to the Eastern Conference on Friday, with the Miami Heat looking to take their series against the Toronto Raptors to Game 7.

Raptors’ 99-91 victory on Wednesday gave them a 3-2 lead in the battle to face Cleveland Cavaliers in the Eastern final.

The Heat struggled during the early stages of Game 5, but rallied during the second half before eventually falling just short.

“We’ve gotta stay positive,” Tyler Johnson said. “If we eliminate that slow start, we have a good chance at winning. We’ve gotta learn from it. If we win at home, after that it’s anybodyís game.”

If the Heat can overcome the Raptors they would become the first in NBA history to overcome two 3-2 deficits in the same post-season after winning Games 6 and 7 to defeat the Charlotte Hornets in the previous round.

“We’ve been in a lot of tough positions this season, but recently we have been in this exact position,” Gerald Green said.

“We’ve done this. We feel we can get it back to Toronto, and then in Game 7 anything can happen.”

While the Eastern final line-up is yet to be decided, Steph Curry and the Warriors are enjoying some much needed rest ahead of Monday’s opening Western Conference final game against the Thunder.

The reigning champions eased past Portland Trail Blazers in the last round and with Curry now fully recovered from knee and ankle injuries, head coach Steve Kerr is confident his team can successfully defend their title.

“Anytime you win a series, you’re just relieved and then you move on and at that point you have a brand new set of challenges,” said Kerr.

“So this was a great series and I’m happy we pulled through. Now we’ll get a little rest and see what happens on the other side of the bracket.”

Having won six of their previous seven meetings with the Thunder, it would be a major surprise if the Warriors failed to earn a crack at winning a second successive NBA championship.

Real Madrid say terrorism will never beat football after ISIS kill 16 fans

ISIS militants wielding AK-47s killed 16 Real Madrid fans at a supporters’ club in Iraq – because they ‘don’t like football’.

The group stormed the building in Samarra, Iraq, and opened fire on a group of around 50 people who had gathered to watch a game.

ISIS claim the massacre was carried out to honor Abdel Rahman Mustafa al-Qaduli, the group’s second-in-command, who was killed in a coalition strike in March.

The La Liga giants published a statement on their official wesbite saying football will never be defeated by terrorism.

“Real Madrid C.F. deeply regrets the terrible attack in Iraq which today saw 16 members of a Real Madrid supporters club lose their lives and which has also left over 20 injured,” it read.

“The club expresses its great sadness and offers its regards and condolences to the families and friends of the victims.

“Real Madrid extends all of its solidarity to the people of Iraq, who suffer the excessive injustices of extreme violence.

“The Real Madrid players will tomorrow wear symbolic black armbands as a sign of their mourning and respect. Football and sport shall always be spaces in which to come together and in which harmony and peace reign and with which no form of barbaric terrorism will be able to compete.

“Today Madridismo across the whole world cries for its supporters, who shall never be forgotten.”

The president of the supporters club, Ziad Subhan, said: “A group of Islamist terrorists, from ISIS, came into the cafÈ armed with AK-47s, shooting at random at everyone who was inside.”

“They don’t like football – they think it’s anti-Muslim. They just carry out attacks like this. This is a terrible tragedy.”

One of the gunmen is reported to have set off his explosive vest, killing four more people, at a nearby vegetable market hours later after police and residents surrounded him in a disused building.

The scorched body of a suspected gunman was found hanging upside down from a post outside the cafe yesterday, with residents saying they captured a man who confessed to the attack and burned him alive.

Javier Tebas Medrano, president of La Liga, said he was “dismayed by the attack” on the fans and that the league was “with the victims and their families”.

Earlier this week, three separate car bombings in Baghdad killed at least 93 people and wounded 165.

ISIS later claimed responsibility for all three bombings.

Iraqi authorities are coming under increasing pressure over security breaches in Baghdad, with the country’s top Shia cleric, Grand Ayatollah Ali al-Sistani condemning the latest attacks.

He said the government is ultimately responsible for such security breaches, following protests in Baghdad’s Sadr City district and has called for the defense secretary and Prime Minister to resign.

Chelsea search for new kit supplier after ending Adidas deal

Chelsea are on the hunt for a new kit supplier after confirming there are terminating their deal with Adidas six years early.

The split at the end of next season is said to be by mutual consent, although the London club is thought to have become disillusioned at the level of support they’ve received from Adidas.

The sportswear giant currently has deals with Manchester United, Real Madrid, Bayern Munich and Juventus, and the Stamford Bridge club believe those clubs have been promoted more intensively.

Chelsea’s deal was worth $43.4 million per year, compared to Unitedís $108.44m contract. They have agreed a $57.8m severance package with Adidas.

The Blues are understood to want $72.3m per year for their replacement deal, but this is unlikely to put off would-be suitors.

Nike, who are currently in talks with Tottenham Hotspur about a shirt deal, have been without a London club since parting ways with Arsenal a couple of years ago.

Japanese firm Uniqlo could also be interested, with Chelsea’s $57.8-a-year shirt sponsorship with Yokohama an obvious attraction for a possible future link-up.

Under Armour may also be an option, especially if Spurs sign with Nike, although they have just signed a seven-year agreement with Southampton.

Liverpool kit suppliers New Balance are new to the Premier League scene, but the opportunity to tie up one of Europe’s biggest clubs could be too good to pass up.

Chelsea had a deal with English manufacturer Umbro from 1987 to 2006, during which time they won two Premier League titles.

Puma provided the title-winning kits for Leicester City this season, although their current deal with Arsenal may be a problem for Chelsea’s decision-makers.

With Antonio Conte set to take over as the club’s new boss this summer, Italian company Kappa may fancy their chances of securing a deal.

They previously supplied Manchester City back in the 1990s, but currently only have deals with Championship clubs Leeds United and Wigan Athletic in the English leagues.

The world’s highest earning players 2015

The debate over whether Cristiano Ronaldo or Lionel Messi is the world’s greatest footballer may never truly be resolved, but the Portuguese star certainly has the advantage in the earning stakes.

Forbes has reported that Ronaldo raked in $82 million last year to cement his status as the world’s highest-paid footballer, with Messi finishing second with $77m.

Real Madridís all-time leading scorer topped up his $53m annual salary with $29m in endorsements from top companies such as Nike, Tag Heuer and Herbalife.

Messi earned $51m from Barcelona plus a further $26m in sponsorships from the likes of Adidas, Gatorade and EA Sports.

Swedish striker Zlatan Ibrahimovic made $37m last year, with $30m coming from the 34-year old’s contract with Paris St Germain.

His 38 goals and 14 assists during 2015 cost the club $579,000 each, comparing favorably to his two La Liga rivals who earned over $720,000 each time they scored or set up a goal.

Messi’s teammate Neymar finished fourth on the list, although his earnings were heavily boosted by his off-field activities.

He made just $14 million in salary and bonuses, but pulled in another $22 million from a range of endorsements including Nike and Beats by Dr Dre.

Gareth Bale rounded off the top five with total earnings of over $34 million, although his endorsements of just under $10m lag behind the big two of Ronaldo and Messi.

Wayne Rooney ($25.8m), Sergio Aguero ($24.4m), Luis Suarez ($22.8m), Eden Hazard ($22.2m) and Cesc Fabregas ($20.8m) complete the top 10,

Ronaldo’s career earnings of $550m compare favorably with football’s original poster David Beckham, with the former Manchester United star making $650m to date – $450m coming from his playing years.

Kobe Bryant is the only team sport athlete who earned more during his playing career. He retired from the NBA in April with $680m in career earnings.

Golfer Tiger Woods ($1.4billion), Formula One driver Michael Schumacher ($800m) and boxer Floyd Mayweather ($700m) are the highest ever earners from individual sports.

Highest Earning Players 2015

(salary and endorsements)

  1. Cristiano Ronaldo $82.1 mil
  2. Lionel Messi $76.5 mil
  3. Zlatan Ibrahimovic $37.1 mil
  4. Neymar $36.3 mil
  5. Gareth Bale $34.4 mil
  6. Wayne Rooney $25.8 mil
  7. Sergio Aguero $24.4 mil
  8. Luis Suarez $22.8 mil
  9. Eden Hazard $22.2 mil
  10. Cesc Fabregas $20.8 mil

Arsenal give United fighting chance to overtake rivals City

Last weekend’s results in the Premier League have set up a thrilling final week in the race for Champions League places.

Manchester United cranked up the pressure with victory at Norwich City on Saturday, and with Manchester City only drawing against Arsenal the following day it’s now any two from three for the remaining top four spots.

Arsenal are currently third in the table with 68 points, three ahead of City with United a further two points behind but with a game in hand.

United head to West Ham on Tuesday knowing a win would see them leapfrog City going into the final weekend.

Louis Van Gaal’s team welcome Bournemouth to Old Trafford on the last day of the season, with City travelling to Swansea City. Arsenal host Aston Villa needing just a point to secure a top four finish.

Recent history suggests United will avoid defeat at West Ham, with the last four meetings at the Boleyn Ground resulting in two wins and two draws for the Red Devils.

However, the Hammers have been defying expectations all season and it will undoubtedly be a great atmosphere for their final game at the stadium which could make it tricky for the visitors.

Bournemouth already proved they can be tricky opponents for United, after securing a 2-1 win in the reverse fixture earlier this season.

The Cherries’ season has stagnated of late and they could find facing a United side with everything to play for a step too far.

Swansea won’t be an easy game for City as they seem to be ending the season on a high after scoring seven goals in their last two games – three against Liverpool and four against West Ham.

Since they came up to the Premier League, Swansea have beaten City once and lost twice in four meetings at the Liberty Stadium.

Finishing outside the top four would cap a slowly declining season for City as they say goodbye to Manuel Pellegrini ahead of Pep Guardiola’s arrival in the summer.

Qualifying for the Champions League may buy some time for Van Gaal after what has been a largely indifferent season for the club.

With an FA Cup Final against Crystal Palace still to come, the Dutchman could yet end the campaign on a high note. Whether that would be enough to prevent Jose Mourinho’s appointment as manager for next season remains to be seen.

Turkish fans’ brawl causes abandonment of wheelchair basketball game

Seven fans needed hospital treatment after a mass brawl between rival Turkish supporters at a wheelchair basketball match in Germany.

The game, played in the eastern German town of Zwickau, was part of the four-day European Champions Cup tournament.

Police say about 60 fans from the Istanbul-based clubs Besiktas and Galatasaray began attacking each other with knives and baseball bats.

While none of the injuries sustained by the Turkish supporters were serious, the incident caused the match to be cancelled.

There is a long history of hate between Besiktas and Galatasaray, with violence often marring games between the two clubs across a variety of sports.

This latest fracas is not the first time fighting has broken out between supporters of their wheelchair basketball sides.

Back in 2012, 10 fans were arrested after a clash during a game in Istanbul when supporters sprayed fire extinguishers at each other – police used tear gas to break up the fighting.

Madrid-based CD Ilunion eventually went on to win the European Champions Cup, beating German side RSV Lahn-Dill 71-45 in Sunday’s final.

Atletico Madrid knock out Bayern Munich to make Champions League final

An away goal from Antoine Griezmann was enough to put Atletico Madrid through to the Champions League final, with a 2-1 defeat to Bayern Munich at the Allianz Arena seeing the Spaniards progress.

Diego Simeone’s men held a 1-0 lead from the first leg, with an emotionally charged Bavarian crowd waiting for them in Germany.

Xabi Alonso’s deflected free-kick in the 31st minute brought the Bundesliga giants level, before visiting goalkeeper Jan Oblak kept the La Liga outfit’s dreams alive by saving a Thomas Muller penalty.

The decisive moment came in the 54th minute when Griezmann sprung the Bayern offside trap to fire home and give Simeone’s charges an invaluable away goal.

Robert Lewandowski ensured a tense finish by putting the Germans back into the lead on 74 minutes, while Fernando Torres saw his penalty saved by Manuel Neuer soon after.

Atletico and their dogged defence held on to progress, with the visitors elated at the final whistle.

The result is a massive disappointment for Bayern, with manager Pep Guardiola to leave the club this summer and failing to deliver Europe’s biggest prize after three years in Bavaria, despite making the Champions League semifinals in each of his three seasons at the club.

The Vicente Calderon outfit have never been European champions, losing in the final in 1974 to Bayern and two years ago to fierce cross-city rivals Real Madrid.

There is every chance they could face their Spanish foes again in the final in Milan later this month, with Zinedine Zidane’s side and Manchester City tussling in the second semi-final.

Atletico were within seconds of beating Madrid in the 2013-14 final in Lisbon, but an injury time Sergio Ramos goal sent the game to extra time, where Los Blancos prevailed 4-1.

Simeone’s men will be desperate to make amends this time round, whether it is Madrid or City they face, with the Spaniards proving themselves as one of Europe’s most difficult opponents.

Putin jokes with Rosberg after F1 race; Enormous crash in Nascar

Was Nico Rosberg simply “in the zone” or did he deliver a monumental snub to Russian President Vladimir Putin?

After winning the Russian Grand Prix, Rosberg joined Lewis Hamilton and Kimi Raikkonen in the holding room used before the podium ceremonies.

The German driver appeared to ignore Putin, who was there with his interpreter, shaking Raikkonen’s hand while completely blanking the president.

Rosberg removed some of his gear as he faced the couch with his back to Putin the whole time.

He eventually shook hands with Putin before engaging in some awkward dialogue.

The interpreter asked Rosberg on Putin’s behalf: “Do you like it here? Is everything alright?”

Rosberg replied: “Yeah, everything was good. It’s a great track, and they’ve done a great job – F1 is growing in this country.”

Putin responded by saying the growth was down to the efforts of the drivers to which Rosberg answered, “Oh, we try.”

The Russian president wasn’t finished quite yet, offering Rosberg a rather backhanded compliment.

“You and your colleagues, sincere thanks to you,” he said. “Different segments, different sections of this sport have started to develop in Russia and people take pleasure in watching you do your job, if you can call it a job.”

Rosberg appeared a little bemused and simply responded: “You have some great Russian drivers as well.”

The pair managed to remain professional during the ceremony, with Putin handing Rosberg his trophy after his fourth F1 victory of the season.

While Russian driver Daniil Kvyat was incurring the wrath of Sebastian Vettel for his demolition derby antics in Sochi, the dangers of motorsport came into focus at Sunday’s NASCAR Sprint Cup race at Talladega.

On lap 160 Kurt Busch (No. 41) rear-ended Jamie Johnson (No. 48) into another car, causing a massive pile-up.

The crash caused damage to 17 cars, meaning a total of 28 cars have been involved in crashes at the incident-packed Talladega race.

Despite the shunts, 25 cars were able to rejoin the race on the lead lap for the restart.

There were many highlights of the day, including Dale Earnhardt Jr driving his car one-handed after his steering wheel came off:

Boehringer’s Vikings draft makes NFL history

History was made on the final day of the NFL Draft on Saturday when Moritz Boehringer’s was picked by the Minnesota Vikings.

The German wide receiver is the first international player to go straight from a European league to the NFL.

Boehringer first played competitively in 2013 after watching highlights of Vikings’ star Adrian Peterson.

Last season with the Schwabisch Hall Unicorns he recorded 70 receptions, 1,461 yards and 16 touchdowns, securing the Rookie of the Year award in the German Football League.

The 22-year-old first came to the attention of NFL with an eye-opening performance at the Florida Atlantic pro day earlier this year.

Vikings coach Mike Zimmer said: “That’s kind of what the draft is all about – making dreams come true.

“He’s a really smart kid – he understands football and is able to repeat the different routes to us and things like that.

“Obviously, he has a lot of work to do, but it’s been fun.”

Connor Cook’s long wait to be selected was ended when the Oakland Raiders took the Michigan State quarterback with the 100th pick of the draft in the fourth round.

Concerns over Cook’s attitude led to teams steering clear of the 23-year-old who was ranked by many experts as one of the top talents in this year’s draft.

“I think I’m one of the best quarterbacks in this draft class, but nothing is ever easy and nothing is ever perfect,” said Cook.

“Obviously, seeing all the other quarterbacks go, it hurt, but I’m just ready to be a Raider and ready to get to business.

“It’s a lot of motivation – I would say more motivation than anything. Seeing all the other quarterbacks go when you think you’re a pretty good quarterback, it just motivates you.

“I’m going to go into this league with a chip on my shoulder and try to earn everything that I achieve.”

Raiders’ general manager Reggie McKenzie, who traded the 114th and 154th picks to Cleveland Browns to secure the 100th pick, said the chance to select Cook was an opportunity he couldn’t miss.

“It’s always important to have depth,” McKenzie said. “We usually kept three quarterbacks when I was in Green Bay for a long time.

“You can see the cycle, even last year, guys went down. So you want to make sure you have guys prepared.

“He was a good player still sitting there day three. We had a good grade on him and we just wanted to seize the opportunity.”

Leafs win 2016 NHL Draft Lottery, Matthews their likely target

Toronto Maple Leafs’ rebuilding plans received a boost on Saturday when they won the 2016 NHL Draft Lottery at the CBC building in Toronto.

The Leafs now have the right to the first overall selection in the 2016 Entry Draft, which will take place on June 24 and 25 in Buffalo, New York.

The Winnipeg Jets were drawn as the winners of the second overall pick, with the Columbus Blue Jackets taking the third pick.

Top ranked prospect Auston Matthews is likely to be the Maple Leafs’ selection, while Winnipeg and Columbus will probably each take one of the Finnish prospects ranked second and third, Patrik Laine and Jesse Puljujarvi.

Maple Leafs’ president Brendan Shanahan refused to confirm who they would pick, but he did praise Matthews’ abilities.

“I’ll just say that our scouts were very pleased with tonight’s results,” he said. “He (Matthews) is definitely somebody that has earned the right to be where he is today.

“I wouldn’t put too much pressure on any one player,” he said. “The more players you can get of a high calibre, obviously that’s a good thing.

“But we also recognize that at this stage whoever’s coming in here is going to be a young person, a rookie, and not going to have the weight of the world thrust on their shoulders.

“This is not going to be a savior. That’s not the way the game is played these days. You need to have a full team.”

With William Nylander, Mitchell Marner and Morgan Rielly amongst many promising players on the Maple Leafs’ books, Matthews would be a notable addition to the ranks.

The 18-year-old, who is set to represent the United States at the upcoming World Championship, played last season in Switzerland scoring 22 goals with 24 assists in 36 games.

Other promising players in this year’s draft class include Finnish defenseman Olli Juolevi, a smooth-skating puck mover who starred at the world juniors and Pierre-Luc Dubois, a free-scoring forward who has been likened to James Neal.

Russian defenseman Mikhail Sergachyov will be on the radar of many teams after an impressive season with Windsow Spitfires in the OHL, while Russian U18 team forward German Rubtsov could be seen by the Detroit Red Wings as the natural replacement for the departing Pavel Datsyuk.

2016 NHL Draft Order:

  1. Toronto Maple Leafs
  2. Winnipeg Jets
  3. Columbus Blue Jackets
  4. Edmonton Oilers
  5. Vancouver Canucks
  6. Calgary Flames
  7. Arizona Coyotes
  8. Buffalo Sabres
  9. Montreal Canadiens
  10. Colorado Avalanche
  11. New Jersey Devils
  12. Ottawa Senators
  13. Carolina Hurricanes
  14. Boston Bruins