Italy’s Lamont Marcell Jacobs outshone a field of unusual suspects to claim a shock Olympic gold in the men’s 100 metres on Sunday, breaking retired Jamaican star Usain Bolt’s 13-year hold on the blue riband event.
Jacobs, 26, timed a European record of 9.80 seconds, with American Fred Kerley taking silver in 9.84sec in one of the most understated major championship 100m races of recent times.
Canada’s Andre de Grasse, a bronze medallist at the 2016 Rio Games, repeated the feat in 9.89sec.
The athletes were introduced in a dramatic light show — the stadium floodlights were shut off and 12 projectors cast 3D images of the world, zooming in to the Tokyo skyline, and then the name of each sprinter.
The lights came back on, swiftly followed by a horrendous false start for Zharnel Hughes in lane four, the Anguilla-born Briton not even bothering to question his disqualification.
Dressed in light blue singlet and lycra shorts, the US-born Jacobs, in lane three, made a good start, held his nerve through the drive phase, and powered through to the line.
Jacobs joyously ran into the arms of Italian teammate Gianmarco Tamberi, who had just shared gold in the men’s high jump and was waiting at the finish line.
The race, run in stifling temperatures of 30 degrees Celsius (84 Fahrenheit), had a distinctly underwhelming build-up and feel to it as hot favourite Trayvon Bromell bombed out of the semi-finals in which China’s Su Bingtian and Jacobs unexpectedly set Asian and European records respectively.
The Tokyo Olympics are the first since Athens in 2004 to take place without Bolt, who went on to win three consecutive Olympic 100m titles in Beijing, London and Rio de Janeiro, as well as three straight 200m crowns.
And for the first time since the 2000 Sydney Games, there was no Jamaican in the final, Bolt’s long-time former teammate Yohan Blake failing to qualify from his semi-final.
The field was instead filled with a raft of relatively unknown sprinters, with Jacobs’ main claim to fame a European 60m indoor title earlier this year.
The 100m in Tokyo, and the circus around it, has arguably been a pale imitation of Bolt’s glory years during which the charismatic Jamaican not only dominated the sprints but also captivated a truly global audience.
While the spectacle that Bolt brought to the blue riband event has been missing since his retirement in 2017, so also has been the emergence of a new generation of sprinting hopes.
Many have been lauded as the athlete to fill Bolt’s spikes, but no one has yet lived up to the considerable weight of expectation.
Added to that, the 68,000-capacity Olympic Stadium in Tokyo had no cheering fans because of coronavirus restrictions in the Japanese capital.
Instead, there were sparse pockets of athletes and team officials who did their best to create something of an atmosphere at what is normally one of the most widely anticipated events of the entire Games, commanding a huge worldwide television audience.
Two athletes became the first to test positive for the coronavirus in the Tokyo Olympic Village, officials said Sunday, as new border rules in Europe caused last-minute travel frustration.
Less than a week before the Olympics is due to begin, the cases will heighten concerns over the event.
Organisers have described the Games as the world’s “most restrictive sports event”, but it faces opposition in Japan over fears it will bring new infections to a country already battling a surge.
A daily tally of new cases revealed two athletes tested positive in the Village and one elsewhere. They come a day after an unidentified person, who was not a competitor, became the first case in the village.
Britain is also facing a backlash over its decision to exclude France from its new looser entry policies — vaccinated returning UK residents will still have to quarantine for 10 days, unlike in other “amber” countries.
“I’m a doctor so I understand the health issues very well, but this doesn’t make any sense,” said Maud Lemoine, a London-based doctor who is visiting France.
And France’s government drew ire after announcing that unvaccinated visitors from Britain and several other European countries must show a negative Covid test taken within 24 hours of departure rather than 48 or 72 hours, as was the case previously.
The interior ministry said almost 114,000 demonstrators gathered across France on Saturday to protest against the government’s handling of the pandemic and continued restrictions on everyday life.
“It’s not that we think the Earth is flat, but we don’t know the long-term effects of these vaccines cobbled together in a hurry,” care assistant Rita, 39, said at a march in the city of Montpellier.
Elsewhere in Europe, Greek officials imposed curfews on the party island of Mykonos and Spanish authorities did likewise in Barcelona and other cities in the northeastern Catalonia region.
EU jabs overtake US
European governments are facing an uphill battle, with the EU’s disease prevention agency warning that infections could rise fivefold across the bloc by August 1.
But the continent also had something to celebrate, with the proportion of people vaccinated topping the US figure for the first time.
Around 55.5 percent have now had a first dose following a sluggish start, compared with 55.4 across the Atlantic.
EU Commissioner Thierry Breton said the achievement validated the EU’s strategy of “remaining open and exporting half of our production to 100+ countries”, vaunting the bloc’s “solidarity” compared with other vaccine makers.
And in Britain, where most of the adult population has now had two jabs, the government is preparing to ease most restrictions.
Quarantine for vaccinated Britons returning from “amber” list countries is due to end on Monday but at the last minute the government decided to retain the status quo for France because of the “persistent presence” of the Beta variant, first identified in South Africa.
While the rule applies only to England for now, devolved governments in Scotland and Wales indicated they were likely to follow suit.
The new looser regime in England, with mask requirements among the rules to be dropped, comes as the UK recorded more than 50,000 cases in a day on Friday and the government said that rate could double in the coming weeks.
However, officials said the high vaccination rate should prevent a spike in deaths and serious illness.
Among those testing positive was Health Secretary Sajid Javid, who announced on Saturday he had contracted the disease and was isolating.
“I’m grateful that I’ve had two jabs of the vaccine. And so far, my symptoms are very mild,” Javid said via Twitter.
With cases surging, critics say the reopening is a reckless gamble.
“This is a threat not just to England but to the whole world — particularly low- and middle-income countries who have very limited access to vaccines,” a group of international scientists said in a joint statement on Friday.
One poorer country experiencing an infection surge is Senegal, whose national bus operator announced Saturday it would suspend intercity transport.
The announcement comes after the country of 16 million logged a record — 1,366 — of new coronavirus cases on Saturday, almost double the daily record of 733 set on Wednesday.
A new single-day record was also set in Thailand, which had more than 11,300 new infections Sunday, bringing the kingdom’s cumulative cases to more than 400,000. Saturday also saw the single-day death toll reach 141 — a new high.
Three more provinces will be placed under severe restrictions — including a night-time curfew and a ban on gatherings of more than five — that already cover Bangkok and the southern provinces.
Saudi Arabia is allowing crowds to gather for the second downsized hajj since the start of the pandemic.
The kingdom is allowing only 60,000 fully vaccinated residents to take part — a fraction of the pre-pandemic number — as it seeks to repeat last year’s success that saw no virus outbreak during the five-day ritual.
Among the chosen ones this year was Ameen, a 58-year-old Indian oil contractor who was picked for the ritual along with his wife and three adult children.
“We are overjoyed,” said Ameen. “So many of our friends and relatives were rejected.”
The dragging corruption trial of South Africa’s jailed ex-president Jacob Zuma resumes on Monday despite deadly violence that swept the nation after his imprisonment in an unrelated case.
Zuma faces 16 charges of fraud, graft, and racketeering related to a 1999 purchase of fighter jets, patrol boats, and military gear from five European arms firms when he was South Africa’s deputy president.
He is accused of pocketing four million rand ($277,000) in bribes from one of the firms, French defence giant Thales, which has been charged with corruption and money laundering.
The trial started in May after numerous postponements and delays, as Zuma’s legal team worked fervently to have the charges dropped.
The 79-year-old Zuma appeared in person for the opening and said he was innocent.
Thales also pleaded not guilty, and the next hearing was set for July 19.
But things took a nasty turn when on June 29, Zuma was found guilty of contempt of South Africa’s top court for snubbing graft investigators probing his tenure as president. He was jailed a week later.
The incarceration sparked protests in his home province of KwaZulu-Natal (KZN), which snowballed into a week of deadly outbreak of looting and arson that spread to the economic hub Johannesburg, claiming over 200 lives.
South African President Cyril Ramaphosa, who came to office promising to curb graft, said the riots were a “coordinated and well-planned attack” on the country’s young democracy.
“Using the pretext of a political grievance, those behind these acts have sought to provoke a popular insurrection,” Ramaphosa said on Friday night.
Monday’s hearing could reignite tensions that had eased late last week, analysts warn.
Stability at stake
“People will be watching the behaviour of judges,” said Sipho Seepe, a fellow of the University of Zululand in KZN.
“If they feel justice is not done, they will protest,” he said.
Monday’s hearing will focus on an application by Zuma’s legal team to recuse chief prosecutor Billy Downer for allegedly leaking information to the media.
“We will argue vigorously for the application to be dismissed,” National Prosecuting Authority spokesman Mthunzi Mhaga told AFP.
The trial will be heard virtually to “avoid disruption”, said Mhaga.
Zuma and his supporters have repeatedly decried all these probes as politically motivated and warned his jailing would spark unrest.
But they deny being behind the recent turmoil.
Carl Niehaus, a close friend of Zuma, told reporters this week that there was no “coordinated campaign to lead to looting and violence”.
“There is however an uprising of people who are deeply concerned and angered by [his] imprisonment.”
‘Ride the storm’
Zuma, once dubbed the “Teflon president”, is meanwhile seeking to reverse his 15-month jail sentence.
He was arrested for disobeying a Constitutional Court order to testify before a judicial panel probing the plunder of state coffers during his nine-year rule.
Most of the transgressions investigated by the commission involve three brothers from a wealthy Indian business family, the Guptas, who won lucrative government contracts and were allegedly allowed to choose cabinet ministers.
Zuma only testified once in July 2019.
South Africa’s ruling African National Congress (ANC) party forced Zuma — who is a member of the country’s dominant Zulu ethnic group — to resign in 2018 after mounting graft scandals.
But Zuma has retained a fervent support base within the ANC and among the general public, viewed by many as a “people’s man” and a defender of the poor.
Ralph Mathekga, author of “When Zuma Goes”, says judges in the graft case will not bow to “political pressure”.
“Not prosecuting Mr Zuma will have serious implications for the rule of law,” he told AFP. “The judiciary is going to have to ride the storm.”
Novak Djokovic won a record-equalling 20th Grand Slam title and sixth Wimbledon on Sunday with a four-set victory over Italian slugger Matteo Berrettini with rival superstar Roger Federer hailing the achievement as a “wonderful performance”.
The world number one triumphed 6-7 (4/7), 6-4, 6-4, 6-3 to move level on 20 majors with Federer and Rafael Nadal.
His win also put him three-quarters of the way to the first calendar Grand Slam of all four majors since 1969.
“I could definitely envisage that happening and I hope I will give it a shot. I’m in great form and played well and having my best form at Grand Slams is my number one priority,” said Djokovic.
A sixth victory at the All England Club for Djokovic, who was playing in his 30th final at the Slams, added to his nine Australian Opens, two Roland Garros titles as well as three at the US Open.
Should he win a fourth title in New York in September, he will become just the third man in history after Don Budge (1938) and Rod Laver (1962 and 1969) to complete the calendar Grand Slam.
“It was more than a battle. He is a true Italian hammer I felt it on my skin,” said Djokovic of Berrettini.
Of sharing the record with Federer and Nadal, he said: “It means none of us three will stop. Roger and Rafa are legends, they are the reason I am where I am today.
“They showed me what I needed to do to get stronger, physically, tactically and mentally. Over the last 10 years it has been an incredible journey that’s not stopping here.”
Federer — who bowed out in the quarter-finals while Nadal did not play — tweeted his congratulations.
“Congrats Novak on your 20th major,” said Federer, an eight-time champion at Wimbledon.
“I’m proud to have the opportunity to play in a special era of tennis champions. Wonderful performance, well done.”
Djokovic also now has 85 career titles while he has become the first man to break the $150 million prize money barrier.
A gold medal at the Tokyo Olympics could give him the first ever Golden Grand Slam by a male player.
“Novak is a great champion, he is writing history on this court,” said Berrettini.
Djokovic overcame a nervy start to break for 3-1, which he stretched to 5-2.
He even had a set point in a marathon eighth game which the Italian saved after eight deuces.
Reinvigorated, he broke Djokovic when he served for the set and then dominated the tiebreaker which he sealed with his fourth ace of the contest.
The top seed stormed to a 5-1 lead in the second set on the back of a double break.
Berrettini, bidding to be Italy’s first men’s Grand Slam winner since Adriano Panatta at the 1976 French Open, clawed his way back to 4-5, saving three set points, but Djokovic this time served it out for a set apiece.
Djokovic struck first again for a 2-1 lead in the third set and fought off three break points in the sixth game, a show of defiance which brought watching Hollywood star Tom Cruise to his feet.
That was Berrettini’s last chance of the set as Djokovic served it out in the 10th game.
A weary Berrettini then served up a double fault on break point to hand Djokovic a 4-3 lead in the fourth set.
Djokovic kept coming, sprinting from the back of the court to pull off a wondrous pick-up and he held on for 5-3.
Berrettini, hoping to be Italy’s first singles champion at Wimbledon, saved two championship points in the eighth game.
But he was powerless on the third as Djokovic swept to his place in history.
“It is not the end, it is the beginning for me,” said Berrettini.
“Without my family, friends, and team all this would not have been possible so I just say Grazie Grazie.”
British billionaire Richard Branson flew into space Sunday aboard a Virgin Galactic vessel, a voyage he described as the “experience of a lifetime” — and one he hopes will usher in an era of lucrative space tourism.
“Congratulations to all our wonderful team at Virgin Galactic for 17 years of hard, hard work to get us this far,” he said during a live feed as the VSS Unity spaceship glided back to Spaceport America in New Mexico.
It reached a peak altitude of around 53 miles (85 kilometers) — beyond the boundary of space, according to the United States — allowing the passengers to experience weightlessness and admire the Earth’s curvature.
The trip proceeded without drama, and touchdown occurred at around 9:40 am Mountain Time (1540 GMT), about an hour after take-off.
The mission’s success means Branson has beaten fellow billionaire Jeff Bezos in the race to be the first tycoon to cross the final frontier in a ship built by a company he founded.
Earlier, a massive carrier plane took off and ascended to 50,000 feet before dropping VSS Unity to complete the rest of the flight using its rocket-powered engine.
The spaceplane carried two pilots and four passengers, including Branson.
The ship then re-entered the atmosphere, lowered its flexible wings and glided back to the runway.
A smiling Branson hugged loved ones after the trip.
“It’s a beautiful day to go to space,” the brash Brit wrote in a tweet earlier where he posted a video of himself biking to the base and meeting with his crewmates, all Virgin employees.
He also posted a picture of himself standing in a kitchen with SpaceX boss Elon Musk, who’d come to show his support.
Several tourists journeyed to the International Space Station in the 2000s, but on Russian rockets.
Branson’s official role is to evaluate the private astronaut experience to enhance the journey for future clients.
Branson, who founded the Virgin Group that today has interests in everything from commercial aviation to fitness centers, is known for his appetite for adventure and has set world records in hot air ballooning and boating.
“As a child, I wanted to go to space,” the 70-year-old wrote a few days ahead of his trip.
He founded Virgin Galactic in 2004, but the dream almost came to an end in 2014 when an in-flight accident caused the death of a pilot, considerably delaying the program.
Since then, VSS Unity has successfully reached space three times, in 2018, 2019 — which included the first crew member who wasn’t a pilot — and finally in May this year.
Sunday’s flight left from Spaceport America, a huge base built in the Jornada del Muerto desert, around 20 miles southeast of the nearest town, Truth or Consequences.
Financed largely by the state of New Mexico, Virgin Galactic is the principal tenant.
Paying passengers in 2022?
After Sunday, Virgin Galactic plans two further flights, and then the start of regular commercial operations from early 2022. The ultimate goal is to conduct 400 flights per year.
Some 600 tickets have already been sold to people from 60 different countries — including Hollywood celebrities — for prices ranging from $200,000 to $250,000.
And though, according to Branson, “space belongs to us all,” the opportunity for now remains the preserve of the privileged.
“When we return, I will announce something very exciting to give more people the chance to become an astronaut,” he promised.
The competition in the space tourism sector, whose imminent rise has been announced for years, has come to a head this month.
Bezos, the richest person in the world, is due to fly on July 20 on Blue Origin’s New Shepard rocket.
Blue Origin posted an infographic Friday boasting the ways in which the experience it offers is superior.
The principal point: New Shepard climbs up to more than 60 miles in altitude, thus exceeding what is called the Karman line, the frontier of space according to international convention.
Bezos himself wished Branson “best of luck” in an Instagram post.
The Department of State Services (DSS) on Thursday said a team of joint security operatives raided the home of Yoruba Nation agitator Sunday Adeyemo aka Sunday Igboho in Ibadan, arresting 13 of his armed men.
DSS Spokesman, Dr. Peter Afunanya, disclosed this in a briefing with journalists late this evening. He said the raid was based on intelligence that Igboho was stockpiling arms to cause chaos within the region.
Afunanya said when the security operatives approached the house, they were attacked by nine of Igboho’s boys who engaged them in a gun duel but were subsequently overpowered.
According to him, two of Igboho’s men were killed while an operative sustained injuries, however, Igboho escaped during the gun battle and is currently on the run.
Afunanya who said the long arm of the law will still reach Igboho, urged the agitator to turn himself in or be tracked down.
The 13 suspected armed agitators that were arrested consist of 12 males and 1 female. A large cache of arms and ammunition was also recovered by the operatives.
Below are photos of items recovered from Igboho’s house.
A full communique regarding the joint operation at Igboho’s house appears below.
PRESS BRIEFING AT THE NATIONAL HEADQUARTERS OF THE DEPARTMENT OF STATE SERVICES (DSS) ABUJA ON A JOINT SECURITY OPERATION ON 1ST JULY, 2021 AT IBADAN, OYO STATE
In the early hours (about 0134 hours) of today, 1st July, 2021, a joint team of security operatives raided the residence of Sunday Adeniyi Adeyemo a.k.a. SUNDAY IGBOHO at Soka, Ibadan, Oyo State. This was based on intelligence that he had stockpiled arms in the place. On approach to the residence, the team came under heavy gun attack by nine (9) men, suspected to be IGBOHO’s guards. Six (6) of them were armed with AK-47 gun and Three (3) others, with Pump-Action riffles.
2. In the course of the exchange, two (2) of IGBOHO’s armed men were gunned down while the rest were subdued and arrested. Only one operative who was shot by the assailants on his right hand sustained injury. He has however received medical attention and is very stable.
3. Afterwards, the team procedurally searched the house and subsequently recovered the following among others: i. Seven (7) AK-47 assault rifles; ii. Three (3) Pump Action guns; iii. Thirty (30) fully charged AK-47 magazines; iv. Five Thousand (5,000) rounds of 7.62mm ammunition; v. Five (5) Cutlasses, One (1) Jack knife, One (1) Pen Knife vi. Two (2) Pistol holsters; vii. One (1) binoculars viii. A wallet containing Five (5) US Dollars in one (1) Dollar denomination; local and international driver’s licences in his name, ATM Cards, a German residence permit No. YO2N6K1NY bearing his name; ix. Two (2) whistles; x. Fifty (5) Cartridges; xi. Eighteen (18) Walkie-Talkies; xii. Three Voodoo charm jackets/traditional body armour; xiii. Two (2) Laptops (One (1) Toshiba and One (1) Compaq); and xiv. His International Passport and those of many others (as displayed here). Further exploitation and forensic analysis are ongoing.
4. Aside the items recovered from the building, about thirteen (13) suspects including twelve (12) males and one (1) female were arrested and brought to Abuja. While one suspect is being profiled, the other twelve (12) paraded here are: i. Abdulateef OFEYAGBE ii. Amoda BABATUNDE aka Lady K (female) iii. Tajudeen ERINOYEN iv. Diakola ADEMOLA v. Abideen SHITTU vi. Jamiu NOAH vii. Ayobami DONALD viii. Adelabe USMAN ix. Oluwafelumi KUNLE x. Raji KAZEEM xi. Taiwo OPEYEMI and xii. Bamidele SUNDAY.
5. Highlights of this brief are to: i. Inform Nigerians and the world that Sunday IGBOHO and his group, in the guise of campaign for self-determination, have become well-armed and determined to undermine public order. This, the arrests and seizures are, no doubt, a confirmation of a grand plan by IGBOHO and his cohorts to wage a violent insurrection against the Nigerian State. ii. Alert foreign missions and licencing authorities within and outside Nigeria about this development and the possibility that IGBOHO could declare some of his personal permit and identity cards missing in order to seek their replacement. iii. Apprise stakeholders that the Five (5) AK-47 assault rifles recovered from the building are suspected to be those collected by IGBOHO’s men from Nigerian Customs and Immigration personnel at Idi Iroko, Ogun State.
6. The gun duel which lasted for an hour offered IGBOHO the chance to escape. Sunday ADEYEMO a.k.a Sunday IGBOHO is now on the run. IGBOHO may run as far as he can. He may hide as long as he wants. He might have attacked security operatives as his strength carried him. But this will be the end of his shenanigans. Soon, he will not have a hiding place. His strength will sure fail him. And the law will catch up with him. The law may be slow. But it will be steady.
7. Consequently, ADEYEMO/IGBOHO is advised to turn himself in to the nearest security agency. Those cheering and eulogising him may appeal to or advise him to do the needful. He should surrender himself to the appropriate authorities. He or anyone can never be above the law. Meanwhile, those arrested will be charged accordingly.
Peter Afunanya, Ph.D Public Relations Officer Department of State Services National Headquarters Abuja. 1st July, 2021
Nine children and an adult were killed in a fiery multi-vehicle crash on an Alabama highway as heavy storms lashed the southeastern US, authorities said Sunday.
Saturday’s crash on an interstate highway near the city of Greenville involved at least 15 vehicles and was “probably” caused by hydroplaning under torrential rains, Butler County coroner Wayne Garlock told AFP.
Storm Claudette dumped up to 12 inches (30 centimeters) of rain in the Gulf Coast region Saturday. It was blamed for at least two other deaths.
The dead in the crash included a father and his nine-month-old daughter in an SUV, and eight occupants of a van — aged four to 17 — from a “girls ranch” for neglected and abused children, local media reported.
“This was probably the most horrific accident in Butler County history,” Sheriff Danny Bond told the al.com website.
He said at least two of the vehicles involved were 18-wheel trucks, and that four or five other people had suffered nonfatal injuries.
The driver of the van was pulled out alive by a bystander, witnesses said. The bystander then tried to help the children but was prevented by a fierce fire engulfing the vehicle, Garlock said.
The van driver was identified as Candice Gully, director of the girls farm in Tallapoosa County, an official with the state ranch system told al.com.
‘Suffered a great loss’
The SUV driver was identified as Cody Fox, 29, an emergency management worker from Tennessee. His fiancee was injured in the wreck.
Garlock said the crash scene was in an area notorious for hydroplaning as Interstate 65 curves down a steep hill.
Northbound and southbound traffic on the busy highway was halted for hours by the accident, but both had reopened by Sunday, the Alabama Law Enforcement Agency said on Twitter.
The Tallapoosa County Girls Ranch said it was providing grief counselors for children there.
“Our hearts are heavy today. Our ranch has suffered great loss… Please send prayers our way,” the ranch’s account said on Twitter.
The van in the accident was one of two bringing children back from a weeklong beach outing to nearby Gulf Shores, al.com reported. The other van was unscathed.
Storm Claudette, later downgraded to a tropical depression, has dumped heavy rain across the southeastern US.
The Tuscaloosa News said two people died — a 24-year-old man and his three-year-old son — when a tree fell on their house.
Claudette is forecast to return to tropical storm status on Monday over eastern North Carolina, before weakening again by Tuesday.
The system has washed out roads, trapped motorists in their cars, and flooded residential areas in the region, and the National Hurricane Center warned that further flooding was likely.
LeBron James crashed out of the Los Angeles Lakers’ 99-94 loss to the Atlanta Hawks Saturday with a right ankle injury that will sideline the NBA superstar indefinitely.
The Lakers superstar collapsed to the Staples Center court in agony after a collision with Atlanta’s Solomon Hill in the second quarter, crying out in pain and clutching his right ankle.
The 36-year-old returned briefly to hit a three-pointer before limping back to the locker room, knocking over a chair in frustration.
ESPN later reported that an MRI scan revealed a high ankle sprain and that James faced an “indefinite” injury layoff.
Depending on the severity, high ankle sprains can take anywhere from a few weeks up to several months to recover from.
James did not speak to reporters, but tweeted later that he would return as soon as possible.
“Nothing angers and saddens me more than not being available to and for my teammates!” James wrote. “I’m hurt inside and out right now. The road back from recovery begins now. Back soon like I never left.”
A lengthy layoff for James would be a devastating blow to the reigning champion Lakers, who are already without star Anthony Davis as he recovers from Achilles tendon trouble.
“It’s certainly going to be a challenge any time you’re undermanned,” Lakers coach Frank Vogel said. “But if you play team-first basketball and you defend at our level you’ll have a chance to win and that’ll be our mindset.”
Lakers team-mates Kyle Kuzma and Montrezl Harrell admitted that the sight of James leaving the arena was unnerving.
“We do forget he’s human sometimes, to see him in pain like that,” said Harrell, who was unhappy with Hill’s dive for the ball that led to James’s injury.
“We don’t feel like it was one of those basketball-type plays,” Harrell said. “He had to go through his leg to get the ball.”
With James missing, the Lakers offense struggled to get in the groove as the Hawks — fueled by 27 points and 16 rebounds from John Collins — notched their eighth straight victory, the longest active streak in the league.
The Lakers fell to 28-14 to remain in second place in the Western Conference behind the Utah Jazz.
The Hawks improved to 22-20, tied for fourth with the Miami Heat in the Eastern Conference led by the Philadelphia 76ers — who beat the Sacramento Kings 129-105 despite the absences of three injured starters.
Shortly before tipoff, the Sixers announced that Ben Simmons would be sidelined with a sore left knee.
Joel Embiid missed his fourth straight game with a bone bruise in his left knee and Seth Curry was out with a sprained left ankle.
Tobias Harris led the Sixers with 29 points, 11 rebounds and eight assists. Shake Milton added 28 points and Danny Green chipped in 18.
Despite the lack of star-power, the 76ers set an early tone, scoring 42 points in the first quarter. They led wire-to-wire, pushing their advantage to as many as 36 points.
The Milwaukee Bucks kept the accelerator down, notching their sixth straight victory 120-113 over the San Antonio Spurs.
Two-time reigning NBA Most Valuable Player Giannis Antetokounmpo had 26 points and a season-high 15 assists to go with eight rebounds for Milwaukee.
Khris Middleton scored 23 points and Jrue Holiday added 21.
– Grizzlies bounce back – In Memphis, the Grizzlies got the better of short-handed Golden State, turning the tables on the Warriors a night after losing to them with a 111-103 victory.
Jonas Valanciunas scored 19 points and pulled down 15 rebounds.
Dillon Brooks scored 19, Brandon Clarke scored 16, Ja Morant chipped in 14 with eight assists and the Grizzlies clamped down defensively in a tight fourth quarter to get the win.
The Warriors were without Stephen Curry for a second straight game as he recovers from a bruised tailbone. Kevon Looney, James Wiseman, and Eric Paschall were all sidelined by coronavirus contact tracing.
Pope Francis offered a prayer for coronavirus victims in an unprecedented livestream Easter Sunday message delivered from a hauntingly empty Vatican to a world under lockdown.
The 83-year-old pontiff spoke softly at a solemn ceremony attended by just a handful of priests and a small choir that was spaced out across Saint Paul’s Cathedral’s expansive marble floor.
The pandemic raging outsides the Vatican’s locked gates has killed more than 109,000 people and left billions confined to their homes.
The pope’s message was livestreamed for the first time — a bow to technology in the face of a new illness that has changed the shape of society and altered the way religion is observed.
“For many, this is an Easter of solitude lived amid the sorrow and hardship that the pandemic is causing, from physical suffering to economic difficulties,” he said.
A handful of priests and a few faithful also gathered at the Church of the Holy Sepulchre in Jerusalem’s Old City — locked down like the Vatican — to say prayers at the spot where Christians believe Jesus was crucified and resurrected on Easter.
The majority of the world’s 1.3 billion Catholics were in forced confinement as the pope spoke and almost all of the world’s churches were shut on Christianity’ holiest day.
– ‘Not a time for division’ –
The pope pleaded with the world’s leaders to put aside their political differences and call back their armies during a global health emergency of a magnitude not seen in 100 years.
“This is not a time for division,” Francis said.
“May Christ enlighten all who have responsibility in conflicts, that they may have the courage to support the appeal for an immediate global ceasefire in all corners of the world.”
He said health considerations required world powers to ease crippling economic sanctions imposed against their adversaries — a possible reference to those weighing over pandemic-hit Iran.
“In light of the present circumstances, may international sanctions be relaxed, since these make it difficult for countries on which they have been imposed to provide adequate support to their citizens,” Francis said.
He called for a “reduction, if not the forgiveness, of the debt burdening the balance sheets of the poorest nations” and for European nations to show the same “solidarity” they did in the wake of World War II.
“After the Second World War, this beloved continent was able to rise again,” he said.
“The European Union is presently facing an epochal challenge, on which will depend not only its future but that of the whole world.”
And he offered a prayer for those killed and those mourning the victims of a disease that spread from China to Europe in February and has now encircled the world.
“Today my thoughts turn in the first place to the many who have been directly affected by the coronavirus: the sick, those who have died and family members who mourn the loss of their loved ones, to whom, in some cases, they were unable even to bid a final farewell,” he said.
– Religious improvisation –
The pope’s virtual Easter Sunday message was the most vivid example of religious improvisation in the age of social distancing and confinement.
The faithful have already followed his advice and found creative solutions.
The archbishop of Panama took to the air and blessed his tiny Central American nation from a helicopter.
The faithful in Spain blasted religious music from their balconies during Holy Week.
Easter Sunday itself saw some faithful leave wreaths of flowers outside of the locked doors of churches from where festive processions had departed in previous years in the southwestern Spanish city of Seville.
A parish near the Philippines’ capital Manila pasted the empty pews with family photos that the faithful had emailed to the priest.
The Orthodox Church in Greece is planning to hold mass behind closed doors for its Easter on April 19.
Jews across the world did their best by using Zoom or other video-conferencing apps to “seder-in-place” when the eight-day Passover holiday started on Wednesday evening.
State television in Lebanon broadcast mass under lockdown from an empty church north of Beirut.
Catholics in neighbouring Syria — where celebrations had continued in Christian quarters of Damascus despite years of agonising war — stayed home this time because of the virus, but many watched a Facebook Live celebration by the country’s patriarch.
Sri Lankan Cardinal Malcolm Ranjith told a live mass broadcast that the southeast Asian country’s Roman Catholic Church had forgiven suicide bombers behind attacks that killed at least 279 people last Easter.
“We offered love to the enemies who tried to destroy us,” he said.
Westminster Abbey in London is following the trend by releasing Easter podcasts for the faithful of the Anglican Church.
And priests at France’s Roman Catholic shrine in the southwestern town of Lourdes were relaying nine consecutive days of prayers on Sunday by Facebook Live and YouTube.
‘Saints next door’
The lockdown forced the pope to improvise throughout Holy Week.
In previous years he had observed Holy Thursday service marking Christ’s last supper by washing the feet of 12 inmates on the outskirts of Rome.
The virus made that impossible this year.
Francis instead said a prayer for the dozens of priests and health workers who have died across Italy while attending to the sick.
“They are the saints next door, the priests who gave their lives by serving,” Francis said.
He invited five nurses and doctors to accompany him for the Good Friday processions in order to highlight their profession’s sacrifices over the past month.
Francis himself has reportedly been tested twice for COVID-19 since coming down with a cold at the end of February.