Novak Djokovic loses for the first time in 2012

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Novak Djokovic loses for the first time in 2012

From Comcast SportsNet
DUBAI, United Arab Emirates (AP) -- Top-ranked Novak Djokovic lost for the first time this season, beaten by Andy Murray 6-2, 7-5 Friday in the semifinals of the Dubai Championships. Djokovic had been on a 10-match winning streak that included the Australian Open title. In the final, Murray will play Roger Federer, who edged Juan Martin del Potro 7-6 (5), 7-6 (6). Del Potro lost four set points in the second-set tiebreaker at 6-2, with Federer winning the last six points. Federer will be going for his fifth Dubai title, but his first in five years. This was a big boost for Murray, who lost to Djokovic in five sets in the Australian Open semifinals. "Hopefully, that will set me up well for the year," Murray said. "Confidence in tennis and almost any individual sport is so important." Murray had lost seven of the last 11 matches against Djokovic, who was bidding for a fourth straight Dubai title. But the Scotsman made it look easy at the Aviation Club. "I was fighting for it, but, you know, Andy played a great match," Djokovic said. "He was the better player today. He was serving really well." Murray broke to go up 4-2 in the first set and saved two break points to make it 5-2. He used a stellar serve, winning 94 percent of his first service points in the first set and 85 percent overall. "The first set I served very well and was aggressive when I had my chances," Murray said. "In the second set, he started going for more and making mistakes because it's tough to always grind out matches." Murray had a 3-0 advantage in the second set and led 5-3 while serving for the match. But Djokovic broke Murray for the first time and tied it at 5-all. Murray won the final two games, breaking Djokovic to win the match when the Serb sent a forehand long. Murray felt his nearly five-hour loss to Djokovic in Australia paid dividends Friday, especially in the second set. "The thing you learn after a match like that is how much you need to sort of suffer on the court to win matches like that, and also how important it is," he said. Djokovic lauded Murray's aggressive play. "I made a lot of unforced errors when it was important," he said. "But, look, this is sport. It's normal that in some matches you can't pull out your best when you need to." Djokovic denied that his four weeks off since the Australian Open -- when he collected several awards and skied with friends -- influenced the outcome of the match. Still, he appeared rusty early in the tournament, struggling to beat 72nd-ranked Cedrik-Marcel Stebe and 74th-ranked Sergiy Stakhovsky. "I thought I've been doing well since Wimbledon last year," he said. "You know, I've been having a lot off-court activities since I became No. 1, but I have a team of people that controls it well. "Obviously there is a lot of temptations and a lot of things that you can enjoy. But it's normal. You can't on one hand just be 100 percent of your life in the tennis. You are young. You have to enjoy life." Federer, who came into the match with a 9-2 record against del Potro including win in this year's Rotterdam finals, struggled early on. Both players held serve in the first set and the third-ranked Swiss squandered three set points in the tiebreaker before converting the fourth with a forehand down the line. The second set was just as tight, with del Potro winning points off his big serve and Federer dominating at the net. It went to a second tiebreaker, this time with del Potro going up 5-0 and 6-2. But Federer ran off four points to tie it and won when del Potro's backhand went long. "It was a good comeback, especially on a quick court," Federer said. "I didn't believe I was going to come back, but at least sort of make him a bit nervous. Next thing I know, I had a great point at 6-all and I was able to come through. So it was a great match for me." Federer enters the final with a 6-8 record against Murray. He hasn't played him since a victory at the ATP World finals in 2010. "I just think Andy is an amazing player, and so far he's proved that this year. He's in the finals now with a great win against Novak," he said. "I expect a really difficult match in the finals." In the doubles semifinals, Mariusz Fyrstenberg and Marcin Matkowski of Poland beat Jonathan Erlich and Andy Ram of Israel 6-4, 3-6, 1-0. Erlich-Ram were hoping to become the first Israelis to reach a Dubai Championships final.

All-Star backcourt leads Raptors down stretch to beat Celtics, 101-94

All-Star backcourt leads Raptors down stretch to beat Celtics, 101-94

BOSTON – With Isaiah Thomas, the Boston Celtics would have had their hands full trying to defeat the Toronto Raptors. 

But without him (right groin injury) and his 26.0 points and 6.2 assists, an already daunting task became that much harder. 

The Celtics played a good game, but against Toronto and their All-Star backcourt it just wasn’t enough as the Raptors did just enough in the fourth to hold off Boston for a 101-94 win. 

A 3-pointer by Marcus Smart brought the Celtics within 95-91 and following a defensive stop they had a chance to make it a one-possession game. 

But Jae Crowder’s 3-pointer rattled in and out of the rim. 

And on the ensuing possession, Al Horford was called for a foul while defending Kyle Lowry on a 3-point attempt with 30.6 seconds to play. 

Lowry's play down the stretch was indicative of the problems Boston had with the all-star guard all game. 

He finished with a game-high 34 points, 14 of which came in the third quarter which is when Toronto took over.

His All-Star backcourt mate DeMar DeRozan, ranked among the NBA’s top-5 scorers, had 24 points for the Raptors.

Meanwhile the Celtics were still trying to replace leading scorer Isaiah Thomas’ 26 points and 6.2 assists per game. 

Boston didn’t need one player to fill that void, but rather a collective effort by all the players to do what they normally do, only better. 

But that did not happen on Friday; not even close. 

In the fourth quarter, the Celtics would score and make a play defensively which then put them in position to score as well as get the crowd hyped. 

They consistently came up short until Avery Bradley drained a 3-pointer with less than three minutes to play that cut Toronto’s lead to 91-87.

He would finish with 19 points, sharing team-high scoring honors with Al Horford.

Raptors head coach Dwane Casey called a time-out with 2:53 to play. 

Boston was unable to get any closer for the remainder of the game, a game in which the Celtics led by as many as 14 points in the third quarter. 

However, the Raptors chipped away and eventually regained the lead with a 15-2 run capped off by a 3-pointer by Patrick Patterson that put the Raptors ahead 63-62. 

Toronto’s momentum continued as they closed out the quarter with a 12-6 spurt which gave them a 75-68 lead going into the fourth quarter. 

Despite spending the entire fourth quarter trailing, the Celtics continued to battle but it was to no avail as the Raptors executed at a high level at both ends of the floor to secure the win which was their eighth victory in their last nine games. 

Halftime stars, studs and duds: Celtics go on second-quarter run

Halftime stars, studs and duds: Celtics go on second-quarter run

BOSTON – The Celtics used a blistering run in the second quarter to propel them to a 50-42 lead over the Toronto Raptors after two quarters of play. 

It was the second straight game the Celtics had to play without their leading scorer Isaiah Thomas who remains out indefinitely with a right groin injury. 

As was the case in Boston’s 30-point win at Orlando, Avery Bradley took it upon himself to pick up some of the scoring slack as he leads the Celtics with 13 points at the half. 

Boston also got strong play in the first half from Al Horford who set the tone with a pair of 3’s in the first few minutes of the game. He would score eight first-half points to go with three rebounds. 

And then there was the Celtics bench seemingly picking up where they left off in Orlando.

Jaylen Brown and Terry Rozier were once again making their impact early and often as they scored seven and four points, respectively. 

The game was relatively close until Boston, leading 32-31, went on a 14-0 run.

But the Raptors, once again among the top teams in the East, were able to outscore Boston 11-5 the rest of the second quarter which cut Boston’s led at the half down to eight points.

Here’s a look at the first half Stars, Studs and Duds from tonight’s game. 

 

STARS

Avery Bradley

Showing some serious two-way game tonight, Bradley was scoring the ball well in addition to doing a better-than-average job defensively on DeMar DeRozan. At the half, Bradley had 13 points on 5-for-6 shooting with three rebounds and two assists.

Kyle Lowry

He’s an All-Star but this kid doesn’t get enough credit for his talent. The Celtics had problems with him for large chunks of the first half as he led all Toronto scorers with 13 points on 5-for-8 shooting.

 

STUDS

Jaylen Brown

Very active at both ends of the floor, making the most of his chance to see extended minutes. At the half he had seven points along with two rebounds.

Kelly Olynyk

This was one of the more active games we’ve seen Olynyk play in, especially when it came to rebounding. At the half he had five points and seven rebounds. 

Norman Powell

He helped Toronto get off to a solid start, and finished the half with seven points. 

 

DUDS

DeMar DeRozan

He had eight points at the half, but the Celtics made him work a lot harder for it than he’s used to as DeRozan shot just 4-for-12 from the field.