Saudi’s Abdullah Al-Qahtani, Hattan Alsaif shine at inaugural PFL MENA card in Riyadh

Saudi’s Abdullah Al-Qahtani, Hattan Alsaif shine at inaugural PFL MENA card in Riyadh
Saudi’s Abdullah Al-Qahtani, Hattan Alsaif shine at inaugural PFL MENA card in Riyadh

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Jeddah - Yasmine El Tohamy - LOS ANGELES: The NBA champion Denver Nuggets roared back into their Western Conference semifinal series with Minnesota with a 117-90 victory over the Timberwolves on Friday as the Indiana Pacers clawed back a game against the New York Knicks.

NBA Most Valuable Player Nikola Jokic and Jamal Murray scored 24 points apiece, with Jokic adding 14 rebounds and nine assists for the Nuggets, who cut the deficit in their best-of-seven series to 2-1.

Denver dispelled any suggestion they would bow out quietly after they were humbled by the young Timberwolves in games one and two in Denver.

The Pacers, who dropped the first two games of their Eastern Conference semifinal series in New York, also avoided a 0-3 hole with a 111-106 victory over the Knicks in Indianapolis.

“Everybody knows what it looks like when you go down 3-0,” Pacers star Tyrese Haliburton said, a nod to the fact that no NBA team has rallied from that deficit to win a playoff series.

“We had to come out play desperate, play hard,” added Haliburton, whose Pacers will now try to level the series at home on Sunday.

Denver will try to pull level on Sunday in Minneapolis, where Jokic said the Nuggets went into the contest determined to “play like a champion.”

“I think we played much simpler,” Jokic told broadcaster ESPN. “We were aggressive, more aggressive than them, and I think that’s definitely the thing that changed the game.”

Murray, who scored just 25 points over the first two games and was fined $100,000 for letting his frustration boil over and throwing a heating pad onto the court during Game 2, connected on 11 of 21 shots and came up with three steals.

“Our guys answered the bell,” Nuggets coach Michael Malone said. “They showed me that they still believe.”

Michael Porter Jr. added 21 points as all five Nuggets starters scored in double figures against a T’Woves team that coach Chris Finch called “sluggish” and “slow.”

Anthony Edwards led Minnesota with 19 points. Karl-Anthony Towns scored 14, but the Timberwolves didn’t play with the pace that overwhelmed the Nuggets in Denver.

They trailed by as many as 34 points, to the dismay of fans at the Target Center who were eager to see the kind of show the Timberwolves had put on in Denver.

“Not a lot of good things on either end of the floor, really,” Finch said.

In Indianapolis, Haliburton scored 35 points and Andrew Nembhard emerged as an unlikely hero, draining a three-pointer from deep as the shot clock was running down to put the Pacers ahead 109-106 with 17.8 seconds left to play.

It was just his second basket of the night, but it turned the tide for good in a physical, back-and-forth battle in which the Pacers surrendered an early 12-point lead and rallied from nine down in the fourth quarter.

“I put (Nembhard) in kind of a bad situation and he just made an unbelievable shot,” said Haliburton, who passed to Nembhard with just four seconds on the shot clock after finding himself unable to get a shot off in the face of a swarming Knicks defense.

“Big, big shot,” Haliburton said. “He really stepped up to the moment when we needed him most.”

Haliburton had six of Indiana’s 12 three-pointers. Pascal Siakam scored 26 points and Myles Turner added 21 and 10 rebounds for Indiana.

The banged-up Knicks, already missing Julius Randle, Mitchell Robinson and Bojan Bogdanovic, were also without OG Anunoby after he suffered a hamstring strain in game two.

Knicks star Jalen Brunson, who wasn’t confirmed to start until after pre-game warm-ups after hurting his right foot on Wednesday, got off to a slow start, but New York briefly pulled ahead in the second quarter — foreshadowing a third-quarter surge that saw them take a 90-85 lead into the final period.

Donte DiVincenzo led the Knicks scoring with 35 points, connecting on seven of 11 from three-point range.

Brunson finished with 26 points and six assists, hitting a game-tying three-pointer with 42.4 seconds left.

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