Curry says he needs to play better, and Warriors say he will

TIM REYNOLDS, AP Basketball Writer


CLEVELAND (AP) — Turns out, Stephen Curry has not entered some level of basketball infallibility.

His unanimous MVP selection, the record 3-point total, the league scoring title, all those accolades while he was leading the Golden State Warriors to an NBA-record 73 regular-season wins may have made it seem like he was in some sort of permanent video-game mode.

And then came the NBA Finals.

The MVP is struggling, and what once looked like a Golden State stranglehold on a repeat title no longer does. Curry has been held to 16 points per game in the first three matchups in this series against Cleveland, which resumes when the Cavaliers play host to Game 4 on Friday night.

“We can definitely help Steph out and we will,” Warriors coach Steve Kerr said Thursday. “We can put him in better position. … The coaching staff has to figure out the best lineups and the best looks. Players have to perform. It’s on all of us to be better.”

Curry averaged 30 points per game in the regular season, but it’s been a perfect storm in the finals for struggle: He missed shots he ordinarily makes in Game 1, got himself into foul trouble in Game 2, and endured a combination of more foul trouble and smothering, grabby, invasive Cleveland defense in Game 3.

Golden State leads the series 2-1, so it’s not exactly a dire situation the Warriors are facing. But if the Warriors are going to repeat, Curry probably needs to get somewhere closer to normal soon.

“Last night was a struggle,” Curry said. “Just, again, foul trouble and kind of dealing with that, but also not being as aggressive as I needed to be. I don’t know what the reason was for that, and it won’t be that in Game 4.”

The Cavaliers made sure Curry felt them everywhere he went in Game 3. When he tried to get into the lane, there would be someone waiting to bump him. Baseline cut, someone would make sure to impede his path. Flash toward the ball, and Kyrie Irving or another Cavalier was often there to take a little swipe at him — not enough for a foul, but more than enough to pester.

“That’s for all of their guys, not just Steph,” Cavaliers forward LeBron James said. “They do a great job of the ball moving, and when you allow those guys to move with freedom of space, they’re very dangerous. They’re already dangerous enough. So when you allow them to run around and not feel any pressure or any physicality or anything, you know, they’re able to just be even more comfortable.”

The 30-point romp in Game 3 might make it seem like the Cavaliers control the series, but they still need to win three of the next four games against a team that isn’t prone to slides of any significant length. Kevin Love appeared to be making strides Thursday toward a return from his concussion, but if he plays on Friday— and in what role — remain unanswered questions.

Down 0-2, the Cavs had no choice but to be desperate. After a 30-point win, James wants to see that same desperation.

“We can’t afford to go down 3-1 and go into their building and give them confidence going back,” James said. “So it’s a do-or-die game for us still.”

To knot the series, it almost certainly means the Cavaliers can’t let Curry or his backcourt mate Klay Thompson — and definitely not the both of them — have big games. Draymond Green leads the Warriors in scoring through three games of this series, which is probably more than Cleveland could have hoped for coming into the matchup.

“You’ve got to be so locked in where you’re almost in a matrix, locked in a zone,” Cleveland forward Tristan Thompson said when asked about how the Cavaliers guard Curry. “Because, really, if you relax for one second, Steph’s on the other side of the court and he’s getting the open 3 in the corner.”

Kerr played alongside Michael Jordan in the 1990s, so he’s seen what players who are the faces of the league — like Curry basically is now — endure when they struggle. Kerr said he rarely even has to give Curry advice on such matters, and poked fun at the notion that the Warriors suddenly went from strutting to sputtering.

“All we have to do is take stock,” Kerr said. “We’re up 2-1. We’re in pretty good shape. We haven’t played that well. Let’s play better.”

Curry offered similar sentiments.

“I like our chances,” Curry said, “of being able to figure it out.”


Ali to return to his old Kentucky neighborhood 1 last time

BRUCE SCHREINER, Associated Press
CLAIRE GALOFARO, Associated Press


LOUISVILLE, Ky. (AP) — Muhammad Ali will return to his old Kentucky neighborhood one last time.

Ali’s body will ride in a miles-long procession spanning his life — from his boyhood home where he shadowboxed and dreamed of greatness to the boulevard that bears his name and the museum that stands as a lasting tribute to his boxing triumphs and his humanitarian causes outside the ring.

Louisville is accustomed to being in the limelight each May when the Kentucky Derby at Churchill Downs captures the world’s attention. But the send-off for the three-time heavyweight champion and global advocate for social justice looms as one of the city’s most historic events.

“We’ve all been dreading the passing of The Champ, but at the same time we knew ultimately it would come,” Louisville Mayor Greg Fischer said. “It was selfish for us to think that we could hold on to him forever. Our job now, as a city, is to send him off with the class and dignity and respect that he deserves.”

Ali died last Friday at 74 after a long battle with Parkinson’s disease. The procession and memorial service follow a traditional Muslim funeral service held Thursday afternoon. The faithful traveled from all over the world to pay their respects.

Thousands more are expected to line the procession route Friday to wave a final goodbye to the city’s favorite son. The motorcade will begin at the funeral home and head north onto the interstate. It will pause briefly as it overlooks the Muhammad Ali Center in the heart of downtown.

The cars will head west onto Muhammad Ali Boulevard, pass the Kentucky Center for African-American Heritage and visit his childhood home on Grand Avenue. Then it will turn toward his final resting place. Officials predict a 90-minute tour.

The procession ends at Cave Hill Cemetery where his family and closest friends will gather for a private burial.

At 2 p.m., thousands will gather at the KFC Yum Center a final send-off befitting The Greatest.

The service will feature a eulogy by former President Bill Clinton, a longtime friend, and remarks by comedian Billy Crystal, television journalist Bryant Gumbel and the champ’s wife, Lonnie. The king of Jordan and president of Turkey will attend.

President Barack Obama was unable to make the trip because his daughter, Malia, is graduating from high school. Valerie Jarrett, a senior White House adviser, will read a letter Obama wrote to Ali’s family at the service.

The memorial is expected to draw 15,000 people and will bookend a weeklong series of planned services and spontaneous celebrations.

The Ali Center stopped charging people for admission. A tour company began impromptu tours of Ali’s path through the city. Businesses printed his quotes across their billboards. City buses flashed “Ali – The Greatest” in orange lights across their marquees. A downtown bridge said it would be lit the rest of the week in red and gold: red for his gloves and gold for his medal.

How can the storied life of a man revered by fans worldwide be encapsulated in a two-hour service? As it turns out, Ali called the shots.

Years ago, the champ signed off on how he wished to say goodbye to the world. One of his mandates was that ordinary fans attend, not just VIPs. Thousands of free tickets were snatched up within an hour, many fans waiting hours for the chance to witness history.

“Everybody feels a sense of loss with Ali’s passing,” said Mustafa Abdush-Shakur, who traveled from Connecticut to pay tribute to him. “But there’s no need to be sad for him. We’re all going to make that trip.”


Eritrean extradited to Italy says he’s not smuggling kingpin

PATRICIA THOMAS, Associated Press
COLLEEN BARRY, Associated Press


ROME (AP) — The Eritrean man extradited to Italy under great fanfare as an alleged kingpin of a migrant smuggling ring told authorities on Friday that his arrest in Sudan was a case of mistaken identity, his lawyer said.

“It is clear for him he is not the man who is smuggling or trafficking humans,” Michele Calantropo said outside the Rome prison where the suspect was questioned by prosecutors from Sicily leading Italy’s anti-smuggling investigations in the presence of a judge.

Prosecutors identified the suspect as Medhane Yehdego Mered, an alleged mastermind of a migrant smuggling ring that has brought thousands of migrants from the Horn of Africa to Italy via lawless Libya. Within hours of the announcement, however, the Eritrean diaspora in Europe starting buzzing with reports that the man escorted off the plane was not Mered, but an Eritrean refugee with a similar first name who had been living in Sudan.

He has been identified by a Swedish-based Eritrean broadcaster as Medhanie Tesfamariam Berhe. The broadcaster has interviewed Mered, the smuggling suspect, in the past, and knew immediately that it was the wrong person.

Calantropo said that British authorities and the Sudanese police who arrested the suspect two weeks ago maintained they had the right man and that Italian authorities were now taking steps to verify his identity. Calantropo said he is requesting documents from relatives in Norway and Sudan.

He said no requests for DNA samples or fingerprint verifications have been made so far.

The lawyer made a request to release him from jail, arguing that he is not a danger. He expects a ruling next week. Calantropo said that a request for an indictment has already been made, and that he expects the case to proceed to a preliminary hearing.

Calantropo said his client says he does not speak Arabic, as Mered is known to do, and has never been to Libya. Mered is 35, while Berhe is 27, the Eritrean broadcaster said.


EU leader to meet with Putin in St. Petersburg next week


BRUSSELS (AP) — The European Commission’s president will meet with Russian President Vladimir Putin next week.

Jean-Claude Juncker will be the most high-profile EU official to go to Russia since it annexed the Crimean Peninsula from Ukraine in 2014. He will address a Russian economic conference in St. Petersburg on Thursday and his office said he would also meet with Putin, who is attending the conference.

Both sides have already warned against any optimism of a sudden warming in relations and Juncker said last week there would be no letup of sanctions against Russia.

“I am sure they will discuss EU Russia relations,” said EU spokeswoman Mina Andreeva on Friday. She also referred to quotes from Juncker last week, when the Commission President said that EU sanctions would be extended by EU member states in the near future.

Like the U.S., the 28-nation EU has effectively frozen ties with Russia and imposed sanctions following the 2014 seizure of Crimea.

In Moscow, Putin’s spokesman Dmitry Peskov said that the meeting would assess “what opportunities we have for maintaining and developing our dialogue despite the existing differences.”


Israel sets 3 day West Bank closure after Palestinian attack


JERUSALEM (AP) — The Israeli military said Friday the West Bank will be closed off until the end of the Jewish holiday of Shavuot on Sunday, due to security concerns following a Palestinian shooting attack this week that killed four civilians.

It said that crossings will be open for “humanitarian and medical” cases and for Palestinians to worship at al-Aqsa mosque in Jerusalem.

Police said tens of thousands of Palestinians attended prayers at the mosque on Friday, the first of the Muslim holy month of Ramadan. It said police were on high alert in Jerusalem and prayers passed peacefully.

Much of the past months of violence stems from tensions at the hilltop compound.

Muslims refer to it as the Noble Sanctuary, and it is their third holiest site, after Mecca and Medina in Saudi Arabia.

It is the holiest site for Jews, who call it the Temple Mount because of the revered Jewish temples that stood there in biblical times.

West bank closures are often imposed ahead of holidays in Israel when there are security fears of Palestinian attacks. Tensions are especially high now after Palestinian gunmen killed four people and wounded five others in a popular and crowded area of Tel Aviv on Wednesday night.

The military said it arrested several people in connection to that attack in the West Bank overnight.

Over the last eight months, Palestinians have carried out dozens of attacks on civilians and security forces, mostly stabbings, shootings and car ramming assaults that have killed 32 Israelis and two Americans. About 200 Palestinians have been killed during that time, most identified as attackers by Israel. The assaults were once near-daily incidents but they have become less frequent in recent weeks.

The office of the United Nations’ High Commissioner for Human Rights, Zeid Ra’ad al-Hussein, on Friday condemned the Tel Aviv shooting. Spokeswoman Ravina Shamdasani said that Israel had an “obligation” to bring those responsible to account, but said some measures punish “thousands of innocent Palestinians” and could constitute “collective punishment.”

The military says the closure will end Sunday night after the Shavuot holiday.


Peru’s presidential election wait enters 4th day

JOSHUA GOODMAN, Associated Press
FRANKLIN BRICENO, Associated Press

LIMA, Peru (AP) — Peru’s presidential election went down to the wire, with the final ballots trickling in from abroad and frayed nerves reaching the breaking point as the wait entered its fourth day on Thursday.

With 99.5 percent of the polling stations counted, front-runner Pedro Pablo Kuczynski was topping rival Keiko Fujimori, the daughter of imprisoned ex-President Alberto Fujimori, by a 50.1 to 49.9 margin.

While most experts said it’s already mathematically impossible for Fujimori to make up the roughly 40,000-vote difference separating her from Kuczynski, she hasn’t conceded and her supporters are holding out hope for a turnaround.

“She’s worked so hard crisscrossing the country,” said Lusa Maria Cuculiza, a congresswoman for Fujimori’s Popular Force party. “It would be unfair if she doesn’t win.”

Dozens of supporters of Fujimori have held demonstrations outside the electoral board to denounce what they said was fraud, even though neither the candidate nor her campaign have presented any evidence to back up their supporters’ claims.

Kuczynski, a former World Bank economist, has urged patience from his supporters while talking as if he were already the winner.

Still being counted are the last ballots cast by an estimated 885,000 Peruvians eligible to vote abroad. Peruvians living outside the South American country, most of them in the United States, turned out massively for Fujimori in the 2011 election but with 90 percent of their vote already counted they appear to have favored Kuczynski this time around.

Another potential spoiler is the thousands of handwritten tallies that were being disputed and evaluated by a special electoral board. Currently 677 such tallies representing up to 200,000 votes remain to be computed. Disputes are common in Peru, where voting is mandatory and any observer can lodge a complaint, but they’ve never proven decisive in past elections and almost always a losing candidate ends up conceding defeat before they are resolved.

Both candidates have remained largely silent while awaiting final results of Peru’s tightest presidential race since 1962, a contest that ended in a military coup. While Fujimori has traveled every day to her campaign headquarters, Kuczynski has remained mostly holed-up in his mansion with his family and aides.

President Ollanta Humala on Wednesday urged Peruvians to avoid jumping to conclusions and said the police would remain on alert until results were known.

“We exhort the authorities to deliver the results the quickest and most-responsible manner,” he said.

Regardless of who wins, half of voters are bound to be disappointed, making it harder for the next president to govern. Aides in both campaigns were jockeying for positions in an eventual alliance in congress, where Fujimori’s party won a solid majority of 73 of 130 seats. Kuczynski’s fledgling movement will have just 18, fewer than the country’s main leftist alliance.

The 77-year-old Kuczynski was once far behind, but rose by reminding voters of Alberto Fujimori’s ties to the corruption, organized crime and death squads for which he’s serving a 25-year prison sentence.

Kuczynski also benefited from a last-minute endorsement by the third-place finisher in the first round of voting, leftist congresswoman Veronika Mendoza.

Israel beefs up troops in West Bank after Tel Aviv shooting

DANIEL ESTRIN, Associated Press

JERUSALEM (AP) — Israel on Thursday imposed a series of sweeping restrictions on Palestinian movement and deployed hundreds of additional troops to the West Bank in response to a Tel Aviv attack that killed four Israelis.

The shooting, carried out by two West Bank Palestinians, targeted a crowded tourist and restaurant district in the heart of Tel Aviv and was among the deadliest and most brazen attacks in a nine-month wave of violence. The area is located across the street from the Israeli military’s headquarters.

As Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu prepared to meet with his Security Cabinet to discuss further responses, the Israeli military announced that it was deploying two additional battalions to the West Bank “in accordance with situation assessments.” The deployment, involving hundreds of troops, includes soldiers from infantry and special forces units.

Among the participants in the Security Cabinet meeting was Israel’s new defense minister, Avigdor Lieberman, the leader of an ultranationalist party known for his hard-line views toward the Palestinians. Before the meeting, Lieberman visited the site of the shooting and had a cup of coffee in a local cafe.

“I do not intend to speak and detail the steps we intend to take, but I am sure that I have no intention to stop at words,” he said.

Earlier Thursday, defense officials suspended tens of thousands of special permits given to Palestinians to visit Israel during the current Muslim holy month of Ramadan.

COGAT, an Israeli defense body, said 83,000 permits for Palestinians in the West Bank to visit relatives in Israel had been frozen. Special Ramadan permits were also suspended for Palestinians in the Gaza Strip to visit relatives in Israel, travel abroad and attend prayers at the Al Aqsa Mosque in Jerusalem, COGAT said.

Israel considers the Ramadan permits a goodwill gesture toward Palestinians.

In addition, the military said it had frozen Israeli work permits for 204 of the attackers’ relatives, and was preventing Palestinians from leaving and entering the West Bank village of Yatta, the attackers’ home village. COGAT said entering or leaving will only be permitted for humanitarian and medical cases.

The military was also making preparations to demolish the family home of one of the attackers. Israel often responds to attacks by demolishing the homes of the assailants or their relatives — a tactic that is criticized by the Palestinians and human rights groups as collective punishment.

In Tel Aviv, extra police units were mobilized, mainly around the city’s central bus station and train stations, said police spokesman Micky Rosenfeld.

The “Sarona” compound, the scene of Wednesday’s shooting, quickly reopened.

In the attack, two Palestinians dressed in black suits opened fire at the Max Brenner restaurant in Sarona, killing four Israelis and wounding nine others. Sarona, home to dozens of shops, cafes and restaurants, is one of Tel Aviv’s most population destinations and is often crowded with visitors and soldiers in uniform taking a break from their duties at the nearby headquarters.

Police identified the victims as Michael Feige, 58, a sociologist and anthropologist at Ben-Gurion University, and Ido Ben Arieh, 42, a veteran of an elite army unit who was an executive at the Coca-Cola Co.’s Israel branch, his wife, who was injured in the attack, told Israeli media. Two other victims were identified as Ilana Naveh, 39, and Mila Misheiv, 32.

Police said the two gunmen in their twenties were members of the same family from the Palestinian village of Yatta, near the West Bank city of Hebron, which has been a flashpoint for violence in recent months. One gunman was injured and was being treated in an Israeli hospital. The other was apprehended by security.

Israeli security officials said the weapons were crudely improvised, indicating that a militant organization was not involved. They said the attackers did not have special Ramadan permits allowing them to enter Israel, but that they had sneaked into Israel illegally to carry out the assault, according to initial assessments.

Ahmad Mussa Mahmara, the father of one of the attackers, said his son has two uncles serving life sentences in Israeli prison.

“We didn’t expect this. My son is young and has been in Jordan for the past four years, and just came here for the past five months. He does not have any political affiliation,” Mahmara said.

The military interrogated Mahmara Wednesday night at his home, where his son was staying. Soldiers took measurements of the home in preparation for demolishing it, the military said.

Hamas, the Islamic militant group that rules Gaza, welcomed the attack but did not claim responsibility. Hamas official Mushir al-Masri called the shootings a “heroic operation” and the group later issued an official statement promising the “Zionists” more “surprises” during Ramadan.

Islamic Jihad, another militant group, called the shooting a “natural response” to Israel’s “brutal actions” against Palestinians. But it also did not claim responsibility for the attack.

Over the last eight months Palestinians have carried out dozens of attacks on civilians and security forces, mostly stabbings, shootings and car ramming assaults that have killed 32 Israelis and two Americans. About 200 Palestinians have been killed during that time, most identified as attackers by Israel. The assaults were once near-daily incidents but they have become less frequent in recent weeks.

Most of the attacks have been in east Jerusalem or the West Bank, territories Israel seized in the 1967 Mideast war and which the Palestinians want for their future state.

German foreign minister Frank-Walter Steinmeier condemned Wednesday’s attack.

“Murder and terror are completely without justification and cannot be used as an instrument of political disagreement,” said Steinmeier.

Somalia: 30 Ethiopian troops killed in attack by militants

ABDI GULED, Associated Press
ELIAS MESERET, Associated Press

MOGADISHU, Somalia (AP) — At least 30 Ethiopian troops were killed Thursday in an attack on a base for African Union peacekeepers in central Somalia, a Somali military official said.

A suicide bomber detonated his explosives-laden vehicle early Thursday at the gates of the Ethiopian military base there before gunmen entered the base, said Mohamed Mohamud, a military officer in the town of Halgan, where the attack happened.

The death toll is likely to rise, he said.

The Islamic extremist group al-Shabab claimed it had killed 43 Ethiopian soldiers in the attack.

But the Ethiopian Communications Minister Getachew Reda told The Associated Press that the assault was repelled and that more than 100 of the attackers were killed. He did not say how many Ethiopians were killed or injured.

Ethiopian troops are pursuing the militants who fled led during the firefight, he said.

The African Union peacekeeping mission in Somalia, known as AMISOM, said on Twitter that there had been attempted attack on a base run jointly by the Somali national army and African Union peacekeepers. The attackers were “successfully repulsed” and some of their weapons seized, it said.

Al-Shabab, which has ties with al-Qaida, is fighting to impose a strict version of Islam in this Horn of Africa nation. Despite losing a lot of ground in recent years, the armed group continues to carry out lethal attacks in many parts of the country, including near the seat of government in the capital Mogadishu.

African Union peacekeepers are trying to prevent al-Shabab from threatening the authority of the weak, Western-backed federal government in Mogadishu. Some recent attacks by al-Shabab, which opposes the presence of foreign troops in Somalia, have targeted peacekeepers.

Pilot of elite Russian aerobatic squadron killed in crash


MOSCOW (AP) — A pilot of the Russian air force’s elite aerobatic squadron died Thursday when his fighter jet crashed near Moscow.

The Russian Defense Ministry said the Su-27 fighter jet went down while returning from a training mission. It said, according to preliminary information, the crash had been caused by a technical malfunction, but wouldn’t elaborate pending an official probe.

The Russian Knights aerobatic squadron said on its Facebook page that Maj. Sergei Yeremenko died in the crash.

Russian TV stations broadcast images of the gutted wreckage scattered around a forest and a plume of black smoke rising over the trees.

According to news reports, the plane crashed while returning to its base in Kubinka west of Moscow after a group demonstration flight marking the opening of a monument to airmen near Moscow. The Interfax news agency said the plane that crashed had recently undergone factory repairs. Emergency crews have already have recovered the plane’s flight recorder.

The Russian Knights are famous for their spectacular low passes and synchronous maneuvers. They perform widely at air shows in Russia and abroad.

Truck slams into Michigan bicyclists, killing 5; 1 critical


COOPER TOWNSHIP, Mich. (AP) — Police fielded complaints that a pickup truck was being driven erratically just minutes before the vehicle slammed into a group of bicyclists in western Michigan, killing five, authorities said.

At least four more bicyclists were injured in the crash Tuesday night in Kalamazoo County’s Cooper Township, including one who was in critical condition Wednesday.

The truck driver is in custody but has not been charged.

“Our thoughts and prayers are with the families of the victims,” county prosecutor Jeffrey Getting said Tuesday night. “I can’t even begin to imagine what they’re going through.”

The driver of the pickup, described as a 50-year-old western Michigan man, fled from the wrecked vehicle, but police caught him a short time later. State police are assisting in the ongoing investigation, Kalamazoo County Undersheriff Paul Matyas said in an email Wednesday.

“My thoughts and prayers are with the people of Kalamazoo and particularly the cyclists and their families,” Gov. Rick Snyder said in a statement. “What we already know for certain is that Michiganders as a family are in mourning today as Kalamazoo struggles to understand another senseless tragedy.”

Authorities began receiving calls about the blue pickup truck about 30 minutes before the crash, with people complaining “about the manner in which that vehicle was being driven,” Getting said. He did not provide details of the erratic driving.

Several agencies were searching for the pickup when the first report of the crash came in just after 6:30 p.m., he said. No officers were actively pursuing the truck at the time it crashed.

The bicyclists had been riding as a group. Their names and ages were not immediately released because family members were still being notified. The group included men and women, but no children.

Two people were in serious condition at Bronson Methodist Hospital and another was in fair condition at Borgess Medical Center.

Markus Eberhard was leaving a nearby park after fishing and said he nearly was hit by the pickup. He was unable to warn the bicyclists.

“I saw a bunch of bikes hit the front of his truck and a couple of them flew,” Eberhard told WOOD-TV.

Paramedics and fire crews rushed to the scene, Getting said.

He declined to answer questions about the suspect and said the man’s name would not be released until his office has determined which charges he will face.

Cooper Township is south of Grand Rapids and just miles from Kalamazoo. The area still is dealing with the random fatal shootings of six people and wounding of two others in February. Jason Dalton, 45, had been picking up riders for Uber at the time of the shootings. He is charged with murder and attempted murder. His attorney told a judge Monday that Dalton is expected to plead insanity in his defense.