Connect with us

Sports

Lakers outlast Wolves 108-102 in OT, advance to face Memphis

Source image: https://apnews.com/article/lakers-timberwolves-lebron-playin-tournament-024ffc281bfdb29922ac13b95c133e45

LOS ANGELES (AP) — Nearly everything about this season has been a grueling challenge for the Los Angeles Lakers, so nobody in a gold jersey really seemed surprised when Anthony Davis committed a baffling foul that allowed Minnesota’s Mike Conley to snatch a playoff berth from their hands with 0.1 seconds on the regulation clock.

The Lakers simply absorbed the latest body blow to their championship hopes and played on.

Five overtime minutes later, they finally claimed a postseason berth that seemed all but unattainable just a couple of months ago.

LeBron James had 30 points and 10 rebounds, and the Lakers snagged the seventh spot in the Western Conference playoffs with a 108-102 victory over the short-handed Timberwolves in the NBA’s play-in tournament Tuesday night.

Conley hit three clutch free throws to tie it after Davis foolishly fouled him on a 3-point attempt, but the Lakers coolly kept rolling toward their 10th win in 12 games overall. Their reward is a date with the second-seeded Memphis Grizzlies in the first round starting Sunday.

“It took everything out of us to get to where we are, and it took more out of us tonight,” Davis said. “But we’ve got a couple of days before we go to Memphis to start preparing for them. It’s been a battle. It’s been an up-and-down season for us, but now is the time to show who we are, and we showed it tonight.”

Dennis Schröder scored 21 points, drilling a tiebreaking 3-pointer on a pass from James with 1.4 seconds left in regulation before icing the win with two free throws with 8.4 seconds left for the Lakers, who started the season 2-10 and sat six games below .500 at the trade deadline.

“Once you get to the end of things, to have everyone healthy, to be playing in the type of rhythm we’re playing in, to defend at the level that we’re defending at, going into the most important time of the year, you can’t ask for a better situation,” Lakers coach Darvin Ham said.

The Wolves still forced overtime when Conley hit his free throws after Davis stepped on his foot after he had already released a 3-point attempt. Davis and James said they had a mix-up about who was supposed to defend the shooter in the corner.

“The play was between me and AD, and we discussed it on the bench, and then we moved forward,” James said. “We’ve still got five more minutes to play. That’s how we started overtime. We was able to recalibrate. Get our game back.”

Instead of getting down, the Lakers went back to work.

“That was totally on me,” said Davis, who had 24 points and 15 rebounds. “He faded out of bounds where I was going. But it goes back to next-play mentality, and we got it done in overtime.”

Los Angeles finally won it with defense, holding the Wolves to seven points in the final 11 minutes from midway through the fourth quarter while rallying from a 15-point deficit.

Conley scored 23 points for Minnesota, which gave an inspired effort for the first three quarters while playing without starters Rudy Gobert and Jaden McDaniels. Gobert is suspended for punching teammate Kyle Anderson during Minnesota’s regular-season finale against New Orleans, while McDaniels is out indefinitely with a broken hand after punching a wall in frustration Sunday.

Karl-Anthony Towns scored 24 points for the Wolves, who will host New Orleans or Oklahoma City on Friday for the eighth spot and a first-round date with top-seeded Denver beginning Sunday.

The Pelicans host the Thunder on Wednesday night, and Minnesota must then beat the winner to reach the playoffs for only the third time in 19 seasons.

“We expected to win this game,” Conley said. “It’s disappointing to lose. We had a lead and let it slip. This should be a different postgame speech. … We’ve just got to be mentally and physically more engaged at the end, and we’ve got a couple of days to work on it.”

After leading for most of the night, Minnesota went scoreless for six full minutes in the fourth quarter. Los Angeles began its comeback after Towns had to sit with his fifth foul, and it took the lead for good on a 3-pointer on the opening possession of OT by Rui Hachimura, who had 12 points.

The Wolves missed 11 consecutive shots before Anthony Edwards’ dunk with 2:36 left in overtime. Edwards scored just nine points — more than 15 below his average — and left the court briefly in the second half to get tape on his left shoulder after taking an early fall.

Schröder stepped up tremendously for D’Angelo Russell, who had a nightmare game for Los Angeles against the team that traded him in February. Russell had eight assists, but scored two points on 1-of-9 shooting before getting benched down the stretch.

TIP-INS

Timberwolves: McDaniels attended the game. … A minor confrontation after the first-quarter buzzer ended with technical fouls for Edwards and Hachimura.

Lakers: Schröder returned from a two-game injury absence. … Tristan Thompson and Shaq Harrison were in uniform for the first time after signing last Sunday. Neither veteran played.

UP NEXT

Timberwolves: Host Pelicans or Thunder on Friday.

Lakers: At Grizzlies on Sunday.

___

AP NBA: https://apnews.com/hub/NBA and https://twitter.com/AP_Sports

Source: https://apnews.com/article/lakers-timberwolves-lebron-playin-tournament-024ffc281bfdb29922ac13b95c133e45

Continue Reading

Sports

Novak Djokovic perfect in key tiebreaker at French Open and faces No. 1 Carlos Alcaraz next

PARIS (AP) — Novak Djokovic, in his words, felt “quite sluggish, quite slow” for nearly two full sets against Karen Khachanov in the the French Open quarterfinals Tuesday.

Afterward, Djokovic called it his worst stretch of the tournament, a fair assessment. He dropped the opening set, something he hadn’t done at Roland Garros this year. As the second went to a tiebreaker in Court Philippe Chatrier, he knew it was vital to step up his game, bring forth his best.

It’s one thing to seek perfection; it’s another entirely to deliver. As if merely wanting so made it so, Djokovic did what he’s done before at crucial moments over the years en route to 22 Grand Slam titles.

Managing to choose the right shot every time, managing to put each ball precisely where he intended, Djokovic threw a shutout of a tiebreaker to point himself toward what would become a 4-6, 7-6 (0), 6-2, 6-4 victory over the 11th-seeded Khachanov.

Djokovic, who will meet No. 1 Carlos Alcaraz in a much-anticipated semifinal Friday, found one word to describe that segment of the match: “Amazing.”

Alcaraz beat Djokovic on clay at the Madrid Masters last year in their only previous encounter, and the 20-year-old from Spain got past No. 5 Stefanos Tsitsipas 6-2, 6-1, 7-6 (5) on Tuesday night.

“Since the draw came out, everyone was expecting that match — the semifinal against Novak. Myself, as well. I really want to play that match,” Alcaraz said. “Since last year, I really wanted to play again against Novak.”

No. 2 seed Aryna Sabalenka and unseeded Karolina Muchova both reached the women’s semifinals by winning earlier in the day. Sabalenka, the reigning champion at the Australian Open, eliminated Elina Svitolina 6-4, 6-4, then appeared at a news conference for the first time in nearly a week. Muchova defeated 2021 runner-up Anastasia Pavlyuchenkova 7-5, 6-2.

How does Djokovic approach a tiebreaker?

“It’s kind of a mentality of (locking down): ’OK, I’m present, I’m focused only on the next point and I have to really think clearly about what I want to do against … a given opponent. It worked really well for me,” said Djokovic, a 36-year-old from Serbia who has spent more weeks ranked No. 1 than anyone in his sport’s history and is currently No. 3. “It worked really well for me.”

Well, there’s an understatement.

“Every point was perfectly scripted for me, so to say. Yeah, sometimes it works; sometimes it doesn’t,” he said. “I was lucky that, throughout my career, I have a very good and positive score in the tiebreaks. My opponents know that, and I know that. So, I think, mentally that serves me well.”

Indeed, he is 307-162, a winning percentage of .655, in those set-deciders now played at 6-all at every major. In 2023, it’s 14-4, including 5-0 in Paris. And get this: Those tiebreakers at the 2023 French Open have been comprised of 47 total points — and he has made a grand total of zero unforced errors.

On an 80-degree afternoon, Djokovic brought that brand of make-no-mistakes tennis to the next set, too, against Khachanov, a semifinalist at the U.S. Open last September and the Australian Open this January.

“The energy of the court shifted to my side. I felt the momentum. I started releasing and relaxing through my shots a bit more,” Djokovic said, pantomiming a backhand swing, “and going for it more, with more confidence. And he backed up a bit.”

On the 10th point of the third set’s opening game, Djokovic flubbed a backhand. But he then would not commit an unforced error the rest of the way in that set, compiling 19 winners in that span.

Whenever an answer was required, Djokovic found one.

“It always feels like he finds a way … to make you (in) trouble,” Khachanov said. “He’s always there. He’s always pushing, and you know this.”

After Khachanov wildly celebrated his best shot of the match — a back-to-the-net ’tweener that drew a netted volley from Djokovic, who bowed his head — by wind-milling his arms and shouting and yelling, the perfect response came next. Djokovic hit a 128 mph (206 kph) serve followed by a forehand winner, and a 130 mph (209 kph) serve followed by a drop shot winner to take that game, then pointed his left index finger toward the azure sky.

When Djokovic played a shaky game that ended with a double-fault to suddenly make it 4-all in the fourth — “A little bit of a scare,” he said — he turned back into that vibrant version of himself.

Djokovic collected the remaining eight points — breaking at love, then holding at love — and was on his way to a 12th semifinal at the French Open (among men, only Rafael Nadal, with 15, has more; the 14-time champion is currently sidelined by a hip injury) and 45th at all Grand Slam events (only the retired Roger Federer, with 46, has more).

“It’s exactly,” Djokovic said, “where I want to be.”

Alcaraz progressed to his second major semifinal — the other came when he won the 2022 U.S. Open — by outclassing two-time Slam runner-up Tsitsipas in every possible manner until stumbling slightly near the finish line.

It was so lopsided for much of the evening that fans roared, and Tsitsipas raised his arms to acknowledge their reaction, when Alcaraz’s third-set edge was trimmed from 3-0 to 3-1. Soon after, at 5-2, Alcaraz held two match points that he frittered away; he got broken for the first time to make it 5-3; and another match point came and went at 5-4.

Not until his sixth match point of the contest did Alcaraz finally convert, with a backhand volley winner.

Like Djokovic hours earlier, Alcaraz was superior when he needed to be.

___

AP tennis: https://apnews.com/hub/tennis and https://twitter.com/AP_Sports

Continue Reading

Sports

Browns defensive players robbed of jewelry, vehicle by masked men in downtown stickup

BEREA, Ohio (AP) — Cleveland Browns coach Kevin Stefanski expressed relief that two of his defensive players were not physically harmed while being robbed at gunpoint by six masked men outside a downtown nightclub.

According to Cleveland Police, the players had jewelry and a truck taken during the early morning stickup.

Police redacted the names of the players in a field case report. However, a person familiar with the situation identified the players as cornerback Greg Newsome II and tackle Perrion Winfrey. The person spoke to The Associated Press on condition of anonymity due to the sensitivity of the matter.

The Browns opened mandatory minicamp on Tuesday. After the workout, Stefanski said he has spoken to Chief Wayne Drummond.

“I’m glad our guys are OK,” he said. “I want all of our community to be safe. The Cleveland Police have been outstanding. We want everybody to be safe and we want to get violent people off of our streets.”

Stefanski did not reveal the players’ names.

According to the report, one of the players was returning to his truck in a parking lot at 3:30 a.m. Monday when the masked suspects jumped out of a car and robbed him of jewelry before fleeing in his vehicle. The player told police he was not injured.

Newsome, a starting cornerback drafted by the Browns in the first round in 2021 from Northwestern, posted Monday night, “It’s a cruel world we live in” on Twitter.

All-Pro defensive end Myles Garrett said he spoke to both Newsome and Winfrey, offering his support.

“I’m just glad to see they’re all right,” he said. “Just making sure they’re in the right head space, they feel like they’re surrounded by family and letting them know that anything that they need, we’re the perfect resource for them and we have their back with whatever happens.

“We’re just going to try to make sure that none of our guys are ever in that situation again and how we can help, we’re going to do that. But I’m just glad to see them safe and sound with us and still walking around. Still blessed to this day no matter what happens, still able to wake up in the morning and just glad to that we still have them here.”

Newsome was on the field as the Browns opened their three-day minicamp, while there was no sign of Winfrey, a former Oklahoma defensive tackle arrested in April on a misdemeanor assault charge in Texas.

In a separate incident, Browns running back Demetric Felton had his vehicle stolen from a downtown parking garage on Sunday.

Garrett has been outspoken about his fondness for Cleveland and said the incidents have not changed his feelings about the city.

“It shows that me, my team, all of us here at the Browns have more work to do in the community,” he said. “There’s more that we can do here. There’s still more lessons that we need to give each other, because it’s not just one side or another side. Things like this happen because of so many different actions that led up to that.”

NOTES: WR Amari Cooper understands why QB Deshaun Watson was campaigning for the Browns to sign free agent DeAndre Hopkins, recently released by Arizona. Watson and Hopkins were together for three seasons in Houston. “Who wouldn’t?” Cooper said. “DeAndre has been a very great player in this league. Obviously, they have a lot of great chemistry. If I was him, I’d want the same thing.” Cooper knows if the Browns sign Hopkins, his production will be impacted. “As long as it’s helping us win, I wouldn’t have a problem with it,” Cooper said. … Stefanski said WR Anthony Schwartz is dealing with an unspecified injury. … Watson made several nice throws in the red zone for touchdowns during 7-on-7 drills. … Garrett said legendary running back Jim Brown’s recent death has impacted many of the players. ”Jim Brown was everything here,” Garrett said. “He’s been the blueprint. He’s been the role model for a lot of us players and as men. We look up to him.”

___

AP NFL: https://apnews.com/hub/nfl and https://twitter.com/AP_NFL

Continue Reading

Sports

Gun tragedies hit close to home for Stanley Cup Final opponents, who helped their communities heal

FORT LAUDERDALE, Fla. (AP) — The Vegas Golden Knights and Florida Panthers didn’t have much of a joint history on the ice before meeting in the Stanley Cup Final — just 10 regular-season games before the series opened Saturday.

Off the ice, the teams were connected by tragedy just over five years ago. Within months of each other, Las Vegas and South Florida were devastated by mass shootings not far from their arenas — and the then-expansion Knights and the Panthers played a role in the healing that has followed.

The teams mourned the Las Vegas Strip and Parkland high school victims during pregame ceremonies, brought relatives to games, honored first responders and donated to family foundations. They erected permanent memorials inside their arenas — in Vegas, to its 60 victims, and in Florida, to the 17 who died at Marjory Stoneman Douglas High.

“The idea that these two teams, impacted by gun violence at almost the same time, are now playing each other for the Stanley Cup is such a huge deal,” said Fred Guttenberg, whose 14-year-old daughter Jaime died at Stoneman Douglas.

“The Knights, even though they were a new team, they stepped into their community and became such an important part of helping that community heal,” he said. “The Florida Panthers, not only are they my hometown team, they are now like family to me.”

Orin Starn, a Duke University cultural anthropology professor who studies the impact sports have on society, said teams often contribute to their communities’ recovery after tragedies. He pointed to the New York Yankees’ first home game after the 9/11 terrorist attacks and New Orleans Saints players assisting relief efforts after Hurricane Katrina.

There are other examples, including the Miami Heat giving jerseys and also hosting families of Stoneman Douglas victims and the Houston Astros hosting residents of Uvalde, Texas, after last year’s school shooting there.

“Tragedy, like the Stoneman or (Vegas) killings, rips apart the fabric of society,” Starn said. “Returning, after proper time for mourning, to the rink or the court marks a gesture of refusing to give in to forces of violence and intolerance, and beginning to mend.”

VEGAS

On Oct. 1, 2017, the Golden Knights were finishing training camp, five days from playing the first NHL game in team history and nine days from their home opener. Vegas sports fans were abuzz about the city’s first major league team.

But then a sniper opened fire from a Strip hotel’s 32nd floor, initially killing 58 at an outdoor country music concert. Two more died years later. More than 800 people were wounded.

The team scrapped its raucous opening night celebration. The boards that surround the ice were stripped of ads, replaced by the motto “Vegas Strong.” The pregame focus was on victims and first responders. It culminated with then-defenseman Deryk Engelland giving an emotional speech.

”To the families and friends of the victims, know that we will do everything we can to help you and our city heal,” said Engelland, who now works for the team’s foundation.

During that season’s home games, the Knights recognized the Vegas Strong Hero of the Game, a first responder or citizen who risked their life to save the wounded.

At the regular season’s conclusion, the Knights retired the number 58 for the victims who had died to that point. The names of all 60 victims are on a banner hanging in the arena’s rafters.

Amber Manka said the Knights’ lasting support has been a source of light for the tens of thousands of people affected by the Las Vegas shooting. Her mother, Kimberly Gervais, died of her wounds in 2019.

The team’s work “gives people hope and reassurance that there is good in the world,” she said. “I think one good deed leads to another, and it makes a difference. That’s what they’re doing.”

That inaugural team shocked the NHL by winning its division and three playoff rounds before falling to the Washington Capitals in the Cup final. By far, it is the best performance by a modern expansion team in North America’s four major sports leagues.

Forward Jonathan Marchessault, an original Knight still with the team, said it has been a “love-love situation” with the fans.

“It’s been really great to be part of this. It’s been an unbelievable run for the past six years,” he said last week.

PANTHERS

When a former Stoneman Douglas student gunned down 14 students and three staff members on Feb. 14, 2018, the Panthers were in Vancouver to play the Canucks — as far from South Florida as possible within the NHL. Parkland, a well-off bedroom community just north of the team’s practice facility, is home to many players, coaches and executives.

Shawn Thornton, a 14-year NHL player and the team’s chief revenue officer, said owner Vincent Viola told him to do anything needed and not worry about the cost. Thornton turned to friends working for the Knights and two Boston teams, the Red Sox and Bruins, for advice as they had dealt with tragedies in their communities.

“The thing we learned is that everyone is going to grieve differently, that everybody needs support in different ways. Just sit back and listen to what’s needed and not expect to know what’s needed,” Thornton said, his voice breaking throughout an interview.

At the team’s next home game a week after the shooting, a 15-minute pregame memorial that brought some players to tears ended with a speech by then-goalie Roberto Luongo.

“To the families of the victims, our hearts are broken,” Luongo said. “Just know that we’re there for you if you guys need anything. You’ll be in our prayers, and let’s try to move on together.”

Eleven days after the shooting, the Stoneman Douglas hockey team — which included Guttenberg’s son, Jesse — won the Florida state championship. As the Eagles prepared for the national tournament in Minnesota, the Panthers hit them with surprises.

First, the Eagles practiced at the Panthers arena, with players and Thornton, a hard-nosed brawler during his career, giving pointers — including Thornton’s lighthearted lessons on fighting.

When practice ended, to the players’ amazement, Thornton brought out the Stanley Cup for them to skate with — only NHL champions usually do that. The Panthers then flew the Eagles and their families on the team plane to the tournament and brought them back.

“Shawn Thornton coming out with the Stanley Cup was just surreal,” said Matthew Hauptman, that team’s captain. “Everything that the Panthers did for us was just very high class. It made us feel very welcomed. … Five years later, it is still something I think about.”

On the shooting’s first anniversary, the Panthers unveiled a memorial in the arena’s main concourse that includes the victims’ portraits and the phrase “MSD Strong.” On the recent fifth anniversary, the team wore special shirts while traveling honoring the victims, and their arena has hosted graduations and other student events.

“They have been supportive over and over through the years,” said Tony Montalto, president of Stand with Parkland, the group that represents most victims’ families. His 14-year-old daughter, Gina, died in the shooting.

Florida state Rep. Christine Hunschofsky, then-Parkland’s mayor, hopes no other teams ever have to step up.

“There are too many opportunities for people to help one another after these awful, awful tragedies,” she said.

Fred Guttenberg said some of his happiest memories with Jaime are from Panthers games. When she was young, when the team scored he would prop her on his shoulders as they clapped and yelled.

“There is one more super fan who is there every (Panthers) game and that’s my daughter,” he said. “I have no doubt she is watching these games.”

__

Rio Yamat and Mark Anderson of The Associated Press contributed to this report in Las Vegas

___

AP NHL playoffs: https://apnews.com/hub/stanley-cup and https://twitter.com/AP_Sports

Continue Reading

Trending