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Leonard has season-high 36 to send Clippers past Spurs

Source image: https://apnews.com/article/los-angeles-clippers-san-antonio-spurs-nba-sports-josh-richardson-5de504d76ab708da6443d54561cc4eb2

SAN ANTONIO (AP) — Kawhi Leonard scored a season-high 36 points against his former team, and the Los Angeles Clippers snapped a two-game skid by beating the San Antonio Spurs 131-126 on Friday night.

The Clippers had lost nine of 11, but coach Tyronn Lue believed this game could mark the start of a turnaround for his team.

“I felt it this morning,” Lue said. “I think having our guys back and everyone going back to their natural roles helps us out a lot. With Kawhi and PG (Paul George) on the floor, we play at a high level.”

The Clippers had seven players score in double figures, including Norman Powell with 26 points and George had 16 points and 12 assists.

Los Angeles shot 63% from the field, 54% on 3-pointers and had 31 assists.

Keldon Johnson had 23 points for San Antonio, which has lost nine of 11. Josh Richardson added 17 points, Zach Collins had a season-high 17 and Jeremy Sochan had 16.

Leonard and George played together for just the third time in January. Leonard put on a show on the court where he won NBA Finals MVP in 2014 with the Spurs.

After losing 15 pounds, Leonard looked spry and had three thunderous dunks.

“I’m feeling a lot lighter, moving a lot bit better out there,” Leonard said. “I’m feeling pretty good. Played a few games in a row.”

The 6-foot-7 forward was 13 for 18 from the field and 4 for 5 on 3-pointers while adding seven assists, four rebounds and two steals.

“He was great,” San Antonio coach Gregg Popovich said. “He’s one of the finest players in the league. We are talking about the very top of the list – he’s with those guys.”

Leonard scored 13 points in just under 3 1/2 minutes starting midway through the third quarter to give the Clippers a 93-90 lead. Leonard had three 3-pointers and a vicious left-handed dunk in the run.

San Antonio did not have an individual answer for Leonard but responded by shooting 57% from the field and 54% on 3-pointers to go along with 34 assists.

“We won this game tonight because we made shots,” Leonard said. “They shot 57% and we shot 63. We definitely have to get better. We’re not going to shoot 63% every night. We’ve got to make sure their percentages are a lot lower than that. We still need to improve. We’ve got a lot to improve on if we want to be a great team.”

The Clippers set an opponent high with 41 points in the opening quarter, besting the mark they shared with 40 points against the Spurs in the opening quarter on Nov. 19. San Antonio responded by holding Los Angeles to 24 points in the second quarter.

“The team, I thought, was spectacular,” Popovich said. “They never give in. They are playing more physically than they have all year. They are assisting, playing the right way. Those guys made shots down the stretch, and oftentimes, that’s the difference. But I was really proud of our guys. They did a great job.”

TIP-INS

Clippers: PG John Wall sat out with an abdominal strain and G Luke Kennard missed the game with a sore right calf. … F Marcus Morris received a technical foul with 47 seconds remaining in the first half after continually talking to Sochan as the two stood across from each other at the free throw line. Morris’ twin brother, Markieff, got into a skirmish with Sochan on Tuesday. Sochan tumbled to the court and took Morris with him after the Nets forward set a hard screen shortly after Sochan put three fingers in his face following a 3-pointer.

Spurs: San Antonio assistant coach Brett Brown missed the game due to “personal business,” according to the team. … The Spurs finished a four-game homestand at 1-3. … San Antonio signed veteran center Gorgui Dieng to a second 10-day contract.

WELCOME BACK

Leonard was cheered by the Spurs fans for the first time since demanding a trade and leaving San Antonio in 2018.

Leonard was honored before the game with a video highlighting his seven seasons in San Antonio. There was a smattering of boos, but nothing to the level of jeers he received in previous appearances in San Antonio.

“It’s been a long journey,” Leonard said. “The fans are very competitive here. When I’m at the games you might hear boos, but if I’m walking on the street or going to restaurants, people come up to me and still tell me how much they love my game and like me as a person. So, I know it’s just a competition once I’m here. I understand.”

UP NEXT

Clippers: At Dallas on Sunday.

Spurs: At Portland on Monday.

Source: https://apnews.com/article/los-angeles-clippers-san-antonio-spurs-nba-sports-josh-richardson-5de504d76ab708da6443d54561cc4eb2

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Report: NWSL to expand in Boston, Utah and California

The National Women’s Soccer League is close to expanding by three teams, which will be in Boston, Utah and the San Francisco area, according to a Friday report in the Wall Street Journal.

The women’s pro league previously indicated it would add at least two teams by 2024. The Wall Street Journal, citing unnamed sources, reported that the franchises in northern California and Utah are set to start play next year, with Boston to join at a later date.

The NWSL did not confirm the report in a statement Saturday to The Associated Press, saying: “We remain engaged in our expansion process and are excited about our prospects. When we have news to share, we will do so.”

The NWSL has 12 teams, after Angel City in Los Angeles and the San Diego Wave joined the league last year.

The Wall Street Journal also reported that the Boston and Bay Area groups will pay about $50 million in franchise fees. The Utah team will pay a reduced fee because of a previous agreement struck when the Utah Royals folded in the 2020 season.

Before the NWSL draft earlier this month, league commissioner Jessica Berman said it would be “somewhere between days and months, more like weeks, when we’ll be in a position to share information” about an expansion.

“What I can say is that I couldn’t be more excited about the opportunities we have in front of us,” she added.

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

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Former MVP Candace Parker to sign with champion Aces

LAS VEGAS (AP) — Former two-time MVP Candace Parker announced on social media Saturday that she would sign with the defending champion Las Vegas Aces.

Parker spent the past two seasons playing for her hometown Sky, leading Chicago to the WNBA championship in 2021. She also won the 2016 title playing for the Los Angeles Sparks.

She posted on Instagram that Chicago would always be her home, but “my family’s home is on the west coast.

“To play for a championship close to home is the perfect situation for us. I’m looking forward to continuing the journey this summer in Las Vegas.”

The free-agent signing period begins Wednesday, and the Aces can’t comment until then.

Parker, a 6-foot-4 forward/center, adds to an already loaded lineup that includes reigning MVP A’ja Wilson, who also won the league’s top award in 2020. Wilson also was last season’s Defensive Player of the Year.

Chelsea Gray was MVP of the WNBA Finals and Kelsey Plum MVP of the All-Star Game. Wilson, Plum and Jackie Young were All-Star starters.

Parker and Gray were teammates on Los Angeles’ 2016 title team.

The Aces traded one of their key pieces, two-time Sixth Woman of the Year Dearica Hamby, to the Sparks on Jan. 21, creating speculation Las Vegas was creating salary cap room to sign a big-name player.

Parker, the 2020 Defensive Player of the Year and the 2016 Finals MVP, certainly fits that bill. Even at 36 last season, she averaged 13.2 points, 8.6 rebounds and 4.5 assists for the Sky.

“Candace has done so much for our franchise in her time here,” Chicago coach and general manager James Wade said in a statement. “I understand her reasons for wanting to be closer with her immediate family. We wish her nothing but the best. She will always be a part of the Sky family. We will celebrate her time here as she deserves.”

Losing her is a big blow to the Sky, who made the semifinals in last season’s playoffs before losing in five games to the Connecticut Sun. Kahleah Copper is the only starter under contract for next season, so the Sky could head into a rebuild.

“I am beyond grateful for the opportunity to win a championship in my hometown and parade down the same streets I watched the Bulls parade down as a young girl first falling in love with the game of basketball,” Parker posted.

Parker joins the Aces at a time the Women’s National Basketball Players Association said it wanted that organization investigated regarding allegations that Hamby made after being traded. She posted on Instagram she was “lied to, bullied, manipulated, and discriminated against” because she is pregnant with her second child.

The Aces still have not commented on Hamby’s allegations.

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

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Estrada, Hofstra end No. 18 Charleston’s 20-game win streak

CHARLESTON, S.C. (AP) — This season, Hofstra has been a one-man show. This time, Aaron Estrada had some help as the Pride ended the nation’s longest winning streak.

Estrada scored 25 points, but just two in the second half, while Darlinestone Dubar added 18 as Hofstra had four players in double figures to knock off No. 18 College of Charleston 85-81 on Saturday — ending the Cougars’ 20-game win streak.

“That’s a really big for our program,” Hofstra coach Speedy Claxton said. “To beat a nationally ranked team on their home court when they’ve got it rolling like they do speaks volumes about our kids.”

Claxton saw a team effort to take down the hottest team in the country.

“It wasn’t just Aaron,” Claxton said. “He had a great first half, but we had other guys step up and make baskets or get rebounds when we really needed them.”

The loss ended Charleston’s spotless run that began after losing to then-top-ranked North Carolina on Nov. 11.

Hofstra, the CAA’s leader in field-goal shooting, used that to move past Charleston in the second half as it made 18 of 32 attempts. The Pride led 76-69 with 6:10 to play before the Cougars cut it to two points on Ryan Larson’s foul shots with 2:02 to play.

But Charleston managed just two free throws after that and missed all four 3-pointers they tried.

This is the second straight season the Pride have beaten a Top 25 team. A year ago, Hofstra defeated then No. 24 Arkansas 89-81. The Pride’s only other victory against a Top 25 team came against Southern Illinois in 1976.

Hofstra (15-8, 8-2 Colonial Athletic Association) beat the Cougars (21-2, 9-1) at their own game — 3-point shooting. The Pride were 11 of 22 from 3-point range and overall shot 56 percent from the floor in the second half.

Estrada, who had 23 points in the opening half, shredded the Cougars defense at will. Estrada was 5 of 9 from 3-point range.

“Estrada is a great player, hit a bunch of tough shots, especially in the first half,” Charleston coach Pat Kelsey said. “Hofstra is a very, very talented team. It’s not just Estrada. They were better than us tonight.”

Then Estrada took over. The CAA’s leading scorer at 21.1 points a game scored 16 of the next 24 points for the Pride, including four 3-pointers.

Ante Brzovic’s dunk at the buzzer gave the Cougars a 46-44 advantage at halftime.

Tyler Thomas had 17 points and eight rebounds for Hofstra.

Brzovic finished with 18 points to lead the Cougars.

BIG PICTURE

Hofstra: The Pride are on a roll in 2023. winning seven of their past eight games, including three in a row.

College of Charleston: The Cougars chances of receiving an NCAA Tournament at-large bid took a major blow with the loss to the Pride. Despite having the nation’s longest win streak for three months, Charleston will most likely have to win the CAA Tournament in March to advance to the NCAAs.

NO PLACE LIKE HOME

The Cougars’ 20-game win streak wasn’t the only streak to end on Saturday. College of Charleston played 14 of its first 23 games at TD Arena to start the season and were a perfect 13-0 at home before facing the Pride. Charleston’s 13-game home win streak included three wins in the Charleston Classic. The Cougars became the first mid-major program to win the ESPN event, beating Virginia Tech 77-75 in the championship game. Charleston will finish the season playing four of their final eight games on the road.

POLL POSITION

Charleston’s first loss in nearly three months might drop the Cougars from the national rankings. They have been part of the last four rankings, entering at No. 23 before reaching No. 18 this past week.

UP NEXT

Hofstra returns home to play Towson on Thursday night.

College of Charleston starts a two-game road trip at Drexel on Thursday night.

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AP college basketball: https://apnews.com/hub/college-basketball and https://apnews.com/hub/ap-top-25-college-basketball-poll and https://twitter.com/AP_Top25

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