Rudy Gobert became the first NBA player to publicly test positive for the coronavirus, beginning a wave of sports disruptions in March. He had a productive performance in the NBA's return to action, posting a double-double as the Utah Jazz reopened with a 106-104 triumph over the New Orleans Pelicans.
Gobert sank two free throws with 6.9 seconds left to cap a 14-point, 12-rebound and three-block performance. He helped the Jazz erase a 16-point performance. Jordan Clarkson scored 23 points for Utah, which also received 20 points apiece from Donovan Mitchell and Mike Conley. Pelicans rookie Zion Williamson scored 13 points in just over 15 minutes, highlighted by a couple alley-oop dunks. The first player taken in last year's draft missed nearly two weeks of practice after leaving the team for a family medical matter on July 16. New Orleans had a chance to avoid the loss until Brandon Ingram's 3-point attempt rimmed out as time expired, a bitter end to his 23-point night.
The NBA's marquee matchup of the night had the Lakers coming back from an 11-point, third-quarter deficit to beat the Clippers, 103-101. Anthony Davis scored 34 points and Lebron James had the go-ahead basket with 12.8 seconds left. James had 16 points, 11 rebounds and seven assists to help the Lakers move 6 1/2 games ahead of the Clippers in the West with seven games remaining. Paul George had 30 points and Kawhi Leonard scored 28 for the Clippers.
In NBA news, Tom Thibodeau is back in New York as the Knicks' new coach. The 62-year-old Thibodeau is 352-246 in eight seasons coaching Chicago and Minnesota. He was the Coach of the Year in 2011 in his first season with the Bulls. He led Chicago to 50 wins in three of his five seasons. Thibodeau was an assistant to Jeff Van Gundy when the Knicks reached the 1999 NBA Finals.
In other NBA news, Milwaukee Bucks coach Mike Budenholzer says guards Eric Bledsoe and Pat Connaughton won't play Friday against the Boston Celtics after both players arrived late to Florida following positive tests for the novel coronavirus. Budenholzer hasn't announced a timeline for when either player could appear in a game.
The Yankees coughed up an early 5-0 lead before Aaron Judge slammed a three-run homer in the ninth inning to lift New York past the Orioles, 8-6. Luke Voit launched a grand slam in the Yanks' five-run first, but the Orioles stormed back to take the lead on two-run homers by Hanser Alberto, Rio Riuz and Pedro Severino.
In other MLB action:
Christian Vázquez homered twice off Steven Matz and Martín Pérez gave Boston's patchwork rotation a much-needed lift as the pair led a 4-2 victory over the Mets. Pérez overcame four walks and some shaky defense behind him, allowing only two hits while striking out five in 5 2/3 innings for his first win with the Red Sox.
Kurt Suzuki lined a go-ahead, two-run double and Michael A. Taylor smacked a two-run homer as the Nationals downed the Blue Jays, 6-4. Starlin Castro was a sparkplug to the Nats' 13-hit attack, going 4-for-5 and scoring twice.
Shane Bieber is off to a record-tying start to his season. Bieber was superb in the Cleveland Indians' 2-0 shutout of the Twins, striking out 13 and allowing just three hits over eight innings. The right-hander has fanned 27 in his first two games this year, matching the major league mark set by Karl Spooner for the Brooklyn Dodgers in September 1954. Francisco Lindor's second homer of the season accounted for the scoring.
Home runs by A.J. Pollock, Corey Seager and Max Muncy powered the Dodgers to their third win in a row, 6-3 over the Diamondbacks. Ross Stripling won his second game in two starts, pitching 5 1/3 innings while giving up three runs.
The Padres blew a 6-1 lead before erupting for six runs in the 10th inning to knock off the Giants, 12-7. Tommy Pham was 3-for-5 with two RBIs, including the tiebreaking single in the extra frame.
Max Fried retired his first 14 batters and combined with three relievers on a four-hitter as the Braves beat the Rays, 2-1. Dansby Swanson had a run-scoring single in Atlanta's two-run second inning.
José Marmolejos belted his first big league home run with a three-run shot in the first inning of the Mariners 8-5 victory against the Angels. Shed Long Jr. also went deep and Marco Gonzales was reached for two unearned runs and six hits in 6 1/3 innings.
Bubba Starling poked a two-run double that gave the Royals a 5-2 lead in a 5-3 win at Detroit. The Tigers lost despite Miguel Cabrera's first two-homer game in four years.
Rain caused the postponement of the Cubs-Reds game at Cincinnati. No makeup date was set in this virus-shortened season, although the Cubs are scheduled to return to Cincinnati for a three-game series Aug. 28-30.
In MLB news:
Major League Baseball says this weekend's three-game series between the Philadelphia Phillies and visiting Toronto Blue Jays has been postponed. The move is a precaution following a recent COVID-19 outbreak in the visiting clubhouse at Citizens Bank Park. Seventeen Miami Marlins players have tested positive since opening a three-game series in Philadelphia last weekend. The Phillies haven't played since losing to the Marlins last Sunday. The Phillies said there were no positive results among players from Wednesday's testing of their team. But there were two positives: One from a a member of the coaching staff and one from a member of the home clubhouse staff.
Doubleheaders will now become a pair of seven-inning games in baseball's latest radical rule change during a season reshaped by the coronavirus pandemic. A person familiar with the plan tells The Associated Press that Major League Baseball and the players' union reached agreement on the new twinbills. MLB had already added designated hitters to National League games this year and added an automatic runner at second base to start all half-innings in extras.
Angels outfielder Mike Trout was placed on the paternity list before Thursday's game against the Mariners. The reigning AL Most Valuable Player and his wife are expecting their first child, which was due Monday. Trout initially expressed reservations about playing the season due to the coronavirus pandemic.
Home plate umpire Joe West missed two innings of Thursday's Nationals-Blue Jays game after getting bloodied when he was hit in the head by leadoff hitter Bo Bichette's flying bat in the top of the first. The 67-year-old West is the senior umpire in Major League Baseball. He was struck near his left ear when Bichette lost hold of his bat while missing the first pitch thrown by Washington's Erick Fedde. West returned in the middle of the third inning and began working at third base.
Big league hitters have opened this 60-game sprint by stumbling out of the blocks. The league-wide batting average is .229, down from .252 last season. The number is stunning, considering the National League has adopted the designated hitter for this season. The all-time low for batting average is .237, set in 1968, "the year of the pitcher."
Mike Foltynewicz is getting another chance with the Braves. Foltynewicz has cleared waivers and was outrighted to the team's alternate training site. He was designated for assignment by the Braves on Tuesday following an alarming drop in velocity in summer camp and in his 14-5 loss at Tampa Bay on Monday night.
The Buffalo Bills are the first team in the NFL to send their rookies home and hold training camp remotely after two more players tested positive for COVID-19. Defensive backs Siran Neal and Dane Jackson both tested positive, upping the team's total to five since rookies reported on July 21. The Bills did not provide a timeline as to how long rookies would continue working remotely.
In other NFL news:
The New York Jets placed quarterback Joe Flacco, linebacker Avery Williamson and tight end Ryan Griffin on the physically unable to perform list. Flacco is recovering from a serious neck injury that sidelined him for half of last season with Denver. He was released by the Broncos in March, underwent surgery in April, and was signed to a one-year deal by the Jets in May. They hope he will be the backup to Sam Darnold.
The list of players placed on the NFL's reserve/COVID-19 list now includes Browns punter Jamie Gillan, Vikings linebacker Anthony Barr, Raiders running back Devontae Booker and 49ers running back Jeff Wilson Jr. Meanwhile, rookie running back Malcolm Perry is among several Dolphins players who have donated convalescent plasma after recovering from COVID-19.
The NFL's chief medical officer says it's not surprising there have been positive tests for COVID-19 among players reporting to training camp. Dr. Allen Sills notes that the disease is cutting across football just as it has through societies around the world. Sills says the league wanted to examine the results of recent COVID-19 tests before releasing the number of positives.
The Carolina Panthers have decided to keep Joey Slye as their kicker and release veteran Graham Gano, who missed all of last season with a knee injury. Gano took over as the team's kicker in 2012 and spent seven seasons handling field goals and kickoffs for the Panthers.
Titans general manager Jon Robinson says he has been in touch with Vic Beasley and that the linebacker knows his absence from training camp is unexcused. Robinson said in a statement Thursday that Beasley told him he will be reporting to camp in the "near future." Beasley was the Titans' big free agent signee in March.
The NCAA playing rules oversight committee has announced alterations in football and other sports to accommodate for COVID-19 concerns this coming season. The sideline area college football teams use to congregate will be extended by 20 yards. Currently, as many as four team captains can participate in the coin toss. That has been reduced to one and only two officials will be allowed to participate. In soccer, the penalty for spitting at an opponent has been increased from an ejection and one-game suspension to an ejection and two-game suspension. In volleyball, teams will not switch benches during a match.
In other college sports news:
A total of 457 Division I football games have been canceled or postponed because of the coronavirus pandemic. According to Associated Press research, 134 Football Bowl Subdivision games are off. That number is 383 for the Football Championship Subdivision.
The SEC is the latest college conference to announce that it will play only league games in 2020. University presidents have agreed on a 10-game schedule that eliminates all nonconference opponents and is set to begin Sept. 26 and will conclude with the SEC title game on Dec. 19. The Big Ten and Pac-12 have already announced plans to play only conference games, while the ACC has announced a reworked 11-game schedule that left room for one non-conference game.
An investigative report has found that the Iowa football program has suffered from racial bias against Black players and bullying by a small number of current and former coaches. University of Iowa President Bruce Harreld says the report from an outside law firm shows that the "climate and culture must and will change within our football program." Coach Kirk Ferentz, the longest-tenured head coach in college football, is expected to keep his job. The report found that many players believe he has already made several positive changes.
Jamiro Monteiro and Sergio Santos scored two minutes apart midway through the first half, Santos added a second goal just before halftime and the Philadelphia Union reached the semifinals of the MLS is Back tournament with a 3-1 win over Sporting Kansas City. Philadelphia’s perfect run in the tournament continued thanks to its first-half scoring blitz. The Union had two wins and a draw in the group stage then beat New England in the round of 16. Philadelphia will face either New York City FC or Portland in the semifinals.
Defending champion Brooks Koepka has matched his career best with an 8-under 62 to take a one-stroke lead over Rickie Fowler and Brendan Todd in the first round of the FedEx St. Jude Invitational. Koepka had nine birdies and a bogey on a windy day at TPC Southwind in the World Golf Championship event. The round comes a week after he missed the cut in Minnesota in the 3M Open. Sung Kang shot 65. Justin Thomas fired a 66 and was tied with Matt Kuchar, Chez Reavie and Max Homa. Thomas can reclaim the No. 1 ranking with a victory this weekend.
In golf news, Francesco Molinari and Ryder Cup captain Padraig Harrington have withdrawn from the PGA Championship next week at TPC Harding Park. Neither gave a reason, and both major champions have not played since the COVID-19 pandemic led to golf being shut down for three months. They were replaced by Troy Merritt and Talor Gooch.
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