#SportsReport: Suns Edge Clippers; Canadiens Top Golden Knights
Deandre Ayton was the hero as the Phoenix Suns took a two-game-to-none lead in the NBA's Western Conference Finals. Ayton jammed an alley-oop pass from Jae Crowder with 0.7 seconds left to give the Suns a 104-103 triumph over the Los Angeles Clippers. The Suns were down one with 0.9 seconds left when Crowder lofted a high pass on an out-of-bounds play on the baseline. After Ayton's winning slam, the referees spent about a minute reviewing the play before ruling the basket was good. The Suns were led by Cameron Payne, who was brilliant while subbing for All-Star Chris Paul. He finished with a career-high 29 points, while Ayton accounted for 22 with 14 rebounds. Devin Booker followed his 40-point triple-double in the opener by delivering 20 points. Paul George had 26 points for the Clippers, including two baskets in the final 31 seconds. George drilled a long two-pointer for a 103-102 lead, but he missed two free throws with eight seconds to play. Game 3 is Thursday in Los Angeles.
In basketball news:
Detroit Pistons fans finally have something to celebrate after the team finished with the NBA's second-worst record during the regular season. The Pistons have won the NBA Draft lottery and will have the first pick next month. Detroit just recorded a 20-52 record that was the worst in the Eastern Conference and 14 wins away from a playoff berth. If the Pistons keep the pick, it'll be the first time they select No. 1 overall since taking Bob Lanier in 1970. Houston will choose second after finishing with the league's worst record. Cleveland will select third, followed by Toronto, Orlando, Oklahoma City, Golden State, Orlando, Sacramento and New Orleans. Oklahoma State freshman guard Cade Cunningham is the top prospect in the draft.
The Harlem Globetrotters are calling on the NBA to make them a franchise. In an open letter to Commissioner Adam Silver earlier this week, the exhibition team cited decades of contributions to the league, with many players going on to play in the NBA. The Globetrotters have been around since 1926 and have won 27,000 games in 123 countries. In December, Silver said expanding the 30-team league was on the table. Seattle has widely been reported as a top choice for the league to expand to.
Kobe Bryant's widow has agreed to settle a lawsuit against the pilot and owners of the helicopter that crashed last year, killing the NBA star, his daughter, Gianna, and seven others. The Bryant family and relatives of other victims filed a settlement agreement notice Tuesday with a federal judge in Los Angeles, but terms of the deal weren't disclosed. If approved by the court, the settlement would end a negligence and wrongful death lawsuit filed against the estate of the pilot and the owner and operator of the helicopter that crashed into a hillside on Jan. 26, 2020. The settlement was first announced by KABC-TV.
The Creighton men's basketball program has been placed on two years' probation and docked scholarships each of the next two seasons by the NCAA. The organization investigated allegations that a former assistant coach accepted cash from a management agency. The NCAA says Creighton athletic director Bruce Rasmussen violated ethics rules after he conducted his own investigation without notifying or coordinating with the compliance office. The penalties are the latest in a wide-ranging FBI probe into college basketball corruption that has ensnared numerous coaches and several high-profile schools.
The Montreal Canadiens are within one victory of their first trip to the Stanley Cup Final since winning it all in 1993. The Habs own a three-games-to-two lead in the semifinals after Carey Price turned back 26 shots in a 4-1 win over the Golden Knights in Las Vegas. Price blanked the Knights until former teammate Max Paccioretty beat him in the third period, after Montreal had built a 3-0 lead. Nick Suzuki secured the victory with an empty-netter after setting up goals by Eric Staal and Cole Caufield. Jesperi Kotkaniemi put the Canadiens ahead to stay 8:45 into the game. Marc-Andre Fleury stopped 22 shots for the Golden Knights, who will try to stave off elimination in Montreal on Thursday.
In NHL news:
New York Islanders forward Mat Barzal avoided a suspension for his cross-check in Monday's 8-0 loss to Tampa Bay. However, Barzal has been fined $5,000 by the NHL for hitting Tampa Bay's Jan Rutta in the neck with his stick at the end of the second period. Barzal received a five-minute major and a game misconduct on the play.
Islanders President of Hockey Operations Lou Lamoriello has won the Jim Gregory General Manager of the Year award. The Isles finished just six points off the East Division lead and are in the semifinals for the second straight year. Lamoriello was named on 30 of 41 ballots, including 12 first-place selections.
Former Sabres high-scoring right wing Rene Robert has died at age 72 less than a week after suffering a heart attack. Robert was one-third of the Sabres' French Connection line, one of the league's highest-scoring units during the 1970s. He registered a career-high 40 goals twice during his seven-plus seasons in Buffalo, and collected 552 points in 524 games as a Sabre.
Wander Franco hit a three-run homer and doubled in his big league debut, but the Rays allowed four runs in the 11th inning of their seventh consecutive loss, 9-5 to the Red Sox. Franco connected in the fifth off Eduardo Rodriguez and drew his first curtain call in the majors. Rafael Devers hit a hard grounder that went between the legs of first baseman Yandy Díaz for a two-run double that put Boston ahead to stay.
Elsewhere in baseball:
The Royals rallied for four runs in the eighth inning to beat the Yankees, 6-5. Ryan O'Hearn, Jarrod Dyson, Hunter Dozier and Michael A. Taylor drove in runs in the eighth off Jonathan Loaisiga. Yankees starter Gerrit Cole allowed two runs and just three hits over seven innings, but his strikeouts and spin rate dropped as he pitched for the first time since MLB's crackdown on sticky substances.
Charlie Morton earned his 100th career win by allowing one hit with 11 strikeouts over seven scoreless innings of the Braves' 3-0 shutout of the Mets. Dansby Swanson hit a three-run homer in the third for the Braves, who have won two of three in the four-game series from the Mets. New York's decimated rotation took another hit in the second inning when Marcus Stroman exited with left hip soreness.
Cavan Biggio and Lourdes Gurriel Jr. doubled on consecutive pitches to break a ninth-inning tie and push the Blue Jays past the Marlins, 2-1. The hits came with one out against Yimi García who entered the game after Sandy Alcantara stymied the Blue Jays while throwing only 86 pitches in eight innings. MLB RBIs leader Vladimir Guerrero Jr. singled home to help Toronto improve to 12-2 in interleague games.
Max Scherzer had to deal with three umpire checks for sticky substances while allowing one run while fanning eight over five innings of the Nationals' 3-2 win over the Phillies. Yan Gomes had a pair of RBI singles in Washington's third straight win and eighth in its last nine games. Bryce Harper and Rhys Hoskins went deep for Philadelphia, which has lost five of seven.
The Houston Astros have continued their surge by knocking off the American League's worst team. The Astros picked up their ninth straight win by topping the Orioles, 3-1 in Baltimore. Zack Greinke allowed one run and five hits with four strikeouts over 7 1/3 innings to improve to 8-2. Myles Straw hit a solo shot in the second inning and singled in the tiebreaking run in the seventh. Chas McCormick added a sacrifice fly in the eighth.
Matt Chapman and Ramon Laureano hit two-run home runs in the first two innings of the Athletics' 13-6 rout of the Rangers. Oakland rapped out a season-high 15 hits, with Laureano, Mark Canha and former Rangers All-Star Elvis Andrus providing three apiece. Winning pitcher Cole Irvin cruised through four scoreless innings on 40 pitches before allowing four runs on four hits and a hit batter in the fifth.
The Tigers hammered the Cardinals, 8-2 as Jonathan Schoop and Jake Rogers each drove in three runs. Schoop smacked a three-run homer and Rogers hit a two-run double in Detroit's six-run fourth. Kyle Funkhouser was credited with the victory for 1 1/3 scoreless innings of relief.
Pinch-hitter Erik Gonzalez's two-run single highlighted a four-run rally in the seventh inning of the Pirates' 6-3 downing of the White Sox. Adam Frazier homered and Bryan Reynolds had two RBIs as Pittsburgh dealt Chicago its season-high fifth straight loss. A three-run homer by pinch-hitter Yasmani Grandal in the top of the seventh put the White Sox ahead 3-2 after they were held scoreless on two hits.
The Cubs cruised to a 7-1 thumping of the Indians as Kyle Hendricks dominated over six scoreless innings to win his eighth straight start. Hendricks allowed just four hits and extended the best winning streak of his career and the longest by a Cubs pitcher since Jake Arrieta won nine consecutive starts to bridge the 2015 and 2016 seasons. Kris Bryant, Willson Contreras and Patrick Wisdom went deep in Chicago's third win in nine games.
Tyler Naquin capped his 4-for-4 performance by ripping a tiebreaking, three-run homer in the ninth inning of the Reds' 10-7 win over the Twins in Minnesota. Tucker Barnhart homered and had three RBIs and Jesse Winker hit a two-run double for the Reds. The Twins stormed back from a 7-2 deficit with a five-run eighth against Cincinnati's bullpen before ending a five-game winning streak.
In MLB news:
Mets left-hander Joey Lucchesi will undergo season-ending Tommy John surgery on Thursday. Lucchesi was placed on the injured list Saturday, one day after he threw 5 1/3 scoreless innings against the Washington Nationals. Lucchesi solidified himself at the back of the Mets' rotation by posting a 1.19 ERA over his previous five starts. Meanwhile, Mets outfielder Michael Conforto is close to returning to the active roster after being out since suffering a right hamstring strain May 16. Conforto was hitting .230 with two homers and 13 RBIs in 33 games before the injury.
Blue Jays rookie Alek Manoah received a five-game suspension from MLB after senior vice president Michael Hill concluded the right-hander intentionally threw at Maikel Franco Saturday in Baltimore. Manoah has appealed the punishment and will be allowed to pitch until the appeals process is completed.
The Seattle Seahawks intend to have full capacity crowds at Lumen Field for the upcoming season after the team received approval from the NFL and local and state health officials to completely reopen the stadium. Fans will not be required to be vaccinated against COVID-19 to attend games, but those who are not vaccinated will be required to wear masks. The team says it won't require proof of vaccination for fans.
In other football news, the 11 university presidents and chancellors who oversee the College Football Playoff have authorized the continued evaluation of a proposed 12-team playoff. Any plan could still be another five years away. The presidents and chancellors say the next step is a summer review phase to hear the opinions from a wide array of people, including athletes, campus leaders and coaches.
Chinese swimmer star Sun Yang has been banned for more than four years for breaking anti-doping rules. The verdict by the Court of Arbitration for Sport ends Sun's hopes of defending his Olympic title in the 200 meters freestyle in Tokyo next month. His ban expires in May 2024.
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