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WAMC Sports Report 5/15/24: Knicks beat Pacers 121-91 to move a win away from conference finals

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NBA

Jalen Brunson scored 44 points, and the New York Knicks are now a win away from their first Eastern Conference finals trip since 2000 by beating the Indiana Pacers 121-91 in Game 5. The Knicks rebounded from a blowout loss on Sunday and guaranteed themselves at least one more game at Madison Square Garden in front of their roaring fans who have been aching to see big games in late spring again. Josh Hart had 18 points and 11 rebounds, and Deuce McBride scored 17 points after he was inserted into the starting lineup. The No. 2-seeded Knicks can win the series Friday night at Indiana. Game 7, if necessary, would be Sunday afternoon.

The Boston Celtics can clinch their series at home tonight at 7 against Cleveland. Boston leads the series 3-1.

Nikola Jokic was presented with his third NBA MVP award before the game, then scored 40 points and dished out 13 assists in leading the Denver Nuggets past the Minnesota Timberwolves 112-97 Tuesday night. That gives the Nuggets a 3-2 lead in the best-of-seven series. Game 6 is Thursday night in Minneapolis. The Nuggets became the first home team to win a game in this Western Conference semifinal series. Anthony Edwards was limited to 18 points on 5-of-15 shooting for Minnesota.

Bronny James says he’s “grateful for everything” with his NBA dream in reach after a major health scare last summer. James is participating in the NBA draft combine this week. James met with the media after not granting interviews during his lone season at Southern California. The son of NBA career scoring leader LeBron James, Bronny James was one of the nation’s top prospects when he decided to stay near home and committed to USC last May out of Sierra Canyon School in nearby Chatsworth. But things took an unexpected turn last summer. James went into cardiac arrest because of a congenital heart defect during a basketball workout at USC in late July and needed surgery.

NHL

Jeremy Swayman backed up his victory vow with 28 saves, Charlie McAvoy added to the list of disputed goals in this matchup with the go-ahead score and the Boston Bruins staved off elimination by beating the Florida Panthers 2-1 in Game 5 of their NHL playoff series last night. Morgan Geekie also scored for the Bruins, who improved to 2-0 in elimination games this season — they also won a Game 7 over Toronto in Round 1 — and finally found a way to hold the Panthers’ offense in check. Sam Reinhart scored for Florida, and Sergei Bobrovsky stopped 26 shots. Game 6 is Friday in Boston. The Panthers hold a 3-2 series lead.

Evan Bouchard scored the game-winning goal with 38.1 seconds remaining and the Edmonton Oilers edged the Vancouver Canucks 3-2 in Game 4 of their second-round playoff series. The victory evened the best-of-seven Western Conference semifinal series at 2-2, with Game 5 set for Thursday night in Vancouver. Leon Draisaitl opened the scoring for the Oilers on a first-period power play and Ryan Nugent-Hopkins added a tally late in the second period. Conor Garland and Dakota Joshua had third-period goals for the Canucks. Calvin Pickard made 19 saves in his first-ever NHL playoff start, while Arturs Silovs stopped 27 for Vancouver.

MLB

Giancarlo Stanton homered and Carlos Rodón overcame a shaky start and worked six-plus strong innings as the New York Yankees beat the Minnesota Twins 5-1. Alex Verdugo added a two-run double for New York, which has won nine of 12. The Yankees continue to thrive in Minnesota where they are 29-15 all-time at Target Field and boast the highest winning percentage of any opponent at the park. Rodón (4-2) allowed a leadoff home run to Ryan Jeffers in the bottom of the first inning and surrendered three hits in the frame. He gave up six hits overall and didn’t walk a batter, finishing with six strikeouts. Minnesota lost for just the fourth time in 21 games.

Romy Gonzalez singled home the winning run in the bottom of the 12th as the Boston Red Sox rallied to walk off the Tampa Bay Rays 5-4 on Tuesday night. Gonzalez dropped a hit to shallow right off reliever Manuel Rodríguez, who had intentionally walked Tyler O’Neill to start the inning. Instead of forcing a possible double play, the move allowed Connor Wong to easily score the game-winner after a wild few extra innings.

Aaron Nola pitched a four-hitter for his fourth major league shutout and the Philadelphia Phillies beat the slumping New York Mets 4-0 to finish a two-game sweep. Philadelphia scored twice in the third inning against starter Jose Buttó on a hit by pitch and a bases-loaded walk. Bryson Stott had a run-scoring single in the ninth and Alec Bohm doubled home a run to finish with two RBIs. Nola did the rest, throwing 109 pitches in his sixth career complete game and first since a five-hit shutout against Cincinnati in August 2022. He struck out eight and walked none. It was the third time in nine starts this season he lasted at least eight innings.

Erick Fedde pitched seven sparkling innings against his former team, and the Chicago White Sox beat the Washington Nationals 4-0 for a doubleheader split. Fedde allowed three hits, struck out six and walked none. The 31-year-old Fedde pitched for the Nationals for six seasons. Andrew Vaughn hit a three-run drive and a solo homer for Chicago, which improved to 10-8 since its 3-22 start to the season. Washington won 6-3 in the doubleheader opener. Keibert Ruiz and Trey Lipscomb each hit an RBI single during the Nationals’ three-run eighth inning. Joey Meneses went 4 for 4 and drove in two runs for Washington in the first game.

Jesús Sánchez drove in Bryan De La Cruz with a 10th-inning groundout, and the Miami Marlins beat the Detroit Tigers 1-0. Both starters — Miami’s Ryan Weathers and Detroit’s Reese Olson — allowed three singles in a career-best eight innings. Olson struck out six, and Weathers finished with four strikeouts. Josh Bell hit a leadoff single in the 10th against Alex Lange, moving De La Cruz to third. Sánchez then hit a bouncer to second that resulted in a forceout at second base. A.J. Puk pitched a scoreless 10th for his first save.

Alec Burleson hit a two-run homer in the seventh inning, Pedro Pagés had a three-run double for his first MLB hit and the St. Louis Cardinals defeated the Los Angeles Angels 7-6. Kevin Pillar had three hits and Logan O’Hoppe had a three-run homer in the fourth inning as the Angels fell to 1-5 on their current homestand despite rallying from an early five-run deficit. The Halos are a major-league worst 5-16 at home. Burleson also had three hits as he homered for the fourth time in 16 games after not having one in his first 19.

Josh Naylor hit a three-run homer, Bo Naylor had a two-run double and the AL Central-leading Cleveland Guardians beat the Texas Rangers 7-4. The reigning World Series champions have a season-high five-game losing streak. Those big hits by the Naylor brothers came in a six-run second inning Tuesday night. Josh Naylor’s 12th homer with two outs made it 6-0 and chased rookie Jack Leiter. Adolis García, Corey Seager and Nathaniel Lowe hit solo homers for the 22-22 Rangers. Ben Lively went five innings for the win.

Victor Caratini hit an RBI single in the 10th inning to lift Houston to a 2-1 win over the Oakland Athletics after the Astros lost their starting pitcher when Ronel Blanco was ejected following a foreign substance check. The game was tied at 1 when pinch-runner Trey Cabbage replaced Jon Singleton as the automatic runner on second in the bottom of the 10th. Cabbage moved to third on a flyball by Jake Meyers before Caratini hit a grounder to center off Michael Kelly to give the Astros their fifth win in six games. Josh Hader got the win by escaping a jam in the top of the 10th.

George Kirby allowed three hits over seven shutout innings, Luke Raley hit a two-run homer and drove in three runs, and the Seattle Mariners beat the Kansas City Royals 6-2. A night that started with a lucky fan catching foul balls on consecutive pitches ended with another dominant pitching performance that helped the Mariners improve to 19-11 over the past 30 games. Kirby had been bothered by a sore knee, but was terrific in striking out six and walking none. Raley’s homer was his second of the season. Ty France also hit a two-run homer in the eighth inning. Kansas City starter Brady Singer allowed a season-high nine hits.

Matt Olson hit a three-run homer and drove in four, Chris Sale pitched two-hit ball over seven innings and the Atlanta Braves beat the Chicago Cubs 7-0 for their second straight shutout in the series. Michael Harris II also homered for Atlanta, which has won six of seven. The Cubs were held to three hits by Sale and relievers Aaron Bummer and Jackson Stephens and have managed a combined eight hits while being outscored 9-0 in the first two games of the series. Sale had nine strikeouts, his third consecutive start with at least nine, and didn’t walk anybody. The right-hander won his fifth straight start.

Sal Frelick homered for the first time this season, Joe Ross and three relievers combined on a three-hitter, and the Milwaukee Brewers beat the Pittsburgh Pirates 4-3. Pittsburgh’s Nick Gonzales hit his first homer of the year, and Connor Joe also went deep for the Pirates. Gonzales’ last homer was July 2 against the Brewers. Frelick hadn’t homered since Aug. 7 of last season, against the Pirates. Frelick also made two diving catches in center field.

Hunter Greene pitched seven effective innings, Will Benson hit a two-run homer and the Cincinnati Reds bounced back from a difficult loss with a 6-2 win over the Arizona Diamondbacks. Arizona handed the reeling Reds a 6-5 loss on Monday night on Kevin Newman’s two-run single in the bottom of the ninth inning. Cincinnati gave the Diamondbacks no chance of another late rally, racking up 13 hits while scoring six runs between the fourth and sixth innings. Benson homered off Slade Cecconi in the Reds’ second win in 13 games. Greene allowed two runs and five hits.

Ezequiel Tovar homered and the Colorado Rockies beat Dylan Cease and the San Diego Padres 6-3, extending their win streak to a season-high six games. Tovar, Ryan McMahon and Elehuris Montero each had two hits as last-place Colorado improved to 4-2 against San Diego this season. Cal Quantrill earned his third consecutive win. The right-hander, who was selected by San Diego in the first round of the 2016 amateur draft, allowed one run and six hits in six-plus innings. Tyler Kinley handled the ninth for his first save. Cease was charged with three runs and five hits in 5 2/3 innings.

Shohei Ohtani really wanted a splash hit into San Francisco’s McCovey Cove, and he came oh so close. Ohtani’s 446-foot drive for the Dodgers during a 10-2 win landed above the brick facade in right-center for the longest home run at Oracle Park in nearly two years. Ohtani says he is sleeping better after he had struggled to get proper rest amid his former interpreter’s gambling scandal this spring.

Toronto at Baltimore 6:35 p.m. (Postponed)

WNBA

Jonquel Jones scored 25 points, Betnijah Laney-Hamilton added 20 and the New York Liberty opened the season with an 85-80 victory over the Washington Mystics. New York trailed 67-59 entering the fourth quarter before scoring 22 of the next 29 points, going ahead for good at 72-71 with 5:56 left on a basket by Laney-Hamilton. She also stole an inbounds pass and converted a layup to make it 79-74 with 3:30 remaining. Brittney Sykes scored eight straight points for Washington, including a layup on three straight possessions, to get within 81-80 with 2 minutes to go. But the Mystics would not score again, including a possession late that included two offensive rebounds. Sabrina Ionescu gave New York a three-point lead with 15.8 seconds left.

The Caitlin Clark era in the WNBA has officially begun, although it got off to a slow start. Clark went scoreless for nearly the first 15 minutes, before getting more comfortable and finishing with 20 points in the Indiana Fever’s 92-71 loss to the Connecticut Sun last night. She missed her first four shots before finally getting on the board midway through the second period. The NCAA’s all-time Division I scoring leader stole the ball around the foul line and drove the length of the court before laying the ball in. Clark had said before the game that she thought her first basket would come on a layup since it was a “high-percentage” shot.

Alanna Smith scored 16 of her career-high 22 points in the first half, Napheesa Collier scored seven of her 20 points during a decisive fourth-quarter run, and the Minnesota Lynx beat the Storm 83-70, spoiling the Seattle debuts of Skylar Diggins-Smith and Nneka Ogwumike. Smith carried the Lynx in the first half before Collier took over late, and Minnesota leaned on its defense to frustrate the Storm into a difficult night at the offensive end. Seattle’s Jewell Loyd, last year’s leading scorer in the WNBA at 24.7 points, was held to 10 points on 3-of-19 shooting.

A’ja Wilson had 30 points and 13 rebounds, and the two-time champion Las Vegas Aces opened their season Tuesday night by holding off a late rally by the Phoenix Mercury to win 89-80. Jackie Young added 23 points for Las Vegas and Kelsey Plum scored 19. Diana Taurasi led the Mercury with 23 points, Kahleah Copper scored 19 and Natasha Cloud and Rebecca Allen each finished with 14. Before the game, the Aces were given their championship rings and the banner was unveiled, raised and placed next to the 2022 one.

GOLF

There’s a lot of uncertainty about Tiger Woods at the PGA Championship. Only some of it involves his golf. Woods says he is still talking with the PGA of America about whether he has the time to serve as Ryder Cup captain for the 2025 matches at Bethpage Black. Woods didn’t have a lot to offer about his role on the PGA Tour as it tries to negotiate with the Saudi backers of LIV Golf on a potential investment deal. As for his game? He says he needs to figure out how to play four good rounds instead of two.

NFL

Kansas City Chiefs kicker Harrison Butker railed against Pride month, working women, President Biden’s leadership during the COVID-19 pandemic and abortion during a commencement address at Benedictine College last weekend. The three-time Super Bowl champion delivered the roughly 20-minute address Saturday at the Catholic private liberal arts school in Atchison, Kansas. Butker also addressed the women in the audience, arguing their “most important title” should be that of “homemaker.” Butker has made his conservative Catholic beliefs well known. The Chiefs declined to comment on the commencement address.

Kirk Cousins has shrugged off any hard feelings over the Atlanta Falcons drafting Michael Penix Jr., insisting he’s ready to compete and doesn’t think there will be any issues in the quarterback room. Cousins was one of the biggest free-agent signings of the offseason, getting a $180 million, four-year deal with the Falcons that includes $100 million in guaranteed money. Then, in the most shocking decision of the draft, the Falcons selected Penix with the No. 8 overall selection. Cousins didn’t exactly endorse the selection of Penix, dodging a question about whether he would’ve signed with the Falcons if he knew they were planning to draft another quarterback in the first round. But Cousins says he’s ready to make a potentially uncomfortable situation work for the Falcons.

PREMIER LEAGUE

Erling Haaland scored twice as Manchester City beat Tottenham 2-0 and moved to within one win of a record fourth-straight Premier League title. The three-time defending champion will go into the final round of games Sunday with a two-point lead on second-place Arsenal. City hosts West Ham and Arsenal is at home against Everton. Haaland fired Pep Guardiola’s team ahead in the 51st minute at Tottenham Hotspur Stadium when he converted Kevin De Bruyne’s cross. He struck his second from the penalty spot in stoppage time. City’s win also meant Aston Villa secured fourth place and qualification for next season’s Champions League ahead of Tottenham.

FIFA

FIFA has moved toward ending decades of soccer tradition by reviewing the rules that currently block domestic league games being played in other countries. Fans are likely to object to their teams’ home matches potentially being moved thousands of miles away. The United States and Saudi Arabia are expected to be willing hosts to lure competitive games from top European countries. FIFA recently agreed to withdraw from an ongoing court case in New York filed by promoter Relevent challenging the policy. The new FIFA policy also will likely be attractive to the growing number of international owners of European clubs. FIFA is creating a panel of 10-15 people representing soccer stakeholders to advise on amending the rules on “out-of-territory” games.

© 2024 Associated Press. All rights reserved.

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