Weekend Sports In Brief | Tacoma News Tribune

NBA

BOSTON (AP) — Jayson Tatum has been adamant he didn’t view the Celtics’ matchup with the Nets as a chance to prove anything opposite two of the league’s elite scorers.

His finish in Game 1 said otherwise.

Tatum made a layup at the buzzer on a pass from Marcus Smart to give Boston a dramatic 115-114 victory over the Brooklyn Nets on Sunday in Game 1 of their first-round playoff series.

“When he took that dribble we just kind of made eye contact. He made a great pass,” Tatum said. “It doesn’t get any better than that. A buzzer-beater in a playoff game at home.”

Tatum scored 31 points, the last two on the first buzzer-beater of his career. It was Boston’s first in the postseason since Paul Pierce in 2010 against the Heat.

NEW YORK (AP) — Nikola Jokic is a finalist to win a second straight NBA MVP award, along with two-time winner Giannis Antetokounmpo and Joel Embiid.

The NBA unveiled the top-three finishers in voting for its individual awards Sunday, with the expected names in the running for the marquee award.

Jokic, the Denver Nuggets center, ended Antetokounmpo’s two-year reign last season and was every bit as good this season.

Embiid, hoping to join them in the MVP club, led the NBA in scoring. The winners of the awards will be announced during the postseason.

MEMPHIS, Tenn. (AP) — Anthony Edwards is sharing the NBA’s brightest lights with one is of the league’s most talked about young stars in Ja Morant. And Edwards has stepped boldly into the playoff spotlight.

It won’t be the last time the second-year Minnesota guard goes toe-to-toe with Memphis’ MVP candidate. Their budding Western Conference rivalry is only part of the show put on by talented young players who are embracing the opening of the NBA playoffs.

Tyrese Maxey and Jordan Poole also scored at least 30 points for the first time the league has had more than two 30-point performances on the same day by players 22 or younger.

HOCKEY

DENVER (AP) — The Colorado Avalanche have the top seed in the Western Conference after beating the Carolina Hurricanes this weekend. The Avs have won nine straight and play again Monday night.

The Avalanche have amassed an NHL-best 116 points this season. They’re two away from tying the 2000-01 Stanley Cup squad for points during a season in club history.

BASEBALL

TORONTO (AP) — Toronto Blue Jays broadcaster Buck Martinez has been diagnosed with cancer and will be stepping away from the broadcast booth.

Martinez said in a statement released by Sportsnet that Sunday’s game against the Oakland Athletics would be his last for “a little while” as he begins weeks of cancer treatment.

Martinez has been associated with the Blue Jays since 1981, when he began a six-year stint as one of the team’s catchers. He played 17 big league seasons in Toronto, Kansas City and Milwaukee. He was hired to manage the Blue Jays in 2001 but was fired midway through his second season after compiling a 100-115 record.

BOSTON (AP) — Red Sox manager Alex Cora said Boston expects to be without multiple unvaccinated players for an upcoming series at Toronto.

Starting pitcher Tanner Houck told the Boston Globe on Sunday that he is not vaccinated against COVID-19 and won’t pitch during the four-game series beginning Monday, April 25.

He would have been in line to start the second game.

To enter Canada, the Canadian government requires a person must have received a second COVID-19 vaccine dose — or one dose of Johnson & Johnson — at least 14 days prior to entry.

WNBA

For the elite athletes in the WNBA, spending the offseason by playing in Russia can mean earning more money than they can make back home — sometimes even two or three times as much.

But those who have done that also describe the loneliness of being away from family and friends, of struggling with an unfamiliar language and culture, and of living in a place with only a few hours of sunlight in the winter and temperatures well below freezing.

Brittney Griner is one of those players who went to Russia in recent years to earn extra money. For the two-time Olympian, however, it has turned into a prolonged nightmare. Since arriving at a Moscow airport in mid-February, she has been detained by police after they reported finding vape cartridges allegedly containing cannabis oil in her luggage. Still in jail, she is awaiting trial next month on charges that could bring up to 10 years in prison.

A half-dozen American players contacted by The Associated Press shared their experiences on playing in Russia. Although none found themselves in the same situation as Griner, they described difficulties such as isolation and boredom, apart from basketball.

“Playing there was not easy because the lifestyle and the way of living is a lot different than what you experience in other places in Europe and America,” said DeLisha Milton-Jones, one of the first marquee American players to play in Russia in the early 2000s.

“The extremes of the weather — it’s pitch black dark at 5 pm I had to wear my big jacket warming up sometimes since it was minus-40 degrees outside,” said Milton-Jones, who played for UMKC Ekaterinburg — the same team as Griner .

The former All-American at Florida, WNBA All-Star and two-time WNBA champion with the Los Angeles Sparks said the decision to play in Russia was simply a “business one.”

SOCCER

LONDON (AP) — Complete the sale of Chelsea inside four weeks and the new ownership will have an FA Cup final against Liverpool to attend.

Who will be representing the club in the royal box at Wembley Stadium on May 14 is still to be determined.

As the three remaining bidders wait to discover if they are chosen to buy out sanctioned Russian owner Roman Abramovich, the west London club beat Crystal Palace 2-0 in the semifinals of world soccer’s oldest competition on Sunday.

Goals from Ruben Loftus-Cheek and Mason Mount ensured the eight-time FA Cup winners will be back at Wembley on May 14 to face Liverpool which beat them at the national stadium on penalties in the League Cup final in February.

“Now it’s time to get our payback,” Mount said.

BERLIN (AP) — Bayern Munich won 3-0 at struggling Arminia Bielefeld on Sunday to take another step toward a record-extending 32nd German league title, moving nine points ahead of second-place Borussia Dortmund with four games left.

The Bundesliga race could be decided when the teams meet in Munich next Saturday.

It was an expected but welcome win for Bayern after a surprise elimination by Spanish side Villarreal in the Champions League quarterfinals.

WOMEN’S GYMNASTICS

FORT WORTH, Texas (AP) — Oklahoma captured its fifth NCAA women’s gymnastics title Saturday, rallying from last after the first rotation to the top spot at the end behind a stellar performance from junior Ragan Smith.

The Sooners posted a team score of 198.200, just ahead of Florida at 198.075. Utah finished third at 197.750 while Auburn and reigning Olympic champion Sunisa Lee finished off its best season in program history by finishing fourth.

A year after finishing a narrow second to Michigan, the Sooners returned to the top by surging after a so-so performance on floor exercise left them trailing. Oklahoma responded by posting the best scores on each of the final three events, including a steely set on balance beam as Florida closed the gap on floor exercise a few feet away.

Florida senior and NCAA all-around champion Trinity Thomas posted the meet’s only perfect 10 with a brilliant performance on floor to bring the Gators within a tenth of a point.

RUNNING DISTANCE

BOSTON (AP) — Compared to what her predecessors faced a half-century before, an icy downpour and a near-gale headwind were minor obstacles for Des Linden on her way to a Boston Marathon victory.

The first women who dared to attempt the 26.2-mile run from Hopkinton to Boston’s Back Bay faced sneers and catcalls, administrative roadblocks and even physical violence from an organization originally formed to encourage the pursuit of “manly sports.”

“I think about it, if I would be brave enough to do that. I’m not sure I would have been,” said Linden, who herself overcame some of the worst weather in the race’s history to win in 2018. “But these guys stuck their neck out, and made it happen.”

Fifty years after eight women lined up alongside the men — the first official female entrants, but not the first ones to run the race — more than 12,000 women are entered in the Boston Marathon on Monday, when it returns to its traditional Patriots Day spot in the schedule for the first time since 2019.

The quasi anniversary will be marked by one of the strongest women’s fields ever, with reigning Olympic gold medalist Peres Jepchirchir, London and New York winner Joyciline Jepkosgei, and Ethiopia’s Degitu Azimeraw all bringing personal bests under 2 hours, 18 minutes — two minutes faster than the Boston course record.

Leading the men’s field is defending champion Benson Kipruto of Kenya, who in October won the first fall Boston Marathon ever after the 2020 race was canceled by the pandemic and the ’21 version was put off six months.

GOLF

HILTON HEAD ISLAND, SC (AP) — Thinking he might have a chance for a playoff, Jordan Spieth rolled in a 10-foot birdie on the 18th hole in regulation. He made an even bigger shot at Habour Town’s signature hole in a playoff to win the RBC Heritage.

Spieth’s 56-foot shot from a greenside bunker stopped 7 inches away and he beat Patrick Cantlay with a tap-in par Sunday on the lighthouse hole for his 13th career PGA Tour title — and second straight on Easter Sunday.

Sometimes, Spieth said, there’s a tournament where you feel you’ve played well, yet not good enough to win. “I honestly felt like this was that week,” he said with a grin. “I needed a lot of things to go right.”

And he got them all.

Spieth, at 13 under after his 5-under 66, finished four groups ahead of Cantlay and waited out the stellar field that had several chances to tie or move in front. But all except Cantlay could not chase down Spieth, who stayed away from watching too much of the action once he finished.

AUTO RACING

BRISTOL, Tenn. (AP) — Kyle Busch backed into the record book by stealing a win at dirt-covered Bristol Motor Speedway.

That’s what he’d say if it had been anyone else, right?

Busch won his first race of the season Sunday night by sliding past the leaders as Tyler Reddick and Chase Briscoe spun racing for the win. Busch tied Hall of Famer Richard Petty’s NASCAR record for victories in consecutive years at 18.

But his tune was far different at Bristol than it was six weeks ago when Alex Bowman won at Las Vegas and an irate Busch complained that Bowman is “the same (expletive) guy who backs into every (expletive) win that he ever (expletive) gets.”

When it was Busch’s turn to inherit a win, he had no problem collecting the checkered flag.

“We got one, you know?” Busch said. “It doesn’t matter how you get them, it’s all about getting them.”

Later, he acknowledged that he did “back into one” but said it felt good.

HORSE-RACING

Zippy Chippy, horse racing’s lovable loser for never winning in 100 races, has died at the age of 31.

The bay gelding was living at the Bobby Frankel Division of Old Friends Thoroughbred Farm at Cabin Creek near Saratoga Race Course in upstate New York since 2010. The farm said he died Friday night. A veterinarian had yet to determine the cause, according to the farm’s Cynthia Grisolia.

Owner-trainer Felix Montserrate acquired Zippy Chippy in 1995 by trading a 1988 Ford truck for him.

The gelding’s pedigree suggests he had potential to achieve success on the track, coming from a line that included such famous horses as Buckpasser, Bold Ruler, 1943 Triple Crown winner Count Fleet, Man o’ War, Native Dancer, and La Troienne, one of the most influential broodmares of the 20th century.

Alas, it was not to be.

Zippy Chippy never won, but he came close. He finished second eight times and was third 12 times, with career earnings of $30,834. Eventually, he was banned from competing at several tracks for such antics as refusing to break from the starting gate.

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