Tagged in: season

Klay Thompson makes season debut for Golden State Warriors

Klay Thompson is back.

And it didn’t take long for Thompson to prove he should be back to his All-Star self in no time.

The Golden State guard made his season debut Sunday in the Warriors’ 96-82 victory versus the Cleveland Cavaliers. It was Thompson’s first game since Game 6 of the 2019 NBA Finals – a span covering 941 days following a torn ACL and Achilles tendon.

“Very special moment,” Thompson said.

“I’ll never forget this night. I’ll never forget the reception Warriors fans gave us, especially myself. Gosh, it was fun. It was worth every single day of being away. All the conditioning days, it was worth every single moment. I’m so grateful to just compete again. It’s been a long time. I’m also proud of myself for just persevering. I’m not going to say it was equivalent to winning a championship, but man, it was pretty freaking close.”

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Thompson, who was in the starting lineup alongside longtime teammates Steph Curry and Draymond Green, had 17 points, including seven quick points at the start of the third quarter, on 7-for-18 shooting and 3-for-8 on 3-pointers in 20 minutes.

“Wasn’t shy was he? Not that we would ever expect Klay to be shy,” Warriors coach Steve Kerr stated. “I was amazed at his poise out there and his confidence after being out for so long. … A beautiful night.”

Of the 18 shots in 20 minutes, Curry said, “That is so Klay Thompson.”

Thompson dropped in a runner in the paint with 11:20 left in the first quarter on the Warriors’ first possession, but Golden State coach Steve Kerr stated he didn’t call the play for Thompson who missed his first three 3-point attempts and checked out with 7:37 left in the first quarter.

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Bucs beat Panthers 41-17, earn No. 2 playoff seeding in NFC

Once the Tampa Bay Buccaneers took care of their own business, the defending Super Bowl champions permitted themselves to become scoreboard watchers.

Sunday’s 41-17 rout of the Carolina Panthers set a franchise record for regular-season victories, and the win — coupled with the Rams losing to the 49ers in overtime — also gave the Bucs (13-4) the No. 2 playoff seed in the NFC.

Tampa Bay will host Philadelphia in the wild-card round next week. Earning the No. 2 seed ensures a second home game in two weeks if the Bucs beat the Eagles.

Tom Brady’s not looking ahead, though.

“It just felt good to win today. Whatever happened with other teams, you can’t ever control any of those things. Even for the next game. … you’re worrying about two games from now. I’m not worried about two games from now, I’m worried about one game from now, which is the Eagles,” Brady said.

“I don’t care if the Rams would’ve won … that’s alright, we’ve still got the Eagles and that’s going to be the biggest game of our season,” Brady added.

“If we win, whoever we play, wherever we play, we’re still going, and that’s what we want to do.” Brady topped 5,000 yards passing for the second time in his career, joining Drew Brees as the only players in NFL history with multiple 5,000-yard seasons.

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“We had to do what we had to do,” said tight end Rob Gronkowski, who had seven receptions for 137 yards.

“That’s what really matters,” Gronkowski added. “We did what we had to do, and the rest took care of itself.”

Brady completed 29 of 37 passes for 326 yards and three touchdowns before taking the last half of the fourth quarter off, finishing with a career-best 5,316 yards passing and a Bucs single-season record 43 TD passes for the defending Super Bowl champions.

Mike Evans caught two of Brady’s TD passes, giving him a club-record 14 scoring receptions this year.

He also became the first player in NFL history to start a career with eight consecutive seasons with at least 1,000 yards receiving.

Tampa Bay broke the club record for victories in a regular season set in 2002, when the Bucs went on to win the Super Bowl for the first time.

Carolina (5-12) finished on a seven-game losing streak that leaves coach Matt Rhule’s future in question. The Panthers are 10-23 in two seasons under the former Temple and Baylor coach, who signed a seven-year contract to move to the NFL in 2020.

The Panthers wasted a chance to go up by double digits, turning the ball over on downs at the Tampa Bay 1 before the Brady turned the game around with an eight-play, 92-yard touchdown drive in the final minute of the first half.

Completions of 37 yards to Evans, 19 yards to Gronkowski and 24 yards to Breshad Perriman helped Brady move into position to give his team a 10-7 halftime lead with a 1-yard TD pass to Le’Veon Bell.

Ke’Shawn Vaughn’s 2-yard TD run early in the third quarter built the lead to 17-7. Evans caught TD passes of 3 and 20 yards, and receiver Scotty Miller scored on a 33-yard run in the fourth quarter for the Bucs.

Darnold completed 29 of 42 passes for 219 yards, two touchdowns and one interception for the Panthers, who fell to 0-4 against Tampa Bay under Rhule and have been outscored 150-63 by their NFC South rival in those matches.

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Paul has triple-double, NBA-leading Suns top Clippers 106-89

Chris Paul and the Phoenix Suns have turned into some of the league’s best closers. It’s a big reason they’ve reached 30 victories before any other team in the NBA this season.

Paul had a triple-double with 14 points, 13 rebounds and 10 assists, and the Suns improved to 25-0 when leading after three quarters by defeating the Los Angeles Clippers 106-89 on Thursday night.

As usual, the 36-year-old Paul was the maestro making big plays in the final minutes to close out the Clippers. He hit a crucial 3-pointer and had five assists in the fourth quarter.

“Some teams’ biggest issue is that they don’t know what they want to run or who they want to go to down the stretch,” Paul said. “I think we have a good sense of that. We know what our go-to plays are.”

The Suns moved a game ahead of Golden State for the best record in the league. They’ve won three consecutive and four of five. That’s despite several players missing considerable time this season, including All-Star guard Devin Booker.

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“I just think the players have done a really good job of driving our culture,” Suns coach Monty Williams said. “We have unreal guard play, which really helps.”

Paul continues to look 26 years old instead of 36, doing a little of everything to keep the Suns among the league’s elite.

His 13 rebounds were a career high in his 1,128th regular-season NBA game.

Cam Johnson added a career-high 24 points, and Jalen Smith — the second-year forward whose playing time has drastically increased recently because of the Suns’ COVID-19 issues — had another good game with 19 points and 14 rebounds.

“We’re having a lot of fun playing together,” Johnson said. “Things are starting to click.”

Those performances helped offset a tough night for Booker, who shot just 5 of 22 from the field and finished with 11 points. He was 0 of 7 on 3-pointers.

Williams stated center Deandre Ayton, forward Jae Crowder and JaVale McGee have all cleared the league’s COVID-19 protocols, but were held out of the game as they work their way back into shape. Guard Landry Shamet is still in the protocol.

The Clippers dropped below .500 at 19-20 despite a season-high 26 points from former Suns forward Marcus Morris Sr. Reggie Jackson added 16. The Clippers were missing guards Luke Kennard and Xavier Moon, along with center Ivica Zubac, because of COVID-19 protocols.

“We scraped and competed,” Clippers coach Ty Lue said. “That is a good ball club over there and they played well. Their stars took over down the stretch and took over the game.”

The Suns led by 17 points midway through the third quarter, but the Clippers cut it to 73-66 in the next few minutes. The Suns took a 75-66 lead into the final quarter.

The Clippers pulled to 79-76 with 8:36 left when Amir Coffey converted a three-point play after making a layup while being fouled. But the Suns responded with the next six points and slowly pulled away.

The Suns jumped out to a 56-40 halftime lead after outscoring the Clippers by 15 in the second quarter. Johnson led the Suns with 17 points before the break. Morris had 13 for the Clippers.

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Brooklyn Nets coach Steve Nash says ‘good chance’ Kevin Durant exits COVID-19 protocol this week

While Kevin Durant could be rejoining the Brooklyn Nets later this week when they are back in New York, Steve Nash says Kyrie Irving will need between a week and two weeks to ramp up before making his season debut.

Durant and Irving stay in health and safety protocols and are not with the team in Los Angeles, where the Nets play the Clippers on Monday night. But the team returns to New York after the match, and the Nets could have Durant and center LaMarcus Aldridge out of protocols and back with the team when they play Philadelphia on Thursday.

“I think there’s a good chance Kevin will be,” Nash stated after the team’s shootaround about whether Durant will be back with the team when it gets back home. “With Kyrie, I’m not so sure, but it’s coming. He’s already been [in protocols since Dec. 18]. … He’s got to be getting close.”

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Aldridge entered health and safety protocols on Dec. 14 along with five other Nets. The other five — James Harden, James Johnson, Bruce Brown, DeAndre’ Bembry and Jevon Carter — were all cleared and played in the Nets’ victory over the Los Angeles Lakers on Christmas.

Durant and Irving went into protocols on Dec. 18. The day before, the Nets announced Irving would be returning to the team to play on a part-time basis. Because of New York City’s vaccine mandate, Irving is not allowed to play in home games at Barclays Center or at Madison Square Garden, home of the New York Knicks.

Since the point guard has not practiced on a regular basis with the team since early October in training camp, Nash says it will take Irving time to ramp up. The Nets have yet to see Irving on a court since deciding to bring him back into the fold because he went into health and safety protocols.

“It’s hard to say, but I would say probably somewhere between a week and two weeks,” Nash said of the ramp-up. “He’s obviously been isolating so that kind of puts another layer to the ramp-up. It’s not like he’s been working out so probably I’d imagine it’s going to be closer to two weeks once he comes out of protocols. We’ll just have to see how it goes, though, because we have to evaluate him from a physical and performance standpoint and a basketball standpoint as well.”

After concluding this two-game trip in Los Angeles, the Nets only have two road games in their following nine games after Monday’s game at the Clippers. They play at Indiana on Jan. 5 and then at Chicago on Jan. 12.

If Irving doesn’t play in those games, the Nets could have him at Cleveland Cavaliers on Jan. 17 for the start of a four-game road swing.

Harden stated on Saturday that having Irving back, even on a part-time basis, “will be huge for us.”

“Hopefully we can get him back full-time,” center Nic Claxton said. “But it’s definitely gonna be scary hours [with Irving back]. I think he’s gonna break the game for us, and make things easier for everybody on the court. And I’m just, I’m ready to get my brother back.”

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Las Vegas Raiders’ Johnathan Abram has season-ending shoulder injury

Las Vegas Raiders third-year strong safety Johnathan Abram suffered a season-ending left shoulder injury in the Raiders’ 16-14 triumph at the Cleveland Browns on Monday night and will undergo surgery, a source confirmed to ESPN.

NFL Network first reported the season-ending nature of the injury.

Abram suffered the injury late in the match and was replaced by Roderic Teamer, who figures to replace Abram in the starting lineup in the Raiders’ final three games —  versus the Denver Broncos (7-7), at the Indianapolis Colts (8-6) and against the Los Angeles Chargers (8-6) — as Las Vegas (7-7) tries to keep its playoff hopes alive.

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The Raiders also placed cornerback Brandon Facyson on the reserve/COVID-19 list Wednesday, joining cornerback Nate Hobbs.

The Raiders also placed cornerback Trayvon Mullen on injured reserve Monday.

The third of the Raiders’ three first-round picks in 2019 — Abram was selected at No. 27, behind defensive end Clelin Ferrell at No. 4 and running back Josh Jacobs at No. 24 — Abram played just one half of his rookie season as he suffered a season-ending injury to the same shoulder in his NFL debut.

After a mostly down second season, Abram benefited mightily from the arrival of new defensive coordinator Gus Bradley and was impactful as a box safety against the run.

Still, he remained a liability in pass coverage. Abram, whose 116 tackles ranks second on the team and who is tied for first with one interception, had not missed a snap this season before going down with less than eight minutes to play Monday.

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Nets edge Knicks 112-110 on James Johnson’s free throws

Kevin Durant and James Harden took turns putting on a show in front of the largest crowd ever to see a Nets match in Brooklyn, one that was split between fans of New York’s two teams.

In the end, the Nets were celebrating and the Knicks were fuming.

In its 10th season, the matchup between teams just a few miles apart looked like a real rivalry.

“Being here two years now, it doesn’t matter who’s on that team or who’s on this team, I think the energy’s always going to be there,” Harden said. “… Whether it’s here or at MSG, the fans are going to be cheering for their respective teams and it’s going to be a good game every time, and tonight we’re just happy to come out with the win.”

They got it after James Johnson made two free throws with 2.2 seconds left to give the Nets a 112-110 triumph Tuesday night.

Harden had 34 points, 10 rebounds and eight assists, and Durant heated up after a slow start to finish with 27 points and nine assists. He had 11 points in the final 5:45, but the Knicks sent a second defender to force him to give the ball up on the last possession — as Durant suspected might happen.

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“But it’s risky to do that in the fourth, I mean the last shot of the game,” he said. “And yeah, I was prepared for it coming out of the timeout.”

The ball went to Johnson, who was fouled in the lane and made the free throws for the final points of an entertaining, nationally televised undercard to the Warriors-Suns main event.

Alec Burks scored a season-high 25 points in his new role as the Knicks’ starting point guard.

Julius Randle added 24 points, nine rebounds and eight assists. But he took only two free throws and was hit with a late technical foul for complaining about not getting calls.

“As aggressive as I play, attacking the paint, I can’t be penalized for just being stronger than people and that’s the answer that I got today,” Randle said.

The teams traded leads throughout the fourth quarter in front of an announced crowd of 18,081.

The Nets had highlight plays all over the floor to open the second half, with Harden’s soaring follow slam and DeAndre’ Bembry’s swatted shot into the seats coming during a 14-0 spurt that turned a one-point halftime deficit into a 74-61 lead.

Brooklyn had the lead up to 16 with 4 minutes left in the third period, but the Knicks whittled it down to 88-84 heading to the fourth. The lead was never bigger than that in the final 12 minutes.

But the Knicks didn’t do enough in a game where the Nets shot 25 free throws to their 12. “I want to take a look at the film. There’s a big discrepancy in free throws. I can tell you that,” Knicks coach Tom Thibodeau said angrily. “Julius is driving the ball, and he gets two free throws.”

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Emma Raducanu caps debut season with exhibition win

US Open champion Emma Raducanu capped her remarkable debut season with a 6-3, 7-6(3) triumph over Romania’s Elena-Gabriela Ruse in a light-hearted exhibition match at the Champions Tennis event at the famed Royal Albert Hall on Sunday.

Britain’s Raducanu, who turned 19 years old earlier this month, was playing at the season-ending event after some stunning debut months on the Tour.

It started with a first-round defeat in Nottingham in June 2021, but was followed by a remarkable run at Wimbledon that saw he win her first three matches before retiring versus Ajla Tomljanovic and peaked with a spell-bounding win at the US Open, where she did not drop a set on her way to becoming the first British woman to win the tournament in 53 years.

She has since competed in three events, the most recent in Linz, Austria, where she was beaten in the first round against China’s Xinyu Wang.

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The world No. 19, playing on Sunday against her friend Ruse, held her serve in the opening game and then forced Ruse into a long service game, saving two game points before hitting a winner into the corner and then driving her opponent into an error to take a 2-0 lead. The pair held their serves in the following two games before Radacanu broke again to ease into a 5-1 lead.

Ruse briefly broke back, but the Brit followed up by holding her serve two games later to claim the first set.

The Romanian often resorted to drop shots as Raducanu repeatedly fired from behind the baseline as both players held serve to start the second set. But Raducanu broke the deadlock in the fifth game, this time pouncing on a poorly weighted drop shot from Ruse to force an error. Ruse soon recovered though and forced a tiebreak for the set, which Raducanu eased 7-3.

“It was amazing to play at home in front of everyone here. I felt it straight from the minute I walked out — it was an incredible atmosphere — and I really enjoyed playing here,” Raducanu said in her on-court interview.

The Champions Tennis exhibition event, which has taken place since 1997, invites players who have once held the world No. 1 ranking, reached a Grand Slam final or been achieved success in the Davis Cup. This year’s edition will be the last at the Royal Albert Hall as it searches for a new venue next year.

Raducanu will next play at the Mubadala World Tennis Championship in Abu Dhabi in December as she begins preseason heading into her first full season on the WTA Tour. She will also compete at the Australian Open in January, her first Grand Slam since claiming the US Open title and the third major of her career.

She recently went on a vacaction, which she said in an Instagram post was her first in seven years, as she prepares for the 2022 season.

“For six days I just completely switched off and I started my preseason this week on Tuesday,” Raducanu added. “I’ve been doing a lot of fitness, not so much tennis, so I was a bit nervous coming out to play in front of everyone here.

“Right now, I’m doing preseason and working hard on my fitness, as you can tell I need to work on my sprints to the net when I was getting dropshotted. Then I’m heading out to the Middle East to finish my preseason, and then Christmas out there then flying to Australia on Dec. 26.”

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New Orleans Saints again to be without RB Alvin Kamara vs. Buffalo Bills

Running back Alvin Kamara has been ruled out for the third consecutive week with his knee injury as the New Orleans Saints prepare to host the Buffalo Bills on Thanksgiving night.

Right tackle Ryan Ramczyk (knee) and defensive ends Marcus Davenport (shoulder) and Tanoh Kpassagnon (ankle) were also ruled out for Thursday’s game.

Running back Mark Ingram II (knee) and left tackle Terron Armstead (knee/shoulder) are listed as questionable after practicing on a limited basis Wednesday.

If Ingram is out or limited, the Saints will obviously be short-handed at running back. Second-year pro Tony Jones Jr., RB/WR Ty Montgomery and backup quarterback Taysom Hill would likely be among those who fill the void.

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Kamara is not expected to be sidelined long term, and he was not placed on injured reserve after he first started experiencing knee soreness during the Saints’ Week 9 loss to the Atlanta Falcons.

The Saints will play another Thursday night match at home versus the Dallas Cowboys in Week 13 before having three extra days between games in Week 14.

Kamara has obviously been missed in a depleted Saints offense that has been short on playmakers in the passing game all season.

He leads the team with 840 yards from scrimmage, 7 touchdowns and 32 receptions this season.

The Saints (5-5) have battled injuries all season — but especially over the past month (including quarterback Jameis Winston’s season-ending ACL tear and receiver Michael Thomas’ season-ending setback with an ankle injury).

The Saints have hit a three-game losing streak for the first time since 2016

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Boston Red Sox exercise club option on manager Alex Cora for 2023-24 seasons

The Boston Red Sox have exercised Alex Cora’s club option through the 2023 and 2024 seasons, the team revealed Monday.

Cora, 46, is 284-202 in three seasons as Red Sox manager, having led the club to a winning record in all three seasons at the helm, including setting a franchise record with 108 victories and a World Series title in 2018.

“I am beyond grateful for this opportunity to manage the Red Sox,” Cora said in a statement. “We experienced so many special moments as a team and as a city in 2021, but we still have unfinished business to take care of. I am excited about the current state of our organization and eager to continue my work with our front office, coaches, players, and everyone who makes this such a special place.”

Cora was let go after he was identified as the ringleader in the Houston Astros cheating scandal.

After Ron Roenicke managed the pandemic-shortened 2020 season, Cora was brought back to the Boston dugout.

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Cora, who finished fifth in AL Manager of the Year voting, led the Red Sox to a 92-70 record during the 2021 regular season, counting a Major League-best 47 come-from-behind wins.

The Red Sox advanced to the American League Championship Series after defeating the rival New York Yankees in the AL Wild Card Game and the Tampa Bay Rays in the AL Division Series. Boston fell in the ALCS to the Astros in six games.

“There’s so much that you can say about what an organization looks for in a manager,” Red Sox chief baseball officer Chaim Bloom said. “I think a lot of it comes down to leadership and partnership. You’re seeking a leader, not just for your clubhouse, but for the entire organization, and a partner in our goal of bringing championship caliber baseball to Fenway Park on an annual basis. And in Alex, we have both of those things.

“One of the unique things about Alex is that he combines a lot of different qualities that help bring the best out of players, his feel for the game of baseball, his intellect, just the way he notices things on the field and is able to combine them with the preparation that he does to maximize what goes on the field. He can really take a clubhouse to another level, there’s not that many people that bring both of those things to the table in abundance like Alex does. On top of that, he’s just a great guy to work with. He’s charismatic, he’s funny, he’s real.”

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49ers win 1st home game in more than a year, 31-10 over Rams

After a nearly two-month stretch that featured one victory and far too many disappointments, the San Francisco 49ers were running out of time to establish an identity this season.

An opening 18-play touchdown drive versus the rival Los Angeles Rams was a pretty good start.

Jimmy Garoppolo capped that long drive with the first of his two touchdown passes, Jimmie Ward returned one of his two first-quarter interceptions for another score and the 49ers beat the Rams 31-10 on Monday night for their first home win in more than a year.

“It got us into a rhythm for sure,” Garoppolo said. “That’s the way we want to do it. Just running the ball, converting on third down and then score at the end. I don’t want to say it took their soul away but it definitely did something.”

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The Niners (4-5) had lost four of five matches and were in danger of falling out of the playoff race before putting together a complete performance in their fifth straight win versus the Rams (7-3).

Garoppolo threw TD passes to George Kittle and Deebo Samuel, Samuel also ran for a score and Ward delivered the big plays defensively to give San Francisco its second home win in the past two seasons. The other also came against the Rams on Oct. 18, 2020.

It all started on the ground, where coach Kyle Shanahan had set an audacious goal of 40 carries that the Niners exceeded with 44 runs for 156 yards.

“I almost regretted it because it’s tough to do,” Shanahan said. “I’m glad I set it. We came through with it. It’s a huge team goal.”

San Francisco had its most rushes in a regular-season game in nine years. The Niners used a similar formula two years ago when they made it to the Super Bowl.

Last week, San Francisco had 11 carries for 39 yards in a 31-17 loss to Arizona.

“If you want to establish any type of dominance, especially in the trenches, I think that is necessary,” left tackle Trent Williams said. “You got to run the ball and got to make your opponents respect it.”

The Niners sealed the game when Garoppolo connected on a 40-yard TD to Samuel on fourth-and-6 early in the fourth quarter that made it 31-7.

Garoppolo finished 15 for 19 for 182 yards and the two TDs.

The Rams lost for the second straight week with Matthew Stafford once again throwing two interceptions, including one returned for a touchdown.

Los Angeles struggled to get into any rhythm offensively in the first game after receiver Robert Woods went down with a season-ending knee injury last week in practice.

“This was a humbling night for us as a team, and a great opportunity for us to be able to take a deep breath, step away, look at the things that we need to correct, particularly offensively over the last couple of weeks,” coach Sean McVay stated.

Odell Beckham Jr. made his Los Angeles debut after signing last week but had only two catches for 18 yards.

Recently obtained edge rusher Von Miller also played for the first time with the Rams and had three tackles but didn’t put pressure on Garoppolo. Stafford went 26 for 41 for 243 yards with one TD, two interceptions and nearly a third that K’Waun Williams trapped on his backside only to have it wiped off by a penalty.

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