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National

  • Spurs romp to win in Game 2

    SAN ANTONIO (AP) — The San Antonio Spurs have been here before.
    Tony Parker scored 22 points, Danny Green added 21 on seven 3-pointers, and San Antonio used a dominant third quarter to pummel Oklahoma City 112-77 Wednesday night and take a 2-0 lead in the Western Conference finals.
    The Spurs were in the same position in 2012 before the Thunder won four straight to capture the series and stun a Spurs team that appeared to have its best days behind it.
    Well, San Antonio is back in the conference final with a commanding lead, wiser and even older.
    “I know after the game, nobody is very happy in the locker room,” Parker said. “Everybody is very focused, and we respect that team. We know they’re very capable of a comeback, and they did that against us in 2012. We’re just very focused and nobody is satisfied.”
    Game 3 is Sunday at Oklahoma City, where the Thunder will try to bounce back from the worst playoff loss in franchise history.
    “It definitely doesn’t feel good, and it shouldn’t,” Oklahoma City coach Scott Brooks said. “I hope our entire locker room doesn’t feel good. You shouldn’t feel good. We got our butts kicked.”

  • Duncan, Spurs roll to Game 1 win

    SAN ANTONIO (AP) — The San Antonio Spurs were not going to believe Serge Ibaka was really injured until the Oklahoma City Thunder took the court in the opener of the Western Conference finals without their athletic big man.
    Their skepticism was unwarranted.
    Ibaka is indeed injured and Oklahoma City needs to find a way to replace his defensive presence against San Antonio.
    Tim Duncan had 27 points and the Spurs took advantage of Ibaka’s absence to score more than half their points in the paint, beating the Thunder 122-105 Monday night in the opener of the best-of-seven series.
    Tony Parker did not appear limited by a hamstring injury, adding 14 points and 12 assists in 36 minutes in San Antonio’s first victory over Oklahoma City this season.
    Parker and coach Gregg Popovich both said earlier they weren’t sure if the Thunder would actually be without Ibaka, who injured his left calf in Oklahoma City’s series clincher against the Los Angeles Clippers.
    “Contrary to what San Antonio was thinking, he’s not coming back,” Thunder coach Scott Brooks said.
    That’s bad news for Oklahoma City entering Game 2 on Wednesday.
    San Antonio had 66 points in the paint and shot 58 percent from the field in the win.

  • California Chrome is cleared to wear nasal strip for Belmont

    NEW YORK (AP) — California Chrome beat out an idiosyncratic racing rule — by a nose.
    The colt is back on track for his Triple Crown try after an only-in-New York equipment ban appeared ready to put a kink in his Triple Crown try at the Belmont Stakes.
    The Kentucky Derby and Preakness Stakes winner was cleared to wear the nasal strip he has worn all through a six-race winning streak that has set him up for a chance at horse racing’s 12th Triple Crown.
    New York racetracks have a rule prohibiting any equipment not specifically approved by stewards, and nasal strips were not on their list. A statement from the New York Racing Association and the state’s Gaming Commission on Monday said the track’s three stewards unanimously agreed to lift the ban.
    The strip worn by California Chrome during his six-race winning streak is thought to assist airflow through the nostrils — something that should come in handy June 7 for Belmont’s grueling run.
    “I think it opens up his air passage and gives him that little extra oomph that he needs, especially going a mile and a half,” trainer Art Sherman said. “Any time you can have a good air passage that means a lot for these thoroughbreds.”

  • California Chrome will be the favorite at Preakness Stakes

    BALTIMORE (AP) — Kentucky Derby winner California Chrome was made the odds-on favorite at 3-5 on Wednesday for the Preakness Stakes, and he drew an inside post position in the 10-horse field that includes a filly for the first time in five years.
    Trained by Art Sherman and ridden by Victor Espinoza, California Chrome will break from the No. 3 post, which has produced 10 winners in the previous 138 runnings of the 1 3/16-mile race, the last being Prairie Bayou in 1993.
    “Three is fine with me,” Sherman said. “Most of the speed is on the outside of me. If they go, they go, I can tuck in right behind them without any problems. I think my horse will perform.”
    So does California Chrome’s co-owner Steve Coburn, who dared to look ahead.
    “One race at a time,” he said, “but I’m still thinking Triple Crown.”
    If California Chrome wins on Saturday, next up would be the Belmont Stakes on June 7. Only 11 horses have swept the Derby, Preakness and Belmont and none since 1978.
    California Chrome brings a five-race winning streak into the Preakness, having won that many by a combined 26 lengths. Still, his overwhelming odds surprised Sherman, a 77-year-old trainer who has never had a colt this good.

  • Still much to be done before World Cup

    SAO PAULO (AP) — It’s all coming down to the final 30 days.
    Brazil had seven years to get ready for the World Cup, but it enters the final month of preparations with a lot yet to be done.
    Three stadiums are still under construction, some of the temporary structures needed for matches are delayed and it remains unclear if all cities will have time to organize the mandatory fanfests.
    It’s already known that not all infrastructure will be completed no matter how much organizers rush before the June 12 opener. The government acknowledges that communications inside stadiums won’t be perfect, unfinished airports remain a concern and there are widespread threats of violent protests by Brazilians complaining about the billions of dollars spent to organize the tournament.
    Brazilian officials guarantee everything will be fine. FIFA remains concerned.
    “Everything will be in place for the World Cup in Brazil to be a success,” Brazilian President Dilma Rousseff said Tuesday. “The stadiums will be ready, the airports will be ready, we are guaranteeing public safety.”
    Jerome Valcke, secretary general for soccer’s governing body, says there’s no time to waste.
    “I would not say it’s not ready, but it’s not finished,” he said recently.

  • Boston behind Derby horse Wicked Strong

    LOUISVILLE, Ky. (AP) — Wicked Strong has a built-in fan base for the Kentucky Derby. Like the entire city of Boston.
    The colt named in honor of the victims of last year’s Boston Marathon bombings figures to be among the favorites for Saturday’s race. He’s got the credentials, having impressively won the Wood Memorial at 9-1 odds.
    Wicked Strong is owned by a Boston-based partnership that has pledged to donate 5 percent of any money won by the bay colt during the Triple Crown series to the fund set up for the bombing victims.
    “It’s a neat thing,” trainer Jimmy Jerkens said. “Might be an extra force that will help us, if you believe in that kind of stuff.”
    Does Jerkens?
    “Sometimes you do,” he replied. “Things seem to happen like that for some unexplained reason.”
    Wicked Strong began racing with the name Moyne Spun. Donald Little Jr., who heads the Centennial Farms partnership, didn’t like that moniker and decided to rename the horse with the marathon bombings in mind.
    His first thought was Boston Strong, but the name was already taken. So the new name became Wicked Strong — giving it a linguistic Boston twist.

  • Clippers win hours after Sterling decision

     LOS ANGELES (AP) — Several hours after owner Donald Sterling was banned from the NBA for life, the Los Angeles Clippers sprinted and soared through a playoff game as if a weight had been lifted from their collective shoulders.
    The Clippers finished a tumultuous day with a 113-103 victory over the Golden State Warriors on Tuesday night, leaving their home court to high-fives and standing ovations from fans enthralled by the prospect of watching an NBA title chase without Sterling in his front-row seat.
    “We have a tough locker room, all of us are tough, but it almost brought out tears to your eyes just to feel the support from the fans,” said Chris Paul, the Clippers’ star point guard.
    NBA Commissioner Adam Silver delivered the extraordinary punishment to Sterling after a recording of racist statements by the real-estate mogul was made public several days ago.
    The ban is one of the harshest penalties in the history of U.S. sports, but was met with near-universal acclaim from fellow owners, civil rights observers and NBA players who strongly contemplated a playoff boycott if Sterling wasn’t punished harshly.

  • NBA bans Sterling for life

    NEW YORK (AP) — Los Angeles Clippers owner Donald Sterling has been banned for life by the NBA in response to racist comments the league says he made in a recorded conversation.

    Commissioner Adam Silver said he will try to force the controversial owner to sell his franchise. Sterling has also been fined $2.5 million, and Silver made no effort to hide his outrage over the comments.

    "I fully expect to get the support I need from the other NBA owners I need to remove him," Silver said.

    The rebuke, which came three days after the scandal broke, is the harshest penalty ever issued by the league and one of the stiffest punishments ever given to an owner in professional sports. Silver said a league investigation found the NBA's longest-tenured owner was in fact the person on the audiotapes that were released over the weekend.

    "We stand together in condemning Mr. Sterling's views," Silver said. "They simply have no place in the NBA."

    Sterling acknowledged he was the man on the tape, Silver said.

    Sterling is immediately barred from attending any NBA games or practices, be present at any Clippers office or facility, or participate in any business or player personnel decisions involving the team.

  • Pineda says he's learned his lesson

    BOSTON (AP) — The pine tar glistened on Michael Pineda’s neck, improving his grip and inviting trouble.
    He got both.
    The Yankees’ right-hander spoke quietly after being ejected in the second inning of the Red Sox’ 5-1 win over New York on Wednesday night. And less than two weeks after appearing to get away with using a foreign substance in another game against Boston, he vowed never to do it again.
    “I’ll learn from this mistake,” a contrite Pineda said. “It won’t happen again.”
    Pineda said he had trouble gripping the ball on the cool evening when he allowed two runs in the first inning. So before he took the mound for the second, he said, he rubbed pine tar on the right side of his neck.
    “I don’t feel the ball,” he said. “I don’t want to hit anybody.”
    One small problem: Rule 8.02(b). Written to keep pitchers from altering the ball to gain an unfair advantage, it prohibits them from having a foreign substance on them or in their possession on the mound and says that they’ll be suspended if they do.

  • Pujols slams 500th home run Tuesday

    WASHINGTON (AP) — Albert Pujols smiled as he explained why he felt the need to apologize to his wife for hitting homer No. 500 so quickly after No. 499.
    She had planned to be there in person once he got within one of the milestone.
    He didn’t give her the chance.
    Pujols became the first major leaguer to get his 499th and 500th homers in the same game, connecting twice Tuesday night and driving in five runs in the Los Angeles Angels’ 7-2 victory over the Washington Nationals. He’s the 26th player in big league history to reach 500.
    “I went and made a phone call and I called her, and she was doing her nails. And everybody in the salon, I guess, was telling her, ‘Congratulations!’ And she was like, ‘Did you just hit your 500th?’ I was like, ‘I’m sorry,’” Pujols said with a laugh.
    “She would have loved to be here with my kids and my family. She drives me every day to try to be a better person, a better player,” he added. “I would have loved to share this moment with her here.”
    Hitting like the Pujols of old, the three-time NL MVP delivered a three-run homer in the first inning and two-run drive in the fifth, both off Taylor Jordan (0-3).