Hubert Hurkacz has recorded back-to-back top 10 wins to move a step closer to his maiden ATP Masters 1000 trophy with a hard-fought straight-sets win over Andrey Rublev at the Miami Open on Friday night.

The 26th seeded Pole knocked off in-form fourth seed Rublev 6-3 6-4 to book a spot in Sunday's final where he will play teenage 21st seed Jannik Sinner who defeated Roberto Bautista Agut earlier in the day.

The 24-year-old from Wroclaw had beaten second seed Stefanos Tsitsipas in the quarter-finals and continued that strong form by never allowing Rublev to settle into his game.

"It means a lot, especially after winning a title at the beginning of the year, I had a couple of rough matches," Hurkacz said in his on-court interview, referring to his January win at the Delray Beach Open in Florida.

"I’m so happy that I came over and I was still trying to improve my game and trying to be a better player. This is really huge for me."

The 23-year-old Russian had won 16 matches this calendar year including taking out last month's Rotterdam Open.

Rublev had also not lost a set all tournament and only been broken twice, yet Hurkacz broke serve three times.

The Pole also hit 25 winners and showed determination under pressure, when Rublev had a break point at 5-4 in the second set, before saving it in an epic rally and winning the game to secure the match.

World number eight Rublev said: "Today was not my day. Hurkacz played really well and he deserved to win… Now it's time to go back to work hard to be ready for the clay season."

"It’s [been a] great week for me. I did my first semis [at an ATP Masters 1000]. I'm playing really consistent. Every week I go deep in the tournament."

Sinner, 19, won a three-set match against Bautista Agut to book his spot in the decider earlier on Friday.

The young Italian world number 31 and Hurkacz know each other well.

"We played doubles together last week in Dubai,"Hurkacz said. "Now we’re playing in the final of a Masters 1000 event, so it’s going to be a fun match."

American world number 99 Cameron Tringale backed up his strong opening day at the Texas Open with a three-under 69 on Friday to take a two-shot lead into the weekend.

Tringale, 33, has never claimed a PGA Tour victory but has set himself up perfectly, two shots ahead of three-time major winner Jordan Spieth and Matt Wallace.

The 12-year veteran bogeyed his opening two holes on Friday after sitting equal second after day one but responded with five straight birdies in his fourth to eighth holes.

"I just hit a lot of really good iron shots to those holes," Tringale said. “I think my furthest putt was 4 feet, so just good approaches to the green... I took advantage most of the time.”

First day leader Camilo Villegas slipped five shots back after shooting a 76, while Texas native Spieth looms after putting together two good days as he chases his first title since 2017.

The former world number one shot a two-under 70, although he started strong with two birdies including an approach within 10 feet on the first before slowing up.

"I thought the start was key for me, and I got off to a great start," Spieth said. "I put some really good swings on the ball after kind of being a little sloppy at the end of yesterday’s round."

He added: "I’m really pleased with where things are at, but they’re not where I want them to be at."

Equal second Wallace is another yet to win on the PGA Tour but he moved into contention after a four-under 68 which included no bogeys.

"Whenever you go bogey free, whatever golf course it is, it’s nice, but especially here," Wallace said.

A group of four players are two shots behind Spieth and Wallace, with Kevin Stadler, Kyle Stanley, Erik van Rooyen and Brandt Snedeker who had a birdie-birdie finish.

Matt Kuchar and Villegas are among the next group of six at four-under, while Charley Hoffman shot a day two best 66 to be tied at three-under.

Five-time major winner Phil Mickelson was unable to recover from his horror first round which was ruined by taking a 10 on the 18th and missed the cut.

Kevin Durant has been fined $50,000 for using "offensive and derogatory language on social media" in his recent exchange with actor Michael Rapoport.

The sanction was announced by the NBA in a statement on Friday with the 32-year-old Brooklyn Nets forward acknowledging his actions were inappropriate.

Earlier in the week, Rapoport revealed expletive-laden private messages that Durant had sent him which included threatening language, as well as anti-gay and misogynistic slurs.

"I'm sorry that people [have] seen that language I used," said Durant, who is currently sidelined with a hamstring injury.

"That's not really what I want people to see and hear from me, but hopefully I can move past it and get back out there on the floor."

Nets coach Steve Nash said he had spoken to Durant about the exchange and that the former Golden State Warriors man was apologetic.

Rapoport revealed the direct messages which were sent by Durant on Instagram after the actor had criticized his post-game conduct in an interview.

"I receive threats and disgusting messages DAILY, but never in my wildest dreams did I think @KDTrey5 (Durant) would be among them," Rapaport wrote in a Twitter post with screenshots of the exchange.

"The Snake himself is now threatening me, bringing up my wife and wants to fight."

Major League Baseball announced on Friday that it is moving the 2021 All-Star Game from Atlanta in response to Georgia legislation passed in March that restricts voting rights.  

MLB has yet to announce a new site for this year's Midsummer Classic, which had been scheduled for July 13 at the Braves' Truist Park, but said a new host city would be chosen "shortly". 

The league had also planned on holding the draft in Atlanta but that also will be switched to another location, along with All-Star break staples like the Futures Game and Home Run Derby.   

The decision comes just over a week after the passage of a bill in the Georgia legislature that president Joe Biden and others have criticised and characterised as voter suppression.  

Commissioner Rob Manfred said in a statement that he consulted with current and former players – as well as officials with the Players Association – before making the decision.  

"I have decided that the best way to demonstrate our values as a sport is by relocating this year's All-Star Game and MLB Draft," Manfred said. "Major League Baseball fundamentally supports voting rights for all Americans and opposes restrictions to the ballot box. 

"We proudly used our platform to encourage baseball fans and communities throughout our country to perform their civic duty and actively participate in the voting process. Fair access to voting continues to have our game’s unwavering support."

Reigning NL MVP and Braves first baseman Freddie Freeman previously said that he hoped the game would still be held in Atlanta but used as a platform to promote voting rights.  

The move is reminiscent of the NBA's activism in the summer of 2016, when it pulled the 2017 All-Star Game from Charlotte, North Carolina after a law was enacted that did not allow transgender people to use bathrooms in accordance with their gender identities in government buildings, public schools and public universities.  

The North Carolina "bathroom bill" was later altered and the NBA held the 2019 All-Star festivities in Charlotte.  

Change in Georgia may be more difficult, as the state has become a lightning rod for passionately divided political issues after its pivotal role in the 2020 elections for president and U.S. Senate.  

Proponents of the bill, titled SB 202, say that it will ensure election integrity, while opponents say that the new restrictions are targeted to reduce turnout by black and other minority voters.  

Among the provisions in the bill that has since been signed into law by govenor Brian Kemp are heightened identification standards for absentee ballots and a ban on distributing food and water to voters waiting in lines at polling places. 

President Biden called the law "Jim Crow on steroids", while MLB's position was further complicated by its plans to celebrate the life and career of Hall of Famer Hank Aaron, who was the target of racism when he broke Babe Ruth’s home run record and throughout his 23-year career.  

Other major sports figures connected to Atlanta have also publicly condemned the new law. Arthur Blank, owner of the Atlanta Falcons and Major League Soccer's Atlanta United, denounced the legislation, saying: "We should be working to make voting easier, not harder for every eligible citizen." 

Tony Ressler, owner of the Atlanta Hawks, also made a statement against SB 202 and said that the franchise will continue to "promote equality and encourage participation by all who seek to cast a ballot".

Jannik Sinner followed in the footsteps of three all-time tennis greats as he became the fourth teenager in history to reach a men's singles final at the Miami Open.

The 19-year-old Italian hit three huge backhand winners to break serve in the final game as he pulled off a 5-7 6-4 6-4 victory over Spain's Roberto Bautista Agut in their last-four clash.

It means Sinner matches Andre Agassi, Rafael Nadal and Novak Djokovic - players who went on to be ranked number one in the world - in becoming a finalist at the Masters 1000 tournament while still in his teens.

The hotly tipped world number 31 will contest a final at this level for the first time in his career on Sunday, awaiting the winner of the second semi-final between Andrey Rublev and Hubert Hurkacz.

Sinner said of his feat: "It sounds incredible. I'm very, very happy about today because obviously being the first semi-final it's not easy to play, especially on a Masters event, and playing against a very, very solid player in Roberto.

"We had a tough battle two weeks ago, and coming out as a winner today it means a lot to me."

Sinner also won that previous match, another tight three-setter, in Dubai.

Speaking on Amazon Prime, he explained how he recovered from a slow start to win the Miami tussle.

"In the beginning I think we were both a little bit tight and then we both played a little bit better," Sinner said.

"Today was not easy, it was a little bit windy, and in the end I tried to serve better and try to move him a little bit more, try to mix it up a little bit, and that was the key today.

"He was serving a few second serves in the last game and I just tried to go for it and even if I lost the game I was 5-5, so I was up in the score and it was the right decision."

Agassi, in 1990, and Djokovic, in 2007, were both teenage champions at the event, beating Stefan Edberg and Guillermo Canas respectively in the title matches.

Nadal lost to Roger Federer in the 2005 final, with the Swiss coming from two sets down to win what was then a five-set finale to the tournament. It has since gone back to being a best-of-three match.

Sinner may have benefited from Nadal, Djokovic and Federer electing to skip this year's tournament, but many believe he has the potential to follow them to the very top of the game.

Former women's world number five Daniela Hantuchova hailed Sinner's "braveness and calmness", adding: "When it really mattered, he stepped it up big time and to be able to do that at such a young age, we are looking at something very, very special here."

Greg Rusedski, runner-up at the 1997 US Open, added on Amazon's broadcast: "Rafa was the youngest to be in the Miami finals. Mentally they have a lot in common. Different styles but just bold and brave."

The 2020 season is not one fans of the New England Patriots will remember fondly.

Not only did they lose Tom Brady after 20 years, but the star quarterback went on to win a famous seventh Super Bowl with the Tampa Bay Buccaneers.

The Pats, meanwhile, suffered with the tight salary cap left behind after years of pushing for postseason glory with Brady.

They went 7-9, missing the playoffs for the first time since 2008, a season that saw Brady suffer a serious knee injury in Week 1.

While their record was by no means the league's worst, it was their first losing season since 2000.

Head coach Bill Belichick is not used to that and, with their cap situation looking much better, he has been aggressive in attempting to put things right with a free agency spending spree.

Here, we have used Stats Perform data to look at their disappointing 2020 season and some of the moves they have made to turn their fortunes around.

Offense

Cam Newton was a late addition ahead of the season on a bargain contract, but he was unable to recapture his Carolina Panthers peak as he returned from injury with a new offense.

His 82.9 passer rating was 28th out of 35 qualifying quarterbacks and he had just eight touchdown passes through the air, with 10 interceptions.

Still, Brady had not impressed in his last season either, with New England having one of the weakest supporting casts in the NFL.

Jakobi Meyers, who was undrafted in 2019, had a good year at wide receiver (59 catches for 729 yards), though no other player topped 400 yards receiving.

Julian Edelman was only healthy for six games, while the top tight end Ryan Izzo had just 199 receiving yards.

The Pats were 30th in the NFL with just 181 passing yards per game, 49 YPG below the league average.

New England had 38 passing plays of 20+ yards – only the New York Giants and Cincinnati Bengals faring worse in that category.

Newton attempted 22 passes of 21+ air yards – 30 NFL QBs threw more – highlighting the limitations of the offense.

He did, however, add 592 yards and 12 touchdowns on the ground, offering a new dimension the Pats' offense.

That at least helped the Pats, with a strong offensive line, to a fourth-ranked rushing attack (147 YPG), though only two of their 20 rushing TDs were runs of 10+ yards

Newton went a solid but unspectacular 7-8, missing one game due to coronavirus, which he said had a lingering effect on his performance even after he had returned. 

On the whole, it was an offense that was tough to watch and while Newton may have underwhelmed, it was a very difficult situation in which to succeed.

Defense

The Patriots' defense was hit hard by COVID-19 opt outs, but the talent that remained combined with Belichick's coaching meant it was still a top-10 unit that was usually tough to move the ball against.

New England were seventh in points allowed (22.1) and while they were 15th in yardage (354 YPG), that ranking improved to eighth against the pass (222 YPG).

Stephon Gilmore was a Pro Bowl selection at cornerback for a unit that allowed seven TDs of 20+ yards, a figure bettered by just six teams.

The run defense struggled (26th in NFL at 131 YPG), forcing only 26 rushing plays to go for negative yardage – with only the Denver Broncos, Los Angeles Rams and Kansas City Chiefs faring worse.

New England had 22 takeaways, close to the league average (21), though 24 sacks was way below the par score recorded by the rest of the NFL (35).

Chase Winovich led the team in sacks (5.5) as well as in combined QB knockdowns and hurries (44), but the Patriots did not have anyone in the top 40 in either category, making pass rush an area of need.

Offseason

Armed with a strong cap situation and a point to prove, Belichick embarked on a spending spree that went against the team's usual philosophy.

Whereas previously the second wave of free agency would have been targeted along with bargain veterans desperate to secure a ring, New England were aggressive in chasing some of the top names on the market.

Their tight end situation has been among the league's worst since the departure of Rob Gronkowski, but they doubled down at the position to land Hunter Henry and Jonnu Smith.

Henry ranks sixth among tight ends with 1,265 yards since the start of the 2019 season, while only four TEs have more than the 11 TDs grabbed by the athletic Smith over that period.

Wide receiver Nelson Agholor arrived after a career year (896 yards) for the Las Vegas Raiders as the pass-catching options were significantly boosted, albeit amid some concerns over the size of the contracts handed out.

It is hoped Matt Judon (four years, $56m) can help bolster the pass rush. He is 25th in the NFL with 30.5 sacks since 2017 for the Baltimore Ravens, while linebacker Kyle Van Noy returned from the Miami Dolphins.

The biggest loss was guard and two-time Super Bowl winner Joe Thuney, who signed a huge five-year, $80m deal with the Chiefs after playing last season on the franchise tag, though a former Patriot offensive lineman - Trent Brown - was brought back in a trade with the Raiders.

Newton, meanwhile, returned on another team-friendly deal worth an initial $5m with incentives that could reach $13m, though that contract will not preclude the Patriots from making other moves at QB.

The talent on the roster has undoubtedly improved, giving the Pats some flexibility when they pick at number 15 in the draft.

A move to further strengthen at wide receiver would make sense, as would a cornerback to add to a group including Gilmore and J.C. Jackson, with the latter set to hit free agency in 2022.

But Belichick may have one more move up his sleeve at QB. With the top five options all in the mix to go in the top 10, he may have to move up the board, or perhaps a trade to bring Jimmy Garoppolo back appeals after the San Francisco 49ers jumped up the draft order themselves.

Life after Brady continues to be fascinating for the Pats.

While many NFL fans relished their 2020 downfall, followers of New England will settle for a solitary 7-9 season if that proves to be the worst of their struggles and a turnaround begins in 2021. 

The Crusaders suffered a surprise first defeat of the Super Rugby Aotearoa season as the Highlanders cruised to a 33-12 victory.

The defending champions did the double over the Highlanders in last season's competition, but the form book was turned on its head on Friday.

It was only a second win in five matches for the Highlanders, who defeated the league leaders through 18 points from the boot of Mitch Hunt.

Billy Harmon, Michael Collins, Connor Garden-Bachop crossed for the Highlanders, who are a point behind the second-placed Blues having played a game more.

Meanwhile, in Super Rugby AU, the Waratahs suffered their sixth straight defeat but came agonisingly close to a draw with the league-leading Brumbies in their first game since Rob Penney's sacking.

Interim coaches Jason Gilmore and Chris Whitaker saw plenty of fight from their winless side, who staged an admirable second-half fightback having trailed 24-10 at the break.

Will Harrison converted his own try to trim the gap to seven points with under a quarter of an hour to play.

The Brumbies saw Rory Scott sin-binned with six minutes left and, after Tom Cusack was sent off with the clock red, James Ramm went over following a scrum metres out from the line, offering Harrison the chance to clinch a share of the spoils.

But Harrison could not split the uprights with his conversion attempt as the Waratahs suffered a 24-22 loss and more misery in a dismal campaign.

Dave Roberts refused to blame either Cody Bellinger or Justin Turner for the bizarre mix-up that cost the Los Angeles Dodgers in their Opening Day defeat to the Colorado Rockies.

World Series champions the Dodgers outhit the Rockies 15-11, had eight runners on base via walk and 20 total bases, but they scored only five runs.

While an 8-5 defeat ultimately was not decided by one play, the first run of the game summed up a day on which manager Roberts said "all the way around, we didn't play well".

Bellinger hit a home run at the top of the third, with Turner already at first base.

But rather than a two-run homer, Bellinger ended up being given out and had to settle for a one-run RBI.

His hit slipped through the glove of left fielder Raimel Tapia before clearing the park and Turner thought the ball had been caught, meaning he hared back to first and passed the advancing Bellinger in the process.

"I don't think there's blame to be placed," Roberts said.

"I think Cody was coming out of the box hard, which he should have, and he's looking at where the ball was at, going hard.

"Justin was just past second base and when he saw the ball in Tapia's glove, he retreated and put his head down to try to get back to potentially be doubled up.

"And then at that point in time, they just kind of crossed between first and second."

The Dodgers finished with a 43-17 record last season and went 7-3 against the Rockies, with their results against the rest of the NL West a slightly more modest 20-10.

They will hope there are few further mishaps in 2021, although Roberts was also reluctant to criticise the umpire.

"From what I understand, he didn't give the out call, so he was just trying to see it," Roberts said. "And once he did see the ball go over, he gave the home run call.

"At that point in time, Justin had already retreated.

"It's just one of those funky plays that I don't think is going to happen again this year."

Three of first baseman Bellinger's 12 homers last season came against the Rockies and he will get the opportunity to atone for Thursday's error on Friday.

Carl Frampton will draw upon a deep well of experience when he faces WBO super-featherweight champion Jamel Herring on Saturday and bids to join an elite club.

Victory would make Frampton only the fourth British boxer in history, after Ricky Burns, Duke McKenzie and the great Bob Fitzsimmons, to become a three-weight world champion.

The Belfast hero would also be the first man from the island of Ireland to accomplish the feat, having experienced unforgettable highs, crushing lows and the bitter fallout of boxing politics en route to this defining outing at Caesar Palace, Dubai.

Nevertheless, a warm affection for the fundamentals of his craft remains.

"I'm 34. I started boxing when I was seven. Twenty-seven years I've been doing this game," he told Stats Perform News.

"The thing I love most about it is the fighting and the sparring. That hasn't changed.

"I'm relishing the fight, I'm relishing the chance to go down in history, I'm relishing the fact that I'm about to fight a big man.

"People will look at the size of me compared to him and completely write me off. I'm just up for this one. I really want to win it."

Those doubters will point to the fact Frampton's spell at the pinnacle of the sport – he was named The Ring magazine Fighter of the Year in 2016 – came half a decade ago.

A super-bantamweight unification victory over domestic rival Scott Quigg in February of that year was followed by a barnstorming triumph against Leo Santa Cruz in New York to lift the WBA featherweight crown.

Santa Cruz won a similarly absorbing rematch and an attempt to reign again at 126lbs came unstuck against Josh Warrington.

By the time of that 2018 points loss in Manchester, Frampton had endured an acrimonious split with manager Barry McGuigan and his son and trainer Shane McGuigan. A multi-million pound legal battle with Barry McGuigan was settled last November.

As that feud rumbled on, the fighter established his ongoing relationship with former British and European light-middleweight champion Jamie Moore and assistant trainer Nigel Travis.

"I want to win a world title with Jamie and Nige," he said. "I know they're fantastic coaches. I'm still annoyed with myself that I didn't win the fight against Josh Warrington.

"I hold my hands up, I got it completely wrong. It was more a case of me getting it wrong than me being 'done', which some people would like to think.

"Jamie's won a world title with Chantelle Cameron. I'd like to become his first male world champion and kind of repay them for everything they've done for me."

Frampton credits Moore with significantly developing his capabilities as a body puncher, something that could be key against rangy southpaw Herring, who has a five-inch height and seven-inch reach advantage.

"I think the improvements in body punching that Jamie Moore has made, it's kind of sensible," he said.

"Look at my size and stature, why was I not a better body puncher before I went to Jamie?

"I've fought big guys my whole career, I've sparred big guys. There's more than one way to skin a cat.

"People think I'm just going to have to jump on this guy because of the difference in stature from me to him, people think I'm just going to have to kill the space and get on his chest. I don't see it like that.

"I think that my footwork is one of my best attributes. If I can use my feet and control the distance well, I can win the fight a couple of different ways."

The showdown with Herring has been a long time coming, with a minor hand injury for Frampton in February causing a further delay after the champion endured coronavirus and a scratched cornea in 2020.

Nevertheless, as is often the case in boxing, another money-spinning clash looms on the horizon, with rising American star Shakur Stevenson mandated to face the winner.

"He's openly said he'll come to Belfast to fight me," Frampton said of Stevenson, raising the prospect of one more raucous blockbuster in his home city.

"He's an unreal fighter. Really, really good. Not the biggest puncher in the world – well, I thought that against Josh Warrington, didn't I?

"I would go into the fight, I'm sure, with Shakur Stevenson as a big underdog. But, again, that's another thing that excites me."

Brooklyn Nets superstar Kevin Durant has apologised after an argument with actor and comedian Michael Rapaport in which he used homophobic language was made public.

Rapaport posted screenshots of a private conversation on his Twitter account earlier this week.

"I receive threats and disgusting messages DAILY, but never in my wildest dreams did I think @KDTrey5 would be among them," he wrote.

"The [snake] himself is now threatening me, bringing up my wife and wants to fight. This is supposed to be America's sweetheart right?"

The dispute appeared to begin when Rapaport called Durant "super sensitive" following a post-game interview on TNT in December.

The pictures showed Durant respond with homophobic language and threats towards the True Romance and Deep Blue Sea star.

Rapaport also addressed the 2014 NBA MVP's comments on his podcast, saying: "That's not locker-room talk, we're not s***-talking.

"That's not how people talk, you're threatening me. You've done it three times."

An apologetic Durant said: "I'm sorry that people [have] seen the language that I used.

"That's not really what I want people to see and hear from me, but hopefully I can move past it and get back out on the floor."

Durant has been out of action with a hamstring injury since February 13, although the Nets have claimed first place in the East in his absence.

The 32-year-old forward missed the entirety of last season after rupturing his Achilles tendon in the 2018-19 NBA Finals while playing for the Golden State Warriors.

He returned to average 29.0 points across 19 outings this year, leading Brooklyn in scoring, before his latest setback gave new signing James Harden the reins.

Harden, also now missing with a hamstring issue, has put together an MVP run, aided by Kyrie Irving.

Of his season, Durant said: "I was playing solid before I got injured and feel like we were just starting to figure each other out, James, Kyrie and myself, and different line-ups out there on the floor.

"I felt like we were starting to gain our rhythm and, even though I was out a week before that with [COVID-19] protocols, I felt like our team was gaining more chemistry then and that's moreso what I care about.

"How I play, I'll figure that out over time whenever I get out there."

Reports suggest Durant is nearing a return, but the player added he had to be "smart and cautious with this type of injury".

"I've been through this situation before so I just try to take myself back to that place," Durant said.

World Series champions Los Angeles Dodgers were humbled on the Opening Day of the new Major League Baseball season 8-5 by the Colorado Rockies on Thursday.

The Dodgers had 14 stranded runners throughout the game while Cody Bellinger hit a ball into the stands which did not count as a home run on a strange afternoon.

With crowds returning to MLB, the Dodgers were unable to get off to a flying start.

"Honestly, we just didn’t play a good baseball game," Dodgers manager Dave Roberts said. "All the way around, we didn’t play well."

In the Houston Astros' first game back playing in front of crowds since their cheating scandal emerged they were jeered and boed in an 8-1 win on the road against the Oakland Athletics.

Back-to-back home runs from Michael Brantley and Alex Bregman in the eighth put the Astros out of sight and silenced the crowd.

 

Trout lifts Angels, Mariners mighty comeback

Mike Trout flexed his muscle as the Los Angeles Angels rallied to beat the Chicago White Sox 4-3. At the bottom of the eighth, a visibly pumped Trout's hit gave him an RBI and tied the game. Shohei Ohtani then got on the board after an error by second baseman Nick Madrigal.

The Seattle Mariners trailed 6-1 in the eighth inning against the San Francisco Giants before mounting a remarkable fightback and eventually prevail 8-7. The winning run came when Jake Fraley walked with the bases loaded.

The New York Yankees' bats let them down as they were beaten 3-2 by the Toronto Blue Jays.

The Tampa Day Rays shut out the Miami Marlins in a 1-0 win earned by Austin Meadows' solo home run in the ninth.

 

Bellinger denied by mix-up

Bellinger was denied his first homer of the new season in a moment of confusion, when team-mate Justin Turner, who was on first base, thought Bellinger had been caught in the outfield and ran back. Bellinger's hit was actually fumbled by Raimel Tapia over the fence so when Turner reversed and passed by the left-hander that made him out and resulted in only an RBI single.

 

First homer of season

Detroit Tigers hitter Miguel Cabrera claimed the maiden homer of the new season in driving snow, which left him confused, sliding into base just in case it had not cleared the fence.

 

Thursday's results

Toronto Blue Jays 3-2 New York Yankees
Detroit Tigers 3-2 Cleveland Indians
Milwaukee Brewers 6-5 Minnesota Twins
Pittsburgh Pirates 5-3 Chicago Cubs
Philadelphia Phillies 3-2 Atlanta Braves
Tampa Bay Rays 1-0 Miami Marlins
St Louis Cardinals 11-6 Cincinnati Reds
Colorado Rockies 8-5 Los Angeles Dodgers
San Diego Padres 8-7 Arizona Diamondbacks
Kansas City Royals 14-10 Texas Rangers
Los Angeles Angels 4-3 Chicago White Sox
Houston Astros 8-1 Oakland Athletics 
Seattle Mariners 8-7 San Fransisco Giants 

 

Dodgers to bounce back

The Dodgers will look to bounce back from their opening day loss on Friday on the road again versus the Colorado Rockies.

World number one Ashleigh Barty maintained her winning run in Miami with her best performance of the 2021 tournament to date dispatching of Elina Svitolina to book a spot in the final.

Barty defeated fifth seed Svitolina 6-3 6-3 in Thursday's semi-final, hitting 27 winners and breaking her Ukrainian opponent five times.

The Australian had been down a match point in her opening clash of this year's Miami Open against Kristina Kucova but the 2019 champion has responded to every challenge since.

However, Barty needed three sets to overcome both Victoria Azarenka and Aryna Sabalenka in earlier rounds before making more light work of Svitolina to make it 11 straight wins in Miami, given 2020's event was cancelled.

Barty will play 2019 US Open winner Bianca Andreescu in Saturday's final after she defeated Naomi Osaka's conqueror Maria Sakkari 7-6 (9-7) 3-6 7-6 (7-4) in Thursday's other semi-final.

"Yeah, I think it was," Barty said in her on-court interview when asked if it was her best match of the tournament.

"I think [with] Elina, you have to produce your best tennis. Happy with the way we were able to execute today."

Svitolina went into the match with a 5-1 head-to-head advantage over Barty, while the Australian had not played on foreign soil prior to the event since February 2020, opting to step away from the tour during the COVID-19 pandemic.

"With the head-to-head we had, I almost see myself as the underdog, I really do," Barty said.

"It gives me the chance to go out there and play with freedom. To play not careless but carefree tennis."

Barty has reinforced her world number one ranking from Osaka, who lost to Sakkari in the quarters, by progressing this far although adding a second Miami Open title will be top priority.

The 24-year-old 2019 French Open champion had a medical timeout between sets to tend to a preexisting abdominal issue but said she would be fine for the decider on Saturday.

"Yeah, I was a little bit sore," she said. "I got some assistance with some tape on it. But knowing we’ve got a day to recover tomorrow, I promise you I’ll be right as rain and then we’ll be good to go."

Eighth seed Andreescu booked her place in the decider with a strong three-set victory over 23rd seed Sakkari in a match which finished in the early hours of Friday morning.

The Canadian won in two hours and 42 minutes in a match full of momentum shifts, as Andreescu won her fourth three-setter in five matches in Miami this week.

World number one Ashleigh Barty maintained her winning run in Miami with her best performance of the 2021 tournament to date dispatching of Elina Svitolina to book a spot in the final.

Barty defeated fifth seed Svitolina 6-3 6-3 in Thursday's semi-final, hitting 27 winners and breaking her Ukrainian opponent five times.

The Australian had been down a match point in her opening clash of this year's Miami Open against Kristina Kucova but the 2019 champion has responded to every challenge since.

However, Barty needed three sets to overcome both Victoria Azarenka and Aryna Sabalenka in earlier rounds before making more light work of Svitolina to make it 11 straight wins in Miami, given 2020's event was cancelled.

Barty will play 2019 U.S. Open winner Bianca Andreescu in Saturday's final after she defeated Naomi Osaka's conqueror Maria Sakkari 7-6 (9-7) 3-6 7-6 (7-4) in Thursday's other semi-final.

"Yeah, I think it was," Barty said in her on-court interview when asked if it was her best match of the tournament.

"I think [with] Elina, you have to produce your best tennis. Happy with the way we were able to execute today."

Svitolina went into the match with a 5-1 head-to-head advantage over Barty, while the Australian had not played on foreign soil prior to the event since February 2020, opting to step away from the tour during the COVID-19 pandemic.

"With the head-to-head we had, I almost see myself as the underdog, I really do," Barty said.

"It gives me the chance to go out there and play with freedom. To play not careless but carefree tennis."

Barty has reinforced her world number one ranking from Osaka, who lost to Sakkari in the quarters, by progressing this far although adding a second Miami Open title will be top priority.

The 24-year-old 2019 French Open champion had a medical timeout between sets to tend to a preexisting abdominal issue but said she would be fine for the decider on Saturday.

"Yeah, I was a little bit sore," she said. "I got some assistance with some tape on it. But knowing we’ve got a day to recover tomorrow, I promise you I’ll be right as rain and then we’ll be good to go."

Eighth seed Andreescu booked her place in the decider with a strong three-set victory over 23rd seed Sakkari in a match which finished in the early hours of Friday morning.

The Canadian won in two hours and 42 minutes in a match full of momentum shifts, as Andreescu won her fourth three-setter in five matches in Miami this week.

The Brooklyn Nets have made it 20 wins from their past 23 matches with a 111-89 victory over the Charlotte Hornets without injured star pair Kevin Durant and James Harden on Thursday.

LaMarcus Aldridge impressed in his Nets debut, as Brooklyn blew away the Hornets, who were without the injured LaMelo Ball, in the first quarter with a 32-11 start.

Kyrie Irving had 15 points, 11 rebounds and eight assists but it was Jeff Green who top scored with 21 points including five three-pointers.

The Nets may have been missing James Harden due to hamstring tightness but improved to a 34-15 record to sit top of the Eastern Conference.

The Philadephia 76ers are still right behind them, having overcome the Cleveland Cavaliers 114-94 on Thursday.

The 76ers were also without their star man Joel Embiid, who has now missed 10 games, but they shot 40 per cent from three-point range.

Shake Mitton was the leading exponent with five threes in his match-high 27 points as the 76ers tied with the Nets for most road wins in the East with 14.

 

Curry on fire, another Westbrook triple-double

Stephen Curry scored 36 points and had 11 rebounds in his second game back but it was not enough as the Golden State Warriors lost 116-109 to the Miami Heat.

The Heat, who had Victor Oladipo debut with six points and five assists, end their four-game home losing streak.

The Los Angeles Clippers suffered their second straight defeat, going down to the Denver Nuggets 101-94 with guard Jamal Murray impressing again with 23 points and eight rebounds.

Center Nikola Jokic scored 14 points along with seven rebounds and seven assists for Denver as the Clippers were always playing catch-up after a 20-31 opening quarter.

Kawhi Leonard was a lone hand with 24 points, 12 rebounds and four assists as the Clippers slipped to a 32-18.

The Orlando Magic got past the New Orleans Pelicans 115-110 in over-time, along with the Atlanta Hawks 134-129 against the San Antonio Spurs in OT.

Russell Westbrook got another triple-double as the Washington Wizards lost 120-91 to the Detroit Pistons.

 

Wayward Clippers

It was not a good night for the Clippers, losing back-to-back games and shooting less than 30 per cent from three-point range, including two-from-seven from guard Paul George, while Reggie Jackson went at 20 per cent from beyond the arc.

 

Aldridge's delightful debut

After missing the last two games with a sore foot since his recruitment from the San Antonio Spurs, veteran LaMarcus Aldridge did a bit of everything on his Brooklyn debut with 11 points, nine rebounds, two steals and six assists.

 

Thursday's results:

Philadelphia 76ers 114-94 Cleveland Cavaliers
Detroit Pistons 120-91 Washington Wizards
Brooklyn Nets 111-89 Charlotte Hornets
Orlando Magic 115-110 New Orleans Pelicans
Miami Heat 116-109 Golden State Warriors
Atlanta Hawks 134-129 San Antonio Spurs
Denver Nuggets 101-94 Los Angeles Clippers

 

Bucks in Portland

Damian Lillard's Portland Trail Blazers (29-18) play host to the Giannis Antetokounmpo's Milwaukee Bucks (30-17) in the highlight Friday fixture.

Second seed Stefanos Tsitsipas has blown a strong position to be knocked out of the Miami Open by world number 37 Hubert Hurkacz in three sets on Thursday night.

The Polish 26th seed lost the first set and trailed 0-2 in the second with Tsitsipas having two break points, before fighting back for an outstanding 2-6 6-3 6-4 triumph.

The victory seals Hurkacz's place in his first-ever Masters 1000 semi-final where he will face Russian fourth seed Andrey Rublev.

On Thursday night, Rublev won 7-5 7-6 (9-7) over Sebastian Korda, ending the young American's exceptional run in Miami.

Tsitsipas's demise was the major story on Thursday, having only dropped one set in his previous three matches in Miami.

The Greek world number five was in form, having made February's Australian Open semi-finals and last week's Mexican Open final.

Tsitsipas was in control until Hurkacz dialed up his aggression in the second, producing a brilliant flick after the Greek's volley to take advantage at 2-2.

Hurkacz got the crucial break at 2-2 in the third when the Greek coughed up a mistake by missing a routine smash.

The 24-year-old Pole also sent down 15 aces in a breakthrough win.

"It is so big," Hurkacz said in his on-court interview about reaching his maiden Masters 1000 semi-final.

"I was trying to keep fighting and that’s what I did. [I am] super pumped and happy that I was able to turn this match around.

"He was returning very well and I had to play a lot of rallies. At the beginning of the match, I tried to go for too much, so then I was trying to adapt my game a little bit."

Rublev claimed his 20th ATP Tour win for the calendar year, the most of any player ahead of Daniil Medvedev and Tsitsipas with 17, to book his semi-final spot against Hurkacz.

The defeat ended 20-year-old Florida resident Korda's superb run, where he claimed his first top 20 win against Fabio Fognini and first top 10 victory against Diego Schwartzman.

Colombian Camilo Villegas got the jump on the field on the opening day of the Texas Open after shooting an eight-under 64 with Jordan Spieth among those not far behind.

After starting on the back nine with a bogey, Villegas hit six birdies in seven holes, including sinking a 20-foot putt on his 13th to claim a solid lead at TPC San Antonio's Oaks Course on Thursday.

Villegas is two shots ahead of South Korean Sung Kang and American Cameron Tringale who both had a 66.

Three-time Major winner Spieth is equal third on 65, alongside Noh Seung-Yul and Hideki Matsuyama.

"Sometimes it goes your way, and sometimes it doesn't," Villegas said. "The last few years I've been up and down with many things. We keep showing up and the results start showing up."

Three-time Masters champion Phil Mickelson had a nightmare when he had a 10 on the par-five 18th to finish the day 15 shots back to end up 79.

Mickelson took two penalty shots and another three strokes trying to navigate a greenside stream and nearby rocks on the last and faces a battle to make the cut.

Kang started slow but hit an eagle on his 11th hole, jarring a 30-foot putt after two fantastic set-up shots on the par-five. He birdied three of his final four holes.

"I struggled a little bit with a new driver from the start, but I found a way to hit it on the back nine so started driving a lot better," Kang said.

Tringale made seven birdies including four on the back nine to finish with his six-under 66 to be firmly in contention.

Spieth had seven birdies and two bogeys in his round, including a bright start where he birdied three of his first five.

The Texan, who is now ranked 67th, is looking for his first win since the 2017 Open Championship.

"Overall with the score, I certainly would have signed up for five-under starting out," Spieth said.

"Five-under around this track is a good score. I'd take four more of them."

Matsuyama rolled in a 25-foot birdie putt on the eighth as he put together a strong round along with Noh, who is yet to make a cut this season.

The team from the Mile High City is rising again.

The Denver Nuggets are starting to resemble the team that put forth a thrilling and historic run to last season's Western Conference finals, the first in NBA history to win two series in a postseason when faced with a 3-1 deficit. They are 12-3 since February 27, tied with the Phoenix Suns for the league's best record over that period, and are the only team with three players (Nikola Jokic, Jamal Murray, Michael Porter Jr.) averaging better than 20 points per game during that time frame.

So, what has changed? How have the Nuggets elevated themselves back to a legitimate contender after spending the season's first two months mostly languishing in mediocrity?

It is no secret that offense is Denver's calling card, consistently ranking among the league's most efficient teams on that end even when hovering around .500 for nearly all of January and February. Defense is the true key to the Nuggets' success, however, and will ultimately be the determining factor to whether Mike Malone's crew wind up as serious title contenders or early playoff flameouts. 

Simply put, the Nuggets are awfully hard to stop when they are able to stop opponents at a passable level. Denver is 24-1 this season when holding foes to a field goal percentage of 47.5 per cent or below, with only the NBA-leading Jazz (32-1) owning a superior winning percentage when keeping teams under that number. The Nuggets are 19-1 when limiting opponents to 106 points or fewer, just slightly behind Utah's 20-1 mark for the best in the league when doing so. 

HIGHEST WIN PERCENTAGE WHEN OPPONENT FG PCT. UNDER .475:

Jazz 32-1 .970  
Nuggets 24-1 .960 
Bucks 25-4 .862 
76ers 26-7 .788
Nets 22-6 .786
Suns 22-6 .786 

The Nuggets were able to squeak by the Clippers in large part due to Jerami Grant's incessant hounding of Kawhi Leonard, who shot a combined 37 per cent in LA's four losses and finished with a 6-for-22 dud in the deciding Game 7. But Grant's free-agent departure to Detroit and the since-traded Gary Harris' inability to stay healthy has frequently left Denver without its top two defenders from last season, and a void Malone has often had difficulty trying to fill.

Need more proof? Well, just harken back to last year's playoff bubble. The Nuggets put on a defensive clinic at times in their conference semi-final series with the Clippers, holding them to 42 per cent shooting or below in all four victories. The Jazz shot a combined 51.6 per cent from the field while taking a 3-1 lead on Denver in that opening-round classic. In the final three games, they shot 44.4 per cent as the Nuggets stormed back to take the series.

Denver had no answer for the Lakers' interior game and abundance of size in the West finals, in which the eventual champions shot nearly 59 per cent from inside the 3-point line to win in five games. 

Until now. 

Aaron Gordon was not the biggest name to change uniforms at the trade deadline, but the former Orlando Magic forward could very well wind up being the most impactful of all the moves. What the Nuggets needed most of all was another Grant, someone with the size and athleticism to capably guard multiple positions, effectively get to the rim and offer at least a mild threat of perimeter scoring.

Gordon is not as good from the outside as Grant, but he is shooting a career-best 37.1 per cent from 3-point range and at just 25, there is still room to expand his game further. He is a superior rebounder and finisher, however, having shot a strong 65.1 percent at the rim for his career. And now playing alongside the premier passing big man of this generation in Jokic, there's reason to suggest that number can go up as well.

The Nuggets did not acquire Gordon for his offense, however. The Magic allowed 2.3 fewer points per 100 possessions this season with him on the court as opposed to him off it, and with a first-round matchup with either the Lakers or Clippers a real possibility, it was crucial that Denver added a player with the requisite size and skill to go head-to-head with Leonard or LeBron James.

It is an incredibly small sample size, but the returns have so far been smashingly successful. The Nuggets have opened the Gordon era with blowout wins over the Hawks and the admittedly depleted 76ers, and they are a plus-36 with their new acquisition on the floor over those two games.

With the defense seemingly upgraded and Porter's emergence as a legitimate third scoring option alongside the incomparable Jokic and the dynamic Murray, the Nuggets appear better equipped for an NBA Finals run after coming three wins short of getting there last season. 

Now, Gordon isn't the solution for all of Denver's issues. For all the great things Jokic does, rim protection will never be one of them. The Nuggets have allowed opponents to shoot 62.6 per cent at the rim, with only New Orleans having yielded a higher rate, and they were routinely manhandled inside by the Lakers' big lineups in the West finals. 

That looms as a potential problem again down the road, assuming the Lakers will have a healthy Anthony Davis for the playoffs, but one the Nuggets may have alleviated somewhat with the possibly under-the-radar deadline pickup of JaVale McGee. The veteran center provides the size and presence as an interior deterrent that Denver sorely lacked, though that benefit could come with a cost if it leads to Jokic playing less, or if he's alternatively moved to power forward, where his defensive limitations could be further exploited.

There are certainly worse problems to have, however, and there is little question the Nuggets got better at the deadline while many of their other chief competitors largely stood pat.

Buckle up, folks. The West's road to the NBA Finals just got a little more rocky.  

James Harden will not play for the Brooklyn Nets on Thursday, but the Eastern Conference leaders could see LaMarcus Aldridge make his debut against the Charlotte Hornets.

Harden exited Brooklyn's 120-108 win over his former team the Houston Rockets on Wednesday due to tightness in his right hamstring.

The nine-time All-Star had contributed 17 points, eight rebounds and six assists before his departure with just under five minutes remaining in the third quarter.

"I think he told the trainer when he was on the sideline, and they went back to look at it, and they just decided that it wasn't worth risking it," Nets head coach Steve Nash said after the game.

Harden, as well as Blake Griffin, have now been ruled out for the game with the Hornets.

However, having signed for the franchise on Sunday, Aldridge is available along with Landry Shamet, who has missed the previous five games due to a sprained ankle.

Aldridge has not played since March 1 when he was still with San Antonio. He agreed a contract buyout with the Spurs having averaged 13.7 points in 21 games, making him a free agent.

The 35-year-old joined Brooklyn on a deal for the remainder of the season, adding further depth to a star-studded roster.

Following their triumph over the Rockets, the Nets own a 33-15 record to sit atop the East. They have won eight of their previous 10 outings, despite the continued absence of Kevin Durant due to a hamstring injury that has kept him out since February 13.

Amir Khan has reiterated he is ready to take on domestic rival Kell Brook and is hopeful the fight can take place at Manchester United's Old Trafford home.

Despite years of talk, a bout between the British former world champions has yet to materialise.

The prospect of the pair facing off appeared to be over, with Khan absent from the ring since beating Billy Dib in July 2019.

However, the 34-year-old is motivated to make a return in 2021 and has set his sights on Brook, whose most recent fight was a stoppage loss to Terence Crawford five months ago.

Should the British showdown get the green light, Khan would love it to be hosted at the iconic Old Trafford, rather than in the Far East or the United States like his last two fights.

"I was on the phone to Eddie [Hearn]. I said, 'Let's get the fight made'. We're not getting a clear response from Kell's team, that they want to take the fight," he told Sky Sports.

"It has been a fight that we've been talking about and it obviously didn't happen because I was campaigning in America, fighting over there.

"When I came back to the UK, I had mandatories. I had to defend my titles.

"But I think now is the right time to make that fight happen with Kell. We have both been world champions. We're both British and in the north as well. 

"Imagine making a huge fight like that happen at the Old Trafford football stadium. It would be a massive fight."

Khan has won 34 of his 39 professional fights, 21 of those by knockout, while Brook has 39 wins and 27 knockouts from 42 bouts.

Bolton-born Khan is confident he can still challenge for titles, but first he wants the chance to finally settle an old score with Brook.

"Look, I'm still up there in the top 10 in the world," he said. "Getting a world title fight I don't think will be a problem.

"But what would be even bigger than a world title, because I've won a world title before, would be a British rivalry fight between myself and Kell Brook.

"That's something that would be big in Britain. I don't know how big it would be in America, but I know for a fact that us both being British, it would be a massive showcase here."

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