Lakers look to close out Minnesota
LOS ANGELES, May 1 (UPI) -- The Los Angeles Lakers hope to seal the doom of Minnesota Thursday night in the NBA playoffs, as the Timberwolves try to avoid another first-round exit.
The San Antonio Spurs, who could be on a collision course with the Lakers, also can earn a trip to the Western Conference semifinals with a win over Phoenix.
Wednesday night, the Sacramento Kings became the first team to advance to the West semifinals, and will play the winner of the series between Dallas and Portland.
No team in the Eastern Conference has yet to advance, although the New Jersey Nets and Boston Celtics, who met in the conference finals last season, could clinch their first-round series on Thursday.
The Lakers were believed to be on the ropes after falling behind the Timberwolves, 2-1, but showed their championship mettle, rallying from a double-digit deficit to win Game Four, and rolling to a 120-90 rout of the T'Wolves at Minneapolis in Game Five on Tuesday.
Now the three-time defending champions can clinch the series at home in Game Six Thursday night.
Kevin Garnett collected 25 points and 16 rebounds, but received little support from the struggling Wally Szczerbiak, who had just nine points for the Timberwolves, who have never advanced beyond the first round despite making the playoffs each of the last six years.
The Spurs lost three of four games to the Suns during the regular season, and will be forced to a decisive Game Seven if they do not win on the road Thursday.
The teams split the first four games of the playoff series, with each going 1-1 at home before the Spurs posted a 94-82 win at the SBC Center on Tuesday.
San Antonio lost starting shooting guard Stephen Jackson to a twisted left ankle late in the second quarter. He is expected to play Thursday.
Shawn Marion scored 22 points and Penny Hardaway 16 for the Suns, who never led, and shot less than 37 percent. Stephon Marbury, who was suffering from numbness in his right hand, had only 13 on 5-of-18 shooting.
The Spurs reached the conference semifinals last season before falling to the Lakers in five games.
The Nets look to close out their best-of-seven first-round series against the Bucks when they return to the Bradley Center in Milwaukee for Game Six on Thursday,
On Tuesday, the Nets took a 3-2 lead in the series with an 89-82 home-court win. They made just 8-of-18 attempts from the free-throw line in the fourth quarter in a 119-114 overtime setback in Game Four at Milwaukee Saturday, but made 11-of-12 from the stripe in the final three minutes in Game Five.
Jason Kidd scored 19 points to pace the Nets, who shot just 34 percent, but limited the Bucks to 34 percent. Richard Jefferson, who reportedly has been added to the U.S. Olympic team, collected 17 points and 16 rebounds, and Kerry Kittles added 15 points for the Nets, who tied a playoff franchise record with 54 rebounds and scored 26 second-chance points.
Toni Kukoc scored 18 points, and former Net Sam Cassell and Gary Payton 16 apiece for the Bucks, who grabbed just 40 rebounds and handed out just 12 assists.
"They (the Nets) need one to close it out, but in all my years of playing, the hardest thing to do is close out a series," Cassell said.
New Jersey is trying to reach the conference semifinals for the second straight year. Last year, the Nets made it to the NBA Finals before getting swept by the Lakers.
The Indiana Pacers hope to force a decisive seventh game against the Celtics when they match up at the FleetCenter.
The third-seeded Pacers surprisingly fell behind by 3-1 in the best-of-seven series before fending off elimination Tuesday with a 93-88 win at home on Tuesday.
With a chance to become the first team to advance to the conference semifinals, the Celtics became the first team in NBA playoff history to go scoreless in overtime.
Boston led by as many as nine points in the fourth quarter, and held an 86-81 lead with 4:27 left before scoring just two points thereafter.
Ron Artest tied his career playoff high with 26 points and grabbed 10 rebounds, while Jermaine O'Neal had 19 and 22 to pace Indiana. Artest also held Celtics star Paul Pierce, who had 37 points in Game Four, to 16 points.
The Celtics won both Game Three and Four at Boston, and swept its two home games against Indiana in the regular season.
Surgeries for Antonio Davis
TORONTO, May 1 (UPI) -- Veteran forward Antonio Davis of the Toronto Raptors has undergone arthroscopic surgery on his right knee and ankle.
Davis, who missed 29 games this past season, underwent the procedure at a hospital in Indianapolis. He had loose cartilage removed from the knee, and bone spurs from the ankle by orthopedic surgeon Dr. Sanford Kunkel.
He is scheduled to begin rehabilitation following a brief recovery period.
Davis, 34, appeared in 53 games during the season after averaging 78 games the previous three campaigns. He averaged 13.9 points and 8.2 rebounds per game this season for the Raptors, who lost more manpower games because of injuries (519) in NBA history.
Flyers look to pull even with Ottawa
PHILADELPHIA, May 1 (UPI) -- The Philadelphia Flyers face what essentially is a must-win situation Thursday night as they host Ottawa in Game Four of the Eastern Conference semifinals.
The Flyers are looking at a two games to one deficit after defenseman Wade Redden scored 6:43 into overtime Tuesday to give the Senators a 3-2 victory. Philadelphia never has won in 11 all-time series when falling behind three games to one.
Philadelphia blew a pair of leads in Tuesday's contest, and has been held to less than three goals in four of its last five games.
"It's frustrating," said Flyers left wing John LeClair, who scored his second goal of the playoffs 4:35 into Tuesday's game. "To play against that team, you have to play with the lead. We've gone out and done that, but we have to do a better job of not sitting on it. We need to keep playing hockey and being more aggressive with the lead."
Ottawa had been 0-22 all time in the playoffs when trailing after two periods, but capitalized on a power play as Marian Hossa scored his fifth goal of the playoffs 22 seconds into the third. The Senators also converted their only other man advantage in Game Four, when Daniel Alfredsson beat Roman Cechmanek from the left faceoff circle 66 seconds into the second period to make it 1-1.
The Senators were 1-for-11 on the power play in the first two games, but they have held the Flyers without a goal in nine chances with the man advantage.
"That's something we missed in Game Two that we could have capitalized on," Alfredsson said of the Senators' power play, which was second overall during the regular season. "Tuesday (night), it was the difference."
Game Five is Saturday at Ottawa.
Craig Adams gets new deal with Hurricanes
RALEIGH, N.C., May 1 (UPI) -- The Carolina Hurricanes Thursday rewarded Craig Adams for his best NHL season by re-signing the right wing to a one-year contract.
Financial terms of the deal were not disclosed.
Adams scored had six goals and 12 assists in 81 games last season, his third in the NHL. In 158 career NHL games, he has seven goals, 13 assists, and 129 penalty minutes.
"Craig solidified his status in our lineup this past season," said Carolina President and General Manager Jim Rutherford in a release. "Craig is a hard-working player who brings energy to our lineup and is an important part of our team."
Adams, 26, was drafted by the Hurricanes in the ninth round of the 1998 draft after starring at Harvard.
Empire Maker favored for Kentucky Derby
LOUISVILLE, Ky., May 1 (UPI) -- Despite a recent injury, Empire Maker Thursday was installed as the 6-5 morning-line favorite in a field of 17 for Saturday's Kentucky Derby.
It will be the first leg of horse racing's annual Triple Crown.
Frankel caused a stir Tuesday morning when he admitted that Empire Maker, who drew the 12th post Wednesday, has a slightly bruised right front foot suffered three weeks ago in his victory in the Wood Memorial.
"He's fine," Frankel said tersely at Wednesday's post position draw.
Oddsmaker Mike Battaglia put Empire Maker in position to be the heaviest Kentucky Derby favorite since Arazi finished eighth as the 4-5 choice in 1992.
Frankel's second entry on Saturday, Peace Rules, was the third choice at 8-1, and has the fifth post position.
Ten Most Wanted, who won the $500,000 Illinois Derby last month at Hawthorne with Hall of Famer rider Pat Day aboard, was installed as the second choice at 6-1 and will break from the 16th post.
"Ten Most Wanted impressed me in the Illinois Derby," Battaglia said. "That's why he is to the second choice."
The Grade II Illinois Derby was won last year by War Emblem, whose strong performance led to his private purchase by The Thoroughbred Corporation, and wins in the Kentucky Derby and Preakness.
Under a slight change in the selection format, the field was announced hours before the draw for post positions, when owners and trainers select a starting gate for their horses. Frankel had the seventh and eighth selections in the draw, and kept his horses, who have different owners, seven gates apart.
"Empire Maker is a stalker," said Frankel. "He does better if he is off the lead."
Empire Maker solidified his status as the Kentucky Derby favorite three weeks ago with a win at the Wood Memorial at Aqueduct. It was three years ago that Fusaichi Pegasus romped to victory in the Wood Memorial before heading to Louisville later and becoming the only favorite in the last 23 years to win the Kentucky Derby.
Empire Maker will try to become the latest horse to break the favorite's jinx and provide Frankel with an elusive Triple Crown victory.
Frankel has won the last three Eclipse Awards as top trainer, and has saddled horses that have won more than $135 million in purses. However, the one thing missing is a Triple Crown victory. He has failed to win in eight tries, including an 0-for-4 mark in the Kentucky Derby.
Lugo arrested for alleged wife beating
HOUSTON, May 1 (UPI) -- Houston Astros shortstop Julio Lugo was arrested after Wednesday night's game against the Atlanta Braves.
Police say he was charged with assaulting his wife in the parking lot of Houston's Minute Maid Park.
Houston General Manager Gerry Hunsicker will address the media Thursday afternoon at a news conference.
The alleged incident occurred before Wednesday's game.
According to the police report, Lugo is accused by his wife of striking her in the car on the way to the ballpark and slamming her head into the vehicle in the parking lot.
Mabely Lugo, Lugo's wife, was taken to St. Joseph's Hospital, where she was treated and released.
Lugo played in Wednesday's game, and went 0-for-2 with a walk before being replaced in the eighth inning. He was charged with a misdemeanor charge of family violence-contact.
The 1994 Houston draftee made his major league debut with the team in 2000.
Prior to the news conference, the team issued a statement.
"The Astros organization is acutely aware of the issues surrounding domestic violence, and we completely support the steps necessary to deal with it," the statement said. "We disapprove of any violence. It is unacceptable. We are a family game with family values. The Astros family represents honesty, integrity, and family values. We have no tolerance or acceptance for anything outside those values."
The Astros wives and the team have supported the Houston Area Women's Center, an organization that works with victims of domestic violence and sexual assault. This is the 14th year the Astros' wives have organized their annual fundraiser, netting more than $1 million over the 14 years. The Astros' wives have been leaders in the community in their efforts to raise awareness of domestic violence issues.
Twins place Fetters on DL
MINNEAPOLIS, May 1 (UPI) -- Minnesota Twins reliever Mike Fetters had been placed back on the 15-day disabled list after re-aggravating a left hamstring injury.
The move is retroactive to Sunday, one day after he allowed one hit in a scoreless inning against the Chicago White Sox.
The righthander originally went on the DL on April 6 with a strained left hamstring, and made four appearances since returning on April 20. He re-injured it warming up Wednesday, when the Twins posted an 8-5 win over the Tampa Bay Devil Rays.
Overall, Fetters has not allowed a run in five outings this season, yielding just two hits in six innings.
To take his roster spot, the Twins recalled righthander Juan Rincon from Triple-A Rochester of the International League.
Rincon has posted a 2.00 ERA without getting a decision in four appearances for the Twins this season, allowing two runs and four hits in nine innings.
Esherick gets new deal from Georgetown
WASHINGTON, May 1 (UPI) -- Georgetown University has signed men's basketball coach Craig Esherick to a four-year contract extension through the 2008-09 season.
Financial terms were not disclosed.
Esherick played for and coached under John Thompson before becoming coach in January 1999.
"This extension clearly indicates the university's continuing commitment to Coach Esherick and his leadership of the program," said Athletic Director Joseph Lang. "Craig has averaged over 20 wins per season in his four full seasons as head coach, leading us to the Sweet 16 (of the NCAA Tournament) and the NIT final. We're very happy with what Craig is doing with our program. We want to make sure everyone understands our commitment to him."
Georgetown finished 19-15 last season. The Hoyas failed to make the NCAA Tournament, but reached the final of the National Invitation Tournament, losing the contest to Big East Conference rival St. John's.
Esherick has a 90-59 record at Georgetown, including a 25-8 mark in 2000-01, when the Hoyas advanced to the Sweet 16.
"I'm happy that this extension demonstrates that the university recognizes and appreciates my commitment," Esherick said. "There is no place I would rather coach than my alma mater."
Esherick played for Thompson from 1974-78, worked as a graduate assistant from 1979-81, and served as a full-time assistant under Thompson from 1982-99. He was promoted to head coach when Thompson stepped down on Jan. 8, 1999.
"I was never really concerned that we weren't going to be able to do it," Esherick, who acknowledged the important implications on recruiting, told the Washington Post. "But I went into (coaching) with my eyes wide open. I'm fortunate to have been in coaching for (24 years, including his service as an assistant to Thompson at the high school level and Georgetown) in the same city."
Thompson led Georgetown to three national championship games and one title in the Patrick Ewing era.
Hawkins named at Western Michigan
KALAMAZOO, Mich., May 1 (UPI) -- Officials at Western Michigan Thursday announced the hiring of Steve Hawkins as the school's new men's basketball coach.
Hawkins, who becomes the 13th coach in WMU history, replaces Robert McCullum, who took a similar job at South Florida. Hawkins had been an assistant under McCullum for the past three years.
"Coach Hawkins has played a big part in the program's success and we are thrilled to have him leading the team during this exciting time in the program's history," said Athletic Director Kathy Beauregard. "We believe he will continue our current momentum, and we look forward to reaching new heights with his leadership."
Hawkins was thrilled about the promotion.
"From a professional standpoint, I am ecstatic with the opportunity to be able to continue with the progress the program has made as well as taking on the challenges of moving to the next level," Hawkins said. "From a personal standpoint, (his wife) Lana and I are equally excited by the opportunity to remain in Kalamazoo."
Hawkins, 40, is an 18-year veteran of the coaching ranks. He broke into coaching in 1985 as a student assistant at South Alabama, and later served nine seasons as head coach at Quincy University in Illinois.
The native of Ventura, Calif., guided the Hawks to an overall record of 137-111, a total that included three NCAA Division II Tournament selections in seven years.
He was named the Illinois Basketball Coaches Association NCAA Division II Coach of the Year four times.
Painter named at Southern Illinois
CARBONDALE, Ill., May 1 (UPI) -- One day after losing Bruce Weber to Illinois, Southern Illinois Thursday promoted Matt Painter to men's basketball coach.
Terms were not disclosed.
Painter, 32, becomes the second-youngest coach in school history. Harry Gallatin was 31 when he was hired as Salukis' coach in 1958.
Painter has a tough act to follow. Weber was 103-54 in five years at Southern Illinois, taking the Salukis to the regional finals of the NCAA Tournament in 2002. They lost, 72-71, to Missouri in the first round of the tournament this year after a foul call in the final seconds.
Southern Illinois was 24-7, and won the regular-season Missouri Valley Conference championship in 2002-03.
Indiana gets Williams from San Antonio
INDIANAPOLIS, May 1 (UPI) -- The Indiana Fever acquired three-time WNBA All-Star forward Natalie Williams Thursday in a four-player trade with the San Antonio Silver Stars.
The Fever also acquired rookie guard Coretta Brown, and sent forward Sylvia Crawley and rookie forward Gwen Jackson to San Antonio in a deal completed one day before the start of training camp.
The 6-2 Williams, who was on the medal-winning American teams at the 1998 World Championships and 2000 Olympics, averaged 11.3 points and 8.2 rebounds per contest in 31 games last season with the Utah Starzz, who relocated to San Antonio.
She played three seasons in the now-defunct ABL, and was selected by Utah with the third overall pick in the 1999 WNBA draft. She ranks sixth on the WNBA all-time list with 1,156 rebounds, and seventh with a 15.4 scoring average. Her father is former Nate Williams, who played eight seasons in the NBA.
"We're ecstatic to have Natalie Williams join our team because she's one of the best post players in the game today," said Indiana Chief Operating Officer Kelly Krauskopf. "She's going to help our team and help our franchise grow as a contender in the Eastern Conference. She comes with great credentials. Her career speaks for itself."
The 6-5 Crawley started 93 of 95 games over the last three seasons for the Portland Fire before being selected by Indiana with the seventh pick in the 2003 dispersal draft. The former North Carolina star averaged 8.7 points and 4.2 rebounds in 32 games with Portland last season.
The 6-2 Jackson was selected by Indiana with the sixth pick in the 2003 draft after averaging 11 points and 5.7 rebounds in four seasons at Tennessee. She scored 15 points in a 73-68 loss to Connecticut in the national championship game.
The 5-9 Brown was selected by San Antonio with the 11th pick. She averaged 14.5 points per game for the Lady Tar Heels, and was named First Team All-ACC. She holds the UNC record with 38 percent on three-pointers for a career.