LOS ANGELES, May 15 (UPI) -- The Los Angeles Lakers host San Antonio in the NBA playoffs Thursday night in Game Six of the Western Conference semifinals.
The three-time defending NBA champion are facing elimination for the first time since June 2, 2002. The last time they faced such a major obstacles, Shaquille O'Neal collected 35 points, 13 rebounds, and four blocks in 50 minutes, and Kobe Bryant added 30, 10, and seven assists in a 112-106 overtime victory in Sacramento in Game Seven of last year's Western Conference Finals.
While O'Neal and Bryant are as important as any two players to a team, the Lakers got key contributions from veterans Rick Fox and Robert Horry in that series and during their run.
This year, O'Neal and Bryant still are among the top five players in the NBA, but their supporting cast has been lacking.
Fox is out for the remainder of the postseason after undergoing surgery to repair a torn tendon in his left foot in Game Four of the first round against Minnesota.
Horry, who also won rings with the Houston Rockets in 1994 and '95, hit numerous big shots during the Lakers' three-year run, but on Tuesday, his potential winning three-pointer rattled in and out just before the buzzer, killing a remarkable rally from a 25-point deficit, and dealing the Lakers a 96-94 loss in Game Five. Horry has made just 2-of-35 three-pointers in this year's playoffs.
The Spurs, who swept all four games from Los Angeles in the regular season for the first time ever, are trying to reach the conference finals for the third time in five years. They got there in 1999 on the way to their only NBA title, and again in 2001, when they were swept by the Lakers.
While Sacramento is seeking a second straight trip to the conference finals, Dallas is trying to get there for the second time in franchise history.
The Mavericks, whose only other appearance in the conference finals came in 1988, when star forward Dirk Nowitzki was nine-years-old, grabbed a 3-2 lead in the series with a 112-93 victory Tuesday.
Nowitzki had 16 points, 15 rebounds, and nine assists, and Raja Bell scored seven of his 13 points in the third quarter, when the Mavericks limited the Kings to a franchise playoff-record 10 points on just 3-of-25 shooting.
Sacramento, which is without All-Star forward Chris Webber after he suffered a torn left lateral meniscus in Game Two, will need better production from its frontcourt Thursday.
Hedo Turkoglu started for Webber and was just 1-of-5 in 27 minutes, and centers Vlade Divac and Keon Clark each had five fouls and five points in 13 and 14 minutes, respectively.
In the Eastern Conference, Chucky Atkins threw in a runner with 0.9 seconds left Wednesday, giving the Pistons a 78-77 victory over the Philadelphia 76ers and a 3-2 lead in their semifinal series.
Game Six is Friday at Philadelphia. The winner of that series meets the New Jersey Nets.
Game Three for Devils, Senators
EAST RUTHERFORD, N.J., May 15 (UPI) -- Second-seeded New Jersey hosts the top-seeded Ottawa Thursday night in Game Three of the NHL's Eastern Conference finals.
The Devils will try to maintain their perfect at home this postseason. They are 6-0. A seventh victory would give the Atlantic Division champions a two games to one lead in the best-of-seven series that will decide the conference representative in the Stanley Cup Finals.
The Devils got even Tuesday with a convincing 4-1 victory at the Corel Centre, scoring twice in the first period and never looking back. Tommy Albelin opened the scoring for New Jersey, making Coach Pat Burns look like a genius.
Burns replaced Ken Daneyko and Oleg Tverdovsky with Albelin and Richard Smehlik on defense. The newcomers combined for a plus-3 rating. Daneyko and Tverdovsky were a minus-3 in a 3-2 Game One loss Saturday.
Unlike New Jersey, the Senators may be forced into a change on the blue line after Wade Redden, their best defenseman, was hurt on a knee-to-knee hit by Turner Stevenson in Game Two.
While Redden said the injury is not serious, he did not know if he would be ready for Game Three, saying only that he would return before the series is over. Officially, he is listed as day-to-day.
If Redden can't play, Shane Hnidy likely would get the call. He has sat out the last 12 games.
Some Senators thought Stevenson's hit was dirty, which could add a subplot to Thursday's game. Stevenson denied intentionally sticking out his knee on the third-period hit.
If the Devils can hold home-ice advantage over the next four games and win those games, they will advance to the Stanley Cup Finals for the fourth time in their history, all since 1995. They won the Cup in 1995 and 2000.
The Senators are new to this, making the first conference final appearance in franchise history.
Game Four is Saturday afternoon at Continental Airlines Arena.
The Western Conference final resumes Friday night in Anaheim, where the Mighty Ducks of Anaheim will seek a series sweep of Minnesota and its first Stanley Cup Finals trip ever.
Wednesday night, the Ducks beat the Wild, 4-0, as red-hot goaltender Jean-Sebastien Giguere got his third straight playoff shutout. Giguere became the first goaltender in 58 years to start a playoff series with three shutouts.
Game Four in that series is Friday at Anaheim.
London bids for 2012 Olympic Games
By AL WEBB, United Press International
LONDON, May 15 (UPI) -- The British government Thursday gave the official go-ahead for a bid by London to host the Olympic Games in 2012 -- a multibillion-dollar sports drama whose stage would be one of the poorest areas of the capital.
East London, with its booming multiracial population and attendant problems, has long had a reputation as one of Britain's most deprived regions, but if London wins, an 80,000-seat Olympic stadium will rise from a derelict greyhound dog racetrack in its heart.
British Prime Minister Tony Blair telephoned Jacques Rogge, president of the International Olympic Committee, Thursday morning to tell him London was ready to make its pitch to stage the games for the first time since 1948 when the capital hosted the first Olympics after World War II.
Blair's culture secretary, Tessa Jowell, then fired the starting pistol in public, telling Parliament the government had decided to give its "wholehearted backing" to the project that would be "good for sport, good for London and good for the whole of the United Kingdom."
London has two years -- until July 2005, when the 126 IOC members pick the summer 2012 site -- to make its case in the face of stiff competition. New York; Madrid, Spain; Havana; and Moscow have signaled their interest in bidding and Paris is expected to make what could be a formidable challenge next month.
All final applications have to be in IOC hands by July 15.
It won't come cheap for the British capital. The bid alone will cost at least $27 million -- and sports experts expect the final figure to run much higher . The government estimates the price of staging the games themselves at $3.8 billion. The actual cost may run much more.
The government is counting on cash from a string of sources. One is the IOC itself, which is expected to fork over about $1.6 billion. Another is a special Olympic lottery that will be used to raise another $1.2 billion, possibly a lot more. And London taxpayers will be tapped for an additional $32 surcharge that should raise another $1 billion or so.
Nor is such an Olympic bid universally popular in Britain. A non-scientific poll by Sky Television News in the aftermath of the government's announcement Thursday showed nearly six out of every 10 viewers flatly opposing it -- and that antipathy is likely to grow.
A major spur to opposition is the price tag's effect on a voting public already angered by what is perceived as a rapidly crumbling national health service that eats up money with few signs of improvement, the cost of the war in Iraq, and a rail network that even some of Blair's own ministers view as the worst in Europe.
Still, London thinks it's in with a good shot at winning, and Rogge did nothing to discourage it, at least immediately. In an interview with British Broadcasting Corp., he said the Londoners "will be a front-runner if they tackle the challenge well."
"The IOC would want the best possible candidate cities," Rogge said, "and London has all the qualities needed."
British bookies also appeared impressed. The William Hill betting organization quickly installed London as the 7-4 favorites to win the 2012 bid, trailed by Paris at 5-2, Madrid at 6-1 and New York at 8-1.
Knowledgeable Olympics observers are predicting it will come eventually to a choice between London and Paris, with the latter posing a potent force because of its impressive new Stade de France and its proven ability to stage world-class sporting events, such as the 1998 World Cup soccer final.
New York figures to get a sympathy vote because of the Sept. 11, 2001, terrorist attacks, but Games experts believe this will be more than offset by the fact that last occasion the United States hosted the event was only seven years ago, in Atlanta -- and even that was marred by organizational problems.
Madrid has a similar problem, Spain's having hosted the Games as recently as 1992, in Barcelona. Ditto Moscow, which staged its boycott-plagued games only 23 years ago.
But even London has its problems. Its city transportation system, for instance, is notoriously slow and inefficient, prompting one wag to comment on television after Thursday's announcement of the capital's bid: "Have any of these Olympics people ever tried to get on a tube (underground rail) train during a London rush hour?"
Sale of Angels to Moreno approved
NEW YORK, May 15 (UPI) -- Arturo Moreno became the first Latino owner of a major league team Thursday when MLB owners approved his purchase of the World Series champion Anaheim Angels.
In mid-April, Moreno agreed to buy the team from the Walt Disney Co. for a reported $180 million. The sale was confirmed by owners at their joint quarterly meeting.
Moreno is a 56-year-old Mexican-American who was born in Arizona. An original investor in the Arizona Diamondbacks, Moreno is a sign of the commitment of Commissioner Bud Selig to diversity.
"This is just the next step, an important one in the continuum, and a first step in increasing minority ownership over time," said Bob DuPuy, the President and CEO of Major League Baseball. "It's a great thing."
Moreno, who needed 75 percent of the votes, follows in the footsteps of Japanese-born Hiroshi Yamauchi, who purchased majority interest of the Seattle Mariners in 1992.
According to Forbes magazine, Moreno has a net value of $940 million, a fortune made in the billboard industry. He and his former partners sold the advertising company, Outdoor Systems Inc., to Infinity Broadcasting Corp. in 1999 for more than $8 billion.
Moreno, a Vietnam veteran, also owns a stake in the NBA's Phoenix Suns.
Disney bought 25 percent of the team in 1996 and the remaining 75 percent from the estate of Gene Autry in 1998 after the original owner died. The entertainment giant spent $100 million to help refurbish what is now Edison International Field.
Last year, the Angels won the first World Series title in the 41-year history of the franchise.
Reboulet back in majors with Pirates
PITTSBURGH, May 15 (UPI) -- Veteran infielder Jeff Reboulet is back in the major leagues.
The Pittsburgh Pirates have purchased his contract from Triple-A Nashville of the Pacific Coast League.
Reboulet, 39, who signed a minor league contract with the Pirates on April 16, hit .224 (11-for-49) with two RBI in 17 games for the Sounds. He made nine appearances at shortstop, three at second base, and two at third base.
He takes the 40-man roster spot of second baseman Pokey Reese, who was placed on the 60-day disabled list Wednesday with a torn ligament in his left thumb.
Reese suffered the injury when making a headfirst slide stealing second base in the sixth inning of Tuesday's loss to the Astros.
Reboulet was not in the starting lineup for Pittsburgh's Thursday matinee against the Houston Astros at PNC Park. Abraham Nunez started at second base, where Reboulet likely will see most of his playing time.
The Dayton, Ohio native played 38 games with the Los Angeles Dodgers last season, hitting .208 (10-for-48) with two RBI. The career backup is best known for his sure hands.
He is a lifetime .240 hitter with 17 home runs and 177 RBI.
Reboulet also has played for Minnesota, Baltimore, and Kansas City during an 11-year major league career. He made the postseason with the Orioles in 1997.
Harrington, Goosen tied at Hamburg
Pre-tournament favorite Tiger Woods had three birdies and no bogeys, and shot a three-under 69 on a day when the weather was a major factor.
"Today just a case of trying to shoot under par the way the wind's blowing out there and it's a tough day today," Woods said. "The wind's howling out there. That will lead to some weird numbers."
Ironically, his playing partner was Harrington, and Woods said he felt Harrington has improved.
"I think he is just more consistent than he used to be," Woos said. "His bad shots aren't as bad as they used to be and that's what we all try to do, try to narrow the dispersion pattern, and he's done a good job of that. He's worked pretty hard, and is now showing the results of the last few years. He's more consistent than he used to be."
Woods is trying to win the tournament for the third straight time.
Vitali Klitschko on Lewis undercard
LOS ANGELES, May 15 (UPI) -- Ukrainian Vitali Klitschko, with Lennox Lewis on his mind, will meet undefeated Cedric Boswell on June 21 at Staples Center.
Kiltschko (32-1, 31 KOs) is expected to face WBC champion Lewis later this year.
The WBC mandatory challenger will fight on the undercard when Lewis takes on Kirk Johnson of Canada. Lewis was trying to get Mike Tyson in a co-feature before staging a rematch with the former champion.
His title will not be on the line against Johnson, meaning Klitschko will fight for it later this year.
The 31-year-old Klitschko has won five bouts since his only loss to IBF heavyweight champion Chris Byrd in April 2000. Most recently, Klitschko recorded a 10th-round technical knockout of Larry Donald in November.
"I'm excited to box in L.A. first, and then against Lennox Lewis," Klitschko said. "I was sure I'd box for the world title. It had to be Lewis as far as I am concerned. Now, one of my biggest goals in my career is close, fight a big champion for a big title. I am sure I will convince the American fans with my performance."
The 6-7 1/2 Klitschko resides in Germany, where his last eight fights have taken place. He has not fought in the United States since August 1998, when he stopped Ricardo Kennedy in the first round.
While the 6-3 Boswell (21-0, 16 KOs) is undefeated, he has not beaten any noteworthy opponents. He has stopped four of five opponents since 2002 after a two-year hiatus.
"No question, he is dangerous," said Klitschko's trainer, Fritz Sudnek. "Somebody who is undefeated and won 16 times inside the distance can punch hard. We have to wait and see whether he will fight as courageous against Vitali. We are definitely aware of Boswell."
Klitschko should be especially wary, after his younger brother, Wladimir Klitschko (40-2, 37 KOs), was upset by an unheralded opponent in his last bout.
Wladimir Klitschko was considered one of the top threats among the heavyweights, but suffered a second-round TKO to journeyman Corrie Sanders in March.
Wladimir Klitschko, 26, is one of two boxers to beat Byrd, recording a unanimous decision in October 2000.
Boxers to benefit by unionizing
LAS VEGAS, May 15 (UPI) -- There is a possibility that professional boxers will benefit quickly from their affiliation with the International Brotherhood of Teamsters.
The Joint Association of Boxers announced its affiliation with the Teamsters on Monday. The two sides reached an agreement after a seminar in Las Vegas.
JAB founder Eddie Mustafa Muhammad, a former boxer himself, told the Las Vegas Sun the group will solicit fighters to join the organization, and will charge them two percent of their fight purses. That money will be placed in a fund that will provide the fighters with health insurance and a pension.
JAB already has decided to initiate talks with a major promotion agency, CKP Productions, which is headed by Cedric Kushner.
"When Mr. Kushner heard of our desire to form a union that would set standards in our industry, he was receptive and said he was willing to sit down and talk," Muhammad said. "We take it as a very positive sign that a promoter of Kushner's caliber is prepared to recognize our union."
In a statement, Muhammad said the majority of CKP's fighters have signed JAB authorization cards.
"The purpose of our meetings with Kushner and other promoters is to negotiate a collective bargaining agreement that would establish minimum standards for the sport of boxing, and that, we believe, would help the boxing industry move to a new level of integrity," Muhammad said. "Our strategy is to sign up a majority of professional fighters, have promoters recognize our union, and negotiate a standard collective bargaining agreement."
"This has a chance of going around the world," Kushner told the Sun. "There's been a need for change. Look at the other business models in professional sports. They all have players' unions. Well, we in boxing have a billion-dollar industry as well, although we haven't been conducting ourselves like it."