In Sports from United Press International

May 6, 2003 at 3:32 PM
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Detroit, Dallas play second-round openers

DETROIT, May 6 (UPI) -- In the NBA playoffs, Detroit and Dallas host their second-round playoff openers on Tuesday night.

The Pistons, top-seeded in the East, became the seventh team in NBA history to come back from a 3-1 deficit to win a best-of-seven series Sunday against Orlando. They will face the Philadelphia 76ers in an Eastern Conference semifinal series beginning Tuesday night at the Palace of Auburn Hills.

Pistons point guard Chauncey Billups grabbed the spotlight from more-heralded Orlando superstar Tracy McGrady, scoring 40 points in Game Six, and 37 in Game Seven to spearhead the comeback.

The Mavericks were in danger of becoming the first team to lose a series after winning the first three games, but averted disaster with a 107-95 victory over the Portland Trail Blazers Sunday in Game Seven.

Now Dallas will meet the second-seeded Sacramento Kings in the Western Conference semifinals for the second straight year starting Tuesday night at the American Airlines Center.

Dallas has the home-court advantage despite being the third-seeded team in the West. The Mavericks finished the regular season with 60 victories, one more than Sacramento, but since the Kings won a division title, they are the higher seed.

The Mavericks have practiced all season under a banner pointing out the defensive breakdowns that caused them to lose last year's series to Sacramento, 4-1. According to the sign, the Kings made 207 field goals in the series with "115 layups and dunks."

"We've looked at that banner all year, and now we have a chance to do something about it," said Dallas forward Dirk Nowitzki, who had 31 points in the Game Seven win over the Trail Blazers.

The Mavericks made numerous defensive lapses in the series against Portland, and may not be ready to handle the Kings, who averaged 120 points in winning three of four regular season meetings from Dallas this season.

"They like to play the same way we do -- up and down the floor," said Kings forward Peja Stojakovic. "But we think we've improved our defense, and I'm sure they think they've improved on defense as well. But it should be a fun series."

Slowing Kings power forward Chris Webber, point guard Mike Bibby, and Stojakovic will be a tall order for the Mavs.

"We've made (defensive) strides," said Dallas Coach Don Nelson. "We're not the best defensive team in the league by any means, but we're a lot better than we were."

Defense is the strong suit of the Pistons, who will contend with 76ers superstar Allen Iverson after dealing with McGrady.

Iverson averaged 34.8 points, including a 55-point performance in Philadelphia's 4-2 series victory over New Orleans in the conference quarterfinals.

In four regular season games against the Pistons, Iverson averaged just 22.0 points on 40 percent shooting.

"The biggest key to controlling him (Iverson) is keeping him off the free throw line, and keeping him from getting transition baskets," said Pistons swingman Michael Curry.

Detroit Coach Rick Carlisle probably will rotate Curry, Billups, Richard Hamilton, Chucky Atkins, and Tayshaun Prince on Iverson. Detroit also can has two-time Defensive Player of the Year Ben Wallace be waiting in the wings.

"No. 3 (Wallace) makes it difficult for anyone who drives to the hole," said Pistons guard Jon Barry.

McGrady averaged 31.7 points in the series against Detroit, but was held to 21 points on 7-of-24 shooting in Game Seven.

Status of Devean George still unknown

SAN ANTONIO, May 6 (UPI) -- Veteran forward Devean George of the Los Angeles Lakers may be sidelined because of a severely sprained left ankle.

He suffered the injury when he fell to the floor while fouling San Antonio guard Emmanuel Ginoboli in the fourth quarter of Monday's game.

His status for the rest of the Spurs series and beyond is uncertain. George missed 10 games in November with a sprained right ankle.

He left the SBC Center on crutches Monday, and his injury could not have come at a worse time for the Lakers, who are trying to win the NBA crown a fourth season in a row.

"I'm not sure how quickly I can come back," said George, who had four points and three rebounds in 31 minutes Monday. "It's serious because of the swelling."

After George's injury, the Lakers moved Kobe Bryant to small forward and used Brian Shaw at shooting guard.

Coach Phil Jackson could also use lineups with Bryant at shooting guard, Robert Horry at small forward, and have Mark Madsen and Samaki Walker share time at power forward.

The three-time defending champions already are without forward Rick Fox, who suffered a torn tendon in his left foot in the first-round playoff series win over Minnesota, for the rest of the playoffs.

Duncan leads All-NBA First Team

NEW YORK, May 6 (UPI) -- Kevin Garnett of Minnesota and MVP Tim Duncan of San Antonio were named to the NBA First Team announced Tuesday by the league.

The other members of the First Team were Kobe Bryant and Shaquille O'Neal of the Los Angeles Lakers, and Tracy McGrady of Orlando.

Named to the Second Team were forwards Dirk Nowitzki of the Dallas Mavericks and Chris Webber of the Sacramento Kings, Detroit center Ben Wallace, and guards Jason Kidd of the New Jersey Nets and Allen Iverson of the Philadelphia 76ers.

Two days after winning his second straight MVP award, Duncan became just the sixth player in NBA history to make the All-NBA First Team in each of his first six seasons, joining Hall of Famers Elgin Baylor, Larry Bird, George Mikan, Bob Pettit, and Oscar Robertson. He finished as the top vote-getter on the All-NBA First Team for the second consecutive season with 603 points and 120 first-place votes.

The 7-foot Duncan averaged 23.3 points and recorded career highs with 12.9 rebounds, 3.9 assists, and 2.9 blocks per game in leading the Spurs to a league-best 60-22 record. He had 58 double-doubles and shot 51 percent from the field.

Duncan and the Spurs have been knocked out of the playoffs each of the last two years by the Lakers, and the teams are meeting again in the Western Conference semifinals. He had 28 points, eight rebounds, and seven assists in the Spurs' series-opening 87-82 win on Monday.

Bryant and O'Neal are the first teammates to be named to the First Team in consecutive seasons since Karl Malone and John Stockton of the Utah Jazz in 1993-94 and 1994-95. Bryan finished second in the voting with 599 points, and O'Neal was fourth with 593 points.

Bryant finished second in the league in scoring at 30.0 points per game, and also posted career-highs with 6.9 rebounds and 5.9 assists as a shooting guard. He scored 40 or more points in nine straight games, and became the youngest player in NBA history to reach the 10,000-point plateau on March 5.

O'Neal was named to the First Team for the fourth consecutive season and fifth time in his career. The superstar center finished fourth in scoring at 27.5 points per game on 57.4 percent shooting, and averaged 11.1 rebounds.

Bryant and O'Neal are seeking their fourth straight NBA title.

The 6-11 Garnett finished third in the voting with 596 points for his second First Team honor. He led Minnesota to a 51-31 record, averaging 23.0 points, 13.4 rebounds, and 6.0 assists.

He paced the league with 68 triple-doubles and six triple-doubles, and was MVP of the All-Star Game, scoring 37 points in leading the West to a double-overtime win.

McGrady's team also was eliminated in the first round of the playoffs, but he earned the nod in the backcourt over Kidd and Iverson after winning the scoring title with 32.1 points per game, and also set career-highs with 5.5 assists and 1.65 steals.

The All-NBA Third Team consists of guards Stephon Marbury of Phoenix and Steve Nash of Dallas, forwards Paul Pierce of Boston and Jamal Mashburn of New Orleans, and center Jermaine O'Neal of Indiana.

Surgery for Shavlik Randolph

DURHAM, N.C., May 6 (UPI) -- Freshman forward Shavlik Randolph has undergone successful surgery on his left hip, and is expected to make a complete recovery by the start of next season.

The procedure was performed by Drs. Steve Olson and Larry Higgins at Duke University Hospital to correct a labral tear and bone spur. He had been experiencing the hip problem prior to his enrollment at Duke in the summer of 2002, and experienced continued loss of motion and discomfort during his freshman year.

The recovery time for the surgery is expected to be 12-14 weeks.

Randolph played in 26 games in 2002-03, averaging 7.4 points and 3.9 rebounds per contest. He was a McDonald's and two-time Parade All-America selection as a prep player at Broughton High School in Raleigh, N.C.

Muscatell to Sacramento State

SACRAMENTO, May 6 (UPI) -- Dan Muscatell Tuesday was named women's basketball coach at Sacramento State.

He has been an assistant at Oregon the last four seasons.

Financial terms were not disclosed.

Muscatell replaces Carolyn Jenkins, whose contract was not renewed after she posted a 6-74 record over three seasons.

During Muscatell's four years at Oregon, the Ducks were a combined 74-49 and made two NCAA Tournament appearances. Muscatell was a boys coach in the state of Washington for 13 years before landing at Oregon.

Cubs activate Alfonseca

CHICAGO, May 6 (UPI) -- The Chicago Cubs got the most important component of their bullpen back Monday when they activated closer Antonio Alfonseca from the 15-day disabled list.

Alfonseca, 31, was placed on the DL March 29, retroactive to March 21, after suffering a strained right hamstring during a March 18 Cactus League game against Seattle.

Acquired from Florida along with righthanded starter Matt Clement as part of a six-player deal before the 2002 season, Alfonseca was 2-5 with 19 saves in 28 opportunities and a 4.00 ERA in 66 appearances last season.

In his absence, Chicago's bullpen converted six saves in seven chances. Joe Borowski had five and Alan Benes one.

"We'll figure it out," said Chicago Manager Dusty Baker when said about how quickly Alfonseca would be used. "We won't close with him right away, but we'll get his feet wet and try to get him in situations where he'll most likely succeed. He's immune to pressure so it doesn't matter what the situation is. I'm glad to have him back and I'm sorry to see Alan Benes go. He's one of the real quality guys in this game."

To make room for Alfonseca, the Cubs designated Alan Benes for assignment. Benes was recalled from Triple-A Iowa of the Pacific Coast League on April 16 to replace injured reliever Dave Veres, and made three appearances.

"I'd like to get an opportunity somewhere," Benes said. "Obviously, I'd like to stay here, but we have a lot of pitching here. It's just a numbers thing. If something doesn't work out, then I can go back to Iowa and see what happens."

Also, Veres, sidelined with tendinitis in his right shoulder, will stay with the big-league team for now before beginning a rehab assignment.

Reds activate Barry Larkin

CINCINNATI, May 6 (UPI) -- The Cincinnati Reds Tuesday activated oft-injured captain Barry Larkin, who has missed nearly a month with a strained left calf.

The 39-year-old shortstop suffered the injury while legging out a triple in an April 10 game at Houston.

The 11-time All-Star was batting .222 with one RBI in nine games before the injury. He played 145 games last year, but missed a total of 177 games the previous two seasons because of groin, finger, and knee injuries as well as hernia surgery.

Larkin is in his 18th year with the Reds, the leader among active players for most seasons with one team.

The Reds were 11-12 in Larkin's absence, and are 14-18 overall this season.

Cincinnati optioned infielder Ryan Freel to Triple-A Louisville of the International League to make room on the roster for Larkin.

Freel appeared in 10 games with the Reds, including six starts at second base, after he was promoted on April 19. He hit .150 with an RBI on a squeeze play and three stolen bases.

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