In Sports from United Press International

May 10, 2003 at 1:29 AM
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Lakers pick up much-needed win

LOS ANGELES, May 10 (UPI) -- The Los Angeles Lakers survived a crisis point Friday night while the New Jersey Nets all but wrapped up a spot in the conference finals.

Needing a win to have a realistic chance of capturing their fourth straight NBA title, the Lakers got 39 points from Kobe Bryant in defeating the San Antonio Spurs, 110-95. San Antonio had its advantage in the Western Conference semifinals reduced to 2-1.

Los Angeles built a 12-point lead in the first period while holding the Spurs to 17 points and the Lakers kept a solid working margin the rest of the game. Shaquille O'Neal added 21 points and 15 rebounds.

Tim Duncan led the Spurs with 28 points.

In Boston, Kenyon Martin scored 25 points and Richard Jefferson added 20 as the New Jersey Nets rolled to a 94-76 victory over the Boston Celtics to take a 3-0 lead in their Eastern Conference semifinal series.

New Jersey led by as many as 12 in the first period and ran away with the game in the third. The Nets had a 60-51 lead with 7:29 remaining before scoring 15 consecutive points, highlighted by five from Martin, who scored 11 in the period.

The Celtics are facing a 3-0 deficit in a best-of-seven series for just the second time in franchise history. No team in NBA history has won a postseason series after losing the first three games.

Boston's Paul Pierce scored 23 points, but left the game in the fourth quarter with a strained muscle in his right leg.

Devil Rays win in Rocker's return

ST. PETERSBURG, Fla., May 10 (UPI) -- Jim Parque was brilliant in his return from the disabled list Friday night and John Rocker was successful as well.

Parque logged six-plus innings and helped the Tampa Bay Devil Rays to a 2-0 decision over the Detroit Tigers.

Parque (1-1), who had been on the disabled list since April 9 with shoulder trouble, carried a no-hitter into the seventh inning, when Dean Palmer led off with a clean single to left field.

Parque, who threw 100 pitches, was then relieved by Travis Harper, who allowed a single to Shane Halter, but got out of the inning with little trouble.

Harper got the first two outs of the eighth inning before John Rocker made his first major league appearance since July 3. Rocker walked Bobby Higginson and Dmitri Young and was relieved by Lance Carter, who struck out Palmer to end the threat.

Carter then pitched the ninth to complete the shutout and collect his sixth save.

The Devil Rays scored the game's first run run in the sixth inning, when Travis Lee hit his first home run since April 1.

The loss snapped the Tigers' season-high four-game winning streak.

Other American League results: Cleveland 9, Texas 5; Minnesota 5, Boston 0; Anaheim 6, Toronto 1; Oakland 7, New York 2; Seattle 6, Chicago 3. Baltimore swept a double header from Kansas City, 15-5 and 5-4.

Schilling throws shutout

PITTSBURGH, May 10 (UPI) -- Curt Schilling tossed a four-hitter Thursday night as the Arizona Diamondbacks blanked the Pittsburgh Pirates, 5-0.

Junior Spivey keyed the Arizona attack with a three-run homer in the sixth inning.

Schilling (2-2) tossed his second complete game of the season and 78th of his career. In his second start since undergoing an appendectomy in St. Louis on April 19, the righthander struck out 10 without a walk and threw 78 of 105 pitches for strikes.

En route to his 18th career shutout, Schilling retired the first nine Pirates and allowed one hit through five.

Spivey continued to emerge from his early-season slump and extended his hitting streak to 11 games when he sent Pittsburgh starter Jeff D'Amico's 3-1 pitch over the left field wall for his fifth homer, capping the scoring for Arizona.

Spivey is hitting .360 during the streak, raising his batting average 77 points to .259.

The Diamondbacks won for the eighth time in 13 games.

D'Amico (2-4) was reached for five runs and a season-high 10 hits in 5 1/3 innings as the Pirates suffered their seventh straight defeat.

Other National League results: St. Louis 6, Chicago 3; Los Angeles 9, Montreal 5; Philadelphia 5, Houston 3; Cincinnati 7, Milwaukee 6 in 10 innings; San Diego 5, New York 4; San Francisco 9, Atlanta 2; Florida 5, Colorado 4.

Webber lost for rest of playoffs

SACRAMENTO, May 10 (UPI) -- The Sacramento Kings announced Friday that All-Star forward Chris Webber had suffered a torn lateral meniscus in his left knee.

He will be lost for the remainder of the playoffs, which for Sacramento resume Saturday night.

Webber will have surgery to repair the knee damage, team officials said, and doctors will not be able to determine the length of rehabilitation until the operation is performed.

"He's gone for the year," said club president Geoff Petrie. "We've proven to be resilient in the past in these situations and hopefully we'll be able to do it again."

Webber suffered the injury late in the third period of Thursday night's game against Dallas, one that saw the Mavericks storm to a 132-110 victory that evened their Western Conference semifinal series at a game each.

Webber was heading for the basket to take an alley-oop pass from point guard Mike Bibby, but when he pushed off on his left foot, the knee gave way and he fell to the court.

In addition, Sacramento guard Bobby Jackson suffered an injury to his right cheekbone when he plowed into Dallas center Raef LaFrentz.

Doctors, however, cleared Jackson to play Saturday night.

Celtics bring Ainge into front office

BOSTON, May 10 (UPI) -- Danny Ainge, who played for the Boston Celtics from 1981-89, was named Friday as the team's executive director of basketball operations.

A former coach of the Phoenix Suns, Ainge has expressed a desire to run an NBA franchise and now gets that opportunity with the team for which he helped win titles in 1984 and 1986.

"It's great to be back in Boston," Ainge said. "This is one of the greatest challenges in my life and I'm looking forward to it."

Ainge, 44, had two meetings with the Celtics' new owners over the past week. Wyc Grousbeck and Steve Pagliuca are part of the ownership group that bought the team from Paul Gaston this season.

For more than five years, Ainge and Pagliuca have sat on the board of the Forever Young Foundation, a charity for underprivileged children.

The Celtics are the NBA's most successful franchise with 16 titles, but last won the championship in 1986 -- when Ainge was the starting shooting guard on a team that featured Larry Bird, Kevin McHale, Robert Parish and Dennis Johnson.

Last season, the Celtics advanced to the Eastern Conference finals before losing to New Jersey and are in danger of losing to the Nets again, this time in the conference semifinals. Boston faced a 0-2 deficit going into Friday night's meeting with the Nets.

Vikings sign Culpepper to huge contract

EDEN PRAIRIE, Minn., May 10 (UPI) -- The Minnesota Vikings Friday signed quarterback Daunte Culpepper to a 10-year contract extension reportedly worth more than $100 million.

Culpepper was eligible to become an unrestricted free agent after the 2003 season.

Last year, the Philadelphia Eagles gave quarterback Donovan McNabb the biggest contract in NFL history -- a 12-year deal worth $115 million.

Culpepper, 26, and McNabb were first-round picks in the 1999 draft. After a brilliant college career at Central Florida, Culpepper was the fourth quarterback taken in the round after Tim Couch, McNabb and Akili Smith.

At 6-4, 260 pounds, Culpepper has the ability to beat teams with his arm and legs. In his first year as a starter in 2000, Culpepper earned a Pro Bowl berth and led the Vikings to the NFC championship game, throwing for 3,937 yards and 33 touchdowns and rushing for 470 yards and seven scores.

In 2001, Culpepper started the first 11 games before suffering a season-ending knee injury at Pittsburgh. He passed for 2,612 yards and 14 touchdowns with 13 interceptions and rushed for 416 yards and five scores.

Last year, Culpepper ranked second in the NFC with 3,853 yards and 18 touchdowns, but led the league with 32 turnovers, including 23 interceptions.

Canada, Sweden reach hockey finals

HELSINKI, May 10 (UPI) -- Canada reached the finals of the World Hockey Championships for the first time in six years Friday with an 8-4 win over the Czech Republic.

Dany Heatley scored three times and Shawn Horcoff added a goal and two assists for Canada, which captured the gold medal at the 2002 Salt Lake City Winter Olympics. The Canadiens improved to 7

1 in the tournament.

Shane Doan scored midway through the first period to put Canada ahead before Heatley and defenseman Jay Bouwmeester tallied in the first half of the second for a 3-0 lead.

But Robert Reichel scored twice before the second intermission and Milan Hejduk tallied 2:04 into the third to draw the Czech Republic even.

Kyle Calder put Canada back in front just 76 seconds later and Heatley and Horcoff scored just over four minutes apart to rebuild the three-goal advantage.

Heatley netted his seventh goal of the tournament with 95 seconds left to complete the hat trick.

As was the case in 1997, Canada will play for the gold medal against Sweden, which recorded a 4-1 victory over Slovakia Friday.

Mika Hannula scored with 80 seconds left in the first period to give Sweden the lead before Peter Bondra evened the contest with a power-play goal late in the second.

Sweden, which dropped a 3-1 decision to Canada in the opening round, moved ahead for good less than a minute later on a goal by Mats Sundin, who also tallied less than two minutes into the third.

Ottawa sale approved

OTTAWA, May 10 (UPI) -- Toronto billionaire Eugene Melnyk moved closer to purchasing the Ottawa Senators Friday when the sale of the club was approved by creditors.

A court-appointed monitor representing creditors recommended that the sale of the team be approved. The official sale of the team is not expected to be completed until the end of the Stanley Cup playoffs in June.

In addition buying the Senators, the 43-year-old Melnyk also must work out a deal to purchase the Corel Centre, the club's arena.

Despite filing for bankruptcy protection on Jan. 9 with a debt of more than $160 million, the Senators have not allowed their financial troubles to affect them on the ice. Ottawa is in the Eastern Conference finals for the first time and host the New Jersey Devils in Game 1 Saturday night.

Price leads by one

CHARLOTTE, May 10 (UPI) -- Nick Price battled through difficult conditions Friday and finished one shot in front after two rounds of the Wachovia Championship.

"It was a scruffy day for me," Price said after making three birdies and two bogeys en route to a 1-under-par 71 in demanding, breezy conditions at the Quail Hollow course.

Price reached 7-under 137 while first-round co-leader Fred Couples (72) and J.P Hayes (66) shared second at 138. Rick Beem (72), Brandt Jobe (69), Charles Howell III (69), Robert Gamez (67) and David Toms (69) were all at 139.

Price usually is a machine from tee to green, but he hit only eight fairways and nine greens in an uncharacteristically wayward display.

Meanwhile, Couples got to 9-under after seven holes before bogeying three of the next four, but he steadied the ship to par in to the clubhouse.

Couples, who has endured intermittent back problems throughout his career, felt a spasm while lining up a putt at his 13th hole.

"I'm very tired and sore," he said.

Robby Gordon fastest at Indy

INDIANAPOLIS, May 10 (UPI) -- NASCAR Winston Cup driver Robby Gordon turned in the fastest time Friday in the final full day of practice before Saturday's Pole Day.

Gordon topped Friday's speed chart with a lap at 231.362 miles per hour in the final hour of practice, known as "Happy Hour." Gordon, who is filling in for the injured Dario Franchitti at Andretti-Green Racing, was driving a Dallara-Honda. Although his speed was the fastest Friday, it ranked fifth for the week.

Rookie teammate Dan Wheldon lapped the track at 232.202 mph on Thursday, followed by Tora Takagi's 232.007, Helio Castroneves' 231.595 and Gil de Ferran's 231.567. All four of those laps came on Thursday.

Much hotter and humid conditions slowed the speeds at the Indianapolis Motor Speedway Friday.

Gordon was able to run four laps in the 231 mile an hour range, which could be a good indication who wins the pole. The qualifying procedures for the Indianapolis 500 are based on the fastest average speed for four laps. The 10-mile runs are unique in the world of motorsports, so not only is speed important, but consistency is an equal ingredient for a driver who hopes to lead the starting field to the green flag for the May 25 Indianapolis 500.

Astros release Julio Lugo

HOUSTON, May 10 (UPI) -- The Houston Astros on Friday placed embattled shortstop Julio Lugo on waivers for the purpose of giving him his unconditional release.

Lugo was arrested after a game April 30 against the Atlanta Braves for allegedly assaulting his wife in the parking lot of Minute Maid Park. He was designated for assignment the next day, leaving the team 10 days to release, trade or assign him.

The alleged incident occurred before the game against Atlanta. According to a police report, Lugo was accused by his wife of striking her in the car on the way to the park and slamming her head into the vehicle in the parking lot.

Lugo was charged with a misdemeanor charge of family violence-contact and released on $50,000 bond.

Clijsters sets up meeting with Capriati

BERLIN, May 10 (UPI) -- No. 1 seed Kim Clijsters breezed into the semifinals of the German Open Friday with a 6-0, 6-3 dismissal of Daniela Hantuchova.

Clijsters will play fourth seed Jennifer Capriati in their first meeting on clay since the French Open final in 2001.

Two years ago, Capriati beat Clijsters, 1-6, 6-4, 12-10, in the longest-ever third set in a French Open final. The American is 3-0 lifetime against Clijsters.

On Friday, Capriati dispatched Russian Elena Likhovtseva, 6-3, 6-3, in light rain. She has reached five straight semifinals since her first-round loss at the Australian Open in January.

Third seed Justin Henin-Hardenne of Belgium defeated Russian Vera Zvonareva, 6-4, 7-5, and will take on Amelie Mauresmo in the semifinals. The fifth-seeded Frenchwoman overcame Uzbekistan's Iroda Tulyaganova, 7-6 (7-5), 6-4.

Clijsters beat Hantuchova for the third time in as many meetings. The 19-year-old Belgian has yet to lose before the semifinals in seven tournaments this year, capturing two titles and producing two runner-up efforts.

Agassi bows out of Hamburg

HAMBURG, Germany, May 10 (UPI) -- World No. 2 Andre Agassi of the United States Friday withdrew from next week's Hamburg Masters.

It is the second Tennis Masters Series tournament from which Agassi has withdrawn, having missed the Monte Carlo Masters last month.

Agassi, the Australian Open champion, attempted to defend his TMS Rome title this week, but lost in the first round to David Federer, giving back the top ranking to Lleyton Hewitt a week after he had claimed it.

Former No. 1 Pete Sampras and last year's finalist, Marat Safin, also will miss this year's tournament. Sampras has not played since winning the U.S. Open last September and Safin withdrew because of a wrist injury.

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