Los Angeles keeps title hopes bright
LOS ANGELES, May 12 (UPI) -- Missing their head coach and with their three-year string of success in danger, the Los Angeles Lakers rose to the occasion Sunday.
Bryant and O'Neal came up big down the stretch on both offense and defense as the Lakers evened their best-of-seven Western Conference semifinal series at two games apiece.
The Philadelphia 76ers also drew even in their series with Detroit.
Trailing by as many as 16 points late in the second quarter and by 10 points midway through the third, the Lakers were on the verge of falling behind by two games to the top-seeded Spurs.
But O'Neal, a traditionally poor free-throw shooter, tied the game by making two foul shots with 1:17 left. The All-Star center then stole a pass by Tim Duncan intended for Stephen Jackson in the paint with a minute remaining and Bryant sank one of two free throws 12 seconds later to put the Lakers ahead for good.
On the Spurs' ensuing possession, Duncan dribbled the ball off his foot but dived on the floor kicked it out to Jackson on the perimeter. Jackson, however, missed a three-point attempt as the shot clock wound down, giving the Lakers the ball with 24 seconds left.
Tony Parker, Malik Rose and Bruce Bowen attempted to foul Derek Fisher but none was called, allowing the Lakers to take 10 seconds off the clock before Bryant was fouled. He sank two free throws to give the Lakers a 98-95 lead with 14 seconds left, forcing the Spurs to take a timeout.
Bryant then intercepted Parker's terrible inbound pass to Manu Ginobili, and he hit one of two free throws to cap the scoring with 11 seconds left.
The Lakers were missing Coach Phil Jackson, who was resting after undergoing an angioplasty on Saturday to clear 90 percent blockage in an artery. Assistant Jim Cleamons, a longtime assistant under Jackson, coached the Lakers Sunday.
It was not known if Jackson will be cleared to travel to San Antonio for Game 5 on Tuesday night as the Lakers continue their bid for a fourth straight NBA title. Jackson has won nine championships, tying the legendary Red Auerbach atop the all-time list. His playoff record of 159-58 is the best in NBA history.
In Philadelphia, superstar guard Allen Iverson scored 15 of his 36 points in the fourth quarter and added 11 assists to lead the 76ers to a 95-82 victory over the Detroit Pistons.
Admitting he "let one slip away" Thursday night in Game 2 when he missed two free throws with 15 seconds left in regulation of an overtime loss at Detroit, Iverson made sure the 76ers would get even Sunday with a terrific all-around performance.
Game 5 will be Wednesday night in Detroit.
The 76ers won games on back-to-back days in Philadelphia with Iverson dishing out a total of 22 assists to go with 61 points.
Palmeiro hits 500th homer
ARLINGTON, Texas, May 12 (UPI) -- Rafael Palmeiro belted his 500th career home run Sunday in helping the Texas Rangers outslug Cleveland, 17-10.
Hank Blalock went four for five with four RBI as the Rangers avoided being swept.
The 19th player to reach the plateau and second this season, the 38-year-old Palmeiro is the fifth-oldest in major league history to record his 500th homer. Only Ted Williams, Eddie Murray, Willie McCovey and Ernie Banks were older when they hit their 500th.
Palmeiro's blast -- a three-run shot -- came off Dave Elder on a full count during his fifth at bat with two outs in the seventh inning.
"Once I got to first base and touched it, I don't remember anything," Palmeiro said. "It was a numb feeling."
As Palmeiro circled the bases a huge sign being held by fans in the outfield was changed from 499 to 500. A priest sitting in the right field bleachers caught the baseball and soon saw to it that Palmeiro had it in his possession.
"It was a big relief to do it at home," said Palmeiro. "I tried not to think of it too much, but it is hard not to think about it because of the sign out there that is about 600 feet long.
"The fans wanted it and my teammates wanted it. I wouldn't have had it any other way.
"I talked to my mom last night and she said all she wanted for Mother's Day was for me to hit a home run. I thanked her for adding to the pressure."
Blalock posted career highs in hits and RBI while scoring twice as the Rangers snapped their three-game losing skid.
Other American League results: Detroit 9, Tampa Bay 2; Kansas City 8, Baltimore 5; Toronto 4, Anaheim 2; Oakland 5, New York 2; Seattle 7, Seattle 2; Minnesota 9, Boston 8.
Marlins replace Torberg with McKeon
MIAMI, May 12 (UPI) -- The Florida Marlins, who had lost seven of their last eight games, fired Manager Jeff Torborg Sunday and replaced him with 72-year-old Jack McKeon.
Florida then went out and defeated the Colorado Rockies, 7-2, making McKeon's debut a successful one and improving his career record to 771-733. He had last managed the Cincinnati Reds to an 85-77 record in 2000, one year after earning Manager of the Year honors when the team won 96 games and lost in a one-game playoff to the New York Mets for the wild card.
"I feel like I'm a seasoned citizen in both years and baseball experience but I'm not a miracle worker," McKeon said. "We've got lot work to do. I understand we've got a good bunch of ballplayers and guys here and hopefully we can take this club to another level."
With Sunday's win, the Marlins improved to just 17-22 and completed a six-game homestand. Carl Pavano turned in a solid start Sunday, but he and Brad Penny are the only two of Florida's five starters currently healthy as McKeon inherits a team in disarray.
A.J. Burnett, 26, is done for at least a year after undergoing "Tommy John" ligament surgery on his right elbow. Josh Beckett, 21, is sidelined at least three weeks with a sprained ligament in his right elbow.
Mark Redman is out with a fractured left thumb and Saturday the team lost Michael Tejera, who left the game with a right Achilles strain and lower back pain. Catcher Ivan Rodriguez also left Saturday's game with lightheadedness and Mike Redmond played Sunday.
In addition to Torborg, pitching coach Brad Arnsberg was fired, as was Torbor's son, strength and conditioning coach Dale Torborg.
Bench coach Jeff Cox was reassigned. The team named Doug Davis bench coach and promoted minor league pitching coordinator Wayne Rosenthal to pitching coach.
Torborg came under increased scrutiny for the way they handled the young starters. High pitch counts and how the team handled injuries to the rotation resulted in widespread criticism of the organization's direction.
At the start of the season, team owner Jeff Loria, a good friend of Torborg, said the team should compete for a postseason berth. But Florida is just percentage points ahead of the last-place New York Mets in the National League East.
Other National League results: Atlanta 7, San Francisco 3; Los Angeles 4, Montreal 3; New York 3, San Diego 2; Cincinnati 7, Milwaukee 5; Houston 10, Philadelphia 7; Arizona 2, Pittsburgh 1. St. Louis had a 11-9 lead on the Chicago Cubs in the top of the fifth inning when their game was rained out. No makeup date was announced.
Castroneves wins Indy 500 pole
INDIANAPOLIS, May 12 (UPI) -- Two-time defending champion Helio Castroneves won the pole Sunday for the Indianapolis 500.
Castroneves put himself in excellent position to become the first driver ever to win the race three straight years.
With cold temperatures and high wind gusts buffeting the cars around the 2.5-mile oval, Castroneves was able to run his fastest laps of the month to put his Marlboro Team Penske Dallara/Toyota on the pole with a four-lap average of 231.725 miles per hour.
"When Helio got up this morning, it was so windy he didn't think he could pass a rookie test -- that's how bad the wind was," said team owner Roger Penske, who scored his record 12th career Indy 500 pole to go along with a record 12 victories.
"But we checked with the airport weather office and saw that it was going to be dry all day, so rather than go out in conditions we didn't like, we decided to wait."
Penske Racing played the waiting game and Castroneves was able to set the car up to the adverse conditions. Castroneves put together consecutive laps of 231.673 miles per hour followed by 232.215, 231.486 and 231.529 for a four-lap average at 231.725.
Castroneves knocked his boyhood pal, Tony Kanaan, off the pole. Kanaan, driving for Andretti/Green Racing, ran a four-lap average of 231.006 mph in a Dallara/Honda. He also got revenge one day after Kanaan put a birthday cake in Castroneves' face during a television interview on the driver's 28th birthday.
Robby Gordon, another driver for Andretti/Green Racing, was third with a four-lap average of 230.205 mph to round out the first row.
Twenty-four drivers qualified on Sunday for the 33-car starting lineup, leaving nine spots open for next Sunday's final round of qualifications.
Sarah Fisher is currently the slowest driver in the field with a four-lap average of 224.170 mph.
Toms wins despite horrible final hole
CHARLOTTE, N.C., May 12 (UPI) -- David Toms made a quadruple bogey at the final hole Sunday, but still won the Wachovia Championship by two strokes.
It was his first victory since claiming the 2001 PGA Championship.
In a scene reminiscent of Jean Van de Velde at the 1999 British Open, Toms made a complete mess of the 478-yard, par-4 final hole at the Quail Hollow Golf Club, but it did not matter in the end because he had the luxury of a six-shot cushion standing on the tee.
It was the only mistake of the day for Toms, who teed off with a five-shot lead and never gave anyone a serious chance.
After pushing his tee shot at the last well to the right, he chipped his second across the fairway, almost into the creek that runs the length of the hole. He then pitched back to the fairway with his third shot, found the green with his fourth and then four-putted.
Van de Velde had only a three-shot lead at the final hole at Carnoustie four years ago when he made a triple-bogey that dropped him into a playoff, one that was eventually won by Paul Lawrie.
It is the eighth PGA Tour victory for 36-year-old Toms, but his first in 19 months. It came on one of the best courses the tour will visit all year, one the players almost unanimously believe could host a major championship.
On the Champions Tour, Hale Irwin defeated Tom Watson on the second playoff hole to capture the Kinko's Classic of Austin. Rosie Jones, meanwhile, became the first American winner on the LPGA Tour this year with her triumph at the Asahi Ryokuken International Championship.
Empire Maker officially out of Preakness
Frankel said Sunday he plans to enter Peace Rules and not Empire Maker in Saturday's Preakness Stakes.
Santos, who last week rode Funny Cide to victory at the Kentucky Derby, is being investigated after a photograph showed something besides his whip might have been in his hand as he crossed the finish line.
Stewards at Churchill Downs have begun an investigation into questions surrounding the photograph published in The Miami Herald.
Only one winning horse -- Dancer's Image in 1968 -- has ever been disqualified from the Kentucky Derby and it is not known when a decision will be rendered concerning Funny Cide.
Frankel at first took the news as a chance to get Empire Maker back in the Triple Crown picture Saturday at Pimlico Race Course.
If Funny Cide, the first gelding to win the Derby since 1929, is disqualified, pre-race favorite Empire Maker would be declared the winner. That would give the Derby runner-up a shot at the Triple Crown.
Frankel initially said Empire Maker would skip the second leg of the Triple Crown and he would chose between Peace Rules or Midas Eyes to run in the Preakness. On Saturday, however, Frankel told Maryland Jockey Club CEO Lou Reffetto he likely would enter Empire Maker. By Sunday morning, Frankel had returned to his original plan.
"It doesn't look like anything is going to happen," Frankel said of the investigation. "Peace Rules will run in the Preakness and Midas Eyes will go in the Met Mile (at Belmont Park on Memorial Day)."
Peace Rules, who finished third in the Kentucky Derby behind Funny Cide and Empire Maker, will travel by van from Belmont Bark in New York to Baltimore on Wednesday.
Funny Cide, Scrinshaw, Senor Swinger, Champali, Midway Road, Cherokee's Boy, Alysweep and Kissin Saint are the other confirmed starters for Saturday's race.
Canada wins gold at World Championships
HELSINKI, Finland, May 12 (UPI) -- Anson Carter scored at 13:49 of overtime Sunday to give Canada a 3-2 win over Sweden and the World Hockey Championship gold medal.
After capturing gold medals at the 2002 Salt Lake City Winter Olympics in both men's and women's hockey, Canada continued its pursuit for the top prize at the World Championships with a convincing victory over the Czech Republic in Friday's semifinals.
But the Canadians found themselves in a 2-0 hole before Shawn Horcoff halved the deficit with 43 seconds to go in the first period.
Sweden, which grabbed the lead on goals by Mathias Tjarnqvist and P.J. Axelsson, maintained its slim margin after two periods thanks to Mikael Tellqvist's 19 saves. But Shane Doan beat the Toronto Maple Leafs' goaltending prospect with a slap shot at 9:03 of the third to draw Canada even.
Tellqvist and Roberto Luongo took turns stopping breakaways in the final minutes of the third to send the game to overtime, where Carter took matters into his own hands.