In Sports from United Press International

June 5, 2003 at 12:04 AM
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Spurs win Game 1 of NBA Finals

SAN ANTONIO, June 5 (UPI) -- Tim Duncan dominated the second half Wednesday night to carry San Antonio to a 101-89 victory over New Jersey in the first game of the NBA Finals.

Duncan scored 24 of his 32 points after halftime, allowing the Spurs to turn a close game into a rout. He finished with 20 rebounds, seven blocks and six assists and also may have finished the Nets, who tried a series of unsuccessful schemes and must adjust prior to Friday night's Game 2.

The two-time NBA MVP saw a quartet of defenders and about a half-dozen different looks in the first half from the Nets, who were able to limit Duncan to eight points. But with a little help from Tony Parker, he took control with 13 points in the third quarter.

Duncan made 11 of 17 shots, thoroughly frustrating Nets defenders Kenyon Martin, Aaron Williams, Rodney Rogers and even Dikembe Mutombo. In the final minute, Duncan took a shot to the mouth, walked to the other end and sank both free throws.

While Duncan was dominating, New Jersey guard Jason Kidd was struggling. He made his first two shots, then missed 10 in a row and finished four of 17 from the field. He never got New Jersey's running game in gear.

The Nets had their 10-game playoff winning streak snapped, losing for the first time since April 26 at Milwaukee.

David Robinson added 14 points for the Spurs while hitting six of eight shots from the field. San Antonio shot 49 percent and held the Nets to 37.

The game was tied at the break, 42-42, but the Spurs broke away for a 15-point advantage going into the final quarter.

Baseball says Sosa's bats are legal

CHICAGO, June 4 (UPI) -- Baseball officials said Wednesday nothing had been found to suggest Chicago Cubs superstar Sammy Sosa had a collection of corked bats at his disposal.

That reduces the liklihood Sosa will receive major punishment for using an illegal bat Tuesday night.

Nevertheless, Sosa likely faces some length of suspension for making what he admitted was a mistake during an interleague game against the Tampa Bay Devil Rays.

The only player to hit 60 or more homers in a season three times, Sosa was ejected by home plate umpire and crew chief Tim McClelland in the first inning Tuesday night when his run-scoring groundout to second resulted in a broken bat. Cork was found inside the bat.

McClelland ruled Sosa out on the play, costing the Cubs a run, and Sosa was immediately ejected.

"I want to apologize first to my teammates, the fans, the commissioner of baseball and major league baseball," Sosa said after the game. "I just took the wrong bat and went up there. I used the bat for batting practice. I never used the bat in the game."

Major League Baseball officials collected 76 of Sosa's bats and tested them Wednesday.

Following those tests, executive vice president of baseball operations Sandy Alderson said none of the bats were found to be illegal.

"The X-rays came up negative and we're very confident that all of the bats were clean and had no foreign substances," Alderson said.

It is now up to Bob Watson, Major League Baseball's vice president for on-field discipline, to determine the number of games Sosa must sit out.

Wilton Guerrero received an eight-game suspension for a corked-bat incident in 1997 and was fined $1,000. Billy Hatcher also was suspended eight games and Albert Belle and Chris Sabo each served seven-game bans for similar violations.

Among the greatest power hitters ever with 505 career homers, Sosa has been dogged by questions regarding steroids and performance enhancers. He has vehemently denied those accusations.

Sosa, 34, hit the 500th homer of his career on April 4. The third-youngest player in history to reach the plateau, behind only Jimmie Foxx and Willie Mays, Sosa is the first Latin player to accomplish the feat.

Sosa said he only uses a corked bat in batting practice to entertain the fans.

"Batting practice is a show for the fans and I like to put on a show," Sosa said. "I just picked the wrong bat heading to the plate.

"People right now will think what they want. I have broken a lot of bats in my life and never had anything like this happen."

Mariners win eighth straight

PHILADELPHIA, June 4 (UPI) -- John Olerud went three for four with a season-high four RBI Wednesday night, helping Seattle win its eighth straight, 7-2 over Philadelphia.

Gil Meche won his fourth consecutive start.

Entering the game hitting .371 since May 23, Olerud opened the scoring with a sacrifice fly in the first inning and capped it with a two-run single in the ninth. The veteran first baseman added an RBI double in the seventh.

Meche (8-2) allowed two runs and five hits in six innings. The righthander, who has lost just once since dropping his first start of the season on April 5, walked four and struck out three.

Ichiro Suzuki added a career high-tying four hits for the Mariners, who have won 12 straight road contests.

Vicente Padilla (4-7) continued to struggle, surrendering five runs and 10 hits in six innings. After opening the season with a 3-1 record, Padilla has lost six of his last eight starts.

Mussina surrenders four home runs

CINCINNATI, June 4 (UPI) -- Four players homered against Mike Mussina Wednesday night, giving Cincinnati a 6-2 decision over the New York Yankees.

Aaron Boone, Sean Casey, Ken Griffey Jr. and Jason LaRue each hit a home run against Mussina (7-4), who fell to 0-4 in his last five starts after winning his first seven.

New York's Jason Giambi also homered at the new ballpark, which has surrendered a major league-high 91 homers this season.

The Yankees - who lost for the eighth time in 12 games - took a 2-0 lead on Giambi's two-out homer against Paul Wilson (3-4) in the top of the third. It was Giambi's second of the series and fourth in five games.

But the Reds halved the deficit with Boone's solo shot with two outs in the bottom of the frame.

As Wilson got sharper as the game progressed, Mussina got hit harder. With two outs in the fifth, Adam Dunn singled and narrowly stole second. Casey and Griffey followed withback-to-back homers to give the Reds a 4-2 cushion.

Griffey's blast was the 475th of his career, tying Stan Musial and Willie Stargell for 22nd on the all-time list.

The oft-injured Griffey strained his right biceps on the swing and exited the contest as a precautionary measure.

Other interleague results: Atlanta 5, Texas 2; Oakland 6, Florida 5; Anaheim 11, Montreal 2; Tampa Bay 5, Chicago Cubs 2; Houston 6, Baltimore 4. Boston swept a double header from Pittsburgh, 11-4 and 8-3. The lone National League game between Milwaukee and the New York Mets was rained out.

Bears sign Urlacher to nine-year contract

LAKE FOREST, Ill., June 4 (UPI) -- The Chicago Bears Wednesday signed linebacker Brian Urlacher, a Pro Bowler in each of his three NFL seasons, to a nine-year contract.

He had been eligible to become an unrestricted free agent after the 2004 season. Terms were not disclosed.

Regarded along with Ray Lewis as the NFL's best interior linebacker, Urlacher established a club single-season record with 214 tackles in 2002, becoming the first Bears defender to eclipse 200 tackles and besting the previous mark of 190 set by Dick Butkus in 1972.

At age 25, Urlacher is already an icon in Chicago. His replica No. 54 was the top selling jersey in the NFL last season and he was the leading vote getter by fans among defensive players in Pro Bowl balloting.

Costa rallies into French Open semifinals

PARIS, June 4 (UPI) -- For the third time in five matches, Albert Costa rallied from a two-set deficit Wednesday to reach the French Open semifinals

Costa victimized fellow Spaniard Tommy Robredo, 2-6, 3-6, 6-4, 7-5, 6-2. He will meet countryman Juan Carlos Ferrero in the semifinals Friday in a rematch of last year's final. Ferrero beat Chile's Fernando Gonzalez in another thriller, 6-1, 3-6, 6-1, 5-7, 6-4.

The third-seeded Ferrero became just the fifth man to reach four consecutive French Open semifinals, joining Bjorn Borg (1978-81), Mats Wilander (1982-85), Ivan Lendl (1984-87) and Jim Courier (1991-94).

The ninth-seeded Costa had never won a match after dropping the first two sets in his 10-year career before this tournament. But in the first round, Costa pulled it off for the first time against Sergio Roitman and duplicated the feat in the third round against Nicolas Lapentti.

Nicolas Escude of France is the only player to rally from two sets down three times in a Grand Slam tournament, achieving that here in 1998. But Costa is the first to win four five-set matches in a Grand Slam event.

Only six to start at Belmont

ELMONT, N.Y., June 4 (UPI) -- A mere six horses will break from the gate Saturday when Funny Cide tries to become the 12th winner of horse racing's Triple Crown.

When Funny Cide won the Preakness on May 17, it appeared the field for the Belmont would be in double digits, but a steady stream of defections has left the 135th running with just a half dozen horses, the smallest field since Tabasco Cat won against a field of the same size in 1994.

"I thought there would be about 12," said Barclay Tagg, the trainer for Funny Cide. "The problem with having the extra six horses is there are more horses out there, maturing at different times, who can beat you. I'd rather have one of six than one of 12."

Funny Cide, again with Jose Santos aboard, drew the fourth post and was installed as an even-money morning-line favorite.

The toughest competition is expected to come from Empire Maker, who finished second as the favorite in the Kentucky Derby and skipped the Preakness. Empire Maker will break from the rail as the 6-5 second choice with Jerry Bailey aboard.

The post positions for the draw are not nearly as important in the Belmont Stakes due to the grueling 1 1/2-mile distance and the expansive turns at Belmont Park.

Love returns after family tragedy

POTOMAC, Md., June 4 (UPI) -- Davis Love returns to the PGA Tour Thursday after dealing with the tragic death of his brother-in-law.

According to Golfweek magazine, Love's brother-in-law Jeffrey Knight killed himself after being investigated by the FBI for stealing money from Love.

Love found the body on May 16 in a hunting lodge about 25 miles from his home in St. Simon's Island, Ga. Knight died of a gunshot wound to the head.

"What has been written (in Golfweek) is basically factually correct," Love said Wednesday. "Obviously, it is an unfortunate tragedy. We have lost a very important person in our family. We are dealing with that fact. Not only did we lose a friend and a family member, but an important part of our family business."

Irregularities in Love's accounts prompted several banks to file reports of suspicious activity and the FBI began investigating in December and first questioned Knight in May, according to the magazine report.

"He was a good friend and a good manager," Love said. "It is just time to reorganize both personal and business and move on and this is part of it to come out here and play."

The PGA Tour money leader, Love has won three tournaments this year, but has failed to crack the top 15 in his last two appearances after winning the MCI Classic in April.

Nieuwendyk unlikely for Game 5

EAST RUTHERFORD, N.J., June 4 (UPI) -- New Jersey center Joe Nieuwendyk left practice Wednesday and is not expected to play in Game 5 of the Stanley Cup Finals.

The series resumes in New Jersey Thursday night with each team having won twice.

Nieuwendyk missed the first four games of the series and has played just three shifts since suffering a back or hip injury in Game 6 of the Eastern Conference finals. He did not travel with the team for Games 3 and 4 of the Stanley Cup Finals, but took to the ice Wednesday at the Continental Airlines Arena.

Just as the Devils were beginning to work on the power play, Nieuwendyk returned to the locker room.

"I was pleased with the progress, I just don't think I'm where I need to be right now," he said. "I would say my status for tomorrow would be doubtful. They indicated to me at the beginning of this it would be a week-to-week thing. I think we're kind of treating it as an hour-to-hour thing."

While the 36-year-old Nieuwendyk left open the possibility of playing Thursday night against the Mighty Ducks of Anaheim, Burns was less optimistic.

"I would say that he is definitely very, very doubtful for tomorrow," the Coach Pat Burns said.

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