Mar 18 2013
MINNEAPOLIS (AP) -- For the past few weeks, Minnesota has gotten more of the production from Derrick Williams they expected from the former No. 2 overall draft pick.
On Sunday, the Timberwolves also got the sort of team production they would've expected if their key players had stayed healthy this season.
Williams scored a career-high 28 points, and Minnesota got huge lifts in the final seconds from Nikola Pekovic and Andrei Kirilenko and beat the New Orleans Hornets 97-95.
Pekovic and Kirilenko each hadn't played in more than two weeks because of injuries, but Pekovic hit two late free throws after grabbing an offensive rebound with 14.5 seconds left, and Kirilenko blocked the Hornets' last two shot attempts.
''We had energy at the end and that helped when we have more bodies,'' said Ricky Rubio, who finished with 16 points and six assists, and completed a crucial three-point play in the final minute that cut New Orleans' lead to one. ''We can be more aggressive and we don't run out of energy in the last quarter.''
Greivis Vasquez led the Hornets with 24 points and Robin Lopez had 20 points and 11 rebounds.
Minnesota shot 56.3 percent, but New Orleans stayed within striking distance largely because of its work on the offensive boards, scoring 20 second-chance points. Even on bad misses, Lopez was there to rebound or tip the ball to a teammate to keep possessions alive.
But turnovers hurt as New Orleans committed 20 - leading to 18 points for the Timberwolves.
''I mean honestly, we turned the ball over 20 times, they shot more free throws than we did, and we're up four with one minute left,'' Vasquez said. ''So no excuses, we just lost.''
The Hornets led by ..... (article cut to save bandwidth)
Mar 17 2013
Real Madrid produced a stunning second-half response to come from 2-1 down to defeat Real Mallorca 5-2 at the Bernabeu in La Liga.
Goals from Emilio Nsue and Alfaro, sandwiching an effort from Gonzalo Higuain, gave relegation-threatened Mallorca the most unlikely of half-time leads in Madrid, but they were blown away by a blitz of three goals in only five minutes after the game restarted.
Cristiano Ronaldo claimed his 350th career goal with a towering header, Luka Modric scored a remarkable effort from long range and Higuain claimed his second following some nice work from Mesut Ozil. Karim Benzema completed the scoring in injury time.
The win takes Madrid four points clear of Atletico Madrid in second having played a game more than their local rivals; Barcelona are 10 points ahead in first but barely a concern any more with the title rice all but decided in favour of the Catalans.
Madrid - drawn to face Galatasaray in the Champions League quarter-finals on Friday, the real focus of their season - rested Sami Khedira, Xabi Alonso and Mesut Ozil and were punished as their rather disjointed side went behind after only six minutes.
Giovani Dos Santos, once of Barcelona, eluded Alvaro Arbeloa on the left and dug out a super cross from the byline, with Nsue meeting the ball with a powerful standing header to divert the ball into the bottom corner and out of the reach of Diego Lopez from 15 yards.
It took Madrid only nine minutes to respond. Modric, in for Alonso in the deep creative role in midfield, slipped a lovely through-ball for Pepe, making a run into the box. As Dudu Aouate raced off his line to claim the ball, Pepe poked the ball wide to Higuain, who was ..... (article cut to save bandwidth)
Mar 17 2013
Stoke City and West Bromwich Albion played out a dire 0-0 draw in a forgettable Premier League clash at the Britannia Stadium.
There were few chances of genuine note as both sides defended stoutly. West Brom, in particular, dealt well with what the home side had to offer and will probably come away the happier.
Jerome Thomas was handed his first West Brom start in six games in place of the injured Graham Dorrans. Thomas’ introduction was the only change from the 2-1 win over Swansea City last weekend.
Stoke manager Tony Pulis also made one switch, as Matthew Etherington returned from injury in place of Andy Wilkinson, who dropped to the bench.
West Brom started the stronger, with Thomas producing some good skill on the left, forcing Ryan Shotton to give away a free-kick on the edge of the area.
Asmir Begovic failed to hold Chris Brunt’s deflected effort but there was no West Brom player on hand to convert the rebound.
Stoke went on to dominate the half, only to lose their way before the break.
For all their possession and high balls into the box, they failed to seriously test Ben Foster in the first-half. Indeed, Foster and his central defence of Jonas Olsson and Gareth McAuley coped well in the air, restricting the home side to half chances at best.
Jonathan Walters’ shot looped off Olsson and landed just wide but that was as close as the Baggies came in the first-half.
The beginning of the second-half suggested the level of the match might at least ascend from dire to mediocre but a couple of moments of quality soon gave way to the safety-first approach that had made the opening period so forgettable.
Romelu Lukaku, strangely ..... (article cut to save bandwidth)
Mar 17 2013
Aston Villa eased their Premier League relegation fears with a raucously entertaining 3-2 win over QPR at Villa Park.
In a game that made up in thrills what it lacked in quality, Paul Lambert's side prevailed thanks to Christian Benteke's late finish.
QPR had gone in front through Jermaine Jenas, before a Gabriel Agbonlahor goal on the brink of half time, and Andreas Weimann's smart finish turned the game around.
Andros Townsend's second goal in consecutive games drew QPR level again, only for Benteke to convert from a Weimann pull-back to send Villa Park into rapture.
The result moves Villa six points clear of the relegation zone, while QPR's recent revival comes to a shuddering halt - they sit bottom of the table.
Such a scoreline seemed unlikely in a first half that saw Villa at their toothless and frustrating worst.
All short passes and neat movement, they almost trick you into thinking them a decent side - until they try to get the ball into a genuine goalscoring position.
They spent the first half knocking the ball around in triangles but singularly failed to trouble the visitors until Agbonlahor's stoppage-time intervention.
Meanwhile, Chris Samba continued his human wrecking ball display for QPR. Sophisticated Samba's style may not be, but the Congolese defender is devastatingly effective.
A man-mountain, Samba acts as a magnet for the ball in both penalty boxes and drew an astonishing Brad Guzan save in the 10th minute. His looping header looked destined for the top-right corner, but the flying Guzan flung out his left hand to somehow tip the ball over.
Moments later, Guzan denied Samba again - this time getting a forearm to a powerfully-struck shot.
Less secure for QPR was right-back Jose ..... (article cut to save bandwidth)
Mar 17 2013
Goals from the somewhat unlikely sources of Nacho Monreal and Gervinho gave Arsenal an important 2-0 win over Swansea City that keeps their challenge for a top-four finish on track.
After Alex Oxlade-Chamberlain hit the woodwork twice in the first half, Arsenal had to wait until the 74th minute for their first goal, Monreal slotting the ball past Michel Vorm after Olivier Giroud touched the ball off to the Spanish left-back.
Swansea looked short of energy and offered little in the way of a goal threat as Arsenal added a second in injury time, substitute Gervinho converting after the visitors broke quickly at the Liberty Stadium.
The win takes Arsenal to within four points of third-placed Tottenham Hotspur and two of Chelsea, though the West Londoners have played a game fewer.
Captain Thomas Vermaelen and first-choice keeper Wojciech Szczesny remained on the Arsenal bench after being dropped for the 2-0 win away at Bayern Munich and the visitors brought in Oxlade-Chamberlain in one of three changes. In need of a good performance after an indifferent season, the winger struck the woodwork after only five minutes as he skipped inside Angel Rangel and curled the ball off the top of the bar from 12 yards out.
Swansea, though, were the better side in the opening 20 minutes and should have gone in front when Rangel was guilty of missing a big chance. Ki Sung-yueng played him in with a fine through-ball but the right-back lacked composure after getting in behind Monreal and poked the ball wide under pressure from two defenders.
Michu - playing as the lone striker rather than the No. 10 - was a sporadic threat, the Spaniard failing to properly execute one acrobatic volley before then dragging a shot wide after Jonathan ..... (article cut to save bandwidth)
Ten-man Everton buried Manchester City's Premier League title hopes with a 2-0 win at Goodison Park.
Leon Osman's astonishing 30-yarder and Nikica Jelavic's stoppage-time clincher condemned City to their fourth straight defeat at Everton.
City had grounds for complaint when referee Lee Probert denied them a clear penalty in the 86th minute: Marouane Fellaini handled a Carlos Tevez shot over a yard inside the box, but Probert inexplicably awarded a free-kick.
However, Everton could point to Kevin Mirallas's first-half strike, wrongly disallowed for a phantom offside.
And David Moyes’s side made light of Steven Pienaar’s dismissal on the hour mark for two bookable offences.
The result means Manchester United can go 15 points clear with nine games remaining if they beat bottom side Reading in the Premier League's late game.
Marouane Fellaini set the tone early for an aggressive game with a scything challenge on James Milner that earned his 10th booking of the season and a two-match suspension - he will miss games at home to Stoke and away at Tottenham.
It was the first yellow card of five in the opening period - Pienaar, Aleksandar Kolarov, Edin Dzeko and David Silva also drew referee Probert's wrath.
David Moyes's side started strongly and should have had the lead on 13 minutes when Mirallas smashed the ball into the roof of Joe Hart's net, only to be denied by an offside flag.
The decision met with few protests, but replays showed Mirallas was level with the last man Aleksandar Kolarov and the goal should have stood.
City came back and tested stand-in goalkeeper Jan Mucha with two shots from Dzeko and one from Carlos Tevez, but the Slovak held all three attempts with relative ease.
Then came a moment ..... (article cut to save bandwidth)
Mar 17 2013
Southampton brought Liverpool’s good run to an abrupt halt with a 3-1 Premier League win at St Mary’s.
Saints dominated the first half as goals from Morgan Schneiderlin and Rickie Lambert gave them a 2-0 lead, but Liverpool pulled one back in stoppage time through Philippe Coutinho.
The visitors improved in the second half but, after resisting a quarter-hour of pressure, the hosts took charge again, adding a third through Jay Rodriguez.
The victory is Mauricio Pochettino’s second since Nigel Adkins was sacked, putting Saints seven points clear of the relegation zone, while Liverpool stay seventh.
Southampton had a fully-fit squad to choose from and played to the fullest of their collective capability, as they controlled possession and created a string of chances for the whole game bar a 15-20 minute spell of Liverpool dominance.
Brendan Rodgers’s side, meanwhile, had won their previous four matches but were without goalkeeper Pepe Reina, also opting to start midfielder Joe Allen, despite the Welshman struggling with a shoulder problem. That later transpired to be an error as he failed to get into the game.
"We just weren't very good," admitted Rodgers afterwards. "We only started playing when we were 2-0 down."
Saints came out of the blocks fastest, and they took an early lead when Schneiderlin flicked the ball home following a towering knock-down from Rodriguez.
With Adam Lallana and Gaston Ramirez in fine form, the hosts continued to take Liverpool apart, with Lambert firing weakly at Brad Jones after springing the offside trap, and Rodriguez unable to finish on three occasions after finding himself in good positions.
The Reds could barely escape their half, and when they did they found themselves on the wrong end of some dubious decisions from the assistant referee.
(article cut to save bandwidth)
Mar 17 2013
Manchester United closed in on their 20th domestic title with a lifeless 1-0 win against Reading at Old Trafford.
Wayne Rooney scored the only goal with a massively-deflected first-half shot - assisted by Rio Ferdinand - but it was otherwise a flat performance from the much-changed Champions-elect.
Manchester City's 2-0 defeat at Everton means United go 15 points clear at the top - even if City win all their remaining game, United need only 13 more to clinch the championship.
However, this match will not live long in the memory - simply a case of doing enough against a Reading side well-organised by caretaker boss Eamonn Dolan.
Indeed, the Royals had a strong penalty claim turned down when Nemanja Vidic appeared to push Adrian Mariappa at a corner.
Sir Alex Ferguson again made one of those left-field team selections that only he can get away with.
Regular full-backs Patrice Evra and Rafael, normally immune to squad rotation, were axed along with central midfielders Michael Carrick and Tom Cleverley, while Ashley Young was given a relatively rare start.
United's results make quibbles about Ferguson's selections virtually redundant, but he does provide more than his share of head-scratchers.
Having seen City lose at Everton earlier on Saturday, United did not start like a side intent on wrapping up the title.
The match ambled along at a languid pace, only briefly enlivened when Young cut in from the left and shot wide.
Danny Welbeck showed the most intent, but let himself down with poor crossing, while Robin van Persie's recent decline in form continued.
Then, from nowhere, Ferdinand loped forward from the back on a long run. He laid the ball off to Rooney whose shot took a huge deflection off Alex ..... (article cut to save bandwidth)
Mar 17 2013
INDIAN WELLS, California (Reuters) - Looking as though he had never been away, Rafa Nadal continued his impressive comeback with a high-quality 6-4 7-5 victory over Tomas Berdych in the semi-finals of the BNP Paribas Open on Saturday.
The Spaniard, who returned to the ATP circuit only last month after seven months out with a left knee injury, broke the Czech once to take the opening set, then won a tense second set to improve his record this year to a career-best 16-1.
Nadal, who won the last four games to come from 3-5 down in that second set, will next meet either top-seeded Serb Novak Djokovic or Argentina's Juan Martin Del Potro who were playing their semi-final later on Saturday.
"For me this is totally unexpected to be in the final," a beaming Nadal said courtside after beating the sixth-seeded Czech for a 13th time in 16 meetings.
"But here we are today, and I'm very happy about all what happened the last month, especially the last three weeks.
"Is not easy coming back after an important injury after seven months without playing a tournament and be back and winning against three top 10s like David Ferrer, like today against Berdych, the other day against Roger (Federer)."
Nadal swept aside Spanish world number four Ferrer 6-0 6-2 in the final of the Mexican Open two weeks ago and crushed long-time rival Federer 6-4 6-2 in the Indian Wells quarter-finals on Thursday.
"So coming back is certainly something amazing for me," the Spaniard said. "I feel very comfortable in this tournament. I feel very happy when I am here."
Twice a champion at Indian Wells, Nadal looked every inch like his former self, hitting crisp and deep ground strokes to keep Berdych ..... (article cut to save bandwidth)
Mar 17 2013
INDIAN WELLS, Calif. (AP) -- Cracking winners off his forehand in key moments, Juan Martin del Potro defeated top-ranked Novak Djokovic 4-6, 6-4, 6-4 in the semifinals of the BNP Paribas Open on Saturday, handing the Serb his first loss in 21 matches dating to last October.
Del Potro snapped his own four-match skid against Djokovic, who had beaten the Argentine in eight of 10 career meetings.
''I'm trying to hit hard with my forehands. When I have the chance to come to the net, I did all the time,'' he said. ''I was just focusing to put in my first serve and move to my forehands, trying to make winners.''
Del Potro's 133-mph ace closed out the nearly 3-hour match featuring nine breaks of serve in 96-degree heat. He raised both arms in celebration and Djokovic hugged him at the net.
Del Potro, the second Argentine to reach the final here, will play Rafael Nadal for the title on Sunday. They each have three wins against each other on hard courts.
''When you play the top guys, they are the favorites, but I will try to do my game like just like today and then see if Rafa give me a little chance to win,'' Del Potro said.
No. 2 seed Maria Sharapova and No. 8 Caroline Wozniacki will play in the women's final.
At times, the unseasonable heat seemed to have worn down Del Potro, who draped a white towel packed with ice around his shoulders on changeovers, his chest heaving from several long rallies.
Del Potro was coming off a three-set win over Andy Murray in similarly hot conditions in Friday's quarterfinals.
The heat - nearly 20 degrees above the average of 78 - also affected Djokovic, as ..... (article cut to save bandwidth)