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Los Angeles Lakers’ Anthony Davis channels Kobe with game-winner vs. Denver Nuggets

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Sept. 21 (UPI) — Los Angeles Lakers forward Anthony Davis channeled the late Kobe Bryant with a buzzer-beating, game-winning 3-pointer against the Denver Nuggets Sunday night in Game 2 of the Western Conference Finals.

The Lakers now lead the series 2-0 after the 105-103 triumph in Orlando, Fla. Davis scored a game-high 31 points and had nine rebounds.

“It was a special one for me,” Davis told reporters. “Special one for my teammates. … Right before the [season] hiatus, I missed a shot against the Brooklyn Nets in the same spot [during a] slightly different play. I was upset with myself. And [LeBron James] said, ‘Man, we’re gonna live or die with you shooting that shot.’

“I got the same opportunity tonight. [I was] ready to make it.”

Davis and the Lakers trailed 103-102 after Nikola Jokic hit a hook shot for the Nuggets with 20.8 seconds remaining. Alex Caruso missed a 3-pointer with about seven seconds left in regulation, but the Lakers got an offensive rebound after the attempt.

Rajon Rondo found Davis on the right wing with the inbound bounce pass. Davis caught it and elevated before firing the 3-point shot over Jokic’s outstretched arm. The buzzer sounded just before the shot went through the net to give the Lakers a two-point win.

Davis sprinted up the sideline and yelled “Kobe” as he celebrated with teammates. The Lakers also wore special “Black Mamba” edition jerseys during the game.

“We want to embody what Kobe Bryant stood for and honor his memory,” Lakers coach Frank Vogel said. “Obviously, there are certain games where we are going to feel it a little bit more than others. When we have that uniform on, I think we feel it more than others.

“That’s a shot Kobe Bryant would hit. To me, [Davis] coming off just flying to the wing like that, catch-and-shoot with the biggest game on the line of our season, nothing but net, it’s a ‘Mamba’ shot.”

The Lakers led by as many as 16 points in the game, which featured eight lead changes and was tied four times.

James paced the Lakers with 12 points in the first quarter for an early 29-21 lead and the team outscored the Nuggets 31-29 in the second quarter to earn a 60-50 edge at halftime.

In the third, the Lakers used a 10-2 run to push the lead to 16 points with 8:12 remaining. The Nuggets chipped away at the lead, outscored the Lakers 28-22 and tied the score at 82-82 with 9:58 in the game.

Denver and Los Angeles then exchanged the lead multiple times before Jokic hit his late hook shot for a one-point edge. The Lakers fought for two key rebounds down the stretch before Rondo hit Davis for the decisive shot.

“You’re not going to make them all, but the belief to just take it and live with the results is what it’s all about,” James said.

“[Sunday] was his moment. It was his moment to find a space, hunt the ball down and one of our top 10 assists leaders, Rondo, found him and he knocked it down. A big-time play.”

James had 26 points, 11 rebounds and four assists in the win. Danny Green and Kentavious Caldwell-Pope had 11 points apiece for the Lakers and Rondo had three points and nine assists off the bench.

Jokic scored 30 points and had nine assists, six rebounds and four steals for the Nuggets. Jamal Murray had 25 points, six rebounds and four assists in the loss.

“We gave ourselves a chance to win tonight,” Nuggets coach Michael Malone said. “Obviously, Anthony Davis hits a big three to win the game at the buzzer. We’ll watch the film, see what happened on that last play.

“The message is we’re down 2-0. Let’s go out and win Game 3.”

The Nuggets, however, might have the Lakers right where they want them. Denver came back from a 3-1 series deficit in their first two playoff series against the Utah Jazz and Los Angeles Clippers, the only team in NBA history to do it twice in the same postseason.

Game 3 of the Western Conference Finals is scheduled for 9 p.m. EDT Tuesday.

Moments from LeBron James’ career

St. Vincent-St. Mary High School senior LeBron James (L) drives around a Zanesvuille defender in Akron, Ohio, on February 14, 2003. James is expected to be the No. 1 pick in the NBA draft. A couple months later, the Cleveland Cavaliers coach was suspended because James worked out with the team before he graduated from high school. Photo by Tom Cammett/UPI | License Photo



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Saints WR Emmanuel Sanders put on COVID-19 list, out vs. Panthers

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Oct. 23 (UPI) — The New Orleans Saints will be without top wide receivers Michael Thomas and Emmanuel Sanders for their game against the Carolina Panthers on Sunday.

The team announced Friday that Sanders, the Saints’ second-leading receiver this season, is out for Sunday’s matchup after landing on the reserve/COVID-19 list. Thomas, who was already dealing with an ankle sprain, was ruled out with a hamstring injury.

Saints head coach Sean Payton told reporters Friday that Sanders — who practiced Wednesday and Thursday — tested positive for the coronavirus on Thursday, leading to his placement on the COVID-19 list. The team then tested about 20 people who might have been in contact with Sanders, but all of them tested negative.

However, Payton said backup cornerback Ken Crawley will be placed on the reserve/COVID-19 list as a precaution because of his close contact with Sanders.

“We found out [Thursday]. He wasn’t feeling well,” Payton said. “Right away, [director of sports medicine] Beau [Lowery] sent him to our doctors for one of our tests. That came back positive. After that happened, we traced those players he was around, coaches — we actually tested about 20 more people that might have been near him, and those all came back negative.

“Ken Crawley, for instance, came back with a time frame that puts him out, so he’ll show up as COVID but without a positive test. It’s more of a precaution.”

Sanders becomes the second Saints player to test positive for the coronavirus this season. Running back Dwayne Washington spent time on the team’s COVID-19 list in training camp and early in the season.

Sanders caught a career-best 12 passes for 122 yards in the Saints’ Week 5 win over the Los Angeles Chargers. New Orleans had a bye in Week 6.

Thomas will now miss his fifth straight game. He suffered a high ankle sprain in Week 1 and was benched for disciplinary reasons in Week 5.

This week in the National Football League

Philadelphia Eagles’ Boston Scott (L) makes the 18-yard, game-winning touchdown catch at Lincoln Financial Field in Philadelphia on Thursday, to defeat the New York Giants 22-21. Photo by John Angelillo/UPI | License Photo



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NBA considering 72 games, pre-Christmas start for 2020-21 season

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Oct. 23 (UPI) — The NBA is eyeing a pre-Christmas Day start and a reduced regular-season schedule for the 2020-21 season.

League sources told ESPN and The Athletic on Friday that the league proposed multiple changes to next season that include a 72-game regular season, a play-in tournament and the likelihood of no All-Star weekend in Indianapolis. According to the outlets, the NBA is targeting Dec. 22 to begin the upcoming season.

The league also is considering a two-week break at the halfway point of the season, according to ESPN. The NBA shared its plans in a conference call with team owners on Friday afternoon, and the league wants to move quickly to finalize negotiations with the National Basketball Players Association to implement the plan.

The reduction in the number of regular-season games — which would help accommodate a play-in tournament format for the Eastern and Western conferences — would allow the NBA to finish its season before the Summer Olympics in Japan next year.

Amid the coronavirus pandemic, the NBA wants to avoid another bubble format, according to reports. Instead, the league continues to discuss travel and game schedules that would keep teams in cities for a longer amount of time to play multiple games, similar to a Major League Baseball series.

The NBA and the NBPA agreed that Oct. 30 would be the deadline to complete ongoing talks on modifications to the collective bargaining agreement for the 2020-21 campaign. That deadline date requires the league or players’ union to provide 45 days notice if either side opts to terminate the CBA.

The league recently completed its 2019-20 season in a bubble format on the Walt Disney World Resort campus near Orlando, Fla. A limited number of family members and friends were allowed to attend during the playoffs, but games were mostly held without anyone in attendance.



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Washington fines Dwayne Haskins for violating team’s COVID-19 protocols

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Philadelphia Eagles’ Boston Scott (L) makes the 18-yard, game-winning touchdown catch at Lincoln Financial Field in Philadelphia on Thursday, to defeat the New York Giants 22-21. Photo by John Angelillo/UPI | License Photo



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