Update on the latest sportsAP
Suns, 76ers, Mavericks all have chance for Game 6 closeouts
UNDATED (AP) — The Philadelphia 76ers, Phoenix Suns and Dallas Mavericks all have a chance to close out their playoff series Thursday night.
The Philadelphia 76ers were up 3-0 in their series against the Toronto Raptors just a few days ago. That lead has since been sliced to 3-2, which is waking up some echoes for 76ers coach Doc Rivers. He’s the only coach in NBA history to lose three series in which his team had a 3-1 lead. No coach in NBA history has ever been on the losing end of a series after leading 3-0, either. The Sixers head into Game 6 in Toronto hoping to avoid a winner-take-all Game 7 in Philadelphia on Saturday.
Phoenix takes a similar 3-2 lead into Game 6 in New Orleans. In the all-rounds-best-of-seven format that has been in place since 2003, only four No. 1 seeds have been taken to a Game 7 in Round 1. Phoenix is going to try to avoid becoming the fifth. The Suns had a very businesslike win in Game 5, and now will enter a raucous road environment to try to close things out.
The last time Dallas won a playoff series, David Stern handed Mark Cuban and Dirk Nowitzki the Larry O’Brien Trophy. The Mavs have lost all six series they have played since winning the 2011 NBA title, but the seventh try might be the charm. Utah will try to overcome a 3-2 series deficit for the first time since the 2007 first round against Houston.
Braves reinstate Acuña from IL ahead of schedule
UNDATED (AP) — The Atlanta Braves have reinstated outfielder Ronald Acuña (ah-KOON’-yah) Jr. from the injury list more than a week ahead of the team’s target date for his return from knee surgery.
Acuña is expected to hit leadoff in Thursday night’s game against the Chicago Cubs. He may initially split time between right field and designated hitter.
The defending World Series champion Braves have struggled with an 8-11 record to start the season. The Braves will be looking for Acuña to provide a boost to their lineup. Acuña hit .368 with three stolen bases in six games with Triple-A Gwinnett.
Elsewhere around the majors:
— Red Sox right-hander Garrett Whitlock will try to build on the success of his first major league start with an afternoon outing at Toronto. A standout rookie reliever in 2021, Whitlock has stretched out to try his hand at starting this season and struck out seven over four shutout innings against Tampa Bay last week in his first turn in the rotation. That earned him another look for Boston, which has manager Alex Cora back with the team after he missed six games because of COVID-19.
— The Mets have a day off to recover from a spate of plunkings. They’ve been drilled 19 times in 20 games this season, including Wednesday in St. Louis. Third baseman J.D. Davis was hit by a pitch on the ankle and had to leave the game. An inning later, Mets pitcher Yoan López threw a pitch near Nolan Arenado’s head, sparking a benches-clearing brawl that led to Arenado’s ejection in the Cardinals’ 10-5 victory. Mets pitcher Chris Bassitt says bad baseballs are to blame, but the actual problem is probably multifaceted, ranging from cold weather to bad luck.
Las Vegas hosts NFL draft
LAS VEGAS (AP) — The NFL draft starts Thursday night in Las Vegas. The Jacksonville Jaguars have the first pick for the second straight year. Two elite pass rushers, Aidan Hutchinson of Michigan or Travon Walker of Georgia, are expected to be top selections.
Others who could be chosen in the first round include Oregon defensive end Kayvon Thibodeaux, Ohio State receiver Garrett Wilson, Georgia linebacker Nakobe Dean, Cincinnati cornerback Ahmad Gardner, Mississippi quarterback Matt Corral, Liberty quarterback Malik Willis, Notre Dame safety Kyle Hamilton, Purdue defensive end George Karlaftis and Boston College offensive lineman Zion Johnson.
The first round is Thursday night. The second and third rounds are Friday night, and the final four rounds are on Saturday.
USA TRACK & FIELD-ABUSE REPORTING
New deal to help USA Track & Field simplify abuse reporting
UNDATED (AP) — USA Track and Field has signed on to use technology that will give athletes and members an additional method to anonymously report sexual abuse and other forms of misconduct.
The organization announced a deal with RealResponse on Thursday, a company that serves around 100,000 athletes in nearly 1,500 clients in pro, college, Olympic and grassroots sports organizations. USATF is one of four national governing bodies in the U.S. Olympic domain to sign on. USA Gymnastics also has a deal with RealResponse.
RealResponse allows users to report misconduct anonymously with a text. Organizations can then follow up on reports without compromising the anonymity of the reporter. It skips intake forms and drop-down menus that populate many reporting apps.