Despite everything, here they are. Right where they were supposed to be. Still very much standing. On the verge of another title. \nIn a season in a playoff series, in a game, that always seemed much harder than it needed to be, the Los Angeles Lakers persevered Monday. \nThey survived themselves and the Timberwolves. Survived missed free throws and officials' whistles. Survived surrendering a double-digit lead and the most gut-wrenching home game of the season. \nIt was edge-of-the-seat time Monday as Staples Center pulsated like it had not all season, the Lakers trailing after three quarters but ultimately swamping a desperate Timberwolves team 96-90 and advancing to the NBA Finals for the fourth time in five years. \nSo despite the continued spats, the missed free throws, the endless soap opera and the very uncertain coming offseason, the often dysfunctional Lakers find themselves in the best position they could imagine -- with six days to rest before opening the finals. \n"It's been a long, hard year," Kobe Bryant said. "But we find ourselves back to where we want to be. Now we just have to go get it." \nThe Lakers will now await the winner of the Pistons-Pacers series in the East, ever confident and reasonably healthy. The heavy favorite to earn coach Phil Jackson a record 10th coaching title. \n"The pressure is on us, obviously, to do something unique -- win four out of five championships," Jackson said. \nIn their wildest season, in their most maddening year, the Lakers found a way to keep winning at home in the postseason, pushing their playoff record at Staples this season to 9-0. \nMonday in Game 6 they got a stunning 18 points off the bench from Kareem Rush. The little-used guard scored all his points on 6-of-7 shooting from beyond the 3-point line. \nThey got a dominating game from Shaquille O'Neal, who added 25 points and 11 rebounds despite picking up his fourth foul in the opening half. \nThey got enough from a sometimes struggling Kobe, a spark from Slava Medvedenko, a gutty effort from 40-year-old Karl Malone and enough determined defense to earn the Western Conference championship. \n"We can still play a lot better," Shaq said. \nOf course, he and most everyone else have been saying that all season. A team of superstars, put together for this very moment, somehow ached and struggled through the season. \nSo it seemed only fitting that Monday's game would be exactly like their season -- straining to its end, everything endlessly more difficult than necessary. \nReally, it never should have been this hard. Not the season, naturally, but particularly this playoff series. The Timberwolves were playing without All-star point guard Sam Cassell and point guard Troy Hudson, their key sixth man. The Lakers should have dominated this series, probably should have swept it. \nThat would have been all out of character, and the singularly consistent mark of this Lakers team has been its inconsistency. \nLed by the intense Kevin Garnett and the dangerous Latrell Sprewell, the Timberwolves very much made this a series, very much made the Lakers squirm and sweat, dig a little deeper than most figured would be needed. \n"Our consistency as a team has not been there all year long," Rick Fox said. "We are a team that is going to find a way to win a championship. \n"But it is not going to be the normal way that people have grown accustomed to seeing us do it." \nMonday offered a nervous, uncertain game. The Lakers opened like a determined team, playing hard and with the kind of energy that has not always been there -- even in the postseason. \nThey pushed their early lead to as many as 13 points in the first quarter. But with 9:44 to play in the second quarter, Kobe picked up his third foul and sat. Officials kept their whistles wet, Shaq picking up his fourth foul just before the half ended. \nBoos rained down on the officials like never before heard at Staples. For a moment, the game could have been in Philadelphia. \nThe Timberwolves took the lead in the third quarter, and the game's intensity only built. Malone, matched against the younger and more athletic Garnett, played with desperation. \nWith one quarter to go, the Lakers, looking at having to return to Minnesota for a dangerous Game 7, responded one last time. \n"There have been enough fluctuations this year where you might question our ability to win a championship," Fox said. "But fortunately in series basketball, when you don't play to the level of your opponent in a couple of games, you can still have the opportunity to win the series." \nA Rush 3-pointer gave the Lakers back the lead. And they slowly kept building it, finally creating distance between themselves and the Timberwolves. \nDespite everything, they were going to play for a championship. \n"With all the things we've been through this year, the guys just continue to play," Malone said. "I really cannot describe it. These guys were unbelievable all year long. \n"When you are injured and shouldn't play, this is why I go out and play. This is why I went out and played tonight. \n"This is a great feeling and a great opportunity to get out there and get it done." \nRight where they were supposed to be.
“Road Runner” Alphonso Davies lived up to his nickname with another lightning sprint on Saturday as Bayern Munich opened a 10-point lead in the Bundesliga. Having defeated second-placed Borussia Dortmund 1-0 away in midweek, Bayern enjoyed a 5-0 romp over Fortuna Duesseldorf. Defender Mathias Joergensen scored an early own-goal before Benjamin Pavard, Robert Lewandowski (2) and Davies scored for Bayern. With five games remaining, the defending champions, who have won their past eight league games, are comfortably on course for an eighth straight league title. Davies scored the best goal of the game when the fleet-footed defender pressed Duesseldorf into making a mistake, barged
The losing captain thanked the winning team’s players for their personal sacrifices leading into the match and a charter flight pilot received a big round of applause when his plane beat incoming fog to touch down after midnight following another game as feel-good stories off the field matched those on it as the National Rugby League (NRL) restarted its season in Australia over the weekend. The New Zealand Warriors’ 18-0 win over St George Illawarra was the Auckland-based team’s first of the season after three rounds and it could not have come at a better time. Due to international travel restrictions
Taiwan Steel celebrated a big win over Tatung in the Taiwan Premier League yesterday, while undefeated Taichung Futuro remained at the top of the table, although their lead is only one point. Four of the eight teams were in action, completing matches postponed the previous weekend due to rain, with Taipower and Hang Yuan playing out a scoreless draw in Kaohsiung. Taiwan Steel are sorting out their early-season problems as they chase the leaders and it showed against defending champions Tatung at the Jhubei Stadium in Hsinchu County. Haitian striker Benchy Astama netted a brace and midfielder Kuo Po-wei’s outstanding solo effort sent
DISTANCING RULES: The government said social distancing should be maintained during disputes and celebrations, but conceded it would not be possible during play The Premier League on Saturday was given British government approval to press ahead with its June 17 restart, although players will have to stay apart during goal celebrations and disputes to maintain social distancing. Further details of the league’s plans for dealing with COVID-19 cases have been disclosed with clubs likely to have to play even if they only have 15 fit squad members. In a further boost to the league’s restart plans, there were no positives in the fourth round of twice-weekly testing. Tests were conducted on 1,130 players and club personnel on Thursday and Friday as contact training resumed. The season