Olympics: Simone Biles wins bronze medal in return

TOKYO >> They stood on the edge of the competition area at the Ariake Gymnastics Center early Tuesday evening, Simone Biles and her coach Cecile Landi, awaiting the scores of the previous gymnast in the Olympic Games balance beam competition to be posted.

Landi put her right around Biles and tried to lighten the moment.

And then Biles was alone, turning to face the beam and a moment the world had waited a week for.

Biles took a deep breath.

She wasn’t alone.

Biles, seven days after she stunned these Olympics by withdrawing in the middle of the team finals, returned to the Games she has been the face of earning a bronze medal on the beam with a solid, if safe, routine.

It was the Hollywood ending her millions of fans –or NBC–might have wanted, but if nothing else Biles has reminded us this past week that life is complicated.

China’s Guan Chenchen, competing last, won the gold medal with a 14.633 score followed by teammate Tang Xijing (14.233) and Biles (14.00).

It was Biles sixth Olympic medal but her presence in Tokyo will be best remembered for her withdrawal from the team final, individual all around, and earlier apparatus finals forcing her country and her sport to have real discussions, often heated, about mental health, especially in regards to young athletes.

“It’s great that she is speaking out about these issues,” said Sweden’s Mondo Duplantis, the world record holder in the pole vault. “It can be tough as an athlete and it’s good that the issues are being raised now.”

And elevating that discussion as she has her sport will be as much of legacy as her four Olympic and 19 World Championship titles.

“I think just recognizing that it’s so hard and the mental aspect is such a big thing and having the confidence to draw the line and say you know I need to step back here and take some time for myself to center myself,” U.S. beach volleyball player April Ross said. “I think that’s really empowering and that’s something that youths should feel like they can do too, so I think what she did will really impact the future generation.”

Biles withdrawal came with the Larry Nassar sex abuse scandal still looming over the sport and the Olympic movement.

Biles is a Nassar survivor and has been the highest profile and one of the most vocal critics of USA Gymnastics and its prioritize athlete safety over medals and corporate sponsorships and to fix the culture of abuse within the sport that enabled Nassar, the former Olympic and national team doctor to sexually abuse more than 500 women under the guise of medical treatment.

Biles was not only the ultimate champion in the #MeToo era, with Jamaican sprinter Usain Bolt and American swimmer Michael Phelps retiring after the 2016 Games in Rio de Janeiro she was the face of the Olympic Games.

“I live in the United States and anything that came on the TV, NBC or commercials about the Olympics it was Simone Biles,” golfer Rory McIlroy said. “I mean it was the Simone Biles Olympics, right. To have the weight of what 300 whatever million (people in the USA). So, the weight on her shoulders is massive.”

In the days and weeks leading up to Tokyo that weight became overwhelming, Biles said.

“In the back gym, coming in today, it was like fighting all those demons, ‘I have to put my pride aside, I have to do it for the team,’” Biles said on the night of her withdrawal from the team competition, referring to the Olympic practice gym. “At the end of the day, I have to do what’s right for me and focus on my mental health, and not jeopardize my health and well-being. …

“I just don’t trust myself as much as I used to. I don’t know if it’s age. I’m a little bit more nervous when I do gymnastics. I feel like I’m also not having as much fun, and I know that this Olympic Games,” she continued starting to weep, “I wanted it to be for myself.

“I was still doing it for other people, so it hurts my heart that doing what I love has been kind of taken away from me to please other people.”

The stress contributed to Biles developing spatial awareness issues when she was airborne, what gymnasts refer to as the “twisties.”

“If you struggle with disorientation in the air,” Italian gymnast Vanessa Ferrari said “it can be very scary. I feel very sorry for her that she struggles with it, as she is such a great gymnast.”

Biles had planned to do a Yurcenko 2½ vault on the opening rotation of team competition final. But only managed 1½ rotations before stumbling on the landing. She received a 13.766 score, well before her usual marks in an event in which she was the reigning the Olympic champion and a two-time World Championships gold medalist.

“I did not choose to do a one-and-a-half,” Biles said laughing. “I tried to do a two-and-a-half, and that just was not clicking. It’s very uncharacteristic of me, and it just sucks that it happened here at the Olympic Games. With the year that it’s been, I’m really not surprised how it played out.

“So it definitely wasn’t my best work.”

Returning the sideline, Biles informed her coaches and teammates she was withdrawing.

People need to understand that athletes are no robots, but humans,” said Rebeca Andrade of Brazil, who succeeded Biles as Olympic vault champion. “The decision she made was the wisest thing to do and it had nothing to do with others.”

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Ricardo Pepi notches hat trick, FC Dallas blanks Galaxy 4-0

FRISCO, Texas (AP) — Led by Ricardo Pepi’s three-goal performance, Dallas secured a 4-0 victory over the LA Galaxy on Saturday.

Pepi notched the first goal for Dallas (3-7-5) in the 27th minute, assisted by Andres Ricaurte. Pepi put Dallas ahead 2-0 in the 44th minute.

Pepi gave Dallas a 3-0 advantage in the 50th minute, assisted by Szabolcs Schon. Jader Obrian sealed the victory for Dallas in the 88th minute, assisted by Justin Che.

The Galaxy (8-6-1) outshot Dallas 12-7, with four shots on goal to five for Dallas.

Jimmy Maurer saved all four shots he faced for Dallas. Jonathan Bond saved one of the five shots he faced for the Galaxy.

Dallas’ next match is Saturday on the road against Sporting Kansas City. The Galaxy host the Portland Timbers on Friday.

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Shaq Moore scores 20 seconds in, US beats Canada 1-0 in Gold Cup

KANSAS CITY, Kan. (AP) — Shaq Moore scored 20 seconds in and the United States beat Canada 1-0 Sunday to win Group B at the CONCACAF Gold Cup.

Moore’s goal was the fastest since U.S. records began in 1990. Clint Dempsey scored 30 seconds in against Ghana in the Americans’ 2014 World Cup opener.

Both nations already were assured of advancing. The U.S. finished atop its first-round group with a 3-0 record and will play its quarterfinal on July 25 at Arlington, Texas, against Costa Rica or Jamaica, both 2-0 going into their match Tuesday at Orlando, Florida. Canada finished the first round 2-1 and also will play Costa Rica or Jamaica.

The U.S. ended Canada’s team record eight-game winning streak. The U.S. is unbeaten against Canada in 20 home matches since 1957 and extended its winning streak against CONCACAF opponents to 13.

U.S. coach Gregg Berhalter is using a mostly junior varsity roster for the Gold Cup. Top players such as Christian Pulisic, Weston McKennie, Tyler Adams and Zack Steffen will be on hand in when the U.S. hosts Canada in a World Cup qualifier on Sept. 5 at Nashville, Tennessee.

While Berhalter started two forwards in Daryl Dike and Gyasi Zardes, Canada dominated possession and had more scoring chances. Still, the U.S. improved to 38 wins, one loss and four draws in the Gold Cup group stage.

The U.S. scored when Kellyn Acosta passed wide to Sebastian Lletget, who one-timed a pass to the far post. The 24-year-old Moore got behind Tajon Buchanon and redirected the ball in from just inside the 6-yard box for his first international goal.

Walker Zimmerman captained the U.S. for the second straight game but hurt his right hamstring early and was replaced by Donovan Pines in the 15th minute.

After fielding a starting lineup against Martinique that averaged 23 years, 84 days, the Americans’ youngest in a competitive match since at least 1989, U.S. coach Gregg Berhalter changed four starters by inserting Sam Vines, Lletget, Acosta and Zardes.

Ayo Akinola started for Canada after making his debut against Haiti on Thursday, but he got hurt and was replaced by Jonathan Osorio in the 24th minute. The 21-year-old Akinola scored for the U.S. against El Salvador in his debut in December, then changed affiliation.

Matt Turner made saves against Cyle Larin in the 48th and Buchanon, his New England Revolution teammate, in the 48th. Reggie Cannon, recovered from a hamstring injury, made his first appearance of the tournament when he replaced Moore at right back in the 58th.

In Group A, Mexico beat El Salvador 1-0 at Dallas on Luis Rodríguez’s 26th-minute goal to win Group A with two wins and a draw.

Mexico will play its quarterfinal on July 24 in Glendale, Arizona, against the second-place team from Group D: Honduras, Panama or invited guest Qatar. El Salvador will play the Group D winner.

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The Latest: UK’s Duchess of Cambridge in self-isolation

By The Associated Press

LONDON — Britain’s royal palace says the Duchess of Cambridge is self-isolating after a contact tested positive for the coronavirus.

Kate had been due to attend events with her husband Prince William on Monday celebrating the 73rd birthday of Britain’s National Health Service.

But the couple’s Kensington Palace office says the duchess is self-isolating at home after coming into contact last week with someone who subsequently tested positive.

Under current British rules, contacts of confirmed coronavirus cases must quarantine at home for 10 days.

The palace says Kate, who is 39, does not have any symptoms of COVID-19.

Both Kate and William received first doses of coronavirus vaccine in May.

MORE ON THE PANDEMIC

— Biden sees virus ‘independence,’ but COVID takes no holiday

— The pressure is on to get people rental assistance before virus eviction ban lifts in US

— Europe in vaccination race against COVID-19′s delta variant

— Iran reimposes virus restrictions as delta variant spreads

— England hopes that Prime Minister Boris Johnson will soon lift mask requirements

— Follow more of AP’s pandemic coverage at https://apnews.com/hub/coronavirus-pandemic and https://apnews.com/hub/coronavirus-vaccine

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HERE’S WHAT ELSE IS HAPPENING:

BRUSSELS — Luxembourg Prime Minister Xavier Bettel has been hospitalized and is under observation “as a precautionary measure” after testing positive for COVID-19 a week earlier.

A government official, who spoke on customary condition of anonymity, said there was no update with new information early Monday after Bettel had been taken in for 24 hours of testing and medical analysis on Sunday.

The 48-year-old Bettel announced his positive test just after he had attended an European Union summit with 26 other leaders from the bloc for two days. At first he experienced only mild symptoms. But on Sunday, he had to be hospitalized.

EU summit organizers said they were confident that all virus precaution measures had been strictly adhered to during the two-day meeting. So far, no other leader has said he or she tested positive.

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COLOMBO, Sri Lanka — Sri Lanka on Monday received the first batch of Pfizer COVID-19 vaccine, becoming the first country in South Asia to get the U.S. made COVID-19 jab.

Officials say 26,000 doses of Pfizer vaccine directly purchased by the Sri Lankan government was flown into the country on Monday.

Health authorities say that Sri Lanka had signed agreements to purchase five million doses of Pfizer vaccine this year. The country is expected to receive about 200,000 doses of Pfizer vaccine this month.

Sri Lanka president Gotabhaya Rajapaksa in a tweet said “Sri Lanka becomes the first country in South Asia to acquire a contingent of Pfizer vaccines.”

State Minister of Production, Supply, and Regulation of Pharmaceuticals Channa Jayasumana said the Pfizer vaccine would be stored in a special facility developed by the government as the vaccine need to be kept at minus 70 degree Celsius.

Sri Lankan health authorities have so far used AstraZeneca manufactured in India, Chinese’s Sinopharm and Russian Sputnik V in the country’s battle against COVID-19.

Officials gave permission Sunday to re-open restaurants, hotels and indoor sports centers that had remained closed for several weeks due to a surge in COVID-19 cases. Gyms, salons and barber shops are also allowed to re-open the under new guidelines. The country was under lockdown from mid-May until the end of June.

Sri Lanka has seen a sharp increase of positive cases and deaths since April because of celebrations during the traditional new year festival. The country’stotal number of positive cases have reached 265,629 with 3,236 fatalities.

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SEOUL, South Korea — South Korea has reported 711 new cases of the coronavirus as infections continued to grow in the greater capital area.

It was the third straight day of over 700 cases and the highest daily jump for a Monday since early January, when the country was enduring its worst wave of the pandemic.

Usually a smaller number of cases are reported at the start of the week, due to reduced testing on weekends, and the country’s caseload may grow faster over the next few days.

The Korea Disease Control and Prevention Agency said around 550 of the new cases came from the populated Seoul metropolitan area, where officials delayed a planned easing of social distancing measures to cope with a rise in transmissions.

Cases were also reported in most of the major cities and towns across the country, including Busan, Daejeon and the North and South Gyeongsang provinces.

Health experts have expressed concern over relaxed attitudes on social distancing and criticized the government for sending wrong signals by announcing plans to allow for larger gatherings and longer indoor dining hours.

Prime Minster Kim Bu-kyum on Sunday urged public vigilance and tighter implementation of preventive measures. He criticized labor unionists for going ahead with an anti-government march attended by thousands in Seoul on Saturday despite official pleas to cancel the gathering.

The government had planned to relax social distancing restrictions nationwide at the start of July, raising the cap on private social gatherings from four to six people and allowing restaurants to extend indoor dining by two hours until midnight.

But officials in Seoul and nearby areas have held off the new rules as infections rose.

The country has so far reported 160,795 cases, including 2028 deaths. About 30% of the population have received at least one dose of vaccines.

___

WASHINGTON — President Joe Biden says the American people are closer than ever to declaring independence from a deadly virus.

The president made the comments Sunday at a July Fourth celebration at the White House.

He told the crowd of service members and first responders to think back to where this nation was a year ago and think about how far the nation has come.

During the brief and optimistic comments, Biden said that thanks to the power of science, the country is seeing a return to normal and the return of economic health.

But he warned that the nation has not defeated the virus, and he encouraged those who have not been vaccinated to get their shots. He said the vaccines are important for the nation to avoid where it was a year ago. The crowd at the upbeat event was chanting “Biden, Biden, Biden” as he came out to address them.

___

MOSCOW — Russia on Sunday reported more than 25,000 new cases of coronavirus infection, the largest number since January, as the country faces a sharp surge over the past month.

The national coronavirus task force said 663 patients died, down from the previous day’s 697, which was a record high.

The tally of 25,142 new cases was more than 2.5 times as high as daily new infections in early June. Moscow, St. Petersburg and the region surrounding Moscow accounted for about half the nationwide total cases.

Although the Kremlin says authorities are not discussing a lockdown, Moscow has imposed restrictions including requiring restaurant and bar patrons to show a code certifying they have been vaccinated or received a negative PCR test.

Throughout the pandemic, Russia has recorded 5.61 million infections and 137,925 deaths.

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JAKARTA, Indonesia — Indonesia is requiring foreign visitors to be fully vaccinated as one of the entry requirements as the country tries to curb the spread of COVID-19.

Ganip Warsito, National Task Force for COVID-19 Mitigation Chief, said Sunday that starting on July 6, both foreigners and Indonesian nationals entering the country have to show digital or physical proof that they have been fully vaccinated.

The obligation to show vaccination cards can be excluded in some cases, including diplomatic visas and service visas, and during official visits at ministerial level.

The government is also extending the quarantine time for foreign travelers from five days to eight days.

Indonesia recorded 27,233 new COVID-19 cases and 555 deaths from the virus in the last 24 hours. It brings the total to 2,284,084 cases and 60,582 death tolls as of Sunday.

—-

WASHINGTON — America’s top infectious disease expert says about 99.2% of recent COVID-19 deaths in the United States involved unvaccinated people. And Dr. Anthony Fauci says “it’s really sad and tragic that most all of these are avoidable and preventable.”

He tells NBC’s “Meet the Press” it’s frustrating “where you have a formidable enemy” in the coronavirus and “yet we do have a countermeasure that’s highly, highly effective. And that’s the reason why it’s all the more sad and all the more tragic why it isn’t being completely implemented in this country.”

Fauci cites the reasons for opposition to the vaccine by some Americans, whether it’s “ideological” or whether some “are just fundamentally anti-vax or anti-science.”

He says the country does “have the tools to counter” the pandemic and he’s asking people to “put aside all of those differences and realize that the common enemy is the virus.”

The United States has registered over 605,000 deaths in the pandemic, the highest national toll in the world.

—-

WINDOW ROCK, Ariz. — The Navajo Nation on Saturday reported five additional COVID-19 cases and two more deaths.

A statement released by tribal officials said the additional deaths increased the tribe’s pandemic death toll to 1,356.

The statement did not provide an updated count of total cases among residents of the sprawling reservation that includes parts of Arizona, New Mexico and Utah. Tribal officials did not immediately respond to a query but a statement released Friday by the tribe had said that the number of positive cases stood at 31,012.

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OAKLAND, Calif. — A San Francisco Bay Area zoo is inoculating its big cats, bears and ferrets against the coronavirus. The vaccinations are part of a national effort to protect animal species using an experimental vaccine developed and donated by a New Jersey company.

Alex Herman, vice president of veterinary services at the zoo, said none of the animals have gotten the virus, but they wanted to be proactive. Tigers, black and grizzly bears, mountain lions and ferrets were the first to receive the first of two doses. Next are primates and pigs.

The San Diego Zoo started inoculating primates with the Zoetis vaccine in January after a COVID-19 breakout among a troop of gorillas.

___

KUALA LUMPUR, Malaysia — Malaysia will ease a coronavirus lockdown in five states next week in a bid to allow a quicker reopening of its economy.

The country has been under a national lockdown since June 1, the second in over a year that has severely bruised its economy.

Defense Minister Ismail Sabri said restrictions will be eased Monday in five states that have met the target, with more businesses such as barbers, computer outlets and bookshops allowed to reopen.

___

NEW DELHI — Indian company Bharat Biotech says its late-stage testing of a COVID-19 vaccine has shown an overall efficacy of 77.8% and effectiveness against all variants.

The company in a statement says it is now in discussions with the World Health Organization to obtain emergency use listing for its vaccine, marketed as COVAXIN.

The results set at rest questions raised by health experts over Bharat Biotech’s vaccine when it was given emergency use authorization by the Indian government in January. They felt that the company didn’t have enough clinical trials, making it almost impossible for the firm to have analyzed and submitted data showing that its shots are effective.

The company says the vaccine has already received emergency use authorizations in 16 countries including India, the Philippines, Iran and Mexico. Millions of Indian also have been inoculated.

The data also demonstrated 65.2% protection against the delta variant, first identified in India.

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CIF SoCal Regional basketball playoffs: Thursday’s scores, schedule for the finals on Saturday, June 19

Scores from Thursday’s semifinals and the schedule for the CIF SoCal Regional finals on Saturday, June 19.

CIF SOUTHERN CALIFORNIA REGIONAL

BOYS BASKETBALL

Semfinals results

OPEN DIVISION

San Diego Torrey Pines 63, Damien 42

Etiwanda 82, Sierra Canyon 76

DIVISION 1-AA

Ribet Academy 89, Westchester 56

St. John Bosco 65, Harvard-Westlake 56

DIVISION 1-A

Capistrano Valley 76, Chaminade 64 (OT)

Solana Beach Santa Fe Christian 72, Fresno Clovis West 70

DIVISION 2-AA

Crean Lutheran 52, Los Altos 46

Santa Margarita 52, Rolling Hills Prep 44

DIVISION 2-A

Fresno Central 53, Narbonne 51

Chula Vista Mater Dei 80, Carlsbad 62

DIVISION 3-AA

Aquinas 70, Cerritos Valley Christian 62

Carlsbad La Costa Canyon 75, King 63

DIVISION 3-A

Shalhevet 67, Glendora 65 (OT)

Chula Vista Bonita Vista 94, San Diego Parker 77

DIVISION 4-AA

Linfield Christian 61, Fresno Hoover 57

San Diego San Ysidro 60, Chatsworth 55

DIVISION 4-A

Coronado 56, Pilibos 44

Escondido Orange Glen 88, Elsinore 64

DIVISION 5-AA

Fresno Roosevelt 79, Costa Mesa 51

Carlsbad Sage Creek 86, Atascadero 63

DIVISION 5-A

Kingsburg 65, San Diego Hoover 60

Fresno Washington Union 49, Legacy 47

DIVISION 6-AA

Fowler 77, San Diego Crawford 53

San Diego Maranatha Christian 66, Bell 38

Championships

Saturday, 7 p.m. unless noted

Open Division: Etiwanda at San Diego Torrey Pines, 8 p.m.

Division 1-AA: Ribet Academy at St. John Bosco

Division 1-A: Capistrano Valley at Solana Beach Santa Fe Christian

Division 2-AA: Santa Margarita at Crean Lutheran

Division 2-A: Fresno Central at Chula Vista Mater Dei

Division 3-AA: Carlsbad La Costa Canyon at Aquinas

Division 3-A: Shalhevet at Chula Vista Bonita Vista

Division 4-AA: San Diego San Ysidro at Linfield Christian

Division 4-A: Escondido Orange Glen at Coronado

Division 5-AA: Carlsbad Sage Creek at Fresno Roosevelt

Division 5-A: Fresno Washington Union at Kingsburg

Division 6-AA: San Diego Maranatha Christian at Fowler

GIRLS BASKETBALL

Semifinals results

OPEN DIVISION

Mater Dei 66, San Diego Cathedral 54

Corona Centennial 62, Fresno Clovis West 53

DIVISION 1-AA

Lynwood 60, Orangewood Academy 49

Etiwanda 63, West Torrance 53

DIVISION 1-A

Rosary 55, Fairmont Prep 49

Semifinal, Friday, 6 p.m.

Esperanza at Long Beach Poly

DIVISION 2-AA

Chula Vista Mater Dei 60, Paloma Valley 45

Alemany 51, Eisenhower 40

DIVISION 2-A

Westlake 58, Sage Hill 55

Oceanside El Camino 78, El Camino Real 36

DIVISION 3-AA

Mary Star 74, Westchester 58

San Diego Rancho Bernardo 72, Newport Harbor 36

DIVISION 3-A

Clovis Buchanan 53, Bakersfield 44

San Diego Del Norte 58, Chaparral 52

DIVISION 4-AA

South Pasadena 55, Agoura 39

Fresno Roosevelt 49, Chula Vista Eastlake 28

DIVISION 4-A

Bakersfield Christian 56, Cerritos Valley Christian 41

San Diego Our Lady of Peace 47, Paso Robles 31

DIVISION 5-AA

Fallbrook 39, San Marcos St. Joseph 37

Strathmore 49, Taft 29

DIVISION 5-A

San Fernando 38, Sun Valley Poly 28

Trinity Classical 67, Escondido Classical Academy 38

DIVISION 6-AA

Chula Vista Victory Christian 67, St. Bernard 28

Corcoran 61, Franklin 47

Championships

Saturday, 7 p.m. unless noted

Open Division: Corona Centennial at Mater Dei, 6 p.m.

Division 1-AA: Lynwood at Etiwanda

Division 1-A: Rosary at Poly/Esperanza winner

Division 2-AA: Chula Vista Mater Dei at Alemany

Division 2-A: Westlake at Oceanside El Camino

Division 3-AA: Mary Star at San Diego Rancho Bernardo

Division 3-A: San Diego Del Norte at Clovis Buchanan

Division 4-AA: South Pasadena at Fresno Roosevelt

Division 4-A: San Diego Our Lady of Peace at Bakersfield Christian

Division 5-AA: Fallbrook at Strathmore

Division 5-A: Trinity Classical at San Fernando

Division 6-AA: Corcoran at Chula Vista Victory Christian

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Santa Anita horse racing consensus picks for Sunday May 30

The consensus box of picks comes from handicappers Bob Mieszerski, Art Wilson, Terry Turrell and Eddie Wilson. Here are the picks for Sunday May 30 for horse racing at Santa Anita.

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Naomi Osaka tops Jennifer Brady at Australian Open for 4th Grand Slam title

  • Naomi Osaka holds the Daphne Akhurst Memorial Cup aloft after defeating Jennifer Brady, 6-4, 6-3, in the women’s singles final at the Australian Open on Saturday (late Friday night PST) in Melbourne, Australia. (AP Photo/Andy Brownbill)

  • Japan’s Naomi Osaka prepares to serve to United States’ Jennifer Brady during the women’s singles final at the Australian Open tennis championship in Melbourne, Australia, Saturday, Feb. 20, 2021.(AP Photo/Andy Brownbill)

  • Japan’s Naomi Osaka serves to United States’ Jennifer Brady during the women’s singles final at the Australian Open tennis championship in Melbourne, Australia, Saturday, Feb. 20, 2021.(AP Photo/Andy Brownbill)

  • United States’ Jennifer Brady hits a return to Japan’s Naomi Osaka during the women’s singles final at the Australian Open tennis championship in Melbourne, Australia, Saturday, Feb. 20, 2021.(AP Photo/Andy Brownbill)

  • Japan’s Naomi Osaka hits a forehand return to United States’ Jennifer Brady during the women’s singles final at the Australian Open tennis championship in Melbourne, Australia, Saturday, Feb. 20, 2021.(AP Photo/Andy Brownbill)

  • United States’ Jennifer Brady hits a forehand return to Japan’s Naomi Osaka during the women’s singles final at the Australian Open tennis championship in Melbourne, Australia, Saturday, Feb. 20, 2021.(AP Photo/Hamish Blair)

  • Japan’s Naomi Osaka hits a backhand return to United States’ Jennifer Brady during the women’s singles final at the Australian Open tennis championship in Melbourne, Australia, Saturday, Feb. 20, 2021.(AP Photo/Andy Brownbill)

  • United States’ Jennifer Brady hits a forehand return to Japan’s Naomi Osaka during the women’s singles final at the Australian Open tennis championship in Melbourne, Australia, Saturday, Feb. 20, 2021.(AP Photo/Hamish Blair)

  • United States’ Jennifer Brady reacts after losing a point to Japan’s Naomi Osaka during the women’s singles final at the Australian Open tennis championship in Melbourne, Australia, Saturday, Feb. 20, 2021.(AP Photo/Hamish Blair)

  • Japan’s Naomi Osaka serves to United States’ Jennifer Brady during the women’s singles final at the Australian Open tennis championship in Melbourne, Australia, Saturday, Feb. 20, 2021.(AP Photo/Andy Brownbill)

  • Japan’s Naomi Osaka reacts during her match against United States’ Jennifer Brady during the women’s singles final at the Australian Open tennis championship in Melbourne, Australia, Saturday, Feb. 20, 2021.(AP Photo/Andy Brownbill)

  • United States’ Jennifer Brady serves to Japan’s Naomi Osaka during the women’s singles final at the Australian Open tennis championship in Melbourne, Australia, Saturday, Feb. 20, 2021.(AP Photo/Andy Brownbill)

  • United States’ Jennifer Brady serves to Japan’s Naomi Osaka during the women’s singles final at the Australian Open tennis championship in Melbourne, Australia, Saturday, Feb. 20, 2021.(AP Photo/Hamish Blair)

  • Japan’s Naomi Osaka hits a backhand return to United States’ Jennifer Brady during the women’s singles final at the Australian Open tennis championship in Melbourne, Australia, Saturday, Feb. 20, 2021.(AP Photo/Andy Brownbill)

  • United States’ Jennifer Brady hits a backhand return to Japan’s Naomi Osaka during the women’s singles final at the Australian Open tennis championship in Melbourne, Australia, Saturday, Feb. 20, 2021.(AP Photo/Mark Dadswell)

  • Japan’s Naomi Osaka serves to United States’ Jennifer Brady during the women’s singles final at the Australian Open tennis championship in Melbourne, Australia, Saturday, Feb. 20, 2021.(AP Photo/Andy Brownbill)

  • United States’ Jennifer Brady reacts after losing a point to Japan’s Naomi Osaka during the women’s singles final at the Australian Open tennis championship in Melbourne, Australia, Saturday, Feb. 20, 2021.(AP Photo/Hamish Blair)

  • Japan’s Naomi Osaka celebrates after defeating United States’ Jennifer Brady in the women’s singles final at the Australian Open tennis championship in Melbourne, Australia, Saturday, Feb. 20, 2021(AP Photo/Hamish Blair)

  • Japan’s Naomi Osaka celebrates after defeating United States’ Jennifer Brady in the women’s singles final at the Australian Open tennis championship in Melbourne, Australia, Saturday, Feb. 20, 2021(AP Photo/Andy Brownbill)

  • Japan’s Naomi Osaka celebrates after defeating United States’ Jennifer Brady during the women’s singles final at the Australian Open tennis championship in Melbourne, Australia, Saturday, Feb. 20, 2021.(AP Photo/Andy Brownbill)

  • Naomi Osaka celebrates after defeating Jennifer Brady in the women’s singles final at the Australian Open on Saturday (late Friday night PST) in Melbourne, Australia. (AP Photo/Andy Brownbill)

  • Japan’s Naomi Osaka celebrates after defeating United States’ Jennifer Brady in the women’s singles final at the Australian Open tennis championship in Melbourne, Australia, Saturday, Feb. 20, 2021.(AP Photo/Andy Brownbill)

  • Japan’s Naomi Osaka, right, holds the Daphne Akhurst Memorial Cup defeating United States Jennifer Brady, left, in the women’s singles finalat the Australian Open tennis championship in Melbourne, Australia, Saturday, Feb. 20, 2021.(AP Photo/Andy Brownbill)

  • Japan’s Naomi Osaka kisses the Daphne Akhurst Memorial Cup after defeating United States Jennifer Brady in the women’s singles final at the Australian Open tennis championship in Melbourne, Australia, Saturday, Feb. 20, 2021.(AP Photo/Andy Brownbill)

  • Japan’s Naomi Osaka holds the Daphne Akhurst Memorial Cup after defeating United States Jennifer Brady in the women’s singles final at the Australian Open tennis championship in Melbourne, Australia, Saturday, Feb. 20, 2021.(AP Photo/Hamish Blair)

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MELBOURNE, Australia — The trouble for Naomi Osaka at Grand Slam tournaments comes in Week 1. Get beyond that at the hard-court majors, though, and start preparing to etch her name on the trophy.

Osaka won her fourth title in her past eight appearances at a Slam, emerging from what initially was a tight Australian Open final and pulling away by grabbing six consecutive games to beat Jennifer Brady, 6-4, 6-3, on Saturday (late Friday night PST).

With strong serving that produced six aces, Osaka improved to 4-0 in major finals, the first woman to start her career that way since Monica Seles did it 30 years ago. For Osaka, that is part of a 12-0 record so far in the quarterfinals and beyond at the majors.

The 2020 AP Female Athlete of the Year is also on a 21-match winning streak that dates to last season. That includes a championship at last year’s U.S. Open. She also won the U.S. Open in 2018, and the Australian Open in 2019.

The 23-year-old Osaka was born in Japan and moved to the United States with her family when she was 3.

Brady is a 25-year-old former UCLA standout who was playing in her first Grand Slam final. She had to go through a hard quarantine for 15 days when she arrived in Australia in January because someone on her flight tested positive for COVID-19 when they arrived.

This was a big step up in competition during this tournament for Brady, who had not faced anyone ranked in the Top 25 nor anyone who previously appeared in so much as one Grand Slam semifinal.

During the pre-match coin toss, the silver women’s trophy stood on a clear, plastic pedestal not far from Osaka on her side of the net. After beating Serena Williams in the semifinals, Osaka had made her intentions clear: “I have this mentality that people don’t remember the runners-up. You might, but the winner’s name is the one that’s engraved.”

And she keeps making sure that name is hers.

It was cooler than it’s been in Melbourne recently, with the temperature down below 70 degrees and a breeze that made serve tosses difficult for both players, who would catch the ball instead of hit it and say, “Sorry!”

The stadium was allowed to be at half capacity – about 7,500 fans – after spectators were barred entirely earlier in the tournament for five days during a COVID-19 lockdown.

In the men’s final Sunday (7:30 p.m. local time, 12:30 a.m., late Saturday night PST), top-seeded Novak Djokovic will be seeking his ninth Australian Open championship and 18th Grand Slam trophy overall. He faces No. 4 seed Daniil Medvedev, who carries a 20-match winning streak into his second major final.

Only two active women own more Slam titles than Osaka: Williams, with 23, and her sister, Venus, with seven.

The next task for Osaka is improving on clay and grass: She’s never been past the third round at the French Open or Wimbledon.

Brady had to go through a hard quarantine for 15 days when she arrived in Australia in January because someone on her flight tested positive for COVID-19 when they arrived.

On Saturday, the final was locked at 4-all, when Brady used an on-the-run lob winner that she punctuated by waving her arms to request more noise from the crowd. That earned a break point – convert that, and she would serve for the opening set.

But Osaka erased the chance with a cross-court forehand winner, and two errors by Brady made it 5-4.

Osaka then broke to grab the set, helped by Brady’s double-fault and a netted forehand on a short ball to end it.

That was part of the six-game run that put Osaka ahead 4-0 in the second and she was on her way.

More to come on this story.

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Whicker: Lakers get into the spirit of this cut-and-dried Christmas

Next time the NBA fills up Christmas Day with basketball, make sure batteries are included on both sides.

The Lakers could have played in their stockings and won this one over Dallas. Their 138-115 victory followed Miami’s 13-point stroll past New Orleans, Milwaukee’s 39-point embarrassment of Golden State, and Brooklyn’s ominous 28-point waltz in Boston.

It’s not unusual to have Christmas games serve as background music instead of actual dramatics, and it wouldn’t be bad, either, if this were a year when the family could gather ‘round. Although the players aspire to get network exposure, they’re as protective of their special days as anybody else. When one team falls behind, it’s easier to punt its best effort to a more secular occasion.

But you can’t blame the NBA for playing as many games as it can whenever it can, seeing what might be awaiting as the winter deepens. On Friday, the Lakers just had fun matching up their new ornaments.

This was the Lakers’ highest-scoring performance since Dec. 8 of last year, when Anthony Davis put 50 points and they throttled Minnesota 142-125. They certainly weren’t offensively challenged in their championship season, but they can score far easier in their half-court offense with Montrezl Harrell and Dennis Schröder in the crew, especially if Kyle Kuzma keeps looking this good.

Harrell, Schröder and Kuzma shot 23 for 35 against the Mavericks, and Harrell’s five offensive rebounds helped the Lakers outscore Dallas 35-0 on second-chance opportunities, which hasn’t happened in the NBA since such records were kept.

Their strong push meant Davis could work fewer than 31 minutes and LeBron James fewer than 32, a rest they earned after a strong first quarter.

“Five or six guys are able to come in and get you 20,” Kuzma said. “We’ve got guys ready to come in and take a game over.”

It might be the closest thing to a shadow starting lineup since 1984, when Pat Riley often began games with Bob McAdoo, Jamaal Wilkes, Michael Cooper and Mitch Kupchak sitting beside him. Here, the Laker reserves scored 55 points and sank 10 of 16 3-point shots.

Nobody actually wants to see the Lakers experiment with this, but if James or Davis had to miss extended time, couldn’t they still finish high in the West? One would assume Jalen Horton-Tucker, among others, would eat up those available minutes, and we’ve barely seen the tip of Wesley Matthews’ game in this 1-1 start.

“I can see, with this team, that I can go into the lane and put pressure on the other team,” said Schröder, who left no doubt that he would be thrilled to sign a contract extension “as long as it’s fair for both sides.

“When I do that, nobody is really helping,” Schroder added. “Everybody else on the court draws a lot of attention.”

The Mavericks (0-2) got 27 points and seven rebounds from Luka Doncic, but they needed more, or at least needed him to do it differently. Coach Frank Vogel had Schröder guard Doncic much of the time and then called in bigger helpmates when the shot clock began dwindling.

Doncic was only 7 for 16 in the first three quarters, and Vogel was pleased the Lakers kept him from digging in at the 3-point line. He went 2 for 4 from deep, and had only four rebounds.

“You try not to overhelp and open up the 3-point game for all their guys,” Vogel said. Add the Mavericks’ 13-for-32 shooting on longballs, and those are winning numbers against the preseason favorite for league Most Valuable Player.

“I guarded Luka quite a bit when I was in Oklahoma City,” Schröder said. “We did a great job of putting him under pressure in the beginning, although we slipped a little bit later.

“I gotta play defense because it gets me into my offense. I think it’s 60, 70 percent of my game. If I play 94 feet with energy, my teammates can see that we’re all into it. That’s what I’ve done my whole career.”

Harrell is also doing the same things that earned him the league’s top Sixth Man award last year, an honor for which Schröder contended as well.

“The only thing to say about him (Harrell) is that he catches everything and he scores everything,” Vogel said, smiling. “We’re trying to give our depth enough reps, and trying to manage LeBron, but it started tonight with LeBron and AD playing at a high level.”

As they know each other better, the Lakers probably will give you lots of nights like this, lots of games that get wrapped up earlier than your gifts probably were.

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Kawhi Leonard leaves bloodied, but Clippers knock down shots and Nuggets for win

  • Clippers forward Kawhi Leonard is helped off the court after suffering a cut in his mouth during the second half of the team’s game against the Nuggets on Friday night in Denver. The laceration, caused by a collision with teammate Serge Ibaka, required eight stitches. (AP Photo/David Zalubowski)

  • DENVER, COLORADO – DECEMBER 25: Kawhi Leonard #2 of the Los Angeles Clippers leaves the game after being injured against the Denver Nuggets in the fourth quarter at Ball Arena on December 25, 2020 in Denver, Colorado. NOTE TO USER: User expressly acknowledges and agrees that, by downloading and or using this photograph, User is consenting to the terms and conditions of the Getty Images License Agreement. (Photo by Matthew Stockman/Getty Images)

  • Los Angeles Clippers forward Kawhi Leonard is accompanied while leaving the court during the second half of the team’s NBA basketball game against the Denver Nuggets on Friday, Dec. 25, 2020, in Denver. (AP Photo/David Zalubowski)

  • DENVER, COLORADO – DECEMBER 25: Kawhi Leonard #2 of the Los Angeles Clippers is injured against the Denver Nuggets in the fourth quarter at Ball Arena on December 25, 2020 in Denver, Colorado. NOTE TO USER: User expressly acknowledges and agrees that, by downloading and or using this photograph, User is consenting to the terms and conditions of the Getty Images License Agreement. (Photo by Matthew Stockman/Getty Images)

  • DENVER, COLORADO – DECEMBER 25: Kawhi Leonard #2 of the Los Angeles Clippers is attended to after being injured against the Denver Nuggets in the fourth quarter at Ball Arena on December 25, 2020 in Denver, Colorado. NOTE TO USER: User expressly acknowledges and agrees that, by downloading and or using this photograph, User is consenting to the terms and conditions of the Getty Images License Agreement. (Photo by Matthew Stockman/Getty Images)

  • Los Angeles Clippers forward Kawhi Leonard lies on the court after suffering an injury during the second half of the team’s NBA basketball game against the Denver Nuggets on Friday, Dec. 25, 2020, in Denver. (AP Photo/David Zalubowski)

  • DENVER, COLORADO – DECEMBER 25: Jamal Murray #27 of the Denver Nuggets drives against Nicolas Batum #33 of the Los Angeles Clippers in the first quarter at Ball Arena on December 25, 2020 in Denver, Colorado. NOTE TO USER: User expressly acknowledges and agrees that, by downloading and or using this photograph, User is consenting to the terms and conditions of the Getty Images License Agreement. (Photo by Matthew Stockman/Getty Images)

  • DENVER, COLORADO – DECEMBER 25: Patrick Beverley #21 of the Los Angeles Clippers controls a loose ball against the Denver Nuggets in the first quarter at Ball Arena on December 25, 2020 in Denver, Colorado. NOTE TO USER: User expressly acknowledges and agrees that, by downloading and or using this photograph, User is consenting to the terms and conditions of the Getty Images License Agreement. (Photo by Matthew Stockman/Getty Images)

  • DENVER, COLORADO – DECEMBER 25: Nikola Jokic #15 of the Denver Nuggets is guarded by Serge Ibaka #9 of the Los Angeles Clippers in the first quarter at Ball Arena on December 25, 2020 in Denver, Colorado. NOTE TO USER: User expressly acknowledges and agrees that, by downloading and or using this photograph, User is consenting to the terms and conditions of the Getty Images License Agreement. (Photo by Matthew Stockman/Getty Images)

  • DENVER, COLORADO – DECEMBER 25: Nikola Jokic #15 of the Denver Nuggets puts in a basket against the Los Angeles Clippers in the first quarter at Ball Arena on December 25, 2020 in Denver, Colorado. NOTE TO USER: User expressly acknowledges and agrees that, by downloading and or using this photograph, User is consenting to the terms and conditions of the Getty Images License Agreement. (Photo by Matthew Stockman/Getty Images)

  • DENVER, COLORADO – DECEMBER 25: Head coach Tyronn Lue of the Los Angeles Clippers shouts instructions to his team against the Denver Nuggets in the third quarter at Ball Arena on December 25, 2020 in Denver, Colorado. NOTE TO USER: User expressly acknowledges and agrees that, by downloading and or using this photograph, User is consenting to the terms and conditions of the Getty Images License Agreement. (Photo by Matthew Stockman/Getty Images)

  • Los Angeles Clippers forward Kawhi Leonard, left, drives to the basket past Denver Nuggets forward Michael Porter Jr. during the second half of an NBA basketball game Friday, Dec. 25, 2020, in Denver. (AP Photo/David Zalubowski)

  • DENVER, COLORADO – DECEMBER 25: Paul George #13 of the Los Angeles Clippers drives against Jamal Murray #27 of the Denver Nuggets in the third quarter at Ball Arena on December 25, 2020 in Denver, Colorado. NOTE TO USER: User expressly acknowledges and agrees that, by downloading and or using this photograph, User is consenting to the terms and conditions of the Getty Images License Agreement. (Photo by Matthew Stockman/Getty Images)

  • DENVER, COLORADO – DECEMBER 25: Nikola Jokic #15 of the Denver Nuggets is guarded by Patrick Patterson #54 of the Los Angeles Clippers in the first quarter at Ball Arena on December 25, 2020 in Denver, Colorado. NOTE TO USER: User expressly acknowledges and agrees that, by downloading and or using this photograph, User is consenting to the terms and conditions of the Getty Images License Agreement. (Photo by Matthew Stockman/Getty Images)

  • DENVER, COLORADO – DECEMBER 25: Paul George #13 of the Los Angeles Clippers drives against Jamal Murray #27 of the Denver Nuggets in the third quarter at Ball Arena on December 25, 2020 in Denver, Colorado. NOTE TO USER: User expressly acknowledges and agrees that, by downloading and or using this photograph, User is consenting to the terms and conditions of the Getty Images License Agreement. (Photo by Matthew Stockman/Getty Images)

  • DENVER, COLORADO – DECEMBER 25: Jamal Murray #27of the Denver Nuggets takes the ball to the basket against Serge Ibaka #9 of the Los Angeles Clippers in the second quarter at Ball Arena on December 25, 2020 in Denver, Colorado. at Ball Arena on December 25, 2020 in Denver, Colorado. (Photo by Matthew Stockman/Getty Images)

  • DENVER, COLORADO – DECEMBER 25: Lou Williams #23 of the Los Angeles Clippers brings the ball down the court against the Denver Nuggets in the third quarter at Ball Arena on December 25, 2020 in Denver, Colorado. NOTE TO USER: User expressly acknowledges and agrees that, by downloading and or using this photograph, User is consenting to the terms and conditions of the Getty Images License Agreement. (Photo by Matthew Stockman/Getty Images)

  • DENVER, COLORADO – DECEMBER 25: Isaiah Hartenstein #25 of the Denver Nuggets drives against Ivica Zubac #40 of the Los Angeles Clippers in the second quarter at Ball Arena on December 25, 2020 in Denver, Colorado. NOTE TO USER: User expressly acknowledges and agrees that, by downloading and or using this photograph, User is consenting to the terms and conditions of the Getty Images License Agreement. (Photo by Matthew Stockman/Getty Images)

  • Los Angeles Clippers forward Serge Ibaka shoots over Denver Nuggets center Nikola Jokic during the first half of an NBA basketball game Friday, Dec. 25, 2020, in Denver. (AP Photo/David Zalubowski)

  • Los Angeles Clippers forward Serge Ibaka pressures Denver Nuggets center Nikola Jokic during the first half of an NBA basketball game Friday, Dec. 25, 2020, in Denver. (AP Photo/David Zalubowski)

  • DENVER, COLORADO – DECEMBER 25: Paul George #13 of the Los Angeles Clippers puts up a shot over Jamal Murray #27 of the Denver Nuggets in the fourth quarter at Ball Arena on December 25, 2020 in Denver, Colorado. NOTE TO USER: User expressly acknowledges and agrees that, by downloading and or using this photograph, User is consenting to the terms and conditions of the Getty Images License Agreement. (Photo by Matthew Stockman/Getty Images)

  • Denver Nuggets forward Michael Porter Jr. dunks against the Los Angeles Clippers during the first half of an NBA basketball game Friday, Dec. 25, 2020, in Denver. (AP Photo/David Zalubowski)

  • DENVER, COLORADO – DECEMBER 25: Paul George #13 of the Los Angeles Clippers drives against the Denver Nuggets in the fourth quarter at Ball Arena on December 25, 2020 in Denver, Colorado. NOTE TO USER: User expressly acknowledges and agrees that, by downloading and or using this photograph, User is consenting to the terms and conditions of the Getty Images License Agreement. (Photo by Matthew Stockman/Getty Images)

  • Denver Nuggets guard Jamal Murray, right, drives as Los Angeles Clippers forward Nicolas Batum defends during the first half of an NBA basketball game Friday, Dec. 25, 2020, in Denver. (AP Photo/David Zalubowski)

  • Los Angeles Clippers forward Nicolas Batum, right, looks to pass the ball as Denver Nuggets guard Jamal Murray defends during the second half of an NBA basketball game Friday, Dec. 25, 2020, in Denver. (AP Photo/David Zalubowski)

  • DENVER, COLORADO – DECEMBER 25: Lou Williams #23 of the Los Angeles Clippers brings the ball down the court against the Denver Nuggets in the fourth quarter at Ball Arena on December 25, 2020 in Denver, Colorado. NOTE TO USER: User expressly acknowledges and agrees that, by downloading and or using this photograph, User is consenting to the terms and conditions of the Getty Images License Agreement. (Photo by Matthew Stockman/Getty Images)

  • Denver Nuggets center Nikola Jokic, back, passes the ball as Los Angeles Clippers forward Serge Ibaka and guard Patrick Beverley, right, defend during the first half of an NBA basketball game Friday, Dec. 25, 2020, in Denver. (AP Photo/David Zalubowski)

  • DENVER, COLORADO – DECEMBER 25: Reggie Jackson #1 of the Los Angeles Clippers drives against Monte Morris #11 of the Denver Nuggets in the fourth quarter at Ball Arena on December 25, 2020 in Denver, Colorado. NOTE TO USER: User expressly acknowledges and agrees that, by downloading and or using this photograph, User is consenting to the terms and conditions of the Getty Images License Agreement. (Photo by Matthew Stockman/Getty Images)

  • Los Angeles Clippers forward Kawhi Leonard passes the ball as Denver Nuggets guard Gary Harris, left, and forward Paul Millsap defend during the second half of an NBA basketball game Friday, Dec. 25, 2020, in Denver. (AP Photo/David Zalubowski)

  • Denver Nuggets center Nikola Jokic drives for a basket against the Los Angeles Clippers during the first half of an NBA basketball game Friday, Dec. 25, 2020, in Denver. (AP Photo/David Zalubowski)

  • Denver Nuggets guard Jamal Murray, left, pressures Los Angeles Clippers forward Kawhi Leonard during the first half of an NBA basketball game Friday, Dec. 25, 2020, in Denver. (AP Photo/David Zalubowski)

  • Denver Nuggets guard Jamal Murray, right, looks to pass the ball as Los Angeles Clippers center Ivica Zubac defends during the first half of an NBA basketball game Friday, Dec. 25, 2020, in Denver. (AP Photo/David Zalubowski)

  • Denver Nuggets guard Jamal Murray, center, passes the ball to center Isaiah Hartenstein, right, as Los Angeles Clippers guard Reggie Jackson defends during the first half of an NBA basketball game Friday, Dec. 25, 2020, in Denver. (AP Photo/David Zalubowski)

  • Los Angeles Clippers guard Terance Mann, right, tries to control the ball next to Denver Nuggets guard Markus Howard during the second half of an NBA basketball game Friday, Dec. 25, 2020, in Denver. (AP Photo/David Zalubowski)

  • Los Angeles Clippers guard Paul George shoots as Denver Nuggets center Nikola Jokic defends during the second half of an NBA basketball game Friday, Dec. 25, 2020, in Denver. (AP Photo/David Zalubowski)

  • Denver Nuggets coach Michael Malone argues for a call during the second half of the team’s NBA basketball game against the Los Angeles Clippers on Friday, Dec. 25, 2020, in Denver. (AP Photo/David Zalubowski)

  • Denver Nuggets center Isaiah Hartenstein, center, and Los Angeles Clippers center Ivica Zubac, left, and guard Paul George wait for a rebound during the first half of an NBA basketball game Friday, Dec. 25, 2020, in Denver. (AP Photo/David Zalubowski)

  • Los Angeles Clippers forward Kawhi Leonard, left, is defended by Denver Nuggets guards Jamal Murray, center, and PJ Dozier during the second half of an NBA basketball game Friday, Dec. 25, 2020, in Denver. (AP Photo/David Zalubowski)

  • Denver Nuggets forward Will Barton, left, tries to steal the ball from Los Angeles Clippers forward Patrick Patterson during the first half of an NBA basketball game Friday, Dec. 25, 2020, in Denver. (AP Photo/David Zalubowski)

  • Denver Nuggets forward Will Barton, center, drives to the basket between Los Angeles Clippers guards Lou Williams, left, and Terance Mann during the first half of an NBA basketball game Friday, Dec. 25, 2020, in Denver. (AP Photo/David Zalubowski)

  • Los Angeles Clippers forward Kawhi Leonard, center, drives between Denver Nuggets forward Paul Millsap, left, and center Nikola Jokic during the second half of an NBA basketball game Friday, Dec. 25, 2020, in Denver. (AP Photo/David Zalubowski)

  • Denver Nuggets forward Will Barton, left, tries to block a pass by Los Angeles Clippers forward Patrick Patterson during the first half of an NBA basketball game Friday, Dec. 25, 2020, in Denver. (AP Photo/David Zalubowski)

  • Los Angeles Clippers forward Serge Ibaka, right, fouls Denver Nuggets guard Jamal Murray during the first half of an NBA basketball game Friday, Dec. 25, 2020, in Denver. (AP Photo/David Zalubowski)

  • Denver Nuggets guard Jamal Murray passes the ball as Los Angeles Clippers guard Patrick Beverley defends during the second half of an NBA basketball game Friday, Dec. 25, 2020, in Denver. (AP Photo/David Zalubowski)

  • DENVER, COLORADO – DECEMBER 25: Head coach Tyronn Lue of the Los Angeles Clippers shouts instructions to his team against the Denver Nuggets in the third quarter at Ball Arena on December 25, 2020 in Denver, Colorado. NOTE TO USER: User expressly acknowledges and agrees that, by downloading and or using this photograph, User is consenting to the terms and conditions of the Getty Images License Agreement. (Photo by Matthew Stockman/Getty Images)

  • Los Angeles Clippers guard Paul George looks to pass the ball as Denver Nuggets forward Will Barton defends in the second half of an NBA basketball game Friday, Dec. 25, 2020, in Denver. (AP Photo/David Zalubowski)

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Playing the fifth and final game on the NBA’s prestigious holiday slate, Tyronn Lue’s team faced down the ghosts of Clippers-Nuggets games past and kept alive the day’s streak of double-digit victories.

The Clippers fought off Denver’s late-game surge – and did it for the final six minutes without Kawhi Leonard to help – for a 121-108 victory on Friday night at Ball Arena in Denver.

It was a feel-good Christmas story for the Clippers – clouded, however, by Leonard’s bloodied departure with 6:07 left.

The four-time All-Star left the court and headed to the locker room bleeding heavily from his mouth, done for the night after being elbowed violently by his friend Serge Ibaka. The Clippers’ new starting center accidentally hit Leonard on a rebound attempt.


Clippers forward Kawhi Leonard lies on the court after suffering a jaw injury during the second half against the Denver Nuggets on Friday, Dec. 25, 2020, in Denver. (AP Photo/David Zalubowski)

The Clippers reported Leonard had suffered a mouth laceration requiring eight stitches.

“When I went closer to him, I saw his lips, so I didn’t look good at all,” Nicolas Batum said. “You don’t want a player, one of our teammates – even like an opposite guy – any players to go down like that, with blood all over him and everywhere on the floor.”

That said, Batum noted he’s optimistic his new teammate will be OK. “I just saw him in the locker room, he was OK. Kind of scary at the moment.”

Otherwise, these Clippers escaped a late-game assault by Denver unscathed – and moreover, they banked another big win and left the court with another early example of their ability to stay composed under duress.

“There’s still a lot of getting to know each other,” said Paul George, who led the Clippers with 23 points and nine assists. “But that all comes with us practicing and playing games. We’re a ways away, but you guys can see, we’re getting better and we’re a different team than we were last year.”

There’s significance to fending off the Nuggets, in part, if it helps vanquish the specter of the Orlando bubble, in which a series of blown double-digit, second-half leads fed L.A.’s collapse in the Western Conference semifinals in September.

It might be more important because it signals the Clippers – now 2-0 – are developing a healthy stubborn streak under Lue.

“Just being resilient,” Lue said. “Denver’s a great team. They went to the Western Conference finals last year and they have some really good players so they’re going to make a run, especially at home. I thought we just kept our composure.”

Lue soothed the Clippers through the Lakers’ charge from behind in the season opener on Tuesday. On Friday, his Clippers again staved off another talented team’s surge, when the Nuggets whittled what had been a 24-point lead to as little as 11 points, though they got no closer.

With Leonard being treated away from the action, Lou Williams, Patrick Beverley, George and Ibaka took turns hitting shots to keep the Nuggets from eating any further into the lead.

“Nothing was said, just, you know, ‘Next man up,’” Lue said. “We know Kawhi is a great player, but we got to have the mindset that if he goes down everybody has to be able to step up, and I thought Serge, I thought Lou, Pat Beverley made a big shots – of course, PG.

“We was able to kind of quiet the storm by just executing what we were trying to execute, and we made some big plays down the stretch.”

Employing Lue’s philosophy of scoring by paint or by distance helped the Clippers establish their advantage. They hit the host Nuggets (0-2) with a barrage from 3-point range, making 19 of 38 attempts from deep – including 12 of 23 in the first half, after which the Clippers led 72-55.

In the end, nine Clippers connected from long range – with George hitting five 3-pointers, giving him 10 through the first two games on 17 attempts.

George continued his overall inspired early-season effort, following his efficient 33-point season debut. He went 8 for 14 from the field, making 21 for 32 this young season.

He had help from his friends, including Leonard (21 points), Ibaka (15), Batum (13 and 10 rebounds), and Ivica Zubac (12 off the bench).

Nikola Jokic led Denver with 24 points, 10 assists and nine rebounds. Jamal Murray added 23 points, 13 coming in the fourth quarter.

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Coronavirus state tracker: Hospitalizations in California surpass 14,000 people

Hospitalizations across the state continue to climb to all-time highs.

According to California public heath websites, there were 618 more patients hospitalized, bringing the total number of patients infected with coronavirus to 14,578 as of Dec. 13.

Intensive care capacity continues to decline in some regions. When public health officials adjust the percentage of actual open ICU beds to account for high levels of COVID-19 patients, the Southern California region fell to 2.7% ICU capacity available, while the San Joaquin Valley region’s ICU capacity available is nearly tapped out.

The state reported 24,588 new cases of the coronavirus, bringing the total number of infections to 1,572,755, according to official totals from California public health websites as of Dec. 13.

There were also 71 additional deaths reported in the state, bringing the total number of deaths to 21,044.

Three of the five California regions are under stay-at-home orders. Stay-at-home orders will be imposed within 24 hours for a region that has an ICU hospital capacity below 15%. They then stay in effect for at least three weeks.

 

Sources: Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, Johns Hopkins University, the World Health Organization, the California Department of Public Health, The Associated Press, reporting counties and news sources

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