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Weekend Sports in Brief

January 17, 2022 GMT

PRO BASKETBALL

Officially, NBA players began participating in games that were scheduled to celebrate and honor the life of Dr. Martin Luther King Jr. in 1986, when the federal holiday commemorating the civil-rights leader was observed for the first time.

Oscar Robertson knows the tradition dates back long before that.

King was shot and killed in Memphis, Tennessee, on April 4, 1968. A day later, Robertson began planning a benefit game in King’s memory. On Aug. 15 of that year, he was among 27 NBA players on an outdoor court in New York — including Wilt Chamberlain, Lenny Wilkens, Dave Bing, Dave DeBusschere, Willis Reed and Walt Bellamy.

“What happened years ago with Dr. King is still part of our social fiber,” the 83-year-old Robertson said.

The annual reminder of that comes Monday, on the annual celebration of the King holiday. The NBA has scheduled 12 games — including the traditional home games in King’s birthplace of Atlanta and in Memphis, where he was killed at 39.

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CHICAGO (AP) — The “MVP! MVP!” chants are ringing out in Chicago once again, this time for Bulls star DeMar DeRozan as fans have something to cheer about in the Windy City.

The resurgent Bulls (27-14) are one of the surprising stories in the NBA, opening eyes by sitting atop the Eastern Conference with DeRozan and Zach LaVine leading the way. They will be looking to end a three-game losing streak Monday when they visit Memphis (30-15) as part of the league’s MLK Day lineup.

The soaring Grizzlies are also raising more than a few eyebrows around the league. Memphis is currently third in the Western Conference and have won 11 of its last 12 games behind their own MVP candidate, Ja Morant.

The Bulls haven’t been a serious threat since Derrick Rose elicited MVP chants from his hometown fans.

NEW YORK (AP) — Kevin Durant has a sprained medial collateral ligament of his left knee, sidelining the NBA’s leading scorer just as the Brooklyn Nets were poised to finally have a lengthy run with their Big Three.

Durant was injured Saturday in a victory over New Orleans when teammate Bruce Brown was knocked backward and fell into his knee. Durant had an MRI exam Sunday that confirmed the injury.

The Nets said Durant was expected to return to full strength following a period of rehabilitation, but didn’t provide a timetable.

TENNIS

MELBOURNE, Australia (AP) — Rafael Nadal renewed his bid for a record 21st Grand Slam singles title with a three-set win over American Marcos Giron on Monday at the Australian Open, and defending champion Naomi Osaka had a relatively trouble-free time beating Camila Osorio.

Osaka, the four-time Grand Slam singles champion, won the first five games of the match before Osorio hit back. The final was 6-3, 6-3, with Osaka advancing to the second round against either Dayana Yastremska or Madison Brengle.

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In beating Giron 6-1, 6-4, 6-2, Nadal also started on the path to become the second man in the Open Era — and only the fourth man — to win each of the four Grand Slam singles titles twice. Novak Djokovic completed the double by winning his second title at Roland Garros in 2021. Australians Roy Emerson and Rod Laver are the only other men to have won each Grand Slam on two or more occasions.

MELBOURNE, Australia (AP) — Novak Djokovic was heading home to Serbia on Monday after his deportation from Australia over its required COVID-19 vaccination ended the No. 1-ranked men’s tennis player’s hopes of defending his Australian Open title.

An Emirates plane carrying him from Australia landed in Dubai early Monday, and Djokovic was later seen on board a plane due to land in the Serbian capital of Belgrade at 12:10 CET. His lawyers had argued in an Australian court on Sunday that he should be allowed to stay in the country and compete in the tournament under a medical exemption due to a coronavirus infection last month.

Djokovic has won nine Australian Open titles, including three in a row, and a total of 20 Grand Slam singles trophies, tied with rivals Roger Federer and Rafael Nadal for the most in the history of men’s tennis. Federer is not playing while recovering from injury, and Nadal is the only former Australian Open men’s champion in the tournament that began Monday.

Vaccination amid the pandemic was a requirement for anyone at the Australian Open, whether players, their coaches or anyone at the tournament site. More than 95% of all Top 100 men and women in their tours’ respective rankings are vaccinated.

PRO FOOTBALL

TAMPA, Fla. (AP) — As the game clock expired, Tom Brady raised his arms in triumph along the sideline, whirled and tossed a football into the stands.

The Tampa Bay Buccaneers and their jubilant 44-year-old quarterback took the first step on what they hope will be a journey back to the Super Bowl, dominating the Philadelphia Eagles 31-15 in a NFC wild-card playoff victory Sunday.

“It only gets tougher from here,” said the seven-time Super Bowl winner, who’s trying to help the Bucs become the first team to repeat as NFL champions since the Brady-led New England Patriots won back-to-back titles in the 2003 and 2004 seasons.

Tampa Bay (14-4) set the tempo from the start, with Brady leading a pair of long TD drives in the opening quarter and building the lead to 17-0 by halftime.

ARLINGTON, Texas (AP) — Deebo Samuel and the San Francisco 49ers have started another playoff run after hanging on in a frantic wild-card finish against Dallas.

Dak Prescott and the Cowboys will have to keep waiting for that elusive deep trip in the postseason.

San Francisco’s versatile receiver ran 26 yards for a touchdown the play after an interception by Prescott, and the 49ers held on for a 23-17 victory over the Cowboys on Sunday.

KANSAS CITY, Mo. (AP) — Patrick Mahomes threw for 404 yards and five touchdowns, Travis Kelce caught a TD pass and threw another one, and the Kansas City Chiefs sent Pittsburgh quarterback Ben Roethlisberger into his anticipated retirement with a 42-21 blowout of the Steelers in the wild-card round of the playoffs Sunday night.

Byron Pringle caught touchdown passes from both Mahomes and Kelce, and Jerick McKinnon and Tyreek Hill also reeled in scoring catches as the Chiefs (13-5) began their pursuit of a third straight AFC championship in fine style.

They scored on six straight possessions during the middle part of the game, shut down Roethlisberger and the rest of the Pittsburgh offense, and turned next Sunday night’s divisional-round game against Buffalo into appointment viewing.

ORCHARD PARK, N.Y. (AP) — Josh Allen set a franchise record by throwing five touchdowns passing, and the Buffalo Bills showed who’s king of the AFC East with a 47-17 throttling of the New England Patriots in a wild-card playoff game.

Dawson Knox caught two touchdown passes and Devin Singletary ran for two scores in the first half.

Buffalo scored on all seven possessions of the game, none of which ended with a kneeldown.

CINCINNATI (AP) — Paul Brown Stadium nearly shook in triumph. The city of Cincinnati might have, too.

Its latest hero, Bengals quarterback Joe Burrow, merely seemed to shrug after leading his team to its first playoff victory in 31 years, 26-19 over Las Vegas on Saturday in an AFC wild-card game.

“It’s exciting for the city, for the state, but we are not going to dwell on that, we are moving forward,” said Burrow, who threw two touchdown passes. “This is expected, this isn’t like the icing on top of the cake, this is the cake. So we are moving on.”

Burrow led an efficient offense that scored on six drives, Evan McPherson became the first rookie to make four field goals without a miss in a postseason debut, and Germaine Pratt sealed it with a fourth-down interception in the dying seconds.

GOLF

HONOLULU (AP) — Five shots behind at the turn, Hideki Matsuyama figured all he could do was keep his head down and try to stay in the game Sunday in the Sony Open. And when he finally looked up, he couldn’t see one of the best shots of his career.

In a sudden-death playoff with Russell Henley, Matsuyama hit a 3-wood from 276 yards, right into the sun, and had no idea that it settled 3 feet away for eagle on the par-5 18th until he heard an enormous cheer from one of the largest galleries at Waialae.

Matsuyama, who made birdie on the 18th in regulation for a 7-under 63, won for the eighth time on the PGA Tour, tying him with K.J. Choi for most tour victories by an Asian-born player.

COLLEGE FOOTBALL

IOWA CITY, Iowa (AP) — Iowa football coach Kirk Ferentz has disbanded an alumni advisory committee that was created after a 2020 investigation found evidence of racial bias against Black players in his program and bullying behavior by some of his assistants.

The Gazette reports that Ferentz’s decision to end the committee came shortly after its leader, former offensive lineman David Porter, suggested it was time for Iowa to part ways with Ferentz. But Ferentz said he had decided to overhaul the committee before Porter’s comment.

In 2020, the university hired the Husch Blackwell law firm to review the program after dozens of former players, most of them Black, spoke out on social media to allege racial disparities and mistreatment. The report said that some of the football program’s rules “perpetuated racial or cultural biases and diminished the value of cultural diversity.”

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