Weekend Sports in Brief

February 22, 2021 GMT


The Minnesota Timberwolves fired coach Ryan Saunders on Sunday night, hours after the team with the NBA’s worst record this season lost for the eighth time in the last nine games.

A person with knowledge of the situation said that the Timberwolves were finalizing plans to introduce Toronto assistant Chris Finch as the new coach Monday. The person spoke to The Associated Press on condition of anonymity because Finch’s hiring has not been formally completed.

ESPN first reported Saunders’ dismissal and The Athletic first reported Finch’s looming hiring.

Saunders, the 34-year-old son of longtime Minnesota coach Flip Saunders, was with the Timberwolves for parts of three seasons, going 43-94. Minnesota has the league’s worst record this season at 7-24 and is already 7 1/2 games out of what would be the final play-in spot for the Western Conference postseason.


— By AP Basketball Writer Tim Reynolds.


MELBOURNE, Australia (AP) — Novak Djokovic beat Daniil Medvedev 7-5, 6-2, 6-2 to win his ninth Australian Open championship and 18th Grand Slam title.

The No. 1-seeded Djokovic has won the trophy three years in a row at Melbourne Park.

He has won six of the last 10 major tournaments overall and his total of 18 Slams moves him within two of the men’s record of 20 shared by Roger Federer and Rafael Nadal.

The No. 4-seeded Medvedev was trying to collect his first Grand Slam title Sunday.

In the women’s final, Naomi Osaka won her fourth Grand Slam title by pulling away to beat Jennifer Brady 6-4, 6-3.

Osaka used a six-game run from 4-all in the opening set Saturday to take control and improve to 4-0 in major finals. She is the first woman to start her career that way since Monica Seles did it 30 years ago.

The 23-year-old Osaka has won her past 21 matches at all tournaments dating 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.

Brady is a 25-year-old American who was playing in her first Grand Slam final.


DENVER (AP) — Colorado Rockies veteran outfielder Ian Desmond is opting out for a second straight season.

Desmond announced Sunday on his Instagram account that his “desire to be with my family is greater than my desire to go back and play baseball under these circumstances. I’m going to train and watch how things unfold.” He added “for now” in his statement to opt out, leaving the door open for a possible return.


The 35-year-old Desmond is in the final year of a five-year, $70 million deal he signed in December 2016. He is scheduled to make $8 million this season. Colorado has a $15 million option for 2022 with a $2 million buyout.


STATELINE, Nev. (AP) — Nathan MacKinnon scored a dazzling goal more than nine hours after assisting on another to highlight a most unusual and lengthy outdoor game at Lake Tahoe that the Colorado Avalanche won 3-2 over the Vegas Golden Knights.

The game started Saturday in bright sunshine that led to a delay of more than eight hours following the first period because of poor ice conditions and ended in the dark nearly 11 hours later.

Alec Martinez and Alex Tuch scored for Vegas and Marc-Andre Fleury lost for the third time in three career outdoor starts.

In Sunday’s game, the Boston Bruins beat the Philadelphia Flyers 7-3.


DAYTONA BEACH, Fla. (AP) — Christopher Bell chased down Joey Logano on the winding Daytona road course Sunday for his first career Cup victory and a coveted spot in NASCAR’s playoffs.

Bell won in his second race driving for Joe Gibbs Racing to give the team a pair of surprising victories at Daytona International Speedway. Ty Gibbs, the 18-year-old grandson of team owner Joe Gibbs, won the Xfinity Series race Saturday night in his first career national series start.


LOS ANGELES (AP) — Tiger Woods says he’s doesn’t know when he will return from a fifth back surgery, and he could not give a definitive answer Sunday when asked if he would be at the Masters.

Woods had a microdiscectomy Dec. 23. It was the fifth surgery on his back, and the first since a procedure to fuse his lower spine in April 2017.

“I don’t know what the plan is,” he said when asked if he would try to play before the Masters.

The next four events are in Florida, including The Players Championship. The latest Woods like would play, if he’s fit for the Masters, would be the Dell Match Play two weeks before Augusta National.

LOS ANGELES (AP) — Max Homa couldn’t have scripted a victory like this at Riviera.

He grew up watching this PGA Tour event. And he won the Genesis Invitational in a playoff over Tony Finau.

It wasn’t that simple.

Homa looked like the winner when he stuffed his approach to 3 feet on the final hole. He missed the birdie putt for the win.

In the playoff on the 10th hole, his tee shot settled at the base of a tree. Homa managed to extend the playoff with a par, and he won when Finau made bogey from the bunker on the next hole.

LAKEWOOD RANCH, Fla. (AP) — Hayden Buckley won the LECOM Suncoast Classic for his first Korn Ferry Tour title, beating Dawson Armstrong and Taylor Montgomery with a 10-foot birdie putt on the first hole of a playoff.

The last alternate to get in the field Thursday, Buckley closed with a 1-under 70 to match Armstrong and Montgomery at 13-under 271 at Lakewood National in the tour’s first event since early October.


NEWPORT BEACH, Calif. (AP) — Northwestern linebacker Paddy Fisher won the Lott IMPACT Trophy, which goes to college football’s defensive player who has made the biggest impact on his team.

The announcement was made Sunday night at the Pacific Club. The award is usually given in December, but was delayed because of the coronavirus pandemic. IMPACT stands for integrity, maturity, performance, academics, community and tenacity.

Fisher had 86 tackles, 4 1/2 for loss, one interception, a forced fumble and a fumble recovery during the 2020 season. The senior from Katy, Texas, was also named Big Ten linebacker of the year. He finished his career with 404 tackles, most among active players.


SAN JUAN, Puerto Rico (AP) — Ra’Shad James scored 21 points and the U.S. finished AmeriCup qualifying with a 6-0 record, beating Mexico 96-75 on Saturday. Brandon Bass scored 12 points for the Americans, who outscored the Mexicans 33-12 from 3-point range.

AmeriCup is the championship for the nations in the FIBA Americas region; the U.S. has won it seven times in nine previous chances, and it came into its two games in San Juan knowing it already had a berth in the September 2022 tournament secured. It wound up beating the Bahamas and Mexico by a combined 37 points in those games anyway.


CORTINA D’AMPEZZO, Italy (AP) — Austrian skier Katharina Liensberger won the women’s slalom at the world championships.

She ended Mikaela Shiffrin’s streak of four straight world titles in the discipline.

Liensberger posted the fastest time in both runs to beat Petra Vlhova of Slovakia by one second.

Shiffrin was 1.98 behind in third for bronze.

CORTINA D’AMPEZZO, Italy (AP) — Mikaela Shiffrin says “it’s incredible” to win four medals at the world championships.

The American was dethroned as the four-time defending champion in slalom by Katharina Liensberger but won bronze after also medaling in her previous three events.

Shiffrin won gold in the combined event and took silver in giant slalom after opening the worlds with bronze in super-G.


SASKATOON, Saskatchewan (AP) — Mike Babcock, who coached the Detroit Red Wings to a Stanley Cup title and the Canadian men’s team to two Olympic medals, is taking over the University of Saskatchewan Huskies men’s team.

Babcock will lead the team on a full-time volunteer basis for the next two seasons.

The Saskatoon native and former Huskies player, replaces Dave Adolph, who announced his retirement on Dec. 7 after 27 years coaching Saskatchewan.


LOS ANGELES (AP) — Stan Williams, the fearsome All-Star pitcher who helped the Los Angeles Dodgers win the 1959 World Series, has died. He was 84.

Williams died Saturday at his home in Laughlin, Nevada. He was hospitalized on Feb. 11 and had been in hospice care due to the effects of cardio-pulmonary illness, the Dodgers said Sunday and son Stan Jr. confirmed.

Williams also won a World Series title in 1990 as pitching coach with the Cincinnati Reds.

The two-time All-Star right-hander was part of a powerhouse Los Angeles rotation that included Sandy Koufax, Don Drysdale and Johnny Podres from 1960-62. known as the “Big Hurt” because of his penchant for pitching inside, he had a record of 109-94 and a 3.48 ERA during his 14-year career in the majors.


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