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Thursday Sports in Brief

April 29, 2022 GMT

NFL

LAS VEGAS (AP) — Defense was the focus to start the NFL draft Thursday night, with the first five selections coming on that side of the ball, including edge rushers Travon Walker of national champion Georgia to Jacksonville and Aidan Hutchinson of Michigan to Detroit at Nos. 1 and 2.

It’s the first time in 31 years that no player on offense went in the opening five picks. So, naturally, the next five choices were on offense. And those kept coming: right through No. 12.

And the theme throughout the first 20 picks was to get guys who could catch the ball — including Philadelphia acquiring standout A.J. Brown from the Titans, and Arizona getting veteran Marquise Brown from the Ravens.

No quarterbacks went until 20th, when Pitt’s Kenny Pickett found out he can simply switch to another side of the practice facility as he joins the Steelers and perhaps become Ben Roethlisberger’s successor.

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NBA

TORONTO (AP) — Joel Embiid had 33 points and 10 rebounds, James Harden added 22 points and 15 assists and the Philadelphia 76ers beat the Toronto Raptors 132-97 in Game 6 to end the first-round series Thursday night.

Philadelphia will face Miami in the second round. The top-seeded Heat beat Atlanta in five games.

NEW ORLEANS (AP) — Chris Paul went 14 for 14 in the best shooting night in NBA playoff history, Devin Booker returned from a hamstring injury to hit a late 3-pointer and the Phoenix Suns beat the New Orleans Pelicans 115-109 on Thursday night to finish off the first-round series in six games.

Paul had the most field goals without a miss in a playoff game, hit all four of his free throws and had eight assists as the top-seeded Suns overcame a 10-point halftime deficit.

Phoenix will face the Dallas in the second round.

SALT LAKE CITY (AP) — Luka Doncic and Jalen Brunson each scored 24 points and the Dallas Mavericks beat the Utah Jazz 98-96 on Thursday night in Game 6 to wrap up the first-round series.

After Brunson hit a 3-pointer from the corner, Mike Conley was called for traveling with five seconds remaining, and Brunson made one of two free throws with 4.3 seconds to play.

The Jazz got an open look for Bojan Bogdanovic on the left wing, but he came up short and the Mavericks moved on to face top-seeded Phoenix in the second round.

MLB

ATLANTA (AP) — Outfielder Ronald Acuña Jr. returns to the Atlanta Braves nearly 10 months after a major knee injury ended his 2021 season.

The Braves had intended to wait another week before activating one of the game’s most dynamic players. But Acuña’s strong play during a rehab stint at Triple-a Gwinnett moved up the timeline.

The Braves are hoping he can boost a team that has started out 8-11, falling 5 1/2 games behind the New York Mets in the NL East.

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ST. LOUIS (AP) — Cardinals star Nolan Arenado and pitcher Génesis Cabrera have been suspended for their actions during a benches-clearing fracas Wednesday against the New York Mets.

Arenado has been banned two games and Cabrera one game, and both have been fined undisclosed amounts. Their punishments were announced Thursday by Michael Hill, Major League Baseball’s senior vice president for on-field operations.

Arenado ducked his head out of the way of a high fastball from Mets reliever Yoan López in the eighth inning Wednesday and shouted at the mound. Arenado tossed aside catcher Tomás Nido as players from both dugouts rushed onto the field.

NHL

OTTAWA, Ontario (AP) — Carter Verhaeghe scored twice and Spencer Knight stopped 27 shots for his second career shutout as the Florida Panthers beat the Ottawa Senators 4-0 on Thursday night.

With the victory and Nashville’s 5-4 shootout win over Western Conference-leading Colorado (56-18-7), the Panthers (58-17-6) clinched their first Presidents’ Trophy for the best record in the regular season and home ice advantage throughout the Stanley Cup playoffs.

Sam Reinhart and Sam Bennett also scored for Florida, which halted Ottawa’s four-game winning streak.

EL SEGUNDO, Calif. (AP) — Los Angeles Kings forward Dustin Brown will retire after this season, his 18th with the club.

The 37-year-old made the announcement Thursday ahead of the Kings’ regular-season finale. Los Angeles will face Edmonton in the first round of the Western Conference playoffs.

Brown has played in a franchise record 1,295 regular-season games during his 18 seasons as a physical two-way forward for the Kings. He has 325 goals and 387 assists in his career. He has nine goals and 19 assists in 63 games this season for Los Angeles.

GOLF

MELBOURNE, Australia (AP) — The men’s and women’s Australian Open golf tournaments are set to be played at the same time on two sandbelt courses in southeast Melbourne in December.

Golf Australia said Friday the marquee domestic events will be played Dec. 1-4 with Victoria Golf Club as the primary course and nearby Kingston Heath also hosting play on the first two days.

The men’s event will headline the PGA Tour of Australasia while the women’s event will be sanctioned by the WPGA Tour of Australasia.

WNBA

NEW YORK (AP) — Chicago will host the WNBA All-Star Game for the first time, the league announced Thursday.

The game will coincide with two major youth girls’ basketball tournaments being played in Chicago the weekend of July 10. The league will host a two-day “WNBA Live” event that weekend.

On July 9, the two All-Star teams will have practice indoors with participants from the Nike Nationals tournament in attendance. Later that day, the annual 3-point contest and skills challenge will also take place.

TRACK AND FIELD

USA Track and Field has signed on to use technology that will give athletes an additional method to anonymously report sexual abuse and other forms of misconduct.

The organization announced a deal Thursday with RealResponse, a company that serves around 100,000 athletes in nearly 1,500 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 and then allows organizations to easily follow up on reports without compromising the anonymity of the reporter. It skips intake forms and drop-down menus that populate many reporting apps.

SOCCER

LIVERPOOL, England (AP) — Liverpool manager Jürgen Klopp has signed a two-year contract extension to keep him at the Premier League club until 2026.

If he sees out the deal announced on Thursday, Klopp will have been at Liverpool for more than a decade after joining in October 2015.

Klopp’s previous deal was set to expire in 2024.

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