Friday’s Sports Minute: Embiid returns to lead Sixers to series lead

Here’s a look at today’s big sports stories.

Embiid returns to lead Sixers to 2-1 series lead
Joel Embiid made a successful return to the Philadelphia 76ers after missing 10 games following surgery to repair a fractured orbital bone.

Embiid wore a face mask to protect his face as he scored 23 points in the Sixers’ 128-108 thumping of the Heat in Miami. Embiid was listed as doubtful in the morning and was upgraded to probably hours later before taking the opening tip.

Marco Bellinelli and Dario Saric each added 21 points as the 76ers took a 2-1 lead in the NBA’s Eastern Conference quarterfinals. Ben Simmons had another strong game with 19 points, 12 rebounds and seven assists in Philadelphia’s 18th victory in 19 games.

Goran Dragic had 23 points and Justise Winslow had 19 for the Heat, who host Game 4 on Saturday.

The Warriors have a 3-0 lead in their first-round series with the Spurs after Kevin Durant delivered 26 points, nine rebounds and six assists in a 110-97 win at San Antonio. Klay Thompson finished with 19 points for Golden State, which closed the first half on a 20-9 run to eliminate a five-point deficit and take a 52-46 lead. Durant had 17 points in the first half to counter 10 points each from Rudy Gay and Tony Parker.

LaMarcus Aldridge had a team-best 19 points for the Spurs, who played without head coach Gregg Popovich one day after the death of his wife, Erin, following a long illness.

Game 4 is Sunday at San Antonio.

The Pelicans need one more victory to advance to the second round for the first time in 10 years, and they can finish up a sweep at home on Saturday. Nikola Mirotic scored 21 of his playoff career-high 30 points in the first half and finished with eight rebounds and three steals as New Orleans dumped the Trail Blazers, 119-102 to take a three-games-to-none series lead.

Anthony Davis had 28 points and 11 boards for the Pelicans, who led by 18 in the first quarter and coasted to victory.

CJ McCollum had 22 points and Al-Farouq Aminu added 21 for the Blazers.

Bruins hold off Leafs, Caps square series
The Boston Bruins are heading home with a three-games-to-one lead in the first round of the NHL’s Stanley Cup playoffs.

Brad Marchand scored the tiebreaking goal late in the second period and Tuukka Rask stopped 31 shots as the Bruins beat the Maple Leafs, 3-1 at Toronto. Torey Krug and Tomas Plekanec traded first-period goals before Marchand beat Frederik Andersen with 3:05 left in the middle stanza.

David Pastrnak set up to tallies to run his point total to a league-high 11 in just four games.

Jake DeBrusk added an insurance goal for the Bruins, who can advance to the second round on Saturday.

Thursday’s other NHL playoff game had the Capitals beating the Blue Jackets, 4-1 to knot the opening-round series at two games apiece. Alex Ovechkin and Evgeny Kuznetsov each had a goal and an assist for Washington, which took both games in Columbus after replacing Philipp Grubauer with Braden Holtby in goal. Holtby stopped 23 shots and was perfect until Boone Jenner scored 6:22 into the third period. Game 5 is Saturday in Washington.

Hammond to start for Avs
The Colorado Avalanche will go with backup goaltender Andrew Hammond for Game 5 Friday in Nashville after starter Jonathan Bernier suffered a lower-body injury. Colorado trails the Predators 3-1 in the first-round series.

Hammond stopped all eight shots he faced after replacing Jonathan Bernier in the third period of Wednesday’s loss to Nashville. It was Hammond’s first playoff appearance in three years.

In other NHL news:

  • The NHL has suspended Predators forward Ryan Hartman for Game 5 against the Avalanche for an illegal check to the head of Carl Soderberg in the third period of Nashville’s win in Game 4. The league’s Department of Player Safety issued the suspension after a hearing.
  • New Jersey top defenseman Sami Vatanen is listed as day to day with an upper-body injury as the Devils prepare for a must-win Game 5 of their first-round series with the Lightning. Vatanen was hurt late in the first period of the 3-1 win by the Lightning on Wednesday night when he was checked in the shoulder and head area by Tampa Bay forward Nikita Kucherov. Tampa Bay leads the series 3-1.

    Astros rout M’s
    The Houston Astros didn’t let a triple-play grounder stop them from whipping the Seattle Mariners this afternoon.

    Charlie Morton scattered three hits over seven scoreless innings of the Astros 9-2 win over the Mariners. Jose Altuve was 3-for-4 with a three-run double and four RBIs to help the defending champs beat the Mariners for the third straight game after dropping the series opener. Max Stassi and Josh Reddick homered for Houston.

    The blowout allowed Evan Gattis to laugh off his base-runner miscue. Gattis hit a grounder that Kyle Seager grabbed for what became a triple play when Gattis didn’t pay attention to the number of outs. Gattis jogged back to the dugout without touching first base and said he was annoyed at his check-swing grounder. He said, “I got so mad I couldn’t think straight.”

    Elsewhere in the majors:

  • The Red Sox continued their ridiculous pace as Mookie Betts hit a leadoff homer for the second time in three games to ignite their 8-2 romp over the Angels. Andrew Benintendi went deep and had three RBIs to help the Bosox leave Anaheim with 11 home runs, their most for a three-game series since 1977. Eduardo Rodriguez pitched three-hit ball over six innings for Boston, which has won 16 of 17 since blowing a 4-0 lead in the eighth inning of their opening-day loss at Tampa.
  • Aaron Judge belted his fifth homer of the season to give the Yankees a 4-2 lead in the seventh inning of a 4-3 win over the Blue Jays. CC Sabathia lowed a pair of unearned runs over 4 1/3 innings in his first start since straining his right hip on April 6. The Blue Jays ended a three-game winning streak and fell to 12-6, with three of the losses coming against New York.
  • The Tigers pinned the Orioles with their sixth straight loss as Leonys Martin launched his first career grand slam in a 13-8 pounding of Baltimore. Jeimer Candelario had four hits and three RBIs to back a shaky Jordan Zimmermann, who surrendered four runs and seven hits in 5/3 innings. Zimmerman was roughed up in his first start since being hit by a line drive eight days earlier, allowing two homers to Manny Machado and one to Chris Davis.
  • Matt Wisler was terrific in the Braves’ 12-4 pounding of the Mets, holding the NL East leaders to a run and two hits over seven innings. Kurt Suzuki hit a two-run homer and Preston Tucker drove in five runs with a pair of doubles. Todd Frazier and Adrian Gonzalez hit solo homers for the Mets, but Matt Harvey was torched for six runs in as many innings as New York lost for the fourth time in six games since an 11-1 start.
  • Zack Greinke served up a solo homer by Brandon Belt but just two other hits over seven innings as the Diamondbacks topped the Giants, 3-1 to move to 13-5. A.J. Pollock snapped a 1-1 deadlock with a solo blast in the sixth, one inning before Ketel Marte went deep. Brad Boxberger put the tying run on base in the ninth before claiming his sixth save, allowing Arizona to pull even with the Mets for the NL’s best record.
  • Jon Lester’s 100th major league start was a fine one as he threw two-hit ball while allowing an unearned run in the Cubs’ 8-5 win over the Cardinals. Lester struck out seven and didn’t allow a hit until Jedd Gyroko lined a one-out single in the fifth inning. Jason Heyward hit a two-run homer for the Cubs, while Kris Bryant and Kyle Schwarber drove in two runs apiece.
  • Lorenzo Cain homered, doubled twice and scored four times as the Brewers ripped the Marlins, 12-3. Pinch-hitter Ryan Braun unloaded a three-run homer while Milwaukee plated seven in the sixth inning. Chase Anderson allowed three runs and five hits in 5 1/3 innings for the win.
  • The Phillies rolled over the Pirates, 7-0 as Jake Arrieta pitched one-hit ball over seven innings. Arrieta fanned seven over the first four innings and finished with 10 after striking out just six over his first two starts. Rhys Hoskins homered and Cesar Hernandez had a three-run single to help Philadelphia win for the eighth time in 10 games.

    Reds fire Price after 3-15 start
    The axe has fallen on Cincinnati Reds manager Bryan Price, making him the first major league manager to be fired this season. Price is the first manager since 2002 to be dismissed in April, getting the hook after the Reds opened 3-15 for their worst 18-game start since 1931. Bench coach Jim Riggleman will manage the team on an interim basis, the fourth time in his career he’s been promoted during a season.

    In other baseball news:

  • Yankees reliever Tommy Kahnle will be shut down for 10 days and likely miss a few weeks after being diagnosed with biceps and shoulder tendinitis. Kahnle had an MRI this week that revealed the tendinitis. The right-hander was placed on the disabled list Tuesday. Kahnle is 1-0 with a 6.14 ERA in six appearances.
  • The Cardinals have recalled outfielder Tyler O’Neill from Triple-A Memphis and optioned pitcher John Brebbia to the farm team. Manager Mike Matheny says O’Neill will make his major league debut soon.
  • Cuban outfielder Julio Pablo Martinez has signed with the Rangers. The 22-year-old Martinez will make his debut for the organization in the Dominican Summer League. Martinez played six seasons in the Cuban national league after debuting at age 16. The left-hander says his goal is to be in the major leagues within three years.

    Tennessee AD Fulmer signs new deal worth at least $900,000
    Tennessee athletic director Phillip Fulmer has signed a contract that runs through 2021 and increases his annual pay to at least $900,000.

    The 67-year-old Fulmer was paid $575,000 by the school when he took over as Tennessee’s athletic director Dec. 1 during a tumultuous football coaching search. Fulmer hired Alabama defensive coordinator Jeremy Pruitt as football coach six days later.

    Murray leads through 18
    Grayson Murray has a one-stroke lead over five others through one run of the PGA’s Valero Texas Open at TPC San Antonio.

    Murray carded seven birdies in a 5-under 67 under blustery conditions. His only mistake was a double-bogey on the par-3 seventh hole.

    Keegan Bradley, Ryan Moore, Billy Horschel, Chesson Hadley and Matt Atkins share second.

    Jeff Maggert, Jesper Parnevik lead Legends of Golf
    Jeff Maggert and Jesper Parnevik shot an 8-under 63 in better-ball play to take the first-round lead in the PGA Tour Champions’ Bass Pro Shops Legends of Golf.
    Maggert and Parnevik eagled the par-5 eighth and had six birdies for a one-shot edge over Mark Calcavecchia and Woody Austin.

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