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Steelers pick Canadian Claypool in 2nd round – TSN

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PITTSBURGH — Chase Claypool had no idea he was on the Pittsburgh Steelers’ radar. Funny, the thing that struck offensive co-ordinator Randy Fichtner the most when he met the wide receiver at the NFL combine is how you couldn’t miss him.

“He has an air about him,” Fichtner said.

Size and speed too. So much that the Steelers selected the 6-foot-4, 238-pound Claypool in the second round of the draft on Friday night, hoping his arrival will give quarterback Ben Roethlisberger another red-zone target in his return from right-elbow surgery.

Claypool caught 66 passes for 1,037 yards and 13 touchdowns last year for Notre Dame. He joins an offence in search of another playmaker following an eventful 2019 when the Steelers finished 8-8 after losing Roethlisberger to a for the season at halftime of Week 2.

“His production this past season was off the charts,” Fichtner said. “It’s been growing every season. He’s one of those guys that scores the ball. There’s ways to do it and he’s a guy that finds a way to score a touchdown in just about every game he plays.”

Pittsburgh’s passing game struggled in 2019 after Roethlisberger went down at halftime of Week 2. The Steelers finished 31st in yards passing while bouncing between Mason Rudolph and Devlin Hodges a year after Roethlisberger won the NFL passing title.

Roethlisberger is on schedule to play in 2020 and Claypool is the second big body to join the passing game in the last month. The Steelers signed tight end Eric Ebron to a two-year deal in free agency. Ebron can create mismatches on the inside. Claypool — who ran a 4.42 40-yard dash — can do the same on the outside.

Claypool, who was raised in British Columbia, Canada, said he models himself after a handful of players, including Steelers wide receiver Juju Smith-Schuster. Smith-Schuster texted Claypool shortly after Pittsburgh selected him with the 49th overall pick and Roethlisberger made it a point to call the rookie to welcome him to town. Well, sort of.

The COVID-19 pandemic means Claypool has no idea how long he will have to wait to get to Pittsburgh. He’s recently been working out with former NFL wide receiver TJ Houshmandzadeh and isn’t concerned about the unusual “virtual” off-season program the league installed during the lockdown.

If anything, it just means he’ll get more one-on-one instruction from Fichtner and first-year wide receivers coach Ike Hilliard.

Claypool dabbled with basketball growing up but always returned to football. A hype tape he put on Facebook helped him land a scholarship at Notre Dame and after a slow start to his career he finished with a flourish. He caught 116 passes for 1,676 yards over his final two seasons with the Fighting Irish, a breakout Claypool was confident would come.

“You could say I’m a late bloomer in the sense that I never really got my time to shine until my junior and senior year,” Claypool said. “I always thought I had the skill set. It just improved year after year.”

Still, Claypool admits he had “no clue” Pittsburgh was considering him until the phone rang on Friday night and coach Mike Tomlin was on the other end. There are worse ways to start your professional career.

“I think being on a team, a historic team with a proven background, especially for a quarterback like Ben, I think I was fortunate enough to be put in the right situation,” Claypool said.

Claypool is the first of two selections for the Steelers on Friday night. The team also has a pick late in the third round.

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Canada to play 2 more home World Cup qualifiers in U.S.

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As Canada continues to wrestle with the coronavirus pandemic, the country’s national soccer team will play two more of its home World Cup qualifying matches south of the border in June.

Canada will face Aruba in Bradenton, Fla., on June 5, and will take on Suriname in suburban Chicago on June 8, Canada Soccer confirmed Monday.

The games are Canada‘s last two of four matches in CONCACAF Group B. A March 26 Canadian home match against Bermuda was held in Orlando, Fla., which Canada won 5-1. Also, the Caymen Islands were the host team on March 29, when Canada rolled, 11-0.

Only one national team advances to the next round, and Canada and Suriname top the group and the game against Suriname in Bridgeview, Ill., figures to be the deciding match in both teams’ efforts to advance.

Thirty nations from Central and North America are competing in this first round with six group winners advancing to a second round of head-to-head knockout matches for the right to compete in the CONCACAF final round of eight teams competing for four places in the 2022 World Cup. A fifth team from CONCACAF advances to an intercontinental play-in round.

As was executed in Orlando, the match in Chicago will be staged in accordance with the FIFA International Match Protocols supported by the relevant public health requirements.

“We had hoped to play these matches at home with Canadian fans providing the support and momentum to play a tough nation like Suriname in FIFA World Cup Qualifiers,” said John Herdman, coach of the Canadian men’s national team. “The reality of the global pandemic and the priority to keep our communities in Canada safe means the match will be played at a neutral site in Chicago with no home advantage, but we will embrace that challenge.

“Whatever comes at us, we will take it on and do whatever we need to do to advance to the next round.”

-Field Level Media

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Berrettini hopes Madrid ATP 1000 final was the first of many

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Matteo Berrettini came up short in his maiden ATP Masters 1000 final on Sunday but the Italian said his performances in Madrid have given him belief he deserves to be competing for top-level titles against the best players in men’s tennis.

German Alexander Zverev, who defeated claycourt specialists Rafa Nadal and Dominic Thiem en route to the final, lost his only set at this year’s tournament to the 25-year-old before rallying for a 6-7(8) 6-4 6-3 win.

The defeat ended the hard-hitting Italian’s eight-match winning streak on clay after he won the ATP 250 event in Belgrade last month.

“I really worked hard to be here. Now that I’m here, I’m upset I lost,” the world number nine told reporters. “It’s important for my tennis, for my level. Sascha won, not easily, but in two sets against Thiem and Rafa, and today (he) was struggling against me.

“This is definitely a good feeling and something that I have to use, to build (on) in my next tournaments. It hurts now, but I know this loss is going to be useful.”

Berrettini said he had his chances against world number six Zverev and he was brimming with confidence going into this week’s ATP Masters event in Rome and the French Open starting at the end of the month.

“I know and I feel that I can play this kind of tennis, this kind of level. I deserve to be here,” he said.

“When I play and I use my weapons in the right way, all the players are struggling. This is something that makes me confident for the future.

“Once I’m healthy, I can reach my level, my best level. I think this week just showed that I can play this level. This was my first final. Hopefully it’s not going to be my last.”

 

(Reporting by Sudipto Ganguly in Mumbai; editing by Peter Rutherford)

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Anthony Davis drops 42 in Lakers win

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Anthony Davis had 42 points and 12 rebounds and the Los Angeles Lakers made 13 shots from 3-point range to overwhelm the Phoenix Suns in a 123-110 win on Sunday night in Los Angeles.

Los Angeles avoided the three-game season sweep by Phoenix and remained one game behind the Portland Trail Blazers for the No. 6 spot in the Western Conference standings with four games left. The top six teams avoid the play-in tournament to reach the playoffs.

Los Angeles, which lost eight of its previous 10 games, was without LeBron James, Kyle Kuzma and Dennis Schroder. After being out six weeks because of an ankle injury, James has missed the last four games with the same injury.

Devin Booker finished with 21 points for the Suns, but he made only 5 of 14 shots from the field and missed his only 3-point attempt. Chris Paul had 13 points and 10 assists.

Heat 130, Celtics 124

Jimmy Butler finished strong with 22 of his 26 points in the second half as Miami strengthened its hold on the sixth seed in the Eastern Conference with a win over host Boston.

Despite Butler having only four points at halftime, the Heat managed to build a 26-point lead to help hold off Boston’s fourth-quarter push. Butler also contributed 11 assists and eight rebounds.

Duncan Robinson scored 22 points, Bam Adebayo added 20 and Trevor Ariza scored all but two of his 19 points in the first half for the Heat.

Timberwolves 128, Magic 96

Karl-Anthony Towns and D’Angelo Russell each had 27 points to lead Minnesota to a blowout win, marking just the second time the Timberwolves have won in its previous 12 games in Orlando.

The Timberwolves snapped a three-game losing streak and improved to 7-5 over their past 12 games. The Magic dropped their third in a row in their home finale and went 11-25 in Orlando this season.

It was an emotional Mother’s Day victory for Towns, Minnesota’s two-time All-Star, who lost his mother to COVID-19 last year. Towns, who also had nine rebounds and four assists, helped jump-start the Timberwolves as they used an early run to overwhelm the Magic and outscore them 74-44 by halftime.

Knicks 106, Clippers 100

Derrick Rose contributed 25 points and eight assists off the bench and Reggie Bullock finished with 24 points on 5-for-12 shooting from behind the arc as visiting New York defeated Los Angeles.

RJ Barrett added 18 points and seven rebounds and Julius Randle chipped in 14 points and 14 rebounds. Kawhi Leonard topped the Clippers with 29 points but struggled finding his shooting stroke, finishing 9-for-26 (34.6 percent) from the field.

With the win, New York remained the No. 4 seed in the Eastern Conference, while the Clippers maintained their grip on the No. 3 seed in the West despite the loss.

Pelicans 112, Hornets 110

Eric Bledsoe scored 24 points as New Orleans pulled out a tight game over host Charlotte, keeping its slim playoff hopes alive while putting the Hornets’ on hold.

Jaxson Hayes of the Pelicans scored the only two field goals in the last 1:50 for either team before a 3-pointer from Charlotte’s Terry Rozier in the last second accounted for the final score. Rozier finished with 43 points, including 24 in the first half.

The Pelicans went ahead at 109-107 on Hayes’ alley-oop layup on a pass from Lonzo Ball. With 1:29 remaining, Charlotte’s LaMelo Ball missed two foul shots, allowing the Pelicans to retain their lead. Hayes soon scored again on a hook shot off a pass from Nickeil Alexander-Walker, making it a four-point New Orleans lead with just 12.7 seconds remaining and putting it away for good.

Bulls 108, Pistons 96

Nikola Vucevic recorded a double-double with 29 points and 16 rebounds and Zach LaVine added a game-high 30 points as Chicago beat host Detroit.

Chicago used a strong defensive effort to keep alive its slim prospects of making the Eastern Conference play-in tournament, moving to 2.5 games behind Indiana with four games left in the Bulls’ regular season.

The Bulls held Detroit — playing without season leading scorer Jerami Grant on the second leg of a weekend back-to-back — to just 39 first-half points and 36-of-78 shooting from the floor for the game.

Kings 126, Thunder 98

Maurice Harkless and Terence Davis scored 18 points each to lead Sacramento to a home win over Oklahoma City.

The Kings kept their faint hopes of making the play-in tournament alive with the win, their fifth in six games. Sacramento is 2 1/2 games behind San Antonio for 10th in the Western Conference with four games to play.

The Kings had eight players score in double figures, including 15 each by Richaun Holmes and Delon Wright. Darius Bazley led Oklahoma City with 18 points while Jaylen Hoard had a career-high 16.

Mavericks 124, Cavaliers 97

Tim Hardaway Jr. scored 25 points while hitting on 7 of his 11 3-point shots as surging Dallas defeated host Cleveland in the second game of a home-and-home set between the two teams.

The Mavericks won for the fourth straight game and are a season-best 12 games over .500. Dallas remained in fifth place in the Western Conference, moving a game in front of idle Portland in the standings with four games to play.

Josh Richardson added 20 points for the Mavericks, and Luka Doncic scored 15 before being ejected early in the third quarter. Collin Sexton led Cleveland with 24 points while Mfiondu Kabengele hit for 14, Brodric Thomas scored 13 points and Isaac Okoro added 12.

 

–Field Level Media

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