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Sources: Lue finalizing 5-year deal to coach Clips

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Ty Lue is finalizing a five-year deal to become the next coach of the LA Clippers, sources told ESPN on Thursday.

The Clippers and Lue’s representative in the contract talks, Andy Miller, completed negotiations on a deal Thursday afternoon, sources said.

The Clippers’ search landed on Lue based upon a confidence that his championship pedigree and playoff successes as a head coach in Cleveland, as well as his strong ability to communicate with players, will resonate within a franchise that underachieved in the 2019-2020 season.

Lue, 43, has had significant support among key Clippers players in the search process, sources said.

Lue is replacing Doc Rivers, whom he spent last season as an assistant under with the Clippers. The Clippers blew a 3-1 lead in the Western Conference semifinals, losing in seven games to the Denver Nuggets.

Chauncey Billups is expected to join Lue’s staff with the Clippers, sources said, although he’s involved currently in the Indiana Pacers‘ search for a head coach.

Lue won a championship in 2016 as the Cavaliers coach, reaching the NBA Finals in three straight years. Lue is 128-83 overall and 41-20 in the playoffs in his head coaching career.

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Juan Francisco Estrada, Roman Gonzalez win their fights to set up long-awaited rematch

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WBC junior flyweight world titleholder Juan Francisco Estrada did his part to get a rematch with Roman “Chocolatito” Gonzalez, who beat him in 2012, by defeating Carlos Cuadras by 11th-round TKO Friday night at the TV Azteca Studio in Mexico City.

But it certainly wasn’t easy, as Estrada had to recover from an early knockdown before stopping Cuadras late in the fight.

Estrada-Cuadras was itself a rematch of a 2017 battle that saw Estrada defeat Cuadras by a single point on all three judges’ cards in a 12-round fight, with the difference being a knockdown by Estrada in the 10th round.

On Friday, Estrada (40-3, 28 KOs) hit the deck in the third round when he was clipped by a right uppercut-left hook combination from Cuadras (40-4, 27 KOs). But Estrada was able to get up and control the next several rounds with precise punching, accuracy and power.

Cuadras had his moments, but he simply couldn’t match the power of Estrada’s thumping shots to the body. At times you could see Estrada hurting Cuadras with attacks to the body. To his credit, though, Cuadras mustered up enough offense to take Round 10 on the scorecards.

But at the beginning of the 11th, a three-punch combination by Estrada sent Cuadras crumbling to the floor. While it was obvious that he was on his last legs, Cuadras was able to continue and attempted to trade punches with Estrada again, and Estrada responded by hitting Cuadras again with a straight right hand that knocked Cuadras down for the second time in the round. It looked like the fight was over, but somehow Cuadras got back to his feet once more, and showed incredible courage in letting his hands go and exchanging blows with Estrada.

Cuadras landed a few of his punches, but they simply lacked the steam and velocity in response to what was coming back his way. Finally, a right hand that snapped Cuadras’ head back forced the referee to stopped the fight at 2:22 of Round 11.

And with that, Estrada looks forward to a long awaited rematch with Gonzalez.


Chocolatito retains title with dominating decision victory

Roman “Chocolatito” Gonzalez retained his WBA junior bantamweight world title by wearing down Israel Gonzalez in 12 fast-paced rounds full of action. At the end of the fight, all three judges scored the fight for Gonzalez: 118-110, 116-112 and 117-111.

It was a remarkable pace set forth by Chocolatito, 33, against an opponent nine years his junior. Chocolatito was able to figure out the upper body movement of Gonzalez (25-4, 11 KOs) in the early rounds by landing right hands to the body, and then combining his attack with an array of left hooks, uppercuts from both sides and right hands over the top.

While Israel Gonzalez was the taller fighter, Roman Gonzalez (50-2, 41 KOs) was able to close the gap and send his opponent to the ropes, where Roman would landed effective combinations to the body and head.

Israel Gonzalez had some spurts of effectiveness, as he had the faster hands, but for the most part, he was on the receiving end of an unrelenting offensive attack that he simply couldn’t fend off.

With the victory, Chocolatito moved one step closer to an expected rematch with Estrada, whom he defeated back in 2012 in a memorable battle.


Martinez retains title with TKO victory

WBC flyweight world titlist Julio Cesar Martinez make quick work of Moises Calleros to retain his belt via second-round TKO.

A three-punch salvo that included a left hook sent Calleros to the canvas in Round 1, and while Calleros survived to make the second round, Martinez’s frenetic attack didn’t let up. Martinez overwhelmed him with a series of power punches, and had Calleros up along the ropes in the second, where Calleros was swarmed by another onslaught before referee Cesar Castanon ultimately stepped in to wave off the fight at 2:42 minutes of the round.

Calleros (33-10-1, 17 KOs) came in as a late replacement and was almost six pounds over the flyweight limit, but the extra weight didn’t help him against Martinez (17-1, 13 KOs). Calleron simply couldn’t take the swift and powerful punches of Martinez, who is quickly making his case as one of the most entertaining fighters in the sport, thanks to his aggression and punching power compared to his size.

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QB Mertz rewrites Badgers’ record book in debut

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Wisconsin Badgers quarterback Graham Mertz broke the program record for completion percentage in a game on Friday, completing 20 of 21 passes for 248 yards and five touchdowns in the Badgers 45-7 win over Illinois.

“It was definitely fun,” Mertz said after the game. “I owe it to Coach (Jon) Budmayr and Coach (Paul) Chryst, we took a ton of time one on one meetings and really just sorted the game plan out and we knew what we were doing and I felt confident in my ability to go execute and I think there’s definitely some stuff we need to clean up. A lot more stuff we can clean up.”

Mertz, a redshirt freshman, was moved up to the starting role after Jack Coan suffered a non-contact injury to his foot in practice and underwent surgery. This was the first career start for Mertz, and his five touchdown passes tied the program record for most touchdown passes in a game along with Jim Sorgi in 2003 and Darrell Bevell in 1993.

“I thought he had good poise, thought he saw the field well. You never know quite how someone’s going to react in their first start,” Chryst said after the game. “I thought he was himself and that you appreciate. I thought there was a good plan by the offensive coaches and he was able to execute it.”

Wisconsin didn’t get its usual dominant performance from its run game, with Garrett Groshek as the leading rusher for the Badgers with 70 yards and no touchdown runs. But Mertz picked up that slack, opening the game by completing his first 17 passes.

The one incompletion on the game was a dropped pass from Groshek in the third quarter on third and 19. Mertz said that was his fault, that he needed to get the ball to his running back faster and the two joked about the dropped pass after the game.

Tight end Jake Ferguson was his favorite target on the night with receptions and three of the five touchdowns. Ferguson was second in receiving yards last season with 407, behind Quintez Cephus, who is now in the NFL.

Those three receiving touchdowns are also tied for the most in a game by a Wisconsin tight end, tying Owen Daniels in 2005 and Garrett Graham in 2009.

“The kid’s smooth, the kid’s definitely smooth,” Ferguson said. “He was smiling cheek to cheek after that first touchdown. He knew, and everyone in that huddle knew, that we were rolling. It’s just awesome to see that out of him.”

Ferguson said at one point in the game Wisconsin ran the same four plays with success against Illinois and Mertz showed some of that confidence on the sideline, making jokes and keeping his teammates focused.

The performance from Mertz drew the attention from quite a few people, including Kansas City Chiefs quarterback Patrick Mahomes, who tweeted “That man @GrahamMertz5 going crazy tonight!”

Despite that national attention and a breakout game, Mertz isn’t celebrating just yet, knowing it’s only one game and there’s still a lot of football left.

“I haven’t checked my phone yet, but it’s great to hear from those guys and it means a ton,” Mertz said. “But I’m just happy the guys in the locker room are pumped right now and we gotta keep building on that.”

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Dodgers’ Buehler pins 10 K’s on Rays in MLB first

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ARLINGTON, Texas — Every start he makes, every time he dominates, Walker Buehler burnishes a resume that’s beginning to resemble those of the best postseason pitchers ever. All he did in Game 3 of the World Series on Friday was bolster his case.

Buehler became the first pitcher in World Series history to record double-digit strikeouts in six innings pitched, and his Los Angeles Dodgers teammates used big bats and small ball to overwhelm Tampa Bay Rays pitchers in a 6-2 victory that left the Dodgers two wins shy of their first championship since 1988.

The postseason bonafides of Buehler, a 26-year-old right-hander, were already impressive. His six-inning, three-hit, one-run, one-walk, 10-strikeout performance ranked among his most dominant yet.

The last pitcher as young as Buehler to strike out 10 in a World Series game? Josh Beckett in 2003.

The only other Dodgers to punch out 10 and allow three or fewer hits in a World Series game? Sandy Koufax and Clayton Kershaw.

Relying heavily on a four-seam fastball that sat at 97 mph, Buehler attacked all four quadrants of the strike zone with his typical equanimity: the slow, deliberate build of his windup into an explosive pitch that generated 12 swings and misses. His curveball, slider and cutter were on point, too, the first time all four pitches have worked this postseason after blisters hindered him in earlier rounds.

Before the game, Rays manager Kevin Cash compared Buehler’s fastball to that of New York Yankees ace Gerrit Cole — about as high a compliment as one can give for a four-seamer. With Tampa Bay swinging through five of them to strike out, Cash’s words were prescient, and Rays starter Charlie Morton couldn’t match him zero for zero.

In the fourth, with the Dodgers already ahead 3-0 after a first-inning Justin Turner home run and a pair of two-out runs in the third, the Dodgers went back to their Game 1 ethos and small-balled the Rays into submission. Two singles put runners on the corners, and up stepped catcher Austin Barnes, the No. 9 hitter. He laid down a run-scoring safety squeeze bunt, the first RBI sacrifice in a dozen World Series. Mookie Betts followed with an RBI single and stole second base, and the Dodgers’ lead grew to 5-0.

Buehler allowed a pair of doubles in the bottom of the fifth to Manuel Margot and Willy Adames, yielding his one run on the night, though Barnes answered with a two-out, two-strike home run in the sixth. He became the first player in a World Series game since the New York Yankees’ Hector Lopez in 1961 to record a sacrifice bunt and homer. Prior to the home run, Barnes had gone hitless in his previous 22 World Series at-bats.

The Dodgers scored five runs with two outs and two strikes, tied for the most in a World Series game this century, and reinforced the difference between their offense and a Rays group whose one-dimensionality this postseason served them well but hasn’t been effective in the World Series.

Buehler cruised in his final inning, striking out Mike Zunino, Brandon Lowe and Randy Arozarena swinging to leap into double digits — the first 10-strikeout game of his postseason career. It extended his record streak of six-plus-strikeout games in the playoffs to 11. He had broken the record, which he shared with Randy Johnson, in his last start when he threw six shutout innings in a season-saving Game 6 victory against Atlanta in the National League Championship Series.

Dodgers manager Dave Roberts pulled Buehler after 93 pitches, handing the game over to relievers Blake Treinen and Brusdar Graterol, who threw scoreless innings. Closer Kenley Jansen, who was throwing harder than he has all postseason, allowed a ninth-inning solo home run to Arozarena, his eighth of the playoffs, which tied the previous record set by Barry Bonds, Carlos Beltran and Nelson Cruz.

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