Update on the latest sports


Celtics return home looking to close out top-seeded Heat

BOSTON (AP) — The Boston Celtics are back at home, hoping to close out the Miami Heat in Game 6 of the Eastern Conference finals. The Celtics’ confidence is high after seizing a 3-2 lead over the top-seeded Heat. But Boston is also mindful of how fast series can change at this point, having rallied from a series deficit to eliminate the Milwaukee Bucks in the semifinal round.

Miami has struggled mightily in back-to-back losses, but says it isn’t making excuses, even with star Jimmy Butler and Kyle Lowry struggling to make shots and sparkplug Tyler Herro (HEER’-oh) sidelined the past two games with a groin injury.

History is on the Celtics’ side. Teams taking a 3-2 lead have gone on to win the series 83.8% of the time.


Blues at home for Game 6 vs. Avalanche

ST. LOUIS (AP) — The St. Louis Blues host Colorado Friday night in Game 6 of their second-round playoff series.

The Blues are riding a wave of confidence after becoming the first team to score a pair of game-tying goals in the final five minutes of regulation when facing elimination. They were 56 seconds away from the curtain closing on their season in Game 5 before rallying twice and winning in overtime.

The Avalanche blew a three-goal lead and a golden chance to advance to their first Western Conference final since 2002. But they are 4-0 on the road in these playoffs and do have a safety net with Game 7 in Denver.


Djokovic, Nadal reach fourth round

PARIS (AP) — Defending champion Novak Djokovic has recorded another straight-set victory and will face Diego Schwartzman for a spot in the quarterfinals at the French Open.

The top-ranked Djokovic beat Aljaz Bedene of Slovenia 6-3, 6-3, 6-2 in 1 hour, 44 minutes — the quickest of his three wins. The 20-time Grand Slam champion hasn’t lost in the third round at Roland Garros since 2009.

Schwartzman advanced to the fourth round earlier Friday with a 6-3, 6-1, 6-2 over Grigor Dimitrov. Schwartzman’s 0-6 record against Djokovic includes a five-setter in the third round at the 2017 French Open. The Argentine is seeded 15th.

In other action Friday:

— No. 5 Rafael Nadal has moved into the fourth round by beating Botic van de Zandschulp 6-3, 6-2, 6-4. The 13-time French Open champion says it was the best of his three wins this week, at least up until Zandschulp crept back into the third set. Nadal in his on-court interview said he was disappointed to miss a break point that would have put him ahead 5-0. Nadal’s 301st win at Grand Slams means he will face ninth-seeded Felix Auger-Aliassime for a spot in the quarterfinals. The Canadian advanced by beating Filip Krajinovic 7-6, 7-6, 7-5.

— Coco Gauff has reached the fourth round at the French Open by beating Kaia Kanepi (KY’-uh kuh-NEH’-pee). The 18-year-old American, the youngest remaining woman in the draw, defeated the 36-year-old Kanepi, the oldest remaining woman, 6-3, 6-4. The young American is trying to improve on her quarterfinal run at Roland Garros a year ago. Gauff had six aces — and five double-faults — while her Estonian opponent made 29 unforced errors. The teenager has not dropped a set in her first three matches. She next faces No. 31 Elise Mertens.

— Aliaksandra Sasnovich has reached the fourth round by eliminating a Grand Slam champion for the second straight match. The 47th-ranked Belarusian beat three-time major champion Angelique Kerber 6-4, 7-6, after defeating reigning U.S. Open champion Emma Raducanu (ra-doo-KA’-noo) in the second round.

— U.S. Open runner-up Leylah Fernandez has reached the fourth round at the French Open for the first time. The 19-year-old Canadian beat Olympic gold medalist Belinda Bencic (BEN’-chich) 7-5, 3-6, 7-5. The 17th-seeded Fernandez broke Bencic in the 11th game of the deciding set and served out the match. She had saved two set points in the opener.

— Amanda Anisimova moved into the fourth round when Karolina Muchova stopped playing after hurting her right ankle. The 27th-seeded Anisimova was leading 6-7, 6-2, 3-0 when Muchova walked to the net to concede the match. Anisimova is an American who reached the Roland Garros semifinals at the age of 17 in 2019. She eliminated four-time Grand Slam champion Naomi Osaka in the first round.


Verlander aims for 7th win in row

UNDATED (AP) — Houston ace Justin Verlander will try to win his seventh straight decision when the Astros visit Seattle Friday night.

The 39-year-old righty has been as dominant as ever in his return from Tommy John surgery, going 6-1 with a 1.22 ERA in eight starts. Verlander has a 19-inning scoreless streak and hasn’t allowed a run in his last three outings. Verlander didn’t pitch last season while recovering from his elbow operation.

The eight-time All-Star is already 2-0 this season against the Mariners. Chris Flexen pitches the series opener for Seattle.

Elsewhere in the majors Friday:

— The Braves will see how right fielder Ronald Acuña Jr. is feeling after he was scratched from two starts because of tightness in his right quadriceps tightness. Acuña is batting .292 with two homers, eight stolen bases and a .400 on-base average. The 24-year-old was sidelined for the second half of last season after tearing his knee. The two-time All-Star and 2018 NL Rookie of the Year recently missed five games recently with right groin tightness. Atlanta hosts the Marlins to begin the weekend.

— Kyle Farmer, Nick Senzel and the Cincinnati Reds look to keep their bats booming when they face the Giants at Great American Ball Park. The Reds put up their highest run total since 1999 when they whacked the Cubs 20-5 on Thursday. Farmer homered and drove in five runs — he and Senzel each had four hits. San Francisco starts a 10-game trip when lefty Carlos Rodón faces the Reds.