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Schedule Alert Every Game Tired Teams Should Lose In January

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After a midnight flight across a time zone, the Jazz blew their biggest lead of the season. Following wacky plane trouble, the Bulls were blown out. The Magic faced travel issues thanks to inclement weather, then ate a loss hours later.

And one head coach had the audacity to utter the following after a loss: “It’s a little perplexing why we haven’t been more energetic on back-to-backs.”

Yeah, right …

These were just some details from the 10 teams that faced schedule alert scenarios in December — and nine of those teams lost, by the way. The only winner? The San Antonio Spurs, of course. But those savvy Spurs, ever mindful of fatigue and the pitfalls of the NBA schedule, barely won, as you’ll see below.

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For now, December’s results mean that we have correctly predicted 19 of 22 games this season in which one team faced a distinct competitive advantage because of the schedule.

Again, our 86.4 percent success rate so far is even better than the formula predicted it would be at this point in the season.

(As a refresher, before the 2017-18 season, we applied our schedule alert formula to 10 seasons — from 2007-08 through 2016-17 — and the results showed that teams facing schedule alert situations with a MahScore of 8 or higher lose 63 percent of the time.)

That said, here are January’s schedule alert games (apologies in advance to the Denver Nuggets), and below them are recaps of such games for December. January’s slate includes zero national television games and the most severe schedule disadvantage of the season.

Jan. 2: Portland at Cleveland | MahScore: 8.5

So, this isn’t an ideal way to close out a back-to-back set and a three-games-in-four-days trip. Portland faces the Hawks in Atlanta on a Saturday, then cross a time zone to play the Bulls in Chicago on Monday. Then, after facing those Bulls, the Blazers will head out that night — and lose an hour in the process — for Cleveland, where they’ll face the Cavaliers less than 24 hours later. The Cavaliers will enter this game with a two-day rest advantage.

Update: Trail Blazers? lose 110-127

Jan. 3: Phoenix at Denver | MahScore: 9

This game registers as a red alert for the Suns, who will face plenty of not-very-fun obstacles here. First, this marks their third game in four days and the second of a back-to-back set. And, even worse, it’s the second of a back-to-back set that requires travel to elevation-drunk Denver, which veteran coaches will tell you is the most brutal schedule/fatigue scenario in the NBA. So, after hosting the Hawks on Jan. 2, the Suns will leave Phoenix that same night and head for Denver and get in late, such is the distance from Denver International Airport and the city’s downtown. Oh, and the Nuggets will enter this game with an absurd three-day rest advantage. Three days!

Update: Suns? lose 111-134

Jan. 6: Denver at Sacramento | MahScore: 8.5

One of these teams will be playing the second of a back-to-back set and their third game in four days … and one of these teams will enter this game with a three-day rest advantage. Yeah, that doesn’t exactly sound like a fair fight. The Nuggets will dance with the Jazz in Utah on Jan. 5, then head out that same night for Sacramento — gaining an hour in the process — to play the Kings, who will be on the 11th day of a 13-day homestand. Good luck, Nuggets.

Update: Nuggets? lose 98-106

Jan. 6: Chicago at Indiana | MahScore: 9.5

Red. Alert. This game actually triggered our third-highest MahScore of the NBA calendar, which tells you how steep the fatigue mountain is that the Bulls will have to climb. This will mark their fifth game in seven days. It will mark their third game in four days. And it will mark the second of a back-to-back set, with both of those games coming on the road. (Plus, they’ll be crossing a time zone: not good!) So after facing the Mavericks in Dallas on Jan. 5, the Bulls will head out that same night for Indianapolis — and lose an hour in the process — to face the Pacers less than 24 hours later. And it’s not as if the Pacers need much of an edge here, but they’ll enter this game with a two-day rest advantage.

Update: Bulls? lose 86-125

Jan. 10: Dallas at Charlotte | MahScore of 10

Sound the alarms from the mountain tops! This game has the most severe MahScore of 2017-18, folks. So feel free to send thoughts and prayers to the Mavericks in advance, because they’re going to need help. It’s tough enough that the Mavericks will be playing their third game in four days (and their fifth game in eight days). It’s tough enough that this will be the second of a home-road back-to-back set. But then consider the travel. The Mavericks will face the Magic at home on Jan. 9, then head out that night for Charlotte — a trek that will cost them an hour and which will span, oh, more than 900 miles as the crow flies. And somehow, someway, the Hornets will enter this game with a four-day rest advantage. You read that right: four days. Thoughts and prayers, Dallas. Thoughts and prayers.

Update: Mavericks? win?115-111

Jan. 13: Denver at San Antonio | MahScore of 8

Facing the Spurs is tough enough, no matter the circumstances. Now imagine that it’s your third game in four days and your fifth game in eight days. Imagine that it’s the second of a back-to-back set and that after hosting the Grizzlies you’ll fly east from Denver for San Antonio — losing an hour in the process — to face the Spurs less than 24 hours later. Now imagine that the Spurs will enter this game with a one-day rest advantage. Imagine all that, and it’s not hard to understand why the Nuggets might well be barbecued in this matchup.

Update: Nuggets? lose 80-112

Jan. 13: Golden State at Toronto | MahScore of 8

Even the mighty Warriors aren’t impervious to fatigue, especially considering the circumstances they face in this brouhaha. It’ll mark their third game in four days, their fifth game in eight days, and the second of a back-to-back set. And let’s not forget the travel involved. First, they’ll host the Clippers in Oakland on Jan. 10, then they’ll fly to Milwaukee — losing two hours in the process — to face the Bucks on Jan. 12. Then, after facing those swarthy Bucks, the Warriors will head out that same night for Toronto — losing another hour in the process … and probably more time as they pass through customs, so who knows exactly when their heads will hit the pillow at their downtown Toronto hotel? All we know is, it’ll be late. Very late. And then they’ll have to face the Raptors less than 24 hours later — a Raptors squad, mind you, that will enter this game with a one-day rest advantage and will be on a five-day homestand.

Update: Warriors? win 127-125

Jan. 20: Miami at Charlotte | MahScore of 8.5

Pardon the pun (or not), but this winter game ought to chill the Heat and then some. The schedule commands this to be Miami’s fifth game in seven days (vs. the Bucks, at the Bulls, at the Bucks, then at Brooklyn, before heading to Charlotte), their third game in four days, and the second of a back-to-back set with travel involved, no less. The schedule also commands that this will be the fourth straight road game for the Heat. They’ll play in Milwaukee on Jan. 17, then head to Brooklyn — losing an hour in the process — to face the Nets on Jan. 19. And after facing those Nets, the Heat will head out that same night for Charlotte to duel the Hornets less than 24 hours later. Meanwhile, the Hornets will enter this game with a two-day rest advantage and will be on the fifth day of an 11-day homestand.

Update: Heat? win?106-105

Jan. 30: Denver at San Antonio | MahScore of 8

“What?” you ask, head cocked askew. “How in the wide, wide world of sports could the Nuggets have two schedule alert games in San Antonio in the same month, much less the same season?” Such is the NBA schedule, dear reader. The Nuggets will be playing their third game in four days and their second of a back-to-back set with, of course, travel involved. First, the Nuggets will host the Mavericks on Jan. 27, then the Celtics on Jan 29. And after facing those Celtics, the Nuggets will head out that same night — losing an hour in the process — for San Antonio, where they’ll face the Spurs less than 24 hours later. The Spurs, meanwhile, will enter this affair with a one-day rest advantage. They will also be on the sixth day of a 13-day homestand.

Jan. 30: Minnesota at Toronto | MahScore of 8

The Timberwolves will fly a league-high 55,289 miles this season, and a not-insignificant chunk of that will come during a five-games-in-seven-days stretch that will be capped off with this game. First, on Jan. 24, the Timberwolves will play the Trail Blazers in Portland, then head to Oakland to face the Golden State Warriors the very next night before returning home. Then, after hosting the Nets on Jan. 27, the Timberwolves will head to Atlanta to face the Hawks on Jan. 29. And after that game, the Timberwolves will head out that same night for Toronto — getting to their hotel at who-knows-when thanks to customs — and face the Raptors, which, let it be said, will also be Minnesota’s third game in four days. You think you’re dizzy reading all that and trying to keep up with the Timberwolves’ travels? Now just imagine how they’ll feel. Oh, and the Raptors will enter this one with a one-day rest advantage, though it’s doubtful that they’ll need it to notch a win. The Raptors will also be on the sixth day of a seven-game homestand.

December’s schedule alert games

Grizzlies lose to the Cavaliers in Cleveland, 116-111, on Dec. 2

MahScore: 8

Credit the still-gritty Grizzlies for fighting hard when they’re down 19 in the second half on the second night of a back-to-back set, playing their third game in four days. After facing the Spurs in Memphis on Friday, the Grizzlies headed out that same night — losing an hour in the process — for Cleveland. The Cavaliers, who had a one-day rest advantage, were trailing early after the Grizzlies scored a first-quarter season high of 32 points. And the Cavaliers saw their big second-half lead erased when the Grizzlies tied the score at 109 in the final minutes. But then some guy named LeBron James took over, handing the Grizzlies their 11th straight loss.

Suns lose to the Raptors in Toronto, 126-113, on Dec. 5

MahScore: 8.5

How’s this for a brutal stretch? The Suns were tasked with heading north of the border to cap off an 11-day season-long six-game trip, the second of a back-to-back set after playing in Philadelphia the night before, and their third game in four days. After beating the 76ers in Philadelphia on Monday, the Suns headed out that same night and didn’t arrive at their downtown Toronto hotel until 1 a.m. local time, according to the Arizona Republic. Meanwhile, the Raptors entered the game with a massive three-day rest advantage. As expected, the Suns were down big early, trailing by 13 in the first quarter and by 19 entering the fourth. Suns star Devin Booker, who scored a season-high 46 points in the win at Philadelphia, missed his first seven shots against the Raptors, finishing 4-of-15 from the field. More important, Booker, in his 78th minute of floor time over a 26-hour period, had to be carried off the court after suffering a noncontact groin injury late in the fourth quarter.

It marked the third time since Nov. 10 that the Suns have played a three-games-in-four-days stretch.

“We haven’t handled it well up to this point,” coach Jay Triano said, according to the Republic. “It’s a big test for us, getting in late, them having rest, us having three games in four nights. How are you going to respond? How are you going to get out there physically and mentally and fight through it?”

Jazz lose to the Thunder in Oklahoma City, 100-94, on Dec. 5

MahScore: 8

The Jazz were hot — white hot. They had won six straight, with rookie Donovan Mitchell dominating like an All-Star. But then, after hosting the Wizards in Salt Lake City, the Jazz headed out that same night for Oklahoma City — losing an hour in the process — to face a squad with a one-day rest advantage, and that was in the midst of a five-game homestand. And though the Jazz built a 17-point lead by the third quarter, they ultimately wilted in the fourth, in which they were outscored 32-14. It proved to be the largest blown lead of the season for the Jazz.

“I thought our guys ran out of steam a bit, just emotionally,” Jazz coach Quin Snyder said, according to the Salt Lake Tribune. “We’ve got to be able to play through that.”

Magic lose to the Hawks in Atlanta, 117-110, on Dec. 9

MahScore: 8.5

Hawks forward Ersan Ilyasova had some kind of night, scoring 26 points while making all nine of his field goals. So what was behind his flawless offensive output? Perhaps he had some magic feeling entering the evening? “Not really,” Ilyasova said postgame. “It was one of those nights, I guess. Obviously, everybody came out with a lot of energy. You have to give them credit; the Magic obviously [had] a back-to-back.” Ah, energy. The Hawks entered this game with a two-day rest advantage, and the Magic were on the tail end of a back-to-back set, playing their third game in four days and their fifth game in seven days. To further complicate matters for the Magic — they didn’t arrive in Atlanta until the day of the game because of inclement weather, according to the team’s website. (Normally, if a team needs to travel for the second half of a back-to-back set, it’ll immediately fly after the first game of that set.) Also, the Magic were without their two leading scorers — Aaron Gordon (concussion) and Evan Fournier (sprained ankle) — but they still made it interesting, no doubt, with forward Nikola Vucevic notching his first career triple-double (31 points, 13 rebounds, 10 assists).

Spurs beat the Suns in Phoenix, 104-101, on Dec. 9

MahScore: 8

If anyone in the NBA knows how to carefully navigate a schedule-alert situation, it’s the Spurs. Which is why in this outing, which for San Antonio marked the end of a back-to-back set, their third game in four days and their fifth game in seven days, the following Spurs either didn’t play or didn’t even make the trip to Phoenix: Kawhi Leonard,? Pau Gasol, Manu Ginobili, Kyle Anderson and Danny Green. But that some of those guys were home resting isn’t surprising after the Spurs won a nail-biter on national television over the Celtics the night prior, before flying to Phoenix. Even without several of their bold-faced names, the Spurs’ skeleton crew built a 19-point lead against the ever-dimming Suns, who were without star Devin Booker and entered the game with a one-day rest advantage. … But somehow, the Suns came roaring back, taking their first lead of the game with 1:19 left. Still, the Spurs survived when guard? Bryn Forbes?hit a winning 3-pointer with 21.9 seconds left.

“It was our fifth game in seven nights, on the road, had a back-to-back to end it all,” Spurs coach Gregg Popovich said postgame. “I thought we were pretty tired, but I thought they hung in as well as they could.”

Hawks lose to the Grizzlies in Memphis, 96-94, on Dec. 15

MahScore: 8

The Eastern Conference-worst Hawks were closing out a five-games-in-seven-days stretch … and the tail end of a back-to-back set … and their third game in four days … so this wasn’t an easy task, even if they were up against a likewise lowly Grizzlies team. After hosting the Pistons, the Hawks headed out that same night for Bluff City to face a Memphis squad that had a one-day rest advantage. Still, the Hawks built a seven-point halftime lead, only to see it dwindle down the stretch, with Memphis’ Tyreke Evans hitting a go-ahead layup with 1:03 left in the fourth quarter.?

Bulls lose to the Cavaliers in Cleveland, 115-112, on Dec. 21

MahScore: 8

We’ll leave it to Bulls.com reporter Sam Smith to explain an oddity surrounding this game. “It was an NBA milestone of sorts, as the regular team plane was replaced by one much smaller, NBA players, it was believed, for the first time in more than two decades traveling in what approximated coach class,” Smith reported. “And then with the plane too small for the stairs in Cleveland, so the players after almost an hour wait on the plane had to exit climbing down a makeshift luggage conveyor braced up against the plane. This was a case of the baggage waiting for the passengers. It didn’t seem an ideal harbinger.”

Indeed, that travel calamity seemed as if it would foreshadow doom, but the Bulls, who entered this game riding a seven-game winning streak, hung tough, despite the fatigue they carried. What fatigue? Well, against the Cavaliers, the Bulls were closing out a three-games-in-four-days stretch. And after hosting the Magic on the 20th, the Bulls headed out that night for Cleveland — losing an hour in the process — to face LeBron James’ crew, which held a one-day rest advantage. As for the game itself, James, as you might have guessed, closed it out, finishing with 34 points, and? Kevin Love pitched in with 27.

“We battled them, stood toe-to-toe with them and gave us a chance to win,” Bulls coach Fred Hoiberg said. “[Our] effort was tremendous coming on a back-to-back, sitting on a plane for 40 minutes when we got in with no stairs.”

Celtics lose to the Knicks in New York, 102-93, on Dec. 21

MahScore: 8.5

Kristaps Porzingis was mighty limited, thanks to a banged-up knee, but the Celtics were mighty gassed, thanks to the NBA schedule. Boston was closing out a five-games-in-seven-days stretch, their third game in four days, and playing the second of a back-to-back set after hosting the Heat a day earlier. The Knicks, meanwhile, had a two-day rest advantage and jumped out to a 14-point lead in the first quarter.

Though Porzingis finished with only one point on 0-of-11 shooting from the field after missing two games because of a sore left knee, the Knicks were carried by an unlikely hero: Michael Beasley. Yes, you read that right. Beasley came off the bench and finished with a season-high 32 points.

Nets lose to the Pelicans in New Orleans, 128-113, on Dec. 27

MahScore: 8.5

Their second of a back-to-back set after playing in San Antonio the night before, their third game of a five-game trip, their fifth game in eight days — these were all stiff obstacles that the Nets were facing entering this soiree. But even more grueling was the fact that the Pelicans entered the game with a whopping three-day rest advantage.

As you might expect, the Nets came out s … l … o … w …, trailing by 16 in the first quarter, 23 in the second and by as much as 33 in the third. “It starts with the starting five,” said Nets guard Allen Crabbe, according to the New York Post. “Our energy wasn’t what it needed to be to start the game.” Added Nets coach Kenny Atkinson, “We’ve got to look at that first group and why we’re [flat]. We have to look at it,” Atkinson said. “I can’t give you an answer right now.”

And while the Nets looked flat, Pelicans point guard Rajon Rondo ran circles around them, dishing out a franchise-record 25 assists, becoming the first player to hit that total since Jason Kidd in 1996. The Nets fell to 1-6 on the tail end of back-to-backs. “It’s a little perplexing why we haven’t been more energetic on back-to-backs,” Atkinson said, according to Newsday.

Is it really that perplexing, though?

Nuggets lose to the Timberwolves in Minneapolis, 128-125, on Dec. 27

MahScore: 8

Entering this game, the Nuggets had held their previous three foes to below 86 points, their longest such streak since 2012. But then this game was different. The Nuggets had hosted the Jazz on Dec. 26, then headed out that same night for Minneapolis — losing an hour in the process — to play their third road game in six days. And so the Nuggets’ improved defense faltered, as they fell into a 19-point hole in the first half. But Denver rallied, with a key second-half run to force overtime. And that’s where Jimmy Butler took over, scoring 12 of his team’s 14 points in the extra session to ice the Timberwolves’ win. Butler finished with 39, all told.

“Down 19 points, second half, second night of a back-to-back, we could’ve very easily have folded and just rolled over,” Nuggets coach Michael Malone said after the game. “I loved the fact that our guys never did that. We competed.”

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Speed Skating Japan Dethrone Dutch To Win Womens Team Pursuit

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GANGNEUNG, South Korea – Japan dethroned defending champions the Netherlands to claim gold in the women’s Olympic team pursuit final on Wednesday as the Dutch took the silver medal.

Slideshow (8 Images)The Japanese trio of Miho Takagi, Ayano Sato and Nana Takagi set an Olympic record of two minutes and 53.89 seconds.

The United States beat Canada to win bronze for their first Olympic speed skating medal since the Vancouver Games in 2010.

Reporting by Simon Jennings,

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The Latest Japan Takes Olympic Gold In Womens Team Pursuit

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The Latest on the Pyeongchang Olympics (all times local):

10:10 p.m.

World-record holder Japan has beaten defending champion the Netherlands with an Olympic-record performance to take gold in the women’s team pursuit speedskating event.

The Dutch settled for silver, and the United States beat Canada in the North American battle for bronze at the Pyeongchang Games.

In a spectacular gold-medal race, Japan set out fastest, lost the middle part to the Dutch and hit back in the final two of six laps to win.

Miho and Nana Takagi and Ayano Sato set an Olympic record of 2 minutes, 53.89 seconds to beat the Dutch by 1.59 seconds.

———

10:05 p.m.

The U.S. has finally won a long-track speedskating medal at the Pyeongchang Olympics.

The team of Heather Bergsma, Brittany Bowe and Mia Manganello earned bronze in the women’s team pursuit Wednesday.

They crossed the line in 2 minutes, 59.17 seconds in the B final.

Canada finished in 2 minutes, 59.70 seconds.

It’s the first long-track speedskating medal for the U.S. since the 2010 Vancouver Games. The Americans were shut out four years ago in Sochi.

———

10 p.m.

A Russian curler who failed a drug test at the Pyeongchang Olympics will have his case heard Thursday.

The Court of Arbitration for Sport’s anti-doping division says it will hear the case of mixed doubles bronze medalist Alexander Krushelnitsky at 2 p.m. local time.

Krushelnitsky’s case has taken on extra importance since the International Olympic Committee is due to decide on whether to formally reinstate Russia for Sunday’s closing ceremony following a suspension for a doping scheme at Sochi.

That decision would allow athletes to march under the Russian, rather than the Olympic, flag.

Russian curling officials have suggested that Krushelnitsky could have been dosed with the banned substance meldonium without his knowledge. They suggested the culprit could be Russia’s political enemies or a jealous athlete who didn’t make the Olympic team.

———

9:40 p.m.

Canada’s speedskaters have soundly defeated the U.S. in the D final of men’s team pursuit at the Pyeongchang Olympics.

The U.S. team of Jonathan Garcia, Brian Hansen and Emery Lehman finished 8.61 seconds behind the Canadians on Wednesday. The Americans were timed in 3 minutes, 50.77 seconds.

Canada crossed the line in 3:42.16, led by Ted-Jan Bloemen, who earned silver in the 5,000 meters and gold in the 10,000 meters. He skated with Benjamin Donnelly and Denny Morrison.

Norway will face South Korea in the A final of the men’s team pursuit later Wednesday. Canada finished seventh, and the U.S. finished eighth.

———

8:45 p.m.

Norway has defeated defending champion the Netherlands with an Olympic record speedskating race and will face South Korea in the final of the men’s team pursuit.

Outsider New Zealand, which pushed the South Koreans until the final half-lap, will face the Netherlands for the bronze medal.

The Dutch changed their team for the semifinals after a disappointing performance by Koen Verweij and picked 1,500-meter silver medalist Patrick Roest to go instead.

The Norwegians won over eight laps by 1.38 seconds and finished in an Olympic record time of 3 minutes, 37.08 seconds.

Dutch rider Jan Blokhuijsen seemed to be hampered by a faulty clapskate. Coach Geert Kuiper says a spring broke at the start of the race, making skating more difficult.

———

8:30 p.m.

The spokesman for the International Olympic Committee is hinting that its longest-serving member should think about stepping down for criticizing fellow members and calling some of them “old farts.”

Canadian Dick Pound has harshly criticized the IOC for not banning Russian athletes from the Pyeongchang Olympics despite a massive doping scandal.

Pound referred to some fellow members as “old farts” in a British newspaper interview. Pound suggested athletes could stay away from the Olympics if the IOC didn’t get tougher on doping.

IOC spokesman Mark Adams says, “In the end, if you don’t like the coffee that’s served at a coffee shop, if you don’t like the decor, if you don’t like the prices, then you maybe go to another coffee shop.”

Pound couldn’t be immediately reached for comment Wednesday.

———

8:15 p.m.

Defending champion the Netherlands will face Japan in the final of the women’s speedskating team pursuit, with both teams cruising in the semifinals.

It will be a North American battle for bronze, with the United States facing Canada.

The Dutch, led by Ireen Wust, took an early lead over the United States and never had to push, since the U.S. team, with Brittany Bowe sitting out the semifinal, was clearly seeking to conserve energy for the bronze-medal race.

And after six laps, the Dutch could already see the slow U.S. riders in the same lane as they cruised to at least a silver medal.

Japan was pushed a bit harder by Canada but steadily built up a comfortable lead, taking any excitement out of the second semifinal, too.

———

8:05 p.m.

Norway’s Johannes Hoesflot Klaebo and Martin Johnsrud have captured gold in the men’s team sprint, giving Norway a 13th medal in cross-country at the Pyeongchang Games to tie an Olympic record.

A team of Russians took silver Wednesday, and France edged out Sweden for bronze.

It was the third gold medal for Klaebo, tying him with French biathlete Martin Fourcade for the most at the Pyeongchang Games.

The 21-year Klaebo became the fourth male athlete to win three gold medals at the Winter Games before turning 22. He joins American speedskater Eric Heiden, Austrian Alpine skier Toni Sailer and KoreaN short-track speedskater Ano Victor.

———

7:55 p.m.

Ester Ledecka’s quest for the second half of the rarest of Olympic doubles will start two days later than expected.

Olympic officials juggled scheduling at the action park because of heavy winds that are expected on Friday.

Ledecka, the Czech skier and snowboarder who won the super-G in Alpine in a shocker, is also entered in snowboarding’s parallel giant slalom, where she is top-ranked. Qualifying runs were originally set for Thursday but have now been moved to Saturday and will be run the same day as the final rounds.

Women’s skicross qualifying was moved up a day to Thursday. The elimination rounds for that event were moved from Friday afternoon to the morning, before the winds are expected to hit.

———

7:25 p.m.

The United States has won its first Olympic gold medal in women’s cross-country skiing, and Norwegian skier Marit Bjoergen has become the most decorated Winter Olympian of all time by taking bronze at the Pyeongchang Games.

The Americans posted the fastest time in the semifinals to start on the front row in the finals Wednesday. Jessica Diggins passed the Swedes and the Norwegians on the final lap to make history in a major upset.

Sweden took silver.

Bjoergen and teammate Maiken Caspersen Falla won the bronze medal.

Bjoergen now has won 14 career medals at the Winter Olympic Games, passing Norwegian biathlete Ole Einar Bjourndalen for the most ever. The 37-year-old previously took gold in the women’s 4×5-kilometer relay, silver in the 15-kilometer skiathlon and bronze in the 10-kilometer freestyle at Pyeongchang.

———

7:15 p.m.

K-pop band EXO will play at the closing ceremony of the Pyeongchang Olympics.

Organizers on Wednesday announced the performance by the South Korean-Chinese group, which has a vast following among teenagers.

Among them is Russian figure skater Evgenia Medvedeva, who is in second place in the women’s figure skating competition heading into the free skate Friday.

Medvedeva, 18, said she listened to Exo before her stunning short program in the team figure skating event last week. Russia won silver and she set a new record, though she surpassed it in Wednesday’s individual competition before teammate Alina Zagitova surpassed her.

She said after the team competition that she has autographs and letters from the members of EXO and they provided inspiration.

Organizers also said K-pop artist CL will perform at the ceremony, which is Sunday.

———

7 p.m.

Noora Raty has stopped 20 shots to lead Finland to a 3-2 victory over the Russians in the women’s hockey bronze medal game at the Olympics.

Petra Nieminen, Susanna Tapani and Linda Valimaki scored for Finland, which can claim to be the best of the rest in a sport dominated by North Americans.

Following up their bronze medals in 1998 and 2010, the Finns beat Russia 5-1 in pool play but had a tougher go in the medal round. The teams were even in shots — 22-22 — but the Russians never led after falling behind 2-0 off the opening faceoff of the second period.

Canada and the U.S. will play for the gold medal on Thursday.

———

6:45 p.m.

The Russian men’s hockey team has swept aside Norway 6-1 to set up a semifinal against the Czech Republic.

Russia charged to a 3-0 lead at the end of the first period, outshooting Norway 19-2, and remained in control throughout the game as chants of “Red Machine” and “Russia” echoed around the half-empty Gangneung Hockey Center.

Nikita Gusev finished with a goal and two assists, while Slava Voynov had a goal and an assist.

After the disappointment of losing in the quarterfinals at home in Sochi four years ago, the “Olympic Athletes from Russia” — as they’re called due to International Olympic Committee sanctions over doping — are now guaranteed to play for a medal.

No Russian hockey team has won a medal since 2002.

———

6:05 p.m.

U.S. cross-country skiers Jessica Diggins and Kikkan Randall had the fastest time in the women’s sprint relay semifinals and have advanced to the finals at the Pyeongchang Olympics.

The American women have never won a medal in cross-country skiing. The only American to ever win a cross-county medal was Bill Koch in 1976.

The finals begin at 7 p.m. Wednesday local time, which is 5 a.m. Wednesday Eastern time.

The Americans beat out a solid team from Sweden to win their heat.

Ten teams will compete in the finals.

Norway’s Marit Bjoernen is looking to make history of her own by becoming the most decorated Winter Olympic medalist of all time. She has 13 career medals overall, tied with Norwegian biathlete Ole Einar Bjourndalen, and is looking to break that tie.

———

5 p.m.

If there was a positive that the Americans took away from the two-man bobsled competition at the Pyeongchang Olympics, it’s that they now know what not to do.

But knowing what to do is still a work in progress. The U.S. men returned to the ice Wednesday for the first day of official training for the four-man competition. They’re desperate to figure out a course that has largely befuddled them to this point.

Four-man is the final sliding event in Pyeongchang, with two runs on Saturday and two more before the cauldron gets extinguished on Sunday.

U.S. pilot Codie Bascue says they had two really solid runs that will give them confidence for the rest of the week.

Any confidence boost would be helpful. The U.S. placed 14th, 21st and 25th in the two-man competition.

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3:05 p.m.

Brady Leman has earned gold for Canada in men’s skicross, beating Switzerland’s Marc Bischofberger in a wild final at the Pyeongchang Olympics.

Leman took the lead early during Wednesday’s last round and then held off Bischofberger in a two-man duel after Canada’s Kevin Drury and Russian athlete Sergey Ridzik collided early on.

Ridzik picked himself up and raced down for bronze.

The elimination rounds included a handful of frightening crashes that forced several men to leave the course wrapped up in a medical sled.

The worst came when 2011 world champion Chris Del Bosco lost control in mid-air late in the run. The right side of the Canadian’s body slammed hard into the snow and he lay motionless for several minutes before emergency personnel carefully placed him on the sled.

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2:50 p.m.

Pavel Francouz stopped all five shooters and Petr Kouka scored the shootout winner as the Czech Republic eliminated the United States men’s hockey team with a 3-2 victory in the quarterfinals at the Pyeongchang Olympics.

Jan Kovar and Tomas Kundratek scored in regulation Wednesday for the Czech Republic, which was fresher after winning its group and getting a bye into the quarterfinals. The U.S. looked fatigued after facing Slovakia in the qualification round and was outshot 29-20.

Ryan Donato and Jim Slater scored for the U.S, which again was led by its youngest players, including speedster Troy Terry. U.S. goaltender Ryan Zapolski allowed three goals on 29 shots and one in the shootout. The Czech Republic’s Pavel Francouz stopped 18 in regulation and overtime.

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2:30 p.m.

Alina Zagitova’s record-setting short program has given the 15-year-old Russian the lead over friend, training partner and two-time world champion Evgenia Medvedeva heading into Friday’s free skate.

Zagitova scored 82.92 points, breaking the mark of 81.61 that Medvedeva had set about 15 minutes earlier. Both scores topped the short program record Medvedeva set earlier in the Pyeongchang Games.

Kaetlyn Osmond of Canada was third with 78.87 points.

The American trio of Mirai Nagasu, Karen Chen and Bradie Tennell struggled with early mistakes in each of their programs. Nagasu was ninth with Chen and Tennell right behind her.

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2:15 p.m.

The injuries are starting to pile up in men’s skicross at the Pyeongchang Olympics.

Three skiers left the course on medical sleds during the first round of eliminations following scary wrecks Wednesday.

Canadian Chris Del Bosco’s right side slammed violently into the ground at Phoenix Snow Park after he lost control in the air over one of the final jumps in the race that sends skiers side-by-side down the mountain.

France’s Terence Tchiknavorian landed awkwardly after a jump and appeared to injure his right leg. Austria’s Christoph Wahrstoetter became tangled up in the fence after colliding with Sweden’s Erik Mobaerg.

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1:45 p.m.

Surprise Olympic champion Red Gerard has logged some 18,000 miles on a post-victory tour that took him from Pyeongchang to Los Angeles to New York, and now, back to South Korea.

Ten days after his victory on the slopestyle course, the American has returned to the snow, where he qualified for the final of the big air contest — the newest, highest-flying snowboarding event at the games.

His agent, Ryan Runke, can barely keep up with all the phone calls. Sponsorship and media opportunities are flooding in, and the mission isn’t so much about grabbing everything he can, but finding the right fit.

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1:15 p.m.

Canada’s world champion women’s curling team is out of the running for an Olympic medal after suffering a shocking loss to Great Britain at the Pyeongchang Games.

Canada’s 6-5 loss to Britain on Wednesday in the women’s round robin eliminates them from medal contention.

The Canadians came into the Pyeongchang Games as the favorite to win gold, and their lackluster performance has stunned the curling world.

Canada’s captain, Rachel Homan, says she is disappointed in the loss but said the British team simply played better.

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12:15 p.m.

Sofia Goggia of Italy has won the women’s Olympic downhill, with good friend Lindsey Vonn taking the bronze.

Ragnhild Mowinckel of Norway was the surprise silver medalist after turning in a sizzling run as the 19th racer on the course. Mowinckel also earned silver in the giant slalom at these Games.

Goggia finished in a time of 1 minute, 39.22 seconds to hold off Mowinckel by 0.09 seconds. Vonn finished 0.47 seconds behind Goggia.

At 33, Vonn becomes the oldest female medalist in Alpine skiing at the Winter Games. The record was held by Austria’s Michaela Dorfmeister, who was just shy of her 33rd birthday when she won the downhill and the super-G at the 2006 Turin Olympics. This is likely Vonn’s last Olympic downhill race.

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More AP Olympic coverage: https://wintergames.ap.org

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Jessica Harrington’s Our Duke One Of The Headline Acts As The Entries For The Boylesports Irish Grand National Were Revealed

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OUR DUKE could bid to defend his Boylesports Irish Grand National crown on April 2 after the entries were revealed.

Jessica Harrington’s chaser was a brilliant winner of the race last year and while he has the Cheltenham Gold Cup as his immediate target, connections are also looking ahead to Fairyhouse.

SPORTSFILE Robbie Power celebrates aboard Our Duke last year

 

“He has come out of Saturday’s race at Gowran Park in great shape and while the Cheltenham Gold Cup is the immediate target, the BoyleSports Irish Grand National is very much on the radar,” said Harrington.

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