LOS ANGELES - Pau Gasol had 23 points and 10 rebounds in place of injured centre Dwight Howard, and the visiting Los Angeles Lakers blew an 18-point lead before escaping with a nail-biting 98-97 victory over the Detroit Pistons yesterday. The Spaniard followed up his 22-point, 11-rebound performance in Saturday's 111-100 win at Minnesota with another strong outing as Howard missed his second straight game after aggravating a right shoulder injury. Kobe Bryant scored 18 points.
Querrey lifts US
JACKSONVILLE - Sam Querrey rescued the US from a humbling Davis Cup upset, defeating Thiago Alves 4-6 6-3 6-4 7-6 (7-3) to lift the Americans over Brazil 3-2 in a first-round tie. Querrey's comeback victory lifted the Americans into a quarter-final tie in April at Boise, Idaho, against Novak Djokovic's Serbia after Thomaz Bellucci pulled Brazil level with a 2-6 6-4 6-7 (7-9) 6-4 6-3 upset of John Isner. "It's an amazing feeling. I'm so excited," said Querrey, who thanked US supporters who cheered him to victory.
SCOTTSDALE, Arizona - Phil Mickelson fired a four-under par 67 yesterday to complete a wire-to-wire victory in the US PGA Tour's Phoenix Open at 28-under-par, capturing his 41st career title by four strokes. It was the first time a player led every round alone on the way to a tour title since Rory McIlroy's breakthrough major triumph at the 2011 US Open. "I played really good golf," Mickelson said. "This is how I've been playing for a while and it feels really good to get that golf out of me when I'm at a big tournament."
SYDNEY - Willie Mason says he was always confident of a return to representative football when he signed for NRL club Newcastle last year. The 32-year-old's career was handed a lifeline by Knights coach Wayne Bennett last year following an 18-month spell playing in the Super League with Hull KR and in French rugby. After returning to Australia, Mason struggled to pick up a club, with a move to the Wests Tigers collapsing, before the seven-time premiership-winning coach gave him the opportunity to sign for the Knights mid-season.
JOHANNESBURG - Nigeria and Burkina Faso reached the Africa Cup of Nations semi-finals as Ivory Coast legend Didier Drogba departed the stage for the last time without the gold medal he craved. The Nigerian Super Eagles were too quick and slick for the often ponderous Ivorian Elephants and won 2-1 at Royal Bafokeng Sports Palace in north-western mining town Rustenburg through goals from Emmanuel Emenike and Sunday Mba. Former champions Nigeria face Mali in the first semi-final.
Ali is fine
NEW ORLEANS - Muhammad Ali's daughter scotched rumours of her father being near death, saying he was at home watching the Super Bowl. May May Ali says she talked to her father yesterday morning on the phone and he was fine. She says he was watching the Super Bowl at home in Arizona, wearing a Baltimore Ravens jersey. "He's fine, in fact he was talking well this morning," she said in a telephone interview. "These rumours pop up every once in a while but there's nothing to them."