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Pro-Hong Kong protests seen at Wizards game, NBA postpones media sessions in Shanghai amid China rift

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Pro-Hong Kong protests seen at Wizards game, NBA postpones media sessions in Shanghai amid China rift

NBA Commissioner Adam Silver told the Brooklyn Nets and Los Angeles Lakers on Wednesday that the league is still expecting them to play as scheduled this week, even while the rift between the league and Chinese officials continued in ways that clearly suggested the two planned games in Shanghai and Shenzhen were anything but guaranteed.

The NBA called off scheduled media sessions Wednesday for both teams. At least two other NBA events to be held Wednesday before the start of the China games were canceled as part of the fallout that started after Houston Rockets general manager Daryl Morey posted a since-deleted tweet last week that showed support for anti-government protesters in Hong Kong.

"Given the fluidity of the situation, today's media availability has been postponed," the league said. The sessions were not rescheduled Wednesday, though having them on Thursday -- game day in Shanghai -- remains possible.

Later Wednesday in Washington, a bipartisan group of lawmakers -- including the rare alignment of Republican Sen. Ted Cruz of Texas and Democratic Rep. Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez of New York -- sent a letter to Silver saying the NBA should show the "courage and integrity" to stand up to the Chinese government. They asked the NBA to, among other things, suspend activities in China until what they called the selective treatment against the Rockets ends.

"You have more power to take a stand than most of the Chinese government's targets and should have the courage and integrity to use it," the lawmakers told Silver. The NBA did not have any immediate comment on the letter, and it was unclear if Silver had even seen the document.

In Shanghai, the mood surrounding the game that -- if played -- will feature LeBron James, Kyrie Irving and other big NBA names was anything but festive. An NBA Cares event that was to benefit the Special Olympics was called off, as was a "fan night" celebration that was to be highlighted by the league announcing plans to refurbish some outdoor courts in that city. And workers in multiple spots around Shanghai were tearing down large outdoor promotional advertisements for Thursday's Lakers-Nets game.

The teams are also supposed to play Saturday in Shenzhen.

Chinese smartphone maker Vivo has joined the list of companies that have suspended ties with the NBA for now, only adding to the uncertainty surrounding the China games. Vivo was a presenting sponsor of the games, and on Wednesday there was no reference to the game in Shanghai on the list of upcoming events scheduled at Mercedes-Benz Arena. Other firms such as apparel company Li-Ning announced similar moves earlier this week, as the rift was just beginning.

Silver said Tuesday in Tokyo that he supports Morey's right to free speech. Several Chinese companies have suspended their partnership with the NBA in recent days, and Chinese state broadcaster CCTV said it will not broadcast the Lakers-Nets games.

"I'm sympathetic to our interests here and to our partners who are upset," Silver said. "I don't think it's inconsistent on one hand to be sympathetic to them and at the same time stand by our principles."

All around China, stores that sell NBA merchandise were removing Rockets-related apparel from shelves and many murals featuring the Rockets -- even ones with Yao Ming, the Chinese great who played for Houston during his NBA career -- were being painted over.

Effects are already being felt in NBA arenas, in a pair of games featuring Guangzhou Loong Lions of the Chinese Basketball Association.

After the playing of the Chinese national anthem in Washington on Wednesday before Guangzhou's game against the Wizards, one fan shouted, "Freedom of expression! Freedom of speech! Free Hong Kong!" Another fan shouted for a free Hong Kong from the second level during the second quarter.

Minutes later, security approached one fan holding up a "Free Tibet" sign and another holding the Tibet flag. Security tried to take the sign, and the fan refused to give it up. Security then escorted them out of the seats.

A similar scene played out in Philadelphia on Tuesday, also during a Guangzhou game. There, two fans were removed by arena security for holding signs and chanting in support of Hong Kong. The signs read "Free Hong Kong" and "Free HK." The sentiment was not different from Morey's since-deleted tweet last week of an image that read, "Fight For Freedom. Stand With Hong Kong."

The 76ers and Wells Fargo Center, the team's home arena, released statements Wednesday confirming that the fan removal took place and explaining why.

"During the second quarter of last night's 76ers game, Wells Fargo Center security responded to a situation that was disrupting the live event experience for our guests," the arena's statement Wednesday said. "After three separate warnings, the two individuals were escorted out of the arena without incident. The security team employed respectful and standard operating procedures."

The NBA is not the first major corporation to deal with criticism from China over political differences. Mercedes-Benz, Delta Air Lines, hotel operator Marriott, fashion brand Zara and others also have found themselves in conflicts with China in recent years.

After Morey's tweet was deleted, Rockets owner Tilman Fertitta said Morey does not speak for the organization. Joe Tsai, who recently completed his purchase of the Nets and is a co-founder of Chinese e-commerce giant Alibaba, has said the damage to the NBA's relationship with China "will take a long time to repair."

 

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Sun force Game 5 in WNBA Finals with 90-86 win over Mystics

Sun force Game 5 in WNBA Finals with 90-86 win over Mystics

UNCASVILLE, Conn. -- Alyssa Thomas had 17 points, 11 assists and eight rebounds to help the Connecticut Sun stave off elimination and force a decisive Game 5 of the WNBA Finals with a 90-86 win over the Washington Mystics on Tuesday night.

The title will be decided Thursday night in Washington with a first-time champion crowned. Thomas fell just short of the first triple-double in Finals history.

Jonquel Jones had 18 points and 13 rebounds to lead the Sun.

Connecticut blew a 16-point halftime lead as Washington used a huge third quarter to tie the game at 68. The Mystics kept it going to start the fourth, opening up a five-point lead. With its season on the line, the Sun responded.

Jasmine Thomas hit a 3-pointer to put the Sun ahead 84-81. The lead was short-lived as Emma Meesseman answered with a 3 from the wing to tie the game again.

Shekinna Stricklen, the league's 3-point champion at the All-Star Game, then shook off a defender before making another 3 to give the Sun an 87-84 advantage with 2:22 left. Natasha Cloud made a layup a few seconds later to get the Mystics within one.

That's as close as they got as both teams missed open looks in the final 2 minutes. Aerial Powers, who led Washington with 15 points, missed an open 3-pointer in the corner with 27.5 seconds left that would have given Washington the lead.

Connecticut got the rebound and Jasmine Thomas sank two free throws with 18.4 seconds left to make it a three-point game.

After a timeout, Cloud drove to the basket but missed the shot and Alyssa Thomas corralled the rebound and hit the first of two free throws to seal the win.

Elena Delle Donne, who left Game 2 with back spasms that an MRI later revealed was a herniated disk, was able to play more Tuesday night than in Game 3, when she was limited to 26 minutes. The league MVP had 11 points and five rebounds while playing 30 minutes.

UP NEXT

Game 5 is Thursday night in Washington.

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Mystics one game away from WNBA title after win in Connecticut

Mystics one game away from WNBA title after win in Connecticut

UNCASVILLE, Conn. (AP) -- Elena Delle Donne put forth a gutsy effort, playing through a back injury, and Washington beat the Connecticut Sun 94-81 on Sunday and move within a victory of winning the franchise's first title.

The league's MVP has a herniated disk that is pinching a nerve in her back and was questionable to play in Game 3. She finished with 13 points, hitting 5 of her 6 shots and played 26 minutes. She was clearly limited in her movement and stayed mostly on the perimeter, but was effective enough to command the attention of Connecticut's defense. That opened it up for Emma Meesseman and Kristi Toliver. Meesseman had 21 points, including nine to start the fourth quarter, and Toliver added 20 points and 10 assists. Washington will try and win the first championship in franchise history on Tuesday night with Game 4 in Connecticut.

Delle Donne hit an early 3-pointer and the Mystics made six of their nine shots from behind the arc in the first quarter to take a 32-17 lead after 10 minutes.

Washington led by as many as 17 points in the first half. It was 37-23 before the Sun went on a 16-4 run and Washington led 43-39 at the break.

Jonquel Jones converted a 3-point play to open the third quarter cut the lead to one, but that was as close as Connecticut would get.

They trailed by two when Delle Donne hit a 3-pointer from the left wing to make it 58-53. The Mystics took a 68-57 lead into the fourth quarter and stretched that to 18 before a final run by the Sun that Delle Donne ended with a tough layup.

Shekinna Stricklen and Jasmine Thomas each had 16 points for the Sun. Jones, who scored 32 points and grabbed 18 rebounds in Connecticut's Game 2 win, scored just nine points to go with her nine boards.

COPING

The 6-foot-5 Delle Donne, who averaged 19.5 points and 8.2 rebounds this season, left Tuesday's 99-87 Game 2 loss without scoring a point after playing only a few minutes in the first quarter. There were a few scary moments for her on Sunday. She went down to her knees for a loose ball just over five minutes into the game, was subbed out and went straight to the tunnel. But she returned a few minutes later. The team said it was part of the plan to keep her back warm by having her stretch with the trainers instead of sitting on the bench.

REBOUNDS

Washington outrebounded Connecticut 34-27 after being dominated on the boards, 41-27 in Game 2.

TIP INS

Washington: Delle Donne had had averaged 21.4 points and 7.6 rebounds in the Mystics' first five playoff games. She had scored at least 10 points in 23 straight playoff games before Tuesday.

Connecticut: The Sun were 15-2 at home in the regular season and swept their two semi-final games here against Los Angeles. This was the first Finals game at the Mohegan Sun since they went to back-to-back in 2004 and 2005. That team was led by current Mystics coach Mike Thibault, who spent 10 years in Uncasville before being fired in 2012.

UP NEXT

Washington can win its first WNBA championship on Tuesday night on this same court.

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