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Serena Williams offers support to Naomi Osaka after French Open withdrawal

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Serena Williams offers support to Naomi Osaka after French Open withdrawal

Serena Williams, an idol for Naomi Osaka in her tennis career, gave her support to the world No. 2 star after she decided to withdraw from the 2021 French Open. 

Not long after Osaka announced that she would exit the French Open, Williams, coming off a first-round win at Rolland-Garros, said that she feels for Osaka and that she knows what it is like to face the media pressure, according to New York Times reporter Ben Rothenberg. 

“The only thing I feel is that I feel for Naomi,” Williams said. “I feel like I wish I could give her a hug because I know what it’s like. Like I said, I’ve been in those positions.”

MORE: Full draws, TV coverage, channels & more to watch every French Open match

Osaka announced on Twitter on Monday that she would step out of this year’s French Open and that she would “take some time away from the court.” 

In her post, she revealed that she has suffered “long bouts of depression” since the 2018 U.S. Open and that talking to the press after matches can bring “huge waves of anxiety.”

Williams said that everyone handles situations differently and that “you just have to let her handle it the way [Osaka] wants to, in the best way she thinks she can.”

Williams later added when asked whether the WTA and Grand Slam Tournaments are doing enough to help players’ mental health concerns that “you really have to step forward and make an effort, just as in anything.”

“You have to be able to make an effort and say, I need help with A, B, C and D, and talk to someone. I think that’s so important to have a sounding board, whether it’s someone at the WTA or whether it’s someone in your life. Maybe it’s someone that you just talk to on a weekly basis,” Williams said. “I’ve been in that position too. I’ve definitely had opportunities to talk to people, kind of get things off my chest that I can’t necessarily talk to anyone in my family or anyone that I know.

“For me it’s important to have awareness and make that step.”

Osaka began the tournament by saying that she would not speak to the press as she felt people often had no regard for the mental health of athletes. In response, the heads of the four Grand Slam tournaments fined her $15,000 and noted that she could face a default in the French Open and face possible Grand Slam violations.

Williams was the latest athlete to offer up support to Osaka. Usain Bolt, Venus Williams and Coco Gauff all left messages of support to the tennis star amid her decision to exit the French Open. 

According to a report from Yahoo! Sports, French Tennis Federation president Gilles Moretton said during a news conference that Osaka’s withdrawal from Roland-Garros was “unfortunate” and said the French Open wishes her “the best and quickest possible recovery, and we look forward to having Naomi in our tournament next year.”

“As all the Grand Slams, the WTA, the ATP, and the ITF, we remain very committed to all athletes’ well-being, and to continually improving every aspect of players’ experience in our tournament — including with the media, like we have always strived to do,” Moretton said. 

He did not stay for questions from reporters.

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Chris Paul, NBA Twitter react to Deandre Ayton’s game-winning dunk in Suns vs. Clippers

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Chris Paul, NBA Twitter react to Deandre Ayton's game-winning dunk in Suns vs. Clippers

Deandre Ayton was the hero for the Suns in their Game 2 win over the Clippers.

With less than a second left on the clock, the Suns were down one point and had just 0.9 seconds to get a shot off. Jae Crowder inbounded the ball on the baseline under the Suns’ basket and found Ayton cutting to the hoop.

Ayton threw it down. The play took just 0.2 seconds off the clock and sealed the 104-103 win for the Suns.

Here’s a look at the amazing finish.

Ayton and Crowder deserve a bulk of the credit, but Devin Booker had an impact on the finish as well. His physical screen on Ivica Zubac — who is seven inches taller and 35 pounds heavier than Booker — gave Ayton just enough space to get open off the cut and throw down the dunk.

And Booker put his body on the line despite playing with a bloodied nose that required stitches after an inadvertent hit from Patrick Beverley earlier in the game.

The Suns’ finish thrilled Phoenix fans as well as the team’s star point guard Chris Paul, who missed his second straight game in the NBA’s health and safety protocols. He took time to celebrate the victory on Twitter and praised coach Monty Williams for his “big-time play call.”

Indeed, it was a nice play call, and Williams made sure Ayton was prepared to dunk immediately after catching the ball.

“DA — if he throws it, you gotta try to dunk it,” Williams said. “Okay?”

Ayton was ready and obliged. As a result of his make, NBA Twitter erupted and celebrated the exciting end to yet another tightly-contested playoff battle. 

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How Suns perfectly executed game-winning play — and why goaltending didn’t apply on Deandre Ayton’s dunk

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How Suns perfectly executed game-winning play — and why goaltending didn't apply on Deandre Ayton's dunk

Back in December 2017, the Suns and Grizzlies found themselves in a down-to-the-wire contest. Phoenix had the ball with just 0.6 seconds on the clock and the game tied at 97.

So what did then-Suns coach Jay Triano do? He unveiled a play that he had kept in his back pocket for years.

MORE: Chris Paul reacts to Deandre Ayton’s game-winning dunk

While standing on the sideline near the Grizzlies’ bench, Dragan Bender threw a pass toward Tyson Chandler that floated directly above the rim, giving Chandler the opportunity to slam it through the bottom of the net. Wait, you can do that?

“You cannot goaltend a ball that isn’t going to count,” Triano told reporters after the game.

More than three years later, Triano’s words were once again ringing throughout Phoenix Suns Arena. Coach Monty Williams drew up a similar play on Tuesday night, and his players executed it perfectly to give the Suns a stunning 104-103 win over the Clippers and a 2-0 series lead in the Western Conference finals.

Look at this beauty:

OK, let’s break down what NBA TV’s Matt Winer called “The Valley Oop.” (Great work, Matt).

First, notice the positioning of DeMarcus Cousins. Clippers coach Tyronn Lue made a smart move by putting Cousins on Jae Crowder in order to make an inbound pass more difficult, but Cousins is squared up to Crowder, opening up the passing lane Crowder needs.

As for the action in the paint, Devin Booker sets a terrific screen on Ivica Zubac, allowing Deandre Ayton to break free. Could Nicolas Batum have bumped Ayton and recovered? Possibly, but he is understandably concerned with leaving Booker.

(NBA)

Once Ayton gets a step on Zubac running toward the basket, it’s on Crowder to put the ball in a spot in which Ayton can score. As you can see from the angle below, Crowder just narrowly avoids the backboard. The placement here is simply incredible.

“That’s definitely Jae’s game-winner,” Ayton said after the game.

deandre ayton suns play
(NBA)

Now, you may still be asking, “But why isn’t that a goaltending violation?”

As the NBA explained in its Last Two Minute Report from that December 2017 game, “Goaltending rules do not apply because (Chandler) makes contact with the ball off of a throw-in and not a live ball that has already legally been touched on the playing court.” Scott Foster, who served as the crew chief on Tuesday, offered the same explanation when asked about Ayton’s dunk.

Sometimes less than a second can be all the time in the world. Just ask any Suns fan.

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Clippers’ Paul George misses crucial free throws in stunning Game 2 loss to Suns

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Clippers' Paul George misses crucial free throws in stunning Game 2 loss to Suns

The box score from Tuesday’s Suns-Clippers game — a pivotal Game 2 win for Phoenix in the Western Conference finals — will show Paul George had a decent game.

Twenty-six points, on 10-of-23 shooting; six assists; six rebounds; and 5-of-10 shooting from the free throw line. He also scored his team’s last six points, all within the last minute, to help the Clippers to a 103-102 lead with just 8.2 seconds remaining.

The only stats that ultimately mattered in the Clippers’ 104-103 loss, however, were the final two free throws George — a career 84.7-percent free throw shooter — missed. They ultimately allowed Phoenix a chance at an unbelievable comeback victory, which may prove costly even as the series heads back to LA.

NBA MOCK DRAFT 2021: Who will Pistons, Rockets take with top picks?

Had George sunk both of those shots, the Suns would have needed a 3-pointer just to send the game to overtime. Had he sunk even one shot, they would have needed a 2-pointer. But he missed both, allowing the Suns to win on an inbound dunk with less than a second remaining:

Credit to Deandre Ayton, Jae Crowder and the Suns. That play will go down as one of the top plays in NBA playoffs history. But every heartbreaking loss needs a goat, and no one fits the bill better than “Playoff P,” who could have secured a win for his team with the simplest of basketball scoring plays.

Here’s the bright side for the Clippers, if there is one: They have already overcome 2-0 deficits in each of their first two series against the Mavericks and Jazz, respectively. That’s likely a cold comfort as George and Co. head back to LA, however. The scathing Twitter comments aimed at George likely won’t do anything to help, either:

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