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What Kentucky Derby winner Medina Spirit’s second positive drug test means for Bob Baffert

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Medina Spirit will run in Preakness after Bob Baffert's attorney strikes deal involving pre-race testing, per report

While it remains possible that Medina Spirit may no longer be the winner of the Kentucky Derby, one thing has been made official: Bob Baffert has been suspended for two years. 

On Wednesday, Churchill Downs Incorporated announced that it was suspending Baffert and “any trainer directly or indirectly employed by Bob Baffert Racing Stables from entering horses in races or applying for stall occupancy at all CDI-owned racetracks.”

Medina Spirit had tested positive for a banned substance shortly after the Derby took place, but the decision was appealed. As a result, the colt’s sample was re-tested in a lab chosen by Baffert. Once again, it was positive for betamethasone, a steroid that is used to reduce inflammation.

In the press release from Churchill Downs Incorporated, CEO Bill Carstanjen said that it advocates for strict medication regulations to make sure races are done fairly, and that “reckless practices and substance violations that jeopardize” the horse’s or jockey’s safety or “compromise the integrity of our sport are not acceptable.”

“As a company we must take measures to demonstrate that they will not be tolerated,” Carstanjen said in the statement. “Mr. Baffert’s record of testing failures threatens public confidence in thoroughbred racing and the reputation of the Kentucky Derby. Given these repeated failures over the last year, including the increasingly extraordinary explanations, we firmly believe that asserting our rights to impose these measures is our duty and responsibility.”

The release said that the Kentucky Horse Racing Commission has the decision on whether to disqualify Medina Spirit, and that it is looking to complete its investigation on whether to make this decision. 

Why this matters: Medina Spirit now faces disqualification from the Kentucky Derby as a result of this positive test.

  • If Baffert’s horse is disqualified, Mandaloun, the initial runner-up in the race, would be declared the winner.
  • The last time that a winning horse was disqualified from the Derby because of a positive drug test was Dancer’s Image in 1968.
  • It’s the second time in the past three years that the Derby’s winning horse has been disqualified. Maximum Security was disqualified in 2019 for dangerously impeding the path of other horses, leading Country House to the win as a longshot. 

MORE: Full draw, odds, post positions for the Belmont Stakes

What they’re saying: Clark Brewster, a lawyer who represents Medina Spirit’s owner, hopes that the intent of the potential contamination, which Baffert previously said came from an anti-fungal cream applied to the horse, is considered when discussing potential punishment for the horse.

  • “If it was inadvertent contamination, that should be taken into account. We’re hopeful that reasonable minds and good-intentioned regulators can see what it is, and what it is not, and not have a draconian response.” 
  • “I’m not a conspiracy (theorist) — I know everybody’s not out to get me. But there’s definitely something wrong. Why is it happening, you know, to me?” Baffert said. “There’s problems in racing, but it’s not Bob Baffert.”

What comes next: An official ruling on Medina Spirit’s status as it relates to the 2021 Kentucky Derby should be incoming soon.

  • Baffert has been suspended for two years from racing in any event hosted by Churchill Downs. In addition, the CDI can also extend his suspension if there are any more violations. 

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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.

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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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