MONZA, Italy — Mercedes again topped the leaderboard as Lewis Hamilton posted the fastest time ahead of teammate Valtteri Bottas in second practice Friday for the Italian Grand Prix.

The championship leader finished .262 ahead of Bottas, who was quickest in first practice. McLaren driver Lando Norris was third, .897 slower than Hamilton.

“The car didn’t feel great in the first session but in the afternoon, it felt like we made some encouraging improvements and it was much better,” Hamilton said. “We have a few more steps to make overnight and then I think it’ll be where it needs to.

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LAKE BUENA VISTA, Fla. — Kawhi Leonard scored 29 points and the Los Angeles Clippers rolled past the Denver Nuggets 120-97 on Thursday night in Game 1 of the Western Conference semifinals.

Paul George scored 19 points and Marcus Morris added 18 for the Clippers.

Los Angeles shot 57% from the field in an effort that convinced coach Doc Rivers that his team has adjusted and is in the proper frame of mind.

“If you don’t execute, it’s going to hurt you, and part of that is intensity and focus, and you have to have that on every single play,”

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NEW YORK — Yes, Serena Williams won in straight sets again. And yes, she moved into an all-American showdown at the U.S. Open against Sloane Stephens. Still, this victory did not quite go according to plan.

Her serve only so-so at times, her footwork a bit off, Williams got by and got through Thursday night against an opponent ranked just 117th, beating Margarita Gasparyan 6-2, 6-4 and letting out a cry of “Yes!” at the end that reverberated in a nearly empty Arthur Ashe Stadium.

It sounded more like relief than excitement.

“The only thing that gets me flustered is

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With the opening kickoff on the 2020 NFL season now just a week away, it remains a tight two-way race atop the Super Bowl odds, where the defending champion Kansas City Chiefs and the Baltimore Ravens remain deadlocked as +650 co-favourites at sportsbooks monitored by

Baltimore sported an NFL-best 14-2 straight-up record during the 2019 NFL regular season. However, it was Kansas City that managed to convert its strong campaign into a successful Super Bowl run, and now takes a nine-game straight-up win streak into its Week 1 Thursday night matchup against the Houston Texans at Arrowhead Stadium.

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PARIS — Three more Paris Saint-Germain players tested positive for the coronavirus, taking the number so far to six and throwing the club’s start to the new season into chaos.

PSG announced the positive tests late on Thursday, without giving the names of the players and only saying that they are “subject to the appropriate health protocol.”

But sports daily L’Equipe named them as defender Marquinhos, goalkeeper Keylor Navas and striker Mauro Icardi. The other three cases, confirmed by the club on Wednesday, reportedly are forward Neymar, winger Angel Di Maria and midfielder Leandro Paredes.

All six were part of

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ATLANTA — It’s not unusual for the PGA Tour post-season, particularly who wins the FedEx Cup, to go a long way toward who gets voted player of the year.

That’s particularly true this season with only one major championship in the books.

The leading candidates for the Jack Nicklaus Award are the top five in the FedEx Cup standings going into East Lake: Dustin Johnson, Jon Rahm, Justin Thomas, Webb Simpson and Collin Morikawa. Each has won at least twice against strong fields. Morikawa won the only major at the PGA Championship.

“Dustin has been playing really hot as of

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