The Philadelphia 76ers got a lot of criticism in the lead up to Game 6 of their Eastern Conference Semis match up with the Toronto Raptors on Thursday night. Jimmy Butler, who would go on to score 25 points and lead the Sixers here, was fairly free of it, but Ben Simmons and Joel Embiid had come under fire for their lack of performances of late. Each of them helped Butler here, ensuring they won comfortably by the score of 112-101 to force deciding Game 7 in Toronto. Simmons would end up with 21 points while Embiid had a double-double with 17 of his own as well as 12 rebounds. In fact, all five starters finished in the double digits, with four of them hitting 16 points or more. Toronto had big games from Pascal Siakam, 29 points, and Kawhi Leonard, 21, but those two alone were not enough to close out the series in Philly.
The Portland Trail Blazers also had a home game that was a must-win on Thursday night, and they, too, like the Sixers, got the job done largely due to the greatness of the ever-clutch Damian Lillard. The Denver Nuggets had been exceptional in the job of defending him throughout most of the series, but he went off for 32 points in Portland here to nudge his team’s way into a Game 7 thanks to a 119-108 win. Nikola Jokic, always a threat, put up 29 points of his own along with 12 rebounds and eight assists in a typically brilliant showing. He just didn’t quite have enough help, and now the series will be decided back in Denver.
Albert Pujols made history on Thursday afternoon as his Los Angeles Angels ran out 13-0 winners over the Detroit Tigers. Pujols hammered a solo home run in the third inning of the game to give his team a 6-0 lead, but perhaps more importantly is that it was his 2000th career RBI. In so doing, he became just the third player all-time to reach that lofty mark, behind only Hank Aaron and Alex Rodriguez. Many contend that Babe Ruth is also on the list, but he played in a time where the stat did not exist. Overall, the Angels hit five homers in the runaway win, while starter Felix Pena threw seven innings with just three hits given up.
For the first time ever, both major UEFA Finals will be contested by English clubs after Thursday’s results in the Europa League Semi-Finals. Arsenal would hammer Valencia 2-4 in Spain, scoring seven times over the course of two matches, to book their place, while Chelsea were forced to scramble against Eintracht Frankfurt. Both matches ended 1-1, so it forced extra time and then penalties. In the end, it was Chelsea that prevailed. This sets up an all-London Europa League Final in Baku, Azerbaijan of all places. English soccer is truly, truly back after becoming the first country to place all four finalists, it must be said!