Kansas at Oklahoma

Kansas holds a one-game lead in its quest for a 14th consecutive Big 12 championship and has won 10 straight road games dating back to last season, the school’s second-longest road winning streak since 1950. The fifth-ranked Jayhawks can equal their best road win streak during that 58-year span on Tuesday night, but it won’t be easy as they must get past Trae Young-led No. 11 Oklahoma.

The Sooners come in off back-to-back losses at Kansas State (87-69) and at Bedlam rival Oklahoma State (83-81) but have won 12 in a row at the Lloyd Noble Center dating back to a 61-50 loss to 13th-ranked West Virginia on Feb. 8, 2017. The 6-2 Young, who picked the hometown Sooners over the Jayhawks, comes in off a Big 12 record-tying 48-point effort in the loss at Oklahoma State and leads the nation in both scoring (30.5) and assists (9.7). Kansas coach Bill Self, who guided the Jayhawks to 11 straight road wins from Jan. 24, 2007 to Jan. 30, 2008, was asked Monday what would be the hardest part about defending Young, who is averaging 33.3 points in Big 12 play. “I don’t know how you could put that in simple terms,” Self told the Kansas City Star. “He is unbelievable with the ball, great acceleration. He has unbelievable vision. You could take away his shot and they still can come away with two or three points very easily. … He’s as good as we’ve had to defend because of the focus he has with that team.”

TV: 7 p.m. ET, ESPN

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ABOUT KANSAS (16-3, 6-1 Big 12): The Jayhawks also have some pretty good guards on their roster in senior Devonte’ Graham, who ranks second to Young in the Big 12 in scoring (18.1) and is third in the conference in assists (7.3), and redshirt sophomore Malik Newman (11.3 ppg), a transfer from Mississippi State regarded by some scouting services as the nation’s top shooting guard his senior year while garnering McDonald’s All-American honors. Newman comes in off a game-high 24-points, including 12 of the Jayhawks’ final 14 points, to help rally Kansas to a 70-67 home win over Baylor on Saturday. Senior guard Sviatoslav Mykhailiuk (16.1), who is shooting 47.4 percent from 3-point range, 7-foot sophomore center Udoka Azubuike (14.5) and junior guard Lagerald Vick (14.1) also are averaging in double figures for the Jayhawks.

ABOUT OKLAHOMA (14-4, 4-3): Young surpassed the 500 career point mark in just his 17th game, the quickest to score 500 points in Oklahoma history and the fastest in Division I history in at least 20 years. But as Self pointed out, he’s hardly one dimensional despite coming in off a game he fired up 39 shots, including 8-of-20 3-pointers — both Big 12 records for attempts — as evidenced by his NCAA-leading assists average and the fact he also tied the NCAA record for assists in a game with 22 against Northwestern State on Dec. 10. Junior guard Christian James (11.9) and freshman forward Brady Manek (11.1) also are averaging in double digits for the Sooners, who rank second nationally in scoring (91.6).

TIP-INS

1. Oklahoma leads the Big 12 in 3-pointers made per game (11.1) while Kansas is second (10.6).

2. Azubuike leads the NCAA in field-goal percentage at 77.3 percent and is 28-for-33 (84.8 percent) over his last five games.

3. The Sooners are 11-1 at home under Lon Kruger when both teams playing are ranked with the lone loss coming to Kansas, 76-72, on Feb. 13, 2016.

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Posted in CBB

Cavaliers at Spurs

The Cleveland Cavaliers are spiraling in the wrong direction with nine losses in 12 games and attempt to shake out of their doldrums when they visit the San Antonio Spurs on Tuesday. The Cavaliers were blasted 148-124 by the Oklahoma City Thunder on Saturday and the points allowed matched the worst in franchise history in a regulation game.

Cleveland has lost by margins of 34, 28 and 24 over the past six games and the defensive effort against Oklahoma City was lacking with the Thunder scoring at least 33 points in every quarter. “It’s embarrassing. It’s not acceptable,” point guard Isaiah Thomas told reporters. “We can only go up from here, that’s the only positive about that. We’ve got to really look in the mirror, look at ourselves and get some pride.” The Spurs own the best home record in the NBA at 19-3 but dropped a 94-86 decision to the Indiana Pacers on Sunday while committing 20 turnovers as a 14-game home winning streak reached an end. “It happens a little too much with our team,” center Pau Gasol told reporters afterward. “We get a little bit out of whack. We don’t execute, we’re a little sloppy at times and we pay the price.”

TV: 8 p.m. ET, TNT

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ABOUT THE CAVALIERS (27-18): Forward LeBron James needs just seven points to become the seventh player in NBA history to reach 30,000 career points but the perennial star is more interested in figuring out his team’s porous play. Speculation regarding the status of coach Tyronn Lue has arisen and that deeply concerns James, who doesn’t see Lue as the problem but stopped short of giving his coach an endorsement. “I don’t know what’s going to happen with our team,” James told reporters. “I have no idea what conversations have been going on. Me personally, I’ve been trying to stay as laser-sharp as I can to keep my guys ready to go out and play. Obviously, it hasn’t resulted in wins, but I got to stay as fresh mentally as much I can with the struggles. I can’t worry about job securities and trades and things of that nature.”

ABOUT THE SPURS (30-18):
 San Antonio also hasn’t played as sharp as its reputation in a season in which star forward Kawhi Leonard has played in just nine games due to a quadriceps injury that is reportedly causing issues between Leonard and the organization. Coach Gregg Popovich decided to shake things up on Sunday by moving veteran point guard Tony Parker (12 points and five assists in 20 minutes on Sunday) to the bench and starting Dejounte Murray, who had eight points and seven rebounds in 28 minutes. “A little different, so I guess we’re figuring where we need certain things (with Parker) coming off the bench to start the game,” Spurs shooting guard Danny Green told reporters. “Trying to get a happy medium of getting some fast pace, slower pace, getting it inside, working outside, but turn the ball over a little less, move it a little bit better.”

BUZZER BEATERS

1. The Spurs won both of last season’s meetings, including a 103-74 home romp.

2. Cleveland C Kevin Love (illness) is expected to play after leaving after three minutes against the Thunder.

3. San Antonio backup SG Manu Ginobili (thigh) is questionable after missing the past three games.

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Posted in NBA

Flyers at Red Wings

The Philadelphia Flyers have been surging toward the upper echelon of the Metropolitan Division and look to continue their ascent when they visit the Detroit Red Wings on Tuesday. Philadelphia has climbed within two points of second place in the Metropolitan after winning seven of its last eight games, including Sunday’s 2-1 overtime triumph on the road against division-leading Washington.

Travis Konecny has been turning it up offensively, recording four goals – including the winner versus the Capitals – and six assists over 12 contests since being placed on the Flyers’ top line. Detroit avoided a third straight setback on Monday, posting a 3-0 victory at New Jersey behind a 37-save performance by Petr Mrazek and a goal and an assist from Dylan Larkin. The 21-year-old Larkin leads the Red Wings with 38 points but had recorded only two in his previous five games. Detroit is beginning a three-game stretch at home, where it has been outscored 12-5 while losing its last three.

TV: 7:30 p.m. ET, NBC Sports Network, NBCS Philadelphia

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ABOUT THE FLYERS (23-16-8): Sean Couturier leads the team with a career-high 26 goals – 11 more than his previous best – and is four away from 100 in the NHL. Joining Couturier and captain Claude Giroux has done wonders for Konecny, as he recorded only 10 points in 35 games before being placed on their line. Jakub Voracek is in the midst of a four-game point drought but still leads the league with 45 assists.

ABOUT THE RED WINGS (19-20-7): Joe Hicketts made his NHL debut on Monday, posting a plus-1 rating in 15 minutes, 13 seconds of ice time. The 21-year-old defenseman was recalled from Grand Rapids of the American Hockey League on Sunday and was in the lineup in place of Trevor Daley, who is battling a lower-body injury and will not play against the Flyers. Andreas Athanasiou has recorded three two-point performances over his last three contests after notching a pair of assists versus the Devils.

OVERTIME

1. The Flyers recalled Mark Alt from Lehigh Valley on Monday and loaned fellow D Travis Sanheim to the AHL club.

2. Mrazek has posted a shutout in each of his last two starts, but is expected to be back on the bench Tuesday in favor of G Jimmy Howard.

3. Philadelphia has gone 15-5-1 since enduring a 10-game slide (0-5-5).

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Posted in NHL

Embracing their underdog standing, the Philadelphia Eagles will get to play the role once more, in the Super Bowl.

Nick Foles tossed three touchdown passes, and the Eagles scored 38 unanswered points en route to a 38-7 win over the Minnesota Vikings in the NFC Championship Game on Sunday at Lincoln Financial Field.

LeGarrette Blount rushed for a touchdown, the Philadelphia defense forced two turnovers, and the Eagles advanced to the Super Bowl for the first time since the 2004 season, when they lost the title to the New England Patriots.

The Eagles will face the Patriots once again with a chance at a Super Bowl championship, this time on Feb. 4 in Minneapolis.

Despite being the No. 1 seed in the NFC playoffs, the Eagles were home underdogs both last week against the Atlanta Falcons and Sunday against the Vikings.

“I don’t think many people had us in the Super Bowl before the season started,” Eagles center Jason Kelce said. “When the injuries started piling up, people didn’t have us there. When (quarterback) Carson Wentz got injured? Doubt anyone had us penciled in. We made it. We’re a team in every way. It feels so great, man.”

The Eagles will aim for the first Super Bowl title in franchise history. Before falling to the Patriots in Super Bowl XXXIX, they lost to the Oakland Raiders in Super Bowl XV following the 1980 season.

The Vikings, meanwhile, dropped their sixth consecutive NFC Championship Game appearance.

Minnesota had been in search of its first trip to the Super Bowl since the 1976 season.

“I’m going to take this feeling, bottle it up and make sure it doesn’t happen again,” Vikings quarterback Case Keenum said.

Foles connected on a 41-yard touchdown with Torrey Smith on a flea flicker on the first drive of the third quarter as the Eagles extended their lead to 31-7.

Alshon Jeffery caught made his second touchdown catch of the game, a 5-yarder from Foles, with 14:10 left in the fourth for a 38-7 lead. The Eagles moved 92 yards in 12 plays, and the outcome was sealed.

“I’m excited to be going for a Super Bowl with this group of guys,” Blount said. “I love this team. My teammates are the greatest. We stick together through everything and rally around each other. We have one more to go.”

The game didn’t start perfectly for the Eagles. Minnesota moved effectively on its opening drive, going 75 yards on nine plays, culminating with a 25-yard touchdown pass from Keenum to Kyle Rudolph with 10:14 left in the first quarter.

“You have to give those guys credit,” Keenum said of the Eagles’ defense. “This was the best front we’ve faced this year.”

The Eagles tied the game at 7 when defensive end Chris Long hit Keenum leading to a Patrick Robinson interception. Robinson returned the pick 50 yards for a score with 6:26 remaining in the first.

When Blount rumbled through the middle for an 11-yard touchdown run with 13:37 remaining in the second, the Eagles went ahead 14-7. The drive covered 75 yards in 12 plays.

The Vikings looked to tie the game — or at least kick a field goal — late in the first half, but Keenum was sacked by Derek Barnett on third-and-5 from the Philadelphia 16. Long recovered the fumble.

Foles proved his mettle on the ensuing possession as he tossed a spectacular 53-yard touchdown pass to Jeffery on third-and-10, giving the Eagles a 21-7 lead with 1:09 remaining in the half. Foles was able to move around long enough to be able to deliver the deep pass.

After the defense did its job, the Eagles didn’t run out the clock. They quickly moved down the field and Jake Elliott booted a 38-yard field as time expired for a 24-7 lead at halftime.

Foles wound up 26 of 33 for 352 yards. Tight end Zach Ertz led the Eagles with eight receptions for 93 yards, while Jeffery had five catches for 85 yards. Jay Ajayi paced the Philadelphia ground game with 73 yards on 18 carries.

Keenum finished 28 of 48 for 271 yards with one touchdown pass and two interceptions. Running back Jerick McKinnon had 11 receptions for 86 yards and added 10 carries for 40 yards.

Posted in NFL

There is no one the New England Patriots would rather have with the ball in his hands when a game is on the line than Tom Brady, even when his hands are battered and bruised.

Although questionable for the Sunday game against the Jacksonville Jaguars due to a right hand injury, the ageless 40-year-old quarterback proved his mettle again while orchestrating yet another game-winning drive to send New England back to the Super Bowl.

Brady’s 4-yard touchdown pass to Danny Amendola with 2:48 remaining put the Patriots ahead for good in a 24-20 victory against the Jaguars in the AFC Championship Game at Gillette Stadium.

New England will meet the Philadelphia Eagles in the Super Bowl at U.S. Bank Stadium in Minneapolis on Feb. 4.

All week long, Brady ducked questions from the media about his hand, which required stitches after he was hurt on the practice field Wednesday when he accidentally struck teammate Rex Burkhead’s helmet.

“Well, I said, ‘We’ll see (if I play),'” Brady said while accepting the Lamar Hunt Trophy, awarded to the AFC champion, at midfield after the game. “So how’d it go?”

Following the Patriots’ go-ahead score, Jacksonville faced a fourth-and-15 after driving to the New England 43-yard-line. However, Jaguars quarterback Blake Bortles’ deep toss down the sideline to Dede Westbrook was broken up by Stephon Gilmore.

“We had a two-minute drive at the end of the game to win the AFC championship, so there’s not a whole lot more you can ask for than that,” a reflective Bortles said.

Amendola finished with seven catches for 84 yards and two scores for the Patriots, who extended their own NFL record with an unprecedented 10th trip to the Super Bowl.

“You cherish these moments and opportunities, and I know we’ve had quite a few of them, which we’ve been very blessed to do,” said Brady, who completed 26 of 38 passes for 290 yards and two TDs. “It’s just been an unbelievable run, and I think everyone should be really proud of what we accomplished.”

Last year, New England erased a 28-3 Super Bowl deficit to beat the Atlanta Falcons 34-28 in overtime and claim their fifth championship.

“This is what I dreamt about as a fan in the stands just like all of you, and now we have to go to Minnesota and finish the job,” Patriots owner Robert Kraft, who purchased the Patriots 24 years ago to the day Sunday, told the crowd during the trophy ceremony.

“It’s just been a great year,” Brady added. “It’d be really great if we take care of business in a couple weeks, so we’ll see.”

Bortles threw for 293 yards (23 of 36) and a touchdown, and Leonard Fournette rushed for 76 yards and a touchdown on 24 carries to lead the Jaguars.

Jacksonville was playing in its third-ever AFC title game and its first since 1999.

“(Our locker) room fully expected to win this game, and I think everybody is shocked, disappointed and upset,” Bortles said.

Josh Lambo’s 54-yard field goal with 10:23 left in the third quarter and another from 43 yards seconds into the fourth bumped Jacksonville’s lead to 20-10.

Brady led New England down the field quickly and hit Amendola for a 9-yard touchdown with 8:44 to go to bring the Pats within three.

Bortles marched the Jaguars down the field 76 yards and found a wide-open Marcedes Lewis for a 4-yard touchdown pass at 14:15 of the second quarter, making it 7-3.

With 7:06 to play in the quarter, Fournette’s 4-yard rushing score capped a 77-yard drive to extend Jacksonville’s lead to 14-3.

“We were able to get the lead. Then we did not make enough plays to keep the lead. We had an opportunity at the end of the game to win it, and we did not do that,” Jaguars coach Doug Marrone said.

Rob Gronkowski’s 21-yard catch on the second play of ensuing drive moved him past Dallas Clark into first place on the NFL’s all-time postseason receiving yardage list for a tight end.

Minutes later, Gronkowski left the game with a head injury after taking a helmet-to-helmet hit from Jaguars safety Barry Church at the Jacksonville 40-yard line with 1:23 remaining before halftime.

Although Gronkowski was deemed questionable to return, he never did.

“It’s hard when you lose such a critical part of your team and offense, and hopefully he’s OK,” Brady said of Gronkowski. “It was a tough shot he took, and he’s as tough as they come.”

Church was flagged for unnecessary roughness, helping to set up a 1-yard TD run by James White three plays later to bring the Patriots within four at the break.

New England led 3-0 after one quarter.

Posted in NFL

Minnesota at Maryland

Maryland is eager to get back on the court after suffering a dramatic letdown in the final seconds of a loss to Michigan on Monday, and they are motivated to make sure it doesn’t happen again. The Terrapins will try to execute better and avoid a third consecutive loss when they host Minnesota on Thursday in a Big Ten contest.

Maryland was on the verge of winning its first Big Ten road game of the season after Kevin Huerter buried a 3-pointer for a 67-66 lead with 3.2 seconds left, completing a comeback from a 10-point deficit, but the Terrapins allowed an unguarded inbounds pass to travel into the frontcourt and fouled Michigan’s Muhammad-Ali Abdur-Rahkman, who knocked down two free throws. “We put that game behind us. We watched film yesterday, we learned from it. I was happy with the effort, disappointed with the outcome. It’s just one game,” Maryland coach Mark Turgeon told the Baltimore Sun on Wednesday. “We’ve played some really good teams on the road our last three games. We finally competed in one of them. The key is how you handle things as you move forward.” The Golden Gophers bounced back from a pair of blowout losses by upending Penn State in overtime 95-84 on the road Monday. “To get a road win under adverse circumstances that we’ve had is terrific,” Minnesota coach Richard Pitino told reporters. “Our guys showed unbelievable heart.”

TV: 8:30 p.m. ET, Fox Sports 1

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ABOUT MINNESOTA (14-6, 3-4 Big Ten): The Golden Gophers played their last four games without center Reggie Lynch (suspended) and guard Amir Coffey (shoulder), and expect to be without the pair again on Thursday. Minnesota managed to replace the missing 24.2 points and 12.1 rebounds with big games on Monday from Nate Mason (25 points), Dupree McBrayer (24) and Jordan Murphy (22 points, 19 rebounds). “We needed to have a good week this week to keep pushing forward and we were going to break through,” Murphy told the Star Tribune after the win. “Today was a good indication of what we can be, even though we are shorthanded.”

ABOUT MARYLAND (14-6, 3-4): Huerter hit the go-ahead 3-pointer on Monday, but was just 4-of-11 from the floor overall and is shooting 41.3 percent in the last five games to drop his season percentage to 50.5. “He’s got two hands on him the entire game,” Turgeon told reporters of Huerter. “Not one, he’s got two hands. It’s exhausting. We’ve got two guys that can score, and teams are just loading up on him. We’ve just to trust our teammates a little bit more.” Sophomore guard Anthony Cowan led the way with 24 points against the Wolverines and is averaging a team-high 16.4.

TIP-INS

1. Murphy leads the Big Ten in rebounding with an average of 12.1, which ranks second in the nation.

2. The Terrapins outrebounded their opponents in 17 of the first 20 games and own a plus-8.1 average on the boards.

3. The schools split two meetings last season, with Minnesota earning an 89-75 win at Maryland on Feb. 22.

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Posted in CBB

Sabres at Rangers

The New York Rangers continued their dominance of the Buffalo Sabres with an overtime victory in the NHL’s 10th Winter Classic at Citi Field earlier this month. Although technically the road team in that encounter, the Rangers look to post their 12th win in their last 15 meetings with the Sabres on Thursday when they face off at Madison Square Garden.

J.T. Miller scored a power-play goal 2:43 into overtime to send New York to a 3-2 win over Buffalo on Jan. 1 and tallied in Tuesday’s 5-1 rout of Philadelphia. Michael Grabner also scored in the first meeting with the Sabres and has tallied in back-to-back contests to raise his total to a team-best 20 goals for the Rangers, who boast a 14-4-1 in their last 19 at home. Buffalo is returning from its NHL-mandated five-day break and bids to post wins in back-to-back outings on the heels of last Thursday’s 3-1 triumph over Columbus. “It was great that we won that game before the break because you could see the energy in our practice,” coach Phil Housley said on Wednesday. “(The team had) really good life out there. I think the guys are feeling good about themselves. I think the coaches are feeling good about themselves.”

TV: 7:30 p.m. ET, NBCSN, MSG (New York)

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ABOUT THE SABRES (11-24-9): Kyle Okposo entered the break on a high with five points (one goal, four assists) in his previous two games and also set up two goals in the first meeting with New York. “I really want to get back at a level that I know I’m capable of, being an elite player,” the 29-year-old Okposo said. “… You come to work and you want to be at your best, you want to prove to yourself and prove to everybody that you still have it, you’re a good player.” Fellow forward Jack Eichel, who leads the team in goals (18), assists (23) and points (41), has three goals and three assists during his three-game point streak.

ABOUT THE RANGERS (23-17-5): Defenseman Marc Staal will sit out versus Buffalo with a hip flexor injury sustained against the Flyers, coach Alain Vigneault said following Wednesday’s practice. “I don’t expect it to be long,” said Vigneault, who also noted that Steve Kampfer will rejoin the lineup versus the Sabres. Forward Kevin Hayes, who is deemed day-to-day as he deals with a contusion, worked out off the ice on Wednesday and is “coming along,” Vigneault said.

OVERTIME

1. New York’s Henrik Lundqvist, who became the first NHL goaltender to post 20 or more wins in each of his first 13 seasons, has yielded one goal or fewer in five of his last 10 contests versus Buffalo (7-2-0).

2. Sabres D Rasmus Ristolainen scored and set up a goal in the first meeting with the Rangers and sits one assist shy of 100 for his career.

3. New York LW Rick Nash, who tallied twice versus Philadelphia, has 13 points (nine goals, four assists) in his last 13 games versus Buffalo.

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Posted in NHL

76ers at Celtics

The Philadelphia 76ers will try to stay hot against the only team they have lost to over the last three weeks when they visit the Boston Celtics on Thursday. The rivals met in London a week ago and the Celtics rallied for a 114-103 win, but both teams returned home and had very different results once they resumed action.

The Sixers won for the fifth time in six games with an intense 117-111 victory over Toronto on Monday while the Celtics’ first action since London resulted in an overtime loss to New Orleans at home Tuesday night, snapping a seven-game winning streak. “For some reason tonight, the whole game we were a little careless. It just carried over there at the end,” Boston forward Al Horford told reporters. “We thought we had it. It just got away from us.” Joel Embiid was held to 15 points in the loss to the Celtics before recording 34 points and 11 rebounds in the win over the Raptors, which saw Philadelphia lose most of a big lead before hanging on in an emotional affair. “We’ve been in this type of position a lot this year,” Embiid told reporters, “so we just had to stay calm and execute.”

TV: 7 p.m. ET, TNT, NBCS Boston

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ABOUT THE 76ERS (20-20): JJ Redick has been a big part of Philadelphia’s surge with five 20-point games since Christmas, but the sharpshooter is expected to miss two weeks or more with a leg injury. Veteran Jerryd Bayless picked up a pair of starts in Redick’s place when the latter was hurt last month and second-year pro Timothe Luwawu-Cabarrot – who had 11 points on 4-of-5 shooting in the last visit to Boston – could see an increase in playing time. Point guard T.J. McConnell is averaging 15 points on 58.3 percent from the field and 6.5 assists over the last two games.

ABOUT THE CELTICS (34-11): Boston has made a living on late rallies this season after many slow starts, but it couldn’t pull off the trick after another double-digit deficit Tuesday. “We can’t come back every game,” guard Kyrie Irving told reporters after shooting 8-for-24 and missing on some opportunities late in regulation and in OT. “It’s as simple as that.” The Celtics attempted a season-high 50 3-pointers, with Irving’s 12 attempts leading the way and Horford’s 4-for-5 effort the best of the bunch.

BUZZER BEATERS

1. Embiid is averaging 13 points on 30.3 percent shooting in two meetings with the Celtics.

2. After seven consecutive games with at least 13 points, Celtics G Terry Rozier has a total of 17 over his last three contests while shooting 7-for-25.

3. Boston has won seven straight over Philadelphia at home.

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Posted in NBA

Nuggets at Clippers

The Los Angeles Clippers have become one of the hottest teams in the NBA and aim to stretch their season-best winning streak to six games when they host the Denver Nuggets on Wednesday. Los Angeles has posted 11 victories in its past 14 games after being seven games below .500 four-plus weeks ago.

The Clippers recorded a 113-102 victory over the Houston Rockets on Monday in a tension-filled matchup that included some Houston players trying to get into the Los Angeles locker room afterward to confront forward Blake Griffin and injured guard Austin Rivers. “If it’s chippy, it’s chippy,” Griffin told reporters. “We fought. We had each others’ backs. I think that showed.” Los Angeles will attempt to put the emotions behind as it faces a Denver squad that is saddled with a 7-16 road record. The Nuggets have dropped four of their past six overall games but are coming off Tuesday’s 105-102 home victory over the Dallas Mavericks.

TV: 10:30 p.m. ET, ESPN, Altitude (Denver), Prime Ticket (Los Angeles)

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ABOUT THE NUGGETS (23-21): Center Nikola Jokic tallied 29 points and collected a season-high 18 rebounds against the Mavericks for his third 20-point outing in the past five games. “Nikola took it upon himself to be aggressive and confident,” Denver coach Michael Malone said afterward. “Coaching 101: Play through your best player.” Jokic is averaging 26 points, 13.5 rebounds and seven assists over the past two games and will look to carry over last season’s form against the Clippers when he shot 65.2 percent from the field while averaging 17.3 points and 10 rebounds in the four meetings.

ABOUT THE CLIPPERS (22-21):
 Shooting guard Lou Williams has fueled the Los Angeles rise by scoring 20 or more points in each of the past 13 games, including outings of 50 (a career best) and 40. The 31-year-old is averaging 31.2 points while making 57 3-pointers during the stretch to raise his average to a career-best 23.3, nearly five points higher than last season’s figure. Williams had 31 points and nine assists against the Rockets and Griffin also fared well with 29 points, 10 rebounds and six assists.

BUZZER BEATERS

1. The Nuggets have won the past three meetings, including a 123-98 victory in Los Angeles on Jan. 21, 2017.

2. Denver SG Gary Harris scored 25 points against Dallas and is averaging 22.5 over his past four outings.

3. Clippers C DeAndre Jordan (ankle) is expected to miss his third straight game.

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Posted in NBA

Penguins at Ducks

The Pittsburgh Penguins have looked every bit the part of two-time reigning Stanley Cup champions since bidding adieu to 2017 and embracing the new calendar year. Winners of a season high-tying four in a row and five of six in January, the Penguins aim to continue their good fortune on Wednesday when they open a three-game road trip against the Anaheim Ducks.

Phil Kessel recorded the game-winning goal in both contests over the weekend, finishing with five points (two goals, three assists) in victories over Detroit on Saturday and the New York Rangers the following day. The NHL’s Third Star of the Week has collected 10 points in the six games this month to maintain his hold on the team lead in goals (20), assists (32) and points (52). Anaheim opens a five-game homestand looking to get back on track after dropping three of four on the heels of a stretch that saw it win five of six, highlighted by a resounding 4-0 victory in Pittsburgh on Dec. 23. Chris Wagner recorded his first point since Nov. 29 by scoring his team’s lone goal in Monday’s 3-1 setback to red-hot Colorado.

TV: 10 p.m. ET, NBC Sports Network, Sportsnet, Sportsnet 360, AT&T Sports Network-Pittsburgh

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ABOUT THE PENGUINS (24-19-3): While Kessel has scored in three straight games and owns a four-game point streak (three goals, five assists), captain Sidney Crosby has tallied in back-to-back outings and has points in four straight to increase his January total to 12 points (three goals, nine assists). Fellow forward Evgeni Malkin has also reached double digits in points this month (five goals, five assists), igniting a Pittsburgh offense that has erupted for 24 goals in its last six games after mustering just 10 in the final six contests (2-4-0) of December. Goaltender Tristan Jarry has benefited from the scoring spree, winning a career high-tying four straight starts and registering one shutout to go along with a .928 save percentage in January.

ABOUT THE DUCKS (20-16-9): John Gibson would love a repeat performance against his hometown team after turning aside all 29 shots he faced in Anaheim’s 4-0 romp in Pittsburgh on Dec. 23. The 24-year-old boasts a .938 save percentage over his last seven games overall (4-2-1), but is just 8-8-2 with a 2.61 goals-against average at Honda Center this season. Rickard Rakell scored and set up a goal in the first encounter with the Penguins, but has just one assist in his last four contests after recording seven goals and three assists in his previous six games.

OVERTIME

1. Pittsburgh top-ranked power play (26.5 percent) has scored 12 times in its last 11 games heading into its tilt against Anaheim, which boasts the NHL’s fifth-ranked penalty kill (83.9).

2. Ducks C Andrew Cogliano will sit out Wednesday as he serves the second contest of a two-game suspension for interference on Los Angeles F Adrian Kempe.

3. Penguins LW Carl Hagelin, a former Duck, has one goal and three assists during his season-high three-game point streak.

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Posted in NHL

Seton Hall at Creighton

Getting its offense back on track should be the first order of business for Creighton if it hopes to come away from Wednesday’s Big East home game against No. 19 Seton Hall with a victory. The Bluejays put forth one of their worst offensive performances of the season in Saturday’s loss to No. 12 Xavier, but will have a chance to avenge an earlier loss at the hands of the Pirates.

Despite the struggles against Xavier, which included a season low in assists and points in the paint and a season high in turnovers that resulted in a 92-70 loss, the Bluejays still rank in the top 10 in the country in scoring, shooting and assists. No player struggled more than Khyri Thomas, who missed all eight of his field goal attempts and saw his streak of 15 straight games in double figures come to an end. “Being one of the guys we go to this year, I’ve really got to keep it moving,” the junior, who has missed his last 10 3-point attempts and is shooting 21.9 percent from beyond the arc in Big East play, told the media. “I can’t be down on myself and stop shooting 3s.” The Pirates have endured their own struggles from deep in the last two games, but were good enough from inside the arc to dispatch Georgetown 74-61 on Saturday at home, and can earn their fifth victory in the last six games against the Bluejays.

TV: 8:30 p.m. ET, Fox Sports 1

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ABOUT SETON HALL (15-3, 4-1 Big East): The Pirates got it done on the defensive end against Georgetown by matching their season highs in blocks and steals thanks to the play of Myles Powell and Ismael Sanogo. In addition to scoring 19 points, Powell recorded career highs of six steals and two blocks, and Sanogo had three blocks while logging his most minutes since being suspended for a game before Christmas. “I think he is back and extremely focused on trying to be the defensive player that made him so good his sophomore year,” coach Kevin Willard told the media of Sanogo, who could soon make his return to the starting lineup. “It’s amazing the impact he has on the game defensively.” 

ABOUT CREIGHTON (14-4, 4-2): Since going 11-of-16 from the field and putting up 23 points and 10 rebounds in a 90-84 loss to Seton Hall in the Big East opener Dec. 28, Martin Krampelj has seen his field goal attempts plummet over the past five games. The sophomore from Slovenia, who is seventh in the nation in shooting at 67.4 percent, attempted only two shots against Xavier and finished with four points and four rebounds as his streak of three straight double-doubles came to an end. No player grabbed more than six rebounds against Xavier and the Bluejays had only eight offensive rebounds in the game despite shooting 40.7 percent, their second lowest mark of the season for a team that makes 50.9 on the season.

TIP-INS

1. Seton Hall’s Angel Delgado recorded his 64th career double-double against Georgetown and stands 24 rebound shy of becoming the all-time leader in Big East games.

2. Marcus Foster had 16 points in the loss to Xavier and needs 148 to become the fourth player to reach 2,000 for his career for the Bluejays, who trail 5-12 in the series.

3. Desi Rodriguez notched 19 points against Georgetown to move into 19th place on the all-time scoring list for the Pirates, who are 10-0 this season when he is the leading scorer.

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Posted in CBB

Lakers at Thunder

The Oklahoma City Thunder have plenty of offensive firepower with Carmelo Anthony, Paul George and Russell Westbrook, but it’s their work on the defensive end that is carrying the team of late. The Thunder will try to hold their third straight opponent under 92 points and pick up a third consecutive win when they host the Los Angeles Lakers on Wednesday.

Oklahoma City didn’t have the best of luck with the referees on Monday and Westbrook was ejected late, but they managed to hold the Sacramento Kings to 36 second-half points in a 95-88 victory. “We buckled down defensively,” Anthony told reporters. “We made an adjustment. We started switching in the second half, keeping a body on a body. We started to tighten up on the pin downs and the curls and the communication was very high tonight in the second half.” The Lakers are battling through injuries to two of their key young players and had a four-game winning streak come to an end with a 123-114 loss in Memphis on Monday. “We weren’t physically, mentally ready to match what Memphis brought tonight,” Los Angeles coach Luke Walton told reporters after the loss. “And that’s disappointing because that doesn’t have to do with anything but the toughness to be engaged in a fight. … We let them kind of punk us all over the floor.”

TV: 8 p.m. ET, ESPN, Spectrum SportsNet (Los Angeles), FS Oklahoma

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ABOUT THE LAKERS (15-28): Small forward Brandon Ingram (ankle) and point guard Lonzo Ball (knee) both sat out Monday, but at least Ingram plans to be back on the court Wednesday. Ingram, who is averaging 16.1 points on the season and is shooting 61.4 percent from the floor in his last five games, practiced with the team on Tuesday and is probable for Wednesday while Ball is questionable. “He got treatment,” Walton told reporters of Ball on Tuesday. “He’ll get treatment again later today, but it’s still just too sore for him to get on the basketball court. Technically, he’s questionable. But he didn’t practice today, so I wouldn’t expect him to play (Wednesday).”

ABOUT THE THUNDER (24-20): Westbrook is just off his triple-double pace from last season while averaging 25 points, 9.9 assists and 9.8 rebounds and had a shot at a triple-double on Monday before being ejected. The star guard went for a layup and was hit in the face by one player and knocked in the body by another, but was called for traveling when he came down with the ball, exacerbating the tension that continues between referees and players this season. “I’m done with them,” Anthony told reporters of the officials. “I’m done with the refs. No disrespect, but I’m done with those guys.”

BUZZER BEATERS

1. Lakers PF Larry Nance Jr., who collected 15 points and 11 rebounds on Monday, is questionable with a hip injury.

2. Thunder C Steven Adams recorded a double-double in each of the last two games after going eight straight games without securing double-digit rebounds.

3. Oklahoma City went into Los Angeles on Jan. 3 and dominated in a 133-96 victory while shooting 60.2 percent from the floor.

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Posted in NBA

Canadiens at Bruins

The Boston Bruins have gone more than a month since dropping back-to-back games and they have not lost in regulation in that same span. The Bruins hope to keep both streaks intact when they host the Montreal Canadiens on Wednesday night in the second matchup in five days between the teams — with a third tussle looming at the Bell Centre on Saturday.

Boston followed up Saturday’s 4-3 shootout win in Montreal with a 3-2 overtime loss to visiting Dallas on Monday afternoon, extending its point streak to 13 games (9-0-4) since its last regulation loss on Dec. 14. “It’s not easy to get a point in this league,” Bruins forward Patrice Bergeron said. “So you take the points. And the character we’ve shown, that’s a positive.” The Canadiens have earned points in four in a row (2-0-2) after wrapping up a five-game homestand with a 5-4 overtime loss to the New York Islanders 5-4, but they are in 14th place in the Eastern Conference. “It’s disappointing we didn’t get the two points, but we got six points out of the last eight and if we keep going like that we’ll be back in the race,” said coach Claude Julien, who returns to Boston for the first time since he was fired by the Bruins last February.

TV: 7:30 p.m. ET; NBC Sports Network, Sportsnet, RDS (Montreal)

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ABOUT THE CANADIENS (18-20-6): Max Pacioretty has been mired in a season-long goal-scoring slump, managing one tally in a 22-game span. However, Montreal’s captain has come alive in 2018 with goals in four consecutive games to boost his season total to 12. “I don’t feel I’m doing anything different,” Pacioretty said of his current tear. “I got a couple of bounces and that’s the way it goes some times. I feel I’ve been playing some good hockey for some time now and now I’ve got to keep going like this.”

ABOUT THE BRUINS (24-10-8): Rookie Jake DeBrusk had a goal and an assist and converted in the shootout against Montreal on Saturday, but he was among three players to miss Tuesday’s practice. DeBrusk and defenseman Kevan Miller were “under the weather” but are expected to play Wednesday, coach Bruce Cassidy said, while Noel Acciari is day-to-day with an upper-body injury. “I suspect that he would play tomorrow, but we’ll have a better idea on (Wednesday) morning,” Cassidy said of Acciari.

OVERTIME

1. Montreal has scored a power-play goal in a season-high three straight games.

2. Bruins G Tuukka Rask is 12-0-2 during a career-long 14-game point streak.

3. Pacioretty has 15 goals and 28 points in 36 games versus Boston.

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Posted in NHL