Duke at North Carolina

Eighth-ranked Duke and host North Carolina are both searching for answers after some recent uneven play as they meet for the 246th time Thursday night in another ACC showdown. Duke dropped two of its last three, including a shocking 81-77 defeat at St. John’s last Saturday, while the 22nd-ranked Tar Heels ended a three-game losing streak Saturday by beating last-place Pittsburgh.

The Blue Devils averaged 15.3 turnovers over the last three contests and have struggled defensively much of the season while allowing 72.4 points per game (ninth in the ACC). “Those are the two areas that we have to get better at,” Duke coach Mike Krzyzewski told reporters. “And if we’re not, then we’re just going to be a good team. … I don’t think it’s really complicated. That doesn’t mean it’s easy to do.” North Carolina had suffered through a three-game losing streak for the first time in four years with losses to Virginia Tech, North Carolina State and Clemson, but shot 51.4 percent from the field in the convincing win over Pitt. “We had three great spurts where people were diving on the floor and doing those kind of things,” Tar Heels coach Roy Williams told reporters, “and that was sensational.”

TV: 8 p.m. ET, ESPN

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ABOUT DUKE (19-4, 7-3 ACC): The Blue Devils turned the ball over 18 times and coughed up a seven-point halftime lead Saturday against the Red Storm, who had not yet won a Big East game at the time. Gary Trent Jr. scored 22 for the second straight game and is averaging 15.0 – second on the team behind fellow freshman Marvin Bagley III (21.4 points, 11.2 rebound), who has not added to his total of 17 double-doubles in the last two outings. Senior guard Grayson Allen must recover after going 1-for-7 from the field and managing just seven points against St. John’s – fewer than half his season average.

ABOUT NORTH CAROLINA (17-7, 6-5): Junior forward Luke Maye responded to his season-low output of four points in the loss to Clemson on Jan. 30 by scoring 26 against Pitt. Maye tops the team at 18.3 points and senior guard Joel Berry II (17.3) is next while Pitt transfer Cameron Johnson has contributed 19.3 per game over the last three to push his season mark to 12.8. Senior swingman Theo Pinson (8.8 points, team-high 4.4 assists) was limited to two minutes against Clemson due to a shoulder injury, but returned without missing game Saturday and had 13 rebounds to go along with eight assists.

TIP-INS

1. North Carolina junior G Kenny Williams scored 15 against Pitt after totaling 19 in the previous four games.

2. Duke freshman F Wendell Carter Jr. is averaging 12.3 rebounds over his last four games and 9.6 overall.

3. The Blue Devils won two of the three meetings last season and is 6-2 over the last eight against the Tar Heels.

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Posted in CBB

Celtics at Wizards

The Boston Celtics will try to bounce back from a rare blowout loss when they finish off a quick two-game road trip at the Washington Wizards on Thursday. Following four consecutive victories, the Celtics fell 111-91 at Toronto on Tuesday to see their lead in the Eastern Conference shrink to one game over the Raptors.

Kyrie Irving returned from a quad injury to score 17 points in 22 minutes for Boston, but the All-Star guard saw his team’s chances disappear during a 37-point first half. “We got hit tonight,” Irving told reporters. “When you get hit early and they consistently hit you, they buried us, which a good team should do.” The Wizards surprisingly won five straight after losing All-Star John Wall to a knee injury before falling flat in Philadelphia on Tuesday. Bradley Beal scored 30 points in the 115-102 loss to the 76ers and he is averaging 23.4 points on 50 percent shooting and 6.2 assists over his last five games.

TV: 8 p.m. ET, TNT

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ABOUT THE CELTICS (39-16): Irving and Jaylen Brown combined to shoot 10-of-17 from the floor while the team’s three other starters – Al Horford, Jayson Tatum and Aron Baynes – had a collective 12 points on 6-of-22 shooting. “We looked slow, we looked like we weren’t ready to react to their speed or their physicality,” coach Brad Stevens told reporters. “I think that was probably the case the whole night.” Terry Rozier scored 18 points off the bench and is averaging 19.3 over a four-game span.

ABOUT THE WIZARDS (31-23): Wall, who is expected to miss six to eight weeks, managed to stay in the headlines with a response to some whispers that the team was better on offense without him. “It was funny to me at first, just to see some of the things that people were saying and certain type of comments,” he said in an interview on ESPN’s The Jump. “But I’ve seen these guys put in a lot of work every day, and we always say the motto is next man up no matter what. I think we moved the ball well early in the season, we just couldn’t make shots. And we couldn’t defend at all. I think now guys are stepping up and the first unit and second unit are playing very well. But it was kind of shocking to hear a couple people say the ball is moving a lot better, when that’s what I pride myself off of, being more happy when my teammates are scoring than I am.” Washington averaged 32.2 assists during the five-game winning streak before recording 23 against Philadelphia.

BUZZER BEATERS

1. Beal’s 25 points led the Wizards in a 111-103 win at Boston on Christmas.

2. Horford was 1-for-5 from the floor at Toronto and shoots 46.2 percent on the road, compared to 55.1 at home.

3. Washington SF Kelly Oubre Jr. is 1-for-14 from beyond the arc over his last three contests.

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Posted in NBA

Thunder at Nuggets

The Oklahoma City Thunder had an eight-game losing streak come to an end with a 102-96 loss at the Washington Wizards on Tuesday, falling to 1-1 since losing defensive ace Andre Roberson for the remainder of the season. The Thunder will try to get back in the win column when the road trip skips west with a visit to the Denver Nuggets.

Oklahoma City was solid on the defensive end despite being without Roberson on Tuesday but were sloppy on the other end while committing a season-high 21 turnovers. “You know it was going to be a tough battle on the road. The difference in the game for us was I just didn’t think we executed great coming down the stretch. We had some opportunities,” Thunder coach Billy Donovan told reporters. “With the execution piece of it the last three or four minutes, I wish we would have gotten better shots, taken care of the ball a little bit better, did a better job of moving the ball and not turning it over.” The Nuggets are coming off back-to-back losses to two of the best teams in the NBA — the Boston Celtics and the San Antonio Spurs — by a total of three points. “Back-to-back tough losses,” Nuggets coach Michael Malone told reporters after falling 106-104 in San Antonio on Tuesday. “Those are always tough to swallow. But more importantly, big picture, I loved the fight that we had tonight. … If we continue to play like this, and compete and find ways to stay in games, we’re going to be a really good basketball team.”

TV: 10:30 p.m. ET, TNT, FS Oklahoma

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ABOUT THE THUNDER (30-21): Reigning MVP Russell Westbrook managed just 13 points and seven turnovers on Tuesday and watched fellow All-Star Paul George go scoreless in the fourth quarter. “That’s my bad. I take ownership in that, and take ownership in our loss tonight,” Westbrook told reporters. “I gotta do a better job of making sure I’m making the game easy for Paul and finding him and getting him a basket.” George finished with a team-high 28 points despite the slow final period and is averaging 27.8 points over the last six contests.

ABOUT THE NUGGETS (26-25): Shooting guard Will Barton got the call to take the final shot at the end of each of the last two games and missed 3-pointers in both, but he is using the disappointment as a learning experience. “It’s just building me up,” Barton told the Denver Post. “Moments like this, you’ve got to go through them to grow up. I’m happy I can even be in the NBA going through these types of things — things I dreamed of. I love it. I’ll be back.” Barton logged at least 39 minutes in each of the last four games and is sharing the heavy load with backcourt mates Jamal Murray and Gary Harris as Denver fights to stay above .500 during a four-game stretch that will see them face Boston, San Antonio, Oklahoma City and Golden State in consecutive games.

BUZZER BEATERS

1. Thunder C Steven Adams recorded a double-double in seven of the last nine games.

2. Nuggets C Mason Plumlee (calf) sat out Tuesday and is not expected to play on Thursday.

3. The teams split the first two meetings this season, with Denver earning a 102-94 home win on Nov. 9.

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Posted in NBA

Kings at Predators

The Nashville Predators welcomed back a former captain on Wednesday with the unexpected return of Mike Fisher, who retired shortly after the team’s loss in the Stanley Cup Finals. While the 37-year-old Fisher will need some time to shake off the rust, the Predators will see the return of fellow forward Filip Forsberg on Thursday when they host the Los Angeles Kings.

Forsberg has been sidelined the last 11 games with an upper-body injury but still shares the team lead in goals (15) with Viktor Arvidsson and Craig Smith. “It’s going to be great to get all our players back and available to play,” Nashville coach Peter Laviolette said. “I think our guys have done a really good job of filling in for each other when they’ve been banged up.” The Predators are 6-1-1 overall in their last eight and are bidding for a season sweep after posting a pair of 4-3 wins over Los Angeles, which in turn answered a six-game skid with victories in three of its last four games. “I think the last couple of games the commitment you can see in guys, just in the little puck battles and defensively their awareness of where their guys are, that’s how we’ve got to play. We just have to keep doing this and I think we’re ready to take off if we do that,” Kings coach John Stevens said.

TV: 8:30 p.m. ET, NBC Sports Network

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ABOUT THE KINGS (27-18-5): Darcy Kuemper stepped in for an injured Jonathan Quick (undisclosed) and turned aside all 29 shots he faced in a 3-0 win at Dallas to improve his save percentage to a sterling .948 in his past 10 contests. “I am excited for the opportunity to play a couple in a row,” said the 27-year-old, who made 27 saves in a 4-3 loss to Nashville on Nov. 4. Captain Anze Kopitar notched a pair of assists against the Stars to extend his point streak to six games (one goal, seven assists) while fellow All-Star Drew Doughty has scored one goal and set up five others during his four-game point run.

ABOUT THE PREDATORS (29-12-7): Forsberg’s return likely will be music to the ears of linemate Kyle Turris, who scored for the first time since Dec. 29 in Tuesday’s 2-1 setback versus Chicago. The 28-year-old exploded out of the blocks with 17 points in 17 games after being acquired from Ottawa before being limited to four (two goals, two assists) in his last 16. All-Star defenseman P.K. Subban (team-leading 25 assists, 37 points) has 19 points (eight goals, 11 assists) in his last 19 games overall and scored one goal and set up two others in two encounters versus the Kings this season.

OVERTIME

1. Los Angeles’ top-ranked penalty kill has thwarted all nine short-handed situations over the last two games after being ravaged for four power-play goals in the previous two.

2. Predators LW Austin Watson tallied twice in a 4-3 win over the Kings on Jan. 6, marking his only points to date since Dec. 5.

3. Los Angeles’ 15 road wins are the most in the Western Conference.

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Posted in NHL

Wichita State at Temple

Wichita State tries for its third straight victory when it visits Temple on Thursday and hopes its leading scorer breaks out of his shooting slump. Sophomore guard Landry Shamet is 5-for-27 from the field in his last three games – 1-for-18 from 3-point range, dropping his field goal percentage to 49.8 percent as the No. 16 Shockers try for their sixth victory in seven true road games this season.

“… In timeouts, I’ve told him if he ever doesn’t take a wide open shot that I am going to bring him out,” Wichita State coach Gregg Marshall told reporters about Shamet. “… The whole thing was just to let him know that we think he’s a heck of a player and a great shooter and keep shooting and — by God — make one. Let’s get this streak over with. Let’s go back to the 50-percent guy.” The Shockers have bounced back from a two-game losing streak with back-to-back 19 point victories, including 90-71 over Tulsa on Sunday. The Owls have won three of their last four games after an 85-57 win over Connecticut on Sunday – its largest margin of victory this season – behind 18 points from junior guard Shizz Alston Jr. “We felt like we had a poor performance against Cincinnati,” Alston told reporters about the 75-42 setback at No. 8 Cincinnati on Jan. 24 – their most-lopsided loss of the season. “We wanted to show people that we were a good team also. So we just needed to get that win back.”

TV: 7 p.m. ET, ESPN2

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ABOUT WICHITA STATE (17-4, 7-2 AAC): Senior forward Shaquille Morris (12.8 points per game) is 20 points shy of becoming the 46th player in school history to reach 1,000 after totaling 39 in his last two games. Sophomore guard Austin Reaves (7.0 points) set a school record for 3-pointers in a half with seven Sunday en route to a career-high 23 points – all before intermission. Senior forward Rashard Kelly (team-high 7.7 rebounds) will try to become the first Shocker in more than 21 years to record four straight double-figure rebounding games after grabbing 31 in his last three contests.

ABOUT TEMPLE (11-10, 3-6): Sophomore guard Quinton Rose averages a team-high 14.2 points after scoring 17 versus Connecticut but only 12 in his previous two games combined while Alston averages 13.1 points. Senior forward Obi Enechionyia (11.3 points, club bests of 6.9 rebounds and 1.7 blocks) recorded nine points and 10 rebounds Sunday and averaged 14.3 points and 7.5 boards in the four games prior to registering five points and one rebound against Cincinnati. Senior guard Josh Brown (8.0 points, team-most 3.4 assists) has scored eight points in three of his last four games, and is 7-for-24 from the field in his past three contests.

TIP-INS

1. The Shockers are fourth nationally in rebounding margin at plus-10.5 while the Owls are an AAC-worst minus-3.6.

2. Temple, which has defeated a Top 25 team in each of the last 10 seasons, is 0-3 in such games this campaign. If it loses Thursday, its last chance will occur Feb. 15 at Wichita State.

3. The Shockers are third in the country in assists at 19.1 per game and their average of 21 in January games leads the nation.

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Posted in CBB

Rockets at Spurs

James Harden is coming for his first NBA MVP Award, and he’s not being subtle about it. Harden became the first player in NBA history to record a 60-point triple-double in a win over the Orlando Magic on Tuesday and will try to follow that up against a tougher opponent when the Rockets visit the San Antonio Spurs on Thursday.

“It’s a good feeling, I guess,” Harden told reporters after making history. “Just try to go out there and make an impact every single night on the game, however I can. Whether it’s scoring, rebounding, assists, steals, whatever it is. And tonight, I guess I was doing everything.” The All-Star guard is carrying a heavy load with teammates Chris Paul (groin), Trevor Ariza (hamstring) and Eric Gordon (back) dealing with injuries and went 19-of-30 from the field in 46 minutes against the Magic to finish with 60 points, 11 assists, 10 rebounds and four steals. The Spurs don’t have an offensive weapon quite like Harden but still sit in third place in the Western Conference while leaning on LaMarcus Aldridge. The All-Star power forward went for 30 points in a 106-104 win over the Denver Nuggets on Tuesday — his fifth 30-plus outing in January.

TV: 8 p.m. ET, TNT

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ABOUT THE ROCKETS (36-13): Harden, who leads the NBA in scoring (31.6 points) and is third in assists (9.1), failed to reach 30 points in six consecutive games after coming back from a hamstring injury before going off on Tuesday. The 60 points also broke Calvin Murphy’s Houston franchise record of 57 and marked the fourth time this season that Harden scored at least 50. “I just gave it all I had tonight,” Harden told reporters. “We all did. We all fought for 48 minutes, we got key stops when we needed to, and we made big shots.”

ABOUT THE SPURS (34-19): San Antonio is missing its MVP candidate with Kawhi Leonard (quad) sidelined, but Kyle Anderson continues to improve in that spot. Anderson, 24, is starting in place of Leonard at small forward and broke out for a career regular-season high of 18 points on 9-of-12 shooting in Tuesday’s win. Point guard Dejounte Murray, 21, is getting a long look as well and went scoreless on 0-of-4 shooting Tuesday but showed off his broad skill set with 13 rebounds, seven assists and two blocks in 26 minutes.

BUZZER BEATERS

1. Spurs SG Danny Green is 0-of-13 from 3-point range over the last three games.

2. Paul, Ariza and Gordon are all questionable for Thursday.

3. Harden and Paul scored 28 points apiece in a 124-109 home win over San Antonio on Dec. 15.

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Posted in NBA

Tom Brady and the Patriots are back in the Super Bowl

In what is seemingly Groundhog’s Day for NFL fans, the New England Patriots are in the Super Bowl once again. Tom Brady somehow managed to throw for almost 300 yards and two touchdowns with an injured hand in a 24-20 victory on Sunday over the Jacksonville Jaguars. The defense wasn’t at its best, but it did what it had to and made the stops in the end.

Standing in the Patriots’ way of back-to-back world championships are the Philadelphia Eagles, who come into Super Bowl LII after a thrashing of the Minnesota Vikings. It’s a rematch of Super Bowl XXXIX back in 2005, which was won 24-21 by Brady and the Patriots. Don’t forget to reserve your spot for this Sunday FanPicks Super Bowl contest.

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5 Reasons Why the New England Patriots Will Win Super Bowl LII

1. Been there, done that

There is so much involved with the Super Bowl and it’s all old hat for New England. This squad has 10 appearances in the Big Game and while a lot of the players weren’t around for all of them, they know what it takes to win. The Eagles have just a few veterans who have been in this situation, but they are so young that it could be an issue. Halftime is longer and the pregame is run differently. Players in the NFL are creatures of habit and the Patriots have been through it all before.

2. Tom Brady

A stitched-up hand is not going to stop New England’s quarterback. Outside of a few poor throws, Brady looked stellar against the NFL’s No. 1 pass defense, completing 26 of 38 attempts for 290 yards in AFC Championship Game win over Jacksonville. Brady is 27-9 in the postseason, throwing for 68 touchdowns to just 31 interceptions in those games. For the most part, good quarterbacks win Super Bowls and while Nick Foles has been good in his last two starts, he’s no match for the quarterback that already has five Super Bowl rings. If Brady gets time in the pocket, then the Eagles are in trouble.

3. Last hurrahs and haters

It’s no secret that coordinators Josh McDaniels (Indianapolis) and Matt Patricia (Detroit) are leaving for head coaching gigs elsewhere once the season is over. Not that this team needs any more motivation, but I’m sure they’d love to send these guys out with another ring. McDaniels’ offense averages nearly 400 yards per game while Patricia’s defense has some soft spots, but also does what is needed in order to win. The squad also has had to deal with residue from the ESPN article on the dynamic between owner Robert Kraft, head coach Bill Belichick and Brady. America is sick of the Patriots and their winning and you know that also fuels them in what they do. Motivation of this sort is always good especially for a team that enjoys being the heel.

4. No deficit big enough

The Patriots were down 10 points in the fourth quarter of the AFC Championship Game against the Jaguars, but there was no panic and eventually there was a victory. This one came without Rob Gronkowski, who was out due to a concussion and he’s a huge part of the offense. New England’s comeback win over Atlanta in the Super Bowl last year is the biggest in the game’s 51-year history, but not the only such rally this team has pulled off. Teams get mighty conservative against New England in hopes of trying to drain the clock, but it seems like you leave even the slightest crack or time on the clock, Brady and the boys will make you pay. It’s funny because you could almost say they enjoy coming from behind then being front-runners. Every decision you make has to be right in order to slay the Pats.

5. Bill Belichick

The head coach is the best in the sport and is great at taking away what you do well. He’s got two weeks to look over an Eagles squad with a backup quarterback and a secondary that is very vulnerable at times. Belichick (above, right) also has to have the edge over his counterpart, Doug Pederson, who, like his team, is doing this all for the first time. Jacksonville running back Leonard Fournette averaged only 3.2 yards per carry on Sunday because Belichick’s preference was to have to Blake Bortles try and beat the Patriots with his arm. Even though Belichick’s personality is dry, his knowledge is endless. He’ll find your weaknesses and exploit them.

Posted in NFL

Mavericks at Suns

Two teams looking to snap lengthy slides will square off when the Phoenix Suns host the Dallas Mavericks on Wednesday. The Suns are returning home after watching their losing streak hit five straight with setbacks at Houston and Memphis while the Mavericks are kicking off a four-game road trip and trying to end a four-game slide.

Dallas is fighting through a series of slow starts and has not reached 100 points in any of the last five games. “You know, it’s the same old story,” Mavericks small forward Harrison Barnes told reporters after a 95-88 loss to the Miami Heat on Monday. “It’s how we’re starting games and how we’re going about these games. And the last couple of minutes of the fourth quarter we’ve shown that we can have these comebacks, but that’s not the issue. It’s what we’re doing before that to put ourselves in that position.” Dallas should not have trouble reaching the century mark against the Suns, who rank last in the NBA in scoring defense (112.3 points) and were ripped 120-109 by the lowly Memphis Grizzlies on Monday. “We still have to be better at the defensive end,” Suns interim coach Jay Triano told reporters after Monday’s setback. “Allowing them to shoot 50 percent from the 3 and 50 percent from the field, that’s not good enough.”

TV: 10:30 p.m. ET, ESPN, FS Southwest (Dallas), FS Arizona (Phoenix)

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ABOUT THE MAVERICKS (16-35): Star rookie Dennis Smith Jr. recorded a double-double with 14 points and 10 assists on Monday but contributed to his team’s offensive woes by going 4-of-17 from the floor. The 23.5-percent shooting effort marked the third time in the last four games that the NC State product failed to hit even 30 percent of his shots, dropping his season shooting percentage to 39.7. Power forward Dirk Nowitzki is well off his Hall of Fame peak as well and is shooting 27.7 percent from the floor over the last five games after a 3-of-11 effort on Monday.

ABOUT THE SUNS (17-34): Phoenix was without leading scorer Devin Booker on Monday after he suffered a rib injury in a loss at Houston on Sunday. Booker, who had x-rays come back negative, had one of his best all-around games against the Rockets with 31 points and 10 assists in 41 minutes and is considered questionable for Wednesday. “These are the tough days for the NBA,” Triano told reporters after running through his list of injuries on Monday. “We’re seeing a lot of major injuries, guys nicked up and hurt. It’s one of the things our young players have to learn. How do you manage an 82-game season? … Good teams take a dip. Part of the growth of young players is how do you manage 82 games and stay locked in and focused and healthy.”

BUZZER BEATERS

1. Suns PF Marquese Chriss (ankle) sat out Monday and is day-to-day.

2. Mavericks PG J.J. Barea (oblique) missed the last two games and is questionable for Wednesday.

3. Booker was out with a groin injury when Phoenix earned a 97-91 win at Dallas on Dec. 18.

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Posted in NBA

Missouri at Alabama

Alabama looks to continue its recent hot streak when it hosts struggling Missouri on Wednesday. The Crimson Tide have won five straight meetings with the Tigers and are 5-0 at home in the all-time series.

Alabama has won five of its last six, including an 80-73 upset of No. 15 Oklahoma on Saturday in the Big 12/SEC Challenge. The Crimson Tide are 10-1 at home, including a 4-0 record in conference play with wins over Texas A&M, South Carolina, Auburn and Mississippi State. Missouri coach Cuonzo Martin still is in search of his 200th career win, as the team has dropped three straight. It’s the third road game in four contests for the Tigers, who have dropped their last three away from home – including a 74-62 setback at Mississippi State on Saturday.

TV: 9 p.m. ET, ESPN2

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ABOUT MISSOURI (13-8, 3-5 SEC): The Tigers have struggled offensively of late, as the 3-pointers have stopped falling and they’ve had a hard time scoring from inside the arc. Kassius Robertson (15.7 points) and Jordan Barnett (14.3, 6.1 rebounds) are the team’s most reliable scorers and best 3-point shooters. The Tigers have a wealth of talented big men, but freshmen Jeremiah Tilmon (8.1 points, 4.2 rebounds) and Jontay Porter (7.9, 6.6) have been plagued by both foul trouble and inconsistency.

ABOUT ALABAMA (14-7, 5-3): The Crimson Tide have used 10 different starting lineups, but they seem to have settled into a nice groove of late. The player to watch is the sensational Collin Sexton (18.5 points), but fellow freshman John Petty (11.8) is a prolific 3-point shooter. Swingman Dazon Ingram (11 points, 6.4 rebounds) and undersized big man Donta Hall (10.9, seven) are tough on the boards, while Braxton Key (5.9, 5.4) is becoming a bigger factor with each passing game since returning from a knee injury that cost him the first 10 contests of the season.

TIP-INS

1. Seven of the 12 all-time meetings have been decided by fewer than 10 points.

2. Missouri has outrebounded 17 of its 21 opponents, ranks third in the SEC in rebound margin (+6.5) and leads the conference in rebounds allowed (31.3 per game).

3. Alabama G Herbert Jones has taken 18 charges, the most in the SEC.

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Posted in CBB

Knicks at Celtics

The Boston Celtics return home from an uneven road trip to try to snap a three-game home losing streak when they host the New York Knicks on Wednesday. A 111-110 win at Denver on Monday allowed the Celtics to finish the trip with a 2-2 record and a one-game lead over Toronto in the Eastern Conference.

Jaylen Brown hit a big 3-pointer with 33.3 seconds left and the Nuggets had a basket go in just after the final horn as Boston snapped a five-game slide in games decided by single digits. “I thought we were gassed at the end of the game,” coach Brad Stevens said in Denver. “We missed some defensive assignments, and I thought we missed some good opportunities on offense, but they found a way.” The Knicks have recorded consecutive victories for the first time since the middle of December after knocking off Brooklyn 111-95 on Tuesday. Kristaps Porzingis scored 28 points and Enes Kanter finished with 20 points and 20 rebounds as New York had a triumphant return home from a 3-4 road trip.

TV: 8 p.m. ET, ESPN, MSG (New York), NBCS Boston

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ABOUT THE KNICKS (23-28): Porzingis buried a career-high six 3-pointers in eight attempts and is 12-for-18 from long range over a four-game span. The 22-year-old will try to carry over that success against a team that has held him to 3-of-25 shooting in two meetings this season, including 0-for-11 in a win over Boston at home last month. Michael Beasley helped New York overcome Porzingis’ rocky effort in that matchup by scoring a season-high 32 points.

ABOUT THE CELTICS (36-15): Kyrie Irving scored 27 points against Denver and is averaging 31.4 on 59.2 percent shooting in five games since returning from a one-game layoff due to a shoulder injury. Rookie Jayson Tatum scored 20 points on 8-of-13 shooting on Monday after going 18-for-53 over his previous five contests. Irving and Tatum combined for 49 points in the visit to Madison Square Garden last month, but his teammates were 15-for-49 from the field in the 102-93 loss.

BUZZER BEATERS

1. Kanter has scored exactly 20 points in three straight games and is 8-for-10 from the floor in each of his last two outings.

2. Brown averages 14.1 points but scored under 10 in three of four games on the road trip.

3. Knicks G Ron Baker (shoulder) left Tuesday’s win and will not travel with the team to Boston.

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Posted in NBA

Louisville at Virginia

Second-ranked Virginia looks to maintain a perfect ACC record and extend its winning streak to 13 overall when surging Louisville pays a visit Wednesday night for another big league showdown. The balanced Cavaliers knocked off fourth-ranked Duke 65-63 on Saturday, improving to 9-0 in the ACC for the first time since 1980-81 when Ralph Sampson patrolled the middle.

“Different guys at different times,” Virginia coach Tony Bennett told reporters after the first win at Duke in 18 tries. “They’re a team that’s a joy to coach, because they’re pretty clear on who they are, and it doesn’t matter who’s getting shots or who’s doing what, and I hope that will remain.” The Cavaliers lead the nation in scoring defense (52.1) and take on a Louisville team that scored 96 last time out in a 19-point victory over Wake Forest. The Cardinals have won five of their last six contests, losing only to Miami (Fla.) in overtime, to climb into second place in the ACC and hope to end a four-game losing streak against Virginia. “They’ve obviously been our kryptonite in this league for the last three years,” Louisville interim coach David Padgett told reporters of his team, which is second in the nation in blocked shots per game (7.3).

TV: 7 p.m. ET, ESPN2

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ABOUT LOUISVILLE (16-5, 6-2 ACC): The Cardinals, who are seventh in the nation in field-goal percentage defense (38.9), forced 20 turnovers and recorded a season-high 12 steals against Wake Forest. Junior forward Deng Adel leads the team in scoring (15.6) and has posted at least nine in every game this season while senior guard Quentin Snider (13.1 points, 4.0 assists) has scored 16.2 per game in the last five. Junior forward Ray Spalding is the third double-figure scorer (11.0) for the Cardinals, despite averaging 6.7 over the last three, and tops the team in rebounding (9.3).

ABOUT VIRGINIA (20-1, 9-0): The Cavaliers shot only 39.4 percent from the field at Duke, but forced 16 turnovers and coughed up the ball just five times with no one registering more than one. Sophomore guard Kyle Guy led the way with 17 points and tops the team in scoring (15.2, 57 made 3-pointers) while senior guard Devon Hall (12.7) has been in double figures eight straight games, averaging 14.6 in that span. Freshman guard De’Andre Hunter (8.1 points), who is day-to-day with a sprained ankle, is scoring 13 per game over the last four contests and sophomore backcourt mate Ty Jerome (9.5 points, 3.4 assists) is also contributing.

TIP-INS

1. Louisville senior F Anas Mahmoud averaged 13 points in the last two games and sits third in the nation in blocked shots per contest (3.5).

2. Virginia senior F Isaiah Wilkins tops the team in rebounding (6.6) and boasts 126 career blocks, one from moving into fourth alone all-time for the Cavaliers.

3. Cardinals sophomore F Dwayne Sutton recorded a season-high 13 points last time out against Wake Forest.

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Posted in CBB

Cavaliers at Pistons

The Detroit Pistons are mired in an eight-game losing streak and shook things up in a big way by acquiring Blake Griffin from the Los Angeles Clippers. It is unknown whether or not Griffin will make his club debut in Tuesday’s home against the Cleveland Cavaliers but the Pistons will be counting on the five-time All-Star to help spring a turnaround.

Griffin, who is in the first season of a five-year, $171 million contract, is averaging 22.6 points, 7.9 rebounds and 5.4 assists in 33 games. Detroit shipped forward Tobias Harris, guard Avery Bradley, center Boban Marjanovic, a 2018 first-round pick and a 2019 second-round pick for Griffin, center Willie Reed and forward Brice Johnson. Meanwhile, Cleveland is seeking its first three-game winning streak since mid-December and had dropped 10 of 13 games before beating the Indiana Pacers on Friday and posting a 121-104 win over the Pistons on Sunday in the front end of the home-and-home set. “For the most part, throughout 48 minutes, this is one of the best games we’ve had obviously as of late,” forward LeBron James said after his team finished Sunday’s game with a decisive 26-9 run. “Every game is something to build on. I think this was another positive note to that.”

TV:
 8 p.m. ET, TNT, FS Ohio (Cleveland)

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ABOUT THE CAVALIERS (29-19): Point guard Isaiah Thomas has been a poor fit with Cleveland in his first 10 on-court appearances and he didn’t see any action in the fourth quarter on Sunday when his team was rolling over the Pistons. Thomas, of course, is still working on getting back into top shape after hip surgery that preceded being part of the trade that sent Kyrie Irving to the Boston Celtics. “Just getting my legs back,” Thomas, who is averaging 15.3 points on 39.3 percent shooting, told reporters. “Getting my rhythm back. Like I continue to say, it’s going to take time, but that’s always positive to see flashes with me moving and cutting like I’m used to doing. So I’ll build on it, keep working, and it will come.”

ABOUT THE PISTONS (22-26): Detroit has been shopping Bradley, who has largely been a disappointment, and began discussing a deal with the Clippers for Griffin six days ago. The string of losses – the Pistons have lost 12 of their last 15 – certainly sped up the club to trade now as opposed to waiting closer to the Feb. 8 trading deadline and could be a sign fourth-year coach Stan Van Gundy knows he might not be invited back if the team misses the playoffs. Griffin immediately becomes the offensive focal point for a team that has struggled since losing point guard Reggie Jackson (ankle) in the game before the 3-12 slide began.

BUZZER BEATERS

1. The Cavaliers won the past three meetings by an average of 25.7 points.

2. Third-year F Stanley Johnson, who is averaging 7.5 points and 3.6 rebounds, will replace Harris in Detroit’s starting lineup.

3. Cleveland reserve SG Dwyane Wade is expected back after a two-game absence due to the death of longtime agent Henry Thomas.

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Posted in NBA

Blackhawks at Predators

The Chicago Blackhawks find themselves in an unfamiliar position as they continue their four-game road trip Tuesday against the Central Division-rival Nashville Predators. Chicago is 13 points out of first place in the Central after winning the division last season and four back in the Western Conference wild-card race after qualifying for the playoffs each of the last nine campaigns – winning three Stanley Cups along the way.

The Blackhawks began their trek Thursday with a 5-1 triumph at Detroit, which followed a 1-4-1 homestand that ended with four straight setbacks. Nashville is in a much more enviable spot in the standings as it trails first-place Winnipeg by one point in the Central with three games in hand. The Predators extended their point streak to eight games (6-0-2) with a 3-0 victory at New Jersey on Thursday behind a 27-save performance by Pekka Rinne, who has won five straight starts. Fellow All-Star P.K. Subban leads Nashville with 37 points and carries a three-game goal-scoring streak into the matchup with Chicago after notching a tally and an assist against the Devils.

TV: 8 p.m. ET, NBC Sports Network, TVA, NBCS Chicago

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ABOUT THE BLACKHAWKS (23-19-7): Alex DeBrincat ended his four-game point drought in a big way Thursday, registering a hat trick and adding an assist for his second career four-point performance. The 20-year-old right wing, who is second on the team with 17 goals, is the first Blackhawk to record multiple hat tricks in his rookie season since Steve Larmer in 1982-83. Patrick Kane, who leads the team in goals (20) and assists (29), unleashed a game-high four shots in the Central’s 5-2 loss to the Pacific Division during All-Star Weekend but finished with a minus-2 rating and was kept off the scoresheet.

ABOUT THE PREDATORS (29-11-7): Rinne and Subban shined in Sunday’s All-Star event as the goaltender stopped all four shots he faced during one period in the Central’s loss to the Pacific while the defenseman scored one of his squad’s two goals. Subban has landed on the scoresheet in six of his last seven games for Nashville, collecting three tallies and five assists in that span. Kyle Turris has recorded one assist over his last six contests and is one shy of 200 for his career.

OVERTIME

1. Blackhawks C Artem Anisimov has recorded one assist over his last six games but is two points away from 300 for his career.

2. Nashville C Nick Bonino’s next point will be his 200th in the NHL while RW Miikka Salomaki’s next game will be his 100th.

3. Chicago LW Anthony Duclair registered a goal and two assists Thursday after notching one assist in his first five games after being acquired from Arizona.

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Posted in NHL