Sweet 16 for Rockets
UNDATED (AP) — The Houston Rockets are two away from matching the longest winning streak in team history.
Chris Paul scored 25 points and the Rockets picked up their 16th consecutive victory by downing the Thunder, 122-112. James Harden had 23 points and 11 assists for Houston, which improved to an NBA-best 50-13.
The outcome keeps the Rockets atop the entire league by a half-game over Golden State.
Russell Westbrook scored 32 points and Carmelo Anthony added 23 for Oklahoma City, which is in a logjam of teams trying to fight their way into third place in the West.
Meanwhile, the Warriors are 6-0 since the All-Star break after Stephen (STEH’-fehn) Curry drained six 3-pointers while scoring 34 points in a 114-101 downing of Brooklyn. Curry scored 11 straight points during a 25-0 run that turned a 14-10 deficit into a 35-14 lead late in the opening quarter.
Checking out Tuesday’s other NBA action:
— The Raptors won for the 12th time in 13 games by dominating the fourth quarter of a 106-90 verdict over the Hawks. DeMar DeRozan poured in a game-high 25 points for Toronto, which trailed by one before outscoring Atlanta 30-13 in the final period. The Raptors are two games ahead of the Celtics for first place in the Eastern Conference and Atlantic Division.
— Damian Lillard nailed eight 3-pointers and delivered 37 points as the Trail Blazers cruised to their eighth consecutive win, 111-87 over the Knicks. CJ McCollum added 19 points for Portland, which is now third in the Western Conference and 1 ½ games ahead of Minnesota in the Northwest Division.
— The Pelicans have a nine-game winning streak after Anthony Davis hit for 41 points and grabbed 13 rebounds in a 121-116 decision over the Clippers. Jrue (juh-ROO’) Holiday added 19 points and 17 assists for New Orleans, which closed on a 12-3 run to move a half-game ahead of San Antonio for fourth place in the West.
— Robert Covington scored 22 points and rookie standout Ben Simmons fell two rebounds shy of a triple-double in the 76ers’ 128-114 win at Charlotte. Simmons had 16 points and 13 assists as the 76ers won for the third time in four games.
— The Wizards pulled out a 117-113 overtime win against the Heat behind Bradley Beal’s 30 points on 12 of 16 shooting. Beal hit six of his seven 3-point attempts to lead Washington’s 14-for-24 performance from beyond the arc. The Wizards ended a three-game skid and moved three games ahead of the second-place Heat in the Southeast Division.
— Yogi Ferrell and Dirk Nowitzki (noh-VIHT’-skee) each hit their first five 3-point attempts before the Mavericks cooled off the Nuggets, 118-107. Ferrell contributed a season-high 24 points and Nowitzki added 17 as Dallas handed Denver just its fourth loss in 13 games.
Cavs’ Love discloses bouts with panic attacks, mental health
UNDATED (AP) — Cavaliers All-Star Kevin Love has opened up about his panic attack this season and his struggles with mental health.
The 29-year-old forward has written an essay for the Players’ Tribune that says he was overcome by anxiety during a Nov. 5 home game against Atlanta. He was briefly hospitalized at the Cleveland Clinic and the episode left him shaken.
Love is currently sidelined with a broken left hand. He says he drew courage after Toronto All-Star DeMar DeRozan disclosed he has dealt with depression.
In other NBA news:
— Boston Celtics guard Marcus Smart has been fined $15,000 for public criticism of officiating following Saturday’s loss at Houston. Smart said Rockets guard James Harden is among those who receive favorable treatment from referees. Smart told the Boston Globe that “certain players” get “calls that other guys just wouldn’t get.”
TOP-25 MEN’S BASKETBALL-CONFERENCE TOURNAMENTS
Gonzaga takes WCC title again…Wright State, College of Charleston, LIU Brooklyn reach NCAA Tourney
UNDATED (AP) — Gonzaga is going back to the NCAA Tournament after winning the West Coast Conference tourney for the sixth consecutive year.
Killian Tillie scored 22 points and the sixth-ranked Bulldogs improved to 30-4 by whipping BYU, 74-54. Zach Norvell Jr. provided 17 points for the Zags, who reeled off a 36-6 run bridging the two halves.
A few more men’s basketball teams have earned automatic berths in the NCAA Tournament:
— Grant Benzinger had 19 points and nine rebounds as Wright State beat Cleveland State 74-57 to win the Horizon League Tournament. Kenny Carpenter had 18 points and Tyree Appleby scored 15 for the Raiders. Wright State will play in college basketball’s showcase for the third time in school history and the first since 2007.
— Joe Chealey had 32 points and the College of Charleston rallied from 17 down in the second half of an 83-76 comeback win against Northeastern in the Colonial Athletic Association final. The Cougars trailed 42-25 with 17:27 left in the second half and didn’t take control until they hit their first four shots of OT to go ahead 75-69.
— LIU Brooklyn has reached the NCAA Tourney for the first time in five years after Joel Hernandez delivered 32 points and seven rebounds in a 71-61 victory against Wagner in the Northeast Conference title game. Raiquan Clark had 20 points and eight rebounds for the Blackbirds.
— David Jenkins dropped in 29 points and Mike Daum added 25 with 11 rebounds in leading South Dakota State’s 97-87 win over South Dakota in the Summit League Tournament championship. The Jackrabbits also got 18 points and 11 boards from Reed Tellinghuisen in capturing their third straight NCAA Tournament berth.
Bell gets exclusive franchise tag from Steelers
UNDATED (AP) — Pittsburgh Steelers running back Le’Veon Bell is among five NFL players who have received the franchise take before today’s deadline.
Others getting the tag were Miami wide receiver Jarvis Landry, Detroit defensive end Ezekiel Ansah, Dallas defensive end DeMarcus Lawrence, and Los Angeles Rams safety Lamarcus Joyner.
Bell is the only one to receive the exclusive tag, meaning he can’t negotiate with other teams. Both sides plan to continue negotiating a long-term contract, but the tag currently means Bell will receive the average of the top five salaries among running backs for 2018.
In other NFL news:
— Former Raider Aldon Smith has turned himself in to police in a misdemeanor domestic violence case and was booked into San Francisco County Jail. Records show Smith was booked Tuesday on suspicion of domestic violence and three related misdemeanors. San Francisco police had been looking for Smith since he fled a home Saturday night after someone called 911 to report a domestic violence incident.
— The Panthers have reached an agreement on a four-year contract extension with Pro Bowl kicker Graham Gano (guh-NOH’). A person familiar with the situation tells The Associated Press the deal is worth $17 million overall with $9 million guaranteed. The 30-year-old is coming off his best NFL season, converting all 29 field goals from inside of 50 yards and 29 of 30 overall, and made 34 of 37 extra points.
— Running back Chris Ivory has agreed to sign a two-year contract with the Bills, where the eight-year veteran will have an opportunity to serve as LeSean McCoy’s primary backup. Ivory finished with just 382 yards rushing and a touchdown last season and was inactive for four of the Jaguars’ final five games.
— The NFL’s salary cap will be $177.2 million, more than $10 million above last season. Teams must be below that figure when the league season begins on March 14.
— Miami Dolphins owner Stephen Ross says he won’t force his players to stand for the national anthem, even though he believes kneeling is an ineffective way to promote social justice. Ross’ comments Tuesday in a statement released by the Dolphins came after the New York Daily News reported he said all of the team’s players will stand for the anthem in 2018.
— NFL referees Ed Hochuli (HAHK’-yoo-lee) and Jeff Triplette are retiring. Hochuli joined the league in 1990, and Triplette in 1996.
Bruins outlast Wings.
UNDATED (AP) — The Boston Bruins continue to put pressure on the Tampa Bay Lightning as the two teams battle for the NHL’s Atlantic Division title and the No. 1 seed in the Eastern Conference playoffs.
Brad Marchand completed a hat trick by scoring 34 seconds into overtime to give the Bruins a 6-5 win over the Red Wings. Marchand finished with five points, including a pair of second-period goals and two assists in the first.
Detroit rallied after Jason Krug and Jake DeBrusk scored in the opening minute, but Boston eventually won its fourth in a row to stay six points behind the Lightning.
Tampa Bay also won as Brayden Point scored 2:49 into overtime to complete a 5-4 triumph over the Panthers. Yanni Gourde scored twice and had an assist to support Andrei Vasilevskiy (va-sih-LEHV’-skee), who handled 45 shots.
Nick Bjugstad (BYOOG’-stad) had a hat trick for Florida, which ended a six-game winning streak.
Elsewhere on NHL ice:
— Pekka Rinne (PEH’-kuh REE’-nay) stopped 26 shots and the Predators ran their winning streak to a team-record nine games by blanking the Stars, 2-0. Rinne earned his seventh shutout this season and Ryan Hartman broke a scoreless tie 5 ½ minutes into the third period to help the Predators keep their six-point lead over Winnipeg in the Central Division.
— Patrik Laine (LY-nay) has a career-high 38 goals after recording his fourth career hat trick in the Jets’ 3-0 shutout of the Rangers. Steve Mason turned back 31 shots and Laine ran his point streak to nine games as Winnipeg won its third in a row.
— Eric Staal scored twice and the Wild improved their home record to a league-best 24-5-6 by routing the Hurricanes, 6-2. Minnesota set a team record for the fastest four goals as Nino Niederreiter (NEE’-dur-eye-tur), Zach Parise (pah-REE’-say), Daniel Winnik and Staal scored in a 3:28 span early in the second period.
— Travis Zajac (ZAY’-jak) scored twice and Taylor Hall extended his team-record point straight to 19 games by collecting two assists in the Devils’ 6-4 win against the Canadiens. Zajac got his goals in the last two minutes of the first period to put New Jersey ahead 4-0, helping the Devils get within three points of Philadelphia for third place in the Metropolitan Division.
— Artemi Panarin (ahr-TEH’-mee pah-NAH’-rihn) and Pierre Luc-Dubois (look doo-BWAH’) each had a goal and two assists as the Blue Jackets topped the Golden Knights, 4-1 to move two points ahead of Florida for the final Eastern Conference playoff berth. Joonas Korpisalo (YOO’-nuhs kohr-pih-SAH’-loh) turned back 37 shots and blanked Vegas after Erik Haula scored 90 seconds into the third period. The Knights lead the Pacific Division by nine points over Anaheim.
— John Gibson made 36 saves and Rickard Rakell (rah-KEHL’) scored for the fourth consecutive game as the Ducks blanked the Capitals, 4-0 to improve to 7-1-1 in their last nine games. Washington netminder Braden Holtby was lifted after surrendering three goals on Anaheim’s first nine shots. The Caps still lead the Metropolitan Division by just one point over Pittsburgh with one game in hand.
— Jonathan Toews (tayvz) scored just nine seconds into overtime to send the Blackhawks past the Avalanche, 2-1. J.F. Berube (beh-ROO’-bay) made 33 saves and Chicago kept Colorado in a virtual tie with the Kings for the final Western Conference playoff berth.
Canucks rookie Brock Boeser out 4-6 weeks with back injury
UNDATED (AP) — Vancouver Canucks forward Brock Boeser (BEH’-sur) will likely miss the remainder of the NHL season because of a back injury.
Boeser fell into an open gate at the players’ bench after trying to make a hit on Islanders forward Cal Clutterbuck during Monday’s 4-3 win over New York. The star rookie left Rogers Arena on a stretcher and was taken to a hospital after the collision.
In other NHL news:
— The Bruins say rookie defenseman Charlie McAvoy is out for at least four weeks with a sprained left MCL suffered in Saturday’s 2-1 overtime win over Montreal. McAvoy has scored seven goals and 32 points in 59 games this season.
— Jonathan Cheechoo (CHEE’-choo) has retired from hockey after playing seven NHL seasons and finishing with four years in Russia’s Kontinental Hockey League.
— Flames goalie Mike Smith practiced Tuesday for the first time since sustaining a lower-body injury against the Islanders on Feb. 11. Smith called practicing “a step in the right direction,” but added that it’s premature to determine when he’ll be cleared to play.
Royals get Jon Jay
UNDATED (AP) — The Kansas City Royals have worked out a one-year, $3 million deal with outfielder Jon Jay, a contact that allows him to earn an additional $1.5 million in performance bonuses. Jay made $8 million last season while hitting .296 with two home runs and 34 RBIs in 141 games for the Chicago Cubs last season, including a .350 average in 40 at-bats as a pinch-hitter. Jay did not commit an error in 141 chances last season and will turn 33 before opening day.
Also in the majors:
— The Athletics have formally released designated hitter Brandon Moss, who was 4-for-10 with two walks in four exhibition games. The 34-year-old Moss had been acquired from the Royals on Jan. 29 and is still guaranteed $7.25 million this season and a $1 million buyout of his 2019 club option.
— The Nationals have sent pitching prospect Seth Romero home from camp for an unspecified violation of team policy. Romero was the team’s first-round pick last year and had been on the minor league side of Washington’s camp. He was kicked off the University of Houston team during his final season there for a violation of team rules.
Pope praises Pyeongchang Olympics as bridge to peace
VATICAN CITY (AP) — Pope Francis has praised the Pyeongchang Olympics for showing that sport can “build bridges between countries in conflict and give a valid contribution to peace.”
Francis delivered the message during his general audience today, ahead of the start of the Paralympics. Francis praised the paralympic athletes as “examples of courage, perseverance and tenacity in not letting limitations have the last word.”
During the recent Winter Olympics, North and South Korean officials met, and a summit is now scheduled for the first time in a decade.
Francis, who has expressed repeated alarm about the prospects of nuclear conflict on the Korean peninsula, said the just-completed games showed how sport can bring peace, and the paralympics even moreso.
He offered prayers “for peace and joy for all.”
Tony Yoka given suspended ban over missed doping tests
PARIS (AP) — Olympic super heavyweight champion Tony Yoka has been given a suspended one-year ban by the French boxing federation for missing doping tests.
French boxing federation president Andre Martin told L’Equipe newspaper that the governing body’s anti-doping commission handed down the sanction after Yoka had three “no-shows” between September 2016 and July 2017.
The 25-year-old Yoka turned professional after winning gold at the Rio de Janeiro Olympics two years ago.
The French anti-doping agency could ask for a harsher sanction if it considers the French federation’s decision too lenient.
Yoka has won his first three professional bouts. He is set to take on his former sparring partner — former French heavyweight champion Cyril Leonet — on April 7 in his next fight.
SOUTH AFRICA-ATHLETE-SAW ATTACK
South African triathlete severely injured in saw attack
JOHANNESBURG (AP) — Assailants in South Africa attacked a top national triathlete who was cycling to a training session and cut into his legs with a blunt saw, causing severe injuries.
An athletic director says 27-year-old Mhlengi Gwala was undergoing surgery after the attack before dawn on Tuesday in the coastal city of Durban.
The grisly attack has alarmed athletes in Durban who routinely get up in the early morning darkness to train when few people are on the roads.