Nets end skid in Irving’s return
UNDATED (AP) — Kyrie Irving made his season debut on Wednesday and had a huge impact in the Brooklyn Nets’ 129-121 win at Indiana.
Irving scored 22 points and sparked Brooklyn to a big rally in the second half. He played 32 minutes and helped the Nets storm back from a 19-point deficit.
Irving was back after missing the Nets’ first 35 games of the season for declining to be vaccinated for the coronavirus. He is prohibited from playing home games and Brooklyn didn’t want to use him as a part-timer until a COVID-19 outbreak affected most of their regulars.
Kevin Durant poured in 39 points and James Harden had 19 as the Nets ended a three-game skid. Durant also had eight rebounds and seven assists.
The Pacers lost despite Domantas Sabonis, who had a triple-double of 32 points, 12 rebounds and 10 assists. Lance Stephenson scored 20 of his 30 points in the first quarter.
Checking out Wednesday’s other NBA action:
— Luka Doncic scored 26 points and the Mavericks celebrated before a ceremony to retire Dirk Nowitzki’s number by beating cold-shooting Stephen Curry and the Warriors, 99-82. Curry was just 5 of 24 from the field including 1 of 9 from 3-point range in scoring 14 points.
— Bojan Bogdanovic scored a season-high 36 points and the Jazz stretched their road winning streak to 10 games by beating the Nuggets, 115-109. Rudy Gay had 18 points and Donovan Mitchell added 17 to help Utah overcome another triple-double by Nikola Jokic, who finished with 26 points, 21 rebounds and 11 assists.
— Pascal Siakam scored 33 points and OG Anunoby and Gary Trent Jr. had 22 apiece to the lead the Raptors to a 117-111 victory over the Bucks. Milwaukee was without head coach Mike Budenholzer due to health and safety protocols and was minus Giannis Antetokounmpo because of a non-related COVID illness.
— The 76ers notched their NBA-best 14th road victory of the season and tied a season high with a fifth straight win overall, 116-106 versus the Magic. Joel Embiid dropped in 31 points, Tobias Harris contributed 22 and Seth Curry added 20 with a season-high 12 assists and seven rebounds.
— Gregg Popovich became the first to coach 2,000 NBA games with the same team as he watched Dejounte Murray provide 22 points in a 99-97 victory at Boston. Devin Vassell and Derrick White each had 17 points in San Antonio’s first win in five games.
— Max Strus had 25 points and the Heat snapped a two-game losing streak with a 115-109 victory at Portland. Tyler Herro (HEE’-roh) finished with 16 points off the bench for Miami, which was tied at 90 before going on a 15-2 run.
— Kelly Oubre Jr. hit a career-high nine of the Hornets’ franchise-record 24 3-pointers in a 140-111 dismantling of the Pistons. Gordon Hayward and Miles Bridges each had 19 points to help Charlotte beat Detroit for the 14th straight time.
— Kevin Huerter scored five of his 25 points in the final 38 seconds to push the Hawks to a 108-102 triumph over the Kings. Huerter added 11 rebounds for his first double-double of the season, helping Atlanta to its third win in nine games.
— The Timberwolves were finally at full strength as they knocked off the Thunder, 99-90. Karl-Anthony Towns had 17 points and 16 rebounds, while D’Angelo Russell struggled on 3-of-12 shooting in their return to Minnesota’s lineup.
— The Rockets pulled out a 114-111 win over the Wizards on Kevin Porter Jr’s, 3-pointer from the right wing with 0.4 seconds remaining. Christian Wood added 22 points and 11 rebounds to help Houston snap an eight-game losing streak.
Lillard sidelined…Zion rehabbing away from team
UNDATED (AP) — Portland guard Damian Lillard will miss the next three games because of a lower abdominal tendinopathy. The Trail Blazers say Lillard will undergo further evaluation and consultation concerning the injury, which has bothered him since the Tokyo Olympics.
And the Pelicans have agreed to allow forward Zion Williamson to continue his rehabilitation from a broken foot away from team headquarters. Williamson averaged a team-high 27 points and was an All-Star last season. He was trying to return to practice in mid-December when imaging of his foot revealed a setback.
Derrick Henry cleared to practice…Burrow to sit out Sunday
UNDATED (AP) — The Tennessee Titans have made the easy move opening the 21-day window for Derrick Henry to practice with the team. The next decision and the timing is much more challenging. Taking the 2020 AP NFL Offensive Player of the Year off injured reserve by Sunday means he could help beat Houston and clinch the AFC’s No. 1 seed.
Waiting means hoping the Titans earn the first-round bye without Henry giving him more time from Oct. 31 when he broke his right foot.
Henry was the NFL’s leading rusher with 937 yards when he was put on injured reserve. He still ranks sixth in the league despite missing eight games.
In other NFL news:
— Wide receiver Antonio Brown says he was cut by the Buccaneers after refusing to play through an ankle injury that sidelined him for several weeks this season. Brown took off his jersey, shoulder pads and undershirt before walking off the sideline during a game Sunday against the New York Jets. He said in a statement released by his attorney that he was pressured to play and coach Bruce Arians fired him when the player told the coach he was not able to re-enter the game because of his ankle.
— The Bengals won’t play quarterback Joe Burrow this week to make sure he is healthy for the first round of the playoffs. Burrow is nursing aches and pains, including his right knee and sore pinky finger but said he could have played Sunday at Cleveland had it been necessary. Running back Joe Mixon and other key starters went on the reserve/COVID-19 list this week but are eligible to test out after five days if they are asymptomatic.
— Mixon and Dallas star rookie linebacker Micah Parsons are the latest big-name players added to the COVID-19 reserve list. If he can’t play Sunday against Philadelphia, Parsons will finish the season with 13 sacks, 1 1/2 behind the rookie record set by Tennessee’s Jevon Kearse in 1999. Mixon joins Bengals sacks leader Trey Hendrickson and a handful of other key players for Cincinnati on the COVID-19 list headed into Sunday’s finale against Cleveland.
— Jimmy Garoppolo has resumed throwing for the 49ers and took part in practice in a limited role, saying his sprained right thumb still hurts. Garoppolo tore a ligament in the thumb on Dec. 23 and was held out of practice last week. The Niners don’t know whether he or rookie Trey Lance will start. San Francisco makes the playoffs with a win.
— Kirk Cousins has returned to the Vikings from COVID-19 reserve. He missed the previous game while experiencing mild symptoms. Vikings coach Mike Zimmer plans to play Cousins and all of the other regulars who are healthy enough.
— Bears coach Matt Nagy insists he has not been informed by his bosses that the season finale at Minnesota will be his last game leading the team. Nagy could be on his way out after four seasons with the Bears owning a 6-10 record heading into Sunday’s game. Nagy expects rookie quarterback Justin Fields to start against the Vikings after missing the past two games because of an ankle injury.
— The NFL has looked into other potential sites for next month’s Super Bowl amid a rise in COVID-19 cases, though the league always develops contingency plans for the game. An NFL spokesperson says the league still plans to play Super Bowl 56 as scheduled in Los Angeles on Feb. 13 but adds the NFL has contacted several clubs to inquire about stadium availability in the event the Super Bowl can’t be played as scheduled. The Cowboys’ stadium reportedly is one of the facilities contacted.
— The league has issued a warning to teams that they could lose a draft pick and face significant fines if club representatives conduct themselves unprofessionally in interviews with draft prospects. The league said a team would forfeit a draft pick between the first and fourth round and be fined a minimum of $150,000 if it’s determined a club representative displayed conduct that is “disrespectful, inappropriate, or unprofessional” during an interview. Fines and/or suspensions of individual club employees also could be imposed.
T25 MEN’S BASKETBALL-SCHEDULE
Spartans use strong 2nd half to beat Cornhuskers
UNDATED (AP) — Michigan State is 4-0 in the Big Ten after surviving a first-half struggle against Nebraska.
Freshman Max Christie scored a season-high 21 points and Gabe Brown added 14 in the Spartans’ eighth straight win, 79-67 versus the Cornhuskers. Michigan State led by just four before making three 3-pointers early in the second half to go ahead 47-39.
Malik Hall chipped in 12 points and Tyson Walker had 10 to help the 13-2 Spartans overcome 19 turnovers, most coming in the first half.
Also on the top-25 schedule:
— Izaiah Brockington’s four-point play with 1:52 left propelled 11th-ranked Iowa State past No. 25 Texas Tech, 51-47. Brockington led the 13-1 Cyclones with 14 points and nine rebounds.
— Josh Carlton poured in a career-high 30 points and grabbed 11 rebounds in leading 12th-ranked Houston to an 83-66 win over South Florida. Kyler Edwards returned from a sprained ankle to deliver 15 points, eight assists and eight rebounds for the 13-2 Cougars.
— No. 15 Alabama opened the second half with a 22-4 run to an 81-70 win over Florida. Jahvon Quinerly and Juwan Gary furnished 19 points apiece for the 11-3 Crimson Tide.
— No. 18 Tennessee pulled out a 66-60 win against Mississippi as Santiago Vescovi scored 17 points, including a critical 3-pointer and two big free throws in overtime. Olivier Nkamhoua added 13 points for the Volunteers, who missed their first 10 shots and never led in regulation.
— Justin Moore provided 22 points and Jermaine Samuels added 18 to lead No. 19 Villanova to a 75-41 thumping of Creighton. Collin Gillespie had 11 points and Brandon Slater chipped in with 10 for the Wildcats, who have steadied themselves with three straight wins following consecutive losses by a combined 41 points.
Pens, Leafs win
UNDATED (AP) — The Pittsburgh Penguins and Toronto Maple Leafs won Wednesday’s only NHL games.
The Penguins rallied for a 5-3 win over the Blues as Sidney Crosby and Evan Rodrigues scored third-period goals 12 seconds apart. Crosby scored his fifth, Rodrigues his 14th and Brock McGinn his ninth as Pittsburgh scored three third-period goals to erase a 3-2 deficit.
Bryan Rust scored twice in Pittsburgh’s ninth straight win.
The Oilers lost for the 11th time in 13 games as Ilya Mikheyev (mih-KY’-ehv) scored the tiebreaking goal on a power play in the third period of the Leafs’ 4-2 verdict over Edmonton. John Tavares and T.J. Brodie also scored for Toronto, Alexander Kerfoot had a goal and an assist, and William Nylander had two assists. Jack Campbell handled 28 shots in helping the Maple Leafs improve to 20-4-1 in their last 25 games.
Oilers star McDavid placed on NHL’s COVID-19 protocol list
UNDATED (AP) — Edmonton captain and reigning league MVP Connor McDavid has been placed on on NHL’s COVID-19 protocol list. McDavid, forward Derek Ryan and defenseman Tyson Barrie went into protocols before the Oilers’ game Wednesday at Toronto. McDavid hadn’t missed any of Edmonton’s first 33 games.
While McDavid was out, the Stars and their captain Jamie Benn were getting ready for their first game since December 20. They host Florida on Thursday. Benn is among 11 Stars players who have been through COVID protocols since Dallas last played.
Also in the NHL:
— The NHL postponed three more games in Canadian cities because of the current attendance restrictions in some provinces. Games affected are New Jersey at Montreal on Saturday night, New Jersey at Toronto on Jan. 17 and Chicago at Edmonton on Jan. 18. They will be rescheduled for later in the season when such restrictions may be eased or lifted.
— Vancouver center Elias Pettersson was placed into the protocols Wednesday. He’s is the fifth Canucks player added to the protocols in a week, following Brock Boeser, Phillip Di Giuseppe, Justin Dowling and Jason Dickinson.
Djokovic held at Australian border over visa
UNDATED (AP) — Australian Open champion Novak Djokovic (NOH’-vak JOH’-kuh-vich) has been denied entry to Australia. His visa has been canceled by border authorities. Djokovic had to spend the night at the Melbourne airport after officials refused to let him enter the country for the Australian Open after an apparent visa mix-up. Australian media reported that Djokovic’s team had applied for the wrong type of visa for someone with a medical exemption.
IOC assures teams Winter Olympics in Beijing will go ahead
GENEVA (AP) — The International Olympic Committee has promised Olympic teams worldwide that the Winter Games in Beijing will go ahead as planned next month.
Beijing organizers and the IOC are creating a health safety bubble for the Olympics with stricter testing and limits on travel and movement than were enforced at last year’s Tokyo Games. The rules include a 21-day quarantine for athletes, officials and workers not fully vaccinated, daily testing even for vaccinated people and also keeping local staff within the bubble. International fans are again being kept away though tickets to attend events in stadiums will be sold to people living in China.
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