#SportsReport: Devils defeat Sabres; Panthers outscore Rangers
The Phoenix Suns have returned to their winning ways, with a 115-97 victory over the Oklahoma City Thunder.
The Suns rebounded from home losses to Golden State and Memphis to pull even with the Warriors atop the league standings at 27-7.
Devin Booker scored 38 points for Phoenix to surpass 10,000 for his career.
Both teams were without several key players and their head coaches on the COVID protocols list.
Elsewhere in the NBA:
Rudy Gobert had 22 points and 14 rebounds, and the Utah Jazz beat the Portland Trail Blazers 120-105 with star Donovan Mitchell out with a sore back. Utah’s dominance started on the inside and continued all night long, outscoring Portland 74-30 in the paint.
Eric Bledsoe scored 10 of his 17 points in the fourth quarter, hitting a key 3-pointer down the stretch, to help the Los Angeles Clippers beat the Boston Celtics 91-82. Marcus Morris had 23 points and 10 rebounds to lead the Clippers.
The Memphis Grizzlies overcame a 14-point second-half deficit to beat the Los Angeles Lakers 104-99. Ja Morant had a big night scoring 41 points to lead Memphis. LeBron James led Los Angeles with 37 points — a day short of his 38th birthday — while Russell Westbrook had a triple-double in the loss.
Zach LaVine scored 25 points and the Chicago Bulls beat the Atlanta Hawks for the second time in three nights, 131-117. The Bulls extended their winning streak to a season-high five games. The Hawks are missing 15 players due to the NBA’s health and safety protocols and injuries.
Alec Burks scored a season-high 34 points to lead a huge night from New York’s bench and the Knicks beat the short-handed Detroit Pistons 94-85. The Knicks’ reserves combined for 65 points.
Terry Rozier scored a season-high 35 points, LaMelo Ball added 21 points and 12 rebounds, and the Charlotte Hornets beat the Indiana Pacers 116-108. Ball also had nine assists, falling just short of his third triple-double this season as the Hornets won their third straight.
The Sacramento Kings scored a 95-94 victory over the Dallas Mavericks in the opener of a two-game set between the teams. Chimezie Met made a corner 3-pointer at the buzzer for the win.
Zach Edey scored 21 points, Jaden Ivey added 19 and No. 3 Purdue beat Nicholls State 104-90.
Purdue shot 57.4% and cracked 100 points for the first time this season. The 7-foot-4 Edey made 7 of 8 shots and 7 of 9 free throws. Ivey was 5-for-9 from the field.
In other top 25 men’s college basketball:
Christian Braun scored 22 points, Ochai Agbaji added 16 and sixth-ranked Kansas rolled to a 88-61 victory over Nevada. The Jayhawks were supposed to play Harvard before an outbreak forced the Crimson to cancel the trip early this week. The Wolf Pack stepped in when their Mountain West opener against San Jose State had to be postponed because of positive tests within the Spartans’ program.
Gabe Brown scored a career high 24 points, as short-handed No. 10 Michigan State pulled away in the second half to beat scrappy High Point, 81-68.
Walker Kessler had 16 points, a career-high 11 blocked shots and nine rebounds to lead No. 11 Auburn to a 70-55 victory over previously unbeaten No. 16 LSU in the Southeastern Conference opener for both teams. Auburn has won nine straight.
No. 19 Alabama beat 14th-ranked Tennessee 73-68 in the SEC opener for both teams. Jahvon Quinerly scored 18 points and Noah Gurley added a season-high 15 for Alabama.
No. 21 Providence topped 15th-ranked Seton Hall 70-65. Noah Horchler scored 17 points with 13 rebounds, and 6-foot-10 center Nate Watson added 14 points, becoming the 18th player in Providence history to reach 1,500 points. Seton Hall had only eight players in uniform, with five in COVID-19 protocols.
No. 18 Kentucky overcame an uneven second half to roll past Missouri 83-56 in the Southeastern Conference opener for both schools. Keion Brooks Jr. scored 17 points, TyTy Washington Jr added 14 for the Wildcats. Missouri was playing without head coach Cuonzo Martin, out with COVID.
No. 24 Wisconsin struggled to put away Illinois State, winning 89-85 in its first game after a two-week break because of COVID-19. Steven Crowl had 21 points and nine rebounds, while Johnny Davis, the Badgers’ leading scorer, had 20 points and 11 rebounds.
MacKenzie Weegar, Carter Verhaeghe and Anthony Duclair scored in the third period to rally the Florida Panthers past the New York Rangers 4-3.
Duclair blocked a shot in the Panthers end then joined the rush the other way to score what ultimately proved the game-winner.
Chris Kreider got the Rangers back within one with 45 seconds to go, after New York pulled Shesterkin for an extra attacker. But they couldn't get the equalizer.
It was the Panthers’ first game in 13 days and the Rangers’ first in 12 following the NHL’s extended Christmas break because of rising COVID-19 cases.
In other NHL action:
The Vancouver Canucks beat the Anaheim Ducks 2-1 for their seventh straight win since Bruce Boudreau took over behind the bench. Boudreau is the third coach in NHL history to start 7-0 with a new team. J.T. Miller scored 26 seconds into overtime on a breakaway.
Evgeny Kuznetsov scored a late short-handed goal in his return from an 18-day absence to put the Washington Capitals ahead for good in a 5-3 victory over the Nashville Predators. Kuznetsov’s wrist shot from a tight angle helped the Capitals beat the Predators for the first time in nine games.
Vladimir Tarasenko had a goal and two assists as the St. Louis Blues beat the Edmonton Oilers 4-2. Brandon Saad, Robert Thomas and Jordan Kyrou also scored for the Blues, while Jordan Binnington made 26 saves in his second start since being activated off the COVID-19 list.
Ivan Provorov scored 2:14 into overtime and the Philadelphia Flyers beat the Seattle Kraken 3-2. James van Riemsdyk’s second goal of the game with 5:13 left in regulation pulled the Flyers even at 2.
Jack Hughes and Jesper Bratt each had a goal and two assists to help the New Jersey Devils end their six-game losing streak with a 4-3 win against the Buffalo Sabres. It was the first game in 12 days for the Sabres after four straight postponements. They were still without six players and head coach Don Granato.
The NHL is following other leagues and the CDC by cutting COVID-19 isolation times to five days under certain conditions and where it is allowed by local laws. The change applies only in the U.S. because of stricter pandemic regulations in Canada.
JUNIOR HOCKEY CHAMPIONSHIP:
The remainder of the world junior hockey championship in Canada has been canceled after a few positive tests prompted fears of a COVID-19 outbreak.
The top tournament in the world for players under age 20 had completed nine games in Edmonton and Red Deer, Alberta. But positive coronavirus test results among U.S. and Czech players had led to two games being forfeited, and another was imminent with Russia.
Citing the spread of the coronavirus and the omicron variant, the International Ice Hockey Federation’s council determined the integrity of the event had been compromised by the forfeits.
Kennedy Brooks ran for 142 yards and three touchdowns as No. 14 Oklahoma rode a dominant first half to beat No. 15 Oregon 47-32 in the Alamo Bowl.
Caleb Williams threw three touchdown passes and the Sooners gave interim coach Bob Stoops career win No. 191 and a special family moment when he hugged son Drake, an Oklahoma wide receiver, after a first-half touchdown.
Oregon rallied with three touchdowns in the third quarter but couldn’t stop the Sooners’ offense late.
In other college football bowl games:
No. 19 Clemson beat Iowa State 20-13 in the Cheez-It Bowl for coach Dabo Swinney’s 150th victory. D.J. Uiagalelei completed 21 of 32 passes for 187 yards and Mario Goodrich scored on an 18-yard interception return, while Will Shipley had a 12-yard touchdown run and finished with 61 yards rushing and 53 yards receiving for Clemson.
Taulia Tagovailoa threw touchdown passes of 70 and 32 yards to Darryl Jones, and Maryland routed Virginia Tech 54-10 in the Pinstripe Bowl at Yankee Stadium. Tagovailoa was named the game’s MVP, finishing with 265 yards passing and his 26 touchdown passes this season tied the Maryland single-season record.
Carolina Panthers coach Matt Rhule says Sam Darnold will start at quarterback on Sunday against the New Orleans Saints instead of 2015 league MVP Cam Newton.
Newton is 0-5 as Carolina’s starting quarterback this year and has lost 13 straight starts as the Panthers starting QB dating back to the 2018 season.
Darnold started the season 3-0 but has a 1-5 record in his last six starts. He led the Panthers to a 26-7 win over the Saints in Week 2, completing 26 of 38 passes for 305 yards with two touchdowns and one interception.
In other NFL news:
49ers quarterback Jimmy Garoppolo won’t need surgery on his injured right thumb despite a chip of the bone and a torn ligament. It remains unclear if he will be able to start this week against Houston, when they have a chance to clinch a playoff spot. Garoppolo played through the injury during a loss last Thursday and says he knows what the pain feels like. He says it comes down to “being confident” and able to do what he normally does with the football.
Baltimore Ravens quarterback Lamar Jackson was limited at practice Wednesday, but that’s a step in the right direction after he missed two straight games with an ankle injury. Tyler Huntley, who played two weekends ago in Jackson’s place but missed last weekend’s game after landing on the COVID-19 list, is still on that list. But, he’s expected back soon.
The Denver Broncos are preparing for quarterback Drew Lock to make his second straight start in place of Teddy Bridgewater when the Broncos visit the Chargers. Coach Vic Fangio says Bridgewater remains in concussion protocol.
Chicago Bears quarterback Justin Fields was feeling good enough to practice after missing a game because of an ankle injury. His status for Sunday remains unclear.
New York Jets coach Robert Saleh has cleared COVID-19 protocols and returned to run practice for the first time since testing positive for the coronavirus. The Jets also got nine players back from the COVID-19 list. Buffalo also had a few key players activated, including two of their top wide receivers in Cole Beasley and Gabriel Davis. Other star players returning are Minnesota running back Dalvin Cook, Kansas City tight end Travis Kelce, New Orleans quarterback Taysom Hill, Houston wide receiver Brandin Cooks and Chargers linebacker Joey Bosa.
AP FEMALE ATHLETE OF THE YEAR:
Candace Parker staved off Father Time to help the Chicago Sky win the franchise’s first WNBA championship and capped off 2021 by being named The Associated Press’ Female Athlete of the Year for a second time.
Parker also won the AP award her rookie year with the Los Angeles Sparks in 2008, when she was honored as the WNBA’s MVP and top rookie. She helped Tennessee win the national championship that year.
The 35-year-old Parker is now a working mom in the twilight of her playing career who also is a basketball analyst for TNT.
Kyle Seager has announced his retirement after 11 seasons in the majors, all with the Seattle Mariners.
The 34-year-old free agent chose to call it a career rather than test the open market amid the uncertainty created by the ongoing lockout. Seager’s retirement is a bit surprising considering he’s coming off one of the best seasons of his career. He hit a career-high 35 home runs and had a career-best 101 RBIs last season.
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