The Brooklyn Nets weren't expected to battle for a playoff berth this year, yet they currently hold the sixth seed in the Eastern Conference after reaching the .500 mark for the first time this late in season since the end of the 2013-14 campaign.
The Nets survived James Harden's season-high 58-point performance and downed the Rockets, 145-142 in overtime at Houston. Spencer Dinwiddie scored 25 of his 33 points in the fourth quarter and overtime to propel Brooklyn to its 15th victory in 20 games since an 8-18 start. Dinwiddie hit the go-ahead basket with 28 seconds left after nailing three 3-pointers in the last 30 seconds of regulation. Harden set a season high for points for the second straight game, but he was just 5-for-19 from beyond the arc as Houston hit 23 3-pointers in an NBA-record 70 attempts.
Kyrie Irving's 27 points and 18 assists carried the Celtics past the Raptors, 117-108. Irving provided the go-ahead basket and followed that with a 31-foot, 3-pointer while Boston was closing on a 17-4 run to end a three-game skid. Kawhi Leonard scored 33 points in Toronto's first loss in six games.
Checking out Wednesday's other NBA action, the Bucks have the league's best record once again after Giannis Antetokounmpo furnished 27 points and 11 rebounds in Milwaukee's third straight win, 111-101 versus the Grizzlies. Eric Bledsoe added 16 points for the Bucks, who trailed by one in the third quarter before scoring 19 straight en route to their 14th win in 17 games. Milwaukee's 32-12 mark is 10 percentage points better than Toronto's.
Stephen Curry scored 41 points while the Warriors and Pelicans were combining to hit an NBA-record 43 3-pointers in Golden State's 147-140 victory over New Orleans. Curry drained nine treys to become the first player in league history to make eight or more in three straight games.
Jusuf Nurkic posted his first career triple-double with 10 points, 10 rebounds and 10 assists in the Trail Blazers' 129-112 romp over Cleveland. Damian Lillard supplied four of Portland's 16 3-pointers and finished with a game-high 33 points as the Blazers ended a two-game slide.
Davis Bertans hit a go-ahead 3-pointer with 1:41 left and finished with 12 points in the Spurs' 105-101 victory at Dallas. Marco Belinelli had a team-high 17 points for San Antonio, which trailed by 19 in the first half before moving into a virtual first-place tie with Houston in the Southwest Division.
The Jazz have a season-high five-game winning streak after Donovan Mitchell poured in 28 points and Jae Crowder added 23 in a 129-109 thrashing of the Clippers in Los Angeles. Rudy Gobert had 23 points and 22 rebounds, while Kyle Korver chipped in 19 points for Utah.
Blake Griffin scored 30 points and the Pistons won for just the third time in 11 games by outlasting the Magic, 120-115 in overtime. Andre Drummond contributed 14 points and 22 rebounds for the Pistons, who blew an 11-point lead in the fourth quarter before Drummond's tip-in forced OT.
In NBA news, Turkish prosecutors are seeking an international arrest warrant for New York Knicks center Enes Kanter, accusing him of membership in a terror organization. Sabah newspaper says prosecutors are seeking an Interpol "Red Notice" citing Kanter's ties to Fethullah Gulen, who is blamed for a failed coup in 2016. The paper says Kanter is accused of providing financial support to the group. Sabah says the Istanbul chief prosecutor's office had also prepared an extradition request for the NBA player. Officials at the prosecutor's office could not be reached for comment. Earlier this month, Kanter refused to travel to London for a regular-season NBA game, saying he feared he could be assassinated for his opposition to Turkish President Recep Tayyip Erdogan. Kanter's Turkish passport was revoked in 2017.
Lakers forward LeBron James has been cleared to practice once the team returns from its upcoming two-game road trip. James strained his groin on Christmas and will have missed 13 consecutive games by the time Los Angeles returns from the road this weekend. He will be sidelined for at least four weeks, the longest stretch he has been out in his 16-season NBA career.
In men's college basketball last night, UMass-Lowell took down UAlbany, 84-72. Vermont socked New Hampshire, 73-59. Tulsa beat UConn, 89-83, and Hartford edged Maine, 77-76.
In women's college basketball, UAlbany defeated UMass-Lowell, 63-56. Vermont beat New Hampshire, 69-60. UConn destroyed Tulane, 75-33. Hartford defeated Maine, 49-46, and Rider took down Iona, 66-58.
In top-25 basketball, Iowa State has ended a two-game losing streak that knocked them out of The Associated Press men's basketball poll this week. Marial Shayok scored 20 points and Michael Jacobson had a double-double as the Cyclones handed eighth-ranked Texas Tech its first Big 12 loss, 68-64. Jacobson finished with 14 points and 10 rebounds for Iowa State, which improved to 13-4 and matched its win total from last season. Nick Weiler-Babb and Lindell Winnington scored 11 points apiece for Texas Tech, including a bucket for each after the Red Raiders pulled even at 61-all with less than two minutes remaining. Tech is 15-2 overall and 4-1 in the conference, with the other loss coming against Duke.
Bryce Brown scored all but two of his 22 points by halftime to send 14th-ranked Auburn to an 85-66 victory at Texas A&M. Brown contributed 18 straight points for the Tigers, outscoring the Aggies 18-10 during that span to help Auburn grab a double-digit lead late in the first half.
Kansas State pulled off an upset at Oklahoma as Barry Brown scored 25 points and Dean Wade added 20 to help the Wildcats knock off the 20th-ranked Sooners, 74-61. Kansas State shot 50 percent in its second straight road win over a ranked team, four days after a victory at Iowa State.
Houston is 17-1 after Corey Davis Jr. dropped in 20 points to lead the 21st-rated Cougars past SMU, 69-58. Armoni Brooks hit five 3-pointers and scored 19 points to help Kelvin Sampson pick up his 600th career win.
Luka Garza matched a season-high 22 points and also grabbed 12 rebounds as No. 23 Iowa earned its fourth straight win, 89-82 against Penn State. Jordan Bohannon added 19 points and Ryan Kriener had 15 off the bench for the 15-3 Hawkeyes.
The Boston Bruins outshot Philadelphia 42-19 on Wednesday, but Sean Couturier's natural hat trick and Carter Hart's netminding allowed the Flyers to skate away with a victory. Couturier scored twice in the second period and delivered the eventual game-winner with 4:07 remaining in the Flyers' 4-3 comeback win against the Bruins. Boston went ahead 2-0 on goals by David Pastrnak and Peter Cehlarik during the first 9 ½ minutes, but Oskar Lindblom began the Flyers' rally later in the first period. Couturier's first career hat trick led the Flyers to their third win in four games since an eight-game skid. Cehlarik scored twice in his first NHL game of the season, but the Bruins remain tied with Montreal for third place in the Atlantic Division and one point behind Toronto.
Jack Eichel's 16th goal of the season came 70 seconds into overtime and completed the Sabres' 4-3 victory at Calgary. Johnny Gaudreau and Matthew Tkachuk scored for the Flames, who ended a five-game winning streak.
Elswhere on NHL ice, Calgary still leads the Pacific Division by two points over San Jose after the Coyotes put an end to the Sharks' seven-game winning streak, 6-3. Christian Fischer had a goal and an assist, and Richard Panik scored Arizona's 12th short-handed goal of the season to help Darcy Kuemper pick up his fourth consecutive victory.
Connor McDavid notched his 29th goal of the season and Alex Chiasson scored in the fifth round of a shootout to send the Oilers past the Canucks, 3-2. Mikko Koskinen made 20 saves and was perfect on Vancouver's shootout attempts.
Matt Duchene scored twice and had an assist in his first game against his former team, guiding Senators to a 5-2 win over the slumping Avalanche. Colorado lost for the 10th time in 12 games, failing to recover after Brady Tkachuk and Mark Stone scored 67 seconds apart to make it 2-0 early in the second period.
In NHL news, the NHL and the Players' Association have given up on the possibility of staging the next World Cup of Hockey in September 2020. The sides met Wednesday in Toronto to discuss the World Cup as part of collective bargaining talks after meeting last week in Las Vegas. Owners or players could choose this September to opt out of the current collective bargaining agreement and end it Sept. 15, 2020. The current CBA runs until 2022 unless one side chooses to terminate it early.
Canadiens forward Paul Byron has received a three-game suspension without pay from the NHL for charging Florida Panthers defenseman MacKenzie Weegar during Tuesday's game. Byron was assessed a minor penalty for charging in the second period of the Canadiens' 5-1 victory.
The Bills have re-signed veteran linebacker Lorenzo Alexander to a one-year contract, bringing him back to Buffalo for a fourth season The 12-year veteran said he wanted to play one more season and preferred it being in Buffalo. The Bills also re-signed offensive lineman Jeremiah Sirles to a one-year contract.
In other NFL news, the Pittsburgh Steelers are still waiting to hear from wide receiver Antonio Brown. Team president Art Rooney II says he's still not sure what led the perennial Pro Bowler to walk out on the team before the season finale. The Steelers benched Brown for their victory over Cincinnati, and he did not show up to clean out his locker after the team missed the playoffs. Rooney says the team has "left everything open" in regards to Brown's future.
Falcons defensive end Takk McKinley is with a family member in Oakland after undergoing a mental evaluation prompted by a friend's call to Los Angeles police. Falcons spokesman Brian Cearns told The Associated Press McKinley "is in a good spot" and has been in "constant communication" with the team, including coach Dan Quinn.
Oklahoma has found a replacement for reigning Heisman Trophy winner Kyler Murray. Jalen Hurts says he is leaving Alabama and transferring to Oklahoma, making the announcement in a story in the Players' Tribune. He will be available immediately as a graduate transfer. Hurts was a two-year starter who led Alabama to a pair of national championship games and was Southeastern Conference offensive player of the year as a freshman. Hurts left Alabama with 5,626 yards and 48 touchdowns passing and 1,976 yards and 23 touchdowns rushing.
Kansas City Royals pitcher Eric Skoglund has been suspended for the season's first 80 games after testing positive for two performance-enhancing substances. Royals general manager Dayton Moore says in a statement Skoglund "unknowingly made a mistake" and "we remain proud of who Eric is as a person and will support him as an organization." Skoglund was 1-6 with a 5.14 ERA last season, spending the first two months in the rotation and pitching well out of the bullpen in September after a sprained elbow sidelined him for three months.
In other baseball news, a person familiar with the negotiations tells The Associated Press the Diamondbacks have agreed to a one-year, $3.75 million contract with former Mets infielder Wilmer Flores. The deal includes a $6 million club option for 2020 with a $500,000 buyout. Flores played 83 of 126 games at first base last season, hitting .267 with 11 home runs and 51 RBIs.
Rangers right-hander Shawn Tolleson has retired after a setback from Tommy John surgery. Tolleson was the Rangers' former closer and made the last of his 215 major league appearances with the ballclub on July 27, 2016. He had 35 saves for the AL West champion Rangers in 2015.
Reds play-by-play broadcaster Marty Brennaman will retire after the 2019 season, his 46th in Cincinnati. The 76-year-old joined the Reds' radio team in 1974 and soon became known for his sign-off line after each win: "And this one belongs to the Reds." He and former Reds pitcher Joe Nuxhall shared the booth for 31 seasons from 1974-2004.
No. 17 Madison Keys is through to the third round of the Australian Open. The 2017 U.S. Open runner-up was a 6-3, 6-4 winner against Anastasia Potapova. Keys next faces No. 12 Elise Mertens, who won her second-round match in straight sets. Fourth seed Naomi Osaka dropped just six games in her second-round victory as she seeks her second straight Grand Slam singles title.
Unseeded American Madison Brengle had put herself in position to advance to the third round before Karolina Pliskova found her game. Brengle won her opening set before the seventh-seeded Czech rallied for a 4-6, 6-1, 6-0 victory. Pliskova is joined in the third round by sixth seed Elina Svitolina, who won in straight sets.
Kei Nishikori has moved into the third round on the men's side with a five-set win against Ivo Karlovic. Also advancing to Round 3 are 11th seed Borna Coric and No. 12 Fabio Fognini following straight-sets wins.
Muhammad Ali's Kentucky hometown will honor the late boxer by renaming its airport Louisville Muhammad Ali International Airport. The Louisville Regional Airport Authority's board has voted to change the name in honor of the three-time heavyweight champion.
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