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#SportsReport: James Bails Out Cavs, Raptors Top Wizards In Playoffs

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NBA

LeBron James saved the Cleveland Cavaliers once again.

James nailed a 3-pointer at the buzzer to give the Cavs a 98-95 win over Indiana and a three-games-to-two lead in the NBA's Eastern Conference quarterfinals. The game-winning shot came after James blocked Victor Oladipo's possible go-ahead driving layup.

James also went 15-for-15 from the line and finished with 44 points, 10 rebounds and eight assists. Kyle Korver had 19 points for the Cavaliers, who lead the series for the first time.

Domantas Sabonis had a team-high 22 points for the Pacers, who will try to avoid elimination when they host Game 6 on Friday.

The top-seeded Rockets had no trouble closing out their Western Conference quarterfinal series in five games. Clint Capela's 26 points and 15 boards were among Houston's highlights in a 122-104 win over the Timberwolves.

James Harden scored half of Houston's 30 points in the third quarter, one game after providing 22 in Houston's 50-point third quarter in Game 4. Harden finished with 24 points for the Rockets, who opened the second half with a 10-2 run to erase a four-point, halftime lead.

Karl-Anthony Towns led the Timberwolves with 23 points and 14 rebounds.

The Rockets will face either Oklahoma City or Utah in the next round.

The Thunder stayed alive by erasing a 25-point deficit in the second half against the Jazz.

Russell Westbrook hit back-to-back 3-pointers to jumpstart Oklahoma City's comeback in a 107-99 win over Utah. The Jazz were ahead 71-46 with 8:34 left in the third quarter before Westbrook began to sizzle on his way to 45 points, 15 rebounds and seven assists.

Paul George had 34 points and eight rebounds as the Thunder pulled within three games to two in the Western Conference quarterfinals.

Jae Crowder had a career playoff-high 27 points for Utah, while Donovan Mitchell scored 23 points.

Game 6 is Friday in Salt Lake City.

The Toronto Raptors will go to Washington with a chance to advance to the Eastern Conference semifinals.

The Raptors have a three-games-to-two lead after DeMar DeRozan scored 32 points and Kyle Lowry had a double-double in a 108-98 victory over the Wizards.

Lowry had 17 points and 10 assists for the Raptors, who trailed 87-82 before going on a 17-6 run in the fourth quarter. Delon Wright contributed to the rally by scoring 11 of his 18 points in the final period.

Jonas Valanciunas chipped in 14 points and 13 boards for Toronto.

John Wall had 26 points and Bradley Beal added 20 for the Wizards, who host Game 6 on Friday.

Elsewhere in the NBA

The Atlanta Hawks and coach Mike Budenholzer have mutually agreed to part ways.

The decision comes two weeks after the Hawks completed a 24-58 season. They compiled the worst record in the Eastern Conference and tied for the third-worst in the NBA.

Budenholzer spent five seasons as head coach in Atlanta, going 213-197. He enjoyed his greatest success with the 2014-15 Hawks, who went 60-22 and reached the Eastern Conference finals before losing to the Cavaliers.

NHL

The third time was the charm for the Boston Bruins.

The Bruins are in the second round of the Stanley Cup playoffs after scoring four unanswered goals in a 7-4 win over the Maple Leafs. The B's dropped the previous two games and fell behind 4-3 on second-period goals by Travis Dermott and Kasperi Kapanen before earning the right to face the Lightning in the next round.

Jake DeBrusk put the Bruins ahead with his second goal of the night, beating Frederik Andersen 5:25 into the third period. David Pastrnak and Brad Marchand added insurance tallies to clinch the victory.

Elsewhere in the NHL:

The Pittsburgh Penguins will be without center Evgeni Malkin and forward Carl Hagelin when the two-time defending Stanley Cup champions open their Eastern Conference semifinal series Thursday night in Washington.

Malkin and Hagelin will be scratched from the lineup because of injuries.

Malkin missed Game 6 of Pittsburgh's opening-round win over Philadelphia with a lower-body injury suffered in Game 5. Hagelin is dealing with an upper-body injury.

NFL

Anyone who thinks the draft pundits and even some team general managers have no clue what will happen in Thursday’s opening round of the draft should talk to the guys likely to get selected early.

You won’t get much clarity. You will get the same shrugs, the same “it’s not in my control” replies.

And you can get some perspective, too.

“It’s not where or when you get drafted,” said Wyoming’s Josh Allen, one of four quarterbacks expected to be chosen in the top half-dozen or so spots. “It’s what you do after it. I can see myself in seven different uniforms; I had seven visits.”

Said UCLA’s Josh Rosen: “My game is not where or when I go, it’s to go to the right team. If you don’t think I’m right for your team, don’t draft me. I want to go somewhere I think I’ll do well, and if that team feels I will do well, pick me.”

That team could be Cleveland at the very top. It could be the New York clubs, the Giants at No. 2 and the Jets at No. 3. Maybe Denver at No. 5, or a team desperate to get in the QB derby that trades its way up.

There is more mystery to this draft than most, and the prospects recognize it. After they tossed footballs Wednesday with youngsters and participated in some modified drills with the kids as part of the NFL’s Play Football Clinic, many of the players projected as top 10 picks assessed what might happen at AT&T Stadium.

Well, they actually mostly laughed and joked about having no clue what will occur.

“There’s a lot of uncertainty going into tomorrow,” said Southern California’s Sam Darnold, another of the quarter of highly coveted passers. “So you have to be prepared for whatever happens. I’m looking to see who was right and who was wrong (among so-called draft experts). That’s fun.”

The fun begins at 8 p.m. Eastern with the Browns, coming off a spotless season — as in zero victories — having the first and fourth choices. Not picking Allen, Rosen, Darnold or Oklahoma’s Baker Mayfield to start things off would be a huge shock.

Both teams that call New Jersey home come next. The Giants have a franchise quarterback in Eli Manning, but he’s 37. Do they go for a young arm, or look at the players deemed the best overall talents on each side of the ball? That would be Penn State running back Saquon Barkley and North Carolina State defensive end Bradley Chubb.

“I try to keep a level head and not think about it,” said Chubb, who then admitted it would be “huge” if he went fourth to Cleveland and was paired up front with last year’s top overall pick, Myles Garrett. “People think this will happen and that will happen and nobody knows what will happen.”

Perhaps. But it’s a pretty safe bet the Jets will go for a QB after trading up from sixth overall to get Indianapolis’ No. 3 spot.

“It’s all about opportunity,” GM Mike Maccagnan said. “We felt good about where we were originally picking and then we made the trade and moved ourselves to position ourselves, in our mind, to be in a position to have a good option and a good choice with that spot.”

Denver is up fifth and recently signed free agent Case Keenum, whose best pro season helped Minnesota make the NFC title game. Having Keenum aboard doesn’t rule out GM John Elway — the first pick in the renowned 1983 draft that had six first-round QBs, three making the Hall of Fame — going for a signal caller.

“We’ve stacked them, got them in order, how we think they fit, who fits us and who doesn’t,” Elway said of the current quarterback crop. “We’ve been through that process. We do that process with every position. Where they fit into our football and are they a fit for us. Even as we stack the board, we stack them talent-wise, but also if they are a fit for us.”

How it all fits together makes for an intriguing spectacle, has sparked a cottage industry and has become a traveling road show.

So how will it all get going Thursday night?

“I haven’t paid attention to a lot of drafts,” Rosen said. “It just seems nobody knows what’s going on.”

MLB

Albert Pujols moved a little closer to a major milestone on Wednesday, but the Los Angeles Angels saw their team-record, 11-game road winning streak come to an end.

Pujols is within six hits of 3,000 after slamming his 619th home run in the Angels' 5-2 loss at Houston. The homer was one of very few mistakes made by Justin Verlander, who carried a no-hitter into the fifth and held Los Angeles to two runs and four hits over seven innings.

Jose Altuve finally hit his first homer of the season, Jake Marisnick went deep and Alex Bregman laced a three-run double as the Astros avoided a three-game sweep.

Checking other major league action:

The Red Sox's season-worst, three-game losing streak is over after Mookie Betts hit a leadoff homer and a go-ahead, two-run blast in the seventh inning of a 4-3 win at Toronto. Betts has six home runs and seven RBIs in his last seven games. Red Sox starter Eduardo Rodriguez is 3-0 after yielding three runs and six hits in 6 2/3 innings, his longest outing of the season.  The series ends tonight at 7:07 p.m.

Didi Gregorius hiked his major league-leading RBI total to 29 by homering for the fourth straight game and driving in a pair in the Yankees' fifth consecutive win, 7-4 against the Twins. Tyler Austin hit a three-run shot and made a sparkling defensive play at first base in helping New York deal Minnesota its sixth loss in a row.  The series continues today at 1:05 p.m.

The Phillies had dropped eight straight to the Diamondbacks until Aaron Altherr unloaded a go-ahead, three-run homer in the sixth inning of Philadelphia's 5-3 win against Arizona. Jake Arrieta improved to 3-0 in four starts since signing with the Phils last month, giving up one earned run and four hits over seven innings.

The Cardinals won for the ninth time in 11 games as Jedd Gyorko belted a two-run homer and Marcell Ozuna supplied a tiebreaking, two-run single to end a 1-for-24 skid and help St. Louis whip the Mets, 9-1. Michael Wacha gave up a run and five hits while fanning eight over six innings to win his fourth consecutive start.  The Mets will look to turn the series around today at 1:15 p.m.

Prized prospect Ronald Acuna Jr. singled and scored the tying run in the eighth inning of his big league debut to help the Braves down the Reds, 5-4. Johan Camargo drove in the lead run and provided two doubles and two RBIs.

The Rockies were 5-2 winners over San Diego as Jon Gray struck out 11 while yielding three hits over six shutout innings to break a personal three-game losing streak. David Dahl provided the key blow with a two-run triple while Colorado was scoring three times in the third inning to take a 4-0 lead.

Miguel Rojas smacked a three-run homer and J.T. Realmuto added a solo shot and three RBIs as the Marlins pulled out an 8-6 win over the Dodgers. Clayton Kershaw dropped to 1-4 by surrendering three runs on five hits and six walks over five innings.

Sixth-inning homers by Francisco Lindor and Edwin Encarnacion powered the Indians past the Cubs, 4-1. Losing pitcher Jon Lester allowed only one hit until Brandon Guyer's game-tying homer in the fifth inning.

Matt Adams went 3-for-5 with a three-run homer and six RBIs as the Nationals avoided a three-game sweep with a 15-2 dismantling of the Giants in San Francisco. Andrew Stevenson had four hits and four RBIs for the Nats, who scored at least twice in six innings. Trea Turner had five of the Nationals' season-high 18 hits to back Max Scherzer, who is 5-1 after allowing a pair of runs and five hits with 10 strikeouts over six innings.

The Brewers were 6-2 winners at Kansas City behind Jhoulys Chacin, who limited the Royals to two runs and four hits while working into the sixth inning. The Brewers scratched out four runs in the fourth inning en route to their eighth straight win, their best run in three years. Milwaukee's bullpen combined for 3 1/3 scoreless innings, running its streak to 28 straight.

Joey Wendle had three hits and two RBIs while the Rays pounded former teammate Alex Cobb in an 8-4 rout of the Orioles. Rays reliever Jonny Venters retired the only batter he faced in his first big league appearance since undergoing a third Tommy John surgery in 2014.

Isiah Kiner-Falefa hit a go-ahead single in the fifth inning and the Rangers' bullpen protected the lead in a 4-2 victory over the Athletics. Four Texas relievers worked 4 1/3 hitless innings to stop Oakland's four-game winning streak.

The Tigers won a slugfest in Pittsburgh as Nicholas Castellanos went 4-for-4 with a two-run homer and four RBIs in a 13-10 decision over the Pirates in Game 1 of a doubleheader. Miguel Cabrera had four hits and two RBIs for Detroit, which also got home runs from Leonys Martin, James McCann and Jeimer Candelario.

The Pirates bounced back to win the nightcap as Jose Osuna launched a three-run homer in the second inning to put the Bucs ahead to stay in an 8-3 romp over Detroit. Starling Marte drove in two runs and the Bucs received three shutout innings of relief after winning pitcher Chad Kuhl allowed three runs while fanning eight in six innings.

The White Sox are off to their worst 21-game start in 68 years after Mike Zunino, Nelson Cruz and Felix Hernandez led Seattle to a 4-3 victory in Chicago. Zunino homered, doubled and scored twice, while Cruz went 3-for-5 with a pair of RBI singles. Hernandez settled down after a two-run first and worked six innings as the Mariners dropped the White Sox to 5-16.

Elsewhere in the majors:

Indians relief ace Andrew Miller left Wednesday's game against the Cubs with left hamstring tightness. The left-hander fell behind 2-0 to Anthony Rizzo then grabbed his left leg and walked around the mound.

The Orioles have put infielder Tim Beckham on the 10-day disabled list with a left groin strain. As a corresponding move, the Orioles added infielder Jace Peterson to the 25-man roster for Wednesday night's game against Tampa Bay.

Rangers third baseman Adrian Beltre has been placed on the 10-day disabled list with a strained left hamstring. He is the third Texas starting infielder out with an injury.

Brewers first baseman Eric Thames will be out at least a couple of months after tearing the ulnar collateral ligament in his left thumb during Tuesday night's victory in Kansas City. He was placed on the disabled list and right-hander Brandon Woodruff was recalled from Triple-A Colorado Springs.

COLLEGE BASKETBALL

Loyola-Chicago has given basketball coach Porter Moser with a new contract through the 2025-26 season.  The deal is a reward after the Ramblers went 32-6 and won the Missouri Valley Conference tournament before reaching the NCAA Final Four last month. Moser is 121-111 in seven seasons at Loyola.

The NCAA Board of Governors has unanimously voted to endorse the recommendations of a panel proposing sweeping changes to college basketball to combat a corruption scandal.  That's according to Chairman Bud Peterson, the president at Georgia Tech.  In a 60-page report Wednesday, the independent commission, led by former Secretary of State Condoleezza Rice, recommended separating pro and college tracks, permitting players to return to school after going undrafted by the NBA and banning cheating coaches for life.

MICHIGAN STATE-ABUSE CLAIMS

Several dozen colleges have kept ties to an influential volleyball coach long after he was publicly accused of sexually abusing and raping underage girls who trained with him in the 1980s.

The coach's accusers have been pressing Michigan State University for months to sever all ties with Rick Butler. They say all schools have a moral obligation to end their relationships with him.

The campaign against Butler comes as Michigan State deals with questions about whether it could have done more to thwart Dr. Larry Nassar from abusing scores of young gymnasts over 20 years.

NASCAR

Matt Kenseth will return to NASCAR this season in a reunion with Roush Fenway Racing, the team that gave him his Cup start in 1998.

Kenseth will split the No. 6 Ford with Trevor Bayne, who has been the full-time driver of that car since 2015.

Kenseth won a Cup championship and two Daytona 500s driving for Roush Fenway.

© 2018 Associated Press.  All Rights Reserved.

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