76ers beat Celtics after losing Embiid
UNDATED (AP) — The Philadelphia 76ers announced bad news concerning their roster before creating good news for themselves in the NBA standings.
Josh Richardson scored 29 points and Ben Simmons had 19 as the Sixers downed the sputtering Celtics, 109-98. Boston got within a point before Furkan Korkmaz buried a 3 late in the fourth to put Philadelphia ahead, 91-87. Former Celtic Al Horford later converted a three-point play, and the 76ers took control with a 9-0 run.
Horford, Simmons and Mike Scott saw action at center in place of All-Star Joel Embiid (joh-EHL’ ehm-BEED’), who will have surgery Friday for a torn ligament in his left ring finger. Embiid injured the radial collateral ligament in the first half Monday night against Oklahoma City and will be evaluated in one to two weeks.
He is averaging 23.4 points and 12.3 rebounds in 31 games this season.
Checking out Thursday’s other NBA action:
— Russell Westbrook made his return to Oklahoma City and torched his old team for 34 points, but the Thunder routed the Rockets, 113-92. The two-time scoring champ and former MVP was greeted by cheers in his first game back since being traded to Houston last summer. Danilo Gallinari (dah-NIH’-loh gal-ih-NAH’-ree) led the Thunder with 23 points and 11 rebounds, while Shai Gilgeous-Alexander added 20 points.
— Andrew Wiggins contributed 23 points and Gorgui Dieng (GUR’-gee jehng) added 12 with 10 rebounds as the Timberwolves dumped the Trail Blazers, 116-102. Minnesota held Portland to 13 points in the second quarter and put together a 20-4 run to turn an eight-point deficit into a 46-38 lead in the period.
— Kevin Love made a tiebreaking 3-pointer with 37.9 seconds left in overtime and the Cavaliers snapped a five-game losing streak with a 115-112 victory over the Pistons. Tristan Thompson had 35 points and 14 rebounds for Cleveland, which trailed by 13 in the third quarter.
LeBron, Giannis among vote leaders
UNDATED (AP) — Lakers forward LeBron James is the current leader in fan voting for the NBA All-Star Game rosters, logging more than 3.3 million votes.
Bucks forward and reigning MVP Giannis Antetokounmpo (YAH’-nihs an-teh-toh-KOON’-poh) is the runaway leader among Eastern Conference players with over 3.2 million votes.
Lakers big man Anthony Davis and Dallas guard Luka Doncic (DAHN’-chihch) are the only other players with three million votes.
T25 MEN’S BASKETBALL-SCHEDULE
Gonzaga enjoys a laugher
UNDATED (AP) — Top-ranked Gonzaga was able to play a relaxed 40 minutes on Thursday following a pair of close calls against West Coast Conference foes.
Joel Ayayi provided 20 points and Filip Petrusev added 17 as the Bulldogs clobbered San Diego, 94-50. Admon Gilder scored 12 points and Corey Kispert had 10 for the 17-1 Zags, who have won nine straight since falling to Michigan on Nov. 29 in the Battle 4 Atlantis.
Gonzaga overwhelmed the smaller, slower Toreros with a flurry of slam dunks, 3-pointers and fast-break layups to take a 53-16 halftime lead.
In Thursday’s other top-25 finals:
— Cassius Winston scored 18 of his 27 points in the second half of Michigan State’s 74-58 win at Minnesota. Xavier Tillman finished with 19 points and a career-high 16 rebounds as the eighth-ranked Spartans picked up their eighth straight win since a 5-3 start.
— Will Richardson accounted for seven of Oregon’s eight points in overtime as the ninth-ranked Ducks held off No. 24 Arizona, 74-73. Richardson finished with 21 points and Payton Pritchard played all 45 minutes, finishing with 18 points, seven rebounds and six assists for the Ducks.
— Zavier Simpson scored 22 points and Jon Teske (TEHS’-kee) added 18 as the 19th-ranked Wolverines downed Purdue, 84-78 in double-overtime. Boilermakers’ sophomore Trevion Williams had career highs with 36 points and 20 rebounds but missed a shot to win at the regulation buzzer.
— Jamarius Burton scored 16 points and Erik Stevenson had 12 points for the Shockers in a 76-67 downing of No. 21 Memphis. The Tigers fell to 12-3 despite Precious Achiuwa’s 22 points and 12 rebounds.
Huskies lose Green
STANFORD, Calif. (AP) — Washington guard Quade Green has been ruled academically ineligible by the school and will miss the rest of the regular season.
Green will still be eligible to practice with the team and could return in late March should he regain his academic standing.
The loss of Green is a huge blow to Washington's NCAA Tournament hopes. He was averaging 11.6 points and led the team in assists while starting 14 of 15 games.
Thielen banged up heading into NFC divisional round
UPDATE (AP) — Adam Thielen (THEE’-lehn) had a terrific game against the New Orleans Saints last weekend, grabbing seven passes for 129 yards in the Minnesota Vikings’ 26-20 overtime win. There’s now a chance the Vikings could be without their top wide receiver for Saturday’s NFC divisional playoff game at San Francisco.
Thielen suffered a left ankle injury during practice Wednesday and was wearing a wrap on it Thursday. He declined to specify the nature or severity of the injury.
Thielen played in only eight full games during the regular season, limited by a hamstring injury he aggravated twice.
Minnesota wide receiver Stefon Diggs returned to practice Thursday after sitting out the previous two days because of illness.
In other NFL news:
— The Raiders signed offensive lineman Denzelle Good to a one-year contract extension. Good played 16 games this season for Oakland and started five, playing both left and right guard.
— Falcons tight end coach Mike Mularkey is retiring after 25 years in the league. The 58-year-old Mularkey was head coach of the Titans, Bills and Jaguars, compiling a 36-53 record in six seasons.
Leach leaves Cougars for Bulldogs
UNDATED (AP) — Mississippi State has hired Washington State's Mike Leach as its new head football coach, replacing Joe Moorhead.
Leach took over a program that had been mired in the Pac-12 basement and went to five straight bowl games, including a school-record 11 victories in 2018. He finished 55-47 in eight seasons with the Cougars and is 139-90 as a college coach for both Washington State and Texas Tech.
Moorhead was fired last week after going 14-12 in two years with the Bulldogs, including a 6-7 mark this season.
In other college football news:
— Missouri State says it is parting ways with head coach Dave Steckel, the former Missouri assistant whose teams won just 13 games in five seasons. School athletic director Kyle Moats announced in November that the university intended to honor Steckel's contract through the 2021 season.
— Tennessee offensive guard Trey Smith says he will return to school for his senior year. Smith made a successful comeback from a career-threatening medical issue to earn first-team, all-SEC honors this year.
— Offensive lineman Cade Mays is leaving Georgia and transferring to Tennessee, where his father, Kevin, was a team captain and all-SEC selection. Kevin Mays has filed a lawsuit against Georgia about two years after he lost part of his little finger after it was caught in a folding chair at a dinner for recruits at Sanford Stadium.
— Six bowl games this season saw their lowest attendance in history. Even though many bowls are played in half-empty stadiums, they aren't going away. The number of bowls will go from 39 this season to 42 next season. Average announced attendance for non-New Year's Six bowls was 34,500.
Bolts blank Coyotes to stretch win streak
UNDATED (AP) — The Tampa Bay Lightning were just four games over .500 following a 3-1 loss at Washington on Dec. 19. They haven’t lost since.
The Lightning’s winning streak is at nine games after Nikita Kucherov (KOO’-cheh-rahv) notched two goals and Andrei Vasilevskiy (AHN’-dray va-sih-LEHV’-skee) stopped 25 shots in a 4-0 shutout of the Coyotes. Kucherov scored twice in a 2:37 span of the second period to put the Bolts ahead by four. Both goals were assisted by Steven Stamkos.
Cedric Paquette and Pat Maroon set up first-period goals by Alex Killorn (kih-LOHRN’) and Mikhail Sergachev (SUR’-gah-SHEHV’) to support Vasilevskiy’s first shutout of the season and 19th of his career.
Tampa Bay is one win from tying the franchise record of 10 straight set last February.
Elsewhere on NHL ice:
— Alexander Steen had two goals and an assist in the Blues’ eighth straight home win over the Sabres, 5-1. Robert Thomas and Tyler Bozak each had a goal and two assists in support of Jordan Binnington’s 18-save effort.
— David Pastrnak (PAHS’-tur-nahk) ran his point streak to 12 games by registering his third hat trick this season and eighth of his career in leading the Bruins’ 5-4 verdict over the Jets. Jake DeBrusk provided Boston’s other goals and backup Jaroslav Halak (YAH’-roh-slahv hah-LAHK’) stopped 17 shots in the Bruins’ second straight win since a three-game skid.
— Tony DeAngelo recorded his first career hat trick and added two assists as the Rangers doubled up the Devils, 6-3. Igor Shesterkin made 46 saves in collecting his second NHL victory in as many starts.
— Noel Acciari (ah-CHAH’-ree) scored twice and Sergei Bobrovsky (boh-BRAHF’-skee) made 30 saves in his first start in three games to lift the Panthers over the Canucks 5-2. Mike Hoffman, Evgenii Dadonov (dah-DAH’-nahv) and Mark Pysyk (PEH’-sihk) also tallied for Florida.
— The Kings scored four times in the last 6:20 of the first period and coasted to a 5-2 win at Vegas. Jack Campbell stopped 43 shots and Adrian Kempe (KEHM’-peh) supplied a pair of goals as Los Angeles won for the first time in four games.
— Ben Bishop handled 27 shots and the Stars won their sixth in a row by blanking the Ducks, 3-0. Denis Gurianov, Alexander Radulov (RAD’-yoo-lahv) and Roope (ROO’-peh) Hintz provided the goals in Bishop’s 33rd career shutout.
— Pekka Rinne (PEH’-kuh REE’-nay) made 29 saves and scored an empty-net goal as the Predators picked up their first win in two games under new coach John Hynes, 5-2 at Chicago. The 37-year-old Rinne was mobbed by his teammates after his first goal and 14th career point in the NHL.
— Johnny Gaudreau's second-period goal was the winner in the Flames’ 2-1 win against the Wild. Derek Ryan also scored and Cam Talbot turned back 42 shots in Calgary’s fourth straight win.
— Kevin Lebanc had a goal and an assist as the Sharks downed the Blue Jackets, 3-1. Joe Thornton and Brent Burns also scored and Aaron Dell made 30 saves in San Jose’s fifth victory in 18 games.
— Ryan Nugent-Hopkins collected a goal and an assist while the Oilers were scoring three unanswered goals in the third period to rally past the Canadiens, 4-2. Alex Chiasson (CHAY’-sahn) snapped a 2-2 deadlock midway through the final stanza to help Edmonton deal Montreal its eighth consecutive loss.
SAN JOSE, Calif. (AP) — San Jose Sharks captain and leading scorer Logan Couture (kuh-CHUR') will miss about six weeks after breaking his left ankle when he crashed into the boards during Tuesday’s 3-2 loss at St. Louis.
Couture collided with Blues defenseman Vince Dunn, causing him to slam into the boards.
The 30-year-old forward has scored 14 goals and 36 points in 45 games this season.
Encarnación, White Sox finalize pact
UNDATED (AP) — The Chicago White Sox and slugger Edwin Encarnación (ehn-kar-nah-see-OHN') have finalized their one-year, $12 million contract, a deal that includes a $12 million team option for 2021.
The 37-year-old Encarnación batted .249 with 34 home runs and 86 RBIs in 109 games for the Mariners and Yankees last season. The three-time All-Star has belted 297 home runs and driven in 850 runs since 2012.
In other baseball news:
— The Diamondbacks have finalized a one-year, $3 million deal with relief pitcher Héctor Rondón, who was 3-2 with a 3.71 ERA in 62 appearances for the Astros last season.
— Catcher Francisco Cervelli has finalized a one-year, $2 million contract with the Marlins to provide depth behind Jorge Alfaro. Cervelli was a part-time backstop for the Pirates and Braves last year, hitting .213 with three homers and 12 RBIs in 48 games.
— The Rangers have offered minor league contracts to right-hander Luís Garcia and former major league outfielder-turned pitcher James Jones.
Morikawa has clubhouse lead
HONOLULU (AP) — Collin Morikawa was the clubhouse leader when the first round of the PGA’s Sony Open was suspended by darkness.
Morikawa got through the relentless 30 mph wind without a bogey for a 5-under 65 and a two-shot lead over Matt Jones, Ted Potter Jr., Ryan Palmer and Sam Ryder.
Justin Thomas struggled early in the wind and had to keep it together for a 72.
Fourteen players will have to complete their opening rounds on Friday.
Russian doping ban heads to sport's highest court
UNDATED (AP) — Russia's four-year Olympic ban for manipulating doping data is heading to sport's highest court.
The World Anti-Doping Agency says it has formally referred the case to the Court of Arbitration for Sport after Russia confirmed last month it will appeal the sanction.
WADA (WAH’-dah) imposed a package of sanctions including banning Russia's name and flag from the Olympics and world championship events in various sports over four years.
In other Olympic news:
— The International Olympic Committee published guidelines Thursday specifying which types of athlete protests will not be allowed at the 2020 Tokyo Games. Rules will ban taking a knee, giving hand gestures with political meaning or showing disrespect at medal ceremonies. Athletes are prohibited from taking a political stand in the field of play. IOC President Thomas Bach added his support for the guidelines Friday, saying the Olympics “are not and must never be a platform to advance political or any other divisive ends.”