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Wilson, Seahawks close in on NFC West title

Sun, 12/21/2014 - 8:53pm

GLENDALE, Ariz. (AP) Seattle's defense was stifling as usual and its offense had a record-breaking eruption against a defense that's supposed to be one of the NFL's best.

That team from the Pacific Northwest sure looked a lot like the Super Bowl champs of last season in its 35-6 victory over the Arizona Cardinals on Sunday night.

"I think it feels better than last year," Seattle defensive end Michael Bennett said.

Russell Wilson threw for two touchdowns and ran for another and the Seahawks amassed a franchise-record 596 yards to close in on another NFC West title and the No. 1 seed in the conference.

"That's about as much fun as you can have playing NFL football in the regular season," Seahawks coach Pete Carroll said.

Seattle (11-4) moved into a tie with Arizona (11-4) for first in the NFC West and holds the tiebreaker by virtue of two wins over the Cardinals.

A Seattle win at home over St. Louis in next weekend's regular-season finale would clinch the NFC's No. 1 seed in the NFC. That would have the Seahawks at home throughout the playoffs, until they'd come back to this same Arizona stadium for the Super Bowl.

"They're playing awesome football," Cardinals cornerback Patrick Peterson said. "You can't taking nothing away from that ballclub. They have a championship pedigree, what it takes to win on the road, what it takes to win the division. Obviously, it's not over yet, but they're one step closer."

Arizona's only remaining hope of winning the division is to have the Seahawks lose to the Rams and the Cardinals win at San Francisco. Otherwise, Arizona will be relegated to a wild-card spot and a first-round game on the road. The Cardinals would have clinched the No. 1 seed in the conference with a victory.

Instead, the Cardinals suffered their most one-sided loss of the season and their only one at home in eight games.

Wilson had the longest run of his career (55 yards) and matched the longest pass of his career (80) in the Seahawks' fifth straight victory.

Marshawn Lynch sat out the first quarter with what the team called an "upset stomach," then came in to score on a 6-yard run in the second quarter and a spectacular, multiple tackle-breaking 79-yard scoring run in Seattle's 21-point fourth quarter.

After his long run, Lynch spun around in the air and grabbed his crotch facing the field before falling to the turf.

The Cardinals had their most one-sided loss of the season and their only one at home in eight games.

Third-string quarterback Ryan Lindley, pressed into action with an injury to Drew Stanton in the previous game, was 18 for 44 for 216 yards and an interception against a Seattle defense that ranks No. 1 in the NFL and has allowed 33 points in its last five games.

"He needed more help," coach Bruce Arians said. "He didn't jump offsides on third-and-goal, that's for sure. Points were going to be a premium for us. Overall, he threw about how we expected him to do."

Wilson completed 20 of 31 for 339 yards, including touchdown passes of 80 and 20 yards to tight end Luke Willson. Lynch gained 113 yards on 10 carries, and Wilson ran for 88 yards in six attempts.

The blowout would have been worse had Steven Hauschka not missed three field goals.

Wilson's 55-yard run on the final play of the first quarter moved the Seahawks past midfield, but Seattle stalled and Hausschka's 52-yard field goal was wide right.

Arizona took over at its 42 and, with the help of two Seattle penalties and Arizona moved in to get Catanzaro's first field goal and lead 3-0.

On the second play after Arizona's kickoff, Willson got behind the Cardinals' defense, Wilson lofted the ball in perfectly and the 80-yard touchdown play put Seattle up 7-3 with 7:03 to play in the half.

Another scramble, of 22 yards, helped set up Lynch's 6-yard touchdown run that made it 14-3 3:41 before the half.

It stayed 14-3 until the fourth quarter, when the bottom fell out for the Cardinals in what had been termed the biggest regular-season game in franchise history.

Then the three late TDs made it a blowout.

Notes: The Seahawks have allowed a combined 33 points in their five-game winning streak. ... Seattle's previous total yards record was 591 at San Diego on Dec. 29, 2002. ... The Cardinals hope to have Stanton back for their playoff opener. .... The Cardinals are 13-3 at home in Arians' two seasons, and two of the losses were to Seattle. ... All 18 points in Arizona's last two games came by field goal.

LeBron scores 25 as Cavaliers tame Grizzlies 105-91

Sun, 12/21/2014 - 8:36pm

CLEVELAND (AP) LeBron James and Kyrie Irving stepped aside and let one of their teammates polish off an opponent.

On Sunday, Dion Waiters finished Memphis.

Waiters scored 13 of his 21 points in the fourth quarter as the Cleveland Cavaliers handled one of the Western Conference's best teams, beating the short-handed Grizzlies 105-91.

The Cavs have been waiting for the enigmatic and inconsistent Waiters to become more reliable. It's still a work in progress but Waiters, who has frequently been mentioned in trade rumors over the past two seasons, is showing signs of developing into a steady scorer off the bench.

"He's learning every day," said James, who had 25 points and 11 assists. "He's a young guy. He hasn't experienced much in this league, so for him to have a game like he had, we needed it."

James scored 16 in the second half and the Cavs shot a season-best 61 percent from the field to improve to just 3-6 against West teams. Anderson Varejao scored 18 and Irving had 17 points and 12 assists for the Cavs, who are 11-3 since their sluggish 5-7 start.

Marc Gasol scored 23 and added 11 rebounds for the Grizzlies, who played without forward Zach Randolph. He's nursing a sore and swollen right knee he injured in Friday's loss at Chicago.

Jon Leuer added 16 points for Memphis, which dropped to 21-6.

Gasol refused to use Randolph's absence as an excuse.

"We play who we have," he said. "Whoever's not here is not here. Trust me, we have enough talent in this locker room not just to win tonight but to win the same amount of games we've won so far."

Despite not having Randolph, their leading rebounder, Grizzlies were still within 79-74 when the Cavs went on an 8-0 run to take control. Irving triggered the spurt with a basket before Waiters, who was benched in the second half of a win over Brooklyn on Friday, fed James for an alley-oop dunk. Waiters then drained a 3-pointer to cap an 11-3 run, and the backup guard scored eight consecutive points to push Cleveland's lead to 100-83.

Waiters scored 11 points in a span of 2:10, assuming the closer role usually played by James and Irving.

"When it's not one of those guys nights, somebody's got to step up and my approach every game is to be locked in as far as being consistent and being aggressive at all times, that's just who I am," Waiters said. "I just try to let the game come to me now. I just take what they give me."

Cavs coach David Blatt said his team would need to "bring it" to match the Grizzlies' physicality. Cleveland brought it, building a 20-6 lead in the first quarter, helped by Gasol going to the bench after picking up his second personal. The Grizzlies, though, battled back and were only down 11 at halftime.

Grizzlies: An MRI taken Saturday on Randolph did not show any structural damage but the Grizzlies are going to be extra cautious with him as he's likely to sit out Monday against Utah. "He's a warrior and I just thought taking a night off isn't the worst thing in the world," said coach David Joerger. "A game or two can help you over the long haul." ... G Tony Allen missed his third straight game with a scratched cornea. ... Leuer's start was first since he was a rookie in 2011-12 for Milwaukee.

Cavaliers: Cleveland has won eight of nine at home. .. The Cavs are 9-2 when James has at least nine assists. ... Irving shot 8 for 13. He came in shooting just 37 percent (30 of 81) in his previous five games, but Cavs coach David Blatt isn't worried about his point guard's slump lingering. "Guys go through periods like that," Blatt said. ... During a timeout, F Mike Miller's various hairstyles - long, high and tight and a mullet - were shown on the giant scoreboard, prompting James to turn to his teammate and say, "That's (messed) up, man."

PROTEST: During the game several dozen demonstrators gathered outside Quicken Loans Arena to protest the recent death of 12-year-old Tamir Rice, who was shot and killed by a Cleveland police officer while carrying a toy gun. The group walked to the steps of the building where they were met by about 30 uniformed officers.

Grizzlies: Host Utah on Monday.

Cavaliers: Host Minnesota on Tuesday.

AFC South champion Colts lose 42-7 at Cowboys

Sun, 12/21/2014 - 6:25pm

ARLINGTON, Texas (AP) So much for Andrew Luck and the AFC South champion Indianapolis Colts building some momentum for the playoffs.

At least they avoided their first shutout in 21 years, long after Luck took his last snap Sunday against the Dallas Cowboys.

Tony Romo threw four touchdowns, one immediately after Dewey McDonald flubbed a perfectly thrown pass on a fake punt by the Colts, and Dallas clinched its first NFC East title in five seasons with a 42-7 victory.

"We will find a way to get these things fixed. If we play the way we did tonight, we can't expect to do anything down the road," coach Chuck Pagano said. "It's the National Football League. It's a tough business. It's not for everybody. That's why we don't get discouraged. Disappointed, yeah, but discouraged? Never."

Indianapolis (10-5), held to a season low in points and yards for the second week in a row, has one game left to get back on track before going straight into the playoffs without a first-round bye.

"I'm thinking about Tennessee first," Luck said. "We've got to fix this game and focus on Tennessee, and then we can worry about the playoffs."

Things went awry in a hurry for Indianapolis, with Dallas opening the game with a 15-play touchdown drive that took nearly 8 1/2 minutes and the Colts failing to get a first down on three rushing plays. When punter Pat McAfee saw McDonald uncovered on the outside, he threw a lofting pass. McDonald just flat out missed what would have been an easy first down.

Romo threw his own perfect pass on the very next play, a 19-yard touchdown to Dez Bryant to give Dallas (11-4) a 14-0 lead.

"A lot of these are self-inflicted wounds," said safety Mike Adams, who was then asked if the Colts are ready for the playoffs. "We have no choice but to be ready. After this performance, it's hard to say. ... The most dangerous team going into the tournament is the wounded team, and that's us right now."

After Romo surpassed Hall of Fame quarterback Troy Aikman as the Cowboys' career passing leader with a 25-yard TD to Jason Witten for a 35-0 lead with 4:41 left in the third quarter, Luck gave way to backup Matt Hasselbeck.

The Colts, with only 1 yard rushing among their 229 total yards, finally scored on Hasselbeck's 1-yard TD pass to Zurlon Tipton after a pass interference call in the end zone wiped out a Dallas interception on a fourth-and-10 play.

Hasselbeck, who finished 15 for 21 for 126 yards, appeared to have another touchdown. But tight end Jack Doyle - almost fittingly - dropped the ball in the end zone with 22 seconds left.

There were other drops, and Luck (15 of 22 for 109 yards) had interceptions just before and right after halftime. But the tone was set on that failed fake in the first quarter.

"I took my eyes off of it for just a split second," said McDonald, whose flub came right in front of the Colts' bench.

"We've been practicing that play for a long, long time and executed extremely well during practice,," Pagano said. "They gave us an opportunity for that play to be there, and we didn't execute it."

With a home playoff game already in hand, Indianapolis sat receiver T.Y. Hilton (groin injury) and right tackle Gosder Cherilus.

NFL rushing leader DeMarco Murray played with a broken left hand, but the Cowboys didn't need much from him. He finished with 58 yards, with a 1-yard score.

Romo, in his eighth full season, was 18 for 20 for 218 yards to put him at 32,971 for his career, 29 more than Aikman, a three-time Super Bowl winner.

"For us to get the W and Tony to break the record, that's a great accomplishment," Bryant said. "He's a warrior. Today he was on fire. He was on fire."

Notes: By avoiding the shutout, Indianapolis has scored in 336 consecutive games since a 38-0 loss at New England on Dec. 26, 1993. That is the second-longest active scoring streak behind Denver's 355 games. ... Colts TE Dwayne Allen had a pair of drops on passes that should have gained first downs before leaving with a knee injury. ... A holding penalty stalled a drive after Indianapolis finally got a first down with six minutes left in the first half.

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AP NFL website: www.pro32.ap.org and www.twitter.com/AP-NFL

Steelers, Packers win, move into playoffs

Sun, 12/21/2014 - 5:55pm

The Pittsburgh Steelers and Green Bay Packers both qualified for the NFL playoffs with wins Sunday. Next week, they will play for division titles at home.

Dallas clinched the NFC East with a rout of Indianapolis, ending any chance for Philadelphia to make the postseason.

The Steelers (10-5) beat Kansas City 20-12 to secure at least a wild-card berth. They will win the AFC North by defeating Cincinnati next Sunday. The Bengals (9-4-1) host Denver (11-3) on Monday night.

"It was such a sense of urgency this week, knowing what was at stake. I just thought we answered the challenge," said Pittsburgh defensive end Cam Heyward.

Green Bay topped Tampa Bay 20-3 and heads to Lambeau Field for next Sunday's showdown with Detroit for the NFC North crown. Both are 11-4 after the Lions won 20-14 at Chicago.

"We've won six out of seven games, so I'd like to classify that as playing a lot of solid football, that's for sure," said Packers coach Mike McCarthy.

With their wins in Week 16, the Falcons (6-9) and Panthers (6-8-1) set up a winner-take-all game for the NFC South next Sunday at Atlanta. Carolina beat Cleveland 17-13, and Atlanta defeated New Orleans 30-14.

"Now it all comes down to one game and that's all we can ask for is to be in that situation," Panthers coach Ron Rivera said.

New England earned an AFC first-round bye with its 17-16 victory at the New York Jets. It will get home-field advantage throughout the AFC playoffs by beating Buffalo next week at home.

The Patriots are the first team since the current format was adopted in 1990 to get five straight first-round byes.

"I'm glad it came out the way it did - makes for a better Christmas," Tom Brady said.

Still alive in the AFC are Baltimore (9-6), whose loss to Houston (8-7) also kept the Texans in contention; Kansas City (8-7); and San Diego (9-6), which won Saturday night at San Francisco. The Chargers will be in if they win at Kansas City next weekend.

Buffalo (8-7) lost all chance of ending its NFL-high string of non-playoff appearances, now at 15, by falling at Oakland 26-24.

The NFC is less muddled. Dallas (11-4) has a two-game lead over Philly (9-6) after routing AFC South champion Indianapolis 42-7.

"In so many ways, this is such a long journey and to get to a point to achieve your first goal of winning the division title, a lot goes into that," said Dallas coach Jason Garrett, in his fourth full season. "I think the way you play in securing that matters, and I thought we played really, really well."

Arizona (11-3) already is in heading into the Sunday night game against Seattle. The Seahawks qualified when Dallas won and Philadelphia lost.

The Cardinals will take the NFC West with a victory in prime time. That would also give Arizona home-field advantage throughout the conference playoffs.

And remember, the Super Bowl will be played in the Cardinals' stadium Feb. 1.

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AP NFL website: www.pro32.ap.org and www.twitter.com/AP-NFL

QB Jameis Winston cleared in conduct hearing

Sun, 12/21/2014 - 4:54pm

TALLAHASSEE, Fla. (AP) Florida State quarterback Jameis Winston was cleared Sunday of the accusations he faced at a student code of conduct hearing involving an alleged sexual assault two years ago.

Former Florida Supreme Court Justice Major Harding wrote in a letter to Winston that the evidence was "insufficient to satisfy the burden of proof." Prosecutor Willie Meggs made a similar decision a year ago when he decided not to criminally charge Winston, citing a lack of evidence.

This month, a two-day hearing was held to determine whether Winston violated four sections of the code of conduct - two for sexual misconduct and two for endangerment.

The ramifications for Winston ranged from a reprimand to expulsion from school.

The woman can request an appeal within five days.

"We will consider an appeal but right now we feel a little duped," Baine Kerr, one of the woman's lawyers, said in an emailed statement. "At some point we have to recognize that Florida State is never going to hold James Winston responsible."

AP is not identifying the woman because it does not identify people who say they are victims of sexual abuse.

"Somehow Jameis Winston still wins," Kerr said. "The order doesn't even follow the Student Conduct Code and it ignores the bulk of the evidence."

Kerr said that between his client, Winston, and two teammates that were at the off-campus apartment - Chris Casher and Ronald Darby - only the woman would answer questions about what happened.

Winston did submit a lengthy statement detailing his version of events.

Florida State president John Thrasher said the university selected the former state Supreme Court justice to remove any doubt about the integrity of the process.

"He (Harding) conducted a thorough Student Conduct Code hearing and reviewed more than 1,000 pages of evidence generated by three other investigations, and we would like to thank him sincerely for his service," Thrasher said.

Harding wrote that both sides' version of the events had strengths and weaknesses, but he did not find the credibility of one "substantially stronger than the other."

"In sum, the preponderance of the evidence has not shown that you are responsible for any of the charged violations of the Code," Harding wrote.

Winston family adviser David Cornwell did not respond to requests for comment.

Cornwell has contended that attorneys for the former student pushed for the hearing after they were rebuffed in an attempt to reach a settlement with Winston.

Florida State faces Oregon in the College Football Playoffs semifinal on Jan. 1. Before the ruling, there were questions whether Winston would be available to play. The Seminoles won a national championship with Winston at the helm last season and have not lost a game since he earned the starting job before the beginning of the 2013 season.

Florida State is currently being investigated by the Department of Education on how hit handles possible Title IX violations. The woman who said Winston assaulted her filed a complaint with the U.S. Department of Education Office for Civil Rights, which decided the university should be investigated for possible Title IX violations over the way it responds to sexual violence complaints.

Title IX is a federal statute that bans discrimination at schools that receive federal funding. The Department of Education in 2011 warned schools of their legal responsibilities to immediately investigate allegations of sexual assault and domestic violence, even if the criminal investigation has not concluded.

Saints eliminated with 30-14 loss to Falcons

Sun, 12/21/2014 - 4:50pm

NEW ORLEANS (AP) As Jimmy Graham came down with a catch over the middle with his feet just short of the goal line, the star tight end began writhing in an effort to find just enough leverage to force his way through two Atlanta defenders and into the end zone.

Short of using the type of goal-line technology employed in certain soccer and tennis matches, it may be tough to know if Graham did enough to score before safety Kemal Ishmael ripped the ball loose and made a momentum-swinging fumble recovery. And regardless of how long debate rages, it won't change the fact that New Orleans lost the game, 30-14, and was eliminated from playoff contention on Sunday.

"Did I think it was a score? Yes," Saints coach Sean Payton said. "It looked pretty clear and yet - look - it is what it is, right? ... It's disappointing."

Atlanta (6-9) next meets Carolina (6-8-1) for the NFC South title next week in the Georgia Dome. The Saints (6-9) are left with an anticlimactic visit to Tampa Bay after losing five straight at home in one season for the first time since the 1980 1-15 team.

Graham's forward progress appeared to have been stopped by safety Dezmen Southward and Ishmael before the ball came loose, but that was not reviewable.

One replay angle showed that the ball may have broken the plane of the goal line, and the Superdome crowd roared when it was shown on large video boards. However, referee John Parry could not find evidence conclusive enough to overturn the call. Parry's announcement spawned a cascade of boos from anxious Saints fans, whose team remained down 20-7 with its playoff hopes fading.

"There was nothing clear and undisputable to make a change to the ruling from the field," Parry said.

Graham was not present when locker rooms were opened to reporters.

Southward said he never had a good look at whether Graham got in.

"I was too busy putting my face in his ribs. I was just trying to keep him out," Southward said. "All that credit goes to Kemal, obviously coming in and not quitting on the play."

Brees said he thought Graham scored, calling the consequences of the ruling, "huge."

While the play was a momentum changer, the Saints might have lost anyway.

After not practicing or playing for about two weeks, Jones caught seven passes for 107 yards.

"For him to gut it out and to go play the way he did today, I think speaks volumes about his grit, his toughness but also showcases what a stud he is," said quarterback Matt Ryan, who completed 30 of 40 passes for 322 yards and a touchdown.

Falcons running back Devonta Freeman added a 31-yard score.

The Saints committed three turnovers in the fourth quarter and were eliminated officially with Carolina's victory over Cleveland.

New Orleans still had a chance to drive for a winning score in the final three minutes, but Robert McClain's interception in Saints territory set up a Falcons field goal.

Payton thought his defense was "good enough" against Atlanta's respected offense, adding, "Offensively, we weren't good enough."

Atlanta sacked Brees five times. Brees finished 30 of 47 for 313 yards and one touchdown to Graham, which pulled the Saints as close as 20-14 with 5:48 to go. Brees was also intercepted by Desmond Trufant on a fourth-down pass in the first half.

In the final seconds, Osi Umenyiora returned Brees' fumble for an 86-yard TD, turning and waving goodbye to Atlanta's long-time rivals as he trotted downfield.

The result brought forth a devastating realization for the Saints, who'd sought a fifth playoff berth in six seasons.

"As we walk out of this stadium, every person you see, you feel like you let that guy down today, and that's tough," right tackle Zach Strief said. "We deserve it. We got exactly what we deserved."

Seeking to fire up the home crowd in a crucial game, the Saints changed their introductions, turning off the house lights during a pyrotechnic display while fans held up their mobile phones as if at a concert.

Fans were in a frenzy when Jalen Saunders returned the opening kickoff 99 yards to set up Mark Ingram's 1-yard touchdown run.

But those celebrations were short-lived as the Falcons scored the next 20 points.

"It's disappointing to know that with two games left we controlled our own destiny," Brees said. "If we win we're in, and we were not able to do that."

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AP NFL website: www.pro32.ap.org and http://twitter.com/AP-NFL

Newton: Fans 'classless' for cheering when Manziel injured

Sun, 12/21/2014 - 2:30pm

CHARLOTTE, N.C. (AP) Quarterback Cam Newton said the Panthers fans who cheered when Johnny Manziel injured his hamstring in the second quarter are "classless."

Manziel did not return to the game after the injury.

"I was saddened to see the crowd's response to when he got hurt," Newton said. "It was classless. Anytime when a person gets hurt you don't celebrate. I have had that done in my career and it just takes the integrity out of the game."

Newton has been friends with Manziel for a couple of years. Earlier this week on a conference call with Panthers beat reporters, Manziel said he looks up to Newton and thanked him for his support while he battled through off-the-field issues at Texas A&M.

"For the crowd to respond in that sort of way - we're better than that," Newton said.

Brian Hoyer took over at quarterback for the Cleveland Browns and had one touchdown pass and one interception in the loss.

Manziel was injured with 1:49 left in the first half when he rolled out to his left side, and linebacker Luke Kuechly and safety Colin Jones converged on the rookie and took him to the ground. He attempted to get up and then fell back down.

Manziel emerged from the locker room after halftime still in uniform but remained on the bench.

The Browns were losing 10-3 at the time of the injury.

Manziel, who struggled in his first start last week against Cincinnati, didn't having much success against Carolina either.

He 3 of 8 for 32 yards and ran twice for 3 yards before the injury. The Browns were outgained 206-68 in the first half and Carolina had 15 first downs to Cleveland's two.

The Browns (7-7) were eliminated from playoff contention Saturday when San Diego defeated San Francisco.

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49ers squander 21-point lead in 4th straight loss

Sat, 12/20/2014 - 9:58pm

SANTA CLARA, Calif. (AP) Colin Kaepernick jumped into the open arms of his leaping coach and all seemed right with the San Francisco 49ers for a few hours Saturday night.

Then, in a matter of minutes, a matter of three clutch completions by Philip Rivers, the good feelings were gone.

Just when San Francisco seemed poised for a rare celebratory moment between embattled fourth-year coach Jim Harbaugh and his highly criticized quarterback, Rivers changed everything and sent the 49ers to a fourth straight defeat.

After Rivers led a 21-point rally in the second half, Nick Novak kicked a 40-yard field goal nearly 5 minutes into overtime to give the Chargers a 38-35 victory over the 49ers on Saturday night.

Rivers completed his fourth touchdown pass of the day with a tying 11-yard TD pass to Malcom Floyd with 29 seconds left in regulation after completing a pair of fourth-and-longs as the Chargers (9-6) forced overtime.

Phil Dawson's 60-yard field goal attempt for San Francisco as regulation ended fell way short. Quinton Patton then fumbled in overtime to set up San Diego's winning drive.

A lot went right for San Francisco when it really didn't matter. Six days after the Niners' season essentially ended with playoff elimination at Seattle, Kaepernick, Frank Gore and the 49ers finally got it together in all phases - for most of the night, that is.

On second down during the 49ers' first drive of overtime, Quinton Patton got loose in the open field on an end around for 20 yards and fumbled on his way down when Eric Weddle knocked the ball loose and nose tackle Sean Lissemore recovered at the San Diego 38.

That gave Rivers the opportunity he needed to get his team into position.

The 49ers blew just their second game when leading by 21 or more at halftime and lost their fourth straight game under embattled coach Jim Harbaugh. They lost 42-41 to Minnesota on Oct. 24, 1965, after leading 35-14 at halftime.

Colin Kaepernick ran 90 yards for a touchdown and Gore had a 52-yard touchdown run as the Niners (7-8) grabbed early momentum.

"Right now there's not much to say," Harbaugh said. "That's a tough one."

Rivers threw touchdown passes of 21 and 1 yard to Antonio Gates and another to Eddie Royal, but also was hurt by three interceptions. On one of those, Antoine Bethea ran an interception back 49 yards for his first career touchdown, and a defense minus recently released starting lineman Ray McDonald never let Rivers find a rhythm.

The 31-year-old Gore finished with 158 yards and he needs 38 yards in the final game next weekend against Arizona for a fourth consecutive 1,000-yard season and eighth in his 10 NFL seasons. His scoring run was his longest since a 64-yarder on Nov. 1, 2009, at Indianapolis. It also was the longest TD run allowed by San Diego since 2010 before Kaepernick topped it.

Gore had more yards in this game than in his previous four combined, and New York Yankees star Alex Rodriguez was in attendance wearing the running back's red No. 21 jersey.

Gore broke four tackles on his 52-yard touchdown run in the first quarter six days after a concussion.

The 49ers became the first team since at least 1960 to rush for as many as 355 yards in a loss. Kansas City had the previous high of 352 in a 20-13 loss to the Colts on Dec. 23, 2012.

Rookie Bruce Ellington caught an 8-yard touchdown pass from Kaepernick early in the second quarter that put the Niners up 21-0, then ran for a 1-yard score in the waning moments before leaving with a hamstring injury.

In one half, San Francisco topped its combined scoring total from the previous three games of 23 points. The Niners had their biggest lead since going ahead 28-3 in the third quarter of the season opener at Dallas - and their first lead by 21 points at home since a 34-3 victory against Houston on Oct. 6, 2013.

Rivers, 33 for 54 for 356 yards, had his team driving late in the first quarter before throwing an interception picked off by Perrish Cox. Unclear whether ailing, Rivers didn't look comfortable. He sat out Wednesday's practice with neck and back injuries, and he was without running back Ryan Mathews and wide receiver Keenan Allen.

Harbaugh, who is facing a constant swirl of speculation about his future - like a report alma mater Michigan has made him a six-year offer to coach the Wolverines - has said there's still plenty to play for, like a winning season despite the disappointment following three straight trips to the NFC championship game.

Four players sustained concussions or head injuries - 49ers safety Eric Reid and San Diego cornerback Shareece Wright with concussions and San Francisco cornerback Leon McFadden and linebacker Aldon being evaluated for a head injuries.

NOTES: 49ers RT Anthony Davis returned for the first time since Nov. 9 after missing four games with a concussion. ... Cox's fifth interception moved him into a tie for third place in the NFC. ... 49ers S Bubba Ventrone and WR Brandon Lloyd suffered groin injuries.

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Gruden praises RG3 after Redskins top Eagles 27-24

Sat, 12/20/2014 - 6:35pm

LANDOVER, Md. (AP) After all the negative things Jay Gruden has said about Robert Griffin III, the Washington Redskins' coach found some positives to discuss after the quarterback earned his first complete-game win in more than a year.

So maybe they'll figure out a way to coexist next season, after all.

Back as the starter because of an injury to Colt McCoy, Griffin threw for 220 yards and led the drive that resulted in Kai Forbath's 26-yard go-ahead field goal with 5 seconds left Saturday night. The Redskins beat the Eagles 27-24, pushing Philadelphia to the brink of elimination from playoff contention.

"You have to be impressed with his performance," Gruden said. "I just thought he managed the game extremely well, getting out of the huddle and no delay-of-game penalties. He competed, man, and that's what you want to see a quarterback do - be a `competer,' be a leader. I told him before the game, `I don't care if you go 14 for 100, 10 for 10, or 1 for 1, man, just as long as we get the W."'

Wins have been few and far between in Gruden's first season as an NFL head coach: This victory ended a six-game losing streak for Washington (4-11). Griffin, the 2012 NFL Offensive Rookie of the year, hadn't been in from start to finish of a win since beating San Diego in overtime on Nov. 3, 2013.

"It really isn't about me. This one's about this team. We've been through the wringer a little bit this year. We've been through a lot of adversity, a lot of mess," Griffin said. "Guys have responded."

He was benched a few weeks ago, but regained the job by default because McCoy went on injured reserve this week with a neck injury.

"Everybody's helped me get through this time," Griffin said.

Griffin still looked a bit awkward and unsure at times, and threw an interception in the fourth quarter, but there were flashes of improvement as a drop-back passer. He connected with former Eagles receiver DeSean Jackson for two big gains - 51 yards in the second quarter, and 55 in the third.

"Robert did a great job, getting the ball out of his hands and making good decisions," said Gruden, who earlier this season was publicly critical of Griffin's flaws as a QB.

The Redskins certainly got plenty of help from the Eagles (9-6), who now have lost three games in a row and will be out of the hunt for a postseason berth if NFC East leader Dallas beats Indianapolis on Sunday.

There were a couple of missed field-goal attempts in the third quarter - from 34 and 46 yards, both wide right - by Cody Parkey, who had botched two tries all season, going 29 of 31 until Saturday.

There were three roughing-the-passer penalties by the Eagles, including two in a span of four plays during a drive that ended with one of Redskins fullback Darrell Young's two 1-yard TD runs in the third quarter.

And there were Eagles quarterback Mark Sanchez's turnovers. He fumbled on the game's opening possession - setting up a field goal by Forbath - and then threw an interception to Bashaud Breeland with 1 1/2 minutes left that led to Washington's six-play, 50-yard last drive.

On the first play, Griffin completed a 23-yard pass to Pierre Garcon, before five runs by Alfred Morris.

"You cherish those moments, those moments when you can go out there and lead your team to victory on that final, last drive," Griffin said. "And everybody was locked in."

Notes: Morris went over 1,000 yards for the season, making him the only the team's second player - along with Stephen Davis - to gain at least that many three years in a row. ... Injured Redskins included LT Trent Williams (re-aggravated right shoulder) and LB Trent Murphy (broken bone in right hand).

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Follow Howard Fendrich on Twitter at http://twitter.com/HowardFendrich

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AP NFL website: www.pro32.ap.org and AP NFL Twitter feed: www.twitter.com/AP-NFL

No. 23 Utah routs Colorado St in Las Vegas Bowl

Sat, 12/20/2014 - 4:28pm

LAS VEGAS (AP) Utah quarterback Travis Wilson ran for three touchdowns and passed for another Saturday, leading the No. 23 Utes to a 45-10 rout of Colorado State in the Las Vegas Bowl.

Wilson rushed for a season-high 91 yards on 11 carries and completed 17 of 26 passes for 158 yards.

Utah (9-4) scored three times in the first quarter and finished with 548 total yards, including 359 on the ground. Devontae Booker ran for 162 yards and a TD and Troy McCormick ran for 86.

Colorado State (10-3) fell behind in the first three minutes and never got its vaunted offense in gear. Garrett Grayson completed 21 of 35 passes for 242 yards, but he was unable to avoid Utah's rush in the second half when the Rams were forced to throw the ball.

Durant leaves Thunder game with ankle injury

Thu, 12/18/2014 - 11:25pm

OAKLAND, Calif. (AP) Oklahoma City Thunder star Kevin Durant sat out the second half of a 114-109 loss at the Golden State Warriors on Thursday night after spraining his right ankle.

Durant said the sprain was mild and X-rays were negative. The reigning NBA MVP said he hopes to play at the Los Angeles Lakers on Friday night but will see how he feels.

"I wanted to play. I wanted go back out there, but we wanted to be cautious," Durant said.

Durant grabbed his ankle after stepping on Marreese Speights' left foot while going hard to the basket late in the second quarter. Durant was called for a charge on the play.

Durant lay on the ground in pain before walking to the bench with the help of teammates Russell Westbrook and Serge Ibaka. Durant limped to the locker room at halftime under his own power.

"I was a little nervous, but I knew that when I got up and started walking that it felt good," he said. "I just wanted to make sure with the X-ray that everything was good."

Durant came back Dec. 2 after missing the team's first 17 games with a broken right foot, and his latest injury ended his best performance yet this season.

Durant scored 30 points on 10-for-13 shooting, including 5 of 6 from 3-point range. It was his highest-scoring game this season and the highest-scoring first half of his career.

Oklahoma City started the season 3-12 with Durant and Westbrook dealing with injuries but had been rediscovering its championship-contender form with both healthy again.

The Thunder had won seven straight entering the game, which was the longest active streak in the league after Memphis snapped Golden State's 16-game winning streak Tuesday night. Oklahoma City is 7-2 since Durant came back and 8-2 since the return of Westbrook, who sat out 13 games with a broken bone in his right hand.

Jaguars hold off Titans late, win 21-13 in home finale

Thu, 12/18/2014 - 9:07pm

JACKSONVILLE, Fla. (AP) Blake Bortles revived a stagnant offense. Jordan Todman provided some cushion. And Sen'Derrick Marks sealed it with the most rewarding sack of his career.

The trio provided all the highlights in the Jacksonville Jaguars' 21-13 victory over the Tennessee Titans on Thursday night.

In a matchup that was widely billed as unwatchable, Bortles, Todman and Marks offered some compelling moments in a relatively meaningless game.

"The neat thing about this was different guys stood up at different times," Jaguars coach Gus Bradley said.

Bortles completed 13 of 26 passes for 115 yards and a touchdown, a 4-yard pass to Marcedes Lewis that got Jacksonville going late in the second quarter. He also ran for 50 yards playing with a sprained right foot.

"I wasn't going out there if I couldn't move around and help the offense," Bortles said.

Todman's 62-yard run put the Jaguars ahead for good. He juked one defender and stiff-armed another in his first carry of the night, ending his first score of the season with a leap into the stands.

Marks' play, though, got the most attention.

With the Titans driving, Marks sacked Charlie Whitehurst on the final play. It gave him 8 1/2 sacks on the season, triggering a $600,000 bonus in his contract.

"What a great way to end the night," Bradley said.

Marks stood up and starting rubbing his fingers together before getting mobbed by teammates near midfield.

"Oh, we're going to spend some of that money," Jaguars defensive end Red Bryant said.

The Jaguars (3-12) won for the second time in four weeks thanks to a rejuvenated offense that had scored just two touchdowns in the previous four games. Playing the Titans (2-13) surely aided the effort.

Tennessee lost its ninth consecutive game and moved a step closer to securing the No. 1 draft pick.

"It was more about mistakes that we made than anything else because when we did it right - as you can see by most of the first half - we played pretty good," Titans coach Ken Whisenhunt said.

The Jaguars had only 16 yards of offense until Bortles led them on an 80-yard drive at the end of the first half, ending it with the jump ball to Lewis in the left corner of the end zone.

The Jaguars got the ball to start the second half, and Bortles found Marquise Lee on a 34-yard catch-and-run on third-and 7. After two more completions, Jacksonville went to some trickery with a backward to Cecil Shorts III, who then threw across the field to Todman to the 9.

It looked as if Jacksonville would have to settle for a tying field when Bortles was flushed from the pocket and scrambled down the sideline to the 2 on third-and-goal. But linebacker Avery Williamson was called for holding Lewis away from the play, giving the Jaguars new life. Toby Gerhart punched it in from the 1 on the next play.

The turnaround for the Jaguars was surprising. Losers of seven of their last eight games, the Jaguars had only two offensive touchdowns in their previous 46 drives over four games and nearly two quarters, and just like that, Bortles took them down the field for touchdowns on consecutive drives.

That was a bright spot in a game otherwise devoid of them early.

For the final NFL game on Thursday night this year, about the only thing at stake was the inside track for the No. 1 pick, and likely a slightly easier schedule. In this case, the loser had more to gain.

The Titans were led by third-stringer Whitehurst, who was replacing Zach Mettenberger. Whitehurst couldn't miss at the start, and for the first time this year, the Titans scored a touchdown on their opening possession.

Tennessee made it 10-0 in the second and had a 179-16 advantage in yards.

But things turned from there, with Bortles, Todman and Marks providing the big plays.

"It was a great feeling," Todman said. "You're looking up at the scoreboard just hoping you don't get caught from behind. It was a great call. The line did a good job. I made a guy miss and then it was off to the races. It was just what we needed - just what I needed."

Notes: The Jaguars gave up four sacks, giving them 66 for the season and breaking the franchise record of 63 set in 2001. Jacksonville has allowed at least four sacks in six consecutive games. ... Jaguars RB Toby Gerhart left the game with bruised ribs, tried to return and then sat out for good late. He finished with 53 yards on 12 carries. ... Titans defensive coordinator Ray Horton was on the sideline for the first time this season. ... After NFL observers complained and maybe threatened a fine, Jaguars LB J.T. Thomas removed his teal-tinted visor at halftime.

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AP NFL websites: www.pro32.ap.org and www.twitter.com/AP-NFL

Jones scores 21 to lead No. 2 Duke over UConn

Thu, 12/18/2014 - 7:37pm

EAST RUTHERFORD, N.J. (AP) Freshman point guard Tyus Jones scored 21 points, Justise Winslow hit two key baskets late in the game and No. 2 Duke responded to a tongue lashing by coach Mike Krzyzewski to beat defending national champion Connecticut 66-56 on Thursday night.

Winslow and Jahlil Okafor - the other two members of the Blue Devils' trio of talented freshmen - added 12 points apiece. Ahead 30-25 at the break, Duke (10-10) got off to a slow start in the second half and UConn (4-4) tied it, raising Coach K's ire.

Amile Jefferson added 11 points and 13 rebounds for Duke in a game that had the feel and intensity of a NCAA tournament contest.

Ryan Boatright had 22 points to lead the Huskies. Kentan Facey added 14 points and Daniel Hamilton had 10.

Celtics trade Rondo to Mavericks

Thu, 12/18/2014 - 6:36pm

BOSTON (AP) The Boston Celtics traded point guard Rajon Rondo to Dallas on Thursday night, cutting ties with the last remnant of their last NBA championship while giving Dirk Nowitzki and the Mavericks a chance at another title.

The Celtics will send Rondo and forward Dwight Powell to Dallas for Jameer Nelson, Jae Crowder, Brandan Wright, two draft picks and a $12.9 million trade exception.

"Welcome to Rajon Rondo the newest member of the Dallas Mavericks," team owner Mark Cuban wrote on the social media application Cyber Dust shortly before the official announcement. Cuban also thanked the three departing players, calling them "Amazing players and better people."

Boston got a first-round pick in next year's draft and a second-rounder in 2016. The Celtics have eight first-round picks in the next four years, picking them up in trades for Kevin Garnett and Paul Pierce and even coach Doc Rivers as they shed the pieces of the New Big Three that earned the franchise its unprecedented 17th NBA title in 2008.

"We would not have won Banner 17 without Rajon and will always consider him one of our most valuable Celtics," the team's owners said in a joint statement. "We will always cherish the time he was here."

The Mavericks get a pass-first point guard - a four-time all-star - to team with Nowitzki, Monta Ellis, Chandler Parsons and Tyson Chandler in what they hope will make them a contender again. Dallas is 19-8 this season but in third place in the Southwest Division and sixth in the Western Conference.

The Mavericks, who won their only NBA title in 2011, have not won a playoff series since.

The deal has been years in the making, with the Celtics shopping Rondo every time a coach grows tired of his moods or his contract expectations grow too large for their budget. But every previous time Boston management decided that the offers weren't enough.

Celtics general manager Danny Ainge found a partner in Dallas, which is coached by his former Boston teammate Rick Carlisle.

Rondo, 28, joined the rebuilding Celtics as the 21st overall pick out of Kentucky in 2006 and became the point guard for an NBA champion in his second year when Boston acquired Ray Allen and Kevin Garnett the next summer. They helped the Celtics reach the NBA finals again two years later.

With the once-proud franchise mired in what now looks to be an extended rebuilding process, though, Rondo became more valuable as a trading chip. Due to be a free agent at the end of the season, he was reportedly expecting a contract at or near the NBA maximum.

Rondo has averaged 11 points, 8.5 assists and 4.7 rebounds over his career. He missed the second half of the 2012-13 season and the first half of last season to have reconstructive knee surgery, and then reportedly fell in the shower in Las Vegas on the eve of training camp and missed all of the preseason.

In 22 games this season for Boston, Rondo had an NBA-best 10.8 assists per game and also averaged 8.3 points and 7.5 rebounds.

Nelson, who signed a two-year, $5.5 million deal last summer after 10 seasons in Orlando, was starting at point guard for Dallas, averaging 7.3 points and 4.1 assists while shooting 37 percent from the field.

Wright has played about 19 minutes a game, averaging 8.8 points, 4.1 rebounds and 1.6 blocks. Crowder has averaged 3.6 points per game for Dallas.

Powell has totaled nine points and nine minutes in five games for Boston this season as the Celtics (9-14) opened their second season under new coach Brad Stevens.

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AP Basketball Writer Jon Krawczynski and AP Sports Writer Stephen Hawkins contributed to this report.

49ers' Harbaugh mum on reported offer

Thu, 12/18/2014 - 3:25pm

SANTA CLARA, Calif. (AP) 49ers coach Jim Harbaugh is declining to respond to reports that he is weighing an offer from Michigan to become the new football coach at his alma mater.

Harbaugh has one season remaining on the $25 million, five-year contract he signed in January 2011. Several media outlets, including ESPN and the NFL Network, have reported Harbaugh has a six-year offer on the table from the Wolverines to return to Ann Arbor.

"As you know, I'll only talk about the job that I have. We've been together a long time and it's a longstanding policy," Harbaugh said Thursday.

All season long, he has said he won't let outside issues affect him. His name has emerged as a possible candidate for what should be several NFL vacancies after the season if Harbaugh and the 49ers part ways, including to fill the job across the bay in Oakland.

San Francisco general manager Trent Baalke said this week that a decision on Harbaugh's future would come after the season. The Niners (7-7) were eliminated from playoff contention in last Sunday's 17-7 loss at Seattle, giving them their first three-game losing streak under Harbaugh. San Francisco had reached three straight NFC championship games, losing the Super Bowl after the 2012 season.

"Trent and I have discussions every day," Harbaugh said, noting he still intends to coach out his contract. "I have said that I'm going to finish this `til the end. My focus is the same as the players' focus, the same as the coaches' focus, focused on the practice field, focused in meetings, by our players, by our coaches and by me."

Harbaugh said the 49ers still have plenty to play for in their final two games, Saturday at home against San Diego and next week hosting Arizona - like ending with a winning record.

Offensive coordinator Greg Roman, who worked on Harbaugh's staff at Stanford before joining him in the jump to the NFL, said everybody wants to end this season on a positive note despite all the outside chatter about the coach's future.

"We don't talk about that stuff at all. We're focused on the Chargers, all that water cooler talk is just that," Roman said.

When asked whether he still has a special affinity for the Michigan program and university, Harbaugh again wouldn't bite.

"Again, I really don't want to talk about any other job than the one I have or talk about anybody else's process," Harbaugh said.

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AP NFL website: www.pro32.ap.org and www.twitter.com/AP-NFL

Bears bench QB Jay Cutler for Clausen

Thu, 12/18/2014 - 2:49pm

LAKE FOREST, Ill. (AP) The thought crossed Jay Cutler's mind as soon as he found out he was being benched: He might have played his final game for Chicago.

The Bears announced Thursday that they will start Jimmy Clausen against the Detroit Lions on Sunday instead of the man who signed a massive, seven-year deal at the end of last season.

Coach Marc Trestman said Cutler will be available as the backup at Soldier Field, where boos have rained down on a punchless, porous team that is now 5-9 and playing out the string after starting the season with legitimate hopes of a playoff run. They will miss the postseason for the seventh time in eight years and it's unclear whether Trestman - or Cutler - will be back for another try next year.

"I would like to stay here," Cutler said. "I really like it here. I love the guys in the locker room that I get to play with. Clearly, it's a different circumstance now. But going forward, this is where I'd like to be."

The move comes after Trestman pledged his allegiance to Cutler as the starter several times the past few weeks.

"Certainly, it was not an easy decision," Trestman said. "In my mind those types of decisions never are, and I worked it through and think it through not only myself but with our staff."

Trestman said he met with general manager Phil Emery on Tuesday and informed Cutler and Clausen of his decision on Wednesday. He met again with Emery later in the day to discuss his decision and informed the staff that night.

Did Emery support the decision?

Trestman paused for a few seconds, then said: "That's the way we are with each other. When we make decisions, we support it. We give our opinions and then we actively and passionately support each other with the decisions that we have to make. That's the way it's been the last two years. We talk thoroughly about it. We talk analytically about it. We talk passionately about it. And once a decision is made, we support each other."

Cutler was taken aback by the decision, saying that he was "Shocked, I think at first. And then, I think disappointed."

He said he could play for Trestman next season, although there would have to be some mending to the relationship during the offseason.

Asked if he believed the team was committed to him, Cutler responded: "I don't know if I can answer that."

Does he wonder about that?

"Yeah," Cutler said. "I think everyone would. It's a natural response to wonder that."

The switch adds more fuel to the idea that the Bears are in a state of dysfunction and that the future of everyone from Emery on down is open to discussion. There has been plenty of speculation about Trestman, now in his second year, not to mention defensive coordinator Mel Tucker and offensive coordinator Aaron Kromer.

Cutler's future is also in question despite the big contract.

"All I know is there's a lot of money involved in my contract, which comes with a lot of expectations and a lot of responsibility," he said, when asked if the change was fair. "And whenever you're not winning and performing the way you should, there's a likelihood that could happen."

Cutler leads the league in interceptions (18) and turnovers (24) and he was benched after arguably his worst game of the season in Monday's loss to New Orleans. He threw three interceptions and got sacked a season-high seven times as the Bears fell meekly at home to the Saints, 31-15. That performance came after Kromer admitting he was a source behind a report by the NFL Network criticizing the quarterback's ability to identify when plays should be changed at the line.

Kromer might have sealed his fate with his leak and admission. But there could be a long list of personnel taking the fall.

The defense has ranked among the league's worst in two years with Tucker, and the offense has taken a big step back in Year 2 under Trestman.

Then there's Emery, who fired Lovie Smith after a 10-win season in 2012 and chose Trestman over Bruce Arians, now rolling with the Cardinals. He also signed Cutler to that seven-year contract at the end of last season when the Bears could have applied the franchise tag instead.

Even so, the timing of the benching seems curious considering the Bears are out of contention. Trestman, who came with a reputation for getting the most out of quarterbacks, acknowledged this week that has not happened with Cutler.

So the Bears are going with Clausen, the former Notre Dame star. He has appeared in three games this season and attempted nine passes, completing three. H

"Obviously, it's tough on him," Clausen, who was 1-9 in 10 starts as a rookie with Carolina in 2010, said of Cutler. "Being the starting quarterback and coach going a different way, it's obviously going to be tough on him, but he's been great with me."

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AP NFL websites: www.pro32.ap.org and www.twitter.com/AP-NFL

Grizzlies outlast Spurs 117-116 in 3 overtimes

Wed, 12/17/2014 - 8:58pm

SAN ANTONIO (AP) Marc Gasol scored 26 points, including a banked-in 3-pointer as regulation expired, and the Memphis Grizzlies overcame blowing a 23-point lead for a 117-116 triple-overtime victory over the San Antonio Spurs on Wednesday night.

Zach Randolph had 21 points and 21 rebounds in the Grizzlies' sixth straight victory. Vince Carter added a season-high 18 points for Memphis (21-4).

Danny Green scored 25 points, and Tim Duncan had 23 points and 16 rebounds for San Antonio. His jumper rattled in to force the third OT, but he finished just 5 for 15 on free throws.

Manu Ginobili added 21 points, but shot an airball on a 3-pointer in the final seconds for the Spurs. San Antonio made a season-high 17 3-pointers but was 13 for 27 on free throws, including 5 for 15 by Duncan.

Duncan hit a fallaway, high-arcing jumper that bounded on the rim three times before dropping in to tie the game at 111 at the close of the second overtime.

The shot was part of an eventful final minute in regulation and the first two overtimes.

After Green's fifth 3-pointer gave San Antonio a 92-89 lead with 2.5 seconds remaining in regulation, Gasol banked in a 30-footer against Ginobili as time expired.

Green tumbled to the floor and injured his knee while colliding in midair with Mike Conley on an outlet pass, giving Memphis a 5-on-4 situation that resulted in Gasol's layup that tied the game at 102 with 9.3 seconds left. Ginobili missed a 7-foot running jumper to end the first OT.

Conley's 3-pointer gave Memphis a 111-109 lead with 2.6 seconds left in the second overtime before Duncan's shot that finally fell in.

The Grizzlies were fresh off snapping Golden State's 16-game winning streak Tuesday night, but they were fresher early than the rested Spurs, who played without injured starters Tony Parker and Kawhi Leonard.

San Antonio gave up a season-high 34 points in the first quarter as Memphis shot 14 for 20 (70 percent), almost exclusively on jumpers.

The Spurs were 5 for 10 on 3-pointers in the third quarter in trimming what had been a 23-point, first-half deficit to 71-68.

Grizzlies: Grizzlies G Tony Allen (right corneal abrasion) was a late scratch. Allen, who missed two games earlier this season, had two points, seven rebounds and two assists in Memphis' 105-98 victory over Golden State on Tuesday. . Memphis is an NBA-best 13-2 against the Western Conference this season.

Spurs: San Antonio has used 15 different starting lineups in 26 games this season. The team started Duncan, Green, Matt Bonner, Cory Joseph and Kyle Anderson for the first time collectively this season. . The Spurs celebrated International Night, commemorating the team's diverse roster. San Antonio has a league-high nine players born outside the U.S. and also has several former players and draft picks and players, including Memphis' Beno Udrih, Indiana's Luis Scola and Golden State's Leandro Barbosa. . Green and Houston's James Harden are the only guards in the league averaging at least one steal and one blocked shot while playing five or more games. Green blocked the 6-foot-9 Randolph twice from behind.

Grizzlies: Host Chicago on Friday.

Spurs: Host Portland on Friday.

Mack leads surging Hawks to blowout in Cleveland

Wed, 12/17/2014 - 6:36pm

CLEVELAND (AP) The Cavaliers' largest loss of the season didn't sit well with coach David Blatt.

"That was embarrassing, how we played," he said after the Atlanta Hawks routed Cleveland 127-98 on Wednesday night. "I apologize to all the good fans who came out here. Really, just a poor, poor performance."

Shelvin Mack scored a career-high 24 points and the Hawks won for the 11th time in 12 games.

Mack, a reserve guard who came in averaging 3.8 points, made all six of his 3-pointers as the Hawks went 16 for 28 from behind the arc.

Trailing 50-38 midway through the second quarter, Atlanta outscored Cleveland 89-48 the rest of the way. The Hawks, playing without leading scorer Jeff Teague, avenged a 127-94 defeat in Cleveland on Nov. 15.

"We got blown out the first game, like blown all the way out," Mack said. "That wasn't a great feeling. We wanted to come back and see what we're made of."

LeBron James scored 21 points but didn't play in the fourth quarter, which began with Atlanta leading 95-75.

While Blatt said he didn't see any fight in his team, James didn't find the loss embarrassing, but said the team had a setback defensively. The four-time MVP took an analytical approach to the defeat, Cleveland's third in four games since winning eight straight.

"We allowed them to get too many open looks," he said. "This is a well-coached team that we played. It reminds you of playing San Antonio, that system. They move the ball and get you in uncomfortable positions."

Atlanta coach Mike Budenholzer, a longtime Spurs assistant before taking over the Hawks last season, was understandably pleased with the performance.

"It's a great team win," he said. "You go up and down the roster, different guys contributing at different times. That's what we're trying to build, is a team."

Al Horford scored 20 points and Mike Scott added 15 for Atlanta, which had seven players in double figures and shot 64.5 percent from the field.

The Hawks went 24 for 35 in the first half and continued to slice up Cleveland's defense in the third quarter. Paul Millsap's jumper put them ahead 79-68 at the 6:51 mark, and the lead never got under double digits.

Atlanta went 9 of 11 on 3s in the second quarter to erase a 12-point deficit and led 65-60 at halftime.

Mack made all five of his 3-point attempts and scored 17 in the quarter. Scott's 3-pointer from two steps behind the arc at the buzzer capped the sequence.

Kevin Love, who missed the morning shootaround because of flu-like symptoms, scored 13 points and had 10 rebounds for Cleveland.

The game began much like the matchup in November, when Cleveland hit all nine of its 3-pointers in the first quarter and began the game 11 for 11 from behind the arc.

The Cavaliers again put on an impressive offensive display in the first quarter Wednesday when they hit 12 of 19 shots with 10 assists. As they did in Monday's win over Charlotte, Love and James hooked up on two highlight-reel plays. Love hit James with two length-of-the-court passes that resulted in layups.

The Hawks defeated Chicago on Monday and followed that with another strong performance, which was even more impressive considering Teague was sidelined. "It's what I'm referencing when I talk about a good team," Budenholzer said. "Somebody's down, we have a lot of confidence in everybody that they can step up and do what we need to win."

Love said he didn't consider not playing despite battling the flu. "I always felt like I was going to play. If I'm feeling up to it, I'm going out there and give it a go." Love played 32 minutes before being pulled early in the fourth.

Hawks: Dennis Schroder started at point guard in place of Teague, who leads the team in points (16.8) and assists (7.0). Schroder had 10 points and 10 assists. ... The game began a tough road stretch for Atlanta. After playing at Houston on Saturday, the Hawks face Dallas on Monday. The three opponents went into Wednesday with a combined record of 50-22.

Cavaliers: G Kyrie Irving, who was 4 for 9 from the field, returned to the court from the locker room after the game to work on his jumper. ... G Mike Miller, who sustained a concussion on Dec. 4, missed his seventh straight game. Blatt said Miller still has some stiffness in his neck area, and decided to hold him out one more game as a precaution.

Hawks: At Houston on Saturday.

Cavaliers: Host Brooklyn on Friday.

Panthers outlast Capitals in longest NHL shootout

Tue, 12/16/2014 - 8:07pm

SUNRISE, Fla. (AP) Nick Bjugstad scored the game-winning goal in the longest shootout in NHL history to lift the Florida Panthers over the Washington Capitals 2-1 on Tuesday night.

Bjugstad's goal came in the 20th round - on the 40th shot of the shootout - and beat Braden Holtby on the right side. The previous NHL record was 15 rounds, when the New York Rangers beat Washington on Nov. 26, 2005.

The Panthers outscored the Capitals 6-5 in the tiebreaker; the six goals were the most ever in a shootout. Jussi Jokinen, Dave Bolland, Derek MacKenzie, Sean Bergenheim and Dylan Olsen were also successful for Florida.

The Panthers were down to their last shot five times and answered each time with a goal.

Alex Ovechkin, Brooks Laich, Joel Ward, John Carlson and Brooks Orpik had shootout goals for the Capitals.

Derek MacKenzie scored in regulation for Florida, and Roberto Luongo made 23 saves.

Troy Brouwer scored in regulation for Washington. Holtby stopped 28 shots.

The Panthers are 4-0-1 in their last five home games. The win was only their second in their past 12 games against the Capitals.

With the score tied 1-all at 3:08 of the third, it appeared the Capitals took the lead when the puck slid by Luongo and into the net. The goal was overruled after a video review because it was determined that Laich kicked in the puck with his left skate.

The Panthers took a 1-0 lead when MacKenzie one-timed a rebound at 9:36 of the first. The Capitals tried to clear the puck from behind the net and the puck went off the skate of Florida's Scottie Upshall and out in front, where MacKenzie beat Holtby on the glove side.

The Capitals tied it on Brouwer's power-play goal in the second. Alex Ovechkin passed from the left circle across to Brouwer in the slot. His wrist shot beat Luongo on the glove side at 14:35 for his ninth goal of the season.

NOTES: Holtby made his 13th consecutive start for the Capitals. ... Panthers defenseman Dylan Olsen played his 100th NHL game. ... Upshall and Aleksander Barkov returned to the Florida lineup after missing nine and six games, respectively.

Memphis stops Golden State's 16-game win streak

Tue, 12/16/2014 - 7:47pm

MEMPHIS, Tenn. (AP) Marc Gasol scored 24 points, and the Memphis Grizzlies snapped the Golden State Warriors' NBA-best 16-game winning streak with a 105-98 victory on Tuesday night.

Mike Conley and Zach Randolph each scored 17 points, and Randolph grabbed 10 rebounds as Memphis earned its fifth straight win. Vince Carter added a season-high 16 points, and Jon Leuer had 11.

The Warriors came in with the NBA's best record at 21-2. They lost for the first time since Nov. 11 against the Spurs, also the last team to beat Memphis. This was the first time in NBA history in which both teams had 19 or more wins in the first 24 games.

Golden State star Stephen Curry missed back-to-back 3-pointers in the final 10 seconds. He finished with 19 points, but was 9 of 25 from the field.

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