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Thursday’s Sports Minute: Heat sizzle from downtown

Here’s a look at today’s big sports stories.

Heat sizzle from downtown
The Miami Heat are back at .500 following their seventh win in nine games.

Josh Richardson scored 24 points and the Heat shot 16-for-31 from 3-point range in a 117-92 drubbing of the Cavaliers in Cleveland. Tyler Johnson had 16 points for Miami, which won easily despite playing without Dwyane Wade because of an illness.

Miami had a 25-9 rebounding advantage while building a 58-43 halftime lead.
The Cavaliers dropped their seventh straight to fall to an NBA-worst 8-30.

Checking out Tuesday’s NBA action:
— Joel Embiid scored 30 of his 42 points by halftime and finished with 18 boards as the 76ers held off the Suns, 132-127. Ben Simmons added 29 points and J.J. Redick 27 for the 76ers, who were without Jimmy Butler and Wilson Chandler due to respiratory infections.
— Gordon Hayward came off the bench to score a season-high 35 points as the Celtics topped the Timberwolves, 115-102. Terry Rozier scored 11 of his 16 points in the first quarter while making his third start of the season in place of Kyrie Irving, who scratched both of his eyes in Monday’s game against San Antonio.
— Paul George scored 37 points and Russell Westbrook dropped down a triple-double on the Lakers as the Thunder picked up a 107-100 victory at Los Angeles. Westbrook had 16 rebounds, 10 assists and 14 points despite 3-for-20 shooting.
— Detroit’s three-game skid is over after Blake Griffin had 26 points, eight rebounds and seven assists to lead a 101-94 victory over the Grizzlies. Memphis dropped its third in a row despite Jaren Jackson Jr’s team highs of 26 points and 10 boards.
— Luka Doncic and Dennis Smith Jr. each scored 18 points and fueled an early long-range shooting blitz that sent the Mavericks to their first win in 10 road games, 122-84 at Charlotte. The Mavericks hit 10 first-quarter 3-pointers and finished with 18 overall in winning on the road for the first time since Nov. 28.
— The Nets were 126-121 winners over the Pelicans behind D’Angelo Russell’s 22 points and 13 assists. Joe Harris had 21 points for Brooklyn, which scored 73 in the first half and managed to overcome 34 points and a career-high 26 rebounds by Anthony Davis.
— Nikola Vucevic had 22 points and 12 rebounds before sitting out the fourth quarter of the Magic’s 112-84 dismantling of the Bulls in Chicago. Aaron Gordon added 18 points and a career-high nine assists in Orlando’s wire-to-wire win.
— The Wizards have their first winning streak since early December after Bradley Beal contributed 24 points and Jeff Green added 22 in a 114-98 victory against the Hawks. Thomas Bryant scored 16 to go with a career-high 15 rebounds, while Tomas Satoransky added 14 points and a career-best 11 boards.

Kansas gets another conference-opening win
Fifth-ranked Kansas couldn’t hit an outside shot against No. 23 Oklahoma on Wednesday, but the Jayhawks were able to win their Big 12 opener for the 28th consecutive year.

Dedric Lawson had 13 points and 15 rebounds as Kansas outlasted the Sooners, 70-63. Devon Dotson added 16 points and fellow freshman Quentin Grimes had 14 for the 12-1 Jayhawks, who held on after Oklahoma got within 67-63 with 31 seconds left.
Kansas missed 17 of its 21 3-point attempts before dropping Oklahoma to 11-2.

In other top 25 finals:
— Jordan Caroline scored 15 points and sixth-ranked Nevada matched its best start by improving to 14-0 with a 72.49 thumping of Utah State. Cody Martin and Tre’Shawn Thurman had 14 points apiece in the Mountain West Conference opener for the Wolf Pack.
— Nick Ward’s 21 points all came by halftime as No. 8 Michigan crushed Northwestern, 81-55. Cassius Winston had 13 points and matched a career high with 12 assists as the 12-2 Spartans won their seventh in a row.
— Jarrett Culver scored all 18 of his points in the second half as 11th-ranked Texas Tech downed West Virginia, 62-59 to improve to 12-1. The Red Raiders surrendered a nine-point lead in the second half before Davide Moretti’s 3-pointer with 2:08 remaining put Texas Tech ahead for good.
— Luke Maye scored 14 points and No. 15 North Carolina put together a 22-3 run in the second half to beat Harvard, 77-57. Cameron Johnson and Coby White added 13 points apiece in the Tar Heels’ final non-conference game of the regular season.
— Corey Davis Jr. nailed six 3-pointers on his way to a 21-point performance in leading No. 19 Houston to a 74-56 win over Tulsa. Nate Hinton had 13 points and eight rebounds in helping the Cougars improve to 14-0 this season and extend the nation’s longest home winning streak to 27 games.
— Maryland pulled out a 74-72 win over No. 24 Nebraska on Jalen Smith’s driving layup with 3.8 seconds left. Bruno Fernando had 18 points and 17 rebounds, Anthony Cowan Jr. scored 19 and Smith accounted for Maryland’s final seven points to finish with 15.

Ex-USC coach pleads guilty
Former Southern California assistant basketball coach Tony Bland has pleaded guilty to conspiracy to commit bribery.

Bland admitted to accepting $4,100 in cash to steer players at the school to certain financial advisers and business managers.

The plea in Manhattan federal court makes it likely Bland will spend little or no time in prison after he is sentenced April 2.

He was among four assistant coaches charged in the crackdown on college basketball recruiting corruption.

Prosecutors say the coaches teamed up with a top Adidas executive and others to trade hundreds of thousands of dollars in bribes to influence star athletes’ choice of schools, shoe sponsors, agents and even tailors.

Pens slam Blueshirts
It took a while for the Pittsburgh Penguins to get the offense going in their seventh consecutive victory.

Zach Aston Reese scored the game’s first goal 6 ½ minutes into the second period before the Penguins cruised to a 7-2 rout of the Rangers. The Pens took control when Jake Guentzel and Kris Letang scored 72 seconds apart midway through the middle period.

Letang, Guentzel, Sidney Crosby, Evgeni Malkin and Dominik Simon each finished with a goal and an assist for the Penguins, who are 11-2-1 in their last 14 games to pull within three points of the Metropolitan Division lead.

Elsewhere on NHL ice:
— Johnny Gaudreau’s power-play goal with 10:23 left snapped a 3-3 tie in the Flames’ 5-3 triumph over the Red Wings. Gaudreau also had three assists and Elias Lindholm added a goal and three points as Calgary sent Detroit to its sixth straight loss.
— Joe Pavelski and Brent Burns each had a goal and three assists in the Sharks’ 5-4 victory at Colorado. Tyson Jost tallied twice for the Avalanche, who have dropped six straight and are 3-8-3 since Dec. 4.
— The Oilers ended their six-game losing streak as Connor McDavid supplied two goals and an assist in a 3-1 verdict over the Coyotes. Leon Draisaitl added his 22nd goal and one assist to back Mikko Koskinen’s 29-save effort.
— Miro Heiskanen celebrated his first All-Star nod with two goals, including a third-period tiebreaker to send the Stars past the Devils, 5-4. Heiskanen and Tyler Seguin each scored twice after Jamie Benn tied it at 1 in the first period.
— Rookie Elias Pettersson has 22 goals after completing a hat trick in overtime to send the Canucks past the Senators, 4-3. Pettersson’s second goal put Vancouver ahead 3-1 early in the third period, Mark Stone eventually tied the game with 50 seconds left in regulation.

Ovechkin to skip All-Star Game, take suspension
Washington Capitals left wing Alex Ovechkin has decided to skip the All-Star Weekend in San Jose to get some extra rest and will serve an automatic one-game suspension.

The team says the league’s leading goal-scorer wants to take advantage of the adjoining bye week to prepare for the second half of the season.

NHL deputy commissioner Bill Daly says Ovechkin will miss either the game before or after the All-Star break. The NHL recently instituted an automatic one-game suspension for players who chose not to participate in All-Star Weekend, except in cases of injury.

In other NHL news:
— Canadiens netminder Carey Price is expected to return to the lineup Thursday against the visiting Canucks. But after missing the past three games with a lower-body injury, it’s not certain whether Price will start or back up Antti Niemi.
— The Canucks have traded goalie Anders Nilsson and minor-league winger Darren Archibald to the Senators for netminder Mike McKenna, forward Tom Pyatt and a sixth-round pick in the 2019 draft on Wednesday.

Gettleman has no-holds barred talk with Manning
New York Giants general manager Dave Gettleman says he and two-time Super Bowl MVP Eli Manning have had a no-holds barred conversion about the longtime quarterback’s future with the team.

Gettleman wouldn’t say whether Manning will be back for a 16th season, or whether his $23 million salary cap hit will play a role in the decision. Manning turns 38 on Thursday.

Gettleman said Wednesday that he likes the direction the Giants are headed. He said the offense overcame early season woes to lead the NFC East in scoring, but the defensive play needed to improve.

In other NFL news:
— Steelers coach Mike Tomlin says he wasn’t happy with Antonio Brown leading up to Sunday’s important game against the Bengals. The star wide receiver begged out of practice Wednesday and Thursday and was told on Friday to get an MRI on his banged up knee before failing to get in touch with Tomlin on Saturday. Brown was kept out of Sunday’s lineup, and Tomlin says Brown didn’t do a good enough job of communicating and being available in the hours leading up to the game.
— Colts center Ryan Kelly practiced Wednesday and expects to play in Saturday’s wild-card round game at Houston after sitting out Sunday’s regular-season finale with a stinger. He also missed three games earlier this season with a sprained medical collateral ligament and now wears a brace to protect his left knee. The 10-6 Colts did not allow a sack in the five games preceding Kelly’s first injury. They allowed six sacks in the three games he missed.
— Patriots safety Devin McCourty remained sidelined as New England returned to the practice field during its playoff bye week. McCourty left in the third quarter of the Patriots’ 38-3 win over the Jets with what the team called a head injury. He started all 16 games for the third straight season and was third on the team with 82 tackles.

Houston hires Holgorsen
Dana Holgorsen is back with the Houston Cougars, this time as head football coach.

Holgorsen spent two seasons as Houston’s offensive coordinator in 2008-09 and just completed an eight-year run as West Virginia’s head coach. Holgorsen was 61-41 and 33-30 in the Big 12 as he helped guide West Virginia through the transition from the Big East.

Holgorsen replaces Major Applewhite, who was let go last week after going 15-11 in two seasons with the Cougars.

In other college football news:
— Florida linebacker Vosean Joseph, Michigan cornerback David Long, Oklahoma receiver Maquise Brown and Washington safety Taylor Rapp are among the latest players to give up their final year of eligibility to enter the NFL draft. Joseph led the Gators with 93 tackles and Long was named to the 2018 All-Big Ten Team by conference coaches. Brown had 132 receptions for 2,413 yards and 17 touchdowns in just two seasons, and Rapp was a first team All-Pac 12 selection the past two seasons.

AP source: Tulowitzki, Yanks agree
A person familiar with the negotiations tells The Associated Press the Yankees have agreed to a one-year contract with shortstop Troy Tulowitzki for the major league minimum $555,000, a deal that’s subject to a physical.

Tulowitzki could take over at shortstop while Didi Gregorius recovers from Tommy John surgery performed last October. The 34-year-old, five-time All-Star hasn’t played in the major leagues since July 2017 and was released by the Toronto Blue Jays last month.

In other MLB news:
— The Twins and veteran slugger Nelson Cruz have finalized a one-year contract with an option for the 2020 season, giving Minnesota a boost at designated hitter. Cruz played 144 games for the Mariners last season, hitting .256 with 37 home runs, 97 RBIs and a .342 on-base percentage.
— Japanese left-hander Yusei Kikuchi has finalized a four-year contract with the Mariners that guarantees $50 million and includes club options that would be make it worth $103 million over seven seasons. Kikuchi was 14-4 with a 3.08 ERA for Seibu last season.

Americans advance, Canada, Sweden ousted
The U.S. beat the Czech Republic 3-1 to advance to the semifinals of the World Junior Championships at British Columbia.

Josh Norris, Noah Cates and Alexander Chmelevski scored for the United States, and Cayden Primeau made 18 saves.

Next up for the Americans is Russia, which hammered Slovakia by an 8-3 margin.
Canada and Sweden were bounced from the quarterfinals.

Canada fell 2-1 to Finland in overtime after giving up the tying goal in the final minute of regulation and missing a penalty shot early in the extra period.
Sweden dropped a 2-0 decision to Switzerland in Victoria.

Nadal withdraws from Brisbane
Rafael Nadal has withdrawn from the Brisbane International on the eve of his first scheduled competitive match of the season because of a strained left thigh.

The second-ranked Nadal played only nine tournaments during an injury-interrupted 2018 season, winning five titles.

The 17-time Grand Slam champion hasn’t played a competitive match since September but says he is confident he will be ready to compete at the Australian Open, which starts on Jan. 14.

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