Update on the latest sportsAP
Sixers pad lead by rallying past Pelicans
UNDATED (AP) — The Philadelphia 76ers are a little closer to clinching the top seed in the NBA’s Eastern Conference playoffs.
The Sixers won their season-high seventh straight game and increased their lead to three games over Brooklyn and Milwaukee by downing the Pelicans, 109-107. Joel Embiid (joh-EHL’ ehm-BEED’) had 37 points and 13 rebounds amid chants of “MVP! MVP!”
Embiid made two free throws with 1:39 left to bring the Sixers within one, then grabbed a defensive rebound on the other end to set up Tobias Harris’ 3 with 1:10 remaining.
Tobias Harris scored 17 points as the 76ers improved to 46-21.
The Bucks caught up to the Nets as Brook Lopez had 24 points and Khris Middleton scored 21 of his 23 in the second half of a 141-133 downing of the Rockets. Jrue Holiday had 20 points as the Bucks had seven players reach double figures.
Giannis Antetokounmpo (YAH’-nihs an-teh-toh-KOON’-poh) had 17 points, 11 rebounds and seven assists in Milwaukee’s fifth win in a row.
Checking out Friday’s other NBA action:
— Zach LaVine (lah-VEEN’) and Coby White each scored 25 points as the Bulls blasted the Celtics, 121-99. White hit seven 3-pointers and Chicago made 18 of 40 from beyond the arc. Nikola Vucevic added 18 points, 10 assists and 14 rebounds to help the Bulls withstand Kemba Walker’s 33 points for Boston.
Pelicans’ Williamson out indefinitely with fractured finger
PHILADELPHIA (AP) — The New Orleans Pelicans’ playoff hopes have been dealt a major blow with the loss of forward Zion Williamson, who is averaging 27 points and 7.2 rebounds in 61 games this season.
Williamson is out indefinitely with a fractured left finger suffered in Tuesday’s game against Golden State.
The Pelicans are 1 1/2 games behind San Antonio for the final Western Conference play-in berth heading into tonight’s game at Philadelphia.
UNDATED (AP) — It was a tough night for the Washington Capitals and Tampa Bay Lightning as they try to win a division title.
Rookie Wade Allison scored twice and Brian Elliott made 28 saves as the Flyers topped the Capitals, 4-2. Joel Farabee took advantage of a defensive-zone miscue by Washington to open the scoring 1:44 into the game. Sean Couturier (koo-TUR’-ee-ay) sealed it for Philadelphia with an empty-net goal with 30.1 seconds left.
The loss keeps the Caps two points behind the East Division-leading Penguins with two games remaining. Pittsburgh has one game remaining.
In Tampa, the Lightning were eliminated from the Central race, allowing the Carolina Hurricanes to become division champs.
Joe Pavelski had two goals and two assists as the Stars won for the first time in six games, 5-2 over the Bolts. Roope (ROO’-peh) Hintz added a goal and two assists for Dallas, which pulled within two points of Nashville for the final Central Division playoff berth.
The outcome sets up an all-Florida first-round matchup between the Lightning and Panthers.
Elsewhere on NHL ice:
— Thomas Greiss (grys) made 22 saves and the Red Wings scored three goals in the second period of a 5-2 win over the Blue Jackets. Jakub Vrana (vuh-RAH’-nah) had a goal and an assist, and Joe Veleno and Danny DeKeyser also scored in the second period for Detroit.
Canucks’ Zack MacEwen suspended game for kneeing
NEW YORK (AP) — Vancouver Canucks forward Zack MacEwen was suspended for one game without pay by the NHL for kneeing Edmonton Oilers defenseman Darnell Nurse. The incident came midway through the second period Thursday night in the Canucks’ 6-3 victory in Edmonton. The suspension will cost MacEwen $7,112.
Cubs extend win streak
UNDATED (AP) — The Chicago Cubs didn’t suffer any letdown after their three-game sweep of the defending World Series champions.
The Cubs have run their winning streak to four games as Zach Davies allowed five hits in seven scoreless innings of a 3-2 win over Pittsburgh. Joc Pederson had three hits and an RBI for the Cubs, who took three straight from the Dodgers.
Rex Brothers notched his first save since Sept. 29, 2013, giving up an RBI single before getting Brian Reynolds to hit a game-ending fly ball with the bases loaded.
Also in the majors:
— The Nationals took advantage of three Yankees errors to score six times in the eighth inning of an 11-4 rout in the Bronx. Trea Turner singled home the go-ahead run and Josh Harrison slammed a three-run homer that put the Nats in control.
Indians catcher has finger surgery, out months
UNDATED (AP) — The Indians could be without Gold Glove catcher Roberto Pérez for months.
Pérez has undergone surgery to fix a fractured ring finger. He suffered the injury last month and played nearly three weeks with it before the discomfort became too much. Pérez hurt his finger when he got crossed up by reliever James Karinchak and caught a pitch with his bare hand.
Elsewhere in the league:
— The Phillies had Jean Segura and Bryce Harper in the lineup for Friday’s game against the Braves in Atlanta. Segura started at second base in his return from a right quad strain that landed him on the injured list. Harper missed four consecutive games with a sore left wrist.
— Twins outfielder Byron Buxton was put on the 10-day injured list with a strained right hip. The injury interrupts a stellar start for the 27-year-old Buxton, who is hitting .370 with nine home runs and five stolen bases.
— Reds first baseman Joey Votto (VY’-toh) has been placed on the 10-day injured list with a broken left thumb that could sideline him for a month. Votto was struck on the thumb with a pitch by Chicago’s Dallas Keuchel (KY’-kul) on Wednesday. The 37-year-old is batting .226 with five homers and 17 RBIs.
— The Angels have acquired catcher Drew Butera from Texas for cash considerations, allowing Los Angeles to designate backstop Jack Kruger for assignment. The 37-year-old Butera will back up Kurt Suzuki while catchers Max Stassi and Anthony Bemboom are sidelined by injuries.
— Utilityman Hernán Pérez is back in the Brewers organization after accepting a minor league contract. Pérez was designated for assignment by the Nationals on Tuesday after going 1 for 19 in 10 games. He was productive in his first stop with the Brewers, batting .258 with 45 homers, 175 RBIs and 67 steals in his 572 games.
— A fifth major league team has been able to relax coronavirus protocols after 85% of its players and other on-field personnel completed vaccination. Major League Baseball and the Major League Baseball Players Association made the announcement without identifying any teams. They said seven additional teams had reached the 85% level of having received final doses and would be able to relax protocols within two weeks once they are fully vaccinated.
AP source: No cutting players because they are unvaccinated
UNDATED (AP) — A person with direct knowledge of the NFL’s directive tells The Associated Press a team can’t release a player simply because he is not vaccinated for COVID-19.
Buffalo Bills general manager Brandon Beane suggested hypothetically this week that he’d do so if it would provide more freedom within the team facilities for meetings and offseason programs.
The NFL currently is formulating further plans and protocols for the offseason programs and training camp.
In other NFL news:
— The Jets have cut six players including wide receiver Josh Doctson in a flurry of moves before the team’s first rookie minicamp practice under new coach Robert Saleh. Cornerback Kyron Brown, tight end Connor Davis, offensive lineman Leo Koloamatangi, kicker Chase McLaughlin and wide receiver Jaleel Scott were also released Friday.
— The Lions have signed center Frank Ragnow to a four-year, $54 million extension that keeps him under contract through the 2026 season for a total of $70 million. The deal makes him the NFL’s highest-paid player at the position.
PGA-WELLS FARGO CHAMPIONSHIP
Woodland, Wallace, Rodgers share lead
CHARLOTTE, N.C. (AP) — There’s a three-way tie for the lead through two rounds of the PGA’s Wells Fargo Championship.
Former U.S. Open champion Gary Woodland fought through morning gusts while shooting a 2-under 69 that leaves him tied with Matt Wallace and Patrick Rodgers. Wallace fired a 66 for a 6 under total.
Kramer Hickok is one shot back and one ahead of five others, including Rory McIlroy.
Phil Mickelson followed a 64 with a 75 that puts him 3 under.
PGA TOUR CHAMPIONS-TRADITION
Four-way tie at Tradition
BIRMINGHAM, Ala. (AP) — Defending champion Steve Stricker birdied the final hole for a 3-under 69 to move into a four-way tie for the lead halfway through the Regions Tradition. Stricker joined Jerry Kelly, Monday qualifier Alex Cejka (CHAY’-kah) and first-round leader Darren Clarke atop the leaderboard at 7 under in the first of the PGA Tour Champions’ five majors. Cejka has shot 68 and 69 after making the field as the first alternate when Jay Haas withdrew.
University of Hartford sports drops from Division I to III
WEST HARTFORD, Conn. (AP) — The University of Hartford is dropping its sports teams from Division I to Division III.
The decision comes after the Hartford men’s basketball team this season won its first America East championship this season and played in the NCAA Tournament for the first time, losing to eventual national champion Baylor in the first round.
Hartford President Gregory Woodward says the school wants to “transition to this new model for intercollegiate athletics.”
Darlington plans full capacity this summer
DARLINGTON, S.C. (AP) — Darlington Raceway track officials have announced that they plan to fully open the grandstands for the Southern 500 on Labor Day weekend.
The raceway will hold the Goodyear 400 on Sunday to limited spectators. Darlington President Kerry Tharp said that will change this summer when the series returns there with no limits on fans.
Darlington Raceway has a seating capacity of about 47,000.
COLLEGE FOOTBALL-ALABAMA-SABAN-VACCINE PSA
Saban tapes message encouraging Alabamans to get vaccinated
TUSCALOOSA, Ala. (AP) — Alabama football coach Nick Saban has taped a public service announcement encouraging Alabamians to get vaccinated.
The Alabama Department of Public Health says Saban and others, including former NBA star Charles Barkley, participated in the PSA. Less than 25% of Alabamians have been fully vaccinated, which ranks last nationally, according to the CDC.