Update on the latest sportsAP
Bucks whip Nets
UNDATED (AP) — More than a few basketball experts would like to anoint the Brooklyn Nets the prohibitive favorite to win the Eastern Conference. The Milwaukee Bucks showed on Friday that the Nets won’t have an easy ride to the Finals.
Giannis Antetokounmpo (YAH’-nihs an-teh-toh-KOON’-poh) and Khris Middleton led the defending champs to their first win in three games, a 121-109 decision over the Nets in Brooklyn.
Antetokounmpo provided 31 points after missing Milwaukee’s previous game with a non-COVID-related illness. He also had nine assists and seven rebounds, while Middleton scored 15 of his 20 in the third quarter to help the Bucks take a 24-point lead in the period.
Milwaukee won without coach Mike Budenholzer and Jrue Holiday due to health and safety protocols.
Kevin Durant had 29 points, nine rebounds and seven assists for the Nets, who have lost five straight home games.
Checking out Friday’s other NBA action:
— It’s now a nine-game winning streak for the Bulls after Zach LaVine pumped in 27 points and Coby White added 21 in a 130-122 shootout over the Wizards. Lonzo Ball scored 18 points, hitting six of Chicago’s 15 3-pointers. Rookie Ayo Dosunmu also had 18 points, and coach Billy Donovan earned his 300th NBA win.
— Cleveland came away with a 114-101 win at Portland as Darius Garland had 26 points and Rajon Rondo scored 11 off the bench in his Cavaliers debut. It was the Cavaliers’ 22nd win, matching their total for all of last season when they finished 13th in the Eastern Conference. Rookie Evan Mobley added 18 points for Cleveland in the team’s first victory in Portland since January 2013.
— Dallas overcame the absence of Luka Doncic, Kristaps Porzingis and coach Jason Kidd to beat Houston, 130-106. Doncic has a sprained right ankle, Porzingis missed his fourth straight game in the NBA’s health and safety protocols, and Kidd who entered the health and safety protocols Friday. Tim Hardaway Jr. had 19 points and seven assists
— Fred Van Vleet’s first career triple-double carried the Raptors to a comeback 122-108 win over the Jazz. Van Vleet delivered 37 points, 10 rebounds and 10 assists for the Raptors, who trailed by 17 before earning their fifth straight win. He’s scored at least 30 in five of his last seven games. Eric Paschall had a career-high 29 points for the Jazz, who were without eight key players due to injury or COVID protocols.
— The 76ers ran their winning streak to six games as Joel Embiid furnished 31 points and 12 rebounds in a 119-100 win over the short-handed Spurs. Seth Curry and Tobias Harris each added 23 points for the Sixers. Dejounte Murray scored 27 points for San Antonio, which was without six players due to health and safety protocols.
— Nikola Jokic carried the Nuggets to a 121-111 win over the Kings, finishing with 33 points and 10 rebounds. Denver forwards Jeff Green and Zeke Nnaji were activated off the COVID-19 list while Aaron Gordon and Bones Hyland played after being sent home from Thursday’s film session due to non-COVID-19 illnesses. Green had 18 points, Hyland 13 and Gordon 10.
— The Lakers have their first four-game winning streak of the season after LeBron James and Malik Monk led a 134-118 victory against the Hawks. LeBron James scored 23 of his 32 points in the second half, Malik Monk added a season-high 29 points. Avery Bradley and Talen Horton-Tucker scored 21 points apiece for the Lakers, who have won five of six overall while remaining perfect on a five-game homestand that ends Sunday.
— The Timberwolves hammered the Thunder, 135-105 behind D’Angelo Russell’s 27 points and 12 assists. Russell made 11 of 12 field goals and 4 of 5 3-pointers to help Minnesota earn its third straight win and beat the Thunder for second tine in three nights. Anthony Edwards scored 24 points, and Karl-Anthony Towns added 19 points for the Timberwolves.
Cards designate Watt to return, could help in playoffs
UNDATED (AP) — The Arizona Cardinals have announced that three-time NFL Defensive Player of the Year J.J. Watt has been designated to return from the injured reserve list, leaving open the possibility that he could boost the team’s defense during the playoffs.
The Cardinals made the move on Friday and now have 21 days to elevate Watt to the 53-man roster. He can return to practice immediately.
The 32-year-old Watt was initially expected to be out for the season because of a shoulder injury on Oct. 24, but has been working out at Arizona’s practice facility to try and be ready for the playoffs.
In other NFL news:
— Titans coach Mike Vrabel says the team has some time to make the decision on moving Derrick Henry from injured reserve back to the active roster. Vrabel says he likes what he’s seen of the 2020 AP NFL Offensive Player of the Year in the three days Henry has practiced.
— Quarterback Jimmy Garoppolo is listed as questionable for the 49ers in their crucial season finale against the Rams after missing last week’s game with an injured right thumb. Garoppolo practiced on a limited basis all week and said Thursday that his thumb still hurts. Coach Kyle Shanahan says he knows whether he plans to start Garoppolo or Trey Lance on Sunday but is waiting until game time to make an announcement.
— Lamar Jackson will miss a fourth consecutive game for the Ravens because of his ankle injury. That likely ends the star quarterback’s 2021 regular season. That means Tyler Huntley will make his fourth start of the season. The winner of the Ravens-Steelers game can make the playoffs, but those chances are slim.
— Packers center Josh Myers is expected to play for the first time in over 2 1/2 months on Sunday against Detroit. The availability of fellow offensive lineman David Bakhtiari remains uncertain.
T25 MEN’S BASKETBALL
Musketeers whip Bulldogs
INDIANAPOLIS (AP) — Xavier was the only top-25 men’s basketball team in action on Friday, and the Musketeers cruised to an 87-72 win over Butler.
Adam Kunkel was 8 of 12 from the field, including 5 of 8 from 3-point range in scoring 25 points off the bench. Paul Scruggs was 9-for-9 from the line and finished with 16 points seven rebounds and six assists for Xavier.
Hurricanes double up Flames
UNDATED (AP) — A one-week layoff did little to shut down the Carolina Hurricanes’ potent attack.
Andre Svechnikov scored twice and Brady Skjei had a goal and two assists as the Canes won for the ninth time in 10 games, 6-3 against the Flames.
Derek Stepan, Jesper Fast and Tony DeAngelo also scored and Steven Lorentz had two assists for Carolina. Frederik Andersen stopped 36 shots while playing a full game for the first time in nearly three weeks.
St. Louis won the Friday’s only other NHL contest. Pavel Buchnevich had two goals and an assist for the Blues in a 5-1 thumping of the Capitals. Torey Krug, Oskar Sundqvist and Ivan Barbashev also scored to help the Blues improve to 8-2-2 in their last 12 games, and 10-0-1 in their last 11 at home. Ryan O’Reilly and Robert Thomas each added two assists.
NHL postpones Canucks, Senators games due to capacity limits
UNDATED (AP) — The Vancouver Canucks had another game pushed back when the NHL announced it was postponing Saturday’s matchup with the Ottawa Senators due to ongoing attendance restrictions.
The league also postponed a Senators-Jets game originally set for Jan. 15. Current health orders in British Columbia limit attendance at indoor sports events to 50% capacity.
ESPN realigns MLB Sunday Night broadcast team
BRISTOL, Conn. (AP) — Former players David Cone and Eduardo Perez are joining Karl Ravech to form a new broadcast team for ESPN’s “Sunday Night Baseball” telecasts.
Alex Rodriguez will shift to eight Sunday night alternate telecasts on ESPN2 with Michael Kay, a mainstay on New York Yankees’ broadcasts since 1992.
Ravech replaces Matt Vasgersian.
COLLEGE SPORTS-MURRAY STATE
Murray State joining MVC this summer
MURRAY, Ky. (AP) — Murray State will become the 11th member of the Missouri Valley Conference on July 1.
University officials announced Friday the Board of Regents accepted an invitation from the Missouri Valley Conference and will be leaving the Ohio Valley Conference.
The MVC does not include football or rifle. Murray State is working to join the Missouri Valley Football Conference in football, while the school’s rifle program will continue competing in the Ohio Valley Conference.
Djokovic spending Orthodox Christmas in detention
BRISBANE, Australia (AP) — Lawyers for Novak Djokovic (NOH’-vak JOH’-kuh-vich) have filed court documents in his challenge against deportation from Australia that showed the tennis star contracted COVID-19 in the middle of last month.
The world No. 1 men’s player was denied entry at the Melbourne airport late Wednesday after the Australian Border Force canceled his visa for failing to meet its entry requirement that all non-citizens be fully vaccinated against COVID-19. Since then he has been confined to an immigration detention hotel in Melbourne.
Djokovic was given a medical exemption on Jan. 1 based on his recent infection and it was backed by the Victoria state government and Australian Open organizers based on information he supplied to two independent medical panels. He will go to the Federal Circuit Court on Monday to challenge his visa cancellation and deportation. That’s a week before the season-opening major starts.
In other tennis news:
— Defending Australian Open champion Naomi Osaka has withdrawn from her semifinal match at a WTA tournament in Melbourne with an abdominal injury. That allowed her opponent Veronika Kudermetova to advance to the final on a walkover. Earlier, American Amanda Anisimova advanced to her first final since 2019 with a 6-2, 6-0 win over Daria Kasatkina.
GOLF-US WOMEN’S OPEN
US Women’s Open purse soars to $10 million on fabled courses
UNDATED (AP) — The USGA has announced a $10 million purse for this year’s U.S. Women’s Open, nearly doubling last year’s total.
The prize money will go up to $12 million over the next five years.
Bell tops Chen to win US figure skating championship; both are locks for Olympics
UNDATED (AP) — Mariah Bell put together a mesmerizing free skate at the U.S. Figure Skating Championships, edging Karen Chen on Friday night for her first gold medal and taking any drama out of whether she’s headed to her first Winter Olympics. Bell and Chen are locks when U.S. Figure Skating’s selection committee announces the three-woman team headed to the Beijing Games next month.
The other spot is likely to go to Alysa Liu, the two-time national champion who was third after her short program but had to withdraw earlier Friday following a positive test for COVID-19. Fourteen-year-old Isabeau Levito, who is too young to compete at the Olympics, claimed the bronze medal.
In other news of Olympics hopefuls:
— Brittany Bowe has won the women’s 1,000 meters in a track-record time at the U.S. speedskating trials in Milwaukee to earn her third Olympic berth. The 33-year-old Floridian finished first in 1 minute, 13.63 seconds. Kimi Goetz was second at 1:14.89. Erin Jackson finished third in 1:15.88. Jordan Stolz won the men’s 1,000 in a track-record time of 1:07.61 to earn an Olympic berth at age 17. Joey Mantia qualified for his third Olympics by finishing second.