Update on the latest sports


76ers handle Hornets for 4th straight win

UNDATED (AP) — The Philadelphia 76ers now enjoy a 3-game lead in the NBA’s Atlantic Division and improved their record to an Eastern Conference-leading 16-6 while continuing to dominate the Charlotte Hornets.

Joel Embiid (joh-EHL’ ehm-BEED’) had 34 points and 11 rebounds in the Sixers’ 14th straight win over the Hornets, 118-111. Tobias Harris scored 26 points and Ben Simmons added 15 points and nine assists for the 76ers, who stretched their overall winning streak to four games.

Gordon Hayward and LaMelo Ball each had 22 points for the Hornets, who had their three-game win streak snapped.

Charlotte shot 22.7% from field in the first quarter and fell behind 30-13.

In Wednesday’s other NBA action:

— Paul George made a season-high eight 3-pointers and scored 36 points as the Clippers whipped the Cavaliers, 121-99 to end up 4-2 on its road trip. Kawhi (kah-WY’) Leonard added 24 and the Clippers made 20 3-pointers to avoid losing two straight for the first time this season.

— Bradley Beal furnished 32 points and the Wizards rallied from a 13-point, second-half deficit to beat the freefalling Heat 103-100. Deni Avdija added 13 for Washington, which pulled off this comeback just three nights after digging its way out of an 18-point hole to beat the Nets.

— Giannis Antetokounmpo (YAH’-nihs an-teh-toh-KOON’-poh) had 21 points, 14 rebounds and 10 assists before sitting out the fourth quarter of the Bucks, 130-110 romp over the Pacers. The reigning two-time MVP shot 7 of 8 from the floor and 7 of 8 from the line for the Bucks, who also received 20 points from Bryn Forbes and 18 from Bobby Portis.

— The Kings pulled out a 116-111 win over the Celtics behind De’Aaron Fox’s 26 points and 11 assists. Buddy Hield made two free throws with six-tenths of a second remaining and finished with 15 points and 11 rebounds for Sacramento.

— Kenrich Williams scored 19 points and the Thunder bounced back from a 30-point loss to Houston two days earlier and beat the Rockets 104-87. Darius Bazley had 18 points and a career-high 12 rebounds and Houston scored a season-low for points after setting a season high on Monday.

— DeMar DeRozan scored 30 points and the Spurs rallied from a 16-point deficit to beat the Timberwolves, 111-108. Jakob Poeltl added 19 points and Dejounte Murray added 15 with 11 rebounds for San Antonio, which outscored Minnesota, 32-18 in the final period.

— Zion Williamson punctuated a 28-point performance with a soaring, one-handed alley-oop jam during a decisive fourth-quarter surge that carried the Pelicans past the Suns, 123-101. Brandon Ingram scored 23 and Lonzo Ball added 18 points for New Orleans, which led by as many as 28 in the final period.

— The Mavericks’ six-game losing streak is over after Luka Doncic (DAHN’-chihch) scored 27 points and dished out 14 assists in a 122-116 decision over the Hawks. Kristaps Porzingis (pohr-ZIHN’-gihs) added 24 points and 11 rebounds for the Mavericks, including a crucial tip-in of a miss by Doncic with 32 seconds remaining.

— The Knicks held off the Bulls, 107-103 as Julius Randle dropped in 27 points and tied a career high by hitting five 3-pointers. Elfrid Payton added 20 points and eight rebounds as New York won for only the second time in its last seven games.


East Carolina surprises No. 5 Houston

UNDATED (AP) — It was a tough night to be a top-5 men’s basketball team.

Posh Alexander scored 16 points and St. John’s held third-ranked Villanova to 32 percent shooting in a 70-59 upset of the Wildcats. Julian Champagnie contributed all 14 of his points in the second half of the Red Storm’s fifth win in a row.

Villanova committed 17 turnovers in ending a nine-game winning streak. The Wildcats fell behind, 58-41 with about 6:45 left and were held 12 points below its previous season low for its first loss since Nov. 28 to Virginia Tech in overtime.

Jayden Gardner had 21 points and 15 rebounds to help East Carolina shock fifth-ranked Houston 82-73, the Pirates’ first win against a ranked opponent in nearly two decades.

Tremont Robinson-White added 17 points for East Carolina, which defied season-long offensive struggles against one of the nation’s top defensive teams. East Carolina shot 47% overall, made 11 of 24 3-pointers and led for the last 12-plus minutes.

DeJon Jarreau matched his career high with 25 points to lead the Cougars, but top scorer Quentin Grimes provided just seven points on 2-for-10 shooting.

Checking out Wednesday’s other top-25 action:

— Jaden Shackelford scored 19 points and No. 10 Alabama moved to 10-0 in the SEC with a 78-60 win against LSU. Juwan Gary with a season-high 12 points for the Crimson Tide, who opened the second half on an 11-2 run to take a 15-point lead.

— Virginia was a 64-57 winner against North Carolina State as Sam Hauser and Trey Murphy III each furnished 18 points for the 14th-ranked Cavaliers. Jay Huff added 12 points to help the Cavs bounce back after their 15-game ACC winning streak ended Saturday against Virginia Tech.

— Jahvon Blair nailed six 3-pointers and provided 21 points to lead four Georgetown players in double figures in an 86-79 victory at Creighton. The Hoyas hit 50% from the field and ended a five-game road losing streak.

— Xavier Johnson poured in a career-high 32 points and Pittsburgh beat No. 16 Virginia Tech, 83-72 to end a three-game skid. Panthers leading scorer Justin Champagnie had 13 rebounds and 10 points, his eighth double-double.

— Dru Smith delivered a season-high 26 points on 6 of 11 shooting, grabbed seven rebounds and had five assists as 18th-ranked Missouri held off Kentucky, 75-70. Xavier Pinson had 14 points for the Tigers, who saw a 40-27 lead cut to one before dropping the Wildcats to 5-11.

— AJ Lawson scored 22 points and Seventh Woods added 12 for South Carolina in a 72-66 victory against No. 22 Florida. Keyshawn Bryant added eight points for the Gamecocks, including six in a 13-1 run over the final 6:37.


Twins, Cruz agree

UNDATED (AP) — The Minnesota Twins are bringing back 40-year-old designated hitter Nelson Cruz on a one-year, $13 million contract, according to a person with knowledge of the negotiations.

Cruz last season batted .303 with 16 home runs, 33 RBIs and a .992 OPS in 53 games during the pandemic-shortened schedule. He has led the team in homers in each of his two years with the Twins while ranking second and fourth, respectively, in the AL in OPS. The six-time All-Star won Silver Slugger awards in 2019 and 2020, when the Twins won the AL Central both seasons.

No player in the major leagues has more home runs over the last seven seasons than Cruz’s 260.

In other MLB news:

— The Orioles have agreed to sign veteran right-hander Félix Hernández to a minor league contract. The 34-year-old Hernández won an AL Cy Young Award, two ERA titles and made six All-Star teams over 15 seasons with Seattle before becoming a free agent last offseason. In his last big league action, Hernández went 1-8 with a 6.40 ERA in 2019.

— The Indians signed durable reliever Bryan Shaw to a minor league contract and invited him to big league spring training in an effort to shore up the bullpen. The 33-year-old Shaw spent five seasons with the club, compiling a 3.11 ERA and leading the American League in appearances three times with Cleveland.

— The Red Sox and right-hander Garrett Richards have finalized a one-year, $10 million contract. Richards has an $8.5 million salary this year, and the deal includes a $10 million option for 2022 with a $1.5 million buyout. After Tommy John surgery in 2018, he missed most of 2019, then went 2-2 with a 4.03 ERA last season.

— Catcher Alex Avila and the Nationals have finalized a $1.5 million, one-year contract. He was a free agent after playing in 2020 for the Minnesota Twins, batting .184 in 49 at-bats during the coronavirus-shortened season. He has played 12 years in the majors for five clubs and has a .235 career batting average with a .348 on-base percentage, 104 homers and 388 RBIs.

— The Diamondbacks have agreed to terms on a one-year, $3.5 million deal with veteran relief pitcher Joakim Soria, according to a person with knowledge of the negotiations. The two-time All-Star will be pitching for his eighth MLB team. The 36-year-old right-hander spent the past two years with Oakland and finished with a 2.82 ERA in 2020.

— Catcher Josh Phegley is retiring after eight major league seasons, a week shy of his 33rd birthday. Phegley played in 11 games for the Chicago Cubs last season and went 1 for 16 at the plate with one homer and two RBIs.

— Outfielder Anthony Santander and the Orioles have argued the second salary arbitration case of the year. Santander asked for a raise from $572,500 to almost $2.5 million, and the Orioles argued for $2.1 million.

— The Padres have promoted general manager A.J. Preller to president of baseball operations and extended his contract through the 2026 season. Preller has rebuilt the Padres into a playoff team. They ended a 13-year postseason drought in 2020, beating the Cardinals in a wild card series before losing to the rival Dodgers in the NL Division Series.


Officials: no Super Bowl threat amid rise of white supremacy

TAMPA, Fla. (AP) — Law enforcement officials say there is no specific threat of an attack connected to the Super Bowl and related events despite concerns about the rise of white supremacist extremism.

The FBI has made several arrests in the Tampa area of people who allegedly took part in the Jan. 6 riot at the U.S. Capitol. But the chief of the Tampa FBI office said no links have been found indicating something similar might occur surrounding Sunday’s game.


Pastrnak nets hat trick vs. Flyers

UNDATED (AP) — David Pastrnak has quickly made his presence felt in three games since returning from an injury.

Pastrnak followed his two-goal performance in Monday’s win at Washington by recording a hat trick to lead the Bruins’ comeback in a 4-3 overtime win at Philadelphia. He also set up Patrice Bergeron (pah-TREES’ BEHR’-zhuh-rahn) for the game-winner 31 seconds into OT.

Bergeron had two assists for the Bruins, who came back from a 3-1, third-period deficit for the third straight game.

Boston has won six of its last seven games and is 3-0 versus Philadelphia this season.

Elsewhere on NHL ice:

— Alex Killorn (kih-LOHRN’) had a goal and an assist in the Lightning’s third win in a row, 5-1 against Detroit. Victor Hedman, Ryan McDonagh, Anthony Cirelli and Brayden Point also scored for the Bolts, who are 5-0 in Tampa this season.


COVID case at Australian Open hotel cancels play at tuneups

UNDATED (AP) — The same day the NBA announced zero positive results among 482 players tested since Jan. 17, several NHL teams had players added to that league’s COVID-19 list.

Five Minnesota players were added, making it six for the Wild. Four more New Jersey players appeared on the list to get to 17. Buffalo has two more players on it and is up to four.

The Devils had games postponed through Saturday and the Sabres through Monday.

In other virus-related sports developments:

— The family of Florida forward Keyontae Johnson says his collapse during a game nearly two months ago was not related to a positive COVID-19 test. The family says local and national experts reviewed relevant imaging and testing related to Johnson’s case and reached a “unanimous conclusion.” Johnson crumbled to the court on Dec. 12 at Florida State and spent 10 nights in hospitals.

— The Louisville men’s basketball game at Syracuse scheduled for Wednesday night has been postponed. The ACC said the postponement was due to a positive COVID-19 test, quarantining and contact tracing within the Cardinals’ program. It’s the second postponement in three games for Louisville, which is due to visit No. 14 Virginia on Saturday.

— The Southeastern Conference has postponed Vanderbilt’s men’s basketball game Wednesday night at Texas A&M, the second game between the teams postponed this season. The SEC says this postponement is because of a combination of positive tests, contact tracing and quarantining of people inside Texas A&M’s program.

— The Southeastern Conference has announced the postponement of a pair of Tennessee women’s basketball games. Both games were Top 25 matchups against 24th-ranked Mississippi State on Thursday and No. 7 Texas A&M on Sunday. The league cited a combination of a positive test, contact tracing and subsequent quarantining of individuals within the Lady Vols’ program.

— All competition at six Australian Open tune-up events scheduled for Thursday was called off after a worker at one of the tournaments’ Melbourne quarantine hotels tested positive for COVID-19. Players preparing for the year’s first Grand Slam tournament must isolate at their hotels until they test negative for the illness caused by the coronavirus. Australian Open organizers didn’t immediately have details of how many players would have to isolate with the tournament set to begin on Monday.

— The National Women’s Hockey League has suspended the remainder of its season because of additional positive virus test results. Two of the league’s six teams had already withdrawn from the tournament, with one citing several COVID-19 cases.


Canes netminder has surgery

RALEIGH, N.C. (AP) — The Carolina Hurricanes say goaltender Petr Mrazek (muh-RA’-zehk) is recovering from surgery on his right thumb, four days after getting injured in a game against Dallas.

The Hurricanes say a timetable for his return will be determined, though coach Rod Brind’Amour said it could be a “long-term kind of injury.”

The 28-year-old Mrazek leads all NHL goaltenders with a 0.99 goals-against average as well as a .955 save percentage.


Team Canada taps Blues’ Armstrong as GM ahead of Olympics

CALGARY, Alberta (AP) — St. Louis Blues general manager Doug Armstrong will be the GM for the Canadian men’s team if NHL players participate in the 2022 Winter Olympics in Beijing.

Armstrong served on the management team that helped Canada win gold medals in Vancouver in 2010 and Sochi in 2014. Armstrong, who was also GM of Canada’s gold medal-winning team at the 2016 World Cup of Hockey, guided the Blues to the Stanley Cup in 2019 and was the NHL’s GM of the year in 2011-12.