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Last Update on March 06, 2015 06:35 GMT


ATLANTA (AP) -- The Atlanta Hawks are blowing away everyone in the Eastern Conference.

Yet, there's always a sense that LeBron James will be standing in the way when they get to the playoffs.

That scenario adds an extra bit of intrigue to Friday night's matchup in Atlanta between the Hawks and James' Cleveland Cavaliers.

The front-running Hawks (48-12) insist they're not treating this game any different. Of course, that's what you would expect from the team with a double-digit lead in the East, which has all but locked up home-court advantage throughout the conference playoffs with more than a month to go in the regular season.

The Cavaliers (39-24) are 10-1/2 games behind and more concerned at the moment with beating out Chicago and Toronto for the No. 2 seed.


GOODYEAR, Ariz. (AP) -- Cincinnati's Johnny Cueto made his spring debut and allowed one hit and struck out two in two scoreless innings on Thursday.

But reliever Burke Badenhop got hit hard in his Reds debut, giving up five runs while retiring only two batters and the Cleveland Indians pulled away to a 9-3 victory.

Badenhop allowed Jose Ramirez's two-run single and Yan Gomez's two-run homer during Cleveland's five-run fifth inning. The reliever gave up five hits and walked a batter.

The Reds signed Badenhop to a one-year, $2.5 million deal last month, trying to improve one of the NL's worst bullpens last season.

Cleveland's Trevor Bauer allowed a run and three hits over three innings, his first of the spring.


CINCINNATI (AP) -- Rey Maualuga agreed to a three-year deal Thursday, allowing the Cincinnati Bengals to keep one of their top linebackers.

Cincinnati's defense slipped to 22nd in the NFL last season, when Maualuga and linebacker Vontaze Burfict missed significant time because of injuries. After Maualuga returned after missing four games with a pulled hamstring, the run defense improved measurably.

Maualuga was a second-round pick in 2009. He could have become an unrestricted free agent next week.

Burfict missed most of last season with concussions and torn knee cartilage that required surgery, leaving his status for the start of next season unclear. The Bengals will try to add depth at the linebacker spot in the offseason.

National Sports News

Last Update on March 06, 2015 23:41 GMT


SYRACUSE, N.Y. (AP) -- The NCAA has suspended Syracuse coach Jim Boeheim (BAY'-hym) for nine games next season and the Orange were punished for academic, drug and other violations committed primarily by the men's basketball program.

The school was put on probation for five years and the basketball team must vacate wins in which ineligible players participated. The NCAA says those players competed during five seasons: 2004-2007 and 2010-2012.

The punishment includes financial penalties and the reduction of three men's basketball scholarships a year for four years. Recruiting restrictions will be enforced for two years. Boeheim's suspension will be applied to Atlantic Coast Conference games next year.

In a letter to alumni and financial backers, the school says it "respectfully disagrees" with some of the NCAA's conclusions and is considering whether to appeal.


UNDATED (AP) -- Today's AP Top-25 schedule started with eighth-ranked Wichita State beating Southern Illinois 56-45 in the Missouri Valley Conference quarterfinals at the Scottrade Center in St. Louis. Tekele Cotton scored nine straight points to fuel a 17-3 pull-away run in the first half.

Fred VanVleet had 13 points, four assists and three steals for the 28-3 Shockers, who beat Southern Illinois for the third straight time. The Shockers will take on Illinois State in the semifinals.

That will be followed by No. 11 Northern Iowa going up against Bradley this evening in another Missouri Valley Conference quarterfinal.

Tonight, No. 14 Baylor hosts Texas Tech. In tournament play, No. 25 Murray State is in Ohio Valley Conference semifinals against Morehead State in Nashville, Tenn.


LAWRENCE, Kan. (AP)-- A person familiar with the situation tells The Associated Press that Kansas forward Cliff Alexander will remain out of action amid questions about his family's relationship with an agent. Coach Bill Self says Alexander was unlikely to play in the ninth-ranked Jayhawks' game against No. 15 Oklahoma on Saturday.


GAINESVILLE, Fla. (AP) -- Florida expects to have leading scorer Michael Frazier II available when the Gators play at top-ranked Kentucky on Saturday. Frazier missed the last seven games because of a high-ankle sprain.

The Wildcats, the only undefeated men's Division 1 team, are trying for their 31st straight victory.


INDIANAPOLIS (AP) -- The Indianapolis Colts say they will not re-sign wide receiver Reggie Wayne. The 14-year veteran has been part of a club-record 143 wins and ranks second in franchise history in receptions, yards receiving and touchdown catches (80). Wayne will become a free agent.


UNDATED (AP) -- A person familiar with the situation says New Orleans Saints all-time leading receiver Marques Colston has agreed to contract changes and will remain with the club next season and save the Saints some salary cap space. Without restructuring, Colston would have cost New Orleans $9.7 million against the cap. No other contract details were immediately released.

In other NFL moves:

---- The Chiefs are bringing back linebacker Josh Mauga on a three-year deal. That's what a person familiar with the move told The Associated Press on Friday. The move to retain Mauga, a pending free agent, came one day after the Chiefs parted ways with veteran linebacker Joe Mays. Mauga will likely start at middle linebacker.


UNDATED (AP)-- The Chicago Bulls have the tough end of a back-to-back scheduling challenge tonight. After beating the Oklahoma City Thunder 108-105 last night in the Windy City, the Bulls hit the road to play at Indiana tonight.

That's one of 12 games on tonight's NBA slate. The Washington Wizards, who've dropped seven of their last 10, are home against Miami. The Wizards have no chance of catching division-leading Atlanta, but they're hoping to gain some ground to finish at least fourth in the Eastern Conference to gain the home-court edge in their first-round playoff series.

Those high-flying Hawks are home against Cleveland tonight in a possible preview of the Eastern Conference finals. The Hawks have a commanding 14-1/2-game lead over the Wizards. Meanwhile, the Cavs open the night a half-game back of Chicago in the Central Division. The Hawks have won five in a row while the Cavaliers are going for their third straight win.

Elsewhere in the NBA, Philadelphia hosts Utah, Orlando is home against Sacramento, Charlotte hosts Atlantic Division-leading Toronto, Boston visits New Orleans, Houston is home against Detroit, Memphis hosts the L.A. Lakers, Phoenix visits Brooklyn, San Antonio hosts Denver and Golden State is home against Dallas.


UNDATED (AP) -- In hockey, the New Jersey Devils have to pick up the pace in order to make the postseason. The Devils open the night eight points back of Boston for the final wild card spot in the Eastern Conference. That makes tonight's home game against Columbus nearly a must-win game for the Devils, who are 16-9-8 at home.

Elsewhere in hockey tonight, Carolina hosts Minnesota, Buffalo visits Ottawa, the Detroit Red Wings host Calgary, the Chicago Blackhawks host Edmonton and Pittsburgh visits Anaheim.


DENVER (AP) -- The Colorado Avalanche say they will be without Nathan MacKinnon for at least six weeks after the speedy forward broke his foot.

The talented teenager could possibly return to the ice this season if the Avs make the playoffs. Colorado is currently outside of the Western Conference postseason picture.


GLASGOW, Scotland (AP) -- James Ward came from two sets down to beat John Isner (IHZ'-nur) 6-7, 5-7, 6-3, 7-6, 15-13 in a Davis Cup match that lasted almost five hours. That gave Britain a 2-0 lead over the United States in the first round.

Earlier, Andy Murray beat Donald Young 6-1, 6-1, 4-6, 6-2.


DORAL, Fla. (AP) -- J.B. Holmes shot a 1-over 73 but still has the lead after two rounds of the Cadillac Championship at Doral. Holmes sits at 9-under par, two shots better than Ryan Moore, who posted a second-round 71.

Adam Scott's 68 has him alone in third place, three off the lead.

Rory McIlroy was one club lighter than the start of his round. Frustrated by a 3-iron shot into the water on the eighth hole, the world's No. 1 player slung the club some 50 yards into the water. He wound up with a 70 and is eight shots back.


RIO GRANDE, Puerto Rico (AP) -- Alex Cejka (CHAY'-kuh) shot a 5-under 67 to take the lead after two rounds of the Puerto Rico Open. He's in at 7-under for his 36 holes. That's one shot better than Brandon Hagy.


Sports Director Clay Hall

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