Rockets make it 19 of 20 as Harden leads win
UNDATED (AP) — There’s now a two-game spread between the Houston Rockets and Golden State Warriors for the NBA’s top record.
James Harden returned from a one-game absence and scored 16 of his 28 points in the third quarter to lead the Rockets to their 19th victory in 20 games, 109-93 over the Spurs. The All-Star guard provided eight straight points to ignite a 16-4 run that put Houston ahead 82-57 with about 3 ½ minutes left in the third period.
The NBA scoring leader had 12 points by halftime after sitting out Sunday’s win over Dallas because of a sore left knee.
Chris Paul’s 19 points and nine assists helped the Rockets improve to a league-best 53-14.
Checking out Monday’s other NBA action:
— Damian Lillard’s 32 points and 10 assists carried the Trail Blazers to their 10th consecutive victory, 115-99 over Miami. Lillard hit a huge 3-pointer after the Heat went on an 18-2, fourth-quarter run to get within three points. Jusuf Nurkic added 27 points and 16 rebounds for the Blazers, who have the longest current winning streak in the NBA and a two-game lead over Oklahoma City for the No. 3 seed in the West.
— Russell Westbrook posted his 20th triple-double of the season and 99th of his career to highlight the Thunder’s 106-101 verdict over the Kings. Westbrook had 17 points, 10 boards and 11 assists to help Oklahoma City take over fourth place in the West. Paul George and Carmelo Anthony each scored 21 points for the Thunder, who finished the game without Steven Adams because of a left hip contusion suffered in the third quarter.
— The Grizzlies absorbed their 18th consecutive loss as Khris Middleton contributed 24 points and Giannis Antetokounmpo (YAH’-nihs an-the-toh-KOOM’-poh) added 20 to lead the Bucks’ 121-103 rout of Memphis. Brandon Jennings finished two rebounds shy of a triple-double, delivering 16 points and 12 assists after signing a 10-day contact on Saturday. Milwaukee is 5 ½ games ahead of Detroit for the final Eastern Conference playoff berth.
Theis out with knee injury
UNDATED (AP) — Celtics rookie Daniel Theis is likely out for the rest of the season with a torn meniscus in his left knee.
Theis got hurt during the final minute of Boston’s 99-97 loss to the Pacers on Sunday.
Coach Brad Stevens told reporters Monday that the center is weighing his surgical options.
In other NBA news:
— Hawks guard Kent Bazemore will miss the remainder of the season with a bone bruise in his right knee. Bazemore is Atlatna’s second-leading scorer at 12.9 points a game. He left Sunday’s loss to Chicago with the injury.
Ovie gets 600th as Caps win
UNDATED (AP) — Alex Ovechkin reached a major NHL milestone while the Washington Capitals were regaining first place in the Metropolitan Division.
Ovechkin scored his 599th and 600th NHL goals before Evgeni Kuznetsov (kooz-NEHT’-sahv) furnished the overtime goal that gave the Caps a 3-2 win against the Winnipeg Jets. Ovechkin became the 20th player in league history to score 600 goals, and one of four players to do it in under 1,000 games. Only Wayne Gretzky, Mario Lemieux and Brett Hull did it faster than Ovechkin’s 990 games.
Ovechkin’s goal 3:53 into the second period was his 42nd of the season as he tries to hit 50 for the eighth time.
Washington blew leads after each Ovechkin goal before Kuznetsov beat Connor Hellebuyck (HEH’-leh-buhk) 4:11 into the extra session, allowing the Caps to move one point ahead of Pittsburgh in the division race.
Patrik Laine (LY’-nay) notched his 41st goal for the Jets, who remain six points behind the Central Division-leading Nashville Predators.
Elsewhere in the NHL:
— Marc-Andre Fleury became the 13th netminder in NHL history with 400 wins by stopping 38 shots in the Golden Knights’ 3-2 win at Philadelphia. Ryan Carpenter broke a two-all deadlock with 2:40 remaining to send the Pacific Division leaders to their third straight win.
— Eric Fehr’s (fehrz) first goal as a Shark put his new team ahead to stay in a 5-3 victory against the Red Wings. Chris Tierney added an empty-netter and had an assist as San Jose stayed in second place in the Pacific Division, two points ahead of Los Angeles.
— The Kings have moved into third place in the Pacific after Jonathan Quick turned back 35 shots in a 3-0 win over the Canucks. Tyler Toffoli (tah-FOH’-lee), Anze Kopitar (AHN’-zhay KOH-pih-tahr) and Tanner Pearson provided the scoring to back Quick’s fourth shutout of the season and help Los Angeles win for the fifth time in seven games.
— The Ducks fell to fourth in the Pacific as Ivan Barbashev had a goal and an assist to help the Blues knock off Anaheim, 4-2. The Blues have followed a 1-7-2 stretch with consecutive wins to get within one point of the second wild-card spot in the West.
— Seth Jones scored two first-period power-play goals, and the Columbus Blue Jackets won their fifth straight, 5-2 over the Canadiens. Alexander Wennberg had three assists for Columbus, which moved past the Devils for the first Eastern Conference wild-card berth and pulled within two points of the third-place Flyers in the Metropolitan Division.— Florida’s eight-game home winning streak is over after Matt Duchene (doo-SHAYN’) scored twice, including the tiebreaking goal with three minutes left in the Senators’ 5-3 victory over the Panthers. Magnus Paajarvi (pah-YAHR’-vee) also had two goals for Ottawa, which kept the Panthers three points behind the Devils for the second Eastern Conference wild-card slot.
— Jemmy Vesey (VEE’-see) notched a hat trick and Mats Zuccarello scored twice as the Rangers doubled up the Hurricanes, 6-3 to end a three-game losing streak. Backup goalie Alexandar Georgiev made 41 saves for his second win of the season.
Yanks get Walker
UNDATED (AP) — Free-agent infielder Neil Walker is returning to New York after working out a one-year contract with the Yankees.
The 32-year-old hit .265 with 14 homers and 49 RBIs last year for the Mets and Milwaukee, who acquired him Aug. 12. Walker is a lifetime .272 hitter with 130 home runs, 522 RBIs, 204 doubles and 521 runs scored.
Walker likely will start at second base, while newly-acquired Brandon Drury will play third.
In other MLB news:
— The Rockies have finalized a one-year, $5 million deal with three-time All-Star outfielder Carlos Gonzalez, a deal that includes another $3 million in bonuses based on days on the active roster. The 32-year-old Gonzalez is coming off a down year in which he batted .262 with 14 homers and 57 RBIs in 136 games.
— The Athletics have landed a new starting catcher by finalizing a one-year, $6.5 million contract with free agent Jonathan Lucroy. The 31-year-old, two-time All-Star batted .265 with six home runs and 40 RBIs in 123 games last season for Texas and Colorado, which acquired him on July 30.
— The Twins have finalized a one-year, $12 million package with right-hander Lance Lynn, who made 33 starts last year following Tommy John surgery. Lynn went 11-8 with a 3.43 ERA for the 2017 Cardinals, five years after being named to the National League All-Star team.
AP source: Bills, Bengals swapping first-rounders
UNDATED (AP) — The Buffalo Bills and Cincinnati Bengals have swapped draft picks in a deal that also sends a lineman to Southern Ohio.
A person familiar with the deal tells The Associated Press the Bills get the 12th overall selection and a sixth-round pick from the Bengals for the 21st selection and a fifth-rounder. Cincinnati also gets high-priced left tackle Cordy Glenn, who had been a Bills starter since his rookie season in 2012.
In other NFL news:
— A person familiar with the decision tells The Associated Press the Chiefs are releasing longtime linebacker Tamba Hali, one of the franchise’s career sack leaders. Hali has spent his entire 12-year career in Kansas City, piling up 89 1/2 sacks and at one point going to five consecutive Pro Bowls.
— Saints right tackle Zach Strief says he’s retiring after 12 NFL seasons. The 34-year-old Strief was a regular reserve during much of his first five seasons and became a starter in 2011 on an offense that set an NFL single-season record with 7,474 yards.
— The Seahawks have re-signed safety Bradley McDougald to a three-year contract, two days before he would have become a free agent. McDougald finished the 2017 season with 67 tackles and four passes defensed.
— Kicker Dustin Hopkins has re-signed with the Redskins, and backup offensive tackle Ty Nsekhe was given a second-round tender worth about $2.9 million. Hopkins missed half of last season with a strained hip muscle.
— The Raiders are releasing cornerback Sean Smith to create more salary cap room heading into free agency. A person familiar with the move said Smith was told Monday that he will be let go before the start of the new league year on Wednesday. Smith signed a four-year, $38 million deal two years ago.
— The Giants have re-signed linebacker Mark Herzlich and guard Jon Halapio, two days before the start of free agency.
— Denver Broncos defensive end Adam Gotsis has been charged with rape in Atlanta. An incident report says a woman went to police headquarters on Feb. 1 and told an investigator Gotsis had raped her in March 2013. The Broncos said in a statement that they were aware of allegations of an incident that allegedly happened when Gotsis was attending Georgia Tech.
Romar back as Waves’ head coach
MALIBU, Calif. (AP) — Lorenzo Romar is returning to Pepperdine for a second stint as men’s basketball coach.
The 59-year-old coach previously guided the Waves from 1996-99, going 42-44 in his first head coaching job. He is 391-284 in time spent with Pepperdine, Washington and Saint Louis.
He is currently an associate head coach at Arizona and will report to Pepperdine after the Wildcats end their season.
COLLEGE BASKETBALL POLL
Virginia tops final AP poll
UNDATED (AP) — Virginia remains the unanimous No. 1 team in the final Associated Press men’s basketball poll, an honor that will become hollow if the Cavaliers don’t win the real national championship.
The Cavs earned all 65 first-place votes to remain on top for the fifth straight week. Virginia is 31-2 and winners of both the ACC regular season and tournament titles.
Villanova is second, followed by Xavier, Kansas and Michigan St. The Jayhawks moved up five spots after winning the Big 12 Tournament.
Cincinnati, Michigan, Gonzaga, Duke and North Carolina round out the top 10.
Meanwhile, UConn finishes No. 1 in The Associated Press women’s basketball poll for the fifth straight year.
The Huskies enter the NCAA Tournament as the lone unbeaten team and went wire-to-wire as the unanimous top team. They received all 32 votes from the national media panel Monday.
Baylor, Louisville, Mississippi State and Notre Dame followed UConn in the poll. Oregon, South Carolina, Texas, UCLA and Ohio State round out the first 10 teams.
WOMEN’S BASKETBALL-NCAA TOURNAMENT
UConn 1st overall seed
NEW YORK (AP) — Connecticut has been given the first overall seed in the NCAA women’s basketball tournament as the Huskies go for their 12th national championship. The 32-0 Huskies enter the NCAA Tournament as the lone unbeaten team and went wire-to-wire as the unanimous top team.
Last season, UConn came into the NCAAs as the overwhelming favorite before losing to Mississippi State in the Final Four.
Notre Dame, Louisville and Mississippi State are the other No. 1 seeds.
AP sources: Woods, Els to captain Australia Presidents Cup
UNDATED (AP) — Tiger Woods and Ernie Els will duel in the Presidents Cup again, this time as captains.
Two people involved in the Presidents Cup tell The Associated Press that Woods and Els have agreed to be captains for the 2019 matches in Melbourne.
Woods and Els are expected to be introduced as captains Tuesday at the Arnold Palmer Invitational.
Tiger helps bring highest PGA tour ratings in 5 years
ORLANDO, Fla. (AP) — Tiger Woods was one shot away from a chance to win, and the PGA Tour had its largest television audience in five years.
NBC Sports Group says the final round of the Valspar Championship earned a 5.11 overnight rating, up 190 percent over the previous year. It was the highest-rated PGA Tour broadcast for a non-major since Woods won The Players Championship in 2013.