Cavaliers hammer Heat

UNDATED (AP) — The Cleveland Cavaliers moved closer to clinching second in the NBA's Eastern Conference, while putting the Miami Heat in danger of missing the playoffs.

LeBron James finished with 23 points, eight rebounds and seven assists against his former team as the Cavaliers crushed the Heat 114-88. Kyrie Irving also had 23 points and Tristan Thompson grabbed 15 rebounds to help Cleveland move 3 1/2 games ahead of Chicago for the Central Division lead.

The Heat fell into a tie with Boston for the final Eastern Conference playoff berth. They finished the game without Dwyane Wade, who sustained a bruised knee in the first half.

In other NBA action:

— Harrison Barnes shot 1-for-7 before draining the winning jumper with less than a second remaining in Golden State's 107-106 verdict over Phoenix. Stephen Curry shot 6-for-11 from beyond the arc and finished with a game-high 28 points, eight rebounds and five assists in the Warriors' 11th consecutive victory.

— James Harden scored 24 points and Jason Terry hit a tiebreaking 3-pointer in Houston's 108-101 triumph at Dallas. Trevor Ariza added 19 points as the Rockets moved a half-game ahead of Memphis in the race for the Southwest Division title and the second seed in the Western Conference.


Bhullar first NBA player of Indian descent

SACRAMENTO, Calif. (AP) — Sim Bhullar has become the NBA's first player of Indian descent, signing a 10-day contract with the Sacramento Kings.

The 7-foot-5, 360-pound Bhullar was called up from the team's NBA Development League affiliate, the Reno Bighorns.

The 22-year-old center could make his debut Friday when the Kings host the New Orleans Pelicans.


Longhorns get Smart

RICHMOND, Va. (AP) — Texas has found a new men's basketball coach.

VCU sports information director Scott Day has confirmed that Shaka (SHAH'-kah) Smart is leaving the Rams for the Longhorns. Texas athletic director Steve Patterson flew to Richmond on Thursday to close the deal.

Smart has been one of the hottest names in college coaching since leading the Rams to the Final Four in 2011. Patterson has zeroed in on bringing Smart to Texas immediately after firing former Longhorns coach Rick Barnes last weekend.

Smart has won at least 26 games in each of his six seasons at VCU.

In other college basketball news:

— Florida coach Billy Donovan has signed a one-year contract extension that raises his annual salary to about $4 million and keeps him under contract through the 2019-20 season. Donovan and Florida agreed to the deal last summer. It was signed in December, and the school released details Thursday.

— Wichita State coach Gregg Marshall agreed to terms on a new contact, choosing to remain with the Missouri Valley powerhouse after receiving overtures from Alabama. It is expected to be a significant raise from the base salary of $1.85 million that Marshall was making on his previous seven-year rollover contract.

— Northern Iowa coach Ben Jacobson will be making roughly $900,000 a year under the terms of a new 10-year contract extension.

— Bowling Green has fired coach Chris Jans after "an investigation into his recent public conduct," the university said in a statement. It did not say what that conduct was. He led the Falcons to a 21-12 record - a nine-game improvement - in his first year at Bowling Green.

— Florida forward Dorian Finney-Smith will be back for his senior season, keeping the team's top scorer and leading rebounder in Gainesville. The 6-foot-8 Finney-Smith was a Second Team All-SEC selection and averaged 13.1 points and 6.2 rebounds this season. He was suspended three games in February for an undisclosed violation of team rules, but was otherwise Florida's most dependable player.

— Stanford has won the men's NIT, although the Cardinal blew a 13-point, second-half lead before downing Miami 66-64 in overtime. Senior Chasson Randle capped his 25-point night by hitting two free throws with 3.4 second remaining. Randle finishes with a school-record 2,375 points.


NCAA in "wait-and-see mode" with Indiana revisions

INDIANAPOLIS (AP) — NCAA President Mark Emmert says the association spoke with lawmakers and the governor of Indiana about how best to revise the state's new religious objections law.

A revised bill was working its way through the Indiana legislature. Emmert released a statement early in the day saying he was pleased with the revisions, but says the NCAA is now in a "wait-and-see mode."

Critics of the law feared it would lead to discrimination against gays and lesbians.

The NCAA, based in Indianapolis, was among the first organizations to express concern about the law when it was passed last week. The Final Four is being held in Indianapolis this weekend and Emmert said the NCAA would consider moving future events out of state if the law wasn't changed.


Rangers take Metro crown...Habs, Lightning lose in extras

UNDATED (AP) — The New York Rangers have wrapped up a division title, but the Atlantic and Central Division races remain very tight. The Montreal Canadiens remain one point ahead of Tampa Bay for the top spot in the Atlantic, while St. Louis has pulled within two points of the Central-leading Nashville Predators.

The Rangers clinched the Metropolitan Division crown as J.T. Miller scored the tiebreaker with 13:12 remaining in a 3-2 victory at Minnesota. Henrik Lundqvist stopped 26 shots and Rick Nash scored his team-high 41st goal to help the Rangers pick up their 49th win and move two points ahead of Montreal for the Eastern Conference lead.

The Canadiens picked up a point but absorbed a 5-4 loss to Washington on Troy Brouwer's (BROW'-urz) goal in the fourth shootout round. Alex Ovechkin pushed his league-leading goal total to 52 with a pair of power-play tallies, but the Canadiens managed to stay a point ahead of the Lightning on P.K. Subban's power-play score with 4:59 left in regulation.

Tampa Bay was beaten 2-1 in Ottawa on a goal by Patrick Wiercioch at 4:43 of overtime. Mark Stone had a goal and an assist as the Senators earned the 17th victory in their last 22 games.

The Blues were 4-1 winners against Calgary as Jaden Schwartz, Patrik Berglund, Paul Stastny and Jori Lehtera each had a goal and an assist to help St. Louis clinch a playoff berth. Jake Allen finished with 17 saves and blanked the Flames after Sean Monahan made it 2-1 3 ½ minutes into the second period.

Elsewhere on NHL ice:

— Chicago's 3-1 win over Vancouver puts the Blackhawks in the playoffs and keeps the Canucks just four points ahead of the Flames for second place in the Pacific Division. The game was tied 1-1 until Jonathan Toews and Marcus Kruger scored 2:27 apart midway through the third period.

— John Tavares had a goal and an assist, but the New York Islanders blew a 3-1 lead in the third period of a 4-3 shootout loss at Columbus. Ryan Johansen tied the game with 3:43 left in regulation and added the deciding shootout tally as the Blue Jackets won their eighth straight and dropped the Islanders into a second-place tie with Washington in the Metropolitan Division.

— Boston trailed 2-0 in the third period until Carl Soderberg, Loui Eriksson and Zach Trotman scored to lift the Bruins over Detroit 3-2. Tuukka Rask stopped 35 shots to help the Bruins move into a tie with Detroit for third place in the Atlantic Division and three points ahead of Ottawa for the final Eastern Conference playoff berth.

— Los Angeles and Winnipeg are tied for the final Western Conference playoff berth after Jeff Carter and Marion Gaborik each scored twice in the Kings' 8-2 pounding of Edmonton. The Kings ended a two-game skid.

— Vincent Trocheck scored twice and has an assist in Florida's 6-1 rout of Carolina. Alex Barkov and Jaromir Jagr each had a goal and an assist for the Panthers, who stayed six points out of a playoff berth with just four games remaining.


Byfuglien suspended for cross-check on Miller

NEW YORK (AP) — Winnipeg Jets star Dustin Byfuglien has been suspended four games without pay by the NHL for his cross-check to the head of New York Rangers center J.T. Miller on Tuesday. Byfuglien drove his stick in to the back of the Rangers forward's head while falling to his knees. The punishment could be a huge blow to the Jets, who are just two points ahead of Los Angeles for the final Western Conference wild-card spot with 10 days left in the regular season.


Piercy leads in final tuneup before Masters

HOUSTON (AP) — Phil Mickelson is in contention in the first round of the PGA's Houston Open, shooting a 6-under-par 66 that leaves him in a tie for fourth, three shots behind leader Scott Piercy. Mickelson birdied five of his first eight holes and was in line for a 65 until a bogey on the par-3 ninth hole.

Piercy tied a tournament record with a nearly flawless 9-under-par 63, putting him two strokes ahead of Alex Cejka and J.B. Holmes.


Ko ties record, Pressel leads

RANCHO MIRAGE, Calif. (AP) — Lydia Ko has tied Annika Sorenstam's LPGA Tour record with her 29th consecutive round under par, shooting a 1-under 71 in the opening round of the Ava Inspiration.

The 17-year-old Ko saved par on the par-4 seventh — her 16th hole — after hitting an approach shot through a gap in the trees. She hit a 6-iron to 18 inches to set up a birdie on the 158-yard, par-3 eighth and closed with a par on the par-5 ninth.

But the leader in the first major of the LPGA season is Morgan Pressel, who fired a 67 that leaves her one stroke in front of Ai Miyazato (eye mee-ah-zah-TOH'). Juli Inkster is in a four-way tie for third.


Verlander hits DL...Valverde cut, hopes to catch on

UNDATED (AP) — Detroit Tigers pitcher Justin Verlander is headed to the disabled list for the first time in his major league career. The Tigers said the 32-year-old right-hander won't be on the active roster for Monday's opener against Minnesota because of tightness in his right triceps.

Verlander is 28-24 in two seasons since starting a $180 million, seven-year contract, slowed by core muscle surgery before the 2014 season.

It's the last week of spring training and teams are fine-tuning their rosters.

In other major league moves:

— The Atlanta Braves have acquired pitcher Trevor Cahill and cash from Arizona for minor league outfielder Josh Elander. The 27-year-old Cahill was 3-12 with a 5.61 ERA for Arizona last season, four years after his lone All-Star game berth.

— The Seattle Mariners have brought back left-handed reliever Joe Beimel (BY'-mul) on a minor-league deal and optioned newly acquired left-hander Mike Montgomery to Triple-A Tacoma. Beimel was 3-1 with a 2.20 ERA in 56 appearances for the Mariners last season.

— Oakland Athletics left fielder Coco Crisp could miss up to two months following surgery to remove a bone chip and spurs from his right elbow on Friday. The 35-year-old has been Oakland's starting center fielder the previous five seasons.

— Reliever Jose Valverde has been released by the San Diego Padres after the team informed the right-hander he wouldn't make the opening-day major league roster. The three-time All-Star is hopeful he'll get an offer from another team soon.

— The Cincinnati Reds sent reliever Sam LeCure outright to the minors and put starter Homer Bailey on the 15-day disabled list Thursday as part of their moves to get to the 25-man roster limit for opening day. Reliever Kevin Gregg and starter Jason Marquis  were added to the roster.

— New York Yankees backup shortstop Brendan Ryan will be out until at least May because of a strained right calf. Ryan was hurt going after a grounder up the middle in Wednesday's game against Tampa Bay.

— The Cleveland Indians say outfielder Nick Swisher and infielder Zach Walters will start the season on the disabled list.


Dodgers' Puig shaken up in collision with teammate

ANAHEIM, Calif. (AP) — Los Angeles Dodgers right fielder Yasiel Puig was removed from a spring training game Thursday night against the Angels as a precaution following a violent collision with second baseman Howie Kendrick.

The play occurred in the fifth inning while Puig and his new teammate were chasing a shallow fly by Mike Trout that fell for a leadoff triple.

Kendrick, who spent his first nine big league seasons playing second base for the Angels before they traded him to the Dodgers in December, peeled off when he heard Puig call for the ball at the last instant — but could not avoid hitting him.

Puig went down and was tended to by a trainer before walking off the field under his own power.


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