Bulls strengthen grip over Raptors...Rockets' Howard back after 26 games...Spurs win by 39

UNDATED (AP) — Jimmy Butler scored 23 points, Pau Gasol had 18 and the Chicago Bulls beat Toronto 116-103 for their fifth consecutive victory against the Raptors. Tony Snell scored 17 points for the Bulls, who moved 1 1/2 games ahead of the Raptors for third place in the Eastern Conference. Toronto hasn't beaten the Bulls since December of 2013. The Raptors overall have lost three of four.

In other NBA:

— Houston Rockets center Dwight Howard returned from a 26-game absence because of a knee injury and had four points, seven rebounds and a blocked shot in the Rockets' 95-93 win over the New Orleans Pelicans. James Harden led the Rockets with 25 points.

— Tony Parker had 21 points and six assists, and the San Antonio Spurs stopped Oklahoma City's four-game winning streak with a runaway 130-91 rout of the Thunder. The Spurs have won 11 of 13.

— Goran Dragic had 22 points and seven assists, and the Miami Heat beat the Boston Celtics 93-86.Miami has won four of six and is seventh in the Eastern Conference playoff race. The Heat are two games ahead of Boston and Indiana, which are tied for the final playoff spot.

__ Brook Lopez had 34 points and 10 rebounds and the Brooklyn Nets handed the slumping Charlotte Hornets their fifth loss in their last six games, 91-88. The 7-foot center has scored at least 26 points in each of his last four games. Charlotte and Brooklyn are both a half-game out of the final playoff spot in the East.

__ George Hill made a driving layup with 2.7 seconds left to giving Indiana a 103-101 win over slumping Washington, which lost its fourth straight game. Hill finished with 29 points, seven rebounds and nine assists. John Wall scored 17 of his season-high 34 in the fourth quarter for the Wizards.

— Kyrie Irving scored 24 points, Kevin Love added 22 points and 10 rebounds, and the Cleveland Cavaliers rolled to a 111-89 victory over the Memphis Grizzlies. LeBron James added 20 points.

__ Paul Millsap had 25 points and 11 rebounds, and the Atlanta Hawks snapped a three-game losing streak with a 95-83 victory over the Orlando Magic.

__ Portland trailed for three and a half quarters but got 13 points from Damian Lillard in the fourth quarter to beat the Jazz 92-89 and stop a five-game skid. Lillard finished with 23 points and 12 assists.

__ The Sacramento Kings got 24 points and 11 rebounds from DeMarcus Cousins and beat the Phoenix 108-99.

__ Philadelphia held Denver to nine points in the fourth quarter and beat the Nuggets 99-85. Rookie Robert Covington led the Sixers with 25, his career high.

— DeAndre Jordan raised the NBA's best shooting percentage above 71 percent by making all seven shots and scoring 14 points, and the Los Angeles Clippers pounded the New York Knicks 111-80. Chris Paul added 11 points and 16 rebounds.

__ Jordan Clarkson hit two free throws with three-tenths of a second left in overtime to send the Los Angeles Lakers over Minnesota 101-99. Clarkson scored eight of his 20 in OT.


Flyers rout Blackhawks

UNDATED (AP)— — Claude Giroux, Wayne Simmonds, Ryan White and Michael Raffl scored goals to lead the Philadelphia Flyers to a 4-1 win over the Chicago Blackhawks.

Giroux had his 22nd goal for his first even-strength score at home this season. Steve Mason was stout in goal for the Flyers, finishing with 34 saves.

In other hockey:

__The Edmonton Oilers recovered after giving up a three-goal lead and held on to beat the Colorado Avalanche 4-3. Derek Roy scored the winning goal midway through the third period.

__ Dallas beat Calgary 4-3 in a shootout. Ales Hemsky scored twice for the Stars. Tyler Seguin got the only goal in the shootout.


Judge lets ex-NHL players' lawsuit to go on

ST. PAUL, Minn. (AP) — The NHL's motion to dismiss a class-action lawsuit brought by former players over concussion-related injuries has been largely rejected by a federal judge, allowing the claims to move forward. U.S. District Judge Susan Richard Nelson issued her order Wednesday.

The plaintiffs in the case have been seeking unspecified financial damages and medical monitoring for neurological disorders. Their stance is the league had the knowledge and resources to better prevent head trauma, failed to properly warn players of such risks and promoted violent play that led to their injuries.


Old Dominion, Temple make the semifinals

NORFOLK, Va. (AP) — Trey Freeman scored 25 points and banked in a running 3-pointer at the buzzer to give Old Dominion to a 72-69 victory over Murray State in the NIT quarterfinals.

The win puts the 27-7 Monarchs into the semifinals at Madison Square Garden against Stanford. Miami plays Temple, which routed Louisiana Tech 77-59, in next Tuesday's other semifinal.


Report: New deal for Hurley

UNDATED (AP) — After taking the University at Buffalo to its first NCAA Tournament berth, coach Bobby Hurley reportedly has been rewarded with a new contract. A person familiar with negotiations has told The Associated Press that Hurley has agreed to a new contract that will make him the highest paid men's basketball coach in the Mid-American Conference. The person spoke on the condition of anonymity because the school has not announced the contract restructuring. Hurley will make more than $550,000 a season, the person said.

The former Duke star point guard led the Bulls to their first NCAA Tournament berth in only his second year on the job. With a 42-20 record, Hurley became Buffalo's first coach to reach 40 wins in two seasons.


— Two-time NBA coach Eric Musselman will be the new head coach at Nevada. Nevada athletic director Doug Knuth says in a statement that he will present a proposed five-year contract with Musselman to the state Board of Regents during a meeting Thursday in Las Vegas. Musselman spent the past season as an assistant at LSU. The 50-year-old coached the Golden State Warriors from 2002-04 and the Sacramento Kings in 2006-07.

— A person familiar with the situation says the Charlotte 49ers have hired Mark Price to become their new men's basketball coach. The 51-year old has spent the last two seasons as an assistant coach for the NBA's Charlotte Hornets. Price will replace Alan Major, who left the program earlier this month amid ongoing medical problems.


Zimmer: Vikings will keep Peterson

PHOENIX (AP) — The Minnesota Vikings coach Mike Zimmer was emphatic about keeping Adrian Peterson at the NFL owners' meetings Wednesday. The running back's agent has told the Associated Press that it's in Peterson's best interest to move on.

Zimmer points out that Peterson is still under contract to Minnesota and expects him to go into the Hall of Fame as a Viking. Peterson was forced to sit out last season by the NFL when he was charged with disciplining his 4-year old son with a wooden switch. The 2012 league MVP has balked at returning to the team, questioning the Minnesota organization's support of him after his suspension.


Surgery for another Mets' pitcher

TAMPA, Fla. (AP) — Right-hander Zack Wheeler of the Mets has had Tommy John surgery. The team's medical director Dr. David Altchek performed the procedure on Wheeler who will be out until next spring.

Wheeler was 11-11 with a 3.54 ERA and 187 strikeouts last year, when he threw a career-high 185 1/3 innings


Nats' Rendon hobbled

JUPITER, Fla. (AP) —Third baseman Anthony Rendon may miss the Washington Nationals' opener against the New York Mets on April 6 because of a sprained left knee. Rendon hasn't played since March 9. He hit .287 with 21 homers last year, when he led the NL with 111 runs and finished fifth in MVP voting.


Rodriguez has "done well"

TAMPA, Fla. (AP) — Yankees general manager Brian Cashman says Alex Rodriguez is making a case to be the team's full-time designated hitter. Rodriguez is returning from a one-year drug suspension. He's hitting.286 during the exhibition season with two homers.


Magazine ranks team value

NEW YORK (AP) —Forbes estimates the New York Yankees are baseball's most valuable team for the 18th straight year. The magazine placed the Yankees worth at $3.2 billion, up from $2.5 billion last year and matching the Dallas Cowboys for the high among U.S. teams.

The magazine estimated the Dodgers are worth $2.4 billion and World Series champion San Francisco at $2 billion.


Gibbs' son treated for "brain function" issues

HUNTERSVILLE, N.C. (AP) — Joe Gibbs Racing President J.D. Gibbs is undergoing treatment for "symptoms impacting areas of brain function," which likely stem from a head injury suffered earlier in life.

JGR did not reveal a specific diagnosis in a statement, but said Gibbs is undergoing treatment to manage symptoms that began with "speech and processing issues."

The 46-year-old is the oldest son of team owner Joe Gibbs, the Pro Football Hall of Fame who won three Super Bowls with Washington.


US gives up two late goals in loss

UNDATED (AP) — The United States gave up goals in the 83rd minute and the first minute of stoppage time in a 3-2 exhibition loss to Denmark. Jozy Altadore and Aron Johnansson scored for the Americans who are 2-6-3 in their last eleven matches.


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