AP Wednesday Sports Roundup
Rockets stay alive...Cavs outlast Bulls
UNDATED (AP) — The Los Angeles Clippers were unable to lock up their first-ever trip to the NBA's conference finals.
James Harden had a triple-double and the Houston Rockets forced a Game 6 in the Western Conference semifinals by downing the Clippers 124-103. Harden finished with a team-high 26 points, 11 rebounds and 10 assists while helping the Rockets shoot over 54 percent.
Trevor Ariza shot 4-for-6 from 3-point range and finished with 22 points, while Dwight Howard delivered 20 points and 15 boards.
The Clippers never recovered after falling behind by 15 at halftime. Blake Griffin contributed team highs of 30 points and 16 rebounds, while Chris Paul added 22 points and 10 assists. But Matt Barnes and J.J. Redick combined for just 14 points on 4 of 20 shooting.
The series shifts to Los Angeles for Game 6 on Thursday.
Meanwhile, LeBron James and Kyrie Irving combined for 63 points as the Cleveland Cavaliers grabbed a 3-2 lead in the NBA's Eastern Conference semifinals.
James showed no effects from a sprained left ankle as he poured in 38 points to lead a 106-101 triumph over Chicago. James also delivered 12 rebounds, six assists and no turnovers in 41 minutes. Irving added 25 points despite playing with a sprained right foot and tendinitis in his left knee.
The Bulls trailed by 17 with 6:09 remaining before closing within 101-99 on Jimmy Butler's 3-pointer with 1:18 left. Butler had a team-high 29 points and Mike Dunleavy added 19 for the Bulls, who were missing Pau Gasol for the second straight game because of a strained left hamstring.
The Bulls received little offensive support from Derrick Rose over the final three quarters. He scored 12 points in the first quarter before adding just four more on 2 of 15 shooting the rest of the way.
The Cavs can close out the series on Thursday in Chicago.
New Orleans dumps coach
METAIRIE, La. (AP) — Head coach Monty Williams has been fired by the New Orleans Pelicans despite leading the team to 45 victories and its first playoff appearance in four years.
The decision came only weeks after owner Tom Benson congratulated Williams and the entire basketball operations staff for "a job well done." Williams was 173-221 with two playoff appearances in five seasons with the franchise.
NBA sets draft site
NEW YORK (AP) — The NBA draft will be held at the Barclays Center, the home of the Nets, on June 25. It's the third consecutive year the draft will be held in Brooklyn.
The NBA draft lottery will determine the first 14 picks of the draft. Minnesota holds the highest chance of obtaining the No. 1 pick, followed by New York and Philadelphia.
The lottery is set for next Tuesday.
Lightning finally close out Canadiens
TAMPA, Fla. (AP) — The third time's the charm for the Tampa Bay Lightning.
Snuffed out in two attempts to close out their Eastern Conference second-round series, the Lightning limited Montreal to 19 shots in a convincing 4-1 triumph over the Canadiens in Game 6.
Nikita Kucherov put Tampa Bay ahead to stay in the first period and iced the victory with an empty-netter. Kucherov also assisted on Ondrej Palat's power-play goal, which put the Lightning ahead 3-0 late in the second period.
Steven Stamkos also scored and Ben Bishop blanked the Habs until Max Pacioretty beat him with just 4:59 remaining.
Tampa Bay will face the New York Rangers or Washington Capitals in the Eastern Conference finals. The Lightning will have home-ice advantage if they take on the Caps.
Montreal's Stanley Cup drought will enter its 23rd season, extending a franchise record.
Chicago's Rozsival has ankle surgery
CHICAGO (AP) — Chicago Blackhawks defenseman Michal Rozsival has undergone surgery on his fractured left ankle and should be ready for the start of training camp. Rozsival was hurt when he lost his balance and fell backward in the second period of Chicago's 4-3 series-ending victory at Minnesota. David Rundblad is expected to play his first career playoff game in Rozsival's place when the Blackhawks open the Western Conference finals against top-seeded Anaheim.
Autopsy shows brain damage
TORONTO (AP) — Former NHL defenseman Steve Montador had a degenerative brain disease that's been linked to repeated blows to the head, according to researchers who autopsied his brain. The 35-year-old died in February. Montador suffered multiple concussions during his career with six NHL teams. His brain was donated to the Canadian Sports Concussion Project in Toronto for analysis.
Montador's family said they plan to launch a lawsuit against the NHL.
Montador had suffered from depression, erratic behavior and memory problems.
Cards hammer Indians
UNDATED (AP) — The Chicago Cubs' new phenom continues to take aim at the new bleachers at Wrigley Field.
Kris Bryant homered for the second straight game after Chris Coghlan belted a two-run shot in the Cubs' 6-1 win over the New York Mets. Bryant has homered in three of his last four games after failing to go deep in his first 20 games.
Jake Arrieta carried a one-hit shutout into the eighth and finished with 10 strikeouts in eight innings. He outpitched Noah Syndergaard, who tossed five shutout innings before faltering in the sixth.
Also in the majors:
— Matt Carpenter returned from a three-game absence and was 2-for-5 with an RBI single and two runs scored as St. Louis decked Cleveland 8-3. Matt Holliday smacked a three-run homer and had four RBIs as the Cardinals improved to a major league-best 23-9.
— Rookie Chris Heston tossed a two-hitter while fanning 10 in San Francisco's 8-1 romp at Houston. Matt Duffy had a career-high five RBIs to help the Giants stop Collin McHugh's 11-game winning streak.
— The White Sox doubled up Milwaukee 4-2 behind the pitching of Chris Sale, who struck out 11 and gave up two runs and just three hits in eight frames. Batterymate Tyler Flowers was 2-for-4 with an RBI and a run scored.
— Ian Kinsler hit a game-winning single in the bottom of the 10th to complete Detroit's 2-1 victory against Minnesota. J.D. Martinez clubbed a solo homer as the Tigers dealt the Twins their second straight loss since a 9-1 stretch.
— Kansas City also won in extra innings as Alex Gordon's 10th-inning blast gave the Royals a 7-6 decision over Texas. Eric Hosmer and Mike Moustakas also hit solo shots for the Royals.
— Josh Harrison belted a three-run homer and Andrew McCutchen added a two-run blast in Pittsburgh's fourth consecutive win, 7-2 at Philadelphia. A.J. Burnett lowered his ERA to 1.60 by limiting the Phillies to one earned run and six hits in seven innings.
— Cincinnati beat Atlanta 4-3 on Devin Mesoraco's walk-off double in the bottom of the ninth. Todd Frazier hit a two-run homer to help the Reds end a three-game skid.
— Edwin Encarnacion slammed a two-run homer and a solo shot as Toronto thumped Baltimore 10-2. Josh Donaldson also hit a two-run homer for the Blue Jays, who scored four times in both the seventh and eighth innings to break open a game they once trailed 2-0.
— David DeJesus hit a game-tying, two-run single in the seventh inning before Evan Longoria's sacrifice fly put Tampa Bay ahead in the eighth inning of a 4-2 triumph over the New York Yankees. Rays starter Chris Archer got a no-decision after allowing two runs and seven hits with eight strikeouts in seven innings.
— Mark Trumbo launched a three-run homer and had four RBIs to highlight Arizona's 16-hit attack in a 14-6 pounding of Washington. Steven Strasburg was rocked for seven earned runs and eight hits in 3 1/3 innings as the Nationals lost for just the third time in their last 14 games.
— Andre Ethier was 5-for-5 with a solo homer and three RBIs as the Los Angeles Dodgers ripped Miami 11-1. Howie Kendick also had a good night at the plate, providing a solo shot among his four hits.
— Nelson Cruz belted his major league-leading 16th homer and Mike Zunino hit a pair over the wall to highlight Seattle's 11-4 drubbing of San Diego. Kyle Seager opened the Mariners' power-surge with a three-run blast in the first, two innings before Logan Morrison's solo shot.
— Oakland clobbered Boston 9-2 as Josh Reddick went 4-for-5 with a solo homer and three RBIs. Stephen Vogt and Marcus Semien also homered to support Drew Pomeranz, who held the Red Sox to two runs and four hits in seven innings.
— Colorado's losing streak has reached double digits after the Los Angeles Angels scored three times in the eighth to beat the Rockies 5-2. Johnn Giovatella singled home the tiebreaking run and scored on Matt Joyce's two-run double after C.J. Wilson tossed eight innings of five-hit ball.
Investigator defends work
NEW YORK (AP) — The lawyer who investigated the New England Patriots insists that he found direct and not just circumstantial evidence to show quarterback Tom Brady knew team employees were deflating footballs. Miffed by criticism from Brady's agent, Ted Wells decided to take the unusual step of holding a conference call with reporters, a day after the NFL suspended the Super Bowl MVP for the season's first four games based on the report.
The Patriots were fined $1 million and stripped of two draft picks for deflating footballs used in the AFC title game.
Wells said his findings would have been strong enough to convince a jury under the "preponderance of evidence" standard, which is used in many civil cases.
His voice frequently rising, Wells testily rebutted assertions from Brady's agent, who questioned Wells' independence because his firm does other business with the NFL.
Jags and Redskins ink top picks
UNDATED (AP) — Defensive end Dante Fowler Jr. has signed a four-year, $23.5 million contract with Jacksonville, despite the fact he'll miss the entire 2015 season. The third overall pick in the draft tore the ACL in his left knee on Friday during team workouts.
The deal is fully guaranteed and includes a $15.3 million signing bonus.
Also in the NFL:
— First-round draft-pick Brandon Scherff has signed his rookie contract with the Washington Redskins. The offensive tackle from Iowa was the No. 5 overall pick in the draft.
U.S. clinches first
PRAGUE (AP) — Jack Eichel (EYE'-kul) scored with 28 seconds left in overtime to give the U.S. a 5-4 victory over Slovakia at the ice hockey world championship. The win enabled the Americans to finish first in Group B with six wins and one loss. The young U.S. team will meet Switzerland in the quarterfinals.
Busch to return to driving
CHARLOTTE, N.C. (AP) —Kyle Busch will drive in NASCAR's All-Star Saturday at Charlotte, his first competition since he was seriously injured in a crash at Daytona nearly three months ago.
Busch broke his right leg and left foot in a Feb. 21 wreck in the season-opening Xfinity Series race, crashing into a wall that was not protected by an energy-absorbing SAFER barrier at 90 mph.
Veteran trainer to skip Preakness
NEW YORK (AP) — The Preakness is out for trainer Todd Pletcher who says he will not enter any of the four horses he was considering for Saturday's race at Pimlico Race Course. Materiality is expected to run next in the Belmont Stakes on June 6 after finishing sixth in the Kentucky Derby.
Pletcher's other Preakness possibilities were Derby 10th-place finisher Carpe Diem, Competitive Edge and Stanford.