How the West was won
UNDATED (AP) — The NBA's hottest teams are in the Western Conference after Oklahoma City, Golden State and the Los Angeles Clippers won again last night.
The Thunder made it nine straight wins as Kevin Durant scored 35 points and Oklahoma City rallied from an 11-point second-half deficit to beat New Orleans 92-88. Kevin Martin added 17 points for the Thunder, who matched their longest winning streak since the team moved from Seattle.
The Warriors are 5-0 on their seven-game road trip and have won eight of nine overall after Draymond Green hit a layup with 0.9 seconds left to push Golden State past the Miami Heat 97-95. Klay Thompson tied a season high with 27 points, and David Lee added 22 and 13 rebounds.
Blake Griffin, Chris Paul and Matt Barnes each had 19 points for the Los Angeles Clippers in a 100-94 triumph at Charlotte. The Clippers have won eight straight for the first time since 1991-92.
San Antonio had a chance to pick up its sixth straight win and improve to a league-best 19-4, but Mo Williams drained a three-pointer at the buzzer to give Utah a 99-96 win over the Spurs. Paul Millsap had a team-high 24 points for the Jazz, and Al Jefferson added 21 to help the Jazz withstand 22 points apiece by Tim Duncan and Tony Parker.
In other NBA action, Goran Dragic (GOHR'-uhn DRAH'-gitch) made a short hook shot from the left baseline with 0.5 seconds remaining as Phoenix beat Memphis 82-80 to snap a seven-game losing streak. The Grizzlies have back-to-back losses for the first time this season.
Atlanta beat Orlando for the eighth straight time as Josh Smith and Jeff Teague each scored 16 points to lead the Hawks past the Magic 86-80. Al Horford had 13 points and 13 rebounds for the Hawks, who led by as many as 19 in the third quarter.
Joe Johnson scored 23 points and New Jersey ended a five-game skid by downing the Raptors 94-88 in Toronto. Andray Blatche (AHN'-dray blach) had 14 points and nine rebounds in the Nets' first win this month.
Chicago picked up its fourth straight road victory as Joakim (joh-KEEM') Noah scored 21 points in a 96-89 verdict over Philadelphia. Luol Deng (LOO'-ul dehng) added 19 points and 12 rebounds for the Bulls, who played without Kirk Hinrich (HY'-rihk) because a left knee injury suffered Tuesday against the Clippers.
Indiana erased a 16-point deficit and beat Cleveland 96-81 behind Paul George's 27 points. David West had 18 points and nine rebounds to help the Pacers halt a two-game slide.
Paul Pierce poured in 34 points and Boston needed double overtime to beat Dallas 117-115. Pierce opened the second overtime with a three-pointer and added five free throws to help the Celtics clinch their second straight win.
James Harden returned to Houston's lineup and contributed 31 points in a 99-93 victory against Washington. Chandler Parsons had 18 points, including eight straight for the Rockets in the final three minutes.
Milwaukee was a 98-85 winner over Sacramento as Brandon Jennings scored 19 points and Monta (MAHN'-tay) Ellis added 17 and 11 assists. Ersan Ilyasova added 16 points and a season-high 14 rebounds for the 11-9 Bucks, who are off to their best 20-game start in seven years.
Nikola Pekovic had 22 points and 11 rebounds as Minnesota overcame Kevin Love's cold shooting to beat Denver 108-105. Love grabbed 14 rebounds but shot 3-for-17 in scoring just eight points.
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COLUMBUS, Ohio (AP) — The lone top-25 college basketball game of the day had seventh-ranked Ohio State crushing Savannah State 85-45. Deshaun Thomas scored all but one of his 22 points in the first half, LaQuinton Ross added 13 and the Buckeyes hit 10 of their 19 three-point attempts.
NHL and union still stalemated
NEW YORK (AP) — The NHL and the players' association took another major step toward the cancellation of the entire season.
Federal mediators were brought back into the negotiations on Wednesday, and even they couldn't get the two sides to sit together. The owners and the union met separately with mediators, but the discussions didn't immediately appear to have moved the sides any closer to a deal.
Mediators informed the union that the league's proposal that was pulled off the table last week was still available, but carried a take-it-or-leave it ultimatum. Free-agent center Brendan Morrison said that wasn't much of a decision, while NHL deputy commissioner Bill Daly said there was nothing new to report.
The 88-day lockout already has wiped out 43 percent of the season through Dec. 30.
Lawmaker takes NFL players union to task
WASHINGTON (AP) — A congressman accused the NFL Players Association of "trying to back out" of an agreement to start testing for human growth hormone in pro football.
Speaking at a House Oversight and Government Reform Committee hearing about the science behind the testing, Rep. Elijah Cummings of Maryland, noted that nearly two full NFL seasons have passed since the league and the players' union signed a labor deal that set the stage for adding HGH to the sport's drug program.
The NFLPA won't concede the validity of a test that's used by Olympic sports and Major League Baseball, and the sides haven't been able to agree on a scientist to help resolve that impasse.
RG III hopeful...Kolb done for the season
UNDATED (AP) — Washington Redskins quarterback Robert Griffin III says he feels the chances are "really good" that he'll be able to play against the Cleveland Browns.
The No. 2 overall pick in this year's draft practiced on his sprained right knee Wednesday as the Redskins returned to the field to prepare for Sunday's game.
Griffin favored his right leg slightly during the portion of practice open to reporters. He was officially listed as limited on the practice report.
In other pro football news:
— Saints linebacker Jonathan Vilma has moved forward with his defamation claims against Commissioner Roger Goodell, one day after his suspension in the NFL's bounty probe was overturned by former commissioner Paul Taliabue (TAG'-lee-uh-boo). Saints quarterback Drew Brees (breez) spoke out against the bounty probe on Wednesday, saying he'd like to see a level of accountability on the part of the NFL and Commissioner Goodell in regards to mishandling of this entire situation.
— The Arizona Cardinals have placed Kevin Kolb (kahb) on injured reserve, ending the season for the only quarterback who was able to lead the team to victory this year. The Cards have lost nine in a row since alternating between John Skelton and rookie Ryan Lindley.
— Minnesota Vikings punter Chris Kluwe (KLOO'-wee) says he's been fined $5,250 by the NFL for wearing a message on his uniform promoting Ray Guy for the Pro Football Hall of Fame. Kluwe wore a note bearing the words "Vote Ray Guy" on top of his jersey patch commemorating the Hall of Fame during Sunday's game against Chicago.
— The Cowboys have placed Josh Brent on the reserve/non-football illness list. Brown is facing an intoxication manslaughter charge after being involved in a one-car accident that killed close friend and teammate Jerry Brown early Saturday morning.
— The New England Patriots have re-signed Deion Branch for their battered corps of wide receivers. They signed him for the second time this season after Donte' Stallworth joined Julian Edelman on injured reserve.
— Ahmad Bradshaw didn't practice with the Giants, but coach Tom Coughlin (KAWK'-lihn) says he has not ruled the veteran running back out from Sunday's matchup in Atlanta despite a knee injury suffered in last Sunday's game.
— Oakland Raiders linebacker Rolando McClain returned to practice after serving a two-game suspension for conduct detrimental to the team. McClain started nine games this season for the Raiders but had not been at the team's facilities since Nov. 28, when he was kicked out of practice following an argument with coach Dennis Allen.
DIX HILLS, N.Y. (AP) — Jovan Belcher was remembered Wednesday for the accomplishments of a life that ended so suddenly and violently.
Several hundred mourners gathered for the Kansas City Chiefs linebacker's funeral near his hometown on Long Island. The 25-year-old Belcher shot and killed his girlfriend on Dec. 1, then drove to the Chiefs practice facility and committed suicide in front of team officials.
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Harsin fills Red Wolves' vacancy
UNDATED (AP) — There are new head football coaches at Texas Tech and Arkansas State.
Former Red Raiders quarterback Kliff Kingsbury has returned to Texas Tech after serving as Texas A&M's offensive coordinator. Kingsbury coached Heisman Trophy winner Johnny Manziel (man-ZEHL') this year and was the first in a string of record-setting quarterbacks for the Red Raiders under former coach Mike Leach.
Kingsbury succeeds Tommy Tuberville, who left unexpectedly last week to take the Cincinnati job.
Former Texas co-offensive coordinator Bryan Harsin has been hired as Arkansas State's new coach.
The former Boise State offensive coordinator spent the last two seasons with the Longhorns, during which time Texas was 16-9. Harsin says he will begin work immediately at Arkansas State and will not coach the Longhorns in the Alamo Bowl against Oregon State.
Harsin replaces former Red Wolves coach Gus Malzahn, who left after one season to coach at Auburn.
— Alabama quarterback AJ McCarron says he will return for his senior season with the Crimson Tide, saying he thinks another year in Tuscaloosa will help him succeed. McCarron leads the nation in passing efficiency heading into the BCS championship game against Notre Dame, and he helped Alabama win the national championship last season.
— Injured South Carolina running back Marcus Lattimore has announced he is giving up his final season to enter the NFL draft despite suffering a severe right knee injury in October. He was considered a can't-miss, first-round talent before the injury.
— Running back Knile Davis is skipping his senior year at Arkansas and will be available for the NFL draft. Davis missed all of the 2011 season after leading the SEC in rushing in 2010. He returned this season and rushed for 377 yards while averaging 3.7 per carry.
— An internal investigation into allegations by a former player of abuse by coaches on the Washington State football team did not turn up any evidence of such abuse in the program headed by coach Mike Leach. Star receiver Marquess Wilson quit the team late in the season and contended that players were suffering physical and mental abuse at the hands of coaches.
Dodgers get Schumaker from Redbirds
LOS ANGELES (AP) — The Los Angeles Dodgers continue to add experienced players to their roster.
The Dodgers have acquired utilityman Skip Schumaker (SHOO'-mah-kur) from the Cardinals for minor league infielder Jake Lemmerman. The 32-year-old Schumaker hit .288 with 23 home runs and 211 RBIs in 810 games from 2005-12 with the Cardinals, where he had spent his entire career.
The Dodgers' team payroll for 2013 currently sits at over $214 million. That puts them on track to become only the second major league team with a $200 million payroll and could end the New York Yankees' streak of 14 years as baseball's biggest spender.