NFL PLAYOFFS-DIVISIONAL PLAYOFFS
Patriots, Saints advance to conference title games
UNDATED (AP) — The NFL conference championships are set following victories by the New England Patriots and New Orleans Saints. The Pats will be making their eighth consecutive appearance in the AFC title game when they visit the Chiefs in Kansas City next Sunday. The Saints are back in the NFC title game following a 10-year absence and will host the Los Angeles Rams next Sunday.
The Patriots shredded the Chargers' defense while building a 35-7 lead by halftime of a 41-28 win at Foxborough. Sony Michel ran for 129 yards and three touchdowns for the Pats, who are in the AFC Championship Game for the 13th time during the Tom Brady-Bill Belichick era. Brady finished 34 of 44 for 343 yards and a TD while improving to 8-0 as a starter against Philip Rivers.
James White tied Darren Sproles' NFL postseason record with 15 catches, totaling 97 yards. Julian Edelman contributed nine receptions for 151 yards as the Pats prevented the Chargers from reaching the AFC title game for the first time since the 2007 season.
Rivers finished 25 of 51 for 331 yards, three touchdowns and an interception. He is 0-5 in games played in Foxborough, including 0-3 in the postseason.
In New Orleans, the Saints spotted the Eagles a 14-0 lead before defeating the defending Super Bowl champions, 20-14. Drew Brees took the Saints on scoring drives of 92, 79 and 67 yards after falling behind by two touchdowns.
Brees was 28 of 38 for 301 yards, two TDs and one interception. His two-yard scoring strike to Michael Thomas put New Orleans ahead, 17-14 with 1:40 left in the third quarter. Thomas had 12 receptions for 171 yards in helping the Saints reach the conference title game.
Eagles quarterback Nick Foles threw for a touchdown and ran for another in the first quarter, but his first interception sparked the Saints' comeback. Foles had 201 yards passing and two picks for Philadelphia, which controlled the ball for just over 22 minutes.
Ex-Dolphins guard Kuechenberg dies
UNDATED (AP) — Miami Dolphins guard and six-time Pro Bowl selection Bob Kuechenberg has died at age 71, according to the team.
Kuechenberg spent his entire NFL career with the Dolphins from 1970 to 1983. He started every game for the team that went 17-0 in 1972, and started 16 games for the team that repeated as Super Bowl champions in 1973.
The Gary, Indiana, native played at Notre Dame and was drafted by the Eagles in 1969 without playing for the team. He signed with the Dolphins as a free agent in 1970.
In other NFL news:
— Sarah Thomas became the first woman to work an NFL playoff game as an on-field official, serving as the down judge in Sunday's divisional round game between the Patriots and Chargers. Thomas was hired in 2015 and was already the league's first female full-time official.
— The league says Big Boi and Travis Scott will join Maroon 5 in this year's Super Bowl halftime show.
A's in hot pursuit of Heisman-winning outfielder
OAKLAND, Calif. (AP) — Representatives of the Oakland Athletics and Major League Baseball met Sunday with Heisman Trophy winner Kyler Murray, according to a person with direct knowledge of the session.
The meeting came a day before the Oklahoma quarterback's deadline to enter the NFL draft. Oakland executives remained confident as recently as the baseball winter meetings last month in Las Vegas that Murray would report to spring training this year and pursue baseball.
Alabama loses Thompson to NFL draft
TUSCALOOSA, Ala. (AP) — All-America safety Deionte Thompson has joined a growing crowd of Alabama players leaving early for the NFL draft.
Thompson announced his decision Sunday on Twitter. He's the sixth Crimson Tide underclassman to leave early.
Thompson was a consensus All-American in his first season as the starter. He made 79 tackles and had two interceptions and four forced fumbles.
Raptors, Bucks win
UNDATED (AP) — The Toronto Raptors still lead the NBA's overall standings by 1 ½ games over Milwaukee following victories by both teams on Sunday.
The Raptors blew a 23-point lead before Serge Ibaka (ih-BAH'-kah) nailed a 3-pointer with 15 seconds left in double-overtime to lift Toronto past the Wizards, 140-138. Kawhi (kah-WY') Leonard delivered 41 points and 11 rebounds for the Raptors, who led 51-28 late in the second quarter and 96-79 with 57 seconds to play in the third. Leonard had 13 straight Toronto points in the fourth quarter and overtime.
The Raptors' fifth straight win gives them a 4 ½-game lead over Philadelphia in the Atlantic Division.
Wizards guard Bradley Beal had his second triple-double of the season, collecting season highs of 43 points and 15 rebounds along with 10 assists.
Giannis Antetokounmpo (YAH'-nihs an-teh-toh-KOON'-poh) returned from a one-game absence to score 33 points in the Bucks' 133-114 rout of the Hawks. Antetokounmpo was sidelined due to injury while Milwaukee dropped a 113-106 decision at Washington on Friday.
Eric Bledsoe added 24 points and 10 assists to help coach Mike Budenholzer get a victory in first game back in Atlanta.
The Bucks lead the Central Division by two games over Indiana.
Checking out the rest of Sunday's completed NBA action:
— Nikola Jokic (YOH'-kihch) poured in a season-high 40 points and Jamal Murray fought through a bloody lip to add 24 in the Nuggets' 12th straight home win, 116-113 over the Trail Blazers. Damian Lillard led Portland with 26 points and CJ McCollum had 18 for Portland, but Denver was able to keep its half-game lead over Golden State atop the Western Conference.
— The Warriors were 119-114 winners over the Mavericks behind Stephen Curry, who nailed 11 3-pointers and poured in 48 points. Kevin Durant added 28 points for the Warriors, and Klay Thompson had nine of his 16 in the fourth quarter of Golden State's fourth consecutive win.
— Nikola Vucevic and Aaron Gordon each scored 22 points as the Magic handed the Rockets just their fourth loss in 17 games, 116-109. James Harden scored 38 points to push his run of 30-point games to 16, but the Houston guard was just 1 for 17 on 3-pointers.
— Ben Simmons fell an assist short of a triple-double and the 76ers built a 24-point lead in the second quarter before holding off the Knicks, 108-105. Simmons finished with 20 points and 22 rebounds, while Joel Embiid (joh-EHL' ehm-BEED') contributed 26 points as Philadelphia stopped a two-game skid.
— The Cavaliers' 12-game losing streak is over after Cedi Osman scored 20 points and Collin Sexton added 17 in a 101-95 victory over the Lakers in Los Angeles. Tristan Thompson had 15 points and 14 rebounds for Cleveland, which dropped the Lakers to 3-7 since LeBron James suffered a groin strain.
T25 MEN'S BASKETBALL-SCHEDULE
Wolverines, Spartans win
UNDATED (AP) — Second-ranked Michigan kept its perfect season intact, while arch-rival and No. 6 Michigan State ran its winning streak to 10 games.
The Wolverines are 17-0 for the first time in school history after Jon Teske scored all 17 of his points in the first half of an 80-60 romp over Northwestern. Zavier Simpson scored a career-high 24 points for the Wolverines, who had opened 16-0 during the 1985-86 and 2012-13 seasons.
Michigan also matched the longest winning streak in team history.
The Spartans beat Penn State for the 10th straight time as Nick Ward provided 16 points and 11 rebounds in a 71-56 victory at University Park. Matt McQuaid added 15 points and Cassius Winston chipped in 11 as the Spartans improved to 15-2 overall and 6-0 in the Big Ten.
Michigan State trailed for just 10 seconds and led by as many as 21 with 6:44 remaining.
Grizzlies' Kyle Anderson to miss at least 2-4 weeks
UNDATED (AP) — Memphis Grizzlies forward Kyle Anderson will miss at least two to four weeks with a Grade 2 sprain of his left ankle.
Anderson hurt his ankle Saturday in a 112-108 loss at Miami.
The 6-foot-9 forward is averaging 7.9 points, 5.8 rebounds, 3.0 assists and 29.7 minutes.
Isles cool off Lightning
UNDATED (AP) — The New York Islanders bounced back from a frustrating loss to the crosstown Rangers by whipping the NHL's No. 1 team.
The Isles' fourth line led the scoring parade as Casey Cizikas (sih-ZEE'-kuhs), Cal Clutterbuck and Matt Martin each collected two points in a 5-1 rout of the Lightning. Cizikas and Clutterbuck each had a goal and an assist, while Martin set up two tallies in New York's 11th victory in 14 games. Brock Nelson, rookie Devon Toews and Josh Bailey to support Thomas Greiss (grys), who made 32 of his 38 saves over the final two periods.
Ryan McDonagh had a late second-period goal for the Lightning, who lost in regulation for just the second time in 21 games.
Elsewhere on NHL ice:
— Mark Giordano and Matthew Tkachuk (kah-CHUHK') each scored twice and Giordano also had an assist as the Flames clobbered the Coyotes, 7-1 to take a four-point lead in the Western Conference. Giordano and Sean Monahan scored 68 seconds apart late in the first period to jumpstart the Flames in their fifth straight win.
— Nick Foligno (foh-LEE'-noh) scored twice and Sergei Bobrovsky (boh-BRAHF'-skee) returned from a team suspension to stop 22 shots in the Blue Jackets' 7-5 win over the Rangers. Cam Atkinson and Artemi Panarin (ahr-TEH'-mee pah-NAH'-rihn) each had a goal and an assist as Columbus won for the fourth time in five games to climb within two points of the Metropolitan Division-leading Capitals.
— Sebastian Aho (AH'-hoh) scored three times and had an assist as the Hurricanes doubled up the Predators, 6-3. Aho scored twice in Friday's win against the Sabres before registering his second career hat trick to lead Carolina to its seventh victory in eight games.
— The Jets moved two points ahead of Nashville for the Central Division lead by beating the struggling Ducks, 4-3 on Bryan Little's goal at 4:49 of overtime. Blake Wheeler, Patrik Laine (LY'-may) and Ben Chiarot (CHEHR'-aht) also scored, and Connor Hellebuyck (HEH'-leh-buhhk) made 28 saves as Winnipeg earned its fourth straight win and sent Anaheim to its team-record 11th consecutive loss.
Kvitova wins in 2 sets at Australian Open
MELBOURNE, Australia (AP) — Two-time Wimbledon champion Petra Kvitova (kuh-VIHT'-oh-vuh) was shunted from a show court to a side court at Melbourne Park late in the day but it didn't matter where she was — the Czech player beat Magdalena Rybarikova 6-3, 6-2 in 67 minutes.
The eighth-seeded Kvitova was scheduled to play Rybarikova as the last match at Melbourne Arena, the third show court at the Australian Open. But when Andy Murray's match against Roberto Bautisa Agut was extended to a fifth set, officials decided to move the women's singles match.
Good thing, as Bautista Agut's win over Murray lasted 4 hours, nine minutes.
— Defending champion Roger Federer began his quest for a record seventh Australian Open title with a 6-3, 6-4, 6-4 win over Denis Istomin.
— Andy Murray pulled a full house for what is likely his last match at the Australian Open, and had the capacity crowd at Melbourne Arena in his corner as he lost 6-4, 6-4, 6-7 (5), 6-7 (4), 6-2 to No. 22-seeded Roberto Bautista Agut in the first round.
— Defending champion Caroline Wozniacki saved a break point in the opening game but there was little trouble to follow as she beat Alison Van Uytvanck 6-3, 6-4 in the first round. Woznicaki, who saved both break points she faced, clinched the match on her third match point with a forehand to the open court.
Kuchar blows lead, wins anyway
HONOLULU (AP) — Matt Kuchar (KOO'-chur) blew a two-stroke lead with three early bogeys before closing with a 4-under 66 to win the PGA's Sony Open by four strokes over Andrew Punam. The two were tied with five holes remaining before Putnam bogeyed 14 and Kuchar followed with two straight birdies for a 22-under total in his second victory of the season.
Putnam closed with a 68 and moved into the top 50 for the first time in his career.