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Heat Drop Pistons 88-76 to Near Finals (AP)
AP - With their star guard watching the final 10 minutes from the locker room, the Miami Heat moved within one victory of the NBA Finals. Whether Dwyane Wade can help them take the final step remains to be seen.

Dodgers Beat Brewers, End 3-Game Streak (AP)
AP - J.D. Drew drove in three runs with a pair of homers, Jeff Kent also homered and the Los Angeles Dodgers ended a three-game losing streak with a 6-4 victory over the Milwaukee Brewers on Thursday night.

Grand Slam Gives A's 5-3 Win Over Blue Jays (AP)
AP - Eric Chavez hit a grand slam and the Oakland Athletics won their season-best fourth straight game, 5-3 over the Toronto Blue Jays on Thursday night.

NBA Great George Mikan Dies at 80 (AP)
AP - George Mikan, the "gentle giant" who a half-century ago brought fame and stability to the fledgling world of professional basketball and literally transformed the game, has died 18 days shy of his 81st birthday.

Burse Lead Storm Past Mercury 78-67 (AP)
AP - Janell Burse scored 21 points and Lauren Jackson added 12 points and 14 rebounds, leading the Seattle Storm past the Phoenix Mercury 78-67 Thursday night. The Storm (3-1) went on a 16-5 run early in the second half to open a 15-point lead. Phoenix never got closer than seven the rest of the night.

McNabb Predicts Owens Will End Holdout (AP)
AP - Donovan McNabb and Terrell Owens aren't feuding. Or so says the Eagles' quarterback. McNabb said Thursday he has talked to Owens since they exchanged verbal shots earlier this offseason. He insists his relationship with the All-Pro wide receiver isn't strained.

NBA greats pay tribute to Mikan (AFP)
AFP - The National Basketball Association mourned the passing of George Mikan, the first superstar in a league now often defined by its skilled, charismatic players.

Chicago Cubs Shut Out San Diego Padres 5-0 (AP)
AP - Glendon Rusch pitched a four-hit shutout and Derrek Lee had three more hits to raise his average to .389, leading Chicago to a 5-0 victory over the San Diego Padres, the Cubs' season-high seventh straight win.

Lack of Anthem Upsets N.J. Governor (AP)
AP - U.S. and international soccer officials are puzzled over acting governor Richard J. Codey's outrage that "The Star-Spangled Banner" was not played before a match between England and Colombia.

Jagr Has Finger Surgery (AP)
AP - New York Rangers star Jaromir Jagr had surgery on his left pinkie, which was broken last month during the world championship in Austria.

Beil's Spiel: A disastrous fumble
The 49ers are backpedaling after the media obtained a video far more offensive than their 2-14 record.

McNabb predicts Owens will end holdout (AP)
Donovan McNabb and Terrell Owens aren't feuding. Or so says the Eagles' quarterback McNabb said Thursday he has talked to Owens since they exchanged verbal shots earlier this offseason. He insists his relationship with the All-Pro wide receiver isn't strained. ``We talked. Things are great,'' McNabb said with a hint of sarcasm.

Ravens: Jamal Lewis released from prison (AP)
Baltimore Ravens running back Jamal Lewis was released Thursday morning from a Florida prison camp after completing a four-month sentence for using a cell phone to try to set up a cocaine deal. Lewis was expected to head to a halfway house in Atlanta for a two-month term. ``I just spoke to Jamal, he was released early this morning,'' said Kevin Byrne, a team spokesman.

Seahawks release troubled WR Robinson (AP)
Troubled wide receiver Koren Robinson, who was suspended for substance abuse last season and faces drunken driving charges, was released Thursday by the Seattle Seahawks. The team also released veteran cornerback Bobby Taylor, signed as a free agent last season after starring with Philadelphia. Taylor was hampered by injuries for much of last year.

Roethlisberger denies making up plays (AP)
Pittsburgh Steelers quarterback Ben Roethlisberger denied Thursday that he and wide receiver Plaxico Burress sometimes ignored the team's playbook in order to make up passing plays designed to get Burress the ball. An ESPN.com story said Burress adjusted certain pass routes to fit the plays he and Roethlisberger came up with, regardless of the play called by the coaches.

Doss back at Colts practice, apologizes (AP)
Mike Doss returned to practice Thursday with the Indianapolis Colts and apologized for being arrested last weekend. The Colts' starting strong safety is facing a felony weapons charge and three misdemeanor charges after Akron, Ohio, police estimated hearing five to six gunshots outside a local restaurant early Sunday.

Panthers DT fought depression, drinking (AP)
Sidelined with a shoulder injury most of last season, Kris Jenkins struggled to find something to fill his days. He tried video games, watching movies, and playing with his young son. But without a strict schedule to follow, and unable to work out while he recovered from surgery, Carolina's defensive tackle, an All-Pro in 2003, fell into a downward spiral.

Jets extend defensive coordinator's deal (AP)
The New York Jets have extended the contract of defensive coordinator Donnie Henderson, under whom their defense moved last season from 21st to seventh in yards allowed. Henderson, who had coached Baltimore's secondary from 1999-2003, took over when Ted Cottrell was fired after the 2003 season. In addition to ranking in the top ten in yards allowed, the Jets allowed 16.3 points a game, third best...

Spurs show the way
To reach the next level, the Suns need to be more consistent with their defense and rebounding – like the Spurs.

Wade gets hurt, but Heat beat Pistons (AP)
The look on Dwyane Wade's face was one of pure pain, the discomfort from a strained rib muscle contorting his features as he motioned to the bench. Wade wanted out, and out he came for the final 10 minutes of the Heat's most important win of the postseason -- an 88-76 victory over the Detroit Pistons that moved Miami within one game of the NBA Finals.

George Mikan dead at 80 (AP)
George Mikan, the ``gentle giant'' who a half-century ago brought fame and stability to the fledgling world of professional basketball and literally transformed the game, has died 18 days shy of his 81st birthday. Mikan died Wednesday night at a Scottsdale rehabilitation center following a long fight with diabetes and kidney ailments.

Shaq offers to pay for Mikan's funeral (AP)
Shaquille O'Neal wants to pay more than respects to the family of George Mikan. O'Neal said Thursday that he wants the Mikan family to contact the Miami Heat offices, so arrangements can be made for him to handle funeral expenses for the league's first dominant big man. Mikan died Wednesday night at a rehabilitation center in Scottsdale, Ariz., following a long fight with diabetes and kidney...

Duncan, Spurs earn time off before Final (AP)
Gregg Popovich knows Tim Duncan as well as anyone. So when the perennial All-Star sulked after a poor performance in a playoff game, the San Antonio Spurs coach knew exactly how to pull him out of it. He left him alone. Working out the kinks by himself, Duncan went back to being the fundamentally sound force who has led the Spurs to two of the last six NBA titles -- and ensured they'll be playing...

Cavaliers hire Mike Brown as coach (AP)
Owner Dan Gilbert stopped by the Cavaliers' gift shop in Gund Arena on Thursday morning to pick up a few last-minute welcoming gifts for Mike Brown, his newest employee. One was a $20 Cavaliers clock. ``Contrary to popular opinion, we're going to give him more time than people think to be head coach of the Cavaliers,'' Gilbert said at a news conference introducing Brown.

Pistons fail to overcome huge deficit (AP)
The Detroit Pistons lost their cool, their composure -- and their chance to go back home with a chance to wrap up the Eastern Conference finals. Instead, the Miami Heat are within one win of the NBA Finals after their 88-76 victory over the Pistons on Thursday night. The defending NBA champions are down 3-2 in the best-of-seven series, with Game 6 on Saturday night in Auburn Hills -- and Game 7, if...

New deals in works for Johnson, Amare (AP)
Shaking off their disappointment, the Phoenix Suns already were looking to their bright future a day after their elimination from the Western Conference finals. ``You've got to take your lumps somewhere along the line to be a champion,'' Steve Nash said, ``and hopefully this is one of those building blocks to be something better.'' The Suns held a team meeting on Thursday, then players met...

NBA talks stall as league rejects offers (AP)
NBA labor talks stalled Wednesday after a 2 1/2 -hour meeting in New York, less than a month before a lockout would begin. ``All I can say is that we had a meeting, and we don't have anything else scheduled,'' NBA deputy commissioner Russ Granik said. Players association director Billy Hunter said he outlined a new proposal, then offered to extend the terms of the current seven-year agreement that...

Stars to help choose Olympic team (AP)
Michael Jordan, Magic Johnson, Larry Bird and Larry Brown are among the who's-who of basketball who agreed Thursday to help choose the men's U.S. Olympic team. USA Basketball, the sport's national governing body, wants to avoid the trouble that came in selecting the 2004 Olympic team, which finished third at the Athens Games.

Stumped by the suits
We should be watching playoff hockey. Instead we're left with "Stump The Schwab."

Phantoms 1, Wolves 0 (AP)
Two goalies who should play in the NHL next season -- if the NHL has a next season -- showed why they belong there in Game 1 of the AHL's Calder Cup Finals on Thursday night. Antero Niittymaki blocked 27 shots for this third playoff shutout to lead the Philadelphia Phantoms, a Flyers farm team, to a 1-0 win over the Chicago Wolves, the Atlanta Thrashers' AHL affiliate.

NHL labor talks to continue Friday (SportsTicker)
TORONTO (Ticker) - Fans of the NHL finally may have reason to show some optimism.

NHL, union to meet for third straight day (AP)
The NHL and players' association will meet for a third straight day of negotiations on Friday following two days of small-group talks that focused on revenue calculation and financial reporting. Each side declined to comment about the details of the 10-hour meeting Thursday, which followed Wednesday's 10-hour session.

Jagr has finger surgery (AP)
New York Rangers star Jaromir Jagr had surgery on his left pinkie, which was broken last month during the world championship in Austria. He underwent a 45-minute operation Wednesday in a Prague hospital, Marian Jelinek, Jagr's personal coach, said Thursday. The 33-year-old forward was expected to leave the hospital Thursday or Friday, Jelinek added.

NHL, NHLPA meet for nine hours; talks resume Thursday in larger group (AP)
The NHL and the players' association held small-group discussions for more than 10 hours Wednesday, again working on a review of revenue measurement and financial reporting issues. The meetings lasted from about 11 a.m. until approximately 9:30 p.m., and will continue with a larger group Thursday as the sides try to find common ground on team revenues and how to associate them to a salary cap in a...

Trenton wins Kelly Cup in six games (AP)
The Trenton Titans won the ECHL championship Wednesday night, beating Florida 4-1 as Leon Hayward scored a goal and added two assists. Trenton won the first two games of the series, then Florida took the next two before Trenton won Game 5. In the sixth game, Hayward's power-play goal in the first period put the Titans on top.

Report: Giuliani may help to form new hockey league (SportsTicker)
TORONTO (Ticker) - It appears "America's Mayor" wants to help hockey.

Swedish NHL players banned from national team for one year (AP)
Three Swedish NHL players accused of rape will miss the 2006 Olympics after the country's hockey federation extended their suspensions from the national team to one year Wednesday. Kristian Huselius of the Florida Panthers, Andreas Lilja of the Nashville Predators and Henrik Tallinder of the Buffalo Sabres are banned until after the games in Turin, Italy, Swedish Ice Hockey Association head...

Reports: ESPN ends negotiations with NHL (AP)
ESPN officially ended negotiations with the NHL for broadcasting rights next season, according to media reports Wednesday. ESPN announced Saturday it would not pick up a $60-million option under the previous contract, but tried to retain the rights for less money in talks with the league and commissioner Gary Bettman.

Hmiel's sad story
Shane Hmiel took for granted an opportunity that not many people get.

Starr takes Dover pole (AP)
David Starr took the pole position for the NASCAR Craftsman Truck Series' MBNA RacePoints 200 on Thursday, turning a fast lap of 157.577 mph in his Chevrolet on Dover International Speedway's high-banked mile oval.

Starr captures pole for MBNA RacePoints 200 (SportsTicker)

Hmiel suspended for violating substance abuse policy (AP)
Shane Hmiel was suspended indefinitely Thursday for violating NASCAR's substance abuse policy for a second time.

Court records show Earnhardt had a dizzy spell years before he was killed in a crash (AP)
NASCAR driver Dale Earnhardt acknowledged on a life insurance application shortly before his death that he once had a dizzy spell during a race -- apparently a 1997 event in South Carolina in which he crashed.

Military Services Tap NASCAR Market (AP)
Sr. Master Sgt. Thomas Kichline sees "a tremendous amount of similarities" between NASCAR and the Air Force.

Charlotte, four other contenders offer bids for NASCAR shrine (AP)
Rarely has a red toolbox seen such an escort.

Gordon meant no disrespect of Patrick in weight comments (AP)
Robby Gordon was not being critical of Danica Patrick when he said she had an unfair weight advantage in the Indianapolis 500. Rather, he said he was simply discussing a flaw in the Indy Racing League's rules.

New surface plays role in record 22 cautions in Coca-Cola 600 (AP)
Altering the track surface at Lowe's Motor Speedway was supposed to create a more competitive race. Instead, it helped turn the Coca-Cola 600 into a demolition derby.

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