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Shaq Wins Matchup With Kobe, Lakers Again (AP)
Miami Heat's Shaquille O'Neal dunks against the Los Angeles Lakers during the first quarter of an NBA basketball game, Sunday Dec. 25, 2005, in Miami. (AP Photo/Steve Mitchell)AP - The third matchup between Shaquille O'Neal and Kobe Bryant was identical to the first two. Bryant got the points. O'Neal got the victory.


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Bears, Giants Clinch Playoff Berths (AP)
Chicago Bears' Tank Johnson sacks Green Bay Packers quarterback Brett Favre during the fourth quarter of their NFL football game on Sunday, Dec. 25, 2005, in Green Bay, Wis. The Bears won 24-17 to  clinch the NFC North division. (AP Photo/Mike Roemer)AP - Chicago clinched the NFC North and a first-round bye Sunday by holding on to beat Green Bay 24-17 in the first start of the season for Rex Grossman.


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Ravens Beat Vikings to Dash Playoff Hopes (AP)
Minnesota Vikings' Mewelde Moore is taken down by Baltimore Ravens' Adalius Thomas while running the ball during the second quarter of their NFL football game Sunday, Dec. 25, 2005 in Baltimore. (AP Photo/Matthew S. Gunby)AP - The Minnesota Vikings' flickering playoff hopes were snuffed out by a barrage of precision passes from a suddenly effective Kyle Boller.


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Giants Plagued by Injuries to Linebackers (AP)
New York Giants linebacker Chase Blackburn, right, runs past Washington Redskins quarterback Mark Brunell (8) for a touchdown after he intercepted a Brunell pass during the first quarter of a NFL football game, Saturday, Dec. 24, 2005, at FedEx Field in Landover, Md.(AP Photo/Nick Wass)AP - The New York Giants are in the playoffs for the first time since 2002, but their linebacker situation has become so dire that the team might look to its past for solutions.


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Huge Leap Forward for Bears' Passing Attack (AP)
Chicago Bears quarterback Rex Grossman (8) looks to pass the ball to running back Thomas Jones (20) during the first quarter of their NFL football game against the Green Bay Packers on Sunday, Dec. 25, 2005, in Green Bay, Wis. The Bears won 24-17 to clinch the NFC North division.  (AP Photo/Mike Roemer)AP - Most playoff teams would expect to get more than 166 yards passing from their starting quarterback. For the Chicago Bears, however, it represents a giant leap forward.


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Fixing Run Defense Top Priority for Titans (AP)
Miami Dolphins running back Ricky Williams (34) runs for the end zone to score in the fourth quarter as Tennessee Titans cornerback Pacman Jones, right, defends during NFL football in Miami Saturday, Dec. 24, 2005.  Williams had 172 yards and scored one touchdown in the Dolphins 24-10 win. (AP Photo/Steve Mitchell)AP - The Tennessee Titans don't have to wait until the offseason to identify a big problem that must be fixed. Edgerrin James, Domanick Davis, Shaun Alexander and now Ricky Williams have made this weakness very clear.


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NBA Today (AP)
AP - Chicago at Cleveland (7 p.m. EST). LeBron James and the Cavaliers seek their sixth straight win when they host the Bulls.

Lefty Mike Stanton Returns to Nationals (AP)
AP - Mike Stanton returned to the Washington Nationals on Saturday night, agreeing to a $1 million, one-year contract.

Soccer Lends a Hand for Tsunami-Hit Region (AP)
AP - A maze of drainage ditches, water pipes and mounds of dirt crisscross the field at Lampineung Stadium, home of the Persiraja soccer team. The stands are mostly stacks of warped boards, which dozens of construction workers are removing.

Hockey Today (AP)
AP - Calgary at Vancouver (10 p.m. EST). The Canucks host the Flames for the second time in as many games. Calgary, behind two goals from Steven Reinprecht, won Friday night's game 6-5 in a shootout.

Return of the Redskins
LANDOVER, Md. – The rejuvenation of Clinton Portis has made Santana Moss and the Redskins a dangerous team again.

Bears top Packers to clinch NFC North (AP)
Most playoff teams would expect to get more than 166 yards passing from their starting quarterback. For the Chicago Bears, however, it represents a giant leap forward. Rex Grossman didn't pile up gaudy statistics in his first regular-season start in nearly 15 months. But his ability to throw accurate deep passes gave the Bears a new dimension, helping them clinch the NFC North and a first-round bye...

Boller, Ravens end Vikes' playoff hopes (AP)
All season long, the Minnesota Vikings relied on their defense to win. The unit collapsed Sunday night, and so did Minnesota's flickering playoff hopes. Kyle Boller went 24-for-34 for 289 yards and three touchdowns, and the Baltimore Ravens eliminated the Vikings from the postseason hunt with a 30-23 victory.

Falcons unsure whether to punish Mora (AP)
Falcons general manager Rich McKay said Sunday it's too early to tell if the team will discipline coach Jim Mora for his antics following the team's overtime loss at Tampa Bay. "Let me get through the weekend," said McKay, who also is the Falcons president. "Right now I just don't know." The 27-24 defeat on Saturday eliminated Atlanta from playoff contention.

Seahawks: Best shot at first Super Bowl (AP)
Shaun Alexander and his Seattle teammates emerged from the locker room after their big win against Indianapolis and saluted the fans who waited so long for this day to come. Seattle (13-2) clinched a conference top seed for the first time and home-field advantage in the NFC Saturday behind Alexander, who tied Priest Holmes' NFL record for touchdowns in a season with 27.

Giants forced to bring back Armstead? (AP)
The New York Giants are in the playoffs for the first time since 2002, but their linebacker situation has become so dire that the team might look to its past for solutions. Last week, the Giants worked out Jessie Armstead, a five-time Pro Bowl selection with the team in the late 1990s. He hasn't played in a regular season game since the Washington Redskins released him after the 2003 season.

Four down, one to go for Redskins (AP)
Part rallying cry, part playoff pipe dream, or so it seemed, someone posted a sign reading, "Five in a row or we don't go!" in the Washington Redskins' practice facility locker room back in late November. The message went up a day after the Redskins dropped to 5-6 with a third consecutive loss, each of a painful sort: by one point to Tampa Bay after a replay review in the final minute, by three...

Rams' Faulk undecided on future (AP)
It's too soon to say whether the Marshall Faulk highlight montage the Rams showed at the finish of their home finale was a going away tribute to the running back. Faulk, a former NFL MVP who's been used sparingly this year behind Steven Jackson, hasn't decided if he will keep playing. Earlier this year, he agreed to a restructured four-year contract and took a pay cut.

Dolphins hope surge continues in 2006 (AP)
Thanks to a late-season surge, the Miami Dolphins can savor their longest winning streak in six years, their first December sweep since 1985 ... and even a winning record. There won't be a trip to the playoffs, but the Dolphins and first-year coach Nick Saban have achieved a turnaround that raises expectations for 2006.

Titans' top priority: run defense (AP)
The Tennessee Titans don't have to wait until the offseason to identify a big problem that must be fixed. Edgerrin James, Domanick Davis, Shaun Alexander and now Ricky Williams have made this weakness very clear. A defense that was the NFL's second-best against the run since the start of the 1995 season has given up at least 100 yards on the ground for four straight games.

Christmas day preview
NBA fans will receive a juicy holiday gift with a Christmas doubleheader of Heat vs. Lakers and Pistons vs. Spurs.

Payton comes up big, Shaq beats Kobe (AP)
Gary Payton distances himself from what he calls "the Shaq-Kobe nonsense," saying he stays neutral because he's friendly with both players. Choosing sides on the court, well, that's another matter -- because Shaquille O'Neal is clearly Payton's favorite there. Payton tied a season-high with 21 points, including the go-ahead 3-pointer off O'Neal's assist with 1:05 left as Miami beat the Los Angeles...

Finals rematch: Pistons beat Spurs 85-70 (AP)
This was not just another game for Antonio McDyess. He was still stung by the Pistons' loss in the NBA Finals six months ago. The reserve forward came through with a season-high 13 rebounds and 10 points in Detroit's 85-70 victory Sunday over San Antonio -- a rematch of the title series and a game between the teams with the two best records in the league this season.

Iverson scores 53, Sixers lose to Hawks (AP)
No matter how many shots he took, Allen Iverson couldn't beat the Atlanta Hawks by himself. Iverson scored 53 points, the fifth-highest total of his career, but Joe Johnson had 24 to lead the Hawks over the Philadelphia 76ers 111-108 on Friday night. "I'm as disappointed as everybody else on my team," Iverson said.

LeBron held to 14, but Cavs edge Pacers (AP)
Even though his shot wouldn't fall, LeBron James made sure the Cavaliers didn't drop, too. James scored a season-low 14 points, but added nine assists and eight rebounds in 44 minutes as Cleveland won its fifth straight game, holding off the Indiana Pacers 94-89 on Friday night. "I missed shots. I'm going to have off nights," James said.

Nuggets shut down McGrady, beat Rockets (AP)
Flat and unfocused, the Houston Rockets had bigger problems Friday night than their expansive injury list and Tracy McGrady's poor shooting. Carmelo Anthony scored 25 points and Denver held McGrady to a single basket over the first three quarters to snap a four-game losing streak with a 108-86 victory over the hobbled and disinterested Rockets.

Brand, Kaman dominate as Clippers win (AP)
When Elton Brand saw most of Charlotte's big men in street clothes, he knew he was in for a big night. Brand took advantage of the Bobcats' depleted roster with 38 points and 20 rebounds Friday night to help the Los Angeles Clippers pound their way to a 97-88 victory over Charlotte. "They were missing some legs and we took it to them, just worked them over inside and out," Brand said.

Terry hits big 3s as Mavs beat Sonics (AP)
Since joining the Dallas Mavericks, Jason Terry has really enjoyed coming home. Terry made a critical shot in the closing moments back in Seattle for the second straight season. This time, he swished a 3-pointer with 18 seconds left as the Mavericks rallied from a 12-point deficit for a 101-98 win over the SuperSonics on Friday night.

Arenas scores 41 as Wizards edge Suns (AP)
Gilbert Arenas gave the Washington Wizards a huge effort, and it was just enough. Arenas scored 41 points Friday night, and the Wizards beat the Phoenix Suns 112-111 despite his poor foul shooting down the stretch. Arenas made what proved to be the decisive free throw with 44 seconds to go, giving Washington a 112-109 lead on his first attempt.

Crawford helps Knicks end 7-game skid (AP)
The New York Knicks got the strong all-around effort they needed to end their longest losing streak of the season. Jamal Crawford scored 28 points and Stephon Marbury had 22 points and seven assists as New York snapped a seven-game losing streak with a 98-90 victory over the Utah Jazz on Friday night.

Power rankings
Dallas takes over the top spot as even Buffalo threatens to overtake the struggling Senators.

Crosby nets two in Pens' loss to Flyers (AP)
Sidney Crosby couldn't make a stronger argument that he belongs on Team Canada. Still, no matter how well the star teenager is playing, his Pittsburgh Penguins still aren't ready to consistently beat a good team like the Philadelphia Flyers. Crosby scored twice 44 seconds apart early in the third period in his first game since being left off Canada's Olympic team, but Mike Knuble and Peter Forsberg...

Wings win with one second left in OT (AP)
Two late goals and another in overtime gave the Detroit Red Wings the unlikeliest of victories. Pavel Datsyuk scored a power-play goal with one second left in overtime to give Detroit a 3-2 win over the Blackhawks on Friday night. That was after Nicklas Lidstrom and Kris Draper netted goals in the final 39 seconds of regulation to erase a 2-0 Chicago lead and force the extra period.

Canes win despite 1-for-15 power play (AP)
Peter Laviolette had plenty of reason to feel frustrated about the Carolina Hurricanes' inability to score on the power play. But, instead, the coach looked at the man-advantage goal they managed to score. "It won the game for us," he said. "Take the positive from it." Rod Brind'Amour scored in the third period for the team's only power-play goal in 15 chances, helping the Hurricanes beat the...

Reinprecht lifts Calgary to SO victory (AP)
The Calgary Flames weren't happy about allowing five goals for a third straight game. The fact that it happened in a win softened the blow. Steven Reinprecht scored two goals in regulation and another in the shootout to lift the normally stingy Flames to a wild, back-and-forth 6-5 victory over the Vancouver Canucks on Friday night.

Emery stops 25 shots, Senators top Isles (AP)
Beating the New York Islanders has become quite common for the Ottawa Senators. Backup Ray Emery stopped 25 shots, and four Ottawa players scored against Rick DiPietro to give the Senators a 4-2 victory over the New York Islanders on Friday night. "Give the Islanders credit. They played hard," Senators coach Bryan Murray said.

Ovechkin scores 20th, Caps beat Habs 4-2 (AP)
Rookie sensation Alexander Ovechkin felt confident about scoring 20 goals during his first three months in the NHL. "For sure," said Ovechkin, who capitalized on Jeff Halpern's third assist of the third period for an insurance goal in the Capitals' 4-2 victory Friday night over the Montreal Canadiens.

Thrashers rookie Garnett blanks Devils (AP)
As a Canadian youngster, Michael Garnett wanted to be a goalie like his idol, Martin Brodeur. He never expected that his first NHL shutout would come at the expense of Brodeur and the New Jersey Devils. The 23-year-old Garnett made 29 saves, and the Atlanta Thrashers earned a 1-0 victory Friday night.

Kariya's three assists lift Predators (AP)
The Nashville Predators are winning even when they aren't at the top of their game. Paul Kariya had assists on three of four first-period goals and Nashville hung on to beat Columbus 5-4 Friday night. "It's a win and they're not always going to be perfect games," said goaltender Tomas Vokoun, who made 35 saves.

Cajanek lifts Blues in shootout (AP)
Jason Bacashihua came within one shot of his first NHL shutout. He'll have to settle for his second win. Petr Cajanek scored the winning goal in the first extra round of the shootout to give the St. Louis Blues a 2-1 victory over the San Jose Sharks on Friday night. "I just tried to be calm," Cajanek said.

Offseason caps: Hamlin, Sorenson, Bowyer, Menard
Yahoo! Sports breaks down the '06 Cup field, starting with the rookie class.

Auto Racing 2005: Stewart grows up amid youth movement (SportsTicker)
MOORESVILLE, North Carolina (Ticker) - In a season where youth was not only served it was showcased, Tony Stewart topped the auto racing headlines by simply growing up.

Legge completes Champ Car test (AP)
Katherine Legge spent two days this week testing a Champ Car to see if she's ready to become the first female driver in the open-wheel series. The 25-year-old Legge ran a total of 238 laps for PKV Racing on the road course in Sebring, Fla. It was just the second time in a Champ car for the British racer, who ran 70 laps at Sebring in a test for Rocketsports Racing on Dec.

Kyle Busch to run full season in NASCAR Busch Series in 2006 (SportsTicker)
CONCORD, North Carolina (Ticker) - Despite making a splash in his first season on NASCAR's premier series, Kyle Busch has some unfinished business in the Busch Series.

Judge: Speedway lawsuit against NASCAR will stay in Kentucky (AP)
A federal judge has ruled that Kentucky Speedway's $400 million antitrust lawsuit against NASCAR will be heard in Kentucky and not moved to a Florida court.

Talladega Superspeedway to get first repaving since 1979 (AP)
Talladega Superspeedway will be repaved next year, the first time since 1979, and several drivers say they're looking forward to a smoother ride.

NASCAR champ to drive midget races under his own name (AP)
Tony Stewart will drive a midget car again, and won't try to fool anybody. The two-time NASCAR champion will drive in a pair of U.S. Auto Club indoor midget car races at Fort Wayne, where he won a 60-lap feature a year ago under an assumed name in an old junker he bought during a poker game the night before.

Iowa Speedway project gets more financing (AP)
NEWTON, Iowa - An Iowa-based construction company said it has obtained the financing to complete construction of...

Price of returning racing to North Wilkesboro is $12 million (AP)
A grass-roots group is lobbying to return racing to North Wilkesboro Speedway, but a $12 million price tag might be too steep for Wilkes County. That's the asking price of Bruton Smith and Bob Bahre, who own the former NASCAR track. A group calling itself Save the Speedway, which wants to bring racing back to the .625-mile oval, retired an online petition last week after gathering 4,582 signatures.

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