Huge rally brings Miami 24th straight win
CLEVELAND, March 20 (UPI) -- A triple-double from LeBron James brought Miami roaring back from a 27-point deficit Wednesday to its 24th consecutive win -- a 98-95 decision over Cleveland.
The Heat outscored the Cavaliers 58-28 over the final 19 minutes, but almost blew a late eight-point lead in their continuing march into the NBA history book.
The victory came in front of the fans who once cheered James, but turned on him when he left for Miami prior to the 2010-11 season.
Miami's winning streak is the second-longest in the history of the league and is now nine short of the record of 33 straight victories established by the 1971-72 Los Angeles Lakers.
James scored 25 points, seized 12 rebounds and had 10 assists in pacing the Miami comeback, which saw the Heat establish a 95-86 lead with 3:01 to play.
Cleveland then ran off eight in a row to climb within one with 44 seconds to go and the Cavaliers regained the ball with a chance to take the lead.
Wayne Ellington, however, missed a jumper for Cleveland and James scored the game's final two points from the foul line with 4.7 seconds remaining. C.J. Miles failed on his 3-pointer that would have sent the game into overtime.
Ellington led the Cavaliers with 20 points. Cleveland has lost four in a row.
NFL ditches 'tuck' rule, limits helmet hit
PHOENIX, March 20 (UPI) -- NFL owners meeting in Phoenix voted Wednesday to end the so-called tuck rule and toughened its rule on helmet hits.
The owners voted 29-1-2 to end the tuck rule, in place since 1999. Pittsburgh voted against the change, while Washington and New England abstained.
Under the tuck rule, if a quarterback's throwing arm was moving forward when he lost the ball, it was ruled an incomplete pass rather than a fumble if the ball hit the ground, even if he was trying to bring it toward his body.
The rule played a key role in the 2001 AFC divisional playoffs when New England's Tom Brady lost the ball on a late fourth-quarter play against Oakland. Rather than losing the ball on a turnover, the Patriots rallied to win in overtime.
NFL owners also outlawed players from leading with the top, or crown, of their helmets outside of the tackle box. The rule is expected to especially affect running backs who commonly use the helmet as protection from oncoming and often unavoidable contact.
The measure is part of the NFL's health and safety initiative being pushed by Commissioner Roger Goodell.
The owners also voted to change a rule regarding the illegal throwing of a challenge flag. Under the revised rule, if a play is challenged illegally, the team will forfeit a timeout. If a team is out of timeouts, it will be penalized 15 yards, but the play will still be reviewed.
Last season, Detroit Coach Jim Schwartz threw the challenge flag on a touchdown that should have been nullified. All scoring plays are reviewed, but by throwing the flag the referee was prohibited from looking at the video evidence.
Urlacher blasts Bears for releasing him
CHICAGO, March 20 (UPI) -- Eight-time Pro Bowl linebacker Brian Urlacher ripped the Chicago Bears Wednesday for not stepping up and signing him to a new contract.
Urlacher, 34, originally sought a two-year deal for about $11.5 million. The Bears came back with one year for $2 million. The twain never met.
"It wasn't even an offer, it was an ultimatum," Urlacher told the Chicago Tribune. "I feel like I'm a decent football player still. It was insulting, somewhat of a slap in the face.
"They came back with the offer and said, 'This is what it is, take it or leave it. It was, 'If you want to play for the Bears, you'll play for this. If not, then you're not playing for the Bears.'"
The player, who said he wanted to stay with the Bears, put his bottom line in the $3 million to $3.5 million range. Urlacher said he now intends to latch on with another team and has been in contact with several.
Despite his comments, Urlacher said "there are no hard feelings."
"I had a great run here. I'm going to miss the [heck] out of my teammates," he said.
Urlacher, the Bears' all-time leading tackler, had starred for Chicago since being drafted in the first round out of the University of New Mexico in 2000 and going on to win the NFL's Rookie of the Year Award.
"Brian has been an elite player in our league for over a decade," Bears General Manager Phil Emery said. "He showed great leadership and helped develop a winning culture over his time with the Bears. We appreciate all he has given our team, on and off the field."
Urlacher has racked up 1,779 tackles, 41 1/2 sacks, and 22 interceptions during his 13-year career.
He was limited to 12 games last season due to injuries -- the first time he failed to play every game in a season for Chicago.
James Madison advances in NCAA tourney
DAYTON, Ohio, March 20 (UPI) -- Andre Nation touched off a late eight-point run Wednesday that wrapped up James Madison's 68-55 win over LIU-Brooklyn in the NCAA tourney's first round.
The Dukes won their fifth straight game and earned a meeting in the East Region with top-seeded Indiana on Friday.
James Madison won the Colonial Athletic Association Tournament as the No. 3 seed to get into the NCAA event and finally pulled away in the game's final stages while improving to 20-14.
LIU-Brooklyn overcame a 12-point deficit in the first half to take a one-point lead early in the second period and still trailed by only five with 4:53 to play.
That is when James Madison put together its 8-0 surge with the first four points coming from Nation.
A.J. Davis led the Dukes with 20 points, Charles Cooke had 15 and Nation finished with 14.
James Madison is making its first NCAA appearance in 19 years and this was its first victory in the tournament since 1983, when the Dukes downed West Virginia in the first round before losing to North Carolina.
LIU-Brooklyn (20-13), winner of the Northeast Conference Tournament, made its second NCAA trip in as many years. The Blackbirds last won a game in the event 40 years ago. They were paced by 20 points and 10 rebounds from Jamal Olaseware.