The Rundown for December 31, 2020

CORONAVIRUS UPDATES… The number of confirmed coronavirus cases in the U.S. has reached 19,968,087 and the nation’s death toll stands at 345,737, according to figures released last night by Johns Hopkins University… The nearly 3,750 deaths on Wednesday set a new record for the second straight day. The average of about 2,500 deaths per day in December doubled November’s death rate… The Florida Department of Health yesterday announced the first identified case of a variant of the COVID-19 first discovered in the United Kingdom. The discovery in Florida’s Martin County follows the detection of the virus in Colorado and California earlier this week.

WORKER FIRED, ARRESTED FOR DESTROYING VACCINE… A Wisconsin hospital employee has been fired and arrested for allegedly destroying more than 500 doses of the COVID-19 vaccine. The incident took place at the Aurora Medical Center in Grafton, Wisconsin, north of Milwaukee. A total of 57 vials of Moderna’s COVID-19 vaccine — which is required to be stored between 36 and 46 degrees Fahrenheit — were left out overnight on Saturday. Officials say the worker “acknowledged that they intentionally removed the vaccine from refrigeration.” Local authorities, the FBI and the Food and Drug Administration have joined in an investigation.

TRUMP EXTENDS BANS ON VISAS… President Trump yesterday extended his bans on green cards and several types of work visas amid the coronavirus pandemic. Trump imposed bans on new green cards and certain visas in April and June, claiming they would protect American workers during the pandemic. The bans were set to expire yesterday but will remain in place through March 31. President-elect Joe Biden, who has criticized the measures, could opt to reverse the extension when he takes office January 20.

TOXIN IN RECALLED DOG FOOD BLAMED FOR 28 DOG DEATHS… Dangerous levels of aflatoxin in Sportmix products made by Midwestern Pet Foods are blamed for the deaths of at least 28 dogs. The Food and Drug Administration recalled the brand on Wednesday. The FDA said the “scope of the recall may expand as new information becomes available” during its investigation with the manufacturer and the Missouri Department of Agriculture.

SLIGHT DROP IN UNEMPLOYMENT CLAIMS… Nearly 800,000 more U.S. workers have filed new unemployment claims, according to the weekly Labor Department report released yesterday. The number of claims reflect a decrease of 19,000 from the previous week. The figure was lower than most experts predicted. The Labor Department also revised up last week’s claims by 3,000 and said the unemployment rate for the most recent week was 3.6 percent.

ENTERTAINMENT
CHURCH OF SCIENTOLOGY TO MEDIATE DANNY MASTERSON CASE
… A judge in Los Angeles has ruled that stalking and intimidation cases brought by four women against actor Danny Masterson must now go through mediation within the Church of Scientology. The ruling comes just days before Masterson was scheduled to be arraigned on three charges of rape between 2001 and 2003. Los Angeles County Superior Court Judge Steven Kleifield ruled that the complaints must be settled by the Church in “religious arbitration” due to an arbitration agreement that already exists among the parties. The suit filed in August 2019 claimed the plaintiffs had been stalked and intimidated by the church’s agents after reporting the allegations to police. Masterson is best known for starring in the sitcom “That 70s Show.”

FINAL McGUIRE SISTERS SISTER DIES… The last of the singing McGuire Sisters has died. Phyllis McGuire was 89 when she died Tuesday at her Las Vegas home. The group, also consisting of Christine and Dorothy McGuire, rose to fame in 1952 after winning a competition on the Arthur Godfrey’s Talent Scouts show. The sisters sold millions of records and were best known for their hits “Goodnight, Sweetheart, Goodnight,” “Sincerely,” “Sugartime” and “Picnic.” The group made multiple appearances on The Ed Sullivan Show, performed for five U.S. presidents and reunited for a comeback in 1985 where they also performed at various venues around Las Vegas and Atlantic City.

SPORTS
NBA SCORES

INDIANA 119 – Cleveland 99
… The Pacers built an early double-digit lead and cruised past the Cavaliers. All five starters scored in double figures led by Domantas Sabonis’ 25 points. Sabonis also grabbed 11 rebounds.

Chicago 133 – WASHINGTON 130… Otto Porter scored 28 points and Zach LaVine added 22 as the short-handed Bulls kept the Wizards winless. Seven players scored in double figures for Chicago.

Philadelphia 116 – ORLANDO 92… The hot-shooting 76ers led by as many as 37 points in the first half and never looked back in routing the Magic. Joel Embiid and Seth Curry scored 21 points apiece. Tobias Harris added 20 points.

HOUSTON 122 – Sacramento 119… James Harden came on strong at the end and finished with 33 points in leading the Rockets past the Kings. John Wall added 22 points in his first game since 2018. Christian Wood tossed in 21 points.

TORONTO 100 – New York 83… The Raptors came alive in the second half to put away the Knicks. Fred VanVleet’s 25 points led a balanced scoring attack. Kyle Lowry added 20 points.

New Orleans 113 – OKLAHOMA CITY 80… The Pelicans held the Thunder to seven fourth-quarter points in the runaway win. Brandon Ingram scored 20 points before getting ejected in the third quarter. Six other players scored in double figures.

Phoenix 106 – UTAH 95… The Suns took control with a big second quarter and held off the Jazz. Devin Booker scored a game-high 25 points.

TODAY’S NBA SCHEDULE
Memphis is at Charlotte…
Detroit hosts Boston…
Miami is at Dallas…
Brooklyn hosts Atlanta…
Chicago is at Milwaukee…
Minnesota hosts Washington…
the L.A. Lakers are at San Antonio…
Denver hosts Phoenix…
the L.A. Clippers are at Utah…
Golden State hosts Portland

TOP 25 COLLEGE BASKETBALL SCORES
No. 6 WISCONSIN 71, No. 21 Minnesota 59…
No. 16 Michigan 84, MARYLAND 73…
No. 21 OREGON 82, California 69

COLLEGE FOOTBALL BOWL SCORES
Ball State 34, No. 22 San Jose State 13 in the Arizona Bowl…
Mississippi State 28, No. 24 Tulsa 26 in the Armed Forces Bowl…
West Virginia 24, Army 21 in the Liberty Bowl

TODAY’S COLLEGE FOOTBALL BOWL SCHEDULE
No. 8 Cincinnati plays No. 9 Georgia in the Peach Bowl…
No. 14 Northwestern plays Auburn in the Citrus Bowl…
No. 1 Alabama plays No. 4 Notre Dame in the Rose Bowl…
No. 2 Clemson plays No. 3 Oho State in the Sugar Bowl

SATURDAY’S COLLEGE FOOTBALL BOWL SCHEDULE
No. 5 Texas A&M plays No. 13 North Carolina in the Orange Bowl…
No. 10 Iowa State plays No. 25 Oregon in the Fiesta Bowl…
No. 11 Indiana plays Mississippi in the Outback Bowl…
No. 23 North Carolina State plays Kentucky in the Gator Bowl

SUNDAY’S NFL SCHEDULE
Miami (10-5) is at Buffalo (12-3)…
Cincinnati (4-10-1) hosts Baltimore (10-5)…
Pittsburgh (12-3) is at Cleveland (10-5)…
Minnesota (6-9) is at Detroit (5-10)…
New England (6-9) hosts the N.Y. Jets (2-13)…
Dallas (6-9) is at the N.Y. Giants (5-10)…
Tampa Bay (10-5) hosts Atlanta (4-11)…
Green Bay (12-3) is at Chicago (8-7)…
Denver (5-10) hosts Las Vegas (7-8)…
Jacksonville (1-14) is at Indianapolis (10-5)…
the L.A. Chargers (6-9) are at Kansas City (14-1)…
the L.A. Rams (9-6) host Arizona (8-7)…
Seattle (11-4) is at San Francisco (6-9)…
Carolina (5-10) hosts New Orleans (11-4)…
Tennessee (10-5) is at Houston (4-11)…
Philadelphia (4-10) hosts Washington (6-9)

The Rundown for December 31, 2020

CORONAVIRUS UPDATES… The number of confirmed coronavirus cases in the U.S. has reached 19,740,471 and the nation’s death toll stands at 342,312, according to figures released last night by Johns Hopkins University… The nation’s leading infectious disease expert, Dr. Anthony Fauci, said yesterday that he foresees America regaining “some semblance of normality” by autumn 2021, despite early setbacks in the vaccine rollout. During an online discussion that included California Governor Gavin Newsom, Fauci said it will take until next fall to achieve enough collective COVID-19 immunity through vaccinations. Newsom, meanwhile, announced that the more infectious coronavirus variant originally found in the United Kingdom has been detected in his state. Newsom said the coronavirus variant B.1.1.7 had been confirmed earlier in the day in a Southern California patient.

BIDEN NOMINATIONS… President-elect Joe Biden added two more nominations to the
Pentagon staff yesterday. Biden’s transition team announced that Kathleen Hicks has been nominated for deputy secretary of defense and Colin Kahl as undersecretary of defense for policy. If confirmed, Hicks would be the first woman to hold the position. She is currently a senior vice president and director of the international security program at the Center for Strategic and International Studies.

UN EXPERTS SAY TRUMP PARDONS VIOLATED LAW… A panel of independent United Nations experts yesterday concluded that President Trump’s pardon last week of four former Blackwater Worldwide mercenaries violates U.S. obligations under international law and urged member states to condemn the action. The four men were convicted of killing 14 Iraqis and injuring 17 others during an attack on Nisour Square in 2007. Nicholas Slatten was convicted of first-degree murder and Paul Slough, Evan Liberty and Dustin Heard were convicted of voluntary and attempted manslaughter. Slatten was sentenced to life while the other three received at least 12-year-imprisonment orders.

MICHIGAN APPROVES FLINT TRUST FUND… The creation of a trust fund to distribute a $641 million settlement to residents affected by the Flint water crisis was approved yesterday by Michigan Governor Gretchen Whitmer. The governor signed a pair of bills that authorize the state to issue bonds to cover the settlement. The state agreed to settle in August. The crisis began in 2014 when Flint changed its water source in a cost-cutting move and high levels of lead started showing up in people’s drinking water. An investigation revealed officials failed to apply corrosion inhibitors leading to aging pipes leaching lead into the water supply, exposing residents to toxic contamination.

CENSUS BUREAU STRUGGLES AT DEADLINE… The U.S. Census Bureau acknowledged yesterday that it does not expect to meet today’s deadline to produce population counts used to allocate seats in Congress. The bureau said in a statement yesterday that it will continue to process the data it has collected since October and plans to “deliver a complete and accurate state population count for apportionment” in early 2021. The Census Bureau didn’t specify a date but vowed to deliver the data “as close to the statutory deadline as possible.”

ENTERTAINMENT
ACTRESS DAWN WELLS DIES
… Actress Dawn Wells, who was best known for playing Mary Ann in the 1960s sitcom “Gilligan’s Island,” died died in Los Angeles of causes related to COVID-19. She was 82. After “Gilligan’s Island” completed its three-season run in 1967. Wells continued her role in three made-for-TV sequel movies that aired between 1978 and 1982. The former Miss Nevada who competed in the 1959 Miss America pageant also had television roles in “77 Sunset Strip,” “Maverick,” “Bonanza,” “The Joey Bishop Show,” “Hawaiian Eye,” “The Wild Wild West” and “ALF.”

BIDENS TO RING IN NEW YEAR… President-elect Joe Biden and incoming First Lady Jill Biden are planning to ring in the new year tonight as part of “Dick Clark’s New Year’s Rockin’ Eve” on ABC. The Bidens will sit down with Seacrest for their final interview of 2020 before transitioning into the White House next month. The event will be hosted by Ryan Seacrest will feature performances by Jennifer Lopez, Megan Thee Stallion, Miley Cyrus, Brandy and Billy Porter.

SPORTS
NBA SCORES

BOSTON 126 – Memphis 107… Jaylen Brown poured in a career-high 42 points and the
Celtics made it 10 straight wins over the Grizzlies. Brown was 7-of-10 from beyond the arc.

BROOKLYN 145 – Atlanta 141… Kyrie Irving scored 17 of his 25 points in the fourth quarter as the Nets surged past the Hawks. Kevin Durant had 33 points and 11 rebounds. Joe Harris tossed in 23 points. Jarrett Allen delivered 15 points and 13 boards off the bench.

MIAMI 119 – Milwaukee 108… The Heat topped the Bucks just 24 hours after losing to them by 47 points. Goran Dragic came off the bench and scored 26 points. Bam Adebayo dropped in 22 points. Tyler Herro finished with 21 points and 15 rebounds.

Charlotte 118 – DALLAS 99… Rookie LaMelo Ball scored 22 points to lead the Hornets in their rout of the Mavericks. Miles Bridges racked up 20 points and 16 boards.

L.A. Lakers 121 – SAN ANTONIO 107… The Lakers used an 11-0 first-quarter run to shake off an early deficit and take the lead for good in their win over the Spurs. LeBron James led the way with 26 points on his 36th birthday. Dennis Schroder added 21 points and Anthony Davis tossed in 20. Spurs’ assistant coach Becky Hammon became the first woman to direct an NBA team when she took over for Gregg Popovich following his second-quarter ejection.

L.A. CLIPPERS 128 – Portland 105… Kawhi Leonard returned from a two-game absence and scored 28 points in leading the Clippers in their romp over the Trail Blazers. Paul George added 23 points.

TODAY’S NBA SCHEDULE
Cleveland is at Indiana…
Washington hosts Chicago…
Philadelphia is at Orlando…
Houston hosts Sacramento…
New York is at Toronto…
Oklahoma City hosts New Orleans…
Phoenix is at Utah

COLLEGE FOOTBALL BOWL SCORES
Wisconsin 42, Wake Forest 28 in the Mayo Bowl…
No. 6 Oklahoma 55, No. 7 Florida 20 in the Cotton Bowl

TOP 25 COLLEGE BASKETBALL SCORES
No. 2 BAYLOR 105, Alcorn State 76…
No. 7 Tennessee 73, No. 12 MISSOURI 53…
No. 23 Virginia 66, NOTRE DAME 57…
No. 25 OHIO STATE 90, Nebraska 54

The Rundown for December 30, 2020

CORONAVIRUS UPDATES… The number of confirmed coronavirus cases in the U.S. has reached 19,556,927 and the nation’s death toll stands at 338,561, according to figures released last night by Johns Hopkins University… A more infectious strain of the coronavirus that prompted an uptick of cases in the United Kingdom has officially arrived in the U.S. Colorado Governor Jared Polis revealed yesterday that state health officials found a case of COVID-19 variant B.1.1.7 in a male patient in his 20s who had no travel history. There is no evidence yet that B.1.1.7 is deadlier or vaccine-resistant… NBC News has reported that the coronavirus vaccination effort in the U.S. is seriously behind schedule. At the current rate, it would take nearly 10 years for enough Americans to be vaccinated to stop the spread of the virus, the network says. The slightly more than 2 million people who have received the first dose of the vaccine in the U.S. so far is well below the 20 million that the Trump administration promised to have done by the end of the year.

McCONNELL BLOCKS RAISED STIMULUS PAYMENTS… Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell yesterday blocked a bipartisan effort to quickly pass a measure to increase direct stimulus payments from $600 to $2,000. Senate Minority Leader Chuck Schumer sought to pass the change to the omnibus spending bill through a unanimous consent request on the Senate floor, but McConnell objected. The House passed the increase to stimulus payments on Monday. The measure could be scheduled for another vote in the Senate at a later date. Meanwhile, Treasury Secretary Steven Mnuchin announced that the Department of Treasury and the Internal Revenue Service would begin delivering the $600 payments as early as last night through direct deposit, with paper checks being mailed out today.

CONGRESSMAN-ELECT DIES OF COVID… Louisiana congressman-elect Luke Letlow died yesterday after a short battle with Covid-19. The 41-year-old Letlow had announced his diagnosis on his Facebook page on December 18. Democratic Gov. John Bel Edwards ordered that flags in the state be flown at half-staff on the day of Letlow’s funeral. A new representative for Louisiana’s 5th Congressional District will be determined by special election.

SAUDI ARABIA ARMS SALE APPROVED… The Trump administration yesterday approved a possible $300 million arms sale to Saudi Arabia. The State Department’s Defense Security Cooperation Agency gave its okay on the sale of 3,000 Boeing-made GBU-39 Small Diameter Bomb I Munitions and related equipment to the ally Middle Eastern country for $290 million. The State Department said the munitions will increase Saudi Arabia’s stock of long-range, precision air-to-ground munitions that will improve the nation’s “capability to meet current and future threats.”

DOJ CLOSES TAMIR RICE INVESTIGATION… The Justice Department announced yesterday that it has closed its civil rights investigation into the fatal 2014 shooting by Cleveland police of Tamir Rice and that no federal criminal charges would be brought in the case. The announcement came five years after an Ohio grand jury cleared two Cleveland officers of state charges in the death of Rice, a 12-year-old youth who was shot in a playground while holding a pellet gun. Both officers are white.

ENTERTAINMENT
CHRISTMAS SONGS DOMINATE HOT 100 CHART
… A total of 39 holiday songs dominate this week’s Billboard Hot 100 chart, including nine holiday tunes in the Top 10. Mariah Carey’s “All I Want for Christmas Is You” holds the top spot for the fifth time. Brenda Lee’s “Rockin’ Around the Christmas Tree” follows in second place. Bobby Helms’ “Jingle Bell Rock,” Burl Ives’ “A Holly Jolly Christmas” and Andy Williams’ “It’s the Most Wonderful Time of the Year” are also in the top five.

‘DANCING’ CHAMP BATTLING COVID… Recently crowned “Dancing with the Stars” champion Kaitlyn Bristowe is battling Covid-19, she announced on social media yesterday. Bristowe, an alum of “The Bachelor” franchise, said she and her her boyfriend Jason Tartick had been quarantining before the holidays but the one person they allowed to come visit was carrying the virus. Tartick was a contestant on “The Bachelorette.”

SPORTS
NBA SCORES

New York 95 – CLEVELAND 86
… The Knicks built an early double-digit lead and held off the Cavaliers. Julius Randle racked up 28 points, 12 rebounds and 11 assists.

Golden State 116 – Detroit 106… Stephen Curry pumped in 31 points and Andrew Wiggins scored 17 of his 27 points in the fourth quarter as the Warriors put away the Pistons.

Boston 116 – INDIANA 111… The Celtics rallied from 17 points down in the third quarter to take down the Pacers. Jayson Tatum scored a game-high 27 points and grabbed 11 boards.

PHILADELPHIA 100 – Toronto 93… Joel Embiid had game-highs with 29 points and 15 rebounds in leading the 76ers past the Raptors. Tobias Harris added 26 points and 11 boards.

Chicago 115 – WASHINGTON 107… Zach ZaVine scored nine straight points during a third-quarter surge and the Bulls dealt the Wizards their fourth straight loss. Wendell Carter Jr. had 12 rebounds to go with his 10 points.

Milwaukee 144 – MIAMI 97… The Bucks made an NBA-record 29 3-pointers in their bombing of the Heat. Kris Middleton led the way with 25 points. Jrue Holiday added 24 points.

Orlando 118 – Oklahoma City 107… The Magic handled the Thunder to win their fourth straight at the start of the season. Nikola Vucevic scored 28 points and pulled down 10 boards.

PHOENIX 111 – New Orleans 86… The Suns took over with a big second quarter and built a 39-point lead through three quarters in their thrashing of the Pelicans. Jae Crowder scored 21 points to lead six players in double figures.

L.A. CLIPPERS 124 – Minnesota 101… Lou Williams came off the bench to score 20 points and lead seven players in double figures as the Clippers cruised past the Timberwolves.

SACRAMENTO 125 – Denver 115… The Kings used a big fourth quarter to rally past the Nuggets. They got points from De’Aaron Fox and 20 from Richaun Holmes. Five other players scored in double figures.

TODAY’S NBA SCHEDULE
Memphis is at Boston…
Brooklyn hosts Atlanta…
Milwaukee is at Miami…
Dallas hosts Charlotte…
the L.A. Lakers are at San Antonio…
the L.A. Clippers host Portland

COLLEGE FOOTBALL BOWL SCORES
No. 21 Oklahoma State 37, No. 18 Miami 34 in the Cheez-It Bowl…
No. 20 Texas 55, Colorado 23 in the Alamo Bowl

TODAY’S COLLEGE FOOTBALL BOWL SCHEDULE
Wisconsin plays Wake Forest in the Mayo Bowl…
No. 6 Oklahoma plays No. 7 Florida in the Cotton Bowl

TOP 25 COLLEGE BASKETBALL SCORES
No. 1 GONZAGA 112, Dixie State 67…
No. 2 BAYLOR 93, Central Arkansas 56…
TULSA 65, No. 5 Houston 64…
No. 9 WEST VIRGINIA 73, Northeastern 51…
No. 10 IOWA 87, No. 19 Northwestern 73…
No. 14 RUTGERS 81, Purdue 76…
CLEMSON 77, No. 18 Florida State 67…
No. 23 TEXAS TECH 79, Incarnate Word 51…
No. 24 VIRGINIA TECH 80, Miami 78

COLLEGE BASKETBALL NEWS… The University of Arizona announced yesterday that it is self-imposing a one-year postseason ban on its men’s basketball program. The decision follows the NCAA investigation stemming from the 2017 federal investigation into corruption in college basketball and college basketball recruiting. Former Arizona assistant coach Emanuel “Book” Richardson pleaded guilty to one felony count of conspiracy to commit bribery after being accused of accepting $20,000 to steer Arizona players to aspiring sports agent Christian Dawkins and financial advisers close to Dawkins.

MLB NEWS… The San Diego Padres made it official yesterday in announcing the acquisitions of pitchers Blake Snell from Tampa Bay and Yu Darvish from the Chicago Cubs. San Diego also announced the signing of infielder Ha-seong Kim from the Korea Baseball Organization. The deals follow the Padres’ first postseason appearance in 14 years.

The Rundown for December 29, 2020

CORONAVIRUS UPDATES… The number of confirmed coronavirus cases in the U.S. has reached 19,300,726 and the nation’s death toll stands at 334,830, according to figures released last night by Johns Hopkins University… Surging cases and strained hospitals have left California Governor Gavin Newsom leaning toward a three-week renewal of mandatory constraints on gatherings and business activities in hardest-hit areas. The governor is expected to announce his decision today. As in many parts of the country, hospitalizations in California spiked amid holiday-season travel. A Reuters tally found that more than 118,000 coronavirus patients were being treated in U.S. hospitals across the country as of Sunday night.

HOUSE OVERRIDES TRUMP DEFENSE-BILL VETO… The House yesterday voted to override President Trump’s veto of the annual defense spending bill. After the Senate passed the National Defense Authorization Act with a veto-proof majority, Trump opposed the bill because it did not repeal the law giving social media companies legal immunity for what their users post and because it called for the renaming of military bases honoring Confederate leaders. 109 Republicans joined Democrats in the 322-87 House vote in advancing the bill to the Senate, where a final vote is expected this week.

HOUSE VOTES TO RAISE STIMULUS PAYMENTS… The House yesterday passed a measure to raise direct stimulus payments to $2,000. The passage came less than a day after President Trump signed a $900 billion COVID-19 relief package that called for $600 payments. The Caring for Americans with Supplemental Help, or CASH Act, passed in a 275-134 floor vote brought by House Speaker Nancy Pelosi. The bill now heads to the Senate.

BIDEN SAYS TRANSITION BEING STONEWALLED… President-elect Joe Biden yesterday accused the White House of stonewalling his transition team, especially in matters of defense. Key Defense Department political appointees reportedly were reportedly directing career staffers to withhold critical information from the Biden team. Information included details about the SolarWinds cyberattack blamed on Russia. During a brief address in Wilmington, Delaware, Biden also complained that the Trump administration has purposely gutted key policy teams that oversee defense and national security.

REPUBLICANS SUE PENCE OVER ELECTORS… Texas Congressman Louie Gohmert and several other Republicans are suing Vice President Mike Pence in an improbable bid to overturn the results of the 2020 presidential election. The suit asks a federal court to declare Pence legally authorized to pick pro-Trump electors on January 6, when the Electoral College is scheduled to certify the winner. Pence, as vice president, presides over the procedural task. Meanwhile, other Republicans are urging Trump to accept defeat gracefully. Republican Congressman Denver Riggleman of Virginia yesterday reacted to news of the lawsuit against Pence by tweeting, “This is NUTS.”

ENTERTAINMENT
LORI LOUGHLIN RELEASED FROM PRISON
… Actress Lori Loughlin was released yesterday from a federal prison in Dublin, California. She served two months for her role in the 2019 college-admissions cheating scandal that saw some 50 people hit with federal bribery charges. The 56-year-old Loughlin, who was best known as Aunt Becky on the sitcom “Full House,” admitted to paying $500,000 to get her two daughters into the University of Southern California on rowing scholarships. Loughlin’s husband, designer Mossimo Giannulli, received a five-month sentence over the USC bribe and is scheduled to be released in April.

‘BOSS BABY’ SEQUEL RELEASED PUSHED BACK… Universal announced yesterday that the theater release date for the sequel “The Boss Baby: Family Business” is being pushed back from March 26, 2021 to September 17, 2021. Voice star Alec Baldwin returns, as do Lisa Kudrow and Jimmy Kimmel. The original “Boss Baby,” released in 2017, grossed more than $500 million worldwide.

SPORTS
MONDAY NIGHT FOOTBALL
..
Buffalo 38 – NEW ENGLAND 9
… Josh Allen completed 27 of 36 passes for 320 yards and hit Stefon Diggs with three of his four touchdown passes as the Bills (12-3) routed the Patriots (6-9). Diggs finished with nine catches for 145 yards. Buffalo swept the season series with New England for the first time since 1999.

NBA SCORES
ATLANTA 128 – Detroit 120
… Trae Young scored a game-high 29 points in leading the Hawks past the Pistons. Six other players scored in double figures for Atlanta.

Memphis 116 – BROOKLYN 111 (OT)… The Grizzlies outlasted the Nets despite losing Ja Morant in the first half due to an ankle injury. Kyle Anderson scored a career-high 28 points. Dillon Brooks added 24 points.

Utah 110 – OKLAHOMA CITY 109… Donovan Mitchell laid in the go-ahead basket with 7 seconds left and the Jazz held on to edge the Thunder. Mitchell and Michael Conley scored 20 points apiece. Conley also grabbed 10 rebounds. Bojan Bogdanovic led Utah with 23 points.

DENVER 124 – Houston 111… The Nuggets built an early double-digit lead and cruised past the short-handed Rockets. All five starters scored in double figures led by Jamal Murray’s 21 points. Nikola Jokic racked up 19 points, 18 assists and 12 boards.

Portland 115 – L.A. LAKERS 107… The Trail Blazers used a fourth-quarter surge to rally past the Lakers. Damian Lillard scored 21 of his 31 points in the second half. CJ McCollum had 20 points and 11 assists.

TODAY’S NBA SCHEDULE
New York is at Cleveland…
Detroit hosts Golden State…
Boston is at Indiana…
Philadelphia hosts Toronto…
Chicago is at Washington…
Miami hosts Milwaukee…
Orlando is at Oklahoma City…
Phoenix hosts New Orleans…
Minnesota is at the L.A. Clippers…
Sacramento hosts Denver

TOP 25 COLLEGE BASKETBALL SCORES
No. 1 GONZAGA 88, Northern Arizona 58…
Maryland 70, No. 6 WISCONSIN 64…
No. 21 MINNESOTA 81, Michigan State 56

TODAY’S COLLEGE FOOTBALL BOWL SCHEDULE
No. 18 Miami plays Oklahoma State in the Cheez-It Bowl…
No. 20 Texas plays Colorado in the Alamo Bowl

The Rundown for December 28, 2020

CORONAVIRUS UPDATES… The number of confirmed coronavirus cases in the U.S. has reached 19,107,675 and the nation’s death toll stands at 333,055, according to figures released last night by Johns Hopkins University… The nation’s leading infectious diseases expert, Dr. Anthony Fauci, warned yesterday of a “post-seasonal surge” of COVID-19 cases following holiday gatherings. During an appearance on CNN’s “State of the Union,” Fauci also said that “somewhere between 70 and 85 percent” of the population would need to be vaccinated against the virus in order to achieve herd immunity.

TRUMP SIGNS BILLS… President Trump last night signed a $2.3 trillion omnibus funding bill and an associated coronavirus relief bill following Saturday’s expiration of unemployment benefits expired and a government shutdown that was to begin tomorrow. The two bills are tied together and Trump did not sign them as expected on last Thursday. Instead, he called the relief bill a “disgrace” and demanded amendments that included $2,000 in direct payments to Americans. The legislation he signed includes direct payments of $600 per adult and per child. The amount per adult is half the $1,200 payments that were provided under the CARES Act enacted in March, but the amount per child is slightly larger than the $500 allowed under that law.

AUTHORITIES ID NASHVILLE BOMBING SUSPECT… Authorities in Nashville said yesterday that the man believed to be responsible for Friday’s downtown bombing in Nashville died in the explosion. The suspected bomber was identified as 63-year-old Anthony Quinn Warner. Investigators said they matched his DNA with human remains at the scene and matched a vehicle identification number to a registration associated with him. Warner reportedly acted alone in carrying out the bombing, which injured three people and damaged dozens of buildings.

SPECIAL FORCES SOLDIER CHARGED IN SHOOTINGS… Authorities yesterday announced the arrest of an active-duty Special Forces soldier who has been charged with murder after three people were killed and three wounded in a shooting Saturday at a bowling alley in Rockford, Illinois. 37-year-old Duke Webb, an assistant operations and intelligence sergeant assigned to the 3rd Battalion, 7th Special Forces Group at Eglin Air Force Base in Florida, was charged with three counts of murder and three counts of attempted murder. Webb was reportedly on leave at the time of the shootings.

HOLIDAY RETAIL SALES UP… Retail sales jumped 3 percent during this year’s expanded holiday shopping season, according to figures released yesterday by Mastercard SpendingPulse. The jump was attributed to more people buying decorations and furniture for their homes during the pandemic. The report noted online shopping sales also grew a whopping 49 percent between October 11 and December 24, accounting for 19.7 percent of total retail sales. Unsurprisingly, Black Friday was the top spending day of the season.

ENTERTAINMENT
TONY RICE, BLUEGRASS LEGEND, DIES
… Bluegrass performer Tony Rice died Friday at his Reidsville, North Carolina, home of undisclosed causes, the International Bluegrass Association confirmed yesterday. He was 69. Rice, a 2013 Bluegrass Music Hall of Fame inductee, rose to fame in the 1970s as a guitarist and vocalist in the band New South and later performed with the David Grisman Quintet.

TAYLOR SWIFT REMAINS ATOP BOX OFFICE… Taylor Swift’s “Evermore” sold 169,000 copies to top the Billboard 200 chart for a second straight week. Paul McCartney’s newest release, “McCartney III,” debuted in second place with 105,000 with units sold. Eminem’s “Music to Be Murdered By” jumped to No. 3 after selling 94,000 copies. Michael Bublé’s “Christmas” finished fourth on sales of 77,000 units. Mariah Carey’s “Merry Christmas” capped the top five with 60,000 copies sold.

SPORTS
NFL SCORES

KANSAS CITY 17 – Atlanta 14
… The Chiefs (14-1) fought off the Falcons (4-11) to clinch the AFC’s top seed and a first-round bye in the playoffs. Patrick Mahomes threw a go-ahead 25-yard touchdown pass to Demarcus Robinson with 1:55 remaining. Kansas City’s Travis Kelce became the first tight end to have two 100-catch seasons and set the single-season yardage record for a tight end with 1,467.

N.Y. JETS 23 – Cleveland 16… Kareem Hunt recovered a Baker Mayfield fumble with 1:16 remaining to seal the win as the Jets (2-13) stunned the Browns (10-5) and put a dent in their playoff chances. Sam Darnold threw a pair of second-quarter touchdown passes. Jamison Crowder put New York on the scoreboard in the first quarter when he took a pitch and threw 43 yards to fellow wide receiver Braxton Berrios.

PITTSBURGH 28 – Indianapolis 24… The Steelers (12-3) closed with 21 straight points to upend the Colts (10-5) and clinch the NFC North title. Ben Roethlisberger passed for 342 yards and hit three different receivers with touchdown passes.

Chicago 41 – JACKSONVILLE 17… The Bears (8-7) pulled away in the second half to hand the Jaguars (1-14) their 14th straight loss. Mitchell Trubisky found Jimmy Graham with a pair of touchdown passes and ran for a score. Allen Robinson had 10 catches for 103 yards.

BALTIMORE 27 – N.Y. Giants 13… The Ravens (10-5) scored the game’s first 17 points and cruised past the Giants (5-10). Lamar Jackson threw touchdown passes to Marquise Brown and Dez Bryant.

Cincinnati 37 – HOUSTON 31… Samaje Perine ran 3 yards for his second touchdown of the day with 1:57 left to give the Bengals (4-10-1) the lead for good in their win over the Texans (4-11). Brandon Allen threw for 371 yards and two touchdowns.

L.A. CHARGERS 19 – Denver 16… The Chargers (6-9) held off the Broncos (5-10) to win their third in a row. Michael Badgley’s fourth field goal of the game broke a tie with 41 seconds remaining. Justin Herbert’s 9-yard touchdown pass to Austin Ekeler in the second quarter was his 28th scoring toss of the season, breaking the NFL rookie record set by Cleveland’s Baker Mayfield in 2018.

Carolina 20 – WASHINGTON 3… The Panthers (5-10) took advantage of four Washington (6-9) turnovers to build a 20-3 halftime lead and held on for the victory. Their final score came on a 14 yard touchdown pass from Teddy Bridgewater to Robby Anderson.

DALLAS 37 – Philadelphia 17… Andy Dalton passed for 377 yards and found Michael Gallup with two of his three touchdown passes as the Cowboys (6-9) handled the Eagles (4-10-1) to remain in the playoff hunt. Gallup had six catches for 121 yards. Ezekiel Elliott rushed for 105 yards.

SEATTLE 20 – L.A. Rams 9… The Seahawks (11-4) downed the Rams (9-6) to claim the NFC West title. Russell Wilson ran for one touchdown and threw for another in the second half.

GREEN BAY 40 – Tennessee 14… Aaron Rodgers hit Davante Adams with three of his four touchdown passes and the Packers (12-3) crushed the Titans (10-5). Rodgers completed 21 of 25 passes for 231 yards in the snow at Lambeau. Adams finished with 11 catches for 142 yards. AJ Dillon carried 21 times for 124 yards and two scores.

MONDAY NIGHT FOOTBALL..
Buffalo (11-3) is at New England (6-8)

NBA SCORES
Dallas 124 – L.A. CLIPPERS 73
… The Mavericks built an NBA-record 50-point halftime lead in their dismantling of the Clippers. Luka Doncic scored a game-high 24 points despite playing only 26 minutes. Josh Richardson added 21 points.

CHARLOTTE 106 – Brooklyn 104… Gordon Hayward scored 28 points to lead six players in double figures and the Hornets held off the Knicks. P.J. Washington had 14 points and 12 rebounds.

Orlando 120 – WASHINGTON 113… The Magic bombed the Wizards 43-19 in the fourth quarter for a come-from-behind win. Markelle Fultz and Terrence Ross scored 26 points apiece.

NEW ORLEANS 98 – San Antonio 95… Brandon Ingram scored 28 points and grabbed 11 boards in leading the Pelicans past the Spurs. Zion Williamson finished with 18 points and 11 rebounds.

CLEVELAND 118 – Philadelphia 94… Andre Drummond powered his way to 24 points and 14 boards as the Cavaliers rolled past the 76ers. Collin Sexton dropped in 22 points.

NEW YORK 130 – Milwaukee 110… The Knicks took control with a big second quarter and cruised past the Bucks. Julius Randle had game-highs with 29 points and 14 rebounds. Elfrid Payton tossed in 27 points.

INDIANA 108 – Boston 107… Domantas Sabonis was fouled while making a game-tying with 8.4 seconds left and converted the ensuing free throw to send the Pacers past the Celtics. Sabonis finished with 19 points and 10 rebounds. Malcolm Bogdon led Indiana with 25 points.

Golden State 129 – CHICAGO 128… Damion Lee knocked down a 3-pointer with 1.8 seconds remaining to lift the Warriors over the Bulls. Stephen Curry led Golden State with 36 points.

Phoenix 116 – SACRAMENTO 100… The Suns shook off a slow start to put away the Kings. They got 22 points from Mikal Bridges and 20 from Devin Booker. Deandre Ayton pulled down 15 boards to go with his 11 points.

L.A. LAKERS 127 – Minnesota 91… The Lakers jumped out to a 40-23 lead after the first quarter and never looked back in their romp over the Timberwolves. Kyle Kuzma pumped in 20 points before sitting out most of the second half.

TODAY’S NBA SCHEDULE
Detroit is at Atlanta…
Brooklyn hosts Memphis…
Utah is at Oklahoma City…
Denver hosts Houston…
Portland is at the L.A. Lakers

The Rundown for December 25, 2020

CORONAVIRUS UPDATES… The number of confirmed coronavirus cases in the U.S. has reached 18,649,352 and the nation’s death toll stands at 329,022, according to figures released last night by Johns Hopkins University… A forecasting model by researchers at the University of Washington’s Institute for Health Metrics and Evaluation now predicts there will be 567,000 deaths in the U.S. by April. They warned that deaths could surpass 5,000 per day by mid-February if governments don’t order additional restrictions… California became the first state in the nation to surpass 2 million cases, just 44 days after recording 1 million cases on November 11. The state also reported a record of 18,875 hospitalizations including another record with 3,962 patients in ICU units.

A SCALED-DOWN CHRISTMAS… 2020 leaves us with a scaled-down Christmas, as pandemic restrictions are limiting and altering normal holiday traditions. Fewer Americans are traveling to spend the holiday with family and friends and bigger churches are having to limit attendance at services. Last night’s Christmas vigil Mass in St. Peter’s Basilica was moved up a few hours to comply with Italy’s 10 p.m. curfew. Pope Francis reflected on Christmas’ significance and urged followers to reach out to the needy.

HOUSE REPUBLICANS BLOCK STIMULUS BILL PUSH… House Republicans yesterday blocked Democrats’ efforts to raise Americans’ stimulus checks to $2,000. House Speaker Nancy Pelosi launched the effort after President Trump called the previously agreed-upon $600 checks a “disgrace” but her GOP counterpart, Kevin McCarthy, denied her attempt to amend the bill by unanimous consent. Afterward, Pelosi released a statement urging Trump to rally Republican support in Monday’s full House vote. Experts say it will take at least two weeks for the Treasury to get cash into individuals’ bank accounts after any new legislation is signed.

TRUMP CAMPAIGN SUFFERS ANOTHER COURT LOSS… The Trump campaign was denied gain yesterday in its latest bid to persuade the courts to overturn his defeat in last month’s presidential election. A federal appeals court unanimously rejected Trump’s attempt to challenge President-elect Joe Biden’s victory in Wisconsin. The three-judge panel consisted of Trump appointees. Judge Michael Scudder of the Chicago-based 7th Circuit Court of Appeals said the election changes were not significant enough to run afoul of the Constitution’s provision that state legislatures determine the manner of selecting presidential electors. He also faulted Trump for challenging those provisions after the election, rather than before.

CALIFORNIA FIRE PROMPTS EVACUATIONS… A wildfire near the Camp Pendleton Marine Base in Southern California forced the evacuation of about 7,000 people last night. The fire started the night before and by yesterday morning grew to 3,050 acres with zero-percent containment. Crews are containment lines for the blaze, which officials say was fueled by steep terrain, difficult access and winds.

ENTERTAINMENT
‘COBRA KAI’ SEASON 3 DEBUTS JAN. 1
… Netflix announced yesterday that Season 3 of the “Karate Kid” sequel series “Cobra Kai” will debut on New Year’s Day. The streaming service had originally scheduled the debut for a week later. The half-hour, action-dramedy picks up more than 30 years after high-school rivals Daniel LaRusso (Ralph Macchio) and Johnny Lawrence (William Zabka) famously competed at the All Valley Karate Tournament. The frenemies are now senseis at their own vastly different karate schools. The show has already been renewed for a fourth season.

NEVERLAND RANCH SELLS… Michael Jackson’s Neverland Ranch in California has a new owner. Billionaire businessman Ron Burkle purchased the 2,700-acre property near Santa Barbara for $22 million. The property was listed for $100 million in 2016 then dropped to $67 million a year later. In addition to a 12,500 square-foot main residence and a 3,700 square-foot pool house, the property boasts a separate building with a 50-seat movie theater and a dance studio. Other features on the ranch are a “Disney-style” train station, a fire house and barn.

SPORTS
TODAY’S NFL SCHEDULE

Minnesota (6-8) is at New Orleans (10-4)

SATURDAY’S NFL SCHEDULE
Tampa Bay (9-5) is at Detroit (5-9)…
Arizona (8-6) hosts San Francisco (5-9)…
Miami (9-5) is at Las Vegas (7-7)

SUNDAY’S NFL SCHEDULE
Atlanta (4-10) is at Kansas City (13-1)…
the N.Y. Jets (1-13) host Cleveland (10-4)…
Indianapolis (10-4) is at Pittsburgh (11-3)…
Jacksonville (1-13) hosts Chicago (7-7)…
the N.Y. Giants (5-9) are at Baltimore (9-5)…
Houston (4-10) hosts Cincinnati (3-10-1)…
Denver (5-9) is at the L.A. Chargers (5-9)…
Washington (6-8) hosts Carolina (4-20)…
Philadelphia (4-9-1) is at Dallas (5-9)…
Seattle (10-4) hosts the L.A. Rams (9-5)…
Tennessee (10-4) is at Green Bay (11-3)

MONDAY NIGHT FOOTBALL..
Buffalo (11-3) is at New England (6-8)

COLLEGE FOOTBALL SCORE
Memphis 25, Florida Atlantic 10 in the Montgomery Bowl

TODAY’S COLLEGE FOOTBALL BOWL SCHEDULE
Marshall (7-2) plays Buffalo (5-1) in the Camelia Bowl

SATURDAY’S COLLEGE FOOTBALL BOWL SCHEDULE
No. 19 Louisiana plays Texas-San Antonio in the First Responder Bowl…
Western Kentucky plays Georgia State in the LendingTree Bowl…
No. 12 Coastal Carolina plays Liberty in the Mortgage Cure Bowl…

COLLEGE FOOTBALL NEWS… Alabama quarterback Mac Jones and his favorite receiver DeVonta Smith have been named as Heisman Trophy finalists. Quarterbacks Trevor Lawrence of Clemson and Florida’s Kyle Trask are the other two plays up for the award. Jones and Smith are the eighth set of teammates to be finalists together since the tradition started in 1982. Smith is trying to become the first wide receiver to win the Heisman since Michigan’s Desmond Howard in 1991. The Heisman will be awarded January 5 during a virtual ceremony.

TODAY’S NBA SCHEDULE
New Orleans is at Miami…
Milwaukee hosts Golden State…
Brooklyn is at Boston…
the L.A. Lakers host Dallas…
the L.A. Clippers are at Denver

MLB NEWS… The Washington Nationals have acquired first baseman Josh Bell from the Pittsburgh Pirates in exchange for pitchers Wil Crowe and Eddy Yean. The 28-year-old Bell was an All-Star in 2019 before an injury-shortened second half of the season. He hit just eight homers while batting a career-low .226 in 57 games for the Pirates in 2020.

The Rundown for December 24, 2020

CORONAVIRUS UPDATES… The number of confirmed coronavirus cases in the U.S. has reached 18,445,655 and the nation’s death toll stands at 326,088, according to figures released last night by Johns Hopkins University. There were 232,342 new cases and 3,401 deaths, Worldometer reported… Tennessee has emerged as the newest transmission hotspot after averaging nearly 128 new infections per 100,000 people over the last week. California’s 111 new cases per 100,000 residents was second… The Centers for Disease Control said yesterday that more than 1 million people nationwide have been given the first of the two doses required for the two coronavirus vaccines that have been approved. However, it could take six months or more before most Americans are eligible for the shots.

TRUMP VETOES DEFENSE BILL… President Trump cited provisions to rename Confederate-honoring military bases and aired other grievances in vetoing the annual defense spending bill yesterday. The National Defense Authorization Act carried bipartisan support in passing both houses of Congress earlier this month with veto-proof majorities. Democrats and Republicans both objected to the veto and vowed to override it. House Speaker Nancy Pelosi said the House would return next Monday for a vote.

TRUMP ISSUES NEW ROUND OF PARDONS… President Trump last night announced 26 new pardons that cover loyal political allies and lower-profile recipients. Former Trump campaign adviser Roger Stone, former campaign chairman Paul Manafort and White House senior adviser Jared Kushner’s father, Charles, headed the list of those who received pardons. Earlier this year, Trump commuted Stone’s sentence for obstruction of Congress and threatening a witness days before he was set to surrender. Manafort spent close to two years in prison for bank and tax fraud, illegal foreign lobbying and witness tampering conspiracies before being released to home confinement due to the Covid-19 pandemic. Kushner pleaded guilty to 16 counts of tax evasion, one count of retaliating against a federal witness and another count of lying to the Federal Election Commission.

FBI BLAMES IRAN FOR ELECTION INTIMIDATION… The FBI is blaming Iran for creating a website to sow discord in the U.S. following the last month’s presidential election. The FBI released a statement yesterday claiming it has “highly credible information” that identifies Iranian cyberactors as being “almost certainly” responsible for the creation of the Enemies of the People website that listed personal information and photographs of U.S. election officials and workers in calling for their deaths. Threatening emails were also sent to officials from email accounts associated with the website, which is no longer active.

CHRISTMAS WEATHER… Severe storms bringing rain, gusty winds and snow are on the forecast for much of the nation through Christmas. Heavy snows were expected in parts of Minnesota, Wisconsin, Iowa and Nebraska. Forecasters called for rain and damaging winds from the eastern Carolinas northward. South Florida is preparing for its coldest Christmas in 26 years.

ENTERTAINMENT
WHODINI FOUNDER DIES
… John “Ecstasy” Fletcher, who was a founder of the pioneering hip-hop trio Whodini, has died of undisclosed causes. He was 56. Ecstasy formed Whodini with Jalil Hutchins in Brooklyn, New York, in 1982. DJ Grandmaster Dee joined four years later. The trio had hits with “The Haunted House of Rock,” “Friends” and “Freaks Come Out at Night.” Whodini received the Hip Hop Icon Award at the third annual Black Music Honors in 2018.

MOUNTAIN GUITARIST DIES… Leslie West, a hard-metal guitarist best known for performing the song “Mississippi Queen” with his band Mountain, died of cardiac arrest in Florida yesterday morning, his brother confirmed. He was 75. “Mississippi Queen” was released on Mountain’s 1970 debut album, “Climbing!” The previous summer, the band performed between Canned Heat and the Grateful Dead on the second day of the Woodstock festival. After Mountain broke up in the early ’70s, West continued recording with different versions of the band, producing solo albums and touring.

SPORTS
NBA SEASON OPENERS

CLEVELAND 121 – Charlotte 114
… The Cavaliers used a big second quarter to build a 21-point halftime lead and coasted past the Hornets. All five starters scored in double figures, led by Colin Sexton’s 27 points. Darius Garland added 22 points. Andre Drummond finished with 14 points and as many rebounds.

INDIANA 121 – New York 107… Domantas Sabonis pumped in a career-high 32 points and Victor Oladipo 16 scored of his 22 points in the second half of the Pacers’ win over the Knicks. Malcolm Brogdon tossed in 21 points.

ORLANDO 113 – Miami 107… The Magic used a fourth-quarter surge to get past the Heat. Evan Fournier led the rally and finished with 25 points. Aaron Gordon added 20 points.

PHILADELPHIA 113 – Washington 107… Joel Embiid powered his way to 29 points and 14 boards in leading the 76ers past the Wizards. His go-ahead basket with 1:09 remaining gave Philadelphia the lead for good.

BOSTON 122 – Milwaukee 121… Jayson Tatum banked in a fallaway, go-ahed 3-pointer with less than a second remaining to lift the Celtics over the Bucks. Milwaukee’s Giannis Antetokounmpo missed a tying free throw with four-tenths of a second left. Tatum finished with 30 points. Jaylen Brown lit it up for 33 points.

New Orleans 113 – TORONTO 99… The Pelicans came on strong in the second half to erase an 11-point deficit and knock off the Raptors in Tampa. Brandon Ingram scored 24 points to lead all scorers. J.J. Redick converted a 4-point play with just over a minute left and finished with 23 points.

Atlanta 124 – CHICAGO 104… The Hawks scored 83 first-half points in building a 32-point lead through three quarters in routing the Bulls. Trae Young scored 37 points as all five starters scored in double figures.

San Antonio 131 – MEMPHIS 119… The Spurs shook off a slow start to get past the Grizzlies. They got 29 points from DeMar DeRozan and 21 points from Dejounte Murray. Ja Morant’s 42 points weren’t enough for Memphis.

MINNESOTA 111 – Detroit 101… The Timberwolves rallied in the fourth quarter to put away the Pistons. Malik Beasley led a balanced scoring attack with 23 points. Karl-Anthony Towns had 22 points and 11 rebounds.

Sacramento 124 – DENVER 122 (OT)… Buddy Hield’s tip-in of a Harrison Barnes miss at the buzzer sent the Kings past the Nuggets. Hield led Sacramento with 22 points. Barnes and De’Aaron Fox tossed in 21 points apiece.

Utah 120 – PORTLAND 100… Rudy Gobert and Donovan Mitchell scored 20 points apiece as the Jazz blasted the Trail Blazers. Gobert also grabbed 17 boards. Five other players scored in double figures for Utah.

Dallas 106 – PHOENIX 102… Devin Booker scored 22 points to lead six players in double figures as the Suns held off the Mavericks. Dallas’ Luca Doncic tallied a game-high 32 points in a losing effort.

HOUSTON – Oklahoma City (ppd)… Last night’s Rockets-Thunder game was postponed after Houston had fewer than the league-required eight players available. Three Rockets players have returned tests that were either positive or inconclusive for the coronavirus under the NBA’s testing program. Four other players are quarantined under contact-tracing protocol and Chris Clemons is out with a ruptured Achilles tendon.

TONIGHT’S NBA SCHEDULE
No games scheduled

TOP 25 COLLEGE BASKETBALL SCORES
No. 5 Villanova 85, MARQUETTE 68…
No. 8 TENNESSEE 80, South Carolina Upstate 60…
No. 23 OHIO STATE 80, No. 11 Rutgers 68…
No. 13 CREIGHTON 66, No. 22 Xavier 61…
No. 18 Illinois 98, PENN STATE 81

The Rundown for December 23, 2020

CORONAVIRUS UPDATES… The number of confirmed coronavirus cases in the U.S. has reached 18,197,351 and the nation’s death toll stands at 322,285, according to figures released last night by Johns Hopkins University… The Centers for Disease Control said in an advisory last night that the COVID-19 variant identified in Britain has not yet been seen in the U.S. but cautioned that the sample sizes have been small. The nation’s top infectious diseases expert, Dr. Anthony Fauci, says it’s reasonable to assume that the variant has already arrived. Nevertheless, scientists note that there’s no evidence that the variant is a more severe strain or a greater risk of death.

TRUMP WANTS CONGRESS TO AMEND CORONAVIRUS RELIEF BILL… President Trump last night suggested he might not sign the coronavirus relief package passed on Monday without amendments. The president, who was expected to sign the legislation yesterday, called it “a disgrace” and urged Congress to increase direct stimulus checks from $600 to $2000. House Speaker Nancy Pelosi responded enthusiastically on Twitter. “At last the president has agreed to $2,000 — Democrats are ready to bring this to the floor this week by unanimous consent. Let’s do it!” she wrote.

TRUMP ROLLS OUT PARDONS… President Trump yesterday handed out pardons to 15 people, including four former U.S. service members convicted of war crimes, two people convicted in the investigation into Russian interference in the 2016 election and two former Republican congressmen convicted of corruption. Former Trump campaign aide George Papadopoulos and his associate Alex van der Zwaan were pardoned for lying to FBI agents. Also pardoned were former congressmen Duncan Hunter, who was sentenced to 11 months for stealing campaign funds and Chris Collins, who received a 26-month sentence for insider trading. Former Blackwater Worldwide military contractors received pardons despite their roles in the shooting deaths of 14 Iraqis in 2007.

TWO TRUMP PRIVATE BANKERS RESIGN… Two private bankers at Deutsche Bank responsible for lending to President Donald Trump and Jared Kushner abruptly resigned yesterday. The resignations of Rosemary Vrablic and Dominic Scalzi are effective at the end of the year. The 60-year-old Vrablic took on Trump as a client in 2011 and had a VIP seat at his inauguration in 2016. Deutsche Bank has lent Trump about $330 million and the loans are set to come due in 2023 and 2024. Trump provided a personal guarantee to obtain the loans, allowing the bank to pursue his personal assets if they are not paid back. The Trump Organization is under investigation by the Manhattan District Attorney’s office and New York Attorney General, both of which have subpoenaed Deutsche Bank for information regarding its lending to the company. Two Deutsche Bank employees not working on the Trump account, were questioned by investigators with the criminal investigation seeking general information about lending practices in recent weeks.

BIDEN FAULTS TRUMP FOR CYBER ATTACK RESPONSE… President-elect Joe Biden said yesterday he had seen no evidence that the Trump administration has the cyber attacks against the U.S. under control and warned that the breach will not go unanswered once he takes office. Biden faulted Trump for stripping U.S. defenses against cyber attacks and urged the president to acknowledge that the attacks are coming from Russia and hold the Kremlin accountable. Both Secretary of State Mike Pompeo and Attorney General William Barr have already placed blame on Moscow while Trump has claimed China is behind them.

CALIFORNIA GOVERNOR FILLS VP-ELECT’S SENATE SEAT… California Governor Gavin Newsom yesterday appointed state Secretary of State Alex Padilla to replace Vice President-elect Kamala Harris when she departs the Senate to become vice president next month. The 47-year-old Padilla, the son of Mexican immigrants, will be the first Latino to represent the nation’s largest state. He will serve the remaining two years of Harris’ term.

JUSTICE DEPARTMENT SUES WALMART… The Justice Department sued Walmart yesterday, accusing the retail chain of enabling the opioid crisis through filling illegal prescriptions. Government lawyers say a “systematic failure” prevented Walmart from reporting questionable orders and is seeking thousands of dollars in civil penalties for each unlawful prescription filled and each suspicious order placed. If the suit is successful, Walmart could be forced to pay out billions in damages.

ENTERTAINMENT
SPECIAL MERIT HONOREES AT GRAMMYS
… The Recording Academy has announced that Grandmaster Flash & The Furious Five, Lionel Hampton, Marilyn Horne, Salt-N-Pepa, Selena and Talking Heads will be honored with Lifetime Achievement Awards at the 63rd annual Grammy Awards. Ed Cherney, Benny Golson and Kenny “Babyface” Edmonds will be presented Trustees Awards. The ceremony is scheduled for January 31, 2021.

HBO BRINGS BACK ‘HIS DARK MATERIALS’ FOR FINAL SEASON… HBO is bringing back the drama series “His Dark Materials” for a third and final season. The network said production would begin in Cardiff, Wales, in 2021. The Season 2 finale which airs Monday at 9 p.m. Eastern. “His Dark Materials” is based on the Philip Pullman fantasy trilogy of the same name.

SPORTS
NBA SEASON OPENERS

BROOKLYN 122, Golden State 99
… The Nets built a big lead early and cruised past the Warriors to open the NBA’s 2020-21 season. Kyrie Irving scored a game-high 26 points. Kevin Durant tossed in 22 points.

L.A. Clippers 116 – L.A. LAKERS 109… The Clippers jumped out to an early 22-point lead and cruised to an opening-night win over the Lakers. Paul George scored 26 of his 33 points in the second half. Kawhi Leonard added 26 points.

TONIGHT’S NBA SCHEDULE
Charlotte is at Cleveland…
Indiana hosts New York…
Miami is at Orlando…
Philadelphia hosts Washington…
Milwaukee is at Boston…
Toronto hosts New Orleans…
Atlanta is at Chicago…
Houston hosts Oklahoma City…
San Antonio is at Memphis…
Minnesota hosts Detroit…
Sacramento is at Denver…
Portland hosts Utah…
Dallas is at Phoenix

TOP 25 COLLEGE BASKETBALL SCORES
No. 1 GONZAGA 95, Northwestern State 78…
No. 3 KANSAS 79, No. 7 West Virginia 65…
No. 4 IOWA 70, Purdue 55…
No. 6 HOUSTON 76, Temple 50…
No. 9 WISCONSIN 67, Nebraska 53…
No. 14 MISSOURI 54, Bradley 53…
No. 15 Texas Tech 69, OKLAHOMA 67…
No. 16 VIRGINIA 76, William & Mary 40…
NORTH CAROLINA STATE 79, No. 17 North Carolina 76

COLLEGE FOOTBALL NEWS… Auburn has hired away Boise State’s Bryan Harsin to become its next head football coach. Harsin replaces Gus Malzahn, who was fired earlier this month after eight seasons with the Tigers. The 44-year-old Harsin is 69-19 with three Mountain West titles in seven seasons at Boise State, his alma mater.

The Rundown for December 22, 2020

CORONAVIRUS UPDATES… The number of confirmed coronavirus cases in the U.S. has reached 18,035,209 and the nation’s death toll stands at 319,364, according to figures released last night by Johns Hopkins University. The U.S. yesterday recorded a second straight day of fewer than 200,000 cases and a fourth straight day of declining deaths. The decline in cases followed a record high of 249,700 on Friday. Figures show that hospitalizations in the United States are leveling off.

CONGRESS APPROVES CORONAVIRUS RELIEF BILLS… Congress has approved more than $900 billion for coronavirus assistance following an agreement reached Sunday night. The House voted to approve the two long-awaited bills and the Senate followed. The legislation will now go to President Trump, who has said he will sign it. The package contains direct stimulus payments for individuals of $600 to $700. It also includes enhanced federal unemployment benefits of $300 per week, $330 billion for small business loans, more than $80 billion for schools and several billion dollars to cover the costs of distributing COVID-19 vaccines made by Pfizer and Moderna.

ROBERT E. LEE STATUE REMOVED FROM CAPITOL… A statue of Confederate general Robert E. Lee was removed from the U.S. Capitol yesterday. Lee’s statue will be replaced by one of Barbara Johns, a Black woman who as a 16-year-old led classmates on a walkout of her segregated school. Virginia Governor Ralph Northam requested the removal of Lee’s statue over the summer.

WILLIAM BARR SEES NO NEED FOR SPECIAL PROSECUTOR… Attorney General William Barr said yesterday that he does not see a need for a special prosecutor in the criminal investigation of Hunter Biden or the November election. The announcement defied President Trump, who had been pushing for a special counsel to investigate the son of President-elect Joe Biden. Barr, who is stepping down effective tomorrow, will be replaced by Deputy Attorney General Jeffery Rosen.

HOUSE DEMS WANT ANSWERS ABOUT COVID RESPONSE… House Democrats have subpoenaed two top White House health officials. The Select Subcommittee on the Coronavirus Crisis wants to ask Secretary of Health and Human Services Alex Azar and Director of the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention Robert Redfield about Trump Administration interference in scientific reports related to the coronavirus. Democrat Majority Whip James Clyburn said former HHS Assistant Secretary Michael Caputo, senior adviser Paul Alexander and other officials engaged in a “far-reaching campaign to influence CDC’s scientific reports, despite pushback from career staff.”

ENTERTAINMENT
JOHN MULANEY IN REHAB
… Comedian John Mulaney, a former “Saturday Night Live” writer who won an Emmy Award in 2018 for his stand-up special “Kid Gorgeous at Radio City,” has reportedly checked himself into a Pennsylvania rehab facility to receive treatment for cocaine and alcohol abuse. The 38-year-old Mulaney hosted “SNL” for the fourth time just days before the 2020 election and has been writing for “Late Night with Seth Meyers” in recent weeks. He has previously discussed his struggles with drugs and alcohol and first got sober at age 23.

K.T. OSLIN DIES… K.T. Oslin, the first female songwriter to win the CMA Award for Song of the Year for her 1987 hit “80’s Ladies,” died yesterday after a battle with Parkinson’s disease and Covid-19. She was 78. Oslin’s chart-topping 1987 debut country album “80’s Ladies,” featured the Top 10 title track and a pair of No. 1 country hits in “Do Ya” and “I’ll Always Come Back.” Oslin was inducted into the Nashville Songwriters Hall of Fame in 2018.

SPORTS
MONDAY NIGHT FOOTBALL

CINCINNATI 27 – Pittsburgh 17
… The Bengals (3-10-1) built a 17-0 halftime lead on the way to handing the Steelers (11-3) their third straight loss. Giovanni Bernard ran 4 yards for one second-quarter touchdown and caught a 14-yard pass for another. Quarterback Ryan Finley ran yards for fourth-quarter score. The victory was Cincinnati’s first over Pittsburgh in 12 tries.

NFL NEWS… Hall of Fame linebacker Kevin Greene died yesterday of undisclosed causes, his family confirmed. He was 58. Greene was a two-time All-Pro and five-time Pro Bowl selection. His 160 career sacks rank third in league history behind only Bruce Smith (200) and Reggie White (198). Greene, who played for the L.A. Rams, Pittsburgh, Carolina and San Francisco during his 15-year career, was inducted into the Hall of Fame in 2016.

TOP 25 COLLEGE BASKETBALL SCORES
No. 1 GONZAGA 95, Northwestern State 57…
No. 2 BAYLOR 99, Arkansas-Pine Bluff 42…
No. 6 TENNESSEE 102, Saint Joseph’s 66…
No. 21 FLORIDA STATE 72, Gardner-Webb 59….
No. 24 VIRGINIA TECH 84, Longwood 58

NHL NEWS… The NHL is preparing a 56-game season that will begin on January 13 with a temporary realignment of teams. Restrictions on crossing the U.S.-Canada border due to coronavirus concerns, the NHL is setting up an all-Canada division and realigning the other divisions. The top four in each division will make the playoffs. All regular-season games and the first two rounds of the playoffs will be played within the division.

The Rundown for December 21, 2020

CORONAVIRUS UPDATES… The number of confirmed coronavirus cases in the U.S. has reached 17,840,080 and the nation’s death toll stands at 316,667, according to figures released last night by Johns Hopkins University. There were 183,223 new cases and 1,414 deaths… Initial shipments of the Moderna vaccine shipped out of a Memphis-area factory yesterday and will be administered beginning today. The Food and Drug Administration (authorized their emergency rollout on Friday… President-elect Joe Biden’s pick for surgeon general, Vivek Murthy, said during an appearance on NBC’s “Meet the Press” yesterday that the Trump administration’s timeline for COVID-19 vaccinations may be unrealistic and that many Americans may not get the shot until summer or fall.

SENATE AGREES ON STIMULUS PACKAGE… The Senate reached agreement yesterday on a long-awaited second stimulus package, with votes expected today. The $900 billion bill includes a $600 per-person stimulus check. The bill will also include $300 per week in federal unemployment benefits, as well as several billion dollars to be allocated for schools, transportation, and rental and hunger relief, the Washington Post reported. The package would be the second-largest economic stimulus in U.S. history, following a $2.3 trillion aid bill passed in March.

TRUMP CAMPAIGN PETITIONS SUPREME COURT… The Trump campaign plans to try again to get the Supreme Court to overturn results from the November 3 election. Despite mounting criticism for its effort to subvert the electoral process and sow doubt over the legitimacy of President-elect Joe Biden’s victory, the campaign had filed a petition asking the high court to reverse three rulings by a Pennsylvania state court interpreting the state’s rules for mail-in ballots. Trump attorney Rudy Giuliani said the filing sought all “appropriate remedies,” including an order allowing Pennsylvania’s Republican-controlled legislature to award the state’s 20 electoral votes to Trump. Biden’s victory margin in the state surpassed 80,000 votes.

50 COMPANIES ‘IMPACTED’ BY HACK… The cyber-security firm that identified the large-scale hacking of U.S. government agencies says it “genuinely impacted” around 50 companies. Kevin Mandia, CEO of FireEye, said that some 18,000 companies had the malicious code in their networks, but only a fraction of them suffered major breaches. The Treasury, Homeland Security, State and Defense departments are known to have been targeted. Secretary of State Mike Pompeo, along with the chairs of the Senate and House of Representatives’ intelligence committees, has blamed Russia for the hack.

ROCKETS TARGETED BAGHDAD GREEN ZONE… Iraq’s military and Iraqi officials reported last night that eight rockets targeted the U.S. Embassy in Baghdad’s heavily fortified Green Zone. An Iraqi military statement said an “an outlawed group” launched the rockets, which injured an Iraqi security person and caused material damage to a residential complex and some cars. The U.S. Embassy’s C-RAM defense system, which is used to destroy missiles in mid-air, was activated to deflect the attack, the embassy said in a statement.

ENTERTAINMENT
TAYLOR SWIFT HAS 2 ALBUMS IN CHART’S TOP FIVE
… Taylor Swift’s “Evermore” sold 329,000 copies to give her an eighth No. 1 on the Billboard 200 album chart. Her previous release, “Folklore,” jumped into third place on sales of 133,000 units. Kid Cudi’s “Man on the Moon III: The Chosen” debuted in second place with 144,000 copies sold. Michael Bublé’s “Christmas” remained in fourth place after selling 58,000 units. Jack Harlow’s “Thats What They All Say” capped the top five with 51,000 copies sold.

L.A. FILM CRITICS PICK WINNERS… The Los Angeles Film Critics Association yesterday unveiled their picks for the year’s best in film. The association selected “Small Axe” as best picture. Chloe Zhao was named best director for “Nomadland.” Chadwick Boseman was chosen best actor for “Ma Rainey’s Black Bottom,” with Carey Mulligan winning best actress for “Promising Young Women.” Glynn Turman was selected best supporting actor for “Ma Rainey’s Black Bottom” and Youn Yuh-jung was named best supporting actress for “Minari.”

SPORTS
NFL SCORES

Tampa Bay 31 – ATLANTA 27
… The Buccaneers (5-9) overcame a pair of 17-point deficits to upend the Falcons (4-10). Tom Brady led five straight scoring drives in the second half and hit Antonio Brown with a go-ahead 46-yard touchdown pass with 6:19 remaining. Leonard Fournette scored on two touchdown runs.

DALLAS 41 – San Francisco 33… The Cowboys (5-9) scored four times off of turnovers to get past the 49ers (5-9). With Ezekiel Elliott sidelined with a calf injury, Tony Pollard ran for a pair of touchdowns. Andy Dalton threw two scoring passes.

TENNESSEE 46 – Detroit 25… Ryan Tannehill ran for two scores and threw touchdown passes to three different receivers in leading the Titans (10-4) past the Lions (5-9). Derrick Henry rushed for 147 yards and a TD.

INDIANAPOLIS 27 – Houston 20… Philip Rivers hit Zach Pascal with a tie-breaking 5-yard touchdown pass with 1:47 remaining as the Colts (10-4) topped the Texans (4-10). Indianapolis’ defense recovered a fumble in their own end zone with 19 seconds left to seal the victory.

MIAMI 22 – New England 12… Tua Tagovailoa scored on two short fourth-quarter runs as the Dolphins (9-5) pulled away from the Patriots (6-8). Salvon Ahmed rushed for 122 yards and a score.

Chicago 33 – MINNESOTA 27… David Montgomery ran for 146 yards and two touchdowns as the Bears (7-7) held off the Vikings (6-8). Cairo Santos booted four field goals to 48 yards.

Seattle 20 – WASHINGTON 15… The Seahawks (10-4) turned away a late rally to down Washington (6-8) and clinch a playoff spot. Seattle took a 20-3 lead into the fourth quarter after Carlos Hyde’s 50-yard touchdown run. Russell Wilson found Jacob Hollister with a 10-yard scoring strike in the second quarter.

BALTIMORE 40 – Jacksonville 14… The Ravens (9-5) built a 26-0 halftime lead and never looked back in their rout of the Jaguars (1-13). Lamar Jackson threw three touchdown passes and ran for a score.

N.Y. Jets 23 – L.A. RAMS 20… The Jets (1-13) held off the Rams (9-5) to notch their first victory of the season. Sam Darnold passed for 207 yards and a score.

ARIZONA 33 – Philadelphia 26… Kyler Murray’s 20-yard touchdown pass to DeAndre Hopkins with 7:17 remaining proved to be the difference as the Cardinals (8-6) topped the Eagles (4-9-1). Murray threw for 406 yards and three scores on the day. Hopkins finished with nine catches for 169 yards.

Kansas City 32 – NEW ORLEANS 29… The Chiefs (13-1) fought off the Saints (10-4) for their ninth straight win. Patrick Mahomes threw for 254 yards and three touchdowns.

Cleveland 20 – N.Y. GIANTS 6… The Browns (10-4) took one step closer to a playoff berth in grinding out a win over the Giants (5-9). Baker Mayfield led two 95-yard scoring drives and threw second-quarter touchdown passes to Austin Hooper and Jarvis Landry.

MONDAY NIGHT FOOTBALL
Pittsburgh (11-2) is at Cincinnati (2-10-1)

TOP 25 COLLEGE BASKETBALL SCORES
NORTHWESTERN 79, No. 4 Michigan State 65…
No. 6 HOUSTON 88, Alcorn State 55…
No. 9 Creighton 76, CONNECTICUT 74…
No. 11 Texas 77, Oklahoma State 74…
No. 19 RUTGERS 91, No. 13 Illinois 88

COLLEGE FOOTBALL NEWS… Alabama, Clemson, Ohio State and Notre Dame secured the top four spots in the final College Football Playoffs poll yesterday and will vie for the national championship. The semifinals are scheduled for January 1, with No. 1 Alabama battling No. 4 Notre Dame in the Rose Bowl, followed by No. 2 Clemson taking on No. 3 Ohio State in the Sugar Bowl. The winners advance to the January 11 title game in Miami.