Wakeup Call: 'Niners may have erased last vestige of replacement refs

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Wakeup Call: 'Niners may have erased last vestige of replacement refs

Here's your wakeup call -- a combination of newsworthy andor interesting tidbits -- for Monday, December 17:

BASEBALL
Considering some of the fossils they've already signed and some of the names they've been linked with (Vernon Wells? Really?), I'd think the Yankees would be shouting Michael Bourn's name from the rooftops. (NBC's Hardball Talk)

The Yankees got a tax bill of 18.9 million last year, the 10th consecutive season they've paid the luxury tax. But the Red Sox avoided it -- they were 47,000 under the 178 million threshold -- by shipping Josh Beckett, Carl Crawford and Adrian Gonzalez to Los Angeles. (AP)

If R.A. Dickey can reach agreement on a new contract with the Blue Jays, he's Toronto-bound. (AP)

Josh Hamilton's decision to sign with the Angels means his "accountability partner," Shayne Kelley, is moving, too. (Hardball Talk)

Better bring along his attorney, as well. (AP)

Cleveland seems like a pretty small stage for the experience that is Nick Swisher, but whatever. (Hardball Talk)

COLLEGE BASKETBALL
Ooh, the NCAA's not going to like this: The breakup of the Big East has Cincinnati coach Mick Cronin saying it's time to end the hypocrisy of big-time college athletics . . . and part of fixing it means finally paying the players. (NBC's College Basketball Talk)

Jim Boeheim may enter a pretty elite club -- coaches with 900 career victories -- tonight. (AP)

COLLEGE FOOTBALL
Temple is holding a press conference today at 2 p.m. to announce its new coach, but several current and former players beat them to the punch by taking to Twitter and telling the world that it's Giants assistant Matt Ruhle. (CSN Philly)

Wisconsin is "close" to hiring a replacement for the departed Bret Bielema. (AP)

This comes after A.D. Barry Alvarez considered -- "for about a day" -- taking over the job again. (NBC's College Football Talk)

Michigan coach Brady Hoke says it's an "honor" to play there, and you'd better abide by the rules. Because if you don't -- as these three players didn't -- you miss the Outback Bowl. (AP)

Andrew Luck's presumed successor at Stanford is transferring. (AP)

HOCKEY
If you want to see NHL hockey again in your lifetime, you'd better hope silence is golden. (NBC's Pro Hockey Talk)

The lawyers, though . . . they're talking. (AP)

PRO BASKETBALL
Methinks thou dost protest too much, Senor Bargnani. (NBC's Pro Basketball Talk)

Baby steps for the Lakers: Two wins in a row isn't much, but it beats what they'd been doing. (AP)

And here the Sixers thought they'd traded for a center last summer. (CSN Philly)

The one they traded for says he's feeling better and he'll be back, oh, any day now. Or not. (CSN Philly)

You can't say the high-flying Knicks miss Jeremy Lin, but they're still happy to see him return tonight. (AP)

Looks like the cost of throwing objects -- mouthguards, basketballs -- at referees is a one-game suspension. (AP)

PRO FOOTBALL
The Niners' win over the Patriots may have erased the chance that the stigma of the replacement refs would hang over the entire postseason. Let Mike Florio explain. (NBC's Pro Football Talk)

Winning the AFC South again is nice and all, but this year the Texans say they have bigger fish to fry. (CSN Houston)

There's a hierarchy emerging in the AFC playoff race. And, judging by what happened yesterday in Baltimore, the Broncos are in the upper half and the Ravens, ah, not so much. (AP)

The loss has Ed Reed embarrassed for the entire city. That's right, the whole city. (CSN Baltimore)

Still, the Ravens clinched a postseason berth . . . (CSN Baltimore)

. . . thanks to the Cowboys, who beat the Steelers in overtime. (AP)

Trying to remember the last time a defending Super Bowl champion got shut out by 34 points? Stop trying; the Falcons' 34-0 whipping of the Giants was the worse shutout defeat of a defending champ in history. (AP)

At this moment, the reeling Giants are out the playoffs. But they still control their own destiny: If they win their last two games, they're in. (NBC's Pro Football Talk)

Unlike New York, the Packers -- as in, the NFC North champion Packers -- appear to be peaking at the right time. (AP)

Another fiftyburger for the Seahawks, and this time they did it on the road. But they did it against the Bills, so . . . (AP)

RGIII respects, but doesn't like, the Redskins' decision to hold him out of their victory over the Browns. (CSN Washington)

London Fletcher's first NFL game in his hometown of Cleveland didn't go smoothly. At least not for several members of his family. (CSN Washington)

TENNIS
The U.S. Open surrenders to blandishments of players who don't like having the semifinals and finals on back-to-back days, pushing the women's finals to Sunday and the men's final to Monday. At least for 2013. (AP)

Celtics force overtime, come up short in 127-123 loss to Blazers

Celtics force overtime, come up short in 127-123 loss to Blazers

BOSTON – For the second time in as many games, the Boston Celtics ran into a team that played with a greater sense of desperation.

And the result was yet another defeat as the Portland Trail Blazers, playing their second game in less than 24 hours, were able to get off their losing skid with a 127-123 overtime win over the Celtics.

Boston (26-17) has now lost back-to-back games at home, while the Blazers (19-27) snapped a four-game losing streak.

In the extra session, Portland jumped out to a 117-113 lead only for Boston’s Al Horford scoring on a bank-shot in the paint and Thomas draining a go-ahead 3-pointer for Boston.

Portland regained the lead when Al-Farouq Aminu made a pair of free throws with 59.3 seconds to play to make it a 119-118 game.

Boston soon fell behind 122-118, but a pair of Thomas free throws with 44.8 seconds to play made it a two-point game.

Mason Plumlee scored with 24 seconds to play in overtime, and an Al Horford miss – rebounded by Plumlee who was then fouled by Horford – essentially put the game away with 13.5 seconds to play.

Boston found themselves down late in the fourth quarter and seemingly headed towards defeat, only to get an unexpected lift in the final seconds from Terry Rozier.

Trailing by three points late in the fourth, Boston had one last chance to force overtime so who did they turn to?

If you were thinking Thomas which is what the Blazers and most fans were thinking, you would have been dead wrong.

The fourth quarter may be Thomas’ time to shine, but at that point in the game it was Rozier’s moment as he drained a 3-pointer with 8.4 seconds left that ultimately forced overtime. He finished with 15 points, three rebounds and three assists off the bench.

The Blazers came into the game with the kind of potent scoring punch in the backcourt that strikes the fear into the heart of any defense, let alone one that has been as up and down as the Boston Celtics this season.

For most of the game, Portland’s 1-2 punch of Damian Lillard (28 points) and C.J. McCollum (35 points) lived up to the lofty billing as they combined for 63 points.

McCollum and Lillard both did their share of damage down the stretch, but it was their bench – specifically Meyers Leonard – whose play kept Portland in the game early on.

He finished with 17 points off the bench.

Boston led 65-56 at the half, but soon found itself in a 67-all game after McCollum made the second of two free throws.

But Boston countered with a put-back basket by Kelly Olynyk and a 3-pointer from Isaiah Thomas to push Boston’s lead to 72-67.

Once again the Blazers fought back and eventually took the lead 74-72 on a powerful put-back dunk by Haverill (Mass.) native Noah Vonleh.

Brad Stevens had seen enough of his team getting pushed around, as he called a time-out with 5:31 to play in the quarter.

It didn’t help as Portland continued to bully their way around the rim for second and third-shot opportunities with their lead peaking at 78-72 following a put-back basket by  Plumlee.

But the Celtics responded with a 7-2 spurt capped off by an end-to-end, driving lay-up by Rozier that cut Portland’s lead to 80-79 with 2:44 to play in the quarter. Boston continued to be within striking distance as the third quarter ended with the Celtics trailing 88-86.