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Last Update on March 06, 2015 06:35 GMT

HAWKS VS LEBRON

ATLANTA (AP) -- The Atlanta Hawks are blowing away everyone in the Eastern Conference.

Yet, there's always a sense that LeBron James will be standing in the way when they get to the playoffs.

That scenario adds an extra bit of intrigue to Friday night's matchup in Atlanta between the Hawks and James' Cleveland Cavaliers.

The front-running Hawks (48-12) insist they're not treating this game any different. Of course, that's what you would expect from the team with a double-digit lead in the East, which has all but locked up home-court advantage throughout the conference playoffs with more than a month to go in the regular season.

The Cavaliers (39-24) are 10-1/2 games behind and more concerned at the moment with beating out Chicago and Toronto for the No. 2 seed.

INDIANS-REDS

GOODYEAR, Ariz. (AP) -- Cincinnati's Johnny Cueto made his spring debut and allowed one hit and struck out two in two scoreless innings on Thursday.

But reliever Burke Badenhop got hit hard in his Reds debut, giving up five runs while retiring only two batters and the Cleveland Indians pulled away to a 9-3 victory.

Badenhop allowed Jose Ramirez's two-run single and Yan Gomez's two-run homer during Cleveland's five-run fifth inning. The reliever gave up five hits and walked a batter.

The Reds signed Badenhop to a one-year, $2.5 million deal last month, trying to improve one of the NL's worst bullpens last season.

Cleveland's Trevor Bauer allowed a run and three hits over three innings, his first of the spring.

BENGALS-MAUALUGA

CINCINNATI (AP) -- Rey Maualuga agreed to a three-year deal Thursday, allowing the Cincinnati Bengals to keep one of their top linebackers.

Cincinnati's defense slipped to 22nd in the NFL last season, when Maualuga and linebacker Vontaze Burfict missed significant time because of injuries. After Maualuga returned after missing four games with a pulled hamstring, the run defense improved measurably.

Maualuga was a second-round pick in 2009. He could have become an unrestricted free agent next week.

Burfict missed most of last season with concussions and torn knee cartilage that required surgery, leaving his status for the start of next season unclear. The Bengals will try to add depth at the linebacker spot in the offseason.

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