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49ers put 5-0 prime-time mark on line at Seattle

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49ers put 5-0 prime-time mark on line at Seattle

SANTA CLARA, Calif. (AP) Linebacker Aldon Smith loves playing in prime time. It takes him back to how he spent so many Friday nights in high school under the lights.

San Francisco teammates Anthony Dixon, Joe Staley and others become similarly nostalgic when they take the field these days with the football spotlight on them.

``Under the lights, you knew it was showtime,'' Smith said. ``It's just that feeling you get again from being under that spotlight.''

Aside from the good vibes and youthful memories, the 49ers (10-3-1) sure seem to thrive on the NFL's big stage. They are 5-0 this season in prime time, with another Sunday night game coming up at Seattle and a chance to clinch a second consecutive NFC West crown.

``Those Friday night lights, when I'm feeling like that, I feel like the other team is in trouble,'' Dixon said Tuesday. ``Back in those high school days, most of us, we were unstoppable. I love that feeling. I do get that feeling sometimes when I go back out there and it's one of those games. You try to get that feeling, those Friday night days you were (dominating). You were at the top of your game. It feels good to feel like that.''

San Francisco wants to keep its own good feeling going right into January.

For running back Frank Gore, Sunday night's surprising 41-34 victory at New England was a big step toward what he hopes is another special postseason run - with one more game, that is: the Super Bowl. San Francisco lost in overtime of last January's NFC title game to the reigning Super Bowl champion New York Giants.

``We know that we had to get a win going against a great team in New England,'' Gore said. ``We let everybody know what type of team we are. We came out, we started out fast as a team and got the big win.

``We've got a good team. We practice hard and we work hard every day. And we want it.''

The Niners snapped New England's 20-game home winning streak in the month of December. They slowed down Tom Brady and his high-powered offense after coming to Foxborough, Mass., as an underdog.

49ers center Jonathan Goodwin played for the Jets team that beat the Patriots in December back in 2002 - even though he didn't get on the field.

``I guess I can think, for maybe a second, that I was some kind of good luck charm,'' Goodwin said with a grin.

Next up will be stopping a Seattle team that has gone off for 50 points in back-to-back games behind rookie quarterback Russell Wilson.

San Francisco is 64-32 in night games, including 26-17 on the road and 13-9 on Sundays.

``Love prime time games,'' Staley posted on Twitter before Sunday night's win.

``I don't mind `em,'' wideout Randy Moss said, unwilling to elaborate when asked follow-up questions.

San Francisco won at Arizona on Monday night on Oct. 29, then again on Monday night at home against the Chicago Bears on Nov. 19. They won a Sunday night game against the Lions at Candlestick Park in September, and against Seattle on a Thursday night game Oct. 18.

``I think everybody gets up for it,'' said Smith, tied for the NFL sacks lead with Houston's J.J. Watt at 19 1/2. ``We've played under the lights in high school, `Friday Night Lights' and I think that's where everybody kind of got their real love for football. Just being back in that atmosphere, I think everyone still has that childhood in them, so we all get amped for it.''

Gore gets it, and insists the Niners will have no trouble getting energized for another night game with so much on the line at this late stage of the season. A year ago, the 49ers ran away with the NFC West and clinched early.

``In December, you want to be the hot team,'' Gore said. ``We know that if we get the win we can win the division. They've been playing great. I think they got better as a team each week since they played us. We want to claim the division and the playoffs.''

Notes: Harbaugh said on his radio show Tuesday he expects DT Justin Smith to play after he sustained an arm injury against the Patriots and had an MRI exam. It would be his 186th straight start. ``Everybody affectionately refers to Justin Smith around here as `The Cowboy,''' Harbaugh said. ``I expect we'll see The Cowboy. Knowing what I know of Justin Smith and the situation, I think The Cowboy will be around, saddled up . roping and riding. If it's humanly possible, The Cowboy will be out there, roping and riding.'' ... 49ers DL and special teams regular Demarcus Dobbs said he won't need surgery on his right knee after he sustained a partially torn medial collateral ligament and posterior cruciate ligament in the third quarter of a Dec. 9 win against Miami. ``No surgery, that's a blessing,'' Dobbs said. ``Just rehab, take it easy and try to let it go back and do a lot of treatment. ... It looked a lot worse and felt a lot worse. I thought it was my whole knee, my ACL and everything. I thought the worst.'' He expects to use the crutches for a few more weeks. ... WR Mario Manningham offered little update regarding his injured right shoulder that kept him out the last two games. ``I'm getting there,'' he said.

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Bradley Beal makes most of his opportunity in first All-Star Game

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Associated Press

Bradley Beal makes most of his opportunity in first All-Star Game

Bradley Beal may have had a slow start in the three-point contest on Saturday night, but in Sunday's All-Star Game he worked quickly to make the most of his relatively small window of playing time.

Beal checked in for the first time with 5:45 left in the first quarter and less than 25 seconds later had his first points on a two-handed dunk assisted by LeBron James.

In his All-Star debut, Beal helped lead Team LeBron to a 148-145 victory over Team Stephen as the league utilizied a new format for the annual showcase.

RELATED: BEAL BOUNCED EARLY IN THREE-POINT CONTEST

Beal finished with 14 points and a steal in a productive night. He shot 5-for-10 from the field and an impressive 4-for-8 from long range. 

Beal also tried to get a travelling call from the refs on Karl-Anthony Towns. Yeah, that's not likely to happen in an All-Star Game:

Beal more than held his own and only played 16 minutes, which was good considering he has logged the fifth-most minutes of any player so far this season. A realistic best-case scenario was a strong showing and a short night and that's exactly what he got.

Not only does Beal play a lot of minutes, the Wizards need him now more than ever with John Wall's injury. He needs whatever rest he can get during this All-Star break.

Speaking of Wall, he was in the house despite being in the middle of his rehab from left knee surgery. Per usual, Wall was shining bright:

RELATED: BEST WIZARDS/BULLETS MOMENTS ON ALL-STAR SATURDAY NIGHT

The All-Star Game wasn't all about Beal, of course. Here are some other things that stood out...

*The new format and increased financial incentive were intended to make the game more competitive and that's what happened late in the fourth quarter. Usually, that's how these things go where the players will start trying at the end. But this time it seemed to be up a few levels and it was fun to watch. 

Both teams scored in the 140s, so it wasn't exactly a defensive battle. No matter what the league does, the players will only try so hard for so long. The main goal of everyone's is to not get injured in a game that ultimately doesn't count for anything. Still, this was different and appears to have been a success.

*While everyone was focusing on the reunion of LeBron and Kyrie Irving the best beef was Joel Embiid vs. Russell Westbrook. Those two have traded waves to taunt each other at the end of wins in head-to-head matchups and it was clear on Sunday they still don't like each other. Westbrook tried to dunk all over Embiid in the first half, only to get blocked at the rim.

Westbrook's determination to dunk on Embiid was out of the ordinary for an All-Star Game. It was obvious what was on his mind:

*Irving's handles are simply ridiculous. Check out this fake behind-the-back move he pulled with Giannis Antetkounmpo guarding him. Yes, it didn't fool the defender but it was impressive nonetheless:

*LeBron is 33 years old, yet he was still running up and down the court faster than anyone and leaping above the rim to thrown down alley-oop after alley-oop. It is truly amazing and everyone should enjoy watching him while they can, regardless of whether they like the guy or not.

This was one of his dunks:

LeBron took home MVP with a game-high 29 points, 10 rebounds, eight assists and a steal.

*The pregame show was quite bad. It was anchored by comedians Kevin Hart and Rob Riggle and, though they had some funny jokes, it lasted nearly 30 minutes. The whole thing was pretty much universally panned on social media. Fergie's national anthem was also roasted by the masses.

*The halftime show was much better. It began with N.E.R.D taking it back to their older days with 'Lapdance,' went to Migos performing 'Stir Fry' and swung back to N.E.R.D. who did their latest hit 'Lemon.' 

RELATED: LATEST 2018 NBA MOCK DRAFT

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The NBA All-Star pregame introductions were, uh, something

The NBA All-Star pregame introductions were, uh, something

Whoever put together the NBA All-Star Game player introductions has some 'splainin to do. 

The NBA introduced a kinda-full Staples Center to their 2018 All-Stars about an hour ago, and boy was it weird. There were a lot of dancers in different themed costumes. Kevin Hart was screaming. Rob Riggle was screaming. Ludacris showed up? Hey! Did you know that the Barenaked Ladies are still a band? The NBA would like you to know they're still around.  The whole thing was like when you're at an art museum and you're told that abstract piece in the corner is actually really meaningful but you gotta be honest, you don't get it. 

Anyways, the internet hated it. Here are some highlights from the internet hating it:

The lesson here is that you never need Kevin Hart and Rob Riggle. One will do.