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Atlanta seeks to keep Detroit's Suh away from Ryan

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Atlanta seeks to keep Detroit's Suh away from Ryan

FLOWERY BRANCH, Ga. (AP) As the Atlanta Falcons' offensive line sees it, there's no need to antagonize Ndamukong Suh.

Last year's discord in Detroit left the Falcons and Lions bickering at each other and accusing the other side of bad sportsmanship.

Atlanta has a simple goal heading into Saturday's rematch at Detroit.

The Falcons want to keep Suh, the Lions' high-strung defensive tackle, from touching quarterback Matt Ryan.

``It's not going to easy, and we know that,'' left guard Justin Blalock said on Wednesday. ``He's a handful for anyone they face, but I think we're smart enough to know that nothing good will come from stirring the Lions up before the game.''

Each team complained about the other following Atlanta's seven-point victory last year.

Falcons center Todd McClure and receiver Roddy White said that Suh and left end Cliff Avril were taunting Ryan when the quarterback was briefly injured.

Ryan returned to lead another scoring drive, but after the game Suh and linebacker Stephen Tulloch complained that Atlanta's offensive line used dirty techniques that could injure opponents.

Now both sides seem unwilling to rehash the bitterness lingering from last season.

Suh said this week that ``it's a different year,'' but the third-year tackle did not elaborate.

McClure added that he doubts there will be residual anger from either side, particularly with the stakes high for both teams.

The NFC South champion Falcons (12-2) can clinch a first-round playoff bye with a victory or a tie. Detroit (4-10) is desperate to snap a six-game losing streak one year after advancing to the postseason for the first time in a dozen years.

``I don't think so,'' McClure said. ``It's a different game. I expect they're going to be ready to play. Suh's a good player, and he's a tough guy to block, so we'll be ready.''

Atlanta recovered from an upset loss at Carolina two weeks ago by routing the New York Giants 34-0 last week at the Georgia Dome.

Ryan, who was sacked just once by New York, threw three touchdown passes, no interceptions and finished with a 142.6 passer rating.

In last year's victory at Detroit, Ryan finished with a 63.1 passer rating, was sacked three times, hit six times and picked off twice. The Lions also had two interceptions and defended six passes.

Though there have been some proverbial hiccups this season for the offensive line, tight end Tony Gonzalez said that the five starters - McClure, Blalock, left tackle Sam Baker, right tackle Tyson Clabo and rookie right guard Peter Konz - have improved their protection of Ryan.

``With some things that have gone around here the last three years, it seems like they get blamed for a lot, but this year they've played outstanding football for us and stepped up big,'' Gonzalez said. ``That's the key. You keep Matt clean, you keep him up on his feet, he's going to be able to make some plays. They've done a good job of that.''

This time, Suh, Avril and defensive end Kyle Vanden Bosch will face the Falcons without defensive tackle Nick Fairley, who is out for the season with a shoulder injury.

Fairley's replacement is Sammie Hill, a fourth-year veteran who hasn't been a regular starter since 2009.

``He's a big, strong, good-looking football player,'' Clabo said. ``Everybody's got some backups. He's got some film. He's a good player.''

Hill might not compare favorably to a talent like Fairley, the 15th overall draft pick last year, or Suh, the No. 2 overall pick in 2010, but McClure says he's part of a deep line rotation and understands his role.

``They can create havoc in the running game with their penetration,'' McClure said. ``We're going to have to be good on our double-teams and our single blocks when we get manned up on them and not get pushed back in the backfield.''

They also plan to be mindful if Suh struggles to keep his temper in check, a problem that last year resulted in his getting suspended two games by the NFL for stomping the arm of Green Bay offensive lineman Evan Dietrich-Smith.

Just last month, Suh was fined $30,000 last month for kicking Houston quarterback Matt Schaub in the groin area.

Clabo sees no reason to taunt Suh and start a war of words.

``It's hard enough facing this guy just based on his football talent alone,'' Clabo said. ``He gets paid as an interior pass rusher to push the pocket while their ends try to keep it from widening. We've had some issues with pressure up the middle this year, but we're confident we can get the job done against Detroit.''

Notes: White (right knee), SS William Moore (hamstring) and reserve DE Cliff Matthews (hamstring) did not participate in practice. ... Clabo (thigh), DT Jonathan Babineaux (ribs), reserve WR Harry Douglas (ribs) and reserve CB Christopher Owens (hamstring) practiced but were limited.

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Online:http://pro32.ap.org/poll andhttp://twitter.com/AP-NFL

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AP Sports Writer Larry Lage in Detroit contributed to this report.

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Follow George Henry on Twitter:http://twitter.com/georgehenryAP

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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.