The New Orleans Pelicans snapped a four-game losing streak on Thursday by defeating the visiting San Antonio Spurs 126-117.

Playing without top offensive options Zion Williamson (health and safety protocols) and Brandon Ingram (toe injury), it was C.J. McCollum's time to shine. Averaging 18.7 points per game entering the contest – McCollum's lowest figure since his second season back in 2014-15 – the 31-year-old showed he still has plenty in the tank. 

He scored a season-high 40 points on 14-of-27 shooting, adding nine assists, eight rebounds and two blocks in a spectacular showing.

It continues a strong run of scoring form for McCollum, who totalled 28 points, 27 points and 31 points in the three preceding games, while also averaging a career-high 5.9 assists for the season.

No other Pelican had more than Jonas Valanciunas' 16 points, while the Spurs received a standout performance from their lottery pick.

Selected ninth overall in this year's draft, Jeremy Sochan enjoyed his best game as a professional with 23 points (seven-of-14), nine rebounds and six assists.

With the win, the Pelicans are back on track at 19-12 – only a half-game behind the Western Conference leaders – while the Spurs are only one game away from the bottom of the conference at 10-21.

Beal brilliance not enough for Wizards

A well-rounded performance from the Utah Jazz saw them defeat the Washington Wizards 120-112 to improve their record to 19-16.

Nothing is going right at the moment for the Wizards, who have now lost 11 of their past 12, but it was no fault of Bradley Beal as he top-scored with 30 points on an efficient 13-of-20 shooting performance.

Meanwhile, the Jazz had four players score at least 18 points each, led by Malik Beasley off the bench with 25 on nine-of-17 shooting. 

It was an impressive start at center for Jazz rookie Walker Kessler, scoring 12 points while controlling the paint for 14 rebounds and two blocks.

The Jacksonville Jaguars collected their third consecutive win by defeating the New York Jets 19-3 on Thursday.

It was a horror movie for Jets fans, with former second overall draft pick Zach Wilson proving completely incapable of handling the tough weather conditions as the rain came down sideways.

The Jets were gifted the first score of the game when Jaguars quarterback Trevor Lawrence was stripped by Quinnen Williams on the opening drive, with New York recovering the fumble in range for a field goal.

That field goal would be the home side's only score of the game, with Wilson being benched in the fourth quarter after completing just nine of 18 passes for 92 yards and an interception.

The only touchdown of the game came in the second quarter, when Lawrence capped off an impressive 16-play, 96-yard drive with a quarterback sneak on the goal-line to take a 10-3 lead.

Another pair of field goals would give the Jags a buffer, and they would coast to victory despite a spirited display from Jets reserve quarterback Chris Streveler, who led the Jets in rushing with nine carries for 54 yards.

Lawrence was far less fazed by the wet and windy weather, completing 20 of his 31 pass attempts for 229 yards, while adding seven carries for 51 yards and the game's only touchdown on the ground.

Jaguars tight end Evan Engram was the top offensive weapon, tallying 113 receiving yards from seven catches to continue his terrific form – entering the contest with 19 catches for 224 yards and two touchdowns from his previous two outings.

With the win, the Jaguars are now 7-8 with two games remaining, which is the exact same record as the Jets following their fourth consecutive loss.

Angel Di Maria has been "galvanised" by Argentina's World Cup success, which Massimiliano Allegri sees as good news for Juventus.

Di Maria played a starring role in his country's epic final triumph against France on Sunday.

The winger won the penalty for Lionel Messi's opener, then added a sublime second himself before being substituted with Argentina seemingly in control.

France rallied to reach a shoot-out following a 3-3 draw, but Messi and goalkeeper Emiliano Martinez led Lionel Scaloni's side to a long-awaited victory.

Di Maria had returned to the Argentina line-up for the Lusail Stadium showpiece having lost his place in the XI following an injury in the group stage.

It has been a similar story for the 34-year-old at club level this season, joining Juve as a free agent but seeing only 246 minutes of Serie A action prior to Qatar 2022.

Bianconeri coach Allegri is optimistic now, however, with Di Maria joined in the Argentina squad by club-mate Leandro Paredes.

"For sure they are galvanised by this World Cup victory," Allegri said on Thursday.

"And they are well physically, which is the most important thing, especially for Di Maria, who had some problems in the first part of the season anyway."

Di Maria's fitness has been far from Juve's only problem, with Allegri's men eliminated from the Champions League at the group stage and 10 points off the pace in Serie A.

But the coach said: "We need to prepare well and get back into the championship atmosphere straight away, because then from January 4 until June 5, we're never going to stop.

"We need to be very good at trying to play 36 games, which would mean getting to the Europa League final and getting to the Coppa Italia final."

The New Orleans Pelicans will be without top offensive option Zion Williamson for Thursday's game against the San Antonio Spurs due to the league's health and safety protocols.

Williamson, 22, has been the Pelicans' leading scorer this season at 25.2 points per game, and after missing the entire 2021-22 campaign, he has suited up for 25 of his team's 30 games this time around.

He will miss his sixth game of the season after triggering the league's COVID-19 protocols, and with it being the first leg of a back-to-back, he will also likely miss Friday's road game against the Oklahoma City Thunder.

Williamson has been one of the game's most dominant forces in December, raising his usage while fellow All-Star Brandon Ingram has also been out injured, having not played since November 25.

In his nine games in December, Williamson has averaged 28.8 points, 8.1 rebounds and 5.9 assists per game while shooting 62.2 per cent from the field. He is the only player this season shooting at least 60 per cent from the field (60.3) while averaging over 25 points per game.

In his absence, it will be up to C.J. McCollum to run the show against the Spurs. He is sporting his worst figures in points per game (18.7) since his second season in 2014-15, along with a career-worst field goal percentage of 41.5.

However, his 5.8 assists per game represent a career high, and he is beginning to find his scoring touch, with totals of 28, 27 and 31 in his past three outings.

As well as McCollum, it will be a golden opportunity for emerging wing Trey Murphy III, with last year's first-round draft pick having flashed intriguing potential in five 20-point games so far this season, having only posted two during his rookie campaign.

Nick Kyrgios has doubled down on the claim he will retire if he wins a grand slam next year, saying years of intensive travel have left him "exhausted".

Kyrgios enjoyed the best grand slam run of his career when he finished as runner-up to Novak Djokovic at Wimbledon this year, while he also reached the last eight at the US Open.

However, the Australian questioned his future in the sport earlier this week, telling reporters in Dubai: "Hopefully I can win a slam and just retire."

Speaking to Eurosport, the world number 22 insisted that remark was serious, saying his private life had suffered due to his time spent travelling to take part in ATP Tour events. 

Asked if he would really call time on his career in the event of winning a first major singles title, Kyrgios said: "Honestly, I probably would.

"Especially being from Australia as well, there's just so much travel, so much time away from family, so much time away from friends. 

"You're just missing milestones in the family, you're just not having a normal life, really. No other tennis player that's not from Australia gets that."

Kyrgios believes few athletes can match the sacrifices he has made in his career, citing the strain caused by spending long periods away from his home country. 

"It's easy for a European or an American player to lose or win a tournament, then you take a five-hour flight back home and you spend a week there before the next event," Kyrgios said.

"Whereas as an Australian, you're doing four- to seven-month travel blocks. Honestly, I don't think it's healthy. 

"No other real athlete does that in the world, in any sport, doing seven months on your own. 

"I'm exhausted honestly. It's just stressful. The more you win, the more success you have, the more demands you have off the court. People expect more from you. 

"People are like, 'why are you complaining about it?' It's not what they think. You're living out of a suitcase at hotels, it's not like you're on holiday. 

"You've got to go to tennis courts and train. The lifestyle is quite vigorous. If it happens, I probably would [retire], to be honest."

Kyrgios has only reached the last eight at the Australian Open on one occasion, and with the next edition of his home slam approaching, the 27-year-old is less than enthusiastic.

Asked if he will feel refreshed by the time the Melbourne major begins next month, Kyrgios said: "Probably not. There is a little bit of excitement, but it's probably 95 per cent stress, five per cent excitement, to be honest."

Jurgen Klopp was left to rue an opening 15 minutes that "killed our confidence" and conceding "completely unnecessary goals" after Manchester City knocked Liverpool out of the EFL Cup.

City beat the holders 3-2 in a thrilling tie at the Etihad Stadium on Thursday to secure their place in the quarter-finals.

Erling Haaland put the Premier League champions in front by volleying in Kevin De Bruyne's pinpoint cross, but Fabio Carvalho equalised against the run of play 20 minutes into both sides' first game after the World Cup break.

A sublime touch and finish from Riyad Mahrez restored City's lead right at the start of the second half, only for Mohamed Salah brought the Reds level again just 80 seconds later.

City were the better side, though, and Nathan Ake headed in a terrific cross from the outstanding De Bruyne to win it just before the hour-mark.

Liverpool manager Klopp told Sky Sports: "We played a formation that we haven't played for a long time, and we had to change in pretty much our last [training] session. You could see that, we needed time to adapt.

"In the first 15 minutes we had real problems and that killed our confidence and conviction a little bit."

Klopp was frustrated that De Bruyne was allowed too much time to whip in the cross for Haaland to open the scoring and switched off again to give the Belgium playmaker the chance to set up Ake following a short corner.

He added: "The goals we conceded were completely unnecessary. We had to be more switched on, especially for the third goal. Also the first goal, we should deny the cross.

"There are a lot of things we can build on and that's what we will do. It's a result we have to live with now."

James Milner was withdrawn in the first half due to a hamstring injury, but Klopp revealed he is hopeful he has not done any significant damage.

Trent Alexander-Arnold played no part due to a virus, while Virgil van Dijk is set to return to the squad for the Boxing Day fixture at Aston Villa after featuring for the Netherlands in the World Cup.

Kevin De Bruyne showed he is "unstoppable" when playing with "this fire inside" in Manchester City's 3-2 EFL Cup win over Liverpool, Pep Guardiola said.

De Bruyne was well below his brilliant best as Belgium were eliminated from the World Cup in the group stage earlier this month.

But his first match back in City colours on Thursday provided a reminder of the midfielder's remarkable talents.

De Bruyne supplied assists for Erling Haaland and Nathan Ake in a gripping cup tie, creating a game-high five chances in all as he ran the show at the Etihad Stadium.

As well as excelling with the ball, De Bruyne led the City press out of possession, winning four turnovers in the final third. Rico Lewis (two) was the only other player on the pitch to manage more than one.

"Kevin, when he plays with this fire inside of him, he finds himself this fire... what a player," manager Guardiola told Sky Sports.

"How many years is Kevin here? Seven, eight years? I think so. There's so many things. He's an absolute legend.

"Always I push him to find this fire. In important games, when he has this, he's unstoppable."

Guardiola reserved additional praise for Lewis, the 18-year-old right-back who took 89 touches and won five duels against the Reds – trailing only Rodri among City players in both metrics.

"In a long, long time, I didn't see a performance like Rico Lewis," Guardiola said of a teenager who debuted in August. 

"He's 18 years old, playing against Liverpool with big stars up front, and the way he played with the ball and without the ball...

"We are lucky, incredibly lucky to have this player for the next decade. Hopefully the club can keep him, because he was exceptional. The game he played was exceptional."

Manchester United will host third-tier Charlton Athletic in the quarter-finals of the EFL Cup, while Manchester City face Southampton after eliminating last season's winners Liverpool.

Goals from Christian Eriksen and Marcus Rashford saw United beat Championship leaders Burnley at Old Trafford on Wednesday, and another home tie will await the Red Devils in the last eight.

League One Charlton are the only non-Premier League side remaining in the competition after the Addicks won a penalty shoot-out to upset Brighton and Hove Albion on Wednesday.

United boss Erik ten Hag is looking to end a five-year trophy drought for the club, who have not claimed any major silverware since Jose Mourinho led them to Europa League and EFL Cup glory in 2017.

Meanwhile, United's rivals City will visit Southampton after overcoming Liverpool in a thrilling fourth-round tie on Thursday, with Erling Haaland, Riyad Mahrez and Nathan Ake scoring in a 3-2 victory.

City have won the trophy in five of the past seven seasons and will equal Liverpool as the most successful club in EFL Cup history if they win their ninth title this term.

Newcastle United will host Leicester City in another all-Premier League tie after overcoming Eddie Howe's former club Bournemouth on Tuesday, while Wolves visit fellow strugglers Nottingham Forest. 

The ties will be played in the week commencing January 9, following the third round of the FA Cup. 

FIFA is investigating how celebrity chef Salt Bae gained "undue access" to Argentina's on-pitch celebrations after the World Cup final.

Salt Bae, the Turkish chef and social media presence whose real name is Nusret Gokce, posted several photos of himself with the World Cup trophy on social media after Sunday's game.

The chef, who owns a chain of luxury steakhouses and rose to fame through a series of viral internet videos in 2017, was also seen attempting to pose for a photo with Lionel Messi and several Argentina team-mates.

His presence in the immediate aftermath of the trophy presentation is now the subject of a FIFA investigation after attracting widespread criticism.

A widely reported statement from world football's governing body read: "Following a review, FIFA has been establishing how individuals gained undue access to the pitch after the closing ceremony at Lusail stadium on December 18.

"The appropriate internal action will be taken."

Earlier this month, Salt Bae posted an image on Instagram of himself at a World Cup match alongside FIFA president Gianni Infantino and Brazil greats Ronaldo, Cafu and Roberto Carlos.

Erling Haaland scored his 24th goal of the season and Kevin De Bruyne delivered a masterclass as Manchester City beat holders Liverpool 3-2 to reach the EFL Cup quarter-finals.

The two heavyweights served up a thriller at the Etihad Stadium in their first game after the World Cup break, and it was the Premier League champions who deservedly came out on top.

Haaland opened the scoring, only for Fabio Carvalho to equalise in the first half of a pulsating tie on Thursday.

Riyad Mahrez restored City's lead right at the start of the season half, but Mohamed Salah soon levelled with his 15th goal of the campaign.

The outstanding De Bruyne then provided a second assist of the game for Nathan Ake, and Jurgen Klopp's men were unable to respond for a third time, suffering a first defeat to City in six matches.

Liverpool had been unable to cope with City's early intensity, and Haaland netted the opener 10 minutes in, getting in front of Joe Gomez to volley De Bruyne's pinpoint cross into the bottom-left corner.

The Reds were level from out of the blue 10 minutes later, Carvalho calmly stroking into the far corner after James Milner picked him out in the penalty area.

Caoimhin Kelleher denied Ilkay Gundogan and Ake after they were brilliantly set up by De Bruyne, before Darwin Nunez twice drilled wide.

Mahrez caught Liverpool out with a great touch from Rodri's pass before firing home just over a minute into the second half, yet City's lead only lasted 79 seconds as Nunez showed great pace to get away down the left and unselfishly laid an equaliser on a plate for Salah.

Liverpool were punished for another defensive lapse just before the hour-mark, though, switching off from a short corner and allowing De Bruyne to whip in an exquisite delivery for Ake to nod in.

Nunez spurned another great chance when he shot wide of the far post after bursting clear, with City this time holding on to advance.

Dejan Kulusevski believes Tottenham will achieve "better results than the first six months of the season" following the World Cup break.

Spurs will play their first game in well over a month when they travel to Brentford on Monday.

Antonio Conte's side sit fourth in the Premier League and are into the Champions League round of 16, with Milan their opponents.

Winger Kulusevski feels Spurs will return an even better side following the hiatus.

"I expect better results than the first six months of the season," Kulusevski told Stats Perform. "I think we can do better and we've been working, so now it's just time to show what we've been doing.

"I think we have a lot of quality players that still can make more. We have very good players and you saw that in the World Cup. Almost every player did very well.

"So I think that we would just have to stay healthy and then play like we can."

Kulusevski has six goal involvements from nine appearances this season, having been sidelined due to injury.

While a number of Kulusevki's team-mates have spent the last month or so battling it out in Qatar, Sweden's failure to qualify for the tournament means the former Juventus man has remained with Spurs.

Harry Kane was one of those at the World Cup, missing a crucial late penalty for England as they crashed out against France in the quarter-finals.

Kulusevski is looking forward to linking back up with the prolific striker Kane as Spurs look for their first silverware since winning the EFL Cup in 2008.

"He's [Kane] had a nice break, so it was very good to see him and I can't wait to play with him," Kulusevski said.

Kulusevski says former Chelsea boss Conte, known for being a hard taskmaster, has ensured those players not at the World Cup have been rigorously put through their paces.

"He's good. He doesn't care about anything," Kulusevski added. "It doesn't matter if it's dark or if it's raining, you [have] just got to do the work and that's how it's supposed to be.

"I think that we worked a lot on pressing and I think it's important that we get better.

"I think that the next thing is that when we win the ball, we have to choose the right pass so we can score."

FIFPRO has condemned Roma for a "mobbing campaign" of Rick Karsdorp after head coach Jose Mourinho labelled the defender a "traitor".

Mourinho made the comment following a 1-1 draw with Sassuolo in November, albeit without directly naming Karsdorp, though reports quickly identified the former Feyenoord man as his target.

Mourinho said there was one player who "betrayed his team-mates" and urged them to leave the club in January.

Karsdorp initially refused to train following his coach's comments, though he was later present as the club held a training camp in Portugal during the World Cup.

FIFPRO, the global union for professional football players, hit out at Roma's treatment of Karsdorp on Thursday.

FIFPRO said in a statement: "FIFPRO strongly condemns AS Roma's treatment of Rick Karsdorp, who in recent weeks has been the victim of a mobbing campaign.

"Karsdorp has been accused in public of being a 'traitor', a hurtful and baseless term that club management has failed to address or apologise for, and fans have repeatedly used to confront him and his family.

"Furthermore, he has been made the subject of an unjustified disciplinary case.

"These acts apparently are a way to deflect from the club's poor recent performances and are aimed to put unjustified pressure on the player.

"Such behaviour is incompatible with the FIFA regulations on the status and transfer of players.

"Rick Karsdorp has the full support of both FIFPRO and Dutch players' union VVCS."

Jonas Baer-Hoffmann, FIFPRO's general secretary, added: "It cannot be stressed enough that players are first and foremost employees of their clubs and that, as such, clubs have a duty of care towards them.

"We call on AS Roma to immediately comply with that duty of care and ensure that Rick Karsdorp is treated fairly, and that his rights are respected."

Dominic Drakes’ Colombo Stars have advanced to Friday’s final of the 2022 Lankan Premier League after storming to a six wicket win over the Kandy Falcons in Qualifier 2 at the R. Premadasa Stadium in Colombo on Thursday.

Despite a pair of golden ducks from Andre Fletcher and Fabian Allen, the Falcons posted a competitive 168-6 from their 20 overs after the Stars won the toss and chose to field first.

Falcons captain Wanindu Hasaranga was excellent, producing an unbeaten 34-ball 77 including eight fours and three sixes. Ashen Bandara provided good support for the skipper with 40 against Kasun Rajitha’s 4-20 from four overs. Drakes chipped in with 1-32 from his four.

The Stars then needed just 18.5 overs to successfully reach their target for the loss of just four wickets. Charith Asalanka led the way with 64 off 40 balls including seven fours and three sixes and was supported well by Dinesh Chandimal (38), Ravi Bopara (29 not out) and captain Angelo Matthews (21).

The Stars will take on the Jaffna Kings in tomorrow’s final.

Ben Stokes and Sam Curran are among the England T20 World Cup winners who could go for big money in the Indian Premier League auction on Friday.

The 10 franchises have varying amounts of cash to splash in Kochi, where some big names will be up for grabs.

Stokes opted out of the IPL this year, but England's Test captain and Curran, the player of the tournament in their recent World Cup triumph, are two of the 19 overseas players with the highest base price of 2.0 crore – worth just over £200,000.

Chris Morris was sold for a record 16,25 crore in February 2021 and it would be no surprise if that is broken as ambitious franchises shape their squads for the 2023 edition of the tournament.

There are a total of 87 slots to be filled, with up to 30 of those available for overseas players.

Stats Perform highlight what to look out for in the latest auction for a competition that was won by debutants the Gujarat Titans this year.

Sunrisers have money to burn

Sunrisers Hyderabad wielded the axe following a poor 2022 IPL season, having finished down in eighth place.

They suffered eight defeats and reacted by releasing 12 players, including captain and most expensive player Kane Williamson.

Sunrisers have the most money to spend in the auction, with 42,25 crore burning a hole in their pockets. On the other end of the scale, Kolkata Knight Riders only have 7,05 crore to play with.

Hyderabad could opt to re-sign Williamson on a less lucrative deal for the New Zealand skipper.

Curran to break the record?

England all-rounder Curran was outstanding in the T20 World Cup, taking 13 wickets – including 3-12 against Pakistan in the final last month.

Possessing great variation and giving little away, the left-arm seamer is sure to be in demand and could be in for a huge early Christmas present.

Stokes, Williamson, Cameron Green, Rilee Rossouw, Jimmy Neesham and Jason Holder are among the other overseas players with a base price of 2,0 crore.

With a base price of 1,5 crore, Harry Brook could also earn a big pay day for what would be a first IPL after a dream start to his England career.

 

Pandey and Agarwal under the hammer

Manish Pandey and Mayank Agarwal are the two Indian players with the highest base price in the auction.

The first Indian player to score an IPL century, Pandey has a base price of 1,0 crore and the same goes for fellow batter Agarwal.

Pandey was released by Lucknow Super Giants, while Agarwal was allowed to leave by Punjab Kings.

Record-breaking teenager Ahmed to cap a dream week

What a story it would be if Rehan Ahmed is picked up in the auction after making history in England's Test win over Pakistan in Karachi.

The 18-year-old leg-spinning all-rounder became the youngest man to make his England Test debut as they secured a 3-0 whitewash and the teenager made a big impact.

Ahmed became the youngest man to take a five-wicket haul on his Test debut in the second innings and would cost at least 0.5 crore – although there are due to be discussions over what his schedule will be after his incredible start on the international stage.

© 2023 SportsMaxTV All Rights Reserved.