The Phoenix Suns are keeping their eyes on the prize as they target NBA glory, with Chris Paul and Devin Booker playing down the team's winning streak.

Phoenix made it 15 consecutive wins thanks to Friday's 118-97 victory over the New York Knicks at Madison Square Garden.

Paul's 14 points and 10 assists, and Booker's 32 points fuelled the Suns to within two wins of equalling their franchise record for consecutive victories – 17 in 2006-07.

But after falling short in last season's NBA Finals, Paul and the Suns are solely focused on the business end of the campaign.

"This ain't a playoff game tomorrow [Sunday]," Paul said post-game in New York, where the Suns improved to 16-3 – a record only bettered by Western Conference rivals the Golden State Warriors (17-2) this season.

"It's good for us to go out there and compete, and we're probably gonna see different coverages and all that, but we're just trying to build, build.

"It's not about winning a game in November."

 

"We just wanted to get it going," said All-Star Booker. "It's no secret we have a streak going, and we're going to get every team's best shot.

"The whole NBA knows about that, so we just tried to set the tone early. Come out, play team basketball ... we did our job tonight."

Booker added: "We do one at a time. We know we have a tough opponent tomorrow that's been waiting on us, well-rested.

"So we just have to come in with the same mentality, play the type of basketball that we do, defend at a high level and put ourselves in good shape to get it done."

The Phoenix Suns are closing in on a franchise record after celebrating a 15th successive win with a 118-97 victory against the New York Knicks in the NBA.

Last season's Finals runners-up, the Suns are two victories away from equalling their all-time consecutive win streak of 17 games thanks to Friday's triumph – Phoenix won 17 straight games in 2006-07.

Devin Booker fuelled the red-hot Suns with 32 points at Madison Square Garden, Chris Paul (14 points and 10 assists) and Deandre Ayton (14 points and 13 rebounds) contributed double-doubles on the road.

Reigning Western Conference champions the Suns boast a 16-3 record this season, a mark only bettered by rivals the Golden State Warriors (17-2).

 

 

Warriors win again

The Warriors extended their winning streak to six games by topping the Portland Trail Blazers 118-103. Stephen Curry led Golden State with 32 points, eight assists and seven rebounds, while the two-time MVP surpassed Scottie Pippen for 62nd place on the NBA's all-time scoring list. Draymond Green put up 12 points and 12 assists.

The Los Angeles Lakers lost a wild game against the Sacramento Kings, outlasted 141-137 following triple overtime. Not even Russell Westbrook's triple-double (29 points, 11 assists and 10 rebounds) or LeBron James' 30 points and 11 assists could lift the Lakers in LA.

Defending champions the Milwaukee Bucks beat the Nikola Jokic-less Denver Nuggets 120-109 behind Giannis Antetokounmpo's 24 points and 13 rebounds. By topping the depleted Nuggets, the Bucks made it six straight victories.

 

Jazz stunned in Salt Lake City

The lowly New Orleans Pelicans shocked the Utah Jazz 98-97 courtesy of Devonte' Graham's go-ahead three-pointer with 1.9 seconds remaining on the road.

The Los Angeles Clippers defeated the struggling Detroit Pistons 107-96, but it was a rough outing for star Paul George, who was just five-for-19 shooting in a 12-point display. Number one draft pick Cade Cunningham, meanwhile, finished with 10 points having made only three of his 13 shots from the field.

Pep Guardiola said he would need a nap to talk about Manchester United's many rumoured managers amid mounting speculation regarding potential new Red Devils boss Ralf Rangnick.

Rangnick is reportedly set to take over United on an interim basis following the sacking of Ole Gunnar Solskjaer, with a potentially longer stay at Old Trafford in a role behind the scenes.

Former RB Leipzig head coach Rangnick – who also held various roles at the Bundesliga outfit across eight seasons – is currently head of sports and development at Russian side Lokomotiv Moscow.

Talk of Rangnick's six-month appointment has dominated headlines as United reportedly eye long-term targets Mauricio Pochettino of Paris Saint-Germain and Ajax's Erik ten Hag, while Sporting CP boss Ruben Amorim has also been mentioned.

Manchester City manager Guardiola was asked about the potential arrival of Rangnick in the Premier League.

"Personally? No," Guardiola said when asked if he knew much about Rangnick. "I spoke once to him in my lifetime by phone.

"I never met him, but I know he did an incredible job in an organisation like Red Bull Leipzig and Salzburg and has big experience in Germany, is incredibly well known. But personally, I haven't met him."

Further pressed on Rangnick and Lars Kornetka, who worked alongside Guardiola at Bundesliga champions Bayern Munich as an analyst, the Spaniard dismissed the reports.

"Listen, listen, over the last 10 days, maybe it was 20 names of a possible manager for Man United, so I cannot speak for each one," Guardiola said ahead of Sunday's clash with West Ham.

"Maybe this afternoon we'll have to take a nap, so we'll spend three hours to answer all the possible candidates to be Man United [manager]. So at the moment he will be appointed, if you ask me the opinion, I will give my answer.

"So no, I don't know. Now Michael Carrick is the [interim] manager for Man United, and that is my only concern."

Defending champions City are second in the table, three points behind leaders Chelsea through 12 rounds, while United are 12 points off the pace.

Brooks Koepka earned bragging rights in his feud with Bryson DeChambeau after besting his PGA Tour foe in the latest edition of 'The Match'.

Koepka and DeChambeau have been at loggerheads on the PGA Tour, tensions high since 2019 when the former called out the latter for slow play.

DeChambeau responded by taking aim at fellow American Koepka's physique in 2020.

The pair came together to help the United States to a record-setting Ryder Cup triumph over Europe in September, but they renewed their rivalry in Las Vegas on Friday.

In a 12-hole exhibition showdown at Wynn Golf Club, four-time major champion Koepka celebrated a 4 and 3 victory in the match for charity.

"Not going to lie, I just wanted to spank you," Koepka told 2020 U.S. Open winner DeChambeau upon clinching victory on the ninth hole.

"I haven't played in two months," DeChambeau told TNT. "No excuses, though. I should have done better."

Mid-match, DeChambeau asked Koepka rhetorically: "Where is this on the PGA Tour? You're playing so good right now".

"It's kind of like my major right now, right?" Koepka replied.

Afterwards, Koepka said: "Obviously, watching him up close and personal is pretty neat, pretty special to watch him hit the ball.

"Like I said, there is respect there, but at the same time it was fun to come out here and settle this." 

DeChambeau added: "I've always had respect for Brooks. He's won four major championships and what he's done for the game.

"At the end of the day it was 12 holes and he got me. So, hopefully, there will be a rematch sometime soon." 

Los Angeles Lakers superstar LeBron James was hit with a $15,000 fine by the NBA for making an "obscene gesture" in Wednesday's win over the Indiana Pacers.

The NBA also warned James about using profane language after lifting the Lakers past Pacers 124-116 in overtime midweek.

James posted a season-high 39 points and made a pair of key three-pointers in OT to see the Lakers to victory, having returned from a one-game suspension for his part in a heated altercation with Detroit Pistons big man Isaiah Stewart on Sunday.

A four-time NBA champion and MVP, James made a gesture after sinking a late shot against the Pacers at Gainbridge Fieldhouse, while he used profanity in his post-game interview.

Against the Sacramento Kings on Friday, James is looking to score 35 or more points in consecutive games for the first time since December 2018, per Stats Perform.

The Lakers are 4-0 in overtime games this season with no other NBA team having more than two wins in OT in 2021-22. Since February, the Lakers have played a league-high 10 overtime games, going 9-1.

Flamengo head coach Renato Gaucho is dreaming of Copa Libertadores glory as defending champions Palmeiras bid to become the first team in 20 years to retain the South American crown.

Montevideo is the scene for this year's all-Brazilian Libertadores final between 2019 winners Flamengo and titleholders Palmeiras on Saturday.

Uruguay's iconic Centenario stadium brings back good memories for two-time champions Flamengo, who trumped Chile's Cobreloa in 1981 for their first Libertadores trophy 40 years ago.

Flamengo remain undefeated in the 2021 edition. They will be aiming to repeat the feat of rivals Corinthians, who are still the only team to win the title while going undefeated in the current format of the tournament, following their 2012 achievement.

Speaking ahead of the decider, Renato – the record holder for most victories as a coach in Libertadores history (50) – told reporters on Friday: "The feeling is of a dream come true for having reached another Libertadores final, because it is for few coaches and I have that privilege working with Flamengo, in the same way as Abel [Ferreira] doing with Palmeiras.

"The feeling is that of having fulfilled my job leading a wonderful group in a club with so many fans and with an immense responsibility, but we are professionals and we are prepared for this.

"I hope that Flamengo gets their third cup, we know that we have a very strong team in front of us and they also want to be champion, but we have all done what it takes to be here, the managers, the coaching staff and the players, we know the importance of this match.

"We are two great teams with players at the level of the Brazilian national team, I am sure it will be a great game, well played because we are two teams that always go to the front looking for the goal and we both arrived with our merits. As I said, I think it is going to be a game with a lot of emotions."

Not since Argentine powerhouse Boca Juniors in 2000 and 2001 has a team won back-to-back Libertadores trophies.

Palmeiras continue to flourish under Portuguese head coach Abel Ferreira – the club have only lost two of the 19 Libertadores games with the 42-year-old in the dugout, while they are seven games unbeaten having eliminated Atletico Mineiro in the semis.

Abel's Palmeiras have won 13 Libertadores match – the joint-second most of any coach in the club's tournament history, alongside Vanderlei Luxemburgo and only behind Felipao (24 wins in 44 games).

"Experience tells us how difficult it is to be consistently winning and after last year if they asked everyone from Palmeiras if they thought they would be twice in a row in the final of the Copa Libertadores they would have had many doubts," Abel, who is looking to become the first European coach to win two Libertadores titles, said in a pre-game news conference.

"Last year we reached the final because of the players and this year I infected the players to be here again. We climb the mountain because we have a very clear purpose from day one: to win the final.

"This is our purpose and we are here for merit, for a lot of effort and for the help of many people and above all because of the character, courage and capacity of our players."

Los Angeles Rams head coach Sean McVay is expecting "a lot more" from star duo Odell Beckham Jr. and Von Miller in Sunday's NFL showdown against the Green Bay Packers.

Beckham and Miller will make their second appearance since joining the Rams when the 7-3 Los Angeles franchise visit Lambeau Field.

After his release from the Cleveland Browns, Beckham debuted in the 31-10 defeat to the San Francisco 49ers in Week 10 before the team's bye – the three-time Pro Bowler caught two passes for 18 yards.

Miller – acquired from the Denver Broncos in a blockbuster trade – was inactive for his first game before debuting against the 49ers, playing 45 of 68 snaps while recording two tackles.

McVay is anticipating an increased role for Beckham and Miller against the 8-3 Packers this week.

"A lot more, hopefully," McVay told reporters on Friday when asked if he expected to get more out of the pair in their second appearance for the Rams.

"Odell [is] just getting more familiar," McVay said. "I mean for him to be able to even play in the game against the Niners is an incredible credit to him."

"It helps because he's getting up to speed mentally," McVay added. "You don't take for granted how important those physical reps and the rapport that he and Matthew are continuing to develop is and so because we'll do a little bit more reps today, we'll end up getting about the same amount that we would in a normal week, so it will be a good thing, but he's done great."

McVay said: "Von did a good job, played a lot of snaps. I think he'll be that much more healthy, that much more fresh coming off the bye and giving his ankle another handful of days to continue to make progress and steps in the right direction without having any setbacks over these last couple of weeks."

Miller has been dealing with an ankle issue and the Super Bowl MVP added: "I'm feeling pretty good, feel a little bit more comfortable with the playbook, ankle is a whole lot healthier. So the bye week was great."

The Rams have lost two straight games following defeats to the 49ers and Tennessee Titans. According to Stats Perform, it is the first time the team have lost consecutive games with both being by double digits since McVay became head coach in 2017.

Green Bay Packers star and reigning NFL MVP Aaron Rodgers will go up against the Los Angeles Rams this week, despite missing practice on Friday.

Rodgers is suffering from a fractured toe on his left foot, which clearly hampered him during last week's 34-31 loss to the Minnesota Vikings.

The Packers quarterback is yet to practice in the lead up to Sunday's showdown at Lambeau Field, but head coach Matt LaFleur insisted Rodgers will play.

"Well, he came down to practice," LaFleur told reporters on Friday.

"He didn't participate in practice, but he was out there and relaying the calls to Jordan [Love], just getting that practice of just saying the playcalls."

LaFleur added: "Yeah, he'll play".

Rodgers threw for a season-high 385 yards to go with four touchdowns and zero interceptions against the Vikings in Week 11.

It was the fourth time Rodgers has thrown for 375 or more yards, four or more touchdowns and no interceptions in the same game, which is three more times than any other Packer QB, according to Stats Perform.

Rodgers ranks second for passer rating in the NFL (106.6), only behind Arizona Cardinals QB Kyler Murray (110.4).

Through 10 games this season, Rodgers has completed 219 of 328 passes for 2,571 yards, 21 touchdowns and four interceptions.

"It's been how it's been going the past couple of weeks," Packers offensive co-ordinator Nathaniel Hackett said. "The one thing that I'll tell you is, my respect for him as a player goes up nonstop.

"Everybody talks about how he can throw the ball as good as he can, but his toughness is unbelievable. For him to do what he's doing with this going on is awesome.

"We trust him a ton and know that he's going to do whatever he needs to do to get ready for the game and to be able to go."

Green Bay fell to Minnesota, despite converting seven of their 11 third-down attempts (63.6 percent). It was the highest third-down conversion percentage for the Packers in a loss since Week 2 of the 2005 season, when the team lost 26-24 to the Cleveland Browns while converting 10-of-14 third downs.

Zion Williamson has been cleared to participate in full team activities, the New Orleans Pelicans announced on Friday.

Pelicans star Williamson is yet to feature in the NBA this season due to a right foot fracture, which required surgery in the offseason.

But the 2019 number one draft pick played four-on-four full court on Friday as the 2021 All-Star stepped up his comeback, though there is still no return timeline.

Williamson is entering his third year as a professional, however the 21-year-old has so far seen his hugely promising career hindered by injury.

The power forward did not make his NBA debut until January in the 2019-20 campaign after tearing his meniscus in his rookie preseason, while relatively minor issues limited Williamson to 61 games in 2020-21.

Despite concerns about the forward's durability, Williamson has excelled against NBA opposition.

After 22.5 points per game in his rookie year, he improved to 27.0 last season and will return on a streak of scoring 20 in 15 straight games.

Without Williamson this season, the struggling Pelicans have started the campaign 4-16 – the second worst record in the NBA behind the Houston Rockets (2-16).

Jurgen Klopp has described Sadio Mane as "world-class" and suggested that having time to rest after last season has played a key role in his recent form.

The Liverpool forward is joint-second in the Premier League scoring charts along with Leicester City's Jamie Vardy on seven goals, only team-mate Mohammed Salah has more (11).

After four fantastic seasons at Anfield, Mane was not at his peak in 2020-21. Though he still finished on 16 goals in all competitions, that tally was his lowest since his first campaign with Liverpool (13 in 2016-17).

However, Mane now seems back to his brilliant best and, ahead of facing the Senegal forward's former club Southampton, Klopp predicted another excellent campaign for the 29-year-old as long as he can stay clear of injuries.

"I think we can judge Sadio as an individual, as a world-class player. It's not [that we judge him] against Mo Salah or whatever," the Reds' boss told reporters at Friday's news conference. 

"You see the numbers. Mo has 108 goals [overall in the Premier League] and Sadio has [102] most of them for Liverpool, but obviously some with Southampton.

"So it just shows – they are in a similar age group – what those two guys did in the last few years for us. We don't make a difference there between the two.

"Sadio is a very confident person and knew., we all felt it on the first day of pre-season, after a proper break, he was completely 100 per cent there. It was clear.

"It was obvious that if he was lucky with injuries it would be a really good season for him because that is the quality he has. And that is what he shows now.

"So I cannot say enough how important it is for these players to have a proper break - I will speak about that until the next 20 years, but the authorities will not change it.

"That is really tough for the boys. But this year Mo and Sadio had a proper break and at the moment, so far, we are getting the benefit of that."

Mane has nine goals in 17 games in all competitions for Liverpool this season, with a shot conversion rate (excluding blocks) of 31.03 per cent, which is just shy of Salah (35.42 per cent). He has created 18 chances, half that of Salah (36) but has also made 43 recoveries, just three short of the Egyptian's 46.

Klopp was also asked about recent games against Atletico Madrid and Arsenal in which he suggested the opposition targeted Mane, with the German getting particularly animated with Mikel Arteta during last week's 4-0 win against the Gunners.

"Oh yes, we have [spoken], but for sure for much longer it was a thing, even when it was not obvious to the outside," he added. "You can see it in games they go for him because they want to wind him up, even if it is not that obvious.

"He's not that emotional any more, but we all need emotions obviously and sometimes we control them better and sometimes less and yes, we've had these talks of course, but that was not about that.

"It had nothing to do with these situations, I really don’t think it had anything to do with the situation against Arsenal, it was pretty much nothing, a normal challenge.

"It was obvious and against Atletico Madrid, they had the red card [for Felipe] and you will remember directly after the next situation a player went down and made more [of the challenge] just to make sure they get our player sent off or yellow card, so that is what I was talking about.

"The headline is 'we pay back with football'. Whatever we do, we pay them back with football."

Few prospective playoff teams have been scrutinised as heavily as the Los Angeles Rams in recent weeks.

Coming off back-to-back defeats to the Tennessee Titans and San Francisco 49ers, a Rams team considered a Super Bowl calibre outfit for effectively the entirety of the season faces the prospect of having to prove themselves all over again.

And they must do so against a Green Bay Packers team competing for the one seed, albeit with injuries that could well derail those hopes.

Potentially complicating matters for the Rams is that their last game may have provided future opponents with a possible blueprint to beating them.

The Niners claimed a fifth successive win over the Rams, crushing them 31-10 in Week 10 by sticking to a tried and tested formula that has continually paid dividends against Los Angeles, relying heavily on the run game and getting the ball out quickly on passing plays to negate the pass rush of Aaron Donald and recent trade acquisition Von Miller.

It is an approach the Packers could well adopt in order to mitigate the impact of their injuries. Green Bay's reigning MVP quarterback Aaron Rodgers, himself battling a fractured toe, will be without his two best offensive linemen.

Left tackle David Bakhtiari remains out with a knee injury while the versatile Elgton Jenkins, who can plug holes at several positions in the trenches, suffered a torn ACL in last week's defeat to the Minnesota Vikings.

Even with Jenkins' best efforts, the Packers went into Week 12 ranked 21st in pass protection win percentage, per Stats Perform data. Logic dictates they will only fall down the standings in that regard now he is on the shelf.

As such, a move to a run-heavy approach built around the quick passing game seems prudent, especially with the Packers facing a defender in Donald who has won an astonishing 62 of his 95 one-on-one pass rush matchups.

Going with that plan may suit the Packers perfectly. Green Bay could get running back Aaron Jones back from a knee injury this week to boost a ground game that ranks ninth in rush yards over expected.

In terms of the passing attack, Rodgers' time from snap of the ball to releasing it is 2.52 seconds, faster than the league average for quarterbacks (minimum 10 attempts) of 2.66 seconds.

When running quick game concepts, Rodgers has delivered an accurate, well-thrown ball 84.7 per cent of the time - the league average is 81.7.

Put simply, after being tormented by a divisional foe that has consistently proven their kryptonite, the Rams may now be faced with having to deal with a markedly similar gameplan executed by the best quarterback in the NFL last season.

The loss to the 49ers led to the Rams being labelled by many as a soft football team. Such aspersions will only grow more vociferous if they cannot capitalise on the Packers' personnel deficiencies and avoid a third straight defeat.

With the trades for quarterback Matthew Stafford and Miller and, most recently, the signing of wide receiver Odell Beckham Jr, the Rams have pushed all their chips to the middle, but a loss to Green Bay in the same circumstances as their defeat to San Francisco may leave most expecting them to again leave the table empty-handed come the end of the year.

Tre'Davious White has suffered a torn anterior cruciate ligament and will miss the rest of the season, the Buffalo Bills have confirmed.

Cornerback White sustained the injury during the second quarter of Thursday's 31-6 win over the New Orleans Saints. 

The 26-year-old was able to limp off the field without assistance but was ruled out of the game, with Dane Jackson his replacement. White underwent an MRI scan on Friday, with results showing a torn ACL.

White's injury will see him miss the rest of the campaign, with the Bills sitting top of the AFC East, holding a 7-4 record with six games of the regular season remaining.

The All-Pro CB will be a big miss. He has registered six pass breakups and an interception, while 56.5 per cent of the defensive plays he has been involved in this season have proved successful (320/566).

White has allowed a big play on 14.1 per cent of his targets - the sixth-best ratio in the league among cornerbacks with at least 25 targets.

"I know all the guys in the locker room are praying for him and hurting with him," quarterback Josh Allen said of White after the win in New Orleans.

"You can't say a single bad thing about that man. He comes in and busts his a** every day."

Angel Di Maria is open to playing in midfield for Paris Saint-Germain as he looks to secure more game time, and believes it could be his best position.

Di Maria has been a star for PSG since joining the Ligue 1 giants from Manchester United in 2015.

The attacker has made 274 appearances for PSG across all competitions, scoring 89 goals and providing a further 107 assists.

Since he joined PSG, no player has played more games than the Argentine, who has also crafted 669 chances, way ahead of Neymar, who ranks second in the squad with 350. Indeed, Di Maria is 41 assists ahead of Kylian Mbappe (66), and only three players have scored more goals in the same timeframe.

Di Maria only signed a new contract in March, he has not been able to nail down a regular starting berth so far this term.

Mauricio Pochettino has a wealth of options at his disposal, and can hardly be blamed for starting Neymar, Mbappe and Lionel Messi, who arrived from Barcelona in August, in a sensational attacking trident.

While the trio have not yet clicked to their full potential, Di Maria has often been the man left out. The 33-year-old has made just 10 appearances this season, scoring twice and setting up a further three goals.

Having started seven games, Di Maria creates 2.42 chances per 90 minutes on average, showing his playmaking abilities are still as good as ever.

In fact, despite his lack of minutes, Di Maria has only created fewer chances than Neymar (28) and Mbappe (33) in 2021-22.

With Messi, Mbappe and Neymar needing to be accommodated up front, Pochettino has often gone with a more workman-like midfield three.

However, Di Maria, who was excellent in a deeper role in his final season at Real Madrid in 2013-14, is hoping he gets the chance to show his quality in midfield.

"I think I've already shown that I can play in that position. In fact, it was my best year at Real Madrid, in 2014," Di Maria told RMC Sport.

"The manager knows I can play there, but then it's down to decisions. He's there to decide and we're there to do as best as we can on the pitch, no matter where, in midfield, up front, or elsewhere.

"Those are questions for him, the only thing I've done since I arrived at PSG has been to give it my all when on the pitch.

"It's true that I like to play with the ball at my feet. In 2014 I played in midfield and I felt very good, really happy. With quality players at PSG like Marco [Verratti], Leandro [Paredes] or Gana [Idrissa Gueye] it could work, but those are the manager's decisions."

 

Last season, Di Maria scored two goals, created 14 chances and provided three assists in Ligue 1 from attacking carries, suggesting he may be suited to playing deeper to drive with the ball and supply the attack. 

Although frustrated by a lack of regular action, Di Maria understands the reasons.

"When you have those three up front, it makes sense that the first option is to play them, they are the best on the pitch," he added.

"With what they've won, and who they are, it gives all three of them a different status. Or at least to two of them, because Messi is different to the others. He's the best player in the world and he always has to be on the pitch.

"But I'm always trying to give it 100 per cent to get into the starting XI. I know that it's not easy for me given the players in my position. That's why I'm doing as much as I can to maybe find a different option."

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