Andrew Wiggins and Stephen Curry piled on the points as the Golden State Warriors improved to a 12-11 record with a 120-101 victory over the Houston Rockets on Saturday.

Wiggins scored a season-high 36 points on 14-of-19 field shooting with a joint career-high eight three-pointers, including three in a row in the third quarter at the Chase Center.

Curry added 30 points, including eight triples, as well as providing 10 assists for Golden State, who have won five of their past six games.

Jordan Poole, who came into the starting line-up for Klay Thompson who was rested, also had 21 points with five three-pointers. Center Kevon Looney had 12 rebounds with nine points.

The Warriors shot 25-of-52 from three-point range as a team, compared to the Rockets who went at 10.7 per cent from beyond the arc, making three-of-28 attempts.

Golden State became the second team in NBA history to make 20 three-pointers in four of five games.

Gobert ejected in Timberwolves defeat

Rudy Gobert was ejected for deliberately tripping Kenrich Williams as the Minnesota Timberwolves were beaten 135-128 by the Oklahoma City Thunder.

The French center was given a flagrant 2 foul and ejected in the second quarter when he tangled with Williams, appearing to sweep a leg out while on the ground, seeing his unbalanced opponent tumble.

Shai Gilgeous-Alexander top scored for OKC with 33 points and six assists, while for the Timberwolves, who were already without Karl-Anthony Towns (calf), D'Angelo Russell and Anthony Edwards scored 27 and 26 points respectively.

Short-handed Bucks down Hornets

The Milwaukee Bucks overcame the absence of Giannis Antetokounmpo due to left knee soreness as they moved to 16-6 with a 105-96 victory over the Charlotte Hornets.

The Bucks, who are second in the Eastern Conference, were also without Khris Middleton and Jrue Holiday but Bobby Portis (20 points, eight rebounds and seven assists) stepped up.

Jordan Nwora added 17 points, while Brook Lopez (14 points including three three-pointers and six rebounds) and Jevon Carter (14 points and six assists) were strong contributors.

With baseball’s winter meetings getting underway on Sunday, the Pittsburgh Pirates could be a very busy team now that center fielder Bryan Reynolds has requested a trade.

Reynolds hit .262 with 27 home runs and 62 RBIs in 145 games last season and as a young, controllable player would be a very attractive piece for teams should the Pirates choose to deal him.

"While it is disappointing, this will have zero impact on our decision-making this offseason or in the future," the team said Saturday in a statement.

"Our goal is to improve the Pirates for 2023 and beyond. With three years until he hits free agency, Bryan remains a key member of our team. We look forward to him having a great season for the Pirates."

The 27-year-old switch-hitter is set to earn $6.75 million this season in the second year of a two-year, $13 million arbitration extension. He is then under club control for two more seasons via arbitration before becoming eligible for free agency after the 2025 season.

Reynolds experienced a dip in production last season after he was an NL All-Star in 2021, when he batted .314 with 24 homers and 90 RBIs. He also had a career-best .390 on-base percentage and eight triples, tied for the major league high.

Pittsburgh finished 62-100 last season and is 211-335 for a .386 winning percentage in Reynolds’ four years with the team. The Pirates’ lead the majors in losses since the start of the 2019 season.

The Pirates acquired Ji-Man Choi in a trade with Tampa Bay on November 10 and signed fellow first baseman Carlos Santana to a one-year, $6.75 million contract.

Pirates general manager Ben Cherington said on Tuesday at the news conference for Santana's contract that the team wants to be better in 2023.

''We think we've got a group of young players that has a chance to help us get better and continue to get better and we'll try to add to that group in the way that makes the most sense,'' he said.

Reigning champion Viktor Hovland carded a round-of-the-day eight-under-par 64 to pull three shots clear at the Hero World Challenge on Albany Golf Course in the Bahamas on Saturday.

The Norwegian, who was the joint leader after day one and outright leader by one shot at halfway, shot 10 birdies in his stunning third round to open up a three-shot gap on Scottie Scheffler.

Hovland could have been further ahead if not for a bogey on the par-four 18th hole, having managed six birdies in the previous seven holes to card 31 on his back nine. He also bogeyed on the sixth hole.

The reigning champion, who managed eagles in both of his first two days, fired in a dart over the water off the tee on the par-three 17th hole to set up a routine birdie putt.

Hovland leads from world number two Scheffler, who hit 66 on day three, to move up to 10-under overall.

Scheffler buried an eagle putt on the par-five 15th hole to move into solo second, having five birdies for his round, along with a bogey.

Justin Thomas is a further two shots behind Scheffler at eight-under overall, alongside Cameron Young who had been in the four-player pack one stroke behind Hovland at halfway.

Collin Morikawa and Xander Schauffele are tied at seven under, rounding out those in contention with a big gap to the next best, Jon Rahm who is four-under overall.

Kevin Kisner landed a hole-in-one on the par-three 12th hole to produce the first ace on that hole since the event moved to Albany in 2015.

Ja Morant has been fined $35,000 by the NBA for "directing inappropriate language towards a game official" and for not leaving the court soon enough.

The punishment was announced by the league on Saturday in response to the Memphis Grizzlies guard's behaviour in the 109-101 loss to the Minnesota Timberwolves on Wednesday.

With just over a minute left of the game, Morant was given a technical and ejected by the referee, which provoked an angry response from the 23-year-old.

He took to Instagram after the game to suggest officials have "too much power," adding: "you get ejected nowadays for telling a mf the same thing they told you."

Morant has been enjoying another productive season in Memphis, averaging 28.2 points, 7.3 assists and 6.4 rebounds per game for the 13-9 Grizzlies, who visit the Detroit Pistons on Sunday.

Tyson Fury took the opportunity to call out Oleksandr Usyk after his TKO victory against Derek Chisora at Tottenham Hotspur Stadium.

Victory came in front of the Ukrainian at ringside, who holds the other three heavyweight belts, and it is widely expected that a unification fight is next on the agenda.

There has not been a unified heavyweight champion since Lennox Lewis at the turn of the millennium and such a bout has evaded Fury in recent years, having seen an agreement to fight Anthony Joshua fall away after the pandemic.

Fury has made it abundantly clear on the next step he wants to take in his career, going face-to-face with Usyk in front of the cameras.

"Where's Oleksandr Usyk, the rabbit? You're next, you little b****, you're getting it," he said in the ring.

"15 stone little midget beat a bodybuilder [referring to Anthony Joshua], but I'm not a bodybuilder. I've already beaten one Ukrainian in [Wladimir] Klitschko. Let's get it on. I will end you. What you going to do? You're going to do f*** all.

"I can't wait. All these big fights have been evaded for so long, but they can't run away anymore. They can run but they can't hide."

Fury and Usyk were also joined in the ring by Joe Joyce, with the Gypsy King taking the opportunity to call out his compatriot as a future opponent.

"Why don't us three do a Royal Rumble?" Fury asked. "Big Joe Joyce is here, he's a warrior. Everyone else is scared of you, so if [Usyk] doesn't want it, let's me and you do Wembley.

"I want Oleksandr Usyk next. If not you, Joe Joyce. I've got some hand problems, I've got to maybe have some surgery on my elbow, but after that, I'm open to anyone.

"I had the left done after the [Deontay] Wilder fight, it will take about six to eight weeks to heal. We'll see when we can be ready, we will see when it can be made."

Speaking earlier in the night ahead of the Fury-Chisora fight, Usyk dubbed the potential bout between him and Fury as one that is clamoured for across the globe.

"The whole of Great Britain, the whole world, especially Ukraine, everyone wants to see this fight happen," he told Sky Sports.

Argentina head coach Lionel Scaloni said his players were born to handle high-pressure World Cup contests after Lionel Messi led them to a 2-1 win over Australia in the last 16.

Messi scored his ninth World Cup goal – and his first in a knockout tie – as Argentina edged out Australia at Ahmad bin Ali Stadium on Saturday, with Julian Alvarez also getting on the scoresheet following a mistake from Mathew Ryan.

Argentina will now face the Netherlands for a semi-final place on Friday, a prospect which appeared unlikely when they began their campaign with a stunning defeat to Saudi Arabia 11 days ago.

Asked how the Albiceleste had managed to turn their tournament around, Scaloni said: "What I said before the Mexico match was that these guys were born to play these games.

"Argentina have played three games which were very intense, where being knocked out was a reality. But these players are capable. Sometimes the urgency and anxiety makes you feel different.

"Even if things happen like the Saudi Arabia game or the Australia goal today, we have to keep believing in our football. 

"There is no pressure in football, that's how I see it. Pressure is something else.

"If you've watched Argentina today, these are memories which will stay with you forever. You've seen these young players, and also Leo, playing beautifully."

The next hurdle for Argentina to overcome will be a heavyweight tussle with the nation they beat in both the 1978 World Cup final and the 2014 semi-finals.

While Scaloni acknowledges the Oranje's current crop may not be as easy on the eye as some of their predecessors, he expects a tough test against Louis van Gaal's men.

Asked about Van Gaal's qualities, Scaloni said: "I was a young player at Deportivo La Coruna when he was coaching at Barcelona. He's a great coach and many have to try to take a page from his book. It's a pleasure to face him at a World Cup.

"Today we saw the Netherlands match. They probably don't play as beautifully as some older Dutch teams, but they have very strong points that they will try to use.

"It will be a beautiful game between two historic national teams, and one will be knocked out, unfortunately."

Argentina are hopeful of receiving a fitness boost ahead of Friday, with Scaloni revealing Angel Di Maria – who was an unused substitute on Saturday after suffering a thigh injury – could return.

"I didn't think we were going to help anyone by bringing him on today," he said of Di Maria. "We hope that in the next few days he keeps evolving and he can make it for the next match."

Tyson Fury retained his WBC heavyweight title with a TKO victory against old rival Derek Chisora at Tottenham Hotspur Stadium.

Meeting for their trilogy bout eight years after their last fight, Fury remained in control throughout, and it was only a matter of time until the end was called.

The referee called the fight in the 10th round for, although not a stunning victory, a win that again reiterated Fury's requirement for a different calibre of opponent to be truly tested.

With Oleksandr Usyk and Joe Joyce sat ringside, that could be right around the corner in 2023.

Fury and Chisora both promised to be aggressive and push for the knockout immediately from the first bell and were true to their word in the opening round, Chisora landing body shots and more connections than Fury, who had the more powerful swings.

Those strikes from Fury became more aggressive in the second round with a dominant flurry of strong hits, Chisora taking a lot of punishment in the corner, with the onslaught continuing into the third with a series of uppercuts from the champion.

A slower tempo of rounds followed, with Chisora running out of steam, and Fury using his height and weight advantage to lean on his opponent and tire his legs, putting Chisora on the ropes in the eighth as he increased the pressure.

Chisora was showing visible signs of damage at the end of the ninth, with swelling under his right eye, and Fury remained in control as the referee observed closely, looking for one more combination to call the fight, which came in the closing stages of the 10th to complete a routine evening for the Gypsy King.

Lionel Messi has now gone past Diego Maradona for World Cup appearances and goals – and the Argentina number 10 has pulled exactly level with his predecessor on two important statistics that showcase their creative brilliance.

Saturday's hard-fought 2-1 win over Australia carried Argentina into the quarter-finals, with Messi scoring the ninth World Cup goal of his career to put Lionel Scaloni's team 1-0 in front in the first half.

That nudged Messi ahead of Maradona's career haul of eight goals, while he has moved to 23 World Cup appearances during this tournament, two ahead of his late compatriot and fellow number 10 shirt wearer's previous national team record.

Messi is just one behind Gabriel Batistuta's record of 10 World Cup goals with Argentina, and he may have that in the back of his mind ahead of Friday's last-eight clash with the Netherlands.

The Paris Saint-Germain forward is picking off records as he goes during this tournament, and he will surely overtake two more Maradona marks in that clash with Louis van Gaal's team.

That is because Messi and Maradona are now exactly level when it comes to chances created and open play chances created at the World Cup.

 

They have both created 67 chances, and with each man, 48 of those chances have come about in open play, Opta data shows.

Messi created four chances in all against Australia, including a golden opportunity for Lautaro Martinez that the substitute ballooned wastefully late in the game as Argentina looked to put the game beyond their gallant opponents.

Where Maradona beats Messi is in goal assists. Maradona's eight from 1982 to 1994 beats Messi's haul of six assists to date, since his World Cup debut at the 2006 finals.

Maradona was the driving force behind Argentina's 1986 World Cup triumph in Mexico, and later coached the national team, notably at the 2010 World Cup in South Africa.

He died in November 2020 at the age of 60.

Saturday's game against Australia was the 1,000th of Messi's career for club and country.

 

Lionel Messi celebrated his first World Cup knockout stage goal on his 1,000th career appearance by showing appreciation for Argentina's fans as he helped his country reach the quarter-finals in Qatar.

Messi opened the scoring in Argentina's 2-1 win against Australia at Ahmad bin Ali Stadium on Saturday, with Julian Alvarez doubling the lead before an Enzo Fernandez own goal caused some late nerves.

Only Gabriel Batistuta (10) has scored more World Cup goals for La Albiceleste than Messi's nine, and the captain praised the efforts of travelling fans as his team advanced to face the Netherlands in the last eight.

"I am very happy for taking another step forward and achieving another objective," Messi said at a post-match press conference. "[Australia] were very strong and it was a difficult match, we knew it would be this way.

"We played very recently and didn't have much time to rest up, so we were concerned as we knew it would be a very physical match. Luckily we found the goal, and then at two goals ahead it was easier for us.

"I am very happy to share these beautiful moments with all the fans, I know the efforts they have made to be here with us in every match. The whole of Argentina would like to be here."

Messi made his 169th appearance for Argentina, to go with 778 at Barcelona and 53 at Paris Saint-Germain. To date, he has 789 goals and 338 assists across those 1,000 games, and Australia were the 129th team he has scored against in his career.

"This bond or union that we have with the fans is something beautiful, and that's what the national team should be," Messi said.

"We were excited and eager to be together with the people again. It's unbelievable, the passion and energy they transmit."

Lionel Messi marked his 1,000th career appearance with his first ever goal in the World Cup knockout stage as Argentina reached the quarter-finals with a 2-1 win over Australia on Saturday.

Australia were content to frustrate their opponents at Ahmad bin Ali Stadium, but Messi carved the Socceroos open in trademark fashion as half-time approached – picking out the bottom-left corner to net.

If Argentina's first goal was sublime, their second bordered on the ridiculous as Australia goalkeeper Mathew Ryan gifted possession to Julian Alvarez, who made no mistake to seal the win.

Australia halved the arrears when Craig Goodwin's effort deflected off Enzo Fernandez and beyond Emiliano Martinez, but Argentina never looked likely to be pegged back as they teed up a quarter-final clash with the Netherlands.

Argentina struggled to make any early headway as Graham Arnold's men defended resolutely, but La Albiceleste had their seven-time Ballon d'Or winner to thank when they took the lead with their first real attack.

With 35 minutes gone, Messi darted inside from the right wing to latch onto Nicolas Otamendi's lay-off before planting a neat side-footed finish beyond the despairing dive of Ryan. 

Messi saw an effort deflect into Ryan's arms as Argentina chased a second after the restart, but the goalkeeper was at fault as Argentina doubled their lead with 57 minutes gone.

Ryan inexplicably tried to dribble his way out of trouble when pressed by Rodrigo De Paul and Alvarez, and the Manchester City striker applied the simplest of finishes after stealing possession.

Australia reduced the deficit out of nowhere when Goodwin's long-range strike found the bottom-right corner via Fernandez, before Lisandro Martinez denied Aziz Behich a remarkable leveller with a fine last-ditch tackle.

Substitute Lautaro Martinez went close on three occasions before Emiliano Martinez denied Garang Kuol from point-blank range at the last, but Argentina clung on to seal their progress.

The United States must be proud of their efforts at the World Cup in Qatar, but Christian Pulisic insisted the team "don't want to feel like this again."

A 3-1 defeat to the Netherlands at Khalifa International Stadium in Doha saw the USA knocked out of the competition on Saturday.

While the Dutch had a quarter-final against either Australia or Argentina to look forward to, the USA's focus will now turn to developing their young squad further ahead of the 2026 edition.

That tournament will be co-hosted by the USA, Canada and Mexico, and feature 48 countries, and Pulisic wants to see a team with title-winning quality.

"Right now, it's just tough, you know? It hurts, after a tough loss like that, we feel like we could have had more," he said.

"It's another experience for all these guys, moments that we can be proud of. We don't want to feel like this again. We want to put ourselves in a position to win tournaments like this."

Pulisic missed a golden opportunity to open the scoring three minutes into the game, seeing a close-range attempt saved by Andries Noppert.

In contrast, Memphis Depay slotted away the Netherlands' first big opportunity, with Daley Blind making it 2-0 on the stroke of half-time.

"It happened so early in the game, and he made a good save," said Pulisic, who assisted Haji Wright for the USA's goal, which was swiftly cancelled out by Denzel Dumfries at the other end.

"They defended well for the most part, but I think when their first kind of two real chances went down, they just cut back, execute it, finish.

"We were down 2-0, but it didn't feel like it should be that way. But that's what good teams do."

USA coach Gregg Berhalter is approaching the end of his contract, and did not give much clarity over what his future holds.

Antonee Robinson, however, hopes Berhalter continues in the role as the USA look to build towards 2026.

"I hope so," said the Fulham full-back. "He's given a lot of boys a chance to develop with this group, and I feel like this whole time we've shown the type football we can play."

Netherlands players shrugged off criticism about their style of play from supporters after seeing off the United States 3-1 to reach the World Cup quarter-finals.

The Oranje have attracted flak from fans and media due to the brand of football and system used by Louis van Gaal, with their classic 'Total Football' approach and 4-3-3 formation discarded.

Van Gaal prefers to deploy a back three and puts an emphasis on making the Netherlands difficult to break down, aiming to hit teams on the counter-attack.

His system was reasonably effective against the USA at the Khalifa International Stadium on Saturday, with the Netherlands soaking up pressure and catching Gregg Berhalter's men on the break.

The Netherlands were 2-0 up at half-time, and although they came under more threatening pressure in the second half with the USA pulling one back, Denzel Dumfries – who set up the first two – capped off a strong individual performance to finish the Americans off.

Fans and media alike will still probably find reasons to criticise Van Gaal's men, but for Dumfries their performance vindicated the system.

"There's a lot of criticism because we are used to it [a certain style of play], we are good on the ball," he said. "Normally we play 4-3-3, but we play a different system [now].

"But the goals today… this is everything. I gave an assist for the other full-back, Daley Blind, and he gave an assist to me, so today we showed the quality of the system.

"In the Netherlands we are used to having the ball, playing with possession. This is a different way of playing and I also understand the criticism because we can play much better with the ball, create more chances.

"But you see when we get the ball, we have qualities on the counter, very fast strikers, and it's also a strength of ours. We have to focus now to continue to make the system work perfectly."

Nathan Ake sympathised somewhat with the Netherlands' critics, even agreeing with assessments about the Oranje perhaps failing to impress despite topping Group A.

But like Dumfries, the Manchester City defender believes the defeat of the USA showed how effective Van Gaal's system can be.

It was put to him that winning is all that matters, to which he replied: "It is, it is, but sometimes I think playing well helps getting the result.

"In the first few games we were a little lucky sometimes with how we got the goals or how we played, we could've conceded, but today I think we were much more solid defensively but also attacking wise, we created so many more chances.

"I think the first few games [the critics] were right. We didn't play our best football, but we knew from inside the camp that we got the points; played bad but got the points and qualified first.

"We knew we had to play better. I think today we showed much more [of] what we can do, play through spaces.

"Sometimes we had to defend a bit more, but we know we are very dangerous on the counter-attack and we haven't shown that in the last games. Today, we showed that."

The Netherlands will play either Argentina or Australia at Lusail on Friday in their quarter-final.

Cody Gakpo and Denzel Dumfries have both made it clear their focus is on their World Cup exploits with the Netherlands amid ongoing speculation regarding their futures.

Both featured as the Dutch beat the United States 3-1 in their last-16 clash in Qatar on Saturday, with Dumfries recording a goal and two assists.

PSV forward Gakpo has been heavily linked with a move to Manchester United, and may have attracted further suitors after scoring in each of his first three World Cup appearances.

"To be honest, I'm not thinking about that now, I'm really focused on the tournament," he told reporters after the win over the USA.

"I try to keep performing well, keep helping the team, hopefully when we become world champion we can think about it."

Asked whether his future was a distraction, he added: "No not really because I just keep trying to stay focused, and the other players don't really talk about this sort of thing, and they help me also in this situation."

Dumfries is another player who has attracted speculation, and his performance against the USA would have only served to strengthen any interest.

Chelsea are among the clubs linked with a move for Dumfries, though the Inter right-back made it clear he is happy to continue in Milan when asked about interest from the Premier League side.

"The only thing I'm focused on right now is the national team, and I play for a very, very, beautiful club in Italy," he stressed.

"I'm very proud I can play for Inter. I'm not focused on anything else other than the national team and Inter.

"Of course, it's a compliment [to be linked with other clubs]. But I can tell you, when you put the Nerazzurri jersey on, that is a big compliment."

Louis van Gaal knows there is a long way to go, but declared the Netherlands can become world champions in Qatar.

Van Gaal's team progressed into the World Cup quarter-finals, where they will face either Australia or Lionel Messi's Argentina, with a 3-1 victory over the United States at Khalifa International Stadium on Saturday.

Memphis Depay and Daley Blind struck in the first half, with the excellent Denzel Dumfries – who assisted the Netherlands' first two goals – sealing the win after Haji Wright had pulled one back for the USA.

Van Gaal's pragmatic approach has seen him come in for some criticism, but his team are now just two wins away from the final, and three away from lifting the trophy for the first time in their nation's history.

"I get enough appreciation from the people around me," Van Gaal said in his post-match press conference when asked if he believed he needed to win the competition to gain respect from some of his critics.

"I know the media don't always report in a positive way, it's a given in football, but some top countries didn't progress, we still have three matches to go.

"We can become world champion. I am not saying that we will, but that we can."

According to Opta, who do not count penalty shoot-out losses as defeats, Van Gaal is unbeaten in his 11 World Cup games in charge of the Netherlands, a competition record.

The Netherlands have progressed from five of their last six round-of-16 matches at the World Cup, including progressing from their last three appearances at this stage, and while he was pleased with the outcome, Van Gaal pointed to the first half as an example of where the Oranje must up their game.

"I was very critical at half-time in my analysis I share with my players as usual," he explained.

"Despite being in the lead, we suffered so much, we were dispossessed so often, it was not necessary and that's not acceptable at a World Cup, if you play top countries you cannot make it.

"In the second half they did a much better job but nevertheless we were very pleased, and gives us incredible confidence. We will evaluate the match, then roll up our sleeves and get to work again, I can't promise any more than that."

Van Gaal will leave his role at the end of the Netherlands' campaign in Qatar, and that is serving as extra motivation for the players, according to defender Nathan Ake.

Ake told reporters: "I think you could see the fight we have, the whole team is united, everyone wants to do well for him.

"He's such an iconic figure for us and the Netherlands, so for him to do his last tournament, yeah obviously that's going to cross our mind."

Goalkeeper Andries Noppert added: "He's a really special person because he tries to make everyone better, he tries to keep it as one group. This is a special gift for a coach. 

"He gives you a really special feeling that you are all together, and for the World Cup and our squad, that's really important."

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