NBA

Suns sizzle with 15th straight win and Curry's Warriors roll on as LeBron's Lakers fall in triple OT

By Sports Desk November 27, 2021

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.

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  • Cody Gakpo, Mohammed Kudus and the breakout prospects of the World Cup group stage Cody Gakpo, Mohammed Kudus and the breakout prospects of the World Cup group stage

    Once every four years players from across the globe get a chance to perform on the world stage and force their way into the football zeitgeist.

    Whether it is a young midfielder from Ghana who has been battling injuries the past couple of seasons, or a mercurial Dutch forward trying to push his way out of the Eredivisie, it is the perfect launchpad to alter the course of a player's career.

    Stats Perform has identified four players who have lit up Qatar and, in turn, have seen their profile and transfer stock skyrocket, opening the door to a new world of possibilities come the January transfer window.

    Take a look at these young leading lights...

    Cody Gakpo, the Netherlands

    Cody Gakpo has perhaps been the breakout star of the tournament, finding the back of the net in all three of the Netherlands' group matches.

    Having spent his entire career with PSV, the 23-year-old six-foot-four forward took a huge step forward in the 2021-22 season when he shattered his best goal return, following up his 11 goals in the 2020-21 campaign with 21 last time out.

    While those in the Netherlands set-up were waiting to see if he could replicate his terrific 12 months, he has taken another leap, with 12 goals and 14 assists in 19 combined Eredivisie and Europa League contests this term.

    There were rumours in the most recent transfer window that Leeds United were among the clubs looking to lure Gakpo away from PSV for a fee in the range of €30million, but he opted to reject their contract offer in the hope of landing at one of Europe's biggest clubs.

    That bet on himself has proven to be a masterstroke, with his performances on the Qatar stage well and truly putting him on the radar of Champions League sides including Real Madrid, Liverpool and Bayern Munich, per Dutch journalist Marco Timmer.

    He became the first player from any European nation since 2002 to score in each group match, while he also became only the second player to put his side 1-0 up in all three group fixtures.

    Enzo Fernandez, Argentina

    Just over six months ago, Enzo Fernandez was playing for River Plate back in Argentina, but just half a season after arriving at Benfica for a deal worth up to €18m, the attacking midfielder could be moving on to greener pastures.

    Fernandez, 21, broke into the Argentina squad while still with River Plate, but did not receive his senior debut until September 24 this year.

    His lead-up to the World Cup was strong enough to book his ticket to Qatar, and after coming off the bench in Argentina's first group-stage loss to Saudi Arabia, he came on and scored against Mexico, forcing his way into the starting XI before contributing an assist against Poland.

    His rapid rise has not gone unnoticed, and Marca is reporting Benfica have slapped a €100m fee on their new star if any team wants to pry him away while his contract still has another four seasons locked in.

    Real Madrid are one side said to be accepting of that figure, with Marca claiming they now view him as an alternative option to Borussia Dortmund and England prodigy Jude Bellingham.

    Mohammed Kudus, Ghana

    Ajax's Mohammed Kudus had begun to break out at the club level this season heading into the World Cup.

    The 22-year-old central midfielder scored four goals – including one each against Liverpool and Napoli – while adding two assists in six Champions League fixtures.

    After being awarded his first senior international cap for Ghana back in 2019, he was spotted at Danish side Nordsjaelland and brought over to Ajax for a €9m fee in 2020.

    He missed extended stretches of both the 2020-21 and 2021-22 campaigns through injuries, and still has not been used as a guaranteed starter this season, but his emergence on the World Cup stage has been undeniable.

    Against South Korea, Kudus delivered Ghana their only win of the group as he found the back of the net twice in a 3-2 triumph, and it was a performance that is said to have caught the eye of European powerhouses.

    Fichajes named Liverpool, Chelsea, Real Madrid and Paris Saint-Germain as interested parties, and Sports Illustrated believe his price will be around £90m.

     

    Harry Souttar, Australia

    Australia have now qualified for five World Cups in a row, but after not winning a game at both the 2014 and 2018 editions, they had centre-back Harry Souttar to thank for finally taking three points against Tunisia.

    Souttar, 24, stands at a towering six-foot-six and showed off an impressive ability to cover ground in a hurry when he was called upon for a potentially game-saving, last-man challenge to defend Australia's 1-0 lead.

    It was one of the most spectacular defensive efforts of the tournament so far and one that will go down in Australian football folklore, and it is even more significant when taking into account his recent history.

    Tipped as a potential £20m transfer target late in 2021, Souttar then tore his ACL and missed 12 months of action, returning to the field in time to get three games under his belt with Stoke City before jetting off to the World Cup.

    While he could be forgiven for needing time to work his way into form, he has instead started all three group games and been the Socceroos' top performer, including his stellar efforts in a second clean sheet against Denmark to help his side through to the knockout stage.

    Clearly back to the player he was before his injury – at least – Souttar's showings on the world stage have been the kind that can take a career to a new level.

  • Bucks forward Middleton happy to be back after first match since April Bucks forward Middleton happy to be back after first match since April

    Khris Middleton was happy to get minutes under his belt despite defeat after he played his first game since April for the Milwaukee Bucks against the Los Angeles Lakers.

    A rampant pair of performances from Anthony Davis and LeBron James – who scored 44 points and passed Magic Johnson on the all-time NBA assists list respectively – saw the visitors downed 133-129.

    But even with the loss, it marked a major landmark for the Bucks as they welcomed back forward Middleton to their line-up, having seen him sidelined since April's playoffs.

    With 17 points and seven assists, the 31-year-old kept himself busy throughout, and expressed his delight at getting back on the floor with the rest of his team-mates.

    "It felt really good to be back out there with the guys competing, playing," he said. "[I've got] a range of emotions.

    "[I've] been through a lot these last couple months - happy, sad, anxious, nervous. To finally get out there and play and get a lot of those nerves past me, it felt pretty good."

    The Bucks head to the Charlotte Hornets as part of a back-to-back on Saturday, but head coach Mike Budenholzer suggested Middleton will not be played again so quickly in succession.

    "To have Khris back is huge for us," he added. "[It is] pretty impressive how seamlessly he got back into the game, [at] both ends of the court.

    "We talk a lot about how Khris, he's just a basketball player. He's a smart player [who] just understands the game. [He is] not overly reliant on athleticism or things like that.

    "For him to come back and be able to catch a good rhythm – he's got to keep working but a big step for us tonight to get Khris Middleton back."

  • Warren comeback 'felt like a dream' as Nets forward ends two-year injury layoff Warren comeback 'felt like a dream' as Nets forward ends two-year injury layoff

    T.J. Warren ended a two-year exodus from the court after making his Brooklyn Nets debut in Friday's 114-105 win over the Toronto Raptors.

    The small forward, who last played on December 29, 2020 with the Indiana Pacers, has been out since with a succession of surgeries for a left foot injury.

    With Kyrie Irving's 27-point haul leading the hosts to victory at Barclays Center, Warren scored 10 and posted four rebounds over a 17-minute spell off the bench.

    To finally get back on the floor, however, was the big success of the night for the 29-year-old, who was delighted to put his injury nightmare behind him.

    "It almost felt like a dream," he said. "As soon as I checked in, it kind of hit me like, 'Wow, this is real.' Once I got up and down it was just like, 'All right, this is basketball.'.

    "It was just super fun to be out there and compete with the guys."

    Team-mate Kevin Durant was also happy to see Warren, who signed with the Nets in July, tick off a major milestone on his road back to the top of the professional game.

    "He's a poised guy," he added. "He showed that he belongs out here. It felt like he didn't really miss too much of a [beat]. Two years he missed? It didn't feel like that.

    "But we still got to be patient with him. We still understand that he had tough injuries, and he spent a lot of time away from the game, but he looked great to me."

    The Nets will next face the Boston Celtics on Sunday, as they look to strengthen their hand in the Eastern Conference in the run-up to Christmas.

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