NBA

Curry's 33 points lead Warriors to eighth straight win, LeBron's Lakers claim grudge game

By Sports Desk November 29, 2021

The Golden State Warriors continue to set the pace in the NBA after Stephen Curry fuelled the league-leading franchise to a 105-90 win over the Los Angeles Clippers.

Curry put up a game-high 33 points and the red-hot Warriors celebrated their eighth consecutive victory on Sunday.

The two-time MVP also had six assists, six steals and five rebounds as the Warriors improved to 18-2 this season.

Golden State had 19 steals in total at Staples Center, where Paul George (30 points) and the Clippers shot just 40 per cent from the field.

The Warriors have held their opponents to under 50 per cent shooting in all 20 games this season – Golden State have the best defensive rating and opponent field goal percentage in 2021-22.

 

 

Lakers win grudge match

The Los Angeles Lakers outlasted the lowly Detroit Pistons 110-106 as the two teams renewed hostilities for the first time since LeBron James and Isaiah Stewart were ejected following a melee. James had struck Stewart in the face – drawing blood, sparking wild scenes as the Pistons big man repeatedly charged at the Lakers superstar on November 21. On Sunday, James scored 33 points and tallied nine assists to help the Lakers. Anthony Davis (24 points and 10 rebounds) and Russell Westbrook (25 points and nine rebounds) also contributed in LA.

Defending champions the Milwaukee Bucks eased past the Indiana Pacers 118-100 for their seventh successive victory. Giannis Antetokounmpo had a day out with 26 points and 13 rebounds.

 

Tatum overshadows Celtics triumph

The Boston Celtics left Canada with a 109-97 win against the Toronto Raptors, but it was a miserable outing for All-Star Jayson Tatum. While he had 10 assists and seven rebounds, Tatum finished with just eight points on two-of-16 shooting in a team-high 38 minutes. He also recorded four turnovers.

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    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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