Stephen Curry believes the Phoenix Suns showed why they are Western Conference champions after the Golden State Warriors were defeated on Tuesday.

Phoenix (18-3) moved level with the Warriors at the top of the table with a 104-96 triumph, their record-equalling 17th straight win, matching the previous franchise-best set in 2006-07.

The Suns' defence proved vital for the win, limiting Golden State to just 61 points after quarter-time as Curry and Draymond Green finished with only 12 and eight points respectively.

Curry, who converted a meagre 4-for-21 from the field, insisted post-game that Monty Williams' side showed their championship credentials as the pair now sit with identical 18-3 records at the top of the Western Conference.

"Losses definitely jolt the system a bit," Curry told reporters at the post-game news conference. "Credit to their length and multiple efforts. 

"We'd rather win, but they're the Western Conference reigning champions for a reason. They're good.

"With all of the mistakes we did have and how terrible I shot the ball, it was a close game down the stretch. I know [Devin] Booker got hurt, but yes, it was a good learning lesson for us. Understanding the intensity and the focus we need to beat a team like that.'' 

The Warriors were held below the 100-point mark for the first time this season and it was also the first time they have not managed a century in 43 games.

The Suns had veteran guard Chris Paul and Mikal Bridges to thank for a large portion of Golden State's season-high 22 turnovers and losing coach Steve Kerr appreciated the defensive job the opposition produced.

"They frustrated us with the pick-and-roll," Steve Kerr said to reporters. "They did a really good job on Steph and Draymond in the pick-and-roll. 

"It just didn't feel like we executed some of the other stuff. Then it felt to me like we were in a rush constantly. Teams are going to commit people to Steph the way that Phoenix did.

"There are going to be openings. There are going to be openings for Jordan [Poole], openings for Otto [Porter Jr.]. 

"There are going to be openings for Klay Thompson. That's going to be fun. [There is] a lot to look forward to, but the main thing we need to take from this is that we must get better. 

"We played the Western Conference champions. They were the better team. We play them again in a few days. Let's see if we can make some improvements and carry that forward."

James Harden believes "being aggressive the entire game" was key for his starring role as the Brooklyn Nets held off the New York Knicks on Tuesday.

The Nets went down 107-113 to the Phoenix Suns on Saturday but bounced back with a tight 112-110 victory over the Knicks at the Barclays Center.

Harden struggled in the defeat to the Suns, converting just four of 16 attempted field goals, while registering seven turnovers and going none-for-six from three-point range.

However, the 2018 MVP recovered by delivering his third 30-point game of the season – finishing with 34 – as he recorded a double-double with 10 rebounds, eight assists and three steals.

The 32-year-old, who has had to deal with lingering hamstring strains since last season, credited a pre-game talk with Hall of Famer Reggie Miller for his dominant performance.

"Reggie's the one that got me going," Harden told reporters at the post-game news conference. "Ultimate confidence, ultimate 'best player in the league'-type vibe. 

"That mindset. He just hit me with some good motivation before the game – something I needed."

Brooklyn coach Steve Nash called for Harden to adopt an attacking mindset all the time prior to the meeting with the Knicks and was subsequently granted his wish.

Asked what had changed for Harden to dominate, the shooting guard responded: "Yeah, just being aggressive. Being aggressive. That's the only thing every night is my aggressiveness. I've just got to continue that.

"Just not thinking about anything but being aggressive the entire game. The second half was a little different, but we had guys get going. 

"Patty [Mills] started that second half off hot, Kevin [Durant] got going a little bit, so I was just aggressive. That's the mindset for four quarters."

Durant also chipped in with 27 points, 21 of those coming in the second half, and nine assists while crucially finding an open lane for James Johnson, whose last-gasp free throws secured the decisive two-point lead.

Durant's late show rallied the Nets to victory and the 33-year-old insisted he wants to play every available minute for Nash's side.

"I want to play for 48 minutes," Durant said. "That's just what it is. And I know a lot of people — I don't even know if they're concerned or not. 

"It's just a conversation to have. I'm playing more minutes and I'm coming off an injury and all this other stuff, but I like to play, and if I can convince coach to play me the whole second half sometimes and put me in earlier in quarters, I'm going to do it. 

"It doesn't matter. My basketball life is not that long, so I'm going to get the most out of it."

Chris Paul is confident that the Phoenix Suns depth can cover the likely loss of Devin Booker after suffering a hamstring injury in Tuesday's franchise-tying 17th consecutive win.

The Suns defeated the table-topping Golden State Warriors 104-96 despite losing Booker in the second quarter after limping out of the game with a left hamstring injury.

Phoenix head coach Monty Williams said post-game there was no update on the extent of Booker's injury but Paul, who had 15 points and 11 assists, was bullish about the side's depth.

"Just keep playing," Paul said during the post-game news conference. "It's not one guy that's gonna fill that void.

"We've got so many guys like Elfrid Payton who hadn’t played the last few games and he's ready, comes right not the game. Cam Johnson, he started the second half.

"We've got so much on this depth that if somebody does go down, somebody will step up."

The Suns defense contained the Warriors to only 18 points in the final quarter and 42 in the second half.

Paul added: "With Book going down early in the game, it was a next-man-up mentality. Like coach always says, keep the ball moving, that's all we tried to do."

Booker was averaging 23.9 points, 5.1 rebounds and 4.7 assists this season prior to the injury where he had 10 points, two rebounds and one assist to that point against the Warriors.

The 25-year-old shooting guard had missed four games after suffering a left hamstring strain last January.

"No, nothing yet," Williams said when asked about Booker's status. "We'll have more tomorrow."

Chris Paul is confident that the Phoenix Suns depth can cover the likely loss of Devin Booker after suffering a hamstring injury in Tuesday's franchise-tying 17th consecutive win.

The Suns defeated the table-topping Golden State Warriors 104-96 despite losing Booker in the second quarter after limping out of the game with a left hamstring injury.

Phoenix head coach Monty Williams said post-game there was no update on the extent of Booker's injury but Paul, who had 15 points and 11 assists, was bullish about the side's depth.

"Just keep playing," Paul said during the post-game news conference. "It's not one guy that's gonna fill that void.

"We've got so many guys like Elfrid Paton who hadn’t played the last few games and he's ready, comes right not the game. Cam Johnson, he started the second half.

"We've got so much on this depth that if somebody does go down, somebody will step up."

The Suns defense contained the Warriors to only 18 points in the final quarter and only 42 in the second half.

Paul added: "With Book going down early in the game, it was a next-man-up mentality. Like coach always says, keep the ball moving, that's all we tried to do."

Booker was averaging 23.9 points, 5.1 rebounds and 4.7 assists this season, prior to the injury where he had 10 points, two rebounds and one assist to that point against the Warriors.

The 25-year-old shooting guard had missed four games after suffering a left hamstring strain last January.

"No, nothing yet," Williams said when asked about Booker's status. "We'll have more tomorrow."

Composure was the key to the St Louis Blues stunning three-goal comeback after defeating back-to-back champions Tampa Bay Lightning 4-3 in a shootout win in the NHL on Tuesday.

The Blues trailed 3-0 at 5:29 in the opening period as Erik Cernak and Corey Perry scored five seconds apart for the Lightning.

St Louis rallied with two second period goals while Jordan Binnington made 30 saves and was perfect in the shootout.

Blues scorer Ryan O'Reilly told reporters: "The coaching staff was positive with us and had a good message of just sticking with it and build it up and knowing that there's a lot of game left. That's exactly what we did.

"I thought everyone did a good job at not being fazed. It's not what we wanted but it's a long game."

Blues coach Craig Berube said: "You've got to feel what's going on in the game. You've got to stay composed. I just told our team there's a lot of hockey, stay with it. we've got to get one back. Get some momentum going."

The Lightning had a chance to win the game in over-time after Blues forward Jordan Kyrou's penalty but could not clinch it.

"We went to overtime, we had our chances, but we didn't get it done," Lightning coach Job Cooper said. "We were a tired group at the end there."

The Phoenix Suns have tied their franchise record 17 consecutive wins and moved level with the Golden State Warriors at the top of the table by beating them in a 104-96 win on Tuesday.

The Suns' record-equalling win came without Devin Booker who suffered a left hamstring injury in the second quarter and did not return.

Deandre Ayton top scored with 24 points along with 11 rebounds while veteran guard Chris Paul had 15 points and 11 assists, but Phoenix's defense was critical to the win.

The Warriors only managed 61 points after quarter-time, with Stephen Curry and Draymond Green finishing the game with only 12 and eight points respectively.

Golden State had a season-high 22 turnovers, with Paul having five steals and Mikal Bridges also registering four steals.

The result means the Suns and Warriors both have 18-3 records across the season and will meet again on Friday.

 

Harden finds his groove

James Harden had his third 30-point game for the season, finishing with 34 points as the Brooklyn Nets won 112-110 over the New York Knicks. Harden had a double-double with 10 rebounds, eight assists and three steals, while Kevin Durant contributed 27 points and nine assists.

Top draft pick Cade Cunningham registered a career-high 26 points including five three-pointers as the Detroit Pistons lost to the Portland Trail Blazers 110-92.

In the absence of Ja Morant, Jaren Jackson Jr and Desmond Bane scored 25 and 23 points respectively  to lead the Memphis Grizzlies past the Toronto Raptors 98-91.

 

Kings struggle from range

The Sacramento Kings only managed six triples for the entire game as they were beaten by the Los Angeles Lakers, without LeBron James, 117-92. Shooting guard Terence Davis went zero-for-four from beyond the arc. Anthony Davis and Russell Westbrook had 25 and 23 points respectively in James' absence, after he entered the NBA's health and safety protocols prior to tip-off.

The Phoenix Suns have tied their franchise record 17 consecutive wins and moved level with the Golden State Warriors at the top of the table by beating them in a 104-96 win on Tuesday.

The Suns' record-equalling win came without Devin Booker who suffered a left hamstring injury in the second quarter and did not return.

Deandre Ayton top scored with 24 points along with 11 rebounds while veteran guard Chris Paul had 15 points and 11 assists, but Phoenix's defense was critical to the win.

The Warriors only managed 61 points after quarter-time, with Stephen Curry and Draymond Green finishing the game with only 12 and eight points respectively.

Golden State had a season-high 22 turnovers, with Paul having five steals and Mikal Bridges also registering four steals.

The result means the Suns and Warriors both have 18-3 records across the season and will meet again on Friday.

 

Harden finds his groove

James Harden had his third 30-point game for the season, finishing with 34 points as the Brooklyn Nets won 112-110 over the New York Knicks. Harden had a double-double with 10 rebounds, eight assists and three steals, while Kevin Durant contributed 27 points and nine assists.

Top draft pick Cade Cunningham registered a career-high 26 points including five three-pointers as the Detroit Pistons lost to the Portland Trail Blazers 110-92.

In the absence of Ja Morant, Jaren Jackson Jr and Desmond Bane scored 25 and 23 points respectively  to lead the Memphis Grizzlies past the Toronto Raptors 98-91.

 

Kings struggle from range

The Sacramento Kings only managed six triples for the entire game as they were beaten by the Los Angeles Lakers, without LeBron James, 117-92. Shooting guard Terence Davis went zero-for-four from beyond the arc. Anthony Davis and Russell Westbrook had 25 and 23 points respectively in James' absence, after he entered the NBA's health and safety protocols prior to tip-off.

Reigning MVP Aaron Rodgers says the Green Bay Packers have defied expectations amid more injuries than ever, meaning their 9-3 record "feels pretty good".

The Packers are top in the NFC North ahead of their Week 13 bye where Rodgers, who has thrown 2,878 yards for 23 touchdowns this season, will get the chance to rest a niggling toe issue.

Green Bay's impressive run has come amid injury issues to cornerback Jaire Alexander, center Josh Myers, outside linebacker Za'Darius Smith and offensive tackle David Bakhtiari, while star wide receiver Davante Adams tested positive to COVID-19 last month.

"I think we've been dealing with as many injuries as we've had throughout the years," Rodgers said during an appearance on The Pat McAfee show. "A lot of important players, starters on IR, no chance to return and some with a chance.

"Bakhtiari obviously had an opportunity, not sure when that will do. Jaire, hoping him. Za'Darius who knows? Josh Myers up in the air.

"There's a lot of those and then you have the weekly injuries we've had with Kevin King and Aaron Jones. [The bye] definitely comes at a good time.

"For us to be 9-3, not many people expected that looking at our schedule and what we've dealt with this year with Davante being out with COVID and all the injuries up front and on the defensive side of the ball, that feels pretty good."

Rodgers has been in the thick of the news, with his immunisation revelation before testing positive to COVID-19, along with his tongue-in-cheek remark about "COVID toe", all the while his side have claimed good wins against the likes of the Los Angeles Rams, Arizona Cardinals and San Francisco 49ers.

"It hasn’t been a quiet 12 weeks," he added. "I'm very happy with where we're at. Very happy to have gotten off to the star that we've gotten off to. Happy we've faced some adversity and we're moving through it and close to the other side of it."

The Packers defeated the Rams 36-28 on Sunday, with Rodgers throwing two touchdown passes, as well as completing one rushing TD.

Adams, who has five touchdowns for the season including two in Week 11 in the 34-31 loss to the Minnesota Vikings, had eight receptions against the Rams for 104 yards but no touchdowns.

"He has a lot of freedom which he should because he has such a great release pattern and he's such a smart guy," Rodgers said about Adams. "It's not like he's going outside the schematic things but he's making decisions that might not be the expected paper decisions, when you’re looking at it on paper.

"There's paper routes and there's do-whatever-you-want routes for Davante. He did it last week against Minnesota on the second touchdown, he ad-libbed that route, that's why I was a bit late getting to him.

"Normally I have a pretty good sense. You've got to read body movements. Also our conversations are very high level when it comes to those situations."

Four-time NBA MVP LeBron James has entered the league's health and safety protocols.

The 36-year-old was set to line up for the Los Angeles Lakers against the Sacramento Kings on Tuesday but was ruled out ahead of tip-off.

James is likely to be out for several games, having already missed 11 of the Lakers' 22 games this season with ankle and abdominal injuries along with a one-game suspension.

The NBA mandates a minimum of 10 days of isolation away from a player's team if they have tested positive to COVID-19, before mandatory cardiac screening and reconditioning to be cleared to return. James confirmed in September that he has been vaccinated from COVID-19.

The Lakers, who are 11-11 across the 2021-22 NBA season, are 4-7 without James in the team this campaign.

James is averaging 25.8 points, 5.2 rebounds and 6.8 assists per game from 11 games this season.

Green Bay Packers star Aaron Rodgers has insisted that he "won't miss any time" regardless of whether or not he has surgery to fix a toe issue.

The quarterback did not practice in the days prior to the Packers' 36-28 win over the Los Angeles Rams last Sunday, but played the full game.

Green Bay, who top the NFC North with a 9-3 record, now have a bye week, meaning their next fixture is not until December 13 against the Chicago Bears, giving Rodgers the chance to recover and consider his options.

NFL Media reported on Monday that the 37-year-old would not be having surgery, but Rodgers revealed that it remains a possibility, although one he would prefer to avoid.

"Comparing this Monday to last Monday I definitely feel better and same with this Tuesday to last Tuesday," Rodgers said during in an appearance on the The Pat McAfee Show.

"So, you know, I'll just keep getting treatment. We were hoping to avoid surgery, obviously, but the surgery would be such a minor one that it wouldn't be something that [would cause me] to miss time.

"That's a pre-requisite of any surgery that I have at this point, that I'm not going to miss any time. We'll kind of reassess early next week and make a decision.

Rodgers explained that, should he be forced to have an operation, it would prevent him from damaging the toe further but also immobilise it, creating a new problem that he would have to contend with for the remainder of the season.

"The surgery would immobilise the toe and that would be an issue I would be dealing with the entire season," Rodgers continued. "I would avoid any further displacement but it would immobilise the toe.

"We're hoping that, with a couple of weeks, we can get enough healing and maybe we can avoid doing that. We'll reassess, like I said, probably later this week or early next week.

"The ultimate goal is to not have to do surgery, this thing heals up a little bit better and I make it through a few more weeks."

Rodgers also hinted that members of the Packers' staff may be leaking information to the media, following the reports that suggested surgery was not an option he was considering.

"With these reports, I don't know where they're coming from," Rodgers added. 

"I don't know who's talking. It seems like there's certain coaches who may have friends in the media who they don't realise are actually just trying to report things."

Rodgers has thrown 2,878 yards for 23 touchdowns in 2021, with 247 completions and just four interceptions from 11 games played.

Amari Cooper's prospective return for the Dallas Cowboys against the New Orleans Saints is in doubt, with the wide receiver still not 100 per cent fit after his positive coronavirus test.

Cooper, who is unvaccinated, has missed the last two Cowboys games, both of which have ended in defeat.

With three losses in their last four games, the Cowboys have gone from 6-1 to 7-4 and have seen their lead in the NFC East trimmed.

Dallas will hope to get back on track against a slumping Saints team on Thursday, though they may have to do so without Cooper once more.

Asked about Cooper, Cowboys head coach Mike McCarthy said the former first-round pick is "still not feeling the best".

"My gut would be if he doesn't practice tomorrow [Wednesday], I don't see him going to the game," said McCarthy, who himself will not be able to attend Thursday's game due to COVID-19 protocols.

Cooper has made 44 catches for 583 yards and five touchdowns this season.

He has been usurped as the top option in the Cowboys' passing game by last year's first-round pick CeeDee Lamb, who has 740 receiving yards and six touchdowns in his second season.

Lamb returned to practice this week after missing last week's overtime loss to the Las Vegas Raiders with a concussion and expects to play at New Orleans.

Tyson Fury needs to defeat more of the heavyweight division to "cement his greatness", so says Shannon Briggs.

WBC champion Fury is eager to return to the ring by early 2022 following victory over Deontay Wilder in the trilogy fight between the pair in October.

But his opponent remains unclear as uncertainty lingers whether he will face Dillian Whyte, who wants to be sanctioned as the mandatory challenger for the heavyweight title.

Fury also has his eyes on a bout against Oleksandr Usyk, who claimed the WBA, WBO and IBF titles from Anthony Joshua in September.

Usyk and Joshua are set to meet again in the early months of 2022, though the latter could drop out to allow the undisputed fight and Briggs believes Fury needs to face top contenders to cement his legacy.

"I think he'll make the decision to stick around and fight guys," Briggs, who was a two-time heavyweight champion, told Stats Perform. 

"He's not very old, although he's accomplished a lot. He's had gaps in his career between lay-offs due to whatever circumstances he was dealing with. It hasn't been consistent. 

"I think that for us to cement his greatness, we need to see consistency. I think we need to see at least three to six wins from the guys in the top 10. 

"Clear out the top 10, clear out the heavyweight division, and then maybe we can say he's the greatest heavyweight of all time, due to size, due to his ability to move, his rhythm. For a big man, it's just unreal. 

"His heart, his chin – he got off the ground against one of the hardest punchers that ever lived in [Deontay] Wilder."

The undefeated Fury has 31 wins to his name, with the only blotch on his record a contentious split-decision draw against Wilder in their first clash.

Briggs appreciates the talent of 'The Gypsy King', who he implored to become more consistent to further his standing within boxing's history.

"He's shown us flashes of greatness, but we need to see one last thing," he added. 

"What makes a champion is consistency, so we need six to 10 Larry Holmes style wins, Lennox Lewis style wins, staying busy. Lennox was a busy fighter. Lennox defended his title, he fought a lot.

"We need three, four fights a year consistently for the next two years if not more. I think he's a great guy and a great fighter, but I just think we need to see consistency and consecutive wins."

Anthony Joshua stepping aside from his Oleksandr Usyk rematch would be a "great step for the heavyweight division", says former American boxer Shannon Briggs.

Joshua is set for a second bout in early 2022 with Usyk, who claimed the WBA, WBO and IBF titles on a unanimous points decision at the Tottenham Hotspur Stadium in September.

The Briton has since hinted he would step out the way for WBC champion Tyson Fury, who is awaiting a decision as to whether he has to face mandatory challenger Dillian Whyte, to challenge Usyk to crown an undisputed champion.

While believing a bout between the two British boxers, Joshua and Fury, would be an entertaining meeting, Briggs would like to see a bout to become the undisputed champion first.

"The Fury-Joshua would be a good fight," Briggs, who held a world heavyweight title twice, told Stats Perform. 

"It's a very interesting fight to analyse and to think about which Joshua is going to show up. We've got to find out which Josh was going to show up. 

"I think that if Joshua steps aside and lets Fury fight Usyk, it might not be a bad idea. I really think it might not be a bad idea, and Anthony fights the winner. 

"I think it'd be a great step for the heavyweight division, uniting the belts, and then Joshua would get the winner. He was the champion, he was the guy. I don't want to say it was a fluke, but he was upset by a great guy, a tough guy to fight. 

"I don't care who fought Usyk. Usyk is a machine. He's not like normal people. He's not like normal humans. This man can handstand on his arms for an hour. This is what I was told. This man is in phenomenal shape. 

"As the rounds go on, he gets stronger. As you can see in the Joshua fight in the 12th round, he put his foot on the gas. I think that he's going to be a tough guy to beat for Fury, for anybody. 

"Maybe not Fury because of the height and the size, but we're going to see. That's what makes it great, because the interest is there. If Joshua is to step aside and let him fight Usyk, it might not be bad. Just a thought, and then he fights the winner."

Indeed, Usyk is a phenomenal machine, having held world champion status in two weight classes while he is one of only four boxers to simultaneously hold the WBA, WBC, IBF and WBO titles.

Briggs, who collected 53 of his 60 wins via knockout, appreciates the class of Usyk as he reiterated the 34-year-old's impressive abilities.

"Again, like I said earlier, the fight with Usyk is a battle," he added. "It's not an easy fight, it's a tough fight. 

"It's a 50-50 chance. [Actually], it's more like a 60-40 chance that you lose because he's in phenomenal shape, he's a freak of nature, and he's not normal. 

"On top of all of that, he's a southpaw. It's awkward, it's coming from another way. You've got to have super conditioning and step to him. 

"You've got to be able to punish him and knock him out, but you can't be boxing him from the outside. You've got to wear him down. He's slippery, he's moving, he's awkward. You've got to be in tip-top shape to beat a guy like that."

It's Week 13 in the NFL and the fantasy playoffs are on the horizon.

If you're near the bottom of your league's standings, it's probably game over, time to focus on Christmas shopping and plan for next year.

Yet if you're in the midst of a battle for a playoff spot or fighting to secure a top seed, it's never been more important to consistently nail your starting lineup selections.

Stats Perform is once again here with a helping hand, looking at four offensive players and a defense who deserve to be fantasy starters this week.

 

Quarterback: Carson Wentz, Indianapolis Colts @ Houston Texans

An otherwise explosive performance from Wentz, in which he threw for 306 yards and three touchdowns, against the Tampa Bay Buccaneers was undermined by a pair of interceptions, though one of those picks came on a last-gasp Hail Mary attempt.

Turnovers could well be a problem again versus the lowly Texans, whose defense is fifth in the NFL with 20 takeaways, but that should not prohibit fantasy managers from slotting Wentz into their lineup against one of the league's worst teams.

The reverse fixture back in Week 6 saw Wentz average over 11 yards per attempt and, with his 20-5 touchdown to interception ratio the fourth-best in the league, the likely outcome is that the former second overall pick manages to avoid turnovers en route to a productive fantasy performance.

Running Back: Elijah Mitchell, San Francisco 49ers @ Seattle Seahawks

Mitchell is one half of a devastating two-headed monster leading the 49ers' running game, and he and ultra-versatile wide receiver Deebo Samuel have gashed teams at will over the course of San Francisco's three-game winning streak.

The Niners are averaging 130.9 rush yards per game, the sixth-most in the NFL, and racked up 208 yards on the ground in their Week 12 win over the Minnesota Vikings, sixth-round rookie Mitchell contributing 133 of them in his fourth 100-yard performance of the season.

This week, that aforementioned monster will be minus Samuel due to a groin injury, meaning potentially greater workloads for Mitchell and fellow tailback Jeff Wilson Jr. against a Seahawks team dead last in average time of possession. All signs point to San Francisco controlling the clock against a slumping Seattle outfit and setting up Mitchell to continue his outstanding first year in the league.

Wide Receiver: Jaylen Waddle, Miami Dolphins vs. New York Giants

The Dolphins are surging, winning four in a row, and so is their first-round pick, whose performances over the last two weeks have made his status as the sixth overall selection look less dubious.

Having caught eight passes for 65 yards against the New York Jets in Week 11, Waddle exploded for nine catches, 137 yards and a touchdown as the Dolphins thrashed the Carolina Panthers last Sunday.

Waddle has been targeted at least eight times in five of his last six games and, even against a Giants defense that has been largely stingy of late, that share of the workload makes the speedster an intriguing play, especially in points per reception leagues.

Tight End: Rob Gronkowski, Tampa Bay Buccaneers @ Atlanta Falcons

Gronkowski appears to have shaken off the injury problems that have plagued his 2021 season and has 13 catches for 194 yards over the last two weeks.

Antonio Brown could finally return from an ankle problem to eat into Gronkowski's targets but, against a Falcons team that has conceded 40 points in each of the last two matchups with the Bucs, he should still thrive when targeted by Tom Brady to an extent that makes him an obvious starter in fantasy football.

Defense: Arizona Cardinals @ Chicago Bears

It still isn't clear whether quarterback Kyler Murray will return for the Cardinals after missing the last three games with an ankle injury, but the NFC's top seed should be able to lean on their defense to secure victory in Chicago even if Murray cannot go.

The Cardinals rank eighth in yards per play allowed with 5.27 and get to go against a Bears offense that has allowed the most sacks (37) in the NFL and could only manage 16 points against the Detroit Lions in a miserable Thanksgiving game.

Regardless of whether it is Andy Dalton or Justin Fields at quarterback for the Bears, the Cardinals' defense will be a strong fantasy play.

Tiger Woods wants to make his return to professional golf in next year's Open Championship at St Andrews, his "favourite golf course in the world."

The former world number one and 15-time major champion suffered serious injuries to his right leg after a car crash in February and previously revealed he had feared the limb would have to be amputated.

However, the 45-year-old is now targeting a part-time comeback to competitive golf and has his eyes on a tournament that is particularly special to him.

"I would love to play at St Andrews, no doubt about it," Woods said. "It's my favourite golf course in the world. Even the Champions' Dinner is really neat to be part of.

"I attended my first one in 2005 and Peter Thomson was still alive at that time. I was sat next to him and to hear him tell his stories was awesome.

"It's like at the Masters. Those dinners are priceless. It's an honour to be part of a room like that.

"I'd love to be able to play that Open Championship and hopefully I can."

Woods had previously returned from major back surgery to claim a shock 2019 Masters victory but on Monday he ruled out a full-time return this time around.

He accepts his days at the very top of the sport are likely over after the injuries he sustained earlier this year, though Woods was philosophical about the situation.

"I don't foresee this leg ever being what it used to be," Woods added on Tuesday. "The clock's ticking. I'm not getting any younger.

"I won't have the opportunity to practice [the way I used to] given the condition of my leg. That's okay.

"As far as playing at the tour level, I don't know when that's going to happen. I'll play a round here and there. A hit and giggle.

"To see some of my shots fall out of the sky a lot shorter than they used to is eye-opening but at least I'm able to do it again."

Jack Kirby of Barbados became the first English-speaking swimmer to win a medal at the Pan Am Junior Games on Sunday.

Kirby won bronze in the Men’s 100m backstroke, in a time of 56.18, behind silver medallist Patrick Groters of Aruba and gold medallist, Diego Salgado of Mexico.

He’s the second medallist for Barbados at the Pan Am Games since countryman Bradley Ally won a bronze medal in the 200m individual medley at the 2007 Games in Rio De Janeiro.

Kirby also became the third English-speaking Caribbean medallist in the 100m Backstroke after George Bovell III of Trinidad and Tobago won silver at the 2003 Games in Santo Domingo and Dylan Carter, also from Trinidad, won bronze in 2019 in Lima.

On Monday, Cayman’s Jillian Crooks finished 3rd in the B final of the Women’s 50m freestyle in 26.73.

Nikolai Blackman from Trinidad won the B final in the Men’s 50m freestyle in 23.47 while Lamar Taylor of the Bahamas was third in 23.61.

 

Nikola Jokic bounced back to Denver Nuggets duty as though he had never been away as the win at Miami Heat was described by coach Michael Malone as "a great pain reliever".

The superstar Serbian, MVP in the NBA last season, had missed four successive games because of a wrist injury amid Denver's six-game slide.

That was their worst such stretch since 2014-15 and saw them fall away after making a 9-4 start to the season, but prospects for Malone's men are looking up now that Jokic is fit.

After sinking the Heat 120-111 in Miami, there was a warm mix of emotion and relief in the Nuggets' locker room.

Jokic posted 24 points, 15 rebounds and seven assists, and seemingly that effort had changed everything.

Bones Hyland, the 21-year-old Nuggets point guard, shot a career-high 19 points including five three-pointers, and said: "It felt good going back into the locker room.

"I felt as though the guys were trying to win so bad just because Nikola was out. We know what he provides, and we were trying to fill his shoes and those are big shoes to fill.

"Him being back, everybody's a team now, playing through him, and it felt good for sure."

Malone had to search for the correct terminology to describe the post-game emotion.

"I don't know if relief is the right word, but there was definitely some joy, some smiles, some hugs," said the coach.

"As corny as that sounds, man, winning is a great pain reliever. We've all been down in the dumps and to get this win tonight kind of just stops all of that and allows us to get back to feeling good about ourselves."

He said playing without Jokic had been "a little bit different" to losing any other player.

Quoted on NBA.com, Malone struck an upbeat tone, saying: "I love the guys in the locker room. I'll go to war with them. Obviously, tonight was just one win. But after losing six in a row, by no means have we said, 'We're gonna change our goals now'. There's 62 games left, so much basketball to be played. So, you move on and play another day."

Jokic was not given an easy ride by the Miami crowd, facing boos every time he touched the ball due to the dust-up he and the Heat's Markieff Morris had in a November 8 game. Morris has missed 11 consecutive games since the incident.

He is big enough to handle such hostility though, saying afterwards: "I played in Serbia, so I wish you guys could feel that."

The 26-year-old Jokic is averaging 26.2 points, 13.7 rebounds and 6.4 assists this season, so ostensibly this was a par performance. How the Nuggets had missed him at his most routine though.

Jokic felt there was a collective improvement in the team, adding: "Everybody played well. We had seven players in double figures. So, everybody shared the ball. Everybody touched it."

Nikola Jokic's return proved the perfect tonic for the slumping Denver Nuggets after the reigning MVP helped snap a six-game slide in a 120-111 victory over the Miami Heat.

All eyes were on Jokic, who had missed four straight games because of a wrist injury amid Denver's worst six-game stretch since the 2014-15 season.

There was also plenty of interest as the Nuggets and Heat renewed hostilities for the first time since Jokic and Miami's Markieff Morris were involved in a dustup on November 8.

Jokic received a one-game ban after shoving Morris in the back as tempers flared – the Nuggets star reacting angrily after the Heat veteran came in with a hard foul, catching his opponent with a left elbow to the chest.

While the Heat were shorthanded in the absence of Morris – who has missed 11 consecutive games since the incident, Jimmy Butler and Tyler Herro, Miami fans let their feelings known, booing Jokic every time he touched the ball.

Jokic, with his two brothers behind the Denver bench, was not fussed as he posted 24 points, 15 rebounds and seven assists.

Double-doubles from Bam Adebayo (24 points and 13 rebounds) and Kyle Lowry (17 points and 14 assists) were not enough for the Heat.

 

Doncic matches Robertson

Luka Doncic had 25 points, 10 assists and 10 rebounds in the Dallas Mavericks' 114-96 loss to the Cleveland Cavaliers. He tied Hall of Famer Oscar Robertson for the most triple-doubles (38) before turning 23. Mavericks star Doncic celebrates his 23rd birthday in February.

Lonzo Ball earned family bragging rights after the Chicago Bulls outlasted the Charlotte Hornets 133-119. Up against brother LaMelo and the Hornets, Lonzo's Balls prevailed thanks to Nikola Vucevic (30 points and 14 rebounds), DeMar DeRozan (28 points) and Zach LaVine (25 points). According to Stats Perform, Chicago are the first team to have a starting guard (LaVine), starting forward (DeRozan) and starting center (Vucevic) have 25-plus points, five-plus rebounds and five-plus assists in the same game since the Orlando Magic in January 1994. LaMelo Ball's 18 points and 13 assists were not enough for the Hornets.

Seth Curry put up 24 points on 10-of-13 shooting as the Philadelphia 76ers held on to beat the Magic 101-96 at home. The 76ers are riding a five-game winning streak against the Magic – their longest such streak against Orlando.

Jonas Valanciunas nailed seven of his three-point attempts as he torched the Los Angeles Clippers in a 39-point and 15-rebound performance, the New Orleans Pelicans triumphing 123-104.

 

Lillard struggles in Blazers loss

Much was said about All-Star Damian Lillard heading into the season amid question marks over his future with the Portland Trail Blazers. Had he outgrown the smalltown market? Well, his topsy-turvy campaign continued after scoring just 11 points on four-of-12 shooting from the floor in the 129-107 defeat at the Utah Jazz.

Rookie of the Year candidate Josh Giddey had a game to forget as fellow strugglers the Houston Rockets eased past the Oklahoma City Thunder 102-89. In 25 minutes, Giddey made only one of his nine shots from the field, missing his five three-point attempts for two points in total.

Wander Franco wants to bring a World Series title to the Tampa Bay Rays following his record-setting contract extension with the MLB franchise.

Franco finalised a mouth-watering 11-year, $182million contract in Tampa, where the deal includes a club option for the 2033 season, on Saturday.

It is the largest financial commitment to a player in the Rays' 24-year history, while it is also the biggest deal in MLB history for a player with less than a year of major league service time.

Franco, who made his debut in June, enjoyed a remarkable season after recording a 43-game on-base streak to tie Cincinnati's Frank Robinson (1956) for the longest in MLB history among player aged under 21.

The 20-year-old shortstop helped the Rays win the American League (AL) East – Tampa Bay clinching back-to-back titles for the first time in franchise history with a record 100 victories before falling to the Boston Red Sox in the AL Division Series (ALDS).

"I'm really happy for this opportunity, and the one thing I want to do is bring a championship to the organisation," Franco said during Monday's news conference as the Rays target a maiden World Series championship.

"With this, I can help my family and have nothing in my mind when I'm playing on the field … and be happy with this opportunity."

Franco also finished third in the AL Rookie of the Year voting after slashing .288/.347/.463 with 18 doubles, five triples and seven home runs in 2021.

"The Rays have given me the support that I need, the development, the people that they have here," Franco said. "I wish to stay here for my whole career."

Rays president of baseball operations Erik Neander added: "The chance for a homegrown star to be with the club for the foreseeable future, that in and of itself is a really big deal.

"Our on-field goal is to win a World Series, and as we've said many times over now, our desired approach to making that happen is to be as competitive as possible in as many years as possible.

"This commitment certainly increases our confidence that we're going to continue to be competitive and eventually be that last team standing."

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