In a season when players are prone to missing time due to COVID-19 protocols, injury maintenance and routine rest, any single regular-season game rarely feels meaningful.

The Brooklyn Nets’ 138-112 thumping of the Chicago Bulls on Wednesday, however, seemed to make a statement about the pecking order at the top of the Eastern Conference.

The Bulls maintain the best record in the East at 27-12, two games ahead of the Nets, but Brooklyn used a dominant second-half surge to display how astronomically high the team’s ceiling is.

Playing in front of a frenzied crowd, the Bulls matched the Nets shot-for-shot for a while, and the game was tied at 71 early in the third quarter. Brooklyn responded by tightening its grip on the defensive end of the floor and playing the last 8:29 of the quarter on a 30-8 run.

Chicago opened the fourth quarter by turning the ball over four times in five possessions, and the Brooklyn lead grew to as much as 38 before both teams removed their marquee players – a scary reminder to rest of the NBA that a juggernaut is looming in the East.

Irving makes the difference

With Kyrie Irving declining to get vaccinated against COVID-19, the Nets opened the season without him and played well with either Kevin Durant or James Harden running the show. Part of the luxury of having three of the league’s top 15 players is that one injury – or one bizarre soap opera centered around medical choices and municipal rules – doesn’t derail the season.

The Nets’ trio of All-Stars has still played only 16 games together, including the playoffs, but the early returns show that having Durant, Harden and Irving all on the court at the same time makes for a historically great offense.

The Nets’ change of heart to allow Irving to be a road-only, part-time player may have vaulted them to the top of the NBA title conversation.

With Durant, Harden and Irving on the court together, the Nets are scoring 125.4 points per 100 possessions. For comparison, the Utah Jazz have the NBA’s most efficient offense over the course of this entire season at 114.2 points per 100 possessions.

In all other scenarios over the past two seasons, including those when Durant and Harden play together, the Nets have operated with an offensive efficiency of 113.1 – an impressive number but one that is noticeably less than 125.4.

Nets, With/Without Kevin Durant, James Harden & Kyrie Irving On Court - Since 2020-21 (reg & post)

  With All  All Other Lineups Points/100 125.4 113.1 Opp Points/100 110.2 108.3 Point Diff/100 +15.2 +4.8 FG Pct .535 .481 Opp FG Pct .450 .449 3-Pt Pct .418 .449 Opp 3-Pt Pct .350 .347

Due to New York regulations, Irving can’t play home games for the Nets, but he is permitted to participate in most road games. After scoring 22 points in each of his first two games of the season, Irving needed just nine points in Wednesday’s blowout of the Bulls. His impact, however, is not lost on head coach Steve Nash.

“Kyrie definitely is another huge threat on the floor, whether he scores nine points or 29,” Nash told reporters. “Clearly you lose a generational talent when he’s not in the lineup.

“But there’s a level we reached (on Wednesday night) – with the purpose, the pace, the spirit, the resolve – that I thought was really important for our group to see how successful they can be when they do that.

“Even without Kyrie, can we bring that same level more often than not? If we do, we’ll get back to a top-10 defense like we were for most of the year and get back to pushing for the top spot in the East. But it’s hard work. It’s not easy, and you’ve got to do it day-in and day-out.”

Nash’s point rang true just a day later, when the Nets were beat 130-109 at home on Thursday by the Oklahoma City Thunder, albeit without Irving and Durant.

Brooklyn’s title hopes very well could come down to finding a way around the local regulations that prevent unvaccinated players like Irving from playing in New York, since the trio has already proven to be lethal.

Harden back in form

One powerful force allowing the Nets to climb toward the top of the East has been the re-emergence of Harden.

The league’s officials opened the season determined to stop rewarding offensive players for flailing and flopping in ways that aren’t natural to basketball, and some of the league’s brightest stars saw a sharp decline in free throw attempts, Harden included.

It is fair to say he has since adjusted.

Through the first 12 games of the season, Harden was averaging just 18.2 points per game and was attempting an average of just 4.7 free throws per game.

Since Nov. 12, Harden is scoring 24.8 points per game and attempting 9.8 free throws per contest.

The nine-time All-Star still isn’t shooting as efficiently as he typically does but has continued to thrive as one of the league’s best distributors. Harden’s 9.9 assists per game trail only Chris Paul’s 10.1 in the league this season. Harden is averaging 3.0 assists in both the first and third quarters, when he mostly plays with Durant and the rest of the starting unit.

His numbers will never again be as impressive as they were in Houston, where Harden was essentially a one-man offense, but he has adapted very well to playing alongside other stars and focusing a bit more on distribution – something that many critics doubted after he spent so long as the lone focal point with the Rockets.

Durant No. 1?

Durant remains the most reliable and lethal scorer in the league today, and his overall game puts him in the discussion for the best player in the world. He has played so well that it is easy to forget that he was rehabilitating from a ruptured Achilles tendon just 13 months ago.

Durant carried an incredible load in the last year’s playoffs, playing over 40 minutes per game, averaging 34.3 points and getting within a toe’s length of knocking out the eventual champion Milwaukee Bucks in the Eastern Conference semifinals.

The Bucks’ Giannis Antetokounmpo may be the only other player with a claim to be the best in the world right now after winning two MVPs and a championship over the past three seasons.

But Durant’s ball-handling and outside shooting make him feel like a more traditional creator of offense, and his playoff resume credentials speak for themselves after he won back-to-back titles and Finals MVPs with the Golden State Warriors.

The bench brings the right blend

Lost in the excitement over Durant, Harden and Irving playing together Wednesday in Chicago was how well the supporting cast played, even with Joe Harris, LaMarcus Aldridge and Nicolas Claxton missing the game.

Rookies Day’Ron Sharpe and Kessler Edwards were forced into starting roles and heavy minutes against the Bulls and met the challenge head-on. Sharpe was especially productive, totaling 20 points and seven rebounds in by far the best game of his young career.

The shooting of 13th-year guard Patty Mills has proven to be a crucial part of Brooklyn’s offense, and his 6-for-8 performance from behind the 3-point line against the Bulls indicates he will remain vital in the postseason.

This blend of youth and experience bodes very well for the Nets down the stretch. Sharpe, Edwards, Cameron Thomas and David Duke Jr. have all had impressive moments this season and have plenty of room to grow.

Mills, Aldridge, Harris, Blake Griffin and even Paul Millsap bring plenty of experience that will be appreciated this spring. And while at least a few of Brooklyn’s depth players will be cut from the playoff rotation, the roster appears to have the flexibility to account for unique playoff matchups.

The bottom line

While depth will play a role, the Nets will only go as far as their three stars take them this season.

The regular season will likely continue to be a roller coaster ride, full of ups and downs. Brooklyn has used 20 different starting lineups in 41 games this season, second most in the league, and that is a recipe for inconsistent results.

But this team made a statement in Wednesday’s road rout of the Bulls, showing what the whole league has feared since last season: Durant, Harden and Irving have the talent and chemistry to be one of the most potent NBA trios ever, and the Nets should be considered title favorites as long as all three can take the floor.

Novak Djokovic's Australian Open fate will be determined on Sunday although it remains to be decided if it will be in front of a full court or single judge.

Saturday's hearing was procedural with Justice David O'Callaghan transferring the matter to the Federal Court of Australia as agreed by both parties' lawyers for a 9:30am AEDT start.

The hearing was adjourned with the only contention that Djokovic's lawyers are in favour of the case being held before more than one judge, meaning no appeal to the full bench is possible.

Stephen Lloyd, who was appearing on behalf of the Minister for Immigration and Citizenship, did not agree, with the court expected to make a decision later on Saturday.

“We say there isn’t a justification for stepping out of the ordinary," Lloyd told the court.

Djokovic's visa was revoked for a second time on Friday despite the 34-year-old winning his initial case on Monday.

The Serbian world number one is fighting the decision, and lawyer Nick Wood, on behalf of Djokovic, contended in a directions hearing on Friday evening that the "underlying new rationale" behind the Australian government's latest move to kick out the Serbian is that it contends his presence "will excite anti-vax sentiment".

Wood said immigration minister Alex Hawke had given no consideration to the impact that deporting Djokovic may have among those opposed to COVID-19 vaccines, saying his client was of "negligible risk", "of good standing" and had a medical contraindication to a vaccine.

In a statement released on Friday, Hawke said the decision had been taken "on health and good order grounds, on the basis that it was in the public interest to do so".

The Australian Open is due to commence on Monday where Djokovic was aiming for his 10th Melbourne slam. Djokovic was also hoping to challenge for a record-breaking 21st major title.

Djokovic is scheduled to face countryman Miomir Kecmanovic in the first round in Melbourne on Monday.

Novak Djokovic was detained once again by Australian border force officials ahead of Saturday's crucial hearing, according to widespread reports.

It was agreed in court on Friday that the world number one would be detained in Melbourne, ahead of a hearing that will take place with justice David O'Callaghan from the Federal Court on Saturday at 10:15 (Friday 23:15 GMT).

Djokovic, whose visa was revoked for a second time on Friday despite the 34-year-old winning his initial case on Monday, was granted permission to remain at his accommodation but it was agreed he would be detained at 08:00 in Melbourne when he was due to report for an interview with immigration officials.

The 34-year-old is fighting the decision, and lawyer Nick Wood, on behalf of Djokovic, contended in a directions hearing on Friday evening that the "underlying new rationale" behind the Australian government's latest move to kick out the Serbian is that it contends his presence "will excite anti-vax sentiment".

Wood said immigration minister Alex Hawke had given no consideration to the impact that deporting Djokovic may have among those opposed to COVID-19 vaccines, saying his client was of "negligible risk", "of good standing" and had a medical contraindication to a vaccine.

In a statement released on Friday, Hawke said the decision had been taken "on health and good order grounds, on the basis that it was in the public interest to do so".

Djokovic has expressed opposition to vaccine mandates in the past and has confirmed he has not been vaccinated against coronavirus.

The case has been transferred from the Federal Circuit Court to the Federal Court of Australia, judge Anthony Kelly said, and will take place via videolink.

Whatever decision is made, this is woeful preparation for Djokovic ahead of the tournament where he was planning to mount an assault on a 10th Australian Open title, and a record-setting 21st grand slam.

Djokovic will then be allowed to attend meetings with his solicitors in person from 10:00 to 14:00 on Saturday, accompanied by Border Force officials, before returning to a detention hotel until he is reunited with his solicitors from 09:00 on Sunday.

To avoid possible disorder on the streets, he is set to meet his legal team away from their Melbourne offices, where fans gathered and unruly behaviour took place following Djokovic's first effort to clear a path to play at the tournament that begins on Monday.

Should Djokovic lose his case, he faces being deported from Australia.

If the All-Pro team is anything to go by, Aaron Rodgers is set to win the NFL MVP in a landslide.

The Associated Press announced the league's All-Pro team on Friday, the regular season having come to a dramatic conclusion last Sunday.

Rodgers, having enjoyed another stunning season for the NFC's top seed the Green Bay Packers, unsurprisingly was named as the first-team quarterback.

He earned 34 of the 50 votes and, with the same voters casting their ballots for MVP, Rodgers looks a shoo-in to claim that award for the fourth time.

One voter, Hub Arkush, had said he would not vote for Rodgers following a season in which the QB courted controversy after he tested positive for coronavirus having previously stated he was "immunised" against the virus when he is in fact not vaccinated.

But few look set to follow that lead and take their vote away from Rodgers on this evidence.

His team-mate and favourite target Davante Adams was one of five players to be unanimously named first-team All-Pro.

Adams was joined in that regard by Los Angeles Rams wide receiver Cooper Kupp, NFL rushing champion Jonathan Taylor of the Indianapolis Colts, Pittsburgh Steelers edge rusher T.J. Watt and Rams defensive tackle Aaron Donald.

All-Pro First Team in full:

OFFENSE

Quarterback: Aaron Rodgers, Green Bay Packers

Running Back: Jonathan Taylor, Indianapolis Colts

Tight End: Mark Andrews, Baltimore Ravens

Wide Receivers: Davante Adams, Green Bay Packers; Cooper Kupp, Los Angeles Rams; Deebo Samuel, San Francisco 49ers

Left Tackle: Trent Williams, San Francisco 49ers

Right Tackle: Tristan Wirfs, Tampa Bay Buccaneers

Left Guard: Joel Bitonio, Cleveland Browns

Right Guard: Zack Martin, Dallas Cowboys

Center: Jason Kelce, Philadelphia Eagles

DEFENSE

Edge Rushers: T.J. Watt, Pittsburgh Steelers; Myles Garrett, Cleveland Browns

Interior Lineman: Aaron Donald, Los Angeles Rams; Cameron Heyward, Pittsburgh Steelers

Linebackers: Micah Parsons, Dallas Cowboys; Darius Leonard, Indianapolis Colts; De'Vondre Campbell, Green Bay Packers

Cornerbacks: Trevon Diggs, Dallas Cowboys; Jalen Ramsey, Los Angeles Rams

Safeties: Kevin Byard, Tennessee Titans; Jordan Poyer, Buffalo Bills

SPECIAL TEAMS

Placekicker: Justin Tucker, Baltimore Ravens

Punter: A.J. Cole, Las Vegas Raiders

Kick Returner: Braxton Berrios, New York Jets

Punt Returner: Devin Duvernay, Baltimore Ravens

Special Teamer: J.T. Gray, New Orleans Saints

Long Snapper: Luke Rhodes, Indianapolis Colts

Andy Murray refused to add to Novak Djokovic's troubles after the Serbian star's visa saga reared up again, insisting he would not "start kicking Novak while he's down".

Some players have been critical of Djokovic, while world number four Stefanos Tsitsipas said the Serbian has been "playing by his own rules" after refusing to be vaccinated against the COVID-19 virus.

Djokovic faces a critical Federal Court hearing on Sunday that looks set to determine whether he can play at the Australian Open, which starts the following day.

Although the Serbian arrived in Australia with a medical exemption for the grand slam tournament, which he has won on a record nine occasions, that did not satisfy Border Force officers who last week decided Djokovic did not meet entry requirements.

After four days in detention, Djokovic won a first challenge against the visa decision on Monday and has been able to train at Melbourne Park in the days since; however, he will be returned to detention on Saturday morning in the Victoria state capital after immigration minister Alex Hawke cancelled the visa anew.

Murray said: "It's not a good situation. I'm not going to sit here and start kicking Novak while he's down. It's unfortunate it's ended up in this sort of situation.

"It's just one to get resolved. I think it would be good for everyone if that was the case. It seems like it's dragged on for quite a long time now.

"It's not great for tennis, not great for the Australian Open, not great for Novak, and a lot of people have criticised the government here as well, so it's not been good.

Murray banged his head against a microphone in exasperation as he faced another question on the matter, clearly by now sick of being asked about Djokovic.

The Scot, a former world number one and long-time friend and rival to Djokovic, was asked about the latest developments after coming off court, having just booked his place in the final of an ATP Tour event for the first time since 2019.

Speaking after his semi-final win at the Sydney Classic, Murray said: "I would encourage people to get vaccinated.

"But I do feel like people should be able to make their own decisions. Ultimately, people have to make their own choices, but there is also consequences sometimes for those decisions as well."

Former doubles world number one Rennae Stubbs told Australian broadcaster ABC she expected the story to keep rumbling on.

"It's not over, he's staying in the country, but for the ramifications for the Australian Open, it's huge," Stubbs said.

"It's hard to know, obviously I'm not in his mind, but I would say he's going to be extremely disappointed, very sad, angry. I think he's probably going through all the emotions you can imagine as a human being."

Before the hearing on Sunday was confirmed, Stubbs said: "Unfortunately for Novak, it's not looking good."

Djokovic has been drawn to face fellow Serbian Miomir Kecmanovic in the first round in a match that would be expected to take place on Monday or Tuesday.

Although the case of Djokovic has drawn global attention, Australian Stubbs said the single-minded nature of tennis players meant most were "really not concerned about Novak and his dilemmas".

"I think they're ready to get on with this tournament," she said. "I frankly think that most of them are sick and tired of talking about Novak and dealing with this situation in general."

Andy Murray will face the surprise package of last year's Australian Open in Saturday's final of the Sydney Classic.

Blocking Murray's way to a first ATP Tour title since October 2019 will be Russian player Aslan Karatsev, whose gritty win over Dan Evans prevented an all-British final.

Evans won a marathon tie-break in the second set of that encounter but could not maintain the level as he lost out 6-3 6-7 (13-15) 6-3 to a player who caused a sensation by reaching the 2021 Australian Open semi-finals.

It was also a case of digging deep for Murray, who picked up a stellar win over American Reilly Opelka, triumphing 6-7 (6-8) 6-4 6-4 against the fourth seed and world number 25. Murray is ranked down at number 135, but this strong week has provided evidence he still belongs at a much higher level.

Three years have passed since Murray came to Australia and indicated he was close to retirement due to hip trouble. He has battled back against the odds to stay active, but his lone ATP singles final appearance since that point came at the 2019 European Open in Antwerp, where he beat Stan Wawrinka to land a surprise title.

Now he is back in another title match, for what will be just his fourth singles final on the main tour since the end of the 2016 season, when he reached world number one status.

Murray rifled 16 aces and no double faults, winning an impressive 88 per cent of points when he landed his first ball in court, and his serve was not broken at any point by Opelka.

He has 46 singles titles and dearly wants to reach 50 before calling it a day, with a glorious chance to land a 47th coming up on Saturday.

Karatsev, the world number 20, is not a player that Murray would underestimate. He was ranked 114th and largely unknown before going on his run to the final four in Melbourne last February, but he has since pushed on and should provide a stiff test for three-time major winner Murray.

"It's already been a great week for me, big progress from anything I've done in the last year or so, to string four matches together like this and against top players in Basilashvili and Opelka," said Murray. "I'll go for 47 tomorrow. It's been a good week, I've played better with each match, so hopefully I'll step it up again."

At the Adelaide International 2 event, Australian wildcard Thanasi Kokkinakis produced a stunning semi-final win over fourth seed Marin Cilic, battling to a 6-2 3-6 7-6 (12-10) victory over the former US Open champion, teeing up a shot at Frenchman Arthur Rinderknech in the title match.

Novak Djokovic's Australian Open fate is set to be determined in a fresh hearing on Sunday – with the defending champion back into detention before that takes place.

In a crushing blow to his preparations for the grand slam, Djokovic learned on Friday that his visa had been revoked for a second time, meaning he faces the prospect of deportation.

The 34-year-old is fighting the decision, and lawyer Nick Wood, on behalf of Djokovic, contended in a directions hearing on Friday evening that the "underlying new rationale" behind the Australian government's latest move to kick out the Serbian is that it contends his presence "will excite anti-vax sentiment".

Wood said immigration minister Alex Hawke had given no consideration to the impact that deporting Djokovic may have among those opposed to COVID-19 vaccines, saying his client was of "negligible risk", "of good standing" and had a medical contraindication to a vaccine.

In a statement released on Friday, Hawke said the decision had been taken "on health and good order grounds, on the basis that it was in the public interest to do so".

Djokovic has expressed opposition to vaccine mandates in the past and has confirmed he has not been vaccinated.

For Djokovic, Wood said: "The minister only considers the potential for exciting anti-vax sentiment in the event that he's present, but the binary alternative of forcibly removing this high profile, legally compliant, negligible risk, medical contraindication player, precluding or impairing his ability to come back to Australia for three years and prejudicing his career, on the basis of two statements made in 2020 and the possible perception of those statements by others; the minister gives no consideration whatsoever to what effect that may have on anti-vax sentiment and indeed on public order. That seems patently irrational."

The case has been transferred from the Federal Circuit Court to the Federal Court of Australia, judge Anthony Kelly said, and will take place via videolink.

An initial hearing will take place with justice David O'Callaghan from the Federal Court on Saturday at 10:15 local time (Friday 23:15 GMT), it was announced.

Whatever happens now, this is woeful preparation for Djokovic ahead of the tournament where he was planning to mount an assault on a 10th Australian Open title, and a record-setting 21st grand slam.

He was cleared to spend Friday night at his current accommodation, rather than be moved immediately back into detention, but that is set to occur on Saturday morning at 08:00 local time in Melbourne when he reports for an interview with immigration officials.

Djokovic will then be allowed to attend meetings with his solicitors in person from 10:00 to 14:00 on Saturday, accompanied by Border Force officials, before returning to a detention hotel until he is reunited with his solicitors from 09:00 on Sunday.

To avoid possible disorder on the streets, he is set to meet his legal team away from their Melbourne offices, where fans gathered and unruly behaviour took place following Djokovic's first effort to clear a path to play at the tournament that begins on Monday.

Djokovic will for now be unable to practise at Melbourne Park. His opening match in the Australian Open is due to be scheduled for Monday or Tuesday.

Hawke explained why the visa had been revoked earlier on Friday, saying in a statement: "In making this decision, I carefully considered information provided by the Department of Home Affairs, the Australian Border Force and Mr Djokovic.

"The [Scott] Morrison government is firmly committed to protecting Australia's borders, particularly in relation to the COVID-19 pandemic."

Concerns have been expressed over the 34-year-old Djokovic's whereabouts prior to arriving in the country. Djokovic admitted there was a false declaration on his travel form to enter Australia, after it stated he had not travelled in the two weeks before arriving in the country.

The tennis star, who was seen in Spain earlier this month, put that down to "human error" and accepted breaching isolation rules in December after testing positive for COVID-19.

Philosophical differences were behind the Houston Texans' decision to part with head coach David Culley after one season with the team, according to general manager Nick Caserio.

The Texans ended a disappointing campaign 4-13, and offensive coordinator Tim Kelly has also departed after eight years with the franchise, which finished third in the AFC South for a second consecutive season.

The Texans ended their season with a 28-25 loss to the Tennessee Titans, leading a late fightback against their rivals after finding themselves 21-0 down at the halfway point.

Caserio, who has been in the GM post for just a year, released a statement explaining the decision to relieve both Culley and Kelly of their duties, with the Texans ending the season ranked last in the NFL for total offense, and Culley having reportedly resisted attempts to make changes to his offensive staff. 

"Earlier today, I met with David Culley and Tim Kelly to inform them we will be moving in a different direction with the head coach and offensive coordinator positions," the statement read. "I came to this difficult but necessary decision after reviewing our football operations.

"While a change after one season is unusual, we had philosophical differences over the long-term direction and vision for our program moving forward. 

"We appreciate coach Culley for helping us navigate through a difficult season, but it is my responsibility to make decisions that I feel are best for our organisation.

"The search for the next coach of the Houston Texans will begin immediately."

Barbora Krejcikova saved seven match points on her way to beating Anett Kontaveit in a thrilling Sydney Tennis Classic semi-final on Friday.

The world number four prevailed 0-6 6-4 7-6 (14-12) in a match that went the distance and will take on Paula Badosa, who beat in-form Daria Kasatkina in the other semi-final.

Krejcikova had lost five in a row against top-10 players and was soundly beaten in the first set, but she held in the second and earned the only break in the ninth game to level up. 

That set up an incredible decider, which fourth seed Kontaveit led 6-5, but she could not take the first three of her match points as Krejcikova battled valiantly to force a tie-break.

Krejcikova felt her opponent's pain as she then squandered two match points of her own when leading 6-4. 

It appeared neither player wanted to win as two more match points went begging for Krejcikova and four for Kontaveit in what turned into a real classic.

But Krejcikova eventually took her fifth opportunity to see off Kontaveit and reach a sixth WTA singles final.

"I think from both sides it was a really, really tough match," Krejcikova said. "I think we played wonderful tennis. 

"It was very, very tight, and I'm really happy that I was able to hold the nerves better and that I won this match.

"I was just playing, just trying to fight for every single ball. When I had those match points down, I was just trying to figure out how to build up the point and how to win the point."

Badosa awaits Krejcikova in Saturday's final after beating Kasatkina in a match with far fewer twists and turns.

Competing in her second semi-final in as many weeks, it was similar disappointment for Kasatkina as she fell to a 6-2 6-2 loss.

French Open quarter-finalist Badosa hit 26 winners to Kasatkina's 12 and did not look back after winning 14 of the opening 16 points.

At the Adelaide International 2, meanwhile, it will be an all-American final as Madison Keys and Alison Riske advanced past Tamara Zidansek and Coco Gauff respectively.

Riske was given a walkover win against Zidansek, who withdrew with an abdominal injury, while Keys beat compatriot Gauff in three sets.

Steve Kerr insisted the Golden State Warriors' defeat to the Milwaukee Bucks is not a cause for concern as it is normal for sides to go through difficult spells.

The Warriors were beaten 118-99 by a Giannis Antetokounmpo-inspired Bucks on Thursday to make it four defeats in their past five games.

Despite losing to the Dallas Mavericks, the New Orleans Pelicans, the Memphis Grizzlies and the Bucks, Kerr's side are second in the Western Conference with a 30-11 record.

Without the injured Draymond Green once again, the Warriors showed some fight in the second half to reduce a 39-point deficit to 18, but that was as close as they got to the Bucks.

"I know we just got our butts kicked, but we're just in a rough patch in our season," Kerr said at his media conference. 

"It happens to every team, every year pretty much with very few exceptions. 

"We're in a little bit of a rut and we were playing a team that was ready and played a great first half. We're a little out of sorts. We've just got to get back on track, and we will."

Andy Murray powered through to his first ATP Tour final since October 2019 after a stellar win over Reilly Opelka at the Sydney Classic.

Murray won 6-7 (6-8) 6-4 6-4 against his American opponent, with fourth seed and world number 25 Opelka undone by the British wildcard.

Three years have passed since Murray came to Australia and indicated he was close to retirement due to hip trouble.

There have been highs and lows since then as the three-time grand slam winner has fought to resuscitate his career. His lone ATP final appearance since that point came at the 2019 European Open in Antwerp, where he beat Stan Wawrinka to land a surprise title.

Now he is back in another title match, for what will be just his fourth final on the main tour since the end of the 2016 season, when he reached world number one status.

Opelka is renowned as a big server and duly sent down 20 aces and four double faults, but Murray showed he can compete on that front too with 16 aces and no doubles.

The Scot also won an impressive 88 per cent of points when he landed his first ball in court, and his serve was not broken at any point.

Murray was awaiting the winner of the second semi-final between his fellow Briton Dan Evans and Russian Aslan Karatsev.

Five-time Australian Open runner-up Murray has been drawn to face Georgian Nikoloz Basilashvili in the first round of the grand slam at Melbourne Park next week. He beat 23rd-ranked Basilashvili in round two in Sydney.

World number one Novak Djokovic has had his Australian visa revoked for a second time and now faces being deported from the country.

Djokovic won an appeal on Monday to remain in the country, but immigration minister Alex Hawke used separate powers in Australia's Migration Act to again cancel the visa.

The Serbian must now lodge a fresh legal challenge should he wish to defend his Australian Open title, with the tournament set to begin next Monday. 

Novak Djokovic has had his Australian visa revoked for a second time and now faces being deported from the country.

Novak Djokovic has had his visa cancelled for a second time by the Australian government and faces deportation.

Giannis Antetokounmpo dropped his third triple-double of the season to lead the Milwaukee Bucks to a commanding 118-99 win over the Golden State Warriors on Thursday.

The two-time NBA MVP had 30 points, 12 rebounds and 11 assists in front of coach Mike Budenholzer, who was back after returning from the league's health and safety protocol.

Antetokounmpo's 28th career triple-double came in under 30 minutes played, making him the first player in NBA history to achieve that feat multiple times.

Kris Middleton added 23 points for the Bucks, who move to 27-17 for the season, while Bobby Portis and Grayson Allen registered 20 and 15 respectively.

The Warriors trailed 77-38 at half-time and have now lost four times in five matches, yet they still boast the second-best record in the Western Conference.

Grizzlies' run goes on

The Memphis Grizzlies finished strongly to overcome the Minnesota Timberwolves 116-108 and extend their franchise-record run to 11 wins in a row.

Desmond Bane scored 21 points and Jaren Jackson Jr. added 20 for the in-form Grizzlies, who were also inspired by John Konchar's 15 and career-best 17 rebounds.

The Grizzlies suffered their heaviest loss of the season when the sides met in November, but they pulled away late on in this back-and-forth encounter to go 30-14 in the West.

As for the Timberwolves, they have now let successive games slip away after also going down 128-125 against the New Orleans Pelicans with 1.3 seconds to go on Tuesday.

Nets beaten in Durant and Irving's absence

The travel-weary Brooklyn Nets were made to pay for resting NBA scoring leader Kevin Durant as they suffered a 130-109 defeat to the Oklahoma City Thunder.

Durant, James Harden and Kyrie Irving combined to great effect in the previous night's win at Eastern Conference-leading Chicago Bulls, but that trident was split up.

With Irving still unable to play home games due to vaccine laws in New York and Durant and Patty Mills watching on from the side, the Thunder ran out deserved winners.

Shai Gilgeous-Alexander led the way with 33 points, 10 rebounds and nine assists as the Thunder snapped a five-game losing run.

Elsewhere, Nikola Jokic powered the Denver Nuggets to a 140-108 win over the Portland Trail Blazers and the Pelicans were too strong for Los Angeles Clippers in a 113-89 win.

Jim Furyk rolled back the years with a hole-in-one at the Sony Open to finish the opening round in Hawaii one shot behind leader and defending champion Kevin Na.

The 51-year-old, who has 17 PGA Tour victories to his name, sunk the perfect shot on the par-three 17th on his way to finishing eight under on Thursday.

Furyk was hampered by a slow start at Wai'alae Country Club with a bogey on the opening hole, though that proved to be the American's only dropped shot in a round of 62.

That makes Furyk the oldest player to shoot 62 or better on the PGA Tour since 1983 as he looks to win the tournament for a second time, 26 years on from his previous triumph.

"I'm trying to get ready for this year. I want to be competitive this week," said Furyk, who made the sixth hole-in-one of his career and first since 2011.

"I want to compete and put myself in position, in the hunt, and also want to get a feel for where my game is and what I want to work on for the year."

Furyk will resume day two level with compatriot Russell Henley and a stroke behind blemish-free Na, who is aiming to defend the crown he won last year.

Na was on course for a sub-60 round, but three good birdie chances passed him by and he now has seven challengers within two shots of his lead.

The South Korean settled for 61 to tie his career-low round on the PGA Tour. He leads the way for the most rounds-of-62 or better since such data was first recorded in 1983 (10).

Na, Furyk and Henley are three of six past Sony Open winners in the top 10 after day one, along with Matt Kuchar, Patton Kizzire (both six under) and Ryan Palmer (seven under).

Elsewhere, Cameron Smith could not build on his record-breaking win at last week's Sentry Tournament of Champions as a couple of bogeys left him three-under par in a tie for 40th.

General manager Chris Ballard says there are no guarantees Carson Wentz will be the Indianapolis Colts' starting quarterback for the 2022 NFL season.

Wentz, who joined Indianapolis from the Philadelphia Eagles ahead of the 2021 campaign, endured a nightmare as the Colts missed out on the playoffs by losing 26-11 to the Jacksonville Jaguars last weekend.

He was sacked six times in a second successive defeat that brought Indianapolis' season to a halt with a 9-8 record.

Ballard on Thursday stated that it is too early to say what changes could be made after the Colts' failure to feature in the postseason.

"When we made the decision, after Philip [Rivers] retired and we made the decision to make a move on Carson, at the time of the decision we felt good about it and I still don't regret the decision at the time," Ballard said.

"Sitting here today, just so y'all know, I won't make a comment on who is going to be here next year and who is not going to be here next year. That's not fair to any player."

Ballard added: "I'd like to quit Band-Aiding it. I'd like for Carson to be the long-term answer or find somebody who will be here for the next 10-12 years.

"Sometimes it doesn't work out that way. I can dream about it, wish about it, do everything I can to figure out the solution, but you do the best with what you can do at the time."

Ballard suggested Wentz had been too eager to create moments of magic.

He said: "Make the layups. Make the layups. Make the layups. Carson wants to win. He has a will to win.

"Sometimes when you carry the burden where you think you have to make a big play all the time. Sometimes let the team help you, make the layups, make the layups."

Ballard stressed that Wentz is by no means the only player under scrutiny.  

"At the end of the day, I think we have a lot of really good players and really good pieces," Ballard said. "You have to get stability at the quarterback position.

"That position has to play up to his potential to help the team win. I'm not blaming this all on Carson. I'm not, because everybody else has to do their job, too.

"But the hyper-importance of that position, it's real. You have to get consistency there. The years we've gotten it we've been pretty good, and we thought we had it until the end of the season. Something we have to continue to work through."

Wentz ranked 18th in the league for completions (322) in the regular season, from 516 attempted passes (a completion percentage of 62.4, the 25th best in the NFL).

His tally of 27 touchdown passes was bettered by only nine other quarterbacks, though Wentz' total was six fewer than ninth-placed Kirk Cousins in that regard. His seven interceptions tied for 29th in the competition.

Wentz threw for 3,563 yards, the third-best total of his NFL career.

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