Los Angeles Lakers superstar LeBron James was hit with a $15,000 fine by the NBA for making an "obscene gesture" in Wednesday's win over the Indiana Pacers.

The NBA also warned James about using profane language after lifting the Lakers past Pacers 124-116 in overtime midweek.

James posted a season-high 39 points and made a pair of key three-pointers in OT to see the Lakers to victory, having returned from a one-game suspension for his part in a heated altercation with Detroit Pistons big man Isaiah Stewart on Sunday.

A four-time NBA champion and MVP, James made a gesture after sinking a late shot against the Pacers at Gainbridge Fieldhouse, while he used profanity in his post-game interview.

Against the Sacramento Kings on Friday, James is looking to score 35 or more points in consecutive games for the first time since December 2018, per Stats Perform.

The Lakers are 4-0 in overtime games this season with no other NBA team having more than two wins in OT in 2021-22. Since February, the Lakers have played a league-high 10 overtime games, going 9-1.

Los Angeles Rams head coach Sean McVay is expecting "a lot more" from star duo Odell Beckham Jr. and Von Miller in Sunday's NFL showdown against the Green Bay Packers.

Beckham and Miller will make their second appearance since joining the Rams when the 7-3 Los Angeles franchise visit Lambeau Field.

After his release from the Cleveland Browns, Beckham debuted in the 31-10 defeat to the San Francisco 49ers in Week 10 before the team's bye – the three-time Pro Bowler caught two passes for 18 yards.

Miller – acquired from the Denver Broncos in a blockbuster trade – was inactive for his first game before debuting against the 49ers, playing 45 of 68 snaps while recording two tackles.

McVay is anticipating an increased role for Beckham and Miller against the 8-3 Packers this week.

"A lot more, hopefully," McVay told reporters on Friday when asked if he expected to get more out of the pair in their second appearance for the Rams.

"Odell [is] just getting more familiar," McVay said. "I mean for him to be able to even play in the game against the Niners is an incredible credit to him."

"It helps because he's getting up to speed mentally," McVay added. "You don't take for granted how important those physical reps and the rapport that he and Matthew are continuing to develop is and so because we'll do a little bit more reps today, we'll end up getting about the same amount that we would in a normal week, so it will be a good thing, but he's done great."

McVay said: "Von did a good job, played a lot of snaps. I think he'll be that much more healthy, that much more fresh coming off the bye and giving his ankle another handful of days to continue to make progress and steps in the right direction without having any setbacks over these last couple of weeks."

Miller has been dealing with an ankle issue and the Super Bowl MVP added: "I'm feeling pretty good, feel a little bit more comfortable with the playbook, ankle is a whole lot healthier. So the bye week was great."

The Rams have lost two straight games following defeats to the 49ers and Tennessee Titans. According to Stats Perform, it is the first time the team have lost consecutive games with both being by double digits since McVay became head coach in 2017.

Green Bay Packers star and reigning NFL MVP Aaron Rodgers will go up against the Los Angeles Rams this week, despite missing practice on Friday.

Rodgers is suffering from a fractured toe on his left foot, which clearly hampered him during last week's 34-31 loss to the Minnesota Vikings.

The Packers quarterback is yet to practice in the lead up to Sunday's showdown at Lambeau Field, but head coach Matt LaFleur insisted Rodgers will play.

"Well, he came down to practice," LaFleur told reporters on Friday.

"He didn't participate in practice, but he was out there and relaying the calls to Jordan [Love], just getting that practice of just saying the playcalls."

LaFleur added: "Yeah, he'll play".

Rodgers threw for a season-high 385 yards to go with four touchdowns and zero interceptions against the Vikings in Week 11.

It was the fourth time Rodgers has thrown for 375 or more yards, four or more touchdowns and no interceptions in the same game, which is three more times than any other Packer QB, according to Stats Perform.

Rodgers ranks second for passer rating in the NFL (106.6), only behind Arizona Cardinals QB Kyler Murray (110.4).

Through 10 games this season, Rodgers has completed 219 of 328 passes for 2,571 yards, 21 touchdowns and four interceptions.

"It's been how it's been going the past couple of weeks," Packers offensive co-ordinator Nathaniel Hackett said. "The one thing that I'll tell you is, my respect for him as a player goes up nonstop.

"Everybody talks about how he can throw the ball as good as he can, but his toughness is unbelievable. For him to do what he's doing with this going on is awesome.

"We trust him a ton and know that he's going to do whatever he needs to do to get ready for the game and to be able to go."

Green Bay fell to Minnesota, despite converting seven of their 11 third-down attempts (63.6 percent). It was the highest third-down conversion percentage for the Packers in a loss since Week 2 of the 2005 season, when the team lost 26-24 to the Cleveland Browns while converting 10-of-14 third downs.

Zion Williamson has been cleared to participate in full team activities, the New Orleans Pelicans announced on Friday.

Pelicans star Williamson is yet to feature in the NBA this season due to a right foot fracture, which required surgery in the offseason.

But the 2019 number one draft pick played four-on-four full court on Friday as the 2021 All-Star stepped up his comeback, though there is still no return timeline.

Williamson is entering his third year as a professional, however the 21-year-old has so far seen his hugely promising career hindered by injury.

The power forward did not make his NBA debut until January in the 2019-20 campaign after tearing his meniscus in his rookie preseason, while relatively minor issues limited Williamson to 61 games in 2020-21.

Despite concerns about the forward's durability, Williamson has excelled against NBA opposition.

After 22.5 points per game in his rookie year, he improved to 27.0 last season and will return on a streak of scoring 20 in 15 straight games.

Without Williamson this season, the struggling Pelicans have started the campaign 4-16 – the second worst record in the NBA behind the Houston Rockets (2-16).

Few prospective playoff teams have been scrutinised as heavily as the Los Angeles Rams in recent weeks.

Coming off back-to-back defeats to the Tennessee Titans and San Francisco 49ers, a Rams team considered a Super Bowl calibre outfit for effectively the entirety of the season faces the prospect of having to prove themselves all over again.

And they must do so against a Green Bay Packers team competing for the one seed, albeit with injuries that could well derail those hopes.

Potentially complicating matters for the Rams is that their last game may have provided future opponents with a possible blueprint to beating them.

The Niners claimed a fifth successive win over the Rams, crushing them 31-10 in Week 10 by sticking to a tried and tested formula that has continually paid dividends against Los Angeles, relying heavily on the run game and getting the ball out quickly on passing plays to negate the pass rush of Aaron Donald and recent trade acquisition Von Miller.

It is an approach the Packers could well adopt in order to mitigate the impact of their injuries. Green Bay's reigning MVP quarterback Aaron Rodgers, himself battling a fractured toe, will be without his two best offensive linemen.

Left tackle David Bakhtiari remains out with a knee injury while the versatile Elgton Jenkins, who can plug holes at several positions in the trenches, suffered a torn ACL in last week's defeat to the Minnesota Vikings.

Even with Jenkins' best efforts, the Packers went into Week 12 ranked 21st in pass protection win percentage, per Stats Perform data. Logic dictates they will only fall down the standings in that regard now he is on the shelf.

As such, a move to a run-heavy approach built around the quick passing game seems prudent, especially with the Packers facing a defender in Donald who has won an astonishing 62 of his 95 one-on-one pass rush matchups.

Going with that plan may suit the Packers perfectly. Green Bay could get running back Aaron Jones back from a knee injury this week to boost a ground game that ranks ninth in rush yards over expected.

In terms of the passing attack, Rodgers' time from snap of the ball to releasing it is 2.52 seconds, faster than the league average for quarterbacks (minimum 10 attempts) of 2.66 seconds.

When running quick game concepts, Rodgers has delivered an accurate, well-thrown ball 84.7 per cent of the time - the league average is 81.7.

Put simply, after being tormented by a divisional foe that has consistently proven their kryptonite, the Rams may now be faced with having to deal with a markedly similar gameplan executed by the best quarterback in the NFL last season.

The loss to the 49ers led to the Rams being labelled by many as a soft football team. Such aspersions will only grow more vociferous if they cannot capitalise on the Packers' personnel deficiencies and avoid a third straight defeat.

With the trades for quarterback Matthew Stafford and Miller and, most recently, the signing of wide receiver Odell Beckham Jr, the Rams have pushed all their chips to the middle, but a loss to Green Bay in the same circumstances as their defeat to San Francisco may leave most expecting them to again leave the table empty-handed come the end of the year.

Tre'Davious White has suffered a torn anterior cruciate ligament and will miss the rest of the season, the Buffalo Bills have confirmed.

Cornerback White sustained the injury during the second quarter of Thursday's 31-6 win over the New Orleans Saints. 

The 26-year-old was able to limp off the field without assistance but was ruled out of the game, with Dane Jackson his replacement. White underwent an MRI scan on Friday, with results showing a torn ACL.

White's injury will see him miss the rest of the campaign, with the Bills sitting top of the AFC East, holding a 7-4 record with six games of the regular season remaining.

The All-Pro CB will be a big miss. He has registered six pass breakups and an interception, while 56.5 per cent of the defensive plays he has been involved in this season have proved successful (320/566).

White has allowed a big play on 14.1 per cent of his targets - the sixth-best ratio in the league among cornerbacks with at least 25 targets.

"I know all the guys in the locker room are praying for him and hurting with him," quarterback Josh Allen said of White after the win in New Orleans.

"You can't say a single bad thing about that man. He comes in and busts his a** every day."

The New England Patriots are the form team in the NFL right now after winning five-in-a-row, but will have the AFC-leading Tennessee Titans to contend with on Sunday.

The last time the two teams met was in the wild card round of the 2019 playoffs, where Tennessee beat New England 20-13 in Tom Brady's last game as a Patriot.

Brady of course now leads the Tampa Bay Buccaneers, and the 2021 Super Bowl champions also have a tricky contest in week 12 as they travel to Indianapolis to face the Colts.

The Green Bay Packers will be looking to shake off their heartbreakingly narrow loss to the Minnesota Vikings last time out as they host the Los Angeles Rams at Lambeau Field.

 

Tennessee Titans (8-3) @ New England Patriots (7-4)

The Patriots beat Atlanta in week 11, 25-0, for their fifth consecutive win, and the longest active streak in the NFL. Bill Belichick's team are the only one this season to win five straight games by a total of more than 100 points (+125, 175 points for and 50 points against during the streak).

Tennessee lost to Houston in week 11 (22-13), snapping a six-game winning streak for the Titans. Their 103 rushing yards were the most since they lost Derrick Henry to knee surgery in week 8.

Ryan Tannehill threw 52 passes for 35 completions against Houston, the second most attempts of his career (58 in week 12 of 2015) and tied for his career high in completions (also 35 in week 16 of 2014).

Including the playoffs, New England are 7-3 against Tennessee over the last 20 years.

Nick Folk went a perfect 4-for-4 on field goals in the Patriots victory over the Falcons. It was his fourth game this season kicking at least four field goals and making them all, the most in the NFL (Zane Gonzalez of the Carolina Panthers is second most with two such games).  

Tampa Bay Buccaneers (7-3) @ Indianapolis Colts (6-5)

The Buccaneers and Colts have met just seven times when playing in Indianapolis, with Tampa Bay winning only twice. Tampa's last win there came during week 10 of the 1997 season.

Tampa Bay beat the Giants 30-10 in week 11, breaking a two-game losing streak. They have lost back-to-back games just twice in the last two seasons and have not lost three in a row since Tom Brady arrived. Their 10 points allowed were the second fewest allowed all season after holding Chicago to three points in week seven.

Brady found Mike Evans for a five-yard touchdown pass in the third quarter of last week's victory. Their 10 combined touchdowns are tied for the most between any passer and receiver this season with LA Rams' duo Matthew Stafford and Cooper Kupp.

The Colts beat the Bills last week (41-25) for their third-straight-win and longest win streak of the season. Their 26-point differential was the second-largest victory of the season for the Colts, only behind their 31-3 victory over the Texans in week six.

Colts quarterback Carson Wentz was 11-for-20 with 106 passing yards in their victory over the Bills. That is the lowest number of passing yards he has ever thrown for in a game when having at least 20 pass attempts.

Los Angeles Rams (7-3) @ Green Bay Packers (8-3)

These two last faced off in the divisional round of the playoffs in January, with the Packers winning 32-18 at Lambeau Field. After 96 games in the all-time series (including the playoffs), the teams are separated by just six points, with the Rams having scored 2204 points to Green Bay's 2198.

The Rams have lost two straight after a 31-10 defeat to San Francisco in week 10, having lost to Tennessee 28-16 the week prior. It is the first time the team has lost consecutive games with both being by double digits since Sean McVay became head coach in 2017.

Matthew Stafford has thrown for more interceptions than touchdowns in consecutive games after not doing so in any of his first eight games with the Rams. Stafford had 31 such games in his 12 seasons with Detroit.

Green Bay fell to Minnesota in a dramatic 34-31 loss last week, despite converting seven of 11 third-down attempts (63.6 per cent). It was the highest third-down conversion percentage for the Packers in a loss since week two of the 2005 season when they lost 26-24 to Cleveland while converting 10-of-14 third downs.

Aaron Rodgers threw for a season-high 385 yards to go with four touchdowns and zero interceptions against the Vikings. It was the fourth time Rodgers has thrown for 375 or more yards, four or more touchdowns and no interceptions in the same game, which is three more times than any other Packer QB.

Elsewhere...

The number one pick of the 2021 draft Trevor Lawrence will be hoping to fare better against the Atlanta Falcons (4-6) after going three straight starts without throwing a touchdown for the Jacksonville Jaguars (2-8). He is one of two quarterbacks to go three-straight-starts without a passing TD this year, along with the Carolina Panthers' Sam Darnold.

The Minnesota Vikings (5-5) are the only NFL team that has had every game decided by fewer than 14 points this season. Minnesota will tie a single-season team record for most consecutive games (11) decided by 13 or fewer points with another such game on Sunday when they travel to the San Francisco 49ers (5-5).

The Denver Broncos (5-5) will be looking to keep a lid on LA Chargers (6-4) QB Austin Ekeler, who scored four touchdowns against Pittsburgh last week, two on the ground and two in the air. He is the only active player with multiple rushing and receiving TDs in a game and the first player to do so since Jacksonville's Maurice Jones-Drew in 2011 against Tampa Bay. 

The Cleveland Browns (6-5) head into their clash against the Baltimore Ravens (7-3) coming off a 13-10 win over Detroit, their fourth win in the last two seasons when scoring 17 or fewer points. No other NFL team has more than two wins while scoring so few points since the beginning of last season. 

Sixteen golfers from the United Kingdom and Ireland withdrew from the Joburg Open on Friday as strict new rules affecting travellers from South Africa came into effect.

The emergence of a new COVID-19 variant in South Africa has led the UK government to implement a sudden change to its rules for arrivals, taking effect from midday on Friday.

It has declared that British nationals arriving before Sunday morning after a stay in South Africa – as well as Botswana, Lesotho, Eswatini, Zimbabwe and Namibia – must self-isolate at home for 10 days and take two PCR tests in that time.

All such travellers arriving in England from 04:00 GMT on Sunday will be required to go into a hotel quarantine facility for 10 days.

Flights to the UK from the newly red-listed countries were being suspended.

It was no coincidence that the European Tour event in Johannesburg saw a rash of withdrawals, with players looking to get home.

Those who pulled out were England's Steven Brown, Oliver Fisher, Matt Ford, David Howell, Matthew Jordan, Richard McEvoy, Graeme Storm and Andrew Wilson, Scotland's Craig Howie, Liam Johnston and Richie Ramsay, Wales' Oliver Farr, Northern Ireland's Jonathan Caldwell and Cormac Sharvin and Ireland's Paul Dunne and Niall Kearney.

Johnston posted on Twitter a version of a poster for the Meryl Streep film Out Of Africa, with his face superimposed in place of Robert Redford's. Sharvin replied: "Too good."

UK health secretary Sajid Javid said of the new measures: "We are taking precautionary action to protect public health and the progress of our vaccine rollout at a critical moment as we enter winter, and we are monitoring the situation closely."

Derek Carr made an aggressive approach count as he elected to "rip 'em" and see where it got the Las Vegas Raiders against the Dallas Cowboys on Thanksgiving.

After the Raiders snatched a 36-33 overtime win, Carr could reflect on a policy skilfully enacted, and interim head coach Rich Bisaccia was suitably impressed.

Carr ended the game with 24-of-39 passing for 373 yards and a touchdown – the most yards by a Raiders quarterback on Thanksgiving in team history.

It gave him a passer rating of 101.8 after three consecutive games down in double digits, each of which ended in defeat.

Daniel Carlson nailed a field goal to win the game before munching on a turkey leg to mark the holiday. Victory improved the Raiders to 6-5 and checked the Cowboys at 7-4.

Carr picked out DeSean Jackson early for a 56-yard touchdown; Jackson's 34th career touchdown of 50-plus yards puts him only two adrift of all-time NFL leader Jerry Rice.

Speaking after the game, Carr said he heeded the advice of former Raiders coach Jon Gruden not to shy away from the bold option.

"It leads sometimes to not completing as many balls on a percentage chart, but to me, Gruden used to tell me, 'Don't ever take your arm out of a game'," Carr said.

"So, when we call these things, let's rip 'em."

Gruden resigned from his Raiders top job in October amid reports he had sent emails containing offensive language.

Carr savoured the narrow victory, saying: "Our back was against the wall. There's no doubt about that. And in the way that we fought today and for as long as it took to win... we had to do that today, and I'm very proud of our team."

Bisaccia said 30-year-old Carr had been "off sync a little bit" in recent games. "Today he looked like Derek Carr. It's fun to watch him play," the interim coach added.

Bisaccia also saluted 34-year-old Jackson, an acquisition in early November who is showing the Raiders what he still has left in the tank.

"I thought he stepped up in there today and made really incredible plays," Bisaccia said. "You can see DeSean hopefully getting more and more comfortable with what we're asking him to do. One thing he can still do is run. It was fun to watch him. It was good for him, and it was good for us."

It fell to Carlson to settle the game and settle a Raiders team who were 3-0 early in the season before losing their way.

A fourth successive loss would have hurt, but now Las Vegas can look forward with greater optimism. They are next in action against the Washington Football Team on December 5.

Carlson said: "It's tough when things don't go your way for a few weeks."

Quoted on the Raiders website, he added: "On a short week to be able to get a win like that, that helps us going forward. I think that just speaks to the character of this team and our will to win."

Josh Allen said the Buffalo Bills must not abandon their "pursuit of perfection" after a mixed performance in Thursday's rout of the New Orleans Saints.

Allen threw four touchdowns as the AFC East leaders won 31-6, ending a streak of five consecutive defeats to the Saints dating back to December 1998.

Allen was 23-of-28 passing for 260 yards as the injury-ravaged Saints suffered a fourth-straight loss to move to 5-6 for the season. It was also his sixth game in two seasons in which he had four or more passing TDs, a figure surpassed only by Tom Brady and Aaron Rodgers (both nine) since 2020.

It was not a spotless display, though. Allen threw two interceptions, including one in the red zone for the first time in his career, and the loss of Tre'Davious White to a knee injury could yet bring big complications for their season.

The 25-year-old Allen, seventh overall pick in the 2018 Draft, is determined to lead the Bills to as close to a faultless performance as they can get.

"We got to, like I said, continue to find ways to stack these weeks," Allen said. "Every week is a one-game season. We've got to look at it that way and find ways to win football games here going forward.

"But again, it's the pursuit of perfection, that this team, we're not just happy with winning. Again, we want to be the best versions of ourselves every day we step into that building, every time we step on the field."

Allen was hit on the lower legs by Saints defensive tackle Christian Ringo in the third quarter, which left coach Sean McDermott unhappy.

"I thought they should be called for one, quite honestly, on Josh," McDermott said. "I'm really frustrated that that doesn't get called. That's clear as day to see that. I just want to protect my quarterback."

In Week 13, the 7-4 Bills host the New England Patriots, who put a five-game winning streak on the line against the Tennessee Titans on Sunday.

The Buffalo Bills and wins over the New Orleans Saints had been hard to come by, but Josh Allen threw four touchdowns to fuel a drought-ending 31-6 Thanksgiving rout.

AFC East leaders Buffalo (7-4) had lost five consecutive NFL games against New Orleans (5-6), a winless drought dating back to December 1998.

However, Bills quarterback Allen helped snap that skid thanks to his big performance on the road to the Saints in New Orleans on Thursday.

Allen was 23-of-28 passing for 260 yards, four TDs and two interceptions with a 115.2 passer rating to send the injury-ravaged Saints to a fourth straight loss – New Orleans have not had a longer losing streak since 2015.

Bills star Allen had his sixth career game with four-plus passing touchdowns and all have come in the last two seasons. Since 2020, only superstar duo Tom Brady and Aaron Rodgers (both nine) have more games with four or more passing TDs than the Buffalo QB.

Dawson Knox caught two TD passes, giving him a franchise-best seven touchdowns in a single season by a tight end as the Bills scored 24 unanswered points before the Saints finally got on the board early in the fourth quarter.

On a rough night for the Saints, Trevor Siemian completed 17 of his 29 passes for 163 yards, a touchdown and interception, while he was sacked twice.

Chicago Bears head coach Matt Nagy expressed his gratitude for how his team handled "distractions" after their Thanksgiving triumph over the Detroit Lions.

The Bears scrapped to a 16-14 victory against the winless Lions on Thursday amid uncertainty over Nagy's future in Chicago.

Nagy had to answer questions about his future this week, following reports he had been told his final game would be against the Lions (0-10).

But after snapping a five-game skid, Nagy savoured Chicago's result as the Bears improved to 4-7.

"When there's distractions, which is in every sport, in all facets of life, there's always going to be distractions," Nagy told reporters.

"It's how you handle them. And again, we got the win today, and it could've went a lot of different ways. But the reason why we got the win is because of how they handled the distractions, you know? That's where to me, when you're in this business and you lead people, it's my job to make sure of honest and open communication.

"That's where, for me, I just can't tell you how much this win means today to me because of what they did."

Chicago's defence allowed a season-low 239 total yards and just 14 first downs against Detroit.

Andy Dalton fuelled the Bears with a touchdown on 24-of-39 passing for 317 yards – his 30th 300-yard career passing game and the most yards by a Chicago quarterback since November 2020.

"Again, for me, there is only my understanding, which is what it's been since the day I signed up to be this coach, is to win as many games as I can possibly win, and do it the right way," Nagy added.

"When you lose five games in a row, you understand. When you're 3-7, you know what territory it can get to. You know what I mean? That comes with the job. I knew that four years ago when I took this, and so here we are. Every week is a little bit different.

"This one was definitely different. This is one of those weeks where you use it moving forward. You don't make any predictions, but what you do is when you go home on that plane tonight and everyone's having a good time because they're able to celebrate and have fun watching the tape and enjoy their Thanksgiving and get back to being healthy and understand what games are next, but the only game that matters is Arizona coming up.

"That's it. So again, for me, the only thing I can say to those players is that I appreciate them and we have a hell of a group of guys, players and coaches, and they showed it today by getting a win."

The Las Vegas Raiders broke a three-game losing streak with a thrilling 36-33 overtime win at the Dallas Cowboys on Thanksgiving.

Daniel Carson converted a 29-yard field goal to lift the Raiders (6-5) past the Cowboys (7-4) in Dallas in the first overtime game to occur on Thanksgiving since 2012.

There was an early advantage for Las Vegas on Thursday as Derek Carr (24-of-39 passing for 373 yards and a TD – most yards by a Raiders quarterback on Thanksgiving in team history) threw to DeSean Jackson, who ran in for a 56-yard touchdown. It was Jackson's 34th career touchdown of 50-plus yards, the second-most in NFL history, just two behind Jerry Rice.

The Cowboys – without stars CeeDee Lamb (concussion) and Amari Cooper (COVID-19) – responded immediately with a touchdown of their own as Dak Prescott (32-of-47 passing for 375 yards for two TDs) found Sean McKeon.

A 30-yard penalty for pass interference gave Josh Jacobs a simple one-yard TD to make it 14-6 in favour of Las Vegas heading into the second quarter.

Dallas looked to be getting desperate as Zuerlein attempted and missed a 59-yard field goal, but they were able to score their second TD just before half-time as an 86-yard drive ended with a one-yard TD for Ezekiel Elliott to close within 17-13 at the break.

The Raiders increased their lead halfway through the third quarter – Marcus Mariota running in a touchdown to complete a 75-yard drive, only for Tony Pollard to immediately run a 100-yard kick-off return to bring it back to 27-19, the third-longest TD in Thanksgiving history.

Dallas forced overtime thanks to Prescott's pass to Dalton Schultz and a pair of Zuerlein field goals in the fourth period, but the Cowboys were unable to complete the comeback in the additional period.

The NBA Rookie of the Year award won't be handed out for quite a while but if the first month of the season is any indication, voters are going to have plenty of options to choose from.

With teams having played roughly the first quarter of the season, this seems a good time to look at how some of the top draft picks are faring as they navigate their first campaign at the highest level of basketball.

 

Cade Cunningham, Detroit Pistons

After a dreadful start, including missing the first four games due to a sprained ankle, Cunningham has looked more like a player worthy of being a top overall draft pick. In his first three games, Cunningham averaged just 8.7 points on seven-of-39 shooting (17.9 per cent) while misfiring on 20 of 21 from three-point range. He's been far more effective the past six games, scoring 14.7 per contest on 36.3 percent from the field (33 of 91). It's highly unlikely that someone with Cunningham's ability will only shoot the 33.9 percent he's at now. This is, after all, a player who shot 40 percent on three-pointers in his one college season.

His shot selection will improve as he becomes more familiar with the pro game and learns defender's tendencies. Getting to the free throw line would also help improve his offensive efficiency since he's only averaging 1.9 free throws per game, though he is shooting 88 percent (22 of 25). There is inherent pressure with being the first player selected and Cunningham will have to carry that weight throughout his career. But because the former Oklahoma State star has a high basketball IQ and can rebound and distribute at a high level, he doesn't need to pile up points to affect a game's outcome.

The Pistons also are clearly in rebuild mode now, so wins are secondary, giving the well-rounded Cunningham plenty of minutes and opportunities to learn on the job.

Jalen Green, Houston Rockets

Much like Cunningham, Green has the advantage of playing for a 2-16 Rockets team that have absolutely no expectations and are in a full-on rebuild for the foreseeable future. Green ranks third in minutes (555) among rookies and leads all first-year players in field goal attempts (228) and three-point attempts (115), so he's clearly not lacking for opportunities or touches.

Like many rookie score-first guards, the super athletic Green has faced his share of struggles and mostly from an efficiency standpoint. He's only shooting 38.2 from the field and 27.8 from behind the arc while dishing out 2.3 assists per game. While his overall numbers aren't eye-popping, Green has shown flashes of what he can and likely will become. Chief among them is a 30-point, 11-for-18 performance – eight for 10 from three-point range – in a loss to the Celtics on October 24.

He also had 24 points on nine-for-15 shooting with five three-pointers, five rebounds and five assists in a loss to the Los Angeles Lakers on November 2. A case can be made that Green is right where he should be after his first 18 games when compared to other rookie guards who have gone onto All-Star status.

Zach LaVine, for example, averaged 8.1 points on 42.2 percent shooting in his first 18 games, while Bradley Beal averaged 11.9 points on 35.9 percent from the field during that same span. Green still has three quarters of the season left to improve and there's no reason to think someone with his skill and athleticism won't as he becomes accustomed to the pro game.

Evan Mobley, Cleveland Cavaliers

Off to the best one-month start of any 2021-22 rookie, Mobley suffered a sprained right elbow in a loss to the Boston Celtics on November 15 and is expected to miss multiple weeks. While his momentum was stalled, the seven-footer shouldn't have a problem picking up where he left off upon his return to Cleveland's line-up.

If the Rookie of the Year award was being handed out in November, Mobley might have the best chance to take home the hardware as he's been equally impressive at both ends of the court. His offense has been better than expected with 14.6 points on 49.4 percent shooting and 8.0 rebounds and has even made eight of 26 from three-point range. He was tied for fourth in the NBA with 32 dunks through November 16 and has shown rare positional versatility.

There were questions about his offensive ability coming out of college but those have been answered and there's little doubt that Mobley is on his way to becoming a scoring force for years to come. A stellar defensive player at USC, Mobley has continued that path in his NBA career, flashing outstanding timing and discipline in rim protection. He leads all rookies with 1.60 blocks per game and his 24 total blocks were the second most by any Cavaliers player through the first 15 games of a career (Hot Rod Williams, 30 in 1986).

Mobley's injury has clearly left a huge void and the Cavs have been unable to compensate. They rank 26th in the league since November 17 in scoring defence (112.5) and have lost all four games without him following a surprising 9-6 start to the season.

Scottie Barnes, Toronto Raptors

Mobley's biggest challenger for the coveted one-month rookie award would be Barnes, who leads this rookie class in scoring (14.8), rebounding (8.4) and minutes per game (35.1) while ranking second in field goal percentage (48.6).

The Raptors' small forward is something of a Swiss Army knife with a well-rounded game and a tantalising set of tools. Barnes adjusted to the NBA very quickly, becoming just the second player (Shaquille O'Neal) since 1985-86 to accumulate at least 170 points and 85 rebounds while shooting 50 percent or better in his first 10 career games. Barnes' 212 points through 13 games were the most by any player in Raptors history and that's a franchise that drafted Vince Carter, Damon Stoudamire and Chris Bosh.

Besides Barnes' ability to score, rebound and pass, he's also excelling on the defensive end, often tasked with guarding the best player on the opposing team regardless of size. He's already been matched up against seven-foot Mo Bamba, Jayson Tatum, Kevin Durant, James Harden and even some point guards. Barnes also has proven to be an adept ballhandler, which is a huge advantage when going up against other bigs.

Perhaps the only aspect of Barnes' game that is lacking is his three-point shooting, as he's only attempted 19 from long range and made five. The ability to stretch the court with deeper shots would make every other part of his offensive arsenal even more effective.

Josh Giddey, Oklahoma City Thunder

By most accounts, the best pure passer in this draft class was point guard Giddey. A little more than a month into his NBA career and nobody would debate that. Giddey seems like a good bet to lead all rookies in assists, as he's totalled 105 thus far with the Sacramento Kings' Davion Mitchell ranking second with 68. But it's the Australian's all-around game that has the rebuilding Thunder looking very smart for nabbing him with the sixth overall pick.

Besides scoring 10.8 points per game, the six-foot-seven playmaker is third among first-year players with 7.3 rebounds and leads all rookies with 101 defensive boards. Giddey's performance in the first month has him among some elite company. With 105 assists and 131 rebounds in his first 18 games, he joins LeBron James and LaMelo Ball as the only teenagers to reach 100 in both in their first 20 NBA games. Giddey, who turned 19 last month, seems likely to record a triple-double soon after coming close on several occasions already.

After averaging 9.0 points on 37.1 percent shooting in his first 13 games, Giddey has heated up with 15.4 per game on 47.8 percent from the field in his last five games. Scoring is a bonus when it comes to Giddey, who has run the offense with the calm of a veteran and helped the Thunder be far more competitive than most expected.

The Chicago Bears scrapped to a 16-14 Thanksgiving win over the Detroit Lions, as the returning Jared Goff's wait for a first career win without Sean McVay went on.

Bears coach Matt Nagy had to answer questions about his future this week, but he was boosted by a trip to Detroit to play Goff and the winless Lions in Thursday's early game.

Goff – back after an oblique injury – is now 0-16-1 when not coached by McVay, having gone 42-20 in their four years together with the Los Angeles Rams, and this was another outing to forget.

Although a matchup between the teams ranked 29th and 30th for points per game heading into the week was never likely to be a classic, it started well for Goff when he connected with Josh Reynolds on a 39-yard touchdown.

D'Andre Swift soon went down with a shoulder problem to check Detroit's momentum, however, and Cairo Santos' field goal got the Bears on the board before two Andy Dalton passes broke the game open late in the half, as he threw 52 yards to Darnell Mooney and then 17 yards to Jimmy Graham up the middle for a TD.

That was quickly followed by a Goff fumble – his eighth of the year and the fifth he has lost – and the Lions continued to struggle to move the chains even after an Amani Oruwariye interception, instead allowing Santos to stretch Chicago's lead before half-time.

But Goff's work through the air was much improved and a patient third-quarter drive ended with a pass to T. J. Hockenson to edge the Lions in front.

The hosts came close to their first win of the season but were ultimately thwarted by the boot of Santos as Chicago's final drive led to a successful 28-yard field goal in the final seconds.

The Chicago Bears scrapped to a 16-14 Thanksgiving win over the Detroit Lions, as the returning Jared Goff's wait for a first career win without Sean McVay went on.

Bears coach Matt Nagy had to answer questions about his future this week, but he was boosted by a trip to Detroit to play Goff and the winless Lions in Thursday's early game.

Goff – back after an oblique injury – is now 0-16-1 when not coached by McVay, having gone 42-20 in their four years together with the Los Angeles Rams, and this was another outing to forget.

Although a matchup between the teams ranked 29th and 30th for points per game heading into the week was never likely to be a classic, it started well for Goff when he connected with Josh Reynolds on a 39-yard touchdown.

D'Andre Swift soon went down with a shoulder problem to check Detroit's momentum, however, and Cairo Santos' field goal got the Bears on the board before two Andy Dalton passes broke the game open late in the half, as he threw 52 yards to Darnell Mooney and then 17 yards to Jimmy Graham up the middle for a TD.

That was quickly followed by a Goff fumble – his eighth of the year and the fifth he has lost – and the Lions continued to struggle to move the chains even after an Amani Oruwariye interception, instead allowing Santos to stretch Chicago's lead before half-time.

But Goff's work through the air was much improved and a patient third-quarter drive ended with a pass to T. J. Hockenson to edge the Lions in front.

The hosts came close to their first win of the season but were ultimately thwarted by the boot of Santos as Chicago's final drive led to a successful 28-yard field goal in the final seconds.

Rassie Erasmus and SA Rugby have withdrawn their intention to appeal against sanctions imposed and have apologised to match officials for misconduct during the British and Irish Lions series.

South Africa director of rugby Erasmus was last week banned from all rugby activities for two months and suspended from matchday activities until September 30 next year.

Erasmus was in hot water after he accused the Lions of "reckless and dangerous" play in their 22-17 win in the first Test in July and hit out at the standard of refereeing from Nic Berry.

The World Cup-winning coach also made the claims in a 62-minute video clip posted on social media as he highlighted what he felt were a number of calls that went against the world champions.

Erasmus also retweeted clips from an anonymous Twitter user, alleged to be one of his own accounts, highlighting "questionable calls".

World Rugby last week revealed that an independent misconduct committee found the 49-year-old was guilty of all six charges that were brought against him.

The 49-year-old was also warned about his future conduct and told to issue an apology to the relevant match officials, while a fine of £20,000 was issued to SA Rugby along with a warning over the governing body's conduct going forward.

Both Erasmus and SA Rugby stated they would exercise their rights to appeal the verdicts, but both parties have now decided against challenging the sanctions.

A statement released by SA Rugby on Thursday said: "SA Rugby and Rassie Erasmus wish to apologise to the match officials appointed to the first Test of the Springboks' Series against the British and Irish Lions.

"We also confirm that SA Rugby and Erasmus have advised World Rugby that they withdraw their Notice of Appeal and will not lodge an appeal against the sanctions imposed by the Judicial Committee.

"This has been a highly stressful and charged environment with unusual pressures placed on all concerned and we have no wish to prolong that experience for anyone.

"We have drawn a line under the incident and only wish to look forward. We will respect the outcomes of the hearing, allowing our national teams and rugby operations to plan with clarity for the coming months."

A World Rugby statement said: "World Rugby welcomes the public apology from SA Rugby and Rassie Erasmus to the match officials involved in the first test between South Africa and the British and Irish Lions this year and the matter is closed."

Stephen Curry hailed his "unbelievable" younger brother Seth as the sibling rivalry became a thrilling sideshow in the Golden State Warriors' win over the 76ers.

It appeared Seth was going to win the battle but lose the war when he led Stephen in scoring while Philadelphia trailed in the game, going into the closing minutes.

Yet a three-pointer with 1:27 to play from Stephen meant he reached 25 points as well as finishing on the winning team, while Seth ended the game on 24 points and on the beaten side.

On Thursday, both NBA stars were set to get together with their family for Thanksgiving, along with Golden State's Damion Lee, who is brother-in-law to the pair after marrying their sister, Sydel.

Philadelphia swept to a 34-23 lead after the first quarter as Seth Curry made a blazing start to Wednesday's game, but a dazzling second half from Stephen and the Warriors saw them dominate 64-35 to snatch a 116-96 win.

Seth missed all five of his three-point attempts, to put another downer on his night.

He said of facing Stephen: "It's not always fun to play against him. For 80 nights out of the year, I want him to have a good game and them to win, but tonight the switch is flipped and I gotta compete against him and try to stop him.

"It's good for our families to watch. I was a little upset in the end of the fourth: it was the first chance I had to outscore him and he gets a wide open three at the end of the game when it's said and done to eclipse me by one point, so I wasn't happy about that."

All the same, Seth was smiling about it all, so a family get-together looked sure to be an enjoyable affair.

He added: "Especially around the holidays it's good for everybody to see each other, and you don't take it for granted, me, Stephen and Damion playing against each other."

 

This was the second time this season the Warriors won a game by at least 20 points after trailing by at least 10. The rest of the NBA's teams only have three such games.

Stephen Curry made just one free throw (Seth was eight-from-eight from the line) but connected on six of 11 three-point attempts.

After the game, Stephen insisted he had been unaware Seth was close to pipping him for points until that late three-pointed.

"He reminded me right after the game. I didn't know the stakes were so high on that shot," Stephen said.

"That dude's playing unbelievable basketball. It's fun to watch and he continues to get better. It's impressive the way he's playing and the way he's stepped into his identity in this league. I'm a proud, proud brother."

Golden State have won nine straight home games, all by at least 13 points.

Stephen Curry felt the second-half contribution of Juan Toscano-Anderson was key to the comeback, with abundant energy complementing his 13 points, six rebounds and six assists.

"For sure. That is contagious. You feel a different spirit because of how much it means to him and how he knows he can influence and impact games," said Warriors star Curry.

"Anybody can skill their way into it and have that flashiness. He has that dog in him that comes out and it's contagious for sure and we feed off that."

Gennadiy Golovkin says a third fight with Saul 'Canelo' Alvarez remains "possible" but no progress has been made over a potential trilogy.

Golovkin and Canelo's first battle ended in a split-decision draw in September 2017 before the Mexican superstar contentiously won the rematch on points 12 months later.

There has been plenty of talk about a third fight, but it has not yet come to fruition.

Canelo is set to chase a title in a fifth weight class after the WBC approved his request to challenge Ilunga Junior Makabu for the cruiserweight championship.

The 31-year-old made history with a brutal 11th-round knockout of Caleb Plant in their blockbuster unification showdown on November 6 – becoming the first undisputed super middleweight champion.

Golovkin's next assignment is a fight with Ryota Murata in Japan on December 29.

The 39-year-old Kazakh middleweight icon believes another fight with Canelo could happen, but is not on the cards as it stands.

He told Sky Sports: "This fight is possible. Theoretically nothing has changed.

"There are certain questions which have been posed. They are still open, they remain unanswered.

"We have been discussing it but haven't moved towards this fight for quite some time. You are interested because he beat all the UK fighters! But it is of no concern to me."

What Golovkin is certain of is that he will not be moving into a different weight division.

"I don't want to entertain moving to a different division unless there is an offer on the table," he added.

"Imagine if I moved to 175lbs [light-heavyweight], the number of people calling me out will increase by 30 per cent!

"The army of fighters who self-promote themselves by using my name would only increase in number."

© 2022 SportsMaxTV All Rights Reserved.