LeBron James is putting off retirement talk but the Los Angeles Lakers superstar says he will only be happy to continue playing while he is on a team capable of winning NBA titles.

James scored 27 points and claimed nine rebounds and six assists to lead the Lakers against his former team the Miami Heat on Wednesday, yet his efforts proved fruitless in a 112-98 defeat.

The Lakers have lost five of their last six games and are 13th in the Western Conference with a record of 14-21 for the season.

James, who turns 38 on Friday and is tied to the Lakers through to the end of the 2023-24 season, has seemingly been growing increasingly frustrated with the team's form, and that chagrin was evident again in his post-game media briefing.

When asked if he has paid any thought to his retirement plans, James told reporters: "I know as long as my mind stays in it, I can play at this level for a minute.

"Now, that's up to my mind. My body is going to be okay because if my mind is into it, I will make sure my body is taken care of and I'll continue to put in the work.

"I'm a winner and I want to win. And I want to win and give myself a chance to win and still compete for championships.

"That has always been my passion, that has always been my goal since I entered the league as an 18-year-old kid out of Akron, Ohio.

"And I know it takes steps to get there, but once you get there and know how to get there, playing basketball at this level just to be playing basketball is not in my DNA.

"It's not in my DNA anymore. So, we'll see what happens and see how fresh my mind stays.

"I think about how much longer I'm going to play the game. I think about that I don't want to finish my career playing at this level from a team aspect.

"I'll still be able to be compete for championships because I know what I can still bring to any ball club with the right pieces."

Lakers head coach Darvin Ham believes James is doing all he can to propel the team.

"He's a fierce, fierce competitor," Ham said of the four-time NBA champion, who leads the Lakers this season with 27.8 points per game.

"The team, we're having our ups and downs right now. We're on the wrong side of the win-loss column.

"So, he's not going to allow himself to be taken out of the mix. He does as great of a job as I've seen ever of making himself available and being able to produce physically at an extremely high level."

Kyrie Irving scored 15 fourth-quarter points to lift the Brooklyn Nets to their 10th straight win – the longest streak this NBA season – with a 108-107 victory over the short-handed Atlanta Hawks on Wednesday.

Irving finished with 28 points, headlined by 15 in the final period, making five three-pointers with five rebounds and eight assists, as the Nets held on to their three-point three-quarter time lead.

Kevin Durant added 26 points with a season-high 16 rebounds and eight assists, with center Nic Claxton contributing 17 points, 10 rebounds and a career-high six blocks.

The result means the Nets have achieved their longest win streak since 2005-06, moving closer to their franchise record of 14, from 2003-04 and 2005-06.

Brooklyn improved their record to 23-12, having won 14 of their past five games, closing the gap on the top two in the Eastern Conference, the Boston Celtics (25-10) and the Milwaukee Bucks (22-12).

Irving led a 17-3 fourth-quarter run with eight consecutive points as the Nets pulled clear in the last before the Hawks rallied, only for Dejounte Murray to miss a 27-footer on the buzzer.

Murray finished with 24 points and John Collins added 21 for the Hawks, who were without Trae Young and Clint Capela with calf injuries as well as De'Andre Hunter (ankle).

Butler and Bam lead Heat past Lakers

The Miami Heat dominated on offense and defense, keeping the Los Angeles Lakers to their second lowest score of the season, in a 112-98 victory.

Jimmy Butler (27 points and six steals) and Bam Adebayo (23 points, 14 rebounds and two blocks) combined for 50 of the Heat's 112 points, as they improved to 18-17, with all five starters reaching double figures. Tyler Herro added 18 points, including three triples and nine assists.

LeBron James, playing against his former franchise, scored 27 points with nine rebounds and six assists and Russell Westbrook added 15 points on six-of-16 shooting.

DeRozan downs Giannis in OT

Giannis Antetokounmpo had a monster double-double with 45 points and 22 rebounds but could not prevent the Milwaukee Bucks losing 119-113 to the Chicago Bulls in overtime.

Demar DeRozan stuffed his stat sheet too, with 42 points on 15-of-25 shooting, with 10 rebounds, five assists, two steals and two blocks. Zach LaVine added 24 points with four three-pointers.

DeRozan made a crucial steal from an Antetokounmpo's inbound with 11.1 seconds of regulation time remaining down 106-104, setting up Ayo Dosunmu's dunk to send it to OT.

LeBron James and Los Angeles Lakers head coach Darvin Ham were complimentary of Russell Westbrook after he recorded another triple-double to help snap their four-game losing streak on Tuesday.

Westbrook played 29 minutes off the bench, scoring 15 points on six-of-11 shooting while adding 13 rebounds and 13 assists – finishing with a plus/minus of plus 18 as the Lakers beat the Orlando Magic 129-110.

It was his third triple-double off the bench this season, tying three-time All-Star Detlef Schrempf for the most triple-doubles off the bench in NBA history.

Speaking to the media after the win, Westbrook said he is just focused on playing his role.

"I'm a hooper," he said. "I can do anything, anytime, anywhere. I'll continue to do whatever is asked of me until further notice."

James was also terrific, scoring a team-high 28 points on 12-of-24 shooting with seven rebounds and five assists. 

He told reporters how Westbrook's ability to rebound as an undersized guard is crucial with Anthony Davis set for an extended stint on the sidelines.

"We all have to play a little bit more, and do a little bit more," he said. "Russ has definitely picked up, obviously with the rebounding. We're a team that lacks a lot of size, a lot of length.

"We try to make it up by being fundamentally sound, and also being athletic, and rebounding out of your position.

"Russ has always done that in his career – he's always rebounded outside of his size and length. It was very key for us to get stops, clean the glass and not allow offensive rebounds.

"I know when I'm out on the floor with him I just need to run. When he gets the rebound, and he gets on the break, I have to run with him. He sees pretty much everything that's going on on the floor, so just run and make yourself available.

"Tonight we were against a team that has been playing extremely well – they were winners of their last eight out of nine or something like that.

"They're playing exceptionally well here. They beat Boston twice on their home floor – and we know how great that team is – so it's a good win for us."

When asked if Westbrook's strong play would see him reinserted into the starting lineup, Ham made it clear the starting lineup does not necessarily mean the five best players.

"An NBA lineup has to have balance," he said. "It’s not so much 'can he start' or 'are his starting days over?'

"It’s not about that. It’s about him being able to bring a counter punch, a new extra wave off the bench... I know it’s been hard at times, but kudos to him for doing everything that was asked of him in that role."

Of the Lakers' three back-to-backs this season, James has only played in both legs once. When asked if he will be able to suit up against the Miami Heat on Wednesday, he said "I'll know tomorrow when I get up".

Luka Doncic put up arguably the most gaudy stat-line of the season in the Dallas Mavericks' 126-121 home victory against the New York Knicks on Tuesday.

Doncic ended up with 60 points on 21-of-31 shooting, 21 rebounds, 10 assists, two steals and a block in the virtuoso performance, and the Mavericks needed every bit of it to come back from a late deficit.

Trailing 112-103 with less than 30 seconds remaining in the fourth quarter, Dallas staged a miraculous recovery, but still needed some Luka magic to send the game to overtime.

With four seconds on the clock, trailing by three, Doncic was sent to the line for two free throws. He made the first, before intentionally missing the second, tracking down his own rebound and putting it back in to tie the game.

He scored seven of the Mavericks' 11 points in the overtime period to complete the comeback, finishing the game on a 23-9 run.

The win is Dallas' fourth in a row, and improves their record to 19-16 to sit seventh in the Western Conference.

Despite the loss for the Knicks – their fourth in a row – there were encouraging signs for the future of their backcourt. With Jalen Brunson missing his first game of the season due to a hip injury, Immanuel Quickley was handed the start. 

He had 11 of his 15 assists in the first half before struggling down the stretch as he was asked to play a game-high 51 minutes, while Quentin Grimes top-scored for New York with 33 points (12-of-25).

LeBron's Lakers get back on track

The Los Angeles Lakers are back in the winner's list after LeBron James led them to a 129-110 road win against the Orlando Magic.

Entering the contest on a four-game losing streak since the injury of Anthony Davis, James was terrific, scoring a team-high 28 points on 12-of-24 shooting with seven rebounds and five assists.

He was supported well by Davis' replacement in the starting lineup, with Thomas Bryant chipping in 21 points (eight-of-10 shooting) and 10 rebounds, while Russell Westbrook tied Detlef Schrempf's all-time record for triple-doubles off the bench with 15 points, 13 rebounds and 13 assists.

The Magic had won eight of their previous nine, but it was a tough outing for number one draft pick Paolo Banchero, scoring a career-low four points with five fouls in 22 minutes.

76ers waste incredible Embiid performance

The Philadelphia 76ers' winning streak has ended at eight games after a disappointing 116-111 loss to the Washington Wizards, despite Joel Embiid heroics.

Embiid, the back-to-back MVP runner-up, scored a game-high 48 points on 17-of-31 shooting, adding nine rebounds, three blocks and three steals to finish with a plus/minus of plus eight in his 36 minutes.

Unfortunately for Embiid, the 76ers were outscored by 13 in the 12 minutes he was on the bench, with Kristaps Porzingis' 24 points (seven-of-15), 10 rebounds, three blocks and two steals leading the way for the Wizards.

The win may be coming at a cost, however, as All-Star Bradley Beal left in the fourth quarter after suffering a hamstring injury.

The Boston Celtics shot the lights out during their 139-118 Christmas Day win against the Milwaukee Bucks in a crunch clash between two of the Eastern Conference heavyweights.

Boston scored at least 36 points in three of the four quarters, including a 77-point second half as they proved unstoppable offensively.

They were led by MVP candidate Jayson Tatum with a game-high 41 points on 14-of-22 shooting, adding seven rebounds, five assists and three steals.

His running-mate Jaylen Brown was just as effective in his supporting role, scoring 29 on 11-of-19 shooting with five rebounds and four assists, while reigning Defensive Player of the Year Marcus Smart set the table with eight assists and only four total field goal attempts.

As a team, the Celtics shot 58.8 per cent from the field (50-of-85) and 48.7 per cent from long range (19-of-39) in a blistering performance.

Two-time MVP Giannis Antetokounmpo was not at his best for the Bucks, shooting nine-of-22 from the field for his 27 points, nine rebounds and three assists, while Jrue Holiday was more effective for his 23 points (eight-of-14), seven assists and six rebounds.

A win for the Bucks would have seen them overtake the Celtics for the top seed in the East, but they instead fell to 22-11 and are now one-and-a-half games behind Boston at 24-10.

Doncic, Mavs catch fire in the third

The Dallas Mavericks were a completely different team after half-time in their 124-115 home win against the Los Angeles Lakers on Sunday.

Trailing 54-43 at the long break, the Mavericks came out of the locker room and put up 51 points in the third period, setting a new record for the most points scored in a quarter on Christmas Day. They won that quarter by 30 points, racing to the lead before the duo of Luka Doncic and Christian Wood put the game to bed.

Doncic, who was being consistently double-teamed all night and being forced to give off early passes, still worked his way to 32 points (nine-of-16 shooting), nine rebounds and nine assists, while Wood added 30 points (12-of-17), eight rebounds, seven assists, four steals and two blocks.

LeBron James was the lone bright spot for the Lakers, scoring a game-high 38 points (13-of-23) as his side lost their fourth in a row to fall to 13-20.

Warriors remain the league's best home team

There is no place like home for the Golden State Warriors this season, improving their league-best record in their own stadium to 13-2 with a 123-109 victory over the visiting Memphis Grizzlies.

The Warriors are still below .500 overall at 16-18 thanks to their 3-15 road record, but once again shot the ball beautifully in front of the Chase Center crowd.

Behind 32 points from Jordan Poole and 24 from Klay Thompson, Golden State shot 18-of-44 from three-point range (40.9 per cent). It was a throwback game for Draymond Green as well, delivering a gritty double-double with 13 rebounds and 13 assists to go with his two points.

Ja Morant was the only Grizzlies player to shine under the bright lights, scoring a game-high 36 points on 15-of-29 shooting with eight assists and seven rebounds on his Christmas Day debut.

LeBron James concedes life without the injured Anthony Davis is "very difficult" for the Los Angeles Lakers.

The Lakers fell to a 124-115 loss to the Dallas Mavericks on Sunday, after the Mavs piled on 51 third-quarter points.

The defeat left the Lakers with a 13-20 record, having lost their past four games all without Davis after he suffered a foot injury in the 126-108 win over the Denver Nuggets on December 16.

In Davis' absence, Lakers head coach Darvin Ham has trialled a shorter lineup with Patrick Beverley and Dennis Schroder in the backcourt.

"Reality is, without AD, we lose a lot of length, which we don't have already," James told reporters after Sunday's loss.

"We have to make up in ways that, without AD, is very difficult, very challenging. I think at one point we had a lineup of, I think Austin Reaves [6-foot-5] was the tallest guy on the court.

"You don't have to be a rocket scientist to figure it out."

Davis had been enjoying an outstanding season prior to the injury, averaging 27.4 points shooting at 59.4 per cent from the field with 12.1 rebounds and 2.1 blocks.

James has lifted in Davis' absence, with his 38 points in the loss to the Mavs marking his seventh consecutive 30-point game.

The four-time NBA MVP is averaging 33.4 points with a 58 per cent field-goal percentage, adding 6.3 rebounds and 7.3 assists across the past seven games.

On the Lakers' lineup without Davis, Ham added: "You throw everything up against the wall and see what sticks. It's one of those types of situations.

"AD's not here, not in the lineup. We're not going to start using that as an excuse. Hell yeah, it's a big hole in our lineup. But now, we're pros. We've got to step up."

Nick Kyrgios is gunning for Tom Brady and LeBron James after he and fellow tennis star Naomi Osaka were unveiled as co-owners of a pickleball team.

Kyrgios has partnered with four-time grand slam champion Osaka in investing behind Miami PC, who will compete in next year's Major Pickleball League.

Pickleball, a growing sport that combines tennis, badminton and ping pong, has attracted a fleet of major admirers and investors from other professional sports, including NFL great Brady and NBA superstar James.

In an Instagram post, Kyrgios confirmed he would be partnering Osaka in Miami and vowed to defeat Brady and James, who have made investments of their own into franchises within the league.

Kevin Durant is another investor, signing up a new team, the Brooklyn Aces, while Kyrgios and Osaka have also been joined by Kansas City Chiefs quarterback Patrick Mahomes in Florida.

"Introducing the @miamipc," Kyrgios wrote. "Big welcome to our draft picks... We are coming for you @kingjames [LeBron] @easymoneysniper [Durant] @tombrady."

Former Germany international footballer Mesut Ozil is another name involved, with the ex-Arsenal man backing the D.C. Pickleball team.

LeBron James says replacing the injured Anthony Davis will be a "collective group effort" for the Los Angeles Lakers as he recorded his own fourth straight 30-point game in Sunday's 119-117 win over the Washington Wizards.

The Lakers will reportedly be without All-Star Davis for a month after scans revealed a foot injury having limped out of Friday's win over the Denver Nuggets.

Davis, who has been plagued by injuries in recent seasons, had been enjoying an outstanding campaign, averaging 27.4 points and a career-high 12.1 rebounds per game.

All five of the Lakers' starters scored double figures on Sunday, with Lonnie Walker adding 21 points, while center Thomas Bryant contributed 16 points with 10 rebounds, including the game-winning dunk. Dennis Schroder and Austin Reaves each scored 12 points.

"Whoever is available to play, we have to make plays," James, who scored 33 points with seven rebounds and nine assists, told reporters.

"We're all NBA players and we have to go out and trust the game plan the coaches put out there. Tonight, we were able to do that for the majority of the game."

Davis only played 76 times across the 2020-21 and 2021-22 seasons due to injury, while James, now 37, regularly missed games last season too.

"It's going to be a collective group effort," James said about covering Davis' absence. "It's always been health with us, since we all joined forces.

"It's always about health. If we can stay healthy or close to and have guys on the floor available, we're going to give ourselves a chance to win because we're going to play hard, play the right way."

James came up with the game-winning play with a pass for Bryant's tie-breaking dunk with 7.1 seconds remaining, although the four-time MVP almost lost the ball in midcourt in the lead-up. Kyle Kuzma missed a three-pointer with 2.1 seconds left.

Lakers head coach Darvin Ham declined to confirm reports on Davis' timeline after the game.

"We'll probably have something out official tomorrow," Ham said. "He saw some doctors tonight, so we'll see."

Los Angeles Lakers All-Star Anthony Davis is nervously awaiting X-ray results after he suffered a foot injury in Friday's 126-108 home win against the Denver Nuggets.

Davis, who entered the game averaging career-highs in both points (28.1) and rebounds (12.4) this season, came up hopping after a lay-up attempt early in the contest, briefly returning in the second quarter before sitting out the entire second half.

Head coach Darvin Ham told the media after the contest that X-rays were administered at the arena and they expect to have more clarity on the situation on Saturday, while ESPN's Dave McMenamin reported there is hope the injury is not severe and Davis will likely undergo an MRI.

A prodigious talent, Davis has been plagued by injuries in his 11-season career, only reaching the 70-game mark twice while only mustering a combined 76 appearances in the past two regular seasons.

He has played in 25 of the Lakers' 28 outings so far this year, and the Lakers' chances of a playoff push will likely hinge on the length of his potential absence.

However, against the Nuggets they were just fine, led by LeBron James' 30 points on 13-of-20 shooting with nine rebounds, four assists and two steals in 36 minutes.

The Lakers' bench picked up the slack as Russell Westbrook continued to make his case for Sixth Man of the Year, posting a 15-point triple-double with 12 assists and 11 rebounds, while also facilitating Thomas Bryant's best game in a Los Angeles uniform.

Bryant scored a season-high 21 points on nine-of-11 shooting, adding six rebounds and two steals, while fan-favourite Austin Reaves had 16 points of his own and an equal game-high plus/minus of plus 26.

Speaking immediately after the win, James pointed out the efforts of Bryant and rookie Max Christie in helping to bounce back from a disappointing overtime loss to the Boston Celtics.

"That's what this league is all about, you've got to be able to stay even-keel," he said. "Yes, it was a disappointing loss, but there are more games to be played. 

"I loved our effort tonight. The game ball goes to Thomas Bryant, and also rookie Max Christie coming in and giving us gigantic minutes, especially with AD's absence in the second half.

"We were just solid. Not only did we get defensive stops, but we got defensive rebounds and we were able to finish a lot on the break, not having turnovers.

"That's been an Achilles heel for us throughout this season, those unforced turnovers, and I think tonight we did a great job protecting the ball."

The Lakers will next face the visiting Washington Wizards on Sunday, who enter the contest on an eight-game losing streak.

The Boston Celtics survived an almighty fourth-quarter collapse to defeat the Los Angeles Lakers 122-118 in overtime on Tuesday.

Boston controlled the first half on the road, building a 65-50 advantage at the long break, but after reaching an 88-74 lead with two minutes remaining in the third quarter, everything began to fall apart for the visitors.

From that point on, the Lakers launched a 32-5 run to take a 106-93 lead with four minutes to play, but then it was the home side's turn to go into their shell, allowing the Celtics to storm back with a 17-4 run.

Anthony Davis had two free throws with 28 seconds on the clock, leading by two, but missed both. Jayson Tatum capitalised and tied the game with a contested mid-range jumper over LeBron James, before the four-time NBA MVP's potential game-winner was way off.

The Lakers had nothing to offer in overtime, scoring only four points in the first four minutes to allow the Celtics to build a game-winning lead.

It was a crucial win for the Celtics to snap a two-game losing skid, improving their league-best record to 22-7 and retaining bragging rights over their long-time rivals.

Tatum was the deciding factor, scoring a game-high 44 points on 15-of-29 shooting with nine rebounds and six assists, while running-mate Jaylen Brown chipped in 25 points (10-of-21) and 15 rebounds.

Both Lakers stars delivered, with Davis' 37 points and 12 rebounds continuing his MVP-calibre season, while James had 33 points, nine rebounds and nine assists.

Portis pulverises the Warriors

All-NBA Milwaukee Bucks duo Giannis Antetokounmpo and Khris Middleton combined for 50 points, but it was Bobby Portis off the bench producing the best performance in his side's 128-111 win over the Golden State Warriors.

Portis had his best game of the season with 25 points on 11-of-15 shooting and 11 rebounds, while two-time MVP Antetokounmpo had 30 points on poor efficiency (nine-of-26 shooting), 12 rebounds and five assists.

Stephen Curry led the Warriors with 20 points (six-of-17), but it was not nearly enough to stop his side from taking their third loss from their past four outings, and dropping their road record to 2-12.

The Bucks have now won eight of their past 10 to improve their record to 20-7, and they are 13-3 at home.

Giant-killing Rockets take another scalp

After knocking off the Bucks in their last game, the Houston Rockets collected another big scalp with a 111-97 triumph over the Phoenix Suns.

The Rockets were led by second-year scoring sensation Jalen Green, who had 26 points on seven-of-17 shooting – hitting 11-of-12 free throws – to raise his team-high average to 21.8 per game.

Third overall draft pick Jabari Smith Jr continued to impress, only attempting five total shots, but finishing with 14 points and eight rebounds, hitting all three of his three-pointers. The six-foot-11 wing is hitting a respectable 36.8 per cent of his threes on a healthy 5.8 attempts per game.

Cristiano Ronaldo's farewell to the World Cup was followed by tributes from sporting superstars Pele, Kylian Mbappe and LeBron James.

The Portugal captain said his dream of winning the trophy was over, after his fifth World Cup ended with a quarter-final defeat to Morocco.

Now 37, Ronaldo has conceded the Qatar 2022 tournament was his last World Cup, although he has left the door open for now on playing on in the short term.

Ronaldo lost his place in the side and was a second-half substitute in the last-16 win over Switzerland and also the Morocco game.

He became the first player to score in five separate World Cups, having netted in each edition since 2006, and is also now the joint most-capped player and highest goalscorer in international football history.

However, he never scored in a game in the knockout stages of the World Cup, a blip on an otherwise remarkably successful career.

There was a rapid reaction to an emotional message from Ronaldo on Instagram, where he described the goal of World Cup glory as "the biggest and most ambitious dream of my career".

NBA great James said Ronaldo was a "LEGEND!!", with the Los Angeles Lakers star adding a salute, thank-you and crown emoji to his message.

Three-time World Cup winner Pele, paying close attention to the tournament from his hospital bed in Brazil, wrote: "Thanks for making us smile my friend."

Mbappe, who helped France beat England 2-1 on Saturday to reach the semi-finals, replied to Ronaldo with three emojis. Those were of a goat, referencing Ronaldo's 'greatest of all time' credentials, plus hands together to signal his thanks, and a crown.

Ronaldo's recent interviewer and cheerleader, British journalist Piers Morgan, sent a message containing six sets of clapping hands.

Former Brazil striker Pato wrote to Ronaldo: "You are an example! You inspire people and children around the world. The same ones that criticise you are the ones who want the same success as you. You are a giant! Congratulations."

Jesse Lingard, Ronaldo's former Manchester United team-mate, seemingly got his acronyms muddled, however, as he posted "GAOT".

LeBron James is among those to have paid tribute to Grant Wahl following the American sports journalist's death while covering the World Cup in Qatar.

Wahl was in attendance at Friday's quarter-final tie between Argentina and the Netherlands at Lusail Stadium when he took ill in the media tribune.

The 48-year-old was a correspondent for CBS Sports and had previously worked for Sports Illustrated, where he did a cover story on the then up-and-coming James 20 years ago.

"I'm very fond of Grant and having that cover shoot – me being a teenager and him covering that, it was a pretty cool thing," Los Angeles Lakers star James told reporters following his side's 133-122 loss to the Philadelphia 76ers.

"Even when I moved up in the ranks and became a professional and he kind of went to a different sport and things of that nature over the years, anytime his name would come up I would always think back to me as a teenager and having Grant in our building down at St. V. It's a tragic loss.

"It's unfortunate to lose someone as great as he was and I wish his family the best. And may he rest in paradise."

No further details surrounding his death have been released.

FIFA president Gianni Infantino said in a statement: "It is with disbelief and immense sadness that I have been made aware of the passing of renowned sports journalist Grant Wahl, while reporting on a quarter-final match during the FIFA World Cup in Qatar.

"Only some days ago, Grant was recognised by FIFA and AIPS for his contribution to reporting on eight consecutive FIFA World Cups, and his career also included attendance at several FIFA Women's World Cups, as well as a host of other international sporting events.

"His love for football was immense and his reporting will be missed by all who follow the global game. On behalf of FIFA and the football community, we express our sincerest condolences to his wife Celine, his family, and his friends at this most difficult time."

The US Soccer Federation added: "The entire US Soccer family is heartbroken to learn that we have lost Grant Wahl.

"Here in the United States, Grant's passion for soccer and commitment to elevating its profile across our sporting landscape played a major role in helping to drive interest in and respect for our beautiful game. 

"As important, Grant's belief in the power of the game to advance human rights was, and will remain, an inspiration to all. Grant made soccer his life’s work, and we are devastated that he and his brilliant writing will no longer be with us."

Wahl wrote in his Substack column on Monday he had visited a medical clinic in Qatar after feeling unwell.

"My body finally broke down on me. Three weeks of little sleep, high stress and lots of work can do that to you," he wrote. 

"What had been a cold over the last 10 days turned into something more severe on the night of the USA-Netherlands game, and I could feel my upper chest take on a new level of pressure and discomfort. 

"I didn't have COVID (I test regularly here), but I went into the medical clinic at the main media center today, and they said I probably have bronchitis.

"They gave me a course of antibiotics and some heavy-duty cough syrup, and I'm already feeling a bit better just a few hours later. But still: No bueno."

US State Department spokesman Ned Price confirmed on Friday that talks are ongoing with senior Qatari officials "to see to it that [Wahl's] family's wishes are fulfilled as expeditiously as possible."

Wahl was at the centre of controversy earlier in the World Cup when he was initially prevented from entering Ahmad bin Ali Stadium for the United States v Wales match as was wearing a rainbow shirt. He was eventually allowed into the stadium.

The in-form Los Angeles Lakers will have to face the Toronto Raptors on Wednesday without star duo LeBron James and Anthony Davis.

James has been ruled out with left ankle soreness, while Davis remains sidelined after showing flu-like symptoms during Tuesday's defeat to the Cleveland Cavaliers, though the Lakers have said it is not COVID-19-related.

After a poor start to the season in which they lost 10 of their first 12 games, the Lakers went on a run of 8-2 from their next 10, before going down to the Cavs last time out.

Davis (27.3) and James (25.8) are comfortably their team's top point-scorers this season, with Davis in particular thriving of late, scoring a combined 99 points in recent wins at the Milwaukee Bucks (44) and Washington Wizards (55).

James has been his usual influential self recently, making 17 rebounds against the Cavaliers, tied for the third-most in his career in a single game and the most in any road game.

In a further blow to coach Darvin Ham, Patrick Beverley has also been listed as doubtful for the game against the Raptors due to right knee soreness.

Donovan Mitchell scored 43 points as the Cleveland Cavaliers claimed a rare win over the former face of their franchise LeBron James, beating the Los Angeles Lakers 116-102 at Rocket Mortgage FieldHouse on Tuesday.

Mitchell's season-high 43-point haul was the most by a Cavaliers player ever against James, while it meant that the 37-year-old four-time NBA MVP has a 17-3 record against his former side.

The Lakers were not helped by the first-quarter exit of in-form big man Anthony Davis, who did not return due to flu-like symptoms.

James finished with 21 points on eight-of-17 shooting, pulling down 17 rebounds with four assists, while Thomas Bryant came off the bench to add 19 points with Davis out.

The Cavs led by two points at the final change, but Mitchell took control on 17-of-27 shooting with four three-pointers along with six rebounds, five assists and four steals. Mitchell scored 29 of his 43 points in the second half.

Cavs center Jarrett Allen capitalised on Davis' absence on his own return from injury with 24 points and 11 rebounds, while point guard Darius Garland had 21 points with 11 assists.

The Cavs' win means they are 11-1 on their home floor and improved their season record to 16-9, snapping the Lakers' three-game win streak.

Mavs down Nuggets in a thriller

Dorian Finney-Smith drained a clutch three-pointer with 16.8 seconds remaining as the Dallas Mavericks downed the Denver Nuggets 116-115.

Tim Hardaway top scored with 29 points including six three-pointers for the Mavs, who claimed an impressive road win, even with Luka Doncic only managing 22 points on five-of-17 shooting. Doncic did record a triple-double, adding 10 rebounds and 12 assists.

Back-to-back reigning MVP Nikola Jokic was also down on his usual output, scoring 19 points with eight rebounds and eight assists, while the center missed a crucial free-throw with 12 seconds left. 

Heat humiliated in second-half blitz

The Miami Heat were humiliated at home by the Detroit Pistons who triumphed 116-96, led by Bojan Bogdanovic and his 31 points, with 28 coming in the second half.

The Pistons piled on 69 second-half points after scores were 50-47 in the Heat's favour at half-time to improve their record to 7-19.

Heat point guard Tyler Herro top scored for the game with 34 points, while Bam Adebayo scored 21 points with 15 rebounds.

Los Angeles Lakers head coach Darvin Ham shed some light on Anthony Davis' health after the surging star was forced to leave Tuesday's 116-102 loss to the Cleveland Cavaliers with flu-like symptoms.

Davis could only muster eight minutes before making his way to the locker room, being promptly ruled out from returning.

LeBron James picked up some of the slack inside as he racked up a season-high 17 rebounds to go with his 21 points, but the Lakers were no match for the Cavs down the stretch when Donovan Mitchell caught fire.

Mitchell top-scored with 43 points on 17-of-27 shooting, while Jarrett Allen was the main beneficiary of Davis' absence, dominating the interior with 24 points (11-of-14 shooting) and 11 rebounds.

Speaking after the loss, Ham said Davis' issue was one he was dealing with all day, but he tried, unsuccessfully, to tough it out.

"Yeah, it progressively got worse," he said. "His temperature went over 100 – I believe it was 101-and-change.

"He said he was going to try and give it a go, and he did, but he just felt too weak, drained and dehydrated a little bit.

"But, you know, it's that time of the season, in terms of winter time and the weather changing. Changing climates, coming from LA and going to these different places.

"We've dealt with it earlier in the year, and he experienced it again today. It set in earlier in the day, and it worsened as the day went on."

Ham discussed how he tried to combat the Lakers' lack of size by pivoting towards a focus on speed, but ultimately did not have the firepower to overcome it.

"We massaged the rotation a little bit… with him going out, just really trying to throw some different line-ups out there," he said.

"They're a really wide, rangy, long, athletic ball club, so just trying to get some speed out there to combat some of their size.

"Hats off to our guys, man, they competed their hearts out. That's a huge blow, obviously, with the way he's been playing of late, but they stayed the course.

"They got through the first half pretty good, they made it competitive in the third quarter, and then the bottom kind of fell out."

James gave his respect to Thomas Bryant, who came off the bench for the Lakers and chipped in 19 points and nine rebounds in 28 minutes, but said there is no replacing Davis.

"Next man up, but that's a tall task – figuratively and literally – for what AD has been doing for us over the last few weeks," he said. 

"I thought Thomas [Bryant] came in and gave us some great minutes. He was high-energy, worked the glass really well, but it was tough for us when AD went out. We had to switch up our whole game plan from what we were trying to do.

"But we gave as much as we could, we had a couple of opportunities in the fourth, but they broke away with it."

He added: "Obviously you can't replace AD, so everyone has to do a little bit more, but do their job, at the highest level or capacity they can do it, and live with the results.

"[Davis' exit meant we lacked] a little bit of everything. He's giving us everything – scoring, defense, rebounding, blocking shots around the rim, our length… when you have a guy that's six-foot-11 with a seven-foot-seven wingspan, you can't match that."

The loss snaps a three-game winning streak for the Lakers, although they have still won eight of their past 11 outings to pull their record to 10-13 after a 2-10 start.

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