Florentino Perez says Kylian Mbappe must have "changed his dream" by rejecting Real Madrid to stay at Paris Saint-Germain.

Mbappe had been expected to join Los Blancos as a free agent, but signed a blockbuster new three-year deal with PSG last month.

Madrid president Perez says the Mbappe who snubbed the LaLiga and European champions is not the same character he wanted to bring to the Spanish capital.

He told El Chiringuito: "Mbappe is already forgotten. We have had a perfect season and we will continue to work to get the best players.

"His dream was to play at Real Madrid, we wanted to do it last August and they didn't let him leave, he kept saying he wanted to play at Madrid and like 15 days before he changed the situation.

"This is not the Mbappe I wanted to bring, he is another one, who must have changed his dream. He changes, he is offered other things, he is pressured and he is already another footballer.

"There is no one at Real Madrid above the club. He is a great player, he can win more than others, but it is a collective sport and we have values and principles that we cannot change.

"The Mbappe who was going to come here is not this one. If it is, I prefer him to stay at PSG. I want the one with the dream."

Perez did not rule out making another move for Mbappe when he comes to the end of his new deal.

"Impossible in three years? In three years' time we'll all be bald?" he added.

"This Mbappe is not my Mbappe, who refuses to do a publicity stunt with his national team... I don't want that. It could have been a slip of the tongue, but I think he was mistaken."

Erling Haaland was also linked with Madrid before joining Manchester City, but Perez says Los Blancos did not need the Norway striker when they have Karim Benzema.

He added: "We have the best nine in the world and we weren't going to bring in Haaland to have him on the bench, right? Clause [Haaland reportedly has a release clause in his City contract] in two years?

"I don't know. We have no interest now other than to build the new team with the youngsters we have and some reinforcement."

Manchester City will start their Premier League title defence at West Ham, while Frank Lampard will host his former club Chelsea with Everton on the opening weekend.

City pipped Liverpool to their fourth English top-flight crown under Pep Guardiola and there will be significant interest around their August 7 opener at London Stadium, where new signing Erling Haaland could make his debut after arriving from Borussia Dortmund.

Jurgen Klopp's Liverpool will aim to mount another title charge in the 2022-23 campaign and they go to newly promoted Fulham for their first game.

Chelsea eased into third place last term and their first league game of the Todd Boehly era sees them travel to face Blues great Lampard at Everton, who narrowly avoided relegation to maintain their top-flight status.

Manchester United finished in a disappointing sixth last campaign, with a 4-0 thrashing at Brighton and Hove Albion a low point, and they host the Seagulls in what will be Erik ten Hag's first game in charge.

Arsenal will visit Crystal Palace on August 5 as the season's opening game, while promoted side Bournemouth are at home to Aston Villa.

Antonio Conte's Tottenham sneaked into the Champions League last season and open their campaign at home to Southampton, with Nottingham Forest playing their first top-flight fixture in 23 years away at Newcastle United, who climbed out the relegation zone under Eddie Howe in the previous term.

Testing opening for Liverpool, Guardiola faces late Blues clash

Liverpool were in the hunt for an unprecedented quadruple for much of the 2021-22 season, but fell short and ended up with just the EFL Cup and FA Cup crowns to their name.

Klopp's side will be tested in the opening weeks of the season, facing four – United, Chelsea, City and Arsenal – of the traditional 'big six' sides in the first 11 games, alongside a Merseyside derby at Everton on September 9.

The first clash between United and Liverpool will come just three matchdays into the season, with the Reds visiting Old Trafford on August 20.

Liverpool then head Chelsea and Arsenal either side of the late September international break, with champions City travelling to Anfield just a week after the Gunners trip.

Supporters in Manchester will eagerly await October 1 for the first meeting between United and City at Etihad Stadium, while the first north London derby between Tottenham and Arsenal comes on the same day.

The Premier League title race went down to the wire last campaign, and City could face a tough task if it does so again as they host Thomas Tuchel's Chelsea in an enticing clash on the penultimate weekend.

Premier League opening weekend fixtures:

Crystal Palace v Arsenal
Bournemouth v Aston Villa
Everton v Chelsea
Fulham v Liverpool
Leeds United v Wolves
Leicester City v Brentford
Newcastle United v Nottingham Forest
Tottenham v Southampton
Manchester United v Brighton and Hove Albion
West Ham v Manchester City

Arsenal travel to Crystal Palace on the opening day of the 2022-23 Premier League as Mikel Arteta aims to atone for narrowly missing out on Champions League qualification.

A trip to Selhurst Park proved to be Arsenal's downfall in their top-four push, with a 3-0 defeat to Palace following a 2-1 home loss to Brighton and Hove Albion as the Gunners dropped ground in April.

Arteta's side will have chance to make amends when they visit former Gunner Patrick Vieira's side, before hosting Leicester City in their first home game, which precedes an away clash with newly promoted Bournemouth.

Championship winners Fulham and Aston Villa follow at home in a quiet opening for Arsenal, whose first clash against a traditional 'big six' side comes away at Manchester United on September 3.

A crushing defeat at north London rivals Tottenham was another dent in Arsenal's Champions League hopes, and the Gunners host Tottenham on October 1, a week before Liverpool visit.

Given how last season ended, all eyes will be on the final few matchdays, where Arsenal visit Nottingham Forest on their top-flight return before concluding their campaign at home to Wolves.

Arsenal's 2022-23 Premier League fixtures in full:

05/08/2022 - Crystal Palace (a)
13/08/2022 - Leicester City (h)
20/08/2022 - Bournemouth (a)
27/08/2022 - Fulham (h)
30/08/2022 - Aston Villa (h)
03/09/2022 - Manchester United (a)
10/09/2022 - Everton (h)
17/09/2022 - Brentford (a)
01/10/2022 - Tottenham (h)
08/10/2022 - Liverpool (h)
15/10/2022 - Leeds United (a)
18/10/2022 - Manchester City (h)
22/10/2022 - Southampton (a)
29/10/2022 - Nottingham Forest (h)
05/11/2022 - Chelsea (a)
12/11/2022 - Wolves (a)
26/12/2022 - West Ham (h)
31/12/2022 - Brighton and Hove Albion (a)
02/01/2023 - Newcastle United (h)
14/01/2023 - Tottenham (a)
21/01/2023 - Manchester United (h)
04/02/2023 - Everton (a)
11/02/2023 - Brentford (h)
18/02/2023 - Aston Villa (a)
25/02/2023 - Leicester City (a)
04/03/2023 - Bournemouth (h)
11/03/2023 - Fulham (a)
18/03/2023 - Crystal Palace (h)
01/04/2023 - Leeds United (h)
08/04/2023 - Liverpool (a)
15/04/2023 - West Ham (a)
22/04/2023 - Southampton (h)
26/04/2023 - Manchester City (a)
29/04/2023 - Chelsea (h)
06/05/2023 - Newcastle United (a)
13/05/2023 - Brighton and Hove Albion (h)
20/05/2023 - Nottingham Forest (a)
28/05/2023 - Wolves (h)

Manchester City's Premier League title defence starts with a trip to West Ham, where Erling Haaland will be eyeing a fast start.

Pep Guardiola's side were in danger of throwing away the cherished prize when trailing 2-0 at the London Stadium in May before salvaging a draw and recovering from the same deficit to beat Aston Villa on a dramatic final day to edge out Liverpool.

Haaland's arrival from Borussia Dortmund is a stellar signing for a City side seeking a seventh Premier League crown. His first opportunity to wow the home faithful will come against Bournemouth, with the first Manchester derby taking place at the Etihad Stadium on October 1.

Anfield is the destination two weeks later for a showdown with Jurgen Klopp's charges, who visit the blue half of Manchester in April.

After the break in domestic action for the Qatar World Cup, City head to Leeds United on Boxing Day, host Everton on New Year's Eve and visit Chelsea in their opening game of 2023, while January also includes a trip to Old Trafford.

The reigning champions' final home game is against Chelsea and they wrap up the season by visiting Brentford.

Manchester City's 2022-223 fixtures in full:

07/08/2022 - West Ham (a)
13/08/2022 - Bournemouth (h)
20/08/2022 - Newcastle United (a)
27/08/2022 - Crystal Palace (h)
31/08/2022 - Nottingham Forest (h)
03/09/2022 - Aston Villa (a)
10/09/2022 - Tottenham (h)
17/09/2022 - Wolves (a)
01/10/2022 - Manchester United (h)
08/10/2022 - Southampton (h)
15/10/2022 - Liverpool (a)
18/10/2022 - Arsenal (a)
22/10/2022 - Brighton and Hove Albion (h)
29/10/2022 - Leicester City (a)
05/11/2022 - Fulham (h)
12/11/2022 - Brentford (h)
26/12/2022 - Leeds United (a)
31/12/2022 - Everton (h)
02/01/2023 - Chelsea (a)
14/01/2023 - Manchester United (a)
21/01/2023 - Wolves (h)
04/02/2023 - Tottenham (a)
11/02/2023 - Aston Villa (h)
18/02/2023 - Nottingham Forest (a)
25/02/2023 - Bournemouth (a)
04/03/2023 - Newcastle United (h)
11/03/2023 - Manchester City (a)
18/03/2023 - West Ham (h)
01/04/2023 - Liverpool (h)
08/04/2023 - Southampton (a)
15/04/2023 - Leicester City (h)
22/04/2023 - Brighton and Hove Albion (a)
26/04/2023 - Arsenal (h)
29/04/2023 - Fulham (a)
06/05/2023 - Leeds United (h)
13/05/2023 - Everton (a)
20/05/2023 - Chelsea (h)
28/05/2023 - Brentford (a)

Erik ten Hag's bid to guide Manchester United to a new era of Premier League success will begin with the visit of Brighton and Hove Albion.

The top-flight title has eluded United since 2013, with Ten Hag the fifth permanent manager since Alex Ferguson's departure that year.

After hosting Graham Potter's Seagulls on the opening day, United head to Brentford before hosting rivals Liverpool.

The first Manchester derby of the campaign will take place at the Etihad Stadium on October 1, with the champions heading to Old Trafford on January 14.

Ten Hag will take his charges to Anfield in March and close the season by welcoming newly promoted Fulham.

A potentially favourable festive period, following on from the World Cup in Qatar, sees United host Nottingham Forest on Boxing Day, head to Wolves on New Year's Eve, and entertain Bournemouth in their first game of 2023.

Manchester United's 2022-23 fixtures in full:

07/08/2022 - Brighton and Hove Albion (h)
13/08/2022 - Brentford (a)
20/08/2022 - Liverpool (h)
27/08/2022 - Southampton (a)
30/08/2022 - Leicester City (a)
03/09/2022 - Arsenal (h)
10/09/2022 - Crystal Palace (a)
17/09/2022 - Leeds United (h)
01/10/2022 - Manchester City (a)
08/10/2022 - Everton (a)
15/10/2022 - Newcastle United (h)
19/10/2022 - Tottenham (h)
22/10/2022 - Chelsea (a)
29/10/2022 - West Ham (h)
05/11/2022 - Aston Villa (a)
12/11/2022 - Fulham (a)
26/12/2022 - Nottingham Forest (h)
31/12/2022 - Wolves (a)
02/01/2023 - Bournemouth (h)
14/01/2023 - Manchester City (h)
21/01/2023 - Arsenal (a)
04/02/2023 - Crystal Palace (h)
11/02/2023 - Leeds United (a)
18/02/2023 - Leicester City (h)
25/02/2023 - Brentford (h)
04/03/2023 - Liverpool (a)
11/03/2023 - Southampton (h)
18/03/2023 - Brighton and Hove Albion (a) 
01/04/2023 - Newcastle United (a)
08/04/2023 - Everton (h)
15/04/2023 - Nottingham Forest (a)
22/04/2023 - Chelsea (h)
25/04/2023 - Tottenham (a)
29/04/2023 - Aston Villa (h)
06/05/2023 - West Ham (a) 
13/05/2023 - Wolves (h)
20/05/2023 - Bournemouth (a)
28/05/2023 - Fulham (h)

Tottenham will open their Premier League campaign at home to Southampton as Antonio Conte embarks on his first full season in charge.

Spurs will be out for revenge in their August 6 opener after Southampton scored two goals in three minutes to steal a 3-2 victory in this exact fixture last February.

That started a run of three losses in four league games, with the one victory perhaps surprisingly coming at Manchester City, as Spurs' form nosedived before they recovered to secure Champions League football.

While Ralph Hasenhuttl's side may pose a tough test, a more difficult challenge follows on the next matchday with a trip to Thomas Tuchel's Chelsea for Tottenham's first London derby of the season.

A trip to Premier League champions City comes on September 10, but all eyes will be on October 1 when Spurs visit Arsenal for the first meeting of the campaign between the north London rivals.

Conte's side face a challenging late April, hosting Manchester United before an away clash with Liverpool, while Tottenham will conclude their top-flight season at Leeds United.

Tottenham's 2022-23 Premier League fixtures in full:

06/08/2022 - Southampton (h)
13/08/2022 - Chelsea (a)
20/08/2022 - Tottenham (h)
27/08/2022 - Nottingham Forest (a)
30/08/2022 - West Ham (a)
03/09/2022 - Fulham (h)
10/09/2022 - Manchester City (a)
17/09/2022 - Leicester City (h)
01/10/2022 - Arsenal (a)
08/10/2022 - Brighton and Hove Albion (a)
15/10/2022 - Everton (h)
19/10/2022 - Manchester United (a)
22/10/2022 - Newcastle United (h)
29/10/2022 - Bournemouth (a)
05/11/2022 - Liverpool (h)
12/11/2022 - Leeds United (h)
26/12/2022 - Brentford (a)
31/12/2022 - Aston Villa (h)
02/01/2023 - Crystal Palace (a)
14/01/2023 - Arsenal (h)
21/01/2023 - Fulham (a)
04/02/2023 - Manchester City (h)
11/02/2023 - Leicester City (a)
18/02/2023 - West Ham (h)
25/02/2023 - Chelsea (h)
04/03/2023 - Wolves (a)
11/03/2023 - Nottingham Forest (h)
18/03/2023 - Southampton (a)
01/04/2023 - Everton (a)
08/04/2023 - Brighton and Hove Albion (h)
15/04/2023 - Bournemouth (h)
22/04/2023 - Newcastle United (a)
25/04/2023 - Manchester United (h)
29/04/2023 - Liverpool (a)
06/05/2023 - Crystal Palace (h)
13/05/2023 - Aston Villa (a)
20/05/2023 - Brentford (h)
28/05/2023 - Leeds United (a)

Chelsea face eye-catching early tests in the new Premier League season as Frank Lampard and Antonio Conte await them on the first two weekends.

The first game comes away to Blues record scorer Lampard's Everton side, who narrowly avoided relegation in the 2021-22 campaign, helped by a May 1 win over Chelsea at Goodison Park.

After that August 6 clash, former Chelsea boss Conte will bring his Tottenham side to Stamford Bridge on the second weekend of the new term.

Head coach Thomas Tuchel will pit his wits against Liverpool's Jurgen Klopp on September 17, with Chelsea having home advantage for that game. Klopp's Reds beat Chelsea on penalties in both domestic cup finals last season.

Chelsea face Manchester United at home on October 22, while their first league meeting of the season with Manchester City is pencilled in for January 2 at Stamford Bridge.

Should Chelsea mount a title challenge, then their clash with City at the Etihad Stadium on the penultimate weekend could be pivotal to their hopes, while Tuchel's team round off their campaign on May 28 against Newcastle United.

Chelsea's 2022-23 Premier League fixtures in full:

06/08/2022 – Everton (a)
13/08/2022 – Tottenham (h)
20/08/2022 – Leeds United (a)
27/08/2022 – Leicester City (h)
31/08/2022 – Southampton (a)
03/09/2022 – West Ham (h)
10/09/2022 – Fulham (a)
17/09/2022 – Liverpool (h)
01/10/2022 – Crystal Palace (a)
08/10/2022 – Wolves (h)
15/10/2022 – Aston Villa (a)
18/10/2022 – Brentford (a)
22/10/2022 – Manchester United (h)
29/10/2022 – Brighton (a)
05/11/2022 – Arsenal (h)
12/11/2022 – Newcastle United (a)
26/12/2022 – Bournemouth (h)
31/12/2022 – Nottingham Forest (a)
02/01/2023 – Manchester City (h)
14/01/2023 – Crystal Palace (h)
21/01/2023 – Liverpool (a)
04/02/2023 – Fulham (h)
11/02/2023 – West Ham (a)
18/02/2023 – Southampton (h)
25/02/2023 – Tottenham (a)
04/03/2023 – Leeds United (h)
11/03/2023 – Leicester City (a)
18/03/2023 – Everton (h)
01/04/2023 – Aston Villa (h)
08/04/2023 – Wolves (a)
15/04/2023 – Brighton (h)
22/04/2023 – Manchester United (a)
26/04/2023 – Brentford (h)
29/04/2023 – Arsenal (a)
06/05/2023 – Bournemouth (a)
13/05/2023 – Nottingham Forest (h)
20/05/2023 – Manchester City (a)
28/05/2023 – Newcastle United (h)

Colorado Avalanche star Cale Makar reflected on a thrilling Game 1 win of the Stanley Cup Final in front of his home fans, but said he is wary of the adjustments coming from the reigning back-to-back champions, the Tampa Bay Lightning.

In a see-sawing contest, the Avalanche jumped out to a 3-1 lead in the first period, before two Lightning goals in under a minute levelled it at 3-3 halfway through the second period.

The third frame was a hard-fought, scoreless battle, setting up a next-goal-wins finish less than 90 seconds into overtime by Andre Burakovsky.

Makar, who has 22 points in 15 playoff games as a defenseman and spent a game-high 28 minutes on the ice in Wednesday's series opener, told ESPN that the atmosphere in the building was like nothing he had experienced.

"It's incredible," he said. "Obviously the fans tonight were insane – I didn't think they could up the level from the past few rounds, but they were able to do that. 

"It was definitely electric in that building, and it's incredible playing with a great group of guys in the Final like this."

While he was thrilled with the result, his attention quickly turned to the championship pedigree of the Lightning, and why the Avalanche need to be near-perfect to deny them a three-peat.

"Obviously great teams like them are going to find ways to exploit us defensively," he said.

"You look at their one goal where [Nikita] Kucherov goes around [Devon] Toews, and feeds [Ondrej] Palat backdoor.

"I mean I knew he was going backdoor the whole time, I just wasn't there, so overall it's about staying more mentally prepared and giving them a few less chances than they had."

He added: "They're a great team, they're going to come out with a different game plan, which I'm sure will be beneficial for them.

"We just have to be prepared for that, and obviously we're going to come up with a game plan with what they came at us with tonight. You have to adjust, and that's just the way the playoffs go. 

"In order to beat great teams you have to do it, and [Tampa Bay have] been successful in that in years prior, so hopefully we can limit those improvements they make game-to-game."

The Avalanche are now 13-2 this postseason – winners of six games in a row – and have comfortably been the most potent offensive side in their run to the Final. 

Averaging 4.6 goals per game, Colorado are well clear of the Pittsburgh Penguins (4.14) and the Edmonton Oilers (4.06), with another big gap to the fourth-placed Toronto Maple Leafs (3.43). The Lightning are eighth this postseason at 3.06.

Tampa Bay have instead been getting it done defensively, conceding just 2.5 goals per game, trailing only the Dallas Stars (2.14) who were eliminated in the first round. Crucially, the Avalanche have also excelled in their defensive end, conceding 2.87 per game.

When asked if the red-hot Avalanche have started to think about lifting the Stanley Cup, Makar said it is far too early for that.

"Not yet – I feel like, overall, this team has been so great at staying in the moment, especially success-wise, not looking too far ahead," he said.

"I feel if we start looking too far ahead then this is a team that's going to exploit those little mental lapses, like they did tonight.

"For us it's just staying mentally locked in on each game, and not focusing on the future, just focusing on what we can control in the present."

Despite winning the Premier League title this past season, Manchester City are not wasting time when it comes to improving their squad.

With the signings of Julian Alvarez and Erling Haaland already confirmed, the next order of business for the blue half of Manchester is bolstering the midfield.

While City have reportedly long identified who fits their criteria, now they may be able to advance with negotiations.


Having already closed on other positional needs, Manchester City are preparing to table an offer for Leeds United midfielder Kalvin Phillips, according to the Athletic.

Reports suggest a bid will soon be on the way, following the completion of the 26-year-old's international commitments with England.

Phillips has been a target of City for some time, but with Rodri in need of competition, the incentive to sign him has increased after Fernandinho's unexpected departure from the Etihad Stadium.

City are said to believe a figure between £45million and £50m will be sufficient for Leeds to part with Phillips.


– Juventus expect Paul Pogba to sign a contract with them at the beginning of July after reaching a verbal agreement, according to the Guardian.

Chelsea have begun talks with Inter over a loan return for striker Romelu Lukaku, but the 29-year-old will need to take a wage cut, the Telegraph reports.

– Manchester United are favourites to sign Porto midfielder Vitinha, says A Bola.

– TottenhamNewcastle and Aston Villa are among the clubs interested in signing former Real Madrid forward Gareth Bale on a free transfer, the Sun reports.

Boston Celtics head coach Ime Udoka trusts in Jayson Tatum to stay aggressive while facilitating the team, heading into Game 6 of the NBA Finals against the Golden State Warriors on Thursday.

The Warriors have largely been able to restrict Tatum's scoring output on the way to taking a 3-2 series lead, with the Celtics now needing a win on home court on Thursday to save their season.

Tatum has averaged 23.2 points per game on 37.3 per cent shooting from the floor in this series, compared to the 27.8 points on 44.1 per cent in the preceding three series, despite an improvement to 47.5 per cent from beyond the arc against the Warriors.

More pertinently, however, his ability to feed teammates has diminished after setting a new career-high with 13 assists in Game 1.

Speaking to the media ahead of Game 6, Udoka believes the Eastern Conference Finals MVP and three-time All-Star can find the necessary balance to keep the series alive.

"From a scoring standpoint at times this whole series, not only in the fourth quarter, he's missed some things that he usually makes," Udoka said. "But we do want him to be aggressive and find that balance, as he's done all year.

"With Golden State specifically, they are trying to take him out of actions at certain times in the game, but it's on him to read that in positions where, understanding he's going to be doubled and be the bait at times and get everybody else involved.

"We have to make them pay as far as that. So, I wouldn't say his fourth is not as good or as bad as some of the other quarters. We want him to be aggressive and make the right read, which he's done all year."

On the other end, Boston's defensive approach on Stephen Curry changed in Game 5, but it freed up space for Klay Thompson.

The Celtics were much more aggressive guarding Curry coming out of the pick-and-roll in Game 5, but averaging 17.3 points on 35.8 per cent shooting in the opening four games, Thompson scored 21 points on an even 50 per cent. Thompson also shot five-of-11 from three, making up for Curry and Andrew Wiggins combining to shoot zero-of-15 from distance.

For Udoka, that is also a matter of balance.

"We don't feel we're as good as we had been in the first few games in other areas," he said. "Obviously, Curry got a ton of the credit for the shots he was making early, but our physicality and some of our adjustments we made on him were better.

"But we don't want to lose sight of everything else we've done well which is off-ball actions, whether he slips to the basket or Thompson, you saw our first two or three possessions, we had slips for layups to the basket.

"It was something we had taken care of well throughout the series as well as getting to Thompson. I think we lost the rope a little bit there."

Andre Burakovsky called it a dream come true to score the overtime match-winner in the Colorado Avalanche's 4-3 home victory against the Tampa Bay Lightning in Game 1 of the Stanley Cup Final.

It was a terrific start for the Avalanche, going up 2-0 in the first 10 minutes through goals to Gabriel Landeskog and Valeri Nichushkin.

Nicholas Paul pegged one back for the Lightning, but Artturi Lehkonen struck on the power play to close the first period, giving Colorado a 3-1 lead heading into the first break.

After a relatively even start to the second, the Lightning turned the game on its head with two goals in under a minute, courtesy of Ondrej Palat and Mikhail Sergachev.

It set up a tense third period, with neither team able to find a winner before the end of regulation, but Burakovsky was not willing to stick around all night, netting the golden-goal winner just 83 seconds into overtime to send the home fans into raptures.

Speaking to ESPN immediately after the win, Burakovsky said it was a special moment, and even more so to do it in front of the screaming Colorado faithful.

"It feels amazing," he said. "I think we really battled through this whole game.

"We had a bit of a mental breakdown in the second period, but I think we bounced back in the third – an awesome job by the boys.

"I don't think we were hard enough at pucks, we were not winning races in the second period, giving them too much room. In the third, we bounced back and really fought through it, doing all the right things.

"[Before overtime] we just said keep going like we played in the third, send pucks to the net and take the rebounds. We feel confident about our game, and I think that's exactly what we did.

"These fans are amazing – they've been amazing the entire year for us – this is great, this is a dream since I was a kid."

While Avalanche coach Jared Bednar was happy with the win, he stressed he expects a strong response from the Lightning.

"We're playing a really good team, and they’re not going to roll over and lay back," he said. "They're going to have to push back."

Lightning coach Jon Cooper – who led them to back-to-back Stanley Cups from the past two seasons – said he knows what it takes to get the job done, and his side did not bring it in Game 1.

"There’s some positive signs for us in this game – but the right team won the game, so give them credit for pulling it out," he said.

"I don't think by a country mile we gave them our best game. To beat a team like that, we need to have better in us."

In a battle between two of the best teams and best pitchers in the majors, Nestor Cortes' New York Yankees prevailed 4-3 at home against Shane McClanahan's Tampa Bay Rays.

McClanahan is the current favourite to win the AL Cy Young Award while Cortes is close behind, and they both put on spectacular performances in Wednesday's top fixture.

It was a rocky start for McClanahan, who was punished in the very first inning by American League MVP favourite Aaron Judge, connecting on his league-leading 25th home run of the season to make it 1-0. Nobody else has hit more than 18 home runs.

That was the only earned run McClanahan would give up, although a fielding error in the fifth inning and an intentional walk set up a three-run Kyle Higashioka blast to give the Yankees a 4-0 lead.

McClanahan finished with seven strikeouts in six complete innings, allowing three hits and two walks.

Cortes held the Rays scoreless through five innings, eventually getting pulled in the sixth after the visitors finally got their first run on the board via a Manuel Margot RBI double.

Choi Ji-man's RBI base hit in the eighth inning cut the margin to 4-2, and Rene Pinto followed suit as the very next batter to make it 4-3. Clay Holmes was able to hold his nerve in the ninth frame to secure the save and the win for the Yankees.

After their performances, McClanahan (1.84 ERA) and Cortes (1.94 ERA) are two of only seven starting pitchers this season to allow fewer than two runs per nine innings.

The win moves the Yankees' league-leading record to 46-16 – six games clear of the New York Mets in second (41-23).

Astros' immaculate showing

The Houston Astros pitched two immaculate innings in their 9-2 road win against the Texas Rangers to retain the fourth-best record in the majors at 39-24.

After the Astros piled on six runs in the opening frame, including two-run doubles from both Yordan Alvarez and Martin Maldonado, Houston starter Luis Garcia took control.

In the second inning, Garcia struck out all three batters, throwing just nine pitches, with all being strikes, for a rare immaculate inning.

Incredibly, the feat was repeated in the seventh frame by Astros reliever Phil Maton, who also collected his three strikeouts in nine pitches. It is the first time in MLB history that a team has thrown two immaculate innings in the same game.

Phillies win in last-gasp walk-off

Philadelphia Phillies catcher Garrett Stubbs was the hero in his side's 3-1 home victory against the Miami Marlins.

Kyle Gibson was terrific on the mound for the Phillies, giving up one run from seven hits and no walks, pitching eight full innings and striking out six – but his team trailed 1-0 going into the ninth frame.

After a lead-off strikeout, Alec Bohm singled, and J.T. Realmuto walked, but another strikeout meant Stubbs was the last chance to make something happen – and he duly responded.

From the fifth pitch of his at-bat, with two strikes, Stubbs connected on a hanging slider and sent it over the fence for a game-winning three-run homer. It is the Phillies' 11th win from their past 13 games.

The Dallas Mavericks entered this offseason with a need at center, and potentially filled that void by acquiring Christian Wood from the Houston Rockets in exchange for four players and a draft pick.  

Wood, 26, was the Rockets’ leading scorer and rebounder this past season with 17.9 points and 10.1 boards per game. He was one of just nine players to average at least 17 points and 10 rebounds, joining the likes of Philadelphia's Joel Embiid, Milwaukee's Giannis Antetokounmpo and two-time MVP Nikola Jokic of Denver. 

Heading to Houston in the deal are Boban Marjanovic, Trey Burke, Sterling Brown and Marquese Chriss – all of which figure to fill reserve roles, at best – as well as the 26th pick in this year’s draft. Acquiring those players provides Houston with roster flexibility by trading one big contract for numerous smaller contracts, and gives them three first-round picks this year, adding to their selections at number three and 17.

Adding Wood gives Luka Doncic the frontcourt running-mate he has desired since the departure of Kristaps Porzingis, and he projects as the most dynamic pick-and-roll partner the Slovenian superstar has ever played with, playing in a system heavily focused on pick-and-roll offense. 

Wood will be joining his seventh NBA team in his seventh season, but after failing to stick with the 76ers, Hornets, Bucks and Pelicans, he really started to shine in 2019-20 with the Detroit Pistons, leading to a sign-and-trade to the Rockets and a three-year, $41million payday.

In his first season with Houston, he scored a career-best 21 points per game to go with 9.6 rebounds. Wood has also become a capable outside shooter, connecting on 131 3-pointers this season to match his total from the previous two seasons combined.  

The Mavericks were eliminated by the Golden State Warriors in the Western Conference Finals, marking their deepest playoff run of the Doncic era.

Golden State Warriors head coach Steve Kerr highlighted Klay Thompson's gradual improvement in these NBA Finals as critical for his side, heading into a possible close-out game against the Boston Celtics on Thursday.

Thompson has come up with big plays on both ends of the court, particularly on the defensive end down the stretch without Draymond Green, as the Warriors evened up the series on the road in Game 4.

Along with his ability to defensively hassle multiple players in this series, Boston's altered coverage on Stephen Curry allowed Thompson space to hit important shots in Game 5, scoring 21 points on 50 per cent shooting as the Warriors took a 3-2 series lead. On a night where Curry and Andrew Wiggins shot a combined zero-of-15 from long-range, Thompson was crucial, hitting five-of-11 three-pointers.

Speaking to media ahead of Game 6, Kerr believes Thompson has been able to grow into the series on both ends of the floor.

"The last couple of games he's looked great defensively," Kerr said. "I think there's been times earlier in the playoffs where he's looked really good as well, but I do think he's improved as this series has gone on.

"I thought those two shots and then Jordan's [Poole] two threes at the end of the third quarter [of Game 5] were the biggest shots of the game. They had seized momentum and Klay's two at the top of the key were just massive."

In each of the three previous series in the playoffs this season however, the Dubs have failed to close out on the first opportunity, dropping games on the road in Memphis and Dallas, as well as at home to the Denver Nuggets.

Irrespective of Game 5 being the first time the Celtics have dropped consecutive games in these playoffs, the 56-year-old insisted that it is simply difficult to win in those situations, and his side will have to be at their best to claim the NBA title on the road.

"I just think, it's the NBA," Kerr said. "You've got talented teams, you've got talented players you're going against. You're in somebody else's building and it's just not easy to close anybody out in the playoffs.

"There's not a common thread, we're just going to have to play really well to win to close out."

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