Valentino Rossi has retired from MotoGP – and soon his iconic number 46 will follow him.

The number was associated with Rossi's bike throughout his epic 26-season career, in which he won nine championships across all classes.

Rossi quit the sport at the end of 2021, having celebrated 115 wins and 235 podiums.

Now, at the upcoming Italian Grand Prix at Mugello, the rider's number will also be retired.

The 46 has not been used in the 2022 MotoGP season, having been left vacant by Rossi, but the competition has moved to ensure it will not be taken in future either.

"The number 46 will be retired from use in the MotoGP class at the Autodromo Internazionale del Mugello," a statement read on Saturday.

"Synonymous with nine-time world champion and MotoGP legend Valentino Rossi, the number will be signed off in style at the upcoming Gran Premio d'Italia Oakley.

"The retirement ceremony will take place on the main straight on Saturday, just ahead of qualifying.

"Rossi will be in attendance as his legacy is honoured and number retired, having raced the number 46 into the MotoGP Legends Hall of Fame over 26 seasons of success – creating one of the most recognisable calling cards in global sport."

Robert Lewandowski reached 50 goals for the season on the final day of Bayern Munich's campaign, as it emerged he wants to leave the club.

The Polish striker headed Thomas Muller's smart cross from the left past Koen Casteels for Bayern's second goal of the game against Wolfsburg, helping the visitors to a 2-1 half-time lead.

It took Lewandowski to 25 goals in 22 Bundesliga games versus Wolfsburg, including his only five-goal haul in the top-flight.

In Bundesliga history, only Gerd Muller has scored more goals against a single opponent, having hit 27 against Hamburg.

Lewandowski took his Bundesliga tally for 2021-22 to 35, while he has also scored 13 times in the Champions League and twice in the German Super Cup.

Before kick-off, Bayern sporting director Hasan Salihamidzic announced 33-year-old Lewandowski has told him he wants to leave the club and has refused a new contract.

Lewandowski is the top scorer among all players from Europe's top five leagues this season, moving six goals ahead of Real Madrid's Karim Benzema after his first-half goal at Wolfsburg.

Stefano Pioli says he "doesn't care" about Inter's match at Cagliari as he urged his Milan side to focus on their own game in their quest to win Serie A.

the  Rossoneri could secure the Scudetto on Sunday if they beat Atalanta and their city rivals fail to defeat Cagliari.

Pioli's team have 80 points, two clear of Inter at the summit with two games left to play as the fierce rivals battle for the title.

Victory over Atalanta, who are unbeaten on their past seven league visits to face the Rossoneri, would mark the first time Milan have managed more than 80 points in a campaign since the title-winning 2010-11 term.

It would also leave Milan requiring just a point in their final game to win the league at Sassuolo; the leaders boasting a favourable head-to-head record over Inter, who host Sampdoria on the last day.

Head coach Pioli, speaking at a pre-match news conference on Saturday, reiterated that his thoughts remains solely with Milan and not on what Simone Inzaghi's team do.

"I don't care, I'm not thinking about what Inter can do," he said. "We don't need any other motivation because we are already at our best from this point of view.

"We don't have to think any further, we have to think about 17:59 tomorrow, when the match will start. We have to keep thinking only about the match, what will happen next will depend on how the match will be.

"Then what will happen, will happen, we have the strength to be able to determine our own path. I think the team will face the match with great awareness, both of the moment and of their qualities.

"We have overcome many stages, positive and negative, which have helped us to grow. We have been very good up to now, we will have to be better from here to the end."

 

Barcelona defender Ronald Araujo is a shock contender to face Getafe on Sunday – just five days after suffering a head injury that caused him to spend a night in hospital.

The 23-year-old Uruguayan suffered a heavy blow in Tuesday's 3-1 LaLiga win against Celta Vigo, clashing heads with team-mate Gavi shortly after the hour mark.

Both sets of players urged medical staff to come onto the field, and Araujo received around 10 minutes of treatment before leaving the pitch in an ambulance.

Xavi said after the match that Araujo was "conscious and out of danger", and his discharge from hospital was confirmed on Wednesday.

Barcelona stated on Tuesday that Araujo had suffered concussion, which is a brain injury.

In England, Football Association rules stipulate that any player with concussion should not be allowed to play again for at least six days; however, Barcelona believe Araujo could be ready to feature in Spain's LaLiga after coming through training with team-mates.

"Araujo wants to play," Xavi said on Saturday. "For us that means a lost. At no time was he unconscious, and he wants to play. He wants to be with us.

"I am moved by the commitment he has. The feelings on the training field are very good. He was not unconscious and in that sense it is important so that he can be there tomorrow."

Araujo posted on Twitter on Friday: "Thank God everything went well and it was nothing serious. Thank you all for your support. Blessings!"

The Uruguay international has played 42 times this term, totalling 3,181 minutes on the field – only Sergio Busquets, Jordi Alba and Frenkie de Jong have played more minutes among outfield Barca players.

Real Madrid manager Carlo Ancelotti has agreed with Mohamed Salah that the Liverpool star is the best player in the world in his position.

Ancelotti's Madrid face Jurgen Klopp's Liverpool in the Champions League final on May 28 in Paris, with two contenders for the Ballon d'Or lining up against each other in Salah and Karim Benzema.

Salah has been in fine domestic scoring form once again this season, on course for the Premier League's Golden Boot award with 22 strikes, while he has been directly involved in 35 goals in 34 league games.

The Egypt international, speaking after winning the Football Writers' Association Player of the Year in England, declared himself as the best forward in the world at present.

"If you compare me with any player in my position, not only in my team but in the world, you will find that I am the best," he told BeIN SPORTS.

"I always focus on my work and do my best, and my numbers are the best proof of my words."

Indeed, only five players – Ciro Immobile (156), Kylian Mbappe (167), Cristiano Ronaldo (169), Lionel Messi (174) and Robert Lewandowski (232) – have scored more than Salah (154) since his Liverpool debut in August 2017 across Europe's top five leagues in all competitions.

Meanwhile, Lewandowski (49), Benzema (44), Mbappe (35), Christopher Nkunku (34) and Immobile (32) are the only players from the same group to outscore Salah (30) this season.

The debate continues over who should win the next Ballon d'Or with Benzema, who could deliver World Cup glory for France in Qatar to aid his cause, and Salah among the front-runners for the personal accolade.

Ancelotti, addressing a pre-match news conference ahead of a LaLiga clash at Cadiz on Sunday, admitted that no player comes close to Salah in his position at the minute.

"Salah has said that in his position he is the best in the world and I think he is right," Ancelotti told reporters.

"I agree with him. In his position, yes, he is the best in the world."

Xavi insisted age would not be a barrier when Barcelona rebuild in the close season as the Catalan giants continue to be linked with 33-year-old Robert Lewandowski.

The Barcelona head coach said he had not concluded discussions with club power-brokers over transfer plans, and had not spoken to the team's current players about plans.

Bayern Munich frontman Lewandowski is reportedly keen on joining Barcelona, while Xavi did not rule out an exit for Frenkie de Jong, who has been linked with Manchester United.

Uncertainty lingers over whether Barcelona will have much financial clout in the transfer window, as they attempt to come through an economic crisis that has hit Camp Nou hard.

It may be that the likes of De Jong – in what should be their prime years, at the top of their market value – have to be sacrificed in order to bring in the quick-fix solution that a player such as veteran goal-getter Lewandowski might provide.

Xavi told a news conference: "The circumstances of the club are what rule. I have an important part in decision-making. From here on, we depend on the economic situation.

"In a few days we should know where we are in order to plan for next season. The economic situation keeps us at bay, it is obvious that marks the present and the future of the club."

Asked about Dutch midfielder De Jong, Xavi said: "For me, he is a very important player. He has been a starter almost always, except when he has been rotated.

"He is a fundamental footballer, but then there is the financial situation of the club. He is a player that I like very much, but we are going to see how the situation is."

Xavi said Barcelona have "untouchables" in their ranks who must not be transferred, and although he did not name such players, the growing number of youngsters coming through the ranks such as Ansu Fati, Pedri and Gavi likely fall into that category.

Lewandowski, who has scored 49 goals in 45 games for Bayern this season, could be the player that allows Barcelona to bridge the gap to Real Madrid next season. Barcelona have moved far closer to Madrid's standards since Xavi was appointed in November, after a dismal start to the campaign under Ronald Koeman, but Los Blancos have carried off the LaLiga title with a comfortable cushion.

In light of the Lewandowski reports, Xavi was asked whether he could sign veteran players and was adamant he would, contingent on whether such stars kept themselves in good shape.

"I signed Dani Alves at 38," Xavi said. "It's not age, it's performance. Players take care of themselves so much and every year they are more professional.

"Ibrahimovic, Modric, Dani Alves, they all have a very high performance at important clubs. Cristiano [Ronaldo] and [Lionel] Messi too. Age is not a priority. If it improves us, that's the important thing."

Xavi declined to say whether Barcelona would be targeting a goalscorer, declaring it was "not the time to talk about this".

However, he said: "The club knows what we need to be competitive. The board will demand titles from us, and we have to improve."

Xavi, whose side face Getafe in LaLiga on Sunday, explained: "We're talking a lot about players for next year, but we still haven't met the goal of finishing second. There are two games left to finish with a good feeling. Then we'll plan and decide."

Iga Swiatek continued her remarkable winning run to reach the Internazionali d'Italia final as she defeated Aryna Sabalenka 6-2 6-1.

Top seed Swiatek extended to 26 matches unbeaten, dating back to mid-February, with victory over Bianca Andreescu to set up the last-four meeting with Sabalenka, who battled past Amanda Anisimova.

The pair exchanged opening breaks in a tentative start to the clash in the Italian capital before Sabalenka again failed to hold her serve as Pole Swiatek took an early 3-1 lead.

World number eight Sabalenka, the third seed in the tournament, offered little response as the in-form Swiatek then claimed the first set with ease.

Sabalenka was again caught cold and had no answer as world number one Swiatek raced out the blocks in the second set, breaking twice via marathon rallies, to gain a 4-0 lead.

Swiatek swiftly wrapped victory up, despite a short medical time out for her opponent, and has now won all three of her WTA Tour encounters with Sabalenka in 2022, conceding just 12 games in the process.

Meanwhile, in the last 25 years only Serena Williams in 2013, Kim Clijsters in 2003 and Martina Hingis in 1998 have reached the final in Rome with fewer games dropped than Iga Swiatek this season (17).

The 20-year-old Swiatek continues on her quest for a fourth straight WTA 1000 crown and fifth consecutive title and in the final will face either Ons Jabeur or Daria Kasatkina, who face off later on Saturday.

Eden Hazard has no other plans than to stay at Real Madrid, Los Blancos manager Carlo Ancelotti has said.

Belgium international Hazard has struggled at Santiago Bernabeu since completing his reported €100million move from Chelsea in June 2019, with injuries and fitness issues hampering the forward.

Hazard has managed just seven starts for his 17 LaLiga appearances and 688 minutes this campaign as Madrid cruised to their 35th league title.

However, the 31-year-old appears to be a favourite with his team-mates in the Spanish capital after being seen to be encouraged to join in with celebrations after both LaLiga success and the Champions League semi-final victory over Manchester City.

Ancelotti, speaking before a trip to Cadiz on Sunday, has made it clear he intends to keep Hazard at Madrid.

"I have not talked about continuity. He stays and with a lot of motivation because he has not had a good time. He wants to show his quality. Hazard's plan is clear: he stays," Ancelotti said.

Asked if Hazard is likely to feature at Cadiz as Ancelotti rotates ahead of the Champions League final with Liverpool on May 28, the Italian responded: "I think so. In a squad like Madrid's there are many games. 

"There will be rotations. With a more complete squad you can rotate more and everyone can have opportunities. Being a starter in a great team is very complicated. For all, not only for those who play less.

"I think it is a locker room of a very high level. Professional, first, there are no arrogant people. Everyone is very humble and very respectful. It is a locker room that has a lot of quality of character. 

"It hasn't been easy to find changing rooms like this in my career.

"The number of minutes is not important. We have the example of Rodrygo. He has not played many minutes, but they have been quality when he features."

Ancelotti also confirmed he plans to rest Karim Benzema again, with Vinicius Junior and Thibaut Courtois also in line for a break.

"I have given him rest because he deserves it," he said of Benzema. "I have given him two days. Tomorrow I will also rest Vinicius and Courtois. They will be back on Tuesday. 

"[Dani] Carvajal, [Dani] Ceballos, Hazard are back... We're doing the plan well and next week they'll all be back."

As for the future of captain Marcelo, Ancelotti promised to open talks at the end of the season, while he heaped praise on the likes of Federico Valverde, Rodrygo and Eduardo Camavinga.

"Everyone has done their job. The ones I knew less about have surprised me: Valverde, Rodrygo, Camavinga. Vinicius has not surprised me because he has that talent," he continued.

"He has been more successful in finishing. I would say Rodrygo, Camavinga and Valverde are the three, though."

Madrid have won both of their last two visits to Cadiz in LaLiga (2-1 in August 2005 and 3-0 in April 2021), and could record three such straight away wins for the second time in the competition (three between 1987 and 1990).

Son Heung-min labelled Tottenham's Premier League schedule as "madness" but bemoaned the decision to substitute him against Arsenal as he chases the Golden Boot award.

Antonio Conte's side were cruising at 3-0 up against Arsenal on Thursday after a Harry Kane double and strike from Son, who was removed in the 72nd minute for Steven Bergwijn after adding to his impressive tally.

Son has scored 21 non-penalty goals in the Premier League this season, with only Harry Kane ever netting more goals, excluding penalties, in a single season in the competition for Spurs.

Meanwhile, only Liverpool's Mohamed Salah, who has managed 22 goals, has scored more times than Son in the English top flight this term, teeing up a hotly contested race for the Golden Boot.

The South Korea international admitted he was frustrated to be taken off as he chases the personal accolade, but understands why given the short turnaround to face Burnley on Sunday.

"To be honest looking at the schedule, it is madness," Son said. "We are playing Thursday night and Sunday with a really early kick-off.

"It is a really quick turnaround, we need to do everything to recover: good food, good sleep and get ready to go again.

"It would always be good to have a [later] kick-off [on Sunday], but if you win the early kick-off it is always good. It feels like you wake up and you go to play the game.

"Especially Thursday to Sunday is a really quick turnaround. But this is the schedule, we can't change it and we need to be ready for every situation which we will do.

"I will try my best to sleep. But if I struggle what can I do? If I am struggling I still have to try my best to recover. For me sleep is one of the most important things to recover and I’ll do my best."

As for being brought off, Son is more interested in how the team does as Tottenham sit one point behind fourth-placed Arsenal with two games to play.

"I am always not happy at coming off because I want to be on the pitch because I love playing football and I want to help the team," he added.

"I can understand afterwards but at the moment you are not angry but frustrated because you are passionate on the pitch. I can understand why because we have a really quick game on Sunday.

"I can't promise I will score but I will do my best and I will do my best for the team and if I don't score I will do my best.

"[The Golden Boot] would be nice but for us it is important for us to finish in the top four. Against Arsenal, performance-wise it was fantastic and I am very proud for the lads and well deserved.

"Obviously it’s a good thing that you are racing for the Golden Boot, but I have said a few times that it is important to finish in the top four than anything else.

"So 100 per cent I would be happy [if we qualify but I don’t score]."

Conte masterminded Spurs' biggest league win over fierce rivals Arsenal since April 1983 (5-0) and Son was quick to credit the Italian manager.

"He has been fantastic, some of the players have already spoken about this," Son continued. "Before he arrived we couldn't believe we could arrive in the Champions League spot.

"What he brought to the club was incredible, the passion, the energy, the positivity. Look, he has brought so many things. It is only 10 more days left, we have to give what we can, we have to squeeze all that we have.

"It has been really tough, especially in the Premier League because everyone is playing for the title and the top four and every game is really tough.

"When you qualify it is really tough but the way to qualify is really tough. The last two games we just want to make sure we qualify for the Champions League."

Cristiano Ronaldo has declared Erik ten Hag must be given time and freedom to rebuild Manchester United when the Dutchman steps into the Old Trafford top job.

Much is expected of new manager Ten Hag, who will replace interim boss Ralf Rangnick at the end of the season.

The Dutchman has been a high achiever in the Netherlands with Ajax and fended off strong competition to land the United post.

Reports have claimed Mauricio Pochettino and Julen Lopetegui were also keen on joining the Red Devils, but United plumped for Ten Hag.

Veteran striker Ronaldo looks set to be a key figure when the new regime get down to work, having scored 24 goals so far for United in the first season of his second spell at the club.

The 37-year-old, who won the Premier League's Player of the Month award for April, says Ten Hag must be afforded the authority to implement whatever changes he considers necessary.

"What I know about him is he did a fantastic job for Ajax, that he's an experienced coach," Ronaldo said. "But we need to give him time.

"Things need to change the way he wants.

"I hope we have success, of course, because, if you have success, all of Manchester is going to have success as well. I wish him the best."

Five-time Ballon d'Or winner Ronaldo, quoted on United's official website, said the appointment should fill everyone involved with the club with optimism.

This season has been a largely dismal one for United, who have missed out on a Champions League place and finished without a major trophy for a fifth successive campaign.

Ten Hag, by contrast, is coming off a championship-winning season in the Dutch Eredivisie.

"We are happy and excited, not only as players, but the supporters as well," Ronaldo said of 52-year-old Ten Hag's arrival.

"I wish him the best and let's believe that, next year, we are going to win trophies."

Klay Thompson said it felt "so special" to lead the Golden State Warriors into the Western Conference Finals after the Dubs got the better of the Memphis Grizzlies.

Playing close to his best, Thompson shot 11-of-22 from the field for a 30-point game, nailing eight of 14 attempts from long range in a 110-96 win in Game 6 of the semi-finals.

After clinching the 4-2 series success, the 32-year-old Thompson said it was a joy to be contributing on a high level again.

Major knee and Achilles injuries have seriously disrupted the career of one of the NBA's finest shooting guards, who won championships with the Warriors in 2015, 2017 and 2018.

Thompson finished the regular season with four 30-point-plus games in his last six outings, but he had managed just one such high-scoring performance in 10 of the team's postseason games until coming good on Friday night.

Speaking in an on-court ESPN interview, Thompson said: "I just tried to focus on the present, and I was thinking about the last couple of years and what the team has been through and what I personally have been through, and to have another closeout game at Chase Center it gave me butterflies.

"I was nervous all day, but I just had so much fun tonight, and I'm proud of this team for being so resilient."

The Warriors became the first team in NBA history to make 20-plus three-pointers and grab 70-plus rebounds in a single game, regular season or postseason.

Now they wait for the winner of Sunday's Game 7 between the Dallas Mavericks and Phoenix Suns.

The Western Conference Finals await, and the Warriors have not reached that stage since 2019, when they went one step further by sweeping the Portland Trail Blazers to reach the NBA Finals.

Thompson suffered an ACL injury in the Game 6 championship series-ending loss to the Toronto Raptors, forcing him to miss the entire next campaign.

His perspective on reaching the latter stages of the playoffs has changed with experience.

"I know that became routine in the 2010s for the Dubs, but that's a special, special opportunity," Thompson said. "We do not take that lightly. We're going to kick our feet up the next couple of days, watch this Suns-Mavs Game 7 and get the popcorn ready, but it's so special.

"I'm going to enjoy tonight, and I'm going to be hungry when that time comes because you can't take it for granted, nothing's guaranteed in sports."

Following Wednesday's Coppa Italia final defeat to Inter, it was confirmed Juventus will finish the 2021-22 season without a trophy for the first time since 2011.

Last season under Andrea Pirlo, Juventus not winning Serie A was in itself shocking, but this season has only shown further regression.

Massimiliano Allegri returning to replace Pirlo after his single season in charge was viewed as a means to halt that slide, but Juve will not just likely finish 10 points off the Serie A title winners and without a trophy this term; the Bianconeri are set to finish with a double-digit deficit in a season where the champions will likely will not break the 85-point barrier.

How much the Turin club spend relative to the rest in Italian football must be brought into context. Granted, the financial impact of COVID-19 caused significant restructuring, but they are still the only club in Italy to have a gross annual payroll in excess of €150million and are joined by Inter as one of only two over €100m. Meanwhile, seven Juventus players make up the top 10 salaries in Serie A this season.

Given that comparatively gaudy expenditure, that represents a spectacular failure – especially in comparison to the likes of the notoriously thrifty Atalanta or this Milan project that has sought to maximise value on the pitch and cut unnecessary spending. The major issue with Juve over the past four seasons has been a dramatically diminishing return on investment, but how has it manifested on the pitch?

Juventus had this inevitable capacity to find a way to win games in Allegri's first stint, but they were still volatile. It would be misguided to look at this season in isolation when in a continuum. Cristiano Ronaldo's arrival for the 2018-19 season – which was viewed as the key signing to propel them to long-awaited Champions League glory – arguably accelerated the regression.

Real Madrid's midfield and Karim Benzema allowed Ronaldo to have a largely singular role as the end point to the team's actions in possession. At Juventus, a player who was largely a finisher and was not going to force defensive collapses between the lines by that point had to take on greater responsibility in the team's build-up. Despite the Portuguese star's stature in the game, he was effectively signed for a task on the pitch he was not capable of fulfilling.

Consider that in his last season at Madrid, Ronaldo was averaging 46.87 touches per 90, and 10.02 were in the opposition's penalty area. The next two seasons at Juventus saw a dramatic shift, where for touches per 90 he averages 54.5 and 56.26 respectively. Touches in the penalty area actually decreased, however, at 6.64 and 6.92 respectively per 90.

With Paulo Dybala as the team's attacking focal point, Miralem Pjanic had previously mitigated the deeply conservative nature of Juve's midfield, but with Ronaldo it became a bridge too far. Ronaldo might have sustained his goal involvements, but it came at the expense of the collective. The Bianconeri came no closer to winning the continental silverware he was brought to Turin to secure but, more importantly, declined domestically and were suddenly challenged for what had become a fait accompli that decade in Serie A.

Pjanic's departure at the end of 2019-20 further accelerates that regression, despite the arrivals of Arthur, Alvaro Morata, Federico Chiesa and Weston McKennie that off-season, as well as Adrien Rabiot, Mathijs de Ligt and Dejan Kulusevski the previous off-season.

Arguably, the additions of Rabiot, McKennie and Arthur have only further reinforced the rigidity of Juve's midfield over the years. Pjanic's final season saw him average 1.21 chances from open play per 90, along with 10.34 passes into the final third and 0.13 for expected assists at 92.66 touches. Not one Juventus midfielder since has been able to match all of those averages individually, and trying to replace them in an aggregate creates different requirements elsewhere.

 

Amid Dybala's increasingly marginalised status upon Ronaldo's arrival, it necessitated someone like Morata, whose fantastic movement and ability to incorporate the players around him is paired with erratic finishing in front of goal. It represents a sizeable trade-off. Still, Morata leads the Bianconeri for chances created (1.63) in open play per 90 in all competitions this season.

That provides some context for this season and Dusan Vlahovic's arrival, because he is almost the opposite to Morata – cold-blooded in front of goal, but much less flexible in build-up play and movement off the ball. Yet, while he creates fewer chances in open play (0.81) than Morata, the quality of his shots (0.13 xG per shot) is still lower than Morata's average of 0.16.

 

 

It all matters because, with the exception of Inter and Lazio, the Bianconeri still keep more of the ball than anyone else in Serie A. They both can and cannot afford for their midfield to be so palpably one-dimensional. While Juventus rank 19th across the top five leagues in Europe for touches per 90 (678.46) in all competitions, they rank 32nd for big chances created per 90 (1.56), and 50th for passes into the final third (53.02), calling into question the nature of their possession and how they actually generate their chances.

With that all in context, it can be difficult to definitively assess someone like Fabio Miretti or where he best suits in a system of play, because it is akin to developing an emotional attachment to a captor.

Yet Dybala's forthcoming departure from Turin at the end of this season is symbolic, let alone if he ends up somewhere else in Serie A.

His career trajectory over the past four years, coinciding with Juve's regression and eventual embarrassment of this season, represents how badly the club have managed squad composition and, to reference Jose Mourinho's famous quote, their Champions League dream that became an obsession. As such, they have lacked anything resembling a plan or clarity, and have been blindly led by ambition to this empty-handed season.

Jayson Tatum said forcing a Game 7 in Boston "means everything" after he scored a game-high 46 points to carry his Boston Celtics to a 108-95 win in Game 6 against the Milwaukee Bucks.

Tatum shot 17-of-32 from the field and seven-of-15 from long-range for his 46, while Bucks star Giannis Antetokounmpo had 44 points and 20 rebounds, becoming the first player since Shaquille O'Neal over 20 years ago to put up 40-and-20 in a playoff game.

Unlike Antetokounmpo, Tatum had strong support from his teammates, with Jaylen Brown and Marcus Smart combining for an efficient 43 points, while Al Horford collected team-highs in rebounds (10) and blocks (four).

After a disappointing Game 5 showing at home, Tatum told reporters post-game that the timid performance was lingering in their memories, determined not to make the same mistakes.

"[The Game 5 comeback] was in the back of our mind… it's something we talked about," he said.

"We felt they beat us on 'winning' plays – hustle plays, 50-50 balls – they were tougher than us in the fourth quarter of Game 5. 

"I think just how much it stung – losing like that. Everyone had a bad taste in their mouth.

"That was in the back of my mind, it was in the back of everyone's minds. Our season was on the line, we knew that, and we had to dig deep and give everything we had. 

"[But] we were upbeat, we weren't defeated – knowing we still had an opportunity to save our season by coming in here and getting a win, and we believed that, we truly did. We believed in each other, and I think that showed tonight."

Touching on the Bucks and what makes them so good, Tatum emphasised their unity and cohesiveness, with everyone buying into their roles.

"They're a great team," he said. "I think everyone over there knows their role, and everyone is a star in their role – they compliment each other really well. 

"They're well-coached, they run great sets, and they're not going to beat themselves. They've done it before, and we know that, so coming into the series we knew it wasn't going to be easy – by no means – whoever wins was going to have to earn it.

"I was excited to play today – Game 6, you know, this is a big moment. For all of us, for myself and the team and how we would respond. 

"Losing Game 5 was going to make us or break us, and I think we showed a lot of toughness and growth coming out here and getting a win on the road and giving ourselves a chance."

Tatum was all smiles at the thought of Game 7 heading back to Boston, saying this is what competitors dream of.

"It means everything," he said. "It's the best atmosphere in the NBA, and Game 7s are the biggest and best games.

"I'm looking forward to it, truly… this is it, do or die. 

"This is going to be fun – it's supposed to be fun, it's basketball."

Florida Panthers interim coach Andrew Brunette said his side's fighting spirit was key in a series comeback against the Washington Capitals, culminating in Friday's 4-3 victory in overtime.

It was the Panthers' third straight win after falling down 2-1 in the series, and Game 6 was closely contested throughout.

After a scoreless first period, Nic Dowd opened the scoring for the Capitals, before Ryan Lomberg answered straight back to keep things at 1-1 heading into the last frame.

Nicklas Backstrom put the home side back in front, but the 'Comeback Cats' would not lay down, with Claude Giroux and Aleksander Barkov giving the Panthers a 3-2 lead.

In the closing stages, after the Capitals had pulled their goalie to get an extra attacker on the ice, T.J. Oshie found the equaliser to send the crowd into raptures and force overtime.

But this was the Panthers' night, and Carter Verhaeghe slotted the golden goal less than three minutes into the extra period to win the game and seal the series.

It is the first time the Panthers have won a playoff series since 1996, and Brunette said the performance epitomised their season.

"I think it's what we saw all year – the resiliency of the group," he said.

"People will say we're the 'Comeback Cats' – I'm not sure that's what I see – I see a group of guys that get hit, and they don't fall down, and they start hitting back. 

"They showed that throughout the whole series, they showed it tonight. 

"We gave up a late goal – it was a heart-breaking moment that could really affect you and can kill momentum – but again, we took the punch, we stood up, and we started punching back. It epitomises the whole season for us."

Asked if finally getting an elusive series win takes the pressure off his players, Brunette said he hopes it is the case.

"I hope [the series win takes the monkey off the Panthers' backs] – especially for the guys that have been here for a while," he said.

"It probably feels really good, because they put a lot of pressure on themselves – probably too much – throughout the course of the series. They were able to find a way and pull through it.

"I think as the series went on I felt they loosened up a little bit. We were a little nervous at home the other night, but they found their mojo and got going. 

"These things – you've got to go through them a few times to really get the feel of it. You have to have heartbreaks, you have to have things not go your way, to find out how hard it is, and understand it, and be resilient. 

"When you see the reward like they did tonight, it's all worth it."

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