US Open finalist Victoria Azarenka lost a three-set thriller to Garbine Muguruza in the quarter-finals of the Internazionali d'Italia to set up a meeting with top seed Simona Halep. 

Muguruza beat her fellow former world number one 3-6 6-3 6-4 after two hours and 19 minutes, having been one point away from falling 5-3 down in an entertaining decider at Foro Italico. 

The 2016 French Open winner managed to hold her serve on that occasion, then broke to love in the next game before going on to seal the match at the third attempt. 

"I think it was a tough match. I knew it was going to be a tough match. She's a good player, she's playing good, she's with a lot of confidence," said Muguruza. 

"I knew it was going to be a tough battle. I was ready for it. I stood behind her and was waiting for my opportunities. She was playing great at the beginning. She took the first set. I kept myself together and said, 'Okay, let's start another battle in the second set'."

Next up for Muguruza is two-time Rome finalist Halep, who saw Yulia Putintseva retire from their quarter-final meeting due to a lower back injury. 

After dropping her serve to fall 6-2 2-0 down to the world number two in 47 minutes, Putintseva, who played back-to-back three-set matches in the previous two rounds, pulled out of the match. 

Halep said of Muguruza: "Every time I played well against her, [I was] as much as possible aggressive. If I play my best game and if I feel great physically on court, I have a big chance to win the match. But every time is different, because she's playing so hard. 

"You don't really know what to expect. It's tough every time. So I don't plan for a specific match, because you never know on court."

Two-time Internazionali d'Italia champion Elina Svitolina was comprehensively beaten 6-3 6-0 by Marketa Vondrousova, who was the runner-up at last year's French Open. 

Standing between Vondrousova and her first final appearance since Roland Garros last year is reigning champion Karolina Pliskova. 

Second seed Pliskova overcame Elise Mertens 6-3 3-6 6-0 as she continued to impress after initially struggling when the WTA Tour returned in August.

In 2013, Real Madrid paid a then world-record fee to secure Gareth Bale's signature.

The flying winger had been sensational in the Premier League for Tottenham and, in his final season in north London, scored 26 goals and provided 11 assists across all competitions.

Bale's form resulted in Madrid paying €100million (£85m) to take him to Santiago Bernabeu, as Florentino Perez attempted to usher in a new galactico era.

Yet seven years later, Bale is heading back to Tottenham on a season-long loan, now as a 31-year-old whose best days are most likely behind him.

While Bale has certainly had his injury issues, his lack of game time at Madrid in recent seasons – he featured just 20 times in all competitions last term – seems to have been due to a breakdown in his relationship with Zinedine Zidane, more than any doubt over the quality he can offer.

Back at his former club, Bale will aim to lift Spurs and get his career back on track, but can his seven-year stint at Madrid be considered a success – he did after all win four Champions League trophies, one Copa del Rey and two LaLiga titles – or a failure?

Using Opta data, we take a look at his season by season stats.

 

2013-14

In his final season at Tottenham, Bale was involved in 37 goals in all competitions – only Robin van Persie (39) and Juan Mata (49) were involved in more for a Premier League club in 2012-13. Bale maintained that form in his maiden season in Spain, scoring 22 times and providing 16 assists across 44 appearances. Of his Madrid team-mates, only the imperious Cristiano Ronaldo managed more direct goal involvements (65).

He capped his first season in Madrid with a brilliant goal against Barcelona in the Copa del Rey final, which Los Blancos won, before scoring in extra-time to put Carlo Ancelotti's side 2-1 up against Atletico Madrid in the 2014 Champions League Final.

2014-15

Having averaged a goal every 0.56 LaLiga matches in his first season at Madrid, Bale's output dropped in his second campaign, with the Welshman managing 13 goals from 31 league appearances, at an average of 0.42.

In total across all competitions, he registered 17 goals and 12 assists, despite playing four games more than in 2013-14. On average, he attempted five dribbles per 90 minutes, down from 5.8 the previous season, while he had 51.8 touches per 90 – the fewest amount of any season from 2007-08 onwards.

2015-16

Bale managed just 31 appearances in an injury-hit third campaign, though his goal statistics improved. While providing 12 assists, he scored 19 times in all competitions, including netting four in a 10–2 victory over Rayo Vallecano. In Zinedine Zidane's first match in charge – in January 2016 – he netted a hat-trick to help crush Deportivo La Coruna 5-0.

On March 23, Bale scored his 43rd LaLiga goal to overtake Gary Lineker as the highest scoring British player in the competition's history. While his dribbles attempted again decreased, he threatened the goal more regularly with 4.2 shots per 90, while he averaged 58.4 touches.

2016-17

It was in Bale's fourth season in the Spanish capital that things began to turn. Having only signed a new contract in October, Bale suffered an ankle injury in November that kept him out for four months. His injury troubles plagued him throughout the campaign – he was forced off in his 100th LaLiga appearance for the club, which ended in a 3-2 defeat to Barca.

Madrid nevertheless won their 33rd LaLiga title and the Champions League, with Bale managing 27 appearances in total, scoring nine goals and setting up a further three.

2017-18

Despite an injury-hit 2016-17, Bale enjoyed one of his most productive seasons at Madrid in the next campaign. He created six goals and scored 21 himself – his highest total since 2013-14, with 16 of those goals coming from 26 LaLiga appearances, at an average of 0.62 per 90 and a conversion rate of 20.78 per cent.

Bale managed this despite averaging only 53.4 touches – his second-lowest total from 2007-08  – and 3.8 shots per game. His season ended in fantastic fashion, as he came on to score a remarkable overhead kick goal to put Madrid 2-1 up against Liverpool in the Champions League final, before he netted a second to put the result beyond doubt.

2018-19

With Ronaldo having left for Juventus, Bale played 42 times in 2018-19, though his total goal involvements dipped from 27 to 20 (14 goals, six assists). On December 19, Bale scored a hat-trick in a 3–1 win over Kashima Antlers in the semi-finals of the FIFA Club World Cup, becoming the third player to net three goals in a match in the tournament after Ronaldo and Luis Suarez.

In February, Bale scored his 100th Madrid goal, making him one of only 21 players to have scored 100+ goals for the club in all competitions.

2019-20

The writing seemed to be on the wall for Bale at Madrid as speculation over a big-money move to Chinese Super League side Jiangsu Suning grew, but a transfer failed to materialise and the forward stayed at Santiago Bernabeu.

However, in a season elongated by the coronavirus pandemic, Bale was used just 20 times by Zidane. He managed three goals and two assists, taking his respective tallies to 105 and 57, with a total of 162 goal involvements across seven seasons – only Ronaldo (318) and Karim Benzema (235) have been involved in more for Madrid in the same timeframe.

Milwaukee Bucks superstar Giannis Antetokounmpo does not want to be called a two-time MVP until he wins an NBA championship.

Antetokounmpo was crowned the Most Valuable Player for the second straight year after leading the Bucks to the top seed in the Eastern Conference and the league's best record (56-17) before losing in the semi-finals at Walt Disney World Resort in Orlando, Florida.

The 25-year-old, who averaged 29.5 points, 13.6 rebounds and 5.6 assists per game during the regular season – became the first player to claim MVP honours in successive seasons since Golden State Warriors star Stephen Curry in 2015 and 2016.

After winning his first MVP award last year, Antetokounmpo said: "Please, after this day don't call me MVP until I win it again next year."

But with back-to-back MVPs in 2019-20 after receiving 85 of the 101 first-place votes, Antetokounmpo – whose Bucks lost 4-1 to the Miami Heat in the Eastern Conference semi-finals – told TNT on Friday: "Don't call me MVP until I'm a champion."

Having also been named Defensive Player of the Year, Antetokounmpo is just the third player in league history to win that award and the MVP in the same season, that select list also featuring Michael Jordan and Hakeem Olajuwon.

"Obviously, I'm happy for tonight and I'm happy for this award, but I always look forward," Antetokounmpo said. "I always try to figure out, how can I get better? How can I do it again? How can I do it for multiple years to come? How can I be a champion? I'm happy. I'm grateful, but how can I do it again?"

Milwaukee's failure in the postseason ramped up speculation around Antetokounmpo's future amid talk he could demand a trade.

Antetokounmpo is set to become a free agent at the end of the 2020-21 season, while he is eligible for a max contract extension worth around $254million this offseason.

"As long as everybody's fighting for the same thing ... which is to be a champion, I don't see why not to be in Milwaukee for the next 15 years," Antetokounmpo told NBA TV.

Antetokounmpo reportedly met with the Bucks last week in Milwaukee and he added: "Obviously, I would like to keep that conversation I had with the ownership and my coach and the general manager private, but at the end of the day, every team has got to improve.

"It's simple. You've got to be better than what you were last year. If you did not win the whole thing, you've got to get better. If you win the whole thing, you've got to get better and do it again. So, for now, our team has got to get better. I think we have great talent and as long as we improve individually and improve as a team we're gonna be in a good spot.

"I left the meeting encouraged and was happy with what we discussed and for now, we're on the same page. I was happy that they came and we had this long conversation about how we're gonna get better and about things for the future, but, as I said, I was happy.

"I left the conversation encouraged, but I've been encouraged my whole career in Milwaukee. I know that we've gotten better each year and I know that Milwaukee has great people that view every year the same I do every year, which is to play well, improve and win it all. So, I've always been encouraged, but after the meeting I was encouraged, too."

Manchester City could be without star striker Sergio Aguero for the first two months of their Premier League campaign.

Aguero missed the conclusion of last season, including City's dispiriting 3-1 Champions League quarter-final defeat to Lyon, after suffering meniscus damage during June's 5-0 win over Burnley.

The 32-year-old Argentina international had to undergo surgery and was operated on in Barcelona by Dr Ramon Cugat, City manager Pep Guardiola's preferred surgeon.

Initially there had been hope Aguero could play a part in the latter stages of the 2019-20 Champions League and the player posted footage of himself dribbling a ball at City's Etihad Campus training base to social media this week.

But Guardiola looks set to be without the club's all-time leading scorer for a considerable time beyond Monday's trip to face a Wolves side who beat City twice last season.

"We knew that the injury was difficult," Guardiola said. "He is doing the [recovery], in maybe one month or two months he will be ready.

"Two months, because he has to come back on the pitch and regain the physical condition.

"Sergio was out for a long time and Sergio is not a guy who regains the physical condition quick, so I think in one month or two months he will be ready."

The time-frame outlined by Guardiola could mean Aguero misses City's first three Champions League group games of the season, along with Liverpool's visit to the Etihad Stadium on November 7.

Opta focus - Sterling and Jesus must find clinical edge in Aguero's absence

Earlier in the transfer window, it appeared possible Guardiola would have Aguero's international team-mate Lionel Messi to call upon.

As it is, a considerable weight of the attacking burden at City will now fall upon Gabriel Jesus and Raheem Sterling.

Sterling and Jesus enjoyed their most prolific seasons individually in 2019-20, scoring 31 and 23 goals respectively across all competitions.

However, both missed glorious chances during the second half of that sapping defeat to Lyon, with Sterling's particularly glaring as he blazed over a gaping goal from five yards.

A look at how the Brazil and England forwards compare to Aguero in terms of their Premier League numbers does suggest City might be found wanting when it comes to having a clinical edge.

Although Sterling outscored Aguero in the English top flight for the first time in his career last term - scoring 20 to his team-mate's 16 - the former Atletico Madrid striker's goals came at a rate of one every 91 minutes, compared to Sterling's average of one every 133 minutes. Jesus' 14 Premier League goals came in at one every 144.8 minutes.

Aguero's conversion rate of 21.05 per cent also stood above his team-mates, although Sterling ran him close on 20.2 per cent. Jesus netted from 13.86 per cent of his 101 shots, which amounted to more attempts than Sterling (99) and Aguero (76).

However, the spectre of the Lyon game looms - as it does over much surrounding Guardiola and his squad for their forthcoming season - when considering Opta's 'big chances' metric.

Despite his well-earned reputation, Aguero was not infallible in such situations, converting 52 per cent of his big chances with 13 scored and 12 missed.

Sterling's big chance conversion rate was 42.2 per cent, with 19 missed and 14 scored, while Jesus scored from only 29.4 per cent of his most gilt-edged opportunities.

The 23-year-old Jesus missed 24 big chances, netting only 10. Those are numbers that will have to improve considerably in Aguero's absence if Guardiola's City are to once again locate the relentless rhythm that brought them back-to-back Premier League titles and make a case for dethroning Liverpool.

LeBron James dismissed talk about the Los Angeles Clippers following their NBA playoff exit as the Los Angeles Lakers superstar marvelled at upcoming opponents the Denver Nuggets.

A blockbuster all-Los Angeles Western Conference final was quashed by the rallying Nuggets, who overturned a 3-1 series deficit against the second-seeded Clippers to set up a Lakers clash.

Asked about not playing Kawhi Leonard's Clippers for a place in the NBA Finals, three-time champion James told reporters on Thursday: "I don't have a comment about it really.

"I was just sitting back and watching the game from a fan's perspective, seeing big shots be made, big plays being made, missed shots, things of that nature. I was also [watching] as a scout, scouting both teams at the same time."

A follow-up question centred on the Lakers and Clippers settling their battle for supremacy in Los Angeles but James replied: "What were we settling?"

Lakers team-mate Anthony Davis added: "We aren't focused on any other team but the Lakers. That's kind of been us, our whole thing the entire season. We focused on our own team.

"Our focus isn't on the Clippers or the 'Battle of L.A.' It's more so what can we do to finish our season strong."

James and Davis were speaking on the eve of Game 1 between top seeds the Lakers and the Nuggets at Walt Disney World Resort in Orlando, Florida.

The Nuggets overpowered the shocked Clippers as they became the first team in NBA history to overcome a 3-1 deficit to win a series twice in the same postseason, having rallied past the Utah Jazz.

Led by Jamal Murray and Nikola Jokic, the Nuggets will contest their first Conference final since losing to the Lakers in 2008-09.

"Very resilient, very confident, very driven, very well-coached team," James said as he lauded the third-seeded Nuggets.

"It takes a lot of energy, effort, a lot of desperation to be able to come back from a 3-1 deficit. They did it twice. So the respect level is out of this world for what we have for this ballclub. That's how we're going into this series: understanding what they're capable of, where they stand."

The Miami Heat earned a commanding lead over the Boston Celtics in the NBA playoffs after coming back to win 106-101 in Game 2 of the Eastern Conference finals.

In another tense battle at Walt Disney World Resort, the red-hot Heat sensationally prevailed to move 2-0 ahead in the race to the NBA Finals on Thursday.

The Heat trailed by 17 points in the second quarter and were down by 13 at half-time but overcame the deficit to seize control against the Celtics thanks to Bam Adebayo, who erupted for 15 third-quarter points.

Goran Dragic led the way with 25 points, and Miami's supporting cast contributed across the board to take down the Celtics again in Orlando, Florida, where the Heat are on track to reach their first NBA Finals since 2014.

Adebayo finished with 21 points, Duncan Robinson had 18, Jimmy Butler scored 14, Jae Crowder put up 12 and Tyler Herro added 11 of his own.

Kemba Walker posted 23 points for the Celtics, who had a chance to tie the game with 15 seconds remaining but Jaylen Brown (21) missed a three-pointer as Butler sealed Miami's victory via a pair of free throws.

Celtics star Jayson Tatum also had 21 points, with Boston now turning their attention to Saturday's Game 3.

 

Nuggets face Lakers

The Denver Nuggets and top-seeded Los Angeles Lakers will open their Western Conference finals series on Friday. Denver are coming off a stunning Game 7 win over the Los Angeles Clippers.

Victoria Azarenka produced a memorable performance as she destroyed Sofia Kenin 6-0 6-0 at the Internazionali d'Italia on Thursday.

Azarenka, beaten in the US Open final less than a week ago, has transitioned to the clay courts in impressive fashion after beating Venus Williams and now, more impressively, Kenin.

The Australian Open champion had no answer to Azarenka's ruthlessness and near-perfection out on court in Rome, with the Belarusian claiming victory in just an hour and one minute.

Azarenka faced no break points in the entire match and made only one unforced error as she emphatically took the first set against a player who was her US Open doubles partner.

Kenin improved in the second set, forcing some long games – particularly the second, which was at deuce on five different occasions.

But Azarenka – who faces Russian Daria Kasatkina in the last 16 – simply had too much for the American and cruised to a sensational victory over the third seed,

"I think my consistency was the key to the scoreline," Azarenka told reporters. "I feel like I played really smart tennis today: I was able to use a lot of court; I was able to use a lot of different pace.

"So, I'm very happy with that. But the key was definitely being able to maintain the level that I started with."

She added, according to the WTA Tour website: "I was really more focused on what I can do today on the court, than on what she does well. So, I think that was the difference, I was able to insist on my level and insist on my pace."

Earlier, Garbine Muguruza managed to outlast American sensation Coco Gauff 7-6 (7-3) 3-6 6-3 in an absorbing contest.

Gauff, 16, appeared to be in control of the decider after an early break of serve.

But three double faults in the following game gifted Spaniard Muguruza an instant break in return, giving her the initiative to go on and seal victory.

Johanna Konta saw off Irina-Camelia Begu in fine fashion, the seventh-seeded Briton emerging 6-0 6-4, but Kiki Bertens and Petra Martic were not so impressive.

Bertens, seeded fifth, fell 6-4 6-4 to Polona Hercog, while eighth seed Martic succumbed to Yulia Putintseva in a gruelling three-hour contest, the latter eventually winning 6-3 6-7 (2-7) 6-4.

Marketa Vondrousova and Svetlana Kuznetsova were among the other victors on the day.

Tottenham should make an ambitious bid to sign Luka Modric from Real Madrid alongside Gareth Bale, according to their former manager Harry Redknapp.

Redknapp was Spurs boss when they qualified for the Champions League with Modric and Bale in the team before both departed for Madrid.

The pair have proven hugely successful in Spain, winning Europe's elite club competition on four occasions.

But Bale, who scored in two Champions League finals for Madrid, has fallen out of favour in recent seasons at Madrid and is now in talks over a move back to Tottenham.

As Spurs thrash out the finer details in that blockbuster transfer, Redknapp urged chairman Daniel Levy to go back to the Santiago Bernabeu for a further shock swoop.

"I'd go and see if I could get Luka Modric back," he told Stats Perform News. "Take the pair of them, Bale and Modric.

"That would be a great coup. Luka is still a fantastic player. That would be amazing.

"I still feel they need somebody there; they've got the forward players, but they need somebody to supply the bullets.

"That's where someone like Luka Modric can play killer passes, into great movement up front. They lack a player like that."

While Redknapp remains concerned by Tottenham's midfield, the prospect of seeing Bale join Harry Kane and Son Heung-min in an attacking three excites him.

"That is a scary forward line," he said. "I could see them playing Harry central and Son and Gareth coming off the line and playing.

"I had a silly spell at Tottenham towards the end where I played Gareth on the right and the Tottenham fans were singing, 'He's Gareth Bale and he plays on the left'.

"Well, he's never played on the left since then. He played for Wales through the middle.

"Really him and Son are two players who you'd just want to let go and play and do damage wherever they pop up on the pitch in any of those forward positions.

"It's a bit like at Liverpool, like they do with their front three. They interchange positions fantastically well. And I think they'll do the same at Tottenham."

Thiago Alcantara has said farewell to his Bayern Munich team-mates ahead of his expected transfer to Liverpool, with Hansi Flick congratulating Jurgen Klopp on the signing.

After months of speculation about his future, Thiago finally appears set to depart treble winners Bayern and join Klopp's Premier League champions.

Stats Perform News understands the two clubs have agreed a deal that could eventually be worth £25million (€27.5m), with Liverpool due to pay £20m up front for the 29-year-old.

Bayern boss Flick has lauded the departing Spaniard, whose contract was due to run out next year, and told Klopp he is getting a star.

"Thiago is an exceptional player who spent seven hugely successful years here," he told reporters at a news conference on Thursday.

"He's a wonderful person and an outstanding professional. It was very emotional today when he said goodbye to us all.

"I can only congratulate Jurgen Klopp. We are in good spirits that we can still do something in the transfer market. We lost a lot of quality with him."

Uncertainty over whether Thiago would stay or go had rumbled on for months and Flick confirmed he had tried to persuade the former Barcelona man to remain in Bavaria.

However, after winning seven Bundesliga titles, a Champions League and the DFB-Pokal on four occasions during his seven seasons with the club, Thiago informed his coach he was keen to continue his career elsewhere.

"I tried to change his mind," added Flick, whose team begin their Bundesliga title defence against Schalke on Friday.

"The farewell was difficult, he told me that he was looking for another challenge."

Flick is keen not to say goodbye to another key member of his treble-winning side, with the Bayern boss desperate to get the versatile David Alaba to extend his contract beyond the end of the forthcoming campaign.

Alaba was "hurt" by comments from Bayern's former president Uli Hoeness, who accused his agent of being a "greedy piranha" only motivated by money.

"I can really only say the best about him," Flick said of Alaba. 

"He is extremely important to us not only on the pitch, but also off the pitch. When I think of the small group training sessions, he pulled every player with him. 

"He's one of the best in this new position as a central defender, he's taken the position to a new level. 

"I would like both sides to approach each other and also take some sharpness out."

Jose Mourinho kept his cards close to his chest on the possibility of Gareth Bale rejoining Tottenham, as negotiations continue with Real Madrid.

Bale left Spurs to join Madrid in a €100million (£85m) move in 2013, after several outstanding seasons at White Hart Lane.

However, despite having gone on to win numerous honours – including four Champions Leagues and two LaLiga titles – the Welshman has seen his game time become increasingly limited under Zinedine Zidane.

Bale's agent Jonathan Barnett on Friday confirmed talks between Madrid and Spurs were ongoing, telling Stats Perform News: "We're negotiating at the moment, that's all. I won't discuss [how close it is]."

In his news conference ahead of Tottenham's Europa League clash with Lokomotiv Plovdiv on Thursday, Mourinho insisted he would not comment on the situation of a player at another club.

"Gareth Bale is a Real Madrid player, I don't comment on players from another club," said Mourinho.

"That's not my job to have contact with agents or honestly, I don't want to comment on that. Especially on players for other clubs.

"I don't comment on hypothetical stuff. Again, I repeat, I'm not going to comment on Gareth Bale. He's a Real Madrid player and I have to respect that."

Jamal Murray demanded the likes of Shaquille O'Neal and Charles Barkley start giving the Denver Nuggets "some damn respect" after their Western Conference semi-final heroics.

The Nuggets dominated the Los Angeles Clippers 104-89 in Orlando on Tuesday to progress from an all-or-nothing Game 7, becoming the first team to recover from a 3-1 deficit twice in the same postseason.

Few tipped the third-seeded Nuggets to get past a Clippers team comprising the likes of Paul George and Kawhi Leonard, particularly when the team found themselves in such a precarious position.

"You got [Shaquille O'Neal], you got Charles [Barkley], I think Zach Lowe … Stephen A. [Smith], all y'all better start giving this team some damn respect," Murray said. 

"Because we put in the work. We shouldn't have been down 3-1, but to come back down 3-1 against the Clippers is a big achievement, so it's fun just to change that narrative."

Murray was influential for the Nuggets, putting up 40 points, and he feels the star-studded Clippers failed to cope with Denver's enthusiasm.

"We've got a lot of energy, and we brought it and they didn't match that," Murray said. 

"They've got who they got. They've got a talented squad. They've got Doc [Rivers], too. They've got assistant coaches who are about to be head coaches. 

"We know what they have, we just outworked them a little bit with our young legs."

Nikola Jokic had promised head coach Michael Malone one of two presents on his 49th birthday prior to the game: "I'm either going to get you home or get you to the Western Conference Finals." 

After it proved to be the latter, Jokic said the Nuggets are relishing proving the doubters wrong.

"Nobody wants us here. Nobody thinks we can do something. We proved ourselves and proved [to] everybody we can do something," he said.

"This is a really interesting team. We don't have many superstars."

Next up is a daunting task against an in-form Los Angeles Lakers side led by LeBron James, but Jokic said: "They gotta worry about us, too."

The Denver Nuggets made history by completing another stunning comeback as they reached the Western Conference finals after blitzing the Los Angeles Clippers in their NBA series decider.

Denver won Game 7 of the Western Conference semi-finals 104-89 on Tuesday to set up a blockbuster playoff showdown against top seeds the Los Angeles Lakers.

The Nuggets overpowered the shocked Clippers as they became the first team in NBA history to overcome a 3-1 deficit to win a series twice in the same postseason, having rallied past the Utah Jazz.

Trailing 56-54 at half-time, the Nuggets outscored Kawhi Leonard's Clippers 50-33 in the second half in Orlando, Florida, where Denver will contest their first Conference final since losing to the Lakers in 2008-09.

Meanwhile, the Miami Heat dramatically prevailed 117-114 after overtime against the Boston Celtics in the opening game of their Eastern Conference final.

Jimmy Butler's three-pointer put the Heat ahead with 12 seconds remaining and Heat team-mate Bam Adebayo made an incredible block on Jayson Tatum to deny the Celtics star a game-tying dunk at the death.

 

Jokic and Murray fuel Nuggets

Just like they did in the first round of the playoffs, Nikola Jokic and Jamal Murray led Denver's comeback. The duo completed the fightback against the Clippers, with Murray posting a game-high 40 points. Jokic became the first player in NBA playoff history to record a 20-plus rebound triple-double. Prior to Jokic, no player had put up a triple-double through three quarters of a Game 7 over the last 25 years. He finished with 16 points, 22 rebounds and 13 assists.

The Heat flexed their muscles with a team performance at Walt Disney World Resort. Starters Goran Dragic (29), Jae Crowder (22), Butler and Adebayo (18) all reached double-digit points. Tatum had 30 points and 14 rebounds but it was not enough for the Celtics, while Marcus Smart scored 26 of his own.

 

Clippers crumble

Poised to meet the Lakers in an all-Los Angeles Conference final, the Clippers capitulated against the Nuggets. Their woes were amplified on Tuesday. Two-time NBA champion Leonard was just six of 22 from the field for 14 points. He was only two of seven from three-point range. All-Star team-mate Paul George had 10 points on four-of-16 shooting from the field, while he made just two of his 11 attempts from beyond the arc. As a team, the Clippers were just 37.8 per cent from the field and 25.7 per cent from three-point territory.

 

Heat face Celtics

There will be no playoff action until the Heat and Celtics go head-to-head in Game 2 on Thursday.

Australia coach Justin Langer has admitted the team could have discussed continuing a show of solidarity with the Black Lives Matter movement, during the ongoing tour of England, but insists there was no disrespect or disregard meant.

Legendary West Indies fast bowler Michael Holding was recently critical of both teams, as he pointed out that they had ditched the symbolic taking a knee gesture during the ongoing series. England and the West Indies showed support for the movement before all three Tests at the start of the season, and the practice continued for the one-day series against Ireland. It has not been seen for the visits of Pakistan and Australia.

While insisting that the team had not forgotten the issue, Langer pointed out that Australia had simply been focused on the series and unusual circumstances, but that in retrospect there could have been more discussions surrounding the issue.

“When Mikey says what he says, it’s certainly worth listening to. In terms of taking a knee, to be completely honest, we could have talked more about it perhaps leading up to the first game,” Langer said.

“There was so much going on leading up to us getting here, maybe we should have talked more about it,” he added.

“What we do talk about within the team was that we want to have a response that is sustained and powerful and that it can go not just in one action but a sustained period. Not just throughout this series and the summer but throughout time.

“I just hope if it looked like there was a lack of respect, it wasn’t the intention of our team. We were very aware of it.”

England pace bowler Jofra Archer had issued a much sharper response, insisting that England had not forgotten the issue and that Holding should have “done his research”.

Pierre-Emerick Aubameyang has ended speculation over his future by signing a new three-year contract with Arsenal.

The Gunners captain's previous deal was due to expire next June, but he has agreed to re-sign with the Premier League club.

Prolific striker Aubameyang has scored 72 goals in 111 appearances since joining Arsenal from Borussia Dortmund for a fee of £56million in January 2018.

"Signing for this special club was never in doubt," Aubameyang told Arsenal's official website.

"It's thanks to our fans, my team-mates, my family and everybody at this club that I feel like I belong here.

"I believe in Arsenal. We can achieve big things together. We have something exciting here and I believe the best is to come for Arsenal."

In his first full season with Arsenal in 2018-19, Aubameyang scored 22 goals to be a joint winner of the Premier League Golden Boot.

Last term, the 31-year-old enjoyed another superb campaign, with 29 goals in 44 appearances across all competitions.

He scored both of the Gunners' goals in each of their respective FA Cup semi-final and final victories over Manchester City and Chelsea and continued his superb Wembley form with a fabulous strike in last month's Community Shield encounter with Liverpool, which Mikel Arteta's side won on penalties.

As speculation mounted over Aubameyang's future, Arteta expressed confidence he would sign renewed terms and the manager is delighted to have got his man.

"It was important for Pierre-Emerick to stay with us," he said. "He’s a superb player with an incredible mentality.

"Being the player to have taken the least amount of time to reach 50 goals with this club tells you everything you need to know about him and his way of working. 

"He's an important leader for the team and a big part of what we're building. He wants to be up there with the best players in the world and leave his mark. He can achieve that here."

Arsenal began their Premier League campaign with a 3-0 win over Fulham at Craven Cottage, where Aubameyang completed the scoring, and they are back in action at home to West Ham on Saturday.

Nick Nurse is staying with the Toronto Raptors after agreeing a "multi-year" contract extension, the NBA team announced on Tuesday.

The coach who led his team to the 2019 NBA championship could not mastermind a repeat this year as the Raptors were beaten in Game 7 of their Eastern Conference semi-final by the Boston Celtics.

But Dwane Casey's former assistant, named NBA coach of the year in August, is the man Toronto want to lead them forward having made an overwhelmingly positive contribution in his two seasons in charge.

The Raptors went 53-19 in the regular season as they put up a spirited defence of their first championship.

Raptors president Masai Ujiri said: "Our confidence in Nick just continues to grow, and part of that comes from what we've experienced together.

"The past two seasons have been unlike any other in our team’s history - first, winning our championship, and then navigating a global pandemic and committing long-term to the fight against racism and for social justice.

"Nick has proved that he can coach on the court and lead in life, and we're looking forward to accomplishing great things in the future."

Nurse, who coached a number of British Basketball League teams including the Manchester Giants and London Towers, got his big break in the NBA in 2013 when he joined Casey's staff in Toronto.

The 53-year-old Iowa native said: "Toronto has been my home for the past seven years, and I look forward to it being home for many more. I've watched this franchise grow and reach the pinnacle, and I look forward to the challenge of helping us win another championship."

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