Carlo Ancelotti does not believe he deserves credit for Vinicius Junior's improvement, while the Real Madrid coach is backing Eden Hazard to find his best level again this season.

Karim Benzema has undoubtedly been Madrid's standout player this season, with the Frenchman's 19 goal involvements across all competitions bettered by only Mohamed Salah (20) in Europe's top five leagues, but Vinicius' form has also provided a real positive.

In each of his previous three seasons at Madrid, Vinicius had underperformed in relation to his expected goals (xG) value, backing up the idea he was wasteful and lacked the ability to be decisive.

This season, however, Vinicius has seven goals across all competitions from an xG value of 5.2, suggesting he is proving more reliable when presented with chances and also sniffing out greater opportunities in the first place.

With 10 goal involvements, Vinicius has already reached his total from last season and is just two behind his personal best of 12 for an entire campaign (2018-19).

Many have praised Ancelotti's influence for this, but the Italian insists he has not done "anything special".

"What I like the most is that he tries," Ancelotti told reporters ahead of Wednesday's clash with Osasuna. "He tries, whenever he can, and he does it with intensity.

"Regardless of quality, he works a lot. He has to improve without the ball, but he's humble, and he likes to work.

"What I do is work on motivation and less on the offensive aspect of his game, where I leave a lot to creativity. What stands out is his creativity with the ball.

"He is focused as a player. He's young, and at times he loses concentration with the fans – I tell him that he has to focus on the game and not on the surroundings.

"It is not a father-son relationship, I already have two children! It is the relationship you want to have with all the players. I try to keep him motivated, focused, but I don't do anything special."

 

On the other hand, one Madrid wide player who is not thriving currently is Eden Hazard.

The Belgium forward's Madrid career has been devastated by injuries so far and, although he has mostly stayed fit this season, he has a lot of work on his hands to convince Ancelotti.

Hazard has made four LaLiga starts this term, but none of those have come in the past month, and he was an unused substitute for the weekend's Clasico win over Barcelona.

Ancelotti insists the former Chelsea star can get back to his best, however.

Asked if Hazard still had "star status", the coach replied: "He does not have this status because he has had many injuries. Little by little, he will have his best version.

"I am sure that this season we will see his best version and that he will play more than he is doing now. Hazard has it, everything: quality, motivation... He just has to wait. What happens is that sometimes the coach prefers other players.

"He can play 4-3-3 on the left, or 4-4-2 he can play wide, or behind the striker. He is ready to play, but the problem is that there is a coach who is betting on other players."

Gareth Bale will increase the competition for Hazard when he returns, though the Wales winger is still a couple of weeks away from making his comeback, as Ancelotti has earmarked the visit of Rayo Vallecano on November 6.

"Gareth Bale was discharged yesterday and I think that in a week he will be able to train with the team," Ancelotti said. "Maybe he can be involved against Rayo Vallecano."

Real Madrid coach Carlo Ancelotti has criticised a group of Barcelona supporters who mobbed Ronald Koeman's car after Sunday's Clasico.

Ancelotti claimed his first managerial victory at Camp Nou on Sunday, as goals from David Alaba and Lucas Vazquez secured a 2-1 victory. 

Struggling Barca boss Koeman was then subjected to unsavoury scenes as he left the ground, with the Dutchman's vehicle surrounded by fans as he attempted to depart.

Barca released a statement to condemn those actions and in his news conference on Tuesday, Koeman suggested the incident reflected wider problems in society.

Ancelotti, who Koeman also revealed offered his support, echoed his counterpart's sentiment.

"It is a lack of respect for the person, not for the coach. Koeman is not a coach, he is a person who works as a coach," Ancelotti told the media ahead of Madrid's LaLiga meeting with Osasuna on Wednesday.

"It is not a problem of football, but of society, of rudeness.

"A friend who is also a coach told me that the best life for a coach is when there are no games. It is a beautiful life, we like to train. Criticism is normal, but disrespect is annoying on a personal level.

"When you are a child they teach you, at least to me, if you want to be respected you have to [show] respect."

 

Despite the victory, some sections of Madrid's support were seemingly unhappy with how Los Blancos played at Camp Nou.

Barca shaded the possession (51.6 per cent) and had more shots (12) than Madrid's 10, though the hosts only managed to get two on target - one of those being Sergio Aguero's last-gasp consolation - and were constantly exposed on the counter-attack.

"I understand the criticism because everyone can have an opinion," reflected Ancelotti.

"I said that we had not played perfectly, but that we played a smart game, which was what we had asked for."

Ancelotti has not lost as Madrid coach against Osasuna in all competitions (W3 D1), though Wednesday's match will not be simple, with Jagoba Arrasate's side sitting in sixth, just two points back from Los Blancos.

"Osasuna are a good team that play intense football, that defend well," Ancelotti said. "They are dangerous and their [league position] speaks clearly. It will be a difficult game."

Ronald Koeman says he has no intention of stepping down as Barcelona head coach.

Koeman has endured a difficult start to the new season, with Barca ninth in LaLiga and suffering back-to-back Champions League group stage defeats for the first time since 2000-01.

The Catalan side went down 2-1 to Real Madrid on Sunday, Koeman becoming just the second manager to lose all three of his opening El Clasico meetings.

Koeman's car was mobbed by fans as he left Camp Nou following that defeat to Barca's fierce rivals.

However, the former Netherlands boss assured that he remains committed to his role as he prepares to take on Rayo Vallecano, who Barca have won their last 13 LaLiga games against.

"I am older in this, I want to enjoy the atmosphere that there was the other day on the field [for El Clasico]," Koeman told reporters at Tuesday's pre-match news conference.

"I accept the results. I want to enjoy [my time here], if it is eight years, if it is one year and yes if it's three months.

"There are things as a coach that you don't like, but I like being with the players, preparing the games, analysing and having to decide is what I like.

"The other day I loved the game, Not the result because it was a Clasico, but the atmosphere. We made merits for another result, we need a little luck.

"These things are the ones I like, and if a day comes when I don't enjoy it, I'll go and dedicate myself to playing golf five days a week. I understand that it is a delicate situation, but there is a future in this club."

Barca are winless in three LaLiga away games, failing to score in their last two trips. They have not gone three consecutive games on the road without scoring since February 2003.

The Blaugrana, however, have won on their past two visits to newly-promoted top-flight teams without conceding a goal and Koeman appreciates the importance of a reaction on Wednesday.

"There is always a need to win, especially after the defeat the other day," he continued. "The team is able to react well."

Asked whether he was not enjoying his time with Barca and whether a new coach would withstand the pressure he is under, Koeman responded: "It depends, if the results are good or bad and the team you are in.

"[Madrid boss Carlo] Ancelotti encouraged me, he knows perfectly well about the situation because he has been in great teams.

"I don't know, it is important to know the situation, be a former player from here and have character if the wind comes against. I am like that and I want to see how far I can go."

Julian Nagelsmann claimed Kingsley Coman is "one of the top wingers in the world" when fit and said the Frenchman must remain patient for a chance at Bayern Munich.

Coman, 25, joined Bayern initially on a two-year loan from Juventus in 2015 and subsequently made the move permanent.

The France international underwent a minor heart operation in September and has managed just 84 minutes in the Bundesliga this term with the Bavarian giants.

Nagelsmann, however, insisted that Coman ranks among the best in his position on his day as he addressed questions over his rotational policy ahead of Bayern's DFB-Pokal clash with Borussia Monchengladbach on Wednesday.

"I've emphasised many times that King [Coman] is an amazing person who I really enjoy working with," Nagelsmann, who is self-isolating due to a positive COVID-19 test, told reporters on Tuesday.

"I think he's one of the top wingers in the world when he's fit. I would like to work with him for many years to come."

Among Bayern players, Coman leads the charts for dribbles completed across all competitions (500) since his debut on September 12, 2015 – Thiago Alcantara ranks second on that list, some 124 behind the Frenchman.

Indeed, the former Juventus attacker has attempted 276 more dribbles than any of his other team-mates in that same period while scoring 42 times and recording 40 assists.

 

Coman also ranks fifth at the club in this time-span when it comes to chances created, sitting behind Thiago (279), Robert Lewandowski (305), Joshua Kimmich (521) and Thomas Muller (605), with the 274 opportunities he has worked for Bayern.

However, starting chances under Hansi Flick and subsequently Nagelsmann have diminished as Coman seemingly falls behind Serge Gnabry, Muller, Leroy Sane and now Jamal Musiala.

Nagelsmann appreciates the quality of depth he has in that position with his new side, as he attempts to utilise the abundance of talent he has at his disposal.

"We're very well positioned on the wing positions," Nagelsmann said.

"All the players are in exceptional form. It takes a lot of courage, everyone plays or with a certain workload control. Not everyone agrees. I can understand that. But they are all healthy and we want to take advantage of that.

"In the last few years this has not always been the case, so we mustn't complain now. And maybe they will play at the same time."

Jorginho is dreaming of winning the World Cup with Italy while he played down the potential of him winning the Ballon d'Or.

The Chelsea midfielder enjoyed glory for club and country after winning the Champions League with Thomas Tuchel's men and Euro 2020 with Italy, becoming just the 10th player to achieve the double in the same year.

His performances across the two competitions led him to be named the UEFA Men's Player of the Year in August as the award's top three was comprised exclusively of midfielders for the first time in 11 years.

Indeed, at the European Championships across June and July, Jorginho topped Italy's charts for recoveries (48) and interceptions (25) while only Spain's Aymeric Laporte (644) made more successful passes than the 29-year-old's 484.

With the 2022 World Cup in Qatar in his sights, Jorginho described winning the tournament as his lifelong ambition while remaining unsure on who would claim the Ballon d'Or.

"I don't know honestly. If you don't dream anymore you can stop playing football," Jorginho responded to Sky Sport Italia when asked about the individual award.

"My dream is to win the next match. Then I dream of the World Cup, who is the child who has never dreamed of it?

"I never imagined I would get this far, but I dreamed and all I've done is to chase my dream, now I'm living it and I'm proud.

"I am happy to give my family pride. And another dream could come true in the winter of 2022."

The midfielder has enjoyed another positive start to the new Premier League term with Chelsea, who sit a point clear at the top of the league after nine games.

Jorginho ranks sixth for minutes played under Tuchel in the top flight this term, racking up 559 minutes of action, and ranks fourth for successful passes (363) as he remains the Blues' pivot between attack and defence.

When asked about his club form, Jorginho replied: "We are on the right path, we are working hard, and we must continue like this.

"The more you work together, the more you understand what you need to do, learning new movements and creating an increasingly winning mentality.

"All this gives you solidity, confidence and makes you grow as a group. And that's what's happening at Chelsea."

Paulo Dybala and Federico Chiesa will start Juventus' Serie A clash with Sassuolo after Massimiliano Allegri accepted he made a mistake with his team selection against Inter.

Allegri introduced Dybala and Chiesa from the substitutes' bench with Juve trailing in Sunday's match at San Siro, and the former netted a late penalty to rescue a 1-1 draw.

Despite only being brought on in the 65th minute, Dybala led the way among Juventus players for shots (four), shots on target (two) and big chances created (two).

The Argentina international, who was returning from a four-game injury lay-off, has been directly involved in more goals (six) than any team-mate in all competitions this term.

Chiesa's 12 chances created this term, meanwhile, has been bettered by only Alvaro Morata (13) and Juan Cuadrado (15).

Juventus head coach Allegri explained the decision to overlook the pair for Derby d'Italia selection was down to fitness issues, with both set to be recalled against Sassuolo on Wednesday.

"Paulo and Chiesa will play, so everybody is happy. You write and I make you happy," Allegri, who was criticised for his team selection, said at his pre-match news conference.

"Dybala has important technical qualities. He is different from [Dejan] Kulusevski, but Kulusevski played a good game in Milan in the first 60 minutes.

"Chiesa is a top player. He's played many games already. On Sunday, I was wrong, but I had read the game in a different way, with Kulusevski man-marking [Marcelo] Brozovic.

"It's not a problem if a player starts on the bench, there are many games. Chiesa didn't drop to the bench because he deserved it. I had read the game in a certain way.

"Eventually, when he was introduced, we needed more quality and he had a great impact.

"Federico is a reference point for the national team and Juventus, but if I use the same players all the time, I'll need 20 new players in January.

"We hope we’ll play 57 games this season and sometimes players must rest. They can benefit from it, physically and mentally."

 

Allegri also confirmed Adrien Rabiot is back and available, but Moise Kean and Federico Bernardeschi are ruled out for the visit of Sassuolo to Allianz Stadium.

Juve have taken 13 points from their last five Serie A matches – only Milan (15) are in better form – but they still sit down in sixth after a poor start to Allegri's second tenure.

The Bianconeri trailed leaders Napoli by 10 points heading into the weekend games, while Inter were also seven points off top spot, but Allegri still rates the defending champions as favourites to win the Scudetto.

"[Simone] Inzaghi won't admit it, but Inter are the favourites to win Serie A," Allegri said. "Anything can happen in football, but they remain the favourites.

"We had a bad start, so there is no room for mistakes. The draw against Inter is important, but only if we win tomorrow."

Juventus have lost only one of their 16 Serie A matches against 13th-place Sassuolo (W12 D3) – a 1-0 defeat in October 2015 via a Nicola Sansone goal.

Liverpool assistant head coach Pep Lijnders has described Liverpool's attackers as being "like raptors from Jurassic Park" after the 5-0 hammering of Manchester United.

The Reds have been potent this season, their tally of 41 goals in all competitions bettered only by Bayern Munich (60) among teams from Europe's top five leagues.

Mohamed Salah has been responsible for 15 of those goals, making him the second-highest goalscorer among Europe's elite this season behind Robert Lewandowski (17).

Sadio Mane and Roberto Firmino have six each, while, and Diogo Jota – who scored against United on Sunday – has four to his name.

Each of Liverpool's forwards have been in fantastic form and Lijnders puts that down to Jurgen Klopp's men going back to basics.

"I think it has to do with the way we are playing," he said during a news conference on Tuesday previewing the midweek EFL Cup last-16 tie with Preston North End. 

"It's the whole package that means our front players get into good positions. The front three look like raptors in Jurassic Park! 

"We haven't changed anything. Sometimes improving is going back to basics. Players needed a break after a few intense and emotional seasons."

With his hat-trick at Old Trafford, Salah has now scored in a club-record 10 successive matches for Liverpool in all competitions.

The Egypt international, who surpassed Didier Drogba (104) as the highest-scoring African in Premier League history with 106 goals, is expected to be rested against Preston.

Takumi Minamino scored twice and Divock Origi was on target as Liverpool swept aside Norwich City 3-0 in the last round and both players are in line to start again at Deepdale on Wednesday.

"We are used to making changes," Lijnders said. "We have to do things the right way by training and recovering correctly. 

"That's what I like about us – we prepare at the same level no matter who the opponent. We have to show our fans that same hunger and desire.

"Origi is the top scorer in this competition. He is a world-class finisher and is looking sharp, as is Minamino. Last season went to show that we need all of our players.

"They all have to show the right mentality and be ready. They have to stay patient and keep training hard."

Lijnders confirmed James Milner will miss Liverpool's next four matches ahead of the international break with a hamstring injury sustained in the win at Old Trafford.

Naby Keita also came off in that game following a strong challenge from Paul Pogba, who was shown a red card, but Liverpool's assistant was able to provide a more positive update on the midfielder.

"Naby has a bruise in this moment, which we are assessing day by day," Lijnders said.

"Thankfully his leg wasn't planted, but it's still a painful one. It's looking good. Fabinho will also be monitored daily and may return next weekend."

Liverpool travel to Preston aiming to keep alive their good record against lower-league opposition in the EFL Cup, having progressed from 16 of their past 17 such ties.

"Our priority is to put on a good display," Lijnders added. "That is the case from the start of the season until the end.

"Our game needs freshness and we want the opponents to feel our attack. The only way we will be able to properly press is to rotate.

"We are taking it game by game and are hoping to maintain our consistency."

Ronald Koeman says he has no intention of stepping down as Barcelona head coach.

Koeman has endured a difficult start to the new season, with Barca ninth in LaLiga and suffering back-to-back Champions League group stage defeats for the first time since 2000-01.

The Catalan side went down 2-1 to Real Madrid on Sunday, Koeman becoming just the second manager to lose all three of his opening El Clasico meetings.

Koeman's car was mobbed by fans as he left Camp Nou following that defeat to Barca's fierce rivals.

However, the former Netherlands boss assured that he remains committed to his role as he prepares to take on Rayo Vallecano, who Barca have won their last 13 LaLiga games against.

"I am older in this, I want to enjoy the atmosphere that there was the other day on the field [for El Clasico]," Koeman told reporters at Tuesday's pre-match news conference.

"I accept the results. I want to enjoy [my time here], if it is eight years, if it is one year and yes if it's three months.

"There are things as a coach that you don't like, but I like being with the players, preparing the games, analysing and having to decide is what I like.

"The other day I loved the game, Not the result because it was a Clasico, but the atmosphere. We made merits for another result, we need a little luck.

"These things are the ones I like, and if a day comes when I don't enjoy it, I'll go and dedicate myself to playing golf five days a week. I understand that it is a delicate situation, but there is a future in this club."

Barca are winless in three LaLiga away games, failing to score in their last two trips. They have not gone three consecutive games on the road without scoring since February 2003.

The Blaugrana, however, have won on their past two visits to newly-promoted top-flight teams without conceding a goal and Koeman appreciates the importance of a reaction on Wednesday.

"There is always a need to win, especially after the defeat the other day," he continued. "The team is able to react well."

Asked whether he was not enjoying his time with Barca and whether a new coach would withstand the pressure he is under, Koeman responded: "It depends, if the results are good or bad and the team you are in.

"[Madrid boss Carlo] Ancelotti encouraged me, he knows perfectly well about the situation because he has been in great teams.

"I don't know, it is important to know the situation, be a former player from here and have character if the wind comes against. I am like that and I want to see how far I can go."

Liverpool must stay grounded on the back of their "historical" 5-0 thrashing of Manchester United, according to forward Diogo Jota.

The Reds recorded their biggest ever margin of victory against fierce rivals United at Old Trafford thanks to a Mohamed Salah hat-trick and goals from Naby Keita and Jota.

It marked the first time United have lost by five or more goals without scoring since February 1955, when they suffered a 5-0 loss to Manchester City, while only once before – a 7-1 victory at Anfield in October 1895 – have Liverpool won by more goals in this fixture.

Jota, who played a key part in the victory with a tap-in and an assist for the second of Salah's goals, admitted not even he expected Liverpool to dismantle their opponents with such ease.

"It's hard to dream [about such a win], which is a good thing, to be honest," he told Liverpool's official website. "We always expect a tight game, at least in terms of the result, but I think we were outstanding, especially until 2-0.

"Sometimes things just happen naturally. I think we were of course on our toes, everyone was searching for the space and I think in the end with the two goals coming soon, that helps as well. We were very dangerous and we did a fantastic game.

"In the first 15 minutes we were almost perfect. After that, we conceded a little bit counter-attacks and started losing the ball, but in the end it's a historical result and one for the fans to remember for a while.

"It's historical but we as players, we can't think over our heads. I think it's important that we keep our feet on the floor. It's just three more points; there is a long way to go."

Liverpool were four goals up by half-time and added a fifth five minutes into the second half, with Salah's hat-trick strike followed by a red card for United midfielder Paul Pogba.

Jurgen Klopp's side have scored 19 goals in their opening five Premier League away matches this term, a tally that has been bettered by only Manchester City (20 in 2011-12) and United (20 in 1907-08) in English top-flight history at this stage.

Jota was just as pleased with the clean sheet kept by his side at Old Trafford – Liverpool's sixth of the campaign, a joint-league high alongside Manchester City and Chelsea, the latter of whom have a one-point lead at the summit.

"A clean sheet is always important because if you do that it allows for you just to score one goal and win the game," he said. "I think that's what we need to fight for because with the quality that we have up front, if we keep that clean sheet then I'm pretty sure we will win the game."

Salah extended his club-record run of scoring to 10 straight games in all competitions and has now netted 106 times in the Premier League, seeing the Egypt forward surpass Didier Drogba (104) as the top African goalscorer in the competition's history.

Jota added: "It is one of those times when every time he touches the ball it seems to end in the back of the net! That is unbelievable for us and I hope that can continue for a while."

Ronald Koeman claimed the unsavoury scenes as he left Camp Nou after the defeat against Real Madrid reflect greater social issues.

Barcelona sit ninth in LaLiga after a 2-1 loss to Real Madrid on Sunday, Koeman becoming just the second coach to suffer defeat in his first three Clasico meetings.

The Blaugrana also made it five wins without a LaLiga Clasico victory, their longest winless run against any team in the Spanish top flight since May 2008.

After the game at Camp Nou at the weekend, under-fire Barca boss Koeman had his car mobbed by a crowd of fans as he attempted to depart the stadium.

The Catalan club released a statement to condemn those actions and Koeman suggested the incident reflected wider problems as he prepares to face Rayo Vallecano on Wednesday.

"I don't think there is a solution," Koeman told reporters at Tuesday's pre-match news conference.

"For me, it is more a social problem, it is not a matter of them being Catalans. It is more a matter of education, they have no values. 

"We don't have to pay much attention, and it seems that it was only with me, but it has been with many players, with their families.

"It may be that with me it has been more exaggerated, but even Carles Puyol had to suffer.

"The club knows that this cannot be repeated and has to find another formula. It should not be given more attention, it is a social problem that happens all over the world, not just here."

Koeman, who has seen his side go winless in his three top-flight away trips, then echoed a similar sentiment as he reaffirmed the social issues causing the unnerving scenes.

"I have the images because there were two people in the back [of the car] filming for a documentary, my wife next door," he continued.

Koeman added: "When you go out there are many cameras, many telephones, a lot on TikTok for their followers ... it is a social problem that we have and it is better to put energy in other things."

DeMar DeRozan insisted the Chicago Bulls "want to win now" after opening the season 4-0 for the first time since 1996-97.

The red-hot Bulls preserved their perfect record with a 111-108 victory against the Toronto Raptors in the NBA on Monday.

Chicago – the last remaining unbeaten team in the Eastern Conference – were busy in the offseason, having recruited four-time All-Star DeRozan, former second pick Lonzo Ball and 2020 NBA champion Alex Caruso.

It came after the Bulls traded for two-time All-Star Nikola Vucevic last season.

The last time the Bulls opened with a 4-0 record, Hall of Famer and six-time champion Michael Jordan was on the team in Chicago.

"Part of the reason why I even chose to come to Chicago was everyone was eager to be successful, to want to win," DeRozan said after scoring 26 points against his former team.

"Everybody had that chip on their shoulder, from the city to the organisation to the players that I spoke to.

"That was everybody's mindset, it's all about winning now. We're not in a development stage, we want to win now."

DeRozan added: "We've got a long way to go. We've got a lot more to clean up, to learn. It's a long season, man. [The 4-0 start] is great, but we've got a lot more basketball to go.

"We can't carry this record like it's some kind of badge of honour; we've got to understand that the next game is going to be even harder."

The previous two times the Bulls started 4-0 (1995-96 and 1996-97), they went on to win the NBA championship.

"I think we have a lot of high-character guys, we all want to win and we want to win together," Ball added. "I think when you have a bunch of guys on the same team with the same common goal and the same mindset it makes it easier for the chemistry to click. That's what's going on."

Giannis Antetokounmpo came close to a triple-double as reigning NBA champions the Milwaukee Bucks took down the Indiana Pacers 119-109 on Monday.

Antetokounmpo finished the game with 30 points, 10 rebounds and nine assists, as well as two blocks and a steal to fuel the Bucks.

Bucks team-mate Khris Middleton provided good scoring support with 27 points, five rebounds and seven assists, including a remarkable three-pointer on the first-quarter buzzer.

Milwaukee pulled away throughout the game, leading by 15 points at the final change, having no issues in Jrue Holiday (ankle) and Brook Lopez's (back) absence.

While the Bucks improved to 3-1, the Pacers slipped to a 1-3 record despite Domantas Sabonis' 21 points, 13 rebounds and five assists.

 

 

Bulls maintain perfect start

The Chicago Bulls improved to 4-0 for the first time since 1996-97 thanks to a 111-108 victory against the Toronto Raptors. The Bulls led by 10 points with less than three minutes remaining before Fred VanVleet (15 points and a career-high 17 assists) missed a three-point attempt on the buzzer to send it to overtime.

Jayson Tatum posted 41 points, including six three-pointers, with seven rebounds and eight assists as the Boston Celtics outlasted the Charlotte Hornets 140-129 after overtime. The Celtics closed the extra period with a 14-0 run to storm to victory.

Paul George had a career-high eight steals along with 16 points as the Los Angeles Clippers won 116-86 against the Portland Trail Blazers. Luke Kennard added 23 points.

Jonas Valanciunas put up 22 points and a career-high 23 points as the New Orleans Pelicans snapped a season-opening three-game skid by topping the Minnesota Timberwolves 107-98.

 

Harden's radar still off

The Brooklyn Nets improved their record to 2-2 with a 104-90 win over the Washington Wizards although James Harden's shooting radar was off. The former MVP finished five of 17 from the field, including going at 12.5 per cent from beyond the arc for his 14 points.

Damian Lillard continues to struggle for the Blazers this season. The All-Star finished four-of-15 shooting against the Clippers, while he missed all eight of his three-point attempts. Lillard has made two of 24 three-pointers this season (8.3 per cent). He is shooting 34 per cent overall.

The New Orleans Saints flexed their defensive muscles in a hard-fought 13-10 win over the Seattle Seahawks in NFL action on Monday.

This was the first meeting where neither future Hall of Famer Drew Brees (retired) nor Russell Wilson (injured) started at quarterback since 2004, per Stats Perform.

Leading the Saints following Brees' retirement, Jameis Winston (19-of-35 passing for 222 yards, one touchdown and two sacks) helped New Orleans improve to 4-2 for the season against the slumping Seahawks – who dropped their fourth consecutive game – in Seattle.

But it was a defensive battle at Lumen Field, where Saints linebacker Demario Davis fuelled the visitors with five sacks and multiple tackles.

The Seahawks set the tone in the opening quarter following a stunning 84-run pass from Geno Smith (12 for 22 passes, 167 yards and one touchdown with five sacks) to star team-mate DK Metcalf.

It was the longest pass TD for the Seahawks since an 87-yard connection from Matt Hasselbeck to Ben Obomanu in 2010 and the third-longest in franchise history.

New Orleans, though, took a 10-7 leading into half-time thanks to Brian Johnson's 21-yard field goal and Alvin Kamara's 13-yard touchdown reception – the team's lone TD.

Kamara caught 10 passes for 128 yards, while he became the first running back with eight-plus receptions and 100-plus receiving yards in the first half of a game since 2004.

After Seattle kicker Jason Myers levelled proceedings with a monster 50-yard field goal in the third quarter, Johnson settled the contest by nailing his attempt two minutes from the end of the game.

The Houston Astros brushed off any suggestions that they are using 2017's sign-stealing scandal as motivation ahead of their World Series against the Atlanta Braves.

Houston will host the Braves in Game 1 on Tuesday, with the Astros featuring in the third World Series in five seasons.

Houston's 2017 World Series title remains shrouded in controversy the Astros were found to have stolen signs of opposition teams on the way to winning the championship, as well as for part of 2018.

General manager Jeff Luhnow and manager A.J. Hinch were subsequently fired by the team after they were initially suspended.

The Astros have since regularly been greeted with jeers and boos in road games but manager Dusty Baker, who was appointed in 2020, insisted they were not out to prove people wrong.

"I don't think that's their main source of motivation," Baker told reporters on Monday. "I think people are trying to make it as their main source of motivation. That doesn't motivate you nearly as much as thriving to win and thriving for excellence.

"I think this team is way past that because they know they can play. You can only be driven by 'I'll show you,' or you can only be driven by negative motivation so far."

Houston infielders Carlos Correa and Jose Altuve are both holdovers from the 2017 roster but reiterated Baker's stance.

"I don't think the outside noise motivates us at all," said Correa, who has hit .297 with five RBIs and 11 hits this postseason.

"The guys inside [the clubhouse] - we motivate ourselves to just be better every single day, and you see the results on the field.

"I don't think we're playing here in the World Series because we're motivated to prove to people that we're a really good team."

Altuve, who hit .278 with 31 home runs and 83 RBIs across the regular season, said he had not considered the sign-stealing scandal in the lead-up to the World Series.

"I haven't thought about that, but I think we have the same mindset we always have, just going out there and try to win," Altuve said.

"This is a pretty special team. Everybody just talks about winning. We all want to win. There's not a single guy who talks about something else."

Correa and Altuve were both crucial in offense for the Astros in 2017, recording 14 RBIs in the postseason, with both hitting two home runs in the World Series.

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