Los Angeles Dodgers manager Dave Roberts cannot remember a more important hit than Cody Bellinger's game-tying three-run homer in the defending World Series champions' come-from-behind 6-5 win over the Atlanta Braves.

The Dodgers trailed 5-2 in the eighth inning in Game of the National League Championship Series (NLCS), facing a 3-0 series deficit before 2019 NL MVP Bellinger's three-run shot tied Tuesday's MLB contest.

Mookie Betts hit a go-ahead double, driving Chris Taylor home, as the Dodgers completed a four-run eighth-inning rally, before Kenley Jansen closed it out in the ninth inning.

The Dodgers had never won a postseason game in their history when trailing by three or more runs in the eighth inning.

Bellinger's homer continued his remarkable postseason, hitting at .292 with seven hits and six RBIs after the two-time All Star endured a challenging regular season for the Dodgers, hitting at .165.

"Pure elation, joy," Roberts said about Bellinger's homer during his post-game news conference.

"It's hard to imagine a bigger hit that I can remember, given what was at stake. I couldn’t be happier for him. What a win. I'm kinda exhausted right now. Very happy for Cody."

Bellinger's regular-season return for the Dodgers had been modest, with 10 home runs, 52 hits and 36 RBIs from 95 games, which Roberts described as "rock bottom".

That was in contrast during his MVP-winning 2019 season he homered 47 times, with 170 hits and 115 RBIs, hitting at .305.

"I think this is going to make him much better. It's tested his character and he's going to be a better baseball player through these struggles," Roberts said.

"When you hit rock bottom, there's a lot of opportunity for openness and change. To his credit, he lowered his arms, understood he needed to hit the ball more square and flat and get the loop out of his swing.

"You see the path of that at-bat tonight. All the credit goes to him."

Bellinger, who hit at .212 with four home runs, 14 hits and 13 RBIs during the Dodgers' World Series-winning 2020 postseason, offered an insight into his mindset, labelling the playoffs as a "clean slate".

"In a way it's a whole different season," Bellinger, who celebrated his fourth career game-tying or go-ahead hit in the eighth inning or later of a playoff game – tied for fifth-most in postseason nhistory, told reporters. "Luckily for me I got a clean slate going into the postseason.

"I was feeling good towards the end of the regular season. I just tried to continue that and help this team win."

Giannis Antetokounmpo hailed the Milwaukee Bucks for putting aside the excitement of receiving their NBA championship rings prior to Tuesday's dominant 127-104 win over the Brooklyn Nets.

The Bucks reminded the star-studded Nets who runs the Eastern Conference in their emphatic season-opening victory at Fiserv Forum, where Antetokounmpo led the defending champions with 32 points, 14 rebounds, seven assists and two blocks.

Antetokounmpo and his Bucks team-mates received their championship rings in a glittering pre-game ceremony in front of a sell-out crowd in Milwaukee before blowing out Kevin Durant and the Nets in a rematch of last season's Eastern Conference semi-final.

"It was hard. Obviously very excited for the ring and seeing our banner," Antetokounmpo told ESPN after his double-double display.

"It's been hard to balance that, going from that excitement and that emotional state, going to get ready to play the game.

"I think we did a great job. When the ceremony was over, we were able to focus on our gameplan and ourselves. We were able to get the win."

The Bucks raced to a 37-25 first-quarter lead and led by as much as 23 points as they were never headed by a Nets side missing Kyrie Irving due to his absence related to not being vaccinated against coronavirus.

Milwaukee had issues of their own, with Donte DiVincenzo and Bobby Portis unavailable, while Jrue Holiday only played 18 minutes after succumbing to a right heel contusion.

Antetokounmpo had good support from Khris Middleton who finished with 20 points, nine rebounds and three assists, as well as Pat Connaughton (20 points)

Young small forward Jordan Nwora also contributed 15 points and six rebounds from 26 minutes off the bench.

"We've got a deep team," added Antetokounmpo, who had averaged at least 25.0 points and 10.0 rebounds over the past four seasons heading into the opener – the first player to accomplish the feat since Hall of Famer Shaquille O'Neal (1993-94 to 2002-03).

"Everybody is ready to step up, everybody is ready to play. We play hard and we play together. We try to play good basketball which is what we did tonight."

The 26-year-old Greek power forward also said it was a "compliment" to be named pre-game in the top-75 greatest players in NBA history to mark the competition's 75th anniversary.

The New York Yankees will bring back Aaron Boone after re-signing the manager on a new three-year deal, despite another unsuccessful MLB season.

Boone has led the storied franchise to the postseason in all four seasons in charge at Yankee Stadium, although they have not reached the World Series during his tenure, creating doubt about his future.

The Yankees – who have not won the World Series since 2009 – bowed out of the 2021 postseason in the American League (AL) Wild Card Game to bitter rivals the Boston Red Sox after finishing third in the AL East with a 92-70 record.

But the Yankees are sticking with Boone in a deal that includes a club option for 2025, they announced on Tuesday.

"We have a person and manager in Aaron Boone who possesses the baseball acumen and widespread respect in our clubhouse to continue to guide us forward," Yankees owner Hal Steinbrenner said in a statement.

"As a team and as an organisation, we must grow, evolve and improve. We need to get better. Period.

"I know Aaron fully embraces our expectations of success, and I look forward to drawing on his intelligence, instincts and leadership in pursuit of our next World Series championship."

Under Boone, the 27-time World Series champions have twice lost the AL Division Series (ALDS) in 2018 and 2020 and once the AL Championship Series (ALCS) in 2019, along with this season's Wild Card defeat.

Boone has compiled a 328-218 managerial record with the Yankees. The 48-year-old is only the second manager in MLB history to reach the playoffs in each of his first four managerial seasons.

"I think I can help lead us to the top. That's why I'm here. That's why I came back," Boone said. "Ultimately, though, the proof will be in the pudding."

The last Yankees manager allowed a fifth season in charge without having won the World Series was Miller Huggins in 1922.

Yankees general manager Brian Cashman said: "We want more and we expect more.

He added: "If he was entering the free-agent market, I believe he'd be the number one managerial candidate in baseball. There's a number of different vacancies, and we would be going to market looking for someone like him."

The Baltimore Ravens will be without Pro Bowler Ronnie Stanley for the remainder of the NFL season after announcing he will undergo surgery on his left ankle.

Stanley will have season-ending surgery for the second consecutive season, have missed the final 10 games of the 2020 campaign due to a broken ankle.

The high-flying Ravens (5-1) have placed Stanley on injured reserve, with the First-Team All-Pro vowing to return next season.

"At this point in time, my ankle isn't where it should be," the 27-year-old offensive tackle – who signed a five-year contract extension last October – said in a statement on Tuesday.

"This is the best decision not only for my health, but also for the team long-term. I look forward to supporting my team from the sideline this season and coming back fully healthy in 2022."

Stanley had missed five of the Ravens' six games this season, playing only in their opener against the Las Vegas Raiders.

"This is not what I wanted or expected when coming into the season," Stanley said. "Throughout the last year, I did everything I could to be 100 per cent healthy so I could be out there playing for our team and city."

The Ravens have an NFL-high 17 players on injured reserve.

Draymond Green said the Golden State Warriors are "nowhere near a championship team", though the three-time NBA title winner believes they have the pieces to potentially develop into a contender.

The Warriors have failed to qualify for the playoffs in each of the past two years as they prepare to open their 2021-22 campaign against the Los Angeles Lakers at Staples Center on Tuesday.

It comes after the Warriors lost to the Toronto Raptors in the 2019 NBA Finals prior to Kevin Durant's departure, having won championships in 2015, 2017 and 2018 before Klay Thompson's serious injuries.

Thompson is stepping up his return from a torn anterior cruciate ligament (ACL) and Achilles injury, while former number two pick James Wiseman is recovering from a knee problem, though the Warriors still boast two-time MVP Stephen Curry.

"I think this team could be very good," three-time Warriors All-Star Green said of Golden State. "But I think this team has to grow.

"We have to put it all together. Is there aspirations to winning a championship? Absolutely. But this team is nowhere near a championship team.

"I think we have a lot of pieces that could grow to be that, I don't doubt that at all, but we also can't get fooled by 5-0 in the preseason and say, 'Oh man, we're a championship team.' We've got a long f****** ways to go."

Golden State averaged 27.7 assists per game last season, leading the league for the sixth time in seven seasons, according to Stats Perform. The Warriors tied the Brooklyn Nets for the most games with at least 30-plus assists, going 24-3 (88.9) in those games.

Green added: "You don't just win a championship because you think the pieces fit. You don't just win a championship because you think you got good talent. You got to make that s*** work.

"And so do I think we have a good chance to be a really good team? Absolutely. But to say we can win a championship, we're so far away from that as is just about every other team in this league except maybe the Milwaukee Bucks because they're coming off that.

"Everybody else has a long ways to go and we're right there in that group that's going to be trying to create separation to be one of those teams that can contend in June."

Curry will play his 763rd game on Tuesday, with the three-time NBA champion on pace to be the second-quickest player in the last three decades to hit 5,000 assists (currently 4,984) and 18,000 points (currently 18,434), behind only Lakers superstar LeBron James (726 games).

Philadelphia 76ers star Joel Embiid hit out at Ben Simmons, insisting he is "not here to babysit" after his wantaway team-mate was banned by the NBA championship-chasing franchise.

The 76ers suspended disgruntled All-Star Simmons – who has demanded a trade out of Philadelphia – for their season-opening clash with the New Orleans Pelicans on Wednesday.

It came after 76ers head coach Doc Rivers tossed Simmons from Tuesday's practice session.

Simmons sought a trade amid criticism following last season's shock playoff exit to the Atlanta Hawks and was absent from Philadelphia for the first two weeks of preseason work before showing up on October 11 to begin fulfilling COVID-19 protocols that would allow him to re-join the championship-chasing franchise.

Speculation over Simmons' future is now set to intensify amid reported interest from the likes of the Minnesota Timberwolves, Cleveland Cavaliers, Golden State Warriors, San Antonio Spurs, Houston Rockets, Portland Trail Blazers and Indiana Pacers.

Embiid, however, is not interested in Simmons – who signed a five-year, $177.2million contract extension in 2019 – as the 2020-21 MVP runner-up took aim at the former number one draft pick.

"I don't care about that man honestly," Embiid told reporters. "He does whatever he wants. That's not my job. That's those guys' jobs. I'm only focused on trying to make the team better. Win some games. Play hard every night.

"I try to lead all the guys that we have here and I'm sure that I feel the same way because our chemistry has been excellent. Despite everything that's been happening in the last few months. So like I said, I don't I don't really care.

 

"But at the end of the day, our job is not to babysit somebody. We're here and we get paid to produce on the court. Go out, play hard, and win some games. That's all we get paid for. We don't get paid to come out here and try to babysit somebody. That's not our job and I'm sure my team-mates feel that way.

"Like I said, I'm not here to babysit. I'd be willing to babysit if someone wants to listen, but that's not my job. That's out of my control. I'll focus on what's here and try to win some games."

Simmons – an elite defender – and his shooting problems were laid bare during the 2021 postseason with the top-seeded 76ers, who were eliminated in the semi-finals.

The 25-year-old had no fourth-quarter field-goal attempts in his last four games of the playoffs against the Hawks last season. He is the only NBA player in the last 20 seasons to have four consecutive postseason games with no field-goal attempts in the fourth quarter during a season in which he was an All-Star, according to Stats Perform.

Simmons averaged just 10.1 field-goal attempts in 2020-21 – a career low, which dropped to 7.9 in the playoffs. It was the same story with his scoring as it dropped to a career-worst 14.3 points per game and 11.9 in the postseason – both career lows.

Then there is Simmons and free throws. He was exposed by rival teams as they regularly sent him to the line, with the Melbourne-born guard making just 25 of 73 shots in the 2020-21 playoffs. His 34.2 free-throw percentage is the lowest ever in a single postseason.

"I just thought he was a distraction today," Rivers said. "I didn't think he wanted to do what everybody else was doing and it was early, it wasn't a big deal. Just told him you should leave man and we went on with practice.

"I'm going to give like every day, every single moment, I'm going to give Ben a chance to join the team and be part of the team. He's under contract to be part of the team and so that's not going to change.

"Sometimes it happens quick and guys join back in, sometimes it doesn't. I've been in both situations and I'm fine with that. But at the end of the day, as a coach, I have to protect the team. The team first and then we get to the other part and so today, I just thought it was more important to focus on the team."

Andy Murray saved two match points before winning an epic encounter with Frances Tiafoe at the European Open in Antwerp.

The former world number one emerged triumphant from a gruelling contest lasting three hours and 45 minutes, the longest three-set match of the 2021 ATP season.

Having warded off two match points in the decisive tie-break, Murray clinched a 7-6 (7-2) 6-7 (7-9) 7-6 (10-8) victory with a drop shot that landed just out of Tiafoe's reach.

"I think that's the first time in my career I've played a 7-6, 6-7, 7-6 [match]. I don't think I've ever played a match like that," said Murray, who next faces second seed Diego Schwartzman. "I think it's the longest three-set match I've played by quite a distance. I'm tired right now, obviously it was an unbelievable battle.

"Nowadays obviously my body is old now. I've played a lot of matches on the tour. I don't mind playing long matches, but that was taking it to another level.

"Brilliant match, amazing atmosphere, thanks to everyone who came and supported. It's just so nice to be back and playing in front of crowds again."

American prospect Jenson Brooksby left his compatriot Reilly Opelka flummoxed as the fifth seed was beaten 6-4 6-4.

Opelka was heard proclaiming Brooksby was the "best player I've played in my whole life" during the second set as he struggled to interpret the 20-year-old's service game. Brooksby will face Botic van de Zandschulp in the next round.

There was another upset when sixth seed Alex de Minaur lost 6-4 6-0 to Brandon Nakashima, who has twice reached ATP-level finals this year and will next face Henri Laaksonen, victorious over Benoit Paire.

Lorenzo Musetti needed two tie-breaks to defeat fellow Italian Gianluca Mager, while Alejandro Davidovich Fokina – quarter-finalist at the French Open this year – eased past Jordan Thompson 6-3 6-3.

At the Kremlin Cup, fifth seed Alexander Bublik suffered a surprise straight-sets defeat to Illya Marchenko, the world number 164 winning by a 6-4 6-3 scoreline.

Adrian Mannarino battled through against wildcard Roman Safiullin, but Laslo Djere lost in three sets to Gilles Simon.

Ricardas Berankis and Egor Gerasimov also progressed, while Guido Pella retired from his match with Pedro Martinez.

Simona Halep reached the second round of the Kremlin Cup on Tuesday with a straight-sets win over home hope Anastasia Potapova.

The former world number one, competing at the Moscow event for the first time since 2013, won 6-1 6-4 to set up a meeting with Veronika Kudermetova, who survived a marathon contest with qualifier Oksana Selekhmeteva.

Anett Kontaveit, who won the title in Ostrava last month, prevailed 6-3 6-3 against Katerina Siniakova. Another seed, Wimbledon quarter-finalist Ons Jabeur, retired against Ekaterina Alexandrova when trailing 6-1 1-0.

Andrea Petkovic also progressed when Jelena Ostapenko had to halt proceedings in their third set, while seventh seed Elena Rybakina lost in straight sets to Olympic silver medallist Marketa Vondrousova.

At the Tenerife Open, Camila Giorgi progressed past Aliona Bolsova 7-6 (7-4) 3-6 6-4 despite giving up two penalty games due to repeated indiscretions when line calls were called into question.

Fifth seed Viktorija Golubic lost in straight sets to Arantxa Rus, while Alison Riske was dispatched 6-1 6-4 by Donna Vekic.

Seventh seed Clara Tauson defeated Heather Watson via a final-set tie-break, while Varvara Gracheva won in the same vein against third seed Sara Sorribes Tormo in a match lasting nearly three and a half hours.

Top seed Elina Svitolina was one set up against Maria Camila Osorio Serrano when their match was suspended for the night.

Ben Simmons will miss the Philadelphia 76ers' NBA season opener against the New Orleans Pelicans after being handed a one-game suspension.

Simmons demanded a trade amid the fallout from last season's playoff exit to the Atlanta Hawks. He was absent for the first two weeks of preseason work before showing up on October 11 to begin fulfilling COVID-19 protocols that would allow him to re-join the championship-chasing franchise.

Coach Doc Rivers told reporters on Monday he had "no idea" whether Simmons would play in the opening game of the 2021-22 season on Wednesday night, adding: "When it comes, I'll make the decision. But I'm just going to wait and see and watch. The spirit has been so good, and so we're just going to keep going."

On Tuesday, the 76ers announced Simmons was suspended for the Pelicans game due to "conduct detrimental to the team". According to reports, the three-time All Star was ejected from practice after Rivers grew frustrated with his lack of engagement.

The Australian, who has four years and $147million left on his max contract, was criticised for his shooting performance during the 2021 postseason, in which the 76ers were eliminated in the semi-finals.

The former number one draft pick had no fourth-quarter field-goal attempts in his final four games of the playoffs against the Hawks. He is the only NBA player in the past 20 seasons to have four consecutive postseason games with no field-goal attempts in the fourth quarter during a season in which he was an All-Star, according to Stats Perform.

Simmons averaged just 10.1 field-goal attempts in 2020-21 – a career low, which dropped to 7.9 in the playoffs. It was the same story with his scoring as he posted a career-worst 14.3 points per game and 11.9 in the postseason.

Free throws became a theme of his problematic playoffs. Simmons made just 25 of 73 shots in the 2020-21 postseason. his 34.2 free-throw percentage the lowest ever such figure for players with a minimum of 70 attempts.

 

From trailblazer Luc Longley and his trophy-laden time alongside Michael Jordan in Chicago, to Andrew Bogut, Patty Mills, Aron Baynes, Matthew Dellavedova and Ben Simmons. There has been a healthy contingent of Australian stars gracing the NBA.

Josh Giddey joined the growing list of Australians in the league when the 19-year-old was taken with the sixth pick in the 2021 NBA Draft at Brooklyn's Barclays Center in July.

After reigning NBA Rookie of the Year LaMelo Ball was taken by the Charlotte Hornets with the third pick of the 2020 Draft, a player from the NBL had their name called early for the second consecutive year.

Giddey emerged as a lottery pick and was taken swiftly by the rebuilding Thunder – who missed the playoffs last season for the first time since 2014-15 – following his exploits for the Adelaide 36ers.

The teenage playmaker caught the eye of NBA executives in a season which saw him crowned the NBL's Rookie of the Year after leading the league with 7.6 assists per game, while averaging 10.9 points and 7.3 rebounds in 28 appearances.

In four preseason games for the Thunder, Giddey averaged 13.5 points, 7.0 rebounds and 5.0 assists per game.

Regarded as the best Australian prospect since three-time All-Star Simmons was drafted first by the Philadelphia 76ers in 2016, former 36ers head coach Conner Henry hailed the Melbourne-born point guard when he spoke to Stats Perform prior to July's draft.

"It's really been a rewarding experience for me as a coach," Henry said. "It's the first time I've had the opportunity to coach an elite talent at such a young age.

"I didn't really know what I exactly had coming in. I had seen Josh on film and in the Chicago camp a year earlier, when he was just a young, fairly tall, skinny kid who didn't play all that well. Carried himself confidently. You could see he played at a pace and made others around him better, but it wasn't like he stood out.

"Then you fast forward five-and-a-half/six months, he walks in and is two inches taller, 15kg heavier and he has really started to grow into his body. Then I knew I had something pretty special.

"It became pretty evident after a month and a half that he was going to be able to play - and play at a high level against grown men. As we went down that path with him, we were able to keep throwing more and more systems at him. He was very open to listening, to understanding what we're trying to put in play.

"Having played the position before, I was able to talk to him about angles. 'Do you see this window of an opportunity here when you turn a corner', 'how do you read the floor initially when you rebound the ball and pushing out on the break', these little things. I think he was well ahead of me already when I brought those things up. Really rewarding to see his growth and confidence grow daily."

Since 2012, Giddey's assists per game figure is only second to Cairns Taipans point guard Scott Machado – who averaged 7.6 in 2019-20.

 

"Every player when they reach a certain level of recognition or professional ranks, they're always the best of the best as they keep going in advancing on their path. Josh wasn't satisfied. He was always pushing forward and trying to get better, always trying to connect with his team-mates and that's his greatest strength because he makes everyone around him better," Henry said as the Thunder prepare to open their season against the Utah Jazz on Wednesday.

"His offensive game will continue to grow; he will be able to score more and he is going to become a very good three-point shooter eventually - the mechanics are sound. The release off the hand has improved, he is under the ball more, the rotation has improved and it will only get better.

"At the end of the day, his true strength is his size, his feel for the game and ability to find his team-mates."

While Giddey only shot 43 per cent from the field, the teenager – who was surprisingly overlooked for Australia's Olympic Games squad – frequently demonstrated his playmaking ability, athleticism and high basketball IQ under Henry's guidance in Adelaide.

Henry – a former assistant with the Orlando Magic, having played for the Houston Rockets, Boston Celtics, Milwaukee Bucks and Sacramento Kings in the NBA – likened Giddey to fellow Australian and sharp-shooter Joe Ingles.

Ingles has become an integral part of the Utah Jazz franchise since his arrival in 2014, ranking fifth in three-point percentage (45.1 – a career high) last season. Giddey and the Thunder play the Jazz in their season opener on Wednesday.

"He'll get to a point where he will have to play harder as he matures physically," Henry said of Giddey. "He won't be able to take periodic breaks in the game and that can be managed minutes wise of course. He will have to be switched on at both ends, even more so than he was with us.

"Even at 18, he was very good but there were moments when at both ends of the floor where either we had to teach or correct him on things. He'll be fine, he will be surrounded by fantastic coaches who will push him. He likes to be pushed as a player. He will have to improve on the defensive end. I think he will become a good defender.

"I look at some of the Aussies in the league right now, Ingles isn't this elite athlete that is running up and down, high flying and dunking on people. Josh is that similar kind of Ingles body type. Plays at a good, sound speed, has good strength, uses his length wisely on both ends of the floor and Josh will get better and better in that part of the game in how to adjust and play both offensively and defensively."

Henry added: "Josh has been used to be playing in FIBA rules. Now he will be playing in NBA rules. With the defensive rules in place with the NBA, you can't pack the paint like you can in FIBA, where you can really load up. That, coupled with the ability of the offensive players to have more freedom of movement, where in FIBA it's quite physical.

"In the NBL, freedom of movement can be impeded quite a bit with a hand check, body check or hold. Josh is going to have even more success in the pick-and-roll game at the NBA level. He had very good success with us.

"I think his height, ability to see the floor and ability to make team-mates better, in the NBA rules, are only going to compliment his game and help him grow."

The Brooklyn Nets are itching for the opportunity to get revenge on the Milwaukee Bucks for last season's Eastern Conference semi-finals defeat, and Tuesday's ring celebration could be the ideal chance.

Their playoffs meeting earlier this year was something of a classic, with the series going to the wire as Milwaukee ultimately came good.

James Harden struggled with an injury, Kyrie Irving was out and Kevin Durant was denied what he thought was a winning three-pointer at the buzzer, but it turned out to only be a two-pointer and overtime beckoned.

The Bucks went on to win in OT and that sent them on their way to only a second NBA championship and a first since 1971.

It is fair to say the Nets have not forgotten what occurred in June and they will be highly motivated for their season opener against the Bucks, who will also be collecting their championship rings.

"It goes without saying we're definitely excited," said Nets shooting guard Joe Harris.

"We would've been excited no matter who we were playing against. This is going to be an awesome atmosphere.

"[There's a] sour taste in our mouth from the last time we played against Milwaukee, so obviously excited we get to start off with them to start the season.

"But nothing to discredit Milwaukee, they had an unbelievable season. Rightfully NBA champions.

"They're an unbelievable team with a lot of talent across the board. Right now, they're the team to beat.

"For us, it's not looking too far ahead, though. One game at a time. All of the focus is on Milwaukee and getting a good start to the season."

"We'll see how our group responds," coach Steve Nash added. "They may have extra motivation.

"They may just be locked into what their jobs are. So, I'm not really sure how they'll respond to that, or if that'll have an impact on them.

"But more than anything, I just want our guys to be prepared to start fast and play well."

Of course, last season the Nets were many people's favourites for the championship prior to that series defeat to the Bucks.

And while Durant acknowledged the excitement ahead of the Nets' season opener, he is reminding his team-mates they need to begin with high standards and maintain them every game, not just against the best teams.

"No matter what we play, we've got to hold ourselves to a championship-level standard, and we're not exercising good habits if we only get up against teams like Milwaukee," Durant said.

"Everybody's excited for the first game, but we want to keep this energy, no matter where we play."

Kyle Schwarber said "these are the moments that you are never going to forget" after hitting a record-making homer in the Boston Red Sox's 12-3 rout of the Houston Astros in Game 3 of their American League Championship Series.

Schwarber hit another grand slam for the Red Sox, who now lead the Astros 2-1, making them the first MLB team to hit three slams in a single series having hit two in Game 2.

The Red Sox are the first team to have three slams in the postseason since the 1998 Atlanta Braves.

J.D. Martinez and Rafael Devers achieved slams in the second game, while Schwarber cleared the bases in the second inning on Monday in Boston and he revelled in a moment of glory.

"These are the moments that you are never going to forget as a player," Schwarber said. 

"This is what we live for. We live to be in the postseason. When you get that first taste, that first experience, you want to keep coming. You want more. 

"It's an addictive feeling, and especially where it's just rocking the whole time and it's rowdy.

"That gave me a headache, and I loved it. I loved every second of it."

 

Asked if a slam was on his mind as he stepped up to the plate, Schwarber replied: "You are trying to get at least one, and not going up there thinking home run. 

"That could turn into a pop-up or something like that, so just trying to not be late. You know a heater is coming there, and just go from there."

Tennessee Titans coach Mike Vrabel says Derrick Henry is "willing and able to carry us" after another barnstorming performance in a thrilling 34-31 win over the Buffalo Bills in Monday Night Football.

Henry finished with 143 yards and three touchdowns as the Titans moved to 4-2 in the AFC South this season.

It marked the fifth straight game Henry surpassed 100 yards for rushing, while it is the third occasion this season he has ended with at least three touchdowns.

Henry joined Jim Brown (1958) as the only players in NFL history to rush for three-plus touchdowns in a game three times in the first six games of a season, according to Stats Perform.

Through Week 6, Henry has three games with 125 or more rushing yards and three-plus rushing touchdowns – it is tied for the most such games in a single season in the Super Bowl era.

Speaking after the game, Vrabel said of Henry: "We continue to jump on Derrick's back and he's willing and able to carry us. 

"It's something that you know you have in your back pocket, your front pocket and you can use it. He gave us a big shot right there."

For his part, Henry said he is just trying to perform his best for the team every time he takes to the field.

"I just love to come out here and try to be the best player and team-mate I can," he said. 

"Come out here and try to take advantage of my opportunities and make plays for this team. Whatever I can do to help us win, I am willing to do.

"This, today, was incredible. The whole atmosphere, it felt like a playoff game. The crowd was in it – they came and packed the stadium out. It's something that we'll always remember, especially on a big stage like this."

It's difficult to go back to back in any sport and, in the marathon that is an NBA season, that rings particularly true.

Seven franchises have achieved the feat, with the Golden State Warriors the last team to do so in 2018.

But the fact the 73-9 Warriors of 2016 proved unable to retain the title illustrates just how difficult a challenge it is to repeat and hold on to the Larry O'Brien Trophy.

The Milwaukee Bucks will attempt to become the eighth franchise to successfully defend their crown, though they will face no shortage of competition.

With the 2021-22 season beginning on Tuesday, Stats Perform looks at some of the top contenders for the title in the coming campaign.

Milwaukee Bucks

Let's start with the obvious. The Bucks are the favourites because they have the best player on the planet, with all due respect to reigning MVP Nikola Jokic and Dallas Mavericks star Luka Doncic.

Giannis Antetokounmpo was fourth in points per 75 possessions last regular season with 29.6 and dominated on the defensive glass. His defensive rebounding percentage of 28.9 was 12th in the league.

The main feather in his cap going into 2021-22 is his ability to elevate his game to another level. In leading the Bucks past the Phoenix Suns in last season's Finals, he racked up 211 points. That tied Bob Pettit for the third-most in a Finals debut behind Rick Barry (245) and Jerry West (218). Only West and Michael Jordan (both four) can better his tally of three games with 40 points or more in a single Finals.

Supported by Khris Middleton, who had five games of 30 points or more in the postseason, and an elite facilitator in Jrue Holiday, whose 10.5 assists per 48 minutes ranked fifth among players to play in at least 10 playoff games, Antetokounmpo has a deep and dynamic surrounding cast, making the Bucks excellent candidates to go all the way again.

Phoenix Suns

The Suns may not be the first name on everyone's lips when it comes to title contenders but, having led 2-0 in the Finals before succumbing to Giannis and the Bucks, they are deserving of a place on the list.

In an offseason that could have seen much change, the Suns managed to keep the band together, the headline deal being an agreement that saw Chris Paul signed to a new contract.

While Deandre Ayton and Devin Booker are both the present and the future for the Suns, their title aspirations rest largely on the ageing shoulders of Paul. 

Paul was the only Finals player to finish above Holiday in assists per 48 minutes in the postseason (minimum 10 games), averaging 12.0 across the course of the playoffs.

He set up Ayton 143 times in the regular season and reached three figures in laying on buckets for Booker (118) and Mikal Bridges (106), living up to his moniker of 'Point God'.

However, with a combined plus/minus of -37 across the four successive losses to Milwaukee, he will have to raise his game when it matters most if he and the Suns are to end their respective waits for a title.

Los Angeles Lakers

Rarely has LeBron James not had a chance to win the NBA title over the course of his illustrious career.

However, injuries limited James to just 45 games and Anthony Davis to 36 in the regular season, forcing the Lakers into a play-in game.

James performed heroics to lead the Lakers past the Warriors in that game but they were subsequently bounced out of the playoffs by the Suns.

The Lakers' response was to add to their arsenal of stars by acquiring Russell Westbrook in a trade with the Washington Wizards.

 

Former MVP Westbrook tied Jokic for the league lead with 45.5 points/assists/rebounds per game in 2020-21 while breaking Oscar Robertson's record for career triple-doubles.

Such numbers will not be possible playing alongside James and Davis but, if he can thrive in a more supplementary role, the Lakers should be firmly in the mix to regain their 2019-20 title.

Brooklyn Nets

There is a case to be made that, had the Nets not been hit by injuries in their Eastern Conference semi-finals series with the Bucks, they would have been the ones lifting the trophy.

However, Kyrie Irving and James Harden were limited to only four games in that seven-game series, leaving the burden primarily on Kevin Durant.

For very different reasons, there will be a lot of strain on Durant in 2021-22.

The Nets are facing up to not having Irving for most of if not all of the campaign as the issue of his vaccination status casts a cloud over the start of their season, which begins against the Bucks.

Unable to play in home games or practice with the Nets due to being unvaccinated, the franchise has said Irving will not play until the matter is resolved.

That means the Nets face being without a player who averaged 51.7 points/assists/rebounds per 48 minutes last season.

Despite his absence, the Nets cannot be discounted as contenders due to the presence of Durant (57.5) and Harden (56.9), but that duo must stay healthy and must at least maintain if not exceed their 2020-21 levels for Brooklyn to have a legitimate shot.

Golden State Warriors

Once perennial favourites, the Warriors are perhaps more of an outside bet these days. However, when you have Stephen Curry, you cannot be taken lightly as a potential contender.

The Warriors missed out on the postseason in 2020-21 following consecutive defeats to the Lakers and Memphis Grizzlies in the play-in tournament, Curry having willed Golden State to an eighth-placed finish in the Western Conference.

Curry averaged a career-high 32.0 points per game and his scoring average of 32.1 points per 75 possessions was second only to Joel Embiid (32.9).

 

Converting a league record 5.3 threes per game, last season was the third in which he averaged at least 5.0. He is the only player to achieve the feat even once.

And with fellow Splash Brother Klay Thompson due back at some point, having missed the past two seasons through injury, and Andre Iguodala returning to likely finish his career with Golden State, Curry should have much more help this time around.

He still has his main facilitator Draymond Green, who led the league in setting up Curry 194 times last term, while the onus will be on 2020 first-round pick James Wiseman to develop into the floor-stretching big man the Warriors drafted him to be after an injury-curtailed rookie year.

Andrew Wiggins' vaccination status is cleared up, ensuring the Warriors will have a former number one overall pick who shot a career-high 47.7 per cent from the field in the previous campaign.

Jordan Poole's 18 points in 19 minutes in preseason against the Lakers gave further rise to hopes he can emerge as a valuable piece for the Warriors, whose two rookie first-round picks Jonathan Kuminga and Moses Moody add to an intriguing blend of experience and youth that could help Golden State get back among the elite.

San Jose Sharks forward Evander Kane has been suspended for 21 games without pay by the NHL after violating the league's COVID-19 protocol.

Kane was not with the Sharks during their training camp, while he did not play in the team's season-opening 4-3 win over the Winnipeg Jets on Saturday.

The 30-year-old – who led the Sharks last season with 49 points (22 goals and 27 assists) in 56 games – is not eligible to return until November 30 against the New Jersey Devils after allegations he submitted a fake COVID-19 vaccination card to the NHL and team.

"I would like to apologise to my team-mates, the San Jose Sharks organisation, and all Sharks fans for violating the NHL COVID protocols," Kane said in a statement on Monday.

"I made a mistake, one I sincerely regret and take responsibility for. During my suspension, I will continue to participate in counselling to help me make better decisions in the future.

"When my suspension is over, I plan to return to the ice with great effort, determination, and love for the game of hockey."

San Jose left wing Kane has four seasons remaining on a seven-year contract he signed with the Sharks in 2018.

Selected with the fourth pick in the 2009 NHL Draft, Kane has tallied 506 points – 264 goals and 242 assists – in 769 regular-season games with the Atlanta Thrashers, Jets, Buffalo Sabres and Sharks, while he has managed 13 points (six goals and seven assists) in 29 Stanley Cup playoff appearances

"The NHL has advised our organisation that Evander Kane has been suspended without pay for 21 games for an established violation of, and lack of compliance with, the NHL/NHLPA COVID-19 Protocols," the Sharks said in a statement.

"While we are encouraged by Evander's commitment to moving forward, we are extremely disappointed by his disregard for the health and safety protocols put in place by the NHL and the NHLPA. We will not be commenting further on Evander's status prior to the conclusion of the NHL's mandated suspension."

Giannis Antetokounmpo said "there's nobody in this world that can slow down" Kevin Durant as reigning NBA champions the Milwaukee Bucks begin their title defence against the Brooklyn Nets on Tuesday.

All eyes will be on Antetokounmpo and Durant when the two Eastern Conference rivals go head-to-head in Milwaukee on opening night.

Milwaukee defeated Brooklyn in a seven-game Eastern Conference semi-finals series en route to their first NBA title in 50 years last term.

As Antetokounmpo and Durant prepare to clash in a battle of the former MVPs, the Bucks superstar called for a team approach in trying to nullify the Nets forward.

"We have got to do it as a team," Antetokounmpo told reporters. "There's nobody in this world that can slow down KD.

"One of the best players in the world. Can score the ball from everywhere. We've got to do it as a team. If Khris [Middleton] is going to start on him, if I'm going to start on him, we don't know.

"But no matter what the assignment is, no matter what the game plan is, what coach tells us to do, we have to also do it."

In 10 games against the Nets across the regular season and postseason, Antetokounmpo only once scored fewer than 30 points. He averaged 61.5 points/assists/rebounds per 48 minutes and had an effective field-goal percentage of 57.9.

In three of those games, Durant went over 40 points, with the two-time Finals MVP averaging 58.5 points/assists/rebounds per 48 minutes and posting an effective field-goal percentage of 55.6.

However, Durant's plus-minus across all meetings with the Bucks was minus 18 compared to plus 26 for Antetokounmpo, perhaps speaking to his lack of support in the postseason.

The Bucks will raise their 2021 title banner and receive their championship rings prior to tip-off against the star-studded Nets.

Giannis Antetokounmpo's brother Kostas won the 2020 NBA title with the Los Angeles Lakers.

"I said let me keep it very, very simple," Giannis Antetokounmpo added in reference to the ring design. "I’m not competitive, guys. I said, I want my ring to be bigger than my brother’s.

"When Kostas, my brother, showed me his ring, it was huge. It was like an airpod case. I said at least, you know, you guys don’t sell us short, give us a big ring also."

World number one Novak Djokovic is unsure if he will defend his Australian Open crown in Melbourne next year due to vaccination requirements.

The state of Victoria, where the year's opening grand slam takes place at Melbourne Park, has introduced a vaccine mandate for professional athletes and across most industries amid the coronavirus pandemic.

The 2021 Australian Open went ahead, albeit in February instead of January, and without fans for most of the tournament following a snap lockdown of Melbourne due to COVID-19.

Djokovic was among the players critical of the conditions athletes endured prior to this year's Australian Open, with strict quarantine measures introduced, though the nine-time champion cast doubt over his participation.

"Things being as they are, I still don't know if I will go to Melbourne," 20-time major winner Djokovic told Blic. "I will not reveal my status whether I have been vaccinated or not, it is a private matter and an inappropriate inquiry.

"People go too far these days in taking the liberty to ask questions and judge a person. Whatever you say 'yes, no, maybe, I am thinking about it', they will take advantage."

"Of course I want to go, Australia is my most successful grand slam tournament. I want to compete. I love this sport and I am still motivated," said Djokovic, who has not played since losing in the US Open final, having withdrew from the Indian Wells Masters.

"I am following the situation regarding the Australian Open and I understand the final decision [on COVID-related restrictions] will be made in two weeks. I believe there will be a lot of restrictions just like this year, but I doubt there will be too many changes.

"My manager, who is in contact with the Australian Tennis Federation, tells me they are trying to improve the conditions for everyone, both for those who have been vaccinated and those who have not."

Victoria state premier Daniel Andrews responded to Djokovic's comments on Tuesday, saying it was unlikely unvaccinated players would be granted a visa to travel to Australia.

"I don't think an unvaccinated tennis player is going to get a visa to come into this country and if they did get a visa they'd probably have to quarantine for a couple of weeks," Andrews told reporters.

Derrick Henry came up big in the fourth quarter and the Tennessee Titans thwarted Josh Allen at the death in a thrilling 34-31 NFL victory over the Buffalo Bills.

Henry scored his third touchdown for the Titans (4-2) with just over three minutes remaining against the AFC East-leading Bills (4-2) on Monday.

The Titans then held up Bills signal-caller Allen on a fourth-down quarterback sneak in the final seconds to snap Buffalo's four-game winning streak.

Henry joined Jim Brown (1958) as the only players in NFL history to rush for three-plus touchdowns in a game three times in the first six games of a season, according to Stats Perform.

Through Week 6, Henry has three games with 125 or more rushing yards and three-plus rushing touchdowns – it is tied for the most such games in a single season in the Super Bowl era.

After a tense opening quarter – Tyler Bass' field goal for the Bills was the only score – Buffalo and Tennessee traded touchdowns in the second period.

Henry sparked the Titans with a memorable 76-yard TD run before Allen threw a 14-yard pass to Stefon Diggs just over three minutes later and the see-sawing battle continued – Allen's pass to Cole Beasley cancelled out Ryan Tannehill's (18-of-29 passing for 216 yards and an interception) four-yard run to give the Bills a 20-17 half-time lead.

Bass' third field goal and Allen's third TD pass (finishing 35 of 47 for 353 yards, three TDs and an interception) to Tommy Sweeney outweighed Henry's touchdown run as the Bills stretched their lead to 31-24 heading into the final period.

But Tennessee's defence came up big after Henry scored the only TD of the fourth quarter, having watched Randy Bullock convert his 38-yard field goal.

The Boston Red Sox made more history as they crushed the Houston Astros 12-3 for a 2-1 lead in the American League Championship Series (ALCS).

Kyle Schwarber hit another grand slam for the red-hot Red Sox, who are the first MLB team to smash three slams in a playoff series on their way to a Game 3 win on Monday.

The Red Sox hit two grand slams in their Game 2 demolition of the Astros. According to Stats Perform, Boston are the first team in major league history to have three slams within the first two innings over a two-game span.

After J.D. Martinez and Rafael Devers celebrated slams against the Astros in the second game, Schwarber cleared the bases in the second inning in Boston.

Martinez and Devers each homered again, while Christian Arroyo also went deep at Fenway Park.

The Red Sox raced out to another 9-0 lead through three innings before Kyle Tucker's three-run homer got the battered Astros on the board on the road.

Eduardo Rodriguez, who gave up five hits and struck out seven, had retired the first six batters prior to Tucker's bomb.

Martinez and Devers extended the Red Sox's lead in the sixth and eighth inning as the latter became the first ever MLB player to hit for the home run cycle (solo, two-run, three-run and grand slam) over his fist four home runs of a single postseason, per Stats Perform.

The Red Sox got to Jose Urquidy, who allowed six runs and a homer on five hits – walking two – over 1.2 rough innings.

Game 4 is back at Fenway Park on Tuesday

 

Braves at Dodgers

World Series champions the Los Angeles Dodgers are back on home turf as they host the Atlanta Braves in Game 3 of the National League Championship Series (NLCS), trailing 2-0.

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