In a mere eight games, Luka Doncic has established himself as an elite postseason performer. Need proof? Just ask the Los Angeles Clippers, who surely must be tired of his act by now.

The Dallas Mavericks superstar is already among the game's best players at 22 years old, but that he seems to be taking his game even further when it means the most bodes well for his inclusion as a player potentially on his way to legendary status. 

All eight of Doncic's playoff games have come against the Clippers, the first six last summer as part of the NBA bubble and two more this week at Staples Center. Dallas lost last season's series in six games despite stellar play from Doncic but has taken the first two games of this first-round series with more otherworldly efforts from the Slovenian wunderkind aided by a better supportive cast.

In the first two games of this series, Doncic has totalled 70 points on 27-of 53 shooting (50.9 percent) with 17 rebounds and 18 assists. He notched his second career 30-point triple double in the playoffs in Game 1, to go along with his 43-point performance in Game 4 against the Clippers last August. The only other active player to have a 30-point triple-double in the playoffs at age 22 or younger was LeBron James in 2006.

Doncic, who also had a triple-double in Game 3 of last season's series against Los Angeles, is the first player in NBA history with three triple-doubles in his first seven career playoff games. He is also the only player since at least 1984-85 to accumulate 250 points, 70 rebounds and 70 assists in his first eight postseason games.

Doncic's playoff scoring has him alongside basketball royalty at this early juncture of his career. Since the 1963-64 seasons, only Kareem Abdul-Jabbar (287), Michael Jordan (283), LeBron James (266), Bob McAdoo (261) and Anthony Davis (258) scored more points in the first eight playoff games of their NBA career than Doncic's 256.

Whichever defender has been sent his way in the first two games of this series, Doncic has had an answer. Kawhi Leonard and Paul George aren't just outstanding offensive players but also have reputations as excellent on the defensive end. Both have locked down star players in the past but neither has had much success in this series against Doncic. 

While Doncic's physical gifts are well-documented, his basketball IQ and calm demeanour are just as important parts of his basketball arsenal. Also working in Dallas' favour this time around is a supporting cast that has continued its strong play from the regular season. 

A more confident Kristaps Porzingis has scored 34 points in the first two games and Tim Hardaway Jr. has been an absolute revelation for the Mavericks with 49 points - including 11 of 17 from three-point range - on 17 of 27 overall from the field. Jalen Brunson and Maxi Kleber also have made key contributions. 

Conventional wisdom says double-teaming Doncic is the easiest way to slow him down, but that won't work if Hardaway continues to knock down shots with such regularity. 

If the Clippers' plan was to push Doncic further away from the basket, that may need to be reconsidered after he connected on 10 of 24 from long range in the first two games. 

Perhaps sending Doncic to the free throw line is the way to go since he has made just six of 14 in this series. Since sinking 14 of 15 from the stripe in his playoff debut last season, Doncic is just a 54.0 percent (34 of 63) free-throw shooter in seven postseason contests. 

The Clippers were the league's top three-point shooting team in the regular season at 41.1 per cent but have only made 24 of 73 (32.9 per cent) in this series. Dallas, meanwhile, has hit exactly half of its shots from beyond the arc (35 of 70) and is shooting a blistering 54.4 per cent (86 for 158) overall. Los Angeles needs that to change if it is to have any chance at coming back. 

There is not much more the Clippers' stars can do after Leonard poured in 41 points and George added 28 in Tuesday's Game 2 loss. It's almost hard to believe the Clippers are down 0-2 in this series heading to Dallas with Leonard and George combining for 118 points on 51.8 percent (43 of 83) from the field and 34 rebounds. 

The Mavericks haven't won a postseason series since Dirk Nowitzki led them over Miami in the 2011 Finals, losing all five of their series since then. They certainly weren't expected to win this one, and while there's still plenty of work to be done, history is on their side.

Since the NBA-ABA merger in 1976, only four teams have won a series after losing the first two games at home: The 1993 Suns (Lakers), the 1994 Rockets (Suns), the 2005 Mavericks (Rockets) and the 2017 Celtics (Bulls). 

Chelsea forward Timo Werner admits to having mixed emotions as he approaches the conclusion of the "worst and unluckiest season" of his career.

The Germany international joined Chelsea from RB Leipzig last June for a fee in the region of £45million (€50m) with a reputation of being one of the most prolific attackers in Europe.

He scored 34 goals and supplied 12 assists in 45 appearances in all competitions for Leipzig in 2019-20, departing as the club's all-time leading scorer with 95 goals in total.

Werner has not been able to scale the same heights in his maiden campaign in English football, though, the 25-year-old scoring 12 times in 51 appearances in 2020-21.

However, Werner has also contributed 15 assists and is the first Chelsea player since Eden Hazard in 2018-19 to both score and assist 10 or more goals in a single season.

And while the former Leipzig man accepts more will be required of him next season, he is keen to take some positives from the 2020-21 campaign, which concludes with Saturday's Champions League final against Manchester City.

"In terms of scoring and missing chances, it was the worst season, but in the end I still have 27 goal contributions," he told The Telegraph.

"I think I'm the first in our team for that, so it was not everything bad.

"A lot of people's expectations for me outside the club but also inside were very high because of my goalscoring record. I also assisted many goals last year in my old club.

"But I think the main reason why they brought me here in the club is to score and maybe at the end 12 goals and six goals in the Premier League, that's not good enough. 

"You have to say that I have 12 goals and 15 assists or something like that in every competition and 27 goal contributions – that's not so bad in what's maybe my unluckiest season.

"It is also maybe my worst season I've had for many years. If I'm scoring next season, hopefully, maybe people will become happier with me."

Werner has gone on runs of 13 and 14 matches without scoring for club and country at various points this season.

During that most recent barren streak, which ended with a winning goal against West Ham last month, Werner says he started to lose faith in himself.

"I had these two or three games after the international break where I missed a lot of chances and that was in my head. After this my confidence was gone," he said.

"It was like a period where in my head I was going crazy because I missed those chances."

Werner's shot conversion rate of 7.59 in the Premier League this term was substantially lower than the likes of Edinson Cavani (29.41), Gareth Bale (28.95) and Alexandre Lacazette (28.89), who led the way among forwards.

Chelsea have been linked with a number of high-profile strikers to lead their line from next season, but Werner insists he has no intention of moving on during the transfer window.

"I don't think about leaving the club this year, for sure not, and also for the next year," he said.

Milan have completed the signing of Mike Maignan from Ligue 1 winners Lille ahead of the departure of fellow goalkeeper Gianluigi Donnarumma.

The one-cap France international, who played a key part in Lille's stunning title success this term, has signed a five-year deal at San Siro for a reported €15million fee.

Maignan kept a league-high 21 clean sheets in 38 games – seven more than next-best Keylor Navas and Benoit Costil – and his save percentage of 78.9 was bettered only by the Paris Saint-Germain keeper among those to have played at least three times.

He made 180 appearances over six seasons for Lille in total and was named Ligue 1's goalkeeper of the year in 2018-19.

Milan announced the arrival of Maignan, who is part of France's Euro 2020 squad having made his debut in October, on their official website on Thursday.

The signing comes a day after Rossoneri director Paolo Maldini confirmed current first-choice stopper Donnarumma will leave next month when his contract expires after turning down fresh terms.

Donnarumma, a rumoured target for the likes of Juventus, Barcelona and Manchester United, has been with Milan since 2013 and has been a regular for the last six seasons.

The 22-year-old kept 14 clean sheets in Serie A this season – a joint-high along with Inter's Samir Handanovic – to help Milan to a second-placed finish, their best since 2011-12 when also finishing as runners-up.

Captain Sergio Ramos told Zinedine Zidane he was "the one and only" as the Real Madrid head coach quit the Spanish giants.

Zidane stood down five days after his team missed out on the LaLiga title to Atletico Madrid, finishing second in the table, two points off top spot.

Madrid ended the season empty handed but have achieved plenty of success during Zidane's two spells in charge, which were separated by a chaotic nine months in which Julen Lopetegui and Santiago Solari both struggled to get to grips with the job.

It is unclear whether Zidane wants to work again as a coach, or whether he has other plans, but there was an outpouring of thanks from senior Madrid stars on Thursday.

Ramos said on Instagram: "ZZ, the one and only. I wish you all the best. You deserve it, you've earned it.

"Enjoy life, enjoy family. Big hug, mister. Thank you, @zidane."

High hopes and aspirations for Zidane's second stint in charge resulted in just one major title, the 2019-20 LaLiga.

With Cristiano Ronaldo having followed Zidane in leaving at the end of the 2017-18 campaign, success has not come quite as easily as it did previously, with three Champions League titles the highlight of his first period as boss.

Striker and fellow Frenchman Karim Benzema wrote: "Thank you bro for everything you have given me both collectively and personally ...

"I am proud and honoured to have been able to move forward and grow with the man that you are. See you ..."

Goalkeeper Thibaut Courtois added: "It has been an honor to have a legend like you as a coach. Thank you for what you have taught me, for the trust you have always had in me and for what we have won together @zidane. Hopefully we meet again. I wish you the best!"

Zidane left Madrid with a 59.65 per cent winning record from his second spell, which began in March 2019, down on the 69.8 per cent he achieved in his previous 149 games at the helm.

It has been tougher without Ronaldo, who left for Juventus but has frequently been linked with a possible return that has yet to come to fruition.

In the first spell, which ran from January 2016 to the end of May 2018, Real Madrid had eight hat-tricks by players in LaLiga – Ronaldo with six of those – and a big chance conversion rate of 45.74 per cent.

Since returning to the club, Madrid have had just one hat-trick in the league, from Benzema, and their big chance conversion rate has dipped to 43.67 per cent overall and just 40.86 per cent in 2020-21 compared to Atletico's 48.19 per cent.

Veteran playmaker Luka Modric, a player whose skillset evokes memories of Zidane in his playing days for Los Blancos, only signed a new contract this week.

Modric must now wait to learn who his coach will be for the coming season, his 10th at Madrid.

The 35-year-old thanked Zidane for backing his ability to run games by saying: "Mister, It's been a great honor playing for you and winning alongside you. You are top. Best of luck"

Mauricio Pochettino is focused on achieving "great things" at Paris Saint-Germain amid rumours that Tottenham are looking to reappoint their former manager.

The 49-year-old took over as PSG boss in January – 14 months on from being sacked by Spurs – on a contract that has another year to run with the option of an extra 12 months.

He won the Trophee des Champion in just his third ​game in charge and followed that up with success in the Coupe de France with a 2-0 win over Monaco in the final this month.

However, last season's beaten finalists PSG exited the Champions League at the semi-final stage to Manchester City and finished second to shock title winners Lille in Ligue 1.

Widespread reports on Thursday claimed Pochettino's relationship with sporting director Leonardo is already strained, and he is tempted to resign just four months into his reign.

That has prompted Spurs to make contact with the Argentinian, it is claimed, while Real Madrid – who confirmed Zinedine Zidane's exit on Thursday – have also been linked.

Tottenham are on the lookout for a new manager after parting company with Pochettino's successor, Jose Mourinho, last month.

But Pochettino, who spent five years at Tottenham before his departure in November 2019, appears to be planning for a long-term future at the Parc des Princes.

In an interview released on the French club's official website on Thursday, Pochettino said: "I'm happy with the way the players adapted to the changes. 

"I think that with this way of working, and with the desire to be able to develop other kinds of ideas on the pitch, it will be possible to do great things in the future.

"I think that in football you are never satisfied. Because perfection doesn't exist. But we are always looking for that satisfaction that we can't find.

"I always believe that football challenges you every day and that from season to season you have to be better and better. 

"But in a club like Paris Saint-Germain, you are forced to think that perfection or satisfaction can come and that winning is the only option. 

"And for a club like ours, it's about winning, winning and winning. And then winning again. It's a feeling I always thought I'd like to have. 

"It requires a amount of energy and always be sure that your priority is to be professional and that the difficulties and obstacles can always be overcome. I think that's the challenge, to impose that here."

PSG missed out on the Ligue 1 title for just the second time in nine seasons – the other instance being in 2016-17 when Monaco came out on top.

The Parisians finished the campaign with 82 points, which is their lowest tally over a complete season since 2011-12 when accumulating 79 points and finishing second.

It is just a second time a team has reached that total or better without being crowned champions after PSG themselves in 2016-17 (87 points).

And while PSG fell short of reaching a second successive Champions League final, they did knock out holders Bayern Munich and Barcelona en route to the semi-finals.

Pochettino, who succeeded Thomas Tuchel in the French capital, said: "Of course I'm proud of the team's effort, because only we know what state the team was in and what we were capable of.

"I'm proud of all the people involved, not just the players, but all the staff at the club, everybody, because I think the effort was incredible. 

"Winning the Trophee des Champions, winning the Coupe de France, reaching the semi-final of the Champions League, without being in your best form.

"We also fought until the last game with the possibility of winning the championship, and given the conditions in which we arrived in January, we should be proud of everything."

Zinedine Zidane and Real Madrid have made official what has long been rumoured – they are parting ways, again.

The Frenchman’s future at the Santiago Bernabeu was a hot topic for weeks, at times overshadowing Madrid's attempts to retain their league crown.

In the end, despite Los Blancos producing an 18-game unbeaten run in LaLiga as they surged towards the finishing line, Atletico Madrid did just enough to keep their noses in front in a title race that went down to the wire.

The focus for Madrid now turns to finding a replacement: What about club legend Raul? Or could the suddenly available Antonio Conte be tempted by a project in Spain?

And what next for Zidane? As so often is the case with sequels, the second episode was not quite able to live up to the standards of the original production. Still, as Opta data shows, he leaves with an impressive coaching resume across his spells in charge in the Spanish capital.

Better than Beenhakker, behind Benitez

First, the basic numbers: Zidane had 263 games in charge in all competitions across his two tenures in Madrid, winning 65.4 per cent of them.

He achieved a points-per-game ratio of 2.17, which seems impressive, right? Well, perhaps surprisingly, that average sits behind both Rafael Benitez (2.21) and Manuel Pellegrini (2.35), two coaches who did not last anywhere near as long in the job.

Indeed, Pellegrini's time in charge spanned just 48 games, despite winning him 36 of them. In his solitary LaLiga campaign, Los Blancos collected 96 points – good enough for only second place, behind Pep Guardiola's Barcelona. Despite such an impressive points record, the Chilean made way as Jose Mourinho arrived from Inter.

Zidane also finished runner-up in the 2020-21 campaign, unable to quite close the gap on Atleti down the stretch.

In comparison to the notable head coaches who reached a century of matches, both Mourinho (2.31) and Carlo Ancelotti (2.36) exceeded Zidane in terms of points per game. Leo Beenhakker – who won three successive titles in the late 1980s – however, managed 2.11 during his reign.


The reunion and a second LaLiga title

Zidane's second spell lowered his overall points-per-game average, as he won 68 out of 114 matches upon his return. That is a notable drop-off when compared to his time between January 2016 and the end of the 2017-18 season, when he rattled along at 2.29 points per outing.

His win percentage in LaLiga in his initial spell was a mighty impressive 70.8, yet Madrid still only finished top of the table once in that time, crowned champions at the end of the 2016-17 season when collecting 93 points, enough to be above a Barca squad coached by Luis Enrique in the final table.

However, since Zidane sensationally agreed to replace Santiago Solari in March 2019, Madrid have the best record in LaLiga.

That 87-game span produced 188 points, three more than rivals Barcelona managed - though both won the same number of games (56) - and it puts Madrid 12 points ahead of newly crowned champions Atleti.

Having set a ridiculously high bar in his initial stint, Zidane has not been able to match his previous successes in the Champions League either.

Madrid were already out of the 2018-19 competition when he came back to the job, stunningly beaten 4-1 at home by Ajax in the second leg of a last-16 tie. They fell in the same round a year later to Manchester City and, while able to get past Atalanta and Liverpool in the knockout stages in 2021, a 3-1 aggregate semi-final loss to Chelsea ended hopes of further European glory.


Life with and without Ronaldo

It helped Zidane first time around that he had a star-studded squad at his disposal, most of whom were in their prime. Plenty were still around for a reunion when he took over again, though one notable departure had left a sizeable gap in the squad.

Just like his head coach, Cristiano Ronaldo decided the time was right to leave Madrid after they had been crowned Champions League winners for a third successive year in 2018. A move to Juventus broke up the formidable 'BBC' triumvirate, the forward having prospered when playing alongside Gareth Bale and Karim Benzema.

The Portuguese superstar departed as the club's all-time leading scorer, with 112 of his Madrid goals coming while working under Zidane. That is the same number as he managed when Ancelotti was at the helm, while four behind his career tally with Alex Ferguson at Manchester United.

However, Ronaldo's most successful player-coach alliance in terms of scoring output was with Mourinho, when he managed 168 working alongside his compatriot. 

Perhaps surprisingly, Zidane's Madrid were actually better without the five-time Ballon d'Or winner during his initial reign, at least in terms of average goals for and win percentage.

When Ronaldo was involved, the head coach won 68.4 per cent of matches, his team scoring at a rate of 2.6 goals per game. However, without him, those figures actually climbed to 74.3 per cent and 2.8 goals for. Addition by subtraction perhaps, but Madrid's loss was certainly a gain for Juve when the superstar decided he wanted a new challenge in Turin.

Zidane, too, will now contemplate what is next in his coaching career. Considering his ties to Madrid, the possibility of a third stint should not be ruled out.

Trevor Bauer was centre of attention as the Los Angeles Dodgers' eight-game winning streak came to an end with a 5-2 defeat to the Houston Astros on Wednesday.

Bauer publicly labelled the Astros as "hypocrites" and "cheaters" in February last year in light of the MLB sign-stealing scandal.

There was no love lost for Dodgers ace Bauer, who was silenced by the Astros in Houston midweek

The Astros were led by Jose Altuve's lead-off solo home run, his sixth of the season.

With both sides tied at 1-1 at the bottom of the sixth inning, Carlos Correa homered for the Astros.

Bauer managed only three strikeouts across six innings, with four hits but he walked a season-high four, before the Astros brought in three runs in the seventh inning from Nate Jones.

Albert Pujols came in late for World Series champions the Dodgers but could not produce any heroics as their winning run was halted.

 

Rays back among winners with walkoff

The Tampa Bay Rays – World Series participants during last season's coronavirus-shortened campaign – returned to winning ways. After their 11-game winning streak was snapped on Tuesday, the Rays recorded a 2-1 walk-off triumph over the Kansas City Royals. Tyler Glasnow starred on the mound for the Rays with 11 strikeouts across eight shut-out innings. It was the sixth game this season that Glasnow has had 10 or more strikeouts, surpassing Gerrit Cole and Shane Bieber. Glasnow has tallied 10-plus strikeouts and allowed five hits or fewer in all five home starts this season. According to Stats Perform, the only other pitcher in the modern era to do so was Johan Santana in 2004.

The in-form San Diego Padres made it 11 wins from their past 12 games with a 2-1 victory over the Milwaukee Brewers in the 10th inning. While the Brewers lost, they now have three home runs by pitchers in a season for the first time since 2011.

Miguel Sano's three-run homer guided the Minnesota Twins past the Baltimore Orioles 3-2 for a three-game sweep.

A pair of Tommy Edman home runs fuelled the St Louis Cardinals, who upstaged the high-flying Chicago White Sox 4-0 to avoid a three-game sweep.

 

Shildt ejected after hat-swap request

There was an ugly incident between the Cardinals and White Sox when St Louis manager Mike Shildt was ejected. Shildt was sent from the dugout after pitcher Giovanny Gallegos was told by umpire Joe West to swap his hat as it allegedly had a foreign substance on it. Shildt was incensed and came out arguing, leading to his ejection.

 

Homer history in Angels-Rangers

Justin Upton hit his first-ever lead-off home run on Tuesday and he backed that up with another in the Los Angeles Angels' 9-8 win over the Texas Rangers on Wednesday. It was Upton's 10th home run of the season. Adolis Garcia also homered for Texas, scoring the most in a month by a rookie in Rangers history.

 

Wednesday's results

Minnesota Twins 3-2 Baltimore Orioles
St Louis Cardinals 4-0 Chicago White Sox
Oakland Athletics 6-3 Seattle Mariners
Los Angeles Angels 9-8 Texas Rangers
Chicago Cubs 4-1 Pittsburgh Pirates
Miami Marlins 4-2 Philadelphia Phillies
Tampa Bay Rays 2-1 Kansas City Royals
Detroit Tigers 1-0 Cleveland Indians
San Diego Padres 2-1 Milwaukee Brewers
Houston Astros 5-2 Los Angeles Dodgers
Boston Red Sox 9-5 Atlanta Braves
San Francisco Giants 5-4 Arizona Diamondbacks
New York Yankees-Toronto Blue Jays (postponed)
New York Mets-Colorado Rockies (postponed)
Washington Nationals-Cincinnati Reds (suspended)

 

Blue Jays at Yankees

The New York Yankees (28-20) will look to resume their series against the Toronto Blue Jays (24-23) following Wednesday's postponement with an American League (AL) East doubleheader, weather permitting on Thursday. Top Blue Jays prospect Alek Manoah will make his debut in the opening game, with the Yankees countering with Domingo German.

The Philadelphia 76ers are on track to advance to the Eastern Conference semi-finals after easing past the Washington Wizards in Game 2 of their NBA playoff matchup.

Ben Simmons and Joel Embiid combined to guide the 76ers – eyeing a first championship since 1983 – to a 120-95 rout of the Wizards in Philadelphia on Wednesday.

All-Star pair Simmons and Embiid both posted 22 points apiece as the top-ranked 76ers claimed a 2-0 series lead midweek.

It was Simmons' fourth career 20-plus point playoff game and his first since 2019, while it was Embiid's seventh consecutive 20-plus point playoff performance, dating back to 2019 – the streak tied with Allen Iverson for the 10th longest in Philadelphia postseason history.

As for Philadelphia's Matisse Thybulle, he became the first player in NBA history with four steals and five blocks in 20 or fewer minutes of any game, regular season or playoffs.

The game was marred by an unruly fan showering popcorn on Wizards star Russell Westbrook.

Westbrook had to be restrained after a fan in Philadelphia dumped popcorn on the former MVP as he exited the court with a right ankle injury.

Washington's Westbrook – who finished with 10 points, 11 assists and six rebounds before appearing to roll his ankle inside the final 10 minutes – was left seething at Wells Fargo Center, where Bradley Beal led the Wizards with a game-high 33 points.

 

Morant makes history but Jazz bounce back

Ja Morant had 47 points – the most in franchise history – but the Memphis Grizzlies still lost 141-129 to the top-seeded Utah Jazz, who levelled the Western Conference opening-round series at 1-1. Morant's 47 points are the most in playoff history by a player aged under 22, while the Grizzlies sensation is the second youngest player in league history to score 45-plus points in a postseason contest (21 years and 289 days), only behind LeBron James (21 years and 124 days in 2006). Donovan Mitchell (25 points) fuelled the Jazz in his return from an ankle injury, while Mike Conley (20 points and 15 assists) and Rudy Gobert (21 points and 13 rebounds) contributed double-doubles.

The New York Knicks won their first playoff game since 2013 after rallying to beat the Atlanta Hawks 101-92 in Game 2 of their Eastern Conference battle. Julius Randle's 15 points and 12 rebounds helped the Knicks level the series, despite 30 points from Hawks star Trae Young. Derrick Rose led the Knicks with 26 points off the bench.

 

Milton in game to forget

Usually a reliable contributor, Shake Milton struggled in Philadelphia's victory. Milton ended the game scoreless on 0-for-six shooting. He also had two turnovers off the bench.

 

Gobert says no!

There was no way past Jazz All-Star Gobert, who produced a monster block to thwart the Grizzlies in the second quarter.

 

Wednesday's results

Philadelphia 76ers 120-95 Washington Wizards
New York Knicks 101-92 Atlanta Hawks
Utah Jazz 141-129 Memphis Grizzlies

 

Suns at Lakers

Defending champions the Los Angeles Lakers will welcome the Phoenix Suns to Staples Center in LA on Thursday, with the Western Conference series locked at 1-1.

Philadelphia 76ers star Ben Simmons insisted he is "here to win" not to prove doubters wrong following his aggressive display as the Eastern Conference top seeds seized control against the Washington Wizards.

Simmons' shooting and scoring have been scrutinised since entering the league, but the NBA All-Star was influential in the 76ers' 120-95 rout of the Wizards in Game 2 on Wednesday.

In 29 minutes, Simmons posted 22 points – including 12 in the opening quarter – on 11-for-15 shooting, to go with nine rebounds, eight assists, two steals and one block in Philadelphia midweek.

It was Simmons' fourth career 20-plus point playoff game and his first since 2019 as the Australian dismissed his critics.

"I'm not trying to stick to anybody in Philly," Simmons said, with the 76ers on track to progress from the first-round series. "I thought it was pretty hard to get 15 assists and 15 rebounds in the NBA in the playoffs.

"I thought that was pretty impressive. And we won. What y'all want? You want to win? For me, I'm here to win and I'm doing what I need to do to help my team win whatever it is.

"I'm not trying to prove anybody wrong or anything like that. I'm trying to do my job to win. I want to win a championship."

Philadelphia head coach Doc Rivers described Simmons as "special" following his Game 1 performance.

"It didn't motivate me because what I did in the first game, my guys are feeling it," Simmons added. "Tobias [Harris] was scoring, Joel's [Embiid] scoring. That's the point of basketball right? People who have it going, you got to give them the ball.

"I'm not surprised Doc said that because Doc knows the game. A lot of these people who are saying that have never even touched a basketball or never played the game at a high level."

MVP hopeful and 76ers team-mate Joel Embiid also had 22 points at home to the Wizards, who will host Game 3 on Saturday.

It was Embiid's seventh consecutive 20-plus point playoff performance, dating back to 2019. The streak is tied with Allen Iverson for the 10th longest in Philadelphia postseason history.

Embiid hailed Simmons, saying: "I told him 'you've got all the space and all the time in the world. Just attack. He's physical and he's athletic and he can make plays."

Rivers also heaped praise on Simmons as the 76ers eye their first championship since 1983.

"We scored 125 points the first game," said Rivers. "It's all about us scoring points and whichever way we do it, I'm good with that.

"If we had scored 130 and he had the same numbers as the first game, that would have meant he was great in doing something else. That's what I mean. His value to us is almost, you can't measure it."

Atlanta Braves slugger Marcell Ozuna will be sidelined for at least six weeks after fracturing two fingers, the MLB franchise announced on Wednesday.

Ozuna was hurt during Atlanta's 3-1 win over the Boston Red Sox at Fenway Park on Tuesday.

The Gold Glove Award winner and two-time Silver Slugger sustained two fractured fingers – both the middle and right fingers of his left hand.

"Thank God, nothing more serious happened," Ozuna wrote via Instagram midweek. "Now wait six more weeks recovering."

Ozuna injured the fingers as he attempted to advance from second to third base, with his ring finger bending awkwardly as he grounded his slide and crossed over Red Sox third baseman Rafael Devers' left foot.

Braves manager Brian Snitker had hoped the slugger may have only dislocated his fingers after the initial X-rays did not reveal a fracture.

"I was hoping they wouldn't have found anything and he'd have been back in a few days after allowing the swelling to go down," Snitker said.

"This is a significant time to be without a big player on your team."

"I guess the good thing is there won't be a surgical process," he added. They just cast him up and it's going to take time."

Entering Wednesday's action, Ozuna had career lows for batting average (.213) and on-base plus slugging (.645).

Ozuna – a two-time All-Star – has only managed seven homers this season, with 21 runs and 40 hits with 26 RBI in 188 at-bats.

Unai Emery has set his sights on the Champions League after guiding Villarreal to their first major European title thanks to an upset of Manchester United in the Europa League.

Villarreal surprisingly conquered United in the Europa League final following a marathon 11-10 penalty shoot-out in Gdansk, where the match finished 1-1 after extra time on Wednesday.

Gerard Moreno's first-half opener was cancelled out by United star Edinson Cavani in the 55th minute and the showdown was decided on penalties.

United goalkeeper David de Gea missed the only penalty of a lengthy shoot-out as Emery became the first head coach to win either the UEFA Cup or Europa League four times, surpassing Giovanni Trapattoni.

LaLiga outfit Villarreal are the first side to win in their first appearance of a major European final since Shakhtar Donetsk in the 2008-09 UEFA Cup.

Villarreal will now feature in the Champions League group stage for the first time since 2011-12 and Emery revelled in the achievement post-match while seeking continuity at the club.

"I feel proud [of the credibility of the project] and responsible as I have participated here," Emery said during his post-match news conference. "What they want me to come here for? They didn't want me to come to win the Europa League, because this is very difficult.

"They wanted me to make a job, and the job to give results. In fact, my goal, as I transmitted to the players and the club is to give continuity, hopefully, to be in Europe year after year, with certain continuity.

"Logically, to win a title is something that always is in our mind, and above all, Villarreal build and create the circumstances to be able to have this chance… in the Copa del Rey… to win LaLiga title is more complicated because of the force the top four have right now.

"But we can make our way in the Europa League and now will have the chance to compete in the Champions League. This season in the Europe League our way has been impeccable since the day one."

Moreno opened the scoring in the 29th minute in Poland midweek to move level with Giuseppe Rossi as Villarreal's leading all-time goalscorer with 82, 30 of which have come this season.

Villarreal's Moreno became the first player to score 30-plus goals for the Yellow Submarine in a single season in all competitions since Rossi in 2010-11 (32).

"It's a dream come true," Moreno said. "We remember everything we've done to work toward this. Everyone deserves it; the president, the vice-president.

"We wanted to make history in a big way and we've done it. This has been my best year. Individually and collectively, it's a dream to end up with this title, to be able to score. It's incredible, we're on a cloud."

Ole Gunnar Solskjaer admitted Manchester United "didn't turn up" and their season cannot be deemed a success after they were beaten by Villarreal in the Europa League final.

David de Gea missed the only penalty of a marathon shoot-out at Gdansk Stadium, where Villarreal won their first major European trophy on Wednesday.

United goalkeeper De Gea's tame effort gave Villarreal an 11-10 victory on spot-kicks after the two sides were locked at 1-1 at the end of extra time in Poland midweek.

Gerard Moreno put the LaLiga side in front in the first half with his 30th goal of the season and his 82nd for the club, matching a record tally of 82nd that was also achieved by Giuseppe Rossi.

Edinson Cavani equalised 10 minutes into the second half, but United were unable to claim their first trophy under Solskjaer.

Unai Emery, on the other hand, became the first manager to win either the UEFA Cup or UEFA Europa League four times, surpassing Giovanni Trapattoni's haul, having won this competition three times with Sevilla.

Solskjaer knows the Red Devils were not good enough and must raise the bar next season after falling short yet again.

The United boss told BT Sport: "It's a quiet, disappointed dressing room. That's football for you. Sometimes it's decided on one kick - and that’s the difference between winning and losing.

"We have to learn from that one, not savour this feeling but taste this feeling and make sure we don't get it again.

"We didn't turn up. We didn't play as well as we know we can. We started alright and they got the goal, their only shot on target. We were disappointed to concede a goal on a set play.

"We pushed, we pressed, we got a goal. After we scored we didn't control the game or dominate as we wanted. They made it hard for us, they closed spaces. We had the majority of possession. They defended well. We didn't create enough big chances."

Solskjaer, who named Harry Maguire and Fred among the substitutes with neither player fully fit, did not make changes until extra time.

Yet the former Norway striker, who guided United to a second-placed Premier League finish this season, said: "Now is not the time to point the finger at what I'd have done differently. But when you come out without the trophy you haven't done everything right.

"We're getting closer and closer and better. We were one kick away from a trophy and a good night.

"We have to have the desire to come back next year and improve. The only way to get the margins your side is to work harder and better."

Asked if this season has been a success, Solskjaer frankly replied: "No."

He added: "We need to get better, simple as. We've done really well this season coming through. The start was difficult. We had no pre-season and lost three of the first six.

"We pushed in the league, maybe got closer to the top than we thought and we got to a final. But you need to win the finals to make it a good season."

Manchester United star Marcus Rashford vented his frustration after the shock Europa League final loss to Villarreal, insisting finishing second counts for nothing, though he is confident the Red Devils are on the right path under Ole Gunnar Solskjaer.

United were looking to win their first trophy with Solskjaer at the helm, however, the Premier League giants were upstaged by Unai Emery's Villarreal following a marathon 11-10 penalty shoot-out on Wednesday.

Penalties were needed after the match ended 1-1 at the conclusion of extra time in Gdansk, where Edinson Cavani's 55th-minute goal cancelled out Gerard Moreno's first-half opener for Villarreal.

United goalkeeper David de Gea missed the only spot-kick as Solskjaer's men – who have not won silverware since 2016-17 – fell short following their second-placed finish in the Premier League this season.

"It's disappointing. The feeling is difficult to explain," Rashford told BT Sport. "We came here to win. We've been working so hard all season and this was the opportunity to win a trophy.

"Maybe not now, but we need to look back at the game and see where we can improve.

"The team will not give up, the manager will not give up. We'll come next season with a bigger desire. People say a lot about Manchester United, but for me the hunger, desire, talent and ability – we have everything to compete at the highest level.

"We just have to show it to the world and to ourselves, why we belong in places like this."

United have lost six of their last seven penalty shoot-outs in all competitions, only winning against Rochdale in the EFL Cup in September 2019 during that time.

When facing an English side in a European competition final (including Super Cups), Spanish sides have taken home the trophy in the last 10 such finals, with United accounting for four of those defeats (2009 and 2011 Champions League, 2017 Super Cup and 2021 Europa League).

"Second doesn't count for nothing. I don't want to hear, 'oh they were so close'. It doesn't mean anything. We have to make sure we don't lose," added Rashford.

"To win big trophies you have to show sacrifice. I can show you six, seven players who've been carrying injuries since September. We have to go away now and clear our heads.

"When Ole came in there was a process. We believe in the process and this isn't the end of the process. Just because we've lost today, I promise the fans that we won't give up.

"We have to do our best on the pitch. We're close, I promise we're close, but close isn't good enough."

Unai Emery claimed a record-breaking fourth UEFA Cup/Europa League title after Villarreal upstaged Manchester United for their first major European crown.

Villarreal conquered United in the Europa League final following a marathon 11-10 penalty shoot-out in Gdansk, where the match finished 1-1 after extra time.

Gerard Moreno's first-half opener was cancelled out by United star Edinson Cavani in the 55th minute and the showdown was decided on penalties.

United goalkeeper David de Gea missed the only penalty of a lengthy shoot-out as Emery became the first head coach to win either the UEFA Cup or Europa League four times, surpassing Giovanni Trapattoni.

Emery won the Europa League with Sevilla in 2014, 2015 and 2016.

LaLiga outfit Villarreal are the first side to win in their first appearance of a major European final since Shakhtar Donetsk in the 2008-09 UEFA Cup.

Alex Ferguson accompanied Manchester United to Gdansk for their Europa League final against Villarreal and there was an echo from his glorious era during the first half at Stadion Energa.

Flowing attacking football? Swashbuckling wing play?

Nope. Ole Gunnar Solskjaer was on the touchline shouting and swearing at his players. Swearing a lot.

The spark for that particular outburst after the half hour was Aaron Wan-Bissaka sending a routine pass out of play, but the United manager was already smouldering after Gerard Moreno gave Villareal the lead in soft fashion.

As Victor Lindelof forlornly grappled with the Spain striker – who is now the joint-top scorer in Villarreal history alongside former United youngster Giuseppe Rossi – it was easy to bemoan the absence of Harry Maguire, easy to imagine the England centre-back authoritatively dealing with the situation.

It should be pointed out that Gerard's 30 goals and 10 assists in all competitions this season show plenty of opponents haven't dealt with him too effectively and, in any case, it was those performances from United's big names that need not be imagined that were the problem.

Everywhere Solskjaer looked and raged, there were big names not turning up.

Bruno Fernandes, their superstar midfielder and captain in Maguire's absence, endured an abject first 45 minutes where he was entirely unable to impose his will on the contest.

The Portugal international's 23 passes and 31 touches were the eighth-lowest returns in the United team, with only forwards Mason Greenwood and Edinson Cavani and goalkeeper David de Gea less involved in possession. How De Gea would have loved to keep his part in this long, slow death of a penalty shootout defeat so minimal.

Fernandes also won none of five duels contested, while Paul Pogba – purposefully probing with 31 passes in the Villareal half, including one delicious effort with the outside of his foot to release Greenwood down the right wing – was the only saving grace in a team almost entirely devoid of creativity.

Nevertheless, as bad as they were, there was not reason to worry unduly, understandable as Solskjaer's agitation was. This is just what his United do.

In 10 away games in the Premier League this season they conceded first, only to win nine and draw one of those contests Even on neutral territory, Villarreal must have known what was coming.

The pressure on Unai Emery's defence was more about volume than quality, but Fernandes was there to force the issue in the 55th minute as Luke Shaw's corner was partially cleared and his drive cannoned off a few legs and fell to the lurking Cavani.

When Shaw mishit a right-footed swipe at his forehead and Greenwood later got in the way of the veteran striker, it almost felt as if United were trying to test Cavani's masterful penalty box prowess.

What they wouldn't have given to have the Uruguay international on the of Fernandes' cross with 20 minutes remaining. Instead, Marcus Rashford produced a truly howling miss, one worryingly in keeping with the final months of a season where Solskjaer repeatedly sending him back to the well appears to have taken a toll.

Rashford wasn't the only player who did not need extra time. By the conclusion of a forgettable half hour, notable only for weary limbs and a flurry of late United substitutions after Emery reasserted some control with his more judicious deployment of fresh legs, everyone seemed happy enough to let penalties seal their fate.

For all the parallels this season with those old Fergie qualities – the comebacks, the late winners, the fast attacks – United were rudderless for far too much of this final, particularly as the shootout loomed.

They remain a team dependent on moments, moments they frequently produce, but lacking a foundation for when games end up in the mire.

Of course, poor old De Gea had moments. Eleven of them whistled past a prostrate body or outstretched gloves before a fateful 12th. The Spain goalkeeper's ordeal versus this admirable club from his homeland will linger long in the memory, but a team of United's resources should never have allowed events to spiral to that moment of torment.

For all the notable approximations of their glory years under a fan favourite, there remains much to be done for Solskjaer's United if they are to escape nights such as this where they look like little more than a straining Ferguson-era tribute act.

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