Stephen Curry was the hero as the Golden State Warriors upstaged the NBA-leading Utah Jazz 119-116.

Curry hit the game-winning shot during the final 14 seconds to lift the Warriors past the Jazz in San Francisco on Monday.

Two-time MVP Curry – coming off a 49-point performance – posted 36 points to make it seven successive games with 30-plus points.

The Warriors kept hold of the Western Conference eighth seed in the playoff race, with the play-in tournament set to take place next week.

 

Westbrook makes history

Washington Wizards star Russell Westbrook broke the record for the most triple-doubles in NBA history after posting the 182nd of his career, surpassing Hall of Famer Oscar Robertson (181). Former MVP Westbrook finished with 28 points, 21 assists and 13 rebounds in a 125-124 loss to the Atlanta Hawks. With his second assist earlier in the game, Westbrook also joined LeBron James, Robertson and Gary Payton as the only players in NBA history with 20,000-plus points and 8,000-plus assists.

Trae Young had a game-high 36 points, while Clint Capela (10 points and 22 rebounds), Bogdan Bogdanovic (25 points) and John Collins (28 points) chipped in to fuel the Hawks.

It was a team effort from the San Antonio Spurs, who took down the Milwaukee Bucks 146-125. DeMar DeRozan (23), Dejounte Murray (21), Keldon Johnson (20), Patty Mills (20), Lonnie Walker IV (19) and Rudy Gay (19) all had double-digit points. In NBA history, only the Portland Trail Blazers on November 22 in 1983 had six team-mates with 19-plus points in a game.

Double-doubles from Domantas Sabonis (21 points and 20 rebounds) and Caris LeVert (20 points and 10 assists) inspired the Indiana Pacers' 111-102 victory at the Cleveland Cavaliers.

Damian Lillard (34 points), CJ McCollum (28 points), Norman Powell (28 points) and Jusuf Nurkic combined to lead the Trail Blazers to a fourth straight win – a 140-129 success over the lowly Houston Rockets.

 

Ingles has off night

Usually a reliable shooter, Joe Ingles struggled in Utah's defeat. The Australian was two-for-seven shooting, having made just one of his six three-pointers for only five points in 31 minutes.

The Hawks won but Kevin Huerter made only three of his 12 field-goal attempts in 37 minutes of action. Huerter was one-for-six shooting from beyond the arc in the seven-point display.

 

Clutch Curry!

With the Warriors trailing 116-114, Curry nailed a triple 13.4 seconds from the end to lift Golden State in trademark fashion.

 

Monday's results

Indiana Pacers 111-102 Cleveland Cavaliers
Atlanta Hawks 125-124 Washington Wizards
Memphis Grizzlies 115-110 New Orleans Pelicans
Golden State Warriors 119-116 Utah Jazz
Portland Trail Blazers 140-129 Houston Rockets
San Antonio Spurs 146-125 Milwaukee Bucks

 

76ers at Pacers

Eastern Conference leaders the Philadelphia 76ers (47-21) – the most in-form team in the league – will put their eight-game winning streak on the line against the Pacers (32-36) on Tuesday.

Boston Celtics All-Star guard Jaylen Brown will miss the remainder of the NBA season due to a wrist injury.

In a major blow for the playoff-chasing Celtics, Brown was diagnosed with a torn scapholunate ligament in his left wrist, the team announced on Monday.

Brown is expected to have surgery on the torn ligament later this week, while there is no timetable for a return.

The 24-year-old had already missed the past three games with a sprained left ankle.

Brown had been enjoying a career season for the Celtics, resulting in his first All-Star selection.

In 2020-21, Brown was averaging career highs for points (24.7), assists (3.4), field-goal percentage (48.4) and three-point percentage (39.7), while he also averaged 6.0 rebounds per game.

Brown's injury comes with Boston's season in the balance.

The Celtics (35-33) are seventh in the Eastern Conference – enough for a play-in tournament berth – though Boston are in danger of missing the postseason altogether.

Manchester United star Marcus Rashford admitted former manager Jose Mourinho's style of play prevented him from playing his best football.

Mourinho spent two and a half years in charge of United, where he worked with Rashford before being sacked by the Premier League giants in 2018.

Rashford scored five league goals during Mourinho's first season in 2016-17 and followed that up with another seven in 2017-18 as the Portuguese often preferred either Zlatan Ibrahimovic or Romelu Lukaku at the time.

The 23-year-old Rashford, who won the Europa League, EFL Cup and Community Shield during Mourinho's tenure, finished with just 15 Premier League goals under the former Chelsea and Real Madrid boss prior to his sacking midway through the 2018-19 season.

England international Rashford has since flourished under Mourinho's replacement Ole Gunnar Solskjaer as he reflected on the Portuguese's tenure in Manchester.

"I think that's when we play our best football [when we can be flexible]," Rashford told BT Sport when asked if Mourinho allowed the players to express themselves in attack.

"Under Jose I would say everything was a bit [points] 'you play there, you play there, you play there'.

"And yeah, you can do a job, but it was difficult for me to play my best football."

Having scored a career-best 17 Premier League goals in 2019-20, Rashford has 10 goals this season and 20 across all competitions.

Rashford has broken the 20-goal mark for United in back-to-back seasons under Solskjaer.

His form has helped United to second in the Premier League and a Europa League final berth against Villarreal.

Rashford, meanwhile, has scored more Premier League goals against Leicester City than he has versus any other side in the competition (five) as the Red Devils prepare to host Brendan Rodgers' team on Tuesday.

Green Bay Packers star Davante Adams said he would "definitely have to do some extra thinking" if reigning NFL MVP Aaron Rodgers did not suit up for the franchise next season.

Rodgers is reportedly unhappy and seeking a Packers exit, though Green Bay have made it clear they are unwilling to trade the three-time MVP and Super Bowl champion.

It remains to be seen what the future holds for Rodgers, 37, heading into the 2021 season after leading the Packers to the NFC Championship Game.

All-Pro team-mate Adams is into the final year of his contract and admitted his fate could potentially hinge on the superstar quarterback.

"Potentially, potentially; that's my guy," Packers wide receiver Adams told Fox Sports Radio. "That's the only guy that I've had -- other than that 2017 season, when he got hurt. That's the only guy that I've played with.

"We've built up a special connection over the years that has put us both in really good positions in our career. Not that he needed me to come along for it, because he was already in that spot, but we've established a lot together.

"So, it would change a lot. Doesn't mean potentially I'd be gone, but I'd definitely have to do some extra thinking if my guy wasn't here."

Adams caught 115 passes for 1,374 yards and 18 touchdowns last season, while Rodgers amassed 48 TDs, five interceptions and a completion rate of 70.7 per cent for the Packers – who lost to eventual Super Bowl champions the Tampa Bay Buccaneers.

Rodgers' quarterback rating of 121.5 puts him second on the all-time list among qualifiers, behind only his 2011 campaign (122.5).

In total, Rodgers completed 372 of 526 attempts for 4,299 yards as the Packers topped the NFC North with a 13-3 record to clinch home-field advantage and the top seed in the NFC playoffs for the first time since 2011.

Rodgers is level with Buccaneers quarterback Tom Brady, Favre, Johnny Unitas and Jim Brown with three MVP honours – only Peyton Manning (five) has more in NFL history.

"A lot is still being figured out on his end, so it's tough for me to get into the specifics and speak on it," Adams said. "Obviously, I would love to. Can't wait until I can tell you he's back and we're back doing our thing we've been doing. But for now, you've got to iron out a few things. Hopefully I'll be back on the show and we'll be celebrating taking shots and whatnot."

Adams – a four-time Pro Bowler – added: "We all know this is a pretty intense business, there's a lot that happens, a lot that goes on here. Just like any other job, you want to be happy, and once you've gained that respect, you want to be treated with that type of respect.

"There's certain things that I can't speak on specifics, but there are certain things that he wants, and maybe the club wasn't so excited about living up to right away.

"And that can affect a guy who's done so much for an organization. He's put his body and really laid his life on the line out there for that team, for his teammates. So I've been behind him 100 per cent throughout the whole thing.

"Obviously I'm praying everything works out and we get him back and we can continue to go out there and continue to do stuff like we did [last season] because it's a lot of fun doing that."

Washington Wizards star Russell Westbrook broke the record for the most triple-doubles in NBA history on Monday.

Westbrook surpassed Hall of Famer Oscar Robertson with his 182nd career triple-double during the Wizards' agonising 125-124 loss to the Atlanta Hawks.

Former MVP Westbrook collected the necessary rebound to eclipse Robertson in the fourth quarter away to the Hawks in Atlanta.

He finished with 28 points, 21 assists and 13 rebounds against the Hawks.

Westbrook now stands alone atop a list that also includes Magic Johnson (138), Jason Kidd (107), LeBron James (99), Wilt Chamberlain (78) and Larry Bird (59).

With his second assist earlier in the game, Westbrook also joined James, Robertson and Gary Payton as the only players in NBA history with 20,000-plus points and 8,000-plus assists.

Entering Monday's contest, Westbrook has been averaging 22.0 points, a career-high 11.6 rebounds and a career-best 11.5 assists.

Westbrook has also been leading the league in assists per game, total assists (700) and assist rate (48.0).

Iconic former Manchester United manager Alex Ferguson put aside any anti-Liverpool agenda as he saluted the impacted Steven Gerrard has had on another of his old clubs, Rangers.

Gerrard played for United's bitter rivals Liverpool from 1998 to 2015, a period that coincided with Ferguson's glory years at Old Trafford, and was Reds captain for much of that time.

But despite their respective roles in one of English football's fiercest rivalries, Ferguson can appreciate the job Gerrard has done since trying his hand in management.

Gerrard took over at Rangers – with whom Ferguson spent two years as a player in the 1960s – in 2018, the club having been without a top-flight title since 2010-11. They had to start all over again in the third tier in 2012 after insolvency.

Rangers' great rivals Celtic went on to claim nine successive Scottish Premiership titles, but under Gerrard's guidance they ended the Bhoys' dominance this term, cruising to the crown in remarkable fashion.

They wrapped it up in early March having not lost a single game and, with two games left, are in with a chance of completing the campaign undefeated, a feat they have not managed since 1898-99.

And Ferguson, who won 16 top-flight titles with United and Aberdeen, has been impressed.

"Oh, he's done magnificent," Ferguson told the Guardian ahead of the release of a documentary about his life.

"He really has, both on and off the field. A press interview can lose you your job in management. But Steven's press conferences are fantastic.

"He's cool, he's composed, he gives the right answers. He's really top because it's an art."

Nevertheless, Ferguson stressed he has not exactly become an avid follower of Rangers in his retirement – he is only really bothered when it comes to one game in particular.

"The only time I really support Rangers is when they play Celtic. The big one," he added. "Jason [his son] is a Celtic fan.

"I love phoning him up when Rangers have beaten them. The funny thing is that the one team I always look for on Saturday night is Queen's Park, my first club.

"I had a great learning experience as a 16-year-old lad playing for them. People think it's an amateur team but you had to be tough to play for Queen's Park. That was a great foundation for me."

Bradley Beal's hamstring injury will keep the Washington Wizards All-Star guard out for at least two matches.

Beal did the damage during a 133-132 victory over the Indiana Pacers on Saturday.

The 27-year-old left the court in the third quarter with a hurt ankle but was able to return and complete a game he finished with 50 points.

Coach Scott Brooks revealed after the victory that Beal had strained his left hamstring and the Wizards confirmed ahead of Monday's clash with the Atlanta Hawks that he will be sidelined for a minimum of a couple of games.

Washington tweeted: "Bradley Beal has been diagnosed with a left hamstring strain following MRI testing conducted yesterday.

"He will miss the team's next two games before being re-evaluated on Friday."

The Wizards, number nine seed in the NBA Eastern Conference, will hope for positive news on Beal's fitness later this week as they battle for a play-in place.

Only Stephen Curry (31.9) has a better average that Beal's 31.1 points per game this season. Beal averages 4.7 rebounds in each match and 4.5 assists.

He has racked up at least 25 points in 71 of his past 82 games and has scored 40 or more on eight occasions this season.

Fulham became the third and final team to be relegated from the Premier League when they were beaten 2-0 by Burnley on Monday.

Scott Parker's side got that sinking feeling at Craven Cottage, where first-half goals from Ashley Westwood and the in-form Chris Wood – his 50th for the club – consigned them to an immediate return to the Championship.

It is the first time in Premier League history that all relegation slots have been confirmed with as many as three matches remaining.

Matej Vydra set Westwood up for the opener after 35 minutes and Wood clinically fired home his eighth goal in as many games to leave Fulham shellshocked just before the break.

The Cottagers have picked up only one point from seven games since a surprise 1-0 victory at Liverpool in March.

The London club's fate was confirmed with three games to play, as they are 10 points behind Southampton and Brighton and Hove Albion.

Burnley were able to celebrate retaining their top-flight status after marking Sean Dyche's 350th league game in charge of the club by securing three precious points.

Fulham go down along with rock bottom Sheffield United and West Brom, who were sent down with a 3-1 loss at Arsenal on Sunday.

The Cottagers, who have won just five matches, are the 17th club to go straight back down having won the Championship play-offs the season before.

When Manchester United confirmed the signing of Edinson Cavani on a free transfer last October, it's fair to say there was by no means universal praise for the deal.

The announcement, which came on transfer deadline day, smacked of desperation to many. United hadn't been able to sign their primary target, Jadon Sancho, but couldn't face the prospect of heading into the new season without strengthening the frontline.

Granted, failing to add reinforcements wouldn't have been a good look for the club, but Cavani's signing wasn't exactly much of a consolation in the eyes of supporters.

Doubts over his age, form during his final season at Paris Saint-Germain and the simple fact he was still without a club at the start of October all appeared to be valid concerns, particularly given his one-year deal (with the option for an extra 12 months) was a kind of short-termism not associated with the previous signings made by Ole Gunnar Solskjaer.

But such concerns quickly evaporated once he was fit, his class and striker's instinct still undeniable as the Uruguayan gallops across the United attack as if he was still in his twenties.

In recent weeks Cavani's form has hit another level and, for a while at least, it seemed a possibility that United were going to rue not signing him to a two-year deal, rumours of a move to Boca Juniors making officials at Old Trafford a little tense.

But on Monday, United confirmed Cavani will be staying put for another year at least, his renewal a just reward for an excellent first season in England.

Golden oldie

Ryan Giggs played Premier League football into his forties, owing much of his longevity to conditioning aiding by yoga, as the story goes. Perhaps then Cavani's seamless adaptation to the league isn't as surprising as many have suggested.

After all, the 34-year-old is known to do yoga and ballet in an effort to keep himself fit and nimble, elements of his game that have certainly been notable this season, even after injury absences.

Of course, Solskjaer has been eager to restrict Cavani's minutes, stressing early in the season that he didn't want to put him under too much physical strain as he joined the club having not played competitively since March due to Ligue 1's cancellation amid the coronavirus pandemic.

That approach has been adopted throughout the season, as demonstrated by Cavani's 18 starts from 35 appearances, and it seems to have paid dividends as he's really hit his stride since the start of April, scoring eight goals in seven appearances across all competitions.

This run has helped him to a minutes-per-goal ratio of 124.1. The only Premier League forwards (five or more goals) who can better than are Gareth Bale (110.2 minutes per goal), Kelechi Iheanacho (110), Olivier Giroud (106.3) and Carlos Vinicius (97.7), though the latter's record is clearly warped by a hat-trick he scored against non-league side Marine in January.

Anthony Martial still seemingly had credit from his form in the latter part of 2019-20 earlier this term, given Cavani was largely used as a backup option while the Frenchman was fit, but it's difficult to see him getting his place back at the start of 2021-22 given what we know now.

The end for Martial?

After the Premier League's resumption last season, Martial was one of the standout performers – his six goals from nine games was only bettered by Danny Ings, Harry Kane (both seven in nine), Michail Antonio (eight in nine) and Raheem Sterling (nine in nine).

It seemed that, finally, he was reaching the level many had expected of him when he joined from Monaco five years earlier. He'd seemingly cemented his place as United's first-choice central striker and looked comfortable for arguably the first time since his first season.

But, prior to his injury, Martial had been underwhelming this term. It brought to light a theory previous speculated about: the idea that he doesn't react well to competition. First there was Zlatan Ibrahimovic and then Romelu Lukaku. He outlasted both, found his niche, and then, all of a sudden, Cavani arrives.

Only Martial knows what is to blame for his drop-off, but it's undeniable that there has been one. His six non-penalty goals comes from an xG (expected goals) value of 9.7, meaning he was wasting more chances than the average player ordinarily would.

The fact that his xG per 90 minutes dropped from 0.42 to 0.36 shows the quality of chances coming his way weren't as good, while last season he massively outperformed this, scoring 0.58 goals per game.

Before his injury this season, Martial was averaging just 0.26 goals every 90 minutes, highlighting his wastefulness or a perhaps lack of confidence – it's certainly not down to playing a different role, as he averaged the same amount of touches in the box (6.9 per 90 mins) as in 2019-20.

When we bring Cavani into the equation, the data shows how much of a gulf there is between the two with regards to their ability to make chances with clever movement, or instinct.

Cavani's xG per game of 0.64 is a significant improvement on Martial, and he's even outperforming that (0.73 goals per 90 mins), finding the net almost three times as frequently as the France international.

"He [Cavani] has got all the attributes of a top-class footballer and human being," Solskjaer said last November. "He's had a great career, scored goals wherever he has been. He's so professional, meticulous with his preparation, with his recovery, what he does at mealtimes, before the game, during the game.

"But also to have a focal point in the box is important for us because we've not really had that since Romelu [Lukaku] left."

And there lies a key issue: Solskjaer seems to have accepted Martial cannot play that role. You have to wonder whether he'll get another opportunity.

Facilitating the succession

In the eyes of most United fans, if any of their current forwards are the long-term heir to Cavani in the central role, it's Mason Greenwood.

Granted, the jury may still be out on him in that position, but his ability in front of goal would suggest he is the best man for the job, particularly given he's showing that quality at such a young age.

2020-21 hasn't been the easiest of seasons for him. He had to cope with the death of a close friend and was at the centre of controversy while away on international duty with England.

But since the start of April he's scored five times in the Premier League, a haul bettered by no one. It's form that's reminiscent of his breakthrough campaign in 2019-20, when he scored 10 league goals from an xG value of just 2.9. Excluding penalties, no player in the division could rival such a differential.

Figures like that are rarely sustainable because they suggest either a player's been extremely lucky, they're remarkably good, or perhaps a combination of both. After all, Greenwood scored just once from an xG of 2.7 between the start of this season and the end of March.

But his recent purple patch has seen him score three goals more than he'd be expected to (1.95 xG). He's finding his feet again, and another season learning alongside Cavani can surely only benefit Greenwood in the long run.

The one area of Greenwood's game that has been questioned in rare opportunities through the middle is his off-the-ball movement, arguably Cavani's greatest strength.

There's no question Cavani is an asset to United in terms of his on-field ability – the data proves just how effective he's been, but his importance goes beyond that.

Greenwood is probably the best talent to come out of the United academy since Paul Pogba, and if some of Cavani's wisdom rubs off him over a two-year period together, what a player he could become.

The Indianapolis Colts have taken a calculated gamble to fill a glaring hole on their offensive line.

According to multiple reports, the Colts have signed former number one overall pick Eric Fisher to a low-risk one-year deal.

The left tackle was released by the Kansas City Chiefs earlier in March as they remade their O-Line, Fisher having missed their Super Bowl LV blowout loss due to a torn Achilles.

Fisher may not be ready to make his return from that injury until early October, but the Colts are betting he can recapture the form that has seen him voted to the Pro Bowl twice in the past three seasons.

Can Fisher fill Castonzo void?

Fisher allowed a pressure rate of 10.9 per cent in 2020, above the league average of 8.9 per cent but a significant improvement on his 16 per cent pressure rate during a 2019 season in which he battled injuries while helping the Chiefs win Super Bowl LIV.

What helped him earn a Pro Bowl nod last season, however, was the lack of sacks he allowed. He gave up only three, though Stats Perform data credited him with four adjusted sacks, which measure pressures on sack plays, even if the pressuring defender did not bring down the quarterback.

His adjusted sack rate allowed of 0.9 per cent was bettered by just eight left tackles with at least 100 pass protection snaps.

It followed a 2019 campaign in which his adjusted sack rate allowed of 1.1 per cent put him in a five-way tie for seventh among left tackles.

The Colts will hope he can prove an effective replacement for mainstay Anthony Castonzo, who retired in the offseason.

Castonzo allowed a pressure rate of 8.4 per cent and an adjusted sack rate of 1.5 per cent in 2020.

The statistics suggest Fisher should be able to fill the void left by Castonzo, but the Colts will have to rely on Sam Tevi at left tackle if Fisher is not ready in time for the start of the season.

Tevi up to the task?

Tevi is coming off his best season in the NFL with the Chargers, allowing a pressure rate of 10.1 per cent, one sack and three adjusted sacks for an adjusted sack rate of 0.8 per cent.

He outperformed Fisher by those metrics but hasn't performed with the consistency for the Colts to be certain he can perform at that level for the long term.

Tevi allowed six sacks in 2018 and 5.5 in 2019 playing right tackle, the latter season seeing him give up a pressure rate of 15.5 per cent - tied for fifth-worst among right tackles with at least 200 snaps - and an adjusted sack rate of 2.3 per cent.

The Colts are banking on Fisher getting healthy and returning to top form if and when he does. Should he fail to do so, they will be hoping Tevi's underrated 2020 was not an anomaly.

Though the Colts are not tied to either Fisher or Tevi beyond the 2021 season, for a team with Super Bowl aspirations but starting a quarterback in Carson Wentz who was sacked a league-high 50 times for the Philadelphia Eagles last season, they need to be right about at least one of their potential Castonzo successors.

Manchester City's wait for a third Premier League title in four years went on after they suffered a 2-1 defeat against Chelsea at the weekend.

Pep Guardiola's side do have an unwanted statistic to their name in that ratio, however, having now lost three of their past four league outings at the Etihad Stadium.

Another trend to continue was Manchester United falling behind before beating Aston Villa 3-1.

As the season reaches its final stretch, players will be well aware it's a marathon not a sprint. Indeed, one of the division's most noted pace merchants has proved again he is adept at lasting the course.

Using Opta data, we take a look at these talking points from the most recent round of Premier League fixtures.

Aguero's Panenka woe continues City's penalty torment

Sergio Aguero knows a thing or two about scoring the goal to clinch a Premier League title, so City probably felt they had the perfect man standing over Saturday's penalty against Chelsea, with Guardiola's much-changed side 1-0 up thanks to Raheem Sterling.

But Aguero's awful chipped effort gave Edouard Mendy chance to go to ground, stand up again and catch the ball – a moment of complete embarrassment for the Premier League's all-time leading overseas goalscorer.

None of the misses have been quite as, well, hilarious as the one Aguero conjured up, but he joins Kevin De Bruyne, Ilkay Gundogan and Sterling in having failed from 12 yards this season.

These are not new problems, with those misses making City the first team since Tottenham in 1993-94 and 1994-95 to fail from four or more penalties in consecutive seasons.

Overall, City have missed 32 of 130 Premier League penalties, with Spurs (33), Liverpool, Aston Villa (both 34), Arsenal (36) and Manchester United (40) the only teams more profligate.

Of teams to have taken at least 50 Premier League penalties, Villa's 67.6 conversion percentage (71 from 105) is the worst. City have scored 98 out of 130 (75.4 per cent).

Marcos the marksman

When wing-back Marcos Alonso scuffed home Chelsea's winner at the Etihad Stadium, the inclination was to celebrate an "unlikely hero". However, the Spain international is no stranger to the scoresheet.

Alonso has now netted 24 goals for the Blues – the same number as Alvaro Morata and Daniel Sturridge and three more than Andriy Shevchenko.

In the Premier League era, only John Terry (61), Branislav Ivanovic (34) and Gary Cahill (25) have scored more often as Chelsea defenders.

Among his current team-mates, strikers Olivier Giroud and Tammy Abraham, with 39 and 30 respectively, are the only players with more goals for the club.

It is not beyond the realms of possibility that the forthcoming transfer window sees Alonso go into next season as Chelsea's leading club scorer.

Premier League record in sight for Solskjaer's comeback kings

When Bertrand Traore put them ahead on Sunday, Villa might have been forgiven for fearing the worst.

Sure enough, Mason Greenwood and Edinson Cavani were on target after Bruno Fernandes equalised from the penalty spot.

Ole Gunnar Solskjaer's side now have 31 points from losing positions, bettering their previous best of 29 in 2012-13, when Alex Ferguson rounded off his celebrated tenure with one last title success.

In their four remaining games this term, United could overhaul the Premier League record of 34 points gained after falling behind, set by Bobby Robson's Newcastle United in 2001-02. Their 10 wins after conceding first in 2020-21 is already a competition best.

The Red Devils also claimed 24 points after going behind in 1999-00, when they retained the title. Arsenal emulated that feat in the same season, also doing so in 2011-12.

The equivalent of eight wins from behind has also been achieved by Everton in 2002-03 and Tottenham in 2010-11, the same campaign when West Brom turned deficits into 27 points.

Game of two halves for Traore

Coming from behind to win obviously requires a certain level of collective improvement throughout games. Individually, Adama Traore certainly seems to warm to his task as matches progress.

The Wolves winger netted the equaliser before Nuno Espirito Santo's men beat Brighton and Hove Albion 2-1.

That was his seventh career goal in the Premier League – all of which have been scored in the second half.

Traore's haul is the highest of exclusively second-half goals in the competition's history. His old Villa team-mate Rudy Gestede, former Middlesbrough midfielder Phil Stamp and ex-Newcastle and Ipswich Town forward Alex Mathie each have six.

Karel Poborsky, Gerald Sibon, Emre, Craig Fagan, Pablo Hernandez, Carlos Vela, Jose Holebas and Adam Smith all have five second-half Premier League goals, having never troubled the scorers before half-time.

Vladimir Guerrero Jr. is the real deal. The question is, can he match or even surpass the career of his Hall of Fame father?

Vladimir Guerrero is a name synonymous with baseball. Guerrero Sr. was voted one of the most feared hitters following a stellar career spanning 16 seasons that included an American League (AL) MVP, nine All-Star selections and eight Silver Slugger Awards.

Powerful just like his dad, Guerrero Jr. is now flying the family flag in living up to the hype, spearheading the Toronto Blue Jays' exciting young core in a bid to end their World Series drought, which dates back to 1993.

 

From prospect to star

Guerrero Jr.'s success is no surprise. He had long been on the radar when the Blue Jays signed the top international free agent in 2015. Before making his major league debut in 2019, he worked his way through the minor leagues – initially with the Rookie Advanced Bluefield Blue Jays before opening the 2017 season with the Class-A Lansing Lugnuts. He then joined the Advanced-A Dunedin Blue Jays later that year.

John Schneider – part of Toronto Blue Jays manager Charlie Montoyo's coaching staff – was manager of the Dunedin Blue Jays that year, a roster which also boasted Bo Bichette, Cavan Biggio, Lourdes Gurriel Jr. and Danny Jansen, as Guerrero Jr. had 56 hits, 31 runs, six homers, 31 RBI and a .333 batting average.

"Everyone sees the talent and the name obviously because of his dad and all that kind of stuff. But just how intelligent he is… and him as a team-mate and person," Schneider told Stats Perform News. "His team-mates love him. He loves coming to the yard and playing every day, having fun.

"It's been cool to watch him transform himself from a young kid with a ton of talent and having fun to a really established, difference-making major league hitter right now."

Guerrero Jr. – born in Montreal – has 35 hits, 24 runs, seven homers and 23 RBI with a .310 average this season, while boasting a .447 OBP, .549 SLG and .995 OPS – all career highs through 33 games in his third season in the majors. His 456-foot moon shot against the Kansas City Royals has put him in esteemed company in terms of distance this season, while his max 116.1 exit velocity is a number not many in the sport can even dream of matching.

A popular player in the team with an infectious smile, Guerrero Jr. also celebrated an accomplishment beyond even his famous Dominican father achieved – a three-plus homer and seven-plus RBI game last month against Max Scherzer's Washington Nationals as the 22-year-old became the youngest player in MLB history to achieve that feat.

The matchup against the Nationals also featured his third career grand slam. Aged 22 years and 24 days, Guerrero Jr. became the youngest player since Alex Rodriguez (20 years and 345 days in 1996) at the time of his third slam.

"People are drawn to him – players, staff. It's fun to be around him. He comes to the field with a smile every day and he comes every day having fun. It rubs off on guys. It's cool to have him go through the minor-league system with Bo, Cavan, Gurriel and those guys," Schneider said. "They know each other very well, they're comfortable with each other and it's something they've always done. It's easier for them to be themselves now and Charlie does a good job allowing everyone to do that. He has an infectious personality."

In his first 33 games of his third MLB season in 1998, Guerrero Sr. tallied more hits (39), fewer runs (19) and the same number of homers (seven), while he was inferior to his son when it comes to batting average (.307), OBP (.350) and SLG (.535).

"You forget how young he is because of how good he is," Schneider said. "He is always working on things whether it's offensively, defensively or game-planning wise. It's an adjustment period between the minor leagues and the big leagues.

"We've always kind of seen him as a hitter, being this talented and hitting the ball hard. But being able to watch him and look at advanced reports, have a much better plan going into every game has been a big difference. Watching him evolve at first base and third base for that matter has been great. You get the exceptional offense and forget that he is 22 years old and there is always going to be continued development throughout the course of his career."

 

Hard work pays off

During the coronavirus-shortened 2020 season, Guerrero Jr. finished with 58 hits, 34 runs and nine homers with a .262 batting average as the Blue Jays returned to the postseason for the first time since 2016. He had one hit as Toronto bowed out in the Wild Card Round at the hands of eventual World Series runners-up the Tampa Bay Rays.

Guerrero Jr. is now reaping the rewards after an intense offseason – shedding the pounds between the playoffs in October and Spring Training in February. He is gliding around the bases and making a mockery of major league pitching.

His walk percentage has rocketed from 8.2 in 2020 to 17.7 this season – a differential of plus 9.5, the largest increase in 2021, ahead of the Houston Astros' Yuli Gurriel (+7.7), Los Angeles Dodgers infielder Max Muncy (+7.5), Detroit Tigers outfielder Robbie Grossman (+7.5) and Nationals outfielder Victor Robles (+6.7).

In terms of OPS, his increase from .791 in 2020 to .995 (+.205) is the fifth-largest this season, behind only the Boston Red Sox's J.D. Martinez (+.396), Gurriel of the Astros (+.301), Chicago Cubs star Javier Baez (+.208) and Los Angeles Angels superstar Mike Trout (+.208).

Guerrero Jr. has also reached base on 63 occasions through Toronto's first 33 games of the 2021 season. That number ranks eighth all time in franchise history – Jose Bautista (70 in 2014) is first.

"Throughout the course of his career, in the minors, he was always finding himself in good counts," Schneider said of Guerrero Jr's patience at the plate this year. "Part of it was people were very careful with him and I think it's a little bit different in the minors command wise. Now, the biggest thing is that he's doing the same thing – you look up and it's 1-0, 2-0, 2-1 and he is laying off of borderline pitches where I think in his first two years he was putting in play.

"He is laying off those pitches knowing he can put them in play but maybe can't do damage with them. He has the very rare ability to be looking for a heater and get the hanging breaking ball and hit it out. He has better command of his strike zone with the combination of understanding how a pitcher is going to attack him."

Guerrero Jr. is fast becoming one of the elite first basemen in MLB. He is also forming a formidable partnership with team-mate and shortstop Bichette in the field.

In 2021, Guerrero Jr. and Bichette rank eighth for most direct assist-putout combinations by duos with 58 – Texas Rangers pair Isiah Kiner-Falefa and Nate Low (86) top the list, which only counts direct throws from one player to the other.

Guerrero Jr. is also fifth for the most total fielding chances in the majors without committing an error (228) this year.

"He has worked tirelessly with Luis Rivera our infield coach at first base but he always been a very, very good athlete," added Schneider. "Getting himself into really good physical condition has really helped him on both sides of the ball. Last year was kind of a crash-course at first base in a shortened season with a long lay-off due to COVID but he has taken it head-on and learnt new things.

"Just little things like when to get a ball to his right and when to go to the bag. It's just coming at you in a different angle than what he was used to last year. He's been doing a ton of reps and has always had the physical ability."

With 216 career games to his name, Guerrero Jr.'s stat line reads – 219 hits, 110 runs, 31 homers, 125 RBI, a .274 batting average, .353 OBP, .457 SLG and .810 OPS. It is not far off his father at the same stage of his career – 258 hits, 129 runs, 39 homers, 125 RBI, .317 average, .361 OBP, .541 SLG and .903 OPS.

Guerrero Jr.'s numbers also stuck up well against some Hall of Fame first basemen, including Orlando Cepeda, Tony Perez, Eddie Murray, Jeff Bagwell and Jim Thome.

Cepeda: 279 hits, 136 runs, 40 homers, 153 RBI, .319 batting average, .350 OBP, .538 SLG and .888 OPS
Perez: 144 hits, 66 runs, 16 homers, 88 RBI, .254 batting average, .303 OBP, .412 SLG and .715 OPS
Murray: 232 hits, 108 runs, 36 homers, 119 RBI, .280 batting average, .332 OBP, .463 SLG and .795 OPS
Bagwell: 216 hits, 110 runs, 23 homers, 120 RBI, .277 batting average, .372 OBP, .426 SLG and .798 OPS
Thome: 180 hits, 104 runs, 30 homers, 98 RBI, .256 batting average, .346 OBP, .449 SLG and .794 OPS

In the grand scheme of things, Vladdy's career is still in its infancy and he has barely scratched the surface of his potential, but he is on track to follow in his dad's footsteps, and then some.

The NBA is nearing the end of its regular season.

Soon the fight for playoff positioning will give way to the drama of the play-in round and the subsequent seven-game series that will decide the destination of the title.

In other words, it is time for the league's elite to find their best.

While several of those stars are hitting form at exactly the right time, there are others enduring worrying declines ahead of the postseason.

Here we examine the performances of those excelling going into the playoffs, and those who need to turn it around in this week's edition of Heat Check.

RUNNING HOT

Kyrie Irving - Brooklyn Nets

Irving went into last week having failed to score 30 points in three straight appearances, but he was back to his best over the past seven days.

Having previously averaged 26.7 points for the season, Irving put up 38 points per game across three outings last week, with a 45-point display against the Dallas Mavericks sandwiched by a 38-point effort in defeat to the Milwaukee Bucks and a 31-point showing versus the Denver Nuggets.

Only the game with the Nuggets ended in victory, but the Nets will be encouraged by Irving's form with the playoffs approaching. He was excellent from beyond the arc, hitting 5.67 threes per game having entered the week averaging 2.63.

Irving converted 17 of his 32 three-point attempts last week, a percentage of 53.1 that ranks 10th among players to have attempted at least 20 last week.

Russell Westbrook - Washington Wizards

Westbrook made history on Saturday as he tied Oscar Robertson's record for triple-doubles with the 181st of his career against the Indiana Pacers on Saturday.

The way in which his athleticism has translated to success on the boards has been key to Westbrook's successful pursuit of Hall of Famer Robertson.

And his rebounding was nothing short of incredible over the past seven days. Having entered the week averaging 11.16 rebounds, Westbrook racked up 17.25 per game across his last three games, culminating with 19 in his record-equalling display in an overtime win over Indiana.

He'll hope for more success on the glass against the Atlanta Hawks on Monday to take him past Robertson.

Stephen Curry - Golden State Warriors

The best shooter in the game had another stunning week from beyond the arc as he continues to fuel the Warriors' push towards the playoffs.

Curry's 5.2 made threes per game was already the gold standard in the NBA this season but he was even more devastating from deep in four games last week.

Indeed, Curry averaged 8.25 threes per game, with that jump fuelled largely by him hitting 11 on Saturday as he scored 49 points in 29 minutes against the Oklahoma City Thunder.

As long as he continues his excellent form, the Warriors should have a great chance of coming through the play-in round and making it to the postseason.

GOING COLD...

Andre Drummond - Los Angeles Lakers

It was a rough week for Lakers big Drummond, who endured the largest drop-off in the NBA in both points and rebounds per game.

Drummond entered last week putting up 15.89 points per game but saw his average over four games dip to 5.75.

He failed to score double-digit points in any of those outings and was similarly ineffective on the boards.

His rebounds per game dipped from 12.37 to 6.25, Drummond having started the week by failing to record a single rebound in a game for only the third time in his career in a win over the Nuggets.

Luka Doncic - Dallas Mavericks

It is pleasing for the Mavs that they can win without Doncic delivering his best every night, as they did not get it last week.

Doncic was far from terrible, as he topped 20 points in three of his four outings, but he saw his points per game average drop from 28.64 entering the week to 21.50 in those appearances.

The Mavs won each of those contests, with Doncic contributing double-doubles in two, though he had an underwhelming 15-point game to end the week against the Cleveland Cavaliers.

So, while he may be 'going cold' relative to his usual standard in scoring, Doncic is finding ways to help Dallas build momentum ahead of the playoffs.

Kawhi Leonard - Los Angeles Clippers

Leonard has been bothered by injury issues in recent weeks, with his best form eluding the two-time NBA Finals MVP.

For the season, Leonard was averaging 25.51 points per game going into the last week, but could only manage to put up 19 over the course of three games in the past seven days.

And that average was inflated by a 29-point effort in the Clippers' loss to the New York Knicks on Sunday.

Prior to that return to something like normal service, Leonard had failed to score 20 points in each of his last four games.

Even his effort against the Knicks came on an inefficient shooting performance where he went nine for 26, indicating Leonard is some way off the standard he will need for the Clippers to contend in the playoffs.

Barcelona boss Ronald Koeman reiterated his stance on VAR but was unwilling to comment on the controversial penalty awarded against Real Madrid through fear of being further punished.

Zinedine Zidane was left furious after Sevilla were given a spot-kick for handball against Eder Militao as Madrid were held 2-2 on Sunday, meaning the LaLiga title is no longer in their own hands.

Los Blancos thought they had earned a penalty for Yassine Bounou's foul on Karim Benzema at 1-1, only for a VAR review to overturn the decision because of Militao's handball at the other end at the start of the move.

Sevilla were instead awarded a penalty and Ivan Rakitic converted from 12 yards, though Madrid did at least rescue a point in the 94th minute through a goal later credited to Eden Hazard in what is the tightest LaLiga title battle in years.

Barcelona have themselves been on the wrong end of some controversial decisions this season, with Koeman questioning why VAR is even used in the Spanish top flight after his side were denied two penalties in their loss to Madrid.

The Dutchman, who has just served a two-game ban for comments made to the fourth official during last month's shock 2-1 home loss to Granada, did not want to get involved in the drama that unfolded at Estadio Alfredo di Stefano.

"If someone is better off not talking about refereeing, it is me," he said at a news conference on Monday previewing his side's trip to Levante. "I have already said what I think, my opinion has not changed. 

"If Madrid think they were harmed, that is their problem. As for VAR, I will not repeat any more."

Barcelona remain two points off leaders Atletico Madrid following Saturday's stalemate between the sides and level on points with Madrid, who are one place better off due to their superior head-to-head record over their Clasico rivals.

Barca have collected just 10 of the last 18 points available in LaLiga, after picking up 45 from the previous 51, which Koeman puts down to fatigue at the end of another gruelling campaign behind closed doors.

"There are a lot of games that take their toll," the Dutchman said. "It is normal for all teams, especially those who have played in Europe and have reached cup finals this season.

"In addition, playing without an audience can also play a part. That's why many teams have dropped points at home. It's not normal for so many games to be played. The team that is physically and mentally stronger will win the title. 

"We will fight until the last moment to win the league. It is not in our hands and we cannot afford to make any mistakes."

Koeman has another year to run on the contract signed when taking over as Barca boss last August, but his future will reportedly come down to whether his side finish top of the LaLiga standings or not.

However, the Dutchman remains confident he will still be in charge at Camp Nou next season regardless of results over Barca's remaining three matches.

"There is nothing to answer on my future," he said. "You don't have to look for stories that are not there. From the first day he arrived, the president has shown me his confidence. If anyone can decide, it's him.

"The future is not for me to be worried about because I've signed two years as a coach. We have agreed to talk after the season, but before then we have two weeks and three more games to go.

"I cannot win a battle with the press or people on the outside. For many periods this season they have valued me. For me, the important people are those who I work with every day and who value what we are doing."

Koeman has not lost any of his two matches against Levante as a manager, with his teams keeping a clean sheet in both previous encounters, including a 1-0 win for Barcelona in this season's reverse fixture.

However, Levante have won two of their last three meetings with Barcelona at the Ciutat de Valencia in LaLiga - one more than they had in their previous 11 home games against them in the competition.

Fabio Capello labelled Juventus' display in their 3-0 loss to Milan "embarrassing" as the pressure continues to grow on head coach Andrea Pirlo.

Juve's first home league defeat at the hands of Milan since March 2011 leaves them fifth in Serie A and a point off the Champions League spots with three games to go.

Brahim Diaz opened the scoring for the visitors on the brink of half-time and Ante Rebic added a second 12 minutes from time after Franck Kessie had a penalty saved.

Fikayo Tomori rounded off the scoring late on at the Allianz Stadium in a game in which Juve managed only one shot on target across the 90 minutes.

It is the third time in five games they have failed to test the opposition keeper before half-time, with Alvaro Morata and Cristiano Ronaldo touching the ball once in the penalty area between them during the first 45 minutes.

At the opposite end of the field, the Bianconeri have conceded goals in each of their past 11 Serie A games, which is their worst streak since April 2010.

While Capello does not believe Milan deserve any special praise for their performance in Turin, he has questioned whether Juve can currently be classed as an elite club.

"What we saw from Juventus was embarrassing," he told Sky Sport Italia. "In the first half they did not exist. It was the same against Udinese last week. 

"They were without ideas and Milan did their part, without having to do difficult things. Juventus tried to press but without aggression and never managed to recover the ball. 

"In the first half there was a huge amount of wrong passes. Watching the game, I had to ask, 'are these Super League teams?'. 

"The second half was a bit better. Milan's goals unlocked the game and Juve woke up after the missed penalty, but not enough. Gianluigi Donnarumma made only one save."

Having missed out on the Scudetto for the first time in a decade, Juve now risk failing to qualify for the Champions League for the first time since 2010-11.

Pirlo insisted after his side's sixth league loss of the season that he has no intention of stepping down, with club officials reportedly discussing his future on Monday.

Capello, who both played for and managed Juventus, believes Pirlo has to take responsibility for confusing his players with a change of system.

"Juventus' problems are in midfield. Ronaldo did not have the service and [Giorgio] Chiellini is the only player who played some throughballs," he said.

"It should not possible that Chiellini is the key man in midfield. There has been confusion from the beginning – they started with a three-man defence then changed.

"The players feel the coach does not have clear ideas. They smell the situation and find it difficult to follow him. Juventus need a clear direction to improve."

Juve are back in action on Wednesday with a trip to Sassuolo.

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