Happy Hump Day, everyone. Hope you’re well.
Let’s get right to it.
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Good morning to everyone but especially to…
THE MIAMI HEAT…
No Kyle Lowry? No problem. No Jimmy Butler either? Still, no problem. The Miami Heat are into the second round despite missing their starting point guard for the second straight game and missing their star forward as well in their 97-94 Game 5 triumph last night.
- Victor Oladipo — who didn’t even play in the first three games of the series — had 23 points.
- Bam Adebayo had 20 points and 11 rebounds.
- De’Andre Hunter scored 35 points for the Hawks, but Trae Young struggled mightily again, finishing with 11 points on 2-for-12 shooting.
The Heat defense was once again fantastic. Young had a tough time all series (outside his game-winning floater in Game 3), and, in turn, the Hawks — who scored nearly 114 points per game in the regular season — were held under that in all five games this series.
Perhaps even more important for Miami is that Lowry will get to rest his ailing hamstring and Butler will get to rest his inflamed knee. The Heat may not have needed those two to close out this series, but they almost certainly will in the second round, where they’ll face the winner of 76ers-Raptors.
For now, though, Miami can be proud of a job well done. The Heat controlled this series start to finish.
One day after winning Most Improved Player, Ja Morant may have saved the Grizzlies’ season. The star guard scooped in a layup with one second left (watch it here) as Memphis rallied past Minnesota, 111-109, to take a 3-2 series lead.
- Morant finished with 30 points, 13 rebounds and nine assists. He scored the Grizzlies’ last 13 points in a row and a playoff franchise-record 18 points in the fourth quarter alone.
- Desmond Bane chipped in 25 points.
- Brandon Clarke was terrific off the bench again with 21 points and 15 rebounds (nine offensive).
- Memphis outscored Minnesota 37-24 in the fourth quarter.
Just how big was Morant’s game-winner? In series that are tied 2-2, the winner of Game 5 goes on to win the series over 82 percent of the time. Memphis will hope to continue that trend by winning Game 6 on Friday.
- The Suns topped the Pelicans, 112-97, to take a 3-2 series lead.
- The long-awaited reveal of the letter from the MLB to the Yankees showed they did not cheat after the 2017 crackdown (though they did cheat before that, like many other teams likely did). So that’s good news for them… I guess?
- Speaking of the Yankees, Anthony Rizzo belted three home runs last night in a win.
- The Panthers remained atop our final regular-season NHL Power Rankings.
- Auston Matthews became the first NHL player since 2012 to reach 60 goals.
And not such a good morning for…
TRAE YOUNG AND THE ATLANTA HAWKS
Last year, Trae Young had an unforgettable postseason. He’ll hope to forget this year’s playoffs as quickly as possible, though.
- During this series, he made 22 shots.
- He had 30 turnovers.
- He’s the first player since Darrell Walker in 1984 to have more turnovers than field goals in a single postseason (min. 30 turnovers).
It was a disastrous series for Young. Now, there’s no shame in losing to the No. 1 seed as the No. 8 seed, but the Hawks never should have been in that position in the first place. They have too much talent and, coming off a run to the Eastern Conference Finals, shouldn’t have needed two play-in wins just to sneak into the playoffs. There are big decisions to be made this offseason.
Not so honorable mentions
- Zach LaVine entered COVID protocols.
- Donovan Mitchell is dealing with bruised quads.
- DeMarcus Cousins owes the NBA money.
NCAA president Mark Emmert is stepping down 😲
There’s a big change coming to the NCAA. Mark Emmert, who has been president of the association since 2010, is resigning. He will officially step down either when the NCAA finds his replacement or on June 30, 2023 — whichever comes first.
The shuffle in leadership was long overdue, writes college sports expert Dennis Dodd.
- Dodd: “If there was a strategy during the Emmert regime, it was hard to pin down. The executives who employed him used phrasing in the NCAA constitution to take down — then remove significant penalties from — Penn State football in the Jerry Sandusky scandal. That same constitution is now being rewritten allowing schools, conferences and divisions to basically govern themselves. … Whoever replaces Emmert will no doubt be an honorable, accomplished person. It won’t be hard. The bar is set that low.”
It wasn’t exactly a sterling dozen years for Emmert. The list of things the NCAA struggled with or outright embarrassed itself with — remember when Emmert called NIL an “existential threat” in 2019? — during his tenure is a long one. Now, with major changes coming to college sports, the leadership at the NCAA is changing as well.
NFL draft best bets, plus trade hypotheticals 🏈
We’re one day away from the NFL Draft, and the answers to all the big questions are still just anyone’s best guess. Who’s the No. 1 pick? Who’s the first quarterback taken? First wide receiver? Who’s looking to move up — or down?
We’ll know the answers for certain soon enough, but until then, our NFL insider Jason La Canfora has nine draft prop bets most likely to hit, including…
- La Canfora: “Quarterbacks Taken in First Round: Over 3 (-120) — Supply vs. Demand. Econ 101. QBs are never cheaper than when you take them in the draft, and that fifth-year option that comes with the territory is like gold. The Panthers, Falcons, Saints, Steelers and Lions all have serious interest in the top of this QB draft. Several have impatient owners. I have long believed that four end up going in the first round, and I still believe it.”
Speaking of quarterbacks, our NFL Draft expert Josh Edwards took a look at every time a team traded up to select a QB since 2011. The best move? It’s the Chiefs moving up to get Patrick Mahomes. The worst move? In that exact same draft, the Bears traded up to get Mitchell Trubisky. Oof.
Edwards also created a couple of hypothetical trades for teams that could look to move up for their next signal caller. Steelers fans, how would you feel about this one?
- Steelers hypothetically receive: No. 7 overall
- Giants hypothetically receive: No. 20 overall, 2023 first-round pick, 2024 third-round pick
UCL: Manchester City top Real Madrid in seven-goal thriller; Liverpool host Villarreal today ⚽
If you’re still catching your breath from Manchester City’s ridiculously fun 4-3 win over Real Madrid in the first leg of their Champions League semifinal tie, you’re not alone. What a match it was.
- Kevin de Bruyne and Gabriel Jesus struck inside the first dozen minutes to give City a 2-0 lead.
- Karim Benzema — who else? — got one back for Real Madrid before halftime.
- Shortly after the break, City’s Phil Foden scored on a header, but Real Madrid’s Vinicius Junior responded just two minutes later.
- City gained a two-goal lead for a third time through a wonderful strike from Bernardo Silva, but Benzema answered with a late penalty kick to ensure Los Blancos will enter next week’s second leg down just one goal.
While four goals is a lot, it could have been even more for City, writes our soccer reporter James Benge.
- Benge: “This was a night to leave you baffled by what a City player had done. In those half seconds they could amaze you or baffle you. But even then, you could not help but sense a couple of better decisions in the final third and this tie might have been dead. This was a Madrid team waiting to be killed off. City were insistent on playing with their food.”
What we’re watching Wednesday 📺
We’re watching the NBA playoffs. Here’s how you can, too.
⚽ UEFA Champions League semifinal: Liverpool vs Villarreal, 3 p.m. on CBS and Paramount+