Tuesday, July 5, 2022

Bucks, Warriors earn Game 1 road wins, plus the Stanley Cup Playoffs start tonight and NFL Draft grades

Happy Monday all, and happy May! Hope you’re doing well.

Let’s get right to it.

Good morning to everyone but especially to…

THE MILWAUKEE BUCKS

The Celtics had the league’s best defense this season, but yesterday, the Bucks showed they can get it done on that end, too. Milwaukee shut down Boston’s offense to earn a 101-89 Game 1 win.

  • Giannis Antetokounmpo had a triple-double — 24 points, 13 rebounds, 12 assists — while Jrue Holiday led the team with 25 points.
  • After scoring 68.5 points per game in the first round, Jayson Tatum, Jaylen Brown and Marcus Smart combined for just 43 points on 13-for-42 shooting (31 percent).
  • The Celtics made 10 — yes, 10 — 2-point field goals, second-fewest ever in an NBA playoff game.

The Bucks give up a ton of 3-pointers — the most in the league, in fact — but their dominant interior defense more than makes up for it, as was the case yesterday. Here’s NBA scribe Brad Botkin on Milwaukee’s unique scheme and how they stopped Boston in Game 1.

  • Botkin:Even when the Celtics did reach the paint, they were not doing so on their terms. At best they had maybe a half step on the defender trailing hard over the screen with a rotating big in front of them; at worst they were out of control, off balance and barely holding on to the ball. Boston wants clean drive and kicks, but Milwaukee was stoning them to such a degree that the kick-out passes were more like bailout passes.

… AND ALSO A GOOD MORNING TO THE GOLDEN STATE WARRIORS

Jordan Poole Getty Klay Thompson Golden State Warriors

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Yesterday, we saw the newest Warriors star shine again and an older star remind us he’s still got it. Jordan Poole scored a team-high 31 points off the bench and Klay Thompson nailed the game-winning 3-pointer with less than a minute left as Golden State beat Memphis 117-116 in Game 1. Ja Morant missed a potential game-winning layup at the buzzer.

This game was highly entertaining throughout, with Morant and Jaren Jackson Jr. trading buckets with Poole, Thompson and Stephen Curry down the stretch. Not in the mix late, though, was Draymond Green, who got ejected for a controversial Flagrant 2 foul in the second quarter.

Poole’s rise to stardom includes him being much more than just a scorer pens NBA expert Colin Ward-Henninger.

  • Ward-Henninger: “It’s gotten to the point that Poole is basically as trustworthy as Stephen Curry as a playmaker, leading Draymond Green to call him the team’s ‘No. 1 option’ while Curry was coming off an injury in their first-round series against the Nuggets. … We’ve already seen how his scoring has raised the Warriors’ ceiling, but Poole’s playmaking is absolutely crucial to their offensive success, especially when he shares the floor with Curry and Thompson.”

Honorable mentions:

And not such a good morning for…

JOEL EMBIID AND THE PHILADELPHIA 76ERS

Joel Embiid Getty Philadelphia 76ers Sixers

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If the 76ers are to make the Eastern Conference Finals for the first time since 2001, they’ll have to do it without Joel Embiid — at least for the first two games — against the Heat. Philadelphia’s superstar center suffered a right orbital bone fracture and mild concussion in the 76ers’ closeout Game 6 win against the Raptors

  • There’s optimism Embiid could be back by Game 3.
  • The injury came with four minutes remaining of the game. Philadelphia was up 29 points.
  • Embiid was already playing through a torn ligament in his right thumb.

This is a major bummer for Embiid, and it’s not the first time he’s dealt with injuries in the playoffs:

  • 2018: Broken left orbital bone shortly before playoffs
  • 2019: Left knee tendinitis and stomach bug/flu-like symptoms
  • 2021: Meniscus tear in right knee

Now the question is: How do the 76ers make up for Embiid’s absence? James Harden must step up writes Botkin.

  • Botkin: “Harden will still need to generate open looks for the likes of Tobias Harris and create opportunities for Tyrese Maxey to attack against a shifting defense, but without Embiid, the Sixers need Harden to score, and score big, at least once. One 35-40 point game. Yes, we understand that’s no easy task against an elite Miami defense, but it’s not an unreasonable ask of a guy who the Sixers are probably going to sign to a max contract this summer.”

Stanley Cup Playoffs start tonight: Picks, predictions and more

Tampa Bay Lightning Getty 2021 Stanley Cup

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The Stanley Cup Playoffs start tonight, and there’s just something about the intensity of playoff hockey that I absolutely love.

Hockey expert Chris Bengel is here to get you ready with all the burning questions for top contenders, including the biggest for one of the league’s most talented teams: Can the Maple Leafs finally advance past the first round?

Fellow hockey analyst Austin Nivison says it might just be their year to do much more than that.

  • Nivison: “He has been one of the best players in the league since his rookie season in 2016-17, but Auston Matthews has played at an MVP level this season. … If Matthews plays like a Conn Smythe Award contender, and there’s no reason to believe he won’t, Toronto has a great shot to get out of the first round and make a run at the Stanley Cup.”

Here are your first-round matchups, by the way:

ATLANTIC

  • Panthers vs. Capitals
  • Maple Leafs vs. Lightning

METROPOLITAN

  • Hurricanes vs. Bruins
  • Rangers vs. Penguins

CENTRAL

  • Avalanche vs Predators
  • Wild vs. Blues

PACIFIC

  • Flames vs. Stars
  • Oilers vs. Kings

Here are the series ranked most to least entertaining, and here are our experts’ picks for the first round winners and Stanley Cup champion.

NFL Draft winners and losers, plus steals, reaches and more

Kyle Hamilton Getty Baltimore Ravens 2022 NFL Draft

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Another NFL Draft is in the books, and it was a doozy. From Travon Walker going first overall to Jacksonville to Brock Purdy becoming “Mr. Irrelevant” with the 49ers, we got plenty of surprises, and we, of course, have plenty of takeaways.

So, who were the winners and losers? If you remember from Friday’s newsletter, the Jets and Giants were the big winners from the first round. Overall, though, neither of those teams were among the seven that earned a grade in the “A” range from NFL Draft expert Chris Trapasso. Here are the ones who did:

  • Cardinals
  • Ravens
  • Browns
  • Lions
  • Chiefs
  • Seahawks
  • Titans

You can check out all of Chris’ grades here.

Meanwhile, the Ravens not only earned an A- from Chris but also got one of the draft’s biggest steals, writes NFL expert Tyler Sullivan.

  • Sullivan: “Baltimore had Kyle Hamilton fall into its lap at No. 14 overall in the first round on Thursday night. Out of all of the players in this class, the Notre Dame safety was the No. 1 overall prospect on CBS Sports NFL Draft expert Chris Trapasso’s final big board. At 6-foot-4, 220 pounds, he possesses great size and length at the position and should be able to come in and immediately make an impact in this Ravens secondary.”

Our NFL writers did an amazing job throughout the draft, and you’ll want to read all of their work if you haven’t already. Some more of my favorites:

Jon Rahm wins Mexico Open

John Rahm Getty Mexico Open

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Jon Rahm is in the win column for the first time in nearly a year following a one-stroke victory over Brandon Wu, Tony Finau and Kurt Kitayama at the Mexico Open. It’s Rahm’s seventh career PGA Tour triumph.

Rahm’s been in the midst of an up-and-down season — he finished T55 at THE PLAYERS and T27 at The Masters — but this wire-to-wire win could give him some momentum writes golf reporter Patrick McDonald.

  • McDonald: “Rahm has a long way to go in terms of sharpness with his short game, but in between the ears, he may be closer than it appears. … A fully in-sync Rahm has always been a dangerous prospect for the competition, but rarely have we seen him at ease. And if he truly has shed the baggage of the past year, he becomes all the more lethal heading into the meat of the PGA Tour schedule.”

What we’re watching Monday

And also… the NHL playoffs:

🏒 Bruins at Hurricanes, 7 p.m. on ESPN

🏒 Lightning at Maple Leafs, 7:30 p.m. on ESPN2

🏒 Blues at Wild, 9:30 p.m. on ESPN

🏒 Kings at Oilers, 10 p.m. on ESPN2

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