Happy Wednesday, everyone!
Let’s get right to it.
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Good morning to everyone but especially to…
THE MEMPHIS GRIZZLIES…
Welcome to the Ja Morant experience, Golden State. You weren’t the first to see it live and up close, and you won’t be the last. The Grizzlies and Warriors will head to San Francisco with their series tied at one apiece after Memphis’ 106-101 win.
- Morant scored 47 points, including his team’s final 15 in a row. He joins Kobe Bryant and LeBron James as the only players in NBA history with multiple 45-point playoff games before turning 23.
- The Grizzlies’ next-highest scorer was Ziaire Williams with 14 points.
- For the Warriors, Stephen Curry had 27 points and Jordan Poole had 20 off the bench. But Golden State shot just 7-for-38 (18 percent) from three, its worst mark ever in a playoff game (min. 20 attempts).
The Warriors also had to play much of the game without Gary Payton II, who fractured his elbow after getting Flagrant-2 fouled by Dillon Brooks, who was ejected as a result. Oh, and Draymond Green flipped off the crowd after taking an elbow to the face.
Yeah, a lot happened. But the big takeaway is Morant, who willed Memphis to a crucial win. This effort will be remembered for a long time.
… AND ALSO A GOOD MORNING TO THE BOSTON CELTICS
Last night, the Celtics showed why they had the NBA’s best regular-season defense, and they did it even with Defensive Player of the Year Marcus Smart watching from the bench. Boston dominated on both ends and evened the series 1-1 with a 109-86 win over the Bucks.
- Jaylen Brown was absolutely locked in and scored 30 points on 11-for-18 shooting. Jayson Tatum added 29 points and a team-high eight assists.
- Grant Williams was huge on both ends, scoring 21 points and defending Giannis Antetokounmpo extremely well.
- Speaking of Antetokounmpo, he scored 28 points but on just 11-for-27 shooting. He also had six turnovers.
- Boston made 20 threes. Milwaukee made three.
Antetokounmpo is quickly finding out what Kevin Durant found out in the first round: Boston can and will guard you with almost anyone. But it’s far more than just the individual defense that shines. Boston’s team defense is exceptional, with active hands and on-time rotations. On the other end, Boston’s outside shooting opened up things inside as the game wore on, NBA expert Sam Quinn notes.
- Quinn: “Boston outscored Milwaukee by 51 points from deep, but what’s more, that hot shooting helped the Celtics find easier points in the first half. Milwaukee grew so afraid of Boston’s shooting that its defense finally started to close out on open Celtics. Boston retaliated with an incredible half of ball movement to create easy looks that took advantage of Milwaukee’s scattered defense.”
- Last night’s NHL winners: Penguins (in triple OT!), Capitals, Avalanche and Flames.
- Tyler Herro won NBA Sixth Man of the Year.
- Joel Embiid is improving and could return for Game 3.
- South Dakota State star Baylor Scheierman has transferred to Creighton, which puts the Bluejays 10th in Gary Parrish’s Top 25 And 1.
- The Yankees‘ win streak is up to 11.
- Watch Bobby Witt Jr. hit his first career home run.
And not such a good morning for…
Ryan Tannehill had plenty to say when meeting with reporters yesterday, including…
- He was “hurt” by the A.J. Brown trade
- He wasn’t informed of the Titans’ plan to take Malik Willis, and it’s not his job to mentor Willis.
- He was in a “dark place” following the Titans’ playoff loss to the Bengals in which he threw three interceptions, and therapy helped him out.
I’ll work backward and start by saying good on Tannehill for speaking openly on his mental health and the importance of therapy. Mental health has featured more prominently in sports recently, and that’s largely because athletes themselves have been more willing to open up. Too often, athletes are treated as just numbers on a box score instead of, you know, human beings. Good on Tannehill for getting help and sharing his experience.
As for the rest, Tannehill’s comments regarding Willis remind me a bit of Joe Flacco‘s reaction when the Ravens selected Lamar Jackson. By season’s end, Jackson was the starter. They are different situations, but the sentiment is the same. What if Tannehill misses a game or two this season, and his mentorship could have helped his team with Willis filling in? Eventually Tannehill, like Flacco, will be a veteran mentor. Hall of Famer Kurt Warner wasn’t a fan of the comments, either.
The Brown trade still surprises me. I can understand why Tannehill, in a potential “prove it” year, wasn’t a fan of that.
Not so honorable mentions
- Sorry, Pitt. Biletnikoff Award-winning wide receiver Jordan Addison is in the transfer portal.
- Former top prospect Jo Adell has been demoted to Triple-A.
Second-half surge powers Liverpool to UCL Final; Previewing Real Madrid-Manchester City ⚽
For 45 minutes, Villarreal looked like they had yet another upset brewing. Forty-five minutes later, Liverpool had restored order in emphatic fashion. The Reds scored three second-half goals yesterday to beat Villarreal 3-2 in the second leg of their Champions League semifinal tie and 5-2 on aggregate. The Reds await the winner of Real Madrid-Manchester City.
- Boulaye Dia and Francis Coquelin scored first-half goals to even the aggregate 2-2.
- But in the second half, Fabinho (62′), Luis Díaz (67′) and Sadio Mané (74′) all found the back of the net for Liverpool.
It was Díaz — subbed on at halftime — who revived a fatigued Liverpool squad, writes soccer reporter James Benge.
- Benge: “Moments after Fabinho had restored their advantage in the tie, Díaz was on hand to deliver the knockout blow for Villarreal. Twenty one games into his Liverpool career the Colombian has already earned a spot in the illustrious annals of this club’s history. He’s the man who saved them from a potentially great humiliation on the European stage.”
It should come as no surprise that he earned the highest mark in our player ratings.
Post-draft NFL Power Rankings: Who’s on the rise? 🏈
We’re a few days removed from the NFL Draft, and that means it’s time for Pete Prisco’s first NFL Power Rankings since mid-February. While the Rams didn’t have much draft capital — their biggest headline was how they reacted to another team’s pick — Prisco by rule keeps the defending champs on top, so that’s where they stay. Here’s the top five:
- 1. Rams (last: 1)
- 2. Bills (last: 3)
- 3. Chiefs (last: 4)
- 4. Packers (last: 5)
- 5. Buccaneers (last: 9)
While the biggest jump belonged to the Commanders (from 25 to 13), the Broncos also jumped double-digit spots (from 19 to 8):
- Prisco: “Adding Russell Wilson via trade immediately changed the entire outlook for this team. With a ton of talent on both sides of the ball, and now a franchise quarterback, they can push for a division title and a lot more.”
On the opposite end of things, the Titans were Prisco’s biggest faller, going from 6 to 16.
Changes coming to men’s college basketball schedule? 🏀
There could be big changes coming to the men’s college basketball schedule as soon as 2023-24, according to our insider Matt Norlander.
- Norlander: “Twenty-two of Division I’s 32 conferences have been receptive to an ambitious scheduling concept that would introduce back-to-back non-league games played just a few weeks prior to Selection Sunday, WAC commissioner Brian Thornton and WAC associate commissioner Drew Speraw told CBS Sports. The selling point of these out-of-conference matchups would be to pit projected NCAA Tournament candidates, in addition to bona fide bubble teams, against each other.”
Here are the details:
- The conferences would pause play for one week in February.
- Every involved team gets one home game and one away game.
- Matchups would be determined by an algorithm in late January.
- This would not involve the major-conferences (ACC, Big 12, Big East, Big Ten, Pac-12, SEC).
It could be a huge opportunity for some of the nation’s best squads who normally don’t get much conference-play exposure. Here’s what it could have looked like this past season:
- Colorado State-Davidson
- Memphis-Saint Mary’s
- Boise State-Davidson
I’d sign up for that.
What we’re watching Wednesday 📺
- We’re watching the NBA playoffs. Here’s how you can, too.
- We’re also watching the NHL playoffs. Here’s how you can, too.
⚽ UEFA Champions League: Real Madrid vs. Manchester City, 3 p.m. on CBS and Paramount+