Saturday, July 2, 2022

Celtics take control of ECF over hobbled Heat, plus Colin Kaepernick gets a real chance at NFL return

Happy Thursday all!

Let’s get right to it.

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Good morning to everyone but especially to…

THE BOSTON CELTICS

If you want to see why the Celtics are such a complete team, last night was the perfect encapsulation. Trailing Miami 42-37 after a sluggish first half, Boston unleashed its full wrath on both ends in the second half, earning a 93-80 win to take a 3-2 series lead.

  • Jaylen Brown had a team-high 25 points (19 in the second half), and Jayson Tatum added 22 points (18 in the second half), 12 rebounds and nine assists.
  • Brown and Tatum combined for 37 points in the second half. The Heat as a team had 38.

The difference between these two squads is evident. Tatum and Brown are excellent scorers who can create (and make) their own shots, even against Miami’s terrific defense. On the other hand, for the second straight game it was clear Miami doesn’t have enough offensively with Tyler Herro out and Jimmy Butler and Kyle Lowry not fully healthy. Combine that with dreadful outside shooting and Boston’s outstanding defense, and you get downright ugly results like last night.

  • Miami shot 31.9 percent overall, its worst in any game since Jan. 20, 2010. The starters that night: Dwyane Wade, Michael Beasley, Rafer Alston, Jermaine O’Neal and Quentin Richardson.
  • Miami shot 7-for-45 (15.6 percent) on 3-pointers, second-worst in a playoff game in NBA history (min. 40 attempts).
  • Butler: 13 points, 4-for-18 shooting
  • Lowry: 0 points, 0-for-6 shooting
  • Max Strus: 4 points, 0-for-9 shooting
  • Victor Oladipo: 3 points, 1-for-7 shooting

Teams that win Game 5 of a series tied 2-2 go on to win the series 82 percent of the time. Given the way the Celtics have dominated the last two games — and the history on their side — they’re well on their way toward earning their first NBA Finals appearance since 2010.

Honorable mentions

And not such a good morning for…

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KYRIE IRVING

Technically, Kyrie Irving has a player option this summer. If he wants to stay in Brooklyn, though, he might not have much of a choice. According to a report, the Nets are unwilling to offer Irving a long-term extension.

Irving’s COVID-19 vaccination status prevented him from playing home games for much of the campaign. Brooklyn, the preseason favorite to win the title, earned the 7 seed in the playoffs before being swept by the Celtics in the first round. Still, with Irving, Kevin Durant and a healthy Ben Simmons, the Nets would be among the favorites to win it all next season… if they can get that trio there. 

Therefore, the Nets’ approach comes with plenty of risks, writes NBA scribe Jasmyn Wimbish.

  • Wimbish: “If Irving declines his player option and the Nets come to the table with a new contract he doesn’t like, Brooklyn would be taking the gamble of losing him for nothing. That’s a sizable risk to take, and it could have ripple effects on Durant’s desire to stay in Brooklyn if Irving — part of Durant’s reason for signing there in the first place — is no longer with the team. Durant hasn’t talked to Nets management since the team was bounced in the first round of the playoffs… and while that might be nothing, it could also be a sign of his frustration.”

This is all a complete 180 from the Nets’ stance entering this season, when GM Sean Marks said he was confident Irving would sign an extension before training camp. Then again, Marks also said he was confident James Harden would sign an extension … and we know how that worked out (it didn’t work out).

Not so honorable mentions

  • Two more Yankees went to the IL as their injuries pile up.
  • Naomi Osaka lost to Amanda Anisimova in the first round of the French Open

Colin Kaepernick gets a workout with the Raiders 🏈

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Colin Kaepernick worked out with the Raiders Wednesday. It was his first visit — much less his first workout — with a team in over five years.

  • Kaepernick, 34, has not played in an NFL game since Jan. 1, 2017. He stirred controversy when he protested police brutality by kneeling during the national anthem.
  • In 2019, Kaepernick and former teammate Eric Reid settled their collusion case against the NFL for less than $10 million.
  • Kaepernick went 28-30 as a starter for the 49ers and led them to a Super Bowl appearance in 2012. He also led them to an NFC Championship appearance in 2013.
  • In his final season, Kaepernick went 1-10 as a starter despite throwing 16 touchdowns and just four interceptions. San Francisco finished 2-14.

The Raiders aren’t exactly quarterback-needy, with starter Derek Carr fresh off a contract extension and offseason acquisitions Nick Mullens, Jared Stidham and Chase Garbers behind him. Still, this represents a significant step for Kaepernick’s comeback, even if it isn’t with Las Vegas. He has repeatedly expressed his desire to return to the NFL and last month said he’d be willing to return as a backup. Perhaps yesterday, that process finally started in earnest.

Which teams improved most through the transfer portal? 🏈

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Thousands of FBS players entered the transfer portal this offseason. I would give you an exact number, but it would probably be outdated by the time you finish reading this sentence.

Still, the vast majority of key players to hit the portal — including the top 51 of 247Sports’ transfer rankings — have found a new home, and that means it’s time to assess which teams improved the most through the portal. Our college football expert Shehan Jeyarajah has his top five, and it’s no surprise who comes in at No. 1.

  • Jeyarajah:1. USC — Quarterback Caleb Williams is the story after following Riley from Oklahoma, but Biletnikoff-winning receiver Jordan Addison made headlines after joining the Trojans last week. The combination immediately rivals C.J. Stroud and Jaxon Smith-Njigba among the best QB-WR combos in college football. Additionally, don’t think Riley skimped on defense. Eleven defenders are coming to Los Angeles via the transfer portal.”

You can check out the entire top five here.

Who’s traveling the most in the 2022 NFL season? ✈️

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There are lots of ways to assess an NFL team’s schedule. You can do it by opponent win percentage, but if you only look at that, last year, you would have thought a game against the Bengals would be an easy win. Then Cincinnati made the Super Bowl. You can try to identify key stretches, like several division games in a row or a stretch of particularly tough/easy opponents. The list is endless.

One interesting way is to look at which teams are traveling the least and most this season, and that’s exactly what our John Breech has done. Here are the teams racking up the most miles:

  • 1. Buccaneers: 26,562
  • 2. Seahawks: 25,936
  • 3. Broncos: 24,842
  • 4. Jaguars: 24,732
  • 5. Saints: 23,312

Of course a big part of this is the international games. Each of the top five teams in terms of miles traveled are heading across the pond this season.

And here’s the bottom of the list:

  • 28. Bears: 8,932
  • 29. Browns: 8,628
  • 30. Lions: 8,296
  • 31. Ravens: 8,244
  • 32. Steelers: 6,512

You can see every team’s ranking here.

What we’re watching Thursday 📺

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