Happy Wednesday and happy June, everyone! Hope you’re doing well.
Let’s get right to it.
Good morning to everyone but especially to…
ALL OF US, FOR BEING FEWER THAN 100 DAYS AWAY FROM THE NFL BEING BACK!
Rejoice, NFL fans! Yesterday marked 100 days until the NFL season kicks off with what should be an absolutely awesome game between the Bills and Rams. And what better way is there to celebrate than by reading our NFL expert Cody Benjamin’s 100 things to know for the upcoming season? I would say there’s no better way.
There is a ton of great stuff in Cody’s piece, so picking just a few is really hard. Here’s the headline for the AFC:
- Benjamin: “The Bills are arguably the hottest preseason pick to take over the throne. Caesars Sportsbook has Buffalo as the early favorite to win Super Bowl LVII… Most of the Bills hype revolves around quarterback Josh Allen, who happens to be Caesars’ preseason MVP favorite. … The Chiefs have been the Bills’ kryptonite during Buffalo’s transformation to contender. Kansas City beat Buffalo in the 2020 AFC Championship, then edged the Bills 42-36 in the divisional round of the 2021 playoffs.”
I absolutely love what Buffalo has done this offseason, from extending Stefon Diggs to signing Von Miller to drafting Kaiir Elam (and plenty of other good moves), and I wouldn’t be surprised for another Bills-Chiefs thriller in the playoffs. Just remember, though, the AFC is much deeper than just those teams: there’s the defending conference champion Bengals as well as the Ravens, Chargers, Broncos, Raiders, Dolphins and plenty of other contenders who made big win-now moves this offseason.
Meanwhile in the NFC, the Packers have a new look, but that might not be a bad thing.
- Benjamin: “In Green Bay, star QB and reigning MVP Aaron Rodgers will have to navigate his first season without Davante Adams since 2013. Rookie Christian Watson, a second-round pick out of NDSU, could quickly become a go-to target on the outside. … One area in which Green Bay should be improved is on defense, where star corner Jaire Alexander is healthier and newly paid, and rookie newcomers Quay Walker and Devonte Wyatt should give the front seven more juice.”
Cody’s article was a fun read and a great way to catch up on anything you may have missed this offseason.
… AND ALSO A GOOD MORNING TO RAFAEL NADAL
Rafael Nadal took a huge step in his quest for an absurd 14th French Open title yesterday, beating top seed Novak Djokovic in four sets 6-2, 4-6, 6-2, 7-6 (7-4) to advance to the semifinals.
- Nadal trailed 3-0 in the third set and later broke Djokovic when the Serbian star was up 5-3 and serving to force a fifth set. Shortly thereafter, Nadal dominated the tiebreaker.
- Nadal is now a ridiculous 110-3 at Roland Garros in his career.
- Nadal’s 13 French Open championships are more than double the next-closest man in the Open Era: Bjorn Borg with six.
Up next for Nadal: world No. 3 Alexander Zverev on Friday, which is also Nadal’s 36th birthday.
- LIV Golf got a big, surprising boost: Dustin Johnson will be in the field next week.
- Blue Jays catcher/DH Alejandro Kirk finished an incredible May with two more home runs.
- College basketball reporter Gary Parrish‘s latest Top 25 And 1 has plenty of movement.
NBA Finals preview: Can Celtics’ defense slow down Warriors? Plus why Boston can pull off the upset 🏆
We’re now just a day away from the NBA Finals tipping off, and as promised in yesterday’s newsletter, we have plenty of preview content for you. Let’s start with what this series likely hinges on: Can the Celtics’ outstanding defense slow down the Warriors’ high-powered offense?
Boston has the second-best defensive rating this playoffs — only behind Milwaukee — while Golden State has the postseason’s top offensive rating. Our NBA scribe James Herbert examined that exact question.
- Herbert: “For months, the Celtics have been the most balanced team in the NBA, and, against Miami, they showed that they’re more than happy to win games in the mud. The Golden State Warriors are pretty balanced themselves, though, and the trio of Stephen Curry, Draymond Green and Klay Thompson has scrambled superb defenses before. The Heat have skilled improvisers in Jimmy Butler and Kyle Lowry, and they are sort of Warriors-like in the way that they try to free up their shooters and pass out of the post, but no one does Golden State things with the speed, shooting and sheer conviction of Golden State.”
Overall, the Warriors are slight favorites to win it all, but Boston certainly has the versatility, personnel and toughness to pull off the upset. NBA expert Brad Botkin detailed three specific advantages the Celtics have, including…
- Botkin: “If Jayson Tatum, who was awesome creating shots for teammates down the stretch in Game 7, and Jaylen Brown are able to use the attention they draw to set up teammates for clean looks, the Warriors, who don’t like to double team, are going to have a dilemma on their hands asking Curry and/or Jordan Poole to guard straight up, whereas Boston has far fewer defensive pressure points (I would argue it doesn’t have any) for Golden State to press on.”
Avalanche take wild Game 1; plus, our experts’ conference final picks 🏒
If you like scoring, Oilers-Avalanche is going to be the series for you. Colorado took Game 1 last night 8-6 with 13 different players lighting the lamp at least once.
- The 14 combined goals are tied for third-most ever in a playoff game.
- Colorado’s J.T. Compher was the only player to score multiple goals while Cale Makar (one goal, two assists) had a team-high three points.
- Edmonton superstar Connor McDavid had a goal and two assists.
- Both teams saw their starting goalies leave early. Colorado’s Darcy Kuemper suffered an upper-body injury while Edmonton’s Mike Smith was pulled in the second period after allowing six goals on 25 shots.
- Bengel: “It’s just not a smart strategy to bet against goaltender Andrei Vasilevskiy, who is establishing himself as an all-time great. In his last seven series-clinching starts, Vasilevskiy has surrendered one goal on 200 shots. That’s just mind-boggling. Pick — Lightning beat Rangers 4-2“
Key players making NBA Draft decision today 🏀
The deadline for players to decide whether they will stay in the 2022 NBA Draft or not is here, and while most players have announced their intentions, there are some big names who have not.
Our college basketball expert Kyle Boone identified seven players facing tough stay-or-go decisions, and that list has already been cut down to six after Arizona standout Dalen Terry decided he will remain in the NBA Draft pool. Two of the players on Boone’s list could vault their team to a preseason No. 1 ranking if they decide to return.
- Boone: “Gonzaga is losing Chet Holmgren but still awaiting decisions from both Julian Strawther and Drew Timme as the deadline approaches. … Both Strawther and Timme have real appeal in the NIL market, though, with Timme being arguably the most recognizable name in college hoops and Strawther, should he go back to school, possessing potential to be a true breakout star in college hoops next season with a bigger role.”
You can see Boone’s entire list here.
What we’re watching Wednesday 📺
⛳ The Match 2022: Tom Brady and Aaron Rodgers vs Patrick Mahomes and Josh Allen, 7 p.m. on TNT
⚾ Angels at Yankees, 7:05 p.m. on FS1
⚽ USMNT vs Morocco, 7:30 p.m. on ESPN 2
🏒 Eastern Conference Final Game 1: Lightning at Rangers, 8 p.m. on ESPN