Sunday, July 3, 2022

Steph Curry got a little help from his friends, plus inside Phil Mickelson’s disastrous press conference

Happy Tuesday, everyone.

Let’s get right to it.

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Good morning to everyone but especially to…

THE GOLDEN STATE WARRIORS

Stephen Curry‘s incredible play was far and away the biggest reason the NBA Finals were tied at two games apiece heading into Game 5. Finally, he got help from his friends last night. The Warriors used a huge performance from their supporting cast and a tremendous defensive effort to earn a crucial Game 5 win over Boston, 104-94.

  • Curry scored just 16 points and missed all nine of his 3-point attempts. It ends an NBA-record 233 consecutive games (regular season and postseason) with at least one made 3-pointer, stretching back to 2018.
  • Andrew Wiggins came to the rescue with 26 points and 13 rebounds; Klay Thompson had 21 points and made five of the team’s nine 3-pointers.
  • Gary Payton II (15 points) and Jordan Poole (14 points) provided boosts off the bench.

The Warriors — normally dominant in the third quarter — were outscored by 11 in that frame but made up for it by winning the fourth quarter by nine points. The fact that they could weather the storm without Curry anywhere near his best makes the win even more impressive — and highlights how great of a coach Steve Kerr is, writes NBA reporter Colin Ward-Henninger.

  • Ward-Henninger: “The Warriors’ supporting cast stepping up in a huge moment isn’t an accident. Kerr has continually made a point to get the last man on the bench a handful of minutes every few games, knowing from his own experience as a role player that going too long without seeing game action not only makes you rusty but also leaves you feeling disassociated from the team.”

Teams that win Game 5 when the NBA Finals is tied 2-2 go on to win the series 73 percent of the time. Golden State now has the chance to bump that number up Thursday night.

Honorable mentions

And not such a good morning for…

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THE BOSTON CELTICS

It finally happened: the Celtics lost consecutive games in this postseason. Entering last night, they were a perfect 7-0 in games following a loss this postseason. Now, their backs are against the wall, and they have themselves to blame.

  • The Celtics turned the ball over 18 times and are now 1-7 this postseason (0-3 this series) when they turn it over more than 15 times.
  • Boston missed its first 12 threes, the longest streak to start an NBA Finals game ever.
  • Boston went just 21-for-31 on free throws.

This was a very winnable game for Boston. If I told you before the game tipped off that…

  • The Warriors as a team would shoot 9-for-40 (22.5 percent) from three and Curry wouldn’t hit any
  • The Celtics would win the rebounding battle by eight and commit 12 fewer fouls

… you’d probably guess Boston won, maybe even easily.

That wasn’t the case, though, as nothing came easily for the visitors. The Celtics had as many turnovers (four) as field goals in the fourth quarter, perhaps exhausted by the valiant third-quarter effort. Both Jayson Tatum and Jaylen Brown played the entire third quarter and nearly all of the fourth, only coming out with 1:19 remaining when the result was no longer in doubt.

Not all is lost for the Celtics. They came back from a 3-2 series deficit against the defending champion Bucks two rounds ago and survived Game 7 against the Heat in the conference finals. But they missed a golden opportunity last night.

Not so honorable mentions

U.S. Open: Phil Mickelson’s sad press conference; who to root for this week 🏌

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The lead up to this year’s U.S. Open is unlike anything we’ve ever experienced given the number of high-profile LIV Golf players returning to more familiar surroundings at the year’s third major. The biggest name among those golfers is Phil Mickelson, who will compete in his first stateside event since January.

Mickelson met with the media on Monday, and appeared… despondent?… unsure?… tired? Take your pick. They all applied, writes our golf reporter Kyle Porter.

  • Porter: “Lefty didn’t even appear to believe what he was saying. … Mickelson walked to the microphone with the hangdog look of a man who traded something he didn’t want to lose for something he’ll never be able to keep. Gone was the bravado that has become as much a part of who he is as any shot shape or on-course strategy he’s deployed over the years. This moment in time was bereft of a man who has always desired to be at the center of the golf universe.”

Mickelson’s return is one of the biggest storylines of this week, but it’s far from the only one. Another big one: Can Rory McIlroy keep his momentum going?

  • Porter: McIlroy is your favorite on the odds board after retaining his title at the RBC Canadian Open. In his last five starts (including two majors), he’s finished 2-5-8-T18-1. He’s one of just four golfers to finish in the top 10 at three or more of the last five U.S. Opens, and he’s the No. 1 ball-striker in the world over his last 20 rounds.”

You can check out Kyle’s top 10 storylines here. In addition, be sure to check out…

You can keep up with all of our U.S. Open coverage here.

MLB Power Rankings: Reigning World Series champions making a charge ⚾

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We’re starting to get some stability atop MLB expert Matt Snyder’s MLB Power Rankings. Each of the top four teams stayed the same from last week. Here’s the top five:

  • 1. Yankees (prev. 1)
  • 2. Mets (prev. 2)
  • 3. Dodgers (prev. 3)
  • 4. Astros (prev. 4)
  • 5. Padres (prev. 6)

There’s plenty of change after that, through. The reigning World Series-champion Braves have won 12 straight — the longest winning streak of any team this season — and are this week’s biggest riser, jumping from 13th to eighth. That’s mostly thanks to their biggest star.

  • Snyder: Ronald Acuña, Jr. has only played in 33 games to this point, but just six NL players have better MVP odds. Keep an eye on him.”

Atlanta has scored 6.9 runs per game during its winning streak, tied for second-most in the majors, only behind the Yankees. On the other end of the spectrum are the Brewers. Over that same span, Milwaukee is scoring 2.9 runs per game, second-fewest in all of baseball, and has a 2-9 record. They’re down from seventh to 15th in the Power Rankings.

  • Snyder: “This might seem an overly aggressive plummet, but… there’s a big group of teams all bunched together here. Plus, there are all kinds of concerns. The rotation is banged up and struggling, the offense is uninspiring and the bullpen isn’t nearly as deep as a few years ago.”

Breakout NFL candidates for the 2022 season 🏈

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Lots of NFL teams are in the middle of — or have already completed — mandatory minicamp. It’s the last time they’ll meet as a (mostly) complete team before training camp gets underway in late July. Naturally, that means now is the perfect time to start identifying some breakout candidates.

Our NFL expert Chris Trapasso took a look at five third-year players primed to make a leap, and I couldn’t agree more with his first choice: Broncos wideout Jerry Jeudy.

  • Trapasso: “The big year was coming in 2021, right? Maybe. But we’ll never know because injuries derailed it. And now Jeudy has Russell Wilson throwing him the ball? HELLO. … Jeudy’s famously sharp route-running skills will get him open at the intermediate level and down the field for Wilson all season in what will amount to the leap we all saw coming.”

Chris also took a look at some under-the-radar players who will put up big numbers in their contract year.

What we’re watching Tuesday 📺

Rays at Yankees, 7:05 p.m. on TBS

🏀 Storm at Lynx, 9 p.m. on ESPN

El Salvador vs US men’s national team, 10 p.m. on FS1

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