Sunday, July 3, 2022

Lightning strike six times in Game 3 win, plus what’s next for Kyrie Irving?

Happy Tuesday, everyone. Hope you’re well.

Right from the top, we have some breaking news to quickly hit: Brooks Koepka is the latest multiple-time major winner to join LIV Golf, per multiple reports. As our golf expert Kyle Porter explained, Koepka is “arguably the highest-profile player to join the Saudi Arabian-backed league.”

Now, to the rest of the news.

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Good morning to everyone but especially to…

THE TAMPA BAY LIGHTNING

The Tampa Bay Lightning finally found some offense and now find themselves right back in the Stanley Cup Final. After scoring three goals combined in the first two games, Tampa Bay found the back of the net twice as often in Game 3 alone, a 6-2 win over the Avalanche. The series is now 2-1 in favor of Colorado.

  • Gabriel Landeskog opened scoring for Colorado, but Anthony Cirelli and Ondrej Palat answered back to make it 2-1, Tampa Bay, after one period. In the second period, Nicholas Paul made it 3-1 before Landeskog pulled another one back for the visitors.
  • It was all Tampa Bay from there to close out the period: Steven Stamkos, Pat Maroon and Corey Perry all provided tallies to give the game its final score.
  • Andrei Vasilevskiy was back to his normal self with 37 saves on 39 shots faced.

The Lightning are the first team to win a Stanley Cup Final game after losing the previous game in the series by seven or more since 1919.

And it was the exact response the Lightning needed — not just the result, but the re-emergence of their stars on offense and in net. It also helped to be back home: the Lightning have won eight straight at Amalie Arena. They’ll look to keep the good times rolling in Game 4 tomorrow night.

Honorable mentions

And not such a good morning for…

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USATSI

THE BROOKLYN NETS

On Monday morning I told you the NBA never sleeps, and then just hours later it was reported that Kyrie Irving and the Nets reportedly reached an “impasse” in contract negotiations. Now the star point guard could be on the move.

The key word here is “could.” Irving may end up staying in Brooklyn because, as NBA expert Sam Quinn explains

  • Irving has a $36 million player option.

  • Irving’s options if he doesn’t opt in aren’t super appealing: The only teams that have enough cap space to sign Irving as a free agent aren’t championship contenders. Irving wants to play for a contender.
  • For several reasons (injuries, off-court distractions, etc.) Irving’s value has declined significantly, making it harder for Brooklyn — a team in win-now mode — to get an adequate return for him.

Even so, with this latest development, it’s time to look at potential trade partners. And one team that comes to mind immediately is the Los Angeles Lakers. Could they make it work? Maybe.

  • Quinn: “The Nets are not going to be interested in Russell Westbrook. Let’s get that out of the way now. … The likelier path would be a three-team deal in which some third party accepts Westbrook’s expiring contract along with whatever meager value the Lakers can muster (their unprotected first-round picks in 2027 and 2029, Austin Reaves, maybe Talen Horton-Tucker) and sends their own assets to Brooklyn.”

Of course, there are four other very intriguing (and perhaps more likely) destinations on Sam’s list. This is an excellent look at the latest drama surrounding Irving, and it may prove prescient in the coming weeks.

Not so honorable mention

NBA Mock Draft: How teams should draft based on long-term potential 🏀

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USATSI

The NBA Draft is now just two days away, and things are heating up around the league — especially regarding the No. 1 pick. Check out the odds for top overall pick from Caesars Sportsbook:

  • Jabari Smith (-130)
  • Paolo Banchero (+175)
  • Chet Holmgren (+330)

Smith had been a much bigger favorite to be the first player to hear his name called, but Banchero is making a late charge. Perhaps executives have been reading our college basketball reporter Matt Norlander? Matt just released his mock draft based on who will have the best pro career, and here’s who’s on top:

  • Norlander: “Having the Duke star at No. 1 should not be a contrarian opinion. Banchero was the best freshman in college hoops last season, he led his team to the Final Four, he has an NBA-ready body, he has a litany of skills and is one of the best passing bigs in this year’s draft. … He is the most NBA-ready player in this draft. … The fullest package.”

Smith, Holmgren and Banchero (in some order) will likely be the top three picks Thursday night. But — spoiler alert! — Matt has only two of those three in the top three of his mock draft, with one of the draft’s biggest question marks making a big leap up to third.

This was a really fun mock approached from a different angle than most others, and you should check it out.

MLB Power Rankings: Yankees one of the best teams in recent memory through mid-June ⚾

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Getty Images

News flash: The New York Yankees are good. Like, really good. Like, at their current pace, one of the best teams we’ve ever seen good. The Yankees beat the Rays 4-2 last night to improve their record to 50-17.

  • They’re the fastest team to 50 wins since the 2001 Mariners (who finished 116-46) and the seventh-fastest team to reach the milestone ever.
  • The Yankees are six games better than any other team this season and have the best run differential in MLB by 31 runs.
  • The Yankees’ offense leads MLB in runs per game, home runs and slugging percentage.
  • The Yankees’ pitching leads MLB in ERA, WHIP and strikeout-to-walk ratio.

That, of course, is a good recipe to put yourself atop Matt Snyder’s latest MLB Power Rankings. More importantly, as Snyder explains, there’s no such thing as peaking too early.

  • Snyder: “The Yankees aren’t ‘peaking early,’ because the 2014 Giants, 2016 Cubs, 2017 Astros, 2018 Red Sox and plenty of other teams throughout the long history of Major League Baseball — check out the 1984 Tigers if you wish — have already blazed the path that says you can be the best team early, stumble, and still win it all.”

Here’s the entire top five, which is unchanged from last week:

  • 1. Yankees
  • 2. Mets
  • 3. Dodgers
  • 4. Astros
  • 5. Padres

If there’s any tiny downside for Yankees fans, it’s this week’s biggest risers: The Red Sox are up from 12th to seventh. On the other hand, another AL East team is headed in the wrong direction: The Rays fell from ninth to 15th, making them this week’s biggest fallers.

NFL players entering make-or-break seasons, including one big-name QB 🏈

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It’s often said that the NFL stands for “Not For Long.” Stars one year are out of the league soon thereafter. It’s a league that moves very quickly — if you don’t produce, you get left behind.

So, which players are facing that sort of make-or-break year in 2022? Our NFL expert Chris Trapasso took a look at nine different players, and the biggest name is no surprise:

  • Trapasso:Baker Mayfield‘s career arc epitomizes how quickly the NFL evolves. … In theory, if he found himself in a better scenario than the Hue Jackson and Freddie Kitchens led environments in Cleveland, Mayfield can again become a top half of the league quarterback, like he was as recently as 2020. Is a quality situation out there for Mayfield at this juncture of the offseason?”

It could come down to that last sentence. Is there a team that wants Mayfield? CBS Sports NFL insider Jonathan Jones reported last week that Carolina had “urgency” to finalize a deal for the 2018 No. 1 overall pick, but the issue is Mayfield is due nearly $19 million this season, and Carolina wants Cleveland to pay the majority of that.

Mayfield’s slow split from Cleveland — he’s still on the Browns’ roster — has been a messy one. No matter what happens with Deshaun Watson, it doesn’t seem like Mayfield will play in Cleveland again. Will he play in Carolina, though? Will he just not play at all this year? It’s one of the league’s most intriguing subplots as the offseason rolls on.

As for eight other players entering potential make-or-break years, check out Chris’ list here.

What we’re watching Tuesday 📺

Cardinals at Brewers, 8:10 p.m. on FS1

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