Saturday, May 18, 2024
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Nuggets, Knicks storm back with dramatic game-winners; Examining 76ers, Lakers collapse

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🏀 Good morning to everyone but especially …

THE DENVER NUGGETS AND THE NEW YORK KNICKS

Jamal Murray. The Denver Nuggets. What more can I say?

Denver stormed back from a 20-point deficit to beat the Lakers 101-99 on Murray’s buzzer-beater over the outstretched right arm of Anthony Davis to take a 2-0 series lead.

  • After trailing 68-48 in the third quarter, Denver outscored Los Angeles 53-31 the rest of the way.
  • Murray himself outscored Los Angeles 6-2 in the final minute, fittingly hitting jumpers over both LeBron James and
    Davis. Isabel Gonzalez has a great piece on the Nuggets’ cold-blooded point guard.
  • Nikola Jokic finished with 27 points, 20 rebounds and 10 assists. It’s his fourth career 25/20/10 playoff game. Everyone else in NBA history has combined for four. So, yeah, not bad!

As Hall-of-Fame coach Rudy Tomjanovich once said, “Don’t ever underestimate the heart of a champion.” The reigning champs showed they have plenty of heart in their quest for a repeat.

That was the craziest finish of the night, although the nearly 20,000 fans at Madison Square Garden might disagree. The Knicks have officially brought magic back to The Garden. In an absolutely wild comeback/76ers collapse (really both), New York flipped a 101-96 deficit in under 30 seconds to a 104-101 win and a 2-0 series lead.

Sam Quinn broke down the last minute.

  • Kyle Lowry made a free throw to put the visitors up five, but Jalen Brunson got a friendly bounce on a 3-pointer to cut New York’s deficit to two with 27.1 seconds left.
  • Lowry then threw a risky inbounds pass to Tyrese Maxey, who got the ball poked away, recovered it, fell to the ground and threw the ball away in the process, opting not to call (or forgetting he had) a timeout.
  • Donte DiVincenzo missed a wide-open 3-pointer, but Isaiah Hartenstein got the offensive rebound in between four different 76ers, and DiVincenzo cashed his second chance, putting New York ahead, 101-100.
  • Hartenstein blocked Maxey on the other end, OG Anunoby made two free throws, and Joel Embiid‘s heave at the buzzer went begging.

The Knicks are up 2-0 despite massive struggles from Brunson, their leading scorer, and the absence of Julius Randle, their second-leading scorer. Instead, they have unsung heroes like the tireless Josh Hart (21 points, 15 rebounds), the opportunistic, efficient Hartenstein (18 points, eight rebounds) and, of course, DiVincenzo (19 points). James Herbert has more on just how integral DiVincenzo is to New York.

👍 Honorable mentions

😬 And not such a good morning for …

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THE LOS ANGELES LAKERS AND THE PHILADELPHIA 76ERS

The ending was all too fitting: Murray being mobbed by his teammates inches from Davis, who could only pick himself up and sulk away.

For so much of the night, Davis had been brilliant, but he went scoreless and took just one shot in the fourth quarter. Even James’ greatness — 12 fourth-quarter points — couldn’t make up for that, and James’ wide-open miss with 16 seconds left proved to be another missed opportunity.

Simply put, the Lakers went away from everything that was working, Sam Quinn writes. And here are the three biggest mistakes Darvin Ham made. Now, a team the Lakers sought out after last year’s sweep is halfway to sweeping them again.

Speaking of meltdowns, we’ve seen a lot of them from the 76ers. This one might be the worst. But it was much more than the last minute that sunk the 76ers.

  • Embiid isn’t close to 100%. While 34 points is nothing to sneeze at, he needed 29 shots to get there, and he wasn’t his normal, dominant self at either end. New York nabbed 12 offensive rebounds and outscored Philadelphia 40-28 in the paint.
  • Still, the struggles when Embiid exits remain. Philadelphia outscored New York by three in Embiid’s 39 minutes and got outscored by six in the nine minutes he sat. He’s being pushed beyond his brink, but the 76ers have no chance without him.
  • The non-Embiid, non-Maxey (35 points, 10 assists) players shot 12 for 33 (36%) from the floor.
  • The referees didn’t help — the 76ers plan to file a grievance — but you often create your own luck … or lack thereof.

It’s the same story every postseason. Embiid is hobbled. The supporting cast isn’t good enough. They can’t close. Postgame, Embiid had the audacity to say, “We should be 2-0. We’re good. We’re going to win this series.”

Should be gets you nowhere. Embiid and the 76ers should know that better than anyone.

👎 Not so honorable mentions

🏈 NFL Draft: Our latest (and nearly last) mock drafts

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We’re just two days away from the NFL Draft, and Ryan Wilson has submitted his penultimate mock: what teams should do. Here’s Ryan’s top five:

  1. Bears: QB Caleb Williams — “This hasn’t changed since last August, and I never understood why any other player was in the QB1 conversation …”
  2. Commanders: QB Jayden Daniels — “No player improved more over the last 12 months …”
  3. Patriots: QB Drake Maye —If the Patriots can be patient … he’ll have a chance to be really good.”
  4. Cardinals: WR Marvin Harrison Jr. — “NFL evaluators know how good he is …”
  5. Chargers: WR Malik Nabers — “Nabers has Ja’Marr Chase-type potential from the moment he steps onto an NFL field …”

Interestingly, Ryan says quarterback-needy teams sitting outside the top three should see who falls, not trade up. That means five quarterbacks go in the top 12 of this mock. R.J. White, meanwhile, has a trade-filled mock and his favorite draft prop bets.

Quarterback has been the talk of the draft for months, and the headlines keep coming.

But there’s plenty of talent among players who rush the quarterback, too. Former Vikings GM Rick Spielman divided top edge rushers into tiers, with NFL comparisons and best fits.

🏌 Scottie Scheffler wins RBC Heritage, his fourth win in five events

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Not even Mother Nature can stop Scottie Scheffler. The world No. 1 finished off a three-stroke victory at the RBC Heritage on Monday, becoming the first player since Tiger Woods in 2006 to win an event the week after winning a major and the first player to win four PGA Tour events in a five-start span since Woods in 2007.

In the last month and a half, Scheffler has …

  • Won the Arnold Palmer Invitational
  • Won The Players Championship
  • Tied for second at the Houston Open
  • Won the Masters
  • Won the RBC Heritage

… and netted a cool $16.25 million.

Simply put, Scheffler is playing as well as anyone has since peak Woods, Kyle Porter writes.

  • Porter: “39 and 67.5: Scheffler has opened the season with — count ’em — 39 consecutive rounds at par or better. His scoring average is currently 67.50. The PGA Tour record for scoring average in a season is 67.79 by Tiger.”

At this point, Scheffler not winning would be bigger news than him winning. With the PGA Championship next month, it’s not unreasonable to wonder about a Scottie Slam. He’s that good, and no one is close.

📺 What we’re watching Tuesday

🏒 Game 2: Capitals at Rangers, 7 p.m. on ESPN
🏀 Game 2: Suns at Timberwolves, 7:30 p.m. on TNT
🏒 Game 2: Lightning at Panthers, 7:30 p.m. on ESPN2
Astros at Cubs, 7:40 p.m. on TBS
🏀 Game 2: Pacers at Bucks, 8:30 p.m. on NBA TV
🏒 Game 2: Avalanche at Jets, 9:30 p.m. on ESPN
🏀 Game 2: Mavericks at Clippers, 10 p.m. on TNT
🏒 Game 2: Predators at Canucks, 10 p.m. on ESPN2

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