Sunday, May 19, 2024

Thunder, Celtics dominate Game 1s; who will meet Dortmund in Champions League final?

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🏀 Good morning to everyone but especially …


The Thunder are growing up quickly, right in front of our eyes. Oklahoma City thumped Dallas 117-95 to open their second-round series.

After sweeping the Zion Williamson-less Pelicans with relative ease, the Thunder knew they would get a much tougher challenge against the battle-tested Mavericks, and when Kyrie Irving nailed a third-quarter 3-pointer to draw within one, that very much looked the case. But after a timeout, the hosts finished the quarter with a 3-point barrage to restore the lead to 10 and never let up from there.

  • Everyone contributed, but the biggest star led the way: Shai Gilgeous-Alexander had 29 points and barely missed a triple-double. Chet Holmgren added 19 points, and Jalen Williams scored 18, 10 of which came in a mesmerizing one-minute, 36-second span early in the fourth quarter that put things away.
  • Oklahoma City’s bench outscored Dallas’ 42-23.
  • The Thunder defense flexed its muscle, forcing 16 turnovers. Perhaps most impressively, it held Luka Doncic to just 19 points, snapping his streak of 24 straight playoff games with at least 20 points.

Dallas was coming off an absolute battle of a series against the Clippers and has lost its past five Game 1s. It won’t panic. I still expect a really good series.

I can’t say the same about Celtics-Cavaliers, especially after Boston pummeled Cleveland 120-95 in Game 1. Jaylen Brown‘s 32 points led the way, but it was its second-leading scorer who not only shows the big difference in these teams but shows why Boston is the title favorite, Sam Quinn writes.

  • Quinn: “Derrick White is making a championship leap — If Boston does indeed win the championship this season, White is clearly going to wind up being their version of Aaron Gordon, Andrew Wiggins and Brook Lopez. They got him for one first-round pick and a swap deep in the future. Now? He’s basically a max player, the sort of star-in-his-role guard that practically never becomes available on the trade market. Brad Stevens has gotten almost everything right since he took over Boston’s front office. White is his greatest victory.”

👍 Honorable mentions

  • What a night in the NHL. The Rangers beat the Hurricanes 4-3 in double overtime on Vincent Trocheck‘s winner to take a 2-0 series lead, and the Avalanche rallied from 3-0 down to beat the Stars 4-3 in overtime on Miles Wood‘s Game-1 winner.
  • The NFL schedule will be released one week from now.
  • The Sharks won the NHL Draft lottery.
  • Cody Bellinger is back!
  • There’s a new, NIL-driven event in men’s college basketball: the “Players Era Festival” in Las Vegas. Seven of the eight teams have been chosen, per our Matt Norlander.
  • Meet Arkansas28-year-old walk-on wide receiver who played three MLB seasons and has a brother who played in the NBA.
  • Utah landed Sam Huard.
  • The Senators hired Travis Green and the Blues extended Drew Bannister.

⚽ And not such a good morning for …


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The woodwork can be kind. It can also be cruel. For PSG, it was very much the latter. Les Parisiens hit the goal frame three times — and saw a fourth bounce off after a huge Gregor Kobel save — as their UEFA Champions League run came to a devastating end in a 2-0 aggregate loss to Borussia Dortmund.

Mats Hummels nodded home a corner kick in the 50th minute for the lone goal after Dortmund won the first leg 1-0 last week.

Let’s give all the credit in the world to Dortmund, who are the most unlikely finalists ever, Jame Benge says.

  • Benge: “The last quarter century has produced just two new winners of the Champions League: one the plaything of a Russian oligarch, the other a soft power vehicle for Abu Dhabi. Borussia Dortmund have proven to be rich pickings for those wealthier than them, invariably struggling to repeat the brilliance of the early 2010s … Dortmund were the side everyone wanted in the last eight and a fair few would have taken in the last 16 too.”

Kobel’s incredible play is a microcosm of Dortmund’s run, Chuck Booth notes.

But it’s a brutal way for PSG’s season to end. They’ll almost certainly see superstar Kylian Mbappe leave this summer, and this was a golden opportunity to send him out a champion of Europe — and his club the champion of Europe for the first time ever. While this isn’t PSG’s most devastating Champions League loss in a long line of them, it’s up there, Jonathan Johnson writes.

Now, what’s next? Jonathan has that answer, too.

  • Johnson:Luis Enrique also has questions to answer regarding his over-frequent chopping and changing of his starting XIs and the unbalanced nature of some of his team selections but the truth is that the Spaniard brought a largely young and inexperienced group further than expected. … Mbappe, though, is perhaps the biggest loser of all going without a goal and much involvement over the two legs ahead of his expected move to Real Madrid, who may well reach the final … against Bayern Munich despite him.”

👎 Not so honorable mentions

⚽ Preview, picks for Real Madrid-Bayern Munich UEFA Champions League semifinal


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Today, either Real Madrid or Bayern Munich join Borussia Dortmund in the UEFA Champions League final. There’s everything to play for in Madrid after a thrilling 2-2 draw last week in Munich. Here’s a full preview and how to watch as we’ll have you covered all day long.

This one, frankly, is bigger than one match. Much bigger, in fact. Madrid’s Jude Bellingham, Bayern’s Harry Kane and the now-eliminated Mbappe are all battling for the sport’s biggest honors, James notes.

Kane is best known for his lack of trophies. Real Madrid has more Champions League titles than anyone. Who gets one step closer? Francesco Porzio says …

  • Porzio: Match prediction: Real Madrid 2, Bayern Munich 1 – Despite the incredible performance of Thomas Tuchel‘s team in the first game in Munich, playing against Real Madrid at the Santiago Bernabeu the second leg is always the last thing you want to do in this sport. This is why I’m expecting Carlo Ancelotti and his team do it once again.”

Here’s Tom Fornelli’s Corner Picks.

🏆 Rudy Gobert named Defensive Player of the Year


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Become a father one day, make NBA history the next — that’s been Rudy Gobert‘s week so far. After the birth of his son on Monday, Gobert was announced as Defensive Player of the Year on Tuesday. It’s his fourth such award, tying Ben Wallace and Dikembe Mutombo for most all-time; he joins Mutombo as the only players to win the award with multiple teams.

  • Gobert, 31, is the first player in Timberwolves history to win the award. He also won it in 2018, 2019 and 2021 as a member of the Jazz. This season, he led the NBA in individual defensive rating (104.4) and anchored the NBA’s best defense.
  • Opponents shot just 43% at the basket with Gobert defending, the third-lowest rate allowed among any center this season who defended at least 500 shots.
  • Gobert adds to what’s been a phenomenal awards season for Minnesota: Naz Reid won Sixth Man of the Year and Mike Conley won Teammate of the Year.
  • Gobert beat out fellow finalists Victor Wembanyama (who won Rookie of the Year) and Bam Adebayo. Anthony Davis finished fourth.

Gobert missed Minnesota’s Game 2 win over the Nuggets for the birth of his son but will return for Game 3 on Friday, when Minnesota hopes to take a commanding 3-0 series lead.

📺 What we’re watching Wednesday

Real Madrid vs. Bayern Munich, 3 p.m. on Paramount+
⚾ Diamondbacks at Reds, 6:40 p.m. on FS1
🏒 Game 2: Bruins at Panthers, 7:30 p.m. on ESPN
🏀 Game 2: Pacers at Knicks, 8 p.m. on TNT
🏒 Game 1: Oilers at Canucks, 10 p.m. on ESPN

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