Wednesday, May 29, 2024

Thunder stun Mavericks; Celtics up 3-1 | WNBA’s Caitlin Clark era begins

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🏀 Good morning to everyone, but especially to …


These very young, very fun and very promising Thunder have their first signature playoff win. Oklahoma City, which trailed by as much as 14, used a late 9-0 run to stun the Mavericks 100-96 to even the series and regain home-court advantage.

  • When almost everyone was struggling offensively, the Thunder leaned on their excellent defense and MVP runner-up Shai Gilgeous-Alexander (34 points) to stay within arm’s length.
  • When the lid finally came off the basket, it did at the perfect time: Oklahoma City scored 35 points in the fourth quarter, with Chet Holmgren (18 points) and Lu Dort (17) making huge 3-pointers down the stretch.
  • Luka Doncic shot 6-of-20 (and 2-of-9 from 3) and, with the Mavs down by two with 10 seconds left, he missed his first free-throw attempt after being fouled on a drive to the hoop. Kyrie Irving had just nine points. Oklahoma City’s ability to throw a plethora of athletic, physical defenders at both of them and have Holmgren protect the rim is huge.

Plenty of teams — more experienced, more accomplished ones at that — would have crumbled. Not the burgeoning Thunder. What a win.

The Celtics, meanwhile, are one game away from their third consecutive Eastern Conference finals after a 109-102 win over the Cavaliers, who were without star Donovan Mitchell (calf strain). Boston goes back home for Game 5, up 3-1.

It wasn’t always the prettiest game from the East’s top seed, but Jayson Tatum (33 points) and Jaylen Brown (27) did enough late. As Jack Maloney notes, they weren’t alone.

  • Maloney: Jrue Holiday has a title to his name, but he hasn’t always been the most consistent playoff performer. The best version of Holiday was in action on Monday, however, as he made an impact in every aspect of the game … He finished with 16 points, seven rebounds, five assists, three steals and a block, hit four 3-pointers and shot 6 of 11 from the field. In the second half, his defensive pressure at the point of attack was a key factor as the Celtics created some much-needed separation.”

👍 Honorable mentions

😕 And not such a good morning for …


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The Mavericks lost a winnable game by four points, and they have no one to blame but themselves. They …

  • scored an abysmal 42 points in the second half
  • committed 13 turnovers, seven of which were from Doncic
  • shot 12-of-23 from the free-throw line
  • had a killer scoring drought of over three minutes late that included several missed good looks

But that’s all in the past now. What really hurts is that Dallas led for almost all of a game that, had they held on, would have put them one game away from the Western Conference finals. Then, you only need one more signature Luka Doncic game, like Game 2. You only need one more off night from Oklahoma City, like Game 4.

Now, you’ve blown a golden chance. Your biggest star is far from 100% and looks like it. Your second-biggest star has been Jekyll and Hyde this series: two great games, two quiet ones.

Oklahoma City showed its mettle. We’ll see if Dallas can follow in kind.

👎 Not so honorable mentions

👀 WNBA season preview: Power rankings, top players, Caitlin Clark’s pro debut


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Potentially the most highly anticipated season in WNBA history begins tonight, and one of the biggest reasons for that anticipation helps tip things off: No. 1 pick Caitlin Clark makes her debut when the Fever face the Sun. Here’s where to watch.

She’s just one of many, many reasons to be hyped for the season. How about the Aces chasing a three-peat? Las Vegas is atop Jack Maloney’s WNBA Power Rankings.

  1. Aces
  2. Liberty
  3. Storm
  4. Sun
  5. Mercury

The Aces also have the league’s best player, according to Jack’s top 25 players.

  1. Aces F A’ja Wilson — “Though she narrowly missed out on becoming the first player since Cynthia Cooper in 1997-98 to win back-to-back MVP awards, she did win her second consecutive Defensive Player of the Year honor, then led the Aces to a repeat and was named Finals MVP in the process.”
  2. Liberty F Breanna Stewart — “Her versatility on both sides of the ball remains largely unmatched …”
  3. Sun F Alyssa Thomas — “Thomas is an offense unto herself and an extremely disruptive defensive force …”
  4. Lynx F Napheesa Collier — “Like so many of the elite players, Collier’s versatility is what makes her special.”
  5. Liberty C Jonquel Jones — “After the All-Star break, and particularly in the playoffs … she reminded everyone why she is a former MVP …”

Here’s more:

We’ll have expert predictions and rookie rankings ahead of tonight’s action, so be sure to stay tuned to our WNBA coverage today, tonight and throughout the season!

⛳ PGA Championship odds, trends and rooting guide


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The PGA Championship is just two days away, and it’s shaping up to be an incredible tournament at Valhalla (fittingly an incredible name for a golf course, by the way). The odds speak for themselves, with a loaded top group:

  1. Scottie Scheffler: 4-1
  2. Rory McIlroy: 7-1
  3. Brooks Koepka: 12-1
  4. Jon Rahm: 16-1
  5. Xander Schauffele: 16-1
  6. Ludvig Åberg: 16-1

Those six — and the 150 others in the field — face a tough test. Patrick McDonald has a wonderful look at a wonderful golf course.

  • McDonald: “A few years ago, Valhalla switched its fairways from bentgrass to Zeon Zoysiagrass, which is more conducive for firm and fast conditions. Whether that materializes given the weather forecast is another question, but we’ll cross our fingers. … Hitting fairways will continue to be a premium with the rough expected to be gnarly and the golf course lengthened by roughly 150 yards compared to 2014.”

So it’s a different course than the one McIlroy won at a decade ago, but McIlroy being among the top contenders is a testament to his longevity, Kyle Porter writes, even if the major drought has been frustrating.

McIlroy, unsurprisingly, is in Kyle’s nine players to root for.

💰 Jared Goff gets huge extension, becomes latest Lion to get paid


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It’s a good offseason to be a Lions star, and Jared Goff is the latest to find out why. The 29-year-old quarterback received a four-year, $212 million extension that makes him the NFL’s second highest-paid quarterback on a per-year basis ($53 million). Only Joe Burrow, at $55 million per year, makes more.

It’s the latest step in a remarkable resurgence. In early 2021, Goff joined the rebuilding Lions as part of the Matthew Stafford trade, and that first season in Detroit was tough. But thanks to a strong supporting cast, a match made in heaven with offensive coordinator Ben Johnson and strong play by Goff himself, he’s leading the most exciting era of Lions football in a long time.

Using average annual value, the Lions now have the …

I assessed winners and losers from the deal, and one major loser is …

  • Pereles:Loser: Dallas Cowboys — Dallas has strung out extending Prescott far too long, and Goff is now yet another development that gives Prescott the upper hand in negotiations. … That’s a daunting prospect for a Cowboys team that also needs to pay CeeDee Lamb and Micah Parsons, among others.

📺 What we’re watching Tuesday

🏒 Game 5: Bruins at Panthers, 7 p.m. on ESPN
🏀 Fever at Sun, 7:30 p.m. on ESPN2
Yankees at Twins, 7:40 p.m. on TBS
🏀 Game 5: Pacers at Knicks, 8 p.m. on TNT
🏒 Game 4: Canucks at Oilers, 9:30 p.m. on ESPN
🏀 Mercury at Aces, 10 p.m. on ESPN2
🏀 Game 5: Timberwolves at Nuggets, 10:30 p.m. on TNT

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