Tuesday, June 25, 2024
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Nuggets lose by 45, will play a Game 7 vs. Wolves; how will Xander Schauffele respond after round of 62?

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⛳ Good morning to everyone, but especially to …

XANDER SCHAUFFELE

The first round of the PGA Championship at Valhalla belonged to Xander Schauffele. Not only does Schauffele hold a three-stroke lead heading into Friday, but he also tied a major championship record in the process.

Schauffele came out and treated Valhalla like a putt-putt course, finishing the day at 9 under. His score of 62 was the lowest competitive round ever at Valhalla and he tied a record for the lowest score ever recorded at a major championship, but this isn’t exactly uncharted territory for the La Jolla, California, native.

Just last year, Schauffele shot a 62 in the first round of the U.S. Open. Starting strong has never really been a problem for him. Maintaining the lead, on the other hand, has haunted the man in recent years.

The No. 3 golfer in the world has six top-five finishes at majors, but he has never finished at the top of the leaderboard. That frustration is fueling Schauffele going into today’s second round.

  • Schauffele: “I think not winning makes you want to win more, as weird as that is. For me, at least, I react to it, and I want it more and more and more, and it makes me want to work harder and harder and harder. The top feels far away, and I feel like I have a lot of work to do. But just slowly chipping away at it.”

One person who will be nipping at Schauffele’s heels all weekend is top-ranked Scottie Scheffler (-4), who holed out for eagle from 167 yards away on his second shot of the tournament. Scheffler was detained by police early Friday morning outside of Valhalla but has already been released and is expected to meet his 10:08 a.m. ET tee time. 

Rory McIlroy (-5) is also lurking near the top of the leaderboard, and he is battling his own demons as he’s trying to break his 11-year major championship drought.

The top of the PGA Championship leaderboard looks like this after Round 1:

1. Xander Schauffele (-9)
T-2. Tony Finau (-6)
T-2. Sahith Theegala (-6)
T-2. Mark Hubbard (-6)
T-5. Rory McIlroy (-5)
T-5. Robert MacIntyre (-5)
T-5. Tom Hoge (-5)
T-5. Tom Kim (-5)
T-5. Thomas Detry (-5)
T-5. Collin Morikawa (-5)

👍 Honorable mentions

And not such a good morning for …

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JAMAL MURRAY AND THE DENVER NUGGETS

To say the Nuggets laid an egg in Game 6 against the Timberwolves might be understating it. With a chance to close out the Minnesota and advance to the Western Conference finals, Denver laid a dozen in a 115-70 loss.

Denver trailed by 17 at the end of the first quarter, and the reigning NBA champs couldn’t muster much resistance after that. MVP Nikola Jokic was held in check all night. He scored just 22 points and logged just two assists, which was his lowest playoff total since 2021.

The bigger issue for the Nuggets was that, with the Timberwolves hounding Jokic every time he got the ball, no one else wanted to pick up the slack. That was especially true of Jamal Murray.

Murray scored all of 10 points while shooting 22.2% from the field and hitting just two of his seven 3-point attempts. In his postgame analysis, our own Colin Ward-Henninger believes a nagging injury hampered Murray in Game 6.

  • Ward-Henninger: “Murray has been dealing with a calf injury for most of the postseason, and it’s clearly affected him sporadically throughout this series. He settled for a lot of jumpers on Thursday, unable to find pathways to the rim.”

Now the Nuggets must win Game 7 in order to avoid becoming the fifth straight NBA reigning champion to be eliminated before the conference finals. For that to happen, they will have to hold off a Timberwolves team that’s suddenly brimming with confidence.

Led by Anthony Edwards and his 27 points, Minnesota made a little history in this blowout. The Timberwolves’ 45-point win is now the second-largest margin of victory for a team facing elimination in NBA history.

So we’ll do it one last time on Sunday, and it will be only the Timberwolves’ second Game 7 in franchise history. In their previous one — which will be exactly 20 years to the day of this series’ Game 7 — Kevin Garnett (32 points, 21 boards, five blocks, four steals) led the host Wolves to an 83-80 win over the Kings. (In case you were wondering, Edwards was three years old.)

👎 Not so honorable mentions

🏒 Chris Kreider’s hat trick lifts Rangers to conference finals

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Through two periods in Game 6, it looked like the Hurricanes would force a Game 7 against the Rangers. Then Chris Kreider decided he’d had enough of this series and powered the New York to a 5-3 win that punched their ticket to the
Eastern Conference Final.

Facing elimination, the Hurricanes were in control of the contest for 40 minutes as they carried a 3-1 lead into the third period. Unfortunately for them, games are 60 minutes, and Kreider completely owned the last 20.

In the span of 8:58, Kreider flipped the Rangers’ two-goal deficit into a one-goal lead with a natural hat trick. All three of Kreider’s goals came from right in Frederik Andersen‘s grill, and he joined some elite company in Rangers franchise history.

  • Kreider joins Mark Messier and Wayne Gretzky as the only Rangers to score a hat trick in one playoff period.
  • His natural hat trick was just the eighth in Stanley Cup playoffs history and the second in Rangers history.
  • Kreider now has 74 playoff points, just six behind Messier for the second-most in team history.

The Rangers are now the first Presidents’ Trophy winner to reach the conference finals since the 2014-15 Rangers, who went on to lose to the Tampa Bay Lightning in the East finals.

As for the Hurricanes, they were bona fide Stanley Cup contenders all season and conducted their business as such. They made big additions in free agency and made a splash at the trade deadline, most notably winning the Jake Guentzel sweepstakes.

Despite those efforts, Carolina has fallen short in the postseason once again. The team hasn’t won a game beyond the second round since it won the Stanley Cup in 2006.

🏀 Fever flounder in Caitlin Clark’s home debut

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A sold-out Gainbridge Fieldhouse was rocking for Caitlin Clark‘s home debut on Thursday night. Much to the dismay of the Indiana Fever, it wasn’t rocking for long as the New York Liberty came in and dismantled the home team, 102-66.

After a tough WNBA debut against the ConnecticutSun on Tuesday night, Clark got another dose of life in the big leagues with the 2023 Finals runner-up in town. Reigning MVP Breanna Stewart got whatever she wanted in the paint, ending the night with 31 points and 10 rebounds.

Clark, on the other hand, tallied nine points, seven rebounds, and six assists. She could never really get in a groove offensively, and our own Jack Maloney thinks that can be chalked up to a couple of key factors.

  • Maloney: “Some of that was Betnijah Laney-Hamilton‘s tough defense, and some of that was her playing off the ball more than she did against the Connecticut Sun. Finding the balance between scoring and playmaking will be a major part of the process for Clark this summer.”

Now 0-2, Clark and the Fever must pick themselves up off the mat ahead of two more tough games. Those next two opponents? Uh, the Liberty and the Sun.

At least we’ll get to see how quickly Clark adjusts to opposing defenses at the WNBA level.

📺 What we’re watching this weekend

🏌 We’ll be tuned into the PGA Championship all weekend. Here’s how.

Friday

🏒 Game 6: Panthers at Bruins, 7 p.m. on TNT
⚾ Twins at Guardians, 7:10 p.m. on Apple TV
🏀 Game 6: Knicks at Pacers, 8:30 p.m. on ESPN
🏒 Game 6: Stars at Avalanche, 10 p.m. on TNT

Saturday

🏀 Fever at Liberty, 1 p.m. on ABC
🏀 Sparks at Aces, 3 p.m. on ABC
Mariners at Orioles, 4:05 p.m. on FS1
🏀 Sky at Wings, 5 p.m. on NBA TV
🏇 Preakness Stakes, 6:55 p.m. on NBC
🏀 Dream at Mercury, 7 p.m. on NBA TV
🏀 Game 6: Thunder at Mavericks, 8 p.m. on TNT
🏒 Game 6: Oilers at Canucks, 8 p.m. on ESPN

Sunday

🏀 Game 7: Timberwolves at Nuggets, TBD
🏎 NASCAR All-Star Race, 5:30 p.m. on FS1
⚾ Padres at Braves, 7 p.m. on ESPN

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