Tuesday, June 25, 2024
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Oilers hold on, advance to conference finals; Celtics-Pacers Eastern Conference finals preview

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🏒 Good morning to everyone, but especially to …

THE EDMONTON OILERS

The Oilers are back in the conference finals, and they hung on by the skin of their teeth to get there. Edmonton took a 3-0 lead into the third period of Game 7 before ultimately holding off the hard-charging Canucks, 3-2, and will face the Stars in the Western Conference Final.

  • Cody Ceci, Zach Hyman and Ryan Nugent-Hopkins all tallied in the second period, and the once-raucous Rogers Arena was nearly silent with 20 minutes left.
  • But Conor Garland and Filip Hronek scored within four minutes of each other to give the hosts a chance. Ultimately, Leon Draisaitl, Zach Hyman and Dylan Holloway made some big defensive plays late to help Edmonton hold on.
  • In Connor McDavid, Draisaitl, Evan Bouchard and Nugent-Hopkins, Edmonton has the top four assists leaders this postseason.

Austin Nivison has takeaways from a thriller, and here’s our updated bracket.

😁 Honorable mentions

😕 Not so honorable mentions

🏀 NBA conference finals previews, expert picks

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And then there were four. The Celtics, Pacers, Timberwolves and Mavericks are into the conference finals, with Boston and Indiana getting things going tonight. Jasmyn Wimbish has Game 1 storylines and picks as Boston will hope to continue its winning ways while Kristaps Porzingis (calf) remains out.

In their picks, all of our experts are seeing the Celtics advance. Both teams boast terrific offenses, but Boston’s defense makes for the biggest difference, especially against Indiana’s best player, Brad Botkin writes in his bold predictions.

  • Botkin:Tyrese Haliburton averages less than 20 PPG The Celtics are loaded with elite perimeter defenders in position to make his life a living hell in the half-court, where the Pacers will be operating more than they’d prefer because they won’t be able to get consistent stops against Boston’s defense. One of Jrue Holiday, Derrick White, Jayson Tatum and Jaylen Brown will be right there waiting.”

Looking at the Western Conference, our experts are split in their picks. Sam Quinn says …

  • Quinn:Timberwolves in 7. This one’s going to be a nail-biter. Oklahoma City threw doubles at Luka Doncic and Kyrie Irving to try to force their teammates to beat them. Minnesota will probably try to defend them straight up at least earlier on, and they have defenders who can make them work. Dallas owned the paint last round. Minnesota is much, much bigger than Oklahoma City was. Derrick Jones Jr. will bother Anthony Edwards. Can Mike Conley take on added creation duties as he plays through an injury? In the end, I’m defaulting to home-court advantage. This one could go either way.”

🏈 NFL OTAs open, assessing team identities

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NFL offseasons sometimes feel endless, but each day brings us closer to the season, and some days even bring something special. Monday was one of those days: 21 teams opened organized team activities, and we have highlights. And just like on the first day of school, who was there and who wasn’t there was as much a storyline as anything.

The Jets also opened OTAs, and one year after making the move of the offseason in Aaron Rodgers, they doubled down on their commitment to him, Eric Galko writes.

  • Galko: “It was no surprise that the Jets used their first-round pick to bolster their offense to aid Rodgers. But it was a surprise that the Jets used not one, but four of their first five draft picks on the offensive side of the ball. … It’s clear the Jets both trust their defense and know that all their available assets need to make sure Rodgers stays healthy and is able to get them to the promised land this season.”

Here’s more:

✈️ WNBA aims to have league-wide charter flights in place, plus new Power Rankings

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The WNBA incorporating charter flights was a huge, huge development in theory.

In practice, there’s been plenty of turbulence upon takeoff, but potentially clearer skies ahead. The league plans to have all teams chartering flights by today, exactly one week after only two of the five away teams on opening night flew charter.

Erica Ayala has more:

  • Ayala: “On May 14, CBS Sports heard from a source that teams were asked to complete a charter request during the final week of the WNBA preseason. Teams were informed the weekend leading into opening night whether they were granted charters for their first road game of the season. The same team representative stated they submitted travel requests for the entire season, though it was unclear when they would get word about their full charter schedule.”

The disparity in charter availability has led to some frustrating inconsistencies. Mystics guard Brittney Sykes, for example, noted that Washington couldn’t fly charter across the country to Los Angeles for its game against the Sparks tonight, but the Fever flew charter from Indiana to Connecticut to face the Sun last week.

Erica has a terrific look at why the rollout has been so rocky, how players have reacted, and what could be next in the coming days, weeks and years.

Jack Maloney, meanwhile, has updated WNBA Power Rankings entering the week.

💰 How much NIL money do football players actually make?

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Name, image and likeness has taken on many forms and many descriptions. The Wild West. Free agency. One very, very notable former coach called it “cheating.”

One huge question remains, though: How much do these athletes actually make?

John Talty took a fascinating look at the going rate for every football position at Power Four schools after talking to …

  • NIL agents
  • collective operators
  • college coaches
  • personnel staffers
  • players and their parents
  • others with knowledge of the space

As John writes, “These numbers also take into account what we believe to be the retention cost to keep a player from hitting the transfer portal.”

Quarterbacks, unsurprisingly, are at the top. Just how much?

  • Talty:QB market range: $500,000 to $800,000 — Auburn coach Hugh Freeze said he couldn’t bring himself to spend $1 million on a transfer quarterback, especially with Payton Thorne already on the roster. … Freeze’s comments invoked ire from collective operators frustrated with coaches complaining about the costs of doing business. … The high-end price for a Power Four starting quarterback is in the $2 million range, according to multiple people with deep knowledge of the market. ‘There’s a couple people north of $2 million, but you’re mostly in that $600,000-$800,000,’ the NIL expert said.”

📺 What we’re watching Tuesday

Braves at Cubs, 7:40 p.m. on TBS
🏀 Game 1: Pacers at Celtics, 8 p.m. on ESPN/ESPN2

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