Tuesday, June 18, 2024
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Celtics outlast Pacers; Jets surrounding Rodgers with protection; Rangers-Panthers begins tonight

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🏀 Good morning to everyone, but especially to …

THE BOSTON CELTICS

They don’t ask how. They ask how many, and the Boston Celtics are now just seven wins away from their 18th NBA title after a 133-128 overtime win over the Indiana Pacers in Game 1 of the Eastern Conference finals.

Boston jumped out to a 14-2 lead in the first quarter, and it appeared as though a blowout was inevitable. That’s when the Pacers threw a counterpunch and managed to tie the game at 64 heading into halftime

Indiana even led by as many as five points in the fourth quarter, but the Celtics were able to make some big plays down the stretch to send the game to overtime. None were bigger than Jaylen Brown‘s 3-pointer with six seconds remaining to even the score at 117.

  • That 3-point shot was the only one Brown made as he finished with 26 points on the night.
  • Jayson Tatum led all scorers with 36 points, and he also recorded a game-high 12 rebounds.
  • Jrue Holiday came up big for Boston, shooting 50% from beyond the arc and totaling 28 points.

Our own Brad Botkin has key takeaways from the Celtics’ victory, and keep up with all the the NBA postseason results with our updated playoff bracket/tracker here.

👍 Honorable mentions

🏀 And not such a good morning for …

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THE INDIANA PACERS

On the other end of the court, the Pacers let a golden opportunity slip through their hands in Game 1, and they might wind up regretting it.

In the final 30 seconds of regulation, Indiana saw a three-point lead melt away due to some critical mistakes. Tyrese Haliburton and Andrew Nembhard both committed brutal turnovers, and the Pacers let Jaylen Brown get open for a 3-pointer on an in-bounds play.

On the whole, the Pacers committed 22 turnovers, and the Celtics scored 21 points off those turnovers. Our own Sam Quinn put together a blueprint for how the Pacers can pull off the upset in this series — and spoiler alert — coughing up the ball at key times was not in there.

  • Quinn: “When the Pacers knocked the Celtics out of the In-Season Tournament, they did so by winning the turnover battle by a +13 margin. Turnovers help the Pacers stick to their own fast pace and get the sort of easy shots they can’t always generate in the half-court.”

If the Pacers are looking for a silver lining here, it might be that they had a minus-7 turnover margin and yet they still managed to get overtime. Well, that and the fact Celtics have lost Game 2 at home in the previous two rounds.

👎 Not so honorable mentions

🏈 Jets giving Rodgers a chance to stay upright this fall

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If the New York Jets are going to compete for a Super Bowl next season, their offensive line has to keep Aaron Rodgers on his feet.

GM Joe Douglas made that position a priority in the offseason, and he has used every possible avenue to make sure the 40-year-old Rodgers stays out of the training room. Here’s a summary of their moves so far this offseason:

  • Traded for Ravens RT Morgan Moses
  • Signed Ravens G John Simpson
  • Signed Cowboys LT Tyron Smith
  • Drafted Penn State OT Olu Fashanu at No. 11 overall

Not only is keeping the heat off Rodgers important for his health, but it should also positively impact his performance. Our own Douglas Clawson explains Rodgers’ transformation when facing pressure.

  • Clawson: “It’s critical as Rodgers obviously isn’t a spry chicken anymore and his declining numbers against pressure in recent years show it. From 2021-22, he ranked third in EPA per play when NOT pressured, but 25th when he is pressured. That’s a Jekyll and Hyde act similar to turning Josh Allen into Mac Jones in terms of caliber of play.”

Regardless of what happens with the offensive line, the Jets have to feel fortunate that Rodgers is back for 2024. According to Rodgers, he was weighing a career change from football to politics this offseason.

🏀 2024 NBA Combine risers, fallers

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The next crop of NBA stars spent the last week in Chicago showing front offices what they’ve got at the NBA Combine. Let’s just say it went better for some players than others.

As is usually the case, a couple of players got in front of the scouts and popped. That was the case with Providence point guard Devin Carter. He topped our own Kyle Boone’s list of risers and fallers after flashing some elite explosiveness.

  • Boone: “If there was an award for most swaggy player in attendance, he would’ve been the unanimous winner. He tied for first in the max standing vertical leap at 42 inches, broke an NBA Draft Combine record in the ¾ court sprint and flashed the competitive drive and dazzle that keyed his Big East Player of the Year season at Providence in front of NBA decision-makers.”

In his junior season with the Friars, Carter averaged 19.7 points, 8.7 rebounds and 3.6 assists per game. He’s now up to No. 9 on Boone’s Big Board.

Not every player made the same kind of positive impression that Carter did. Kentucky standout Kenny Dillingham has fallen out of Boone’s top 10 after he measured in at 6-foot-1 and 164.2 pounds — not ideal for a top NBA Draft prospect.

Also, there were mixed reviews about Bronny James in Chicago, but he came out ahead. The son of LeBron James, Bronny has now cracked the top 60 of Boone’s rankings, making him a second-round option.

🏒 NHL conference finals previews, expert picks

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Only four teams are left standing in the battle for the Stanley Cup. The New York Rangers and Florida Panthers will do battle in the East, and the Dallas Stars and Edmonton Oilers will face off out West.

The Rangers and Panthers should produce a long and highly competitive series. That’s certainly how our experts see it, with both predicting a Game 7 … and the Panthers getting it done. As Chris Bengel explains, Florida has already shown a lot of perseverance.

  • Bengel: “This is likely going to be a very physical, tight series that will feature plenty of offensive outbursts. When push comes to shove, the Panthers are the team that I think has the mettle to persevere after being pushed to their limit against the Lightning and Bruins in the first two rounds.”

In the West, the matchup between the Stars and Oilers might come down to Dallas’ goaltending edge, which I note in my preview.

  • Nivison: “The Stars have a bona fide No. 1 goaltender in Jake Oettinger, and the Oilers had to split minutes in their previous series between Stuart Skinner and Calvin Pickard. Oettinger has a .918 save percentage in the playoffs. Skinner and Pickard have combined for a .888 save percentage. If those trends continue, the Oilers will be in trouble.”

The Rangers and Panthers get started tonight. Game 1 between the Stars and Oilers is set for Thursday. Keep track of the full schedule with our complete NHL playoffs bracket.

📺 What we’re watching Wednesday

Mariners at Yankees, 7:05 p.m. on ESPN+
🏒 Game 1: Panthers at Rangers, 8 p.m. on ESPN
🏀 Game 1: Mavericks at Timberwolves, 8:30 p.m. on TNT

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