Wednesday, June 19, 2024
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Mavericks take Game 1; Panthers shut out Rangers; Brink tops Clark in rookie rankings

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Good morning to everyone, but especially to …

KYRIE IRVING AND LUKA DONCIC

The Minnesota Timberwolves might have seen Kyrie Irving and Luka Doncic in their nightmares last night. That’s because the Dallas Mavericks‘ dynamic duo torched the Timberwolves for 63 combined points en route to a 108-105 win in Game 1 of the NBA’s Western Conference finals.

This game was a tale of two halves for the Mavericks’ biggest stars. In the first half, Irving scored 24 of his 30 points and kept Dallas in the game while the rest of the team combined for just 35 points. Prior to this game, Irving was averaging just six first-half points per game in the playoffs, so the Mavs are fortunate he flipped the switch early this time.

Not to be outdone, Doncic wanted to give Irving some help and turned on the afterburners down the stretch. Doncic scored 15 of his 33 points in the fourth quarter, including a clutch step-back jumper that gave the Mavs a four-point lead with 49 seconds remaining.

Doncic has had a somewhat uneven postseason run while battling some injury issues, but he might finally be rounding into form. In his key takeaways, our own Jack Maloney says there are signs that peak Doncic is making a return at the right time.

  • Maloney: “Over his last three games, Doncic is averaging 31 points, 8.6 rebounds and 9.7 assists. This is the Doncic that made First Team All-NBA and finished third in MVP voting. If the Mavericks want to win the series, they’ll need this version of their star to stick around.”

In the battle between Doncic and Timberwolves star Anthony Edwards, round one goes to the slick Slovenian. That’s not to say Edwards was bad in Game 1. Coming off a tremendous Game 7 performance in the second round, Edwards nearly had a triple-double, recording 19 points, 11 rebounds, and eight assists.

👍 Honorable mentions

And not such a good morning for …

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THE NEW YORK RANGERS

New York may be the city that never sleeps, but the Rangers‘ offense didn’t get out of bed for Game 1 of the NHL’s Eastern Conference Finals. For the first time this postseason, New York was shut out in a 3-0 loss to the Florida Panthers.

The Rangers’ unstoppable force of an offense met the immovable object that is the Panthers’ defense, and the latter refused to budge on Wednesday night. All New York could muster was 23 shots on goal, and its lethal power play went 0-for-2 while putting just four shots on Florida goaltender Sergei Bobrovsky.

It’s not often that the Rangers find themselves on the wrong end of a shutout. One of the most explosive teams in the NHL this season, the last time New York laid a goose egg was on Dec. 9 in a 4-0 loss to the Washington Capitals, as our own Chris Bengel points out in his recap.

To be fair, New York did score a goal. It just happened to be on its own net. With just 3:48 remaining in the third period and the Panthers up 1-0, Alexis Lafreniere deflected a Carter Verhaeghe pass between the legs of Rangers netminder Igor Shesterkin in a back-breaking moment for the blueshirts.

On paper, New York has the edge in net in this series, but it utterly failed at testing Bobrovsky with dangerous scoring chances. That will have to change for the Rangers to win Game 2, but generating offense will remain a tall task against a Panthers team that is now allowing just 2.25 goals per game.

Game 2 is on Friday night in Madison Square Garden, and you can keep up with the entire conference finals schedule with our complete NHL playoffs bracket.

👎 Not so honorable mentions

🏈 NFL offensive infrastructure rankings

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The old cliche is that defense wins championships, but try telling that to Patrick Mahomes and the Kansas City Chiefs.

Offense rules the modern NFL, and teams must be able to score in order to compete for a Super Bowl. Of course, getting the right combination of offensive pieces is easier said than done, and some teams have been more successful than others.

In our NFL offensive infrastructure rankings, CBS Sports experts broke down every offense in the league while taking the following into consideration:

  • Quarterback
  • Play-caller
  • Offensive line
  • Wide receivers and tight ends
  • Running backs

The New England Patriots were in a league of terrible all by themselves, but at least they can only go up from here. The Carolina Panthers, Las Vegas Raiders and Denver Broncos weren’t that far ahead of New England either.

Closer to the top, there were some intriguing rankings in Tier 2, which covered Nos. 4-9. Perhaps the biggest surprise was that the Houston Texans were tied with the Los Angeles Rams for sixth. Our own Jared Dubin explained how the Texans made such massive strides in 2023.

  • Dubin: “C.J. Stroud performed like an elite quarterback last year. If he does it again, his rating gets bumped up, and the Texans probably do, too. We’d just like to see it again before we grade it that way. Given the addition of Stefon Diggs to the receiver corps and what should hopefully be an improved offensive line, let’s say we’re optimistic about the prospects of a repeat performance.”

Check out which NFL offenses were head and shoulders above — and below — the rest in our complete rankings.

🏈 NCAA agrees to pay $2.8 billion in landmark settlement

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Amateurism, the foundational concept upon which the NCAA was built, might be coming to an end in college athletics.

On Wednesday night, the NCAA Board of Governors voted to accept the $2.8 billion antitrust lawsuit settlement in the House vs. NCAA case. The SEC and Pac-12 are expected to do the same thing on Thursday.

The landmark case now sets the table for some monumental changes in college athletics. The ramifications will be far-reaching, and while it’s impossible to know how everything will play out now, our own Brandon Marcello hit some of the key points.

  • Former athletes will be compensated for prior restrictions on NIL income.
  • Power Four schools could pay athletes $20 million annually with a new revenue-sharing deal.
  • Scholarship limits could be lifted while roster sizes get reduced.
  • Group of Five schools and non-revenue sports could struggle to stay afloat.

In accepting this settlement, the NCAA and its member institutions will also take a rather large financial hit.

  • The NCAA will be responsible for paying 40% of that $2.8 billion settlement.
  • The other 60% will be funded by reducing revenue sharing with the Division I conferences.
  • Those 32 leagues will see a total of $1.6 billion in lost revenue over the next decade.

This is a big step toward the next era of college athletics, but the battle is far from over. The shadow of Title IX looms large, and Marcello explains how it could throw a wrench into the works.

  • Marcello: “Title IX also complicates matters, and future court battles could loom. The unspoken truth among administrators is it seems unlikely they will advocate for equal pay for athletes whose sports earn less than football and men’s basketball.”

🏀 Brink tops Clark in our WNBA rookie rankings

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The newest crop of WNBA stars now have a few games under their belt, and one player has stood out amongst the rest.

No. 1 overall pick Caitlin Clark has played well, despite the Indiana Fever‘s 0-5 start. Clark is averaging 17.8 points, 5.8 assists, and 4.6 rebounds per game. Not too shabby for a rookie, but not quite good enough for the top spot in our own Isabel Gonzalez’s WNBA rookie rankings.

That honor belongs to Cameron Brink, former Stanford star and the No. 2 overall pick by the Los Angeles Sparks. Brink may not be scoring as much as Clark, but she has wasted no time bringing her stingy defense to the professional level.

  • Gonzalez: “The 2024 Naismith Defensive Player of the Year is already translating her elite skills on that end of the floor to the WNBA. Brink went a mere 2 for 2 from the field Tuesday, but added eight rebounds, three assists, three steals and four blocks in an excellent all-around effort.”

Brink’s teammate, former Lady Vols standout Rickea Jackson, also cracked the top five after shooting 42.9% from three-point range in her first three games. Clark will face Brink and Jackson on Friday night when the Sparks host the Fever. Stay tuned to see whether that matchup shakes up these rookie rankings.

📺 What we’re watching Thursday

Round 1: Charles Schwab Challenge, 4 p.m. on Golf Channel
🏀 Sky at Liberty, 7 p.m. on Prime Video
🏀 Game 2: Pacers at Celtics, 8 p.m. on ESPN
🏒 Game 1: Oilers at Stars, 8:30 p.m. on TNT

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