Tuesday, June 25, 2024
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Timberwolves force Game 5; inside 100 days until 2024 NFL kickoff

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🏀 Good morning to everyone, but especially to …

THE MINNESOTA TIMBERWOLVES

They say the journey of a thousand miles begins with a single step. The Timberwolves finally took that step — and not a moment too soon. With their backs against the wall, Anthony Edwards and Karl-Anthony Towns came up huge in the second half, and Minnesota held on despite some nervous moments late to win Game 4, 105-102, and avoid a sweep.

  • Edwards scored a team-high 29 points, including a huge jumper with 39.1 seconds left to extend Minnesota’s lead to five. Towns, meanwhile, scored 25 points — 20 of which came in the second half, and 10 of which came in the final eight minutes.
  • It was a sorely needed breakout for Towns, who shot 28% from the field and 14% from 3 over the first three games. Tuesday, he made four 3-pointers, including three in the fourth quarter. He made three 3s across the first three games combined.
  • Still, the Timberwolves didn’t make things easy on themselves: Towns fouled out when he bit on a Luka Doncic pump fake from beyond the arc, and Edwards committed another bad foul — this time Doncic made the 3 through the contact — with 13 seconds left to put Minnesota in peril. But Doncic missed a free throw, and Naz Reid made a layup on a crafty out of bounds play to put things away.

At long last, Minnesota survived in clutch time, which Doncic and Kyrie Irving dominated in the first three games. Doncic still managed a 28-point triple-double but shot just 7 for 21. Irving scored just 16 points on 6-for-18 shooting, as Minnesota shifted star defender Jaden McDaniels onto him. Furthermore, Irving’s perfect closeout game record is no more.

Brad Botkin says Edwards did exactly what he needed to do to keep his season alive.

  • Botkin: “He never took his foot off the gas. Dallas big man Dereck Lively II being out with a neck injury opened up the rim and Edwards attacked downhill from the jump. … He only shot 11 for 25, but he hit a couple 3s and some pull-up jumpers and, most importantly, got himself to the foul line eight times in the first quarter. … That’s the formula for Edwards, who is still not a consistent enough shooter to just rely on that, but also can’t expect to get all the way to the rim with the multiple bodies closing off his lanes. He has to strike a tough balance, and he did that in Game 4.”

👍 Honorable mentions

👎 Not so honorable mentions

🏒 Panthers win Game 4 in overtime, even series with Rangers

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For one game, at least, the Rangers‘ overtime magic faltered, and the Panthers now have new life. Florida topped New York, 3-2, in a thrilling Game 4 overtime affair, with Sam Reinhart firing home the game winner just 1:12 into the extra period after some beautiful passing on the power play. And in South Florida, a win like that can only mean one thing — cue the plastic rats.

  • Vincent Trocheck scored the lone goal of the first period, but Sam Bennett and Carter Verhaeghe gave the hosts a 2-1 lead entering the third.
  • Alexis Lafreniere tied things up early in the third, and clutch goalkeeping from Sergei Bobrovsky and Igor Shesterkin sent the teams to their third straight overtime game. It marked the first conference final to go to three straight overtime games since 2001. The Rangers won Games 2 and 3 in overtime and were 4-0 in overtime games this postseason.
  • This time, though, Blake Wheeler got called for hooking just 59 seconds in, and Florida wasted no time taking advantage.

The series, now tied at 2, heads back to New York for Thursday night.

🏈 NFL countdown: Moving inside 100 days until 2024 kickoff

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We’re into double digits! Today marks 99 days until the Chiefs and Ravens kick off the 2024 NFL season. By my math, that means yesterday marked 100 days, and you can bet we celebrated appropriately.

Cody Benjamin counted down 100 things to know, and one of my favorites is pretty simple: Who can challenge the Chiefs and 49ers? Cody has six, including …

  • Bengals: “If the defensive front hits its ceiling, they can be a true contender. But Joe Burrow‘s health is the ultimate key. If he’s upright and dealing from the pocket, that’s their bread and butter.”
  • Ravens: “Reigning MVP Lamar Jackson now has Derrick Henry to bolster a thunder-and-lightning rushing attack, and the defense still has imposing difference-makers at every level.”
  • Texans: “Fresh off his star debut, C.J. Stroud has even more help with Stefon Diggs aboard, and DeMeco Ryans‘ front seven looks even nastier with Danielle Hunter and Azeez Al-Shaair.”

I love that Cody included the Texans on this list. By adding players like Diggs and Hunter, the Texans have a legitimate win-now roster, but they’re also set up for long-term success behind guys like Stroud, Will Anderson Jr. and Nico Collins, who just got a three-year, $72.75 million extension. I’m all-in on Houston as a major AFC contender for years to come.

Meanwhile, I looked at the 100 most important players for the 2024 season. Among them is …

  • Pereles: “What is even reasonable to expect from Deshaun Watson? He has played 12 games over the past three seasons. Since joining the Browns in 2022, Watson has roughly the same passer rating as Mac Jones and the same completion percentage as Zach Wilson. He also had a mysterious shoulder issue for much of last year. Is that fixed? Is his game fixed?”

Here’s more NFL news:

⚾ MLB to integrate Negro League stats into record books

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It’s long overdue, and it’s rewriting the record books, literally as we speak. Major League Baseball is officially incorporating Negro League statistics and records into the MLB’s historical records today. The move comes more than three years after MLB gave the Negro Leagues “major league” status.

The fact that roughly 3,400 players’ numbers had been simply pushed aside and forgotten about was ridiculous, and now, those players can take their rightful spots among the all-time greats, too. As such, Josh Gibson is now the all-time career leader in …

  • Batting average (.372, beating out Ty Cobb‘s .366)
  • Slugging percentage (.718, beating out Babe Ruth‘s .690)
  • OPS (1.177, beating out Ruth’s 1.164)

Gibson, who was inducted into the Hall of Fame in 1972, also now holds several single-season records, including for those three categories. Other new additions near the top of those lists include Charlie Smith and Mule Suttles.

📺 What we’re watching Wednesday

🏀 Suns at Liberty, 7 p.m. on CBS Sports Network
🏀 Aces at Lynx, 8 p.m. on NBA TV
🏒 Game 4: Stars at Oilers, 8:30 p.m. on TNT

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