Tuesday, June 18, 2024
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Celtics dominate Mavericks in NBA Finals opener; why Dan Hurley fits Lakers

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🏀 Good morning to everyone, but especially to …

 THE BOSTON CELTICS

Minutes into his NBA Finals debut and long-awaited return from a calf injury, Kristaps Porzingis was smiling and the Celtics were rolling. By the end of the first quarter, Boston led by 17, the largest NBA Finals Game 1 lead after one quarter in league history.

So when those smiles had disappeared and the Mavericks had cut a 29-point deficit to single digits, it was fitting that Porzingis got the hosts and their fans going again, forcing a Kyrie Irving travel on one end and throwing down a ferocious dunk on the other.

That was the last time Dallas was within single digits.

Porzingis scored 20 points and added six rebounds and three blocks off the bench and all five Boston starters scored in double figures as the Celtics handily won Game 1, 107-89.

Save for a few short spans, Boston was at or near its best, and Porzingis was a huge reason for that, Sam Quinn writes.

  • Quinn: “Let’s start with the obvious question: how did Boston protect Porzingis from defending in space against the dangerous Dallas ball-handlers? In short, it bet against the less impressive Dallas 3-point shooters. Soon after Doncic’s opening salvo against Porzingis, Irving took a go. When Derrick Jones Jr. tried to screen Jrue Holiday off of him, Porzingis dropped while Holiday chased him down, daring Irving to pass it back to Jones for the triple. He did. Jones missed.”

The offense was terrific, with 16 3-pointers and plenty of highlight-reel dunks. The defense was even better; we’ll get to that shortly.

😌 Honorable mentions

😬 And not such a good morning for …

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Getty Images

THE DALLAS MAVERICKS

It’s easy to say Luka Doncic must do more to facilitate the offense, despite his 30 points. He had just one assist, a playoff career low. The Mavericks as a team had just nine, the fewest by any team in a Finals game since 2007. When Doncic drove, Boston didn’t panic. When he sprayed the ball out to shooters, they weren’t open like they normally are. This is a feature, not a bug. The Celtics allowed the fewest corner 3-pointers made and held opponents to the worst corner 3-point percentage in the league this season. Porzingis, meanwhile, limited Doncic’s normally excellent lob passes. Check out these numbers:

Mavericks in the playoffs, entering last night:

  • 4.6 corner 3s made per game (most in NBA)
  • 11.6 corner 3s attempted per game (only Pelicans had more)
  • 39.4% on corner 3s (only 76ers, Pacers were better)

Mavericks in Game 1:

  • One corner 3 made
  • Three corner 3s attempted

Brad Botkin broke down how Boston shut down Doncic’s passing superpowers, and Bill Reiter says Game 1 was a stark reminder of the enormous challenge Doncic is facing.

It’s also easy to say Irving (12 points on 6-for-19 shooting) has to be and will be better. Both are likely true, but there aren’t easy answers. Boston has a plethora of very good, athletic, long perimeter defenders and multiple elite ones. Behind them is a bonafide elite rim protector in Porzingis. Irving’s Game 1 dud helped extend his personal losing streak against the Celtics to 11 games. One of the series sub-plots will be the, uh, deep admiration between the player and the fan base of one of his former teams, the latest chapter coming when he provoked fans even more with his postgame comments.

On the other end, Dallas had too many mistakes — miscalculated double teams, missed rotations, miscommunications — and that’s when the Celtics weren’t making tough shots, which they did plenty of, too.

The good news is this is nothing new. The Mavericks lost Game 1s against the Clippers and the Thunder and won both series. The bad news is the Celtics are much, much better than those teams. It’s going to take something special to turn the tide.

😔 Not so honorable mentions

🏀 Lakers targeting UConn’s Dan Hurley as head coach

NCAA Basketball: NCAA Tournament East Regional-Connecticut vs Illinois

USATSI

After weeks of reports they were targeting someone who had never coached before, the Lakers have stunningly swung to one of the most successful coaches on the planet at the moment. UConn‘s Dan Hurley — fresh off his second straight national championship at UConn — is now the Lakers’ top head-coaching target as the franchise prepares a “massive” deal for him.

With his track record, creative offense and flexible defense, Hurley is someone who can lead the Lakers both in the LeBron James era and beyond, Sam Quinn writes.

  • Quinn: “Hurley’s teams seamlessly blend strength and finesse. They ranked in the top five in the nation in rebounding rate in both championship years while also ranking in the top 11 in 3-point attempts. The single most important stat to UConn’s success? They ranked No. 2 in the nation in assists during their first championship run and No. 1 during their second despite ranking 165th in pace in 2023 and 315th in 2024. … More than anything else, Hurley’s best trait as a coach is that he is adaptable. He developed his historic offense over time, acknowledged and embraced modern basketball trends, and adjusted it as needed. This is what it takes to win in the modern NBA.”

History is littered with great college coaches who struggled in the pros, though, and Hurley’s exacting, sometimes over-the-top coaching style would have to change in the pros, Matt Norlander writes. Still, Geno Auriemma believes his men’s counterpart at UConn can “win lots of championships.”

And as for JJ Redick, long viewed as the frontrunner? He declined immediate comment, but Sam writes Redick would be dodging a bullet by not getting the job.

Isaac Trotter assessed how the college game could change if Hurley leaves the sport’s preeminent program.

Even Magic Johnson weighed in on the matter last night, telling Jimmy Kimmel, “The Lakers gotta have somebody who will hold them accountable. And also, we gotta play physical basketball. Denver will always beat us unless we become a much more physical team. So we’ve gotta get more physical.”

🏒 Stanley Cup Final preview, picks: Can Oilers’ star-studded offense beat Panthers’ defense?

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Getty Images

This season, only three teams scored more goals than the Oilers, and no one allowed fewer goals than the Panthers. Fittingly, they meet in the Stanley Cup Final, and they’re both looking to end long droughts. Florida has never won a Stanley Cup, and though the Oilers have five, their last one came in 1990. Edmonton is also looking to end a drought for its country: No Canadian team has lifted the Cup since the Canadiens in 1993 — months before the Panthers franchise debuted.

Connor McDavid leads a well-oiled Oilers attack. With five Ross Trophies and three Hart Trophies — and potentially more hardware coming soon — McDavid is already racking up an all-time resume at just 27 years old. Winning a Cup would augment his greatness in a way no individual award can. Standing in his way is a deep, disciplined, talented defense and two-time Vezina Trophy winner Sergei Bobrovsky, who was magnificent to close the Eastern Conference Final against the Rangers.

Chris Bengel and Austin Nivison have made their picks . Here’s Austin’s:

  • Nivison: “Of course, the Panthers aren’t all defense all the time. Matthew Tkachuk remains one of the best power forwards in the game today, and he leads Florida with 19 points. Sam Reinhart and Carter Verhaeghe fill out the top-six with some nice scoring pop too. … This Stanley Cup Final matchup is a toss-up featuring teams built in different ways. Ultimately, the Panthers’ depth and defense will win out against a high-powered but top-heavy Oilers team. Pick — Panthers beat Oilers, 4-2

⚽ Golazo 100 continues with Nos. 80-61

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USATSI

The CBS Sports Golazo 100 countdown continued with Nos. 80-61, which features the top player in Concacaf according to our experts’ estimations: Alphonso Davies. Chuck Booth explains why the Bayern Munich left back comes in at No. 75 in the world.

  • Booth: “Davies has exceeded every expectation set for him and then some, yet he can still go even further being only 23. With his pace, Davies can keep up with the best wingers in the world while also delivering chances into attacking areas and still is able to flip back to being a full time attacker when on international duty for Canada.”

Also in this range are a pair of World Cup heroes and plenty of stars from the world’s best clubs, so be sure to check it out … and watch the Golazo Network this morning for 60-41.

Just don’t expect any more Concacaf names. Canada‘s Davies and the United States Christian Pulisic (81st) were the only representatives from the region. Only five others even received a vote. What’s causing this? And is Concacaf on the rise or on the decline? Chuck answered those questions and more.

📺 What we’re watching this weekend

Friday

 Twins at Pirates, 6:40 p.m. on Apple TV+
 Dodgers at Yankees, 7:05 p.m. on Apple TV+
 Rockies at Cardinals, 8:15 p.m. on ESPN+

Saturday

🎾 French Open women’s singles final: Iga Swiatek vs. Jasmine Paolini, 9 a.m. on NBC
🏀 Liberty at Sun, 1 p.m. on ABC
Phillies at Mets (London Series), 1:10 p.m. on Fox
🏀 Dream at Sky, 5 p.m. on ABC
USWNT vs. Colombia, 5:30 p.m. on TNT
🏇 156th Belmont Stakes, 6:41 p.m. on Fox
Dodgers at Yankees or Guardians at Marlins, 7:35 p.m. on Fox
🏒 Stanley Cup Final — Game 1: Oilers at Panthers, 8 p.m. on ABC

Sunday

🎾 French Open men’s singles final, 9 a.m. on NBC
Phillies at Mets (London Series), 10 a.m. on ESPN
Dodgers at Yankees, 7 p.m. on ESPN
🏀 NBA Finals — Game 2: Mavericks at Celtics, 8 p.m. on ABC

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