Trae Young and the Hawks aren’t dead (yet), plus which NFL Draft rumors should you believe?
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Good morning to everyone but especially to…
THE PHOENIX SUNS AND THE DENVER NUGGETS
A second-round series is finally locked in: The Nuggets and the Suns finished off the Timberwolves and the Clippers, respectively, in five games to set up what should be a scintillating Western Conference semifinal.
Let’s start in Phoenix, where Devin Booker‘s historic excellence and, oh yeah, some guy named Kevin Durant, propelled the Suns to a 136-130 win.
- Booker scored 47 points, his Suns-record sixth playoff 40-pointer. He outscored LA by himself in the third quarter, 25-24, and the Suns as a team hung 50 in the period.
- Durant had 31 points.
- Booker and Durant join Kobe Bryant and Shaquille O’Neal (2003) as the only teammates to both score 25+ in each of their first five games of a postseason.
Give enormous credit to LA, which trailed by 20 early in the fourth quarter and cut it all the way to two. Even without Kawhi Leonard and Paul George, the Clippers were a stern test for the Suns. We’ll always be left wondering what if those two were healthy, but that’s a discussion for another day.
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In Denver, the West’s No. 1 shook off Minnesota, 112-109, behind its two-time MVP center and star point guard.
- Nikola Jokic scored five straight points in the last minute to give Denver a lead it would not relinquish. He finished with a triple-double: 28 points, 17 rebounds and 12 assists.
- When Jokic struggled shooting, Jamal Murray was always there to keep Denver afloat. He finished with 35 points, including five 3-pointers.
- Anthony Edwards had 29 points for Minnesota but missed a game-tying 3-pointer at the buzzer.
It wasn’t always pretty, but this was a really solid series win for Denver after a sluggish finish to the regular season.
Not so honorable mentions
Trae Young hits game-winner, Hawks stave off elimination 🏀
Not many people gave the Hawks a chance coming into their series against the Celtics and certainly not coming into Game 5, trailing 3-1 and without the suspended Dejounte Murray.
Queue Trae Young’s biggest game and shot of his NBA career. Young splashed a go-ahead stepback 3-pointer with 1.8 seconds left, the final three of his 38 points, and Atlanta topped Boston, 119-117, to save its season.
- Young scored 16 points in the fourth quarter alone, including his team’s final 14 points. He had averaged 15.3 points per game in elimination games entering Tuesday.
- The Hawks trailed, 109-96, with six minutes left, but outscored Boston 23-8 from there.
- John Collins had 22 points and Bogdan Bogdanovic, starting with Murray out, had 18 and was a team-best +11.
- Jaylen Brown (35 points) was terrific, but Jayson Tatum (19 points on 8-22 shooting, including 1-11 on 3-pointers) struggled.
Young wasn’t perfect, but he came up big when it mattered most, writes our Brad Botkin.
NFL Draft: Wild swing in No. 1 pick odds, plus final top 150 prospects 🏈
The closer we get to the NFL Draft, the less we know.
- At first, the big question was: “Who will trade for the Bears‘ No. 1 overall pick?”
- Then the Panthers did, and the question became: “Which quarterback will Carolina take — and which one will the Texans take after that?”
- Then, out of the blue, it became: “Will the Texans even take a quarterback?!”
- Now, even more out of nowhere, it’s: “Will the Panthers really do that?!”
Will Levis‘ odds to go No. 1 have skyrocketed — a stunning, confusing development — though Bryce Young remains the favorite. The Panthers, by the way, have reached a consensus, according to coach Frank Reich.
Perhaps the oddsmakers were listening to our Pete Prisco. Pete has been banging the Levis drum for months, and in his mock draft of what teams “should” do, he has Levis going first.
- Prisco: “His situation was terrible at Kentucky last year. But the disdain for his game has gone over the top and Carolina would be getting a future star if they took him.”
Here’s Pete’s entire mock. As for others…
If you hadn’t picked up on it already, lots of NFL Draft discourse dissolves into a constant rumor mill. It happens every year. Some rumors have merit. Others are just noise. So, which rumors are worth buying or selling? Our Jordan Dajani analyzes all of the latest gossip.
Finally, our final top 150 prospect rankings have arrived. Here’s the top 10:
- 1. Will Anderson Jr., EDGE, Alabama
- 2. Bryce Young, QB, Alabama
- 3. Jalen Carter, DL, Georgia
- 4. C.J. Stroud, QB, Ohio State
- 5. Bijan Robinson, RB, Texas
- 6. Peter Skoronski, OT, Northwestern
- 7. Christian Gonzalez, CB, Oregon
- 8. Tyree Wilson, EDGE, Texas Tech
- 9. Devon Witherspoon, CB, Illinois
- 10. Deonte Banks, CB, Maryland
Warriors vs. Kings Game 5: Fox to play? Green off bench again? 🏀
When your franchise waited 17 years to make the playoffs, you don’t go down easily. Even if that requires playing through a fractured finger.
After initially being ruled doubtful, De’Aaron Fox say he’s “99-100%” going to play in Game 5. Fox will wear a protective covering on his left index finger, and we’ll see how much it impacts him. But if he’s anywhere close to the superstar he’s been this series — averaging 31.5 points, seven assists and six rebounds — it’s an immeasurable boost for the Kings, who are tied 2-2 with the Warriors.
As for those Warriors, they brought Draymond Green off the bench in the Game 4 win. Might they keep that same strategy? Our Brad Botkin weighs the pros and cons.
- Botkin: “The extra space afforded by one-big lineups and Gary Payton II, another non-shooter, being relegated to spot minutes was evident. Golden State’s shooters got going early, and then Steve Kerr went back to the two-big lineup to start the second half. Might that indicate he’ll go back to it to start Game 5? Perhaps. But there’s a lot to ponder here. Jordan Poole is clearly better when he’s playing with the starters. … And the Warriors need Poole in the ongoing effort to keep pace with the electric Kings offense.”
Cale Makar suspended for Game 5, plus Rangers-Devils looking like another classic 🏒
The defending champs are trying to hold off a historic upset. Now, they face a critical Game 5 without one of their best players.
Cale Makar got suspended one game for his late hit on Jared McCann in Game 4.
- McCann missed on a breakaway attempt, and the puck went out of play. As McCann and Makar skated away, Makar delivered a punishing hit, sending McCann into the boards and then down to the ice.
- McCann, who led the Kraken with 70 points and 40 goals, did not return. He will not play in Game 5.
- Makar was initially given a five-minute major penalty for interference, but after a review, it was reduced to a two-minute minor.
In three years in the NHL, Makar owns a Conn Smythe Trophy (playoff MVP), a James Norris Memorial Trophy (top all-around defenseman), a Calder Memorial Trophy (top rookie) and two All-Star trips. It’s a massive loss for the Avalanche, as they hope to prevent the Kraken‘s first playoff series win.
That’s not the only series tied 2-2. The Rangers and Devils are also knotted up. That’s nothing new, notes our Austin Nivison.
- Nivison: “If history is any indicator, fans will be in for a white-knuckle finish over the next two to three games. … The Devils and Rangers met in the postseason for the first time in 1992, and that series went the distance. Two years later, they met again, and that clash was decided by double overtime in Game 7. The last time New York and New Jersey met in the playoffs, prior to this year, was in the 2012 Eastern Conference finals. That series went six games and provided yet another memorable finish in this bitter rivalry.”
What we’re watching Wednesday 📺
🏀 We’re watching the NBA playoffs. Here’s how.
🏒 We’re also watching the NHL playoffs. Here’s how.