NBA: Finals-Miami Heat at Denver Nuggets

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Good morning to everyone but especially to...


How did the Heat get here? There's been the Jimmy Butler games. The Caleb Martin or the Gabe Vincent or the *insert role player here* games. The lockdown defense games. The scorching shooting games. But nothing cohesive. No overarching theme.

Until now.

The Heat just find ways to win. Through coaching. Through sheer will and toughness. On Sunday, they used it all to stun the Nuggets, 111-108, and even the Finals at 1-1. In a frantic ending, Denver cut Miami's lead from 12 to three with incredible shot-making from Jamal Murray and Nikola Jokic. Murray got a decent look for 3 at the buzzer but missed.

  • Miami outscored Denver, 36-25, in the fourth quarter and shot 11-16 (68.8%) in that frame. It's the third-best field goal percentage in a Finals fourth quarter in the play-by-play era (since 1996-97).
  • Duncan Robinson jumpstarted the comeback with 10 quick points in the quarter. Jimmy Butler had eight, Bam Adebayo had seven, and Gabe Vincent had five.
  • The Heat trailed by as much as 15. This marks their seventh double-digit comeback this postseason, tied for the most of any team in the play-by-play era.

Oh, and keep in mind the Nuggets hadn't lost at home since March. The Heat have the Nuggets right where they want them, opines our Bill Reiter.

  • Reiter: "In so many ways, Miami showed, yet again, the pattern of play that has gotten them here. A refusal to let doubt creep in... Momentum is a powerful thing. So is belief, when it's genuine and widespread. Miami now has both."

Honorable mentions

And not such a good morning for...

NBA: Finals-Miami Heat at Denver Nuggets


Nuggets coach Michael Malone didn't think his team played well in Game 1, which Denver won comfortably. He echoed that again after Game 2, saying the Nuggets' effort was "a huge concern." Jeff Green was more blunt: "This is the f---ing Finals, man. Our energy has to be better."

Neither of them are wrong. Thanks to mistakes and poor performances, the Nuggets not only wasted Jokic's 41 points but blew home-court advantage in the process. Here's what stood out:

  • Michael Porter Jr. had five points on 2-8 shooting and multiple defensive mistakes, a major reason why he played just 26 minutes. The Nuggets need Porter, a supremely talented, 6'10" matchup nightmare, to get going.
  • Kentavious Caldwell-Pope committed two awful fouls on 3-point attempts late in the shot clock, which led to five Heat points. When the margin for error is tiny, those are massive plays.
  • Murray nearly rescued Denver late, but entering the fourth quarter, he had 10 points on nine shots. The Nuggets need him to be assertive throughout.

Shots come and go, but the defensive miscues are inexcusable. In the first 2:16 of the fourth quarter...

  • Murray bit on a Robinson pump fake, leading to a 3.
  • Murray closed out lackadaisically on Robinson, who drove by him for a layup.
  • Jeff Green was late to contest a Robinson 3.
  • The Heat ran Robinson off a screen, and both Christian Braun and Bruce Brown followed him, allowing a wide-open Gabe Vincent 3.
  • The Heat repeated that exact action, Braun got stuck behind the screen, Brown was in no man's land, and Robinson got another layup.

There were, simply, too many breakdowns throughout the game allowing the Heat to go 17-35 (48.6%) from 3, notes our Sam Quinn.

Offensively, Jokic dominated the points category but had more turnovers (five) than assists (four) for the first time this postseason. Denver is 0-3 this postseason when Jokic has at least 40 points, and Miami limiting his playmaking was crucial.

Denver has some soul-searching to do as the series shifts to Miami.

Not so honorable mentions

MLB Power Rankings: The AL is taking over ⚾

MLB: Toronto Blue Jays at Tampa Bay Rays

It's the American League's world, and we're just living in it. AL teams own five of the six best records in MLB and, more important, the top five spots in Matt Snyder's Power Rankings.

  • 1. Rays
  • 2. Rangers
  • 3. Astros
  • 4. Orioles
  • 5. Yankees

Here's more from the weekend:

Golden Knights jump out to 1-0 lead in Stanley Cup Final 🏒

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This postseason, the Golden Knights have been dominant when ahead and historically good when behind. Seems like a pretty good formula to me.

In Game 1 of the Stanley Cup Final on Saturday, they combined both attributes, rallying past and then crushing the Panthers for a 5-2 win.

  • Tied 2-2 through 40 minutes, the Golden Knights dominated the third period: Zach Whitecloud scored the game-winner, and Mark Stone and Reilly Smith added insurance.
  • Vegas has nine comeback wins this postseason. Only the 2022 Avalanche and 2009 Penguins (10 each) had more. Both of those teams won the Cup.

For all of the big names on the ice, an under-appreciated one starred, writes our Austin Nivison.

  • Nivison: "Shea Theodore is one of the more underrated defensemen in the NHL, but that won't be the case for long if he plays like this throughout the Stanley Cup Final. ... Vegas owned 78.5% of the expected goals when Theodore was on the ice at five-on-five, per Natural Stat Trick. Whether he was beating Florida's forecheck or pitching in on the scoreboard, Theodore was a force in all three zones."

Viktor Hovland wins the Memorial; Rose Zhang makes LPGA history ⛳

the Memorial Tournament presented by Workday - Final Round
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He's racked up near-misses, sure, but he's starting to rack up wins, too.

Viktor Hovland rallied to get into a playoff and then triumphed over Denny McCarthy to win the Memorial -- his fourth career PGA Tour victory -- and earn a massive payday.

  • Hovland birdied 15 and 17 to get one clear of Scottie Scheffler for second and one back of McCarthy. When McCarthy bogeyed the 72nd hole, the playoff was on, and Hovland comfortably parred the first playoff hole to win.
  • Though it's Hovland's first win of the season, he's had many close calls, including T-2 at the PGA Championship and T-3 at the Players. He has seven top-10s this season.
  • Hovland joins Jon Rahm and Rory McIlroy as the only players with a PGA Tour win in each of the last four seasons.
  • With the U.S. Open under two weeks away, Hovland is trending in the right direction, writes our Patrick McDonald.

If Hovland is one of golf's best young stars, we're going to need new superlatives for Rose Zhang.

The 20-year-old phenom won the Mizuho Americas Open, becoming the first person to win her LPGA professional debut since Beverly Hanson in 1951.

  • After bogeying the 72nd hole to fall into a playoff with Jennifer Kupcho, Zhang made a clutch par on the first playoff hole to tie Kupcho and then made another par to win on the second playoff hole. 
  • Zhang is no stranger to the winner's circle. In two years at Stanford, she won the NCAA Individual Championship twice, the only woman to do that.
  • Overall, Zhang won 12 of her 20 collegiate starts, breaking the Stanford record of 11 held by Tiger Woods, among others. She also won the Augusta National Women's Amateur in April.
  • Zhang is also the first player to win a D-I individual title and an LPGA event in the same season. She did it in the span of 13 days.

Zhang has rewritten history everywhere she's been, and she's just getting started.

Karim Benzema leaves Real Madrid, expected to join Al-Ittihad; Zlatan Imbrahović retires ⚽

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He was staying. Going. Staying. Going. Now, he's officially gone.

Superstar striker Karim Benzema has left Real Madrid, and he's expected to join Al-Ittihad of the Saudi Pro League.

  • Benzema, 35, won a club record-tying 25 trophies with Los Blancos and also won the 2022 Ballon d'Or, the top individual award in soccer. His 353 career goals are second in club history behind Cristiano Ronaldo.
  • The Saudi Pro League has deep pockets and is hoping that big contracts will lure more stars: Ronaldo joined Al-Nassr in December, and with Benzema now in tow, Lionel Messi, N'Golo Kante and other big names are targets.
  • After a disappointing four seasons, Eden Hazard is also leaving Real Madrid.

Those aren't the only goodbyes, though: Zlatan Imbrahimović is saying goodbye to professional soccer. The legendary 41-year-old Swedish striker tearfully bid adieu after AC Milan's season finale.

  • Imbrahimović scored 561 goals for club and country in a career that spanned more than two decades and included stops at Malmö, Ajax, Juventus, Inter, AC Milan (twice), Barcelona, PSG, Manchester United and the Los Angeles Galaxy.
  • He won 12 league titles -- including in 2011 and 2022 with AC Milan -- and was a three-time Ligue 1 Player of the Year with PSG.

What we're watching Monday 📺

🏒 Panthers at Golden Knights, 8 p.m. on TNT