Good Tuesday morning, everyone. Hope you're doing well.
Let's get right to it.
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Good morning to everyone but especially to...
THE BOSTON CELTICS
All season long, the No. 2 seed in the Eastern Conference seemed like the one nobody wanted, as the Nets likely awaited as the No. 7 seed. But the Celtics were never afraid of that spot, and now we know why. Boston finished off an impressive sweep of Brooklyn last night with a 116-112 Game 4 win.
- Jayson Tatum, Jaylen Brown and Marcus Smart all scored 20+ points.
- For Brooklyn, Kevin Durant scored 39 points but needed 31 shot attempts to get there. Kyrie Irving had 20 points of his own.
- The Celtics never trailed.
Boston is really, really good, and we should have seen it coming. After the All-Star Break, the Celtics had the NBA's best record, best offensive rating and third-best defensive rating. The Celtics are magnificent defensively with no weak spots on that end of the floor. Offensively, Tatum is a top-tier star, Brown can carry the load as well, and there's more than enough in the supporting cast.
What I like about the Celtics most is that they don't stray from who they are, and they play to their strengths. Their biggest strength in this series was, literally, their physical strength. Over the four games, the Celtics won the points in the paint battle by 54 and the rebounding battle by 22. It was only fitting that last night, each of Boston's last four buckets were layups, and two were off of offensive rebounds.
The Celtics had plenty of blowout wins down stretch of the regular season. So far this postseason, they're showing they can win the close ones, too, writes our NBA reporter Sam Quinn.
- Quinn: "If anything, sweeping this specific Nets team in four close games is perhaps even more impressive than doing it in four blowouts. The entire advantage of having Kevin Durant and Kyrie Irving is that your team should always be able to generate a good shot in the half-court. It's one of the best shot-creating duos in NBA history, and with crunch-time so dependent on half-court shot-creation, beating them in the clutch four times is insanely impressive."
- Ja Morant the NBA's Most Improved Player award.
- Walker Buehler threw MLB's of the season.
- It looks like sooner rather than later.
And not such a good morning for...
THE BROOKLYN NETS
The Nets entered this season as the favorite to win the NBA title. Ever since then, very little went right.
- Kyrie Irving's vaccine status made him a part-time player for much of the season.
- Kevin Durant played just 55 games due to injuries.
- James Harden went from third superstar to mid-season departure.
- Ben Simmons arrived as the centerpiece of the Harden deal... and then never played.
- Joe Harris got hurt, the big men were subpar, head coach Steve Nash struggled to adjust yada, yada, yada. You name it, the Nets probably suffered from it.
When it came down to it, yes the sweep was surprising and embarrassing, but the Nets were simply not a championship-caliber team, and the Celtics exposed that. The silver lining is that next year should bring the return of a healthy Simmons and Harris, Irving(he has a player option) and Durant isn't going anywhere.
Still, Brooklyn has a lot of work to do.
Not so honorable mentions
The Mavericks have their star fully back, and they're looking dangerous. Dallas dominated Utah, 102-77, in a crucial Game 5 to take a 3-2 series lead.
- Luka Doncic had 33 points (in 33 minutes!) and added 13 rebounds and five assists.
- Jalen Brunson added 24 points, his fifth straight game with 20+.
- The Jazz shot an abysmal 10 percent (3-for-30) on 3-pointers. It's the worst 3-point shooting performance in NBA postseason history (min. 25 attempts).
If I told you the Mavericks haven't won a playoff series since winning the 2011 NBA title, you probably wouldn't believe me. But I promise you, it's true. They'll have a chance to change that Thursday night.
Meanwhile, if you thought the Raptors were going to go away quietly after falling down three games to none against the 76ers, think again. Toronto staved off elimination again and cut the series deficit to 3-2 with a .
- Pascal Siakam had 23 points, 10 rebounds and seven assists.
- Precious Achiuwa had 17 points and seven rebounds off the bench.
- Joel Embiid had 20 points, but James Harden struggled again, managing just 15 points on 4-for-11 shooting.
- It was the 76ers' fewest points in a playoff game since 2012.
Remember, teams are 144-0 all-time after leading a series 3-0. Then again, Doc Rivers is the only coach to blow three 3-1 leads, and Harden hasn't done much to shed his reputation as someone who struggles in the playoffs. I don't think the 76ers are in serious trouble yet, but they're certainly not making things easy on themselves.
Potential surprises that could shake up the NFL Draft 🏈
This NFL Draft is just a few days away and has the chance to get very interesting very quickly. Why? Just a few factors:
- There's no clear No. 1 pick, and the odds for who will hear his name called first have swung wildly the past few days.
- There's no clear top-tier quarterback group or, for that matter, even one top-tier quarterback.
- Eight teams have multiple first-round picks.
So, expect the unexpected Thursday night. To prepare you for the madness, NFL Draft expert Chris Trapasso has, including...
- Trapasso: "Saints moving into the top 10 for a quarterback -- 'New Orleans is weirdly positioned at No. 16 and No. 19 overall. ... If the Saints package their extra first-round pick with others to enter the top 10 party to pick a quarterback, it'd throw a wrench in the top half of the first round, although many teams outside of it would be celebrating in their respective war room, as it'd move an offensive tackle down the board as well as another non-quarterback prospects.'"
Another factor playing into the draft intrigue is Deebo Samuel, who the 49ers say will. You know who has two first-round picks? The Chiefs and the Packers, two receiver-needy teams in win-now mode. Could we see Samuel move between now and Thursday night? Could Kansas City or Green Bay ? We'll find out soon.
See all of Trapasso's surprising scenarios here.
Champions League: Manchester City, Real Madrid open semifinal round today ⚽
The Champions League is back and we have a terrific match kicking things off with Paramount+.today at 3 p.m. on CBS and streaming on
The match will feature the No. 1 and No. 3 players in ourin Madrid's Karim Benzema and City's Kevin de Bruyne. Here's the top five:
- 1. Karim Benzema, center forward, Real Madrid
- 2. Mohamed Salah, winger, Liverpool
- 3. Kevin de Bruyne, midfielder, Manchester City
- 4. Luka Modrić, midfielder, Real Madrid
- 5. Trent Alexander-Arnold, right back, Liverpool
But in his, our soccer reporter James Benge says this afternoon.
- Benge: "This might well be a game for Vinicius Junior, who will almost certainly be attacking a player who is not ready for the task. Joao Cancelo's suspension was enough of a headache for Pep Guardiola but both Kyle Walker and break-in-case-of-emergencies right back option John Stones are struggling with injuries. ... At full pelt Walker should be able to tame the Brazilian. If City do not have their best covering defender at that sort of level, then it might be Vinicius rather than Benzema who does the damage."
For everything else you need to get ready for this huge match:
What we're watching Tuesday 📺
We're watching the NBA playoffs.
⚽ UEFA Champions League semifinal: Manchester City vs Real Madrid, 3 p.m. on CBS and Paramount+
🏒 Oilers at Penguins, 7 p.m. on ESPN
🏒 Blues at Avalanche, 9:30 p.m. on ESPN