Happy Thursday everyone! We're in the homestretch of the week and football is back on our TVs tonight. I'll take that combination.
Let's get right to it.
Good morning to everyone but especially to...
THE HOUSTON ROCKETS
If I gave you a million guesses (before you opened this newsletter, of course) as to who has the longest active winning streak in the NBA, you might not get it right. Well, there are only 30 teams in the NBA, so I'm exaggerating, but the answer is the Houston Rockets -- winners of SEVEN STRAIGHT after a 114-104 win over the Kevin Durant-less Brooklyn Nets last night.
Yes, it's those same Houston Rockets who lost 15 straight games immediately before this winning streak. They are the only team in NBA history to have a 15-game losing streak AND a seven-game winning streak in the same season -- let alone have one streak follow the other.
It's hard not to feel good for their coach, Stephen Silas, who was hired last year, walked right into the James Harden disaster and endured a 17-55 debut season. He and his young roster are starting to see some encouraging signs, finally.
- Wimbish: "It's been an impressive turnaround for the young rebuilding team, who just two weeks ago had only one win to their name this season. ... That can be attributed to guys like Garrison Mathews and Eric Gordon finding their shots from deep over the win streak, helping Houston in crucial moments. Houston's also got better performances from some of their key players like Christian Wood, Kevin Porter Jr. and Jae'Sean Tate to help lead this win streak."
- Tiger Woods is back! Well, kinda. Woods will play with his son, Charlie, in the 2021 PNC Championship -- a non-PGA TOUR father-son event -- on Dec. 18-19. "I'm playing as a Dad," Woods tweeted Wednesday. It will be awesome to see Woods back on the course for what will be his first competitive playing since a serious car crash in February.
- No Bam Adebayo or Jimmy Butler, no problem for the Heat, who beat the Bucks 113-104 last night in Miami. Caleb Martin scored a career-high 28 points to lead the way. It's the first time Milwaukee's lost this season when Giannis Antetokounmpo, Khris Middleton and Jrue Holiday all played.
- Bayern Munich romped to a 3-0 win over Barcelona in the Champions League to finish group play a perfect 6-0-0. It was a "ruthless" performance from the German side, writes soccer expert James Benge, and Bayern has emerged as a clear favorite writes soccer reporter Roger Gonzalez. As for the other side...
And not such a good morning for...
This should come as no surprise, but it's still hard for me to believe it as I type it out: Barcelona is out of the UEFA Champions League following a 3-0 loss to Bayern Munich.
It's the first time since 2004 that Barcelona won't make the knockout stage. A return to competing for trophies will take time, writes our soccer guru Roger Gonzalez:
- Gonzalez: "The months of atrocious planning and play with Ronald Koeman at the helm has led to this. While Barca have the name, they obviously don't have the game. This is a club in full rebuild mode looking to reach some level of competence since Lionel Messi's departure. ... [Xavi] hasn't gotten a transfer window, he hasn't had enough time to implement his strategy, and there are going to be more growing pains along the way."
Being knocked out by Bayern Munich, though, added insult to injury. Bayern has outscored Barca 14-2 (!) over their last three Champions League meetings. Simply put, these are two clubs competing on completely different levels.
Not so honorable mentions:
- The Texans waived linebacker Zach Cunningham just 15 months after agreeing to a four-year, $58 million extension with him last offseason. The Texans disciplined Cunningham multiple times this season, and head coach David Culley said "it wasn't tough at all" to move on. It's a bummer for Houston to have to part ways with a very talented player, but it's really Cunningham who earns the not so honorable mention: None of the money from his big extension was guaranteed past this season.
- The city of Glendale, Ariz. is threatening to kick the Coyotes out of their home stadium. The city is citing delinquent tax bills and unpaid arena charges as why. If the franchise doesn't pay its invoices by Dec. 20, Gila River Arena's management company will bar the team from entry.
NFL playoff picture, fantasy advice as we head into crucial Week 14 🏈
Week 14 in the NFL kicks off tonight with an important matchup: The Steelers visit the Vikings, with both teams right on the edge of playoff contention. If the season ended right now, Pittsburgh would be one spot out of the postseason on the AFC side, and Minnesota would be two spots out on the NFC side.
Good news for both teams: The season doesn't end today!
Bad news for both teams: SportsLine.com's Stephen Oh crunched the numbers, and the numbers don't have either teams making the postseason. Instead, here's what the computers say for the final Wild Card spot in both conferences:
- AFC Wild Card 3: Colts -- "The computer thinks the race for the final playoff spot in the AFC is down to two teams: the Colts and Bengals. ... According to SportsLine, the Colts have a 61.9% chance of making the playoffs while the Bengals are sitting at just 48.7%."
- NFC Wild Card 3: Eagles -- "The computer almost malfunctioned trying to figure out who's going to get the final wild-card spot in the NFC. According to SportsLine, the race is down to the Eagles and Washington... Of course, the race between these two teams will be decided on the field since Washington and Philly will play each other twice over the final five weeks of the season (Week 15, Week 17)."
As for the fantasy playoffs, they may have already begun in your league, or they're going to soon. Whatever your situation is, you're going to want to make sure you're playing your best lineup, and we've got you covered with Start 'Em & Sit 'Em.
How the Yankees can make noise after a quiet start to the offseason ⚾
It's been an eerily quiet past week on the MLB front thanks to the lockout. But for Yankees fans, it was quiet even before that. The Bronx Bombers didn't do anything that moved the needle before the lockout began, but our MLB expert Mike Axisa has three ways they they can salvage their offseason when business resumes.
- Stop skimping on shortstop: "The Yankees could either sign [Carlos] Correa, one of the two or three best players at a premium position, or they could sign/trade for a lesser player and not win as many games in an extremely competitive AL East division that featured three other 90-win teams in 2021. I know what I'd do."
- Focus on left field, not center field: "I believe the Yankees are better off sticking with their in-house center fielders and exploring the corner outfield market, which offers more appealing options than the current center field market. [Joey] Gallo is plenty good enough to play center for a year and [Aaron] Judge (and [Aaron] Hicks) provide enough depth."
- Give the A's a call: "You don't have to try too hard to see the Yankees and Athletics hooking up for a blockbuster that sends, say, [Matt] Olson and [Frankie] Montas and [Tony] Kemp to New York in exchange for a prospect package that is lighter than you'd expect given the A's payroll-slashing priority."
Revealing the 2021 CBS Sports All-America team 🏆
College football experts from CBS Sports and 247Sports collaborated to create their first- and second-team All-America teams. That's 54 players in all (11 offense, 11 defense, 5 special teams/all-purpose on each team), and I'd say the voters did a fine job.
Here's the unanimous first-team selections:
- "There are five unanimous All-America selections with Michigan State running back Kenneth Walker III, Iowa center Tyler Linderbaum, Michigan defensive end Aidan Hutchinson, Alabama linebacker Will Anderson Jr. and San DIego State punter Matt Araiza receiving first-team nods from all voters."
What we're watching Thursday 📺
🏀 No. 7 Texas at No. 23 Seton Hall (+2), 6:30 p.m. on FS1
🏀 Jazz at 76ers (+3), 7 p.m. on NBA TV
🏈 Steelers at Vikings (-3), 8:20 p.m. on FOX/NFL Network
🏀 Iowa at No. 23 Iowa State (+4.5), 9 p.m. on ESPN2