Happy Thursday, all!
Let's get right to it.
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Good morning to everyone but especially to...
THE ATLANTA HAWKS...
It took the Hawks a while to play their best basketball this season, but they're showing better late than never. After winning seven of their last nine regular-season games, Atlanta dominated Charlotte, 132-103 last night. The Hawks play the Cavaliers tomorrow for the 8 seed in the East.
- Trae Young had 24 points and De'Andre Hunter had 22. Six different Hawks scored in double figures.
- Atlanta went 16 for 32 on 3-pointers.
Young showed once again that he can shine against any defense, any time writes NBA expert Sam Quinn.
- Quinn: "This is the level Young has ascended to in big games. The Knicks, Bucks and Sixers saw it in last year's playoffs. There's no defense you can use against him that won't consistently lead to good offense for the Hawks. Drop and he'll hit you with floater after floater. Go under and he'll go up for logo 3s. Play too aggressively and he'll rack up free throws."
... AND ALSO A GOOD MORNING TO THE NEW ORLEANS PELICANS
The Pelicans are one game away from their first playoff berth since 2018 after a 113-103 win over the Spurs.
- CJ McCollum had a game-high 32 points, Brandon Ingram had 27 and Jonas Valanciunas had 22.
- New Orleans shot 54 percent from the field and won the points in the paint battle 56-38.
Give first-year coach Willie Green and his team a ton of credit. They started this season 1-12 and have played the entire season without Zion Williamson. But the addition of McCollum at the trade deadline has turned the Pelicans into one of the league's best offenses. They have a tough task ahead against the veteran Clippers tomorrow, but last night was an encouraging start.
- Vladimir Guerrero Jr. homered three times against the Yankees in the Blue Jays' 6-4 win.
- Armando Bacot is returning to UNC.
And not such a good morning for...
THE CHARLOTTE HORNETS...
- LaMelo Ball scored 26 points but shot just 7 for 25 from the field -- including 4 for 14 on 3-pointers.
- Miles Bridges got ejected in the fourth quarter and threw his mouthpiece at a fan on his way out.
- It certainly didn't help that Gordon Hayward was out, but the Hornets' issues were much deeper than his absence.
The box score is what it is, but what was shocking was the Hornets' effort level, or lack thereof. Charlotte consistently missed defensive assignments and generally played like nothing was at stake when, in fact, their season was at stake (and is now over).
Ball, Bridges and Terry Rozier form a talented offensive trio. There are some solid complementary pieces. But until the Hornets can make major improvements defensively, they'll be just what they were this year: a fun offensive team without a chance to do much -- if anything -- in the postseason.
... AND ALSO NOT SUCH A GOOD MORNING FOR THE SAN ANTONIO SPURS
It's only a tough morning for the Spurs because their season is over, and that's never easy to swallow. But truth be told, it's pretty amazing the Spurs even made the play-in tournament. They were sellers at the deadline, after all, and they're extremely young. San Antonio got a huge leap from All-Star Dejounte Murray this season and will hope other youngsters can make similar leaps next year.
Not so honorable mentions
- Luka Doncic may not be available for Game 1 of Jazz-Mavericks.
- Baker Mayfield says the Browns "100 percent" disrespected him.
- It appears that we had our first "unwritten rules" controversy of the MLB season. Unwritten rules are dumb.
Clayton Kershaw pulled after seven perfect innings ⚾
There have been 23 perfect games in MLB history. Clayton Kershaw may have been on his way to the 24th, but we'll never know. The Dodgers star was pulled by manager Dave Roberts after tossing seven perfect innings on just 80 pitches yesterday against the Twins.
Minnesota's Gary Sánchez then broke up the perfect game with a single off reliever Alex Vesia in the eighth inning. It was the Twins' lone hit in an eventual 7-0 loss.
- It was Kershaw's season debut, and thanks to the shortened Spring Training, he was pushing his pitch limit.
- Kershaw was OK with the decision but also admitted he "would have loved to stay, but bigger things."
- Roberts said "Later in the season, when he's a little more built up, I think he goes out there."
- Sandy Koufax is the only Dodger to throw a perfect game, back in 1965.
There have been just two pitchers pulled with their perfect game still intact through at least seven innings: Kershaw yesterday and Rich Hill in 2016. Roberts was the manager in both of those games. But before you blame Roberts too much, I think this was the right move:
- In addition to the abbreviated Spring Training, Kershaw, 34, is coming off forearm and elbow discomfort that caused him to miss the 2021 postseason.
- Kershaw pitched just 121 2/3 innings last season, his fewest since his rookie year (not including the pandemic-shortened 2020 season).
- It was 38 degrees in Minnesota.
As a fan of baseball -- and of history-making -- I would have loved to see Kershaw go back out there. But the Dodgers have bigger goals than mid-April, and Kershaw is a vital part of them.
Champions League: Manchester City advances in dramatic fashion; Liverpool also into semifinals ⚽
High-scoring action, a thrilling scoreless draw and fights -- yes, fights! We got it all yesterday in the Champions League quarterfinals.
In Madrid, Manchester City and Atlético Madrid finished 0-0, meaning City is through to the semifinals after winning the first leg 1-0. The hotly contested affair included hair-pulling and several cards handed out late. In the end, though, City showed just enough composure to advance, writes soccer reporter James Benge.
- Benge: "Certainly, this was nothing like City at their best. To hold out the pressure that came in the second half, they had to abandon any pretense of being an attacking force aside from the odd rally from Riyad Mahrez or Raheem Sterling. ... But at some stage in their pursuit of the treble, they may yet need the composure and defense first mindset that they displayed tonight. It was an impressive new side to Guardiola's side."
Liverpool and Benfica, meanwhile, battled to a very different draw: 3-3. The Reds were never really in danger given their 3-1 first-leg advantage. This time around, they led 3-1 with under 20 minutes left before two late Benfica tallies. Liverpool is atop of Benge's Champions League Power Rankings.
- Benge: "Ultimately, Liverpool take top spot over City due to a somewhat more favorable semifinal draw, super-powered offenses might have crashed against the Villarreal rock so far, but the Yellow Submarines haven't seen such a weight of options as those that Jurgen Klopp has."
Remember, you can always stream the Champions League on Paramount+.
Derek Carr latest QB to get big extension 💰
The Las Vegas Raiders made waves last month when they acquired Davante Adams and gave him a massive extension. Yesterday, they made sure he'll have his former college quarterback throwing him passes for the foreseeable future, too: Derek Carr signed a three-year, $121.5-million extension through 2025. The deal includes a no-trade clause, and Carr said he'd retire before leaving the Raiders.
The new money in the deal, which kicks in after this season, is fifth-most among quarterbacks in terms of average annual value:
- 1. Aaron Rodgers: $50.2 million
- 2. Deshaun Watson: $46 million
- 3. Patrick Mahomes: $45 million
- 4. Josh Allen: $43 million
- 5. Derek Carr: $40.5 million
Carr may not be quite at the same level as those other names, but he's been the epitome of stability for the Raiders since being drafted in 2014.
- Raiders' all-time leader in completions, passing yards and passing touchdowns
- 30 game-winning drives since 2014, tied with Matthew Stafford for most
- Missed just two regular-season games (none in the past four seasons)
That stability was especially evident last season. After then-head coach Jon Gruden resigned in the wake of leaked emails in October and wide receiver Henry Ruggs III was released after being the driver responsible for a fatal car accident shortly thereafter, Carr and the Raiders won their final four games to make the playoffs for just the second time in the last 19 seasons.
Along with Adams, the Raiders have a new coach in Josh McDaniels -- who endorsed Carr in March. Carr will have the best supporting cast he's ever had, featuring Adams, tight end Darren Waller, wide receiver Hunter Renfrow and running back Josh Jacobs. It's time for Carr to deliver.
What we're watching Thursday 📺
🏒 Wild at Stars, 8 p.m. on ESPN
⚾ Angels vs. Rangers, 8:05 p.m. on MLB Network