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Cavs, Mavs even series; Knicks have injury issues; Early CFP predictions

Written by on May 10, 2024

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🏀 Good morning to everyone but especially …

THE DALLAS MAVERICKS AND THE CLEVELAND CAVALIERS

This is why, for all the great offenses in the playoffs, the Mavericks‘ might be the most fearsome. Behind a bounce-back performance from Luka Doncic, a career performance from P.J. Washington and an out-of-nowhere performance from Tim Hardaway Jr., the Mavericks evened their series against the Thunder at one apiece with a 119-110 win.

Oklahoma City had not allowed more than 95 points in a game this postseason.

  • Doncic scored 29 points and made five of his eight 3-pointers, breaking out of a prolonged slump from deep. Washington had 29 points as well, obliterating his previous playoff career high of 18.
  • Doncic and Washington became the first teammates with five 3s and 10 rebounds each in the same playoff game.
  • Hardaway, meanwhile, had 17 crucial points off the bench. For reference, he had 19 points over the past four weeks combined.
  • Dallas shot 49% from 3 after shooting 34% from deep in Game 1.

But Dallas wasn’t the only team tying things up …

There may be bigger names with more accomplishments or in bigger markets, but when Donovan Mitchell gets going, he’s as good as any of them. The Cavaliers guard scored 23 of his 29 points in the second half, making eight of 13 shots (including five of six from 3) over the final two quarters in a 118-94 Game 2 demolition of the Celtics.

This was Cleveland at its best, and not just because of Mitchell …

  • Evan Mobley had a playoff career-high 21 points as well as 10 rebounds and five assists. Caris LeVert added 21 off the bench; he had been averaging just seven points this postseason.
  • Darius Garland made five-of-eight shots (including four of five from 3) en route to 14 points. Overall, Cleveland shot 13-of-28 (46%) from 3.
  • Cleveland also held Boston to eight for 35 from behind the arc (23%) and outscored Boston 60-44 in the paint.

I didn’t give the Cavaliers much of a chance after a blowout Game 1 loss. They still face long odds to win the series. But led by Mitchell’s historic postseason greatness and Mobley’s increasing confidence, they might just have a chance.

😃 Honorable mentions

🤕 And not such a good morning for …

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THE NEW YORK KNICKS

The Knicks provided an injury update ahead of Game 3 against the Pacers, and it’s not the news they wanted. OG Anunoby (hamstring strain) is out, and Jalen Brunson (foot) is questionable.

Anunoby got hurt on a breakaway in the third quarter of Game 2 and did not return. It wasn’t as clear how Brunson got hurt in the first quarter; he would go on to miss the rest of the half before returning and finishing with 29 points.

Anunoby had 28 points in 28 minutes before exiting. His excellent defense plus versatile offensive game has been a huge part of New York’s success. This playoffs, the Knicks are 26-5 (including playoffs) when he plays and 30-29 when he doesn’t. Opponents average nearly seven more points in games he doesn’t play compared to games he does.

Keep in mind the Knicks were already stretched very thin without Julius Randle, Mitchell Robinson and Bojan Bogdanovic. Expect a ton of Deuce McBride, an elevated role for Alec Burks — who has played 44 seconds this postseason — and maybe some other unexpected contributors.

The Pacers, meanwhile, spent their day off sending the NBA 78(!) complaints about the refereeing in Games 1 and 2.

😕 Not so honorable mentions

🏀 Suns fire Frank Vogel, have top target to replace him

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The Suns are looking for a new coach … again. Phoenix fired Frank Vogel just one year after giving him a five-year, $31-million deal.

  • Expected to compete for a title, the Suns only managed to earn the No. 6 seed in the West and promptly got swept in the first round by the Timberwolves. After the sweep, reports emerged that Kevin Durant was unhappy in his role all season.
  • The “Big Three” of Durant, Devin Booker and Bradley Beal appeared in just 41 games together, and Booker and Beal both struggled in the playoffs. Despite having that trio and a breakout season from Grayson Allen, Phoenix finished just 10th in offensive rating in the regular season. Phoenix was then the worst defensive team in the playoffs.
  • Owner Mat Ishbia is overseeing his second coaching search in as many years after firing Monty Williams last offseason.
  • Vogel has now been fired twice in three years, with both exits coming after big trades: Russell Westbrook to the Lakers and Beal to the Suns.

The Suns reportedly have another former champion coach in mind: Mike Budenholzer. Sam Quinn explains why the former Bucks coach might make sense.

  • Quinn: “If the Suns want a revamped offense, as all of the reporting thus far has claimed, Budenholzer is a strong choice. Phoenix relied way too heavily on mid-range jumpers this season, and that poor shot-selection hampered its offense. Budenholzer teams are known for taking the right shots. That primarily means firing off a bunch of 3-pointers, but they get to the rim as well. Of course, this team’s personnel isn’t exactly suited to attacking the basket, but perhaps there’s a middle-ground Budenholzer could find.”

🏈 Post-spring practice Power Rankings, CFP predictions

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Don’t just take it from me. Take it from Will Backus: “We have officially reached the worst stretch of the year for college football fans.”

Spring ball is long gone. Fall ball is far away. Luckily, we have tons of Power Rankings to get you through … oh, at least today.

Here’s Dennis Dodd’s Top 25.

  1. Georgia — “Maybe it’s me, but Carson Beck seems underrated as a passer. … Meanwhile, the defense continues to meet Kirby Smart‘s dominating standards.”
  2. Ohio State — “Considering its portal conquests and Ryan Day‘s staff hires, Ohio State may have had the best offseason.”
  3. Oregon — “In Year 3 under Dan Lanning, Oregon isn’t lacking much.”
  4. Texas — “There are no excuses for Texas, at least offensively.”
  5. Alabama — “Can’t wait to see how Kalen DeBoer‘s downfield passing game translates to Jalen Milroe, who is the leading returning passer in that category (10.0 yards per attempt).”

John Talty has a great piece on DeBoer succeeding Nick Saban, by the way.

Remember, we also move to the first 12-team playoff, so much more than the top of the top matters. Using Dennis’ rankings, Shehan Jeyarajah outlined what the 12-team playoff would look like, and I’d take many of these matchups any day of the week. 

Finally, we have Power Rankings for each of the new-look Power Four conferences (RIP, Pac-12):

ACCBig 12 | Big TenSEC

📺 What we’re watching this weekend

Friday

🏀 Game 3: Knicks at Pacers, 7 p.m. on ESPN
🏒 Game 3: Panthers at Bruins, 7 p.m. on TNT
🏀 Game 3: Nuggets at Timberwolves, 9:30 p.m. on ESPN
🏒 Game 2: Oilers at Canucks, 10 p.m. on TNT

Saturday

🏀 Game 3: Thunder at Mavericks, 3:30 p.m. on ABC
⚾ Braves at Mets, 4:10 p.m. on FS1
🏒 Game 4: Rangers at Hurricanes, 7 p.m. on TNT
⚾ Reds at Giants OR Cardinals at Brewers, 7:15 p.m. on Fox
🏀 Game 3: Celtics at Cavaliers, 8:30 p.m. on ABC
🏒 Game 3: Stars at Avalanche, 10 p.m. on TNT

Sunday

🏀 Game 4: Knicks at Pacers, 3:30 p.m. on ABC
🏒 Game 4: Panthers at Bruins, 6:30 p.m. on TBS
⚾ Braves at Mets, 7 p.m. on ESPN
🏀 Game 4: Nuggets at Timberwolves, 8 p.m. on TNT
🏒 Game 3: Canucks at Oilers, 9:30 p.m. on TBS

The post Cavs, Mavs even series; Knicks have injury issues; Early CFP predictions first appeared on CBS Sports.


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