Houston, We Have A Blockbuster

December 3, 2020

Good Morning,

Hopefully your week is as good as Illinois State’s basketball team — 177 points in regulation last night. They set Division I NCAA records for shooting (84.3%) and assists (57). Ten players in double figures. My goodness…

Letter Rip!

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NBA

Houston, We Have A Trade

Photo: Mike Ehrmann / Getty Images

Rockets & Wizards Agree to Blockbuster Trade Involving Russell Westbrook & John Wall

Russell Westbrook wanted out of Houston after one season, and he got his wish on Wednesday. The Wizards and Rockets agreed to swap point guards yesterday, according to ESPN’s Adrian Wojnarowski. The deal sends Westbrook to the nation’s capital in exchange for the often-injured John Wall.

Details of the Deal
Wizards Get: PG Russell Westbrook
Rockets Get: PG John Wall, 1st-Round Pick

What It Means for Houston
New coach, new GM and a fresh start? James Harden and John Wall should be one of the best backcourts in basketball… That is, if Wall can stay healthy. Wall hasn’t been available for more than half of a season (41 games) in four years.

What It Means for Washington
Buckle up, Bradley Beal. The Wizards’ sharpshooter has gone overlooked throughout most of his career in D.C., but the dual-threat of Westbrook off the dribble and Beal on the wing could be a deadly combo for head coach Scott Brooks. Beal was a 40-percent career 3-point sniper up until the last 2-3 seasons with increased minutes in Wall’s absence.

Since LeBron James left the Eastern Conference in 2018, two surprise teams have been the East representative in the NBA Finals — Raptors (2 seed) and Heat (5 seed). The Wizards could be coming…

Additional Storylines
SI: Grading the Westbrook-Wall Trade
NBC Sports: Five Big Questions From the Westbrook-Wall Trade

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NFL

A Long Week, But The Steelers Stay Perfect

Photo: Joe Sargent / Getty Images

Steelers Survive “Week of Hell” to Beat Replacement Ravens on Wednesday (19-14) and Remain Undefeated

Wednesday afternoon football? It felt weird, and it looked ugly. After a six-day delay from last week’s scheduled Thanksgiving game, the Ravens and Steelers finally met yesterday afternoon. It marked the longest possible “week” in NFL history, beginning Thursday (Nov. 26) at Noon ET and running 150 hours until Wednesday (Dec. 2) at 7:00 pm ET. The result was a slugfest in the Pittsburgh cold, but QB Ben Roethlisberger carried the load with 51 passes on the day (36/51, 266 yards, 1 TD, 1 INT). The Steelers survived (19-14) and remain the only undefeated team in the NFL (11-0).

The Replacement Ravens: Even in a loss, the Ravens deserve respect for their performance after the cascade of scheduling and roster changes this week. Despite playing without nine starters, and with 23 total players on the COVID-19 list, Baltimore’s band of backups made things interesting late. Second-stringers like QB Robert Griffin III and WR Dez Bryant got some rare playing time.

Watch: Ravens-Steelers Highlights

AFC North Standings
Steelers (11-0), Browns (8-3), Ravens (6-5), Bengals (2-8-1)

Additional Storylines
Yahoo! Sports: Steelers Fear Torn ACL for LB Bud Dupree
USA Today: Winners & Losers From Rare Wednesday NFL Game

*There is no Thursday Night Football due to multiple postponements and scheduling issues. Both the Steelers (Monday) and Ravens (Tuesday) have seen their Week 13 games pushed into next week.

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CHAMPIONS LEAGUE

Matchday 5: PSG Keep Hope Alive

Photo: Oli Scarff / Getty Images

7 Teams Now Through to Knockout Stage With 1 Matchday Left

Matchday 5 has come and went, and nearly half of the Champions League Round of 16 is set. Only one group stage match remains. Wednesday’s action saw a slew of dominating performances by Europe’s elite (Chelsea, Barcelona and Juventus), but it was Paris Saint-Germain (PSG) who stole the show. Neymar scored two goals — including the dagger in stoppage time — as the Parisian side took down Manchester United and knotted things up in their respective group. The Group H race now features PSG, Man. United and RB Leipzig all at nine points with one match to play.

Scores & Highlights
Chelsea def. Sevilla (4-0)
Barcelona def. Ferencvaros (3-0)
Juventus def. Dynamo Kiev (3-0)
PSG def. Man. United (3-1)
Dortmund draw Lazio (1-1)
RB Leipzig def. Istanbul (4-3)
Krasnodar def. Rennes (1-0)
Club Brugge def. Zenit (3-0)

Group Standings

Advanced to Round of 16: Bayern Munich, Manchester City, FC Porto, Liverpool, Chelsea, Sevilla, Barcelona, Juventus

Additional Storylines
SI: Olivier Giroud’s Perfect Hat-Trick Hands Blues Top Spot in Group E
ESPN: Man United’s Solskjaer Demonstrates Once Again, He Lacks Judgment and Foresight

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SPORTSLETTER SERIES
In the Shadows of Titans (Part II)

Great teams and players whose stories were forgotten because they happened to run into someone just a little bit better.

A 3-Day Series By Connor Groel (Read Part I in yesterday’s edition)

In the first game of the 1999 NFL season, the Jaguars made a statement. Facing Steve Young, Jerry Rice and the San Francisco 49ers, the Jags dominated in all three phases. After the 49ers got on the board first with a field goal, the Jaguars scored 41 unanswered points, including 35 in the second half in a blowout victory.

The following week, Jacksonville won on the road in Carolina against defensive coordinator Don Capers’ old team. This made the Jaguars 2-0 ahead of their first meeting of the season with the Titans.

Tennessee also came into the game undefeated, having taken down the Bengals and Browns. Playing at home, the Jaguars were listed as 9.5-point favorites against their divisional rivals and had the spread covered by the end of the third quarter, leading 17-7.

However, Neil O’Donnell (who started for an injured Steve McNair) and the Titans offense finally got it together in the fourth, scoring on three consecutive drives to take a 20-17 lead. Driving to win the game, the Jaguars got down to the Titans’ three-yard line before throwing an interception that sealed the deal.

Perhaps angry about letting the game slip away, the Jags’ defense allowed no more than 10 points in each of their next six games, all victories for the team. The streak didn’t end there, though. With subsequent wins over the Saints, Ravens, Steelers, Broncos, and Browns, the Jaguars had won 11 games in a row when it came time for their rematch with the Titans. Entering Week 16, the Jaguars stood 13-1 while the Titans were 11-3.

This time, the game wasn’t even close. But once again, it didn’t go the Jaguars’ way. McNair torched the league’s #1 scoring defense for five touchdowns, and the Titans routed the Jags 41-14. Jacksonville responded in Week 17 by beating the Bengals 24-7, and just like that, they had finished the season 14-2. Every team they had faced, they had defeated. Except for one.

Read Part III of “In the Shadows of Titans” in tomorrow’s edition.

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NCAAB HIGHLIGHTS 🏀
College Basketball Scoreboard
#1 Gonzaga def. #11 W. Virginia (87-82)
The top team in the country needed a second-half comeback to retain their No. 1 overall ranking on Wednesday. Gonzaga junior Joel Ayayi led the way with 21 points, 7 rebounds, 4 assists and 4 steals. Gonzaga gets No. 2 Baylor on Saturday.#2 Baylor def. #5 Illinois (82-69)
The Bears proved they belong in the conversation for best team in the country. Baylor struck Illinois with a 27-11 run in the second half that put the game out of reach. Junior Davion Mitchell went 4-for-5 from deep to spark the BU scoring spree. They’ll get No. 1 Gonzaga on Saturday.#17 Texas def. #14 N. Carolina (67-65)
Game-winner alert! The Longhorns hooked the Heels in the championship game of the Maui Invitational thanks to Matt Coleman’s step-back jumper with 0.1 seconds left. Coleman had a game-high 22 points, but the last two made the difference.Buzzer-Beater Alert 🚨
Penn State’s Myles Dread Hits Game-Winning 3 to Sink VCU (72-69)
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THE STORYLINES
🏟️ Full Stadiums in 2021?
It may not be during basketball season or before baseball begins, but Dr. Anthony Fauci is confident stadiums will once again be full in 2021… “That’s gonna be starting the end of April, May, June.” (USA Today)🗓️ The Sanctity of the NFL Schedule
Did you enjoy some Wednesday-afternoon football? A third postponement of the Ravens-Steelers game revealed the lengths the NFL will go to keep its schedule on course. But it’s not without a cost. Its teams are being strained. (The Ringer)😷 New CDC Guidelines for College Sports
“It’s about time.” The CDC plans to shorten by half its mandatory quarantine time for those who come into close contact with a COVID-19 positive, and that’s a “big damn deal” for college athletes. (Sports Illustrated)
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📰 THE HEADLINES 
MLB Non-Tender Deadline: Cubs Cut Kyle Schwarber, Braves & Rockies Make Surprising Moves
(CBS Sports)Roughly 9 Percent of NBA Players Test Positive for COVID-19 Upon Training Camp Return
(Yahoo! Sports)LeBron James & Lakers Agree to 2-Year, $85 Million Contract Extension
(ESPN)NBA Announces Warriors-Nets & Lakers-Clippers on Opening Night (Dec. 22)
(Sports Illustrated)Denver Broncos Fine Quarterbacks for Failure to Observe Mask Protocols
(USA Today)

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