Well, Well, Well,
So we meet again. Today’s newsletter is extra special. It’s our 700th edition (hold the applause). It’s also Friday (now clap). It’s been a fun ride as we near the end of Year 3, but we’re just getting started. Thank you to the tens of thousands of readers around the world who make The Sportsletter possible.
To honor No. 700, let’s recruit some new team members.
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Staying Healthy Will Define the Playoffs
Injury-Riddled Lakers & Nets Collapsing, Healthy Squads Heating Up
Another night, and another loss for both the Brooklyn Nets and the Los Angeles Lakers. Both squads have been battling injuries to star players all season long. And with the playoffs fast-approaching, it might be time to panic. The Nets dropped their fourth straight game last night to the Mavericks (113-109) despite 45 points from a load-carrying Kyrie Irving. The LeBron-less Lakers have now lost seven of their last 10 after getting run off the court by the Clippers (118-94). L.A. also lost Anthony Davis for the night with an ankle injury and back spasms. Even with the injury woes, the Nets (+225) and Lakers (+375) still have the best odds to win the NBA Finals.
What About Healthy Teams?
As you can guess, they’re soaring right now. The 76ers have won a league-best six straight games after getting back to form following Joel Embiid’s mid-season injury. The Bucks (W4), Jazz (W3), Suns (7 of last 10), Clippers (W2), Nuggets (8 of last 10) and Mavericks (8 of last 10) are all riding hot streaks into the final stretch of the year.
The Lakers and Nets may have the most star-power and the best odds to win it all, but injury concerns have plagued both teams all season. There’s little to reason to think they’ll magically get healthy when the postseason begins.
Yahoo! Sports: Nets Drop 4th Straight Despite Kyrie Irving’s 45 Points
Angels Release ‘The Machine’
Future Hall of Famer Albert Pujols Cut by Angels in Final Year of 10-Year Deal
The oldest active player in baseball is officially on the open market. The Angels released Albert Pujols yesterday in the final year of his 10-year contract worth $253 million. The reason was simple — it’s what’s best for both sides. The Angels decided Jared Walsh was the franchise’s future at first-bat, and with Shohei Ohtani at designated hitter, it left little room for the 41-year-old slugger. Although Pujols didn’t comment on Thursday, he intends to continue playing. The question is: Where?
Potential Landing Spots for Albert Pujols
The White Sox, Reds, Indians, Blue Jays, Athletics, Yankees and Cardinals have been reported as good fits for Pujols in what could be his final season. He leads all active players with 2,886 games played, 3,253 hits, 2,112 RBIs and 667 home runs. So far this season, he’s hitting just .198 with 5 HRs and 12 RBIs.
Final Exams: NHL Playoff Scenarios
Playoff Battles With 1 Week Left in the Regular Season
It’s the final week of the regular season in the NHL, which means the last few playoff spots are up in the air. Three spots remain for eight eligible teams, but it’ll take a miracle for those on the outside looking in to swipe the bids. Here’s where they stand heading into the most important weekend of win-or-go-home regular-season hockey.
NHL Playoff Picture
IN: Penguins (75 pts), Capitals (73 pts), Bruins (71 pts), Islanders (68 pts)
In the Hunt: N/A
IN: Hurricanes (80 pts), Lightning (75 pts), Panthers (75 pts)
In the Hunt: Predators (60 pts) & Stars (56 pts)
IN: Golden Knights (76 pts), Avalanche (72 pts), Wild (71 pts)
In the Hunt: Blues (56 pts), Coyotes (50 pts) & Kings (48 pts)
IN: Maple Leafs (74 pts), Oilers (66 pts), Jets (59 pts)
In the Hunt: Canadiens (57 pts), Flames (47 pts) & Canucks (43 pts)
Russell Westbrook is now just one triple-double away from Oscar Robertson’s all-time NBA record (181). The Wizards guard had 13-17-17 in an overtime win against the Raptors last night (131-129, OT).
Angels’ dual-threat Shohei Ohtani smashed his league-leading 10th HR of the season on Thursday night in a loss to the Rays (8-3). What’s more impressive? One of every three Ohtani hits has cleared the fence this year (30 hits, 10 HRs). He also punched out seven in five innings last night from the mound.
Auston Matthews, the NHL’s leading goal-scorer, tallied another on Thursday. The Maple Leafs star scored his 40th goal in just 49 games, marking his third career 40-goal season. The Leafs beat the Canadiens (5-2). The loss for Montreal prevented them from clinching a playoff bid.
The opening round of the Wells Fargo Championship teed off on Thursday, and a familiar name sits atop the leaderboard after Round 1. A vintage Phil Mickelson (-7) fired a first-round 64 with just one bogey. The 50-year-old leads the field by two strokes entering Friday.
If they’re battling for a roster spot in training camp, the final determining factor regarding who makes the team, and who doesn’t, could come down to whether they are vaccinated for COVID-19. (USA Today)
The 2021 Major League Baseball season is now five weeks old. There’s an awful lot of baseball still to be played. It would be laughable to hand out hardware at this point in time. But let’s do it anyway… (CBS Sports)
The definition of MVP might vary, depending on who you ask. Technically, MVP stands for most valuable player. But how does one determine value? Is it stats? Boosting team morale? Pushing their teammates? Here’s how the NBA MVP ladder stacks up. (FOX Sports)
️ WEEKEND SCHEDULE
The Must-Watch List
It’s the home stretch of the NBA and NHL regular seasons with a mix of must-see baseball this weekend. Soccer sweeps the Saturday slate with the NWSL Challenge Cup, El Trafico in the MLS, and Manchester City’s title-clinching match in the Premier League. We’ll run it back on Monday. Enjoy the weekend!
Lakers at Blazers (Fri. 10:00 pm)
Nets at Nuggets (Sat. 10:00 pm)
Heat at Celtics (Sun. 1:00 pm)
Knicks at Clippers (Sun. 3:30 pm)
Suns at Lakers (Sun. 10:00 pm)
Blue Jays—Astros Series
Stars at Lightning (Fri. 7:00 pm)
Canadiens at Maple Leafs (Sat. 7:00 pm)
Hurricanes at Predators (Sat. 8:00 pm)
Blues at Golden Knights (Sat. 10:00 pm)
Stars at Blackhawks (Sun. 7:00 pm)
EPL: Man. City vs. Chelsea (Sat. 12:30 pm)
MLS: LAFC vs. LA Galaxy (Sat. 8:00 pm ET)
NWSL Challenge Cup Final
Portland Thorns vs. NY Gotham FC (Sat. 1:00 pm)
Wells Fargo Championship (All Weekend)
Spanish Grand Prix (Sun. 9:00 am)
Darlington Raceway (Sun. 3:30 pm)
Canelo Alvarez vs. Billy Joe Saunders (Sat. 11:00 pm)
*All Times Eastern