No rest on for the mid-week sports grind. The final NFL coaching vacancies were filled yesterday before some Champions League, NHL, and NBA action. The NBA All-Star break is almost here, so let’s see where they stand after some critical showdowns last night.
NBA Playoff Picture
NBA’s Pre-All-Star Break Standings Before the Weekend Festivities
The NBA All-Star Weekend is fast approaching, and that gives us time to analyze the playoff situation heading into the All-Star break. Teams ebb and flow throughout the year, but roughly 25 games separate us from now and the playoffs in April. The East is still controlled by Boston and Milwaukee — who played a thriller last night (see below) — but the four top teams are in a dead heat in the final two months. Denver has pulled away and put a stranglehold on the West, but teams 2-13 are separated by just 9-10 games across the board. Anything can happen after the break, but All-Star Weekend signifies the 2/3 checkpoint in the season. Here’s where they stand heading down the stretch:
NBA Playoff Picture
1. Celtics (41-17)
2. Bucks (40-17)
3. 76ers (37-19)
4. Cavaliers (38-22)
5. Nets (33-24)
6. Heat (32-26)
7. Knicks (32-27)
8. Hawks (29-29)
9. Raptors (28-31)
10. Wizards (27-30)
In the Hunt: Bulls (26-31), Pacers (25-34), Magic (24-35)
Left in the Dust: Hornets (16-43), Pistons (15-43)
1. Nuggets (40-18)
2. Grizzlies (34-22)
3. Kings (32-25)
4. Suns (32-27)
5. Clippers (32-28)
6. Mavericks (31-28)
7. Pelicans (30-28)
8. Timberwolves (31-29)
9. Warriors (29-29)
10. Jazz (29-30)
In the Hunt: Blazers (28-30), Thunder (27-29), Lakers (28-32)
Left in the Dust: Spurs (14-44), Rockets (13-44)
If Tuesday night in Milwaukee was an Eastern Conference Finals preview, sign me up. The Bucks and Celtics needed extra ball after Sam Hauser hit a game-tying 3 to force overtime. In the OT, Jrue Holiday (40 points) played hero with a clutch bucket to give the Bucks the win (131-125, OT).
Had you forgotten about Jakob Poeltl? We did, too. The Raptors acquired the big man they once drafted from the Spurs before the All-Star break, and he went for 30 points on 15-for-17 shooting in his third game with Toronto. The Raptors beat the Magic (123-113).
The Clippers got back in the win column last night with a dub over the Dubs (134-124) thanks to 33 points from Kawhi Leonard, including a career-high seven 3s (7-for-9).
No, Kevin Durant isn’t playing yet in Phoenix, but Chris Paul and company are still hot. The Suns topped the Kings last night (120-109) behind CP3’s 17 points and 19 assists, and Phoenix has now won seven of their last nine.
Birds of a Feather Leave the Nest Together: Colts Hire Eagles OC Shane Steichen & Cardinals Hire Eagles DC Jonathan Gannon
It only took 48 hours after Super Bowl LVII for the last two NFL teams to claim their head coaches for 2023, and both were the young star coordinators for the Philadelphia Eagles. The Colts hired Eagles offensive coordinator Shane Steichen (37) on Super Bowl weekend, but they didn’t make it official until Monday. Yesterday morning, the Cardinals tabbed Eagles defensive coordinator Jonathan Gannon (39). That means all five head coaching vacancies have officially been filled. Here’s the rundown.
NFL Head Coaching Hires
Broncos: Sean Payton
Panthers: Frank Reich
Texans: DeMeco Ryans
Colts: Shane Steichen
Cardinals: Jonathan Gannon
The Colts hiring Steichen appears to be a great move if developing a young quarterback is the next move, although Indy did something similar when they grabbed Frank Reich from the Eagles OC seat back in 2018. Steichen will likely get his hands on a rookie quarterback like Bryce Young (Alabama) or C.J. Stroud (Ohio State) and attempt to replicate the success he had with Jalen Hurts in Philly.
The Cardinals going after Gannon may come as a bit of a shock. Arizona’s biggest task is still figuring out how to get MVP numbers from QB Kyler Murray, but Gannon’s focus is defense. He did lead the Eagles to a historic season with 78 sacks (3rd most all-time). His first task will be finding the right offensive coordinator — likely one that vibes with Murray.
UCL: Bayern Still Ballin’
Bayern Still Hot After Blanking PSG (1-0); Milan Strike Road Win Over Tottenham (1-0)
The Champions League is back, but Tuesday’s opening matches of the Round of 16 (Leg 1) showcased the shift in strategy as we turn the page to the knockout rounds. Defenses tighten and conceding goals becomes a two-match affair. Both games finished with a 1-0 scoreline after Bayern blanked PSG (1-0) behind Kingsley Coman’s one-timer (53’). That was all Bayern needed as they held Lionel Messi and Kylian Mbappe scoreless. Up in England, Milan struck an early dagger in the hearts of Tottenham (1-0) off a wild rebound by Brahim Diaz in the 7th minute. Spurs had a dozen shots in the match, but no goals. Remember: Away goals no longer decide the tiebreaker in the a two-match, aggregate scoreline.
Club Brugge vs. Benfica (3:00 pm ET)
Borussia Dortmund vs. Chelsea (3:00 pm ET)
The Athletic: Champions League Last-16 Players to Watch
Battle of the Bests
Bruins Beat Stars (3-2, OT) in Battle of NHL’s Top Teams From East & West
Stanley Cup Finals preview? The Bruins and Stars met Tuesday night in Dallas for a battle of the NHL’s best team from each conference. Boston started the scoring but needed overtime tied at 2-all before Charlie McAvoy found David Pastrnak for a one-time winner with 1:16 left to play. The Bruins (85 points) are out in front of the league with five other Eastern Conference teams holding steady at 70 points or better. The Stars (71 points) are the only team from the West with more than 70 points. But the NHL trade deadline is looming.
Other NHL Highlights
For the second time in a week, the Lightning beat the Avalanche in a Stanley Cup Finals rematch. The Bolts got this one thanks to Steven Stamkos’s game-winner in a shootout (4-3, S/O), and Tampa Bay has now won three straight.
A clash in the crowded Metropolitan race saw the Hurricanes escape the Capitals (3-2) to keep pace with the Bruins. Carolina (78 points) is 8-1-1 in their last ten as they stayed within striking distance of Boston (85 points).
Full NHL Scoreboard
Alabama, Houston, Purdue, and Kansas are clearly the projected No. 1 seeds. The bubble, however, is exponentially murkier following yet another week of carnage. Here are the latest projections for the field of 68. (Bleacher Report)
The U.S. women’s national team is five and a half months away from the World Cup, where it hopes to make history by three-peating. This week, they get a chance for some tuneup matches against stiff competition in the annual SheBelieves Cup beginning on Thursday. (FOX Sports)
At long last, the offseason is coming to an end and spring training is about to begin. MLB teams will begin reporting to spring training camps in Arizona and Florida on Wednesday, and all 30 clubs will be up and running by Friday. (CBS Sports)