Remember the NBA bubble playoffs in 2020? It was one of the most unique and bizarre quarantined sports postseasons, and it was widely remembered as “the playoffs that didn’t really count.” The Lakers beat the Heat in the Finals after both teams beat… the Nuggets and Celtics in the conference finals. Déjà vu? Bubble haters, be gone. Asterisk this one…
Oh, and Jayson Tatum just did some Game 7 wizardry on Sunday that’s never been done before.
The Tatum Tornado
Jayson Tatum Tears Through Sixers With Historic 51-Point Game 7 (112-88); Celtics Join Heat, Lakers & Nuggets in “Bubble Repeat” Conference Finals
Superstars have had some amazing performances in this year’s NBA postseason, from Steph Curry’s 50-piece to Jimmy Butler’s 56 and Nikola Jokic’s 53, but nobody has had a more clutch performance in the 2023 NBA Playoffs than Jayson Tatum’s Game 7 on Sunday. The 25-year-old superstar — who had disappeared and reappeared repeatedly throughout the postseason — exploded for 51 points in a Game 7 blowout to lead the Celtics over the 76ers (112-88) and send Boston through to the Eastern Conference Finals. That performance came on Sunday after the Lakers and Heat won their respective Game 6s to eliminate the Warriors and Knicks.
Game 7, The Tatum Tornado: The Celtics and Sixers were tied (55-55) with 11-plus minutes left in the third quarter of Sunday’s Game 7 before Tatum sparked a 24-3 run over the course of the next six minutes. He had 17 of his 51 in the third quarter, mostly during that six-minute stretch, while Jaylen Brown, Malcolm Brogdon, Derrick White, and Marcus Smart also rained 3s throughout the period and put the Sixers to bed. Boston outscored Philly 33-10 in the third and JT entered the fourth with 42 and counting. Tatum’s 51 were the most points in a Game 7 in NBA history, breaking Steph Curry’s record (50) set just a few weeks ago. And the Celtics, after trailing in the series (3-2), are returning to the Eastern Conference Finals for the fifth time in seven years.
Rivers of Tears: 76ers head coach Doc Rivers has now lost 10 Game 7s in his coaching career, five more than any other head coach in NBA history. Joel Embiid (15) and James Harden (9) combined for just 24 points in Game 7.
Déjà Vu Bubble: The four remaining teams in the conference finals are the same final four from the 2020 NBA bubble experiment — Nuggets, Lakers, Celtics, and Heat. That season ended with the Lakers beating the Heat in the NBA Finals. And even though many people discredited the bubble playoffs as a fluke or a postseason with an asterisk, the same four are back. We’ll have more on this storyline later this week.
Conference Semifinals Highlights
Gm 6: Heat def. Knicks (96-92) | MIA Wins (4-2)
Gm 6: Lakers def. Warriors (122-101) | LAL Wins (4-2)
Gm 7: Celtics def. 76ers (112-88) | BOS Wins (4-3)
J. Tatum (BOS): 51 points, 13 rebounds, 5 assists
J. Brunson (NYK): 41 points, 4 rebounds, 3 assists
L. James (LAL): 30 points, 9 rebounds, 9 assists
J. Butler (MIA): 24 points, 8 rebounds, 4 assists
NBA Conference Finals Schedule
Gm 1: #7 Lakers at #1 Nuggets (Tues. 8:30 pm ET)
Gm 1: #8 Heat at #2 Celtics (Wed. 8:30 pm ET,)
Fun Fact: The Lakers (7) and Heat (8) are the highest seeds to reach the conference finals since the 1999 Knicks (8). It’s the first time in NBA postseason history that both a 7 and 8-seed are in the final four. Only four 7-seeds and one 8-seed have ever gone this far into the playoffs.
Marchessault’s Golden Night
Jonathan Marchessault’s Hat Trick Sends Golden Knights to Conference Finals With Panthers & Hurricanes; Kraken & Stars Heading for Game 7
After a full weekend of hockey, three tickets have been punched to the NHL Conference Finals. One series is going to Game 7 after the Kraken clapped back against the Stars in Game 6 (6-3). But the Panthers and Golden Knights joined the NHL’s final four after Florida put away Toronto on Nick Cousins’ Game 5 overtime winner and Vegas paced the Oilers on the road behind Jonathan Marchessault’s Game 6 hat trick. The league’s top two points leaders — Connor McDavid and Leon Draisaitl — are heading home early once again. It’s Vegas, Florida, and Carolina who’ll await the winners of Dallas-Seattle (tonight) in NHL’s final four.
Oil Change: Since the beginning of the McDavid-Draisaitl era in Edmonton, the Oilers have made four consecutive playoff appearances and failed to win the West in each postseason. The Oilers had nearly double the shots on goal as the Golden Knights in Game 6 (40-22) and were still doubled up on the scoreboard.
Fun Fact: The Golden Knights are heading to their fourth Western Conference Finals in just six years since the franchise was founded.
Gm 5: Panthers def. Maple Leafs (3-2, OT) | FLA Wins (4-1)
Gm 6: Kraken def. Stars (6-3) | Series Tied (3-3)
Gm 6: Golden Knights def. Oilers (5-2) | VGK Wins (4-2)
J. Marchessault (VGK): 3 goals
J. Eberle (SEA): 2 goals, 1 assist
E. Tolvanen (SEA): 1 goal, 2 assists
C. Verhaeghe (FLA): 1 goal, 1 assist
Gm 7: Kraken at Stars (8:00 pm ET) | Series Tied (3-3)
Dodgers Tossing Heat
Dodgers Sweep Padres, Win 5 Straight for 2nd Time in 2 Weeks Behind Stellar Pitching
The beginning of the MLB season saw media coverage revolve around the Rays like bees on honey. And while we’re doing the same (see tomorrow’s special feature), it’s the Dodgers who are starting to shine the brightest in May. Los Angeles completed the series sweep against the Padres over the weekend, and their latest win streak now stands at five games. The Dodgers are 13-2 in their last 15, 16-4 in their last 20, nine straight at home, and they just went from fifth to first in the National League in less than a week. How are they doing it? Pitching and defense. They’ve allowed an average of 2.7 runs per game since the start of May, including just four runs in all three games of this weekend’s sweep.
Dodgers Starting Pitchers This Weekend
18.2 IP, 13 Ks, 10 Hits, 4 ER
(Tony Gonsolin, Julio Urias & Dustin May)
Harper-Bird Beef Clears Benches: The Rockies shut out the Phillies on Sunday (4-0) in a snoozer, but Rockies’ pitcher Jake Bird taunted the Phillies after getting out of a jam in the 7th inning, and Bryce Harper was ready to go. Benches cleared, no punches were thrown.
Blue Jays Sweep Braves: The Braves’ hold on the National League dwindled after the Blue Jays swept a weekend series in Toronto. George Springer and Daulton Varsho hit home runs in the series.
Rays Survive Sweep in the Bronx: The Rays dropped the first two games in their weekend series in New York, but a grand slam from Taylor Walls put Tampa on top in Game 3 before a thrilling finish (8-7) that featured a near game-tying HR by Aaron Judge.
*Check tomorrow’s edition for a special feature on the Rays’ historic start.
The Grizzlies have suspended point guard Ja Morant from all team activities after the All-Star guard was seen holding a gun on an Instagram Live video Saturday. Morant already served an 8-game suspension this season for flashing a gun on social media in March. (SI)
The NFL is on a mission to take over your calendar. The league’s 2023 schedule includes more prime time and international games than ever before. But no matter how much the league dilutes its product, the NFL knows we’ll all watch. (The Ringer)
The title race is done. But then you already knew it was long before kickoff in north London. What has been inevitable since Manchester City crushed Arsenal at the Etihad now requires mere mathematical confirmation. (CBS Sports)