A weekend full of Game 7s provided some epic NBA, NHL moments

Happy Monday, folks. Hope you enjoyed the weekend and at least some of the seven Game 7s it had to offer.

Let’s get right to it.

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Good morning to everyone but especially to…

THE DALLAS MAVERICKS…

Luka Doncic is only 23, but his Game 7 performances are quickly becoming the stuff of legends. The Suns found that out the hard way last night, when Doncic poured in 35 points and got plenty of help as Dallas demolished Phoenix, 123-90in Game 7. Dallas will face Golden State in the Western Conference Finals.

  • At halftime, the scoreboard read Dallas 57, Phoenix 27. It also read Luka Doncic 27, Phoenix 27.
  • Spencer Dinwiddie had a playoff career-high 30 points, Jalen Brunson had 24, and the Mavericks made 19 threes.
  • Dallas’ defense was superb. Phoenix shot 50 percent or better in each of its first eight postseason games (six vs New Orleans, first two vs Dallas). It shot under 50 percent each of the final five games vs Dallas.
  • It’s the Mavericks’ second-largest Game 7 win ever.

The Suns were absolutely abysmal (we’ll talk about that shortly), but the Mavericks were terrific. They were locked in defensively with active hands, crisp rotations and tough interior defense. They were in sync offensively with Doncic, Brunson and Dinwiddie taking lead roles. With all three playing at a high level, Dallas rolled on all cylinders.

… AND ALSO A GOOD MORNING TO THE BOSTON CELTICS

There will be no repeat champion in the NBA. The Celtics made sure of that in emphatic fashion, beating the Bucks 109-81 in Game 7. The Celtics will play the Heat in the Eastern Conference Finals.

  • Grant Williams scored a career-high (regular or postseason) 27 points. It’s the first time he’s ever led Boston in scoring.
  • Williams hit seven 3-pointers, and the Celtics overall hit 22, an NBA Game 7 record. Milwaukee only made four (more on that in a bit).
  • Jason Tatum (23 points), Jaylen Brown (19), Payton Pritchard (14) Marcus Smart (11) all scored in double figures as well.
  • It’s the Celtics’ second-largest Game 7 win ever.

The thing that stood out for me about the Celtics was their toughness. We already know how tough they are on the court: a defense that’s physical and versatile, an offense that’s unselfish and well-rounded. But after blowing a large Game 5 lead at home, the Celtics went to Milwaukee and beat the defending champs on their home floor, then returned home and blew them out.

That toughness is often exemplified by Williams, whose career game couldn’t have come at a better timenotes our NBA expert Jack Maloney.

Honorable mentions

And not such a good morning for…

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THE PHOENIX SUNS…

So much of this season was a dream for the Phoenix Suns. A franchise-record and league-high 64 wins. Some incredible comebacks. Young players taking huge steps forward. Role players filling in when stars were out.

But last night was a nightmare.

The stars were nowhere to be found. The role players couldn’t give them a lift. So now, a season that looked so promising just days ago is over.

For a team that rolled through the regular season and then rolled through the first two games of this series, this is quite simply a shocking result. The Suns lost the final two games of this series by 60 points combined. It’s the fifth time Paul has lost a series in which his team had a 2-0 series leadold most ever and, ultimately, that will be a talking point when discussing his legacy writes NBA expert Brad Botkin.

  • Botkin: “But again, facts are facts. If we’re going to bow at the altar of Luka Doncic for his rise-to-the-occasion gene, then the reverse has to be at least somewhat true, too. Paul has delivered in plenty of big games and moments over the course of his career, but it cannot be disputed that he has, quite often, completely disappeared when it mattered most.‚ÄĚ

… AND ALSO NOT SUCH A GOOD MORNING FOR THE MILWAUKEE BUCKS

There is no shame in losing in seven games to an extremely good Celtics team after playing the entire series without your All-Star second-leading scorer. But the Bucks will rue the misses — and the missed chances — that sent them home.

  • Coming into this series, Milwaukee was a perfect 8-0 in closeout games under Mike Budenholzer. They went 0-2 in this series.
  • It’s the Bucks’ largest Game 7 loss ever.
  • Milwaukee went 4-for-33 on 3-pointersthe second-worst mark in NBA playoff history (min. 30 attempts).
  • Giannis Antetokounmpo finished with 25 points, 20 rebounds and nine assists, but he shot just 10-for-26 and looked exhausted, for good reason.
  • Antetokounmpo became the first player ever to have 200 points, 100 rebounds and 50 assists in a series.

Without Khris Middleton and with Milwaukee’s best shooters struggling, the Bucks simply ran out of offensive juice. Overall, the Celtics made 53 more 3-pointers than the Bucks this series, the largest difference in NBA history. That difference was simply too great to overcomewrites Botkin.

  • Botkin: “When a team that shoots 88 more 3-pointers than its opponent also makes those 3s at a 10-percent better clip, that team, almost always, is going to win. That team was the Celtics. Yeah, Boston had a Giannis problem Everyone has a Giannis problem. But the Bucks had a math problem. And in the end, the numbers were just too much to overcome.”

With key role players Pat Connaughton, Bobby Portis and Wesley Matthews Potential free agents, the Bucks could have some decisions to make. With Antetokounmpo, Jrue Holiday And a healthy Middleton, the Bucks are well-positioned for more long postseason runs — but the supporting cast may need upgrades.

Rangers, Flames advance with wins in OT; second round of playoffs set ūüŹí

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We got an absolute treat on the ice this weekend with five Game 7s. Here’s how they went:

That means all of our second-round matchups are set:

  • (1) Avalanche vs (3) Blues
  • (1) Flames vs (2) Oilers
  • (1) Panthers vs (3) Lightning
  • (1) Hurricanes vs (2) Rangers

You can check out recaps from every series right here.

Reds allow zero hits… but lose anyway ‚öĺ

Welcome to history — kinda, sorta — Reds! Behind starter Hunter Greene and reliever Art Warren, Cincinnati allowed zero hits yesterday… but lost 1-0 to the Pirates.

  • The game was scoreless with one out in the bottom of the eighth inning, when three straight Pirates walked, and Ke’Bryan Hayes‘ groundout scored Rodolfo Castro.
  • It’s just the sixth time in the Modern Era (since 1901) a team did not allow a hit and still lost.
  • The Reds do not even get credit for a no-hitter because they did not pitch at least nine innings. (The host Pirates led 1-0 after 8 1/2 innings, so they didn’t have to bat at the bottom of the ninth.)

Listen, it’s easy to kick teams when they’re down, and the Reds, at 9-26 this season, are really down. But Greene’s outing — 7 1/3 innings, nine strikeouts, five walks — was a big positive for themnotes MLB expert Dayn Perry.

  • Perry: “Greene wound up throwing 118 pitches, which is not only the highest total of his young career but also the highest pitch count of any pitcher this season. Prior to Sunday’s outing, Greene had not pitched more than 5 1/3 innings in a game . Greene, a former No. 2 overall pick, has a big fastball and an ace ceiling.”

What we’re watching Monday ūüďļ

‚öĹ Juventus at Lazio2:45 pm on Paramount+

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