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🏀 Good morning to everyone, but especially to …

THE BOSTON CELTICS

This was the game Celtics fans were worried about, and for good reason. Boston — a wonderful, powerful basketball machine — had lost three straight Game 2s, seemingly always finding a way to cast some doubt on its excellence.

Not this time. After trailing early, the Celtics ripped off a 20-0 run to take the lead from the Pacers, ultimately cruising to a 126-110 Game 2 win two days after a miraculous Game 1 victory.

Jaylen Brown tied a playoff career-high with 40 points, and it’s clear Indiana doesn’t have a good option to slow him down. Then again, when Brown is at the peak of his powers, no one does. He attacked relentlessly (11 free throws), finished strong at the rim and nailed four 3-pointers. Add in 23 each from Jayson Tatum and Derrick White and 14 points (on 6-for-7 shooting) and 10 assists by Jrue Holiday, and you see the very best of a team that dominated all regular season.

Also encouraging for the Celtics? They closed out the game on fire offensively, Jack Maloney notes.

  • Maloney: “They shot 26 of 40 from the field, including 9 of 19 from downtown, and turned it over just three times. While the Celtics can be prone to lackadaisical stretches where they stand around and get sloppy with the ball, we saw none of that after the break. A two-minute stretch in the fourth quarter, after they had already built a 17-point lead, was their longest scoring drought of the half.”

👍 Honorable mentions

🤕 And not such a good morning for …


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THE INDIANA PACERS

Two nights after throwing away a golden opportunity, the Pacers got crushed. Now, things get even tougher: Tyrese Haliburton left Game 2 with left hamstring soreness and did not return. Rick Carlisle said Haliburton’s hamstring had been bothering him at halftime, but he wanted to give it a go. That obviously backfired.

Hamstrings are tricky, and Haliburton knows that all too well. He missed 10 games during the regular season with a left hamstring strain, and he still hasn’t consistently gotten back to his pre-injury form.

The Pacers have outscored opponents by 59 points this postseason with Haliburton on the floor, but they have been outscored by 35 with him on the bench.

Yes, the Pacers went down 2-0 to the Knicks last series. But the Knicks were running out of bodies then and lost even more as the series progressed. The Celtics, on the other hand, are only likely to get stronger should Kristaps Porzingis return.

It was always going to be a big ask for Indiana to upset Boston. One team was sixth in the East. The other was first in the entire NBA. The Pacers needed a lot of things to go their way. It’s not over, but after losing Game 1 in heartbreaking fashion and losing Game 2
and potentially their best player, the Pacers are seeing things decidedly not go their way.

👎 Not so honorable mentions

🏒 Connor McDavid lifts Oilers in double overtime


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Minutes after missing a game-winning chance, Connor McDavid wasn’t about to let history repeat itself. The Oilers‘ superstar redirected an Evan Bouchard pass past Jake Oettinger just 32 seconds into the second overtime to give Edmonton a 3-2 Game 1 win over the Stars

McDavid endured a rough first overtime. Early, he committed a double-minor penalty, which the visitors survived. Late in the period, he appeared to have an open net but was denied by a heroic effort from Oettinger and Chris Tanev.

In fitting form, McDavid not only redeemed himself but snapped a five-game goalless streak. Austin Nivison has more.

  • Nivison: “Things looked awfully shaky for Edmonton early in the first overtime period. McDavid got called for a double-minor for high-sticking Matt Duchene, and the Stars were buzzing. However, the Oilers’ red-hot penalty kill and goaltender Stuart Skinner were able to weather that storm and stay alive.”

Edmonton roared to a two-goal lead early in the second period behind goals from Leon Draisaitl and Zach Hyman, but Tyler Seguin halved the deficit shortly thereafter and tied the game late in the third. It proved to be all for naught for Dallas, though. The Stars will look to even things tomorrow.

🏀 Cavaliers’ coaching candidates after firing J.B. Bickerstaff


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Apparently, earning the franchise’s first playoff series win since LeBron James isn’t good enough: The Cavaliers fired J.B. Bickerstaff on Thursday. He had a 170-159 record and two playoff trips in four-plus seasons in Cleveland.

As we detailed in yesterday afternoon’s newsletter, there was some behind-the-scenes drama that may have contributed to Bickerstaff’s departure — frustration with the offense and practice structure, issues with the front office, etc. — but this is a crucial and potentially league-shaping hiring process for Cleveland.

  • Donovan Mitchell is eligible for a contract extension this offseason. If he doesn’t sign one, he’ll be a free agent next offseason, and Cleveland could explore trading him before he gets there.
  • There could be movement elsewhere, too: Mitchell and fellow offensive-minded guard Darius Garland occupy two backcourt spots, while an Evan Mobley-Jarrett Allen front line is likewise a little too similar. Cleveland desperately needs an added scoring punch after finishing 14th out of 16 teams in playoff offensive rating.
  • The Mitchell-Garland-Allen-Mobley foursome played in just 28 regular-season games together.

So whoever comes in has to be someone Mitchell believes in and someone who has a solution for some redundancy among the team’s best players. Sam Quinn has a list of potential candidates, including …

  • Quinn: James Borrego is one of the early front-runners for the job … Though his record didn’t reflect it, he was very well-regarded during his stint as head coach of the Hornets. … He is a creative basketball thinker comfortable playing unorthodox lineups, which may be a necessity given Cleveland’s roster concerns, yet he’s an experienced head coach who won’t need time to acclimate to the job.”

💰 Winners, losers, takeaways from House v. NCAA settlement


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It’s officially a new era in college athletics. The NCAA Board of Governors and every Power Five conference agreed to settlement terms in the landmark House v. NCAA lawsuit. As we wrote in yesterday’s newsletter, it had been all but a certainty, but the SEC and the soon-to-be-defunct Pac-12 joined in to complete things Thursday.

Here are some major points:

  • The revenue-sharing system will begin as soon as the fall of 2025. Power Four schools could pay athletes $20 million-plus annually.
  • Former athletes will be compensated for prior restrictions on NIL income. The NCAA will pay nearly $280 million annually.
  • Scholarship limits could be lifted while roster sizes get reduced.
  • Group of Five schools and non-revenue sports could struggle to stay afloat, as the power-conference schools are expected to seek even more advantages (and will have natural advantages given their athletics revenue).

Shehan Jeyarajah has key takeaways, but the biggest is the rich — after getting poorer — get richer.

  • Jeyarajah:The Big Ten, SEC win again — According to documents obtained by Yahoo Sports, power-conference schools are expected to fork up as much as $30 million per year over the next 10 years to cover revenue-sharing distribution, back damages and expanded scholarship costs. If you wonder why Texas and Oklahoma went to the SEC, while USC and UCLA defected to the Big Ten, the potential cost of litigation played a significant role. A massive new Big Ten television contract could essentially fully cover the cost of the new reality for the Trojans and Bruins.”

David Cobb has full winners and losers, and let’s not forget: The players are the biggest winners.

📺 What we’re watching this weekend

Friday

🏒 Game 2: Panthers at Rangers, 8 p.m. on ESPN
🏀 Game 2: Mavericks at Timberwolves, 8:30 p.m. on TNT

Saturday

🏀 Liberty at Lynx, 1 p.m. on CBS
Cubs at Cardinals or Dodgers at Reds, 7:15 p.m. on Fox
🏒 Game 2: Oilers at Stars, 8 p.m. on TNT
🏀 Sun at Sky, 8 p.m. on CBS Sports Network
🏀 Game 3: Celtics at Pacers, 8:30 p.m. on ABC
🏀 Fever at Aces, 9 p.m. on NBA TV
Marlins at Diamondbacks, 10:10 p.m. on FS1

Sunday

🏒 Game 3: Rangers at Panthers, 3 p.m. on ABC
Cubs at Cardinals, 7 p.m. on ESPN
🏀 Game 3: Timberwolves at Mavericks, 8 p.m. on TNT

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