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Celtics advance to NBA Finals with sweep; Remembering Bill Walton, Grayson Murray


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🏆 Good morning to everyone, but especially to …

THE EASTERN CONFERENCE-CHAMPION CELTICS

They were rarely at their best, and often far from it. That they’re sweeping into the NBA Finals, though, is impressive nonetheless. The Celtics topped the Pacers105-102, to finish off the sweep in frantic fashion. Derrick White played the hero, making the go-ahead 3-pointer with under a minute remaining, as Boston held Indiana scoreless over the final 3:33 of the game.

Jaylen Brown, who assisted White’s 3, was once again excellent with 29 points and was named Larry Bird Eastern Conference Finals MVP. Jayson Tatum (26 points, 13 rebounds, eight assists) nearly had a triple-double, and Jrue Holiday (17 points) reeled in the offensive rebound that sealed the win.

The Celtics were tied/trailing in the final minute of three of their four wins, but style points matter not. Wins are what counts, and these types of games — grueling, sloppy, hectic, stressful — are the games previous Celtics teams have lost far too often. But those Celtics aren’t these Celtics. White is one of the league’s best role players and most improved players, period. Holiday is an elite defender, especially in those late, one-on-one scenarios. Brown has improved markedly, too, and that showed in this series particularly, when Tatum wasn’t at his best.

As Sam Quinn notes, though, they need more, and more is on the way.

  • Quinn: “Yes, Kristaps Porzingis can make 3s, and yes, he’s important defensively as well. But when the offense bogs down, and it will against the stellar Dallas defense, Porzingis is exactly the sort of player that can shake the Celtics free of their worst tendencies by making shots they so often try not to take. A 7-foot-2 center with a 7-foot-6 wingspan that can make shots from anywhere is a mismatch everywhere. Sometimes, you just need to throw that guy the ball around the nail and let him hit a mid-range jumper or two to help the offense find a rhythm again. He is, in short, Boston’s only source of easy offense.”

😃 Honorable mentions

🏀 And not such a good morning for …


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THE MINNESOTA TIMBERWOLVES

A mere nine days ago, the Timberwolves were riding high — rightfully so — after defeating the reigning-champion Nuggets and doing it in unprecedented fashion. Anthony Edwards had arrived as a superstar and then some, a beloved player who could do no wrong, hilariously telling Charles Barkley to bring his you-know-what to Minnesota.

Now, Edwards and his teammates are one game away from bringing their you-know-whats to their favorite beach, silenced by Luka Doncic‘s and Kyrie Irving‘s late-game domination. The Mavericks lead the series 3-0 after Sunday’s 116-107 win in which Dallas outscored Minnesota 14-3 over the final five minutes.

We said entering the series that it’s all about the stars, and so far, the Mavericks’ stars are obliterating the Timberwolves’, Brad Botkin writes.

  • Botkin: “Through the first three games, Doncic and Irving have outscored Edwards and Karl-Anthony Towns, who has been absolutely miserable, by 70 points (181-111). The rest of the Wolves have outscored the rest of the Mavericks by 57 points. … Edwards is already a superstar and he may very well be on his way to being the best player in the league one day. But that day is not today. Today, Doncic is just a better player, and certainly a better scorer, and he can draw upon more experience with defenses devoted entirely to stopping him.”

The series isn’t over, just like Game 7 of the Timberwolves’ last series wasn’t over when the Nuggets took a 20-point lead. Edwards still very much believes his team can do something no NBA team has ever done in the playoffs. And things might be a hair easier tonight given that Dereck Lively II (neck) is reportedly out, although Dallas could get reinforcements in the form of Maxi Kleber (shoulder), who is listed as questionable. And for your odd (and oddball) stat of the day, Irving has never lost a playoff closeout game in his career.

So unless the defense gets on track, Edwards hits top gear and Towns figures something– anything — out, the Timberwolves are going to go quietly.

😞 Not so honorable mentions

Bill Walton, Hall-of-Fame center and legendary announcer, dies at 71


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The basketball world — scratch that, the world in general — lost a great one Monday. Bill Walton, an icon on and off the court, died at 71 after a battle with cancer.

  • Walton won two NBA titles (one with the Trail Blazers, one with the Celtics), an MVP award and a Finals MVP award. He was named to the NBA’s 50th and 75th Anniversary Teams and inducted into the Hall of Fame in 1993. A force down low (he won a rebounding and a blocks title), Walton was also a magnificent passer.
  • Walton’s NBA success — though curtailed significantly by injuries — came after an all-time-great career at UCLA, where he won two national championships and three Naismith Awards. His 44 points (on 21-for-22 shooting, no less) in the 1973 championship game is still a record.
  • Walton, who had a severe stutter growing up, went on to become a beloved broadcaster. From eating a cupcake, lit candle and all, to pontificating on peculiarities of the universe, Walton delivered some classics, and Brad revisited Walton’s most memorable on-air moments.
  • Walton’s obituary, dutifully researched and expertly written by Jack Maloney, paints the picture of a fascinating, larger-than-life man.
  • The sports world mourned the loss of a legend.

There have been so many nights I found myself watching some late-night Pac-12 basketball and smiling at the TV as Walton commentated. It was magical — a word I try not to use too much when describing sports, and especially not when describing sports commentating. But if you wanted incredible optimism, valuable perspective and a reminder to appreciate all the joy and wonder the world has to offer, there was no one better than Bill Walton; there was no one in the same galaxy, even.

Basketball is a joyful sport. No one brought more joy to it than Walton. But he also knew it was an infinitesimally small part of the human experience on a tiny rock floating in space. Yes, wins can be pure elation, losses pure devastation. But there is so, so much more out there. So, today, go out and appreciate it. Ride a bike. Take a walk. Look up at the stars. Tell someone you love them. Do something a little out of your comfort zone. Don’t take today for granted. Be yourself, and be a friend. Be like Bill Walton.

PGA Tour golfer Grayson Murray dies by suicide at 30


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Sadly, the golf world is also dealing with a shocking loss. Grayson Murray died by suicide Saturday, one day after withdrawing from the Charles Schwab Challenge. Murray was 30 years old.

  • Murray, who won the 2017 Barbasol Championship and 2024 Sony Open, battled anxiety, depression and alcohol abuse throughout his career. In January, he revealed he had been sober since early 2023.
  • Murray’s parents, who on Sunday revealed the cause of death, insisted the Charles Schwab Challenge go on. Players wore red and black pins for Murray’s beloved Carolina Hurricanes on Sunday, and the PGA Tour sent grief counselors to both of its events going on over the weekend.
  • Tributes poured in, and PGA Tour commissioner Jay Monahan called Murray “a really courageous person.”

🏒 Jason Robertson scores hat trick, Stars take 2-1 series lead


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The Stars‘ status as road warriors continues, and now they’re two games away from a trip to the Stanley Cup Final. Dallas rallied from an early two-goal deficit and then fended off a rally to top the Oilers5-3, and take a 2-1 series lead. The Stars are 6-1 on the road this postseason.

  • The hosts looked to be in control when Zach Hyman and Connor McDavid tallied in the first period.
  • But the Stars scored three times in a four-minute span in the second period. Robertson scored the first two, and Wyatt Johnson gave Dallas the lead. Adam Henrique struck back for the hosts, though, to knot things up.
  • Robertson finished his hat trick, somehow jamming one near-post past Stuart Skinner, and Miro Heiskanen‘s empty netter put things to bed.

It’s all-time stuff for Robertson, who, as Austin Nivison notes, hadn’t scored since Game 5 of the first round.

📺 What we’re watching Tuesday

🏀 Sun at Sky, 7 p.m. on CBS Sports Network
🏀 Sparks at Fever, 7 p.m. on NBA TV
Dodgers at Mets, 7:10 p.m. on TBS
🏀 Game 4: Timberwolves at Mavericks, 8 p.m. on TNT
🏒 Game 4: Rangers at Panthers, 8 p.m. on ESPN



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