By: Robert Bishop
Back again, and the Denver Nuggets were able to outpace the Utah Jazz on Sunday night, winning Game 6 to even the series at 3-3 and force a decisive Game 7. Nuggets guard Jamal Murray was again the star for Denver, scoring 50 points while putting on an offensive showcase. Murray needed only 24 shots to score 50 points. Despite Murray’s incredible efficiency, it was barely enough to outdo Utah’s Donovan Mitchell. Continuing his series-long brilliance, Mitchell scored 44 points on 25 shots, including hitting nine three-pointers. A must-watch Game 7 tips off tomorrow night.
The Boston Celtics kicked off the second round of the NBA playoffs with a dismantling of the defending champion Toronto Raptors. Despite relatively meager contributions from Jayson Tatum and Jaylon Brown, the Celtics cruised to an easy win. Marcus Smart and Daniel Theis, primarily the two driving forces for Boston’s elite team defense, combined for 34 points on 18 shots. Toronto was undone early. All-Star Pascal Siakam racked up three fouls in the first quarter, an occurrence that severely affected his style of play on both ends of the court. Toronto will look for a better showing in Game 2 on Tuesday.
Elsewhere in the East, tonight is home to Game 1 between the top-seeded Milwaukee Bucks and the surging Miami Heat. Miami is coming off a sweep of the Pacers in the first round, and the Heat main strength on offense—knocking down threes with efficiency—is Milwaukee’s biggest weakness. The Bucks have to continue to be viewed as favorites to win the East and reach the NBA Finals, but the Heat can change that quickly with a lights-out shooting display in Game 1. However, a Game 1 loss won’t doom Miami in the series. The Heat’s roster boasts quietly impressive depth, and coach Erik Spoelstra remains among the best in the NBA at adapting on the fly.
Oklahoma City and Houston’s first-round match-up wages on in the late slot tonight as Houston looks to end things in Game 6. The Rockets took Game 5 on Saturday night thanks to an awful offensive showing from the Thunder. Houston also welcomed Russell Westbrook back into the fold after he missed the series’s first four games. Despite the games’ results being evenly matched, only one of the five games in this series has been competitive. Oklahoma City will look to be on the other end of things tonight following Saturday’s ugly 34-point loss.
A major NFL trade transpired on Sunday as the Minnesota Vikings sent a second-round pick to the Jacksonville Jaguars, receiving disgruntled pass-rusher Yannick Ngakoue in return. Thanks to the deal, Ngakoue is expected to sign his franchise tender and report to Minnesota’s camp. Ngakoue will work opposite superstar pass rusher Danielle Hunter to form an elite duo capable of wreaking havoc every Sunday. This was a worthwhile move for Minnesota. As for the Jaguars, getting something in return for Ngakoue has to be viewed as a victory, even with the franchise missing out on a first-round pick.
On the injury front, the already-depleted Philadelphia Eagles suffered a second major blow on Friday with news that left tackle Andre Dillard will miss the 2020 season with a torn biceps. Dillard joins All-Pro guard Brandon Brooks, who suffered a torn Achilles’ earlier this offseason, on injured reserve. Veteran Jason Peters is expected to assume Dillard’s spot at left tackle, creating a void at right guard and further depleting Philadelphia’s depth along the offensive line. Few teams have had as poor luck on the injury front as the Eagles in recent years.
The Chargers are entering the season with playoff aspirations. However, those hopes took a significant hit on Sunday with the news that superstar safety Derwin James is facing an extended absence with a meniscus injury. James is a superstar in the secondary, capable of shining in coverage, against the run, and as a pass rusher. He’s a legitimate Defensive Player of the Year candidate. An extended stint on the sidelines from James would be a major hurdle for the Chargers to overcome. As of now, the Chargers have yet to set a concrete timetable for James’s return, but with the start of the season less than two weeks away, it’s a safe bet he won’t be in uniform in Week 1.