Sports Corner

By: Robert Bishop

Back again, and though it took into the late-night Tuesday, the Denver Nuggets completed its historic comeback to defeat the Los Angeles Clippers in Game 7. The Nuggets became the first team in NBA history to survive two 3-1 deficits in the same playoffs, and much like in Games 5 and 6, it took a second-half comeback from Denver.

Big man Nikola Jokic was an unquestioned force, becoming the first player in NBA history to post a 15-rebound triple-double during the first three quarters of a game. Jokic finished the contest with 16 points, 22 boards, and 13 dimes. Jamal Murray had his finest game of the series in Game 7, too. Murray racked up 40 points while operating as Denver’s go-to scorer for much of the game. There were long stretches where Denver’s supporting cast couldn’t buy a basket, and Murray stepped in and kept the team afloat.

As for the Clippers, Tuesday night’s loss represents a massively disappointing end to the season. Kawhi Leonard and Paul George had a few highlights, though, on the whole, the superstar duo struggled. Leonard and George combined to shoot 10-of-38 from the field. In a must-win game, that kind of production simply isn’t going to cut it from L.A.’s leaders. The Clippers franchise extends its drought without a Conference Finals appearance to 50 years.

In the East, the Miami Heat continued its incredible playoff run with a Game 1 win over the Boston Celtics. There were times where Boston’s lead reached double figures, but the tenacious Heat never gave up the fight. Miami secured the win with a jaw-dropping block by Bam Adebayo on a Jayson Tatum dunk attempt in overtime. Adebayo had the game-saving block, Jimmy Butler scored the go-ahead basket in OT, and the rest of the supporting cast shined. Goran Dragic scored 29, Jae Crowder had 22, and Tyler Herro was a single dime short of a triple-double. Boston will look to even things in tomorrow’s Game 2.

On Monday night, the Pittsburgh Steelers opened the season with a win, defeating the New York Giants. Pittsburgh benefitted from a strong performance from quarterback Ben Roethlisberger—an encouraging development given his age, recent elbow surgery, and decline signs before the injury. Also aiding the Steelers was the continued improvement of edge defender T.J. Watt, who was incredible in Week 1. The Steelers will be in action in Week 2 against the Denver Broncos.

Speaking of the Broncos, Denver lost the late game on Monday night against a Titans team doing its best to lose. Tennessee’s kicking game attempted to squander the win, but the Titans proved to be good enough to overcome a flurry of missed kicks. Derrick Henry racked up an inefficient 100+ yards on the ground, and late offseason acquisition Jadeveon Clowney excelled as a run defender. For the Broncos, concerns about quarterback Drew Lock’s inability to find receivers downfield was again an issue. Things won’t get any easier for Lock next Sunday against the aforementioned ball-hawking Steelers defense.

One major takeaway from Week 1’s action was the serious issue within Minnesota’s defense. The Vikings lost superstar pass rusher Danielle Hunter to IR for the short-term, and the team’s collection of cornerbacks is a severe liability for the playoff hopefuls. Going up against a motivated Aaron Rodgers didn’t help things. Still, the level of play present within Minnesota’s starting cornerbacks in Week 1 will doom any hope the Vikings have at making a run in the NFC. On Sunday, Minnesota will look to figure things about against the Indianapolis Colts.

Thursday night sees Week 2’s action begins with an AFC North battle between the Cleveland Browns and Cincinnati Bengals. The Browns are coming off an ugly loss to the Ravens, while the Bengals were a missed field goal away from overtime against the Chargers. Bengals rookie quarterback Joe Burrow had an up-and-down showing in Week 1, and he’ll likely continue to have growing pains against a Browns defense that boasts plenty of talent. Cleveland’s issue continues to be the play of quarterback Baker Mayfield, who has regressed since shining as a rookie. Mayfield needs to figure things out for the Browns to avoid a second-straight disastrous season amid playoff aspirations.