2023 Play-In Tournament - Minnesota Timberwolves v Los Angeles Lakers
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Good morning to everyone but especially to...


It was ugly. It was dramatic. It was hectic. It was hilarious. It was everything that makes postseason basketball great -- well, maybe sans offense.

The Lakers clinched the No. 7 seed in the West with a 108-102 slugfest overtime win against the Timberwolves. Let's fast-forward to the end of regulation:

  • After the Lakers turned the ball over with about 30 seconds left, Kyle Anderson dribbled the ball off his foot into the backcourt, giving possession back to Los Angeles.
  • LeBron James found Dennis Schroder for 3 with 1.4 seconds left. Game over, right?
  • Wrong. Anthony Davis fouled Mike Conley on a 3, and Conley hit all three free throws to force overtime.
  • The Lakers scored the first five points of overtime, though, and never looked back. James, Schroder and Anthony Davis combined for 75 points.

If the game hadn't been so important, it would have looked like a mid-season slog.

  • The teams combined for 45 turnovers and 41 fouls.
  • The Timberwolves scored 16 points over the final 17 minutes (fourth quarter plus overtime) of the game.
  • The Lakers were just 8 for 29 (27.6%) from 3 before Schroder's clutch make, and even then, they found a way to mess up the final possession of regulation.
  • Anthony Edwards scored nine points on 3 for 17 shooting. The Rudy Gobert-less Timberwolves nearly overcame that thanks to 
    Conley (23 points, 6-8 on 3-pointers) but fell apart late. Karl-Anthony Towns had 24 points, but only seven after halftime.

There are no pictures in the box score, though, and this was a massive win for the Lakers. When they needed it most, they got big contributions from role players, and now they can turn their attention to the No. 2 seed Grizzlies.

The Timberwolves will play a win-or-go-home game Friday against the winner of the Pelicans-Thunder 9-10 matchup


For one night, at least, the Hawks showed the toughness and resolve they often missed during a maddeningly inconsistent regular season. Atlanta beat Miami 116-105 in the Play-In Tournament to clinch the No. 7 seed in the East.

  • Trae Young had 25 points and Dejounte Murray had 18 more as seven different players -- including all four off the bench -- scored in double figures.
  • But the real difference was on the boards. The Hawks destroyed the Heat in rebounds (63-39), points in the paint (64-46) and second-chance points (26-6).
  • Jimmy Butler, who crushed the Hawks in last year's playoffs, had 21 points but shot just 6-19.

What most impressed me most was the Hawks' resilience. They led by as much as 24 late in the first half, but Miami got as close as five. The Hawks never wavered. Their reward is the No. 2 seed Celtics in the first round.

The Heat will play a win-or-go-home game Friday against the winner of the Raptors-Bulls 9-10 matchup

Honorable mentions

Not so honorable mentions

Previewing tonight's NBA Play-In Tournament action 🏀

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It's two games down and four to go in the play-in tournament. Tonight we get a pair of elimination games with the No. 10 seeds visiting the No. 9 seeds.

One of the biggest stories is who won't play: New Orleans star Zion Williamson (hamstring) hasn't played since Jan. 2 and has no timetable for a return. With his team's season in the balance, he spoke about his injury, describing it as "very frustrating" and adding "it sucks."

Even without Williamson in the fold, this should be a really fun game featuring two of the league's best scorers in Shai Gilgeous-Alexander (31.4 PPG, fourth in NBA) and Brandon Ingram (24.7 PPG). The winner will face Minnesota on Friday, with the winner of that game earning the No. 8 seed in the West. Same for the winner of Bulls-Raptors vs. Miami in the East.

You can see our expert picks here and Sam Quinn's best bets here.

UEFA Champions League quarterfinal: Manchester City, Inter Milan roll in first leg ⚽

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It was only a matter of time, it seemed, until Erling Haaland broke through against a leaky, mistake-ridden Bayern Munich defense. When he did, he didn't stop.

The Manchester City star scored and assisted in the Citizens' 3-0 first-leg romp in the UEFA Champions League quarterfinal.

  • The first goal came from an unexpected source: Rodri's left-footed curler found the top corner in the 27th minute. It was his first goal in European competition since 2016.
  • Then came Haaland's takeover: Dayot Upamecano got caught in possession, and Jack Grealish back-heeled to Haaland, who chipped a cross to Bernardo Silva for an easy header in the 70th minute.
  • Haaland got his goal six minutes later, rifling in a volley off of John Stones' header.
  • The Citizens ran their Champions League home undefeated streak to 25 games, the longest ever by a Premier League club.

It wasn't Haaland, though, who earned top marks in James Benge's player ratings. That belonged to...

  • Benge: "Ruben Dias -- A brilliant block by the Portuguese defender denied Jamal Musiala in the first half, setting the tone for a performance that one tends not to expect from a City center back. Dias was all action, hurling himself in the path of any shot that came his way, asserting himself on Bayern's quiet center forwards and testing Bayern off set pieces. This was as good a performance as this ground has seen in Europe. Rating: 9"

Performances like that are why James says the City defense could be the X factor going forward.

In the other first leg, Inter Milan topped Benfica 2-0 behind second-half goals from Nicolo Barella and Romelu Lukaku. Today, we have the other two quarterfinal first legs, streaming on Paramount+:

Here's what you need to know:

Rays winning streak hits 11 games, team ties HR mark ⚾

Boston Red Sox v Tampa Bay Rays
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In case you were wondering if the Rays won again, the answer is... yes! Tampa Bay topped Boston 7-2 to get to 11-0 this season

  • The Rays hit four home runs, with one each from Yandy Díaz, Josh Lowe, Isaac Paredes, and Brandon Lowe.
  • That brings their total to 29 this season, tying the 2000 Cardinals for most by any team through 11 games.
  • Shane McClanahan continued his strong start, throwing five innings, allowing just one run and striking out nine. He has a 1.59 ERA this season.
  • A quick reminder that the best start to an MLB season is 13-0, done by the 1987 Brewers and 1982 Braves.

Getting to 12-0 will present a unique challenge: Starting pitcher Taj Bradley will make his MLB debut after Zach Eflin went to the IL.

Here's more MLB news:

McDavid vs. Matthews: Will either win the Cup this postseason? 🏒

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Last year, Auston Matthews became the first 60-goal scorer in a decade. This year, Connor McDavid became just the sixth player ever with a 150-point season. The 2016 and 2015 No. 1 picks, respectively, have been faces of the NHL for a long time, and that's not changing anytime soon.

What they are hoping changes is that they're both without a Stanley Cup. With the Stanley Cup playoffs less than a week away, which superstar has a better chance to add the ultimate prize to their already-impressive trophy case?

Our Auston Nivison examined the case for Matthews' Maple Leafs and McDavid's Oilers.

  • Nivison: "Leon Draisaitl, Zach Hyman, and Ryan Nugent-Hopkins give McDavid plenty of help up front, but the defense and goaltending have improved the most. The acquisition of first-pairing defender Mattias Ekholm has rounded out Edmonton's blue line, and Stuart Skinner has given the Oilers reliable goaltending all season. If he can keep that up in the playoffs, few teams will be able to stack up with Edmonton from the crease to the top line."

You can see Austin's full comparison here.

What we're watching Wednesday 📺

Real Madrid vs. Chelsea, 3 p.m. on Paramount+
A.C. Milan vs. Napoli, 3 p.m. on Paramount+
🏀 Bulls at Raptors, 7 p.m. on ESPN
🏒 Stars at Blues, 7:30 p.m. on TNT
🏀 Thunder at Pelicans, 9:30 p.m. on ESPN
🏒 Sharks at Flames, 10 p.m. on TNT