Axios Sports

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September 19, 2022

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Today's word count: 1,454 words (5 minutes).

Let's sports...

1 big thing: 🏆 Aces capture first title

A'ja Wilson and Becky Hammon

A'ja Wilson and Becky Hammon celebrate becoming champions. Photo: Maddie Meyer/Getty Images

The city of Las Vegas has its first major professional sports championship.

Driving the news: The Aces beat the Sun, 78-71, in Game 4 of the WNBA Finals on Sunday. It's the first championship for the franchise, which started as the Utah Starzz in 1997.

  • Finals MVP Chelsea Gray led the way with 20 points and six assists, reserve Riquna Williams scored a season-high 17 points, and league MVP A'ja Wilson had 11 points and 14 rebounds.
  • Connecticut forward Alyssa Thomas had her second straight triple-double (11-10-11) but it wasn't enough, as the Sun lost in the Finals for the fourth time. They remain title-less.

The backdrop: The Aces were dominant all season, tying for the league's best record (26-10), earning the No. 1 seed in the playoffs and winning the in-season Commissioner's Cup.

  • They had stars on and off the court, with Wilson winning MVP and DPOY and Becky Hammon winning Coach of the Year.
  • Hammon is the first former WNBA player to win a title as a head coach and the first WNBA head coach to win a title in her first year.

The big picture: Las Vegas doesn't know how to lose. Since arriving in Sin City, the Golden Knights (2017), Aces (2018) and Raiders (2020) have one combined losing season and have made the playoffs nine out of a possible 12 times. Now they have a title.

🏀 Read: A new era for the Aces and, possibly, the entire WNBA (USA Today)

2. 🏈 NFL Sunday: Comeback kings

Miami Dolphins Win GIF by NFL - Find & Share on GIPHY
Source: Giphy

For the first time in NFL history, two teams overcame 20-point halftime deficits on the same day, Axios' Jeff Tracy writes.

  • Dolphins 42, Ravens 38: Miami entered the fourth quarter down 35-14, but thanks to monster days from Tua Tagovailoa (469 yards, 6 TD), Tyreek Hill (11-190-2) and Jaylen Waddle (11-171-2), the Fins did the impossible, improving to 2-0 under Mike McDaniel.
  • Cardinals 29, Raiders 23 (OT): Kyler Murray came alive in the fourth quarter, throwing for one score, running for another and converting two electric two-point conversions to force overtime. Then the Cards sealed the deal with a walk-off scoop-and-score.

Plus ... The Jets mounted their own epic comeback, scoring 14 points in the final 82 seconds to beat the Browns, 31-30. NFL teams had won 2,229 consecutive games when leading by 13+ points in the final two minutes.

Lambeau Field
Sunday nights at Lambeau. Hard to beat. Photo: Michael Reaves/Getty Images

More from Sunday:

  • The Rodgers rebound: With a 27-10 win over the Bears, Aaron Rodgers improved to 9-0 after a loss under Matt LaFleur. His stats in those games: 24 TD, 0 INT.
  • Historic streak: In a 36-27 win over the Commanders, Lions WR Amon-Ra St. Brown (9-116-2) became the third player in NFL history with 8+ catches in eight straight games.
  • Fastest QB ever: Lamar Jackson (119 rushing yards) had his 11th regular-season game with 100+ rushing yards, passing Michael Vick for most all-time among QBs.
  • Brutal blow: 49ers QB Trey Lance is done for the season after breaking his ankle in the first quarter against the Seahawks. Former starter Jimmy Garoppolo came in and led the Niners to a win.

Scoreboard:

🤑 Read: Wild comebacks lead to big swings at books (ESPN)

3. ⚾️ Chasing Maris — and a Triple Crown

Aaron Judge

Photo: John Fisher/Getty Images

Aaron Judge has spent most of the season chasing home run history. Now, thanks to a torrid September, he's eyeing a triple crown.

The latest: Judge blasted two more long balls on Sunday to give him 59, two shy of Roger Maris' American League record. He also added two more hits in the win over the Brewers, increasing his September batting average to a ridiculous .491 (27-for-55).

By the numbers: Here are Judge's AL ranks with 16 games remaining.

  • 59 HR (1st): 22 more than second place (Yordan Álvarez, 37)
  • 127 RBI (1st): 15 more than second place (Jose Ramirez, 112)
  • .316 BA (T-2nd): Tied with Xander Bogaerts and .001 behind Luis Arráez

The intrigue: Only 10 players in MLB history have won a triple crown, and the last one to do it — Miguel Cabrera in 2012 — was the first in over four decades. Put simply, leading your league in batting average, HR and RBI is one of the rarest feats in sports.

  • Yet this year, we could see a winner in both leagues. Cardinals slugger Paul Goldschmidt is second in the NL in batting average (.322), tied for third in HR (35) and second in RBI (112).
  • Goldschmidt's chances are far slimmer than Judge's, but stranger things have happened.

The backdrop: Despite Judge's historic season, the AL MVP race isn't over. Why? Because Shohei Ohtani exists. The Angels' two-way star was up to his old tricks on Saturday, pitching seven scoreless innings, driving in one run and scoring another in a 2-1 win over the Mariners.

4. ⚡️ Lightning round

Ethan Nwaneri

Photo: Alex Pantling/Getty Images

⚽️ 15 years old: Ethan Nwaneri, 15, became the youngest player in the history of Europe's big five leagues when he came on as a substitute in Arsenal's 3-0 win over Brentford on Sunday.

🥍 Waterdogs win title: Playoff MVP Michael Sowers and the Waterdogs beat the defending champion Chaos, 11-9, on Sunday to win the 2022 Premier Lacrosse League championship.

⚾️ 25 straight: Astros lefty Framber Valdez set a major league single-season record with his 25th straight quality start (six or more innings pitched, three or fewer earned runs allowed).

🎾 The final eight: The Davis Cup group stage concluded Sunday, and the quarterfinals are now set: Italy vs. U.S.; Germany vs. Canada; Australia vs. Netherlands; Croatia vs. Spain.

🏈 Edwards out: Herm Edwards is out at Arizona State amid a spiral of off-field issues (the program is under NCAA investigation) and bad football (1-2 this season).

5. 🏈 AP poll: All quiet at the top

Data: AP; Table: Axios Visuals
Data: AP; Table: Axios Visuals

The top seven teams held steady in this week's AP college football poll, while Washington made its debut after beating previously-ranked Michigan State.

Conference call: The final AP poll from last season featured five Group of 5 schools (Cincinnati, Louisiana-Lafayette, Houston, Utah State, San Diego State). This week? None.

  • SEC: 8
  • ACC: 5
  • Big 12: 4
  • Pac-12: 4
  • Big Ten: 3
  • Independents: 1

Looking ahead ... Next Saturday delivers three ranked-on-ranked matchups: No. 5 Clemson at No. 21 Wake Forest; No. 20 Florida at No. 11 Tennessee; No. 10 Arkansas vs. No. 23 Texas A&M.

📆 Read: What's next for each ranked team (ESPN)

6. 🏀 Spain's reign continues

Spain celebrating

Photo: Maja Hitij/Getty Images

Spain beat France, 88-76, on Sunday to win the 2022 FIBA EuroBasket Championship, Jeff writes.

Why it matters: This is Spain's fourth EuroBasket gold medal (2009, 2011, 2015, 2022). Only the Soviet Union (14) and Yugoslavia (8) have more in the history of the event, which began in 1935.

  • Spain is the reigning Basketball World Cup champion (2019), and La Roja have now medaled in 10 of their past 11 EuroBasket appearances.
  • Wild stat: Every Spanish men's and women's national team (U-16 through senior) has reached the final of this year's biggest event.

Two brothers: Juancho Hernangómez, who starred in Netflix's "Hustle," scored 27 points (7-9 3PT) in the final, while his brother, Willy, was named EuroBasket MVP. Somewhere, the Gasol brothers are smiling.

All-EuroBasket Team:

  • 🇪🇸 Willy Hernangómez
  • 🇪🇸 Lorenzo Brown
  • 🇬🇷 Giannis Antetokounmpo
  • 🇩🇪 Dennis Schröder
  • 🇫🇷 Rudy Gobert

Of note: Germany beat Poland, 82-69, in the third place game.

7. 🌎 The world in photos

Canelo Alvarez with his crown
Photo: Sarah Stier/Getty Images

LAS VEGAS — Canelo Álvarez (58-2-2, 39 KOs) beat Gennadiy Golovkin by unanimous decision to close out their trilogy and retain his undisputed super middleweight title.

NWSL fans
Photo: Denis Poroy/Getty Images

SAN DIEGO — The Wave's first game at Snapdragon Stadium, a 1-0 win over fellow expansion team Angel City FC, shattered the NWSL attendance record (32,000).

Cricket
Photo: Alex Davidson/Getty Images

KARACHI, Pakistan — Kids play "tape ball" cricket at a park. First pioneered in Karachi (largest city in Pakistan), a tape ball is a tennis ball wrapped in electrical tape.

Hot Air Balloon Championship
Photo: Mario Skraban/Getty Images

MURSKA SOBOTA, Slovenia — Today I learned that there's a Hot Air Balloon World Championship.

8. 📺 Watchlist: Two games at once

Illustrated pattern of footballs

Illustration: Sarah Grillo/Axios

There are two "Monday Night Football" games tonight, but instead of one early and one late game, they'll be played mostly simultaneously with live look-ins throughout both broadcasts.

  • Titans at Bills (7:15pm ET, ESPN): Spread: BUF -10 | O/U: 47.5 | Money: BUF -480, TEN +360
  • Vikings at Eagles (8:30pm, ABC): Spread: PHI -2.5 | O/U: 50.5 | Money: PHI -135, MIN +115

Odds via Caesars Sportsbook.

9. ⚾️ MLB trivia

Spencer Strider

Photo: Todd Kirkland/Getty Images

Braves righty Spencer Strider is the third rookie this century to reach 200 strikeouts in a season.

  • Question: Who were the first two?
  • Hint: Both are Japanese.

Answer at the bottom.

10. 🍿 Top plays: Weekend edition

App State Hail Mary

Courtesy: Appalachian State Athletics

🏈⚾️🏈🏈🏈🏈⚽️🏈⚾️🏈

Watch all 10.

Talk tomorrow,

Kendall "You play to win the game" Baker

Trivia answer: Daisuke Matsuzaka (2007) and Yu Darvish (2012)

🙏 Have a great day! Follow us for more (@kendallbaker and @jeffreytracy). Friends can sign up here. Thanks to Bryan McBournie for copy edits.