May 30, 2023
👋 Good morning! Welcome back. The NFL season kicks off in 100 days.
Today's word count: 1,400 words (5 minutes)
1 big thing: 🏀 Heat melt Celtics in Boston
Boston was on the cusp of history. But in the end, it was Miami who completed an unlikely run to the NBA Finals.
Driving the news: The Heat blew out the Celtics, 103-84, in Game 7 on Monday to become just the second No. 8 seed to reach the NBA Finals, joining the 1999 Knicks.
- The Celtics became the fourth team in NBA history to force a Game 7 after trailing 3-0, but couldn't become the first to ever win the series (teams are now 0-151 all-time).
- It's the second time in a matter of weeks that Boston has lost a Game 7 at home to a No. 8 seed from Miami. Last month, the top-seeded Bruins fell to the Panthers.
By the numbers: The Heat were founded 35 years ago (1988) and have now reached seven NBA Finals. That’s 20% of all seasons. Team president Pat Riley has had an even wilder run: This will be his 19th NBA Finals appearance as a player, coach or executive. That's 24.7% of all NBA Finals!
What they said: Jimmy Butler predicted this would happen after the Celtics beat the Heat in Game 7 of last year's Eastern Conference finals. "Next year … we're gonna be right back in this same situation and we're gonna get it done," said Butler, who was named MVP of the series.
- No more home-court advantage: Part of the benefit of earning a high playoff seed is home-court advantage, but that hasn't seemed to matter lately. Entering the 2016 NBA Finals, home teams were 101-24 in Game 7s. Since then, they're 8-11.
- The year of the lower seed: Seven lower-seeded teams have won a series this postseason, the most since the current NBA playoff format began in 1983.
- The legend of Caleb: Caleb Martin's 135 points in the series are the most in a conference or NBA Finals by an undrafted player in the modern draft era (since 1966). Remember when the Hornets cut him and kept his twin brother?
- Herro watch: Heat guard Tyler Herro, who hasn't played since breaking his hand in the first round, is expected to make his return during the NBA Finals. Game 3 is the likely target.
- Fun fact: Kevin Love has reached the Finals every time he's been in the playoffs (5-for-5). Four trips came with the Cavaliers, and now he's going with the Heat.
Looking ahead: The Nuggets are -360 favorites to win the NBA Finals, per Caesars Sportsbook. Game 1 tips off in Denver on Thursday.
2. 🏒 It's set: Vegas vs. Florida
The Golden Knights blanked the Stars, 6-0, on Monday night in Dallas to advance to the Stanley Cup Final against the Panthers.
What's next: The NHL is guaranteed to have a new champion, with Vegas and Florida both seeking their first Stanley Cup.
- It's the second trip to the Final for both teams: the Knights made it here in 2018 and the Panthers made it back in 1996.
- Vegas finished atop the West this season, while Florida snuck into the playoffs as the No. 8 seed.
The big picture: Vegas is the third franchise in the NHL's expansion era (since 1967) to reach the Stanley Cup Final multiple times within its first six seasons, joining the Oilers and Blues.
Looking ahead: The action begins Saturday night in Sin City.
3. ⚽️ Bayern wins 11th straight title
Borussia Dortmund blew a golden opportunity to win the Bundesliga on Saturday, failing to beat ninth-place Mainz at home. That left the door open for Bayern Munich, which beat 11th-place Köln, 2-1, to clinch the club's 11th straight league title.
Why it matters: Bayern's streak of 11 straight German championships (2013-2023) is a record among Europe's top five leagues. Juventus is second with nine straight Serie A titles (2012-2020).
Meanwhile, in England … Everton survived the weekend. Leicester City and Leeds United will be relegated from the Premier League along with Southampton.
4. ⚡️ Lightning round
🥍 Lax champs: Notre Dame beat Duke, 13-9, on Monday to win its first men's lacrosse championship; Northwestern beat Boston College, 18-6, on Sunday to win its eighth women's title. Only Maryland (14) has more.
🏀 Nurse to Philly: The 76ers have hired former Raptors coach Nick Nurse, who was also in the running for the Suns job. Nurse went 227-163 (.582) across five seasons in Toronto, where he won a championship (2019) and Coach of the Year award (2020).
🏀 Fever finally win: The Indiana Fever beat the Atlanta Dream, 90-87, on Sunday to snap their 20-game losing streak, tied for the longest in WNBA history.
5. 🇺🇸 Photos across America
INDIANAPOLIS — Josef Newgarden navigated a wreck-filled race to win his first Indianapolis 500. The two-time Indy Car champion had been 0-for-11 in "The Greatest Spectacle in Racing" prior to Sunday's victory.
NORMAN, Okla. — Oklahoma won their record 48th consecutive game on Saturday to advance to the Women's College World Series. They'll be joined by Stanford, Tennessee, Alabama, FSU, Oklahoma State, Washington and Utah.
WASHINGTON, D.C. — President Joe Biden honored this year's NCAA basketball champions on Friday, hosting the LSU women and the UConn men at the White House.
6. 🌎 Photos around the world
BARCELONA — Barcelona played their last match at Camp Nou on Sunday before the iconic ground — the largest soccer stadium in Europe — is closed for yearlong (at least) renovations.
MONTE LUSSARI, Italy — Slovenia's Primož Roglič won the Giro d’Italia in dramatic fashion, adding a fourth Grand Tour title to his résumé. The former ski jumper has won the Vuelta a España three times.
7. 📺 Watchlist: American Gladiators
"The American Gladiators Documentary," the latest installment in ESPN's "30 for 30" series, premieres tonight (8:30pm ET, ESPN).
- Details: The two-part film looks back on the iconic '90s game show that pitted "amateur" contestants against professional "gladiators." Part 2 premieres tomorrow night (9pm, ESPN) and both parts will be available on ESPN+ immediately after they air.
- What they're saying: "Come for the '90s nostalgia, but stay for the Elvis impersonators, the burps, the mental torment, the murder plots, aliens, and of course the undeniable atrocity of America's dark history. And sports. It's got some sports too," said director Ben Berman.
More to watch:
8. 🔥 The Ocho: Texas high school BBQ
High school football is king in Texas. But don't sleep on high school barbecue.
Driving the news: 92 teams from across the state competed in this month's Texas High School BBQ State Championship, where they were judged on five categories: chicken, brisket, ribs, beans and dessert.
- Competitions are no joke, beginning bright and early (desserts are due at 9am) and lasting much of the afternoon (brisket is due at 3pm). Nolan Ryan's meat company, Goodstock, provides the meat, and plenty of kids have parlayed their experience into jobs.
- "Having a bunch of teenagers who are ready to jump into working at a barbecue joint, I see that as a big plus," Daniel Vaughn, the barbecue editor at Texas Monthly, told ESPN. "You're creating the next crop of pitmasters."
The last word: "The practices smell better," said Sean Hill, a former high school football coach whose barbecue team was named grand champion this year. "I miss Friday night lights, but I'd never give up Saturday morning fires."
The bottom line: This is the most Texas thing ever.
Go deeper: Inside the growing world of the Texas High School BBQ State Championship (ESPN)
9. 🏀 NBA trivia
The Heat are making their seventh NBA Finals appearance this century, second-most of any team.
- Question: Name the only team with more.
- Hint: Made the playoffs this year.
Answer at the bottom.
10. 🏸 1 big rally: 211 shots!
Must-see video: There was a 211-shot rally at the Malaysia Masters. It's believed to be the longest in badminton history.
Kendall "Liam! Liam!" Baker
Trivia answer: Lakers (eight NBA Finals appearances)