These aren’t the Golden State Warriors of years past, plus Connor McDavid puts out Flames

Happy Friday, everyone! A sports-filled, long weekend awaits. Enjoy it. We’ll talk again on Tuesday.

Let’s get right to the news.

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Good morning to everyone but especially to…

THE GOLDEN STATE WARRIORS

No, you don’t have déjà vu: The Warriors are really in the NBA Finals again. Golden State finished a gentleman’s sweep of Dallas with a 120-110 win in San Francisco.

You already know how beautiful Golden State’s offense is when firing on all cylinders. It’s simply stunning. That was the case last night, especially in the second quarter when they scored 41 points. What you may not know is that the Warriors finished second in defensive efficiency this regular season (only behind the Celtics, who they may well meet in the Finals), and with Green and Andrew Wiggins leading the way, they have the length, depth and versatility to defend a variety of attacks.

It’s the Warriors’ sixth Finals appearance in eight years. Prior to this year, the last team to do that was Michael Jordan’s Bulls. What might be most impressive is that this appearance comes with neither Curry nor Thompson at the height of their respective powers, writes NBA expert Brad Botkin.

  • Botkin: “This is how you win without superpowers. Everyone chips in. That includes the front office, which traded for Wiggins and made some key signings. They uncovered a gem in Gary Payton II. They resisted the urge to trade (Jordan) Poole or Jonathan Kuminga, or even a Moses Moody or James Wiseman, building their bridge to the next era without sacrificing the championship potential of the current core. At the end of the day, the Warriors, albeit with fewer fireworks, are putting up a postseason offensive rating in line with the Durant years. “

Honorable mentions

And not such a good morning for…


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THE DALLAS MAVERICKS

Two things can be true: The Mavericks’ run to the Western Conference Finals showed they have a core that can contend… and they have a lot of questions to answer this offseason.

  • What do they do with free agent Jalen Brunson? Keeping him will come with a significant price tag.
  • Can they upgrade at center? This might be even more pressing than the Brunson question.
  • Can they add a standout wing defender (or two)?
  • How much can Doncic improve?

On that last question, it’s clear that Doncic is an absolute star — the type of player who can lead a team to championships. But he has to become a better defender and get in better shape, and those two are intertwined. Dallas, meanwhile, must support him by addressing the three other bullet points.

Previewing tomorrow’s Liverpool-Real Madrid UCL Final ⚽


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The UEFA Champions League Final is nearly here: Tomorrow at 3 p.m. (on CBS and Paramount+) Liverpool and Real Madrid add the latest chapter to their recent rivalry with one of the world’s most prestigious trophies on the line.

Both squads will be looking for their third trophy of the season. Liverpool won the FA Cup and Carabao Cup while Real Madrid won La Liga and the Supercopa. They know each other well in this competition:

  • Real Madrid won the 2018 final over Liverpool 3-1.
  • Real Madrid also eliminated the Reds in last year’s quarterfinal 3-1 on aggregate.

In his bold predictions, our soccer expert James Benge says Liverpool star Mohamed Salah will get his revenge after being injured early in the 2018 final.

  • Benge: “There is no cause for panic in this cold streak in front of goal. Watch Salah and he just looks a bit knackered, no great surprise given his fixture load. … He just needs time to recuperate; come Saturday he will have played just over half an hour of competitive football in a fortnight. In all that time he will surely have had Madrid, and payback, on his mind.”

This should be a fantastic showdown between two of Europe’s historic clubs. Here’s the rest of our preview material:

We’ll have picks and betting advice for you later today as well.

McDavid sends Oilers to Western Conference Final; Hurricanes stay undefeated at home in playoffs 🏒


USATSI

The Battle of Alberta has gone Edmonton’s way. The Oilers finished off a 4-1 series win over the Flames with a dramatic, controversial 5-4 overtime win.

  • With the score tied 4-4 late in the third period, Calgary’s Blake Coleman appeared to have scored the go-ahead goal, but video review determined he kicked the puck in, wiping out the goal.
  • In overtime, Oilers star Connor McDavid scored the game winner.
  • It’s Edmonton’s first conference finals appearance since 2006.

Earlier in the night, in Carolina, the Hurricanes continued their home dominance with a 3-1 win over the Rangers to take a 3-2 series lead.

  • Vincent Trocheck opened the scoring with a short-handed goal for the hosts, but Mika Zibanejad answered back late in the first period.
  • Teuvo Teravainen gave Carolina the lead in the second period, and Andrei Svechnikov added an insurance goal in the third.
  • Carolina is now 7-0 at home this postseason (and 0-5 on the road).

The Hurricanes are 9-0 in series in franchise history when leading a series 3-2, and they can make it 10-0 tomorrow night in Madison Square Garden. Given how their postseason has gone, though (specifically on the road), don’t be surprised if this one goes to Game 7.

New post-Combine NBA Mock Draft 🏀


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With the NBA Lottery and NBA Combine in the rearview mirror, the NBA Draft is starting to take shape. And that means our NBA Draft expert Kyle Boone has a brand new mock draft based off his latest intel.

The Magic won the lottery, and it’s a pretty open year for the top overall pick. Orlando will likely choose one of Jaden Ivey, Chet Holmgren, Paolo Banchero or Jabari Smith — the top four players on Boone’s Big Board. As for Boone’s mock, the top pick is…

  • Boone: Jabari Smith checks nearly every box there as a prospect. Great positional size, elite shooter for his position, capable defender and just scratching the surface of his All-Star potential. Both a safe pick by Orlando AND a huge swing at a future star.”

Here’s the rest of the top five:

  • 2. Thunder: C Chet Holmgren, Gonzaga
  • 3. Rockets: PF Paolo Banchero, Duke
  • 4. Kings: SG Jaden Ivey, Purdue
  • 5. Pistons: PF Keegan Murray, Iowa

Here’s Boone’s entire first-round mock.

Why the Indy 500 winner always drinks milk in Victory Lane 🏎


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The Indianapolis 500 is this weekend, and you know what that means? At the end of the race, one lucky (and skilled, of course) man is going to end up chugging milk. But why?

The tradition goes way, way back, and our racing expert Steven Taranto shared the history.

  • Taranto: “In 1936, when Louis Meyer won his third Indianapolis 500, he had a drink of buttermilk as he celebrated his victory. Meyer’s mother had long told him to drink buttermilk on hot days, and Meyer regularly had that particular dairy drink throughout his life. When a photo of Meyer drinking buttermilk appeared in a local newspaper the following day, it caught the attention of a dairy industry executive who saw a marketing opportunity.”

There were some interruptions along the way, but since 1956, milk has been a key fixture in Victory Lane. There’s even a “Veteran Milk Person” and a “Rookie Milk Person” to boot! This story was super fun and informative ahead of the action at the Brickyard.

What we’re watching this weekend 📺

And also…

Friday

🏀 Sparks at Fever, 7 p.m. on Twitter

Saturday

🏎 Indianapolis 500, 12:45 p.m. on NBC
Liverpool vs Real Madrid, 3 p.m. on CBS and Paramount+
Guardians at Tigers, 4:10 p.m. on FS1
🏀 Mystics at Sun, 7 p.m. on Facebook

Sunday

🏀 Mercury at Dream, noon on CBS
OL Reign vs Wave FC, 3 p.m. on Paramount+
Phillies at Mets, 7 p.m. on ESPN2
Dash vs Courage, 7 p.m. on Paramount+
Angel City FC vs Gotham FC, 8 p.m. on Paramount+

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