NBA buzzer beaters, a wild MLB ejection and fresh NFL Draft intrigue

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NBA buzzer beaters, a wild MLB ejection and fresh NFL Draft intrigue

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Good morning! Shush that fan behind you today, before you get booted.

Playoff Pressure: The thin line between 2-0 and 1-1

Everything in both the NBA and NHL playoffs feels so fragile right now. Each series is best-of-7, sure, but the first two games feel so important. Every playoff team is sensing this right now, none more so than the Philadelphia 76ers and Los Angeles Lakers. 

  • The seventh-seeded Sixers were seconds away from taking a 1-1 split home last night to Philadelphia, where home-court advantage would flip. Then came a couple frantic battles for the ball and a gutting 3-pointer from Donte DiVincenzo in one of the wildest sequences we’ve seen this year. Sixers coach Nick Nurse can be seen on video replay begging for a timeout while Tyrese Maxey still has the ball, but refs either didn’t see him or ignored him. Getting that timeout could’ve been the difference between a lost season or a successful one. Brutal for the Sixers, but an already-iconic moment in Knicks lore. Such is life in the playoffs.
  • The same goes for the Lakers seeing another double-digit lead evaporate against the defending-champion Nuggets, who won it on a Jamal Murray buzzer-beater to go up 2-0 in the series. The Lakers and Nuggets have played six times in the last two postseasons, and the Nuggets’ average margin of victory is six points. Record: Denver 6, LA 0. Woof. Tough to beat this:

It was no different on the ice last night: 

  • The Leafs did it. A 2-0 hole, even against the Bruins, would trigger some deep, troubled feelings in Toronto fans, but last night, Auston Matthews decided to be the superstar he is. Matthews’ dominant performance, including the go-ahead goal, evened the Leafs’ series with Boston.
  • The Islanders were so close, twice. Even a 3-0 lead in yesterday’s Game 2 loss against Carolina did not stand, as the Hurricanes tied it with 2:15 to play and ended up winning 5-3. It’s difficult to imagine New York turning this 2-0 series around. 

In super late action, the Oilers and Golden Knights each took 1-0 series leads in their opening rounds against the Kings and Stars, respectively. Vegas’ win was not without controversy, though.

NFL Draft: They can’t really trade down, right?

At the Pulse, we are firm believers in the two-things-can-be-true doctrine. And yet it’s hard for me to reconcile two things about the Patriots’ draft room: 

  • The Athletic’s Dianna Russini reported yesterday that the Patriots are listening to calls for the No. 3 pick in the draft. As we detailed last week, trading back in the draft for more assets is proven by data to be the best strategy available. No one knows this better than the Pats, as their dynasty was partially built on constantly trading back.
  • But these Patriots really, really need a quarterback. Tom Brady is long gone. The only QBs on the roster are Bailey Zappe and Jacoby Brissett, and this draft is top-heavy with elite QB prospects. At least two will be available at No. 3. Would New England really lose out on Jayden Daniels/Drake Maye/J.J. McCarthy to grab more assets and select someone like Michael Penix Jr. or Bo Nix? Maybe it works in the long run, but it would be tough to swallow if I were a Pats fan. 

Two more days until the smoke clears.

News to Know

Redick to interview for Hornets job
Late-breaking news from The Athletic’s Shams Charania last night: The Charlotte Hornets plan to interview former NBA player and current media star JJ Redick for their vacant head-coaching job. Redick, who’s never coached at the college or pro level, has been linked to multiple jobs in the last two years. It’s easy to wonder if the Duke legend would leave his ascendant TV and podcasting career for this gig in North Carolina, but he clearly has interest. Fascinating.

Jets trade Wilson
Zach Wilson is now a Denver Bronco, as the Jets finally traded him after three tumultuous years. As the No. 2 pick in the 2021 NFL Draft, Wilson was once the future of the organization; now, in order to move on, the Jets are paying some of his salary and getting back a sixth-round pick.

More news

Quick Triggers: You will never see a funnier ejection

Let’s get this out of the way first: I understand umpire Hunter Wendelstedt’s instinct to eject Yankees manager Aaron Boone yesterday. Boone has been the star of many memorable ump dust-ups. 

Yesterday’s skirmish was something else, though — something twice as hilarious. The levels here: 

  • Boone and Wendelstedt started their, ahem, conversation just five pitches into New York’s 2-0 loss to the Athletics. Boone complained about a check swing call. Wendelstedt told Boone if he said anything more, he’d be tossed.
  • A fan sitting behind the Yankees dugout decided to chime in and heckle Wendelstedt … who thought it was Boone yelling at him. Wendlestedt ejected the manager, who was understandably furious. Just a funny moment, right?
  • Somehow, no. Video evidence clearly showed Boone quietly inspecting his fingernails while the fan yelled at Wendelstedt, and the umpire even acknowledged the reality afterward. And yet Wendelstedt doubled down on the toss, saying: “Aaron Boone is the manager of the New York Yankees and is responsible for everything that happens in that dugout.” What??

Nearly 24 hours later, I am still dumbfounded and tickled at the whole thing. Just watch Boone’s reaction to getting the boot and try not to laugh:

Boone said after the game he plans to communicate with league officials about the issue.

Watch This Game

NBA: Suns at Timberwolves
7:30 p.m. ET on TNT
If we can get anywhere close to the beautiful trash talk of this series’ first game, this will be must-watch TV. 

NHL: Avalanche at Jets
9:30 p.m. ET on ESPN
Last game, these teams combined for 13 goals. I’d like to see 13 more.

Pulse Picks

I love this feature every year from Kalyn Kahler, on unnamed “Prospect X,” who she writes may be the most overlooked player in the 2024 NFL Draft. Excited to find out who he is. 

Bernie Williams — yes, the Yankees legend — is going to play the New York Philharmonic. He’s nervous

The Oakland A’s announced their move to Las Vegas a year ago. As Cody Stavenhagen wrote this week, it’s been a year of pain, drama and depressing intrigue. Great read. 

Most-clicked in the newsletter yesterday: The picture of Nelly Korda jumping in a lake after her Chevron Championship win. Still laughing at it. 

Most-read on the website yesterday: Speaking of anonymous polls, our NBA version was spicy and went viral yesterday. I just want to know who gave the Kirk Cousins comment.

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