What did you expect? A close game? In these NBA playoffs? Those have been hard to come by, even without much at stake. With the chance to make history, the Warriors wanted to shut the door on the Mavericks in Game 5. Golden State left Thursday with a 120-110 win in front of its home crowd; Steph Curry won the first-ever Western Conference Finals MVP, Klay Thompson channeled "Game 6 Klay," and the Warriors dynasty advanced to the Finals for the sixth time in eight seasons. They became the first team to do that since Michael Jordan's Bulls.
Golden State, naturally, remains the favorite to win the title as it awaits its opponent. Please keep reading for more on how they got back to the biggest stage in basketball, plus a check-in with the Stanley Cup playoffs, where two of the final four teams are set, and a fantasy football offseason update.
Celtics One Win Away from First Finals Since 2010
Boston has taken control of the Eastern Conference Finals. With a win tonight, it can close out Miami and get back to the Finals for the first time in over a decade.
The Celtics' defense prevailed in Games 4 and 5—the Heat managed just 82 and 80 points in a pair of one-sided losses that flipped a 2-1 lead into a 3-2 deficit. Miami's starters have been the issue as the series progresses. Kyle Lowry and Max Strus combined to shoot 1-28 from the field in the last two games, and Jimmy Butler has just 19 points in that time frame. With Marcus Smart and Robert Williams III back in the lineup, Boston has looked the part of the best defense in the league, and Jayson Tatum and Jaylen Brown have taken turns providing the offense the C's need.
The Heat need a win to force a Game 7 in Miami, something that will be all but impossible if their play doesn't improve. The oddsmakers don't have much faith in the No. 1 seed, installing them as 8.5-point underdogs, the largest spread the Heat have faced in the playoffs.
Out in San Francisco, the Warriors beat the Mavericks thanks to Thompson's game-high 32 points and eight made threes. Every Golden State starter finished with double-digit points and helped make life as difficult as possible for Luka Dončić, who finished 10-29 and 3-13 from three, albeit with 28 points. Spencer Dinwiddie provided 26 points off the bench, but a 17-point halftime deficit was too much for the Mavs to overcome.
The focus in Dallas shifts to finding Dončić a co-star, while in San Francisco, the Warriors are thinking about another ring.
8:30 p.m. ET (ESPN): Heat vs. Celtics (-8.5) | Boston leads series, 3-2
2022 NBA Finals Schedule:
Two NHL Conference Finals Spots Remain
The Avalanche have another shot to close out the Blues tonight. This time around, Colorado will attempt to do so on the road to avoid heading back home for a potential Game 7. St. Louis extended the series Wednesday with an overtime win, but the Avalanche are heavy favorites to finish the series on the road. If they don't, Game 7 will be Sunday in Denver.
On the topic of overtime victories, the Oilers put away the Flames in overtime Thursday night. That 5-4 win sent Edmonton to the West Finals, where it will play the winner of Avalanche-Blues. That epic game broke an NHL record when the teams combined to net four goals in 1:11 of game time.
And in the other ongoing second-round series, the Hurricanes took a 3-2 lead on the Rangers with a 3-1 home win. That win improved Carolina's home record in the postseason to 7-0. On the other hand, they're 0-5 on the road. If the Hurricanes cannot break that winless streak in away games, the series will head back to North Carolina for a Game 7 Monday night.
Fantasy Takeaways from OTAs
This week, organized team activities began around the NFL-organized OTAs. You could make a Pro Bowl roster with some of the players who are missing these voluntary workouts, among them: Kyler Murray, Lamar Jackson, Baker Mayfield, Deebo Samuel and Terry McLaurin.
The reasons players are not present vary from contract disputes to trade requests or, in the case of veterans like Tom Brady and Aaron Rodgers, some just don't need the extra workouts at this point in the offseason.
It's worth monitoring the franchise quarterbacks and game-changing receivers who are negotiating new deals as the summer approaches, but there are a few other nuggets of news that emerged from OTAs this week that should immediately concern fantasy managers.
Wait, what? Indianapolis employs 2021 fantasy football darling and early 2022 1.01 pick Jonathan Taylor, and Reich recommends his backup?
Some context: Hines gained 276 rushing yards on 56 carries, 310 receiving yards on 40 catches and got in the end zone three times last season. Taylor led the NFL with 332 carries for 1,811 yards and 18 scores on the ground alone. He also added 40 catches for 360 yards and two more touchdowns for good measure.
Reich called Hines a playmaker and said they wanted to feature him. Should that scare anyone off Taylor? Probably not—Craig Ellenport has more on Reich stumping for Hines.
Sticking in Indy, the Colts signed Nick Foles this week to back up their new quarterback Matt Ryan. Foles has experience in Reich's system, he was the offensive coordinator in Philadelphia when Carson Wentz went down, and Foles stepped in and led the Eagles to their Super Bowl win in 2017.
One more note from OTAs: Is Patriots coach and general manager Bill Bellichick calling plays in New England? The team is still without an offensive coordinator, which is a concern for the fantasy production of players like Mac Jones, Damien Harris and offseason additions DeVante Parker and Tyquan Thornton.
Jen Piacenti summed it up succinctly:
"What will remain true is that the Patriots are about winning games, not producing fantasy stars."
Shawn Childs' team projections come out on a rolling basis, with the AFC South halfway done. Find his complete AFC North and AFC East team projections here.
In Other News
Fantasy Baseball Bullpen Report: It's been a rough go for many relievers around the MLB as of late, so it's especially important to check to see how each team's bullpen is faring and which pitchers are dealing right now and who's in and who's out.
Lakers Reportedly Interviewed Terry Stotts: The coaching search in Los Angeles to find Frank Vogel's successor has been whittled down to three finalists: Warriors assistant Kenny Atkinson, Bucks assistant Darvin Ham and Stotts, the former Trail Blazers coach, whom the team interviewed Tuesday.
Zion Williamson Cleared to Play: The Pelicans' former No. 1 overall pick has been cleared to play without any restrictions. Williamson, who has battled injuries in his young career, missed all of the 2021-22 season, during which New Orleans made the playoffs as the No. 8 seed.
Thanks for reading Winners Club! Enjoy your weekend, and I'll be back next week with the NBA Finals matchup set!