Can the Hawks survive without Trae Young? Plus, an epic golf playoff

Greetings my fellow sports fans, it’s Chris Bengel here once again to start your week off right with all the latest that the sports world has to offer.

I have to say that this NBA postseason has been one of the more fun ones that I’ve seen in quite some time. A lot of it has to do with the uncertainty of who is going to win the NBA title. For so many years, we saw whatever team LeBron James was on and the Golden State Warriors constantly in the NBA Finals. This is the first time since 2010 that LeBron James or Stephen Curry aren’t going to be playing in the NBA Finals. It’s pretty cool to see different teams with a chance at glory.

Let’s get into the sports action and, trust me, there’s plenty to get to!

📰 What you need to know

1. Trae Young hurts ankle in Hawks‘ Game 3 loss to Bucks 🏀

The Atlanta Hawks have been the biggest story of the NBA playoffs, considering that no one expected them to be in the Eastern Conference Finals. Perhaps just as surprising, the Hawks were able to stun the Bucks in Game 1 of the Eastern Conference Finals behind a sensational 48-point effort from star guard Trae Young.

However, the Bucks did rebound in a big way in Game 2, with a convincing 125-91 win behind a stellar effort from Giannis Antetokounmpo. The series shifted to Atlanta for Sunday’s Game 3 and it turned out to be a closely contested affair. Despite the Hawks jumping out to an early double-digit lead, the Bucks used their veteran mentality to weather the storm and hang around.

The biggest story of the second half was the play of Bucks star Khris Middleton, who went on a stretch where he drilled four consecutive shots from three in the fourth quarter. It also didn’t hurt that Young left the game briefly to get his ankle taped and only scored three points once he returned. Milwaukee was able to come away with a 113-102 win behind Middleton’s stellar 38-point effort.

CBS Sports NBA scribe Sam Quinn took a closer look at Game 3 with his takeaways from the contest — a major one being Young’s injury.

  • On Trae Young’s injury: “That was the moment that might have swung the game and the series to the Hawks. Young had 32 points when he left the game. He had three points on 1-of-4 shooting in the fourth on that bum ankle, and the Bucks won the quarter by 13 points … This team is already extremely thin due to injuries. If Young is hobbled too? This series is over.”

Regardless of the injury, Middleton was the big difference in this game down the stretch. After he went 0-of-9 from three in Game 1, this was one heck of a bounce-back performance from the sharpshooting guard. It also took a great deal of the pressure off of Antetokounmpo, which never hurts.

If Middleton can keep up this high level of play — and Young isn’t 100% — I think it’ll be hard for the Hawks to stay in this series.

2. Is Damian Lillard going to leave Portland? 🏀

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It’s been quite a turn of events since the Portland Trail Blazers were eliminated from the playoffs earlier this month. Shortly after Portland’s postseason exit, the franchise decided to part ways with head coach Terry Stotts, who has been the only coach that Portland has had during Damian Lillard’s tenure.

Now, the Trail Blazers have hired Chauncey Billups as head coach on a reported five-year deal. This has caused a rift between Lillard, fans and the franchise

  • Lillard wasn’t shy about who he wanted the organization to hire. He even told Yahoo Sports that Jason Kidd was “his guy,” and wanted Portland to hire the former Los Angeles Lakers assistant. However, Kidd withdrew his name from the coaching search
  • Adding to this drama is that Portland fans have spoken out against the team hiring Billups. This stems from Billups’ being accused of raping a woman when he was an NBA player. The disturbing details of that case have resurfaced in recent weeks. He was never charged with a crime, but eventually settled a civil lawsuit with the woman

On Sunday, it was reported that Lillard has grown frustrated with Portland and their potential to contend for an NBA title. It’s worth noting that Lillard has only been to the Western Conference Finals in one season: 2019. The Trail Blazers were swept in four games by the Golden State Warriors.

Our NBA scribe Jack Maloney weighed in on Lillard’s situation and laid out two distinct factors that could contribute to the Trail Blazers star potentially wanting out.

  • On the controversial hire of Billups: “Women in Portland have spoken out against the impending decision to hire Billups, and there’s been plenty of commentary on Twitter — some of which placed blame on Lillard. The All-Star point guard even got involved in a back-and-forth about the situation, in which he attempted to defend himself. He said he wasn’t aware of the accusation against Billups, and seemed to suggest that his preferred choices were based on options given to him from the front office.”
  • On Portland’s inability to contend for an NBA title: “Injuries have played a role to be sure, but the truth is the Blazers just haven’t been talented enough. Apologies to CJ McCollum, but they’ve never found a true second star to play alongside Lillard, and have often been one of the worst defensive teams in the league.”

3. Harris English outlasts Kramer Hickok during wild playoff at Travelers Championship 🏌

Golf can be one of the most dramatic sports, especially when it comes to tournaments going to a playoff. Sunday’s Travelers Championship provided more drama than anyone would’ve expected.

Bubba Watson led midway through the back nine of Sunday’s fourth round, but faded down the stretch. When the 18 regulation holes were all said and done, Harris English and Kramer Hickok were tied, which forced the two players into a playoff. English and Hickok traded pars on the first seven playoff holes (!) in a tremendous display of golf. English did finally convert a birdie putt in order to come away with insane victory.

CBS Sports golf scribe Kyle Porter put a bow on the craziness and weighed in on the historic implications of the eight-hole playoff marathon.

  • On the historic significance of the playoff: “The eight-hole playoff – only the 1949 Motor City Open went longer in PGA Tour history – was not a ball-striking exhibition, but it did include eight (!!) putts made from 5 or more feet, including a 15-footer from Hickok on the sixth playoff hole and a 16-footer from English for the win.”
  • On the beauty of the eight-hole playoff: “This is golf. It is not a normal sport. Often, the least expected canvases provide the most interesting paintings. That’s what we got on Sunday between English and Hickok, somebody nobody could have picked out of a lineup before the day started but whose name was being chanted by the end of it. Fourteen straight pars does not sound like much — and on a Thursday afternoon it would not be — but somehow on this Sunday evening, it was enough to deliver some of the most wonderful golf of the entire season.”

The theater of golf is potentially second to none. As we saw during last month’s PGA Championship, the scene can be absolutely intoxicating. While the Travelers Championship wasn’t a major tournament, it still provided some of the biggest drama that golf fans have seen in their lifetimes.

4. Gerrit Cole gets shelled as Yankees fall to 0-6 against Red Sox this season ⚾

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The best rivalry in baseball has been one-sided this season. The Red Sox beat the Yankees, 9-2, on Sunday, which gives the Red Sox a 6-0 advantage on their division rivals. Boston’s three-game sweep of the Yankees this past weekend follows up a sweep that occurred in New York earlier this month.

Making matter worse for New York, one of the biggest takeaways from Sunday’s loss was the struggles of Gerrit Cole.

  • Cole surrendered six runs (five earned) on eight hits in five innings of work
  • What was most alarming was the fact that Boston tagged Cole for four runs in the first inning, which was highlighted by a three-run home run from Red Sox third baseman Rafael Devers
  • It marked Cole’s worst start since he signed a nine-year deal with the Yankees prior to the 2020 season

CBS Sports baseball writer Matt Snyder pointed out why Sunday’s loss is so concerning for the Yankees in regards to Cole.

  • “This was just the eighth time in Cole’s 220 career starts that he allowed at least six runs and it’s the first time he’s done so as a member of the Yankees. Five of his previous seven outings with at least six runs allowed came with the Pirates back in 2016-17, too, so this was a very uncharacteristic start.”
  • “… There’s the whole foreign substance issue. Remember, Cole didn’t cover himself in glory when asked about using them earlier this month. And now he has a bad outing like this the week that MLB started checking pitchers on the field.”

Cole’s starts are going to be dissected with a fine-tooth comb due to Major League Baseball cracking down on the use of foreign substances. After all, Cole was accused of using foreign substances by a former Los Angeles Angels employee, and then, as Snyder noted above, gave a terrible answer when asked about his use of sticky stuff earlier this season.

Anytime that Cole struggles in a start, he’s definitely not going to get the benefit of the doubt.

📝 Odds & Ends

  • Last week, Major League Baseball began utilizing a new rule concerning pitchers using foreign substances. On Sunday, Seattle Mariners pitcher Hector Santiago became the first player to get ejected for the use of foreign substances. If the league can prove Santiago was using a foreign substance, he’ll receive a 10-game suspension
  • During the U.S. Olympic track and field trials on Saturday, American hammer thrower Gwen Berry felt the need to explain her actions during the national anthem. Images showed Berry facing away from the American flag while the national anthem was played
  • Los Angeles Angels slugger Shohei Ohtani continues to tear the cover off the ball during the 2021 season. Ohtani connected on his 25th home run of the season, which ties him for second with Fernando Tatis Jr. In addition, Ohtani’s ninth-inning long ball was his fourth of the season that exited at at least 115 miles-per-hour.

📺 What to watch tonight

🏒 Stanley Cup Final Game 1: Canadiens vs. Lightning, 8 p.m. I TB -200 I TV: NBCSN

🏀 Clippers vs. Suns, 9 p.m. I PHO -220 I TV: ESPN

Giants vs. Dodgers, 10:10 p.m. | LAD -177 | TV: MLB.TV

🥇 Best thing I saw on the internet

The Tokyo Olympics are right around the corner and that means that Simone Biles is ready to showcase her talents for the world to see. Over the weekend, the U.S. Olympic Gymnastics Trials were held and Biles secured the women’s all-around title with a two-day total of 118.098 points. In doing so, Biles officially clinched her spot in the Tokyo Olympics, which are slated to begin on July 23. At just 24, Biles has already been billed by many as the greatest gymnast of all-time and it’s going to be so much fun to see her excel on the international stage once again.

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