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Celtics force series back to Miami as they inch closer to NBA history



Celtics force series back to Miami as they inch closer to NBA history

Derrick White had 24 points, including six 3-pointers, and the Boston Celtics dominated the Miami Heat 110-97 on Thursday night in Game 5 to extend the Eastern Conference finals.

Marcus Smart had 23 points and five steals. Jayson Tatum and Jaylen Brown finished with 21 points apiece as the Celtics claimed their second straight win and trimmed Miami’s series lead to 3-2.

It keeps alive Boston’s hopes of becoming the first team in NBA history to overcome a 3-0 deficit to win a series. Teams previously in that position are 0-150 all-time.

Game 6 is Saturday in Miami.


Jayson Tatum #0 high fives Grant Williams #12 of the Boston Celtics during the first quarter against the Miami Heat in game five of the Eastern Conference Finals at TD Garden on May 25, 2023 in Boston, Massachusetts. (Maddie Meyer/Getty Images)

A day after the Florida Panthers punched the franchise’s first ticket to the Stanley Cup Finals since 1996, for the second straight game the Heat were denied a spot in the NBA Finals.

Duncan Robinson led the Heat with 18 points. Bam Adebayo added 16 points and eight rebounds. Jimmy Butler had 14 points, five rebounds and five assists but sat out the final 9:47 of the game. Caleb Martin finished with 14 points.

It was Butler’s lowest-scoring game of the playoffs. He had 16 points in Game 3, a blowout win by Miami.

Miami never led and had 16 turnovers.


Boston entered the day just 4-5 at TD Garden this postseason. But with a raucous home crowd behind them, the Celtics thrived on their energy.

They dove for loose balls, outfought Miami for rebounds and found each other for layups and dunks in transition as they built as much as 20 points in the first half.

Jaylen Brown dunking

Jaylen Brown #7 of the Boston Celtics dunks the ball against the Miami Heat during the second quarter in game five of the Eastern Conference Finals at TD Garden on May 25, 2023 in Boston, Massachusetts. (Maddie Meyer/Getty Images)


The Heat cut into it, but Boston kept knocking down 3s and grew its edge as high as 96-72 in the fourth quarter.

Boston’s fans reignited a “Beat the Heat!” chant that hadn’t been prevalent since Game 1.


The Heat started Kyle Lowry at point guard after Gabe Vincent was ruled out with a sprained left ankle earlier in the day. It was Lowry’s first start since Feb. 2.

Vincent, the Heat’s third-leading scorer this postseason, got hurt late in Miami’s Game 4 loss when he landed awkwardly while trying to save a loose ball near the Heat bench.

His presence was missed as Miami struggled early on the offensive end, swarmed by a Celtics’ defense that forced the Heat into 10 first-half turnovers that led to 17 Boston points. Lowry played 31 minutes, scored five points and finished with four turnovers.


Heat: Were outscored 13-0 in second-half points in the opening 24 minutes.


Celtics: Al Horford added six points and 11 rebounds. … The Celtics took a 61-44 edge into halftime. … Boston’s first turnover of the game didn’t come until the 8:16 mark of the second quarter.


The Celtics got the fast start they had hoped for in front of their home crowd.

Smart stripped Adebayo on Miami’s opening possession, igniting a fast break and layup on the other end by Tatum.

Then, with the game tied at 4, Tatum got free in the lane for a monstrous two-handed dunk. He hung on the rim afterward and continued his celebration when he landed, leading to a technical foul.

Jaylen Brown

Jaylen Brown #7 of the Boston Celtics reacts against the Miami Heat during the second quarter in game five of the Eastern Conference Finals at TD Garden on May 25, 2023 in Boston, Massachusetts. (Maddie Meyer/Getty Images)

It didn’t stop the Celtics’ momentum, as their first-quarter lead grew as high as 23-7. Boston ended the period with a 35-20 lead, punctuated by a 3-pointer by White at the buzzer.

Tatum had 12 points in the opening 12 minutes, with the Celtics outscoring the Heat 21-6 from beyond the arc. Boston hit 7 of its 12 attempts.


Celtics Hall of Famer Paul Pierce, NCAA president Charlie Baker and New England Patriots Matt Slater and Devin McCourty were among several celebrities in the Garden.



MLB Hall of Famer Reggie Jackson remembers Willie Mays at historic Rickwood Field: 'He was pure baseball'



MLB Hall of Famer Reggie Jackson remembers Willie Mays at historic Rickwood Field: 'He was pure baseball'

MLB Hall of Famer Reggie Jackson sat on the Fox Sports panel at the historic Rickwood Field in Birmingham, Alabama, on Thursday night in mourning, much like the rest of the baseball world is after the death of Willie Mays. 

Mays died peacefully on Tuesday afternoon at 93 years old, two days before this long-awaited game between the St. Louis Cardinals and his San Francisco Giants was to be played at the Negro Leagues field he competed at with the Birmingham Black Barons when he was just a kid looking to break into professional baseball. 

Fellow Hall of Famer Derek Jeter shared a text exchange that he had with Jackson to kick off the remembrance of Mays, who Jackson said was his “all-time favorite.”

Reggie Jackson stands on the field before the Oakland Athletics game against the New York Yankees at Oakland-Alameda County Coliseum in Oakland, Calif., on Thursday, Aug. 22, 2019. (Jose Carlos Fajardo/MediaNews Group/East Bay Times via Getty Images)


“’He was at the very least one of the greatest of all-time,’” Jeter said Jackson texted him. “’We all wanted to be like Willie. When one played against him, you got caught up in watching Willie. He was pure baseball. My all-time favorite, love the guy. I wanted to be like Willie.’”

Jackson went further into his admiration for Mays, who he got to know well as a young ballplayer in MLB. 


“‘You could see that the love of the game was in Willie Mays, Derek,” Jackson said. “‘The way he went about it when you saw him in spring training, I learned to wear my uniform the way that Willie Mays did. I didn’t have the long pants and the heels over the spikes. I learned by watching Willie Mays – he was the first guy to get his uniform tapered. Him and Mickey Mantle. 

“‘The way he showed the love of the game, the way he respected the game. Even when he had a complaint about what may had been going on with minorities or whatever, in his era, Derek, he didn’t speak about it. He loved the game so much that he refrained. But my admiration for him was how he went about it, and how he showed people like me following him how to play.’”


Both Mays and Jackson dealt with racism on their baseball journeys in Birmingham, as Jackson played his Double-A ball with the then-Kansas City A’s in Birmingham in 1967 before eventually making his big league debut that year. 

Willie Mays closeup

Willie Mays visits PS 46 in Harlem, next to the site of the former Polo Grounds, where the New York Giants played before moving to San Francisco in 1958, on Jan. 21, 2011, in New York City. (Michael Nagle/Getty Images)

“When people ask me a question like that, coming back here is not easy,” Jackson said.

But Jackson, as well as everyone in “The Magic City” on Thursday night, understood the importance of shining a light on the Negro Leagues and Rickwood Field – the oldest ballpark in America. 

Before the game began, Mays’ son, Michael, told the crowd at Rickwood to cheer as loud as they could for his late father, who he said was listening. 

Reggie Jackson and Willie Mays

Reggie Jackson said Willie Mays, who passed away on Tuesday peacefully at home, was his all-time favorite player. (Getty Images)


Those cheers eventually turned into a “Willie! Willie!” chant that lasted a while, as many former Negro Leagues players stood with the Giants and Cardinals on the field.

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Gavin Stone reminds Dodgers why he might be the best Yoshinobu Yamamoto alternative



Gavin Stone reminds Dodgers why he might be the best Yoshinobu Yamamoto alternative

In the wake of Yoshinobu Yamamoto’s shoulder injury last week, the Dodgers didn’t feel the need to identify a new No. 2 starter.

They weren’t necessarily counting on someone else in their rotation to elevate their game.

“These [other] starters,” manager Dave Roberts said, “just need to go out there and be themselves.”

Still, recent history suggests the Dodgers will, at some point, need someone to fill Yamamoto’s role near the top of the rotation. Few teams can succeed in the playoffs without at least a couple of legitimate frontline options. Too often in their recent October failures, the Dodgers have been short on elite-level pitching.


This week, the team got a look at their best internal choices to handle such a task.

And on Thursday, in a 5-3 win over the Colorado Rockies, Gavin Stone showed glimpses of the dominance that could make him their best current alternative.

Stone’s final line Thursday — in a game the Dodgers got home runs from Shohei Ohtani, Will Smith and Freddie Freeman, plus three hits from Teoscar Hernández — wasn’t overwhelming.

He pitched 5 ⅓ innings. He gave up two runs. Both scored after he left the game in a bases-loaded jam in the sixth.

Over the first five innings, though, Stone again flashed his continued newfound dominance, further fueling his status as a potential frontline weapon.


“I think for any starting pitcher, you just evaluate: Do they have the weapons to get left out, to get right out, to be efficient, to command the baseball, to get a strikeout when you need to, and can you navigate three times through the lineup,” Roberts said. “He’s checked all those boxes, and for me, he’s only getting better.”

When Yamamoto went down last weekend — his rotator cuff strain isn’t expected to end his season, but leaves his ability to be an ace-caliber weapon in doubt for the time being — there were immediate questions about what it would mean for the Dodgers’ long-term pitching plans.

Their rotation was still headlined by Tyler Glasnow, an early-season Cy Young contender with a 3.00 ERA and MLB-leading 125 strikeouts.

Dodgers starting pitcher Yoshinobu Yamamoto delivers against the Kansas City Royals on June 15.

(Gina Ferazzi / Los Angeles Times)


But beyond that, it was unclear who could emerge as a true No. 2 option — in the event Yamamoto doesn’t regain form (or health) before the end of the season.

Walker Buehler, the club’s former ace, was struggling in his return from Tommy John surgery, even before landing on the injured list with a hip injury. Bobby Miller, a playoff starter as a rookie for the Dodgers last year, had his season sidetracked by a shoulder injury, then gave up five runs in his return to the rotation Wednesday.

Clayton Kershaw is nearing his own return, remaining on track for a late July/early August activation after pitching three innings with single-A Rancho Cucamonga on a rehab assignment Wednesday.

“He has blown through this,” Roberts said of Kershaw. “I hope it continues.”


But relying on a 36-year-old veteran coming off his first career surgery represented a risky proposition.

The early outlook on a relatively weak trade market for starting pitchers doesn’t provide many obvious external targets, either.

That’s why Stone’s ascension has been so welcome, giving the Dodgers not just another productive regular-season pitcher, but one who has increasingly flashed October-worthy stuff in the process.

An All-Star selection might not be out of the question, either.

“I wouldn’t have bet on it coming into the season,” Roberts said. “But the way it has played out for three months, if that happened, man, it would certainly be well-deserved.”


Indeed, in 14 starts this season, Stone now has a 3.04 ERA, 13th-best in the National League. He has eight wins, trailing only Luis Gil of the New York Yankees for the MLB rookie lead.

Even if the Dodgers insisted they didn’t need one, he is blossoming as their best option to replace Yamamoto in the hierarchy of the rotation.

Gavin Stone delivers against the New York Yankees on June 8.

Gavin Stone delivers against the New York Yankees on June 8.

(Frank Franklin II / Associated Press)

“He’s just kind of becoming one of those guys,” Freeman said, “where you are having a good chance to win every chance he’s out there.”


On Thursday, the 25-year-old wasn’t impacted by the mile-high altitude, slightly altering his typically sinker-heavy pitch mix by going with more of a four-seam/changeup combination.

Up until the sixth inning, he rarely faced stress on the bases, retiring 12 of his first 14 batters before stranding a pair of runners in the fifth.

“The first five innings, I thought the command was unbelievable,” Roberts said.

Stone eventually exited after issuing two walks and a single in the sixth, when Roberts felt he “sort of hit a wall” at hitter-friendly (and high altitude) Coors Field.

However, the outing was also Stone’s fourth in his last five starts with at least six strikeouts — he hadn’t done so previously since his season debut in late March — a promising sign for a pitcher whose success was once dependent on limiting contact.


“It’s probably just the work [pitching coaches] Connor [McGuiness], Mark [Prior] and I have put in during bullpens and stuff,” Stone said of his growing swing-and-miss capabilities. “Just executing certain pitches a little bit better.”

His ability to complement a trademark changeup with sliders, cutters and sinkers continues to be a boon, as well, alleviating the issues he faced in an up-and-down debut season last year when he largely relied on just three pitches.

“I think that last year he was searching, looking — finding himself in the big leagues,” Roberts said, reflecting back on Stone’s 9.00 ERA in 2023. “This spring, he just had a different demeanor about him. And it has definitely carried into the season.”

There are still myriad boxes for Stone to check between now and the playoffs. Many steps ahead him on the path to October success.

Nonetheless, his production has been a blessing for the Dodgers’ banged-up pitching staff.


Unless Yamamoto returns at full strength, someone will need to bolster the club’s rotation.

And of all the options available at this point, Stone is looking like perhaps their best bet.

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The retro kick-off tactic that is proving popular (and effective) at Euro 2024



The retro kick-off tactic that is proving popular (and effective) at Euro 2024

It was the first act of Euro 2024, it led to Albania’s goal against Italy (the fastest in the competition’s history), and is also a tactic used regularly by the top two in the Premier League, Manchester City and Arsenal.

Back with a vengeance, it is the old-fashioned hoof up the park at kick-off.

Aimless punts may seem like a relic of a bygone age in today’s football, largely a revolving battle between one team pressing high and the other trying to find space to play through, but this more rudimentary approach is back in fashion.

Nedim Bajrami celebrates after scoring in just 23 seconds (Alberto Pizzoli/AFP via Getty Images)

Kai Havertz got things underway on Friday by overlooking the creative supporting cast of Florian Wirtz, Jamal Musiala and Ilkay Gundogan, instead playing the ball back to left-back Maximilian Mittelstadt and leading a charge towards the Scotland penalty box.

The Stuttgart defender duly played a long ball for Havertz to contest in the air. After the ball broke inside the Scotland penalty box, it took two frantic clearances to get the ball away from danger, but Germany now had controlled possession with Toni Kroos inside the attacking half and Scotland were pinned back.


It set the tone from the first kick, as did Albania’s diagonal to the right wing against Italy the following day. The ball floated out for a throw, but Sylvinho’s side sprinted forward to pen the Italians in their own corner. After struggling to decide on an option, Federico Dimarco attempted to reach Alessandro Bastoni inside his own penalty box with his throw, but it was cut out by Nedim Bajrami and he found the net only 23 seconds into the game.

After the first round of games in Germany, 14 of the 24 teams played long either towards the opposition penalty box or launched a diagonal into the wide channel from start-of-half kick-offs, as shown below.

Some took different routes there: England emptied the entire centre of the pitch as Jordan Pickford pushed up to play to Harry Kane; Poland had five players lined up on the far side at kick-off against the Netherlands but used it as a decoy, with Piotr Zielinski running across onto the ball and spraying it wide to the other flank and the ball then going forward; Austria attempted a sophisticated routine by playing a short combination of passes in the centre circle before trying to play the ball over the top of France.

Possession purists Italy positioned five players on the halfway line to give the impression they were going direct, with Alessandro Bastoni stopping the ball dead in front of Riccardo Calafiori as if teeing him up, but it was a disguise to force Albania to drop back and give them space to have controlled possession.

It returned the game to a more natural setup and is something Arsenal did on the few occasions last season they did not go long from David Raya, with the Spaniard putting his studs on the ball and two players dropping back late to give them the numbers to build up against a set defence.


It is a trend that has crept back into the game after a long time out when teams looked to implement their passing style from the very first whistle.

Aaron Briggs, who was an analyst at Manchester City before working as assistant coach at Monaco and Wolfsburg, is working as a consultant at UEFA tracking the tactical trends at Euro 2024. This is a theme he has seen re-appear.

“The kick-off is such a strange time in football as it’s the only time it’s like a rugby game with both teams either side of the ball,” he says.

“You see top teams go completely against all their principles in that one false moment.

“You usually end up back at the goalkeeper under pressure and then end up going long, which is less advantageous than going long straight from the centre circle as you can go deeper into their half.


“When you play the diagonal, you can challenge for a 50-50 and the knockdown, or it goes out for a throw and you then try to press onto that first ball and keep them in. It’s like rugby and kicking for territory, but the last couple of years it’s become common again.

“At coaching courses, we’ve been shown that when teams play short, they end up under stress and going long, so this is maybe how it has spread.”

Marseille did something novel in 2017-18 — the season they reached the Europa League final — by kicking the ball straight into the far corner with no forward runners to challenge for the ball.

It was like the 50-22 rule in rugby union that means if the attacking team kicks the ball from their own half and it bounces inside the 22-yard line before going out, then the kicking team is awarded the lineout rather than the opposition.


There is no such reward in football, but it still marks a change from the previous decade, perhaps influenced by the dominance of Spain and tiki-taka, when the ball would go back to a central midfielder and then across to a full-back, which is when play would start.

Do that now, explains one player-turned-coach, and even a team that typically plays with a low block will look to rush you as the opposition’s energy and aggression are at their highest point, plus they are going to be cohesive and in sync due to the team in possession being compressed in their own half.

It is why he and many other coaches are deeming it a pointless risk and are instead playing for territory.

There have been some examples of creativity beyond hitting and hoping. Sampdoria went through a phase of having all 10 outfielders line up across the halfway line and split into different positions, while RB Leipzig scored from a similar tactic a decade ago in the lower tiers of German football.

Two years ago, Kylian Mbappe scored for Paris Saint-Germain against Lille inside eight seconds in what was a brilliantly worked routine in which two runners caught the defence cold.


Defences are so used to pedestrian openings to games, with teams looking to establish possession, that there is an opportunity to take them by surprise. Dominic Solanke’s run for Bournemouth against Fulham two years ago was one such example.

Kick-offs are essentially another set-piece moment in a game like a free kick or throw-in, yet it is a unique scenario no one seemed quite sure how to handle.

Now, though, it appears even the elite teams have decided it is best not to play around in unfamiliar surroundings and have identified the benefits of going long.


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